The Complicated Position of Syria

Conservative criticism of Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Syria needs to be tempered by some Middle Eastern reality:

  1. In the Middle East, terrorism is considered a means to an end, i.e., political victory, rather than an end itself.  That’s why the phrase "war on terrorism" is misleading.  A "war on Islamic careerism" is more appropriate.
  2. Syria’s status as a "terrorist state" is a survival strategy.  The idea of allowing terrorists to operate in Syria is to export problems to the neighbours, thus taking the pressure off of oneself.  In a tough neighbourhood like the Middle East, this makes sense for Syria, if not us.
  3. Syria is a Ba’ath state.  As was the case with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the Ba’aths are secular in nature.  The al-Assad family are Alawis, who are considered vile heretics by the Sunni majority.  Christians live relatively freely in Syria.  The current al-Assad is not in the same league for brutality as his father and certainly not with Saddam Hussein.  Thus, in Middle Eastern terms, Syria is considered "liberal," as opposed to real shar’ia places like Iran and Saudi Arabia.
  4. Toppling the al-Assads would doubtless bring the Islamicists out of the woodwork, as has happened in Iraq.

So should Nancy Pelosi talk with the Syrians?  Probably not.  In the U.S., we have only two alternatives to deal with foreigners that seem to be a problem to us, and neither approach will advance our real interests in the Middle East.

To Unite Oneself with Jesus Christ (A Holy Week Reflection)

…I pray that all those whom I have tried to help…may rise beyond it. I shall not say only beyond my thoughts, which are nothing, but beyond all that may be presented to them by the ministry of man. And in listening only to what God tells them in their hearts concerning this prayer, I trust that they will unite themselves to it with faith. For that is truly what is called praying to Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ; that we unite ourselves in spirit with Jesus Christ praying, and unite ourselves, as much as we can, to the entire effect of this prayer. The effect of this prayer is that, being united to Jesus Christ God and Man and through Him to God His Father, we unite ourselves in Them with all the faithful, and with all men, to be as much as it is in us to be, but one soul and one heart.

In order to accomplish this work of unity, we must no longer see ourselves except in Jesus Christ, and we must believe that there may not fall upon us the least light of faith, the smallest spark of the love of God, that is not drawn from the immense love that the eternal Father has for His Son. This very Son, our Saviour, being in us, the love with which the Father loves Him, extends also over us by an effusion of His kindness: For it is toward this union that the entire prayer of Jesus Christ bursts forth.

It is in this spirit that we can and must end all our prayers, with the Church, Through Our Lord Jesus Christ. For, not being obliged to ask God for the effects of His love, we really ask for them through Jesus Christ, if we believe with a firm and lively faith that God loves us through an effusion of the love which He has for His Son. This is the entire foundation of piety and of Christian confidence. I say that it is the foundation for believing that the immense love that the eternal Father has for His Son as God, makes Him love the Soul, the saintly Soul, which is so narrowly and substantially united to Him, as well as the sacred and blessed Body which it animates; that is to say, His entire humanity. And the love which He has for this Person, Who is Jesus Christ God and Man, shows that He also loves all the members who live in Him and of His vivifying Spirit.

Let us believe then, that Jesus Christ is loved through a gratuitous and engaging love as we are also loved. As Saint Augustine says: The same grace which has made Jesus Christ our Head., has made us all His members.

We are made Christians through a continuation of the same grace, which has made the Christ. Every time that we say: Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, and we must say it every time that we pray, whether in fact or intention, there being no other name through which our prayers may be heard (Act. iv. 12), every time then that we say it, we must believe and know that we are saved through grace, only through Jesus Christ and through His merits: not that we are without merit, but because our merits are His gifts, and the grace of Jesus Christ is the great prize, because it is the merit of a God, and, consequently, infinite.

It is thus that we must pray through Jesus Christ Our Lord, and the Church, which does so constantly, unites Herself through that, to the entire effect of the divine prayer which we have just listened to. If the Church celebrates the grace and glory of the holy apostles, who are the shepherds of the flock, She recognizes the effect of the prayer that Jesus Christ has said particularly for them. But the saints, who are profound in glory, have not been less understood in the sight and in the intention of Jesus Christ, even though He did not mention them by name. Who can doubt that He saw all those that His Father had given Him throughout the centuries, and for whom He was going to be immolated with a particular love?

Let us enter, therefore, with Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ, into the construction of the entire body of the Church, and rendering thanks with Her through Jesus Christ, for all those who are complete, let us ask for the completion of the entire body of Jesus Christ, and all the society of the saints. Let us ask, at the same time, with confidence, that we may find ourselves placed in the ranks of the blessed, never doubting that this grace will be extended to us, if we persevere in asking for it through mercy and grace; that is, through the merit of the blood which has been shed for us, and of which we have the sacred pledge in the Eucharist.

After this prayer, let us go with Jesus Christ to the sacrifice, and let us advance with Him to the two mountains; that is, to the Mount of Olives, and to that of Calvary. Let us go, I say, to these two mountains, and let us pass from one to the other: from that of the Mount of Olives, which is the one of agony, to that of Calvary, which is that of death; from the Mount of Olives, which is that of combat, to that of Calvary, where, in dying, one triumphs with Jesus Christ; from the Mount of Olives, which is the mountain of resignation, to that of Calvary, which is the mountain of actual sacrifice; and, finally, from the one where we say: Not my will but Thine be done, to the one where we say: Into Thy hands I commend my spirit (Luke xxii. 42; xxiii. 46); that is, from the one where we prepare ourselves for all things, to the one where we die to everything with Jesus Christ, to Whom be rendered honor and glory, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

Conclusion to Meditations on the Gospel by Jaques Benigne Bossuet

At the Inlet: August, Part 1 (The lady becomes an Anglican)

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Hurricanes were a fact of life on the Island; around the turn of the month the Serelians faced one coming up on their coast.  Since Serelia and Serelia Beach were on a coral ridge, they were not only a good place to ride out a storm; they gave some protection to the inland areas also.  Everyone just battened down the hatches, took the boats (including the yacht) inland, and rode it out.

At the palace and Cathedral, this meant that, once the shutters were put up and all of the loose items outside brought in or tied down, everyone pretty much stayed in their quarters for the duration.  This meant a separation for Julian and Terry; Julian was forced to ride it out pretty much by himself.  Darlene had high hopes of spending additional time with Terry, but Annette dashed her hopes when she decided it was time to start a mah-jongg marathon.  They tried to teach Darlene the game but she quickly realised that she would never catch up with these two, so she contented herself with either watching Annette and Terry or playing gin with Adam and George, an inclusion they soon learned to regret.  But this blow stayed offshore enough so that the damage to the country was minimal, and in a couple of days all was back to normal.

Shortly after that Julian came to see Desmond.  “I am pleased to inform you that Terry’s catechisation is complete,” Julian announced.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Desmond replied.

“Of course not—why should I be?”

“You’ve certainly taken long enough, but I can’t believe that all those evenings about the Cathedral have been spent pouring over the Thirty-Nine Articles.  There’s nothing romantic about them, is there?”

“Well, perhaps there is…” Julian mused.

“Don’t be silly—you’re telling me that you’ve gone through the catechism?”

“Yes”

“And the Articles?”

“Of course.”

“And she understands them?”

“Yes, very well.”

“And she agrees with them?”

“We had some interesting discussions, but in the main, yes.”

“In the main?  Don’t you realise the consequences of what could happen?”

“I always thought our Church was the Church of comprehension.”

“Comprehension died with the Glorious Revolution,” Desmond snapped.  “You saw what happened in those days.  We must be careful who we admit to our Church—next thing you know, they’ll be rolling in the floor and barking like dogs.”

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Julian observed.

“Of course not—that’s their strategy.  Look respectable up front, then their real selves come out when you can’t dispense with them.”

“Well, what I have seen is a person who is committed to living a holy life and also one who is committed to the study and following of the Holy Scriptures—and that’s more that I’ve sometimes seen in you.”

Desmond glared at Julian.  “I wouldn’t take that if you weren’t my brother,” he said through clenched teeth.  There was a silence, and then Desmond resumed.  “All right, Julian, I’ll draft a letter to the Bishop certifying that she’s completed instruction and is ready to be received into the Church.  But I’m warning you—I hope you know what you’re doing here.  If you don’t, there could be consequences for all of us.”

Julian stayed in his office until the letter was typed, reviewed, and signed, and then delivered it personally to the Bishop’s Palace.  Much to his surprise, the Bishop asked him to come in.  Julian came in to the Bishop’s office and handed him the letter.

“Where is Desmond?” the Bishop asked.

“In his office,” Julian replied.

“He must not think this is important…I suppose we can go ahead and receive her next Sunday, as I will be in the Cathedral.”

“Next Sunday?” Julian asked excitedly.  “Thank you, sir.”

“I was hoping this would be done before she left with Mrs. Lewis and you for your organ tour.”

“Oh, yes—this will be splendid,” Julian said breathlessly.

“Since you’re here,” the Bishop resumed, “I thought you might find these interesting.”  “These” were letters of recommendation from Bishop des Cieux and Father Avalon.  “This is probably Her Highness’ doing—obtained by our diplomatic corps.”  He looked up at Julian.  “I knew that their bishop was fond of her, but I had no idea that Avalon would speak of her in such glowing terms, especially in view of the way she departed.  You have a unique individual in your life—I’m just not sure what we’re going to do with her.”

The one thing the Bishop did know to do, however, is to receive her into the Church, which he did on the following Sunday.  Terry was received by herself, making her the centre of attention, but the Bishop dispensed with a long speech about where she came from or how good it was that she came out of it.  This was doubtless at royal insistence.

August was a month that alternated between dodging hurricanes, sweltering in the humid heat and getting drenched in the rain.  As such it was a slow time at the Cathedral, and so Julian made plans for his annual tour of Churches of Serelia and other Anglican churches on the eastern end of the Island.  His recitals were renown, even by those who were usually bored with pipe organ music.  The first one was the afternoon after Terry’s reception into the Church; it took place at St. Matthew’s Church in Serelia Beach, built on the site of the old Cavitt plantation.  In terms of membership it was the largest parish in the Church; a good crowd came out to hear him.  Terry tagged along; although she wasn’t the biggest fan of this kind of music, Julian had inspired an appreciation for it.

The next day the tour started in earnest.  Priscilla Lewis travelled with Terry; this enabled her to follow Julian around, and gave her some time out of the house.  It was the first time in years that Julian did not have to make the trip alone; it seemed to add an élan to his whole being, even while playing.

The first stop was Amherst, where Julian was to play at the All Saints’ Church there.  Darlene went with them for the first leg of the trip; this gave her an opportunity to go see her family.  They arrived at the church; Darlene’s mother came and got her while Julian got the organ ready and Terry and Priscilla made sure everything was set in the church.  The idea was that the girls would greet the people as they came in; however, here Priscilla did it by herself, as Terry was extremely nervous about meeting Darlene’s family without Darlene.

The recital went well and afterwards Terry was standing with Priscilla next to their usual seats, which were those in the front nearest the organ.  When Terry saw Darlene, she knew the dreaded moment had come.

“Terry, this is my family: my father Thomas, mother Susan, my sister-in-law Allison”—Terry realised that this was Ronald’s widow—“and her sons Ronald, Jr., Thomas, and finally their daughter, which they in a moment of insanity named after me, Darlene.”  Terry saw the entire Amherst clan that remained in Serelia in front of her.  Although the family red hair had turned white, Thomas was still an impressive figure who stood ramrod straight.  Terry could see Ronald replicated in his namesake.

“We have heard a great deal about you,” Thomas said.  “These are Ronald’s children,” he said, driving home the point.

“Your father was a great general—perhaps the Island’s greatest—whose only fault was that he was carried away by his passions, a good lesson for us all,” Terry said, glad to get out the line she had rehearsed for weeks.

“You really believe that?” Ronald, Jr., asked.

“I really do, in spite of all that’s happened,” Terry answered.

“Those are kind sentiments,” Thomas said.  “Well, we must get back to the estate—lots of work to do even before retiring.”  They said their goodbyes and left, but Allison lingered.  She was a cheery looking blonde who nevertheless showed the signs of the disasters that had befallen her.

“That took a lot of courage to say that,” she said to Terry.  “Thanks.”  Before Terry could respond she walked away and rejoined her family.  Darlene had managed to duck behind Terry long enough to come out and give her a hug before leaving with her parents and relatives.

“I’m glad you were ready for this,” Darlene said.  “My father wasn’t.”  With that she went on and joined her family while Terry, Priscilla and Julian tested out the rectory.  Terry was used to uneven accommodations in a Pentecostal church; she expected a higher quality in a church with more resources.  She discovered, however, that state funding was not a panacea for everything, and dumpy rectories were one of them.

The next day they were able to finally flee All Saints’ rectory and make the short trip down the road to St. John the Baptist Church in Denton.  The Old Beran Road widened a bit from the stretch that Terry was so familiar with in Drahla; here it took a straight shot from Amherst through Denton to Claudia.  They reached the church in mid-afternoon; Julian had insisted on a leisurely departure from Amherst.

As Julian tinkered with the organ to see what needed to be done to it, Priscilla and Terry went through their routine.  The church looked like the sexton had been on an extended holiday; they found themselves doing clean-up work.  As they tried to make the best of it, Terry looked up from yet another shabby kneeling cushion to see a woman in front of her.

“Welcome to St. John the Baptist,” she said, “I’m Theresa Gant.”

“Darlene’s sister?”  Terry asked.  She had heard that the two sisters didn’t resemble each other much; now she knew it for herself.  Theresa looked more like her mother, a little taller than Darlene with short blonde hair and age lines that hinted at a less than happy life. Terry was surprised to see Theresa in slacks, which became her figure that had been moulded by the typical Island low calorie diet, supplemented by some recent additions. Serelia was a place that still had reservations about women wearing pants, especially on a rector’s wife.

“Before the war, I was Thomas’ daughter.  During the war, I was Ronnie and Eddie’s sister.  Now, I’m Darlene’s sister.”

“I didn’t mean it that way—I’m sorry,” Terry apologised.

“I know—you are Darlene are friends.”

“I only met the rest of the family yesterday.”

“Thanks for straightening this place up—our sexton’s not very energetic.”  Terry then reintroduced Theresa to Priscilla, and the three of them finished getting the church ready as well as could be expected.

Julian’s recital went according to plan, except that the Rector, Anselm Gant, got up and made a long and tedious introduction to Julian’s concert, so long that even Julian started looking at his watch, worried he would have to delete some of his pieces to finish the programme in a timely manner.  But it all got done and they retreated to the rectory afterwards.

The Gant’s rectory was a definite improvement over the last one; Theresa explained that her father had come and spent his own money and brought his own crew from their estate to upgrade it.  Theresa and Priscilla retreated to the kitchen to prepare the meal, leaving Terry and Julian to Anselm’s tender mercies.  Terry, having been raised in a home with a cook, had limited kitchen skills, something that the Cathedral’s setup obscured for Julian.

Terry would soon regret her lack of culinary expertise, because Anselm proved no more exciting in the living room than he did in the pulpit.  While downing one scotch and water after another, he droned on and on about the poor state of the Serelian Church, the inept policies of the Bishop, and last but not least those dreadful Pentecostals and Baptists who were making life so miserable for everyone. Even Julian was beginning to tire of this dreary refrain by so many of his colleagues, but Terry signalled him to let it ride.  This and other equally sad subjects continued over the dinner table, along with the wine and liqueur.  With dinner complete, a groggy Anselm abruptly announced that he was retiring.

Although leaving company so soon was usually regarded as rude, no one seemed to mind.  Julian volunteered to help clean up, but he ended up helping only his sister-in-law, as Theresa invited Terry out to the screened porch.

Theresa lit the citronella candles.  “Care for a drink?” she asked her guest.

“Soda is fine, thank you” Terry replied.

“Now that you’ve been received into our church, you can, you know.”

“I’d prefer not to, thanks.”

“My husband went to an Episcopal prep school in the States.  He had a Latin teacher who was an old-fashioned Episcopal minister.  One day the teacher told the class that ‘when four Whiskeypalians get together, there’s always a fifth.’”  They chuckled over that while Theresa got Terry’s soda and her rum old fashioned.  They sat down.

“You’re seeing Julian, aren’t you?” Theresa asked Terry.

“Yes, I am.”

“I hope it works out for you.  Julian is a fine man.  Maybe I’m just not good enough for him.”

“You were at one time.”

“That was a long time ago…things change.  Things get in the way.”

“Where are your children?”

“They’re staying with his parents.  They live in Fort Albert.  They’re getting up in years—they’re not doing well.  The kids are real good about helping them.”

“Drahla.”

“They never supported independence, but they didn’t want to leave.  It got pretty tough sometimes.”

“Do you ever see Edward’s children?”

“Not since he was killed.  His widow took them to the mainland and vowed never to step foot on the Island again.  She’s as good as her word.  She remarried about two years after she left.  We hear from them every now and then.  They seem to be doing okay.  It’s killing my parents not to see them any more.”  Theresa took another gulp from her glass.  “Darlene thinks a lot of you.”

“The feeling is mutual.”

“That amazes me…you’re the last person I would have figured to suddenly become her lifelong friend.  Now I hear she’s gotten some kind of religion, thanks to you.”

“The change in her life is pretty substantial,” Terry observed.  “Even her mother-in-law has noticed it.”

“There’s only one god of the Amhersts, and that’s themselves,” Theresa came back.  “Their only desire is to control others.  In some ways, Darlene is the most single-minded one of them all in that regard—more so that even Ronnie.”

“You seem to easily disassociate yourself from them.”

“I’m too much like my mother.  I let other people run over me.  I find this religion thing of Darlene hard to believe—a lot of other people do, too.”

“Perhaps she realises that this is too tough of a neighbourhood to make it on her own.”

Theresa looked at Terry with surprise.  “Maybe you know her better than I thought.  But let me stop you here—I don’t want to hear any sermons out of you.  I have to endure them every week.  Besides, you probably should have stuck with your old church—this one is dying, if you ask me.”

“How so?”

“See that?”  The rectory was right on the river; the screened in porch overlooked it.  The view really wasn’t bad at all, especially considering Denton’s location.  Directly across from the rectory was a large building with no windows but reasonable exterior lighting.  “That’s the Lodge, over in Claudia.  Right opposite of the church.  This Island’s whole spiritual journey is summed up right here.  You’d be surprised how many people on this side of the river are in the Lodge.  They go through the Scottish Rite—no political strings attached, not yet at least.  My husband’s a member, but that’s not the only reason why he goes over the border. He has a mistress over there.  I thought after the first go around he’d learn, but he hasn’t.”

“You almost ended it over that, I heard.”

Theresa raised her arm, letting her sleeve drop to reveal the scars around her wrist.  “If it weren’t for the children, I’d do it again.  This time I’d get it right.  My father told me that, if I ever divorced Anselm, he’d disinherit me totally, and I can’t afford that.  So I just have to wait.”  She fixed herself another drink.  “The Lodge and the Church—it’s all right here.  The Church is in trouble.  Our attendance has dropped every year we’ve been here.  Meanwhile your Pentecostal preachers are busy doing their thing.  They’ll even sneak across the border into Claudia and conduct services, even though technically the penalty for being a Christian in Claudia is still crucifixion.”

“Your sister told me about Avinet’s Beach,” Terry noted.

“Our father used to tell that story when he didn’t like what was going on at church,” Theresa responded.  “In any case, one of these preachers had King Mahlon’s daughter, Princess Ophelia, to come to his meetings one night.  She was converted right there—but Mahlon threw her into prison. I still think the Lodge is going to come back.  If you and Darlene and George hadn’t put a stop to it, the Verecundans were ready to put a lot of money into it.  If they had, things would be vastly different on this end of the Island.”

“Perhaps there’s a lesson in this.”

“Perhaps.  Perhaps not.”

There was no recital the following night, so they returned to Serelia for the next day and night.  Desmond certainly had his hands full with the children; the relief was welcome.  Julian rehearsed some different pieces he would play on the second leg of the journey.  Terry spent the evening with the King, Queen, and George, as Darlene was still in Amherst with her parents.  The next morning, before they left, Annette called Terry in to her bedchamber for breakfast, as she wanted to have a Bible study along the lines of the ones Terry did with Darlene.  It was the first time that Annette had attended any kind of Bible study, and they enjoyed their time together.

An Imperfect Country

In case you were bothered by this post, perhaps you will prefer this story:

A Japanese  company (Toyota ) and an American company (General Motors) decided to  have a canoe race on the Missouri River. Both teams practised long and  hard to reach their peak performance before the race.
 
On the big  day, the Japanese won by a mile.
 
The Americans, very discouraged  and depressed, decided to investigate the Reason for the crushing  defeat. A management team made up of senior Management was formed to  investigate and recommend appropriate action.
 
Their conclusion was  the Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person Steering, while the  American team had 8 people steering and 1 person Rowing.

Feeling  a deeper study was in order, American management hired a Consulting  company and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion.  They advised, of course, that too many people were steering the Boat,  while not enough people were rowing.

Not sure of how to utilise  that information, but wanting to prevent Another loss to the Japanese,  the rowing team’s management structure was totally reorganized to 4  steering supervisors, 3 area steering Superintendents and 1 assistant  superintendent steering manager.
 
They also implemented a new  performance system that would give the 1 Person rowing the boat greater  incentive to work harder. It was called the "Rowing Team Quality First Program", with meetings, dinners and free pens
For the rower. There was  discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and Other equipment, extra  vacation days for practices and bonuses.
 
The next year the Japanese  won by two miles.
 
Humiliated, the American management laid off the rower for poor performance, halted development of a new canoe, sold the  paddles, and cancelled all capital investments for new equipment. The money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses and the next year’s racing team was outsourced to India.
 
The  End.

Fixing the Unfixable

The many disparaging remarks by Anglicans/Episcopalians on both sides about Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ "sabbatical" are largely unjustified.  Williams has made his share of mistakes, but the chasm between the orthodox and revisionists in the Anglican Communion is probably unbridgeable.  It is reminiscent of a remark made about the Revolutions of 1848 that equally applied to the Russian Civil War:

"For a long time, only two real forces have existed in Europe–Revolution and Russia," the poet-diplomat Fëodr Tiutchev had written then.  "No treaties are possible between them.  The existence of one means the death of the other."  (R. Bruce Lincoln, Passage Through Armageddon)

Quotable about America

Something about the U.S. that’s worth repeating:

"I am convinced that the future of America is rosier than people claim – I’ve been hearing about its imminent decline ever since I started reading. Take the following puzzle. Whenever you hear or read a snotty European presenting his stereotypes about Americans, he will often describe them as’uncultured’, ‘unintellectual’ and ‘poor in math’ because, unlike his peers, they are not into equation drills and the constructions middlebrow people call ‘high culture’. Yet the person making these statements will be likely to be addicted to his Ipod, wearing t-shirts and blue jeans, and using Microsoft Word to jot down his "cultural" statements on his (Intel) PC, with some Google searches on the Internet here and there interrupting his composition. Well, it so happens that the US is currently far, far more tinkering an environment than that of these nations of museum goers and equation solvers – in spite of the perceived weakness of the educational system, which allows the bottom-up uncertainty-driven trial-and-error system to govern it, whether in technology or in business.

"It fosters entrepreneurs and creators, not exam takers, bureaucrats or, worse, deluded economists. So the perceived weakness of the American pupil in conventional and theoretical studies is where its very strength lies – it produces ‘doers’, Black Swan hunting, dream-chasing entrepreneurs, or others with a tolerance for risk-taking which attracts aggressive tinkering foreigners. And globalisation allowed the US to specialize in the creative aspect of things, the risk-taking production of concepts and ideas, that is, the scalable and fat-tailed part of the products, and, increasingly, by exporting jobs, separate the less scalable and more linear components and assign them to someone in more mathematical and ‘cultural’ states happy to be paid by the hour and work on other people’s ideas. (I hold, against the current Adam Smith-style discourse in economics, that the American undirected free enterprise system works because it aggressively allows people to capture the randomness of the environment – ‘cheap options’ – not because of competition and certainly less because of material incentives. Neither the followers of Adam Smith, nor to some extent, those of Karl Marx, seem to be conscious of the role of wild randomness. They are too bathed in enlightenment-style causation and cannot separate skills and payoffs.)" – Nasim Taleb

That is, if we don’t screw it up further with legislative fiascos like Sarbanes-Oxley!

This is why we think that the post-modern left hasn’t won just yet, as we mentioned elsewhere.

There Are No Real Noncombatants

The wounding of U.S. Army Chaplain Barron K. Wester in Iraq is a reminder that there are no “noncombatants” in either physical warfare, or spiritual warfare for that matter.

His account of his wounding says it all:

Our unit has been in the process of setting up new forward outposts in the heart of Baghdad.  In this new military endeavour, we have already taken casualties.  We knew this is a dangerous but important mission.  In this latest crisis, my chaplain’s assistant and I accompanied our battalion commander to the scene of a forward unit which had been hit, taking several causalities.  .  The Army Chaplaincy Corps motto is, Nurture the Living, Care for the Wounded and Honour the Dead.  I did precisely that.  I knelt close to one of our dead soldiers; praying for his family and all his comrades who were observing the scene. I knew his death would deeply cut to the heart and soul of those back home who loved him.  He was a Catholic soldier; but that made no difference.  He was my brother; and I was his chaplain.  I moved among the other soldiers, praying with them; laying hands on the wounded, asking for God’s mercy and healing.  Suddenly, I felt the bullet that went through my arm, exiting and wounding another soldier sitting near me.  My chaplain’s assistant, to whom I will always be indebted, in the process of taking care of his chaplain, pushed me under the vehicle and literally laid near me so that I would be protected from further sniper fire.  He was willing to take the bullets on my behalf!  A short time later, I was evacuated to a Field Hospital and then transported to Germany.  My battalion and brigade commanders came by with the comforting words, Chaplain, we need you; get well quickly; you were doing exactly what a chaplain is supposed to be doing.

Our prayers are with Chaplain Wester and his family.

At the Inlet: July, Part 5 (Article XXXI)

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Norman Cameron came into his office very early one morning later in the week.  He was expecting a special visitor who wanted to speak with him in confidence.  He heard a knock on his door, and motioned the visitor to come in.  It was Julian, who came in, shut the door, and nervously sat down.

“Thanks for seeing me at this unpropitious hour,” Julian said.

“Our work never sleeps.  What’s on your mind?” Norman asked.  Julian hesitated.  “It’s Terry, isn’t it?  She’s started something you’re not sure you can finish, hasn’t she?”

“It’s very difficult sometimes,” Julian confessed.  “I may be old fashioned, but I’ve never heard of a couple exchanging a kiss before they exchanged first names.”

“You’ve overlooked the fact that she’s Verecundan,” Norman observed.  “They tend to be more forward down there.  Seems to me you’ve got someone who’s a cut above any other Verecundan I’ve ever met.”

“She’s lived on this end of the Island long enough where she should know better,” Julian retorted.  “My time with her shows a person who’s very serious about her faith.  But then there was the beach…”

“I first saw my wife on the beach out here when we were six,” Norman observed.  “We looked a lot better then than we do now.  Maybe she’s making up for lost time—you both seem to have that problem, you know.  You may have also overlooked the fact that she’s been married before, so that gives her a different perspective on things.”

Julian breathed a deep breath, then said, “I don’t know what to do.  I don’t want to be put in a position where”—

“—you’ll be forced to do something that you don’t think is right,” Norman finished.  “Sounds like something you need to get some spiritual counselling on, instead of coming to this old spy.”

“I spoke with Desmond about it.”

“So what did he have to say?”

“He went into this long speech about the differences between us—who follow the via media—and her—who follows the via extrema.  He said that she’s more used to dealing with strong emotions than I am because of her church.  But he left it up to me as to how to deal with it.”

“And you didn’t find that very helpful.”

“No, I didn’t”

Norman leaned back in his chair.  “I’m not a very religious person—I know you’ve tried to interest me in that, and for that I’m grateful.  I’ll never be able repay you for what you’ve done for my and my family.  You’ve been a friend when no one else cared.  But I’ll also tell you that my first loyalty is to our king—it’s my duty to protect him and our country, and if you ever make me choose between you and king, I’ll choose the king.  One reason I’m your friend is because you’ve never made me make that choice, and I don’t believe you ever will.”

“I understand that,” Julian said.

“I did this little preface to get to my point—you’re not the only one who has had your concerns about Terry Marlowe.”

“I’m not?” he asked, taken aback.

“Terry is probably the most investigated person here,” Norman began.  “A lot of people were unhappy that His Majesty brought her here.  She was, after all, a central leader in the rebellion that literally split our kingdom in half.  So we had to leave no stone unturned.  That forced us to look at some pretty unsavoury stuff.”

“Like what?” Julian asked.

“We were able to obtain her Verecundan dossier.  It had a lot of what we already know—that’s where we got her baptismal and confirmation documents—but it also had all kinds of tittle-tattle about her going to bed with just about everybody she came into contact with.  I found this amazing, since Verecundan feminists on the one hand gripe that women are held to a double standard and the other trash a woman they don’t like by showing her as a whore.  But we had to investigate it, even before the Drahlans foolishly dumped her as Royal Counsellor.

“So we sent Kyle down to Barlin and elsewhere.  He gave kickboxing exhibits in churches, schools and on the streets.  Between those he was talking with people about all kinds of things, and the subject of Terry came up quite frequently.  We also talked with a lot of other people as well.  And we finally came to two conclusions about her.”

“Which were?” Julian asked, eagerly.

“First, we realised that all of this material was a lot of rubbish.  The sources didn’t check out.  We’ve concluded that all of the sexual exploits in her files—except those when she was a prostitute in Verecunda, and obviously her marriage—were either fabrications or came from her political enemies.  I also grilled her pretty intensely the first morning here, and my gut feeling about her squares with this.  This was a relief to us, because if any of this had been true, we would have fought her coming here vigorously instead of recommending it.

“Second, in the course of all this, I came to understand something that most people here don’t—that her church expected her to be perfect, and that she’s worked hard to live up to that.”

“Perfect?”

“Perfect.  That little adventure on the beach last weekend was probably her first time in a bathing suit since her husband was killed.  He probably never saw her in one until they married—you’re quite the privileged character.  You’re also probably her first boyfriend since that time.  The only jewellery she’s had in the last fifteen years was her wedding jewellery, which she sold during the war to pay for her house.  Her grandfather was the richest man this Island has ever known, and yet she could probably count the number of outfits she owned on both hands.

“Julian, take my advice.  Most of us here in Serelia wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the feelings generated on that beach of ours.  She’s a good woman.  You need to stop worrying about being normal and start thinking about something more permanent.”

Julian sat in silence for a minute.  “I supposed you’re right, Norman,” he finally said.  He arose.  “Thank you for your help.”

“Any time,” Norman replied.

A short time later Julian and Terry gathered after dinner for catechism in the colonnade.  Julian wanted to start but Terry closed the Prayer Book.

“There’s something we need to talk about,” she said to him, seriously.

“Oh?  And what might that be?”

“It’s about last Saturday.”  She looked away, and then back into his eyes.  “I overdid it.  I owe you an apology.  Probably overdid it for our first kiss, too.”  She grasped his hand.  “I just want you to love me as much as I love you, Julian.”

“If that’s possible, I do,” he said.  It was his turn to do some thinking.  “How long has it been since your husband was killed?” he finally asked.

“Six years,” she replied.

“Did you court anyone after that?”

“Not until you,” she said.  “We had a war to finish.  Then we had a nation to build.  I don’t know, being both a minister and a head of government, I didn’t feel I was in a good position to open up that part of my life.  There were too many complications.”

“Some people say you should have courted Prince William,” Julian observed.

“William wasn’t a Christian at the time,” she replied.  “I won’t date anyone who isn’t.  That’s why I grilled you so hard on the subject.  Besides, I always felt that William wanted someone racier than me.”  Julian blanched at the thought.  “Now he has everything—both Jesus Christ and the wife.”  She looked at him with a slightly sad look.  “I know you’re trying to make this easier for me, but you don’t have to.  I guess I’m kind of an extremist with stuff like this.  Back before I met Jesus, I was either selling myself on the streets or I was known as the ‘Virgin Terry’ in school.”

Julian sat up at that.  “Was that unusual?”

“In Verecunda, it certainly was.  I lost a few close friends over that.  One I didn’t lose was Cathy Arnold—she felt that it was my choice, even though she didn’t agree with it then.”

Julian could see pain coming over her again.  “That was a difficult thing to do, wasn’t it?”

“It was the right thing to do,” she replied, “but the social ostracism was hard to take.  It seemed to be harder on my mother than me, though—she arranged for my prom date to rape me.”

“You don’t need to relive that,” Julian said.

“Thank you,” Terry replied.  “Now you know why Verecundan women have the reputation they do.”

“Girls,” Julian corrected her.  “We’re still dealing with a girl here.”  That earned Julian a long embrace before they resumed their catechism.

The pattern of life continued for everyone.  Adam and George were spending a lot of time together, touring the kingdom and especially visiting their many economic enterprises.  Serelia’s economy was very much a centralised business; most of the major enterprises in the country, except those of the remaining founding families such as the Amhersts, were under control of the Crown.  This was one of the main things that caused the war with Drahla; now that the Drahlans were gone, the king’s control over the economy was enhanced.  The monarchy’s success in maintaining control was based in part of their paternalistic policies towards their people; another important task of Adam and George was to hear petitions from people as they went about.

Terry and Darlene were making good progress at last on their duty.  One morning Terry came in as usual.  After they had prayer together, they were supposed to have Bible study, but Darlene wanted to chat a bit.

“How are things with Julian?” Darlene asked.

“They’re very good,” Terry replied with a smile.  “My catechism is going well—we’re having a good time with it.  We had a lot of fun back on the beach last Saturday with you, George, Desmond, Priscilla and the children—that was a nice outing.”

“That was nice,” Darlene echoed.  She assumed a pensive look to her, and became silent.

“Is something wrong, Darlene?” Terry asked, worried about her friend.

Darlene took a Bible, opened it, placed it in front of Terry, pointed at a verse, and asked, “What does this mean?”

Terry read the verse aloud: “‘And all the people answered: ‘His blood be on our heads and on our children’s!’’—Matthew 27:25.  This verse has always been difficult because it involves the Jews.  The thing you have to remember, though, is that at this point the Jews were the only ones interested in Jesus Christ one way or the other.  When the Gentiles came in contact with His followers, they often reacted in the same way or worse.”

“That’s the problem,” Darlene sighed.

“What’s the problem?”

“The Gentiles,” Darlene came back.  “And specifically, the ones in Beran.”

“What are you talking about?  Everyone knows that Christianity was illegal in Beran, as it still is in Claudia and was in Verecunda.”

“It’s more specific than that…In 1829 Beran’s first King Aaron—my ancestor—had set everything up—his throne, the Lodge, slavery, everything.  Then he discovered that his Grand Tyler, a man named Edouard Avinet, was a Christian, and was running what we would now call a house church.  Aaron became enraged at this; he decided to make an example out of him.  So he took Avinet, his entire family, and others in the house church out to a place north of Beran now called Avinet’s Beach, stripped them and crucified them—all twenty-six of them.  The youngest was Avinet’s last daughter, who was three.  They were so proud of this that they incorporated the whole thing into their version of Royal Arch Masonry—I think the Claudians still do.  Then Aaron made crucifixion the penalty for being a Christian.  I think they only did that twice after that in Beran.”

“The Aloxans took me to Avinet’s Beach when I was there for their revival and Bible classes,” Terry shared.  “They feel it’s a sacred place, even though I don’t think they’re aware of the full story.  I think King Leslie does, though.  They’re trying to purchase the property for their campground and Bible school—I think they’re pretty close to getting it.”

“You’ve been there?” Darlene asked.  Darlene was, though retreating into her thoughts.  The more Terry thought about the enormity of the event, the more tearful about it she became.  Finally Darlene came out of her near trance and said, “Terry, am I cursed?  What about my little one?  Doesn’t it also say”—she took the Bible and went back a couple of chapters—“that ‘And the King will reply ‘I tell you, as often as you did it to one of these my Brothers, however lowly, you did it to me.’’  Have I, through those which have gone before me, crucified my Lord, Terry?”

Terry pulled herself back together, took a Bible and went to Ezekiel.  “‘The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.  But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die,’” she read.  “Everyone who has sinned in any way has crucified Jesus.  Darlene, you took the first step to breaking this thing by being saved.  You followed up on that step too.  There’s a lot of ‘backwash’ from old Beran, some spiritual, and some temporal.  We’ll just have to deal with it as it comes.  But if we trust God, and follow Him, we can overcome whatever legacy this and all the other evils of old Beran—and old Verecunda too—that come our way.”  Terry took Darlene’s hands and they prayed for this to happen, and then resumed their work.

As the days progressed, so did Terry’s catechism.  One evening, as they sat in the colonnade, they reached the thirty-first of the Thirty-Nine Articles.  Terry read it out: “The offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone.  Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.”

“I suppose that may be difficult for you with your Roman Catholic background,” Julian said.

“Not really,” Terry replied.  “I guess I didn’t give it much thought growing up.  After I was born again and went to the Avalon Retreat, the more I read the Bible the more uncomfortable I got with the whole idea of the Mass as a sacrifice.  Since then I have always preached that Christ’s work on the Cross is complete.  And we seldom said Masses for the dead or living on the Retreat.”

“Interesting,” Julian mused.  “Let’s move on to the next one.”

“Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, are not commanded by God’s Law, either to vow the estate of a single life, or to abstain from marriage: therefore, it is lawful for them, as for all other Christian men, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness,” Terry read.  She put her Prayer Book down, turned to Julian and said, “That’s something only you can decide.”  With that Julian felt those long slender fingers coasting across his back and once again found himself in a long embrace and kiss.

Overcoming Obstacles: A Reminder For Us All

Back in 2000 there was a funeral for Nadezhda Shatova, a Ukrainian Pentecostal living in California.  As noted below, on the surface there wasn’t anything extraordinary about it.  But one of her relatives shared the testimony about their lives–and the persecutions they suffered in the old Soviet Union–and this account was put into the piece below.

It’s a reminder of the price that many have paid for the Gospel, especially under regimes such as the USSR.  (This is the same "scientific" regime that brought you Lysenko!)  It’s also a reminder of why these people came to the US, for the freedoms that we seem to be so eager to throw away in the name of political correctness.

No matter what kinds of difficulties you may be suffering–whether persecution such as this, realising that the "game is up" in the Episcopal Church, or whatever, we present this piece as an encouragement to you.

By Vladimir Kupinich

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." (1 Peter 4:12-13)

On the 24th of November, 2000 a funeral was held for sister Nadezhda Shatova who turned 60 years old when the Lord called her into his eternal land. Relatives and close friends, the members of the church she attended and many other brothers and sisters came to the funeral to express their sympathy to the family of the deceased and to the whole family of Feodosi Linchuk who had left for the eternal promise land of our Lord Jesus Christ a while ago.

Brothers in Christ preached the Word from the Scriptures that open to us the mystery of our eternal life with Christ: “Whoever believes in Son has life everlasting…" (John 3:36), "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on…" for" their deeds will follow them." (Rev. 14:16)

At the end of his life Apostle Paul said: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness." (2nd Tim. 4:7-8)

At first glance there was nothing extraordinary about the funeral. A lot of them are held at our church. Besides, the deceased sister Nadya did not seem to stand out among the rest of us. But when a minister from our church Adam Semenovich Bondarchuk asked Luba, the sister of the deceased, to tell us something about the deceased and about her life, sister Luba lold us that they, that is their family, went through great trials of faith and did not deny the Lord during some of the hardest times of the persecution of the Evangelical believers. When we heard her testimony, we were amazed and said: "They seem to be such ordinary brothers and sisters, but in reality they are true heroes of faith!"
Here is what sister Luba Kirakovskaya told us:

“My father and mother, Feodosi and Palageya Linchuk, who have already gone to be with the Lord, became believers in the early 20s when a missionary from America came to the Ukraine to preach the Word of God. Having received new life, my parents also received water baptism in the village of Ivanovtsi, Berclich region, Zhitomirskaya area. This was the time when persecutions against God and His people were beginning. Believers were hated and persecuted Komsomol leaders would try to make Christians turn away from their beliefs by beating them up, putting fear into them, slandering them in mass media, firing them from their jobs and sending them to prison. In spite of it "… more and more people were added to their number." (Acts 5:14) That is how a small church was formed in the village of Ivankovtsi, a full Gospel church. Church services were held in the houses at night. My father, Feodosi Linchuk, became the overseer of the new community, undertaking this dangerous labor in God’s harvest field.

Once, when the believers gathered together at night for prayer and worship and my father was standing at the table and preaching, they heard the glass shatter and a big rock flew by his head. If the father had not turned his head right at that moment, the rock would have hit his head and killed him. Anxiety came upon everyone after that incident. Brothers and sisters understood that they became believers in the Lord Jesus Christ at a very dangerous time. The father, however, being the pastor of the church, encouraged the believers not to get discouraged, but to stay together and love the Lord even more.

This was not the end of their trials, though. The "American faith", as they called it in those days, had to be done away with. Thus, at one of the Komsomol meetings it was decided to burn the house of the Linchuk family. They decided to do it at night so no one could get away. At 3 o’clock at night young guys poured gasoline all over the house and set it on fire. People in the house started panicking. The father ran to save the children. As soon as he took them out into the street, the roof fell in. When the barn caught on fire, the cow started mooing, but none of the .neighbors tried to untie it because they were afraid they would be treated the same way if they helped this family. So the cow burned inside the barn. This happened in 1939.

This tragedy was very painful for the Linchuk family. All of the belongings that were in the house burned. Feodosi found a little room and the family moved into it. The financial life was very difficult. The children had to kneel before the Lord and ask Him for bread daily.

Luba went on to tell how her father and mother got hired to work on the collective farm. They were not given any money for their work, just some soup and 400 grams of bread. The parents ate the soup at work and brought the bread for the kids at night. The children always eagerly waited for the parents so they could eat some bread once a day. One night when the parents were returning from work, they oldest daughter Manya who was only 5 years old ran out to meet them and said: "Anya is asleep. She kept calling for mommy and saying: "Mommy, give me some milk and bread", and then fell asleep." When they came to the house, they found their daughter dead, she had died of hunger. She was only 3 years old.

Dear women, you like no one else understand the feelings of a mother who looses her child to hunger without being able to do anything.

No one wanted to bury the child since everyone was afraid to help believers. You can imagine the heart of a mother breaking from grief and anxiety. One can understand why a song was put together about mothers:

"Your hair turned gray too early from grief…"

They did not have the money to get a coffin, but as best as they could they buried the dear child. Trying to save the rest of the children from hunger, the parents continued to go to work, and would tell the children that there is God in heaven who hears and knows all their troubles.

Time went by and new trials came into the life of the Linchuk family. Because Fedosi was a minister and held night services in the villages of Ivantsovi and Semenovka, he was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison in a Siberean camp. Palagea was left all by herself to take care of the family while her beloved husband was taken away by godless authorities. The mother tried to do her best to save her children from hunger and also from godlessness that was everywhere. At nights, when the children were asleep, she would stretch out her hands towards heaven and cry out to God to save her children and her husband who was in the camp.

The authorities decided to go further in their persecutions and take the children away from the mother and send them to an orphanage. The mother refused to give her children up and she was brought before court and sentenced to prison for 6 months. The children were left all by themselves and had to go through the valley of tears.

The oldest sister Manya (she was 14 at that time) took it upon herself to take care of the rest of the children. She found jobs wherever she could to feed us, – Luba testifies. She tried to dry little pieces of bread and send them to prison for her mother. Luba and her brother Vasili (he now lives in Portland. Oregon) went to the same grade. The teachers hated them because they were from a family of believers. More than once they put up students that were older to beat them up and drag them by their legs after classes.

The youngest sister Anechka who now lives in Sacramento went through a lot of mockery and mean treatment from her godless teachers. One day, when she was going home from school, some hooligans, students from her school, grabbed her and wanted to throw her into the river, but Nadya having heard the screams, ran out and defended her. Anya enjoyed visiting services, tell poems, sing in the children’s choir, visit the funerals and the sick. She was 12 then. Because she was so active in the church godless people hated her.

Today Anya has 2 daughters. The oldest one, Lina, is married and lives in Sacramento. Her husband’s name is Ghena. They live happily and serve the Lord. The youngest one, Larissa, is now 16, she sings in the choir of Nicoli Ribin and is interested in missionary work. The mother is happy for her children. Anya went through many troubles and tribulations, but the Lord will reward her in His Kingdom.

Time went by; the children grew up to become good Christians. They did not deny the Lord during the trial times. They survived the German occupation, the war, postwar destruction and in all of this they never went away from the Lord. The postwar years were not easy years either. The year of 1947 was especially hard. The Ukraine did not have any bread, so the people were hungry. One day Vasili, who was 9 at the time, asked his mother: “How many days one can live without bread and die in order not to be in constant pain from hunger?" When the mother heard those words, she took him inside the house and the two of them fell on their knees and cried out to God. At that time someone knocked on the door. They opened the door and several believers came in and said that God had revealed it to them that children were dying of hunger in that house. God gave them the address and they brought them enough food to last for 3-4 months. Then everybody kneeled before the Lord and praised God.

In 1948 mother returned from prison again which made the children’s life easier. Feodosi returned from the camp in 1949 after 10 long years of separation. The children were so happy to see their parents back. Feodosi resumed the work of the pastor in the villages of Ivanovtsi and Semenovka and did it for the next 17 years. The Lord took him back in 1996 when he was in Sacramento. The oldest daughter Mary went through a lot of hardships in her youth and died at a young age of 48. The second daughter Galya now lives in Sacramento and is faithful to the Lord. Th,e third daughter – Nadya Shatova – died this year. Her husband, Vasili Shatov, is grieving the loss of his dear wife.

When Nadya was still alive, she read the Bible every year. Here in America she recorded the Bible on the tape recorder (47 tapes) and left them for her sisters in order that they could listen to the Bible since their eyesight was going bad and it was getting hard for them to read. Nadya and Vasili have 3 children: Oleg who is married to Irina from the Semenuk family; daughter Marina who is a member of the local church and the youngest daughter Lana. They all are grieving over the loss of their deceased mother.

The third sister that Niidya has, Lubov Kinikovskaya, lives in Tennessee with her husband Edward. Nadya’s brother Peter lives in the Ukraine, with his family in the city of Vinitsa. He as well was sentenced to 5 years in prison for the Word of God and went through many trials and tribulations. Brother Vasili lives in Portland with his family. The youngest sister Anya has a daughter named Larissa. They all grieve the loss of Nadya, but they know that she is in Heaven with God.

Thus, dear grandchildren do not forget the blessed family of the Linchuks. To God be the glory for
ever!