Yesterday’s post looked at the life of Major Denis Arnold who served valiantly during the Second World War.

He, along with Baroness Platt of Writtle, today’s profile, and many others are what Britons refer to with regret as ‘a vanishing breed’. The Telegraph carries their obituaries, beautifully written and a pleasure to read.

Whilst Major Arnold was stationed in India and Burma, Beryl Catherine Myatt had just begun working for the male-dominated Hawker Aircraft.

Young Beryl’s father was an accountant. The family lived in Southend, Essex. Beryl became a Girl Guide and said that the Guide Promise was a principal mainstay in her life:

To do my best, to do my duty to God and the King and to help other people at all times.

Beryl was an exceptional student, the type meant to attend university. However, parents at the time — especially fathers — felt that higher education would be wasted on future mothers and homemakers. (The same was true for my late mother-in-law who deeply regretted not having been allowed this opportunity.)

One of Beryl’s teachers, the mathematics mistress, persuaded her mother that the girl should apply to Cambridge. Beryl later read that the university was looking for engineering students to help with the war effort. She attended Girton College and was one of five women reading Mechanical Sciences.

She graduated in 1943. Hawker Aircraft took her on as an aeronautical engineer:

preparing flight reports for Typhoon, Tempest and Fury fighter bombers. She often took control when her boss was away — “People would ring up and say ‘I want to know the cylinder head temperature of the Centaurus engine’. I’d rattle them off. There would be a deathly hush at the other end of the line and then they’d say, ‘How do you know?’ They assumed that if you were a woman you couldn’t be an engineer.”

Her obituary page has a Hawker employee photograph; she looks to be the only woman in a sea of men!

After the war, she left Hawker to work at British European Airways. She married Stewart Platt, a textile manufacturer, in 1949, to concentrate on marriage, home and family.

When her children were of school age, Mrs Platt devoted her spare time to volunteer activities in Essex. She started a young wives group in Writtle, Essex, where she and her family lived.

During this time, she began thinking of ways women could work outside the home without sacrificing family life. However, she would have to wait another quarter of a century before she could help to influence government policy in this regard.

In 1959, the local Conservative Party association asked her to stand as a candidate for the local council. She was duly elected and served in local government for several years. Between 1965 and 1985, she served on the Essex County Council.

In 1978, she was appointed a CBE — Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and in 1981 was created a life peer, Baroness Platt of Writtle. (For my overseas readers: this put her in the House of Lords, the other parliamentary house.)

In 1983 — when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister — she was appointed chairman of Britain’s Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and began earning a salary for the first time in decades.

Platt’s idea of feminism differed dramatically to the flavour of that time and ours. She saw women’s opportunities through the lens of someone who had to fight her way up in a male-dominated atmosphere. (Many years ago I saw a television interview of a woman in New York who did the same in the 1950s on Wall Street. She abhorred what passed for feminism.)

The Telegraph describes Platt’s job in the EOC as follows:

Brisk, kindly and bursting with good intentions, as chairman of one of Westminster’s least-loved quangos Lady Platt found herself cast as piggy-in-the-middle in the equality debate. “There are male chauvinists on one side, militant feminists on the other and me on a high wire in the middle,” she said. She was “passionately interested” in job-sharing, flexi-time and helping married woman to get back into the mainstream, but felt that this was better achieved voluntarily by employers than imposed by government.

So while she was lukewarm on some issues dear to the feminist heart, such as state-funded nurseries, and dismissed the EOC-backed case of two women against the Fleet Street hostelry El Vino [infamous haunt for male journalists] as “rather frivolous”, she was delighted when, for example, a woman crane driver won damages for victimisation at work: “That’s the sort of thing that will make employers think twice. It’s that, and not more legislation, that will bring about real equality in the end.”

Baroness Platt retired in 1988. Her great disappointment was that more young women were not enrolling in engineering courses at university. She blamed this on a cultural and educational bias towards feminine subjects for girls.

She lived and died a faithful Anglican, suggesting:

if people took to heart God’s commandment to love Him and love thy neighbour, “we should all be living in a very much happier and better community”.

How true. Would that we had more women like Baroness Platt today. A vanishing breed, indeed.

The obituaries in The Telegraph are often very well written, especially when they cover Britons who served in the Second World War.

In the United States, this age cohort is referred to as the Greatest Generation, coined by television journalist and author Tom Brokaw. His book of 15 years ago of the same name details lives of heroes from that era.

It is not uncommon for Telegraph readers commenting on British obituaries to say these people are ‘a vanishing breed’. Someone wrote the same of Major Denis Arnold, who died on January 14, 2015 at the age of 96.

Arnold was born and raised in west London. At that time, this area was semi-rural. It later became informally known as Metroland — freshly linked by the Tube and promoted as a newly desirable suburban community in the 1920s and 1930s. Today, it is fully built up and rather congested. Heathrow is the hub of employment for many residents.

Young Denis grew up in a wooden house in Hounslow. His parents had chickens and a goat. They also grew fruit and vegetables, allowing them to be self-sustaining where food was concerned. The family had no electricity. Nor did they have running water. They collected rainwater in old tubs and other receptacles.

Arnold left school at the age of 14 to work in the research laboratories of the renowned Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers, which, today, is part of the Blue Circle Group of companies. An adolescent who left school at that age back then was significantly better educated than 14-year olds today.

In 1939, he joined the RA Militia Regiment. At the time, war was imminent and the British government had reason to believe that Germany might invade the United Kingdom via Ireland. (There is much there which no longer makes the history books or school lessons. The evidence that some Irish were conspiring against Britain is now considered either politically incorrect or false.) Arnold was stationed in Northern Ireland to help fight off a German attack.

In 1942, Arnold was commissioned into the 13th Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers and volunteered to serve in Nigeria’s Royal West Africa Frontier Force. He was later transferred to India and then Burma to be trained in long-range penetration operations.

On June 1, 1944, he made a courageous — and what could have been a disciplinary — decision. However, he had to act quickly and without permission:

He was leading a reconnaissance patrol along a narrow ridge path just north of the Kyusanlai Pass, overlooking Nammun, north Burma, and following the line of a Japanese telephone cable, when he saw the tops of the enemy bivouacs ahead on a steep knoll on the ridge.

He walked quietly up the path until he was within a few paces of a slit trench. Inside, there were four Japanese with a light machine gun who were not keeping a good lookout. Having decided to change his mission into a fighting patrol, Arnold retraced his steps. Dividing his platoon into two parties, he ordered them to stalk the enemy position and attack from the right and left flanks.

Arnold himself went back up the track and disposed of the gun crew with a grenade and his semi-automatic American carbine. His two sections closed with the enemy using small arms and grenades. The Japanese took heavy losses, but the attack could not be pressed home because of the steep slope and thick undergrowth.

Arnold and his men then made a fighting withdrawal. Grenades and automatic fire from four machine guns followed them down the hill, and they beat off an attack by a Japanese section which was pursuing them. Enemy casualties were estimated at 14 killed and as many wounded. Arnold’s force suffered one killed and one wounded.

Journalism such as that makes The Telegraph‘s obituaries worth reading.

The end result was that the enemy retreated. Arnold was given an Immediate MC (Military Cross).

Meanwhile, back in England, Arnold’s mother wrote him a letter and enclosed a temperance pledge card which she asked him to sign. Oh, my! A drink would have been most welcome under the circumstances, but there was none to be had.

Arnold was demobbed in 1946 and returned to work with the Blue Circle Group. His wanderlust did not leave him, and he became their overseas operations director.

Even after retirement in Kent, he continued to travel around the world.

In his leisure time he played golf until the age of 90. His wife predeceased him. Three of his four children survive him.

Reading about lives such as Major Arnold’s is most inspiring. He probably grew up reading Boys’ Own adventures and was taught to live for God, King and Country.

I cannot imagine that happening now, can you?

Americans interested in similar Second World War stories and profiles of brave servicemen would do well to check out Pacific Paratrooper, written by one of my readers. I have learned much about the war by reading it and highly recommend the site.

Bible and crossContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 22:31-34

Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,[a] that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter[b] said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus[c] said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

—————————————————————-

The setting for today’s reading is the private room where Jesus instituted the Last Supper.

Immediately following, in their carnal weakness, the Apostles debated who among them was the greatest. They still had no idea of the significance of what had happened and what would happen the following day.

Jesus interrupted their foolishness with this answer (Luke 22:25-27):

25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

Today’s passage — our Lord’s warning to Peter — follows. Satan entered Judas to enact the betrayal. Now Jesus says that Satan is entering — sifting — Peter and the other ten.

It is important to note that ‘you’ in verse 31 is plural. So is the first ‘you’ in verse 32.

However, the second ‘you’ in verse 32 is singular. The use of the word ‘turn’ means ‘repent’, ‘convert’, ‘turn away from temptation': in other words, once Peter broke Satan’s grip, he could help the other Apostles strengthen their faith. Jesus has prayed for this to occur.

Why did Jesus use the words ‘sift you like wheat’? Matthew Henry offers this analysis:

Peter, who used to be the mouth of the rest in speaking to Christ, is here made the ear of the rest and what is designed for warning to them all (all you shall be offended, because of me) is directed to Peter, because he was principally concerned, being in particular manner struck at by the tempter: Satan has desired to have you.

Henry says this conversation could have occurred between God and Satan with regard to the latter’s ‘demand’ (verse 31):

Probably Satan had accused the disciples to God as mercenary in following Christ, and aiming at nothing else therein but enriching and advancing themselves in this world, as he accused Job. “No,” saith God, “they are honest men, and men of integrity.” “Give me leave to try them,” saith Satan, “and Peter particularly.”

Satan can act only in the parameters God allows. God and His Son will not allow a permanent falling away of the Apostles’ faith, no matter how much Satan desires it.

As for ‘sifting’, Henry explains (emphasis in bold in the original, purple mine):

He desired to have them, that he might sift them, that he might show them to be chaff, and not wheat. The troubles that were now coming upon them were sifting, would try what there was in them: but this was not all[;] Satan desired to sift them by his temptations, and endeavoured by those troubles to draw them into sin, to put them into a loss and hurry, as corn when it is sifted to bring the chaff uppermost, or rather to shake out the wheat and leave nothing but the chaff. Observe, Satan could not sift them unless God gave him leave: He desired to have them, as he begged of God a permission to try and tempt Job. Exetesato–“He has challenged you, has undertaken to prove you a company of hypocrites, and Peter especially, the forwardest of you.”

Henry also offers this explanation, which comes from other Bible scholars:

Some suggest that Satan demanded leave to sift them as their punishment for striving who should be greatest, in which contest Peter perhaps was very warm: “Leave them to me, to sift them for it.”

In any event, Satan wanted the Apostles to disperse, desert and permanently deny Christ.

Peter, upon hearing Jesus’s words, pledged his loyalty unto death (verse 32). But Jesus told him that by the time the rooster crowed at dawn, he would deny him three times (verse 33).

Peter felt comfortable as long as our Lord was in his midst. However, once separated, it was a different story.

John MacArthur posits that Jesus referred to his leading Apostle by his former name of Simon to indicate that he would soon fall into his old ways. After Peter claimed he would go with Him unto death, Jesus addressed him as Peter — the Rock, a future leader — albeit with the foretelling of his denial.

Once Peter began ministering to others, he understood the importance of resisting temptation and sin. He wrote his letters — epistles — from personal experience. (See Essential Bible Verses page, near the bottom, for 1 Peter and 2 Peter.)

When he approached the end of his life, MacArthur says:

He ended up being imprisoned for his faith in Christ and ultimately crucified upside down because he wasn’t worthy, he said, to be crucified the way his Lord was crucified.  So he did go to prison and to death. 

MacArthur says that Jesus warned about Peter’s denial twice that evening: once immediately after the Last Supper and again at the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane.

John’s Gospel aligns with Luke’s in the indoor setting (John 13:36-38):

36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.

Mark’s and Matthew’s accounts take place at the Mount of Olives. Here is Mark 14:26-31:

26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

And Matthew 26:30-35:

30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

It is important for us to be able to tell detractors of Scripture that, with minor variations, the Gospel accounts are consistent.

Next time: Luke 22:35-38

In breezing through The New York Times, a few health headlines from the past month caught my eye.

Allergies connected to dishwashers?

A study published in the journal Pediatrics shows a correlation between allergy prevalence and dishwasher use.

Washing by hand, the researchers say, could be better.

As always, check the readers’ comments which proved to be a mixed bag. Some who grew up in homes where Mum washed the dishes by hand still had allergies. Some who grew up with dishwashers were allergy-free.

SpouseMouse and I did not grow up with dishwashers in our parental households nor do we have one now. Neither of us has allergies, but who knows?

Possible things to check out with regard to dishwashers — thanks, NYT readers — are filters which need to be replaced, too much detergent and film on plates or glasses. Any one of these, or a combination thereof, might trigger allergies or skin conditions.

Feed peanut butter to infants?

Speaking of allergies, should mothers feed their infants small amounts of peanut butter in order to prevent a possible nut intolerance?

An editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine says they should. Dr. Rebecca S. Gruchalla of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Dr. Hugh A. Sampson of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City point to a study done in London in 2008 among Israeli and British Jewish infants. The Israeli children ended up with fewer cases of peanut allergies because their mothers fed them small amounts of a local peanut product when they were only a few months old.

A more recent study based on this looked at infant reactions to peanut protein. Some mothers were told to give their infants a peanut product and other mothers were told to avoid it. The children were tested weekly for an allergic response.

Of those consuming a prescribed peanut product, only 10.6% developed an allergy by the age of five. By contrast, 35.3% of children not eating the peanut product were allergic to it.

However, as ever, this is not intended as being a conclusive debate on the matter. More research needs to be done.

NYT readers debated the matter heatedly.

Parents should check with their paediatrician first. However, a small amount of peanut butter mixed in now and then with appropriate baby food might accustom the body to handling it. It won’t work for every baby, but a consultation with the doctor and an allergy test beforehand will confirm if this is the right way forward.

Older generations never had nut allergies. I’d never heard of such a thing until the 1990s. Why is this now such an increasingly common disorder?

Should athletes turn to a high-fat instead of a high-carb diet?

This story is about the ketogenic diet, which my regular readers over the past ten months will recognise from my posts on the subject.

When I was growing up in the 1970s, many athletes were still eating plenty of steak and eggs to build muscle and stamina. That changed during the 1980s. Today, pasta and rice are daily staples.

However, new advice from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee suggests that athletes should also be consuming a certain portion of fatty foods for their metabolism.

Professor Jeff Volek of Ohio State University in Columbus is a co-author of the paper in question. Anyone who is following a ketogenic eating plan will recognise his name as one of the diet’s biggest supporters.

In the opposing corner is Louise Burke, the head of sports nutrition at the Australian Sports Commission. She says there is no proof that a high-fat diet is better than a carbohydrate-based one.

However, both agree that there is no firm definition of a high-fat, low-carb diet.

In reality — and what the article doesn’t say — is that this will vary amongst individuals. Those who are in a normal weight range will need a closer balance between fat and protein whilst severely restricting carbs. Those who are overweight to obese will need much more fat than protein whilst also keeping carbs to 10 – 15g a day.

Clicking on my ketogenic diet link reveals the physical and mental benefits as well as the resources where one can go to calculate specific daily macros — gram ratios — for fat, protein and carbohydrate.

My complaints with the article are twofold. First, it says that ketogenic followers experience days or weeks of sluggishness when adapting. That happens only with inadequate salt and water intake. The condition is known as ‘keto flu’ and can be potentially dangerous. The remedy from Day 1 is more salt (and possibly potassium) on a daily basis, possibly 1.5 to 2x what one was consuming previously. Cups of bouillon are helpful. With regard to water, even a sedentary person on this eating plan must drink one litre per day. Athletes will probably need around three to four litres a day.

I never had keto flu nor has SpouseMouse. My year’s anniversary is coming up in April. SpouseMouse has been on the eating plan for six months.

Secondly, the reporter says that the food is boring. Not at all. In fact, it is the most fun anyone can have with food: all the tastiest things, including fatty meats, are allowed. Nearly everyone also ends up craving more vegetables and salads, too. How can that be a bad thing?

My suggestion is to copy Italian and Indian restaurants by making one basic sauce — cream-based, in my case — and varying it according to vegetable or protein (especially fish). We have creamy leeks, courgettes, onions and spinach nearly every week. With fatty steak, I sauté onions and mushrooms in butter and animal fat (goose, beef dripping or lard). We eat poached eggs in hollandaise sauce without a worry.  Bread, potatoes, pasta — who needs it? We’re quite satisfied — and keto-adapted.

It seems our media do not wish to divert too much from the received Ancel Keys dietary advice dating from the 1950s.

Yes, there are parts of the world where populations do rely heavily on carbohydrates. However, they are surviving on a subsistence diet and working strenuously during the day. Most Westerners do not fit that category. Most of us are sedentary. Even athletes can balance out their diets quite comfortably.

With any of these headline stories, concerned readers should check with their doctors first. This post is not intended as medical advice.

Not so long ago Al Qaeda received its funding from rich donors.

Nowadays it operates comfortably thanks to a handful of European governments and companies eager to pay ransom money for the release of their citizens or employees who have been kidnapped.

In July 2014, The New York Times carried an excellent article, ‘Paying Ransom, Europe Bankrolls Qaeda Terror’.

Who pays?

The US and the UK still refuse to pay kidnapping ransoms. Some might find this cruel, but it is in order not to aid and abet criminal or terrorist organisations.

However, not every country sees it that way, particularly in continental Europe. The NYT tells us (emphases mine):

While European governments deny paying ransoms, an investigation by The New York Times found that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have taken in at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66 million was paid just last year.

The US Treasury came up with an even higher amount — $165 million — over the same time period.

Ransom money is funneled to terrorists via proxies or is allocated as part of a foreign aid budget. Corporations can also buy kidnapping and ransom insurance for employees at risk. The insurance company pays out in such an event.

The reporter who wrote the article — Rukmini Callimachi — was on assignment for the Associated Press in Mali in 2013. Callimachi was given access to thousands of pages of Al Qaeda documents which detailed their kidnapping processes.

The article carries two charts of countries affected by kidnapping. We discover that between 2008 and 2013:

– A French company paid the highest amount of ransom over a four-year period: $40.4 million.

– Another French company paid $17.7 million between 2010 and 2011.

– Qatar and Oman paid $20.4 million between 2012 and 2013 for the release of two Finns, one Austrian and one Swiss national.

– Switzerland paid $12.4 million in 2009 to secure the release of two of their citizens and one German.

– Spain paid $11 million between 2009 and 2013.

– Austria paid $3.2 million in 2008.

There were also undisclosed sources of ransom money, which totalled $21.4 million.

Callimachi reported that certain governments have denied payment:

The foreign ministries of Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland denied in emails or telephone interviews that they had paid the terrorists. “The French authorities have repeatedly stated that France does not pay ransoms,” said Vincent Floreani, deputy director of communication for France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On the other hand:

Several senior diplomats involved in past negotiations have described the decision to pay ransom for their countries’ citizens as an agonizing calculation: Accede to the terrorists’ demand, or allow innocent people to be killed, often in a gruesome, public way?

Money brings results

Another chart reveals the numbers of hostages released once ransom money has been delivered. That said, four French people and one German died. At the time the NYT article appeared, the American and British victims were still being held captive, with one death and one escape.

Experts believe that Al Qaeda could be developing a strategy to kidnap citizens only from countries who will pay for their release. Therefore, it is possible that fewer British and American citizens will be held hostage in future.

In any event, the loosely-organised terrorist organisation is raking it in:

– $91.5 million in the Islamic Maghreb (North Africa).

– $5.1 million in the Shabab.

– $29.9 million in the Arabian Peninsula.

The leader in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, wrote:

Kidnapping hostages is an easy spoil, which I may describe as a profitable trade and a precious treasure.

Thus it has been throughout history, particularly in that part of the world.

He added:

Thanks to Allah, most of the battle costs, if not all, were paid from through the spoils. Almost half the spoils came from hostages.

Indeed.

How payment proceeds

Amazingly, the article tells us, in the early days of Al Qaeda kidnaps, ransom money was bundled into a suitcase and dropped off in the relevant capital city.

Nowadays, it is much more complicated. A anonymous government official told Callimachi how things are done.

European governments send an escort/negotiator and a driver with the money across several hundred miles of desert to one of two capitals: Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso or Niamey in Niger.

Nearly another full day of driving lies ahead afterward until the team reaches the first contact point. There, they receive a set of GPS co-ordinates which they follow to an intermediate destination several hours away. A second set of co-ordinates is then sent, followed by more hours of driving. At least three sets of co-ordinates are given altogether.

At the final destination, armed Al Qaeda operatives sit on a blanket and count the money. They then divide it into parcels to be buried. They record the GPS co-ordinates of these sites for easy access later.

However, in Yemen — where a Frenchwoman working there since 2013 was kidnapped the other day — Oman and Qatar act as intermediaries to deliver any ransom money.

Tourist guides are not enough

Many of us are amazed at the naïveté of tourists, particularly my fellow Europeans, who insist on travelling to dangerous countries for notional relaxation.

They think that having a trusted native guide is enough. Then they find that they’re in big trouble. The guide cannot protect them. His life is also in danger.

The article has interviews with a few well-meaning Europeans who were kidnapped.

Perhaps governments need to make it clear on their travel alerts that the risk of kidnapping and death is very high. Furthermore, stating that ransoms will not be paid might go a long way off to stem the tide.

Travel agents and tour companies should also call a halt to such hiking and climbing holidays.

The March 2015 issue of The Atlantic has an excellent article by Graeme Wood called ‘What ISIS Really Wants’.

Everyone would do well to read it at least once. It is easy to follow, fascinating and detailed. A few people commented that it tells us more than daily reports on television news or in the press.

IS propaganda involves a heady combination of bloody battle, religious purity and apocalyptic prophecy. It is Koranic; it is religious. The way its followers and recruiters present it online proves irresistible for thousands of youths around the world.

Wood’s article also addresses two prominent Christian converts to Islam.

A summary with excerpts follows.

Apocalyptic offshoot of Al-Qaeda

Before getting into the story of IS, here is (repeated) advice to Christians who get excited by prophecy involving the Apocalypse: don’t.

A number of Christians online grew up reading apocalyptic literature and think this is what the Church is about. Were they to read a balanced explanation of Revelation (see my Essential Bible Verses page) based on a Lutheran amillenialist perspective, they would be left wanting. It’s not exciting enough, even if it is the truth.

The same holds true for adolescent or young adult converts to the IS cause. It has all the elements of adventure, bloodshed and fervour.

On this subject, Wood quotes George Orwell on Adolf Hitler:

Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people “I offer you a good time,” Hitler has said to them, “I offer you struggle, danger, and death,” and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet … We ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.

Al-Qaeda shied away from Islamic apocalyptic pronouncements about the Mahdi (a saviour figure) and the End of Days. It was not in their framework. Will McCants of the Brookings Institution told Wood that Al-Qaeda leadership considers it unsophisticated:

Bin Laden and Zawahiri are from elite Sunni families who look down on this kind of speculation and think it’s something the masses engage in.

However, that didn’t prevent a group within Al-Qaeda to wax lyrical about it:

McCants says a prominent Islamist in Iraq approached bin Laden in 2008 to warn him that the group was being led by millenarians who were “talking all the time about the Mahdi and making strategic decisions” based on when they thought the Mahdi was going to arrive. “Al-Qaeda had to write to [these leaders] to say ‘Cut it out.’ ”

That group became ISIS — the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham:

During the last years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the Islamic State’s immediate founding fathers, by contrast, saw signs of the end times everywhere. They were anticipating, within a year, the arrival of the Mahdi—a messianic figure destined to lead the Muslims to victory before the end of the world.

Wood likens IS to an odd sect, not unlike those of Jim Jones or David Koresh. He does not compare it to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Koranic to the letter

IS takes the Koran seriously, to the letter. Its adherents are ever ready to accuse other Muslims of apostasy for not being holy or observant enough.

IS justifies its existence through its self-proclaimed caliphate under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has been in charge since 2010.

Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani is IS’s chief spokesman. He exhorts followers to crush unbelievers, borrowing the phraseology of the 7th century with passages from the Koran. Everything about IS is based on the book, down to coinage and stationery.

Wood tells us that IS believes that many deaths must take place if pure practice of Islam is to predominate. As IS is Sunni, their first targets are Shia Muslims and the Yazidis. Sunnis consider Shia as a departure from true Islam. Therefore, Wood says, it is estimated that 200 million Shias must die. Although we know little about it, those who are studying IS believe that they are murdering individuals nearly every day and staging mass executions every few weeks.

IS also considers Muslim leaders around the world to be apostate, as they favour a manmade political system and voting.

Christians, for now, are left alone as long as they pay IS jizya, a koranic tax imposed on non-Muslims. Jizya not only brings in extra money, it also serves as a constant reminder to those paying it that they have been ‘subdued’.

The Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, originally from the Lebanon, says that it is a mistake for Westerners to consider IS as un-Islamic. He says that this type of outlook emanates from interfaith dialogue and has no basis in reality. Haykel points out that everything IS members are doing conforms to the Koran and is a rerun of the conquests that took place in the early centuries of Islam.

For IS members and supporters, the Syrian city of Dabiq is where the final battle against ‘Rome’ — the Islamic version of corrupt and worldly ‘Babylon’ — will unfold. Dabiq is near the better-known Aleppo and is in a huge expanse of rural flatland. Wood says one can imagine it could be a battleground. The IS publication is named Dabiq, and the city is often referenced in beheading videos.

Two different converts from Christian backgrounds

Many Christians say, ‘Why are we reading about this when it has nothing to do with us?’

However, even certain Christians can ‘revert’ to Islam. Wood gives us their stories and photographs.

Travelling to Australia, Wood met with Musa Cerantonio, the son of Irish and Calabrian parents. He has an online presence as one of IS’s ‘new spiritual authorities’. Cerantonio used to be a televangelist on an Islamic television channel in Egypt until he started making too many appeals for a caliphate. Now in a suburb of Melbourne, the convert takes his message and sermons online via Twitter and Facebook.

The Australian government has confiscated Cerantonio’s passport, and he is well known to the local police. Whilst he is technically unaffiliated with IS, he and his wife attempted to emigrate via the Philippines, where he overstayed his visa. Hence the passport confiscation.

Cerantonio is thrilled with the IS caliphate. In general, he believes pledging allegiance to a caliphate is necessary for salvation. However, he told Wood that he has not personally pledged his to IS, which would be forbidden under Australian law.

Cerantonio told Wood he believes that the aforementioned Rome actually refers to Turkey, which many Islamists think had a false caliphate in that it did not enforce every rule of the Koran, e.g. slavery and stoning. After the fateful battle in Dabiq:

Cerantonio said, the caliphate will expand and sack Istanbul. Some believe it will then cover the entire Earth, but Cerantonio suggested its tide may never reach beyond the Bosporus. An anti-Messiah, known in Muslim apocalyptic literature as Dajjal, will come from the Khorasan region of eastern Iran and kill a vast number of the caliphate’s fighters, until just 5,000 remain, cornered in Jerusalem. Just as Dajjal prepares to finish them off, Jesus—the second-most-revered prophet in Islam—will return to Earth, spear Dajjal, and lead the Muslims to victory.

One can see that wrapping the relevant imagery into sermons or messages would have the desired effect on certain minds.

However, a former Catholic who is now a practising imam in Philadelphia, does not hold with IS, although he is an extreme, albeit nonviolent, Muslim. Wood met with Breton — now Abdullah — Pocius. A former Chicagoan, Pocius grew up in a Polish Catholic family. He now sounds as if he were a Muslim his entire life.

Pocius’s Islam could be compared to the legalism of an ultra-Orthodox Jew. Pocius believes that only an internal devotion to obedience of the laws of Islam will bring about a caliphate, and then only through the will of Allah. For him, Islam is all about personal holiness, not war against others.

He agrees with IS on daily observance and practices but says their penchant for violence is not for him. Wood tells us that Pocius is a ‘quietist Salafi’ and eschews anything to do with excommunicating others and a socio-political system. That said, he is not happy with the US government; he told Wood his mosque was under surveillance and that his mother had been harrassed at her place of work.

Conclusion

Wood’s article has much more, including a piece on London’s Anjem Choudhury, a map from January 2015 of IS territory as well as possible solutions as to how Western governments can approach this group. Yes, it is growing. Yes, it must be contained. Yes, it must be seen to be stagnating or receding.

Wood says that one of the best ways this can happen is for opposing Muslims in the area to resist expansion.

Expect a long battle ahead. This could take years.

On February 21, 2015, British media carried the story of the three London schoolgirls who flew to Turkey with the objective of travelling to Syria.

The 15-year-olds are good students and gave no reason for family or teachers to suspect that they might be drawn into nefarious activities. It transpires that one of them was communicating via Twitter with a woman active in IS.

Last October and again this month, the French newsweekly L’Obs carried an exclusive on a French girl — also 15 — named Léa (not her real name). She was communicating with IS recruiters via Facebook. They offered her a virtual husband and were working hard to get her to Syria. She planned to leave home one day after school; her passport was already in her school bag. Her atheist parents, bemused by her increasingly reclusive behaviour, checked her Facebook account and saw the conversations she had been having. They notified the security police (DGSI) who began monitoring the conversation. Léa was arrested and held in custody for two days. She now deeply regrets having been drawn in so tightly into that network. She is also afraid of repercussions.

However, the fact is that whilst the number of jihadi recruits might be small, it continues to grow. The Guardian reported findings from a United Nations report on the phenomenon from October 2014:

“Numbers since 2010 are now many times the size of the cumulative numbers of foreign terrorist fighters between 1990 and 2010 – and are growing,” says the report, produced by a security council committee that monitors al-Qaida.

The UN report did not list the 80-plus countries that it said were the source of fighters flowing fighters into Iraq and Syria. But in recent months, Isis supporters have appeared in places as unlikely as the Maldives, and its videos proudly display jihadists with Chilean-Norwegian and other diverse backgrounds.

“There are instances of foreign terrorist fighters from France, the Russian Federation and and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland operating together,” it states. More than 500 British citizens are believed to have travelled to the region since 2011.

Le Monde provided more detail:

– 15,000 people from these 80+ different countries have joined fundamentalist groups in either Syria or Iraq.

– 1,130 of them are from France: 843 men and 243 women, among them 53 minors.

– Of these 1,130 people, 370 are currently in Syria and Iraq, including 88 women and 10 minors.

– There is no single ‘type’ involved. They can come from atheist, Christian or Muslim backgrounds. They come from poor suburbs as well as solidly middle class families (such as Léa’s). Some feel disaffected, others have a good social or scholastic background. (Furthermore, two-parent households can be affected just as much as those headed by one parent.)

– Recruiters urge their candidates to watch violent terrorist videos, some of which employ themes or elements of Hollywood films and popular video games.

– Not all those who make it to Syria or Iraq fight in the front line of terrorism. Some men — and now women — are part of the IS police force. Others work in administration. Many women are given roles involving childminding or teaching jihad to youngsters. They also become recruiters.

It is a phenomenon which should concern us. Parents really need to develop close relationships with their children and engage in conversation with them. Daily dinners around the table would make a fine start.

In recent weeks certain Western countries have been considering, if not trialling, methods of dealing with terrorists.

For those suspects or those convicted of terrorist activity who have dual nationality, Australia is drafting a series of amendments which could deprive those persons of Australian citizenship.

A few weeks earlier, at the end of January 2015, France revoked French citzenship of a Franco-Moroccan terrorist. The man in question is still a citizen of Morocco, his country of origin.

On February 23, the French government confiscated the passports and identity cards of six people who had made plans to travel to Syria; their families had informed the authorities of their plans. The confiscations last for six months and can be renewed.

It will be interesting to see if this works or if those affected can obtain paperwork on the black market.

A person with single nationality cannot be stripped of it, according to the UN Convention of August 30, 1961. However, certain politicians, such as Marine Le Pen, and a number of ordinary citizens think that those working against their home countries should ‘find another nationality’. If someone with terrorist sympathies leaves for Syria, that country should accept them and offer them citizenship. It is doubtful whether that is realistic or sensible.

However, another possibility is reviving treason laws which no longer seem to exist or have been weakened beyond all recognition.

Another conversation making the rounds among everyday people is reinstating capital punishment.

Enforcing treason laws makes the most sense. However, it is unlikely that our politicians would have the guts to do that.

 

 

Friday’s postconfession introduced Pastor Barney, a medically retired Lutheran minister.

His current ministry focus is on rural pastors in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

Barney’s posts are not only thought-provoking but witty — recommended reading.

One of his posts deals with pastors new to churches in rural areas. In it, he also addresses the problems they face, particularly if they are fresh out of seminary.

To those of us sitting in the pews, Barney says that a pastor’s life is far from easy. The graphic comes from his post, ‘A Country Parson’. Excerpts follow.

Barney has a list of rules for those of us who go to church and complain about those who lead our walk in Christ. In addition to praying for them, he suggests ten great ways we can be generous (emphases in the original):

1. They are not the last pastor you had, who may have been a saint or an idiot!

2. Your budget is small, but your hearts are large! – money is not everything, you have beef, pork[,] eggs[,] chicken they too are tax-deductible.

6. Invite them out for coffee, to the farm or ranch!

7. Buy them season’s tickets to all High School sporting Events, give them invitations to all significant events.

9. Relax, teach them; it takes time, but they’ll change with love and care – If not[,] you’ve left them better ready for rural ministry.

And what follows are the first five of Barney’s 11 survival rules for rural clergy. (The post actually starts with this section, but as most of my readers are laypeople, it seemed fitting for me to prioritise generosity towards the pastor.)

1. You know all that wonderful stuff they taught you in seminary? – Forget it!

2. You know all those wonderful liberal  ideals you think are oh so important? – listen first – talk later!

3. That idea you are going to change the way these folk think and live – Toss it out!

4. Don’t charge in gung ho to change long-established traditions no matter how politically and theologically correct you know they are! Most of your seminary professors and Bishops have not done real ministry in real congregations in years – if ever!

5. Do go to all High School sports, Grade School programs, graduations, County fairs, Rodeos, 4H and FFA are big out here!

Any pastors from the rural Pacific Northwest who are interested in a private conversation with Barney can contact him via his blog.

Bible evangewomanblogspotcomContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 22:7-13

The Passover with the Disciples

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus[a] sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

——————————————————————–

It is apposite, yet entirely coincidental, that this study of Luke’s Gospel brings us to the Last Supper during Lent 2015.

My longstanding readers might recall the corresponding account from Mark 14:12-16, which I wrote about at this time in 2013:

The Passover with the Disciples

12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

Matthew 26:17-19 — the three-year Lectionary reading for Wednesday of Holy Week — has a shorter account but with one important statement the other two Synoptic Gospels do not have (emphases mine below):

The Passover with the Disciples

17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

Because our Lord’s time was at hand, the Last Supper had to take place according to God’s plan. Hence Jesus’s discretion in sending only His most trusted apostles John and Peter to arrange it (verse 8). Recall that Judas had already arranged the betrayal with the chief priests. Jesus, being all human and all divine, would have known what was happening in the background.

Jesus preserved discretion and secrecy by instructing the two to look for a man carrying water who would meet them (verse 10). They were to follow him as his house would be the venue.

With the Jews coming to Jerusalem for Passover, the city was crowded, with more than two million people at this time. However, John MacArthur tells us that only women carried water. A man would not have done so. Therefore, the two apostles would have been on the lookout for a rare sight.

Jesus told Peter and John to ask the man for use of his guest room on behalf of their Teacher (verse 11). We ask ourselves what might have happened if the man had said, ‘What teacher?’ However, all this was divinely ordained. The man knew of whom the two spoke. MacArthur thinks the man might have been a recent convert. We do not know. However, we can safely assume that Jesus knew.

As Jesus said, the man showed them the upper room of the house (verse 12) and the two apostles prepared the Passover meal (verse 13).

Matthew Henry has this observation:

Christ could have described the house to them probably it was a house they knew, and he might have said no more than, Go to such a one’s house, or to a house in such a street, with such a sign, &c. But he directed them thus, to teach them to depend upon the conduct of Providence, and to follow that, step by step. They went, not knowing whither they went, nor whom they followed … they need not fear a disappointment who go upon Christ’s word according to the orders given them, they got every thing in readiness for the passover, Luke 22:11.

Peter and John would have been busy for the rest of the day. As we know, the Passover menu is a complex one with several elements. As they were staying with Jesus on the Mount of Olives, they would not have had any of these on hand. They had to purchase unleavened bread, the lamb, the wine, the requisite herbs, spices, fruits, nuts and so on — all of which recalled the hurried Exodus from Egypt centuries before.

MacArthur posits another reason why Jesus sent only two apostles to arrange this meal. Only two men ever brought one lamb for slaughter; otherwise, the slaughter area would be too crowded with bystanders.

In closing, some people might wonder why, if Passover (and Jewish Sabbath) dinners are always on a Friday, how it happened that the Last Supper took place on a Thursday. MacArthur explains:

Study Josephus. Study the Mishnah, the codification of Jewish law and other historical sources. You find that the Jews in the north and the Jewish people in the south, the Galileans say as opposed to the Judeans, had different ways of calculating their days. These chronological aspects have been a wonderful study in anybody’s…anybody who makes an effort to studying this in the New Testament is greatly enriched by it. But in the north, they calculated days from sunrise to sunrise…sunrise to sunrise. That was a day. Whereas in the south, they calculated the day from sunset to sunset. So that’s a very clear distinction. In Galilee, where Jesus and all the disciples except Judas, had grown up, they calculated days from sunrise to sunrise. So the fourteenth of Nissan was sunrise on Thursday to sunrise on Friday. That puts the Passover Thursday night. For the Jews in the south, it was sunset to sunset, so that puts it in late Friday for the southern Jews. Same day calculated two different ways. And that worked well for the Jews.

By the way, the Pharisees tended to go with the northern approach. The Sadducees who were all around Jerusalem tended to go, of course, with the southern approach. What that did was solve a couple of problems. It split the number of animals to be killed into two different periods, Thursday night and Friday night. It also reduced what were called regional clashes cause the southern people didn’t think too highly of the northern people. So it just was easier to have them separated.

So Jesus is celebrating a Galilean Passover Thursday evening, and that is Friday, the beginning of Friday, sunset, for the Jews who celebrate it late the next day. The timetable is perfect. The Lord can celebrate the Passover, fulfill all righteousness with His disciples on Thursday and it’s a true Passover, the lambs were slain. And He can still die on the Passover the next night because there are two times when the Passover lamb is slain.

Next time: Luke 22:31-34

 

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