Jesus

The Meaning Of Good Friday: The Victim Wins The Day

When I was a boy I asked a question to my parents doubtless raised millions of times by the innocent young to their elders: "If Jesus was crucified, why do they call it Good Friday?" Good question. In this era of growing cultural commercialism swallowing the meaning of holy days into secular holidays and religious feasts into commercial festivals (witness Christmas, though perhaps last year saw the slightest of pullbacks) Holy Week has maintained its meaning for the most part. Solemnity still reigns.

One of the best sermons I ever heard was a few years back at Christmas. While many expect a bright and cheery talk, the pastor starkly reminded the parishioners that "the wood of the manger is the wood of the Cross." Christ humbly assumed a human nature and later died for our redemption. It wasn't pretty — Roman executions were perhaps the most brutal in history — and we all share in the fault because Jesus died to redeem all sin. While today we commemorate a horrible event, we see the good in it which leads to the hope of the Resurrection on Sunday. Though victim, Christ wins the day. That is the "good."

Here are some reflections on the meaning of Good Friday. First, an excerpt from a reflection by Pope John Paul II, from April 13, 2001, at the end of The Good Friday Way of the Cross at the Colosseum in Rome:

“Christ became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (cf. Phil 2:8):

We have just concluded the Via Crucis which, every year, sees us gathered on the evening of Good Friday in this place, filled with intense Christian memories. We have followed the steps of the Innocent One, unjustly condemned, keeping our eyes on his adorable face: a face offended by human malice but full of the light of love and forgiveness.

Truly distressing are the dramatic events involving Jesus of Nazareth! In order to restore fullness of life to man, the Son of God humbled himself in the most abject way. But from his Death, freely chosen, life springs forth. Scripture says: oblatus est quia ipse voluit — he gave himself up because he so wished. His is an extraordinary testimony of love, fruit of an obedience without compare, carried to the point of the total giving of himself. ...

How can we take our eyes away from Jesus as he dies on the Cross? His battered face disturbs us. The Prophet says: “He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised” (Is 53:2-3).

On that face are concentrated the dark shadows of every suffering, every injustice, every violence inflicted on human beings throughout the course of history. But now, before the Cross, our everyday sorrows, and even death itself, appear clothed in the majesty of Christ abandoned and dying.

The face of the bleeding and crucified Messiah, reveals that, for the sake of love, God has allowed himself to become involved in the tormented chronicles of mankind. Ours is no longer a solitary suffering, because he has paid the price for us with his blood, shed to the last drop. He has entered into our suffering and broken through the barrier of our distraught tears.

In his death, all human life acquires meaning and value, as does death itself. From the Cross, Christ appeals to the personal freedom of men and women in every period of history and calls each one to follow him on the path of complete abandonment into the hands of God. He even makes us rediscover the mysterious fruitfulness of pain.

For a look at the importance of faith in the modern world and its impact on culture and even policy, Jennifer Marshall at The Heritage Foundation's The Foundry poses these germane thoughts in today's Morning Bell column. For those interested in the historical aspect of Good Friday, Linda Gradstein of AOL News reports that Simcha Jacobovici, the host of Naked Archeology on the History Channel, believes he's found two of the nails used in Jesus' crucifixion. Speaking of the History Channel, it repeats on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. the Ray Dowling's acclaimed documentary The Real Face of Jesus?, which you can read more about here and here.

Who can forget The Passion of The Christ and the most realistic portrayal ever of a Roman execution? Jesus absorbed our sin manifest in physical suffering, so great is His love. That's why today is "good."

Virginia News Stand: May 24, 2010

Annotations & Elucidations Aloha!

Over the weekend, in a special election in a district that has not voted for a Republican in 20 years, in a state that has only sent three people to Washington, D.C., (and one of those was when it first became a state), that went for Barack Obama with 70 percent of the vote, and the district in which he was born and raised, a Republican won with 40 percent of the vote in a 12-candidate field. Two big name Democrats split the vote, to be sure, but one says enough of his supporters will vote GOP in November because the party is too far to the left — even by Hawaii's standards! What does that tell you? Coincidentally, if you haven't, check out this post from last week, where a reader from Hawaii left a couple of comments about the situation there. Aloha!

News

Bob McDonnell in Va.: From Conservative to Pragmatist (Time)

Prayer at state police service mentions Jesus, other faiths (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

Chaplain invokes Christ at ceremony for fallen troopers (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Hundreds of area faithful celebrate power of prayer (Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star)

Va. attorney general off to rocky start with state colleges (Washington Post)

Too many candidates may spoil tea-party impact (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Governor’s Cabinet earns less than local deputies (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Va. state Sen. Hurt bolsters position in GOP race to oust Rep. Perriello (Washington Post)

Griffith nominated in 9th District to run against Boucher (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Griffith picked to run in 9th (Roanoke Times)

He's now a she and wants to serve the VFW as a woman (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

National News

Obama seeks to force votes on spending cuts (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Blumenthal apologizes for claims that he served in Vietnam (AP/GOPUSA.com)

New Hawaii congressman hopes for quick swearing-in (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Obama says US must shape new world order (AP/GOPUSA.com)

New financial rules might not prevent next crisis (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Analysis

The Gathering Revolt Against Government Spending (Michael Barone/GOPUSA.com)

Obama's big wins on bills may not help Democrats (Tom Raum/AP/GOPUSA.com)

Commentary

Global Governance is Here! (Henry Lamb/GOPUSA.com)

More Beautiful Intolerance (Doug Patton/GOPUSA.com)

Rand Paul's Libertarian Achilles' Heel (Cliff Kincaid/GOPUSA.com)

Blacks Must Solve Their Own Problems (Star Parker/GOPUSA.com)

Hey, San Fran! How about boycotting California first! (Bobby Eberle/GOPUSA.com)

Change The Channel

It’s been a rather tough week for our friends over at the ACLU. On the same day they were slapped down by the U.S. Supreme Court concerning public displays of religious symbols, Governor Bob McDonnell reversed a discriminatory policy that censored prayers of volunteer state police chaplains. One of the funniest and most outrageous statements in response to the governor's action came from Virginia ACLU director Kent Willis, who’s not exactly known for legal precision:

There is no reason for the governor to bow to pressure from groups that are encouraging the police to break the law by delivering sectarian prayers at government events. (Emphasis added.)

Seriously. Is it any wonder that no reasonable, thoughtful person anywhere pays a bit of attention to what the ACLU says? Getting legal advice from the ACLU is like getting medical advice from Dr. Kevorkian. It can't end well.

I'd try to explain what the law is to Mr. Willis, but it won’t do any good. But for those of you not blinded by ideology, needless to say, there is no law anywhere that says sectarian prayers at government events are illegal. Even in the ACLU's vision of our government where the Supreme Court makes law as opposed to the legislature, it's still not the case. But don’t take my word for it, here is what the Eleventh Circuit Court in Pelphrey v. Cobb (2008) said in its analysis of this issue:

The taxpayers (ACLU) argue that Marsh (U.S. Supreme Court precedent in this area) permits only "nonsectarian" prayers for commission (government) meetings, but their reading is contrary to the command of Marsh that the courts are not to evaluate the content of the prayers absent evidence of exploitation.  …The court never held that the prayers in Marsh were constitutional because they were "nonsectarian."

Oh, and about that Fourth Circuit case (Turner v. Fredericksburg) that the ACLU alleges requires non-sectarian prayers. Here is what the decision actually says:

We need not decide whether the Establishment Clause compelled the Council to adopt their legislative prayer policy because the Establishment Clause does not absolutely dictate the form of legislative prayer.

In Turner, while the Court upheld Fredericksburg's discriminatory censorship policy, it clearly stated that the constitution does not compel the policy. Again, in Pelphrey, the Eleventh Circuit says:

Although it upheld the policy of the (Fredericksburg City) Council, the Fourth Circuit expressly declined to hold that Marsh required a policy of nondenominational prayers. (For interested parties I encourage you to read Pelphrey for yourself. In it the court rejects every typical ACLU argument.)

So what can we learn from all this? Well, one thing we already know, the ACLU is wrong almost all the time. They live under the creed of "If you say something enough, loud enough, people will start believing it." Luckily, the only people who seem to believe them are in the MSM and some confused elected officials.

More importantly, we can learn that it really is ok to still "exercise" our faith in the public square, even if you are a government agent (ACLU words). This week’s actions by the Supreme Court and Governor McDonnell verify that.

And finally, to those who are offended by the name "Jesus," I say to you what you say to me when you shove your smut in my face in the public square. Change the channel.

Religious Liberty At Stake In Supreme Court, Fourth Circuit Cases

It seems like every day we hear about another assault on our First Amendment right to free religious exercise. From the silencing of prayers at high school graduations and government meetings to nondiscrimination policies intended to thwart religious activity, the message of leftist elites is clear — you can believe what you want (for now) but keep it to yourself. It makes us all the more thankful that we have advocates like the Alliance Defense Fund on our side. Yesterday, The Family Foundation joined ADF to co-host a luncheon briefing for attorneys and pastors on a religious liberty case that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court next Monday. This case (Christian Legal Society v. Martinez) arose when the University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco denied recognition to CLS, including equal meeting space and most means of communicating on campus. The reason? Although CLS welcomes everyone to all its events, CLS would not agree to eliminate its Statement of Faith requirement for officers and its voting members.

Hastings deemed CLS' Statement of Faith and its interpretation that Christians should not engage in extramarital sexual activity to violate the religion and sexual orientation portions of its nondiscrimination policy. Hastings has since interpreted its rule as prohibiting all groups from excluding anyone from voting membership or leadership on the basis of beliefs of any kind. The Ninth U.S. Circuit of Appeals, widely recognized as the most radical appeals court in the country, upheld Hastings' decision in a two sentence, unpublished decision.

Casey Mattox, legal counsel to the Alliance Defense Fund, and co-counsel on this case alongside CLS attorneys, told luncheon attendees about the impact this case may have on university campuses as well as the far-reaching impact it may have on any Christian ministry. In essence, if the left gets its way, any organization or church that receives state support — including tax exempt status — would be discriminated against if it does not accept behaviors that are contrary to their beliefs.

At the same time, The Family Foundation is working with ADF in seeking legislators who will sign onto amicus briefs it has drafted in a religious liberty case in Forsyth County, N.C. There, a lower court decreed that all prayers at government meetings must be so-called "non-sectarian." If the lower court is not overturned by the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, it could mean that — for the first time in American history — prayers offered before sessions of legislatures, city councils, and all other public bodies in at least the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, must be censored to exclude all references to a particular deity (e.g., Jesus). The lower court opinion ignores the instruction of the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal appellate and district courts that previously considered this issue and upheld the cherished American tradition of uncensored legislative prayer.

Meanwhile, our policy team is focusing much of our summer research efforts on how we can best protect our First Amendment right to religious expression through the legislative process. We still have yet to see the General Assembly remedy the situation for state police chaplains who remain prohibited from praying publically according to their beliefs, and too many of our local governments have censored prayers at their meetings under the bullying of radical secularists at the ACLU. This must stop.

It is safe to say that our constitutionally protected right to freely exercise our faith in public is in peril. For many of our political leaders the Constitution itself is a nuisance. We must continue to work to ensure that the rights of all religious Americans are protected — and we will.

The Real Face Of Jesus?

Here's a television recommendation: If you haven't seen it already, watch the History Channel's The Real Face of Jesus? this weekend or next. It debuted earlier this week and is absolutely spectacular — part history of the Passion, part history of the Shroud of Turin and part hi-tech CSI. It airs tonight at 8:00 Eastern and at midnight, at 5:00 p.m. Easter Sunday, and at 5:00 p.m. a week from today. Special effects expert Ray Downing of Studio Macbeth, after in-depth consultations with the world's foremost experts on the Shroud, used the latest 3-D imaging technology and brought to life what Jesus looked like, both bloodied and not. It is a striking figure and already has affected me: As I have heard Jesus in the Gospel during Mass this Holy Week, I see a figure, a man. It is something that will provide a new perspective. It will increase your faith. I won't try to explain it for fear of watering down the affect of the documentary, although others have done a decent job (see Mike McManus of the Boston Herald).

Our friends at Real Catholic Blog have put up some good background on the documentary, including a side view of the reconstructed face put out by the studio, as well as some excellent links and a video of Mr. Downing on a Fox News Channel interview. 

For the record: Many atheists try to discredit the Shroud of Turin, but the carbon dating on the Shroud, which supposedly disproved its authenticity, was taken from another layer of fabric sewn on the Shroud centuries later. In fact, two compelling pieces of evidence outweigh much skepticism: floral residue and a stitching pattern unique to first century Jerusalem. Also, demagogues say the Catholic Church proclaimed it the burial cloth of Jesus through some dogmatic authority. Not true. The Church only calls it an ancient relic worthy of reverence. (Again, the secularist technique of contrivance to diminish the faithful's credibility.)  

The evidence is overwhelming that the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of a first century crucifixion victim. Could it be Jesus? That's where faith comes in. But even a bit of logic, as this documentary points out, makes the case. Happy Easter!

Virginia News Stand: January 7, 2010

Annotations & Elucidations Brit And Tiger, Lisa And Isabella

The News Stand had an unexpected return to hiatus the last two days because of a sudden illness. The News is dominated by Governor-elect Bob McDonnell's cabinet — who he picked, how much salary they'll make (his as well), and what they'll be allowed to do in their off-time.  

In political news, the Washington Post looks at the issue of Delegate Dave Marsden's residency in the 37th Senate district special election (January 12). Delegate Marsden, who is running against Republican Stephen Hunt, moved into the district only a few weeks ago and lives in a room in a friend's house. Hunt, meanwhile, is hoping to hold the seat vacated by Attorney General-elect Ken Cuccinelli, and is expected to be the only candidate to appear tonight at the Fairfax Family Forum candidate forum. Meanwhile, values and faith issues occupy the National News and Commentary sections: The Isabella Miller custody case has the attention of Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Michael Paul Williams, who quotes our president, Victoria Cobb, and Fox News Channel's Brit Hume has raised the hackles of some with his comments on Tiger Woods . . . specifically, how he can save his spiritual life through Jesus.  

News

Va. state Senate candidate Marsden faces residency issue (Washington Post)

McDonnell announces three more Cabinet choices (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

McDonnell picks N.Va. executive for technology post (Washington Post)

McDonnell, Cabinet to take unspecified pay cuts (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

McDonnell will reduce salaries (The Daily Press)

McDonnell vows to cut his own pay (Roanoke Times)

McDonnell OK with secretary on boards (Roanoke Times/Norfolk Virginian-Pliot)

Sledd defends keeping corporate board seats (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

McDonnell to let Va. Cabinet heads serve on corporate boards (Washington Post)

Public can weigh in on state budget today (The Daily Press)

Two GOP lobbyists switching firms (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Loudoun County's nondiscrimination policy expanded to protect gays (Washington Post)

Businessman Scott Rigell launches congressional campaign (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

Contempt citation sought in same-sex custody case (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

National News

Comments on Buddhism, Tiger Woods upset faithful (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Gay-marriage foes slam plans to televise Prop 8 trial (Washington Times)

Commentary

*Custody case defies ideology in some ways (Michael Paul Williams/Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Persecution for the Brit Hume Witness (Peter Sprigg/FRC Blog)

The United States Puzzle

This perfect story for the Christmas season comes from a friend, Michael Smith, by way of Donna Holt, of whom I am not familiar. But it's a great tale, appropriate for the time and the times: 

A father, while trying to relax after his busy day at work, had just sat down to read his favorite travel magazine when his little girl, as was her custom, ran up and jumped in his lap. She always asked questions about one thing or another and, when she saw a picture of the world on the front cover of the magazine, she asked him what the United States looked like. He flipped through the magazine until he found a map of the U.S. and as he was about to show it to her decided to make a game out of it. So he tore the picture out of the magazine and then tore it into small pieces, gave it to her and said, "now go into the other room and see if you can figure out how to piece it back together correctly." After only a few minutes, she returned and handed him the map, perfectly fitted and taped together. The father in his amazement asked how she had finished so quickly. "Oh," she said, "on the other side of the paper is a picture of Jesus. When I got Jesus put back together in his rightful place, then the country just came together too."      

A Huge Follow-Up Question For Tonight

Yesterday, we posed six questions we'd love to hear asked during tonight's final presidential debate between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama. However, now that we have Democrat Congressman Steve Cohen teaching the Gospel from the House floor (whatever happened to the separation of church and state?) and calling Jesus a "community organizer" and Pontius Pilate a governor (see here), more than implying Obama is the "messiah" and Governor Sarah Palin (see video, slide show here) is a murderer; and now that America's most lovable and respected religious figure, Louis Farrakhan, has prophesied that Obama is the "messiah," (see here) this is what we hope to hear CBS News reporter, and tonight's moderator, Bob Schieffer, ask Senator Obama:

Is Representative Cohen right: Was Jesus a community organizer? If so, is Louis Farrakahn right — are you, in fact, the "messiah"?

After all, isn't time we hear from the man himself on this issue? A world anxiously waits to know if it is in the presence of the Second Coming.

God help us if Obama replies, "It is you who say I am."

Unanswered Questions Because They Are Unasked Questions

Tomorrow night is the third and final presidential debate. We've posted questions prior to some of the other debates that we'd like to get answers to, but of course, unless they are asked, we'll never know the answers. Here are some more questions we'd love to hear asked tomorrow night: 1. Senator Obama, given the voter fraud violations by the leftist organization ACORN in 2004, and the numerous investigations of it this year in battleground states (see Washington Post, here), do you still believe, as you stated earlier this year, that it will play a large role in your administration?

2. Considering how grievous the violations were and new accusations are, are you sstill proud of serving as its lawyer?

3. You like to note your past as a community organizer. Is registering the fictitious, the dead and people not qualified to vote what community organizers do?

4. Was registering the fictitious, the dead and people not qualified to vote the goal of the Civil Rights movement?

5. Why have you not repudiated the vile comments of Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and John Lewis (D-Ga.), who said your opponents wanted to kill blacks and Jews? (See Wall Street Journal.)

6. Do you agree with Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) that Jesus was a community organizer and his implication that Governor Sarah Palin is a murderer? (Read The Citizen's Father David Epps, here.)

It's doubtful these questions will get asked given the left-wing slant and timidity of the Mainstream Media. But it never hurts to put them out there. You never know who's reading . . . at least it may get some people thinking. 

Here's the video of the new New Testament interpretation by Rep. Cohen:

Ekaineomics: The Poor, The Starving . . . The Government

Jesus said the poor will always be with us. That's not good news for those who think the size of government is huge and would like to see much of it go away, because state government now considers itself among the poor. So says Governor Tim Kaine. According to his excellency, higher gas prices are causing people to buy less gas which means . . . (drum roll, please) . . . less gas tax revenue! But wait: Don't liberals want us to use less gas so we won't pollute and melt the polar ice caps? What are they going to do when we move to hydrogen powered cars? There will be no gas left to tax! Poor liberals.

Aside from that inconsistency, we hope Governor Kaine learns from this some basic economics: The more expensive a good or service, the less of it is purchased. So adding taxes to the plethora of items outlined in his recent tax scheme will make those items more expensive. How does he see this as good for Virginia?

Now, more ekaineomics: He recently told The Richmond Times-Dispatch that the meat of state government was down to the bone:

"Obviously, we've been through two rounds of expense tightening," the governor said. "One in November, where I reduced the state budget by $300 million cutting expenses. And then in February I had to do a $1.4 billion reduction in the prospective two-year budget," he added.

"Obviously"? Who would have known, what with a budget of $78 billion, more than twice what it was 10 years ago, with new programs launched just this year, such as an expansion of a Pre-K program for which there was no demand. He gets around to admitting his "cuts" were really scale-backs of proposed increases, not actual reductions in programs, although he couched them as cuts.

Without doubt, higher gas prices have increased the cost of government, especially for necessary services such as state police and school bus transportation, as well as for operating state buildings — offices, prisons and colleges, for example.

"But we also have a revenue effect," said Kaine. "As gas prices go up, people drive fewer miles, and that reduces revenues to the state's transportation fund."

Kaine said he saw a recent statistic that showed Americans drove 11 billion fewer miles in the month of March than they did during March of last year. "So what we will see is increasing costs everywhere in state government and fewer transportation dollars," he added.

But it's not only the state. Localities are claiming the poor house blues, too. Several counties have refused to lower their real estate taxes, meaning higher revenues as the old rates are applied to properties with ever increasing assessments. In Richmond, Councilman Marty Jewell, Mayor Doug Wilder's one reliable ally, was the dissenter in an 8-1 vote to reduce the property tax by 3 cents to $1.20 of assessed value, from the current $1.23. (It should have rolled back to $1.18 to remain revenue neutral.) Despite campaign promises, the mayor was opposed to any tax reductions. According to the Times-Dispatch, Jewell, echoing the mayor, said it was too large a cut given the struggling economy because the city needs the money.

So the city and state need the money? What about the hard-working Virginians supplying the money?

But in the face of all this government poorness, some agencies are living large. As Robin Beres of the T-D discovered, two of Virginia's largest universities spent nearly $3 million in catering services just in the first three quarters of the 2008 fiscal year. (Read the article here, but note a typo: she means billions, not millions, in her state budget totals). In Fiscal Year 2007, various institutes of higher learning in the Commonwealth spent $250,000 alone at Richmond's grand hotel, The Jefferson. One college spent $30,000 at the Country Club of Virginia.

But that's just the fun stuff she found. It's well documented that the budget has grown from $15.5 billion in 1998 to $39 billion in the second year of Governor Kaine's two-year budget. But why? One reason she cites is payroll. U.S. Census statistics show Virginia as the 12 largest state with 7.7 million residents. North Carolina, the 10th largest state, has more than 9 million. However, Virginia has 122,000 full-time government employees to North Carolina's 93,000. Yet, we hear from the administration that Virginia government is strapped and we have to raise taxes. Wonder why.

Plainly put: If transportation, or any function government deems necessary, is in crisis, those in charge need to prioritize. Crisis situations get put to the top. Crises are solved with what you have at that moment because crises don't wait; by definition, if it could, it's not a crisis. So if Governor Kaine, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) and the other liberals are sincere about solving the transportation crisis, they would stop trying to score political points, prioritize spending and cut just a little more than 1 percent of the $78 billion in the current two year budget and put that toward transportation (i.e., re-appropriate the last $1 billion in the budget).

It is disingenuous to say a budget that large cannot be cut. Not everything the government spends on is a priority, to say the least. Let there be no mistake: Funds are not lacking in Virginia. Perhaps truthfulness and leadership are.