Sunday, November 26, 2006

How Can You Worship There?

Recently I was asked by a “Reformed” Baptist why I left the Roam Catholic Church and why I am willing, from time to time, to attend Catholic Mass. Here is my written response to that inquiry:
My position on this issue is one that is very likely to be frowned upon in most Reformed circles, but I can tell you a bit about my reasons.

First, in my case it was my parent who took me out of the Roman Catholic Church. I was then raised Southern Baptist. Today I am Reformed -- Which "for me" means that I am not only a Calvinist in soteriology, but I am covenantal and paedobaptist in my theology.

The overwhelming majority of my extended family are Roman Catholics, and I have occasion to attend because of weddings, funerals, etc...

I have big differences with the RCC, and I also have big differences with the Southern Baptists Church. The SBC is the church of my parents and siblings. I disagree with (most of) SBC about soteriology; they are mostly Arminian. I disagree with the SBC on Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Like Calvin, I believe these things are Sacraments and means of grace. My Southern Baptist brethren believe they are mere memorials. I believe the Supper should be observed weekly, they celebrate it only know and then.

I am mildly liturgical in my preference of worship style, as were the Reformed Reformers. I like a more structured and liturgical service, while my Baptist friends are strongly anti-liturgy.

I differ with the Catholics and the Southern Baptists on many points and yet I do attend both churches and have no problem attending either one of the no and then.

The Baptist deny that my baptism is real and do not accept the Baptism of my children. I could not join an SBC without my wife and children being re-baptised. This is something that I have very strong feelings about, but I understand the Baptist position and I worship with them despite what they think of our baptisms.

My point I am trying to make is that I am willing to worship with "Trinitarian" Christians even if I have strong theological differences with them. (Calvin, and the Reformers were no kinder to the “Anabaptists” than he was to the “Papists”). I am able to attend the worship services of either and worship the true God.

I have read a good deal of writings from the Reformation period, from the Church of the Middle Ages and the early Church. I find that during and since the Reformation all most every side has tried to very narrowly define the faith. I have problems with that.

I recite the Creed (Nicene or Apostles) whenever I worship at a Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal or Roman Catholic Church (I hope to visit and Eastern Church someday). In those creeds I say, "I believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church" I am honest when I recite those words. And I pray for unity in the faith.

I want to know the history and theology of all Christian denominations. Not so I can argue with those with whom I differ, but so I can have an honest, frank, intelligent discussion with my brethren. I want to experience their worship. So I can speak from experience.

In the early Church Jerome and Augustine differed on many things, but they were both in the same catholic church. Today there are tens of thousand of Protestant denominations and there are dozens of Reformed/Presbyterian denominations. I see this as a great tragedy. Are we not to be one in Christ, yet we divide and split over minor points of doctrine? We fight and separate from one another over things that we should be willing to overlook.

Remember what Jesus said in John “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me…”

This is one of the great failings of the Church since the Reformation. I don't know how it can be fixed. Rome says the answer is "Return to Rome," but I cannot do that (even though I have no problem going to Mass now and then).

I pray that Christ words above will begin to be taken seriously by all Christians. We all take some part of His word to heart, but we all seem to ignore these words.

Coram Deo,

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Remembering the Pilgrims

During this week we are called upon to recall the Pilgrims who settled in New England and celebrated the first Thanksgiving in the New World. Who were the Pilgrims and why did they settle at Plymouth?

The Pilgrims were Reformed Christians and separatists from the Church of England. They were coming to the New World in order to settle in the English colony of Virginia, and hoped to be able to worship God as they believed proper.

On their way to Virginia their ship, the Mayflower, was blown off course to the north by a storm. They were headed south again along the coast trying to reach Virginia, but they never made it. Instead, they settled in New England.

Here is the question. Why did they stop so far north and not continue south to Virginia?

Read about their reasons from one of their own journals, "after we had called on God for direction, we came to this resolution: to go presently ashore again, and to take a better view of two places, which we thought most fitting for us, for we could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals [i.e. food] being much spent, especially our beer…"

They were running low on food, but most importantly, they were running out of their supply of "beer."

I think that’s a good reason to stop and regroup!

The Pilgrims quickly got there brewery going (it was the first permanent structure they built) and brewed some more beer.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Monday, November 06, 2006

What is water-boarding? A first hand account.

I see that one of the latest crazes in the news these days has to do with Americans using torture techniques such as water-boarding on terror suspects like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I can testify first that hand water-boarding is a very scary thing. I’ve first hand experience with this method of interrogation.

The U.S. Military has been using water-boarding while training U.S. military personnel for decades. Countless thousands of American soldiers, sailors and Marines have gone through S.E.R.E. (an acronym for Survival-Evasion-Resistance-Escape) training and one of the final stages of S.E.R.E. school is enduring life in a mock P.O. W. camp.

In 1979 I was training to be a U.S. Navy Air Crewman. Part of my training, and that of all U.S. Navy aviators, was S.E.R.E school. S.E.R.E. school was actually run by Department of Defense. When I went through the school, as we found out after the fact that many of our instructors were P.O.W. survivors from the Vietnam War. One of my own interrogators was Doug Hegdahl, the only enlisted man held prisoner at the Hanoi Hilton.

During the “evasion” part of our training I was captured, had my hands tied behind my back, and a hood placed over my head. I was then loaded into a truck and driven to a holding compound. There we unloaded from the truck amid shooting, shouting and screaming. We were then made to lay face down in the high desert of Warner Springs, Ca.

My first introduction to water-boarding or, as our captors referred to it “the Device,” was that morning. An officer, another enlisted man and I were made to kneel and watch as a fellow sailor was made to sit on this inclined board and untie his flight boots. Then he was made to lie down on the inclined board, which placed his head blow his feet. He was then strapped to the board so that he could not move anything but his head. At that point one of the interrogators took a rag and held his forehead fast to the board, so that it could not move.

I don’t remember exactly what happened next, but I do remember that I left the holding compound very scared of being placed on the device.

My next encounter with the device was some time late, during one of my interrogations. During the interrogation I was slapped, beat against a wall and placed in stocks. In the stocks your neck and hands are set below your waste, while your knees remain straight. This is painful and when I was taken from the stocks I collapsed and could not walk for some time. When I was able to stand on my own power, they replaced my hood and guided me away. I was stopped, the hood was removed and the device was there in front of me. I was then asked if I knew what it was. I said I did. I was again asked to reveal things I that I was not allowed to reveal (i.e My squadron). I refused. At that point I was informed that if I did not cooperate I would be placed on “the Device.” My heart sank. I was truly scared.

I would not talk so I was made to sit on the edge of the water-board and untie my flight boots. Then I was laid back and strapped down. I could move neither my arms nor legs. I was again asked the questions and again I would not talk. A man took a wet, white rag and laid it across my forehead and held my head tightly to the board. I couldn't move at all. Then one or two men began pouring water into my face while another man was asking me questions.

I had to constantly spit and swallow while struggling to breathe through the steady stream of water. When I still refused to answer their questions, the man at my head took the rag and threw it over my mouth and nose. I could breathe nothing but water. I felt like I was drowning. My body began to shake and convulse and I thought I was going to pass out, then as I began to black out, the rag was removed from my nose and mouth and I got a breath, but the water never stopped.

Again I refused to answer their questions as the water continued to pour into my nose and mouth and I struggled to breathe air and not water. Once more the rag was thrown over my face and once more I believed I was drowning. Again, after a short time, I could feel my body begin to convulse and once more I thought I was going to pass out. Then another breath, the rag was removed and air entered my lungs as the water continued to pour onto my face and into my nose and mouth.

Once more I did not answer and again the rag covered my face. I felt as though I were drowning and my body was convulsing for lack of air. This time when the rag was removed I told them the answer to the question they had been asking. I told them what squadron I was in. I felt great anger for telling them, but I found out later that they want you to be able to bend, a little bit, and bounce back. The Navy doesn't want you to break or get yourself killed.

S.E.R.E. training was one of the hardest things I have gone through, but it taught me a lot. I have always valued it as the most important training I ever received in the military.

Tens of thousand of American servicemen have made it through S.E.R.E. school and many thousands of sailors, soldiers and marines have had to endure “the Device” or as we called it, the water-board. 

It is scary, you do believe you are going to die, but is it torture? Waterboarding is a very good tool to get information out of someone who does not want to talk, because you give them a very powerful feeling that they are about to die. But the reality is that they are not being harmed at all.

The water-board is not fun; it is a very frightening experience. It was preformed on me by Americans who were on my side, and even though I knew that in my mind, at the moment it was happening I really believed I was going to die. I can understand that a murderous criminal like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, might be convinced to talk using this method of interrogation.

The water board is a very affective interrogation tool, but I do not believe that it qualifies as torture. The U.S. Military does hard training. The training is often dangerous and uncomfortable, but the military does not use torture when training its own people, but it does use the water-board.

If we use water-boarding to train our sailors, soldiers and marines, then how can it be considered torture when used on terrorists?

Deo Vindice,

Ps: I know of one death that has occured at S.E.R.E. school. The death took place many years before I attended the school, and the water-board was not involved in that situation.