Friday, October 13, 2006

The Amish & Islam

The recent tragedy of the Amish schoolgirl killings has brought into the public eye a clear difference between Islam and Christianity that I hope will not be lost on the world. We are constantly told that those perpetrating the violence in the name of Allah are "extremists" of the Muslim religion...Well, the Amish are the Christian "extremists"! In saying this I am admitting that they are not mainstream Christianity, but I do find it absolutely striking that "extremism" in Christianity manifests itself in passivism...this in contrast to "extremism" in Islam manifesting itself in mass murder and terrorism.

The following action of the respective "extremist" groups is quite telling as well. The Pope quoted an ancient source saying basically that Islam is violent. In response, Islamic "extremeist" (actually high-up officials in major-player nations), issued death threats calling for his execution and retaliated by attacking other Christians. A crazed madman invades a schoolhouse in a Christian community and shoots and kills 5 young girls. In response, the Christian "extremeists", issued statements of forgiveness and sought to help and comfort the widow and children of this madman...

Now, I should explain why I consider the Amish "extremists". They are so because they have gone beyond (or below) the teaching of the Bible, and created an idocencratic religious expression of Christianity that is not biblical. You see, the Amish are extreme passifists. The hard truth in all of this is that no Amishman would have sought to defend the schoolgirls--jump the gunman, hit him, fight him off--had he had the opportunity. In other words, an Amishman would just stand there and watch (and probably pray) as violent crimes and criminal acts are carried out against you, me...even his own family.

The Bible calls us to defend our do everything in our power to preserve our own and others lives. In other words, self-defense is righteous. Watching as others are killed or maimed is not matter how stiking and touching this might seem today in a world gone mad.

But there is something in both religions respectively that set the trajectory of their extremist. You see, the fact is that Christian extremist err on the side of passivism...Islamic extremists err on the side of mass murder. Christianity is a religion of grace and forgiveness...Islam is a religion of law and retribution. This is not to say that Christianity is without law-the law actually defines the sin from which we must be saved-but if there was a law given that could give life, then righteousness would have come by the law.

This is a sad story and I have only compassion for the Amish during this time. Furthermore, some of the public exposure of their actions has been God glorifying. In God's providence, there wasn't an Amishman there to "do" anything. The trajedy happened. And, in such stark categories, the contrasts between Christianity and Islam have been made clear by our "extremist."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

R. Scott Clark & Confessional Orthodoxy

Dr. Clark of Westminster Seminary in Escondido, CA has an excellent set of lectures availible on the internet addressing the need for American Protestants to return to their roots and again be "confessional" churches. Dr. Clrak can speak for himself and so avail yourself to these talks at:

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Ray LaMontagne

By far, one of the best, new American singer-songwriters is Ray LaMontagne. He was born in New Hampshire, but he seems to be from everywhere. He has a very different approach to music and writing, and his product manifests this. A biography on his website states:

"LaMontagne does not consider himself an entertainer; he writes, records, and performs his music and hopes that, in so doing, sheer passion and music will triumph. 'I always just express myself,' he says. 'I just kind of let them go, my songs. There are songwriters and musicians out there who are entertainers. They have so much fun. I envy that sometimes. They're having such a great time.'"

His music is simple and Dylanesque, and his voice is absolutely hurts to listen to sometimes, not because it is poor, but because it is so full of emotion. Just as Van Gogh's paintings demand thought and involvement, arresting the looker and forcing him to consider the message, so it is with LaMontagne's songs. These are complex poems filled with emotion, pain, questions, reflections, etc. and it is impossible to simply turn his music on as background filler noise. Again, the biography on his website states concerning his latest album,

"LaMontagne's voice — battered, bitter and beseiged, devastated and uncomprehending — remains central and alive..."

His latest album is, musically speaking, amazing. Till The Sun Turns Black is intricate and...for lack of a better word...beautiful.

I know nothing of his personal religious or philosophical beliefs, but as a general rule, don't look to artists for either. On his first album Trouble he disappointingly quoted from the book, The Last Temptation of Christ, but it is unclear what his point was. The quote mentions that God will always pardon singers...Again, he is a songwriter and singer...not a theologian.

If you are looking for a break with the normal trash that is perpetually pumped out of today's industry studios and then forced onto the masses, LaMontagne will not disappoint. His website is:

Friday, October 06, 2006

Blaise Pascal

I have always been impressed with the thoughts (i.e. "Pensees") of Blaise Pascal (1623-1662). I am again reading his "Thoughts", and while they are not always accurate (he defended Jansenist doctrine), there are a lot of excellent comments made by him on a variety of topics (e.g. on the depravity of man). One of my favorite quotes ("Thoughts") of his comes from his first chapter, "Thoughts on Mind and on Style" #10:

"People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others."

In his chapter on "Morality and Doctrine", Pascal speaks very much like a Federal, Law/Gospel Calvinist:

"The law imposed what it did not give. Grace gives what it imposes." (522)

"All faith consists in Jesus Christ and in Adam, and all morality in lust and in grace." (523)

Perhaps my favorite quote is:

"Jesus Christ is a God whom we approach without pride, and before whom we humble ourselves without despair." (528)