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Norma Jean Shaw departs the Royal Examiner team

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Norma Jean Shaw in her element, during Royal Examiner video interview with Deputy Warren County Treasurer and Treasurer candidate Jamie Spiker.

We at Royal Examiner regret the departure of Editor Norma Jean Shaw. Shaw was a valued member of the Royal Examiner editorial and news department from the online newspaper’s inception in early October 2016.

Her presence on the news staff was valued to the extent that accommodations were made to allow her to continue in her editor’s role following, first a minor relocation out of the community to her husband’s residence in Stephens City; and then a further move several months ago when she followed him to his new job in far southwest Virginia.

We wish Shaw and her family the best of luck in the next phase of her and their personal and professional lives.

Mike McCool – Publisher
Roger Bianchini – Managing Editor
Malcolm Barr – feature writer
Kim Riley – staff reporter
Bruce Beavers – advertising
Amanda Callihan – graphics & webmaster
Mark Williams – video, tech support

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Opinion

Why God Allows Evil

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I’ve been seeking to learn why it is God, our Creator, allows so much evil. It is a perplexing question.

I suppose I should start with full disclosure. I’m not a pastor, minister, or priest. Nor am I a theologian. Actually, I’m just one of you! You and I, those who are curious. Being curious is probably a good thing even at my age — beyond-seven-decades. I believe there is God. Also that He created all that is. With that as a foundation, let’s get back to evil.

As long as there have been two or more humans on this planet, there has been evil. Let’s face it. At the outset, Adam and Eve were given but one rule. It seems they took very little time breaking that one rule. Some time later they gave birth to two sons. One of those sons murdered the other.

So evil has clearly always been an ingredient of human behavior. Seems odd, doesn’t it? Countless humans over the centuries have asked, “How could a God who created us and who loves us saddle us with so much evil?”

We look about and observe a plethora of evil human behavior. As evidence, we see greed, pride, lies, deception, theft, corruption, and lewd conduct. Human history seethes with examples. So does our present day. Examples abound!

But getting back to the perplexing question. Why so much evil? In our effort to unravel that ‘why so much evil’ question, we will need to examine three topics: the nature of God, the ingredients of love, and God’s gift of free will. All of this will clearly be illustrated within an ancient narrative story.

We could begin with that story. But first, a quick review of a couple of things we understand to be true about God. He created us. He loves us. He wants us to be with Him in eternity. There is more, of course. But one characteristic in particular is relevant to our discussion here: He is omniscient. Knowing all makes perfect sense once we’ve established that He created all.

But, given that He knows all, doesn’t that mean that He knows we humans will do evil things? And if He knows the evil we will do, why does He not prevent us from doing so?

This is a good time to turn to the story. I particularly like this narrative because it explains and clarifies so much. Let’s meet Joseph.

This Joseph is not the spouse of Mary who gave birth to Jesus. No, we must go all the way back to the book of Genesis to meet this Joseph. This Joseph is the son of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac. That makes this Joseph the grandson of Abraham.

The story is an early Biblical example of human evil. Joseph’s brothers were jealous and hated him. So they sold Joseph, Jacob’s favored son, to traders headed for Egypt. Eventually, Joseph was sold to an officer of the Pharaoh.

Evil behavior! And this while God, knowing all, was looking on. This seems contrary to what we humans think we know about God. Much of our Sunday-school teaching tends to focus on another characteristic about “Our Father who art in Heaven.” That characteristic is love. So let’s focus now on love.

Over the years – my years, that is — I have given no small amount of thought to the topic of love. In brief, what I came up with is this. First, love is a gift. It’s God’s gift to us. But it also is our gift to other humans.

Now, the most essential characteristic of love – whether that from God or that from humans – is that it is incomplete, it cannot and will not survive, without being returned. That “return loop” is called reciprocity.

Think of an elongated oval. Imagine this egg-shaped figure – also called elliptical – having embedded arrows. One arrow is outbound love destined for a recipient. Once it reaches its target, the recipient has choices. Receive or reject. Retain or return. If we decide to receive and return love, the arrow now travels along that same oval back to the source of the gift. That’s reciprocity.

Soon we’ll return to our story of Joseph whose life as a servant of the Pharaoh has placed the young lad in a position of great responsibility. Joseph has become the Pharaoh’s highest officer with command of both the royal household and the entire country of Egypt. But first let’s get back for now to love and that oval of reciprocity.

Once the gift of love has been sent, received, and returned, we can see that the process is complete. Had the gift been rejected, or even received but simply retained like a box on a closet shelf, the cycle is incomplete. Without reciprocity, then, love withers and dies like a plant without water.

But now we come to the most important point. And it is this point which explains why it is God allows evil to exist.

We have said that once the gift of love reaches its target, the recipient has choices. Receive or reject. Retain or return. Choices! We call these choices free will.

When God created humans, He gave them – and each of us – free will. Some theologians are still looking for those words in the Bible. But what they should be looking for is not the word. Rather, free will is found in Genesis as action.

Our most distant parents, remember, were given that one rule in the Garden of Eden. They were not to eat the fruit of one particular tree. But they did so. They chose to eat that fruit. That “choice” was possible only because they had free will.

And why were they, and we, given that “choice” to do or not do? Now we are approaching the answer to our dilemma: the why of evil. The answer is found within our search for the nature of love. Choices.

It is free will that allows us to receive or reject, retain or return. And our Creator understood the risk. He gave us free will. But He recognized we might choose reject and retain rather than receive and return. Why did He take that risk?

We must think of free will in binary terms. It is either free or not free. It cannot be both. Our Lord knew that. So now, let’s return to thinking about the nature of love.

The only way God’s love for His humans can be complete is if we choose to accept, receive, and return that love. And the only way that can happen is for us to have the freedom to choose. Hence, free will.

Human history is chock full of examples of human free will gone awry!

Now we’ll examine one more crucially important distinction. Earlier we noted that God is omniscient. But knowing is not the same as causing. It is also not the same as allowing. Actually, I’m convinced that God’s knowing often causes Him no small amount of agony. After all, which of us would enjoy knowing ahead of time and with absolute certainty that something horribly tragic is about to happen?

Imagine watching your son, just beyond the age of toddler. He’s reaching for a pot of boiling water on the stove. You know what is about to happen. In my book Eternity, I wrote:

“And you watch. But you do not move. Every muscle and nerve in your body twitches then knots itself into a searing, painful mass of energy. Still you don’t interfere because you gave your son free will. And what seconds ago was Jeremy’s inquisitive little face is now …. Your knowledge has just turned to agony. Gut-wrenching, nauseating agony.”

So, returning to our story of Joseph – his brothers do evil, sell him as slave. All the while our Lord God knew in advance what was to happen. He knew also that He would not intervene in the action thus negating free will.

So, what did He do instead? He used their evil deed to the ultimate benefit of others. How did this play out?

Many years after their evil deed, Joseph’s brothers find themselves standing before the Pharaoh’s mightiest officer. Notice what follows:

“I am Joseph, your brother,” he said, “the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed or angry with yourselves that you sold me into this place, because it was to save lives that God sent me before you. For the famine has covered the land these two years, and there will be five more years without plowing or harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve you as a remnant on the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. Therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God, who has made me a father to Pharaoh—lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 45)

And near the end of the story, following the death of Jacob (also called Israel), the brothers fear Joseph will seek revenge for their misdeed. But Joseph quells their fear:

“As for you, what you intended against me for evil, God intended for good, in order to accomplish a day like this—to preserve the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50)

And now we can return to the perplexing question which launched this venture.

We have learned that God loves us. But we have also learned that His love can reach fruition, become complete, only if we choose to receive it, accept it, and return it. We also discovered that such a choice is an available option to all humans only because of yet another of God’s gifts. Free will.

Finally, when we abuse free will with our misdeeds, God may use our evil to achieve His own goal. His goal? The greater good – the salvation of all humans who choose to receive and return His gift of love.

We must not conclude this reflection on the why of evil, however, without this final clarification. It is important for us to recognize the distinction between the words so that and the word and. Our Creator, our Lord, does not allow evil so that He might use it. So that implies purpose. This could lead us to believe that He wants us to engage in evil. He clearly does not wish us to do evil. Rather, He allows freedom of choice, and He may use our flawed choices and their consequences to bring about a greater good. Let us recognize: so that implies intent while and does not do so.

And that, dear readers, is my answer to this perplexing question.

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Opinion

Deep Global Warming Facts

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A recent letter in the Royal Examiner laments that some folks don’t care for facts much these days and especially disagrees with those who hold their views without resorting to facts. He particularly calls out the “global warming band-wagoneers”, that according to his logic, disregard the teachings of Geology 101.

Geology has much to teach us. One of the hardest concepts to grasp is the concept of deep time; visualizing the age of the earth is not an easy lift. Billions of years of solar energy bathing our planet generated extensive life in the form of plants and animals. It is difficult to imagine the billions of years of converting that solar energy through photosynthesis, and the billions of years of the remains of that process being incorporated into the earth. The use of fossil fuels means the release of solar energy gathered from an almost unimaginable past. Fossil fuel energy consists of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.

A previous article claimed that since ice sheets once covered New York, then the climate is always changing and since the climate is always changing, there is no urgency to address climate change. The author is content to acknowledge the scientific evidence proving that the climate varies while ignoring the scientific observations regarding the unprecedented pace of change that corresponds with the beginning of Industrial Revolution. A cursory search, for instance to the NASA site, reveals that global temperatures are increasing at an unnatural pace. We can measure the inexorable increase of CO2 and global temperatures, and we are living with the effects on rainfall, drought and increasingly intense storms.

The indiscriminate release of carbon into the atmosphere serves to trap the heat radiating and reflecting from the earth, upsetting the delicate stasis developed over millennia. In the oceans, some is reabsorbed, but not all, turning the oceans acidic, and creating problems for life in the seas. It remains to be seen what this uptick will do to plankton, a large source of oxygen production.
This rapid rise is tracked by examining rocks and ice deposited in the past. An overwhelming majority of scientists throughout the world agree about this. They also document the feedback loops caused by these changes. Sea and land ice are diminished, and ice that once reflected sunlight and heat now is gone. The oceans absorb more heat and sea levels rise, threatening major population centers. Thawing permafrost in northern areas releases greenhouse gases. The changes compound and intensify the effects.

The arrogance of a dwindling political party that professes to know best because their gut feeling tells them they are right, is blocking American leadership on this problem. They imagine that climate scientists warning against climate change form an international conspiracy. They take counsel from a handful of scientists denying human impacts whose research is supported by fossil fuel companies and claim they own the purest of intentions. The global risk is too great to have faith in magical thinking.

Steve Foreman

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Opinion

To Doug Stanley and Members of the Board of Supervisors

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I am writing to you all for requests of information.

1. Doug Stanley, the citizens of Warren County deserve total honesty and transparency. I am requesting a list of all real estate holdings, LLC partnerships, and/or other business holdings you are a member of. If you truly only have a house and a lot located in High Knob, wonderful, however if you are a silent partner in any land holdings such as 707 Properties LLC, Heptad, etc. This disclosure needs to made sooner than later.

2. Doug Stanley, the request is made for you to disclose any personal or familial connections you have with Cherry Bekaert LLP and/or any of its’ past or present employees/owners/investors/board members or family members of any of these people, etc. The April 1, 2019 EDA press release states you and Greg Drescher chose Cherry Bekaert LLP as the auditor.

3. Board of Supervisors, leaving out Tony Carter as he has been the liaison to the EDA and is eyeball deep in this mess. I ask that you put the brakes on the EDA Civil Litigation and the ever-mounting legal fees of Sands Anderson Law Group. This civil suit was hastily filed and full of errors, errors that were guided by the $600,00 Cherry Bekaert LLP “Investigation”. As we have found out from the working papers, Cherry Bekaert was given a very limited scope of investigation and only certain paperwork that pointed to targeted individuals. Right now, we are throwing good money after bad. Please call the FBI, Virginia State Police, Justice Department and let them take over the entire investigation. As it appears right now, the EDA Civil Suit is a sham being funded by the taxpayers to protect the big dogs, which is not in the best interest of the citizenry.

4. Dan Lenz, the department head of Parks and Rec needs to be investigated immediately as he was aware for over a year of the sexual misconduct occurring at the Front Royal Golf Club. A female inmate claiming rape cannot be ignored. THIS IS A FELONY and no one will look into it WHY? I insist you act and prosecute! Women Matter and the way it looks Warren County has a double standard in regards to gender on many levels and instances.

5. Lastly and this is a big one, Board of Supervisors, I ask that you request your colleague, Tony Carter to step down from his position of Supervisor for the Happy Creek District, as he is committing non arm’s length transactions by holding all Warren County Insurance Policies.

I also request you, the BOS to place Stanley, Whitten, and Drescher on administrative leave until you can do an internal investigation as to the depth of the involvement these individuals have in the EDA Scandal. Bob Childress will do a fine job leading the county while these men are being investigated. He is very capable and honest. He will not play Stanley Clause with hard-earned taxpayer money.

Supervisors, you have the power to do this and it is the right thing to do. Mr. Murray you ask us to pray or take a moment of silence at the start of each meeting, I am asking you and your colleagues to do the same thing. Lead us down the right path and stop the evil that is at work in our community.

Kristie Sours Atwood
One Mad Mother

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Opinion

On Global Warming & Facts

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On global warming

Some of us don’t seem to care much about facts these days. Especially abhorrent are facts which disagree with pronouncements made by activists who would prefer for us to believe their views without regard to facts. Or at least without regard to certain facts.

Case in point. Global warming and “ocean temperatures spike” (Star, January 19, 2016). Now I would not presume to argue against global warming. Nor would I consider myself sufficiently erudite to dispute the notion that global warming might result in ocean warming. But I do wish that “scientists” who publish their findings in journals would exhibit a wider range of their academic credentials. I mean, didn’t Geology 101 precede a post-graduate scholarly study in the journal Nature Climate Change?

Global warming band-wagoneers from one end of this planet to the other seem to have slept through the first chapter of Geology 101. That’s the chapter explaining that our planet has experienced at least five major and several minor periods of “ice ages.” Now here’s a fact these “scientists” seem to have ignored. Each of those “ice ages” was followed by global warming. How do we know this? Well, for starters, the ice melted.

Of greatest interest to us – the modern day descendants of homo east-coastus-Americus – is the most recent of these many ice ages. You see, that “ice age” of the late Pleistocene epoch is the one whose glaciers, according to New York Nature.net “literally created Long Island, and carved out the landscape we know today as the New York City region. Moraines, lakes and ponds, kettle holes, peat bogs, melt water streams and valleys – all are relics of glacial topography.”

So it seems some scientists use “ice age” information one way, some another. If your business is constructing One World Trade Center, you most assuredly want to know the difference between bedrock and a glacial moraine. But many “scientists” whose favorite topic is global warming seem eager to ignore the lessons of ice ages.

It takes little more than an introduction to Logic 101 for most of us to recognize that for every ice age there has followed a period of global warming. (Please check a geological time scale.) Moreover, climate change is influenced – and has been so for eons – by many factors. Solar energy output varies; both the sun and our planet earth are constantly in motion. Everything out there where “the heavens declare the glory of God” is moving. Earth spins (rotates) and races around its orbital path. And so does the Sun whose orbit takes it on a journey through our galaxy. Small wonder, then, that a wobble here and a solar eruption there might result in a pile of ice once and clouds of steam the next time.

So, please. Let us recognize that when we are faced with political posturing and perambulation, we are better off to rely upon facts – even the inconvenient ones – than to beguile ourselves with half-baked writings of “scientists” who slept through Geology 101.

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Opinion

On Erasing History: Painting over a San Francisco mural of George Washington due to liberal sensitivities

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Boston Common George Washington monument at Massachusetts USA

What is the best way to be certain we will repeat the errors of the past?  Before we attempt to answer this, let’s visit a coach and two books.

The best of football coaches – be they NFL or collegiate – are those who remember and teach the team’s history.  From the days of flickering black-and-white 16mm and 35mm motion picture cameras, right up today’s HD videos, football coaches have used game videos.

An idle study?  A pleasant pastime?  Not at all.  Our football coaches require their teams to review videos of past games.  Our own team.  Opponents.  Identify errors.  Notice weaknesses.  Learn from errors.  Improve performance.  Prepare for the next game!

If you want to see a stark-raving mad coach, try telling him you just accidentally erased all video of last week’s game!  A seething outburst of anger may be the least of your worries.

Now let’s consider two books.  One portrays the 1789 French Revolution.  This was just a few years following the end of our own American Revolutionary War: freedom and independence won from Britain, remember?  This book –

– reveals aristocrat tyranny as a cause of war and revolutionary excess, a result of war.  Charles Dickens presents us with visions of revolutionary excess with gruesome scenes of bloody guillotines.

If you fail to see what Dickens’ novel and our football coach have in common, let’s take a look at a second book.  This book features a wicked queen.  She destroys righteous men who oppose her, even priests and prophets. Another character in this book is an evil idol-god who demands sacrifice of children.  He uses fire to destroy children.  The queen?  Jezebel.  The idol-god?  Molech.  The book?  The Bible!

So, yes, even the Bible depicts flawed human behavior.  Such examples serve to illustrate errors.  Now return to the football coach.  His team studies errors along with “best plays.”  This is also why we read A Tale of Two Cities and, for that matter, the Bible.  The idea is to improve the present by studying the past.

In America it has taken us well over 200 years to correct some of our worst errors.  Why would we want to erase artifacts of our history?  Should we remember our past and correct errors, or forget and repeat our worst behaviors?

I argue in favor of remembering.  Historic art – like San Francisco’s George Washington mural, now set for destruction, is such an example.  Statues, bridges, buildings, highways, schools – everywhere we see proposals to destroy.  Books – yes, also the Bible – monuments, and art offer us an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and correct our behavior.

We should not hide our history.  We should use our history.  In all of its forms and genres, our history is the “how-to” book for self-improvement!

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Opinion

Remarks presented to WC School Board

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July 3, 2019

Ms. Chairwoman and School Board Members:

I appreciate the opportunity to address my fellow citizens who make up our School Board in Warren County. In the next few minutes I’ll relay my concerns and things I’d like to see implemented in our school system. I know being on the school board is not about all the money you receive but the desire to make our schools the best in Virginia and I thank you.

First, Mr. Drescher I’m sure you are very talented however I do not understand how you had time to be on the EDA Board with two failing schools. This is your first time as a superintendent and I would have thought maybe your time should be spent helping the failing schools reach a standard of excellence. Did anyone of the school board members say anything to your desire to be on the EDA?

Next is a question for Ms. Bower and the board… Mr. Drescher was under contract from July 1, 2015 thru June 30, 2019 at a salary of $154,000. Why give him a new contract at a higher salary $165,837 when he was already under contract ? I’ve been in sales for many years and been under contract, if I had gone into my superiors and said how about a raise during the middle of my contract I would have been laughed out of the building.

Did Mr. Drescher really deserve a raise because our schools went from two failing schools to one? You have teachers leaving the county because they do not make enough and Mr. Drescher gets almost a 12K raise. This is not a wealthy county yet you are spending money like a wealthy county. His total compensation seems to be close to 180K, where does this rank compared to our neighboring counties?

I understand that someone authorized a new roof for Ressie Jeffries and gave the contractor a million-dollar bonus to do the work at night and this does not count the actual cost of the roof. Please tell me my information is wrong. If this is correct why couldn’t you wait a couple months until school was out and saved a million dollars. I’ve read your goals and maybe someone needs to review the Master Plan for maintenance.

I was not a good student and I wasted my mother’s money going to college. College is great for some but I would have been better off going into the military to grow up. When I read your mission statement and goals it seems to me that you are focused on higher education. My guess is that’s fine for 50% of your students but others maybe needed a different type of education. I’d really like to see a new larger expanded technical school in Warren County teaching young people to be electricians, plumbers, HVAC techs etc. I recently read in the newspaper about Lord Fairfax having a simulator for heavy equipment… it be nice to have one in our technical school? If I remember correctly they start out at $45K. That’s great for an 18 or 19 year old.

I’d also like to see an Ethics class being mandatory to graduate. Growing up I don’t remember my parents cussing and I try not to ever use those words as I believe there are better adjectives. I’m not saying I never say one but it’s very rare. An Ethics class can cover many things like being a better classmate, to being honorable in business and finding better adjectives.

In closing, in your Long Range Plan Review Committee maybe it’s time to replace Jennifer McDonald. Thank you for listening and I hope that you spend the counties money wisely like it is coming out of your own wallet.

James Harper
Front Royal, VA

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