Saturday, September 23, 2006

Article: Is this Muslim tolerance?

In response to the controversy over Pope Benedict XVI's quoting from a Byzantine emperor in the fifteenth century, the following article appeared in the English newspaper, The Daily Mail.

by Peter Hitchens
The Mail on Sunday
September 18, 2006

Listen to this: "Make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home: an evil fate."

Or then again, this: "Believers, take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends."

Then there is the instruction to fight against those who are not of the true faith "until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued".

All are direct quotations from the Koran, which Muslims believe to be the absolute word of Allah, and which cannot be altered.

If you seek even more ferocious attacks on Christianity and Judaism, you will find them in the Hadith, Islam's other great book of scripture.

Week after week in those lands where Muslims rule and Christians are a minority, the message pours out from the mosques: "God did not have a son."

All the central doctrines of the Christian faith are emphatically denied. Things are said about Jews and Christians, sometimes comparing them to pigs and monkeys, which would attract the attention of the Thought Police if they were uttered here.

Only recently an Afghan was threatened with death - the prescribed punishment under Sharia law - for converting from Islam to Christianity.

Christians in Pakistan live in constant fear of attacks on their churches and their homes, usually following false allegations that someone has burned a Koran.

Coptic Christians in Egypt suffer a similar misery. Christian Arabs who can afford to have been emigrating by the thousands to avoid increasing persecution by their Muslim neighbours.

Hypocritical fury

For years Liberals in the West have spread the myth of "Muslim tolerance". It does not exist and never did. Where Islam rules, other faiths must cringe in humiliated subjection.

These are facts. Is it not astonishing that this militant, angry religion, whose name means not "Peace", but "Submission", whose whole existence is based on the denial and rejection of its rivals, dares to get into a self-righteous rage over an obscure quotation in a dull academic lecture by the head of the Roman Catholic Church?

In Islam it is still the year 1427. They have had no reformation. The more Islamic a state is, the more its women are shrouded and confined, the more its minorities are despised - and the more freedom of thought and speech are crushed.

And yet the deputy leader of Turkey's Islamist ruling party, Salih Kapusuz, attacks the Pope for having "a dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages".

If we bow to this manufactured, hypocritical fury, then we will already have lost one of the most important battles to face us.

While our silly leaders bleat and panic about terror threats, a far greater menace to our free societies comes from the growing power of Islam in our midst.

Much of that power results from the weak-kneed refusal of our own liberal elite to stand up for what is good about our Christian civilisation. Back the Pope.
FEELING: Supportive of the Pope
LISTENING TO: The elevator music that Panera plays

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I think they really want a crusade

I get really frustrated when people in the so-called Islamic world (which, for some reason, invariably includes only northern Africa and the Middle East) say things like this:
"'We want to make it clear that if the pope does not appear on TV and apologize for his comments, we will blow up all of Gaza’s churches,' the group [Sword of Islam] said in a statement" (from an article on Drudge Report).

So a little group in a place no bigger than Hawkins County (for real: the Gaza Strip has an area of 360 square kilometers, Hawkins County, Tennessee has an area of 1,294 square kilometers) is threatening the leader of the world's largest religious body to appear on TV. It's so silly!

So what did His Holiness do that merits burning down places of worship? Here is the quote that you may have already read, placed within the context of what Pope Benedict was saying:
I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on-- perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara-- by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was probably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than the responses of the learned Persian.

The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship of the three Laws: the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Qur'an. In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point-- itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself-- which, in the context of the issue of faith and reason, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion."

It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat.

But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels,” he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words:

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.

God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats. To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death.

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature.
The Pope did nothing but speak wisely and truthfully about the fundamental difference between Islam and Christianity. And he did not even do it in such a way, or in such a forum, as to readily offend the easily-offendable Muslims of the "Arab world."

Instead, at a closed religious, academic setting, the Professor-Pope was lecturing on something that has become very important in the last ten years, the reliationship and difference between Christianity and Islam, and something that has become important in the last four weeks: forced conversion (remember the FoxNews reporter and producer who were forced to convert to Islam by Palestinians).

With all of their rhetoric, one would think that the people in that tiny little piece of land that contains so much hate and violence are looking hard for someone to crusade against.

The sad thing is that part of me wants to answer their violence (fire-bombing churches today) with violence. But the words of the Prince of Peace counsel otherwise:
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.'
Amen, and amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

FEELING: Frustrated
LISTENING TO: The Holy Spirit's still, small voice

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Article: Vandy is Football's Charlie Brown

I had to post this, after seeing it posted in The Decatur Daily. I guess it's my story, too: no matter how crappie things get, I still have my gold-colored glasses on that help me keep whistlin' Dynamite.


by Kyle Veazey
The Decatur Daily
Sat., Sept. 9, 2006

Aaron Blankenship has missed just one home Vanderbilt football game in 25 years, so he knows how the torture feels.

And every late November, that same old thought creeps up in his head.

"You walk out of the stadium after every home game every year and you say 'Why do I do this to myself?' I'm not coming back next year," said Blankenship, 27, who owns his own business in Nashville.

"And when they send out the renewal forms. Mine's the first one back in."

Ah, life as a Vanderbilt football fan. In terms of torture, this has to be near the top.

Sure, Vandy fans are little different than their counterparts at Alabama. Both put the flags on the car windows, both wear the colors and both sing the fight songs in the shower.

But Alabama's fans get rewarded. Immediately before today's 2:30 p.m. kickoff between the Tide and Commodores, Paul "Bear" Bryant's voice will narrate a montage to the school's 12 national titles. The 53 bowl appearances, 21 Southeastern Conference titles and 28 10-win seasons, including last year's, are almost afterthoughts.

Vanderbilt has been to three bowls, the last coming in 1982. Vandy has never won the SEC and can't claim even a fleeting chance at a true modern national title.

It has lost 143 of the 170 SEC games it has played since that bowl appearance.

It won a school-record nine games once. In 1915.

"If you lose to Vanderbilt, it's probably going to be a real tough blow to your confidence," Alabama senior fullback Le'Ron McClain said.

But the fans still show.

"Vanderbilt fans have a resiliency like nobody else," said Chris Lee, 35, who has attended Vanderbilt games since the late 1970s. "People talk about bandwagon fans. There's no such thing as a bandwagon Vanderbilt fan."

Like Blankenship, Lee isn't a Vanderbilt alum but a David Lipscomb University graduate. He grew up in nearby Hendersonville, Tenn., and started attending games with his father.

"The best analogy I know to Vanderbilt football is Charlie Brown," said Lee, the dean of enrollment at O'More College of Design in Franklin, Tenn., south of Nashville and a part-time freelance sports reporter.

"Everybody loves Charlie Brown. There's nothing to dislike about Charlie Brown. Everybody wants him to kick the football. He gets up there, runs at it with a full head of steam, and it gets pulled out from underneath him just at the last second."

Even when the Commodores do get close, like last season's 5-6 year that included a win to Tennessee, something else gets in the way. Like, say, that 17-15 loss to Middle Tennessee State that effectively ruined Vandy's bowl chances, a game that Blankenship says tops his list of greatest disappointments in his years of following the school.

It even dampened that late-season win over Tennessee, when the Commodores reversed their usual script of finding a way to lose the big games at the last minute.

"I was in as big a shock as anything," Lee said. "You sit there a few minutes after the game and you say, OK, something's gonna happen. The referees are going to get back on the field and say they messed it up and replay it."

Despite the disappointments, interest in Vanderbilt football hasn't died. Season ticket sales are at their highest level since 1998, the second year of the much-advertised Woodyball era under then-coach Woody Widenhofer.

Vanderbilt has sold 10,000 and hopes to reach the 12,000-ticket plateau prior to next week's home opener against Arkansas, said Eric Nichols, the school's director of marketing and promotions.

Alabama has sold about 65,000 season ticket packages, and that number rises to about 80,000 when student tickets are included, associate athletic director Doug Walker said.

Nichols said he believes Vanderbilt is the only school in the Southeastern Conference that employs a two-person full-time staff to sell tickets.

"This is not receiving calls — this is us going to corporations and people," he said.

Nichols said it's not uncommon for his sales staff to contact a longtime season-ticket holder and hear that they've had it with Vanderbilt's losing ways and don't plan to renew.

"Far more often we hear it and they chirp a little bit, but when you look at the first game they're in their seats like they are the past 20 or 30 years," Nichols said. "We have an incredibly loyal fan base."

Blankenship plans to be in his seat next week, but he won't be among the small contingent of Vandy fans in the northeast corner of Bryant-Denny Stadium today. He was to undergo Lasik eye surgery Friday, and the time he has to wear those recovery goggles would be the time he'd otherwise be traveling.

But not by today's afternoon kickoff.

"I asked the doctor, 'Am I going to be able to see by 2 o'clock?' He said I will," Blankenship said.

FEELING: Proud to be a Commodore

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Christian culture versus Christian faith

My good friend Tyler let me in on some lyrics by Derek Webb that really communicates a lot of the frustration that I sometimes feel with Christian culture: especially as it is perceived by people who do not know the Lord.

The lyrics are:

don't teach me about politics and government
just tell me who to vote for
don't teach me about truth and beauty
just label my music

don't teach me how to live like a free man
just give me a new law

i don't wanna know if the answers aren't easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me

i want a new law
i want a new law
gimme that new law

(vs. 2)
don't teach me about moderation and liberty
i prefer a shot of grape juice

don't teach me about loving my enemies

don't teach me how to listen to the Spirit
just give me a new law


what's the use in trading a law you can never keep
for one you can that cannot get you anything
do not be afraid
do not be afraid
do not be afraid


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Hope springs eternal

They have always said that for Vanderbilt fans, "hope springs eternal."

Well, this year, the sailors-in-charge over at Commodore HQ have institutionalized that little bit of conventional wisdom in the form of a weekly (during football season) article entitled, "Ten Reasons to Be Optimistic in _________" (where the blank is the location of our opponent-du-jour's school, e.g., Tuscaloosa or Ann Arbor).

Seeing as how I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Vanderbilt fan and alumnus, and therefore an infectee of the Black and Gold Virus known as "Vanderhope," I thought I would propogate the optimism and publish the "Ten Reasons to Be Optimistic in Tuscaloosa."

by Skip Anderson
Commodore Nation
Thursday, September 7, 2006

NASHVILLE -- I have always been an optimist looking to qualify my hope for the best before each game. It is with this in mind that I unapologetically offer 10 reasons The ’Dores just might break out a win old school. And by “old school,” I mean, really, really old school -- Vanderbilt won the first five meetings against Alabama (the first three by shutout!), and in 1906 they handed the Tide their most lopsided loss in school history, 76-0.

1. Mr. Football

No, I’m not talking about the Tide’s Andre Smith, who is the first offensive lineman ever to take the honor of being named Alabama’s Mr. Football. Commodore quarterback Chris Nickson also holds this prestigious title, and they certainly don’t bestow this title upon just anyone. Nickson is a gamer, and through the process of making a couple of mental mistakes, two fumbles, and managing tangible success in Michigan, Nickson traded some of his varnish of inexperience for lessons that can only come from facing foes greater than yourself. Humbling? You bet. Valuable? Absolutely. Remember, it was only four short years ago when redshirt freshman Jay Cutler went 10 for 23 for 73 yards with two interceptions (remember our ramblin’ wreck in Georgia Tech?) in his collegiate debut. Nickson’s inaugural numbers were considerably better, going 11 for 25 for 99 yards and no interceptions against Michigan.

2. First-Time Starters

Sure, Bama’s quarterback John Parker Wilson put up more impressive numbers in his first start last week than did Nickson. But Wilson’s debut came at home against a jetlagged, unranked team from the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Nickson faced the No. 15-ranked Michigan Wolverines before a sell-out crowd in the country’s largest stadium.

3. Passing Fancy

With or without a running game, Alabama is vulnerable to air attacks. The Crimson Tide gave up 350 yards passing to the Hawaii Warriors last week (a team that eked out 22 yards rushing). Combine that with Vanderbilt’s potential for passing, and the Tide has a defensive problem on their hands.

4. Cassen Point

Don’t let last week’s numbers fool you: Running back Cassen Jackson-Garrison has explosive talent. And he also had an appendectomy just a few weeks ago. Given that his surgical wounds have had another week to heal, he is likely to be much more effective in Tuscaloosa than he was in the Big House. Besides, surely he wants to impress his wife of nine weeks by helping the ’Dores to their first win against Alabama since 1984.

5. O, Captain!

As a junior offensive lineman protecting Jay Cutler’s blind side, Brian Stamper went the entire 2005 season without giving up a sack. Chris Nickson wasn’t so lucky, having been sacked six times. Of course, Stamper wasn’t the only lineman to have an off day, but he’s the one who will make sure it doesn’t happen again. Stamper is fiercely competitive, and he’s very effective as a team leader. The 6-5, 305-pound captain is not going allow the offensive line to have another game like that again on his watch. Period.

6. The Goff Factor

This redshirt junior linebacker lived up to his reputation in Michigan, recording 12 solo tackles and 14 total. He blocked a field goal. He’s the real deal, cut from the same cloth as Shelton Quarles (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Matt Stewart (Cleveland Browns), Jamie Winborn (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), and Hunter Hillenmeyer (Chicago Bears).

7. Receivers Believer

Our receiving corps, led by sophomore Earl Bennett, will rack up some serious yardage before this season is over. Here’s hoping he skyrockets in Tuscaloosa!

8. Three-Pointers

Though he didn’t get a chance to show off his three-point toe against Michigan, sophomore Bryant Hahnfeldt is healthy and reliable. Just get the man inside the 35!

9. The Hawk

Redshirt freshman Jared Hawkins totaled 18 yards on is first two collegiate carries, and he looked good doing it. Hawkins is sure to get more touches Saturday.

10. The Shula Hula

Bama Coach Mike Shula and his young Tide didn’t look so great last week against Hawaii. The Warriors were one possession away from tying the game before the Tuscaloosa’s hometown heroes danced out Bryant-Denny Stadium with a 25-17 win.

FEELING: What else: optimistic
LISTENING TO: Bobby Johnson's Monday press conference

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

One soul at a time

Actual quote from President Bush, when he was addressing folks gathered at a fundraiser for Bob Corker (who, by the way, is running for Senator of the great State of Tennessee) across from my dear ol' alma mater, in Nashville:
I believe government has an obligation to open its coffers for competitive bidding to faith-based and community-based groups in order to make sure America -- America's souls are saved one person at a time.

--August 30, 2006; Remarks by the President at Bob Corker for Senate and Tennessee Republican Party Dinner; Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee.

FEELING: Annoyed with moving my stuff into a new apartment
LISTENING TO: President Bush's speech on FoxNews

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Year 1, A.J.C.

Today began the first year of Commodore Football "A.J.C." -- after Jay Cutler. Vanderbilt's football team travelled to Ann Arbor, Michigan today to take on the Wolverines, the nation's fourth-ranked team, and the lost, by a score of 7-27.

But, in that loss, the Commodores represented themselves and the SEC well: it was until the last minute of the game that the Wolverines were able to pull away with an "insurance" touchdown, and the Commodores were within six at half-time.

Despite three fumbles by redshirt-sophomore quarterback Chris Nickson, things look bright for Vanderbilt's 2006 season.

FEELING: Moderately hopeful
LISTENING TO: The theme song for "SEC on CBS"

Friday, September 01, 2006

Roman wisdom

Back on July 20, I wrote about Frustrating love. Well, it seems that I'm not the only person who has been contemplating the depths, heights, and meaning of the most powerful of human emotions.

Consider the following -- and while you're reading, try to guess who's writing.
“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16). These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny. In the same verse, Saint John also offers a kind of summary of the Christian life: “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us”.

We have come to believe in God's love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a Person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Saint John's Gospel describes that event in these words: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should ... have eternal life” (3:16).

Profound words, with much wisdom and insight. And inspiration, too. Who wrote it? None other than His Holiness, Benedict XVI. It is one quotation from a long article that is half sermon, half theological exploration called Deus caritas est.

I wholeheartedly recommend you read it all.