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Friday, October 28, 2011

On Revelation--The Rider on the White Horse is not Antichrist

I found out that I have a dissident view of Revelation, at least in some Evangelical circles.

During a Bible study on Revelation, I found out that many resources used by others describe the rider on a white horse mentioned in Revelation 6:2 as Antichrist. I have long been under the impression that this rider is none other than Jesus Christ himself.

The text states:

And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow, ans a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer (KJV).

Having looked up a number of online resources, I note the following reasons why this figure is associated with Antichrist:

1. He is accompanied by riders who represent war, famine, and death.

2. The passage of the seven seals speaks of the wrath of God against the earth.

Yet, against this, I note that the rider on the white horse appears again:

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many diadems, and he hath a name written which no one knoweth but he himself. And he is arrayed in a garment sprinkled with blood, and his name is called the Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven followed him upon white horses clothed in fine linen, white and pure. And out of his mouth proceedeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God, he Almighty. And he hath on his garment and on his thigh a name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:11-16)

How this figure can be anyone other than Jesus Christ is beyond me. The slaying of the wicked by words that are weapons echoes Isaiah 11:4; smiting and ruling the nations with a rod of iron echoes Psalm 2:9. Clearly this is the fulfillment of all of Israel's Messianic hopes of defeating the oppressing nations!

As for Jesus' association with the terrors of the other horsemen of the apocalypse and the trumpets and bowls of God's wrath following Revelation 6:2, this can be understood as comforting a persecuted and pressured church by reminding them that, as Matthew's Gospel assured them, all authority in heaven and earth, including over the terrors the shatter humanity, is held by the risen Jesus (Matthew 28:18). In these disasters, the hope of wicked men perish, but all ultimately ends with the Lord vindicating his people.

The 20th century was one in which contempt for Christ and his Gospel was widespread. It was also an age of uncritical faith in man-made institutions and programs. Yet the dreams of peace unleashed by a League of Nations in 1920 and a United Nations in 1945 have been illusory. The confidence of most "thinking people" (a thundering herd of independent minds, perhaps?) in so-called "scientific socialism" proved a mockery, and a very bloody one after the political murders of over 150 millions in peacetime. These are indeed horrible things to contemplate, but could this not be a case of our Lord shattering like earthen pots the kings of the earth who have gathered themselves against him (Psalm 2)? Is this not a call for us to reconsider the claims of our Lord, as many indeed are doing even now?

Yes, it is terrifying to consider the hand of our loving God in the vicissitudes of history. This may well lead many to hate God all the more. But let us not forget the garment sprinkled in blood in which our Lord Jesus appears. It is not the blood of his enemies, but his own sacrificial blood which he shed to atone for our sins when he, the righteous one, died for the unrighteous to bring us to God (I Peter 3:18). In that is the true refuge from the coming wrath.

The "Natural Born Citizen" Issue Rides Again: Revisiting Wong Kim Ark

Once again, in questions posed to candidate Rick Perry, the issue of whether or not President Barack Obama is a "natural born citizen" has surfaced. It strikes me that the birther movement, our conservative answer to the truthers, has gone out of control and has derailed many.

I have said before that to prove that President Obama is not a "natural-born citizen" would require proof that his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was not a US citizen with eligibility to transmit citizenship, even if, by some hook or crook, it could be proven, as Obama's grandmother claimed,that Barack Obama, Jr. was indeed born in Mombassa, Kenya. Never, to my knowledge, has the birther movement offered statutory or case law proof that "natural-born" means anything other than being born a US citizen by either jus soli or jus sanguinis.

And, this is being said by an unabashed rightist who believes that the Obama presidency is a disaster.

Perhaps the most important Supreme Court case related to the issue of who is a "natural-born citizen" was Wong Kim Ark v. US (1898).

Wong Kim Ark (the Hoisan Yue pronunciation of Huang Jinde) was born in San Francisco, Chalifornia, to Chinese parents who were not naturalized as US citizens. His return to the US after a youthful visit to China was not questioned, even after passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, due to his birth in the USA. However, in 1895, after returning from another trip to China, he was detained at San Francisco due to the fact that his parents remained subject to the Emperor of China, and were not citizens at the time of Wong's birth in the 1870's. Wong therefore sued for habeas corpus.

His case ultimately reached the US Supreme Court, which, in 1898, ruled in a 6-2 decision that Wong was indeed a US citizen. It was observed that his parents had been involved in commerce rather than official business on behalf of the emperor of China; that they were legally in the USA during the 1870's; they were subject to the jurisdiction of US law (the language of the 14th Amendment); they clearly were not connected to a hostile occupying power in wartime; and that they were clearly not of a recognized Indian tribe (then theoretically their own jurisdictions and separate "nations" rather than officially part of the USA). Wong's citizenship later became the basis for allowing three of his own sons born in China whose relationships could not be questioned to enter the US during the period of Chinese Exclusion (in those days, many Overseas Chinese maintained wives in their ancestral places in China, and only occasionally visited).

The majority (including Justice Brewer) viewed the case through the prism of US definitions of citizenship; the dissent by Harlan and Fuller involved recognition of international legal doctrine, in which citizenship definitions of foreign powers were to be recognized. At the time, renunciation of allegiance to the Chinese emperor was a capital offense in China, so the non-naturalization of Wong's parents was understandable, since their business involved occasional returns to the country of their birth, apparently. Still, the majority remained unswayed, noting that the USA, as an independent power, had the right to establish its own rules for citizenship.

The Wong case has long been understood to ensure the jus soli citizenship of children of legal immigrants or other foreign parents not in diplomatic or visiting head of state status (the children of foreign students, for example). Indeed, in view of the language of the 14th Amendment, which defines those born in the USA and under the jurisdiction thereof, it is very hard to justify the denial of citizenship to such persons.

The issue of whether the Wong decision allows the US-born children of those illegally in the USA to be counted as citizens has been disputed in legal journals. However, until now, it does not seem that the citizenship of US-born children of illegal immigrants has been challenged either by statute or case law. Given that the illegal parents might be charged with violation of immigration law if apprehended, it would be clear that such persons are indeed under the jurisdiction of the USA!

As for our president, it seems that as the US-born child of a US citizen parent (Stanley Ann Dunham), Barack Obama's citizenship cannot be questioned; and it is unlikely that anyone would be ready to deny citizenship to countless out-of-wedlock children sired by visiting foreigners (tourists, students, etc.) and born to US citizen mothers. Further, given that the requirements for jus sanguinis citizenship to children born abroad to US citizen parents (the citizen parent needs to have been resident in the USA for five years, two of which have to have been over the age of fourteen years) would have guaranteed Obama citizenship even if Stanley Ann Dunham had given birth to him on a trip to Kenya. And, can the birthers reasonably claim that anyone but the American woman Stanley Ann Dunham was Obama's birth mother?

So, Uncle Cephas urges his conservative brethren to focus on Obama's increasing the national debt, ill-advised Libyan intervention, bailouts, radical connections, having never met an abortion procedure he didn't love (such as partial birth abortion, which he defended as a state senator in Illinois), and being beholden to the whole lifestyle liberalism crowd. Please, leave the issue of Obama's citizenship alone.

However, Uncle Cephas is ready to entertain any evidence from standing American statute of case law that may define "natural-born citizen" as something other than a person born a US citizen by either jus soli or jus sanguinis.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Thoughts on Revelation

People speak of Revelation 6 as a terrifying chapter, with the angels opening seven seals to reveal what is to come. Yet the chapter may also be cause for great hope for Christians.

The first seal reveals a conqueror on a white horse. As a young Christian, I was told by many that this is the Antichrist whom Paul mentions in the Thessalonian letters. But I have come to the conclusion that this is, in fact, Jesus Christ who rides forth to conquer. This is because of the unfolding of the Apocalypse, and because in Chapter 19 the rider on the white horse appears again, and is identified as one who is called Faithful, True, and the Word of God. These titles can only be Jesus Christ.

But how can Jesus' conquest be accompanied by war, death, disease, and disaster? Are Christians being encouraged to be the carriers of these things, as Muslims are encouraged to wage violent jihad in the Qur'an? In fact, this is no exhortation to violence, but a reminder that history, with all of its vicissitudes, is guided by our loving God and Savior. This becomes all the more clear as we look at where the passage leads.

The fifth seal reveals the martyrs of Christ. The sixth reveals a great earthquake and exlipse, and terror among all men. But after this, John sees 144,000 servants of God from the twelve tribes of Israel, and after them, an innumerable multitude of the redeemed from every people, tongue, and nation. Since, as the book of Acts tells us, the Gospel started in Jerusalem, then spread to Judaea and Samaria, and thence to the ends of the earth, this is a picture of the progress of the Gospel in the earth.

Yes, the world is a frightening and scary place, and history can be terrifying. But through it all, all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus, who gave his life for us and conquered death on our behalf, and he is spreading redemption among us. The hopes and ambitions of sinful men are overthrown in the vicissitudes of history, but Christ is also at work bringing many sons to glory.

Hence, the counsel of God in Revelation is not terror or despair, but faith and hope.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Call for Commemoration

Few people notice it, but December 27, 1814, will be the bicentennial of the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812 between the USA and Britain.

It is an important anniversary because it marks the beginning of period of unbroken peace between the USA and UK, and, later, Canada. Throughout the history of the world, it is all too easy for three states with a lot in common other than a common government to adopt postures of mutual hostility that can easily turn into armed conflict. Hence, two centuries of peace, the world's longest unguarded border, and theoretical wars that never took place (the UK-US showdown for mastery of the Atlantic, for which both navies trained down to their joining as allies in World War II) are a remarkable achievement, and the generations of diplomats, statesmen, and ordinary citizens who made it possible deserve some recognition and celebration.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Congratulations, Republic of China

As a former resident of Taiwan, Republic of China, Uncle Cephas wishes to congratulate that state on the hundredth anniversary of its founding.

Few Westerners realize that the issue between Mainland China and Taiwan is chiefly an unresolved and uncompleted civil war. Taiwan has not declared itself independent of China chiefly because it sees itself as the rump of a larger Chinese Republic, one founded by Dr. Sun Yixian (Sun Yatsen in Cantonese) on October 10, 2011.

Further, since back in 1992, former ROC President Lee Teng-hui declared his side's acceptance of its loss of the Mainland in the Chinese civil war, and invited peace talks on the basis of equality, Uncle Cephas would also like to express his respect for the ROC. Whether it continues to call itself the rump of Sun's Republic of China, a new Republic of Taiwan, Great Liuqiu, Dongning, or even Bob, it deserves international recognition. If we Americans could accept the separate existence of those reactionary running dogs of English imperialism in Canada, China can live with a separate Taiwan.

The Arab Spring and the end of the Dhimmi Populations in the Arab World

Two news items ought to be required reading for every Western official dealing with policy towards the Middle East. one is the Italian Psychoanalyst David Gerbi's failed attempt to re-open a Synagogue in post-Qaddafi Libya; the other is the increasingly ferocious attacks on Egypt's Christian minority. Both suggest that the Arab revolts against the long-reigning strongmen of the Middle East will bring about more radically Islamicist and anti-Western regimes.

Gerbi, who is of Libyan Jewish birth, apparently believed the propaganda about the Libyan rebels representing a more open, tolerant, and democratic regime. Having been booed out of his natal country with howls for his immediate deportation, perhaps he can take comfort that these were not howls for his death. Maybe this is the moderation that the "Arab Spring" represents. Or, perhaps, along with the attacks on one of the last functioning synagogues in Tunisia a few months earlier, it proves that the Arab peoples once again face a change of thugs-in-power who will whet a deep-seated desire for more anti-Jewish and anti-Western demagoguery.

The attacks on Egypt's Christians--the last carriers of the language (in the form of liturgical Coptic) and elements of the culture of the ancient, Pharaonic Egyptians--further warns of the power of Muslim radicalism across the Arab world. The attacks of the last week are not de novo, but have a number of precedents reaching back into the waning years of the Mubarak dictatorship, when the regime was often successful in deflecting hatred of the regime towards the Coptic Christian minority. With Nasser's successful snuffing out of Egypt's millennia-old Jewish community as a precedent, Islamic radicals apparently hope that they may now make Egypt purely Islamic, by snuffing out the Copts.

This wave of Islamic radicalism bodes ill for the Middle East Peace Prospect. The very existence of states like Israel, and Christian Lebanon earlier, are an affront to Islamic doctrine, which posits perpetual Muslim supremacy over the Peoples of the Book; for these states exist on lands that have been under Muslim rule for centuries, apart from the very brief interlude of Western colonialism (which, incidentally, were the only period since the eruption of Islam from the Arabian Peninsula when a non-Muslim's word in court carried as much weight as a Muslim's). The likelihood that an Egyptian regime dominated by the Islamic Brotherhood will maintain its cold peace with Egypt is small; the likelihood that an Islamicist-dominated Egypt will throw its weight behind an increasingly Hamas-dominated Palestinian Arab entity is great. This rejectionism probably will further continue to dominate until a future Arab-Israeli War results in the Islamicists producing no more than an unbearably high number of "martyrs" killed by an Israel that will recognize that it has no alternatives but clear-cut victory or death. Should such a wave of Islamic radicalism engulf Israel, the Balkans and Spain are probably the next countries that must get very, very worried.

At present, most of the Western world is in a state of denial (not a river in Egypt, pun intended) about the danger posed by the new Arab regimes. We have convinced ourselves too long that Islam is at heart, a "tolerant" religion (ask the Armenians, extinct Mizrahi Jewish communities, the Copts of today, or Pastor Nardakhani aawaiting execution in Iran for apostasy from Islam about "Islamic tolerance"), especially since a line of cultural elites from the writers of the French enlightenment to today's so-called multi-culturalists have ever sought convenient sticks to beat the dog of the West's Christian heritage. But the handwriting is on the wall, and it is our choice to read and heed it if we will.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

On Samuel Rutherford

It gives modern people a shock
That Rutherford, in cleric's frock--
It's most certain fact
That of social contract,
He wrote decades before Old John Locke.

Samuel Rutherford (1600?-1661) was a theological and political spokesman for covenanting Scotland during the 1640's. He was a professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at St. Andrews University as well as a pastor of firm Presbyterian conviction. Persecuted by the disciples of Archbishop William Laud, he rose to prominence in Scotland after the Bishops' War of 1638.

He is best known for his collected letters, written from exile to former parishoners to urge them to remain steadfast, and for his Lex Rex (1644), in which he argues that government is divine in origin, but popular in mode, representing a compact between people, government, and God in which law is superior to either king or magistrate. This work justifies revolt under leadership of a lesser magistrate should the supreme ruler prove unfaithful to his part of the political compact.