31 October 2007

Theophan, on "images in the soul"

To this "Wisdom Sundays" posting, in which Theophan the Recluse makes brief mention of "the images in your soul", Mary Ann asks "[W]hat are the 'images in your soul'? Thoughts of the material or self?"

The quick and dirty answer is no, he isn't referring to worldly images, but to images which might appear to one as one prays. It would then be to these images that one prays, and upon these images that one relies for response. The key word is intermediate -- intermediate images, not simply images.

I'll allow Theophan to explain.

Hold no intermediate image between the mind and the Lord when practising the Jesus Prayer. The words pronounced are merely a help, and are not essential. The principal thing is to stand before the Lord with the mind in the heart. This, and not the words, is inner spiritual prayer. The words here are as much or as little the essential part of the prayer as the words of any other prayer. The essential part is to dwell in God, and this walking before God means that you live with the conviction ever before your consciousness that God is in you, as He is in everything: you live in the firm assurance that He sees all that is within you, knowing you better than you know yourself. This awareness of the eye of God looking at your inner being must not be accompanied by any visual concept, but must be confined to a simple conviction or feeling. A man in a warm room feels how the warmth envelops and penetrates him. The same must be the effect on our spiritual nature of the all-encompassing presence of God, who is the fire in the room of our being.

The words, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me" are only the instrument and not the essence of the work; but they are an instrument which is very strong and effective, for the Name of the Lord Jesus is fearful to the enemies of our salvation and a blessing to all who seek Him. Do not forget that this practice is simple, and must not have anything fanciful about it. Pray about everything to the Lord, to our most pure Lady, to your Guardian Angel; and they will teach you everything, either directly or through others.


In order not to fall into illusion while practising inner prayer, do not permit yourself any concepts, images, or visions. For vivid imaginings, darting to and fro, and flights of fancy do not cease even when the mind stands in the heart and recites prayer: and no one is able to rule over them, except those who have attained perfection by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and who have acquired stability of mind through Jesus Christ.

As you can see, Theophan isn't talking about images of the material world or of the self. For issues related to the material world, and to Self, he has other solutions.

Now, it might seem strange that Theophan would say about prayer that the words don't matter. But think about other relationships we have. Mine with my wife comes to mind just now. Often she will express a desire to talk. To me, to talk is to talk about something. If you want me to talk to you, but can't name the thing you want to talk about I'm inclined to put my nose back in my book.

I learned long ago not to ask my wife what she wants to talk about. (I still do it occasionally, just like I do other things I know better than to do -- like drinking a litre of single malt scotch or tequila. But I digress.)

If my wife and I spend thirty minutes talking about the number of ground hog burrows, or the amount of rabbit excrement on the ground (it's not for nothing that our place is called " Las Conejeras") she's happy. It's not the subject matter that counts; it's the visit. For the same sort of reason Theophan can talk about prayer in which the words are inessential, unimportant. What Theophan is talking about is visiting with God, or perhaps better acknowledging the fact that God is always visiting you -- experiencing, or being aware of the fact of God's presence, always with you.

And here we come to a good reason for not permitting images or concepts. If you think about visiting perhaps you have an image in your head about the last time you visited with, or were visited by, someone. (Every time I think of Chicago, I think of the "El", which I rode with my grandmother when I visited her as a child.)

That image (i.e., of "visiting") isn't really helpful when it comes to "visiting" with God, or in thinking about his "visiting" with you. The reason, of course, is that when you and your spouse, or friends, or relatives visit, there is a time when the visit is over and the visitors leave -- hopefully. That is not the case with God. Acknowledging that the words in prayer are inessential because the point is to acknowledge one's being in the presence of God works quite well as long as you don't think of it as -- don't employ the concept of -- a "visit".

Just pray, says Theophan. And don't employ any concept of what it is you are doing. Though Theophan might not have put it this way, it may help: As soon as you employ a concept you begin not to pray but to theologize. Now there's a time and a place for everything, but the time to pray is not the time to theologize.

Therefore, as Theophan says, "Just pray." Don't conceptualize what you are doing. Don't categorize it -- adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication -- whatever.

When you think about it, what Theophan is talking about makes sense when you consider that God knows what you need or want before it occurs to you to mention it to him. Prayer, then, isn't primarily about accomplishing anything; it's primarily about communing with God. It is about enjoying the privilege of unity with God through his son Jesus Christ.

Note: I'm still Calvinist, Reformed, and Presbyterian. So, Happy Reformation Day !

28 October 2007

Calvin, on the Mosaic Law -- Wisdom Sunday

In view of yesterday's posting, I'd thought I'd share a bit of Calvin on the subject of the Law of Moses.

The allegation, that insult is offered to the law of God enacted by Moses, where it is abrogated, and other new laws are preferred to it, is most absurd. Others are not preferred when they are more approved, not absolutely, but from regard to time and place, and the condition of the people, or when those things are abrogated which were never enacted for us. The Lord did not deliver it by the hand of Moses to be promulgated in all countries, and to be everywhere enforced; but having taken the Jewish nation under his special care, patronage, and guardianship, he was pleased to be specially its legislator, and as became a wise legislator, he had special regard to it in enacting laws. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk. 4, Ch. 20, sec. 16, emphases mine.
Contrary to popular beliefs -- and "Calvin's Geneva" -- Calvin was not a theocrat. Indeed, a litle known secret is that his preferred system of government was a republic.
27 October 2007

Law, Covenant, and (Christian) Politics

When the 13 original states formed our union and created the federal government to manage the business of the union, the states had the right to make the decision for themselves about slavery. This makes sense when one considers that these states were, in fact, independent and sovereign nations. As the union grew certain members of Congress expressed by various means their desire to limit membership of new states to territories which would ban slavery, thus depriving new states of a right previously enjoyed by the founding states – without amending the Constitution. The crisis was eventually resolved -- temporarily -- by the Missouri Compromise of 1850. But the idea remained that the members of the union could gang up on other (new) members and thus deprive them of such a right without amending the constitution as proved by the reaction to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its provision for popular sovereignty on the slavery question. This attempt to deny to states a right recognized (albeit tacitly) by the Constitution ultimately led to the Civil War. To put it in contemporary terms, the slave states objected to the efforts of the free states to impose morality upon them.

In many ways this Constitutional crisis was brought about by the annexation of lands as “territories” rather than the admission of new states – Louisiana Purchase, Annexation of Texas and Vermont, etc. This was problematic because while the U. S. Constitution as ratified, did contemplate the admission to the union of new member states, it didn't really (in my opinion) provide very well for the admission as new member states former territories owned and governed by the Union in a manner similar to that in which Great Britain owned and governed the colonies. As properties of the Union, rather than members of the Union, territories had not the same relation to the federal government as did member states. An issue like slavery could therefore – and arguably – be determined for these properties by the Congress. If slavery were outlawed in the territories, and if the territories were to be admitted to the Union on condition of maintaining this prohibition then Congress could have power to create states which had a view of slavery determined for them, and thus give to “free” states more power in Congress and at the same time less power to the “slave” states. Hence, the aforementioned Kansas-Nebraska Act. Then too, there was the problem (for the free states anyway) of the possibility, entailed in the Kansas-Nebraska Act, of slavery being permitted (i.e., in a new state) where it had previously been prohibited (i.e., a former territory).

The Constitution, at ratification, left the issue of slavery for member states to determine for themselves. It also, as I mentioned above, contemplated and provided for the admission of new members to the Union. It would have been eminently reasonable to think that these new member states should also have had the freedom to determine the issue of slavery for themselves, even if (as I believe the “slave” states did) those new member states made the wrong decision.

Quite frankly, though I have never favored slavery, my sympathies with respect to the issue of states’ rights have long been with the southern states. For that same reason, I think that while I oppose the notion that two members of the same sex can marry I have to assert the right of each state to make that determination for itself, with the understanding that other states may arrogate to themselves the right not to recognize such a relation inside their borders. I also think that states should have the right to determine for themselves the matter of abortion. It's all about sphere sovereignty, a very important concept in reformational philosophy (here, also).

It is sad that so much of our national politics concern matters which are properly left to the states. It is also sad that some of the leaders of the various ideological communities do not seem to know much about federalism -- you know, those little things like limited government, enumerated powers, states rights. Sadder still that James Dobson, and other Christian leaders of his ilk, is one of those. How else to explain his resolve that if neither of the two major political parties nominates "an individual who pledges himself or herself to the sanctity of human life" he and his fellow travelers will vote for a minor-party candidate. Subsequently, he expressed concern about Rudy Giuliani's belief that states should decide the marriage issue for themselves. (The very idea!)

How unfortunate that Dobson seems unable to see that the problem is not that Rudy Giuliani wouldn't support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one women -- or whatever phraseology Dr. Dobson has in mind. The problem (well, one problem) is that Dr. Dobson either does not understand, or entirely like, federalism. Why should it matter to the union as a whole whether a state, or any group of them, permit same-sex unions? Yes, I know: there is the "full faith and credit clause" in the Constitution. (Once again, we have a problem created by those who, whether Liberal or Conservative, want to impose a morality upon every state in the union. Naturally. But I digress.) This clause has its limitations. For example it ought not by simple fiat legalize what a state has prohibited. But -- again -- I digress.

The problem, even on a Christian worldview, is not that a state may permit same-sex marriages. Neither is the problem, really, that states may permit abortions. The problem is that people want these things. A Christian ought to be able to envision a society which permits behaviors to which he himself objects on moral grounds while at the same time envisioning a society in which those behaviors aren't engaged in -- at least very much -- because so few people want to do.

It strikes one as "pie in the sky by and by", I know, like visualizing world peace. But it is, I think, a bit more consistent with Christian theology than the approaches of either the Christian Right (use legal means to stymie such practices) or the Christian Left (utilize strange interpretive techniques, involving higher criticism to excuse the practices). First, it takes into account the "whole story" as we have it from Paul. Second, unlike visualizing world peace, it doesn't pretend that visualization can produce results.

Many Christians approach the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage from Romans 1.27 (among other passages): "...the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts...." Quite clearly, St. Paul thinks this is wrong. But moving from there to political action, even if that political action amounts simply to denying the "marital" union of two (or more?) members of the same sex, fails to account for all that St. Paul says here. For he doesn't say only that "men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another,...committing indecent acts." He explains why this is so (Romans 1.18-27):

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

Paul's argument is that, first men reject the knowledge of God which they possess (by virtue of having been created in His image) and then (because God "gives them over" to it due to their refusal to acknowledge his authority) they become inflamed with same-sex passions -- among others. And being thus inflamed the desire for same-sex unions follows rather logically, I think. If this is the case then one must wonder what Dobson and his compatriots think is to be done. This is not a problem easily resolved (if resolved at all) by law. Law cannot quench desire, quite the contrary in fact -- something else Paul knew (see Romans 7.5).

If the situation arises as a result of God's providence, I don't know how one escapes the conclusion that the situation must also be resolved by some providence of God. Authoritarian law will hardly work when "authority" is precisely the problem. (If they won't obey God, why should they obey James Dobson?)

And it's not just the homosexual who has a problem with a law which would prohibit him marrying another man. We have those who, believing that an accident of birth cannot constitute a grant of authority (as I occasionally tried -- unsuccessfully -- to explain to my parents decades ago), work aggressively at undermining parental authority, doing all they can to drive a wedge between parents and children, even to democratize the family. Even the so-called laws of logic, according to the post-modernist critique, have no authority. For still others facts are not authoritative either. In this milieu, a law restricting marriage to one man and one woman must appear as arbitrarily tyrannical -- and mean -- as a law putting Jews into concentration camps.

So the issue, as Paul informs us, isn't sex . It isn't marriage, either. The issue is authority. The Christian recognizes that behind the authority of the state is the authority of God (see Romans 13.1-7). But if there is no authority behind the state, then what? Law is arbitrary. This is true even in a democracy, since its fundamental principle -- rule of the majority -- is also arbitrary. Why should the majority rule? Because they say so? You see the problem. The rule of the many is no less arbitrary and tyrannical than the rule of the few -- or even the one.

Beginning with ego-centric (rather than theo-centric) presuppositions men -- according to St. Paul -- are handed over to "degrading passions." The Christian who recognizes the function of these ego-centric presuppositions must also recognize the visceral tendency which men have to be consistent with their presuppositions. These presuppositions -- and the passions which now accompany them -- require the permission of same-sex unions. However -- and this is the part where we get to the aforementioned visualization -- should men repent of their ego-centric presuppositions, their passions may be altered as well. And that is how a Christian can visualize a society which permits something like same-sex marriage and yet sees very few instances of it. What the law permits, the regenerate human may refrain from doing, by virtue of God's gracious empowerment. The same with abortion. Not pie in the sky by and by, like visualizing world peace, but taking seriously Christian theology (especially hamartiology) and applying it.

One can't help but wonder, then, where Dobson and others get the idea -- the Biblical warrant -- for the agenda they espouse. It is true that in the Scriptures same sex relations are prohibited. It is also true that the Scriptures specify the general conditions under which human life may be taken; and the unborn satisfy none of those conditions. So I am with Dobson (he'll be so glad to know that, I'm sure) from the ethical perspective on same-sex relations and abortion, among other things. And I certainly agree that Christians can and should be involved in the political life of the nation in which God has providentially planted them. But there is a step from "Scripture teaches us that these things are wrong" to "Scripture teaches us to make our nation's laws reflect what the Scriptures teach is wrong."

Some find this warrant in the Cultural Mandate, while others find it in the so-called Dominion Mandate. As a Neocalvinist I certainly accept the Cultural Mandate (and reject the Dominion Mandate). However the relation between the Cultural Mandate and the Mosaic law is problematic -- problematic, that is, in terms of using the Cultural Mandate to justify bringing outsiders under covenant stipulations. There is a social aspect to the Cultural Mandate. In being "fruitful" and "multiplying" families and extended families will be formed; out of this family formation societies will develop. These societies, naturally, will require some system for regulating these relational affairs, a system of formulating, executing and enforcing laws. From the desire of the Self to express itself and to satisfy its curiosity, the arts and sciences develop. Technology and skills develop for the provision of needs and wants. Being human, it ought to go without saying that the Christian will participate on some level in this process.

For guidance in participating in his society's legal-political life, the Christian understandably seeks out the Law, the Mosaic law. What he will overlook when he does this is that this law mediates a covenant; and it does not mediate this covenant to every human indiscriminately, but rather to the descendants of Abraham. And while the Jews' working out of the Cultural Mandate was governed by the Law of Moses, Israel -- the people of God -- had no mandate to bring into submission to this Law people who lived outside of her national boundaries, her "jurisdiction" if you will -- outside of the covenant. (This is why Jews have never proselytized.)

So one question for the Christian is this: Do the people of God have a mandate from God to bring "outsiders" into submission to those laws given to the people of God as his peculiar people? (You might want to answer, "Yes, by evangelizing them." But that will make them members of the covenant community, in which case they would not be outsiders. I'm talking about making outsiders submit to the covenant requirements while still "strangers" to the covenant.) Even after reading several Reconstructionists' essays, I cannot see that there is such a mandate. (Later today I'll be re-reading one of Greg Bahnsen's essays on the subject. I'll let you know if I change my mind.)

More importantly for the Christian is the fact that Jesus, a second Moses, mediates a new covenant, which fulfills the Mosaic Law. The non-Christian is not a party to that new covenant either. Again: How does one go about arguing that "strangers" to a covenant are bound to the legal stipulations entailed in a covenant to which they are not parties? Riddle me that.

The only covenant to which non-Christians and non-Jews are parties is the Noachian Covenant (see Genesis 9.4-6). Rabbinic Judaism has deduced 7 laws from this covenant, but on its face it provides for little more than the preservation and protection of human life by explicitly requiring the life of one who takes a life. From this explicit provision one can logically deduce other provisions for protecting human life, including human government which, in addition to meting out the punishment to the murderer, can craft positive laws for the furtherance of the mandate to hold human life in high esteem. (Indeed, I happen to believe that many of those things Dobson calls "traditional family values" are also consistent with the high esteem for human life entailed required by the Noachian Covenant.) It is easy enough to make arguments against abortion on such a basis, but not so much against homosexuality or same-sex unions. Besides, I think we shall find that most people hold human life in high esteem, but differ on when human life begins. And they certainly do not see how permitting same-sex unions is harmful to human life.

This relation of law and covenant is crucial to understanding the Christian's relation to his (earthly) country. The prevailing notion is that the Christian, in the U S, stands in the same relation is the "remnant" in apostate Israel or apostate Judah. Hence the felt need for Christians (the "remnant" of apostate US) to reclaim the US for Christ. I don't deny that Christians were far more numerous and politically powerful at the nation's founding than today, but there is nothing to reclaim for Christ. Christians in the US are not Israel's and Judah's "remnant". The Christian -- no matter how friendly, or even how "Christian", his country is to him -- is always a stranger in a strange land. If anything the Christian's relation to whatever nation he lives in is more like that of a Jew in Babylon. And to those who were going captive to Babylon, God through the prophet Jeremiah said:

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: "Build houses for yourselves and settle in. Plant gardens and eat from them. Marry and have children. Have your sons and daughters marry and have children in order that your population increases rather than decreases. And work for the health and prosperity of the city where I am sending you away captive, and pray to the LORD for it: for in their health and prosperity you will have health and prosperity. (Jeremiah 29.4ff, my translation.)

Like Jews in Babylon we have a duty to seek the good health and prosperity of the US. The question is whether Dobson's plan (especially the part about a new party) will truly serve the goal of peace, prosperity, and the good health of the nation. Will the strong arm tactics he proposes (let's call these tactics for what they really are) create peace for the the nation? Our Constitution requires a chief executive to sign or veto legislation, to execute the laws, to conduct treaty negotiations, to appoint judges and ambassadors, to serve as commander in chief of the armed forces. We require the smoothest, most peaceful and uneventful transfers of power from administration to administration. We need to have a country in order to have a country which treats the unborn the way we'd like to see the unborn treated. We need to have a country in order to have a country which, while it tolerates same sex relationships and makes certain provisions for them, does not marry them. And in order to have a country, we need a stable government, with peaceful elections providing for immediate and uneventful transfers from administration to administration, from Congress to Congress.

I have no personal issues with Dr. Dobson. I've met him -- and his wife-- though I doubt he would recall. He and his wife visited my church once or twice. On one occasion he and his wife sat right behind my wife and I. Very nice man, very nice couple. I don't question his motives. I don't question his Christian commitment. But I do question his understanding to the relation between covenant and law. I do question whether his application of the principles of the Christian worldview is correct. Mainly, I question whether the principles he seeks to apply are actually the appropriate principles to apply.

We don't really need a President who will affirm a commitment to the sanctity of human life. We don't need a President who shares our view of same sex relationships. What we really need -- for the good health and prosperity of the nation -- is a President who is committed to protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States, one who is committed to limited government and enumerated powers, and who as a consequence nominates to the federal bench judges committed to originalism. Goodness! If we could just get that!

Okay. Back to my "sabbatical".
21 October 2007

One measure of progress in the spiritual life -- Wisdom Sunday

What is it to be a "spiritual giant" in the Christian faith? I've heard it said of this or that person that he (or she) is (or was) a spiritual giant. I've been on a sort of sabbatical, during which time I've given much thought to this -- as well as other things. I have found this bit of wisdom worthy of serious attention.

Progress in the spiritual life is shown by an ever-increasing realization of our own worthlessness, in the full and literal sense of this word. The moment that we ascribe some value to ourselves, in any sense whatever, it will mean that things have gone wrong. It is also dangerous; the enemy will draw close and begin to divert our attention, throwing stumbling blocks in our path. A soul that thinks highly of itself is like the crow in the fable who listened to the fox's flattery, and let the piece of cheese drop in order to show off. May the Lord help you to become more thorough in the task of attributing no value to your labours. See to it, as well, that there are fewer images in your soul and more thought and feeling. Persevere with the inner prayer you have begun; this is the way to reduce the flow of images through the mind. The moment will come when you will feel the issue of them stanched, like the issue of blood in the woman (Luke 8.44). -- Theophan the Recluse

Incidentally, the "inner prayer" Theophan is talking about is the so-called Jesus Prayer, which goes like this: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I think the desire on the part of a Christian to be a so-called spiritual giant is unworthy, perhaps even sinful. I think we shall do well enough just to do -- or to try to do -- our duty.
05 October 2007

Almost unbelievable

Supposedly Rush Limbaugh (during his 26 September broadcast) insulted soldiers who oppose military operations in Iraq by calling them phony soldiers. A week later, a week during which any who wanted could hear or read for themselves what he said, he continues to take flak for it. It’s almost unbelievable. Almost.

Now, you would think that Limbaugh said, “It is my sincere belief that any soldier who opposes the war is a phony soldier.”

Here’s a phony transcript of the offending call (from Media Matters site, not Limbaugh’s):

LIMBAUGH: …Mike…in Olympia, Washington. Welcome to the EIB Network. Hello.

MIKE: Hi Rush, thanks for taking my call.

LIMBAUGH: You bet.

MIKE: I have a retort to [a previous caller], because I am a serving American military, in the Army. I've been serving for 14 years, very proudly.

LIMBAUGH: Thank you, sir.

MIKE: And, you know, I'm one of the few that joined the Army to serve my country, I'm proud to say, not for the money or anything like that. What I would like to retort to is that, if we pull -- what these people don't understand is if we pull out of Iraq right now, which is about impossible because of all the stuff that's over there, it'd take us at least a year to pull everything back out of Iraq, then Iraq itself would collapse, and we'd have to go right back over there within a year or so. And --

LIMBAUGH: There's a lot more than that that they don't understand. They can't even -- if -- the next guy that calls here, I'm gonna ask him: Why should we pull -- what is the imperative for pulling out? What's in it for the United States to pull out? They can't -- I don't think they have an answer for that other than, "Well, we just gotta bring the troops home."

MIKE: Yeah, and, you know what --

LIMBAUGH: "Save the -- keep the troops safe" or whatever. I -- it's not possible, intellectually, to follow these people.

MIKE: No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.

LIMBAUGH: The phony soldiers.

MIKE: The phony soldiers. If you talk to a real soldier, they are proud to serve. They want to be over in Iraq. They understand their sacrifice, and they're willing to sacrifice for their country.

LIMBAUGH: They joined to be in Iraq. They joined --

MIKE: A lot of them -- the new kids, yeah.

LIMBAUGH: Well, you know where you're going these days, the last four years, if you signed up. The odds are you're going there or Afghanistan or somewhere.

MIKE: Exactly, sir.

It seems to me quite clear that Mike believes that soldiers who oppose the war are phony soldiers and that war supporting soldiers are “real.” Rush’s problem is that his interjection (i.e., “The phony soldiers”), in context, does seem to agree with Mike’s assessment. I think it is quite clear that Rush thought the caller’s reference to “these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media” was to truly phony soldiers – people who claim either to be soldiers and are not, or soldiers who have made claims about their service which are not true. I think it’s very clear that Rush and Mike were not talking about exactly the same thing. As it turns out, Mike – but not Rush – thinks that soldiers who oppose the war in Iraq are not real soldiers. That’s his problem. Frankly, each time I read this transcript I find myself unsure that I know what Mike meant by “real soldiers”. Sometimes I wonder if the non-real soldiers are those who enlisted in order to get college money, or something like that. I don’t know. He doesn’t express himself very well. (Of course, to be fair, Rush did interrupt and distract him from the point of his call.)

Now, I just happen to have been listening to Limbaugh that day so I heard the rest of the call, and also heard Limbaugh immediately give an example of just what he meant by the phrase “phony soldiers”. Media Matters’ excision of this part of the call is why I refer to theirs as a phony transcript. A real transcript ought to have included what follows. It went like this (from his site):

(NOTE: What you are about to read resumes right after Mike says, “Exactly, sir.”)

MIKE: …My other comment, my original comment, was a retort to Jill about the fact we didn't find any weapons of mass destruction. Actually, we have found weapons of mass destruction in chemical agents that terrorists have been using against us for a while now. I've done two tours in Iraq, I just got back in June, and there are many instances of insurgents not knowing what they're using in their IEDs. They're using mustard artillery rounds, VX artillery rounds in their IEDs. Because they didn't know what they were using, they didn't do it right, and so it didn't really hurt anybody. But those munitions are over there. It's a huge desert. If they bury it somewhere, we're never going to find it.

RUSH: Well, that's a moot point for me right now.

MIKE: Right.

RUSH: The weapons of mass destruction. We gotta get beyond that. We're there. We all know they were there, and Mahmoud even admitted it in one of his speeches here talking about Saddam using the poison mustard gas or whatever it is on his own people. But that's moot. What's more important is all this is taking place now in the midst of the surge working, and all of these anti-war Democrats are getting even more hell-bent on pulling out of there, which means that success on the part of you and your colleagues over there is a great threat to them. It's frustrating and maddening, and why they must be kept in the minority. I want to thank you, Mike, for calling. I appreciate it very much.

Here is a Morning Update that we did recently, talking about fake soldiers. This is a story of who the left props up as heroes. They have their celebrities and one of them was Army Ranger Jesse Mcbeth. Now, he was a "corporal." I say in quotes. Twenty-three years old. What made Jesse Macbeth a hero to the anti-war crowd wasn't his Purple Heart; it wasn't his being affiliated with post-traumatic stress disorder from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. No. What made Jesse Macbeth, Army Ranger, a hero to the left was his courage, in their view, off the battlefield, without regard to consequences. He told the world the abuses he had witnessed in Iraq, American soldiers killing unarmed civilians, hundreds of men, women, even children. In one gruesome account, translated into Arabic and spread widely across the Internet, Army Ranger Jesse Macbeth describes the horrors this way: "We would burn their bodies. We would hang their bodies from the rafters in the mosque."

Now, recently, Jesse Macbeth, poster boy for the anti-war left, had his day in court. And you know what? He was sentenced to five months in jail and three years probation for falsifying a Department of Veterans Affairs claim and his Army discharge record. He was in the Army. Jesse Macbeth was in the Army, folks, briefly. Forty-four days before he washed out of boot camp. Jesse Macbeth isn't an Army Ranger, never was. He isn't a corporal, never was. He never won the Purple Heart, and he was never in combat to witness the horrors he claimed to have seen. You probably haven't even heard about this. And, if you have, you haven't heard much about it. This doesn't fit the narrative and the template in the Drive-By Media and the Democrat Party as to who is a genuine war hero. Don't look for any retractions, by the way. Not from the anti-war left, the anti-military Drive-By Media, or the Arabic websites that spread Jesse Macbeth's lies about our troops, because the truth for the left is fiction that serves their purpose. They have to lie about such atrocities because they can't find any that fit the template of the way they see the US military. In other words, for the American anti-war left, the greatest inconvenience they face is the truth.
The transcript ends there. Limbaugh segued immediately into an explanation of what he meant by “phony” – or “fake” – soldiers. I heard that Morning Update also. Limbaugh wasn’t talking about soldiers – real soldiers – who oppose the war. He was talking about truly fake soldiers. And I find it very telling, though hardly surprising, that Media Matters’ redaction of the transcript ends where it does. The entire transcript shows their phony assertion for what it is.

These are people who want honesty and believe the President lied us into war. These are people who assert that Limbaugh is disingenuous. And yet, to substantiate a charge against him they can only be, shall we say, less than honest in their transcript editing.

For their false witness against Limbaugh I think Media Matters should receive whatever consequences they intended for him. Whatever they may have been. Too bad they don’t have a radio show that Democrats want to pull off the Armed Forces Network.

Of course, following General Wesley Clark’s suggestion, Media Matters, like Limbaugh (and along with CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABC, L.A. Times, N.Y. Times The New Republic, and others) need to be rated. (On the grounds that since there are standards in public broadcasting – X-rated, R-rated, etc – there ought to be standards in political discourse. Ratings on political speech. And these people insist it is the Right who are trying to take away freedoms.) After all, many (like Elizabeth Edwards and Brian Gough, of VoteVets.org) have demonstrated the true purpose of these phony charges: to silence, or at least muffle, the loudest voice in their opposition.

IN THE INTEREST OF FULL DISCLOSURE: I am somewhat of a fan of Limbaugh’s. He's very well-read and informed for someone with no college education (in an era which over emphasizes university education). However, he is a bit (bit?) bombastic -- and more emotional than I can usually stomach from anyone. I still prefer him to any one of his critics.

I'm certainly no fan because I agree with everything he says, or every position he takes. I certainly don't. (I don’t even agree with my wife about everything.) And any agreements we have are accidental, perhaps even coincidental, and largely as a result of his borrowing from my (i.e., Christian) worldview. He’s a conservative; I’m a center-right Christian democrat. (No there isn’t a Christian Democrat party in this country – well, not one in which I would be comfortable, anyway – but as a political view, that is where I am.) It stands to reason that we will have many positions in common. But we have those positions for different reasons.

For example his position on economics seems to me pragmatic. His position on taxes is very similar to my own, especially as regards the welfare state. But his grounds are pragmatic: his primary concern seems to be that raising taxes doesn't "work", that the welfare state actually harms the people intended to be helped. My own opposition to the welfare state is normative: I have scruples about taking one man’s money (just because he has “plenty”) and giving it to someone else (just because he doesn’t have plenty). And I happen also to think that it doesn't work, but that is not the first question I ask. The first question I ask is: Is it ethical? (Hint: Thou shalt not steal; Thou shalt not covet, etc.)

Some Christian Democrats assert that the welfare state follows logically from the teaching of Scriptures to remember the poor. But to force non-Christians, an entire society, to exercise Christians' duties isn't right and ought to be seen (if certain people are to be consistent) as a violation of the so-called separation of church and state. After all, the same Scriptures teach us to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. I note that these same Christian Democrats – unless I missed it – who desire that we give the force of law to the Scriptural injunction to remember the poor are not advocating a return of the blue laws.

Be all that as it may. Rush critics are inclined to lump me in with him so I'm inclined, ocassionally, to defend him, rather than distance myself from him.

Besides, I'd rather be lumped in with Limbaugh than his ideological opponents. If for no other reason than that Limbaugh is right about at least one thing: his opponents' tactics are Stalinistic. A kinder, gentler Stalinistic to be sure. But Stalinistic nevertheless.
04 October 2007


I love this stuff. It's how I plan to spend my retirement.

Clearly, a couple of guys inspired by the same drummer who inspired me as a youth.

NOTE: OMGG = Oh, my goodness gracious.
02 October 2007

The Brooklyn Six?

I wonder if – in response to this – we will be reading about six Jewish youths beating down a German-American kid who demonstrably did not perpetrate the act (but who may be somehow “associated” with those who did)?

Probably not. Revenge is prohibited to Jews. And their standard of justice does not permit “punishment” of anyone who shares some superficial similarity (including worldview) with the actual perpetrator but limits “punishment” to the person who actually committed the offense. Not only that, but their standard of retribution is eye for eye, tooth for tooth, etc (Biblical source). The tendency is think that this standard is harsh. Actually, this standard imposes a limitation on the severity of punishment, protecting the accused from punishment which is over harsh in comparison with the crime.

The standard of justice for the Jena Six seems to have been an eye and a tooth (i.e., assault and battery) from John for (non-verbal!) slap in the face by Joe. With the hearty approval of The Justice Brothers, of course.

It’s not as if Jews celebrate “Beat Up a Gentile Day”.

We do have a race problem when it comes to justice in this country. But only because some people think they belong to a class each member of which is “more sinned against than sinning” (see King Lear, 3.2.59) by each member of some other class and therefore are justified in retaliating against any given member of the offending class.
01 October 2007

You’ll have your victory tomorrow…

or the next war is free.

We are blessed to live in a relatively stable society. One of the blessings of this stability is a great deal of predictability. That is, most of us are able to live fairly predictable lives, predictable in a good way.

The city nearest to my present location is 32 miles away. I can tell you just about exactly how long it will take to drive from a specific building here to a specific building in that nearest city. When I leave for work in the morning, I know exactly what time I need to leave because I know exactly how long it takes from the time I walk out my door, arrive at the building I work in, and make it to my desk – twelve minutes. Not ten. Not fifteen. Twelve.

When I mow the grass here, I know how long it will take. When I put something in the microwave I know just about how many minutes it will be before I’m eating. When I go to make a pot of coffee, I know how long it will take. When I sit down to watch the news, or anything else, I know how long I’m going to sit and watch before it’s over. If I take a trip to my parents’ house, I know almost exactly how many hours that trip will take. When I mail something, I have an idea when the package will arrive at its destination. When I see a crew break ground on a new building, I can fairly well predict how many days, weeks, or months it will be before the building is completed (assuming weather conditions are favorable). And unlike countries with parliamentary democracies, we also know how long our administrations are going to be in power.
Yes. We live fairly predictable lives.

We ask, “How long will it take?” and are accustomed to getting an answer that sticks. And if it takes longer than the time we were given we may get a discount, or better: “Your pizza in thirty minutes or its free,” “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight,” “Your pictures tomorrow or they’re free,” and so on.

There are some disadvantages to living in such a stable society, however. One such is that it can give some people certain unreasonable expectations. Some people think its absurd not to be able to predict how long anything and everything will take. Like, for example, a war.

A caller to Rush Limbaugh’s show (2nd hour, 26 September 2007) wanted to know how much longer its going to take to win in Iraq. Limbaugh told the young man that we’ll have to remain there until we win. (What other answer can we expect?) The young man (I think his name was Mike) asked Limbaugh to define winning in Iraq. To each formulation of an answer to the request for that definition, Mike replied, “Yes, but how long is that going to take?”

Four times, at least, he asked: Yes, but how long is that going to take? How long is that going to take? How long is that going to take? How long is that going to take?

This young man is clearly a product of the times and therefore thinks successfully finishing up a war is something like nuking something in the microwave.

How long is this war going to take?


Actually, no it isn't. Now that I'm thinking about it, I recall reading something by Isaac Asimov (well, I'm pretty sure it was Asimov) a few years before he died. Asimov was lamenting the fact that it was becoming difficult to retain young scientists. The reason? They were too impatient. Scientific breakthroughs take a great deal of time, if they ever come. These young scientists were not interested in working for indefinite lengths of time before achieving success.

The fault is not entirely theirs, I suspect: very little in our society is designed to instill patience ("long suffering") in people.

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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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