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Some Things Said… (May 05)

Man accused of defacing “Mary image

A man was arrested for allegedly scrawling “Big Lie” over a stain on an expressway underpass that some believed was an image of the Virgin Mary. Authorities then painted over the stain because it had been defaced, police spokesman David Banks said Friday.

Authorities charged Victor Gonzalez, 37, of Chicago with criminal damage to state supported property, a misdemeanor…

A steady stream of the faithful and the curious, many carrying flowers and candles, had flocked to the emergency turnoff area under the Kennedy Expressway since last month The stain was likely the result of salt runoff, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation… –excerpted from an AP posting in The Palm Beach Post 05.07.05

On worshipping idols –

And God spoke all these words, saying: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” –Exodus 20:1 – 6.

PC scholars take Christ out of BC

In certain precincts of a world encouraged to embrace differences, Christ is out. The terms “BC” and “AD” increasingly are shunned by certain scholars. Educators and historians say schools from North America to Australia have been changing the terms “Before Christ,” or BC, to “Before Common Era,” or BCE, and “Anno Domini” (Latin for “in the year of the Lord”) to “Common Era.” In short, theyre referred to as BCE and CE.

The life of Christ still divides the epochs, but the change has stoked the ire of Christians and religious leaders who see it as an attack on a social and political order that has been in place for centuries. For more than a century, Hebrew lessons have used BCE and CE, with CE sometimes referring to Christian Era. This raises the question: Can old and new coexist in harmony, or must one give way to the other to reflect changing times and attitudes? The terms BC and AD have clear Catholic roots. Dionysius Exiguus, an abbot in Rome, devised them as a way to determine the date for Easter for Pope St. John I. The terms were continued under the Gregorian Calendar, created in 1582 under Pope Gregory XIII.

Although most calendars are based on an epoch or person, BC and AD have always presented a particular problem for historians: There is no year zero; theres a 33-year gap, reflecting the life of Christ, dividing the epochs. Critics say thats additional reason to replace the Christian-based terms…

Candace de Russy, a national writer on education and Catholic issues and a trustee for the State University of New York, doesn’t accept the notion of fence-straddling. “The use of BCE and CE is not mere verbal tweaking; rather it is integral to the leftist language police — a concerted attack on the religious foundation of our social and political order,” she said.

For centuries, BC and AD were used in public schools and universities, and in historical and most theological research. Some historians and college instructors started using the new forms as a less Christ-centric alternative. “I think its pretty common now,” said Gary B. Nash, director of the National Center for History in the Schools. “Once you take a global approach, it makes sense not to make a dating system applicable only to a relative few.”

But not everyone takes that pluralistic view. “I find it distressing; I don’t like it,” said Gilbert Sewall, director of the American Textbook Council, which finds politics intruding on instruction. He said changing terms accepted for centuries because of a current social movement could threaten other long-held principles.

Mr. Nash said most major textbook companies have adopted the new terms, which are part of the national world history standards. But even those standards have been called into question. In a 2000 national resolution, the Southern Baptist Convention condemned the new terms as “the result of the secularization, anti-supernaturalism, religious pluralism, and political correctness pervasive in our society. Is that some sort of the political correctness?” said Tim Callahan, of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, an independent group with 60,000 educator members. “It sounds pretty silly to me.” –from an AP article by Michael Gormley in The Washington Times 04.25.05

Left aims to smite “theocracy movement

NEW YORK — Secular humanists and leftist activists convened here over the weekend to strategize how to counter what they contend is a growing political threat from Christian conservatives.

Understanding and answering the “religious far right” that propelled President Bushs re-election is key to preventing a “theocracy” from governing the nation, speakers argued at a weekend conference.

“The religious right now has an unprecedented influence on American politics and policy,” said Ralph White, co-founder of the Open Center, a New York City institution focused on holistic learning. “It is incumbent upon all of us to understand as precisely as possible its aims, methods, beliefs, theology and psychology…” –excerpted from an article by Jon Ward in The Washington Times 05.01.05

Something about not trying…

“The Christian Ideal, it is said, has not been tried and found wanting: it has been found difficult and left untried.”–G. K. Chesterton

A culture awash in porn

“Porn is just another form of entertainment now.” The speaker, an 18-year-old concession-stand worker named Ben Meredith, was explaining to a Los Angeles Times reporter why virtually no young people were trying to get in to see “Inside Deep Throat” at an Orange County, Calif., theater.

Given the rating (NC-17) and the subject matter (the making of the notorious 1972 movie “Deep Throat”) one might expect to find some curious teens infiltrating the theater — or at least trying to. Instead, the Times reporter writes, the audience was “overwhelmingly middle-age” and “not a young person was in sight.” Which didnt surprise Ben, a freshman at the University of California-Irvine. “I mean, porn is really easy to get now. Its like, who cares?”

Those who do care may be wondering just how easy it is. Lets put it this way: Its quicker to list the places kids arent at risk of exposure to porn…

As the April 23 Los Angeles Times article noted: “Its online, on cable, on cellphone cameras, in chat rooms, in instant messages from freaks who go online and trawl childrens Web journals, on cam-to-cam Web hookups, on TV screens at parties where teens walk past it as if it were wallpaper … and in health class, in movies, in hip-hop lyrics like the one blaring from the loudspeaker as they lined up for pizza and burritos…”

As 16-year-old Scott Timsit told the reporter, “Pornography is just part of the culture now. Its almost like its not even, like, porn”…–excerpted from the article by Rebecca Hagelin, a vice president of The Heritage Foundation , at 04.29.05.

A Textbook Case of Junk Science

Several centuries ago, some “very light-skinned” people were shipwrecked on a tropical island. After “many years under the tropical sun, this light-skinned population became dark-skinned,” says Biology: The Study of Life, a high-school textbook published in 1998 by Prentice Hall, an imprint of Pearson Education.

“Downright bizarre,” says Nina Jablonski, who holds the Irvine chair of anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences. Jablonski, an expert in the evolution of skin color, says it takes at least 15,000 years for skin color to evolve from black to white or vice versa. That sure is “many years.” The suggestion that skin color can change in a few generations has no basis in science.

Pearson Education spokesperson Wendy Spiegel admits the error in describing the evolution of skin color, but says the teachers manual explains the phenomenon correctly. Just why teachers are given accurate information while students are misled remains unclear…

Thus, a chapter on climate in a fifth-grade science textbook in the Discovery Works series, published by Houghton Mifflin ( 2000 ), opens with a Native American explanation for the changing seasons: “Crow moon is the name given to spring because that is when the crows return. April is the month of Sprouting Grass Moon.” Students meander through three pages of Algonquin lore before they learn that climate is affected by the rotation and tilt of Earth–not by the return of the crows.

Houghton Mifflin spokesman Collin Earnst says such tales are included in order to “connect science to culture.” He might more precisely have said to connect science to certain preferred, non-Western, or primitive cultures. Were a connection drawn to, say, a Bible story, the outcry would be heard around the world…

A study commissioned by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in 2001 found 500 pages of scientific error in 12 middle-school textbooks used by 85 percent of the students in the country. One misstates Newton ‘s first law of motion. Another says humans cant hear elephants. Another confuses “gravity” with “gravitational acceleration.” Another shows the equator running through the United States . Individual scientists draft segments of these books, but reviewing the final product is sometimes left to multicultural committees who have no expertise in science…

Members of the scientific elite are occasionally heard blaming religion for the sorry state of science education. But it isn’t priests, rabbis, or mullahs who write the textbooks that misrepresent evolution, condescend to disadvantaged groups, misstate key concepts of physics, show the equator running through the United States , and come close to excising white males from the history of science. Young Americans need to learn science, and they need to distinguish it clearly from Algonquin myth. –by Pamela R. Winnick, excerpted from The Weekly Standard, 05.09.05 Volume 010, Issue 32

PETAs Non-Apology Apology

The group still equates animal killings to the Holocaust. Ingrid Newkirk, the alpha wolf over at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), has just issued a classic non-apology “apology” for PETAs odious “Holocaust on Your Plate” Campaign, which explicitly compared eating meat to participating in the gassing of millions of Jews.

The purported equation between the Holocaust and normal practices of animal husbandry wasnt presented between the lines by PETA. Nor was it implied subtly in the hope that the viewer would infer a similarity. Rather, comparing Auschwitz to your corner butcher shop was the explicit and unequivocal theme of the entire international pro-vegan campaign.

First there were the photographs. PETA juxtaposed pictures of emaciated concentration-camp inmates in their tight-packed wooden bunks with chickens kept in cages. Worse, in a truly despicable comparison (on several levels), a picture of piled bodies of Jewish Holocaust victims was presented next to a photograph of stacked dead pigs.

The text of the campaign was even worse. In a section entitled “The Final Solution,” PETA made this astonishing assertion: “Like the Jews murdered in concentration camps, animals are terrorized when they are housed in huge filthy warehouses and rounded up for shipment to slaughter. The leather sofa and handbag are the moral equivalent of the lampshades made from the skins of people killed in the death camps.” By Wesley J. Smith, from 05.06.05

Lost Without Faith – New book challenges “enlightened notion of evil.

[From the] Review of Unspeakable: Facing Up to Evil in an Age of Genocide and Terror by Os Guinness (Harper, 2005, 242 pp).

As different as they may seem, all the problems and crises afflicting us, whether social or political, domestic or international, can be traced back to one historically unique development that has defined the modern world, and that was memorably expressed with brutal simplicity by Nietzsche: the death of God, or perhaps we should say more accurately, the attempted murder of God. The consequences of this phenomenon have been enormous, and were first identified by one of the great battlers against this delusion, Dostoevsky, who with equal simplicity said, “If God is dead, everything is permitted.”

The attempts to prove Nietzsche right and Dostoevsky wrong by those committed to Enlightenment rationalism and technique have all failed. Their beliefs — a pseudo-religious, not a scientific one — that humans are mere matter, to be explained and improved by knowledge and techniques that adjust or alter the material causes of their problems, should have crashed on the mountains of corpses created by one of the most enlightened and cultured civilizations in history.

Yet even after Auschwitz, even after the gulag, after mass-murderers like Stalin and Mao and the Khmer Rouge, after Bosnia, Rwanda, the Sudan, after murderous autocrats like Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein, and despite the daily horrors of torture, rape, and murder filling their newspapers, the secular materialists still persist in their superstition that evil is just an outdated name for what is really the manifestation of material causes, a glitch in chemical, genetic, social, economic, or political structures that can be corrected if only the enlightened “technicians of the soul,” as Stalin called them, are allowed to work their magic, and the quaint believers in various supernatural truths are gotten out of the way…

Guinness correctly identifies the source of our confusion: “The modern world has marginalized traditional responses to evil — by dismissing traditional categories and sidelining traditional ways of responding.” Sin and evil instead have become “sickness” and “dysfunction,” anomalies to be corrected by technical intervention by scientific experts or by political, economic, or social transformation.

Changing the name of evil, though, has not altered the reality, and in fact has made it more insidious: “When none dare call it evil, evil does not disappear — it is all the freer to surprise us and do its deadly work.” Or as Baudelaire said, the devils cleverest trick was to convince us that he doesn’t exist. In addition, such a view of evil as sickness lets us all off the hook, for now evil becomes something external to us like a bacterium or virus, rather than an integral part of our humanity.

Indeed, the American republic was founded “with the most radical view evil at its core,” a recognition of the human propensity for depravity that generated the separation of powers and the institutionalized balancing of factions. And even the deists and atheists at the Founding knew that a free republic could not survive without the support of religious sentiment: as John Adams put it, “We have no government armed with powers capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.”

Thus we moderns, who have acquiesced in the banishment of religion from the public square in a mistaken reading of the First Amendment, have removed the civic bridles on a human depravity now given greater scope by freedom and prosperity. We have breached the second “traditional barrier,” what Guinness calls the “triangle of freedom:” “Freedom requires virtue, virtue requires faith of some sort, and faith requires freedom.” And having done so, we have degraded political freedom into selfish licentiousness, putting at risk not just our souls but freedom itself…
Two other consequences of the secularist “sin as sickness” belief inhibit our understanding of evil. The first is what has been called the “Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not judge.” Materialist determinism of course absolves us of personal responsibility, and without that responsibility, there can be no judgment but only therapeutic intervention. We are all victims, whether of our genes or our parents or society, and so we are all innocent…–excerpted from the review by Bruce Thornton 05.04.05, from

Article contributed by Richard Vandagriff and Mark Zaveson

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