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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For July 26, 2017

July 22

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost on how the Reformed confessions define what Christians from the Reformed tradition believe This appeared in Heidelblog.

If we are really honest, our confessions, just like the confessions of other denominations and branches of Christianity, are to us what the traditions were to the Pharisees in Jesus's day. They are interpretations. That does not imply that any church's set of confessions are as good or as bad as the traditions of the Pharisees were. It simply means that just as the Pharisees  used their traditions to interpret the scriptures, so we use our confessions to do the same. And whether we adequately distinguish our confessions from God's Word or not depends on the pedestal on which we put those confessions. For the higher that pedestal the more we will look at the Scriptures through the eyes of our confessions rather than seeing the confessions through the lenses of the Scriptures.

In addition, saying that our confessions are our version of the traditions of the Pharisees does not imply that we too are pharisees. Whether we become like the Pharisees of Jesus's day depends on both how much we depend on the confessions rather than the Scriptures and how we regard and treat those who disagree with us.

What is missing in the above description of our confessions are the other ingredients that went into their making. In particular, since our confessions are attempts to summarize the Scriptures but are not God-breathed, then we must admit some artificial ingredients snuck into the writings of our confessions. For if cultural influences were part of the writing of God's Word--only because God's Word was God-breathed, that it did not interfere with the purity of God's Word--what are to say about the cultural influences on those who wrote our confessions whose work was not God-breathed?

The temptation in churches that have a set of revered confessions is to become more familiar with those confessions than with the Scriptures. Again, that would indicate that the pedestal on which those confessions are placed is way too high. And the higher that pedestal, the more tempted we are to act like the Pharisees did in how they used their traditions.


July 23

To Reverend Ben Johnson and his blogpost on how economic inequality can be misleading. This appeared in the Acton blog.

If Johnson were to say that by itself, economic inequality is misleading, then I could agree. There is no economic indicator that, by itself,  gives an adequate picture of even part of the economy. But then we must also say that just because there are differences in people's talents, work ethics, and so forth, doesn't mean that any economic inequality should be readily accepted. All we have to do to note that is to look at the numbers involved with corporations using government assistance programs to subsidize their payrolls. Why should public funds be used to help a corporation pay its workers living wages? This is especially true for those corporations that influence the writing of tax laws in their favor make other attempts to pay as few taxes as possible.

By itself, economic inequality can be misleading. But when used in conjunction with other information, economic inequality cannot be ignored. And when that inequality either stagnates or keeps growing, then red flags should be raised. This is especially true where money has such a heavy influence on politics. Where that is true, then growing economic inequality leads to growing political inequality. And we end up with a government that represents the rich only while the rest of us are left to depend on their benevolence. In fact, that is what we have now.


To Rev Ben Johnson and his blogpost on the kind of tolerance the West needs to exercise to survive. This appeared in the Acton blog.

One of the things missing in the article above is criticism of the West.  With the way the West has been described as being so tolerant, even if it exercises the wrong kind of tolerance (a.k.a., 'thin tolerance'), one could never guess the actual history of the West. We should note that many of the colonial settlers exercised a great deal of intolerance toward people who were only slightly different: that difference was found in one's Christian denomination. But that intolerance quickly spread to people of different races, as Native Americans and Blacks soon found out. In addition, American intolerance was on display overseas as, after the Spanish-American War, we did not see Filipinos as being fit to live by self-rule and thus we didn't tolerate it.

Blacks experienced much intolerance for decades even after the end of slavery. And if one asks a decent sampling of Blacks today, one will find that many still believe that there is still a significant degree of intolerance shown toward them. And while not owning up to foreign policies that cause our immigration numbers to spike, many who supported Trump for President did so because of his promise to exercise a degree of intolerance toward immigrants.

And what has been mentioned so far does not include the atrocities committed by other Western nations in the name of empire and for the glory of one's nation. We should note that much of WW I and WW II had much of its start in the West. It's only in the aftermath of WW II that we see a move in the West toward tolerance.

Now we might see the denial of absolute truth in what the person whom Johnson cited called 'thin tolerance.' But what we should note was that this denial of absolute truth had nothing to do with exercising thin tolerance, it had everything to do with the result of seeing the behavior of those who claimed to have absolute truth. And that applies to today as well. People have seen how many of us religiously conservative Christians have strived to keep the LGBT community in the margins and thus conclude that what we call 'absolute truth' can't possibly be truth at all because it leads us to mistreat people.

And now Rev. Johnson is telling us that we exercise the wrong kind of tolerance--a kind tolerance in which there is no absolute truth. But once we define an absolute truth for society, doesn't our past tell us that are we are at risk for exercising intolerance again?

One other point here. How the person whom Rev. Johnson cited initially defined 'thin tolerance' and 'thick tolerance' did not seem to match how he used the word in the rest of his article.


July 25,

To Rev. Ben Johnson and his blogpost on alleviating poverty by cutting regulations and taxes on business owners. This appeared in the Acton blog

We should compare what is cited by Rev. Johnson with what was actually written in the original reports.

Johnson cited the report about poverty as saying the following about poverty:

“The rate of persistent poverty for children in households that have had someone in work in each of the last four years is just 5%,” the report states. “On the other hand, children in households that have had no one in work for at least three of the last four years account for slightly over 40%.”

It seems anti-climactic to say that the way to reduce the percentage of children living in a long-term, low-income home is for someone to start earning an income. Similarly, the best way to reduce income inequality is to reduce the number of households earning zero income. Perhaps that is why the point seems stubbornly absent from media coverage of the report.

Please note that the statements in quotes is what he is citing and the rest consists of his interpretation. But Rev. Johnson left something out in that quote. So below will include what he quoted and what he left out:

Despite the fact that the rate of persistent poverty for children in households that have had someone in work in each of the last four years is just 5%, they account for around 40% of all children in persistent poverty (because most children live in these consistently working households). On the other hand, children in households that have had no one in work for at least three of the last four years account for slightly over 40%. In other words, persistently low earnings and persistent worklessness explain approximately equal amounts of the persistent child poverty we see in the UK.

Note that from the report cited by Johnson, the percentage of children living in persistent poverty in homes where there is a consistent income from someone working is around the same as the percentage of children living in persistent poverty where no one has been working. So if Johnson deliberately leaves out an important statistic, how sound can his reasoning be?

So let's take a look at Johnson's treatment of another citation and this one is from Lucy Minford:

“A 10 per cent fall in the tax and regulation index relative to the trend in the index generates growth over a 30- year period, leaving output 24 per cent higher at the end of the period than it would have been be with policy unchanged,” she writes. “This is equivalent to a higher average annual growth rate over that period of 0.8 percentage points.”

Work does not merely lift ourselves – and our dependents – out of poverty. Theologians say that, in some sense, it helps us fulfill our mystical purpose on earth.

Now regarding the second quote, we should note one thing. We should first note that Johnson's quote from that part of the article is complete. But we should also note that the benefits of economic growth are not necessarily enjoyed by all classes. Again, the same percentage of children who live in persistent poverty and live in homes where at least one person has been consistently employed as percentage of children who live in persistent poverty and live in homes where no one has been consistently employed.

But we might also want to look at some other quotes from the same source:

There are some theories, however, that predict a positive relationship between taxation and growth. This is especially so if tax revenues are spent by governments in ways that enhance productivity. Subsidies to research and development (R&D), the provision of education, or transport networks and broadband might be examples here…

Here, tax is treated as one part of the broader phenomenon of “barriers to entrepreneurship”. Labour market regulation is another. Such regulation is intended to protect worker rights, a social objective which is not about promoting economic growth. However, if such regulations introduce frictions in labour markets which have an impact on growth, we would like to know…

Regulations tend to hit small firms hardest because they are a fixed cost and so a higher proportion of revenues. As such, they act as a barrier to entry, reducing competition….

What we see from the quotes not taken is that economic growth is not the only important factor. Government services can contribute to growth depending on what services are actually provided, protection of workers' is an issue, and that small firms are hit the hardest. And thus further studies should be performed to see whether regulations for small firms should be different for large firms.

What Rev. Johnson seems to say in his take on the two articles he cited is that furthering economic growth reduces the percentage of children living in persistent poverty. But what he left out of his citation from the article on poverty does not support what he says. In addition, protection of workers' rights is another important concern. So we should be aware of the tradeoffs involved when changing tax rates and  regulations for the sole purpose of furthering economic growth. And there is no guarantee that the benefits of any kind of economic growth will spread to all economic classes. And again, we need further study to better distinguish the effects taxes and regulations have on small businesses than large ones so that perhaps regulations could be better tailored to the sizes of businesses.

We should note one other factor that has been pointed out by some on the Left. That economics occurs within a finite sphere that economist Manfred Max-Neef calls the biosphere. Because economics occurs in a limited context, unlimited growth cannot happen. And thus, when people are in need and growth is not possible, better distribution of goods is required to help those in need.

Overall, Rev. Johnson favors helping people by first helping business owners. And while there is some merit in that, we should note that helping business owners doesn't necessarily translate into helping people in general. What Rev. Johnson is expressing has been part of a movement for a while now. That movement promotes the idea that government should represent business owners and assume that in representing business owners, they are creating a set of circumstances where the rest of the population will have their needs met by working for business owners. The problem with this logic is that it does not account for all the varying profit motivation factor that is each owner. For if profit is a first priority, how can the welfare of others be adequately sustained? For one of the quotes said that workers' rights and economic growth sometimes conflict.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ideology And Tribalism

I am a socialist. But when I tell my friends, both conservatives and non-conservatives, that, I try to explain what I mean. I believe in the workplace and political structures promoted by the kinds of Socialism that emphasize democratic rule rather than elite-centered rule. I favor those kinds of workplace and political structures because they provide a degree of protection against the centralization of power. I do not spend my time talking much about socialist ideology though. Why? It is because I want to avoid the kind of tribalism that comes with relying to heavily on ideology. For what comes with being too much of an ideologue is the act of excluding people who hold to different ideologies or belong to different groups from decision making processes simply because they belong to different groups.

Now some fellow Socialists may not consider me to be a Socialist. For just as Rosa Luxemburg claimed that Lenin was operating a bourgeoisie dictatorship rather than a socialist state because he depended too much on the central committee to rule Russia. She might classify my beliefs as supporting a bourgeoisie democracy because I don't want to exclude the bourgeoisie from participating in making decisions.

But that doesn't deter me. I very much believe in elevating the status and power of workers and thus I also believe in leveling the playing field in making decision between those who own businesses and their workers. But I don't believe in elevating the position of workers so that the voices of the owners are silenced. Here I believe that we should have two bases for ownership: ownership by wealth and ownership by labor. And that both groups should share equal power in making decisions.

Having said that, I am emphasizing a structure rather than an ideology or logical model of thought or rules by which reality is predefined. If I was an ideologue, I would be more concerned with the models of thought being used to determine what people should be experiencing than the facts on the ground and testimonies of people.  That is one of the problems with being an ideologue. The more of an ideologue I am, the more I use deduction to determine what is real than I use observation and listening to others. In fact, I might build a hostility to observations and facts on the ground because they could possibly challenge what my model of thought says should happen. This is perhaps why Ted Koppel challenged Sean Hannity the way he did. First Koppel flattered Hannity by saying how good he was at doing his job. But then he told Hannity that a result of his effectiveness was that his followers think that 'ideology is more important than facts (click here).'

It matters not whether the ideology is political or spiritual--theology can be called a spiritual ideology. It also doesn't matter how conservative or non-conservative a given ideology is. The more one depends on a given ideology, the more one approaches reality by deducing what it is than asking people what they are experiencing. This is as true for the ideology of trickle-down economics as it is for ideologies used by Lenin, Mao, and Castro.

In addition, the more one adheres to an ideology, the more loyal one is to that ideology's model of thought and to others who share that thinking. So here, we are talking about group loyalty. And the more one is loyal to an ideological group, the more tribal one becomes. Why?  It is because tribalism occurs when there is a high degree of loyalty to a group. And what that high degree of loyalty does is to take away one's objectivity when looking at the real world.  In addition, the more group loyalty there exists in a group, the more insular the members of the group become. And with that comes a group authoritarianism so that there is a growing hostility to those outsiders who challenge one's group.

Group authoritarianism is simply a natural result of being an ideologue. This authoritarianism feeds an us vs. them mentality. And we see much of that in the world today both in the past, with communists vs capitalists, and in the present, with liberals vs conservatives. Conservative, liberal, and leftist ideologues see the members of the other groups as threats because their ideologues challenge one's own ideology. And such challenges prompt authoritarian-like, anti-social responses.

Now, it isn't that ideologies are unimportant. They provide a way of organizing our thinking which help us understand the world around us. So the existence of ideologies are not the problem per se. Rather, the problem is our dependence on these ideologies to define more and more of the real world. There comes a time when our dependence on a given ideology grows so great that it causes us to predetermine reality instead of relying on observation. And that dependence yields loyalty and that loyalty, when it reaches a certain threshold becomes ideological tribalism.

All of that is why I limit my adherence to any kind of Socialism as an ideology. I like the workplace and political structures of Socialism because they provide a hedge against the consolidation of power. But that hedge is not invincible. And limiting the consolidation of power doesn't always produce the best decisions. But when socialist workplace and political structures are maintained, they do more to limit the centralization of power than limiting government does. Why? Because those with government authority do not have a monopoly on political power.

Monday, July 24, 2017

ONIM For July 24, 2017

If you are not sure about the validity of a news story linked to below, you can use  mediabiasfactcheck.com to check out the credibility of the source of most of the stories linked to here.

Christian News

World News

Israel-Palestine News

Collusion News

Donald Trump News

Pick(s) Of The Litter

Friday, July 21, 2017

Is The Gospel Me-Oriented?

R.C. Sproul (click here for bio) gives an answer to why unbelievers who are happy should believe in Jesus. He gives this answer in a short article on his Ligonier ministries website.

Sproul gives a very orthodox reason to those who are already happy as to why they should believe in Jesus: one should believe in Jesus in order to escape God's eternal judgment. And though Sproul notes that he has other reasons why we should believe and the answer Sproul gave is correct, there is something missing in his answer that kind of confirms a stereotype of many Evangelicals. It's not that that stereotype doesn't have other confirmations. For example, the tendency for religiously conservative Christians to refuse to provide business services to same-sex weddings because of their personal beliefs fails to account for how such refusing to serve at those events are experienced by the participants. There is a marginalization experienced by those who are refused services. In addition, there exists a possibility that people who are married in such weddings could suffer from a significant or even total deprivation of goods and services if religious beliefs can excuse one from, in a business setting, providing goods and services to same-sex weddings.. But how others are affected rarely crosses the minds of evangelicals.

When unbelievers don't feel the need to believe because they are happy, one problem is that their lives are too much about them. So though Sproul is correct and gives quite a biblical answer, he misses an opportunity to address the real problem. For if I believe in Jesus solely because I want to escape hell, then how is my faith changing me from being self-centered? And how different is a self-centered Christian from a self-centered non-Christian? If we are honest, most of us religiously conservative Christians would answer the last question saying, 'not much.'

What is another reason why we should believe in Jesus? Jesus says it very clearly in several places that how we react to him is how we react to God. Note what Jesus said in John 12:44-46 (click here):

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
Yes, a legitimate reason for believing in Jesus is for ourselves, our own salvation. But we can't afford to stop there if we are going to escape the self-centeredness that permeates our society. How we react to Jesus is how we react to God. To not believe in Jesus is to reject God. To say that there are other ways to connect with God denies the basic truth seen in Jesus's words above and below from  John 14:5-7 (click here):
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know[a] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

So the Christian faith is about far more than what we want for ourselves. It is more about how do we want to treat God. Now if only we could live out that truth in front of our friends and others, we might show that we are about more than just ourselves. And if we want to treat God the way we should, we place our faith in Christ. However, if we do not place our faith in Christ, then we have rejected God the Father as well.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For July 19, 2017

July 12

To R. Scott Clark and his blogposts (they will be listed below, the comment below was in response to the part 2 link) that answers the charges on whether there is gender apartheid and toxic masculinity in the Presbyterian and Reformed churches. This appeared in Heidelblog.

Part 1—

Part 2—

There are some flaws in the two articles Clark has written about 'Gender Apartheid' and 'Toxic Masculinity.' The first error reveals more about Clark's thinking patterns than the argument he presents. By describing gender as being a grammatical characteristic only, which he does in part 1, he ignores the fact that gender can have multiple definitions. Certainly gender is used as a grammatical category. But it is also used identify one's sexual state (see https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gender). Clark's approach to defining 'gender' shows a rigidity in his thinking that might affect his logic on this subject in other areas.

Another example of Clark's rigidity is seen in Clark's reaction to the use of the word 'apartheid' by those who use the term 'gender apartheid.' In part 1, Clark discounts these claims because there is certainly no gender apartheid in the Church because there is no government enforced separation  between the genders and oppression of those speaking out that even slightly resemble the apartheid of South Africa. Clark doesn't realize that other forms and degrees of separation can still qualify as apartheid since the definition of word 'apartheid' isn't mystically tied to the status quo state that tragically occurred in South Africa.

Likewise, his reaction to the term 'toxic masculinity' is to say that the term seems to be a grievance against being a boy or a man. In the light of what was written before, we should note that he does acknowledge that there are multiple legitimate ways of being a man.

The second flaw in Clark's argument here started in part 1 and continues through to part 2. Clark wants to use definitions only to answer the charges made. Though he doesn't use definitions to consider whether sexism or oppression of women exists in the Presbyterian and Reformed churches, , he acknowledges the possibility of that occurring, he does use definitions only to deduce that neither gender apartheid or toxic masculinity exist. And using his rigid definitions of both 'gender' and 'apartheid,' along with his doctrinal view of both men and women tells him that these charges are false.
The better way to handle these charges is not just to define the different biblical roles there are for men and women, but to survey the women in the Presbyterian and Reformed churches to see what degree of agreement, if any, they have with those making the charges. The over reliance on definitions and theology to define what reality people are and are not experiencing is one of the strongest temptations that we in the Reformed and Presbyterian churches face because of our reliance on doctrine to settle these disputes. Thus, we often skip over asking people what they experience when solving problems or answering questions. That is what Clark has done here. Rather than propose that we ask the women of these churches about how they experience and see things, he has answered the charges by applying logic and rigid thinking to definitions to describe what is reality.
Thus, the charges that Clark is responding to will not only go unanswered, they will be unexamined  because instead of including the experiences of other women in the Presbyterian and Reformed churches, Clark sees answering the charges as an exercise in logic. And perhaps, ironically, such an exercise by a man to charges made by women could be another example of gender apartheid and toxic masculinity.


July 13

To Russell Moore and his blogpost commenting on how we should react to a Christian teacher who now accepts homosexuality as a Biblically acceptable practice. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

Two points here.  First, Russell Moore provides a wonderful example of how to disagree with a fellow Christian on an important topic. He shows compassion and a recognition of the other person's strengths while remaining firm on his Biblical view of the subject. If only all disagreements by Christians with fellow Christians and others would be made this way.

Second, we need to recognize two kinds of stress lines that cause Christians to make an unbiblical choice on how to think about an issue: necessary stress lines and unnecessary stress lines. The necessary one has to do with acknowledging whether a practice or way of thinking is sinful. The unnecessary one has to do with unnecessarily trying to insist that society make the biblical stand the law of the land. When it comes to homosexuality, the unnecessary stand consisted of opposing equality including same-sex marriage in society. No doubt that homosexuality, like all sexual practices outside of a monogamous, heterosexual marriage, cannot be tolerated in any church that follows the Scriptures. But what in the NT requires that we oppose equality for the LGBT community in society including same-sex marriage? The association of preaching God's Word about homosexuality was made with trying to marginalize the LGBT community in society by those opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage. Such was part of an effort to marginalize the LGBT community in society. Knowing that trying to marginalize the LGBT community in society was wrong, some have felt compelled to make compromises on what the Bible says about homosexuality.

We Christians need to identify the unnecessary stress lines that we might be creating for people when we take stands on public issues. Why? Because it is possible that Jesus would call our unnecessary stress lines 'stumbling blocks.' For unnecessary stress lines do function as a kind of stumbling block.


July 18

To George W. Rutler and his blogpost praising Trump’s speech in Poland that praised the West for democracy and the advancements it has achieved. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.

In all of this bravado about the ideal West, there is a lack of awareness of its faults. And thus, self-praise seems quite natural, but, then again. believing that one's own group is special is normal. And with that self-praise comes an obliviousness to double standards. For example, when a socialists revolution overthrew a US supported dictator in Nicaragua. the Reagan administration supported terrorist actions to overthrow that government, to the tune of being convicted by the World Court, because of proximity that such a revolution was to the US. At the same time, the US, through NATO, broke an agreement that then President George H.W. Bush made with Mikhail Gorbachev over the reunification of Germany when NATO and its troops moved East of Germany. Gorbachev wrote about that (pg 308-309 in The New Russia):

The agreement on the final settlement with Germany stated that no additional NATO troops would be deployed on the territory of the former GDR, and neither would weapons of mass destruction. That meant that NATO's military infrastructure would not move eastward.

The decision to expand NATO, taken after the breakup of the Soviet Union, was contrary to the spirit of those undertakings, as I have repeatedly pointed out when parrying baseless accusations. The main problem was that the policy of the leaders of NATO harboured a real threat, and not only to Russia. There was a danger that, half a century after the start of the Cold War, the world could be plunged into something analogous.

The expansion of NATO fundamentally undermined the European modus vivendi established by the Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe in 1975.

So NATO has, for a while, had troops on Russia's border and acts as if that should be of no concern to Russia itself. But in the 1980s, the Reagan Administration supported terrorist attacks in Nicaragua because of the threat that its socialist revolution posed to the US because of the proximity of that revolution to the US border. In addition, our lack of awareness sees no problem for Russia to have western troops in bordering countries despite the fact that Russia has suffered catastrophic losses from previous Western invasions.
Our western lack of self-awareness is also evident in how Trump spoke about the threat posed by terrorism conducted by some Islamic extremists. For the US has never been viewed as a beacon of freedom and democracy by many in the Arab world. And that view of the US has been well-known to previous Presidents going all the way back to the days of Eisenhower. For knowledge of those complaints dates back to the 1950s where the complaints were about American support for current dictators and its opposition to Arab nationalism for the sake of its interest in Middle East oil (see https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1958-60v12/d5 ). Greece learned this lesson in the late 1960s when it looked like a democratic election could produce a leftist leader. America stepped in and replaced the democratic process with the installation of a military dictatorship.

Whether we travel to southern Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, South America, or Central America, America's use of dictators and atrocities contradicts its claims of being for democracy. We should remember that US once supported Osama Bin Ladin and Saddam Hussein. It also supported dictators before they were overthrown like Batista in Cuba, Somoza in Nicaragua. and Marcos in the Philippines. It once supported Noriega in Panama. And it helped install and supported Pinochet.
Thus when Stawrowski, who is cited by Rutler in this article, said that there are those in the West who recognize the value of Graeco-Roman culture, he could inadvertently be correct. For both Athens and Rome had empires. And while life in the empires could be sweet, that was not the case for those who were not club members. And we should also note that when Stawrowski complains about those in the west who want a democracy of elites, that President Trump himself has further established such a democracy through his cabinet appointments and executive orders that are attacking the regulatory function of the government. And the purpose of the regulatory function of the government is to protect the environment, workers, and consumers from abusive practices conducted by businesses owned by private sector elites--we should also note that conservatives are slow to recognize the existence of such elites.

Trump being applauded by the Polish people while receiving low approval rates in the US is not an example of a prophet receiving honor from anywhere but home. Rather, the approval of Trump by the Polish people can be explained by the theory of relativity. For Trump looks much better to the Polish people than Putin does. And that is despite the fact that Trump has expressed admiration for tyrants like Putin, Kim Jong-un, and Duterte.


To Tim Keller, Russell Moore, and Kevin DeYoung as the blogpost consists of a recording of their conversation on religious liberty and its transcript. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition.

There are 3 points that I think are overlooked when we Christians talk about religious liberty. The first issue is a Christian issue. That is that once we call ourselves Christians, whatever we do and whatever position or cause we take, we associate with the Gospel. That should give all of us for pause because, at best, all of us have a mixed record  in term of representing the Gospel. And if a mixed record is at best, we know that none of us gives a spotless or near perfect record for honoring the Gospel. What causes the Gospel to be dishonored is when we don't fully respect the religious liberty of others.

The second point that is overlooked asks us Christians to look outside of ourselves and our own world. That second point is that we have to determine how we want to share society with others. And by others, I mean all kinds of unbelievers. Will we try to share society with others as equals or will we seek some degree of supremacy in society by assuming or seizing a privileged place with the legislation we promote? Seeking a privileged place is seen when our religious views control the laws of the land in ways that give us Christians privileges and a ruling place over the rest of society. Note that whatever way we decide to share society with others, we will be associating that with the Gospel. If we seek to protect the religious rights of others, that will be associated with the Gospel. And here we should note that what many Christians forget is that homosexuality and the right to marry someone of the same sex belongs to the religions of some people. So if we try to pass legislation against homosexuality or same-sex marriage or fail to pass legislation that protects the the equality of the LGBT community, we have associated those actions with the Gospel.

Third, we need to be aware of how our actions, positions, and causes affect others. If we refuse to offer business services to those in the LGBT community or to same-sex weddings, how does it affect others? Too many times, because we seek to wear our religion on our sleeves, we don't consider how our conscientious object can hurt others. That is because we are too focused on ourselves.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Our Choice Of Superheroes Says A Lot About Us

Contrary to popular opinion, the movie Wonder Woman was not the the first superhero movie that was directed by a woman. One reason for the public's lack of awareness could be found in the box office ticket sales. The sales for Wonder Woman far exceeded that of the other movie. And Wonder Woman is still playing in theaters while the other superhero movie has just been released on DVD and is probably available on demand where you live. So we can see why the public might not be aware of the previous superhero movie.

But there are a couple of other reasons why the public might not be aware of the other superhero movie, and those reasons might reflect negatively on the public. One of those reasons is that other superhero movie was about a real life, female superhero rather than an imaginary one. In addition, that real life superhero did not show off her power by using violence to save the day. Instead, that real life superhero's ability was seen in her exercise of love and compassion. In addition, Wonder Woman's courage was fueled by her superpowers. The real life superhero being referred to here displayed a deep courage despite being powerless. 

See, a lot of fuss was made about the director of Wonder Woman being a woman. And a lot of fuss was also made about a superhero character being a woman. And yet, Wonder Woman is only an imaginary character. Thus, she is, at best, a way of venting over the still limited roles many women have in society. Yes, some barriers have been breaking and that is good. But it is still an old boys network where the most power is. Thus, Wonder Woman herself is a way of showing frustration over a situation while doing nothing about it--that is with the exception of the movie's director is a woman.

As for the other movie, yes, it is technically not a superhero movie. And yes, it posted modest sales at the box office. And yet, it was about a real life superhero who, with her superhero husband, actually saved hundreds of lives of those who were being hunted down at the time. The other movie is The Zookeeper's Wife. The movie is a story about the Zabinskis who owned and operated the then prestigious Warsaw Zoo in Poland during the 1930s and 1940s. When the Nazis invaded, the Zabinskis used both their home and the zoo to hide and help escape hundreds of Jews. And to do that, they risked not only their own lives, but the lives of their children as well.

There is another difference between the two movies. The Wonder Woman movie was said to be a significantly better made movie than the movie The Zookeeper's Wife. The main criticism I have read about The Zookeeper's Wife is that it did not fully show all of the significant aspects of what the Zabinskis risked and had to endure to hide people from death. And yet, the real reasons for the difference in notoriety between the two movies rests with the personal priorities of the public. For whatever reasons, imaginary stories about what can sometimes appear as unlimited power is far more appealing to and gives rise for more celebration by the public than a true story about the risks one takes in order to love marginalized people while being powerless. That says much about where our society is.

We should also note one other thing about the Zabinskis. They never looked at themselves as being heroes, let alone superheroes. Instead, they simply looked at themselves as doing what they owed to the people being persecuted back then. Perhaps, that selflessness doesn't play well to a narcissistic society (click here for a quick review of the Zabinski's story).

Monday, July 17, 2017

ONIM For July 17, 2017

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