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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For May 6, 2015


May 1

To Gavin Ortlund and his blogpost on when a leader falls. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

Perhaps leaders letting us down is a reminder of how their pedestals should never be higher than a step or two.

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To Joe Carter and his blogpost on how same-sex marriage threatens Christian Schools. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

There is a broader problem here. The Conservative Christian reaction against same-sex marriage has, for the most part, revolved around how its legalization will affect Conservative Christians. Very little attention is paid to issues of equality and how same-sex marriage has the potential of reducing promiscuity in the LGBT community which, in turn, could reduce the transmissions of STDs. Nor is there any discussion about the religious rights of those in the LGBT community who are not atheists and who believe that God blesses same-sex marriage.

This primary concern for how same-sex marriage affects us does not lead outsiders to want to hear the Gospel more objectively. The stance of many fellow Christians of associating calling homosexuality sin with marginalizing those in the LGBT community in society by not recognizing their equality is what will cause problems for Christians if same-sex marriage deemed constitutional. That is because this marginalization was a push on the pendulum and now the pendulum is returning to swing the other way.

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May 4

To Daniel Darling and his blogpost claiming that we cannot escape from the culture war. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

Though I wouldn't classify poverty, racial injustice, and the need for prison reform as part of a culture war, at least these issues are being addressed along with same-sex marriage.

A culture war exists when one group's dominance is challenged. Usually, the challenger wants more than just deliverance from oppression, it wants to reverse the direction of the pendulum. And thus, instead of referring to culture war, we might want to itemize the wars around the issues they address and thus call them culture wars. And with some of those wars, we might want to consider engaging in a peaceful coexistence than a war. That, IMO, should be the case with the conflict over same-sex marriage.

But other things can't be tolerated such as racial injustice, prison conditions and incarceration rates, and poverty. And behind those issues are the bigger issues of economic exploitation, destruction of the environment, and war and militarism. On a personal level, it was Martin Luther King Jr who identified a thing oriented society as being behind much of the evil he opposed including racism. And he defined a thing-oriented society as being one where gadgets, profits, and property rights were more important than people. And thus, any culture war has to challenge the dominance of treating things as being more important than people.

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May 5

To Joe Carter and his blogpost about foster care rules restricting the religious freedom of foster parents to discuss the sexual orientation of their foster kids. This appeared in the Acton blog.

There are a number of sides to this issue. One is that the religious views of more than one group should be protected by the state. And the religious views of some people allow for, if they do not embrace, the sexual orientations of those in the LGBT community. And since foster parents have a position of power over foster children, a necessary line must be drawn to prevent the abuse of that power. We could  debate where that line should be drawn, but line's existence is necessary. 

In addition, what we in the religiously Conservative Christian Church need to wake up to is that we have, and continue to do so, relied on marginalization and shame to inhibit people from acting on their own sexual orientations. We have wanted people who have different sexual orientations than ours to not just feel estranged in the Church, we wanted them to be marginalized in society too. And perhaps, that is a reason for why the above mentioned line is drawn where it is. In any case, we can't wash our hands from the current situation because our past actions have helped to create it. 

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To Elise Hilton and her blogpost parsing free trade. This appeared in the Acton blog.

We should note that our choice is not between free trade and no trade. And we should note that free here means that the voices and concerns of the communities involved in the trading have been silenced for the sake of those profiting from free trade. This trade is called "free" because the restrictions that might come about from the hearing of these voices are never considered. We should also note that free trade isn't always free trade. Many times, "free trade" agreements have pitted subsidized goods, such as our agribusiness products, against locally made goods and have thus benefited imports over a region's or nation's ability to provide for themselves.

But what most advocates of free trade fail to acknowledge is that the globalized labor market that comes from free trade has, by increasing supply, held stagnate or lowered wages of many working people. In addition, this expanded global labor market has caused many to lose their jobs and communities to lose their economic base. In the meantime, those controlling the terms of free trade prosper.

Examining the tradeoffs involved in free trade must be able to look out to horizon and see how all of the stakeholders of free trade are affect rather than just ask the political question: What is in it for me?


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To Michael Severance and his blogpost comparing May Day and the feast of St. Joseph the worker. This appeared on the Acton Blog.

Here the question becomes this: If St. Joseph was being exploited for his work, separated from his family because of the need to travel to work, and was being abused by the police, how would he be celebrating May Day/ And why is it that, on this blog, the economic exploitation of both workers and the environment and the abuse of power never comes into consideration?

It seems to me that if one wants to honor Labor Day, one would insist that laborers be treated justly, that immigrants would be welcomed especially when they come here to escape violence and/or deprivation, and that abuse of police power would be challenged.

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To Elise Hilton and her blogpost about how raising the minimum wage will cause unemployment. This appeared on the Acton blog.

What is also priceless is the system that gives you a choice between being paid wages that require you to get gov't assistance and losing your job. Why is it that minimum wage is being challenged rather than the system?




Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Reflections On The Good And Bad Of NYC's May Day, 2015




I love May Day. On that day, I get to congregate with fellow Leftists. And this particular May Day would be special for two reasons: 1) I was eligible for a half-price bus ticket to NYC because of my age and; 2) I didn't know what to expect after the Baltimore riots. See, the May Day celebration in NYC has always addressed unjust law enforcement. 

Having gone down early so I could browse a couple of book stores,  I waited for the festivities to start. There were the usual speeches about workers' rights and how American Imperialism ties in with immigration problems. The speeches contained some good content as well as a justified anger at the current conditions and events.

While down there, I talked to a few police officers as well as some fellow leftists. What I wanted to know from the officers was how they felt about the celebration/protest. I know they could not give a personal opinion but I asked anyway. For a couple, they only cared about the protest being peaceful. Another officer stated that he would be glad to tell me what he thought if he was off duty.

I talked to a fellow leftist who was wearing the emblem from the flag of the Soviet Union on his shirt. This emblem has always bothered me and I count it as the leftist equivalent to the 'stars and bars' of the Confederate States of America flag. He made it clear that he didn't want a return of the old Soviet Union under Stalin. Instead, he wanted a new Soviet Union based on democracy. However, when I asked him about Lenin, he demonstrated the key weakness shared by many of the young protesters who participated: a lack of education. 

My leftist friend seemed quite unaware of the criticisms of Lenin made by some of his contemporaries from within the ranks. These criticisms came from people such as Rosa Luxemburg, Anton Pannekoek, and Karl Kautsky. Noam Chomsky (click here), not a contemporary of Lenin,  echos many of these criticisms when he states that when Lenin took control, his elite-centered takeover of the Revolution and his rule over Russia was, politically speaking, a turn to the Right. My leftist friend also did not know about the purges practiced by Lenin.

His lack of knowledge of Socialism seemed to typify the same in many of the young protesters. Many of these protesters were chanting 'shut the system down' and 'f___ the police.' They would also occasionally yell at bystanders who seemed to be well off. Such expresses the sentiments of Russia's Bolsheviks who wanted revolution to be followed by a centralized government under their control. These Bolsheviks would eventually go after anyone not belonging to their own group.

In contrast to the Bolsheviks were the Mensheviks. They were different from the Bolsheviks in at least 2 ways. First, The Mensheviks believed in the soviets. A soviet was nothing more than a workers' council where decisions were made. The Mensheviks wanted Russia to be ruled by the soviets. The Bolsheviks opposed that because decisions made by the soviets could be made independently. Second, the Mensheviks perceived that Socialism needed to take place in stages and develop over time for it to succeed.1 The Bolsheviks spoke revolution now because of a lack of patience. The result of how Lenin and the Bolsheviks pursued revolution was that they became another version of the Tsar's regime. Here we should ask if the slogans chanted by my young fellow Leftists indicate that they would follow the Bolsheviks' example if they had the opportunity to get power.

But if that is not enough, what the chants listed above showed was an ignorance what Martin Luther King Jr taught. King not only opposed external violence, he was against internal violence as well. Internal violence was the violence that comes from hating or being bitter. One way such violence is expressed is through words. Rather than fighting people, King sought to win his opponents over. And when that would not work and his opponents were oppressive, he sought to use the law to restrain their abusive behaviors. Here, we should note when one's goal is in winning people over, one is not seeking to conquer. 

Now, especially toward the end of his life, King was a fan of neither the Communism of the Soviet Union nor Western Capitalism. But he was a Socialist of sorts. He accomplished much in his life and he did that by trying to persuade rather than trying to intimidate or force people to join. So we should ask how the chants described above could possibly win over opponents. Rather, such chants were challenges supporting the survival of the fittest. Again, that was the kind of Socialism practiced by the Bolsheviks as they sought to dominate not just the counter-revolutionaries, but dissenting fellow Socialists as well.

In addition, regarding the chant aimed at the police, we have to consider the job of the police officer. There are at least several parts of a police officer's job that I could never do. Yes, the anger at those police officers who practice abuse and racism is justified. But the chant used against all police officers was not. And judging a whole group by the actions of some is nothing more than bigotry. We should also note that in nonviolent revolutions, which is the only kind where the revolutionaries do not seek to subjugate all, cooperation of those who enforce the law is required for success. This was shown in the removal of Milosevic from power in Serbia as well as in the Arab Spring.  And it was also shown when Chavez was briefly overthrown in Venezuela in the early 2000s, but he regained power when a massive number of peasants came into the city causing those who initially supported the coup to give up. If we are really concerned about conducting successful nonviolent revolutions, how is it that we can win over the police when we verbally attack them?

If the Left  is going to have a chance at changing this country, we must learn the history that tells us what has succeeded and what has failed. And we have to decide is whether we prefer to conquer others or persuade our opponents to join us. If the young protesters at NYC's May Day celebration are a reflection of where the Left is, then those who afraid of its politics can rest easy not just for tonight, but for many nights to come.

References

  1. A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924, by Orlando Figes, pg 190, 211




Monday, May 4, 2015

ONIM For May 4, 2015

Christian News



World News



Pick(s) Of The Litter







Friday, May 1, 2015

Moore's Article On Baltimore Shows Christian Narcissism

Russell Moore, a key figure in the Southern Baptist Church, just wrote an article in the Christian Post about what the city of Baltimore needs (click here for the article). Unfortunately, the article might say more about us Christians and our collective self-image than it says about Baltimore and its problems. I write this because for all of the complex problem that city is facing, Moore says the following:
But I would argue that the primary need Baltimore has is for the church.

And it isn't that Moore isn't aware of some of Baltimore's problems and their underlying causes. And Moore recognizes that the Church cannot solve the city's problems by itself. But he believes that the solution to the city revolves around the Church. To some, that might sound a bit narcissistic.

It isn't Moore's take on Baltimore alone that tells us American Conservative Christianity might be having serious problems with narcissism, we could look at the same-sex marriage issue as well. For all one has to do is to read what many of these same Christians have to say about the same-sex marriage issue and the theme is the same: it is all about the Church. For many of us are saying either what will happen to us if same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land or we are saying what will happen to both marriage and the nation if our sexual morals are not followed. So whether we are talking about Baltimore or same-sex marriage, the conversation eventually revolves around Christians and the Church.

So Moore's take on Baltimore is this. What we are witnessing there is sin and its effects. So what we see there is normal because sin is normal. The Church has the only antidote for sin because it is the place where Jesus reigns. And a result of Jesus reigning in the Church is that 'carnal divisions' between people caused by sin are torn down. Those in the Church are now united with their fellow believers and are serving each other. And so if the Baltimore looks to the Church, it will see what it can become.

There is a problem with Moore's analysis here in that it is too simplistic. Even when Moore gives a more detailed list of Baltimore's problems, he leaves out an important problem. The problem he leaves out is the continual problem with police abuse-- he only lists the Freddy Gray incident of police violence. It doesn't take much internet searching to discover that the police treatment of Gray was merely a tipping point, not the sole incident. Ta-Nehisi Coates reports that over 100 cases of police abuse have been found to be true by the courts since 2011 (click here). Another source has reported that almost $6 millions has been awarded to the victims of this violence. And yet, Moore can only hope that justice can be found in the Freddy Gray case. Thus, Moore only asks the protesters to be peaceful, he does not include the police.

In addition, Moore speaks of Christ's reign in the Church and subsequent justice there in absolute terms as if peace and justice were an already accomplished fact. He also speaks of the Church as if it is untainted and above being corrupted by culture. Is that what we find to be true in real life? And isn't the Church already divided by both denomination and race?

Another problem that exists here is that a basic requirement to be found in solving Baltimore's problems is that the solution(s) must meet the needs  of a heterogeneous population. When we look at how we Conservative Christians have been reacting to the move to legalize same-sex marriages and the animosity of some of us to those in the LGBT community, can we say that we are providing a good example of how to live together in a heterogeneous population? In other words, do we work and play well with others?

We should note that the charge of narcissism should be carefully made. And it should not be made by amateurs. However, when we look at the signs of narcissism, and we realize that at least 5 of these signs must be met for someone to actually qualify as being a narcissist, don't the reactions of us Conservative Christians to the rioting in Baltimore and our reactions to others, such as those in the LGBT community, give people reason to be concerned about us? The signs of narcissism are listed below (click here for source) :

  • exaggerated sense of one's own importance
  • absorbed with fantasies of power, success, beauty, and so on
  • one believes that they are above others and can only be understood by those who are also better than others
  • demands lavish acclaim
  • unrealistic expectations regarding how others should favor them and their views
  • exploitive
  • has a hard time understanding how others feel
  • is jealous of others
  • arrogant
Are we Conservative Christians exhibiting at least 5 of the above signs of narcissism in how we are responding to the world and its problems? I am afraid that too many people would answer with a resounding 'YES'! And they would answer that way because of what they see in us.

Here, we must make a distinction between how the world needs God and how it needs the Church. We must make that distinction because we so often misrepresent God in how we live and treat others. All of us do. We could all be justly charged with hypocrisy if hypocrisy is preaching one thing but doing another. And how much hypocrisy is in our lives depends on how much we are compromising God's Word in order to get what we want.

Baltimore does need God and His Word in order to be at least partially restored. But some of the truths of His Word can come to Baltimore without the Church. God's Word can come to Baltimore through His common grace, which can speak through consciences of all sorts of people. And whether God's grace comes to Baltimore through the Church depends on how faithful His Church is being.  So the question continues to be for us conservative Christians and whether we can help others, are we being faithful to God or are we merely looking for more attention when we say that the world needs us?





Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Some Important Points About Christians Opposing Same-Sex Marriage


  1. The Scriptures clearly speak against sexual relations outside of monogamous heterosexual marriages
  2. We are all sinners and thus we are all equals. None of us can afford to look down on anyone.
  3. The right to a same-sex marriage is not about the Biblical definition of marriage. It is about how we Christians will share society with others who are different. Will we share society with those from the LGBT community as equals or will we seek a privileged position over them?
  4. Claiming that we want to prohibit same-sex marriages in society for human flourishing and the good of society is a backdoor approach to assuming a privileged position over others in society. We can call this Christian Paternalism regarding Christian opposition to same-sex marriages.
  5. Will my fellow religiously conservative Christians continue to associate the Gospel with the right to discriminate? If so, future opposition to the Gospel and the Biblical view of sex cannot be solely blamed on the sinfulness of others; some of that opposition will be because of what we have associated the Gospel with.
  6. Reread point #2.
  7. Finally, in a Capitalist economic system, allowing a business to deny goods and services to a particular group allows for the possibility of that group experiencing partial or full deprivation of those goods and services either sporadically or consistently. That is because in a Capitalist economic system, businesses are the only providers of many goods and services.

    I know from personal experience that we aren't aware of all of our sins. For all of our lives, we will be unaware of some of our sins. For part of our lives, we will be unaware of some of our sins. And there are those few sins which we allow ourselves to acknowledge.  Such demands that we do all we can to be patient with each other because what we say about others can also be said about ourselves.

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For April 29, 2015


April 28

To Elise Hiton and her blogpost on the minimum wage. This appeared in the Acton blog.

We should note that the first people who like minimum wage jobs are employers. And considering how much gov't assistance is being used to subsidize the payroll of some fast-food businesses, some retail businesses, and even some banks, the issue of minimum wage jobs cannot be settled by the information given above.

Other missing information includes the demographics of workers who are being paid minimum wage and poverty wages. In addition to that, we could include the changing job market between when I worked minimum wage jobs and now. The globalization of the workforce for many jobs has meant a reduction in number of lower skilled jobs. This makes it more difficult for minimum wage jobs to act as stepping-stone jobs. Even some technical jobs have been offshored because of the globalization of labor for certain jobs.

Finally, we should note what Chris Rock said about minimum wage jobs. He stated that when a boss is paying an employee a minimum wage, that boss is actually saying that they would pay his/her minimum wage employees less if they were allowed to. So how does Chris Rock's comment here demonstrate that employers value their workers as people? And according to Martin Luther King, isn't that the crux of some of our major problems today:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

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To Joe Carter and his blogpost on the economic effects of the Baltimore Riots. This appeared in the Acton blog.

Expressing economic concerns here without mentioning the social and human concerns is troubling. Because with the social and human concerns are actual experiences of people who have been abused by the police--the actual reason for the riots. While many have won court cases and have received some compensation for their pain, others have had their cases dismissed. And this point made by Ta-Nehisi Coates leads to another one of his points. When will our calls for peaceful protests be accompanied by demands for the end of police brutality (see http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/nonviolence-as-compliance/ar-BBiL0kQ )?

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To Joe Carter and his blogpost on lobbying and corporate cronyism. This appeared in the Acton blog.

A key mistake here is the association made between 'corporate cronyism and lobby. In reality, corporate  control over the government existed when Eisenhower retired and warned us of the emerging Military Industrial Complex. In fact, corporate control over the government existed before that in the 1950s as corporate influence played key roles in the government's decisions to back coups in Iran ('53) and Guatemala ('54). And one only needs to read the writings of former Marine Corps Major General  Smedley Butler to see the tie between business interests and foreign policies. Other ties, such as domestic ones between business and government can be found too--our labor history provides many examples. 

The trouble with this article is that it provides too limited a time when government took care of business. In addition, the naive reductionistic definition of a corporation by its shareholders, thus not including workers, shows a perspective that is lacking.





Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Is Socialism More Conducive To Being Person-Oriented Than Capitalism?

In last Tuesday's blogpost (click here), we discussed how materialism minimizes the differences between Socialism and Capitalism. We used Martin Luther King Jr.'s terminology of 'thing-oriented' for materialism. That terminology can be seen in his quote below which comes from his speech against the Vietnam War:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Here, being thing-oriented meant that we place a higher priority on gadgets, profits, and property rights than we do on the welfare of people.  Thus noting that regardless of the political-economic structure one employs, the ethics of the general public plays a major role in determining the state of society. We also note how being more thing-oriented pushes society into demonstrating more of the following characteristics and behaviors:

  • Status and success are most measured in the accumulation of goods
  • People view others as objects to be used to get more things or obstacles to be eliminated or avoided in order to steer clear of losing things. In the end, things become more important than people
  • People are more aggressive in public
  • People become more litigious
  • Society becomes more punitive
  • People will tend to have a deep compassion on others but only on those who "deserve" it.

Of course, what comes next assumes that a person-oriented society is preferred to a thing-oriented one. Does Socialism or Capitalism lead us to be person-oriented than thing-oriented?

Answering this question is problematic. After all, neither Socialism nor Capitalism are monoliths.  So in order to answer the question, we would have to identify which forms of Socialism and Capitalism we are comparing.

To find an answer to the question, what will be done here is to ask which primary characteristic of the two system would cause us to be more person-oriented. Here, the primary characteristics to be compared are collectivism and individualism. Socialism emphasizes collectivism while Capitalism emphasizes individualism.

How Socialism stresses collectivism can vary from one socialist system to another. In socialist systems that rely on elite-centered rule, collectivism applies solely to the sharing of materialistic things. In socialist systems that expand the use of democratic structures, then collectivism also includes the sharing of power. Now the trouble in the history of socialist systems is this, where collectivism did not include the sharing of power, classism took over and then at least those who were in the upper classes became thing-oriented. This was true of the U.S.S.R. after their Civil War where those who had prominent places in the Party were able to enjoy luxuries and privileges which those below would never see.

In Capitalism, the individual with his/her accomplishments, status, and possession becomes the most noteworthy characteristic of society. In Capitalism, it is what we do for ourselves that defines us. But the trouble here is what we fail to do for ourselves also defines us. And since what we can do for ourselves depends on how much we share with each other, what we do or fail to do for ourselves is not always the best measurement of who we really are as people. See, even with its stress on individualism, there is a certain amount of collectivism in Capitalism. An important example of this collectivism can be seen in the building and maintenance of infrastructures.

We should also note that when some emphasize individualism, such as in individual liberty, they do so by limiting whom they see as individual liberty's main predatory: big government. And this is done assuming that power is only found in government and that one individual cannot limit the freedom of other individuals. 

However, it is with this view of government being the primary threat to the individual and his/her liberties that provides an indicator as to whether Socialism or Capitalism will be more likely to provide a society that is more person-oriented. That the more the individual and his/her liberties are stressed, the more defensive the individual is of what they have. And the more defensive the individual is, the less collectivism will exist--that is collectivism in terms of sharing possessions or power. And the more defensive the individual is, the more value that the individual will place on what he/she has over outsiders. And that applies to both the individual's power and possessions.

This is not to say that we should do away with all individualism. After all, Martin Luther King Jr. noted that the failure of Communism was seen in its failure to recognize how life is individual. But what seems to be the case, at least speculatively, is that too much individualism causes society to become more thing-oriented. And thus, Capitalism should tend to push societies to be more thing-oriented than person oriented. On the other hand, a Socialism that allows for the expansion of democracy rather than relying on elite-centered rule might have a better chance at encouraging society to be more person-oriented.

Of course, some Capitalists would want to disagree with this thinking and they would have good reason too. We've been very speculative here. At least, however, when we look at the above characteristics that thing-oriented societies produce, we should at least agree that a person-oriented society is preferable to a thing-oriented society.