December 2011

On Christmas Eve, CBS treated the nation to a what I think was supposed to be a lessons-and-carols type worship service broadcast from General Theological Seminary in New York. I didn’t see it, but I have read the homily given that evening by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefforts Schori. Remember, this is what at least a few million people likely took away from the eve of the Feast of the Nativity:

The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.  God has increased their joy, for a child has been given, whose authority shall grow continually, and bring endless peace… from this time forth and forevermore, says Isaiah. [9:2-7, supposedly–DSF]

The eternal hope and yearning of the human race emerges from darkness into light in the birth of this child both humble and divine.  We have burdened his shoulders with every earthly failing and divine hope – for light in the darkness, warmth in the cold, food for our hunger, righteousness in place of injustice, an end to violence and war, and a lasting and eternal peace.  Those yearnings continue to burst forth in human hearts, and we live in hope that his reign will ultimately bring them to reality.  We gather to celebrate his birth and recover that eternal hope.

I met a young man named Jesse not long ago high in the mountains in a town in Colorado.  He told of being thrown out of the place where he was living, through no fault of his own.  He said it was the second time he’d become homeless.  The first time he was put out into the darkness of a snowy night with no money and only the clothing he wore.  He wandered the streets until the police stopped and asked him what was wrong.  They took him to a community agency that helped him find a hotel room for the night.  The second ousting from his temporary home meant that now he would flee that town, and seek shelter and refuge in a warmer, desert clime.  He may not have had the traveling companions of the babe born in Bethlehem, but he did have a surrounding community of care and help, bringing light into his darkness.

Jesus was born for this – for the homeless Jesse and his brothers and sisters in the cold and hungry darkness of rejection and violence.  Jesus is born anew in human hearts every time we meet the vulnerable – which is all of us, once we awaken to the reality of our own longing.

We are all filled with the same yearnings for an enduring home and healing in a community of peace.  Particularly in this season of want and uncertainty we look for stability, confidence, and faith in something or someone beyond our own insufficiency.  That God might cast off divine glory and be vulnerable enough to take on human flesh seems beyond the ken of many.  Yet it is that very vulnerability that offers hope – when we know our own need and hunger and yearning.

This frail infant is clothed with divine glory – the lowly lifted up and the hungry fed at his birth.  And over all this drama of divine entry into human flesh hovers a community not unlike this one.  Angels draw our attention to the holy in our midst.  Parents, elders, and teachers steward our growing wisdom and awareness and guide us into growth toward the full stature of Christ – the glory of God in a human being fully alive. Shepherds keep watch, lest danger come to the vulnerable.

Jesse’s angels guided the night-watching shepherds to his side and led him to shelter.  The elders of Leadville guided him into the heart of a welcoming community table. That table has room for all who hunger and thirst – in body and in spirit.  It is peopled by the poor and the better off, by Spanish speakers and Anglos, by people from Ireland and Greece, by the wounded and the outwardly well.  Each one comes into a stable like this one, hoping to meet the holy.  We meet that holy child in every vulnerable human being, in every one who hungers and thirsts.  We meet him growing to maturity in all who answer their neighbor’s vulnerability and need.  He is present with us at this table and at every table and meeting where need meets response.  Salvation lies all around us.

Where is the holy child born again?  Who gathers to watch over, nurture, and guard the growing redeemer in our midst?  Will we indeed recognize the image of God on all faces, and call that divine mark into fuller stature and greater glory and more abundant life?  We share this creative and redeeming drama in ways beyond our knowing.  Will you gather around the holy one?

I’ve read this 685 word opus three times, and I still can’t figure out what she’s talking about, what it has to do with the Scripture cited at the outset, or what it has to do with authentic Christian teaching. There are oblique references and hints at stuff that is actually Christian (there’s an allusion to something Irenaeus may have said in the fifth paragraph, and she may be referring to Mother Teresa when she says “We meet that holy child in every vulnerable human being, in every one who hungers and thirsts”). Unfortunately, those get overwhelmed in a sea of platitudes, misbegotten metaphors, inappropriate analogies, and just plain heresy (“the growing redeemer in our midst”? are those who help the poor really to be said to be “redeemers”?). Anyone out there care to try to enlighten me?

(Via Stand Firm.)


Christian Century contributing editor James M. Wall, writing in the Palestinian propaganda outlet Electronic Intifada, lets his inner anti-Semite hang out:

Why does this wanton destruction of private Palestinian homes continue unabated? The answer is simple: Israel controls the narrative that justifies its conduct by reporting the demolition of a Palestinian home as a “necessary step” for the “security” and well-being of Israel. The Israeli narrative keeps the Western world locked into a permanent state of ignorance, following the pattern of previous Western colonial invaders and occupiers.

Despite being long retired, Wall sounds like he just stepped out of an undergraduate Middle East Studies course. Terminology aside, there more than a suggestion of the paranoid anti-Semite’s belief that Jews control the world, the media, the U.S., whatever. I’m not sure how one can say that “Israel controls the narrative” when it is the regular object of condemnation by the United Nations, the UN Human Rights Council, and various other international organizations for a multitude of actions that are SOP for dozens of nations that never hear a peep out of said organizations (or Wall and his religious left buddies), but that’s paranoia for you.

The Israeli narrative, carefully honed by Israel well before Israel’s 1947-48 war of conquest, has skillfully made the case that Israel is a state whose inhabitants deserve their own state as victims of oppression and genocide. They chose the ancient biblical lands of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) on the grounds that the land was “given to them” by Yahweh (the Hebrew word for God).

So let me get this straight: Israel has been “honing the narrative” since “well before” Israel came into existence? The superpowers of the Jooooos that people like Wall delusionally concoct never cease to amaze me.

Wall is apparently unaware of the Balfour Declaration (1917), in which the British government declared its support for a Jewish national homeland in Palestine, long before the Holocaust. And why did they “[choose] the ancient biblical lands of Judea and Samaria”? It couldn’t have anything to do with that being the ancestral home of the Jewish people could it? Or perhaps the fact that Jews had lived in that land for over 3000 years regardless of who the ruler was? Nah, they must have chosen it so they could kick around Arabs.

One other thing. Wall calls Israel’s War for Independence a “war of conquest.” This is revisionist history that only a Holocaust denier could love. Israel was established by UN action, which was ignored by five Arab nations that invaded Israel on the day it proclaimed its independence with the aim of destroying the new-born state and exterminating the Jews living in Palestine. Did Israel capture and annex territory that was not part of the original UN partition plan? Yes, not surprising given that the UN plan would have created a state that was totally indefensible (and despite that, Jewish leadership accepted said plan, while the Arab leadership unequivocally rejected it). The lands that people like Wall now refer to as the “Palestinian territories” (the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem) were not “conquered” by Israel, of course, but were taken over by Egypt and Jordan. If the Arabs had wanted to set up a Palestinian state, they could have at any time between 1948 and 1967. Wall must have been doing his Rip Van Winkle routine during those twenty years.

That narrative — mixing ancient biblical beliefs with modern political strategy — has so totally dominated the perspective of the Western world outside the Middle East, that it has emerged as the only view of reality known to the West. It is in this narrative that Israel is the “victim” and the Palestinian people are an enemy that seeks to drive Israelis “into the sea.”

Yeah, it’s a pity we never hear another perspective out of the mainstream media in the United States or anywhere else in the West (the UK’s Guardian newspaper, for instance, journalistic home of Robert Fisk, is actually a Mossad front operation, as is the New York Times, the Washington Post, heck, even the Christian Century, are nothing but shills for Likud). And I have no idea where anyone ever came up with the notion that any Palestinians want to destroy Israel and kill as many Jews as possible.

It has been Israel’s goal since it gained UN recognition as a state in 1949 to control this narrative and prevent any contrary narrative from obtaining a hearing. The occupation of the Palestinian people is sold to the West as a necessity. Palestinians in this narrative are perceived as a threat to the well being and security of all Israelis.

This is another one of those inexplicable things. I can’t imagine where anyone ever got the idea that the Palestinians were a “threat to the well being and security” of Israelis.

The large majority of Americans have accepted this narrative as the only available reality. They permit their government to function as a financial backer of Israel, and to politically support Israel in world forums. American politicians function within a bipartisan political operation which accepts and promotes the “Israel is a permanent victim” narrative. This narrative obscures the political reality that Israel serves as an important part of the American empire, which seeks to control the people of the Middle East through military power and political deceit.

And we know who controls America, right?

The Palestinian narrative traces its history through Arab history, from which Palestinians emerged as an important part of the Ottoman Empire. Following Arab support for the Western allies in their war in 1917-18 against Germany and Turkey, Palestinians were assured they would retain their homeland in their corner of the Ottoman Empire. The Palestinian narrative in the modern era emphasizes the Nakba(catastrophe), the ethnic cleansing that led to Israel’s establishment. That narrative has been denied a part in American discussions of the Middle East.

There’s a reason why the “Palestinian narrative traces its history through Arab history.” It’s because the Palestinians are Arabs. Under the Ottoman Empire, they were simply the Arabs who lived in Palestine. As for the “ethnic cleansing” that is now so much a part of the Nakba mythology, I suggest you take a look here for some information from contemporaneous sources about how the Palestinian refugee problem came about. Oh, and of course I’d also point out that if the Jews intended to engage in “ethnic cleansing,” they should fire their maid, since they left most of the cleansees within the borders of the new state. One also wonders why neither Wall nor any other Palestinian apologist ever–I mean, ever–mentions that there were over 17,000 Jewish refugees who were expelled from Jordanian controlled areas of the West Bank. They didn’t remain refugees long, of course, because Israel took them in, unlike the Arab nations and the Palestinian Authority, which to this day use the Palestinian refugees as political pawns in their fight against Israel.

It is the Israeli narrative that enables Israel to be an important American ally in the Middle East. That narrative saturates American society through the media, the economy, political structures, nongovernmental institutions involved in education and religious groups.

All that’s missing here is the assertion that this is because the Jooooos control all of these American institutions. Oh, wait.

Wall goes to talk about the Kairos Document, but I think I’m through with him for this outing.

I saw these cartoons yesterday, but decided not to put them up on Christmas. They may be found on the Facebook page of the PCUSA’s Israel Palestine Mission Network, and speak volumes about an organization that would publicize them:

Even the person who posted that second one said, “At first, this cartoon seems a bit much,” but then added, “then it sinks in that unfortunately, it’s spot on!” Well, if you’re a total loon, I suppose it is. As for the first, you wonder if it occurred to the dunce who posted it (much less the moron who drew it) that Mary and Joseph were Jewish, not Palestinian Arab.

If you’re as revolted by this kind of display of graphic anti-Semitism as I am, go to the IPMN’s Facebook page and comment on them. I’ve noticed that in recent weeks, commenters led by Viola Larson have begun to challenge the kind of nonsense and hate that the IPMN links to on Facebook. Let let them know that their one-sided, mindless, and un-Christian bashing of Israel and its efforts to defend itself will not go unopposed.

Christmas in the words of the greatest of all Christian preachers:

BEHOLD a new and wondrous mystery. My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn. The Angels sing. The Archangels blend their voice in harmony. The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise. The Seraphim exalt His glory. All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.

Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side, the Sun of justice. And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed, He had the power, He descended, He redeemed; all things yielded in obedience to God. This day He Who is, is Born; and He Who is, becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became He God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassability, remaining unchanged.

And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.

Since this heavenly birth cannot be described, neither does His coming amongst us in these days permit of too curious scrutiny. Though I know that a Virgin this day gave birth, and I believe that God was begotten before all time, yet the manner of this generation I have learned to venerate in silence and I accept that this is not to be probed too curiously with wordy speech. For with God we look not for the order of nature, but rest our faith in the power of Him who works.

What shall I say to you; what shall I tell you? I behold a Mother who has brought forth; I see a Child come to this light by birth. The manner of His conception I cannot comprehend.

Nature here rested, while the Will of God labored. O ineffable grace! The Only Begotten, Who is before all ages, Who cannot be touched or be perceived, Who is simple, without body, has now put on my body, that is visible and liable to corruption. For what reason? That coming amongst us he may teach us, and teaching, lead us by the hand to the things that men cannot see. For since men believe that the eyes are more trustworthy than the ears, they doubt of that which they do not see, and so He has deigned to show Himself in bodily presence, that He may remove all doubt.

Christ, finding the holy body and soul of the Virgin, builds for Himself a living temple, and as He had willed, formed there a man from the Virgin; and, putting Him on, this day came forth; unashamed of the lowliness of our nature’. For it was to Him no lowering to put on what He Himself had made. Let that handiwork be forever glorified, which became the cloak of its own Creator. For as in the first creation of flesh, man could not be made before the clay had come into His hand, so neither could this corruptible body be glorified, until it had first become the garment of its Maker.

What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness.

For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His Word; taking my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit, that He may save me.

Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been ‘in planted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels.

Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He became Flesh. He did not become God. He was God. Wherefore He became flesh, so that He Whom heaven did not contain, a manger would this day receive. He was placed in a manger, so that He, by whom all things arc nourished, may receive an infant’s food from His Virgin Mother. So, the Father of all ages, as an infant at the breast, nestles in the virginal arms, that the Magi may more easily see Him. Since this day the Magi too have come, and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny; and the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star.

To Him, then, Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, we offer all praise, now and for ever. Amen.

–John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople

In one of the most despicable episodes in the long, sorry history of the United Nations, the General Assembly took time out at the beginning of its plenary session for a minute of silence for Kim Jong il:

Needless to say, mass murderer Kim belonged in the dock at the International Court of Justice, not getting a respectful remembrance at the UN. But really–is anyone surprised?

(Via Hot Air.)

In what can only be described as an exquisite example of bad timing, the Redstone Presbytery of the PCUSA filed suit this week to prevent Covenant Presbyterian Church in Ligonier, Pennsylvania from leaving the denomination. According to the Christian Post:

A Pennsylvania presbytery of the Presbyterian Church(USA) has filed suit against a departing congregation, saying they did not properly follow the process for dismissal.

Redstone Presbytery brought their suit against Covenant Presbyterian Church of Ligonier on Tuesday to a court in Westmoreland County.

“We have a process for churches seeking to be dismissed,” said Steve Benz, interim executive presbyter of the Presbytery of Redstone.

“They chose to halt the process mid-stream and we are seeking to continue our process.”

Benz explained that this process varies between congregations, but that a “discernment team has freedom to move at a pace that seems appropriate to the situation, and each situation is to be handled independently.”

Covenant Presbyterian decided to leave the PC(USA) over the denomination’s recent decision on noncelibate homosexual clergy. In May, the PC(USA) assembly and a majority of the denominations 173 Presbyteries voted to allow homosexuals engaged in same-sex relationships to serve as clergy and church positions.

Now, I don’t know what’s been going on in the Redstone Presbytery, but I do know what’s been going on in the EPC’s Presbytery of the East, and I can tell you that Covenant did not move to the EPC because of the passage of Amendment 10-A. In fact, Covenant joined the Presbytery of the East in 2010. That being the case, just what has Redstone been doing for the last year–at an “appropriate pace,” no doubt–that they had to file this suit the week before Christmas?

(Via the Layman Online.)

From the Washington Post comes the news that the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) has asked two science journals to censor the potentially apocalyptical information I mentioned last month:

The federal government on Tuesday asked two science journals to censor parts of two papers describing how researchers produced what appears to be a far more dangerous version of the “bird flu” virus that has circulated in Asia for more than a decade.

After weeks of reviewing the manuscripts the board recommended their “general conclusions” be published but “not include the methodological and other details that could enable replication of the experiments by those who would seek to do harm.”

The board — 23 scientists and public-health experts from outside the government, and 18 from within — cannot stop publication. Its advice goes to the Department of Health and Human Services, whose leaders will ask the journals — Science, published in Washington, and Nature, published in London — to comply.

The research was paid for by the National Institutes of Health as part of a large portfolio of research aimed at “pandemic preparedness.” The NSABB recommendation, however, puts the federal government in a distinctly controversial and embarrassing position. It calls for a limit on the free exchange of information — something viewed as anathema by many scientists. It also suggests there was not sufficient forethought about what might happen if the government-funded experiments actually worked.

“This has been a total public relations nightmare,” said one person familiar with the board’s workings during the past month.

Public relations. We’re talking about the creation of a virus that could kill tens or hundreds of millions of people (unlike most forms of flu, H5N1 has a very high mortality rate, on the order of 60%, and the form that’s been developed is air-borne, rather than dependent on physical contact for transmission), and they’re worried about public relations.

It’s bad enough that the world has been informed that it is possible to create such a virus with a relatively small amount of genetic tweaking. To lay out the details and make it easier for rogue regimes or state sponsors of terrorism to do it just seems insane. There’s no doubt that once the genie of such knowledge is out of the bottle, there’s no putting it back in, but that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be prudent to delay putting the blueprints on the information superhighway until a counter-measure can be developed.

In the meantime, how about if they at least put the product of the research in a secure location? According to The Independent of the UK:

Some scientists are questioning whether the research should ever have been undertaken in a university laboratory, instead of at a military facility.

The study was carried out by a Dutch team of scientists led by Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, where the mutated virus is stored under lock and key, but without armed guards, in a basement building.

Somehow, I don’t think bad “public relations” is the biggest nightmare that could come out of this insanity.

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