Kennedy chides Alito for application statement

Sunday, November 27, 2005
Senator Edward Kennedy (D., MA) questioned Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito regarding statements he made in his 1985 application to be deputy assistant attorney general. (His entire application is available on "," but the pertinent part is page two.) The senator specifically asked him about his opposition to abortion and his belief that the U.S. Constitution "does not protect a right to an abortion."

According to Kennedy, as reported by Associated Press, Alito answered that he wrote those statements as "a member of the Justice Department that was interested in getting a job." Kennedy said he then asked Alito, "Why shouldn't we consider that the answers you're giving today are an application for another job?" In other words, "Mr. Nominee, give it to us straight. Don't tailor your words to fit your audience; don't say what you think they want to hear."

Reading over Alito's application, I agree with his statements. Like him, I am in favor of judicial restraint. I believe in traditional values and am convinced that the Constitution does not protect a woman's right to have an abortion. Yet I also agree with Kennedy. Alito would command a great deal more respect if he merely said, "I stand by what I wrote in 1985. That document represents my ongoing commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to original intent."

According to Proverbs 18:4, "The words of a man's mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook." In other words, you usually can't tell, based on what a person says, what is really in his or her heart. But if the person is truly wise, they will be as transparent as a bubbling brook. Such transparency comes from integrity--a wholeness of being in which there is no conflict, no double-mindedness, no fence-straddling to coddle public opinion.

That's the kind of integrity Jesus Christ had: the oneness of spirit and purpose that he compared to a lamp burning on a lampstand, not under a basket (Luke 11:33). In the next verses, He challenges us to have the same kind of integrity: "See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you."

This kind of integrity is what we need in a Supreme Court justice, someone unafraid to hold onto deep convictions, unswayed by public opinion. We need someone who will fully engage in the vigorous debates justices often have behind closed doors, who will be open to the force of legal precedent, to the weight of a logical argument, or to the persuasive power of evidence, regardless of who has the money, the influence, or the prestige. Yet it seems the confirmation process itself has a built-in bias in favor of someone who is colorless and bland, who has no deep convictions, who lacks "bubbling brook" integrity.

We owe it to Judge Alito to consider the testimony of his friends and colleagues--those who know him best. We need to hear what they have to say on his behalf, not just a senator pursuing his own agenda. Want to "go deeper"? Check out for more.

Steve Singleton,
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When will Mr. 666 arrive? Or did we miss something?

Friday, November 18, 2005
In Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Ken Hasenmueller says he plans to trade in the license plate assigned to him at random for his Oldsmobile Cutlass: "666-KEN." He says at first he 666 signthought it was interesting. Now he fears people will think he's a Satanist.

The association between the number 666 and Satan comes from Revelation 13:18: "This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is a man's number. His number is 666." Through the centuries, a great deal of superstition--let's call it what it really is--has attached itself to the numeral, so that people are as uneasy about being associated with it as they are about working in an office building on the 13th floor.

This superstition reached what was perhaps its high-water mark with the 1981 publication of When Your Money Fails by Mary Steward Relfe (Montgomery, AL: Ministries, Inc.). Relfe documents dozens of occurrences of the number 666 attached to a seemingly random list of objects, including dress shirts, credit cards, license plates, Egyptian warships, Treasury Department badges, Israeli telephone prefixes, charge accounts, and so on. Relfe states (59): "I unreservedly view the international usage of the number '666' by the present World System, to be presided over soon by Mr. 666, the False Messiah, as the Third Most Significant Fulfillment of Bible Prophecy in the Church Age (the past 2000 years)."

This is one example of what passes for biblical exegesis, and it makes me shudder. Just think about it! If you were reading an old newspaper and came across this statement, "I won't mention any names, but the man who is tearing our nation apart has the initials of A.L.," would you immediately conclude that someone with the same initials is about to tear America asunder in our day? Would the place the newspaper was published make any difference? What about the year of publication?

No doubt similar kinds of statements appeared in newspapers across the southern states of the U.S. in the fall of 1860 and the early spring of 1861. The initials, of course, belonged to Abraham Lincoln. If someone thought the statement is about to be fulfilled now, you might point out the circumstances under which it was written, just before the Civil War (what the editorialist would have called the "War of Northern Agression").

You might also point out the grammar of the sentence in question. He "is tearing" (present tense), and "he has" (also present tense). Now, more than 100 years later, those present tenses do not still stand.

Now look again at Revelation 13:18, "This calls for wisdom"--present tense, not "This will call for wisdom." "If anyone has insight"--present tense, not "...will have insight." The phrases, "Let him calculate," and "it is man's number," and "His number is 666," are all in present tense. I ask, present for whom? The answer would have to be the same in interpreting Revelation 13:18 as in interpreting the 1859 Richmond editorial: present for the original readers. We have to interpret it as past tense for modern readers.

But, you say, Revelation is a prophecy about the end times, so we would have to project those present tenses more than 2000 years into the future. I know you assume that, but are you sure? This reasoning might be true within a vision, where the tenses are relative, but Revelation 13:18 is not part of the vision but part of the explanation. It's the part where the author says, "That's what I saw. Now let me tell you what it means." Tenses are vital in understanding the explanation parts of Revelation.

For more confirmation that we are taking the right approach, take a look at the opening verses of Revelation, and take seriously what you find there: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.... The time is near" (Revelation 1:1, 3). The book is not in the vision part but is busy explaining what the time frame is for the prophecy. We should take it quite literally: at the time Revelation was written its events were just about to happen.

So that there could be no mistake, Revelation closes by stating the same time-frame: " show his servants what must soon take place... the time is near" (Revelation 22:6, 10). These statements form bookends, two at the beginning of the Apocalypse and two at the end. They should not be ignored, as they usually are, but should be taken seriously. Perhaps, not all of Revelation's predictions are past to us, but certainly most of them are. The "bookends" convince me that we should assume a prediction in Revelation has a fulfillment that is in our past unless we have a strong reason from the text to believe otherwise.

That means the original readers, those with wisdom, should have been able to calculate the meaning of who 666 referred to. When we remember that in both Hebrew and Greek the letters had numerical value and that people could referred to an event or a person's name by stating the number that was the sum of its letters, we are probably moving toward a first-century solution to 666.

The problem, as you might imagine, is that any number of names, descriptions, or series of abbreviations equal the same sum, identifying, for example, Gaius Caligula, Nero, Vespasian, and Domitian if an emperor is intended. Descriptions include "titan" and "latin," among others. Just because we cannot say for certain which is correct does not mean we should turn to any of the modern solutions, which include Adolf Hitler, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, Bill Gates, and Barney the Purple Dinosaur, among many others.

I find Mr. Hasenmueller's objection to his license plate perfectly understandable. It's not a matter of superstition. He's just trying to avoid miscommunicating. It seems wrong exegesis, combined with 2000 years of association with the diabolical that has made triple-6 taboo. Reject it if you wish, but understand that it has no power over you--magical, diabolical, or otherwise. It is a label belonging to a man who once persecuted the faithful people of God, but who learned that he, too, was only a mortal.

Want to go deeper? Get my e-book, "Can We Solve the 666 Puzzle?". Check it out!

Steve Singleton,
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Bitter or gracious? Which can change the world?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

In the sad but wonderful motion picture, "Pay It Forward" (Warner Bros., 2000), 10-year-old Trevor McKinney suggests to his class the means by which he proposes to change the world. You do a good deed for three people, and what they offer to pay you or just say thanks, you ask them to "pay it forward." The idea catches on, and though the boy himself tragically dies in a knife fight, chains of people paying it forward move outward from him in all directions.

On Thursday, November 3, 2005, Palestinian 12-year-old Ahmed al-Khatib was shot twice by Israeli soldiers who mistook his toy gun for a real one. Ahmed was rushed to the hospital in Jenin and then transferred to Rambam hospital. After three days, however, doctors informed his father that Ahmed had no chance of surviving.

That's when his father gave permission for his sons organs to be donated to whoever needed them, including Israelis. He recalled that one of their family members had died for lack of a kidney transplant.

Six Israelis received Ahmed's organs, including Samah Gadban, a 12-year-old girl who had been waiting for five years for a heart transplant. Other recipients included a six-month-old baby, a 56-year-old woman, two five-year-old boys, and a four-year-old girl.

Ahmed's father said he hoped that the gesture would speak to the conscience of all Israeli fathers and mothers so that they might work to end the cycle of violence in Israel and the occupied territories.

Mr. Khatib could have been embittered by his son's tragic death. (More than 700 Palestinian children and about 100 Israeli children have been killed in the fighting of the past five years.) He could allow the poison of hatred to calcify his heart even to the point that he would agree to become a killing machine for some group of radical militants. He could have withdrawn, no longer wanting to take part in a world so cruel and unjust. Instead, he decided to "pay it forward."

Likely Mr. Khatib is unacquainted with the epistles of Paul, yet he is living out the Apostle's principle, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21).

One boy's tragic death and one father's gracious gesture may not bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end. But heart-felt thanksgiving must be going up to the Father of All Living from six families who had all but lost hope.

Bitterness accomplishes nothing except the spread of more bitterness. Graciousness can heal your own heart and then make others, first grateful, then gracious themselves. When you are tempted to be bitter, when you want to strike back, look for a way to "Pay it forward." Who knows? By God's providence and with His blessing, you could change the world!

—Steve Singleton,
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