weblog |

© Merle Harton, Jr. | About | XML/RSS

Saturday, November 08, 2003  

Consider for a moment the following four contemporary cases:

  1. Brian VanDeMark, a US Naval Academy history professor, lost his tenure, had his position reduced from associate professor to entry-level assistant professor, was placed on probation for three years, and had his salary cut by $10,000 after a three-member board of his peers found instances of substantial plagiarism and "gross carelessness" in his book Pandora's Box: Nine Men and the Atomic Bomb. VanDeMark's publisher, Little, Brown and Co., had recalled the book after the allegations surfaced in May and will require corrections before republishing it. [Washington Post, October 29, 2003]

  2. On March 23, 20-year-old Army supply clerk Jessica Lynch is riding with the 507th Maintenance Company convoy in Nasiriyah, Iraq, when the convoy takes a wrong turn. The Humvee in which she is riding is hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and crashes into another vehicle. She is taken to Nasiriyah's main hospital where an Iraqi orthopedist performs surgery on Lynch to repair a fractured femur. An Iraqi lawyer goes to the US Marines after seeing Lynch being slapped in the hospital, and on April 1 US commandos raid the hospital and take her to a waiting helicopter. The dramatic rescue is videotaped and shown on national television. While recovering in a hospital in Washington, DC, Private Lynch is awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and Prisoner of War medals. An authorized biography, I am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story, to be released by Knopf Publishing on November 11, Veterans Day, claims that she was raped and sodomized by her Iraqi captors.  Lynch herself remembers very little of the ordeal. In an ABC Primetime interview with Diane Sawyer, she admits that did not shoot her gun—instead, she said: "I went down praying to my knees. And that's the last I remember." She does not remember being slapped or mistreated in the hospital, but does recall a nurse singing to her. Dr. Mahdi Khafazji, the orthopedist who treated Lynch in Nasiriyah, said that he examined her and found no sign of any sexual assault. Lynch accuses the military of using her dramatic rescue to support the conflict in Iraq. [Source: News & Observer, November 7, 2003]

  3. In August 2002, the state of Texas bestowed "exemplary status" on Houston's Austin High School, and a private foundation goes on to honor Houston as the nation's best urban school district. President Bush touts the Houston Independent School District, the "Texas educational miracle," as a model for the rest of the nation. Now, a year later, Austin High School has been given the lowest possible rating and is accused, along with a dozen other Houston-area schools, of having inflated its student-dropout data. The district's school superintendent, Roderick R. Paige, had been elevated to US Education Secretary under the Bush administration in December 2000 and inspired the administration's "No Child Left Behind" plan, which aims at raising educational standards nationwide through strict accountability and high-stakes testing. Questions about Houston's dropout statistics now extend not only to the district's overall test results, but also to the Bush administration's educational reform strategies. A Rice University professor likened the dropout scandal to Enron's attempt to boost its stock price by hiding its loses. [Source: Washington Post, November 8, 2003]

  4. On October 2, Maryland's Montgomery County Superintendent Jerry D. Weast met with his high school principals to discuss ways to raise the county's flat SAT scores—and is alleged to have proposed as a strategy excluding poorly performing students from taking the test. [Washington Post, November 7, 2003]

What do these four incidents have in common?  Answer: The need to compete with the world's standard of success can compel even talented, successful people to overreach their entitlements and steer a course toward the shoals of deceit. These temptations, as Paul warned us, are such as are "common to man." For Christians under these temptations, God "is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. [1 Cor 10:13]

posted by Merle Harton Jr. | 11:56 PM |

It smells like a religion—and it stinks pretty. Yesterday the Texas Board of Education approved eleven new biology textbooks that contain the Darwinian theory of evolution despite objections from scientists and religious groups that the books did not adequately present weaknesses in the evolutionary theory. This is significant because Texas is the second largest textbook purchaser in the US. [See News & Observer, November 7, 2003]

We need to stop acting surprised when this happens. Darwinism (i.e., Charles Darwin's bundle of theories about transformational evolutionary processes, common descent of all organisms, and natural selection) is itself the product of a dogmatic naturalism that rests on the postulate of a closed universe, so we can usually expect this textbook-buying behavior from secular authorities who rely on the general scientific community for opinions on scientific dogma. Darwinism is dogma, so therefore it must appear as prevailing scientific fact in those textbooks headed for public schools. Any semblance of creation or design theory will have to be rejected as a matter of course—these clash fundamentally with the first principles of natural science as a closed system. The alternative, that the universe is not closed, opens the debate to competing religious hypotheses. Because all religions, when viewed comparatively, are either psychical or cultural in origin, or lack substantive confirmatory evidence, they have no scientific truth value.

As Christians, as parents, we need to be so secure in our faith that our origin as human beings, our status on earth, and our purpose here can be confidently presented to children and friends as our faith testimony, as the truth, not as a theoretical construct. I remember the first time I fully realized that the earth was young and my forebears were created beings: when I told this to my wife (well, now my ex-wife), she actually laughed at me. I no longer act surprised when this happens.

posted by Merle Harton Jr. | 1:50 AM |

Monday, November 03, 2003  

Peace with honor—and other pretty words, with bluster. The buzz-word during the Vietnam conflict was "peace with honor." What that meant was often unstated, like the word mojo, but it referred at least to the desire of the US administration to remain in Southeast Asia until communist regimes were dismantled and Western business interests were restored. Despite Lyndon Johnson's promise not to involve us in Vietnam, pledging that "we are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves" [Stanley Karnow, Vietnam, 1983, p. 395], Johnson and Congress nevertheless got us involved from 1964, the year of America's more or less formal entry into the conflict, to 1973, when Nixon withdrew US forces in a cease-fire accord that, he said, gave us "peace with honor." Alas, North and South Vietnam were reunited under a communist regime two years later.

I mention this because we seem still unable to learn from our mistakes, or even to remember them. In his radio address on Saturday, President Bush said again that the war in Iraq is tied inextricably to the "war on terror" and that we cannot leave Iraq without dishonoring the soldiers who sacrificed themselves for the cause. Said Bush:

The terrorists and the Baathists hope to weaken our will. Our will cannot be shaken. We're being tested, and America and our allies will not fail. We will honor the sacrifice of the fallen by ensuring that the cause for which they fought and died is completed. And we will make America safer by helping to transform Iraq from an exporter of violence and terror into a center of progress and peace.

So again we have a declared need for "peace with honor," only this time our goal now is, through war, to remake an entire country in our image (or what we think is our image).

Okay, now fast forward to Sunday's horrible loss: 16 soldiers are killed, 20 are wounded, when a US CH-47 Chinook helicopter is struck by a missile and crashes west of Baghdad. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is on NBC News "Meet the Press," and Tim Russert starts this interchange:

MR. RUSSERT: So far, we have lost 377 Americans in Iraq; 2,130 have been wounded our injured. How would you explain to the American people this morning that it is worth that price for the war in Iraq?

SEC'Y RUMSFELD: Tim, the battle we're engaged in, the global war on terrorism, is an important one. It is a different one than we've been in previously, although terrorism's not new. But the nature of terrorism is that its purpose is to terrorize. Its purpose is to alter people's behavior. And to the extent free people end up behaving in a way that is different from the way free people behave, they've lost. And therefore, the only thing to do is do what the president has announced he's doing, and that is to take the battle, the war on terrorism, to the terrorists, where they are. And that's what we're doing. We can win this war. We will win this war. And the president has every intention of staying after the terrorists and the countries that harbor terrorists until we have won this war. [Transcript for November 2, 2003]

So by using our present strategy, winning the war on terror—achieving this new "peace with honor"—will require the killing of all terrorists, or at least, one supposes, imprisoning the terrorists who remain. This will, by my estimate, take more than a generation to achieve. Here's why. In a press report of the helicopter attack, Iraqi farmer Ali Hassan, who lives 200 yards from the crash site, said: "The resistance is getting stronger and stronger every day." Some villagers even expressed happiness at the helicopter crash and the loss of American lives. One of Hassan's sons regularly threw stones at soldiers. "Imagine what he will do when he grows up," he said. [New York Times, November 3, 2003]

Dear Heavenly Father, soften the hearts of our elected officials so that they will consider the many alternatives to war and the killing of innocents. Bring your Spirit into the midst of your children, so that all of us can work toward a resolution of global terrorism and a restoration of America's greatness, through knowledge of your son Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

posted by Merle Harton Jr. | 2:05 AM |
get my books