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Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I must say that I have noticed things on History Channel which are quite at variance with such noted historians as Will Durant and Paul Johnson. Today I was watching "States" which is an hour program with about 5 states taken one at a time and each is given a history/geographical/cultural tour.

And there was Kansas. I about choked over some of their facts. Now of course in a 10 minute span you have to be brief and that means a quick statement or two. Now of course I could understand if a mistake was made in saying that North Carolina's chief cash crop was, say, cotton instead of tobacco. After all, it isn't the geography channel. But to make a bozo on history!

Ach! Examples. It was stated that Kansas had a rich history in the cattle trail drives when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad shipped cattle from Dodge City. And that the cattle could just as well have been shipped from New Orleans. Hmm. Seems like I remember the Union Pacific and Abilene using the Chisholm Trail was what spawned the cattle drives from Texas. And the reason they weren't shipped out of Ft. Worth or New Orleans was that the rails after the civil war were hideously destroyed. Ever try to drive cattle through LA swamps? Abilene was the first because of a myterious disease in Texas cattle, "Texas Fever" didn't affect the Texas cattle but it killed the settlers' cattle in the North. So KS passed laws forbidding Texas cattle east of certain defined boundaries. Abilene was on the boundary and had the rails completed to that point in 1867. And an Illinois livestock broker who was quite honest offered a fair deal to the Texans. Later the drives shifted up the Texas trail to Dodge City.

Eventually the drives stopped in 1886, the History Channel asserts, because the state of KS passed a law that didn't allow TX cattle. Well, yes the state did extend the boundary to be the entire state in 1887. But trail drives had been in decline after 1880 because the southern railroads were rebuilt. What really ended the drives abruptly was the epic winter of 1886. That was the winter that killed 90% of the cattle in Montana, bankrupted Teddy Roosevelt in N. Dakota and sent him back to NY politics. It had suddenly become apparent to everybody in the livestock business that you had to have barns and hay and fences to raise cattle in winter. After the fact, in 1887, KS passed the ban on TX cattle. We now know that cattle from TX had developed immunity to the ticks that caused Texas Fever. Just dip 'em.

"States" went on to declare that Wichita was the primary hub for early aviation development. There were 11 airports there in 1929. And they said that Kansas was perfect for aviation because it had strong winds. Uh, whoa! So does just about every state from Texas to Montana. What was unique about southern KS was that KS has almost 250 days of fair weather each year, in which a good test flight could be made over flat land around Wichita. Secondly, the best oils, lubricants and high octane aviation fuel was being refined in the crude methods of the day from Kansas and Oklahoma crudes. And finally Kansas at the turn of the century had a very strong reputation for entrepreneurship--Kansas Spirit. Don't tell me to fly a kite, I'll build a plane!

I guess I won't pick at the show just because they point out that the signature crop is wheat but don't explain why. Wheat grows well in dry climates and winter wheat, the original middle Turkish strain does best in a climate zone like Kansas. And was brought to Kansas by German Mennonite immigrants who got run out of Russia in the 1880s. By becoming a state early (1861) Kansas is full of immigrant communities.

But it does make you wonder what else you are hearing on History Channel that is wrong. Maybe they spend too much time looking for Sasquatch and the Abomnible Snowman. I never could see what that had to do with history.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


This is Easter week and this article is what we call Christian apologetics. I was at our home bible study Monday this week. Pastor Tom made note that some skeptics argue that since Mark was the first gospel published and since it doesn't quote Jesus saying he was the Messiah, then maybe the rest of the gospels were Christian propaganda pieces written later by other writers. Ha! I had never heard this argument, but I can imagine it is a favorite with the historical critic skeptics of Christianity. It offers a nice rationalization for their skepticism. Since by nature I am a skeptic, I always enjoyed mixing it up with those guys. And this is for your Easter enjoyment.

Say you accept the Mark account but disbelieve that Jesus is Savior and Lord. My question is, have you read it closely? For example in Mark 1 at the baptism of Jesus, God's voice says, "this is My beloved Son." and then in Mark 12:6 Jesus told a parable about a landlord who finally sent his "beloved Son" and then tennants killed him. (meaning himself and the Jewish people) He finishes with the quote, "the stone which the builders rejected became the chief cornerstone; this came about from the Lord." Meaning that he, the beloved Son was that rejected One who was the chief cornerstone of salvation. And 'Lord' means YHWH, i.e. God's name. YHWH, "I am that I am" was also abbreviated "I am". When before the Sanhedrin, ruling council of Jews, they asked him in Marks account, "Are you the Christ, the Blessed One?" And he said, "I AM. [yikes!! Did you hear that!!] and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven." Son of Man is the guy who appears to God the Father, the Ancient of Days, in Daniel 7 vision of heaven. [Any questions?] And then even if a bonafied skeptic doesn't want to believe this, note what happens to the high priest and council in the next verse, They tore their clothes upon hearing this blasphemy (someone claiming to be God or having His power) and condemned him to death for that reason. Hey, pay no attention to what I say, just notice the behavior of those who were experts in Judaism.

Mark also has those interesting passages about how we are to forgive others so that our Father in Heaven will forgive us. (11:25-26) Who can forgive? Well if Joe and John have a disagreement and Leroy comes along and says, "I forgive you," Joe and John will look at him weirdly. What 3rd party, some Leroy, can come along and forgive my fight? If I hit you, only you can forgive me. Or God who has power over all things, can forgive. So when Jesus claims to be able to forgive sins or says to the woman he healed in Mark 8:34 "Daughter your faith has made you well" how does a mere man, a Leroy, know about someone else's faith? Can he read her mind? Shall we go to Darfur or some other place with horrible strife and say, Leroy says you are forgiven and Leroy knows your faith is good? That's idiocy! Or Jesus really is Who He says He is.

Mark 8 is the best. Jesus asks his disciples and Peter in particular who they said he was and Peter answered, "Thou art the Christ" Christ, Messiah, anointed one was to come to save the people from their sins according the Hebrew scriptures. Jesus took the title Son of Man (of Daniel fame) and explains how he must suffer and rise again(of Isaiah fame). Then Jesus launches into troubling words, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross,and follow Me...whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's shall save it." Now that means that Leroy ain't your savior and only Jesus is. And that we have to give ourselves up to trust in Him. Functionally that is God because only God can save according to the Old Testament scriptures. "Jesus" means "God saves" and Is. 43 says, "I, even I AM the Lord [YHWH] and there is no Savior apart from Me." And Jesus says in Mark 16, "in My name you will cast out demons" and in Mark 13:13 "You will be hated by all for My name's sake." Now what would cause people to go into a rage over a silly old name unless the name mean that God incarnate in Jesus Christ is the only savior? That blows all those schemes about getting into heaven because we are going to prove to God that we have been a good person and have been sincere, etc. The gospel, "good news" is that we are saved only by God's mercy and grace that comes through repentance--which is our only hope. That is Jesus's first and central message (Mark 1:15).

And then again, he says "the Son of Man is Lord [God's name again!] of the Sabbath." He tells his followers in Mark 8:38 that He is judge of the world.

But maybe one of the more interesting reasons for believing that the Salvation of the world comes through this Jesus is that Mark spends 6 chapters out of 16 on his death and resurrection. Why would you spend almost half the book talking about how someone died if they were just a teacher? Wouldn't you expound on their teaching? For example, Tycho Brahe, the tremendous Danish astronomer of the 16th century whose careful measurements of the planetary motions allowed Johannas Kepler to postulate his theory of planetary motion, had a most unusual death. Does anybody remember it or do they remember his discoveries instead? Kepler had an interesting death too. Recall it? The point is that no one even considers this important. We study their scientific discoveries and ideas. But Jesus's death was the punch line of the book--the atonement for all of mankind's sin. (And in case you are interested, Brahe died of bladder explosion when he went to a party given by the King of Denmark in his honor and drank too much.)

Okay, so the gospel of Mark has fewer words of Jesus, just tells more about what his actions were. If this is the gospel Least indicative of Jesus's divinity, what must the others testify to!

Anything less than this ain't much "good news" because we would flunk.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Gettysburgs biggest hero

So the Democrats and Obama don't think our military are essential personnel? Once again I realize why I work so hard against them. I don't know if many people realize that we are coming up on the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States or Civil War. On April 12, 1861 rebels shelled Ft. Sumpter in Charleston Harbor. It was right after Lincoln was inaugurated (was March Madness days back then, not the current Jan. 20). And the war ended April 9, 1865 at Appromatox Courthouse, Virginia. I have no trouble remembering the day since it is our anniversary. But the days I like to remember is July 1-4, 1863. On July 4 the Union won both Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and arguably turned the tide of the war--forever decimating Lee's army and cutting the South in half by controlling the Mississippi River. If by some weird chance I am ever asked to talk during Black History month, here is what I might say... You hear people trying to score political points all the time with talk of Reparations. It is part of our family's lore that we lost two cousins at the aptly-named Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg, fighting for Chamberlain's Michigan Regiment. I won't ask anybody for reparations. Honor them, not me. I was born 87 years after the battle. It was terribly bloody. On Cemetery Ridge 6000 men died in an hour. That was by single shot rifles and close combat and cannon balls. The War had 600,000 deaths, about 20% of the adult males in the country. You would think a country would never get over something that bad. But I want to tell you how it did. At the end of the battle on the evening of July 3, there were 21,000 men lying wounded on the field. Meade tried to pursue Lee down into Virginia and in those days there weren't sufficient field hospitals to take care of a battle where 150,000 men killed 27,000 and left 21,000 too weak to walk and losing blood, dying as the days drug on. Ironically, the battle had been fought on a farm owned by a freed slave and the neighborhood had many former slaves who farmed. The town of Gettysburg was burned to the ground and the citizens fled. But Lydia Smith did not. Lydia heard the cries of the men left on the battlefield and summoning courage, began to bring them water and food. In fact she spent her life savings over two weeks trying her best to keep men alive. It made no difference to her if they were Confederate or Union. She helped them all. Now here's my question. Why would she do that? The answer I once got from a scholarly Afro-American was that blacks of that time were extremely forgiving followed by a confused shrug. True. Why is that? Lydia grew up in Africa, and learned aminism, the belief that there are hundreds of terrifying nature gods behind every rock and tree and animal. If they aren't placated, the gods would turn on you. They never answered the question of what lies beyond the grave. Or what is the meaning of life. Then, although she was once a slave, Lydia came to America where she heard about a new God, the one who said, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free" and "I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who has brought you out of Egypt, and out of the house of slavery." This God was One who gave meaning to your life, forgave and accepted you no matter your circomstances, and saved your life. This was Savior, Lord and Friend Who would follow after you no matter what you were going through. When the church sang "and before I'll be a slave, I'll be lying in my grave, and go home to my Lord and be free!" she knew exactly Who she was talking about. Lydia Smith visited about 10,000 wounded soldiers at Gettysburg. It is estimated that she saved the lives of roughly 4,000 men. Honor her by learning how to forgive and follow your Lord like she did.