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RMC has been instructive in helping overseas listeners understand today’s France. The Internet is indeed a wonderful thing.

On Friday, April 26, 2013, Les Grandes Gueules (GG) asked whether there could ever be such a thing as racism against whites. They touch on it every now and then. Friday’s programme, however, featured it as one of the day’s main discussion points.

They received a number of calls and emails saying that it is true and should be taken with the seriousness that anti-people-of-colour remarks and acts are. One thirty-something man said that it all started with Mitterand’s — laudable at the time — campaigns against racism. It was with Mitterand that France saw the rise of local assocs — associations, community organisations — and nationwide movements such as the (now-defunct) school-oriented Touche Pas À Mon Pote (‘Don’t touch my pal’). Some of these later evolved into other organisations which became very powerful in shaping the national agenda.

The Grandes Gueules — ‘Big Mouths’ — and their panel were unsure about the validity of anti-white ‘racism’. ‘Can we really call it that?’ One of their (white and French) panellists basically advised (in so many words) white French people to get over themselves. ‘So what? So someone calls you a name? It’s starts when we’re kids.’ I notice, however, that this laissez-faire attitude from les GG and leftists does not extend universally. Would that it did. France would have many fewer divisions in society.

One of the calls came from a mixed-race woman who said she is often called ‘dirty French’ or ‘dirty white’. She said these appellations were followed by the same people snarling at her, ‘Oh, so you’re too good to say hello to us?’ A GG panellist said that the law considers ‘dirty white’ a racist epithet but that ‘dirty French’ is okay.

Another caller said he has noticed a new name used by the kids in the suburbs against the French: from’, short for fromage (‘cheese’, as in ‘cheese eaters’).

One father said he has had to patiently get his daughters in the habit of smiling no matter what the insult. He claimed it works and that his eldest recently landed a job despite the many diversity initiatives in place. ‘She smiles — I’m sure that has a lot to do with her success’.

That sounds like a recipe for cancer in middle-age. Too much internalisation is bad for the health. The French, normally, are not a society of smilers — and so much the better. If they smile at you, you know you’ve made a friend — at least an ally. Living with so many different nationalities here in the UK has taught me to distrust a ready smile.

Anyway, some of the people listening to all of this continued listening to RMC when Eric Brunet, the conservative surrounded by leftists, came on. Brunet’s topic was ‘I understand those who leave France (for another country)’. By the end of the hour, 70% of listeners voting on the topic agreed with him.

The daily survey topic polls, the Brunetmétrie, had a number of good comments. Jean Donias of Plouhinec (Brittany?) wrote:

In France, if you’re not Jewish, Muslim, a civil servant or gay … you are NOTHING!

If your name is Jean-Pierre and you’re an artisan or heading a business, you’re a bad guy! …

It’s pretty true. (The average Jean-Pierre would find it difficult, if not impossible, to break into that clique, especially if they have centrist or conservative tendencies.) And once one is in this select group, then, the door is open to one’s descendants and friends. It’s no different in other countries. We in Britain have a lot more media celebs and political names in the past few years from an ever smaller circle of people. The door to national politics is firmly closed unless one is an Oxbridge (Oxford/Cambridge) graduate. In the United States, it’s the same; anyone in the public eye must adopt a leftist perspective and be well-connected.  The job net captures fewer candidates; the candidates they do have are chosen not on merit but on alliances and allegiances based on group politics.

I digress. Back to Brunet. A number of French people said on his show and on the Brunetmétrie that they were encouraging their children to work hard at school and university, then to leave the country. Those commenting online said that family and friends had left for London and the United States. They had no intention of returning to France. Complaints included difficulties in finding a job, exhorbitant taxes and an unrecognisable country.

Public sector salaries — particularly those of politicians — have also been widely criticised. Here is one comment which can be translated to be meaningful to Americans, Britons and others in the Western world. This is from Roman Jano of Mondelange:

Grille des Salaires en France républicaine / mois
Infirmière : 1 500 euros pour le bien-être et la santé de vos vies
Instituteur : 1 600 euros pour préparer à la vie
Militaire en Afghanistan : 1 700 euros pour risquer sa vie
Pompier professionnel : 1 800 euros pour sauver une vie
Médecin : 5 000 euros pour maintenir en vie
Sénateur : 19 000 euros pour profiter da la vie
Ministre : 30 000 euros pour nous pourrir la vie
SANS COMMENTAIRE !!!!!

This translates as follows:

Salaries in France / per month
Nurse: 1,500 euros for our well-being and health
Teacher: 1,600 euros for preparing us for life
Soldier in Afghanistan: 1,700 euros for risking his life
Career firefighter: 1,800 euros for saving a life
Doctor: 5,000 euros for sustaining life
Senator:  19,000 euros for profiting from life
Parliamentary minister: 30,000 for spoiling our lives
NO COMMENT !!!!!

Sadly, it seems, life is the same all over.

What many of us thought would be a passing fad five or six years ago still persists.

(Note to self: stop thinking in terms of passing fads.)

Men in saggy trousers — belts or no — continue subjecting the rest of us to their fashion vagaries vulgarity.

The Telegraph‘s etiquette blogger William Hanson proposes fines for this and other high crimes against sartorial elegance. Whilst I disagree with such a measure, he is right to point out this and other offences.

Hanson reminds us that the trend for saggy trousers originated in prison culture. Only a handful of commenters could expand on this. The most common explanation has been confiscated belts upon entry. However, someone else said that Hispanic gangs originated this trend because loose trousers allowed them to pack an extra weapon.

But Hanson has the ultimate solution, which, seems to have had the desired effect (emphases mine):

There is also a school of thought that showing the posterior was a sign to others that you were open to “advances”.  I cited this to a group of boys at a leading school recently and the look of horror that came over their faces was interesting to note.

Two of Hanson’s commenters confirmed this invitational gesture, which also originated in prison culture.

So, if you are fed up with seeing saggy trousers, there’s the solution. Please tell your friends, family and reblog as necessary. Thank you!

j0289346Two great posts appeared recently examining why young people leave the Church.

Meg of If this one thing happens asked ‘Does Christianity Really Need a “Re-branding”?’ She doesn’t think it does. Here’s why — excerpts follow; Meg has more (emphases mine):

Over the past few decades we have seen a growing number of non-denominational churches that are heavy on music and the show and light on liturgy and ritual.  We keep seeing the Church trying to be “cool” and trying to meet young people “on their level.”  As a young person, I don’t think it’s working.  That faux-hawk you’re sporting Pastor?  The watered down sermon about a “famous” person who believes in Jesus?  Using out-dated memes in your power point presentation? …

This is something I think many churches need to remind themselves of. When witnessing some of these “cool guy church” antics I’ve found myself feeling patronized, and seen others leave the church for something more “traditional”.  I’m reminded of the parable of the lost sheep, where Jesus asks his followers if one out of their hundred sheep went missing ,wouldn’t they leave all their other sheep to run after the one?  It’s a strong message, and maybe one that many churches are taking to heart in their search for their lost sheep.  My advice?  Leave it to God.  He will find his lost sheep and bring them home.  Don’t push away your 99 sheep and leave them out in the cold, because you may find they will be lost as well.

Another young adult, Marc of Marc5Solas, gave his thoughts in ‘The Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church’. Here are a few of the reasons — read more at his site:

This isn’t a negative “beat up on the church” post. I love the church, and I want to see American evangelicalism return to the gospel of repentance and faith in christ for the forgiveness of sins; not just as something on our “what we believe” page on our website, but as the core of what we preach from our pulpits to our children, our youth, and our adults …

10. The Church is “Relevant”:

You didn’t misread that, I didn’t say irrelevant, I said RELEVANT. We’ve taken a historic, 2,000 year old faith, dressed it in plaid and skinny jeans and tried to sell it as “cool” to our kids. It’s not cool. It’s not modern. What we’re packaging is a cheap knockoff of the world we’re called to evangelize.

As the quote says, “When the ship is in the ocean, everything’s fine. When the ocean gets into the ship, you’re in trouble.”

I’m not ranting about “worldliness” as some pietistic bogeyman, I’m talking about the fact that we yawn at a 5-minute biblical text, but almost trip over ourselves fawning over a minor celebrity or athlete who makes any vague reference to being a Christian …

8. They get smart:

It’s not that our students “got smarter” when they left home, rather someone actually treated them as intelligent. Rather than dumbing down the message, the agnostics and atheists treat our youth as intelligent and challenge their intellect with “deep thoughts” of question and doubt. Many of these “doubts” have been answered, in great depth, over the centuries of our faith. However …

7. You sent them out unarmed:

Let’s just be honest, most of our churches are sending youth into the world embarrassingly ignorant of our faith. How could we not? We’ve jettisoned catechesis, sold them on “deeds not creeds” and encouraged them to start the quest to find “God’s plan for their life”. Yes, I know your church has a “What we believe” page, but is that actually being taught and reinforced from the pulpit? I’ve met evangelical church leaders (“Pastors”) who didn’t know the difference between justification and sanctification. I’ve met megachurch board members who didn’t understand the atonement. When we chose leaders based upon their ability to draw and lead rather than to accurately teach the faith? Well, we don’t teach the faith. Surprised?

This is what I was driving at in my closing comments yesterday on Simeon. Catechise your children as soon as you can; start gently with simple concepts and prayers between the ages 3 and 4. Build from there. Make sure they know what they believe and why they believe it.

Meg and Mark make excellent points which all pastors and church volunteers would find of interest.

Could it be that our young people are crying out, ‘Gimme that old-time religion’?

Bible oldToday’s reading is part of that traditionally used for Candlemas, February 2.

In the set of three-year Lectionary readings, this passage is read on the first Sunday after Christmas in Year B.

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

Luke 2:22-32

Jesus Presented at the Temple

 22And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

————————————————————————————————-

Last week’s post concluded the story of Zechariah (Zachary), the priestly father of John the Baptist. The Archangel Gabriel struck him deaf and dumb at the altar in the Temple for unbelief that his aged and barren wife Elizabeth would bear a son who would announce the coming of the Lord.

It is important to know that John the Baptist, according to Gabriel’s instruction to Zechariah, became a Nazirite monk (as had Samson and Samuel in the Old Testament), which explains his appearance and diet. In return for taking the Nazirite oaths, God granted these men certain powers — e.g. prophecy or physical strength — which worked to His glory and for His people.

I mentioned last week Matthew Henry’s observation that Zechariah’s silence and deafness, which lasted a little over nine months, signified something greater: the permanent sidelining of the priesthood of Aaron — of which Zechariah was a part — for that of Christ Jesus.

Today’s reading recounts the first part of our Lord’s Presentation in the Temple, which many Christians remember on Candlemas Day, February 2.

Candlemas should not be confused with Jesus’s Circumcision, commemorated on January 1, which the Gospel writer mentions in Luke 2:21.

The purification rite of circumcision is a parallel to infant baptism. St Paul made the case for the discarding of circumcision for the embrace of this holy Sacrament. In writing about Luke 2:21, Henry makes the case for infant baptism (emphases mine):

certainly his being circumcised at eight days old doth make much more for the dedicating of the seed of the faithful by baptism in their infancy than his being baptized at thirty years old doth for the deferring of it till they are grown up. The change of the ceremony alters not the substance.

His commentary adds this about the name Jesus:

At his circumcision, according to the custom, he had his name given him; he was called Jesus or Joshua, for he was so named of the angel to his mother Mary before he was conceived in the womb (Lu. 1:31), and to his supposed father Joseph after, Mt. 1:21. [1.] It was a common name among the Jews, as John was (Col. 4:11), and in this he would be made like unto his brethren. [2.] It was the name of two eminent types of him in the Old Testament, Joshua, the successor of Moses, who was commander of Israel, and conqueror of Canaan; and Joshua, the high priest, who was therefore purposely crowned, that he might prefigure Christ as a priest upon his throne, Zec. 6:11, 13. [3.] It was very significant of his undertaking. Jesus signifies a Saviour. He would be denominated, not from the glories of his divine nature, but from his gracious designs as Mediator; he brings salvation.

Note how Mary and Joseph faithfully observed Jewish laws. They could have said, ‘Sorry, it doesn’t apply to us. If you only knew how holy our Son is!’ As such, they had Jesus circumcised and presented in the Temple. Jesus would also go on to observe Jewish law during His earthly life — as well as asking John the Baptist to confer the first sacrament on Him. From their example, we should infer that the observance of the Sacraments and life of the Church is necessary for us to follow.

In prefacing the story of the Presentation, Luke employs the words ‘according to the Law of Moses’ (verse 22). He goes on to cite the importance of a firstborn son ‘in the Law of the Lord’ (verse 23).

Henry drew a parallel between Jesus’s blood drawn during His circumcision and the subsequent purification rite with His Crucifixion and the forgiveness of believers’ sins:

our Lord Jesus, though he had no impurity to be cleansed from, yet submitted to it, as he did to circumcision, because he was made sin for us; and that, as by the circumcision of Christ we might be circumcised, in the virtue of our union and communion with him, with a spiritual circumcision made without hands (Col. 2:11), so in the purification of Christ we might be spiritually purified from the filthiness and corruption which we brought into the world with us.

Luke mentions the obligatory sacrifices — ‘in the law of the Lord’ (verse 24). Henry says that the usual offering for a firstborn son included five shekels as well as an animal sacrifice. Luke makes no mention of the money but records the animal sacrifice of either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.  Some Bible scholars think that better-off families might have bought a more expensive animal, perhaps a lamb, to sacrifice. The priests knew a family’s financial status and accepted the sacrifice that they could afford.

When reading this account, it is worth taking into account the state of the Jewish religion at this time in history. In one of his sermons, John MacArthur cited a theologian, William Hendrickson, who described the religious and political dissension:

To be sure, conditions were bad, very bad, in Israel at the time of Israel’s birth in Bethlehem. Think of loss of political independence, cruel King Herod, externalization of religion, legalistic scribes and Pharisees and their many followers, worldly-minded Sadducees, the silence of the voice of the prophets. And in the midst of all this darkness, degradation and despair there were men who were hopefully looking forward to and earnestly expecting the consolation of Israel. There were such men and women too, already mentioned were Mary and Elizabeth and in a moment Luke is going to add Anna to the list.

This situation parallels our own in many parts of the world. Our political systems are oppressive and we await a better time. Spritually, many of our churches and theologians are unbelieving or legalistic. There is a small remnant of the faithful who are true believers, despite the more than 1 billion in the world who call themselves ‘Christian’.

Among the remnant of true Jewish believers were Simeon and Anna. We’ll look at Anna’s prophecy next week. Today we’ll come to understand Simeon — Simon.

Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit was moving through Simeon, a devout man who had no time for worldly religion or temporal deliverance. He was, in the traditional Jewish sense of the term, ‘waiting for the consolation of Israel’, the Messiah. Luke describes Simeon as ‘righteous’, meaning ‘right with God’ (verse 25) — not self-righteous.

Indeed, Simeon was so close to God that the Holy Spirit revealed that he would not die until he saw the Son of God (verse 26). Imagine having so much faith. Would that we all had Simeon’s faith today.

Who was Simeon? Henry writes that we cannot know for sure, although Jewish records say that the great teacher and rabbi, Hillel, had a son named Simeon, known for his prophecy. The Jewish hierarchy gave Simeon the title of Rabban, the highest they could give to a doctor of the faith. If this is the same Simeon, he was made the head of his father’s theological college and the Sanhedrin. Later, Simeon made it clear that he did not believe the Messiah would bring temporal salvation; with that, he was unceremoniously deposed from his posts at the Temple.  As such, Henry says, the Mishna, the Jewish book of traditions, omits his name.

Another aspect of Simeon is his age. For centuries — in writing and artwork — we have understood Simeon to be elderly, on the verge of death. Yet, Henry tells us that some scholars believe that Simeon was not that old and that his father, Hillel, was still alive at the time of the Presentation. Other scholars add that Simeon was the father of Gamaliel, a Pharisee:

One thing objected against this conjecture is that at this time his father Hillel was living, and that he himself lived many years after this, as appears by the Jewish histories; but, as to that, he is not here said to be old; and his saying, Now let thy servant depart intimates that he was willing to die now, but does not conclude that therefore he did die quickly. St. Paul lived many years after he had spoken of his death as near, Acts 20:25. Another thing objected is that the son of Simeon was Gamaliel, a Pharisee, and an enemy to Christianity; but, as to that, it is no new thing for a faithful lover of Christ to have a son a bigoted Pharisee.

As we do not know, let us focus on Simeon as we see him, inspired by the Holy Spirit and in the Temple. Note how he enters the Temple, directed by the Holy Spirit to do so at a particular moment (verse 27).

Verse 28 tells us that Simeon took the Christ Child into his arms. You can imagine what that must have been like for this holy man. He must have embraced Jesus, holding Him close, very close. Think of how you hug your own children or grandchildren. Simeon’s embrace was at least that intense — probably moreso.

Simeon praised God and, in his prayer, cited the Old Testament. In verse 29, acknowledging that he can now depart the world in peace, Simeon refers to Genesis 15:15:

15As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age.

From that, it is possible that Simeon lived for many more years. Again, we have no way of knowing.

In verse 30, Simon alludes to Isaiah 52:10:

10 The LORD has bared his holy arm
   before the eyes of all the nations,
    and all the ends of the earth shall see
   the salvation of our God.

In verse 31, he refers to Psalm 98:2:

2The LORD has made known his salvation;
   he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.

And in verse 32, to the following — first, Isaiah 42:6:

6“I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
   I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
   a light for the nations,

then, Isaiah 49:6:

6he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
   to raise up the tribes of Jacob
   and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
 I will make you as a light for the nations,
   that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Isaiah 60:3:

3 And nations shall come to your light,
   and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Isaiah 45:25:

25In the LORD all the offspring of Israel
   shall be justified and shall glory.”

And Isaiah 46:13:

13 I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off,
   and my salvation will not delay;
   I will put salvation in Zion,
   for Israel my glory.”

Simeon’s faith offers an excellent example to us today. The more I read this passage and the commentary, the more marvellous and moving it becomes.

This is a good passage to study with children. Simeon’s profound belief in God and His goodness speaks to all of us, especially to our young.

If Simeon was Hillel’s son, he was no doubt steeped in Scripture from a very early age. Hillel’s instruction would have helped to shore up Simeon’s faith from childhood. As the years passed and with further study and prayer, Simeon’s belief grew ever stronger. Because of this, he also knew discernment, enabling him to reject the false teachings of his peers in a temporal Messiah. This is why confessional clergy stress the importance of children’s learning — and memorising — Christian doctrine and the Bible. These go hand-in-hand with the power of prayer; children do well to memorise simple prayers as soon as they are able; I could say the Lord’s Prayer and others from an early age and recited them regularly, so it is possible.

If we help to shore up the faith of our young from their earliest years, they are more likely to strengthen their faith throughout their lives. Present the Bible and the Church winsomely — as clergy like to say — so that they long for it every day, in the same way that they enjoy their temporal treats.

Don’t wait for Sunday (or private) school to do it; start early at home by demonstrating your own parental good example.

Luke alludes to the importance of religious practice and the young in next week’s passage.

Next time: Luke 2:33-40

BBC logoThe latest series of BBC1’s MasterChef, hosted by restaurateur John Torode and greengrocer Gregg Wallace, has hit the headlines with viewer accusations of poor kitchen hygiene.

The show’s finals will take place next week. Meanwhile, we, too, have also noticed men’s perspiration dripping into restaurant or mass catering dishes. Several of the women really should have pulled their hair back as it was hanging over pots and dinner plates.

You can read more about viewer observations on the BBC’s Points of View page. I’m less concerned about the different coloured plastic chopping boards than I am in their cleanliness. Over the past several years, today’s cooks, domestic science teachers and homemakers have been debating whether a petrochemical chopping board is superior to a wooden one. SpouseMouse and I have always used wooden ones. Our mothers and other antecedents did not have plastic boards in their day. We were always taught that chopping boards had to be cleaned thoroughly although wood has its own built-in disinfectant which kicks in two days later. Therefore, we do not see the merits of petrochemical boards, which do not have this disinfectant property. The key is to wash whatever cutting board one uses properly.

The hair and perspiration are indeed a trial to watch. The makers of MasterChef say that in the professional kitchens, hygiene standards were practiced. (Auntie Beeb is always right.) I’m not so sure. This is not the first time we in the mousehole have seen sweat and hair in places it should not have been. Even at home, I have to watch out for the rare stray hair. If we did have a perspiration problem, we would probably tie bandanas around our foreheads whilst cooking. Comments on the Yahoo! page indicate that in a hot kitchen, chef’s toques can make the head quite hot over a period of kitchen service.

Tasting with the same spoon and the licking of fingers also came up in the comments.  The series, whether with semi-professional or amateur contestants, generally lacks good examples for the aspiring cook. In addition to the aforementioned hygiene abominations, we rarely see contestants washing their hands. Nothing ever looks clean.

Meanwhile, at home, I’m careful not to touch my hair or face unless necessary. If I do, I then wash my hands. I don’t know how often I wash my hands, countertop and chopping boards in the space of a few hours when cooking. It seems to be a constant. My only sin is tasting with the same spoon, which I do my best to avoid when we’re having guests over for dinner.

In many respects, MasterChef — whilst entertaining — really should be showing us a good example. I’ve thought less and less of the food overall although Gregg and John do bang on about how competent their contestants are. However, a ‘good’ cook can still poison people with lax hygiene.

It’s time for MasterChef to add more information about kitchen hygiene. When I was young, I really trusted television. If I did something I saw on television which turned out to be ‘wrong’, my defence, honestly spoken, was that I’d seen it on telly. After all, telly people could never be wrong, otherwise they wouldn’t be appearing on our screens. Right?

I won’t have been the only person assuming that something uncriticised on television is right just because it is being broadcast.

Poor kitchen hygiene can be lethal.

Gregg and John would do well to address hygiene in subsequent by pointing out good examples: ‘Sarah’s now washing her hands because she’s just handled raw chicken’. That should certainly extend to MasterChef‘s other violations involving hair, perspiration and tasting.

The other day I wondered whether we will ever get the truth about what happened in Boston on Monday, April 15, 2013 and the days following.

Those who have been keeping up with live blogs and the news — local and international — have many questions.

On Monday, April 22, an article followed by several hundred comments appeared on Yahoo! News UK: ‘Boston Bombs Suspect “Awake and Responding”‘.

A commenter, Colin, summarised the many questions armchair newshounds have about the event:

17 questions and contradictions about the Boston bombings unanswered ( here they are )

#1 Why were runners being told that a bomb squad drill was taking place during the Boston Marathon?
#2 Why did authorities deny that a bomb squad drill was being held?
#3 According to The Mirror, the FBI is reportedly “hunting” a 12-strong terrorist “sleeper cell” that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were allegedly a part of…
A source close to the investigation said: “We have no doubt the brothers were not acting alone. The devices used to detonate the two bombs were highly sophisticated and not the kind of thing people learn from Google.
#4 CBS News is reporting that the FBI interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev back in 2011. The mother of the two Tsarnaev brothers insists that the FBI had been in contact with them for up to five years. At first, the FBI denied any previous contact with the two suspects. Will we ever learn the true scope of the previous relationship between the FBI and the Tsarnaev brothers?
#5 Debka is reporting that the Tsarnaev brothers were “double agents” which had been “hired by US and Saudi intelligence to penetrate the Wahhabi jihadist networks which, helped by Saudi financial institutions, had spread across the restive Russian Caucasian.” Could this possibly be true? If so, will the American people be told the truth about these links?
#6 According to their uncle, there were “mentors” that “radicalized” the Tsarnaev brothers. So precisely who were those “mentors”?
#7 What happened during Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s trip to Dagestan and Chechnya last year?
#8 Were the Tsarnaev brothers in contact with a rebel leader named Doku Umarov who is known as “Russia’s Bin Laden”?
#9 Did Tamerlan Tsarnaev post a video on YouTube last summer that expresses a belief that the 12th Imam, Mahdi, will soon come and that an Islamic army with black flags with arise out of a province in Iran known as Khorasan?
#10 Why aren’t we being told that the “pressure cooker bombs” used in the Boston Marathon attacks are very similar to the kind of pressure cooker bombs that are commonly used in the Middle East?…
#11 Initially we were told that Saudi national Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi was a “person of interest” in the case. But now he is scheduled to leave the country with the full blessing of the U.S. government. Why is there such a rush to get him out of the United States?
#12 Why aren’t we being told that Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi was photographed with two other Saudis in the vicinity of the Boston marathon bombings?
#13 Why aren’t we being told of the shocking familial links that Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi has to known members of al-Qaeda? The following is from research complied by Walid Shoebat…

Many from Al-Harbi’s clan are steeped in terrorism and are members of Al-Qaeda. Out of a list of 85 terrorists listed by the Saudi government shows several of Al-Harbi clan to have been active fighters in Al-Qaeda:

#15 Badr Saud Uwaid Al-Awufi Al-Harbi
#73 Muhammad Atiq Uwaid Al-Awufi Al-Harbi
#26 Khalid Salim Uwaid Al-Lahibi Al-Harbi
#29 Raed Abdullah Salem Al-Thahiri Al-Harbi
#43 Abdullah Abdul Rahman Muhammad Al-Harbi (leader)
#60 Fayez Ghuneim Humeid Al-Hijri Al-Harbi

#14 Why did U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have a private meeting with a Saudi foreign minister shortly after Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi was identified as a potential suspect?
#15 Why did Barack Obama hold an unscheduled meeting with the ambassador from Saudi Arabia shortly after Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi was identified as a potential suspect?
#16 Why did Michelle Obama visit Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi in the hospital?
#17 Why did numerous mainstream media outlets openly suggest that “right-wing extremists” were behind the bombings in the immediate aftermath of the attack?

Colin’s questions indicate why people are puzzled and why they are likely to remain so.

It’s telling that this is one of the replies Colin received — a quote from 1954 (emphases mine):

‘Today the path to total dictatorship in the United States can be laid by strictly legal means, unseen and unheard by the Congress, the President, or the people

‘… outwardly we have a Constitutional government. We have operating within our government and political system, another body representing another form of government, a bureaucratic elite which believes our Constitution is outmoded and is sure that it is the winning side.

All the strange developments in the foreign policy agreements may be traced to this group who are going to make us over to suit their pleasure.

This political action group has its own local political support organizations, its own pressure groups, its own vested interests, its foothold within our government, and its own propaganda apparatus.’

-Senator William Jenner 1954

William Ezra Jenner was a US Senator for Indiana at the time he made that statement. He was a Republican and an attorney. His Wikipedia page cites the quotation as follows — with certain points made more strongly:

Today the path to total dictatorship in the U.S. can be laid by strictly legal means, unseen and unheard by Congress, the President, or the people… We have a well-organized political-action group in this country, determined to destroy our Constitution and establish a one-party stateThe important point to remember about this group is not its ideology but its organization. It is a dynamic, aggressive, elite corps, forcing its way through every opening, to make a breach for a collectivist one-party state. It operates secretly, silently, continuously to transform our Government without suspecting that change is under way… If I seem to be extremist, the reason is that this revolutionary clique cannot be understood, unless we accept the fact that they are extremist. It is difficult for people governed by reasonableness and morality to imagine the existence of a movement which ignores reasonableness and boasts of its determination to destroy; which ignores morality, and boasts of its cleverness in outwitting its opponents by abandoning all scruples. This ruthless power-seeking elite is a disease of our century… This group … is answerable neither to the President, the Congress, nor the courts. It is practically irremovable.

In 1952, Jenner alleged that the United Nations was infiltrating American education policy. He served in the US Senate until early 1959; these comments of his precluded his being put up for renomination in the 1958 elections. In 1959, he resumed his private law practice and died at the age of 76 in 1985.

The Republicans might not have liked what Jenner had to say.

His successor, Vance Hartke, was a Democrat and stayed in office until 1977.  Were there too many home truths from Jenner, who had allied himself with Joseph McCarthy? At the time, most voters — including Republicans — were no doubt unconvinced or did not wish to know.

In the meantime, my prayers go out to the families and friends of those stricken on Patriots Day 2013 in Boston as well as those who had to leave their homes subsequently during the manhunt. I hope that they soon find the inner calm and answers they need.

On Friday, April 19, 2013, Yahoo!UK had a live blog following events in Boston following the Marathon bombings on Monday, April 15.

Since then, all that day’s entries have been erased.

However, at the time, we learned that a ‘shelter in place’ alert was active in the city. That’s a nice term for ‘stay indoors — police enforcement’. The MBTA, public transport system of buses, trolleys and subways was shut down, even in the suburbs. Taxi service also came to a halt for a few hours. Sports fixtures — baseball, hockey and basketball — were cancelled. The civil service exam to take place on Saturday, April 20, was also cancelled.

We saw pictures of people being evacuated from their homes in Watertown, some distance away from Back Bay, which was closed off from Trinity Church in Copley Square to and including the Prudential Center on Boylston Street.

Reading the many entries and Tweets reminded me of what people said when America’s airspace was closed after 9/11: the terrorists have won. Eventually, this led to extrapolations that such shutdowns would give rise to Sharia law or martial law. Some wonder whether the two are working hand-in-hand.

I do not have an answer, but any time we respond to terrorists or criminal nutcases with lockdowns on the general public, we have a greater problem concerning property rights and civil liberties. Neither Sharia nor martial law respects them.

Triablogue, a confessional blog, examined this recently. Here’s an excerpt:

When I was growing up (60s-70s), lockdowns were limited to prisons when inmates rioted. At least that’s my recollection.

But more recently, you have school lockdowns when a suspected shooter is on the loose. I understand that authorities wish to contain the area to prevent the suspect from escaping, but in the process they are locking students in with the shooter. I often wonder if that’s even legal. Do school administrators (or local police) have the authority to prevent students from exiting the building when they feel–often rightly–that their lives are endangered by hiding huddled in classrooms as the sniper goes from room to room, seeking fresh victims?

Be that as it may, the Boston bombing introduced a citywide lockdown. Hotels were locked down within a certain radius of the crime scene.

What does that mean, exactly? Does that mean there were security guards or policemen stationed at hotel exits? What would happen if you tried to exit the hotel? Would you be arrested? Shot on sight?

Although it maybe convenient for the authorities to declare a lockdown–the better to facilitate their manhunt–is that legal? Doesn’t that really assume an undeclared state of martial law, where normal civil liberties are suspended and authorities can impose a curfew on the citizens?

It looks like we’re beginning to take lockdowns for granted, as a normal part of life, even though that’s extralegal or unconstitutional. When did Americans agree to this? Is this an Act of Congress?

The same questions have gone through my mind. Particularly striking were brief comments on the live blog that said the police hoped people would respond to search requests positively and voluntarily. With regard to martial law implementation, people ask, ‘Why Boston?’ The answer is that it is a comfortably sized city (just under 1m population) and diverse enough for an experiment.

I also remember the days — also in the 1960s and 1970s — when news broadcasts would include requests from the police to search their premises and neighbourhoods for anything unusual. They also advised using ‘common sense’ and contacting the police in case they encountered the suspect concerned. Recall that in those days mobile devices didn’t exist, so a few men together from the neighbourhood would have to think a bit beforehand about what to do if they suddenly found themselves in a dangerous situation. However, a number of them would have served in the Second World War or the Korean and even the Vietnam Wars. They were trained to confront the enemy.

Then, as now, when seconds matter, the police are only minutes away. That said, the difference between then and now is that there was much less traffic, so the cops could respond sooner. Also, more men owned guns and could have wounded a suspect if necessary without many of today’s repercussions.

Now, however, unlike then, we have fewer war veterans and instead are left with a generation of androgynous postmoderns. Playing video games doesn’t always lend itself to searching for a real-life human enemy.

One thing that does not change is the criminal’s preoccupation with an escape route. As I read the live blog I kept thinking that the younger brother could have been anywhere by early Friday afternoon in Boston. He’d run over his older brother the night before in evading the authorities. It doesn’t take that long to drive out of state or even get across the border into Canada.

As it happened, whilst lockdown was in place and the police were doing door-to-door searches — readers, please try to ask for a search warrant before letting the authorities in — the younger brother was still in Watertown, hiding in a boat.

I have read that the area searched in Watertown now looks like a war zone after having had police firing indiscriminately — broken windows, hacked-in doors and other house damage. Who will arrange for that to be fixed and how quickly?  How soon will residents be able to return to their homes?

On Transterrestrial Musings, one of the readers, Dick Eagleson, commented (emphases mine):

… the orgy of police agency self-congratulation I see in the media strikes me as entirely preposterous. So far as I can determine, it was commercial and personal vidcam and smart phone footage that allowed authorities to finger the Tsarnaev brothers and not official cameras.

After their mugs were known, they were found, confronted and a wild shootout ensued in which the police fired hundreds of rounds and still managed to kill only one of the pair and allowed the other, even though wounded, to escape.

Police are getting more militarized in their organization all the time, but not in certain crucial respects. Specifically, the marksmanship and fire discipline of big city police rank and file are appallingly bad. The recent trigger-happy Christopher Dorner pursuit debacle here in L.A. was just prologue to what the Boston-area P.D.’s did in pursuit of the Marathon bombers. The lockdown order was probably the only reason the Boston, Watertown, etc., P.D.’s didn’t rack up a collateral damage civilian body count even higher than the LAPD, et al, did out here.

Based on the amount of blood the alert householder later found on his boat before the denouement, the escaped wounded brother had to be leaving a significant blood trail. But the cops seem to have made no effort to follow it, either with criminalist UV gear or with dogs. Instead, they decided to lock down the whole city and still managed not to find the guy until after the lockdown was lifted.

For this they’re breaking both arms patting themselves on the back?

Three interesting points about the capture of Tsarnaev the Younger:

1/ The boat, whilst in Watertown, was just outside the lockdown perimeter.

2/ The homeowner found Tsarnaev himself after the lockdown ended, having found the tarp on the boat disturbed.

3/ Thank goodness the man is a cigarette smoker and went out for a ‘breath of fresh air’, otherwise Tsarnaev might still be on the run.

Sometimes, as my late Londoner grandmother-in-law often said, the old ways are the best.

In light of heightened interest in Chechnya since the Boston Marathon bombings which took place on Monday, April 15, 2013, a comment left on a Prison Planet post adds background to the evolution of Islam in the Chechen-Georgian region.

This isn’t one’s grandfather’s brand of Islam.

The comment concerns the Pankisi Gorge, which is a Georgian valley bordering Chechnya. Anonymous writes (emphases and paragraph breaks mine):

Islam in the Pankisi Gorge. Anthropologists studying the area paid special attention to religion, and it is from them that I derived my information.

The Kist population which was there long ago had folk religious practices combining Islam, Christianity and paganism. They considered themselves Muslims, however. As in many Muslim areas, Sufism provided the means by which pagan and Christian practices were accommodated within Islam.

When the Kisty went to Chechnya in 1991–94, they encountered the many-faceted revival of interest in Islam going on there. As a result, the valley is now in religious ferment. New Mosques have been built, or converted from abandoned Christian churches, in several valleys. There are now ”Wahhabis,” as in Chechnya and Daghestan. They number, according to Lia Mellikishvili, 50–100, mainly Chechen refugees proper. I did not talk with any Wahhabis while in the valley.

Wahhabis wear beards, Daghestani-style skullcaps, and other details of clothing different from their Muslim neighbors. This is a strict kind of Islam, with no visits to (formerly pagan) shrines, seclusion of women, avoiding the cinema. This is precisely the ideological trend in Islam that tends to reinforce the hatred of America of Osama ben Laden and other Muslim extremists.

But Pankisi’s ”Wahhabism” breaks with most Muslim tradition, and particularly with Chechen culture, in not reverencing elders. As a consequence, there is an acute sense of generational conflict.

The version of ”Wahhabism” spread in the Caucasus, like Osama bin Laden’s, allows other Muslims to be considered polytheists, who can be robbed and killed. While this conception of Jihad has not been implemented by the valley’s Wahhabis, relations are extremely tense.

Contrary to most Muslim practice, the Wahhabis are building their own Mosque in the large village of Duisi. In turn they are excluded from the mosques of the ordinary Muslims. It is said that they are paid $100 a month ”from the Saudis” to become Wahhabis. They have also been given arms by their co-religionists. Many refugees prefer the aid given by the ”Wahhabi” charity ”Djamaat” to that of the more established humanitarian assistance organizations.

Perhaps because there is more money in it? This is another warning for us to not be taken in by ‘free stuff’. There is usually a string or two attached which benefits the donor, not the recipient.

Regardless, the historic religious angle is a line of enquiry which would be useful if expanded and studied more closely. It’s interesting that the anthropologists placed such emphasis on the religious history and syncretic practice of the people in this region. (Syncretism combines practices of more than one religion.)

As this post appears on St George’s Day and looks briefly at Georgia, it seems apposite to cite Wikipedia’s entry on the Kists:

The early history of the Kist people is not well known and there are few sources mentioning their traditions, culture and history. The only historical sources available about the ethnic Kists in the area of Pankisi are found in the Georgian press, dated in the 1880s by E.Gugushvili, Zakaria Gulisashvili, Ivane Bukurauli, and Mate Albutashvili (ethnic Kist).

One of the greatest Georgian poets Vazha-Pshavela dedicated his epic Aluda Ketelauri and The Host and the Guest to the story of Kist-Khevsur conflict which occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries. Based on religious and cultural difference, both Caucasian nations were engaged in fierce fighting. Vazha-Pshavela celebrates heroism of both nations and underlines the nonsense of their conflict.

During the Second Chechen War, the Kists gave shelter [to] about 7,000 refugees from Chechnya. Some of them have crossed the mountainous passes to join Chechen fighters against the Russians, leading to the Pankisi crisis in the early 2000s.

Majority of Kists are Sunni Muslim, [h]owever, there are still remaining small pockets of Christian Kists in Pankisi, Tusheti and Kakheti. To this day, the Kists worship the Khevsur sacred places (jvari) and make sacrifices to the Anatori jvari near the Khevsureti village of Shatili, which is located at the Georgian-Chechnyan border. The Anatori jvari was also considered sacred by Chechens in Maisti and Melkhisti. Highlanders from both the northern Caucasus and Georgia participated together in religious celebrations. Although today the Kists pray in the mosque in the village of Duisi, they also pray at the sites of old, now-ruined Christian sanctuaries. They also pray in Saint George church in the village of Joqolo and attend the religious celebration Alaverdoba in the Alaverdi Monastery of Kakheti. Finally, the Kists celebrate also Tetri Giorgoba, a local variation of St George’s Day.

The position of Islam strengthened among the Kists in the Soviet period, in part because “wandering” mullahs continued to proselytize and managed to persuade many to convert to Islam, a process that continued into the 1970s. In sum, over the years considerable numbers of Kists became Christian, but most of those who did later reconverted to Islam. Even so, until around 1970, a considerable part of the villagers of Jokolo, Omalo, and Birkiani were Christian, and a Christian chapel was built in Omalo in the 1960s. In the 1970s, however, many Christians in Jokolo and Omalo returned to the Islam faith. As noted earlier, only Birkiani has a majority Christian population today. There is also a small community of Kists in Kakheti (a region of Georgia bordering on the Gorge), mainly in the city of Telavi, who consider themselves Georgians and Orthodox Christians. As with most Georgians, Christian and Muslim alike, religion has as much a national meaning for many Kists as it does spiritual. Those who are Christian tend to identify themselves as Georgians.[2]

As for Boston, it would be surprising if we ever get to the truth. It is unclear whether the two young Chechen refugees acted ‘alone’, and we might never know. If — if — they were part of a network, it could be far wider than we imagine and include unexpected elements. Therefore, as far as MSM reports go, accept but verify.

St George Paolo Uccello Musee Andre Jacquemart ParisTuesday, April 23, 2013 is St George’s Day, celebrated in several European countries and, lest we forget, England.

This year, some English towns and cities — e.g. Plymouth and Manchester — held their St George’s celebrations at the weekend. One international example was London’s Borough Market’s food festival, linked with that of Spain’s Catalonia, where George is also their patron saint.

On Tuesday, a festival of food, fun and all things English will be held in Trafalgar Square.

The painting illustrated is Paolo Uccello’s depiction of the legendary saint slaying the dragon — symbolising, to some, sin and the Devil. Uccello’s painting hangs in the Musée André Jacquemart in Paris.

You can read more about the life and legend of St George here and here.

Covering ears fotosearchcomOver the past few years, this blog has examined the feminine character of church services.

We simply do not have enough men attending Catholic and Protestant services. Yet, this was not always the case.

Many pastors and theologians wonder how men can once again participate in the life of the Church. Christians over the age of 50 recall that the pews on Sundays had a good cross-section of men of all ages. By contrast, today’s congregations seem to be mostly comprised of women and girls.

William Lane Craig, American theologian and apologist, addressed this in his April 2013 e-newsletter (H/T: Triablogue). Emphases mine:

One overwhelming impression of these [Craig’s speaking] engagements is the way in which the intellectual defense of Christian faith attracts men. Both at Texas A&M and again at Miami every single student who got up to ask a question was a guy!

Churches have difficulty attracting men, and the church is becoming increasingly feminized. I believe that apologetics is a key to attracting large numbers of men (as well as women) to church and to Christ.

In writing this blog, I have noticed that America’s confessional Reformed churches seem to have the most men who are actively involved and regularly attend services. The confessional Lutheran denominations in the United States must be a close second.

Why? These churches have male ministers, solid homiletics, by-the-book liturgy and traditional hymns or sung Psalms. That is what men — and boys — want when they go to church.

You might ask, ‘What about the Catholic Church with its all-male clergy?’ Ah, but what about the modern hymns, variable liturgical forms and weak homilies?

Going back through my archives, I found some interesting quotes from male pastors and congregants.

In 2009, I featured a post called ‘Here’s what happens when Dad doesn’t attend church’. The post looked at a Swiss survey of church attendance which an Anglican priest — a Fr Low — analysed and compared to England’s situation. I recommend it to every pastor. Fr Low wrote:

Faithful mothers produce irregular attenders rather than regular. Their absence transfers the irregulars into the non-attending sector. But even the beneficial influence really works only in complimentarity to the practice of the father.

In short if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper.

And:

Where adults have witnessed, in their own childhood, that Church, for example, is a ‘women and children’ thing, they will respond accordingly. Curiously, both adult women as well as men will conclude subconsciously that Dad’s absence indicates it is not really a ‘grown-up’ activity.

He concluded that:

Emasculated liturgy, gender-free Bibles and a fatherless flock are increasingly on offer. In response to this, decline has, unsurprisingly, accelerated. To minister to a fatherless society the Church of England, in its unwisdom, has produced its own single-parent family parish model in the woman priest. The idea of this politically contrived iconic destruction and biblically disobedient initiative was that it would make the Church relevant to the society in which it ministered.

Women priests would make women feel empowered and thereby drawn in.

Another post of mine — ‘Consistent churchgoing habits important for children’ — contrasts this present-day problem with the normality of family church attendance near the end of the 20th century.  A commenter on another Anglican blog remembered:

[ol’ codger tone] When I was growing up  going to church every Sunday is what was both expected and done. We did it, the families on our street did it, the families at our church did it. The only times we weren’t in church was on campouts for Scouts. Otherwise if you weren’t there, people assumed you were sick/indisposedAnd we’re not talking the ’50’s here, these were the ’80’s. [/ol’ codger tone]

Nowadays, sports activities are regularly scheduled on Sunday mornings, the time when families used to be in church.

As I mentioned above, modern church music is a problem, especially when men learn that the most robust, rousing hymns — ‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God’ and ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ — were dropped from hymnals beginning in the 1980s.  I featured an analysis of traditional hymnody as seen from a pastor’s perspective in ‘A Lutheran pastor on church music’.

In ‘Why Johnny won’t SING!’ I looked at the role of music in a church service. I quoted Dr Carl Trueman, a Reformed minister and professor at Philadelphia’s Westminster Theological Seminary. He wrote:

You can tell a lot about someone’s theology from what they do in church.  Involve [pop] music in your worship service, and I can tell not only that you have no taste in music but also that you have nothing to offer theologically to those who come through the church doors; indeed, what you do have can probably be found better elsewhere

Such as at home in bed, sipping coffee and reading the Sunday papers whilst listening to the radio.

Many former churchgoers find this more gratifying than getting out of bed and rounding up the family to attend a service led by a woman featuring girly songs and a sermon oriented to women in the pews. Even in churches where a man takes the service, too many other things are feminine, as the Telegraph reported a few years ago:

A majority of men, 60 per cent, said they do not like flowers and embroidered banners in church with 52 per cent saying they do not like dancing in church.

Comments gathered from the survey of 400 UK readers of the men’s magazine Sorted also showed many did not like hugging, holding hands or sitting in circles discussing their feelings in church.

Nearly 60 per cent of those surveyed said they enjoyed singing – but added comments showing they preferred anthemic songs and ‘proclamational’ hymns as opposed to more emotional love songs.

Nearly three quarters, or 72 per cent, said their favourite part of a service was the talk or sermon.

In 2009, Dr R Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary California, whose posts I feature regularly here, posited the following on the decline in church attendance, particularly where men were concerned. (This comes from my 2010 post, ‘Women priests — a Calvinist view’.) Dr Clark wrote:

For a long time the theory of many erstwhile non-confessionalists has been to minimize areas of tension between Christians the prevailing culture. With the rise of the modern feminist movement, this one was easy. For the pietists what matters most is religious experience. Females are just as able to facilitate religious experience as anyone else, so why not? Many non-confessionalists (both liberals and ‘conservatives’) share an embarrassment over Paul’s apparently misogynistic tendencies. The great quest of much of the modern church has been to become acceptable or ‘relevant’ to the prevailing culture. It has been thus since at least the early 19th century

Ironically, as the the non-confessional majority, in its quest to become acceptable to modernity, becomes more like the surrounding culture it becomes more irrelevant. The mainline has been bleeding itself to death for decades. The evangelicals are following suit. The consequences may not be entirely evident yet but the signs are there …

I think there is a connection between the drop in attendance to Sunday morning worship and rise in female pastors. The latter is a symbol of the capitulation of the church to cultural pressure and the former is one of its consequences.

I wonder if this feminisation of church has subconsciously led atheists to attack Christianity. Of course, they accuse it of being too robust. Yet, Christianity’s image is in reality becoming less masculine, more feminine. It looks weak, as do many pastors (my ordained readership excepted!).

I have the impression that a number of today’s clergymen in mainline and some Evangelical churches seem a bit too bookish or soft. This could be a result of today’s seminaries which might encourage them to tone down the testosterone; I do not know.  I find it difficult to relate to them. And, if I do, how many others — including women — do, too?

It seems as if a reappraisal is in order of where the Church in the West is today. Perhaps it is time to throw out postmodern thinking once and for all and return to our traditions.

As the line went in the baseball film Field of Dreams: ‘Build it and they will come’.

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