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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The peaceful fruit of righteousness

From today's readings (US):

Letter to the Hebrews 12,4-7.11-15. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. You have also forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons: "My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges." Endure your trials as "discipline"; God treats you as sons. For what "son" is there whom his father does not discipline? At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it. So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God, that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many may become defiled,

Monday, January 29, 2007

A (former) Calvinist now calls Rome Sweet Home

God bless him. His journey started with questions and continue with more questions. Like these:

Actually, my skepticism started with a rather simple question: Where would I have attended church during the first 1,500 years of church history? This question, posed by Jargon, has haunted me every day since. Given my Calvinist distinctives, which church would have claimed me as one of their own? Which church father would identify with my protestant doctrines? Why do I feel spiritually disconnected from the first 1,500 years of the church? These questions, and many others, were the center of my spiritual reflection since that day.

Much of it also boiled down to a question I had been very fond of asking others during debates: by what standard? That question was the clincher in virtually any theological debate. It forced my opponents to grapple with the concept of authority vs. autonomy. Problem was that this question turns out to be a smoking gun in the case against Protestantism. By what standard do we deem one worldview Christian and another non-Christian? The Bible? By what standard do we deem one interpretation of the Bible to be the Christian worldview while excluding another interpretation? Furthermore, by what standard do we deem one book canonical and another extra-biblical? By what standard? Who’s authority? Where did they get it from? How is their conclusion binding?

Welcome home, brother!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Threat to free speech in the US

Free speech may be imperiled, in the US, of all places:

In reaction to the lobbying scandals of the past several years associated with Jack Abramoff and others, the U.S. Senate is seriously considering lobbying reform legislation (S.1).

But within the 56-page measure are sweeping new restrictions on free speech regarding what is going on in Congress.

Section 220 of the bill would for the first time restrict and regulate paid efforts to stimulate "grassroots lobbying." Section 220 defines "grassroots lobbying" as follows: "The term ‘grassroots lobbying’ means the voluntary efforts of members of the general public to communicate their own views on an issue to Federal officials or to encourage other members of the general public to do the same."

This provision would have a chilling, if not freezing, effect on grassroots organizations like Feminists for Life – and your right to be informed about what is going on in Congress.

Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) has offered BENNETT AMENDMENT No. 20 to Senate Bill 1. The BENNETT AMENDMENT removes the most dangerous section of S.1 by striking Section 220 entirely from the bill. (The reporting requirements and fines included in Section 220 are listed below.)

Feminists for Life joins National Right to Life Committee and other advocacy groups in strongly supporting the BENNETT AMENDMENT No. 20.

The vote on the BENNETT AMENDMENT will likely be today—Wednesday, January 17th. Discussion on the floor has just begun! Please contact your U.S. senators NOW to urge support for the BENNETT AMENDMENT No. 20 to Senate Bill 1—an amendment that will help protect our right to advocate on behalf of women and children. Call 202-224-3121 and ask for your senator’s offices. Or you can go to this web-link to find a direct dial number.

Don’t let anyone take away our right to advocate on behalf of women and children. Thank you.

Because women deserve better,
Serrin M. Foster
Feminists for Life of America


-- Under Section 220 of S. 1, anyone who is paid anything by an organization that spends any money at all to encourage more than 500 members of the general public to communicate with members of Congress, if he or she also has contacted congressional offices directly as few as two times, and has spent as little as 20% of his or her time on such direct lobbying and grassroots-motivating activities, would be required to register with Congress and file detailed quarterly reports, including information regarding donors to the organizations under some circumstances.

-- In addition, any such individual who is paid by an organization or organizations spending more than $25,000 in a three-month period on "paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying" would also be required to register and report expenditures as a "grassroots lobbying firm."

-- Violation of the bill's requirements would be punishable by a civil fine of up to $200,000 per infraction. "Corrupt" violations would also be punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison (whether a given violation was deemed "corrupt" would be initially determined by a U.S. attorney, a political appointee).


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pharmaceuticals and Government

This case of Novo Nordisk providing funds for the Tasmanian Liberal senator's forum discussing obesity issues does not sound as bad as it could. There is no direct conflict of interest, and we should be happy to hear of money donated for public health awareness. We should be more concerned about the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which is funded by pharmaceutical companies. How can it be advocates for safe therapeutic goods when its operations are funded exclusively by the makers of those goods?

Please don't starve us to death!

It appears that it has become necessary in the UK to tell doctors what used to be (and should remain) common sense: if a patient is still sustained by food and water, then he or she should continue to receive them. Apparently, the law requires doctors to terminate patients if their "quality of life" -- based on the doctor's judgment -- has become unbearable. The trouble is that doctors can't really tell what's going on inside a person's mind who cannot communicate anymore. They can't even determine for a fact what constitutes a permanent vegetative state. Hey, we're not asking for thousands of dollars in expensive drugs and treatment: just food and water. What's the big deal? Whatever happened to basic human rights?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Stem cells from amniotic fluid

This is good news (from Associated Press, 2007-01-07):

Scientists reported Sunday they had found a plentiful source of stem cells in the fluid that cushions babies in the womb and produced a variety of tissue types from these cells -- sidestepping the controversy over destroying embryos for research.

[Link found via Catholic World News.]

Update: So this research has been heavily opposed in some quarters:

Jan. 9, 2007 (CWNews.com) - One of the scientists responsible for a breakthrough in stem-cell research has reported that he encountered heavy resistance to the publication of his work because it used stem cells obtained from amniotic fluids rather than from embryonic tissues.

Paolo De Coppi told the Italian ANSA news agency that a groundbreaking paper published this week in Nature Biotechnology had previously been rejected by four different journals. “It took seven years to get our paper published,” he said.

Whatever happened to objective science?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Why do we oppose embryonic stem cell research?

It's come to mind a few times before, and this statement from Dr. Markus Grompe, director of Oregon Health & Science University's Stem Cell Center since 2004 nails it right -- painfully, as I've never come right out and said it before:

The reason we object to embryonic stem-cell research is not because the cells are not good or the adult cells are better. The real reason is that we have moral and ethical objections. We have to stick to our guns. Just because a medical procedure is immoral doesn't mean it will not work.

I've been sticking to the "embryonic stem cell treatments have never worked but dozens of adult stem cell treatments have" slogan for years because it's easier to cite that. I feel more comfortable citing empiricals to non-believers. But Dr. Grompe is right: it's far more courageous -- and utterly important -- to declare what is not so easy to say. We oppose it because it is wrong, regardless of how effective or ineffective it is.

On the other hand, I cannot shake this feeling that the science behind embryonic stem cell research are futile simply because nature rebels against it. The physical universe is not the chaos that some, particularly atheists, declare it to be, whether they are aware of it or not. This does not square with the evidence. Physical laws of nature exist, and everything in the physical universe complies with those laws consistently and constantly. Certain realities even in the field of medical research have yet to be bent to man's will, such as the propensity of tissues, e.g., grown from embryonic stem cells, to become cancerous when transplanted to a host other than its own source. This is the primary hindrance, the way I understand it, to embryonic stem cell treatments: cancer cells are created in the patient because.. well.. that's just how it seems to go.

Still, since I am no expert in the medical sciences, I had best keep to what I know more about. Embryonic stem cell research is wrong simply because it destroys countless human lives -- that of the embryo. Even if intending to save other human lives, it simply does not square. It is one thing to voluntarily sacrifice one's own life to save another, it is quite another thing to make that decision for someone else.

[Full article here. Link found via the Curt Jester.]

Monday, January 08, 2007

Nature of Authority is Theme of Evangelical-Catholic Dialogue

WASHINGTON (January 4, 2007)--The Evangelical – Catholic dialogue held its fifth meeting at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, October 6-8, 2006. Most Rev. Frederick Campbell, Diocese of Columbus, Ohio completed his term as Bishop Co-Chair and a new co-chair will be appointed soon. The dialogue considered the theme of the nature of authority, especially in Scripture ...

It's always good to tackle these questions head on. The report does not say, but I hope and pray that the outcome has been positive.

Morning after pill inefective??

So a New Zealand pharmaceutical recently admitted that RU-486 (aka the morning after pill or Plan B) Plan B is an abortificent. Now a scientific study published in the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology strongly suggests that RU-486 the "morning after pill" "has not been shown to reduce unintended pregnancy rates." What does it mean, then? Well apart from robbing consumers blind, it provides that nasty false sense of security to fool around, setting couples up for heartache and the possibility (a strong one, since they already ignore abortificent warnings about Plan B) of subsequently opting for clinical abortion. The winners are the pharmaceuticals who earn money for nothing, and abortion clinics who earn millions from abortion procedures. The losers are the unborn as well as the women who risk their health and lives from the potentially fatal complications of RU-486 chemical and clinical abortions.

Update: My apologies for errors, now edited above. Plan B (the morning after pill, progestin-based) is not equivalent to RU486 (mifepristone, the chemical abortion pill). Although both substances can prevent fertilized eggs to implant successfully on the uterine lining.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Stealing their childhood

And parents are going along. Completely unaware that they are being fleeced of their hard-earned money to give their children temporary thrills and lifelong heartaches. The parents are being robbed of their money and the children are being deprived of sensibilities.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Whatever happened to responsible journalism?

Is the NY Times still respectable if they are verified to have published lies? And what are they planning to do about it? "The New York Times is seriously contemplating removing its public editor (ombudsman) position which was instituted in 2003 to be an independent voice for the public within the paper in order to maintain credibility." They created that position to safeguard the truth, but they'd rather discard the truth, it seems.

[Via LifeSite.net]

Truth in advertising

Plan B (RU486) is an abortificent. That's what the manufacturer in New Zealand says. So will the peddlers of contraception and abortion please stop lying about it?

[Via LifeSite.net]

Further reading: The RU-486 Files.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Mother of God

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio writes a short but very informative piece about the controversy that is still generated by the Catholic and Orthodox dogma of Mary as the Mother of God (in Greek: Theotokos or "God-bearer". If you are one of those who squirm at this title, or know people who would, then please read this piece. As with any spiritual reading, please ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and reveal the truth to you before you start reading. After a thoughtful and prayerful reflection, please consider the implications of this dogma:

God the Son united Himself with a human nature forever. Humanity and divinity were so closely bound together in Jesus, son of Mary, that they could never be separated again. Everything that would be done by the son of Mary would be the act both of God and of man. So indeed it would be right to say that a man raised Lazarus from the dead and commanded the wind and waves, that God was born that first Christmas day and that, on Good Friday, God died.

And please consider the implications of rejecting this dogma:

It would mean that God had not really embraced our humanity so as to become human. Rather, the humanity of Christ is hermetically sealed off from the divinity, as if Jesus were two persons, as if human nature were so distasteful that God, in Christ, had to keep it at arm's distance. ...

[Did God] just come and borrow a human body and drive it around for awhile, ascend back to heaven, and discard it like an old car[?]