Thank a mosquito. . .

Next time you get bit by a mosquito, do not swat him. Rather, thank him for your freedom!  Yesterday marked the 229th anniversary of George Washington’s victory over the British at Yorktown, which meant that American independence was won.  This fascinating piece by J. R. McNeill credits the lowly and much-hated mosquito for this otherwise unlikely turn of events:

Major combat operations in the American Revolution ended 229 years ago on Oct. 19, at Yorktown. For that we can thank the fortitude of American forces under George Washington, the siegecraft of French troops of Gen. Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, the count of Rochambeau – and the relentless bloodthirstiness of female Anopheles quadrimaculatus mosquitoes.

Those tiny amazons conducted covert biological warfare against the British army. Female mosquitoes seek mammalian blood to provide the proteins they need to make eggs. No blood meal, no reproduction. It makes them bold and determined to bite.

Some anopheles mosquitoes carry the malaria parasite, which they can inject into human bloodstreams when taking their meals. In eastern North America, A. quadrimaculatus was the sole important malaria vector. It carried malaria from person to person, and susceptible humans carried it from mosquito to mosquito. In the 18th century, no one suspected that mosquitoes carried diseases.

Malaria, still one of the most deadly infectious diseases in the world, was a widespread scourge in North America until little more than a century ago. The only people resistant to it were either those of African descent – many of whom had inherited genetic traits that blocked malaria from doing its worst – or folks who had already been infected many times, acquiring resistance the hard way. In general, the more bouts you survive, the more resistant you are.

via How mosquitoes helped swarm the redcoats at Yorktown.

The article goes on to explain how the British troops, with no immunity to malaria, were incapacitated by the disease, while the colonial troops, especially the Southerners who had already survived bouts with the mosquito-borne malady, were relatively immune.

Lutheranism 101

I finally got my copy of Lutheranism 101, and I recommend it highly.  And not just because I wrote the last chapter, “Putting It All Together.”  It’s not exactly “Lutheranism for Dummies,” since it goes into some real depth, but it is in that family of books that explain things concisely, clearly, visually, and with a light touch.   Here is the publisher’s description:

Lutheranism 101 examines Lutheran beliefs and heritage in a fresh way. If you are a lifelong Lutheran searching for more information or new to Lutheranism looking to understand what we believe, this book will be your guide. It is written in an easy-to-read conversational style with short articles, side-bar features, and some humor. Lutheranism 101 helps create a solid foundation of reference upon which a lifetime of sound teaching can be built.

Explore the basics of Lutheran theology by digging into the history of Lutheranism and making connections between what Lutherans believe and what Lutherans do.

In addition to treating the big issues regarding sin, Christ, and salvation, and the basics of Lutheranism (why they worship the way they do, how Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are part of justification by faith, etc.), the book has priceless little boxed essays (such as one by John Pless on vocation and the Christian life), interesting tidbits (a list of church bodies in world Lutheranism), and useful factoids (how to make the sign of the Cross).

This book is really striking a chord with people. Paul McCain, the publisher at Concordia Publishing House, reports that they sold out the print run after only two and a half weeks and have had to print more already. Clearly, contrary to what some say, laypeople are hungry to learn about theology.

And CPH has it on sale. If you buy it between now and Reformation Day (October 31, as the book will teach you), you can get it for a mere $14.99, a savings of ten bucks! You can take advantage of that offer
here.

Lutheranism 101

Those of you who have read it, please report.

Freedom and Government

To the list of great political theorists, I would like to add director John Ford. I’d like to raise for your consideration a comment I made on the “Who holds the deed to your house” post:

We watched “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” last night in my film class. The lawless “state of nature” does NOT promote private property or free enterprise. Rather, in that movie, the lawless cattle ranchers, with their power and gunslingers, were taking the property of the small farmers so they could have an “open range.” Only until law came to Shinbone and the people voted for statehood was private property protected.

(What a great movie, by the way! Jimmy Stewart AND John Wayne AND Lee Marvin AND Lee Van Cleef, not to mention great supporting actors such as Andy Devine. And the incomparable direction of John Ford.)

To expand the point: Many conservatives and libertarians believe that government, by its nature, limits human freedom. In a state of minimal government, free enterprise economics would thrive, and human beings would form in other dimensions of life an analogous self-regulating order.

In the thought experiment that is John Ford’s movie, “Liberty” Valence may have liberty, but he is about the only one. There is no private property. When he wants to take someone’s steak, he just takes it. When the cattlemen want their cattle to graze on farms, they just cut the fences. Because the advocates of the “wild west” do not respect anyone’s private property, there is no free enterprise economics. “Shopkeepers” stand with the small farmers to work for a rule of law and statehood for the territory. The community has to stand up against Liberty Valence. Violence (cf. “valence”?) is indeed necessary to create social order. Liberty Valence has to be shot. And those who can stand up against him, like Tom Donophan (John Wayne), ironically, also have no place in the new civilized order.

But, according to Ford, government is necessary for freedom. Not that government cannot also squelch freedom, as in the totalitarian systems of Fascism and Communism, both of which Ford fought. But a democratic government and the rule of law, in his mind, was a prerequisite for both personal freedom and a free economy. Isn’t he right?

The foreign money accusation

Election rhetoric has become gotcha-games of name-calling and insinuation, a matter of building up one’s own image and damaging the image of your opponent.  This debases the positive argumentation that is necessary for a democratic republic.  Yes, both sides do it.  The latest gambit is Democrats playing the xenophobia card, raising the sinister specter of foreigners buying the American election by funding Republicans, all without a shred of evidence. The President himself is doing this! George Will analyzes a charge that President Obama threw out:

He recently said: “Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.” It takes a perverse craftsmanship to write something that slippery. Consider:

“Just this week, we learned. . . .” That is a fib. The fact that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — this is what he is talking about but for some reason is reluctant to say so — receives membership dues from multinational corporations, some of them foreign-owned, is not something Obama suddenly “learned.” It is about as secret as the location of the chamber’s headquarters, a leisurely three-minute walk from the White House.

“Regularly takes in money from foreign corporations.” Obama cites no evidence to refute the chamber’s contention that it sequesters such funds — less than one-twentieth of 1 percent of its budget — from the money it devotes to political advocacy. The AFL-CIO, which spends heavily in support of Democratic candidates, also receives money from associated labor entities abroad, but Obama has not expressed angst about this.

“So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.” The “so” is a Nixonian touch. It dishonestly implies what Obama prudently flinches from charging — that the “huge sums” are foreign money.

via George F. Will – The Democratic vision of Big Brother.

Meanwhile,unions that are giving lots of money to Democrats often have foreign members, not to mention illegal immigrants.

There are also lots of foreign-owned companies whose American affiliates are giving money to candidates. This is legal, as long as the money is just from the American branch. Though these companies give to both parties, according to the Washington Post, Democrats are getting most of it.

Wrestling with God

Our Scripture in church yesterday was another one of those enigmatic, yet profoundly evocative texts:  Jacob wrestling with the LORD (Genesis 32:22-30).  Pastor Douthwaite’s sermon, again, unfolded and applied it in some striking ways.  Read the whole sermon here:   St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Pentecost 21 Sermon.  I will just quote a few sentences:

We find out that God was there with Jacob. In fact, it was God who was wrestling with Jacob! God appearing in hostile form, in order to help Jacob. . . .

God lets Himself be overcome, to bless Jacob.. . .

The God who appeared hostile in the night was Jacob’s Saviour in the morning.. . .

The Son of God who, just as in His wrestling match with Jacob, allows Himself to be overcome by man on the cross, in order to bless.. . .

So that you, like Jacob and like this widow, though you must wrestle and struggle night and day, not let God go. . . .That in the struggle, you cling to Him alone. That in the struggle, though God seem like an enemy, you cling to Him as your Father.. . .

How do you cling to a God you cannot see? Where do you cling to Him? By, as St. Paul told Timothy, clinging to His Word.. . .

Know this: that the God who came to wrestle with Jacob, the God who came and struggled for you on the cross, the God who overcame sin, death, and the devil, the God who comes now and cares for you, will not let you go.

What were you made to see in this text?

Happy belated Cranach day!

Saturday, October 16, was the day the patron of this blog, Lucas Cranach, the artist of the Reformation, died in 1553, at the age of 81.  (His formal day of commemoration is April 6, set aside to honor him along with other Reformation-era artists, Albrecht Durer and Michelangelo.)  Read about him and contemplate his self-portrait in the sidebar to the right.  He embodies what we keep talking about when it comes to vocation. How should his day be celebrated?

See Commemorating and Remembering Lucas Cranach Today | CyberBrethren-A Lutheran Blog.


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