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Friday, April 29, 2016

Do Christians Need Corrective Lenses When Looking In The Mirror?

Alan Noble (click here for very brief bio) recently wrote an opinion piece for Christianity Today that claimed that America needs to elect a Christian President in these Post Christian times (click here for the article). What spurred him into writing this piece was an article written by Jennifer Hecht on why our nation might need a president like Bernie Sanders (click here for that article). Hecht's assertion is based on Sanders' lack of formal religious belief as opposed to the other candidates all of whom have formal Christian ties and thus an assumed impartiality due to that lack of formal religious association.

Noble questions the wisdom of Hecht's claims in the light of today's issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. He also brings up our nation's tendency to elect Christians as Presidents.  In the end, Noble recognizes that we live in a divided Post Christian nation and that we need a leader who can bridge the gaps between the groups so as to protect each group's liberties and concerns. Oddly enough, some of the groups he mentions here with us Christians are those whom we have persecuted at least now and then: the LGBTQ community, immigrants, Muslims, Blacks, poor Whites, the police, and others.

Why, according to Noble, does our nation need a Christian President when Christianity's influence is dying? According to Noble, it is because we now know what it is like to be marginalized, or a "challenged" group. And because of our new place in society, we are the best hope for providing a leader who can be empathetic to all the other groups that are struggling.

The problem is that neither history nor current events supports Noble's claim that Christianity produces the empathy and patience needed to bring marginalized and antagonistic groups together. In fact, whether Christianity is now a marginalized group is very debatable seeing that it has had a privileged place in this nation since Europeans landed on this continent. We relgiously conservative, White Christians have been active in marginalizing others based on race, gender, religion, and now sexual orientation and identification. We have been the leaders in putting those who are different in their places. Yet now that we no longer have the pull to control society's mores and marginalize others, we see ourselves as being marginalized and thus can immediately be empathetic to the others.

If we think of the current support for and efforts of Christians to pass the new religious freedom laws that allow Christians to discriminate against same-sex weddings and those in the LGBT community in various ways, how can Noble believe what he is writing let alone trying to convince others of his point?

Calling us religiously conservative Christians a "challenged" group in society simply because society's sexual mores have publicly switched away from our sexual morals indicates a desire to magnify our loss of prestige and privilege in controlling society. But how does that put us Christians on the fringe of society? The next claim that the nation needs us to provide for them a Christian for the office of President shows another kind of inflation  only this one is on our sense of our own importance to others. Some might call the latter magnification a mild case of having delusions of grandeur.

We Christians in America have spent centuries trying to control society while not caring about the multitudes we have hurt or neglected on the way. American Christianity started very much as a White man's religion. Yes, Blacks were brought to Christ, but our religion's teachings here still favored the White race for such a long time if it still doesn't. We have been cold and merciless to the LGBT community. And we have, from the beginning, proclaimed ourselves as the 'city on the hill.' So in a sense, inflating our losses and our remaining importance to others can simply be described as the same-old, same-old as when we were in charge.

Noble's article here indicates that some of us religiously conservative Christians have lost touch with social reality. And the reason for that lack of connection is that we feel the need to have a more important role in society than any of the ones we fell into. Certainly not all Christians share this lack of awareness of our real place in society.But this article he wrote was posted in the Christianity Today's website proves that Noble is not alone in his delusional understanding of our place in society.



Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For April 27, 2016

April 19

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost on society’s changing values especially those stemming from the new position that the LGBT community has achieved in society. This appeared in Heidelblog.

What religiously conservative American Christians have had the greatest difficulty with is knowing what to let go in society and what to battle for. Because many of us have grown up in a different time when Christian values held a stronger place in developing cultural and societal values, we look at each new change in our culture and society with shock and dismay. Though the dismay is often appropriate, the shock isn't. 

And because we have not made wise choices in knowing which cultural and societal values to battle, we have failed to share society with those who are different as equals. And more than anything else, our crusade to marginalize those from the LGBT community has stirred much greater anger than any differences that exist in our beliefs and values.

So as we critique, as is done above, society's newest values and trends, we need to know the natural boundaries of that critique as we share society with others as equals. It is unclear whether the above article articulates the location of those boundaries.

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April 20

To Collin Hansen and his blogpost interview of Nabeel Qureshi from Ravi Zacharias’ Ministries on Christianity and Islam. This appeared in The Gospel Coalition website.

I find this post to be one of the most inadequate blogposts on a Christian's view of Islam ever. Which matters more about the person interviewed: is it that he was a former Muslim or that he currently works for a Western Christian apologist? And, btw, by describing Nabeel Qureshi's boss, Ravi Zecharias as a Western Christian apologist, we might include that he is as much a Wester apologist as he is a Christian one (see http://www.wnd.com/2015/11/top-christian-voice-west-being-taken-down-in-small-portions/   ). But we might want to note something else about Zacharias. There are serious questions regarding his past claims about some of his past positions and degrees (see http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2015/08/24/press-release-has-evangelist-ravi-zacharias-misrepresented-his-academic-credentials/  

The gist of the interview accessible above is this: if, according to Qureishi, Muslims faithfully follow their sacred writings, then not only will they be at war with Christians, they will join groups like Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Haram. Though Qureishi acknowledges that the vast number of Muslims are peaceful, their being peaceful is because of many years of traditions that told them to despite what the Quran says. 

There is a problem here though. The Quran does have verses that tell Muslims to live at peace with others. One such verse tells Muslims to live at peace with one's neighbor if that neighbor desires to live at peace with them. In addition, we might also want to ask other Muslims about Qureishi's claims made in the above interview especially since Qureishi himself acknowledges that Muslims are a diverse group.

One of the key problems in listening to the Qureishi interview is his selective use of facts. Already mentioned was the failure to report the verses in the Quran that  preach peace. Another failure is in Qureishi's failure to give the full picture of Muhammad's use of violence. According to several sources, including material from investigative journalist Jason Burke, Mohammed's use of violence was in response to the injustices he witnessed at Mecca. Also visible at Mecca was the belief in many gods--polytheism held by many. From those observations, Mohammed associated the presence of injustices with polytheism. After those battles, Mohammed sought to install a utopia that would come about by people following the revelation he claimed he received from God.

Further, we should note Qureshi's comparisons between the bloodshed in the Old Testament and that of Islam, especially its earlier years. He makes the claim that the Quran orders Muslims to kill Christians for their beliefs while the people whom the Hebrews killed when claiming the Promised Land were receiving God's judgment for their sins. This is where Qureshi's exclusion of Mohammed's crusades against inequality and injustices at Mecca and other places when he was involved in prosecuting wars almost shows a dishonesty in Qureshi's comparison. On the one hand, he has no problems with what the Hebrews did because the then residents of the Promised Land were being killed for their actions. But unjust actions that Mohammed witnessed was precisely why he waged war first in Mecca, and then in the surround area and beyond and yet they are not mentioned in the comparison.

Qureshi's account of the Crusades also merits attention. For while Qureshi is quick to point out that the Quran promises eternal life for those whose jihad results in being killed in war, the Pope at the time of the First Crusade offered indulgences for sins in order to help raise an army to retake Jerusalem. In addition, the cruelty visited by the First Crusaders   on the residents of places like Jerusalem was horrendous.

And while Qureshi states that it took a thousand years for Christians to engage in religious wars whereas Muslims had been fighting almost immediately after Islam was found, there is a context for that. That context was the timing of the divisions in the Christian Church vs the divisions that occurred in Islam. When they did occur though, we had a long period of religious wars in Europe. But not mentioned by Qureshi is the fact that the Church relied on the violence of the state to help expand Christianity to other areas of the world. 

During the current time, we see many injustices forced on the people of the Orient. We see Israel's brutal occupation against the Palestinians, we see Middle East tyrants being supported by the West so long as these tyrants support the business interests of the West, we've seen coups and the supporting of terrorists. We should only note that Ronald Reagan supported both Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. And yet, none of this is mentioned when comparing Islam to Christianity and the West.

The above is a very brief sampling of the inadequate and unreliable statements Qureshi makes about Islam. Should note here that I am speaking as a Christian Fundamentalist who adamantly disagrees with Islam's denial that Christ is the Son of God. But the gross inaccuracies made and selective use of historical facts  by Qureshi moves me to say that his description of Islam in the interview above contains too many inaccuracies for comfort.

But there is a problem greater than the content of Qureshi's comments. That greater problem is the fact that Christians are going only to fellow Christians not just for perspective and worldview, but for the facts on the ground. We can call this problem Christian insularity. We seek to learn about the world only from our own. And for as long as we do that, we will not only be unable to adequately evangelize others, we will lay stumbling block after stumbling block before the people we want to convert the most because we have misrepresented them when discussing history and current events. And all of these inaccuracies also serve to persuade Conservative Christians to support a war not just against terrorism practiced by extremists, but a war against another religion based on false statements.

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April 22

To Russell Moore and his review of a book that explains why liberals always win culture wars. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

There are a couple of problems here. The first problem is the us vs them mentality in society. Conservatives vs Liberals. Those who know best vs the foolish. Good vs evil. How could conservatives who think this way possibly share society with nonconservative without seeking to control them? And how could conservatives who seek to control nonconservatives in society possibly understand democracy? Finally, what is the salvation status of Christians who have some political liberal or even leftist leanings?

Second, conservatives are not anti-utopian, they are post-utopian. In other words, all of the wisdom that is needed to live or experience the best life possible has been taught in past and followed in the good old days. It isn't that Conservatives who reject change and progressive ideas do so because they don't believe the utopian hype that often comes with these ideas. Rather, Conservatives believe that change has destroyed some mythical utopia that supposedly existed in the past.

As Moore has been warning people about the upcoming acceptance of same-sex marriage, I would like to suggest that the more we fight culture wars, the more we seek to unnecessarily control the lives of unbelievers in society. And the more we seek to control their lives, the less likely they will want to listen to the Gospel. So here is a suggestion, pursue culture coexistence rather than victory in the culture wars.

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April 23

To Eric’s April 22 comment that responded to my claim that we had invaded Vietnam. He challenged that idea and this was part of the discussion on the Death by Government blogpost posted in the Imaginative Conservative blog.

Eric,
You have the history backwards. Vietnam was actually divided to facilitate the expulsion of the Japanese after WW II. The French wanted take the opportunity to recolonize at least part of Vietnam. We had promised during WW II to help them do just that. When the French failed, we decided to prevent the reunification of Vietnam by first sending advisors to help sustain the dictatorship. in the South. The Geneva Accords attempted to address the division and the agreement made there was that the South would vote decide on reunification by voting on in. We ignored the Accords and maintained the dictatorship and that eventually became the Vietnam War, the war that included our invasion to prop up the dictators we favored and, in some cases, installed.

Now if you think I am revising history, we can discuss the subject by listing our supporting documentation.

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To Eric and his April 22 comment that claim that the Left is responsible for all the murders committed by people like Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. This was part of the discussion on the blogpost about death by government on the Imaginative Conservative blog.

Eric,
Whenever I read your accusations against the Left, I get the feeling that you are auditioning for something like, perhaps an Ann Coulter variety show, than trying to present a logical argument. .For it seems that you are more interested in being vehemently harsh than being precise. And your references to the Left indicate someone who is pretty much insular in their readings.

Certainly people like Mao, Lenin, Stalin, and others are guilty of murder, no argument there. But how are those Leftists who were murdered by Lenin, Stalin, and Mao responsible for their own deaths let alone the deaths of others? What about those Leftists who reject Lenin, Stalin, and Mao and who came after those three? They are responsible too?

Let me ask the same question in another way. Were all of America's founding fathers guilty of supporting slavery in our nation? And, a trickier question, were they all responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans from the land?

Not too long ago, Bruce Frohnen wrote an article whose title far outpaced its content. The title was: 'Can Civility Be Restored To Our Campuses?' Frohnen went downhill from there by scapegoating the Left for the lack of civility on campuses. I say scapegoat because he never looked at what those particular Leftists were protesting as contributing to the problem. Now, do I feel some leftists contribute to the lack of civility on college campuses? Most certainly I do! But it has nothing to do with their Leftist ideology, it has everything to do the current trend, which Frohnen took part in, of externalizing evil and scapegoating the other side. After all, if the other side is evil, you must do all you can to silence them. And that is what Frohnen attempted to do in his article. And many from the Left, the Right, and Liberals have joined this trend.

We can't have civility anywhere for as long as groups externalize evil and scapegoat their opponents for the problems they see. For as long this is the trend, then each side will adopt the ends justifies the means ethic in trying to silence the other side. For Christians, it also means that we will start living out the prayer of the pharisee from the parable of the two men praying. In terms of how Martin Luther King Jr. described the West during the Vietnam War Vietnam, each side will be unjust to the other because each side will assume that it has everything to teach the other side and nothing to learn from them.

We can't be civil to each other when we can so easily demonize the other while putting ourselves on a pedestal.

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April 25

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost quote of John Calvin on the Regulative Principle for worship. The Regulative Principle states that the only ways by which we can worship are those that are commanded by God’s Word. Those ways of worship that have not been commanded are verboten and considered to be false worship.  This appeared in Heidelblog.

Personally, I think what has most hindered Reformed Theology is the regulative principle. All we have to do is to look at how it is stated here to see why. Note what is strongly associated, it is false worship and that which was not explicitly commanded from the beginning. 

Such not only causes us to start forcing Gentiles to live like Jews, as Peter was once accused of doing by Paul, and such not only forces us to approach worship as the Pharisees approached the law by paying attention to selected details and forgetting the spirit of what is involved, but it also denies both the implied change that Jesus spoke of when He said that a time will come when we will worship God in spirit and in truth and the changes necessitated by the death and Resurrection of Christ along with the Great Commission telling us to preach the Gospel throughout the world.

It is bad enough that this principle was applied to worship, but it often leaks out in other areas of life. When talking about fellow Reformed Christians about whether they should be involved in activism, the regulative principle is resorted to as people restrict their involvement to imitating specific NT examples or following explicit commands while ignoring biblical issues of justice or loving one's neighbor. It is as if the only practical theology we can learn is what we can imitate or what we are directly commanded to do.

This reliance on the regulative principle can, to some, make the New Testament as inflexible or irrelevant to life today as a literalist approach to The Constitution makes that document the same in answering today's new legal issues. In addition, we should note that no one consistently takes a literalist approach to The Constitution. Conservatives who claim to fail when they decontextualize the 2nd Amendment by removing the mention of the militia from the right to bear arms. Are those who follow the regulative principle far behind when they, as mentioned before, overlook the NT theology mentioned above?

There is a legitimate concern in using the regulative principle. That concern is that innovation can take us away from God's Word into self-worship. For innovation can separate us from the Apostolic faith that we lose essential connections with it. However, is forbidding all innovation, as the regulative principle does, the answer? Are there Biblical principles that can be used to guide our attempts to innovate?

On the one hand, because new issues and circumstances arise, theology must, at times, be new and fresh.  But that newness must never be allowed to separate us from or cause us to compromise the essentials of what has been revealed. For when it does, we've left the faith. But not allowing theology to be new condemns the essentials of our faith to irrelevance due to our inflexibility in applying the Gospel to today's new issues. And those who insist on prohibiting the new find themselves in homogeneous church groups that are unable to reach out to those who are different. The Regulative principle forces us into such groups as our rigidity in recognizing the issues people face in the world today blinds us to the new problems and concerns people experience today.

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April 26

To Michael Severance and his blogpost that covers how Rev. Robert Sirico claimed that Christianity best protects the balance between the individual and the social. This appeared in the Acton blog.


The first question that comes to mind when reading about the interview with Rev. Robert Sirico is this: Which Christian view of anthropology provides the best blend of the individual and the social? Theologically conservative Christians lean toward one set of views on that balance while theologically liberal Christians lean toward another. To show the difference, we should note that theologically liberal Christianity leans more toward Socialism than than its conservative counterpart. In addition, without mentioning the details, Sirico's view of what Socialism says about people seems to be more the result of having used deduction than induction. We should also note that European Socialism is really a mix of a little socialism with some liberalism in the context of a global economy that is predominantly neoliberal.

Now if I was to take an inductive approach to Sirico's claims, I would have to say that theologically conservative Christianity does not best protect the balance between the individual and the social. Why? Because of its favoring of entrepreneurialism and business, it grants more individual rights and less social responsibility especially to those who are able to help the vulnerable to such an extent that it seems that there is an inverse correlation between having wealth and how much social responsibility one has. And if we examine the history of the Civil Rights Movement, we see that there seemed to be a greater reluctance on the part of theologically conservative Christian leaders and institutions to oppose racism than was seen in their theologically liberal counterparts.

From the article printed above, we see the great fault of theologically conservative Christians. That fault is the tendency to rely too heavily on deduction and/or to selectively use induction in answering questions like the one posed to Sirico For how does he answer the question, he speaks in general of the world views of Christianity and the Enlightenment while noting that Socialism is a product of the Enlightenment. In addition, he does not adequately use an inductive method to arrive at his conclusion and perhaps for good reason, historically speaking that is. For while he is content to compare the French and American Revolutions, he neglects to mention both the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans from the land and America's horrendous treatment of Blacks both during slavery and afterwards. And many who participated in either ethnically cleansing Native Americans from the land or subjugating Blacks used Christian theology to defend their practices. He also neglects to refer to European colonialism that was practiced in the name of Christianity.





Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What One Word Would You Associate With Democracy?

It can be tough writing a new blogpost each week. That is because there is a tension between the desire to write something new  and the perception that some ideas still need to be repeated.

Observing our current process of electing a President, it seems that the need to repeat a theme has won out over the desire to write about something new. In fact, we might want to look at how candidates campaign for the office of President as a microcosm for America's role in the world and America's role in the world as a macrocosm for how candidates run their campaigns. It is all about competition and conquering. Basically, both running for President and trying to maintain a global hegemony is a king-of-the-hill battle. The pressures from that struggle can cause people to do anything from making simple mistakes to doing what is unethical and even immoral. But to the winner goes not only the spoils, but usually immunity for any violation of the rules.

We should note that neither of the two major parties have a monopoly on the vice required to win. But that is not how they talk in conversations either between the two parties or within the 2 parties during the primaries. To hear how candidates and their respective political parties speak to and against each other, it is suggested that each candidate believes that they must win so as to block the other candidates from having any access to power or any influence on the new government. Thus, our elections have become contests where each person and/or party seek to win to rule over all others.

With that thought in mind, answer the following question: What is the first term you think of when you hear the word 'democracy'? For many, the first word or term would be 'vote' or 'voting.' The problem with thinking of this word first when we hear the word 'democracy' is that there are many nations in which people can vote and yet they do not live in a democracy. The former USSR was such an example from yesteryear while Iran could easily provide an up-to-date similar example. What this simply means is that we can have voting without having a democracy, but we can't have democracy without voting.

A term that antagonists of democracy often associate with the word is 'mob rule.' Such strongly suggests negative characteristics to democracy's participants. And we should note that such a word association is made by conservatives who believe in elite-centered rule provided that the right elites are in control. But lest we think that conservatives have a monopoly on the association between mob rule and democracy, many liberal Democrats make the same association. The differences between the two groups become which elites gain power as well as the fact that Conservatives are more honest and open regarding their feelings about Democracy.

Others might first think about the word 'equality' when they hear the word democracy. That is because democracy does carry with it the idea that there exists a certain degree of equality between democracy's participants such as is seen in one-man, one-vote. But what kind of equality exists is somewhat of an unknown. Are we referring to economic equality or political equality? In addition, we might want to ask how does equality result from the existence of Democracy.

The word that now first comes to my mind when I hear the word 'democracy' is the word 'sharing.' We always have the issue of how the group(s) we reside in and will share society with others. Will we share society with others as equals or will we seek or have forced on us some hierarchical order? To share society with others as equals means that regardless of whether the numbers allow our group(s) to gain control, we will exercise care so that neither we or others will dominate any particular legitimate group in society. We do this by sharing power rather than trying to monopolize it and pretend to use it paternalistically.

Such sharing is what fasciliates equality in a democracy. But not only that, without this sharing, voting can easily result in the self-delusion that one lives in a democracy. 

So how should the ties between sharing and democracy apply to our elections? Yes, there will be a certain effort to compete to win. But what is at stake and what kind of contest we could participate in is not power as it would be in a king-of-the-hill battle, but the extended opportunities to converse and cooperate with others as we try to ensure that each group has an equal place in society especially concerning what laws are passed.

We currently don't have that kind of approach to our elections just as our nation does not have that kind of approach to its place in the world. Rather, just as our nation seeks by hook or by crook to dominate others, so we see those running for elected offices do the same so that they can be part of some domination over others during their terms in office. This competition and the need to conquer shows that our Free Market values influence our moral values more than Democracy does. And thus, this competition and the need to conquer shows that we have a greater love for money than we do to govern ourselves in ways that require that we cooperate with others--others being those from different groups.

It is the conjunction of sharing power and voting that makes a democracy. For if we have a legitimate concern for sharing power, we will insist on fair elections. And voting without sharing simply meets the conditions for a coming tyranny practiced by some individual or group. 

So as we listen to the candidates campaign, how many of them are making speeches about sharing power with those from other groups in order to ensure a properly functioning democracy? How many times has either Sanders scapegoated the 1% or Clinton denounced pro-life advocates? How many times has Trump shown disdain for those from other ideologies, nationalities, or those who do not fit in with his idea of what normal should be? And how many times has Cruz expressed concern for equal rights for those in the LGBT community or any concern for the Palestinians? The answers to these questions tell us about the level of commitment each of these candidates have to Democracy.

Without sharing, we are simply fooling ourselves into believing that we have a democracy. In fact, one recent study shows that because government decision making so vastly controlled by those with wealth, that what we have today is an oligarchy, not a democracy. And yet, we change our democracy so that the 99% are in control and we leave out the 1%, we will still fail to have a full democracy.

The above tells us that the way to beat the oppression caused by those who seek to hoard power is to invite them to share power rather than to give up all power.

Without sharing, we will continue our seemingly endless king-of-the-hill battle and we will do that at both home and abroad. And though that might seem like a major inconvenience and uncomfortable state of affairs at home, seeking to rule others in the world eventually leads a nation to war and/or terrorism.




Monday, April 25, 2016

ONIM For April 25, 2016

Christian News



World News



Pick(s) Of The Litter





Friday, April 22, 2016

How To Imitate One's Opponents

Bruce Frohnen (click here for a bio) has just written an article on the Imaginative Conservative blog about how today's college progressives are steamrolling over the views and even rights of their peers on their certain campuses making these campuses into places of unrest(click here for the article). Some of the reactions to the rude behaviors of these progressives include accusing them of hypocrisy for not showing tolerance for others while portraying themselves as believers in tolerance, muzzling the views of others, and pressuring some officials into resigning. Frohnen then takes the opportunity to stereotype all progressives of wanting something no one can have: a tolerant setting where anything goes with regard to ideas that can be expressed freely. 

Frohnen proposes then that real tolerance, one that does not result in the uncivil behavior he cites which is permeating college campuses, can exist provided that the following two conditions are met. The first condition is that toleration has its limits so that ideas that are too radical cannot be expressed or listened to. The second condition is that there exists a certain orthodoxy in terms of what is believed and accepted in the public square that most, if not all, people in society hold to be true. Frohnen is writing these views from a conservative Christian perspective so who knows what orthodoxy he is referring to. Nevertheless, without both of these conditions being met, tolerance can only eventually become intolerance as evidenced by progressives he describes in his article.

Before commenting any further, we should mention that there are merits to what Frohnen is saying. First, there are campuses where some progressives are disruptively attempting to silence the views of others. Second, certain common beliefs or code of ethics must be present for dissident views to be freely expressed. But one question is the following: What are these common beliefs or accepted behavioral standards that enable an accepted level of tolerance? In addition, how different from the norm can dissident views be and still be expressed in the public square?

There are also problems with Frohnen's views as expressed in the article cited above. The first problem is that he speaks of the incivility of college campuses in such a general way but does not cite specific examples that could verify his claim. Reading his article makes me think that campus incivility due to political fighting is widespread. I do know that some members in the BDS movement on some college campuses have practiced incivility as they vehemently certain events and speakers. That is very wrong and undemocratic. And we have had a number of colleges make the news  because of the racial tensions that exist on campus. The most famous one of these was the University of Missouri where the football team threatened to stop practicing and playing for the school until the then school president resigned from his position.

But my own experience of teaching for 19 and 1/2 years tells me that Frohnen's claims about unrest on campuses are not as widespread as he would have us believe.

Frohnen's second problem is that he seems to be exhibiting an opportunism in attributing the incivility that does exist on campuses solely to all progressives and their idealistic notion that all views should be tolerated while exhibiting intolerance to people they find offensive. Let's take the BDS student movement at California's state universities for example. Before the latest decision made by the regents of those universities, some members of this movement were guilty of displaying anti-Semitism as well as interfering with some events that would promote pro-Israel sentiments. Rather than being content with trying to correct the abuses of individuals in the movement, the regents of the state universities of California decided that BDS and challenges to Israel's right to exist as a Jewish State would be classified as being racist and therefore the airing of these views on any of the California State universities would not be tolerated. One could say that such a decision could result in civility, but the decision is also an attempt at silencing dissenting views on campus?

Frohnen traces the progressive views on tolerance and their intolerant actions toward others to the radicals of the 1960s and even to the radicals who dissented from Woodrow Wilson, when he  tried to get the Princeton faculty involved with both spreading democracy and working for progress in the public square when he was President there. Frohnen seems to forget that Wilson's brand of democracy when he was President of the US during WW I allowed him to jail some who opposed America's entry into the War. And the people he jailed included leftist radicals about whom Frohnen speaks so disparagingly about. 

In short, what separates, in his mind, Frohnen from the progressives he so disapproves of is the civility of how they promote their views. The progressives are uncivil while he is quite restrained and proper in writing his article. But seeing that Frohnen is trying silence these progressives by trying to discredit them,  he becomes no different than them. And this is the point made by this review. For what is more important here, rudeness of actions or presentations or the lack of openness and allowing those who dissent their right to speak? Yes, those BDS members who interfere with the rights of others to speak are wrong. But weren't the regents just as wrong? And isn't what spared the regents from having to act disruptively and rudely when silencing others is that they had authority to make their decisions binding on others? So if Frohnen is trying to silence progressives by misrepresenting them and trying to discredit them, yes, he may be speaking politely, but his trying to silence his opponent nonetheless.

There are a number of factors that can keep us from imitating our own opponents. First, if instead of immediately reacting to their latest provocations of those we oppose, we would first try to understand what they are reacting to, then we might be more likely to act differently to our adversaries than they have acted us. For example, if the regents at California's state universities looked at what those in the BDS movement are so upset about, then perhaps they would target the misbehaviors of those in the movement rather than the members themselves by recognizing that the movement has legitimate concerns. If they had done all of that, then they would not be imitating those in the BDS movement who are trying to silence others.

Second, if we remember the parable of the two men praying (Luke 18:9-14), we would realize that we too are not only vulnerable to engage in the kinds of behaviors that offended us when practiced by our opponents, we have probably previously done what they have to us or others. Understanding this parable keeps us from externalizing evil and pretending to be better than we really are.

Third, if we understand democracy is about sharing more than about voting, we would look to include our opponents in the public square rather than looking for excuses to exclude them. Voting is simply a democratic process. But sharing the public square with others as equals is what democracy is all about. After all, democracy is much more than just political processes, it is a state of being for society. This means that we need to look at how we can share the public square with our opponents.

Keeping these three ideas in mind can help us from imitating our opponents especially when our opponents go wild and behave poorly. Had Frohnen practiced these three suggestions, his criticisms of progressives would carry more legitimacy since they would help prevent him from imitating his opponents' worse qualities.




Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For April 20, 2016

Remember to expect more errors in this series of blogposts than in others because less editing is involved. What is below contains my comments to conservative blogs which were blocked. The errors here are minor and the ideas expressed here can be understood despite them.

April 14

To Steve McAlpine and his blogpost that reviews the book Disappearing Church: From Cultural Relevance To Gospel Resilience. This is book is about how the Church lost its groove in society and how it can regain it. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website

With all of the analysis about how we are now in a post Christian world that has partially rejected us and the advocation for the Benedict Option, I was wondering where are the critiques of how the Church has failed society in this review. Where has the Church unnecessarily turned people off? Where was it mentioned of how the Church has focussed so hard on pounding the consciences of individuals while either remaining silently complicit with or heartily affirming the fragile self-esteems of those with wealth and power? For didn't the Roman Church support those with wealth and power prior to both the French and Spanish Revolutions as did the Orthodox Church prior to the Russian Revolution? And hasn't the Conservative Protestant Church been doing the same for most of America's history while we ethnically cleansed Native Americans from the land while embracing a Capitalist economic system that relies on human exploitation? Where are the critiques of the Church when, in the past, there was a Christian hegemony over society and culture that stood idly by when nonwhites were being marginalized while it worked and still does as hard as it could to marginalize the LGBT community in society?

And why support the Benedict Option? After all, with that option the Church can be likened to a kid who takes his games home because he couldn't win those games against his friends. So he withdraws and goes home in order to learn how to beat them at his games. Isn't that a picture of us? Doesn't the Benedict Option direct us to withdraw from society because we are no longer the privileged group in control of society so we can regroup in order to retake society? Doesn't this show that we don't know how to share society with others as equals?

We can't honestly discuss why we are in a post Christian society and world without taking a long, hard look at ourselves in the mirror. Though I can't say that the book has refrained from doing that, this review of the book has failed to do so.


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April 17

To Denny Burk and his blogpost criticizing Hillary Clinton’s stance on the greatest human crisis today: abortion. This appeared in Denny Burk’s blog

The disagreement I have with the analysis above regards emphasis. Is abortion the greatest human right crisis of our time when we still face the possibility of nuclear annihilation or the possibility  that our earthly lifestyles are in the process of creating a dead planet?

Or is abortion such a grave human rights crisis that we can afford to ignore the crises that come from war & poverty? Or should we ignore the grave problems caused by racism and economic classism in order just to focus on abortion.

Certainly abortion is a very serious issue today. And neither Sanders or Clinton have satisfactory answers to this issue. But lest we imitate liberals in playing the pharisee from the parable of the two men praying,  we also fall short in what say about other serious topics and that falling short has caused some not to see our stance against elective abortions  as being CONSISTENTLY pro-life. And until we get more consistent so that we understand that both major parties are seen as having failed to become pro-life, then complaining about Clinton on this subject will not  get us far.

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April 18

To Jeff Robinson and his blogpost on how intolerance can be beautiful. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

There are at least  two conditions that can make some intolerances beautiful. The article above only states one: practices that are objectionable because they promote injustice. The second condition that can make some intolerances beautiful is that, depending on the practice, our first reaction would be not to punish. For it is when our first response is punitive  that helps sustain some objectionable attitudes and practices.

For example, racism should never be tolerated. But if society's first reaction to racist statements or practices is punitive, then all of us have a conflict of interest when we examining ourselves for any racism in our speech, attitudes, or actions. And I know from my upbringing where, because homeowners in my township were prohibited from selling their houses to noncaucasions and thus there were no Blacks in any of my schools until my senior year in high school, that I grew up with some racist views. Have I eliminated all of those views? I hope so. But the fear of societal punishment causes me to lose some objectivity in answering that question. BTW, we should note here that the intolerance Martin Luther King Jr. had to racism did not require that punishment be the first response. King sought to win over his opponents and enemies. Those who could not be won over were, according to what King promoted and practiced, to have their behaviors controlled by law.

We should note one other fact about when intolerance can be beautiful. It depends on the context. Should society be required to be intolerant of all that the Church should intolerant of? That was the question being asked when the Conservative Church in America was pushing for sanctions against homosexuality and then later trying to prevent same-sex marriage and is now trying to legalize discrimination against those from the LGBT community for religious reasons. It was also the question whose answer drove the Puritans to persecute people from other denominations such as the Quakers.

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To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost video clip surveying students on self-identity. This appeared in Heidelblog.

First, who said there were no limits to self-identity? Perhaps the validity of any self-identity should be measured on a case by case basis. But the current conservative evangelical approach to those who seek to change genders, at least from what is suggested by the video clip above, results in an all-or-nothing approach to self-identity. Such an approach only focuses on a specifically chosen limited set of criteria for each identity.

In addition, the same group believes that  the Church should determine the criteria society should use for each self-identity.

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April 19

To Joe Carter and his blogpost that claims that cars that run solely on electricity really run on coal because that is what generates our electricity. This appeared in the Acton Blog.

At the website, politifact.com, statements are graded on the following scale: Pants on Fire, False, Mostly False, Half True, Mostly True, and True. The above statement that says:

Tesla Motors Releases a Car for the Masses That Runs on Coal

would receive a Mostly False rating. Why? Because, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (see https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=427&t=3 ), only 33% of our electric energy is provided by coal. Renewable energy accounts for 13%, natural gas and nuclear power account for 335 and 20% respectively speaking, and the rest is generated by petroleum and other gasses.

But there is another point to be made here. It is easier to convert the source for our electricity generation from coal to renewable sources than to do the same with our vehicles. So as we continue to find ways to rely more on renewable energy sources, today's investment in an all electric car gives us more potential to protect the environment in the future than if we continue to invest in cars running on gas.

But let's give Carter his due; he drives a Prius. That deserve recognition.

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To Joe Carter and his blogpost on what Bernie Sanders could learn from the Pope on the Capitalism while he visits there. This appeared in the Acton blog.

This article woefully displays Carter's ignorance of Socialism. For not only does he assume a set of beliefs on Sanders' part because Sanders has called himself a Socialist, he views Socialism as a monolith and thus asserts that all socialists have the same beliefs.

When one examines what Sanders is promoting, one discovers that Sanders is nothing more than a follower of FDR, not a Socialist. Socialism, especially from the Marxist tradition, is not just or sometimes even concerned with central government control or 'complete egalitarian societies.' Socialism is concerned with the redistributing of power from the bourgeoisie to the proletariat. From there, we have a variety of view regarding how egalitarian society should be to what ownership of private property is allowed to whether one believes or not in the state.  We should note that most Socialism is like Capitalism in one way, both believe in classocracy. The differences between them then is in the class in charge and how the class in charge gets its power. With Socialism, the class in charge is the proletariat and it arrives at its power democratically. In Capitalism, the class in charge is the bourgeoisie and it arrives at its power through power struggles. If only Carter would actually read what Socialists say and have done, he might being to know what he is talking about rather than rely on pejorative stereotypes.

As for the Pope's quote that "should" cause Sanders dismay:

on the level of individual nations and of international relations, the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs.

there is nothing here to worry Sanders or even any socialist. For whatever positive the Pope says about Capitalism, as Martin Luther King Jr. noted, according to his biography by Travis Smiley, the actual redistribution of of goods and services has proved Capitalism not to have actually delivered on is potential. That is because Capitalism's fuel is greed, its lubrication is competition, and its engine is centralized control by those with wealth. And anyone could see that centralized control is potentially more efficient and effective than democratic control. The problem is that centralized control first feeds itself whatever it deems is necessary while leaving all other to fend for the table scraps. Let alone, we should note the context of the Pope's statement on the Free Market is within individual nations, not a globalized economy.




Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Some BDS Critics Are Playing The Race Card

From California to Las Vegas To Florida and finally to Israel, the word on some streets is that supporting BDS is now  racism, anti-Semitism to be precise. And the same goes for opposing Zionism and even offering any criticisms of Israel. Engaging in such actions can subject some to official sanctions at California's state universities. Otherwise, the worse that can happen thus far is that your name will be dragged through the mud by being labeled a racist. And this is what we see some who oppose BDS. They play the race card to gain an advantage over their adversaries  And the question we have to ask is whether describing people who oppose Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories by supporting sanctions that are meant to motivate Israel to end the Occupation as racists is right. We also must ask the same question of those who criticize the Israeli government and/or who oppose today's Political Zionism.

Before we go on, we should note that BDS stands for Boycott, Sacntions, and Divestment.  And what that specifically refers to here is the global movement to get all sorts of institutions and even states to boycott, pass sanctions on, and divest from Israeli businesses in order to pressure the Israeli government into ending its occupation against the Palestinian people.

The case for using the race card on BDS starts with a working group report prepared by the regents of California's state universities (click here for Appendix 1). As with many reports, there are good and bad parts. The strength of the report is the concern over and intent to act because of actual harassment experienced by Jewish students in the California state universities. Such includes acts of vandalism, anti-Semitic dialogue, 'social exclusion,' 'stereotyping,' and attempts at intimidating Jews. Now some of these complaints are too ambiguous, especially with regard to the final opinion of the report, to comment on. For if voicing disagreement with Zionism is anti-Semitic, then the bar for anti-Semitism is set dangerously low to the extent that criticizing Israel's policies is now considered to be racist. Such can an equation can be the result of opportunism or of overreacting. One can look at the following part of the introduction to see for oneself:
In particular, opposition to Zionism1 often is expressed in ways that are not simply statements of disagreement over politics and policy, but also assertions of prejudice and intolerance toward Jewish people and culture.
Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.
 The report uses State Department documents as references (click here). And note how our own State Department defines anti-Semitism with regard to statements made about Israel
DEMONIZE ISRAEL:
Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis
Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis
Blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions

DOUBLE STANDARD FOR ISRAEL:
Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation
Multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations

DELEGITIMIZE ISRAEL:
Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist

Thus,  the regents' working group report that classifies anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is not saying anything that our government has not said. But such does not imply that racism has actually occurred when even Israel or its right to exist as a Jewish nation are challenged. All the above shows is the government's position regarding how one is allowed to talk about Israel.

Finally, one of the telling weaknesses in the part of the report referred to here, and such was probably true for those who wrote the State Department's statements on anti-Semitism, is the lack of input from Jewish groups who oppose Israel's Occupation and even Zionism itself. There are a number of Jewish organizations that oppose Zionism itself. One of them is an orthodox branch of Judaism called the Neturei Karta (click here). Another possible group, I say possible because I am not sure of their relationship to the Neturei Karta, ar the True Torah Jews (click here). So how should we square the equation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, as expressed by both the regents in California and the State Dempartment with the existence of Jews who oppose Zionism? 

But the California state universities are not the only ones who are targeting BDS and criticisms of Zionism. So is business leader Sheldon Adelson who not only owns Tribune Publishing Company, he is the Chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. The person Adelson whom has left in charge to battle BDS, David Brog, has said the following about it (click here):
‘BDS’ is a catch-all for various efforts to demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel. Even if you could ban BDS activities on campus, the problem wouldn’t go away. The battle is bigger than BDS, so our effort has to be bigger.”

Here, we should note what follows his description of BDS: it tries to 'demonize' and 'delegitimize' Israel and its existence. And what follows that description is a statement of intent to silence BDS. And that banning their activities on college campuses is not enough. So not only does Brog engage in some demonizing of BDS itself, he says that he intends to eliminate it. 

From here, we can go to Florida and Governor Rick Scott's signing of a bill that challenges BDS. Only instead of focusing on the law he signed, we need to listen to what he says about BDS and those who do not agree today's Zionism (click here for the article).


The BDS movement, which claims to seek peace between Israelis and Palestinians, is not a peace movement at all. In fact, it is an insidious form of economic warfare that must not be permitted to grow.
Omar Barghouti, a leader of the movement, has stated the aim of BDS is not a two-state solution, but rather a Palestinian state next to a Palestinian state. In other words, the goal of the BDS movement has nothing to do with the welfare of the Palestinian people, but the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel. We must keep this in mind and call out the movement for what it is — a hateful anti-Semitic form of warfare, which must not be tolerated in our state or our country, or among those who value freedom and democracy.

Here, we should note how not only does Scott paint the BDS movement as a monolith that is 'hateful' and 'anti-Semitic,' he takes the sentiments of the leader, Omar Barghouti, and assumes that they are the objectives of everyone in the group including Jews such as Jewish Voice For Peace (click here) and Jeff Halper's group Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (click here). The links provided here clearly show that Scott has tried to say too much against BDS. 

But not only that, we should note that what he calls economic warfare is simply the same strategy used to battle Apartheid in South Africa. Would Scott call that effort economic warfare to destroy South Africa when the end of apartheid meant the end of the use of boycotts, sanctions, and divestments? 

We should also note that Scott continues to say that the suffering of the Palestinian people is solely because of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. He seems to deny that Israel has visited any suffering, let alone injustices, on the Palestinian people.

Finally, we go to Israel and an op-ed to the Jerusalem Post written by Benjamin Kerstein (click here). In that op-ed, Kerstein states that because of Israel's exceptional place in history and its current circumstances., all criticism of it must be regarded as anti-Semitic whether racism is intended or not. To disagree with Kerstein's assertion requires that one disagrees with the exceptional predicament Israel finds itself. And then he goes on to say the following:
Nonetheless, these circumstances are not complex, nor are they numerous. They are simply these: A large portion of the world, West and East, has come to believe that Arabs and Muslims have earned the right to murder Jews.

Do we get a picture of SOME of the defensive reactions that exist to BDS? Who in BDS is believes that Arabs have the right to murder Jews? It's not that those in BDS have no faults. The California state regents were reacting to wrongful behaviors exhibited by BDS follows as well as those who oppose Zionism. Though their reaction goes too far, they are reacting to real anti-Semitism. Vandalism, threats, intimidation, scapegoating, and trying to close events (click here for one such attempt not related to what the California state university regents were reacting to) that support or appear to support Zionism are anti-Semitic as well as anti-democratic. But BDS cannot be reduced to these acts and behaviors because the people involved are too diverse. Not all in BDS exhibit, let alone support, such acts and behaviors.

In addition, what is left out of the picture is the object of the BDS protest. What we don't hear about is the daily violence and humiliation forced on the Palestinian people by Israel's Occupation and why the Palestinians were right not to agree to past Israeli offers (click here and there and there and there again). So regardless of what one could say about whether Israel was targeting civilians in their military operations, civilian life is very much targeted by the Occupation itself. Such was not included in Bernie Sanders' references to disproportionate responses by Israel when it sees fit to invade or attack. Israel's disproportionate responses were cited in the Goldstone Report on 'Operation Cast Lead' as well as the UN Report on Israel's 'Operation 'Protective Edge' (click here). One only needs to visit the B'Tselem webpages on statistics to understand where the disproportion is (click here). For further information, we could refer to the number of UN Resolutions Israel has or is violating (click here for up to the year 2010 and there for a more up to date list) as well as the number of ceasefires they have broken (click here).

Finally, as for the destruction of Israel, what is implied in the use of the terminology is a physical war with carnage and murder. But what is actually meant by people like Omar Barghouti who is the founder of BDS, is far different. What many in BDS who oppose Zionism want is a democracy that includes the return of Palestinian refugees. The end of Zionism, as seen by those BDS supporters who oppose Zionism,  is a prerequisite to ending the Occupation--remember that ending the Occupation is the stated goal of BDS. Allowing Palestinian Refugees to return would, under a democracy, "destroy" the Jewish state by demographics rather than by force and violence. So what is actually destroyed here is not a democracy, but a Jewish majority within a partial democracy.

So note what Zionism stands for so we can understand what kind of anti-Semitism is being denounced. Zionism stands for Israel's right and ability to maintain a Jewish majority in a nation that depends on democratic processes to select its government leaders  This is an important point because we are often reminded that Israel is the only "liberal democracy" that is like us in the Middle East. 

But what if the US passed laws that would guarantee that Whites would remain the majority race in our nation or that Conservative Christians would always be in control of the government? Could we then call ourselves a democracy with a straight face? And yet, that is what Israel, whose current Zionists roots started with the emigration of European Jews because they suffered horribly under an anti-Semitism without even counting the Holocaust. Zionism says that these descendants of former immigrants are allowed to make laws that guarantee that they will be the vast majority of people so that they have control over their democracy. And to oppose that kind of Zionism is now being called racism.

Certainly, this post has excluded much information. It has not included the horrible atrocities visited on the Israeli people by the Palestinians. It has not included the sensitive time period when, not too long ago, Israeli public opinion was beginning to become more sympathetic to the Palestinian plight only to be derailed by Palestinian terrorism. And there is a good reason for this exclusion. It is because many people here in the West use a mental filter that blinds them from Israeli atrocities so that the decision to support Israel in all that it does becomes a simple and sentimental decision to support the good guys wearing the white hats. And this prevents the Palestinian side of the story from being told.

Certainly BDS is about the necessary end of Israel's Occupation against the Palestinians. But we should now see is that, for some, there is also a BDS vs Zionism conflict. That conflict is about who will control the demographics of a nation that relies on democratic processes to pick its leaders. And though I support BDS, equating control of the majority population in order to benefit from democratic processes with Democracy shows a wholly inadequate understanding of Democracy. Such shows a commitment to the appearance of Democracy, but not its spirit. 

For the spirit of Democracy, at least to Israeli activist Jeff Halper, is one that says regardless of which group has the most people, there is an equal sharing and owning of the country among all groups. That without that equal sharing, what we have is some kind of partial democracy, which he calls an 'ethnocracy' in Israel's case. Thus, the oligarchy we see in the US could be called a 'classocracy.' And what we see in these partial democracies is that the group(s) that feel entitled to rule become more and more able to rationalize the visiting of all sorts of controls and even atrocities on others  in order for them to obtain or retain the supremacy they believe they deserve.