Nehemiah builds a wall


In the early morning hours of January 20, 2017, at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington D.C. for the inauguration prayer service, Pastor Robert Jeffress selected a reading from the biblical Book of Nehemiah with Donald and Melania Trump in attendance.

The following is my condensation of the Book of Nehemiah, focusing on the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem:

(1:1) The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah.  (1:3) “. . . the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been destroyed by fire.”

(2:3) I said to the king . . . “Why should my face not be sad; when the city, the place of my ancestors’ graves, lies waste, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”  (2:4) Then the king said to me, “What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven.  (2:5) Then I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors’ graves, so that I may rebuild it.” . . . (2:7) Then I said to the king, “. . . let . . . (2:8) . . . a letter [be given] to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, directing him to give me timber to make beams for the gates of the temple fortress, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.”  And the king granted me what I asked, for the gracious hand of my God was upon me. . . . (2:17) Then I said to them [the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest that were to do the work], “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned.  Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace.”  (2:18) I told them that the hand of my God had been gracious upon me, and also the words that the king had spoken to me.  Then they said, “Let us start building!”  So they committed themselves to the common good.

(4:1) Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he mocked the Jews.  (4:2) He said in the presence of his associates and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing?  Will they restore things?  Will they sacrifice?  Will they finish it in a day?  Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish—and burned ones at that?”  (4:3) Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “That stone wall they are building—any fox going up on it would break it down!” . . . (4:7) But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and the gaps were beginning to be closed, they were very angry, (4:8) and all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. . . . (4:11) And our enemies said, “They will not know or see anything before we come upon them and kill them and stop the work. . . . (4:14) After I looked these things over, I stood up and said to the nobles and the officials and the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them.  Remember the LORD, who is great and awesome, and fight for your kin, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”  (4:15) When our enemies heard that their plot was known to us, and the God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall each to his work.

(6:15) So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days.  (6:16) And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem; for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.

(7:1) Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, (7:2) I gave my brother Hanani charge over Jerusalem, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel—for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many.  (7:3) And I said to them, “The gates of Jerusalem are not to be opened until the sun is hot; while the gatekeepers are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors.  Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their watch posts, and others before their own houses.” . . . (7:73) So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the temple servants, and all Israel settled in their towns.

(12:27) Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with rejoicing, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres. . . . (12:30) And the priests and the Levites purified themselves; and they purified the people and the gates and the wall.

Translation used was the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

artwork from


MOBY DICK: Thoughts on chapters LXI, LXIV and LXVIII

Melville is always in control of his language in Moby Dick.  Some examples follow.

Melville crafts his language to suit the story’s mood.  When the mood is “dreamy,” he writes in long, poetic sentences, as in this narrative from chapter LXI by the character of Ishmael:

“It was my turn to stand at the foremast-head; and with my shoulders leaning against the slackened royal shrouds, to and fro I idly swayed in what seemed an enchanted air.  No resolution could withstand it; in that dreamy mood losing all consciousness, at last my soul went out of my body; though my body still continued to sway as a pendulum will, long after the power which first moved it is withdrawn.”

When the mood becomes tense and choppy, Melville crafts his words to suit the action, as in this scene of frantic dialogue by the character of Stubb from the same chapter:

“Start her, start her my men!  Don’t hurry yourselves; take plenty of time—but start her; start her like thunder-claps, that’s all,” cried Stubb, spluttering out the smoke as he spoke.  “Start her, now; give ’em the long and strong stroke.  Tashtego.  Start her, Tash, my boy—start her, all; but keep cool, keep cool—cucumbers is the word—easy, easy—only start her like grim death and grinning devils, and raise the buried dead perpendicular out of their graves, boys—that’s all. Start her!”

Melville utilizes colloquial language to bring characters to life, as he does in this example of capturing the “tongue” of the cook, old Fleece, from chapter LXIV:

“Once more the sermon proceeded.

‘Your woraciousness, fellow critters, I don’t blame ye so much for; dat is natur, and can’t be helped; but to gobern dat wicked natur, dat is de pint.  You is sharks, sartin; but if you gobern de shark in you, why den you be angel; for all angel is not’ing more dan de shark well goberned.  Now, look here, bred’ren, just try wonst to be cibil.  A helping yourselbs from dat whale.  Don’t be tearin’ de blubber out your neighbor’s mout, I say.  Is not one shark dood right as toder to dat whale?  And, by Gor, none on you has de right to dat whale; dat whale belong to some one else.  I know some o’ you has berry brig mout, brigger dan oders; but den de brig mouts sometimes has de small bellies; so dat de brigness ob de mout is not to swallow wid, but to bite off de blubber for de small fry ob sharks, dat can’t get into de scrouge to help demselves.’

‘Well done, old Fleece!” cried Stubb, “that’s Christianity . . .’”

Sometimes, Melville sermonizes with more direct language to his readers, as in chapter LXVIII, through the mouth of Ishmael:

“Oh man!  Admire and model thyself after the whale!  Do thou, too, remain warm among ice.  Do thou, too, live in this world without being of it.  Be cool at the equator; keep thy blood fluid at the Pole.  Like the great dome of St. Peter’s, and like the great whale, retain, O man!  In all seasons a temperature of thine own.

But how easy and how hopeless to reach these fine things! Of erections, how few are domed like St. Peter’s! of creatures, how few vast as the whale!”

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Understanding Trump through classic literature

Wall Street Journal

Trump:   The Reader’s Guide

To understand Kellyanne Conway’s ‘alternative facts,’ pick up Hannah Arendt.

Flowers: a poem


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Good things rise—

Like flowers

When a loved one dies.


Relatives connect—

After years of

Relationship neglect.


Thank God for Facebook—

That 21st century

Graphical phone book!


Regrets are shared—

Stories are told and

Tears are shed.


It’s all a good thing—

Like flowers

Rising in his spring.


in memory of Uncle Tom Rhein

photo by S.A. Bort, April 2005

Hollywood’s fear and loathing of Trump

Breitbart News

Actor Kumail Nanjiani:  ‘Certain Types’ of Films Not Funded Because Hollywood Is ‘Afraid’ of Trump

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival

by Jerome Hudson  24 Jan 2017

Stand-up comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani says he has heard that the election of Donald Trump is making it hard for film studios to get “certain types” of films funded.

“I’ve already heard stories of certain types of movies not getting funded because people are afraid of the President tweeting at them,” Nanjiani told an audience at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.  “I would much rather be in a happy, peaceful time making terrible art.”

Nanjiani, who’s best known for his role on HBO’s Emmy Award-nominated series Silicon Valley, was also asked “Do you think the next four years are going to be better or worse for the arts?”

“Yeah.  I think we’re all going to end up in jail — only half joking,” Nanjiani said.

While the actor didn’t offer any specifics or details about which movies have failed to secure funding because of Trump, the President has certainly influenced show business.

NBC’s Saturday Night Live has found itself in the crosshairs of Trump’s Twitter account.  After actor Alec Baldwin’s repeated mocking impersonations of Trump, the President described the sketch comedy show as “totally biased” and unwatchable.”

Last month, a boycott of Star Wars:  Rouge One was launched on the rumor that the film included anti-Trump scenes.

And while actors from film to the Broadway stage have been outspoken against Trump, most Hollywood executives have remained mum and others have even joined Trump’s administration.

Walt Disney Co. Bob Iger, who endorsed Hillary Clinton and co-chaired a major fundraiser for her campaign, sits on Trump’s bipartisan “strategic and policy forum.”

Meanwhile, Hollywood film financier Steven Mnuchin has been tapped to head the Treasury Department.


Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter:  @JeromeEHudson

President Trump’s Inaugural Address

Read Donald Trump’s Full Inauguration Speech

Donald Trump

Read Donald Trump’s Full Inauguration Speech

Inauguration Day 2017: a poem


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Continental divide
Where water flows in dual directions
Down and down from each side
Water flows

Bikers to form a circle
‘Round a perimeter of police,
Creating a “wall of meat”—
Their words—
Ready to take no leftist bull!

Anarchists, #disruptJ20,
To round the perimeter of bikers.
Butyric acid bombs—stink bombs
Gripped and ready to pitch
At unfortunate deplorables.

Continental divide

22 January 2017, photo: William Farrington/Polaris

End of 20th century era with Trump presidency: Germany,s Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Breitbart News

German Foreign Minister: With Trump, ‘Old World of the 20th Century is Finally Over’

by Breitbart London  22 Jan 2017

BERLIN (AP) — German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says U.S. President Donald Trump’s election marks the end of an era, and Berlin will move quickly to secure “close and trusting trans-Atlantic cooperation based on common values” with the new administration.

Steinmeier wrote in Bild newspaper on Sunday that “with the election of Donald Trump, the old world of the 20th century is finally over” and “how the world of tomorrow will look is not settled.”

He says with any power change there are “uncertainties, doubts and question marks,” but a lot more is at stake “in these times of a new global disorder.”

Steinmeier says he will promote free trade and joint efforts against extremism with Washington.

He added he’s certain Germany will “find interlocutors in Washington who know big countries also need partners.”

Faith upholds humanity and liberty: Hawking and Pinker’s flawed logic

Wall Street Journal

Faith That Upholds Humanity—and Liberty

If a person is simply a chemistry set crossed with a computer, then morals are empty

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

Dec. 29, 2016 6:23 p.m. ET

The Obama administration’s failure to beat back the rise of radical Islam reflects a greater failure of thinking elites.  Steeped in an intellectual culture of secularism, Western leaders have consistently denied both the Koranic motives of America’s enemies, and the Christian underpinnings of the U.S. system of values.  They look for economic and social reasons for this clash of cultures and dismiss the far more terrible possibility that humanity is actually at war over the nature of God.

This estrangement from the sacred continues a trend begun during the Enlightenment of the 18th century.  But its roots are in the 17th century’s rise of science.  The scientific method transformed a world of miracles into a world of material.  Its successes, in time, made atheism seem the default setting of true reason.  But is it?

The physicist Stephen Hawking, who publicly confirmed his atheism in 2014, doesn’t believe that God is needed to explain creation.  “The laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing,” he explained.  The philosopher Roger Scruton, writing in this newspaper, thoroughly undid this argument simply by asking, “But what created the laws of physics?”  Such an obvious flaw in Mr. Hawking’s reasoning should have been clear to anyone who wasn’t being carried off on the skeptical tide of the times.

As a former secular Jew who converted to Christianity, I understand the temptation of such skepticism.  My baptism in 2004 was an act of transgression.  I sensed it at the time and know it all the more certainly today.  I was nearly 50 then.  I had lived my adulthood as a postmodern man, a worldling of the coasts and cities.  For me to accept the truth of God and his incarnation in Jesus Christ was to defy the culture of the age.

Perhaps instead of dismissing the religious beliefs of those who oppose liberty, more elites should reconsider the faith that upholds it.  Thinkers from John Adams to Marcello Pera have cited specifically Christian principles as the foundation of the West’s freedoms.  A materialist worldview leaves formerly Christian cultures philosophically weak when those freedoms come under attack.  Materialism strips humans of the logic of their humanity—the whole point of Western liberty.

“I don’t believe there’s such a thing as free will in the sense of a ghost in the machine, a spirit or soul,” says the psychologist Steven Pinker.  “I think our behavior is the product of physical processes in the brain.”

Such increasingly common dismissals of spiritual existence trickle into popular thought and even into everyday language.  People say they experienced an “adrenaline rush,” not that they were excited.  Affirmation does not invigorate, it creates a “dopamine high.”  People say they are “hard-wired” for certain behaviors and “programmed” for others.  The underlying message?  A human being is a cross between a chemistry set and a computer, his actions governed solely by a series of discharges and sparks.

This implies that there is no authority to man’s moral sense, no objective reality underneath subjective experiences like faith and love.  Emotional states are not to be examined for truth content, merely adjusted to taste with various medications.

To break this materialist spell and set oneself free for faith requires rebelling not against scientific facts but against flawed scientistic logic.  Materialism is a fine idea, but what’s it made of?  An idea is neither the words that express it nor the brainwork that conceives it:  These are only the vehicles that transport the immaterial thought into the material world.

So it is with the human spirit.  It is not a ghost in a machine.  It is an idea expressed in the medium of matter.  A person doesn’t make a choice because of processes in the brain.  Those processes simply express the choice in the material world.   That’s true across the spectrum of human experience:  Even if every impulse and every emotion is eventually mapped in the brain, there will still be not one iota of evidence that they originated there.  It seems far more in keeping with what we know to assume that experience is spiritual and that the body expresses it the same way words express, but do not constitute, ideas.

Whether it is true that each of us is an idea of God’s expressed in flesh, and whether God once expressed himself in flesh as well, these are questions of faith.  But we should not allow them to be decided by cultural fiat.  In more ways than one, our lives depend on getting the answers right.

Mr. Klavan is the author of “The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ” (HarperCollins, 2016).

Norway boots church from state after nearly 500 years of unity

International Business Times


Christians In Europe:  Norway Divorces Protestant Church As Muslims Blamed For ‘Parallel Societies’