December 14, 2006

God's Dealings with Man-- Before and After Christ

In the past few years there seems to have been a great burst of nostalgia for things ancient, even in the religious sphere. Christians have been opening the first half of their Bibles and perusing the Old Testament. Bible study is a good thing, but regrettably, a certain group of these innocents are coming to the incredible conclusion that they must somehow revive the old ways and become 'New Testament Jews,' or perhaps 'Old Testament Christians.'

The word regrettable for this spiritual regression is, if anything, too mild. This looking backward for spiritual progress is being fostered, I believe, by serious misunderstanding of Holy Scripture. In addition, we've seen a major retreat to conservative views in the social and political arenas, so this religious phenomenon follows the same pattern. In any case, I believe that the Christian world is much imperiled by this kind of movement that Paul took pains to warn the nascent Christian church to avoid! This weak-willed yearning for the familiar ways of the past threatened to extinguish the very life of the early body of believers, and Paul was zealous in preventing the death of his 'adopted protege'. He himself had made the leap from his traditional upbringing to the Christ-centered faith, and he really 'got it.' Paul understood precisely what the Messiah had accomplished, and what a radical departure it represented from the ages-old thinking of his fellow children of Israel. When he saw the believers of Galatia starting to slip back into observing the old traditions, trying to 'up-grade them' and integrate them into the new way of relating to God, he used strong words to rebuke them, and gave them direct instruction on their new faith.

The biggest problem with the Galatians is that they wanted to play 'double jeopardy' --they wanted to piggy back Christian beliefs on top of their old Jewish beliefs. Put another way, they were attempting to combine the Old Covenant with the New Covenant, creating a monstrosity in the process. Paul knew: you can't live the New Covenant life with an Old Covenant mindset! Jesus had warned his followers against this very problem when he related the parables found in Matthew 9 (vs. 16, 17). He stated clearly that you can't store new wine in old wine-skins. Wine was often used in scripture as a symbol for spiritual belief, and the message here was (supposed to be) unmistakable. To reinforce the same idea, Jesus cited the other example of sewing new cloth onto an old garment. Again he made the point that this is a recipe for failure; the new and the old are simply not compatible!

What were the 'new' and the 'old' things that Jesus was referring to, anyway? That, it turns out, is a fundamental question at the heart of the Christian faith. Not surprisingly, Jesus was referring to the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. But that just raises the subsidiary question: what are these 'covenants' that seem so crucial? Right. The first thing to know is that 'covenant' means the same as 'testament,' and we notice that the Bible has been divided into two major parts that are labelled as 'OT' and 'NT'. The next detail to keep in mind is that a covenant is a legal agreement or pact or treaty, as in fact, the word is still used to this day. So, apparently, the Bible is composed of records relating to two legal contracts. The obvious questions then are, what are these contracts all about, and why were they created?

A great deal of ink has been devoted by an army of scholars of all levels of knowledge and training to the subject of covenants as used in the Bible. Hence, a massive amount of information--and perhaps even more dis-information--is available to the inquiring mind concerning covenants. My purpose here is not to write yet another treatise on covenants. Rather, I would like to paint for the reader 'the big picture' of why the covenants exist, and how they are important to our faith. Therefore, I will try to present a very brief look at the concept of covenants, and then proceed to my main analysis.

If covenants are legal agreements, what are they doing in the Bible? The answer comes from the nature of God Himself. The two ultimate, personal characteristics of God's nature are these: justice and love. John wrote that 'God is love,' and indeed, that is what Jesus was trying to demonstrate throughout his earthly ministry. But God is also a God of justice; He rewards righteousness and punishes injustice or wickedness. His war with Satan is based on His divine justice being affronted by evil, whether by angels or mankind. In accordance with His justice, God does not do things willy-nilly; God acts in a legal, just manner, showing that He is responsible and accountable, despite being the supreme intelligence of the cosmos. Therefore, in His dealings with mankind, either individuals or groups, God establishes His promises on a contractual basis. Think of it--this is really phenomenal; that the God of creation is ready to hold himself to a legal agreement!

That observation covers the 'why?' of covenants. But the 'how?' questions are entirely more complex. For the purpose of this overview, I'm attempting to condense a lot of material into a broad panorama. (The interested student is urged to do individual Bible study and other research). What we'd like to know is: "What were the OT and the NT, and what do they mean for us today?" It turns out that there were numerous covenants cited in scripture. God made covenants with Adam, with Noah, with Abraham, with Moses, and later, with David, and with others. One can analyze these various agreements, and notice the features they share in common, as well as their differences. Many scholars have done just that, and in the process, made the whole analysis as complicated and convoluted as imaginable. In the end, one has to wonder if any of that really benefits the poor believer!

In the face of almost overwhelming information, with a resulting inverse degree of knowledge, I can only turn to the scriptures themselves in seeking clarity. I believe that the essential clarity is not lacking. The Holy Spirit did not leave us to the mercy of multi-lingual, multi-degreed academics, who cannot reach any accord among themselves in any case. Thank God, He inspired his servants, the writers of the Bible, to speak the simple truth. We don't even know for certain who wrote the book of 'Hebrews,' (many believe it was Paul), yet it is a key treatise on the comparison of the covenants, and ought to be essential reading for any professing Christian. That said, most Christians have rarely, if ever, heard a teaching, let alone a sermon, based on 'Hebrews.' Pastors shy away from this fundamental text, while evangelists apparently realize that it would demolish much of what passes for Christian dogma in their campaigns. Our outspoken friend, Paul, tackled the issue head on (how else, for brother Paul!) in his letters to the believers in Rome, in Galatia, and to a degree, those in other early congregations.

So, dear reader, you can start ploughing your way through all those academic treatises on biblical covenants, and get thoroughly confused. Or, you can pray as you read the explanations given in the scriptures themselves, and see the plain truth. It may help to be familiar with the books of the OT part of the Bible as you read the NT parts; but the important ideas can be discerned on the strength of the latter texts in themselves.

The author of 'Hebrews' is addressing his letter/essay to Christian believers from the ranks of his confreres, the people known as (the Children of) Israel. Israel was the name given by God to Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of the patriarch, Abraham (who came from a group called 'Hebrews' in Mesopotamia). Jacob had 12 sons who were the progenitors of the tribes that constituted the nation of Israel. By the time of Christ, in fact, the original nation of Israel had metamorphosed considerably. Briefly, the original 12 tribes had divided into two nations: Judah (basically the tribes of Judah and Benjamin) and Israel (composed of the other 10 tribes). They had re-united for a time under David, only to split again after the death of his son Solomon. The nation of Israel was taken into captivity by Assyria in 722 BC, and later dispersed, disappearing from the annals of history. What existed in Jesus' day was Judah, now the remnant of the original 'Israel.'

Hebrews' writer, a master of scripture, takes his readers through a solid, logical line of reasoning with one main intention in mind: to point his flock forwards in the (new) Christian faith, and to make it crystal clear why they should, by no means, even long for the good, old days. What were the two 'paradigms,' old and new, that this letter analyses? Let's take a brief look.

Hebrews states plainly that the old system under scrutiny is the Sinai Covenant, brokered by Moses in the dessert, some 1300 years before Jesus' birth. This is the agreement that the people of Israel had been living under for all those centuries, and it was firmly entrenched in their collective minds as their religion and ethnicity--the two are inextricably identified. Yet, building on Jesus' own teachings, Paul was telling Jewish believers to abandon the old traditions, and walk in this new system founded by their savior! The writer of Hebrews explains, in terms that Jews could understand, why this radical departure was unavoidable and, moreover, desirable.

Anticipating Jewish objections, Hebrews defines how Jesus was a perfectly legitimate High Priest, although he did not come from the usual tribe of the priesthood (the Levites). He identifies Jesus with Melchisidek, a famous priest-king who was paid homage by Abraham himself. The writer goes on to consider each major feature of the Jewish religious order--the temple, the great feast of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and the sacrificial system. Without providing another analysis of those individual arguments, the summary is that Jesus introduced a new system that is superior in every way to the previous arrangement. The ministry of Jesus is wholly efficacious and all-sufficient in ensuring the salvation of all who believe in Him (Heb 7:25).

In contrast, the writer demonstrates how the old, Mosaic system was inferior in every respect, being installed in its day for the purpose of leading the Israelites to the 'real thing' to come. The old contract contained 'object lessons' such as the Tent of the Lord's Presence, and the articles that furnished it; and the sacrificial system for symbolic removal of sins, and so on, to provide tangible correlatives for a nation that had spent the last 400 years under Egyptian authority. The Old Covenant was, in fact, a complete 'constitution' for this people who had arrived in Egypt as a large family, and left, four centuries later, as a nation of possibly, two million souls. All they had known was Egyptian rule of law and social norms; now God, through Moses, supplied them with a full legal package for an orderly society! Reading the 'Pentateuch' (the first five books of the Bible, and attributed to Moses' hand), one can see that it includes, notably, rules of conduct (principally, the Ten Commandments, but there were dozens of extra rules added by Moses to account for various situations common to society). It also covers rules of public health and nutrition, as well as a system of animal sacrifices to atone for wrong-doing. Without such a comprehensive package, the people of Israel could well have broken down into chaos in short order following their hasty departure from Egypt! God was concerned about His own holy name; if Israel fell into chaos, they would ultimately turn to alien gods and idols, as the model they had grown up with, and His honor would be besmirched. That's why He instituted a 'national covenant' with Israel.

So, the Old paradigm had its utility; but as a means of attaining personal right standing with God, it was hopelessly misunderstood by the Israelites. To begin with, the Sinai covenant didn't promise 'salvation' in return for Law-keeping. Many Christians believe that notion to this very day: i.e. that individual Jews were supposed to 'keep the Commandments' in order to 'be saved' (presumably, meaning attaining salvation or paradise in the next life). But the agreement really tells the Israelites that if they (the collective nation) observe His laws, and thus institute a 'theocratic utopia', then their nation would be supremely blessed and attain pre-eminence among all nations. Individuals who aspired to right standing with God were directed to the sacrificial system that was a foreshadowing of the later, perfect work of the Messiah to come. In invoking the sacrificial protocol, individuals were demonstrating the kind of faith evidenced by Abraham when he was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, but was provided with a ram by God, in its place (Gen 22). It was the Israelites themselves who decided that observing the 'Decalog' (the Ten Commandments) was going to represent righteousness for them (Deut 6:25).

It is doubly ironic that, about three centuries after the inauguration of Christianity in Judea (as Rome called its province) the mainstream 'Christian' church gradually adopted the same fallacy. Although some church leaders still understood that Jesus had come to proclaim God's favor towards mankind, the notion became dogma that Christians had to keep the Ten Commandments in order to 'be saved.' Since there arose a backlash against Jews and their religion, the church fathers decided to 'Christianize' the Decalog--just as they had Christianized various pagan and Jewish feasts, such as the winter solstice (into Christmas) and Easter, in place of Passover. So, having to get rid of the 'Sabbath' of the Commandments, they substituted Sunday worship in its place. The gospel of Christ--the good news that God was gracious, and that all that is needed for right standing with Him is for us to believe in His Son--got completely muddled and concealed. It was not until the Protestant Reformation that the gospel emerged into the light of day once more. Yet, sadly, the Protestants too, soon forgot the essential message, and almost unbelievably, they continued the false gospel invented by the Roman church.

That same false gospel continues its unholy existence to this 'enlightened' day, in a confusing message that proclaims, in effect, 'all you have to do to be saved (eternally) is to believe in Jesus... and oh yes, then live in complete compliance with the Ten Commandments for the rest of your life!' This mixed message is an abomination that desolates the gospel of Christ! Yet, it is the dominant 'gospel' being preached to the world today. And Christians wonder why the pagan masses are not beating a path to their churches. This is not 'good news' to anyone; we know it's impossible to keep those rules 100% of the time, and we're told that slip-ups are not permitted. But this is the kind of thing that arises when we try to live the NT life using the OT mindset.

Paul sternly admonished the Galatians in blunt language intended to get their attention. He told them they were 'bewitched' by the old mindset, the desire to return to the old, bankrupt ways (ch 3, vs 1). If that weren't enough, he told the men who wanted to retain circumcision (the physical mark of belonging to Abraham's lineage) that they might as well go all the way and castrate themselves (ch 5, vs 12)! Now that's blunt language, friends. I won't go through his arguments again, (study them yourselves), but his conclusion is that the faith of Christ is a totally different, freeing way of relating to God. He understood fully that this faith was the one described by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, which he had summarized with 'the golden rule' (Matt 7:12). In chapter 4 (vs 21-31) Paul compares the two covenants to Abraham's wife and concubine, with the former standing for the new covenant of freedom, and the latter representing the old one of 'slavery.'

Similarly, the writer of Hebrews understood that the 'new covenant' was the fulfillment of the prophecies of Jeremiah (see vs 3:16, and especially 31:31-34) who spoke of a new covenant that would NOT be like the one made at Sinai through Moses. This one would have its rules written on the heart, not on tablets of stone. As foreseen in Psalm 40, it would not require animal sacrifices; it would require a heart turned to God. As Ezekiel had prophesied (vs 36:26-27), the 'heart of stone' would be replaced with the heart of flesh (love, grace). It was to be a spiritual revolution! Instead, it was perverted over the years into a confusing abomination, grafting the new ideas from the gospel age unsuccessfully onto the old traditions from the antiquated days of Moses.

God did not leave things in a confusing state; far from it. It was recorded in the gospel accounts (Luke 23:45) that at the moment Jesus exhaled his last breath, the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. This was a clear demonstration that the old order was finished. The way into the 'Holy of Holies' was now wide open to anyone who approached (Heb 4:16; 10:19ff); the priesthood was futile (Heb 7:27ff), the animal sacrifices valueless (Heb 9:12ff). Both were no longer needed; the 'shadows' were superceded by the things they foreshadowed. Just in case some people didn't get this graphic message (and most did not), God made it abundantly evident a few decades after the Cross when the Roman legions invaded Jerusalem in 70 AD, and completely demolished the great Temple, which the Jewish priests, law-givers and rulers were so proud of. What more could God do? Well, we know that the surviving Jews were dispersed all over Europe, and Judah/Judea disappeared from the map.

To certain inquiring minds, it is a matter of considerable amazement that the early Christian church, which had manifested miracles, degenerated to such a degree over the subsequent ages, that today, it is almost a laughable institution in terms of its moral power and spiritual influence in the modern world. How could this have happened? My thesis is that the miracles disappeared at about the same time as the 'mixed gospel' became the common currency of Christian faith. With this abominable admixture of grace plus works, the resulting 'false gospel' has no real power to attract and hold souls. Worse, it quickly engenders a spirit of legalism, as people scramble fearfully to 'keep the Law.' And legalism is a deadly, stultifying disease, in the life of a believer or of a church, make no mistake! History proves that Paul was entirely justified in his attack on regression to the old ways, the Mosaic Covenant.

Some students label the Sinai Covenant a 'covenant of works.' But, as you can see by now, that is not exactly the case. It was not intended by God to be a covenant of works; it was the Israelites who fashioned it into such a beast. God intended the sacrificial system included in the Old Covenant to point sinners to the coming Messianic Savior, just as Abraham's sacrifice had done... and (many believe) just as practiced by Adam and Eve, and their son Abel. Thus, 'salvation' was always effected through faith in the provision of God. Jesus 'ratified' that eternal covenant when he instituted his 'Covenant of Grace' at the last supper (Matt 26:27), and delivered with it a New Law (or new commandment; Jn 13:34, 15:12, 17). That law of love, abiding in the heart (or mind, literally) is infinitely superior to the old Decalog, the constitutional law written on stone. (That contrast can easily be the subject of another, separate essay, so I'll leave it, for now.)

In summary, the reader can see now, this writer sincerely hopes, that... 1) God holds His dealings with humanity on an orderly, legal basis, expressed in 'covenants' that He made with individuals and with groups. The major covenants considered in the Bible are the one made at Sinai, through Moses, with the children of Israel, and the one sealed with Jesus' blood at Mount Calvary. 2) The Old Testament was re-interpreted and mis-interpreted by the Israelites to assume 'salvation by works', and their faulty understanding has been passed on, over the ages, to the organization known as the Christian church. 3) The New Covenant manifested by Jesus, and ratified by his sacrificial death at Calvary, is the only means to personal salvation. This covenant is based on God's grace, without reference to Law, and is invoked by belief, faith, in Christ and his perfect ministry.

In closing, this writer acknowledges that much of the preceding essay may appear to be radical, and even 'antinomian'--the fancy word used by scholars to mean lawless. You must understand that living in the gospel's freedom does in no way give anyone licence to live a hedonistic, lawless life. Far from it! Living under the law of love (God's grace) means living a responsible life, putting others' interests ahead of our own. There's nothing antinomian about it. Under Jesus' covenant, the focus is taken away from a check-list of external, written rules, and shifted to the completed work of Christ. We are judged righteous, not on the basis of performance, but purely due to faith in Him. Through that faith, we enter into 'covenantal solidarity' with Jesus, and are seen by God as identified with His Son. These concepts, again, are sufficiently important to represent the subject of a separate study (available from this author and others, too.)


December 7, 2006

Is the SDA Church Christian?

Some people suppose that the SDA (Seventh-Day Adventist) Church is just another protestant denomination, while others regard it as a cult due to their reliance on the writings of one of their 'founding mothers,' Ellen G. White. The truth is more surprising--the SDA Church, while believing itself to be ' the 'remnant church' of God, is instead, an anti-Christian organization. That may sound outrageous, but will make sense after an explanation. And why do I pick on the SDAs, out of the babble of self-proclaimed, official voices of the faith of Christ? That too, I will clarify below.

The crux of the problem lies in the errant 'gospel' espoused by this Sabbath-based church. (Sabbath is the 24-hour period from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, and was cited in Moses' Ten Commandments). Any church that lays claim to the title of Christian must have, at minimum, a proper understanding of the basis of Christianity, the 'good news' of Jesus Christ. Of course, Adventists think they alone have the true gospel... the majority of members blissfully unaware that it is actually opposed to the message that Jesus came to bring. For the skeptical or curious, let me outline what they hold as the 'gospel,' and where that reasoning leads.

Like all their teachings, the SDA version of the gospel is marvellously complex, and requires considerable study and time to define and absorb. They talk about a two-phase process of salvation that some of them call 'the objective gospel' and 'the subjective gospel,' which refer to the more familiar theological concepts of 'justification,' and 'sanctification.' They say that Jesus' death paid the penalty for our sins, thereby providing the justification that gives us the legal right to eternal life. However-- before he or she can breath easily, there's the second little matter for the converted Christian to deal with. 'Sanctification is the work of a lifetime,' is a phrase familiar to Adventists-- meaning that the new convert must spend the rest of his/her natural life working on 'character perfection,' another buzz-phrase of Adventism, which refers to how one gains sanctification, the second mandatory requirement of salvation.

Now, to get around the obvious argument that this is a 'works-based' salvation, and therefore, unChristian, recent SDA theology brings in the Holy Spirit: it's the Holy Spirit working in me and thru me, who perfects my character, not really 'me.' It sounds credible, especially to new, unstudied Christians. The trouble is, the Bible simply doesn't speak anywhere about this kind of bilateral gospel. Scripture tells us that the work of Christ was all-sufficient, and needs no assistance from the human spirit or the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 1:30; Heb 10:10, 10:14, among many others). Okay, the Christian may agree; that's an un-biblical gospel... But, does that make it anti-Christian? The answer is yes.

Any gospel that requires a person to do some 'work,' to take an active role in his/her own salvation, is by definition, anti-Christian. If we have any part to play in our salvation, it makes the life and sacrifice of Christ of no account; it renders the grace of God not a gift but a wage. Second, one has to follow this theology to its logical conclusion to really see how demonic it is. For the Adventist, the outcome of this thinking is that s/he must be able to develop a sinless character over time... and that those who fail to do so must have weak moral fiber. It follows for them that the 'losers' of life are there by choice; they haven't allowed the Holy Spirit to work in their lives. The attitude that we can achieve perfection of character (i.e. sinlessness) hardens the heart towards those we judge as spiritual laggards, and can create envy towards those we perceive as 'high achievers' (or perhaps as just fakes). Legalism always entails judgementalism; one who hasn't accepted unconditional grace can hardly extend it to his fellow sinners.

In conclusion, any gospel that negates, or adds requirements to, the grace of God--the free gift of eternal life--is a pagan philosophy, anti-Christian. And the illustration above shows how adhering to this belief leads directly to anti-Christian behavior. In short, the Seventh Day Adventist Church is an anti-Christ organization posing as 'the remnant church' (their catch-phrase) with the message for the end of this age. And, incidentally, that claim puts them into the same category as such other self-proclaimed oracles as The Watchtower Society (Jehovah Witnesses), the 'Latter Day Saints' (Mormons), and even Baha'i.

Now, why did I select the SDA church for this analysis? Because they epitomize the same problem that affects virtually the whole panoply of churches calling themselves by the name of Christ! To give them credit, at least the SDAs follow their false gospel to its logical conclusion. And in doing so, they illustrate the error of the mainstream denominations. You see, almost all the churches proclaim a warped, hybrid version of the gospel that tries to graft the heart of the Old Testament (also called the Sinai, or Mosaic Covenant) into the body of the New Testament proclaimed by Jesus Christ. In his brief ministry, Jesus warned his followers against this very mistake (Matt 9:16-17). How do the churches do it? (And they've been doing it for almost 2000 years!). They do it by carrying the Ten Commandment law of Moses from the Old Covenant, and making it an essential feature of the Covenant of Christ (which it most certainly is not; study Hebrews, ch. 7-10, for ex.). Hence, the false gospel proclaimed by mainstream church spokesmen goes along the lines that 'You are saved by believing in Christ... and you maintain that salvation by obeying the Ten Commandments.'

Now I realize that most people who read the last statement will scratch their heads and say, 'So-- isn't that right?' No! It isn't right. That's not why the Son of God lowered himself to become a human, live a sinless life, and die ignominiously for our sins. The 'good news' is much better than that official party line from the organized churches! The true gospel is that Jesus has liberated us from all reference to the code of Moses, from behavior-based religion (and, not insignificantly, from hierarchical, patriarchal religious organizations). If the mainline churches really believe we have to obey the old, Ten Commandments, then they should do as the Adventists-- they should observe the Mosaic Sabbath, and not Sunday as the 'day of rest.' All the churches have fallen into the 'Judeo-Christian' trap of keeping old wine (the Ten C's) in new skins (the message of Jesus); and they've been doing it for so long that few people, no matter how sincere, are able to see outside the paradigm (the 'strong delusion'). In attempting to base a Christian theology on this error, the SDAs have been more consistent than other churches, and thus make the issue more apparent. Whether observing Sabbath or Sunday, the result is equally futile! As Paul labors at length to teach, believers are not under the Old Covenant, and the Commandments are a moot point-- a holdover from a specific tribe, from a long bygone era.

Culture - Harmless Custom or Curse?

Culture - Harmless Custom or Curse?

Culture is one of those somewhat ethereal notions that most 'New World' natives donÕt think much about. We come from a wide variety of backgrounds in the 'Old Countries,' and after a couple of generations, we all meld into the great, consumer, secular, society that is both mirrored and parodied at us. Sure, we keep some vestiges of the old ways, conveniently modified and denatured to fit our busy lives; but overall there's a remarkable homogeneity. That was the case, that is, until the last few decades. What the dawn of the 21st century has demonstrated is that the notion of culture is not simply some quaint, benign set of customs and mores passed down from one generation to the next to preserve some sense of collective identity. No; there's more to it than that. Much more; and it's not all cozy.

As long as 'culture' is about superficial things like feast days, dressing in traditional costumes, or eating ethnic food, everyone's happy; no harm done. But, we have witnessed growing tension between major cultures as, for instance, in Europe where the burgeoning Muslim population is finding itself in conflict with European societies. Globally, the Bush administration has created and pursued what amounts to a 'modern crusade' of an ostensibly 'Christian' West versus the feared 'Islamo-fascist terrorists.' These have become very serious conflicts, based on inherited collective beliefs on both sides. There are smaller examples that are worth mention. In Canada, the Sikhs have won some major concessions for their particular culture. Sikh men who join the RCMP do not have to remove their turbans to don instead the famous hat that is part of the now-ceremonial red uniform. In some provinces, Sikhs riding motorcycles are exempt from wearing a proper protective helmet. In some cities, Sikh males can wear their 'ceremonial' daggers (the 'kirpan') in public places such as schools, where anyone else would be charged with a weapons offense.

As these examples indicate, the worst instances appear when culture and religion intermingle-- as they inevitably do. In fact, one can argue that all 'religions' are merely specific types of culture. This is because true religion is an inner experience, a relationship between a human and his God (however defined); it is beyond culture. These mass movements with their hierarchies, their membership rolls, and their administrators and treasuries are cultural institutions that have grafted some kind of religious beliefs into their shell. Like all culture therefore, institutionalized religions are artificial... mere constructs of human imagination. Regrettably, they never admit this fact. Every major religion insists that it has the only absolute truth, and that all others are in error. Maybe even this stance could be tolerated, except for the sad reality that, too often, the men leading these religions, like sanctimonious drug lords, are determined to make everyone consume their product. In the end, I can't make any real distinction between religious custom and culture-- they are in all essentials, the same thing.

In France, there is ongoing anger among some Muslims because the head-scarf worn by females was banned in public schools. Now some British officials are under fire for asking Muslim women to remove the veil when appearing before government officials (e.g. judges). Holland is considering a ban on wearing face veils in public. And then there were those cases in the US where it was acceptable to celebrate Divali or Hanukkah, but by some curious twist of logic, one could not mention Christmas except by allusion. Those are relatively inane instances of the clash of cultures. But it gets uglier. What about the practice among some (mostly African) societies, of female genital mutilation? When immigrants from those groups carried on the practice in Western nations, they justified it as 'part of their culture.' What about so-called 'honor killing' of women who are considered to have broken some sexual code, whether willingly or otherwise? No problem: if it isn't sanctioned by religion, it's just cultural. Hence, when considering the extremes to which cultural practices can reach, the question must arise: how far can a modern, enlightened society tolerate abhorrent or counterproductive practices under the guise of culture?

Maybe we could ask another question: is there anything sacrosanct about culture that it should be excused from tests of reason? Some people love the variety of human experience inherent in diverse cultures. Others can't venture far outside the confines of the world they know and trust, and would like to see the world homogenized into one, bland culture. I think it's clear that, in the balance, we are better off, richer mentally, having a variety of cultures. Equally clearly, I believe, is that we are not well served by anti-social practices that have become cloaked in the veil of culture. To the true believers I would ask, if the kirpan or the turban are ceremonial, then why not reserve their use for ceremonial occasions? No one would object if men wore turbans or women wore hijabs in the temples or places of assembly used by these religions. It becomes objectionable when the adherents of a particular sub-culture enjoy rights that are not dispensed to everyone, purely on the basis of so-called religion or culture.

On the matters touching on physical harm (FGM, honor slaying, etc.) there can be no exemption on the pretext of culture. These are clearly inhuman and immoral practices and must not be tolerated. An ostensible gray zone has emerged recently in North America with regard to the practice of polygamy, mainly by a few zealous members of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints. Defenders claim, predictably, that it's a question of freedom of religion (which I regard as the same as freedom of culture). Investigation has discovered cases of girls as young as 14 being forced into marriage against their will; of young women forced to marry men decades older; and of men who can't even remember the names of their numerous children, born to numerous wives. These stories illustrate the dangers of counter-cultural practices founded on self-serving or questionable custom. There is a line where individual rights must take precedence over tradition, especially tradition that has no basis in necessity or in ethics.

I realize that there is a problem with my outlook. It could be argued that I am imposing my own, culturally induced understanding of ethics over those of the affected sub-cultures. The argument comes down to a challenge of the authority of a given religion, since all cultures must resort to their associated religion in dealing with matters of morality. Now, my response is that it is obvious that none of the religions has prima facie proof or evidence of its natural superiority in spiritual matters. The sheer number of faiths, and the dispersion of their beliefs and their place of origin demonstrate that none can be objectively viewed as uniquely endowed with total truth. Therefore, it is reasonable to seek an objective standard that is beyond the reach of the babble of religions, though it may take the best points from any of them.

And, incidentally, I am not arguing that the Western, secular way of life is inherently superior to other cultures. Certainly, though, there are laudable features of the secular society-- just as there are some reprehensible ones. Demonstrably, the separation of church and state is one of the most important and beneficial aspects of 'traditional Western society.' We have recognized the flaws in mono-religious societies, and have taken reasonable steps to avoid such dangers and ensure equitable religious liberty for all. Yet today we have an influx of immigrants who would like to invoke that hard-won constitution to take on rights that inhere, not in the person, but in the particular collective to which they belong. This desire for faith-based exclusivity is, in my opinion, a troubling trend. It is, though, preferable to those who would simply replace the constitution with their particular 'holy writ' (be it the Bible, the Koran, or whatever). I have absolutely no confidence in the ability of any 'faith-based' government to treat the population with a fair or even ethical hand. (And that goes as much for 'Christians' as for any other religious culture.)

The dispassionate observer can hope that the secular state will hold; that it will not be hijacked by any special interest group, especially one that claims special insight handed down to them by God. One fact favoring the prevailing of the secular state is the number of competing cultural/religious interests all wanting to assert their hegemony. The government cannot favor one over another, so that maintains some balance. However, there is one special-interest culture that has risen to prominence in secular democracies, and exerts an influence over government that varies from subtle to blatant, depending on time and country. We don't think of big business as a culture, even though we have come to speak about 'corporate culture' as a recognizable characteristic of large enterprises. Yet, essentially, corporations represent a form of culture, and they lobby hard to ensure that their cultural outlook receives favorable treatment from government. So, we have succeeded, largely, in separating church and state... but, have we been equally diligent in separating state/government from the pseudo-religion of corporatism?

November 20, 2006

Christian Faith and Bahai

There are many good things to admire about Bahai, a religion that sprang up around 1844 in present-day Iran. So much so that many of its converts come from the ranks of ostensible Christians. One of the main claims of Bahai is that it builds on the doctrines of the prior, major religions including Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. They refer to this cumulative effect as 'progressive revelation'... an expression similar to one used in the Christian faith, but having quite a different meaning. Do the claims of Bahai really hold up to Biblical scrutiny? Here are my own thoughts, having associated with informed Bahais.

To begin with, the claim of progressive revelation itself is essentially contradictory. Since the major historical religions differ markedly among themselves on certain fundamental issues (eg. reincarnation) then how could a later religion represent an accumulation of their collective wisdom? Bahais like to find as many points of agreement among the world faiths as they can-- and yes, there are many, as one would expect-- but at the same time, they overlook the often grating differences among the creeds in order to support their claim of 'essential unity of religions.' Certainly, the Christian creed does not acknowledge progressive revelation in the Bahai sense. Jesus stated 'I am the way, the truth, and the light,' and the New Testament elaborates on his pivotal role in history as the ultimate redeemer of humankind. There are no later Messiahs or incarnations of God expressed in Christian scripture.

As regards society, Bahai holds that on a collective basis, human consciousness is evolving, progressing in a positive direction towards ultimate 'god-awareness.' They believe that after sufficient disasters, mankind will come to see the folly of bad choices and will consequently make the decision to adopt the principles of Bahai. This belief, while comforting to them, simply flies against the statements of Christian scripture... not to mention the plain evidence of our planetary history! Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John all wrote that we are born with the inherent tendency of selfishness-- to do evil. This predisposition may be an unavoidable consequence of free will... without which we would be mere robots. It's like a genetic flaw that we are powerless to eliminate. History amply demonstrates the truth of this assertion. The 20th century, despite hyperbolic technical achievements including landing men on the moon, was the bloodiest century in recorded history. There is simply no veracity to the naive belief that our race is morally improving; in fact, quite the opposite is the inescapable conclusion of a disinterested examination of history. What Christianity asserts is that Jesus Christ is our only hope for the future. The solution to our self-destructiveness is not within us-- it is in our Lord and savior, Jesus, who will ultimately rescue us from our own waywardness.

In keeping with their belief in the progress of human consciousness, Bahais have made representations to the UN urging more resolutions and action in the sphere of religious freedom. On the surface this appears laudable; yet it demonstrates a naive faith in human bureaucratic mechanisms to accomplish what only God's Spirit can effect-- namely, a change in the human heart. In fifty years, the UN has made a few brave attempts to define universal morality, and merely tentative efforts at actively promoting and achieving those goals. Despite any of its efforts, virtually every member of the UN continues to violate even basic human rights every day. As Christianity teaches, the human race is incapable of pulling itself up to Godly levels of morality; it can only come from the gracious act of God towards us.

Although Bahai states a belief in one God, and even believes in His Holy Spirit, the creed does not believe in the existence of Satan (the Devil). They hold that evil is what happens when you remove good, as darkness is the absence of light. It is an outlook that is shared by many modern (eg. New Age) philosophers and religions. But, does it hold up to the evidence of 'demon possession' and other satanic manifestations? When thus pressed, some Bahais will claim that such phenomena are really due to mental disorders. That might explain some cases, but by no means covers all. Where do some people get the ideas that motivate them to commit heinous crimes? Is it purely self-generated? Where do some get the knowledge and powers they need to accomplish some of the worst atrocities? If there is a personal force for good, whom we call God; can't there be an opposing, entity of evil? Since freewill is an essential ingredient for expressions of genuine love from created beings, then even the angels (whose existence Bahai acknowledges) have the option of rebellion. That the most powerful such being chose to exercise that option and became Satan ('the opposer') is not much of a mental stretch. That this creature prefers that humans not recognize his reality is also an easy conclusion.

After examining the teachings of Bahai, the clear conclusion a Christian must reach is that Bahai, for all its surface attractiveness, is yet another instrument of deception for the souls of humanity. 

November 8, 2006

Popular American Myths

While still a relatively young country, nevertheless, Americans have a number of popular myths that they love to believe for the comfort they bring. Let's have a look at a couple of the most common.

America was founded by Christians. Everyone knows that, right? The founding 'fathers' were a group of largely God-fearing men from Christian traditions, who must have been guided, therefore, by God Himself in drafting the constitution of the USA. I used to believe that, too; after all, there's plenty of reference to God in those old documents. No doubt, a lot of American 'Christians' (certainly among solid Republican supporters) rest comfortably at night knowing that God is running their country thru the men who are elected to high office. But, lately, I have finally learned the truth, the awesome truth. America was not founded by Christians; it was founded by Freemasons. A search on the web or a newer history book will reveal that, indeed, many of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence were high-degree Freemasons. Okay, some readers will retort 'So what?; Freemasons are Christians, too.' Well, perhaps among the low-level Masons that may be true. However, at the highest levels of the craft, those men are quite the opposite. They may pay lip service to 'God,' but their god is really Satan. The high-degree symbology of Masonry is inextricably demonic in nature, having to do with 'occult' diagrams, geometry, and numerology. This is easily demonstrated by simply examining a US dollar bill, with its occult eye atop a pyramid, and its latin inscription (the reader is invited to investigate these symbols for him/herself). According to one source, the Masonic symbolism on the dollar bill reveals in coded form the true origins and destiny of the United States. More tangible evidence of the Masonic roots of the USA is embodied right in the geometry of the streets of Washington, DC. A study of the plan view will reveal that the 'mall' is designed as a picture of the compass and square of Masonry, and moreover, a Satanic pentagram (inverted 5-point star) is described by the streets, with its major apex sited on the White House. Other commentators have stated that 'every key Federal building from the White House to the Capitol Building has had a cornerstone laid in a Masonic ritual and had specific Masonic paraphernalia placed in each one.' George Washington was the first of many Freemasons to occupy the White House as president.

Much more could be said, but the point here is that, far from being a nation founded by Christians and based on Christian principles, the USA is instead a nation founded by demon-worshipping Freemasons who injected their principles in numerous subtle ways in the US constitution and related documents. The naive belief of so many Americans that God has granted special status and protection to the USA is a pathetic myth-- a fable of similar proportions to that of an Ayatollah proclaiming his Islamic nation to be the special object of Allah's grace.

Another common myth of Americans is that they live in a democracy-- in fact, the best democracy in the world. Is that true? I maintain that it has never been true; the US has always been ruled by a mere handful of shadowy men who manipulate elections and candidates behind the scenes to ensure that their interests are guarded and promoted. Some of the original participants in the foundation of America had grave misgivings about the constitution and selected model of governance; but the Freemasons carried the day, and inevitable oligarchy was ensured. To those who deny this, I say that the current administration will soon remove all doubt, if they haven't already. The Bush cabinet is populated by individuals drawn from the executive ranks of business who hardly pretend not to promote the interests of big business. More evidence is found in the federal taxation system that has been tilted in favor of the wealthy and burdens the masses of the working/middle class. The last two presidential elections were characterized by voting 'irregularities' the like of which would be soundly condemned by observers in any 'third-world' state. What the plutocrats want to do is preserve the illusion of democracy, to keep the masses in their pacified state of endless consumerism, while actually controlling the government to achieve their desired goals.

An examination of the record of legislation over the past few decades also makes clear that there is, essentially, no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats-- both are in the employ of big business (mainly big oil, big pharma, and the defense industry). Under the American system, it is virtually impossible for an independent candidate or party to intrude in this two-party game. Even if a grass-roots movement should coalesce around a suitable candidate, the big media would simply ignore this impudent upstart, and with no vehicle to carry the message to the electorate, that candidate would quietly flop. So, with two copies of the same character to choose from, how can anyone call it democracy? The truth is that democracy-- to the extent it ever existed in America-- is dead; long dead.

Obviously, the two myths are related. Because the USA was from its very origins designed by self-interested, demonically-inspired Freemasons, the system they implemented was deliberately set up to allow co-opting by a plutocracy, the wealthiest cadre of individuals who were deemed most suitable to govern. It has taken some 230 years (less for perceptive observers) for the wolf to be spotted lurking under the sheep's clothing. Now the secret is out; the US is not a viable democracy, in fact, never was, but has been promoted vigorously by forces that wanted the populace and the outside world to believe the grand illusion. Many will prefer to cling to the illusion than accept the aweful truth. No matter; soon all the pretences will be stripped away as the oligarchy, drunk on the prospect of having control over the mighty American military machine, takes on full authoritarian control of the government. They will do this under the staged threat of 'terrorism' by fabricated enemies that demands drastic assumption of absolute powers to 'protect' the populace. Exercising all the leverage of fear, the draconian action will at first be welcomed by the stupefied citizens, whose reasoning has been compromised by decades of TV drivel and subverted media spin-doctoring. Only when many of them are incarcerated in mega-prison camps will they start to open their dull eyes to the incredible reality.

This sad tale has been foretold in the Bible, in symbolic language to preserve it from the tampering of the guilty. Instead of a wolf in sheep's wool, the Bible talks of a 'lamb-like beast' that suddenly 'spake as a dragon' (Revelation ch. 13). In biblical symbology, a beast represents a nation. A 'lamb-like' beast would be a nation that appears beneficent, peaceful. To speak like a dragon would be to issue fiery, frightening edicts. Does that brief description fit the US? At this moment of history, it certain can. The next few months and years will be literally apocalyptic-- revelatory of where events are going. I believe that only then will the biblical prophecies become decipherable. Stay tuned.

Return to Sanity?

Here we are, near the end of 2006. It's been five years since that now infamous date, 9-11-2001. In that brief five years, the US military has invaded Afghanistan, invaded and destroyed Iraq, incarcerated hundreds of 'suspects' in indefinite detention in Cuba; the US government has passed draconian laws granting the president dictatorial powers 'just in case,' and similar legislation was enacted in Britain, Canada, and other 'democratic' nations. Now, finally, we are starting to hear high-ranked officials talk cautiously about the possibility of a US troop withdrawal from Iraq; the American forces have shuffled off as much responsibility as possible on their NATO partners; and opinion-makers are tentatively questioning the whole, hasty, fear-driven approach to 'fighting terror.' Finally, in other words, a hint of sanity seems to be returning to our political leaders after five years of bully-driven madness. We all know who the bullies are, so I won't dwell on that... another couple of years and they will all be replaced by a new group in madmen (who we hope are rather less vicious).

In dealing with a hypocritical crisis over the testing of a nuclear weapon by North Korea-- one of Washington's designated pariahs-- the White House got, thankfully, distracted from its next major object of yet another failed invasion in the planning, Iran. One has to wonder-- do these insane bullies never learn? It must have something to do with the disease. Yet these people are not stewball street vagrants whose madness is merely pitiable-- these are the officials running the biggest military machine in history! The outcomes of their insane predation could be catastrophic for all humankind. By now, one hopes that even the fear-crazed, uninformed and misinformed masses of Americans will have seen the foolishness of their leaders' counterproductive policies and incompetent actions. And that they can see how much of their precious freedoms they were willing to blindly squander for the insincere promises of 'peace and security.'

Canadians cannot absolve their government and its agencies from the same kind of insanity that swept our neighbor and European nations. On the positive note, we've had an official inquiry into the fumbling that resulted in the shameful and unlawful deportation of a citizen, Maher Arar, to Syria where he was tortured bacause he was 'suspected of links to Al-Qaida.' This kind of stuff is unbelievable in a civilized and mentally healthy nation; yet in the fabricated frenzy of fear following 9-11, government after government in the Western democracies rushed forward with ill-conceived measures to curtail the freedoms that have taken untold centuries to be achieved. How stupid can we get? To those remaining diehard conservatives who say we had to 'do something' to 'combat terrorism,' I have only to ask: 'How much safer are we after surrendering some basic freedoms?' Show me any real indication that we're any safer from terrorism than before. The fact is, we are more vulnerable to terrorism than ever-- and it's terrorism from our own governments that we should now fear! The fact of it is that in a world of suicide bombers who feel there's nothing to lose and paradise to gain, the only way to stop terrorism is to provide the justice that the desperate are seeking. There would be no-one willing to die if he or she grew up in a world where (s)he felt an equitable opportunity to have a decent life. But no, our leaders want us to believe that the only way to deal with those they label 'terrorists' is to resort to the same, despicable tactics. This is patent moral bankruptcy, and can never succeed!

What the world desperately needs is a conscience for social justice to prevail among our leaders; instead our 'elected' officials are too often pawns of the powerful capitalist lobby that wants a 'new world order' wherein the corporations rule over the masses of captive consumers. As we see this trend for saner voices begin to emerge from the babble of war-mongering, the question is: is this a return to relative sanity, whereby the extreme elements of our governments are constrained by cooler heads from embarking on the kind of plain crazy adventures that they are so zealous to pursue? Or, instead, is it just an interlude supplied by providence-- a pause in which we are given a last opportunity to come to our senses and demand rational actions by our politicians, and the enshrinement of human rights from any kind of knee-jerk restrictions?

If the failures of global politics of the last five years-- the first five years of the new millennium-- can teach us anything, it is in the value of a lawful society in which justice can be expected to be done. The law and its application may not be perfect, but at least we want reasonable assurance that everyone will receive due process. We do this now, almost to a fault, in criminal cases... often very serious criminal cases. Why then do we not insist that the same fastidiousness be applied to so-called terrorists? How soon we forget. It was barely a decade and a half ago, and the West was berating the 'evil empire' of the USSR for its shoddy human rights record, and its sham of a justice system. Even today, the USA still has the temerity to refer to other countries' human rights transgressions-- while overlooking the gross violations perpetrated by American agencies like the CIA, and by sub-contracted proxies. Today the USA-- and its major allies-- are in serious peril of becoming exactly what they criticize in those rogue states that aren't 'democratic.' The US government has done a great job of convincing people that they run huge risks from terrorist threats; yet the fact is that people face a much greater risk, statistically, from criminal acts than from terrorism.

It took the big TV drama of 9-11, hyped to the max, to provide the fear factor that authoritarian elements in the US administration wanted to instill. They were marvellously aided by the big media machine, the 3-letter TV networks, and the respected newspapers in New York and Washington. The media have traditionally helped democratic societies maintain sanity and provided that much-needed dampening of zeal for blood in foreign lands. This time-- post 9-11-- they simply hoisted the flag of patriotism to cover the fact that they provided no critical analysis of the head-strong policies of the government.

If this glimmer of sanity is to grow into the norm, it will be necessary for ordinary citizens to take more interest in policy and politics, and to become better informed on what is going on in this world... and to develop better analytical and reasoning skills. The question is: is this possible? And can it be done in a brief enough time to forestall the continued growth of the madness flaunted in our faces by Orwell's chilling phrases: War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength?

October 17, 2006

Blame Religion?

With the world in continued turmoil, and especially conflict between groups identified as Muslim, Jewish, or Christian, as well as Hindu, you hear a lot of people say something brilliant like "we should abolish all religions!" That's a sentiment that is getting a lot or airing these days, in private conversations, letters to editors, and so on. But, wait a minute; is there really any logic to this knee-jerk reaction to the violence we all abhor? Let's think about it more carefully.

All the major, world religions (ie. those numbering multi-millions of adherents) believe and teach peace among all people. At least they do in their sacred writings. Moreover, if you poll the members of any of these world religions, the ordinary believers almost overwhelmingly desire peace and detest war. Yet... we have the constant specter of 'sectarian violence' hanging over our heads almost everywhere in the world. So, what gives? In the Christian scriptures, Jesus projects himself to the 'great judgement' at the end of this age (Matt 7:22-23): 'Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.'

Jesus could foresee exactly what has happened-- in the name of religion. There are plenty of shysters around who can talk up a good forgery of religion, complete with ostensible miracles. But in their heart, these people are not truly religious, not converted to the true principles of God, which basically and simply require putting others ahead of ourselves. These fakes are experts at playing the religion game, using it to make a lot of money and gain a lot of power and influence. These individuals are occasionally discovered and revealed in various Christian communities; but they scramble their way to the leadership of all the hierarchical religions. (Hierarchical religions are those that do not practice a 'priesthood of all believers;' rather, they have professional clergy who run the churches, synagogues, and mosques, and have a supporting cast of administrators.)

When you look back over the ages, it's those religious leaders who instigated violent policies toward selected groups, generally 'heretics'-- those who oppose them internally; and then, 'unbelievers'-- those who hold to other views. These men were Jewish insurgent leaders, Catholic Popes, and aggressive Imams. And it's men who must shoulder the blame, since the major religious institutions have almost invariably shut women out of their governing structures. But one may rightly ask: how have religious authorities succeeded in assuming control of the religious agenda, and turn the message of peace into an acceptable pretext for war? That's the real crux of the matter!

The answer is right in our own hands... we 'ordinary' members of the assorted religions. Or rather, in our minds, for we have allowed ambitious men to bamboozle the masses with fiery rhetoric, fallacious and unscrupulous use of holy scripture, and general psychological manipulation. And the masses fall for all these mind-traps for one, salient reason-- they are too complacent to do even minimum 'due diligence.' The masses of believers are too lazy to read the scriptures and exercise the prayerful study that would easily dispell much of the misinformation they are being fed. The result over the ages has been absolutely tragic.

Finally, anyone who has read my other essays touching on religion may demand to know why I now seem to be defending religion when I am normally so critical of it. The answer is that it's due to a weakness of the English language. I am distinctly opposed to 'religion' in the sense of an organization, an institution; this is a construct of human nonsense. However, I respect 'religion' in the sense of a science of the knowledge of God; a system for elevating the human spirit. So, there is no contradiction.

In my mind, the conclusion is clear: do not blame religion for the endless conflicts among humans; the real culprits are 'religions'... and their blind believers who will not think for themselves.

Wheat and Tares (Matt 13:24-30, 36-43)

In the parable of the wheat and tares sown simultaneously in a farmer's field, Jesus explained the symbolism to his curious (and unimaginative) disciples (vs 36-32). So, we don't need to go over the basic allegory again. Still, there is the nagging quesiton: why does God allow the 'tares' to keep growing until the end of the age? Sure, Jesus gives a brief explanation. However, there may be a little more to the story that we haven't thought about... maybe because we haven't been this close to the 'harvest' before these 'latter days.'

Once we become adults, most of us think we can detect evil when we see it. Of course, most evil-doers, criminals, confidence-men, etc. try to hide their true intentions from everyone in order to accomplish their criminal activities. Yet, sooner or later, they almost always slip up-- the leopard cannot hide its spots indefinitely-- and we uncover the crimes and their perpetrators. It has been like this down thru the annals of human history. Cain killed his brother Abel, then tried to scam God with feigned innocence. For God, it's an easy matter to discern evil. But for mere mortals, it can be most difficult. We don't have moral X-ray vision that allows us to see into the psyche of others... altho some sensitive people do claim to be able to 'read the aura' of other individuals, and to detect various hidden attributes of the soul. Until we regain that ability on a general basis, we have to rely on what we observe. 'By their fruits you shall know them,' say the scriptures. And so, bad actors like Hitler, Stalin, serial killers, disgraced CEOs, and so on, are easily recognized and reviled.

The problem is that the fruit of evil can often be disguised and hidden for a long time, so that we are ignorant of the danger in our midst. This is proving to be particularly true in the case of institutions. For whatever reasons, we humans tend to have almost an inherent trust in our institutions. I'm talking about such things as governments (at least 'democratic' ones), universities and schools, churches (including 'denominations' and clergy), medical systems, corporations and so on. What the late 20th century revealed to us in often shocking terms was that these organizations can in fact be very corrupt. While presenting the outward appearance of beneficence and decorum, there emerged stories of endemic abuse of human rights, corruption of officials in positions of trust, denial of justice, illegal siphoning of funds, and a great many other perversions of the public trust. By the 21st century, many of us have become cynical of institutions of all kinds. And yet, for those who call themselves Christian, it is difficult to accept that the same corruption could affect the churches that they are affiliated with.

Yet this corruption of nominally Christian institutions is the greatest challenge that faces all who aspire to the Christ-based faith. This is not the personal paranoia of this writer; Jesus and other NT authors warned their flocks-- of their age and the ages to come-- of the great dangers posed by "wolves in sheeps' clothing" who come to destroy the church of Christ. These warnings were not minor mentions to be relegated to the remote recesses of believers' consciousness. They were delivered in stark language by every writer of NT scripture.

The most strident warnings came from Jesus himself. His words that at the 'end of the age' will come deception so powerful as to deceive 'the very elect' leave no room for cautious word wiggling by unctious preachers. Will it be impossible to discern the evil in our midst, in that case? Certainly not, I insist. At least not for those who are true followers of Christ-- not of denominations or fast-talking 'evangelists'-- and who do even a modicum of Bible self-study. The ones who will be deceived are those who think they already have all the truth they need, be it secular or religious truth. Those who have shut their minds from further evaluation of new revelation; who have hardened their attitudes towards learning anything new in the realm of religion. These are the ones who will not be able to distinguish a stalk of wheat from a weed, who will be vulnerable to the strong delusion coming from Satan's worldly puppets.

For the 'wise virgins' who seek out the additional 'oil' of knowledge for their spiritual lamps, the fruits of evil are apparent at an early stage. (Matthew 25:1-13) They can discern the good wheat from the evil weeds in our midst, without being deceived by institutional baffle-gab and self-serving obfuscation by co-opted spokespersons. In these early years of the 3rd millennium, we are seeing an increasing demarcation between good and evil... and more importantly, between 'ostensible good' and 'so-called evil.' When seedlings are young and still growing it can be difficult to tell the good plants sown by the 'farmer' (God) from the weeds sown by the 'enemy' (Satan). But when the plants mature, there can be no mistaking the heads of 'wheat' (good results) from the spikey, domineering weeds (evil works). This distinction is the fulfillment of Jesus' parable, in preparation for the coming harvest. It is God's grace that lets the tares become so evidently evil that even the 'willingly blind' will have no excuse that it was too difficult to distinguish the evil-doers.

There are well-meaning Christians who believe they must protect the Church by overlooking the evils committed by church representatives. And there are those who are using the organization in a deliberate way to achieve certain personal ends, be they financial, political, or whatever. The most pernicious 'tares' are represented by organizations that pretend to have a benign purpose, but which have become infested at the highest levels with self-seeking, ravenous leaders. Those leaders may not themselves be the hands guiding the actions of the institution, but they are in the full control of often hidden manipulators who are the real powers behind the officers. Those organizations have been carrying out their grisly business for a long time, disguising their ugliness with clever 'PR' and buying of official favor. But the day is coming when their true evil intentions and actions will be unmasked. That will presage the Day of the Harvest.

For God's unerring justice to be fully revealed with no room left for lingering doubts, it is necessary to allow the noxious weeds to flourish among the good wheat. For dim human consciousness to finally recognize evil when it pretends to be good, it is necessary to wait for the harvest. Then, at the end of this trying age, will come the answer long anticipated by the saints slain throughout the ages, the victims of those vicious tares, when they ask in Revelation 6(10): "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?".

October 5, 2006

Canada's Troops in Afghanistan

As each week passes and another flight returns from Afghanistan with the remains of one or more of our soldiers, the rhetoric of rationale is recited with increased fervor. Foreign Affairs minister MacKay notes the polls that show Canadians are highly skeptical of our role in that far-off land, but responds with the familiar refrain that he is pleased with the support Canadians are giving our troops.

Whenever challenged about the real reasons why Canadian forces are in Afghanistan, the government's standard response is to make a blatant emotional appeal to the natural desire to uphold our own. The subtext seems to be that no-one wants to be understood as criticizing our brave troops. So, the skeptics carefully explain the obvious-- that to question the mission is in no way to disapprove of our forces. In fact, it is our duty to question the mission, for the very safety of those citizens. During both World Wars, it was regarded as unpatriotic to question the conduct of the war. And history reveals that thousands of lives were needlessly lost to the sheer incompetence of both political leaders and military commanders. Had these prominent men been more accountable to the public, many soldiers would have returned home alive who, instead, spilled their blood on foreign soil.

In the unfortunate Afghanistan situation, there are humanitarian reasons one might cite to justify our presence; for example, subduing the Taliban to prevent the return to harsh Islamic rule that quashes the basic rights of women. But this government hasn't used that argument. To do so might invite questions about why we don't use the same grounds to intervene in Darfur. So, instead, our officials mumble something about making Canada safer from terrorists by attacking them in their strongholds. This is the line of reasoning borrowed from the Bush administration; and everyone knows it makes no sense. But, you can't question the mission because we don't want to shake our troops' morale.

Yet there's an especially sinister reason why we must re-evaluate our commitment to Afghanistan. If our government is really so concerned about the welfare of Canadian soldiers in the Middle East, then why are they allowing our troops to be exposed to one of the deadliest menaces in modern warfare? This menace already took its toll on 'Coalition' troops in the First Gulf War of 1991. This menace is depleted uranium dust that is created by the illegal weapons deployed by American forces. The North American media have been virtually silent about DU and its horrible effects, yet DU weapons have been used in Iraq in both Gulf Wars, and in Afghanistan. When these shells explode, they generate clouds of microscopic particles of uranium that are breathed in by all living things. That dust is virtually everywhere in Iraq, and some studies show that an area of danger radiates for about 1000 kilometers beyond Iraq.

The effects of DU on humans are well known among Gulf War veterans, and have come to be known as 'Gulf War Syndrome.' Coalition forces suffered virtually no casualties in that first Iraqi war; yet many soldiers from Britain, the US, and Canada who served in that conflict either died prematurely, or survive in a living hell of debilitating symptoms-- that are often still denied as legitimate by military health authorities in all three countries. None of the governments or military organizations involved wants the public to become aware of the terrible risks posed by depleted uranium weapons. If this knowledge became widely known, the public-- who supply the bodies and the funds for our valiant leaders' foreign adventures-- would start asking some very serious questions about the real reasons why Canadian forces are risking their lives and their future health for a highly dubious cause.

If Canadians simply stand on the sidelines cheering our brave soldiers onward, while ignoring the big questions of what we really-- and realistically-- hope to achieve in Afghanistan, we will do our troops a far greater disservice, than to speak up and demand solid answers from this government that seems willing to needlessly sacrifice Canadian lives in a futile mission. History will demonstrate, once again, that the real patriots are the peace-lovers, not the war-mongers. Every Canadian should take the time to get educated on depleted uranium weapons, and then contact the Prime Minister and his cabinet to demand some answers.

September 10, 2006

Behind the Scenes of History

There are numerous commentators, almost all of them on the internet or authors of books, who can accurately analyze and recite the endless depredations of the American industrial-political machine over the last century or so. (Examples range from the academics like Noam Chomsky, to watchdogs like Ralph Nader, to film-makers like Michael Moore.) These pundits have dissected the atrocious policies and covert activities of successive American regimes, painting a picture that is sickening but undeniable. They describe how a handful of rich, powerful, influential actors pull strings, manufacture public opinion, and exercise every manner of dirty tricks to achieve their self-serving ends. Often, they uncover or highlight links between and among these power-brokers and their accomplices in the corporate sector and the banking world.

Reading these accounts, though, the reader is allowed to retain a particular intellectual conceit of western society-- namely, that all the documented relationships among people and events are somehow the product of happenstance. In other words,

we are expected to regard history as purely, or largely, a kind of random unfolding of the universe. This view is the dominant paradigm by which history is taught, books are written, and society understands itself.
In this optic, we can discover the 'causes' of, for example, the two world wars, by examining the details of economics, international relations, national psychology, opportunistic politicians, and so on. It all has a satisfying ring of reason to it, and we all feel secure that we understand the general evolution of human society despite the chaotic mix of factors that bear on our collective behavior.

Indeed, we are culturally indoctrinated from childhood to see the world thru that optic. Our parents taught us, explicitly or implicitly, that the world is basically well-ordered, with occasional slips into chaos as one or another excuse crops up for yet another war somewhere. Societies strive mightily to maintain a sense of 'normalcy' throughout all kinds of disruptions, be they natural calamities or human conflicts. So we reach adulthood with a hard-wired program that expects a rational world wherein people behave rationally most of the time, and history is the cumulative product of stochastic processes and improvised decisions contingent on proximate circumstances. This consensus view of reality is comforting to us, and therefore any attempt to persuade the masses that there is another, very dark reality meets with classic denial tactics-- anger, ridicule, appeals to 'reason,' and so on.

As with all paradigms that are subsumed into the realm of unconscious knowledge, it doesn't occur to people that this IS a paradigm-- ie. a filter on our perceptions. And like any perceptual filter, it is by no means guaranteed to provide an accurate description of reality. What the above-described paradigm (the stochastic view of history, to give it a brief label) does is to disempower us, for two reasons. First, any viewpoint that is unconscious, and thus that we are unaware of, can and will supply distortions of reality that are not only inconvenient but potentially hazardous. Second, it is indicative of an underlying, inherent weakness of the 'Western cultural view' that desires to 'analyze' everything-- that is, to disintegrate every phenomenon into a set of increasingly minute components... and to assume that thereby we understand it. This is the reductio ad absurdum trap, for in decomposing the phenomenon, we in fact lose sight of the whole. Almost every aspect of society suffers as a result of this inherent, yet unchallenged insistence on decomposing things. For example, the medical system is a notable offender. You are prescribed a drug to control a certain abnormal condition... but that drug creates other undesirable effects that must then be treated in the same, disconnected manner.

Ironically, our technologists have invented a recent technique called 'pattern recognition' which is essentially the application of so-called 'artificial intelligence' software to discern coherent patterns in supplied data. The data could be handwritten text, for example, and the system attempts to decode it, that is, to convert it into ASCII characters. The same techniques can be used to sift through huge databases of information on, say, credit card customers, to determine their spending habits (on a demographic basis, ostensibly). Humans are actually rather good at pattern recognition... provided they have not been trained to suppress this faculty and replace it with 'group think.' Unfortunately, it has been a hallmark of Western society for centuries that analysis is preferred to synthesis, and our school system does nothing to attempt to free students from this mental straightjacket.

All of this being a prelude to my modest proposal-- that history, certainly the history of the last few centuries, is not stumbling along haphazardly, but is really being purposefully propelled. That's right; if you take an overview of the patterns presented by all those analytic commentators-- connect the dots, in the current argot-- you start to discern some amazing pictures. Sure, you may claim; that's exactly what many skeptics are doing with the story of '9-11', 2001... they are digging and finding the connections that all point to a conspiracy by the highest gov't authorities to create a domestic crisis for their own ends. True; but I'm saying you have to pull the telescope back even further and look for the pattern behind the story we call 911. Unless we get to the root of the evils in our midst, they will, like noxious weeds, continually regenerate to choke out any hope of building a society of justice and true democracy.

For those who refuse to simply buy into the acceptable, common understanding of events, there is a structure, a direction to the events that shape our lives on a collective basis. And if a direction, then there are directors. So, while Chomsky can catalog the egregious sins of several generations of US gov't administrations, even he seems to treat each case as the sad result of individual human foibles and avarice. What I am stating unequivocally is that the catalog of 'errors in judgment' represents the deliberate efforts of a secret cabal whose ultimate goal is nothing less than world domination. This shadowy group has been diligently directing political and economic decisions in mainly the 'industrialized world' for at least a couple of centuries. They thrive on chaos, having learned early on how to reap huge fortunes by playing both sides in every conflict they foment. So behind the apparent chaos exists a conscious order secretly imposed by a largely unknown band of manipulators.

In this essay, I don't want to attempt to distill the vast amounts of information available on the 'ultimate conspiracy' that now threatens mankind as never before. It's vital to make a point, though: it's far too easy to dismiss all such talk about an ultimate conspiracy as 'wild-eyed conspiracy theories.' Of course. That's precisely what they want us to believe! 'That's what conspiracy theorists always say,' retort those determined to remain in denial. It's a stand-off that has allowed the cabal to carry on their grisly, self-serving plans with impunity for all these years. The great majority of decent, peaceful citizens can never imagine the existence of a small group dedicated to controlling the world-- and therefore, they make the workings of those conspirators all the more easy. And it is a matter of imagination, for the system of education, both formal and implicit, basically homogenizes the thinking of the masses, and blunts our ability to imagine things outside the boxes of group-think. By implicit education I refer to the constant conditioning of our impressions that is an on-going process of indoctrination conducted by the mass media and entertainment industries. These outlets will actually portray conspiracies of the insidious kind I'm talking about; but they do so precisely because they can create the impression that such ideas are purely fictional. Hence, when anyone attempts to wake the populace from their slumber, the 'powers that be' start the ridicule with taunts of 'conspiracy theory,' as if all such notions are ridiculous. But consider the words of some commentators:

'Indisputably, all of these minor factoids involving world-shattering events are singularly insignificant; but when taken together, and contrasted to the increasingly provable prima facie evidence of a Bush regime inside job on September 11, 2001, an unmistakable pattern of a "War OF Terror" is surfacing to justify the continued wars of imperial conquest in the Middle East and the suspension of human rights here in America to usher in the New World Order via Bush's launching of the North American Union.'

Theodore Lang, 6/06.

"Contrary to widespread childish opinion, most of the important things that happen in the world, happen because powerful forces intend them to happen, not because of some so-called "sociological" or other statistical coincidence of the types reported for the popular edification of the easily deluded."

Sometime presidential 'hopeful'
Lyndon Larouche

Now to those who simply cannot bring themselves to seriously consider the prospect of a grand conspiracy, perhaps an alternative avenue is to present a set of questions that beg rational responses... responses that are sorely lacking. For example...

  • Why is Bush (ostensibly a 'conservative') deliberately driving the USA into an enormous debt crisis with his costly wars, tax cuts for the rich, and madcap spending? (The US dollar has already slid in value compared to other currencies.)
  • Why is Bush completely careless with regard to the Kyoto Accord and environmental protection? (Could he know that it's a futile exercise in any case?)
  • Why do the media give the Bush regime a free pass on virtually all the hard issues that would have torpedoed presidents in the past?
  • Why do government agencies (FBI, NSA, notably) refuse to release videotapes confiscated at the scene of the 911 attack on the Pentagon?
  • Why was there no SEC investigation into the obvious signs of insider trading of airline stocks prior to 911?
  • Why has there been no inquiry into explaining why four hijacked airliners could fly unchallenged for an hour and a half altogether in the busiest corridor in the Americas? (Like, where was the air force? Was NORAD on vacation?)
  • Why did it take the mighty US gov't many days to mount a rescue operation for New Orleans... when they had days of warning before the hurricane?
  • Why did Bush invade Iraq, really? And why is he so bent on invading Iran?

These are just a few of numerous questions that only get asked in the 'alternative media' mainly on the worldwide web. The mainstream media simply ignore the monsters staring us all in the face, as if hoping that that proves they don't exist. None of these questions has been given a rational answer by the White House authorities. Yet they all point to one underlying, unavoidable conclusion: there is a conspiracy that orchestrated the 911 events, and that has co-opted the complicity of the media in ignoring all evidence that would reveal the truth. As stated above, the 911 'false-flag' attacks, horrific in themselves, are merely the most obvious symptom of the disease of world domination politics. These viruses have been present in the body politic of the world for centuries, but finally, in the 21st century, they are 'presenting' (to use the medical analogy) in very overt, spectacular, and horrific ways. The top echelon of the conspiracy see that most of the pieces are now in place for the final realization of their ages-old dream. They have a virtual stranglehold on the most powerful nation on earth; and they can use it to leverage the co-operation, willing or otherwise, of every other nation on the planet.

In fact, the conspirators are getting so arrogantly sure of their hubris that they are blatantly leaving their 'trademarks' on all their dirty deeds, secure in the self-assurance that the masses are so mesmerized by the reality they have created that the conspiracy will never be unmasked... until it's a 'done deal.' Those trademarks are the occult, generally numerological symbols that are an inherent part of their evil culture. The kind of 'fingerprints' you will find, without need of magnifying glass, are generally coded in the dates of significant events. The notable example is '9-11' where 9+1+1=11 which is one of the favored satanic numbers. You have also the Madrid train bombings of '3-11' (2004), the London bombings of '7-7' (2005), and the Mumbai bombings of '7-11' (2006)... (3 and 7 are other favorite occult numbers). There are many other demonic practices and symbols that characterize the Illuminati sphere (e.g. see 'Skull and Bones Society' of Yale U.; Bohemian Grove; etc.) but I won't elaborate on them here.

These symbols are purely satanic, since (brace yourself) the secret society are sold out to their ultimate master and guru, Satan. Whether you believe in the Devil or not is immaterial to the substance of this essay; and immaterial to the plans of the conspirators. They would prefer that you continue to deny his existence, since it just makes things easier for them. The bottom line is that they are motivated by a self-serving, malicious spirit bent on exalting a select few over the many.

Some firm atheists may agree with much of my thesis... but simply can't go along with this 'Devil business.' Fine; don't get hung up on it. But, surely anyone of any creed can admit that mankind has, especially in recent years, taken some transparently idiotic, self-destructive directions. For illustration, we could cite US policies to protect big business at the expense of the environment, or at obvious peril to longer-term stability; unabated resource consumption in the face of ecological damage; continued reliance on hydrocarbon fuels in the knowledge of global warming; pollution of the land, sea, and air when we know the health damage; promotion of genetically modified crops when they offer no advantages and pose unknown risks; and you can think of others. When we are intelligent enough to create destructive technologies, and to then recognize their destructiveness... yet continue to create and employ them-- is that not a symptom of collective insanity? What do you suppose drives such patent idiocy? If you speak to any given individual, they would most likely grasp the futility of our actions, and propose saner actions. Yet we are led by 'elected' individuals who embark on self-destructive policies! Why? Well, I've just argued that it's because of the shadow governors behind the scenes. But what impels these manipulative geniuses towards apparent world catastrophe? What has been protecting their identities and schemes all these years? What gives them cohesion when their evil puppets self-destruct with regularity? It can only be a 'higher' force, which you may ascribe to group psychopathy, alien orchestration, or demonic influence. I think in view of the clear occult manifestations of this crew, there is only one sensible conclusion.

The reason it's important to squarely face up to the existence of the secret conspiracy is because none of the cogent, insightful analyses of evil events in the world will amount to anything, accomplish any meaningful or lasting benefits, as long as the true, underlying instigators remain undetected. The cogent commentators can continue to reveal piecemeal instances of collusion, but unless and until they put together those separate pieces into a coherent picture, it accomplishes very little. As with western physicians vainly pursuing the treatment of isolated symptoms, the disease just keeps manifesting in a new manner, often more maliciously. Well-meaning crusaders can tilt at specific windmills of evil; onlookers may wring their hands in dismay; but the Hydra just grows more horrible heads when individual appearances are neutralized. The only way this growing serpent of chaos could be extinguished is by, first, uncovering it from under the darkness in which it hides, unmasking the secret conspirators; and second, confiscating their every resource of vast wealth and influence. Most unfortunately, this is not going to happen-- destiny must be fulfilled. This world-- far from basically benign and stable-- is a cosmic madhouse, run by men of dead conscience bent on an insane dream to 'become as gods'... in a world reduced to rubble by their self-destructive sorcery.