News of the Day, 9/28/2012

Standard

Occasionally I just feel like commenting on the news of the day with brief little snippets from my Catholic and personal worldview. Today is one of those days.

We start in France: Tax hikes and spending cuts.

75% tax rates on the rich as they are on the brink of recession? Huh. Can’t think of anything that could go wrong there…

We move to Spain: Spending cuts and increased taxes.

Spain’s on the brink of disaster, and there are rumors of secession of provinces and a rise in the power of Basque separatists. Increasing the Value Added tax isn’t as extreme as France’s move, and the government spending is going down 7%. At least they’re trying.

There’s no way that the Jewish vote can go Obama’s way after being the most anti-Israeli President since the establishment of Israel, right? Wrong. Jewish support for Obama is at 65%.

I fully confess that I can’t wrap my mind around this one. I guess since I’m not a Jew, I don’t appreciate how the American Jew weighs the different issues when determining who to support for President. But quite honestly, on just about every issue I can’t figure out how they weigh Obama higher than Romney. But I guess my bias is showing.

In a sad commentary of our times, an offensive, anti-Catholic work of ‘art’ is back on display.

Do Christians and Catholics storm the museum and vandalize it? Do we call for the head of the artist? No. And we should not. We should pray for conversion. We can take proper action: peaceful protest with proper license, letters to appropriate people to discourage display, and voting with pocketbooks is always an option. Prayer for conversion of those who would create this and display it is simply best, though. But, to be blunt, seriously… what idiot considers this kind of thing, in any way, artful? Art used to be for the purpose of beauty. When that is not its goal, it ceases to be art and instead simply becomes a political or religious statement.

Those who lament the mixture of religion and politics aren’t paying attention. Politics interjects its way into religion and morality and then those who do so pretend to be aghast at the response of religious individuals. But can the Democratic campaign be any more morally unconsionable? Obama e-cards about birth control.

It is worth quoting one of the e-cards here: “Dear Mom,” the card reads. “Mitt Romney says he would repeal the Affordable Care Act. So here’s a quick question: Can I borrow $18,000 to help pay for my birth control? Thanks!”

Wow.

I read all this and see a world in trouble. I see America in trouble. And this is exactly why our hope ultimately lies in something beyond men, politics, and even our own comfort and personal freedoms. We fight for these things because it is good and right to fight for them. We get involved in politics because it is our obligation. But when the tide of society is against you, there is one place to turn. And A LOT OF US need to be doing some turning!

Choosing between “#%*!@&#!” or “Thank You Jesus, for loving me this much”. Or Maybe a Little of Both…

Standard

So, Saturday was wood-splitting say. I had successfully cut down a few dead trees and chopped them up to approximately 16″ lengths over the preceding couple weeks, and it was time to split the whole she-bang. The young boys begrudgingly put on their work clothes and assisted me with the task that was sure to be seen as encroaching on Lego and Star Wars time. Pity.

All was not lost in the family work. Splitting wood does have its appeal. After all, a year ago I invested in a very nice wood-spitter. The hydraulic kind that runs on gasoline, not the kind that gets swung over the head. While it may take decades to get the monetary payback out of it that would justify the purchase in pure dollar terms, it has nonetheless almost certainly saved a few trips to the chiropractor, and possible purchases of other wood that would have been necessary due to my own limited time and admitted laziness. The boys can appreciate a good hydraulic mauling of a log as well as anyone, and so I keep them engaged by allowing them a turn at the lever that controls the splitter.

The dangers of heavy equipment are never to be taken lightly, and so I overdo the message about keeping hands away from moving parts of things that could crush the fingers – or worse. They do quite well. But it only takes once, so vigilance is needed.

Anyway, we ahd a couple very large logs to split, and these were perfect candidates for vertical splitting. Under this scenario, one raises the splitter to vertical, secures it, and then moves the log to an upright position. You do this by rolling it in place so you don’t kill your back lifting it. And so we did all this with joy and success.

After the conclusion of this task, it was time to move the splitter back to the horizontal position. This is a quite heavy element, and moving it back to horizontal requires some strength and effort. When I first pulled on the handle, the entire base moved a bit. To secure it, I placed my hand on the steel beam under the hydraulic component and gave a good pull to move the top part down. Of course, as the balance shifted, it went from being difficult to move to difficult to stop. There are two metal brackets that stick out of the top unit that are used to secure it to the steel beam. Silly me, I managed to forget to move my hand, which just happened to be right where those brackets come down.

A moment of struggle wot push it back up followed, and I was finally able to remove my hand.

“#%*!@&#!” <== Due to being surrounded by young, impressionable boys, I thankfully internalized any foul language that I really felt like using.

Now, a couple thoughts here:
1) Thank God for heavy-duty work gloves. I do think I may have one or two less fingers at the moment without them, or at least one or two less usable one. Though, the greatest damage was to the top of my hand.
2) Thank God for Guardian Angels, who I will give credit for putting it in my mind to be smart and wear those gloves. Though, it can be noted that an inspiring thought of "um, move your hand, you idiot" would have been appreciated, I will still be thankful for what I did receive.
3) When really heavy things fall on your hand, it hurts. A lot.

So, I need to provide a bit of background on my immediately next thought after "#%*!@&#!"

An internet friend/acquaintance (he used to be an actuary who frequented a forum for actuaries I use) and I used to talk about religion and the Catholic faith quite a bit. He was a convert who loved the Church and eventually became a Priest. During that transition time he shared with me a little tidbit on our little sufferings in life that I never really forgot, and have tried to implent as an expression of gratitude for being able to join my little sufferings with Christ's redemptive work on the cross. He once mentioned that he had the habit of reciting a very simple and short prayer whenever one of life's stubbed toes or pinched fingers or anything else reared its ugly head. That prayer is simply "Thank you, Jesus, for loving me this much." This was not his idea, but was given to him by another friend. He loved the idea, and so did I. The idea, of course, is to try to take that painful moment and immediately think of what Jesus went through, and instead of being angry about the pain, be thankful for it. Sounds odd, but if you can get yourself in the mindset, it's a nice way to deal with those sufferings and offer it up for something or someone.

So, I admit that this particular time I had a little bit of a delayed response… this was no mere stubbed toe. This was something where I was afraid to take the glove off and see what I'd find. But, I did finally manage to compose myself and utter that prayer. One interesting way I was reminded to do so was that my entire left arm had a pain shoot up to the top and then felt very weak for a couple minutes. I was reminded of reading a study the crucifixion and about how the nails through the wrists would have been immeasurably painful due to the nerves that would drive the pain all the way up the arms. My pain was not nearly that bad, but it was a reminder for me of the pain that Christ must have suffered.

The hand looked pretty bad. It swelled up to twice its size and I needed to take a break, but I determined that I could continue my work, and so I did until I was finished. I was further comforted by our neighbor – an ER doc. Her son was at our house for the morning and when she stopped to pick him up she checked the hand out. Thanks be to God it seemed like I missed all the worst things that could happen. Probably nothing broken by the pain tests she gave me, and the tendons on the fingers seemed to be strong, suggesting no issues there. Basically, ice it and it will hurt for a while, but I'll be OK with no lasting damage.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving me this much.

Prophecy From a Catholic Perspective (42) – The Communion of Saints

Standard

Continuing through the Catechism of the Catholic Church as it relates to prophecy:

954 The three states of the Church. “When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is”‘: All of us, however, in varying degrees and in different ways share in the same charity towards God and our neighbours, and we all sing the one hymn of glory to our God. All, indeed, who are of Christ and who have his Spirit form one Church and in Christ cleave together.

957 Communion with the saints. “It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself”:
We worship Christ as God’s Son; we love the martyrs as the Lord’s disciples and imitators, and rightly so because of their matchless devotion towards their king and master. May we also be their companions and fellow disciples!

We believe that, in Christ , and in communion through Him we have an eternal relationship with one another. Not just those we personally know, but all those who live, have lived, and will live in the Christian faith. Those who, through their own choices and actions, are condemned have separated themselves not just from God but from all Christians.

The Communion of Saints is actually an important aspect of prophecy. This is true for a few reasons. First of all, there is a distinct allusion to the communion of saints and the martyrs in the book of Revelation as it relates to their pleadings for the justice of God. There is also a distinct tie-in to the timing of God’s final judgment to the number of martyrs and elect. This question will be explored further at a later time.

The communion of Saints is alluded to in ways that make the prophecies more understandable in that the Church is seen not just as a structure and a hierarchy, but as the mystical body of Christ formed by all believers. Further, when Christ says that He is the vine and we are the branches, we do not wither and die and fall off the vine upon our own death. We stays united on the vine and remain part of the mystical body of Christ in His Church. Paul says we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses (there’s that “cloud” again!)

As an aside for a moment, it is a distinctly Catholic doctrine that there is a Purgatory. I will not turn this into an apologetic exercise about Purgatory. But it is unfortunate that we have this disunity. Many – if not most – people who pass away still need our prayers, and there are so many who do not believe that this is true. While it is true that the judgment of salvation or condemnation is determined upon our death, this does not imply immediate entry into heaven. Purgatory is not a way after death to get out of going to hell. It is a purification of all worldly longings and attachments in order to enter heaven. Our prayers aid in this process. Without those prayers, those souls are on their own, which is not emblematic of our communion with them as fellow believers. Purgatory is in no way a repudiation of Christ’s work on the cross, just as the fact that some will be damned is not a repudiation of his sacrifice.

Prophecy From a Catholic Perspective (41) – Consecrated Life as a Sign of Fulfillment

Standard

Continuing through the Catechism of the Catholic Church as it relates to prophecy:

916 The religious state is thus one way of experiencing a “more intimate” consecration, rooted in Baptism and dedicated totally to God. In the consecrated life, Christ’s faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit, propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves to God who is loved above all and, pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom, to signify and proclaim in the Church the glory of the world to come.

923 “Virgins who, committed to the holy plan of following Christ more closely, are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite, are betrothed mystically to Christ, the Son of God, and are dedicated to the service of the Church.” By this solemn rite (Consecratio virginum), the virgin is “constituted . . . a sacred person, a transcendent sign of the Church’s love for Christ, and an eschatological image of this heavenly Bride of Christ and of the life to come.”

933 Whether their witness is public, as in the religious state, or less public, or even secret, Christ’s coming remains for all those consecrated both the origin and rising sun of their life:
For the People of God has here no lasting city, . . . [and this state] reveals more clearly to all believers the heavenly goods which are already present in this age, witnessing to the new and eternal life which we have acquired through the redemptive work of Christ and preluding our future resurrection and the glory of the heavenly kingdom.

I have not pulled all the different excerpts on consecrated or religious life from the Catechism, but these are emblematic of the whole. Those who dedicate themselves through vows of virginity and chastity, poverty and mission-work, and so on in a very special way unite themselves to the Kingdom and are in themselves signs of the glory of the perfected Kingdom to come. Further, as the universal Church is the bride of Christ, individuals are an image of this bride by consecrating themselves only to Christ and His Church.

This extends not only to recognized religious life, but to lay apostolates as well. Ultimately, this extends to all of us in every walk of life. There is a very special bond in the religious life. But this also is a sign to our own calling in life, and our own devotion to Christ and His Church – whether we are husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, teachers or lawyers or actuaries… wherever we are, we are still a witness.

That is in the here and now. But the Catechism considers all these orders and apostolates and individuals to be signs of the ultimate fulfillment of all our hopes and expectations in the return of Christ and perfection of the Kingdom. Whenever we see goodness, we see the Kingdom.

Book Review/Diatribe: The Great Cholesterol Con

Standard

I had so much fun with my last book review that I decided to do another one. Who knows, maybe it will become “a thing.” Whatever that means.

You may scratch your head on this one. The review is on a book entitled “The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth About What Really Causes Heart Disease and How to Avoid it,” by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick.

So, why would the Catholic Diatriber review this book? Primarily, the easy answer is “because I feel like it.” But why not do so on the “Personal Diatribes” blog? Well, I don’t really post there much, and it’s really meant to be a site for anecdotes and family stories and such. Though, not exclusively so.

Actually, I am posting it here because this is where I do the majority of my posts, and also because we Catholics don’t just concern ourselves with purely spiritual matters. If we find something that can prove helpful to others, then we assist. And so, in the area of health information, I think it’s a quite Catholic thing to do to share a few lay insights into my take on Dr. Kendrick’s little book.

By way of a bit of background, my wife and I both have what I believe to be some healthy skepticism towards consensus on matters where consensus tends to shout down dissenting views. And to the extent I am a little skeptical, my wife tends to default to that view especially in areas of health. But this comes with a good dose of her seeming to be generally right, so I seldom argue. That said, I will tend to roll my eyes at some of the things she reads, and my initial reaction to this book was to do the same. Before I picked it up, the title alone struck me as a bit sensational and alarmist – kind of like those e-mails one gets with all sorts of huge, red, bolded letters with a lot of exclamation points. You know the ones – where if you don’t forward it to 800 other people then you hate America or want children to suffer or don’t love Jesus, or whatever the case may be.

I can’t even remember what prompted me to actually pick it up and start reading it. But I was actually shocked as I read it… not so much as to any claims or content, but that it was incredibly sensibly written, humorous, and fully referenced. As difficult as it may be to believe, it truly is written with a sense of humor. In my opinion this adds credibility. Too many “Exposed!” books are all about demagoguery and written with a great sense of foreboding and conspiracy. A couple of random examples of a little humor that helped make the book eminently readable follow.

Moving on from that cheery subject. Apart from the heart and the brain, you can have infarctions in the kidneys, the guts, the eyes – almost anywhere, in fact. (At this point, it occurs to me that I should, perhaps, have inscribed the words DON’T PANIC on the cover of the book.)

There are so many ways in which this analogy is wrong, that I just can’t possibly outline them all here. Hopefully, by the time you have finished this book you will understand that anyone making such a statement needs to be taken out and slapped repeatedly with a we kipper.

I shall start by presenting all of the evidence in support of the diet-heart hypothesis. It is, as follows: [ ]. (Leave space blank for any supportive evidence that might appear.)

…my memory of a traditional Scots recipe is, as follows: Step one: Place a three-pound lump of beef in a saucepan with a carrot and an onion and boil for eight hours. Step two: Eat with boiled potatoes. And as everyone knows, the Scots love a fry-up. Even a fried-up Mars bar: Step one: Take a frozen Mars bar and cover in batter. Place in deep-fat fryer for two minutes. Step two: Eat with chips while walking home in the rain.

None of those quotes are particularly relevant as far as content goes, but I thought they were funny so I felt like quoting them. There are many other such things that kept it entertaining.

Of course, humor is all well and good, but it is not the purpose of the book. So, how did I feel like it held up where actually important: making a case for what Dr. Kendrick considers to be the “con”?
This book is really just written more from the point of view that the consensus is simply wrong. Oh, sure, there are a few little potshots here and there as to the motives of some, but that is not the focus of the book. This may seem a bit surprising, given the title, which would lead one to think it’s about uncovering some great conspiracy. This isn’t really a case about conspiracy as it is about groupthink and an inability to see the forest through the trees. The author recognizes that certain things just seem so logical to the establishment that they “must be true,” and are so compelling that those studying the question cannot seem to alter their course even when studies show contradictory results. Instead, the underlying premise is assumed correct while they study certain aspects of the studied group and then provide reasons for why the study showed different results without having it affect the initial hypothesis, even when that is the simpler and more realistic answer. Some of this is certainly profit-driven, and there is a real question about ties to pharmaceutical companies among other valid observations. But the main point seems to be that good and well-meaning people just plain have it wrong, whatever the reasons for it.

I am a math guy and have studied my share of science. I am not an expert in bio-health, so I cannot state with certainty much of anything. What I can tell, I believe, is whether or not somebody is sourcing their material validly and making a strong case. I can also tell if there’s a sincerity to the opinion, or whether or not this is just a book to alarm and make money. It is my opinion that the book is a valuable read for those with an open mind to questioning the consensus. Certainly, it should not be viewed as the be-all and end-all, but should promote further questions and study.

It would take some length to summarize the points of this book, and I may do a follow-up post on that. The point of this post was to simply review the book. I believe I have covered most of what I intended to cover in the review.

If I have one critique to the negative, it is that as I read this book I found myself looking forward to the end, where I was sure it would be all laid out for me on exactly what I can do to escape heart disease now that it’s been shown that a lot of those reasons we thought caused it no longer apply. I admit I was disappointed in the conclusion. There certainly were some bullet-points there, and they had been alluded to throughout the book, but it fell quite a bit short in my opinion. It was clear that it was not the emphasis of the author to provide a “how to live your life” book, but to perhaps free us from the chains of thought that are not helping –and may be hurting us and making life more miserable than it needs to be. But a little bit more in the suggestions would have made the book feel more complete, as opposed to feeling like the author just wanted to end it after he was done with what he was really actually interested in.

Recommendation: If you eschew these kinds of books for any of the following reasons: (1) they are dry and boring; (2) they are over your head; (3) they are alarmist; (4) they are not well-referenced and lack credibility; (5) they are written by quacks who are not doctors and have no relevant experience then you have still not hit on a reason to not read this book. None of those apply. I strongly recommend reading this, if for no other reason than to consider the discussions on Statins and medications and be more informed as to how they work and better understand the total mortality concept instead of just focusing on heart disease. Read and enjoy, but make your own decisions.

Prophecy From a Catholic Perspective (40) – Universal Evangelization in an Unbroken Line of Succession

Standard

Continuing through the Catechism of the Catholic Church as it relates to prophecy:

849 The missionary mandate. “Having been divinely sent to the nations that she might be ‘the universal sacrament of salvation,’ the Church, in obedience to the command of her founder and because it is demanded by her own essential universality, strives to preach the Gospel to all men”: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and Lo, I am with you always, until the close of the age.”

860 In the office of the apostles there is one aspect that cannot be transmitted: to be the chosen witnesses of the Lord’s Resurrection and so the foundation stones of the Church. But their office also has a permanent aspect. Christ promised to remain with them always. The divine mission entrusted by Jesus to them “will continue to the end of time, since the Gospel they handed on is the lasting source of all life for the Church. Therefore, the apostles took care to appoint successors.”

865 The Church is ultimately one, holy, catholic, and apostolic in her deepest and ultimate identity, because it is in her that “the Kingdom of heaven,” the “Reign of God,” already exists and will be fulfilled at the end of time. The kingdom has come in the person of Christ and grows mysteriously in the hearts of those incorporated into him, until its full eschatological manifestation. Then all those he has redeemed and made “holy and blameless before him in love,” will be gathered together as the one People of God, the “Bride of the Lamb,” “the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.” For “the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”

This is one of the key prophetic messages from Scripture (#849 above) that indicates that the end of the age will not come until a complete evangelization has occurred.   We live in interesting times in that we have the technology in so many ways to reach all corners of the globe, and even to the extent that technology doesn’t exist in all places, the ease with which we can travel allows access to nearly everywhere.   The only current practical limitations to evangelization are governmental restrictions that limit the ability to evangelize.    God will break these barriers down when the time is right, and whenever that happens, it may be an indication that the close of the age is nearing.

An unbroken succession of Bishops, or “Apostles” will be maintained until the end of time, and it is in that line that the Kingdom of Heaven exists on its way to ultimate fulfillment in perfection with Christ’s return.

Book Review/Diatribe: The Harbinger

Standard

One thing I’d like to do a bit more is review some of the books I read. I don’t read a gazillion of them, but I do like to share my thoughts on them when I do.

I am going to start with a book I just finished: The Harbinger, by author Jonathan Cahn. Mr. Cahn is the leader of Hope of the World Ministries, an evangelical outreach organization.

I do not purchase many new books. Having a large family and trying to maintain a budget, I usually check with my library first for my leisure reading. When I either cannot find it from the library (often enough for religious/spiritual books) or decide I want to own it, the title goes on my wish list for birthdays or Christmas. If I don’t want to wait, then I look for good deals on used copies on Amazon or elsewhere.

The Harbinger was an exception. Touted heavily on World Net Daily, and also featured on Spirit Daily (a Catholic-based news site), my interest was heightened to the point where I decided to buy the book new.

I almost feel bad about the review I’m about to give, because it is not favorable. So before I go there, let me differentiate between the book itself and the book’s insights and message. The entire prophetic insight is a tying of what is happening in America today to what occurred long ago in ancient Israel, and in particular centered about the hard-hearted response of the nation of Israel in Isaiah 9:10. There are some very interesting parallels that are presented in the book. For the most part, these things are thought-provoking and worthy of study and contemplation. The message itself with respect to what is in store for America if there is not repentance for straying from God is spot on, as well. All those aspects of the book are worthy of note and generally a good thing. What is not good is the book itself. So, keep those high points in mind as you read the rest of this post.

Mr. Cahn decides to present his insights and study of Isaiah 9:10 (and surrounding verses later on) into story form. All that is well and good, but the story serves almost no purpose, and is not remotely entertaining. The book is 253 pages long, 250 pages of which is conversation. Even more frustrating is the incredible thick-headedness of the man at the center of the narrative. The conversations are reduntantly redundant, and no matter how many times a point is made, the main character reacts as if it’s a brand new revelation.

The format of the story is that the main character, Nouriel Kaplan, tells his tale to a woman, Ana Goren, who has something to do with publishing or marketing or something that isn’t quite clear. And when I say that he tells his tale, that’s all he does. Oh, they eventually get up and go for a walk to somewhere that is not embellished upon, but their interaction is a conversation. A long one. And what he is telling her is a recounting of his conversations with a Prophet. We never find out the Prophet’s name, through no fault of Mr. Kaplan’s attempts to uncover this detail.

So, Mr. Kaplan gets a seal (as in a small waxy seal that secures a bound scroll) in the mail with markings on it, and happens to sit on a bench one day to look at it, when it all begins. The Prophet is on that bench, and as the book moves along it becomes clear that he is some supernatural figure with a divine purpose. Well, I won’t spill all the beans here with respect to what is all discovered by our friend in the book, but each encounter goes something like this:
Prophet: Here is another seal for you to worry about, and here’s an enigmatic clue as to its meaning, but I’m not going to tell you what it means. You need to figure it out for yourself.

After weeks, or months, of investigation, sometimes figuring out nothing, sometimes figuring out only a partial aspect of it, and sometimes thinking he figured it out but not really, the Prophet suddenly appears again and the next encounter ensues.

Prophet: Did you figure it out?
Kaplan: (a) No. (b) Kind of. (c) I think I did.
Prophet: (a) OK. Let me tell you everything. (b) Good, but you’re not really that close. Here, let me tell you everything. (c) Nouriel, you’re on the wrong track. Here, let me tell you everything.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

One was left wondering the point of all the waiting and wheel-spinning, if the Prophet was just going to spill the beans anyway. Other than to fill up pages with the hopeless pursuit, that is.

To the extent that the interesting aspects of what Mr. Cahn has observed were laid out, the background and history were intriguing, and this is clearly the most redeeming aspect of the book. But all of these things could have been covered, even with relatively extensive commentary, in 50 pages or less. Quite honestly, I found myself forcing my way through it many times just to get to the next relevant part, and at some points I was outright wishing we could just get it all over with.

I would have much preferred something other than a forced story that really wasn’t much of a story. A commentary by Mr. Cahn just providing the scholarship behind his observations and insights and the history that accompanies it would have simply been much better, much more concise, and interesting. If wanting to provide it in terms of a fictional story, then a book-long conversation that made you want to smack Mr. Kaplan upside the head and say “How do you not know the answer to that question yet, you moron?” wasn’t the way to go. I don’t pretend to offer an example of how one would have actually written a story where actors are playing it all out and discovering these ancient mysteries along the way, but almost anything would have been better than a book-long account of a reporter recording a very wordy prophet saying the same thing in a dozen different ways.

Mr. Cahn also cannot resist interjecting a little outright evangelization at the end, which is fine as far as that goes. As a Catholic, it is easy to recognize that he is not one, and we do see some of the “it’s about faith, not religion” pronouncements from the Prophet that are a bit problematic, as if the two things are not in any way compatible. But quite honestly, that whole chapter has nothing at all to do with the insights of Isaiah 9:10. It simply reminds us that no matter what happens to nation or peoples, we still have to account for ourselves, which at the heart of things is a fine message. But again, it’s just all a long conversation.

So, I realize this sounds a bit harsh. I admit to being disappointed with the book. But my disappointment is almost more in what I perceive as a lost opportunity. You see, I actually do think that it’s worth understanding what it is that Mr. Cahn sees. I think there are some stretches, as far as a couple of his “harbingers” go (I mean, really… the “vow” made by a failed VP candidate in 2004, regardless of where or how he said it, just doesn’t seem to be nearly as alarming as Mr. Cahn apparently believes it is), but having said that there are remarkable parallels that he has uncovered that, at the very least, make you go “hmmmm.” But the problem is that the book itself is so overly verbose, and – quite honestly – boring, that you lose the excitement of some of these interesting elements. And I’m someone who really enjoys reading this kind of stuff.

I have seen that some donor has decided to send a copy of this book to everyone in Congress. That’s all fine and dandy, but the travesty of it is that I am almost certain that someone who might otherwise be interested in and appreciate a more concise and/or entertaining approach towards sharing the insights around Isaiah 9:10, but who is not necessarily a person of strong faith or is not inclined towards the prophetic, will be utterly bored with this book before it even gets to the point of shedding light on some of the more important areas of consideration. And that is, itself, a missed opportunity and a bit of a travesty.

One final word, back to the positives around the intrigue of many of the harbingers of America’s recent past and possible future… I am not among those who believe that there is no such thing as a coincidence. When I meet someone in South Dakota from a place I used to work, and there is no other particular import that comes from that, I chalk it up as one of life’s interesting coincidences. Neither do I believe that all “coincidences” are simply that. When our second President – John Adams – and our third President – Thomas Jefferson – both signed the Declaration of Independence and then each died exactly 50 years later, on July 4, 1826 then there just seems to be another hand at work there. Signs and symbols and all that. So, as we uncover the “harbingers” relating America’s fate to that of ancient Israel, and how that relates to Isaiah 9:10, I will say that some of the things strike me as a reach and some things don’t. The things that look like a reach have nothing to do with me not accepting the divine hand of parallel activities, it is that I just don’t see the import of some of the things that Mr. Cahn does. But there are certainly some unmistakable parallels that are either coincidence or they aren’t. And if they aren’t…

Recommendation: If you can borrow this book, or check it out at a library, it’s worth the time to scan through and pick up on the interesting parts. If you want to read the whole thing, go for it, but you really aren’t missing anything by skipping over a lot of the filler. Preferably, assign it to your kids as a book report and make them summarize it for you.