Wednesday, September 17, 2014

THYME Magazine: Special Election Issue

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor
Volume VIII, Issue XII

INTEGRITY: Special Election Issue

Davy Crockett's speech to Congress about the 'Indian Bill.' We need more like him!

The scene above is one of my all-time favorites from the movie starring Fess Parker. It brings tears to my eyes as Parker's portrayal of Davy Crockett shows us how a man of integrity stands on his word, even when it costs him his political career! As we move toward an important Senate Race it is imperative that we seek out men and women of integrity today. Watch the scene above if you haven't already. It is a model for what we need to restore to our civic discourse today.

The real skalwags in this here capital of the brave and free is us! YOU and ME, and I'm the worst of the lot!" -- Fess Parker as Davy Crockett, addressing Congress regarding the 1830 Indian Removal Bill.

David Crockett's Speech
by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher

Mr. Speaker, below is the text of a detailed report of a speech given on the floor of the House of Representatives that I believe will be of interest to my colleagues. The description was included in a book titled ``Speeches on the Passage of the Bill for the Removal of the Indians,'' published by Perkins and Marvin in 1830. The speech was given by Rep. David Crockett of Tennessee on May 19, 1830, in opposition to the Indian Removal Act. Unfortunately, the Congress disregarded Crockett's objections and passed the bill, which was then signed into law by President Jackson.A Sketch of the Remarks of the Hon. David Crockett, Representative From Tennessee, on the Bill for the Removal of the Indians, Made in the House of Representatives:

Mr. Crockett said, that, considering his very humble abilities, it might be expected that he should content himself with a silent vote; but, situated as he was, in relation to his colleagues, he felt it to be a duty to himself to explain the motives which governed him in the vote he should give on this bill. Gentlemen had already discussed the treaty-making power; and had done it much more ably than he could pretend to do. He should not therefore enter on that subject, but would merely make an explanation as to the reasons of his vote, He did not know whether a man (that is, a member of Congress) within 500 miles of his residence would give a similar vote; but he knew, at the same time, that he should give that vote with a clear conscience. He had his constituents to settle with, he was aware; and should like to please them as well as other gentlemen; but he had also a settlement to make at the bar of his God; and what his conscience dictated to be just and right he would do, be the consequences what they might. He believed that the people who had been kind enough to give him their suffrages, supposed him to be an honest man, or they would not have chosen him. If so, they could not but expect that he should act in the way he thought honest and right. He had always viewed the native Indian tribes of this country as a sovereign people. He believed they had been recognised as such from the very foundation of this government, and the United States were bound by treaty to protect them; it was their duty to do so. And as to giving to giving the money of the American people for the purpose of removing them in the manner proposed, he would not do it. He would do that only for which he could answer to his G-d. Whether he could answer it before the people was comparatively nothing, though it was a great satisfaction to him to have the approbation of his constituents. Mr. Crockett said he had served for seven years in a legislative body. But from the first hour he had entered a legislative hall, he had never known what party was in legislation; and G-d forbid he ever should. He went for the good of the country, and for that only. What he did as a legislator, he did conscientiously. He should love to go with his colleagues, and with the West and the South generally, if he could; but he never would let party govern him in a question of this great consequence. He had many objections to the bill--some of them of a very serious character.

One was, that he did not like to put half a million of money into the hands of the Executive, to be used in a manner which nobody could foresee, and which Congress was not to control. Another objection was, he did not wish to depart from from the foundation of the government. He considered the present application as the last alternative for these poor remnants of a once powerful people. Their only chance of aid was at the hands of Congress. Should its members turn a deaf ear to their cries, misery must be their fate. That was his candid opinion. Mr. Crockett said he was often forcibly reminded of the remark made by the famous Red Jacket, in the rotundo of this building, where he was shown the pannel which represented in sculpture the first landing of the Pilgrims, with an Indian chief presenting to them an ear of corn, in token of friendly welcome. The aged Indian said ``that was good.'' The Indian said, he knew that they came from the Great Spirit, and he was willing to share the soil with his brothers from over the great water. But when he turned round to another panel representing Penn's treaty, he said ``Ah! all's gone now.'' There was a great deal of truth in this short saying; and the present bill was a strong commentary upon it. Mr. Crockett said that four counties of his district bordered on the Chickasaw country. He knew many of their tribe; and nothing should ever induce him to vote to drive them west of the Mississippi. He did not know what sort of a country it was in which they were to be settled. He would willingly appropriate money in order to send proper persons to examine the country. And when this had been done, and a fair and free treaty had been made with the tribes if they were desirous of removing, he would vote an appropriation of any sum necessary; but till this had been done, he would not vote one cent. He could not clearly understand the extent of this bill. It seemed to go to the removal of all the Indians, in any State east of the Mississippi river, in which the United States owned any land; Now, there was a considerable number of them still neglected; there was a considerable number of them in Tennessee, and the United States' government owned no land in that State, north and east of the congressional reservation line. No man could be more willing to see them remove than he was if it could be done in a manner agreeable to themselves; but not otherwise.

He knew personally that a part of the tribe of the Cherokees were unwilling to go. When the proposal was made to them, they said, ``No; we will take death here at our homes. Let them come and tomahawk us here at home: we are willing to die, but never to remove.'' He had heard them use this language. Many different constructions might be put upon this bill. One of the first things which had set him against the bill, was the letter from the secretary of war to colonel Montgomery--from which it appeared that the Indians had been intruded upon. Orders had been issued to turn them all off except the heads of the Indian families, or such as possessed improvements Government had taken measures to purchase land from the Indians who had gone to Arkansas. If this bill should pass, the same plan would be carried further; they would send and buy them out, and put white men upon their land. It had never been known that white men and Indians could live together; and in this case, the Indians were to have no privileges allowed them, while the white men were to have all. Now, if this was not oppression with a vengeance, he did not know what was. It was the language of the bill, and of its friends, that the Indians were not to be driven off against their will. He knew the Indians were unwilling to go: and therefore he could not consent to place them in a situation where they would be obliged to go. He could not stand that. He knew that he stood alone, having, perhaps, none of his colleagues from his state agreeing in sentiment. He could not help that. He knew that he should return to his home glad and light in heart, if he voted against the bill. He felt that it was his wish and purpose to serve his constituents honestly, according to the light of his conscience.

The moment he should exchange his conscience for mere party views, he hoped his Maker would no longer suffer him to exist. He spoke the truth in saying so. If he should be the only member of that House who voted against the bill, and the only man in the United States who disapproved it, he would still vote against it; and it would be matter of rejoicing to him till the day he died, that he had given the vote. He had been told that he should be prostrated; but if so, he would have the consolation of conscience. He would obey that power, and gloried in the deed. He cared not for popularity, unless it could be obtained by upright means. He had seen much to disgust him here; and he did not wish to represent his fellow citizens, unless he could be permitted to act conscientiously. He had been told that he did not understand English grammar. That was very true. He had never been six months at school in his life; he had raised himself by the labor of his hands. But he did not, on that account, yield upon his privilege as the representative of freemen on this floor. Humble as he was, he meant to exercise his privilege. He had been charged with not representing his constituents. If the fact was so, the error (said Mr. Crockett) is here, (touching his head) not here (laying his hand upon his heart). He never had possessed wealth or education, but he had ever been animated by an independent spirit; and he trusted to prove it on the present occasion. [1.]

5th Grader Takes on 'Nanny State'

Eleven year old Grace Karaffa is not exactly a stranger to politics. Her father is Augusta County Supervisor David Karaffa, who ran for the office as an independent to restore integrity to local politics. His campaign stressed open dialogue and the practical addressing of issues, even when doing so was hard. Since second grade, Grace has suffered from bleeding lips and this causes her quite a bit of discomfort in school. When she asked if she could use Chapstick, she was told that it was not allowed. She could not use the over the counter lip balm because it was 'prohibited' as it was considered a 'medication.' Grace was forced to wet her cracked and bleeding lips in the school washroom as an alternative.

This year, encouraged by her father, Grace brought a petition before the Augusta County School Board asking for the ban on lip balm to be overturned. Citing concerns that students might 'share' medications, the board responded saying they would study the matter. We at THYME have covered 'Nanny State' overreach before, most notably the Wendy's Incident [click to read] but it tends to remain a local story, for the most part. Fox News [click to read], however picked up on Grace's petition, as did Independent Journalism Review [click to read]. The eleven year old's campaign had gone viral!

'Of the People'
Public Servants Should Remember Who They Serve

I grew up with Davy Crockett as a hero. I still remember the part where he rode through the night to defeat the Indian Bill, a bad piece of legislation that cost him his congressional career for opposing it. Davy Crockett was one of us! There was no question.

Fast forward to the past few elections and you have two 'public servants' who let their hair down with their elite buddies and say things like: "You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. … And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." [2.]

Or consider this quote: "One of the things you are going to see is a coalition that is just about completely taken over the Republican Party in this state and if they have their way it’s going to take over state government. It is made up of the Christian Coalition, but not just them. It is made up of the right-to-lifers, but not just them. It’s made up of the NRA, but not just them. It is made up of the home-schoolers, but not just them. It’s made up of a whole coalition of people that have all sorts of differing views that I think most of us in this room would find threatening to what it means to be an American." [3.]

Scary stuff! The man responsible for the second quote is sitting in the U. S.  Senate from the State of Virginia. He once ran ads saying that then Senator Obama "respects" your Second Amendment rights! But even though he claims to be a 'moderate,' Senator Warner's voting record says otherwise. His vote gave us Obamacare, in spite of strong appeals (I went to his office with a lot of other people) to do otherwise. He has voted with the President 97% of the time, yet the media this fall will paint him as a Centrist!

Home schoolers, dangerous?, I've had home schoolers and former home schoolers work in our model shop and I can tell from the above quote that Mark Warner has far less experience with home schoolers than I do. I've seen fifteen year old kids who've developed professional proficiency and have pretty good heads on their shoulders to boot! I think I'll send Senator Warner a copy of Alvin Schmidt's book Under the Influence. I think there are many spiritual underpinnings to what it means to be an American. I don't think Governor Warner's coctail crowd should be so afraid of us.

In the early Nineteenth Century, Crockett's Tennessee was the Alaska of its day, sitting on the frontier with hostile forces beyond. I'll bet you their were no teenagers working out their angst either. Young people were working the farms and defending them. So, once again in troubled times, should we look to the frontier for leadership? I think so!

Still, it is not surprising that the press will repackage Elite Liberals as 'Centrists' as the election approaches. They all read Howard Zinn [1.] together in school and are steeped in his narrative. A recent piece I read by Gerry Warburg preaches: Lessons in the Wake of Watergate. [2.] It is interesting reading. Warburg went to Washington as a young Democrat aide in the wake of Nixon's resignation. He helped write Jimmy Carter's nuclear policy bill. Warburg calls those years: "...a time of national renewal. In crisis there is opportunity: Reformers of all political persuasions helped advance crucial measures..." So, while Warburg admits to the need for deficit reduction his call for "informed voters" to elect "Centrist" candidates needs some analysis.

In 2009, the Tea Party sounded the alarm about rising government debt and the folly of larger government. The media has worked overtime to marginalize it. Does Warburg not see that the activists from all backgrounds today are often calling for a return to Constitutional principles and a reigning in of the government as part of an overall strategy to return health to the country? President Obama took with him to Washington over fifty of the most overtly Leftist Idiologues as Czars. The media yawned. The IRS was employed to hobble the Conservative movement. The media yawned. Eric Holder's Justice Department ignored the New Black Panther Party suppression of white voters in Philadelphia. Rioters 'rightfully' burn down their neighborhood when a white policeman kills a black youth but hundreds of kids die in these neighborhoods at the hands of people the same race and the media yawns. The suspicious nature of Benghazi, 'Fast and Furious' Extortion 17 and the arm-twisting passage of the so-called "Affordable Care Act" might cause one to pause and ask": "What did Nixon do, again?"

Indeed, if one honestly considers Richard M. Nixon's place in history, the Watergate break-ins seem to be JV league compared to the weight of the present documented scandals. Warburg might do well to remember that Nixon, aside from Watergate, actually embodies the true Center-Right candidate. Under Nixon's leadership, the Environmental Protection Agency began. Nixon also is known for the controversial Wage/Price Controls, under which Insurance as an employment benefit became cemented. Rubbing shoulders with Robert C. Byrd, he should have realized where much of the ensconced racism of this country resided. In conclusion, I would have to agree with Gerry Warburg's desire for an informed electorate, but I would caution the media to report honestly and let the informed electorate, not the pundits, decide who is 'extreme.'

Serge Belo's Amazing Mosaic

To raise awareness among the general public about the global clean water crisis, the artist Serge Belo created an image composed of 66,000 cups of colored rainwater. (Contributed by Kristina Elaine Riley).

Wes Stafford in his book: Too Small to Ignore [click to read] speaks with affection of the time he lived in Africa with his missionary parents. One of his most cherished memories was digging out a well for a village with his father. Tired and muddy, they submitted their story to their mission board's newsletter. Sadly the newsletter overlooked this wonderful story and did not publish it. So many people in the world today would be spared so much suffering if they could just be provided with clean water! And clean water is such a practical testimony of G-d's Love!

Stafford went on to found Compassion International [click to read] and they have helped a lot of children with the basic necessities such as clean water, bringing the Love of G-d to their communities in practical acts of service. To this day, Wes Stafford and his partners continue to embrace the muddy work of building the Kingdom of G-d! But still, digging wells and fencing out cattle is often overlooked as a work of the Kingdom.

To raise awareness among the general public about the global clean water crisis, the artist Serge Belo created an image composed of 66,000 cups of colored rainwater simulating levels of impurities found in water all over the planet. This major work of 3,600 square feet, representing a baby in the maternal womb, emphasizes the necessity of water, even before birth, for each living person.

Does My Vote Matter?

Imagine the impact Americans of faith can have on the future of our nation, the character of its leadership, and the health of its families if we all applied biblical principles to every aspect of our lives — including committing to vote.

Commit to Vote 2014 [click to read]

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

THYME Magazine: Back to School Issue

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XI

 The Problem of Original Zinn

Last week THYME asked the question: Could it be that the modern activist narrative, perpetuated by writers like Howard Zinn, conveniently ignores the sin, violence and retribution that lies outside of 'Western' activity. His 776 page A People's History of the United States [click to read] is required reading on many college campuses. No doubt, his philosophy has influenced many an aspiring journalist in their own activism. But Zinn must be seen for the Marxist that he is, and his convenient 'omission' of important history needs to be corrected.The problem is that Zinn, not sin, has become the basis for the activism of men like Sharpton and Jackson, who for the media serve as icons of the Civil Rights Movement.

First of all, it must be noted that Zinn himself admits: “Once I was bar mitzvahed, and I had done my religious duty, and my family needn’t be ashamed of me anymore…. that was the end of my religiosity.” He further perpetuates the marginalization of Faith in his works. Bob Cheeks [click to read] writes: "Rhetorician Richard M. Weaver in his essay, Up From Liberalism, explained the spiritual discernment that gave birth to his intellectual epiphany: “Original sin is a parabolical expression of the immemorial tendency of man to do the wrong thing when he knows the right thing.” By acknowledging Original sin, Weaver, abandoned a youthful dalliance with what at that time (the 1930’s) was called liberalism. Unfortunately, historian/activist Howard Zinn had no such epiphany."

The problem is not so much that Zinn has a narrative,but that the academy has embraced Zinn's one-sided narrative as a base for understanding our culture. Daniel J. Flynn sums it up quite nicely: "Who is the most influential historian in America? Could it be Pulitzer Prize winners Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. or Joseph Ellis or David McCullough, whose scholarly works have reached a broad literary public? The answer is none of the above. The accolade belongs instead to the unreconstructed, anti-American Marxist Howard Zinn, whose cartoon anti-history of the United States is still selling 128,000 copies a year twenty years after its original publication. Many of those copies are assigned readings for courses in colleges and high schools taught by leftist disciples of their radical mentor."

That is the problem. Steeped in the narrative that the world was doing fine before the evil white oppressors arrived on the scene, Zinn ignores the sin that has plagued men of all colors and cultures since long ago. Raiding and retribution were seen in tribal cultures and are still seen today in the tragic breakdown of civil society in places like Rwanda. Somehow the only real 'evil' in Zinn's world is that of the Western 'Imperialist.' That is why history, like mapmaking, requires an honest telling. Even America's Romantic period Romanticised the "Noble Savage." Indeed a lot of bloody raiding and retribution was left out even then. Ironically the best anti-colonial emergence of all, the American Experiment, is lumped in with the great empires of Spain and Britian.

No doubt, this is possible because men like Zinn see America as simply a continuation of European Imperialism. What is missed is the bright hope that burned briefly in newly freed African nations who initially modeled themselves after our Constitutional government. I remember that time in the middle of the Twentieth Century where Africans in traditional garb met in gleaming new assembly halls to take their rule from their former colonizers. That seemed such a time of hope and promise. Later I was saddened to see the destruction of Uganda, once known as the 'Pearl of Africa,' by despotic leadership feeding off of the bad feelings and retribution culture of the old tribalism. Rwanda's bloody descent was a terrible playing out of the same scenario.

But the United States Constitution actually acknowledges quite clearly the weakness of man and his propensity to take advantage of his fellows. Thus it enumerates basic rights held by all and limits the restriction of those rights by the institutions of government. Within the framework of Constitution, slavery, long a part of human history, becomes problematic in a way that allows the work of a William Wilberforce to go forward. But, as Bob Cheeks writes: "Zinn’s ideals have a misanthropic ring to them. I don’t believe he loves humanity as he claims. I believe he worships the idea of a state that can transform Americans into that antiseptic android, the socialist’s “New Man.” Perhaps he is angry with a G-d who would allow pain and suffering in this world?"

That last thought of Cheeks, so well dramatized in the movie: G-d's Not Dead [click to read], appears to drive far too much of the narrative at the academy. That would explain the steady stream of socialist solutions coming out of that world and their antipathy for localized initiative outside of government oversight, as in the case of healthcare reform. It may be seen as well in the state's resistance to Faith-based solutions and the desire of the state to create 'compelling public interest' legislation to force businesses run by people of Faith (Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood Products) to provide coverage of abortion causing drugs or prohibiting them from refusing service to those who would force them, in providing such service, to violate their conscience (Elane Photography, Sweet Cakes by Melissa). Such is in keeping with the molding of the "antiseptic android," the "New Man." It can be no less than that.

Remembering September 11, 2001

Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)
Alan Jackson

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or working on some stage in L.A.?
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Risin' against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?

Did you weep for the children who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don't know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?
Did you burst out in pride for the red, white and blue
And the heroes who died just doin' what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell
you the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you teaching a class full of innocent children
Or driving down some cold interstate?
Did you feel guilty 'cause you're a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone?
Did you call up your mother and tell her you loved her?
Did you dust off that Bible at home?

Did you open your eyes, hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep?
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Or speak to some stranger on the street?
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Or go out and buy you a gun?
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watchin'
And turn on "I Love Lucy" reruns?

Did you go to a church and hold hands with some strangers
Did you stand in line and give your own blood?
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love?

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell
you the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to G-d
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?

Lower Manhattan, New York, New York. Photo by Detective Greg Smedinger
Arlington, Virginia.
Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The Southeast Reliability Project

"There are no simple solutions, only intelligent choices." -- Caterpillar Advertisement.

Intelligent Choices, that was the message of a series of advertisements by construction equipment giant Caterpillar in the 1960's. Of course Caterpillar had a vested interest in the construction industry moving forward, but the thought is a good one. Augusta County, Virginia now faces the need, in the case of Dominion Resources' 42 mile proposed pipeline route through the county, to make some intelligent choices.

"Pipelines tear up the land..." "Affordable Energy requires pipelines."
Those could be the conflicting sentiments in today's discussion, much like the opposing viewpoints highlighted in the Caterpillar advertisements. And they can guide us, as we consider the impact and opportunity of any project. A badly designed pipeline route will indeed affect us for years to come, but design is a beautiful process and through intelligent considerations we might indeed arrive at a very workable solution.

The first map of the proposed route simply cut across the expanse of George Washington National Forest without regard for terrain or sensitive natural areas. A second map corrected the route to reflect concern for sensitive areas in the National Forest, but cut a swath through the growing community of Stuarts Draft. The pipeline mappers now had created conflict with the county's comprehensive plan. Supervisor David Karaffa also pointed out the need to protect important underground aquifers in the Stuarts Draft area. Obviously more design is in order.

Pipelines are easiest to site in open country. After they are buried and the land is restored you can indeed farm right over them. They are problematic where there is heavy development. They require an open right of way where only roads may cross them and no structures may be placed over them. It might surprise you to know that a gas pipeline runs right through the Virginia Horse Center Complex outside of Lexington Virginia. At one point the center's designers considered covered walkways from stables to arenas and were stopped by the need to leave pipeline right of way uncovered.

Pipelines are least desirable where there is a dense community or in natural preservation areas. The 100' right of way MUST be maintained clear in order to perform necessary inspection and maintenance. Thus it is imperative that the route be sensitively threaded through the mountains by its designers. But that is certainly possible. Just North of Calf Mountain Shelter on the Appalachian Trail, one first crosses a very obvious swath cut for power line right of way. The electricity crackles in the lines overhead, supported by enormous towers... it is a bit eery... but walk a bit farther and you step into what appears to be a wildlife clearing just past Jarman's Gap. Wildflowers and butterflies abound.

You leave the trail and walk to the edge to take in the view a little better. Only then do you realize you are standing on a natural gas line right of way! You can see now that the cleared path extends on past the end of Buck's Elbow Mountain, far in the distance. I grew up with gas lines. In fact, as a boy I walked to my favorite lake, Triadelphia Reservoir, on the gas line right of way. The gas line actually ran right under the reservoir!

One resource I still have from my younger days is a copy of Ian McHarg's 1967 book: Design with Nature. It is a great guide to intelligently siting projects with sensitivity to their environment. McHarg used a series of semi-transparent overlays on which important natural features, historically important sites and existing communities are all colored in. The result of analyzing the composite of McHarg's overlays is the most environmentally responsible design. Such is the process we must insist be applied to the Southeast Reliability Project.

Samuel Truett Cathy: 1921-2014

Samuel Truett Cathy.

No goal is too high if we climb with care and confidence.”

Nearly every moment of every day we have the opportunity to give something to someone else – our time, our love, our resources. I have always found more joy in giving when I did not expect anything in return.”

“I’d like to be remembered as one who kept my priorities in the right order. We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed, and the important things will not change if we keep our priorities in proper order.”

“You have to be very careful about what you say. More importantly, you have to be very careful about what you do. You never know how or when you influence people – especially children.”

“It is when we stop doing our best work that our enthusiasm for the job wanes. We must motivate ourselves to do our very best, and by our example lead others to do their best as well.”

“I believe no amount of business school training or work experience can teach what is ultimately a matter of personal character. Businesses are not dishonest or greedy, people are. Thus, a business, successful or not, is merely a reflection of the character of its leadership.”

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

THYME Magazine: Finding the C.U.R.E.

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue X

Finding the C.U.R.E.
Star Parker's Mission to Give People a Voice

As the wreckage of Watts smoldered in the wake of the riots of 1992, a young woman's dream lay shattered in the ruins. Star Parker had dreamed of creating an urban Christian magazine and that enterprise was now a casualty of the violence. As a teen she had had a troubled life, influenced by crime and drugs. She came to Los Angeles with a dream to become a dancer on Soul Train, but ended up as a single mother on welfare instead. Her life was forever changed when she gave it to Christ. She credits her G-d-given Faith for everything that happened after that.

Ms. Parker was motivated by her Faith to do more than simply cash her check and languish for the rest of her life on public assistance. She worked under the table and found a way to put herself through school, earning a degree in marketing. She launched her magazine, only to see her business destroyed in 1992. But Star Parker was only defeated temporarily. She continued her writing and her activism. Taking on the welfare system she had escaped, she wrote her autobiography, Pimps, Whores and Welfare Brats, published in 1997. Her second book, Uncle Sam's Plantation, was released in 2003.

Star Parker founded the Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education, or CURE, to: "provide a national voice of reason on issues of race and poverty in the media, inner city neighborhoods, and public policy." As a social policy consultant, Star Parker has given regular testimony before the United States Congress, and is a national expert on major television and radio shows across the country. She recently RAN for Congress but was unsuccessful. Star is a regular commentator on CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News. She has debated Jesse Jackson on BET; fought for school choice on Larry King Live; and defended welfare reform on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Today Ms. Star regularly publishes compelling commentary on issues of the day. Many of them appear on the website of CURE [click to read] and provide a welcome contrast to the repetitive tomes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Her story is amazing. Her writing is clear and lucid. She seems like a woman who has stepped out of the Harlem Renaissance and into our century! She is on a mission to inspire black pastors so that they might inspire their congregants.

So why don't we hear more about her? Her story of overcoming does not square well with the 'victim' narrative favored by so many contemporary activists. Also, her Christian Faith, the catalyst in her amazing life story, is problematic to modern Liberal narrative as well!

Could it be that the modern activist narrative, perpetuated by writers like Howard Zinn, conveniently ignores the sin, violence and retribution that lies outside of 'Western' activity. His 776 page A People's History of the United States [click to read] is required reading on many college campuses. No doubt, his philosophy has influenced many an aspiring journalist in their own activism. But Zinn must be seen for the Marxist that he is, and his convenient 'omission' of important history needs to be corrected.The problem is that Zinn, not sin, has become the basis for the activism of men like Sharpton and Jackson, who for the media serve as icons of the Civil Rights Movement.

First of all, it must be noted that Zinn himself admits: “Once I was bar mitzvahed, and I had done my religious duty, and my family needn’t be ashamed of me anymore…. that was the end of my religiosity.” He further perpetuates the marginalization of Faith in his works. Bob Cheeks [click to read] writes: "Rhetorician Richard M. Weaver in his essay, Up From Liberalism, explained the spiritual discernment that gave birth to his intellectual epiphany: “Original sin is a parabolical expression of the immemorial tendency of man to do the wrong thing when he knows the right thing.” By acknowledging Original sin, Weaver, abandoned a youthful dalliance with what at that time (the 1930’s) was called liberalism. Unfortunately, historian/activist Howard Zinn had no such epiphany."

The problem becomes most apparent when 'history' focuses on slavery in the Western world, conveniently forgetting its long-standing existence both ancient and primitive societies. Ignored is the fact that it was the Western world that created conditions for the dialogue and activism that largely ended the foul institution. Faith was the catalyst in the lives of men like John Newton and William Wilberforce. It was the catalyst for Martin Luther King's dream as well.

Indeed, Star Parker finds herself swimming upstream (as far as the academy is concerned) with her message of personal responsibility and empowerment. Her message and indeed her own life story serve to deconstruct the 'victim' narrative so essential to the perpetuation of the modern Liberal philosophy. Where they would focus on reforming 'corrupt' (as they see it) institutions, Parker seeks to reform the man! We would do well to remember that our great universities were founded on this principle, to bring the Gospel into practical practice in the hearts of individuals that make up our society. Star Parker is merely picking up their original mission in the work she does. Her message resonates with that of Martin Luther King's 1962 Speech, given at the Lincoln Memorial:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beckoning light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.

One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

One hundred years later the Negro is still languishing in the comers of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.

We all have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to change racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice ring out for all of God's children.

There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted citizenship rights.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

And the marvelous new militarism which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers have evidenced by their presence here today that they have come to realize that their destiny is part of our destiny.

So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its Governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places plains, and the crooked places will be made straight, and before the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the mount with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the genuine discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, pray together; to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom forever, )mowing that we will be free one day.

And I say to you today my friends, let freedom ring. From the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, let freedom ring. From the mighty mountains of New York, let freedom ring. From the mighty Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snow capped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only there; let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain in Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill in Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of G-d's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank G-d almighty, we're free at last!"

The Divine Plan of Redemption

If my people, which are called by my name shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." -- 2 Chronicles 7:14

The Great Depression of the 1930's in America...

What does redemption really look like? "The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph" -- Mr. Mendez.

"What this world needs is a little Wonder!" -- Mr Mendez

This beautiful short film has much to say about the mission of G-d's people in the world today. Do we grasp the wonder of Imago Dei in those around us? Do we seek to encourage and nurture it. The Butterfly Circus should be seen as a challenge to all of us in this regard.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

THYME Magazine: The Gift of Language

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue IX

The Gift of Language
How Sequoyah Gave His People Written Words

Perhaps the most remarkable man who has ever lived on Georgia soil was neither a politician, nor a soldier, nor an ecclesiastic, nor a scholar, but merely a Cherokee Indian of mixed blood. And strange to say, this Indian acquired permanent fame, neither expecting or seeking it." -- H. A. Scomp, Emory College

He was hardly someone you would predict would create such a significant contribution to his nation. George Gist was born to a Cherokee mother, Wu-teh, a member of the Paint Clan, and Nathanial Gist, an English fur trader near the village of Tushkeegee on the Tennessee River. The year was around 1760 but no one knows for sure. Learning the ways of the Cherokee, young George became a trapper and a fur trader himself. He would probably have lived out his days as a man of the forest, but he suffered a hunting accident (or possibly succumbed to a crippling disease, depending on which version of his story you read), but the young man was permanently disabled, unable to earn his living by the skills he had been taught in childhood.

George Gist developed a talent for metal working. He learned to be a blacksmith and silversmith. His disability became both a source of ridicule (Sequoyah means "pig's foot" in Cherokee) and a spur to greater things. The man was a good learner and became a competent craftsman. A man who purchased one of his pieces suggested that he sign his work, but he was unable to. He could not write! And here as well his story might have ended, but events in the greater world were to spur him to his greatest work. Sequoyah married a Cherokee woman and raised a family. They moved to Cherokee County in Georgia where George learned how to write his name from a local farmer. Later he joined other Cherokees who fought under Andrew Jackson against England in the War of 1812. Though he never learned to read or write English, Sequoyah was fascinated by the white man's ability to create "talking leaves" by making marks on paper.

As early as 1809, Sequoyah was exploring the creation of a Cherokee alphabet. Though scholars believe there may have once been a written Cherokee language that was later forgotten, there was no written Cherokee language when Sequoyah was a youth. People suspected that the white man's words "moved around on the paper," and the time was right for Cherokee to be able to read things for themselves. Cherokee soldiers could not write letters home, read military orders for themselves, or record events they wished to remember. When he returned home from the war, he worked in earnest on a phonetic alphabet of 86 letters to write the Cherokee Language. Sequoyah became something of a recluse. His friends and family ridiculed him. Some said he was insane or practicing witchcraft. Moving West to Arkansas, he continued his great work.

He found that his young daughter Ayoka could easily learn to use the syllabary and demonstrated this to his cousin, George Lowrey, who encouraged him to demonstrate the use of the syllabary to the public. In a Cherokee court case in Chattooga, he read an argument about a boundary line from a piece of paper. In 1821 the Cherokee Nation officially adopted Sequoya's alphabet and within a matter of months thousands of Cherokee learned to read and write! In 1824 the Cherokee National Council at New Echota, Georgia presented him with a silver medal. Sequoyah proudly wore it for the rest of his life. He was given a $300 annuity and his widow continued to receive it after he died.

By 1825 the Cherokee had the Bible in their own language along with hymnals and all sorts of educational materials. There was even a large group of Moravian Cherokee. Legal documents and books of every kind were available, all translated into the Cherokee Language. In 1827 The Cherokee National Council funded the printing of Tsa la gi Tsu lehesanunhi," the Cherokee Phoenix. It was the first Native American newspaper printed in the United States. It was produced in the Cherokee Capital, New Echota on a press shipped there from Boston. The paper had parallel columns in Cherokee and English, printed side by side.

Sadly, the discovery of gold in North Georgia, unscrupulous men and treachery in treaty would lead to the removal of most of the Eastern nation. Sequoyah moved to Oklahoma were he served as an envoy to Washington D.C. to assist the displaced Eastern Cherokees. He continued to serve his people as a diplomat and a statesman. Well into his eighties, he traveled West again, looking for a band of Cherokees who were said to have moved to Mexico. He took ill and died in 1843 and the location of his grave remains unknown to this day. Two species of giant redwood trees have been named in his honor, as has Sequoia National Park in California. He gave his people the gift of literacy. His contribution is unique, as he, an uneducated, seemingly undistinguished individual, created a totally new system of writing for his beloved nation. [1.]

J. Lanphier's Journey of Prayer
How A Nation Was Turned to G-d and Restored

Jeremiah Lanphier discovered the power of prayer in his own life.

By the middle of the Nineteenth Century, America found herself at a crossroads. Wild speculation and greed had built a house of cards. While a few became incredibly wealthy, the gap between haves and have-nots grew ever wider.   The economic crash had put 30,000 men out of work on the streets of New York City.  Churches languished as people explored Spiritism and other "new" ideas. We, of the Twenty-first Century, would find the condition of the culture strangely familiar.

Political corruption, shady dealings in business and a general moral decline were the norm.  "Atheism, agnosticism, apathy and indifference to God, to the church, and its message abounded on every hand. The decline was fourfold: social, moral, political and spiritual." -- Tom Shanklin

Then came the crash! Factories were shuttered. Banks failed and merchants were ruined. Thousands were destitute. Winkie Pratney, who chronicled the great revival, says: "A near socio-economic collapse jolted America away from her apathy into a national cry for spiritual reality." Chuck Balsamo presents a wonderful concise history of this revival in his book Make Me a Legend [click to read]. The story does not begin with a mighty move and thousands of conversions, rather it begins in a rather small way.

Jeremiah Lanphier was a middle-aged businessman caught in the crossroads. Having no children and no family, he was drawn to minister to the needs of those living in the dark slums of Hell's Kitchen. Leaving his business, he became a lay missionary with the North Dutch Church in Manhattan. Pouring his life into the lives of those he saw caught in hopelessness, he soon came to the end of his own strength. Physically and mentally exhausted, Lanphier discovered that just as the body needs food, the soul and spirit of a man need to be nourished in prayer.[1.]

Each day at midday, Lanphier would seek solace in the Church Consistory Building, where he would cry out to G-d for spiritual strength. He experienced G-d in a mighty way in these times and felt that others would benefit from prayer as well, especially the city's businessmen. He printed up and distributed 20,000 flyers advertising his first noontime prayer meeting, on September 23, 1857.

That day he prayed alone for thirty minutes before six others joined him. The next week there were twenty. The week after that forty people showed up. In time over 100 churches had noonday prayer meetings going throughout the city. G-d's powerful move was felt far beyond New York City. Newspaperman Horace Greeley wanted to get a count of the number of men  praying in New York so he sent a reporter out to the meetings. Racing around the city in a horse-drawn buggy, the reporter was only able to get to twelve meetings in the noon hour, but he counted 6,100 in attendance.

Spiritual awakening followed and Americans found strength in G-d for the turbulent days that followed. This Third Great Awakening not only revitalized the spirit of America's people, but led to missionary outreach around the world.  [2.]

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

THYME Magazine: The Mapmaker's Ethic III

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue VIII

The Mapmaker's Ethic III
Reliable Directions for an Important Journey

Maps are an important tool for navigating what is often to the user unknown regions. The users' success and ultimately their safety in the journey requires that the mapmaker strive to provide the most accurate depiction his or her art can produce of the ways of travel, their conditions, and possible dangers!

For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations." -- Psalm 100:5

Mapmakers strive for accuracy. Truth in the depiction of many details is essential to their work being trustworthy and safe. A wonderful old road atlas I acquired in my boyhood even went so far as to suggest a traveler make local inquiry before venturing onto some of the more obscure unpaved roads shown. After Hurricane Katrina I traveled to Waveland, Mississippi. The map said that U.S. 90 crossed Bay St. Louis on a bridge. We drove to the barricade at the end of route 90. The bridge had been washed away.

Many scholars, who would INSIST on accurate maps to guide them on the highway, scoff at the notion of "Absolute Truth" in the spiritual realm. They would NEVER seek to drive to Chicago subscribing to the notion that all roads are equally valid. Yet, when it comes to matters eternal, they reject the notion that there might indeed be specific direction available to them. Most likely they would find in Holy Writ some example of "Absolute Truth" similar to the now missing U.S. 90 bridge , and dismiss the veracity of ANY claim to "Absolute Truth." But they would be missing the mark.

No trucker, upon discovering the missing route 90 bridge, would throw his atlas out the window. Instead, he would probably take note that the atlas itself states that while every effort has been made to verify the information contained in the publication, errors or omissions are possible and contact information is provided for those observing such discrepancies to report them. The map, you see, is a hard record of an Earthscape that is changing. These changes are caused both by natural forces and the actions of mankind.

Yet the difficulty of documenting it in no way discredits the truth that an absolute set of conditions exists. Historical maps document well the succession of changes and if one will study maps, it may be argued, they will make wiser decisions as they travel. The very fact that maps are made argues that there is indeed a truth to be recorded. So it is, I would argue, with human history as well. If the Divine has indeed revealed eternal truths to mankind, and scribes have striven to record them accurately, as Jews and Christians have taught for centuries, then there must needs be maps for the world unseen as well.

Dismissing the validity of scripture because you find a prohibition on eating shellfish is similar to discrediting the use of maps because you fail to place it in context. A 1947 map of the United States will lack Interstate Highways, yet it would have shown you how to cross the country on the Mother Road, Route 66! That same route has been renamed I 40 in our times and is wider. Similarly Leviticus mapped a path for G-d's people in a time when eating shellfish was dangerous. In Leviticus 14, detailed procedures are given for dealing with mold in structures. I was tempted to conider such information 'archaic' until I attended a conference of the National Institute of Restoration.

It was there that I met a man who was severely disabled. He had been performing mold mitigation on a building and the work required him to go into many small spaces and resulted in exttended exposure to the mold. There are indeed different strains of mold (Leviticus describes this), and the kind this man encountered was the more dangerous kind. His heart had been severely damaged from his prolonged exposure to it. After meeting him I took the matter of mold in my own house, or that of a friend, very seriously. Scriptural guidelines on diet and hygene are actually quite helpful upon untering an unfamiliar culture.

The fact that Holy Writ comes in a series of books, all building upon previous revelation, might be analogous to the process of refining maps. Stop and think about it. There is so much information contained in historical maps that is still useful today. Moses shows you the beginnings of G-d's interactions with mankind. In Genesis we see the concept of IMAGO DEI, that mankind uniquely bears the image of his maker. Abraham is charged that through him: "All nations of the Earth shall be blessed." Redemption is seen in the calling out of an enslaved people to become a nation for that purpose.

History affirms the work of G-d in establishing a people, and yet read further. Isaiah 60 describes a road unseen that we have yet to travel. Just as Moses brought a promise that was fulfilled, the prophets bring more promise.

Can We Trust Our Maps?

As I was researching this article, I came across a very interesting article about Cartography as Wayfinding for the Soul [click to read]. Some may encounter such an article and scoff: "See, there is much that may be placed subjectively into maps." But consider this, just as my map of Middle Earth, created in my youth, described no actual country; but accurately represented the creation of J. R. R. Tolkien's fertile imagination. Even 'educational' maps may organize very real information in a subjective manner. Creating maps of Ice-Age Europe for CIVITAS, Kristina Elaine Riley and I placed icons of animals on them to describe the fauna of the time. Here the convention of icons might be seen to create an 'untruth,' for there are no Great Auks the size of New Jersey actually lying upon the landscape.

But is it an untruth? No. It is a convention that is understood across many cultures. Thus it may be useful to remember that Divine Revelation was handed to scribes who also inhabit their own set of cultural conventions in the use of language. Sometimes an honest exploration of idioms is necessary. I defy you to understand more recent writings, such as those of Shakespeare, without doing so.

Scripture 'scholars' at our great universities also are fond of "multiple authorship theories," that supposedly discredit Holy Writ. My own work as an artist suggested, however, a more plausible explanation. Looking back at my early attempts, I find they are often very different from my more 'mature' works. A mentor once scolded me for inconsistency. Writers as well will develop as they go along. Realizing that the writers of Holy Writ often began with no concept of the greater work intended by G-d, it is greater evidence for firsthand writing that it has not been 'smoothed.'

In fact, there is an 'Embarassement Factor' present in these works, for there is little or no attempt to smooth over those things that appear in Holy Writ that present a less than flattering picture of Kings, Prophets, Apostles and Patriarchs. You might want to remember this when randomly choosing passages to read to young children!

Importance of Investigation

Granted, there are scholars of the Bible who have taken it apart in their writings and present the conclusion that it is not truth. I would only ask them to go back and honestly check their work. The vast majority of those who resist the notion that faith is important have done little or no exploration on their own. Some honest seekers have indeed found themselves mired by the inexplicable problems of pain and evil. To them I would offer a piece of advice from a wise family member... that someone, somewhere in the household of faith has wrestled with these issues before you. Seek out their counsel.

G-d and Suffering

Isn't human suffering proof that a just, all-powerful G-d must not exist? On the contrary, says Boston College Professor of Philosophy Peter Kreeft. How can "suffering" exist without an objective standard against which to judge it? Absent a standard, there is no justice. If there is no justice, there is no injustice. And if there is no injustice, there is no suffering. On the other hand, if justice exists, G-d exists.An objective standard is indeed a solid mark on a map!

Boston College Professor of Philosophy Peter Kreeft.

The Mapmaker's Ethic Restated:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." -- 2 Timothy 2:15

Paul the Apostle wrote these words to Timothy, his young apprentice in the Gospel ministry. I am priviledged to know a young man of our age who is not afraid to walk that same path. The young Minister stirs the soul as he clearly presents the Gospel from the classic texts on Faith. He is quick to reference good maps in doing so! Oh, the richness of Martin Luther's Preface to Romans!

This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian's while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes. Therefore I want to carry out my service and, with this preface, provide an introduction to the letter, insofar as God gives me the ability, so that every one can gain the fullest possible understanding of it. Up to now it has been darkened by glosses [explanatory notes and comments which accompany a text] and by many a useless comment, but it is in itself a bright light, almost bright enough to illumine the entire Scripture.

To begin with, we have to become familiar with the vocabulary of the letter and know what St. Paul means by the words law, sin, grace, faith, justice, flesh, spirit, etc. Otherwise there is no use in reading it." [1.]

The young Minister is concerned today with the matter of Faith. Though Faith is often mentioned, few unroll the great charts to plot its implications. The young Minister has no fear in doing so. He references Luther's thoughts on this great Truth:

Faith is not that human illusion and dream that some people think it is. When they hear and talk a lot about faith and yet see that no moral improvement and no good works result from it, they fall into error and say, "Faith is not enough. You must do works if you want to be virtuous and get to heaven." The result is that, when they hear the Gospel, they stumble and make for themselves with their own powers a concept in their hearts which says, "I believe." This concept they hold to be true faith. But since it is a human fabrication and thought and not an experience of the heart, it accomplishes nothing, and there follows no improvement.

Faith is a work of God in us, which changes us and brings us to birth anew from God (cf. John 1). It kills the old Adam, makes us completely different people in heart, mind, senses, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. What a living, creative, active powerful thing is faith! It is impossible that faith ever stop doing good. Faith doesn't ask whether good works are to be done, but, before it is asked, it has done them. It is always active. Whoever doesn't do such works is without faith; he gropes and searches about him for faith and good works but doesn't know what faith or good works are. Even so, he chatters on with a great many words about faith and good works.

Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God's grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it. This kind of trust in and knowledge of God's grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy with regard to God and all creatures. This is what the Holy Spirit does by faith. Through faith, a person will do good to everyone without coercion, willingly and happily; he will serve everyone, suffer everything for the love and praise of God, who has shown him such grace. It is as impossible to separate works from faith as burning and shining from fire. Therefore be on guard against your own false ideas and against the chatterers who think they are clever enough to make judgements about faith and good works but who are in reality the biggest fools. Ask God to work faith in you; otherwise you will remain eternally without faith, no matter what you try to do or fabricate." [2.]

Monday, August 18, 2014

THYME Magazine: A Call to Prayer

Hope and Promise for Our Troubled Times

Volume VIII, Issue VIIIa

War is ugly. The news in recent times has brought us it in its full ugliness as it destroys women and children and threatens to revisit dark times of the past century to which we once said "Never Again!" Would we join our hearts with our family in faith around the world in praying G-d's promise of protection, as found in Psalm 91, for persecuted Christians in Iraq. But let us expand our compassion to pray Psalm 91 for the people of Sderot and other towns in Southern Israel, who endure relentless attacks from Hamas. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." -- Ephesians 6:12 But let us pray as well for the children of Gaza, being forced to participate in this dark warfare as human shields. And let us pray for our own youth as well, for they are being warred against as well by a culture that would reduce their purpose in life to self-gratification. It is time to raise our eyes heavenward: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1-2

Psalm 72

Give the king thy judgments, O G-d, and thy righteousness unto the king's son.

He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.

The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.

He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.

They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.

He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.

In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.

He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.

They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.

The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.

Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.

For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper.

He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.

He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.

And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised.

There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.

His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed.

Blessed be the Lord G-d, the G-d of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things.

And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.

The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended."

Psalm 91

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my G-d; in him will I trust.

Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;

There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.

With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

THYME Magazine: The Mapmaker's Ethic II

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue VII

The Mapmaker's Ethic II:
Reliable Directions for an Important Journey

Maps are an important tool for navigating what is often to the user unknown regions. The users' success and ultimately their safety in the journey requires that the mapmaker strive to provide the most accurate depiction his or her art can produce of the ways of travel, their conditions, and possible dangers!

No one would in any seriousness suggest that the only place that was significant or real was the part of the landscape he could see from his house, and that the rest, because it was unseen, either didn't exist or was of no consequence. Indeed, if you encountered such a person, you might refer to the most accurate map you could find. Pinpointing his house, you would proceed to show him the main arteries, the rivers, mountains and towns that await him outside of the realm he can see. Yet a scholar like Richard Dawkins can essentially use the same reasoning in writing The G-d Delusion and be lauded as brilliant!

But Dawkins as much as admits that he is 'not sure' if G-d exists in a discussion at Oxford University. [1.] It is time, I would say, to pull out the maps. Dawkins publicly dismisses religion because he feels it is the 'root of mankind's evils.' The problem is that if we look to history, we find a firm challenge to that mindset. In Why Religious Literacy Matters [click to read] we find that the evidence does NOT point us away from faith, rather it shows us instances where mankind has been lifted by something he clearly did not produce on his own.

One who wants to rest his argument on the premise that religion causes wars simply needs to look at the culture BEFORE the arrival of the religion he wishes to impune. In fact,honest history shows us that men's baser instincts resulted in a cycle of raiding and retribution LONG before white Christians ever arrived. Slavery existed for centuries where there was NO Christian influence, and succumbed to the influence of men like John Newton and William Wilberforce [2.] who were MOTIVATED by that faith.

The film: G-d's Not Dead [click to read] takes a look at the rational 'reasonable' men have for attacking faith. Indeed, the notion that unresolved evil discredits the existence of the Almighty is presented in a straightforward manner. The writings of great people OF faith, such as C. S. Lewis actually have much to say about this. The fact is that Lewis was as hard an Atheist as Dawkins, but guided by his friend and mentor: J. R. R. Tolkein, he found himself: "The most reluctant convert in all of England!"

The Catholic Tolkein had at his disposal a vast library of fine maps. The Christian recognizes Moses and the Prophets, just as G-d's Chosen do. Looking first to those texts that claim the authority of Divine Authorship through Inspired Writers, one then overlays them with good history to see what they reveal. It is not at all unlike the exercise employed in creating my historical map of Rockbridge County. [3.] One may wish to question the accuracy of the historic texts, but here more history witnesses to their reliability.

981 texts on scrolls discovered between 1946 and 1956 at Khirbet Qumran in the West Bank inside caves about a mile inland from the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Nabataean, mostly on parchment but with some on papyrus and bronze, are associated with the Essenes.What is fascinating is the fact that more modern texts are spot-on with these ancient manuscripts, save for a few punctuations and such.

The scribes who copied these documents worked to an ethic as rigorous as that of the mapmaker. A scribe would 'practice' reproducing texts and his work would be rejected for so much as a character omitted or out of place. Dawkins likes to claim that "we are all atheists" concerning most of the gods people have worshiped. Put it in the perspective though, that most such 'dieties' were slimly documented local gods associated with seasons, fertility and harvest. In 1 Kings 18:40 we see the prophet Elijah take on the priests of Baal. There were many such dieties, seemingly demanding that mankind placate them in return for good harvest.

Gods like Molech demanded the sacrifice of children by burning them. Indeed, if the G-d of Creation is like them then Dawkins has a point. But that the great body of revealed Scripture teaches a people that through them: "All the Nations of the Earth shall be blessed." and in a world of raiding and retribution teaches the new concept of kindness toward the stranger who lives in your midst, then we need to reexamine the wholesale dismissal of faith. The map will not allow us to.

Also, quite importantly, the Mapmaker's Ethic requires that we draw an accurate representation of faith as it runs through the landscape that we inhabit. We need to see the true course that it runs. That means we consider accurately the Crusades as well as Dorethea Dix and Florence Nightingale, who motivated by their faith, made strides in the care for the mentally ill and in the profession of nursing, respectively. We need to consider the very real occurrence of hypocrisy: those who speak in terms of faith but do not live as it requires. History is full of these as well.

But it must be noted that people of faith have often stood against the viler things. Slavery was maintained by professing Christians in the United States until the Abolition, but it was the teachings of Christianity itself that led to that Abolition. Martin Luther King's famous demand: "Let MY people go!" is a restatement of Moses' demand of Pharaoh.

Glimpses into a World Unseen

The electron microscope further reveals amazing patterns.

Vertical section of the human dna.

Evidence of Divine Design, Great and Small
"The Heavens Declare the Glory of G-d;
The Skies Proclaim the Work of His Hands." -- Psalm 19:1

Moth wing pattern.

I saw this little creature outside my studio one morning. It got me reflecting on the creative wonder, both large and small, that surround us.

M 51 Spiral Galaxy, NASA photo from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Detail of the 'X Structure' in M 51, NASA photo from the Hubble Space Telescope.

The artist is amazed. So much beauty and wonder in the very large cosmos and in the very small things as well! Can a G-d who spins galaxies into being be concerned with things small and personal? Such order and grace in the extreme scales of our world, yet often what we see before us is chaotic and makes no sense.

That is why we present here Lee Strobel's Case for a Creator. Also recommended are Strobel's Case for Faith and Case for Christ. You may view them Here [click to view]. If you had stepped into that Bethlehem stable many years ago, you would have not necessarily seen beauty and redemption. The smells of animals and the pain of labor and delivery would have overwhelmed contemplation. Yet Christians around the world will contemplate the wonder of that night; for what happened there ultimately made its mark on human history.

The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel.

(to be continued).

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

THYME Magazine: The Mapmaker's Ethic I

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue VI

The Mapmaker's Ethic I:
Why Accuracy Matters

The song still haunts... Gordon Lightfoot's "Ballad of the Edmund Fitzgerald" has an eerie hold on my generation, especially those of us who considered joining the merchant marine or heading to Alaska to seek our fortunes. I never went to sea on the Great Lakes, but the song became a part of me. I have been in storms on the Chesapeake Bay, so I can imagine somewhat the tempest that raged on Superior in mid-November of 1975. The song chronicles the actual voyage of the ship they called the "Big Fitz" as she mysteriously sank that year. The song talks about an extremely violent storm and a "main hatchway" giving in.  Many of the crew were the same age as I would have been, had I served among them. That such a great ship would simply vanish, and her crew along with her, was the stuff great mysteries are made of.

Discovery Channel Special on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The discovery of this special program rekindled my fascination with this great ship and her lost crew. The assumption (in the Lightfoot song, and by the Coast Guard) was that she somehow took water from topside. The Coast Guard asserted that a main hatch was improperly clamped and the ship took water when the storm somehow caused the great hatch to come loose. That is not a very good explanation, however, and the documentary goes into some detail as to what the more likely cause was. The S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was originally built by the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The contractor was Great Lakes Engineering Works of Ecorse, Michigan. Her keel was laid on August 7, 1957 as Hull No. 301. Named after the President and Chairman of the Board of Northwestern Mutual, the Edmund Fitzgerald was launched June 8, 1958 at River Rouge, Michigan. Northwestern Mutual placed her under permanent charter to the Columbia Transportation Division of Oglebay Norton Company, Cleveland, Ohio. At 729 feet and 13,632 gross tons she was the largest ship on the Great Lakes, for thirteen years, until 1971.

The huge ship was built for hauling iron ore pellets from Minnesota to the steel mills on the lower Great Lakes. Lake Superior, known to the Native Americans as Gitchee Gumee, is a great inland sea and known for its fierce Winter storms. Shipping on the St. Lawrence Seaway ceased in Winter, but tonnage bonuses, paid to ship's captains and crew, tempted them to try to squeeze in trips even as mid-November's harsh weather approached. So it was that the Fitzgerald, captained by Ernest M. McSorley took on a load of iron ore pellets November 9, 1975 at the Burlington Northern Railroad Dock No.1, Superior, Wisconsin. She was joined by the Arthur Anderson, captained by Bernie Cooper. The two ships set a course for Sault Ste Marie, at the Eastern side of Superior.

A severe storm caught the ships as they made their way down the main shipping channel in the center of the lake. The experienced captains decided to seek a more sheltered route along the Northern shore. The storm became even more violent as two storm cells merged over the great body of water. Large waves rolled up on the ships. As the Fitzgerald approached Caribou Island, her crew was unaware of the dangerous Six Fathom Shoal beneath her. The map was wrong! Pounded by the waves, her captain probably didn't notice the sound of her bottoming out. At 3:30 pm, however, he knew he was taking on water and had some sort of serious damage. McSorley radioed Cooper:  "Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have a fence rail down, two vents lost or damaged, and a list. I'm checking down. Will you stay by me till I get to Whitefish?" The Big Fitz slowed her speed and the Anderson began to close the ten mile gap between the two vessels.

Now the injured Fitzgerald set a course for the shelter of Whitefish Bay. As evening set in two monstrous waves rolled over the Anerson. Cooper reports that this happened about 6:55 pm: "Then the Anderson just raised up and shook herself off of all that water - barrooff - just like a big dog. Another wave just like the first one or bigger hit us again. I watched those two waves head down the lake towards the Fitzgerald, and I think those were the two that sent him under." The First Mate of the Anderson, Morgan Clark, kept in radar contact and voice communication with the Fitzgerald:

"Fitzgerald, this is the Anderson. Have you checked down?"

"Yes, we have."

"Fitzgerald, we are about 10 miles behind you, and gaining about 1 1/2 miles per hour. Fitzgerald, there is a target 19 miles ahead of us. So the target would be 9 miles on ahead of you."

"Well, am I going to clear?" McSorley radioed back.

"Yes, he is going to pass to the west of you."

"Well, fine."

"By the way, Fitzgerald, how are you making out with your problems?"

"We are holding our own."

"Okay, fine, I'll be talking to you later." [1.]

But the words, "We are holding our own." spoken around 7:10 pm that evening, were the last communication from the Edmund Fitzgerald. As the seas calmed, an ill-equipped Coast Guard asked the Anderson and several other vessels to search for the Edmund Fitzgerald, but she had vanished. Bits of debris and the twisted half of a lifeboat were all that were spotted. The Gales of November had claimed the great ship and she rested in two parts on the bottom of Lake Superior. Her crew was not to be found.

The map used by Captain Ernest M. McSorley showed Six Fathom Shoal one mile off of its actual position.

A mile's discrepancy in a map! That is the most likely cause of the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald. No doubt, the error lay in obscurity until violent weather forced two great ships into the area that was wrongly depicted. Comparison has been made to the sinking of the Daniel J. Morell in 1966 where the ship was probably slammed to the bottom by a wave as well and broke in two. One man survived the Morell. [2.] No one survived the Fitzgerald.

The fact that lives depend on their accuracy has always been the ethic guiding the making of maps. In ancient times, the far edges that were not very well charted often bore the legend: "there are monsters!" Such was the way of warning that there was no data for those particular waters. Satellite imagery and sophisticated survey methods have put the monsters to rest, but the need for accuracy is ever greater.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." -- Psalm 119:105

As a child I became fascinated with maps. Colorful representations of actual faraway places intrigued me. What lay over the horizon waiting to be discovered? Maps pointed the way. Drawings of places unseen, yet when I got my first car, they reliably pointed the way to many adventures. Sometimes it was fun to just get in the car and drive, but if you wanted to go to Rehoboth Beach or Ocean City, you consulted the map!

When I was in high school, I drew a detailed map of Middle Earth that probably still hangs in a closet in my sister's house. It was the accurate representation of a land in a legend, in my adult career I would go on to accurately represent architectural concepts... but somehow I always returned to the map! Researching for author Rob Hewitt, I discovered that you could overlay old maps on modern ones and that they would tell you a story. Modern roads closely followed old turnpikes. Old turnpikes followed the routes of Native American commerce and migration. The overlay of maps told a very true history of the regions they depicted. [3.]

Our studio produced educational maps for the Core Knowledge Foundation and a few years ago I collaborated with artist Kristina Elaine Riley to produce similar maps for the Civitas Foundation in Great Britain as they reproduced the Core Knowledge Series for a British audience. [4.] Over the years, creating maps, there has come to me an awareness of what I would call: The Mapmaker's Ethic! Simply stated it would be thus:

Maps are an important tool for navigating what is often to the user unknown regions. The users' success and ultimately their safety in the journey requires that the mapmaker strive to provide the most accurate depiction his or her art can produce of the ways of travel, their conditions, and possible dangers!

You would never accept as serious advice the notion that you could just get in your car and start driving; for "all roads will get you to Atlanta." Such would be a foolish waste of time and resources. Yet many who would never embarque upon a journey without carefully consulting maps scoff at the notion that there might be solid information about the unseen world as well.

Just as there are a sequence of historical maps and modern ones that tell us important information about the ways we travel, there exists documentation of the unseen world as well. To be sure, some of them are as fanciful as the map of Middle Earth that depicts a land of a story, but are there a succession of historical maps that overlay like those of a historical region, that might indeed point to direction both in our life here and now and in our life to come? And if indeed such charts exist, what is the ethic under which they are produced? Do they build upon prior revelation to provide a complete picture?

If indeed, mankind is eternal, the question is a good one, for if that is indeed so, then most of our 'journey' lies outside of the county we presently reside in! Some will assert that this world is all that is. I would only ask of them: "Are you SURE?" If not, then I would ask them to consider what charts they might need for a longer journey? Some are not ready to consider a journey of such magnitude. They may detrain here if that is so, and are welcome to come aboard again when they so desire. Some may simply be curious. To them I say: "Ride along for a while. It will do you no harm." Finally there are those who feel certain that there is more. To them I say: "Come sit at the head of the train and see where the journey might lead." (to be continued).