Archive for the ‘Citizenship’ Category

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.

 

 

 

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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?

The Cost/Benefit of Faith and Risk

June 7, 2017

My family chooses to participate in Samaritan Ministries, a medical cost-sharing network.  We have been a part of it for almost four years now.  In that time we’ve had one claim, when our oldest son passed out and broke his front tooth on pool decking.  We paid close to $4000 for the associated care for that injury, and when we submitted our claim to Samaritan, we were reimbursed in full for our expenses (minus a $300 deductible) by the members of the program.  Otherwise, we faithfully send off our share to the designated person/family/need each month, along with a card and prayer.  It has been a great experience for us, but whenever you do something out of the norm, I think there’s a persistent level of uncertainty.  Are we making the right decision?  What if we’ve made a monumental mistake that will cost our family dearly?

All of which is a form of fear and anxiety.  It isn’t that anything is wrong right now, but something might go wrong, something that we won’t be able to handle, something that our choice of Samaritan as opposed to a conventional health insurance provider will prove to be disastrous in.  It’s always a possibility.  It’s a possibility even with a conventional health insurance provider.  But at least in going that route, you have the comfort of knowing that most other people have made the same choice as you, and falling into the logical fallacy of bandwagon thinking – assuming that something must be right/best just because a lot of other people do it as well.

Thus I was interested in this article commenting on Christian health care sharing ministries in general, with a lot of attention focused specifically on Samaritan Ministries. It is a critical article. Clearly the author is uncertain about the merit of such systems, despite the fact that most members of these systems report great satisfaction with them.  To support the critical perspective, the author focuses on a family who is not satisfied, and evaluates their treatment under Samaritan.

Ultimately what the article does is remind everyone to read the fine print and to make sure that they are getting coverage that matches their needs as well as their beliefs.   We were motivated primarily by a desire to not support abortion and abortion-inducing prescriptions through active participation in a traditional health insurance plan compliant with the mandates of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  Doing so may put us at risk for certain things not being covered that would under a traditional health insurance plan.  However, based on our beliefs, our behaviors, and our general level of healthiness as a family, we believe that the risk is one we can shoulder.

It’s also an article that encourages constant evaluation and reconsideration of policies, particularly policies that attempt to embody Biblical beliefs and teachings.  Ultimately this is going to be subject to interpretation and not everyone may agree on the best way to interpret and apply Biblical mandates or principles in an organization.  Which means there should be a healthy and continuous dialogue.  I hope Samaritan will take that to heart.  All their members have a lot riding on it.

Meanwhile, in Michigan…

June 6, 2017

Just the latest instance in a rising tide of discriminatory moves aimed at silencing, shaming, and economically targeting people who have the nerve to actually act on their beliefs.  Or more specifically, people who act on beliefs that are contrary to the petulant demands of a tiny minority steamrolling cultural changes.  Or more specifically, Christians.  This time, a farmer is being banned from participating in a farmer’s market.

But, hey.  Tolerance is awesome, isn’t it?  Freedom of speech?  Freedom of religion?  Yeah.  If you have kids or grandkids, I hope you’re having conversations with them about how they choose their careers because if they intend to live as Biblical Christians, their range of options is going to grow narrower in the coming years.  I mean, a lot narrower.   I mean, incredibly narrower.  This is for real.  It’s happening now.  It will only become more and more institutionalized in a self-perpetuating cycle of compliance.  Ignoring this reality is going to be very, very costly for a lot of families and individuals.

Then again, that’s the point.  To make Biblical belief and practice unattractive and cost prohibitive.

Askewed Perspective

June 2, 2017

The news this week is hopelessly cluttered with rival articles about our withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and the role of the Russians in the 2016 election.  Frankly, I’m tired of hearing about both of them.  I’d just like to point out two things.

Firstly, withdrawal of participation from the Paris Climate Agreement – participation that was never ratified by Congress as is required to make such participation legal, according to our Constitution – does not necessarily mean a rejection of reducing greenhouse gasses and other environmentally harmful emissions.  The assumption is that if we are not part of the Climate Agreement then we are not going to do anything to try and be more environmentally conscious.  That’s a rather major assumption.  The issue should not be so much whether we are or are not part of an international, non-binding commitment to being wiser about our environmental impact, but rather what are our actual intentions as a nation, as communities, and as individuals in this regard?  As usual, the hyper-focus of attention on the actions of a political leader (whether you like him or not) is an easy substitute for the question of how am I going to live my life and make choices that I believe are healthy for me and the world around me?

That’s a harder question, which is perhaps why so many people prefer to focus on somebody else.

Secondly, I find the outrage over Russian tampering hilarious.  First of all, what does tampering mean?  So far, what I understand it to mean is that the Russians might have helped hack and disclose unflattering information about one or more of the candidates for President.  Once again, this diverts the question from the information itself to how it was disclosed.  Does the potential for tampering matter?  Of course, but I find it ironic considering that we have made little effort to hide our tampering in the world around us (or at least some of our tampering).

The United States hasn’t simply made information available to foreign populations.  We’ve run guns to support rebels against leaders we didn’t like.  Or to support leaders we liked against rebels we didn’t.  We’ve actively assisted in trying to topple or sustain foreign governments.  We have attempted to assassinate political leaders we viewed as dangerous.  We actively engage in espionage around the world against both allies and enemies, perceived or otherwise.  Yet we express righteous indignation and outrage when someone potentially has attempted to influence the political landscape here at home?

The narrative we are taught is that we do these things on the behalf of good, or democracy, or freedom, but when others do it they are doing it for opposite reasons and motivations.  In other words, we are justified in doing these things, and not only justified, it is practically our moral obligation to do them.  But anyone who might try something against us is definitionally wrong.

Do the Russians think they were morally obligated to intervene in our elections?  Perhaps some of them do.  Might we consider such attitudes dangerous or erroneous?  Very likely.  Which ought to lead us to be suspect of our own motives at times.

Some will undoubtedly call me jaded, but frankly, I presume that every government that can is engaged in espionage and manipulation of other countries for its own interests on a regular basis.  Russia is not unique in this, and neither is the United States.  I presume that this has been going on basically since the beginning of human civilization.  We act to preserve our own best interests.  Cain understood this in Genesis 4 when God sentenced him to be a wanderer.  Cain knew that others would act to protect themselves from a perceived threat and so God blessed Cain with some sort of mark that would prevent others from trying to kill him.  Without a community of his own to offer protection, Cain would be vulnerable.

The instinct to protect and preserve by a variety of means both obvious and subtle is part of our sinful, fallen nature.  We should be on guard against how others might seek to subvert or dominate us for their own ends, but we should hardly be surprised at it.  Particularly when we take great pride in our own similar efforts with other peoples and communities.  We will struggle against – and participate in – these kinds of behaviors to various degrees until sin has finally been removed as an issue in our lives, something the Bible teaches me won’t happen until the Son of God returns.  That doesn’t mean I sit passively by until then.  But it also means that I should be critical and evaluative of my own motivations as well as the motivations of others.

Which in turn means that I should spend less time screaming at those who disagree with me on these or other issues.  I will stand up for what I believe, but I pray for the strength and wisdom and integrity not to stoop to the level of those who mistakenly think that their cause justifies their abuse, mistreatment and maligning of anyone who disagrees with them.