Wednesday, December 16, 2009

There's your trouble ...

(with thanks to the Dixie Chicks for the title!)

As yet another "save the planet" exercise wraps up with more finger-pointing and rancor and personal attacks (some of the many signs that God has been left out of the discussion on the state of the environment!), the Lord has gob-smacked me with another piece of Scripture, which shows how we continue to miss the boat. That applies to Christians, too, who are also becoming divided over the whole Global Warming/Climate Change issue.

It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. (Acts 1:7 KJV)

I call this a Scriptural "gob-smacking" because, as is often the case, it's the verse right before the one I use frequently to remind Christians of their responsibility to minister to the "yucky" in society (e.g. the Downtown East Side). And it just happens to encapsulate the problem we're facing right now with the environment.

We're observing times and seasons when we should be fulfilling The Great Commission - spreading the Gospel, healing the sick, binding the brokenhearted, etc. etc. We're watching symptoms like changes in the polar ice caps and widespread changes in weather patterns, rather than being Jesus' witnesses at home and abroad.

There are a couple of key issues here. One is that observing the times is strictly forbidden (Leviticus 19:26 and Deuteronomy 18:10). The meaning of "observing the times" ranges from the obvious -- astrology, tarot and reading tea leaves -- to the "scientific" -- focusing on events in nature and then obsessing on man's influence on them. The instruction in Deuteronomy is that "there shall not be found among you an observer of times": in other words, we shouldn't even be listening to such people, because that takes away our focus from God and what He called us to do.

Part of the trouble is that we are also called to be stewards of God's Creation, so it's easy for us to be motivated by fear and guilt to do things, thinking we're obeying the First Great Assignment (Gen. 1:26-28), and get sucked into the hysteria when the world keeps pointing at the signs and saying disaster is imminent and we have to avert it. Nowhere have I seen that we're even capable of averting disaster, at least, not in our own intellect. After all, human intellect -- science and technology -- got us into this mess: why would we expect to it get us out? One of the big problems is that environmentalist solutions are often at cross-purposes with God's will. Think about it. That's why Jesus gave us instructions about what we're supposed to do, and let God worry about the signs.

And since the signs are in God's control, He wouldn't worry about them, would He?

It's very much like the way the Israelites acted when Moses went up into the mountain to meet with God. No sooner had he gone -- and with their throats probably hoarse from shouting, "all that the Lord says we will do, we will do" -- than they made their golden calf and started worshipping it. They got impatient waiting for Moses to come back, and tried to take matters into their own hands. That's what we're doing here. Spiritually, are we getting tired of waiting for Jesus to come back and fix things, and creating our own golden calf to worship, hoping that will save our skins?

Jesus' parable of the ten virgins and the image of the thief in the night should tell us that, while only the Father knows the exact time of Jesus' return, the very time that we should be on our guard, doing the jobs He's assigned us is when we think He's not coming back and try to take matters into our own hands.

Another stern warning is in Deuteronomy 18:14, when God warns that the inhabitants of the promised land listened to those who observe times, and got driven out. Think about it.

From the enemy's perspective, the obsession on the environment is one way to make us disobedient to God; it may even be a futile attempt at forestalling Jesus' return by eliminating the signs. That's like taking cold medication and thinking you're cured of the flu.

Remember: the fear, the confusion, the personal attacks, the self-righteousness and the ultimate failure of our efforts at "fighting" climate change are all indications that God has shut out of the discussion. If He isn't involved, then that leaves only one alternative, and, sad to say, he doesn't give a flying fish about preserving God's Creation. He just wants to keep us at one another's throats and focusing on anything but God.


To close, another "stupid question" ("The only 'stupid' question is the one that doesn't get asked," as my old colleague Joe Easingwood would say) about the climate change debate: the local weather office recently predicted 20 cm (8") of snow over the weekend. We got a dusting, and then the temperature shot up and it turned to rain. Last summer, the weather office missed a major heat wave, and almost a year ago, was blind-sided by a major snowstorm.

My stupid question: if meteorologists, with all their scientific data and equipment and charts, can miss a forecast for something happening two or three days down the road, how are we supposed to believe climate projections over the next 10-20 years?

That's not a smartass rhetorical question: it's something that really needs to be answered.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Some stupid questions about H1N1

"The only stupid question is the one that doesn't get asked."
-- Joe Easingwood, talk show host, C-FAX Radio Victoria

When Kenneth and Gloria Copeland came to Vancouver in the spring of 2002, their theme was NO FEAR HERE. The 9/11 attack was still fresh in the world's memory and the whole premise was to encourage people to walk in faith, in love towards one another, and not to allow terrorists -- the ultimate fear-mongers -- to rule their lives. It's a lesson and an attitude that I've tried to live by -- and encourage others to live by -- to this day.

Fear is a terrible motivator. You get pushed to make decisions and take actions that turn out to be more hasty than considered, simply because you're scared, and one of the many reasons for being scared is that you don't have enough information about something. Knowledge overcomes fear, and when that knowledge is God's promises, that's faith.

This is why I'm concerned about the level of fear surrounding the H1N1 flu. There are a lot of pronouncements by health officials -- dutifully and sensationally echoed by the media -- but some basic information is lacking.
On the "Easingwood Principle" mentioned above, therefore, may I offer some STUPID QUESTIONS ABOUT H1N1:
  • How serious is H1N1 flu compared to other "seasonal" flus?
  • What makes H1N1 different that there is so much hype this season?
  • How does the projected death toll compare to the overall projection of deaths from influenza?
  • Did the people who died receive H1N1 shots?

That last one may seem like a really stupid question, but no one's asking it, and it would go a long way towards convincing people whether or not to get vaccinated.

As for the question before it, it's dashed hard to get "normative" data on H1N1. (The Corporate Wellness manager where I work tried without success to get it from health authorities.) A 2004 Health Canada report -- the most recent I could find online -- projected that 2500 people a year in Canada would die from flu and flu-related causes. Now note that, since April, 42 people have died in BC from H1N1 and BC's Medical Health Officer this week predicted another 30 or so would die before this is over.

If you figure BC has approximately 12% of Canada's population, "72 or so" would extrapolate to less than 600 for the entire country.

So if you go back to that initial figure of 2500 projected to die from any kind of flu "and related causes", that leaves maybe 1900 such deaths in Canada expected this year.

The "information" that is being provided is simply information on where to get vaccinated and a lot of highly-placed doctors telling us we should. But we're not getting anything to put this into perspective.

I don't know how many of you remember this, but when H1N1 started appearing last spring, the World Health Organization, while talking about a possible "pandemic", was careful to say that the word did not relate to the severity of the disease, but rather its readiness to spread from person to person and the number of countries where it was spreading.What do we get? Stories about the "deadliest week" (8 deaths). An item in Business in Vancouver recently, trumpeting the business opportunities from developing vaccines and other preventive measures against H1N1. Opinion pieces like one that says there's too much fear and ignorance in the discussion, without actually answering the questions, itself: it just ridicules the people (like me) who want some simple information. A full-page ad from the country's chief medical officer urging us to get vaccinated.

(Not that there isn't some pretty ridiculous talk out there on the anti-vaccination side: one friend of mine piped up that he'd heard the vaccine was made out of pigs. Swine flu, right? He was serious! I'd hate to see how they make vaccine against Hong Kong Flu. But I digress ...)

Darn right there's too much fear and ignorance. I'm not a doctor (although I did play one on the stage), but when I see the level of fear and lack of simple information -- or people asking the "stupid questions", I start to smell something.

Friday, November 27, 2009

And speaking of confusion ...

If you Google "climate change emails" today -- and probably for the foreseeable future -- you'll find reams of items about the emails purportedly heisted from the University of East Anglia. That's more or less the centre for climate change research/activism, and the emails discuss things like suppressing contradictory views, discrediting scientists who hold those views and even altering data to support the notion of human-induced climate change.

Let me refer back to a previous posting a week ago, dealing with a possible schism in the Body of Christ over climate change and what to do about it. I don't take sides in this: the fact that there's a discussion at all, with the deep personal attacks, suppression of facts (truthful or otherwise) and the mammoth guilt trips and fear attached to it all, makes me look beyond the surface issue and find who's really pulling the strings here.

See, if you have taken a side, you need to realize that neither is Simon Pure here. Many of the nay-sayers about human-induced global warming have been linked to businesses and lobby groups. There have been suspicions about the motives and connections of the environmentalist causes. Now comes this -- a very environmentally unfriendly smoking gun, and I notice none of the principals involved has leapt up to accuse anybody of altering the actual emails.

For the ordinary person, just trying to get on with life and do what's right, discovering that the very data used to dictate our whole way of thinking may have been altered only ramps up the confusion level.

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (1 Cor. 14:33)

Take a look at some of the comments posted on various websites and blogs about this latest story, and see how much peace there is.

Confusion comes from not knowing whom to believe: it comes from wondering, "what is truth?"

But remember who said "what is truth?" and what he was doing at the time.

It was Pontius Pilate, and he was looking the Truth right in the face.

Praise God, He has given us His Word, so we can find the Truth! The enemy has very cunningly tried to get us to ignore the Word of God when it comes to environmental matters -- as if it's a completely separate area where the Word does not apply.

But instead, we need to look to the Word for answers in this issue, as in everything else.

"If My people, which are called by My Name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven and will forgive their sins, and will heal their land."
-- 2 Chr. 7:14
Remember that Satan doesn't give a flying fish about climate change or taking care of God's Creation: he just wants to keep us at one another's throats so that we don't seek God's face in all things.
Blatant plug alert: if you want to purchase a copy of my book, A Very Convenient Truth - real hope in the face of environmental fears, you can find it at Pilgrim Book & Bible and El-Shaddai's Books in Vancouver, House of James in Abbotsford or Christian Book & Music Centre in Victoria. Or just contact me.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

And who is the author of confusion?

Stuart Shepard continues to take advertisers, marketers and retailers to task in his latest Stoplight video, for wishing us Happy Unspecified Holidays at this time of year. It's considerably edgier than the one I mentioned in my posting a couple of days ago, and looks at how confused marketers must be, trying to pitch a holiday without actually discussing it.

Living in a city as wonderfully diverse and multi-cultural as Vancouver is, I can imagine another area of confusion: for the non-Christian immigrant, trying to decipher what the fuss is about.

Supposing, for example, you were to move to a country where many -- if not the majority -- of the people practise Foonism. Once a year, there's a big ol' festival called "Foonaria" and Foonites go to great lengths to celebrate it. Wouldn't you be curious to know about Foonism and why they're doing this?

But in my home and native land, we have a major holiday celebration, which occupies about 2-1/2 months -- from the runup to Hallowe'en to THE GIGANTIC BOXING WEEK EXTRAVAGANZA -- but if you look at the signage, there's no real indication as to what the holiday is and why it's being celebrated.

Imagine the immigrant, trying to get some answers.

"Excuse me? What is this holiday that people are talking about?"
"Oh! It's the most wonderful time of the year! It's a time when people get together and give each other presents and have a huge dinner and give a little something to the poor and families re-connect -- or try to -- and all the lights and colors and prezzies make you feel warm inside."
"Why? I mean, what's there to celebrate?"
"Well, because it's the holidays!"
"What holiday? I mean, doesn't 'holiday' mean 'holy day'? What's holy about it?"
"Well ... if you must know ... it's called Christmas ... and, uh, there's a particular religion that celebrates it."
"So why don't you call it that?"
"Because we're afraid 'Christmas' might offend some people."
"How can you offend someone with something that you're celebrating? What does this religion believe that's so offensive?"
"Well ... they believe that the way to peace is to get right with God."
"And that's offensive?"
"Well ... they figure that there's only one way to do that, and that's through the Son of God."
"And the Son of God is really bad, is He? What did He teach?"
"Well ... He said that we have to love God above everything else -- even ourselves."
"I'm waiting to be offended ..."
"And we have to love everybody else more than ourselves."
"Still waiting ..."
"Yeah, but the Son of God also said that we have to deal with the things we did wrong in our lives."
"Oh! Wow ... I've done a lot of things wrong. So I guess He went around and killed all the bad people, did He?"
"Heck, no! This religion says He never did anything wrong and then let Himself die to be the punishment for our wrongs. Even the bad people could turn to Him, and it would be like they'd never done those bad things."
"Why keep this a secret? Why not tell everyone you can?"
"Because people might get offended."
"Well ... you know ... people from other countries ... other religions."
"Look: in my religion, we say 'peace to you and your household'. Would you be offended if I said that to you?"
"Well ... no."
"Then why would I be offended if you said to me, 'Merry Christmas'?"
"Not following."


"Is there some high priest I can talk to, to find out more?"
"Not necessarily. There's a book called the Bible and that tells you the whole story so you can find out for yourself. Some people say it's like God speaking directly to you."
"Has this been on Oprah?"
"Don't be silly. That might hurt her ratings."
"Because people might be offended."

At which point, our immigrant friend either runs off, strumming his lower lip and making a noise like Lou Costello, trying to figure out who's on first, or races out to the nearest bookstore to try to find the book this local person was talking about.

"Where are you going? Don't you want to hear about Boxing Week?"

My office is adjacent to one of the biggest enclosed shopping malls in Western Canada. I see people of all different ethnicities, wading through the mall with children in tow. Happy-sounding music tells us Santa will be comin' down the chimney down and then tells the story of a reindeer nobody liked until he turned out to be useful for something. Children are often bawling their eyes out because they can't have something -- even though they know they're supposed to be excited about the Day Of The Great Gift-Getting while the parents have this bewildered look at what appears to be a tradition in this new country they've come to live in, but which doesn't appear to have a name or a purpose.

Confusion? Well, we know who the author of that is.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

As sure as there's an "X" in Christmas ...

Stuart Shepard has posted another brilliant "Stoplight" feature in what's become something of a Christmas tradition: a humorous but firm reminder that "The Holiday Season" actually has a name (Christmas) and a meaning (the celebration of the birth of the Son of God and Saviour of all mankind).

I've already started watching out for the "Holiday" catalogues, so I can join in Stuart's activism, but it also got me thinking: in Vancouver, I'd say it's about a 50/50 split between those who celebrate the Unspecified Holiday Season and those who aren't afraid to use the X-word ... about the media and "official civic types" make a big deal about a lot of other, specified, celebrations.

(My daughter's student choir in Victoria -- made up of students from across her public school district -- puts on an actual Christmas concert each year: a couple of years ago, I went to one, which was also attended by the local Member of the Legislature (like a State Senator). She could not spit out the words, "Merry Christmas", if her life depended on it. Her boyfriend and I knew each other from somewhere (something in the media, I think), so we chatted a bit afterwards, and when I wished them a Merry Christmas, it almost felt like I was taunting her. As, indeed, I was. But I digress ...)

There's Vaisakhi for the Sikhs, Ramadan for the Muslims, Pride Week for alternative lifestylers ... a variety of Native Indian rituals ... and recently, kids in public schools got a day off to go to a conference where the Dalai Lama was speaking. You'll see media reports about the color and costumes, the ceremony and activities, without actually digging into the deeper meaning of the celebrations.

Personally, I'd like to know more about and discuss the deeper meaning of those celebrations, but the public treatment I see, while giving the appearance of "embracing other cultures", does have a certain patronizing quality, as if one is simply paying lip service to Quaint Cultural Traditions.

Maybe it's not such a bad thing that the celebration of the birth of the Saviour of all mankind has not been reduced to a Quaint Cultural Tradition -- say, a Page 3 photo spread of "Catholics Attend Midnight Mass At Holy Rosary Cathedral while Worship Team Rocks Up 'Joy To The World' at Sword of Zion Pentecostal Church"? "Stock brokers and lawyers in their traditional business attire gather for a noontime prayer meeting"? "Homeless people and drug addicts wear their traditional costumes -- donated, used clothes and new-to-them underwear for a Christmas dinner at Gospel Mission on Vancouver's Downtown East Side"?

Consider this: there's no real "traditional Christian costume", because when you "put on Jesus", as the Apostle Paul puts it, we wear Him on the inside.

Jesus told us there'd be days like this: days when we'd feel persecuted for our faith or feel like we're all alone. As Graham Cooke said in a message recently, one person, plus God, is always in the majority.

Something we have to remember is that the promotion of other cultures and religions has grown out of a worldly concept of "inclusivity", while Jesus is inclusivity: He came for everyone, and His last instructions to us were to be His witnesses all over the world. That doesn't take a PR department or having "the ear" of elected representatives: we are Jesus' PR department. By our lives, by our love, by our fruits -- by healing the sick, binding the brokenhearted and giving comfort to the poor -- we Christians should give others cause to celebrate Jesus, no matter what the catalogues say.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Who's listening to whom?

There's an interesting piece in the Christian Post about a group of evangelical leaders and climate-change experts, banding together to convince Christians to join the fight against climate change. While it appears on the surface to be a breakthrough for climate-change activists in coming together with Christians, there's an underlying theme that the body of Christ is divided over the issue.

With that, we should see, once again, that God is nowhere to be found in this discussion -- aside from lip service from the activists' opponents, who say, "well, of course we have to take care of God's creation, but ..."

One of the points in my book, A Very Convenient Truth -- real hope in the face of environmental fears, is that the division and sharp, personal tone of the discussion over climate change is one of the indicators that God has been left out of the discussion. If "the science is settled", why are people who apparently have some expertise on the subject questioning it? If "the science is settled", why are these people subjected to personal attacks?

The apparent division within the church -- divided, I notice, between those who have President Obama's ear and those who don't -- can only spawn confusion, and God is not the author of confusion.

But He is the author of His Word, and in this article -- aside from the general platitude about caring for Creation -- I don't see Word One from Scripture.

Let me offer something.

"If My people, which are called by My Name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I look down from Heaven, and will hear their prayers, and will heal their land."
-- 2 Chron. 7:14

Were that the only passage in Scripture that tells us where God stands in this, that should be all we need. But (as you'd read in A Very Convenient Truth) His Word is peppered with these references. The state of the environment is dependent on the state of our relationship with Him. It's not a matter of GHG or CAC -- it's a matter of GOD.

Is there climate change? YES -- but ...
Are humans responsible? YES -- but ...
Can humans fix it? YES -- but ...

The "but ..." is this: climate change (the way I see it) is a combination of God playing out His plan and people falling away from Him, leaving His Creation unprotected. The ball started rolling in the first place when we failed to "be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it". The only way we can fix it is by turning back to Him, and praise God, He sent His Son that we can repent for that sin and be redeemed and get on with having life more abundantly.

Don't worry about the environment. Worry is a sin, because it assumes God is not going to fulfill His promise.

God promises to heal the land if we turn back to Him. We may not be able to see what "healing" looks like, but God does. And have you ever noticed that the activists haven't really presented a clear picture of what a "healed" planet looks like? There's a lot of talk about fighting climate change, but how do we know when we've won?

What we need to remember is that environmentalist solutions can be at cross-purposes to the Will of God -- and when that happens, whose word should take precedence?

To a Christian, that one should be a no-brainer.

After all, what we've done thus far, using our own intellect, hasn't worked -- and you'd think that, after about 60 years of concerted effort to turn things around by "leaning on our own understanding", we'd be out of the woods. Instead, we keep hearing things are getting worse.

So it's a challenge to the activists: do you want a healed planet, or don't you?

And it's a challenge to the churches. Deborah Fikes of the World Evangelical Alliance says churches "lack the spiritual will" to take action. Here's my question to the Deborah, the WEA and Christians in general: do you believe the Bible, or don't you?

Now, the devil would make us believe that there's such an urgency to the climate change issue, that it's too important for us to leave to prayer.

I believe it's too important for us not to give to God.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

We wrestle not ...

It was a terrorist bombing in Baghdad last month that got me thinking again about the way the current war(s) in Iraq and Afghanistan got started in the first place and something I heard from the Lord at the time.

It was in the days before blogging became a contact sport ... before Twitter or Facebook or YouTube and its Christian counterpart, Tangle ... but there was an email chain that started, so I shared that Word on the chain and for the efforts was roundly slapped down by the brother of a friend of mine who, it later transpired, has made quite a comedy career on TV, largely supporting our troops.

"Don't worry about my brother," my friend wrote. "He's an idiot."

Small consolation at the time ... and even smaller now, 8 years later, as the death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan closes in on 6200 and three more of Canada's young and fair of face come home in boxes.

Don't get me wrong (and I'm surprised to think that I might have to explain myself): I do support our troops. There's a part of me that's awfully proud of the job they do over there, especially after hearing for years how the Canadian military is poorly trained and ill-equipped. When one unit took out a key Taliban position back in the fall of 2001, I remember saying to anyone who'd listen, "where have they been hiding these guys?" I'm also keenly aware of the freedoms we enjoy because men and women like them lay down their lives to protect it, and this being Remembrance Day, you bet I think about that.

But in the shock that followed the 9/11 attacks, with the world wondering what to do in response, the Word from the Lord was that the best response would be ... nothing.

Nothing military, at any rate. Why? Because this was an attack spurred by religious fervor: people believing they will be rewarded by their god for killing as many "enemies" of that god as possible. The spirit behind such fervor has only one source, and there is only one way to combat it: through prayer and faith and turning to God for protection and for Him to sort out our enemies. AND ... reaching out to those enemies with love.

No, I'm not talking about the lame let's-all-try-to-UNDERSTAND-the-people-who-did-it approach that many in the media -- particularly the Canadian media -- took. I'm talking about recognizing that the spirit behind the attacks was evil and the only way to overcome evil is with Good (Rom. 12:20-21). At the time, I pointed out in that email chain that the terrorists and their masters wanted a violent, military response and to drag the US and its allies into a long and costly war, diverting attention and resources away from important domestic issues and forcing Christians into that confusing position of claiming to believe the Bible on the one hand but not standing on it when the rubber meets the road.

Now, 8 years later, we have the fruits:
  • 133 Canadian soldiers, plus a diplomat and two aid workers, dead in Afghanistan (out of a total of 1,515 soldiers all-told)
  • a total of 4,680 soldiers (4,362 Americans) killed in Iraq
  • unknown number of casualties, many of them maimed for life, be it physically or mentally or both
  • who knows how many civilian casualties

And after all this, the alleged mastermind is still at large, and 123 people are killed in a terrorist bombing in Baghdad.

Indeed, you could argue that this most recent attack is "right on time": people who were children at the . of 9/11 would be in their prime now, having watched first hand as those who claimed to promote God -- in a different form from theirs -- killed and destroyed their homeland, became ready to do their part.

In other words, what have we accomplished?

We got Saddam. A cruel despot was removed from power and eventually executed. Was hanging him the right thing to do? Or should we not, as Christians, having de-fanged him and ended his reign of terror, been praying for him and giving him opportunities to see the One True God and repent? Think of Nebuchadnezzar, who was not above wiping out his opponents and whole races of people.

But beyond that, we seem to be into an endless cycle of killing and having our young people killed, and all through it all the spiritual forces that spawned 9/11 and bombings in London and Madrid, that inspire Iran's nuclear adventure and make it the stated goal of at least one recognized territory to wipe Israel off the map are still alive and well in the Heavenlies. The attack may have been quasi-military, but the response really can't be. As Einstein said, you don't solve problems with the same methods that caused them -- and that's just as true in a holy war as in anything else.

This is no disrespect for the sacrifices our soldiers have made and continue to make in the name of defeating the enemy and protecting the world we live in, but it's time to end the bloodletting. It's never too late to repent and fight this battle where it should be fought: on our knees, loving those who hate us, blessing those who curse us, and letting God FINALLY have His perfect will.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

God and the environment - revisited

Andrew Wetzler of the Natural Resources Defense Council in the US has just posted a blog entry about religion and the environment. I wrote a comment to it, which you'll see at the bottom of the entry. It's interesting how some people seem to dismiss religion and/or the Word of God as having any relevance to the topic -- and yet, the most basic commandment God gave us was to take care of His creation.

It's interesting, too, how many churches don't want to hear about it -- or at least, don't want to go into depth about what God's Word says. I've had a hard time figuring out why that is. Offers to share the message of the book are met with stony silence from most churches and one outright rejection letter from one in Seattle; mind you, Westpointe and Victoria Seventh-Day Adventist have had presentations, and Oakridge SDA in Vancouver is considering it, too. Probably God considers this to be a message for the long run, and not a flash-in-the-pan, flavour-of-the-week religious fad.

Monday, June 29, 2009

... for kings and those in authority ...

Yesterday -- June 28, the Sunday closest to Canada Day -- was National Government Prayer Day in Canada. I'm not sure who actually declared that, but it's supported and promoted by the National House of Prayer in Ottawa.

To me, praying for our government and those in authority in general (and when I pray, I include our police, firefighters, ambulance paramedics and members of the armed forces -- all those who have stepped up to keep us in a peaceful society) is totally apolitical. I see some religious types call for us to pray for the Conservative Party to be elected so Stephen Harper can be prime minister, but I think there's something skewed about that. We may have our thoughts as to who we think should be in power, but those thoughts are temporal: we need to submit everything to God, and that begins with accepting that He does not have a political affiliation.

(I'm reminded of the story of the British Evangelist almost a century ago, who was getting heckled by a Communist during an open-air sermon. The Commie pointed at a homeless man and shouted, "Communism can put a new suit on that man!" ... and the Evangelist shot back, "Jesus Christ can put a new man in that suit!")

But I digress. The key Scripture in this is Paul's First Epistle to Timothy, where he writes, "I exhort, therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour ..." (I Tim. 2:1-3).

Now, back up a few verses -- I Tim 1:18 -- and look at the context: he's just finished talking about spiritual warfare and people who have "made faith (a) shipwreck". Calling for prayer for those in authority releases God's will over those people -- whether they are believers or not. Notice that Paul includes "intercessions" in the list. We'll come back to that.

I believe God puts whomever He will in power. He's done that ever since King Saul, and while we may not know exactly why God puts someone in power or authority, it's His call and if we look to Him, He'll show us what He's up to.

I believe God put George W. Bush into the presidency. Look at the bizarre way he won it in 2000 and the way the Democrats could not field a credible candidate for 2004. Look at the incomprehensible decision to pick Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate in 2008: the sudden flaw in the campaign that helped Barack Obama steamroller to victory.

The Lord told me Paul Martin could have remained prime minister if he hadn't taken the stand he took on same-sex marriage. His priest advised him not to support it; the whole Catholic church advised him not to support it; but Martin declared that the Word of God was out of step with the times and the bill went through. And what happened? The sponsorship scandal, which was none of Martin's doing, stuck to him like he was made of velcro. The Lord told me He could have miraculously kept Martin from wearing that scandal if he had not gone against His Word. Instead, our whole country was denied what could have been a really good prime minister.

God anoints leaders. What they do with that anointing is up to them. The level of pride that comes with attaining a position of authority often drowns out the still, small Voice. That's why Paul writes about "intercessions". As Christians, we have the power to intercede on behalf of others where they either don't have strength of faith or don't believe. Theoretically, the person in authority could be a Jew, Muslim, Hindu or expatriated Martian, and it wouldn't matter if people are interceding for him/her in prayer. They need God-given wisdom to do the job -- something Solomon knew but I don't think any US president since Truman or Canadian prime minister since Diefenbaker actually asked for. But our prayers and intercessions for those in authority can fill in that gap and actually help those leaders to see that they owe their position not to their good looks, dynamic speaking or progressive policies, but to God Himself.

One more thing: if we move forward a few more verses in I Tim. 2, we come to verse 8, which says, "I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." The level of hate and nastiness in politics today is abominable, and for centuries, the essence of politics has been less about what's right, and more about who wins the argument. But Paul says that our prayers must be without wrath and doubting. James writes, "the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" (James 1:5); doubt is the enemy of faith. So prayers for our government and "those in authority" all point away from the contentiousness of politics and directly towards God and His will.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Who's being intimidated?

News items in the past couple of weeks have noted complaints from people protesting the Winter Olympics, claiming undercover police have been harrassing them: coming up to them in public places and making remarks that lead them to believe they're under surveillance.

The civil rights folks are claiming these protesters are feeling intimidated.

Poor darlings! Let's see: these people have burned flags, screamed obscenities at our Governor General, and put up posters with images of dark hooded/figures calling for anarchy and "Riot 2010". And now they're feeling intimidated?

Monday, June 22, 2009

The racist bassist

About a month ago, my place of employment required all of us to spend two hours in a course on "the respectful workplace". It wasn't anything I didn't already know, and I must say I was more than a little insulted at having to sit through a lesson in be-nice-to-your-co-workers. In many respects, the sample scenarios were based on thinking that I thought we had left back in the 1980s. I remember hearing the late Richard Pryor talking about someone using the word "nigger" in an argument, and thinking to himself, "man! Are we back to that, now?" And that was in 1981 (his Live on Sunset Strip performance).

What was really insulting was that at least one of the scenarios was predicated on a statement that may have been true, but was not politically correct. Freedom of speech -- according to this teaching -- depends not on truth but on whether it's "nice".

Jesus would have been so busted!

In other words, the "respectful workplace policy" -- at least, when it comes to freedom of speech -- is largely predicated on individuals' being dishonest, and I have a very hard time with that. I'd rather someone state, honestly, what they think of me than internalize it and have it come out in other ways.

Anyway ... some time after that course, I was MC for an event that included a blues performer and his band. His road manager mentioned in her notes to me that he's from the Mohawk Nation, but in my exuberance when introducing him, I mentioned where he'd performed and that he'd be playing in August at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, but forgot completely to mention the Mohawk Nation. I knew it as soon as I put the mic down and went straight to the manager and apologized. But before I could apologize, she told me it was a great intro, and when I did say, "but I forgot to mention he's Mohawk", she said, "oh, no problem! It was great!"

I was relieved. After all, a person's race shouldn't matter when it comes to the performing arts. Do we enjoy jazz musicians because they're black or white or because they're great? Where does ethnicity separate George Shearing, Oscar Peterson or Dave Brubeck? Sonny Rollins or Paul Desmond? Ray Brown or Niels Henning Orstad Petersen (who played bass for Oscar at one time or another)? Is Jonathan Cheechoo a great native hockey player or a great hockey player?

You get the picture. So after the band has played its set, I'm chatting with the bass player, and she's talking about her mother, who had just flown out from New Brunswick, having been miraculously cured of cancer -- just prior to scheduled surgery. "I had to rescue her from some honky doctor who wanted to cut her open."

Excuse me? What kind of doctor?

Of course, I didn't say anything, but there is some potential to dwell on that statement. There is a notion, for example, that the doctor's motivation would be racial: that somehow, a white doctor wouldn't perform surgery on a white patient, but would be willing at the drop of a hat to cut open a native Indian woman. Is surgery an inferior cancer treatment, or a "quick fix" that a doctor might palm off on one kind of patient but not on another? Does the bass player have some innate, racially-ingrained, sense of what the most appropriate cancer treatment might be that would be superior to that of a qualified MD?

You see where this can lead.

But the big question that came to my mind was, how can she get away with tossing off a racist remark like that and I couldn't? Not that I'd want to, but isn't educating people about racism a two-way street? She probably had no idea it was a racist remark: maybe she's used to saying things like that about white people and having them go unchallenged because it's generally accepted that she has a "right" to because of the injustices inflicted on natives by white people over the years.

So at what point do we break out of the cycle?

"Social Justice" is a wonderful catch-phrase, but too often it refers to a struggle fought in human terms. A friend of mine told me recently that the new lady in his life has adult children who are "really into social justice". There's an elective course in some school districts about "social justice", which, as far as I can figure, is really about political correctness. But Jesus is social justice. All complaints about hatred, poverty, sexism, homelessness, drug addiction, inequality in society, even environmental issues and the "respectful workplace" have ready solutions in the Word of God.

Maybe the reason why we haven't moved past that thinking is because our society refuses to look at that Truth. Martin Luther King knew it, and the seed he sowed have done more than anything else to bring equality between black and white people in the US. But those who came after cannot be said to have carried on that work: how much real progress has the "kill whitey" mindset achieved?

For native Indians like the bass player, forgiving whitey and letting it go is a necessary step to break out of that cycle. Take a look at the state of the aboriginal community and see how much they have benefited from walking in unforgiveness, demanding "land claims" and "aboriginal rights" and endless apologies and compensation. Jesus' Two Greatest Commandments -- love God and love your neighbour -- and "forgive your brother seven times seventy" apply. Land claims? "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof," which is something brought to mind not by some misguided white apologist but by Clarence Vickers, a native Indian evangelist.

The Bible has been described as a sword, and that's absolutely true: it's the sword that cuts through the Gordian Knot that we've tied around our social issues over the generations; the seemingly endless cycle of hatred and mistrust and demands for "justice" on our own terms for past wrongs. Forgiving, letting go and starting from Square Zero with God in control may seem like an overly simplistic solution; but more and more it's appearing like it's the only way to move forward.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Al Jordan, RIP

Al Jordan died a week ago. The "Happy Pappy" was 83.

In Vancouver through the 50s and 60s, he was one of "the" radio personalities, and as you'll see from a tribute that follows my thoughts, a key driving force in commercial radio.

Al was known as the "Happy Pappy" when he was one of "The Good Guys" on C-FUN in the early 60s. There's a photo in one of Red Robinson's books of the Good Guys, sitting on the curved staircase leading to the old C-FUN building on 4th Avenue at Cypress. Every one of those men "meant something" in Vancouver radio for decades. Red Robinson. Fred Latremouille (and if you're having trouble pronouncing that name, it's "Fred"). "Jolly John" Tanner. Brian "Frosty" Forst. I think "Big Daddy Dave" McCormick is in the photo, as well. For Vancouver radio, it's equivalent of the "million dollar session" at Sun Records.

(Even that staircase means a lot to me. I remember climbing it with great apprehension in 1981, going to meet with JJ Richards about a possible job. I got the job, and hardly used that staircase again, because I would generally go in through the staff entrance at the back. That building now houses a Salvation Army Thrift Store, and that staircase is still there.)

When he gave me the news, Red told me Al had been something of a recluse in the last 10 years or so. I spoke to him by phone about 5 years ago, and he didn't even let people come and visit him in the last 2 years.

That's not surprising, based on a phone conversation I had with him about five years ago. I can't say I knew Al, largely because I was in the generation behind him -- his son Randy and I played hockey and baseball together (or more accurately, we wore the same uniform) -- and Al was my first hockey coach (peewees at the Capilano Winter Club). He sorta knew that I'd gone into the business. Years later when I was at C-ISL, we chatted like we'd known each other for years. That's why I figured, in 2004, that I could call him and see how he was.

The sadness in the phone call was palpable. He stated flatly that he didn't listen to music anymore, "because it makes me cry". In another exchange, he said, "I hated rock and roll, you know. It wasn't my music ... jazz ... Stan Kenton ... that was my music. I drove a Cadillac but sold Chevrolets."

The tribute below from Brian Lord (with whom I worked at C-FUN in the early 80s and who, I believe, quietly greased the skids to help me land on my feet at CKDA Victoria) is stolen from Radio West, an online forum for radio people in and out of the business. He refers to Al as having died "contented", which seems odd, considering what he said in the phone call and what Red described of him. But as I say, I didn't know him the way colleagues like Brian knew him: maybe that is what "contentment" looked like to Al.

There are some lessons to be gleaned from this. One is in the way "the world" looks at the various gifts one has. Brian makes note of "the pipes getting rusty", and when one makes a living with one's voice, that can be the kiss of death. I used to wonder to myself what I would do if something ever happened to take away my voice. Praise God, preaching the Gospel does not require the voice of George McLean -- I don't worry about that anymore. Anyway, during my time in radio, I got the sense that announcers were treated as though they were interchangeable -- that anyone could do what they did. I know some radio personalities were sensitive to the notion that they had no talent and that if they didn't have a "great set of pipes", they'd be nothing.

I think that's why so many highly popular DJs (and I won't name them here) seem so insecure. When C-FUN joined the rush towards "more rock - less talk" in the early 80s it only made it worse for these people. Sure, I've known some announcers who had, as Charles Adler once put it, "the voice of God and the IQ of a chicken" -- the "what's that up in the road, a head?" kind of read. But good DJs became part of the entertainment on a radio station: the ability to "patter", especially to use the intros and extros of songs to punctuate what one was saying and then finish saying it with about a breath to spare before the vocal started, was an art form in and of itself. Reduce the job description of a DJ to time-temp-and-PSAs over dead air, and the highly priced talent who could really do that would suddenly be readily replaceable by a BCIT dropout willing to work for a third of the salary.

And it also stripped the DJ of his or her creative outlet.

It also stripped radio stations of any reason for existence -- especially with the advent of personal audio 30 years ago. What did radio have to offer when you could have your own music, sans commercials? But the bean-counters who knew the price of DJs but not their value only saw the immediate bottom line. The Knights of the Turntable gradually faded away.

And who would care? "The World" would question what real value they had -- in much the same way that it questions the value of poets, actors and musicians; they were "just a DJ", and yet these people had a real gift that brought real pleasure to a lot of people.

The other lesson is that, if we get a leading from the Lord on something ... ACT ON IT WITHOUT DELAY! The Lord had been prompting me for several weeks to call Al -- the fact that the Chicago Black Hawks were playing (and beating) the Canucks in the playoffs made that prompt even louder, since Randy lives in Chicago. But I didn't. "Ask him to come and help out at the Mission," He said. I still didn't. Who knows what that might have led to? I'm getting similar prompts about others, and I'm not disobeying this time.

This much I did know about Al Jordan: his son Randy -- who's about my age -- was unique in that he was a superstar kid athlete who didn't go around telling everybody how great he was. Instead, he realized chubby little wannabes like me could learn something from him, and shared unreservedly. Randy is still doing that, coaching hockey -- particularly women's hockey -- in Chicago. I think of all that and consider Brian's description of Al as being a truly humble and caring man and realize that if Al left any legacy, it's in the way he trained up Randy (and younger brother Brook) in the way he should go. I hope Al knew that.

Here's Brian Lord's tribute to Al Jordan, ripped off from the Radio West online forum.

CFUN's Al Jordan Passes
A Tribute by Brian Lord

I don't doubt some the other CFUN DJ's will drop a line to RadioWest about Al's passing, we all knew him in the late 50's and early 60's and have run across him several times over the last 50 years.

We used to call him 'Happy Pappy' because he liked to talk about his son Randy on the air and to us. When CFUN's Dave McCormick decided to approach manager Jack Sayers about changing the MOR format to Rock 'n' Roll, Al was in step. None of the rest of us early "Good Guys" were on board yet, so Al and Dave pretty much had to go it alone. For any help he may have given Dave we can all be thankful because he was the senior announcer at CFUN in 1960 and therefore his opinion stood for something.

He was older than the rest of us -- Dave, Brian Forst, Jerry Landa and I. Maybe by about five years on average. The original line-up was Jordan in the morning Breakfast period from 6AM to 10AM, I had mid-day 10PM to 2PM, Dave was on from 2PM to 6PM , Brian Forst from 6PM to Midnight and Jerry was the overnight DJ. That line up began in the late spring of 1960 and Al Jordan was basically the chief announcer and assigned shifts etc. Dave McCormick handled the music.

Al was also the only one of the original Good Guys who was married. (We called our selves "The Good Guys" because that was the hip thing for rock stations to do in those early years, call yourselves something). We all knew his wife Donna who was funny, pretty and very friendly and open with us. We didn't socialize at Al's home near the Capilano Canyon in North Vancouver but we saw Donna at staff get-togethers and parties. Al used to bring Randy down to the station on occasion. I also knew his sister, a pretty blond who loved jazz and a younger brother.

The thing about Al was that he got along with everybody. I never saw him get mad, matter of fact if something came up that would anger the rest of us, Al would just laugh it off and caution us to be cool and work around it. He had a huge capacity for friendliness. He seemed to be concerned about all of his friends, air staff and non-air staff alike; what we were going to do with our lives, what we liked -- even to the point of asking what kind of clothes we admired and what food we ate. In other words he showed genuine concern. And he just never had a bad thing to say about anyone, either to their face or behind their back. He didn't think that way.

He was a hell of a good radio announcer. He could be cute but I guess his greatest advantage was his voice and how he used it. He knew his rap, he didn't get tongue-tied or stray off the subject. He wasn't a particularly funny announcer but he was pleasant to listen to and that I think was his best feature, he was extremely friendly and was able to convey this effortlessly to his audience. He had a knack for making people feel good, in person and on the air.

The most worthwhile thing he did for me was teach me how to read. He was probably the top commercial announcer and producer of commercial radio copy in Vancouver through the Sixties and he earned a lot of his money doing spots for advertising agencies. To do this he couldn't keep on as an on-air voice so he went off-air and made money doing voice-overs, promos and spots. All the great voices that Vancouver has produced -- from Bill Reiter to Doc Harris and everyone else, will tell you that Al was the first -- and extending well into the Eighties, one of the best.

When CFUN's original DJs began drifting after about three years, Al stayed put. He was there when Tom Peacock, Red Robinson and Freddy Latremouille came aboard. He was a fixture until eventually he too left 1410 in the latter 60's. I next ran into him at CJOR when I was on a year's sabbatical from California in 1966. By that time he was strictly production. All the voices at 'OR liked doing work with Al because he was just as easy to work with as a production manager as he had been when he was a DJ. Matter of fact I don't think Al ever had a single solitary person working in radio and knew him, that didn't like him.

Like most of us Al fell on hard times. He had problems, Fred Latremouille got him straightened out from a drinking problem by pointing the way towards the help he needed. I spoke to him around that time and whereas he had been remorseful and anything but his lively old self, after his rehab he was happy again. He continued working for years but eventually his voice was starting to get that gritty sound -- the pipes were rusting -- and he had to do any voice work prior to noon before his throat would wear thin. That's what he told me one day when I ran into him at CKWX in the mid 80's.

Others can probably give you reasons but besides his son and daughters, (he and Donna had divorced years before), no-one really knows why Al went into a kind of solitude. He liked cats, kept several, read books, stayed mostly indoors at his apartment near Main and 12th Avenue, alone and liking it that way. It was during these years that Dave McCormick, Mike Powley, our CFUN Librarian back in the 60's and Cameron Bell decided to keep in touch with Al on a monthly basis. They used to send each other reports and kindly included me because I was in the Philippines by this time.

I did speak with Al about three years ago when visiting Vancouver -- he was not the up-tempo guy he'd been 50-odd years earlier but he was still pleasant. We talked about books and discussed a few old times. I knew, however that Al was not wanting to get into a long conversation. None of the boys had seen him in ages. As I say, that was the way he wanted it.

Was he unhappy? None of us knew for sure but the general feeling was that he was appreciative of what Dave, Cam and Mike were doing and his demeanor was not startling or off-the-wall. So if 'happy' isn't the right word, 'chosen' may have been more appropriate. I like to think he died contented -- based on the Al Jordan I knew.

The thing to remember about Al was that he made people feel good. He made people feel like they had done a successful job because he always made sure they knew it. I don't know how many of us can go through a long life and go out with many people thinking so well of us. Al Jordan joins Monty McFarlaine, Jack Cullen and Vic Waters to name just a few as being a true friend of the broadcasting industry in the city of Vancouver. He has left us all with good memories.

Brian Lord

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Christian's Job - Beth weighs in

A couple of postings ago, we reproduced a couple of exchanges spawned by last week's entries on John Fischer's blog. Beth, the sister of Bruce, who initially started the exchange by forwarding John's May 7th article to Amelia who sent it to me (are you still following this?), had a great response, and she's now given her permission to copy and paste it ...

I think I am a little between the two camps. I do believe that this is our Father's world, His great creation, His wonders all around us and even in some senses Heaven if we can see it that way. Some days when I feel really close to Him, it is, and there is so much beauty and truth in it, it takes my breath away. BUT I am also aware that we do not live alone here and there are always 2 forces at work swirling around us so that our guard has to be up to trickery and coercion into wrong thinking, temptation to be led into something "that isn't that bad", false teaching that masks as truth. Satan tried to tempt Jesus in the desert by using scripture as his arguments. Peter was trying to be gallant and honorable when he told Jesus that he would never let anything happen to him, but Jesus said "Get behind me, Satan" because Peter's thoughts were not God's thoughts. Even with good intentions and strong faith, we can be led astray. So I have to remember to take every thought captive... even while I'm enjoying the fantastic wonders of God's work in me and around my life's landscape. I consciously let love - not fear - lead my decisions and trust that my Lord will answer my prayers and keep me safe.

It doesn't matter what's happening with the politics of the church, or what other people are doing or not doing, what Christian is falling short, etc. Those things are Satan's ways of distracting us. We become Christ's church collectively when each of us individually stops looking at others and focus's on our own life and relationship with God. Standing side by side with eyes front towards Christ. Then we can link arms as brothers and sisters and we become indivisible followers. With our lights blended, we shine through the darkness and attract the moths looking for a flame.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Unsettled science ... settled Word

Sunday night, I had another experience of God placing me exactly where He wanted me to be -- largely so I could learn something ... and also get confirmation of His Word.

As part of the kickoff dinner for a conference held by LEAD Canada, of which my wife is a fellow and former president, there was a presentation by Dr William Rees from UBC. His topic: "Getting Serious About Global Warming".

If you've read my book, A Very Convenient Truth - real hope in the face of environmental fears (available at Pilgrim Book & Bible, Chapters Metrotown, House of James and Christian Book & Music Centre in Victoria), you'll know that -- at the time -- I bought into the concept of anthropogenic global warming. If you've heard my presentation, you'll know that now, I don't really take a position one way or the other, because of the politicization of the issue.

(People who oppose or even question the concept are vilified as corporate hacks, junk scientists or just plain evil: one hard-liner was quoted as saying that politicians who don't vote for endorsing the Kyoto Accord should be thrown in jail; another claimed that those who present opposing views are just as bad as those who deny the Nazi Holocaust. That's what I call "politicization", and it makes me wonder what kind of ground people who make those statements are standing on. If the debate strays from "what's right" to "who's right", something is definitely wrong.)

Now, because I look at the whole issue of the environment as being a matter of our relationship with God in toto, I see the fact that there's a debate of this level at all as one of the many signs that Satan is mucking about with all sides in this issue, keeping us at each other's throats rather than actually doing something to fix it.

Dr Rees' presentation is compelling, and his figures are hard to challenge. One point that kept coming up was the fact that much of the doomsday scenario sketched out just a few years ago has already turned out to be wrong -- in the wrong way. It's actually worse than they thought it was going to be. According to Dr Rees, the evidence shows that the rate of the sea ice melt (for example) is faster than they thought it would be and that the predicted concomitant rise in the sea level would be considerably higher.

Other parts of the talk were equally alarming, such as the statement by a group of scientists that the only way to head off global disaster would be for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to engineer a "planned worldwide recession". Or the map from New Scientist magazine, showing how a vast area of the earth -- anything south of Washington State and north of Antarctica -- would become uninhabitable in a very few years because of no water and no respite from the heat.

Something else that gave me cause for pause was a rather bizarre discovery: something that has actually held global warming somewhat in check has been atmospheric air pollution.

This brings that element of confusion, which is another of the signs I mention in the book that Satan is stirring the pot. If we're confused, we have to go back to the basic question: What is truth? And we know that, when we ask that, we're usually staring right at it.

See, it appears there are some false premises that need to be addressed:
1 - an anthropogenic problem has an anthropogenic solution
2 - human beings are essentially aliens on this planet
To deal with point (2) first, Dr Rees made reference to "natural" global warming and "anthropogenic" global warming -- i.e. the things we're responsible for due to our activities, like industry. But unless humans were to live like any other animal on earth, that premise doesn't hold water, in my view. Population, industrialization and other human activity is natural.
The problem comes because humans have not been doing the unnatural activities, namely, following the Word of God. God commanded us to manage the earth and gave us the fleshly intelligence to do it, then upped the ante by reminding us again and again that He's there to help us whenever we ask Him. Through sin, we stopped relying on God and have spent the past 6,000 years leaning on our own understanding. That's why the environment is in the mess it's in now. But instead of beating our brains out pointing fingers and searching for a scientific solution that only leads to more problems, God promises that He will fix everything if we just turn back to Him.
"If My people, which are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land." 2 Chr. 7:14
Can't get more settled than that, can it?
In other words (and this addresses point (1) up there), praise God that, through Jesus Christ, we can repent for our sin of having not managed creation properly, and turn back to God with a clean slate (2 Cor. 5:17). The anthropogenic problem can only have a Parthenogenic solution.

My thoughts go back to that New Scientist map. It's quite possible - since scientists have been readily admitting that they've missed the mark before (has anyone noticed how often even the weather reports have been wrong lately?) - that the map shows a worst-case scenario and that perhaps we can squeeze a level of habitability out of ... say ... two thirds of the planet.

That leaves a third of the planet uninhabitable ...

Hmm ...

"... and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up. ... and the third part of the sea became blood; and the third part of the creatures which were in the sea and had life died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed ... and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, ad it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters ..." Revelation 8:7-10 (KJV)

The Book of Revelation talks about a third of everything on the planet being destroyed, and trust me -- the descriptions of hail mingled with blood and horsemen of the apocalypse make the New Scientist map look like a pretty picture to hang on the wall.

But the Book of Revelation has an important message that Dr Rees' presentation was lacking: WE WIN! IT'S ALREADY BEEN DECREED!

That's HOPE. Hopelessness is another sign of Satan's involvement.

If you read through to the end of the Book of Revelation*, you find that, for all the terror foretold about the end-times, God's people come through in victory. And when you consider that God has NEVER equivocated on this and that His Word has not failed us yet in any other area of life, if I were a betting man, I'd put my money on His promise.

It provides a WHOLE LOT MORE HOPE than the notion that the only way out is a "planned global recession".

The scientific findings Dr Rees presented -- and this is why I know God put me in that room for a reason -- support the prophecies in the Bible about the times preceding Jesus' return. What we need to do is give our collective head a shake and understand that our human efforts to reverse environmental destruction will be in vain if we leave God out of it. "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." For sixty years, we've tried and tried and tried to change things using our own intellect, and things keep getting worse. We need to stop the madness and find a new paradigm -- and that paradigm is the Word of God. Only then will we truly get serious -- not just about global warming, but about His plan.


*Note to the guy from Portland OR who pointed a finger at "Bush and the Bible-thumpers" for delaying action on global warming: if you'll read it, you'll thump it too!

Monday, May 11, 2009

What is a Christian's job ... really?

John Fischer started this conversation with a blog entry on fear, faith, and the Christian's job. To read the originals, go to his website, scroll down to the May 7th entry and read it ... then go to the May 8th entry for a follow-up.

The Fischtank entry was forwarded to me by my wife, who'd received it from a friend of hers. It was refreshing and a relief to read it, so I sent a response to the friend ...

So often, we hear slogans like, "What would Jesus do?" and "Do what Jesus did" and we lose sight of "What did Jesus tell us to do?"

When He asked Peter, "do you love Me?" and Peter said "You know that I do", He didn't turn around and say, "then go find the lousy sods who did this to Me and make them pay for it!'; He said, "feed My sheep ... feed My sheep ... feed My lambs".

Preach the Gospel. Heal the sick. Bind the brokenhearted. Not wave placards and scream at people who do things that offend God, but live the faith and show the world that, by its own merits, it's far and away better than anything else.

We have to be realistic and know there's an enemy there and know that one of his tactics is to keep us occupied with protests against things that offend God. That's why God made it so easy for us: preach the Gospel. He knows there's never any shortage of things that offend Him, but the darkness cannot overpower His Light, so if we're shining that Light properly, eventually, people will come.

David says, "do I not hate them that hate Thee?" (Ps. 139), but God has a response. "Bless those that curse thee, pray for them that despitefully use thee ..." and "vengeance is Mine". So no matter what people say about God or Christ or those who believe, keep on loving, and leave the judgment to God.

There's a not-so-old saying I guarantee you won't find in Scripture: "when you're up to your a** in alligators, it is difficult to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp." Satan keeps pushing alligators at us to try to take our focus off God. But once we get the swamp drained, the alligators die of exposure!

Hmm: I may have my next sermon here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bear-ing the true nature ...

Another element of the discussion on polar bears in the Arctic, which I mentioned in a previous post, is that the Inuit will not be taking part in the conference on whether to declare polar bears an endangered species. I suppose the idea is that their interests will be represented by their respective governments, but it also spares the World Wildlife Fund and other environmentalists the potential embarrassment of a showdown between their propaganda and the Inuit's "on the ground" reality check.

After all, the WWF says the polar bears are dying off. The Inuit says the population has doubled. Somebody doesn't have the true picture here, and the WWF would lose a lot of prestige, credibility and donations if they were found to be wrong about the situation -- or even (Heaven help us) to have made it up.

Which speaks volumes about the fragility of the argument about human-induced global warming (man-made climate change). Why do we hear so often that contrary positions get frozen out of discussion? If "the science is settled", as Al Gore says, why do scientists get so unsettled when something comes along to challenge them?

My book, A Very Convenient Truth -- real hope in the face of environmental fears, was, interestingly enough, written when I still bought into the idea of man-made climate change. By the time I appeared on Thor Tolo's radio show in Seattle, just over a year ago, I was not so sure. Now, in my presentations, I look at the bitterness and contention surrounding the debate itself as another indication that Satan is busily stirring the pot. With so many real environmental issues to be concerned with -- air quality, water quality, land use, food production, etc. etc -- why is the one that is the most contentious -- human induced global warming -- the one that gets so much media attention?

Simple answer: because Satan is driving this discussion, and his objective is not to protect God's creation. His objective is to keep humans at one another's throats, so that we turn our attention away from God and behave in un-Godley ways.

2 Chr. 7:13-14 applies.

Tolerance - or love?

CBC Vancouver's morning host, Rick Cluff, launched this rhetorical question into the airwaves yesterday: "are we kidding ourselves that Vancouver is a 'tolerant city'?"

The question arose from an alleged gay bashing incident in a Davie Street bar a few days ago. Rick was interviewing a witness -- a friend of the victim -- who told the whole sordid story and went to great pains to describe that the assailant kept calling the victim a "fag".

Vancouver Police are investigating to see whether this should be investigated as a "hate crime".

The notion that Vancouver is a "tolerant" city is based on such things as Gay Pride Week and the fact that there is "hate crime" legislation, which mandates a minimum sentence if a crime is motivated out of hatred for a person's race, religion or sexual orientation.

If we're a "tolerant" city, why do we need hate crime legislation? If we're any more "tolerant" than, say, Surrey or Prince George or Nanaimo, wouldn't it be self-evident in the deeds and thoughts of the people? I'd say those who think that legislating tolerance will make people more tolerant are seriously deluded.

But here's the rub -- and it relates back to my previous posting on how God has been officially barred from Canada: Jesus Christ calls on us to love our neighbours as ourselves. It follows, then, that whacking someone upside the head for ANY reason is an act of hate. Indeed, Jesus tells us that if we even call someone a fool, we've as good as murdered that person (because we're saying that to someone made in the image of God).

But -- oh, look! -- we don't talk about Jesus in public forums as if His Word were anything more than The 10 Neat Little Suggestions because some people might have to change their preferred lifestyles. So we treat Him as Just Another Great Teacher, make His teachings optional, and then try to bring in legislation to accomplish what we think is the same end result.

Then, with events spinning out of control like a border collie on a triple espresso, we wonder why people still hate one another and why they seem so "intolerant".

"Tolerance" is predicated on one person doing whatever they want and another person being forced, through legislation, guilt or the fear of being called a nasty name, to not be offended.

"Love" is predicated on each of us loving God and remembering that if we love Him, we keep His commandments. This means not just that people cannot whack someone upside the head if they behave in a way that offends them ... and that people committing such behaviour are responsible for -- if it violates God's commandments -- renouncing that behaviour and getting their own walk right with God.

It may sound complicated, but ultimately, it's a lot more peaceful than what we've got now. And ... it comes with God's blessing.

What then? Pass more legislation? Increase minimum sentences? Introduce a "social justice" course for 12th graders?

Whither the CBC?

Let me begin by saying that I was a CBC brat. My dad worked at the MotherCorp from 1954 through 1984 -- he has his tenure there worked out to the minute, in fact -- and for most of that time, he was a public affairs producer. (His magnum opus was Klahanie: The Great Outdoors, which was a hit with everyone except the network executives. It ran for 13 years.) My mother acted in CBC radio and TV dramas for over 30 years, beginning in 1948, when she took over the lead role in the serial, "The Carson Family" on the old Farms Broadcast.

I, too, acted in CBC radio dramas when I was a kid, along with a couple of episodes of The Beachcombers and a real stinker of a sit-com pilot that would have shortened a lot of careers if it had ever been picked up. My first professional writing job was on the Rene Simard Show, and I also coached Le SuperKid on his English dialogue. When I desperately needed a job, CBC Victoria was there.

CBC, in other words, has put a lot of meat on my family's tables over the past 53 years.

So why do I have this total lack of sympathy when I hear doomspeak about cuts in federal government subsidies to the CBC? Because the more I look at and listen to that network, the more I think there has to be a complete makeover of its mandate, its direction and how it's achieving its goals.

"Whither the CBC?" is discussed by Will and Ian Ferguson in their book, How To Be A Canadian (Even If You Already Are One). They don't actually discuss the issue, but they point out that it's one of those questions that comes up, like a recurring nightmare, every few years. It leads to endless national navel-gazing (at least by those who give a flying fish about it) about the role of the publicly-funded broadcaster, and often comes at a time when some people question why it's receiving public funding at all.

The CBC handed Heritage Minister James Moore a loaded gun last fall, when it picked up "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune". Earlier this week, Moore used that shrewd programming move to illustrate the need for such a makeover -- saying the MotherCorp should be developing Canadian programs, rather than spending money on US shows. (Wisely, Moore didn't refer to "Coronation Street", which would have really sparked a firestorm!)

Now, you could argue that the purchase of those shows would actually turn a profit, since they'd be proven ad-revenue generators, but Moore's overall point demands some discussion. If the CBC is getting huge taxpayer subsidies already, what's it doing with the money it's getting now? Can it be spent better? Does it have a viewership base comparable to CTV and Global? And if not, why?

(All this discussion must be bitterly amusing to the people losing their jobs at those two networks.)

For Christians with a small-c conservative bent like yours truly, the distinct bias over the past 20 years against Christian influence -- embracing everything "progressive" (aka contrary to the Word of God) and leaning heavily on political correctness and "inclusiveness" -- is particularly worrisome. One friend of mine, a pastor in Duncan, recently referred to the "anti-Christian CBC", and I daresay he's right. Our tax money goes to the CBC, too, and it's hard to countenance that when it's impossible to listen to or watch a network that grieves the spirit.

It was the CBC that really gave the infamous "atheist bus ads" story traction in Metro Vancouver by running an unverified story that the posters had appeared at a SeaBus terminal and that the atheist organization in question actually had an advertising contract. When this piece of information came to TransLink's attention and it was confirmed that there were no posters and no contract, the CBC radio editor at the time was "furious", but the genie was already out of the bottle.

The episode reminded me of one of the radio dramas I did as a child: an Easter offering on the CBC Schools Broadcast. The Schools Broadcasts aired weekly in the mid-morning, and were heard in class around the province. There used to be Schools Broadcasts on TV, as well, covering subjects like the voyage of Simon Fraser.

Anyway, this Easter play was called "Childe Lacke-Love", and it was about a boy who learns that the route to happiness is to commit to loving other people. At one point, the town crier -- played by Robert Clothier (later Relic in The Beachcombers) -- declaimed, "Think of our Lord upon the Cross / Think of the Blood He shed for us!" Can you imagine anything like that getting into a CBC program today -- especially something going to young tender ears in the classroom?

As for CBC News, the days of Knowlton Nash, Stanley Burke and Norman DePoe are long gone. In my dealings with CBC reporters, they seem more inclined to "gotcha!" journalism than to actually ascertaining the facts and constantly looking for the negative or fear-based story than anything edifying or uplifting. Alas, like those in the newspaper industry, the reporters seem to have this lofty notion that they are not only mandated to uncover the truth, but because they report it, it ipso facto is the truth. Yet in my personal experience, I've seen countless times where a reporter will leave out a salient fact that doesn't fit with his or her preconceived thesis, or report it in such a way as to cast doubt on it.

James Moore would like to see more regional programming, more locally-produced dramas and other entertainment shows. I'll go along with that. Big question: can the CBC do it on the funding it currently gets? What can they do without? Do we really need Newsworld? Do we really need Hockey Night In Canada doubleheaders, followed by HNIC "After Hours" (sportscasters drinking each other's bathwater) and then a "replay" of the game people had already seen? If NBC can have perennial success with Saturday Night Live, then maybe Saturday night is not such a broadcasting wasteland.

Some random ideas:
  • Run one hockey game on Saturday night, and turn the rest of the evening over to "try-out" programs of different sorts. The time slot after HNIC used to be a space where a panoply of programs were used as fillers. There could be different games region by region, and if there's a "need" for a replay, run one of the other regional games -- perhaps give the fans the chance to vote by text message which game they want to see. (I would actually have a personal preference for Radio-Canada to take back the Montreal Canadiens' games, so that those of us in the rest of the country to still bleed bleu-blanc-et-rouge can stay in touch with Les Glorieux.)
  • Increase regional drama and entertainment production, and bring back the "regional exchange", where different regions would swap shows. It was a great way to bring the life and culture of one part of Canada into the living rooms of other parts of Canada. With production facilities in the Far North, it would be a great way to expose those of us living below the 55th parallel to what goes on above it.
  • bring back the CBC Orchestras and give them TV time
  • increase local and regional news, and hire news directors with a mandate to make journalism live up to its lofty ideals: truth over sensationalism, positive over negative, public interest over the station's self-interest
  • hire reporters with actual life experience -- not those who have spent their lives in the ivory tower of the professional journalist (where one looks at the world through morose-coloured glasses)
  • does CBC need a piped-in music satellite channel?
  • does CBC need so many radio channels, or should it be looking at restructuring that, as well?

Back in 2004, I wrote a series of features on the origins of TV in British Columbia for the Victoria Times Colonist. In one of those articles, the late Daryl Duke talked about how television showed British Columbians "themselves" for the first time. The TC article edited Daryl's comments considerably, but he pointed out how early TV in Vancouver gave people a chance to see how they themselves lived, and shows like Cariboo Country exposed people in Vancouver to the way people lived in the Chilcotin. Like the story line of "Window at Namko", it provided a huge picture window. It filled a need that was real then, and is real today.

That's a lot of what the CBC should be about, in my opinion, and I believe that makes it worth saving. "Bringing Canadians Together" was the MotherCorp's positioning statement back in the 1970s, and maybe it's time to take that seriously. Once we have this discussion and re-configure the Corporation's purpose, we'll have a better idea of how much tax money should be spent on it.

Bear facts ... and barefaced fiction

The latest exercise in climate change dogma versus The Real World is currently unfolding in the debate over labelling polar bears as an endangered species. Despite the Inuit maintaining that the population has actually doubled over the past few decades, environmental organizations continue to demand a ban -- or severe restrictions -- on hunting the bears and governments of Arctic countries (including Canada) are actually giving it serious consideration.

The "vanishing polar bear" has been used by groups like the World Wildlife Fund as a "hook" for its advocacy in the name of combating climate change. It's the warm-fuzzy tug at the heartstrings of every grade school child south of the 60th parallel to make them persuade mommy and daddy to persuade their MPs or Congressmen to do something about climate change and -- in so doing -- protect the polar bears.

But the Inuit say their conservation efforts are helping preserve and expand the polar bear population, the species is not endangered, and the bears have become a nuisance in some of their villages. Sticking by their ages-old practices of hunting what they have to and letting the rest live, they say, will not drive the species to extinction.

Nevertheless, Whitey knows what's best, apparently, as it appears the environmentalists will get their way and the politicians will once again be able to Show They've Done Something.

Sad. For a Christian, looking at how God has intended us to have dominion over every creature on the earth, it appears the Inuit have this one down pat. "Dominion" comes from the Latin dominus, which means "Lord". We are supposed to be "lord" to Creation, the way God is Lord to us -- protecting, providing for and managing Creation. Proper managers -- like a proper gardener -- know that you don't let a garden run wild, or the weeds will choke off the good growth. Some things have to be culled, sometimes for the sake of the species as a whole. "Replenish the earth and subdue it," was God's Commandment to us, and the Inuit have this one all worked out.

It reminds me a little of the Clayoquot Sound controversy on Vancouver Island in the mid-90s. Environmentalists were demanding protection of the old-growth rainforest north of Tofino, which was in the cross-hairs for a clearcutting spree by logging companies. The environmentalists appealed to the local native nation to support them -- maybe exert some kind of land claim on the area or something. After lengthy discussion, the natives decided to hold a conference at Ahousaht with as many experts as possible to come in and share some ideas on how to use the forest commercially without necessarily logging it to shreds.

There were some interesting ideas -- from eco-tourism to Merv Wilkinson-style sustainable logging to economic opportunities other than conventional forestry. To make a long story short, the natives formed their own logging company and went to work. I believe the overall result has been considerably better than simply letting Macmillan Bloedel or Weyerhaeuser storm in their and start sawing away, but I also got the distinct impression that (a) the natives felt, at the end of the day, that none of the great ideas that came up really benefited them, and (b) the greens were caught in their own delusion that the Noble Savage was simply going to roll over and preserve the trees the greens wanted to worship.

As an aside, CBC's treatment of the story this morning ended with a rather bizarre assertion, which betrayed the bias of both the reporter -- for making the statement -- and the editors and producers -- for not saying "what in blazes are you saying?" In closing her story about the debate between the WWF and the Inuit, the reporter said, "this has become another battle between science and tradition". How about, "between propaganda and reality"?

Can you say, "whitey patronizes natives again," boys and girls?

I knew that you could.