Monday, November 28, 2011

Jesus Christ and Voodoo

One island - La Hispaniola

One nature - Paradise on earth

One hell of a history

Two countries - Dominican Republic 2/3 Haiti 1/3

Two religions:
Dominican Republic 70% Catholic 20% Evangelical
Haiti Republic 80% Catholic

but and this is a big BUT:
According to the CIA World Factbook, about 50% of the population of Haiti practice Voodoo.

Jesus Christ
The Dominican Republic has the second largest economy in the Caribbean. It is an upper middle-income developing country primarily dependent on agriculture, trade, and services, especially tourism. Although the service sector has recently overtaken agriculture as the leading employer of Dominicans (due principally to growth in tourism and Free Trade Zones), agriculture remains the most important sector in terms of domestic consumption and is in second place (behind mining) in terms of export earnings. Tourism accounts for more than $1 billion in annual earnings. Free trade zone earnings and tourism are the fastest-growing export sectors. According to a 1999 International Monetary Fund report, remittances from Dominican Americans, are estimated to be about $1.5 billion per year. Most of these funds are used to cover basic household needs such as shelter, food, clothing, health care and education. Secondarily, remittances have financed small businesses and other productive activities.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas. Two-thirds of all Haitians depend on the agriculture sector, mainly small-scale subsistence farming, and remain vulnerable to damage from frequent natural disasters, exacerbated by the country's widespread deforestation. A macroeconomic program developed in 2005 with the help of the International Monetary Fund helped the economy grow 1.8% in 2006, the highest growth rate since 1999. Haiti suffers from higher inflation than similar low-income countries, a lack of investment (increasing however since the recent presidential seating), and a severe trade deficit. In 2005, Haiti paid its arrears to the World Bank, paving the way for reengagement with the Bank. The government relies on formal international economic assistance for fiscal sustainability. In 2006, Haiti held a successful donors conference in which the total aid pledged exceeded Haiti's request. Remittances are the primary source of foreign exchange, equaling nearly a quarter of GDP.

Do you remember that other pair of states - proudly communist East Germany, humbly Christian West Germany?

... or Max Weber's theory on the impact of Calvinism on state economy in Switzerland... not among the poorest countries...

Can we say that Jesus Christ does have some practical impact also on the economy of a country?

If so, divine help includes certain well-known requirements on how people in the blessed countries use their wealth and how they treat those who owe to them hard money:

High debts and poor nations

Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, who would make a reckoning with his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, that owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not wherewith to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And the lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, who owed him a hundred shillings: and he laid hold on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay what thou owest. So his fellow-servant fell down and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay that which was due.

So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were exceeding sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him unto him, and saith to him, Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou besoughtest me: shouldest not thou also have had mercy on thy fellow-servant, even as I had mercy on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due.

So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.
Jesus Christ
Matthew 18:23-35

Why on earth Dominican Republic?

In Caribbean Sea the horrendous and thus fascinating times of the buccaneers are over although their memory is still in vivid memory all over the world. Today, Caribbean islanders have their own independent states and people are living in peace and prosperity in regions where once chaos ruled amidst bitter wars, revolutions and murders.

There are, for example, the republics of Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Commonwealth of Bahamas and Puerto Rico each with their flags, capitals, constitutions and independence days.

But why on earth is one of the Caribbean states called Dominican Republic?

The Dominicans or Black Friars as they are called in England, are, after all, an organised group of monks, nuns and lay people.  Following this idea, we might as well expect to find somewhere in former Spanish or Portuguese areas the Augustinian Kingdom, The Republic of White Friars, and perhaps even the State of the Sisters of Zion?

Seal of the Dominican Order

The religious order of "Lords Hounds" (pun from Domini canes) was established by Domingo Félix de Guzmán (1170 – 1221) and approved by Pope Honorius III (1216–27) on 22 December 1216 in France. They praise the Lord (laudares), they bless (benedicere) and they preach (praedicare), Order Praedicarum O.P.

They also have quite a history from early medieval times to modern days. We still remember trembling the not so holy offices of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition, Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición and the name Torquemada. Especially here in Israel.

Alonso de Hojeda, a Dominican friar from Seville, convinced Queen Isabel of the existence of Crypto-Judaism among Andalusian conversos during her stay in Seville between 1477 and 1478. A report, produced by Pedro González de Mendoza, Archbishop of Seville, and by the Segovian Dominican Tomás de Torquemada, corroborated this assertion.

But that is only one side of the coin, although admittedly a very dark side.

So how come the Dominicans also have a state, República Dominicana, in the West Indies called after them?

It has something to do with the Spaniards and that Christopher Columbus who arrived to the Bahamas - possibly to the island of San Salvador - in 1492. In fact, the island on their Great Antilles chain is called La Hispaniola.

Today the island is divided between two states, the smaller one is called Haiti occupying one third of the land and the bigger state Dominican Republic.

The recorded history of Haiti began on December 5, 1492 when the European navigator Christopher Columbus happened upon a large island in the region of the western Atlantic Ocean that later came to be known as the Caribbean. It was inhabited by the Taíno, an Arawakan people, who variously called their island Ayiti, Bohio, or Kiskeya. Columbus promptly claimed the island for the Spanish Crown, naming it La Isla Española ("the Spanish Island"), later Latinized to Hispaniola.

Haiti - Ayiti ... ancient name given to the island by the Taino people.

Successive waves of Arawak migrants, moving northward from the Orinoco delta in South America, settled the islands of the Caribbean. Around AD 600, the Taíno Indians, an Arawak culture, arrived on the island, displacing the previous inhabitants. They were organized into cacicazgos (chiefdoms), each led by a cacique (chief). The final Arawak migrants, the Caribs, began moving up the Lesser Antilles in the 12th century, and were raiding Taíno villages on the island's eastern coast by the time the Spanish arrived in 1492.

Sugar cane problems
How to make money in the New World found by Christopher and his men? Sugar cane was introduced from Canary Islands in 1518 and it was quite profitable.

His son, Don Diego Columbus -  2nd Admiral of the Indies, 2nd Viceroy of the Indies and 3rd Governor of the Indies - was making good money from sugar cane. In order to cultivate it efficiently in the hot climate the Spaniards shipped African slaves from Spain to the new plantations. Diego Columbus crushed their first revolt already in 1522 - just four years later. Apparently, the working conditions and benefits were not satisfactory to the slaves.

Many escaped to the mountains and were not very nice - the Spanish Christians called them "wild animals" - cimarrónes -  and fortified the city of Santo Domingo in 1541.

(Once Mexican silver came to the eyes of European Christians the sugar cane of La Hispaniola lost some of its sweetness and the life on Caribbean islands, also in the new capital of Havanna, declined.)

La Puerta del Conde 1844

La Puerta del Conde (The Count's Gate) is the site in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic where Francisco del Rosario Sanchez, one of the Dominican Founding Fathers, proclaimed Dominican independence and raised the first Dominican Flag, on February 27, 1844

The monks chose the rare religious name for a state from their patron saint, the same who gives the name to the city San Domingo, Santo Domingo, the capital of the Republic. Today it has over 3.2 million inhabitants - about a third of the country's ten million people living there.

Today about 70% of the citizens in the republic are Roman Catholic and 18% Evangelicals.

Nomen est omen
Well, now we know why on earth this country in the Caribbean is called Dominican Republic.

Even if the Dominicans never ruled the country, this respectable religious order has one more notable thing in its history - the influence of Trinitarian Christians on the birth of the independent state.  Dominican Republic has occasionally a very sad and turbulent history.

The people are living there in one of the most beautiful places one can imagine, verily a paradise on earth.

Where is the beef? Why Dominican Republic is doing okay while Haiti is among the poorest countries in the world?

If only the common people living in Haiti would abandon that voodoo religion of theirs and adopt Christ, despite of the poor record of European Christians in Caribbean, things would change to better, much better - Si Dios quiere!

Flag of Dominican Republic

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Who are those in white garments?

Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reports today 28 November 2011 about the ongoing research on the work of Dr. Orit Shamir from Israel Antiquities Authority and Naama Sukenik on cloths found along the Dead Sea scrolls at Qumran.

Shamir and Sukenik found that these fabrics are different from any others found in excavations from the same period. Both Jews and Romans wore mainly woolen garments Shamir says, and so wool is the fabric mainly found at archaeological sites. Most of the clothing also featured a dark red pattern described both in Talmudic and non-Jewish sources.

But pieces of cloth from Qumran are completely different. They are all made of linen rather than wool and are devoid of decoration. They were also bleached, apparently by soaking them in bicarbonate of soda produced from plants, which Shamir says was both costly and labor-intensive.

Shamir says that linen, which was more expensive than wool, was worn as a manifestation of religious observance. According to Shamir, both Romans and Jews wore white "to stand out and convey modesty."

The two scholars, Shamir and Sukenik, suggest that the white clothing was unusual and had religious meaning for the Essenes as described also by Josephus.

Revealed things
The discovery of the whitened rags in the jars containing the Dead Sea Scrolls brings to mind another reference to white clothes, this from the Book of Revelation.
And what a reference!

And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, These that are arrayed in white robes, who are they, and whence came they?

And I say unto him, My lord, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they that come of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Therefore are they before the throne of God; and they serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them.

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun strike upon them, nor any heat: for the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them unto fountains of waters of life: and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Rev 7:13-17

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Pledge (2001 movie)

Children art is critically important tool in handling cases of paedophilia
This picture was used in the movie as a key

The Pledge (2001) is a small big masterpiece by director Sean Penn and lead actor Jack Nicholson as retired Police Detective Jerry Black.

The movie was not made as a crowd pleaser and so it has not pleased the crowd: it made only 19 million dollars domestically and 9 million abroad. (To be honest, I would be very happy to make just one million profit on something...)

The problem is that the Pledge is uncomfortably true.

We go to movies to escape reality, not to confront it in its full power in a way that makes us think about humanity long after seeing the episode.

The majestic scenery in British Columbia enforces the raw realism of the very well told story and gives epic proportions to the powerful performance of Jack Nicholson which relies on minimalistic acting. A genius of police work that nobody, not his colleagues nor the people closest to him, truly understand or appreciate.

The entire movie could be compared to minimalistic music style where much is said with few things and much is being left unsaid. The viewer fills in the gaps and this makes the experience so enticing and taught provoking.

Camera work is one of the keys to the success of the narrative. It is not documentary style TV but something much more - the viewer joins in the experience of the actor as the camera shows what he or she is feeling, seeing.  Viewer participation in the events is highly visual and thus intensive without any unnecessary explanation, the narration itself contains so much to think about and on many different psychological and sociological levels.

The Pledge describes people with sharp and realistic manner giving us glimpses of their deeper attitudes and motives. For example, the way the movie describes how Detective Stan Krolak (Aaron Eckhart) drives to suicide the retarded Indian man (Benicio del Toro) who was seen at the crime scene.

One of the ways the Pledge surprises us is its totally non-Hollywood and somewhat unhappy ending. We get the feeling that if only Lori (Robin Wright Penn) would have really understood the depth of Jerry's care for little Chrissy. At the same time we understand that it would have demanded a different level of maturity from the mother to do so. Unable to process what happened Jerry is in danger of losing his mental health and is left at the end of the movie like a fish slowly dying on dry land.

He went fishing for the murderer of children but did not catch the fish. God got the killer, perhaps Olivier, before.

The story is skilfully structured in two cycles, first introducing the serial killer in general terms and mapping his crimes, then bringing Jerry to the same cycle of events but now personally involved. The architecture of the narration comes from Friedrich Dürrenmatt who wrote the Pledge in 1958: Das Versprechen: Requiem auf den Kriminalroman,

The Pledge is a powerful documentary about paedophilia never ever approaching pornography itself.

It shows how even the most respectable men respected in the society could possibly be guilty of such heinous crime against humanity. The police has seen it all.

And it shows Chrissy as the perfectly innocent victim, angelic and beloved child.

Why would any male want to rape and brutally murder such a human being?

Exactly for that reason - because she is innocent, angelic, pure virgin.

Something clicks in the minds of some men and the normal lust after pure woman, after the virginity that God has created in women, grows into an obsession with devastating consequences.

In the movie the possibly guilty serial killer of young girls is burned painfully to death.

Jesus Christ had another suggestion:

"Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."
Matther 18:5-6

It would be better...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One, Darwin, Lemaître and Jesus Christ

One God of Israel
The Jewish Credo is short but not simple and comes from Deuteronomy 6:4.

  שׁמע ישׂראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה אחד   

Shema Israel, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Ehad
Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

The  is the cornerstone of Monotheism, the faith that there is only one God and not many as in Polytheism. The three great Monotheistic religions are all from the same root, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The Jewish Credo is also a powerful and difficult to understand statement about the "essence" of the God of Israel, that He actively is One (and not many).

In Judaism, any teaching that "breaks the unity of God" is rejected outright but the definitions and conclusions are often quite subtle.

The One is also an important subject in theoretical Philosophy.

The Hebrew language in the expression in Shema Israel might also be taken in a more understandable and simple sense: the Lord is our God, only the Lord (and nobody else). 

Theory of Evolution
When Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) revolutionised biology with his Origin of the Species (1848) the Theory of Evolution was initially met with strong opposition from scientific and also from religious circles.

The two main points of difficulty were

 uniformity principle of Geology established some years earlier by Sir Charles Lyell (1797 - 1875) that his close friend Darwin and other scientists used in dating the history of life. The geological sequences in which key fossils were found demonstrated previously unimagined age of the surface of our planet and the presence of life on it.

There are still today religious Jews and Christians for whom the Biblical genealogies are the only correct chronological tool for dating the history of the universe. Based on calculating years from Adam on by the generations, the religious Christian year 2011 A.D. is year 5762 in the religious Jewish calendar which starts from the Creation of the world.

unique creation of man was shaken by the evolving scientific study of living organisms and species. Not only religious people were deeply offended by the suggestion that humans, the image of God according to the Bible and Koran, could have evolved from apes.

Modern biology does not claim that humans have evolved from apes. It is more accurate to say that humans are apes.

The scientific truth has conquered as it should have conquered and science has a tendency to fix its own errors - sooner or later.

One Life

However, why be so negative and deny facts of Creation?

Let us use the theory of Evolution to defend our faith in God.

For it provides a truly startling viewpoint to the entire history of life that has grown into the fabulous biodiversity of Mesozoic life and to such Cenozoic wonders as one of the largest mammals ever to live on land, the lazy Megatherium that lived some six million years ago slurping the leaves from its victim tree - six meters tall when standing - about the height of three tall men standing on shoulders. (Charles Darwin discovered its skull from the shores of Argentina while on his famous trip on HMS Beagle 1831-1836.)

Wonderful blue planet on orbit around its middle sized star in the big universe, the only place we know to have life. So full of life in fact that even today after five million years we humans have used the powers of domination given to us by God of Israel there still survive many species (yes, I am trying to be sarcastic.)

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
Genesis 1:26

The startling thing suggested to us by modern evolutionary biology is that LIFE IS ONE.

Without going into the details, research on the history of life assumes as the fundamental principle that there was one single point of living something from which all life upon planet earth derives in unbroken succession.

(Of course, this is been discussed. Perhaps there were several starts, as for example, the pansperma model could include: if life first came upon earth on meteorites from space... there may be more than one meteorite bringing life ... perhaps even today!  But this only moves the question of single origins back in time to where and when in the hostile early Universe life mysteriously began.)

Yes, the basset, the boa, the birch, the banana, the bird, the bee, the baboon, the baby of a human mother... all from the same single ONE point of origins. One tiny seed of life, so to say.

One universe
The Original Atom theory originally suggested by the Catholic priest and scientist Georges Lemaître (1894 -1966) and called Big Bang by the atheist (?) astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) is one point - if there ever was one!

According to modern Cosmogony the entire Universe, every cloud of dust, every cluster of galaxies, every star with or without planets ... all from the same single ONE point of origins.

One God of Israel
Let us keep all this in mind - one life, one cosmos - when we worship the One God of Israel, and His one and only son, Jesus Christ, Messiah, through whom everything that has existed, exists or will exist has been made!

including you and me.

If you believe that Father is God and Jesus is God and Holy Spirit is God so where is your One God of Israel?

Trinity in One is such a paradoxical claim - solely based on the divine revelation in the Bible - that it must be true!

We could claim that New Testament gives a closer look at the God of Israel than the Old Testament, bringing the Three Persons more visible through the words of Jesus of Nazareth.

While Jews are sticking to the old and do not have a concept of divine Son, we might claim that Islam has a doze of rationalism in the rejection of the ridiculous and even blasphemous idea that God could have a son with a woman.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Australian school books go CE

The world famous  Mayan calendar
End of world in 2012? (ref)

On September 5, 2011 an article in Intentious told:

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), the independent authority responsible for the development of national curriculum, said BCE and CE were to be introduced because this was an increasingly common standard for the representation of dates. The focus of ACARA is, after all, on creating programs that support 21st century learning for Australian students.

A spokesman for ACARA explained that the little known term BP (Before Present) will be used when dealing with “very ancient history and archaeology, and allows for the teaching of more sophisticated understandings of representations of time.” A spokesman for Adrian Piccoli (Education Minister) said the minister was not concerned about the changes as the terms BCE and CE were now commonly used.
(See also the 3rd September 2011 article in Daily Mail on line)

Adrian Piccoli MP tells something about himself in his homepage. Wikipedia informs that
Adrian Piccoli (born 24 March 1970) is an Australian politician representing the electoral district of Murrumbidgee in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. He is the Minister for Education in the O'Farrell Government and the Deputy Leader of the New South Wales Nationals

Calendar and culture
Many cultures have selected the starting point of their calendar on the basis of some crucial historical event and often on the basis of religion. The close marriage of religion and calendar in most cultures comes from the religious feasts and festivals that take place at given times.

I write this blog on 12 November 2011 and used a nice online converter to get other calendar dates:

For Christians, the decisive point in time is the birth of Jesus and this is used as year zero. Because it is not in the beginning of things events took place either before Christ (B.C.) or in the years of our Lord (Anno Domino) more often left unmarked.

The date is 12 November 2011 A.D. (Gregorian) 29 October 2011 A.D. (Julian)

Jews count their calendar using the creation of the world as point zero.
The date is 15 Cheshvan 5772

Islamic calendar starts with the decisive event of Hijra التقويم الهجري‎ (al taqwim hijri) when Islamic prophet Muhammad emigrated from Mecca to Medina on Christian year 570.
The date is 14 Dhu al-Hijah 1432

In Iran the date of this writing is 20 Aban 1390 Anno Persico which is counted from solar Hijra rather than lunar and starts from 621.

Ethiopian calender shows 1 Khedar 2004

Coptic or Alexandrian calendar has 1 Hatur 1728 and it is based on ancient Egyptian calendar as the Copts identify themselves - probably correctly - with the Pharaonic population.

French Revolutionaries wanted to mark the new beginning also in the calendar and so we have 21 Brumaire an 220 de la Révolution

The revolutionaries taking control of Burma also started a new calendar with year 0 for Myanmar. This replaces the traditional Buddhist calendar also used in Burma that begins in 638.

The list of calendars based on religion or history goes on. Ancient Egyptians watched the helical rising of Sirius very patiently... the cycle takes 1460 years! Roman calendar reminded populus romanus of their common ancestry in Romulus and Remus 753 BC until Julius Caesar changed it. The incredible Mayan calendar has found much interest lately among the people of Earth.

The point is that calendar is not just a convenient way of showing dates in some standard cold style like the C-14 radiocarbon dates B.P. (Before Present).

No! The world of calendars is a cultural thing that is deeply embedded in the psyche of the nations and in the religions of humans.

Is C.E. neutral?
The change suggested for Australian school text books has a very simple sounding explanation "because this was an increasingly common standard for the representation of dates". This is probably not the entire story, however.

But Adrian Piccoli and his friends in the government of Australia are hitting something with this change into something much more important and symbolic than just the suggested adopting to an increasingly common modern practice of using BCE and CE.

Common Era C.E. and Before Common Era B.C.E. notation after Christian years counted from year zero (Latin vulgaris aerae) was frequently used by 19th century Jewish scholars. It is a gentle but powerful rejection of the Messianic claim of Jesus. How could a Jew say "Before Christ" when his religion does not accept that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah of the Jewish people?

This is understandable for a sensitive religious Jewish person and as I told before, they have their own ancient religious calendar that meticulously determines the dates of the religious feasts following lunar calendar with dates reflecting the agricultural calendar of the Holy Land. Passover, for example, takes place during a full moon.

In a Christian culture, on the other hand, the use of C.E. may be seen as a gentle rejection of the faith that Jesus is Christ.

I think that the reactions of Australian Christians reflect this feeling that the secularization of historic dates suddenly in 2011 reflects a change in the value system of the modern Australian culture. A kind of change of calendars like in French, Soviet or Burmese revolutions!

Fourth beast in the vision of Daniel
I find it quite relevant to this discussion that in the book of Daniel that scary ruler makes many changes to the laws - and also changes the calendar!

23"Thus he said: 'As for the fourth beast,

   there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
   which shall be different from all the kingdoms,
and it shall devour the whole earth,
   and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
24As for the ten horns,out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
   and another shall arise after them;
he shall be different from the former ones,
   and shall put down three kings.
25 He shall speak words against the Most High,
   and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
   and shall think to change the times and the law;
and they shall be given into his hand
   for a time, times, and half a time.
26 But the court shall sit in judgment,
   and his dominion shall be taken away,
   to be consumed and destroyed to the end.
27 And the kingdom and the dominion
   and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
   shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
   and all dominions shall serve and obey them.'

Daniel 7