How Much Do You Have to Hate Someone Not to Proselytize?

Francis Schaeffer on the Origins of Relativism in the Church

One of My Favorite Songs

An Inspiring Song


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sherlock Holmes' Martial Arts a la YouTube

The subject having been brought up on another blog, I thought I'd put together a few YouTube clips highlighting Sherlock Holmes' martial arts prowess.

Sherlock Holmes' Boxing
There is a little mild "language." You've been warned.

Sherlock Holmes' Fencing

They disabled embedding, but if you want to see what it means when it says that Holmes was an expert "singlestick" player, here's a clip of a singlestick bout.

Sherlock Holmes's "Baritsu"
This one has musical accompaniment, which I find unfortunate, but you can see Holmes' use of "baritsu" at about 1:25 into the clip.

A Short Bit on Bartitsu
If you wanted to know more...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Old Footage of Taika Oyata

I don't know who put this up, or when it was taped. If I had to make my guess, I'd say it was taped at a seminar sometime in the early 1980s.

There are some interesting applications here, especially from the Naihanchi katas, and also some very interesting tanbo applications that I've never seen on video before. If you're interested in old Okinawan kobujutsu or tuite, you might find this fifteen minutes well spent.

Clinic Held at Tejutsu Dojo - Amazing videos are here

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Now, There Y'Go!

I approve of Mrs. Palin's choice of reading material. Mr. Levin's book is not perfect, but it is as good an introduction to conservatism proper as we are likely to get in such a short space. I wish everyone interested in the subject would take the time to read it--and I especially wish Republican candidates and office-holders would read it, as I long ago grew convinced that most of them didn't quite "get" the true basis of conservatism.

At any rate, if I see a picture of her with a copy of The Fair Tax Book, or The Great Betrayal, my mind's made up: if she runs, she gets my vote.

Hat Tip to John Lott

Friday, July 24, 2009

An Interesting Story Involving RyuTe

I found this in the comments section on an old post that came up when I was searching for something else. Make of it what you will.
‘Grand Master --- ----- of ------- ----- Karate’ isn’t just a name I pulled out of my hat, he at least was (perhaps still is) a martial artist practicing in Tulsa, OK (he had a website a few years ago, but it no longer exists and I haven’t been able to find it on the wayback machine). My encounter with him was in the fall of 1994 when I went to Tulsa to attend a seminar/demonstration put on by Taika Seiyu Oyata of Ryu-Te.

Taika Oyata was demonstrating some of his knockout techniques for which he is famous, when a member of the audience interrupted the demonstration. He had a long mullet with glasses, and was wearing a tank top with a dixie flag that said “------- ------ Karate”. He introduced himself as ---- -----, a karate practitioner in Tulsa.

To keep it short, he said that he didn’t believe that Oyata’s knockout techniques were real, and he brought one of his students for Oyata to demonstrate on to prove the technique’s authenticity. To Oyata’s credit he kept his cool, but instead said that ----- himself could come down and he would demonstrate the technique on him.

So when ---- ----- was ready, Oyata hit him on the neck with his fingers, and ----- summarily dropped like a sack of potatoes. Oyata then revived him, helped him up, and demonstrated it again. And again. In all he demonstrated his knockout technique on Mr. ----- 5 or 6 times, from different openings and positions. When he was done, Mr. ----- slowly got up, thanked Taika Oyata for the demonstration, and returned to his seat, remaining silent for the rest of the seminar.
I didn't link, obviously, and I left the man's name out, because I didn't want anybody who might be crawling the web for mentions of this guy's name to get his thong in a wad over the story, as seems to have happened in the other post's comments. I just thought it was interesting.

My own instructor knew of this guy and this story; the way he tells it, the man went on to teach "kyusho-jitsu" at his own school (before it closed, long ago), on the strength of having been to one or two of Taika Oyata's seminars--which illustrates something of importance: if you are going to study martial arts, it's worth taking the time to figure out exactly what's being taught, who the teacher learned from, and whether or not the system itself is solid. You might be surprised to find out the true lineage of some of the teachers in your area. In mine, I am quite convinced that at least a couple of them either have created their own systems from what they were able to learn on video, or have just made stuff up out of thin air. But by golly, they have paying students...

You know, I've not yet been knocked out by a nerve strike. There's no doubt in my mind, though, that they work. I've been on the receiving end of enough nerve techniques that either left an entire limb buzzing as though I'd stuck my finger in an electric socket or felt like a red-hot icepick was being shoved through my anatomy. That sort of thing does have a way of convincing a person...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A YouTube Taste of RyuTe

You may have picked up on the fact that I practice a martial art called "RyuTe." It is classical Okinawan karate, which is somewhat different from the modern forms of karate.

At any rate, it occurred to me the other day that there are several videos on YouTube featuring either Taika Seiyu Oyata, the system's founder, or his students. Here they are, in no particular order. Some show Taika quite some time ago. Some show certain of his students. Together, they might give you the flavor of what it is I'm trying to learn.

Monday, July 20, 2009

An Excellent Point

Many times I've heard that we should strive to live out the character of Christ in order to draw people to Him. Much as I agree that we ought to strive for Christlikeness, this assertion has always seemed a bit shaky to me. Michael Patton nails down why:
Thankfully, God did not confine the validation of his message to the character witness of sinners. If he did, we are all in trouble. Why? Because your character is grossly lacking. The character of the Christian community is weak at best. The character of Christian leaders is shaky and brittle. The history of the church, no matter what tradition, does not have a pretty track record.


...this is no reason for anyone to give a second thought to whether Christianity is true or not. Christianity is not based upon my character. It’s veracity is not dependent in any way on the faithfulness of its followers.


The idea would be that so long as we love one another, then Christianity is validated. Therefore, we should not do theology or apologetics, but just set an example and Christianity will be evidence through our character. As much as I appreciate the desire for Christians to act like Christians, this is a dangerous misunderstanding of this passage. It places the validation of Christianity upon our character witness. But the passage does not suppose the truthfulness of Christianity is dependent on our character. It does, however, suppose the truthfulness of our Christian confession is dependent on our character. If we don’t love one another, it does not make Christianity any less true. It only makes our profession to be Christian less true. Likewise, if we do love one another, Christianity is no truer than before.

Christianity is based solely on the person and work of Christ.


...“Christianity is true if Christ rose from the dead. If he did not, it is false.” That is it. It does not matter how Christians respond to the conflict in Palestine, Iraq, or any other place. It does not depend on whether you are nice to your neighbor or a murderer. It does not depend on whether all Christians are unified or divided. It does not hinge on your character or mine. It does not even depend on our perseverance in the faith. Its truthfulness is solely a matter of history. Is Christ who he said he was?


If we ever give the impression that Christianity is validated by our character witness, God forgive us for misleading so many. We are poor and weak, but the foundation of Christianity—the historic God-man Jesus Christ—is forever strong.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Kicking Exercise #1

Prior to joining the RyuTe Renmei about a quarter-century ago, my instructor spent fifteen years doing Japanese Goju Ryu (lineage: Gogen Yamaguchi-->Peter Urban/Lou Angel-->Gary Boyd-->my instructor), and there are a few things that we've held onto from that system. One of them is an exercise developed by Mr. Boyd called "Kicking Exercise #1." I love this exercise. It is flexible. It is good for overall conditioning. It is good for balance, especially learning to keep your balance through multiple pivots and weight shifts. I'll describe it here as best I can (NO, I'm not going to show you!: Maybe someday when I've achieved such command of it that I can make it last a good four minutes or so.). Anyone who's at all familiar with any sort of karate, Okinawan, Japanese, or Korean, should be able to follow my terms quite easily.

Assume a natural stance, or ready position.

Move your right foot back into a forward stance (sounds contradictory, I know, if you're not familiar with it, but all it means is that your left foot is left in the leading position) and bring your arms down to your sides as though you were doing a low block on each side.

With your right leg, execute a side-thrust kick to your front, solar-plexus height. All of the kicks will be to solar-plexus height. Bring your hands up to a guard position as you do so.

When you bring that leg down, land in a natural stance facing the way opposite that which you started. That is, if your first natural stance faced north, you are now facing south.

With your left leg, execute a back-thrust kick in your original direction of travel. That is, if your side-kick went north, so does your back kick.

Land in a horse stance. Your chest is now facing eastward, so to speak.

With your right leg, execute a round kick to the "north," that is, toward the direction you were originally facing..

As you land, do so--this is difficult to describe--by placing your right foot down about two shoulder widths in front of your left foot and one shoulder width to the right of that foot. As your weight settles, pivot fully into a right-leg-forward forward stance. You don't want to CLOMP down into that stance, you want to PLACE your foot into position and then pivot fully into it.

Execute a front-thrust kick with your left leg. Land in a forward stance, left leg forward.

Look over your right shoulder, start to pivot your torso, and then move your right leg over and pivot into a right-leg-forward forward stance. Repeat the exercise on the opposite side.

You will have to adjust your position from time to time, as the exercise fairly obviously moves you over body-width by body-width as you repeat it.

What makes this exercise so difficult? Well, any idiot can do it fast. And if you repeat it many times at full speed, it can be a pretty decent little aerobic workout. But it really comes into its own when you do it with slow, continuous motion.

VERY slow, continuous motion. TORTUROUSLY slow, continuous motion. If you are not having difficulty maintaining your balance at some points throughout the exercise, you are not doing it slowly enough. The slower you can do this exercise, the better. And it works. As far as I can tell, doing the exercise this way improves all your kicks. Snap kicks in every direction, thrust kicks in every direction. If I had to limit myself to one, and only one way to practice kicking, I'm not at all sure that I wouldn't choose this exercise.

If you're interested in the Northeastern Oklahoma variety of Japanese Goju Ryu, here's where you need to start.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Minimum Wage in Small Words

If you didn't already know, the minimum wage is scheduled to go up before the end of this month. That being the case, I thought it not inappropriate to resurrect this old post from a previous blogging incarnation. I have edited it a little bit to take unnecessary snark out of it, though I have no doubt there will be some who still find certain elements of it offensive. Also, I have not checked the links to see if they still work. If they have gone dead over time, I apologize, but I really haven't the time to hunt the material down again. And of course, some of the information in the links, like family income figures, may be out of date. It matters not. The material is still illustrative.
It drives me 'round the bend when I hear--from people who honestly ought to know better, in fact, I am convinced, do know better, which makes it all the worse--that they want to raise the minimum wage to help the poor. To help those people struggling so hard to raise families on the minimum wage. My reaction is very basic, almost visceral: bullski. Raising the minimum wage does not help the poor. It is only a way of rewarding the political loyalty of the unions.

Many times, it seems to me that people who pontificate about how we must raise the minimum wage have scarcely bothered to look into the actual facts of the matter. I don't think they care to. It is so much easier to sound enlightened and charitable when you can make up your mind absent the facts! It is so much easier to convince yourself that you want to help the poor when you don't examine the results of what you propose. As Rush has said so often, there are too many people who want their policies to be judged on the good intentions behind them rather than on their results. Such is the case when it comes to the minimum wage. Let me explain:

1) First, it is an utter canard that any significant quantity of people are trying to raise families on the minimum wage. I'd suggest that this should be obvious to anyone who's actually worked with minimum-wage workers for any length of time (I spent about fourteen years hiring and working with them), as you can see with your own two eyeballs, over and over again, that the overwhelming majority of your co-workers are young, usually in school, or working that job to supplement other household income. In other words, it is very misleading--a totally false picture, really--to suggest that very many families are dependent on the wages of a minimum-wage worker. It is a myth, something created by poverty-pimps to advance their political agenda.

I'll condense some material that explains this in more detail. You can find the full article, together with the attendant notes and tables, here. Any emphasis is mine.
Data from the Department of Labor show that most minimum wage-earners are young, part-time workers and that relatively few live below the poverty line. A minimum wage hike, then, is more a raise for suburban teenagers than for the working poor.

...Using another measure of earnings that includes tips, 1.3 million Americans earn the minimum wage or less per hour, or 1.1 percent of the total working population.

...Most workers who earn the minimum wage or less fall into two categories: young workers, usually in school, and older workers who have left school. The majority of minimum wage-earners fall into the first category:

53 percent of those earning $5.15 or less per hour are between the ages of 16 and 24...Minimum wage workers under 25 are typically not their family’s sole breadwinner. Rather, they live in middle-class households that do not rely on their earnings. For the most part, they have not finished their schooling and are working part-time jobs. These workers represent the largest group that would directly benefit from a higher minimum wage.

Here are a few important characteristics of the teenagers and young adults who earn the minimum wage or less:

* Fully 67 percent work part-time jobs.
* Their average family income is $64,000 per year.
* Only 17 percent live at or below the poverty line, while 65 percent enjoy family incomes over twice the poverty line.

* They have less education than the population as a whole. Fully 36 percent have not completed high school, and 21 percent have only a high school degree. Another 37 percent have taken college courses but do not yet have a bachelor’s degree; many of these are college students working part-time while in school...

Even the vast majority of older adults who earn the minimum wage live above the poverty line. They have an average family income of $33,600 a year, well above the poverty line of $19,806 per year for a family of four....

Here are a few important characteristics of the 47 percent of minimum wage-earners who are over the age of 24:

* More than half—56 percent—work part-time jobs.
* They have an average family income of $33,606 per year.
* Just 23 percent live in poverty, while 45 percent have incomes over twice the poverty line.

Many advocates of higher minimum wages argue that the minimum wage needs to rise to help low-income single parents. However, minimum wage workers do not fit this stereotype more than the population as a whole. Just 6.1 percent of minimum wage workers over the age of 24 are single parents working full-time, compared to 6.3 percent of all hourly workers...while some minimum wage-earners do live below the poverty line, these workers are far from representative. Only one in five minimum wage-earners lives in a family that earns less than the poverty line. Three-fifths work part-time, and a majority are under 25 years old.

Minimum wage-earners’ average family income is almost $50,000 per year. Very few are single parents working full-time to support their families—no more than in the population as a whole. It is not surprising, then, that studies show that higher minimum wages do not reduce poverty rates.
In other, simpler words, then: raising the minimum wage is not something being advanced to help people out of poverty.

Those advancing this idea know the facts full well. They are simply demagoguing the issue for the sake of political power, or, sometimes, as I have mentioned from time to time, trying to punish the rich. Sad to say, there are people who are more interested in misguided vengeance than they are in protecting genuine unalienable rights or in actual results.

2) One does not wrench with the Law of Supply and Demand lightly. Good grief, I cannot believe that I'm actually having to explain this. I wouldn't have thought that one could escape even a government school without understanding this. And God knows, if it's a private school that was responsible, a refund is certainly in order. But I digress. To reiterate: one does not wrench with the Law of Supply and Demand lightly. Doing so tends to result either in shortages or in unemployment--sometimes both. In the case of the minimum wage, what actually happens is that the less capable, the marginally employable, those who have the hardest time finding work, tend either not to find work or to be thrown out of work when the minimum wage goes up. This, obviously, is devastating to those people, making it harder than ever for them to climb out of poverty. In the following material, emphasis is again mine.
...raising the minimum wage is not necessary for the official working poor to increase their income. Between 1998 and 2002 median wage growth for minimum wage employees was more than five times that for those earning above the minimum wage. Nearly two-thirds of all minimum wage employees who continue employment are earning more than the minimum wage within a year. More than 97% of all employees in the United States move beyond the minimum wage by age 30. Those who do not progress to a wage above the minimum either lack the skills or motivations for them to be attractive hires at a higher rate of pay. The key to increasing one's income is not raising the minimum wage, but remaining employed. This is one reason why the minimum wage can actually be devastating to the working poor. The minimum wage tends to hurt the lowest skilled workers by making them less employable...An increase in the minimum wage will not benefit all low income workers. It will help only some of them at the expense of others. Why is this so? Well, economic law tells us that if the price of any good increases, people will want to buy less. This is true for gasoline. It is true for apples. It is true for iPods. It is also true for labor services.

Even the "living wage" zealots at ACORN recognize this. In 1995 ACORN sued the state of California to get itself declared exempt from California labor law, so it would not have to pay the minimum wage to its own employees. In its brief submitted to the Court of Appeal, ACORN argued, "The more that ACORN must pay each individual outreach worker—either because of minimum wage or overtime requirements—the fewer outreach workers it will be able to hire."..Employers cannot simply pay any old wage that makes workers happy. Businesses are constrained by the value that the workers add to the firm. If a worker's contribution to the firm is such that his output brings in revenue of $5 for every hour of his output, the business cannot afford to pay him any more than that and still break even. If he is forced to pay this employee $7 an hour, he is losing $2 an hour every hour that worker is employed. A minimum wage increase provides an incentive to hand him the pink slip.

That worker will soon be on his way out the door, most likely cursing his employer instead of the government mandated minimum wage. The direct result of a minimum wage above the market wage is mass unemployment for relatively less skilled workers. The number of workers who want to work increases, but the quantity of laborers that employers can afford to hire falls. The result is more people wanting to work at the minimum wage than can get hired. In other words, we get unemployment.
Again, I've seen this with mine own li'l peepers, my very own eyeballs. In the restaurant business, the manager is given a budget, numbers he is expected to hit. He has only X percent of his restaurant's income that he can spend on labor and still turn a profit. When the minimum wage goes up, two things tend to happen: there is an across-the-board price increase, and the manager becomes much more selective about whom he will employ. His labor budget does not go up appreciably (if at all). He has X number of dollars to spend, now divided by--for example--7 dollars an hour instead of 5. What will happen? Is it not obvious? Anyone who's worked in these businesses and paid attention knows what will happen. Fewer people will be employed, and those will be the absolute best the manager can find. The marginally employable are suddenly out the door! So much for "helping" the poor!

Data on this subject is not hard to come by. There is much more available than I have provided here. To sum up: there are actually very few people trying to support families on the minimum wage. For those people, the whole key to increasing their incomes is to stay employed. Raising the minimum wage makes it harder for those people to stay employed. Therefore, simply stated, raising the minimum wage is inimical to their interests. Again, those who pushed for an increase in the minimum wage in the House and Senate know this. Well, I suppose that they might not know this, but that's hardly flattering to them. Again, they were simply demagoguing the issue, playing your heartstrings like a fiddle in order to stay in office. They do not give a rat's patoot about the poor.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mr. Buchanan Continually Asks the Sensible Questions

Today, he writes:
When Republican identification is down to 20 percent, but 40 percent of Americans identify themselves as conservatives, do Republicans need a GPS to tell them which way to go?
Apparently they do.

Someone once wrote of Pat Buchanan that his tombstone ought to read, "I told you so, you ******* fools!" Omniscient he ain't, but he's right a whole lot more often than some folks are willing to give him credit for.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wallace on Sinaiticus

I was a little bit surprised by the attention Codex Sinaiticus got in the news last week. It's not, of course, like the contents of Sinaiticus are news to the Christian community. Rather old hat, really, or at least old news. But some took off with it in strange directions.

Dan Wallace, one of the chief people behind the really excellent NET Bible, which you can download, together with the genuinely awesome translator's notes, for free, wrote a short piece on the subject that some may find interesting.

Hat tip to Pros Apologian.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Seven-Minute Introduction to Conservatism

I was stumbling 'round YouTube and came across Rush interviewing Mark Levin about his latest book, Liberty and Tyranny.

To my delight, it proves to be about as good an introduction to conservatism as one could get in seven minutes. I'd recommend it to anyone. That is not to say that it's perfect, but for seven minutes? It's very good.

I did hear Mr. Levin utter a mild vulgarity in the middle of it. If that bothers you, consider yourself warned.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Gadflies are Often the Interesting Ones

I know; like you haven't got enough stuff to keep up with online already. But here's an interesting blog, Junkfood Science, which I found via a link on Pond'rings, that some amongst you might enjoy.

Anyone who's paid serious attention knows that health and diet science has a certain element of groupthink to it; it wasn't that long ago that "low-fat" was the big, hairy deal. As a result, large numbers of people (and now they really are large) felt free to eat whatever they darn well pleased, as long as it was "low fat," and they bolted down enough calories to fuel a racehorse, and now, you go down to Wally World, and the number of people, many of them fairly obviously under forty, who are carrying around a whole 'nother person on their bodies, is just mind-numbing.

And in the meantime, the long-term studies have indicated that as far as length of life was concerned, total fat content of the diet just wasn't that big a deal. But hardly anybody knows that.

There's a whole lot of opinion on the subject of diet, physical fitness, and body weight, and I'm not trying to write a magnum opus on the subject here. Personally, I tend to take everything with a grain of salt. During the mania about "high-fat" diets, I couldn't help but notice the occasional article about the Irish--I mean, they apparently butter their margarine, their fat intake is so high--but their incidence of heart disease is lower than ours. Ah, but guess what? They walk all over the island!

Okinawa, last I heard, had the highest average lifespan on the planet. Diet? Typically Japanese, that is, fish, vegetables, rice and the like. Exercise? Again, from what I understand, lots of walking, and of course, you can't ignore the omnipresence of karate there.

Healthiest diet on the planet? Judging from the results, a lot of people think it's the Mediterranean diet--again, lots of seafood, veggies, fruit, some cheeses, and enough olive oil to drown a goat.

Okay, you get the idea. I'm open to well-thought-out critiques of the prevailing wisdom when it comes to health, and personally, though I'm pretty well convinced from my work that a combination of being seriously overweight and inactive really will hurt you, I also think most health risks are overblown. A few extra pounds doesn't appear to be that big a deal; nor does an occasional cigar or pipe (I don't smoke either anymore, in case you're wondering); having a beer won't bother most people, and some wine actually appears to be good for you, though as a Southern Baptist, a lot of people would have me ignore that.

As far as I can tell, if you obey two simple rules, the odds are in your favor:

1) Don't eat obvious junk. At least not much.

2) Stay, for cryin' out loud, fairly active.

Cheez louise. You'd think this wouldn't be that hard for people to understand...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Book Review: The Truth about Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion

When discussing Islam, one invariably hears from certain quarters that it is a religion of peace and that the Qu'ranic writings about jihad are to be understood symbolically or metaphorically; that encouragement to jihad is really encouragement to struggle against sin. The claim is made that Muslims engaging in terrorism are misinterpreting or misrepresenting the religion. Indeed, this is so common that Jihad Watch, which basically just feeds you headlines from around the world about Islamofascism in action (and it is constant--they never run out of headlines, seems to me, I never have time to read all of it; the volume is too great), often titles its posts something like "Misunderstanders of Islam Blow Up Church." That is, the idea that violent jihadis misunderstand their religion is something of a running joke.

I have also read claims that Christianity has nothing to brag about in this respect, that it has no more, and possibly less, room to boast of its peaceful nature than does Islam.

As I've considered these claims, I've often thought that one key to understanding the true nature of each of these faiths is the way their founders lived. It seems reasonable to think that the way Jesus lived His earthly life would surely be the best indicator of whether Christianity should be properly understood as a violent religion or whether Christians who perpetrate violent attacks, or persecute and subjugate others for their beliefs, or attempt to spread Christianity by force can be understood as being consistent with the teachings of their faith. Likewise, it seems reasonable to think that the way Muhammad lived his life and conducted jihad would be a good indicator as to how jihad and Islam should be properly understood.

The Truth about Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion proves to be a surprisingly simple boook to review. The author, Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades, The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: How Islamic Law Treats Non-Muslims, and Islam Unveiled, lays out the book's objective early on:
...if peaceful Muslims can mount no comeback when jihadists point to Muhammad's example to justify violence, their ranks will always remain vulnerable to recruitment from jihadists who present themselves as the exponents of "pure Islam," faithfully following Muhammad's example.

The Qur'an and Islamic tradition are clear that the Prophet is the supreme example of behavior Muslims are to follow. His importance to hundreds of millions of Muslims worldwide is rooted in the Qur'an, the Muslim holy book. In brief, he is "an excellent model of conduct" (Qur'an 33:21). He demonstrates "an exalted standard of character" (68:4), and indeed, "he who obeys the Messenger [Muhammad], obeys Allah" (4:80). The Qur'an frequently tells Muslims to obey Allah and Muhammad: while the Muslim holy book takes for granted that Muhammad is fallible (cf. 48:2; 80:1-2), it also instructs Muslims repeatedly to obey Muhammad (3:32; 3:132; 4:13; 4:59; 4:69; 5:92; 8:1; 8:20; 8:46; 9:71; 24:47; 24:51; 24:52; 24:54; 24:56; 33:33; 47:33;49:14; 58:13; 64:12). both reform-minded Muslims and bloodthirsty jihadists invoke his example to justify their actions, the question of which group is likely to prevail in the future, and which will guide an Islamic world that is in the grip of a religious revival and increasingly hostile toward America and the West, will largely be determined by Muhammad--by what he was really like according to Islamic texts. an examination of some aspects of his life that non-Muslims find problematic, and that are used by Muslims today to justify violent actions or other behavior not in accord with Western notions of human rights and the dignity of the human person. Western readers will learn why moderate Muslims--on whom Western governments and law enforcement officals are placing so much hope--appear so weak and marginalized compared to jihadist movements in the Islamic world. And they will learn why Muslims find Muhammad's example so compelling, and why that example can be used to justify such widely divergent actions.
For the most part, the remainder of the book consists of Mr. Spencer making his case from the Qu'ran and Islamic tradition (Mr. Spencer spends some little time explaining just exactly what that is--the hadith and the sira, the first being various collections of traditions about Muhammad, and the second being the biography of Muhammad. There is more than one collection of hadith and more than one biography; together, if I understood correctly, the Qur'an, the hadith, and the sira make up the sunnah, or model of Muhammad, that is held up in such high esteem) that Muhammad's life was such that were one to judge from it how to interpret the Qu'ran's teachings on jihad, he would undoubtedly conclude that jihad was supposed to be violent struggle against the unbeliever in order to establish Islam as the world's sole religion.

There were several things that especially attracted my attention. The first was the material surrounding Aisha, Muhammad's favorite wife. I am sure that more than a few people have heard of Jerry Vines' characterization of Muhammad as a "demon-possessed pedophile." For those who don't know, this is a reference to Muhammad's marriage to Aisha; apparently he took her as a bride when she was only six and consummated the marriage when she was only nine. Two things interested me about this: first, that Mr. Spencer took some pains to point out that this sort of thing was pretty common at the time Muhammad lived, so that it may not be altogether fair to charge Muhammad with pedophilia over the incident, unless you are prepared to condemn the whole culture as given over to pedophilia:
So was Muhammad a pedophile? The concept of pedophilia as a manifestation of deviant sexuality did not exist in the seventh century. In marrying Aisha, Muhammad was doing no more and no less than what was done by many men of his time, and no one thought twice about the matter until much later.
And second, that the way Muslims deal with the episode today gives us a very good insight into how they are likely to treat other episodes and examples in Muhammad's life. light of Muhammad's status for Muslims as the supreme example of human behavior, his marriage to Aisha becomes more important. Problems arise when an action like this is forcibly removed from its historical context and proposed as a paradigm for human beings of all times and places. Yet this is exactly what has happened in the umma. Imitating the Prophet of Islam, many Muslims even in modern times have taken child brides. In some places this even has the blessing of the law; article 1041 of the Civil Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran states that girls can be engaged before the age of nine, and married at nine: "Marriage before puberty (nine full lunar years for girls) is prohibited. Marriage contracted before reaching puberty with the permission of the guardian is valid provided that the interests of the ward are duly observed."

The Ayatollah Khomeini himself married a ten-year-old girl when he was twenty-eight. Khomeini called marriage to a prepubescent girl "a divine blessing," and advised the faithful: "Do your best to ensure that your daughters do not see their first blood in your house."

Time magazine reported in 2001:
In Iran the legal age for marriage is nine for girls, fourteen for boys. The law has occasonally been exploited by pedophiles, who marry poor young girls from the provinces, use and then abandon them. In 2000 the Iranian Parliament voted to raise the minimum age for girls to fourteen, but this year, a legislative oversight body dominated by traditional clerics vetoed the move. An attempt by conservatives to abolish Yemen's legal minimum age of fifteen for girls failed, but local experts say it is rarely enforced anyway. (The onset of puberty is considered an appropriate time for a marriage to be consummated.)
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) reports that over half of the girls in Afghanistan and Bangladesh are married before they reach the age of eighteen. In early 2002, researchers in refugee camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan found half the girls married by age thirteen. In an Afghan refugee camp, more than two out of three second-grade girls were either married or engaged, and virtually all the girls who were beyond second grade were already married. One ten-year-old was engaged to a man of sixty.

This is the price that women have paid throughout Islamic history, and continue to pay, for Muhammad's status as "an excellent example of conduct" (Qur'an 33:21).
To sum up: there is no doubt today that a marriage like Muhammad's and Aisha's would be considered a stunning example of pedophilia and child abuse in many, perhaps most, places around the world. However, that is not necessarily the case in the Muslim world. The example of Muhammad as regards the matter has led to Muslims continuing the practice of child marriage. Not all Muslims everywhere, of course, but of those who do approve of child marriage, there seems little question but that they justify it by appealing to Muhammad's example. It is hard not to see from the way Muhammad is invoked to justify child marriage how his example might be invoked to justify violent jihad.

The second thing that arrested my attention is that although there is apparently a considerable amount of material in the hadith that Mr. Spencer has not quoted from, he appears not to be even the slightest bit concerned that he might be accused of cherry-picking material to prove his point. I can see why. Were the whole of the rest of the Qur'an, the hadith, and the sira to be composed of wonderful tales of Muhammad's kindness and generosity, Mr. Spencer still tells of so much material concerning Muhammad's violent expansion of the domain of Islam that there is not really any room for doubt that his fundamental point is amply demonstrated: "radical" Muslims will never have any trouble demonstrating from the sunnah that Muhammad's version of jihad was the violent one, and that those Muslims who see jihad as a personal struggle against sin and self are, at the least, not interpreting it in a manner consistent with Muhammad's example. It would be the work of hours upon hours to quote even a little bit from each of Mr. Spencer's examples. One begins to lose count of the examples of Muhammad's requests for, or encouragements of, or rejoicing over, the assassinations of his enemies, some of whom were apparently guilty of nothing more substantial than publicly ridiculing the "Prophet." Especially troubling was one instance wherein a people who refused Muhammad's invitation to Islam was characterized as having chosen war by so doing. We are therefore very well advised to remember that Muslims throughout the world may, upon seriously considering the sunnah, be quite easy to radicalize. It may not be rational government policy to approach Islam as a fundamentally peaceful religion that has, as the saying goes, been "hijacked" by radicals. The radicals certainly appear to have it right.

A couple of other observations: first, one might legitimately wonder why so many Muslims do (and I have no doubt that they do) see jihad as a peaceful struggle when Islam's own authoritative material clearly indicates otherwise. No doubt part of it is the natural human tendency to allegorize and spiritualize uncomfortable teachings in order to arrive at a religion that doesn't threaten normal, day to day existence. But there are two other things that Mr. Spencer notes: the fact that many Muslims may very well not know the Qur'an as well as we might think:
One cannot be sure from anyone's self-identification as a Muslim how much he knows about the Qur'an and the life of Muhammad. This is true particularly because Islam is an essentially Arabic religion; Muslims must learn the daily prayers, and the Qur'an in Arabic, which is the language of Allah. To pray to him in another tongue is unacceptable. Since most Muslims today are not native Arabic speakers, and the Qur'an is in difficult, classical, seventh-century Arabic (and most English translations are in equally difficult ersatz King James Bible-like language), many Muslims, even those who are quite serious about their faith, have only a dim awareness of what these texts actually say.
and the fact that the Qur'an itself can be quite difficult to understand
...reading the Qur'an is in many places like walking in on a conversation between two people with whom one is only slightly acquainted. When Islamic apologists say terrorists quote the Qur'an on jihad "out of context," they neglect to mention that the Qur'an itself often offers little context. Frequently it makes reference to people and events without bothering to explain what's going on.
without also being familiar with the hadith.
Perhaps reacting to the fragmentary quality of the Qur'anic marrative, early Muslims elaborated two principal sources to provide context for the Qur'an: tafsir (commentary on the Qur'an) and hadith, traditions of the Prophet Muhammad. And a significant amount (although by now means all) of the hadith is itself tafsir. It gives the asbab an-nazool, or circumstances of revelation...for various Qur'anic verses--which can have important implications for how the verse is to be applied in the modern age.
Also, that in Mr. Spencer's "What is to be done" section near the end of the book, the available answers are scarily few, some of them essentially amounting to "insist that Muslims stop being Muslims." I did find his suggestions to "stop insisting that Islam is a religion of peace" and "initiate a full-scale Manhattan Project to find new energy sources" to be good ones (to the extent that there is any hope whatever of convincing a Democrat-controlled Congress to allow new drilling, new refineries, etc.), as well as his suggestion that our immigration policies be amended to exclude, basically, people who do not want to assimilate into Western society, but rather to transform it to match a Qur'anic vision.

One minor complaint: this book has pretty much cemented what was a growing conviction on my part that Regnery Publishing's editing staff is simply not doing a very good job. Too many of the Regnery titles I've read over the last few years have had small but glaring typographical errors, and even occasional instances of poor--unintentionally poor--grammar. My understanding is that part of the job of the editor is to safeguard the author from looking the fool in print. Regnery's staff doesn't seem to be doing that part.

In all, though, I don't hesitate to recommend The Truth about Muhammad. In addition to the material I've touched on here, there is much more to entertain and inform the reader. Anyone wanting to understand the true nature of our enemy as we engage in the defining struggle of our time will be well served by reading it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

One of the Best Lessons I Ever Taught

One of the best lessons I've ever taught ran thusly:
You know how much time you spend thinking about other people, what they wear, what they think, what they look like? How much time is that? I mean really thinking about it?

Ummmmm--not much. Hardly any.

Well, rest assured that they spend about the same amount of time thinking about what you're wearing, what you think, and what you look like. You are almost certainly quite incidental to their world.
I still find this to be true. Human beings are a pretty miserable lot, but for the most part, it's not terribly personal, that is, they may hate what you stand for, they may hate your politics, etc., but you, personally? They hardly ever think about you, unless you've done something personal to them or happen to be in their way or have something they want. This is not an absolute rule, of course, nor am I talking about your husband, your wife, your family, your close friends, etc., but then, that's why they're called "close" friends/relatives etc. But in general, with casual acquaintances, team members, co-workers, etc., I think I've described the situation pretty well. They just don't expend that much mental energy on you.

What's the application? There's more than one, but one thing's for sure: You can spend large chunks of your mental and emotional energy all wrapped up in He dissed me and She never listens to me and everybody must hate me and they're all out to get me, and it is a total waste. They are not all out to get you. They are barely aware you exist, except insofar as you have a direct impact on their lives, and even then, not for long. You are not the center of their universe. They are not spending their days, their hours, rarely even a second, trying to figure out ways to make you mad. You are not that important to them.

Or, if they really are out to get you, if they really have some kind of lasting, burning anger toward you, you can pretty much bet that you've done something to really torque them off. Maybe you ought to figure out what it is and determine whether or not you can avoid doing it again. Sometimes you can't, sometimes you can.

Take it for what it's worth. It's been working for me, for the most part, for years.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I Recommend This Post...

If you're interested in how Christianity relates to government, you will probably find this post interesting. Go ahead and read it.

And hey, why not?--when you get back, read this one and this one, too. If you haven't already read 'em, anyway.