One of the heroes on that French train is a Lutheran

You know those three unarmed Americans who took out the armed-to-the-teeth terrorist on that French train?  One of them was a Missouri Synod Lutheran.  What difference does that make?  Not much on one level.

But surely when you heard about this, if you are from the USA, you felt a surge of connectedness that these guys were fellow Americans.  When a fellow Christian does something, the tie is even stronger, because of what the Apostle’s Creed calls “the Communion of the Saints.”  According to 1 Corinthians 12, we are all different organs of the same body, so that what happens to one member happens to all of us.  So, for me, a part of the body that writes and blogs in safety, I rejoiced at the part that had the courage to tackle a terrorist with an AK-47 who was shooting a pistol, saving who knows how many lives.  And that he shares my confession and that we commune with each other makes for a particularly close kind of unity.

So my fellow Lutherans who read this blog, as well as my fellow Christians and my fellow Americans, can all claim a connection to what happened on that train, though the heroism of those young men is all their own.

Details about Army National Guardsman Aleksander Skarlatos of St. Paul Lutheran, Roseburg, Oregon, after the jump. [Read more...]

Government speech, individual speech, & public religion

A came across an unusually lucid discussion of the legal issues that loom behind some of the religion-in-the-public square cases.  As Noah Feldman explains, the courts have made a distinction between individual speech, in which pretty much anything goes, and government speech.  The government also can say pretty much what it wants to, which explains why it can choose to forbid confederate flags on license plates, or to permit pro-life slogans on license plates while forbidding pro-abortion slogans.

The main restriction on what a government can say is anything that could be construed as establishing a religion.  A government can choose to accept a Ten Commandments monument on public property.  But if it does, it has to accept similar monuments from other religions, so as to prove it is showing no favoritism.  This is why atheist and secularist groups are no longer trying so much to get religious symbols removed.  Rather, they are trying to get other monuments–Satanic, atheist, pagan–added so as to stand side-by-side with the Christian symbols.  That could work for a polytheistic society, as in St. Paul’s Athens or the Pantheon in Rome, but Christians specifically reject that, as in the “no other gods before me” part of the Ten Commandments on those monuments.

Feldman concludes that the choice must be either displays of religious diversity or no religious symbols at all on the part of the government.   Isn’t the latter alternative more faithful to the first table of the Ten Commandments?  Wouldn’t the religious diversity displays promote a syncretism that flies in the face of Christianity?  Do you see any weaknesses in Feldman’s argument, excerpted after the jump?  [Read more...]

World War II ended 70 years ago yesterday

Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.  Not many of those who fought in that bloody epic conflict are still around.  We should salute those who are.

Do you think a world war on that scale could happen again?  Would we be capable of the same sacrifices, both on the battlefields and on the homefront?

A tribute to the anniversary after the jump. [Read more...]

Pope will allow priests to forgive abortion

Pope Francis will allow priests to forgive the sin of abortion during the upcoming Holy Year, from December 8 to November 26.  Normally, abortion incurs automatic excommunication.  Bishops must give special permission before a priest can absolve a penitents of that particular sin.

That abortion cannot be forgiven, apart from an elaborate bureaucratic process, is another example of the Gospel-denying effects of the Roman Catholic penitential system.  Christ died for all sins, including abortion, and He bore every woman’s abortion in His body on the Cross.  So every woman who has committed this sin can know that she has forgiveness in Him.  Now for one year, such women can find forgiveness in the Roman Catholic Church.

But this action by Pope Francis is being interpreted as another example of the pontiff’s “tolerance” and will be taken as a weakening of the church’s position on abortion. [Read more...]

Did the Q’uran pre-date Muhammed?

Carbon dating of what has been called the world’s oldest Q’uran suggests that the manuscript may have been written before the Muhammed was born, so that the book of which this is a copy would be even older.  Islam teaches that the Q’uran was delivered directly to the prophet from Heaven, but this would indicate that he may have been drawing on a pre-existent text in formulating the new religion.

But in fairness, it is possible to put a different construction on the evidence.  The carbon dating has the manuscript as having been written between 568-645 A.D.   Muhammad lived from 570-632 A.D.   Islamic tradition says that the Q’uran was given to the prophet between 610-632 A.D., with the writings formally collected into a single book around 650 A.D.

Carbon dating gives a range, not a precise date.  And it seems to me that the traditional accounts still fall within this range. [Read more...]

Scam, fraud, and blackmail at Wikipedia

Wikipedia has banned 381 of its editors for scamming and in some cases extorting small businesses and celebrities, taking money to get favorable articles approved and “protected.” [Read more...]