Sunday, September 30, 2012

Worshipping Moloch

             The worship of Moloch is alive and well in Canada, which you might find surprising, given that Moloch was the deity worshipped by the ancient Ammonites in the time of Moses.  One of the less charming aspects of his worship was the practice of sacrificing babies to secure his favour and thus provide for health, financial security, and happiness for those doing the sacrificing.  There is, I suggest, no doubt that ancient Ammonite mothers found this occasional sacrifice of their infants sufficiently heart-wrenching, and that it was not done routinely or easily.  One imagines that, given their circumstances, they felt they had no choice.  I would not demonize the mothers of a long-gone day.
            Nonetheless, the Mosaic Law refused to accept such practices or include them within the mandated worship of Yahweh.  In Leviticus 18:21 we read, “Neither shall you give any of your offspring to offer them to Moloch, nor shall you profane the Name of your God.”  Other nations allowed for child-sacrifice, “making their children pass through the fire to God” (as the phrase had it).  Our God regarded such practices as abhorrent.  Children were not disposable things, but persons, adorned with the image of God.
            As said above, it is perhaps surprising to find Moloch worshipped in Canada, and to find this worship celebrated as praise-worthy, progressive, enlightened, and to find it fiercely protected by Canadian law.  But so it is.  Apparently the human heart does not change, nor does the abiding reality of barbarism; we simply change the names and alter the labels on them.
            By “worshipping Moloch”, I refer of course to the recent vote held in the Canadian House of Parliament September 26.  Vote # 466 proposed “That a special committee of the House be appointed and directed to review the declaration in Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth and to answer the questions hereinafter set forth.”  In other words, the proposal, put forward by Conservative backbencher MP Stephen Woodworth, asked that a discussion be held to determine whether or not a fetus is human.  He intended by this to reconsider the now-venerable Canadian legal freedom to destroy a child in the womb anytime prior to the actual onset of labour.
            The response to Woodworth’s motion was immediate and vociferous.  Rallies were held in Vancouver denouncing it as an attempt to push back the clock and keep women down, as a disgusting and retrograde attack on women’s rights.  (The fact that half of the children aborted were female seems not to have occurred to the vociferous arguers.)  The proposal was opposed by many, including the present Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was on record as saying that he opposed opening the topic in the first place.  Not surprisingly the NDP voted against it, denouncing it as an attack on women’s rights, since freedom to destroy the unborn is an official part of the NDP platform and must be supported by anyone running for office under that banner.
            To no one surprise, including Mr. Woodworth’s, the vote did not pass:  91 MPs voted in favour of having the debate, 203 voted against.  (Mr. Woodworth later said that he was surprised that the proposal gathered as much support as it did.)  Canada remains legally committed to retaining the freedom to destroy its unborn any time before labour pains begin.  Moloch continues to be worshipped and fed.
            How much do we feed Moloch?  Let’s look at some statistics, and compare our reactions to other forms of death.  Take for example traffic fatalities.  Death on the highway through traffic collisions is indeed a terrible thing, and is justly lamented as a tragedy.  We reserve all kinds of moral indignation for those responsible for it, and loudly denounce our justice system when drunk drivers kill others through such collisions and receive what we regard as light sentences.  Organizations such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) exist to channel our indignation and work to eliminate such deaths.  And no one, to the best of my knowledge, hold rallies denouncing MADD.  
How many people are killed in collisions?  Not all traffic fatalities are the result of drunk driving, of course, but all are tragic.  Happily, the rate has been dropping.  In 1979 there were 5933 deaths in Canada; in 2004 there were 2875.  The total number of motor vehicle deaths from 1979 to 2004 is 97,964.  (Stats from Statistics Canada.)  Despite the “good news” (comparatively speaking) of a dropping death rate, people of all political stripes are still hard at it to denounce drunk driving and one day reach the situation where no one dies in traffic collisions on our roadways.   
Now compare statistics for abortion in Canada—that is, for legal, reported abortions (some abortions going “unreported” as “D. and C.s”), abortions funded by the government-sponsored, tax-supported medical system.  The rate of such abortions is going up, not down.  In 1970, the first year that such abortions became legal, there were 11,132 such abortions done in Canada.  In 2004, there were 100,039 such abortions done in Canada, which is more than all the motor vehicle deaths from 1979 to 2004 combined.  (Research conducted by the Guttmacher Institute.)
            Let’s compare again:  2004 saw 2875 unintended deaths on the roadway, with the accompanying (and justified) hand-wringing from all political parties and all persons of good will.  The same year 2004 saw 100,039 deliberately intended deaths in the womb, with angry denunciations of anyone who would have the temerity to question this.  That is more than the 2011 population of Delta, B.C., whose population last year was 99,863.  (For our American friends, that is about the size of Rialto, California, whose 2010 population was 99,171.)  Every year in Canada, a group the size of a modern city is slaughtered, and Parliament will not even allow a discussion of this fact.  Moloch is alive and well, and his shrine flies a Canadian flag.  It should; we feed him well.
            What does this mean for us Orthodox?  Simply that we should speak the truth whenever possible, and not turn our eyes and hearts away from the fact that our nation routinely and resolutely slaughters its unborn.  That is, that as a nation, we are barbarous.  For that is what the term “barbarous” means.  A nation’s barbarity is judged not by whether or not its people love classical music, and speak finely and protectively about the “rights” of groups of which they approve.  It is judged by how they treat the helpless among them, and about how they protect the rights of those of which they emphatically disapprove.  At the risk of being unduly provocative, let us remember that Germany in the 1930’s loved classical music, and spoke protectively about the rights of those groups of which they approved.  It was the groups of which they did disapproved that provided the test of whether or not that nation in that particular decade was civilized or barbarous.  When this same test is applied now to Canada, our nation fails utterly.  In 1930’s Germany, the group of which they disapproved was labelled by some as “untermenschen”; it contemporary Canada the group of which some disapprove is labelled “fetal tissue”.  Regardless of the identity and label, the correct term for the practice relating to both groups is “genocide”.
The fact that our nation has descended into barbarism does not mean that we should despair.  But it means that we should pray.  And it means that we should continue to speak the truth, however unpopular this may be.  God is not mocked.  He remains the father of the fatherless, the defender of widows, and the champion of the unborn.  On the Last Day when the books are opened (Rev. 20:12), this Parliamentary vote will be recalled, for the way that the MPs voted has been recorded in heaven as well as in the House of Commons' Hansard.  Let us speak the truth while we can, for Heaven records our responses as well to the ongoing genocide of the unborn.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Mosaic Law and the Hard Cases

            There are a number of websites dedicated to destroying the Christian Faith by showing that a) Christians have been responsible for a lot of terrible things throughout the past two thousand years, and b) the Bible of the Christians is an immoral and terrible book.  In these websites, I have noticed that anti-Christian vitriol often substitutes for rational argument.  (One such website, decrying the Bible as “evil”, declared Hitler Was a Christian” and “The Holocaust was caused by Christian fundamentalism”.  Reading such things makes me think of the response in Monty Python’s “The Holy Grail” when King Arthur and his knights were standing outside a French castle, being abused by nonsense:  “Is there someone else up there that we can talk to?”)  One bit from the Bible that often is used to discredit the Faith is the provision in Deut. 22:23-29, described by some as the command that a woman marry her rapist.  It certainly sounds pretty grim.  What’s going on?
            Assuming that one actually wants to learn what is going on (usually not the case for the websites mentioned above), it is important to understand what the Mosaic Law is about, especially from the Christian perspective.  The Law and the provisions of the Old Testament were not God’s final and definitive word.  The Law does not present itself to be timeless (as the Muslims present their Qur’an as timeless).  Rather, it is clearly God’s response to the situation in which His people found themselves in about the fifteenth century B.C. That is, it is intensely contextual, and must be read within the cultural context in which it was given. 
Take for example the provisions regarding divorce.  The Law allows for divorce, since divorce was a common part of the cultural world in which the Israelites found themselves in the time of Moses.  It makes provisions to limit harm done to the woman, insisting that she not be treated like chattel, an object to be traded back and forth (see Deut. 24:1-4), and as such it represented an advance on the cultural mores of its day.  But God’s final and definitive word, given later through Christ, did not allow for divorce as a norm.  Divorce was indeed allowed Israel back then, but only by concession, given their “hardness of heart” (Mt. 19:8-9), and this concession was later to be rescinded and replaced with something better.  In other words, the Law represents but one stage in God’s ongoing paideia and education of His people.  The provisions for divorce have to be read contextually, as speaking to the cultural situation in which the people then found themselves.
            It is the same with the provisions in Deuteronomy 22.  In reading them, we have to remember that we are not in an industrialized and liberated twenty-first century West, but rather in a very ancient and primitive Middle East—don’t think “New Yorker”; think “Bedouin”, and you will be closer to the cultural mark.  And don’t think “marriage is about romantic love”, a concept utterly foreign to everyone back then.  Think “marriage is about economic security”—in other words, survival.  (We may or may not deplore such an understanding of marriage, but it is essential to keep it in mind while we read the Law, or we will never begin to understand it.  Besides, it remains to be proven that our “marriage is about romantic love” has served us very well, given that our divorce rates run at about 50%, but that is another matter.)
            The Law in Deuteronomy 22:23f was not elaborating a norm.  It was providing guidance for extreme and difficult sexual cases.  It considers three different possible situations, and legislates differently for each of them. 
            In the first instance, we have the case of a woman betrothed to a man (i.e. legally bound to him), who sleeps with another man while they are both “in the city”.  She is judged guilty of adultery, along with him, and they are to be executed.  It is judged that since they were in the city, had it been a case of rape, she could have cried out for help and been heard and rescued, and so the absence of her cries for help is taken as proof of her consent to adultery.  We may think execution too severe a penalty, but as said above, we must remember this was the ancient Middle East, not modern New York.
            In the second instance, we have the case of a betrothed woman found with another man not in the city but “in the open country”.  In this case, the man is executed and the woman left unpunished.  It is assumed that she cried out for help, but being in the open country “there was no one to rescue her”.  In other words, the crime is considered to be rape, not adultery, and she is judged to be guiltless, since she is given the benefit of the doubt.
            The third instance is the one mentioned at the beginning of this post, and the difference between this case and the others is that in this case, the woman is not betrothed.  The rapist is punished by being heavily fined (the fine goes to the girl’s father to restore his honour), and the man must marry the girl, with no possibility of future divorce.  To understand the underlying rationale for the judgment given, we must first understand the woman’s actual plight in that culture, and how it differed from a woman in the industrialized West today.  Today, a woman suffering rape, despite the tremendous trauma suffered, can still subsequently contract a marriage, and can try to get on with her life.  If she chooses to remain single (for whatever reason), she will still possess the means to support herself.  It was otherwise in the culture presupposed by the Law we are considering.  In that culture, people considered that a woman who had been thus violated was tainted, and no one would marry her.  In those days, a woman’s safety and economic security depended upon her being married.  The rape victim would therefore be destitute, and eventually left to starve.  Her only hope was to contract marriage—in this case, with the only person willing to do so, namely the offender whom the Law forced into marriage.  This provision does not suggest that the situation is ideal, or that all of the woman’s trauma would be healed by the marriage.  Obviously the case remains tragic, whatever is done.  But the only alternative to the one prescribed, given that culture, was further punishment of the victim by leaving her single and destitute.  Remember, in those days, marriage was fundamentally about economic security, and it was this security that was being mandated. 
            For us today, we naturally think primarily and only of the heinousness of the crime, since no further social plight for the woman exists. Our concern is only with the woman’s healing—a part of which involves the punishment of the offender. Our laws do not have to take into the account the victim’s future support and safety.  It was otherwise in the culture in which the Mosaic Law was given.  The purpose of the Law was not to force the victim into a horrific marriage, but to provide for her future support in the only way then possible.
            This bit of Mosaic case law offers us a cautionary tale.  If we are to read the Law (or any ancient document) with understanding, we must first anchor it in the culture in which it was given.  If we fail in this task of historical sensitivity by importing our own views, feelings and presuppositions into the ancient text, we shall end up speaking as foolishly as our vitriolic critics on their anti-Christian websites.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What Lurked Behind the Smile

          Like many of my Baby Boomer generation, I fondly remember the French folk song “Dominique”, as sung by “Soeur Sourire”—Sister Smile.  She was popularly known in English as “the Singing Nun”, and her story was immortalized, if in a fictitious way, by Debbie Reynolds in the 1966 movie “the Singing Nun”.  Soeur Sourire was a Belgian Nun, Sister Luc Gabriel, (born Jeanne-Paule Marie Deckers), and she lived in a Dominican convent in Belgium.  Though unable to understand the words of the song (I was, and remain, tragically unilingual, despite being born the son of my French Canadian father), I was enchanted by the song, drawn in by its musical joy and the crystal clear voice of its singer.  The music spoke to me of joy and freedom and exultation of spirit.  I scarcely knew, or cared, who this “Dominique” was.  (He was, of course, the founder of the nun’s Dominican order.)  The song became immensely popular, as one might gather from the fact that a Hollywood musical was created based upon the life of the singer.  (Make that “loosely based”:  “Soeur Sourire” herself denounced the film as “fiction”.)
The song now remains in my heart as a cautionary tale.  Despite its breathing a spirit of joy and liberation, the Dominican Catholicism which it celebrated was anything but joyful and liberating.  The pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church specialized in control through guilt.  My father told me stories of how he was told by his church that all Protestants were going to hell, and that it was a sin to enter a Protestant church.  The music band Great Big Sea even now speaks of the joy of losing their “catholic conscience” and of not wanting to “feel guilty all the time”.  (It must be stressed that I am here describing the spirituality of the pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church, not its present state.)
Even the smile worn by Soeur Sourire faded after a while.  She became increasingly critical of the Catholic church of her upbringing and profession, and even recorded a song, under her own name of Luc Dominique, praising artificial birth control, entitled “Glory be to God for the Golden Pill”.  It was, Wikipedia tells us, a commercial failure.  Quelle surprise.  And for Soeur Sourire, there was more sadness to come.  The Belgian government claimed that she owed $63,000 in back taxes, payment for the royalties from her hit song.  She countered that the royalties were given to her agent and her convent, and that she had no money to give them, but she had no receipts to prove her donations to the convent.  After trying in vain to jump-start her singing career with a disco synthesizer version of her hit song to pay for her debts, Sister Smile committed suicide along with her female companion of ten years in 1985, leaving a note citing her financial difficulties.  She was 51.  
As I said, Soeur Sourire and her song remain in my heart as a cautionary tale.  True joy and freedom cannot arise from guilt.  One can sing with a crystal clear voice, strumming a folk guitar in full monastic habit, telling the world that a controlling and regimented community can produce joy, and exultation and smiles.  But it is not so.  True joy only comes from the freedom bestowed by Christ, in which guilt is not used as a mechanism of control, but is recognized as an enemy to be overcome.  This is the authentic Gospel.  And I imagine that even St. Dominic knew this.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Dangers of Second-hand Repentance

       I was born a WASP—that is, a White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant. Now that I have become Orthodox, I suppose I am a WASO, though the acronym lacks the same punch. As a WASP growing up in the 60's and later, I was encouraged with all my generation to repent of things I never actually did. That is, I was encouraged to feel guilty about the white man's treatment of the Canadian Indian (the term “First Nations” was unknown then), the Canadian government's treatment of the Japanese during the second world war, and the Christians' treatment of the Jews in the world generally and in Nazi Germany in particular. I dutifully obliged in all this, and felt a tremendous sense of righteousness in doing so. It was fairly easy to repent of these things actually, for I didn't really feel guilty of the sins for which I said I was repenting. The truth is that I was actually repenting second-hand, repenting of things which were done by my father's generation, and my grandfather's generation, and my great-grandfather's generation. I had not myself treated these people badly (nor, come to that, had my father or grandfather). To be honest, I had scarcely met any of these people. I had never met an Indian (or First Nations person) when I was growing up in suburban Toronto. The closest I ever got was hearing about how George Armstrong, captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, was an Indian. (He was affectionately referred to as “the Chief” and was very cool.) The only Jew I ever met was the Rabbi I interviewed for a project on Judaism in high school. The only Japanese I ever met was Maxine, a cute little girl who lived at the other end of my street. She was the only Japanese in our school, and we didn't play much together, largely because she was a grade ahead of me and we didn't play with the bigger kids. And we boys certainly wouldn't be caught dead playing with girls. So, like I said, my repentance of these sins had a certain air of unreality to it. The sense of self-righteousness coming from that repentance, however, was very real. Such penitential breast-beating made me a liberal, a decent guy, and a good person. Though I didn't articulate it, I felt a certain moral superiority over those previous generations. And this is where the danger comes in.
       The truth is that the human race is not a very nice species. We oppress and hurt anyone smaller and more vulnerable than ourselves. Big kids pick on little kids; kids without glasses mock kids with glasses (or used to); men victimize women, adults beat and use children; stronger races and peoples hurt weaker ones, the rich exploit the poor, human beings are cruel to animals. It is not just First Nations, Jews, and Japanese who have been sinned against—any group that is vulnerable long enough comes in for oppressive treatment.
       The universality of the oppression of course does not justify it. It is a good thing to recognize where such oppression has taken place and to decry it as morally reprehensible. If someone, for example, knew about the Nazi genocide of the Jews, or the Turkish genocide of the Armenians and thought it was okay, such a person would be justly denounced as being bereft of moral compass. Having a moral compass means recognizing sin when it takes place and not being shy about denouncing it.
        But actual repentance is something different. The sin for which God calls me to repent is personal sin—stuff that I actually did. And personal sin feels different too: when I am lazy, or lustful, or impatient, or commit the multitude of other sins which fill my confessions, I feel badly. The memory of it comes back in the wee hours of the morning, and I feel ashamed. It is otherwise with my second-hand repentance; my conscience never keeps me up with thoughts of the Jewish genocide, because I was never involved in it. I don't really feel ashamed—I feel very sad that such a monstrous crime occurred, but not personally guilty for it, as I feel guilty for my own sins. For my generation, the guilt for such crimes as is perhaps national, or racial, or societal. But it is not personal to me, and only personal guilt can (or should) make you feel guilty. Recognition and confession of national offences can only be done nationally, through government pronouncements and policies, but not personally by individuals who were never there. (Of course in the case of Nazi war crimes, individuals who were there and who actually committed those crimes may still be alive; they also need to repent personally for what they did. Theirs would be a first-hand repentance, not a second-hand one.)
         So, in second-hand repentance, we have the following scenario: in exchange for a little unreal penitence over something I never actually did, I get a tremendous sense of self-righteous smugness about being a good person. That is the danger, because this smug feeling can stop me from looking at the sins of which I am actually guilty. Of course we need to retain our moral compass and identify national oppression of other groups as sinful, otherwise we may never learn from history, and may end up repeating the same sins ourselves in our own generation. But personal repentance concerns what we have done personally, and things for which we must one day give account before the dread judgment seat of Christ. As I look for things to repent of, I find that I needn't go so far afield as things done in the days of my father (that good man) or my grandfather. There is much more material for my confession closer to home. Second-hand repentance is not bad, but it must not be allowed to substitute for the first-hand repentance of which I am in urgent need.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Withdrawing from the Wrestling Ring

           A war has been raging for a long time now.  This war has nothing to do with the so-called “culture wars” raging in North America.  This war rages within the lofty towers of Academia, and consists of the pitched battle between biblical conservatives and biblical liberals.  The bombast accompanying the conflict reminds me of the old World Wrestling Federation; the ferocity, of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.  And like those conflicts, there are two protagonists.
            In one corner, there is The Liberal.  The liberals have been hard at it since the days of David Strauss and F.C. Baur, criticizing, debunking, and deconstructing the Bible, both Old Testament and New.  They delighted to point out historical errors and inconsistencies in the sacred text, dealing with Scripture as if it had no more authority than any other set of documents from antiquity.  They threw around words like “myth” and “legend”, and denied the historicity of pretty much everything in the Bible.  For them, miracles did not occur, and any part of the Bible that reported one was thereby discredited from being historical in any sense.
            This provoked the contrary response.  In the other corner there appeared The Conservative.  These were men who stressed the authority of Scripture as the Word of God, and focused on its fundamental truths.  This gave birth to the name “fundamentalist”, though the early defenders of the fundamentals had more scholarly sophistication than those to whom the label would later be applied.  They rushed to affirm everything that the liberals denied, and were committed to the historicity of the Biblical text.  Their (modern) understanding of historicity meant that every story and detail in the Scriptures were read as if it were modern history, with all the factual and mathematical rigour which modern historians use. 
            This commitment to read Scripture as if it were modern history led the conservatives into some sticky situations.  To take one example among hundreds of possible ones, we may look at the number reported in the Book of Numbers for those who left Egypt.  In a census taken soon after the Exodus by Moses (Num. 2:32), it was reported that the total number of men twenty years old and upward was 603,550, making for a total population of about a million and a half people who passed through the Red Sea.  This figure has long given even conservatives pause.  For consider:  the number of the Egyptian army at that time has been estimated at between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers.  Ancient records report that much later in 853 B.C. King Ahab managed to muster an army of 10,000—considerably more than his nearest ally and neighbour, the king of Syria, who only managed to field an army of 7000 men.  It was estimated at the time of David, about 1000 B.C., the total population of all the Israelites in Palestine was only about 100,000.  Looking at these numbers, an army of over 600,000 is unbelievable.  Why flee before Pharaoh?  An army that size could have easily taken them on without even leaving Egypt or breaking a sweat.  Clearly this figure of 603,550 fighting men cannot be taken literally, as if they were figures provided by Stats Canada or a modern western government agency.  Nonetheless, those in the old conservative corner of the ring felt morally obliged by their belief in Scripture as the Word of God to defend the mathematical accuracy of the large figure.  Some said, “What does 'thousand' mean, after all?  Perhaps it means simply 603 fighting units.”  Others simply declared, “The Word of God says there were 603,550 men, and that settles it.”  But everyone in the conservative camp felt themselves on the defence and defensive. 
            There was a time when I found myself firmly in the conservative camp, dedicated like my fellows to defend the Bible against all comers.  Like my fellows, I read the Scripture through the embattled lens of the polemicist.  For me, the Bible was not just a sacred text, it was also a battlefield, and I had to tread carefully through it lest I step on any landmines and find myself blown up by liberal attackers.  Though I scarcely knew it at the time, my way of reading the Bible had been dictated to me in advance by this struggle to the death between liberals and conservatives, and was conditioned by the liberal challenges.  I was not a Bible reader so much as I was a Bible defender, and the awkward things pointed out gleefully by my liberal opponents summoned me to the confessional barricades.  Though I would not have admitted it at the time (or even recognized it), polemics had replaced devotion.  I was not so much a student of the Scriptures as its champion. 
            Since becoming Orthodox, I have withdrawn from the wrestling ring of Protestant polemics.  I still confess the Scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, fully authoritative in the Church of God.  But I have come to see that I don't have to play along with the approach or take sides in the pitched battles occasioned by liberal attacks.  My view of history is more consistent with the historical method of antiquity than with modern history (that is, it is less anachronistic).  I no longer feel required to affirm everything denied by the liberals in order to confess the Church's belief in Scripture as the Word of God.  God's Word can be contained in history as written in antiquity, and in parable, historical fiction, proverb, and poetry—even erotic love poetry, such as the Song of Solomon.  Since withdrawing from what was essentially a stupid (and losing) battle, I have been freed to read Scripture as it was originally meant to be read—as appealing to the heart and the will, as literature meant to awaken, shock, enlighten, to steel the nerves, and enthral the heart. 
            To take the example of the 603,550 who left Egypt:  as someone fighting to the death with the liberals, it was all about historical credibility, because I felt that if I admitted the number was not historically accurate by our modern standards, I was thereby selling the farm to the unbelievers, and agreeing that Scripture was not the Word of God after all.  Now I can admit that the figure was inflated.       
             But I no longer care what the liberals conclude from this; I have left them and their shrill voices behind.  The issue now is:  what is God by His Word telling me by this figure?  The answer:  God is telling me how exalted He is, in bringing a mighty host out of the house of bondage by His upraised hand.  He had promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numberless as the sand on the seashore, as the stars of heaven for multitude—and here He has fulfilled His promise.  The Biblical author is using numbers poetically, not mathematically; he is writing theology, not demographics.
            The issue is not about ultimately about numbers; it is about faithfulness and the power of our God.  For the God who brought Israel into their inheritance is strong enough to bring us into ours, and to see us also safely through all trials to enter our own Promised Land in the Kingdom.  In leaving behind the shrill and sterile debate of liberal with conservative, I have found the Word of God is richer than polemics, and more satisfying.  My task is no longer to win an argument; it is to feed upon the living Word, and find eternal nourishment for my hungry soul.