The Christmas Story, from the Positive Infinity New Testament

About that time an edict was issued by the Emperor Augustus that a census should be taken of the whole Empire. (This was the first census taken while Quirinius was Governor of Syria). And every one went to his own town to be registered. Among others Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem, the town of David, in Judea–because he belonged to the family and house of David–To be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was about to become a mother. While they were there her time came, And she gave birth to her first child, a son. And because there was no room for them in the inn, she swathed him round and laid him in a manger.

In that same country-side were shepherds out in the open fields, watching their flocks that night, When an angel of the Lord suddenly stood by them, and the Glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were seized with fear. “Have no fear,” the angel said. “For I bring you good news of a great joy in store for all the nation. This day there has been born to you, in the town of David, a Savior, who is Christ and Lord. And this shall be the sign for you. You will find the infant swathed, and lying in a manger.” Then suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly Host, praising God, and singing–“Glory to God on high, And on earth peace among men in whom he finds pleasure.”

Now, when the angels had left them and gone back to Heaven, the shepherds said to one another: “Let us go at once to Bethlehem, and see this thing that has happened, of which the Lord has told us.” So they went quickly, and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in a manger; And, when they saw it, they told of all that had been said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds were astonished at their story, While Mary treasured up all that they said, and dwelt upon it in her thoughts. And the shepherds went back, giving glory and praise to God for all that they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:1-20)

For the Way to God’s Pleasure, click here

Ann Coulter’s Voting Problems Continue

Back before the election, we noted a piece in the Shiny Sheet about Ann Coulter’s problems with voting in Palm Beach.  At the time, we felt that this was a prosecutorial fishing expedition, politically motivated.

Things keep moving somewhere with this.  Now the Town of Palm Beach has thrown the investigation back to the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections (and ultimately perhaps the District Attorney.)   The desire to make something out of this–which the election authorities should have dealt with up front–continues.

Leaving the Episcopal Church: Doing What Has to be Done

The in-process exodus from the Episcopal church by various parishes in Northern Virginia has been greeted with glee by many in the Anglican community.

The reality is, however, that what they are doing is more of a necessity than a joy.  When a denomination or other church organisation decides to abandon the basics of Christianity, it is incumbent upon those who stick with the essentials of the faith to make some kind of departure, either individual or corporate.  This process will have happy consequences in the long run but is difficult in the near future.

The thing that never ceases to amaze me is how long this took.  The course of the Episcopal Church has been set for a long time, and the real break should have taken place in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, when the downward slide got going in earnest.  At that time the only option was for individuals to leave, which, as we saw, was something many did.  The fragmentation that resulted is one reason why the liberals have had the upper hand for the last forty years.

And that brings us to the greatest danger of the whole process.  Leaving out the "continuing" churches that are not in formal communion with Canterbury, we see that several provinces have established a presence in the U.S.  The largest of these is of course the Anglican Mission in America, but the northern Virginia parishes are headed to Nigeria for oversight.  If we throw in those who affiliate themselves with Uganda or the Southern Cone, we see a situation which will undermine any attempt to establish an alternate Anglican province in North America.  (The Episcopal Church is already the "alternative" province from a GLBT perspective.)

And this, of course, gets us to the same problem that bedevils the careerist Middle East:

They came to Capernaum. When Jesus had gone into the house, he asked them: “What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent; for on the way they had been arguing with one another which was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said: “If any one wishes to be first, he must be last of all, and servant of all.” (Mark 9:32-34)

What Episcopalians Used to Expect from Themselves

On the back of an Episcopal baptismal certificate, 1863.

The only similarity between then and now is the authoritarian command of the church. And these days the Episcopal Church is getting its authority from somewhere other than above.

After Jesus had come into the Temple Courts, the Chief Priests and the Councillors of the Nation came up to him as he was teaching, and said: “What authority have you to do these things? Who gave you this authority?”

“I, too,” said Jesus in reply, “will ask you one question; if you will give me an answer to it, then I, also, will tell you what authority I have to act as I do. It is about John’s baptism. What was its origin? divine or human?”

But they began arguing among themselves: “If we say ‘divine,’ he will say to us ‘Why then did not you believe him?’ But if we say ‘human,’ we are afraid of the people, for every one regards John as a Prophet.”

So the answer they gave Jesus was–“We do not know.”

“Then I,” he said, “refuse to tell you what authority I have to do these things.” (Matthew 21:23-27, Positive Infinity New Testament)

Is This Redneck or What?

It’s bad enough that Jimmy Carter has uncritically accepted the idea that Israel is solely responsible for all of the Middle East’s problems. But the fact that he won’t even debate Alan Dershowitz–a card-carrying liberal if there ever was one–only shows that his hopeless pseudosophistication has gone beyond human repair.

Carter has forgotten that Jews have been stalwarts of his party for many years, which is more than can be said for his fellow Scotch-Irish Southerners. The fact that he is turning his back on them after all of these years shows that he, in reality, has not advanced from the anti-Semitism that has been traditionally tagged with the least progressive elements of his region.

What Carter has done is to join the conspiracy of the self-pitying, those who believe that everything bad in life is the fault of someone else. While that runs deeper in his culture than some of us would care to admit, it doesn’t justify setting the world up for another Holocaust–which is exactly what Hamas is gunning for, as we discussed last year.

Is this redneck or what?

Me and My Big Mouth

We’re sure that this is what Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky is saying to himself after the fiasco (which SEA-TAC is finally reversing) in which the Rabbi threatened to sue the airport for not including a menorah with the Christmas trees at the airport. The airport, of course, responded by ordering the removal of the trees, which resulted in an uproar.

Jewish leaders would do themselves many favours if they would make a few well placed phone calls to Christian ones (not the liberals!) before they threaten to take this kind of action. Any self-respecting evangelical would not only love to see a menorah in the airport, they might even help pay for it. As we noted last year, Jewish symbolism is quite the thing amongst evangelicals these days. Besides, a menorah has much stronger religious symbolism than a Christmas tree any day of the week. (Use of the evergreen as a symbol of eternal life is Masonic, in case you didn’t know.)

The Rabbi’s reaction points to a central problem, even amongst the orthodox: many Jews reflexively believe that the “Christian culture” around them always wants to persecute them, so their default reaction is to want to secularise it. By now it should be obvious that the interest of neither Jew nor Christian is served by this kind of thing. In the UK, even Muslims are stirring about supporting a religious celebration of Christmas along with Christian. And why not, with verses from the Qu’ran such as this:

When the angels said, ‘O Mary, ALLAH gives thee glad tidings of a son through a word from HIM; his name shall be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, honoured in this world and in the next, and of those who are granted nearness to God; ‘And he shall speak to the people in the cradle, and when of middle age, and he shall be of the righteous. She said, ‘My Lord, how shall I have a son, when no man has touch me? He said, ‘Such is the way of ALLAH. HE creates what HE pleases. When HE decrees a thing HE says to it ‘Be,’ and it is; (Sura 3:45-47)

That’s more than most liberals can manage!

Eating Rudolph

This is the time of year when the minds of the very young turn to Santa Claus. Cookies and milk appear near the fireplace. Mall Santas experience full employment. And “The Night Before Christmas” gets recited ad nauseam. Eventually somebody breaks the news that there is no Santa Claus, but as long as the gifts keep coming, everybody’s happy except those who pay the credit card bills.

Early on in this blog, I was challenged about whether I had ever travelled outside of the U.S. Part of my problem in life is that I have spent too much time there for my own good as an American, although others have spent far more. I learned too much to be impressed by the boomer pseudosophisticates that overpopulate our country, so they cause me misery.

One of those places was Finland, which I had the thrill of visiting in January. In addition to flying to Helsinki, I had to take an internal flight north to Kuopio. We took off in a blinding snowstorm; they deiced the wings at least twice and even the Finns were getting nervous. (If you want to see a taste of the weather I experienced, take a look at a video I made while I was there).

I arrived there to find my luggage was following me at a distance. Replacing clothing in Finland was dreadfully expensive; my business host told the airline that I passed out when I saw the prices there in an attempt to get them to pay for the replacement clothing. (They did reimburse me.)

In the middle of all of this excitement, my host took me to a restaurant where I found out something that I never found out listening to Ray Conniff Christmas albums.

Rudolph is tasty. So are Dancer and Prancer and Comet and Vixen…

Yes, boys and girls, the Finns (and anyone else in Europe who orders the stuff) eat reindeer. It started with the Lapps, those hardy people who live above the Arctic Circle, and spread southward. Reindeer are raised for the express purpose of being eaten, just like cattle and sheep.

And the meat? It’s excellent, very lean, does not have the strong taste of venison, and contains nutrients absent in other meats. The Finns think highly of the stuff, which is one reason why it’s expensive even by Finnish standards. I agree, it’s excellent meat.

As a Christian, the whole Santa Claus thing smacks of deception. But eating reindeer puts the whole legend in a new light. For example, Finnair advertises itself as Santa Claus’ airline. This is more than a cute idea; since the Finns have devoured the reindeer, Santa doesn’t have a lot of choice. Besides, it’s a lot faster.

Getting this delicacy into most of the U.S. has been problematic. The Alaskans would love for the FDA to approve its distribution for interstate commerce, since the caribou is basically the same thing. Legalising this would help the native Alaskans, which is surely the equitable thing to do. (Opening up ANWR would do the same thing, but racial justice isn’t as high on the liberals’ list as they would like for you to think.) Unfortunately the caribou is considered an exotic animal, so for the time being dining on it is restricted to Alaska itself.

Chances are, getting this changed is probably an uphill battle in the land of the free and the home of the Braves. The whole business of Santa and his reindeer is too sentimental for people to think of the idea of children eating the reindeer before they have a chance to consider the possibility that they fly. We are a strange people; one minute we bawl about religious fundamentalists believing the things they do, the next we deny ourselves the pleasure of eating Santa’s prime movers.

But so it is. This Christmas, with visions of reindeer meat coming off of the grill, I will have to content myself with turkey while hoping that someday my countrymen will know the truth and the truth will set them free–and not just about reindeer meat.

The Problem with Americans Negotiating

The Iraq Study Group report highlights something that deserves better treatment than it receives in our political/media system: the problem with Americans negotiating for anything.

Basically, Americans look at negotiating with Iran, Syria or anyone else the same way they do business deals: the negotiators go in, they apply whatever skills they have at “doing the deal,” but they get the deal done. Failing to do so results in the perception that the negotiations were a failure, and thus the negotiators are failures. This is a tag no American can stand to be stuck with. People in other cultures are just as keen in “getting something done” in negotiations. But they approach the problem with two very different perspectives than Americans do. The first is a longer view of time than Americans have, which isn’t saying much since Americans define the “long term” as after lunch. The second is that most people outside the U.S.–especially in non-Western cultures–put a higher degree of value on relationship developing first before they get down to business.

The reason for the second is simple: without the imposition of the legal and social system that exists within the U.S., they start with a complete lack of trust for the opposite side. That trust has to be developed, which takes place with the development of a relationship. If and only if and when that relationship is developed–and that can take a lot of time–substantive negotiations can begin. It’s easier for foreigners to walk away from a deal for the reason that “they can’t trust these people” than it is for Americans.

We found this out in arms negotiations with the Soviets. The Americans were under higher pressure to “get the deal done” than the Soviets were, which automatically strengthened the Soviets’ position. Only Ronald Reagan managed to bring himself to realise that he couldn’t trust the Soviets and thus curtail negotiations with them until his own position was stronger. The memory of this deeply influences George W. Bush, which is why he is adverse to starting discussions with Iran and Syria.

A more productive approach would be to have a meeting in a venue where concrete results weren’t expected. In an American context, this means a golf course. Let’s say that Bush invites Ahmadinejad to Medina G&CC near Chicago. Since the clubhouse looks like a mosque, Ahmadinejad would think he was winning up front, which would make him overconfident, a besetting weakness of him. But on a golf course the two could size each other up face to face, watching as each other deals with the ups and downs of the game and each other. Then Bush could figure out how he might like to proceed based on what he saw himself rather than something stupid his advisers might come up with.

This example is a little lighthearted but my intent is to illustrate the importance and possibility of relationship building before serious haggling begins. It may take time, a lot more time than Americans are used to giving such things these days. (This wasn’t always the case in the past.) But it would be time well spent. My Sudanese imam friend used to tell me that, when his mother went to market, she would haggle so hard with the vendors that he would become embarrassed. We’re entering a region of expert negotiators. We need to show some wisdom ourselves.

James Baker: Steady Cash Flow is King

As you might expect, we’re not surprised that James Baker’s committee has supported the “right of return” and a Middle East peace conference without Israel.

Baker’s thinking is exactly the same as the reason Russia got into bed with Iran: cash flow. The oil industry’s main source of raw material is the Persian Gulf, and many in that business have felt that Israel was the main source of instability of that supply as an irritant to their clients, the Arabs. This line of thinking is blind to the serious problems of Arab and Islamic politics, not the least of which is the Sunni-Shi’a divide and the ongoing rivallry of Iran with its neighbours across the Gulf.

Will the U.S. give in to this line of thinking? It would be the supreme irony that liberals, who generally hate the oil industry, are considering giving into the oil industry’s longest running urban legend (get rid of Israel and you get rid of the problems in the Persian Gulf) to further their own ambitions. But, as they say, politics makes for strange bedfellows.

It is time to pray!

Flying with a Corpse Used Not to be News

The story–which Drudge dutifully linked to–of a British Airways passenger who suffered a fatal heart attack and whose body traversed the Atlantic is one of those things the Internet magnifies. Before the Net, it would have barely deserved a notice.

For me, it brought back memories of a commercial competitor. Joost Werner Jansz was a Dutch engineer who invented theHydroblok” hydraulic pile driving hammer. In 1979, he was returning home with his wife from a business trip to the U.S. (the Offshore Technology Conference, I think) and suffered a heart attack. KLM opted to leave his body next to his wife, who rode back to Amsterdam next to her dead husband. (BA relocated the body of their dead passenger body.)

First class passengers might find the thought of riding with a corpse hard to take, but sooner or later all of them (along with everyone else) will take a ride into eternity.

Our prayers go out to the widow on the BA flight. For the rest of us, click here.

Sailing the Last Voyage with Newton and Pascal

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