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Watch…….Listen…….Think…….Pray…….

Laughing With
By Regina Spektor

No one laughs at God in a hospital; No one laughs at God in a war.
No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor.
No one laughs at God when the doctor calls after some routine tests.
No one’s laughing at God when it’s gotten real late,
And their kid’s not back from the party yet.

No one laughs at God when their airplane starts to uncontrollably shake.
No one’s laughing at God when they see the one they love,
Hand in hand with someone else,
And they hope that they’re mistaken.
No one laughs at God when the cops knock on their door, and they say we got some bad news, sir.
No one’s laughing at God when there’s a famine or fire or flood.

But God can be funny at a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us; And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke.
God can be funny, when told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way.
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini; Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus . . . . God can be so hilarious – Ha Ha. Ha Ha.

No one laughs at God in a hospital; No one laughs at God in a war.
No one’s laughing at God when they’ve lost all they’ve got, and they don’t know what for.
No one laughs at God on the day they realize that the last sight they’ll ever see is a pair of hateful eyes.
No one’s laughing at God when they’re saying their goodbyes.

But God can be funny at a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us; And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke.
God can be funny, when told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way.
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini; Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus . . . . God can be so hilarious.

No one laughs at God in a hospital; No one laughs at God in a war.
No one laughs at God in a hospital; No one laughs at God in a war.
No one laughing at God in hospital; No one’s laughing at God in a war.
No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor.
No one’s laughing at God; No one’s laughing at God; No one’s laughing at God.
We’re all laughing with God.

peace in him,

RICHARD ABANES

http://abanes.com

[N]othing burns me up more than being presented with information so thoroughly false, so completely stripped from its context, that it can be considered an outright lie. A lie presented for the sole purpose of manipulating the way I think, what I believe, or how I behave. The video has an agenda.
And it pushes that agenda by presenting specious information. To say its disingenuous would be a vast understatement. To say it’s revolting would be slightly off the mark. To say that it’s overwhelmingly offensive would be most accurate. Much of the video’s message is delivered by inference.
Its dramatic tone and creative juxtaposition of “facts” lead you
to assume certain (incorrect) conclusions
.
Muslim Demographics Debunked

* * * * * *

islam2

In recent months a highly volatile and extremely sensationalistic video has surfaced on youtube: “Muslim Demographics.” It has caused a firestorm of heated discussions and controversy at personal blogs, on political/religious websites/forums (message boards), and inside chat rooms. The video advances five messages/arguments:

- Muslims, thanks to higher fertility rates in their widespread population, will soon outnumber non-Muslims;

- Muslims, within the span of 20-50 years, will essentially control the entire world because of their numbers;

- “Islam will overwhelm Christendom;”

- Christians must “begin reproducing again” and convert Muslims to counter the imminent threat to Christianity;

- Christians must “share the gospel message with the changing world, this is a call to action.”

By the end of this 7 1/2 minute video, its highly inflammatory, bottom-line warning (which is directed primarily at Caucasians, non-Muslims, Westerners, and Christians) becomes disturbingly clear — i.e., Muslims are on the verge of destroying the fabric of Western/Christian society. It is all going to occur, allegedly, through:

1. Muslim fertility rates that are far higher than the fertility rates of non-Muslims; and

2. Muslim immigration to countries like Europe, Canada, and the United States.

After viewing this video several times, I can confidently categorize it as an example of fear-mongering propaganda created out of:

1. unverifiable studies/claims;

2. unsubstantiated historical data;

3. abuse/misuse of statistics; and

4. manipulation of truth.

The video deliberately agitates the worst fears harbored by non-Muslims — especially Christians. I would go so far as to say that it contains racist overtones and has a general xenophobic feel that is reminiscent of the kind of literature produced by racists.

wplogolib(Not surprisingly, this video has already appeared on various hate websites owned/operated by neo-Nazis, skinheads, and the Klan).

MUSLIM DEMOGRAPHICS?

Who made Muslim Demographics? What might be their agenda? Why are they qualified to make such statements/assessments? Where did they get their information?

These are essential questions that must be answered in order to discern whether or any of the video’s statements/arguments are credible (or at the very least, worthy of being considered as possibly credible). But the answers we find to these questions leave much to be desired.

The video, for example, was not posted by any reputable/known person or organization. It was uploaded to youtube (March 30, 2009) by an anonymous individual called friendofmuslim. All we know about this individual is that they are a 31-year-old (supposedly) living in Lebanon (supposedly). And the information blurb about the video only states: “Islam will overwhelm Christendom unless Christians recognize the demographic realities, begin reproducing again, and share the gospel with Muslims.

This instantly makes the video less than legitimate and brings into question its reliability. We have no way of finding out the identity of friendofmuslim, no clue as to what his/her agenda might be, and no way to check their credentials (and/or biases). Oddly, although the poster claims to be from Lebanon, the video was actually uploaded to youtube via an IP Address in Israel. The poster (friendofmuslim) also has no other videos on youtube, nor are they allowing comments to be made (two additional aspects of the video that are unusual).

Furthermore, the video  completely ignores the distinctions existing between: 1. Muslims who consider themselves Muslim by ethnicity only; 2. Muslims who adhere to the religion of Islam; and 3. Muslims who are part of the radical Islamists, often connected to terrorism/violence. The dismissal of these three categories of Muslims utterly skews whatever statistics are presented — and the conclusions drawn from them. This brings us to the very issue of statistics in general, their use/misuse, and their reliability as a standard for predicting the future.

MUSLIMS

STATISTICS, STATISTICS, STATISTICS

The bulk of evidence that friendofmuslim uses to support his/her perspective consists of fertility (birth rate) statistics. The Muslims-have-higher-fertility-rates-than-non-Muslims statistics offered paint a frightening picture. But the video gives hardly any documentation to support the numerical calculations, let alone such fear-inspiring declarations as “In a matter of years, Europe as we know it will cease to exist” and “In just 39 Years, France will be an Islamic Republic.”

Moreover, it must be acknowledged that statistics can be very misleading, highly generalized (rather than specific), inconsistent (ever-changing), easily misused, and partial in scope. In other words, statistics are dangerous. In reference “Muslim Demographics,” the SNOPES news website has rightly pointed out that such videos/articles (i.e., alarmist) are flawed:

They cherry pick a few gloomy-sounding statistics without presenting them within a larger context, they assume that current demographic trends will remain static even in the face of future political, economic or social changes, and they don’t acknowledge that fertility rates are influenced by a number of complex, interrelated, and volatile factors. That last point is especially important, as even small changes in fertility rates can have a significant impact on the future size and nature of populations. Or, as Martin Walker noted a Spring 2009 Wilson Quarterly on the subject, “the detailed work of demographers tends to seep out to the general public in crude form, and sensationalist headlines so become common wisdom” (Muslim Demographics).

SNOPES additionally refers to the Wilson Quarterly, explaining how that publication has also noted that there exists “three deeply misleading assumptions about demographic trends have become lodged in the public mind.” First, “that mass migration into Europe, legal and illegal, combined with an eroding native population base, is transforming the ethnic, cultural, and religious identity of the continent.” Second, “that Europe’s native population is in steady and serious decline from a falling birthrate.” Third, “that population growth in the developing world will continue at a high rate.”

The list of problems with the videos use of such statistics goes on, and on, and on and on (for further information, see Muslim Demographics). The SNOPES article concludes: “…the best demographers can do is make broad guesses about population trends based on current conditions and assumptions about how (and how much) those trends might be influenced by societal changes. . . . ‘projections of birthrates and population totals are often embarrassingly at odds with eventual reality.’”

A CLOSER LOOK AT THE “FACTS”

When critically viewed, it must be admitted that all we get from the “Muslim Demographics” video is a plethora of population/fertility numbers coupled with authoritative-sounding claims such as “According to research,” “historically [speaking],” “historical research tells us,” and “Some studies show.” But none of these claims are backed by references that can be checked: Which studies? Who’s studies? Where historically?  When historically? What research? Who’s research?

There are no answers provided to these questions (NOTE: extremely small, white text sometimes appears beneath certain statistics, but the references are illegible). We must be wary of such propaganda-like claims, which are the same sort of claims usually made by individuals seeking to advance a certain cause/perspective without true/reliable evidence. For example, Dan Brown — author of The DaVinci Code — used this tactic in presenting his “historical,” “researched,” and “factual” arguments about Jesus being as a goddess-worshiping pagan, who sired a child with his wife, Mary Magdalene (a “truth” concealed by violence and deception at the highest levels of the early church). Similarly, racists (neo-Nazis, Klansmen, Holocaust Deniers, and Skinheads) often make sweeping statements based on unverifiable “research,” non-specific “studies,” and untraceable “historical” data.

Interestingly, even a cursory look at just a few of the claims made in the video are enough to show that it is less-than-reliable when it comes to facts and accuracy. One might even say that at certain points the video seems to be deliberately seeking to mislead viewers by manipulating information. As one blogger stated, “whoever made it, they did play fast and loose with the truth – Goebbels [Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda] would have been proud of them.”

For example, the video claims that 25% of the population of Belgium is Muslim. This is false. That figure, according to Wiki, applies ONLY to the city of Brussels! “In 2008 estimation shows that 6% of the Belgian population, about 628,751, is Muslim (98% Sunni). Muslims cover 25.5% of the population of Brussels.”

DIGGING DEEPER

Another highly dubious claim concerns the average fertility rate for Muslims in France (i.e., 8.1 per family). The claim is almost certainly false. Where did the figure originate in the first place? Not a single country in the world has a fertility rate so high. The closest countries would be Niger, Guinea-Bissau, and Afghanistan, according to Wiki, with rates of 7.19, 7.07, and 7.07 respectively (2005-2010). NationMaster listed the top three countries as Niger, Uganda and Somalia, with rates of 7.34, 7.29, and 6.81 (People Statistics). The CIA puts Niger, Mali, and Uganda in the top slots with fertility rates of 7.75, 7.29, and 6.77 (Total Fertility Rate, CIA).

After an entire day of researching, I could not find any place where the video’s 8.1 figure might have originated. I did, however, discover that the majority of Muslims in France are immigrants from three countries: Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia (Muslims in Europe: Country Guide). What are the fertility rates in these countries? They are: 2.38 , 2.38, 1.93 (per UN TFR Ranking)! Does it make any sense at all that people moving to France from countries with such low fertility rates would for some inexplicable reason suddenly start having 8.1 children?! Consider, too, these equally false statements from the video.

VIDEO: “In the Netherlands, 50% of all newborns are Muslim.”
TRUTH: “There are approximately 1 million Muslims in the Netherlands, a nation of 16.6 million people. . . . Muslims makeup about 6% of the total population. Yet, we’re supposed to believe 50% of the children born in the Netherlands are Muslim? The fertility rate in the Netherlands is 1.66 children per person. Mathematically, Muslims in the Netherlands would need to have 26 children to makeup 50% of the births in the country” (Muslim Demographics). And according to The Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI), “Based on projections of the future number of migrants, it is easy to calculate that Muslims will remain a minority in the future” (see this PDF File).

VIDEO: “Historically, no culture has ever reversed a 1.9 fertility rate.”
TRUTH: Actually, France reversed it, according to NationMaster, which used data from the CIA World Facebook. The fertility rate of France went from 1.85/84 in 2003-2006 to 1.98 in 2007/2008 — i.e., a reversal (see People Statistics)

VIDEO: “In Russia, there are over 23 million Muslims, that’s 1 out of 5 Russians.”
TRUTH: “Roman Silantyev, a Russian Islamologist has estimated that there are only between 7 and 9 million people who practice Islam in Russia, and that the rest [about 11 – 13 million] are only Muslims by ethnicity” (Islam in Russia, Wiki).

VIDEO: “The German Government, the first to talk about this publicly, recently released a public saying, ‘The fall in the German population can no longer be stopped. Its downward spiral is no longer reversible… It will be a Muslim state by 2050’ (Germany Federal Statistics Office).”
TRUTH: This is NOT what the German government said, nor is it what the Germany Federal Statistics Office released as a statement.

What we see here is a perfect example of manipulating and splicing statements together to form an altogether different statement/message that conveys what an individual (in this case, friendofmuslim) wants to communicate. The quotes in this section of the video were taken from a 2006 article written by Gudrun Schultz for the prolife website LifeSiteNews.com.

The first half of the statement was lifted from yet another article (by Agence France-Presse) wherein vice-president Walter Rademacher of the Federal Statistics Office is quoted: “The fall in the population can no longer be stopped.” IN CONTEXT, Rademacher is not talking about Muslims taking over anything. He is simply commenting on the declining population growth of Germany – period. And the main point he was making was that even with the help of immigrants (including Muslims), German population growth possibilities are very questionable – if not impossible. That’s it. That’s all he said.

The second half of the statement – “It will be a Muslim state by 2050” – is not only NOT from the German government (i.e., Rademacher and/or the Federal Statistics Office), but it is not even accurate. The statement, which is also found in the LifeSiteNews.com actually reads, “[Germany] is well on the way to becoming a Muslim state by 2050” (not “It will be a Muslim state by 2050). And who exactly made this assessment if it was not the German government, not Rademacher, and not the Federal Statistics Office? In the LifeSiteNews.com article we find out that it was actually unnamed, unidentified, anonymous, untraceable “demographic trend-watchers.”

These are but a few of the many factual errors, pieces of deceptive information, and instances of manipulation of facts that render “Muslim Demographics” not only offensive, but also dangerous. As Christians we need to avoid this type of sensational propaganda that does nothing to help bridge the idealogical/sociological/theological/philosophical chasm separating Muslims and non-Muslims. “Muslim Demographics” only spreads fear, mistrust, suspicion, and lack of understand among people who need to work at coexisting peacefully despite differences of opinion and beliefs.

Conveniently, one statistic the video left out was the fact that Muslim fertility rates around the world are actually dropping: “. . . the only major religion left out of the demographic transition was Islam until the 1980s. At least until the late 70s, the total fertility rates were quite high—6 per woman. But as a religious group, fertility started declining in predominately Muslim countries.”

A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE

Christians must never forget what scripture has declared: “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6).

In other words, even if everything stated in the video were true, well……so what? If God, in his sovereignty, allows Muslims to become the dominate ethnicity and allows Islam to become the dominant religion, then that is what God in his sovereignty allows to happen.

Since the dawn of society, God — no one else — has determined the rise and fall of governments/cultures/nations. As the New Testament tells us: “There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Rom. 13:1). If we are to believe scripture, then it must be acknowledged that God alone allows leaders, government, and religions to rise and fall — and that includes Islam:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him”
(Daniel 2:20-23).

So whatever the future may bring, I implore all of us to make sure that we keep focused on the Kingdom of Heaven, and our primary calling to be ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), lights around the world (Matt. 5:14), and faithful saints who are called to preach the Gospel (2 Tim. 4:2) so that men and women might come to know the love of Christ (Rom. 8:39) and through a relationship with him enter into the Lord’s glorious kingdom of eternal joy (Rev. 1:6). That kingdom will last forever, while this earthly kingdom will pass away (see Ecclesiastes).

A FEW MORE THOUGHTS

At this point it would be irresponsible of me to not say a word about Muslims in general. From my experiences in America and from my 15+ years in ministry, I have not found them to be the threatening, anti-Christian, baby-breeding monsters portrayed in this video. I have found them to be loving, gracious, peace-loving, and hospitable individuals with whom I happened to disagree when it came to issues concerning the identity/nature of God, the Bible, the Koran, and the validity of Islam.

Even author Daniel Pipes, widely known as being extremely cautious/critical of Islam, has stated that “the problem at hand is not the religion of Islam but the totalitarian ideology of Islamism [and by implication Islamists].” These are the radical, militant, politically-motivated Muslims interested in “conquest, theocracy, and intolerance” (Pipes, “Fighting Militant Islam, Without Bias,” City Journal). But this does not describe the average Muslim, especially those Moms & Dads referenced in the video who are are now living throughout previously White/Christian nations.

Ironically, as Pipes has correctly pointed out, the first victims of radical Islamism (a minority of Muslims) are usually traditional Muslims, who “understand this ideology for what it is and respond with fear and loathing” (Pipes, “Fighting Militant Islam, Without Bias,” City Journal). As one website truly dedicated to lovingly reaching out to Muslims has put it: “. . . the average Muslim is like the average Christian. They know enough to call themselves Muslims, but basically they are materialistic, want a good job, and hope to live a good comfortable life.” (About  Islam)

CONCLUSION

As I see it, the problem in Europe, America, Canada, and other countries is not Muslim immigration (or overly-fertile Muslim women). The problem is hate/sin/fear — the kind expressed through violence by radical Islamists; the kind expressed through propaganda like “Muslim Demographics.”

More importantly, when it comes to Christianity/Christians, NOWHERE does the Bible instruct believers in Jesus to make more babies in order to preserve numerical superiority over people adhering to other faiths. Procreating is not the “action” scripture recommends when the need arises to:

1. confront alternative religions,

2. counter persons with whom we disagree, or

3. respond to enemies.

Contrary to the video, we have the following words of guidance and direction from scripture:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself”” (Matt. 22:37-39).

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

“We urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:14-18).

“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2).

“Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:25-26).

In other words, the video “Muslim Demographics” is not only inaccurate, but unbiblical. It is not surprising that the video has led to numerous racist, hate-filled, and xenophobic comments being posted throughout cyberspace — particularly on so-called “Christian” website. I close with one final passage:

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (1 Titus 3:1-5).

Populations increase and decrease. Cultures come and go. Nations rise and fall. History’s pages will continue to turn and bring whatever it may being…..it matters not. Jesus said, “‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36).

Let us not forget this teaching from our Lord. Do not let anyone steal your peace that is in Christ Jesus (Acts 10:36; Romans 5:1): “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-8).

peace in him,

RICHARD ABANES

[Note: This video has been debunked at numerous websites. For further reading, please see: Mission researchers respond to statistics in Muslim Demographics video; Anti-Muslim Immigration Video Spreads Fear, Distorts Truth; Muslim Demographics; Muslim Demographics: Fact vs. Fiction; Spreading Fear About the Faith of Islam).

It has been alleged by some that Martin Luther King’s “dream” for America and equality in the U.S. has not been fulfilled in Barack Obama. But this view  stems from an unfortunate misunderstanding and a kind of Christianization of King’s message. MLK, in his famous “dream” speech, was not talking about spiritual completion in Christ. Nor was he talking about total submission by all to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in the Millennial Kingdom. MLK was talking about the political ideals of a truly free country wherein all men/women are seen as equal and are given equal opportunities to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

King’s view of equality can certainly be found in Christian ethics/morality and in biblical values regarding every human being, but his “dream” speech was not some sort of subtle evangelistic message that was pointing to a dream only possible through Christianity. Many countries around the world that are far less “Christian” than America are the very countries that America has had to catch in the equality race for all citizens. Tragically, so-called “Christians” in America have often been less than eager to help, strengthen, encourage, and support those people fighting the equality battle. And even at this historic moment in history, there remains an unwillingness to see this inauguration for what it is—i.e., a true opportunity for not only racial reconciliation, but a significant battle won in the fight against racism, hate, prejudice, ignorance, and fear.

In my opinion, MLK’s “dream” has indeed been fulfilled this day to significant degree in Barack Obama. And those who would know best—long-time Civil Rights Workers—agree. And this is precisely why King’s “I Have A Dream” speech is being re-played on local TV stations, quoted in speeches around the country, discussed on talk shows, and recited at special events—all the country to see and reflect upon. As Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio noted in a letter to attendees already gathering for the inauguration, “Dr. King’s spirit will be with us.”

How does it all relate to King’s “dream” speech so many decades ago? (see my blog article, “Obama, History, MLK’s Dream Fulfilled”). “For me, Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech has been fulfilled,” said [Carolyn] Anderson, who attended the annual MLK Day march in San Antonio, Texas. This is a sentiment being expressed by many people. Another marcher in an MLK Day parade—Alfred Rodriguez of Tucson, Arizona—remarked: “The holiday is more significant this year because it’s all about the dream and now it’s being fulfilled.” As one person in the crowd now gathering for the inaugural put it, “A lot of people I talked to in my dad’s generation, they never expected to see this. Well, I never expected to see this and so I had to come up here and be a part of history.”

Not surprisingly, a CNN survey “showed that over two-thirds of African Americans consider that the vision of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. is being fulfilled some 46 years after his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech. . . . According to CNN, 69 per cent of the African Americans consulted think this dream has come true.” (U.S. News, “Poll: Obama’s inauguration among most important in US history”). T-Shirts are now being distributed/sold “pairing Obama’s face with Martin Luther King’s, and tomorrow’s date with the date of MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, both over the phrase THE DREAM FULFILLED.”

As I encouraged all of us to do in my previous blog post, let us rejoice. King’s dream has indeed come to pass on many levels. We still have a long way to go. And ultimate/perfect peace, joy, equality, justice, truth, righteousness is certainly found in Christ alone, as King himself noted: “A relationship with God gives us the power to overcome whatever sin we may be struggling with, including the sin of racism. Racism stands not only as a barrier between people, but as an offense between us and God. The reason Dr. King could recommend Christ as a solution to the problem of racism is Jesus’ death on the cross paid the price for all of our sins. He then rose from the dead and now offers us the forgiveness of God and the power to live new lives” (“Let’s Give the Dream New Life”).

But for imperfect America
Christian & non-Christian, Black & White, Republican & DemocratMLK’s dream for our country has been fulfilled in the election of America’s first African-American president, Barack Obama. The U.S. will never be the same. And for that, I praise God. It’s a milestone we’ve reached as a nation. It’s a turning point. And it would be tragic for anyone to not recognize this fact, wanting instead to turn the historical moment into yet another opportunity to attack, criticize, and divide.

Richard Abanes

Martin Luther King, Jr.
(August 28, 1963)

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

* * *

This week we stand at a turning point in American history. It is a turning point for not only the country as a political body, but also for each individual citizen, and more significantly, for an entire community of people. This moment in history will forever stand as a victory for equality, truth, and justice over the ever-present and seemingly unconquerable enemies of true freedom: i.e., prejudice, racism, ignorance, hate, and fear. The United States, after years of struggle, has finally said to the world: “We are a nation where all men are created equal.”

Back in in 1968, during an era when such a message was only a dream to many Americans, Martin Luther King observed the following: “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men—yes, black men as well as white men—would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Now, with the election of Barack Obama as America’s first African-American president, the “promissory note” written more than 200 years ago is at last being cashed, so to speak. Times have changed, thank God Almighty. The United States as a united people of all different colors have decided that this man, Barack Obama, is the man for the job—no matter what he looks like. America is no longer a land wherein the masses say, “No! The color of your skin is wrong. You cannot be this. You cannot do that. You cannot go here. You cannot say that.”

Racism, prejudice, hate, ignorance, and fear still exist in America, to be sure. But each of these evil specters that have so long haunted the halls of government, education, business, and even entertainment have been dealt a serious blow. I would ask that all Christians everyone praise God for this victory as we witness Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Not all of us agree with Obama on every issue. In fact, some of us disagree most emphatically with him on a number of subjects. A few of us might even harbor disdain for his his policies and perspectives spanning the economy, homosexuality, foreign affairs, and abortion. But let us not forget what else is going on here in America with his inauguration. It is a milestone for the United States. Obama has been set in place by God to govern not just American Christians, but also American Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists, Wiccans, Mormons, Sikhs, and those of innumerable other spiritualities. Obama has been set in place to govern not just Republicans and conservatives, but also Democrats and liberals; not just heterosexuals, but also homosexuals; not just the religious, but also the irreligious. In other words, Barack Obama’s place is to govern America. Our place is to pray for him and submit to God’s will, which established him as the next president of the United States: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings” (Dan. 2:20-23, also see my article President Obama: History Made).

This last week, in celebration and preparation of Obama’s inauguration, I have been watching several movies to better understand just how pivotal this moment in history is to America—movies that chronicle the struggles of Black Americans for equality. My hope and suggestion is that you watch these movies, too. And hopefully, after viewing them, better understand the significance of this time in history. Racism is an evil that has plagued this nation since its very inception. In Psalm 94:16, God asks: “Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?” At this historic moment, many Americans have stood up and answered the call. Now, in America, it seems, anything is possible—for anyone.

“I went and looked back at the Constitution, and the first sentence talks of our desire to form ‘a more perfect union.’ We haven’t done that, but we’re still striving. And I think only the least gracious among us—no matter what your political philosophy—only the least gracious wouldn’t say that this is a watershed moment for America.”
— GLORIA BORGER, contributing editor and columnist for US News and World Report and a Senior Political Analyst at CNN, Nov. 4, 2008, CNN News Election Coverage

MOVIES TO WATCH

Sounder ( 1972 )

Roots ( 1977 )

Mississippi Burning ( 1988 )

Glory ( 1989 )

The Tuskegee Airman ( 1995 )

A Time to Kill ( 1996 )

Ghosts of Mississippi ( 1996 )

Remember the Titans ( 2000 )

Men of Honor ( 2000 )

Today a memorial was unveiled in Oakland, California in remembrance of those who lost their lives thirty years ago at Jonestown, Guyana. It was there, under the cult leadership of a madman named Jim Jones, that nearly 1,000 souls died. Although most of the victims committed suicide in a deluded state of obedience and/or resignation to their messianic “Man of God,” others were actually murdered as they tried to escape — their understanding of the situation having come far too late for them to survive the assault by Jones and his henchmen.

memorial

Some individuals survived and were present at the ceremony, their memories still vividly haunting them as they looked at the Memorial’s inscription: “In memory of the victims of the Jonestown tragedy. Nov. 18, 1978, Jonestown, Guyana.” Marking the place where 406 unclaimed bodies lie buried (mostly children), the memorial wall forever will stand as a reminder the world that “cults” are real, they are harmful, and that can even be deadly—not only from temporal perspective, but also spiritually.

memorialmemorial

According to Dr. Jynona Norwood, who lost 27 family members in the horrendous suicide-homicide, the memorial wall “will serve as a memorial for generations to come. It will raise public awareness that you never give up your free thinking ability to anyone. And, if it sounds too good to be true, more than likely it is.”

We must never forget that a true man of God is measured by the Word of God—not a nice white suit, a charismatic manner, lots of money, or a big congregation (or a small congregation). And a teaching that might make you feel good doesn’t necessarily mean it’s scriptural.

Jim Jones

There are false teachers and false prophets everywhere. But we shouldn’t be dismayed. Jesus said it would be so, and also warned us to be discerning about such men (and women): “False Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible” (Matt. 24:24).

Peter agreed, warning us: “There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves” (2 Peter 2:1).

memorialmemorial

So as Christians, let us not step back from our responsibilities to not only share the gospel in a positive way (e.g., sharing our personal testimony, loving others, and doing good works), but also by correcting those who have slipped into error. We are commanded to do so by nothing less than scripture: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3). Like Jude, Paul wrote: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2).

Let us all join today in praying for the many millions of searching souls who are still lost in The Kingdom of the Cults (as Dr. Walter Martin called it)—pray that one day they will come to know the peace, joy, love, and truth available in Christ’s wonderful Kingdom of Light! And may we, in our own small way, be part of their deliverance—whether we plant, water, or harvest. And to God be all the glory.

peace,

Richard Abanes—

PoP CulTuRe MiX

THANK YOU VETERANS!

Dear Veterans,

This is your day. I want to say, “thank you.”

I love the United States. I love my freedom. And I love the many blessings I enjoy each day in this great land of ours: opportunity, safety, unrestricted travel, access to the Internet, a church to attend, friends with whom I can gather any time I want to gather with them, the right to protest and make my voice heard.

It’s all because of you—your sacrifice, your willingness to be in harms way, your bravery, your determination, your perseverance, your pain, your suffering.

It is appreciated by me in ways that mere words will never express.

Vietnam War - US troops during the war in Vietnam in 1966. Sunday is the 25th anniversary of the pullout of Americans from the Vietnam War.

I’ve watched various TV presentations and movies on WWII (Band of Brothers; Saving Private Ryan; The War), Vietnam (Vietnam: A Television History; We Were Soldiers), and other conflicts (Black Hawk Down)—I know I’ll never rise to the level of human being to which you were forced to rise. We are all indebted to you, and forever will be.

Finally, on a personal note, to my father: Thank you, Dad. You served your country and your family for twenty years in the Navy. You bravely offered your services in Europe to protect our allies from Communist threats, and fought in the Korean War. I always have, and always will, admire you for that. This is your day, too. And rightly deserved.

The nation honors all of you veterans today. And to the families who have lost loves ones, our prayers are with you, and we honor you, most of all: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

God Bless America!

U.S. Marine Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery

—- Richard Abanes

—- PoP CulTuRe MiX
—- PoP CulTuRe MiX BlOg

Regarding the article “Obama’s post-racial promise” by Shelby Steele (a self-described Black Conservative) that appeared in the Los Angeles Times as an Op-Ed piece on Nov. 5, 2008, I have the following remarks:

__________

STEELE: Barack Obama seduced whites with a vision of their racial innocence precisely to coerce them into acting out of a racial motivation.

RA: This is a rather omniscient declaration. Exactly how does Steele know such a thing? Answer: He doesn’t.

In order for Steele to make this accusation he would have to: a) be able to read into Obama’s heart to check his motivations; or b) have some document wherein Obama and/or his campaign people stated something like: “And here’s where we can seduce whites with a vision of their racial innocence in order to coerce them into acting out of a racial motivation.”

I read the article and I see no reference to any such document. And I know that Steele can’t read minds/hearts. (Only God can read into a person’s mind/heart.) So, his accusation here is really worth a whole lot of nothing.

Moreover, it’s decidedly offensive for him to suggest that the white people who voted for Obama did so not because of any agreement they may have felt with his perspectives, plans, or promises—but because of some magickal spell he had placed over their guilt-ridden consciences that caused them to see nothing but his black skin. And in an effort to demonstrate a lack of racism in them, they voted for him—i.e., the Black man. That is not only an arrogant claim to make by Steele, but one of the most baseless observations of the election that I have yet heard.

STEELE: Does his victory mean that America is now officially beyond racism? Does it finally complete the work of the civil rights movement so that racism is at last dismissible as an explanation of black difficulty? Can the good Revs. Jackson and Sharpton now safely retire to the seashore? Will the Obama victory dispel the twin stigmas that have tormented black and white Americans for so long—that blacks are inherently inferior and whites inherently racist? Doesn’t a black in the Oval Office put the lie to both black inferiority and white racism? Doesn’t it imply a “post-racial” America?

RA: This is one of the most loaded and meaningless series of rhetorical questions ever asked in a legitimate newspaper article. It was a waste of time to write, and a waste of time to read.

Obviously, the answer to all of these questions is “no.” And if Steele were paying any attention at all to anything or anyone besides himself, he would see that no one is saying otherwise. In fact, during Obama’s victory speech, the President-Elect made it all very clear to those who had an ear to hear:

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there. There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it’s been done in America for 221 years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

Was Steele listening? I doubt it. And this remark was made on CNN: “I went and looked back at the Constitution, and the first sentence talks of our desire to form ‘a more perfect union.’ We haven’t done that, but we’re still striving” (Gloria Borger, contributing editor and columnist for US News and World Report and a Senior Political Analyst at CNN, Nov. 4, 2008, CNN News Election Coverage). Was Steele listening? Apparently not.

STEELE: And shouldn’t those of us—white and black—who did not vote for Mr. Obama take pride in what his victory says about our culture even as we mourn our political loss?

RA: The answer to this one is YES, while it is apparently NO to Steele. But in my opinion, if someone can’t “take pride” in what has happened, then something is very wrong with them on a number of levels.

STEELE: His talent was to project an idealized vision of a post-racial America—and then to have that vision define political decency. Thus, a failure to support Obama politically implied a failure of decency.

RA: I’m not sure what planet Steele has been living on for the last year or so. Obama projected ideals that touched on hope for: 1) a better economy, 2) national health care, and 3) an end to foreign wars.

Not once did Obama directly or indirectly make any statements (or give any hints) that his candidacy was about race (or that a vote for him would be a vote against racism). He did not speak as a racial candidate, but simply as a candidate who happened to be a candidate of color. He, in fact, seemed to go out of his way to avoid tainting his campaign by playing the race card.

Obama also did not tie HIS vision of America to some pie-in-the-sky vision of a post-racial America, nor did he equate HIS vision with “political decency.” Obama equated his vision of America with a better America for everyone because of policy changes he would make—and that’s the same thing every presidential candidate projects.

STEELE: Obama’s special charisma—since his famous 2004 convention speech—always came much more from the racial idealism he embodied than from his political ideas.

RA: Here we have yet another example of Steel’s penchant for making arrogant, self-centered, revelatory proclamations based on nothing but his own inner knowledge; knowledge that is grounded externally in nothing.

Has Steele done a survey of every American who voted for Obama to determine if they were motivated by his “political ideas” as opposed to the so-called “racial idealism” he embodied?

Does Steele really think that the DNC could have thrown just any old Black man up there, pinned a “racial idealism” pin on him, and succeeded in winning the election?

It’s ridiculous. What Obama had to say about the state of our country obviously resonated with Americans. And what his skin color has shown is how Americans have reached a place where they can now actually vote for political ideas—NO MATTER WHO IS STATING THOSE IDEAS, INCLUDING AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN.

It’s hard to believe how anyone, especially Steele, could miss the obvious.

STEELE: This worked politically for Obama because it tapped into a deep longing in American life—the longing on the part of whites to escape the stigma of racism.

RA: How insulting can Steele get? Now Steele is speaking for most, if not all, Whites in general!! Unbelievable. Steele must think he is God if he thinks he knows what my “deep longing” is—indeed, what the “deep longing” is of all Whites across this country.

And the last time I looked at the election map, it seems that there were a whole lot of Whites in the South who apparently felt no “deep longing” at all to vote for Obama. Just about every Confederate state remained red in this election. That pretty much destroys Steele’s whole theory.

If anyone should have come out in droves to vote for Obama as a way of cleansing their conscience and fulfilling their “deep longing,” it would have been racists in Southern states. And that didn’t happen.

STEELE: In running for the presidency—and presenting himself to a majority white nation—Obama knew intuitively that he was dealing with a stigmatized people. He knew whites were stigmatized as being prejudiced, and that they hated this situation and literally longed for ways to disprove the stigma.

RA: Again, we have end on end comments that suggest Steele is living in a world of his own making and simply inventing his scenario as he goes along. (And he’s reading Obama’s mind again).

STEELE: Whites become enthralled with bargainers out of gratitude for the presumption of innocence they offer. Bargainers relieve their anxiety about being white and, for this gift of trust, bargainers are often rewarded with a kind of halo. . . . It is exactly because America has made such dramatic racial progress that whites today chafe so under the racist stigma. So I don’t think whites really want change from Obama as much as they want documentation of change that has already occurred. They want him in the White House first of all as evidence, certification and recognition.

RA: Here we have Steele once more playing a psychologist, complete with pad and paper in hand, as the entire White population of America sits on his couch for analysis. At this point, the article has become comical in its subjectivity. What Steele has done is essentially accuse White voters of not voting their political principles, beliefs, ideals, and choices. According to Steele, they’ve merely voted for a Black man to ease their consciences and prove to the world they’re really not racists.

This is an insult to all Whites who voted for Obama. And it belies and unwillingness on the part of Steele to view this historic moment in perspective.

STEELE: The point is that a post-racial society is a bargainer’s ploy: It seduces whites with a vision of their racial innocence precisely to coerce them into acting out of a racial motivation. A real post-racialist could not be bargained with and would not care about displaying or documenting his racial innocence. Such a person would evaluate Obama politically rather than culturally.

RA: This is really the only thing Steele is saying in his verbose article. Basically, it’s this:

“Hey, all you of stupid White people who voted for Obama! Listen up! Don’t you know that the only reason you voted for him was because you wanted to make sure everyone knows you’re not racist! All of you old people wanted to just show you’ve put racism behind you. All of you young people wanted to show you were never racist to begin with. But none of you really voted for Obama because you thought he had a good platform, or because you believed he’d make steady/reliable president, or because you liked his economic/health plans, or because wanted to end our foreign wars. NO! You actually just voted for him because he’s Black!”

IMHO, Steele is the the one who needs to take a look at what’s going on inside his head — not the Whites who voted for Obama.

STEELE: There is nothing to suggest that Obama will lead America into true post-racialism. . . . The torture of racial conflict in America periodically spits up a new faith that idealism can help us “overcome” — America’s favorite racial word. If we can just have the right inspiration, a heroic role model, a symbolism of hope, a new sense of possibility. It is an American cultural habit to endure our racial tensions by periodically alighting on little islands of fresh hope and idealism. But true reform, like the civil rights victories of the ’60s, never happens until people become exhausted with their suffering. Then they don’t care who the president is.

RA: Steele is putting far too much racial-equality expectations into the minds of people who are rejoicing over Obama being elected. He is building a political, social, cultural, psychological strawman to knock down. No one that I’ve heard commenting about Obama and the significance of this election is looking to him as THE ONE who’s going to end racism in America once and for all. Again, that’s absurd.

Obama, truth be told, is not supposed to lead “America into true post-racialism.” The fact that he has been elected indicates we are already in the beginning stages of a post-racial America, thanks to the unseen grassroots efforts of ALL Americans, which began with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Steele’s entire article is based on his own fantasy about why Obama won. Some people, I suppose, are just poor losers. Moreover, it’s my opinion that what’s motivating Steele has a lot more to do with embarrassment than anything else, since his last book A BOUND MAN has the subtitle, Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can’t Win.

I guess Steele got it wrong and now has to somehow clean up his mistaken prediction—not to mention what it’s going to take to do some major re-writes to the next printing of that volume in order to not look foolish. It’s not surprising that a recent review of the book noted: “A lot has transpired since Shelby Steele wrote A BOUND MANso much so that it’s not clear whether the book is even relevant anymore.”

Steele, quite simply, seems to have been caught with his intellectual pants down and is now scrambling to pull them up. And to do that, he keeps repeating his arguments from the past, with a new post-election spin that justifies his previous sentiments in a book containing a prediction now proven to have been erroneous.

I quote, once more, Gloria Borger (contributing editor and columnist for US News and World Report and a Senior Political Analyst at CNN, Nov. 4, 2008, CNN News Election Coverage) I think only the least gracious among us—no matter what your political philosophy—only the least gracious wouldn’t say that this is a watershed moment for America.”

I think we know one person now who would easily qualify as being one of “the least gracious” among us—Shelby Steele. And, tbh, his lack of graciousness might be for some rather odd reasons. He seems to have a chip of sorts on his shoulders—i.e., he’s the son of a black father and a white mother, who wants to make sure no African-American gets any help or recognition of any kind from the white man that might in any way suggest that the black person didn’t make it all on their own. Otherwise, the victory/accomplishment is hollow.

Not surprisingly, he opposes Affirmative Action, which he actually views as another kind of racism against blacks—i.e., as a mandated way of insuring equality that is not earned because it discourages self-agency and personal responsibility. This plays into Steele’s foundational notion that all whites see blacks as victims, which is counter-productive to true racial reconciliation. He hates the victimization card, which might be why he finds rejoicing over the election an African-American like Obama so repugnant.

Because Steele doesn’t find Obama agreeable on a political level, he instantly assumes that others couldn’t possibly feel, with any legitimacy, any other way. So the only conclusion is the basic thrust of his L.A. Times article—i.e., If white people voted for him, then they MUST have voted for him only because he’s black. Hence, there is no justifiable reason to actually celebrate his win. It was just Whites clearing their consciences.

The truth is that plenty of white people voted for Obama and it had nothing to do with him being black, or them trying to prove to the world their lack of prejudice.

——

Richard Abanes
PoP CulTuRe MiX

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