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Friday, September 30, 2016

What A Difference A Lack Of Faith Makes

After the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, more than a few religiously conservative Christian leaders were making the case that our changing sexually mores were signalling the end of our society and culture. In fact, some actually said that a society and its culture could be judged primarily by what sexual behaviors it allowed and prohibited. Such an assessment was a nothing more than reductionism. It implied, against the wishes of those making the assessment, that they preferred a time when we were at war or when racism freely reigned as it did during our tragic Jim Crow era.

Pointing out the implications of their reductionism brought out strident denials. But those denials were based on a blindness, perhaps a deliberate one, to the logical connection between judging society and its culture almost exclusively by its sexual mores and those times when society's and culture's sexual mores were more restrained by Christian values.


Compare that thinking with Stephen Hawking's (no bio is needed) assessment of our society. It isn't sex that is destroying us according to Hawking. It is greed and stupidity. We could even call the Bible in as a witness in favor of Hawking's view. What causes conflicts? According to James 4:1-2, it is envy and greed (click here).  Hawking's  views are reported in a USA Today article (click here) that referenced a past interview between him and Larry King six years ago (click here).


Thus, according to Hawking, greed is driving us to pursue activities that are self-destructive from man-driven climate change to the creation of artificially intelligent machines that have the potential to turn on us. In the USA Today article, Hawking pointed out that not much has changed in our favor in the six years since his interview with King. Pollution is worse and an already overpopulated world has half a billion more people. 


Thus, we have this interesting contrast between many religiously conservative Christian leaders and an atheistic intellectual on what is mankind's biggest threat. In one corner, there are those who say that our changing sexual mores will be our downfall. And they say that to the extent that they, however unintended, imply that  times dominated by other problems are tolerable if not preferred. On the other hand, we have an atheist who claims that it is our greed and stupidity that is either driving our self-destructive tendencies or prevents us from effectively addressing serious problems like climate change and overpopulation. We should note that not many religiously conservative Christians accept that climate change and overpopulation are problems let alone threaten our existence.

The question have to ask is this: Why are the views between these two parties different? Why are our changing sexual mores so significant to these religious leaders that they would all but ignore greed as a grave threat to our future?

The leftist answer to those questions revolve around the notion that one purpose for our religious institutions is to provide indoctrination so that people fit into society and maintain the status quo as they are suppose to. At least, that is what one reads from the The Crisis Of Democracy, which was a report written for the Trilateral Commission. Thus, by focusing on changing sexual mores to the extent of excluding all other dangerous characteristics from consideration, these religious leaders are simply doing what they are suppose to do. For in so focusing on sexual issues, these leaders virtually give a free pass to all of us, but especially to those who manage and thus benefit the most from the status quo, to pursue our own prosperity regardless of what it costs others. And their lack of concern for scientifically well-documented problems like climate change and overpopulation eliminates reasons for them to upset the status quo. 


Regardless of the reasons, we religiously conservative Christians are not forced to pick exclusive threats to our society's and the world's future. We've already seen how changing sexual mores have led to the spread of diseases and heartbreaks. In addition, they have contributed to the demise of many a family. At the same time, we see how greed, as well as ambition and arrogance, drives societies and states into pursuing unjust policies that cause much destruction and many to suffer greatly. We are not obligated into an exclusive-or choice between seeing changing sexual mores or greed as being great threats. Rather, we have life experiences and history to teach us that both can lead to our demise. In other words, if we are smart, we will learn from both our religiously conservative Christian leaders as well as atheists, such as Hawking, about what is not only hurting ourselves, but hurting others to the point of destroying much of what we have. For refusal to learn from either party mentioned here would be stupid.






Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For September 28, 2016

Sept 21

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost on our current age of anxiety due to the threat of Islamic terrorism. This appeared in Heidelblog

Some things that are said here are true. One cannot bargain with totalitarians. One cannot bargain with those who will stop at nothing to get what they want. And perhaps that is why some Muslims are attracted those with extremist views and who think that all that is needed is for their group to seize control.

Of course, it wasn't those Muslim extremists who overthrew a democratically elected Prime Minister and installed a dictator in order to stop Iran from nationalizing its oil reserves. And the foreign power that both put the B'aath Party into power in Iraq and supported Saddam Hussein up until  the time when he invaded Kuwait did not come from an Islamic nation.  And the foreign power that has backed many a dictator in the Middle East, such as Hosni Mubarak in Egypt or its current ruler Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, is not an Islamic nation. And the foreign power that enables Israel to continue its brutal occupation in the Middle East is not an Islamic nation.

The comparison to Pharaoh here doesn't seem to make the point that the above article wants to make. For part of Pharaoh's angst was that he and his predecessors' actions were driving the desire of the Hebrews to leave. If we were to compare ourselves to Pharaoh, then we would be asking what actions has our nation and the West taken to drive some Muslims to want to become extremists and those extremists to want to commit terrorism against us. The answer given by the article above is that they are not like us. They are totalitarian, we are not. Well, in this nation, we might not be. But how can we say that our nation isn't totalitarian when it has supported so many totalitarian regimes in the Middle East and the rest of the world for the sake of business interests? So it seems that liberals and progressives are not the only ones who are in denial of their sins, especially those sins of idolatry.


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Sept 27

To Lea Singh and her blogpost warning religiously conservative Christians about the their coming persecution because of their faith and stands against changes in society. This Appeared in the imaginative conservative blog.

What Lea Singh fails to consider, when drawing analogies with past persecutions of others, is whether all actions currently being taken against Christians today have merit. Instead, all of the listed "persecutions" for Christians today are cast as if the Christian faith is the only reason why we are receiving some scorn. Consider some of those "persecutions":


1.    Losing standing in society
2.    Losing tax breaks for Christian businesses
3.    Fines for businesses and individuals

Are losing standing in society and tax breaks signs of coming or examples of current persecution or do they merely point to a loss of privilege over others? Does losing privilege over others mean persecution is coming?

Or consider fines for businesses and individuals and whether they are signs of coming or examples of current persecution. Note that no context is provided for those fines. That those fines were for practicing discrimination against others. Does our faith demand that we discriminate? During the Jim Crow era, didn't some Christians believed that? Currently, some Christians believe that we must discriminate in various ways against the LGBT community. If that is true, then doesn't the absence of penalties for such discrimination signal the persecution of that community?

The above is nothing more than another example of a the-sky-is-falling article because this town, which is society, is not big enough for there to be equality for both the LGBT community and religiously conservative Christians. And if we oppose equality for others, then doesn't scorn we receive qualify as protection for others more than persecution of us? On the other hand, describing the changing status of religiously conservative Christianity in society as signs of coming or examples of current persecution stirs a natural tribal instinct that prevents from becoming self-aware because we are too busy circling the wagons.

Finally, we might consider Singh's citing of Rod Dreher's description of the Benedict Option. For he describes it in the following way:

The ‘Benedict Option’ refers to Christians in the contemporary West who cease to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of American empire,

The operative word there is 'cease' for we need to consider why we would ever identify Western Christianity with supporting the American Empire. Certainly people of color and people of conscience have continually been disturbed at such an association.

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Not included in the comment below was the URL of the Forbes article cited. That article can be found by clicking here.


To Sarah Stanley and her blogpost asking if there is something inherently evil about capitalism. In that blogpost, she cites a audio discussion program  hosted by Chris Brooks. That particular program was referenced in the comment below. This appeared in the Acton blog.

The episode used to back this article is full of errors that it seems deliberately manipulative. From the wrong definition of socialism to incomplete information on the epipen example used to the failure to mention Shkreli's hiking of prices.

First things first, government control of the economy is not socialism from the Marxist tradition. Why? If one reads Marx, one notes how Marx proposed a system that opposed bourgeoisie control of the workplace and the government and promoted a proletariat dictatorship. Thus, if the government does control the economy  but workers are not in control of the government, then you have no socialism. This is a point made by all sides of socialism from the Marxist tradition.

We should also note that there is a form of socialism that totally contradicts the conservative working definition of socialism. That form of socialism is called Libertarian Socialism. Libertarian Socialism opposes the existence of the state.

Second, the epipen price hike controversy was not adequately explained in Chris Brooks' program. In particular, the epipen price hike followed the collapse of the only major competitor of epipen's manufacturer. Thus, according to an article in Forbes, the price hike of the epipen was because  Mylan, the manufacturer of epipien, could hike the prices since it had no real competition. We should note that there are some similarities between Mylan's price hike and the price hike of an AIDS medication by 5,000% by Shkreli.

Shkreli's example is the third point and an example of a free market price rise. As with epipen, there were no government regulations that played a role in the tremendous spike in the price of  the AIDS medication. In the epipen case, the lack of competition from a natural market death of a company caused the spike in price while opportunism was the cause of the price rise in the AIDS medication bought by Shkreli. Should note that Shkreli is a hedgefund manager.

Finally, the discussion on Capitalism in the program and in most conservative circles tends to be myopic. For these conservative tend to define the stakeholders of Capitalism by whom they can see. Unfortunately, because of the traditional definition of the term 'stakeholder,' those who are stakeholders include far more people than the ones we can immediately see. It includes migrant farm workers who are often trafficked and forced to work for less money. It includes those here who are forced to work for poverty wages and live on government assistance so that businesses can increase profits. Our economic system's stakeholders includes sweatshop laborers from other nations as well as the those who lost their jobs to those workers. Another stakeholder here includes the environment. And if one looks at the structure of Capitalism, one sees that exploitation is built in to the free market system as a necessity in order to compete at the market place.  That doesn't mean that all business owners exploit people and/or the environment. But it does mean that the structure of Capitalism lends itself to exploitation. And a strong indicator of that is that there has never been a time in either Britain's or America's economy that did not exploit people either through slavery, the stealing of land, colonialism, sweatshop  labor, or destroying the environment.





Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The First Debate

If there is one rule that everyone should follow while watching the Presidential debates, it is this one: Turn the TV off immediately after the debate because the talking heads are there to persuade you to favor the candidate of their choice. This was apparent to me as I was watching the debate on CNN.

How did the debate go? The debate was designed to have 3 segments. Because of the intensity of the exchanges that initially occurred, the first segment resembled a bizarro version of an Ali-Frasier fight. Both candidates were rapidly landing heavy punches with Hillary jabbing first. This surprised me because of the 3 scenarios I envisioned, one of them involved Trump trying to get under her skin. BTW, I call this first segment a bizarro version of an Ali-Frasier fight because what was on display was not the candidates' strengths, it was their weaknesses. The last two segments of the debate were pretty much like the first except that there were not as intense as the first segment.

What can we learn from this debate? We can learn only what the candidates want us to learn from the debate itself. To learn more than that, it is best to have taped the debate (on the DVR of course), wait for the fact checking to have occurred, print out the fact check results, and then watch the debate tape with the fact check results in front of you. I could give my impressions of the debate, but then you would be subject to my wanting to persuade you.


In the end, this debate shows us how controlled our elections are with TV pundits trying harder and harder than the candidates did to persuade us. But that isn't the biggest flaw of the debate. The biggest flaw of the debate is seen in how the voices of all the other candidates are prohibited from participating so that many of us believe that we only have 2 candidates to choose from. Thus, our elections are controlled supposedly for our benefit but not really. And not enough Americans are willing to make any noise about this.

Why are most of us so passive in considering only two candidates to vote for? It is because many of us have been groomed into embracing a passive authoritarianism. And it is this passive authoritarianism that leads the fight against the US having a real, working democracy. What should we do before deciding on for whom to vote? We should not just pay attention to this debate and what these 2 candidates have done and said in the past, we should offer the same courtesy to the third party candidates who could represent us. That means that those of us who are conservatives should also pay attention to conservative third-party candidates while nonconservative third-party candidates should do the same to nonconservative third-party candidates.



 

Monday, September 26, 2016

ONIM For September 26, 2016

Presidential Election


Christian News

World News

Pick(s) Of The Litter



Friday, September 23, 2016

Can Our Nation Ever Be Again What It Never Was?

Paul Louis Metzger (click here for a bio) has attempted to write an encouraging article to those Christians who are dismayed over the ever changing state of affairs in America. The title of the article is just too long to write here but a link to the article is provided (click here for the article). 

The changes we see today have some religiously conservative Christians believe that they are being persecuted. To this, Metzger accurately describes our changing status as being a lost of privilege in society. That is that we Evangelicals no longer have the social and cultural clout we use to have.

To better respond to the changes, Metzger suggests that Evangelicals develop a wider historical perspective to better process the discomfort that many are feeling. And the first response to that suggestion is what this particular blogpost wants to focus on. Metzger mentions that some Evangelicals want to make America Christian again. At this point, Metzger rightly questions whether America was ever a Christian nation in the first place. And in trying to briefly discuss that subject, despite providing some good insights into the subject, he never really defines what a Christian nation is. He does provide a link to a good discussion on the subject (click here for that discussion) by Mark Noll and George Marsden. It might be of interest that a comment of mine is posted on that blogpost.  As for their discussion, what is important to note is that this question of whether America was a Christian nation was first brought up during another time period of significant social upheaval and change. And thus people were looking for ways to reestablish some semblance of order and a return to an old status quo.

Using material from both Metzger's article and the blogpost discussion he linked to, we could surmise that the following criteria are used to determine whether a nation is a Christian nation:
  • Were our founding documents Christian?
  • Were our founding leaders Christian?
  • How much do our laws reflect Christian values.
  • Did Americans believe or claim that America was a Christian nation?
  • How did we treat those who were different? 

We should note here that there is a certain self-aggrandizement one sees in Christians who claim that America was a Christian nation. In fact, that aggrandizement goes back to the Puritans who, in an effort to interpret all of their experiences through the eyes of the Scriptures, saw themselves as being a new Israel or, as one Puritan, the future governor John Winthrop,  described their settlement: 'A city upon a hill.'  Thus, the same practice of self-exaltation can be seen in those Evangelicals who want America to better reflect the Christian values on which they see America was founded.

As for the first 3 or even 4 questions listed above, the answers, according to both Metzger as well as Noll and Marsden, are not decisive but consist of mixed results. Were there some Christian influences in our founding documents? If the answer is yes, then, according to Noll, Christian references in our founding documents were limited or minimal. Marsden stated that The Constitution was mostly secular, but that did not mean that it was anti-religious. In fact, if one reads The Constitution as well as the Constitutional debates that preceded the writing of The Constitution, there were very few references to God and religion made.

As for our Founding Fathers, Marsden makes the point that most of their references to God were made more from a Deistic point of view rather than a Evangelical perspective. Marsden refers to Jonathan Edwards And George Whitfield, the two greatest evangelists during early American times, and how they believed that most Americans were not Evangelical Christians. 


Noll then starts discussing the last question asked above. In terms of how Americans regarded and treated Native Americans and Blacks, Noll correctly sees Americans as having fallen well short of any Christian standard. Such produces a hypocrisy for any claim that America was a Christian nation. And to make matters worse, according to Noll, while the patriots battled Britain because of the slavery instituted by the British Parliament over the colonies, it was the British who actually preceded America in prohibiting slave trading and slavery. Thus, Marsden added that a Christian view of America's past must include a humility because of and honesty about our significant failures such as slavery and our treatment of Native Americans.

The current concern for regarding America as a Christian nation, according to Noll, has more to do with our present circumstances than concern for history and the past. And according to the discussion, our present situation revolves around the concern many Christians have over the current plight of families, sexual morality, and the connection people from different generations have. There are multiple ways by which Christians could address these issues. The wrong way, according to the discussion, would be to take a simplified view of America's past where what is reported is heavily filtered by one's agenda. Such a way is what we see today as promoted by some Evangelicals.

Again, Metzger summarizes what Noll and Marsden discuss in some detail. That America's Christian roots and past is a mixed record. But such doesn't fit the agenda of some Christians who want to stop and reverse the current anything goes ethic. In other words, the talk of a Christian America by some of my fellow religiously conservative Christians is really about seizing control. Some of my fellow religiously conservative Christians want to regain the lost privileged status mentioned by Metzger. We can distinguish those who want to merely seize control from those who share power with others as equals by how one sees history. Those who see it as for the mixed bag that it is, are more interested in sharing power with others. Those who simplify America and its religious roots seem to want to seize power. For those Evangelicals who want to seize control, they will more likely fall to the same temptations that our American Christian forefathers did. They will become blind to the sinful ways in which they treat others.


It is at this point that the content of this blogpost diverges from the article being reviewed. For while this blogpost was written to discuss the question of whether America was a Christian nation, Metzger has a higher purpose of trying to prepare Christians for facing the trials we are facing today whether those trials come from the mere loss of privilege and control to real persecution.





Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For September 21, 2016

Sept 19

To Bruce Fronen and his blogpost on whether the mainstream media is trying to control Public Opinion. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative.

It seems that the real, but unexplored, issue here is what is causing the polarization in our nation. That the media and government have played a role in this are legitimate concerns that merit further investigation. In fact, Manufacturing Consent, by Chomsky and Herman, attempted to objectively determine whether the opinion of masses were being directed. That the government had put resources into controlling opinions seems to be a historical fact. And that there is physical evidence indicating that the media uses filters and has realistic motives for controlling public opinion should move us to at least consider the possibility that public opinion is being at least partially controlled.

But, again, what is up with the ongoing polarization of Americans? Here we should note that part of polarization is an intolerance for other views. And one cause for such intolerance is authoritarianism whether the authority figures consist of charismatic leaders, ideologies, or groups. Those who are passive authoritarian have trouble tolerating a lack of submission to their heroes. And here we should note a charge often made by the Left about today's educational system. That our educational system's first goal is to produce compliance and conformity. And a heavy hand is sometimes wielded against those who fail to submit. If this is difficult to believe, consider the different offenses that can cause children to not just be removed from the classroom, but to even be arrested. One such example was when a child was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor offense for burping in class (see http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2011/12/student-arrested-for-burping-during-class/  and  http://thefreethoughtproject.com/child-arrested-burping-police-state/  ). Such shows authoritarianism and tells us that the smallest, however natural, offense is potentially punishable by our justice system. It also tells us how fragile the position some authority figures in public education see themselves having.

The growing intolerance for the views of dissent is a possible result of the growing authoritarianism we have seen in our society. The increase of that authoritarianism saw a significant spike a while ago with our President's response to the 9/11 atrocities. And what is driving that authoritarianism is the desire of key groups in our nation to control others rather than to cooperate with them.


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Sept 20

To Joe Carter and his blogpost on 5 facts about The Constitution. This appeared in the Acton blog.

There is at least one of the above facts that needs correction or modification.  In addition, there are some other facts that need to be included. Point or fact #3 is difficult to find  the documentation for. Yates' notes on the Constitutional debates never indicate a quota in terms of the number of troops nor does The Constitution. That doesn't imply that a quota was being considered. But we do know that the only limitation for a standing army is the 2 year term of its funding. A standing army cannot be funded for more than two years. In addition, it was the Militia, under the command of the President and whose funding is provided by Congress that should be used to repel invasions as well as put down insurrections.

And the putting down of insurrections leads us to a fact not included in the above list. That fact is that The Constitution was written as a response to widespread dissent and Shays Rebellion. Thus, The Constitution was written to strengthen the Federal Government so that it could better respond to future rebellions. And on further examination, what we find is that The Constitution was written to help preserve the position of America's financial elites in society. The events of the time as well as statements made about the militia point to this, so do both the structure provided for the Senate as well as documents like Henry Knox's  letter to George Washington about the then current discontent support this point. And it was James Madison who described government's job of protecting the rich from democracy after talking about opposing the opening of election to all classes of people.


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To Kyle Hanby and his blogpost on how, according to an article by Dylan Pahman, our current approach to industrialization and free trade is the best answer to the Pope’s concern over climate change. For, according to Pahman, it is in our economic approach that we can best meet challenges to the environment while lifting people out of poverty.  This appeared in the Acton blog.

One of the problems with this article is that it deals too much with vague references. The same applies to the reference immediately cited. For example, how has the world economy grown? Well, that depends on where in the world one is. In America, our economy has shifted from a manufacturing based economy to a financial one. Thus growing a financial economy will have less of a physical impact on the environment than a growth in a manufacturing based economy. And where we see poverty being reduced, that is reduced from a standard based on around $1.35 per day, we see an increase in manufacturing. But how much poverty has one escaped when one is living on a little bit more than the bare minimum? In addition, we might want to ask what the economic impact on other parts of the world have been with the growth of industrialization in the areas where poverty is being reduced the most.

We could measure the social changes that have occurred with the growth of industrialization in nations like China, but such is not the subject of the article above. What is the subject is using a study on human footprint where industrialization is increasing dramatically to answer the Pope's concern with climate change. According to the cited article, as the world's population and economy have grown 23% and 153% respectively, the human footprint has only gown 9%. But if we note the title of the article Pahman cites for his data, the human footprint measured in terms of terrestrial effects only. The impact on air quality as well as changes in the atmosphere are not included as part of measuring the human footprint. Thus, the question becomes this: What good is the information Pahman is citing in answering the Pope's concern with climate change? For the name of the article Pahman is Sixteen Years Of Change In The Global Terrestrial Human Footprint And Implications For Biodiversity Conservation. And again, the Pope was saying how climate change is a sin. Thus how can the study that Pahman cites answer the Pope's concern with climate change?





Tuesday, September 20, 2016

OWS's Fifth Anniversary

Anniversaries that are multiples of 5 are sometimes considered to be milestones. On Saturday, September 17, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) had its fifth anniversary. The following are my impressions of that occasion.


The day started more slowly than scheduled. Things were suppose to start at 10:00 AM, but it wasn't until it was sometime after 11:00 when there appeared to be life in Zuccotti Park. Certainly OWS doesn't have the presence it once had. It doesn't have the masses of people. What has happened is that the movement has splintered off into several groups with some communication between the groups. So there was a somewhat coordinated effort to work together on this anniversary. There was a "press conference," which was not really a press conference. And then there were some small group discussions. I believe that there was suppose to be a demonstration march, but I had left too early to witness that.

One of the small group discussions focused on the impact of OWS and where it was going. Some cloudy memories spoke out on the past and there were reports of pockets where Occupy is still operating. Some would like to attribute at least some of Bernie Sanders' success to Occupy, but that would be hard to measure even though Bernie did borrow some of OWS's lingo.  The reason for the difficulty, as one protester noted to me, is that OWS started as a leaderless movement while Bernie's campaign was far from that.

With OWS's faint presence, some would like to discount its real contribution. OWS's real contribution was that it provided all of America with an opportunity to change. And in the end, that is the best any group could do. In fact, if we measured the effectiveness of the OT prophets by any other standard, we would be forced to admit that most of them were abject failures.

Yes, OWS's real contribution is that it offered America an opportunity to look at our political and economic systems in a new light. OWS tried to push the 99% into embracing more participatory economic and political systems and it did so, in part, by example. Here we should note that participatory systems are bottom-up democratic systems. OWS's own participatory way of decision making would be unfeasible for most of America because OWS was more of a homogeneous group than America is. At OWS, decisions were made by consensus where a single block could table a whole proposal. Thus, proposals had to be crafted and then modified to get the full approval from a small range of people. 


Obviously, America consists of a greater diverse group of people than those who were initial part of Occupy. Thus, to take a concrete approach to imitating how decision making at OWS was practiced is simply not feasible. But if we abstract from that, what we see is that making proposals where a consensus is sought is more than feasible, it is desirable. Such a decision making process would certainly prevent the kind of polarization we see in our nation now. What we have now is fuller realization of the values of our Capitalist economic system on our political system. For our economic system is built on top-down decision making and revolves around competing and conquering. In some cases, there is a take no prisoner approach in the kind of competition practiced in our economic system. This allows each business or company to ignore externalities when pursuing and maximizing profits. And this ignoring of the externalities was effectively pointed out by the Declaration Of The Occupation Of New York City (click here). In addition, ignoring externalities is causing much suffering and havoc around the world.

That most of America, approximately 98% of the 99% was not convinced by OWS to increase its own participation in our economic and political systems was not necessarily a reflection on OWS because such does not imply anything. Again, we could reflect on how we would measure the effectiveness of the OT prophets since most of them saw their messages being rejected and saw themselves being persecuted. We should also note that trying to get people to change is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks one can undertake. However, if change eventually comes to America so that it embraces more participatory economic and political systems, then it is likely that OWS contributed to that venture.