One of my favorite essays by C. S. Lewis is his piece collected in God in the Dock on “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment.” You can read it in the internet graveyard here (by “graveyard” I mean Angelfire; my older readers will understand). Lewis viewed himself as defending the traditional view of punishment–people were punished if and when and to the extent that they deserved to be punished. Lewis’ view leaves me with questions about the history of punishment in Christian lands, but I think his basic thesis holds up.
So what to make of Putin?
He is Tolkien’s melodious and fatherly Saruman come alive.
Hanson is not wrong about Tolkien’s fictional character, but I had forgotten that aspect of Saruman–his “melodious” persuasiveness. Frankly, I don’t think Putin is charismatic enough to qualify.
When I think of Saruman, what first comes to mind is Saruman and his orcs. He used them and bred them to wage his wars.
I’ve been thinking of Saruman a great deal lately because his strategy of conquest seems so familiar to what I see, not in Putin, but in US policy. We flooded Libya with orcs and
gave them air support bombed their enemies. They murdered many sub-Saharan Africans and flew black flags over the conquered towns. Later, at a time when they escaped Saruman’s grip, they killed our ambassador and others in Benghazi.
Now we are using them to overrun Syria so they can rape Christians and burn down churches and overthrow a secular dictatorship in order to replace it with an Islamist nightmare.
As far as the “melodious” aspect of Saruman is concerned, that would be the pseudo-conservative writers and speakers who are doing all they can to prevent an anti-war, anti-establishment movement from growing and to turn it into a partisan anti-Democrat-Party, pro-GOP movement that will froth at the mouth when the next Republican President attacks another nation.
One of the Apostle Paul’s most famous descriptions of the church involves an individual human body:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27, ESV)
One could easily think that Paul is arguing from the premise that every human person is a unified body. In a biological sense that seems self-evident. But the Bible can speak of people as driven or controlled by various body parts. Paul must be arguing here from the ideal human person–the one who has matured. Paul himself is a large part of the Scriptural witness that affirms that human beings are often bodies in which the parts are at war with one another.
I was getting my hair cut the other day by someone other than my wife, for a change. As a result I got exposed to Christian culture outside my own personal sociological safe room. I am ashamed to say how seldom this happens. Of course, by not “getting out more” I help other Christians form their own little bubbles of idiosyncratic belief and theological naivete.
But not this time. The barber learned, as he cut my hair, that I was a seminary graduate and had pastored in a number of places around the country. So, as he finished up shaving the back of my neck, he let loose with his camaraderie question: “Before I let you go, I have to ask you: Do you think the Lord is coming back soon!”
The sound of his voice alerted me this was, in his mind, a rhetorical question. We were supposed to share in the joy of the soon return of Jesus to earth.
The American ambassador to London has been forced to retract his categorical denial that the US had sent any terrorism suspects to Syria, a country that routinely practises torture.
It was the second embarrassment for Robert Tuttle, a millionaire car dealer and art collector, who last month vehemently denied that US forces had used white phosphorus as a weapon – only to be contradicted by the Pentagon a day later.
Mr Tuttle’s latest mishap came during a radio interview in which he defended America’s controversial policy of “extraordinary rendition” – secret operations to capture and move terrorist suspects to US custody.
It is alleged that America has secret prisons in eastern Europe.
Asked about suspects being “dumped” in Syria, Mr Tuttle told Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t think there is any evidence that there have been any renditions carried out in the country of Syria. There is no evidence of that. I think we have to take what the Secretary [Condoleezza Rice] says at face value.
“It is something very important. It is done very carefully and she has said we do not authorise, condone torture in any way, shape or form.”
The interview was recorded last Thursday and broadcast yesterday. But on Friday the US embassy sent a clarification that was broadcast at the end of the interview.
The statement said: “The ambassador recognised that there had been a media report of a rendition to Syria but reiterated that the United States is not in a position to comment on specific allegations of intelligence activities that appear in the press.”
Another point: If only Assad were as civilized as us and used white phosphorous instead of (pick one: saran gas/chlorine ?).
When memos surfaced this year showing top Justice Department lawyers trying to justify torture, Attorney General John Ashcroft moved quickly to stake out the moral high ground.
“This administration rejects torture,” Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I condemn torture.”
Maher Arar, 34, however, doesn’t buy it. For 10 months and 10 days, Arar was in a Syrian prison, where he says he was beaten and confined to a cell not much bigger than a coffin.
Arar was picked up by U.S. authorities at Kennedy International Airport in New York, accused of being a terrorist and then shipped on Justice Department orders to Syria under a secret policy known as rendition.
Let me start with a brief story about a society in which some people had slaves and attempted to use those slaves for income:
David thought the interview had gone well so far. Huxley Industries needed a slave to answer phones, keep records, and do other office work. David needed some better income and he had a slave to rent. His slave could easily do the jobs that they needed to be done.
“So can your slave be here by 7:30 am every weekday morning?”
David’s heart lurched. “You start that early?”
Well, we need him ready to go before others come to work. We found this position works better if he starts a half hour earlier.”
“This is the same president that two years ago said that Bashar Assad must leave office and so where is America’s credibility? Where is our ability to influence events in the region?” the Arizona Republican said.
And those “who say we should stay out of Syria do not understand that this is now a regional conflict” that is increasingly “getting worse,” he said. “And what is the president’s policy? What is the president’s policy?”
So Obama told the ruler of a sovereign country to leave office and that proves we must remove him? People who doubt the American Empire are fooling themselves.
And if Obama has that authority over the Syrian government, he certainly has authority over the “nation” of the United States. How can the legal claims of the Constitution bind a man who can make extra-legal rulings over another nation in a different hemisphere? If Obama has the authority to remove Assad, the Republic is truly dead.
Next to that, the foolishness of McCain’s claim that turning a regional conflict into a global one represents an improvement on the situation barely rates a mention.
So, I made a point today of visiting the most popular Christian websites to see all the prophetic denunciations of the coming US-government-sponsored, anti-Christian bloodbath that is about to be, as the cliche goes, “taken to the next level.”
I can’t believe I am part of a subculture who lauds Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce and G. K. Chesterton and Corrie Ten Boom. Apparently, the point of honoring heroes of old is so that we can credit ourselves for admiring them to compensate for being nothing like them.
Decorating the tombs of the prophets.
So here. Let me help you transition your outrage.
A question I have been thinking upon: Should we take Jesus description about the one who does his good works to impress others at face value?
Here is the passage:
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4, ESV)
By itself this is a straightforward instruction. However, the people Jesus singled out for us to be sure we do not emulate did more than trumpet their help for the poor. They also exploited the poor and looted from them to add to their own wealth.