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An atheist endorses Christian evangelism in Africa

Especially after Newsweek's sorry display of anti-Christian polemic a couple of weeks ago, it's nice- and not as uncommon as some might think- to encounter an atheist who gives the Faith its due.

Matthew Paris- who here honors the role not simply of Christian missionaries in Africa, but specifically their evangelism efforts- is such an athiest.

HT: Real Clear Politics

A valedictory for Dubyah

It's nothing less than a tragedy that, in bidding adieu to the Bush presidency (or any other) it should be necessary to frame one's thoughts as a response to commonly accepted lies about it.

This, however, admirably addresses five lies about George W. Bush's years in the White House which doubtless will continue to be repeated as long as people lacking either adequate information to know whereof they speak or simple, old-fashioned integrity continue to opine.

To Dubyah! Whatever one thinks of his years in the White House, may he be judged by history on the basis of his record, and not on the basis of the lies his enemies told about him.

No person of integrity could wish otherwise for any president of either party.

HT: Real Clear Politics

In defense of the defensible part of the indefensible

I take back nothing I have previously said about Rick Warren's doleful impact on our national consciousness. Turning the Bible- God's love letter to the human race- into a self-help book is an act of desecration beyond belief. The only "purpose" which drives the Christian life is that gratitude for God's undeserved and absurdly faithful love in Christ- a love which fills the Christian heart with a gratitude that spills over into everything else. Warren's attempt to get us to settle for a guidebook for (the God of St. Paul help us!) rules to enable us to fulfill the divine purpose for our lives (as if He Who called the worlds into being needed our help!) is nothing less than an obscenity.

But be that as it may, this is an excellent explanation for the biblically illiterate and the culturally paganized of why it is that the antinomian Left's objection to Warren as the giver of the invocation at the P-EOTUS's inauguration is as whacked as both Warren…

But he kept his soul

One of Europe's lesser known constitutional monarchs- Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg- has lost his perogative of veto over acts of Parliament by vetoing a bill legalizing euthanasia.

Parliament amended Luxembourg's constitution to deprive him of that right when he chose to use it to stand for elementary human decency in the face of the tidal wave of post-modern utilitarianism that threatens the very humanity of those of us who live in the Western world.

As the article to which this posts links observes, however, Grand Duke Henri has, by the very act which cost him his veto, retained his soul.

Obama's selection of Warren is a masterstroke

I am no admirer of the Rev. Rick Warren, whose emphatically American but dubiously Christian The Purpose-Driven Life turns a book written "that (we) might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing (we) might have life through his name" (John 20:31)into a book of rules, regulations, and "biblical principles" to which we can never measure up. At best, Warren's book is an invitation to a pharisaical preoccupation with the Law, and the self-delusion that we can meet its demands; at worst, it takes the focus off Christ and puts it precisely where Paul labored so long and so eloquently in his epistles to convince us it does not belong: our striving to "make a good showing in the flesh."

It is God's working in our lives, in coordination with our gratitude for His grace, which "drives" the Christian life and achieves its purpose, not our own, legalistic strivings to do the work of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity fo…

Chicago politics and the myth of Barack Obama

One of the most fascinating phenomena of the recently-concluded presidential campaign was the emergence of a man who owed his entire political being to Chicago's notorious political machine as some sort of reformer. The utter failure of the media to vet Barack Obama- even to take as close a look as it might have at his relationship with the infamous Tony Rezko- was what enabled this phenomenon, of course. But it remains one of the truly amazing spectacles of modern political history.

Nobody is suggesting, of course, that P-EOTUS is in any way involved in the Rod Blagojavich embarrassment in any way other than having been the latest occupant of the Senate seat the soon-to-be-resigned-or-impeached Illinois governor metaphorically put on EBay. But the fact remains that the fastidious reformer the nation has been led to believe it elected to the White House last month is a myth.

Yet they do things differently in Chicago (and in Illinois generally) than they do them elsewhere, and we wou…

Here come the Hawks!

When my Blackhawks play the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field in the annual NHL Winter Classic on New Years Day, it will be a great deal more than just a hockey game. It will mark the end of a dark era for my team, and the beginning of a bright, new one.

At this writing, the Hawks- after a long season in the wilderness- are only five points behind Detroit for first place in the NHL Western Conference Central Divison.

Hall of Fame Cubs catcher Gabby Hartnett was a distant cousin of my father's by marriage. Dad grew up across the street from the old Cubs ballpark on the West Side. He followed the Bears ever since they moved to Chicago as the Decatur Staleys. He passed his loyalty toward both teams on to me as a legacy; we lived and breathed the Cubs and the Bears in our house.

I was the product of a mixed marriage; my mother came from a family of otherwise fine, decent people who happened to be (shudder) White Sox fans. But Mom went along with the men of…

The sole of Iraq- or only an isolated heel?

Toby Harnden of The Telegraphasks a fair question: what would have happened had reporter Muthathar al-Zaidi of Baghdadiya thrown his shoes at Saddam Hussein?

The ingratitude of so many Iraqis is astounding. If a bloodbath ensues as a result of our premature departure from Iraq, it will be a tragedy the Iraqi people as a whole simply do not deserve.

For some, though it would be exactly what they deserve.

HT: Drudge

Is Obama JFK, FDR, Lincoln- or Carter?

Despite 70% approval ratings for the way he's handled the transition so far, I continue to believe that Barack Obama will go down in history as the second coming not of John F. Kennedy or Franklin D. Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln, but of Jimmy Carter. Here is an article by Phillip Jenkins of The American Conservative which supports that belief.

And here is a post by John F. Harris and Alexander Burns of Politico on the skepticism of many historians with regard to the media's syncophantic identification of our untried president-elect with Lincoln, the greatest president we've ever had.

Whereas here is an article by Andrew Romano in (shudder) Newsweek on Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal- the "Republican Obama-" who says that he's not running for president in 2012 (we'll see).

HT: Real Clear Politics

Another great song of 1798

Some time ago I posted this song about my ancestor, Henry Joy McCracken- the Protestant who helped found the United Irishmen and who led the Rebellion of 1798 in Ulster, only to be betrayed and executed following his failed assault on the city of Antrim.

Here's another great song of 1798: The Boys of Wexford, sung by the great Irish tenor John McCormack. This was John F. Kennedy's favorite song. A very few might recognize it as the theme of the short-lived 1960's TV series Profiles in Courage, based on JFK's Pulitzer Prize winning book.

I really like this tune, to which any hymn can be sung which is normally sung to the tune "Aurelia" (The Church's One Foundation being the best known example).



ADDENDUM: Since McCormack can be a little hard to understand, here are the words to The Boys of Wexford ("Yeos," btw, is short for "yeomen").

And yes... it contains an ethnic stereotype which raises my eyebrows a bit, too:
In comes the captain's d…

We should have seen THIS coming!

Up until recently, it was OK to criticize the war in Iraq, as long as one was suitably hawkish (or at least not noticably dovish) about the war in Afghanistan- where, after all, we still have a bomber of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to catch, and a region ripe to become- excuse the expression- a Mecca for Islamic terrorists to control. An Afghanistan back in the hands of the Taliban would be the equivalent of giving al Quaeda an entire nation to use as a base for training terrorists and from which to organize and launch their missions worldwide.

Even Barack Obama felt it necessary to wax hawkish on the war in Afghanistan. But now that the war in Iran is clearly in its endgame (at least as far as our involvement there is concerned), it should come as no surprise that the left is now moving its anti-war rhetoric to the theatre where even Mr. Obama realizes our security is at stake.

No, it really should be no surprise that TIME's reliably clueless Joe Klein now thinks that t…

Rostenkowski has a lot of gall

Dan Rostenkowski was once one of the most powerful men in America. A Chicago ward boss and chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, it seemed as if "Rosty" had it made.

It all came tumbling down when he was indicted for involvement in the House post office scandal. Indicted and convicted on corruption charges, Rostenkowski served thirteen months of a seventeen month sentence. He was pardoned by Bill Clinton in late 2000.

Admittedly, Rosty is an expert in political corruption. But it still took a lot of gall for him to write this!

The title of Rostenkowski's incredible piece is "In Defense of Chicago Politics." Let it be noted that he does not, in fact, write a word about politics specifically in Chicago. But the most amazing part of this amazing piece of writing is that he actually argues that Illinois- my home state, I might add- is no more corrupt than any other state!

Admittedly, Rod Blagojevich has not yet been indicted. But if he is, he will be the…

'Bring out your dead!"

The Minnesota Canvassing Board has decided that ballots in Minneapolis which have mysteriously disappeared will nevertheless be counted- on the basis of the original tally.

It has also ruled that absentee ballots which were wrongly excluded from the original count be systematically sorted and counted. However, the Board narrowly turned back an attempt by Democratic members to get it to rule in advance that ballots which local (read: Democratic) election officials decide were wrongly excluded automatically be counted in the official canvass without examining the state board verifying the propriety of their decisions.

Prediction: the recount will continue until Frankin, somehow, wins- or until somebody with both authority and integrity steps in to see that the result is the one the people of Minnesota voted for, not one produced after the fact by the manipulation of ballots. Hopefully the Canvassing Board will be up to the task; its refusal to give the Democrats carte blanche with regard …

'Resort to Biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism'

On Tuesday I blogged on Lisa Miller's massively dishonest article in the current Newsweek attempting to make the "religious" case for gay "marriage." Well, Mark Hemingway of the National Review- who initially reacted to that piece of intellectual garbage last Sunday- has a few more thoughts on the subject.

It seems that Newsweek has actually come out against biblical authority per se, pronouncing it "the worst kind of fundamentalism." Moreover, it points out that the Bible has been used to justify slavery (even while, as Hemingway points out, ignoring the fact that it was biblical authority which provided the ammunition which ultimately ended slavery in the Western world). In frankly trashing Holy Scripture, Newsweek is certainly a great deal more honest than my former colleges in the ELCA ministerium, who attempt the same sort of rhetorical sleight-of-hand Miller half-heartedly pursues in her piece: pretending that at some level there's any real…

Powell is both wrong and right

This morning's edition of Real Clear Politics linked to a story that had me in high dudgeon the moment I read its title: "Powell: GOP Polarization Backfired."

Colin Powell- a man I've always admired despite our disagreements on social issues, and one who was badly used by the Bush administration- disappointed me mightily when he endorsed a man who initially premised his candidacy for the White House on a promise to pull the rug out from under our troops in Iraq, and who had not backed off that promise. Granted, the success of the surge has changed the landscape in Iraq. Granted, even the Iraqis have agitated for, and achieved, an agree deadline for the withdrawal of American troops. But the best military assessment continues to be that 2012 is too soon, from the point of view of Iraqi national security, for the troops to leave. A powerful case can be made that this hardly matters, since our presence in Iraq has become politically untenable. It's been diplomaticall…

Reviving the GOP

Meanwhile, here is a sensible take on the oft-debated question of what the Republicans need to do in order to return to power.

I can add only one thing: wait until enough time has passed the electorate can clearly see that the most overhyped emperor-elect in American history has no clothes.

HT: Real Clear Politics

Meanwhile, in other Midwestern scandals....

Apparently the Senate race in Minnesota, where a narrow Democratic defeat was miraculously followed by the discovery of a bunch of lost ballots that had never been counted

(oops),

and then by the losing of others

(oops)

- will be decided by the counting of absentee ballots that somehow were "wrongfully excluded" the first time

(oops).

The pattern is sickeningly reminiscent of what the Democrats pulled in 2000 in Florida, when their attempt to steal Florida and the White House through recount shenanigans failed,and of what they pulled in the Washington gubernatorial race in 2004, when they actually succeeded in stealing the election by such means.

Somehow all sorts of uncounted Democratic ballots always seem to miraculously appear whenever a Democrat loses a close election. And since manual recounts create an ideal opportunity for vote fraud of a kind Democrats have been practicing for decades (there are even specialists who brag about how good they are at it!), especially loud ala…

Obama: Blago should quit

President-elect Obama has called on Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was arrested yesterday on charges of conspiring to sell appointment to Mr. Obama's soon be vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder, to resign.

Meanwhile, Obama aide David Axelrod, who had contradicted his boss's statement yesterday that he hadn't spoken with the Illinois governor recently, said that he was mistaken about that.

Elsewhere,Gloria Borger of CNN wonders what in the world Blago was thinking.

Newsweek's Lisa Miller gives us an example of biblical "scholarship" at its most dishonest

I previously mentionedNewsweek's frightening article in the current edition arguing that pro-life pharmacists and other non-medical health care workers should be forced to violate their consciences by helping to provide the means to abortion. But the same sorry issue also contains another regrettable piece: Lisa Miller's re-statement of the lame, tired, shopworn, altogether unconvincing and depressingly dishonest "religious" argument in favor of gay "marriage."

Miller is right about one thing: the phrase "gay marriage" never appears in the Bible. Of course, neither does the phrase "male childbearing," and for the same reason: the concept is absurd by its very nature. Well, that and the fact that "gay" has been a synonym for "homosexual" only for a few years now, and that even the concept of homosexuality (as opposed to sexual activity among members of the same gender) is a relatively recent development. But that'…

Blago busted for trying to sell Senate seat!

I was a part of "independent movement" in Chicago's Democratic politics that opposed the Daley machine back in the 'Seventies. I worked in campaign after campaign at the local level against that corrupt entity, and I'm proud to say that many of those campaigns were winning ones.

Now, I know that Chicago politics have changed. David Axelrod- Barack Obama's version of Karl Rove- was one of the moving forces behind the independent movement. Richard the Second has come to an accommodation with reformers like Axelrod. But nevertheless, I've always been a bit amused by the spectacle of Barack Obama- a creature of the Cook County Democratic organization from the word "go-" staking out an identity as a reformer- and having the national media buy it.

Well, it seems like old times back home. Another creature of the Machine- Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich- was arrested by Federal agents this morning on charges that the governor conspired to sell Obama's v…

Imagine that!

The Vatican- remaining faithful to two thousand years of Christian teaching that homosexual behavior is morally wrong and intrinsically both spiritually and physically unhealthy- is opposing a proposed UN declaration emphasizing "social and cultural rights" for homosexuals.

This is apparently a surprise to certain journalists and gay rights activists.

I think any reasonable person would understand that the Vatican does not favor torturing or otherwise abusing gay people. The objections being raised to its position are both hysterical and disingenuous. This statement is not about the undoubted right of gays and lesbians to be free of persecution and harassment; it's about making behavior- and behavior the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as Islam and other religions regard as immoral and socially destructive- universally accepted socially.

Rather than call the moral teaching of most of the world's great religions into question, those who object to the Vatican's…

Newsweek's Litwick would force pro-life pharamacists and others to assist with abortions

The Bush administration has instituted a rule- subject to repeal by President-elect Obama, once he takes office- guaranteeing pharmacists and others on the fringes of the health care profession the right to refuse to prescribe or administer drugs and treatments which violate their religious beliefs.

Doctors and nurses are guaranteed their freedom of conscience when it comes to performing or facilitating abortions by Federal lwaw.

Note that the rule would not prevent a woman who wanted the "morning after pill" from getting it. It would merely require that she get it from someone whose religious beliefs did not prevent him or her from giving it to her in good conscience.

Sounds to me like nothing more or less than the First Amendment in action. But incredibly, there are people who have a problem with it.

HT: Real Clear Politics

Newsweek's Lithwick vs. the First Amendment

That the debate about abortion was ever about "the dignity and autonomy of pregnant women," as opposed to the right of women to evade the consequences of decisions made of their own free will at the cost of another human being's life, is highly debatable. In fact, which of the two ways the question is put not only will automatically dictate which side wins the argument, but constitutes the very heart of the debate itself.

That being the case, I am no more impressed by the appalling logic of Dahlia Lithwick's frightening piece in Newsweek, nor by its preachy self-righteousness. She begs the very question she presumes to answer. And she begs it in the service of an argument which ought to be utterly unconscionable to anyone who believes in the First Amendment, specifically as it applies to the right of health care workers to refuse to perform procedures which violate their religious beliefs.

There is simply no way in which one can torture that language of the First Amend…

Pro-choice Republicans need to get a clue

It appears that Christine Todd Whitman, P.J. O'Rourke, and Kathleen Parker are sufficiently clueless to blame Barack Obama's victory on what Whitman calls "‘social fundamentalists,’ the people who base their votes on such social issues as abortion.” Parker crams a great deal of absurdity into the remarkable sentence, "The evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the G.O.P. is what ails the erstwhile conservative party.” There are left-wing conservatives? Can a party cease to be right-wing, and remain conservative? And what in the word does "oogedy-boogedy" mean, anyway?

Even TIME noticed that abortion played almost no role in the campaign just concluded. In fact, as Uwe Siemon-Netto points out, surveys indicated that "evangelical" voters ranked abortion seventh among the issues that determined their vote- behind even the price of gasoline!

As much as pro-choice conservatives would like to escape their status as an idiosyncratic minority, th…

Bad news and good news for the future of Western society

I knew that the younger generation is considerably more open to homosexuality than their parents and grandparents.

But I never realized that they are also more pro-life.

The logic of the argument for gay "marriage" which author Ross Douhat suggests (without defending) will ultimately triumph in our society is flawed, to say the least. And I very much fear that the dynamic of our culture is pretty much what he describes it as being. How an institution such as marriage- which embodies in its very essence values essentially alien to the gay community, such as sexual monogamy- can be coherently expanded to include members of the same sex without fundamentally undermining the institution itself, that argument does not attempt to answer; indeed, it isn't particularly concerned about whether marriage survives. All it cares about is that- however illogically- it becomes legally possible to "marry" someone other than a member of the opposite sex.

Gay "marriage&quo…

One thing you have to say about Dubyah....

Four years ago, despite widespread unpopularity, George Bush defeated a flawed challenger and won a second term in the White House.

Now, in the midst of the euphoria surrounding the election of Barack Obama, Peggy Noonan pauses to reflect that the concerns which led Americans to prefer Bush to John Kerry, and which were largely forgotten when they made their choice between Barack Obama and John McCain, remain just as valid today as they were then.

Whatever his shortcomings, there's thing you have to say about the president whose watch began months before 9/11, and who was tasked with rebuilding the intelligence and homeland security apparatus the Clinton administration had allowed to fall into such disrepair that 9/1l was possible.

At least he kept us safe. Now we will see whether the Democrats will be able to make the same claim for Barack Obama four years from now.

HT: Real Clear Politics

Chris Matthews: Candidate or commentator?

Meanwhile, as MSNBC's Chris ("Barack Obama gives me a thrill up my leg") Matthews continues his preparations to challenge Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa) in two years, the increasing evidence of his candidacy has given rise to calls for him to leave his job as a commentator.

Matthew's open Democratic partisanship, as well as that of fellow-MSNBC figure Keith Olbermann, resulted in both being removed from anchor roles in covering the recently concluded presidential campaign.

Evidently there are limits even for MSNBC.

HT: Real Clear Politics

Meanwhile, in Minnesota...

The drama continues.

The recount in the Minnesota Senate race is 99% complete. Incumbent Republican Norm Coleman has actually gained 36 votes. According to an unofficial tabulation by the Minneapolis-St. Paulo Star-Tribune, he now leads Democrat Al Franken by 251.

However- surprise!- an envelope containing some 133 ballots from a heavily Democratic area in Minneapolis have turned up missing.

Unless the folks at the Star-Tribune failed math, any monkey shines that might be involved will fall short of what is required to overcome Coleman's lead.

Saxby Chambliss's victory in Georgia last Tuesday appears likely to be followed by Norm Coleman's in Minnesota, and the Democrats will be hung up two votes short of a veto-proof majority in the Senate.

HT: Real Clear Politics

Don't blame the UAW

My father was a UAW shop committeeman as well as a staunch Republican. He saw no contradiction between the two. His two heroes- Robert A. Taft and Walter Reuther- might have seen eye-to-eye on very little, but Dad was convinced that at the end of the day the fates of the union members he represented and the company which employed them were inextricably bound together.

Reuther was one of the most militant, most honest, and most effective union leaders in American history. He was also one of the most far-sighted. The man whose head had been bloodied during the "Battle of the Running Bulls" in 1937 and whose hand was permanently crippled by a beating by management goons in 1948 was also the man who paved the way for an era in which UAW workers not only enjoyed benefits undreamed-of in 1937, but functioned effectively as a partner with management in the pursuit of the profitability which alone could make such benefits possible.

In fact, for some time, the more militant members of…

Whining doesn't become Republicans, either

Few things are more pathetic than sore losers in politics.

Certainly the childish churlishness displayed by Democrats in the face of their defeats in 2000 and in 2004 should have embarrassed them. It is sad beyond words that it did not. It is nothing short of tragic when a once-great political party reveals itself to be so petty as to respond to having been defeated fair and square by falsely whining that it was robbed.

Only the economy (and residual hostility toward the war in Iraq and the administration that began it, despite the fact that we were clearly headed toward victory there by the time the votes were cast) rescued the party of rugged frontiersman Andrew Jackson from having to whine like a bunch of whipped puppies a third time in a row rather than accept defeat like a bunch of grown-ups and- excuse the expression- move on.

While the Democrats continued the pattern of character assassination and falsehood that marked the campaigns of 2000 and- especially- that of 2004, the media…

Indecent Christians

On Election Day, an article by Uwe Siemon-Netto entitled "Is America still Christian? Does it go Europe’s way? Does it matter?" appeared in the Atlantic Times. Last week he published it on the Concordia Seminary Institute of Lay Vocation's blog as "After the Vote- A Theological Postscript."

The notion of America as "Christian" has always made me uneasy- despite the fact that at least one Supreme Court decision has explicitly declared it to be precisely that. My problem has less to do with the First Amendment than with Luther's doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. Certainly anyone who denies that the Christian faith has played a substantial role in the formation of American culture (and European culture as well- although the EU made a conscious decision to exclude any mention of that role from its founding documents) is being intellectually dishonest. But I continue to wrestle with the question of what, if anything, makes a country specifically "Chri…