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July 02, 2009

Daily roundup

July 01, 2009

Daily roundup

Pat Nolan on prison rape

Our own Pat Nolan is extensively quoted in this column by National Review's Kathryn Lopez on the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission report.

Churches have played no small role in the disinfecting process already. These dark crimes came out of the shadows when churches got involved, Nolan emphasizes: “Churches made it a moral issue. In a civilized society we cannot allow this to go on.”

June 30, 2009

I know I have forgiven if...

As I read Catherine’s book As We Forgive, it reminded me of the forgiveness issues I have in my life that I daily bring to the foot of the cross. The men and women in her book suffered a great deal; by comparison, my own experiences are nothing. They all have to come to terms with people who did horrific things to them, and I only have to deal with forgiving myself for the poor choices I’ve made in the past.

It made me reflect on the question "How do I know if I have forgiven?" And it revealed once again some of my flawed understanding of forgiveness. Unfortunately, all of us are guilty of such flaws. I wrote down some things to remember about forgiveness:

I know I have forgiven if...

I no longer have feelings of anger or bitterness.
I have asked God to forgive the other person.
I have asked the other person to forgive me.
I have confronted the other person.
I have attempted reconciliation.
I am willing to allow time to heal the wound or get on with life.
I can say “let's just forget about it.”

What's comforting to realize is the fact that I don't have to be flawless to experience God's forgiveness. No one is required to change to be proven worthy of His forgiveness. The only evidence needed is my life submitted to the presence of Christ.

Solitary Con-demnation

If prolonged isolation is—as research and experience have confirmed for decades—so objectively horrifying, so intrinsically cruel, how did we end up with a prison system that may subject more of our own citizens to it than any other country in history has?

So asks Atul Gawande, writing in the New Yorker. In his article "Hellhole," Gawande looks at studies (of monkeys tested in isolation and prisoners of war) that show how solitary confinement—a relatively new corrections tactic—produces individuals given to either greater violence or greater insanity.

Gawande points to the story of Terry Anderson, an American journalist held hostage by Hezbollah for seven years, to illustrate the inescapable mental meltdown that can overwhelm even the sanest among us:

In September, 1986, after several months of sharing a cell with another hostage, Anderson was, for no apparent reason, returned to solitary confinement, this time in a six-by-six-foot cell, with no windows, and light from only a flickering fluorescent lamp in an outside corridor. The guards refused to say how long he would be there. After a few weeks, he felt his mind slipping away again.

“I find myself trembling sometimes for no reason,” he wrote. “I’m afraid I’m beginning to lose my mind, to lose control completely.”

One day, three years into his ordeal, he snapped. He walked over to a wall and began beating his forehead against it, dozens of times. His head was smashed and bleeding before the guards were able to stop him.

If such derangement can overcome a lucid journalist, Gawande asks, how are prisoners, including many whose lucidity is already under question, expected to emerge from such an ordeal with any chance of becoming productive members of society?

Continue reading "Solitary Con-demnation" »

June 29, 2009

Scientology: The beginning of the end?

180px-StresstestA devastating exposé of Scientology's "culture of intimidation and violence" has some people wondering if the high-profile cult might not be long for this world.

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Good News out of Iraq

Iraq-radiostation

Joel Rosenberg reports this bit of good news about what is happening with Iraqi Christians, who now have their own radio station:

That station -- which can be heard throughout the Kurdish region and thus by more than two million people -- is broadcasting Christian music, original and previously-produced educational programs, original and previously-produced cultural programs, Bible reading programs and radio dramas based on the Bible. All of this is in the Kurdish and Arabic languages.

One Iraqi Christian, and station manager, said, "Growing up under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, we never thought we would see the day when we who love Jesus could run a radio station in Iraq.... We are excited to see how the Lord will use us to bless the Iraqi people, and particularly the Kurdish people. Please be praying for us that the Lord's favor would be with us and we would make a real impact in people's lives here."

I'm praying. Will you? 

(Image courtesy of Joel Rosenberg's Weblog)

June 26, 2009

Daily roundup

June 24, 2009

Insult to injury

Neda The Guardian is reporting that the Iranian government has canceled Neda Agha Soltan's funeral and forced her family out of their home.

(Image courtesy of Flickr/New York Daily News)

Beaten like ’animals’

CNN has the latest from Tehran.

Missionaries in Yemen Killed

Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch reports that three missionaries in Yemen have been killed, possibly by a former Gitmo prisoner. If this has been reported by the mainstream media, I've missed it. In any case, such news throws a dark shadow over the president's plan to close Gitmo and release dangerous men back into the world.

June 23, 2009

A tribute to Neda

Today Victims of Prison Rape Receive Hope

Prison bars When Marilyn Shirley dares to remember, she can still smell the prison guard who assaulted her. While locked behind bars for a non-violent drug offense, this mother and grandmother was brutally raped by one of the prison staff. Her horror only intensified when the man spat into her ear, “Who are you going to tell? Do you think people will believe you, a no-good criminal, or me, an upstanding prison guard?”

Marilyn’s story is shared by over 60,000 prisoners. Men and women who were raped by prison officials or other inmates. Men and women whose bodies and minds are forever scarred by the most horrific and degrading attacks.

Today, however, these victims are hearing a message of hope. After years of interviews and study, the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission is releasing its report and standards to the public. The report will shine light on the sexual attacks that occur throughout our prisons and jails, and the standards will hold prisons accountable to prevent, detect, and report rape.

Prison rape is not a joke. It’s the worst kind of assault against God’s image bearers. It’s time for the court of public opinion to call our prisons to account and say “no more.” The Commission’s work gives us a powerful tool to do this.

Justice Fellowship director Pat Nolan is a member of the Commission and has worked incredibly hard to make the report and standards a reality.He is in Washington, D.C., today to participate in press conferences announcing the study’s release.To get updates throughout the day, visit Justice Fellowship’s Twitter Page.

To read the full report, visit the website of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. Also, visit Justice Fellowship’s Prison Rape Issue page.

June 22, 2009

Daily roundup

Tragically timely

Iran With the eyes of the world focused on Iran, a certain movie opening this week has suddenly become timelier than ever. Go here to read about the connection between The Stoning of Soraya M. and events going on in Iran right now. And check back later this week for Chuck Colson's review of the film.

(Image courtesy of The Wrap)

June 19, 2009

Technological revolution

I've been following the events in Iran with fascination, all the more because a friend of mine just returned from a mission trip there. As she pointed out, with such a minuscule percentage of the Iranian population professing Christ (0.2%, according to Wikipedia), the young people who are risking their lives for the sake of freedom are, in most cases, risking much, much more--their eternal destiny and a life apart from God. Pray for the Iranians to know the true freedom of the Gospel.

One of the reasons we know so much about what has been happening in Iran this last week is technology. The kinds of things that become useless time wasters for us (who cares what Ashton Kutcher ate for lunch?) are the very things that have allowed news of the post-election chaos in Iran to make it past government censors and a foreign media ban. NBC Nightly News ran a piece last night on several Iranian youth who are attending school here in the U.S. and are working hard to keep their peers back home online despite government bans.


At the same time, over at the State Department, a leftover from the Bush administration has been the driving force behind keeping Twitter online and working with cell phone providers to develop technology that would allow people to access Twitter without Internet service.

I guess this Time piece on geeks inheriting the earth has finally come true. If nothing else, they may help to make the earth a more hospitable place for the people of Iran. We can all hope.

What does the Lord require of you?

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that it's up to the states to protect inmates' access to DNA evidence. 

By refusing to enshrine post-conviction DNA testing as a Constitutional right, the five judges in the majority left the fate of William Osborne squarely in the hands of a lower Alaskan Court. Osborne, who was convicted of rape 15 years ago, had requested DNA testing on a condom found at the scene of his alleged crime. The Alaskan government refused.

In some states, people like Osborne would fare well. Forty-six states have laws that govern inmates' ability to request testing of crime scene DNA after they are convicted. But four states, including Alaska, have no such rules. And even some states that do have laws still limit prisoners' DNA access.

The reasons for denying DNA testing usually center on the price of testing and the harm of clogging the judicial system with frivolous requests. These things are certainly worthy to consider. Yet, I have to wonder, should cost and efficiency trump justice? Shouldn't knowing the perversity and sloppiness of human nature cause us to err on the side of caution? 

God explicitly requires us to do justice -- not to save money or time. And He promises dire consequences for those who fail to acquit the innocent. 

June 17, 2009

Daily roundup

Hope Sprouts in Britain

BrusselSprouts_1424514c For months, I've been thinking that not only will the sun finally set on the British Empire, it will set on Britain itself. The country seems to be losing its mind: from the Archbishop of Canterbury suggesting that British Muslims be able to live under Sharia Law, to a new law that will force religious organizations--including churches--to hire people who do not share their beliefs.

But now, I see a sprout of hope--and good old common sense. 

(Image © James Fraser for the Telegraph)

June 15, 2009

Round up the usual suspects

Liberal columnist and talk-show host Bonnie Erbe suggests that we "round up" purveyors of hate speech before they cause violence:

Not only have we had three hate crime murders within the last two weeks ([Stephen] Johns, as noted above, Dr. George Tiller a week ago last Sunday, and Pvt. William Andrew Long by an American-born Muslim convert outside a recruiting station just before that.)

Now we have this quote from the so-called Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who used to be President Obama's pastor. Hate comes from among all peoples and all religions. He said this about his lack of communication with Barack Obama since he's been elected president, according to the AP:

"Them Jews ain't going to let him talk to me. I told my baby daughter that he'll talk to me in five years when he's a lame duck, or in eight years when he's out of office," Wright told the Daily Press of Newport News following a Tuesday night sermon at the 95th annual Hampton University Ministers' Conference.

It's not enough to prosecute these murders as murders. They are hate-motivated crimes and each of these men had been under some sort of police surveillance prior to their actions. Isn't it time we started rounding up promoters of hate before they kill?

I've been as sickened and disturbed as anyone by the incidents Erbe describes, as you all know, but I wonder if she's thought this through. "Round them up" and then do . . . what? Put them in jail for thoughtcrime? I thought that sort of thing went against everything that the left held dear. (If you'd told me back during the presidential campaign, when we were all being told to pay no attention to the man behind the pulpit, that a prominent liberal journalist would soon advocate his arrest, I'd have done a spit-take all over my keyboard.)

We need to take steps against the encouragement of violence in our society; there's no question about that. But the steps Erbe advocates would lead us in a very dangerous direction.

June 12, 2009

There is nothing new under the sun

Anne Frank On what would have been Anne Frank's 80th birthday, the Holocaust Memorial Museum will present the new play Anne & Emmett, "an imaginary conversation between Anne Frank and Emmett Till, teenage victims of anti-Semitism and racism, respectively."

The play would have premiered Wednesday, if not for the murder of a black Holocaust Museum security guard by an anti-Semitic, racist killer.

June 10, 2009

Daily roundup

No Christians Allowed

An evangelical group has been severely restricted in its ministry in a low-income housing area in Tulsa, something it's been doing for more than 20 years. They can come and "play games" with the children and talk about "moral things," but they have been forbidden to mention God or Jesus Christ -- conditions identical to those I experienced as a short-term missionary in Russia and Belarus in the late 1990s.

Is it my imagination, or are these attacks against Christians in America becoming more common?

June 09, 2009

Daily roundup

More proof that Americans are spoiled rotten

Wall_e_eve As if any were needed. . . . While women in other countries are getting stoned to death, tortured to death, or wiped out before birth, we whine that there aren't enough female characters in Pixar movies.

(Image © Pixar)

The Dangers of Proof-Texting and Other Smart Words

Bible2 A few weeks ago, I posted a short blog post about the pictures from the Hubble telescope, the wonders of the universe, and as LeeQuod puts it, "a small dig at the New Atheist types," i.e. the problem of materialism. An interesting discussion ensued. 

Under that post, Rolley recently answered a question posed by Ben W., who had raised the question of the Church's seeming indifference to the problem of slavery. Rolley discusses the problem of proof-texting versus principles, and I thought everyone might benefit from reading his comments.

(Image courtesy of Bible.ca)

June 08, 2009

Daily roundup

The Cairo Speech

Obama-pyramids1 Both Chuck Colson and Joel Rosenberg have critiqued President Obama's recent speech in Cairo. Read here and here for their take on what the president should have said.

(Image courtesy of Joel Rosenberg's Weblog)

American journalists sentenced in North Korea

Nkorea_200 Euna Lee and Laura Ling have been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for illegal entry into the country and "hostility toward the Korean people." NPR has more.

(Image © Yonhap/AFP/Getty Images)

June 06, 2009

’It is so important to be free’

Art.photo.cnn On the 65th anniversary of D-Day, one soldier tells his story.

(Image courtesy of CNN)

June 04, 2009

Daily roundup

How Chinese Christians are commemorating the Tiananmen Square Anniversary

Christians, that is, who took part in the demonstrations 20 years ago.

Twenty years ago today

Tiananmen Square.jpg

In twenty years, how much have things changed?

(Image © Charles Cole)

May 29, 2009

Daily roundup

May 27, 2009

Kim Jong Il: Crazier Than a Bedbug

Amd_jong-il So what do you do when you're 68, have suffered a recent stroke, and worry that any one of a number of your generals would like to assume your throne? Apparently, you throw some crockery against the wall and resume the Korean War.

That's what we appear to be dealing with in North Korea's "Dear Leader," Kim Jong Il. It's hard to take a man seriously who, in addition to starving huge numbers of his own people while he airlifts lobster and caviar, has enjoyed establishing 20 concentration camps for political dissenters. Also, Kim has taken a shine to making feature films and operas from his beloved father's writings. 

All this would be purely laughable except that Kim has the fifth largest standing army in the world and now nuclear capabilities. The capital of South Korea, Seoul, is very close to the North Korean border, making it at least possible for Kim to take down millions of people with him should he have a death wish of his own.

Christian worldview question: Is it ever appropriate to ask for God to remove a true tyrant from the scene?Well, while the "love your neighbor" ethic applies to everyone, not just saints, it also applies to all the individual souls whose unfortunate lot it is to be in the path of a human windstorm. Christian theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer finally accepted, after much spiritual wrestling, that having Hitler gone was the only way to save many other souls. 

Bonhoeffer doesn't strike me as merely utilitarian here. Kim needs to be stopped for his own soul's needs, too. He's obviously sick and needs to not have anymore innocent deaths on his record. Beyond anyone's concern for him is the plight of millions, on both sides of the 38th Parallel.

Whether Kim is hit by another stroke or by one of his generals, his removal from power seems necessary for the people of North Asia to have a sigh of relief. A crazy man with nukes and a large army may be one of history's oddities, but here we are. Let's pray that the Lord, who does work in mysterious ways, finds a peaceable way to remove Kim's finger from the nuclear button.

(Image courtesy of GettyImages)

May 21, 2009

Same-sex marriage and religious liberty

An important update from New Hampshire (via The Corner).

May 19, 2009

Daily roundup

May 18, 2009

Obama, Notre Dame, and the tide of history

Obama Notre Dame An interesting feature of President Obama's commencement speech at Notre Dame yesterday (transcript here, video here):

The president spoke of the need "to reconcile our ever-shrinking world with its ever-growing diversity -- diversity of thought, diversity of culture, and diversity of belief . . . [to] find a way to live together as one human family." On some subjects, he spoke as though this need to cooperate -- to find "common ground," as he said elsewhere in the speech -- were the highest goal:

The soldier and the lawyer may both love this country with equal passion, and yet reach very different conclusions on the specific steps needed to protect us from harm. The gay activist and the evangelical pastor may both deplore the ravages of HIV/AIDS, but find themselves unable to bridge the cultural divide that might unite their efforts. Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in an admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son's or daughter's hardships can be relieved.

But on other subjects, he spoke as if the highest goal were for right to win and wrong to be defeated:

After all, I stand here today, as President and as an African American, on the 55th anniversary of the day that the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Now, Brown was of course the first major step in dismantling the "separate but equal" doctrine, but it would take a number of years and a nationwide movement to fully realize the dream of civil rights for all of God's children. There were freedom rides and lunch counters and Billy clubs, and there was also a Civil Rights Commission appointed by President Eisenhower. It was the 12 resolutions recommended by this commission that would ultimately become law in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Under which category does abortion fall? In the president's mind, it appeared to fall under the first: "When we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe -- that's when we discover at least the possibility of common ground. . . . That's when we begin to say, 'Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions.'" This isn't how he spoke about the freedom rides and the lunch counters and the Billy clubs.

Considering that, at this moment, the tide of popular opinion -- perhaps even the tide of history -- appears to be shifting against Obama and his view of abortion, he may want to rethink that position.

(Image © Nancy Stone for the Chicago Tribune)

As We Forgive Sightings (and Soundings)

As We Forgive 2 I thought Point readers might be interested in hearing an interview I did recently with theologian and radio personality, Steve Brown, about my book, As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda. You can download it to your iPod or MP3 player or just listen online. I talk about forgiveness, reconciliation and the Rwandan genocide.

If you haven't heard of Steve Brown or his Key Life Radio program before I hope this will be a good excuse for you to get acquainted with him. He's one of the most authentic yet grounded Christian radio personalities you'll find. And he's always delightfully entertaining to listen to.

Also, if you are interested in seeing the film by Laura Waters Hinson which inspired my book, it will be airing on PBS this month on quite a few stations across the U.S. So if you haven't had a chance to attend a screening or buy a copy yourself, you'll get the opportunity to check it out for free.

Lastly, an interview I did with Ed Gilbreath over at Urban Faith is available. Ed used to work for Christianity Today and is the author of the book Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical's View of White Christianity.

(Image © Zondervan)

May 15, 2009

’The world will know’

Soraya The words above are the last words spoken in the shattering film The Stoning of Soraya M. Zahra (Shohreh Aghdashloo), the aunt of the young woman who has just been murdered by family and friends, has succeeded in making sure that the crime will not be hidden. Unable to protect her beloved niece, Zahra nevertheless ends the film with this triumph over the evil that destroyed Soraya (Mozhan Marnò).

The story, based on a real case that took place in the 1980s, is told simply and straightforwardly. French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam (Jim Caviezel) is stranded in a small Iraqi village when his car breaks down. Seeing the tape recorder poking out of his bag, Zahra persuades him to come to her home while his car is being fixed, and tells him what happened to her niece just the day before.

Via one extended flashback, we see Soraya's husband, Ali, plotting with other men of the village, including the mullah, to get rid of his "inconvenient wife" so he can marry a 14-year-old girl and move to the city. Ordered to work for a widower and his son who need help, Soraya is then accused of sleeping with her employer, and he is pressured into confessing the adultery that never happened.

The conspiracy ends where the title promised it would: with the gentle wife and mother bound, buried up to the waist in a pit, and bombarded with stones by her father, husband, sons, and neighbors. The stoning of Soraya is graphic, bloody, and painfully slow, and explains the film's R rating. (I had hoped against hope they would rush through that part. They didn't.) 

Continue reading "’The world will know’" »

May 13, 2009

Daily roundup

Is ’hate’ a badge of honor?

K of C Is hate a badge of honor, especially for Christians who hold Scripture to be the ultimate source of revelation and inspiration? Not if you go by the traditional understanding of the word “hate.” But apparently the contemporary definition of “hate” is another matter.

An amateur blogger and IT technician with no political experience -- and clearly no understanding of the U.S. Constitution -- recently protested (note: website contains suggestive ads) the Knights of Columbus, the well-respected Catholic men’s group. The Knights were raising money outside of grocery stores for disabled children and other noble causes. 

However, because they were for Proposition 8 in California, the proposition that upheld traditional marriage, Brad Allison had to put a stop to their fundraising. In the name of “justice” he petitioned individuals who were approached by the Knights not to donate to a “hate” group that he felt was analogous to the Ku Klux Klan. He went so far as to speak with a manager of his local Giant store, and subsequently the Knights were kicked off the property. However, Allison didn’t have the same influence over the Knights’ work at two Safeway locations. 

Now protesting the Knights of Columbus through online advocacy, Allison wants to keep bringing attention to the Knights' position on same-sex marriage. This is what perplexed me the most. Who doesn’t know that the Knights of Columbus are a part of the Catholic Church, a Church that has long been opposed to same-sex marriage? 

Continue reading "Is ’hate’ a badge of honor?" »

May 08, 2009

Daily roundup

May 07, 2009

Daily roundup

May 06, 2009

The Stoning of Soraya M.

It looks like Gina and I might be attending a sneak preview of the film which won the coveted People's Choice Award at the Toronto International film festival, The Stoning of Soraya M.

Mind you, that's an award which such terrific films as Slumdog Millionaire, Bella, Tsotsi, and Hotel Rwanda have won in years past. It looks like this film, based on a true story, has an important message. And they've got a stellar actor in Jim Caviezel. I've been very impressed how he continues to navigate Hollywood with his strong faith, choosing films which don't compromise him. Here's the trailer:

Re: Surely This Couldn’t Happen Here

Cigarette Dave,

Here's what comes to mind:

  1. On the one hand, we seem to be determined to follow Western Europe's lead, no matter how badly and obviously we see those cultures and states weaken before our eyes. Given the greater European appreciation for the cigarette, and given the current American governmental appetite for buying $timulu$ with taxpayer dollars, one could almost imagine something as hilariously pathetic as required cigarette consumption. "Drag deep, men, and silently thank Saint Keynes for giving us his Magic Multiplier."
  2. On the other hand, there's too much Clinton-era precedent for directing the full power of the state against Evil Big Tobacco. And you've got liberal Meddlers In Chief like Mayor Bloomberg who believe it their job to save the ignorant hoi polloi from their precious vices. So it's hard to see us going pro-cig in our policy.
  3. Then again, the anti-smoking lobby believed the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement between Big Tobacco and the states' attorneys general constituted a perverse incentive for smoking. So ... maybe our policy precedent is a tad unclear.
  4. Last thought: For now, we thankfully lack China's coming population implosion. Math is the harshest of taskmasters, and it does not bode well for the retirement of China's older generations, given the comparatively tiny financial base upon which those retirees will rely. So ... you know ... maybe the Chinese government is trying to hook the older workers on devil tobaccy to, er, whittle away at those retiree numbers!

I humbly submit all of these decidedly subpar thoughts for your consideration.

Allen

May 04, 2009

Surely This Couldn’t Happen Here

Reason #274 why government should stick to governing, not running economies: Local Chinese officials have ordered state employees to smoke. The reason? To stimulate the economy by supporting local tobacco companies. Should also do wonders long-term for the state-run health care system, which will have plenty of new cancer patients in the future.

I hope Allen Thornburgh doesn't see this . . .

May 01, 2009

’The Crossing’

080608_p16_crossing In the first half hour or so of The Crossing, the pregnant wife of former North Korean soccer star Yong-Soo (Cha In-pyo) develops tuberculosis from malnutrition, and their neighbors are arrested for hiding Bibles in their house. By the time the family is driven to eating their dog, you'll have grasped that this movie is not for the squeamish. Though the violence and the depictions of poverty and sickness are only occasionally explicit, the struggles of the characters in this film -- based on the stories of real North Korean refugees -- are heartbreaking and tragic. (We're approaching Boy in the Striped Pajamas territory here.)

It's one thing to read newspaper stories about oppression in places like North Korea, but to watch the fears, hopes, and sufferings of these characters opens a viewer's eyes in a whole new way. And when the desperate father cries, "Does Jesus Christ only live in South Korea?" it makes you think about just how much we take our blessings for granted, and our responsibility as the Body of Christ toward our persecuted brothers and sisters.

To the best of my knowledge, the DVD of the film is not yet widely available, but you can check its website and the North Korea Freedom Coalition's website to find out about possible screenings in your area and to keep track of DVD release plans.

(Image courtesy of Big House-Vantage Holdings)

How to make a bad situation worse

Surrogates "Forced abortions shake up China wombs-for-rent industry"

(Image © Reuters UK)

April 29, 2009

Daily roundup