Malaysia Watcher: Anwar Ibrahim is No Aung San Suu Kyi
Friday, November 19, 2010, 7:28 PM

My friend, writer and blogger Rachel Motte, sends this link from Malaysia Watcher about Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who seems to be claiming moral high ground he doesn't actually possess.

Anwar is no Aung San Suu Kyi.  Indeed, his actions as the co-founder of a front organization for the Global Muslim Brotherhood indicate that he is in fact opposed to the democratic ideals she has sacrificed so much for.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, while Suu Kyi busied herself with the work that would later imprison her, Anwar served as a trustee for the World Assembly of Asian Youth. The Pew Forum describes the Assembly as being so intertwined with the Muslim Brotherhood that it is difficult to tell them apart.



Book Review: The Truth Of the Matter, by Andrew Klavan
Wednesday, November 10, 2010, 8:11 PM

If what you’re looking for in a book is subtlety and nuance, Andrew Klavan’s Homelanders series of young adult novels is not the place to go.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking for something to appeal to young males (the explicit target market for the books), you’ve come to the right place.

These are books for boys who like video games (at one point Charlie West, the book’s hero, even gets to use an actual weapon that works like a video game controller) and extreme sports. “Extreme” describes The Truth Of the Matter well—not in the sense of extreme shock content or extreme edginess, but in the sense of action that never slackens, but constantly ratchets up the dramatic tension. Poor Charlie barely gets a chance to grab a nap or anything to eat through the whole story. Wherever he turns, he’s got enemies on his tail. The premise isn’t terribly realistic, but that’s the whole point. This roller coaster of a story isn’t intended to give you time to consider its plausibility. The only drawback is that it’s so compelling that it’s hard to stretch the reading of it longer than a day and a half or so, and you want more. On the other hand, Charlie’s earned some rest.

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It Happened in Holden
Friday, August 27, 2010, 9:43 PM

I heard an interesting piece of gossip at my class reunion last Saturday.

I don’t think anyone will be hurt by it. The news was more than a hundred years old.

The reunion took place at the farm of one of my classmates (we lived

in a small town, and it was a small class. Smaller now). The town is

Kenyon, Minnesota, not a famous place, but once a center of

Norwegian-American settlement, made conspicuous once upon a time by the

story I shall now relate.

Our host told us, “This farm once belonged to the first doctor in Goodhue County, Dr. Grønvold.” That was interesting.

Later another classmate, who knows I’m interested in history, told

me, “You know, there was a big scandal here in the 1800s. That farm over

there” (he pointed to a brick house about a thousand feet away) “is the

Holden church parsonage. The pastor there was gone a lot, and his wife

had an affair with the doctor who lived here.”

“B. J. Muus?” I asked. Yes, he said, that was the pastor’s name.

I’d read about the story, but never gave it close study. Now I’d

stumbled across the living oral tradition, on the very spot, and it

piqued my interest. So I read up about it.

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Outrage, Updated
Tuesday, August 3, 2010, 8:09 PM

A few weeks ago I wrote about a matter in the church which I attend, which has drawn

national attention. I think it’s appropriate for me to follow that

story up now, as our congregation has finished its investigation and

the principle figure involved is speaking publicly again.

First of all, to name names, my church is Hope Lutheran Church of Minneapolis,

and the subject of the story is our senior pastor, Tom Brock. Pastor

Brock fought a long battle with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of

America, over issues like women’s ordination, abortion, and homosexual

marriage, before finally encouraging withdrawal from that church body

and affiliation with ours (The Association of Free Lutheran

Congregations) a few years back. He has a cable television show, and a

local radio talk show, in which he discusses religious issues. Through

these outlets he has made himself fairly prominent, and indeed (as we

have seen) a target.

A local homosexual publication called Lavender Magazine heard a

rumor that Pastor Brock was attending a Catholic support group called

Courage, a group for men struggling against same-sex attraction. A

freelance reporter then posed as a prospective member, attended a

meeting, and wrote an article for Lavender, in which he insinuated that

Pastor Brock was leading a secret “gay” life. This move has been

“viewed by many as journalistically unethical,” according to this AP story on the One News Now website.

Gee, ya think? Breaking the confidentiality of a Twelve Step Program?

Pastor Brock was placed on leave of absence while our congregation conducted an inquiry.

He appeared before the congregation again this past Sunday. He and

members of the elders explained that he has been exonerated by their

investigation. Among other things they spoke, with his permission, with

people in the Courage group in whom he had confided. They can find no

evidence that he has been living a secret sex life. They are satisfied

that Pastor Brock is celibate, which is all we ask of any man dealing

with this difficult problem.

Reports that Pastor Brock was “back in the pulpit” last Sunday are

technically true, but misleading. He did occupy the physical space

behind the pulpit when he talked, but he didn’t deliver the sermon. He

will be preaching again, but not right away. His intention is to resign

as Senior Pastor but stay on staff, concentrating on the radio and

television outreach that put him in the crosshairs in the first place.

I know Pastor Brock to say hello to. I do not know him well. But I

shook his hand on my way out of the sanctuary, and told him he’s a hero

to me.



I Am Not a Prophet, Nor the Son of a Prophet
Thursday, July 22, 2010, 7:57 PM

It was one of those rare, perfect moments in preaching.

While living in Florida some years back, due to limited choices I

was attending a church of a different denomination than my own. It was a

large, growing, dynamic congregation. The pastor announced a series of

sermons on Revelation. But when he started preaching, it quickly became

clear he was not teaching the Dispensational Premillenial (i.e., Left Behind) interpretation that's so popular in our day. He was an amillennialist.

Many congregation members were not happy about this, and made their opinion known.

After a few weeks of controversy, the pastor got into the pulpit one

Sunday morning and announced that, for the sake of peace, he was

discontinuing the sermon series on the End Times. Instead, he would take

up a topic that would trouble people less.

“I'm going to preach on Hell,” he said.

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Outrage
Friday, June 25, 2010, 7:36 AM

I attend a Lutheran congregation in north Minneapolis, one that belongs to the church body I work for. It's large but not huge.

The senior pastor has made himself visible in the media for a number of

years as a critic of the liberal church, and of modern trends such as

universalism, women's ordination, higher criticism of the Bible, and the

normalization of homosexuality. He is a single man.

Last night, while watching local news on television, I discovered

that he'd been “outed” as a homosexual.

He was not discovered in a “gay” bar. He was not discovered having

sex with another man in a public rest room.

According to the news accounts I've seen (emanating from liberal

sources) he was discovered attending a support and accountability group

in a Roman Catholic church. He was speaking honestly, to men he trusted,

about his struggles, slips, and temptations.

In other words, he was doing precisely what people on our side of

the argument say a man in his situation ought to do. He is the very

opposite of a hypocrite.

On the basis of the accounts I've read, the “journalist” who

produced the story infiltrated this accountability group, lied about his

purposes, and then broke the promise of confidentiality he made to get

in.

The television story pretended to be a high-minded think piece about

whether it's ever appropriate to “out” someone against their wishes.

I don't believe that was the real purpose of the story. I believe it

was to splash my pastor's picture all over TV screens in our state,

with a metaphorical scarlet letter on his chest.

My pastor has my full support, and my prayers. God bless him, and

all godly men in his situation.



Saint Julian, by Walter Wangerin Jr.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010, 7:15 PM

The legend of Saint Julian the Hospitaller seems to

have risen in the Middle Ages, and is today considered entirely

folklore. Possibly inspired by the story of Oedipus, it tells of a young

man of noble family cursed to commit an appalling, shameful crime. As

with Oedipus, his very efforts to make the crime impossible actually

bring it about, but Christians added the element of redemption, a

demonstration that no crime is beyond the mercy of God.

Author and clergyman Walter Wangerin Jr. has written Saint

Julian, a version of the legend (published 2003) in his own

dreamy, poetic style. It's not his best work, but it's worth reading for

those with eyes to see.

Medieval Christians believed that Julian lived at the beginning of

the Christian era, but Wangerin places it in the epoch that produced

it—somewhere in the Middle Ages, apparently during the Crusades. His

book combines the classic style of the hagiographical tale with the

allegory of Pilgrim's Progress. Julian is a sort of Everyman, or

Everychristian. Born to many advantages, blessed with physical beauty

and rich natural gifts, he falls—almost innocently, one might say—into

the sin of pride, seeing no need to curb his desires. His immoderation

leads to a great sin, which brings upon him the curse of the tale. And

when he commits his crime, it is again because of his intemperance. What

follows is a long journey to discover the miracle of grace, a journey

in which God is always guiding, generally unseen, along hard and painful

roads.

Saint Julian lacks the emotional peaks and valleys that broke

so many of our hearts in Wangerin's greatest novel, the delightful The

Book of the Dun Cow. In his attempt to mimic the style of

medieval chroniclers, the author starts the book slowly, and probably

loses a lot of readers along the way. The very universality of his

themes tends to make the characters one-dimensional, like figures in a

Gothic church painting.

Fans of Wangerin will enjoy Saint Julian, but not consider it

his finest work. Those new to him would do best to start with The

Book of the Dun Cow.

Lars Walker is a Minnesota fantasy author. His latest novel is West Oversea.



We Saw This Coming, Didn’t We?
Wednesday, June 9, 2010, 8:18 PM

I finally watched “Gladiator” the other day. This

news may surprise you. A guy who loves swords as much as I do, you would

think, would have leaped for “Gladiator” like a trout after a fly, the

moment it was released.

But in fact I found myself putting it off. I'm pretty sure I know

why I delayed, too. I'd read a review that told me what happens to

Maximus' wife and son. I knew that in order to enjoy the good parts, I'd

have to go through that scene, and whether it happened off screen or

on, it would poison the whole thing for me. I hope you won't think less

of me if I admit that I'm basically a pretty tenderhearted guy, with a

low tolerance for the suffering of innocents.

As a writer, I understand why they added that scene (and, according

to Wikipedia, it was added. It wasn't in the original script.

They put it in to increase Maximus' incentive for vengeance). You have

to raise the stakes, if you want to engage an audience and motivate a

character to dire and terrible deeds. People don't wake up one morning

and say, “I think I'll assassinate a dictator today.” They need (or so

we imagine) a personal reason, a mighty, visceral wrong to right.

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Sigrid Undset
Wednesday, May 19, 2010, 7:53 PM

It was some time ago that Bill Bennett, on his

morning talk show, asked, “Who is Sigrid Undset?” I tried to call in and

help him out, but there wasn't time.

The fact that Bennett, an extremely erudite Roman Catholic, knew

nothing of Sigrid Undset, saddened me. (I'm not a Catholic myself, but

no man is an island, and all that).

Gone are the days when a popular writer like Ogden Nash could say,

in the midst of a light poem:

“Or you stand with her on a hilltop and gaze on a

winter sunset,

And everything is as starkly beautiful as a page from Sigrid

Undset….”

…and everybody would know what you were talking about.

That's a tragedy. Not just for Catholics (like Bennett) or Norwegian

buffs (like me), but for all lovers of great Christian prose.

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Green Sin
Friday, April 23, 2010, 7:10 PM

My impression (of course I only move in limited

circles, usually three times before I lie down) is that this past Earth

Day was a relatively muted celebration. The Greenies were observing in

private, while we Spoilers of the Earth were having a big old time

whooping it up over tired Al Gore jokes.

So I think I’ll pile on a little more. But in a serious vein.

One of the most common responses I’ve met when talking religion with

non-Christians (and liberal Christians) is, “I can’t believe in your

angry God. Your doctrine of Original Sin offends me. My God is a God of

love. My God would never condemn a baby for something Adam and Eve did.”

And it occurred to me, “Well, what do environmentalists believe

about sin and guilt?”

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