Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fatal

            I should like to write a bit about the Civil War, which, if you have been following my column for more than a few months, you know is a favorite subject of mine.

Much has been written as to what actually triggered the conflict of the War Between the States. Depending on the historian, you will find differing views on why North and South seemed destined to lock horns in battle. Abraham Lincoln is often accused of intentionally starting the war, all the while saying he was opposed to such a dangerous gambit. I believe the record is clear on this: Lincoln truly despised the horrific policy of slavery, but was more interested in preserving the Union. The Union, by definition, was the United States as it then existed, both north and south. Lincoln also knew history. Revolutions, insurrections, and civil wars more often than not destroyed the nation, rather than preserved it.

Instead, Lincoln planned to allow the southern states to retain the practice of slavery, but would not allow slave owners and slave traders to take slavery and slaves into the new territories out west, i.e., beyond Texas and Kansas. There was nothing further west than these two states. Oklahoma, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and all areas west were still part of the western territories. Slave owners wanted to move into these areas to operate outside the control of the U.S. Government. The first significant battles of the war took place in New Mexico territory at Valverde, February 20-21, 1862, between Union troops intent on halting the progression of slave owners traveling westward under the protection of Confederate forces. Even though the battle was technically a win for the Confederates, the territory was given over to Union forces several months later, ending, for all intents and purposes, any further significant attempts to move slaves into the Western Territories.

What is important to note here is that Lincoln was not even inaugurated our next president until two weeks later on March 4, 1862. From the 1830’s there were many in the United States predicting war over the slavery issue. It was inevitable, or so it seemed. Earlier in the century, political parliamentarian William Wilberforce singlehandedly dismantled the practice of slavery before the English Parliament, thus ending slavery throughout the British Empire. Could the same happen in the Halls of Congress?

During the days leading up to Lincoln’s inauguration, there was a great deal of war talk, secession, and chest thumping. One notable fire-eater was Georgia’s former U.S. Senator Robert Toombs. He stood on the floor of the Senate and spoke against Lincoln and the new Republican Party, challenging them to bring the fight to the southerners. “Come and do it!” he cried. He declared Georgia to be on the warpath. “We are as ready to fight now as we will ever be. Treason? Bah!” (Best Little Stories of the Civil War, by C. Brian Kelly, Cumberland House, Nashville, pp 35-36).

Toombs and his state would secede from the Union moments later. In his new role as the Confederate Secretary of State, he begged Confederate President Jefferson Davis not to open fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. Lincoln, as the newly seated president, had just informed the governor of South Carolina that he felt it necessary to provide support by supplies and ammunition to the men assigned to the isolated fort. The underlying message was clear: If you attack this fort, you will bring on the war.

The entire new cabinet of men appointed by Davis agreed with their leader that attacking Fort Sumter was the correct course of action. All agreed, that is, except Robert Toombs. “Firing on Fort Sumter,” he said, “would inaugurate a civil war greater than any the world has ever seen.” As Toombs stalked about the cabinet chambers, he suddenly stopped, faced President Davis and said if the South attacked, “it is suicide, it is murder, and it will lose us every friend we have in the North. You will wantonly strike a hornet’s nest which extends from mountains to the ocean; and legions, now quiet, will swarm out to sting us to death.” In his final attempt to forestall the inevitable, he said, “It is unnecessary; it puts us in the wrong. It is fatal.”

Three days later, Southern forces under the command of P.G.T. Beauregard, fired on Fort Sumter. It was indeed a fatal mistake for the Confederacy.

Happy 235th Birthday, America! We have survived the worst of civil wars. We will yet survive these uncertain times as well.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Islam - Holy Jihad

Today I want to take a look at an oft heard term used by Muslims: Jihad. What exactly is jihad? Is it holy? If so, how? And why should those who are not Muslims need to know anything about it?

In last week’s article, “Islam – Muhammad the Militant,” I mentioned that Muhammad considered that there were two types of jihad. The first, called the “greater jihad,” had to do with personal development as an individual, a moral struggle within the soul, striving to be better in a world that does not measure up to the standards of Allah. The second, called the “lesser jihad,” is a political, social, and military struggle to do what is right within society for the betterment of man by warring against the enemies of Allah and his followers.

The best place to understand this business of jihad is to look at what the Muslim holy book, the Koran, says about jihad. I have several copies of the Koran, but the one I primarily am using during this series on Islam will be the one I was given by an Imam in Bahrain after I had finished an interview with him in the capital city, Manama (mah-nah-mah), in August of 2000. This copy of the Koran is a side-by-side translation with the Arabic on the right side of the page and the corresponding English translation on the left. There is also commentary by Islamic scholars within the text and in the footnotes. So that you know when I am copying from the Koran, it will always be contained within quotation marks. This includes capitalization of letters, and italicized words as well. This version of the Koran “is published under the authority of King Fahd in Madinah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is a gift from the Custodians of the Two Holy Mosques for the dissemination of Allah’s Word.”

In their glossary of words, the written definition of jihad is, “Holy fighting in the Cause of Allah or any other kind of effort to make Allah’s Word (i.e. Islam) superior. Jihad is regarded as one of the fundamentals of Islam.” The remainder of this article will focus on the “lesser jihad.”

So let’s see how the term jihad is used within the text and context of the Koran itself. In Surah 2:216, we read, “Jihad (holy fighting in Allah’s cause) is ordained for you (Muslims) though you dislike it, and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” A companion verse to this is found in Surah 2:190, “And fight in the Way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limits. Truly, Allah likes not the transgressors. [This Verse is the first one that was revealed in connection with Jihad, but it was supplemented by another (9:36)].”

Well then, let’s see what Surah 9:36 has to say. Please note that I am simply writing what the Koran says. “Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so was it ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are Sacred (i.e. the 1st, the 7th, the 11th and the 12th months of the Islamic calendar). That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein, and fight against the Mushrikun (polytheists, pagans, idolators, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) collectively as they fight against you collectively. But know that Allah is with those who are Al-Muttaqun (the pious).”

In Surah 9:29-31 we see an attitude in Islam, in particular, toward Jews and Christians, and anyone else who is not a Muslim, that should cause us to ponder just how peaceful and accepting Islam is of those who are of differing faiths and beliefs. Especially note the editor’s commentary in this next passage, Surah 9:29-31, “Fight against those who (1) believe not in Allah, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad), (4) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah [a tax levied from the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians), who are under the protection of a Muslim government] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. And the Jews say: ’Uzair (Ezra) is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths, resembling the saying of those who disbelieved aforetime. Allah’s Curse be on them, how they are deluded away from the truth! They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah (by obeying them in things which they made lawful or unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allah), and (they took as their Lord) Messiah, son of Maryam (Mary), while they (Jews and Christians) were commanded in the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel) to worship none but One Ilah (God – Allah) La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He). Praise and glory is to Him (far above is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him).”

In closing, it is important to note what is written at the very beginning of the Koran. The opening seven verses (Surah 1:1-7), sets the tone for what we see played out in the violence of Islamic extremists today. Every devout Muslim is expected to memorize these seven verses which they recite five times a day when called to prayer. But it is the sixth and seventh verses that are most troubling. “Guide us to the Straight Way. The Way of those whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).”

Hmmmm. Doesn’t really fill me with hope, know what I mean?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Islam - Muhammad the Militant

 Allow me to return to my series on Islam. It may take a while to complete this series as other topics and news items interrupt which I feel need to be addressed.

Muhammad’s adult life during which he developed and formed his spiritual principles is broken down into two distinct periods: The Meccan Period, and the Medinan Period. The Meccan Period lasted thirteen years. The Medinan Period was only ten years in duration, ending in his death.

During his time in Mecca, he was given to various religious experiences, all of which centered on a personal crisis of spirituality that consumed him in wondering whether his life had any real purpose, coupled with the reality and certainty of death. Because of Muhammad’s embrace of certain beliefs that ran counter to the long-established beliefs of local tribes in the Mecca area, he ran afoul of some very powerful leaders. Seeing that he was no longer accepted as an honored spiritual leader, he left for Medina, joined by a few family members  and a couple of friends who believed in his messages from Allah, recorded in what is today the Qur’an (Koran – the Islamic holy book).

In the oasis of Medina he and his small band ran into further persecution, finding it necessary to defend themselves continuously. The erstwhile peace-loving Muhammad found himself having to take up arms against his enemies. As a result, he received yet another teaching from Allah, which is found in the Qur’an 2:217, “They will question you concerning the holy month (Ramadan), and fighting in it. Say ‘Fighting in it is a heinous thing, but to bar people from God’s way, to disbelieve in Him and the Holy Mosque and to expel its people from it – that is more heinous in God’s sight; and persecution is more heinous than fighting’” (PBS – Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet).

Because of this constant striving against those who opposed Islam, Muhammad attempted to place warfare in some perspective. It came down to the meaning and purpose of jihad. There are two primary meanings in the word jihad. First – there is the moral striving to do what is right. This is focused more on an inner struggle of the soul. Consider this the individual attempt at self-improvement. Muhammad called this the “greater” jihad. Second – there is the political, social, and military struggle to do what is right within society for the betterment of man. This Muhammad called the “lesser” jihad.

As Muhammad was learning, those tribes and people groups around him were not the slightest bit interested in his evolving belief system. The followers of Muhammad were aggressive to the point of being considered a threat to any society. The Muslims at that time, under the generalship of Muhammad, were fighting for their very existence. Feeling put upon, Muhammad increasingly developed a more militant attitude in his dealings with those who opposed him. Sadly, this same attitude seems to have pervaded Islam throughout their history.

The perception among non-Muslims today is that the “lesser” jihad, as Muhammad described it, has proven to be the method of conversion most easily used because it plays to mans more basic nature of enforcing his will on others. Muslims see themselves literally at war with any and all non-Muslims. “Once aroused, Arab hostility will vent itself indiscriminately on any and all outsiders.” There is an attitude expressed in an old Muslim-Arab tradition: “al-kufru millatun wahida” – “Unbelief [or rather, the realm of the unbelievers] is one nation”; that is to say, just as all Muslims (and, within them, all the Arabs) constitute one nation, at least in theory, so do the unbelievers.” (The Arab Mind, Raphael Patai, Scribners, 1983, p162).

Muhammad unleashed a fire-storm of terror when he took up arms against non-Muslims. For the last fourteen hundred years the world has been forced to deal with this wanton violence. Only today with the advances in technology and weaponry the militant Muslims who believe they are acting on behalf of their prophet, Muhammad, are bringing fear and destruction upon the rest of the world.

How will this end?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Lord Willing

Life is full of surprises, as the old saying goes. The last several months have launched my wife and me on a new learning curve.

About a year ago I realized that something might be amiss with my plumbing. My annual physical was coming up so I waited until then to tell my personal physician. He referred me to a urologist who then proceeded to put me through a number of tests, culminating in a biopsy of my prostate gland. That procedure alone has to rank as one of the most unpleasant experiences I have ever been through! It sort of reminded me of going through Marine Corps boot camp: Glad I did it, but I don’t ever want to do it again!

As it turned out when we met with the urologist in early March we did not receive the news we had hoped for. Of the twelve samples taken from the prostate, eight showed to be cancerous. My first reaction was to immediately schedule radical surgery and have this offending part of my body removed forthwith! The date was set for surgery which would give me time to recover before a very busy summer began. But after a few days, Isaura and I decided to do our own research and see what alternatives there might be.

What we discovered is that there are any number of alternatives to radical surgery. We went online, read books, talked to folks, had friends, family and church members offer their numerous experiences and advice, sat in seminars and workshops, and generally attempted to soak up as much on this topic of prostate cancer that we could absorb. We knew after just a few days of research that we should cancel the surgery date until we were satisfied that we had looked at everything, both pros and cons.

So here’s the decision we have made concerning my prostate cancer. We have rejected the three medical approaches: surgery, chemo, and radiation. The first removes portions of your body; the second poisons the body in the hopes of killing the cancer before the chemo kills you; and the third cooks the body part in an attempt to retard the cancer’s growth. But here’s what really got me thinking: None of these approaches actually addresses the cause of the cancer! Now I realize there are cancer cells in everyone’s body, called free radicals. The body has a natural defense against such cells, but only when the body is healthy. This caused Isaura and me to look into a holistic approach. After another visit with my urologist where we told him about our research, he was very encouraging and referred us to a friend of his who is a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.).

After meeting with the D.O., Isaura and I are now eating totally organic foods. My daily intake of foods is three-quarters raw vegetables and fruits. We are also juicing carrots a couple of times each week so that I can drink the juice daily. The enzymes in these fresh organic fruits and veggies are what the body needs to battle the cancer. I’m two months into this food lifestyle change and have lost thirty pounds. My present blood pressure reads 116/66 with a heart rate of 55. I’ve started back into a rigorous workout regimen and feel better than I have in a number of years.

What we have learned from this lifestyle change is that my generation is the first one to be completely exposed to all the chemicals that are used in our food and water. Our tap water has chlorine and fluoride; our fruits and vegetables are doused with pesticides, and then preservatives; and our meats are injected with hormones and steroids. None of these chemicals were intended for human consumption. On top of that, the medical community says that every man, if he lives long enough, will have prostate cancer. I do not believe for a minute that God meant for this to be the case. Something is causing this to happen, along with many other ailments that seem to be endemic today, such as colon cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, etc. This is why we have chosen a holistic approach – it goes after the cause of the problem.

The testimonies of those who have chosen a holistic approach say that the cancer dies when starved of the things it likes (processed sugar, for one!). An additional benefit is the arteries clear out the plaque build-up, which is great news for me because of the eight stents in my heart arteries!

A month from now I will be going in for a blood work-up, after which I will be screened by my urologist. Lord willing, I plan to be around a long time!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

In Reflection

The anticipated apocalypse has not taken place as predicted. For those who were fearful of the world coming to an end – relax. That event will happen soon enough, and tragically, many people will be caught flat-footed, unprepared. But allow me to bring some clarification to this doomsday prophecy that has proven to be a non-event.

First of all, there seems to be some confusion when it comes to “the end of the world,” and, “the Rapture.” What was being predicted for May 21st is what we Christians call “the Rapture.” This event is specific to all Christian believers. The Rapture is when Jesus comes back to remove “his church” (Christians) from the world. This is described in I Thessalonians 4:13-18. Within this passage it says, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

As for “the end of the world,” which many mistakenly thought was being predicted, this is a terrifying moment when Jesus comes back to bring down the curtain on the history of man on earth. It’s perhaps better understood as “Judgment Day.” Each person living on planet Earth at that time will immediately recognize that the end has come. This is a “ready or not” moment. Many who have made no profession of faith in Christ as Savior will find they have made their choice through their neglect. For a better understanding of this event, read Matthew 25:31-46. "When he (Jesus) finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. . . "Then he will turn to the 'goats,' the ones on his left, and say, 'Get out, worthless goats! You're good for nothing but the fires of hell.’”

Mr. Harold Camping, the minister who predicted the recent failed return of Jesus, was obviously mistaken in his predictions. This is the second time he has made such an egregious prophecy. He did this once before in 1994. The other night he again changed his false prediction to October 21, 2011. Listen! He doesn’t know, because Jesus was very specific as to who would know when he came back. In Matthew 24:36, Jesus says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Did you catch that? “But only the Father.”

It troubles me that Mr. Camping has chosen to dabble in prophecy regarding the time when Jesus would come back. You see, I met Mr. Camping in 1973 shortly after I was discharged from the Marine Corps. I was a new Christian, diligently studying my Bible every day. I was living in Alameda and working for the South Shore Safeway supermarket. On Saturday nights I would see this very distinguished gentleman do his weekly shopping. We would chat amicably while I rang up his order. One night I asked him his name. He told me, “Harold Camping.” I was stunned because I routinely listened to him on Family Radio, constantly amazed at his grasp of Scripture, especially the amount of Scripture he had memorized. He strongly encouraged me to pursue a career in Christian broadcasting which I seriously considered to the point of earning my bachelor’s degree in Broadcasting from San Jose State University.

I learned a lot about the Bible from Mr. Camping’s radio broadcasts during those early years as a believer, but at some point the wheels came off for him, and I find myself bewildered by this glaring error of his, making prophetic utterances that clearly are contrary to the teaching of God’s Word, the Bible. I can only pray that he will see the danger of his false prophecies and confess it as sin, and come back into God’s grace.

Psalm for the Day