Sunday, October 22, 2006

Muslims for Isa

Some weeks ago I was reading a post on a different forum and came across some thoughts I found fascinating. The author, John Holzmann, was describing a seminar he attended at which certain Christian workers in Muslim nations were discussing the cultural differences between Islam and Christianity. John has since been kind enough to post those thoughts to his blog, John's Corner of the World.

The crux of the issue John brings up here is this: Are Christian workers in Muslim nations creating artificial barriers to the gospel of Jesus Christ by insisting on cultural standards which are really unrelated to that gospel? For example, in Muslim countries, what clothing do followers of Jesus (Isa in Arabic) wear to church? What word is used to refer to God? What day(s) of the week do we worship? John mentions many other issues in his post as well.

It seems to me that these issues have been considered before in relation to Christian workers in other nations; however, I don't believe they have been thought through in detail in specific relationship with Muslim nations. Perhaps some things are worth making an issue about, and some are not. Is it possible that we are creating artificial barriers to the gospel and thus making enemies when we could be making friends?

What I am saying here is that if we want to reach out to Muslims and lead them to Christ, we need to be very sure that the decision point is specifically about Jesus, not about what kind of clothes they wear, whether they take off their shoes when they go to church, or what day they worship. By differentiating Christianity so drastically from Islamic culture, we make deciding to follow Jesus far more difficult than it should be, and we make it far easier for radicals to persuade Muslims that Christianity is evil.

In a different post, John shared this story which I think illustrates the type of approach I am considering here.

About 1995, he said, he began to see several young men (college students) come to Christ. Most of them were sons of very wealthy or powerful members of Lebanese society. One was the son of a billionaire businessman who was also a member of parliament (MP).

C was invited to a party where the MP was in attendance. The MP and C happened to meet, and the MP then invited C to call his secretary at the parliament and ask for an appointment. C followed through, was granted a 5-minute appointment, and, on the appropriate day, made his appearance.

As C was climbing the steps to the parliament, he noticed the billionaire MP walking DOWN the stairs with a bunch of aides. The MP noticed C, couldn’t quite remember where he had seen him or why he should know him, but greeted C and then invited C to his home. "Why don’t you come with me and let’s talk?"

Well, since the MP had obviously forgotten his appointment with C, and since a visit in the man’s home would be more personal and lengthier than a five-minute appointment at his office, C accepted.

A short while later, they found themselves sitting on the veranda of the man’s house, overlooking the Mediterranean. They had just sat down to coffee when C decided to open the conversation. "So. . . . How are things . . . [short pause] in Parliament?"

"Terrible," the man replied. "Terrible. There’s no hope for this country."

"No hope!" C exclaimed. "Why, you’re a leader in the country. Do you really feel there’s no hope."

"Yes. Our situation is hopeless here in Lebanon."

"I can hardly believe that," C tried to continue.

"So what do you do," the man asked.

I don’t know if it was the Holy Spirit or myself who replied here, C urged. I don’t want to saddle the Holy Spirit with foolish things that I might say, but I replied, "I’m a hope broker."

"A hope broker?" the man looked at him in astonishment. "What’s that?"

"I deal hope!" C confidently declared.

"Oh?" said the man. "And where do you get that?"

"I’ll be happy to talk about that in a few minutes," said C, "but first I’d like to hear more about Parliament."

"No, no!" cried the man. "Really. I must know. Where do you get this hope?"

Things were going a bit too quickly for C’s own comfort, so he said, "No. Truly. I will be happy to talk about that in a few minutes, but . . ."

The two men remained at a standoff for a couple more minutes until the man asked C, "HOW do you deal in hope?"

"Well. Okay," said C. "A friend of mine and I were talking a few years ago and we said, 'How can we help bring Christians, Muslims and Druze together here in Lebanon?' And we thought, 'Maybe we should get them to pray together for Lebanon.' So that’s what we did. We formed a number of groups around the country where Muslims, Christians and Druze get together each week and pray for Lebanon."

That worked well for a while. But then we realized people were getting bored. Y’know, praying for Lebanon is okay, but what else might we do? . . . So then we thought, 'Maybe we could talk about something. Maybe some important subject like, say, Peace. Or Economics. Or something like that.'

"So the groups began to talk about important subjects."

But then we realized that wasn’t working very well, so we thought, 'Maybe we should talk about an important person or what he taught. . . '"

"That’s a GREAT idea!" interrupted the MP. "And I know EXACTLY who they should talk about!"

"Yeah?!" said C.

"Yeah! GANDHI!""Well, yes," C replied. "Gandhi would make a great person to talk about, but that wasn’t who we decided to discuss."

"No?" said the man, a bit startled. He paused a moment. "Well, then . . . How about MOTHER THERESA!"

"Yes, Mother Theresa would have made a very worthy person to discuss as well," C agreed. "And both Gandhi and Mother Theresa are heroes of mine. But we thought of someone else. Someone both Gandhi AND Mother Theresa looked up to. Can you think of someone else?"

He paused while his companion thought. "I was afraid he might come up with NAPOLEON or something," C confessed to us.

But about 30 seconds later, the MP’s face brightened: "Oh! I know! JESUS! ["Isa," in Arabic and/or as He is called in the Qur'an."

"Yes!" said C. "That is EXACTLY who we decided to talk about. . . . So, anyway, we’ve had these groups--there are probably 40 or so of them now--. . . we’ve had these groups praying for Lebanon and talking about Isa for several years now. . . . "

"Is there one in Parliament?" asked the MP.

"No. There’s not yet," said C.

"So why don’t you start one?"

"Well, first of all," said C, "I don’t know anyone in Parliament . . . besides you, of course. And besides, . . . "

"What if I were to start such a group?"

"That would be wonderful!" C exclaimed.

"How would I do that?"

"Well, you could call some of your friends . . . "

And the man did that.The next week, they held their first meeting. C had laid down a few ground rules: "I will be happy to attend, but I WON’T LEAD. YOU must lead. You can ask me any questions you want BEFORE the meeting or AFTER the meeting. But during the meeting, I will remain silent. YOU need to lead."

"Well, I don’t know much about Isa," said the man. "Where can I find out about him?"

Oh, there are all kinds of places," said C.

"Yeah? Like where?"

"Oh, almost anywhere!" C replied. "There are all kinds of books written about him. I’m sure if you went to a local bookstore, you could find a few books. . . ."

"No, no! Where is the BEST place?"

"The BEST place?"


"Well, the best place, I’ve found is in the Injil [Arabic/Qur'anic word for the New Testament]. There are four books there called Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And, personally, I’d recommend the book of Luke."

"So where can I get an Injil?"

"I’m sure you can buy one in the bookstore." [C WASN’T about to tell the man that he "happened" to have a stash of about a hundred sitting back in his apartment!]

So the next week the MP came to the first meeting with his newly-purchased Arabic Injil and an additional English copy that C had given him. (The MP speaks eight languages fluently.)

The group met. They had a fine time. And at the end they asked--since this was another ground rule, that a different person should lead each week’s meeting: "Who will lead next week?" Another man volunteered.

"And what shall we use as a source book to learn more about Isa?" --Another ground rule: "Any source you want."

The next week, the leader came with a book about Jesus that had been written by the Dalai Lama. And so they read that.

"It was very interesting," C told us. "The Dalai Lama had many wonderful things to say about Jesus." But at the end of the meeting, the group members looked at each other and said, "Y’know, the Dalai Lama just doesn’t match Luke in the Injil. Let’s read that again next week. . . . "

And so the group continued. They prayed for Lebanon and studied and talked about Isa.

About the 12th week, C said, he was sitting at the end of the table in the conference room in the parliament building where the group was meeting. He was facing the door to the room. The door had one of those small windows in it that permits people to look in (or you to look out). He noticed a man walk by, then back up and look in the window. The man left for a moment, then came back, peered in again, and eventually opened the door and walked in.

The meeting immediately stopped. Everyone stood up in somewhat embarrassed silence.

"What are you doing?" asked the man. --He was the political head of Hamas.

"We are praying for Lebanon and talking about Isa," said one of the men in the group.

"Really?" said the visitor. ". . . And who is your leader?"

Though he had specifically and vigorously refused to provide any leadership during the meetings, all the members of the group turned to C and pointed.

"Ah!" said the man. "Please come with me."

C followed him out of the room. "I felt like a child being led to the principal’s office," said C.

When they got to the Hamas leader’s office, the man invited him to sit down. "Please, tell me more about what you are doing. . . . "

So the two of them spoke for an hour or more. At the end of the meeting, C got up to leave. "I have always kept in mind something that Christy Wilson once said. I have kept it in MIND, but I have rarely done it. Wilson said that, whenever he left a person, he always asked if he might pray for them. And for some reason, that is what I said to the Hamas leader that day: 'May I pray for you?'"

The Hamas leader threw his hands up: "EVERYONE can use some prayers! Please! Pray for me."

"Do you have any family members? A wife? Children?"The man nodded. "Yes. A wife and five children."

"May I have their names? I would like to pray for them, too."

So C prayed. He said that normally he prays with his eyes open, but that day, maybe because he was scared, he had them fast shut. He opened them, however, just before he came to the end of his prayer.

He said tears were streaming down his companion’s face, down to the end of the man’s bushy beard.

After a few embarrassed moments as they said goodbye, C left.

The next week, just before their prayer-and-discussion meeting ended, the Hamas leader showed up again. He asked C to come with him to his office, just like the week before.

At the end of their meeting, as C got up to leave and headed toward the door, the man said, "Wait! Aren’t you going to do that thing?"

"'That thing'? WHAT thing?" asked C.

"You know! That thing! That thing"--and the man stretched out his hands and rubbed his fingertips together, each hand’s thumb rubbing the fingertips--"that thing that felt so good!"

C looked at him with consternation. "'That thing that felt so good' . . ." Then with a look of sudden recognition: "You mean you want me to PRAY for you?"

"Yes! Yes!" cried the man. "That!"

"But YOU pray!" C protested.

"Yes. I pray. But it FEELS different when you pray!"

"'It FEELS different,'" C repeated rather dumbly. "Why would it FEEL different?"

"I don’t know. It just does!"

"All right," said C. "I will pray for you."

And so he did.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Where Do We Turn? and What Can We Do?

Today I read Psalms 120-122. In the midst of the emotional turmoil of these days, as I watch Israel attacked both physically and diplomatically, as I watch our media turn a blind eye to their real suffering and instead focusing on the imagined suffering of those who might be offended by President Bush's statements or Mel Gibson's unfortunate demonstration of his sinfulness, I found comfort in Psalm 121.

I lift up my eyes to the hills -
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
The Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip -
He who watches over you will not slumber;
Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor
(Verses 1-4, NIV)

When I am in emotional desperation, I must turn to the Lord, who knows all that is happening and is in control of all of it. And it's fascinating to me that He not only comforts me; He also lets me know in this passage that He is looking out for Israel too. So as I wonder and question what on earth He is doing in Israel today, I am reminded that He is still in charge, and will do what is needed to care for them and draw them to Himself.

Immediately after this Psalm comes Psalm 122, and it also spoke to me this morning:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem;
May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.
For the sake of my brothers and friends,
I will say, "Peace be within you."
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God
I will seek your prosperity.
(Verses 6-9, NIV)

Just in case we needed it, the psalmist gives us a prayer to pray for Jerusalem - a prayer for that peace which she so desperately needs.

When I was ten years old, there was a very serious earthquake in the nation where I was living, my "adopted home," Guatemala. I discovered then that the best thing American Christians can do as they read the news is to pray for the people involved in that news. We can pray for believers caught in the midst of the chaos - that they will remain firm in their faith, that they will sense God's comfort in their suffering, and that they will have opportunities to share the gospel with those around them. We can pray for unbelievers, also caught - that they will have contact with believers and see the difference in their lives, that their hearts will be opened as a result of what they are experiencing, and that they will turn to the Lord and find Him to be sufficient. We can pray for the leaders of the nations involved, that they will have wisdom and will act quickly to bring what relief they can to their people. And we can pray that God's Name will be glorified as a result of the events we are reading about.

If you, like me, are grieved over what we are seeing happen in the Middle East today, won't you join me in earnest prayer? Together, our prayers can make a difference and perhaps have a role in bringing about "the peace of Jerusalem."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

How Do We Respond to Evil?

Ever since I started listening to Hugh Hewitt and reading his blog (about two years ago now), I have found myself wondering: How should a Christian respond to all the evil we see around us? The wicked do evil blatantly, flaunting it before the whole world, bragging about it, showing off how bad they really are. It doesn't matter whether they are in the mainstream media, the blogosphere, the United States Congress, the European Union, or the Islamic world - it seems everywhere I look I see the same picture of wicked people turned against God and against His people, both Israel and the church. So how do I respond? I get angry, I grieve, and too often I feel helpless to do anything about it. I was surprised in my reading this morning to find that Psalm 119 offers some answers to how godly people should respond to the wickedness around them.

Verse 53, for example: "Indignation grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken your law." It is natural and normal for those who love righteousness to get angry at what's happening in the world! In fact, the one time God gives us permission to be angry (and the one time He gets angry Himself) is when we see wickedness. In our anger, we are not to sin - but we are to hate evil and to be angry at those who willingly flaunt God's laws.

Another response is illustrated in verse 136: "Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed." Grief is also a normal, natural, godly response to evil. We should be sad and grieve when we see the wicked prosper and the weak suffer.

Verse 158 says: "I look on the faithless with loathing, for they do not obey your word." It is OK to feel angry and disgusted with those who refuse to obey God even though they know His truth.

Besides telling us how to respond emotionally to evil, the psalmist also gives us an example of what to DO about evil. Throughout the Psalm, he cries out to God to act against the wicked and redeem the righteous and the weak who are suffering. Verse 126: "It is time for you to act, O Lord; your law is being broken." We, too, are to cry out to the Lord when we see His law being broken and His Name being despised.

Almost at the end of the Psalm, he shows what we will experience when we respond to evil this way. Verse 165: "Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble." I don't know about you, but I desperately long for that "great peace" that comes from dealing with evil the way God wants us to deal with it.

Father, as I see evil in the world around me, I get angry. I grieve to see the weak and helpless led astray and abused. I am disgusted by the conduct of many, some who even claim to be Yours, who willingly flaunt their disobedience and ignore your truth. "It is time for You to act, O Lord!" I turn to You to judge wickedness, to redeem Your people, and to bring glory to Your Name. Give me Your "great peace," I pray.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What Am I Seeking?

I've been reading the Psalms for the past couple of months, and today I finally arrived at Psalm 119. What a reality check! I didn't get farther than the second verse before it hit me right in the face: "Blessed are they who . . . seek Him with all their hearts." Ouch! And I thought Psalm 119 was about the Bible. I'm pretty good at reading my Bible daily - it's become a habit after some 25 years - but this verse makes it clear the issue is not just reading the Bible or even obeying it. The real issue - the most important one - is what I am seeking.

And as I continued reading, I found it over and over again: the laws, the statutes, the precepts, are there to draw us to seek God! Verse 7 - "I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws." Verse 10 - "I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands." Verse 15 - "I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways." Verse 32 - "I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free." Verse 41 - "May your unfailing love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise." And on and on it goes, stating clearly and repeatedly that God's Word exists to keep us seeking Him. And this was when the extent of God's Word was the first five books of the Old Testament! How much more, then, does my heart need to turn to the Bible, not for its own sake or so I can check that item off my list, but in order to know God better.

Father, "turn my heart toward your statutes . . . turn my eyes away from worthless things" (vv. 36-37), and help me to seek You with all my heart!

A Slight Change of Focus

Blogging has been light the past few days due to an important family birthday - Sweet Pea turned ten yesterday. Double digits - where did the time go?!

It's been almost a month since I started this blog. I've done a lot of thinking since I did - maybe more than I have in the past 10 years. It's funny how writing makes you really think about what you believe and about what's important to you. In the process of all this thinking and writing, it has occurred to me that making this primarily a political/news blog is not the best use of my time and talents. I need to leave that to the many experts on the area, and focus more on things that I know more about and do well. Of course, I'm sure I will have many posts on politics and the news; but I need to focus more on issues relating to education, home schooling and other topics I'm gifted to discuss.

I'd like to begin this new phase of my blog by dedicating this blog, along with everything I do, to the glory of God and the building up of His people.

In God We Trust

On July 28, President Bush issued a proclamation on the anniversary of our national motto, "In God We Trust." Here is what he said:
On the 50th anniversary of our national motto, "In God We Trust,"we reflect on these words that guide millions of Americans, recognize the blessings of the Creator, and offer our thanks for His great gift of liberty. From its earliest days, the United States has been a nation of faith. During the War of 1812, as the morning light revealed that the battle-torn American flag still flew above Fort McHenry, Francis
Scott Key penned, "And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust!'" His poem became our National Anthem, reminding generations of Americans to "Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation." On July 30, 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the law officially establishing "In God We Trust" as our national motto. Today, our country stands strong as a beacon of religious freedom. Our citizens, whatever their faith or background, worship freely and millions answer the universal call to love their neighbor and serve a cause greater than self. As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of our national motto and remember with thanksgiving God's mercies throughout our history, we recognize a divine plan that stands above all human plans and continue to seek His will.

And Another Even More Amazing!

If you thought the previous article by Daniel Pipes was interesting, wait until you read this one by Youssef M. Ibrahim! This would represent a significant turnaround on the part of more modern Arab nations. We can only pray that he is right - that the silent Arab majority will in fact at last find a voice, and speak out against those who would impose Islamic sharia law on not only their own people, but the rest of the world as well.

The Arab majority may not stay silent

By Youssef M. Ibrahim
The New York Sun
Published July 19, 2006

Yes, world, there is a silent Arab majority that believes that 7th Century Islam is not fit for 21st Century challenges.

That women do not have to look like walking black tents. That men do not have to wear beards and robes, act like lunatics and run around blowing themselves up in order to enjoy 72 virgins in paradise. And that secular laws, not Islamic Shariah, should rule our day-to-day lives.

And yes, we, the silent Arab majority, do not believe that writers, secular or otherwise, should be killed or banned for expressing their views. Or that the rest of our creative elite--from moviemakers to playwrights, actors, painters, sculptors and fashion models--should be vetted by Neanderthal Muslim imams who have never read a book in their dim, miserable lives.Nor do we believe that little men with head wraps and disheveled beards can run amok in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, making decisions on our behalf, dragging us to war whenever they please, confiscating our rights to be adults, and flogging us for not praying five times a day or even for not believing in God.

More important, we are not silent any longer.

Rarely have I seen such an uprising, indeed an intifada, against those little turbaned, bearded men across the Muslim landscape as the one that took place last week. The leader of Hezbollah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, received a resounding "no" to pulling 350 million Arabs into a war with Israel on his clerical coattails.

The collective "nyet" was spoken by presidents, emirs and kings at the highest level of government in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco and at the Arab League's meeting of 22 foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday. But it was even louder from pundits and ordinary people.

Perhaps the most remarkable and unexpected reaction came from Saudi Arabia, whose foreign minister, Prince Saud bin al-Faisal, said bluntly and publicly that Hezbollah's decision to cross the Lebanese border, attack Israel and kidnap its soldiers has left the Shiite group on its own to face Israel. The unspoken message here was, "We hope they blow you away."

The Arab League put it succinctly in its final communique in Cairo, declaring that "behavior undertaken by some groups [read: Hezbollah and Hamas] in apparent safeguarding of Arab interests does in fact harm those interests, allowing Israel and other parties from outside the Arab world [read: Iran] to wreck havoc with the security and safety of all Arab countries."

As for Hezbollah and its few supporters, who have pushed for an emergency Arab summit meeting, the response could not have been a bigger slap in the face.

Take a listen:

Abdul Rahman al-Rashed, the general manager of Al-Arabiya television, possibly the most influential Arab opinionmaker today, was categorical: "We have lost most of our causes and the largest portions of our lands following fiery speeches and empty promises of struggle coupled with hallucinating, drug-induced political fantasies."

As for joining Hezbollah in its quest, his answer was basically, "you broke it, you own it."

Tariq Alhomayed, editor in chief of the Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, stuck the dagger in deeper: "Mr. Nasrallah bombastically announced he consulted no one when he decided to attack Israel, nor did he measure Lebanon's need for security, prosperity and the safety of its people. He said he needs no one's help but God's to fight the fight."

Mr. Alhomayed's punch line was, in so many words: Go with God, Sheik Nasrallah, but count the rest of us out.

Several other Arab pundits, not necessarily coordinating their commentary, noted that today Sheik Nasrallah has been reduced to Osama bin Laden status, a fugitive from Israeli justice, sending out his tapes from unknown locations to, invariably, Al-Jazeera, the prime purveyor of bin Laden's communications.

All in all, it seems that when Israel decided to go to war against the priestly mafia of Hamas and Hezbollah, it opened a whole new chapter in the Greater Middle East discourse. And Israel is finding, to its surprise, that a vast, not-so-silent majority of Arabs agrees that enough is enough.

To be sure, beneath the hostility toward Sheik Nasrallah in Sunni Muslim states lies the deep and bitter heritage of a 14 Century Sunni-Shiite divide, propelled to greater heights now by fears of an ascendant Shiite "arc of menace" rising out of Iran and peddled in the Sunni world by Syria.

The sooner this is settled the better.

Youssef M. Ibrahim, a former senior Middle East correspondent for The New York Times and energy editor of The Wall Street Journal, is managing director of a political risk-assessment group.

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Arabs Disavow Hezbollah?

This article by Daniel Pipes provides an excellent perspective on how the "traditional" Arab nations are responding to what is happening in Israel now. It would seem the fear of Iranian power is not limited to Americans and Israelis.

Arabs Disavow Hizbullah

by Daniel Pipes
Jerusalem Post
July 26, 2006

The current round of hostilities between Israel and its enemies differs from prior ones in that it's not an Arab-Israeli war, but one that pits Iran and its Islamist proxies, Hamas and Hizbullah, against Israel.

This points, first, to the increasing power of radical Islam. When Israeli forces last confronted, on this scale, a terrorist group in Lebanon in 1982, they fought the Palestine Liberation Organization, a nationalist-leftist organization backed by the Soviet Union and the Arab states. Now, Hizbullah seeks to apply Islamic law and to eliminate Israel through jihad, with the Islamic Republic of Iran looming in the background, feverishly building nuclear weapons.

Non-Islamist Arabs and Muslims find themselves sidelined. Fear of Islamist advances – whether subversion in their own countries or aggression from Tehran – finds them facing roughly the same demons as does Israel. As a result, their reflexive anti-Zionist response has been held in check. However fleetingly, what The Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh calls "an anti-Hizbullah coalition," one implicitly favorable to Israel, has come into existence.

It began on July 13 with a startling Saudi statement condemning "rash adventures" that created "a gravely dangerous situation." Revealingly, Riyadh complained about Arab countries being exposed to destruction "with those countries having no say." The kingdom concluded that "these elements alone bear the full responsibility of these irresponsible acts and should alone shoulder the burden of ending the crisis they have created." George W. Bush's spokesman, Tony Snow, a day later described the president as "pleased" by the statement.

On July 15, the Saudis and several other Arab states at an emergency Arab League meeting condemned Hizbullah by name for its "unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts." On July 17, Jordan's King Abdullah warned against "adventures that do not serve Arab interests."

A number of commentators began to take up the same argument, most notably Ahmed Al-Jarallah, editor-in-chief of Kuwait's Arab Times, author of one of the most remarkable sentences ever published in an Arab newspaper: "The operations of Israel in Gaza and Lebanon are in the interest of people of Arab countries and the international community." Interviewed on Dream2 television, Khaled Salah, an Egyptian journalist, condemned Hassan Nasrallah of Hizbullah: "Arab blood and the blood of Lebanese children is much more precious than raising [Hizbullah's] yellow flags and pictures of [Iran's Supreme Leader] Khamene'i."

A leading Wahhabi figure in Saudi Arabia even declared it unlawful for Sunni Muslims to support, supplicate for, or join Hizbullah. No major Arab oil-exporting state appears to have any intention of withholding its oil or gas exports out of solidarity with Hizbullah.

Many Lebanese expressed satisfaction that the arrogant and reckless Hizbullah organization was under assault. One Lebanese politician privately confided to Michael Young of Beirut's Daily Star that "Israel must not stop now … for things to get better in Lebanon, Nasrallah must be weakened further." The prime minister, Fuad Saniora, was quoted complaining about Hizbullah having become "a state within a state." A BBC report quoted a resident of the Lebanese Christian town of Bikfaya estimating that 95 percent of the town's population was furious at Hizbullah.

The Palestinian Legislative Council expressed its dismay at these muted Arab reactions, while a women's group burned flags of Arab countries on Gaza's streets. Nasrallah complained that "Some Arabs encouraged Israel to continue fighting" and blamed them for extending the war's duration.

Surveying this opinion, Youssef Ibrahim wrote in his New York Sun column of an "intifada" against the "little turbaned, bearded men" and a resounding "no" to Hizbullah's effort to start an all-out war with Israel. He concluded that "Israel is finding, to its surprise, that a vast, not-so-silent majority of Arabs agrees that enough is enough."

One hopes that Ibrahim is right, but I am cautious. First, Hizbullah still enjoys wide support. Second, these criticisms could well be abandoned as popular anger at Israel mounts or the crisis passes. Finally, as Michael Rubin notes in the Wall Street Journal, coolness toward Hizbullah does not imply acceptance of Israel: "There is no change of heart in Riyadh, Cairo or Kuwait." Specifically, Saudi princes still fund Islamist terrorism.

Arab disavowal of Hizbullah represents not a platform on which to build, only a welcome wisp of reality in an era of irrationality.

What About Andrea Yates?

On July 26, Andrea Yates was found not guilty yesterday of murdering her five children. This is such a difficult case - not at all as cut-and-dry as many (on both sides) would like us to think.

I've heard people say, "Well, I have mental illness and I wouldn't kill my children." When probed further, though, it turns out their mental illness is usually major depression, sometimes bipolar disorder, but never with psychotic features.

The problem I see with that comparison is that while major depression clearly makes life very difficult, it doesn't have the potential for explosion that a psychosis has. Unless your depression has psychotic features, you are FAR less likely to murder your children than Andrea Yates was. She DID have "a secret, scary life." She heard voices in her head telling her God wanted her to murder her children. She apparently literally believed she was saving her kids from hell by sending them to heaven. This is a very serious level of mental illness. It is amazing, and sad, to me that her doctor felt she didn't need the medication any longer. Her children might still be alive if the doctor had continued to treat her correctly.

For some time we attended a large church in our city in which a similar situation had happened - the wife had killed two children due to post-partum psychosis. While we were there, she was allowed to come home - perhaps 10 or 15 years after the crime. She was grieving and repentant over what she had done; at the time she had believed it was what God was calling her to do, but now she understands that she was mentally ill. Her husband has been through tremendous heartache and grief, and losing his wife to a mental institution for years was part of that grief. We had very mixed feelings at the time, and continue to wonder about it, but postpartum psychosis is a strange thing, and recovery IS possible.

Even the argument that "she knew it was wrong" is questionable in a case like this. The trouble lies in the definition of "wrong." In a psychotic disorder, everything becomes twisted, including right and wrong. Does she know society says it's wrong? Certainly. Does she know it's morally wrong? Probably. Does she think it's the right thing for her to do even if it is morally wrong? Perhaps. Does she feel compelled - really compelled, even against her own wishes - to do it regardless of whether it's right or wrong? That's where the big question comes in. Her mind was so confused at this point that it's difficult to know what she was thinking or feeling.

I'm not absolving Andrea Yates of guilt - I agree with those who have said the verdict should have been "guilty, but insane," but there is little doubt in my mind that she was a very sick woman and desperately needed help. Can she be held responsible for what she did, believing God was telling her to do it? I don't know - it's a VERY difficult situation and I think something that must be dealt with individually based on a close knowledge of the situation, not by making blanket statements.

Where Is the Outrage?

Yoni's blog a few days ago reproduces this article, I believe from the Jerusalem Post, on the number of rockets Hezbollah has launched into Israel and the number of casualties. Since the war started 15 days ago, Israel has been hit by 1,402 rockets - that's almost 100 per day! And large numbers of innocent civilians have been injured by these rocket attacks: 19 civilians have been killed and 1,262 wounded!

The news media eagerly trumpets the news of civilian casualties inflicted by Israel - casualties caused primarily by the fact that Hezbollah deliberately hides its weapons and its soldiers in civilian areas. But where have you heard the numbers of innocent Israelis injured or killed? Do they somehow not count? In many Israeli cities, people have been holed up in shelters ever since the war began.

Why is it that the American media and American liberals are saying nothing while Hezbollah intentionally involves both Lebanese and Israeli citizens in this conflict? It would seem they lack the courage to stand up for what is truly right; instead, American liberalism prefers to attack the victims of aggression.

Famous Homeschoolers

It always amazes me to read about the well-known people who have been homeschooled. Here is a partial list:

George Washington
James Madison
John Quincy Adams
Woodrow Wilson
William Henry Harrison
Abraham Lincoln
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Benjamin Franklin
Patrick Henry
William Penn
Winston Churchill

Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark)
William Clark

Soldiers and Generals
Robert E. Lee
Douglas MacArthur
George C. Patton

Leonardo da Vinci
George Washington Carver
Alexander Graham Bell
Cyrus McCormick
Thomas Edison
Andrew Carnegie
Orville and Wilbur Wright
Charlie Chaplin
Pierre Curie
Albert Einstein

Artists, Musicians, Authors
Johann Sebastian Bach
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Irving Berlin
Hans Christian Andersen
Charles Dickens
George Bernard Shaw
Noel Coward
Claude Monet
Andrew Wyeth

Eleanor Roosevelt
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Agatha Christie
Helen Keller
Florence Nightingale
Pearl S. Buck

It's an inspiration to me to realize how many of our most well-known people have been homeschooled. Homeschoolers are far over-represented among the "best and brightest."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Why Does Israel Claim the Land?

Michael Medved's latest Townhall article gives a great explanation of why Israel has the right to claim her land, and why the Palestinians don't. He compares Israel's claim to the land to America's claim, and makes it irrefutable that this land has historically belonged to Israel.

The fact that so much of the world has fought so hard against Israel's right to exist, both historically and in modern times, demonstrates the spiritual opposition she faces as God's chosen people. No other nation on earth has faced this kind of determination to wipe her off the map.

Israel, in spite of her imperfections, deserves our respect and our prayers.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Israel's Current Situation

Reading Yoni's blog about what is going on in Israel today is enough to break your heart. It seems very clear that Israel's current government is not in this conflict to win, but only to break even. Given previous battles Israel has fought and the public relations disasters they always turn into for the Israelis, it's not surprising that the liberal government of Israel is making those choices; still it is very unfortunate that Israeli soldiers are dying for something that is not going to last.

I could be wrong, but based on my observation it appears the government of Israel today believes the same things Hugh Hewitt quotes Tom Hayden as saying: that the anger of the Palestinians toward Israel is all Israel's fault; that if Israel will completely abandon the "occupied territories" somehow the Palestinians will like them again. Both Olmert's government and today's liberals fail to understand the ultimate object of the Palestinians: to wipe Israel off the map. They also don't grasp the mentality of the Islamic radicals, who consider themselves to have won if they persuade civilized countries to simply talk rather than fight.

If the Israeli government yields to international pressure and fails to wipe out Hezbollah, at least in Lebanon and preferably in Syria too (maybe even in Iran), their problems will return very soon. I don't see how they can settle for a cease-fire with Hezbollah still firing 90 missiles into Israel last night, but perhaps they will - and Hezbollah will have won a significant victory.

Israel needs to fight - they need to fight hard, and they need to be relentless in their pursuit of the Hezbollah terrorists. They need to shed their fear of injuring civilians and hunt down the terrorists wherever they are; the sooner they do this, the better. And America needs to support them 100%, no-holds-barred. This is a battle America must support if we don't want to end up fighting these terrorists on our own soil or in Iraq or both - and our President has the responsibility to lead this nation to fight!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

How Times Have Changed!

The Headmistress at The Common Room has an interesting post featuring a newspaper clipping from her grandfather's scrapbook, dated 1938. It relates to a conversation between two people opposed to the developing war in Asia. Most of the clipping is interesting from a historical perspective but not all that relevant to us. But my attention was arrested by the next-to-last sentence, which reads as follows:

Every loyal citizen know that, once war is declared, he must do all in his power to support the nation's effort to win the war.

Would that all American citizens still held this attitude today! We might have won the war in Iraq in a few months if our enemies had thought we would all be unified this way.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Women Misled On Abortion Risks?

Rep. Henry Waxman (D- CA) is at it again. Back in 2004, an AP article by Mark Sherman quoted a report from Rep. Waxman accusing federally funded abstinence education programs of teaching "false and misleading information about contraception, abortion, and s-xually transmitted diseases." In the same article, the Deputy Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary for Population Affairs "said the Waxman report took statements out of context to present the programs in the worst possible light."

Yesterday, the AP released a new article, this one by Kevin Freking, quoting "a report issued Monday by Democrats on the House Government Reform Committee," led by Rep. Waxman, this time going after pregnancy resource centers. And if anything, this report appears to have even less basis than the previous one.

The congressional aides called 25 pregnancy centers, pretending to be pregnant 17-year-olds. Two could not be reached. The others explained the risks associated with abortion, as those pregnancy centers understood them. Among the most significant risks mentioned were breast cancer, infertility, and emotional stress. At first glance these risks seem almost unavoidable; however, Rep. Waxman and the rest of the Democrats on the House Government Reform Committee (HGRC) apparently believe they do not exist.

The risk of breast cancer is one of the most highly publicized - and one of the most controversial - risks associated with abortion. Some studies clearly find a relationship; others do not. But Rep. Waxman and his fellow Democrats apparently believe that a single workshop by the National Cancer Institute represents the entire truth of the matter. Meanwhile, a Reuters article yesterday says that "the Institute of Medicine and the National Cancer Institute have discounted any link between abortion and breast cancer, although the Institute briefly carried a statement on its Web site making such a link -- a statement that was taken down after a public clamor by scientists and doctors." In other words, at least one of these organizations DID believe there was a possible relationship between abortion and breast cancer, but protest by those who support abortion-on-demand forced them to pretend that relationship didn't exist. Of course the Congressman didn't see fit to acknowledge that potential disagreement.

The relationship between abortion and infertility seems so self-evident it doesn't even need to be discussed; nevertheless the Democrats on the HGRC appear to need a lesson. Any time a woman's reproductive organs are interfered with, the risk of infection and of scarring increases. Even a minor amount of scar tissue can move the Fallopian tubes out of their correct place and make conception impossible. Thus abdominal surgery, pregnancy, and abortion all increase a woman's risk of infertility, because they increase the risk of infection or scarring of her reproductive organs.

As for the emotional stress associated with abortion, this has been well documented. Pregnancy centers, of all places, ought to be able to speak to the prevalence of significant mental health issues associated with abortion. It may be true that the American Psychological Association has issued a statement that "severe negative reactions are rare." But the statement of the 13 centers that "told the caller that the psychological effects of abortion are severe, long-lasting, and common" are not necessarily contradictory; what a woman considers severe may not be the APA's dictionary definition.

As usual, Rep. Waxman and his fellow Democrats are out to get any faith-based organization trying to state clearly that abortion hurts women. It is ironic that in their insistence on making abortion legal at any point, for any reason, to every woman, they ignore or blithely pass over the painful truth of what happens to those women who have one.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Not Smallpox After All?

We all know what happened to the Native Americans when the Europeans arrived, don't we? The Europeans brought smallpox with them, and the majority of the Native American population, whether in North, Central, or South America was wiped out. Isn't that what you learned in school?

Well, a recent article in Discover Magazine Online says it "ain't so."

Turns out researcher Rodolfo Acuna-Soto has uncovered pretty reliable data indicating the Native Americans were wiped out by something resembling hemorrhagic fever. Take a few minutes to follow the links and read the article - it is excellent, not too difficult to read, and absolutely fascinating.

Among the interesting paragraphs are these:

There seemed little reason to debate the nature of the plague: Even the Spanish admitted that European smallpox was the disease that devastated the conquered Aztec empire. Case closed.Then, four centuries later, Acuña-Soto improbably decided to reopen the investigation. Some key pieces of information—details that had been sitting, ignored, in the archives—just didn't add up. His studies of ancient documents revealed that the Aztecs were familiar with smallpox, perhaps even before Cortés arrived. They called it zahuatl. Spanish colonists wrote at the time that outbreaks of zahuatl occurred in 1520 and 1531 and, typical of smallpox, lasted about a year. As many as 8 million people died from those outbreaks. But the epidemic that appeared in 1545, followed by another in 1576, seemed to be another disease altogether. The Aztecs called those outbreaks by a separate name, cocolitzli. "For them, cocolitzli was something completely different and far more virulent," Acuña-Soto says. "Cocolitzli brought incomparable devastation that passed readily from one region to the next and killed quickly."

Acuña-Soto sent the text of the original Latin manuscript to a friend, a
physician working with the Centers for Disease Control in Washington, D.C., who was also a Greek and Latin scholar. The new translation he got back described cocolitzli in terms that did not match any Old World disease:

The fevers were contagious, burning, and continuous, all of them pestilential, in most part lethal. The tongue was dry and black. Enormous thirst. Urine of the colors of sea-green, vegetal green, and black, sometimes passing from the greenish color to the pale. Pulse was frequent, fast, small, and weak—sometimes even null. The eyes and the whole body were yellow. This stage was followed by delirium and
seizures. Then, hard and painful nodules appeared behind one or both ears along with heartache, chest pain, abdominal pain, tremor, great anxiety, and dysentery. The blood that flowed when cutting a vein had a green color or was very pale, dry, and without serosity. . . . Blood flowed from the ears and in many cases blood truly gushed from the nose. . . . This epidemic attacked mainly young people and seldom the elder ones.

"This was certainly not smallpox," Acuña-Soto says. "If they described something real, then it appeared to be a hemorrhagic fever."

Hemorrhagic fevers are viral diseases with names that evoke justifiable dread—Ebola, Marburg, Lassa. They strike with sudden intensity,
rarely respond to treatment, kill at high rates, then vanish as mysteriously as they came. They are called hemorrhagic because victims bleed, hemorrhaging in their capillaries, beneath the skin, often from the mouth, nose, and ears. The bleeding doesn't kill, but the breakdown of the nervous system does. At first there is fever, fatigue, and dizziness, but within a few days the person falls into delirium and finally a coma.

If cocolitzli had been caused by a hemorrhagic virus, Acuña-Soto realized, the Spanish could not have brought it with them. Such diseases do not readily pass from one person to another, so the virus must have been native.

This article was published as a Discover Magazine featured article in February 2006. It would seem to be a very significant discovery, with rather broad-ranging implications. Wonder why we have heard nothing about it from the national news media?

(HT: The Common Room)

The Purpose of Education for Liberals

After I posted my blog entry late last week called "What Is Education?", one of my favorite people posted this entry on the liberal purpose in education.

We talk a lot about the sorry state of education in the US. We
talk about how kids aren't learning much, at least, not much worth
learning. We talk about the fact that the goals most parents have
for their kids' education are not the same as the goals of the
education establishment.

What I can't figure out is what they are trying to accomplish by all

I have read enough to know that, originally, the purpose of public
education was to have a willing workforce, a bunch of people
educated enough to do their work well, but compliant enough to
do what they are told. OK, great. We pretty much had that,
through the '40s, '50s, and at least the early '60s, right? People
got up in the morning and went to work. They worked long hours,
loyally staying with even difficult jobs. They pretty much did what
was expected of them, without asking questions.

If this is the point of current education, then there is no reason to
have changed what was taught in the first 1/2 of the century.

I've also read enough to know that social re-engineering is a huge
thing the NEA and other education bureaucrats are trying to
accomplish. But I can't figure out how not being able to read makes
someone more likely to adopt their social perspectives. How does
not being able to add and subtract make someone more likely to
accept h-m-s-xuality? I can understand not teaching logic. I can
understand changing the types of literature studied. I can
understand historical revisionism, even, if your goal is to produce a
certain type of attitude.

In addition, one could argue that the liberal mind-set needs people
who are dependent on government help, who will vote for you
because you give them more help for their dependence.

But if a child can't read, they can't even read your propaganda. I
find it hard to believe that the NEA appreciates not being given
proper change at their conferences. Even the most dependent-
minded person still will have some need for basic reading and math,
right? Even if you want everyone to depend on you, to ensure
your importance, you still want them to be able to DO something for
you, don't you? Wouldn't it be better to have well-educated people
who support your viewpoint? Isn't a doctor who says you are
right more "valuable" to your movement than a homeless person
who agrees with you?

Some of it I can see, but I do not understand how the type of
"education" being promoted by the NEA really helps them achieve
any goal at all. Or if it does, I can't figure out what that goal might

This is an excellent question, and one which probably has almost as many answers as there are liberals to answer it. But it seems to me at least part of the explanation is this: while the education system has accomplished much of what it was designed to do, creating great little employees, getting to that point has had unintended consequences. Certainly no one wants to have people coming out of the schools who can't read or write or cipher. But in the process of instilling "groupthink," creating good little worker-bees, developing a dependent class, and so on, they ran into a problem: many kids couldn't learn all this stuff - especially with their parents working against it at home - and still learn to read and write and do math.

Herein lies the dilemma of the liberals today: they know parents will no longer accept schools that don't teach their children the basics. (Yesterday in the Denver Post there was an article about Denver's middle schools, which are losing attendance in a hurry.) At the same time, if they are going to accomplish their purposes, liberals can't afford to do the things that actually bring academic success. So they continue to make their purposes most important, and to continue making minor changes trying to find a "new method" which will get kids to learn the basics. Those minor changes won't work; it will take a major overhaul of their methods to really educate kids; but that kind of overhaul will destroy their purposes in the process, and I don't believe it will ever happen. When "developing self-esteem" is more important than really learning to read; when "appreciating other cultures" takes priority over addition and subtraction, kids are not going to learn to read or to add and subtract.

That's my take, anyway.

An Unguarded Moment for the President

President Bush was talking to Tony Blair yesterday, unaware that he was near a microphone. Here's what he said (HT: Hugh Hewitt):

"I think Condi (Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) is going to go
pretty soon," Bush said.

Blair replied: "Right, that's all that matters, it will take some time to
get that together." Rice said on Sunday she was thinking of going to
the Middle East if it would help.

Blair said Rice has "got to succeed" if she goes to the region. Bush
replied: "What they need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to
stop doing this sh--."

It sounds like, regardless of how clueless some in the media and in the Democratic Party may be, the President understands at least one important factor in the equation - and he is pretty upset about it. It would appear all the major players are aware of what's going on; the question is what to do about it.

War in Israel and Anger Here

I've never hated anyone before as far as I can remember. Oh, I've been really angry sometimes; but I don't remember ever actually feeling hatred, especially not toward someone I didn't even know. But what I experienced today came perilously close to that, and as I look back at the experience I find myself trying to see it from the outside.

Shopping with my family at a large home-improvement warehouse this afternoon, I caught a glimpse of a young man, perhaps around 25. It was a hot day, and he was dressed as many other shoppers today, in a T-shirt and shorts. I probably wouldn't have even looked twice at him, except for what was on the T-shirt he was wearing. It said in bold letters, "Free Palestine," and had a large Palestinian flag emblazoned on the front. I looked once at the T-shirt, then again, and then I found myself getting furiously angry. Here is Israel, just trying to defend itself against the vicious attacks of its terrorist neighbors; Israel, who has in the last few years vacated both Lebanon and Gaza and was planning to leave almost all of Judea and Samaria in the next few months; Israel, who has watched the terrorists take over the areas it has unilaterally vacated, and has put up with repeated rocket attacks with virtually no response; Israel, who has lived with almost daily terrorist attacks from Palestinians despite its best efforts to maintain peace - and this guy has the NERVE to talk about freeing PALESTINE?!!

I literally wanted to walk up to the guy and slug him.

Of course I didn't. I sat there, watching him, for perhaps five or ten minutes, wondering if there was anything I could say to him to just make him THINK for a minute about what he was doing. I didn't succeed, and he ended up going somewhere else in the store; I did not see him again. Meanwhile here I am at 10 pm still wondering - could I have said something? Could I have done something? And what can I do or say to help keep others from ending up drawing the same conclusions as this guy did? It is amazing how deep hatred of Israel really runs - and how deep love for Israel can also run.

Israel, my prayers are with you!

Summarizing Events in the Middle East

On Powerline, Minneapolis attorney Andrew Jacobson offers a concise view of what's going on in the Middle East at the moment. His summary at the end offers a brief, insightful perspective on possible motivations behind the events of the last few days:
So here is my observation/theory — Iran has orchestrated
much (if not all) of the current unrest and violence in order to:
(i) distract attention from its nuclear weapons program,
(ii) tie down Israel militarily in order to reduce the chances
that Israel could unilaterally (or in combination with the
U.S.) launch a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities,
(iii) scare the American public (and politicians) into rejecting
any unilateral military option against Iran for fear of further
inflaming the Mideast (e.g., "Geez, we've already got huge
issues in North Korea, Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan,
we can't possibly afford any further foreign entanglements"
or "We better not do anything to Iran, we might further inflame
the Mideast, threaten our oil supply and the U.S. economy"
(Lord knows we don't want to pay $%/gallon for our SUV's)),
and (iv) create world furor against Israel (and indirectly the U.S.),
to further raise the stakes and international opposition to any
unilateral military strikes.

Meantime, the New York Times takes its usual perspective on anything Israel does to defend itself.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Updates on Israel

Yoni is keeping up with events in Israel, and as usual he has good insights to go along with reporting of actual facts.

Understanding what is going on in the Middle East is very complicated. Neither Americans nor Europeans appear to really "get it," probably due to a lack of understanding of the mentality of both the Israelis and the Arabs. Yoni, on the other hand, seems to have a pretty good grasp of who's doing what and why.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Israel: Is War Inevitable?

Hugh Hewitt has an excellent analysis, with links, on Israel's war and whether it is inevitable.

It's a difficult post to read, because it states clearly that whether we 21st-century peace-lovers like it or not, it looks as if a war between Israel and Hamas/Hezbollah is now almost inevitable. And though Hugh does not say it in so many words, it would seem likely that the rest of the world will be drawn into this war, in spite of ourselves and in spite of (or perhaps even, to some extent, because of) the United Nations which was supposed to end it.

War is ugly, no matter where or when it occurs. We in America have often been sheltered from the ugliness, and most of the Western world has not seen it for over 50 years. It is going to be hard for the majority of us - educated, cultured, taught that we should be kind and share and talk things out - to see this ugliness and not turn our backs in cowardice. But now is the time for courage! Now is the time to get ourselves prepared; we may also be called on to fight. Those of us who love peace and freedom need to speak clearly to our families, friends, and neighbors, about the price of liberty and about doing what is right.

Religious War: How Do We Win?

History is full of wars over religion. For thousands of years, people who held one religious belief have fought against those who held another. But we who have lived in the twentieth century have been somewhat insulated against those wars, because throughout that century, and in fact most of the two centuries before that, the majority of the significant conflicts were fought over territory or for independence. Religious wars in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were generally smaller, contained, limited to internal conflicts in obscure little countries (by modern civilizations’ accounting) like Sudan and Nigeria, or hidden behind the Iron Curtain in the Soviet Union or China. Individuals in those nations were aware of the conflicts, of course, but most of us in the western world simply went about our own business and pretended they didn’t exist. And when we did experience the occasional attack (like the Khobar Towers, the first World Trade Center bombing, or the USS Cole), we assumed the motivations were territorial or financial, and ignored the religious rhetoric of the attackers.
So it came as a huge shock to us when September 11 suddenly burst upon us, "out of the blue," so to speak. Many of us still have not correctly assessed the real issue behind the WTC attack. We continue to insist that the reason we were attacked was territorial (we support Israel’s continuing to exist in Palestine, for example) or financial (the terrorists were jealous of our prosperity). Meanwhile, the Islamic fanatics shout ever more loudly that this is a war about religion, a war that has continued, to one extent or another, since Islam was founded over 1000 years ago. While Westerners tend to see the Crusades as ancient history – and indeed, to blame the Christian side exclusively for them - the Islamic extremists perceive today’s "war on terror" as simply a continuation of that long-standing struggle. No wonder we make so many strategic errors in the way we interact with them!
If we want to understand how the Islamic fundamentalists think, if we want to know how we should deal with them, it seems to me we need to seriously re-examine the history of this war and the rhetoric of our enemies. We need to understand how the war started – and I don’t mean we need to look back to 9/11, or to the first WTC bombing, or to the 1970’s. Americans and other Westerners know far too little history, especially of the Middle Ages. Most of us know next to nothing about how Islam began or what was happening in their world at the time. We are utterly unfamiliar with the schisms that have occurred, with who ruled them and when and how. When we hear the word "Crusades," we think of Europeans riding off to fight the Arabs, with no idea of why. We tend to forget that Spain was ruled for many years by Muslim extremists, and that Europe was almost overrun by them. What strategy worked then to drive them back, and why? And what has happened since then in Islamic history? What do our enemies say about why they do what they do? How do they motivate others to join their cause?
I have to admit I don’t know the answers to these questions either. But without these answers, how can we possibly hope to beat them? Any baseball or football or soccer coach will tell you that you first have to analyze the opponents’ strategy, know their strengths and weaknesses, and understand why they make the moves they make, before you can win against them. And those are just games. This is a matter of life and death; it is absolutely critical that we figure these things out. Need I point out that the enemy is already doing this? They know us, all too often, better than we know ourselves; which is why they are so successful at using our media (without the media’s even realizing it is being used) against us. If we don’t get to know them at least as well as they know us, I fear one day the history books will record that this religious war is one we ultimately lost.

What is education?

So what do we mean when we talk about "education"? As an educator and a homeschooling mom, I'm constantly tossing this term around, talking about it and reading about it. But what does it really mean?My Webster's New World Dictionary defines education as "the process of training and developing the knowledge, mind, character, etc., especially by formal schooling; teaching; training." It says that to educate is "to train or develop the knowledge, skill, mind or character." The word "educate" comes from the Latin "educare," meaning "to bring up, rear, or train." But I think the core meaning of the word is the root of "educare," which comes from e- , "out," and ducere, "to lead, draw, bring."So the root meaning of "education," from the Latin, would mean to bring out, lead out, or draw - a person's knowledge, mind, skills, and character. What a job description! And how often we settle for less as educators - just dumping some information on our students and hoping it sticks! My responsibility as an educator, whether in a school or as a homeschooling mom, is to lead my students out of ignorance, to draw out their innate abilities, and to bring out what is best in them. It's an active process, one which requires a real relationship with my students. I can't be really educating if I'm just presenting information - or worse, forcing them to read a chapter or fill out a workbook page! No - I have to be actively involved in the learning process with my students, leading, enticing, providing that "spark" to help them want to learn. And I measure my success in educating my students, not by whether we finish the book or whether they can pass a test on what they've "learned," but by whether they have been trained and developed. Do my students have more knowledge than they did before? (This is the easiest aspect of education to accomplish.) Do they have greater skills? Are their minds more developed, more "drawn out" than they were before? And most challenging of all, have their characters been trained and developed - do they have more character - than they did before we started the process? If I can't answer "yes" to all four of these questions, I haven't really educated my students.When I look at this definition, I realize that many of my teachers didn't really educate me - and that many who would not consider themselves to have been my "teachers" have been deeply involved in my education. My parents, for example, have been my greatest educators; along with them are pastors, youth workers, friends, and some who don't even know me but have educated me through their books and radio programs (Hugh Hewitt being a prime example of these). Just because you don't feel like an educator doesn't mean you aren't involved in the process of educating others. We all can be involved in "leading, drawing out, bringing out" the best in people, training and developing their characters; and we all need to take that responsibility seriously.

Have you started your blog yet?

I got an email yesterday from someone I care very much about. She said essentially, "I can see that I'm not a very deep thinker at all. You have the knack of putting down on paper what drifts around in my brain, but I just can't grasp." I thought about that, and realized maybe there are others like her out there - people who have tremendous gifts and skills, but don't feel they have anything to offer to others. Here are some of the thoughts I sent her in response; I hope they will be helpful to someone else.The truth is that I have been thinking about the particular issue I blogged about this morning for several weeks now - and it still took me well over an hour to get the wording right. Writing forces me to think more carefully about things. That's one reason why I wanted to blog - even if only a few people read it, it helps me clarify my own thoughts. As far as your own thinking goes, you are most likely a much deeper thinker than you believe you are. But there are things that make you different from any other blogger. What you have thought deeply about is different from what other people have thought about, because your background is very different from theirs. When I taught writing last year, I realized as I read my students' papers that every person is unique, and has their own tremendously valuable insights to offer because of their own unique experiences. Not all my blog posts will be so philosophical as the one I did this morning - I'm planning to blog about growing up in Central America, about homeschooling, about politics, about writing, about anything else that comes to mind. And when you are ready to share your experiences with other people, the Lord will bring the opportunities to you, and will give you just the words to reach out to the people who need to hear what you have to say (or write, or blog, or . . . ). The experiences you have are preparing you for a ministry to others who need what you have to give. Don't let your current situation or the negative messages you've gotten in the past keep you from the ministry God has for you. If you're not yet at the place in your life when you can write, then just wait, and tuck your thoughts away quietly in your heart. Pull them out once in a while during a quiet moment and think about them, or bring them up when you're talking to a good friend and discuss them, then put them away again. Eventually the time will come to share them, and by then they will be well developed. But if you've been thinking about it, wondering whether you have something to share, and if you are at a good place in your life to start writing: maybe now is the time for you to start a blog or write a book. Write about what you know and what you have experienced. Summon the courage; take the plunge. Think carefully both before and while you write - reread your post several times before you actually post it - proofread - but go ahead and DO IT!!! The things you have to say may well be things no one else can say but you.

Why Liberals Don't Get It

I've been doing some serious thinking over the past few weeks about just why it is that most liberals (and many conservatives as well) don't seem to "get it" when it comes to the war on terror, and I think I've finally hit on at least part of the answer. Based on my observations, most liberals have little or nothing for which they are willing to die. For what, after all, do people willingly give their lives? I know of three things: religious beliefs, country, and liberty. And where are most liberals on these issues? Many hold no religious beliefs, or hold them weakly at best, and live their lives based on what "feels right" or what is comfortable for them. As for country, while they protest vehemently against having their patriotism questioned, most liberals have a far greater loyalty to "humanity" or the "world community" than to their own individual country. And what about liberty? Living almost entirely in free nations (primarily North America, Europe, and Australia), most have never experienced any kind of slavery or bondage. These people have no idea how precious liberty really is, nor do they realize how desperately those without liberty long for it. So the majority of liberals hold neither religious beliefs, country, nor liberty deepy enough to die for them.So when it comes to understanding Islamic fundamentalists - people who are willing to give their lives because of their religious beliefs - average liberals are at a tremendous disadvantage. They do not - in fact, they cannot - understand why these people would willingly sacrifice themselves. Thus, they assume that all we need to do is talk with them, communicate with them, let them voice their frustrations and oppositions, and be willing to negotiate with them, and we will resolve all the problems so everyone can get along. Combined with a typical liberal mentality that people are basically good, this results in a belief that it is the way the West has behaved toward them that has caused the terrorists' actions. It is difficult to underestimate how badly they misunderstand the terrorists.When a person has things they hold so dear that they would willingly sacrifice themselves for them, the way that person look at terrorists changes fundamentally. Many conservatives - especially those of us with deep religious beliefs and those who have served in the military - understand the depth of passion these deeply held values can engender. It seems to me we have a greater grasp of how the terrorists think and why they behave as they do. This grasp, in turn, results in a very different method of dealing with Islamic fundamentalism, one which recognizes that in spite of our desire for peace, the only way to achieve real peace is to provide people in oppressed nations with other values that are worth dying for - and thus other values that are worth living for.