Archive for the 'History' Category


Finding Christian Ethics in WWII

End Is Not EndSome time back I wrote an article about a band I had discovered called A Rotterdam November. The reason the album was so interesting to me is because the backdrop against which the stories of the songs were written was the Second World War. I am intrigued by history and this war particularly stands out as a hinge, a turning point in the society of the world. It was a war of ideologies. It was a war in which sides were chosen, not for allegiance or commonality per se, but because one’s chosen allies were less hated than one’s enemies. A case in point would be the Soviet Union joining the Allied powers (though Stalin’s politics and means of rule differed greatly from, say, Great Britain) simply because Nazi Germany was a greater enemy. The only potential exception might be the alliance of the United States and Great Britain.

 Now another band, a favorite of mine, has put out an album that uses this unbelievable war as the vehicle for its themes and lyrical stories. The band is House of Heroes and the album is “The End Is Not the End.” Let me say that I have not yet purchased this album (though I intend to) but I have listened to all of the tracks online and I am very eager to get my hands on it.

 The music of House of Heroes on previous albums has been strong, loud, riff-oriented alternative rock with some Beatles-esque pop sensibilities worked in at times. But for the most part wall-of-sound is the order of the day. The songs recorded for “The End” are no different however there is a common theme due to the WWII references. Themes include loving one’s enemies, courage, living and dying for something greater than oneself, finding God through adversity, and finding redemption. 

 The cast of characters for these lyrical tales include a man who wrestles with God in Jacobean fashion (“In the Valley of the Dying Sun”), two brothers called up to fight a war in which one does not survive (“By Your Side”), a man who’s homeland is overrun by the enemy but he stays to fight for his way of life (“Codename: Raven”), a person who finds himself a political prisoner in his own country (“Leave You Now”), and, in one of the stranger, more cryptic songs, a man and a woman who love one another yet the woman is the citizen of a Communist country, however the man’s nationality is not given (“Baby’s a Red”).

Musically, the overall sound on this album is similar to what is found on previous HOH records with loud guitars and plenty of cool riffs.  But the dynamics within each song on “The End” are more varied. A song may go from a driving rock chorus to a shuffling, clean, falsetto-laden verse at any moment. Vocally, this album uses a lot of layering and multi-part harmonies to deliver a very Queen-like vocal mix (think Bohemian Rhapsody but less operatic). Lyrically, the timeless themes of faith, hope, and love are delivered in a unique way with the WWII imagery.

 If you like modern alternative rock, at least listen to a few clips of this album on iTunes, Amazon Mp3 or YouTube and check out “The End Is Not the End” by House of Heroes.


Going To a Land Down Under: Kiwi? Aussie?

Who’s been a very naughty blogger? Who? WHO? (You, Joshie Joshie, You)

Actually it is true that blogging has greatly lost its luster for me (but, no, this blog did not die with Michael Jackson). Facebook and Twitter are way too time consuming and pretty much fulfill my longings for pontification. But I think the ol’ Smoak House still has a few good ones in her. Let see what we can conjure up today.

Here is something Lyndsay and I have talked over and thought about a lot lately. Nothing major is going to happen in the very near future but it could happen one day. No, I am not talking about parenthood.  I am talking about moving to another country.

We have not packed our bags yet, but the reason we have discussed this is for the very simple fact that HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF. I refuse to be one of the foolish ones who forget that. You all know where I am going with this. The Obama administration has made great and frightening strides toward Socialism in the last seven months.  I could not have predicted the swiftness with which he would put the hammer down.  Now I love studying history. In so doing I have seen what happens when governments take over the everyday aspects of commerce and people’s personal lives. I read of a Hitler who plunged an entire nation into ruin and hatred (Nazism was a Socialist movement); I have studied a Stalin who oppressed and murdered his own people. I have seen Socialism and Communism destroy, maim, oppress, and murder. I have never seen them actually work. I refuse to live under any version of either system. I will not subject my wife or any of our future offspring to such evil and tyranny. I can not let my family suffer under the type of single-payer healthcare system Obama wants to implement. I can not let my family suffer through a dead-in-the-water economic system that could result from the impending collapse of the U.S. dollar. I would rather leave the country. Chances are there are some who would rather I do so. 😉

But on a lighter note, what country should we move to if it were to come to that? Well by most accounts New Zealand and Australia seem to be good choices. They are ranked high in the world in terms of personal freedom, low government intrusion, and free market capitalism. There are a few differences though. New Zealand is a small island with some great natural resources, but not many. Kiwis must import many, many goods and thus they are more subject to dependence on foreign nations. Not necessarily a bad thing but something to consider. Australia on the other hand is in a little bit better position on that front. Also it stands to reason that more jobs would be available in a larger country like Australia. Plus it is its own continent. That’s just awesome! Keep in mind that I do not know minute details of either, only what I have read on the internet and heard from talking to people. So I would love to be educated by anyone who knows more.

There would be some non-economic/non-political details to consider as well. First of all, there’s the speech of those who live down under. A Georgia boy would tend to stick out like a sore thumb in a conversation. After living there for a time there’s a good chance that I would pick up some of the accent. I would rather maintain my southern speech but I am afraid there is just no way around it. The way I talk would most certainly change. Can you imagine me saying “g’day, mate?”  Oh brother.

Then there’s the problem of Christmas in the summer time. Yes, the seasons in the southern hemisphere are flip-flopped. Our fall and winter here is spring and summer down under and vice-versa. That means that December 25 is right smack in the middle of summer. It would be hard singing Jingles Bells while applying sunscreen.

What do you think? Australia? New Zealand? Some other place?  Let me hear from you.


Becoming Cynical about Government: A Personal Journey

I love America. That’s why I study American history as a hobby. I am amazed at what unbelievable success this great experiment has had. We rose from a rag-tag group of loosely associated states to the world’s greatest and richest superpower.

I first started paying attention to America’s greatness when I was in school. I do not remember what grade I was in but it was early. I remember a particular social studies class in which the teacher began the lesson by asking “Which is the most powerful country in the world?” A few hands went up and the students offered a few answers. I could see that other students were thinking about the question. I raced through all of the great countries I could think of. Let’s see, there’s Russia. It’s really large and didn’t we have a cold war thing with them? And Japan. Like Marty McFly said “All the best stuff’s made in Japan.” England. England’s pretty important isn’t it?

The teacher eventually gave us the correct answer, “The United States of America.” It is strange to say but I was shocked. I can remember this sense of wonder as I thought “Really? My country holds the distinguished honor of the most powerful nation in the whold world?” I had never thought of it before.  And I was blessed to be born and raised here.

Ever since then I have had an extreme pride in my country. I believe the founding fathers were great and brilliant men who understand the grave task they faced in designing a government system that would insure freedom for all. After all they were pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for the purpose of doing so. I have always prayed for and sought to give my opinion to my elected representatives and have trusted them thinking that they (whether or not their were on the correct side of the aisle) were interested in freedom as much as me and as much as the founding fathers.

However somewhere along the line I become distrustful of the federal government. There was a time when I would scoff at folks (usually older people) who would make wisecracks about crooked politicans. Yes, there are some bad, bad men in Washington but you can not call an entire class of American citizens corrupt. But I have begun to see what they mean. Except for a precious few it seems that every single politician is out for one single solitary goal: Not to insure freedom, not to protect liberty, not to serve Americans, but…

to get re-elected.

It is a sad but true fact. Every government program, every photo op, every spending program, every campaign promise, it seems, is the work of men trying to stay gainfully employed. Nothing more. I can see no other reason for such wreckless dismissal of Constitutional law and principles as we see today. Therefore I have joined the lot of Americans who eye politicians suspiciously. I do want to be this way but I feel that I can not walk through life a blind dolt. And I do not think the President or any members of Congress are actively trying to institute socialism or to erode individual freedoms but their vote-buying schemes and programs lead to that end. They either do not see it or do not care.

Furthermore the modern federal government of America has destroyed the sovereignty of the individual states and governors and legislatures have stood by and let it happen! I am sorry but what is good for Massachusetts is not necessarily good for Georgia. And what is good for Georgia may not be good for Iowa. There are only a handful of issues that would need to be regulated across state lines and these are thoroughly described and outlined in the Constitution. Every other issue should be a state and local decision. If the people of Georgia vote that they do not want abortion performed here then that is the way it should be. This is not a Federal issue. If the people of the Peach State do not want homosexual marriage nor do they want to recognize it then it is their prerogative to vote it to be so and there is nothing the Federal government should have to say about it.

Unfortunately most state governors and legislators seem to be kowtowing to the almighty, all-powerful federal government. As an aside, this is why I am supporting Ray McBerry for governor of Georgia because he not only upholds Conservative Constitutional principles but he believes that a state’s governor should also be the one to protect his state from an encroaching federal government through interposition.

I still believe America is the greatest country in the world and the best place to be and live. This is why I still fight to preserve the Constitution that makes it so. Sometimes that means putting pressure on very ones who have been elected to do that!


Ebryonic Stem Cells Are Not in the Constitution

In August 2001, former President George W. Bush used the presidential Executive Order to restrict federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Today (March 9, 2009) President Obama issued a presidential tag-back with an Executive Order of his own reversing Bush’s Executive Order. Sounds like the White House has its very own nanny-nanny-boo-boo going on.

Why does this story stir up in me the inclination to march around Washington with a sign reading “HAVE YOU ACTUALLY HEARD OF THE 10TH AMENDMENT?” If the First Amendment is the most important amendment (which I think it is) then the Tenth Amendment is a close second:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

This wonderful statement basically means the Constitution has told all involved with the government of the United states of America exactly what is required of them. And if there is still any doubt or if any issue arises which the Constitution does not address then let the states or the people decide.

No where does the Constitution give the President or Congress the right to make laws concerning scientific research (there is also no clause giving government the right to even fund scientific research but that is a discussion for another day). And since the appropriation of federal funds concerns the use of taxpayer dollars then the people should be allowed to vote on the issue.

The issue could be stated on the ballot simply: Allow taxpayer dollars to be appropriated to embryonic stem cell research–yes or no. Voting yes means you are fine with it and voting no means that you do not want your dollars used that way. Count the votes, problem solved, constitutionally. Or if they like it can be on a state by state basis. The same ballot mentioned above may be used in this scenario as well. If a state passes the bill then taxpayer dollars from citizens from that state may be used for embryonic stem cell research funding. If another state does not pass the bill then monies from taxpayers in that state may not be used.

Instead we see President Obama and even former President Bush using the tyrannical and unconstitutional Executive Order which allows a president to be king for a day. A president may issue an Executive Order which must be carried out the same as a law and to which there is usually no Congressional resistance. If it smells like a monarchy…

This issue, along with abortion and gay marriage, should not be decided by politicians or presidents or even self-righteous judges. These federal bodies have no jurisdiction or authority in the Constitution to decide such matters. These and many other issues should be decided by the states or the people.

Politicians, for all their heartstring-plucking, We-the-People rhetoric, do not seem to know much about the most important “We the People” amendment, the Tenth Amendment.


Considering the Rapture and Millennium Through Catholic Eyes

I am always on the look out for materials that express how the early church (the first 3 centuries particularly) viewed certain doctrines that are the topic of debate in the modern church.  I found an article on the doctrines of the Rapture and the Millennium recently that I enjoyed.

Now this article is from a Catholic website.  I am not Catholic nor do I necessarily agree with all Catholic doctrines. I found the site when I performed a Google search to learn more about St. Augustine’s view of the Millennium The reason this site caught my attention is I think it is profitable at times to view some of our teachings (e.g. the Millennium and the Rapture) through non-Protestant Evangelical eyes.

I know that the attitude of many of my Protestant brethren toward Catholicism is a negative one and there may be a tendency to dismiss this article out-of-hand but, let’s face it, some of the greatest men of the faith have been Catholic. I have already mentioned St. Augustine. Surely you recognize the names of Thomas Aquinas, St. Athanasius, Brother Lawrence, Eusebius the Catholic historian, Jerome, and Justin Martyr, to name a few. So we can not reject wholesale any and all doctrines of the Catholic simply because they are held by Catholics. Catholics agree with Protestants on the nature of sin, original sin, salvation through Christ alone, the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the sacrificial death of Christ, the Resurrection, the Second Coming, Heaven, and Hell among others. They are not wrong about everything any more than Baptists are wrong about everything—though both are wrong about some things, in my humble opinion. 🙂

I respect the Catholic church’s view on various topics because of the age of the Catholic church and studying the teachings of ancient Catholics like Augustine can teach us the views of some of the earliest saints.  Of course I admit that just because a doctrine is old does not make it right, for gnosticism is old but is most assuredly false and unscriptural.  However I do look with suspicion upon movements and doctrines that are very recent and I believe this is prudent. Enjoy.


Politicians Can Not Follow Their Own Rules: The Missing Principles

First there was the revelation that President Obama’s selection of Treasury chief Timothy Geitner failed to pay $43,000 in self-employment taxes in 2004 (and it is suggested that there were years prior to that in which he avoided paying taxes). He said it was “an honest mistake”. I suppose he simply forgot to pay that 43 grand. It probably would have slipped anyone’s mind. Then came the debacle of Tom Daschle who for the second time is having to leave Washington with his tail between his legs, the first time being his defeat at the polls during the last mid-term elections. He withdrew as Obama’s health secretary Tuesday when he admitted to owing $140,000 in back taxes. Finally there is Nancy Killefer who was slated to be the first “performance officer”. I do not have to tell you that she too had to withdraw because she was knee deep in tax issues.

So these are the folks that President Obama thought were worthy to lead this nation? Politicians past and present (like Daschle) have the gall to levy a complex, arcane, crushing tax system against us when they themselves can not see fit to obey it? And it is not just Obama’s recent cabinet issues. Throughout the 20th century and now the 21st century the White House and Congress have been riddled with embarrassing unnecessary scandals.

Separation of Church and State? You Wanted It, You Got It

So-called progressives never let us forget that fateful letter once written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danville Baptists concerning the establishment of a religious denomination at the federal level. Today Jefferson’s phrase “separation of church and state” is taken out of context and misused to flush all remnants of religious sentiment from government. Unfortunately integrity, honesty, and virtue have been flushed away as well. Indeed if I were in charge there are several principles from the Judeo-Christian value system that I would be clamoring to recapture.

1. Bad company corrupts good morals. It is sad that many aspiring politicians can not live up to their ideals once in office. They become corrupted. The number of back room deals and under-the-table favors is disgraceful. If I were president and any of my people were caught in any deal that was not above board then they would cease to be “my people” on the spot. That goes for staff and associates.

2. With all thy getting, get understanding. Wisdom is knowing when to change something and when to let it alone. Wisdom is also not rushing into a decision to please the impatient majority but it involves care and foresight, and the maturity to live with a decision.

3. Your sin will find you out. Geitner and Daschle have been sitting pretty assuming their tax cheating was slyly executed and undetected. I am sure it never crossed their minds that it would be made so humiliatingly public to the embarrassment of one of their own party’s shining stars, Barack Obama. It pays to simply do the right thing every time. Not even politicians are above the law.

4. The laborer is worthy of his hire. Let businesses alone to run their companies in the most efficient, profitable, and responsible way possible. A company should not be forced to pay a worker a $7.25/hr minimum wage when the worker is doing $4.00/hr worth of work. By the same token a worker has the right to leave a job for a better job at any time. Any individual has the right and opportunity to get a quality education (even if it is just a high school education) and thus find better employment opportunities,. but too many throw those educational opportunities away and expect others (such as government) to pick up the slack.

5. Ask for the ancient paths wherein is the good way. The Constitution is a good document yet is being subverted. Let’s follow it. The founding fathers sacrificed their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for the sake of the liberties that it protects therefore we can be sure that they poured every bit of their good sense, logic, and understanding into it. And they were no dummies. If politicians are going to claim to follow and submit to the Constitution then they had better do it. If they do not believe that it accomplishes the task then they should write a new one. But they should not parade around as upholders of the Constitution all the while ignoring the delegated powers it enumerates.

Josh H.


Sovereignty in the Life of Baby Moses

Exodus chapter 2 tells of the birth of Moses. Pharoah of Egypt had begun to see how the desendents of Jacob grew numerous and mighty. This was a new Pharoah who had not known Joseph and had no respect for his people. Out of political fear Pharoah began to oppress the Israelites and forced them to build with brick and mortar subduing them under tyranny to keep them from rising up or growing too powerful. However the Hebrews continued to grow and thrive.

The next step was a bloody one whereby Pharoah commanded that all male children born to Hebrew mothers were to be killed upon their birth by their Egyptian midwives. The midwives feared God and did not do so and lied to Pharoah about it. So the children of Israel multipled all the more.

Then a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman and she bore him a son. But because she feared the Egyptians she placed him in a basket covered with pitch and placed the basket among the reeds of the Nile River. It so happened that the daughter of Pharoah came with her maidservants to bathe in the river where she spotted the basket with the child in it. She took pity on him and decided to resuce him. But she could not nurse him.

So she sent her maidservant to bring her one of the Hebrew women for she perceived that the babe was one of the Hebrews’ children. The maidservant brought a lady, but not just any lady. Unbeknowst to herself, as far as we know, the maidservant brought the child’s own mother. Pharoah’s daughter gave the child to his  mother so that she might nurse him until such time that he could come and live in Pharoah’s house.

How stunned the mother must have been! When she was summoned she may have even thought that her scheme had been found out. It would seem that God, in His purpose and foreknowledge, arranged for that child to be with his mother again during those early years. How much that must have blessed the mother. Or maybe Pharoah’s daughter somehow knew that this particular Levite woman was the mother and this was an act of mercy on her part. Either way the sovereignty of God in rescuing, protecting, and providing for Moses is clear.

And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose…What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8: 28, 31)

Josh H.


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