Archive for the ‘Citizenship’ Category

Interesting Read

September 7, 2018

How do you articulate an identity in the face of an overwhelming alternative narrative?  Where do you begin?  What do you identify both as the strengths and challenges of the alternative?  What critique do you offer against the prevailing alternative narrative?

It might look something like this.

 

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Looking for Angles

April 19, 2018

A curious read, this.

Noting the publication, it’s not surprising that the piece is critical of gun ownership and a congregation or pastor’s attempts to make sense of Second Amendment rights in a contemporary context.  And I believe I at least understand and can perhaps even sympathize with those who think that banning some or all guns will fix the problems in our culture that more and more regularly express themselves in violence.  And I can further understand an uneasiness with this particular congregation’s advertisement of guns on site.  The conversation about guns and the risks that gathering groups of Christians seem to increasingly face in our society is one being had in many congregations and gatherings of church leaders and workers.

I wouldn’t personally advocate for such a sign on site, even if I lived in a place where such a sign wouldn’t likely be legally challenged.  It reads too much like a challenge, a dare of sorts.  I could understand better an article that wanted to deal with the tone and the repercussions a sign like that might generate.

But the  article wants to be theological.  It wants to imply that this congregation, this pastor, is a lesser form of Christianity.  Unfaithful, even.  Specifically because of their stance on guns.  I think it would be more interesting if the author cast a wider net, addressing some of the other pastoral statements that the author refers to with a not-very-veiled derogatory perspective.

But the attempt to focus simply on gun control falls flat, theologically and otherwise.  The author wants to talk about Jesus and speculate on how He might have dealt with the issue, personally.  Without referring or offering an interpretation of Luke 22:36 (perhaps understandably, it is a very confusing statement!).  But also without referencing parables and other sayings of Jesus that seem to at least tacitly acknowledge the understanding of self defense (Luke 11:14-21, for instance).  Further, the author disregards passages in Scripture (such as Exodus 22:2-3) that do deal specifically with the issue of reasonable self-defense.  Not gun control per se, but what many opponents to revising or eliminating the Second Amendment point to – the right to protect themselves.

I often hear opponents to the Second Amendment claim that you can’t be Christian and support the Second Amendment.  I don’t often hear opponents of gun control arguing that it is unChristian to argue for gun control. But I do hear them arguing – along with non-Christian opponents of gun control – that gun controls or banning gun ownership is not wise.

As the author notes, things were already scary.  I don’t see a division between Christians and non-Christians as to whether things are scary these days.  I don’t see a division between gun control advocates and Second Amendment supporters as to whether things are scary today or not.  I’m pretty positive that most people would admit that there are some seriously scary things going on in our culture.

What we disagree on is firstly what those things are, and secondly how to deal with them.  I’d rather see pastors and theologians talking about that, rather than trying to vet another person’s faith through a political or social filter.  In the long run, changing our approaches is going to be a blessing to everyone.

Easter Hit-Pieces

April 4, 2018

It’s that time of year again, when the smell of lily’s is in the air and a barrage of articles attacking the Christian faith or the Bible or the Church emerge just in time for Easter.  This is the one I was directed to this year.

I’ve had a lot of conversations recently with people about authority.  What is the authority in your life?  In mine, it’s the Bible.  Which means that to the best of my ability and despite my frequent failures, I acknowledge that what it has to say to me about my life trumps whatever ideas I might have about my life.  Whatever Scripture has to say about the world around me and my place and function in it gets priority over whatever the world says or whatever I come up with.  Every assertion, every idea has to run through the filter of Scripture first.

There are places where personal interpretation is necessary, of course.  And Christians have, of course, disagreed over a those areas over time.  But that’s different than discarding something the Bible says wholesale simply because you’d rather think about things or act on things or speak about things differently.

And that’s ultimately what’s at play here in the article.  It sounds sympathetic but it’s anything but.  This person who refuses to grant her fellow worshipers forgiveness, and would rather remove herself than have to deal with their obvious (by her definition) sinfulness.   A sinfulness she doesn’t apparently share and therefore can hold herself aloof and separate.  Despite Jesus’ rather pointed directive in Matthew 18:35, after an entire chapter devoted to radically reorienting our ideas about forgiveness.  I wonder if this author has read Matthew 18.

Perhaps not, as she admits that her issues with the Church have been long-standing.  And again, on issues that at least to some degree or spoken to be Scripture, and therefore need to be addressed in that light if you’re going to claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, the ostensible Lord of your life.  And how do you get to enlarge your idea of God beyond what God himself has told you?  How can you do so reliably?  On what basis?  I’d argue that the Church is indeed necessary, but in a culture of plenty where you find others willing to agree with you it’s easy to forego worship and the Church – along with (God-willing) the teaching and training and study that helps to inform your understanding of God’s Word and ultimately your lived out life of faith.  But then if you don’t really want to listen to what the Bible says, then I can see how going to Church would get a bit frustrating.

I find the third paragraph from the end to be very interesting.  First off, she quotes Emily Dickinson as a way of defending her idea about not going to Church (interestingly, she doesn’t quote Hebrews 10:24-25 on the topic).  While I’m not an expert on Dickinson, I’d argue that despite human tradition (which may or may not be on target), observing the Sabbath and gathering for corporate Christian worship are two different (though historically related) things.  Frankly, I’m  all for worshiping the Sabbath at home or in the woods.  But that means going to church on a different day, since God’s original statements about the Sabbath don’t mention anything about mandatory church attendance.  I can agree with Dickinson and still say the author is misguided in avoiding worship.

Secondly, is Church primarily intended to summon awe and gratitude?  Is that the function of Church?  Since when?  Is that what Acts 4:32-37 is describing?  I don’t think so.  Certainly I personally find the Tetons a better source of awe, and time spent with my family a better source of gratitude.  I don’t assume the Church is trying to compete with those.  It isn’t.  Rather, Church and worship is an opportunity to inform me about how to receive these gifts of God and interact with them responsibly and appreciate them faithfully.  It’s there to teach and act as a resource to my life of faith, a place where I am mentored in the faith as I mentor others.  A place that challenges the ideas I’ve come up with at work or in college or in grad school and demands that I place those up against the Word of God to ensure that I’m not being led astray with allegedly good intentions.  Church is necessary to teach me that the proper response to God’s creation is not only awe, but awe to  the God who created them and who has placed his Word and his Spirit and, very specifically, his Son into creation in order that I might learn and live both now and forever.

No mention in the article is made of what Easter is.  The idea that Jesus was willing to die for a bunch of people who vehemently disagreed with him and were willing to utilize hate and violence to try and silence him.  That He was willing to die so that they might be forgiven.  That He could even say as they raised his cross into place, Father forgive them for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).  No mention is made of what God has done for the author, or that the author is in very real need of the same forgiveness from God that all those people at Church she disagrees with are.  No mention is made of the possibility that repentance, not arrogance, is the center of the Christian life, and that as we realize our own sins and shortcomings (instead of obsessing over the sins and shortcomings of other people) that we are changed in the process into people who are certainly willing to stand for what is right, but who are (ideally) also full of humility and grace and the willingness to admit that they might be wrong, but that the one place where that can best be sorted out is in Christian community gathered first and foremost in and around and obedient to the Word of God.

Authority matters.  And what (or who) our authority is ultimately is lived out and demonstrated in our lives and our decisions and the way we are with those around us. I’m glad the author was going to be at Mass on Easter morning.  And I pray that what she heard there reminded her of her own need for forgiveness and humility, as well as her duty to engage her voice in wrestling with Scripture as well as the ideas of the world to see how they work together or not.  I pray that she’ll be back again this week as well.  And the week after.  Forever and ever Amen.

Stop Using Sex as a Weapon

October 13, 2017

Or at least we’re going to quit prosecuting people like it’s a weapon.  California has decided that knowingly infecting a sexual partner with AIDS without their knowledge or consent is no longer a felony.

This is interesting.  What if you could knowingly infect another person with cancer –  would that be considered a felony?  Why or why not?  Is it a matter of the deadliness of HIV now being perceived as reduced because of treatment options that extend people’s lifespans?  I’m pretty sure that a person who is knowingly infected with HIV is never going to be the same again, and will be dealing with the disease for the rest of their life.  And, more importantly perhaps, what does this say about how we feel about someone who would do something like this to another person?  Intentionally cause irreparable harm to someone else’s health, either to be malicious to the other person, or because of malicious selfishness and lack of consideration?

This strikes me as yet another attempt to convince people that sexually transmitted diseases aren’t the massively big deal that they are statistically shown to be.   That while women should expect to demand free birth control, the greatest risk of sex outside of marriage is not the possibility of getting pregnant but the very real risk of getting a disease that could profoundly affect your life.  All of which seems like a means of turning a blind eye to what I can only assume must be a pretty impressive chunk of the health care that everyone is demanding the government provide to them at discounted rates.

Aggravated assault is a felony, and is defined as an effort to cause serious harm to another person intentionally or recklessly, displaying a gross indifference to human life. Who benefits by treating this issue as a misdemeanor rather than a felony?  Certainly not the victims!  How does knowingly infecting someone else with a deadly disease without telling them not count as aggravated assault and therefore a felony?  Perhaps because HIV is still overwhelmingly a disease spread among and affecting gay and bisexual men?  Perhaps because those folks who are working to de-stigmatize and normalize these practices find it counter-productive to have potential aspects of these lifestyles labeled felonious?

It’s dangerous to have a legal double-standard in place for hurting someone else intentionally, regardless of what your weapon of choice is.

 

 

 

If You Give a Moose a Muffin…

September 22, 2017

I couldn’t help but be reminded of this children’s book while after reading this blog post.  Apparently a news reporter interviewed a Nazi who was publicly assaulted, and the writer of the blog post was angry that they did so because it could make Nazism sympathetic and end up leading others to follow that ideology.  The alternative, the author insists, is that you never give a Nazi a platform.  Never allow their message to go out.

At first it makes sense.  I don’t like Nazism.  As a student of history I’m well acquainted with the evils perpetrated by that ideology.  I don’t want there to be more Nazis.

But the more I thought about it, I realized why this approach didn’t sit well with me.  It presumes that the hearers/viewers are helpless, passive, and incapable of understanding either the context of the interview or the ideology that the Nazi might espouse.  It presumes that viewers/hearers need to be protected less they fall under the sway of this virulent ideology.  It reminds of the way some conservative Christians choose to raise their children – by trying to shelter them from the junk in the world and never expose them to anything that hasn’t been thoroughly sanitized.

In both cases the result is the same.  By failing to prepare people for the ideologies they will encounter in our increasingly hyper-connected world, we make possible our worst fears.  The way to protect people against whatever charm Nazi ideology might utilize is to teach them about Nazism.  Teach them about history.  Teach them about the Holocaust.  At the same time teach them about democracy, and in particular teach them about the beauty and value of free speech.  Then, if they view or hear a Nazi who was the victim of a crime talking about their ideology, they will be able to distinguish the value of free speech and protection from assault from Nazism.  They’ll be able to say I disagree completely with what this person espouses, but at the same time they deserve protection under the law and the right to speak, because that is the democracy we live under.

Which is different from the censorship that the Nazis used to control what people thought, and which mirrors, ironically enough, what the blog author espouses.  In a democracy people should be educated so that they can make good decisions.  Not everyone can or will.  But it is better to risk that some should not make good decisions, than to deny everyone the freedom to make a decision.  An educated nation will be able to reject ideas and principles that are incorrect.  Maybe not immediately, but eventually.  Hopefully.  But that requires education.  It also happens to require a strong moral common ground, something that has been decimated by many folks who also argue that some groups shouldn’t be allowed to speak freely or aren’t entitled to the same rights that they themselves are.

Reject Nazism.  But don’t destroy democracy in the process.  Nobody is better off with an insulated, poorly educated population who relies on censorship to keep away things that they would prefer not to deal with.  Nobody is better off under such circumstances.  Other than those who happen to be championing them and insisting that their ideology is the one that should be implemented.

Law and Order

September 7, 2017

I was 17 quite a few years ago.  It was a different world then, to speak without too much exaggeration.  Whether it was a simpler time or not, it was simply another time.

At the age of 17 and being somewhat of a social outcast it was decided one cool evening to take our squirt guns to the airport for a game of squirt gun tag.  The very writing of those words elicits fears of bloodbaths these days, but it was many years ago.  Most of my friends were running around with large neon plastic squirt guns.  But my buddy Mike and I, we were different.  We were better.  Who wants to run around with a child’s squirt gun when we could opt for higher quality, very realistic squirt guns?  Not us, that’s for sure.  So we took our $5 squirt guns – in the days before those orange tips they put on all squirt guns or air guns or other non-lethal, gun-like objects – that looked like very real semi-automatic handguns and headed for the airport.  Being the 80’s, we naturally were wearing our jeans jackets.

We wandered the airport for some time, successfully avoiding our friends but at the same time getting rather bored with our prowess.  Towards the end of the evening Mike found a way up to the second level of Sky Harbor Airport.  From there we surveyed the concourse below, which wasn’t too terribly busy at 9:00 PM at night.  Realizing even in those halcyon days that running around with a realistic looking squirt gun might get us into a bit of trouble, I had dutifully kept mine in the inside chest pocket of my genuine Levi’s jeans jacket.  I had to repeatedly remind my buddy to keep his out of sight, and he routinely ignored me.

So it was that as we stood looking down on the assembly below, Mike had out his squirt gun.  And so it was that we were seen by two active duty police officers walking underneath.  I will always remember the moment that they glanced up at us, and the one guy slapped his buddy in the chest with the back of his hand, and they both started running.  Fortunately for me, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize they were running for us.  Being young and dumb, we decided to make a getaway.  Mike ran to the elevators but I yelled for him to follow me to the stairwell.  The police were obviously going to be coming up the elevators.

We ran up a couple of flights of stairs, emerging into a clear Phoenix night on the top of a four-story parking garage.  There were no police in sight.  Recognizing that my car was parked a long way away, on the top of an adjoining parking garage, we ducked around a small service shed, panting and panicked.  We waited for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only a minute or two.  Still no sign of police.  Maybe we had lost them.  We decided to make a run for it.

We probably only got 20 yards or so when I heard the first *ding* of an elevator, and knew that a police officer was about to emerge behind us.  Sure enough we were assaulted with shouts of “Freeze, police!” or some such language.  Because it was the 80’s and police were not the enemy in our lives, we stopped.  We were ordered to lie down on our faces on the pavement.  Mike tossed his gun to the side of him.  The officer was slowly advancing on us, gun drawn and pointed at us.

His partner emerged a minute or two later, gun also drawn and pointed at us as the first officer reached us.  He kneeled on Mike’s back as he patted him down, gun still drawn.  He kicked Mike’s gun further out of reach, and at this point I decided I would be helpful.  I said something to the effect of “Officer, my gun is in my pocket,” and started to reach towards my jacket to get it for him.

This was not a good idea.

He swung around and pointed his gun at my head, perhaps a foot away.  He let fly a stream of obscenities and made it clear in no uncertain terms that I should make no further movements if I wished to keep my head attached to my body.  His partner arrived to hold Mike down in place while the first officer quickly located my gun and tossed it aside.  I presume that at this point they realized they were dealing with two morons rather than hardened criminals.  We were allowed to stand as they kicked the guns around and laughed between themselves about it.  They ran our IDs and realized we were just dumb kids.  They made us promise we would never, ever come to the airport ever again.   And they let us go.

It was shortly before Pope John Paul II paid a visit to Phoenix, and security was extra high.  They told us, perhaps more to scare us than anything, that had we failed to stop, or had we turned to face him instead of stopping with our backs to him, he would have “blown us off the top of the parking garage.”  I saw no reason to doubt him.  I was just relieved to be allowed to leave without being arrested.

I’d like to say that I was wise beyond my years and could calmly evaluate things in the heat of the moment.  I wasn’t.  I’m still not.  I was lucky, at best.  As lucky as an idiot who takes a gun replica to an international airport could be.  Or, more accurately, as lucky as someone who takes a dorky friend who can’t keep his gun out of sight can be.  Regardless, my instinct in that moment of adrenaline was to do what I was told.

Some will say that’s a sign of weakness.  It might have saved my life.  If the worst had happened, I would have been arrested and my parents would have had to deal with me – which was far more terrifying than dealing with the police.  Did the police manhandle us?  Not overly.  Not given the situation, and the fact that they might have been a little worked up as well.  They were pursuing two possibly armed young men.  Who might have others around them for backup.  I don’t blame the police for being careful or riled up.

So I’ve watched with a fascinated curiosity as two events dominate the news over the past week.  First the nurse in Utah who was handcuffed for refusing to allow a police officer to draw blood from an unconscious patient.  I watched the video and she freaked out, screaming and protesting and struggling.  I empathize with her shock and surprise.  The police officer clearly seems to be acting improperly.  But her reaction strikes me also as improper and excessive.  She’s told him what the law is.  He’s insisting on doing what he wants.  Something is going to get sorted out at some point, for certain, but in the meantime, resisting arrest even if you’re convinced you have the legal grounds to do so is terribly unwise.  She could have been hurt.  Someone else could have been hurt.  The whole thing was being filmed and had multiple witnesses.  It would have been – and was – sorted out pretty quickly.  She’s been trained to handle stressful situations, and I find it surprising that she reacted the way she did.

The second incident is football player Michael Bennett complaining about the treatment he received from Las Vegas police.  He claims the police singled him out for detainment, that they were rough with him and pointed a gun at him in the process.  The closest I can make out is that he was part of a group of people running from what was believed to be gunshots when the police arrived on the scene.  Some reports indicate that he acted in a way that led police to believe that he might be involved in the shooting or at least have something to hide.

Michael Bennett is black, and he views his treatment as a racist act worth possibly suing over.  Michael Bennett is also massive.  6’4″ and closing in on 300 pounds.  He’s a defensive end for Seattle and an impressively sized human being.  How many other people surrounding Bennett were 6’4″ and 274 pounds or more?  Probably not very many.  If police were trying to contain a situation where they didn’t know what was going on, there could be worse courses of action than making sure that this very large man was not going to pose them any problems.  I’ve not heard whether there were any white team-mates or other athletes of similar stature near Bennett at the time, and if they were treated any differently or better if they were.  There doesn’t appear to be indication that Bennett resisted in any way, which is wise, given the situation.  He claims he was singled out for this treatment, but what does that mean?

In both cases, the worst thing that could have happened was that these people would be arrested and taken to jail.  Absolute worst case, they would have stayed there a few hours until somebody found out what had happened and came to bail them out or get the charges dropped.   Absolute, worst case ever, they would have had their day in court to explain why their treatment was improper.  Resisting arrest or running from officers for whatever reason is not the smart course of action and could have resulted in much worse consequences.

Are there bad police officers out there?  Undoubtedly.  There are bad pastors out there.  Bad organic farmers.  Bad yoga instructors.  People are the issue, not the vocation.  The vocation, however, does increase the possibility of things going wrong in a very, very bad way.  Which is even greater reason to make sure that rather than fight the police officer, you do what you’re told.  The fact that you’re innocent means nothing in the moment.  The police don’t know that.  Their job is to try and ascertain the situation and make sure that people are safe.  All people.  Including themselves.  Innocence will get sorted out in due time, but you don’t help yourself by fighting against it like the nurse did.

And rather than assume it’s simply your skin color rather than your size that is the issue, remember that the police might have been just as frightened and wary as Bennett was.  If a man that big found it reasonable to run from a potential threat, imagine how cautious the police are going to be.  While there are bad police officers out there, there are also many, many, many good ones.  And those good ones get ambushed and killed just as well as the bad ones.

This is America, not some third world country.  Overwhelmingly I believe – based on the preponderance of evidence – that police are here to protect and serve and we should work with them towards those ends.  Things are not perfect here but in general I believe that people of all races and ethnicities that cooperate with the police are going to find their treatment far better than those who resist, regardless of how firmly they believe they are in the right.  People make mistakes – including police.  Staying calm goes a long way towards working things out on both sides of the badge.  Do what you’re told, even if you don’t think it’s fair.  There’s a lot riding on your actions and responses, just as there’s a lot riding on the actions and responses of the police.  Surely cooperating toward the mutual goal of resolving a situation peacefully and accurately is the most important thing?

Vocationally Challenged

September 6, 2017

Talking with your kids and grandkids about what they want to be when they grow up is a cherished, necessary and important task of family.  These days, however, make sure that you’re providing them with some good perspective on what vocations are going to be challenging for them in the future.   The cultural landscape is shifting rapidly, and if you hope that your family member will remain firmly rooted in Christ, yet still be able to avail themselves of the career options that were once so open in our country, I have bad news for you.  At the very least, it’s sobering news that needs practical application.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein today criticized a nominee for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals because of her Catholic faith, something which Senator Feinstein basically stated was a stumbling block for conflicting with the ideologies of others.

Senator Feinstein criticized and questioned Amy Coney Barrett because of religious writings and lectures she produced as a Law Professor at Notre Dame.  Feinstein specifically questioned and challenged Barrett’s actual adherence to and defense of Roman Catholic theology that Feinstein correctly assesses to be at direct odds with the prevailing spirit of the day.

“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.” (And let’s ignore that large numbers of people have fought against some of these big issues.)

In other words, any dogma that challenges the status quo dogma is dangerous.  And to protect against any such outside dogmas, we’re going to pretend that dogma is not permissible to a judge.  Unless of course the dogma is in complete agreement with the spirit of the day.  So if you are against abortion on theological grounds, you shouldn’t be a judge because judges are supposed to support abortion because it’s been legal for almost 50 years.  Since we can’t legally – yet – prevent someone who disagrees with abortion from being a judge, we’re going to pretend that anyone with a strongly held belief is ipso ex facto inacceptable as a nominee.  Unless, of course, they happen to agree with abortion, in which case we’re totally fine with that because it’s not really a dogma.

So if your little darling wants to go into law, and hopes to one day be a judge, and may aspire to be an important judge, they may have to decide whether they would rather be an important judge or an actual follower of Jesus Christ.  Because if they’re going to practice what is preached to them, they might not be allowed to progress up the vocational ladder of judge-ness.

Isolated and unique situation, you say?

  • What about pharmacists?
  • What about if you believe that sexuality and gender confusion can be clarified and resolved through therapy?
  • What if you want to be a teacher?
  • How about a doctor?  Are you going to prescribe your patient enough medication so they can kill themselves if they choose to?  Doctor-“assisted”-suicide is legal in several states today.

The reality is that in more and more fields, being a committed Christian is being defined as a career liability.  And parents and grandparents and other key people need to be aware of this to help young people make sense of the rapidly shifting career landscape.  Especially before you take out $100,000 of student loan debt to achieve your goal, only to find you aren’t employable.

 

 

 

 

Select Who to Protect?

August 28, 2017

In case you missed it, that shining star of intellectual prowess and liberty, Berkeley, just had another stellar moment yesterday.  You might remember back in February when demonstrators against conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos ended up causing $100,000 in damage to the UC Berkeley campus and causing him to cancel his talk.  Yesterday, Berkeley police opted not to prevent armed alt-left antifa protesters from entering a park and assaulting at least five conservative protesters.

How should a city deal with perpetrators of violence – regardless of their ideological creed?  Apparently Berkeley’s mayor thinks the best way is to capitulate and hope they’ll play nicer.  Berkeley’s mayor requested UC Berkeley to cancel future planned speaking engagements by Yiannopoulos and other conservatives.  Fortunately, at least so far, the university has refused.

And rightly so.

It shouldn’t take a genius to recognize that you don’t end violence by giving violent protesters what they demand.  Our nation has enjoyed a long history of mostly peaceful demonstrations for various causes and ideologies.  Some of them are or were appealing and beneficial.  Others not so much.  But the important hallmark of America’s freedom of speech and freedom of assembly is that, so long as they are peaceful, they are allowed.  That such a tradition, and such liberties, should be usurped by any group using violence and intimidation ought to be repugnant to every American, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum.

Frighteningly, though, it doesn’t seem to be repugnant to everyone.  While President Trump was excoriated for his perceived inadequate response to neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville, there has been far less call for such repudiation of the antifa movement by Democratic leadership, and far less criticism of them for failing to do so.

This is how freedom dies.  By police deciding not to enforce the law.  To wait until after the violence to make arrests rather than standing strong and calling for backup.  Were the police worried they would be overrun by masked street thugs?  Better that the police be overrun, that they call for backup, that they show these cowardly extremists for who and what they are, than allow citizens to be brutalized and the event to be passed off as a conflict between liberal and conservative ideologies.

It’s scary enough to realize that politicians and media are so painfully biased.  But it hits closer to home to think that the police might demonstrate such a bias as well.  That they might choose not to protect you and your family.  This is how freedom dies.  I hope that others will join in criticizing the decision by the Berkeley police to stand down and allow unarmed citizens to be attacked, rather than fulfilling their sworn duty to serve and protect.  Such an ideological decision is a black eye on law enforcement, one that I hope law enforcement leaders around the country will denounce.

 

Facts & Feelings

August 8, 2017

On the continuing saga of the fired Google exec who dared challenge prevailing opinions about gender and workplace policy and culture (which I mentioned already here and here), here is input from four apparently well-qualified academics.  Their conclusion is that the author of the memo lined up pretty well with actual research into the differences between men and women.

Unfortunately, that research and his conclusions from it are not very popular these days.

He’s already out of a job, so being right is of questionable consolation in this day and age when truth is determined too often by who screams the loudest and uses the most pejorative language.  His situation perfectly proves the very point he was trying to make.   Google couldn’t have proved and endorsed his critique any better than by firing him.

We struggle as a culture to come up with a framework for male/female interactions (as well as gender, sexuality, etc.).  Whatever is proposed inevitably ends up being offensive to someone and therefore is untenable.  But whether something is offensive or not is separate from whether it is true.  In the drive for equality, feminism and now pop culture at large has settled on the idea that in order to be equal, men and women have to be the same.  Physically, emotionally, intellectually – you name it.  Practically interchangeable.

The only problem with this is that it’s not true.  We know it anecdotally in our relationships, and those informal observations are backed up by an impressive amount of research.  Worse still, it is patently offensive to both men and women to insist that they are virtually identical except for some hormonal and physiological differences – both of which modern medicine and psychiatry are happy to tweak with until you think you’re happy.

I find it interesting that it is common to describe human beings as animals, emphasizing our similarity at a genetic level to the animal kingdom, we are far less interested in seeking comparisons on social issues.  It isn’t helpful to note, for instance, that in many animal species there are very clear roles for each gender, and that those roles differ, but both are important and necessary.  Perhaps such comparisons aren’t often drawn because it is an inconvenient truth, a truth we like to think we have moved beyond.

We are convinced that now that we understand (or think we understand) genetics and DNA and natural selection we have somehow surpassed these things and are in the position of redefining reality and truth to suit our purposes.  We are convinced that our alleged knowledge has made us masters of the things we think we know.  However if DNA and genetics and natural selection are the things we think they are, it seems rather unlikely to me that we have somehow gotten the drop on hundreds of thousands of years of natural selection.  As though we have reached a place where our genes no longer dictate to us, but rather we are free to dictate to our genes through genetic modification.

For now, and for all of time leading up to this moment, men and women have been different, and this has been the source – unfortunately – of inequality.  I have no idea how things will be going forward, now that we are editing and tinkering with DNA and our own genetic code, making changes that can be propagated to future generations.  C.S. Lewis warned about this stage of things in his very prescient book The Abolition of Man.  Unsatisfied with merely being able to rewrite history, we are now permanently rewriting our future as a species.  While some are optimistic about this, I am not.  Our rewriting of history has so often been disastrous that I can’t imagine our success in rewriting the future.

Perhaps it will be a future where the Google engineer is wrong and his detractors are right.  But that’s not the case here and now, and it would seem wise and desirable by all sides to recognize this and take this into account rather than simply pretending it isn’t true.

 

Eat & Run

July 21, 2017

I thought this was an interesting article about how recipients of food stamps tend to run out of money for food within a week or two, meaning that for at least half the month, they don’t have any of these funds to purchase food with.  The article purports to explore how and why this is, and emphasizes that because funds are dispersed in a single installment, people have trouble budgeting properly and therefore spend too much immediately and run out of funds.

What it doesn’t explore is what people are buying with this assistance.

For three years, as part of a Christian communal living experiment, my family lived in one of the poorest neighborhoods in St. Louis.  My observations are anecdotal rather than deliberate, but have stuck with me all the same.  What we saw the neighborhood children eating constantly was junk food.  Sodas, hot fries, Cheetos.  Constantly.  We never saw them with fresh fruit or vegetables or any other sort of food (unless we shared ours with them).  We know that these children lived in households that depended on food stamps – the vast majority of our neighborhood did.

Certainly the issue of telling people how to spend their assistance is a tricky one at best, but if the issue of running out of money is due not just to budgeting problems but also spending that assistance on low-nutrition snack food instead of food that can actually improve your health and last more than a few minutes, then doesn’t our government (who created and funds the food stamp program using taxpayer dollars) have a duty to at least help people know how to spend their assistance wisely?

When I looked into our state’s web site for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program I didn’t see any information about good ways to spend the assistance wisely.  Perhaps that information is provided in another format beyond the web site, but perhaps it’s not being provided at all.

I’m sure that there is money used to lobby against any type of restriction on how food assistance is spent (beyond current limitations on alcohol, cigarettes, etc.).  I’m sure that companies that manufacture potato chips and soda would take issue with having their products declared off-limits for food stamp monies.  But if the issue is actually how to help people and make sure they’re getting the food they need, does it make sense to ignore the issue completely?