Category: America

Political catechism

I had always wondered how our nation’s founders (terrorist insurgents that they were) argued the merits of their rebellion to a profoundly Christian population, so I did a little Googling on the subject.  Turns out to still be a pretty hot topic (732,000 hits).  Anyway, I came across an interesting essay at  Near the end of it, the author quotes “A Political Catechism” written by Francis Hopkinson in 1777.  Hopkinson was a signer of the Declaration of Independence (and a church choir leader, musician, noted poet and literary figure).  His catechism is most ironic and relevant to our own world disorder:

Q. What is war?

A. The curse of mankind; the mother of famine and pestilence; the source of complicated miseries; and the undistinguishing destroyer of the human species.

Q. How is war divided?

A. Into offensive and defensive.

 Q. What is the general object of an offensive war? . . .

A. [F]or the most part, it is undertaken to gratify the ambition of a prince, who wishes to subject to his arbitrary will a people whom God created free, and to gain an uncontrolled dominion over their rights and property. . . .

Q. What is defensive war?

A. It is to take up arms in opposition to the invasions of usurped power and bravely suffer present hardships and encounter present dangers, to secure the rights of humanity and the blessings of freedom, to generations yet unborn.

Q. Is even defensive war justifiable in a religious view?

A. The foundation of war is laid in the wickedness of mankind . . . . God has given man wit to contrive, power to execute, and freedom of will to direct his conduct. It cannot be but that some, from a depravity of will, will abuse these privileges and exert these powers to the injury of others: and the oppressed would have no safety nor redress but by exerting the same powers in their defence: and it is our duty to set a proper value upon and defend to the utmost our just rights and the blessings of life: otherwise a few miscreants [unprincipled individuals] would tyrannize over the rest of mankind, and make the passive multitude the slaves of their power. Thus it is that defensive is not only justifiable, but an indispensable duty.

Q. Is it upon these principles that the people of America are resisting the arms of Great Britain, and opposing force with force?

 A. Strictly so. . . . And may Heaven prosper their virtuous undertaking!

Q. But it has often been said, that America is in a state of rebellion. Tell me, therefore, what is Rebellion?

A. It is when a great number of people, headed by one or more factious leaders, aim at deposing their lawful prince without any just cause of complaint in order to place another on his throne.

Q. Is this the case of the Americans?

A. Far otherwise.

Cheers, everyone!  In the New Year, may your right hand always be stretched out in friendship and never in want.  May you live to be a hundred years, with one extra year to repent.

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The dead and the mutilated

From Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter’s December 7 lecture:  The 2,000 American dead are an embarrassment.  They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm’s way.  The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives.  So the dead and the mutilated both rot, in different kinds of graves.  (The British playwright won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Literature.)

The entire lecture can be seen and read at  It presents a view of American foreign policy not likely to get much attention in the mainstream press or airplay on Faux News.

Photograph of Harold Pinter. or or

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Border forts

It’s interesting how news about the war in Iraq dribbles out. Today’s local paper has a front-page story about a James Vandenberg, a Little Rock architect who serves in the Civil Engineering Corps, U.S. Navy Reserve Seabees. He recently spent 10 months in the Al Anbar region of Iraq. Here’s the part of the story that makes me wonder what in the heck is going on over there:

He and his team worked to build 32 Beau Geste-style forts, with rounded corner towers and a center courtyard, along 550 miles of the border between Al Anbar, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

I don’t know much about what it takes to manage artificial borders, but 32 forts certainly doesn’t sound much like a temporary occupation to me. Are we trying to keep people in or out? Do we have similar numbers of “forts” (interesting how we don’t call them that here in the US unless they’re quaint relics from our Indian-killing days) along our California and Arizona borders with Mexico (approx. 500 miles)?

Apparently the forts are quite easy to destroy — many were destroyed with landmines during construction. Vandenberg said there were about 320 such forts throughout Iraq’s border areas. Why? Is that common for all countries in that region? Did we destroy the ones that were already there, or is this new construction?

Vandenberg’s team also built a hospital, which I think is a good thing. Unfortunately, it was built to replace one destroyed by “Allies” during the war (because “Iraqis had taken over the hospital and were using it as an intelligence center”). Isn’t it amazing how there is never unjustified collateral damage? It’s always because “Iraqis had taken over” (who else?) or because of Syrian infiltrators or because the country is “infested” with insurgents. Kinda like when Israel continues to kill an apparently endless supply of “top Hamas leaders” (must be more chiefs than Indians in that tribe!)…

Photograph of Dhafeer Fort near the Liwa oasis by Michael Wing, Feb 24, 2011. or or

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Moose Turd Pie

Thinking there had to be a better way to evacuate large populations in the path of hurricanes (Katrina was then in the news), I suggested the following:

Couldn’t our rail system (passenger and/or freight) move lots more people — further distances and on a semi-continuous basis — than trying to rely on buses and personal transportation? Seems like FEMA could stockpile high-capacity rail cars for just this kind of emergency and then pre-position them around the country according to the weather season or a specific disaster forecast.

The irony was not lost on Monroe.  He responded:

Actually a good idea! they would have to use cattle cars and there’s a problem in that Halliburton, Bechtel et al has not finished building the camps …

Check the Progress for a new American Century classified document; 44\X23; AKA “The Final Solution to poverty in America.

PS – One of the cost-cutting suggestions is to completely eliminate federal funds for AMTRAK.

At which point my train of thought completely derailed:

You’re right of course — I couldn’t help but think of the similarities to Hitler’s “Final Solution” but I was thinking more along the line of air-conditioned cars that could also function as modular housing or temporary barracks, kitchens, hospitals, etc. It’s a shame to abandon good ideas just because “Americans don’t live in tents” or because the Germans were efficiently evil. Segues be damned — speaking of kitchen cars, there was a very funny song on the radio yesterday called “Moose turd pie” which I now share with you all (dedicated to Alan Whitman for recently reminding me of that unfortunate song “Muskrat Love” by Captain & Tennille):

Moose Turd Pie

The worst job I ever had was working for the Pacific Railroad, doing a thing called “gandy-dancing.” Now most of you know the railroad was built partially by Irish labour.

Well, back then the workers would use this long handled shovel, made by the Gandy Shovel Company of Great Neck New York. Well, they’d shove one end of the shovel under a railroad tie, and then run out to the other end of the shovel, when they could find it, and do a little jig on it, and they called it Gandy-dancin’. This would lift the tie up so they could shove gravel under it, which would level the roadbed, so when the train came along, it wouldn’t tip over, which would be a real drag for everyone.

Well, nowadays, they run three cars out on the rail: a bunk car, an equipment car, and a mess car. The only thing they don’t give you is a cook. The bosses figure you’ll find out who the best cook is, and use him.

Well, they were wrong. Y’see, they just find out who complains the loudest about the cooking, and he gets to be the cook. Well, that was me, see. Ol’ alligator mouth. That was the worst food I’d ever had, and I complained about it. Things like “dog bottom pie” and “pheasant sweat.” I thought it was garbage. So I complained.

And everyone said, “alright, you think you can do better? You’re the cook” Well, that made me mad, see? But I knew, that anyone who complained about my cooking, they were gonna have to cook.
Armed with that knowledge, I sallied forth, over the muddy river. I was walking along, and I saw just this hell of a big moose turd, I mean it was a real steamer!

So I said to myself, “Self, we’re going to make us some moose turd pie.” So I tipped that prairie pastry on it’s side, got my sh*t together, so to speak, and started rolling it down towards the cook car: flolump, flolump, flolump. I went in and made a big pie shell, and then I tipped that meadow muffin into it, laid strips of dough across it, and put a sprig of parsley on top.

It was beautiful, poetry on a plate, and I served it up for dessert.

Well, this big guy come into the mess car, I mean, he’s about 5 foot forty, and he sets himself down like a fool on a stool, picked up a fork and took a big bite of that moose turd pie.

Well he threw down his fork and he let out a bellow, “My God, that’s moose turd pie!”

“It’s good, though.”


Photograph by Robert Williams, 1966. or or

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Why Calvin is Cool


I just read your infomercial and browsed through your e-monastary and related e-inn. I’m still giggling, albeit to myself lest my wife think me mad. You are one unusual fellow — a calvinistic Baptist (odd enough) doing pulpit supply at a Presbyterian church! I had heard that Baptists and Presbyterians co-congregated back in the early days but thought the practice had long since died out. (It’s much more fun now to rest in the assurance that my beliefs are the only correct ones.) Your desire to be close to a pub makes you an extremely rare sort of Baptist — one who does not eschew the brew as most Baptists do (in public anyway).

Anyway, I’m thoroughly enjoying your writing and your sense of humor. And I’m asking for advice. We have lived in this area for more than 11 years. We sporadically attended a Sovereign Grace Baptist church about an hour’s drive away, but never felt like we belonged there. We have “experimented” with Arminian baptists and calvinistic Presbyterians, but the cognitive dissonance has always been more than we could bear. However, desperation for Christian fellowship and a keen desire for our teenage son to spend his last at-home year (we hope) in a church where his parents are actively involved is driving us back to a large Baptist church (ironically, the one J.B. Moody pastored twice around 1900 when he spoke of “tautological tomfoolery” regarding the notion of a “local church”).

Our first Sunday back was yesterday and we were once again confronted with all the things that drive us nuts — new-fangled Bible translations, loud applause after every “special” song, praise dancing, really really shallow Bible lessons in Sunday School, and so forth. We don’t know if we should just ignore these things and be “missionaries to the Southern Baptists” or run like hell from their worldly ways. Or is our discomfort with these things God’s way of pointing out our own pride and a weird sort of orthodoxy-based phariseeism? I’m almost through with C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” and am newly reminded that our earthly journey is hardly a black-and-white one. Sounds like you’ve wandered and wondered a bit over the years, so I’m wondering what you think about our predicament.

If you’re ever in Hot Springs, give me a shout — we’ve got a great little German place downtown and I’d love to hoist a few with you and discuss what it would take to get you to pastor a new church here. I would even do a praise dance on 5th Sundays…

[Jacques d’Nalgar]

PS — “tautological tomfoolery” is from an address to the SBC J.B. Moody delivered here in Hot Springs around 1900. It’s published in a collection of sermons titled “My Church” (ISBN 0879210303) that used to be a standard text in Baptist libraries.

Painting by Flemish school (unknown, 15th and 16th centuries). or or

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All imperialism


It’s Sunday morning. Why aren’t you in church? I hate to bring this up again because I got flamed big-time on the last occasion, but here’s an excerpt from Charlie Reese’s editorial in today’s local paper:

All imperialism, even the American form, is ultimately based on social Darwinism, a belief not openly stated these days that we are a superior people and therefore must inevitably rule in one way or another the inferior others.

Earlier in the last century, this was openly admitted. Read this quote from Frederick Courtney Selous, a British colonialist who played a large role in establishing Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.

“Matabeleland (a part of future Rhodesia) is doomed by what seems a law of nature to be ruled by the white man, and the black man must go, or conform to the white man’s laws, or die in resisting them. … The British colonist is but the irresponsible atom employed in carrying out a preordained law – the law which has ruled upon this planet ever since … organic life was first evolved upon the earth – the inexorable law which Darwin has aptly termed the Survival of the Fittest.”

Of course, today there is no Rhodesia, and Zimbabwe is ruled by black people, as is all of sub-Saharan Africa. The British Empire, upon which in the past the sun never set, no longer exists. What happened to the survival of the fittest?

Well, intellectuals, whether British or American, are inevitably out of touch with reality. It didn’t seem to occur to them that even a person who couldn’t read Latin or solve a simple equation could nevertheless wield a machete and shoot a rifle. An illiterate man can eradicate a lot of intelligence, experience and education with one 10-cent bullet. He can undo the work of years in a second. The Europeans didn’t voluntarily abandon their colonies. They were driven out by people they had considered inferior.

The code word we use for superiority these days is “democracy.” It is democracy that is superior to all other forms of government, and therefore we are doing people a favor to spread it while, like the British, exploiting their natural resources and cheap labor. We will eventually meet the same fate as the British. The Philippines have already kicked us out. Sooner or later, the Japanese will tell us to get out of Okinawa and other parts of Japan. Even one day the South Koreans and the Germans will say, “Go home.”

In my opinion, we are living in a world that has rationalized that there is nothing to strive for but “what’s in it for me.” To get back to the title of your religious tract, what we see all around us is exactly what happens… The best defenses of Christianity I’ve read weren’t based on whether or not evolution was/is good science, but on the basis of philosophical reasoning. C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” and Elton Trueblood’s “A Place To Stand” are excellent answers to the old question of “Is the universe – and us in it – some kind of cosmic accident?” If you’re really interested in “What happens to the Gospel…” then read what they have to say.

—–Original Message—–
From: Monroe Pastermack
Sent: Sunday, August 14, 2005 10:56 AM
To: ACS Listserv
Subject: I just came across this religious tract

Do any of you have comments?
As I recall it came form the Newsletter of the Flat Earth Society.

What Happens to the Gospel if Evolution is True?

SIN: No objective basis for determining right and wrong. Even if one believes there is a God, and believes in evolutionary naturalism, that God is not personally involved in His creation. (He works through natural laws), and therefore He has no knowledge or care of personal lives, deeds or misdeeds.

SAVIOR: Belief in a Savior cab be little more than a psychological exercise since there is no responsibility for sin to be saved from. Why do I need a Savior -and from what?

SALVATION: At best, salvation may provide the illusion of hope, but this life is all that there is. At worst, as many evolutionists have pointed out, “dreams” of salvation distract people from “realizing their full potential here and now.”

SCRIPTURE: The Bible is nothing more than a records of what the ancients believed -beliefs which may have been helpful at one time in man’s evolution, but which are now outmoded by better standards. Evolutionists who accept God . and choose in Scripture accepting what they like and rejecting as myths those things that don’t suit them, according to their subjective tastes. Organized religion ends up striving for “unity in diversity” as a result of all these subjective tastes getting together.

Christopher Chui

Detail from 1867 painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), Napoleon and His Staff in Egypt. or or

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True believers

I think that for most people, their religion, philosophy, life’s ambition (or whatever you want to call their primary sense of purpose) has degenerated into a football-fan spectator sport. It no longer matters whether you’re a good steward of the environment, or whether you’re building good relations with your neighbors, or whether you’re gainfully employed or, better yet, employing. It just matters that you’re rooting for the winning team and accumulating as many toys along the way as you can.

I think that when things get really, really tough again — then we’ll find out who the “true believers” are. If history is any guide, there won’t be many. There is a thread of dissent that runs throughout the history of Christianity — when it became easy (after Constantine) or popular (right now) to be a Christian, then the basic message of the Gospel gets subverted and perverted by the artificial traditions of men and a lot of really stupid books like the “Left (your mind) Behind” series. There is/was always a small population of dissenters (heretics according to the Establishment church) who preserved the texts and ideals of Christian orthodoxy (and not the Greek kind) despite horrific persecutions — the kind that aren’t supposed to happen to “true believers” because they’re supposed to get whisked outa here in a fantastical rapture before things get really, really bad (but only for the bad guys).

Personally, I think our Republic began dying during the Civil War. I know that slavery was bad and the war ended that (at least in a legal sense), but a lot of our ideals about personal and regional independence were destroyed as well. Don’t know if it’s related to this conversation or not, but here’s an interesting excerpt from a letter President Eisenhower penned to his brother, Edgar Newton Eisenhower, on 8 November 1954:

Now it is true that I believe this country is following a dangerous trend when it permits too great a degree of centralization of governmental functions. I oppose this–in some instances the fight is a rather desperate one. But to attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything–even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon “moderation” in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

Neither side has men the caliber of Ike and Harry any more. Even if they’re out there, I’m not sure they can lead us out of the mess we’re in. Depressing as hell, ain’t it?

Photograph of Eisenhower, by Richard Avedon: or or

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