Steven Sotloff: Observant Jew. Grandson of Holocaust Survivors.

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ISIS recently released another video of their British Muslim terrorist, beheading an American journalist.

The journalist was Steven Sotloff, an American Jew with dual Israeli citizenship. According to reports, Mr Sotloff followed his religion, even in the extreme circumstances of captivity by ISIS.

He did not, understandably, tell his captors he was Jewish. He kept up his prayers and fasted on Holy Days by claiming that he was sick and couldn’t eat. The deep irony in all this is that Steven Sotloff is the grandson of holocaust survivors.

Think about that.

Mr Sotloff’s grandparents survived a genocide of Jewish people. Decades later in another part of the world, he was abducted and murdered as part of an attempt to force America to pay a ransom. The ransom would have been used to finance an Islamic killing machine which is bent on the genocide of Christians and other non-Muslim faiths.

The difference between Mr Sotloff and his captors is more than just the difference of the relative power of the murderer vs the murdered. It is, indeed, one of faith.

Steven Sotloff, James Foley and the man who murdered them each claimed to be men of faith. The difference is what their faiths inspired them to do.

James Foley, who prayed the Rosary while in captivity, and Steven Sotfloff, who fasted on Jewish Holy Days by pretending to be ill, were both capable of something that the members of ISIS are not: Compassion.

Their faiths inspired them to bring the stories of the helpless victims of war to the larger world view. They were the voices of the voiceless. They gave the whole world facts and information to help us view what is happening in the dark places of current history with at least some accuracy. Their work was a vital part of the empowerment of ordinary people, both in the Middle East and in the West.

ISIS, by contrast, is a destroyer. It does not build. It does not redeem. ISIS murders and rapes, tortures and lies. The videos it has put out showing the beheadings of these two brave men are themselves lies. These men were not murdered for some bizarre idea of retribution against American power. Their murders were acts of extortion in an attempt to get American dollars.

ISIS is not, as it styles itself, a great religious army. It is a band of pirates. There is no honor in ISIS. It is a disgrace to humanity.

Steven Sotloff’s faith, and that of James Foley, is evident in the good they did. We see what kind of men they were by the lives they lived. We see the life-giving power of true faith in the real God in these men’s goodness.

By the same token, we see what kind of men the adherents of ISIS are by the lives they live. When they stand before God, they will answer for their genocide, rapes, thefts, terrors, lies and destruction of whole societies.

God is real. And He is just.

I have no doubt that Steven Sotloff and James Foley took comfort in that as they knelt in the desert awaiting the knife. If their murderer has any knowledge of God at all, he will fear it.

Defend us in battle

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You Gotta Remember: Ann Coulter Called John Edwards “a Faggot.”

You gotta remember: Ann Coulter called erstwhile presidential candidate and famous adulterer John Edwards “a faggot.” 

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I do not think she was referring to a torch that people carry when they go to a lynching. I’m pretty sure that Ms Coulter was trying to say that former presidential candidate and besotted adulterer John Edwards is a homosexual. 

Aside from the fact that Mr Edwards’ flaming heterosexuality gifted him with a love child and put him in federal court defending his freedom, the salient point for the purpose of this post, is that Ms Coulter says stupid, mean things for their shock value. She also makes a lot of money doing this. 

Her latest sally into stupid meanness kinda goes off the cliff on the cold-blooded indifference to human suffering side of arguing. Ms Coulter is a beautiful woman, and she’s certainly talented, but her public utterances are so mean that she’s made herself into a caricature of meanness. 

She’s the non-cigar-smoking, good-looking, female version of Rush Limbaugh

In her latest sally down I-won’t-lift-my-little-finger-off-my-Bible-to-help-anybody lane, Ms Coulter levels a blast of what is almost incomprehensible hate at ebola-virus-victim Dr Kent Brantley. Her reason? His illness cost the Christian charities Samaritan’s Purse and SIM USA a lot of money, and, oh yes, America needs help, too.  

She soundly and roundly condemns Dr Brantley for going to serve in Africa, asking the question “Can’t anyone serve Christ in America anymore?”

Then she goes off on a round of arm waving and diatribing about how god (little “g” god) is an american (little “a” american), and america’s got problems and we need to take care of our problems and let the rest of the world go to hell. What she leaves out of this nifty little analysis is that if we do that, we won’t have to go to hell. We’ll already be there. 

Because that’s what hell is: A world without the real (big G) God. 

You know: The God who stepped down from heaven (a higher plane than america, by the way) to become one of us. The God who worked as an ordinary carpenter and consented to be tortured, mocked, shamed and murdered to save us from the exact kind of world Ms Coulter is lobbying for: A world where the biggest and meanest make all the rules and the rest of us are bugs that get squashed under the wheels of the biggest and the meanest’s overweening greed, indifference and narcissism. 

Why did Dr Brantley go to Africa? I don’t know the man, but I think it’s just possible that he went there because God called him to go there. It’s also more than likely that the reason these Christian charities spent all that money is because God has also called them to do things like that.

It may be that the reason God allowed Dr Brantley to get sick in the first place was to give those of us in the “developed” world at poke in the side; a wake-up call that we need to get serious about stopping the suffering in Africa. 

Of course, there is nothing new under the sun. Everything Ms Coulter spits out has already been said, and not in a “letter” to the public. The first time these words of Ms Coulter’s were spoken, they came out in one sentence in a very private conversation.  

Am I my brother’s keeper? 

The answer to that question is the same today as it was then: Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 

You either believe God meant what He told us, or you don’t. You either follow Him and do as He commands, or you won’t. Justifying your refusal to follow the real, big “G” God by waving around little “g” god rules some little g god media preacher made up to lead you astray doesn’t get you out of anything. It only hardens you in your sin. 

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What have you done? Where is your brother?

How should I know where he is? Am I my brother’s keeper? 

Don’t follow Ann Coulter and her little g gods of narcissistic greed and indifference to human suffering. 

Political gods are demonic gods. 

All of them. 

From Human Events:

I wonder how the Ebola doctor feels now that his humanitarian trip has cost a Christian charity much more than any services he rendered.

What was the point? 

Whatever good Dr. Kent Brantly did in Liberia has now been overwhelmed by the more than $2 million already paid by the Christian charities Samaritan’s Purse and SIM USA just to fly him and his nurse home in separate Gulfstream jets, specially equipped with medical tents, and to care for them at one of America’s premier hospitals. (This trip may be the first real-world demonstration of the economics of Obamacare.)

There’s little danger of an Ebola plague breaking loose from the treatment of these two Americans at the Emory University Hospital. But why do we have to deal with this at all?

Why did Dr. Brantly have to go to Africa? The very first “risk factor” listed by the Mayo Clinic for Ebola — an incurable disease with a 90 percent fatality rate — is: “Travel to Africa.”

Can’t anyone serve Christ in America anymore?

 

For more on this topic, check out Elizabeth Scalia, whose book Strange Gods is about our practice of turning away from God to follow little g gods, rightly labels Ms Coulter’s “schtick” as a danger to our souls while Simcha Fisher contrasts Coulter’s message with that of Jesus. 

Satanists Reveal Uber Creepy Monument They Want to Place on Oklahoma’s Capitol Grounds

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Now … ain’t this thing purty??? Photo Source: NewsOK

It’s a compliment in a way.

Satanists aren’t trying to put monuments to their master in front of the Capitol Building in Washington.

No need.

Evidently, the people they want to go head to head with live in little ole Oklahoma.

Who would ever have thought that Oklahoma would be deemed important enough in the culture wars for this honor? I guess somebody who walks on the dark side thinks we need our little light covered up a bit.

Whatever their reasoning, members of the Satanic Temple announced a fund-raising drive to place a statue of Satan on the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds a few months ago. Their stated goal was to raise $20,000, but the times being what they are, $30,000 came rolling in for this worthy project.

Now, the instigators of this brain whatever have released photos of the statue paying homage to Satan that they want to place on Oklahoma’s capitol grounds.

It is, as we say in these parts, a dandy.

I’m not up on my satanism, but what I see is an obelisk-looking plank with a pentagram atop standing next to a statue of His Lordship, the Prince of the Dark Realm — or is that Baphomet?? This dude comes complete with a ram’s head with what looks like two horns and a tree growing out of the top of it. The ram’s head sits on the shoulders of a buff human body. Two 1950s-style children are staring worshipfully up at this lovable fellow while he holds one hand aloft in what appears to be a two-fingered version of the Boy Scout salute.

This deal is one fine piece of satanic kitsch.

Of course, the ACLU has our capitol grounds all tied up in a court challenge to a law we passed a few years back, placing a plaque with the Ten Commandments on it out there on the lawn. After all, plaques with the Ten Commandments are scary, right? I mean, it endangers all our freedoms to put something like that right out in public.

This ACLU zealotry for protecting innocents from the Ten Commandments is bad luck for the satanists. It appears they’re going to have a long wait before their artwork — or any new artwork — is even eligible to be considered for placement on the Capitol grounds. Then, if they don’t get what they want — and I can see a valid case for denying them based entirely on the artistic merits of this thing — I imagine they’ll head off to court.

In the meantime, I would like to raise one small question. Why would anybody worship Satan? Atheism, I can see. I mean, I don’t agree with it, but I can see where its adherents are coming from. But to worship an entity who is well known for creating every kind of misery there is, and who enjoys our pain and suffering and feeds off it, well, if you’ll pardon me for saying so, that’s not too bright.

It’s right up there with drinking arsenic because you like the taste of sweet things.

Be that as it may, we do have ourselves a bit of really creepy Satanic art to peruse while we’re waiting for the next call in this little doh-si-doh.

If the ACLU wins, and the Ten Commandments are banned from the Capitol lawn, then I suppose that leaves the Satanists with an expensive piece of ugly statuary to dispose of. If, on the other hand, the state wins (unlike others around the country, our attorney general actually defends state laws in court) then it’s up to the arts committee to work out for themselves if this thing has artistic merit, or if it’s just a laughable eyesore.

After that, I expect we’ll be off to court again.

Yeehaw!!

Grab your partners and promenade right.

Why Did Jesus Have to Die, and Why Does the Resurrection Matter?

Resurrection

Calvary is the fulcrum of history.

Everything changed on that hill called Golgotha 2,000 years ago. Three days later, when the stone rolled away, God put His final redemptive imprimatur on the story of our salvation.

Before that Day in the garden outside the empty tomb, when He looked at the woman and said, Mary!,  Solomon’s ancient wail of “Vanity, vanity; all is vanity,” was the summation of the reality of human existence.

But Calvary and what He did there, the garden and Who the woman met there, changed all that forever.

Do not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, for you will surely die, God told them.

“You will not die,” Satan countered, in one of the deceptive lies disguised in a seeming truth that he uses so often against us.

They ate.

And they did not die.

Then.

But death was born into the world with that first bite of disobedience. The scales fell from their eyes and they knew. They fouled their primal innocence with willfulness, and they knew shame; first the shame of their nakedness, and then the shame of their fallenness.

Their first action was to hide from God because, as they told Him, “We were ashamed because we were naked.”

God’s answer illuminates their changed condition, Who told you that you were naked?

Their second action was to blame one another.

Primal innocence was gone in a single bite of the apple of disobedience, replaced by primal love of self.

Humankind denied this loss throughout its history, denies it even to this day. Self-will battles with God’s will in each of us every moment of our lives. And yet, there is in each of us, encoded in our souls, a haunting memory of who we really are, and an inchoate longing that will not be silenced for what we have lost.

“Our hearts are made for thee,” St Augustine said. And so they are.

God-longing is a part of the human condition, as is a hunger for transcendence and lost innocence. Separated as we are, this longing festers into resentment and denial, while the hunger congeals on our souls as hubris and self-worship.

The curse of lost innocence drives us to rageful disobedience. It ensnares us in our own desires and, if we let it, murders us with the excesses those desires breed in our lives.

Throughout human history this pull of longing for God and lost innocence has played against the push of the hubris of our self-aggrandizements and twisted desires. The tension it creates drives us into a universal acceptance of insanity. We kill one another and we kill ourselves in as many ways as the human story can devise. Our blood-soaked history of suffering and misery has one message: We cannot save ourselves.

The God-hunger encoded in us and the God-image inside of us, drive us to seek propitiation. From moloch to corporatism, we feed our lives and the lives of our children into the empty maw of false gods of our devising. We seek our lost transcendence in debauchery and achievement; in doing good and doing bad; in war making and peace making; in causes and rights and laws.

We try to achieve a lost immortality by looking as Ted Bundy did, into the eyes of those we kill and persuading ourselves that in that moment when the light of life fades we are like gods. We attempt to overcome our finite hopelessness by doing good works, and advancing humankind through the achievements of our efforts and our minds.

But in the end, we are but dust. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

God does not force us. He doesn’t reach down and re-invent us back to our lost innocence.

That is not cruelty as some claim. It is love and longing. Love, to be love, must be freely given. Our love for Him must be ours to give or withhold, or it is not love at all.

So God led us gently over long years and slow changes to the moment when He stepped into our history as one of us in order to offer us a Way. Jesus had to die because by dying He became the ultimate sacrificial lamb, the complete propitiation for our sins. He made it right by offering Himself in lieu of us on the altar of life and death.

He was our Passover lamb and Calvary was the ultimate and final Lord’s Passover.

If that is true, then what is the meaning and the necessity of the Resurrection? Wasn’t dying on the cross enough to redeem us?

The answers people give are all true. The Resurrection demonstrates that Jesus is God. The Resurrection is a sign of the resurrection that awaits all of us who accept Him and go through the open doorway of redemption that He represents. He is the Way in a literal and absolute manner. We enter into the Kingdom through Him.

But I think there is another ultimate meaning to the Resurrection. Calvary wasn’t the only way that God could have restored us to Himself. It was the only way He could do it and leave us free.

The Resurrection was the great undoing of that curse we cursed ourselves with in the garden. If you eat of the tree of knowledge, you will surely die. 

You will not die, Satan told us, and left out the word “today.”

We believed the lie, and the curse of death, real death that is separation from the Light, entered humanity.

The Resurrection broke that curse. God Himself entered into death, took on the curse, and experienced its depths. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me, Jesus cried from the cross as He experienced the cold annihilation of The Alone in its absolute form.

I’ve have written about The Alone that we inflict on one another with our cruelties. But that Alone, which is a foretaste of the pit of hell, is nothing but a foretaste. The real hell, the true Alone, is complete separation from God.

We experience shades of this hell in the bitter blackness of our sinfulness. I have lived a bit of it, both in things I’ve done and things that have been done to me. The pleasure people take in hurting other people is a dark thing that swallows their own humanity.

We can cast other people into The Alone with our rapes, tortures, murders, greed, gossip and pretentious claims to superiority. Every time we do this to another person, we experience a bit of the cold blackness that such actions come from.

The curse of the fall is our daily experience, and that curse is death. The Resurrection broke that curse. God entered into our cursedness and experienced its shattering consequences. He, Who knew no sin, became sin for our sakes.

Then, on the third day, He shattered the curse like a glass by breaking death itself. He cast off death and arose from the grave.

This was different in every way from miracles such as raising Lazarus or the little girl or the young man who was being carried to his burial place. The difference is that He didn’t stand outside death and undo it for a time, He entered into death and dissolved it for all time.

Physical death is a huge thing to us. But to God it appears to be almost trivial. Jesus raised people from the dead as easily as taking a drink of water. Little girl arise, He said. He took pity on a mother’s grief at her son’s funeral procession and raised the young man with a word. Lazarus, come forth He commanded and Lazarus walked out of his tomb.

Physical death isn’t the great divide that it is to us to One who sees both sides of the experience, to the One Who created life in the first place.

The Resurrection isn’t another casual raising of someone from the dead so that they will die again in a few years. The Resurrection is an everlasting casting off of ultimate death altogether.

Eat, and you will surely die. 

You will not die … today.

I am the Way … all who believe in Me will never die. 

The Resurrection is the end of death. It is the Way out of getting what we deserve.

And it leaves us free. We can accept Him and love Him … or not.

Love is not love unless it is freely given.


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