The Part of Psalm 91 That No One Likes

A favourite psalm of many is Psalm 91.  Everyone likes this part:

Praise of a Song, by David. He that dwells in the help of the Highest, shall sojourn under the shelter of the God of heaven. He shall say to the Lord, Thou art my helper and my refuge: my God; I will hope in him. For he shall deliver thee from the snare of the hunters, from every troublesome matter. He shall overshadow thee with his shoulders, and thou shalt trust under his wings: his truth shall cover thee with a shield. Thou shalt not be afraid of terror by night; nor of the arrow flying by day; nor of the evil thing that walks in darkness; nor of calamity, and the evil spirit at noon-day. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. (Psalms 91:1-7 Brenton)

It’s a favorite these days, and was one in the wake of 9/11 (and in the military during the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.  But there’s a part that most people are unaware of, and that’s this post’s subject.

Let’s go down towards the end of the psalm:

For he shall give his angels charge concerning thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up on their hands, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. (Psalms 91:11-12 Brenton)

If this looks familiar, it should.  We like to quote this psalm, but during the temptation in the wilderness so did Satan:

Then the Devil took him to the Holy City, and, placing him on the parapet of the temple, said to him: “If you are God’s Son, throw yourself down, for Scripture says- -‘He will give his angels commands about thee, And on their hands they will upbear thee, Lest ever thou shouldst strike thy foot against a stone.'” “Scripture also says,” answered Jesus, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.'” (Matthew 4:5-7 TCNT)

As it turns out this was the beginning of the conflict between Christ and Satan while Our Lord was on this earth.

During the passion, crucifixion and death of Our Lord, it certainly looked like Jesus should have taken Satan up on his bargain.  It’s for sure that Satan thought so.  But Satan’s apparent victory evaporated when Jesus Christ rose from the dead and won for us eternal life.

God has promised to protect us.  Sometimes, however, the road to victory and ultimate protection has some “bumps” in it, but that doesn’t mean that all is lost.  If Our Lord had to go through what he did, what can we expect?

No, the more you share the sufferings of the Christ, the more may you rejoice, that, when the time comes for the manifestation of his Glory, you may rejoice and exult. (1 Peter 4:13 TCNT)

From Covenant Community to SCOTUS Nominee

Well, it’s official: the product of a Catholic Charismatic covenant community, Amy Coney Barrett, is the nominee to be a Supreme Court Justice.  My regular readers know that I’ve dealt with this subject over the years, from this piece in 2011 (where I document why I turned down the invitation to join one) to the present.  One of the albums I posted came from the People of Praise, the community Barrett is a part of.

If I were sitting in one of the meetings of the Community of God’s Delight over forty years ago and someone told me that a product of another major covenant community would end up in the situation Barrett now faces, I wouldn’t have believed them.  That’s not because the members of the community typically lacked formal education or were not professional people.  The man who taught my Life in the Spirit Seminar, Joe Canterbury, was a Dallas attorney whose delivery of the Seminar reminded me of a closing argument for a jury.  And of course we have David Peterman, the PhD holding engineer who ended up leading the Community.  The extreme bifurcation of education and status–and the wealth inequality that goes with it–wasn’t as extreme in American life then, which is interesting because one of the battle cries of Barrett’s opponents is “equality.”

The reason for my disbelief is because covenant communities, like much of the Charismatic Renewal at the time, were decidedly escapist and more akin to the “Remnant” theology of my Baptist grandparents, which I discuss in my piece on Elizabeth Warren.  In some ways these communities were the prototypes of Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option.”  Some of the leaders of the day, like Ralph Martin, still reflect that idea.  One of the things this nomination will be “about” is whether people who want to seriously live the way that Barrett lives will be permitted to do so, or even to express that desire.

The current idea in American politics–especially as it comes from the left–is that those who live in this country are obligated to support their racial and sexual construct.  That of course is totalitarianism, and their criticisms of authoritarianism from institutions like covenant communities ring hollow.  In order for that totalitarianism to succeed, things like rights must be set aside, and along with those rights the due process that judiciaries are constituted to uphold.

We’ve already been regaled with a “trial balloon” of setting due process aside with the blowback from the “Dear Colleague” letter than came from Barack Obama’s Department of Education on sexual harassment and assault.  The enthusiastic response of university administrators to this was breathtaking.  Now I’m not one to support the encouragement of the “laid, high or drunk” mentality our elites hold sacred, and I’ll bet that Barrett isn’t either.  But leaving due process in the rear view mirror isn’t right, and if you can get away with doing it in that important of a field of law you can do it anywhere else.  Barrett herself was involved in the judicial pushback against this; that’s a legitimate subject to discuss now, but those who oppose Barrett’s idea don’t want the issue framed around due process.

But getting back to the original point: I’m not looking forward to the whole issue of Catholic Charismatic covenant communities being front and centre in a this kind of process.  The whole issue is complicated from an ecclesiastical standpoint let alone a political one; a great deal of ignorance will be on display.  My reservations about covenant communities have not changed in the forty years since the choice was put in front of me back in Dallas, and I’ve never regretted my decision not to join.

But that doesn’t change the fact that covenant community authoritarianism has more than met its match, and that’s the fight we’re having now.

Aligning with the Obvious in the Middle East

The recent normalisation of relations between Israel on the one hand and the United Arab Emirates on the other hand has been billed as a major foreign policy triumph of the Trump administration.  It is that, to the extent that at least a little of the American foreign policy establishment was forced to conform with the obvious (and you know what I think about Americans and the obvious.)  It’s unlikely that the Arab states would have entered into this just because the Americans wanted them to; you don’t survive in the Middle East by doing everything the American government tells you to do.  It’s the result of several things, some of which this blog has been saying for years.

Israel Isn’t the Arabs’ Greatest Enemy

It’s true that many in the Arab world have accorded Israel with a shame-honour reaction; they were shamed that Israel was established in their midst, thus they feel that they must recover their honour by eliminating same.  In reality, Israel doesn’t occupy much land, no matter how you set her borders.

Today it’s clear that Iran is the Arab world’s once and future greatest enemy.  The Sunni-Shi’a divide is deep and vicious.  We didn’t help matters by taking out Saddam Hussein; butcher though he was, he was also a buffer between Shi’a Iran and the Sunnis on the other side of the Tigris, Euphrates and the Gulf.  Eliminating him only put the issue in the light of day.

Further complicating matters are the Turks, who are trying to recover Ottoman glory.  Both Turk and Arab remember that the Ottomans occupied territory on both sides of the Arabian Peninsula; Saudi Arabia was established only with the ejection of the Ottomans from Mecca and Medina.  I don’t think that an Iranian-Turkish alliance is really stable (just as I don’t think a Sino-Russian one is) but something thrown together for convenience, in part, by the American “us vs. them” foreign policy mentality.

People have the idea that these new alliances will fade if Trump goes away.  I don’t think so;  I think that the Arab states in particular are banking that, if Biden wins, American foreign policy will tilt back to the Iranians as it did during Obama’s time.  That would leave both Israel and the Arab states in the lurch; forming these alliances in the current favourable condition is a sensible option for both states.

Israel also offers technological advances for the Arabs as well.  And, if Biden wins, the Israelis will probably lessen their squeamishness about selling military hardware to the Arabs, using them as a shield against Iran.

The Palestinians Are Political Duds

The conventional wisdom in the West is that the Arabs were hostile to Israel in solidarity with the Palestinians.  With these deals that needs a reality check, and that reality is more complex than the idealists which drive our rhetoric can comprehend.

I said earlier that the Arab hostility was a shame-honour reaction to the loss of Palestine to the Israelis.  The blame for that disaster fell on the Palestinians; they lost it, thus they are losers.  The Palestinians’ status in the Middle East isn’t the greatest, whether they’re in the UN-sponsored refugee camps or doing labour in the Gulf states.

The Palestinians “no terms but unconditional surrender” mentality (which worked better with the Confederacy than with Israel) has meant that they have repeatedly turned down a viable two-state solution time after time.  My guess is that the Arabs’ patience is wearing thin with this way of politics even if the Europeans and Americans are blind to it.  In getting Israel to stop its settlement annexation plans, the Arabs have done more for the Palestinians than their own leadership (or leaderships, it’s really plural) has done in a long time.  My guess is that both Fatah and Hamas will show Scots-Irish level contempt of gratitude for this, but perhaps others in the Palestinian community may have second thoughts.

Christians Need to Put Their Prophetic Clocks Away

In the wake of this event I heard one Christian leader express disappointment at this because it threw off his prophetic paradigm.  Very few actually do this; they just reset their clocks, make new pronouncements and go on as if nothing was wrong.  We’ve been going through this for more than fifty years and, as for the U.S. foreign policy establishment, it’s time for a reality check.

The Darbyite reset of the place of the Jewish people was a major step forward in Christian thinking; the implementation of the prophetic unroll wasn’t.  Our Lord was insistent that we didn’t know the day or the hour of his return, but that there would be indicative signs.  The prophetic portions of Scripture lack the precision that we like to see, and our attempts to read that precision into the Word have shown our ignorance of the Middle East; a musical demonstration of that is below:

The whole point of Our Lord’s emphasis on his return was to remind us to do what he put us here to do, so we need to quit staring at our prophetic clocks, lift our eyes and look to the fields, white with harvest.

Jessica Krug Should be Thankful She Didn’t Get Tangled Up with Karl Marx

She’s definitely been busted:

Across the pond, a few days later, a woman waved a white flag. The historian Jessica A. Krug, then an associate professor at George Washington University, posted a confession on the publishing platform Medium, last Thursday, explaining that she is not who she’d been claiming to be. “To an escalating degree over my adult life,” she wrote, “I have eschewed my lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City under various assumed identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim: first North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness.” Her life and, by extension, her scholarly career—or is it the other way around?—had been based on a lie, she admitted, or rather a glut of them, feeding on good faith like, as Krug put it, “not a culture vulture” but “a culture leech.”

But it could have been worse: evidently too swarthy for Karl Marx’ taste, his fellow “traveller” Ferdinand Lasalle was referred to by Marx as a “Jewish n—–.”  (How BLM people can claim to be Marxists with this fact is beyond me.)  The ultimate irony in all this is that Karl Marx was frequently referred to by his friends and family as “the Moor” because his own swarthy appearance made him look North African!

Speaking of North Africa, in his last years Marx’ health was very poor, and he actually made a trip to Algeria to try to improve it.  Around that time he told his daughter the story of the philosopher who hired a boatman and a boat to take him across the river.

“Do you know history?” asked the philosopher.

“No,” replied the boatman.

“Then you’ve wasted half your life.”

They went a little further. “Have you studied mathematics?” the philosopher asked.

“No,” the boatman replied again.

“Then you’ve wasted more than half your life.”

A storm came up and the boat capsized, throwing both of them in the water.

“Can you swim?” asked the boatman.

“No,” replied the philosopher.

“Then you have wasted the whole of your life,” the boatman replied.

In the midst of all our political posturing, it’s important not to waste our whole life.

Obama’s Old Left-Wing Critics Get the Upper Hand

A blast from the past from Barack Obama’s old press secretary Robert Gibbs in 2010:

During an interview with The Hill in his West Wing office, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs blasted liberal naysayers, whom he said would never regard anything the president did as good enough.

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

And my response at the time:

He and his boss should have thought about all this when these left wingers became his base. Those of us who are products of the 1960’s and early 1970’s know that the modern (or more accurately post-modern) American left was birthed in that era, and has been working on making its tenets reality ever since. Gibbs is either exceedingly dense or intellectually dishonest not to know this…

Then there’s his statement that “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.” Isn’t eliminating the Pentagon what these people have been fighting for since the days of Berkeley and Kent State? Why should they give up now? Didn’t they vote for Obama believing that he would get us out of Iraq? (Let’s throw in Afghanistan and do it right!) As far as Canadian health care is concerned, that’s a compromise for a true leftist, because the real model is a Soviet style system, both single payer and single provider.

Now look who’s in the driver’s seat of the left…

In some ways the “defund the police” movement is an extension of the “abolish the Pentagon” movement of old, and the radicals of old didn’t have much use for the police either.  Most of their leaders had more sense than to call for the defunding/abolition of the police: they knew they’d need the police later if and when they came to power.

As the Moody Blues would say, yesterday’s dreams are tomorrow’s sighs, and if we elect Joe Biden, we’re going to find that out the hard way.

My Prediction on the Course of Pedophilia

In view of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s signing into law the lightening of penalties for pedophilia, this prediction, from 2016, bears repeating:

What I am about to say will probably make some people blow their stack.   That isn’t hard to do these days.  But I think this is the time to say it.  We live in a society with two polar opposite ideas on this subject, and they cannot stay conjoined indefinitely.

I’ve consistently defended the Christian sexual ethic on this blog.  One important corollary to that is that everyone is inviolate in their person with regard to sexual activity, i.e., it’s entirely voluntary.  I want to make it clear that I support that corollary.  That’s the underlying assumption to things such as the prohibition against rape, molestation, and sexual harassment.  The persistence of these is part of our post-Christian condition.

On the other hand, we have the pervasive ethic these days that sexual activity is a necessity for life (not in a procreative sense,) and that one is defined by same.  A corollary to that is that people who refrain, temporarily or permanently, are a) not really human and b) need to be brought into line, most usually these days by peer pressure, or now the internet.

Given the realities of the human condition, I believe that sooner or later society will realise that, as my father would say, we “have a no-fit going here.”  Our educational system, which is expected in inculcate all kinds of values it was not designed to do, will be brought to bear on making sex education not only a “how-to” project but to make sure the lesson is carried out.

When that happens, the scandal such as is unfolding at St. Andrew’s will no longer be about doing something wrong as it will be about doing something outside of proper channels.  In other words, after all the years of such scandals rocking the Catholic Church, boarding schools, etc., they will no longer be scandals, and the victims who have not “kept up” with the times will be left in the lurch.

Whether our civilisation, such as it is, will survive to that point is another matter altogether.  But the business of same-sex civil marriage shows that public opinion, led by élite opinion, can turn around very quickly under the right conditions.  As always, I doubt most people are ready to face a societal flip of that kind, but just because we’re not ready to face it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Imagine a world without the USA…

John Law is possibly the most important man in history you’ve never heard of. He’s also the sort of character you’d find implausible if you read about him in a novel. A gambler who killed a man in a duel in Bloomsbury Square then escaped from jail and fled Britain. A Scottish economist who helped create modern finance, paved the way for Britain’s global domination and maybe even caused the French Revolution.

Imagine a world without the USA…

Church of God Chaplains Commission 9/11 Ministry Presentation

As we come up on another anniversary of September 11, we present this, prepared for the Church of God Chaplains Commission:

This is a video version of the PowerPoint presentation first shown at the Church of God Chaplains Commission Honors Dinner and Awards Ceremony, Marriott Ball Room, Indianapolis, Indiana, 10 August 2002. This was in conjunction with the Church of God General Assembly.

In putting this together under the direction of Dr. Robert Crick, the Commission’s Executive Director, it was not the primary intention to put together a patriotic presentation, but to set the scene of 9/11, to show the ministry response of the Church of God, and to honor those affiliated with the Commission for their part of that response.

The Commission certifies chaplains for a wide variety of institutions, including military, prison, hospital and other institutions, and these are featured in the presentation. In parts this is a difficult presentation to watch, even after nearly twenty years. Without the music of the incomparable Adrian Snell it would not have had the impact on its original audience that it did.

This video is dedicated to the memory of Dave Lorency, one of the honorees, who passed away this past spring.

Dr. Alexander Vazakas: Early Greek-American Pentecostal, Philosopher, Linguist

Alexander Vazakas (1873-1965) began life in the Ottoman Empire, where his family suffered persecution on account of their evangelical faith. In 1902 he immigrated to America, where he became a linguist and philosopher. During the last years of his life, he served as a professor at Evangel College (now Evangel University) in Springfield, Missouri, and became well-known for melding his sharp mind with a passion for working with young people…

Dr. Alexander Vazakas: Early Greek-American Pentecostal, Philosopher, Linguist

The Inconvenient Truth About the Ukraine

…is shown in the map above.  It’s a map from the London Geographical Institute in 1920, showing the extent of the Ukraine in the time of the Russian Civil War.  It’s probably the outline of the independent Ukraine that the likes of Symon Petliura fought unsuccessfully for, a holdover (as the map shows) from Tsarist times.  And, of course, it’s without the primarily Russian (or at least non-Ukrainian) Crimea.  That was added in a latter Soviet deal in an era when the boundaries of the Republics could be easily moved.

I am sure, however, that should Biden get into the White House, the war hawks from our foreign policy elite will start beating the drums on this issue, as they did six years ago.

Note: I didn’t know about Petliura until I read about him in Nikolai Ostrovsky’s How the Steel Was Tempered.  With socialism fashionable again, perhaps a review of this book is in order.