Archive for December 7, 2011
But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it.
If you’re like me, when you hear the word “humbug,” you immediately think of Ebenezer Scrooge. That’s especially true when “humbug” is preceded by the word “Bah!”
So, you might wonder, what’s the connection between “humbug” and Easter? It can be found in Luke 24. The chapter begins early on Easter Sunday morning, as a group of women take spices to anoint the body of Jesus. But they discover that the body of Jesus has disappeared from the tomb. All of a sudden, two men “clothed in dazzling robes” appear to the women and tell them Jesus is risen from the dead (24:4-7). That’s why his body is gone from the tomb. The women rush to tell the other followers of Jesus what they have learned. But the male disciples reject the women’s story. As Luke says, “But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it” (24:11).
As I considered this verse, I was curious about the word translated as “nonsense.” Luke uses the word leros, which is not found elsewhere in the Greek New Testament. Looking up this word in the standard Greek-English lexicon, I found this definition: “that which is totally devoid of anything worthwhile, idle talk, nonsense, humbug.” There it was: humbug. It’s not stretching the truth too far to say that when the women returned from the tomb with the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, the rest of the disciples responded, “Bah! Humbug!”
I must confess that my first response to Luke 24:11 is a critical one. I think: “What was wrong with those guys? Why didn’t they believe the women’s story? After all, Jesus himself had predicted his resurrection? Why didn’t his closest disciples believe?” But then I remember how I often respond to the good news. It says that I am forgiven by grace through faith, but I can act as if I still must earn God’s favor through what I do. Scripture says God will never leave me, and that he is working in all things for good, but I can think that I’m alone and worry that life is taking a wrong turn. I can read all sorts of biblical promises and respond, more or less, “Bah! Humbug!”
God has given us our minds so that we might be thoughtful and discerning. Christian faith is not contrary to reason. We are not called to be gullible. Yet, I don’t want to be the sort of person whose first response to God is “humbug.” I want to receive the good news with a discerning mind and an open heart.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are there times when you respond to God with something like “humbug”? When? Why? How can we use our minds well and, at the same time, be ready to receive the good news of God?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, I hate to admit it, but I think I would have been right there with the other male disciples on Easter morning. I would have heard what the women reported and said, more or less, “Humbug!”
Forgive me, Lord, when I reject your good news because, well, it’s just too good. Forgive me for all the times I am skeptical rather than faithful. Help me to learn how to think carefully and, at the same time, to be open-hearted in my response to your good news. Amen.
P.S. from Mark: Today, on my blog, I’m beginning a series called Christmas according to Dickens. After some background material, this series will focus on Ebenezer Scrooge and the question “Why Did Ebenezer Scrooge Change?” I will add some theological reflections along the way. You can find the first post in this series here.
When we know what the universal church is, we will understand what a local church is. The average local church is to a large extent a social organization where well-intentioned people get together and know each other. They are drawn together by coffee, tea, friendship, skating parties and things like that. Those things are harmless. But when we know what the church really is, we will understand that while these things are all right on the margin of the church, they are not the purpose of it. Meeting, shaking hands and drinking coffee are perfectly legitimate if we do not need them–they are not what holds us together. But when those activities are what hold us together, we do not have a church; we have something else. Unfortunately, we might as well admit it: That is often all that the churches have.
All the superfluous language about “women’s reproductive health” aside, Planned Parenthood is in the business of death. They’ve built an empire by performing abortions to the tune of 300,000 a year (currently), by filling their coffers with taxpayer monies, and by securing an ever-ready defense from leftist politicians.
And what better time to celebrate death, blood money, and political cronyism than Christmas?
At least that seems to be the view of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, the River Oaks Area Democratic Women, the Texas Democratic Women of Harris County, and the Bay Area Association of Democratic Women, all of whom are throwing a Dec. 8 Christmas Party at a huge abortion complex Planned Parenthood now runs in Houston, TX. (The facility is a 78,000-square-foot supercenter for abortionists that will eventually commit late-term abortions.)
After all, what goes together better than a cup of cheer and a pregnancy that was ended violently by one of Planned Parenthood’s doctors? This is the same organization that sent out “Choice On Earth” cards rejoicing in the killing of preborn children during the season in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
The actual invitation for the party is addressed to “Democratic Women…and the men who love them.” And the hosts are Texas state representatives Jessica Farrar and Carol Alvarado. The party is advertised as a pot luck, where wine and soft drinks will be provided, but attendees are encouraged to “BYOB for stronger cheer.”
What’s extra sad about this party, and the location in which it’s being held, is that the facility is located “in the midst of four huge minority neighborhoods.” Looks like a bill introduced in Congress that bans groups like Planned Parenthood from making a profit on race-motivated abortions hasn’t come a moment too soon. Such a location makes it easy for Planned Parenthood to appeal to mothers who are already dependent on the government for life, and to convince them that allowing the government to pick up the tab for death isn’t such a bad thing either. (Of course, the abortion mill will keep a little bit of the funding for themselves, too.)
When the facility opened in June 2010, Houston Mayor Annise Parker said, “It’s not about the building; it’s about people’s lives; it is not about women, it is about families; and it’s not about what we do here today, it’s about our future.”
Never were less-true words spoken. For it is about life, it is about women, it is about families, and our future is at peril via the deaths Planned Parenthood celebrates now.
So there’s going to be a Christmas party at Planned Parenthood in Houston. It’s a safe bet the little drummer boy will not be present, nor will wise men bring frankincense and myrrh. After all, I doubt Mary and Joseph would be honored there for the great pains they took to be sure their baby could be born alive and remain that way.
Pinal County, Ariz.-This week I was privileged to participate in a ride along with the Arizona Pinal County Sheriff’s Office and got a first hand look at what deputies are dealing with on a daily basis. Although we didn’t get into any major cartel chases during my time with them, the education I received about a number of border issues was eye opening.
I started off the day by driving to Florence, Ariz. where the Pinal County Sheriff’s headquarters is located. I met with Chief James Kimble and he gave me a tour of the adult detention center. He explained to me that the Department of Homeland Security uses this particular detention center to house illegal aliens on a contract basis. According to Kimbell, illegal alien inmates are in the detention center on average 28-32 days, but some stay longer based on certain criteria. The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t conduct any activity outside of arrest and detention for illegals, the rest is handled by I.C.E. including classification and making a decision to deport.
Illegal aliens are classified three ways by I.C.E.:
Level 1: Crime-illegal entry Level 2: Dangerous with criminal record but not repetitive Level 3: Dangerous with a repetitive criminal record
Let’s just say taxpayers are shelling out a good amount of money to keep these guys in the system and to determine whether they should or should not be deported.
(Side note: The United States cannot deport an illegal alien back to their country of origin unless the U.S. has a treaty with that country. If a person is in the United States illegally from a country like Somalia, a country which the U.S. doesn’t have a treaty with, I.C.E. must either let that person stay in the U.S. or find a country that will take them. )
After touring the detention center, I met up with Lieutenant Matthew Thomas who is a member of the Pinal County SWAT team. Thomas gave me a ride to my car in the parking lot so I could follow him to the city of Casa Grande, which is a hot spot for cartel activity.
I hopped in his unmarked dusty Chevy SUV and one of the first things he said was, “Sorry about the mess, this is my real office.”
To which I responded, “Quite the office! I’ll take it.”
Thomas’s “office” was similar to a typical police car, but way better. He had an AR-15 style long gun rifle in a rack on the roof just behind the driver and passenger seats, with a multi-frequency radio in the front.
After I followed Thomas from Florence to Casa Grande, I parked at the Border Patrol station there, hopped in his office and we were off. We started down Interstate 8, which runs east to Interstate 10 and west all the way to California, making it the perfect freeway for drug runners to get their dope into Phoenix, and then to mass distribute to the rest of the United States. I-8 is about 30 minutes south of Phoenix by way of I-10. The cities near this intersection, which used to be predominantly ranching and farming communities, are Casa Grande, Arizona City, Maricopa, Hidden Valley, Eloy and Stanfield. Now, although some farms still exist, this area is inundated with cartel activity. The bad guys, members of the Sinaloa cartel, live in these communities, run stash houses and have turned access roads, literally right next to farms that have been in operation for decades, into major smuggling routes. Thomas called this the “city problem.”
Nearby is the infamous Vekol Valley, the largest hot bed of drug and human smuggling in the United States and where a Pinal County Deputy was shot in April 2010. Vekol is surrounded by nasty mountain ranges on both sides. There is wide-open desert starting from mile marker 160 on I-8 and stretching all the way to Mexico. Because of the terrain, Vekol acts as a funnel. As we drove into the area, I could feel that it just wasn’t a safe place to be.
Cartels also take advantage of the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation on the west side of Vekol Valley. They use it as an entry point, marry into Indian families so they can live on the reservation and if a village is small enough, cartel members will simply walk in and take property to use for smuggling activity, threatening death if confronted.
While we were driving near Vekol, Thomas explained the “terrain” problem to me after pulling off the side of the road to show me the “Travel Caution: Smuggling and Illegal Immigration May Be Encountered in This Area,” sign provided by Homeland Security. (Remember, according to Janet Napolitano, the border is secure) He said the cartels have a vast intelligence network. Men know as “spotters,” sit up on the top of hills and mountains with cell phones and radios, calling drug running crews in the U.S. and Mexico about where Sheriff vehicles are located and where Border Patrol is cruising. As soon as Thomas shows up on patrol, most of the time the cartels are watching and know exactly where he is. For the spotters, failing to identify where U.S. authorities are located can result in a beating or even death. If a spotter calls into the boss in Mexico or down the road, says that they are clear to come through with a load, but then the authorities show up and seize the load, that spotter pays the price for the loss.
But these cartels aren’t just targeting Border Patrol. U.S. citizens travelling along I-8 who stop for a restroom break, often find themselves car jacked right off the road. The area can’t be used for camping, hiking or hunting as it used to be because the area is dangerous and drug and human smugglers are carrying high-powered weapons like AK-47s.
“If you see too much you may get killed out here because they [cartel members] don’t want witnesses,” Thomas said.
Throughout the day, Thomas stressed to me the issues the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office deals with on a daily basis are so much more than just an illegal immigration problem or an illegal drug problem. They’re dealing with the Sinaloa Cartel, a large and very complex organization.
Over the past three years, Thomas has seen cartel members become increasingly defiant to U.S. law enforcement agents. Smugglers have become bolder, more brazen; they’re running more drugs and have no regard for obeying or submitting to authority. Thomas used to be able to tell a group of illegal aliens to sit down and they would obey, but now they just run. Pursuits used to be occasional, but now they happen on a daily basis if not more than once a day, endangering the public. Deputies are also finding more high-powered weapons.
In Mexico, cartel members have no problem using roadside IEDs, killing women, killing children, peeling off peoples’ skin while they are still alive or beheading people while they are still alive so long as their dope arrives on time. Thomas describes them as sociopaths and narco-terrorists.
“These guys are ready for a confrontation,” Thomas said. “They have no issue directing violence toward law enforcement.”
On top of the cartel, Thomas has to deal with rip crews, groups of men who steal human and drug loads from the cartel in order to make a buck for free. For example, the Sinaloa cartel is smuggling both humans and drugs in the Vekol Valley on a daily basis, which deputies are combating. Then, deputies have to worry about rip crews coming in to the scene to steal human and drug loads, which often occur violently with shootings, rapes, robberies and extortions.
An aspect of the cartel business that is often overlooked is sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation of both women and children is occurring at an alarming level.
Thomas said sexual predators in the U.S. will order children from Mexico through cartels; cartels then send those children along with a drug run through the desert after payment and deliver that child to their new owner for sexual use.
“They [Americans] don’t understand how much activity is going on,” Thomas said.
Cartel activity in Vekol Valley has also taken a huge toll on the environment. Smugglers are constantly creating new trails and driving all over the desert to avoid U.S. authorities. The Arizona Game and Fish Department reported 14 tons of trash were hauled out of the area last year. Wildlife habit and water tanks have been destroyed.
So what is the solution to these problems?
According to Chief Kimble and Lieutenant Thomas: Secure the border, build a double layer fence with a paved road in between and enforce the law. You can’t begin to heal if you don’t stop the bleeding.
“This is not just an Arizona issue, it’s a country issue,” Kimble said.
Logistically, Thomas says the cartels have the upper hand. They have more men, more money, bigger weapons and more time. When the public sees a single big bust on the news, that’s just one of many drug loads coming across the border everday. Once the Sheriff’s Department targets a specific area, smugglers move to another area; deputies follow, smugglers move again. The fence has been built, completed and is working in the Yuma Sector of the border, but not the Tucson sector, where Pinal County is located.
“The problem has been solved in other areas,” Thomas said.
Take a look at these numbers.
Thomas and Kimble also made it clear border security is national security, and that with a porous border, bad people, including terrorsts like the ones who attacks us on 9/11, have easy access to the United States.
“We’re screaming that something bad is going to happen,” Thomas said.
Katie Pavlich the News Editor at Townhall.com. Follow her on Twitter @katiepavlich.
Time magazine didn’t mind ruffling feathers in religious America with a cover this summer that asked “Is Hell Dead?” Never mind that America is overwhelmingly Christian. Then Time found only one letter worth plucking out to feature in large, bold type from a man in Dallas: “Hell is easy to define. It would be spending eternity with evangelicals.”
That sums up the secular, liberal media attitude toward America’s Christian majority, and it explains why they find Republicans so objectionable when they make their religious faith part of their campaign for the presidency. Matthew Philbin and Erin Brown of the Media Research Center’s Culture and Media Institute have written a new report called “Baptism By Fire” that analyzes coverage of the presidential candidates and their religious faith. Does it surprise anyone that they found a huge difference in coverage of Republicans and Democrats?
In the first ten months of 2011, network morning and evening news stories mentioned the religious faith of GOP presidential challengers more than seven times as often (143 stories to 19 stories) than they had for Democratic challengers in the first ten months of 2007. They’ve been 13 times more likely to be critical of the Republicans’ religious beliefs than they were of Democrats just four years ago.
Did I mention Rev. Jeremiah Wright? In the first ten months of 2007, there were just six instances where stories challenged or negatively highlighted the faith of liberal White House hopefuls. The networks almost entirely avoided questions about Barack Obama’s upbringing in a Muslim country and his two decades of attendance of a radical Chicago church. Likewise, audiences were reassured that Hillary Clinton’s faith was important — but only as it saw her through her husband’s reckless infidelities. Primary candidates Joe Biden and Chris Dodd were never asked about their fervent voting record in favor of abortion — even partial-birth abortion — in full opposition to their Catholic faith.
But with Republicans, to listen to these reporters is to believe there was something frightening just below the surface of their statements of faith. NBCs Michael Isikoff exemplified this in July: “In a recent fundraising letter, presidential candidate Michele Bachmann touted her role helping to run a family counseling center. But a secret videotape, which raises questions about how the center treats patients who might be gay, is creating new controversy for Bachmann.”
Four years ago, the Democrats were so pro-gay that they all agreed to a debate on the gay-oriented cable channel Logo. That wasn’t a “controversy.” It’s only “controversial” when you oppose it.
Like Bachmann, Rick Perry has been punished for expressing his religion on the campaign trail. The networks were critical of his religious views in 63 percent of their mentions of faith. Shortly before announcing his candidacy for president, Perry held a rally in Houston called “The Response.” The networks put graphics on the screen asking “Is Perry Going Too Far?” Reporters like ABCs Aaron Katersky insisted “Perry’s open mix of faith and politics risks alienating even some Christian voters.”
Our media’s statement of faith begins with the bedrock belief that orthodox Christianity is both proof of rigid extremism and a serious threat to the First Amendment, never mind that the amendment explicitly protects the freedom to worship.
ABCs Katersky placed Perry and his supporters on the radical right. “The sponsor of Perry’s rally, the American Family Association, opposes homosexuality, women’s rights and religious diversity.” He’s suggesting the AFA opposes women’s right to vote? ABC also brought on leftist “Reverend” Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State to warn the country about Perry. “My simple message to him is don’t mess with the Constitution.”
In October, reporters hovered around Rick Perry pressing him to disavow a supporter’s claim that Mormons weren’t Christians, which he had already done. The media hyped that Republicans would accept a Mormon in the White House. As Fox News pointed out at the time, a Quinnipiac poll found 68 percent of Republicans are comfortable with a Mormon president, as are 64 percent of independents. Democrats are the least tolerant, at 49 percent.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reports more than 75 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians, and 93 percent say they believe in God. But the CMI report says, “too often network reporters covering religious conservatives sound as though they’re reporting back from an encounter with remote, primitive tribes.” Network reporters need to stop sounding like “foreign correspondents” when they cover people whose faiths they don’t understand. Liberal journalists pretend they’re open-minded, but their news coverage suggests they feel they don’t need to understand the religious right. They just need to defeat them.
Founder and President of the Media Research Center, Brent Bozell runs the largest media watchdog organization in America. TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Brent Bozell’s column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.