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Friday, July 1, 2016

Is The PCA Apology Better Late Or Never?

In their most recent General Assembly meeting, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) did something that might have been unprecedented at the time for a religiously conservative Christian denomination: they apologized. They apologized to Blacks in America for the denomination's practicing of segregation and its support for white supremacy during the days of the Civil Rights movement. The PCA overture that addressed this made mention of something that many of something that my fine fellow flaming fundamentalist friends and family frequently forget to refer to: corporate sin. We should note that corporate sins are those practiced by groups, which in this case the PCA denominations. But the sins that the PCA was repenting from were not just the sins of individual Christians in the denomination, they were repenting of the sins practiced by the denomination as an institution in the past.

Jemar Tisby (click here for the bio) wrote a blogpost reaction to the PCA's apology for the Reformed African American Network website (click here for the article). His remarks were very reasonable and balanced. And instead of commenting on what he wrote, I strongly suggest that you click the link to the article and read it for yourself.

What I would like to point out is something that Tisby misses in reacting to the PCA apology. That something missing is a perspective on racism held by Martin Luther King Jr. The perspective I am referring to is expressed below in a speech he made to voice opposition to the Vietnam War (click here for the source).
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

We should note two points made by King here as the PCA and some other religiously conservative churches have become sensitive to past sins and oppressions. We want to draw attention to these things not as an attempt to take away attention from the positive steps that the denomination is taking. Rather, it hoped that the corrections made here will further enhance the PCA's attempts at racial reconciliation.

What were King's points? The first point is that racism is not a problem that stands by itself. It is inextricably connected to other sins. The result is that if we try to significantly reduce or even eliminate racism from the Church, we cannot accomplish that by addressing racism alone. 

What must we also focus on when trying to combat racism in our ranks? King notes that the driving force for the evils of racism, poverty, and militarism has to do with materialism and our society's inclination to value things over people. And here, what King is referring to by things consists of gadgets, profits, and property rights.

Yes, we must apply a concerted focus on racism. But for as long as things are more important than people, we will be inclined to compromise moral values that promote division amongst us and one of those divisions will be race. And note that if we address what King saw as the root cause for problems like racism, we would be killing more than two birds with one stone.

Thus, the PCA must not only apologize for racism. It must start addressing its corporate participation in other sins such as supporting an exploitive economic system that invisibly leads people to embracing racism, materialism, and militarism. Yes, we should be very grateful that the PCA is apologizing for its institutional support of racism in the past. But if King is right, to focus on racism without addressing our tendencies to value things more than people is rather self-sabotaging. For as long as things are more important than people, our own practices and state policies will reflect those priorities. And for as long as we hold to those priorities, we will be clinging to racism regardless of what we claim to be doing.




Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For June 29, 2016

June 26

To Mika Edmondson and his talk/text blogpost on Blacks Lives Matter and how it compares with the Civil Rights Movement from the past. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

Mika Edmondson's article has some good points as well as is in need of some correction. His clarification of what the name Black Lives Matter is excellent. His call to us to care and to act is necessary. Criticizing his efforts on those issues shows an ignorance of the hardships many Blacks must endure.


However, his comparisons between Black Lives Matter and the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s is wanting because simplifies the movement to just the work of Martin Luther King and those who worked with him. Malcolm X, both when he opposed King and when he was more reconciled with his position worked for Civil Rights. Muhammad Ali worked for Civil Rights. Bobby Seale and the Black Panthers worked for Civil Rights. And those rioted in the streets in Watts and Chicago also worked for civil rights. See, the Civil Rights Movement was a mix and the tendency of some to reduce the Civil Rights Movement to what King and his compadres did might be due, IMO, to society's requirement that for victims to be worthy of recognition they must be at least relatively sinless. Otherwise, if they have too many faults, there is no need to change the status quo. This is certainly a possible explanation why the oppression of the Palestinians goes unabated.

One more criticism of Edmondson's work here revolves around perhaps his expected or hoped for reaction to his words. For if he expected a mass movement from the Reformed Christianity to come to the aid of those who still suffer from racism, he, IMO, will be sorely disappointed--though I hope I am wrong. The help today's Blacks need requires that the Church criticize the government and calls for political changes. This is something that goes part and parcel against much of Reformed Theology both from the past and the present.

Fortunately, some from Reformed Christianity are calling for the end of racism anyway. But King made it clear in his speech against the Vietnam War that to eradicate racism, we must consider people to be more important than the newest technology, profits, and property rights. And part of doing that includes the call for further political changes than just demanding racial equality. It requires that the Church call for economic justice as well.

Still, despite the above criticisms, all Christians, especially those from the various Reformed denominations, need to read or listen to Edmondson here. Much of he said is excellent and should be required listening/reading for religiously Conservative Christians today.

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To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost and his attempt to tie the Orlando shootings with Islam. This appeared in Heidelblog.

Should we go to Bill Maher to understand Christianity? If not, why are we relying on fellow Christians to understand Islam as Muslims interpret Islam? And this question especially applies when we listen to Christians who are political conservatives from Western countries. Such conservatives seem to forget Church history with its religious wars and dependence on Western Empires to spread through much of the world. They also seem to be just as ignorant of Western interventions in the Middle East that include conducting coups, supporting brutal dictators, supporting terrorists, conducting terrorist attacks, invading a nation, and supporting Israel's brutal occupation against the Palestinians.

Those religiously conservative Christians also seem to be ignorant of all the possible reasons why the attacker in the Orlando mass shooting did what he did. They opportunistically jump on Mateen's phone call pledging allegiance to ISIS but failing to do the minimal research that would tell them that Mateen claimed allegiance to or had connections with Islamic terrorist groups that opposed each other. In fact, the FBI did not have him on the terrorist watch list knowing the claims he made. These Christians also neglect to mention that Mateen was a disturbed person who had an early history of being preoccupied with sex and violence. In addition, Mateen is alleged to have abused one of his wives, to have a questionable sexual orientation, and to have taken steroids.

Likewise, Clark's view of Islam is skewed. There is certainly much violence and conquest and expansionism in Islam's history just as there is the same in the history of Christianity. But Islam isn't about violence or conquest; Islam is about establishing justice. Muhammad not only observed much injustice where he lived, he learned to associate it with polytheism. And despite that, he respected true Christians and Jews as people of the book--should note that he considered Christianity to be polytheistic because of its belief in the Trinity. True Christians and Jews, according to Muhammad, were those who had not sold out to materialism. His concern for justice does not justify the violence he practiced and promoted; but it does show Islam does not revolve around violence.

It was R.C. Sproul who observed that the vast majority of Muslims who live in the Orlando area, where he resides, are peaceful and good neighbors. Perhaps instead of going to religiously conservative Christians who have possible religious and/or political axes to grind with what Islam teaches, we should go to those Muslims who live in peace with us and ask them to interpret Islam.

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June 27

To the Imaginative Conservative Blog and its titling a speech given by Senator Ben Sasse the following: The Democrats Sit In: A Violation Of Principled Governance?. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative Blog.

Besides the decontextualization of the historical purpose of the Senate and the opportunistic placing of the founding fathers on pedestals, this speech is neither here nor there. It does assume an authoritarian mantle of the Senate shepherding the people rather than listening to them. However, such was the original purpose of the Senate, to make government less accountable to the people in order to maintain the status quo for the benefit of those with wealth, which included quite a few of our founding fathers. After all, it was during the debate on term of a senator that Madison uttered the following (source for below quote is http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/yates.asp    ):

our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, they ought to have permanency and stability. Various have been the propositions; but my opinion is, the longer they continue in office, the better will these views be answered.

Finally, we should compare the title of the article with the content of the speech. For Sasse's speech doesn't address the House of Representatives at all. And to apply how the Senate should ideally approach a problem to how the House of Representatives should,  forgets the distinction in purpose and structure of the two legislative branches. In addition, perhaps we should do something against tenets used to construct the Senate by the writers of The Constitution. Perhaps we should listen to the people to see if they think that the House sit in is a violation of principled governance. After all, and again, the self-proclaimed Senator Fix-it does not provide an answer to the question asked by the title of the article.


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To Timothy Kleiser and his blogpost that reviews a book on how Christianity should offer a counterculture for the common good. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition blog.

Though my assessment of the article is hampered by my not having read the book it is reviewing, it seems to me that the reason why many people see Christianity as 'irrelevant and extreme,' as claimed by the book being reviewed, is not fully examined by the article. For it isn't just what we have tried to impose on individuals that makes us irrelevant, it is what we have silently been complicit in which accomplishes the same. That Christianity has been furthering of sins that are a natural part of maintaining the status quo.

For a confident pluralism, the Church needs to be more libertarian regarding the personal practices and beliefs of others. At the same time, the Church needs to be front and center in the battle against the marginalization and oppression of groups of people whether they are fellow citizens or not.

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To Joe Carter and his blogpost that claims that free markets are necessary for human flourishing. This appeared in the Acton blog.

The above article only shows that logic is more even misunderstood than economics. For what is missing are terms that are well defined so that they can be measured and a domain.

For example, how do we define a 'free market'? And what does human flourishing mean and how is it measured? Do we have human flourishing if there is an average increase in wealth regardless of what else is occurring? If we put Carter's assertion in conjunction with the claim made by Donald J. Boudreaux, then human flourishing is equivalent to economic performance. But here we should realize that economic performance is only one measure of how people are doing. The economic performance of the old South relied greatly on slave labor for example. Is good economic performance aided by a slave-based economy mean that we are flourishing? Or we could also ask if there were any great empires that were built without free markets? And if the answer is none, then what is the relationship between empire and free markets?

References to the old South are pertinent here because the two nations that have seen the greatest number of people be relieved of abject poverty are also the two nations that have the most slaves: India and China. And the number of slaves for each of these nations has either become stagnant or has grown. Thus our growing free markets seem impotent in affecting slavery in comparison to how they have reduced the number of people living in abject poverty. So, do we really have human flourishing during despite how some human stakeholders in the economy are treated?

Furthermore, Carter's assertion that free markets are a necessary condition to human flourishing is nothing more than an assertion. For the way his Venn diagram states the case, he would have to prove that in every historical and present instance where we had human flourishing, we had free markets. Neither he nor the economist he quoted attempted to show this connection with a limited number of examples.

Yes, Carter wants to say that free markets are not enough to increase human flourishing, but he doesn't seem to even know how to prove his basic assertion. Instead, he quotes an expert which only shows Carter's reliance on authoritarianism.

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To Joseph Sunde and his blogpost on how McDonald’s can act as Capitalism’s community center. What is neglected is the low wages paid to McDonald’s employees which should challenge how it can become a community center for all. This appeared in the Acton blog.

We should note something else about places like McDonalds, some of the people who work there must apply for government assistance in order to survive. And they must apply for some kind of government assistance because they are not being paid enough by place McDonald's to live without it. Unlike them, those of us who are paid adequately by our employers don't need to apply for government assistance programs. So many of these programs are tied to income.

If you read free marketers, you will see how some of them deny that government assistance programs that help low wage workers are subsidies for corporations like McDonalds. Why do they deny the obvious? They say it is because the end result some government assistance programs is to drive up the pay employees must offer to entice a person to work at a particular job.

The description of these apologists is really a slight of hand. That is because much of welfare is paid based on income and income is based on what employers pay. Those with adequate incomes need to apply for fewer, if any, welfare benefits. Those with less than adequate incomes must apply for assistance. And those who apply for assistance can be divided into two groups: those who work and those who don't. And the fact that there are some who work who must apply for government assistance means that government is picking up the slack that businesses have left otherwise they would have fewer, if any, employees who could afford to invest their time in working for the business. In addition, we might ask these apologists if the increased supply of low wage workers from offshoring has offset wages companies feel they must pay low wage workers in order to entice them to work.

So the distribution of wealth in businesses like McDonald's includes some people being paid less than adequate wages so that others, particularly stockholders, can be paid more money. Then all one has to do is to look at the taxes corporations like McDonald's try to avoid paying to see how public funds are being used to subsidize McDonald's payrolls. For if McDonald's is not paying their fair share in taxes, then McDonald's is getting a free lunch from the government because of their reliance on assistance programs to pay their employees while refusing to adequately contribute to those same programs.

In the end, this article does what many articles that defend Capitalism do. They shine a spotlight on the benefits bestowed on the consumer while they try to make the low wage worker an invisible, if not nonexistent, stakeholder.





Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Preparing For The Fourth Of July

A week from yesterday will be July 4th. That is the day where we celebrate our independence as a nation, a nation that is alleged to believe in fairness, equality, justice, and opportunity. And when we slip up in the present, we can always resort to the past to set our ways straight.

But like the present, the past ain't what it use to be. Anyone who has read a balanced list of sources about the past can shout 'AMEN.' When we step back and observe how we celebrate the Fourth of July, we should note it has much in common with the other holidays we celebrate in that they are crafted so we can feel good or better about ourselves. On Thanksgiving Day, we feel good or better about ourselves by engaging in gluttony. We make ourselves feel better on Christmas by utilizing crass consumerism. And New Year's Eve and Day we use hope for the coming year and resolutions to feel better about ourselves. On Memorial Day, we prove ourselves by how we honor those who have given their lives in our nation's wars and interventions. As for next week, we will feel good by association as we honor the "independent" spirit of America as demonstrated by our nation's Founding Fathers.

This need, or compulsion, to feel good about ourselves, however, silences important but disturbing voices from history just as it silences the still small voice of our consciences. So we try to celebrate unincumbered by ignoring how our lives and freedom have affected others. This is no more true than when we celebrate our nation's past  and build pedestals for our Founding Fathers so it will be easier to pay homage to them. And to  the extent that we can celebrate their achievements and honor them, we feel connected to them and thus feel better about ourselves.

And yet, history's voices can never really be silenced as disturbing as they may be. Frederick Douglass's speech on what July 4th meant to slave documents this (click here).  For while Douglass praises the accomplishments of those from America's past, he notifies his audience that he has no share in their glory and thus in their joy. Why?  It is becuase of how his people have been treated. They were ripped away from their families and stolen from their homelands so that they could wear chains and live in the service of others. And if they objected, they were beaten and tortured. If they misbehaved like others, they received harsher penalties--much like today. For while the White Americans of his time, as well as our own, congratulated themselves for how they treated each other, they lived in deep denial for how they treated others.

History tells us that we need to listen, about the barbarity that America's European settlers showed to people of color: to Blacks as well as to Native Americans. Though we know how true this history is, our compulsion to feel good has often prevents us from being fully connected with the past. And while we tolerate our own disconnection with our past, we would never allow others to enjoy such a disconnect. For how would we react to Germans who no longer felt obligated to remember the Holocaust with sadness and a sense of shame. And yet, despite the fact that we had to ethnically cleanse Native Americans from what would become our portion of the continent and use slaves to help build our economy, we often feel offended if someone would suggest that we should include remorse when remembering the past. And what is more disturbing is that both Native Americans and Blacks still suffer from the effects of their ancestors' past while we try to forget past sins.

But today is unlike Douglass's day in that we have spread the suffering around the world by intervening in 50-plus nations with over 30 of them being democracies. And the result of many of those intrusions into the democracies of others have led to dictatorships. And yet, we feel strongly led to still declare that our nation is a 'city upon a hill.' Of course, that declaration is only meant for those who are like us and who share our values. For we now refrain from so flattering our nation because of those others who have infiltrated our nation and have corrupted it. Considering that in 2013, polls showed that America was seen as posing the greatest threat to peace in the world, perhaps we should take the cue for how we are to celebrate our past and present  from others who clearly see what we really look like.



Monday, June 27, 2016

ONIM For June 27, 2016

Christian News

World News

Pick(s) Of The Litter





Friday, June 24, 2016

How A Christian View Of Terrorism Shows A Christian Problem In Viewing The World

On June 20th, the podcast from the Legonier Ministries' Renewing Your Mind program consisted of an interview with the deservedly, well-esteemed theologian R.C. Sproul (click here for a brief bio) called A Christian Response To Terrorism (click here for the interview and ignore the text below the interview).

This blog has reviewed Sproul before on at least one issue and has disagreed with a significant portion of what he said. The disagreements expressed in this blog should not be taken as any challenge to Sproul's many contributions to the Reformed Faith. Sproul is well-deserving of the respect and regard many from the Reformed Faith have for him. But it is issues that this blog tries to cover. And some of Sproul's views of terrorism need to be challenged.

The purpose of the interview was to provide a response in the light of the tragic mass shooting in Orlando. In short, many of Sproul's comments could be characterized as being short-sighted. And it appears that they are short-sighted because of a certain insularity that Sproul and many religiously conservative Christians suffer from or endulge in when examining the world around them. Even the connection of the Orlando shooting with Islamic terrorism shows an inadequate knowledge of the shooter's background. For as of now, there are too many factors involved to assume that the shooting was an example of Islamic terrorism.

By insularity what is meant is that the sources some religiously conservative Christians use to learn about the outside world are significantly restricted by the spiritual or ideological credentials of their sources. The result is that certain views on terrorism are inadequate and thus make it more difficult to present an adequate Christian response to it.

An example of the result of Sproul's insularity is when he states that Bush's invasion of Iraq was justified because of Iraq's participation in the training of terrorists, it is said in such a matter of fact tone it is as if that view is widely held. Now if he was referring to Iraq training terrorists who attacked America, he has a problem because such a  position is not widely held. Neither the 9-11 Commission nor the Pentagon agree with the connection between the terrorists who attacked us and Iraq (click here, there, and there again) and their views were documented over 10 years ago.

In addition to insularity, Sproul's views on attacking terrorism indicate how his political views on terrorism are governed more by an American-centricity than by the information available. For example, suppose in Sproul justifying Bush's invasion of Iraq he was referring to Iraq training terrorists per se, the question becomes so what. Here Sproul seems to forget how America has trained and supported terrorists when it supported Bin Laden et. al. during the Soviet Union's Afghanistan intervention during the 1980s or how the US supported the Contra rebels in Nicaragua as they at attacked civilian targets, which was also during the 1980s. If Bush's invasion was justified because of alleged ties between Iraq and terrorism, did Afghanistan, Nicaragua, and even the Soviet Union not have the right to attack the US back then because of our ties to terrorism? In addition, Sproul seems to not include military actions conducted by a nation's armed forces as terrorism. Was not even the American threat of Shock & Awe a terrorist threat since civilians would be killed and the intention was for Iraq to make political changes? Terrorism, according to Sproul, seems to be only what Islamic radicals do to others. 

Sproul's American-centric approach to the subject of terrorism continues as he neglects to mention the reasons why terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda attacked us on 9-11. He explicitly stated that they attacked us in order to change our culture as if what they objected to was our culture. The real reasons for the attacks are not hidden. Reasons include the sanctions we helped enforced on Iraq that were, in conjunction with our destroying Iraq's infrastructure during the first Persian Gulf War, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. Reasons include our imbalanced support for Israel's Occupation against the Palestinians. Reasons include our presence in the Middle East and, in particular, our support for Saudi Arabia when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. We should note here that neither Kuwait nor Saudi Arabia agreed with the need to invade Iraq in 2003. We should also note that the US has supported a number of brutal dictatorships in the region. Those reasons could never justify the 9-11 attacks, but they do help explain why we were attacked. And we certainly were not attacked because we had the freedom to choose between rooting for the Red Sox or an evil empire.

Likewise Spoul's explanation of Radical Islam where Radical Islam is explained as being more consistent with the fundamentals of Islam itself shows insularity, only this is of a Christian kind. For when most religiously conservative Christians compare Christianity with Islam, they only compare today's versions; they neglect to mention Christianity's violent past such as how Christianity often rode in on the back of Western Civilization's expanding empires. In addition, with Sproul's belief that violence is one of the roots of Islam, it appears that he has never asked the peaceful Muslims in his community why they are peaceful though their religion, according to him, is rooted in violence. When Christians criticize Islam for its history of violence, they never include the fact that Islam is actually a religion of justice and that one of Muhammad's main concerns was the elimination of injustices he saw in his area of the world. Certainly that does not excuse Muslims from much of the violence they have taken part in, but it does give us a context for the violence. And while Sproul mentions the part of the Koran that says to kill the infidel, he neglects to mention the parts that say to live in peace with those who wish to live in peace.

Sproul's insularity indicates that he has succumbed to tribalism. Sproul has shown that he is perhaps tied too closely to Western Civilization, America, Conservative Christianity, and conservative political ideology to look some of the subjects discussed objectively. This insularity prevents Sproul from developing a wider perspective and a view of Islam and the world's problem with terrorism that is characterized by fairness. And such distracts from the positive remarks he made during the interview such as when he talked about a Christian's duty to help all who are in need regardless of the groups one may belong to.

This falling to tribalism where group loyalty trumps principles and morals so that what is right and wrong depends on who does what to whom is a temptation that is faced by all who belong to groups. In other words, it is a temptation that is faced by all of us and none of us have never given in to it. But at the same time, tribalism, along with the love of money, are the two human weaknesses that are destroying the world today. So while we can no longer tolerate either weakness, we must understand why others not only submit to it, but embrace it. We must understand in order to battle these weaknesses because all of us are giving in to these weaknesses at various times.




Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For June 22, 2016

June 14

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost video showing Obama espousing belief in traditional marriage. This appeared in the Heidelblog.

So are we celebrating his belief in civil unions here as much as his definition of marriage?

Since there are legal differences between civil unions and marriages and we are sharing society with nonChristians, why should we oppose same-sex marriage in society? IMO, those who oppose same-sex marriage oppose the full equality of those from the LGBT community in society.  And for as long as Christians oppose full equality for those in the LGBT community in society, they sabotage their efforts to share the Gospel with those from that community.


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June 16

To R. Scott Clark on his blogpost quote about how to avoid biblicism from an article on how to interpret the Bible. This appeared in Heidelblog.

How can we avoid biblicism? It would be interesting to read his actual biblical interpretations of different parts of the Bible and on different issues to see if he avoided biblicism.

How can we avoid biblicism? It would be interesting to read his actual biblical interpretations of different parts of the Bible and on different issues to see if he avoided biblicism.

I do have a suggestion of my own on how to avoid biblicism: avoid using the Regulative Principle. We should first note that the Regulative Principle was not followed in Jesus' time.  Second, the regulative principle sets us up for mere imitation or following literal commands without reference to context and issues. Third, we need to combine a balance between relying on what was said in the past with doing new theology.  It was Henri Bouiard who said that when theology was not updated, it was false. And that is because when theology is not updated, because of the new issues we are facing, not updating theology causes us to try to wear the shoes of our ancestors. At the same time, the updating of our theology cannot change the essentials of our faith. Here we should note that how we should respond to the new issues of the day has always involved a one-and-many problem regarding the Christian faith. The Regulative Principle in essence does not recognize new historical contexts and new issues. As a result, we are forced to decontextualize what was said and done in the past to ensure that we imitate and follow literally what was done and said in the past in today's changing world.

But even after adding my proposal, the only way to ensure that we have avoided biblicism is through an inductive study of what we have written and said.

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Wrong year and reference regarding England see http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.648.7044&rep=rep1&type=pdf

June 17

To Josh Herring and his blogpost asking if America can afford to tolerate Muslims. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.

The idea of Christian freedom as presented in the article seems to have forgotten what it took to get there. That it because Christians haven't always tolerated freedom as it does today, especially when its views of homosexuality are contrasted with the views of Muslims today. 

The idea of today's Christian freedom in society is more due to modernity's influence on Christianity than on its ties to the past.  Christians have fought wars or persecuted each other if their theologies did not match or one belonged to the wrong denomination. If we study how the Christian Church has treated homosexuals, we must begin looking at how the Christian emperors of Rome put homosexuals to death. And for centuries, Christians used the Scriptures to justify either the Church or the state putting homosexuals to death. 

What helped stop the battles between and persecution of people from different denominations was need. They needed to unite Christian denominations in order to have sufficient pool for the army to fight the British in the Revolutionary War. We should note how some of the churches in the colonies battled each other. In fact, the Puritans martyred 4 Quakers.

We should also note how homosexuals were treated throughout our nation's history. The Puritans had people executed because they engaged in homosexual practices.  In fact, churches would also punish the child victims of pedophilia because, back then, they didn't always distinguish between the victim and the perpetrator.  In colonial days, crimes that could draw the death penalty included adultery, sodomy, witchcraft, and blasphemy and the Bible was used to justify all of that (see http://www.badnewsaboutchristianity.com/gff_homosexuality.htm ). It wasn't until 1786 that states began to drop the death penalty for engaging in homosexual acts. In England, it wasn't until 1851 that the death penalty was finally eliminated as a punishment for homosexuality. Instead, they settled for life imprisonment (see https://www.rca.org/homosexuality ).

For centuries, homosexual acts were criminalized and those who were convicted had to face various different punishments because of the Church's attitude toward homosexuality. It wasn't until a couple of decades ago that homosexuality because to be decriminalized. And that decriminalization might be due more to the sexual revolution than to the concept of freedom held by American Christians. And all of this happen, though this all doesn't tell the whole story, happened in Christian Europe and in Christian America.

Thus the comparison made here between how Islam views and treats homosexuals from how Christianity does is a bit skewed in that it forgets much of the history of how Christianity has regarded and abused homosexuals. Thus, the question in the title of this article needs to be readdressed. Why? Because we haven't been the lovers of freedom, tolerance, and limited government that we claim to be. In fact, when one considers the West's history of intervention, colonialism, and support of tyrants in the Middle East, one would be tempted to ask a parallel question: Can Muslims afford to tolerate Western influence in the Middle East. Since the repercussions of our actions and policies there have been more far reaching than that of Islam's in the West, the obvious answer in a word would be: NO WAY!

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To Denny Burk and his blogpost on how Christians are being blamed by some for the massacre in Orlando. This appeared in Denny Burk’s blog.

Before we comment on Mateen's murderous rampage, we should first do the minimum research. And in this day and age, that minimum research would be to read wikipedia--a resource I would not allow my students to use in any papers. That research tells us that the FBI investigate Mateen and considered him not to be a terrorist threat. In addition, we should note that Mateen claimed to have connections or pledged allegiance to Islamic groups that were opponents of each other (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omar_Mateen ).

We should also note that Mateen was a disturbed individual who was fixated on both sex and violence from an early age. He used steroids and abused his wife and was described by his first wife as being unstable . There were also questions about his sexual orientation. (See previous source). Now how many of those facts made it into either the above blogpost or the article by David French? 

At this time, we really don't know what drove Mateen to massacre the people at the Pulse. In fact, we may never know. But the above contains some additional information besides the fact that Mateen called 911 and pledged allegiance to ISIS. And that information is easily accessible with a minimum effort. And yet, it was not included in the these articles speculating on why Mateen did what he did. Instead, the information used to describe Mateen was heavily filtered and then the articles started playing the Christian persecution card as if the main story here is about us. To those who read within small circles, the lack of info used will not be an issue at all. But the world to which we are to witness sees this kind of reporting and it cannot be impressed by it.

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June 18

To Steve Turley and his article on why Christians were being blamed for Mateen’s mass shooting at the gay club in Orlando. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.

There are two problems here. The first problem is with its analysis of the attack of the article. The second problem with its use of quotes to say people are blaming Christianity for the attack.

The problem with this article's analysis of the attack is that it isn't based on research. The FBI cleared Mateen of suspicion of being involved with terrorist groups and thus removed him from the terrorist watch list in late 2013. Why did they do that? One reason was Mateen had satisfactorily explained why he made questionable statements. The second was because his acclaimed connections and pledge of allegiance to ISIS was complicated by the fact that his allegiances were to opposing terrorist groups. On the other hand, Mateen was described as an unstable person by his first wife whom he abused. He had a history of being fixated on violence and sex since he was young. He took steroids. And sexual orientation itself was in question Thus, using his 911 call to blame his attack on his self-acclaimed allegiance to ISIS to blame his connections to a terrorist group for his attack is premature. In addition, we don't hear investigators blaming the attack on his ISIS connections.

The second problem with this article's use of quotes to claim people are blaming Christianity for the attack. This article listed two sources for this blaming Christianity for the attack. The first one, the ACLU reference, allegedly blamed Christianity for the attack but there is not direct quote that proves that. But let's suppose he did blame Christianity. Why would he? It is due to the combination of the numerous laws Christians have proposed and supported that target the LGBT community along with this person's personal history of having to battle Christian homophobia while he experienced love and support from a Muslim family.

We should note that no accusation was being made in the quote from the NCLR spokesperson. There, the second quote was said in the context of the need to eliminate bigotry and discrimination, not in the context of discussing who is responsible for the attack.

Even with Strange's "accusation," the actual quotes provided by The Examiner's article gives us reason to consider the accusation. For the accusation is around the toxic, anti-gay environment Conservative Christians have sought to produce in our country. And the question of whether this toxic environment had any role in the shooting is well worth considering. If the toxic environment was not there, would Mateen have targeted gays for his lashing out?

And let's face it, we have tried, and continue to do so, to provide a toxic environment for gays in society by the laws we propose and support. We should note that not more than 200 years ago, gays could be executed by the state for their sexual orientation in some places, Homosexuality was criminalized for centuries here and in Europe. In addition, one of the reasons why many of us religiously conservative Christians oppose same-sex marriages is because we don't want society to view homosexuality as normal. Many of us want society to view homosexuals as a threat because of their deviancy. Some Christians have preemptively scapegoated homosexuals for any coming judgment this country receives from God. So the question becomes this: Has conservative Christianity provided the kind of environment that contributed to Mateen's decision to engage in the mass shooting at the night club?

Instead of considering the above question, the above article  overindulged in some logical exercise in an effort to explain why Christians were being blamed while it was negligent in researching the possible reasons why Mateen did hat he did. And this article exaggerated how much blame was being pushed our way.

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June 20

To Joe Carter and his blogpost on how in trying to prevent children from being exploited on jobs, the choice has become poverty or prostitution for many children in Bangladesh. This appeared in the Acton Blog

What is astonishing, in a horrific sense, is that after given the choices of A, B, and C, is that Carter tolerates the situation that only offers those choices? It's like our two party system. During each presidential election, we complain about the two choices we have for president never asking ourselves whether we should replace the two party system with a multi party system.

There is a reason why child labor has been prohibited: it is called History. And while Carter argues that child labor beats child prostitution, he obediently tells us that our options are limited. And our options are limited if we don't question and change the current economic system. 

Capitalism has forever looked for exploitable labor markets. In America, we have had slavery, prison labor, trafficked labor, child labor, sweatshop labor, and labor that is paid poverty wages where income must be supplemented by government assistance programs. And that has all been or is still being employed in order to make business and financial elites wealthier. Then those who are exploited are told that they should live vicariously through the lives of the rich and famous. And it isn't just the wealthy who benefit from exploited labor, it is the Middle Class whose members often consume goods that products of exploited labor--note the $0.53 per day a child is paid. 

The problem with Carter's article is not necessarily in his description of the situation, it is in his acceptance of it. He accepts this situation while standing under the flag of economic freedom and liberty. And many of us might be tempted to join him in accepting the situation by claiming that such is the real world. In other words, exploiting child labor is not a social problem because nothing can be done about it. And it is our acceptance of that status quo that maintains Carter's options  of A, B, and C for these children. But what if we worked to change the systems that relies on such exploitation?

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To Joe Carter and his blogpost consisting of a video where John Green attempts to distinguish Capitalism from Socialism in 12 minutes. This appeared on the Acton Blog.

The key to any discussion on Capitalism and Socialism revolves around the set of working definitions used. And the key to a good definition is that it accurately distinguishes an idea or object from all other ideas and objects. So when one defines Capitalism, though some are tempted to define it by the benefits or positive attributes credited to Capitalism, to the extent that other systems share those characteristics given in one's definition is the extent to which the presentation's definition of Capitalism is compromised. That of Capitalism is given below and starts around the 2:21 mark of the video and consists of the following:


An economic system that relies on investment of capital in machines and technology that are used to increase production of marketable goods.

So the question here is does the above definition of Capitalism distinguish it from all other economic systems. For example, in what was known as Communism, or more precisely Bolshevism, was there any investments of wealth into gadgets and technology for the purpose of increasing the production of goods that would be bought and sold? For if Bolshevism and Capitalism were two disjoint systems where capital is invested machines and technologies to increase the production of goods, then such a definition is flawed. And I think it would be easy to see that in the USSR, there were investments in machines and technologies for the sake of producing goods that were sold. Thus, we are either compelled to acknowledge that such a definition is either inadequate or that Bolshevism is a kind of Capitalism--a point not lost on some of Lenin's contemporary critics.

A more informative and appropriate distinction between Capitalism and Marxist Socialism, which is often confused with Bolshevism, revolves around the identity of those who have wealth and power. For in Capitalism, the identity of those with power and wealth rests on elites from the private sector. In Marxist Socialism, those who owned wealth and power were the workers and that was evident both at the workplace as well as in government. Marx would call this consolidation of power by workers the proletariate dictatorship.

For those who think Communism or Socialism is determined by the presence of centralized power in by the government, they should consider the following. Power is closely tied to wealth in a number of different relationships. And whether power is centralized or not depends on whether wealth is consolidated regardless of whether the government or private sector elites control the wealth. Here, we should note Adam Smith's observation about the Mercantilism of his day. He stated that those with power controlled policies with their own interests in mind regardless of others were affected. The same holds true for today's Capitalism.

Though there was Socialism before Marx, we would be more accurate if we were to start to compare Capitalism and Socialism at the departure point of who owns what.. 

Other than all of that, this comparison between Capitalism and Socialism showed improvement over past attempts.




Tuesday, June 21, 2016

This World Is Not Big Enough For Both Exceptionalism And Justice, Amongst Other Things

In chapter 2 of his book, Fear's Empire: War, Terrorism, And Democracy (click here for book reference), the book's author, Benjamin Barber, makes two important points about American Exceptionalism. His first point is that America is not the only nation to claim to be exceptional. The French have done, the Germans have done it, and even the Swiss have done it, as well as much of the rest of the world. This makes claiming to be special normal.

His second point is that the belief of America's people in their own exceptionalism has kept us in a state of innocence of sorts regarding America's ventures both on this continent and in the rest of the world. By innocence, what is meant is that many of us Americans are either oblivious to or in denial of what America has really done to others both here and abroad. This innocence not only enables many us to justify America's use of force even when self-defense was not involved; it makes proving to us that our nation has been wrong near impossible when we believe that our nation has been following its original principles. That is because with America being so special,  it normally has higher reasons than what other nations have for using force. It also allows other of us Americans to believe that America should practice some sort of isolationalism lest it becomes corrupted by the rest of the world.

The point here is that believing in the exceptionalism of our nation from its beginnings with the founding fathers allows us to assume our innocence rather than having to prove it.

What all of this shows is a link between the belief in the exceptionalism of one's own nation and the acceptance of the use of the rule of force. That is because those who believe in the exceptionalism of their own nation assume that how it treats others is just regardless of the evidence. In fact, to bring up evidence of wrongdoing to people who believe in the exceptionalism of their own nation is to sometimes court abuse if not martyrdom.

This lack of awareness of the sins and immoral acts practiced by one's own nation or, in short, its reliance on the rule of force rather than the rule of law is a normal condition for those who believe in exceptionalism. The rule of law is what the exceptional nation tries to force those inferior nations into following even when the rule of force is needed to do so.

Of course, to rely on the rule of force in a time when the proliferation of WMDs is inevitable is to do more than flirt with being bad, it also tests the ability of all nations to survive. That is because the continued use of the rule of force will invariably cause conflicts between nations or entities that have access to WMDs. And once there is the use of WMDs, there is no guaranteed way of stopping their use.

The problem is here is that belief in the exceptionalism of one's own nation does not just provide a hunting license on the rest of mankind, it is a siren call. Heeding its call brings makes people happy with themselves. 

However, we must face at least two sets of realities here. Because believing in the exceptionalism of one's own nation is natural, it is realistic to expect from the people of many nations. It not only gives people a license to mistreat others with impunity even from one's conscience, it gives people a reason to feel secure and makes them feel good. But such a belief  also not only allows for people to run roughshod over justice, it threatens everyone's future.

We especially see this belief in one's exceptionalism in those purists who call on their fellow countrymen to return to what made their naition so great. This shows another cost of believing in one's own exceptionalism: it shows a puritanical leaning that gives people to be intolerant of those not towing the original line.

We are soon entering a season when celebrating the specialness of America is not just in season, it is expected from all of its citizens. Yes, it is realistic to expect people to believe in their exceptionalism, but, again, there is another set of realities that come with believing in one's exceptionalism. It isn't that there is nothing to celebrate about America; it is whether we will balance that desire to celebrate our nation and ourselves with the knowledge of  the negative realities that comes with too much celebration, a.k.a., the belief in our exceptionalism, brings to ourselves, our neighbors, and the world.