First Person Life


Tidbits from Afganistan Law

Here are some tidbits from Afganistan's Laws... I found these on the net and included links to the original sources. These goes along with my previous post regarding a legal solution to the Afgan Christian who's being tried for converting from Islam.

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2004 Constitution
1976 Penal Code

I wasn't able to find an "official" copy of the current constitution. But here's what I found. The source is and was linked through the U.S. Library of Congress... so it's been vetted a little at least.

(Please note the EDITORS NOTE regarding this English translation at the above website. According to the website, this constitution has been in effect since January 2004)

Article 2 [Religions]
(1) The religion of the state of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam.
(2) Followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law.

Article 3 [Law and Religion]
In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.

Article 6 [Purposes]
The state is obliged to create a prosperous and progressive society based on social justice, protection of human dignity, protection of human rights, realization of democracy, and to ensure national unity and equality among all ethnic groups and tribes and to provide for balanced development in all areas of the country.

Article 24 [Liberty, Human Dignity]
(1) Liberty is the natural right of human beings. This right has no limits unless affecting the rights of others or public interests, which are regulated by law.
(2) Liberty and dignity of human beings are inviolable.
(3) The state has the duty to respect and protect the liberty and dignity of human beings.

Article 27 [Punishment]
(1) No act is considered a crime, unless determined by a law adopted prior to the date the offense is committed.
(2) No person can be pursued, arrested or detained but in accordance with provisions of law.
(3) No person can be punished but in accordance with the decision of an authorized court and in conformity with the law adopted before the date of offense.

Article 45 [Unified Educational Curriculum]
The state shall devise and implement a unified educational curriculum based on the provisions of the sacred religion of Islam, national culture, and in accordance with academic principles, and develops the curriculum of religious subjects on the basis of the Islamic sects existing in Afghanistan.

Article 54 [Family]
(1) Family is a fundamental unit of society and is supported by the state.
(2) The state adopts necessary measures to ensure physical and psychological well being of family, especially of child and mother, upbringing of children and the elimination of traditions contrary to the principles of sacred religion of Islam.

Source:International Development Law Organization
1976 Penal Code

Article 14:
(1) Provisions of this Law shall be applied to persons who commit crime within the area of the Republican Government of Afganistan. The area of the Republican Government of Afganistan encompasses any place under its jurisdiction.
(2) Afgan air-planes and ships, whether inside or outside Afganistan, are considered from the area of Afganistan, unless they are, according to general principles of international law, subject (to authority) of a foreign state.

Article 15: Provisions of this Law are also applicable to the following persons:
(1) Any person who commits an act outside Afganistan as a result of which he is considered the performer of or accomplice in a crime which has taken place in whole or in part in Afganistan.
(2) Any person who commits one of the following crimes outside Afganistan:
(a) Crime against internal or external security of the state of Afganistan;
(b) Crime of forgery as contained in articles 302 and 303 of this Law;
(c) Crime of counterfiting as contained in arcticle 310 of this Law or import of forged or counterfited articles to Afganistan.

This is by no means a comprehensive assessment. Just some tidbits for consideration by others.

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You know you've watched Perry Mason too much when...

I think I may have found a solution to Afganistan's problem with the Christian Convert from Islam.

The problem for them is that under the law of their constitution, a convert from Islam to Christianity must die. This is because their constitution is based on Sharia law which is derived from the Koran. However, they are under intense international pressure to release him.

In this instance, as it appears from the press reports I've read, the man actually did not convert from Islam to Christianity in Afganistan, but rather in Pakistan while he was there helping Afgan refugees. He then spent 9 years living in Germany before returning to Kabul in 2002.

If all of this is true, the Afgan government technically has no jurisdiction. The alleged "crime" (i.e. his conversion) did not happen in Afganistan. Therefore, he did not convert while under the jurisdiction of Afgan law.

Let's look at a different example. Johnny, an 18 year old high-school senior lives on the border between Indiana an Illinois. Let's say the drinking age in Indiana is 21 and the drinking age in Illinois is 18. Johnny's friend (a designated driver) takes him out to a bar in Illinois and Johnny drinks himself into a stupor. This is perfectly legal since Johnny is 18 and he's drinking in Illinois.

As I understand it, when he returns to Indiana, the Indiana police could not arrest Johnny for drinking because he was not drinking in Indiana (where it is illegal). I know that this concept in fact applies in international cases (i.e. Canada and the U.S. because I used to live near the Canadian border when Canada's drinking age was 18 and New York was 21 --- Of course, *I* never did it... but I've got this friend... oh, never mind.)

It seems the same basic rule applies. If he left Afganistan a Muslim, converted in Pakistan, then lived in Germany and returned to Afganistan a Christian, he did not convert from Islam to Christianity under the jurisdiction of Afgan law. Therefore, they can not put him on trial for converting to Christianity from Islam because they had no jurisdiction when the crime occurred. (This same concept is used by Abortion activists to evade parental notification laws all the time in the U.S....)

As I see it, the only way he can be tried for converting is if it is illegal to convert from Islam to Christianity in Pakistan. Pakistan could extradite him and try him for converting. But the Afgan government has no ability to try him since the "crime" he is on trial for did not happen in their jurisdiction.

Anyone have Condolezza Rice's phone number --- I doubt she reads my blog.

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In Memorium

Dan's post One more saved at Necessary roughness brought to mind the passing of my mother (Neuroblastoma [cancer], Fall, 2002), my maternal-grandfather (Aortic Aneurism, Summer, 2004), and my maternal-grandmother (stomach cancer, Summer, 2005). With their passing, I have no living ancestors.

Being an only child, it also makes me quite lonely.

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I had the mixed blessing of spending the last days and hours with both my mother and my grandmother. These are probably the most wrenching memories I'll ever have -- formative for my future vocation, no doubt, but "real life" is a grueling teacher.

I was also privileged to spend the last weekend of my grandfather's life with him. He died in the middle of the week immediately after me and my family visited.

It's good for me to remember them, but it hurts too. The joy of the resurrection still seems distant sometimes.

By the same token, I'm indebted to all of them for the legacy of faith that they left with me. My father (died of metastatic lung cancer, Fall, 1991) converted from Roman Catholicism when he married my mother, so Lutheranism is from my mother's side of the family.

My grandmother had asked me to speak at my grandfather's funeral. In her last days, she also asked me to speak at hers. Below are the messages I prepared.

Richard Andrew Voelker April 25, 1918 - June 22, 2004

Born April 25, 1918 in Knowlesville, NY, Richard Andrew Voelker was the loving son of a Christian mother. Through her influence, his faith grew and he was able to touch many lives with the love of Jesus Christ.

Through his faith, God blessed so many of us here today. And as a faithful witness to Christ, he was a model to be emulated.

As a father and grandfather, he was supportive and forgiving. I often think of him as a father to me. And not only because he and my grandmother often accidentally referred to each other as “your mother” and “your father” when talking to me. But while my relationship with my father left something to be desired and was cut short by his death, he stepped in and filled that role in my life.

Of the many memories I cherish, one is of him teaching me to ride a bicycle in the driveway on Manor Lane.

Others include the many hours we would spend together after school when I would walk to their house and we would sit and talk.

He was also a model husband. For 57 years, he was faithful and loving to his wife Pearl.

All marriages have their ups and downs, and theirs was no different. But for 57 years, they worked hard and continued to love each other in spite of whatever circumstance arose.

No time has that been more evident to me than the past few years.

Several years ago, my grandmother was in a car accident. Complications from that accident resulted in a prolonged hospital stay, surgery, and rehabilitation. But he was ever the constant companion, supporting her and taking over many household chores, never seriously complaining and always trying to be the best husband he could.

And after they lost their daughter, my mother, Jo Anne to cancer in November of 2002, his own wife was diagnosed with cancer. And through surgery and chemotherapy, he cared for her, comforted her, and helped her cope with the effects of her treatments.

And even to the end, he was thinking of her. The one regret that I know was that he would no longer be able to care for his beloved wife.

He knew that by being a good husband, he was upholding the model that marriage is supposed to be. Namely, the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church.

My grandfather's greatest joy was in serving the Lord and being about God's work. He supported his church financially through his tithe, and felt blessed that the Lord generously supplied for all his needs, beyond his expectation.

He also enjoyed God's creation through many different activities.

He always liked the time he spent tilling God's earth and gardening. And he felt blessed to be able to improve and maintain his home himself.

He enjoyed fishing and boating with his son, Doug.
They began with a small inflatable row boat and when they finally gave it up, they had a sixteen foot motorboat. They spent many hours in the canal and on Lake Ontario fishing and pleasure boating.

He wouldn't trade for anything the time with his friends like Ken Berner and their fishing trips together to Canada.

He enjoyed God's green earth as a charter member of Shelridge Golf Club and spent many happy hours on the greens – none of which to my knowledge pre-empted Sunday morning worship.

And he felt blessed to be able to travel throughout the U.S. including Hawaii and Alaska. And to make trips to Europe and the Holy Land.

In later years, his greatest pleasures were to continue to walk with God. Whenever health permitted, he and my grandmother would attend Church.

It was a blessing for him, and me, to be able to attend church together in this sanctuary last Sunday. And I know many of you were blessed by his presence here as well.

And, until it was no longer possible, he enjoyed Wednesday morning Bible class and Saturday Morning Gideon prayer breakfast.

He dearly loved his sister, Lois as well as his sisters-in-law, Evelyn and Mavis.

He was very much saddened at the passing of Mavis, in March of this year.

Evelyn and her husband Harold were best friends and he was greatful for their help in so many ways.

My grandfather, Richard Andrew Voelker, born April 25, 1918, living a full and faith filled life of 86 years until June 22, 2004, touched many lives and will be sorely missed by those who knew him.

But he would not have us dwell on what we've lost. If we look at his faith and his life, we know he would have us remember that our parting need only be temporary. And because of his faith in Jesus Christ, he is truly home now.

And I know without a doubt that his prayer for us would be that God would grant each of us the faith to say that Jesus Christ, true God and True man died and rose again to save us from our sins and that we may all know the peace of God which surpassess all understanding and that it would keep our hearts and our minds in this same Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pearl Ruth (Heim) Voelker, September 28, 1926 - August 29, 2005

Pearl Ruth Heim was born September 28, 1926 to Joseph and Selma Heim and baptized into the Christian faith on October 24. She grew up with her two sisters, Mavis and Evelyn, and was confirmed in November, 1939.

Pearl married Richard Voelker on June 26, 1947. In their 57 years of marriage, they modeled what it means to “love, honor, and cherish” one another, “for richer and poorer and in sickness and in health.” They were separated by death on June 28, 2004.

Through trials and difficulties, their marriage was sustained by their faith in God and their fidelity to one another. In the joys and triumphs, they never failed to praise God, recognizing that it is from Him that all blessings flow.

Throughout her life, she followed the advice of her confirmation verse, Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” She drew strength from her faith in “God's care, secure in His love for [her] and trusting in the salvation purchased for [all of us] through Christ's suffering and death.”

She assured that this faith was passed on to their two children, Jo Anne, who was received into glory in November of 2002, and Doug, who resides with his wife, Margaret in Middleport.

Pearl loved and was concerned about all of her grandchildren, step-grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and step-great-grandchildren. In speaking of them shortly before her death, she said, “They brought great joy into my life.”

Of her sisters and her brother-in-law Harold she said, “I was blessed with many good times and I appreciated all they did for me.”

Pearl found great comfort and hope in Holy Scripture and especially enjoyed Wednesday morning Bible Study. She also felt it important to share God's Word with others and supported Gideon's International. She enjoyed attending Saturday morning Gideon's Auxiliary Breakfast.

Like any good German Lutheran in Western New York, she enjoyed the game of Euchre and especially enjoyed the regular games she played with her cousins.

Anyone who knew Pearl at all, knows that she loved cats and had an extensive collection.

Nobody could say life was easy for Pearl. She grew up during the great depression and knew the value of a dollar. In her late teens, our country was at war and she learned first hand about sacrificing for your neighbor. Several years ago, complications from a car accident resulted in a prolonged hospitalization, surgery, and rehabilitation. Nearly three years ago, she lost her daughter to a rare form of cancer, Pearl herself was diagnosed with cancer and just over a year ago, she unexpectedly lost her husband.

It may seem strange to discuss the difficulties she endured in her life as we gather today. But throughout all of this, she remained steadfast and immovable in her faith. She endured these trials patiently, trusting in God's unfailing love. Herself being firmly convinced of St. Paul's words, “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, no things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Her delight was certainly in the Lord. And those that knew her well know that through her family and friends; through her church and work; through trials and joys she received from Him the desires of her heart.

Pearl Ruth Heim Voelker was born September 28, 1926 and lived nearly 79 years until she was received into Glory on August 29, 2005. She will be sorely missed by those who were granted the blessing of knowing her.

But she would not wish us to dwell on her or our own loss. To those among us who share her faith in Christ's redemption and know Him as both savior and friend, she would assure us in the same way she assured my wife during our last visit by saying, “I'll see you again.”

With her husband, she shared the prayer for all of us that God would grant to each of us the faith that she had. Faith to “trust in the salvation purchased for [us] through Christ's suffering and death.” And she would leave all of us in the comfort of knowing that she “died in this faith and has now joined her Lord in eternal glory.”

May God make this so for all of us. Amen.

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Just what is a sermon?

I'm not sure why, but I'm subscribed to Rick Warren's newsletter. In a recent issue he has an article with 9 "tips" for better preaching.

It's unfortunate that some who have confessed that the contents of the Book of Concord are a correct exposition of the Scriptures hold Warren in such high regard. The fact is, Rick Warren preaches something completely contrary to a right understanding of Scripture. He preaches a "different gospel."

There are ways to "Lutheranize" what he says, but it usually involves rewording what he has said to mean the opposite.

Here is how he opens his "9 tips":

I'll say it over and over: The purpose of preaching is obedience. Every preacher in the New Testament – including Jesus – emphasized conduct, behavioral change, and obedience. [dm42: emphasis added]

And here are his "tips":

1. All behavior is based on a belief
2. Behind every sin is a lie I believe
3. Change always starts in the mind
4. To help people change, we must change their beliefs first
5. Trying to change people’s behavior without changing their belief is a waste of time
6. The biblical term for “changing your mind” is “repentance”
7. You don’t change people’s minds, the applied Word of God does
8. Changing the way I act is the fruit of repentance
9. The deepest kind of preaching is preaching for repentance

My question: Where's Jeus?

No doubt, we can agree with some of these statements if they existed in a different context. It's not the statements themselves which are problematic, but it is the meaning that they convey when put together that is the problem.

And this is the entire problem I find that I have with Warren and his ilk. They sound "just enough" right that people are taken in by what they say. For example, we can all agree, "You don't change people's minds [by preaching], the Word of God does." It's a correct statement.

But what is the “Word of God” that does this changing.

I've recently republished J.M. Reu's Homiletics textbook from 1922. He was a professor at Wartburg Seminary in the early 20th Century and wrote some really great stuff.

Unlike Warren who claims “Obedience” is the heart of a sermon, Reu has a different approach.

The centre of the sermon will always be the Gospel, i.e., the testimony of the grace of God, forgiving sin and conferring righteousness; for “the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” [Jn 1:17]. - (J.M. Reu, Homiletics, A Manual of the Theory and Practice of Preaching, 1922, p.60)

As a more complete answer to Warren's “9 tips,” I include below additional information from Reu (pp. 44,57-59):

[p.44] Apart from the Word of God there can be no sermon; On the Word of God the sermon is based, from the Word it draws its contents. Indeed, the sermon is nothing else than the offer and proclamation of the Word.

[pp.57-59]The heart and centre of the Word, as well as of the whole saving revelation of God, is Jesus Christ. The Old Testament points to Him as the coming one; the New Testament testifies of Him as come. To preach the Old Testament alone would be a deplorable relapse to the stage of pre-Christian preparation. God the Father can be known only through the Son, in whom He has revealed Himself; the Holy Spirit speaks not of Himself but takes the things of Christ and declares them unto us. If God, in all the fulness of His grace and truth, is to be brought to the souls of men by means of preaching, and if men are thus to know and appropriate Him, in order to an ever completer communion between God and man, it is necessary that the sermon be Christocentric, have no one and nothing else for its centre and content than Christ Jesus. This is true not only of the missionary sermon as Paul practiced it, but also of the sermon before the established congregation, as is clear from the whole epistolary literature of the New Testament, and as John expressly states at the close of his gospel. Indeed, this follows of itself from the fundamental truth that a genuine Christian faith and life can exist only so long as it remains a daily appropriation of Christ. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” must ever be the watchword, until we ascend from faith to sight. The sermon must, therefore, continually placard Christ before it's hearers' eyes and glorify Him before men; otherwise it ceases to be a Christian sermon. [emphasis added]

But Christ cannot be the content of the sermon as mere revealer of God's will to men, as teacher, prophet or exemplar. These sides of Him will indeed never be absent. The sermon will need to present the holy will of God as revealed by Christ, if it is to inculcate New Testament and not merely Old Testament morality, and evangelical and not a mere natural or legalistic piety. No other embodiment of the divine will can exert so strong an attraction upon men as its embodiment in the person and life of Christ. But the sermon of which Christ is the heart and centre must come nearer than this to the heart and centre of Christ. No one can so completely and reliably reveal the riches of the Father's will to salvation as the Only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father. Whoever undertakes, therefore, to declare the saving will of God must bring men the message of Christ concerning the Father in heaven. He cannot omit from his message, notwithstanding the objections of modern theology, the miracles of Jesus, nor will he treat them as a mere nimbus round His person, but rather as the inner expression of His personality and His proper works and “signs.” As little will he conceal from his hearers the mystery of the person of Christ, as it is confessed in the Small Catechism, - “True God, begotten of the Father from all eternity, and also true Man, born of the Virgin Mary.” This will rather form the constant undercurrent of all his preaching, breaking forth again and again in unmistakable clearness and spontaneous adoration.

But the preacher will need to rise higher and delve deeper even than this, if his sermon is to be truly Christocentric in the sense of Jesus Himself and of His great Apostle. It must be a witness to the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me, in His whole life from the manger to the cross, and who rose on the third day and lives and reigns forever as Savior and Lord. Such preaching alone can produce faith, justifying and saving faith, which can have no other object than Jesus the Son of God, who gave His life as a ransom for all. Christ crucified must ever be the alpha and omega, the heart and centre, the life and soul of the sermon; for nowhere else has God so fully revealed Himself as on the cross of Calvary, where, in order to declare Himself both just and a justifier, He set forth Jesus as propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Here is the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Here the veil is completely rent in twain, and God bares to us His inmost heart. The sermon, if it is to set for God as He really is, so that He may draw men to Himself, must present Him as the God who was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Only then will the sinner venture to draw near to Him and rejoice in His salvation.


Perhaps I should send Rick a copy of J.M. Reu's book.

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Allah is impotent?

"Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die," said cleric Abdul Raoulf, who is considered a moderate and was jailed three times for opposing the Taliban before the hardline regime was ousted in 2001. (Foxnews: Clerics Call for Christian Convert's Death Despite Western Outrage)

The old adage goes, "If you want something done right, do it yourself." Apparently some dieties can't be bothered to do things right.

I mean, let's think about this... Can't the "god" of Islam take care of himself? Does he really need the protection of a lynch mob of puny human beings? It seems to me that any "god" which needs a mere mortal to protect him from being humiliated isn't really much of a god.

My take on this is that here's a good opportunity for the "god" of Islam to prove himself. Let Allah deal with this "blasphemer" himself and stop hiding behind human mercenaries. If Allah was truly upset at this man's apostasy, there'd be no need for a trial. When Nahab and Abihu offended YHWH, he just torched them himself -- he didn't need someone else to do it. When YHWH wanted his people released from bondage in Israel, He stretched forth his mighty arm and led them out. He didn't have Moses start a rebellion. He didn't command His chosen people to strap explosives to their bodies and massacre the Egyptians until the Egyptians relented. YHWH did all the work -- Himself.

This begs the question, who is the bigger God? The one who deals with things Himself or the one who needs others to do his dirty work for him?

The God of Christianity is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He is a God who forgives sin by taking the punishment for sin upon Himself. In the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God condescended to take on human flesh and be born of a virgin. Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience, and died the death that we deserve. He did this in order to pay the penalty for our sin. His victory over sin was made sure through His resurrection from the dead on the third day.

The God of Christianity dealt with sin Himself. He established peace between Himself and all mankind through His sacrifice and His work. Through His work, He made things right.

The God of Islam apparently can't be bothered with doing things right -- so he has others do his dirty work for him.

Once again, we see the true stripes of Islam. A "moderate" Islamic cleric is insisting that a man be put to death for insulting "god." With this type of "moderation," how can they be considered a forgiving and peaceful religion?

And what kind of "god" hides behind his followers demanding that they destroy those who "insult" him? Why wouldn't he just prevent infidels from being born in the first place? At least he should be able to exact his own punishment without relying on others to do it for him. -- Could it be perhaps he's not an omnipotent "god" but an impotent deceiver masqerading as "god"? Is it really possible for God to be "humiliated" by the apostasy of one of his own creatures?

May the One True God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, continue to protect and defend all who are persecuted for the sake of His name. May He grant that they boldly confess Him who is the object of their faith - the one through whom we have forgivness of sins, Jesus Christ - even in the face of adversity. May He keep them faithful through whatever circumstance he permits them to encounter and assure them of their victory through Jesus Christ who overcame the power of sin, death and the devil. Amen.

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Afgan Facing Death Penalty for being Christian

Ok, just what kind of nations are we building when we overthrow governments? According to a BBC Article a man who converted to Christianity 16 years ago is on trial in Afganistan and could face the death penalty if he does not renounce his Christianity and reconvert to Islam.

"We will invite him again because the religion of Islam is one of tolerance. We will ask him if he has changed his mind. If so we will forgive him," the judge told the BBC on Monday.

But if he refused to reconvert, then his mental state would be considered first before he was dealt with under Sharia law, the judge added.

Here's a clue for those in the world who still think Islam is a "tolerant" religion. Just because they use the word doesn't mean that they use it properly. To translate what this demonically influenced judge said into a more modern english idiom, "Convert back to Islam, or else." In spite of the use of the word "tolerant," this isn't tolerance - it's coercive.

If this is the type of nations we're "building," aren't we thereby complicit in the murder of Christians through the agencies of these other nations? Isn't that part-and-parcel of being a citizen of a Representative Republic? We're all culpable for the actions of our government? Food for thought anyway.

In the mean time, I'm sure all of our prayers are with this man that God would deliver him from the clutches of the Evil One but more importantly, strengthen his faith and grant him perseverence in the face of whatever lies ahead that he may maintain a faithful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God's peace be with you - brother.

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Wish I could do that....

Having just finished a 2 hour review session for an exam tomorrow morning, and still not feeling prepared --- I really wish I had AJ's problem. Apparently, she simply can't forget stuff. I know-- I know... "The grass is always greener..." But even so, I can think of worse "problems" to have...

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Chats, and Blogs, and Wikis -- Oh, My!

The recent issues surrounding East leaning pastors has put me back in mind to consider Lutheran Blogging, the use of technology and how these things intersect with our Christian witness to the world and fellow believers.

One of the reasons I took up blogging was not simply to have a forum to express my ideas, but rather to have a forum in which my ideas would be critiqued, evaluated, and if necessary corrected. I know that there are others in the blog-o-sphere (especially those of us who are seminary students) who have taken up the "art" for this reason - with mixed results.

I think the online world holds numerous posibilities for this type of communication. However, it seems we have fallen into a number of pitfalls.

First, the immediacy of the web and the Internet sometimes gets us in trouble. I think we all know better than to try to make a strong theological or exegetical point based on Luther's Table Talk, because most of this was off the cuff discussion. We prefer to look at his more intentionally considered works. This is because these works have additional thought and editing that his Table Talk lectures do not.

In cyberspace, it's easy to read something that was written in a "Table Talk" type moment and end up discussing it as if it were some intentional thesis. Then egos get involved and attitudes flare. Sometimes the anonymity of the keyboard gives rise to "running off at the fingers" when a more temperate and controlled spirit is necessary. It's one of the dangers of the medium that, when combined with our human nature, often causes trouble.

Second, the "meritocracy" paradigm that has led to some great things in the world of computing isn't an easy thing to establish and maintain. A recent Economist article on Open Source development points this out.

A "meritocracy" depends on the community at large being able to determine who is meritorious and who is not. Unfortunately, there are few, if any, tools available to make such classifications in the blogosphere. Consequently, we use our own subjective opinions rather than any objective standard. Many of us tend to listen to those who scratch our itching ears, then pile on the bandwagons of those who are most like-minded. All of this futher fragments that which many of us pray will become unified. This too is dangerous. Anyone who's played "LEMMINGS" knows the ultimate result.

Third, the Internet is a public medium. Our behavior (good and bad) is in plain view for everyone to see -- and I do mean everyone. This includes the weak in faith and those who would attack the church for being full of "hypocrites." Say what you want, this is a reality of the medium. Often our "sqabbles" are important, but the manner in which we carry them out hurt our witness to Christ.

I'm intrigued with Pastor Peterson's idea for a wiki and I'll probably watch that somewhat closely to see how things go there.

I'm coming more and more to the conclusion that some sort of a "tiered" approach ought to be considered. The first level is already well established. The use of blogs or similar mediums which would be best. This tier would be the day-to-day "polemics" and "commentary." This tier shouldn't be taken "too seriously" (that's not to say that there aren't some EXCELLENT bloggers out there who are worthy of serious consideration - but let's face it, most blogs [including mine] are more like the editorial page of your local newspaper -- not the place you go for in depth news and information).

The next tier might be something like a wiki. Basically, something more of an information repository. Perhaps issue based. Topics might include things like comparative symbolics, quotes from church fathers and historic figures on various topics, etc. Keep it to the facts and avoid commentary as much as possible. A couple of editors would probably be necessary and some specific community guidelines regarding content.

The third tier would be some sort of peer-reviewed site with tighter controls. The controls would be more about process than content. Basically, something to keep each other from saying something stupid -- or something easily taken out of context. What I'm envisioning is something like a peer-reviewed electronic theological journal for Confessional Lutheranism. This is something I've been considering for some time, but I'm not sure what type of interest level there is.

The greater immediacy of an online forum coupled with some sort of editorial policies and controls, I think would help avoid some of the pitfalls of blogging. I think the trick would be to design the editorial policy and controls such that it's a forum to vet ideas and clarify argumentation and not necessarily have an editorial agenda.

The only exception to this would be that Scriptures and the Confessions are held inviolate. While a contributor would not necessarily need to hold a "quia" subscription, any article must conform to the teachings contained in it.

To make a "go" of it, would require functional editors as well as reviewers and contributors. So what are others' thoughts? I'm very interested in such a project, but is anyone else out there interested in it? What other things can you think of to increase the "signal to noise" ratio of the Lutheran blog-o-sphere and improve true dialogue and thoughtful discussion of the truly important issues facing Lutheranism and our Synod? Or should we all continue to "shoot from the hip," and not be too concerned about the "collateral damage" we do in the process?

What are your thoughts?

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WOW, Look at the time!

Through a combination of being quite busy and working on a couple of pet projects, I haven't had much time to blog (read or write) lately. Thought I should let everyone know I'm not leaving the community, I just need to get a handle on some other things and this is lower on the priority list right now.

When I'm back to reflecting on things rather than just getting them done, I'm sure I'll have more to say.

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Criminalizing Mercy

On a plain reading of a recent piece of legislation, it seems that Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles is actually justified in his concern over language this bill.

His basic concern is that providing assistance to illegal immigrants would violate this law. The logical question is, what is meant by "assistance?" Well, from a plain reading of the bill (HR 4437) it would seem that the following things would be illegal: (all references are to 8 USC 1324 as it would be ammended by HR 4437)

1) Providing a meal at a soup kitchen. (8 USC 1324 sec 274 (a) (1) (C) - makes whoever "assists, encourages, directs, or induces a person to reside in or remain in the United States, or to attempt to reside in or remain in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such person is an alien who lacks lawful authority to reside in or remain in the United States" a criminal)
2) Putting up an illegal immigrant in one's home or even in a homeless shelter. (see (1) above)
3) Providing medical assistance. (see (1) above)
4) Giving them a ride to the other side of town. (8 USC 1324 wec 274 (a) (1) (D) - makes whoever "transports or moves a person in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such person is an alien who lacks lawful authority to enter or be in the United States, where the transportation or movement will aid or further in any manner the person's illegal entry into or illegal presence in the United States" a criminal) -- an woe to the taxi driver who does this for commercial profit!

So apparently we're supposed to check greencards of our parishoners or our neighbors before we do any of these things. Otherwise face possible prosecution and up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine. And the poor taxi driver could face up to 20 years in prison!

The good thing is that the core ministry of Word and Sacrament don't appear to be covered by this legislation. So with the exception of providing the Lord's Supper which might possibly be construed as "assisting" or "encouraging".

I know, the good cardinal is being a bit alarmist about this, and this post too takes the bill far more literally than the courts would (hopefully)... But it makes you think about how many laws you might already be breaking in what you think is normal day-to-day activity.

I mean, when Homeland Security is put on notice when you pay a credit-card off (Thanks DanAtNR) -- language like this in an immigration bill starts to take a little different appearance.

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New Time-Waster for Broadband Users!

Ok, I've found a new time waster... It's everything that video dialtone promised but never delivered. Like so many other community sites, it's got a lot of junk and some good stuff.

How I frittered away a good chunk of the morning:
I found THIS conspiracy theory video about 9/11 on YouTube. It's about 20 minutes long [NOTE: If you're sensitive to the events of 9/11 still, don't watch. There's a lot of scenes that include footage from that horrible day]. It's very well done and was quite thought provoking. So I had to dig around and cull through my thoughts on the matter.

The basic premis is that Bush and his cronies were behind the destruction of the buildings - there's a massive coverup -- yada,yada,yada. You can find all the salient features at Wikipedia without the footage or the soundtrack (although I wouldn't mind a copy of the soundtrack... but I digress).

But after spending 3 hours or so digging through conspiracy theories and looking at reports, I'm back where I started... I don't think there was a conspiracy. I think the events happened the way that the "official record" records them (for the most part). One thing I found particularly helpful was this article at Scientific American -- published approximately a month after 9/11. The more I think about it, the physics seem to work out (I'm not a phycisist, but I play one on my blog). That's not to say the event hasn't been used as a political tool, but that's bound to happen.

Anyway -- enough rambling for now. I have more thoughts about this, but I need to get something done today.

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Author's Note: This is simply a rant. There's no deeper meaning here than the fact than to point out that the "scientific establishment" is comprised of a bunch of double-minded ninny's who can't make up their minds about what's what.

[begin rant] Ok, this type of thing just bugs me. The global scientific body on climate change will report soon that only greenhouse gas emissions can explain freak weather patterns (with the obligatory "we gotta do something about this!"). At the same time, the only permissible theory about human origins is evolutions. So I ask -- are we (humans) simply a naturally occuring phenomena -- a product of evolution or are we something special and unique?

I think readers of this blog know my answer, but the scientific community seems confused.

If we're a product of evolution, then let us and the environment adapt around one another. If it's all just random mutations and gradual changes, then let things go on changing while we do what comes "naturally" to us -- even if that means making a mess of the environment. Things will evolve like they always have -- making changes to adapt. And we shouldn't worry about the species we're killing, they obviously couldn't adapt well enough -- so, survival of the fittest says they weren't fit, so they didn't survive.

If on the other hand human beings are a special creation of God placed on earth to be stewards of His creation -- then at least the cries of "we should do something" have a place.

Ultimately, I'm really not certain what to think about global climatic change. Scripture teaches that we're out to destroy creation because it is a creation of God and we're now, because of the fall, enemies of God (that's one logical ramification of the fall). From that vantage point there's something that rings true to the doom and gloom.

But in all honesty, I'm not certain that they have much credibility when 30 or so years ago they were concerned about the coming ice-age because of global cooling (I remember talk of it even into the early 80's when I was in grade school and middle school). Now they're worried about global warming... c'mon make up your minds!!!!

All that aside, I just wish the "scientific community" would tell us once and for all what our role in the universe is? Are we just an organic part of it (i.e. evolution) or should we exercise some level of care and concern (i.e. creation)?

Ultimately, this post is simply a rant at the insanity of the scientific establishment. So long as they remain double minded -- I reserve the right to tell them they're (as my father used to say) smokin' "whacky backy" (i.e "tobbacco" that makes you 'loopy'). For people who claim to only use reason and logic and observation, they often seem to do none of the above.

What it boils down to for me is -- Either we are products of evolution or we're not. If we aren't -- if we've been CREATED to care for the world, then the cries of "we must do something" make sense. On the other hand, if we've evolved, then the scientists should just all shut up and let the world mutate around us -- there's no moral imperative for me to give a hoot because there's nothing "out there" by which to guage moral behavior. [end rant]

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