Way Too Seriously

Well, it’s a good thing I’m not Catholic and particularly popular in the blogosphere. Jimmy Akin and Touchstone senior editor Leon Podles have generated a lot of heat (though not much light beyond the glow of their own intellects) for their support of the execution of Saddam. I wouldn’t be able to keep up with all the comments.

I’ve tried just reading through them and I find them all blending in together. Both seem to have attracted at least one raving lunatic cyber-stalking to respond immediately to all comers. Again, my commenters, fewer though they may be, appear sane most of the time.

Why there’s a W in Banker

I was in the city centre on Friday and Mrs H had asked me to get some 20p coins from the bank. I anticipated this would be a rather straightforward proposition.

Knowing that a teller would not be able to withdraw money with my debit card, I went the cash machine first so I would have something to trade in exchange for the coins. That’s when I discovered that as a result of refurbishment, my bank had reduced the number of cash machines inside from three to two, while at the same time increasing the paying-in machines from one to four. I got the impression that they wanted to get ahold of my money, but they weren’t nearly as keen to let it go.

Then I started looking for a teller. In all the refurbishment, they seemed to have taken away all of the tellers. Finally a woman told me they were upstairs. So I went up stairs. Didn’t see a lift anywhere. Once on the first floor, I looked around and saw no tellers. With more assistance, I was directed to the opposite side of the building and told to go around the corner. Sure enough, tucked away where no one would think to look, there were two tellers.

They used to have three, but is suppose that even with record profits of £11.7 billion last year (up from £10.8 billion in 2004), they had to make some cuts. There was a significant queue of other people who had managed to find this area, but we all need to share in the bank’s hardship.

Above the teller windows was a huge sign with a giant arrow pointing away from the area saying, “Have you tried our express banking?” In other words, “Go away! No, really, go away!” When I got to the window, I indicated to the teller that it made me feel like they didn’t want me there. She just smiled. I also noted that as difficult as it was to find her, at least it was closer than telephone banking, because I have to go all the way to India for that. She just smiled.

My 20p coins in hand, I walked back across the first floor and stumbled upon the unmarked lift. Fortunately, lift doors are fairly recognisable and for those still unsure, above the buttons on a tiny black badge was inscribed the word “LIFT”. When it arrived, I realised that the doors and word may have consitituted misrepresentation. It was the teeny-tiniest space. I’m glad I was alone, as that was the only way to avoid participating in a contact sport or an unnatural act.

When I appeared on the ground floor, asked the customer service woman how a full-size wheelchair and a carer would fit into the lift. She told me she had seen someone with a pram use it. I explained that there is a bit of a difference in size between a wheelchair and a pram. She told me again she had seen someone with a pram use it. Clearly I was dealing with an entirely difference sort of handicap here.

I asked to see someone to whom I could address my concerns, but I was informed that the manager was otherwise engaged. As with everything else, speaking face-to-face with a person is not encouraged. Instead, I was give a brochure on how to complain. This involves writing to the headquaters of this multinational bank which is the largest corporation in the world in terms of assets. And they’re going to care about the size of the lift and the lack of teller service in Hooterville? Yeah, right.

What’s my first New Year’s resolution? Change banks.

You Better Watch Out

That whole thing about being struck by lightning for misdeeds may have more credence than you’d think.

According to The Book of General Ignorance, humans are struck by lightning ten times more often than they should be under the laws of chance.

Just a bit of trivia to carry with you into 2007.

Stay safe.

Crunchy on the Outside

The kids are currently cracked on armadillos, ever since there was a picture in one of Aidan’s books and Mrs H quoted the Daim bar commericial, “Crunchy on the outside, smooth in the inside – Armadillos!” This has been Aidan’s catch phrase from the last couple of days. Abby tries to imitate him, as in everything, but never quite gets it right.

I was showing Aidan some photos of armadillos on the Internet and came across other names for them:

Hillbilly Speed Bump
Possum on the half-shell
Grave Robbers
“turtle-rabbit” (translation of the Aztec term)
and my favourite… Pillbugs on steroids

Selective Justice

Everybody
Loves to see
Justice done
On somebody else
– Bruce Cockburn

I’m not opposed to the death penalty. I think it supported throughout the Holy Writ, in both the Old and New Testaments. I would imagine that until the liberalism of the modern age, it was universally practised throughout Christendom, by Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant rulers alike. I would be interested to read any historical documentation to the contrary.

I think Saddam deserved to die. He perpetrated heinous acts upon countless people.

I don’t buy the conspiracy theories that say the US had him killed to keep him from talking. There’s not really anything he could say that hasn’t been suggested by bloggers, if not the MSM. Everyone knows he killed thousands of people using gas supplied by the US. He was tight with former US administrations. They supplied him with what he needed to kill Persians. As long as he killed Persians, they weren’t so worried that he killed some of his own people. But that’s just geopolitics. It didn’t involve the present US administration, so no one is particulary worried about it. He didn’t have anything new to say.

Saddam would be alive today, but for one foolish mistake: the invasion of Kuwait. If there had been no invasion, there would have been no Gulf War, no sanctions to violate, no excuse for another Gulf War. Otherwise, no one in Washington would have cared about his human rights violations. There are human rights issues all over the world. Lots of people die because of lots of repressive regimes and no one raises an eyebrow. No one in Washington, no one in the MSM, no one except maybe an obscure blogger with an axe to grind.

If you are hoping to become a vicious evil dictator (or if any current vicious evil dictators happen to come across this blog), let me give you some advice. Don’t do anything that requires the US to take action against you. If you invade another country, the UN is gonna get all irritated (well, except for the Russians and the Chinese, who have made a regular business of invading other countries and getting away with it) and they will have to send a force to evict you. The Russians and Chinese, after opposing everyone else in the Security Council (again, for obvious reasons), aren’t going to send any troops. That means the Americans will have to take charge and provide all the money and manpower.

Otherwise, the US couldn’t give one excretal deposit what you do to your own people. If you have ethnic groups you don’t like, genocide is always an option. Washington won’t blink a collective eye. No one would even know about Kim Jong Il starving all of his people if he wasn’t trying to build a nuclear missle.

Yes, Saddam should have just kept to killing Kurds and left Kuwait alone. He’d still be on the other end of the rope.

It Pays to Delay

Even though the US gave away billions of dollars to the British Government during the Second World War under the Lend-Lease programme, Number 11 was still in a bad way as the war ended in 1945. This time the US forked out a $4.33 billion loan to help keep HM Treasury afloat.

The terms were pretty favourable. The interest rate was only 2% and the Brits had 50 years to repay, starting in 1950. So you’re thinking this debt should have been settled in 2000. Unfortunately, the Exchequer couldn’t pay up in 1956, 1957, 1964, 1965, 1968 and 1976. Times were just a little too tight. However, under the ever-so-scrupulous Gordon Brown, the debts will have been paid by midnight tonight because today is the last business day of the year. Gordon wants it off the books in 2006.

It’s not just the US Treasury that will see money appear in the credit column on a computer screen somewhere. The year after the Americans ponied up for their friend in need, the Canadians loaned another $1.19 billion at the same 2% interest rate.
Gordon is paying that on off as well. The US will get $83.25 million and the Canadians $22.7 million. The Canadians will be paid in US dollars, I’m sure their glad to know. At today’s rate of exchange, they are getting CD$26.44777 million.

And sometime it pays to take a debt over time. The UK will have paid the US a total of $7.5 billion. There are a number of ways to compare old money to new. One of the most common is the Consumer Price Index. The $4.33 billion loaned in 1945 would be the equivalent of $48.248 billion today.

The Murderer, the Cockold, and the Plan of Redemption

Today is the commemorate of the covetous adulterer and murderer David. He was also a prophet and a king and wrote the hymnal of the Church. If there was ever an example of how God uses flawed people, he would be one. He is an inspiration to all Davids who spend more time sinning than singing.

I’m sure I could write no end of devotional commentary on the life of David, but there are few Biblical personalities who have been the subject of more. Find something someone else has written and read it.

Perhaps this Feast of Holy Innocents is an appropriate time to remember Uriah the Hittite. He was an innocent victim in the plan of redemption. We even read about him in the Gospel last Sunday, “David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.” Without the murder of Uriah, there would have been no Solomon. Now that seems like a raw deal. God works in mysterious ways.

Futility

The US is going to try to get a resolution through the UN Security Council about Burma. According to the State Department:

We remain concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian and political situation in Burma, which poses a threat to stability in the region. We believe the time has come for the Security Council to take action to express its deep concern about Burma and its strong support for the Secretary General’s “good offices” mandate, which is intended to encourage the Burmese leadership to take concrete steps toward greater freedom and improved humanitarian conditions for the Burmese people.

Even though I have long been concerned about the situations in Burma, this provokes several, perhaps conflicting, responses.

First of all, what sort of action is it to “express deep concern”? Do they not realise the Burmese leaders have an idea that most decent people and their governments think they are horrid little men? Bad, bad junta! We don’t like you! So there!

Second is the hypocricy of “Let’s ignore the killing of our own babies and go after somebody else’s human rights abuses.” Other people might suggest that the US is involved in more human rights abuses than just the issue of abortion, depending on varying views of foreign and domestic policy. I’ll leave that for now and stick with a universal obvious.

Third is the fact that Burma isn’t high enough on anyone’s agenda to actually do anything. It isn’t a part of the axis of evil. Locals might argue that bulldozers and military force obliterating Christian villages are weapons of mass destruction, but they barely register on the international political Richter scale.

And fourth is whether doing anything would actually do anything, least of all anything positive. Christians haven’t fared very well under recent attempts by “Coalition” forces to implement regime change.

Pray for Burma.

Holy Innocents

It is a cold, rainy, dreary, miserable day here in Merry Ol’. Seems like the right kind of day to commemorate the Holy Innocents.

Holy Innocents is a day to commemorate the big question “Why?” Most martyrs go willingly to their deaths. That’s part of the dying for your faith thing. But sometimes people just die. Sometimes lots of people just die. And sometimes somehow it is part of the Big Picture of salvation.

Holy Innocents is also a natural time to remember those who are victims of pre-natal infanticide. In the US there is Life Sunday or whatever they call the Sunday closest to the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. But killing babies isn’t an American thing. It is part of the spirit of the age that permeates the whole world. Just ask the Chinese.

I think they ought to rename Life Sunday as Impotence Sunday, because all of the political action, Christian Presidents, Republican Congresses, and Supreme Court appointments have not stopped the killing. It’s just too convenient. And frankly, abortion is just the visible pustule of a much more deeply rooted spiritual malaise.

The Legacy of a Ragamuffin

Having finished the Keith Green series on YouTube, I found a six-part series of the film Homeless Man: The Restless Heart of Rich Mullins. In many ways, Rich picked up where Keith left off, with the same message of unreserved committment and Christianity with all the rough edges visible.

While I can’t find any of my Keith Green music and it may all be on old worn out cassettes in Texas (I’ve got to buy the Ministry Years CD sets), my CD of Rich Mullins’ Songs is always either in my car player or in my school laptop CD player. I often use it to bring peace to my day (that and copious use of the Jesus Prayer) and sometimes as background music in lessons where I have a group focused enough on learning that I can trust them with background music.

Rich might seem like the poster child of the Emerging Church movement, but at the same time he was blasting the evangelical church for missing the practical aspects of the Gospel, he was dabbling on the edges of Catholicism. His inspiration was St Francis of Assisi. It’s a big jump from Quaker to Catholic and he never quite got there, even if his Liturgy, Legacy and a Ragamuffin Band played a role in my own move to the ancient Church.

Emerging Out of the Frying Pan

Separated by time, space, and theology, I suppose I’ve stayed away from all the movements within evangelical Christianity in the States. I’m not really up on shifting patterns of belief and practice. I’ve been dabbling around the blogosphere a bit to get a (probably quite skewed) idea of what’s going on. Though apparently not for all the same reasons, I’m not the only one who is not so big on the Emerging Church movement.

It appears that for many people the mega-church just isn’t working. For other people, their own experience of church just isn’t working. Some people seem to be chopping and changing to find a more authentic or meaningful concept. But what they seem to be carrying away with them is something found in both “mega” and “meaningful”. They can’t get away from “me”.

In the move from modern to post-modern, from evangelical to post-evangelical, they haven’t climbed down the Christian family tree (some will need to forgive the implication of branch theory, but bear with me) toward the trunk and the roots, but rather sprouted a new twig with all the theological flimsiness that implies. It appears that the institutionalisation of evangelicalism dampens the me-and-Jesus impulses of “authentic” Christianity.

The only problem with this is that there has never been an authentic me-and-Jesus Christianity. When you get authentic with Jesus, you join an us-and-Jesus Christianity. It’s been that way since the beginning. The first man that Jesus called immediately called his brother. There were the Twelve and there were the Seventy. At Pentecost there were 120 at 9:00 am and by the end of the day there were 3000.

Even monasticism (both eremitical and cenobitic models) existed and still exists within the authority of the Church.

I find one thing seriously lacking in the Emerging Church taking the teachings of Jesus seriously. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.”

Last night I read I read a comment on a Emerging blog that said:

Regarding liturgy, why does it matter? If liturgy is “the work of the people”, then what matters is that each community of faith works out its own worship, which only makes sense for that group of people.

I guess what I’m saying is that these are great questions, but would be absolute overload to a small faith community like ours to try and deal with all at once. There just simply isn’t enough time to work out all these issues simultaneously. Currently, we are just trying to learn more about each other, love each other, care for our families, and focus on Jesus. That seems to be adequate for now.

It’s not the responsibility of a “small faith community” to work this out. Fortunately something as salvific and central to the Faith as this hasn’t been left up to chance or to what makes sense to a group of people. How much more focused on Jesus can you be than in eating His flesh and drinking His blood? The liturgy is taking our daily focus on Jesus and concentrating it to a depth and clarity only possible with the elevation of the Church into the heavenly realm.

Working out our own worship is going back to that focus on the first personal objective pronoun. Worship is not about me. It’s not even about “us”. If worship is about God, then it is not a matter of what makes sense to us, but rather what is pleasing to Him.

Likewise, we can’t just decide we don’t need the hierarchy of the Church. The problem with Emerging churches is that they haven’t had an apostolic model of hierarchy. They are rebelling against a rebellion against the authority of the Church. Those who have crossed the Tiber or the Bosphorus in abandoning their Protest have in a sense surrendered their arms. Those who are Emerging from evangelicalism have just turned them on their own Rebel leaders.

Time and your attention span prevent me from going on about the fallacies that emerge from various “accountability” models. Perhaps this is something for another post, though I’m sure that others who have dissected this have already done a much better job.

People have been living authentic Christianity for centuries – about 20 of them in all. The key is not finding a new model, but looking at how the old model has been disfigured. The Church of the 2nd or 3rd or 4th century did not miss something that has only been discovered in the 21st.

Grainy Christianity

Other people’s blogrolls are like a box of chocolates…

I was visiting areopagitica and clicked over to Cerulean Sanctum where I found a link to the Keith Green story in seven parts over on YouTube. Not deterred by the comment of Candleman (who has his own interesting blog) that the video comes from a copyrighted DVD, I watched the first couple of parts last night.

I’ve never been a big YouTuber. I know it has been all the rage, but it hasn’t really done anything for me. However, last night I realised that YouTube isn’t just grainy webcam or phonecam images of ordinary people doing weird things. I can watch grainy images of my favourite musicians. I watched Keith singing “Asleep in the Light” at a Christian festival somewhere in the western US, then I saw a performance of “Your Love Broke Though” from the 700 Club.

Then I realised that Keith would probably not be the only Christian artist on YouTube. I search for 2nd Chapter of Acts. Sure enough, there were grainy versions of “Easter Song” and “Yahweh,” apparently taken from the famous 1977 18-city tour that also resulted in the monumental triple-album How the West Was One. I know this because Phil Keaggy was playing guitar. It was hard to tell it was Phil, except for the fact that he only comes up to Matthew Ward’s armpit. It was a reminder of how far contemporary Christian music has come. Playing what may have been one of the smaller venues on the tour, I was surprised at the tiny stage on which they were all crammed. It was smaller than the church platform where I first saw them in 1979 in Houston and much smaller than the last stage where I saw them at the Sam Houston Colliseum in 1986. But I digress…

I found lots of video clips of Phil Keaggy, mostly stuff either lifted from a video of acoustic work or various Glass Harp reunions. Then I moved on to Bruce Cockburn, which included a 1980 television performance of “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” clips from concerts and a very strange video of “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”.

There’s probably plenty more me for to dig around and find on YouTube after all.

On the Third Day of Christmas

As someone who never understood the Twelve Days of Christmas growing up, it’s hard for me to remember to keep celebrating until Theophany. I really didn’t even grow up with Advent, so just the anticipating bit took some getting used to. However, it is easier to anticipate something than it is to enjoy it once it is here.

I’m kind of glad that I didn’t read On the Incarnation in Advent this year. It gives me something to aid in my joyous appreciation of the extended feast, to relish each day the Reason for the season. Christ is born! God is with us.

Scripture tells us that during those first days, the Blessed Theotokos “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Things like the shepherds, the angels, and having to take care of baby God. I would think that even if you did have an angel show up on your doorstep nine months before and let you know what you were agreeing to do, and even if you had nine months of God growing inside, that whole Christmas story experience would be a lot to take in.

A lot of the Year 11 (same age as 10th grade) girls at my school take an electronic baby home for the weekend and then get a grade based on a computer readout concerning how well they took care of it. They are usually shattered by the time they get to school on Monday (except for one girl I know of who just stuck it in a closet the whole time). Yet they are already older than the Theotokos when she gave birth in a cave, had to put up with all those visitors, not to mention the animals, and then had to nurse, change, and protect the Son of God. Scripture doesn’t tell us, but I hope Joseph found better accommodation within a short time.

The Doctor Is In

While Mrs H is enjoying a much-deserved lie-in after all her work getting everything that is Christmas done. (She didn’t give birth to the Messiah, but she did pretty much everything else.) So I’m watching the children, which means I’m watching Dr Who.

All of the episodes from the last series have been fully memorised by Aidan (and to some extent by Abby) and we had been watching them less and less, even though they are still saved on the Freeview box hard drive. But the high point of Christmas in Britain is the Christmas special episode of Dr Who. Now that it is Boxing Day, it is time for the recorded re-runs. This one episode, and the plethora of Dr Who toys that appeared under the tree yesterday morning, will last us until the new series begins.

Without giving too much away for those who haven’t seen it, the Doctor gets weepy at every mention of Rose’s absence. I know how he feels. I’m a bit weepy about the whole thing, too. I don’t wish any ill upon the acting career of Freema Agyeman, who plays the Doctor’s companion in the upcoming series, but both Billie Piper and I regret Billie’s decision to leave the show. Perhaps they can write a storyline where Martha Jones has to swap places with Rose in the other universe.

Eye-openers

Thanks to a description of the Nativity icon posted by Deb, I finally got it that Jesus was born in a cave wrapped in swaddling clothes and was buried in a cave wrapped in swaddling clothes. (The manger bit is only in the first story, though.) I know there must be a lot to get out of that – I’m sure that some theologian I will stumble across (or to whom I will be directed by a helpful friend) will have opined upon this at some length.

The parish that provided the icon description on it’s website was also an eye-opener. I didn’t know there were any Old Believer parishes in the States. Reading their FAQ about communing in their parish, it is like reading about how to be prevented from ever partaking. Perhaps they are no more strict than any other ROCOR parish. And whatever you do, don’t cross yourself at the wrong time. “. . . all of the worshipping faithful will be found making the Sign of the Cross at exactly the same time and places. In the Old Rite, one does not make the Sign of the Cross, nor prostrations, nor kneel when one feels moved to do so but at the appointed times in unison. This may cause some confusion to other Orthodox. . .”

I don’t think I’d fit in well with the Old Believers. They would probably consider me a loony liberal.

Christ is Born!

Glorify Him!

May you have a very blessed Feast!

Athanasius de creatura mundi

I should have had Athanasius to hand when I was teaching about worldviews to Year 9s this year. He was able to succinctly describe the basic cosmological options in just a couple of pages of On the Incarnation. He explains the all the wrong ideas in Chapter I §2 and the right one in §3.

Reading Athanasius is like reading a commentary on the Nicene Creed several years before it was composed. Anyone sucked into the silliness of the idea popularised by Dan Brown that any theology was invented at Nicea would only need to read the ante-Nicene work of the quite young then-Deacon Athanasius to see that there was no original thought expressed in the First Ecumenical Council.

The surprising thing is that Arianism achieved dominance for a while after the Council, thanks to influential bishops like Eusebius, a terrbile theologian and not even a good historian in the view of some. But God had other plans, Athanasius stood against the world, and now only Jehovah’s Witnesses believe there was a time when the Word of God was not.

The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same

I’ve been reading Mrs H’s book, The Stories of English by David Crystal. The development of language is an amazing thing. As I read it, it makes me almost wish I had carried through with one of my early plans for advanced education. After I did very well in Greek and Hebrew at college, I considered getting a Masters in linguistics.

As you might anticipate from the early chapters of such a book, I have been reading about the development of Old English. In the late 11th century, the Lord’s Prayer went like this:

Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum, Si þin nama gehalgod. to becume þin rice, gewurþe ðin willa, on eorðan swa swa on heofonum. urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg, and forgyf us ure gyltas, swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum. and ne gelæd þu us on costnunge, ac alys us of yfele. soþlice.

Old English had letters that no longer exist, even if their sounds are still familiar to us. It may look like a “p”, but “þ” is the aspirated “th” sound, as in “breath”. The “ð” may look a bit like a “d”, but it represents the vocalised “th” sound in “breathe”.

By the time of Middle English, Wycliffe translated the Paternoster in 1390 as:

Oure fadir that art in heuenes, halewid be thi name; thi kyndoom come to; be thi wille don in erthe as in heuene: gyue to us this dai oure breed ouer othir substaunce; and forgyue to us oure dettis, as we forgyuen to oure gettouris; and lede us not in to temptacioun, but delyuere us fro yuel.

That’s starting to look recognisable to modern eyes. But it’s only us who change. The prayer is the same. I wonder what English will look like or sound like in another 1000 years.

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Rowan Williams (the Archbishop of Canterbury), Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor (Archbishop of Westminster and RC Primate of Britain), Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian (the Armenian Primate of Britain) and David Coffey (head of the Baptist World Alliance) have just returned from Bethlehem. They are hoping to raise the profile of the situation faced by Arab Christians in the Middle East.

Bethlehem used to be a town with a slight majority of Christians. Now less than a quarter of the population are followers of the God who spent his first few human days in a local cave laying in a feed trough. At any point where the Muslims haven’t made life difficult, the Israelis have.

But it is not just in Palestine where Christians are facing trouble. It is even worse in Iraq since the overthrown of Saddam. That was my one qualm about the invasion. Like many people, I foresaw that Christians would not have the same protection they had experienced under the secular Ba’athist regime. Were the democractically elected new government in Iraq powerful enough, Christians would probably still be safe.

However, the insurgency of those who wish to impose either a Sunni or Shi’a sharia state has led to a difference result. Each side may hate and kill the other, but Christians are still easy prey.
The vicar of St George’s Church in Baghdad told The Times:

All my staff at the church have been killed. They disappeared about a year ago and we never saw them again. Of the rest of my congregation, most say they have been targeted in some way or have had letters delivered with bullets in them. People forget, or the Islamic groups don’t realise, that Christianity was in the Middle East before them and therefore they see Christians as being part of the Western coalition military presence. Things have got considerably worse since the Iraq war.

As we open our presents and sit down to big Christmas dinners with not the slightest chance that Muslim gunmen will kick open our door and kill us, let us remember those who live in harms way – where just being a Christian is a dangerous thing.

The Whirlwind

There are no presents under our tree.

This by no means due to poverty. There are presents in the house. Plenty of presents. Unfortunately Christmas has come at a time in Abby’s life when she has absolutely no ability to control her desire to open things. It doesn’t have to be Christmas presents or even presents of any kind. Anything that can be opened will be opened, and even some things that cannot.

Even presentless, the tree has provided new opportunities for destruction. It has been a chore to keep any decorations on it. The floor is regularly strewn with baubles. Mrs H is a collector of Nativity sets and it is amazing the places around the house were the odd sheep, cow, or Virgin Mary shows up.

But soon Christmas will be over and things put away. Then all we will have to contend with are bits of the new toys everywhere.

Repeat Business

More than 18,000 girls under 18 had abortions last year. I suppose that out of nearly 200,000 killings, that less than 10% were forced out of teenage wombs is something positive.

However, out of those 18,000 under-18s, 1,316 had a second abortion while 90 underwent their third. At least one had her sixth abortion. Not that this is by any means a record. There were 44 women last year who had their eighth abortion. Twenty of these under 30 years old.

Repeat business only increases as women get out of their teen years. Of those aged between 18 and 24, 16,474 had a second abortion and 3,060 had a third.

This means that well over 10% of abortions last year were obtained by women under 25 who had killed before. The picture of abortions being for women who are stuck in a bad spot and have no other choice is looking more and more like the work of a myopic impressionist, rather than an accurate representation of reality.

Small Talk About the Weather

It’s cold outside.

We have had such a mild autumn that when cold weather actually arrived, it was quite a shock. And it’s not just people that have been taken by surprise. As Mrs H and I were noting today when taking Christmas presents to Wales, many of the deciduous trees still have green leaves.

We woke up this morning to ice. Ice and fog. Everyone has been hearing about the fog – it’s even been making the national evening network news in the US. But it was the ice that surprised us. There’s no telling what the trees were thinking.

Okay, they weren’t thinking anything. They are trees, after all. And this isn’t Narnia.

I know everyone is worried about global warming – except for the Head of Geography at my previous school, who thinks it a load of propaganda – but for Britain in the short-term, it sure is nice. Maybe we’ll have an early Spring.

Why the Word Became Flesh

A little snippet from St Athanasius:

You must understand why it is that the Word of the Father, so great and so high, has been made manifest in bodily form. He has not assumed a body as proper to His own nature, far from it, for as the Word He is without body. He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men. We will begin, then, with the creation of the world and with God its Maker, for the first fact that you must grasp is this: the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning. There is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation for the One Father has employed the same Agent for both works, effecting the salvation of the world through the same Word Who made it in the beginning.

Death of a Strongman

It appears that amongst the blogs I read, I’m the first to mention the passing of Saparmurat Niyazov, president of President of Turkmenistan. Of course I may be the only one who cares about such things. Actually, given that I’m not even on the blog rolls of a number of the blogs I read, I may be the only one who cares about many of the things I write. But I digress…

Niyazov had to be one of the most ego-maniacal people to ever live. He was the only president in the brief history of Turkmenistan having been the communist leader of the Turkmen SSR since 1985. He called himself “Türkmenbaşy,” meaning “Leader of all (ethnic) Turkmens”. He ruled the country based upon his whims and personal preferences. He changed the months of the year and even basic vocabulary words to honour members of his family.

Most of the textbooks in schools are comprised of his speeches and other writings. The libraries that are still open primarily contain books he has written. He has closed most of the rural libraries in Turkmenistan because of his belief that ordinary Turkmen don’t read.

The presidential succession in Turkmenistan is in a bit of a muddle. According to Turkmen law, the president is succeeded by the head the People’s Assembly, but since this post was held by Mr Niyazov as well, it is vacant. Deputy Prime Minister Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has been named as acting president. It was originally announced that Ovezgeldy Atayev was to become the acting president, was he was not appointed “in view of the fact that the prosecutor-general had instituted criminal proceedings against him.”

Niyazov’s death leaves a huge power vacuum and the opportunity for previously severely repressed opposition groups to make some headway. I don’t know that you can call them “parties” because the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan (formerly known as the Communist Party of the Turkmen SSR) is the only recognised party and holds all of the seats in the legislature. Sadly, with no history of democracy in the area now comprising Turkmenistan, it is most likely that another strongman will emerge.

I don’t see any impetus whatsoever from the West to put pressure on the Turkmen move toward democracy. Niyazov never attacked a neighbouring country. Trading partners are getting what they need under the repressive system. As usual, the goal of countries like the US and UK to spread of democracy throughout the world is a very selective process.

Ignatius on the Incarnation

Today is the feast of the our Apostolic Father among the Saints, Ignatius of Antioch. On the way to his martyrdom in Rome in the early 2nd century, he wrote a number of letters to churches his route bypassed. In his letter to the church of Ephesus, he makes reference to the power of the Incarnation. I reproduce here the entirety of chapter 19 in the Lightfoot translation (originally published in 1869).

1. And hidden from the prince of this world were the virginity of Mary and her child-bearing and likewise also the death of the Lord — three mysteries to be cried aloud — the which were wrought in the silence of God.
2. How then were they made manifest to the ages? A star shone forth in the heaven above all the stars; and its light was unutterable, and its strangeness caused amazement; and all the rest of the constellations with the sun and moon formed themselves into a chorus about the star; but the star itself far outshone them all; and there was perplexity to know whence came this strange appearance which was so unlike them.
3. From that time forward every sorcery and every spell was dissolved, the ignorance of wickedness vanished away, the ancient kingdom was pulled down, when God appeared in the likeness of man unto newness of everlasting life; and that which had been perfected in the counsels of God began to take effect. Thence all things were perturbed, because the abolishing of death was taken in hand.

Jesus Taken Into Care

And speaking of single-parent families, it’s a good thing Jesus wasn’t born in Britain. Here’s what would have happened.

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H/T to Mrs H

The Cost of Crime

The vile murderers I blogged about a few days ago have been sentenced. They got more time than I ever expected. Michael and Jane Conner both got 32-year tariffs. Natalie Conner, the cause of it all, got 11 years.

This means the total cost to the taxpayer for food and housing will be approximately £2,100,000. That’s even more than their dole money would have been. Of course Natalie will just be 29 when she gets out, so she’ll have plenty of time to reproduce. With her employment skills limited to psychotic bullying, she’ll need a litter to get enough cash from the Government to support herself.

Off the Shelf

It’s just been there sitting on the shelf.

It wasn’t until we received a Christmas card from our solicitor with a quote from St Athanasius’ On the Incarnation that I realised I had gone through Advent without reading it. Tonight I picked it up and started with the Introduction.

It may seem obvious to start with the Introduction, but this is no ordinary introduction. Most readers will have probably read it before, because it is a well known and outstanding essay by C. S. Lewis. It is not so much about Athanasius or this particular work, but rather on the value of reading old books.

If you have not read it before, you simply must. It is readily available online. You can find it here or here or here. Those are just the first three that came up on Google.

Heaven in the Real World

Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal is no longer eligible to be baptised as a Mormon. He was on an official list of potential posthumous recipients of vicarious baptism because the LDS church thought he was a great bloke and deserved to be an exception to the usual rule that only the ancestors of LDS members can be put on the list.

This seemed like a nice, if pointless, gesture. But the Simon Wiesenthal Centre complained. The Jewish human rights group named in his honour found it offensive. Rabbi Marvin Heir, the founder of the group, said, “From their point of view they thought they were doing him a favour by making sure he can get into heaven. For us, it is very offensive. Simon Wiesenthal dedicated his whole life to Jews. I don’t think he needs help getting into heaven.”

Well, the Mormons may not be able to get him into heaven, but he does need help. Rabbi Marvin doesn’t realise that without the help of the first century Rabbi Yeshuah, Simon Wiesenthal doesn’t have a chance. Doesn’t matter what he’s done. And it doesn’t really matter who that offends.

This isn’t the first time the LDS folks have run afoul of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. They used to have the names of 400,000 Holocaust victims on their baptismal “to do” list. Those were taken off in 1995.

Of course all this seems a bit hypocritical. Jews are happy to name people “Righteous Gentiles,” even though many of these are Christians who believe their righteousness is not imputed from a committee of the Supreme Court of Israel. I don’t know of any case where a Righteous Gentile has asked to be taken off the list or raised a public stink about it.

Sweentened Condensed Milk of the Gospel

Finding old evaporated milk in the cupboard was the impetus for researching into the difference between this product and condensed milk. The answer to that was fairly easy: condensed milk contains sugar and evaporated milk doesn’t. Hence condensed milk is often called “sweetened condensed milk.” Because it is sweetened it requires less processing to inhibit bacterial growth, the key to extended shelf life.

But not satisfied with that, I looked into the history of these products. Condensed milk pre-dated evaporated milk by three decades. And that’s when I found out about Gail Borden.

Growing up, Borden milk was the expensive brand name milk. We used to say that only people on government food stamps could afford Borden. We always had the HEB store brand, which, as far as I know, was perfectly good milk. I had no idea that the founder of Borden Milk Products was such a famous Texas transplant.

According to the Handbook of Texas:

He and his first wife reputedly became the first Anglo-Americans to be baptized in the Gulf west of the Mississippi River. He became Sunday school missionary to the poor and to travelers. He was a trustee of the Texas Baptist Education Society, which founded Baylor University. And he was an officer in the local temperance society and deacon and clerk of the local Baptist church.

He also prepared the first topographical map of Texas, allegedly penned the newpaper headline, “Remember the Alamo!”, surveyed the original site of the city of Houston, and served as secretary of the company that owned most of Galveston Island. In 1851, he moved back north and invented condensed milk, which was supplied to Union soldiers in the War and made him an even richer man. Okay, he can be forgiven for supplying Yankees. After 1871, he spent winters in Texas.

Again, according the Handbook of Texas:

In 1873 he built a freedmen’s school and a white children’s school, organized a day school and a Sunday school for black children, aided in constructing five churches, maintained two missionaries, and partially supported numerous poorly paid teachers, ministers, and students.

All that and inventing the sweetened condensed milk for my favourite cherry pie.

He died in January 1874 at the age of 72. May his memory be eternal.