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Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Pearl Harbor Revisited

Well, it's been going on three months since my last post, and I'm still alive, so I'd better send out another one.

I wrote this almost exactly one year before 9/11; before I had a blog.

At six in the morning of December Seventh, Nineteen Forty One, Hawaii Time, A Japanese Naval Task force of six aircraft carriers and their support craft reached a point two hundred miles north of the Hawaiian island of Oahu. As the first faint light of dawn gleamed in the eastern sky, forty-three fighter planes took to the air. These were followed by one hundred and forty bombers, many of them equipped with a secret new torpedo that was capable of operating in shallow water. Their target was the United States Pacific Fleet, which was at the moment lying at anchor in Pearl Harbor. It was Sunday, and most of the Fleet’s sailors were still asleep. It had been a busy week of one battle-preparedness drill after another, for war with Japan was considered to be just around the corner, and the fleet wanted to be ready for war when it came. It would come much sooner than any of them thought.
At six in the morning in Hawaii, it was 11:30 in the American capital, and after months of frenzied peace talks with the Japanese government, official Washington was strangely silent. The Chief of Staff of the United States Army had just returned from his usual Sunday morning horseback ride. Waiting for him in his office was an intercepted Japanese radio message instructing the Japanese diplomatic delegation that the peace talks were to be permanently broken off as of one p.m. Washington time. The message followed an earlier warning that had come in the week before, warning the Japanese embassy to destroy their code machines and stand by for a complete end to diplomatic relations. When this message was relayed to the Present of the United States on the evening of December Sixth, his response was to say: “This means war.” It was time to alert the Armed Forces in Hawaii and the Philippines to expect an imminent attack.

Back in Hawaii, as the sun came up over the eastern islands, the destroyer Ward detected an unidentified vessel in a secured area and implemented the shoot-on-sight orders that had recently been handed down. The dull thud of an underwater explosion lifted a tiny submarine to the surface of the water. It was obviously not American, and it had been right at the entrance of the Pearl Harbor Naval Base. Word reached the Admiral in Command of the Pacific Fleet that someone was attacking the base, and he hurried to get dressed. Forty-five minutes earlier, back in Washington, the top Commander of the Naval Forces had reached for the telephone to notify Hawaii that war would probably break out within hours, but changed his mind and telephoned the White House instead. At ten forty-five on a Sunday morning, the President’s phone line was busy. The top Army commander and the top Navy commander held a hasty conference, and rather that using official channels, they decided to send a warning message to their field commanders in Hawaii by Western Union Telegram. The telegram made its way across the US to a station in San Francisco, where it was relayed on through another telegraph company to their office in Honolulu. It was handed to a motorcycle-riding delivery boy who set off with the coded message just as a hundred and forty Japanese planes began to fill the sky over Oahu. It was five minutes to eight in Hawaii, and 1:25 in Washington. Two Japanese diplomats were on their way to a 2 p.m. meeting with the American Secretary of State. In their briefcases were copies of the message that had been intercepted by American Military Intelligence a day and a half earlier. Within hours the whole world would know what only a handful could now predict with certainty: The Unites States was at war.

Who was to blame for the two thousand and three sailors, two hundred and eighteen soldiers, one hundred and nine Marines, and sixty-eight civilians killed that fateful morning in Hawaii? Was it the Army and Navy commanders on the ground, who were relieved of their posts and spent the rest of the war fighting to clear their records of unspecified charges? Was it their supervisors in Washington, who right up to the minute of the attack refused to grant them access to the intercepted Japanese radio messages that caused so much alarm in Washington? Was it the president himself, who, while campaigning for an unprecedented third term in office, had assured audiences all over America that he would never, never, never, involve their sons in a foreign war? Who had, since 1939, been carrying out secret negotiations with Winston Churchill as to the conduct of a future war with Germany? Who, in the months leading up to Pearl Harbor, ordered his forces to share all intercepted intelligence information with the British--including information that was denied to his own commanders in Hawaii? Who had ordered, on July 26, that all Japanese assets in America be frozen, an order that everyone involved agreed amounted to an act of war? Who, as the Japanese attack force was secretly steaming east from its base north of Japan, gave orders to the Census Bureau to hand over a list of all the Japanese people in America?

The former commander of the Pacific Fleet, whom the President had dismissed from command at the beginning of 1941 for insisting that to base all of the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor was to invite a Japanese surprise attack, put it this way to an investigator:

Assume you were the leader of the greatest nation in the world, and assume that you saw, in another hemisphere, the development of a power which you regarded as a threat to Western civilization as you knew it. Supposing, however, that for various reasons, your conception of the danger was not shared by your own people. Assume you saw that the only salvation of Western civilization was to repel this particular power, but that would require you to enter a foreign war for which your people were not psychologically or militarily prepared. Assume that what was needed to galvanize your own people for a unified approach towards this basic danger to civilization was an incident in which your posture was clearly of passive non-aggression and apparent unpreparedness; and the incident in question was a direct act of aggression which had no excuse or justification. Assume that you saw this potentiality developing on the horizon and it was the solution to the dilemma, as you saw it, of saving civilization and galvanizing your own people. It is conceivable, is it not, that you’d want to be sure that whatever the incident, it happened under circumstances where it was perfectly clear that you were not the aggressor, and the resulting incident galvanized your own people to a realization of the terrible threat which they faced from this totalitarian force. 
  What difference does it make to us who was responsible for involving our country in a war which we would have all repudiated? Who really cares, fifty-nine years later, that our nation was deceived into entering a war, a war that cost millions of human lives, by a coldhearted administration that made a calculated choice to act dishonorably in what they perceived to be the best interests of the nation and, ultimately, the entire world? 

Who really cares? I do--not because 10 years ago I stood over the hulk of the USS Arizona where it still lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor and watched streaks of oil still bubbling up from the watery tomb where half the victims of that attack still lie buried. I care, not because I stood in the Arizona Memorial Visitors Center and listened to a tour guide go through a carefully prepared explanation of that attack, which had been modified to avoid offending the Japanese tourists who stood next to me. I care, not for reasons having anything to do with the fact that I was involved against my will in a war that could have easily been avoided. I care. The war brought about by the attack on Pearl Harbor is long since over; its survivors have by now mostly died; there are few left who still carry in their memories the horrors of that Sunday morning. Wars have come and gone since that time with enough horrors of their own. The full details of all the events leading up to Pearl Harbor will never be fully known. So what does it matter if someone in high places deliberately provoked that attack, suppressing both information that could have prevented it, and information about the attempt to let it take place?

Truth matters. The truth really does matter. What really happened really did happen, and no amount of lies, half-truths, deceptions, and cover-ups take away from that fact. I cannot stand before you today and say that the attack on Pearl Harbor came as a surprise to the highest officials in the US Government any more than I can say that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was a plot hatched by his followers to gain public sympathy for his teachings. Regardless of what people have been told, regardless of what facts have been manipulated or suppressed, regardless of what the majority of the people believe, the truth is still true. The truth will always stand up to scrutiny. The truth will always bear up under investigation. The truth will always come out, because the truth is what really happened, and no one can ever change that, no matter how much they might wish to. You don’t even have to believe the truth to make it true--it just is.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Invisible Angels

I earlier wrote about a documented characteristic of the appearance of angels: they are so bright, it can be hard to look at them. On the other hand, it's also documented that angels can look quite ordinary. There are examples both in the Bible and from anecdotes of both. In this post, I'll address an interesting quality of incognito angels: it appears they can't be photographed.

I got to thinking about this recently when reading the original version of Dracula by Bram Stoker, which brought the term 'vampire' into colloquial English. Among the characteristics of a vampire described in Dracula (and apparently original to Stoker) was an inability to cast a reflection in a mirror. In other words, the phenomenon of seeing a vampire was not due to the physical reflection of light off its corporeal body, but some independent effect on the eye or visual cortex. Such appears to be the case with all visible angels, whether they be elect or fallen.

I base this on the testimony of a friend of mine, returned from a mission trip to northern Ghana. While there--he reported--during a church service, he spotted a dove in the rafters of the church; something not all that uncommon in Ghana. But when he attempted to snap a photo of it on his digital camera, all he could see in the viewer were the empty rafters. Looking directly, he could see the dove; looking at the camera, he couldn't. He snapped a photo anyways, which he showed us upon his return. It showed the rafters, but where the dove would have been the picture was totally washed out, as if hit by an intense beam of light.

I ran across another apparent example of an angel visible to the eye as an ordinary man, but incapable of being captured in a photograph:

The priest's image did not show up in a single one of some 70 photos of the crash site. But it turned out he wasn't actually an angel, after all according to a man who admits to having been the mystery priest:

So be careful about stories like this. I trust my friend's testimony, and saw the washed-out digital photo. But I wonder how many other stories like the 'mystery priest' end up being more than they actually were. Some level of science has been brought to bear on investigating this pheonomenon, but it has been roundly criticized for not being rigourous.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Indiana Revival Report - Day 182

It's been six months since Time To Revive first came in force to Indiana. It must be said with some amazement that they haven't left yet. The original six days in Goshen were extended to 52, then another week after a month of rest. This was followed in quick succession by a week in Kokomo, then a week in Bloomington, a week in South Bend, two weeks in the Valparaiso-Gary-Hobart area, and a week in Terre Haute. Finally, a week in Fort Wayne. Each city was followed by a week off, to give the team time to prepare for its next city.

Because every Revive Indiana city was within a 2 hour drive of a previous location, there was a growing army of Revive veterans from each city helping to jump-start the outreach in the next city, or the one after. An array of red T-shirts were designed with the logo of a respective city on the front, all with a map of Indiana on the back, with the "seven rays" design from the state flag superimposed.

Things were supposed to have wound down last week in Fort Wayne, but it didn't happen. From the first day to the last, turnout for the morning and afternoon outreaches was strong and steady. Reports soon came out of people being healed, both in the meetings and on the streets. Over thirty churches got behind the movement in a massive display of unity, and it became clear by the middle of the week that this outpouring was a repeat of Elkhart County half a year earlier. Sure enough, Revive Indiana (Ft Wayne) has been extended through this week. [UPDATE: it's been extended yet another week.]

First Assembly's Senior Pastor Ron Hawkins wasn't eager to get on board when it was first suggested that his church building would be the ideal place for Revive Ft. Wayne to meet. He'd been heavily involved in a general revival that had swept Ft. Wayne 20 years earlier, and wasn't interested in any other than the real thing. These were the five characteristics of revival that he was looking for before he'd get involved. And yes, once he found out that they were all characteristics of Revive Indiana, he jumped on board.

1. God said, I will pour out My Spirit in greater measure in the last days.
2. It will be more in the street than in the building.
3. It will be when "all the brothers are in the house."
4. There will be signs and wonders that rival those in the New Testament.
5. It will not be about a man, a ministry, or a manifestation; it will be about Jesus.

I've written about the lack of impact this revival has appeared to have, for example, on the local crime rate in Elkhart. But that seems to be changing; last night's testimonies included a report of a potential reprisal murder miraculously stopped, and the would-be murderer was there in the meeting to attest to his change of heart--and life.

I'm thinking that the Holy Spirit has a lot more to work with in the Black community--perhaps more on that later.

Monday, 29 June 2015

In which twelve people display a little-known and seldom-seen Christian virtue

[You can begin a chain of linked articles on this topic by clicking here.]

There's something striking about the Charleston Massacre that's not, to my knowledge, yet been commented on. According to news reports a week in (early reports of tragedy always being overturned by later ones), on June 17, 2015, a young man named Dylann Roof joined a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. The twelve others present at the Bible study welcomed him, although he had apparently never been seen by any of them before.

What they didn't know was that Dylann had come with one purpose in mind, and that was to kill them--evidently in hopes of starting a race war. What happened was probably different than anyone would have expected, because when he pulled out a .45 pistol and started shooting, none of the twelve resisted him. Rather than a war, it was nothing but a massacre, and when the shooting stopped, nine more martyrs had joined the celestial ranks.

What's unusual about this is that Methodists aren't known for non-resistance. Yes, several Methodists were persecuted for refusing to take up arms against England during the Revolution, but that was probably more due to their loyalist sentiments than their adherence to any biblical doctrine. Yes, the senior pastor of the church, as a South Carolina state senator, had voted for gun control and had even banned guns from his church--but gun control, far from being about the elimination of firearms, is all about the concentration of firearms in the hands of law enforcement, denying them to everyone else but criminals.

Yet for all their lack of theological reasons for doing so, all twelve victims practiced the primeval Christian response to violence: they didn't fight back. Some even jumped in front of the gun, like the girls did in the Nickel Mines shooting, to take a bullet for their friends.

So confused was Dylann by this turn of events that he forgot to count his bullets, and, after reloading twice, failed to save the last one for himself. He put the gun up against his head and pulled the trigger on an empty chamber. Not having had an escape plan, he fled in disarray and was easily captured the next day.

So, in taking all 15 of his bullets, the congregants at Mother Emanuel saved one more life: that of their killer. There's no other explanation for this, other than that non-resistance, and loving one's enemies to the point of laying down one's life for them, is an inherent Christian virtue.

This was reinforced at Dylann's bond hearing, where the survivors were unanimous in offering him not hate or acrimony, but love and forgiveness. In short, the Methodists of Mother Emanuel acted like Christians.

All hail the martyrs of Mother Emanuel. All hail the Christian virtue of non-resistance.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Nickel and pencing us to death

I was in the store the other day where the cashier had run out of pennies, and was giving out change in nickels to the person ahead of me at the checkout. I pointed out that there were plenty of pennies (and a few coins of a more valuable denomination) in the 'penny jar' which is often found at the checkout counters of small stores. But the cashier wouldn't touch those pennies; apparently using them for any other purpose than providing a cash-strapped customer with access to free pennies needed to complete a purchase. I intended to put a few of those pennies, and maybe even some of the larger denominations, to that very purpose--but as my purchase was being rung up, another store employee returned from a run to the bank, rolls of pennies in hand. I'm sure that bank run cost more than the store saved that day by giving out exact change (an inevitable result of ending all of their prices, already plenty low enough, with the digit 9).

It's been quite some years since I wrote on the upcoming demise of the American penny, and word out now is that not only the penny, but also the nickel, costs more than its face value. Yet the US Mint continues to churn them out, despite my prediction that the Obama administration would see an end to the penny. Well, in the meantime, Canada's penny, which is worth even less than America's, and produced of even cheaper metal, has in fact been pulled from distribution.

So what happens next? If the nickel and penny alike are too expensive to produce--as well as being worth less than a twentieth of what they were a century ago--the next logical step is remonetizing our currency down to the next order of magnitude; perhaps in conjunction with putting the visage of a woman on the new $10 bill.

That's the only way it would happen overnight.