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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Authoritarianism Is The Problem



Perhaps it is impossible to know when, but a transition occurred during a trivial traffic stop. A police officer went from being a polite and non-confrontational public servant to being a bullying instigator. The end result was the arrest and eventual death of a young Black woman who started the day looking forward to starting a new job in the near future.  

Perhaps the change in the arresting officer's approach to Bland was signaled by the fact that when he returned to the car for Bland's signature on the citation, he approached the driver from the driver's side rather than the passenger's side which is the side he used the first time. Or perhaps perceiving her state of agitation when he returned, he felt threatened. Or perhaps he sensed a lack of respect when she failed to comply by putting out a cigarette. In any event, by the time he asked her to step out of the car,  he was no longer in control of his anger.

One of the first causes many assign to this tragedy is race. While the police officer is a White Hispanic, Bland is Black. And Bland had already developed a history of encounters with the police (click here). But another possible reason for why things went awry was because of Bland's gender. That some police officers stop women to "check them out" is not news to me. Former students of mine would tell me that this happens. In addition, some officers feel free to be heavy-handed with women they've stopped (click here). 

And still another reason for why the police officer became so confrontational with Bland was the cultural influence from his place of employment. Police officers must dabble with being authoritarian at times. That can, depending on situations, be a necessity for doing the job. We must realize that there are times when police officers must demand a complete compliance from the public for both the sake of doing the job and for their safety. Of course, there are also times when being authoritarian is not necessary. And knowing when to turn off the authoritarian switch can be difficult especially when there are coworkers who have the same problem. And it seems, from watching what went on during the traffic stop, that authoritarianism played a part in the interaction between the officer and Bland.

Here, we should note some of the characteristics of an authoritarian personality. This blog reported these characteristics in a previous post (click here). Some of these characteristics that seemed to be involved here were a belief in power, a tendency to be hostile to others, has a black-and-white worldview, believes in conformity, projects ones own faults on to others, and a belief in one's own superiority. And it seems with the bipolar way by which this officer was interacting during the recorded  traffic stops, that problems with being authoritarian was at least one of the reasons why things escalated the way they did.

And how this officer's interaction with Bland escalated into a serious confrontation is not too far different to how the Conservative Christian Church has reacted to the same-sex marriage controversy here in America. When there was a chance to keep same-sex marriage from becoming legal, the Conservative Christian Church acted very authoritarian to the rest of society. It demanded that such marriages prohibited by law. By our expertise, we acted as if we knew marriage better than all others. And then there was the sensitivity to criticism by those who could legitimately complain that they have been oppressed by the Church in this matter. That sensitivity yielded anger and demands that Christians be not subject to the same laws regarding discrimination that all others were. The arguments used to justify Christian businesses refusing to provide goods and services to same-sex weddings were the same that justified how businesses treated Blacks during Jim Crow.

In addition, we should note that the Conservative Christian Church both embraces and promotes authoritarianism. Most of our relationships are hierarchical. In fact, almost all of our relationships within the Church are hierarchical. Thus, we have a difficult time when we deal with an outside world much of which wants democracy and equality. Our authoritarian tendencies are perhaps why many of us, not this blog though, could not make a case before the public without being offensive. This blog, while holding to conservative Christian theology, has supported same-sex marriage in society. It opposes it in the Church however.

Groups that foster an authoritarian culture must learn how to temper their reliance on authority if they wish to effectively communicate with the outside world. Why? It is because only in hierarchical societies where authoritarianism is accepted. We can't say that all of society embraces a hierarchical structure, though we could say that there are subcultures that do. The inability to turn off the authority switch when dealing with those outside the group will only serve to alienate one's in society.

But there is another reason why groups like many groups of police officers and the Conservative Christian Church should want to put limits on how they use authority to relate to outsiders. That reason is that of the traits of authoritarianism linked with the police officer who stopped Sandra Bland, four ofthem are indicators of narcissism as well. This means lowering our dependence on authoritarianism will not only help us in relating to the outside world, it will be good for us as well.

 

Monday, July 27, 2015

ONIM For May 27, 2015

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Are American Conservative Christians The Bull In The China Shop?

The article to be reviewed this week was written by Ed Stetzer in response to the attack on our troops in Chattanooga, Tennessee by a Muslim. His article is entitled, 3 Things Christians Should Consider In Light Of Radical Islam (click here).

The three things Stetzer is focussing on are the ways Christians should respond to their friendly, neighborhood Muslims. These responses are Biblical for the most part. They consist of the reminder that we must love all of our neighbors, we must pray for all of our enemies, and we must recognize religious liberty for all while acknowledging that there is violent resistance to this liberty particularly in countries that are predominantly Muslim. Of these three suggested responses, the first two are very legitimate and must be taken seriously. The third one is somewhat debatable, but that is not what we will take issue with here.

The Stetzer comment that concerns this blogpost the most is the one that says:
The West is at the front end of what will almost certainly be a multi-decadal war against radical Islamism. We saw so again this week, as violence marred Chattanooga, TN.
 
 Stetzer's view that we have just begun a conflict with radical Islam is troublesome for two reasons. The first reason is that many would place the front end of this conflict on day of the 9-11 attacks. Was not Bin Laden and Al-Qaida considered to be representatives of radical Islam back then? That was my impression. And if that is the case, though calling this conflict multi-decadal would be correct, calling our current position in this conflict with Radical Islam the front en should trouble a lot of Americans.

But Americans are not the only ones who should be troubled by the above quote. That is because the West, consisting of America and parts of Europe, has been intervening in the Middle East and trying to control the oil resources there since before WW II.  America started its Middle East interventions in 1953 by teaming up with Great Britain to overthrow Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister. In his place, we installed a leader who was friendly to Western business interests. But this leader, the Shah as he was called, acted as tyrant to dissidents within his own country and he tried to westernize the nation against the wishes of many Muslims back then. His harsh reign led to an overthrow in 1979 and his replacement, the Ayatollah Khomeini, was recognized as the radical
Muslim of his day. 

In fact, one of reasons why we supported Iraq's brutal dictator Saddam Hussein for 10 years was so that Hussein could offset any threat Khomeini could pose to our interests in that region of the world. But not only did we support the Shah and Hussein, our unbalanced support of Israel has led to horrible persecution of Palestinian Christians and Muslims. In fact, the kind of support we've given Israel along with our support of Middle East dictators like the Shah and Hussein were two reasons cited by Bin Laden for why Al-Qaida attacked us on 9-11. Our troops sent to Lebanon and our previous day shelling of Hezbollah positions led to the bombing of the marine barracks in 1983. And we could also mention the fact that we supported terrorists like Bin Laden provided that the enemy was a Soviet Union backed government in Afghanistan.

So though Stetzer is correct in stating that our current conflict with Radical Islam could last for decades, his approximation of the conflict's beginning is very questionable. For us, the conflict always starts with what has happened to us. For Stetzer, the conflict with Radical Islam has started close to the time of the attacks against the marines on our soil. But his anticipation of the future, like the anticipation possessed by many of my religiously conservative Christians about our future because of the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage shows a gross insensitivity to the pains we've caused. For just as those from the LGBT community have dealt with decades, if not centuries, of marginalization due to Christian privilege in society, so many Muslims have suffered either directly or indirectly for decades from American interventions in the Middle East. Our interventions have caused some Muslims to become radicalized. Many more Muslims would say that the battle with the West started way before 9-11. Only we American Christians could never accept that because we have acted like a Bull in a china shop. Just as the bull is unaware of the brokenness he has caused, so many of us religiously Conservative Christians blind to the pain, caused by the actions of our nation to Muslims because of how we have deemed them as not being worthy of our consideration.





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References
  1. http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/july/3-things-christians-should-consider-in-light-of-radical-isl.html
  2. http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2014/04/04/know-your-southern-baptists-ed-stetzer/

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For July 22, 2015

July 17

To Steve Hays' angry July 16 comment responding to my comment where he leveled a number of accusations against me. This was part of the discussion in the blogpost about the Wheaton staffer who changed her position on same-sex marriage. This appeared in Denny Burk's blog.

Steve,
It seems that you are venting more than making grounded statements. The personal accusations against me regarding how I pray or my preference for having the homosexual lobby bully people or saying that I thank God I am not like Denny because I belong to the Socialist Party USA are totally without grounds. Find the quotes that support those accusations. Also, just a technical note, I actually belong to the Socialist Workers Party, not the Socialist USA Party.

Second, there is nothing wrong with how I have referred to that parable. That parable provides an equal opportunity warning. And I use that parable to disagree with Marx's solution of relying on a proletariat dictatorship to usher in the classless society as much as I use it on Christians who want to feel superior to those from the LGBT community. BTW, I disagree with Marx there because such is an externalization of sin where Marx seems to be saying that only the Bourgeoisie sin. I prefer Kautsky who recognized that any group can be oppressive.

As for the issue you identified, you present a similar case as was presented in the defense of Jim Crow. This is where we disagree. I believe that the state has a right to defend the equality of all its members.  And so the question becomes this: Can we use religious beliefs as a grounds for not treating people from certain groups as equals? That was one of the questions asked by some defending Jim Crow only their target was nonWhites? Note that freedom of speech isn't the issue. And freedom of association does not mean that businesses can discriminate otherwise you have defended parts of Jim Crow.

In addition, what some seem to be missing is the impact that denying business services to a group can cause in a Capitalist society. When you have a business, you have agreed to an implied social contract of serving all who legally ask for your services.  Why is that a contract in a Capitalist economy? Because the majority of goods and services can only be provided by businesses in such an economy. And if a business could deny a group services for the reasons you cited, then all could and such leads to the marginalization and even the experience of the deprivation of goods and services.

BTW, I wasn't changing the subject with Romans 7. You talked about sins occurring when there are lapses, that isn't the only time. And I understand those who are advocating the acceptance of homosexuality. What I am saying here is that we have to find new ways of calling homosexuality sin that do not include denying the equality of those from the LGBT community.

And no, I don't have a single test for those who are Christian. I don't regard those who disagree with me on same-sex marriage for religious reasons as nonChristians. I believe they are wrong on this issue as much as they believe I am wrong. But never have I doubted their Christianity. What I have doubted is their consistency just as I see inconsistency in myself when I sin.

And no, I don't agree with any group calling what the Bible says hate speech. I fully disagree with the court decision in England against a street preach who  was convicted of causing emotional harm to members of the LGBT community simply by reading Leviticus.

Finally, when we say such and such a lifestyle is very destructive or self-destructive and cite the destructive actions that have followed. It is our responsibility to examine why such people committed such self-destructive actions. For I see those same self-destructive actions in heterosexuals while I don't see those self-destructive actions in most, if not all, of the people I know from the LGBT community.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost quote asserting that opposing same-sex marriage is not the same as opposing interracial marriage. This appeared in Heidelblog.

Same-sex marriage does not have to be identical to interracial marriage for comparing the opposition to both. There can be significant differences between the two. And yet, opposing same-sex marriage can be comparable to opposing interracial marriage.

That opposing both have been based on the Scriptures makes opposing both comparable. And while the scriptural defense for justifying same-sex marriage is completely inadequate while the scriptural defense for practicing interracial marriage is more than adequate, opposing both can still be similar enough. In either case, opposing both seems to have a personal basis in bigotry. That same-sex marriage is not justified by the Scriptures does not imply that it cannot be practiced in society, especially a society that is based on religious freedom.

And using the natural law argument for prohibiting same-sex marriage fails for two reasons. First, there is no mandate for enforcing every part of natural law otherwise Christians would still demand that homosexuality itself be a criminal offense. Second, though in terms of truth there is only one natural law, there is more than one version of natural law in society. As I have mentioned here before, homosexuality exists with benefits in 1,500 species. So when a nonChristian looks at natural law, he/she might be using the example of what occurs in nature as the rule for natural law.

Using common law and tradition to forever rule out same-sex marriage fails because we first have broken with tradition before and to allow for common law and tradition to forever rule out same-sex marriage is more authoritarian than democratic and promotes and a tyranny of tradition. In addition, much of common law and tradition assumes a particular set of religious beliefs.

Yes, opposition to interracial marriage was insidious. But what do you call it when you unnecessarily force unbelievers to abide by your religious code?

The problem here is that our opposition to same-sex marriage in society fails on multiple levels. First, it attempts to exact a measure of discrimination against and marginalization of those from the LGBT community. Second, because other Christians sense the unfairness of our discrimination, it forces them to think that homosexuality must be biblically supported in order to escape the consequence of practicing discrimination. And finally, while nonChristians witness our discrimination against those in the LGBT community and our silence over sins of economic exploitation, destruction to the environment, and our penchant for war and militarism, we give them stumbling blocks to listening to the Gospel in the first place.


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July 20

To Stephen Hale and his July 20 comment describing my previous comment as a 'sort of geopolitical socialization engineering' and that I told Christians they ought to 'consider contemporary political views when reading the Bible.' This was part of the discussion attached to the blogpost on what Christians can do about same-sex marriage. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

Stephen,
No, but they should consider societal issues of equality and fairness as well as economic issues before advocating legislation or promoting/opposing Supreme Court decisions both of which determine the rules for our society. We should preach the Scriptures, not make them the law of the land.


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost quote on fetal tissue. This appeared in Heidelblog.

We live in a society in which people are regarded as disposable objects. So how can we expect society to treat the unborn, whose humanity is hidden by its location, with the human dignity they deserve? 


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 To Joseph Sunde and his blogpost about Jeb Bush's call for American workers to work longer hours. This appeared in the Acton blog.

The message of both Jeb Bush and Joseph Sunde, the writer of this blogpost, is that Americans should submit themselves as slaves to the competitive needs of business. After all, according to Joseph Sunde, our ancestors worked longer and harder hours than we currently work. But if our ancestors are setting the standard for our work ethic, we would also employ abusive child labor and slavery. We should also be willing to accept the labor standards that caused people to die on the job such as when the transcontinental railroad was built. And while Sunde complains that we are not making workers like we use to as evidenced by how today's workers complain, realize that our ancestors eventually got fed up with the poverty wages, the health threatening working environments, and the long hours so they organized and went on strike. Now how is it that Sunde can conclude that yesteryear's workers' would not complain like today's

Why does Jeb want us to work longer hours when, according to Forbes, Americans ranked 12th in 2013 and 10th in 2014 in the average number of hours worked per worker? We could answer that question with a famous movie quote: 'Follow the money.' After all, who would benefit more from the the sacrifices workers would have to make by increasing their hours? Would it be the workers or the top x%? A possible clue to the answer to that question can be found in asking this: Who benefited the most from the recovery of the 2008 economic collapse?












Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How To Market One's Own Society

Not too long ago, law professor and contributor to the website The Imaginative Conservative, Bruce Frohnen, wrote a blogpost for that website called What Is An Opportunity Society?  In that blogpost Frohnen made strong efforts at fairly comparing what he called the 'Security Society' of Iceland where people are taken care of by government with America's former 'Opportunity Society.'

Frohnen defines an Opportunity Society by what it is not. And what it is not is a society like Iceland's. Nor is it a society where the government passes regulations requiring what many would regard as the fair treatment of employees with benefits such as overtime and health insurance--Frohnen mentions high wages too, but some corporations use government assistance programs to subsidize their payroll by paying some employees poverty wages. 

Frohnen continues to define what an Opportunity Society is not. It isn't a society where small business owners fear the legal repercussions from refusing to provide goods and services for same-sex weddings. An Opportunity Society is not one where businesses are hassled by the government for not appearing to be racially fair by falling short of some bureaucrat's expectations.

An Opportunity society does not help with healthcare when it isn't provided at work especially when the healthcare policy punishes the middle class and rewards the rich. So when one sums up all of the ways by which a society is not an Opportunity Society, we must agree with Frohnen's conclusion that America is no longer an Opportunity Society. 

Now, the point here is not to examine Frohnen's comparison between Iceland and America. Nor is it to test the claims that Frohnen makes about what Opportunity Societies are or whether what he sees as the obstacles of such societies act as real obstacles to such societies. Rather, the purpose of this post is to examine Frohnen's methodology.  For not only does Frohnen uses a single word to describe all of American society, he comes to such a description by considering only one group, his favorite American child, business.

The problem with Frohnen's methodology is that it employs oversimplifications. To describe all of American society by focusing on only one group suggests that that group is the most important group in America. It suggests that that group is the most privileged group and it might suggest that it is the group we must depend on the most. So it matters not how regular citizens fare in America or how healthy and safe our children are. It doesn't matter to Frohnen how people of different races are getting along or how people who need healthcare are coping. To Frohnen, the only group that can be used to define American society is business. 

But we need to proceed from there. Regardless of the complexity of our economic system and how some businesses are performing. For regardless of how some businesses are offshoring jobs or how some businesses might be harming the environment or how some businesses are finding ways not to pay their fair share of taxes, our society would be called an Opportunity Society if government would just get out of business' way.

Because Frohnen's analysis of what America was depends solely on the life experiences of one group and because he can sum up the ideal arrangement for that group using a single word,  Frohnen is flirting with using dichotomous thinking. With dichotomous thinking, the state of any person, group, or venture is looked at in black-and-white terms. Things are going either good or bad, there is no continuum that provides in between measurements. Thus, the interpretation of one's status depends on a self-limiting set of inputs. 

With Frohnen's methodology, our infrastructure could be crumbling, racism could still be thriving, our incarceration rate could be the highest in the world, and there could be more empty houses than homeless families. But as long as the business restrictions Frohnen was complaining about were absent, he could classify our society as an Opportunity Society.

The oversimplification employed by Frohnen moves us to deliberately work and make decisions with an inadequate amount of information. To be an Opportunity Society, we only need to worry about our businesses and what restrictions or responsibilities they have to face.

If we as Americans are going to either work our way out of the current hole we have dug for ourselves or advance as a nation, we can't afford to make decisions based on inadequate information. We can't afford to make decisions based only on how one group is affected or whether we meet the criteria imposed by one label. For example, in 2016, we can't afford to cast our votes for candidates solely because of political party affiliation or only because they will favor our pet group. And the same applies for deciding to favor trade agreements that will cost jobs here or weaken our sovereignty.

We have to be concerned with all groups in America and we must resist the temptation to use single labels to describe the status of our complex society, economic system, our healthcare system, our education system, or whatever systems remain. The more we we oversimplify issues or statuses, the more we choose to make ignorant decisions. And that is simply the result of considering only one group or using single labels to describe how our society works.




Monday, July 20, 2015

ONIM For May 20, 2015

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Friday, July 17, 2015

A Much Needed Change Of Pace

Here, in America, the Conservative Christian Church is bound and determined to prove what nonConservatives say about it: That the Church is just another institution of indoctrination to maintain the status quo for the benefit of those with wealth and power.

How does the Church work to prove their theological rivals correct? It does so in two ways. The first way is that the Conservative Church in America tends to stay silent on system and societal sins that benefit those with wealth and power. The second way works its magic much in the same way that our economic system accomplishes the same task. Just as the demands of the jobs of many people leave them with too little time or energy to be informed by their own society and the world, so Conservative Christian leaders tend to teach a piety that leaves too little time and energy for their flock to pay attention to the system and societal sins around them and in the world. This is despite the fact that we seem to have no problems with working long and hard to try to legally prohibit the personal actions of others in society.

We should note that because of how piety is taught in America, Conservative Christians here don't have time to be informed about the world near to them and far away, the priority of paying attention to these system and societal sins are relegated to that of being a luxury rather than a necessity. And if we believe that we are pious but haven't had time to learn about and respond to these sins, then ignoring of these sins and our possible complicity in committing them can't really be a sin in and of itself.

We should add that there are instances where the Conservative Christian Church is willing to spend time and money to address a public issues like Israel and same-sex marriage. But when it does so, it either is avoiding challenging those who maintain the status quo of society or it unconditionally supports it. The Conservative Church here seldom, if ever, challenges the maintainers of the status quo, those with wealth and power, in terms of the following: economic exploitation, destruction of the environment, and war and militarism. But Israel and issues revolving around sex are a different matter.

Now that is in America. If we cross the pond, we see Christians reacting a different way to the status quo. In this week's version of the Christian website Christian Today,  we see two articles that address social issues and they do so in a way that could rub the managers of the status quo the wrong way. The first article is written by Angus Ritchie and concerns whether the Church should take a stand on the housing crisis in England (click here). This of course has to do with controlling the price of housing. The second article, written by Tim Jones, lays out a solid case for why today's bailouts being forced on Greece are 'immoral' and 'unbiblical' (click here).  What we want to stress here is not necessarily the details of the situations being written about; rather, we are emphasizing the fact that a nonliberal Christian website is addressing these issues though the web site doing so is not American.

In Ritchie's article about the Church's responsibility to enter the fray of Britain's housing crisis, part of the Church has been battling to help peopleobtain a living wage. However, the status of that wage is being threatened by the rising cost of housing.  Thus, it is the Church's responsibility, according to Ritchie, to maintain the livability of the current wage by trying to control housing costs by various ways from work that creates new partnerships with housing associations to pressuring the various levels of government into helping.

In contrast to the call to action seen in Ritchie's article, Tim Jones' article on Greece is more of an FYI opinion piece. But in his article, Jones provides the necessary information for the reader to realize that the current series of bailouts being forced on Greece is really being given solely to support Greece's lenders by the fact that a vast majority of the money being lent is going to these institutions rather than to Greece and that the costs of the bailouts is that foreign governments are determining the new labor laws that will be enforced in Greece along with new austerity measures. This is despite what Jones cites the IMF opinion that austerity measures have hurt Greece's economic performance let  alone have caused much suffering on the people.  And in hurting Greece's economic performance, these measures all but ensure that Greece will never be able to pay its debt and thus will continue to need more costly bailouts. 

We should note that to read some of the American Conservative Christian websites on Greece's ongoing crisis would lead one to conclude that it is those who live off of pensions who are the reason for Greece's debt. That was never the case. And yet, that narrative supports the maintainers of the staus quo: the lending institutions and the governments that are working hand-in-hand with the banks to rob the Greeks of all their benefits as well as control over their own government.

Rather than saying anything more, both articles referenced here must be read. For perhaps after reading about what is going on, we American Conservative Christians might finally realize that there are other sins that need to be publicly addressed than sins of sexual immorality as important as important as those sins are.






References
  1. http://www.christiantoday.com/article/britains.housing.crisis.why.the.church.needs.to.join.in.the.fight/58632.htm


    2.   
    http://www.christiantoday.com/article/greece.why.the.deal.forced.on.it.by.the.eurozone.is.immoral.and.unbiblical/59028.htm