VerMeer's Geographer

VerMeer's Geographer
The Geographer, by Vermeer, c. 1669

30.3.14

DAILY EVENTS FEATURED STORY: IS ‘MODERATE ISLAM’ AN OXYMORON?


Is ‘moderate Islam’ an oxymoron?
At a time when terrorism committed in the name of Islam is rampant, we are continuously being assured—especially by three major institutions that play a dominant role in forming the Western mindset, namely, mainstream media, academia, and government—that the sort of Islam embraced by “radicals,” “jihadis,” and so forth, has nothing to do with “real” Islam.
“True” Islam, so the narrative goes, is intrinsically free of anything “bad.”  It’s the nut-jobs who hijack it for their own agenda that are to blame.
More specifically, we are told that there exists a “moderate” Islam and an “extremist” Islam—the former good and true, embraced by a Muslim majority, the latter a perverse sacrilege practiced by an exploitative minority.
But what do these dual adjectives—“moderate” and “extremist”—ultimately mean in the context of Islam?  Are they both equal and viable alternatives insofar as to how Islam is understood?  Are they both theologically legitimate?  This last question is particularly important, since Islam is first and foremost a religious way of life centered around the words of a deity (Allah) and his prophet (Muhammad)—the significance of which is admittedly unappreciated by secular societies.
Both terms—“moderate” and “extremist”—have to do with degree, or less mathematically, zeal: how much, or to what extent, a thing is practiced or implemented.  As Webster’s puts it, “moderate” means “observing reasonable limits”; “extremist” means “going to great or exaggerated lengths.”
It’s a question, then, of doing either too much or too little.
The problem, however, is that mainstream Islam offers a crystal-clear way of life, based on the teachings of the Koran and Hadith—the former, containing what purport to be the sacred words of Allah, the latter, the example (or sunna, hence “Sunnis”) of his prophet, also known as the most “perfect man” (al-insan al-kamil).   Indeed, based on these two primary sources and according to normative Islamic teaching, all human actions fall into five categories: forbidden actions, discouraged actions, neutral actions recommended actions, and obligatory actions.
In this context, how does a believer go about “moderating” what the deity and his spokesman have commanded?    One can either try to observe Islam’s commandments or one can ignore them: any more or less is not Islam—a word which means “submit” (to the laws, or sharia, of Allah).
The real question, then, is what do Allah and his prophet command Muslims (“they who submit”) to do?  Are radicals “exaggerating” their orders? Or are moderate Muslims simply “observing reasonable limits”—a euphemism for negligence?—when it comes to fulfilling their commandments?
In our highly secularized era, where we are told that religious truths are flexible or simply non-existent, and that any and all interpretations and exegeses are valid, the all-important question of “What does Islam command?” loses all relevance.
Hence why the modern West is incapable of understanding Islam.
Indeed, only recently, a Kenyan mosque leader said that the Westgate massacre, where Islamic gunmen slaughtered some 67 people, “was justified.  As per the Koran, as per the religion of Islam, Westgate was 100 percent justified.” Then he said: “Radical Islam is a creation of people who do not believe in Islam. We don’t have radical Islam, we don’t have moderates, we don’t have extremists. Islam is one religion following the Koran and the Sunna” [emphasis added].
Note his point that “Radical Islam is a creation of people who do not believe in Islam,” a clear reference to the West which coined the phrase “radical Islam.”  Ironically, the secular West, which relegates religious truths to the realm of “personal experience,” feels qualified to decide what is and is not “radical” about Islam.
Consider one example: Allah commands Muslims to “Fight those among the People of the Book [Jews and Christians] who do not believe in Allah nor the Last Day, nor forbid what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, nor embrace the religion of truth [i.e., Islam], until they pay the jizya [tribute] with willing submission and feel themselves subdued”  [Koran 9:29].
How can one interpret this verse to mean anything other than what it plainly says?  Wherein lies the ambiguity, the room for interpretation?  Of course there are other teachings and allusions in the Koran that by necessity lend themselves over to the fine arts of interpretation, or ijtihad.  But surely the commands of Koran 9:29 are completely straightforward?
In fact, Muhammad’s 7th century followers literally acted on this and similar verses (e.g., 9:5), launching the first Muslim conquests, which saw the subjugation of millions of Christians, Jews, and others, and the creation of the “Muslim world.”  Such jihadi expansion continued until Islam was beaten on the battlefield by a resurgent West some two or three centuries ago.
Western scholarly works, before the age of relativism and political correctness set in, did not equivocate the meaning of jihad.  Thus the authoritative Encyclopaedia of Islam’s entry for “jihad” states that the “spread of Islam by arms is a religious duty upon Muslims in general …  Jihad must continue to be done until the whole world is under the rule of Islam … Islam must completely be made over before the doctrine of jihad [warfare to spread Islam] can be eliminated. Islamic law expert and U.S. professor Majid Khadduri (1909-2007), after defining jihad as warfare, wrote that “jihad … is regarded by all jurists, with almost no exception, as a collective obligation of the whole Muslim community.”
(As for the argument that the Bible contains similar war verses, yet Jews and Christians are not out to conquer the world—so why say Muslims are?—see “Are Judaism and Christianity as Violent as Islam” for a detailed breakdown of the similarities and differences.  Also see “Islamic Jihad and the Doctrine of Abrogation” to understand how the Koran’s more tolerant verses have been abrogated by its more militant ones, such as 9:29.)
In short, how can a sincere Muslim—by definition, one who has submitted to the teachings of Allah—“moderate” verses like 9:29?  How can he “observe reasonable limits” vis-à-vis these plain commands to combat and subjugate non-Muslims?
Must Muslims not, at the very least, admit that such teachings are true and should be striven for—even if they do not personally engage in the jihad, at least not directly (but they are encouraged to support it indirectly, including monetarily or through propaganda)?
Just recently, reports appeared telling of how Islamic groups in Syria were following Koran 9:29 to a tee—forcing Christian minorities to pay them jizya, i.e., extortion money, in exchange for their lives.  In fact, all around the Islamic world, Christians and other minorities are regularly plundered by Muslims who justify their actions be referring to the aforementioned verse.
Are all such Muslims being “extreme” in light of the commands of Koran 9:29—which specifically calls for the taking of money from Christians and Jews—or are they simply upholding the unambiguous teachings of Islam?
One may argue that, if Muslims are to take Koran 9:29 literally, why are Muslim nations the world over not declaring an all-out jihad on all non-Muslim nations, including America? The ultimate reason, of course, is that they simply can’t; they do not have the capability to uphold that verse (and Islamic teaching allows Muslims to postpone their obligations until circumstances are more opportune).
It would obviously be silly, if not suicidal,  for, say, Saudi Arabia, birthplace of Islam, to issue a statement to the West saying either accept Islam, pay jizya/tribute, or die by the sword.  But just because Muslim nations do not currently have the capacity to actualize Koran 9:29, does not mean that they do not acknowledge its veracity and try to actualize it in other places when they can.
quick survey of history before the meteoric rise of Western military might put Islam in check makes this especially clear.
Bottom line: If Islam teaches X and a Muslim upholds X—how is he being “extreme”?  Seems more logical to say that it is Islam itself that is being “extreme.”  Similarly, if a self-professed Muslim does not uphold Islamic teachings—including prayer, fasting, paying zakat, etc.—how is he being a “moderate”?  Seems more logical to say that he is not much of a Muslim at all—that is, he is not submitting to Allah, the very definition of “Muslim.”
It’s time to acknowledge that dichotomized notions like “moderate” and “extreme” are culturally induced and loaded standards of the modern, secular West—hardly applicable to the teachings of Islam—and not universal absolutes recognized by all mankind.

25.3.14

John Quincy Adams on Islam


From:  http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=7&article=1142

by Dave Miller, Ph.D 
.

The average American’s lack of awareness of the past has left our nation in an extremely vulnerable position. The multi-culturalism, pluralism, “diversity,” and political correctness that now blanket American culture mean that many are oblivious to and unconcerned about the threat that Islam poses to the American (and Christian) way of life. The Founders of the American Republic were not so dispossessed. They were well-studied in the ebb and flow of human history, and the international circumstances that could potentially impact America adversely. They, in fact, spoke openly and pointedly about the anti-American, anti-Christian nature of the religion of Islam.
Consider, for example, the writings of an early President of the United States, John Quincy Adams. Not only did Adams live during the founding era (born in 1767), not only was his father a primary, quintessential Founder, but John Quincy was literally nurtured by his father in the vicissitudes and intricacies of the founding of the Republic. John Adams involved his son at an early age in his own activities and travels on behalf of the fledgling nation. John Quincy accompanied his father to France in 1778, became Secretary to the American Minister to Russia, was the Secretary to his father during peace negotiations that ended the American Revolution in 1783, served as U.S.foreign ambassador, both to the Netherlands and later to Portugal, under George Washington, to Prussia under his father’s presidency, and then to Russia and later to England under President James Madison. He served as a U.S.Senator, Secretary of State under President James Monroe, and then as the nation’s sixth President (1825-1829), and finally as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he was a staunch and fervent opponent of slavery.
After his presidency, but before his election to Congress in 1830, John Quincy penned several essays dealing with one of the many Russo-Turkish Wars. In these essays, we see a cogent, informed portrait of the threat that Islam has posed throughout world history:
In the seventh century of the Christian era, a wandering Arab of the lineage of Hagar, the Egyptian, combining the powers of transcendent genius, with the preternatural energy of a fanatic, and the fraudulent spirit of an impostor, proclaimed himself as a messenger from Heaven, and spread desolation and delusion over an extensive portion of the earth. Adopting from the sublime conception of the Mosaic law, the doctrine of one omnipotent God; he connected indissolubly with it, the audacious falsehood, that he was himself his prophet and apostle. Adopting from the new Revelation of Jesus, the faith and hope of immortal life, and of future retribution, he humbled it to the dust, by adapting all the rewards and sanctions of his religion to the gratification of the sexual passion. He poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain, by degrading the condition of the female sex, and the allowance of polygamy; and he declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind. THE ESSENCE OF HIS DOCTRINE WAS VIOLENCE AND LUST: TO EXALT THE BRUTAL OVER THE SPIRITUAL PART OF HUMAN NATURE.
Between these two religions, thus contrasted in their characters, a war of twelve hundred years has already raged. That war is yet flagrant; nor can it cease but by the extinction of that imposture, which has been permitted by Providence to prolong the degeneracy of man. While the merciless and dissolute dogmas of the false prophet shall furnish motives to human action, there can never be peace upon earth, and good will towards men. The hand of Ishmael will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. It is, indeed, amongst the mysterious dealings of God, that this delusion should have been suffered for so many ages, and during so many generations of human kind, to prevail over the doctrines of the meek and peaceful and benevolent Jesus (Blunt, 1830, 29:269, capitals in orig.).
Observe that Adams not only documents the violent nature of Islam, in contrast with the peaceful and benevolent thrust of Christianity, he further exposes the mistreatment of women inherent in Islamic doctrine, including the degrading practice of polygamy.
A few pages later, Adams again spotlights the coercive, violent nature of Islam, as well as the Muslim’s right to lie and deceive to advance Islam:
The precept of the koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force (Blunt, 29:274).
No Christian would deny that many Christians in history have violated the precepts of Christ by mistreating others and even committing atrocities in the name of Christ. However, Adams rightly observes that one must go against Christian doctrine to do so. Not so with Islam—since violence is sanctioned:
The fundamental doctrine of the Christian religion, is the extirpation of hatred from the human heart. It forbids the exercise of it, even towards enemies. There is no denomination of Christians, which denies or misunderstands this doctrine. All understand it alike—all acknowledge its obligations; and however imperfectly, in the purposes of Divine Providence, its efficacy has been shown in the practice of Christians, it has not been wholly inoperative upon them. Its effect has been upon the manners of nations. It has mitigated the horrors of war—it has softened the features of slavery—it has humanized the intercourse of social life. The unqualified acknowledgement of a duty does not, indeed, suffice to insure its performance. Hatred is yet a passion, but too powerful upon the hearts of Christians. Yet they cannot indulge it, except by the sacrifice of their principles, and the conscious violation of their duties. No state paper from a Christian hand, could, without trampling the precepts of its Lord and Master, have commenced by an open proclamation of hatred to any portion of the human race. The Ottoman lays it down as the foundation of his discourse (Blunt, 29:300, emp. added).
The Founders were forthright in their assessment of the nature and teachings of Islam and the Quran. Americans and their political leaders would do well to take a sober look at history. To fail to do so will be catastrophic.

REFERENCES

Blunt, Joseph (1830), The American Annual Register for the Years 1827-8-9 (New York: E. & G.W. Blunt), 29:267-402, [On-line], URL:http://www.archive.org/stream/p1americanannual29blunuoft.

12.2.14

Barack Obama… A man of our time

Writer John Naisbitt once said “Leadership involves finding a parade and getting in front of it.” I’m not sure that’s quite the right definition of leadership, but it certainly applies to Barack Obama. Just before his election in 2008 he said “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” What he might have more accurately said was “America is fundamentally changing and I’m here to speed up the process…”
America is indeed changing, and not in a good way. How far has it changed? One need only look to the President’s response to last week’s CBO report about ObamaCare eliminating 2.5 million jobs, most of them being those of low skilled and low wage workers.  White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said: “Individuals will be empowered to make choices about their own lives and livelihoods,” and that they “would have the opportunity to pursue their dreams.”
Fantastic! So now, according to the President, because of Obamacare Americans are now free to follow their dreams without having to worry about the minor issue of financial consequences. Get ready for lots more rock bands and philosophers and actors and artists. Of course this is not exactly new. American college students have been moving away from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) courses and into soft categories such as humanities, liberal arts and education for years. In those core areas, where American companies have tens of thousands of high paying jobs they cannot fill because American are simply not qualified, half the students receiving graduate degrees are international students. Add to that the 1/4 of the American students in STEM classes who are foreign born and you can see that Americans have been “pursuing their dreams” for decades. While following your dreams has its benefits – such as more time for partying and fewer late nights of studying – it has downsides too such as higher unemployment and or lower salaries that often come with humanities and social science degrees.
There is of course much more below the surface of the President’s new appreciation for pursuing dreams. Destroying another 2.5 million jobs (or full time equivalents) is exactly what the country needs with a Workforce Participation Rate that is at its lowest point since 1976, and which has been in a precipitous decline since he took office. Then there is the number of people who are claiming disability. It has skyrocketed in recent years – including under Obama. Since 1972 the number of Americans working has increased by 82% but the number of people claiming disability has increased by almost 500%. What’s worse is that America’s service economy of 2014 is a far safer place to work than our manufacturing economy was 40 years ago. And of course one can’t ignore the intersecting paths of food stamps and income tax. Today there are a record 47 Million Americans on food stamps while 47% of Americans pay no income taxes at all.
The parade Barack Obama has decided to jump in front of and lead is the shift from a society where the vast majority of people worked hard and supported themselves and their families to one where a significant number of Americans, if not quite yet a majority, are simply interested in what the government can take from others to give to them. At what point does the system become unsustainable? One doesn’t need a STEM degree to recognize that eventually the number of taxpayers paying into the system can’t support the rapidly growing number of people taking from it. An upside down pyramid can’t stand for long.
So Barack Obama hasn’t really transformed America. He’s simply made it chic to be a socialist. He’s made redistribution cool. He’s made paying taxes a fool’s errand. Like schools that award medals for participation or little leagues that ban keeping score, Barack Obama has sought to make Americans forget that success and prosperity are forged in the crucibles of hard work, investment and ingenuity and not in the halls of government. He has sought to make being on the dole just another form of pursuing one’s passion. He has sought to replace individual responsibility with government largesse as the symbol that defines our nation. Unfortunately Barack Obama is very much a man of our time. We can only hope that by the time he leaves office Americans will have recognized him for the pied piper he is, seeking to lead the nation over a cliff.

30.9.13

Atheist's View on Life V. a Christian's View on Life

An Atheist's View on Life:
I will live my life according to these beliefs
God does not exist
It is just foolish to think
That there is a God with a cosmic plan
That an all-powerful God brings purpose to the pain and suffering in the world
Is a comforting thought, however
Is only wishful thinking
People can do as they please without eternal consequences
The idea that
I am deserving of Hell
Because of sin
Is a lie meant to make me a slave to those in power
“The more you have, the happier you will be”;
Our existence has no grand meaning or purpose
In a world with no God
There is freedom to be who I want to be
But with God
Everything is fine
It is ridiculous to think
I am lost and in need of saving.
A Christian’s View on Life:

(Now…read from bottom to top to see a different view.)


4.9.13

Did the White House Help Plan the Syrian Chemical Attack? | Global Research

Did the White House Help Plan the Syrian Chemical Attack? | Global Research

by Yossef Bodansky
There is a growing volume of new evidence from numerous sources in the Middle East — mostly affiliated with the Syrian opposition and its sponsors and supporters — which makes a very strong case, based on solid circumstantial evidence, that the August 21, 2013, chemical strike in the Damascus suburbs was indeed a pre-meditated provocation by the Syrian opposition.
The extent of US foreknowledge of this provocation needs further investigation because available data puts the “horror” of the Barack Obama White House in a different and disturbing light.
On August 13-14, 2013, Western-sponsored opposition forces in Turkey started advance preparations for a major and irregular military surge. Initial meetings between senior opposition military commanders and representatives of Qatari, Turkish, and US Intelligence [“Mukhabarat Amriki”] took place at the converted Turkish military garrison in Antakya, Hatay Province, used as the command center and headquarters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and their foreign sponsors. Very senior opposition commanders who had arrived from Istanbul briefed the regional commanders of an imminent escalation in the fighting due to “a war-changing development” which would, in turn, lead to a US-led bombing of Syria.
The opposition forces had to quickly prepare their forces for exploiting the US-led bombing in order to march on Damascus and topple the Bashar al-Assad Government, the senior commanders explained. The Qatari and Turkish intelligence officials assured the Syrian regional commanders that they would be provided with plenty of weapons for the coming offensive.
Indeed, unprecedented weapons distribution started in all opposition camps in Hatay Province on August 21-23, 2013. In the Reyhanli area alone, opposition forces received well in excess of 400 tons of weapons, mainly anti-aircraft weaponry from shoulder-fired missiles to ammunition for light-guns and machineguns. The weapons were distributed from store-houses controlled by Qatari and Turkish Intelligence under the tight supervision of US Intelligence.
These weapons were loaded on more than 20 trailer-trucks which crossed into northern Syria and distributed the weapons to several depots. Follow-up weapon shipments, also several hundred tons, took place over the weekend of August 24-25, 2013, and included mainly sophisticated anti-tank guided missiles and rockets. Opposition officials in Hatay said that these weapon shipments were “the biggest” they had received “since the beginning of the turmoil more than two years ago”. The deliveries from Hatay went to all the rebel forces operating in the Idlib-to-Aleppo area, including the al-Qaida affiliated jihadists (who constitute the largest rebel forces in the area).
Several senior officials from both the Syrian opposition and sponsoring Arab states stressed that these weapon deliveries were specifically in anticipation for exploiting the impact of imminent bombing of Syria by the US and the Western allies. The latest strategy formulation and coordination meetings took place on August 26, 2013. The political coordination meeting took place in Istanbul and was attended by US Amb. Robert Ford.
More important were the military and operational coordination meetings at the Antakya garrison. Senior Turkish, Qatari, and US Intelligence officials attended in addition to the Syrian senior (opposition) commanders. The Syrians were informed that bombing would start in a few days.
“The opposition was told in clear terms that action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days,” a Syrian participant in the meeting said. Another Syrian participant said that he was convinced US bombing was scheduled to begin on Thursday, August 29, 2013. Several participants — both Syrian and Arab — stressed that the assurances of forthcoming bombing were most explicit even as formally Obama is still undecided.
The descriptions of these meetings raise the question of the extent of foreknowledge of US Intelligence, and therefore, the Obama White House. All the sources consulted — both Syrian and Arab — stressed that officials of the “Mukhabarat Amriki” actively participated in the meetings and briefings in Turkey. Therefore, at the very least, they should have known that the opposition leaders were anticipating “a war-changing development”: that is, a dramatic event which would provoke a US-led military intervention.
The mere fact that weapon storage sites under the tight supervision of US Intelligence were opened up and about a thousand tons of high-quality weapons were distributed to the opposition indicates that US Intelligence anticipated such a provocation and the opportunity for the Syrian opposition to exploit the impact of the ensuing US and allied bombing. Hence, even if the Obama White House did not know in advance of the chemical provocation, they should have concluded, or at the very least suspected, that the chemical attack was most likely the “war-changing development” anticipated by the opposition leaders as provocation of US-led bombing. Under such circumstances, the Obama White House should have refrained from rushing head-on to accuse Assad’s Damascus and threaten retaliation, thus making the Obama White House at the very least complicit after the act.
Meanwhile, additional data from Damascus about the actual chemical attack increases the doubts about Washington’s version of events. Immediately after the attack, three hospitals of Doctors Without Borders (MSF: médecins sans frontières) in the greater Damascus area treated more than 3,600 Syrians affected by the chemical attack, and 355 of them died. MSF performed tests on the vast majority of those treated.
MSF director of operations Bart Janssens summed up the findings: “MSF can neither scientifically confirm the cause of these symptoms nor establish who is responsible for the attack. However, the reported symptoms of the patients, in addition to the epidemiological pattern of the events — characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers — strongly indicate mass exposure to a neurotoxic agent.” Simply put, even after testing some 3,600 patients, MSF failed to confirm that sarin was the cause of the injuries. According to MSF, the cause could have been nerve agents like sarin, concentrated riot control gas, or even high-concentration pesticides. Moreover, opposition reports that there was distinct stench during the attack suggest that it could have come from the “kitchen sarin” used by jihadist groups (as distinct from the odorless military-type sarin) or improvised agents like pesticides.
Some of the evidence touted by the Obama White House is questionable at best.
A small incident in Beirut raises big questions. A day after the chemical attack, Lebanese fixers working for the “Mukhabarat Amriki” succeeded to convince a Syrian male who claimed to have been injured in the chemical attack to seek medical aid in Beirut in return for a hefty sum that would effectively settle him for life. The man was put into an ambulance and transferred overnight to the Farhat Hospital in Jib Janine, Beirut. The Obama White House immediately leaked friendly media that “the Lebanese Red Cross announced that test results found traces of sarin gas in his blood.” However, this was news to Lebanese intelligence and Red Cross officials.
According to senior intelligence officials, “Red Cross Operations Director George Kettaneh told [them] that the injured Syrian fled the hospital before doctors were able to test for traces of toxic gas in his blood.” Apparently, the patient declared that he had recovered from his nausea and no longer needed medical treatment. The Lebanese security forces are still searching for the Syrian patient and his honorarium.
On August 24, 2013, Syrian Commando forces acted on intelligence about the possible perpetrators of the chemical attack and raided a cluster of rebel tunnels in the Damascus suburb of Jobar. Canisters of toxic material were hit in the fierce fire-fight as several Syrian soldiers suffered from suffocation and “some of the injured are in a critical condition”.
The Commando eventually seized an opposition warehouse containing barrels full of chemicals required for mixing “kitchen sarin”, laboratory equipment, as well as a large number of protective masks. The Syrian Commando also captured several improvised explosive devices, RPG rounds, and mortar shells. The same day, at least four HizbAllah fighters operating in Damascus near Ghouta were hit by chemical agents at the very same time the Syrian Commando unit was hit while searching a group of rebel tunnels in Jobar. Both the Syrian and the HizbAllah forces were acting on intelligence information about the real perpetrators of the chemical attack. Damascus told Moscow the Syrian troops were hit by some form of a nerve agent and sent samples (blood, tissues, and soil) and captured equipment to Russia.
Several Syrian leaders, many of whom are not Bashar al-Assad supporters and are even his sworn enemies, are now convinced that the Syrian opposition is responsible for the August 21, 2013, chemical attack in the Damascus area in order to provoke the US and the allies into bombing Assad’s Syria. Most explicit and eloquent is Saleh Muslim, the head of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) which has been fighting the Syrian Government. Muslim doubts Assad would have used chemical weapons when he was winning the civil war.
“The regime in Syria … has chemical weapons, but they wouldn’t use them around Damascus, five km from the [UN] committee which is investigating chemical weapons. Of course they are not so stupid as to do so,” Muslim told Reuters on August 27, 2013. He believes the attack was “aimed at framing Assad and provoking an international reaction”. Muslim is convinced that “some other sides who want to blame the Syrian regime, who want to show them as guilty and then see action” is responsible for the chemical attack. The US was exploiting the attack to further its own anti-Assad policies and should the UN inspectors find evidence that the rebels were behind the attack, then “everybody would forget it”, Muslim shrugged. “Who is the side who would be punished? Are they are going to punish the Emir of Qatar or the King of Saudi Arabia, or Mr Erdo?an of Turkey?”
And there remain the questions: Given the extent of the involvement of the “Mukhabarat Amriki” in opposition activities, how is that US Intelligence did not know in advance about the opposition’s planned use of chemical weapons in Damascus?
It is a colossal failure.
And if they did know and warned the Obama White House, why then the sanctimonious rush to blame the Assad Administration?
Moreover, how can the Obama Administration continue to support and seek to empower the opposition which had just intentionally killed some 1,300 innocent civilians in order to provoke a US military intervention?
Yossef Bodansky, Senior Editor, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs
Copyright Defense and Foreign Affairs and Oilprice.com 2013

9.8.13

What Was the Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah?

From: Stand to Reason website.

Why did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? Was the most extensive judgment found anywhere in the Bible outside of the book of Revelation actually for the sin of inhospitality, not homosexuality?

People find what they want in the Bible. If one looks hard enough, he can find "biblical" support for reincarnation, Eastern religions, Jesus as a guru, divorce for any reason, and flying saucers. Every cult of Christianity uses the Bible to validate its claims and so does some of the occult.

It's not surprising, then, that a recent trend in biblical scholarship holds that a careful reading of Genesis in its historical context offers no solid basis to conclude that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah had anything to do with homosexuality.

This view may seem far-fetched to biblical conservatives, but it is taken very seriously in academic circles. It represents a significant challenge to the rank-and-file Christian who finds in the Genesis account a straight-forward condemnation of homosexual behavior.

My goal is to answer that challenge. I have no interest to malign, name-call, offend, attack, bash, belittle, or in any way demean a group of people. I want to determine one thing only: Why did God destroy these two cities? Did it have anything to do with homosexuality itself? In short, what was the sin—or sins—of Sodom and Gomorrah?

Genesis 18:16-19:29

Though the context of the account in question begins in Genesis 18:16 during God's conversation with Abraham by the Oaks of Mamre, the details of the encounter at Sodom itself are found in Genesis 19:4-13:

Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; and they called to Lot and said to him, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them." But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, and said, "Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof." But they said, "Stand aside." Furthermore, they said, "This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them." So they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves trying to find the doorway. Then the men said to Lot, "Whom else have you here? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place; for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the Lord that the Lord has sent us to destroy it."
What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Why did God destroy the two cities? The traditional view is that homosexuality was the principle offense ("Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly").

Yale historian John Boswell offers four possible reasons for the destruction of Sodom:
(1) The Sodomites were destroyed for the general wickedness which had prompted the Lord to send angels to the city to investigate in the first place; (2) the city was destroyed because the people of Sodom had tried to rape the angels; (3) the city was destroyed because the men of Sodom had tried to engage in homosexual intercourse with the angels...; (4) the city was destroyed for inhospitable treatment of visitors sent from the Lord.[1]
John Boswell thinks that explanation (2) "is the most obvious of the four," though it's been "largely ignored by biblical scholars."[2] Boswell expands on explanation (4), the one he seems to favor as most consistent with "modern scholarship" since 1955:
Lot was violating the custom of Sodom...by entertaining unknown guests within the city walls at night without obtaining the permission of the elders of the city. When the men of Sodom gathered around to demand that the strangers be brought out to them, "that they might know them," they meant no more than to "know" who they were, and the city was consequently destroyed not for sexual immorality, but for the sin of inhospitality to strangers.[3]



Englishman D. Sherwin Bailey also argues this way in Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition (1955). The men of Sodom wanted to interrogate Lot's guests to see if they were spies. The sin of gang rape was also in view, not homosexuality. In a broader sense, the men of Sodom were inhospitable to Lot's guests.

Apparently, it did not occur to Boswell that possibilities (2) and (4) seem to be at odds. If "to know" the angels means merely to interrogate them, then there is no attempted rape, only an attempted interrogation. If, on the other hand, the men meant to have sexual relations with the visitors (the traditional view) and are guilty of attempted rape, then the interrogation explanation must be abandoned (rendering Boswell’s above summary of the views of modern scholarship somewhat incoherent).

Some of these explanations, however, are not mutually exclusive and may have been factors in their own way. For example, the general wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah (1) could have included rape (2) and/or inhospitality (4).

My principle concern here is to determine if the biblical record indicates that (4) homosexuality factored in at all.

Clues from the Text

Why did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? We can find clues not just from the Genesis account, but also from the Prophets and the New Testament books 2 Peter and Jude. These give a sense of how ancient Jewish thinkers steeped in Jewish culture understood these texts.

First, Sodom and Gomorrah were judged because of grave sin. Genesis 18:20 says, "And the Lord said, 'The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.'" Indeed, not even ten righteous people could be found in the city.

Second, it seems the judgment of these cities was to serve as a lesson to Abraham and to others that wickedness would be punished. In 2 Peter 2:6 we learn that God condemned and destroyed the cities as "an example to those who would live ungodly thereafter."

Third, peculiar qualities of the sin are described by Jude and Peter. Jude 7 depicts the activity as "gross immorality" and going after "strange flesh."[4]
 Peter wrote that Lot was "oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men," and "by what he saw and heard...felt his righteous soul tormented day after day with their lawless deeds." These people were "those who indulged the flesh in its corrupt desires and despised authority" (2 Peter 2:7-10).

Fourth, there are 27 references outside of Genesis where Sodom is mentioned. It is emblematic of gross immorality, deepest depravity, and ultimate judgment.

Piecing together the biblical evidence gives us a picture of Sodom's offense. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was some kind of activity—a grave, ongoing, lawless, sensuous activity—that Lot saw and heard and that tormented him as he witnessed it day after day. It was an activity in which the inhabitants indulged the flesh in corrupt desires by going after strange flesh, ultimately bringing upon them the most extensive judgment anywhere in the Bible outside of the book of Revelation.

What do we know about the conduct of the men of Sodom and Gomorrah that fits this description?

Just a Couple of Questions

Was the city destroyed because the men of Sodom tried to rape the angels (option (2) above)? The answer is obviously no. God's judgment could not have been for the rapacious attempt itself because His decision to destroy the cities was made days before the encounter (see Genesis 18:20). Further, Peter makes it clear that the wicked activity was ongoing ("day after day"), not a one-time incident. The outcry had already been going up to God for some time.[5]

Was this a mere interrogation? Though the Hebrew word yada ("to know")[6]
 has a variety of nuances, it is properly translated in the NASB as "have [sexual] relations with."[7] Though the word does not always have sexual connotations, it frequently does, and this translation is most consistent with the context of Genesis 9:5. There is no evidence that what the townsmen had in mind was a harmless interview. Lot's response—“Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly"—makes it clear they had other intentions.

In addition, the same verb is used in the immediate context to describe the daughters who had not "known" a man and who were offered to the mob instead. Are we to understand Lot to be saying, "Please don't question my guests. Here, talk to my daughters, instead. They've never been interviewed"?

Did God judge Sodom and Gomorrah for inhospitality? Is it true that God's judgment was not for homosexuality per se, but because the people of the town were discourteous to the visitors, violating sacred sanctuary customs by attempting to rape them? A couple of observations raise serious doubt.

First, the suggestion itself is an odd one. To say that the men of Sodom were inhospitable because of the attempted rape is much like saying a husband who's just beaten his wife is an insensitive spouse. It may be true, but it's hardly a meaningful observation given the greater crime.

Second—and more to the textual evidence—it doesn't fit the collective biblical description of the conduct that earned God's wrath: a corrupt, lawless, sensuous activity that Lot saw and heard day after day, in which the men went after strange flesh.

Third, are we to believe that God annihilated two whole cities because they had bad manners, even granting that such manners were much more important then than now? There's no textual evidence that inhospitality was a capital crime. However, homosexuality was punishable by death in Israel (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13). Does God ignore the capital crime, yet level two entire cities for a wrong that is not listed anywhere as a serious offense?

The Only One That Fits

The prevailing modern view of the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is that the attempted rape of Lot's visitors violated the Mid-East's high code of hospitality (19:9). This inhospitality, however, is an inference, not a specific point made in the text itself.

Further, the inhospitality charge is dependent upon—and eclipsed by—the greater crime of rape, yet neither could be the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah because God planned to judge the cities long before either had been committed. What possibility is left? Only one.

We know the men of Sodom and Gomorrah were homosexual, "both young and old, all the people from every quarter" (19:6), to the point of disregarding available women (19:5-8). After they were struck sightless they still persisted (19:11). These men were totally given over to an overwhelming passion that did not abate even when they were supernaturally blinded by angels.

Homosexuality fits the biblical details. It was the sin that epitomized the gross wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah—the "grave," "ungodly," "lawless," "sensual conduct of unprincipled men" that tormented Lot as he "saw and heard" it "day after day," the "corrupt desire" of those that went after "strange flesh."

In their defense, some will cite Ezekiel 16:49-50: "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me.[8]
 Therefore I removed them when I saw it." No mention of homosexuality here.

Clearly, the general wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah was great. That's not in question. Our concern here is whether homosexuality was part of that wickedness. Our analysis of Genesis shows that homosexuality was the principle behavior at issue in that passage. Ezekiel simply enumerates additional sins. The prophet doesn't contradict Moses, but rather gives more detail.

Stinginess and arrogance alone did not draw God's wrath. Ezekiel anchored the list of crimes with the word "abominations." This word takes us right back to homosexuality. The conduct Moses refers to in Genesis 18 he later describes in Leviticus as an "abomination" in God’s eyes.

Leviticus

The Mosaic Law has two explicit citations on homosexuality. Leviticus 18:22 says, "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female.[9]
 It is an abomination [toebah][10] ." Leviticus 20:13 says, "If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act [toebah]. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood guiltiness is upon them."

John Boswell offers the standard rebuttal to what appears to be an obvious biblical prohibition of homosexuality:

The Hebrew word "toebah," here translated "abomination," does not usually signify something intrinsically evil, like rape or theft..., but something which is ritually unclean for Jews, like eating pork or engaging in intercourse during menstruation, both of which are prohibited in these same chapters.[11]

Leviticus, the suggestion goes, is not where we generally go for moral instruction. The sections quoted deal with the cult of worship: sacrifice, priesthood, ritual bathing, etc. These directives have to do with ritual purity, not moral purity. An observant Jew could not worship after ritual contamination until he had been ritually cleansed.

Others have added that many details of the Mosaic Law are archaic. Who concerns themselves with mixing wool and linen together (Deuteronomy 22:11)? The death penalty itself doesn't mark homosexuality as particularly heinous. Disobedience to parents was also a capital crime, as was picking up sticks on the Sabbath, yet no one suggests these should be punishable offenses today.[12]

This rejoinder is filled with inconsistencies. First, even if this prohibition was restricted only to ritual purity and the cult of worship, then minimally it applies to Jewish clerics. Yet many who use this approach see no problem with homosexual rabbis and instead champion such "diversity" as a religious virtue. On the other hand, if the Torah's proscriptions no longer apply at all, then any distinction between the cultic and moral aspects of the Mosaic Law is moot; none of it pertains anyway.

Second, it's a serious error in thinking to conclude that if some of the Torah no longer applies, then none of it applies. Jewish thinker Dennis Prager observed, "It is one thing not to put a Torah punishment into practice and quite another to declare that a Torah sin is no longer a sin."[13]
 [emphasis in the original]

Third, it's true that much of the Law seems to deal with religious activity rather than universal morality. That observation in itself, however, is not enough to summarily dismiss the Torah as a source of binding moral instruction. Ritual purity and moral purity are not always distinct.

Context is king here. Note the positioning of the verses. The toebahof homosexuality is sandwiched between adultery (18:20), child sacrifice (18:21) and bestiality (18:23). Was Moses saying merely that if a priest committed adultery, had sex with an animal, or burned his child on Molech's altar he should be sure to wash up before he came to temple?

More to the point, these sections were not addressed to the priests, but to all the "sons of Israel" (18:2, 20:2). In addition to the prohibitions on adultery, child sacrifice, and bestiality just mentioned, Moses also prohibits spiritism (20:6) and incest (20:12).

The conclusion of Leviticus 18 contains these words:

But as for you [the "sons of Israel" (v. 2)], you are to keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled. (18:26-27)


Moses spoke as clearly here as he did in Genesis. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty of many things, but foremost among them was the sin of homosexuality. In this section of Leviticus, God gives directives not just for ritual purity, but commands to be observed by every Jew, and even by every visitor.

Homosexuality was wrong for the Jews. It was wrong for gentiles who visited the Jews ("aliens"). It was even an abomination that defiled the land when practiced by pagans who inhabited Canaan long before the Jews came.

Homosexuality is a defiling sin, regardless who practices it. It has no place before God among any people, in any age, then or now.



[1]
 John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 93.

[2]
 Ibid.

[3]
 Ibid.

[4]
 Some have suggested the sin was seeking sexual union with angels ("strange flesh"). Though this is a possible interpretation, there's no indication the men knew Lot's visitors were angels. Jude's point is that the Sodomites, like the angels, "did not keep to their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode" (v. 6). "Strange flesh"—the improper domain—wasn't angelic flesh, but homosexual flesh.
[5]
 The rejoinder that homosexual rape could still qualify as the ongoing activity fails to convince. Who would be the ongoing victims? Not the townspeople. Because of their sexual proclivity they would not likely resist homosexual advances. Visitors would have to be the target. But if newcomers were molested “day after day,” I’m sure this would put a crimp in the tourist trade. The steady supply of sexual candidates would dwindle rapidly once word got around, with most making a wide berth around the area.
[6]
 Strong’s #3045.

[7]
 “Know a person carnally, of sexual intercourse...man subj. and obj. (of sodomy) Gn 19:5).” Brown, Driver and Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody ME: 1996), 394. See also Judges 19:22 ff.

[8]
 Curiously, this last sentence was overlooked in Boswell’s citation of the text.

[9]
 "Lie" is the Hebrew word shakab meaning “lie down” (Strong’s #7901). In this case, it refers to having sexual relations as in Genesis 19:32: "Come, let us make our father drink wine, and let us lie with him, that we may preserve our family through our father" (Brown, Driver, and Briggs, 1012).

[10]
 Strong’s #8441.

[11]
 Boswell, 100.

[12]
 It's curious that some choose to conclude homosexuality was a minor crime because it was no more offensive to God than picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Both were capital offenses. If you want to know how God really felt, look at the punishment He requires.

[13]
 Dennis Prager, "Homosexuality, Judaism and Gay Rabbis," The Prager Perspective, 3/1/97.