This sura tells stories surrounding the births of John the Baptist and Jesus - with significant departures from the Gospels, naturally. John is reduced to a mere historical footnote; he is simply a near-anonymous holy man, not the great herald of Jesus' ministry.
The Koran teaches the virgin birth of Jesus, but doesn't give this miracle any significance greater than other miracles; it is simply an exercise of Allah's power and mercy.
Unlike the Bible, the Koran speaks of the reproval Mary receives from her family:
And as expected, when her family sees the child, they are amazed (v. 27), and remonstrate with her: "O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste!"
Does anything stand out here?/p>
Many have charged that since the Qur'an here calls Mary "sister of Aaron," Muhammed is confusing Mary the mother of Jesus with Miriam the sister of Moses and Aaron – in Arabic the names are identical, Maryam.
Even the Christians of Muhammad's day noticed this, but Muhammad had a ready explanation: "The (people of the old age) used to give names (to their persons) after the names of Apostles and pious persons who had gone before them." So calling Mary "sister of Aaron" was, says Muhammad, an honor, not an error.
Uh, parents accusing their children of fornication generally do not address them by honorific titles - and Jewish parents wouldn't associate such children as the "sister" of their nation's founding high priest. Also, I have a difficult time conceiving the notion of an ancient people referring to their contemporaries as the "brother" or "sister" of an ancestor.
So how does the family come around to recognizing that Mary is innocent of wrongdoing? They're given the sign of a miracle - the infant Jesus speaks. Mohammed may have borrowed this idea from a heretical Christian sect. Of course, Mohammed didn't borrow from that sect that infant Jesus' claim to be the Son of God.
Click the "Koran" label to see all my posts on this series.
"Black Americans were a founding population," she said. "Africans and Europeans came here and founded this country together — Europeans by choice and Africans in chains. That's not a very pretty reality of our founding."
As a result, Miss Rice told editors and reporters at The Washington Times, "descendants of slaves did not get much of a head start, and I think you continue to see some of the effects of that."
"That particular birth defect makes it hard for us to confront it, hard for us to talk about it, and hard for us to realize that it has continuing relevance for who we are today," she said.
One may note that no nation as old as ours is free from that birth defect, but that distracts from the real issue with these remarks. Why do we have to confront 19th-century slavery? It is certainly an important history lesson, but Rice is overstating its relevance to current events.
Let me illustrate:
A ---> B ---> C ---> D
This represents a timeline for a particular culture, such as American blacks. Each letter marks the date when an injustice against that group has been corrected. To move from Point C to D doesn't require harping on the injustice that existed prior to A.
America didn't have to confront slavery when it confronted racism and pushed it into the cultural margins. Just as modern issues revolving around Manchester, UK need not rehash the 18th-century gerrymandering that disenfranchised that city's Parliamentary representation over a century ago (unless British politicians seek to bring back the "rotten boroughs").
The other day I linked a story about an IRS investigation into Jeremiah Wright's church. There are certain things that those with 501(c)(3) tax exemption can't say, according to the tax code; my news source, Gribbit's World, explains:
You can advocate issues but you can't tell people to vote for those issues. You can tell people to vote according to the teachings of the Church but you cannot tell people how to actually vote. For instance, you can remind your congregation that your church is pro-life and that they should consider Church teaching when voting. But you cannot say vote for or against a candidate.
It's okay to say what to believe, but not how to vote. This distinction is best illustrated by think tanks such as Cato and Brookings, who are also 501(c)(3) organizations and whose very reason for existence is issues advocacy.
But there's a constitutional problem with this: we have a First Amendment that say that the rights to speech and press shall not be abridged. And there's also an equality under the law issue - people who get outright grants from the government have no speech restrictions placed upon them in exchange for those grants. When he was receiving agriculture subsidies, Sam Donaldson was not gagged the way that churches and think tanks are. Lobbyists get government taxpayer largesse all the time, and they have no such restrictions, obviously.
Personally, I think that all organizations should be tax-exempt. That would greatly simplify the tax code, and politicians would be robbed of one means of using the powers of the state to bribe their friends and beat up on their enemies. Of course, those who indulge in the intoxicants of power will not go along with such a plan.
For those politicians I have this song dedication:
Don't enjoy Jeremiah Wright's IRS woes too much. Your pastor could be next.
Update: Unfortunately, the video cuts out the last verse of the song, but all the important lyrics make it out there.
"(Jesus') enemies had their opinion about Him," Wright wrote in a eulogy of the late scholar Asa Hilliard in the November/December 2007 issue. "The Italians for the most part looked down their garlic noses at the Galileans.
If Wright had substituted "Romans" for "Italians" and omitted the garlic reference, there would be no problem with this statement. Most Romans did look down on Galileans - and on all other non-Romans, for that matter.
If a group of San Franciscans do something abhorrent, and I start wailing against Californians, people will rightly question why I come down on the entire state for what people in only one of its city did. Why is Wright railing against Italians ver negative aspects of Roman culture?
"From the circumstances surrounding Jesus' birth (in a barn in a township that was under the Apartheid Roman government that said his daddy had to be in), up to and including the circumstances surrounding Jesus' death on a cross, a Roman cross, public lynching Italian style. ..." Wright wrote. "He refused to be defined by others and Dr. Asa Hilliard also refused to be defined by others.
There's that "Italian" reference again. But note two other things. First, the remark about "lynching." To nitpick, lynching is a private-sector form of oppression; we use different terminology to describe the oppression that governments do. Second, note the Apartheid reference. I don't know how closely the Roman system compares to that of 20th-century South Africa, but there's one underlying principle that's older than dirt and that the two share with each other and with other systems such as Communism and Islamic dhimmitude: the conquerors have one set of laws for themselves and another set for the conquered. Equality under the law is the exception and not the rule of humanity.
Wright immediately jumps into the TARDIS and lands in modern-day America:
"The government runs everything from the White House to the schoolhouse, from the Capitol to the Klan, white supremacy is clearly in charge, but Asa, like Jesus, refused to be defined by an oppressive government because Asa got his identity from an Omnipotent God," said Wright.
The government runs the Klan? What does Robert Byrd have to say about that? Or Nancy Pelosi, who is a top member of this allegedly white supremacist government - and of Italian ancestry to boot?
The "previously on Lost" opener does a nice job of summarizing Michael's storyline: Walt's kidnapping by the Others, Michael's bothched rescue attempt, the killing of Ana-Lucia and Libby, his departure from the island.
Now we find out what he did when he got back to civilization. He is living under an assumed identity. The only off-island person who knows about his "rescue" is his mother; the Others have her forced into silence. Walt is staying with her; Michael confessed to his son about the murder/homicide, and Walt won't have anything to do with him.
Tom of the Others recruited Michael to infiltrate the Kahana, Widmore's ship, under the name Kevin Johnson. He carries out orders to set off a bomb, which proved to be a fake - it pops out a note reading "NOT YET". Later, Minkowski tells "Kevin" there's someone named Walt calling on the ship's phone. Michael gets some privacy and finds out it's really Ben, who has orders for Michael to compile a crew list and to sabotage communications and the engine room. He also says that the fake bomb was his demonstration that Ben, unlike Widmore, will not kill innocents - his twisted way of identifying himself as part of the "good guys."
Before this mission Michael tried twice to kill himself. Tom knows of this, and tells Michael that "the island" is preventing his suicide attempts from working. The island powers are not confined to the island itself - if Widmore knows this, it's a powerful motive for his quest. But can he, or anybody, gain control over the island's mysterious powers?
Tom told Michael that Widmore staged the fake Oceanic 815 wreckage. This may or may not be true. Widmore has the motive and resources, but so does Ben.
For the first time in the series, Sayid does something completely idiotic. He hastily reveals Michael's true identity to the captain. Sayid doesn't stop to consider the possibility of using Michael to learn more about both Widmore and the Others.
Back on the island, Alex's boyfriend is confirmed dead, and Danielle Rousseau is wounded. How did someone who managed to avoid the Others for over a decade and a half managed to drop her alertness enough to get taken out by a sniper? I doubt (and hope) she isn't dead - there's a lot of yet-revealed mystery about her.
I am weary of the body count.
The preview for next week's episode says the Oceanix Six identities are all revealed; Lostpedia says this confirms that Aaron Littleton is one of them.
Much of this section concerns a mysterious figure named Dhul-Qarnayn, a conqueror who traveled to the "two horns" - the places where the sun rises and sets. This is generally interpreted figuratively, that Dhul-Qarnayn traveled to the easternmost and westernmost parts of the Eurasian landmass. There is no consensus over his identity; the big problem is that the pre-Islamic emperors of the world were all known to be polytheists. Excluding the Israelite kings, of course - their travels were quite limited.
That the Koran mentions a conqueror without saying what realm he ruled is pure sloppiness.
Click the "Koran" label to see all my posts on this series.
A YouTuber covering DC v. Heller protesters catches on video a debate between a young female protester and the blogosphere's Clayton Cramer (who links the vid here) - the exchange starts at 1:44.
The girl appears to be saying that nobody really knows what the Constitution means. So why does it exist? And how does such an opinion relate to Roe v. Wade, Lawrence v. Texas, and other cases that claim to identify constitutional rights?
Update: That YouTuber has photos posted in an AR15.com forum
You're dang right we're a problem. He can't get elected without us, and we don't trust him a whole heck of a lot. (The non-Christian right feels the same way.) He's allergic to tax cuts, the First Amendment, border security, and (as demonstrated by the Gang of 14 debacle) Congressional checks and balances over filibuster abuse.
Now that I have read and responded to the headline, what does the actual article say? Well, not much. The advisor in question is Lawrence Eagleburger, and Hot Air's source provides "[n]o context whatsoever."
Hot Air remembers his open hostility toward the religious right in the 2000 election - check out the article and follow the link.
McCain had better be getting his PR machine into maximum overdrive if he wants to win this election.
The first portion addresses America's "original sin of slavery" and the long struggle to expel that institution. He then summarizes his and his wife's genealogy. He says that he "saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity," but he does not state what prescriptions for unity he offered. He states that "some commentators have deemed me either 'too black' or 'not black enough,' but does not mention that those voices have come from the left - and in some cases, from the black left.
Then he says this:
On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap.
This is evidently a dig at Geraldine Ferraro. If it weren't for the word "solely," it would accurately reflect what she said.
On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.
How many of us attend churches with clergy who make claims as outrageous as those of Jeremiah Wright? That the United States government intentionally manufactured the AIDS virus? That it is worthwhile to honor Louis Farrakhan, whose Nation of Islam faith teaches, as Malcolm X stated in his autobiography, that the white man is a devil? That buying stuff at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club is a slap at the Third World? (I said this in comments here: "Everything I own that came from the Third World I bought at Wal-Mart.")
But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
Unfortunately, this is a problem with not just Wright but with a massive chunk of the radical Left.
Obama explains that he stays with his church because he knows about Wright a lot more than just a few selected quotes. But aren't those few quotes sufficient to identify serious moral flaws that call into question a man's qualifications as a spiritual leader. Wouldn't Fred Phelps' "God hates fags" sound bite be enough to tell me that investing 20 years at Westboro Baptist Church might not be a good idea?
I would not bemoan someone for associating with seriously flawed individuals like Wright or Phelps or Farrakhan if one refrains from aiding and abetting those flaws - see Romans 12:2. In the case of relations with dubious clergymen, that means not becoming regular members of the organizations through which they spread their iniquity.
Early this morning I linked this article about Wright's theology. In a Sean Hannity interview, Wright identified theologian James Cone as one of his ideological inspirations. What does Cone teach?
Christ is black therefore not because of some cultural or psychological need of black people, but because and only because Christ really enters into our world where the poor were despised and the black are, disclosing that he is with them enduring humiliation and pain and transforming oppressed slaves into liberating servants.
Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the black community. If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the black community ... Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy. What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power, which is the power of black people to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject his love.
Obama says that the anger stemming from generations of racial oppression "occasionally...finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews," and acknowledges that it is sometimes less than productive. (If he had been more blunt, he would have said that it is sometimes delusional.) He says that this anger has a white counterpart:
In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.
How exactly does this compare to Wright's notable quotables?
Obama says that these examples of black and white anger fail to identify the real enemy:
Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many.
The middle class is squeezed by overtaxation and overspending, the long-term greed of the United States government. Everybody agrees that special interests are a problem, but not over which ones are a problem.
Obama sees "a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years," idenitified in primarily economic terms.
Compare and contrast Obama's prescription for blacks...
For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans — the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.
...to that for whites:
In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.
The bigger problem is that Obama sees racial reconciliation as a primarily political concern. It isn't; it is mainly cultural. Historically, warming in ethic relations moves glacially. In two generations black/white relations have improved at a rate not seen before in history. Politicians had scarcely anything to do it. The Civil Rights Act didn't make white people get along better with black people more; it was the other way around.
What is this black liberation theology that he preaches? Explanation is here (link via Andrew Ian Dodge).
Does Wright ever celebrate the many advances in black-white relations that took place over the past 50 years? Does he acknowledge that white racism has been marginalized in this country? And do people like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Julian Bond and other leaders of the black left do these things?
This section tells the tale of Moses' journey with a prophet named Khidr. During the journey, Khidr commits three unusual acts: intentionally scuttling their boat, murdering a youth, and repairing the wall of a town that had rejected them. Khidr explains himself at the end of the journey:
Khidr damaged the ship because a king is seizing "every boat by force," but not ones that are unserviceable (v. 79) – presumably the poor owners of the boat could repair it once the king passed by. Khidr killed the young man because he would grieve his pious parents with his "rebellion and ingratitude" (v. 80), and Allah will give them a better son (v. 81). And as for the wall, there was buried treasure beneath it that belonged to boys too young to inherit it at this point — so repairing it gave them time to reach maturity while protecting the treasure from theft (v. 82).
The second incident if is often cited as Koranic justification for honor killing.
Click the "Koran" label to see all my posts on this series.
Sun is the fifth of the Oceanic Six. She will leave the island in time for her and her daughter to survive the pregnancy. But also in the future Jin is assumed to be dead, but is off the island and working for Mr. Paik once again. Ugh.
Is Paik in cahoots with Widmore? Or is he yet another competitor in the rivalry over the island?
If the freighter captain is speaking the truth, Ben Linus' organization is responsible for staging the fake wreckage of Flight 815. No reason to doubt him on this. The man on the boat - who is indeed Michael - said in a note not to trust him, but we must remember who Michael works for; Ben can't be trusted, either. Neither Widmore, the owner of the freighter, nor What makes him so untrustworthy is that he works doe Charles Widmore, who is a greater enemy than The Others.
Two more Lostaways now know who owns the freighter: Sayid and Desmond. This is progress.
What is it about the island that drives some people insane but not others?
Couldn't Juliet find a more ethical means of dissuading Sun from joining Locke's group? She could have said something like, "Uh, if Faraday and Lewis give you the willies, realize that Locke has Ben in his group. And don't underestimate Ben's ability to manipulate his captor."
The preview for the next episode suggests that a regular cast member will die next week. Best guess is Claire - she's been neglected this season, and it would set up Kate's adoption of Aaron. That is the most obvious guess. Sayid will be one of the Oceanic Six, so only through the most convoluted plot devices would the victim be him - and I don't rule out this show'a ability to pull such a rabbit out of his hat.
Update: The Jin-and-panda sequence was a flashback - I missed his remark about having been married only two months. See update in my review of "Something Nice Back Home."
So, Ben Linus has an obsession with the island and Juliet. I suspect that Ben's interest in Juliet in part plays a crucial role in his plans regarding the island.
The Tempest station brings up an old mystery: where the Hostiles (now the Others) got the poison gas to overthrow DHARMA. Thing is, the Tempest is a DHARMA station. The Hostiles somehow got hold of DHARMA's own weapon.
Ben confirms somethign we've long suspected, that Charles Widmore has designs on the island. Ben says he's been trying to locate the island. DHARMA knew its location, obviously; evidently Widmore's ties to DHARMA's financial benefactor, the Hanso Foundation, weren't tight enough for him to know where DHARMA was doing its research (if he knew about DHARMA at all.)
We still don't know the origins of the Hostiles/Others. We do know that there is a tie with Mittelos Bioscience, the outfit that recruited Juliet.
Fans have long speculated on a time-travel angle in this series, and they were sort of right. Daniel Faraday has been working on a method by which consciousness can travel in time, in a fashion similar to that in the series Quantum Leap. The big difference is that the time traveler can travel only to his or her past/future self.
We also know that the "snowglobe" barrier around the island somehow triggers this travel accidentally - if the individual was recently exposed to large degrees of radiation or (as in Desmond's case) electromagnetism. We do not know if the barrier is natural, or if it is the horrible byproduct of an experiment.
To survive the experience, the traveler requires a constant - an object or person that is accessible in both the past and present. As a probable benefit of the writer's strike, Desmond's mission to establish his constant - contact with Penny - is mercifully resolved in one episode instead of dragging out this subplot in several.
Des was caught up in time travel before, as a direct result of the Swan hatch implosion. He went back to the time when he and Penny had their picture taken together - evidently that served as his constant back then. He also encountered Mrs. Hawking, who knew that he was traveling back in time. He also had premonitions, apparently making momentary trips to his future self.
So how did Faraday, and American, get a teaching gig at Oxford? Doing rersearch for an Englishman named Charles Widmore, by chance?
I've been experiencing issues with my DSL provider this week. For some reason I cannot connect if my phone is connected to the wall jack through a DSL filter. Without the filter I cannot use phone and Internet at the same time. Gonna have to sort things out with Verizon technical support this week.
I will eventually get around to my weekly review of Lost.