Thinking Out Loud

November 14, 2017

Thoughts After Sutherland Springs


Stephen and Brooksyne Weber posted this as a footnote to their Daily Encouragement site last Monday morning.1 I want to bring these “eleven theses” to the forefront here. The introduction suggests some of these things may now be politically incorrect to say. I’ll leave that to you to decide.2

To read the full article click this link. Also click “next message” for some additional thoughts on the church massacre in Texas that were posted the next day.

  • We believe the growing culture of death is a factor in the further corruption of the world. When pre-born life is disregarded it has a permeating effect in ways we don’t realize. Yesterday afternoon we passed the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Reading, PA and practically sensed the hellish, demonic spirit around the place. Yet our government funds this!
  • Graphic violence in movies, TV, video games and elsewhere cheapens life and has a desensitizing impact.
  • We wonder to what extent there is now among the sinfully disturbed a sense of competition and claim to fame for these acts of sheer evil.
  • Social media provides platform to spread this.
  • Previous generations were aware of the horrors of hell which had a restraining impact on evil. Now the notion of hell and judgment is so politically incorrect and offensive to many, and scoffed by others.
  • In the meantime spiritual and Scripture teaching is diminishing and organized groups like the ACLU, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and others are working overtime to further diminish Judeo/Christian influence in America.
  • Mental illness and more funding for treatment is being bandied about, as it often is following these heinous acts. Of course something is wrong in someone’s head to do something like this but we feel it is incrimination against scores of people who have some mental illness issues but still have a restraint against an evil act like this.
  • We wonder to what extent drugs, both prescribed and illicit are a factor in these matters and the Biblical prohibitions against intoxication.
  • It’s sad how events like this are quickly politicized with various factions providing simplistic answers to attack the other side.
  • Both official law enforcement and the concerned citizens who got involved (being called heroes) remind us that there are many decent people who have a role in restraining evil.
  • Today we listened to a news conference in which they concluded with with a soul-touching prayer. genuine faith overcome even in the midst of the hardest situations.

~Stephen & Brooksyne Weber


Update from Sutherland Springs: The following item is scheduled to appear in tomorrow’s link list. Here is a preview:

  • The pews have been taken out, the carpeting has been removed, and the inside of the building has been painted white from floor to ceiling as a memorial to those who died that day. CNN sent a reporter into the church building.

1Although I edit a daily devotional page, that tends to have a work focus at least partially. Daily Encouragement is the one I try to read each day just for my own time with God.

2Although we’ve repeated it here many times, I have to once again remind us all that this problem is unique to the United States and is not beyond its power to change. Such a “beating of swords into plowshares” would be a tremendous feat, greater than anything else the U.S. has ever accomplished.


Photo: New York Daily News (click to link to story)

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November 6, 2017

Five Letters America Needs to Write

To the American People;

While those who helped form and shape of our country had nothing but our best interests in mind, time has shown us that upon internal investigation and when seen through the eyes of the world, one aspect of one of our founding documents is presently flawed. Therefore, acting as we would under emergency measures in a wartime situation, our upper and lower houses of government need to immediately suspend all other activity and work in a bipartisan manner toward the immediate suspension and repeal of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, including the clear stating of its antithesis, namely that there is no further blanket right to bear arms.

To the members of the National Rifle Association (and other similar special interest groups);

Your financial contributions to citizens seeking to hold elected office have enlivened political campaigns and helped form a robust political process, creating an environment allowing aspiring politicians to spend millions in order to have their message and agenda reach the electorate. Unfortunately, history will show that such action clouded the judgement of these legislators, even to the point where the perceived needs of some people undermine the principles of a democracy that serves the broader populace. Because your organization enshrines a constitutional right that is being repealed, we must ask that in the interim such campaign funding immediately cease and desist, as all forms of election campaign funding undergoes sweeping reevaluation.

To State and local governments;

America must change. It would be preposterous to suspend the former 2nd Amendment, only to have state, county or municipal governments reenact it or reinstate it in some form. A reworded constitution will clearly state no state laws will provide the citizenry with a fundamental right to weapon ownership, and existing statutes which are based on the former right will be similarly repealed or rewritten.

To the Educators of the United States;

In the spirit of what the constitutional framers stated as forming “a more perfect union;” American public education needs to be amended to include the teaching of ethics as a core curriculum subject; one given equal weight to subjects such as English, History, Geography, Mathematics, and Science; with successful completion necessary to educational advancement. The subject matter will be age-appropriate and run through elementary, middle school and high school grades and be compatible with common ethics, morals and values; and provide a compendium of teaching reflecting major religious and philosophical perspectives; but also annually incorporating a unit on the ethical basis for the value of human life.

To the manufacturers of guns and similar weaponry;

Because maintaining the status quo was no longer an option, as the 2nd Amendment is repealed, we as a nation we have no other option than to intervene in the manufacture, distribution and marketing of non-military weapons, and to move such products to a highly restricted status which immediately precludes any further increase to the available national supply.


Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people. Jeremiah 9:1


Will any of the above letters ever be written? I fear they won’t. The United States is now effectively broken beyond remedy.

October 23, 2017

How Does This Affect Me?

If you’re a news anchor or a late-night stand-up comedian, the 45th President of the US has been an unparalleled blessing. Like the latest episode of The Truman Show, people tune in daily to see the latest installment of ultra-reality television or they tune in later in the day to see it expressed as farcical humor.

I wrote about what last November’s election has done 14 months ago:

There can be no doubt however that the U.S. federal election is also pushing a large number of stories and reports off the news cycle. What business mergers, medical advances, environmental initiatives or social trends are we not hearing about because every significant quotation from Donald or Hillary needs to be included?

On reflection however, my second sentence simply reflected the absence of other American news stories. In the middle of last week however Rachel Held Evans posted this link to a story about the exodus from Myanmar, made more real by the drone footage of those fleeing the country.

to which I felt I had to reply:

It’s true. Only those stories which will affect the U.S. in some way are considered. This reminded me of when I was writing for Contemporary Christian Music magazine a lifetime ago. The purpose of CCM/Canada, my page of the magazine was to expose Canadian Christian artists to the wider subscriber base that CCM had. Or so I thought.

But then I got a directive from the editors: “We want to read about our artists touring in Canada and information on how our artists albums are selling there.” He was dead serious. It was part of larger paradigm shift in how Christian music was marketed and is now marketed and I quit shortly after.

Also, returning to the more serious subject at hand, I think it’s interesting that Rachel got her story from BBC World. My son gave up on North American news media a long time ago and still uses BBC as his primary source. The British network is rather protective of the rest of its broadcast content — they geo-block just about everything — but their news is widely shared and is considered authoritative around the globe.

Americans know so precious little of the world outside their borders, with the exception of the small group able to afford travel. About six months ago I realized that I could name all 50 states, both in terms of placing them on a map or naming them alphabetically, but most Americans can’t name Canada’s much smaller number of provinces; let alone plot any of the world’s hotspots on a map.

Well maybe North Korea. Then again, perhaps not.

The problem is the same as what I said in August: What takes place in the large white building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in DC simply pushes far too much off the news cycle. Some of the most important things to take place this week — the things Paul Harvey described as having the most lasting impact — will probably not even be mentioned on U.S. network news.

 

 

 

October 3, 2017

Now: Las Vegas; Tomorrow: Anytown

Exactly two years ago we said to ourselves, ‘Surely this will be the last mass shooting.’

I had a couple of different directions I was heading for today’s blog post, but I feel as if not devoting some space here to the events of the last 48 hours in Las Vegas is somehow dismissive or insensitive.

I’m not sure that every person with a WordPress, Twitter or Facebook account weighing in on this is any way helpful, but I find this morning I cannot do otherwise.

I’ve already voiced my opinions here and here about the perplexing situation of viewing America’s “right to bear arms” from a distance; from one country removed. And I’ve tried to choose some of the better comments of the last 24 hours to post on my Twitter account. (Sign up not needed to view.)

I think back to the photograph above, and how we all thought, surely this will bring about change. The optimist in me still wants to believe this, but the forces for gun rights (groups like the NRA and others) are the U.S. is simply too powerful and too influential for change to happen. So the pessimist in me becomes the dominant voice: ‘They can’t change. They won’t change.’

Honestly, from a distance I think we who live elsewhere simply sit back and wait for the United States to implode. This can’t go on. It can’t continue.

To victims and families: I share your ache this day. I am so sorry for both losses and life-altering injuries. So sorry for all who witnessed this firsthand and will live with the PTSD of that forever.

To the rest of my American readers I can only say, Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy upon us.


“They will beat their swords into plowshares…”

September 7, 2017

Special Report: Barbuda

 

Map makers, amateur and professional alike, disagree as to what is included as part of the Leeward Islands. This map traces back to Pinterest, but wasn’t properly sourced.

As we prepare this, images are just starting to come from Barbuda which are similar to this CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) image of Sint Maarten (the name of the country on the island of Saint Martin) showing damage there. (Click to link.)

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, we’ve learned that up to 95% of the structures on the island of Barbuda have been damaged; but many of us weren’t aware of this island at all until these reports surfaced.

We checked Wikipedia*:

Barbuda (/bɑːrˈbjuːdə/) is an island in the Eastern Caribbean, and forms part of the state of Antigua and Barbuda, which in turn consists of two major inhabited islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and a number of smaller islands — we counted 46 in the list — including Great Bird, Green, Guiana, Long, Maiden and York Islands and further south, the island of Redonda. The larger state has a population of 81,800, out of which Barbuda has a population of about 1,638 (at the 2011 Census), most of whom live in the town of Codrington, which is the 10th largest town overall.

You’ve also heard references to The Leeward Islands, which describes the whole region. In English, the term refers to the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles chain. As a group they start east of Puerto Rico and reach southward to Dominica. They are situated where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean. The more southerly part of the Lesser Antilles chain is called the Windward Islands.

Barbuda alone consists of four (or five) islands and in more normal years, generally experience low humidity and recurrent droughts. The country is a unitary, parliamentary, representative democratic monarchy, in which the Head of State is the Monarch who appoints the Governor General as vice-regal representative. Elizabeth II is the present Queen of Antigua and Barbuda, having served in that position since the islands’ independence from the United Kingdom in 1981. The Queen is represented by a Governor General.

The populace consists of people of West African, British, and Madeiran descent. The ethnic distribution consists of 91% Black & Mulatto, 4.4% mixed race, 1.7% White, and 2.9% other (primarily East Indian and Asian). Most Whites are of Irish or British descent. Christian Levantine Arabs, and a small number of Asians and Sephardic Jews make up the remainder of the population.

Islands of Barbuda (WorldAtlas.com; click to link)

An increasingly large percentage of the population lives abroad, most notably in the United Kingdom (Antiguan Britons), United States and Canada. A minority of Antiguan residents are immigrants from other countries, particularly from Dominica, Guyana and Jamaica, and, increasing, from the Dominican Republic, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Nigeria. English is the official language. The Barbudan accent is slightly different from the Antiguan. About 10,000 people speak Spanish. There is a greater than 90% literacy rate. In 1998, Antigua and Barbuda adopted a national mandate to become the pre-eminent provider of medical services in the Caribbean.

Of special interest to readers here is religion, with a majority of 77% of Antiguans being Christians; Anglicans (17,6%) being the largest single denomination. Other Christian denominations present are Seventh-day Adventist Church (12,4%), Pentecostalism (12,2%), Moravian Church (8,3%), Roman Catholics (8,2%), Methodist Church (5,6%), Wesleyan Holiness Church (4,5%), Church of God (4,1%), Baptists (3,6%) and Mormons (<1,0%). Non-Christian religions practised in the islands include the Rastafari, Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Bahá’í Faith.

With the devastation witnessed after the hurricane, The Los Angeles Times headlined an article, “Once there was an island known as Barbuda. After Hurricane Irma, much of it is gone.” The Prime Minister is quoted as saying, “…on a per capita basis, the extent of the destruction on Barbuda is unprecedented.” 

There are currently three hurricanes in the region including Hurricane Katia and Hurricane Jose.


*We are grateful to Wikipedia, without which we could not bring this report to you as quickly, importing and patching together large sections from the pages linked below. Click on the following pages to learn more:

 

 

 

 

August 17, 2017

Skye Jethani on News Media; Then, and Later, and Now

Skye Jethani ran this as a series of 20 Twitter posts on Thursday morning. I thought he’d post it to his blog, but in the absence of that wanted to make sure more people got to see it.

by Skye Jethani

Here’s what’s on my mind: Cultural division, the media, and the Civil War. Does 19th century media explain what’s happening today?

Newspapers before and during the Civil War were hopelessly biased in both the North and South. Many twisted facts into “fake news.”  There’s no doubt a steady diet of biased news fueled the divide between North and South and contributed to the profits of a media industry fueled by the new technology of the telegraph allowing for much faster reporting then ever before. Part of the problem was that neither side engaged reporting from the other. Media was highly regional with the opposing point of view rarely presented fairly. It was a fragmented and siloed media landscape that made generative dialogue difficult if not impossible.

The media landscape changed dramatically in the 20th century again due to tech. Radio and then TV created for the first time a national media that could speak to the whole country instantly. It was also an age of external threats where the country rallied together to fight WWI and WWII. The focus on external enemies continued with the Cold War. For much of 20th century regional media differences were overshadowed by a united national media. A handful of outlets spoke to all of us. Remember when Cronkite was the most trusted man in America?

A new wave of tech, this time digital, has erased the unifying media landscape of the 20th century and my childhood. Instead, we’re returning to the pre-Civil War fragmentation where we only hear the voices that agree with us, and where opposition voices are silenced or mis-characterized. The divide is not geographic this time but socio-graphic as social media curates our ‘friends’ and ‘networks’ into like-minded bundled for marketing purposes.

Many look at what’s happening today and the divisions splintering the country as an abnormal, new development. I worry the relative media unity of the 20th century may have been the abnormality, and America is simply returning to the fractured existence that has plagued us since 1776. Without a serious external threat (King George III, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, USSR), and without a common national and trusted media, we may be returning to the unsustainable conditions of the 19th century that ultimately led to civil war.

When we’ve faced such existential threats in the past it was the virtue of great leaders that has kept us united. Washington galvanized thirteen colonies into a single nation. Lincoln preserved the Union with deft leadership and uncommon wisdom. We need that kind of executive vision, virtue, and resolve no less in these times. God help us, we have none.

God help us.


Skye Jethani is an author, speaker, consultant and ordained pastor. He also serves as the co-host of the popular Phil Vischer Podcast and writes the With God daily devotional, emailed to subscribers worldwide. Skye is a former editor for Christianity Today and Leadership Journal magazines. skyejethani.com  @SkyeJethani

May 23, 2017

One Word: Manchester

Filed under: current events — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:26 am

And so, another city joins the list of places which, in a single word signifies another location where terrorism has taken place. For the foreseeable future, one will simply say “Manchester” and that’s all they’ll need to say.

This is what we knew at 11:00 PM (New York Time) when we were starting to put together tomorrow’s article here. I decided to just forego that plan…

Here are some Tweets from last night:

  • Terrorists are targeting music concerts now.What a shame!! What’s the problem with these horrendous creatures?
  • No one should have to worry about a terrorist attack when going to a concert or even just in everyday life.
  • Absolutely heartbreaking reading tweets of parents looking for their children
  • There is a woman on CNN hysterical crying and trying to find her missing 15 year old daughter. As a mother of two children I can’t imagine what she’s going through.
  • I just woke up & got the news. I’m crying right now, why does something like this need to happen in our world!
  • Thank you for the concern and love, I am fine. 19 people can not say the same though, sick and twisted act, prayers to everyone
  • Concerts are supposed to be a safe space. So saddened and terrified by the attack
  • Sad, not only have they lost lives in Manchester. Ariana doing something she loves, name will be forever linked now!
  • Not only is the Manchester show a horrific tragedy but it also takes away the peace of mind that people will have at concerts in the future.
  • Cowards bombing concerts with little girls and teenagers. Zero tolerance from now on!
  • I have been to so many concerts already this year, which makes Manchester even more difficult to hear about
  • I feel ill, sick and ill. I can’t mentally deal with this. This can’t go on. It’s already been the norm for years.
  • Bewildered by the reports that there was no security at a concert filled with CHILDREN and YOUNG KIDS
  • Our hearts are breaking. Prayers for all who attended, their families, Ari and her whole crew.
  • Manchester attack eyewitness Chris Pawley: there was no security whatsoever.
  • “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~MLK 
  • Music halls are the purest non-denominational churches where we all can congregate to share magic. My heart is with Manchester tonight.

 

 

 

March 23, 2017

Attack in London: Longing for a Place of Safety

Filed under: Christianity, current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:00 am

Yesterday’s attack in London, England was a reminder that such things can happen anytime, any place, without warning. To avoid such an event, you would need to avoid all public places, which would mean pretty much locking yourself in your own house. Even there, nothing is guaranteed.

At dinner last night we spoke about travel. You could go to Europe and try to avoid the major cities, but those are the cities that have the airports, and could you really go to France and skip Paris? I suppose your plane could land there and then you could quickly aim for a smaller destination. But the last terrorist activity there happened in Nice, not Paris. Nowhere is there a guarantee of peace and quiet.

Could you go to England, but skip Tower Bridge, Big Ben and the Parliament Buildings? It would be difficult, especially if you’ve never been there before. My friend Lorne Anderson wrote on his blog this morning,

When the images flashed into the TV screen, minutes after it happened, my initial reaction was “I was just there a month ago!” I was in London on business and while there had a private tour of Parliament…

…As soon as I heard the news, I sent an email to the staffer who showed me around Westminster last month. No rely, but news reports said those in the building had been grouped into a central location while police secured the area. I presume he didn’t have access…

Lorne was just there. He has a personal contact there. It’s that close. One degree of separation.

England’s Prime Minister Theresa May assured her people that today (Thursday) would be ‘business as usual.’ We visited Washington, DC not once but twice after 9/11, walking around by the White House and Capitol Building and taking their underground transit system many times. The first time, I naively asked someone in charge of the Metro if we would be safe.

“Right now;” he said, “This is the safest place in the world.”

The idea behind that is that the days, weeks, months after a terrorist attack, everyone is on high alert.

Reports this morning say the attacker was born in England. The Guardian reported,

The attacker behind the terrorist rampage at the gates of the Houses of Parliament was a British-born man previously known to MI5 due to concerns over violent extremism, the prime minister has said.

Not a refugee, in case you’re wondering.

The article continues,

The police and security services monitor about 3,000 Britons, mainly Islamists, whom they regard as potentially capable of domestic terrorism. Of these, about 500 are the subject of active investigations and only a limited number become the targets of physical surveillance. The Guardian understands the attacker was not one of them. He was regarded as posing so little threat that he did not even make the list of 3,000.

Lorne, who works in Canada’s Parliament Buildings concludes:

We live in uncertain times. Those of us who work in government know about the risks involved in our work, but you cannot live in fear. You go about your day to day activities expecting them to be normal. When the exceptional does happen, you deal with it. Dull and boring is what you hope for – you don’t want to wind up on the TV news.

So where is it safe? The sacred texts of Christianity constantly remind us that our place of rest is found in God alone; in Christ alone. It’s not a specific physical location, but our security and hope are found in proximity to Him.

Otherwise, we’re never going to find it anywhere on this planet. Especially not now.

 

February 6, 2017

What it Means to be a “Christian Country”

Canadian and U.S. dollar coins

Greg Boyd’s book The Myth of a Christian Nation notwithstanding, many people believe that the nation whose currency proclaims ‘In God We Trust’ is indeed “a Christian Nation.”

Canada has no such illusions. Religious pluralism is normative across most provinces. We refer to ourselves as “a cultural mosaic.”

However this past week we saw an interesting inversion of national stereotypes. In a front page article Saturday in Canada’s largest circulation newspaper, The Star, Robert Benzie writes:

Ontario is flinging open its operating-room doors to provide health care for foreign children whose life-saving surgeries stateside have been cancelled due to U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

In the wake of Trump’s temporary immigration ban against citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries, which has affected thousands of families, Health Minister Eric Hoskins offered a prescription to help.

“This is a particular subset of children who require life-saving surgery, so, absent that surgery, they will certainly die,” Hoskins told reporters Friday afternoon at Queen’s Park…

…“What we’re saying is that Canada is a country that has always looked to ways that it could reach out and support vulnerable people around the world.”

Hoskins, a former aid worker in the Middle East and Africa and co-founder of War Child Canada, a non-governmental organization that helps kids from war zones, said Toronto’s world-renowned Hospital for Sick Children is on the case.

“SickKids has been approached by a number of hospitals in the United States with regard to a number of cases,” he said, noting most are for “highly specialized cardiac care” for infants as young as 4 months old…

…continue reading the full article at TheStar.com

Obviously this is a developing story and the United States is making concessions in many cases, but in the meantime, the Canadian province is acting consistent with the federal government’s posture of an open door as indicated in the Prime Minister’s tweets:

This at the same time as a prominent Christian author, familiar to readers here, Ann Voskamp shows up in Washington, DC:

Back to the children needing charity, it does appear that the not-so-Christian nation is espousing Jesus-like charity, while the Christian nation is simply sending a confusing message to the rest of the world as to its commitment to compassion.

January 28, 2017

What Americans Wanted

“These presidential orders are what many Christians voted for. This is the fruit of their political labor, but it’s not the Fruit of the Spirit.”

face-of-refugee-crisis

“For the last few years Christians have been singing worship songs that include lyrics like “keep my eyes above the waves, when oceans rise …” and yet have rejected refugees who’ve seen loved ones die beneath waves, who themselves have literally struggled to keep from drowning in oceans. Those American Christians — particularly white evangelicals — continue to sing the words: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders …” but fail to realize the shameful irony that they’re largely responsible for refusing shelter and opportunity to some of the world’s most helpless and oppressed people…”

…Continue reading Stephen Mattson’s article American Christianity Has Failed at Sojourners.


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