Friday, October 31, 2003

In addition to being the official Cathedral Door-Nailing Day, today is also Halloween.

This is the time of year when many Christians sit back and remember the days, not so long ago, when their ancestors were pagans. Frantically trying to blot out such horrid memories, they will retreat to their darkened homes and write furiously against Satanic revelries while they tremble every time the dreaded voices of greedy children emanate from behind their closed door.

Druids once remembered the beginning of winter on this date. Druids! Forget Getafix from the beloved Asterix and Obelix comics and think more along the lines of a cackling evil-eyed old man with a penchant for spitting and collecting odd pieces of animal anatomy.

Druids not only remembered the beginning of winter on this date but also gave ANIMAL SACRIFICES. No doubt goats were involved because when people sacrifice goats, that means they're EVIL. Make no mistake, druids were entirely EVIL because they invented Halloween.

Thus, it is rather obvious that this particular day, October 31, is an evil one. This is the one day of the year when Satan works his hardest to destroy little children by attacking them with all manner of devices - demons, razor blades cleverly hidden in apples, Satanic ceremonies, and far too much sugar. By celebrating Halloween, Christians are celebrating pure unadultered EVIL as the druids did so long ago.

Christians, I'm afraid, will just have to wait patiently until the virtuous holiday of Christmas approaches. That glorious day when Christians remember Mithras . . . er, Christ, and all of society unites to celebrate by purchasing so many useful things for themselves. Christmas is truly the last defensive barrier against the encroaching pagan influence. Thank mammon!

Thursday, October 30, 2003

I wore a shirt my mother bought me once which said "Yo Quero Jesus!" Just like the Taco Bell commercials. I thought the shirt was hilarious, and since I didn't take Christianity seriously at the time I didn't mind comparing Jesus to fast Mexican food.

My sister has a shirt with a UPC label underwhich it says, "Jesus Saves."

Makes me think of Jesus clipping coupons, or using some sort of points card.

I always cringe at "Jesus slogans" thrown carelessly across shirts. My mom bought me a shirt that says, "I may be having more FUN than you are. John 10:10."

The shirt doesn't have the actual verse on it. What the brilliant designers of this shirt are hoping is that I can wear this shirt and be walking down the street when suddenly an unbeliever, struck by the slogan will angrily query, "What do you mean you might be having more fun than me?"

Once this has occurred I can carefully recite, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full." Then I can proceed to explain to them why my life is so fun because Jesus came to give me a full life. Then the unbeliever can be saved because he wants to have fun like me.

Designers like this never think that maybe their shirt will be worn by a mopey Christian, a Christian, like me, who looks more like he's taking it easy than having a blast, or maybe even a Christian who will wear their shirt and proceed to run the Muslim infidels down with his longsword (slaughtering a few Jews and Byzantines along the way.)

My point is, Jesus shouldn't be a trite slogan thrown across a shirt with some flashy graphics, but he should be your whole life.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

*warning* some readers may find this disturbing. I hope they do. *warning*

Yesterday evening I had the privilege of visiting my good friend, Michael*, who also happens to be my girlfriend's uncle. I had intended to visit another friend but since he wasn't home I dropped by Michael's house instead. Laurianne's entire family is extremely hospitable and Michael is no exception. I always feel a genuine warmth when I arrive at his apartment and the hours fly by as we visit eachother.

Yesterday, after discussing several other matters, we began talking about suffering. Michael recounted how, just the day before, his friend, an unbeliever, had asked him the age-old question, "why does God allow suffering?" His friend then launched into a story of how his friend, a Tutsi, had suffered greatly when he was hung upside-down by his ankles, forced to watch his wife and daughter raped and brutalized, and, finally, left hanging until he suffocated to death.

I could tell Michael had a difficult time retelling the story, but he continued. He had told me previously how he had been part of a group in Burundi which sought justice and peace. Whenever there was a report that a slaughter of Tutsis or a slaughter of Hutus had occurred, the group Michael belonged to would go to the scene of the crime to record how many had been killed and who had committed the killings. This might seem like an ineffective way to combat genocide but it wasn't. With the documentation which the group was creating, those who committed the crimes or considered committing crimes grew fearful. Now that their crimes were recorded, they were no longer faceless criminals but could be charged for their misdeeds someday. The group was comprised of both Hutu and Tutsi and sought to bring both sides of the conflict to justice.

This organization continued to operate as usual. Michael was invited to a conference in Kigali, Rwanda. Just before he arrived, the entire group he was travelling with was gunned down. Although Michael's leg was shot and mangled, he manage to survive by pretending to be dead. He was the only survivor.

Michael was eventually transported to a hospital in Brussels so that his leg could be operated on. There were a number of Tutsis in the hospital with him, most of them former soldiers. Michael continued by telling me some of their disturbing tales.

One soldier told him how he had been chasing a Hutu woman who had led the slaughter of Tutsis. She had committed many crimes but in perhaps the worst one she had gone to a school, separated the Tutsi children from the Hutu children, and had all of the Tutsi children shot. This particular soldier had, with his comrades, been pursuing this woman for years when they finally caught her. There were many soldiers who wanted to kill her as they had anticipated bringing her to justice for quite some time. Finally, a man whose brother and sister had been killed under her direction convinced everyone he deserved the chance.

This man had her put in an oil drum, the insides still slick with oil. Carefully, he had the drum heated so that it did not catch fire but caused the woman much suffering. When they finally removed her from the barrel she was so burnt that she had swollen to an impossible size. Then he told her to run, but as she ran he lit a match and tossed it at her. She literally exploded.

I'm sure most people are familiar with the typical action movie where the villain receives an extemely painful death as recompense for all of his crimes. These scenes are designed to thrill the viewer into saying, "Yes! Justice has been served!"

The empty feeling I had in the pit of my stomach after hearing the story of the exploding woman was likely just the opposite effect directors like Paul Verhoeven desire in their films.

I could tell Michael, too, was disgusted at what had been done to the woman. Yes, she was a criminal who had done horrid things and yes, she probably deserved much worse; but justice had not been served. There was no restoration, there was no joy, there was no judgement, there was no true justice. She had been made to suffer in a way that few people ever have to endure, and she was still a human being who deserved a fair trial.

Another story Michael had told me previously involved a friend who had served in the government army. His friend was on patrol with his fellow soldiers when they spotted a sack hanging from a tree. As they approached they noticed this sack was soaked with blood which was dripping slowly into a puddle on the ground. Apprehensively, the soldiers cut the sack down and opened it up. Inside was a pile of bloody babies. Some were dead, some were writhing in pain. Hutu soldiers had tossed the babies into the sack, hung it from a tree, and beat it with their rifle butts until the grotesque sport no longer satisfied their hatred.

To hear or even to read about such a horrendous act cannot possibly compare to actually seeing such a nauseating spectacle. Michael's friend, out of his mind, picked up one of the living babies from the pile of infant corpses and placed it in his jacket. For the next three days, with blind madness, he sought revenge with the baby tucked into his jacket. Finally, on the third day, the baby died and Michael's friend went truly insane. For the next six months he was confined to a psychiatric hospital.

The capacity for truly grevious atrocities that the human being possesses never ceases to amaze me. When I hear of the brutality, the pain, and the suffering imposed upon and endured by so many people throughout the ages, I can't help feeling a certain sense of despair. I despair at the hatred and the sin which fuel so many horrors throughout the world. I despair but I have hope. I know that my Redeemer lives and I know he is alive in people like Michael.

Despite losing family members, despite all the horror he experienced and heard of, Michael is not at all bitter. I am extremely conscious of his pain when he recounts the horror he knows of . . . but he told me yesterday that he cannot hate because of that pain. Michael has told me many times that he finds comfort in his Christianity. He says his real desire is for peace with his Hutu brothers and true justice for Burundi.

When Jesus tells us to love our enemy, I think of Michael's forgiveness and desire for reconciliation in his country.

*Michael is not his real name.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Today I read a little bit about the Ethiopian famine and then I ate a humungous mound of back ribs at Montana's.

I felt somewhat evil.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Today in Ukrainian History Dr. Payton mentioned that the history department at Redeemer is going to go through some changes. They're looking at the possibility of a HIS 103 and HIS 104 hybrid which would be a sort of super-Western history course. HIS 107 would still be an option and there'd be a new offering - HIS 105, World History.

The world is quite a large place and the amount of information the history of the world covers is dauntingly massive and complex. Therefore, a course which purported to cover the history of the world would either have to delve deeply into a few interesting civilizations or give an extremely superficial treatment to world events. (A course on European history is already complex, the world is that much larger) Whatever the case, I don't envy the person who has to attempt to create the outline for that course. Although I was thinking that a world history course could be tied together by an examination of the impact of European colonialism. This, of course, is still a Eurocentric way of looking at the world but it would help make the course easier (but still daunting) to organize. Also, such a course would help students see the historic roots of many of the developing world's problems.

I've always wanted more variety in Redeemer's history courses but I've also realized that Redeemer's size limits that possibility. While it would be superb to have entire departments dedicated to African, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Meso-American history, Redeemer just doesn't have enough students for those tantalizing departments. Besides, even if Redeemer were large enough, I would not be able to take all of those lovely courses. Hopefully Redeemer can begin to have sporadic courses in some of these areas as I'm sure they've attempted to do. For now, however, I'll just try to educate myself.

Dr. Payton mentioned that Redeemer is also considering hiring a historian to lead the study of North American history. Excellent. I may have to adjust my schedule.

Now, on a more somber note, Dr. Payton said that Dr. Van Dyke will be retiring at the end of the next school year. I could dedicated a whole blog to that professor, but I would feel like an apple polisher. Nevertheless, Dr. Van Dyke has become one of my favourite Redeemer personalities and a man I have a deep respect for. Fortunately, he's not gone yet, but Redeemer won't be the same without him.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I'm in the process of writing a paper on European views of non-whites in Early Modern Europe. While it can be extremely disheartening to read about racist imperialism and slaughter, there are many moments where a European displays genuinely humane actions or when the tide turns, so to speak.

I came across a "turning tide" today while I was skimming Noel Mostert's monstrous book Frontiers: the Epic of South Africa's Creation and the Tragedy of the Xhosa People. I've barely made a dent in the book but I did come across a story I found very intriguing.

In 1510, the Portuguese were stopping for water near modern day Cape Town. Some of these Porguese went to a Khoikhoi (or San, Bushmen, or derogatory Hottentot) village in order to obtain fresh meat. The Khoikhoi felt they deserved more in the barter than the Portuguese were willing to offer and so the Khoikhoi helped themselves to what they felt was fair. There was a small skirmish which saw some of the Portuguese receiving bloodied faces and some broken teeth (I'm not sure how hard it is to knock out the teeth of a man with scurvy, but it dented Portuguese pride nonetheless.)

This humiliation was more than the Portuguese could bear. They were soldiers and sailors who had just finished displaying their predominance over powerful Middle Eastern and Asian nations and they weren't going to allow themselves to be bullied by a bunch of "ignorant savages." Around 150 Portuguese set out (without armour or firearms) and raided the Khoikhoi village, seizing cattle and children. Unfortunately for the Portuguese, a wind had sprung up and their boats had moved further along the beach, lengthening the distance they had to cross.

The Khoikhoi cared little about their cattle, they could call them back using various whistling signals, but when the Portuguese stole Khoikhoi children . . . well, you know how parents are about their children.

The Portuguese, armed only with their lances and swords, were no match for the angry Khoikhoi with their trained war oxen. The Khoikhoi attacked "so furiously that they . . . came into the body of our men, taking back the oxen; and by whistling to these and making other signs (since they are trained to this warlike device), they made them surround our men . . . like a defensive wall, from behind which came so many fire-hardened sticks that some of us began to fall wounded or trodden by the cattle."

Approximately half of the Portuguese force was killed by the rampaging war cattle and the furious Khoikhoi. In the words of Noel Mostert, "Fallen at the hands of those they considered the least of men, they were victims of their own contempt."

I know I shouldn't laugh, but . . .

Tuesday, October 14, 2003


The man’s face is pale and blank,
his hollow eyes strain to see
and I smell the odorous rank
of human mortality.
Emaciated ribs jut
from the man’s sunken chest;
crimson blood drips from a cut
which yellow gangrene congests.
His thin body convulses
as his swollen belly gasps.
His weak heart barely pulses
as his swollen throat rasps.
I watch him with contempt
but his face reveals no shame
as his bony arms attempt
to support his rakish frame.
The man’s anaemic lips flutter
and his mouth it forms a word
which his voice quietly mutters
. . . but the man cannot be heard.

(c) John den Boer, 2002
I'm back from O-dot. I tried to write a little bit of an update from there but my girlfriend's keyboard has some crazy French thing going on so that my punctuation was all messed up. I'm not claiming to be some sort of punctuation expert or grammarian, but it is nice to have the feeling you're typing like a professional Englishman. I suppose I could've attempted some sort of French-language blog but it would get a little redundant with me repeating my age, how I'm doing, and my name. Besides, I don't know the French word for fingernail.

I drank Heineken from a can for the first time ever.

Anyhow, I had an excellent time in Ottawa. Somehow, my girlfriend suddenly learned how to cook. Her earlier claims to an aversion towards cooking gave me the impression that the extent of her culinary expertise didn't go beyond Kraft dinner and omelletes. She cooked me pasta with shrimp and she shelled the shrimp herself. Removing the guts from those underwater creatures made her vomit, but she did it anyway. She didn't just vomit because she was disgusted, she vomitted because she loves me. Oh, and the food was excellent.

I went to a Burundian festival on Saturday night. I wouldn't say it was as much of a festival as it was a exposition of African music. I enjoyed mixing with my friends, eating, drinking, and boogeying like a man who's ancestors have been rhythmically repressed for four hundred years.

My good friend, John Luimes, gave me a ride home. He drove all the way from Renfrew to Ottawa and back to Renfrew just for me. How much did the whole trip cost? One coffee and a junior bacon cheeseburger from Wendy's. Pretty good.

Oh, and the Confederates are losing the fingernail war to the Union troops, which is a bad thing (in this case.)

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

I've just added Chris Crookall's blog to my linked blogs. I had the indistinct pleasure of living with Chris during our first year. I'd like to say that we hit it off right away but Chris really didn't seem to notice that I lived in the same dorm as him. I was referred to as, "that poofy haired guy" and when someone phoned or rang for me Chris would yell out, "Is there a guy named John who lives here?"

Then we put some boullion cubes in Dan Vanhartingsvelde's juice bottle and Chris has remembered my name ever since.

The count is going up.

Monday, October 06, 2003

I'm horrible at mathematics but I've just come up with a word problem.

John is about to head to Ottawa for a pleasant weekend with his girlfriend. Assuming that John is a typical student at Redeemer University College, how much work will he be assigned just because the homework gods are angered at him abandoning them for three whole days and finding pleasure elsewhere?

Equation: W = C + BP (G x D x A)

W = Work (measured in hours, multiply by 1.5 if individual is a slacker like John)
C = Classes
B = Books
P = Pages
G = Angry gods
D = Days away
A = Anticipation (measured in litres)

Sunday, October 05, 2003

The following is a song from one of my favourite dancehall reggae artists, Bounty Killer. Those of you who listen to popular radio may have heard his song with No Doubt called "Hey Baby," which basically is a song about . . . nothing. Anyhow, I find the following song a lot more meaningful giving voice to the frustrations of the man dubbed the Poor People's Governor.

Bounty Killer

People are dead!
People are dead!
Dead, that’s what I said
the plan must be led
the hungry must be fed
Hey yo, ya lo, I be looking
through all the despair over here.
Hey yo . . . nobody cares
take a look in my house
would you live in there?
Huh, hey yo, ya lo
look at my shoes can you see my toes?
Well that’s how this trouble goes,
nobody knows.

Look into my eyes,
tell me what you see?
Can you feel my pain?
am I your enemy?
Give us a better way,
things are really bad,
The only friend I know
is this gun I have.
Listen to my voice,
this is not a threat
Now you see the nine
are you worried yet?
You've been talking 'bout'
you want the war to cease .
But when you show us hope,
we will show you peace

Verse I
Look into my mind
can you see the wealth?
Can you tell that I
wanna help myself?
But if it happen that
I stick you for your ring
don’t be mad at me
it’s a survival thing.
Look into my heart
I can feel your fear
take another look
can you hold my stare?
Why are you afraid
of my hungry face?
Or is it this thing
bulging in my waist?

Verse II
Look into my life
can you see my kids?
And let me ask you this,
you know what struggle is?
Well in this part of town
survival is my will
for you to stay alive
you’ve got to rob and kill
Look into my house
would you live in there?
Look me in the eyes
and tell me that you care.
Well, I made up my mind
to end up in the morgue
I know I’d rather die
a man than live like dog!

Look down at my shoes,
can you see my toes?
this struggle that we live
nobody really knows
stop and ask yourself
would you live like that?
And if you had to then
wouldn't you bust gunshot?
Look into the schools
tell me how you feel,
you want the kids to learn
without a proper meal
then what you have in place
to keep them out of wrong?
If them drop out of school
dem a go bust them gun.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Over the summer I slammed my finger in the door. It was one of those moments where you know it doesn't help to bash your wounded finger against the wall but you do it anyway. Several days later my fingernail fell off. I had always wondered how a fingernail looked without a nail but when it finally happened to me I wasn't so much fascinated as I was worried that I might have scurvy.

After consuming copious amounts of fruit I proceeded to wait. It was then that I noticed that there was a thin layer of fingernail still attached to my finger. This fingernail was so thin that it, in fact, looked like skin. I was happy to know that I was not completely without my beloved fingernail but I was still slightly disappointed to find out that I had not actually viewed that finger in its full naked glory.

Over time, my fingernail began to grow back at its original thickness. I was pleased until I noticed that it was no longer the pleasant pink of my other fingernails but more of a pinkish-red. I decided I would allow this fingernail to express its individuality so that it could serve as reminder of the physical superiority doors have over fingers. I proceeded with my day-to-day activities until I suddenly noticed that my fingernail was 4/5ths of the way back to normal. Then, without warning, disaster struck. The northern region of my fingernail rebelled, turning from that beautiful pinkish red colour to an off-white. I briefly thought of my confederate friend, Jake, but then I recalled that it was the southern region that had rebelled and not the northern one. I realized there was no parallel to draw from, and I despaired.

Lately, I've noticed the advance of the southern reddish-pinkish front against the off-white menace and I rejoice. Someday my fingernail will be restored to its former glory. Don't worry, I'll keep you posted.

Who deh?