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These are the days of Elijah

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- a Youtube video of Marines singing a praise song goes viral, some love it, some hate it, what is it? ]
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Here’s a Christian “praise song”, These are the days of Elijah, sung by Donnie McClurkin:

I love me some good, rousing gospel music.

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Here are the lyrics:

These are the days of Elijah
Declaring the Word of the Lord
And these are the days of Your servant, Moses
Righteousness being restored
And though these are days of great trial
Of famine and darkness and sword
Still we are the voice in the desert crying
Prepare ye the way of the Lord

CHORUS:
Behold he comes
Riding on a cloud
Shining like the sun
At the trumpet’s call
Lift your voice
It’s the year of jubilee
Out of Zion’s hill salvation comes

And these are the days of Ezekiel
The dry bones becoming as flesh
And these are the days of Your servant, David
Rebuilding the temple of praise
And these are the days of the harvest
The fields are as white in your world
And we are the laborers in your vineyard
declaring the word of the Lord

CHORUS 2X
Behold he comes
Riding on the clouds
Shining like the sun
At the trumpet call
Lift your voice
It’s the year of jubilee
Out of Zion’s hill salvation comes

There’s no God like Jehovah (x8–modulate)
There’s no God like Jehovah (x8–modulate)
There’s no God like Jehovah (x7)

CHORUS X2

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Please note the end times references here, particularly in the chorus:

Behold he comes
Riding on a cloud
Shining like the sun
At the trumpet’s call

These four short lines manage to plait together:

  • Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him (Revelation 1.7),
  • and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength (Revelation 1.16), and
  • for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible (I Corinthians 15.52)

The writer of the song, Robin Mark, writes:

The chorus is the ultimate declaration of hope – Christ’s return. It is paraphrased from the books of Revelation and Daniel and the vision that was seen of the coming King and refers to the return of Christ and the year of Jubilee. Theologians and Bible commentators believe that Israel never properly celebrated this particular 50th year jubilee, and that it will only be properly celebrated when Christ returns. That might be true but I reckon that a Jubilee is an apt description of what happens when Christ comes into anyone’s life at any time; debts are cancelled and a captive is set free.

Similarly, Similarly, these lines:

And these are the days of the harvest
The fields are as white in your world
And we are the laborers in your vineyard

braid together:

  • Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest (John 4.35),
  • The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest (Luke 10.2), and
  • the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard (Matt 20.1-16)

Robin Mark’s comment here is:

Finally the “days of the Harvest” point towards what is the purpose of the Christian to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. By the way “The fields are as white in the world” is from the old King James version and means, their ripe for harvest.

Those lines at least overtly reference the end times — but Mark does not see the entire song in that way. In fact he suggests the phrase:

“Days of great trial, of famine, darkness and sword” is a reflection of the apparent times in which we live when still thousands of people die every day from starvation, malnutrition and war.

— not necessarily describing the “great tribulation” — and indeed, further specifies:

Firstly the song came from watching a television “Review of the Year” at the end of 1994. This was the year of the Rwandan civil war tragedy which claimed 1 million people’s lives, and also when the first ceasefires in N.I. were declared.

So it’s the song of a soul distressed at all the destruction, not at all a militant cry. And he goes on to note that his own interpretation may not be the final (authorial) one:

There is a post script to this story for those who (by letters to me!) believe the song means something entirely different. A few years ago I was privileged to be in Israel at Yom Kippur for a celebration with hundreds of Messianic Jews. A very kind, gentle and humorous messianic brother had a bit of fun arguing with me that I, as an Irish Christian, could never have written a song which explores some of the themes that many (non-replacement theology here!) Jewish believers believe are the themes and indications of Christ’s return. The Spirit and Power of Elijah in the Church, The restoration of Israel to righteousness in Christ (David’s fallen tent), The restoration of praise and worship (David’s tent also!) and the unity of the body particularly with a renewed and redeemed Israel under Christ.

For me, I only know what I wrote. I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it was His desire to say something more than I personally intended and to do more with this song than I first considered.

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So that’s the song, and there’s quite a bit of nuance to it, and to its interpretation.

Here is the same praise song, sung by a congregation of US Marines from Camp Pendleton at a “Faith Warrior service”:

This version of the song has recently gone viral, and is giving great delight to those who view it as “this bunch of Marines unabashedly praising the true living God” and “Holy Spirit takes over, Oorah-style!” — and considerable to concern to those who see in it more “crusade” than “praise”.

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Two comments on YouTube illustrate the way in which this overtly apocalyptic battle song can be interpreted as supporting the notion that the war agsinst jihadist terrorism is a spiritual clash between the Christian and Muslim Gods — something the jihadists are at pains to convince their followers of.

It’s wonderful to see our troops worshiping the one, true God with such fervor. Despite the fight for political correctness and the squelching of faith under the current leadership, nothing can hold back the praise of Yahweh. This is the only thing that will strengthen the military and give them power in the fight against ISIS and the other evils that threaten us.

and:

The Game is now over for the Taliban, Isis and all the rest who want to challenge our God! These boys and girls just invited Jehovah to the fight! This battle is not ours, but the Lords! If 1 can put 1000 to flight and 2 can put 10,000 to flight what about a whole company of Marines! So lift your voice (hoorah) this is the year of jubilee out Zion’s hill salvation comes!

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You might say I have me some mixed feelings about that video.

From my own perspective, viewing the fight against IS / Daesh as a war between apocalyptic Islam and apocalyptic Christianity is:

  • a permissible religious position for a US citizen to hold
  • a dangerous position to the extent that it influences US foreign policy

And I’m sure those Marines at Camp Pendleton, who had presumably signed up for that particular worship service, thoroughly enoyed themselves — and felt uplifted and bonded by their praise song.

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Then again, I wonder if those who dislike it, fearing the impact of a hard Christian dominionist right American military, would have similar qualms about a Catholic Mass celebrated at Pendleton — or the one depicted here, in which Fr Charles Suver SJ celebrates the Catholic Mass Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, at about the same time the famous flag was raised…

Chaplains WWII Mass on Mt Suribachi
Source: http://www.mcu.usmc.mil/historydivision/Chaplains/Chaplains-WWII-110605.jpg

uti accepta habeas et benedicas haec + dona, haec munera, haec sancta sacrificia illibata

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DQing my way towards Arabic, one letter at a time

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- also the Latin Breviary in 24 letters, and the meaning of blood and dots ]
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I was aware of the Arabic letter nun:

but not until the last few days, the letter ra:

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The letters that comprise alphabets, and the words, phrases, sentences and books that are built of thedm, are capable of enormous meaning…

The banging of a judge’s gavel can be a death sentences, the pillars of a door painted in sacrificial blood can cause hamash’chit — the destroyer angel — to overfly a house in which there are Jews, thus saving them from the destruction of their first-born, a yellow six-pointed star painted on a house or shop indicate its Jewish ownership — and the Arabic letters nun and ra serve similar purposes, signalling both a threat from ISIS and a mark of pride and solidarity…

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For those with hermetic and kabbalistic tastes, I’d like to take this a little further.

A single dot can have powerful meaning…

In Judaism:

bereshit

Although the Torah itself suggests that certain hylic entities co-existed with God at the beginning (water, darkness), by separating out the diacritical dagesh from the word [it is the dot in the first letter]:

Beginning with a point… b • reshit (Zohar I:15a)

the Zohar finds the philosophic principle creation ex nihilo [from nothing] in the first word.

In Islam:

dot_under_ba

And know that all of Allah’s secrets are in the heavenly books, and all of the secrets of the heavenly books are in the Qur’an. And all of which is in the Qur’an is in al-Fatihah, and all of which is in al-Fatihah is in bismillah, and all of which is in bismillah is in the ba’ of bismillah, and all of which is in the ba’ in bismillah is the dot (nuqtah) which is under the ba’. Imam ‘Ali said: “I am the dot which is under the ba’”

first finds the saying I am the dot which is under the ba’ in al-Ghazali, where it is attributed to Abu Bakr al-Shibli, disciple of the great Sufi al-Junayd

and comments:

We can not understand the Quran properly without dots, or if we can know the point (Nukta) of a thing we understand the reality of the whole matter.

In Hinduism:

black-aum-sign-on-white-background

The symbol of Aum contains of three curves, one semicircle and a dot. The large lower curve symbolizes the waking state; the upper curve denotes deep sleep (or the unconscious) state, and the lower curve (which lies between deep sleep and the waking state) signifies the dream state. These three states of an individual’s consciousness, and therefore the entire physical phenomenon, are represented by the three curves. The dot signifies the Absolute (fourth or Turiya state of consciousness), which illuminates the other three states. The semicircle symbolizes maya and separates the dot from the other three curves. The semicircle is open on the top, which means that the absolute is infinite and is not affected by maya. Maya only affects the manifested phenomenon. In this way the form of aum symbolizes the infinite Brahman and the entire Universe.

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And the entire elphabet?

Here’s the Shortest Rite for Reciting the Breviary, for Itinerants and the Scrupulous, as transmitted to me by Dom Sylvester Houédard, priest, poet and scholar:

RITUS BREVISSIMUS RECITANDI BREVIARIUM PRO ITINERANTIBUS ET SCRUPULOSIS

Dicitur: Pater et Ave

Deinde:

A B C D E F G H I K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

V. Per hoc alphabetum notum
R. componitur breviarium totum (Tempore paschali, dicitur Alleluia)

Oremus.

Deus, qui ex viginti quatuor litteris totam sacram scripturam et breviarium istud componi voluisti, iunge, disiunge et accipe ex his viginti quatuor litteris matutinas cum laudibus, primam, tertiam, sextam, nonam, vesperas et completorium. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Signat se dicens: Sapienti pauca.

V. In pace in idipsum.
R. Dormiam et requiescam.

If my rusty, Google-assisted Latin is to be believed, the gist of the central prayer here reads:

O God, who hast chosen to compose the entirety of sacred scripture and this breviary out of twenty-four letters, separate, join and receive from these twenty-four letters Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline, through Christ our Lord. Amen..

That’s the complete Holy Office as recited by Catholic monks — Dom Sylvester was a member of the Benedictines — in just 24 letters.

Which is less than it takes to type:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

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The new AQ magazine: miracles from Khorasan

Monday, October 20th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- there's a similar report from Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army, fwiw ]
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I have commented before on the use of miracle stories by Abdullah Azzam as quoted in Inspire magazine, and an African equivalent found in Gaidi Mtaani, the Shabaab magazine, to engage the devotion and loyalty of pious troops: Resurgence magazine continues the tradition.

Hasan Gul

Here for your edification from the new AQIS magazine Resurgence, are two examples, drawn from the life and martyrdom of Hasan Gul, known to the Washington Post, and likely many ZP readers, as Hassan Ghul.

The first as to do with the miraculous preservation of his life:

When Shaykh Khalid Habib, the military head of Al Qaida in Khurasan, was martyred, brother Hasan Gul was with him. The Shaykh (may Allah have mercy on him) was inside the car, while he was standing outside. He had just extended his hand to open the door of the car when a missile fired from a drone hit the car. Allah (swt) miraculously saved his life. He was thrown several feet away by the explosion. His shin bone was fractured as a result. Several days later, when I met him he showed me a coin that had been in the upper pocket of his shirt, just above his heart at the time of the drone attack. A small shrapnel of the missile had hit the coin, because of which the coin had been bent inwards. Allah (swt) prevented the shrapnel from piercing his heart with this small coin. Verily, when Allah (swt) decrees life for His slave, no one can give him death!

It seems plausible that the same mercy was extended to one of Cromwell‘s soldiers in the English Civil War, if one may trust James Waylen’s 1880 The House of Cromwell and the Story of Dunkirk:

An account of the pocket-Bible printed by Cromwell’s order for distribution among his men was some time back published by Mr. George Livermore of Cambridge, Massachusets, who possesses one of the only two copies known to exist, the other being in the Brit. Mus. Library. .. That such a book was really in use, we learn from Richard Baxter who relates the story of a soldier receiving a shot near the heart, the fatal force of the bullet being arrested by its lodging in the Bible which he carried in his breast. And a very thin Bible it was too, being comprised in a sheet folded in 16mo. An entire Bible, even in the most compact form then known, would have been far too bulky and far too expensive.

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The second deals with the pleasant scent that Azzam had previously noted was a mark of the martyr — here’s the same motif as applied to Hasan Gul:

Last year in October, when he left his house on a motor bike, American drones assassinated him. His body was shredded to bits by a direct missile hit and his remains were scattered over a large area. When some Mujahid brothers reached the site of the attack, they faced the problem of searching for and gathering the bits and pieces of his body. However, Allah (swt) made this task easy for them. A large part of his body was easily found. An ethereal fragrance that was simply not of this world was coming from this dismembered part of his body. This extremely beautiful fragrance was smelt by all the brothers present at the scene. The brothers then decided to locate his body parts with the help of this scent. All the brothers had to do was to follow this fragrance to find a part of his body. All the parts of his body exuded this fragrance without any exception. Thus the fragrance of Hasan Gul’s blood led to the remains of his body. May Allah be pleased with him and grant him the company of the Prophets and the righteous. Ameen!

Again, I refer you to my post Of war and miracle: the poetics, spirituality and narratives of jihad for comments on similar reports in Catholic and Arthurian literatures.

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But let’s return briely to that Bible story — there’s really quite an extended history of these reports.

Consider the American Civil War veteran of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry Division, whose daughter wrote:

At another time a bullet hit the New Testament he was carrying in his shirt pocket and glanced off. This sweetheart, who later became his wife, had given him the New Testament when he entered the service.

Or the Army Cyclist Corps despatch rider whose life was saved by a still-extant “combined Bible, prayer book and hymnal” near Arras, France, in 1915:

bible-saved life

Or Pfc. Brendon Schweigart, who claims only that when a sniper’s bullet found the Bible in his shirt pocket in Iraq, it:

definitely prevented more serious injury, because if it wouldn’t have been there, it would have ricocheted off my bullet-proof plate and more than likely would have gone back into my chest, causing more damage.

Indeed, the “Bible stopped the bullet” tale has enough variants that Mythbusters once tested it with a 400-page Bible, albeit not one with a metal cover…

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Because, yes, metal-covered Bibles were given to GIs in World War II with the cover inscribed “May this keep you safe from harm” — no doubt with the hope and prayer that if need be, the metal covering would indeed prove a protective “breastplate of righteousness”:

Heart shield bible

In fact, the 1943 “Heart Shield Bible” depicted is on sale now on eBay, at a current asking price of $21.49.

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It’s no dcoubt a bit of a stretch, but I believe that when you “encourage” miracles by providing metallic holy pocket-books for protective use on the battleield, it’s an example of what Max Weber famously called the “routinization of charisma”.

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Snopes for CIA in al-Sham, Onion for State in Russia?

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- perhaps it's time we took the evident upside-downness of the world more upside-down-seriously ]
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icon of St Vladimir Putin

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I’ve run across death by crucifix twice this week, once in an episode of Sons of Anarchy, and once in what purported to be an image of a Christian girl repeatedly raped and gruesomely killed by ISIS — but which turned out to be an anti-Islamic propaganda piece photo-shopped from a promotional video by Canadian special effects artist Remy Couture, who was apparently looking to improve the “realistic” quality of horror movies — Snopes ferreted out the details

It might be good if CIA inserted Snopes in ISIS-held territory, to verify stories like this one, from Niqash:

war of flags: extremists in mosul disguise civilian houses to fool air strikes

Abu Omar decided to leave his house in Mosul and take his family to other accommodation. The reason? A member of the Sunni Muslim extremist group known as the Islamic State climbed onto the roof of his home recently and planted one of the group’s distinctive black flags there. The flag makes his family and his home a target for allied air strikes, Abu Omar, as he wished to be known for security reasons, told NIQASH.

But when his family tried to leave, they were shocked to find that fighters from the Islamic State, or IS, group told them that they couldn’t leave.

At a meeting in Abu Omar’s house in the Al Arabi neighbourhood of Mosul, he says he feels sure that his family will be killed now.

Sadly, Abu Omar and his family are not the only ones to get a black IS flag on their property. There are dozens of other families who are facing a similar situation around Mosul.

If true, this is a curious abuse of the “black banners from Khorasan” about which I’ve frequently posted. If untrue, it’s an interesting propaganda smear that might just give the “caliphate” ideas… but who, at this distance, can tell?

Snopes could be a real asset in situations like this ..

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To be honest, hwoever, it would take a select group of reporters from the Onion working for State’s hashtag diplomacy unit to beat the one-woman campaign to recognize Vladimir Putin as a saint — see the icon at the head of this post.

The story is told thus in a recent Time magazine blog-post:

According to Der Spiegel, a sect of the Russian Orthodox Church based in the village of Bolshaya Elnya believes Putin is a reincarnation of St. Paul. The similarity apparently lies in the fact that Paul the Apostle persecuted Christians before sainthood, just as Putin did some unrighteous things as a Soviet KGB officer.

Led by Mother Fotina, who considers herself a reincarnation of Joan of Arc, the female followers in the village spread out prayer mats at a homemade altar in a functional three-story brick building – called the Chapel of Russia’s Resurrection – and pray for the success of their (political) patron saint.

“God has appointed Putin to Russia to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ,” said Fotina. “He has the spirit of a czar in him…Every day we’ve prayed for him to return to the Kremlin.”

And once again, BTW, we get that “end times” theme cropping up..

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Comparisons: ISIS and WBC, KKK

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- humor, comparison, elucidation, analytic necessity, apocalyptic, and the matter of the Mardin fatwa ]
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SPEC ISIS WBC KKK

For many Muslims, these two comparisons explain simply and effectively just how divergent from their understanding of Islam the jihadists are.

This in no way takes away from the idea that if we are to understand IS and AQ, we need to consider their nature as specifically “end times” driven religious movements.

For the point of divergence, I recommend Sh. Hamza Yusuf‘s comments on the “Mardin Fatwa” of Ibn Taymiyya, in this clip from his address in Oxford’s Sheldonian:

I’d be interested in further details / discussion on the Mardin fatwa topic.

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Sources:

  • Yasira Jaan, tweet
  • Clay Jones, Claytoon
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