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Location: Montgomery Area, Alabama, United States

Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Thursday, August 31, 2006

CC's Are Up

Yet again, I am a week behind on posting Christian Carnivals. This week we have 136 and 137.

CXXXVI is at Jeremy Pierce's excellent site, Parableman. You know, I've long thought that U2 front man Bono has his head on straight in terms of faith, even if his association with the entertainment crowd (or his faith, for that matter) have led him to some freaky liberal political positions I don't agree with. Parableman links to a very good post at Codex. I remember that his number 4 selection was what first gave me a clue to the band's Christian moorings: I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For:

This song is at once both a clear affirmation of the band’s faith (at least three of them at that time) as well as an expression of striving for a theological home: “You broke the bonds and you / Loosed the chains / Carried the cross / And my shame / All my shame / You know I believe it / But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

It captured where I was in my much-wandering faith walk back in 1987 and started me listenting to the band. (Incidentally, I've very much found what I was looking for; keeping sight of it is just sometimes a problem...)

One omission though: I would have included Vertigo from How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, one of my favorite recent songs. "Your love is teaching me how .... How to kneel."

CXXXVII is at John Howell's great site, Brain Cramps for God, which I have also linked to frequently. Lots of good posts here. One of the better posts I've read on "creation science" and a Christian reconciliation with the concept of evolution, which nature deomonstrates in all its aspects. The author, like me, believes that science and Christianity are reconcilable and that God gave us minds and senses for a reason. We just see now through a glass darkly.

In summary: Christians can and should embrace science, they are not opposing belief structures. Believe the Bible, yes, but don’t reject science out of hand. God has given us glimpses into how the universe was made and what goes on there, embrace those things as gracious gifts from God. Again, I also want to point out that salvation is not dependant on your take on this issue. I just want you to move beyond a rigid understanding of what you think the Bible says, it probably was not intended that way. Exegesis is a good thing.

This summarizes his position (and mine), but read his enitre argument against some of the more science-hostile (and science-illiterate) "creation science" advocates.

Another post from 137 (at Fiedes et Veritas) made my jaw drop:

The Rev. John Stevens says Fellowship Baptist Church in Saltillo voted not to approve blacks as members during a scheduled Sunday night business meeting Aug. 6. Because of the decision, Stevens stepped down from the Baptist Missionary Alliance congregation that has an average Sunday morning attendance of 30 people.

According to Stevens, the church made race an issue after a biracial 12-year-old boy, Joe, began attending Fellowship Baptist with his temporary guardians.

The church was “afraid Joe might come with his people and have blacks in the church,” Stevens said. “I could not go along with that. There would always be a wall between us, so I resigned that night.”

Is this really still a problem in 21st century American churches? Sick and sad, is all I can say. I do agree with Jeremy Pierce in his comment to the post, however:

certainly agree with your criticism of this church, but it strikes me as strange to see it as a sign of how low the church has sunk. Given that this was extremely commonplace 100 years ago and is extremely rare now, I’d say that things have greatly improved. These outliers remind us that we haven’t completely recovered, but the fact that this is so uncommon should say something about how much better things are.

I hope he's right.


Update 6 Sep 06
: A new commenter, Karl at Nonoya, (like that blog name -- pretty good blog, too), sends the following:

found your blog on the Christian Carnival, and I just wanted to say that it's good to see a fellow Alabamian up there. I grew up in Tallassee, and live in Northport now. Check out my blog when you get a chance.

Yep, there's a few of us here. Know your hometown well by site -- we go through it frequently since we like to take 14 to and from Auburn to Prattville and vice versa. Nice town, even if I've only stopped there to eat, to be perfectly frank. AL actually a lot of really nice little towns: Prattville, Tallasee, Alex City, Brewton, that have a lot more Ye Olde American Small Town feel than anything I was used to up in Ynakee lands. The Tuscaloosa area is also very nice, though I don't know it as well. One of my duaghters who swam in competitions at Auburn and Bama, both, so I'm getting to know the college towns a lot better.


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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sad but True

"Clausewitz had it backward." So says Ralph Peters, writing in the July 06 Armed Forces Journal, an issue I just got around to reading. I am not generally a fan of Peters, since he is about the most vocally predjudiced anti-airpower zealot the Army has in its camp, but in matters of conflict philosophy in general, he's often right on. He's never been more so than in this article, sadly.

His view of mankind is jaundiced and cynical, appealing deeply to my Calvinist roots -- for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God -- and the world is ruled by the spirits of the flesh, sinful man, and the Deceiver. His view is very Hobbsian, as is mine: man's natural state is war of all against all, even if the forms of conflict we indulge in the world are not always called war. My visceral agreement with Peters accords with, and largely explains why, I have devoted much of my life to the study of history, and particularly human conflict and war.

Peters puts the case more elequently than I can:

Even those who have never read a line written by Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military philosopher, accept as truth his dictum that "War is simply a continuation of policy with other means." Yet, that statement was only superficially true for the European world in which Clausewitz lived, fought and wrote, and it never applied to the American people, for whom war signified a failure of policy.

To characterize the conduct of other civilizations and states, from the bygone Hittite and Assyrian empires to today's Islamic heartlands, China or Russia, Clausewitz's nouns would have to be reversed: "Policy is simply a continuation of war with other means."

Conflict, not peace, is the natural state of human collectives. We need not celebrate the fact but must recognize it. If peace were the default condition of humankind, wouldn't history look profoundly different? Thousands of years of relentless slaughter cannot be written off as the fault of a few delinquents. Human beings aggregated by affinities of blood, belief or culture are inherently competitive, not cooperative, and the competition is viscerally — and easily — perceived as a matter of life and death. Pious declarations to the contrary do not change the reality.

Our blindness to this fundamental and enduring principle — that all of a state's nonmilitary actions seek to achieve the ends of warfare through alternative means — leaves us strategically crippled, needlessly vulnerable and wastefully ineffective. Only our wealth, size and raw power redeem our strategic incompetence sufficiently to allow us to bumble forward. We continue to regard warfare as something profoundly different from all other official endeavors, as an international breakdown and a last resort (occasional military adventurism notwithstanding), but similar attitudes exist only in a core of other English-speaking countries. Elsewhere, the competition between governments, cultures, civilizations and religions is viewed as comprehensive and unceasing, and it is waged — instinctively or consciously — with all the available elements of power.

We, not our antagonists, are the odd player out.


Even in our religious practice, we gloss over the merciless wars of the Old Testament, although Yahweh waged total war against Pharaoh's Egypt with a succession of plagues (including germ warfare, balancing out the proto-nuclear effects achieved against Sodom and Gomorrah).

The message we refuse to learn is that aggression is necessary and ineradicable. The only hope of minimizing military aggression is to channel the impulse into other, less destructive channels. If we routinely fight with other elements of national power, accepting that we are endlessly at war with our competitors, we are apt to face far fewer military contests.

The conundrum is that our military strength makes our policy-makers lazy. Neglectful of other instruments and means of national power, they inevitably find themselves forced to resort to military solutions.

The Islamist threat is even fiercer — far fiercer — than China when it comes to exploiting policy as a continuation of war with other means. Saudi Arabia, for example, has engaged in a merciless religious war against the West for more than three decades, yet it has not only done so while convincing our national leaders, Republican and Democrat, that we're "friends," but has managed to gain the protection of America's military on the cheap, even as it refuses meaningful cooperation with our forces. To preserve the profits of a handful of multinational oil companies, we protect a repellent, throwback regime that willfully created Osama bin Laden and his ilk. In country after country, I personally witnessed how Saudi money is used to spread anti-Western hatred (and to divide local societies), while America's taxpayers fund a military prostituted to the defense of the degenerate House of Saud.

We're not even mercenaries: Mercenaries at least get paid.

As for the Islamist terrorists, they've adopted a nonstate variant of the "total war" concept developed by Chinese military theorists. No front or sphere is off-limits. We are to be attacked wherever and however it is possible to do so. Indeed, a key lesson we should fear that the terrorists took away from 9/11 isn't that Americans can be killed by the thousands, but that killing Americans by the thousands costs our economy trillions.

Please read the whole thing. It's a keeper.

This very Puritan understanding of the human condition, which I share, explains to me why it is not inappropriate for a Christian to study war: it is so much a part of our condition and the parts of the world that embrace or at least tolerate Christianity and are responsible for its expansion to the rest of the world understand these fundamental sad truths about human nature so poorly, as Peters points out. As a Christian warrior, I must choose just conflicts, avoiding them whenever possible, and must be just as well in prosecutingconflict. But these must not mask the fact that war -- by its various names in its various forms -- is a natural part of human nature and must be dealt with just like any other -- sometimes even used as a tool for God's own work (as the OT demonstrated many times). It will not be irradicated until Christ returns to reign over the earth (and even then, the events leading up to this are frought with Christ's coming battles with Satan...)

Food for thought....


Update 31 Aug 06
: Correspondent Izmud comments:

Hi all,
I've been on an extended "Blog Holiday" and it's refreshing to come back to such a lively topic, especially when I agree so wholeheartedly with Ralph Peters and JP. My only real comment is a question for JP: how do you square you Old testament fire & brimstone with the kinder, gentler New Testament? Therein, i believe, lies the rub for Americans and hence our inconsistent and illogical approach to foreign policy and war.

Great question -- and I agree that misinterpretation of this issue has hampered America, at least in the last century or so, both politically and militarily.

This is one that theologians and philosophers have pondered for thousands of years now. I believe the traditional (Catholic and mainline Protestant) teachings concerning bellum iustum (just war) are correct and are consistent with both Testaments of the Bible, as are the more recent terms jus ad bellum and jus in bello, even though none of this tradition is found in the Bible itself. There is overwhelming "circumstantial" evidence for their Biblical justification, shall we say.

This tradition says that there can be just (and unjust) wars and there can be justice (and injustice) in war. At least as far back as Augustine, Christians have believed that bellum iustum was possible and even a necessity as long as the cause fought for was just from a Christian perspective (such as protection of the innocent from destruction or exploitation), was authorized by right authority, open military warfare was the last resort, and was fought to achieve peace and/or prevent a greater evil than the fighting itself entailed.

This led to some pretty ruthless handling of indigenous "Palestinian" peoples at the hands of the Israselites in the OT, by God's direct order, probably becuase God knew (as we Americans seem to have forgotten) that a complete victory today, even if very bloody, is better than an imperfect, partial (if humane-seeming) victory that leads to worse atrocity later. The obvious recent example is the Armistice at the end of WW1 that led directly to WW2. The alternative to "leaving not one stone standing on another" was probably generations of internicine warfare taking many more lives and causing much more destruction (vide the very-"humane" Israel and its neighbors in the years since WW 2.

As to the issue of reconciling the two Testaments, I don't believe that the NT is as "kind and gentle" as you think it is. Nor do I think that the OT Law's requirement for individual gentleness, mercy, compassion, and justice was any less than it is for today's Christians (and Jews). The OT is a story of God's people as a corporate body -- a nation; the NT Gospels, at least, are an account of how our individual salvation and justification are achieved. Nations may do things that individuals may not, however. Waging war as a collective entity is one of them; when done by an individual this is called murder, which the Law specifically prohibits. Besides, there is much imagery of battle and war in Paul's writing and even in Jesus' teachings ("I come to bring a sword" is more than just metaphor). Finally, John's Revelation makes it clear that Christ is the Lamb of God, but is also a general:

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns...He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. 'He will rule them with an iron scepter.' He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.

-- Rev 19:11-15 (NIV)

I believe there is an honorable tradition of Christian pacifism and that pacifism can be given to God as a form of worship, but I think the idea that pacifism is a necessary part of Christian teaching is doctrinally wrong and dangerously naive. Perpetual conflict is part of our carnal nature and cannot be avoided. Yes, as Christians we are called to overcome that carnal nature (and thus should not exult in war or killing), but that does not mean it is avoidable. Too many in America today think it is "optional" or avoidable, or fail to see that the "humane"-seeming partial military solutions often lead to more death and destruction in the long run.

Sad, but true.


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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Mideast's Munich

Arthur Herman has a brilliant, frightening, and probably correct commentary about the recent fighting in Lebanon in today's New York Post:

For everyone in the Middle East knows Iran is the clear winner. Only the diplomats and politicians, including the Bush administration, will pretend otherwise. Iran has emerged as the clear champion of anti-Israeli feeling and radical Islam. The Iranians have their useful puppet in Syria; they have their proxy armies in place with Hezbollah and Hamas. They have been able to install missiles, even Revolutionary Guards, in Lebanon with impunity. Sunni regimes in the region will move to strike their own deals with Iran, just as Eastern European states did with Germany after Czechoslovakia. That includes Iraq; the lesson will not be lost on Russia and China, either. And all the while, the Iranians proceed with their nuclear plans - with the same impunity.

The war in Iraq has clearly sapped the moral strength of the Bush administration. The men of Munich acquiesced to Hitler because another world war like the first seemed unthinkable. The Bush administration clearly feels it cannot face another major confrontation even with a second-rate power like Iran. Yet by calling off the war on terror, it has only postponed that conflict.

Less than a year after Munich, Nazi panzers rolled into Poland. Instead of fighting a short, limited war over Czechoslovakia, the Western democracies ended up fighting a world war, the most destructive in history. The war with the mullahs of Iran is coming. It is only a question of whether it will be at a time or on a ground of our choosing, or theirs - and whether it is fought within the shadow of a mushroom cloud.

I fear it will be. I've equated the ceasefire to Munich myself (or at least quoted Scott Ott doing so). I think that by losing this battle, we in the West have guaranteed ourselves much larger and more bitter battle later.


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A Trinity of Christian Carnivals

I've been terribly remiss in my Christian Carnivaling of late. There are three in the hopper this time.

CC 133 was at From the Anchor Hold. It contained a thoughtful discourse on the absurdity of the law of proportionality in war that I happen to agree with, from the excellent Prof. Bainbridge:

In a post carrying the same headline as mine, Ed Morrissey apparently rejects the notion that proportionality is relevant to evaluating a war:

To use a crude analogy, if someone is stupid enought to bring a knife to a gunfight, it doesn't mean that those holding the guns have a moral obligation to fight with knives instead. Proportionality demands exactly that, and it leads to nothing but longer and more destructive wars.

It's not just Morrissey, of course. We've seen the same sort of thing from a lot of folks both in the blogosphere and the punditry.

The answer is not what you expect, but I agree with him. I couldn't do what I do and remain a Christian if I didn't.

CC 134 was at Rev Ed's Attention Span. Codex asks, "was Moses high when he talked to God?"

On the subject of cannabis, like the history of the Zoroastrian religion, the Bible may have been influenced by cannabis. . . . remember Moses and the burning bush that talked to him. According to a number of academic sources in the original Hebrew and Aramaic sources for the texts, that bush commanded Moses to make a holy anointing oil that contained cannabis, under the Hebrew name keneh bosem.

Check out the answer. (It's what you expect, but I'm trying to be all Biblical Archeology Review here...)

Finally, this week's CC is up at Dory's tried-and-true Wittenburg Gate. Here, Parableman asks, "was Mohammed in the Bible?"

A friend of mine works as the Baptist Campus Minister at my university. He occasionally takes part in interfaith dialogues, and he tells me about his interactions from time to time. One such instance struck me as being apologetically significant and worth blogging about (with his permission). The conversation started out with what the Qur'an says about Jesus, and it ended up moving to what the Bible says about Muhammad. You might be wondering what the Bible could possibly say about Muhammad, since he was around long afterward, but you can't rule something like that out if you're open to predictive prophecy. Why couldn't a divine revelation have something to say about someone who hasn't come around yet? Christians believe the Hebrews scriptures point to Jesus, after all. It doesn't do to insist on that when you like it and then rule it out when you don't like it.

The answer is interesting...

More next week.

Update, 17 Aug 06:The Parableman, Jeremy Pierce, comments:

Thanks for the link.

By the way, the preferred spelling is 'Muhammad' (with a little dot under the 'h' if possible, but I don't know how to do that). Since I didn't myself spell it that way, I noticed immediately that you put that spelling in quotation marks, which suggests that I spelled it that way. Since Muslims prefer that spelling, I try to go out of my way not to offend by using other spellings.

Thanks - didn't know that, but will observe the convention in the interest of civility. Of course, it takes very little to offend muslims...


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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Peace In Our Time

Breaking news; Scott Ott had it first: Bush and the UN have declared Peace In Our Time. The details:

(2006-08-15) — Now that President George Bush has declared Hezbollah defeated by its acceptance of the terms of a U.N. cease fire in Lebanon, the United States today will press the Security Council to grant it a similar "victory" over al Qaeda.

U.S. proposal would call for “an end to the violence” between al Qaeda and its enemies around the world, including the U.S., and the creation of a 15-mile buffer zone, manned by U.N. troops, around every nation that al Qaeda chief Usama bin Laden wishes to destroy.

Like this week’s agreement that brought “a just and lasting peace” between Israel and Hezbollah, the ‘War on Terror Cease Fire’ proposal will allow al Qaeda to keep its weapons and supply channels intact, and to escape punishment for its previous acts of aggression and murder.

“This will teach the Islamic terrorists a lesson,” according to an unnamed State Department source who worked through the night crafting a resolution acceptable to both al Qaeda and its enemies. “If you attack us, kidnap our soldiers, blow up our towns and murder our people, you will pay a price. These cease fires will cause significant delays in the radical Muslims’ plan to rule the world. It’s a major hassle for them that sends a clear signal.”

Yea us!


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Friday, August 11, 2006

An Interesting Year In Politics

I have no idea what November will bring. The Republicans could lose the House; moonbat Democrat activists could alienate the center even wind up losing ground. This year's results are anyone's to guess.

Two very interesting things have happened already. I'm not sure if they portend anything; they seem to be contradictory indicators.

The first is that the fellow in faux-blackface, one of the Senate's most reliable socially liberal voters, lost the Democratic primary to a dillatante leftist because he isn't wobbly in his support for the War on Jihad.

The picture was concocted by another leftist dilletante who came all the way from Hollywood to work for Joe Lieberman's Connecticut opponent. If any Republican used blackface to malign a candidate, heads would explode in the mainstream media and Democrats would call for Senate show trials (followed by public hangings).

Joe vows to run as an independent and may very well win. Regardless, the race (no pun intended) will be entertaining.

The other interesting development is that America's favorite Jew-baiting, muslim-loving, professional race-card player and scourge of the Capitol police, Cynthia McKinney, lost her primary bid. A pitty that. I would love to see more of McKinney, as should any Republican. Does her loss betoken a move back toward the center? Joe L's loss, seemingly the bigger of the two news items, betokens just the opposite.

No telling what any of it means. This is and will remain an interesting year in politics.


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The New Multinational Force

Too busy to blog lately, but I've been saving up topics for a couple of weeks. here goes...

Enforcement of a ceasefire in the current Lebanese campaign of the Global War on Jihad may hinge on introduction of a multinational force. This must be an effective fighting force, capable of reigning in Hezbollah and keeping Israel's northern border secure. Unfortunately for the causes of world peace and internationalist progresivism, much of this force, it seems, will have to be French, due to France's historical ties to the Lebanese.

Correspondent Chefjef submitted the picture below, depicting French special forces sniper training. I know I've made the French the butt of jokes in the past, but this puts a whole new face on things. In any case, it reinforces my fundamental reservations about the effectiveness of French troops.

image001 (2)
"I fart in your general direction, you empty-headed animal food trough wiper!" says Jaques of the newly-formed French Moon Unit Sniper


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