March 2007 Archives

EMBRACE THE SUCK

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While getting ready for work this morning I was listening to “Morning Sedition” from National Public Radio and they did a story on a book entitled Embrace the Suck: A pocket Guide to Milspeak Compiled and Introduced by Col. Austin Bay, an Army Colonel. It sounded interesting so I looked it on the web and found a neat little web site.

The New Pamphleteer offers some neat little books for sale. Well, they are not really books, they are pamphlets. They are inexpensive, about $4.00 per copy, and when you order one you can get a link to download a pdf of the pamphlet.

This is getting back to what I think some of our publishing needs to be. Just as Thomas Paine wrote and distributed Common Sense in pamphlet format, these books are in pamphlet format. They are short and focused. I have to wonder, what would our society be like today if more pamphlets were made available to the general public? Sure, I’ll still read a 300 page book on a topic of interest, but will everyone? Do we need a 300 page book on every topic? I think not. A short pamphlet works just fine for many topics.

Article: "House Democrats Set to Retreat From Effort to Cap Troop Levels", Wall Street Journal, 02 March 2007, p. A4

One thing I cautioned my Sailors against was expecting to see much change in Iraq as a result of the November elections. The Democrats may have gained the majority, but it was not enough to override a veto or, as we have seen lately, not even enough to bring bills up for a vote. According to the WSJ apparently the Democrat’s are now beginning to see that as well.

According to the article, Rep. John Murtha has been humbled. I doubt I would go that far but he has certainly run into some roadblocks. I can’t say that I’m bothered by that, in fact I think the roadblocks are good. I, for one, never understood the purpose of a non-binding resolution. What were the Democrats trying to prove? Were they trying to tell the President that they were unhappy? If so, they needn’t have bothered; I’m confident the President Bush knows the Democrats are unhappy with the situation in Iraq.

Perhaps they are simply schizophrenic. They holding hearings before they confirm General David Petraeus and he makes it clear that he supports a surge in troop level. After the hearings, they confirm him by an overwhelming number. Then they want a resolution to keep the surge from happening. It makes no sense to me, but then I’m not in Congress.

House Republican Leader John Boehner is quoted in the article as saying “For seven weeks Democrats have been all over the block. They have no strategy to stop the war. They have no strategy to win the war. They are the majority here on Capitol Hill. It’s time for them to grow up make a decision.” I can’t say that I agree with him because I fear the decision they might make.

The truth is that Iraq is not another Vietnam. It can be if we yield to those who want to cut funds and withdraw troops. On the other hand, if we tough it out, we just might win. It was our weak response to prior acts of terrorism that led Osama bin Laden to believe we were a paper tiger and hence the reason he was willing to stage the attacks of 11 September 2001. Imagine what would happen if we were to pull out of Iraq too soon. The acts of terrorism on American soil would drastically increase and they could well prove difficult to counter. Yes, the Iraqis need to take a more active role in running their country; yes they need to do more to quell the sectarian violence; yes they need to train more troops; but their failure to so should not result in our withdrawal for we, along with the Iraqis, will suffer.

VERNON BROYLES AT IT AGAIN

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This month’s Presbyterians Today once again contains another telling column by Vernon Broyles. His column is titled “Where is forgiveness?” but he is blinded by his own liberal bias and never really gets around to the title of the column. Who is supposed forgive whom in this column?

Lent, for me anyway, is a time to focus on the sufferings of Jesus Christ in preparation for celebration of his crucifixion and resurrection. For Broyles however, his thoughts turn to “…the transition of leadership in Congress, the struggle over what to do next in Iraq, the fallout surrounding the shameful mishandling of Saddam Hussein’s execution, and the warm, passionate tributes to President Gerald Ford as he lay in state.” Quick someone, tell Vern that Ford was a Republican. He was one of those he seems to hate so much.

Good old Vern then goes on ad nauseam about the execution of Saddam. Vern, Saddam was executed by the government of Iraq. He was taunted and teased by his fellow Muslims, remember, the religion of peace. I agree that the taunting of Saddam was wrong and should not be tolerated, but it was not done Presbyterians, nor even by American’s. I have no idea why he brings this up in his article.

He then gets off vengeance. Yes, Vern vengeance is the Lord’s but where does the “[y]et for vengeance’s sake 3,000 young Americans are dead, tens of thousands maimed physically and emotionally, and even more Iraqis are gone forever” come from? Sure, I’ll agree that some of the Iraqis are vengeful but this is not what he means. He goes on to say that we should call on our leaders to seek a new spirit of openness that will yield to reconciliation. Perhaps we can call on the United Nations to help here. Ooops, I forgot, we’ve been there, done that.

PC(USA) AND PROPERTY

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I remember a few years ago speaking with my then Presbyterian minister about the differences of the denominations in how we recite the Lord’s Prayer. Many ask to be forgiven of their “trespasses” but we Presbyterians ask to be forgiven for our “debts”. Yes, of course I realize they are the same but I found, and still find, the differences in language interesting. His response to me was that as a church with Scottish roots, we really don’t mind if someone chooses to walk across our land, but they had better not mess with our money.

At the time it was just a funny thing to say. But now that some PC(USA) churches are trying to leave the denomination, I notice that his words were prophetic. According to the Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church (USA), property does not belong to individual churches but is held in trust for the use and benefit of the PC(USA). If you are interested you can read more in the Book of Order, G-8.0100.

Over the last several years, the PC(USA) has been drifting further and further to the left, according to many of us. They have become downright rabid liberals on some issues such as Israel and the war in Iraq. I have personally been offended countless times by liberals Vernon Broyles, III and I won’t even begin to talk about the Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick. Let’s just say that on a fairly regularly basis, I write my Senators and Representative in Washington asking them to ignore some ridiculous letter that has been sent “on behalf of the church”.

In her editorial, Presbyterians Today editor Eva Stimson mentions that “[o]nly if the parties are willing to talk to each other, can a negotiated settlement be reached before a heated legal battle ignites.” What Ms. Stimson fails to realize, or at least fails to acknowledge, is that there have been talks. There have been talks for many years but those churches who wish to leave obviously do not think they have been heard. I am not a member of a church that wishes to leave the PC(USA) but I assure that as an individual, I do not believe my voice has been heard.

As a result of this leftward drifting, some churches, who have been fighting for years, are now attempting to leave the PC(USA) and join other reformed denominations. The property clause is now being brought out as a threat if nothing else. Some of these churches, by the way, have voted to leave the denomination by near unanimous votes, perhaps 98% vote to leave, 2% vote to stay. The property issue has become so heated that it made the cover of this month’s Presbyterians Today magazine.

One of the reasons some churches want to leave, and there are several others, is that they do not believe the current PC(USA) leadership holds the traditional values regarding marriage that are held by their members. They further believe that the Book of Order requires ministers to “live in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman…or chastity in singleness.” The complete Book of Order reference is:

G-6.0106 b. Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness.

Now, it seems to me that, regardless of what you may think about homosexual relationships, the Book of Order clearly forbids them among ministers. There have been several attempts to change this rule and I’m sure there will be more in the future. But in the meantime some churches have chosen to ignore or reinterpret this clause. The PC(USA) under Clifton Kirkpatrick has elected to ignore, according to the churches that want to leave, its duty to uphold the constitution of the church.

It is this same church leadership that fails to live up to their duty and enforce the so-call chastity clause that seems hell-bent on enforcing the property clause. In fact, while the chastity clause can be interpreted in different ways, there is no allowance for a different interpretation of the property clause.

The property clause has not been without controversy. When the Southern and Northern Presbyterian Churches decided to reunite and form the PC(USA), there was an eight year period during which the previously Southern churches could vote and be exempt from the property clause. However, those that chose to not become exempt, those who essentially voted for unity back in the 1980s, are now paying the price. And the lesson for all other denominations out there is to not give up the property of your congregation’s church if at all possible. You never know what will happen to the church in the future, and I assure you that the PC(USA) of today is not the PC(USA) of the 1980s thanks, in my opinion, to the likes of the current stated clerk, and some radical Moderators of late.

John Sniffen’s article in Presbyterians Today "Church Property-who owns it?" says that the “PCUSA property policy is based on belief in the importance of a unified body of Christ.” There is only one problem with this statement: these churches wish to join other reformed denominations, they are not turning their churches into roller rinks; they wish to remain part of the “unified body of Christ” just not as members of the PC(USA).

If the PC(USA) were growing at record rates, I would be one of the first to argue that property should remain in the PC(USA). However, we are not growing at record rates, in fact we are hemorrhaging members at an ever increasing rate which raises the question of what would the PC(USA) do with the property if they kept it? And in spite of what PC(USA) may lead the general public to believe, the reality is that most churches are built with and supported by funds of the local congregation. As a rule, money does not flow from the top down in the Presbyterian Church; it flows from the bottom up.

But Sniffen accidentally stumbled upon what may be the solution this problem. He mentions that in response to a request from the New Wineskins Association, one group that wishes to leave the PC(USA), the Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick replied “we are bound to uphold the constitution of the church and do not have the power to unilaterally set aside any portion”. If Kirkpatrick would honor that statement for all of the sections of the constitution, we just might not be where we are now. Unfortunately for the church, Mr. Kirkpatrick does not seem to have trouble overlooking certain portions of the constitution when if befits the liberal cause.

MPSA PAPER PRESENTED

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I made a quick trip down south to present a paper at the Mississippi and Louisiana Political Science Associations annual meeting. My paper was entitled “Military and Humanitarian Assistance Organizations: Is there Common Ground?” It was an enjoyable trip, even if it was a bit rushed. I had some work to do Friday morning so I left just in time to make it to my panel and then I had to leave afterwards. I would have liked to have stayed for some of the other papers.

I did get to stop in a visit my grandmother and have dinner with my parents on the way home though. Made for a long day but worth the effort.

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