Monday, August 22, 2011

Notable Quotable: Barry Ward on Why Funeral Planning Matters

"A Christian funeral service focuses attention on what God has done for us in Christ." So says Rev. Barry Ward, pastor of Saving Grace Lutheran Church in Saskatchewan, in a great little article in The Canadian Lutheran. Worth reading by all pastors who are caught in the awkward space between what families want for a celebration of life and what the church's funeral liturgy can offer. It's an awkward space to be in, but Ward reminds us why that conversation is worth having. MP+

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Medals and Sacrifice

A Sermon Preached at Christ the King Chapel, CFB Suffield, Ralston, AB
Tenth Sunday After Pentecost

Ex 1:8-2:10; Ps 124; Rom 12:1-8, Mt 16:13-20 (Lect Yr A)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)

If there is any church that might have a gut-level understanding of what Paul says in this verse, then surely it is a military chapel. The congregation of a military chapel may not get all the intricacies of Paul’s theology, but it does get the idea of “present[ing] your bodies as a living sacrifice”. This last week on Wednesday and Thursday there were a lot of soldiers around this base for the change of command ceremony and since they were in their dress uniforms and mess kits, there were a lot of medals on display. Most of those medals say the same thing, namely, “I went somewhere unpleasant because someone else told me to, even though I might have been killed, because it was part of the job.”

During the war in Afghanistan, the Canadian Forces offered a new decoration, the Sacrifice Medal, to honour the many soldiers who were getting killed and wounded while doing their duty.

The military has bureacratic names for everything, including sacrifice. The military calls it “unlimited liability” but it basically means “presenting your bodies as a living sacrifice”. Unlimited liability is tied to the idea of service. During the wars of the last ten years, most soldiers wearing uniform in a public space such as an airport have had people come up to them and say “thank you for your service”. Soldiers put their lives on the line for their country in the abstract sense, but at the sharp end of things, they put themselves on the line for each other. Many decorations for valour, perhaps most of them, are for helping wounded comrades while under fire. So what folks at the airport are saying to soldiers is “thank you for being selfless”.

Selflessness isn’t a highly celebrated quality these days, at least, not outside the army. Two news stories from last week both make the point that selfless behaviour does not equal success in the capitalist world we live in. A study done by a Cornell University business professor published last week apparently found that “nice guys are getting the shaft”. The study found that people who were described by coworkers as “disagreeable”, which usually meant men, got paid more than colleauges described as being “nice guys”. Apparently selfish and assertive people are better at getting raises and promotions. Likewise another university study, this one by a sociologist, found that the rich tend to be more selfish and less empathetic than poorer people. He summed up his findings in a quote by the writer Aynn Rand, that “It is the morality of altruism that men have to reject”. Rand's idea of selfishness as a guiding life principle has become quite mainstream in society and politics.

Truth be told, there are selfish people in the military too. Some of them wear medals. Some of them are chaplains. I recall a fellow on my Basic course who, after ten days on a field exercise, sprinted off the bus when we got back to quarters to be the first to get his clothes in the laundry. We thought - really, this guy is going to be a padre? But truth be told, I can be as selfish as him in my worst, or sometimes even my normal, moments. It's part of the human condition, called sin, which is one of Paul's main themes in Romans. In her excellent commentary on today's epistle, Mary Hinkle Shore reminds us that sin wars with creation "to such an extent that Paul can speak of our having been 'enslaved to sin' (Romans 6:6)". The trajectory of Romans from then on, as Shore notes, is how we are freed from the bodily slavery of sin through dying and being born into our new identity in Christ.

Selfishness is the opposite of selflessness, and is therefore a good defintion of sin. Anglicans traditionally pray the words of our Lord in the Summary of the Law, "And the second [commandment] is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself". My identity in Christ is the only way that I can make this prayer meaningful. There may be a self-help book in Chapters on "How to Be Selfless", but I can't make that book work for me without Christ. And even with Christ, the only way I can put selflessness into practice is in community with others, which brings us to Paul's body metaphor in the latter part of today's lesson.

For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. (Rm 12:4-5)

Churches are excellent places for reminding us of all the ways in which our selfishness can blind us to our interdepence on one another as part of the body of Christ. Early in my ordained career I found myself shovelling the snow from the church entrance one Sunday when there was no one to help me. Arriving home, I whinged to my wife that "I have four university degrees and I'm shovelling snow". Kay fixed me with a gaze that could cut steel and said "So what's your point?". I realized that I really had no point other than selfishness. That day I was the hands part of the body of Christ, called to selflessly shovel snow, with no medal to show for it.

Paul, who lived in a warlike time and who sometimes used military figures of speech himself, would have understood "unlimited liability" as the idea behind medals, but I suspect he would have said that being "transformed by the renewing of [our ]minds" was the best and only medal we would get. As a Jew and a Pharisee, Paul knew that sacrifices occurred outside the temple as well, in the sanctified but ordinary places and tasks of daily life. In going beyong that understanding as a follower of Jesus, Paul realized that our lives and our very persons become the sacrifice. In this new life of the self as sacrifice, there are no uniforms for the adopted children of God and citizens of heaven, except possibly the white robes of our baptism, and no medal except the blood of Christ that buys us from slavery. We did nothing to deserve this medal, but we wear it proudly and gratefully.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Really moving backward": Paul Hellyer on the return of "royal" to Canadian Navy, Air Force

"Is he still alive?" A friend in the mess said that this morning when I mentioned that Paul Hellyer, Minister of Defence under Prime Minister Trudeau, had weighed in on the government's announcement that Canada was going back to "Royal Canadian Navy" and "Royal Canadian Air Force". Paul Hellyer, arguably, still holds the title as most hated man in Canadian military circles. He was the Minister who in 1968 pushed the unification of the Canadian army, navy and air force, and abolished the term "Royal" (Canada's army alone of the three services has never used "Royal" in its title though many regiments do).

For the record, Hellyer had this to say when speaking to CBC news yesterday: "I'm very disappointed, actually very sad … I think it's really moving backward," Hellyer told CBC News, adding that the name changes are returning Canada — and the Forces — to a "semi-colonial status."

I still hear my seminary principal, George Sumner, saying that its easy to swim downstream, but it's hard to be a contrarian, so I'll go out on a limb and say that for me, personally, I'm with Hellyer on this one. I love tradition as much as the next soldier, but I think the term "royal" doesn't connect with many serving members today, particularly younger ones and especially those who are not of Anglo background. Two years ago I did a military course (OPME) on Canadian society, and wrote a paper on demographic trends facing the CF in the next decades. By 2031, one in four Canadians will have been born outside of Canada. Falling birthrates and an aging population will see the Anglo identity of Canada and of the CF slowly fading. So I'm not sure how the "Royal" appelation connects with the new Canadians whom the CF will have to recruit in the coming decades. Nor do I see how it connects with Franco-Canadians, who have proudly served in Afghanistan alongside theur Anglo comrades.

I'd also point out that the whole trajectory of Canadian military history, as forged at places such as Vimy Ridge, was of Canadian soldiers proving their own worth under their own command. I think that trajectory continues today. Lt. Col. Ian Hope, who commanded Task Force Orion in Afghanistan in 2006, made this observation about the US troops he worked with: "I realized that, at some point in the past decade, we have had a fundamental shift in the culture of the Canadian infantry, making us identify most readily with American, and not British, soldiers." (Hope, Lt. Col. Ian. “Agility and Endurance: Task Force Orion in Helmand.” Outside the Wire: The War in Afghanistan in the Words of Its Participants. Eds. Kevin Patterson and Jane Warren. Toronto: Random House, 2007, p. 154). I serve on a base with British soldiers, and I love them, they're great soldiers, but I'm proud to wear a Canadian maple leaf on my shoulder and, occasionally, I feel the need to remind some of the shirtier oners that they are guests in this country and not our masters or betters. Returning to a military heritage of colonial times, I think, takes us backwards rather than forwards. What Hellyer was trying to do was envision a role for Canada in a new world in a new century. I think today we're losing some of that vision, and I regret it.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

John Ibbitson on How Canadian Defence Procurement Works

If you're a Canadian and you follow the politics of defence spending, you will know that it's a complicated business deciding what to buy and where in Canada the money gets spent. That point was driven home to me recently in a recent military course or OPME on military technology.

In Saturday's Globe and Mail, John Ibbitson does an excellent job of explaining the government's three choices as to which regions will get huge contracts to build new ships for the Navy and Coast Guard. Halifax's Irving Shipyards and Vancouver's Seaspan Shipyards both have strong bids and strong provincial lobbying behind them. When I went through the Ottawa airport recently, Nova Scotia adds promoting Halifax's shipbuilding industry were everywhere. However, Quebec City has a hastily concocted bid from the David Yards, which have a somewhat dodgy financial history. All three regions are in play for the Tories politically. Who will win? Very short and insightful piece, well worth reading.

More Than Crumbs

A Sermon for the Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
Preached at Christ the King Chapel, Ralston, AB, CFB Suffield 14 August, 2011

Lectionary Year A: Gen 45:1-15; Ps 133; Rom 11:1-2a,29-32, Mt 15:21-28

Reproduced courtesy of

Have you ever been in a place or situation where you made to feel that you didn't belong? It's an uncomfortable and even demeaning feeling, isn't it, unless you are one of those rare people who feel that they can go everywhere and anywhere. I'm not one of those people. When I was on my chaplain basic training, our course officer organized an excursion to Toronto where we had lunch at the Officers' Mess of his regiment, a posh Reserve unit with a proud history. We were all in training mode, supremely conscious that we were the lowest forms of life in the military food chain, and we had been told by our host that we would be on our best behaviour, and that we had better not embarass him. Sure enough, one of our number sat in a rather opulent chair that just happened to be unoccupied, not thinking to ask himself why the nicest chair in a crowded joint just happened to be vacant.

"Is that chair comfortable?" an officer of that regiment asked our colleague?
"It sure is!" he replied, grinning rather foolishly.
A minute later, the grin faded as the host explained that the chair was by tradition the Queen's chair, having been sat in once by royalty long ago and now reserved for royalty should they ever visit again. Needless to say, our course officer had some words for this hapless fellow later on.

Most people are blessed with sufficient situational awareness that they have the ability to discern where they are welcome and where they shouldn't be. Sadly, however, I think people many people mistakenly exercise this power of judgement when it comes to going into churches. On more than one occasion some little child has toddled past the door of my office and stared through the glass doors of our base chapel or even, heavens forfend, ventured inside those doors. Inevitably a horrified mother from the base wives and mums club has rushed to scoop the child up, saying "that's the church, you don't go in there." And its not just mothers who do this. What army padre hasn't heard a soldier say "You'll never catch me in church, I'd burst into flames if I went inside one"?

Some people, like hardened atheists, say this on principle and I get that. I
thought I was an atheist myself once, so you never know what happens to folks like that. But often I wonder, what makes a person feel that they don't belong in church? Is it a lack of familiarity with the customs of liturgy? As an Anglican I get that too, and I try to help people get over that hurdle. Is it the unfamiliarity of being a stranger? I get that too, and often, when I'm by myself, I have to force myself to go into a strange church, particularly a small one where I can't be anonymous. That's why it's so important that pastor and people try to be as welcoming of the stranger as we can, and that's quite an art, especially for small churches, being welcoming but not too smothering or needy.

Perhaps the deepest and most pervasive reasons why people don't feel they are good enough to go to church are either because they have had an experience with pious gatekeepers who make them feel unwelcome, or, sadly and more profoundly, because deep down they feel unworthy. The pious gatekeepers wh want to enforce dress codes or ban noisy children can are a problem, but that training and good theology can help a a congregation wants to get over its own piety. The sense of unworthiness is a harder thing to deal with. Only Jesus can help you with that problem.

In today's gospel we have a situation where a person, the Canaanite woman, goes into a situation where she doesn't seem to belong. The woman has a sick daughter, and has run out of options to help her girl until she meets Jesus. So she approaches him, and greets him as "Lord, Son of David" (Mt 15:22). Now normally in the Gospels, getting the identity of Jesus right is usually a necessary step for those people seeking his help, and the woman certainly gets it right, calling him "Kyrie" or "Lord". She also gets his lineage as the Jewish Messiah right by calling him "Son of David" but therein lies a problem, for she is not a Jew but an outsider, a Caananite, and as you recall from the Old Testament, the original Caananites were the folks who were cleared off the land promised by God to the people of Israel. Caananites had their own gods an customs, and there was hostility between them and the Israelites.

We see that hostility in the reaction of the pious gatekeepers, the disciples, who ask Jesus to "send her away". James Boyces describes the scene in these wonderful words.

Gathered in one corner are those familiar disciples, for Matthew the true blue representatives of the faithful lost sheep of Israel, now leaping into the fray like so many ravenous beasts, as it were self-styled guarantors of the holy tradition, on their guard lest the mercies of God be wasted on the unworthy. Like a gang of watchdogs at the door they are about the checking of IDs and keeping out the non-pedigreed riffraff. On the other side of the gate stands this outsider, a woman no less, one lone representative of the dogs of religion, now become as it were a lost sheep plaintively pleading for the mercy of the master shepherd. No English translation can capture Matthew's careful orchestration of the painful choral refrain. "Lord, have mercy," the dog's solo bleating cry. "Get rid of her," the "lost-sheep chorus" barks back in reply.

At this point the story can create complex reactions in us. Some people admire the chutzpah of the woman for getting in Jesus' face and arguing that she has a claim on God's mercy even if she isn't one of his chosen people. Others cringe at her apparent self-abasement in comparing herself to a dog under the table, though as I've argued elsewhere in this blog in a sermon on Mark's version of the story, I think that's an unfortunate but quite human reaction that we need to get past. Still others are troubled by what first appears to be Jesus' ignoring her. Whatever are discomforts are with this story, we need to put them on the backburner until we get further into it, because if we do then our qualms about the story may well recede and good things can happen.

Once Jesus begins to speak (although it's not clear yet is he is speaking to her or to the disciples or, even, to himself), he appears to say that his mission is only to reach the "lost sheep of Israel", that is, he is the Jewish Messiah only and exclusively. He then changes animal metaphors when he compares the woman and her people to dogs under the table (v 26) but as she persists ("Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table" v 27) Jesus appears to relent and grants her wish, praising her great faith. Some people argue that the woman actually forces Jesus to change his mind, and thus alters the broadens the scope of his ministry beyond the "lost sheep of Israel" to other peoples. Others argue that Jesus is doing what a good teacher does, using questions and challenges to make others think. I have my own thoughts on this choice, but I don't really think it matters. What's important is that we notice what has actually happened here.

What's happened is that the disciples, the self-righteous gatekeepers who, as Boyce notes, want to check the ID of those at God's door, have been totally repudiated. Jesus has shown that mercy triumphs over entitlement, and that he reserves the right to decide who the "children of Israel" are. In Matthew's gospel, often called the most Jewish of the gospels, there is a decisive movement towards broadening the scope of Jesus' mission beyond the spiritual elite of Israel towards the whole world, and Paul will pick up on this many times in his letters, saying that both Jew and Gentile are chilren of God. So what matters here is that the story is not about sheep or dogs, not about whose in and whose out, but rather it's about a robust and generous mercy that God grants as he wishes.

Several weeks ago here I talked about the parable of the Sower and the Seed and about what I called the crazy generous nature of God's mercy. In that sermon I also talked about the parable of the Labourers and the Vineyard, and how the final words of the owner of the vineyard, "Can I not do what I want with what is mine?" really speak for God and his right to do what he likes with his mercy. I think this story of the Caananite women is woven out of that same cloth. The point here is the same, that if all we bring to God is a willingness to throw outselves on his love and mercy, then we will be allright. A related point is that if we think we have some special claim on God because of our piety or holiness, like the disciples, then we had better check that at the door, because like the disciples we are likely to be disappointed.

My final point has to do with the quality and qauntity of God's mercy, which is, as Shakespeare's Portia says, "not strained". The Caananite women asks for crumbs from the table, but Jesus does not limit himself to crumbs. Recall that several Sundays ago in the lectionary, we heard the earlier story from Matthew of the feeding of the five thousand, and how there were "all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full" (Mt 14:20). That's a lot more than crumbs. In John's Gospel Jesus says "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to be will never be hungry" (Jn 6:35). You don't make a promise like that if all you have to offer is crumbs.

If our lectionary readings come together to make a single point, then that point is that God's mercy is not partial or limited in any way. The only claim of the Caananite women is that she wants God's mercy, and she has some idea of who God's son is. As may commentators have noted, her request to Jesus, Lord have mercy, is quoted Sunday by Sunday in the church's eucharistic liturgy, kyrie eleison. It is the request that we ourselves make in this chapel, a motley lot drawn from several nations, ranks and walks of life. We are, in the words of our first lesson from the prophet Isaiah, the "foreigners" who have "joined ourselves to the Lord" (Is 56:6), trusting, like Paul, in the "irrevocable" call and mercy of God (Rom 11:29). When we welcome the stranger to our midst, that's all we have to offer. We have nothing here that comes from ourselves, except our gratitude and our willingness to share. As someone once said, evangelism or faith sharing is simply one beggar telling another where to find bread. We've got good bread here. And lots of it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Canadian Forces Unveils New Female Uniform

OK, just kidding to see if anyone's awake this morning. This image from a Globe and Mail piece on a recent designer show in Copenhagen, which I perused to remain au fait avec le monde d'haute couture, or maybe because I was bored.

Pirate captain with chic eyepatch?

Ready to be an extra in Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat?

I confess I don't understand fashion very much.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Children's Artwork Brightens Chapel in Afghanistan

Lovely story and image. Text below from the UK MOD. MP+

[Picture: Sergeant Alison Baskerville RLC, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]

Children from two primary schools in Plymouth have created plastic mosaic windows for the tent which houses padre Ian Wheatley's church in Lashkar Gah. As a number of the schoolchildren have family members serving in Afghanistan, they wanted to give the church some colour and remind personnel of home. Click here to read more.

Peter Short on the Spiritual Life of the Chaplain

The following meditation was given by the Rev. Dr. Peter Short to the annual gathering of Canadian Forces Chaplains in June of this year, and is published here with his kind permission. Rev. Short is a former Moderator of the United Church of Canada and is a member of the Interfaith Committee on Canadian Military Chaplaincy. The meditation below is useful not only for chaplains but for any person of faith who still has time to rest and enjoy what remains of summer. I hope you find it a blessing, as I did when I heard it. Enjoy. MP+

The Spiritual Life of the Chaplain

Peter Short
The Interfaith Committee on Canadian Military Chaplaincy
June 9, 2011
(Notes for an eight minute address to Canadian Forces Chaplains at Cornwall, ON.)

I offer three brief thoughts, each followed by a text. I hope that in receiving this - wheat and chaff together - you will keep what is worth keeping and with the breath of kindness blow the chaff away.

First, a thought. The spiritual life of the chaplain is a human life. I know - deep - but it’s the best place to start. Like all God’s creatures you are born, you flourish for a season, and die.

Do you know why mothers and fathers weep at weddings? It’s not because they are overcome by the beauty of liturgy or the splendour of costume. They weep because life is short

Here is a text by Michael Crummey, novelist and poet from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Her Mark

I, Ellen Rose of Western Bay in the Dominion of Newfoundland. Married woman, mother, stranger to my grandchildren. In consideration of natural love and affection, hereby give and make over unto my daughter Minnie Jane Crummey of Western Bay, a meadow garden situated at Riverhead, bounded to the north and east by Lovey’s Estate, to the south by John Lynch’s land, to the west by the local road leading countrywards. Bounded above by the sky, by the blue song of angels and God’s stars. Below by the bones of those who made me.
I leave nothing else. Every word I have spoken the wind has taken, as it will take me. As it will take my grandchildren’s children, their heads full of fragments and my face not among those. The day will come when we are not remembered, I have wasted no part of my life in trying to make it otherwise.
In witness thereof I have set my hand and seal this thirteenth day of December, One thousand nine hundred and Thirty-Three.

Ellen X Rose
(Michael Crummey, Hard Light, 1998)

This text is a simple and eloquent commentary on the wisdom of Qoheleth, the preacher whose work we call Ecclesiastes. Our life in all its dimensions, including its spiritual dimension, is the life of the creature.

A second thought. The spiritual life of the chaplain creature is vulnerable. That which is human is also frail. It can be easily damaged. Spiritual life can be used up and cast aside empty. We are neither immortal nor invulnerable. Forgetting or disdaining the source of the soul’s vitality, the chaplain soon becomes prey to her or his own ambition.

Here is a text by the Quaker educator and writer Parker Palmer. This is a brief section of an essay in which he is writing about what he calls, “the shadow side” of leaders.

I call [it] functional atheism. This is the belief that ultimate responsibility for everything rests with me. It is a belief held among people whose theology affirms a higher power than the human self, people who do not understand themselves as atheists but whose behavior belies their belief.
Functional atheism is an unconscious belief that leads to workaholic behavior, to burn-out, to stressed and strained and broken relationships, to unhealthy priorities. Functional atheism is the unexamined conviction that if anything decent is going to happen here, I am the one who needs to make it happen. Functional atheism is the reason why the average group (according to studies) can tolerate only 15 seconds of silence; people believe that if they are not making noise, nothing is happening. Functional atheism is an inner shadow of leaders that leads to dysfunctional behavior on every level of our lives.
(Leading From Within, Parker Palmer, public address, 1990)
The spiritual life can become distorted and ultimately destructive, especially when the desperate chaplain goes beyond feeling responsible to God and gets to feeling responsible for God.

Therefore, a third thought. Like the life of any creature, the spiritual life must be connected to its lifesource. It must be nourished and defended against danger so that, like the flourishing tree, it might bring forth its fruit in its season. Here is a poem by Unitarian Universalist minister, editor and poet Lynn Ungar.

Camas Lilies

Consider the lilies of the field,
the blue banks of camas opening
into acres of sky along the road.
Would the longing to lie down
and be washed by that beauty
abate if you knew their usefulness,
how the natives ground their bulbs
for flour, how the settlers’ hogs
uprooted them, grunting in gleeful
oblivion as the flowers fell?

And you - what of your rushed and
useful life? Imagine setting it all down -
papers, plans, appointments, everything

leaving only a note: “Gone to the fields
to be lovely. Be back when I’m through
with blooming.”

Even now, unneeded and uneaten, the
camas lilies gaze out above the grass
from their tender blue eyes.
Even in sleep your life will shine.
Make no mistake.
Of course
your work will always matter.
Yet Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these.
(Lynn Ungar, Blessing the Bread: Meditations)

The healthy spiritual life returns again and again to the fields of its blooming. Perhaps the fields of your blooming are in the sacred texts in which you were seeded and sprouted. Or perhaps in the nurture and relationships of a community in which you were formed. Maybe there are practices of spiritual vitality through which your strength and your delight are restored in equal measure.

Wherever they are, return to the fields of your blooming. Not once but always. No chaplain wants to give people plastic flowers. Every chaplain wants to give the bloom of life.

So if you are setting out on holiday this summer and if on the last day of work you want to leave a message on your answering service, don’t forget to provide the numbers people can call in case of emergency. Then at the last, you can say, “Gone to the fields to be lovely, be back when I’m through with blooming.”

Blackhawk Down Survivor On Somalia Today

If you remember the film Black Hawk Down, you'll remember the sequence where the second US helicopter crases and its crew is bravely but vainly defended by two Delta Force commandoes. What happened to the captured crewman, Michael Durant? This piece from the BBC tells that story, and it's one of surprising compassion, shown both by one of the captors at the time, and by Durant today. MP+

I'd describe it as hitting a speed bump in a parking lot going 40mph (64km/h)," says Mr Durant, describing the moment his Black Hawk helicopter was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade fired from a Mogadishu street 70ft (21m) below.

Amid loud whines and bangs, his aircraft "began to spin... rather violently", he says.

"Because the spin was so rapid, I couldn't see anything immediately around me. We probably hit the ground in about 15 seconds. It does not take long to fall 70ft in a helicopter."

It was 3 October 1993, and Mr Durant's Black Hawk was taking part in an operation to capture close associates of the local warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid.

Michael Durant (pictured recovering in hospital) was almost beaten to death after the helicopter crash

Read the whole piece here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Dictator Conversions

The deathbed conversion is an event that is often viewed with extreme skepticism, but can be, for theologians of an Arminian view, like myself, an occasion where God's grace can operate.

However, there is something to be said for scepticism when dictators backed into a corner embrace religion. Foreign Policy profiles five cases of tyrants discovering faith and repenting. Not for me to judge them, though I confess I find the sincerity of Col. Qadaffi's #1 son (pictured above) and henchman, especially dubious. Read and see what you think.

Afghanistan Blog of Note

Royal Air Force Sergeant Alex Ford volunteered to go to Afghanistan at age 41 because he felt guilty working a desk job at home. At 41, he is in military thinking an old man, and so kudos to him for going out on patrol in 40+C weather with soldiers young enough to be his kids. Sgt. Ford is an engaging and thoughtful writer. I'll be checking out his blog, Rafairman, regularly and encourage you to visit it as well.


Sgt. Alex Ford

Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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