Archive for July, 2011

Etymology: Understanding What You Are Saying

Etymology, the study of the origin of words, often reveals interesting roots. Consider these words and their genesis.

The Greeks introduced to the world their god Pan. When in a good mood Pan’s flute music was soothing. When he got disturbed and outraged it was frantic and erratic. Such idiosyncratic outbursts came to be known as having a panic attack.

Meander is a proverbial word derived from the name of a river in southwest Turkey that flows from Dinar to Miletus on the Iconian. Sitting on a hillside overlooking a plain through which the river wound its rambling abstract course, I could see the connection.

Berserk is derived from the trance like state of a raging band of fierce out of control savage Norse warriors, the Berserkers. They would psyche themselves to ignore pain and disregard safety. They went wild in a battle frenzy. Their name came from the fact they wore bear skins. When in a rage a person is often said to have gone berserk.

Blackmail had a most intriguing origin. Rob Roy was a freebooting clan chieftain in the Scottish Highlands who initially joined the Jacobites. In between major conflicts he would raid herdsmen’s cattle and hide them in the Highlands. Cows were almost as good as cash. He would demand a ransom in order to get them back.

Rob was Scottish for Red, a title given him because of his red hair and beard. The word “male” had the meaning of an agreement. “Black” was used for evil. Blackmail was an evil agreement used by Rob Roy in order to return cows.

The golfers mulligan, meaning an extra shot after a poor one, comes from 1920 in Canada. Out of gratitude for driving his foursome to St. Lamberts Golf Course near Montreal, they gave him an extra shot. It became more broadly used starting in 1949.

An absorbing captivating person is often said to mesmerize people. Franz Anton Mesmer, born in Switzerland in 1734, a psychic practitioner, is inaccurately credited with developing hypnotism. He was in many ways spellbinding. His name gave rise to the word mesmerize which identifies a fascinating personality.

Sarcophagus, used in ancient burials, means “flesh eater” It is the root for sarcastic.

The name Christian was given followers of Christ in Antioch in the first century. The suffix “ian” was borrowed from Latin and meant “adhering to or belonging to.” It meant a partisan of Christ and was initially used as a tern of derision. This came as a result of Christ being crucified. As a means of execution it was so loathsome law forbade any Roman citizen from being crucified.

The word “Christian” now being used as a noun and an adjective causes some confusion. As an adjective is describes a person who endeavors to live according to the teachings of Christ because of devotion to Him. Some persons calling themselves a Christian are using it as a noun and in reality are not Christlike in their conduct. A gross application of the appellation is Hitler who is said to have been a Christian. Noun! Associating Hitler with Christ is a travesty.  He was not a Christian in the sense of being a follower Christ, a devotee.

Disgracefully some who use it as a noun don’t live it as an adjective.

What Muslims Believe About Jesus

At any time general traits and beliefs of a group are noted there are persons who know exceptions. Following are fundamental beliefs held by most Muslims with few exceptions.

Muslims respect Jesus as a great prophet. Have you ever noticed you never hear a Muslim speak a disparaging word about Him. They teach that after Mohammed returned from his visit to heaven he called an assembly of all Old Testament prophets and included Jesus. Mohammed converted all of them, including Jesus, to Islam. Thus, Jesus is revered as a great Muslim prophet.

In the magnificent Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem there is written on the wall near the ceiling a statement declaring Jesus was born of the virgin Mary.

Muslims love Jesus, but they believe His followers misunderstood His message and have failed to apply it. Their dislike for Christians and Jews dates back to the youth of Mohammed. Christians and Jews along the caravan route near his home in Mecca were unkind and rude to him as a boy. He concluded the Jews had a book, the Old Testament, and Christians had a book, the Bible, but his people had no book. Thus he undertook to write what became the Koran.

During the Crusades there was much hatred and inhumanity on both sides. Muslims still point to this period as a time when persons professed to follow Christ did not enact His teachings. Muslims themselves were less than civil.

What does the book called by President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and members of the administration call the Holy Koran say about Christians and Jews? Let the Koran speak for itself. The parentheses are added for clarity.

The Koran teaches the superiority of Islam. “It is He who has sent His messenger (Mohammed) with guidance and the religion of truth, to make it superior to all religions even though the mushrikim (polytheist, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) hate (it).  Surah 9:13

Of Muslims it declares, “You are the best of people ever raised up from mankind.” Surah 3:110

It expresses an opinion of all others. “Verily, those who disbelieve (in the religion of Islam, the Koran, and the Prophet Mohammed) from among the peoples of the Scriptures (Christians and Jews) and all mushrikim will abide in the fires of hell. They are the worst of people.” Surah 98:6

Muslims have a point about Christians missing the message of Jesus. I concur some have, but many get it. An example of missing it is related to the Model Prayer taught by Jesus.

Some Christians use God’s name as slang or profanity. Jesus taught persons to pray “…hallowed be thy name.”

When a Muslim uses the name of Allah it is usually immediately accompanied by a phrase like “blessed be the name.”

Jesus taught His followers “ought always to pray.” Few Christians have a vibrant prayer life. Muslims pray five specified times a day on their knees.

It is estimated that by 2030, Muslims will increase in America from our present 2.6 million to 6.2 million. They will be a numerous as Jews or Episcopalians. America will have more Muslims than any European country other than Russia and France.

Jesus also taught His followers to “love one another.” We have to live with persons not like us, persons unlike us, and who don’t like us. That milieu will change our nation. This is the conflict dividing two cultures.

Israel And The 1967 Borders

Our President has advised Israel and the Palestinians to go back to the 1967 borders between the territories where Jews and Arabs dwelt. Don’t plan on it!

What is in those territories now is not what was there before 1967. An example of this is the Golan Heights in Northeast Israel. Before 1967 it was a vast undeveloped area other than as a military buffer. When I went to Israel first in 1969 at night the lights of one small settlement could be seen at night from Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. Now the entire range is aglow with villages.

The vast expanse of the Heights was basically a mine field left over from Syrian occupation. Sitting in those fields were rusty burned out Syrian vehicles all facing toward Damascus to which they were retreating when destroyed. Today they are lush orchards, vineyards, and highly productive agricultural land. Recently developed Israeli villages dot the area.

Before 1967 Jerusalem was a divided city. An idea of how developed the two sections were is illustrated by traffic lights. The Arab section was so lacking in modernization they had no traffic lights. When the border went down young Arab boys would stand on the street corner in the Jewish section and applaud the traffic lights when they would change.

Last week while there I marveled that a rapid commuter rail line was being tested along much of the route of the former border.

Modern Israel is very modern; highly progressive. The bordering Palestinian territory is not. Cities like Jericho and Bethany are filthy with little development since 1967. Bethlehem is more advanced. Tourism has made it more viable.

The vacant hillsides that existed between Jerusalem and Bethlehem before 1967 and the present are now one vast city uniting the two towns. The occupants are Jews.

To expect Israel to vacate these newly developed areas is unrealistic.

These two nationalities have contested each other from the time of Abraham. Regrettably they are likely to continue to forever. There is enough wrong on both sides to go around.

Driving through part of the Gaza area one side of the road is Israeli occupied. The other Palestinian. The same type soil is on both sides of the road. The Jewish side is green and highly productive. The Arab side is dry and barren. The Israeli government says the water rights between the two is equally divided 50-50, and it is. The challenge arises from the fact there are more than ten times as many Arabs living on their side that there are Jews on their side. The Arabs have to use so much of their water for human consumption there isn’t enough for irrigation.

A cartoon in the Jerusalem Post illustrates the challenge. It depicts an old Native American chief talking with the Prime Minister of Israel saying, “Let me tell you about swapping land for peace.”

The Psalmist said it well: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

God, Quantum Physics, And The Bible

In our pragmatic state of mind we tend not to believe in what we cannot comprehend with our basis senses. Therefore, the idea of world conditions being different from those we know seems far fetched.

Quantum physics is a science presently challenging the scientific community much less the limited scientific knowledge of non-scientists. Trying to look up a comparatively simple definition of the subject is a challenge. Under “quantum physics” is a note it is based on “quantum theory.” There you find “quantum theory” is based on “quantum mechanics.” There the definition is: “theory of the mechanics of atoms, molecules, and other physical systems that are subject to the uncertainty principle.”

An overly simplistic description is it means coloring outside the scientific box as most of us know it.

Try this for example. Quantum physics suggests that quantum particles that make up atoms can leap distances without going through space. What? They can even change their fundamental qualities to evade detection. The amazing thing is there are scientists who understand this.

This science offers evidence that light particles can ignore time. Studious people with knowledge in the field are convinced of it.

Some persons of faith in the scientific community are saying this is opening the door to further comprehension of creation.

Theologian Paul Tillich commented, “The truth of faith cannot be confirmed by the latest physical or biological or psychological discoveries — as it cannot be denied by them.”

True, if it were confirmed it would not be faith. Also true the legitimacy of faith cannot be denied by science because not all is known about science as quantum physics is showing.

Quantum physics shows that there is a lot not known, a lot.

One basic law of logic is you can’t prove a negative. For example the negative “there is no God” can’t be proven. To prove there is no God a person would have to know all there is to know and in the total body of knowledge know there is not God.

If you know some person who professes to know so much they can assert with confidence there is no God run these questions by them.

Do you know how many hairs are on the back of a musk ox in Nome, Alaska?

Do you know how many gallons of water there are in the Pacific Ocean?

Do you know the sum total of all heavenly bodies?

Do you know what lies just outside the distance viewable by the most powerful telescope?

Do you know what things are invisible?

Do you know for certain light particles can’t ignore space?

What percent of all knowledge do you suppose you know?

Do you think that in that percentage of the unknown God could exist without your knowledge?

Blaise Pascal a man noted for his contribution to literature, mathematics, and science believed things people of his era thought ludicrous. Today those things are the norm. He wrote: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, through Jesus Christ.” That explains so many empty people.

What Goes Around Comes Around

There is a TV commercial that shows a young boy who has has slipped away from his parents at a concert. When the curtain opens the child is sitting at the piano playing “Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star.” The parents are shocked when the concert artist walks up behind the child and reaching around to the keyboard begins to improvise with the child all the time whispering, “Don’t stop. Don’t quit, keep playing.” Together they charm the audience. That artist was the internationally renown Ignance Paderewski of Poland.
The following is also a true story I have known for a long time but finally found this version of it on the web. It is based on an incident that happened in 1892 at Stanford University . Its moral is still relevant.
A young, 18-year-old student was struggling to pay his fees. He was an orphan, and not knowing where to turn for money, he came up with a bright idea. A friend and he decided to host a musical concert on campus to raise money for their education.
They reached out to the great pianist, Ignacy J. Paderewski. His manager demanded a guaranteed fee of $2000 for the piano recital. A deal was struck. And the boys began to work to make the concert a success.
The big day arrived. Paderewski performed at Stanford. But unfortunately, they had not managed to sell enough tickets. The total collection was only $1600.
Disappointed, they went to Paderewski and explained their plight. They gave him the entire $1600, plus a check for the balance $400. They promised to honor the check as soon as possible.
“No,” said Paderewski. “This is not acceptable.” He tore up the check, returned the $1600 and told the two boys “Here’s the $1600. Please deduct whatever expenses you have incurred. Keep the money you need for your fees and just give me whatever is left” The boys were surprised, and thanked him profusely.
It was a small act of kindness. But it clearly marked out Paderewski as a great human being. Why should he help two people he did not even know? We all come across situations like these in our lives.
Paderewski later went on to become the Prime Minister of Poland. He was a great leader, but unfortunately when the World War I began, Poland was ravaged. There were over 1.5 million people starving in his country, and no money to feed them. Paderewski did not know where to turn for help. He reached out to the US Food and Relief Administration for help.
The head there was a man called Herbert Hoover who later went on to become the US President. Hoover agreed to help and quickly shipped tons of food grains to feed the starving Polish people. A calamity was averted.
Paderewski was relieved. He decided to come to America to meet Hoover and personally thank him. When Paderewski began to thank Hoover for his noble gesture, Hoover quickly interjected and said, “You shouldn’t be thanking me Mr. Prime Minister. You may not remember this, but several years ago, you helped two young students go through college in the US. I was one of them.”

What goes around comes around. It still does. Long ago instruction was given to DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU.