Saturday, November 24, 2018

A Christian Response to Immigrant Groups

How should we as Christians living in the United States view immigration? In what way should we differentiate between legal and illegal immigrants? Are some immigrant groups acceptable and some not?

On the question of how many immigrants should be allowed into the United States, it's difficult to establish a clear Biblical answer. Many of the faithful were refugees at some point in their lives -Moses, Ruth, Naomi, King David, and even our Lord Jesus himself. What if immigration policies had prevented them from fleeing persecution and famine? Yet there's not a clear distinction of how many refugees a country is obliged to receive.

The question of number is ultimately a political one.

But how refugees are treated, when they do come, is a different matter.  The Bible is very clear on that issue.
Matthew 25:35
'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;
Leviticus 19:34'The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.
Leviticus 23:32'When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the LORD your God.'"
What about illegal immigrants? Should the government overlook that? Clearly not.
Romans 13:1-2Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
Yet the individual Christian is not given any justification to treat an illegal alien differently than any other person. If we are to love even our enemies, that clearly applies to an illegal alien.
What should a Christian response look like to the refugee seeking asylum, to the immigrant whether legal or not?  To the Muslim?
Every immigrant family should be met at the airport or at the border by a Church family.  They should be welcomed and have a place to stay.  There should be food for them to eat. They should have help finding a job and putting their children in school. If you want them to become a part of the community, to assimilate, then show them how.
We had a Muslim couple in Tyre, Lebanon who moved to Pennsylvania.  A Church there met them and cared for them.  The next Sunday morning they were posting pictures of their children in Sunday School. When I visited a few years ago, the husband introduced me to the leader of their home Bible study.
This is how we ought to be engaging every immigrant family.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Disciplining Children

A good home has good rules, and a Christian home has godly rules.  Your children need rules.  They crave limits that give them the safety and security to explore and be creative.  Whatever else your rules might be, they must first of all be consistent.  They must be consistent with the word of God, and consistently applied and enforced.

My wife and I have four children.  Having one now seems like hardly having any at all.  You can gang up on the child.  Having two children was different because we could no longer gang up on them, but at least we could split them up –divide and conquer.  When the third child came along, suddenly we were outnumbered.  We were playing zone defense.  The fourth child just made the zones wider.

One thing we learned early on was consistency.  The rules are the rules.  When the rules aren't really the rules, kids get confused.  All of a sudden they have to find out what the boundaries really are.  Your kids will look for boundaries, and they won’t be happy until they find them.

It’s unfair to your kids to punish them for breaking the rules one time, and let them slide the next time.  All of a sudden they understand that it’s not about the rules –it’s about Mom or Dad’s mood swings.

You need clear rules about everything.  They need to know what they can watch on TV, what they must eat at dinner, when they can use the telephone, how much time they can spend on the computer.  Is it okay to make exceptions?  Yes, but only if it is done beforehand and with the understanding that the rule is being suspended just this one time, not changed. For example, my oldest son is allowed one hour of video games per day.  On Friday nights we have movie night, and I may allow him to play longer.

You need clear communication.  The word “obey” has worked very well in our home.  If one of our children is not doing what they are told, I will say “Obey me and do this.”  My child understands at that point that there will be no further discussion, talk, or warnings.  If obedience is not immediate, the children know that I will act firmly.  Like the rising and setting of the sun, justice will surely be administered.

Discipline needs to be fair, swift, and consistent.  There are lots of ways to discipline children, and so long as the discipline is effective and not harsh, most of them are okay.  Consistency is more important than your choice of technique.

Here are some guidelines for judging appropriate discipline.

1. Never discipline in anger.  Your children need for you to be in control.  When you are not in control of yourself, they can sense that and it frustrates them.  When you are angry, your discipline will not be consistent.  You will make rash threats that you don’t mean, or worse yet you may injure your child.  We use timeouts in our home, but it’s primarily used to give the parent a chance to calm down before actual discipline is carried out.

2. Pick your battles, not everything is worthy of a battle.  I say this with reluctance, so let me explain.  Choose your battles carefully ahead of time.  If the behavior is not serious enough to go the distance in correcting, then you may want to let it go, especially if you are in a situation where discipline will be awkward.

But, if the behavior is serious enough to be corrected, then stick to your guns.  Don’t ever, ever start to discipline your children and then back down.  Never.  Once they sense your weakness, it’s like blood in the water.  They’ll eat you alive.  Always win.  Sometimes you may have to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  Maybe you’ll just have to give your child a lollipop, but make the child be quiet and say please.  Find some shred of victory.

3. Realize that even children need to express anger from time to time.  You have to give your child a way to express their emotions.  There has to be some outlet.  We don’t allow our children to be mean or disrespectful, but we do allow them to speak their mind.  “Daddy, I’m mad at you” is okay.  “Daddy, you are an idiot” is not okay.

With younger children, you may need to talk them through this process.  They will have to be taught appropriate ways to express anger.  Be patient with them.

4. Choose the best time and place to discipline. Always discipline in private.  Grabbing your kid up and whacking him on the bottom in the checkout line at Wal-Mart is not a good idea.  If you are consistent with discipline, you won’t have to do it.  The promise that they will be punished in the car will work if they know that it really will happen.

If my wife and I are driving down the road, and one of the children misbehaves, we don't ignore it, yell threats, or swipe a hand around in the air.  I stop whatever else I am doing to correct my children.  Nothing else that I am doing is more important than teaching them.  I pull over to the side of the road, and calmly (okay, I might get peeved sometimes, but I never yell) make the standards understood.  If there is then disobedience, a spanking will follow.  I do not allow my children to be rebellious.

5. Choose your words carefully and speak in a soft tone of voice.  Words matter –they mean things.  Never, ever insult or degrade your child.  Address the bad behavior and make it known that you will not accept such behavior.  Never raise your voice in anger.  This conveys hatred to the child.  You want to change the behavior, not demean the child.

How do you know what behavior to correct?  The best answer is that we don’t need to just address the issue at hand, but we need to look into the heart.

Proverbs 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.

The behavior of a child reflects what is in his or her heart.  A child who takes toys doesn’t just need to correct that behavior, that child needs to learn generosity.  A child who hits doesn’t just need to correct that behavior, that child needs to learn compassion.  Help your child to guard his heart against sin.  Pray over your child every day –you will get an incredible blessing, and so will your child.

Luke 6
43“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

Changing only the outside behavior doesn’t solve the problem.

Imagine that you planted an apple tree.  After a couple of years it bears some apples, but they are bitter and wormy.  So, you go to the store and buy shiny, tasty apples and tie them onto the branches.  You haven’t helped the tree at all.  It still bears bad fruit.  Likewise putting your focus only on behavior modification is useless.  Work on your child’s heart.

I want to say a word or two about corporal punishment.  What I am about to say is only for Christian parents.  If you are not a Christian, do not try this at home.

We often hear the proverb “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”  That’s not anywhere to be found in the Bible.  Proverbs 13:24 actually says “He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”  That’s a strong statement, folks.  Sometimes the rod of correction is the only medicine.  You owe it to your child to discipline lovingly and diligently.  When you withhold from them what is their right, you are showing contempt for your child.

The rod of correction is still fashionable with God.  Hebrews 12:6 says : For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.”

The sting of physical pain is nothing compared to the life of an undisciplined person with no boundaries or morality.

Proverbs 23
13 Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.
14 Punish him with the rod
and save his soul from death.

Let me tell you what has worked for me.  We only spank for defiance and disobedience.  We never punish our children for mistakes.  Sometimes I’d like to pinch their heads off, mind you, but I never punish for mistakes, even really stupid ones.  But if I have placed something out of bounds, then I will spank them for disobeying my rules.  I don’t spank them for getting into the cookie jar, I spank them for doing it when I have forbidden it.

We use a flat paint-stirring stick.  The one gallon stick is suitable for younger children, the five gallon for older. It is light enough that it won’t cause injury, and yet delivers a sting on the seat of the pants.  Never use your bare hands.  Hands are for loving, rods are for correcting.  We always spank our kids on the legs or their bottom.  Those are not places where it will seem like an attack.  We have a system of one to five licks.  One is a reminder, five is for something serious like disrespecting an elder.

First the crime is reviewed.  Guilt is established.  This is not a time where they can argue, all comments are from the bench.  The sentence (including the number of licks to be applied) is then laid out and explained.  Punishment is then administered.  Immediately we embrace our child and tell them that we love them.  We explain that what they did was wrong, and that was why they were spanked. Finally, we lay out our expectations for better behavior, and encourage our child to do better.  If you will follow this pattern, your children will get a lesson from their spanking, instead of just a sore bottom.

There are many other means of discipline that we use for behavior that is not disobedient or defiant.  We withold privileges like television or toys.  We confine our child to the bed.  Confining your child to their room is like throwing Brer Rabbit into the Briar patch –they have Nintendo or toys to play with.  Make sure they stay in bed.

Whatever forms you use, remember the principles.

1. Never discipline in anger, always in love.

2. Pick your battles, not everything is worthy of a battle.  

3. Realize that even children need to express anger from time to time.

4. Choose the best time and place to discipline. 

5. Choose your words carefully and speak in a soft tone of voice. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Confederates speaking on Confederate Motives

Statements from the Confederate Constitution:

Article I Section 9(4)
No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.

Article IV Section 2(1)
The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired.

Article IV Section 3(3)
The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several states; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form states to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory, the institution of negro slavery as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress, and by the territorial government: and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories, shall have the right to take to such territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the states or territories of the Confederate states.

Statements from Confederate States' "Declaration of Causes" for secession.


Upon the principles then announced by Mr. Lincoln and his leading friends, we are bound to expect his administration to be conducted. Hence it is, that in high places, among the Republi­can party, the election of Mr. Lincoln is hailed, not simply as it change of Administration, but as the inauguration of new princi­ples, and a new theory of Government, and even as the downfall of slavery. Therefore it is that the election of Mr. Lincoln cannot be regarded otherwise than a solemn declaration, on the part of a great majority of the Northern people, of hostility to the South, her property and her institutions—nothing less than an open declaration of war—for the triumph of this new theory of Government destroys the property of the South, lays waste her fields, and inaugurates all the horrors of a San Domingo servile insurrection, consigning her citizens to assassinations, and. her wives and daughters to pollution and violation, to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans.

Be it resolved, That the State of Alabama, fully concuring with the State of South Carolina, in affirming the right of any State to secede from the confederacy, whenever in her own judgment such a step is demanded by the honor, interests and safety of her people, is not unmindful of the fact that the assaults upon the institution of slavery, and upon the rights and equality of the Southern States, unceasingly continued with increasing violence and in new, and more alarming forms, may constrain her to a reluctant but early exercise of that invaluable right.


The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. 

An anti-slavery party must necessarily look to the North alone for support, but a united North was now strong enough to control the Government in all of its departments, and a sectional party was therefore determined upon. Time and issues upon slavery were necessary to its completion and final triumph. The feeling of anti-slavery, which it was well known was very general among the people of the North, had been long dormant or passive; it needed only a question to arouse it into aggressive activity. 


"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin."

It [hostility to slavery] has grown until it denies the right of property in slaves, and refuses protection to that right on the high seas, in the Territories, and wherever the government of the United States had jurisdiction.

It refuses the admission of new slave States into the Union, and seeks to extinguish it by confining it within its present limits, denying the power of expansion.

It has nullified the Fugitive Slave Law in almost every free State in the Union, and has utterly broken the compact which our fathers pledged their faith to maintain.

It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst.

South Carolina:

But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution.

Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.


In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color-- a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States.

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

That in this free government *all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights* [emphasis in the original]; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.

Jefferson Davis, President, CSA:

"If slavery be a sin, it is not yours. It does not rest on your action for its origin, on your consent for its existence. It is a common law right to property in the service of man; its origin was Divine decree." 

"African slavery, as it exists in the United States, is a moral, a social, and a political blessing."

"You too know, that among us, white men have an equality resulting from a presence of a lower caste, which cannot exist where white men fill the position here occupied by the servile race. The mechanic who comes among us, employing the less intellectual labor of the African, takes the position which only a master-workman occupies where all the mechanics are white, and therefore it is that our mechanics hold their position of absolute equality among us."

"It [slavery] was established by decree of Almighty is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts...Let the gentleman go to Revelation to learn the decree of God - let him go to the Bible...I said that slavery was sanctioned in the Bible, authorized, regulated, and recognized from Genesis to Revelation...Slavery existed then in the earliest ages, and among the chosen people of God; and in Revelation we are told that it shall exist till the end of time shall come. You find it in the Old and New Testaments - in the prophecies, psalms, and the epistles of Paul; you find it recognized, sanctioned everywhere."

John C Pelot, Chair, Opening Speech, Florida Secession Convention:

The People of a portion of the States who were parties to the Government were early opposed to the institution. The feeling of opposition to it has been cherished, and fostered, and inflamed until it has taken possession of the public mind of the North to such an extent that it overwhelms every other influence. It has seized the political power and now threatens annihilation to slavery thoughout the Union. 
 At the South, and with our People of course, slavery is the element of all value, and a destruction of that destroys all that is property. 
 This party, now soon to take possession of the powers of the Government, is sectional, irresponsible to us, and driven on by an infuriated fanatical madness that defies all opposition, must inevitably destroy every vestige or right growing out of property in slaves. 

George Williamson, Commissioner of Louisiana, to the secession convention of Texas:

Louisiana looks to the formation of a Southern confederacy to preserve the blessings of African slavery, and of the free institutions of the founders of the Federal Union, be­queathed to their posterity. 

Louisiana supplies to Texas a market for her surplus wheat, grain and stock; both States have large areas of fer­tile, uncultivated lands, peculiarly adapted to slave labor; and they are both so deeply interested in African slavery that it may be said to be absolutely necessary to their existence, and is the keystone to the arch of their prosperity.

The people of Louisiana would consider it a most fatal blow to African slavery, if Texas either did not secede or having seceded should not join her destinies to theirs in a Southern Confederacy. If she remains in the union the abolitionists would continue their work of incendiarism and murder. 

The people of the slave holding States are bound together by the same necessity and deter­mination to preserve African slavery. The isolation of any one of them from the others would make her the theatre for abolition emisa­ries from the North and from Europe. Her existence would be one of constant peril to herself and of imminent danger to other neighboring slave-holding communities. 

That constitution the Southern States have never violated, and taking it as the basis of our new government we hope to form a slave-holding confederacy that will secure to us and our remotest posterity the great blessings its authors designed in the Federal Union. With the social balance wheel of slavery to regulate its machinery, we may fondly indulge the hope that our Southern government will be perpetual.

Alexander Stephens, Vice President, CSA:

The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error.

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails.

Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system.

Jospeh E. Brown, Governor of Confederate Georgia:

Among us the poor white laborer is respected as an equal. His family is treated with kindness, consideration and respect. He does not belong to the menial class. The negro is in no sense of the term his equal. He feels and knows this. He belongs to the only true aristocracy, the race of white men. He black no masters boots, and bows the knee to no one save God alone. He receives higher wages for his labor than does the laborer of any other portion of the world, and he raises up his children with the knowledge, that they belong to no inferior cast, but that the highest members of the society in which he lives, will, if their conduct is good, respect and treat them as equals.

Monday, January 30, 2017

On Christian Syrian Refugees

A lot of statistics are floating around the internet about Christian Syrian refugees, and almost all of them are based on assumptions that ignore the situation of Christians living in Syria. In fact there are very few Christians fleeing Syria because they tend to live in areas which have not been hardest hit by the conflict.  Almost all refugees fleeing Syria are Sunni Muslims simply because almost all of the fighting has take place in Sunni areas.

Christian Population centers in Syria

Here’s a typical evaluation of the numbers of Syrian Christian refugees, taken from National Review: 
The United States has accepted 10,801 Syrian refugees, of whom 56 are Christian. Not 56 percent; 56 total, out of 10,801. That is to say, one-half of 1 percent. The BBC says that 10 percent of all Syrians are Christian, which would mean 2.2 million Christians. . . .

Herein lies the problem: This assumes that Christians are dispersed evenly throughout Syria and have suffered equally in the fighting.  In fact, that is not the case.  Some Christians have fled their homes because of fighting, especially from Aleppo and Hasakah, but also in much smaller numbers from other cities like Homs and Hama. Most Christians live in areas (mainly large cities) that have been and still remain under government control.  For them, there has been nothing to flee. They are still living in their homes. 

Christians are more affluent than the average Syrian Muslim, and have better options for remaining in Syria, or at least in the nearby region.  Some have come to Lebanon, where they are readily accepted into the nation’s substantial Christian minority. 

The arguments about why Christians are not in refugee camps are made by people who are simply inventing statistics and are unaware of the cultural dynamics. If there are 2.2 million Syrian Christians (a reasonable figure), and 25% of Syrians have fled their country, then they reason that there must be a half-million Syrian Christian refugees outside Syria. A Newsweek article was based around this purely invented figure, and even suggested that there might be as many as one million Christian refugees:

The truth is that Christians have better options, including staying at home, and are using them.  The same is true for Alawites, Druze, and other Syrian religious minorities. The rebellion is largely Sunni, and the fighting is taking place in Sunni areas.  This is why almost all refugees are Sunni.  Everyone living in the camps is Sunni. So, almost all of the refugees with the direst need are Sunni. We should not be passing over those with the greatest need to favor those who usually have better options.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

History Repeats Itself-Murder in the Caliphate

It appears that the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was poisoned back in September along with three of his aides. He has summoned other leaders to choose his successor as Caliph in case assassins manage to kill him.

Why would anyone want to poison this guy?

If we take a look at history, this is a reflection of the close similarity between the Islamic State and the earliest leaders of Islam. After the death of Mohammad, the Muslims chose a new leader to be their Caliph.  The first four such leaders chosen are called by Sunni Muslims the "Rightly Guided Caliphs." These were all companions of Mohammad, who ruled in the years soon after his death.

All of them, Mohammad and his Companions, were men of conquest. Mohammad said that he earned his living from "under the shadow of the tip of my spear" and the Islamic State magazine "Dabiq" presents a lengthy discussion of this in issue 4, beginning on page 10. He lived from the spoils of conquest. Though Mohammad was himself poisoned, he did not die of that incident but was weakened by it and died of illness three years later. His first successor, Abu Bakr, also died of illness. The remaining "Rightly Guided Caliphs" died violent deaths.

Umar-Assassinated by a slave after village was attacked
Othman-Assassinated by rebels during war
Ali- Assassinated by a religious extremist who wanted war

Mohammad and his grandsons Hassan and Hussein
with his companions in better times

The Caliphate of Ali was divided, with a rival Caliph Muawiyah controlling the Levant and Egypt. The next Caliph, Hassan, resigned after making an agreement agreed to allow Muawiyah to reign until his death, with Hassan as his successor. It did not take long for Muawiyah to decide that his own son Yazid should instead be his heir, and he arranged to have Hassan poisoned -by Hassan's own wife.

Hassan's brother and rightful heir Hussein was later killed by the army of the treacherous Yazid at a battle in Karbala in Iraq. He was beheaded by an enemy leader who had agreed to allow him to say prayers, and then cut off his head when he knelt to pray. This event marks the complete rupture between Sunni Muslims (with Yazid), and those who would become Shia Muslims (with Hussein).

Death at Karbala

Why is this history relevant?  Muslims have worked over many centuries to build an Islam that allows for peace and tolerance.  Most of them are kind, decent people who want to live that way. There are schools of theology (primarily four for Sunnis an one for Shia) that interpret the Quran and the life of Mohammad in a different light than the Islamic State.

What you see in the Islamic State is a desire to throw away Islam as we know it, modern Islam, and revert back to tribal barbarism. It is not the Islam of your Dentist, or even of most Muslims.

Unless he does this, in which case you are in trouble.

It is the Islam of the Islamic State. It is the Islam of Al-Qaeida.  It is the Islam of Saudi Arabia. It is the Islam that we see lived out in the time of the "Rightly Guided" Caliphs. It is the Islam of terror.

Why has this version of Islam come back to the forefront after being dormant so long?  It has always been lurking around in the Saudi Peninsula, where it originated.  That is the root and the reservoir of violent extremist Islam.  A Saudi preacher of this theology, ibn Abdu Al-Wahab, allied with the house of Saud and together they established an Islamic State in the late 18th century much like the one we see in Syria and Iraq today.

The First Islamic State - Emirate of Diriyah
The Wahabi theology lives on and is exported by wealthy Saudis who build Mosques and pay extremist Wahabi preachers with oil money. All around the world, they are slowly spreading this extremism. The genie is out of the bottle. We have already poured fabulous wealth out on the Saudi princes.  They have already set up worldwide organizations to promote their beliefs.  We have already armed them with the latest and most powerful armaments that their oil money (which came from us) could buy from our factories.

What can we do? We can attack the ideology, and not the many Muslims who don't really believe it and whose belief systems have rejected it.  We can quit trying to portray every Muslim as a terrorist.  We can give up the stupid comparisons of refugees to skittles. Not every Christian is a Klansman, and not every Muslim is a terrorist. Maybe we could quit pouring weapons into the region? Those weapons almost always seem to end up in the hands of extremists.

We can also share the Gospel with them.  We've done a lot of horrible things with our religion (as Christians) over the centuries, but in it's earliest days Christianity was a religion of peace. When we look at the companions of Jesus (the Apostles) we see something very different about them.  They were men of peace, not military conquest.  They did not kill for their faith, but instead they were killed for their faith.
Deaths of the Apostles
It is wrong to suggest that Muslims are a violent people and that Christians are not.  That simply isn't the case.  Christian nations are just as involved in the blood-letting as Muslim nations.  Our corporations have reaped a huge windfall from weapons sales to all sides.  Christian nations have made the worst of the good example of the Apostles, and Muslims have made the best of the bad example of the Companions.

But if we are to look for a way out, where do we look? Whether Muslim or Christian, our only hope is Jesus.  The answer is not a religion, or a system, but a person -Jesus.  His Apostles were different because he changed them.  We should be different because he changes us.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Islamophobia is Irrational

Having lived among Muslims in Muslim neighborhoods in a Muslim majority country for over five years now, I am constantly confused and disappointed by the denigration of Muslims in the West. This generally comes from two groups: those who have never met a Muslim, and those who have met them in a war zone. While the latter group does know something about Muslims that is valid, what they know is how Muslims act when they are being shot at, frightened, gassed, bombed, beaten, starved, tortured, and killed.  This is not a political statement, simply a description of a war zone.

In my experience, most commentators are simply passing along what they have heard from other commentators.  Even those who have a background in the Middle East often come from areas where they lived in seclusion from Muslims.  Years ago I asked one lady who grew up in Lebanon about a Muslim custom and she said "I don't know, I was never in the home of a Muslim." Being from the Middle East didn't give her any particular knowledge of Muslims because she actively avoided contact with them. If you really want to know what Muslims are up to, I suggest that you meet a Muslim.

A friend recently asked my opinion of an anti-Muslim video, and when I watched the video it was immediately obvious that the person who made it had no personal knowledge of Muslims or their culture and religion. It was recycled video clips. I won't link it here because that would promote it, but the upshot was that fear of Islam is rational. Because the (stated) aim of the video was to promote fear, it was long on emotion and short on fact.  The video presented four distinct themes, which I will comment on here.

Myth #1 - All terrorism is Muslim terrorism.

Since the video was made from a US perspective, we can look at terrorist acts in the US to see if this is true. The FBI has published a list of domestic terror attacks in the last few decades in the US. What is clear from this list and other sources is that the danger of Muslim attacks in the US has been greatly exaggerated by those who sell fear, or those whose agenda is to, as one professional fearmonger put it, "to scare the bejeezus outta ya!"

Terrorism by groups 1980-2005

Since this data was compiled in 2005, the FBI's greatest concern has been the resurgence of right-wing hate groups  and militias.

Myth #2 - Only Muslims can't live with others in peace.

This myth simply ignores the many cases of religious strife around the world between other groups.  The maker of the video is probably hoping that no one will bother doing a few quick google searches.  In the case of Christians, they are being attacked by Hindus, being attacked and killed by Buddhists in several places, and they are being killed by atheists.  Even animists persecute Christians.

The video maker in this case is either very ignorant (most likely) or willing to tell a bald-faced lie.

There are no Muslims in this photo.

Myth # 3 Only Muslims are unhappy with their countries.

Ironically, the maker of this video is likely to be among those who complain the loudest about illegal Mexican immigration to the US.  Those Mexican people (Christians) are unhappy with their country (Christian) and want to come to the US. In fact if we look at the top ten immigrant groups in the US, none of them are from Muslim countries.  The maker of the video obviously made no effort to learn the actual facts before jumping to conclusions.

Place of birth for the foreign-born population in the United States
Top ten countries2013201020001990
El Salvador1,252,0671,214,049817,336465,433
South Korea1,070,3351,100,422864,125568,397
Dominican Republic991,046879,187687,677347,858

Myth #4 - Only Muslims Have Terror Organizations.

The video listed many terror organizations operating in the Muslim world. Some were duplicates, rather like listing "KKK" and "The Klan" as distinct groups.  Others are long disbanded, and some are simply a rebranding of the same group. But there are many terror organizations active in the Muslim world, so surely that makes them especially evil and violent, right?

While there is no official national catalogue of terrorist groups operating in the US, the Southern Poverty Law Center does keep an extensive list of hate groups, some of which are not very hateful at all, and others of which are terrorist by nature -everything from Klansmen, Black Panthers, White Nationalists, Ecoterrorists, Nazis -the list is long. The State Department keeps a list of terror organizations, both active and "delisted." On both lists are groups from around the world -South Americans, Irish, Japanese, Cambodians, Indians -there are plenty of groups on the lists which are not Muslims.

Terror cells often look more like this.

There is a conversation to be had about radical Islamist violence.  There are hard questions to be asked about Wahabi Islam and the export of violent, radical ideology.  There are questions about rampant arms sales and the arming of dangerous groups for political purposes.

Promoting fear of Muslims does not do anything to advance this dialogue.  In fact, it shuts it down.  Reasonable Muslims are not going to respond with engagement if they are lumped in with extremists by the ignorant.

Saturday, November 19, 2016


When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2)

What if our Lord Jesus had been shunned or rejected in his time of need?  What would Christmas be like if he had been thrown along with his family back into the clutches of Herod? It was God's plan that he be a refugee.  Remember that.  It was God's plan that his Son Jesus be a refugee.

Our nativity scene at home
I will be sharing some pictures with the hashtag #christmaswithoutrefugees during the season where we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus, and his escape to Egypt as a refugee.  Will you join me?

Did the refugees beam up?
Made by Maronite nuns, but missing the refugees.