Month: February 2009

Lying with the truth

The, in my opinion, rather despicable act of lying with the truth seems to be an epidemic today. I can’t even count how many instances I’ve run across in just the last few hours. I bring this up because of how many times I found this act being perpetrated while researching last month’s posts on the First Ecumenical Council and historicity of Christ. Having to constantly look out for it and remain suspicious of every statement I ran across has helped me to be more conscious (and critical) of other things that I’ve heard or read since then.

What is lying with the truth? One very typical example is from Dan Brown’s (in)famous book The Da Vinci Code. I think that this is the first instance of it that I remember actually identifying as lying with the truth. In the book, the character Sir Leigh Teabing juxtaposes two entirely truthful statements: 1. the Aramaic word for “companion” also means “spouse” and 2. in the Gospel of Philip (a Gnostic gospel), St. Mary Magdalene is referred to as Christ’s “companion.” As I said, both statements are indeed true, however, the juxtaposition of the statements creates an implication which is a lie, namely, that the author of the Gospel of Philip intended to indicate that Mary Magdalene was Christ’s spouse.

This patently false. Why? Because the Gospel of Philip was written in Coptic, not Aramaic. Coptic does not have this linguistic quirk of “companion” meaning “spouse.” In Coptic, a “companion” is a “companion” and a “spouse” is a “spouse.”

The fringe element (although I don’t know if I can even still refer to the anti-Christian party as a “fringe element” anymore, as popular as their positions are now) are not the only ones who do this, though. Our politicians and our media do it to us everyday. I’m sure everybody remembers former president Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” and the debate about terminology that followed.

Another example that comes to mind is Fox News‘ reaction to a Newsweek story of May 2005 about detainee abuse at Guantanamo Bay. In the story, Newsweek alleged that a guard there had thrown an inmate’s copy of the Qur’an in a toilet. Fox News aired a story questioning Newsweek‘s sources (and themselves alleging that there was, in fact, no detainee abuse going on at Gitmo) and, as a result, Newsweek was forced to recant their statement. In part, the same Newsweek story led to an investigation of detainee abuse at Gitmo by the Pentagon. The Pentagon’s report did not substantiate the claim of a Qur’an being thrown in a toilet, but did surface an instance in which a guard had urinated on a Qur’an. Also in the report were multiple independent attestations that a red fluid had been rubbed on the skin or clothing of detainees accompanied by the claim that it was menstrual blood and that female interrogators had squeezed inmates’ genitalia in order to humiliate them, amongst many other instances of detainee abuse documented. And what did Fox News have to say about all this? Without mentioning that instances of detainee abuse which had been found they ran the “truth” on their news ticker that the Pentagon report had found no evidence of a Qur’an being thrown in a toilet.

The answer to this epidemic of lying with the truth is a good, heavy dose of critical thinking. The individuals and groups who use this as their method can only continue to do so as long as we continue to let them. When we stop accepting it, they will realize it doesn’t work anymore and stop doing it. To this end, I’ve added a link to the website MediaWatch.org, which itself includes links to multiple organizations whose mission it is to expose just this type of behavior by the media and hold them accountable for it, in my “Links” section to the right. ———->

There are two rules which can be almost universally applied and make a good basis for critical thinking. The first I learned from my mother when I was very young and the second I learned from watching a little bit too much CourtTV:

  1. “If it sounds too good [or bad] to be true, it probably is.”
  2. “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” – because anything else is a lie!

Recent incident in Maysan

Four Iraq teens killed as football blows up rocket

AMARA, Iraq (AFP) — Four teenagers were killed and 11 wounded when their football struck and detonated an abandoned rocket in an empty lot of the southern Iraqi city of Amara on Monday, police said.

“The teenagers, aged 14 and 15, were playing football not far from a stadium when the ball hit a rocket,” said police officer Ali Mohammed, without giving further details about the device or how long it may have been there.

“The device blew up, killing four and wounding 11,” he said in the city 365 kilometres (225 miles) south of Baghdad.

In mid-2008, during a US-Iraqi crackdown against Shiite militants, the American military said Maysan province of which Amara is the capital had become a major centre for arms smuggling into Iraq from Iran just over the border.

Weapons have been found dumped in fields, rivers and cemeteries, it said.

The area was also a battleground during the US-led invasion of spring 2003 and was close to the frontlines in the 1980-1988 war between Iran and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Which Father of the Church are you?

I got a kick out of this quiz, so I thought I would share it here. It was awfully accurate when it came to the description of me. It also gave me a chance to learn a little about St. Melito of Sardis, a saint I knew very little about.

You’re St. Melito of Sardis!

You have a great love of history and liturgy. You’re attached to the traditions of the ancients, yet you recognize that the old world — great as it was — is passing away. You are loyal to the customs of your family, though you do not hesitate to call family members to account for their sins.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

What is a human being?

What is a human being from the point of view of an atheist? An ape, only with more developed abilities. What is a human being as perceived by a Buddhist? One of the reincarnations of the soul, which before its abode in a human body could have existed in a dog or a pig, and which following bodily death could again find itself within an animal. Buddhist teaching denies the very concept of personal existence: the human being is regarded not as the totality of body and soul, but as a type of transient stage in the wandering of the soul from body to body.

Christianity alone presents an exalted image of the human being. In Christianity each of us is regarded as a personality, a person created in the image of God, an icon of the Creator.

When God created human nature, He created it not only for us but also for Himself, since He knew that one day He would Himself become a human being. Thus, He fashioned something adequate to Himself, something possessing an infinite potential. St Gregory Nazianzen calls the human person a ‘created god’. The human person is called to become god. In his potential man is a god-man. – Bishop Hilarion (Alfayev)

Update on Christians in Iraq

This article speaks for itself. I saw some of the terrible things that happen to Christians in Iraq while I was in Baghdad in 2006. It never ceases to amaze me how much they go through and how little attention they get.

Assyrians Ask Obama, Biden to Save Iraqi’s Christians

An international body of Assyrians has written letters to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden asking them to support the creation of an autonomous region for Assyrian Christians and other religious minorities suffering from severe persecution because of their faith.

The Assyrian Universal Alliance pointed to the series of murders in the northern Iraq city of Mosul in October that drove more than 15,000 Iraqi Christians from their homes within the short time span of two weeks.

Mosul is the “heart of Assyrian ancestral lands,” the group noted.

“With so many Assyrians having fled Iraq, the very survival of the Assyrian nation hangs in the balance,” the AUA writes in its letter to President Obama, which was published Tuesday on the Assyrian Times Web site.

“Our numbers are dwindling and our communities are being shattered. Should this continue, the world will witness the demise of one of its most ancient and historically significant nations,” it warns.

Last fall, 13 Iraqi Christians were killed within four weeks, including three within 24 hours, according to the Assyrian International News Agency.

The surge in attacks against Assyrian Christians in Mosul caused the mass and unplanned exodus of the endangered population. It was later reported by church and aid agencies that many of the Christians had fled with only the clothes on their backs and were in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

Since the U.S.-led Iraq war in 2003, more than 200 Christians have been killed, dozens of churches were bombed, and more than half of the Iraqi Christian population left the country.

According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, although Christians make up only three percent of Iraq’s population, they account for nearly half of the refugees leaving Iraq.

Please keep reading here

Some statistics on Iraqi refugees and displaced persons can also be found here.

The unheeded warning of St. Basil

“For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance that they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel at its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is there who has taught us in writing to sign with the cross those who have trusted in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ?” – St. Basil the Great