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Monday, October 05, 2015

ROOM 101 BY R.C. Sproul, jr

"I love you, Big Brother"

This is an article from the magazine Tabletalk which Ligonier ministries puts out every month.  The article is from an issue on persecution and looking into the future at the church in the west, and R.C. Sproul jr's article was so powerful and important that I wanted to post it here, although you can read it at Ligonier as well.
There is a simple enough test to see if someone has actually read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. All you have to do is utter the words “Room 101” and look to see if the person shudders. Those who have merely heard of the book, or of that particular allusion may recognize it, but will not react viscerally to it. If you read through the account of Winston’s fateful trip to Room 101, its mere mention hits you in the gut.
Throughout Orwell’s novel, we are given a picture of a brutal future, ruled by the virtually omnipresent Big Brother. Every step is prescribed, every action watched, even every thought monitored. Our “hero,” however, out of an inchoate love for the fair Julia, becomes a rebel with a cause—to serve with his beloved against Big Brother in hopes of bringing him down. The two are caught in their revelries and placed under arrest. It turns out their purported contact with the underground was just another agent of Big Brother.
Orwell doesn’t dive right into Room 101. Rather, he leads us there slowly. Winston’s anguish begins first with hunger as he is jailed and given nothing to eat. What follows next is days, perhaps weeks, of interrogation and extreme torture. Over time, Winston confesses to all he has done and not done. He even confesses that the Party is the arbiter of all truth, indeed that 2+2=5. He is broken, beaten, a shell of his former self. All that he has left is peace in knowing that in all his confessing, in all his repenting, he never turned on Julia. There was still a hidden corner of his heart that Big Brother could not penetrate and make his own.
Which is just why Winston was brought to Room 101. There is nothing particularly unique in this room. Rather, each prisoner brought to Room 101 faces his own deepest fear. For Winston, it is rats. There are just two rats, and they are safely caged. The cage, however, has an odd design. It is a special apparatus that could be, indeed would be, strapped around Winston’s head with the door to each cage opening right at his eyes. The rats, having been starved, would escape through Winston. As the cage is brought closer, he does not merely scream in fright and beg for safety but pleads that someone else be given the cage, anyone else—even Julia. “Do it to Julia!” he screams, now fully and finally broken.
Which brings me to my deepest fear—my Room 101 betrayal. Persecution comes in as many sizes and shapes as there are Rooms 101. Some experience the comparatively petty persecution of mild social ostracism, others face death, and still others torture. What history teaches us, however, is that whatever form persecution takes, it is often our brothers who lead us there. That is, those believers who crave acceptance and safety are the first ones to throw their brothers under the bus. By doing so, they prove their loyalty to the regime and their distance from the family.
Consider two examples, one ancient, the other current. The Roman Empire did not have a careful and sophisticated taxonomy of the people they conquered. To them, the Jews were the Jews. The key reason the Pharisees hated Jesus so much was less that He was popular while they were not, less that He exposed their folly, and more that He was a danger. As the people looked to Jesus to throw off the yoke of Rome, the Pharisees understood that Roman reprisals for such a rebellion wouldn’t be nuanced. They would all be killed. So, they handed Jesus over to Pilate, insisting, “He’s not one of us.”
In our day, the danger is social ostracism, especially regarding the issue of sexual morality. With each passing day, the biblical sexual ethic is looked upon more and more as not merely quaint and old fashioned but oppressive, bigoted, and immoral. Which is why certain wings of the church have been, and will be, so quick to jump on the bandwagon. Which is why every week or so we read about another megachurch pastor coming out in favor of homosexual marriage. Which is why adultery and fornication and the fruit thereof—abortion—are dead issues in our pulpits. “We’re not like them. Hate those bigots down the street from us. We’re loving and accepting. Turn your bile on them, but give us a pass.”
What then do we do? Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. It is, remember, in the same sermon that Jesus calls us to seek His kingdom that He tells us we are blessed when we are persecuted for His name’s sake. The question is, will we believe it? Will we accept His shame as our honor, or will we honor them to our shame? Will we remember that love toward the world is hatred toward God (James 4:4)? Will we be the betrayers, or will we have the blessing of being the betrayed?

Monday, September 28, 2015


"Pedophilia isn't a moral wrong."
-Ben Kuchera, Senior editor Polygon

Every time the topic of pedophilia and related sickness comes up, at least some of the people there get this jaded look on their face like you're talking about the earth being flat or moon landings being faked.   There he goes again, warning about the slippery slope and predicting horrors just because we're nice to homosexuals.
Its long been a chorus over the years that cultural conservatives have heard.  No-fault divorce will not cause a breakdown in marriage and family, you heartless jerk!  Relaxing sexual mores will not result in increased teen pregnancy and social decline, you cold-hearted monster!  The responses are remarkably consistent from the same groups of people: any resistance to moving away from proven and trustworthy social morals is a terrible, restrictive, and even fascist thing.
Repeatedly over the years I've noted that the trend is toward normalizing pedophilia and related evils in western culture.  Each step has predictable and unpredictable results, and leads naturally and logically to the next slouch toward Gomorrah.  The problem is that the sophist, emotionally-driven arguments for these changes always appeal not to the good of society and reason, but to feelings and how nice people are.  And, of course, personal attacks, accusations of terrible motives, and insults.
For a few decades now, film, literature, and portions of art and other communities have been leaning toward normalizing underage sexuality.  Since the 70s, Roman Polanski's rape of a drug addled girl of 13 years has been defended by those who think his art transcends morality and propriety.  But its getting more pervasive and common these days.  Take this little piece at Salon by an admitted pedophile defending his behavior:
Many gays begin to recognize their sexual preferences sometime around puberty, if not before.  For me it was the same.  I was about 12 when the first inklings of a sexual preference bubbled up in me, though at the time I thought little of it.  As I turned 13 it occurred to me that what I initially took as a phase had begun to solidify into something more troubling.  Even so, at this point I could still convince myself that I was within the realm of normalcy.  Then something happened that all but removed my ability to continue this self-denial: my Eureka Moment.

One day, as I was sketching in my grandparents’ living room, a neighbor of theirs came to visit with his seven-year-old daughter in tow.
He goes on to talk about how he was born that way and its just how he is and how awful people are who "out" someone of his kind.  He frames this in terms of "help us not do this" but the tone of the article is one of wanting acceptance, not help to be better.  The comparison to homosexuality is repeated, as it has been by people defending the man and his proclivities online.  He describes his yearnings as "alternative sexuality" the exact term that was and still is used for homosexuality.
The "born that way" argument is one of the most effective the homosexual activists has deployed in the past.  They use it because they compare it to race, then say "you can't discriminate against race, its not fair, they can't stop being who they are!"
The problem here, of course, is one of morality.  There is no moral character to one's ethnic background any more than being left handed, blue-eyed, or short.  Its just a physical description.  Moral character comes from what we do with what we are.  Some behaviors are evil and awful and should be oppose, period, no matter how much someone is born that way.  
Being born lusting toward someone you ought not is bad for you, and a struggle - we all have those struggles in some way or another whether it be jealousy about wealth, gluttonly, gossipping, excessive rebellion, and so on... or something sexual in nature.  Fighting that evil inside us is a noble cause.  But at no point does it become justification or permission for behavior.  Being born a certain way is simply a statement of fact, not allowance to act upon it.
But that argument has a certain emotional appeal: this is how I am, how can you be so cruel as to say I must not be how I was born?  Its unfair, its unjust, its unreasonable to expect me to fight against my nature!
After all, if you believe the purpose of humanity is to fulfill its desires, to be happy, healthy, comfortable, and enjoy themselves - as the bulk of modern culture agrees to - then how can you say that someone must fight their natures?  That would make them... unhappy!
At present, the concept of "age of consent" bars certain actions, but this is a legal fiction, an arbitrary statement agreed to by society and codified into law.  It could be just as easily disagreed upon and re-codified, or removed from law.  After all, children have a right to be happy too, and sex is great, how can we prevent them from enjoying that pleasure?  And the 14th amendment after all, states clearly that one may not treat someone differently without due process.
Let me repeat that.  The 14th amendment of the US Constitution says that all must be treated equally under law unless a court process and legal decision allows them to be treated differently.  Not a law, but a case decision: being convicted of a crime, for example.  So technically, kids cannot be denied certain things simply by age - that is not permitted in the way the 14th amendment is worded.
So there we have it: cultural pressure, legal structure in place, identical arguments of human fulfillment and nature, and we're seeing more and more of the push for acceptance show up in the news, entertainment, cultural institutions, etc.
But by all means. Tell me I'm crazy.  Tell me no way would society go that far.  Pretend your daughter is safe.  Hey, she might be - the shift might take 10 years, and by then she'd be of legal age.  Tough luck for her kids, though.
*UPDATE: the author of that Slate article posted a followup all about how the real monsters are right wingers on social media who are so mean to him for being a child molester.

Friday, September 18, 2015


"It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance."
-Thomas Sowell

Its time for another roundup of misconceptions, factoids (in the truest sense - things people beleive are facts but are not), and mistaken common knowledge.  There are so many of these that I don't suppose I'll ever run out.
First up, Martin Luther King jr. and his politics.  This one gets thrown around by both parties and people opposing each party quite a bit.  MLK jr. was a Republican!  No, he was a Democrat!  See, your side must be wrong because this mascot is on our side!  The truth is, nobody knows what party MLK was a member of, if any.  There isn't any record, and nobody seems to recall.  Its possible he was never registered as a member of a party.  If any its likely he was Republican because most blacks in the 50s and early 60s were - Democrats at the time being the party of Jim Crow and opposing ending slavery in years past.  But there's no way of knowing.
Islam, I've written about it in the past, and probably should do an entry in this series based on the misconceptions and confusion about the religion.  But there's a very odd one among the black community in America that claims Islam is the black man's religion, as opposed to Christianity.  This probably arose because so many black prisoners have taken up Islam and some prominent black celebrities ("leaders") are Muslim such as Louis Farrakhan.  And there is a large portion of Africa which is Muslim.  But that's a fairly recent development in African history - roughly 600 AD was the first introduction of Islam to the continent - and only covers the northern part.  
Islam is an Arabic religion (Arabs being ethnically Caucasian) and indeed borrowed heavily from previous Arabic religions and cultural patterns, blending them with Judaism and Christianity.  If any religion can be said to be from Africa, it would be something like Voodoo or Sangria, although those have been heavily influenced by other religions.
Nowhere in the Koran is there a mention of 72 virgins for martyrs in heaven.  The descriptions of heaven in the Koran do note hot women awaiting the dead, but that's for anyone who goes, not just martyrs.  The 72 virgin line comes from a Hadith (traditional sayings of Muhammad and stories of his life) written after the Koran.
The Wright Brothers did not build the first flyable aircraft.  They did build the first actual airplane, but lighter than air devices were being experimented with and functioning as far back as the late 1700s.  As early as the 1200s, the Chinese have stories of men being strapped to kites and flown, although that's not exactly an aircraft.  However, it was in 1848 that Sir George Cayley built and tested a glider, with a small boy flying it.  In 1853, he tested a full sized aircraft with controls and an adult pilot, although it was still a glider.  His efforts to build an engine using rubber (presumably like a rubber band) did not see any success.
What the Wright Brothers did was invent the powered airplane, something that proved and demonstrated that you could fly on your own, instead of gliding, using the internal combustion engine.  Thus, they invented the first true modern airplane rather than a glider.
Columbus did not prove the world was round.  Few scientists believed that to be the case, and indeed over a thousand years before Columbus was born, Eratosthenes measured the world and proved that it was round.  What Columbus was trying to do was use the round world to find a quicker, cheaper trade route to Southeast Asia by going west rather than east and around Africa.  He had a hard time getting funding because people though the trip was too far, not because they thought he'd sail off the edge of the planet.
Rosa Parks was not just some tired old woman who finally just decided to not give up her seat.  After a long day at work she probably was tired, and she did refuse to give up her seat, its true, but she did so as a deliberate act of civil disobedience and was an activist working with Martin Luther King jr.  That doesn't detract from her significance or the effect on the Civil Rights movement, but this wasn't just some coincidence or some poor old woman being misused (she was only 42 at the time) at random.  She deliberately set about to spark a legal case and draw attention to the ridiculous and oppressive laws of the time.
Marie Antoinette probably never said “let them eat cake.”  In fact, there's no evidence anyone ever said it at the time, and she was smarter than generally portrayed.  The only source for this quote is Jean Jacque Rousseau's biography in which he mentions "a great princess" saying "let them eat brioche" but the work is generally thought to be without historical merit and largely invented to begin with.
Henry Ford did not invent the automobile.  I'm not sure how this one comes up but the automobile's invention is a bit clouded in mystery, but happened in the 19th century before he was born.  There was a guy that claimed to have invented the device and the story of the battle between him and Ford is a fascinating one.  Ford didn't even invent the assembly line, although he did pretty well perfect it to build automobiles.  Ransom E. Olds (the guy behind the Oldsmobile) actually was the first to use it and he probably got the idea from someone else.
Sharks are not immune to cancer.  They tend to get skin cancer more than anything else.
Fatwas are not Islamic death sentences.  They are non-binding legal decisions by Muslim judges.  They do not compel action, and can be about anything, not just calling for death.
Cooking with wine will not remove the alcohol completely.  Even if it is baked for two hours, 10% of the alcohol will remain in the food.
Edelweiss is not the national anthem of Austria.  In fact, it was an original composition written for the film The Sound of Music.  Beautiful song, though.
Mary Magdalene in the Bible is never identified as a prostitute.  The only connection is the mention of a woman with a reputation of sinning mentioned not long before Mary is introduced, but there's no reason to assume that the two women are the same, or even evidence that the "sin" involved was prostitution.
Black soldiers were not segregated in the US military until after WW2.  Blacks served along side whites long before that (even as far back as the Revolutionary war), but the training was generally segregated, and during the first half of the 20th century, blacks were generally put into their own, separate units rather than with whites.  Truman's executive order 9981 in 1948 required desegregation of training and units, blending all servicemen together.  
 The thing is, in practical war fighting, the structures of units were so fluid and in the battlefield so often of little meaning that these separations often disappeared.  There's good reason to believe that the presence of black soldiers next to whites in the battle line seeing each other in action and being bonded by fear, death, and warfare is what lead more to the civil rights changes in later years than anything else.  
Basically, fighting next to a guy bonds you closer than some stupid ideas of race and appearance, and for a lot of these soldiers, this was their first exposure to blacks up close, which changed theory into reality pretty fast.  Coming home after war, they couldn't see any point in the separation and mistreatment of people they'd fought by and knew were just folks.
And that's it for now
*This is part of the Common Knowledge series: things we know that ain't so.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE: Mecca Crane Disaster

"This is great honor from God that every one wishes for but not many will be granted."

In the news on 9/11 this year was the memorial of the terrorist attack on New York City, where almost 4000 people died.  Also in the news was the story of a disaster in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.  There, lightning struck a large crane and it collapsed on the Grand Mosque, killing at least 60 and injuring many others.  The crane was owned by the construction company that Osama Bin Laden owned (his father was a wealthy construction magnate in Saudi Arabia).
The timing and the location of this disaster has prompted more than a few reactions around the internet.  Many are crying "karma" as if some vast wheel of cosmic justice caused the crane to fall and kill worshipers on the anniversary of their co-religionist's murderous attack.  Others are saying that the hand of God must be involved: lightning, falling on Muslims, in Mecca, on that day seems a bit more coincidence than they can believe.  Even Muslims are responding to this event as if it is special:
Shockingly, a British imam and director of the Oxford Islamic Information Centre, Dr Hojjat Ramzy, said he wanted to “congratulate” those who lost their lives for “going straight to heaven without any question”, describing the tragic incident as a “great honour”.

The Independent newspaper quoted him as saying: “Many Muslim pilgrims wish to pass away during the journey of hajj and to have honour of being buried in the holy city of Mecca.

“This is great honour from God that every one wishes for but not many will be granted.”

The half-Iranian, half-Iraqi imam said he was “very saddened” to hear of the deaths, but added: “In the same breath, I would like to congratulate those people who lost their lives for going straight to heaven without any question."
From what I know of Islam this seems like a dubious claim - unless you are given a special dispensation by an Imam before taking an action, or die in Holy War, everyone goes to hell for at least a time to pay for their sins in Islamic teaching.  But perhaps death on pilgrimage also qualifies.
Now, the "karma" reaction is ridiculous; even if there was a shred of reason to believe in some cosmic wheel of retributive justice and reward, there's no rational basis for tying the pilgrims who died in this disaster with the radicals who planned, funded, and executed the terrorist attack in 2001.  Simply being a Muslim is no more tie than being male.
But does the "vengeance of God" theory hold any validity?  Is this an act of God's judgment against people who not only reject His word, but Jesus as savior?  Is it a symbolic strike against a religion which has members who murder Christians specifically and deliberately?
Any time there is a major disaster, someone always claims they know what it means and that God is doing something against someone.  Generally they interpret it to mean God's vengeance against someone they particularly dislike or who has been mean to them.  This says much more about them than about God or Christianity, let alone truth.
But the fact is, we know for certain, without doubt, at least one reason this - and every other - disaster took place.  We know because Jesus Christ himself taught us, as recorded in Luke 13:1-5
There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.  And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?  I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.  Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Historically, the people were asking about an event in which Pilate had ordered soldiers to kill Jewish worshipers (presumably rebels and troublemakers - Pilate got the job of governor in of Judea to put down all the rebellion and was according to history quite successful).  They wondered why those people had died, what their sin was?  That question came up a couple times in the gospels, where disciples and others asked Jesus what the sin of people who died in disaster could have been.
Its not difficult to guess why they asked.  People still do it today: what did they do to deserve this terrible death?  Its human nature to assume that death or disaster which befalls us is unjust and unreasonable.  And certainly in the Old Testament, the stories of God's wrath falling in spectacular fashion always was accompanied by an explanation of the evil that person had done... except in one very noteworthy case.
That would be the case of Job, who was called a "righteous" and "blameless" man who suddenly was stricken by every horrific thing a man can experience and yet still live - even his wife turned on him.  And what did his friends say?  This must have been some secret sin, nobody has this happen to them without cause.  God eventually speaks directly and what does He say?
"I'm God.  Deal with it.  I know what I'm doing, and I do not have to answer to you or anyone else.  You must trust me."
That's not the answer any of us care to hear, but in these verses, Jesus explains more fully - the course of redemptive history and God's progressive revelation now coming to its fruition so that everything can be revealed.
Jesus says "they were sinners, sure.  Like you.  Like everyone on this earth and everyone who has been on this earth, save me.  They didn't sin any special way more than others around them.  You should be looking at your own heart, not others."
Jesus says the reason this happened - in part at least - is to make you stop and reflect on your own sins, repent of your own evils, and walk humbly and justly before God.  In other words, you don't point the finger of indignation at others when this happens.  You don't judge them as being more wicked than you.  You look inward, see your sin, and go to the cross of Christ to cling to His doing and dying.
None of us deserve anything except hell its self (see Romans 1-3 for more details on that).  The assumption that some disaster struck someone else is the assumption that we're better than them.  That we don't deserve that sort of thing, we're good people.  We don't sin like that guy.  Thank God I'm not [insert category here]!
But Jesus rejects that as arrogant, sinful, and presumptuous.  We do deserve that.  We are as sinful as they are.  Only the grace of God and the love of Christ Jesus prevents that disaster from happening to us.  Unmerited, unearned, through no greatness of our own.
So when a disaster like Mecca takes place, its time to check your heart: is there anger and vengeance in there?  Is there a lust for disaster against others?  What sins have we committed this week, this day, this hour that we should repent of ourselves?  That's the Christian response - that and prayers for the families that they find peace, and come to understand the gospel and the love of God themselves.
Certainly we want the world to be just.  Certainly we want those who hate God to love Him.  Certainly we desire for the world to be saved and terrorism to stop.  But to wish disaster, death and maiming on people because they are our enemies, that's simply not Christian.
Remember, Jesus said to bless those who curse you, to pray for your enemies and those who persecute you.  We are to reach out in love and compassion when something like this happens, not snicker in satisfied glee at their distress.  They had it coming.  Yeah.  So do I.  So do you.  Like William Munny said in the film Unforgiven "we all got it coming.
*This is part of the Christian Response series.