Thursday, November 27, 2008

On giving thanks

Ode to Thanksgiving
by Marty Lostheart

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for life
and to be able to share it with my friends, kids and wife.

Everyone celebrates Thanksgiving in their own way
But let's take a look at the original Thanksgiving day.

It was many, many years ago when Pilgrims arrived
and the Native Americans taught them how to survive.

And, in return the Pilgrims gave them things brand new
like measles, cholera, chicken pox, and all types of flu.

They destroyed a great nation and took their land
and killed their families whenever they took a stand.

So, when you give thanks for things this time of year,
I am just grateful that some of my people are still here.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "You have just dined, and however
scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful
distance of miles, there is complicity."

And he wasn't really talking about turkeys, just as when
Moses said,
"You shall not muzzle the ox that treads out
the grain,"
he wasn't really talking about oxen.

The statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon
the nation that
is attacked, and every man will be glad
of those conscience-soothing
falsities, and will diligently
study them, and refuse to examine any
refutations of them;
and thus he will by and by convince himself that the

war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he
enjoys after this
process of grotesque self-deception.
Mark Twain, "The Mysterious Stranger" (1910)

Reading this, I recalled where it is written,
"Do not desire the net of evil men."
Much of what we call thanksgiving - a virtue in men's eyes
- is odious to God, being in fact delight in the profits
of murder.

A "blessing" which we can enjoy only by being unconscious
of the robbery and iniquity that brought it to us is a
"blessing" that demands of us that we falsify our past
and shut our hearts to those that were robbed and murdered
for our convenience.

That's the Lie that enslaves, not the Truth that sets free.

Religious people delight to go by that broad and pleasant way.
They will love you when you join them, but unlike God,
they will be swift to hate you if you stand apart,
as Mark Twain perceived.

It really is quite clear where such "thankfulness" comes from
and who we're being asked to make a deal with.
On this Thanksgiving Day, let's give thanks to God
for what God gives us,
but let's repent of our pleasure in the dainties we get
from this world and its prince.

Let's not blaspheme God by claiming that such "gifts,"
gotten so dishonorably, have come from His hand.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The gratitude of God

I was reading Jesus in Matthew 6 this morning, in which he says to do what we do to be seen in secret by God, rather than to be seen by men. His reason is that when we get the praise of ungrateful men we have our reward, and it's not much. The implication, which I hadn't laid to heart before, is that God is not ungrateful. He will notice and appreciate the smallest things done in the truth.

Being unaware of God's grateful nature has certainly worked to make me seek to please men instead. The other thing I noticed while I was reading is that this attentiveness to man is the essence of hypocrisy. Since man looks on the outward appearance and not on the heart, when man and not God is the audience, we will make the outside clean instead of the inside. It's not a matter of personal virtue. It's the nature of the audience we want to please.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Kristallnacht, 9 November 1938

As some of my readers may recall, "Crystal Night," the night of broken glass, was the pogrom 70 years ago yesterday in which Germany moved from harassment and judicial persecution to open official lawlessness against the Jews, leading to their annihilation. Those of you that never knew or have forgotten, that shows why we never learn from experience - unless in his mercy God opens our ears, eyes, and hearts.

I include below Tony Greenstein's letter to the Guardian in Britain yesterday.

The lessons of Kristallnacht for the modern Middle East

Sidney Jacob's denial (Letters, November 5) of the comparison that Paul Oestreicher draws (The legacy of Kristallnacht, (November 4) is a knee-jerk reaction that seeks to portray Nazi Germany's attitude to the Jews as a unique, one-off occurrence. Unfortunately there are only too many parallels that can be drawn in the period 1933-39.

When Jewish mobs shouted "death to the Arabs" in Acre a few weeks ago, that was certainly reminiscent of pogroms in Europe. When slogans such as "Arabs to the gas chambers" are daubed on the separation wall, the parallels are also clear. When Israeli military and police stand by while Arabs peasants tending their olive groves are assaulted by settlers, and when even international observers are injured, then that brings to mind a similar refusal by authorities in Germany to uphold the law and protect their Jewish inhabitants.

The lesson of Kristallnacht is surely that any group of people, given the right set of circumstances, can become transformed from oppressed to oppressor. Settler colonialism in Israel-Palestine has reduced the Palestinians to a sub-human status. A majority of Israeli Jews in opinion polls have repeatedly made clear that they don't wish to live next door to an Arab and would prefer Israel's own Palestinian citizens to emigrate.

The only part of Paul Oestreicher's article I disagree with is his suggestion that the vast majority of Germans took part in Kristallnacht. It was a state organised, SA pogrom, orchestrated by the gauleiter of Berlin, Josef Goebbels. It was deeply unpopular with ordinary Germans, as Ian Kershaw's Hitler Myth makes clear, but by 1938 the ordinary population had been cowed by the Gestapo and the concentration camp apparatus of Nazi Germany.

Tony Greenstein

This carries a warning for Americans, and especially its Christians, who have approved even worse conduct by Americans around the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, based on the same sorts of lies the Nazis used to justify their conduct. As Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Treasury Secretary under Ronald Reagan has reminded us, unlike the Germans Americans still lack the excuse of having been cowed by the Gestapo and a concentration camp apparatus.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Marriage and California Proposition 8

There's a lot of passion in California about Proposition 8, defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. There's so much stupidity all around, it's hard to find any footing, and as usual, the problem is the stupidity of Christians, just as Jesus said: "You are the light of the world . . . but if the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness."

First, let's dispose of the folly that gender is in the same category as racial or religious distinctions, as opponents of the measure speciously argue. It's been most exceptional in history to make "racial" distinctions in marriage, unlike in gender. No culture anywhere until today - including those like ancient Greece which were perfectly OK with homosexual conduct - ever imagined that marriage had anything to do with homosexuality. Only the modern West has considered blowing off the fundamental distinction of gender in marriage. In sharp contrast, "race" is really an artificial construct. Male and female are much more fundamental in humans. To equate these distinctions is preposterous, and can only be done by implicitly accepting the delusion that fundamental racial differences exist among humans.

The modern West has been most consistent the last 500 years in holding to preposterous racial theories to justify its plunder and slaughter in the rest of the world, so it's maybe not coincidence that precisely this culture, having found racial and gender distinctions equally fundamental in the past, now finds both equally insignificant today.

It's pretty clear that homosexuality is a consequence of brokenness. Homosexuals, for instance, have a far higher incidence of abuse as children than the general population, especially sexual abuse. To say this is OK is sort of like accepting accident arthritis as normal. You don't find fault with people for getting arthritis as a result of being smashed up in car accidents, but it doesn't do them a lot of good to decide that there's nothing wrong with that condition, even if you don't know what to do about it.

That takes me to my next point. Christians like to base their condemnation of homosexuality on the authority of the Bible, especially Paul's writings. But if they would read these, they would find that Paul doesn't rest his case on the Bible, so Christians should shy away from that approach today, following Paul's example. His evidence that homosexuality is a problem, when he wrote to the Corinthian church, is in no way based on the Bible.

Instead, Paul says, "Such were some of you, but you were washed . . ." Paul's evidence that his list of problems were problems - including other practices that Christians tolerate beautifully both in their churches and in the politicians they support - is that when people met God in their church, these problems were getting repaired.

In the churches today where noses are out of joint about homosexuals, do homosexuals or other people with problems actually get repaired when they show up? The biblical rule is clear: until homosexuality or any other problem is getting repaired in your church in the people who walk in the door, you need to shut up and instead find out why you have no good news to offer - speaking of getting problems repaired.