Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Street Cred

From newly crowned Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates:

"Failure in Iraq at this juncture would be a calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility, and endanger Americans for decades to come"

Impair our credibility? Like 3 1/2 years of ineptitude has not already done that? Is that what it all comes down to, our precious reputation? Forget the Iraqis, because it's all about us, isn't it? Well, guess what? Saving face is a dead end. Strategically, we have lost in Iraq. Every terrorist and insurgent in the world has seen that they can bog down a super power if they are patient.

If strength of will and willingness to apply force were all that was necessary to overcome an insurgency in an alien landscape then Afghanistan would still be a Soviet client state and Chechnya would be the summer playground of the Moscow elite. There are simply some things that are impossible. At some point Wisdom must overcome Machismo.

Let's face it, the person whose reputation is on the line is one George Walker Bush. In January of 2009, our enemies will be forced to reckon with a potentially competent leader of the world's sole super power. Oh sure, there'll be a mess to clean up and America will be less safe than it might otherwise have been but Bush's fiascoes will be relegated to history. The new President will move forward: new alliances will be made and new strategies employed.

What Shrub doesn't understand is that history is not riding on his every decision. There are times and situations where Men of Importance step forward and leave their mark on the world. This is not one of those times and George is not one of those men. The Iraq crisis was created from whole cloth by Bush's cronies, not thrust upon him at a time of urgent necessity. James Buchanan certainly faced a nation in need of a solution but history has largely passed him by. Being President does not automatically make you indispensable. Wanting to be a Transformational President does not make you one.

Gospel Truth?

A follow up to my previous post.

James, "the brother of the Lord," was no Christian.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from the actions of James as portrayed in The Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles and other early church writings is that the understanding of Jesus held by the Jerusalem church was radically different from that we have from Paul and have inherited as Orthodoxy. James' ruling in the Council of Jerusalem was, in effect, that Paul's Gentile converts must keep the same Noahide Laws that uncircumcised "God Fearers" had been required to keep for years. James was maintaining the status quo vis-a-vis Jew and Gentile. There was no "equality in Christ." He still considered himself and all the other members of the Jerusalem church as fully Jewish. He makes a point of how zealous his followers are for the Temple. When Paul arrives in Jerusalem, James even forces Paul to make a public show of visiting the Temple. Does this sound like a "Christian" church as we know it or more like a sect of Judaism.

One might argue that James was not one of the Apostles and that members of Jesus family did not understand his mission: But Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor." (Mark 6:4). Now Peter is portrayed as such a muddled wimp in both the Gospels and the Epistles that one would not expect him to prevent a power play by a relative of Jesus. But what about the "Pillar" John? It strains credulity that James would have been allowed by the Holy-Spirit-led "True" Apostles to rise to the leadership of the group had he not been a long time follower of Jesus.

Now, we have a brother (or cousin, if you are Catholic) of Jesus chosen to lead the Home Church. What happens when James is murdered by the Chief Priests? Who takes over as head of the Jerusalem Church? Is it one of the Apostles? No? Perhaps they were all busy being martyred somewhere. Actually, the church chooses cousin Simeon, another relative of Jesus, as the second Bishop of Jerusalem. They keep it in the family?! Very curious and not at all what one would expect given the Universalist Theology that Paul is selling in Asia and Rome.

This all raises a question: Who would understand Jesus intentions better - those who knew him his entire life and followed him in his ministry? Or, Paul who never met Jesus and even claims to have spent the first three years as a Christian in Arabia, avoiding those who had known Jesus personally?

Gospel Truth

The minister at the church I attend has been saying some things in about the Bible that I found a little hard to swallow so I sat down and read the four Gospels, Acts and the "credible" Epistles. Haven't caught the guy in any fabrications - for now - but found it interesting.

  • The writing in the Gospel of John is terrible! I couldn't have forced down one more "I am with the Father, I came from the Father, You do not know the father because you do not come from the Father...".
  • The parables are dense on purpose. Jesus was not trying to teach anyone with those parables. He told his disciples that he uses parables so that the people will not understand. Then he goes off and teaches the disciples the Truth plainly but in private. No wonder the Gnostics all believed there were secret teachings. The Synoptic Gospels state quite plainly that they existed. Now, one might argue that the Apostles shared the True Teachings they had learned directly from Jesus but we don't have any reliable records of these.
  • I like Paul's letters. The voice is so personal. They provide a link to a flesh and blood personality from 2000 years ago. Not that I take everything he says at face value, but at least the writing is less academic than the Gospels and Acts.