Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro Dead: Nothing Changes

As I have grown older, I have become more pragmatic.  Thirty or forty years ago, I would have taken the time to wax eloquent on the subtle and not so subtle differences between socialism and communism.  Today I am content to say that the only difference between the two seems to be the militancy with which the redistribution of wealth is enforced.

I have always had a sadness in my heart for Cuba.  As a four year old boy I went to Havana with my parents only a couple of months before Castro came to power.  I have always retained vivid memories of my early childhood and the trip to Havana is no exception.  I still remember the beautiful beaches and boulevards, the hotel where we stayed and the restaurants where we ate—and, yes, the casinos (even though my parents didn't take me into the areas where the gambling occurred, I still remember seeing the roulette tables and other games through the open archways).  Cuba before Communism was a playground for those who could afford to play.

It was Christmas 1958, but amid all the celebrating there was a tension in the air.  It was as if wealthy Cubans and American tourists alike realized they were celebrating a last hurrah before a terrible fate befell their world.  Cubans who could afford to were already fleeing the country, and American tourists were saying farewell to a country and a way of life they would not see again.

Tourism and the growing and selling of sugar had been making Cubans rich for decades, but not all Cubans.  What most tourists didn't see, or didn't want to, was the underclass, people who lived in poverty like the macheteros—sugarcane cutters—who worked only during the four month growing season, and the rest of the year were unemployed and angry.  The growing class disparity as well as accusations of corruption in the government of President Fulgencio Batista made the country ripe for a revolution.  A band of guerrillas, led by Fidel Castro, had begun fomenting just such a revolution that would soon bring an end to Havana's high-life.

Born in Birán, Cuba, as the son of a wealthy Spanish farmer (his father owned a 23,000 acre estate), Fidel Castro adopted leftist politics while studying law at the University of Havana.  After participating in rebellions against governments in the Dominican Republic and Colombia, he planned the overthrow of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista, launching a failed attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953.

After a year's imprisonment, he traveled to Mexico where he formed a revolutionary group, the "26th of July Movement," with his brother Raúl Castro and revolutionary icon Che Guevara.  Returning to Cuba, Castro took a key role in the Cuban Revolution by leading the Movement in a guerrilla war against Batista's forces.  The Revolution was successful in overthrowing Batista's government in 1959, and Castro assumed military and political power as Cuba's Prime Minister.

A quote that has been variously attributed to Marx, Lenin, or Stalin is "When we hang the capitalists they will sell us the rope we use."  I think Castro was surprised that, having taken over Cuba, the United States did not continue to sell (or give) Cuba the rope—or anything else they needed.  The US government stood on principle, something a Communist would not expect a Capitalist to do.

The United States opposed the establishment of what was clearly a Communist dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere and unsuccessfully attempted to remove Castro by assassination, economic blockade, and inciting a counter-revolution, including the Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961.  Countering these threats, Castro formed an alliance with the Soviet Union and allowed the Soviets to place nuclear weapons in Cuba, sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis—a defining incident of the Cold War—in 1962.  Thus hardened in their respective positions, the US has maintained an embargo on commerce with and travel to Cuba for more than 50 years.

So how have the Cuban people fared during those 50 years?  If George Orwell were still living, he could make a case study out of Cuba.  A revolution supposedly begun to help poor people only made them poorer.  A revolution to free them from oppression has only made them more oppressed.  A revolution in the name of democracy resulted in a dictatorship and family dynasty by one man and his brother for over 50 years.  And it really doesn't matter whether you call it socialism or communism.

Fidel Castro is, at last, dead.  His brother and successor as supreme tyrant, Raúl Castro, announced his death on Friday night, “with a profound pain."  The pain cannot compare with the pain felt by the Cuban people for the past half-century.  The reality is that Fidel Castro presided over the cultural genocide of his own people, employing the firing squad liberally against “counter-revolutionaries;” sending Christians and other undesirables to concentration camps, and pushing still more undesirables out of the country in huge boat lifts, mostly to southern Florida.

President Obama and the "Mainstream" Media are mourning Castro's death—whitewashing his crimes against the Cuban people while having the gall to compare him to George Washington.

"We know that this moment fills Cubans -- in Cuba and in the United States -- with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation.  History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him," President Obama said in a statement.

ABC's Jim Avila said Castro "was considered, even to this day, the George Washington of his country among those who remain in Cuba."  MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell lavished the evil man with high praise mentioning he "will be revered for education and social services and medical care to all of his people."

President-elect Donald Trump, on the other hand, called out Castro for who he really was--a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people: "Fidel Castro's legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights," Trump said in a statement.

Senator Marco Rubio, himself of Cuban descent, took to Twitter with several Tweets: "History will remember Fidel Castro as an evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery & suffering on his own people."  Rubio also urged Obama to avoid Castro's funeral. 

Following is President-elect Trump's full statement:
"Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades.  Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.

"While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.

"Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty.  I join the many Cuban Americans who supported me so greatly in the presidential campaign, including the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association that endorsed me, with the hope of one day soon seeing a free Cuba."
Numerous media outlets have taken note of the stark contrast between Obama and Trump's statements.

President-elect Trump is absolutely correct.  Our sympathies and our prayers should be with the Cuban people who have suffered for decades under the oppressive regime of Fidel Castro and will continue to suffer until true freedom comes to Cuba.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Study Finds that Mainline Protestant Churches that Focus on the Gospel and Prayer are Growing; Those that Don’t Are in Decline

VirtueOnline summarizes an important study published this week in the Canadian publication, MacLeans, demonstrating that fidelity to the Bible and historic Christian orthodoxy is a key factor in whether a "mainline" congregation grows or declines:
An academic survey study of 2,225 churchgoers in Ontario, Canada, conducted over five years by Wilfred Laurier University revealed that people interpreting the Bible literally "helps increase church attendance."

The research, published in the Canadian publication MacLeans, notes that:
Answers in accord with traditional Christian orthodoxy—basic articles of faith (the ancient Creeds), the authority of Scripture, God’s visible working in the world today, the exclusivity of Christianity (Jesus as the door to eternal life), the importance of daily prayer—were tightly bound to growing life in individual churches. As well, conservative churches had a lower mean age among attendees (53 to 63), emphasis on youth groups, the presence of young families, wide participation by congregants (not only on Sunday mornings) and a commitment to evangelism.
Thus the study finds conservative theology mixed with innovative worship approaches helps Protestant churches grow congregations.

Among the key findings of the survey are:

Only 50% of clergy from declining churches agreed it was "very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians", compared to 100% of clergy from growing churches.

71% of clergy from growing churches read the Bible daily compared with 19% from declining churches.

46% of people attending growing churches read the Bible once a week compared with 26% from declining churches.

93% of clergy and 83% of worshippers from growing churches agreed with the statement "Jesus rose from the dead with a real flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb". This compared with 67% of worshippers and 56% of clergy from declining churches.

100% of clergy and 90% of worshippers agreed that "God performs miracles in answer to prayers", compared with 80% of worshippers and 44% of clergy from declining churches.

Read the rest of the summary on VirtueOnline.
Read the original article at MacLeans.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Swe-e-e-t !!!

One of the peculiar joys of living in Wisconsin was the number of radio stations that would suspend their regular programs or music playlists at some point in November (sometimes around Thanksgiving, sometimes as early as Veterans Day) and play Christmas music 24 hours a day until Christmas was over.  I know that to some of you the idea may sound awful.  I thought so too, at first; but then the "Advent discipline," as I came to think of it, took hold, and now I really miss hearing Christmas music—be it carols, anthems, or jazz and rock oldies—for four to six weeks out of every year.  (I also developed a serious addiction to cheese of all kinds during those same wonderful years—a habit I ain't kicking, ever!)

So I was really gratified to read Todd Starnes' column on Fox News this week, celebrating the fact that that a Madison, Wisconsin radio station, Liberal Talk "92.1 The Mic" will now be called "92.1 Best FM" — "Madison's Home for the Holidays."  What made the news really sweet was that the station being taken over will no longer be hosting the radio program of the Freedom From Religion Foundation—Wisconsin's answer to Madalyn Murray O'Hair.   I'll let Todd Starnes tell you the rest:

Radio station dumps atheists for Christmas music

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a motley crew of atheists, agnostics and free-thinkers just got a lump of coal in their Christmas stockings.

WXXM, the progressive talk radio station in Madison, Wisconsin, has flipped formats – leaving the uber-liberal city without a place to converse about micro-aggressions, plot protest marches or swap quinoa recipes.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Liberal Talk "92.1 The Mic" will now be called "92.1 BestFM" -- "Madison's Home for the Holidays."

Yes, good readers -- progressive talk was replaced with around-the-clock Christmas music.  Ho!  Ho!  Ho!

Among the shows given the heave-ho as a result of the format change was “Forethought Radio,”  a show hosted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

“We opened up the Wisconsin State Journal the morning after the election to read the remarkable announcement that progressive talk had been banished forthwith on 92.1 FM and replaced with around-the-clock Christmas music,” FFRF co-founder Annie Gaylor said in a statement.

Well, if that doesn’t curdle an atheist’s egg-nog I don’t know what will.

“It’s not exactly the appropriate vehicle for Freethought Radio now,” Ms. Gaylor lamented.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is not a big fan of the Baby Jesus.

They make their living by filing lawsuits against towns that display the Nativity Scene and by bullying schools that sing Christmas carols.

They’re basically a bunch of godless Grinches – pillaging and plundering their way through the yuletide season.

In 2015 the FFRF filed a federal lawsuit against an Indiana school district –demanding the little Lord Jesus be evicted from a Christmas pageant.

That same year, they were successful in banning public school choirs in Portland, Oregon from performing at a Catholic shrine called the Grotto.

They also tried to bully the good people of Piedmont, Alabama for making “Keep Christ in Christmas” the theme of the annual holiday parade.

But the FFRF’s devious scheme was foiled by some mighty clever thinking.  Instead of making it the “official” theme – the town decided to make it the “unofficial” theme.

Radio Insight reports the station’s flip to Christmas music will lead to a new format after the holidays. It’s unclear what that format will be – but it’s unlikely liberal talk will return to the airwaves.

Christian Examiner reports the station's programming was being trounced in the ratings by conservative talk radio giants like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity (a great American and my colleague at Fox News).

Let’s be honest – would you rather listen to Rush and Sean or a gaggle of man-hating feminists in Birkenstocks warbling about the virtues of organic gardening.

Progressive talk radio does not make for good talk radio and that’s why WXXM opted to play Jingle Bells instead of blathering atheists.

Now that the Freedom From Religion Foundation has been silenced, the citizens of Madison will finally be able to enjoy the holiday season with peace on Earth – goodwill to men.

Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year!

Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is "God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values." Follow Todd on Twitter @ToddStarnes and find him on Facebook.

Here again is the link to Todd Starnes' column on Fox News.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Feeling the spirit of ’76 in 2016

The following is quoted in an excellent article in the NY Post entitled "Donald Trump’s Win Means the Biased Media Need to Change".  While the excerpt captures what I want to say, the rest of the article is excellent, and I encourage you to follow the link and read it.

“Two dozen decades ago, the British Empire bent a knee and grudgingly offered a sword of surrender to an army of Deplorables led by George Washington.

The embarrassment was so mighty, the commander of the defeated couldn’t bear to offer his own sword and delegated the display of humility to an underling, slighting the victor and bruising protocol.

The honors of war also called for a British band to play a song chosen by the victors. Legend has it that Washington requested ‘The World Turn’d Upside Down.’

Now the world is again turned upside down.  And once more, the underdog outclassed the mighty and, with a legion of Deplorables, pointed to a new and brilliant future.

To bruise the words of Benjamin Franklin, who I am sure is in sweet shock, we have our republic back ... IF we can keep it.

This time, we better pay more careful attention.  We are ever lucky for this second chance.

The mess was caused by our own sloppy apathy.  Our civic sloth, our moral negligence.

We let others hijack our principles, kidnap our values, and hostage our free speech.  We permitted a slender few to tell us who we were to be, rather than honor who we are.  We let them guilt us into a nightmare from which we have been freed.

We were mustered by a powerful personality, but in truth, we were the power.  Ordinary us.  We banged the shields.  Banded together in a noisy brotherhood.  Steeled our spines.  And kept the faith.

We turned the world upside down.  Again.

In this new beginning, we should stand tall for anthems that honor us all and kneel more often for the right reasons. 

We should respect the Laws of Nature, and make fashionable common sense.  Government must be reminded that we are its master.

We are America.  Again.”
Read the rest.

I would say that we now have a chance at being America again.  The forces that would kill our freedom of speech and freedom of religion with political correctness and "guilt" us into all sorts of nation-destroying behaviors are still with us, and they will not rest.  If we are truly going to make America great again, we must, as the article says, "kneel more often for the right reasons" and make common sense fashionable again.

May God have mercy on the United States of America!

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

America Wins!!!

"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing -- after they've tried everything else." ~ Winston Churchill

If you are unhappy about the results of yesterday's presidential election, go back and read my previous blog post.

If you are happy about the results of yesterday's presidential election, go back and read my previous blog post.

Yesterday Americans struck a blow for liberty.  Political correctness lost; free speech won.

Global elitists lost; ordinary citizens won.  Cynics and secularists lost; people of faith won.

The implications of those last three sentences will take time to be felt.  But there is a fresh wind blowing; and it is good.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Max Lucado: My prediction for November 9

Some important words from Pastor Max Lucado:
We are really ready for this presidential election to be over.  We’re ready for an end to the rancor and tackiness.

Voters on both sides feel frustrated, even embarrassed by it all.  There is a visceral fear, an angst about the result.  What if so and so wins?  When we wake up to November 9, post-election, when the confetti is swept away and the election is finally over, what will we see?

I have a prediction.  I know exactly what November 9 will bring.  Another day of God’s perfect sovereignty.

He will still be in charge.  His throne will still be occupied.  He will still manage the affairs of the world.  Never before has His providence depended on a king, president, or ruler.  And it won’t on November 9, 2016.  “The LORD can control a king’s mind as he controls a river; he can direct it as he pleases” (Proverbs 21:1 NCV).

On one occasion the Lord turned the heart of the King of Assyria so that he aided them in the construction of the Temple.  On another occasion, he stirred the heart of Cyrus to release the Jews to return to Jerusalem.  Nebuchadnezzar was considered to be the mightiest king of his generation.  But God humbled and put him in “detention” for seven years.  “The kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations” (Psalms 22:28).

Understanding God’s sovereignty over the nations opens the door to peace.  When we realize that God influences the hearts of all rulers, we can then choose to pray for them rather than fret about them.  Rather than wring our hands we bend our knees, we select prayer over despair.

Jeremiah did this.  He was the prophet to Israel during one of her darkest periods of rebellion.  He was called “the weeping prophet” because he was one.  He wept at the condition of the people and the depravity of their faith.  He was so distraught that one of his books was entitled Lamentations.  But then he considered the work of God.  Note the intentionality of his words:

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
(Lam. 3:21-23)

Imitate Jeremiah.  Lift up your eyes.  Dare to believe that good things will happen.  Dare to believe that God was speaking to us when he said: “In everything God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).

Many years ago, I spent a week visiting the interior of Brazil with a long-time missionary pilot.  He flew a circuit of remote towns in a small plane that threatened to come undone at the slightest gust of wind.  Wilbur and Orville had a sturdier aircraft.

I could not get comfortable.  I kept thinking that the plane was going to crash in some Brazilian jungle and I’d be gobbled up by piranhas or swallowed by an anaconda.

I kept shifting around, looking down, and gripping my seat.  (As if that would help.) Finally, the pilot had had enough of my squirming.  He looked at me and shouted over the airplane noise.  “We won’t face anything I can’t handle.  You might as well trust me to fly the plane.”

Is God saying the same to you? If so, make this your prayer:

Dear Lord,

You are perfect.  You could not be better than you are.

You are self-created.  You exist because you choose to exist.

You are self-sustaining.  No one helps you.  No one gives you strength.

You are self-governing.  Who can question your deeds?  Who dares advise you?

You are correct.  In every way.  In every choice.  You regret no decision.

You have never failed.  Never!  You cannot fail!  You are God!  You will accomplish your plan.

You are happy.  Eternally joyful.  Endlessly content.

You are the king, supreme ruler, absolute monarch, overlord, and rajah of all history.

An arch of your eyebrow and a million angels will pivot and salute.  Every throne is a footstool to yours.  Every crown is papier–mâché to yours.  No limitations, hesitations, questions, second thoughts, or backward glances.  You consult no clock.  You keep no calendar.  You report to no one.  You are in charge.

And I trust you.

Circle November 9 on your calendar and write upon it the words: Our good God rules the world.
Pastor Lucado is correct.  It is important that we not lose sight of God's sovereignty.  He is in control.  But I also take another point from Lucado's teaching, which he may not have intended: We are, like the people of Jeremiah's day, a nation in rebellion and a nation under judgment; and that will remain true no matter who is President-elect on November 9.  So it is incumbent on Christians to pray for God's mercy on our nation and to work as never before to bring individuals to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.