Echoes of Ozymandias

The capture of Saddam Hussein is the biggest news this world has seen in a while, but the way in which he was captured was almost more interesting–he could have suicided, as he’d always said he would do, he could have fought back (his position was ultimately hopeless, but he could have killed as many soldiers as he had bullets if he had wanted to), but instead he meekly submitted. Judging by the initial reactions of the Arab media, I think his submission might mean more in the end than the fact that he was captured.

When the previous President Bush fought Saddam, the fact that Saddam remained in power was a tremendous boost to the Iraqi tyrant’s image, because it allowed him to present himself as a survivor who could never truly be defeated. So much for that.

No guru, no method, no teacher

I’ve been on a Van Morrison kick lately, courtesy of a friend of mine who loaned me some of his albums which I don’t have. I appreciate Morrison’s music, but even more the depth and vision of his lyrics; recently I came across an article by Carl E. Olson titled “The Incarnational Art of Van Morrison” which captures that beautifully. As Olson puts it, Morrison’s work at its best “is rooted in reality (uncommon in much pop and rock music) and seeks to incarnate spiritual truth and meaning in concrete forms, themes, images, and narratives.”

Another false solution

I’ve had a couple of people recommend Dan Brown’s book The Da Vinci Code, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it (with a three-year-old, a six-week-old, and sermons to write every week, I’m a little behind on time for new fiction—new adult fiction, at least). After running across Sandra Miesel’s evisceration of the book in the September issue of Crisis, however, I think that’s just as well; I still intend to read it, but now I’m aware it won’t be for pleasure. The abuse of history to serve contemporary causes infuriates me, and from Miesel’s analysis, this book is a particularly egregious example of that offense. Clearly, though, that hasn’t stopped a lot of people from buying into its portrayal of history and Christianity.

Another piece worth reading on this book is one Miesel co-wrote with the Catholic theologian Carl E. Olson; this is the first part of what will be a two-part article.

“Evangelism”? What’s that?

Now, this is just sad; but maybe it contains the seeds of hope, too. Apparently, the controversy over Avodat Yisrael, the Messianic Jewish congregation planted recently by Philadelphia Presbytery of the PCUSA, has started Presbyterians thinking about evangelism—many for the first time. According to Leslie Scanlon, the reporter who wrote the piece, “For some Presbyterians, the idea of evangelizing people in the United States—as opposed to China or Africa or Latin America—is sort of a new thought.” As a firm believer in the importance of sharing the gospel, I find that cause for depression. Still, if this is what it takes to start the PCUSA doing evangelism again, if this is what it takes to renew the denomination’s commitment to planting churches (which is the best large-scale evangelistic strategy there is), then so be it.

And as someone with good friends who are Messianic Jews (some of whom are part of the Messianic Jewish community in Jerusalem, which is not an easy place to be), here’s hoping more of them are like Avodat Yisrael—however much flak we take for it.

Backlash

An article by Uwe Siemon-Netto, UPI’s religious-affairs editor, posted on The Layman‘s website (and nowhere else, oddly enough), reports that the latest Pew survey has shown a public backlash in America against homosexuals, perhaps driven in part by the recent court decision in Massachusetts. It isn’t that Americans want to deny equal rights for homosexuals or mind being around them, that much is clear from the survey; but almost all groups (including Democrats, by a small margin, though Siemon-Netto doesn’t mention that datum) oppose gay marriage. The only exception, understandably, is those with no religious affiliation.

I’m not sure of the exact significance of this, but it does make one think.

“The Occupation of Iraq Means Liberty”

The problem with most of the news the US gets from Iraq is that it gets it from Westerners; even the statements we get from Iraqis are filtered through Western media. There is a cure for that problem, though: MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute). I was particularly struck a few weeks ago by a piece they posted excerpting (at length) three columns by an expatriate Iraqi, who flatly declared, “the occupation is a blessed and promising liberation for Iraq, even if the U.N., Europe, Russia, India, and all the Arabs say otherwise.”

Kamel al-Sa’doun, writing from Norway in a London-based Arabic daily, makes this argument for two reasons: the evil of the Saddam regime (which, he notes, it was easy for his supporters in other Arab nations to ignore—they didn’t have to live through it), and the past history of American occupations. His hope for Iraq is “a safeguard that will create an open vista in which we can thoroughly reexamine our assumptions, just like Germany, South Korea and other nations . . . which the Americans liberated.” Here’s hoping he gets his wish. We certainly owe Iraq no less.

On Terri Schiavo

Few outside the Presbyterian Church (USA) would be likely to catch this exchange on the Terri Schiavo case, which would be a shame; I’ve come to appreciate both the men involved in this discussion, and their comments here are well worth reading.

One word of warning: Presbyweb.com is a subscription-only site. However, the first month is free, so there’s no real risk. I’d encourage you to check out the site more generally, even if you aren’t Presbyterian, as it is an excellent source of links to news on all Christian denominations, and all other faiths, all around the world. (One good example off today’s page is a Daniel Pipes article on Muslim anti-Semitism; I suspect it will be eye-opening for many.)