What’s your life worth?

This morning on the one-year anniversary of the world’s worst oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I was listing to a CBC Radio 1 interview with Kenneth Fineberg, who is also known as the “pay czar” for British Petroleum’s US$20 billion compensation fund for those hurt by that environmental disaster. Fineberg, a legal specialist in mediation and alternative dispute resolution, was previously the Special Master of the U.S. government’s September 11th Victim Compensation Fund a decade ago and wrote a book about his experience called “What is Life Worth?: The Unprecedented Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11.”

So, how does Mr. Fineberg place a value on a human life? Well, it’s all fairly cut and dried being mostly numbers and statistics: A) Determine how much the person was making at the time of his or her death B) Estimate how many more years could that person reasonably have been expected to continue earning such money. C) Multiply A x B + something for “pain and suffering,” and voilà, you get a sum printed off on a compensation cheque.

Of course, the party or parties who suffered the loss of their loved one can always sue and try to make the case for a higher figure. But you’re going to have to convince the judge and the jury, dollar-wise. For most people, the high legal costs for such a run through the “justice” system makes accepting the pay czar’s formula fixing the life-value of their loved one the only rational choice—even if the final figure seems low and cold.

So, have you ever stopped to figure out what YOUR life is worth? Or, maybe even, what is all human life on this entire planet worth? To most people the logical answer would have to be: “utterly priceless” or “more than the total sum of all the money and things of value in the world.” I mean, how else could you figure such enormous present and potential value?

Actually, someone once working in a capacity like a “pay czar” did put a value on all humanity’s redemptive value in monetary terms. The amount was equal to what it would cost to hire the average, full-time workingman for 120 days. In 2007 U.S. dollars this would be $22,560 in Canada or about $31,680 in the United States or $26,688 in Germany or only $16,992 in the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus. That was the value of 30 pieces of silver in A.D. 30.

When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death. 2 And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor. 3 Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”
And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!”
5 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
6 But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood.” 7 And they consulted together and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.
9 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, 10 and gave them for the potter’s field, as the LORD directed me” (Matthew 27:1-10 New King James Version).

The value of Jesus’ life to his Father was priceless. But for the lawyers and compensation specialists of 2,000 years ago, 30 pieces of silver was enough. So, what is YOUR life worth?

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

So don’t place a low value on your life. You are worth more than any lawyer or accountant could imagine. As the Apostle Peter said,

You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:19-19 NKJV).

If you would like to hear more about your worth to God and the value of human life check out my messages “Preparing for the Passover” and “Spirit of Service” posted on

wellwood moffat

Evil deserves Justice

How do we, as a society, effectively respond to evil? This week the B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Johnston sentenced Kruse Hendrik Wellwood, 17, and Cameron Alexander Moffat, 18, to life in prison with no possibility for parole for 10 years. They were convicted by a large amount of grisly evidence and by the testimony of their own mouths.

What was the crime Wellwood and Moffat committed? Judge Johnston said,
“It goes without saying first-degree murder with intent to kill is the most serious of offences. The circumstances of this murder as admitted by the young persons are so horrific that no words can adequately convey the inhumane cruelty these young men show Miss [Kimberly] Proctor. They planned in advance to sexually assault and kill Miss Proctor. They chose her because they thought she would be an easy target, not necessarily because either of them had any ill will towards her.”

After sentencing, outside the courtroom, Fred Proctor, the father of Kimberly Proctor, said of Wellwood and Moffat, “To me they’re just monsters and monsters are not rehabilitatable.” Mr. Proctor disputed the appropriateness of the judge’s sentence arguing that the murderers deserved the death penalty for their actions.

Wellwood and Moffat lured Kimberly Proctor to Wellwood’s home in a Victoria, B.C., suburb where they bound and gagged her, raped her, beat her to the point of breaking bones, strangled her, mutilated her body with a knife, performed necrophilia, put her body in the freezer and then dumped her body in a lonely public park, setting fire to the remains in an effort to destroy any evidence. Victoria’s Times-Colonist, April 5, 2011, reported:

“Psychiatric and psychological reports on the teens—who were 16 and 17 at the time of the murder—show they are at a high risk to re-offend violently and sexually. The reports also show there is little chance they can be rehabilitated.”

These two young men admitted deriving an overwhelming adrenalin rush from inflicting pain, suffering, and death on another human being. They exhibited a complete lack of conscience, empathy, and heart. Doing evil gave them pleasure. In fact, their blood lust was driving them to repeat their monstrous offense. When police finally caught up with them, the sadistic teen murderers had already identified their next victim.

So, ten years from now, should Wellwood and Moffat get their parole and be released at ages 27 and 28, respectively, would you like them living next to you? Talking to your daughter or granddaughter? That’s what our present legal system is planning. Is this justice? Or is this a perversion, a mockery of genuine justice?

What is the just thing to do with our “Wormwood and Malediction?” Well, if our society had not turned its back on the God of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures we would know exactly what to do with these monsters. We would know which laws should to be enacted and enforced to effectively produce a society of increasing peacefulness rather than the one Kimberly Proctor found herself living in.

But, of course, these days our mainstream media, as a general rule, mocks the Creator God and ignores His teachings. Our media’s gatekeepers shutout and marginalize as eccentrics and troglodites those social conservatives who would point us back to humanity’s original instruction book as the source for understanding the nature of justice and its administration.

But instead we see a secular society that is increasingly clueless about how to effectively “weed and feed” the ordinary garden variety type of human dandelions much less how to actually cut off by the roots the noxious giant hogweed sort of evil among us. Consequently what we see is a society where the value of human life is on sale and getting cheaper by the day as we degenerate.

You and I are stuck with a practically unaffordable big government legal system that spawns systemic injustices of all sorts leading inevitably to crowded, revolving door Club Feds from which people like Wormwood and Malediction walk out scot free after a few years of being fed, housed, and supervised at great public expense.

How long will this go on? I would guess until we learn our lessons.

The first lesson is that any society that cuts itself off from its Creator eventually becomes corrupt, filled with violence, brutal, and cruel, engendering many  individuals who lack natural human affection (cf. Genesis 6:11 & 2 Timothy 3:1-4).

The second lesson is that the “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7 New Living Translation).

Now when it comes to properly rewarding murderers, the Creator has something to say to those charged with administering justice:

And I will require the blood of anyone who takes another person’s life. If a wild animal kills a person, it must die. And anyone who murders a fellow human must die. If anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image (Genesis 9:5-6 NLT).

As a society, we have a God-given responsibility to administer justice to cold-blooded murderers by executing them. This is the instruction of the Creator God who made man and woman in His image and breathed into them the breath of life. The consequences to our society for its failure to atone for the shedding of innocent blood by executing convicted murderers is to bring some measure of blood guilt upon our entire community (cf. Deuteronomy 19:13 and 21:8-9). As a direct result of our lack of motivation to see justice done as prescribed by the God of Justice, it will not go well with our communities. As it was written so long ago,

Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you (Deuteronomy 16:20 English Standard Version).

scott walker

Looking out for Wisconsin’s and Nanaimo’s best interest

On Friday, April 1, 2011, the Wisconsin state governor Scott Walker signed into law an immensely controversial bill passed by that state’s legislature the previous evening despite death threats, intimidation, and large demonstrations by organized labour supporters. The new law effectively puts this Midwestern state’s public-sector unions on a diet of low-fat cheese at a time when many American states and municipalities are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. The consequences of such defaults on state and municipal financial obligations would be profound.

The Wisconsin Republican governor, arguing that he was elected in order to make the tough decisions needed by the times, successfully pushed this change in the law. Walker consistently said that both the state and its local governments needed it in order for them to balance their budgets. Without it, large numbers of public employees would have to be laid off, and/or taxes would be increased.

The new Wisconsin law effectively reduces the power of some public-sector labour unions. It limits future public employee pay raises to the inflation rate, requires public-sector unions to hold annual certification votes, and no longer allows those unions to collect their union dues directly from their member’s pay cheques. The revised law also requires public employees to make greater contributions to their pension and medical plans.

For decades now, public-sector labour unions have been the fastest growing part of the organized labour movement in North America. These unions have secured for their members high wages and pension benefits that are often far more generous than those accessible to the average joe in the private sector.

When the North American economy was significantly growing in girth by leaps and bounds such generosity to its public employees seemed affordable. But since the economic shock of 2008 and the accompanying severe decline in tax receipts, it has become inevitable that an obese public sector would have to start dieting for the long-term good of their communities.

While the Wisconsin legislators were bravely running the gauntlet of protesting, high-fat demanding, cheese-heads in their quest to skim the state’s milk, I was sitting in a non-descript Nanaimo high school meeting room listening to our local school district’s parent advisory council discuss the cuts that will have to be made in the district’s budget.

In Nanaimo, we don’t even have low-fat dairy creamer for DPAC representatives’ tea or coffee—just that phony white plastic-fat powder. Should we recommend that the school district charge parents for the privilege of allowing their kids to take the school buses? Maybe we should advocate charging teachers for their parking spaces in the school lots? Cuts to programs? Close schools? Two weeks for spring vacation instead of one? Even if we suggested selecting all of the above that still wouldn’t find us the necessary 3 to 4 million dollars in cuts our school district will need to make in 2011-2012 to balance our schools’ budget.

The problem is that of our $120 million annual school budget 93% is wages—most of which is negotiated by the Province of British Columbia with its educational public-sector unions and is untouchable. That leaves roughly 7% or $8.4 million to fund the district’s educational programs and to buy stuff like texts books for all students.

I pointed out at our DPAC meeting that, if our priority goal was really to educate young people, then budget cuts should come from the 93% of the budget going to public-sector employees rather than from the 7% needed to provide students with quality programming. Yet, most likely, the $3-4 million in cuts will come from this remaining 7% of the budget used for our students because this cut will cause the least amount of controversy among the arguing interested groups. But this means a devastating potential reduction of 35 to 47% in our ability, in dollar terms, to create effective and relevant educational programs for our young people!

But I’m sure when the open public meetings start on this problem next week in Nanaimo that we will have as many hard feelings and heated arguments expressed as have the people in Wisconsin.

It would seem that in our contemporary wrangling over public budget shortfalls that we could all use a reminder from the Apostle Paul about how we should approach working out what’s really in the best interest for our communities as a whole:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:3-5 New American Standard Bible).

dai ichi plant

When the Land of the Rising Sun coveted the Sun’s power

They’re called the Fukushima Fifty. This is a relatively small group of lower to mid-level managers, technicians, firemen, and electrical workers who are struggling to stop a nuclear disaster at the earthquake and tsunami-damaged Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant. The Fukushima Fifty were left holding the bag for the political and economic elites who made the decision in the first place to use nuclear power to generate electricity.

However, the designation “Fukushima Fifty” is actually something of a misnomer. In reality there are about 200 men divided into four shifts of 50 who are actually engaged in the round-the-clock struggle to restore human control over four of the six damaged nuclear reactors as well as to re-establish safe storage for a vast quantity of spent reactor cores that are stored at the power plant.

Reliable information is sketchy. But already some of the original Fukushima Fifty, maybe five, have died. Another dozen or so have sustained injuries and have been replaced. Those still desperately trying to fix the Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant realize, however, that they are merely dead men walking due to the enormous quantities of radiation that their bodies are receiving. But in their quiet Japanese stoicism, the Fukushima Fifty carry on. Their duty is clear. Spare their nation and the rest of the world from the worst of the possible consequences of our collective human misjudgement, or die trying.

The self-sacrificing courage of the Fukushima Fifty is worthy of praise. These are brave men. They are heroes. Yet, the ability of some humans to muster great courage in the face of terrible danger is not the issue.

What lead us to believe in the first place: “We can control the Sun’s power of nuclear reaction. We can become rich from the energy that comes by splitting the building blocks of the universe! Indeed, aren’t we Homo sapiens, wise men? If we can think it, we can most certainly do it!” The real issue of our time is our human pride. Far too many of us think we can take to ourselves the prerogatives of God without reaping the awful, horrendous consequences that come from such arrogance.

Still, for some time now people in a variety of nations have argued against the wisdom of employing nuclear energy to fuel our economic growth and comfortable lifestyles. But these voices of caution have been largely ignored and a massive new construction program for greatly enlarging nuclear power generation is being planned in many nations.

Yet for the Land of the Rising Sun in particular, their embrace of nuclear energy to generate massive quantities of electricity was always a bargain with the Devil. They should have known better. After all, they had first experienced the pointy edge of the Sun’s nuclear power at Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Second World War. And haven’t the Japanese always known that their homeland composed of islands on the Pacific Rim is a veritable supermarket of natural disasters?

Nevertheless, the Japanese like the Americans, Canadians, Brits, Russians, French, Germans, Indians, Chinese, Iranians, and all the rest have thought they could safely control this power of the Sun.

Humanity has long been disposed to thinking that we can be our own gods and decide for ourselves what is good or evil rather than accept divine revelation as our guide to morality as well as to economics.

“And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life also was in the middle of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…. And the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and keep it [guard it, i.e. protect it from despoliation or contamination so that it would continue to be life-supporting]. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree in the garden. But you shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that you eat of it in dying you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:7-9, 15-17).

From the time of our earliest ancestors we have resisted the instructions given to us by the Creator God of the Universe. The land surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant probably cannot be safely inhabited for 10,000 years after the nuclear meltdown of 1986. While the human death count from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster varies widely according to different analyses (4,000 to 200,000 cancer deaths), the question remains how can the use of nuclear power be reconciled with the divine command to “dress and keep ” our life-sustaining earthly garden of Eden?

And what will be the toll in Japan? How much of Japan will become uninhabitable due to the contamination of nuclear radiation? How many people will die of cancers? The price for presumptuously taking to ourselves the prerogatives of God will be increasingly costly not only in Japan, but throughout the world.

Japanese tsunami hits

Earthquake, tsunami, nuclear meltdown—what’s next?

Japanese tsunami hits

Destroying everything in its path

Massive earthquake, monster tsunami, nuclear disaster! I was listening on the CBC Radio One to an interview with the Japanese ambassador to Canada. He said his country could be likened to a supermarket for disasters.

The posted online videos of these Japanese disasters are astounding. One such video taken by someone who had fled for safety to the high ground behind his village, captured the event and its emotion. There, setting up his video camera on a tripod, the videographer captured the onslaught of the tsunami as it relentlessly swallowed up his village below. The Japanese tend to be a reserved, stoic people. But even they were moved by the horror unfolding before their very eyes. The camera’s microphone captured their gasps and cries of astonishment and pain from the group of survivors, watching everything below them that they cherished being destroyed by the tsunami’s irresistible power. Their sense of loss must have been incalculable.

We, post-moderns, tend to take a lot for granted. We think tomorrow will be just like today—only better! As such, we tend to be a very self-confident, self-assured bunch. So when such a disaster befalls people who drive cars like we do, who dress like we dress, who enjoyed a prosperous Western life like we enjoy, somewhere in the backs of our minds we feel uneasy. We feel a bit unsettled. Maybe we even sense our own lack permanence or stability when faced with death and destruction on such a massive scale.

What should be our perspective on the uncertain, temporary nature of life on a planet made up of shifting tectonic plates? The Bible would encourage us to seriously reflect on the big picture—the true picture—about just what is important in life.

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil (James 4:13-16 New Living Translation).

The values being pushed by our mass media are almost entirely focused on acquiring physical stuff and physical pleasure. However, the present disaster in Japan ought to give you and me some pause to reflect on one of Jesus’ most important teachings directed at this generation:

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God” (Luke 12:21 NLT).

Men of Honor - Genral Lee surrenders to Grant

How do we restore our honour?

Men of Honor - Genral Lee surrenders to Grant

Does honour have a role in our society anymore? Or, is it just a relic of the past that had, perhaps, its last great hurrah at Appomattox with Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant along with all those Red Badge of Courage soldiers of the American Civil War?

For many in our modern society the whole concept of honour seems to be antiquated, quaint, or maybe even dangerous. Certainly, some today talk up their own “honour” as ugly window-dressing to excuse their own bad and or even evil behaviour. As poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote of one such hypocrite: “The louder he talked of his honour, the faster we counted our spoons.”

Are we losing our sense of honour? Over 2,100 years ago, an emancipated Syrian slave named Publilius Syrus, who was publically recognized by Julius Caesar for his quick wit and wisdom, asked, “What is left when honour is lost?” The answer, of course, is… not much and not for long.

Think about this. For the last 30-40 years the Western liberal democracies have supported corrupt autocratic despots throughout North Africa and the Middle East despite the fact the all these nations’ governing elites actively were suppressing with force or buying off with bribery their own populations. Western governments sold out their political ideals in favour of realpolitik compromise in order to continue accessing cheap oil.

The European and North American governments were even willing to tolerate Muammar Qaddafi—a serial mass murderer proven to be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of their own citizens not to count the thousands of Libyans who perished at his orders. Our Western governments were willing to hold their noses despite Qaddafi’s stench of death just to continue accessing Libya’s “sweet crude” at cheap prices. Crude indeed! Where was honour? It had vanished in the West.

Six months ago on August 28, 2010, conservative media personality Glenn Beck held his ‘Restoring Honour’ rally on America’s National Mall in Washington, D.C., drawing a crowd of about 100,000. Enormously controversial, perspectives on Beck and his rally diverged sharply according to the typical American left-right political divide.

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly described it as an “appeal for a return to Judeo-Christian values” and called it “a huge victory for Glenn Beck and Americans who believe that his message of honour and dignity is worthwhile.” Conversely, liberal radio host Bill Press, who attended the rally personally, criticized the “Christian religious fervor” of the event, remarking that at one point he expected Beck “to part the Reflecting Pool and walk across it.” Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post described Beck as an “egomaniacal talk-show host who profit(s) handsomely from stoking fear, resentment and anger”, while calling his “absurdly titled” rally “an exercise in self-aggrandizement on a Napoleonic scale.”

It is amazing how the subject of honour, or teaching honour, or rebuilding standards of honour should be such a divisive, hot-button issue. Nevertheless it is! And the reason for this controversy over restoring honour is because the old, once agreed upon moral and ethical standards that once underpinned the concept of honour in our civilization have also vanished.

Recently, Brigham Young University, a private Mormon university in Provo, Utah, created quite a stir in the collegiate sports world—or maybe, astonishment is the better word—when it disqualified Brandon Davies from BYU’s highly ranked basketball team just prior to the NCAA championship tournament. Now for the uninitiated sportsphobe, Brandon Davies is not just your average hoopster. He is, or rather was, the BYU b-ball team’s superstar. Some say that it was his talent on the court that had made BYU a NCAA trophy contender. But whatever Brandon Davies basketball ability, it made no difference to the BYU administrators concerned with upholding the honour of their institution. Davies ran afoul of BYU’s Honour Code by having pre-marital sex with his girlfriend and that got him cut from the eligibility list. The BYU Honour Code cuts no special deals for “privileged personalities.” It states rather simply:

Be honest
Live a chaste and virtuous life
Obey the law and all campus policies
Use clean language
Respect others
Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, and substance abuse
Participate regularly in church services
Observe the Dress and Grooming Standards
Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code

Let’s be frank. With the exemption of Brigham Young’s Mormon idiosyncrasies regarding “alcoholic beverages… tea, coffee,” the rest of the BYU Honor Code is soundly based on the Judeo-Christian scriptures that have been the primary moral foundation for much of the Western world’s sense of personal honour for some 2,000 years. But in the “progressive” 2011 world of university amateur sports, such a code of honourable conduct no longer exists—or, perhaps it is more accurate to say, it is no longer really enforced even if those educational and sports institutions still have it on the books. To them even the mere idea of an honor code is laughable! Why?

Well, winning university sports programs equal big money: tens of millions of dollars from broadcast license fees, ticket sales, swag sales, corporate sponsorship and alumni donations. Winning is the only thing that counts to those institutions of lower learning. The profitable ends are seen as justifying the corrupt means. This is just like Western governments tolerating oppression and the spilled blood of innocents so they can keep the cheap “sweet crude” flowing. They’re immorally equivalent. Joe O’Connor, a reporter with National Post newspaper, observed:

College sports in the United States are awash with scurrilous dealings and out-and-out skullduggery. Schools with long and glorious winning traditions and boosters with money to burn will often resort to, well, just about anything to entice a superstar high school athlete to play for them and, once they are enrolled, do almost anything they can to keep them happy.
Need some new clothes? Done. Spending money? No problem. A car? Take mine. Free gas? Fill ’er up. Having trouble in school? We’ll write the test. Homesick? How about a prostitute? Yes. A prostitute. College athletes, the best of the best, are treated like gods. Naughty gods, while college coaches and athletic administrators are the great corrupters.

As the acerbic satirist H.L Mencken once wrote, “The difference between a [im]moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught.” (Prejudices: Fourth Series,’ 1924). Pardon my brackets of scribal emendation.

Today, while many American lefties discount the idea of having a rally to promote the idea of “restoring honour,” it should be noted that honour is the main reason the United States of America survived and prospered to become the most powerful nation in the world after its Civil War of some 150 years ago. How so?

On April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee, commanding general of the Army of Northern Virginia, was staring defeat in the eye. The southern Confederate States of America were in deep trouble after four years of warfare with the much richer and materially stronger northern United States of America. Surrounded on three sides by his foes, Lee knew that the history books are almost always written by a war’s victors. Typically in a civil war/rebellion situation, the victors get the spoils while the losers get it in the neck—just like in Libya today.

If Robert E. Lee surrendered to the opposing Union general, Ulysses S. Grant, he had no idea what his fate or that of his men would be. Humiliation? Prisoner of war camp? Execution as criminals? Neither Lee nor his men were afraid to die. They had already proven that countless times during the previous four years. But dishonour was something else. What should he do? Lee’s alternative to surrendering his army as a single unit was to allow his army to disband into small units and melt into the forested hills adjacent to his position and to carry on the Confederate struggle by guerrilla warfare.

The odds were that the South might actually beat the North in a protracted, vicious guerrilla conflict, just like the Spanish and Russians beat Napoleon or like, a century later the North Vietnamese and Chinese beat the Americans in Southeast Asia. In fact, historically, Abraham Lincoln and his Union generals’ greatest fear was that the weaker southern Confederacy would opt for guerrilla warfare in order to even the odds with the strong northern Union. They would bleed them white through low intensity conflict and countless small attacks and ambushes. As University of Maryland historian and Wall Street Journal contributor Jay Winik writes:

Total conquest could be resisted, until, perhaps, attrition and exhaustion would lead the North to sue the South for peace…. [Lee] listened to one of his most trusted advisers in the cool early morning hours of April 9…he was doing some quick calculations in his head about the effect that generations of bushwhacking—guerrilla warfare—would have on the country…. What was honorable? What was proper? What is right? He quickly reasoned that a guerrilla war would make a wasteland of all that he loved. Brother would be set against brother, not just for four years, but for generations. Such a war would surely destroy Virginia [and the South], and just as surely destroy the [northern United States] as well.

As [Lee] had once said, ‘It [is] better to do right, even if we suffer in so doing, than to incur the reproach of our consciences & posterity.” Thus, Robert E. Lee, so revered for his leadership in war, made his most historic contribution to peace. By this one momentous decision, he spared the country the divisive guerrilla warfare that surely would have followed, a vile and poisonous conflict” (April 1865, The month that saved America, HarperCollins, 2001, pp. 164-154.)

So, how do we in the 21st Century re-build a sense of honour amongst our peoples in the West? Perhaps surprisingly to some, Jesus of Nazareth pointed the way during his sermon on the mount when he said:

Trivialize even the smallest item in God’s Law and you will only have trivialized yourself. But take it seriously, show the way for others, and you will find honour in the kingdom. Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you won’t know the first thing about entering the kingdom [of eternal life and light] (Matthew 5:19-20 The Message paraphrase).

This is a remarkable teaching by the Son of Man linking moral thought and godly behaviour to honour. The Ten Commandments, in effect, make for a very effective code of honour. It is short in form and fairly easy to commit to memory. However, its profound, succinct principles have stood the test of time in providing the basis for serious reflection on and guidance in most of the dilemmas and questions that come our way in this life. Blow the dust of your Bible and check them out in either Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5.

As King David of ancient Israel would sing under the stars,

1 LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
2 He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;
3 He who does not backbite with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend;
4 In whose eyes a vile person is despised,
But he honors those who fear the LORD;
He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 He who does not put out his money at usury,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved. Psalm 15

Just think what a different world this would be if we actually embraced and lived by such a code of honour.


Will we be the “Dumbest Generation?”

idiocracy the movie

There is a small, but vocal, group of educational professionals who are deeply worried about the intellectual abilities of young people in secondary and post-secondary education these days. Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, said in his recently published book The Dumbest Generation:


According to recent reports from government agencies, foundations, survey firms, and scholarly institutions, most young people in the United States neither read literature (or fully know how), work reliably (just ask employers), visit cultural institutions (of any sort), nor vote (most can’t even understand a simple ballot). They cannot explain basic scientific methods, recount foundations of American history [many Canadian high school students don’t know who Winston Churchill was or what he did], or name any of their local political representatives. What do they happen to excel at is – each other. They spend unbelievable amounts of time electronically passing stories, pictures, tunes, and texts back and forth, savoring the thrill of peer attention and dwelling in a world of puerile banter and coarse images.

Many seasoned teachers say that students today have shorter attention spans than similar students that they taught two decades ago. Too many students are finding it difficult to concentrate seriously on anything requiring sustained intellectual effort. More than a few commentators would conclude that the current generation of students is inordinately focused on their social lives to their long-term intellectual detriment. Even in class many students find it incredibly hard to focus on the task at hand, rather they run their mouths, listen to their iPods, play video games or engage in “social nitwitting” on their so-called smartphones.

26“There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests—look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular. Luke 6:26 The Message, a paraphrase.

As parents and educators we are going counter to the social/cultural currents of our time when we ask young people to take the time to study and reflect on the great literature of the past or the political-social-religious foundations of our Western culture. Intellectual curiosity about the nature of our society and the world around us, the pursuit of logic and an understanding of cause and effect, learning for the sheer joy of learning, and the search for demonstrable, enduring truth seem to get trounced in the battle with the latest media technology – the gaming console, online or cable entertainment, and web-based social-networking.

In his book Mark Bauerlein asserts:

The technology that was supposed to make young adults more astute, diversify their tastes, and improve their minds had the opposite effect.

Some people would suggest that our children are merely shifting to a new type of technology-based learning suitable for the 21st Century. They would imply that the learning is not “inadequate”; it’s just “different.” They might even ask, why should kids need to study civics, history, current events, Shakespeare’s works, or Newton’s Laws, much less philosophy or the Bible any more!

Today’s students may be able to do well on the multiple-choice, machine-gradable standardized tests that allow them to regurgitate facts and figures. But as parents, educators, and leaders in society we need to ask, “how are they doing when it comes to the pursuit of excellence, social responsibility, and truth, instead of the pursuit of grades?” As teachers we know that some of our students in this brave new world of technology are not learning much more than the skills of “cut and paste” to plagiarize the work of others and call it their own. Truth and personal integrity have fallen under the pressure to “succeed” or the age-old enemy: sloth – laziness.

But the love of the truth is the most important element in education. The human mind to be educated must learn how to think and how to decide what is true from what is false. Ethics and morality are the work of reflective thinking. Just having information online doesn’t guarantee that people will be able to recognize and value the truth or use that information in an appropriate or ethical manner. Our young people need a meaningful education that motivates them to become better people. They need a love for the truth! Without this, everything we take for granted—our comfortable lifestyle, our freedoms, our ability to progress spiritually and materially—will erode or even disappear.

When you read the following passage from Scripture you will see that the debate over having a love for the truth is very old.

33 Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.

34 Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”

36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?”

Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”

38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked.

John 18 New Living Translation

Can you recognize and love the truth when you see it? Metaphorically, would you be willing to sell everything you own to possess it like a Pearl of Great Price. Or, are you like Pilate, uncertain or ambivalent when it comes to searching for what is true. It’s a choice we make for ourselves and our children and it will determine whether we will become the “dumbest generation.”

I’ll be live streaming this topic on March 5, 2011 at 11:30 a.m. PST. If you can’t make it then, don’t worry. The broadcast will be archived for later viewing. Check it out at

Hosni Mubarak as Pharaoh

Pharaoh Hosni, Corruption, and the Kingdom of God

The Egyptian pharaohs always did very well for themselves as the bosses of Egypt Inc. They lived luxuriously and had everything the heart could wish for…well, almost everything. But even when their jig was up, they could afford to go in style—solid gold caskets, incredible burial pyramids—grand monuments to human nature and pride, that still draw crowds of admiring tourists.

It seems the latest incarnation of King Tut, Egypt’s now ex-President Hosni Mubarak, could also afford to be buried in a solid gold casket or maybe a decently sized pyramid if he so chose—even at today’s inflated prices. After all, news reports estimate his personal fortune and that of other Mubarak family members to be in the $10-$80 billion range. Not bad for a fellow who spent 30 years of his life as leader of his nation and another 30 years or so in the Egyptian military. Obviously the Egyptians must take great pride in providing such a remarkably generous pension scheme for their chief public servant!

Although Hosni Mubarak had feet of clay that is not to say he didn’t accomplish some good and worthwhile things during his presidency. He did keep the peace for 30 years, which is not a bad trick in the Middle East. And although Pharaoh Hosni did fabulously enrich himself during his period of power, he is not wholly unlike most Western leaders who also benefit financially from their high offices in far more ways than the official remuneration schedule would otherwise suggest. In the Western world most leaders following their term in high public office secure lucrative book deals, well-paying directorships or executive positions at major corporations, generous public speaking honorariums, sky high consulting fees, and some fascinating financial planning services from private banks, etc. But perhaps the real measure of a leader’s success should be how the poorest segment of the population fared.  Mubarak made some headway in economic development and stabilization that led to a growth in GDP but how did the poor do under his regime?

While the wider economy was doing great due to lower tariffs and taxes in Egypt during the last 6 years or so, according to David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, there was no trickle-down effect for your average working Egyptian. Some 20% of Egyptians continued to struggle to survive in grinding poverty. Even highly educated Egyptians found themselves working 2 or 3 jobs in an effort to sustain themselves. Why? As Schenker notes:

“Corruption is rampant. Sweetheart deals are common…. Inflation [the state stealing monetary value from wage earners and the nation’s savings] was an astounding 12.8% in 2010.“

In the Worldwide Corruption Perception Index published by Transparency International, Egypt was ranked in 2010 as the 98th most corrupt country out of 178 countries, towards the top of the second half of all nations in this world. In other words, just about average from a worldwide perspective. The world’s most corrupt nation #178 was Somalia with the runners up for second most corrupt nations tied between Myanmar and Afghanistan (surprise, surprise).  The honours for the #1 spot, or least corrupt country was a tie between Denmark, New Zealand, and Sinapore. Canada was #6, while the U.S.A. was ranked #22. Corruption is a worldwide phenomenon.

It would seem that in the human sphere in this age when it comes to government and leadership, the great deeds and good works announced by those in power often come at a price. The cost is a corruption that oppresses and beats down hardest upon the poorest members of society.

A major focus of the Christian hope and the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is a change in governance, that will bring peace and prosperity for all – without corruption.

Why is it important that Jesus Christ will sit in the chief seat of public service in the coming Kingdom of God? The answer rests in His character. As the Apostle Paul praised Him:

17Now to the King of eternity, incorruptible and immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever (to the ages of ages). Amen (1 Timothy 1:17 Amplified Version).

Christ, the Messiah, is incorruptible. His character is faithful, true, pure, and honest.  Besides being incorruptible, Jesus Christ is also immortal. Immortality is something neither corrupt pharaohs, nor any other corrupt person can buy. Perversely, selfish human nature focuses on futilely amassing during this short lifetime a pile of money or goods. But as the country song goes, “I ain’t seen no luggage racks on the hearses going to the graveyard.” Christ is the creator, the owner, the master of the universe, so there is no covetousness or greedy desire to acquire things at the expense of those that are under his care.

As the financial newsletter writer, Doug Casey, notes:

“Corruption is a betrayal of a trust for personal gain.”

Escaping the clutches of this common, corrupt human nature is just one major reason why the true Gospel about the coming Kingdom of God was preached by both Jesus and the early Christian church.

The Gospel of this coming new incorruptible political reality that will govern this earth is a major focus of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. A key prophecy for the future in the book of Daniel states:

“Sovereignty, power, and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be given to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will last forever, and all rulers will serve and obey him,” (Daniel 7:27).

If you would like to hear more about this foundational biblical teaching on the incorruptible Kingdom of God, then check out my streaming video message on this subject, The Gospel Part 3, at:


Black Swans, Auschwitz, Egypt, and the normalcy bias

Sixty-six years ago on January 27, 1945, Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet Red Army troops. Today this day is remembered around the world as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. During WWII more than a million Jews and many others were exterminated at that concentration camp run by the Nazi SS under the command of Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, one of the German dictator Adolf Hitler’s chief executioners.

To seek to really understand what went on at Auschwitz is to desire an insight into the evil twisted minds of the tarnished, fallen spirits and their morally corrupt human stooges of that time who together ruled in Nazi-occupied Europe during WWII.

Today, many modern secular people and even the supposed religious ones have a hard time coming to grips with the idea that humanity has long had a very real, tenacious spiritual enemy. This Adversary, this Satan, and his companions in darkness have always delighted in sowing misery, suffering and death  from generation to generation.

For Satan creating Auschwitz for Jewish extermination was just his perverted idea of fun, a sort of final solution theme park.

Don’t believe it? Well, notice what Jesus of Nazareth said about the source of motivation of those individuals who would eventually crucify him:

For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44 New Living Translation).

The Nazis were some of the biggest liars, deceivers, and murderers in history. But, of course, they weren’t the only ones. All of humanity’s oppressors have drawn the inspiration to do what they’ve done from the same well of malevolence.

But there is another part to this tragedy. Why did so many German Jews just hang around in Germany after Adolf Hitler rose to power during the early 1930s? Didn’t they believe what Hitler wrote in his book Mein Kampf? Didn’t they believe what their eyes told them as the Nazi storm troopers marched through their streets, harassing them, beating them up, throwing rocks through their windows, burning books? Why didn’t they catch on as the Nazis passed increasingly discriminatory, oppressive laws against them?

Of the 550,000 Jews living in Germany in 1930, some 100,000 fled from Adolf Hitler’s Reich by 1935. But 450,000,  stayed. They thought the dictator’s bark would be worse than his bite. Life was good. They were comfortable, and materialistically well off. They considered that there had long been anti-Semitic attitudes, and occasionally unpleasant incidents. Things probably wouldn’t get much worse, they thought.

Most German Jews in the early 1930s suffered from a normalcy bias. They didn’t understand that history is littered with Black Swans, those unexpected events that can’t be planned for or otherwise rationally anticipated. The European Jews of 80 years ago couldn’t believe their world would collapse into a horrific deadly nightmare. They couldn’t imagine that the civilized, cultured German nation would carry out a ruthless, systematic campaign of extermination against them—even to the point of rendering their body fat into soap and using their skins for lampshades!

Those doomed Jews thought tomorrow would be like yesterday and that life would continue to be more or less normal as it had been. They had a normalcy bias. By the time they perceived that they were mistaken, it was too late for most to escape their rendez-vous with Auschwitz’s ovens.

We are experiencing another Black Swan moment unfolding before our eyes right now. Seething change is sweeping the Islamic Middle East. You can bet that right now Satan is concentrating his attention on fanning the flames of resentment, hatred, and the spirit of murder in Egypt and everywhere else throughout that region where the religion of Mohammed dominates.

Ordinary, long-suffering Egyptians are tired of the corrupt, venial, authoritarian government of Hosni Mubarak. They want reform and change. But they have no apparent leaders and no plan on how to actually accomplish their frustrated desires for a better life. Wishful-thinking accompanied by spiritual blindness renders an individual or a whole nation like 1930s Germany a prey to clever manipulators.

18Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of Jesus Christ], the people perish; but he who keeps the law [of God, which includes that of man]–blessed (happy, fortunate, and enviable) is he (Proverbs 29:18, Amplified Bible).

The Egyptians are going to be misled, deceived, and used by Satan just like the hard-pressed, desperate German people were in the 1930s by those agents of darkness who promised them jobs and prosperity through the manufacture of weapons of warfare and the building of public works, like the death camps at Auschwitz. But the end for the Germans, the Jews, and practically everyone else in Europe was not good, but evil, disaster, and death on an unprecedented scale!

Good Samaritans do the right thing

Are you ready in your mind to act instantly to do the right thing should you be called upon to help out in an emergency?

January 17th seemed a normal enough start to a Monday morning for Constable Lane Douglas-Hunt of the Victoria police department as she walked out of a downtown convenience store where she had investigated a complaint about a stolen candy bar. But life can turn in an instant.  Suddenly a mentally unstable man with a taste for violence and a large filet knife launched a vicious, unprovoked attack on the young rookie constable, stabbing her in the neck and then slashing her hands as she attempted to defend herself.

Blair Bates, a local plumber with kickboxing and kung fu training, just happened to be driving by on his way to work. Bates saw the attack, and stood on his breaks pulling over to the curb by the pair now struggling on the sidewalk with the assailant on top slashing away at the severely wounded, weakened police officer. The Canadian Press story quotes the intervening plumber as saying,

“It was just an instant, primal, instinctual reaction, and there was no thought, it was just do… There was no adrenaline, no nothing. I just thought, ‘I have to address this….’ I knew that if I didn’t (help) that she was a goner.

“Within split seconds, he threw all 200 lbs. of his wide-framed body on the attacker, knocking him off the woman as the pair rolled on the ground. He could see she was bleeding profusely from her hands and appeared to be in shock. He dug his knee into the man’s back, slugged his ears several times, and subdued him by saying ‘Buddy, just give me an excuse to kill you.’ The trembling officer flung out her handcuffs and with the help of two more people they restrained him.

“Sgt. Grant Hamilton, spokesman for the Victoria Police, said it was the Good Samaritans’ choice to put themselves in danger. ‘Obviously in this situation we’re very glad they did,’ he said. ‘It’s the right thing to do.’”

In a world when so many just don’t want to get involved, or get out of their comfort zone should someone need their help, the Scriptures have something to say to each of us about our personal accountability when we see others in trouble.  

Don’t give up and be helpless in times of trouble.

Don’t fail to rescue those who are doomed to die.

Don’t say, “I didn’t know it!”

God can read your mind.

He watches each of us and knows our thoughts.

And God will pay us back for what we do (Proverbs 24:10-12, Contemporary English Version).

Helping others doesn’t always require the years of martial arts training or the sheer guts that Blair Bates was able to call upon to help Const. Douglas-Hunt in her time of need. All that you need is a heart willing to love your neighour as yourself.

A few weeks ago I was driving home in Nanaimo with my 13-year-old son when I heard a loud pop. Suddenly, smoke started billowing out obscuring my vision. Quickly pulling over to the curb, I popped the hood only to see the engine engulfed in flames and clouds of dark, foul-smelling smoke. Not having anything more useful in that old car, I got a bit of carpet out of the trunk and tried to beat down the flames while I sent my son running to knock on the neighbours’ doors so see if someone had a fire extinguisher. Fortunately someone was ready and willing to help and I was able to put out the fire and save the car plus a week’s groceries.

The godly principle is that we are to be our brother and sister’s keeper. God himself promises to pay us back for whatever good we do for others. Now that’s a truly win-win proposition. If we taught this truth a little more vigorously in our society, our communities would soon become much better places in which to live. Hats off to our Good Samaritans!