Archive for the ‘news’ Category

Cause Celebré

July 31, 2017

My Facebook feed has been littered with people gloating over the recent conviction of former celebrity sheriff Joe Arpaio.  Of course, many of these people seem also to be of the mindset that thinks it totally appropriate to flaunt the Law of the Land when it suits their philosophical and social agendas.  Cities refusing to enforce Federal immigration laws?  Hey, no problem there!

It’s hard to be excited about one person being convicted for fighting against what he thought was an unjust law when others are explicitly encouraged to do the exact same thing, just in a different ideological direction.

Mercy Killing?

June 30, 2017

The Western world grapples with the fear of suffering.  Not simply our own, actual suffering, but the suffering of others and our own hypothetical suffering.  The idea of having to suffer offends our sensibilities.  There is no purpose to it.  And so we demand that we have the option to opt-out of suffering and along with that we demand the right to opt other people out of their suffering so that we don’t have to suffer along with them.

We term this mercy.

Here is what mercy now can look like.  Parents of a child born with congenital health issues for which there is no cure or treatment are being told that the government has decided to end their child’s life – in the best interest of the child.  Despite the fact that the parents do not want their child to die.  Despite the fact that there is experimental treatment available out of the country that could change the conditions for which the child is being sentenced to death.  Not only this, but now that their appeals for out-of-country treatment have been denied, the parents are also being denied the right to have their own child die in their own home, rather than in a hospital.

I’m still trying to see where the mercy is involved in all of this.  Perhaps because I don’t suspect that mercy is really what is being demonstrated.  Efficiency.  Expediency.  A rigorous attention to detail, the rule of law.  Bureaucratic policy.  But not mercy.

This is happening in Great Britain.  The country, as one observer notes, that fought against the Nazi’s and their insistence that some lives (other people, more specifically) were not worth living and therefore the government could decide to end those lives.  This is where we end up without a moral compass or baseline, without anything that limits our ability or tendency to define and redefine even such beautiful words as mercy until they mean the very opposite of why we find them beautiful.

This redefinition is evil.  It is evil because it reduces humanity to a matter of expediency and personal preferences, carefully sanitized in legalese and policy-speak.  It is evil because it holds the dictates of a human being or institution as ultimate and final, without recognizing that such beings and institutions are inherently unable to provide a single, permanent baseline from which to operate.  So the decisions made today may be completely opposite the decisions that would have been made 50 years ago, or the decisions that might be made 50 years hence.

We (Christians) are being inculcated to sympathy with this evil.  I find the seeds of it even in myself, despite being older and less prone to direct means of subversion and brain-washing (like schools).  We are being wooed towards sympathy because of our own fears and hopes and wishes.

Yesterday I visited one of our long-time members who is homebound.  She has been homebound for the past seven years, by and large.  Over those years I have brought her Communion and led us in simple worship together.  She is an amazing woman.  Her mind is sharp, her will is formidable, she is articulate, cultured, and refined, and she has a zest for life that would be admirable in a person a quarter her age.

When I saw her two weeks ago she was having a good day.  We shared Communion and prayer.  I could see much of her through her condition.  When I went yesterday, however, it was a bad day, and I could see so very, very little of the woman she is.  She was fearful, her words slurred and at times indecipherable.  Her fear was palpable and audible, her weakness striking.  She didn’t know who I was, or who the woman caring for her was, or where she was.  She begged to go home while sitting in her own living room of 50 years.

I left asking God why He didn’t take her yet.  She has been ready to go for years.  Her faith is strong, but her mind and body have been subverted and twisted by time.  What point is there in having her linger, I wondered.  I even flirted with the thought that perhaps God was being unkind to her in this.  She deserves to die.  It would be a blessing to her.  It would be merciful.

Merciful to whom, I suddenly thought.  Perhaps it would be merciful to me, so that I didn’t need to keep going to see her.  Merciful to me so that I wasn’t made uncomfortable by her condition and deterioration, fearful that I might one day be in her place.  Merciful to me in that I wouldn’t have to accommodate myself to her limitations, and that I could leave feeling happy and care-free, to go about my daily routine and duties, rather than struggling with mortality and the damnable reality of sin and death that lurks within my own frame.

She is still herself.  She isn’t less herself, or less of a human being, than she was two years ago or twenty years ago or eighty years ago.  She is entitled to all the same love and care and concern.  Is it harder to be with her?  Yes.  Which is perhaps why it is all the more important to be with her.  To come to grips with the effects of sin in our lives.  To seek to love her consistently and care for her consistently, rather than simply deciding that at some arbitrary point or in some arbitrary state of mind or body, she is no longer herself, no longer deserving of the life that God himself has given and sustained her in.  Perhaps part of the blessing of suffering is that we learn to see past and through these things, both in ourselves and others.

She is not defined by her dementia.  She is not defined by her physical frailty.  She is not defined by her suffering, and neither she nor I have the right to redefine her as such and cease to see her for what she is.  Beautiful.  Alive by the grace and wisdom of God.  And therefore an opportunity to love and practice mercy with in the truest and best sense of that word, rather than the senseless way our culture wants to redefine it.  Perhaps as I continue to care for her in this way, it will better prepare me to care for others in similar conditions, and will further prepare me – inasmuch as may be possible – for me to endure that condition should it become my own one day.

Mercy, like hope, isn’t necessarily expedient.   But we are in a dangerous place without either.

 

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.

Three in a Row

May 31, 2017

Scanning the news this morning I came across three interesting articles.

The first is a not-so-veiled criticism of President Trump’s ban on certain electronic devices in airline cabins – meaning passengers have to put these items in their checked luggage instead.  As I reflected on this  article, it strikes me as one of the dumbest articles I’ve recently read.

The article ignores the fact that lithium ion batteries are “inherently volatile” beyond wanting to criticize a policy decision.  If they’re that dangerous, why are they allowed on flights at all?  Why are we using them in electronic devices that we carry with us everywhere if they are essentially the equivalent of little time bombs?  Wouldn’t the article be better aimed at critiquing why such a volatile substance is accepted beyond the parameters of certain airline flights from certain countries?

The second article is a great discussion of what may appear to be  rather arcane Supreme Court ruling that actually has a great deal of actual and potential impact for consumers everywhere.  I’ve long been distrustful of the growing trend of virtualizing ownership.  Seen most clearly in computer operating systems and software, it’s the idea that you don’t really own a product, per se.  Rather, you are paying for the right to access something that still belongs to someone else and who has ultimate say over what you do or don’t do with what you’re accessing.  Physical and intellectual property issues are critical not just for their economic implications but in terms of privacy and consumer rights.  Definitely worth a read through!

The final article describes the renaming of a NASA project to send a probe closer to the sun than ever before.  Instead of calling it the Solar Probe Plus (which is admittedly a lousy name!), it is being renamed the Parker Solar Probe in honor of a scientist.  But the article immediately reminded me of one of my favorite author’s short stories – The Golden Apples of the Sun.  It’s the name of both one of his short stories – about a manned trip to the sun to actually scoop up and bring back to earth some of the sun’s essence – as well as the anthology that includes the story.  Since Bradbury’s story pre-dates Eugene Parker’s solar scientific contributions, I think it’s at least worth considering.  Plus, The Golden Apples of the Sun is a far more beautiful name for a solar probe!

Fake News

January 12, 2017

A couple of years ago I posted a link to an article about a supposed discovery of a first-century eyewitness to one of Jesus’ miracles.  At the time I did some due diligence, checking on the alleged first-century source and determining that he was indeed an actual historian.

But today I stumbled on this blog indicating that the story I originally linked to is false.  However the author doesn’t explain why they reached this conclusion.  The only evidence is that the site contains other articles with questionable topics or titles.  But that’s hardly in and of itself enough to discredit a source.  And certainly, the photo in the original article is not a Greek document, but there could be human-error reasons why the wrong photo was linked to the article.

So I dug a bit further and found this article at Snopes.com.  Interestingly enough, Snopes’ main reason to disbelieve the article is the nature of the other article titles on the web site.  They only mention secondarily what I find to be the smoking gun in terms of the original story being false.  Buried in the About Us section, in the Disclaimer subsection, is a sentence that immediately discredits everything hosted at the site.

All characters appearing in the articles in this website – even those based on real people –  are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any persons, living, dead, or undead is purely a miracle.

In other words the story was completely fabricated, even though it involved a real person.  A great example of fake news.  Perhaps a more esoteric form of it than most people think of in today’s discussions of the topic.  But it reinforces the importance of verifying sources, of not simply assuming that because Great-Uncle Hubert posted the link on Facebook, it must be true.

But this highlights the greater issue.  Not all news sites will have a disclaimer like the above one does.  And if people are only just now realizing that the media has biases, then we should begin to worry that fake news may not just come from a disreputable source, but could also be pushed by a reputable source.  Someplace without fantastical headlines in other areas to tip us off that we might be getting fooled.  And given the impressive abilities of technology these days, it’s getting harder and harder for anyone to avoid being roped in or fooled at some point or another.

Be careful what you assume is true.  Look for multiple sources.  Watch to see who else picks up on the story and runs with it.  Or who doesn’t.  Don’t believe something just because it’s something that you want to believe.  The Truth is out there – but we have to be careful that we don’t mistake it for something false, and that we don’t give up searching for it just because of all the false stuff out there.

Meanwhile, in America

January 7, 2017

In yet another wonderful display of a complete lack of responsibility, two women who were kicked off a flight are now indignantly blaming the airline for the fact that they missed seeing their father before he died.

So you ignore crew member instructions and try to get up and move around a plane as it attempts to take off, and yet the airline is somehow to blame?  The plane was apparently already moving towards take off.  Why was this woman receiving texts when she’s supposed to have her phone turned off?  Why did she feel the need to immediately inform her sister of the situation, despite the fact that she probably knows her sister is prone to panic attacks?

I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic – it’s truly an unfortunate thing.  But personal grief doesn’t get to trump the rights of a plane full of people.  To blame the airline as though they did something wrong when they were simply following safety laws, seems like the height of arrogance and short-sightedness.  If someone else had been disobeying crew instructions for some other reason, who would these women have blamed – the airline for turning around to deal with the situation, or the person causing the problem?

Other passengers sided with the two women against the airline, but I still hardly can see why this matters.  The crew was acting in a way to protect the safety of everyone.  Aren’t we all pretty hyper-sensitive to odd behavior on airplanes?  I know it’s an emotional situation, but the airline was actually doing what it was supposed to do in order to get these women to their dying father – and they weren’t cooperating!

I’m sure this will end up in some sort of public apology from the airline at the very least, and perhaps free tickets for or a lawsuit from the women involved, but that’s unfortunate.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

December 23, 2016

I was interested to read the other day of a new fund the city and county of Los Angeles created a fund to provide legal representation to people facing deportation.  A $10 million dollar fund, of which $3 million will be provided by the county, $ 2million by the city, with the remaining $5 million to come from private philanthropies.

It’s interesting that the Tribune News Service article I read initially stated that the fund was for “people in the country illegally facing deportation”, while the National Public Radio (NPR) version of the story simply says “immigrants”.  Every article I can find online only says “immigrants” or “residents”.  Of course, this begs the question.  My understanding is that legal immigrants/residents would not face deportation because, by definition, they are here legally.  Only those who are not here legally would be at risk of deportation.

All of the articles highlight this move as a response to statements by President-Elect Trump that he might actually enforce immigration laws, something President Obama has made clear he isn’t interested in pursuing.  All of which glosses over the major points – there are laws which govern immigration to our country.  Those who do not follow these laws are subject to deportation.

I understand that the process for obtaining legal citizenship can be a very time consuming and costly one.  I wonder why a $10 million dollar fund isn’t being created to help streamline or update immigration laws to make it less time and money intensive?  Instead, taxpayer money is being used to defend people who are breaking the law.  I understand and am sympathetic to the plight of those who are actively seeking legal residence in our country and are forced to wait for years because of costs and scheduling.  I would hope that if immigration laws are enforced, these people will be the last to be affected.  I imagine a lot of other people would be similarly sympathetic, including lawmakers and perhaps even President-Elect Trump.

But I find it dishonest to fudge the reality.  If the city and county decided to set up a fund using your tax money to defend murderers so that they might avoid prison time, how would I feel?  Or if the city and county simply decided that vandalism or theft were no longer crimes to be prosecuted but rather defended using tax payer money, how would I feel?  I understand not agreeing with a law and wanting it changed.  I have difficulty with the idea of commandeering taxpayer money.  Particularly if there aren’t a lot of details about who is going to be defended and on what basis.  And particularly when, as some articles point out, the nature of deportation litigation is under a broad umbrella of civil actions wherein nobody – legal or illegal – is entitled to taxpayer funded defense.

We’re all free to disagree with the law, but we are all required to abide by it.  If millions of dollars can be allocated for this sort of effort, why can’t that money be allocated to working towards better laws?  Towards an immigration system that works, rather than simply thumbing noses at a President who recognizes that part of his job is to enforce laws that are on the books?

The approach that Los Angeles and other cities are taking with these defense funds is flawed.  It doesn’t change the existing laws, doesn’t even attempt to.  It simply seems intended to discourage enforcement of the laws by making it cost prohibitive to enforce them.  This is a bad solution to a large, complicated problem.

Regal Legal

December 15, 2016

Lawyers are a common butt of jokes in our country, with widespread public perception of the field of law and those who practice it as being…well, unsavory, to say the least.  Not just the ambulance-chasing brand of lawyers as well.  Large segments of the public distrust a profession that seems to thrive on the exploitation of minutiae to champion injustice rather than justice.  For a hefty fee.

And stories like this don’t exactly encourage a more trusting attitude, regardless of the fact that this guy lives in Australia rather than America.

I wonder what client would feel comfortable retaining Mr. Moore’s services, knowing of his willingness to defraud a bank in order to make himself more comfortable?  I wonder how Mr. Moore conceives of making “the world a better place” while still looking back fondly on his theft and the excessive lifestyle it allowed for as “great”.

I’m not sure I trust his definition of “a better place”, or his means for reaching it!

 

A Bomb, by Any Other Name

September 17, 2016

…might be called an intentional explosive.

Since…why?  Bomb sounds too scary?  Bomb is too associated with terrorists?  Bomb is somehow politically incorrect?  Is intentional explosive more specific or descriptive than bomb?

Words matter.  That might not always show from this blog, but it’s true.  I just haven’t figured out why this word has changed – at least for this event.