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Friday, February 27, 2015

Should We Be Proud Of Christianity And The West?


Pat Buchanan is on a rampage. Much anger he has. And his anger is due to President Obama's brief mentioning of Christianity's past sins during the National Prayer Breakfast (click here). What did Obama say? To put words into Buchanan's mouth, we could say that Obama acted like an Alabama student attending a home football game wearing neutral colors and booing instead of chanting "We're number 1!" To be more specific, during the National Prayer Breakfast, Obama, according to Buchanan, demonstrated that he prefers to belong to the world than to us (click here for Buchanan's article). 

A totally Christian oriented but extremely short response to Buchanan's article might appear in Wednesday's, March 4th, edition of Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs blogpost on this blog pending the Imaginative Conservative blogsite's decision to post my comment with the article. Stayed tuned. But here, this blogpost will take a more expansive look at Buchanan's complaints. 

Buchanan states his issues with Obama in the first paragraph. He claims that Obama doesn't love his own nation. Here, we should note that Buchanan's definition of the word 'love' has yet to be defined. The fourth paragraph gives a little clearer picture. Obama showed that he doesn't love his country because he ticked off Christians by reminding them of their past crimes which Buchanan described as being 'real or imagined.' The history of the crimes Obama briefly referred to matters not to Buchanan. It is the reminder of these dark times to which Buchanan is responding. Of course we can guess that Buchanan will later on whittle away at the real history to move more instances of real history into the imagined bin.

Buchanan's definition for what qualifies as loving one's own nation, that is if one is a Christian American, is revealed a few paragraphs afterwards. An American Christian's love for his/her own nation is determined by whether one believes in the superiority of their country over all others. And this superior quality of America comes from its Christian heritage. So this recognition of supremacy is not just attributed to America, it is bestowed on Christianity as well.

What we should note about claims of superiority is that they usually come with some baggage. The minimum baggage consists of a sense of entitlement and an embracing of an active authoritarianism. The sense of entitlement involves the perceived right to privileges which others do not have. The active form of authoritarianism assumes that one has merited the right to rule over others. There are degrees to which one chooses to so preside. One can act as a totalitarian or one can pick and choose when they will exercise control. And because we are dealing with authoritarianism here, anger naturally arises when one's authority is not recognized. That is because one's position of authority is believed to have been earned by meeting the qualifications which others did not.

That is at the core of Buchanan's reaction to Obama. For Buchanan, its bad enough when the inferiors do not recognize the prestige we've earned by not bowing to our supremacy; but when one of our own knocks us down a peg, it is considered to be almost tantamount to treason because of the self-sabotage being employed. Of course, all of that comes from an authoritarian position.

These delusions of superiority that dance in Buchanan's head while claiming that Obama, who btw is way too conservative for me, does not love our country can remind one of Emma Goldman's description of patriotism (click here). 
Indeed, conceit, arrogance, and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.

Now read Buchanan's main complaint against Obama and see how much, if any,  Goldman's description of patriotism applies to Buchanan:
He sees himself as a citizen of the world, who rejects the idea that our cradle faith Christianity is superior, or that our civilization is superior. For he seems to seize every opportunity to point out the sins of Christianity and the West and the contributions of other faiths and civilizations.

At this point, Buchanan switches from offense to defense. First, he tries to distance Christianity from slavery by noting its preexistence. The implication, of course, is that Christianity didn't own slavery. What Buchanan doesn't mention is how Christians in America still used the Bible to defend it.

Buchanan continues by stating that Christian teaching about the dignity of each person goes against the notion of slavery, but his view was not the view practiced by many Christians. And while Buchanan wants to assert Christianity's superiority over Islam because of when the practice of slavery ended for each religion, we should note that Jim Crow contained elements of slavery and was brutally oppressive and that was practiced and by many Christians who used the Bible to defend it up until the 1960s.

Then, though he admits that atrocities were committed by both sides,  Buchanan defends the Crusades by describing the participants as Christian Knights fighting to reclaim what rightfully belonged to Christianity. We should note that when wars are assessed, they must be measured on more than one criteria. We know from our own military ventures that our politicians often use the valor of our troops as a moral shield to defend their policies. So we need to assess the Popes and why they ordered the crusades. We should note that the promise of indulgences offered by the first Pope who ordered the Crusades. We should also be aware that Popes were increasing their political power. And we need to assess the participants by their stated motives as well as their actions. The fact that some of them committed atrocities, in many cases worse than what some Muslims did, should relegate their knightly position in society to a blurb in history.

Buchanan also comments on the Inquisition. He starts off with a comparison measurement. Others killed more people than the Inquisition did. He cited Lenin as an example.  BTW, what Buchanan seems unaware of were that some of Lenin's contemporary comrades opposed his tyrannical rule because such violated their socialist convictions. So here, we can't use Lenin and Stalin to compare Socialism with Christianity and the West. That is because like most other groups, Socialism is not a monolith.

Finally, while Buchanan wants to cite the surge in Islamic fanaticism, he is silent on the Western Imperialism that has been brutal at times and has installed artificial boundaries throughout the Middle East.

We should note that Buchanan does not deny the faults and sins committed by Christianity and the West. Rather, his strategy is to say that we are superior because we lag behind others in the  number of atrocities committed. And yet, Obama's point wasn't that the Christian civilization committed more sins than any other civilization. Rather his point was that we Christians can't afford to self-righteously judge others because we have committed sins ourselves. Obama wasn't concerned about superiority here and so he simply said that we need to pay attention to our own faults. 

Buchanan, on the other hand, seems obsessed with going beyond the pointing out of past sins to measuring the history of all groups in order to declare a winner, to give an award to the superior civilization. Here we should remember that to many authoritarians, to the winner goes the spoils. That is to the superior civilization goes the entitlement to exclusive privileges and the authority to rule over others.

There are a number of perspectives from which one can analyze Buchanan's reaction to Obama's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. The approach this blogpost will take is an attempt view Buchanan's response from a Christian perspective. What this post will attempt to measure is how well did Buchanan's response to Obama represent Christianity. 

Here, part of our work is already done. A blogpost on Obama's speech has already been posted on February 13 (click here). One of the points of that blogpost was about what makes Christianity special, or superior using Buchanan jargon. It isn't the actions performed or avoided by Christians that causes our religion to rise above the others; rather, what makes Christianity what it is is Jesus and who He is and what He did. What makes Christianity important is that it is based on incarnation of God's son. And God sent His son in that way to save us from our sins. Thus, Buchanan starts off on the wrong foot when trying to defend Christianity. For as he focuses on what past Christians have and have not done, the defining characteristic for Christianity is based elsewhere. It is based on Jesus.

But given Buchanan's bad start, is his intended destination consistent with Christianity? Is it Christian for us Christians to use the uniqueness and superiority of our faith to see others as being below us? And if others are below us, are we allowed or even commanded to rule over them? The need for answering this question is suggested by Buchanan's authoritarian approach.

Here we have to divide our answer into two parts. For it seems that the Church history shows that there are multiple, distinct sources we can use to define the Christian Faith. The actual history of the Church provides one source for defining our faith while the Scriptures yield some information that agrees with portions of Church history and disagrees with other parts.

We should note that much of Church history associates the Christian Faith with authoritarianism. This is true starting with the time of the Apostles. However, that authoritarianism was not applied outside the borders of the Church until around the time of Constantine who credited the Christian God with a military victory of his. Then on an on-and-off basis, Church authority was significantly exercised on society. Popes and many Protestant leaders practiced varying degrees of rule over the people directly and over civil authorities. The Church has sometimes used its power over civil authorities to direct them to carry out punishments for violations of Church laws and to protect the Church's prestige and control over people.

So since the Church owns a mixed record on being authoritarian, Buchanan can cite precedence for his reaction to Obama.

But when we look at the Scriptures, the waters become muddier for both Buchanan and ourselves. We should note here that the New Testament warns us against judging others. The warning is not because one person or group sins more than we do, but because the presence of any sin qualifies us for certain doom. This point is made in Jesus' parable of the two men praying (Luke 18:9-14) and in Paul's letter to the Romans such as Romans 2:1-6 and Romans 6:23. The issue for us in the New Testament isn't about how we compare with others, it is about how we compare with what God expects (see Romans 3:9Romans 3:27-28, and Ephesians 2:8-9). Yes, the New Testament talks about a changed life, but that change does not imply that we can ever be either without the need of our Savior or that we have the qualifications to rule over others. 

And so this is where the waters become muddier for all of us. For Church History, whether we are talking about the Roman Church, the Protestant Churches, or even the Orthodox Church, has provided far too many examples of the Church assuming the right to rule over others. Implied in those examples are claims to superiority. But the Scriptures firmly fix the focus of our faith and qualifications in Jesus, not ourselves. And that, as the parable of the two men praying in Luke illustrates, we can never afford to let the new people we become through faith move us to act like the pharisee who went home condemned because he so favorably compared himself with the worst of sinners who, btw, went home justified.

Thus, as some of us are tempted to imitate Buchanan as he piled judgment after judgment on someone else by piling on him, we need to recognize that our faith some of the same roots part of Buchanan's schtick has. Those roots are Church history roots. And thus, in order to claim that Buchanan's reaction to Obama does not represent the Christian faith, as true as that might be, we must exercise great gentleness and the right nuance. That is because in pronouncing Buchan as wrong and guilty, we will be doing the same for many in Church history, which could quite possibly include some of our own heros. And we might even have to add ourselves to the list of the condemned. In addition, though disagreeing with Buchanan here is necessary, we must do so as equals for the same reasons why we must be gentle and subtle.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For February 25, 2015

As usual, remember that these comments will contain more grammatical errors than the regular blogposts do.  Sorry about that.


Feb 20

I attempted to post the comment below on the Imaginative Conservative blog. Comments might have been closed at the time of my attempt to post the comment below. We should note that there are blogposts on the Imaginative Conservative blog site which were published earlier than the blogpost responded to here which do not have their comments closed. 

But we should also note that in another discussion attached to a blogpost on the Imaginative Conservative blog site, my response to the blogpost was posted. And this is despite the fact that the author of the blogpost was very upset with my views. So the omission of the comment below is a rare exception to the practices and policies followed by the Imaginative Conservative blog in its publishing of opposing viewpoints.

To Eric and his comment describing all Socialists as wanting to consolidate all power to themselves. This comment followed Joseph Pearce's blogpost on how the Great Britain has been corrupted by false gods and atheists. This appeared on the Imaginative Conservative blog.


Eric,
Again, in a desire to portray socialists as a monolithic group, you are showing a lack of awareness of what socialists have debated about since the Lenin hijacked the Russian Revolution. To help provide some additional information that might challenge that monolithic group some are tempted to give into, I provided the links below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_jRd59qy0A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsC0q3CO6lM

https://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1918/russian-revolution/ch08.htm

Below is a quote from the last link. The writer is a socialist contemporary of Lenin:


Lenin and Trotsky, on the other hand, decide in favor of dictatorship in contradistinction to democracy, and thereby, in favor of the dictatorship of a handful of persons, that is, in favor of dictatorship on the bourgeois model. 

and 


But socialist democracy is not something which begins only in the promised land after the foundations of socialist economy are created; it does not come as some sort of Christmas present for the worthy people who, in the interim, have loyally supported a handful of socialist dictators. Socialist democracy begins simultaneously with the beginnings of the destruction of class rule and of the construction of socialism. It begins at the very moment of the seizure of power by the socialist party. It is the same thing as the dictatorship of the proletariat.


Yes, dictatorship! But this dictatorship consists in the manner of applying democracy, not in its elimination, but in energetic, resolute attacks upon the well-entrenched rights and economic relationships of bourgeois society, without which a socialist transformation cannot be accomplished. But this dictatorship must be the work of the class and not of a little leading minority in the name of the class – that is, it must proceed step by step out of the active participation of the masses; it must be under their direct influence, subjected to the control of complete public activity; it must arise out of the growing political training of the mass of the people.

So the question is in criticizing the regimes like that of the Soviet Union, Red China, and so on, are you criticizing socialism or are you criticizing those who deviated from Socialism but kept the name.

As for my own view, I have a substantial amount of agreement with Luxemburg. But I disagree with her criticisms of Kautsky. That is because Kautsky didn't make socialism his goal, he made it the preferred means in eliminating oppression. At this point Luxemburg was too ideologically tribal to see Kautsky's point.

BTW, after he hijacked the Russian Revolution, Lenin criticized those Russians on the Left who opposed his consolidation of power.

Finally, counterexamples to your description of socialism can be found in the Spanish Revolution and the Paris Communes. Though not perfect, their methodology followed the practice of Socialism to a significant degree as opposed to the Lenin's Soviet Union or Mau's Red China neither of whom followed socialism.  BTW, to show that Socialism is not a monolith, there is debate between socialists regarding these issues. Some Socialists do follow Lenin. Some even follow Stalin. But many others do not. So your contention regarding how all socialists behave is neither historically nor theoretically true. And, btw, I am a Christian Fundamentalist and a Socialist. And there are other Christians who are Socialists as well. And many of my fellow Socialists accept me with my faith. In fact, Marx himself never advocated the elimination of religion unlike contemporaries like Bruno Bauer. For Marx, the abolishing of religion was really the abolition of the state from religious control.

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Feb 21

To R. Scott and his blogpost quote comparing political correctness with communist propaganda and declaring that its purpose is to 'humiliate' its opponents. This appeared in the Heidelblog.


There are some problems with what Theodore Dalrymple said in the article quoted from. For example, he described his father as a communist who read people like Plekhanov, Maurice Hindus, and Edgar Snow. At the same time, he reported that his father personally acted like Stalin. But with the people he listed as those who influenced his father, only one of them, Plekhanov, was listed in the www.marxists.org website list of Marxists. And, btw, Plekhanov was opposed to dictators because the workers' interests could not be served by them The two others he listed were reporters who covered different communist areas but were hardly communists that I know of by reading. During WW II, Snow defended allied regimes that were not democratic because of the urgency demanded by the war.

So the question becomes, why is political correctness 'communist propaganda writ small'? Remember that political correctness came into being in order to protect those who were marginalized. And racial slurs were among the first terms deemed politically incorrect. Is that what Dalrymple is protesting? Or is he using these terms pejoratively? And he could do the latter by using these terms to refer exclusively to the extremes and abuses practiced in each group.

Finally, by categorically referring to political correctness and communism the way he does, is Dalrymple practicing what he is condemning? Is he making such a blanket statement about political correctness and associating it with communism in an attempt to 'humiliate' those who align themselves with either political correctness or communism? Whatever the reasons for his statements, he and westerners who agree with him are practicing the same kind of tribalism which he would condemn if it was practiced by any communists. In addition, isn't censoring opinions a way of silencing dissent?

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To Linda Kimball's comment quoting Solzhenitsyyn on Communism and Marx and Lenin's view of God. This was part of the Heidelblog's post on political correctness.

We need to distinguish between the Soviet Union and Marxism. Marx himself was apathetic toward religion. While discussing it with Bruno Bauer, it was Bauer, not Marx, who advocated the eradication of religion. Marx was fine with it existing, he just wanted to see the abolition of the state from religion's control. You can read Marx's view in the link below:

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/jewish-question/

BTW, this isn't the only point of departure between Marx and the Soviet Union. See the following video links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_jRd59qy0A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsC0q3CO6lM

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Feb 24


To Elise Hilton and her blogpost on how we need both economic freedom and other abilities and values to help a society flourish. This appeared on the Acton blog.

Let's remember what economic freedom has become. It has become code for freeing businesses from what society deems as their social responsibilities. Thus, when there is a problem regarding economic freedom, it could be on society's side of demanding too much or demanding the wrong thing. But the problem could also be on the business side of not meeting its legitimate social responsibilities. And when the problem is the latter, then economic freedom translates into privileged status for business elites as they are either harming society by their practices or they are getting a free lunch at society's expense.


A concrete example of such privileged status for some businesses can be found in how some companies use government assistance programs to subsidize their payrolls. Some banks do this as well as some big retail chains. And what happens is that these businesses pay poverty wages that require employees to apply for government programs for help with food assistance, medical care, and so on. Here, we should also check if these same companies are doing what they can to pay the least amount in federal taxes. All of this is being done to maximize profits for the business owners whether the owners are families or shareholders.

The stress which some place on economic freedom is really an argument against democracy and society's right to determine how its members will live with each other. Of course there is the other side of the coin. Societies can make such great demands on businesses that businesses can't survive. But considering that it is those who can afford enough lobbyists who currently have the ear of our government, any overreach from government is not coming from society as a whole, but from those with the most lobbyists.

So here, we might want to review whether the same culture that puts so much stress on economic freedom will also result in volunteerism and generosity, positive creativity, and values or does the current stress on economic freedom work against these other would be cultural assets. For here, if business does not fulfill its legitimate social responsibilities, then these other assets are part of the free lunch business is enjoying at society's expense.




Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Common Enemies Can Cause Fatal Attractions

It has happened in the past. The Church has signed an agreement with a group because of a common enemy only to find that its new friend is a cause for the Church's demise. This happened in 1933 when the Roman Church signed a Konkordat with Hitler's government. Their main reason for doing so was that the Pope supported the Nazi opposition to Communism. In addition, the Roman Church as a whole, not including every member, was not a big fan of the Jews. In that Konkordat, the Nazi government promised the Roman Church freedom and protection while the Roman Church promised not to interfere. History tells us that it didn't work out that well for the Roman Church.

Of course, that is not the only example of the Church making questionable alliances because of some common foe. But we have two new potential examples in the Middle East and Africa. Since the beginning of the uprising in Syria, Syrian Christians have, for the most part, thrown their support behind its brutal dictator, President Assad. Why? It is because his government has been giving them protection from its enemies. But it's not just protection, it is jobs (click here). Though not calling for outright support for Assad's government today, Christians just met with President Obama where he reminded them of who was their guardian 'angel' and they asked Obama to be careful in which rebel groups he supported. They were particularly opposed to any American support for foreign groups (click here and there).

Egyptian Christians have faced a similar dilemma. They either see themselves go unprotected or they choose to align themselves with power that both protects them and oppresses others. And their support for Egypt's President didn't start with its current one. This kind of alliance goes back to the days of Egypt's first President to be recently overthrown, Hosni Mubarak (click here). Just as in Syria, the history of church support for the government in Egypt sheds a different light on the persecution faced by Christians in the region. For it may not be due to just hatred of another religion, it could also partially be because those who are persecuting Christians believe that the friend of their enemy is their enemy. Out of taking care of themselves first, Christians in both countries might have been too scared to realize that they were compromising their values for their security. And this is tough to say because choosing one's own security over principles is our natural inclination, though not a Biblical one.

This story of the Church aligning itself with power is like the 2nd verse of Herman Hermits' song, I'm Henry VIII I Am. Take the French Revolution for example. Though not for the same reasons as what we are seeing in Syria and Egypt, the Church aligned itself with power and prospered because of it. Thus, when the French Revolution broke out, the Church was targeted because of its active support for the Nobility. And this is where history is a little different from the present. The targeting of the Church in Syria and Egypt is more less because of guilt by association. Yes, there is political support for oppressive governments. But in these examples, the Church was merely trying to buy protection for itself even though their protection continues to lead to the oppression of others. Because both the Church and the government have some common predators/enemies, the Churches in these two countries have thrown their faith and support for those with power.

And it's not like the Christian Church here in America doesn't have its own dilemma to face. Only instead of needing protection, the Church here faces a prosperity issue. Either support, silently or vigorously, an exploitive Capitalist economic system so that it will win friends and prosper itself, or preach against the sins of the system and suffer the popular and economic consequences (click here). There seems to be no middle ground. However, there are trends. Those Churches that follow more orthodox theologies tend to align themselves with the status quo. Those Churches with more accommodating and liberal theologies have a greater tendency than their more conservative counterparts to challenge the status quo especially in behalf of the marginalized. But the liberal Church's tendencies here are nothing to write home about.

In all of these cases, what we are talking about is the Church's tendency to proclaim itself as a guardian of truth while compromising what should be its values to gain something from the current system. In the case of the French Revolution, the Church gained power. In America, the Church gained respect and prosperity. In Nazi Germany, the Church avoided state persecution.  

But the return is not only a sacrificing of at least a part of its soul, it meant temporal losses too. In the French Revolution, the Church faced scorn, rejection, and a seat at the table because of its association with the Nobility. With America, the Church's fate because of its partnership with an exploitive Capitalism is too early to tell. With Nazi Germany, the Church's new beau was a monstrous beast that brought down everyone with it. 

What will be the fate of the Syrian and Egyptian Church? We do not know. What is obvious is that their situations, so far, most resemble the Roman Church's situation with Nazi Germany. But whatever happens, the greater tragedy is that the Church will be too interested in its own short-term outcomes to care about the compromises it is making. And if we Christians wonder why people don't believe the Gospel we preach, we need to go look into a mirror to see if our credibility is down. For while claiming to preach values and faith, we have all too often shown that our only interest is self-interest despite how others around us suffer.




Monday, February 23, 2015

ONIM For February 23, 2015

Christian News


World News




Pick(s) Of The Litter





Friday, February 20, 2015

A Brief Respite From A Tragedy Too Sad For Words

The pain from the horrific atrocities committed by ISIS against the 21 Coptic Christians was given a small, brief respite by a refreshing article (click here) written by Ramez Atallah (click here and look at the bio attached to the link there). 

In his article, Atallah gave a heartfelt tribute to fellow Christians who became martyrs as well as a sincere request for prayers on behalf of the Christian population there and Egypt itself, his home. But two of the most important parts of the article were his analysis of the attack and his recognition of the what Egyptian Muslims are doing to help the Christians there. Atallah writes this:

Those Islamic extremists clearly intended to provoke the 10 million Christians in Egypt to rise up violently against their Muslim neighbors. But the loving and caring response of Muslims all over the nation softened the blow that many Christians felt.

What Atallah saw in the cruel massacre conducted by ISIS is similar to what some saw in the 9/11 attacks. That the purpose of both attacks was to provoke violence against the larger group these terrorists often asymmetrically associate themselves with. Some feel that Bin Laden wanted the West to go to war against Islam to draw more Muslims into the fray. And so it is with ISIS and its brutality against Christians.

But that is not what the respite is in this article. The relief comes in his next sentence. For there he talks about how Egyptian Muslims have compassionately rallied around their fellow countrymen. 

Such a report provides a break from much of the us vs the world articles that have come from certain groups of Western Conservative Christians. For I've seen too many Conservative articles describing our plight as being that of fighting for our very survival against domestic atheists and foreign Muslims. Such articles take for granted the effects that Western Imperialism and violence have had on Muslims living in the Middle East as well as on other Muslims who feel solidarity with their suffering brothers and sisters.

But also it seems that the writers of such articles are deprived of both personal experiences with Muslims and awareness of the experiences of others who have been helped by Muslims. That many Muslims in Egypt have stood with the Christians there is not a surprise to me. After all, this is not the first time that Egyptian Muslims have stood by the Christians. In addition, I've read stories told by Western journalists who have been greatly helped by Muslims who took risks in providing aid. And not only that, I've had Muslim friends and students when I taught. One of my favorite former students is Muslim. She was not one of my favorites because of academic abilities; she was a good student, not a great one. But she was one of my favorite students because of the kind of person she was. She went into teaching and I wish that my kids could have had her as a teacher. One of my former colleagues is Muslim. And he wasn't just a colleague, he was a friend. 

In addition, I've protested with Muslims as well. As with any group, Muslims are not monolithic. But I have found kindness in many of my fellow protesters who are Muslim.

My experiences tell me to expect the kind of treatment which Atallah reported. And perhaps before many of us Christians judge Islam based on the actions of a relative few of its violent "representatives," we need to break out of our own small world to both learn of the experiences of others and gain some experiences of our own regarding the kindness which many Muslims display to people. Such may help us gain real insights into the conflicts in the Middle East. 

Now all of that does not imply that we must agree with what Islam says about Christ. Christians and Muslims have significant religious disagreements. But those differences do not mean that neither group can bless and teach the other. And proof of that is found in Atallah's article here.



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For February 18, 2015


Feb 5

The following has not been posted but is reportedly still waiting moderation. I will update this part of the blogpost as the status of the comment changes

To David Robertson and his blogpost reviewing the movie American Sniper. This appeared in the Wee Flea blog.

Just wanted to know if you read the book too. One of the reviews of this movie I read noticed a real difference between how the movie depicted Chris Kyle’s approach to war and killing and that which was written in the book.

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Feb 12

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost about the changing laws on marriage. His blogpost points to an article by Stella Morabito that reports on the coming doom for the legalization of same-sex marriages. This appeared in the Heidelblog.

Citing instances of and supporting statements for practices all of which have been in existence for much of man's sinful existence as evidence for an "I told you so" from Conservative Christians concerning the results for allowing same-sex marriage  is more an instance of venting than sound reasoning. It certainly appeals to the choir, but it is seen as not having any credibility by those outside the choir. In short,  such is simply an appeal for restoring positions of power to the Conservative Christian consensus over culture and society. And what is really discrediting to the Gospel to many outsiders is our obsession with these messages of doom regarding same-sex marriage, especially by those who pride themselves on their church not taking social stands while saying nothing about the exploitation of people and the environment by our current economic system and about how our government wants to conduct wars with impunity.

In the end, Christians who are obsessed with the changing laws regarding same-sex marriage, whether they admit it or not, are more concerned with Christian privilege in society where Christians have various levels of control over society and its laws and mores than anything else. What scares them is sharing society with unbelievers as equals. Remember if the sin from I Cor 5 was not even heard of among the Gentiles, how is it that many of the extreme sexual practices listed in Stella's article will ever gain enough popular support to become part of the norm in society?

The all-or-nothing thinking, scared-straight approach that says the definition of marriage in society must follow the Christian definition or all variations of marriage will eventually become part of the status quo can only be seen as manipulative. Also, the percentages in Stella's article about nonmonogamous same-sex marriages is disputed by other data.

Should we oppose the practice of same-sex marriage? Of course. But why not depend on evangelism alone to do that? We should note that those Christians from the past who have sought privileged positions to control society stated a pendulum swing so any restrictions we might encounter in preaching the Gospel is part of the same swinging of the pendulum.

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The following blocked comment is the epitome of why this series appears on this blog. It points to the filtering of information performed by some Conservatives.

Feb 16

To Joe Carter and his blogpost on the ISIS slaughter of 21 Egyptian Christians. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

The story is too sad for words. We should also note that IS represents criminal insanity rather than any religion.

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Feb 17

To R. Scott Clark and his short blogpost quote of a scientist complaining about group think among climate scientists. This appeared in Heidelblog

So without any details, we can say that this person's grievance is legitimate and that science stands on one side while group think warns us about climate change? That kind of reasoning reveals one's predispositions. Where's the objectivity here?

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To Joe Carter and his blogpost on incarceration rates and crime reduction. This appeared in the Acton Blog.


Consider then that America incarcerates more people than any other country. But also consider that the incarceration rate for Blacks is higher than that for Whites. And also consider that that disparity is due to an inequitable enforcement of drug laws. At this point, let's stop. How does Carter's Theft Island fit into our current circumstances where Theft Island was made of some who were genetically predisposed to committing one theft per year while our jails have disproportionate rate of Blacks incarcerated for drug related crimes though Whites use drugs at the same rate?

Let's also look at the fact that life for former prisoners lends itself to recidivism because of the difficulties these people have in obtaining meaningful, livable salary employment in such a tough job market and housing--in other words, the some of the same conditions that might have contributed to the initial crime, conviction, and incarceration. In addition, the same  legal system that has disproportionately incarcerated Blacks and other minorities is still in operation. Then consider people who have committed small crimes who, sometimes either inadvertently or in order to live, continue to commit small crimes and are thus locked away for the rest of their lives.

Finally consider those who have committed fraud or money laundering or some other major financial crime are counted as untouchable by criminal laws because of the economic influence these people have. Where is the insistence that to reduce those crimes, one must convict and incarcerate them?

Just once, I would like a Conservative to write extensively about our justice system by first checking out people's lives rather than just by applying their logical powers of deduction.

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To Joe Carter and his blogpost on unemployment and suicide. This appeared in the Acton Blog.

Too many times when someone says that unemployment is a spiritual problem, they mean it is just the problem of the unemployed person. It is tragic shame that nobody considers whether the number of unemployed here is also a sign of a spiritual problem of either the economic system being used or the people running and benefiting the most from the system.





Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Post Presidents Day Depression

Presidents Day was set aside to honor two past Presidents who were also heroes. Those were George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. And we should pay attention to this because next year, we will be asked to vote for "heroes" who would be President. There will be a "hero" nominated by each of the two major political parties--at least that is how they will be marketed by their respective political parties. And then after much marketing and selling, we will be asked to cast our vote for one of these two "heroes."

Note that when referring to those who will be nominated to run for the Presidency, that their label of hero was in quotes. That is because regardless of who these nominees will be and what their accomplishments are, they will be portrayed as real heroes, as our next rescuers. 

Now all of this emphasis on the concept of hero reminds me of a question and answer session held by Noam Chomsky.  We should note this about Chomsky, it's a good thing that he has a day job and does not have to rely on selling to make a living. He is kind of an anti-salesperson in both his demeanor and presentation of material. And he likes it that way.

Anyway, during the Q&A, a young, enthusiastic college student fan of his blurted out that he was our hero. He quickly responded with the following: 'We don't need heroes, we need ideas.'  And though the quote here is an approximation, the ideas conveyed are still clear and simple. Heroes can be a substitute for our participation. This is especially true for living, political heroes as opposed to dead heroes of any sort. Dead heroes just might inspire us, but living, political heroes want us to buy into and rely on their promises so we can go about our daily lives, without checking on them.

But there is something else about heroes we should note and this applies equally to both the living and the dead ones. We prefer the portraits of our heroes to be airbrushed. There is just something about the photoshopped images of these people that allows us to better appreciate them. Thus, in showing this kind of reverence for our heroes whose pictures have been touched up, we reveal more about ourselves than the feelings we have for others.

What does our treatment of heroes show about us? For one thing, it becomes obvious that we don't mind being deceived under certain circumstances and for certain reasons. Yes, we want those who sell us stuff to be extremely honest. But when it comes to the heroes we worship, we see that littles lies makes our hearts grow fonder. And the fonder our hearts grow, both the more attached we become and the more personal significance we gain from those whom we like. So as long as deception causes us to feel better about ourselves via how we feel about our heroes, the more deception is tolerated. And if we aren't deceiving ourselves about our heroes, we find ways to minimize their sins so that even the truth can hardly make a dent in our worship of them.

But love for our heroes also illustrates our desire to be led. Heroes can represent authority figures. And this is especially true when it comes to military leaders and politicians. So provided that the heroes we choose are in charge, the more comfortable we are with not knowing the details of what they are doing. Also, our heroes being in charge means the greater is the margin for error which we extend to them when things aren't meeting our expectations. Here we might modify an old adage to make it say: Hero worship, covers a multitude of sins.

And all of this leads us to Chomsky's answer to his young fan: We don't need heroes, we need ideas. For focussing on ideas draws us into looking for the details of both what our elected officials are doing and how they are doing it. Focussing on ideas doesn't artificially inflate the margin for error by those who would lead or exploit us. Focussing on ideas involves us in the political process so that we are not as easily misled.

So do we care about the wrongs and weaknesses of our past heroes? Do we care to learn how George Washington treated his slaves during his lifetime? Is how Washington saw the land west of his new country as land to be conquered and taken from America's indigenous people? 

And what do we know about Abraham Lincoln and slavery? Did we know that Lincoln was not an abolitionist and that he believed that Blacks should not have the same rights as Whites? Did we also know that he also believed that the slavery problem could be solved through colonization (click here)? Are those facts important to us or do we do some mental gymnastics so that those truths don't minimize our esteem for these two national heroes?

The point here is not to throw away our heroes from the past as some of our moms threw away our old comic books costing us a few thousand dollars. No. The point is to keep a certain perspective when having heroes. The point is to mix their good points with their bad points so that the pedestals we put them on are closer to the ground and thus more in touch with reality. For the less we idealize our past heroes, the more realistic our expectations of the present will be.

As for our present, perspective heroes, especially those who will be running for President in 2016, we shouldn't have any. The campaigns for both major political parties will tell us otherwise, but we must resist. And this brings us back to Chomsky's quote. Remember that he said that we need ideas instead of heroes. And that is exactly what we should requiring from all candidates. We  must require that they give us their ideas. And here we are not talking about idealisms. Anybody can promise us pie in the sky. What we must require are their ideas on what they will do and how they will do it. In fact, we should require that they listen to us for some of their ideas.

The point being here that we can no longer afford voting for candidates because of how they have presented themselves as our rescuers. Candidates who campaign that way are presenting themselves as heroes to be worshipped rather than  candidates who want us to judge them by their thinking and character.

Another Presidents Day is gone. And yes, Lincoln and Washington are heroes in the sense that they have contributed mightily to our nation. But they are not heroes in the sense that everything they did was right and good. Some of what they did or said would be called evil today. So if these past Presidents have a mixed records at best and they are two examples of our best Presidents, rest assured that those presidential candidates running in 2016 are people we must test and thoroughly examine.