Monday, February 25, 2008

Immigration and Denmark

My dad sent this to me. Read carefully:

"Salute the Danish Flag - it's a Symbol of Western Freedom"

By Susan MacAllen (a contributing editor for FamilySecurityMatters.org)

In 1978-9 I was living and studying in Denmark. But in 1978 - even in Copenhagen, one didn't see Muslim immigrants. The Danish population embraced visitors, celebrated the exotic, and went out of its way to protect each of its citizens. It was proud of its new brand of socialist liberalism one in development since the conservatives had lost power in 1929 - a system where no worker had to struggle to survive, where one ultimately could count upon the state as in, perhaps, no other western nation at the time.

The rest of Europe saw the Scandinavians as free-thinking, progressive, and infinitely generous in their welfare policies. Denmark boasted low crime rates, devotion to the environment, a superior educational system and a history of humanitarianism.

Denmark was also most generous in its immigration policies - it offered the best welcome in Europe to the new immigrant: generous welfare payments from first arrival plus additional perks in transportation, housing and education. It was determined to set a world example for inclusiveness and multiculturalism. How could it have predicted that one day in 2005 a series of political cartoons in a newspaper would spark violence that would leave dozens dead in the streets -all because its commitment to multiculturalism would come back to bite?

By the 1990's the growing urban Muslim population was obvious - and its unwillingness to integrate into Danish society was obvious. Years of immigrants had settled into Muslim-exclusive enclaves. As the Muslim leadership became more vocal about what they considered the decadence of Denmark's liberal way of life, the Danes - once so welcoming - began to feel slighted. Many Danes had begun to see Islam as incompatible with their long-standing values: belief in personal liberty and free speech, in equality for women, in tolerance for other ethnic groups, and a deep pride in Danish heritage and history.

The New York Post in 2002 ran an article by Daniel Pipes and Lars Hedegaard, in which they forecasted accurately that the growing immigrant problem in Denmark would explode. In the article they reported: "Muslim immigrants constitute 5 percent of the population but consume upwards of 40 percent of the welfare spending." "Muslims are only 4 percent of Denmark's 5.4 million people but make up a majority of the country's convicted rapists, an especially combustible issue given that practically all the female victims are non-Muslim. Similar, if lesser, disproportions are found in other crimes."

"Over time, as Muslim immigrants increase in numbers, they wish less to mix with the indigenous population. A recent survey finds that only 5 percent of young Muslim immigrants would readily marry a Dane." "Forced marriages - promising a newborn daughter in Denmark to a male cousin in the home country, then compelling her to marry him, sometimes on pain of death - are one problem"

"Muslim leaders openly declare their goal of introducing Islamic law once Denmark's Muslim population grows large enough - a not-that-remote prospect. If present trends persist, one sociologist estimates, every third inhabitant of Denmark in 40 years will be Muslim."

It is easy to understand why a growing number of Danes would feel that Muslim immigrants show little respect for Danish values and laws. An example is the phenomenon common to other European countries and the U.S.: some Muslims in Denmark who opted to leave the Muslim faith have been murdered in the name of Islam, while others hide in fear for their lives. Jews are also threatened and harassed openly by Muslim leaders in Denmark, a country where once Christian citizens worked to smuggle out nearly all of their 7,000 Jews by night to Sweden - before the Nazis could invade. I think of my Danish friend Elsa - who as a teenager had dreaded crossing the street to the bakery every morning under the eyes of occupying Nazi soldiers - and I wonder what she would say today.

In 2001, Denmark elected the most conservative government in some 70 years - one that had some decidedly non-generous ideas about liberal unfettered immigration. Today Denmark has the strictest immigration policies in Europe. (Its effort to protect itself has been met with accusations of "racism" by liberal media across Europe - even as other governments struggle to right the social problems wrought by years of too-lax immigration.)

If you wish to become Danish, you must attend three years of language classes. You must pass a test on Denmark's history, culture, and a Danish language test. You must live in Denmark for 7 years before applying for citizenship. You must demonstrate an intent to work, and have a job waiting. If you wish to bring a spouse into Denmark, you must both be over 24 years of age, and you won't find it so easy anymore to move your friends and family to Denmark with you.

You will not be allowed to build a mosque in Copenhagen. Although your children have a choice of some 30 Arabic culture and language schools in Denmark, they will be strongly encouraged to assimilate to Danish society in ways that past immigrants weren't.

In 2006, the Danish minister for employment, Claus Hjort Frederiksen, spoke publicly of the burden of Muslim immigrants on the Danish welfare system, and it was horrifying: the government's welfare committee had calculated that if immigration from Third World countries were blocked, 75 percent of the cuts needed to sustain the huge welfare system in coming decades would be unnecessary. In other words, the welfare system as it existed was being exploited by immigrants to the point of eventually bankrupting the government. "We are simply forced to adopt a new policy on immigration. The calculations of the welfare committee are terrifying and show how unsuccessful the integration of immigrants has been up to now," he said.

A large thorn in the side of Denmark's imams is the Minister of Immigration and Integration, Rikke Hvilshoj. She makes no bones about the new policy toward immigration, "The number of foreigners coming to the country makes a difference," HvilshĂžj says, "There is an inverse correlation between how many come here and how well we can receive the foreigners that come." And on Muslim immigrants needing to demonstrate a willingness to blend in, "In my view, Denmark should be a country with room for different cultures and religions. Some values, however, are more important than others. We refuse to question democracy, equal rights, and freedom of speech."

Hvilshoj has paid a price for her show of backbone. Perhaps to test her resolve, the leading radical imam in Denmark, Ahmed Abdel Rahman Abu Laban, demanded that the government pay blood money to the family of a Muslim who was murdered in a suburb of Copenhagen, stating that the family's thirst for revenge could be thwarted for money. When Hvilshoj dismissed his demand, he argued that in Muslim culture the payment of retribution money was common, to which Hvilshoj replied that what is done in a Muslim country is not necessarily what is done in Denmark. The Muslim reply came soon after: her house was torched while she, her husband and children slept. All managed to escape unharmed, but she and her family were moved to a secret location and she and other ministers were assigned bodyguards for the first time - in a country where such murderous violence was once so scarce.

Her government has slid to the right, and her borders have tightened. Many believe that what happens in the next decade will determine whether Denmark survives as a bastion of good living, humane thinking and social responsibility, or whether it becomes a nation at civil war with supporters of Sharia law.

And meanwhile, Americans clamor for stricter immigration policies, and demand an end to state welfare programs that allow many immigrants to live on the public dole. As we in America look at the enclaves of Muslims amongst us, and see those who enter our shores too easily, dare live on our taxes, yet refuse to embrace our culture, respect our traditions, participate in our legal system, obey our laws, speak our language, and appreciate our history. We would do well to look to Denmark, and say a prayer for her future and for our own.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Some Thoughts on Government

I once heard a pastor say that, technically speaking, America's War of Independence was a sin because we failed to be "subject to the higher powers." In refusing to submit to British authority, we violated said biblical mandate, and therefore our country's freedom and very existence is founded on sin. That is the first thought I wish to address.
It had been the long held, orthodox Christian stance that all communitive dynamics are reciprocal in nature. Take Paul's command to husbands ("love your wives") and wives ("submit to your husbands"). Though one of those can happen without the other, the way it is supposed to work is that they happen because of the other. The husband loves the wife because she submits; the wife submits to the husband because he loves her. It does not matter who starts it, just as long as it keeps going. This reciprocal element means that the participants will do their part willingly, and not out of force or a sense of duty.
This reciprocal element is the key to the citizen/government dynamic as well. Generally speaking, Christianity has taught that the purpose of government is to seek the good of the people (or so Romans 13:1-7 says). In response to said good-seeking, the people submit to the government (see vs. 7 of Rom. 13; the "therefore" implies that it is the logical outcome of the previous verses). That is how it is supposed to work. Our founding fathers said as much in the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness [i.e., the 'good']. That to secure these rights [i.e., 'seek the good'], Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Because they understood the reciprocal element that makes a healthy citizen/government dynamic, our founding fathers
knew that when a government ceased to keep its end up, it ceased to be a government in the biblical sense and no longer merited submission (obviously, they were drawing heavily from Aquinas and Locke as well as the Bible):

"Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect [i.e., 'seek the good'] their Safety and Happiness [i.e., the 'good']."

In Matthew 22:21 (one of my favorite government verses), Jesus simultaneously denounces tyranny and anarchy. The only way to avoid both is to follow what is laid down in Romans: governments, seek the good of the people and not your own good (therefore, do not be tyrants); people, submit yourselves to the government, and let them be your authority (therefore, do not be anarchists). Our founding fathers understood this, and I defiantly claim that their move for our independence was one of the most Christian acts our government has ever committed. It was done with a complete understanding and sensitivity to biblical mandates, and was in no way a sin of any kind.

My second thought concerns the ludicrous "separation of church and state" clause that does not exist in our Constitution or its Amendments (check for yourself). It has come to my attention that proponents of said non-existent clause seem to be confused in regards to the difference between religion and truth. Our founding fathers, having come from the tyrannical state church of England, and being Protestants with a firm memory of "holy Roman" empires, knew well what happens when politics and religion become bed-fellows. Thus, they made the first amendment, which guarantees that the two are to never get bound up with each other. However, there is nothing in that amendment (or any founding document) that even remotely suggests that politics is not to be bound up with truth.
I say this because it frustrates me to no end when politicians today denounce the involvement of religious ideas, citing the first amendment as their grounds, without first checking if said ideas are true. It is perfectly fine (and American) for the government to deny favoritism to or endorsement of any religion; it is not at all fine (or American) for the government to deny favoritism to or endorsement of the truth. Separation of church and state (if it were real) does not mean separation of truth and state. That religions happen to endorse or adhere to certain truth claims does not mean that those truth claims are religious, but that those religions are philosophies that seek out the truth. Truth transcends religion. Our founding fathers knew that. That is why they could make the first amendment without batting an eyelash: they could tell the difference between what was religious and what was true. We could sure use a return to such sanity.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

God's Impracticality (or, Why God is Not a Superman Villain)

This blog entry has piqued some curious thoughts in my brain. The subject matter (and comments, and atheist blog responses) is a bit much to all take in, so I'll summarize and then make my point. Basically, there is an atheist argument put forth against God that goes a little something like this: if man is the crown jewel, the apex of God's creation, then God would have built a more "human-scale" (i.e., smaller) universe, a universe more conducive to human exploration and dominion, a universe that reflected man's position as the apex of creation. However, because the universe is not "human-scale," because it's so...so...big, obviously there is no God, because if there was one, than He would have made a universe fit for man. Yeah.
I could get bogged down in historical facts (like how people have known since Ptolemy that the universe was huge, and it never affected Christian faith), or cultural facts (like the real meaning behind Dante's universe in The Divine Comedy; our good old friend atheist Joe completely butchers it), but I won't. Heck, I won't even quibble with old atheistic trump cards (old Joe asks what was the purpose of all the suffering of animal life that existed before man; you know, for a man that supposedly has something "equivalent" to a "Ph.d." in theology, he forgets the Fall at the drop of a hat. Just a quickie: Death is a result of sin. Sin is a result of the Fall. Therefore, before the Fall, there was no death, e.g., "the law predation"). Anyway, I found something more interesting to grapple with.
You see, I couldn't help noticing several atheists (when commenting on the blog) kept making statements like this:
"What about places in the universe where mankind hasn't reached and will never reach? What about parts of the universe that are inhospitable to man? What's the point of them if man can't reach them?"
"What was the point of life before man? Why did God not just make man and everything all at once?"
These statements (and those like them) come from the basic premises of the aforementioned argument (i.e., If God were real, He would have created a universe that reflected man's position as the apex of creation). There are all basically asking the same thing: Why is God so impractical? You would think He would not be so wasteful, so distracted. Why all these galaxies? Why not just ours? Why all this stars? Why not just ours? Why all these worlds? Why not just ours? Why is there anything other than that which is necessary for man?
What I find interesting about all this is the assumption behind these statements, i.e., that God (if He's real) is practical. He would take the most effective and most efficient course in all His doings. Any signs of ineffectiveness or inefficiency, any signs of impracticality, speaks against God's existence. It was here that I was struck with a tremendous (though blindingly obvious) thought: the God the atheist claim we believe in is not the God we believe in.
Apparently, the God that the atheists believe that we believe in is mere machine, mere brain, a cold, calculating computer (kinda like Brainiac, the villainous Kryptonian computer from the adventures of Superman). The universe as it is disproves the existence of such a God. That's perfectly fine. Such a concept of God should be damned as heresy.
I want to say this deliberately and defiantly: Christianity has never believed in a practical God, per se, i.e., we have never believed in the God that is all brain. We have long held that the God who is is a brain and a heart, i.e., a person (in fact, three persons in one). Christianity has always held to a personal God, a God with artistic flair, a God who is "wondrously wasteful," a God who enjoys a perfect disinterestedness that does not require Him to create anything other than for the joy of creating it.
We have never believed in a machine God. If God is a machine, then why stop your questions at the "wasted spaces" and "wasted times" of the universe? Quit being cowards and ask the courageous question: Why is there anything at all? Why is there history? Why are there races? Why are there people? Why is there our world, and star, and galaxy? Why did God even bother with creation? Why did He bother with angels or mankind? The fact is that even a "human-scale" universe would be impractical in the end. The universe, of any conceivable size or structure, is ultimately superfluous, fundamentally unnecessary; it does not need to be. Than why is it?
Why does an artist create? Generally speaking, for the sheer joy of creation, and nothing more. The atheists are most correct in saying the universe disproves a machine God; any universe would disprove a machine God. Thank goodness we do not believe in such a God.
In addition (and this is key), Christianity has never held that the universe is for man. That man is the "apex" does not necessitate that the universe is about man. The universe is for and about God. Man's "apexness," man's very existence, is meant to point to Him, not us. The universe is for Him, not us. We are for Him, and not ourselves. The animals that existed before us were for Him, not us. The spaces we can never reach, both on and off our world, are for Him, not us. They are to His glory, not ours. The glaring error in the argument "If God were real, He would have created a universe that reflected man's position as the apex of creation," is that creation reflects the creator, and man is a part of the creation; its "apex" maybe, but still just a part, just as a peak is just a part of the mountain, and the mountain is just a part of the earth, and the earth is just a part of the universe. As a part of the creation, man joins in all creation by reflecting the glory of the creator. Simply put, the universe is not supposed to be "human-scale." It is supposed to be God-scale.
By the way, that all is for God and for His glory rubs atheists the wrong way. "Why does He deserve it?" God deserves it because He is God, the highest and the greatest, the par excellence of all things. Strictly speaking, God doesn't need to do anything to be worthy or praise; He just needs to be, and He is worthy. Creation is, in one sense, an added bonus, a superfluous wonderland for His pleasure and ours, built to bathe us in the glory of God.
Interesting enough, C.S. Lewis dealt with this very issue (surprise, surprise). In Perelandra, the protagonist Elwin Ransom had an interesting question for the king of Venus, to which the king (and the angelic guardians present) had an interesting response that states the Christian stance I have been talking about much better than I ever could (this excerpt can be found in the last chapter):

"I am full of doubts and ignorance," said Ransom, "In our world, those who know [God] at all believe that His coming down to us and being a man is the central happening of all that happens. If you take that from me, [sir], whither will you lead me? Surely not to the enemy's talk which thrust my world and my race into a remote corner and gives me a universe with no centre at all, but millions of worlds that lead nowhere or (what is worse) to more and more worlds for ever, and comes over me with numbers and empty spaces and repetitions and asks me to bow down before bigness. Or do you make your world the centre? But I am troubled. What of the people on [Mars]? Would they also think that their world was the centre? I do not even see how your world can rightly be called yours. You were made yesterday and it is from old. The most of it is water where you cannot live. And what of the things beneath its crust? And of the great spaces with no world at all? Is the enemy so easily answered when He says that all is without plan or meaning? As soon as we think we see one it melts away into nothing, or into some other plan that we never dreamed of, and what was the centre becomes the rim, till we doubt if any shape or plan or pattern was ever more than a trick of our own eyes, cheated with hope, or tired with too much looking. To what is it all driving? [...]"

Does that sound familiar? "Why all the wasted spaces? Why all the wasted time? How can mankind by the focus of it all when it all is so big?" The angelic guardians answer. Their answer is huge, so I will only copy some key parts. I recommend you find the book and read the whole section...heck, read the whole book while your at it:

"Though men or angels rule them, the worlds are for themselves. The waters you have not floated on, the fruit you have not plucked, the caves into which you have not descended and the fire through which your bodies cannot pass, do not await your coming to put on perfection, though they will obey you when you come. Times without number I have circled Arbol while you were not alive, and those times were not desert. Their own voice was in them, not merely a dreaming of the day when you should awake. They also were at the centre. Be comforted, small immortals. You are not the voice that all things utter, nor is there eternal silence in the places where you cannot come. No feet have walked, nor shall, on the ice of Glund; no eye looked up from beneath on the Ring of Lurga, and Iron-plain Neruval is chaste and empty. Yet it is not for nothing that the gods walk ceaselessly around the fields of Arbol...
"That Dust itself...is at the centre. It waits not till created eyes have seen it or handled it, to be in itself a strength and splendor of [God]...[Always], and beyond all distances, before [beast, man, or god] came and after they are gone and where they never come...[Dust] utters the heart of the Holy One with its own voice...
"Each grain is at the centre. The Dust is at the centre. The Worlds are at the centre. The beasts are at the centre. The ancient peoples [i.e., Mars] are at the center. The race that sinned [i.e., Earth] is there. Tor and Tinidril [i.e., Venus] are there. The gods are there also...
"Where [God] is, there is the centre. He is in every place. Not some of Him in one place and some in another, but in every place the whole [God], even in the smallness beyond thought. There is no way out of the centre, save into the Bent Will which casts itself into the Nowhere...
"Each thing was made for Him. He is the centre. Because we are with Him, each of us is at the centre...Each thing, from the single grain of Dust to the strongest [angel], is the end and final cause of all creation and the mirror in which the beam of His brightness comes to rest and so returns to Him...
"All that is made seems planless to the darkened mind, because there are more plans that it looked for...There seems no plan because it is all plan: there seems no centre because it is all centre..."

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Tornaders and The Big Picture

This past Tuesday evening was one wild night, and I'm not talking about the elections. A huge cold front ripped across the Mid-south, bringing with it around 30 tornadoes and killing about fifty people from Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Union University was totaled; the Hickory Ridge Mall was smashed; houses were obliterated; cars were flipped; and, oh yes, people died.
Times like these can bring out the old atheistic trump card: "If God is so good, why all the destruction?" Ah, yes; the good old "problem of evil." For me, however, times like these make that "problem" a rather odd question to ask.
Consider: why did only fifty people die? (Stay with me, now; I'm not being callous.) We had thirty tornadoes cutting across three states. Why aren't we hearing about hundreds, even thousands, of deaths? Why only fifty? Those fifty are horrible and sobering on their own, but problem-of-evil proponents don't like those nit-picky details; they like the big picture (Try and tell them in the midst of a tragedy: "What about all those who survived?" They'll say: "What about all those who were killed!" See? Big picture). They'll say: "Look at the big picture! All that devastation! All those deaths!" Okay, fine. We'll stick with the big picture then: thirty tornadoes and only fifty deaths. That is not a "problem of evil." That is a miracle, and nothing else.
Consider also: Union University was slammed with a F4 tornado, the second most powerful tornado possible (the highest is an F5). The university dorms (where the F4 tornado mostly hit) were full of students. How come no one was killed? That's right: the second most powerful tornado possible strikes buildings full of people, and no one is killed. Is that an opportunity for agnosticism, or to fall down on your knees and worship? Only a narrow-minded fool chooses the former.
At the risk of sounding very cheesy (and cliche), why can't atheist just look at the bright side? In other words, why can't they see the miracles that occur in the midst of (and not in spite of) the tragedies? It's like they wear blinders that funnel everything bad and wretched right into their faces until they are smothered by darkness. I am convinced that most atheistic tendencies are the result of always seeing the glass half empty. Chesterton was right in noting that atheist and agnostics seem to be caught in perpetual pessimism: they are forced to be "gay about the little things, but sad about the big ones;" and I believe Chesterton to be right when he said, "It is not native to man to be so."
For the Christian, the big picture is joy, the joy of the Lord, the joy of knowing the Lord; and grief is merely another opportunity to know Him even more. Joy is fundamental; grief is superficial. For the atheist, however, it is reversed. The big picture is grief, the grief of man, the grief of man alone; and joy is merely a way to escape reality, to escape the despair. Grief is fundamental, but joy isn't even superficial; it is non-existent, an illusion. True Christianity is wise enough to admit that there is grief; but it is also brave and courageous enough to defiantly proclaim that grief is not the end, not the big picture. The big picture is transitory grief surrounded and penetrated by eternal joy.
There is grief (fifty people really were killed), but there is joy (many more should have died that didn't). The question is, "Where is your focus?" Solely on grief, and a man turns from God. Solely on joy, and man becomes naive (though much happier). Solely on both, and man sees the big picture; and consequently, finds God, for His presence is found in both the laughter and the pain. Amen.

Echoes of Heaven: "Magic"

"It never comes when you look for it,
But only on its own terms,
On its own time,
In its own way.
To seek it is to lose it.

"It's silent, then sudden,
Like a stab in the dark
From a friendly fiend
Trying to make us remember what we forgot.
To lose it is to seek it.

"You hate it when it comes to you:
Its pains are too deep, too heavy, too eternal.
You hate it when it goes from you:
Its pleasures are too sweet, too joyous, too eternal.
May they ever end and never stop.

"Oh to place the pool that runs these rivers!
Oh to find the fountain that sends these streams!
Will I ever find that exalted ocean,
Of priceless pearls and unglittering gold,
And drown forever beneath its waves?"

-Jon Vowell (c) 2008

How Clever We Are

"How clever we are
To be able to escape from God,
The one who is everywhere.
Let me tell you how it was done.

"First we ripped out our eyes
And hid ourselves from the heavenly declaration.
Then we ripped off our ears.
Nature's glossa can no longer reach us.

"The orderliness of words is laced with His presence.
So we ripped out our tongues and throats.
Even this poem is an abomination.
(Oh, can we never escape Him?)

"Life itself is an evil;
Every beat reveals its maker, every breath its source.
So we cut out our hearts, and lungs too,
And passed them through the fire.

"Our very minds betray us to Him:
All thinking betrays to reason, all reason to truth,
All truth betrays us to Him,
It is illumined by His presence.

"This thing we will do: we cut off our heads,
And dashed our brains against the rocks.
We have put away childish things:
God, and our hearts, and our heads.

"How dare our hands feel and commune!
They offend us; we cut them off.
How dare our feet touch the earth of legend!
They offend us; we cut them off.

"But whither shall we flee from Him?
All things contain Him; so we turn to no-thing,
We cast our bodies live into Hell.
We are very clever, indeed!

"We finally escaped Him.
In the burning dark you hear us sing,
'We are damned and doomed! Alone and afraid!
We couldn't be happier!'

"Escaped at last.
How clever we are, indeed."

-Jon Vowell (c) 2008