Deliver Us from Kony

Christianity Today has run an article on what U.N. officials have called “one of the worst human-rights crises of the past century.” The article is titled “Deliver Us from Kony” and is about the butchery and inhumanity of a guerilla paramilitary group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda. The leader of the LRA is Joseph Kony.

The worst of the LRA’s crimes have been perpetrated against children, whom the LRA routinely kidnaps and forces to serve in their ranks.

Perhaps the greatest atrocity is teaching these children that they spread this carnage by the power of the Holy Spirit to purify the “unrepentant,” twisting Christianity into a religion of horror to their victims. It is spiritual warfare at its very worst, and it could not be more satanic. . .

[Warning: The rest of this section contains graphic descriptions of brutality.]

Under threat of death, LRA child soldiers attack villages, shooting and cutting off people’s lips, ears, hands, feet, or breasts, at times force-feeding the severed body parts to victims’ families. Some cut open the bellies of pregnant women and tear their babies out. Men and women are gang-raped. As a warning to those who might report them to Ugandan authorities, they bore holes in the lips of victims and padlock them shut. Victims are burned alive or beaten to death with machetes and clubs. The murderous task is considered properly executed only when the victim is mutilated beyond recognition and his or her blood spatters the killer’s clothing.

CT includes a brief section on what American Christians can do to bring an end to this conflict. What all of us can and should do is pray.

Alito Argued That Roe v. Wade Should Be Overturned

In a 1985 amicus brief, Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito appears to have supported the overruling of Roe v. Wade. The brief reads as follows:

“We should make clear that we disagree with Roe v. Wade and would welcome the opportunity to brief the issue of-whether, and if so to what extent, that decision should be overruled” (“Memorandum,” p. 9).

In spite of all the media ballyhoo, I don’t think this is as big of a story as it’s being made out to be. First of all, when this brief was written, Judge Alito was working as a lawyer for President Reagan and was advocating for a position on behalf of his client. In his confirmation hearings, questioners will not be able to use this brief as if it were an expression of Alito’s personal view. Secondly, since when is it illegal for a Judge or a lawyer to have an opinion on whether a court case was correctly decided? A judge can have such an opinion without prejudicing his hearing of future cases.

Like I said, I don’t think this is that big of a story–or at least it shouldn’t be.

Anti-Bush Bias at the New York Times (So what else is new?)

Why did the New York Times splash a story about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) secret surveillance program? There appears to be no laws broken (it’s not clear that FISA applies here), and other presidents (like Clinton and Carter) have authorized similar programs in the past. So what was the motivation for the New York Times’s putting forth a story that it has been sitting on for over a year? Why now?

Edward Morrissey of The Weekly Standard has a plausible answer to that question in a story titled “Fit to Print? Neither the Bush administration nor the NSA broke the law, so why did the New York Times break the story?” He writes the following:

SO WHY PUBLISH the story at all? The Washington Post published a behind-the-scenes look at the Times‘s editorial decision and found a couple of motivations for the decision to dust off the story which had been spiked during the election year. With the Patriot Act up for renewal, the current headlines finally provided a political context that would make the story a blockbuster–not because it describes illegal activity, but because it plays into fears about the rise of Orwellian Big Brother government from the Bush administration. The second impetus to publish came from the upcoming release of James Risen’s book, State of War, due to be released in less than a month.

It had to dismay the editors at the Times, then, when an angry President Bush came out the next day, the day after that, and the day after that to take personal responsibility for the NSA effort. Bush called the Risen/Lichtblau bluff. Had there been any scandal, the president would hardly have run in front of a camera to admit to ordering the program. He changed the course of the debate and now has the Times and his other critics backpedaling.

The timing and questionable news value of the story opens the question about the motivation of the Times‘s editors. Has the Times allowed its anti-Bush bias to warp its judgment so badly that it deliberately undermined a critical part of America‘s defenses against terrorist attack to try to damage the president?

Bottom line: The New York Times appears to have an anti-Bush bias. I guess there’s nothing new here after all.

Guilt by Association: Intelligent Design on Trial

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones put Intelligent Design (ID) on trial in the Pennsylvania legal battle over the teaching of evolution in public schools. Judge Jones ruled that the Dover School Board violated the constitution in requiring science teachers to read a brief statement about ID and evolution before teaching about evolution in Dover Public Schools (click here to download the proposed statement).

In Judge Jones’s 139-page opinion, he charges that “ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism” (p. 31). In other words, as far as Judge Jones is concerned, ID is simply creationism in sheep’s clothing. Judge Jones argues that ID has a religious pedigree linking it both to Christian fundamentalism (p. 19) and to scientific creationism (p. 21). These links, among other things, show that the Dover School Board curriculum takes a religious position that violates the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution.

This opinion ought to trouble any thinking Christian. Judge Jones did not so much evaluate ID on the basis of its own claims, but on the basis of its association with Christianity. That association consists mainly in the fact that many proponents of ID are themselves Christians. Judge Jones sets the precedent of outlawing any curriculum that can be shown to have been supported by Christians! The logic goes like this: If Christians support it, then it must be religious. If it is religious, then it violates the establishment clause of the U. S. Constitution.

On this logic, any idea taught in public schools that can be shown to have been supported by Christians violates the first amendment. What precedent does this set with respect to whether other controversial topics should or should not be included in public school curriculums? For instance, would it not be possible to rule that abstinence-only curriculums violate the first amendment because Christians by and large tend to support such curriculums?

This kind of guilt by association without considering the merits of the arguments sets a dangerous precedent indeed. Whether this logic will be applied in other cases remains to be seen. Let’s hope not.

Defeatists Just Don’t Listen (even at the Associated Press!)

President Bush delivered a great speech tonight—one that was long overdue. He brought the nation up to date on the progress of the war in Iraq, defended his decision to go to Iraq in the first place, and warned about the deadly consequences of pulling out of Iraq before winning the war. He assured the American people, “Not only can we win the war in Iraq—we are winning the war in Iraq.”

The President also directly addressed his critics and political opponents:

I also want to speak to those of you who did not support my decision to send troops to Iraq: I have heard your disagreement, and I know how deeply it is felt. Yet now there are only two options before our country — victory or defeat. And the need for victory is larger than any president or political party, because the security of our people is in the balance. I do not expect you to support everything I do, but tonight I have a request: Do not give in to despair, and do not give up on this fight for freedom (source).

About two hours after the speech, Ron Fournier of the Associated Press released an “analysis” of the President’s speech. Fournier’s characterization of what the President said was as pitiful a thing as I have ever seen:

After watching his credibility and approval ratings crumble over the course of 2005, President Bush completed a rhetorical shift Sunday night by abandoning his everything-is-OK pitch to Americans and coming clean: He was wrong about the rationale for going to war in Iraq; he underestimated the dangers; the country has suffered “terrible loss”; and the bad news isn’t over (source).

Fournier’s summary is a deceptive mischaracterization of what the President said.

The President never said that “he was wrong about the rationale for going to war.” He did say that our troops never found the weapons that he thought they’d find in Iraq. On this point, U. S. intelligence was incorrect. But this is a far cry from saying that the President was wrong about the “rationale” for war.

The main “rationale” for the war was Saddam Hussein’s continued defiance of the United Nations. Security Council resolution 486 was all about Saddam’s refusal to verify the dismantling of his pre-1990 WMD stockpiles. Saddam never did comply with this obligation, and this became the legal premise that the President cited for the war in Iraq. Saddam’s defiance of Resolution 486 (and about a dozen others through the 1990’s) had to be dealt with, whether the weapons were really there or not. For more on this point, I have written previously on it here and here.

How Fournier’s piece passes for legitimate analysis is beyond me. Fournier’s “analysis” reads as if it were written by the very “defeatists” that the President was warning us about. What a sad response to a clarion call from the President.

N. T. Wright and American “Imperialism”

The Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal.com has a great piece on N. T. Wright and his influence on American Evangelicalism. It is titled “Reform Party: A British Theologian Takes Another Stab at It.” John Wilson, the author of this piece, argues that N. T. Wright is “the most influential biblical scholar in American evangelical circles today.” According to Wilson, this fact is a great irony because Wright regularly denounces the “imperialism” of U.S. foreign policy—a criticism that most American evangelicals would not agree with.

I am reading N. T. Wright’s new book on Paul as I write, and I intend to post a review of it here when I am finished. For now, let me just say that Wright argues for a “fresh perspective” on the gospel that Paul preached. This “fresh perspective” (not to be confused with the “New Perspective”) includes a realization that one of the chief things that the apostle Paul is doing in his letters is denouncing imperialism. Whether Wright is correct to apply this insight to U. S. foreign policy, I will leave for another post. But if I may tip my hand a little bit, I think it’s clear that Wright seems to be indulging in a bit of parallelomania and is probably reading too much Greco-Roman background into Paul.

But, as I said, more on this later.

N. T. Wright and American “Imperialism”

The Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal.com has a great piece on N. T. Wright and his influence on American Evangelicalism. It is titled “Reform Party: A British Theologian Takes Another Stab at It.” John Wilson, the author of this piece, argues that N. T. Wright is “the most influential biblical scholar in American evangelical circles today.” According to Wilson, this fact is a great irony because Wright regularly denounces the “imperialism” of U.S. foreign policy—a criticism that most American evangelicals would not agree with.

I am reading N. T. Wright’s new book on Paul as I write, and I intend to post a review of it here when I am finished. For now, let me just say that Wright argues for a “fresh perspective” on the gospel that Paul preached. This “fresh perspective” (not to be confused with the “New Perspective”) includes a realization that one of the chief things that the apostle Paul is doing in his letters is denouncing imperialism. Whether Wright is correct to apply this insight to U. S. foreign policy, I will leave for another post. But if I may tip my hand a little bit, I think it’s clear that Wright seems to be indulging in a bit of parallelomania and is probably reading too much Greco-Roman background into Paul.

But, as I said, more on this later.