Thursday, November 23, 2006


Some interesting things have been happening around the Islamic world. First there's this story from the "Islamic Republic of Pakistan" (the conventional long form of Pakistan's name, according to the CIA's World Factbook):
Pakistan's lower house of Parliament passed amendments to the country's rape laws Wednesday, ditching the death penalty for extramarital sex and revising a clause on making victims produce four witnesses to prove rape cases.
So where does Islam come in? Well, here:
"We reject it," Maulana Fazlur Rahman, a top Islamist opposition leader, told reporters after the vote, which he described as a "dark day" in Pakistan's parliamentary history.
Strict Islamic law dictates that a woman claiming rape must produce four witnesses, making a trial almost impossible.
This "Strict Islamic law" found in Pakistan is known as Sharia law. Keep that in mind.

Here's another story; this one from out of the "Kingdom of Saudi Arabia":
When the teenager went to the police a few months ago to report she was gang-raped by seven men, she never imagined the judge would punish her — and that she would be sentenced to more lashes than one of her alleged rapists received.

...she was sentenced to 90 lashes for being alone in a car with a man to whom she was not married — a crime in this strictly segregated country — at the time that she was allegedly attacked and raped by a group of other men.
In a trial that ended in November — in which the prosecutor asked for the death penalty for the seven men — four of the men received between one and five years in prison plus 80 to 1,000 lashes, said the woman. Three others are awaiting sentencing.
Again, where does Islam come into the story?
Justice in Saudi Arabia is administered by a system of religious courts according to the kingdom's strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law. Judges — appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council — have complete discretion to set sentences, except in cases where Sharia outlines a punishment, such as capital crimes.
Ah, Sharia law. I'm sensing a theme here. So what do these stories have to do with anything? Certainly they're just isolated incidents, right? Well, maybe not. These stories are actually related to the war in Iraq. How? Well, let's take a look at a couple more stories.

's one about the fighting in the Iraqi city of "Ramadi, a city of 400,000 inhabitants that al-Qaeda and its Iraqi allies have controlled since mid-2004 and would like to make the capital of their cherished Islamic caliphate."

Iranian president Ahmadinejad has also voiced his desire for Islamic law to rule the world (see here):
“We must believe in the fact that Islam is not confined to geographical borders, ethnic groups and nations. It’s a universal ideology that leads the world to justice”, Ahmadinejad said.
“We don’t shy away from declaring that Islam is ready to rule the world”, he added.

>Ahmadinejad dwelled on his recurrent theme that the return of the Shiite Messiah, the Mahdi, is not far away and Muslims must prepare for it.

“We must prepare ourselves to rule the world and the only way to do that is to put forth views on the basis of the Expectation of the Return”, Ahmadinejad said, referring to the Shiite Muslim belief that the Mahdi, on his return, will establish justice in a world consumed by chaos and corruption.
But this kind of thinking is really isolated in the Middle East, right? Well, not really. Last week, Glenn Beck spoke to a member of the Islamic Thinker's Society (ITS) in New York City. In the interview (you can listen to it here), the ITS member stated that their ultimate desire is for the U.S. to be ruled by Sharia law. This falls in line with the ITS objective as stated on their website:
Our objective is to resume the Islamic way of life to which will fulfill the purpose of the aim. Our objective is to bring back the apparatus that was destroyed in 1924 i.e. Khilafah. Indeed it was the Khilafah that united the Muslim Ummah under one flag, one land, one border, and one leader. It was the Khilafah which served as the appartus [sic] to make sure that Tawheed manifested in all ascpect [sic] in the Muslim Ummah's affairs. Surely, anyone who accepts any other system than Allah's Shari'ah is worshipping the one who has put his laws in place of the laws of Allah. This is a major form of shirk and anyone who commits a major shirk has left Islam.
"Khilafah" is another word/translation for caliphate. I'm really not too interested in living under Sharia law. I mean, I like bacon, and I don't really think women should be beaten by their husbands or taken as sex slaves (see here). You can check out some of the aspects of Sharia here. The following section really caught my eye, about "Treatment of Non-Muslims":

Under Sharia law non-muslims are goverened [sic] by the laws of their own specific communities however it codifies the treatment of dhimmis (Arabic) and rayahs (Turkish) in relation to the Muslim state and in cases of over-lapping jurisdiction. Dhimmis are distinctly second-class citizens in that they cannot serve in public office, cannot testify in court and must follow certain rules meant for their humiliation (such as the slap they must receive when they pay the jizya). The rules include privilege to practice their own religion, except for public demonstration of non-muslim religious practices and the right to convert muslims (denied, but the reverse is allowed). Dhimmi are also taxed additionally.

The core component of treatment is the jizya, or tax specifically upon non-Muslims. The jizya originates in the Koran [9:29], which says "Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued." The "Book" refers to the People of the Book, Jews and Christians, but the jizya was extended to all conquered non-Muslims. The jizya ultimately is less that the Zakah (money given to the poor and needy) and Sadaqah (charity) that Muslims give. In practice, this was rarely the case. In addition, when Dhimmis gave the jizya, they customarily had to bow low to the ground and then rise to be slapped once in the face. This practice was to fulfill the command that Christians and Jews "feel themselves subdued" (Quran 9:29).

The religious police could stop Muslims who were engaging in Islamically illegal activities (i.e. drinking alcohol, not wearing Hijab, not having a beard, etc). It would often be difficult to differentiate between Muslim and dhimmis, so the religious police sometimes had non-Muslims wear a distinctive color or identity marker so that they wouldn't be harassed by the religious police. Distinctive clothing had the additional effect of humiliating dhimmis and attracting abuse from passers-by.

In addition, Dhimmis are forbidden to build or repair churches or synagogues. Bells, crosses, sacred books and other public demonstrations of religion, including laments at funerals, are forbidden. Dhimmis are also required to stand in the presence of Muslims, to address them in low tones and to give them the right of way on narrow streets (they must pass on the left). In early days, Dhimmis were not permitted to ride horses or camels, which were reserved for Muslims. Dhimmis could ride Donkeys. A Dhimmi's house is not permitted to be higher than a Muslims house. (Cite: The Legacy of Jihad by Dr. Andrew Bostam).

Hmmm, distinctive clothing for religious outsiders. Where have I heard this before? I wonder if it would be a yellow badge.

Given the desire of Muslim leaders to place the world under the caliphate, and enforce Sharia law, and especially in regards to Ahmadinejad & Al-Qaeda's desire to locate the capital of the caliphate in Iraq, I'm thinking now wouldn't be such a good time for the U.S. to cut and run.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Does anybody know if there is a computer manufacturer who uses fluent English-speaking Americans on their tech support phone lines for home users? I used to work in tech support myself, and the company I worked for bought Gateway computers. Gateway's business tech support was always good to work with (except for the occasional person), i.e. they spoke & understood English without heavy foreign accents. But in the past couple of years, I've called both Dell and HP for different issues regarding home computers. Both times I was speaking to people that I could barely understand, and it seemed like they barely understood me. (One HP "technician" transfered me to the sales department today - don't ask me why.) Maybe I just need to suck it up and learn Hindi, and the 14 other "official" languages of India.

But seriously, does anybody know of a computer company that has US-based tech support?

Monday, November 20, 2006


Think back with me to the 2004 presidential election. Anybody remember the military rhetoric used by John Kerry in his campaign? One of Kerry's biggest attacks on President Bush was that he would reinstate the military draft. (And Bush flatly denied it, see here.) Well, Bush won re-election, of course, but have you heard him speak anything about bringing back the draft? Nope. However, a report out today tell us Democratic Representative Charles Rangel plans to introduce a bill next year, under which "Americans would have to sign up for a new military draft after turning 18." This despite the fact that Rangel proposed a draft bill in 2003 covering 18-26 year olds, only to have it shot down by a 402-2 vote. Yep, it lost by a mere 400 votes.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


What do John Piper and Michael Jackson have in common? Watch & listen for yourself:

(HT: Noah Braymen)

Friday, November 17, 2006


The Sports Guy shares some email in this week's mailbag. Here are some of my favorites:

Q: I'm 99 percent positive that Randolph and Mortimer Duke recently wagered $1 that they could turn the funniest, most successful stand-up comic into a disturbed bum on the street and turn a random unfunny guy off the street into the hottest comic in the land with TV specials and a feature film. How else can you explain the fall of Dave Chappelle and the rise of Dane Cook? It is the only answer. Looking good Dane Cook! Feeling good Dave Chappelle!
--DeVito, Washington

SG: There's still a month left in 2006, but that's the E-Mail of the Year so far.

Q: Where do Jerry's outfits on the "Seinfeld" repeats rank on the Unintentional Comedy Scale? The purple turtleneck tucked into black jeans in the Keith Hernandez/JFK episode is phenomenal.
--Gavin Skeen, New York

SG: It appreciates every year, kinda like a tax-free savings account. Right now, it's an 8.7. Three years from now, it could be a 9.1.

Q: Just thought you'd like to know, I went to see "Running With Scissors" Wednesday night (do not let the Sports Gal drag you to this) and during the commercials, they played a 2007 Knicks "Go to the Garden" advertisement, complete with interviews from some players. It was soundly booed, and when Isiah appeared toward the end, someone threw some Milk Duds (or some kind of scattering candy) which hit him right in the face. Commercials at theaters are bad enough, but this one succeeded only in angering a crowd before a really bad movie.
--Shane, New York

SG: Ladies and gentleman, the 2006-07 New York Knicks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Q: So, one day last week I see Sixers GM Billy King in a restaurant in Philly. I started thinking "Does he deal with ordering food the same way he signs NBA players?" If he ordered the steak, if it's an OK steak but nothing fantastic, does he offer to pay double or triple the market value for it? Maybe there could be a show where Billy King negotiates car prices for people who stand by dumbfounded as he offers $27,000 for a 1987 Toyota Camry with 167,000 miles.
-- Adam, Philadelphia

SG: I had a sarcastic follow-up joke here ... then I remembered that my favorite baseball team just spent $51.1 million for the right to negotiate a free agent contract for a Japanese pitcher who's represented by Scott Boras. I'll shut up now.

Q: My buddies and I were talking about appropriate punishments for dictators like Saddam Hussein, and we came up with an idea that works for everyone and could raise money for the International Criminal Court without using tax dollars. Why not charge admission for people to look at convicted dictators in their jail cells, kind of like a zoo for genocidal megalomaniacs? Think about it: you put them in small, basic cells behind plexiglass and charge 25 euros to watch them go about their day. Tourists could get baked at a local coffee shop and head over to the jail to gawk at Slobodan Milosevic sitting on a cot watching "90210" reruns. You could even charge extra to feed them falafel pellets and shawarma biscuits. This would be a far worse fate for a once-proud dictator then being executed. Who wouldn't pay 25 euros to watch Saddam Hussein in his underwear eating Cheetos?
--Kris, Washington

SG: DeVito from Washington, you've been bounced! That's the new Greatest E-mail of 2006. And just for the record, I'd pay 200 euros to see dictators in zoo cages.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Must See TV

From time to time I've written about or been turned on to stories by Glenn Beck. Two or three years ago, I came across his radio show. Despite his warnings that new listeners will hate the show for 30 days, then it will turn to a white-hot hate after that, I was hooked. Here was a funny, smart guy, who wasn't afraid to tell it like it is. Whether it's talking about American Idol, the bird flu, or elections, Glenn's quite comfortable being politically incorrect.

Six months ago, Glenn was given a TV show on CNN Headline News. It was pretty raw at first, but has turned into a pretty good show, with interviews and commentaries all over the map. If you've never heard or seen Glenn's shows, Wednesday night would be an excellent time to do so.

Wednesday night Glenn will be showing a special report that he's been putting together for quite some time. Glenn's website has the following to say about the special, entitled "Exposed: The Extremist Agenda":
We know exactly what Islamic extremists are planning to do. How? We've seen the video. On Wednesday you will too.
There are a couple of video clips there that serve as teaser/trailers.

CNN's promos have this to say:
What airs in the Middle East, the outright propaganda, will surprise you.

Radical Islamists are at war with the West. In a one-hour special, Glenn Beck will show you the shocking images -- rarely seen by American viewers -- that help fuel rage against Israel and the West.
Glenn's show airs daily on CNN Headline News at 7 pm Eastern, and is replayed at 9 pm and midnight Eastern. Find Headline News in your area here.

Compassion = Killing?

Is there a good reason that I shouldn't be outraged at the following news?

First, in the United Kingdom's Daily Mail:
The Church of England has broken with tradition dogma by calling for doctors to be allowed to let sick newborn babies die.

Christians have long argued that life should preserved at all costs - but a bishop representing the national church has now sparked controversy by arguing that there are occasions when it is compassionate to leave a severely disabled child to die.

And the Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, who is the vice chair of the Church of England's Mission and Public Affairs Council, has also argued that the high financial cost of keeping desperately ill babies alive should be a factor in life or death decisions.

Are we seriously going to debate the monetary value of a life?

The BBC News is also reporting the story:
A Christian medical body says holding back treatment to allow ill newborn babies to die - when treatment would be "a burden" - is not euthanasia.


"There may be occasions where, for a Christian, compassion will override the 'rule' that life should inevitably be preserved," Rev Butler was quoted as saying.
I understand that the mortality rate of babies born extremely premature is high - according to the Daily Mail article, 98% of babies born at 22 weeks or less. But does that mean we shouldn't try?

On his TV show tonight, Glenn Beck addressed this story, and had this to share:
I want to share a story with you about a baby that was born -- baby Knauer -- born blind, missing an arm and a leg. The parents were just beside themselves.

The dad decided he's going to write and ask for some help because all the doctors weren't helping. They wrote somebody who is pretty powerful, and they trusted him. And they said, "Please, can you help us put our child into a better place? Please remove the burden on us."

Well, he saw the pictures. He read the letter, talked to the parents, flew out to meet with them, just filled with compassion, tears filling his eyes. He said, "I will personally give you my personal doctor to review the case." The doctor came back and said absolutely no justification for keeping this child alive. The baby was allowed to die.

Who was that compassionate, powerful man who so graciously put that baby boy to sleep? You probably guessed by now it was Adolf Hitler. Baby Knauer was the first victim of the Holocaust. Hitler later signed a decree permitting the euthanasia of disabled infants based on this case and creating a panel of expert referees which judged the infants and found out which ones were eligible for death.

Once he was through with the babies, the elderly were next. As it has been said over and over again with tragedies regarding the Holocaust: Never again.
May we never forget how far human depravity will take us if given the chance, and remember that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

I have one question and one suggestion for election day.

First, the question - Are you more excited to vote today, or for the elections to be over tomorrow?

And the suggestion - by all means, go vote, but don't watch any election coverage - at least not until after you've cast your vote. We should all have learned by now that all of these "polls" leading up to elections - and even exit polls - are completely worthless. Don't let these "polls" affect how you vote.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ted Haggard, Part 2

Here is Ted Haggard's letter to his church:

My Dear New Life Church Family:

I am so sorry. I am sorry for the disappointment, the betrayal, and the hurt. I am sorry for the horrible example I have set for you.

I have an overwhelming, all-consuming sadness in my heart for the pain that you and I and my family have experienced over the past few days. I am so sorry for the circumstances that have caused shame and embarrassment to all of you.

I asked that this note be read to you this morning so I could clarify my heart's condition to you. The last four days have been so difficult for me, my family and all of you, and I have further confused the situation with some of the things I've said during interviews with reporters who would catch me coming or going from my home. But I alone am responsible for the confusion caused by my inconsistent statements. The fact is, I am guilty of sexual immorality, and I take responsibility for the entire problem.

I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I've been warring against it all of my adult life. For extended periods of time, I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach.

Through the years, I've sought assistance in a variety of ways, with none of them proving to be effective in me. Then, because of pride, I began deceiving those I love the most because I didn't want to hurt or disappoint them.

The public person I was wasn't a lie; it was just incomplete. When I stopped communicating about my problems, the darkness increased and finally dominated me. As a result, I did things that were contrary to everything I believe.

The accusations that have been leveled against me are not all true, but enough of them are true that I have been appropriately and lovingly removed from ministry. Our church's overseers have required me to submit to the oversight of Dr. James Dobson, Pastor Jack Hayford, and Pastor Tommy Barnett. Those men will perform a thorough analysis of my mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical life. They will guide me through a program with the goal of healing and restoration for my life, my marriage, and my family.

I created this entire situation. The things that I did opened the door for additional allegations. But I am responsible; I alone need to be disciplined and corrected. An example must be set.

It is important that you know how much I love and appreciate my wife, Gayle. What I did should never reflect in a negative way on her relationship with me. She has been and continues to be incredible. The problem is not with her, my children, or any of you. It was created 100% by me.

I have been permanently removed from the office of Senior Pastor of New Life Church. Until a new senior pastor is chosen, our Associate Senior Pastor, Ross Parsley, will assume all of the the responsibilities of the office. On the day he accepted this new role, he and his wife, Aimee, had a new baby boy. A new life in the midst of this circumstance - I consider that confluence of events to be prophetic. Please commit to join with Pastor Ross and the others in church leadership to make their service to you easy and without burden. They are fine leaders. You are blessed.

I appreciate your loving and forgiving nature, and I humbly ask you to do a few things:

1.) Please stay faithful to God through service and giving.

2.) Please forgive me. I am so embarrassed and ashamed. I caused this and I have no excuse. I am a sinner. I have fallen. I desperately need to be forgiven and healed.

3.) Please forgive my accuser. He is revealing the deception and sensuality that was in my life. Those sins, and others, need to be dealt with harshly. So, forgive him and, actually, thank God for him. I am trusting that his actions will make me, my wife and family, and ultimately all of you, stronger. He didn't violate you; I did.

4.) Please stay faithful to each other. Perform your functions well. Encourage each other and rejoice in God's faithfulness. Our church body is a beautiful body, and like every family, our strength is tested and proven in the midst of adversity. Because of the negative publicity I've created with my foolishness, we can now demonstrate to the world how our sick and wounded can be healed, and how even disappointed and betrayed church bodies can prosper and rejoice.

Gayle and I need to be gone for a while. We will never return to a leadership role at New Life Church. In our hearts, we will always be members of this body. We love you as our family. I know this situation will put you to the test. I'm sorry I've created the test, but please rise to this challenge and demonstrate the incredible grace that is available to all of us.

Ted Haggard

(HT: Vitamin Z)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ted Haggard

You've probably heard several stories by now about Ted Haggard, the recently resigned president of the National Association of Evangelicals and Senior Pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I don't really feel like taking the time to write about the details, or speculations, of the story. But I did come across the following thoughts of Jollyblogger that I thought were worth sharing:

1. Does it really surprise anyone that Christians aren't able to live up to the moral standards they profess to believe. King David couldn't, the apostle Peter couldn't, the apostle Paul couldn't (Romans 7 anyone?). So why should we be surprised when someone like Ted Haggard has such a fall?

2. In light of the above, this illustrates the folly of Christians who campaign on a platform of moral authority. Morality is a very "law based" thing, and as Romans 8:3ff illustrate, law (and moral standards?) is uniquely ill-equipped to combat sin.

3. In light of both of the above the thing that distinguishes Christians from others is not our moral superiority or moral authority, it is our identity as recipients of grace.

4. Christians are never perfect, but nor are we merely "just forgiven" as the old bumper sticker says. We are forgiven, but the grace that forgives also enables us to say no to sin, and our lives, including our moral lives, are necessarily improving. Yet, we are always simul justus et peccator as the old theologians used to say, simultaneously justified and sinful. While we are always to be growing in grace, we are always to be reminded of the presence of and battle with indwelling sin.

5. In my own humble opinion, this may partially explain some of these "falls" we see. Moral crusaders tend to see sin as something external to the individual, so their lives get wrapped up in building external restraints against sin. I wonder if they lose sight of the fact that the greatest battle with sin in our day is the battle with the sin in their own hearts?

6. This does not negate civic responsibility. I am not sure, but this may be a place where I diverge a bit with Phil Johnson, but I do think there is a proper place for Christian civic responsibility and Christian involvement in politics. But such involvement is based on love of neighbor and a desire to promote the common civic good, not Christian triumphalism or any misguided notion that law, apart from grace, can really restrain sin in the larger society.

7. Back to #5 - I sometimes wonder if the moral crusaders make proper use of the means of grace. I don't want to overstate my case here because, as I mentioned before with the apostle Paul, use of the means of grace does not guarantee you will never sin. I am quite sure Paul made use of the means of grace yet he still had the Romans 7 struggle with sin. But when I think about people like Ted Haggard, and the Mike Trout's and Gil Moegerle's and John Paulk's of the world, I see people who probably spend lots of time travelling, speaking and engaging in worthwhile ministries. But I wonder how often they were away from a home church on Sundays before their falls. I wonder if they were in a small group or Sunday School class where they were fed the Word of God and could develop deep relationships with fellow believers who could love them and pray for them and hold them accountable. I wonder if, in prep for their speaking engagements and other ministry opportunities, they gave greater attention to the pressing issues of the day than to the Word of God. Maybe they did, but I do wonder.

8. And bringing this all back around, the upshot of everything I have said is simply this - Christian engagement with the world (whether political, social, evangelisitc or otherwise) is not based on a position of moral authority. It is based on grace. Our "common ground" or "bridge" to a non-Christian world is our shared humanity, our shared sin nature, not our moral excellence. Again, I hope we are growing in moral excellence, but we are just too sinful to ever make that our platform or basis for engagement.

(HT: Vitamin Z)

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Price Is Right

The Sports Guy took a few moments while making this week's NFL picks to share some thoughts on Bob Barker's retirement announcement:
1. Replacing Bob Barker is going to be like replacing Dean Smith or Vince Lombardi ... why even try? They could replace him with Jerry Seinfeld and people wouldn't be happy. It's a disaster in the making. Just cancel the show. It's the only way.

2. Two years ago, my parents were visiting and we had dinner at a restaurant in Santa Monica ... and wouldn't you know it? Bob was eating about three tables away with three other people who looked to be a combined 350 years old. So when the check came, Bob handled the check, only he noticed something that seemed off, so he called the waiter over and the two of them spent about 30 seconds going over something in the bill. And the whole time, my family was restraining me from screaming stuff like, "Lower! Lower!" and "I'm telling you, the price is NOT right!" And you wonder why I still live in California.