Thursday, April 30, 2009

CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit," Part IV - "A Vision for the Family"

#4 in an ongoing series on Christian Home Educators of Colorado 2009 "Men's Leadership Summit" (otherwise known as the "The Vision of the Leadership Summit") held in Indianapolis, Indiana, at one of the hotels owned by Bill Gothard's group over the weekend of March 5-7, 2009. Previous post in this series: CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit," Part III - "The Battle for Faith and Family". First post in the series: 2009 Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC) "Men's Leadership Summit," Part I.


The following content is from Doug Phillip's first speech at the 2009 CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit" ("MLS")--"A Vision for the Family"--delivered Friday morning, March 6, 2009 and available in full, audio form from

Phillips' first words, after he was introduced to the audience, are very interesting.

At first, I wasn't going to mention them. But then I realized they say some very important things about where his heart lies. Specifically, Phillips acknowledged his fellow presenters at the Summit:
It is such a great honor to be able to be here with the men who I think are not only some of the finest teachers and speakers that God is raising up, but some of the most important works in the world today, but men that are my pals, my friends. They are my paisanos. They are men that we have had the privilege of being in many battles together, traveling around the country and sharing a synchronous message. Our hearts are linked together.
And then he explained his purpose.

"I don't consider myself, necessarily, the best candidate to deliver [the following] message, or the person who is most capable of articulating it just the way it needs to be said," he said, "but it's on my heart and I have to say it. I have to talk to you about these things. I've been dying to talk to you about these things."

And--as he did pretty much for the rest of his speech--he told a story . . . this one from when he was an incoming freshman at the College of William and Mary.

He said he was assigned to a dorm "just yards away from a sewage facility" that "smelled to heaven." And he described how his sensitivity shifted over that year from absolutely hating and despising the smell so much that he couldn't imagine being able to live there . . . to the point where, as he described it, "[The smell] became very natural to me. It was something I actually liked."

That is the way it is in our culture, he said. "We are immersed in a culture that has become putrid in the eyes of the Lord because of the way we've abandoned God's law word, the way we have turned to our idolatries and away from the Lord, and the way we've lost our first love."

"I'd like to challenge all of you this morning that we need to clear the air," he continued. "We need to bring the wonderful, refreshing scent and the odor of the Word of God, which is able to cleanse the soul, to cleanse the mind, to cleanse the spirit, and bring that into our lives and to drink deeply from that very Word of God."

His speech, he said, was "going to be a talk on perspective"--a perspective of antithesis.
This is a very important word: anti-thesis. It speaks to the tension between competing worldviews, the antithesis between the Word of God and everything else; the antithesis between the system of Christianity and secular humanism; the antithesis between God's priorities for our lives, and the world's priorities for our lives.

Another word I'm going to speak of is the word remnant.

Now I'm going to try to let the Scripture define that word itself. But in the context of this discussion, we'll be talking about those people that are set apart unto the Lord, that are representatives of the church of Jesus Christ and are sent, often alone, in the day of adversity and the day of tremendous apostasy.

So we'll mention remnant and we'll mention antithesis, and we'll mention other things. But let me begin by inviting you to go back in history with me for just a moment.
And so he asked his audience to imagine being part of a nation--like ancient Israel--in which the judgments of God fall upon the people for unfaithfulness to Him--judgments like "barrenness of the womb; national economic disaster; the moral destruction of sons and daughters; servitude to the state and foreign nations; sickness and pestilence; catastrophic weather patterns; and violence from individuals who descend from the air and have no regard for women and children. In essence, all the plagues and the calamities that are prophesied in Deuteronomy 28."

And with this setup in mind, he said,
I want to remind you [that] the most basic proposition to any theory of home education or life . . . is this: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge" [Proverbs 1:7]. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" [Proverbs 9:10--JAH]. "The fool has said in his heart there is no God" [Psalm 53:1--JAH].

But if the fear of the LORD [is w]hat gives you wisdom and . . . knowledge, this, then, is our predicate for our system of thinking, of philosophy, of theology, and everything. It is not the fear of man. It is not the fear of circumstances. . . . It is not the fear of the externalities which are all around us which gives us wisdom. In fact, "faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen." [Hebrews 11:1--JAH]

In other words, the fear of the Lord not only gives us wisdom and knowledge, but it is true faith that tells us to believe when all the empirical data seems to be pointing us in the opposite direction. We must believe what God says when you cannot taste, touch or smell the victory, simply because God said it. That's enough. . . . [E]ven our ability to process information and facts is derivative on God's good grace to allow us to see the truth.

"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned" [1 Corinthians 2:14--JAH].

How much we need spiritual discernment!
So Phillips urged his hearers to go back to the time of Nehemiah when Sanballat and Tobiah "ridiculed and mocked and reviled and gossiped and organized teams and parties all geared at tearing down the work of the Lord."

That, he said, is the kind of time Christians--and especially, homeschoolers--live in today.

He suggested the Newsweek cover [mentioned by Kevin Swanson in his speech] that said "We're all socialists now!" is an example of "the gloating of the enemies of God."
Thomas Malthus has won. Population control theory is now the only theory that is taught or that is believed.

Charles Darwin has won. He's been elevated to the status of God, and his theory is not a theory. It is fact.

The contraceptive mentality has won. What originated with the evil workings of Margaret Sanger and others who are the greatest despisers of the testimony of God in the 20th century has emerged into something which is vehemently proclaimed as being the righteous end for the church itself.

Euthanasia has won!
--He told the story of a church where they passed out instructions for euthanizing one's parents--all "in the name of Christ," he added, sarcastically.
This is the world we live in. And our enemies are gloating. They're gloating because they see our inconsistencies. They're gloating because they see our hypocrisies. They're gloating because they see that we do not really believe what we claim to believe. And as a result, we have become worthless in the cultural battle. Or at least that's the perception of mainstream Christianity by our enemies. And it's always been this way: Enemies gloat.

God says don't listen to them.
What is the answer? "Not fear" and "not fleeing."
"[L]isten to the words of God to those that are in a state of complete, abject discouragement in the midst of catastrophe and absentee preachers," he pleaded. Remember God's statement to Elijah (1 Kings 19) referenced by Paul in Romans 11: "I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to [the image of] Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace" (Romans 11:4-5).

Back to Nehemiah (Nehemiah 4:14):
The American Standard version Bible begins saying this, "When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke." In other words, when I saw the fear of the people, when I saw them trembling, when I saw them not believing in God, I rose and spoke . . . --and now continuing in the King James, "And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, [which is] great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses."

This is a battle cry of a prophet standing alone in the midst of national judgment and tribulation. This is a battle cry of a man who understands that in his day in the context of what God had given to him, he had to purify again the holy city of God. And that meant building walls. They were symbolically important, but they were also important for the fulfillment of prophecy. It had to be done. And even though everything around him said defeat and destruction, he said, "Families, get together and fight."
Phillips earnestly contended that "those that do not give up; . . . those who are about the business of restoring ancient covenants and who are not about abandoning them; . . . those who repair breaches" can look forward to blessings like what we find in Isaiah 58:12: "And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in."

"Brethren," Phillips pled,
would you like to be a repairer of the breach and restorer of the path to dwell in? I want it so badly I can taste it! I can feel it. Here is something worth fighting for. Here is something worth dying for. Here is something worth living for. Because this is the kingdom purpose of the church of Jesus Christ. . . .

You and I are presiding over the worst international cultural apostasy of the West in more than a thousand years. There [have] been terrible wars, terrible evil. Horrible things have happened. The 20th century was the century of mass genocide. The 19th century was the century of intellectual apostasy by the humanistic elite. The 18th century was a century of confusion and mixture between Enlightenment thought and the residue of Puritanism and Christianity. And we can go back even further and see what wonderful things God birthed 500 years ago as the Reformation fires were burning hot. And we are still living off the light that shone from those days. But there is something different about this time. This is, . . . one of the most unique times, because this is a time of remarkable firsts. . . . Here's what's happened, never before in the history of the West:
  • Never have we had major nations, major cultures that once claimed to be Christian, fundamentally questioning whether marriage is one man and one woman for life. Never has it really been questioned. It's always been a precept. Oh, men have done evil things. But the institution of marriage--though men would sin, though bad things happened, no question--from a legal and cultural perspective, [marriage] was still sacrosanct. It was not to be violated. It is on your watch, it is on my watch that the sodomites are redefining marriage in our land. Never before in history. First time.
Here's another first.
  • This is the first time recorded--at least according to our demographers and our historians that look at this--when more Christians want to prevent babies than want to have babies. More professing Christians want to thwart the womb, to pervert the natural function of the body, to separate life from love, than don't. First time ever. We have no other recorded time that we know of, where there has been such an epidemic of desired barrenness, delayed fertility within marriage, than we have today.
Here's another.
  • This is the first time, the first time, that man en masse, and the church itself, has placed its hand and blessing on sending 18-year-old girls to take the place of men overseas to die in combat. You can call it whatever you want, combat, noncombat, whatever it is, it's combat. It's the field of battle. It's the protection of the families. In many cases while dad stays home and changes the diapers of the babies.
This unbelievable effeminacy, this complete abdication of male responsibility at the level that we are currently having, statistically is born out for a higher number of deaths of women--all combined--in the wars in America have taken place in the last 10 years and then some.

This is a judgment on our land. It's not that America is about to have judgment; it's that America is in the midst of judgment. This is a judgment. It is perverse. It is evil. It is wrong. And where is all this pointing to? The family! The family. The relationships of parents and children, husbands and wives. It is the family. It is the family.

And one need only go into the bookstores today to see a new brand of Christianity in our Christian bookstores that almost seems to magnify effeminacy in men as a virtue.

Oh, the supersensitive, soft, 50-50 marriage man.

I think men should be sensitive. God calls them to live with their wives according to knowledge, to be sensitive to the Spirit. But that's not what I'm talking about, here. I'm talking about watered-down manhood where men will not lead and they think that's virtuous, that's a good thing! It's noble for men to be that way!

It's repulsive.
Phillips continued on this theme of effeminacy for a while.

He noted how Wyoming, whose state motto used to be "The Cowboy State" is now "The Equality State" because they were the first with women's suffrage, to have a female governor and so forth. "Regardless of what you think of that, I would just like you to consider the change of paradigms from the cowboy state to the equality state," he said.

"But brothers," he continued,
This is a time of profound antithesis. This is a time when the dark is getting darker and the light is getting lighter and the difference between the two is clearer and there will be no fellowship philosophically, theologically, practically, between these two competing worldviews. And the road before this nation . . . may be filled with thorns and bitterness and horrors the likes of which we have essentially been spared before in our past, but these judgments and horrors are the product of our worship of the false gods of our day, our idolatries . . . of self, of materialism; philosophical idolatries: evolutionism, social Darwinism, feminism, statism, Marxism, and hundreds of -isms, both personal and philosophical, which have taken us captive personally and, more importantly, as a church. They're the results of our idolatries, our love for things more than our love for God, our love for security more than our love for freedom in Christ.

But rather than this being our season of fear, I believe that wise Christians will view this moment as a time of unprecedented opportunity . . . because God is putting you at the center of an unfolding controversy. He's putting you at a place where there is a need for leadership. There will be need for the next five to 10 years for leadership like there has never been a need for leadership before. Crisis is opportunity in disguise.
And the opportunity?
[M]en are having conversations . . . that men [we] haven't had since the Reformation . . . about fundamental principles of sola scriptura as applied to pedagogy and to education. . . .

We are having conversations about the roles of fathers and family reformation that we have not heard at least since the 18th century. . . . But it was really the 16th century and the 17th century that brought out great works of reformation in the area of the family. Why? The Bible was open. Why? The doctrines were preached: the sufficiency of Scripture; the priesthood of the believer; the self-attesting authority of the word of God; the perspicuity of Scripture (namely, that it is knowable, that it is understandable, it is intelligible to all of us who are believers if we study to shower ourselves approved unto God, rightly dividing the word of truth . . .).

This remarkable moment in history is significant, because we are having discussions about reforming the family in a way we haven't had those discussions before. And some of the conversations we have are hard conversations . . . [because] it's really painful when the entire wave of society is moving in the precisely opposite direction you are moving in.

Antithesis. Antithesis. Remnant antithesis.

And so, in the midst of all these things, we are watching a small, but nonetheless potent, work. You are here and you are men, and 18 years ago, when the homeschool movement was beginning to thrive, there wouldn't have been enough men in leadership to fill one fourth of this room. . . . God did that: progressive sanctification in the homeschool movement! Praise the Lord.

This small reformation is potent and it's taking place . . . in exactly the precise place that God declares it has to take place to make ready a people prepared for the Lord: in the hearts of fathers! Because if you want to make ready a people prepared for the Lord, you must, must, must turn your heart to your family. It is one of your first priorities. It is the manifestation of real revival. . . . [S]o, if you want to say where are the important things taking place in the world, you don't look to Washington, DC. You look to the church. If you want to understand what's really happening in the church, you . . . look to the families that make up the church. And if you really want to know what's happening in those families, you ask what's happening with the heads of the households. What's happening to the men? . . . Are they turning their hearts to their children? Do they love their children and their brides so much that it is a defining principle in their life and fills their hearts with gladness and joy when they think of their little ones?
Phillips then told a number of stories he said he believes illustrate how significant this point is. "While the professing, mainstream church ignores the great works of God and--may I say it?--despises it, reviles it, sometimes hates it, do you know the world is actually fascinated by us? They really are!"

He told a story about the Duggar family, of 20 and Counting fame,1 to prove the point.

As the Duggars attended the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (SAICFF; sponsored by Phillips and his paisanos).
The blessing of children, he said, was being presented to the people of America on national television. And people were fascinated. The Duggars "seem to love each other. What's the matter with those people? They love babies! They're having fun! They're doing professional things! . . . What in the world is going on here?"

National Public Radio, he said, "[t]he single most liberal radio network in the world, outside of Soviet communist nations and things like that," visited the festival and interviewed a bunch of the participants.

"Gentlemen," said Phillips, "in my entire life I have never heard such an excellent, well-produced, favorable, God-honoring radio broadcast as the one I heard on NPR. Unbelievable! . . . [T]he reporter . . . told our story in a way that no one [else] told our story. And guess what happened after that went out? . . .

Christianity Today, which is, sadly, Secular Humanism Today so much of the time, basically put out an article furious at [us] trying to establish an independent Christian film movement. What a horrible thing! Hollywood is our friend! We love Hollywood! We bask at the feet of Hollywood. Oh, Hollywood!"

So while the [from Phillips' perspective, only ostensibly] Christian publication criticizes SAICFF, NPR lauds it.

Then Phillips mentioned that Fireproof, a film produced by a Baptist church in Albany, Georgia, was "the top grossing independent film of . . . 2008."

The contrast was too great to ignore:
[While] NPR is saying, "This is really worthy," . . . the Christian community says, "We're scared. . . . Let's not rattle this cultural love affair we have with Hollywood, please. At all costs, we don't want to do that."
Another story: Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar on The View with Barbara Walters.
Here he is with his wife Michelle and Jim Bob and Barbara Walters is just squinting and she's making faces and she wants to say something really, really mean, but that other blonde haired girl won't let her do it. And she's looking at them and she's thinking, "This is . . . Blecch! Disgusting! All these children!" But it doesn't quite come out of her; you can just see it on her face.

And Michelle's response is to radiate Christ. And Jim Bob just radiates Christ.

Meanwhile, . . . less than half a million American families even eat dinner together. When they do, they spend less than 20 minutes together. Only 22.1% of the households in America have children. Guess what that does to the American family? It breeds selfishness.
Back to the decline of American society:
  • Data shows that "between 1970 and 1995, the percentage of Americans 15 and older who ever married fell dramatically."
  • "During the same period, the average age of a first marriage rose from 21.8 years to 26.6 years."
  • He quotes at length from Dr. Allan Carlson, to the effect that in the 2000 census, it became clear that there has been "a massive retreat by young adults from marriage. In that year, 73% of women ages 20-24 were in the never-married category, up from 36% in . . . 1970."
  • "There were 4.6 million unmarried couples cohabiting in 2000, an increase of 800 percent since 1970."
  • "The marital fertility rate in 2000, meanwhile, was a third below the 1965 figure."
Phillips quotes Carlson and notes that Carlson places much of the blame for these statistics in the lap of the U.S. government's push for college education and the concomitant increase in college debt. This debt, says Carlson, "creates perverse material incentives for young adults to succumb to cultural trends like cohabitation and the avoidance of parenthood."

And, said Phillips, "[t]his is the antithesis [of what Christian homeschoolers are seeing]."

Remember: he was addressing a group of homeschool dads when he said,
Your children are getting married, maybe not as soon as you would like. Maybe too soon. But they are beginning to get married, and they’re getting married to godly spouses.
He told of going to a wedding in Louisiana where "multiple generations of families came to gather as fathers were honored, as both sets of fathers came out.
And they testified to the concept of covenant before an entire audience as the groom stood up and preached the gospel on his wedding day. It was unbelievable! I mean, it was the sort of thing that you never hear of.

And you know what the most amazing thing of all is? Our children are growing up thinking it's normal! . . . At least some of them are.

If your children aren't seeing, you need to think about where you're going to church. You need to think about where you live. You need to think about a lot of different things, because we are in the midst of a battle for their souls and the antithesis is all around us, and you want to be on this side and not [that] side . . . because the future of America, the status of the church, the hope of our families, rests on our Christ-honoring commitment to take the narrow path of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Next concern: what he called "the birth dearth," "blighted barrenness," "a demographic winter."
Brothers, of the many judgments that are coming and that are, in fact, prophesied as a principle in Scripture, in places like Deuteronomy 28 and others, to nations that forsake the God of their fathers, who break covenant with the LORD, is . . . barrenness. . . .

[R]eplacement fertility is 2.1 children per woman.

In 1987, the fertility rate was 2.1 for women. It's dropped. It's dropping and dropping dramatically. From 1980 to 2005, the population of children under 14 went from 22% to 16%, while the population of people over the age of 65 went from 14% to 17%. From 1820 to 1998, U.S. birthrates fell from 5.5 per family to 1.5 per couple. Now, it's picked up a little and went down a little, but it's nowhere near what's necessary if we're going to have a thriving economy. And while we can look at this--and many people are looking at this--in terms of economic considerations, there is a far greater spiritual issue behind all of this that many people are missing. . . .

Brothers, I hope you get it.

I hope you understand that children are a blessing and not a curse. I hope you understand that debt is a curse and children are a blessing. Let's stop applying for curses and rejecting blessings! Let's start looking for blessings. I hope you understand that you represent one of the few groups in the entire world that are bringing forth an abundance of children, and you're doing it for the glory of God.
--I cut large swaths of Phillips' discussion of this issue. He spent quite a bit of time on it.

Some additional illustrative comments on the subject:
  • "Do you know the main population groups that are bringing forth an abundance of children? Mohammedans and homeschoolers. And, by the way, we're really different. But, you know, not everybody thinks so."
  • "We have individuals, publishers, press, radical left-wingers, even inner-sphere internet blogosphere railers, who would claim that somehow there's something oppressive, something perverse, something terrible, something outrageous that comes from loving children and desiring to have more babies."
  • "In a recent book that was published by Beacon Press called Quiverfull, many individuals in this room are made to look like monsters, absolute monsters! And though we are told we're a small group, Beacon Press, which happens to be one of the leading publishers of radical lesbian, feminist, transgender books, with this recent book by Kathryn Joyce, has come out to tell us this really is a movement of racism. Well, she didn't put it exactly like that. It's our movement to perpetuate white society.

    "Have you taken a look at homeschool families lately? We are some of the most ethnically diverse, so-called racially diverse families, I've seen."
I'll quit there. You've gotten the guts of his pro-life/pro-birth message.

Next subject: seven principles of "what constitutes a real biblical reformation."
  1. "[W]e must open the lost Book of the Law" (with reference to Josiah and the [accidental!] discovery of the Book of the Law by Hilkiah the priest--see 2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34). [Phillips did a great job of developing this theme, but I am going to assume my audience realizes, as he summarized the issue: "[W]e have to believe that God speaks through the Scriptures, that the Old Testament and the New Testament, properly interpreted in light of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, are our guidebook."]
  2. "There must be a conviction and a repentance and a turning from sin. Christianity is not an intellectual assent. It is a personal relationship which is born out of repentance. And without conviction and repentance and turning from sin, there is no reformation revival."
  3. A love of God's revealed priorities, "the wedding of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Sound theology and practical living."
    There is such a fear to apply the word of God. And there is a legalism in this fear. Some of the greatest Pharisees I've ever met in my life rail against those that seek to know the heart of God in making application to their own life. . . .

    [T]here is only one standard and it isn't your feelings and your emotions and it isn't a still, small, quiet voice. . . . It is God's Word, properly interpreted, with the Holy Spirit guiding.
  4. "[A] turning of the hearts of parents to their children to make ready a people prepared for the LORD . . . [which] necessarily means a Hebraic education, . . . a walk-along, talk-along discipleship. . . . That doesn't mean others can't come along and help you, stand beside you, or anything of that nature. It means that the responsibility is on you. You can't take that lightly and you don't want to, because you love them."
  5. The turning of hearts that results in discipleship "necessarily results in the reformation of family life and family culture . . . which is why the family is one of the greatest evangelism tools in the world. What a powerful evangelism tool in a world of broken homes: to bring people into your house and to let them see the love of Christ--the way you live your life in your home!"
  6. "[A] biblical and multigenerational vision of victory to bring forth the Great Commission will emerge . . . the flip side of the coin of the Dominion Mandate which teaches us that we are to be fruitful and multiply. . . . This is not political takeover; it is not forced submission to the Gospel. What this is is our acknowledgment that there is no realm, no sphere, no closet, no window, which is not and must not be proclaimed as being under the Lordship of Christ. This is our duty.

    "And the Great Commission teaches us that we are literally to 'disciple the nations, teaching them all things whatsoever I have commanded.' That means Genesis to Revelation. . . . We are to disciple nations. That's what our founding fathers did, our true founding father up at Plymouth. They began to disciple a nation. They discipled a nation. And we have freedom today."
  7. "[T]here will be a heartfelt desire for the ongoing work of semper reformanda. We will never be content. We will never say we have got it figured out. We are constantly questioning ourselves in this sense. We are constantly evaluating: Where do we stand before the Lord? Are we being prideful? Are we being idolatrous? Are we being selfish? We are constantly asking, Have we really taken this thought captive to the obedience of Christ or have I rendered this as a realm of neutrality?"
Phillips suggested that the homeschool movement of the '80s was a semper reformanda movement that "wanted to absolutely reform education in a way it had never been reformed before, both the methodology and the substance."
Now, fellows, I've got something hard to tell you. And this is for me, too. This is for all of us as we stand at the centerpiece of a great antithesis and a great judgment in our land: . . . If we dream and if we hope to be part of the solution to be more than recluses, more than just mere survivors; if we hope to really make a difference for the Lord and to be salt and light and the breadbasket of love when this world is going to need it so badly, we are going to have to get our personal and collective houses in order.

This means, fellows, that we're going to have to get real serious about repentance. . . . Here's what I'm talking about.

Some of you . . . are not really acting as the heads of your home in love. Some of you men are still struggling with perpetual bitterness. Some of you may still be angry at your fathers. . . . [S]ome of you are porn addicts. The statistics speak for themselves. Some of you have lost your love for Christ. You're content with emotions.

Brothers, judgment begins with the house of the Lord. . . . We will be useless and we will become a statistic if we don't take seriously the need to get on our face before God now.
And so he recited several Scriptures (all in the King James) having to do with repentance:
  • Jeremiah 6:16.
  • Proverbs 3:1-8.
  • Psalm 34:14-15.
  • Luke 9:62.
  • John 3:30.
  • Philippians 1:6.
And, finally, Phillips held out one final antithesis, or contrast, between two men whose multi-centenary birthdays occur in 2009: "In fact, I would ask you to look back over the last one thousand years and just consider: Who are the two most influential men of the last one thousand years?" Phillips suggested they are John Calvin and Charles Darwin.

"John Calvin has been correctly described as the true founding father of America," Phillips said. "[Y]ou don't have to agree with everything Calvin said or did. . . . No man, no system, has had such an impact theologically on this nation or other nations as John Calvin for good. . . . Our republican system of government is largely birthed in the principle of the priesthood of the believer. Presbyterian principles of government and polity . . . were brought over here and established and influenced our founders.

"And yet [Charles Darwin] had at least as much influence for evil," Phillips claimed. "Today most Christians have bought into elements of Darwinian thinking. Even if you say you don't believe in evolutionism, it's amazing how many precepts of Malthusian population control, of eugenics, and of other things come together to poison our mind."

Phillips then made a statement that he would repeat Friday evening:
History is never, ever shaped by majorities. . . . History is made by dedicated minorities.
Whether for good or ill, it's the minorities who make the difference.

And, Phillips urged, the minorities themselves are often shaped by their families.

So with Charles Darwin, "[whose] grandfather Erasmus was a God-hater."
Do you know that there are five generations of God hating Darwins--scoffers, God-haters? [And Charles] Darwin attracted other men who became his good friends, like Thomas Huxley who . . . became the personal mentor of H.G. Wells [and] H.G. Wells became the adulterous lover of Margaret Sanger [founder of what is now known as Planned Parenthood]. . . . [T]he philosophies of eugenics, the philosophies of social Darwinism, the philosophies of government statist education--all of these things can be connected to a handful of individuals who knew each other, who married into each other's families.
I am skipping an interesting story Phillips told about Admiral FitzRoy, the man who invited Darwin to accompany him on the voyage of The Beagle.

But I would like to share what Phillips said in conclusion:
In about 72 hours, I will be on a plane to Ecuador. And, God willing, if all goes well, I'll be standing on the Galapagos Islands about 24 hours after that with a film crew and with homeschoolers thanks to the generosity of some individuals who believe it important enough for us to make a major television documentary teaching fathers how to disciple their children about antithesis and about Darwin. And we will be standing there with the Galapagos turtles. We will be standing there with the penguins. We will be standing there with these amazing marine iguanas, the only iguanas of the world that live underneath the ground, and we will look into our sons' eyes, and we will teach them the truth. We will teach them that we are living in a day of battle.

We are teaching them that if they . . . depart from the principles of Scripture, they will be destroyed. We will teach them that true reformation begins with sola scriptura and those who leave the principle of love in Christ and the Bible as the authority are ultimately damned to hellish philosophy that will poison all of us around them. We will teach them that it was the compromise of the Church which led to the destruction of civilization and it is only the restoration of the fundamental principles which the reformers articulated that we can ever have hope because those principles were true. And seeing the church strong and healthy regardless of whether America thrives or whether America fails. We will teach them these things. And we will desire to give them hope, hope that through the difficulty which is ahead, we will persevere, we will be able to be strong for the Lord, we will be God's witnesses.

I began with reading Romans 11:2-5. I read it to you again:
I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to [the image of] Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
Will you be part of that remnant? We need you, men. We need you so badly!

Your children's children's children, in their lives and their hope, in part [depend] on the grace of God working through you at this perilous hour.

May God have mercy on America and may God build up this important homeschool movement for the glory of God.


So. My comments?

Honestly: I found Phillips' presentation, overall, very engaging. The logical connections between various pieces wasn't always clear. It seemed he bounced around quite a bit. But his stories gripped me and held my attention.

Phillips used certain catch phrases that put me on edge.
  • I don't like his derogatory use of "Mohammedans" rather than "Muslims."
  • I thought I could "tell where he was going" with his emphasis on male and female roles, his reference to "effeminacy." But he didn't actually go there.
And if I ignore what I sense I "know" about his bigger agenda; if I listen only to what he actually said in this speech: frankly, overall and, even, in these details, I sensed I could "buy" just about everything he had to say.

I wanted to see him develop the themes, but as far as he went, I sensed I was with him. I agree: There is something inappropriate about men abdicating what I perceive as their (our!) legitimate role as protectors.

Still, at the same time--and this is where I'm not sure Phillips, or I, or our culture has figured things out--I sense men need to receive the offer of help from those women who want to participate in the forefront of the battles at their sides. If God is calling a woman to engage in battle; if she has been granted the spirit of warfare (may I call it that?), the heart to do battle; if she has the physical aptitude and desire and eagerness: why should she be turned aside? --So far, I am unconvinced that Phillips or anyone else, with reference to Scripture or not, is able to show good cause for turning them aside.

Would I volunteer for battle if I were a woman? I don't think so! But let me confess: I didn't volunteer for physical military combat as a man, either. I have never been a "martial" person. But who am I to turn away someone who says he (or she!) wants to fight?


That is, in my opinion, at least at this point in Phillips' two-part presentation (the second portion still to come), a rather minor quibble.

Did Christianity Today deserve the dig he gave it? Did NPR deserve the praise? --I'm not convinced. Having read the referenced articles, I think Phillips misrepresented them a bit. But, okay. The SAICFF is his "baby." I can see why he would become a bit touchy about it . . . and why he would be unhappy that the Christianity Today commentator questions the legitimacy of the "separate" film industry idea Phillips is touting . . . and, even, why he would view the NPR article as being positively disposed toward the SAICFF (though I don't believe it was). But, simply, having an article that presents participants' viewpoints pretty much without editorial commentary . . . I can see why that would be viewed as positive.

Are John Calvin and Charles Darwin the most important historical figures of the last 1,000 years? Well. Maybe. They certainly deserve to be considered right "up there" among the top echelons of most influential. But I don't think I would want to proclaim them, absolutely, the winners. And, come next year, or a few years from now, when some other significant historical person's birthday or key centenary comes up, I wouldn't be surprised to hear Phillips himself say that that person is "most influential."

But, once more: My opinion: these are very minor quibbles.

Is American society as a whole in a state of major decline? --I am happy to register my "vote" with Phillips and agree that many of the issues he raises are worthy of attention. They are symptomatic of some rather deep rot in the culture. And I appreciate his bringing these things to our attention.

Do American fathers, in general, need to pay more attention to their families--their wives and their children? --Again, I think, no question. This is a worthy message. We men, we fathers, need to hear it. And I appreciate Phillips' bringing this message for our benefit (the benefit of our families; the benefit of us, personally, as men and fathers).

And having said this, I think I have little more to say . . . until his next speech, what Phillips called "Part II" of his "State of the Homeschool Nation" address. Because it is there that . . . well, . . . let's deal with that when we get there. [You should see quite a bit faster turn-around on that than you saw on this speech! Sorry about that.]

1 A very nice book, by the way! Return to text.

Next post in this series: CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit," Part V - "Visionary Fathers".

Obama was going to watch every line item in the federal budget


"When I am president, I will go line by line to make sure we are not spending money unwisely." (Watch the following debate footage at 3:37-3:43.)

Well, that hasn't happened.

But he is showing himself to be fiscally conservative.

Having proposed a $3.6 trillion budget for the next fiscal year, he has asked the members of his cabinet to find $100 million in savings.

I first read about that this morning and the commentator said $100 million was 15 minutes of federal spending.

Someone suggested a better way to think about it. If you make $50,000 a year and, therefore, have a $50,000 annual budget, you would need to find $1.39 in savings. (Calculated by dividing $100,000,000 by $3,600,000,000,000 and multiplying that fraction by $50,000.)

Maybe we should make that a bit more realistic, however.

The real corollary is a family whose income is $33,400 a year but needing to borrow $16,600 in order to meet all of its "needs."

And the dad makes the "hard" decision that the family will have to spend $1.39 less than that!

Or . . . to make it really simple: It's a family whose annual income is $24,000 ($2.4T), but plans to spend $36,000 ($3.6T). Oh. No. They will spend only $35,999 ($3.6T - $100M).

Are you impressed?

I didn't think you would be!

Nor am I.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A different view of the swine flu epidemic (or, as suggested yesterday, pandemic)

Following my post Monday on the Swine Flu "pandemic," I thought, for fairness, I should post an opposite perspective.

First, I should note Paul's thoughtful comment on my original post:
I think taking such meds potentially decreases our immune system's effectiveness.
But, then, listen to William Campbell Douglass II, MD, a skeptic, par excellence, of the modern American health system, wrote the following in his "Daily Dose" email this morning:
The swine flu "epidemic" is only a few days old, and Big Pharma is already plotting to make a fortune.

European drug maker Roche announced it was scaling up production of Tamiflu, giving a boost to its stock price and sending millions into the Roche coffers. GlaxoSmithKline, which makes the anti-flu drug Relenza, is also seeing its stock price climb, as investors hope this swine flu is the biggest thing since the bubonic plague.

There's only one problem here – it's not going to happen. You read the Daily Dose because I always give you the straight scoop, and because I'm not afraid to tell you when the mainstream has it wrong.

And they have it wrong on swine flu. It won't be an epidemic – it'll barely even be a ripple. I've run medical clinics in Africa – I know what an epidemic looks like.

And this isn't it.

The media is blowing swine flu out of proportion so it can feed its 24-hour news cycle – the same media, mind you, that had us convinced that avian flu was going to destroy the planet a few years ago.

But here are the facts about swine flu – it has affected so few people in America that it's hardly worth discussing. There are 64 confirmed cases in America as I'm writing this – not 6,000 or even 600. There are 64.

Of course, the media is fixated on the 100 or so people who have died in Mexico from the swine flu. But let me clue you into something that no one seems to be discussing – health care in Mexico is ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE. I know – I've been there more times than I can count.

Disease spreads rapidly through Mexico because large areas of the country lack clean water and basic sanitation. Seeing a doctor – let alone a qualified doctor – is a luxury unavailable to most of the population. Of course the flu is killing people in Mexico – so are a lot of other diseases that are successfully treated in America. People in Mexico still die from diarrhea, for Pete's sake!

Yes, they have apparently had some cases of bad swine flu in Mexico. They've had lots of dengue fever and chagas, too, but you don't need to stay up at night worrying about it. Beating the swine flu isn't any different from beating the regular flu. Wash your hands. Avoid large crowds if you can. Get plenty of rest and fluids if you start getting sick.

And don't be afraid to eat pork or any other meat, for that matter, as it's not the pigs who are getting sick. Of course, I'm not recommending you eat Mexican pork – or any food produced in Mexico, for that matter. Hopefully the tainted peppers outbreak of 2008 taught us that. But don't change your diet because of some so-called swine flu epidemic.

It's no epidemic. It's no public health catastrophe. It's good theatre – and nothing more.

Oh. And to track the flu, check out this Google Maps Mashup. Very nicely done.

Massive inflation over the horizon?

I've been concerned about the future of the Federal Reserve "dollar" following the recent massive increase in (i.e., inflation of) the "money supply" (i.e., printed paper "notes" issued by the Federal Reserve board).

Right now, we are experiencing price deflation, but one day in the not-too-distant future, I expect we should be seeing some very serious price inflation . . . since the demand for goods should remain relatively constant (or increase) while the supply of money has increased astronomically. (Put another way: the supply-demand ratio will eventually tip toward lots of money demanding relatively few goods . . .).

We met with our legacy planners yesterday. They showed us the following chart.

I thought it was telling.

Note that all numbers are in inflation-adjusted 2009 Dollars.

PPIP = "Public-Private Investment Program" . . . by which private investors, with federal government loan guarantees, are supposed to help banks rid themselves of the so-called "toxic loans" that hurt their operations and capital.

TALF = "Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility"

Monday, April 27, 2009

Swine Flu Pandemic

Just received from my longevity/vitality doctor's office:
The Swine Flu is a viral illness that is potentially life threatening. Its epicenter is Mexico City where 149 deaths have been reported to date. Not all have been confirmed specifically to the Swine Flu as Mexico has limited laboratory facilities to do so.

Below is a copy from the Center for Disease Control’s table on cases in the U.S. These have so far (4/27/09) been mild with no deaths. It is not understood why the U.S. cases have been milder.

U.S. Human Cases of Swine Flu Infection
(As of April 27, 2009 1:00 PM ET)


# of laboratory
confirmed cases


7 cases


2 cases

New York City

28 cases


1 case


2 cases


40 cases

International Human Cases of Swine Flu Infection
See: World Health OrganizationExternal Web Site Policy.

This year’s flu vaccine was not formulated for the swine flu, which is caused by a virus mutated with human, porcine and bird components, named H1N1. However, the vaccine may offer some level of assistance in combating the virus.

The Swine Flu virus, according to the CDC, is susceptible to Tamiflu (oseltamivir) by Roche and Relenza (zanamivir) by Glaxo Smith-Kline. Both can be used for prevention once exposure is suspected or for treatment once symptoms begin.

Roche claims to have 3 million packages of Tamiflu on hand for delivery should the CDC request it be sent to a particular country. Pharmacies and wholesalers are not yet reporting shortages. With the population of the U.S. at 306,000,000, one would wonder how far the 3 million packages would go, even if it were sent here.

For prevention, the dose of Tamiflu is 1 capsule (75mg) orally daily for 10 days, beginning as soon as possible after exposure.

For treatment, dosing should start 12 to 48 hours after the first symptom (fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, body aches) and it is taken as one 75mg capsule twice daily for 5 days.

The drug is dispensed in packs of 10 capsules.

To minimize chances of exposure, avoid travel to areas of known outbreaks, avoid congregating in large groups, wash your hands often, and keep your blood sugar low (spikes in blood sugar hinder immune response).

Objective truth . . . and subjective truth

I read this morning an insightful article from Tony Woodlief in the April 25th World magazine:
In surveys aimed at discerning Christian worldview (e.g., whether respondents believe that absolute truth exists, that Christ was sinless, etc.), Barna Research Group finds the portion with consistent biblical beliefs holding steady the past dozen years, around 10 percent. Similar surveys reveal disturbing ignorance of dogma among professing Christians.

While the vast majority of Americans claim to be Christian, in other words, a good many of us don't seem capable of explaining what that means. Little wonder the comically vicious Bill Maher had such a field day filming a mockumentary wherein he accosted Christians about their faith. Not knowing what we believe makes it awfully hard to answer why we believe it. It shouldn't surprise us if Christians who can't articulate what they believe have children and grandchildren who don't even bother to try. And this is exactly what we are seeing, as large numbers of young people stop attending church altogether upon leaving home.

The way many churches respond to declining public interest exacerbates the problem. The Christian church grew when its leaders stressed biblical study and fervent prayer, each of which was considered, in the early church, a means of knowing God. The modern feel-good church, meanwhile, de-emphasizes both in favor of "messages" that are "relevant to my life." (Don't tell me what Job said about the imponderable glory of God, tell me how to have fulfilling personal relationships.) That kind of offering can only be as stimulating as its deliverer, which explains why telegenic showmen find their congregations swelling, and so many other churches are shrinking. Eliminate the theologies of Word and prayer, and all you have left is a competition to see who can provide the best circus.

What we are in danger of--in our country, in our churches, in ourselves--is practical atheism. This is not a considered embrace of godlessness. It is instead the slow slide into lives where God is irrelevant.

--Emphases added. JAH

May I summarize it this way: "We need objective truth!"

[By the way: There's more good stuff on this subject at the original article.]


Well, this article reminded me, somehow, of the "sermon" I endured yesterday . . . and an article to which my sister called my attention yesterday morning as well.

First the "sermon."

We had a guest preacher. Except . . . he didn't really preach. Instead, representing the denominational Bible college, he subjected us to an extended advertisement (lousy advertisement) for his college . . . structured loosely--very loosely!--around Philippians 3:7-11.

As a person who has been involved in marketing, and as an editor, it struck me: Not once did he address his audience. Never did he speak to us (i.e., during his speech, never did he use the word "you" in reference to members of his audience; he occasionally did use the word "you" to refer to "people in general" . . . as in [not something he actually said, but for illustrative purposes], "If you look out your window, you can see whether it's raining"). Instead, he reported to an undifferentiated audience about things he has seen back at the college.

I mention this by way of partial response to Woodlief's comment about "The modern feel-good church . . . de-emphasizes [biblical study and fervent prayer] in favor of 'messages' that are 'relevant to my life.'"

I think we need biblical study and fervent prayer. We need objective truth. (I'm sure the representative of the denominational college was conveying to us objectively true information.)

But, if Christians are going to take the time to listen to sermons, it would be helpful if the pastor-preacher-teachers would consider how to address their audiences directly, offering thoughtful, practical and illustrative applications of what a Scripture might mean for individual members of the audience: "You, fathers: when you ______, you need to [realize, remember, seek God . . . ] . . . And you, mothers: based on the passage at hand, when you _____, is it not clear that ______? . . . And you, grandpa and grandma: when _______, does God not call upon you to ______? . . . And you, children . . . And you, young adults . . ." Etc. Etc.

In marketing, we are told to make the use of a product "so real" to the mind of the reader/hearer that the prospective buyer can "see, taste, touch, smell, hear" it in his or her mind. "'Dimensionalize' the benefits," says one marketing "guru" I follow. Help the prospect imagine deeply what it is like to own whatever-it-is you're selling.

So there is a subjective element of the truth, too, that needs to be addressed: the truth as it relates to the members of one's audience.

But there is another form of subjective truth, too, that needs to be addressed.

As long as preacher-teacher-pastors have to get up in front of audiences that are unable to observe them day-in and day-out, 24-7, throughout the year (as parents are instructed to allow and encourage their children to observe them--Deuteronomy 6:6-9; 11:18-20), I believe it makes sense that they should at least tell their congregations the detailed stories of how they apply the Scriptures practically in their lives.

I believe they should follow St. Paul's example when, as he said to the Thessalonians, he loved them "so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us" (1 Thessalonians 2:8).

. . . And while I'm on that subject, let me draw your attention to--what for me is--a compelling article by John Piper: The Pastor as Scholar. (Thank you, Ruth, for bringing this to my attention!)

Piper says,
F. F. Bruce, representing the British of a generation ago (and perhaps not too different today), said at the end of his autobiography, In Retrospect: Remembrance of Things Past (1980, p. 306),
While some readers have observed that in these chapters I have said little about my domestic life, others have wondered why I have been so reticent about my religious experience. The reason is probably the same in both instances: I do not care to speak much—especially in public—about the things that mean most to me. Others do not share this inhibition, and have enriched their fellows by relating the inner story of the Lord’s dealings with them—one thinks of Augustine’s Confessions and Bunyan’s Grace Abounding. But it calls for quite exceptional qualities to be able to do this kind of thing without self-consciousness or self-deception.
. . . My first reaction when I read this was to say, “No wonder I have found his commentaries so dry—helpful in significant ways, but personally and theologically anemic.” My second reaction was to say (this was in 1980, the year I left academia and entered the pastorate): “Good grief! You say, ‘I do not care to speak much—especially in public—about the things that mean most to me.’ I say, ‘The only thing I care to speak about—especially in public—are the things that mean most to me!’”

Now both his and my statements are probably overstatements. But seriously: This is one of the differences between me and many scholars that drove me out of the guild. I am regularly bursting to say something about the most precious things in the universe, and not in any disinterested, dispassionate, composed, detached, unemotional, so-called scholarly way, but rather with total interest, warm passion, (if necessary) discomposure, utter attachment, fullness of emotion, and, I hope always, truth.

I am with Jonathan Edwards all the way when he says,
I should think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with.1
And, of course, my assumption is--for Edwards and for myself--that in our aim to raise the affections of our hearers, we have experienced authentically raised affections ourselves about what is true and in proportion to the nature of the truth.

So I have zero empathy with F. F. Bruce and others when they say (sometimes in the name of personality, and others in the name of scholarly objectivity), “I do not care to speak much--especially in public--about the things that mean most to me.” I think it hurts the cause of the gospel if such scholars insist that a theological lecture or a critical scholarly commentary is not the place for that.

1 Jonathan Edwards, “Some Thoughts Concerning the Revival,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 4, The Great Awakening, edited C. C. Goen (New Haven, CT: Yale, 1972), 387. Return to text.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Latest breakthrough from Apple!

Exciting breakthrough in miniaturization:

Enjoy the ad.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

HR875--How freedoms are lost in the United States

Fascinating and distressing all at the same time.

Check out House Resolution 875 currently working its way through the U.S. House of Representatives.

Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut introduced the legislation. We ought not to ignore the fact that she is wife of Stan Greenberg, a lobbyist and one of Monsanto Corporation's chief political strategists.

First, and most onerous: HR875 requires all food producers to pre-register with the federal government, even if the food is produced for local (in-state) consumption (and not for interstate commerce . . . which is the sole function permitted to the federal government by the constitution). [See the definition of "Food Establishment" (subsection (13) and the definitions of the five different categories of "Food Establishment" in Sec. 3 (subsections (5) through (9) titled "Category __ Food Establishment"; also, subsections (14) and (19) in the same Section 3. Finally, then, Sec. 202(a) and (b), and, most tellingly, section 406: "In any action to enforce the requirements of the food safety law, the connection with interstate commerce required for jurisdiction shall be presumed to exist." --Emphasis added--JAH --In other words, all states' rights are conveniently swept away.

Does this matter? I hope to return to this in a subsequent post having to do with Raw Milk.]

But ignore the states' rights issue. Notice what this means to the small farmer, the family farm, and the family gardener.

You would think we would all be left off the hook by subsection (19), wouldn't you? "The term ‘process’ or ‘processing’ means the commercial slaughter, packing, preparation, or manufacture of food." --That has nothing to do with private, small-scale farms or personal gardens that produce food for our own consumption.

Or does it?

Check out the Supreme Court case of Wickard v Filburn (1942). According to Wikipedia,
In July 1940, pursuant to the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, Filburn's 1941 allotment was established at 11.1 acres (45,000 m2) and a normal yield of 20.1 bushels of wheat per acre. Filburn was given notice of the allotment in July 1940 before the Fall planting of his 1941 crop of wheat, and again in July 1941, before it was harvested. Despite these notices Filburn planted 23 acres (93,000 m2) and harvested 239 bushels from his 11.9 acres (48,000 m2) of excess area.
Filburn was hauled into court for violation of the Agricultural Adjustment Act, even though Filburn produced the "excess" corn solely for home consumption; it was not part of the federal government's jurisdiction.

Oh, really? said the Supreme Court. And they rejected his argument,
reasoning that if Filburn had not used home-grown wheat he would have had to buy wheat on the open market. This effect on interstate commerce, the Court reasoned, may not be substantial from the actions of Filburn alone but through the cumulative actions of thousands of other farmers just like Filburn its effect would certainly become substantial. Therefore Congress could regulate wholly intrastate, non-commercial activity if such activity, viewed in the aggregate, would have a substantial effect on interstate commerce, even if the individual effects are trivial.
Oh. And you'd think this 60-some year-old decision might be overturned, wouldn't you?

Not likely. Not when "[t]he Supreme Court majority that decided the 2005 case Gonzales v. Raich relied heavily on Filburn in upholding the power of the federal government to prosecute individuals who grow their own medicinal marijuana pursuant to state law."

Moreover, consider that if you give some food away or try to sell a small quantity in a local farmer's market (as many small-scale and organic farmers do today): you (and they) may very readily fall afoul of this law.

And if you're not sure?

Check out Section 405 ("Civil and Criminal Penalties") . . . which notes, in subsection (a)(1)(A), that "Any person that commits an act that violates the food safety law (including a regulation promulgated or order issued under the food safety law) may be assessed a civil penalty by the Administrator of not more than $1,000,000 for each such act." --Oh. But notice how they define "each such act." Go on to subsection (a)(1)(B): "Each act described in subparagraph (A) and each day during which that act continues shall be considered a separate offense." [Emphasis added--JAH]

So notice what that means! "Guilty until proven innocent." --You'd better stop doing whatever-it-is you're doing or you'll face the possibility of a multi-million-dollar fine . . . unless and until you can get this new agency off of your back.

Ah! And then notice how these kinds of fines can be used! --Like the confiscation laws that police departments are using to enrich themselves at the expense of innocent people who are illegitimately charged with drugs infractions, take a look at Section 405(e): The Administrator of this leviathan "may use the funds in the account, without further appropriation or fiscal year limitation . . . to carry out enforcement activities under the food safety law."

Oh. And guess who will be given the right to certify any foreign "food establishment" as legally permitted to grow or process whatever food it is that they would like to grow and/or process and sell into the United States? Check out Section 208(k)! "Entities eligible for accreditation as a certifying agent . . . may include . . . a foreign or domestic cooperative that aggregates the products of growers or processors for importation." Is this an invitation to conflicts-of-interest, or what?

Oh, but the proposed law has a response to this concern, doesn't it? The very next section, 208(l) is very explicit: "To be eligible for accreditation . . . , a certifying agent shall--
(A) not be owned, managed, or controlled by any person that owns or operates an establishment whose products are to be certified by such agent;

(B) have procedures to ensure against the use, in carrying out audits of food establishments under this section, of any officer or employee of such agent that has a financial conflict of interest regarding an establishment whose products are to be certified by such agent; and

(C) annually make available to the Secretary, disclosures of the extent to which such agent, and the officers and employees of such agent, have maintained compliance with subparagraphs (A) and (B) relating to financial conflicts of interest.
Sounds pretty airtight, doesn't it?

Except, . . . even I, a non-lawyer, (but a business owner) know that section (B) includes a huge hole in it. My company has a number of employees; it also has a large number of independent contractors. They do what we want and need them to do in our behalf. We pay them for their services. They "just" don't happen to meet the legal requirements of being full-blown employees.

Interesting that nothing is said about such contract labor in behalf of an agent with a financial conflict of interest.

Oh. And the law is very explicit about this being a financial conflict of interest. How about other forms of conflict-of-interest?

And one last section that has small farmers and organic food advocates up in arms: the entire set of regulations, the law says, is intended "to establish science-based minimum standards for the safe production of food" (see Section 206(c)). "Science-based." Get that?

Pay attention, now!

That means this new agency, "Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act . . . shall promulgate regulations." And "Such regulations shall . . .
(2) require each food production facility to have a written food safety plan that describes the likely hazards and preventive controls implemented to address those hazards;
(3) include, with respect to growing, harvesting, sorting, and storage operations, minimum standards related to fertilizer use, nutrients, hygiene, packaging, temperature controls, animal encroachment, and water;
(4) include, with respect to animals raised for food, minimum standards related to the animal’s health, feed, and environment which bear on the safety of food for human consumption . . .
. . . And so forth.

Again, imagine being a small farmer and having to produce a "written food safety plan." --A "mere" few hundred dollars several years from now when some entrepreneurial lawyer creates a set of standardized electronic documents. But in the meantime?

And when it comes to "science," who knows better than a great big company like Monsanto (the world's largest producer and marketer of genetically engineered seed, bovine growth hormone, and that wonderful sugar substitute known as aspartame) [please understand that I was just speaking with huge tongue in cheek], right? Talk about "science"! They have it in spades.

But, then, what happens when the government--under the encouragement of a Monsanto--determines that something is "scientific" but simply ignores--because Monsanto itself won't provide such negative data--that speaks to the other side? For example,
MON863 [a Monsanto product] is a variety of maize genetically engineered to be resistant to corn rootworm and intended for human consumption. The MON863 grain is approved for human consumption in Japan, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States and the European Union.

Both Monsanto experts, and independent toxicology experts attached to research institutions and food safety authorities internationally did not indicate statistically significant adverse effects. The European Food Safety Authority has found that "the placing on the market of MON863 is unlikely to have an adverse effect on human and animal health or the environment in the context of its proposed use."

However, a statistical analysis conducted on results of a Monsanto 90-day feeding study by Gilles-Eric Seralini, Dominique Cellier, and Joel Spiroux de Vendomois found it increased triglycerides in female rats by 20-40%, caused increased weight gain in female rats of 3.7%, a decrease in male rat weight of 3.3%, and increased certain indicators associated with liver and kidney toxicity.
Or consider Monsanto's Bovine somatotropin, abbreviated as rBST and commonly known as rBGH, a synthetic hormone injected into cows to increase milk production.
IGF-1 is a hormone stimulated by rBGH in the cow's blood stream, which is directly responsible for the increase in milk production. IGF-1 is a natural hormone found in the milk of both humans and cows causing the quick growth of infants. Though this hormone is naturally found in mothers[' milk] to be fed to their infants, it produces adverse effects in non-infants. IGF-1 behaves as a [breast, prostate, lung and colon] cancer accelerator in adults and non-infants. . . .

However, a large Monsanto-sponsored survey of milk showed no significant difference in rBST levels in milk labeled as "rBST-Free" or "Organic" vs milk not labeled as such.

According to the New York Times Monsanto's brand of rBST, Posilac, has . . . ([as of] March 2008) been the focus for a pro-rBST advocacy group called AFACT, made up of large dairy business conglomerates and closely affiliated with Monsanto itself. This group, whose acronym stands for American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology, has engaged in large-scale lobbying efforts at the state level to prevent milk which is rBST-free from being labeled as such.

As milk labeled as hormone-free has proved enormously popular with consumers, the primary justification by Afact for their efforts has been that rBST is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and that the popularity of milk sold without it is damaging what they claim to be the right of dairy producers to use a technology that maximizes their profits.

Monsanto claims that labeling of hormone-free milk takes advantage of consumers by allowing higher prices for the milk by suggesting that it is "better" or "safer" than BST milk, when in fact, there is no difference. Monsanto is requesting that companies that advertise their milk as "rBST-free" be required to add the FDA label claiming that rBST has been found safe for human consumption and no differences exist between hormone and hormone-free milk.

Thus far, a large-scale negative consumer response to Afact's legislative and regulatory efforts has kept state regulators from pushing through strictures that would ban hormone-free milk labels, though several politicians have tried, including Pennsylvania's agriculture secretary Dennis Wolff, who tried to ban rBST-free milk labeling on the grounds that "consumers are confused".
Hey! If it's proven "scientifically" that hormone-laced milk is "best"--do you have any grounds to object? . . .

Sorry! Out of luck!


So what can you do about this monstrous bill?

Contact your US Representative and Senators and ask your representative to vote "NO" on HR875 and your senators to vote "NO" on SB425the Senate version of very similar legislation.

You can help yourself do that by going to Representatives on the Web and Senators on the Web, respectively.

Or contact your Representative via https:/ and your Senators at

If you happen to see that one of your Representatives or Senators is a co-sponsor of either of these bills, you might want to write and requesst that they remove themselves as a co-sponsor to the bill and want them to vote NO on it too!

Further coverage:

The 2009 Food 'Safety' Bills Harmonize Agribusiness Practices in Service of Corporate Global Governance


A Solemn Walk Through HR 875

. . . just to get you going.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Burst strength

I was reading a thread on the Sonlight Lifelong Learners (LLL) forum, a place where all sorts of people come to ask the questions and talk about the things that people--Christian and non-Christian--don't normally talk about. Not at the gut-wrenching depth that the participants in LLL discuss them.

LLL is a private place. You can't go there unless you're a customer of Sonlight or pay for entrance.

Once you get in, however, you'll find a wide range of participants. People of all manner of faith--or unbelief, or downright antagonism toward faith.

But you'll get their honest perspectives . . . --something, as I said, you'll rarely find anywhere else. At least not accompanied (usually) by relatively gracious attitudes, even when the speaker is hostile toward your perspective.

So I was reading this thread instigated by a woman who asked,
Have any of you been Christians and are no longer?

How did you get to this place?

I would very much appreciate talking about this with someone.
And then, upon prompting, "explained" what was really on her mind:
I am tired. And feel done.

Grew up in church. None of it came home if you know what I mean.

Married [my husband] 24 years ago. Drug him to church totally against his will. He claims to be a believer; a Christian. Hates church. Went for our kids.

Non-denom[inational church] for 3 years. Kicked out of the church by the pastor because we broke the rules and brought our sleeping infant into the "Family Room" (what they call the sanctuary.........what a joke).

Went to a Calvary Chapel for 5 years. Felt lost the entire time. Everyone had the "be there every time the doors are open" philosophy, and the "serve in just about every capacity you are able" philosophy, and if you don't, absolutely expect no connections whatsoever.

Left after 5 years because I was drug into a meeting and told I had to disclose information about some gossip going around in the homeschooling group, and I had one week to do so.

Went to a different Calvary Chapel for 3 years.

Left because I had twins and was exhausted and told my close friend, the pastor's wife, that I needed some time at home. We were told, "We'll be here when you get back" and they stuck to no contact whatsoever.

I desperately needed my "church family" (sorry............pains me to say that word) but we were only worthy of friendship if we were THERE on Sunday.

No break warranted.

Been out of church for 2 years. Husband could care less.

Where is God in all of this?

This was one of the longer threads I have ever seen on LLL: over 300 posts in the course of a week of intense dialog.

At the tail end of the thread the original poster wrote,
I had a tough week last week and think so much just came to a head. A close friend lost her brother to a suicide and it just brought me to this place of re-living my father's suicide 11 yrs. ago. Add to that 4 straight days of basketball tournament; 10 hour days bouncing from game to game, city to city, with twins put me over the edge. . . .

I . . . feel this burning question: "Just how much do you think I can take????"
The actual post included additional comments that indicated greater resolution than I am reporting here. But it is that burning question at the end of the portion I have here quoted that elicited one final comment by another person:
I have asked this question a few times in recent years--while I know that 1 Corinthians 10:13 ["No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." --JAH] is TRUE, sometimes it gets so close to that line that I feel like I'm going to break.

I actually read a poem about this the other day... lemme find it:
"A Psalm While Packing Boxes"
by Joseph Bayly

This cardboard box, Lord, see it says
“Bursting limit 200 lbs. per square inch.”
The box maker knew how much strain
the box would take, what weight would crush it.
You are wiser than the box maker
Maker of my spirit, my mind, my body.
Does the box know
when pressure increases close to the limit?
No, it knows nothing.
But l know when my breaking point is near.
And so I pray,
Maker of my soul
Determiner of the pressure within upon me
Stop it
lest I be broken
or else
change the pressure rating
of this fragile container of Your grace
so that I may bear more.
I looked to find where this psalm came from.

In the midst of my search for the source, I discovered that Mr. Bayly lost three teenage sons. The source didn't say this psalm was the direct result of those losses. But it certainly implied a connection. And I can imagine it.


Having read the story of Mr. Bayly's losses, I am reminded of Horatio Spafford and the inspiration for his great hymn, "It Is Well with My Soul" (something my siblings and I sang at our mother's funeral 20-some years ago. (It was her favorite hymn and, certainly, one of mine as well.)

Spafford's story (as told in Wikipedia):
[It Is Well with My Soul] was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871, shortly followed by the great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer).

Then in 1873, he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the S.S. Ville du Havre, but sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sailing ship, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford's daughters died.

His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone." Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.
In that context, then, the significance of Mr. Spafford's hymn is almost beyond imagination:
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control:
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
I pray, somehow, that Mr. Bayly's psalm and Mr. Spafford's hymn as well might, somehow, prove helpful to you today.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Are Christians willing to overcome political correctness?

Wonderful story out of England:
A minister from a black majority church in London told members of the Church of England's governing body, the General Synod, that many Christians appear to see community cohesion as more important that evangelisation.

She warned that Christians must not "walk on eggshells" at a time when followers of other religions are "unrelentingly" spreading their message to the public, and said that everyone should be seen as a potential convert.
On this, the day to remember Jesus' resurrection from the dead, I believe her words need to be taken to heart. Do we have good news to share . . . or not? Should we keep silent . . . or not?

More at The Telegraph. (Note that the original story is two months old--first published February 11.)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The passing of a culture

Today I read the end of 2 Kings (23-25) and the first three chapters of 1 Chronicles (1-3).

I "know" just enough Hebrew to enable me to use the standard tools . . .
Look up a verse in the Blue Letter Bible, then click on the "C"
and you'll see all kinds of lexical aids, including hotlinks to Strong's Concordance . . . and more:
. . . and also to be curious about the meanings of such things as some of the names we run across.

That's why I took the time to check Eliakim and Jehoiakim in 2 Kings 23:34 where we read that "Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the place of Josiah his father, and changed his name to Jehoiakim." What do those names mean?

I knew Eli-akim or El-yakim had to be "My God akim" [Eli-akim] (whatever akim might mean) or "God yakim" [El-yakim] (again, whatever yakim might mean; El means "God").

And Jeho-i-akim (or, more likely, Jeho-yakim) had to be something about "Yahweh (or Jehovah) ________akim or yakim." But what does akim or yakim mean?

I looked up the names.

Eliakim--pronounced El-yah-KEEM; ah! Correct pronunciation leads to correct split: El-yakim--means "God raises" or "God sets up." And, as one might then expect, Jehoiakim--pronounced Yeh-ho-yah-KEEM--means "Jehovah (or Yahweh) raises up."

Once I recognized that, however, it raised a question in my mind: Why would Pharaoh Neco want to change Eliakim's name to Jehoiakim? --Could it be an attempt at ironic mockery: "Jehovah set you up as king! (Ha-ha-ha-ha!) No, I, Pharaoh Neco, established you as king over against your vaunted 'Jehovah.' --And don't you forget it!"? (That was the best I could come up with.)


You can imagine, after doing this kind of study every now and then, one begins to pay attention to the names and the name forms. If you haven't happened to pay attention, let me point out how common the name forms are that begin with El- or Yeh- or Jeh- and/or that end in -iah. --All related to "God" or "YHWH"/"Jehovah."

So I finished 2 Kings and got over to 1 Chronicles where I got the genealogies going back to Adam and Eve, and, suddenly, it was very obvious I was/we are dealing with a very different culture. None of the names included any of those "El" or "YHWH"/Jehovah pre- or postfixes. Yahweh/Jehovah isn't named.

It got me thinking about how the American culture is shifting. You can see it in "our" names.

It wasn't that long ago, the vast majority of names in the United States were "Christian" or "biblical" . . . or exhibited an affinity for or aspirations toward some kind of biblical relations.

But today?

The biblical books of Kings, of course, focus on the names of the civil leaders in Israel and Judah. I got thinking about the head of government in the United States today. Whether or not he identifies himself as Christian, it struck me that Barack Obama is the first U.S. president whose name [Barack = "Blessed" in Arabic] comes from a cultural stream whose names do not reflect Christian or Biblical roots.

Is that, itself, also a sign of a cultural shift?

Are future American presidents/rulers going to feature Islamic/Qur'anic rather than Christian/biblical roots?

Speaking for myself, may I say that, if I had to choose, I would prefer a Christian over a Q'uranic law system!
NOTE: Despite the Arabic roots for his name, the Luo people, from whom Mr. Obama comes, are, today, 97% Protestant Christian by affinity.

Just before I posted, I happened to note this interesting commentary by Eric Schansberg on a similar (but differently-focused) front.