Sunday, December 31, 2006

Make A Wounded Fighter's New Year a Bit Happier

My friend Beth sent this suggestion to me, which I recommend heartily:

Walter Reed Hospital, Family Affairs, (202) 782-2071, confirmed that if you address a card as described below, your card WILL go to a soldier at the hospital. Your small act of kindness will be greatly appreciated.

Here's the address:

A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20307-5001

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Enjoy this short fantasy by J. B. Phillips. I commend it to you as "full disclosure" of what Christmas is all about. /mer

The Visited Planet

J. B. Phillips
(author, Your God Is Too Small ; paraphraser, The New Testament in Modern English)

Once upon a time a very young angel was being shown round the splendours and glories of the universes by a senior and experienced angel. To tell the truth, the little angel was beginning to be tired and a little bored. He had been shown whirling galaxies and blazing suns, infinite distances in the deathly cold of inter-stellar space, and to his mind there seemed to be an awful lot of it all. Finally he was shown the galaxy of which our planetary system is but a small part. As the two of them drew near to the star which we call our sun and to its circling planets, the senior angel pointed to a small and rather insignificant sphere turning very slowly on its axis. It looked as dull as a dirty tennis-ball to the little angel, whose mind was filled with the size and glory of what he had seen.

"I want you to watch that one particularly," said the senior angel, pointing with his finger.

"Well, it looks very small and rather dirty to me," said the little angel. "What's special about that one?"

"That," replied his senior solemnly, "is the Visited Planet."

"Visited?" said the little one. "you don't mean visited by --------?"

"Indeed I do. That ball, which I have no doubt looks to you small and insignificant and not perhaps overclean, has been visited by our young Prince of Glory." And at these words he bowed his head reverently.

"But how?" queried the younger one. "Do you mean that our great and glorious Prince, with all these wonders and splendours of His Creation, and millions more that I'm sure I haven't seen yet, went down in Person to this fifth-rate little ball? Why should He do a thing like that?"

"It isn't for us," said his senior a little stiffly, "to question His 'why's', except that I must point out to you that He is not impressed by size and numbers, as you seem to be. But that He really went I know, and all of us in Heaven who know anything know that. As to why He became one of them - how else do you suppose could He visit them?"

The little angel's face wrinkled in disgust.

"Do you mean to tell me," he said, "that He stooped so low as to become one of those creeping, crawling creatures of that floating ball?"

"I do, and I don't think He would like you to call them 'creeping, crawling creatures' in that tone of voice. For, strange as it may seem to us, He loves them. He went down to visit them to lift them up to become like Him."

The little angel looked blank. Such a thought was almost beyond his comprehension.

"Close your eyes for a moment," said the senior angel, "and we will go back in what they call Time."

While the little angel's eyes were closed and the two of them moved nearer to the spinning ball, it stopped its spinning, spun backwards quite fast for a while, and then slowly resumed its usual rotation.

"Now look!" And as the little angel did as he was told, there appeared here and there on the dull surface of the globe little flashes of light, some merely momentary and some persisting for quite a time.

"Well, what am I seeing now?" queried the little angel.

"You are watching this little world as it was some thousands of years ago," returned his companion. "Every flash and glow of light that you see is something of the Father's knowledge and wisdom breaking into the minds and hearts of people who live upon the earth. Not many people, you see, can hear His Voice or understand what He says, even though He is speaking gently and quietly to them all the time."

"Why are they so blind and deaf and stupid?" asked the junior angel rather crossly.

"It is not for us to judge them. We who live in the Splendour have no idea what it is like to live in the dark. We hear the music and the Voice like the sound of many waters every day of over lives, but to them - well, there is much darkness and much noise and much distraction upon the earth. Only a few who are quiet and humble and wise hear His Voice. But watch, for in a moment you will see something truly wonderful."

The Earth went on turning and circling round the sun, and then quite suddenly, in the upper half of the globe, there appeared a light, tiny but so bright in its intensity that both the angels hid their eyes.

"I think I can guess," said the little angel in a low voice. "That was the Visit, wasn't it?"

"Yes, that was the Visit. The Light Himself went down there and lived among them; but in a moment, and you will be able to tell that even with your eyes closed, the light will go out."

"But why? Could He not bear their darkness and stupidity? Did He have to return here?"

"No, it wasn't that" returned the senior angel. His voice was stern and sad. "They failed to recognise Him for Who He was - or at least only a handful knew Him. For the most part they preferred their darkness to His Light, and in the end they killed Him."

"The fools, the crazy fools! They don't deserve ----"

"Neither you nor I, nor any other angel, knows why they were so foolish and so wicked. Nor can we say what they deserve or don't deserve. But the fact remains, they killed our Prince of Glory while He was Man amongst them."

"And that I suppose was the end? I see the whole Earth has gone black and dark. All right, I won't judge them, but surely that is all they could expect?"

"Wait, we are still far from the end of the story of the Visited Planet. Watch now, but be ready to cover your eyes again."

In utter blackness the earth turned round three times, and then there blazed with unbearable radiance a point of light.

"What now?" asked the little angel, shielding his eyes.

"They killed Him all right, but He conquered death. The thing most of them dread and fear all their lives He broke and conquered. He rose again, and a few of them saw Him and from then on became His utterly devoted slaves."

"Thank God for that," said the little angel.

"Amen. Open your eyes now, the dazzling light has gone. The Prince has returned to His Home of Light. But watch the Earth now."

As they looked, in place of the dazzling light there was a bright glow which throbbed and pulsated. And then as the Earth turned many times little points of light spread out. A few flickered and died; but for the most part the lights burned steadily, and as they continued to watch, in many parts of the globe there was a glow over many areas.

"You see what is happening?" asked the senior angel. "The bright glow is the company of loyal men and women He left behind, and with His help they spread the glow and now lights begin to shine all over the Earth."

"Yes, yes," said the little angel impatiently, "but how does it end? Will the little lights join up with each other? Will it all be light, as it is in Heaven?"

His senior shook his head. "We simply do not know," he replied. "It is in the Father's hands. Sometimes it is agony to watch and sometimes it is joy unspeakable. The end is not yet. But now I am sure you can see why this little ball is so important. He has visited it; He is working out His Plan upon it."

"Yes, I see, though I don't understand. I shall never forget that this is the Visited Planet."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ahmadinejad hostage-taker in 1979?

Daniel Pipes lends more credence to identifying Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a 1979 invader of the US Embassy in Tehran. I think he was.

Netanyahu: "It's 1938, and Iran is Germany."

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking November 14 at the General Assembly of United Jewish Communities, declares that Hitler's 1938 Germany parallels accurately Ahmadinejad's Iran in 2006. But few listen and believe. Denial reigns, even as Mark Steyn's America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It confirms and extends Netanyahu's claims. Download the Prologue here, so you can start reading it before you have the whole book in your hands.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Jihad is Here -- Because of Radical Muslim Obsession

While I've taken a bit of solace in hearing that "only" 10 to 15% of the 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide are part of, or support, radical, militant Islam, evidence shows that "mainstream" Islam supports military jihad as well. For example, a school text used in Jordan and the Palestinian territories teaches "This religion [Islam] will destroy all other religions through the Islamic Jihad fighters.”

I can't find any solace in that. Nor can I in the soon-releasing, award-winning DVD "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West." See it low-res for free, and order it from the website. Donate a copy to your public library if it won't order it.

British cultural watchman Melanie Phillips says "[Obsession] should be made compulsory viewing for every politician and pundit who clings to the misguided belief that all we face is terrorism rooted in various grievances around the world. It is the single most powerful and terrifying public exposition of the fact that a global Islamic jihad is now being waged from Bali to Istanbul, from Chechnya to Madrid, from Morocco to Manhattan, from Thailand to Bloomsbury – and that the world that is under attack is deeply in denial about what it is facing." (See her Londonistan, which documents the UK's morphing into a jihadi haven.)

Among the insights from "Obsession" you may find hard to believe: America is the #1 enemy of Arabs and Islam, because America is dedicated to eliminating both(!). This propaganda fuels the call to jihad as defense of Islam and the honor of Allah.

Let's hope the partying Dems won't remain dim about why the war in Iraq matters as a key front -- among many -- against global jihad, and ditto for Afghanistan.

Even more, hope that the film can convince any doubters that jihad, whether fought on US territory or abroad, must be fought as a military and not primarily a law-enforcement action.

Jihad means war -- one Americans do not want and did not seek but that has been declared on them since at least the Muslim invasion and occupation of the American Embassy in Teheran in 1979. Anyone who insists on prosecuting this war as if prosecuting homicides in courts of law has already conceded victory to the armies of jihad.

We've been called up to combat, not to practice criminal law.

How do we win? As in all conflicts, one party loses the will to continue, and the other wins. Exactly what strategies and tactics will produce that result in this conflict, I do not know. But primarily prosecuting domestic terrorists in federal courts and dealing similarly with combatants detained outside the US will not defeat this foe.

Am I alarmist? Overreacting?

Nonie Darwish, the Egyptian-born daughter of a jihad martyr and author of Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror, tells fellow Americans, "America has to wake up. We are strangling ourselves with our political correctness."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Muslims for America Endorses Senate Candidates

If anyone needs another bit of evidence that our political experiment does in fact draw everyone -- save felons -- who wants to participate to at least the virtual, cyber table, see whom Muslims for America endorses in today's US Senate elections.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Election Day Forecast: GOP Keeps Senate, Loses Less Than Expected in House

Late Signs Dispel GOP Gloom

Ann Coulter points out that the GOP has already defied historical trends in its majority government of legislative and executive branches for six years: "It at least seems clear that Democrat gains this year are going to fall far short of the historical average. No poll has the Democrats winning even half of their rightful midterm gains." Charles Krauthammer concurs, calling likely Democratic gains "the American people's usual response to entrenched power — a bracing and chastening contempt."

Today's NY Times revises its forecast of GOP gloom in conservatives' favor, drawing on polls that, even beyond the Times' reportage, show Republican lag decreasing widely. Throw in Saddam Hussein's ticket to the gallows after an unsurpassably open trial -- no small evidence of real change for the good in Iraq -- and I believe that the GOP base of disciplined voters will staunch predicted huge losses and perhaps pull off many slim-margin wins.

All that really matters at the national level, in my opinion, is giving President Bush a minimally cooperative Senate with which he can complete two key jobs in his remaining two years:
  1. prosecuting the war against Islamofascism (God save us from Nancy Pelosi two clicks from the Oval Office; or from Harry Reid's directing the Senate!);
  2. and appointing up to two Supreme Court justices (both of which would likely replace aged liberal justices).

The economy has gone clearly to Republican credit and, confined as a stump issue now to rust- and textile-belt regions, has ceased to be a top-level national election issue. Republicans have already proven disunified regarding sound immigration policy, so GOP losses in Congress probably can't hurt this fiasco any more deeply than GOP governance in Congress already has.

What matters at the national level is enabling a President who has led steadily, courageously, and righteously to finish his term with success in those two top tasks. I agree with at least 17 points of Wayne Grudem's 18-point appreciative assessment of our President's stalwart service and leadership (immigration reform being the bone of contention). And, about the Iraq war, I cannot agree more:

"It is just that -- a war, and wars are not won quickly or easily. We were attacked in an act of war on 9/11, and we had been attacked by similar terrorists many times before that. Finally we are fighting back, against an invisible, very skillful, very evil enemy.

"When people complain, "It's not going well," I just think, "What you are saying is that we haven't won yet. But that is because there are still evil people in the world who want to destroy Iraq and eventually destroy Israel and destroy us, and in some countries their governments are not stopping them yet. So this is a huge task, but we have no choice but to go forward. There will only be one side left at the end of this war, and I want it to be us, not the Muslim terrorists."

"It seems to me that what we need as a country is to unite behind the President in this war, not attack every move he makes (isn't this what a country usually does in war?). For every U.S. soldier who dies there are many times more terrorists who are caught or killed (which I think in light of Rom. 13:4 is the right thing for civil government to do), and the terrorist movements simply cannot and will not continue a losing battle forever. Criticism of the war sounds to me like people are saying, "There are still some evil people in the world, therefore Bush is a bad President." That is misguided reasoning, because there will always be evil people in the world, and the God-given solution, according to Rom. 13:1-7, is to prevent them from harming others through the use of superior force by our military and police.

"That is what President Bush is doing, and I don't know if anyone else in the world could do any better. (Many nations are not even trying, just sitting back and letting us do the dirty work while they criticize!)"

More Republicans than Democrats Online; But Most "Moderate"

Most-Visited Sites Contrast Sharply

On the eve of nationwide elections, with the GOP "glum" (according to the New York Times) about looming Congressional losses, a recent Nielsen/Net Ratings report suggests that if ballots were cast online, Republicans would have a good chance of continuing to control both Congressional houses. Results of Nielsen's by-party study of Internet use show that "36.6 percent of U.S. adults online are Republicans, 30.8 percent are Democrats and 17.3 percent are Independents."

"The Web site with the highest concentration of Republicans was, with an 84.8 percent Republican audience . . . . and Bill O’ ranked No. 2 and 3, with audiences that were 65.4 percent Republican. The Drudge Report and Salt Lake Tribune rounded out the top five Republican sites with 59.0 and 57.9 composition percent.

"Among Democrats, the top three sites were, AOL BlackVoices and with audiences that were 79.9 percent, 64.8 percent and 58.6 percent Democratic, respectively. and Village Voice ranked fourth and fifth among Democrats, with 55.3 and 55.2 composition percent.

Online newspaper use by party should surprise no one: " has predominantly Republican readers, at 40.2 percent. Democrats make up 25.8 percent of’s readership, closely followed by Independents at 24.3 percent.

"The New York Times online is a favorite among Democrats, who make up 52.3 percent of its readership. Independents compose 22.6 percent and Republicans 18.3 percent."

The largest segment of respondents identified themselves as "Moderate," 36.1%, while 32.5% self-identified as "Conservative/Very Conservative," and only 19.8% chose "Liberal/Very Liberal" for themselves.

African-American respondents "were over twice as likely to be Democratic as the average Web user. Asians were 36 percent more likely than the average Web user to be Democratic, and Hispanics were 28 percent more likely." But whites were only "slightly more likely to be Republican."

Considered only by age or gender, respondents favored neither party.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Kerry's Slip or Slur?

I want to give Sen. Kerry a lot of room to exegete his own words; however, his infamous remark about those "stuck in Iraq" for lack of education is, in my mind, imperious, befitting perhaps an aristocrat but not a democrat. Similarly for John O'Neill. More important, that slip-or-slur is empirically wrong: Dr. Tim Kane's study of data on all enlistees shows that "The average American enlistee is more educated — not less — than the average young civilian."

Kane's "Facts About Today’s Soldiers" includes these items that the stereotypical majority news coverage doesn't:

* The average reading level of new soldiers is roughly a full grade level higher than their civilian peers’.
* Enlistees’ high school graduation rate was 97 percent in 2003, 2004, and 2005. The civilian graduation rate is seventeen percentage points lower.
* The wealthiest 40 percent of neighborhoods in America are the home of 45.6 percent of 2005 enlistees. For every two U.S. recruits from the poorest neighborhoods, three come from the richest.
* There is no statistical evidence to support the claim that minorities are being targeted or exploited for military service. The 100 zip codes with the highest proportions of African-Americans were actually under-represented among military enlistees in 2005.
* Every U.S. military recruit of the last 33 years has been a volunteer.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Haggard Interview, Nov. 1 (& updates through Nov. 5)

Letters of Ted and Gayle Haggard to New Life Church, Nov. 5

New Life Church Overseers Dismiss Pastor Ted Haggard
in a Nov. 4 press release citing proof that "he has committed sexually immoral conduct."

Homosexual Escort's Charge Days before Colorado Marriage Vote Seems Opportunistic

New Life Church Pastor (Col. Springs) and National Association of Evangelicals President Ted Haggard's unedited interview with Denver's 9News flatly but not passionately denies claims that he had sex with escort-accuser Mike Jones (who has now failed a polygraph). I am surprised that he does not deny the charges more forcefully and with a greater sense of surprise; however, such a response fits his public image: very likeable, irenic, and kind. Haggard denies being anti-homosexual even while supporting law defining marriage traditionally. So I believe his denial and certainly hope, for the sake of Haggard, his family, the church, and American evangelicals, that the charges are no more than a desperate, 11th-hour ploy to discourage values voters such that they won't vote Nov. 7.

Nov. 3 update: Rocky Mountain News reports that:
"KUSA-TV reported Thursday night that a voice analysis expert compared a voice mail recording provided by Jones to a recording of Haggard's speech and that they matched."
"Haggard, 50, initially denied the allegations, telling 9News Wednesday night that 'I’ve never had a gay relationship with anybody, and I’m steady with my wife. I’m faithful to my wife.'"
"But KKTV in Colorado Springs reported that New Life Associate Senior Pastor Ross Parsley told a meeting of church elders Thursday night that Haggard had met with the church’s overseers earlier in the day and 'had admitted to some indiscretions.'"
"Parsley told the elders that Haggard had said some of the allegations were true, but not all of them."

Another RNM article discloses accuser Mike Jones' election motive: "[Jones] decided to come out with his story before the election to influence voters. . . . [Jones said] 'I had to catch him being a hypocrite.'"

Taxes, Welfare, Divorce: Unimagined Results Warn Against Homosex Marriage

"A leeetle more" humility, or "I'm a little leery."

In a remarkable essay (that by itself justifies the blogosphere), libertarian Jane Galt cites three American social reforms whose negative results far exceeded critics' fears and which caution against redefining marriage today:

(1) Federal income tax. When begun, a cap (10% ?) was dismissed as ridiculous because it was so outrageously high that Americans would surely revolt before paying it. Besides, a cap would invite taxes to rise to its level: No cap = a lower tax. But, as Galt points out, "a slow creep . . . eroded the American resistance to income taxation." What are you paying today?

(2) Public welfare. The widows and orphans pensions of the 1800's expanded into temporary support for unfortunate families. In the 1950's, reformers urged expanding aid to theretofore stigmatized unwed mothers, deriding any who objected that financing out-of-wedlock conception and birth would encourage its increase. "So despite the fact that the sixties brought us the biggest advance in birth control ever, illegitimacy exploded," and public welfare finances it.

(3) Divorce. Because it was very hard to divorce in the 1800's and many experienced marital unhappiness of many degrees, reformers made divorce easier. Critics objected: "If you make divorce easier, . . . you will get much more of it, and divorce is bad for society." To which reformers rejoined: "That's ridiculous! . . . People stay married because marriage is a bedrock institution of our society, not because of some law! The only people who get divorced will be people who have terrible problems! A few percentage points at most!"

"Ooops. When the law changed, the institution changed."

As with income tax and welfare, so with divorce: The first change, tiny and incremental, made the next one easier (and with less stigma); and "the magnitude of the change swamped the dire predictions of the anti-reformist wing; no one could have imagined, in their wildest dreams, a day when half of all marriages ended in divorce"; or when (as in the 1990's) out-of-wedlock births exceeded 70% among American blacks (risen from 25% in the early 1960's); or when 35% became the de facto income tax cap (and 10% became the lowest; 2006).

Galt asks how well-meaning reformers could go so badly wrong (noting that reviled critics were right beyond even their own predictions). With regard to how liberalized public welfare undermined marriage (but with application to the other reforms, including homosex marriage), "I think the core problems are two. The first is that [reformers] looked only at individuals, and took instititutions as a given. That is, they looked at all the cultural pressure to marry, and assumed that that would be a countervailing force powerful enough to overcome the new financial incentives for out-of-wedlock births. They failed to see the institution as dynamic. It wasn't a simple matter of two forces: cultural pressure to marry, financial freedom not to, arrayed against each other; those forces had a complex interplay, and when you changed one, you changed the other."

"The second is that they didn't assign any cultural reason for, or value to, the stigma on illegitimacy. They saw it as an outmoded vestige of a repressive Victorian values system, based on an unnatural fear of sexuality. But the stigma attached to unwed motherhood has quite logical, and important, foundations: having a child without a husband is bad for children, and bad for mothers, and thus bad for the rest of us. So our culture made it very costly for the mother to do. Lower the cost, and you raise the incidence. As an economist would say, incentives matter."

And, as Galt cites G. K. Chesterton's analysis, "people who don't see the use of a social institution are the last people who should be allowed to reform it" (as opposed to deforming it). (Reading the GKC excerpt alone is enough reason to move to Galt's essay.)

This reasoning leads her to plea "that people try to be a leeetle more humble about their ability to imagine the subtle results of big policy changes. The argument that gay marriage will not change the institution of marriage because you can't imagine it changing your personal reaction is pretty arrogant. It imagines, first of all, that your behavior is a guide for the behavior of everyone else in society, when in fact, as you may have noticed, all sorts of different people react to all sorts of different things in all sorts of different ways, which is why we have to have elections and stuff. And second, the unwavering belief that the only reason that marriage, always and everywhere, is a male-female institution (I exclude rare ritual behaviors), is just some sort of bizarre historical coincidence, and that you know better, needs examining. If you think you know why marriage is male-female, and why that's either outdated because of all the ways in which reproduction has lately changed, or was a bad reason to start with, then you are in a good place to advocate reform. If you think that marriage is just that way because our ancestors were all a bunch of repressed bastards with dark Freudian complexes that made them homophobic bigots, I'm a little leery of letting you muck around with it."

While this post excerpts key arguments, please read Jane's essay and update.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Up to America, Again: No Nukes In Teheran

Time's passed for alternate measures

Daniel Pipes notes Europe's continued dithering and Teheran's hardening resolve to go nuclear. Evidence for the latter: "Hostile statements provoking the West"; "a mood of messianism in the upper reaches of the government"; and Iran's "urgent nuclear program."

"A focused, defiant, and determined Tehran contrasts with the muddled, feckless Russians, Arabs, Europeans, and Americans. A half year ago, a concerted external effort could still have prompted effective pressure from within Iranian society to halt the nuclear program, but that possibility now appears defunct. As the powers have mumbled, shuffled, and procrastinated, Iranians see their leadership effectively permitted to barrel ahead."

Three non-war alternatives are now too late for success: "threatening an economic embargo, rewarding Tehran for suspending its nuclear program, or helping Iranian anti-regime militias invade the country."

Thus the "key decision – war or acquiescence – will take place in Washington, not in New York, Vienna, or Tehran. (Or Tel Aviv.) The critical moment will arrive when the president of the United States confronts the choice whether or not to permit the Islamic Republic of Iran to acquire the Bomb. The timetable of the Iranian nuclear program being murky, that might be either George W. Bush or his successor."

Pipes' analysis confirms the point of my post Oct. 3, 2006. Barring a providential or wholly miraculous intervention, if Teheran shall not have the Bomb, expect the US to stop its nuclear ambition by force. And yet another US stop along the Axis of Evil. (Despite the scoffing since the President named the Axis, events have confirmed that he is right.)

"They Voted": Why United 93 Passengers Foiled Islamist Hijacking 9/11

Passionate Eloquence Probes "The Heart of American Values"

Hear and share a compact, eloquent expression of what America is all about in Gary Bauer's recent speech (choose 10/30/2006) at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, TN. One of the finest civic speeches I've heard in years that should be anthologized for the future.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Belarus: Update on New Life Church Hunger Strike

By Elizabeth Kendal
World Evangelical Alliance - Religious Liberty News & Analysis

The purpose of this brief posting is to update the situation in New Life Church, Minsk, Belarus and to provide resources to enable informed advocacy and prayer.

There are presently 119 Protestants on hunger strike. Around 30 of them are commencing their fourth week without food. This is courageous commitment in the extreme, but it is not glamorous. These believers are in great need of the LORD's intervention. (Proverbs 21:1, and 29:26). For background, see "Belarus: New Life Church Hunger Strike" WEA RLC New &
Analysis, 17 October 2006 (Link 1).


On Saturday 21 October some 2,000 Protestants rallied publicly in Bangalore Square, Minsk (with government permission) for an end to religious repression. This was a courageous and hugely significant public rally. (Photos -


Alysksandr Milinkevich [democratic leader] has visited the hunger strikers in the New Life Church. He encouraged the believers and expressed great admiration for their faith and courage. "I see very strong and courageous people here, who have a deep faith in God, who believe in justice. These people are invincible, and they are fighting for the simplest right, the right for freedom of worship. It is one of the most important rights of a human. I greatly respect these people, I wish them courage, I wish them not to lose health in this struggle. I know that God is with those who are here, and God wouldn't leave them." (Link 2)


According to Forum 18, President Lukashenka reportedly indicated a desire to provide assistance to the church. His aide for ideology issued a "strong recommendation" to New Life's Pastor, Vyacheslav Goncharenko, that the church make a fresh appeal to the Higher Economic Court. New Life church submitted a fresh appeal to the court on 18 October. However, the believers vowed to continue their hunger strike saying the protest will not end until the church's land and building are legally returned and the church's right to worship in its own property is
officially, legally acknowledged. (Link 3)

On 25 October the church received a letter from the Supreme Economic Court informing them that their pastor faces a massive fine for non-compliance of earlier court rulings. Charter 97 comments, "The Supreme Economic Court has fallen short of Protestants' expectations." The following day, when relatives of two of the New Life hunger strikers attempted to meet with Deputy Director of The Minsk Mayor Mr Michael Titenkov, Svetlana Matskevich, wife of hunger striker Vladimir Matskevich, was forcefully detained by police and taken to the Moscow District Police Station of Minsk for identification.


Back on 18 October, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty published a piece by Daisy Sindelar on Belarus' various hunger strikes. Sindelar writes, "Hernan Reyes, who oversees prisoner medical issues for the International Committee of the Red Cross, says determined strikers want to stay alive as long as they can.

"The longer they fast, the rationale goes, the more extreme their suffering -- and the more powerful their message. It only takes a few weeks for the physical pain of a fast to become profound.

"'You don't feel hunger after a few days because of the ketosis. You have ketones in your bloodstream, which actually stamp out sensations of hunger as we understand it,' Reyes says. 'But of course there are other sensations. After a couple of weeks you'll have what we call nystagmus, which means that you have these uncontrolled rapid eye movements which give you a feeling of dizziness or vertigo, and you feel like you just go off a carousel that's been spinning around very fast. And it's extremely unpleasant. People throw up, they can no longer drink their water. And this is definitely one phase of the hunger strike which all hunger strikers who reach it do remember.'

"That phase is rapidly approaching for the more than 150 Protestant believers in Belarus." (Link 4)

On 23 October volunteer doctors from the Union of Evangelic Baptist Christians recommended that Natallya Ivanova (60) end her fast because she was suffering acute cardiovascular insufficiency. Natallya was rushed to hospital on 24 October, seriously weakened and without a pulse.

On 26 October, Volha Kryshneva (50) was admitted to the intensive care unit of the regional hospital in Baraulyany, Minsk region with heart problems. She had been without food for 21 days. Olga Nikonova (48) was hospitalised to the 4th Clinic Hospital on 26 October with critical heart weakness.

New Life church website ( ) is being continuously updated by New Life Church Youth Press Centre, which was founded just recently by New Life youths in response to the hunger strike. It is an excellent source of information, photographs, stories and links.

A 23 October report by CBN reporter Gailon Totheroh, "Belarus Christians Fast for Freedom" comes with a video and Totheroh's blog that includes information and addresses for advocacy.

Elizabeth Kendal

1) Belarus: New Life church hunger strike. 17 October 2006 World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

2) Alyaksandr Milinkevich Met Protestants on Hunger Strike 24 Oct 2006

3) BELARUS: Government to make U-turn on charismatic church?
By Geraldine Fagan, Forum 18 News Service. 20 October 2006

4) Belarus: Are Hunger Strikes Losing Their Power To Persuade?
By Daisy Sindelar, RFE/RL 19 Oct 2006
**WEA Religious Liberty News & Analysis**

Please feel free to pass this along to others giving attribution to:
"World Evangelical Alliance - Religious Liberty News & Analysis."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"Merry Christmas": Gifts That Give Twice

Visit these sites to give gifts that should please your recipients and will help the oppressed Christians who created them:

Christian Freedom International

Other sites to follow soon.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

To the Pope: Open Letter from Muslim Scholar-Leaders

In Islamica Magazine Muslim scholars and leaders respond in an open letter to Pope Benedict's comments about Islam in his 12 September 2006 address at the University of Regensburg. Religion Today Summaries comments:
"All the eight schools of thought and jurisprudence in Islam are represented by the signatories, including a woman scholar. In this respect the letter is unique in the history of interfaith relations. The letter was sent, in a spirit of goodwill, to respond to some of the remarks made by the Pope during his lecture at the University of Regensburg on Sept. 12, 2006. The letter tackles the main substantive issues raised in his treatment of a debate between the medieval Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an “educated Persian”, including reason and faith; forced conversion; “jihad” vs. “holy war”; and the relationship between Christianity and Islam."

My comments soon . . .

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Act Today to Stop Persecution of New Life (Pentecostal) Church, Minsk, Belarus

Members of New Life Church are joined in an outdoor rally 21 October by 2000 residents of Minsk and numerous other towns of Belarus, as well as by Christians from Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Russia. New Life members have decided to start legislative work with participation of representatives of interested governmental bodies and religious organizations to overturn the repressive 2002 legislation that limits religious freedom. I believe we are witnessing yet another people-power movement toward widespread civil freedom in another former Soviet republic. May God grant them full success!

See What God Can Do with Your Voice

Goal: 100 faxed letters to Belarus ambassador this week

One appeal for each ten members of New Life Church

1. Read the October 17 report (updates here). See the PowerPoint presentation of the church founded in 1992 by the son of an imprisoned Pentecostal pastor. Then, below, see the sample letter to the Belarus ambassador.
2. Pray for God’s victory through this persecution, and then
3. Write and fax your letter today: (202) 986-1805.
4. Copy me with your letter, or simply tell me you’ve sent it. Click on the e-mail (envelope) icon at the bottom of the blog to respond. I will update the blog as results are reported.

Thank you for joining this effort to advance religious freedom and the gospel with your prayer and letter of protest and appeal. Today your voice counts more than ever before: Davids are defeating Goliaths.


October 17, 2006

The Honorable Mikhail Khvostov
Ambassador, Respublika Byelarus'
1619 New Hampshire Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20009
TEL: (202) 986-1604
FAX: (202) 986-1805

Dear Mr. Ambassador:

I wish your country much prosperity, peace, and freedom.

However, I have learned how unjustly your government treats the New Life Church of Minsk; and I am so deeply disturbed that I am writing to you and – until your government stops its injustice – seeking to swell a worldwide corps of eyes and voices to show the world how Respublika Byelarus’, a United Nations member, systematically defies its obligation to honor religious freedom, as expressed in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN, 1948): namely,

The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one's belief or religion
The right to join together and express one's belief.

I send with this letter a report by the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (17 October 2006). It documents these injustices of your government:

· continuously denying New Life Church’s (NLC) attempts to register with the state
· obstructing NLC’s efforts to rent a meeting place
· harassing NLC’s renovation and use of its building to meet for worship
· for Article-18-protected religious activities, fining Pastor Goncharenko multiple times and threatening church administrator Yurevich with prosecution
· refusing NLC’s request to change its building’s official designation
· forcing unjust sale of NLC’s property at about 1/35th of its true value
· denying doctors’ and nurses’ visits to hunger strikers in NLC.

As you know, starting Friday, 6 October, and continuing into an eleventh day today, a growing number of productive Belarus citizens who are also members of NLC have moved into its house of worship and are protesting these government injustices through a determined hunger strike. They are successfully focusing world attention on this tragic fact: Respublika Byelarus’ denies its citizens the universal right of religious freedom.

Mr. Ambassador, please appeal to your government to stop the injustice immediately and to demonstrate with consistent public actions that it sincerely promotes religious freedom and cooperates with – rather than hinders – the religious activities of NLC. If it does not begin doing justice in these matters, I and many like me will increase our efforts to publicize worldwide your government’s injustice; and Respublika Byelarus’ will receive much negative attention. But if your government will promote religious freedom and cooperate with NLC, I and many like me will be happy to help Byelarus receive positive attention worldwide.

As a Christian, I know that the leaders and members of NLC seek only the good of your country. Our faith teaches us to respect our leaders and to pray for them. New Life Church is no threat to any government that seeks to do justice and to serve the good of its citizens. If your government will cooperate with NLC, it will see what benefit this church will bring to Minsk and even to the country as a whole.

My wish for your country’s prosperity, peace, and freedom is sincere. But it can be fulfilled only as your government treats NLC and other religious bodies justly – that is, through sincerely respecting their freedom to believe, worship, and witness to their faith without government opposition.


Rev. Mark E. Roberts, Ph.D. †
Publisher, Word & Spirit Press

Monday, October 16, 2006

UNM Poll: Teaching Leans Left

University of New Mexico student newspaper, Daily Lobo, today publishes on-going results of an Internet-reader-response poll about the politics of university faculty. No surprise about the leftward slant; what surprises me is that responses by UNM students today corroborate its reality:

22% "Yes, as a conservative, I feel my freedom of speech is limited."
39% "Yes, certain facts are presented with a leftist slant."
39% "No, politics have never clouded the facts in my classes."
0% "No, professors are not liberal enough."

(The poll is ongoing as of 17 October, and response percentages have changed.)

Good prima facie evidence for the need for some genuine viewpoint diversity on the UNM faculty, wouldn't you say? Not only at UNM, but at American universities generally. Thomas Sowell reports that at Stanford, his home as a Fellow of the Hoover Institution, "the faculty includes 275 registered Democrats and 36 registered Republicans. . . . Such ratios are not uncommon at other universities -- despite all the rhetoric about "diversity." Only physical diversity seems to matter."

Taxis Drive under Constitution, not Sharia

Daniel Pipes, source of accurate information and analysis about the Middle East and relations between Islam and the world, reports that Muslim taxi drivers who refused to carry passengers carrying alcoholic drinks are not getting their way with the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport: "Islamists need to understand that the Constitution rules in the United States, not Shari'a, and Americans will vigorously ensure that it continues to do so."

Friday, October 13, 2006

Update Refutes This Claim: Muslim Doctor Kills Wife for Failing to Prevent Daughter's Conversion

On 13 October 2006, WEA Religious Liberty News & Analysis issued a posting entitled "Australia: Girl's conversion results in mother's death".

That story needs to be updated.

In summary, Australian media reported that on 9 October a 17-year-old girl named Kaihana Hussain was attacked with a knife by her father, Dr Mohammed Hussain, after she reiterated her commitment to convert from Islam toChristianity. According to the reports, Kaihana's mother was fatally stabbed when she tried to intervene, and her father attempted to kill himself afterKaihana escaped the apartment. Police confirmed at the time that Kaihana was not a suspect. (Link 1)

Dr Hussain was hospitalised in a critical condition and put in an induced coma. It has only been very recently that investigative police have been able to speak with Dr Hussain. He alleges that Kaihana stabbed her mother to death and attempted to murder him because they disapproved of her behaviour and her unsuitable boy-friend.

Kaihana was subsequently arrested. She faced the Southport Magistrates Court on 7 November where she was charged with murder and attempted murder. She did not speak and no plea was entered. Kaihana Hussain is remanded in custody until her trial which has been slated for 22 May 2007. No further comment can be made as the matter is under police investigation. More details can be found at Link 2.

Anyone who has posted WEA RLC's 13 October release to their website should remove it. Thank you.


1) HERALD SUN. Islam row behind mum's death. 11 October 2006,21985,20563009-662,00.html
Mother killed after teen rejects IslamSchool Death Link. 12 Oct 2006

) Girl on murder charge. 7 Nov 2006

[At the request of the WEA Religious Liberty News & Analysis, on 8 November 2006, I deleted the rest of this post.]

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Evangelicals, culture, politics

A Third Way?

James K. A. Smith puts Greg Boyd's The Myth of A Christian Nation firmly in the pietistic half of a dichotomy, opposed by triumphalism. Knowing the Pentecostal background of both Boyd and Smith, I'm pleased that both aim their admirable intellectual and theological resources on the topic of Christian faith and its relation to culture, politics being a key sphere within culture. And I happily side with Smith: "[C]an't we see in-breakings of the coming kingdom here and now, better in some places than others?" Surely the reign of (confessedly fallen) democracy in South Korea at least approximates the reign of God more than life under Kim Jong-il's tyranny in the north. If not, why should people of faith ever concern themselves with" speaking truth to power" (a phrase I first heard from a Quaker friend) -- unless only to pronounce judgment without mercy or hope for redemption.

But Smith joins "Constantinianism" with "triumphalism" without remainder, rejecting both it and pietism, while calling for a third way. But given the dichotomy, Constantinianism holds out more hope for correction -- righteous restraint in its agenda of this-worldly engagement -- than does a pietism that identifies spirituality with disengagement. In fact, Robert Louis Wilken's review of recent works on Constantine urges that within earliest Constantinianism, Lactantius, the Latin apologist and contemporary of the emperor, establishes the basic political and ethical argument for freedom of religion that, refined for 1500 years, constitutes a core value of the secularized West:

Lactantius’ Institutes deals with a grab bag of theological and moral topics, but at places in the work one can see that he had an additional agenda: he wished to deprive Roman authorities of a philosophical and legal justification for the persecution of Christians by appealing to their own ideals of toleration, which they had abandoned in this case. Lactantius moved beyond the usual apologetic gambits to offer a positive argument as to why religion of any sort cannot be coerced. Religion, says Lactantius, has to do with love of God and purity of mind, neither of which can be compelled. “Why should a god love a person who does not feel love in return?” he asks. Religion cannot be imposed on someone, it can only be promoted by “words,” i.e., by persuasion, for it has to do with an interior disposition, and must be “voluntary.” “Nothing,” he writes, “requires freedom of the will as religion.”

Whatever the excesses of Constantinianism -- and they should not be minimized -- Wilken argues that early on Roman society accommodated to the church far more than the church accommodated (read "compromised") to pagan society.

So the third way Smith calls for may already have been occupying the world stage for centuries: a limited Constantinianism that expresses kingdom Spirit through earthly structures in a dialectical journey toward Zion, toward the coming down of the heavenly city to earth (Rev. 21:2 -- 10).

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Must America Go It (nearly) Alone?

Bat Ye'or knows Islamism's global threat -- and Europe's collusion

Bat Ye'or is the world's foremost authority on dhimmitude, that humiliating, second-class status into which all non-Muslims are put when Islam governs through shariah. Her latest studies include Islam and Dhimmitude. Where Civilizations Collide and Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis. The following excerpt concludes her 2004 interview with FrontPage magazine, in which she foresees America and Israel increasingly isolated from, even opposed by, the European Union, even in the war against Islamist terror.

FP: Is there any optimism that we can have for Europe? How about to win this war against Islamism?

Bat Ye'or: Maybe the recent developments revealing France's failed policy and the horrendous ordeals of children and parents in
Ossetia will induce Europeans to bring their politicians and media to accountability. The war against a global jihadist terrorism can be won only if the civilized world is united against barbarity. Until now European democracies supported Arafat, the initiator of jihadist terrorism, hostage-taking and Islamikazes. The war will be won if we name it, if we face it, if we recognize that it obeys specific rules of Islamic war that are not ours; and if democracies and Muslim modernists stop justifying these acts against other countries. The policy of collusion and support for terrorists in order to gain self-protection is a delusion. [emphasis added]

Sharansky's Town-Square Test

Identifying Genuine, Peace-Promoting Democracy

I was stirred by President Bush’s identifying the advance of liberty as "the mission that created our Nation" and “the best hope for peace in our world" in his Second Inaugural Address. Yet is another of his firm beliefs true: namely, that free -- that is, democratic -- nations do not fight each other? The electoral victory of Islamofascists such as Hamas in Palestine does not promise peace with its democratic neighbor Israel; and the potential for electoral victory by similarly anti-Western forces in Afghanistan and Iraq makes me wonder if freedom as “democracy” by itself guarantees international stability in any way. If a nation elects a leader with the vile anti-Semitism of Iran’s Ahmadinejad, why should Tel Aviv sleep peacefully?

Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident and tireless agitator for global human rights, addresses precisely this concern in his June 2006 inaugural Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom Lecture “Is Freedom for Everyone?”. His key point? “Elections Do Not Democracy Make.”
In America, I came here to [Washington], to this White House to discuss with the Vice President and with everybody who wanted to listen that you cannot start democratic reforms with elections. You can have elections, but they will have nothing to do with the democracy. Democracy is not elections; democracy is free elections and free society. The test of the democratic state is not elections; there are elections in every dictatorship. The test of dem­ocratic states is the town square test, where you can go to this square to express your views and you will not be punished for it. Palestinians [in the recent] elec­tions had to choose between a hated corrupt dicta­torship [Arafat’s], a mafia which was taking from them protection money for everything on one hand, and a few honest terrorists [Hamas] who wanted to kill a lot of Jews but who were taking care of the weak and poor on the other hand.

Other key points: While President Bush rightly promotes universal democratic freedom, US foreign policy simultaneously undermines the goal whenever it props up tyrannies and fails to support dissidents, who are themselves the key to regime change. Examples: past support of Arafat in Palestine, which paved the road for the present Hamas victory; continuing support for the tribal dynasty of Saudi Arabia and the injustices of Mubarak’s Egypt, which discourage reform leading to genuine democracy; and neglect of dissidents in Iran while appeasing the ayatollahs:
Iran is a unique example of where on one hand you have this awful regime which now is threatening to black­mail all the world with nuclear bombs, and on the other hand, a country where in one generation, a country of true believers of overwhelming sup­port to this regime turned into a country of dou­ble thinkers, of people who don’t accept this situation. And they started expressing it. The opposition movement in Iran is not a dissident here, a dissident there. It’s a powerful movement of different trade unions, of student organizations, and of women’s organizations who started two years ago to speak loudly and openly and appeal to the free world to support them, saying, “We are your allies, not the ayatollahs.”

. . . .

[Yet this] movement in Iran . . . is receiving almost no support. Not only is it receiv­ing almost no support, but the America which took such a strong position on Iran at the last moment declared that they have new proposals for the aya­tollahs and, in fact, by starting this new page, undermined immediately the inner strength of [its] position. I am saying this with pain, because I have great admiration for the President. When I met him I saw how deeply he believes in these ideas of promoting independent democracy. But when I look at the policies of the United States of America at this moment toward Iran, I don’t see any differ­ence with the policy of the previous administration toward North Korea. And that administration had a very different philosophy. But suddenly, take their approach to North Korea and this approach to Iran and it proves the same.

Sharansky concludes:
The democratic agenda is in danger and I believe of all the reasons, first of all it is in danger because President Bush is very lonely in his struggle. You know, the fact that he has so few allies overseas is bad; but the fact that he has so few allies in Washington is much worse.

Of course, dissidents are always lonely. But now, in this confrontation between the world of freedom and the world of terror, it is crucial that the Presi­dent of the United States will not be alone on this. But second, to stay the course is very difficult, it’s very important. Before we start saying the demo­cratic agenda failed, let’s first sincerely try this agen­da. And then we’ll see whether it will fail or not.

I believe it will win.

(See also the FrontPage interview with Sharansky.)

Friday, September 29, 2006

Fascinating Phrases Proposal

I'm writing a proposal for a fun, illustrated impulse-purchase or gift book on the origins and lives of fascinating phrases. Here's a draft of a sample entry (all (c) 2006 by yours truly, thank you very much). I appreciate receiving suggestions of phrases to be included, as well as resources that reveal their fascination.

“Ollie, ollie, oxen free”

When Clara yelled it into the Italian duomo’s bell tower in The Light in the Piazza, this humble backyard phrase had finally made it to Broadway.

But it was already a classic. Nearly everyone who’s ever played hide-n-seek has heard or yelled it dozens of times as the ritual that ends a round of play. But what do a boy’s name and a team of unyoked plow animals have to do with the game? Nothing at all. What we’ve yelled and heard for years is a simple corruption of this end-of-game declaration: “All the, all the outs in free!” Even when someone yells each word carefully, players hiding yards away may still hear the corrupted form – which is why it is with us. And despite our hearing the wrong words, we still know what the yell means: Everyone still in hiding – “the outs” – can come in without fear of being “it,” because someone else already is, and another round is ready to begin.