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Look It Up

Defining Christianity up and down. Criminal minds. Intelligence designs. Plus more.

12.10.07

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SHOOTING FOR THE STARS
Re: James Bowman's The Fame Factor:

Mr. Bowman hits the nail on the head. For confirmation look no further than today's (Sunday) front page of the Omaha World-Herald is a nice synopsis, complete with handy time-line of a *&^%*^$%(&*^ loser's life. Mentally ill? More like crazy like a fox. He sure had the media pegged. The media has given him exactly what he and his friends wanted. I enjoyed the quotes from his friends. Did the New York Times report that one of his friends got arrested for threatening to kill another acquaintance who told the local news that Hawkins was a pot-head and a jerk? Did they report that Hawkins, who had a history of violence, showed the gun the night before to one of the adults he was living with and nobody thought it could be a problem? Surely they did an analysis of the $265,000 Nebraska spent trying to turn him around.

What I have yet to see is any analysis of the piss-poor job the cops have been doing here. Omaha had 31 murders this year before last week. That's twice the number from 2006. Our esteemed Democrat mayor has no plan to deal with this. The week prior to the shootings, a hand grenade was found in the mall parking lot yet the cops saw no cause to beef up patrols. There were no cops within miles of the place at the time of the shooting. I guess the idea that someone could have been casing the place for an assault never crossed their minds. They must have thought that somebody's kid accidentally kicked it from the floor of the family minivan when getting out. It's an amazing coincidence if the two aren't related. President Bush was here earlier that day. Think maybe somebody would like to make some headlines?

Before people start sticking up for the cops and making excuses about how a determined deranged killer wouldn't have been stopped by a cop, just stop. A coward like Hawkins would have turned around and left if he'd seen a cop. Why do you think he came in the store first without the gun? To make sure there wasn't anyone there who could shoot back at him. I would be a little more charitable if this weren't such a bloody year for Omaha before this event. The cops should have been a lot more vigilant. Our mayor and police chief were both out of town on the day of the shootings. What perfect symbolism.
-- Andrew Macfadyen, M.D.
Omaha, Nebraska

I'd like to ask Mr. Bowman what is new about the New York Times ignoring part of a story that conflicts with its long held world view. I mean, for God's sake, does the name Walter Duranty mean anything to anyone? As for the Times accepting any responsibility or culpability for spurring people to perform acts that are beyond the pale of civilized discourse, when has the New York Timesadmitted that it has made a mistake in this area? The answer is, of course, only when it has been caught out red handed so to speak and had no choice but to accept the responsibility for the error. The acknowledgement of the mistake will appear in very small print on page C 51, directly beneath an ad for a mattress sale, and next to one for a tire sale. After all, this is the New York Times.
-- Joseph Baum
Garrettsville, Ohio

A very well presented and thought out article. I think you make a very good point. Fame has a lot to do with these maniacs and their actions. It influenced Lee Harvey Oswald, the Columbine shooters, and I'm sure many many more.

But let's be careful with the hunt for influencers or motives. I enjoy violent films, and have played many extremely violent games, including the Doom first person shooter that was trotted out around the time of Columbine as a possible 'motive'. I've been trained in the martial arts, and have more than a passing acquaintance with guns. Granted, I don't listen to violent inspired music very much, but I have never, not once, had the desire to go shooting people at random.

'Violent' films such as those of Quentin Tarantino and many others bring in large box-office products. Violent video games go flying off the shelves. Yet, most people (well over 99%) do not go out and start shooting people at random. These occurrences are increasing, and think you've hit the reason for that right on the head. The desire for fame, and the immediate search for 'motive' and rationality behind the acts.

Irrational acts will always conform to popular ideals of the time. Senseless acts of random violence are nothing new to humanity, or even America. And they always follow general mold. These molds change over time, they adapt to new ideas and new weaponry. If anything thing, random violence has started to go down over the past couple of centuries as we used to accept fewer rationalities. Obviously, the more rationalities we accept, the more of these violent acts will occur. The Middle East, anyone?

Let's keep the discussion where it belongs. Trying to rationalize an inherently irrational act is the singular, overriding influence.
-- Charles Campbell
Austin, Texas

In a rape, the media with holds the name of the victim, the same should be done with killers that just want the "fame." We hear about what they have done, do we have to be told their life story. The same holds true with people like Jesse Jackson and Sharpton with their race hate speeches. Who cares?
-- Elaine Kyle

LET'S TALK ABOUT SECTS
Re: The letters under "Fighting Words" in Reader Mail's Matters of Faith:

Regarding the rebuttal letters to my opinion regarding Mr. Romney and Mormonism. Words, in English, mean what they mean. I didn't assign the meaning, and neither I, nor anyone else is justified in reinventing their meaning. First let me take up the most serious of the disagreements, whether Mr. Romney is a Christian.

The dictionary defines a Christian as one who believes that Jesus is the Christ, or believes in the religion based on the teachings of Jesus. It also includes those having the qualities taught by Jesus, as love, kindness, etc. Mr. Romney, and other Mormons do, in fact, believe that Jesus is the Christ.

There is nothing in the definition about having to believe in the Trinity or any of the three most popular creeds found in the other Christian sects. There is nothing in the definition that precludes a belief that God specifically instructed a later day American as to what was required of him by God.

Virtually every one of the different Christian sects will argue with the others on some point or other, but they do not insist that the others are not Christians. If you are a strict Evangelical, you will, and likely have, proclaimed that Roman Catholics are corrupt unbelievers. Don't bother denying that, I do of my own knowledge know that to be true. I have also personally heard Baptists loudly proclaim that Roman Catholics CAN NOT go to Heaven. I have personally heard Knights of Columbus officials say the same thing about non Catholics. Then we have the Eastern Orthodox or Russian Orthodox that various sects, including the Papal authorities in Rome, have tried mightily to read out of the group of believers known as Christians in times past.

I could go on with citations, but it would simply be redundant. The fact is that Mr. Romney, and his family, believe that Jesus is the Christ and that He is the savior of mankind. That makes him a Christian, and anyone denying that is taking a supremely uneducated and un-Christian attitude on the subject. Heck, it wasn't many weeks ago that Dr. Dobson publicly questioned whether Fred Thompson was a Christian. This charge of not being a Christian is being thrown around entirely too freely and indiscriminately.

Now let us take up the word "bigot." The dictionary tells me that a bigot is one who holds blindly and intolerantly to a particular creed, opinion, etc. When someone proclaims that others are not Christians, when the simple reference to any decent dictionary would inform that person of the error of their ways, they are making such proclamations blindly. When someone then uses that blind interpretive error to deny a person a job or an elective office, then it is being done intolerantly. When someone deliberately refuses to inform oneself of ones error, one is doing it intolerantly. When someone takes a politician's claim about his/her opponent on faith alone, and makes no effort to ascertain the validity of the claim, then one is doing it blindly.

If you deny a black American or a brown American a job or an elective office based on the color of his/her skin, we all know that it is bigotry. If you deny a person a job or an elective office based on their sex, it is bigotry. Now I am being taken to task because I say that some people are displaying similar discrimination toward Mr. Romney because of his religion, and that it is bigotry.

This in a country where for we have prided ourselves on religious freedom for soon to be 250 years. These battles were fought out and decided before we approved our Constitution, back when different colonies were established as havens for different religions. And there was a time when Baptists were persona non grata in most of the settled areas of the colonies. For example, Maryland specifically preferred Roman Catholics, and the New England states invited the Quakers to find somewhere else to live, which is why my father's side of the family left Rhode Island and settled in the Burlington Co. area of New Jersey. Oh, and my maternal grandfather's ancestor was Scottish Catholic and a person of some repute in Maryland. In both cases, it was examples of bigotry.

When you argue that Mitt Romney is not a Christian, and that you are not showing bigotry, you simply insult the intelligence of anyone that is honest and even handed enough to either know the definition of those words or to know how to use a dictionary. Those claims are NOT simply opinions or preferences, they are patently wrong on their face.

As I said, I am not particularly a Romney fan. I will not be voting for him in the New Hampshire primary. I can cite a laundry list of things that I think he did wrong as Governor of Massachusetts, and not one item has anything to do with his religion. Joe Lieberman is also not a Christian. Should he have been precluded from running for Veep in 2000 due to that fact?

Debate the relative merits or demerits of candidates for political office in America, including POTUS, but leave out the intolerance and bigotry of a religious test for office. I would personally prefer that an atheist not be elected, I would prefer that the candidate show that he/she has a belief in God, but whether he/she is Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, etc. is not relevant. If, however, I use that atheist's non-belief exclusively as a club to deny him the office, then I am being a bigot. I will therefore have a list of policy differences with him/her and will never bring up his/her atheism. So, no, I don't think that we ought to ask the question of the candidate's religion. I really thought we had put that away during the 1960 POTUS campaign with JFK's speech. We are now two generations removed. I guess that we must try to relearn that lesson.

OK, now go ahead and explain how my adherence to a Standard English dictionary is an unacceptable thing in this day and age.
-- Ken Shreve
As Rush says, "Words mean things."

For full disclosure, I'm LDS. I appreciate Ken Shreve's good will, and his expressions of solidarity with my church. Perhaps his tone could have been a bit less confrontational. I also appreciate Mike Dooley's willingness to vote for a good man who he considers to not be a Christian. However, I have to call into question his logic in excluding Mormons from Christianity. He bases his exclusion principally on the doctrine of the trinity as declared at the council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D.

First, the council of Chalcedon is not universally accepted by Christians. In fact, the doctrines formulated at Chalcedon resulted in the first great schism in Christianity, with the Oriental Orthodox churches (Egyptian Coptic, Ethiopian, Syrian, Armenian, et al.) splitting off from the Roman and Byzantine branches of the Church. Together, those Churches represent more than 50 million Christians, currently. The Egyptian Coptic Church has one of the oldest pedigrees in Christianity, having been founded by the evangelist Mark in the first century. Would Mr. Dooley care to send them a note informing them of their exclusion from Christian communion? Second, Mr. Dooley states that the doctrine of the trinity "expresses a mystery of God as presented in Scripture...." The anti-Trinitarian position is well supported by scripture describing the baptism of Jesus, the mount of transfiguration, Jesus' prayer to The Father in the garden of Gethsemane, and the stoning of Stephen. I will gladly pay Mr. Dooley a dollar if he can find a verse of scripture that unequivocally supports the Chalcedonian Trinitarian creed. Third, and finally, the key for me is "...the mystery still remains and is impossible to understand logically." Given the choice, I prefer a theology that is, well, logical. A little more logos, please. Sorry, Mr. Dooley. If you're going to deny me a place at the table, you'll have to do better than that.
-- Larry Gates
Salem, Oregon

Does theology matter in a political campaign? I ask anyone who thinks it doesn't: would you vote for a Satanist? No? Not even if otherwise he were the perfect candidate, the second coming of Ronald Reagan himself?

If you would, then please disregard the rest of this letter, because you and I have nothing in common. But if you would not, then congratulations, we have just demonstrated that a candidate's theology is important. Now, it's only a question of where to draw the line. Regarding Mr. Romney specifically, the question becomes, is he on our side of the line, or not?

I disagree with your correspondent Ken Shreve that it's an easy question to answer. He answered it by labeling the proposition that Mormonism is not Christian as an "ignorant, bigoted lie." Well, Ken, you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. Whatever one thinks about the wisdom of voting for a Mormon, the fact remains that Christianity and Mormonism are two distinct religions.

There is more to being a Christian than sharing the nomenclature. What unites every Christian denomination, from high Roman Catholic to humble backwater Baptist, is a belief in the Holy Trinity -- One God in Three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Heresy, on the other hand, always reveals itself by denying the Trinity; Mormons simply do not believe in it (though they are not forthcoming about that fact). They believe God the Father and Jesus the Son are distinct and separate beings. Furthermore, Mormons believe there are many gods, perhaps millions of them -- every faithful Mormon some day hopes to become a God of his own world. Mormons teach, "As man is, God once was; as God is, man shall become." In the Mormon cosmos, our own local holder of the "God franchise" originated as a mortal man whose faithfulness was rewarded as he became lord of this planet. This contradicts not only the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, but also the Judeo-Christian concept that God is eternal and unchanging.

What all this means is that when Mormons say they believe in God and in Jesus, they mean something completely different than what Christians mean.

Believe me, Mormons perceive the gulf between the two religions -- but it's generally considered rude when Christians notice the same thing. Well. If you think Christians are sometimes harsh toward Mormonism, you ought to read what Mormons think of Christianity. Please follow the link and read for yourself a passage from Joseph Smith's own writings, posted at the LDS website. Smith communicates quite clearly that all the other Christian sects are an "abomination," and that all those involved in preaching it are corrupt. Like Mr. Shreve, they are certainly entitled to their opinion. But if Mormons think Christianity is an abomination, why can't Christians at least think Mormonism is mistaken? Is the distance between A and B somehow greater than the distance between B and A?

Religious conservatives like me aren't looking for an excuse to vote against Romney. It's the other way around; we're trying to figure out how we can vote for Romney, and we have to work this out. But don't bother coming at us and calling us names because we seem reluctant to park our consciences outside the voting booth. Conservative Christians have been more faithful to conservative policies and values than an awful lot of Republicans, including one George W. Bush -- who even now is concocting a harebrained scheme for ruining the mortgage market, in a move worthy to be included in any list of worst stupid liberal tricks.

The bottom line is that God is in charge, and the Republicans only want to be. The Old Testament makes it clear that the kings of Israel and Judea who pleased God were successful, while those who worshiped false gods brought curses upon their people. If we are faithful to God, He will not fail His people. Republicans, even the non-Mormon ones, have been known to do just that.
-- Lee Dise
Virginia Beach, Virginia

To misters Dooley and Crisler:

I'm surprised that I'm the one to have to stand up and say this, but there is only two things that one must do to be "Christian." Accept Jesus Christ as the son of God and our personal savior, and to attempt to embody his beliefs in your daily life.

It is the first reason that I am able to categorically call myself not a Christian, as I don't believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the son of God, though he was undoubtedly divinely inspired. Don't get me wrong, in a lot of ways I do try to live my life as described by Jesus. Love thy neighbor, do onto others, all that.

To call Mormonism not Christianity because they reject the Trinity or certain other worldly church doctrines or creeds is a bigoted, ignorant statement. The truly sad part of it is, that it is not ignorance of Mormonism that you show, but ignorance of what Jesus was trying to say, and what the very word "Christian" means (Christ Like).

Up until now, I have been basically ignoring Romney. Not because he's a Mormon, but simply because he's been a little too slick. His speech may just have changed that for me, and I've been looking into other things.

Mormon or not, he says of lot of things I can agree with. If nothing else, he's a man to listen to right now.

So, let's all be a little Christian, eh? Get the boards out of our eyes before we go looking for the speck of dust in our brother's and let's hear what this man has to say.

And hey, let's all be nice to each other for a change? (Thank you, Douglas Adams, RIP)
-- Charles Campbell
Austin, Texas

WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Re: Laurie Mylroie's Unintelligence:

The American public has a choice to make: do we want foreign policy to be determined by an elected administration -- or by a bunch of spies operating independently of that administration? The blame for the NIE fiasco lies with the president himself for allowing career bureaucrats antithetical to his existence, much less his presidency, to undermine his credibility at every opportunity.

Maybe the next president will learn from his mistakes, and clean house at both the CIA and the State Dept., that other nest of duplicitous vipers.
-- Arnold Ahlert
Boca Raton, Florida

Is Ms. Mylroie going to lead us into another war in the Middle East by still trying to link Iraq and 9/11? Is she really going to blame Iraq's lack of WMD on the "intelligence community"? Are there people who still believe that this administration has an ounce of validity left?

Perhaps in another article Mylroie could enlighten us all on Iraq's connection with 9/11, an idea with so much legs that a President -- desperate for any reason to invade Iraq immediately after the atrocities on that day -- steered away from the "evidence" of such an excellent pretext to blabber on instead about the "intelligence community's" evidence of WMD, broken UN resolutions, and that Saddam tried to kill Bush's dad.

Meanwhile, Mylroie's keen eye for evidence no one else has seen is blind to the FBI's webpage for "Most Wanted Terrorists," where there are apparently investigations still going on into the attacks of 9/11 (brought about by Iraq, according to Mylroie) and where bin Laden, the man we all wanted dead for a long time afterward, is apparently wanted only in connection with the 1998 Embassy bombings in Africa, and "other terrorist attacks throughout the world." Will this be the subject of her next book, I wonder?

Perhaps when Mylroie and her ilk are finished using "enhanced interrogation techniques" on select members of the "intelligence community" in order to find out who screwed up and when (and why bin Laden isn't wanted for the thing we all wanted him for), they can explain to us peons, using their professional expertise in the glories of bureaucracy, how we are going to pay for war with Iran, repair our reputation abroad, rehabilitate an ever-increasing number of broken veterans, restore God-given civil liberties under a bloated federal regime, demand Constitutional government once more, and retain some idea of what Thomas Jefferson and James Madison believed. If they need a place to start, they could explain to us all the meaning behind Norm Mineta's testimony to the 9/11 Commission, conveniently left out of their final report. Or perhaps the dwindling numbers of war hawks would rather continue to lay blame somewhere else, anywhere else, other than where it truly lies, and sing patriotic ditties while ignoring what is plainly in front of their faces.
-- Brendan R. Merrick
Budd Lake, New Jersey

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE?
Re: Arif Humayan's Pakistan's Radical Islamist Genie:

LET ME CHOKE ON THESE BUNCH OF LIES. Islam is and always has been a Religion/Ideology of violence to achieve its goals of world conquest started by its founder Mohammad. He, himself, conducted 26 such campaigns of unjustified violent attacks on people.

Thanks,
-- Joseph D'Ambrosia

Mr. Humayan should remove himself to Pakistan, or another land where Islam holds sway, and commit his life to effecting the changes he advocates. As with any other Muslim, especially those of 'accomplishment', in the West, he is a contemptible leech and coward, following his philosophy of ignorance and incompetence while using the remaining framework of Western civilization(to which Islam is inherently, and at this moment, irrevocably opposed to) to attain a certain success which is inherently impossible in a majority Muslim land. Let him go and turn his cheap rhetoric into action; if he dies in the process, some respect shall be due him, unlike the disgust he now generates. Separationism is the only appropriate policy for the West to follow relative to Islam, and if choice will not work, force should then be employed. The Spectator disgraces itself (further) by providing a platform to such a craven opportunist.
-- P. Jacobs

Well said, but far too late, I fear.

The Jihad avalanche is already rolling. It is clear that they never wanted to be reasoned with anyway, and logical arguments are no help against people who only want to shout and shoot.
-- Martin Owens
Sacramento, California

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