Christian Spammers Should be Disciplined

Tim shared with us a terrific idea whose time has come: A blacklist of Christian spammers.

I just cannot tell you how much spam I receive each day from well-meaning individuals trying to spread their Christian message or the gospel by ways of spam. One particular infuriating example is certain gentleman from Brazil who sends two mails per day about the history of Christian hymns, complete with MIDI attachments. Sometimes, when he feels really inspired, he throws in a multi-megabyte Power Point presentation for good measure.

I am so fed up with the abuse of these fellows and yet, they seem practically impervious to any approach one might take to convince them of the error of their ways. That gentleman from Brazil, for example, sends all his messages from an account that automatically bounces my email… so I cannot simply tell him to stop. And yet he professes to be a Christian.

Please go and read Tim’s post; and if you feel like it, link to it. We need to spread the word.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

poster thumbnail for the movie When Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World came to Asunción’s theatres, I was busy, tired, newlywed, and very short on the green stuff. I was experiencing a painful exit from my job as an English teacher at a local Christian academy, and did not have the time or money to go and see it. So the movie went down before I was able to see it. And I regretted it.

Fast forward six months, and I am checking every week on the local video rental store to see if they carry the tape. When they finally do, I was very happy to rent it. And all I can say is wow!

I am a sucker for sailing ships. Perhaps because I’ve seen them only in pictures, and never saw a seashore save for a few glimpses here and there, and what I could see from a plane. Perhaps because I am a Navy Ensign in the Paraguayan Armed Forces Reserve. But the fact is that sailing ships and Old Navy settings are like a dream to me. Peter Weir’s movie hooked me since I saw the first glimpse of an ad because of that.

The story is based on the historical movies of Patrick O’Brien, a well-know historical novelist of the Anglo-Saxon world, and practically unknown to me. The adaptation is faithful to O’Brien in spirit, but not in the letter; I can certainly understand the disappointment of O’Brien buffs when they saw the movie with all the liberties taken in the script. But overall, the script carries out very well and it is a great introduction to O’Brien for a lot of the global world, myself included.

The movie is situated in 1805, and the degree of historical accuracy displayed in it is astounding. My wife mentioned that Crowe (as Capt. “Lucky” Jack Aubrey) had a kind of scar in one of his earlobes, much like an “old warrior” scar. This degree of accuracy is especially telling in the nautical themes, with all the jargon and lore of the Royal Navy of that time.

However, in my opinion, the one of the most important things on the movie is the values shown. Master and Commander shows that you could make a big blockbuster movie without showing cleavage or resorting to the lusts of the audience. It was uplifting to see virtues such as honor, courage, loyalty, patriotism and wisdom as living realities embodied by Aubrey and his crew, and not as the abstract, unattainable abstruse concepts they are thought of now.

And finally, the respectful acknowledgment of the Christian faith made throughout all the movie is almost incredible. Would you think of a feature move in today’s world that has a bunch of rough men saying the Lord’s prayer with heartfelt conviction? This movie shows that Christianity is a faith for the brave and courageous, and not for “sissies”.

All in all, an excellent movie in almost all aspects. There are, however, two aspects of possible concern: (1) There is a lot of strong, “sailor” language that includes a lot of profanity, so be careful if you choose to show to your children; and (2) there’s a lot of violence seen and implied. If you are prepared to deal with those elements, then you have a winner here.

Verdict: Strongly recommended. A masterpiece. Especially suited to watch with your male teenagers and have “men-talk” with them afterwards.

(Picture courtesy of The Internet Movie Database. Enter to see the IMDB’s page for the movie.)

A New Reformation

a new reformation Someone gave me this cartoon by mail. Enter into the picture at the left for the larger image (I’ve provided a thumbnail solely due to aesthetic reasons). The signs are in Brazilian Portuguese, so I will translate them for your profit.

There’s a church with the legend “Evangelical Church”. Below it is a sign advertising: “Revelations – Deliverance – Healing – Signs and Wonders – Prosperity – Breaking of Curses – Spiritual Warfare”. Below, a monk is fixing a poster with the legend: “95 Theses – Grace Alone – Faith Alone – Christ Alone – Scripture Alone – God’s Glory Alone.”

This is a cartoon that is dead on target. We Protestant Christians are supposed to be the zealous guardians of the Gospel based on the hallmarks of the reformation. And yet we are more prone to behave as spiritual whores from Babylon, bringing a hellish mixture of paganism, Deism, and pseudo-Pentecostal belief instead of the true Gospel.

But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
Jude 20-21, ESV

This is the challenge of the hour. May we rise to the occasion, by the grace of God the Father, the love of God the Son, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Duarte Lôbo: Requiem

CD cover While editing the church bulletin, I put in the CD player the wonderful Requiem Mass by the Portuguese composer Duarte Lôbo (c.1565-1646; a namesake of mine, since his name was latinized as Eduardus Lupus).

Four years ago, I was totally ignorant of Renaissance polyphony. Of course I intended one day to get acquainted with it, since I was (and still am) a Baroque music buff, and I always wanted to expand my musical horizons; and especially, because I was curious. The main problem was that here (Asunción, Paraguay) is not easy to get that kind of music, or, for that matter, anything that is not part of the musical mainstream.

One day I noticed in the newsstands installments of an encyclopaedia about Sacred Music. Each installment would come with a CD (from the labels Philips, Decca, and another one that I cannot recall now, only that it wasn’t Deutsche Grammophon). The CDs were rebranded and with most liner notes stripped out, but they were original recordings, many of them of historical quality, and with a remarkable period breadth.

One of the installments carried the Requiem Mass by Tomás Luis de Victoria. I listened to it as a matter of course, not expecting too much from it. By the time I was in Track 2 I was hooked for life: Renaissance Sacred Polyphony was among the most beautiful musical expressions of our culture. And so is this recording, superbly done by the Tallis Scholars led by Peter Philips.

Duarte Lôbo was one of the most prolific Portuguese composers at a time when Portugual was politically dependent on the Kingdom of Spain, and therefore his music shows a lot of Spanish influence, especially from Victoria. The music is, of course, a Mass that you were supposed to sing in order to pray for the dead, and while there are many Bible verses that speak of hope and comfort, there are many unbiblical prayers and sayings proper to Roman Catholicism.

However, the Spanish Requiem Masses were an exercise in translating hope into musical terms; and Lôbo’s mass is not an exception. The Mass is rendered in a major key, and the whole setting is luminous and clear, almost feeling like a musical embrace of some sort. The Scholars sing through the score almost flawlessly, transmiting the soothing and uplifting music directly to your heart. And there are moments especially pungent, such as in the Introito or the Kyrie eleison, when you could almost feel the composer as a sinner humbling himself before our Lord, begging for mercy and for his life, but also with the firm conviction that he is addressing a Lord that is not only just, but merciful.

It’s an experience almost mystical in its depths, and heavenly in its quality, and very difficult to translate in words. There were so many times when, while listening to the Kyrie, I would lift my hands to heaven, silently praying and enjoying the presence of my Savior; and perhaps with a tear or two shed by the way.

It goes without saying that the recording is thoroughly recommended. You can go and read the fine liner notes put together by Gimell Records here.

The Stealth Desktop, part II: Sight and Sound

I saw today at Open for Business that Tim already put part II of the Stealth Desktop series. This, in case you don’t know, is a series of articles related to setting up the Slackware distribution of GNU/Linux as a desktop operating system in home PCs.

Part I of the series dealt with installation and served as a whole introduction to it. Part II deals with setting up sound and video. Read it here.

Cursed is the man…

This is a three-part stage drama.

Act1
Some days ago C.,, a long time (since early childhood) friend of mine contacted my wife. He is a lawyer about my same age, but as things go here, he has trouble getting clients and work despite being an expert with a J.D. degree in tax law from the University of Trier (Germany). He is the husband of A., a well-known state prosecutor.

C. told my wife that his wife A. was preparing the Government case against the former execs of the National Housing Committee. But these people were moving behind the scenes to get an indictment against A. on false charges in order to discourage her from prosecuting. Furthermore, one of the main actors of that behind-the-scenes comedy was Mr. T., Esq, one of the lawyers who works at my uncle’s law firm, and coincidentally member of one of the most influential families here. And finally, the report said, that in order to help this Mr. T., my uncle was also in the bandwagon. So, C. told me if I could please phone my uncle and tell him that A. is the wife of C. who happens to be my childhood friend, and that if he and his partners are going to press charges against her, to press only legitimate charges, and not fake ones? (wow, that was a mouthful).

Now, just to put you into context: my uncle is director of the J.D. doctoral program of the Catholic University here, is a renowned expert in civil law, and has an extremely successful law firm. He is also member of the Council of the Magistracy and the president of the Jury for the Judgment of Magistrates.

I felt really uncomfortable about the whole issue. C. is, after all, my uncle’s colleague. Why didn’t he just contact my uncle through professional channels, appealing to professional courtesy to get an even treatment? I was really unsure, so I phoned Mom, who is often in touch with my uncle, and is an overall wise person. She said that she didn’t like the idea too much, either, but that it wouldn’t do anything if I called to the uncle and just told him the whole business, telling him clearly that I was just acting on a friend’s request. After some phone calls I managed to contact my uncle, and after I told him the whole issue, he said that he was surprised, and that he didn’t know a thing. Well, Ok, that’s right.

Act 2
The other day one of my cousins received a strange phone call. Her mom, a sister of Mom and my uncle, usually lives in the U.S. but three months ago she built a house here, in Asunción, in a residential neighborhood. At that time she got an unlisted phone number. The caller was a male voice, who wanted at all costs to get my uncle’s home phone number. He said he was a reporter for a local radio station, and he wanted to warn my uncle that some fellows in his circle of friends were going to ‘stab him in the back’. And then he hung up leaving my cousing wondering. How did that man learn of my aunt’s unlisted and recent phone number? Go figure…

Act 3
Finally the whole business seemed clear. The local press ran some stories where Mr. President himself (Spanish link) and some of his representatives openly criticized my uncle and the Jury for the Judgment of Magistrates. Some of the Jury’s members openly acknowledged that the pressure to cave into the demands of the Executive Branch were almost unbearable.

So this is the whole issue. I was a pawn in a high power game. Someone really clever wanted to play against my uncle, and this person used my own family against him.

Of course, this amounts to play dirty, very dirty. That’s no surprise in the world of politics; but the really sad part here is that our President identifies himself as an evangelical Christian. The First Lady is a member of Raíces (Roots) Mennonite Brethren Church; and he does worship there, though he is not a member (and some would add “yet”). There is a growing feeling of triumphalism among the rank and files of Protestant Christians here, because “Brother Nicanor”, “one of us”, is now the President. They just crave to be back into Emperor Constantine’s times, just to be in bed with the Government all over again, and they do not realize that they are being used as disposable stuff.

Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.”
Jeremiah 17:5, ESV

A shameful anniversary

Today is the anniversary of the first example of atheism by establishment:

But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators, has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished for ever. Never, never more shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise, is gone!
(Edmund Burke)

May this date live forever in shame and oblivion, and may we work towards the undoing of its consequences.

Devotional, July 14

Thus says the Word of God:

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
(John 15:10, ESV)

When the Reformation was all the rage in old Europe, with sucessions of colloquia, disputationes and pamphlet polemics, it was common to accuse evangelical Christians of not giving due place and emphasis to the need of Christian sanctification, and of sidelining the need of good works. It was common to allege that once one attained justification by the sole faith in Jesus Christ, one was in danger of believing in a sort of license for the unrestrained commiting of sins. Of course, Reformers strongly denied this false accusation.

These words of our Lord tell us how important good works are for the Christian. To follow Jesus Christ means to abide in His love, a perfect love, outpoured to the extreme of the supreme sacrifice to the cause of the salvation of humankind. Following Jesus Christ does not mean taking a kind of mental aspirine to relieve the daily troubles of our existence amid a crass emotionalism. To follow Jesus is, first and foremost, to live and practice God’s love and compassion towards the entire humankind while extending the Father’s Kingdom.

It is noteworthy the way the Lord Jesus shows the norm and criterion of the practice of love: a sacrificial commitment to obey the will of God, no matter what it takes, as Jesus Himself obeyed the commandments of His Father to the utmost.

Are we willing to follow Jesus in His obedience? There lies the proof of our faith.

Prayer
Beloved Father, who in the person of Your Son has shown us Your love and mercy: Increase our faith in a way that, together with Your Holy Spirit, we may walk in the way shown to us by Your Son Jesus Christ, obeying His commandments and abiding in His love. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Nice weekend and…

I spent a good weekend. I managed to sleep well and rest. We rented the whole original StarWars trilogy, and it was mostly good to see, but I think that either I have a poor memory or George Lucas managed to alter the movies too much on the Special Edition.

The sad part is that I feel chronically exhausted. Part of the problem is that almost all holidays happen to fall this year in Saturdays, so they’re not available. (No, we don’t have movable holidays in Paraguay). I long for a vacation…

OTOH, I was very disappointed when I learned that the youth group of our church watched a video called “The Truth about Disney” in their youth group. It was just a lot of fearmongering spilled out by a Pentecostal pastor of some sort. Nice family material, isn’t it? *yuck*.

I’m stuck

Here I am, trying to edit the church bulletin. I hate Fridays.

On a slightly different note, I’m finding Slackware 10.0 a very good distro. Perhaps I might write a review soon.

When I finally manage to get off the office, I’ll run to the video store and rent some tapes. Keep praying.

Declare, O Muse!

“With leave and honour enter our abodes,
Ye sacred ministers of men and gods!
I know your message; by constraint you came;
Not you, but your imperious lord I blame.
[…]
But witness, heralds, and proclaim my vow,
Witness to gods above, and men below!
But first, and loudest, to your prince declare
(That lawless tyrant whose commands you bear),
Unmoved as death Achilles shall remain,
Though prostrate Greece shall bleed at every vein:
The raging chief in frantic passion lost,
Blind to himself, and useless to his host,
Unskill’d to judge the future by the past,
In blood and slaughter shall repent at last.”

(The Illiad, Book I, Pope’s version).

Here we go. Hope all of you can enjoy my blog, in due time. Shalom!