Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Middle Eastern Refugee Dilemma

Thousands of people are fleeing Syria and other Middle Eastern countries because of the fighting and bombing taking place. They aren’t migrating to Europe for economic reasons, but to save their lives. Most of these refugees are Muslim.

At the same time, Islamic terrorists are attacking Europe and planning more attacks if their propaganda is to be believed. This creates a dilemma for European countries and the U.S. From a practical point of view, we should ask these questions:

-How can we expect a country absorb so many people so quickly, people who don’t speak the language, and are culturally different?

-How can we find jobs for so many people?

-How will medical facilities and social services cope with such an influx?

While these are important considerations, the main sticking point is that Western countries will be welcoming people who are affiliated with a religion and culture that are hostile to Western culture and the Christian religion. What might happen if we let these people in?

-Terrorists may sneak into a country posing as refugees.

-Some of the refugees may become radicalized as has happened to other Muslims in the West.

-It’s impossible to check the backgrounds of these refugees because the countries they are leaving are in chaos.

So the dilemma is: do we show our compassion for these people who are fleeing for their lives, or do we make safety and security our main concern and don’t risk problems by letting the refugees into our countries?

The Western countries are generally compassionate as a result of our Judeo-Christian ethic. On the other hand, the first priority of any government is the safety and security of its citizens.

Another consideration is this: why don’t the oil-rich Middle Eastern countries take in many of these refugees? Language is the same, culture is the same, religion is the same. The refugees could be more easily absorbed into those societies than into the West. Where’s Saudi Arabia in all this? They have billions of dollars from oil revenue and they can’t take care of their fellow Muslims?! They leave it up to us.

Write your governor, senator, and congressman with your position on the matter so they can make decisions based on the will of the people. Pray that they’ll make the right decision, whatever that may be. Pray for the safety of the people, and pray that Western intelligence services uncover and thwart all planned terrorist plans. Finally, pray for President Obama and Congress, that they will act firmly and decisively to defeat those groups who want to harm us.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

More Thoughts on Terrorism

We Are at War

The western nations were rightfully outraged when the terrorists struck Paris in January 2015. They were even more outraged by this most recent attack, on November 13, 2015.The President of France called this aggression “war”, and that’s what it is. Unfortunately some western leaders, most notably President Obama, refuse to accept that reality. ISIS and other Islamic fanatics know they are at war with the West, but despite numerous attacks on innocent civilians, the West doesn’t get it. Don’t these leaders know they are putting their people at severe risk? Have we lost the will to fight for our survival as a nation and for security for future generations? Do we really want to live under Sharia law?

What about Israel?

While everyone is rightfully outraged by these latest attacks in France, where’s the outrage when Israel is attacked? With Islamic militants shooting 11,000 rockets from Gaza into Israel since 2005 and 4,000 rockets from Lebanon in 2006 alone, where’s the outrage? With the Arab militants constantly breaking the cease-fire agreement they signed with Israel, where’s the outrage?

The outrage comes when Israel eventually retaliates and bombs Palestinian strongholds in an attempt to stop the rockets and protect its citizens. All of a sudden the world jumps all over Israel for bombing poor, innocent Gaza. How many countries would tolerate continuous rocket attacks like Israel has had to endure? Yet the Europeans and U.S. liberals are quick to condemn Israel for doing what any country would do: try to protect its citizens. Talking doesn’t do any good, treaties are useless, so Israel must resort to military options. Can you blame them?

When Israel does retaliate, the liberal press condemns Israel for killing civilians. Meanwhile, where are the Palestinian rockets aimed? At population centers, in an attempt to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. If the press criticizes Israel for killing Palestinian civilians, they should criticize the Palestinians for using human shields, and for using hospitals and schools for their operations, guaranteeing there will be civilian casualties.

To show how naïve Obama is, he’s signed a terrible treaty with Iran that benefits them and we get very little. You can be sure Iran will break the treaty as soon as it’s convenient for them to do so.

In the U.S. next November, we will have to opportunity to vote in a new President and various senators and representatives. We must pick a President who is a leader, isn’t naïve, is willing to stand up to ISIS, and is a strategic thinker. Too bad Benjamin Netanyahu isn’t available.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Another Attack

Once again there has been a major terrorist attack, this time in Paris again. It appears that ISIS is responsible. As ISIS gains strength and other terrorist groups get bolder, the world must stand up and seriously deal with this ongoing threat.

What can we do? Plenty. I’m no expert but I believe western countries could do the following at a minimum to defeat those who seek to destroy us.


The Allies defeated the Axis powers in World War II because they were fully committed. The U.S. was on a war footing, with much of our resources devoted to the war effort. Failure was not an option.

While the nature of today’s war is different from WWII, there is no less need for total commitment. The weapons of today can be very destructive. Think of cyber warfare as an example. The allies must use all weapons at their disposal, including propaganda, cyber, and military.


The Allies defeated the Axis powers in World War II because they were united in their resolve to defeat the enemy. The U.S. provided supplies and equipment to its allies. For example, Studebaker trucks by the thousands were sent to Russia, which made huge difference in its ability to transport goods and troops to the front. It’s said that those trucks were a significant factor in defeating the Nazis. With Russia as an ally, both the U.S. and Russia can redirect resources to fighting the war on terrorism.

If we are to win the war against Islamic terrorism, Russia must become our ally, similar to what happened in WWII. I don’t know what it will take to do that, but I would hope that Putin would realize that it’s in his best interest to share intelligence data with other countries for the good of Russia as well as the whole alliance. Russia must get over its historic mistrust of the West.


The Allies defeated the Axis powers in World War II because there were no restraints put on the military. In Vietnam, for example, the military was forbidden to go certain places and do certain things, and I’ve read where there were similar restrictions put in place in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you’re going to fight a war, do it right.

In the case of Islamic terrorism, the allies must fight to win, meaning the total destruction of ISIS and other terrorist organizations, including destruction of training camps. Why these training camps aren’t bombed is a mystery to me. We must know where they are. Why can’t we destroy them?

People suspected of terrorist ties or for whom there is evidence of radicalization, should be deported and never allowed back into the country. This includes those who have traveled to certain countries where terrorist training takes place. International borders must be made more secure. It might be a good idea to restrict the free flow of people across borders in the European Community for the time being.


As long as there are Hitlers in the world and there are movements like Islamic jihad there will be conflict. Distasteful and repugnant as war is, our survival as a free country is at stake. Israel’s enemies want to totally destroy it (“push it into the sea”). Now the west is faced with a similar threat: destruction of our way of life, living instead in a harsh caliphate sunder sharia law.

Unconventional wars such as the war against terrorism are difficult to fight in a free society. Moreover, many of our enemies are within, even citizens of our country (such as France and England especially) Our freedom and openness make us vulnerable. So does our compassionate nature. Look at what the Europeans are doing: letting in thousands of refugees from Syria and other Islamic countries. Once those refugees get settled, sleeper cells will be established and they will carry out terrorist attacks. But the west’s Judeo-Christian ethic dictates that we show compassion and help these refugees, many of them fleeing for their lives.

We hear talk of “the war on terrorism” but are we really fighting against those who seek to dominate us? Have we become so complacent that we no longer have the will to fight, and will we, like ancient Rome, fall to the barbarians at our door?

Not only should we do what I wrote above, but most importantly we must turn back to the God who has blessed us as a nation. The jihadists are fighting us in the name of their god, so shouldn’t we seek the help of our God? If we don’t return to the faith of our fathers, then I don’t know what will become of us. One thing I do know, and that is, it won’t be pretty.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. Revelation 16:16 (NIV)

There’s always been an interest in the End Times, especially when there are movies and popular books available that contain fictionalized portrayals of those events. Just like we want to know how we got here, we also have a desire to know how it all will end. I remember back in the 1970s and 1980s that whenever there was trouble in the Middle East, people would say, “Armageddon.” It was sort of a knee-jerk reaction.

Today, I’m beginning to think that Armageddon may not be too far in the future. Obviously a number of things must happen first according to the Book of Revelation and other apocryphal books of the Bible. Nevertheless, with Russia now involved militarily in Syria, and ISIS a factor, an Armageddon-like battle doesn’t seem so remote any more. We could see the End Times play out in our lifetime. Are you prepared?

My advice is to grow closer to God by weekly worship, daily prayer, reading your Bible and maybe even attending a Bible study. If you are interested in the End Times, get a book on the subject by a reputable Christian author. Those who have a personal relationship with God have nothing to fear from the End Times. Indeed the End Times will usher in a whole new era, with a new heaven and a new earth. I’m looking forward to it. Are you? Read this description from the Book of Revelation:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:1-4 (NRSV)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Head for the Hills!

There are people who plan for catastrophes by keeping stocks of food and water. They are called survivalists, because they plan to survive any disaster that may result in disruption of the supply chain. There are any number of possible disasters of that nature, such as trucker strikes, massive crop failures, widespread power outages, communications systems shut down, oil shortages, and a host of other calamities. These can be man-made (such as strikes) or natural (such as solar flares disrupting communications and frying electronics over a wide area).

These risks have been with us for a long time, but there’s a new risk which is difficult to defend against. I’m talking about a cyberattack. As I understand it, the technology exists to disrupt electronic communications, bring down the power grid, and shut down much of the electronic activity of a country. When Russia attacked Georgia a few years back, they shut down Georgia’s electronic communications in a cyberattack.

I’m not an alarmist, but I think these are real threats. I’m especially worried about North Korea and ISIS. The leadership of North Korea is unstable, and ISIS consists of fanatics. Moreover ISIS is well-funded and is sophisticated when it comes to communications. From what the experts say, the U.S. is woefully unprepared to weather a cyberattack. The world is a dangerous place, with technology allowing countries or movements to do all kinds of damage that was unheard of just a few years ago.

So what can we do? We can and should pray for our country to be protected from such devastating attacks. Rather than turning our backs on God we should be seeking his protection and drawing closer to him. We should also stock up on non-perishable foods like MREs, freeze dried foods, and canned goods. Rotate your stock because these items only last for a limited time (MREs last about 5 years).

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Greed is not good

In the 1987 movie “Wall Street” Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, says in a speech, “The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed -- for lack of a better word -- is good.” He goes on to say how greed is a key motivator in business and in life.

Sorry Gordon, greed is not good. The word “greed” implies excessive desire for money, and often the motivation to accumulate wealth by less than honest means. It implies you gain at the expense of others.

Greed has been with us since the beginning of time. When it’s mentioned in the Bible, it is usually among a list of sinful behaviors. For example, Jesus says in Mark 7:21-23:
“For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” (NIV)

Jesus suggests we get our priorities straight in Luke 12:15:
Then [Jesus] said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (NIV)

We are seeing greed today with the increasing gap between the income of management and the income of the workers. The workers are facing increasing costs of benefits (if they even get any) with minimal (if any) increases in their income. Meanwhile, CEOs and other top management get huge bonuses (in addition to obscene salaries and perks) for saving the company money. Such a growing disparity between “rich and poor” is dangerous, meaning it could result in social unrest. Just as bad treatment of the workers led to the union movement over a century ago, there could be some sort of movement resulting from today’s situation.

I just read an article that stated that companies aren’t doing all they could to prevent data from being stolen by hackers. Why? It costs companies less to clean up after a hack than to invest in better systems and encryption. They don’t care that the costs to the public – economic and emotional – is large and somewhat preventable. Companies are too focused on the bottom line and not being responsible citizens.

Another big area where greed is at work is in the pharmaceutical industry. Recently the drug companies have been raising prices on many medicines, including ones that have been around for a while, with no apparent justification. Even the generic drug manufacturers are raising their prices. These are no small increases, but very large ones.

Cost of manufacturing hasn’t grown, so why are these companies raising prices? What is motivating them is nothing more than greed as far as I can tell. What’s infuriating is that these huge increases impact the elderly and those with chronic conditions, the most vulnerable in society. So what happens to these people as a result of the pharmaceutical industry’s greed? They do without drugs they need, the skip doses, they don’t have a good quality of life because they can’t afford decent food, housing, or entertainment.

What’s going to happen as a result of these price increases? Eventually people are going to rebel and Congress will have to act. The result might be price controls or some other government plan to bring prices more in line with reality. I would hate to see this happen, because government interference could stifle research. But what’s the alternative?

If the pharmaceutical executives are smart (which is questionable), they’ll roll back prices to more reasonable levels before the government makes them do it. These ridiculously high prices, even by generic manufacturers, are immoral, unethical, and socially unacceptable. Things must change to make them accountable for their pricing and less greedy.

This goes for other industries, governmental agencies, and quasi-governmental agencies. I’m thinking of the MTA and the Port Authority of NY & NJ (which controls the bridges and tunnels in NYC) I’m thinking of colleges and universities, whose cost increases are beyond obscene. If we want to avoid a marketplace that is loaded with governmental controls, industries had better reduce prices and look out for the benefit of their employees and their customers.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Trump’s Appeal

With 16 reasonably qualified candidates vying for the Republican nomination, why is Donald Trump leading in the polls? What is his appeal? What’s going on here?

I think that the American public is absolutely positively fed up with the politicians in Washington. They have accomplished very little and are more interested in partisan politics than conducting the people’s business. The political system is broken and needs to be fixed. Trump, with all his rhetoric and bluster, claims he’s going to fix the mess. Will he?

Some of what he’s been saying resonates with people. However, demagogues like Trump can be dangerous. Germany was in bad shape in the 1920s and early 1930s. There was hyperinflation and all kinds of other problems. The Nazi party promised better times ahead if they were elected. In desperation, the electorate gave the Nazi party enough seats in Parliament so that Hitler was made Chancellor.

We all know what happened, and I don’t think anything like that would happen here – but you never know! We don’t want to elect someone who’s all bluster and no action. On the other hand, we don’t want the same old, tired, and ineffective politicians. Something has to be done to fix our political system, but I don’t think Trump is the answer. So what is the answer?

I think the answer is, throw the bums out! Why reward is ineffective politicians with two or six more years in power? It’s like rewarding bad behavior with a child. If we turn over Congress enough times hopefully they’ll get the message. We are critical time in our history, with multiple threats from within and without. We need strong leadership bipartisan cooperation, or we might end up going the way of the Roman Empire. The barbarians are the door!

Donald Trump will end up being a sideshow in this election and will eventually fade away. As it gets closer to the primaries and eventually the election in next November, people will get serious about whom they vote for. I pray we get true leadership, both with the new president and a mostly new Congress.

I also suggest that we all pray for our country, especially its leaders at all levels of government. Prayer is especially important as we drift away from our Judeo Christian tradition and our culture becomes more and more trashy.

God bless America!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Where We Fall Short

There are a number of areas where the US falls short. I want to focus on two areas which we as a country aren’t doing very well, with the result of higher crime and lower quality of life. Those two areas are, care for the mentally ill and not getting career criminals off the streets for good.

Lack of Care for the Mentally Ill

Some years ago, I believe in the 1960s, someone decided that the mentally ill have certain “rights,” and they should be allowed to make choices and shouldn’t be put into mental hospitals. As a result, the mental hospitals were emptied, and these people were let loose, often to fend for themselves. Many ended up homeless, some commit crimes like pushing people off subway platforms or stabbing someone randomly, and some end up in group homes. Sadly, some get themselves a gun and shoot up a school, movie theater, church, or synagogue.

While the mentally ill should not be mistreated, the question becomes what “rights” should they have. Many of the mentally ill are incapable for making rational decisions, so it is not appropriate to give them certain decision-making rights. I don’t think they should have the right to refuse to take the medications prescribed for them if that medication calms them down or relieves their symptoms, or makes them less prone to violence. I believe they should have a right to proper care and treatment, which means bringing back the mental hospitals, but with proper oversight so abuse does not occur. A compassionate society not only takes care of its mentally ill but protects its citizens from violent acts by the deranged.

There should be a national database of mentally ill people made available to gun shops so they won’t sell a gun to someone who is mentally unstable. Some may say this is an invasion of privacy and a violation of HIPAA, yet we need to protect our citizens from acts of violence done by deranged people. Unfortunately some mentally ill people manage to get a gun from a careless gun owner, like a father who doesn’t secure his guns properly. Or a mother who goes to the firing range with her mentally ill son and teaches him how to shoot.

Career Criminals Roaming the Streets

We have revolving door justice system in which repeat offenders get arrested, cop a plea, do some jail time, and are released back to the streets where they will commit more crimes. Eventually some of them kill someone or cause serious bodily harm. I see on the news a report of a serious crime, and it’s reported that the perpetrator has a long “rap sheet.” What’s he still doing on the streets? Don’t law-abiding citizens have a right to be safe and not put in danger by career criminals?

It’s obvious that these career criminals aren’t going to change their ways. Their times in jail haven’t rehabilitated them, and they are a menace to society. They should be locked up for an extended period of time because I believe our citizens have a right to be safe from criminals wandering the streets looking for their next victim.

This may necessitate the building of more prisons, which is costly, yet the cost to society of the crimes these guys commit is even higher. It would be nice if the states would teach these inmates a skill, and perhaps they could then receive an early release if they show a willingness to go straight and get a job. Again, there would be a cost to train these inmates, but the benefits far outweigh the cost. How about some restorative justice for those who show a willingness to turn their lives around?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Thoughts After the Shooting in Charleston

After the shooting in Charleston, some are saying we haven’t made much progress in the area of race relations. Have we made progress? Let’s take a look at some facts and see where they lead us. Let’s also look are areas where we could be doing better.

I believe we have made significant progress in the area of race relations since the 1960s. There are many more opportunities open to minorities than back in the 1960s. Also the younger generations mix white and black in their circle of friends and think nothing of it.

If there are so many opportunities, why is the unemployment rate so high for young black males?

The unemployment rate is so high because some black males drop out of school, some don’t receive training for marketable skills. What education they do get is often inferior. Some opt to make a living selling drugs, and some are drug users and aren’t interested in getting a job.

What can the black community do?

The black community must do a better job bringing up its children. Children need an involved father, involved uncles, etc. Moreover attitudes must change. Successful blacks are sometimes referred to derisively as an Oreo (black on the outside, white on the inside). No more Oreos! Success should be rewarded by the community, not put down. Children should be told to look up to and emulate the successful college graduate, the black lawyer or doctor, and not to look up to the drug pusher or gang chief.

What can the rest of us do?

States must help their struggling cities to revitalize. This involves investing in a quality education for inner city kids, including everything from trade schools to AP courses in high school. As the cities begin to cultivate a quality workforce, government at all levels should give incentives to attract businesses to the cities. As employment opportunities grow in number, tax revenues increase and pretty soon the cities are prosperous once again.

Let’s bring back our jobs from China and give them to our people!

One thing that must also be done to revitalize the inner cities is to take a hard line against crime. If the place is a war zone, you’re not going to attract industry no matter what incentives you provide. The better educated and skilled workers will leave, seeking employment elsewhere, where it is safer.

There are entirely too many gang members controlling the streets of our cities. There are too many stray bullets hitting children and bystanders. Career criminals (those with a long “rap sheet”) are not being rehabilitated by their frequent visits to prison. They should be put away either for life or for a very long time. I suspect they commit most of the crimes, they aren’t repentant, and they shouldn’t be out in the streets. Yet revolving door courts do just that: put them back out after a slap on the wrist.

To summarize, to improve the lot of minorities, especially blacks, their own communities can do some things, especially in the area of child rearing. Local and state governments can work to revitalize our cities, which can include rebuilding our aging infrastructure (thus creating jobs). Improving education is a key component. Federal, state, and local governments can offer incentives (as well as a well-trained and skilled workforce) for companies to bring their businesses to your cities. The cities and the black community must be united in their resolve to rid the cities of crime. Many more black men are killed by black men than by the police or white people. If crime isn’t brought down, none of these other steps will do much good, our cities will continue to be urban jungles, and black unemployment will remain high.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Deja Vue

I feel like I’ve entered a time warp, and we aren’t in 2015 anymore but back in the 1960s. We’ve had riots in the streets (in Ferguson and Baltimore). We’ve had a racially-motivated killing of 9 people in a church in Charleston, reminding us of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963. It’s enough to make you think we’ve made very little progress in this country in the area of race relations. Hearing of this senseless shooting and mass murder, our emotions ran from outrage to frustration to despair – how can this be happening 50 years later?

Race relations is a complex and emotionally-charged subject, and goes well beyond the scope of this blog. Nevertheless I’d like to share a few thoughts that you may, or may not, agree with, but at least I’m giving you something to think about.

Isolated Incident

Like many of the school shootings we’ve experienced over the past 15years or so, this church mass murder in Charleston was the work of a single deranged person. The shooter doesn’t represent a broad consensus, so I don’t believe we can interpret this shooting as something that has been widely supported. We are always going to have mentally disturbed people with guns out there, and we are always going to have extreme bigots. So mass murders will continue to happen, hopefully with much less frequency.

While race was certainly a factor in this terrible crime, that doesn’t mean there are many others just waiting to shoot or otherwise harm minorities. Despite a person’s dislike for a particular group, most are not going to engage in mass killings.

Was this shooting a Hate Crime?

I’m not familiar with the provisions of the Hate Crime laws, but the message the shooter gave to the woman he spared leaves no doubt that he wanted to kill black people because of what he perceives they are doing to this country.

As far as I’m concerned, I really don’t care whether it’s a “hate crime” or not. He murdered 9 people in cold blood, and that’s enough for me. He should receive the death penalty.

Violent Society

Why do we have all these school and other shootings in the US, but such violence is rare in other industrialized countries?

Sadly we are a violent society. We have gang wars, armed robberies, muggings, violence against women, and a host of other violent acts with much greater frequency than other industrialized nation.

Our country was formed out of the violence of the Revolutionary War, the Union was preserved by the violence of the Civil War, and we settled the West using the violence of fighting the Indians. Our mentality is often “might makes right” and we may turn to violent acts to get our way or make a statement. For example, anti-war or calls for justice demonstrations can turn violent. You can’t legitimately call for peace and justice while you are burning and looting.

As our society continues to deteriorate and drifts further away from the Judeo-Christian ethic, there will be less respect for people, more prejudice, and probably more violence. If the people don’t have a moral compass, there’s anarchy. We need to change hearts.

How do you change people’s hearts?

I believe there is only one way that is most effective, and that is to have a personal relationship with God, and learn the Bible so you understand biblical principles (many of which tell us how to behave). Becoming a Christian or getting in touch with your Jewish roots point you in the right direction concerning how you view others (made in God’s image), ourselves, and God.

Political correctness won’t do it. Only God can change your heart. We become transformed people when we follow Christ. The sooner this country turns back to the faith of our fathers, the sooner society will improve and the violence is diminished.

Lastly, is the wide availability of guns responsible for this carnage?

When President Obama made a televised statement on the shooting in Charleston, he let an opportunity go by to say something meaningful. Instead, he dredged up gun control as the best way to reduce the killings. Certainly gun control has its place, and closing the loopholes in the current laws will go far in keeping guns out of the hands of deranged individuals.

However, if a person is determined to commit murder, there are knives and other means of killing. So gun control goes only so far. What his country needs is a change of heart and better care and monitoring of the mentally ill.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Spiritual Warfare Part 2

In an earlier post I wrote about Spiritual Warfare. Historically we have seen struggles which were clearly seen to be good versus evil. I believe there was a spiritual component to them.

(1) Wars, WWII

While nobody likes war, sometimes it becomes necessary for a nation to defend itself from aggressors. Typically the aggressors are considered evil because they are attacking innocent people, trying to grab more territory, destroying cities and villages, and are generally up to no good. Probably the best examples of evil aggressors were the Nazis and Japanese in World War II. They made their leaders into gods, rather than worship the true God. So I believe WWII was definitely a battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil.

(2) Idol worship

Another struggle is against the “gods” of this world, such as materialism, accumulation of wealth, career, success, etc. There’s nothing wrong with any of these until we make them into idols. When these things dominate our lives and are more important than God, then they become idols. That’s the constant spiritual struggle we face.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Spiritual Warfare Part 1

Occasionally you might hear a Christian you know use the term “spiritual warfare.” In Christianity there’s the concept of “spiritual warfare” which refers generally to the struggle between good and evil. Those with a biblical worldview see personal as well as global events through the lens of the Bible. I’d like to explain “spiritual warfare” so you understand where your Christian friend or co-worker is coming from when he or she uses that term. The Apostle Paul describes the struggle we all face in Ephesians 6:10-12 in the New Testament:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (NRSV)

We see God involved in our struggles in many places in the Bible.

In 1 Samuel 17:46 David said the following to Goliath:
“…for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.” (NRSV)

In 2 Chronicles 20:15 God says the battle is his:
Thus says the Lord to you: “Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s”. (NRSV)

Part of our spiritual battle has to do with temptation. Speaking about temptation, 1 Peter 5:8 warns:
Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. (NRSV)

Christians believe that many of the struggles in this world have a spiritual component. Let’s look at an external struggle and an internal one to get an understanding of the spiritual aspect of each.

(1) Extremism and terrorism

Whether we like it or not, I believe the struggle against Islamic extremism has a spiritual component. What makes it a spiritual battle is the fact that these radicals are evil by any religion’s definition. Secondly, they are killing people under the banner of their religion. While most Muslims are content to live their lives in peace, aggressors like ISIS kill even their fellow Muslims.

Thirdly the battle against radicals, extremists, and terrorists is a spiritual battle because of their desire to wipe other religions off the face of the earth. If they had their way, there would be forced conversions, mass executions for those who refuse, and everybody would be subject to harsh Sharia law.

By the way, calling these radicals “fundamentalists” is wrong and misleading. The term originated in Christianity to identify those who rejected liberal theology and wanted a return to the “fundamentals” of Christianity. These Islamic radicals aren’t concerned about the purity of their beliefs. Moreover, they don’t even obey their religion’s scriptures, which forbid killing of civilians and harsh treatment of “People of the Book” (Sura 2:62; 5:69). They want an Islamic society but don’t seem to want to follow the teachings of their holy scriptures.

(2) Temptation to sin

Interestingly, Islam recognizes the struggle that takes place within a person. One meaning of the word jihad is the struggle within the believer between good vs. evil. Christians also understand that life is constant battle against temptation and the lure of the things of this world which can separate us from God. That is the heart of spiritual warfare.

Now when you hear somebody talk about “spiritual warfare” you’ll know where the person is coming from.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Is ISIS Islamic?

You may think the question “Is ISIS Islamic?” strange. “Of course they are Islamic. What else could they be?” might be the reply. Let’s take a look at that question in some depth.

ISIS followers are Islamic in name, culture, and religious background. However, they break many rules of Islam in their brutal killing of innocent people. They don’t even show mercy to fellow Muslims, engaging in wholesale killing of surrendered soldiers and even burning alive that Jordanian pilot. Since they disobey Qur’anic rules, I don’t think we can consider ISIS to be representative of Islam or to be religious in any way. They are using Islam for their own nefarious purposes: to gain power, territory, and legitimacy.

Having said that, I believe our struggle is a spiritual one to a large extent. If they are invoking their god, then shouldn’t we be praying to God for help and protection? Ultimately the battle is the Lord’s. (see future post on spiritual warfare)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Does Obama Love the U.S.?

Former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani made a statement the other day to the effect that President Obama doesn’t love America. I believe I know why he said that, so let me try to provide some insight. I think there are several points to consider.

1. Obama is a liberal (also known as a progressive). Liberals tend to be internationalists, and this can make them appear to be less concerned about their own country. Liberals tend to be less outwardly patriotic than those on the right.

2. Obama’s pastor in Chicago made anti-American statements in some of his sermons, mainly because of our history of slavery and oppression. This may have influenced Obama to not be as outwardly patriotic as some might expect from the President of the United States.

3. Some may view him as an apologist for Islam, meaning he’s defending Islam from those who blame Islam for what is being done in its name.

4. He’s been exposed to Islam much more than the average American, and that makes some feel he’s too sympathetic to Muslims (which we see in his speeches per point number 3 above).

5. Lastly, we need to understand the difference between a person’s attitude towards his or her country, and his or her criticism or opinion of the government, our culture, our history, or the administration. All citizens need to recognize and come to terms with our country’s flaws and its history, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love our country. We can and should seek to improve our government and make politicians more accountable to the voters. We do that out of love for country, not because we hate it. We want our country to be the best it can be.

While we should love our country and be loyal to it, our first priority as people of faith must be to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We can’t elevate country (or anything else) above God. If we shut God out of our country (as militant atheists are trying to do), society will lose its moral foundation and will continue to deteriorate. Now, more than ever, we need strength from above to fight the battles against terrorism.

I think Giuliani could have worded his criticism of Obama a little better. Because it was such a personal criticism, Rudy ended up becoming a lightning rod for all kinds of criticism. Some felt it was a low blow and inappropriate. As a result of all this, why don’t you and I step back for a minute and think about how we show our love for our country?

Do we vote?
Do we correspond with our representatives on a regular basis to give our opinion and keep them accountable?
Do we pray for our country on a regular basis?
Do we pay our fair share of taxes?
Do we help the less fortunate?
Do we try to be more “green” to help conserve our natural resources?
Do we stay informed of what is happening at all levels of government?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Terrorist Attacks – Not the New Normal

With terrorist attacks occurring with some frequency, it is easy to slip into a fatalistic mentality which views them as the “new normal”. The excerpt below talks about that frequency:

Yet, the fact remains that there have been at least 60 Islamist-inspired terrorist plots against the homeland since 9/11, illustrating the continued threat of terrorism against the United States. Fifty-three of these plots were thwarted long before the public was ever in danger, due in large part to the concerted efforts of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence.
The Heritage Foundation has tracked the foiled terrorist plots against the United States since 9/11 in an effort to study the evolving nature of the threat and garner lessons learned. The best way to protect the United States from the continued threat of terrorism is to ensure a strong and capable domestic counterterrorism enterprise—and to understand the continuing nature of the terror threat.
The bombings in Boston are not likely to be the last such attempt to attack the U.S. as a whole. Now is not the time for the U.S. to stand still.
60 Terrorist Plots Since 9/11: Continued Lessons in Domestic Counterterrorism
Jessica Zuckerman, Steven P. Bucci, Ph.D. and James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.

We can not accept terrorism as the “new normal.” The United States, Canada, Australia, Russia, Western Europe, and other targeted countries shouldn’t just take defensive actions in the hope of preventing attacks, important as that is. The world needs to be on a war footing and make a concerted effort to eradicate the curse of radical Islamic extremism by such groups as ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Boko Haran, and many others which commit acts of terrorism every day. We don’t hear about most them unless the act of terrorism is so horrendous that it gets the attention of the western press, or the act is against a western target (like what happened recently in France).

We should support and encourage our country’s counter-terrorism efforts. Think of all the misery these terrorist groups cause: anguished parents of kidnapped girls in Nigeria, the thousands butchered by ISIS, most of whom are Muslims, the bombings of marketplaces in Iraq, Pakistan, and other countries, just to name a few. This savagery must be dealt with by every civilized country, no matter what the dominant religion. We can’t let these groups continue to terrorize and kill people.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pluralism and the Duke University Chapel

Sometimes the desire for pluralism goes a bit too far. This happened at Duke University recently. The school, which has a Wesleyan (Methodist) heritage, decided to allow a Muslim call to worship to be announced from speakers in the chapel bell tower on Fridays. This was done in the interest of “pluralism,” but because of numerous complaints, the university reversed its decision.

The chapel is an interfaith place of worship, so what’s the problem? There are a number of issues I have with Duke permitting a Muslim call to worship from its chapel.

(1) The chapel is not a mosque, and it is not appropriate to announce a Muslim call to worship from a building that is primarily Christian. Duke was, in essence, turning it into a mosque.

(2) Pluralism, whatever that means in the wacky world of political correctness, is already present in the university by its diversity, religious and otherwise. There’s no need to broadcast a Muslim call to worship that would be heard all over the campus in order to foster “pluralism.”

(3) The religion Duke wanted to elevate is the very religion that suppresses and oppresses women, persecutes and kills Christians, kidnaps children in Nigeria, and burns churches in Egypt and elsewhere. I know, I know, the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, you say, but remember, they are still free to practice their religion in the United States. All I’m saying is don’t convert a church into a mosque to accommodate a religion in whose name terrible things are done. It sends the wrong message.

(4) We should also remember that while Muslims are free to worship as they please here in the U.S., Christians and other religious minorities do not enjoy such freedoms in many Islamic countries. While we don’t want to stoop to that level in the United States, we don’t need to celebrate a religion that is essentially at war with Christians, Jews, and the West.

Don’t miss the meaning of that final point. We are at war with Islam whether we want to admit it or not. While it is a small segment of the Muslim population that commits terrorist acts, their radicalism is based on the Qur’an’s teachings, which most Muslims are familiar with. In one part of the Qur’an, it refers to Christians and Jews as “People of the Book” who should be treated with respect. However, in other parts the Qur’an suggests harsher treatments of these “infidels.” Those parts of the Qur’an seem to be the ones that Muslims pay attention to, not the “People of the Book” sections.

More about the spiritual aspects of this struggle in a future post. Also, more about pluralism and diversity in universities in a future post.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Rights and Responsibilities

With the terrorist attack against the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in France, the issue of “rights” has come up, especially the right of free speech and freedom of the press. These are enshrined in the Bill of Rights in our Constitution, a remarkable document at the time it was written. Let me point out a few things about rights and the responsibilities that go with them:

(1) We should keep in mind that no right is absolute, including speech and press. Using your right of free speech to slander someone is illegal and may result in a lawsuit. It is wrong to falsely yell “fire” in a crowded theater. Governments can control some rights in the interest of public order, such as requiring a permit to assemble.

(2) In our Bill of Rights, free speech and freedom of the press are not necessarily “blanket” rights with no restrictions whatsoever. Their main purpose was to permit criticism of the government without fear of reprisal. Unfortunately these rights have been invoked for things the writers of the Constitution never envisioned, such as pornography and flag burning.

(3) Just because something is a right doesn’t make it right. What I mean is that something may be allowed by law but it might be immoral or unethical according to the Judeo-Christian tradition which informs much of our moral code (or at least used to).

(4) Publishing a newspaper, magazine, or even a blog comes with the responsibility to tell the truth, not to plagiarize, check your facts, and not insult or make fun of anyone because of their race, color, nationality, religion, or any other aspects of their lives.

Responsibility and good taste should be used when exercising any of your rights.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Good will come out of these attacks

The horror of the attacks in France and the potential for similar ones in Belgium have galvanized support for a united front against Islamic terrorism. Until now, most of Europe was sitting on the sidelines of the War on Terror (for the most part), and letting Uncle Sam do most of the heavy lifting. I believe that is going to change because of the almost universal outrage.

Fortunately the “bad guys” make strategic errors that help the “good guys” to eventually defeat them. For example, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, awakening a sleeping giant which ultimately defeated them. Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, opening up a second front. He was defeated. I believe that we will start to see more being done against terrorism by the European and other countries. France has already dispatched an aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean to fight against ISIS. The hacking group “Anonymous” is disrupting terrorist computer systems. I would like to see Russia join with us and Europe to fight against radical Islamic terrorists so we can truly present a united front.

By the way, there should also be outrage for the atrocities being committed against people in Nigeria and other countries. What’s taken the world so long to recognize what a threat these radical groups are to the stability and well-being of the world?

One last point. In tracking down terrorist cells, we may lose some of our privacy. That’s all right with me, and should be with you. I figure if I’m not doing something illegal, immoral, or evil, I really don’t care about some loss of privacy. I’d rather give up some privacy than endure a terrorist attack.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Pope’s Comment

The other day the Pope made some comments about the terrorist attacks in France. His comments have been subject to misinterpretation. I believe he meant to say what I wrote in my last post dated January 10, 2015. Read that post to get a sense of what the Pope was trying to communicate. In no way would he say that insulting a religion justifies terrible acts of brutality.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Good Taste

There is a tension between rights and good taste. With every right comes responsibility, the responsibility to use that right for good, not harm. Of course “good” is often in the eye of the beholder, meaning some people may claim to be doing “good” but in fact are not, at least according to the general understanding of what is good and what isn’t. In the United States what is defined as good or evil is based on society’s norms, which were mostly formed based on biblical principles and Judeo-Christian ethics. Sadly those are being eroded and as a result, looser standards of behavior are replacing them. Comedy is getting more “edgy” meaning more offensive and even nasty.

Two recent events highlight this tension between freedom of speech and the press, and responsibilities, as well as the need to exercise good taste and good judgment – not crossing the boundary into being offensive or hateful.

The first case in point is the movie “The Interview” which has to do with a fictitious plot to assassinate North Korea’s leader. It’s supposed to be a comedy, but the North Koreans aren’t amused. I’m not a fan of the North Korean regime, which is exceptionally cruel and repressive, but put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Would we find funny a comedy having to do with a plot to kill the President of the United States? I doubt it. I haven’t seen the movie, but I suspect it is not that funny and lacking in good taste.

The second case in point is the terrorist attack against a satirical French newspaper because it made fun of Mohammad and Muslims. I’m not a big fan of Islam but I can appreciate how they feel when mocked and made fun of in a disrespectful way. Apparently this newspaper made fun of other religions as well, it’s just that Christians aren’t in the habit of performing terrorist acts when offended (and we are offended often). Bill Maher and his ilk would be long dead of Christians reacted violently to being made fun of.

There used to be a self-imposed line that few comedians and writers would cross, and that line was to ridicule religions. Today religions and people of faith (any faith) are fair game, from the Broadway play “Book of Mormon” to vicious attacks by Bill Maher and other religion-haters like him. A little respect for religions, even if we disagree with them, might just make the world a slightly safer place. With Islam, we have to separate the terrorists who use a distorted form of that religion as an excuse to do terrible things, and your average Muslim in the street, most of whom just want to live their lives in peace.

There is an old adage that says we should never talk about religion and politics. In the world of comedy, that is good advice, at least the religion part. Comedians and others should be less offensive and more funny, and clean up your language while you’re at it.