The Thoughts and Musings of Tom Allain

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it

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Archive for April, 2011

It’s Tax Day. Do You Know Where Your Money Is Going? You Can Find Out

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Hopefully anyone reading this has already done his taxes, but it’s an interesting point to ask where the money is going. We have a funny attitude in the country: we look at taxes as a personal assault on our checkbooks, and yet we demand that the government fix everything we perceive is wrong. I’m one of those “tax and spend” liberals who actually doesn’t mind paying taxes for the privilege of living in a free country, knowing the local fire department still makes house calls, and exercising freedoms of speech and religion.

The White House has a web page where you can calculate (in general terms) where your money goes. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but the taxes we pay are a bit of a shell game. If you look at your paycheck stub you can see that the federal government takes money out of three different categories: federal tax, social security, and medicare. In reality all three deductions go into the same pot, and this pot pays social security, medicare, medicaid, defense, national parks, foreign aid, and NPR.

It’s a pretty simple formula and I’m a little surprised that nobody thought of this sooner. The percentage of the budget is fixed and this page allows you to put in the taxes you paid into a calculator. Go ahead and try. It could be hopeful or sobering, depending on your views. As for me, I like that Nancy and I paid $879.53 for Veteran’s benefits.

Sesquicentennial of our Darkest Hour

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Today marks the 150th Anniversary (Sesquicentennial) of the Civil War (or War Between the States, or War of Northern Aggression). No event in our history as a nation says more about who we are than this: the time between April 12, 1861 (the attack of Ft. Sumter) and April 9, 1965 (the surrender at Appomattox) we were a country at war with ourselves. By the time it ended 625,000 of us would be dead (more than died in World War I and II combined).

There are probably more books written about these four years than any other time in our history. Here are suggestions from books I’ve read:

Growing up in Northern Virginia (and as an adult living in the city of Manassas) I was struck by how the war continued to live in people who were born 100 years later. I was aware that the war itself was called by different names (Civil War, War Between the States, etc.) and I learned that even the battles had different names: Bull Run vs. Manassas, Chancellorsville vs. Wilderness, and others.

I also learned that the reasons for the war were not in agreement. In the north it was viewed as a war about whether or not slavery would exist, and in the south it was about whether states (who voluntarily joined the union) could leave the union. The more I read the more I’m convinced that slavery is the reality that cannot be ignored.

The roots of the Civil War can (and must be) traced back to the writing of our Constitution. The framers who drafted the Constitution in 1787 faced a dilemma when it came to slaves: how can we say all men are created equal when clearly some are the property of others. Several of framers were slave owners themselves, and while they may have found the institution of slavery distasteful, they participated in it. They also believed that the new nation would not survive if they tried to outlaw slavery. Essentially they punted, and hoped the issue would be resolved in future generations. It is interesting to note one compromise in the 1st Article of the Constitution: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years [ie, not slaves, but indentured servants], and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons.” In other words, if you owned 5 slaves they were counted as 3 persons in the census.

By the time of the Civil War, some 80 years later, slavery had become an institution in the South and most Northerners either had no opinion or found it distasteful but not serious enough to end. It was also a time of Westward expansion into new territories like Missouri and Kansas. Many people in the North, including Abraham Lincoln, wanted to stop slavery where it is and not allow it to move west. Southern slave owners were outraged and believed this discriminated against them. They felt so alienated that they came to the decision that since they voluntarily joined the United States in 1789 they could just as voluntarily pull out and form their own nation. Those in the North disagreed and believed that joining together in 1789 was an irreconcilable covenant that can’t be broken. The war officially started on April 12, 1861 when Southern forces (or members of the newly formed Confederate States of America) began shelling the garrison at Ft. Sumner, South Carolina.

It’s my belief that the South never really believed the North would fight all that hard, and it is generally believed that the South expected a victory in a few weeks or months. It didn’t happen that way. President Lincoln was adamant that the Union be preserved and came only later to the belief that the post war Union would prohibit slavery. By the time the war ended the South was in shambles and the next 12 years would be called “Reconstruction.” In some ways this was as bad a time for the South as the war itself. After President Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865 he was replaced by Andrew Johnson a Southerner who remained in the Senate from Tennessee even after his state seceded. He was a weak man and Radical Republicans made life very difficult in the South. Out of this came a South that wanted to see pre-Civil War days as much better than they were. They saw it as a time when ladies and gentlemen were safe while they cared for slaves who were content with their lives. They denied that the war was about slavery or its westward expansion and that freeing slaves made them into dangerous men roaming the countryside looking for opportunities to harm or kill white people. The 1915 movie Birth of a Nation makes this point and claims the Ku Klux Klan formed as a way of protecting white people from former slaves.

Even today the Confederate Battle Flag draws controversy as some see it as a symbol of slavery while others see it as Southern heritage and tradition.

It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Apologies to R.E.M. but it’s always a great story. In the Christian Bible (Matthew 24:36-42) Jesus says this (New American Bible translation):

“As for the exact day or hour, no one knows it, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father only. The coming of the Son of Man will repeat what happened in Noah’s time. In the days before the flood people were eating and drinking, marrying and being married, right up to the day Noah entered the ark. They were totally unconcerned until the flood came and destroyed them. So will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal; one will be taken and one will be left. Stay awake, therefore! You cannot know the day your Lord is coming.”

There are countless ways to understand this passage, but there has always been Christians who interpret this in this way:

  • At a time of God’s choosing the world will end.
  • Those who are saved will be taken directly to heaven.
  • Those left behind will face untold tribulations.
  • While the Bible insists that no one knows when this will happen except the Father, there are clues that we can interpret and predict when this will happen

Virtually from the earliest days of the Christian Church there have been those who have predicted that this date is soon. The latest is the folk at Family Radio. They predict the end of the world (or the “Rapture”) will be May 21, 2011. If you click on their web page they give a formula to show how the date is relevant. Just for amusement I looked at their rationale, and here’s what I came up with:

They claim that in God’s mercy He has given us the information we need to predict. In 2 Peter 3:8 it states that for God “a day is as a thousand years.” Therefore we can use this as a calculator. Two days is 2,000 years, etc. They claim that the Noah’s Ark flood was in 4990 BC, and this year, 2011, is exactly 7,000 years later. St. Peter states in 2 Peter 2:5: “Nor did he spare the ancient world – even though he preserved Noah as a preacher of holiness, with seven others, when he brought down the flood on that godless earth.” If you’re wondering how they find Noah’s Ark in the year 4990 BC, they do this through a series of calculations in the Book of Genesis. You can look at a thread in Catholic Answers for more background, but Genesis 7:11 states that the flood started on the 17th day of the 2nd month in the 600th year of Noah’s life. Translating from the ancient Hebrew Calendar to ours makes the 17th day of the 2nd month May 21st.

OK, here’s where it gets fun for me. If they claim that Noah’s Ark was 4990 BC, then 7000 years later would be 2010, not 2011. Why didn’t this happen last year?

OK, maybe it gets fun for me now. They have another proof that begins with the statement that Jesus was crucified on April 1, 33. They don’t give the rational but claim this is the only date that fits when the Bible states Jesus was crucified (let’s put on hold the fact that the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke place the Last Supper as Passover and John’s gospel has the Last Supper as the night before the Passover meal).

From April 1, 33 to May 21, 2011 there are 722,500 days. What is the significance of 722,500? Glad you asked. If you multiply 5 X 10 X 17 X 5 X 10 X 17 you get 722,500. For simplicity’s sake it’s really 2 X (5 X 10 X 17). The order of the numbers doesn’t matter, we just need to see the significance of the numbers 2, 5, 10, and 17.

According to these folk, the number 2 signifies doubling and they say: “Remarkably this number sequence is doubled, to indicate it has been established by God and will shortly come to pass.” Proof of this is Genesis 41:32: “That Pharaoh had the same dream twice means that the matter has been reaffirmed by God and that God will soon bring it about.”

The number 5 signifies atonement or redemption. You can see this from Exodus 30:15 where the rich are commanded to give more (money) and the poor shall not give less than one half a shekel (1/2 equals 0.5) in atonement for souls. Also in Numbers 3:47-48:

The Lord said to Moses: “Take the Levites in place of all the first-born of the Israelites, and the Levites’ cattle in place of their cattle, that the Levites may belong to me. I am the LORD. As ransom for the two hundred and seventy-three first-born of the Israelites who outnumber the Levites, you shall take five shekels for each individual, according to the standard of the sanctuary shekel, twenty gerahs to the shekel. Give this silver to Aaron and his sons as ransom for the extra number.” So Moses took the silver as ransom from those who were left when the rest had been redeemed by the Levites. From the first-born of the Israelites he received in silver one thousand three hundred and sixty-five shekels according to the sanctuary standard. He then gave this ransom silver to Aaron and his sons, as the LORD had commanded him.

Still following? OK, the number 10 (or 100 or 1,000) signifies completeness. We find this because the Bible often speaks of 10 coins or 100 sheep or 1,000 years. Also Satan is bound for 1,000 years in Revelation 20:2-3.

Lastly, the number 17 frequently signifies Heaven. This is from Jeremiah 32 where God tells him to purchase a field for 17 silver shekels. You can read this in Jeremiah 32:7-17.

This gives us the formula 2 X (5 X 10 X 17) = 722,500. Therefore since 722,500 days from the crucifixion of Jesus is May 21, 2011, this will be the end of the world.

If you think like me, you’re thinking that this stuff is awfully arbitrary and that these numbers came about because they shopped for numbers to back up their prediction. If God did indeed plant these hints so we could predict, I know I would never have come up with this. I can only assume this means I’ll be left behind. In that case can someone who is being raptured leave his car for me?