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Friday, July 22, 2016

Consistency Is The Missing Ingredient Some Have When Judging Others

Those who pay attention to the news need no introduction to Franklin Graham (click here for bio). He has recently written an alarmist article for USA Today regarding the presence of Muslims in America (click here for the article). His point is that though a Pew Research Center poll shows the vast majority of Muslims in America as being peaceful, there are enough Muslims here so that even if a small percentage of them sometimes favor violence for jihad, they can have a great impact on our nation. In particular, Graham is concerned about the number of Muslims America who believe that violence against civilians can be justified either occasionally or often. 

What alarms Graham about the percentages is that since there are approximately 1.8 million Muslim adults live here, even a small percentage of Muslims can number over 100,000. And since it is a small percentage who believe that violence against civilians is either sometimes or often needed for the sake of jihad, the mere presence of so many Muslims in our nation poses a threat to all of us. But that is not all. When one applies these percentages to the number of Muslims throughout the world, we are no longer dealing with a 100,000, we are dealing with over 100,000,000. And if the number of Muslims in America who believe that violent attacks are at least occasionally justified for jihad is bad enough, over 100,000,000 n the world has Graham very concerned.

Graham's inconsistency is easy to spot. Whereas he is alarmed by the potential number of Muslims who would consider using violence for their religion, we might ask Muslims if they are alarmed by the number of Americans who would support their government's foreign policies that attack different nations in the Middle East. We might also ask them if they are alarmed by the percentage of Americans who support Israel's brutal occupation against the Palestinians. And here, we might want to ask Graham if Muslims have just as much right to be concerned about the percentage of Americans who support America's current foreign policies as he is about the number of Muslims who think it is justified to use violence against civilians for the sake of jihad.

Graham's inconsistency is easy to spot when you are looking from the outside in. But we must give Graham the benefit of the doubt in terms of being able to spot his inconsistency from his perspective. After all, he is politically conservative and seems to mix American patriotism with some of his religious views. His patriotism might cause him to cringe at the thought of equating support for American foreign policies with jihad. But there is another reason in addition to his patriotism. For when we compare either the number or percentage of Muslims who would employ violence against civilians for the sake of jihad with the number of Americans who support our foreign policies including the violent ones, those on Graham's side point out that those Americans who support those policies would not exercise violence themselves in contrast to their Muslim counterparts would personally visit violence on others. However, we Americans need to realize that just because we are not the ones being violent, if we support someone else's violence, then we are as guilty as our Muslim counterparts who would use violence against others. In other words, just because we use proxies, that is the military, to visit violence on others, doesn't make us any less guilty for any resulting violence from our support than our Muslim counterparts who would directly use violence against civilians.

To rely on proxies to do the dirty work of our violence is nothing more than an attempt to imitate Pontius Pilate when he washed his hands after Jesus's trial. In the end, whether one group exercises violence directly or they employ the military to do the violence for them, violence is used and pepole are hurt, sometimes irreparably. And if Graham has the right to be concerned about the possible number of Muslims in America or the world who would consider visiting violence on civilians, Muslims have an even greater right to be concerned about the percentage of Americans who would support American military action in Muslim nations. They have a greater right because of the might of our military.





Wednesday, July 20, 2016

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

Please remember that some of the comments that were blocked and are listed below do have some errors due to the lack of sufficient editing.


July 14

To Bradley Birzer and his blogpost on how the founding of our nation had many parts, some of which were in conflict with each other. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.

That we don't look at the founding of America as a singular event and that we don't consider our nation's founding fathers to be a monolithic group are very valid points made in this article. Also the observation that the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists had more in common, Frohnen's observation, than they had in contrast is also an important point made here.

But if we reduce the founding of America to the conflict between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists, we would have, however inadvertently, taken a racist view of the founding of our nation. For by reducing our nation's beginning to just the conflicts and agreements that existed between the two groups, we have left out all people of color who were involved in the founding of America. After all, Native Americans were already living here when the first colonists arrived and they not only eventually fought against those who founded America, they assisted them when they first arrived. And  the desire for their land was a key consideration in declaring independence since, at a certain point in time, the British had prohibited further westward expansion. Likewise, the British were growing leery of slavery, both in terms of its trade as well as its use, and it is possible that the colonists sensed that that would eventually become an issue here. But regardless of the validity of that point, our nation's founding greatly benefited, economically speaking only, from the allowing of people owning slaves and counting others as mere property. And yet, Blacks are also left out of the mix when talking about the founding of our nation.

Likewise, we just can't afford to reduce the issues of the creation of our federal government to that of the need for more Federal control and power vs concerns about the overreach of government on the states and the lives of individuals. What was well practiced but not considered to be an issue among the founders was how individuals abused and infringed on the rights of other individuals. And our founding fathers were quite aware of how individuals could infringe on the rights of other individuals because many of them, from both the Federalist and Anti-Federalist camps, owned slaves. And so it should not be surprising that our founding fathers did not put provisions into our Constitution or push for such provisions to be made in the Bill of Rights. The 13th Amendment was the only Amendment that directly protects the rights of individuals from being infringed on by other individuals. And yet, there are so many other ways besides slavery in which individuals could deny other individuals their rights.

In the end, even though there is an admission to messiness in the founding of our nation, that is an admission that our founding had warts, such is used to maintain the pedestals on which authoritarians make use of in talking about our founding. And they do so to prevent what the Federalists wanted to prevent from happening: the adoption of innovations. We should note that innovations were the ideas of those who were not in power just prior to the writing of The Constitution. In the end, The reduction of our nation's founding to the concerns of just the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists has one other flaw. That flaw is that it prohibits us from questioning the self-perceptions of these men regarding what they were trying to accomplish.

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July 16

To Joseph Pearce and his blogpost on how imperialism and democracy don’t mix. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.

We should note here that not all of our Founding Fathers were not lovers of Democracy. Some actually feared it because it had the power to change the status quo that so benefited them at the time. In fact, articles on this website are not always fond of Democracy as well.

But there should be a revision made to this article. Democracy is not at odds with big government and big government does not have to result in remoteness. If government is charged with protecting the people from their enemies both foreign and domestic, then government's size will be determined by the size and power of the enemies of the people. For here, government is like love in that size doesn't matter, fidelity does. And a government's fidelity often depends on whether the people can compete with the love of money in winning over the affections of their government.

Some think making all of our groups small is the answer to our problems. The problem with this thinking is that it is useless to close the barn door after the horses leave. When society must accommodate as many people as we have, you can't always get associations where there is a small number of people.

Having said all of that, I agree with Pearce's assessment of Britain's Brexit vote. The trouble Britain faced was not that the decision making in Brussels was remote; the problem is that the decision making there is not about people first, it is about wealth. And it is about the consolidation of wealth for an ever decreasing number of people. Greece's periodic debt relief aid packages paired with an increasing number of austerity cuts proved that. I also agree that imperialism and democracy do not mix well. This is a point that has been made by historian Chalmers Johnson a while ago. Though he didn't see the government becoming remote as posing a threat to democracy. Rather, the overhead of our that comes with fulfilling the ambition of those seeking power as well as the love of wealth and power were seen as the enemies of democracy.


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To Joe Carter and his blogpost that cites an article from The Federalist which states that our rights come from Natural Law. The article cited states that the Left, by what it promotes especially regarding the redefining of marriage, is denying Natural Law. This appeared in the Acton Blog.

The article from The Federalist from which the quote in the blogpost above comes says that our unprecedented prosperity has come from our leaders' recognition of natural law. That article states that the recognition of unalienable rights was a reference to natural law. And what this natural law does is to provide rights for us by building fences that govern our behavior.

But history tells us that much of our nation's prosperity comes from denying other people their unalienable rights. For the rights spelled our Declaration of Independence were people of color when we ethnically cleansed the land of Native Americans and enslaved Blacks both before and after the Civil War. Their enslavement afterwards was part of our Jim Crow era. And now, Michelle Alexander points to a new Jim Crow era as having dawned on America. And it took a long time before these rights were fully extended to women and some would contend that they have yet to be so fully extended.  But not only that, our leaders have quite often denied people from other nations their unalienable rights through foreign policies that often replaced democracies with tyrannies because the tyrants were enriching our nation's coffers. So when the cited article from The Federalist appeals to natural law, the question becomes: Who is the keeper of natural law?

The article cited by this blogpost complains that when the Left works for the recognition of rights and equality  for the LGBT community, that it is taking down the fences of Natural Law that preserve our rights. So, in other words, natural law is being appealed to by that article as a vehicle for denying some the same rights and equality which are suppose to have come from natural law. So who is the keeper of natural law here? Here we should note that that homosexuality is practiced by animals from 1,500 species and that it brings benefits to those species?

When it comes to sexual issues, natural law has become a vehicle by which the religious views of some have been imposed on the lives of all including those who do not hold to those views. And all of this has been done  while we all are said to support the freedom of religion for people. In reality, when it comes to sexual issues, the appeal to Natural Law, which really does exist, by some conservatives who oppose same-sex marriage is a backdoor attempt to deny some people their freedom of religion. And to ensure that we submit to this effort to impose the religious views of some on all, those claiming to be the keeper of Natural Law assume the role of Chicken Little by saying that all that our nation has worked for and possess will become at risk if we take down the fence provided by their version of Natural Law as it pertains to sex. But History contradicts claims about our past being built on a recognition of Natural Law. So how is it that what we have becomes at risk now because our new sexual mores, supported by the Left,  is denying Natural Law?


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To Tyler Groenedal and his blogpost stating that Christians should support markets and Churches rather than the big government of social democracy. This appeared in the Acton Blog.

While this article works to accurately describe Social Democracy and even Socialism, about which it is not entirely accurate, it never backs up its claim that Social Democracy is not the best way to promote human flourishing. Why isn't Social Democracy the best way to promote human flourishing? It is because of its reliance on government regulate things the economy. Rather, the claim made is that problems like poverty and and social issues are best solved by individuals collaborating through free markets and civil society. Thus, this article is rather empty.

At the same time, this article assumes the meaning of certain terms rather than provide definitions for them. For example, what is human flourishing and how do we measure it? What is government and what are the different ways government can interact in society? We should note that most conservative articles that speak against government intervention into entities like the market seem to assume the same meaning for government regardless of whether that government is democratically based or revolves around despots. For a government that is democratically chosen represents the people when working properly. And when that is the case, what is wrong with government intervening in society?

Also, a word must be said about the description of socialism given in this article. Socialism doesn't revolve around state control of things if we look at it from the Marxist tradition. Here we should note that Libertarian Socialism doesn't believe in the state. And the type of governing Lenin employed after the Russian Revolution was not considered to be socialism by a number of his contemporaries. Socialism, from the Marxist tradition, revolves around the control that workers have over the workplace and government. Thus, the existence of a strong centralized government does not imply Socialism because not all such governments give leading roles to workers.

In the end, all the above article provides is some assumed definitions and an unsubstantiated claim. And it seems to be in a long line of conservative articles that oppose a changing of the status quo.


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July 18

To R. Scott Clark’s blogpost quote from Star Parker that lamented the belief that laws are no longer based in truth. This appeared in the Heidelblog.

At least the quote is better than the article from which it is taken. It might true that no force or gun-control legislation can helpwhen law is not based in truth; but that doesn't rule out the need for gun-control legislation  for when law is based in truth.

If we are going to really focus on law, then we need to be consistent. We need the principle of universality where what  we permit ourselves to do to others is what we give permission to others to do to us; and what we forbid others from doing to us, we prohibit ourselves to do to others. This principle has been absent from our foreign policies since almost at the time when we first became a nation. And we should note that the approach taken by our government in its foreign polices is becoming more and more the approach that domestic law enforcement is taking to us. That approach is for those in authority to assume impunity for their actions.

I believe it was JFK who said the following:


Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnfkenn101159.html


For the most part, movements like the antiwar protests of 2003, Occupy Wall Street (OWS), and Black Lives Matter(BLM) have been peaceful attempts that call for change for change. However, the response from both society and the state has been minimal at best. Now individuals outside of those groups are taking matters into their own hands and they are doing to the state what the state did to them. And now is the time to quote the old adage 'two wrongs don't make a right.' Perhaps it is time to start listening to those who nonviolently call for change. Not that these groups are without faults, but they do have truths to contribute to the discussion.

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July 19

To Kevin DeYoung, Russell Moore, and Tim Keller and their discussion on evangelizing and influencing culture. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

There are two points that need clarification here. The first point concerns how should Christians seek to influence culture. It was said how Christians can accidentally influence culture as they become professionals in certain occupations and then beginning to influence culture by becoming elites or by working with them. But what should a Christian influence on culture look like?

Should Christians' influence on culture result in a new culture look more Christianized? Or should a culture influenced by Christians settle for looking more humane? Should a new culture work to marginalize certain groups of people like the LGBT community as was done in the past? We should note that as Christians do work to influence culture, the more we Christians can celebrate our agreements with nonChristians, the more opportunities we will have to share what the Bible says to them.

The second point has to do with Tim Keller's division between evangelicals and liberals. As I have been involved in nonconservatives causes and protests, I sometimes where clothing that identifies me as  a religiously conservative Christian. And I've had quite a few comments by political nonconservatives stating that they would like to see more people like me protesting joining them in their causes and protests. So there isn't always this sharp divide between political liberals and evangelicals which Keller suggested.



Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What Happens When Superman Loses His Invulnerability

The recent attacks on the police and the terrorist attacks that have been happening in the West have a common thread: they show what happens when those with power and/or privilege become vulnerable. 

The attacks themselves are atrocities. The attacks on the police as well as the terrorist attacks on civilians, such as the one that occurred in Nice, show a brutal barbarism. Neither can be condemned strongly enough.  But to focus on those attacks without asking about what preceded them is an obscenity. 

We know from the bare statistics how Blacks have been targeted by some of our law enforcement officers. Sometimes that targeting consists merely of racial profiling. But at other times, that targeting has resulted in the unnecessary, and thus criminal, killing of Blacks.

We also know that what originally triggered the terrorist attacks has been Western foreign polices. However, many of us don't consider those policies as contributing to the increasing number of terrorist attacks in the world because of delusions of national innocence. That belief says that my own nation has never done anything that bad and thus have done nothing that has merited terrorist reprisals. And to a large extent, that is true. But almost all western nations have done much to merit a great deal of anger from those from the Middle East and their sympathizers. And when that anger cannot be resolved using peaceful means, violence eventually erupts.

What we see from the terrorists now are those who, as investigative journalist Jason Burke has observed, have come to share too many ideological beliefs with the terrorist groups we are at war with become the biggest threat. They have become stealth threats because they work as individuals and they often leave no trail of breadcrumbs which would allow the government to connect them with a recognized terrorist group. 

As for the slaughter of some of our law enforcement officers, we should know that neither the Dallas nor the Baton Rouge shootings were performed by activists from any recognized groups. Rather both shootings were performed by veterans who were fed up with the injustices they saw others from their group experience.

Do we think that if Superman was no longer invulnerable that he would fly around fighting crime in the same way as he did before? Perhaps those with wealth and power should consider that question just for selfish, practical reasons. But if we wanted to look at our current situation of having the police attacked or terrorist attacks being forced on people from a moral perspective, we would not care about whether Superman was invulnerable. Yes, the attacks on our police and the terrorist attacks on civilians are horrible atrocities that must be addressed and those responsible must be held accountable. But so also must the injustices that preceded these attacks and that is how one would approach the terrorism from a moral perspective.



 

Monday, July 18, 2016

ONIM For July 18, 2016

Christian News

World News

Picks(s) Of The Litter

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Problem With The Current Desire For Racial Reconcilation

The most recent police shootings of Black men along with the shooting of a number of Dallas police officers as well as the shooting of a Missouri officer and a Georgia officer has inspired many a person to review their own perspective on race, gun laws, and the police. And it is good that we would review any of our perspectives let alone our perspectives on these issues. However, if we are honest about ourselves, the most recent shooting events of both Black men and police officers have given many of us a glimpse of the abyss, a place where there is an endless cycle of repression by the authorities resulting in retaliation. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict comes to mind here.

So we are reviewing one of many Christian articles on racial reconciliation. And it seems that many of them have one trait, which in reality is a flaw. That flaw is to try to contribute to racial reconciliation by focusing solely on racial discord. Currently I am listening to such a podcast that quotes Martin Luther King on racism without quoting him on other subjects that he linked to racism.

The article being reviewed here is by Mark Galli (click here for a bio) called The Burden And Promise Of Racial Reconciliation (click here for the article). Now this article references another article to which I did not have full access to. However, by what could be read from both articles, the prospect of racial reconciliation is both restricted to just racial issues and is Christianized. And the problem with Christianizing the solution to racial reconciliation is that it provides no such solution to a secular world that rightfully clings to religious freedom along with the fact that part of Christianizing the solution means that we must wait for the Judgment Day before we can expect any significant degree of relief from the plague of racism.

With that being said, the article made one point that is never made enough times. That point is that the founding of our nation was based on racism. In our nation's case, that racism has been against both Blacks and Native Americans.

Yes, the article also talked about both exposing and righting some wrongs. But in the end, a key component to racial reconciliation  is never mentioned though it was mentioned a number of times by everyone's favorite race reconciler: Martin Luther King Jr. In the end, the initial steps that lead to racial reconciliation include following the the money. Consider the following quote my King as he spoke out against the Vietnam War (click here).
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.

Here, we should first note that we cannot solve our problem with racism by focusing on racism alone. Racism, materialism, and militarism are also referred to as racism, economic exploitation, and war are triplets, in another speech (click here) are linked together. We should note that materialism and economic exploitation are two sides of a multiple sided object as is war and militarism.

The second thing we should note is that, according to King, racism cannot be solved using a divide and conquer approach. We just cannot solve racism by focusing on it at the exclusion of the other evils. And this is where the current discussions, especially those coming from religiously conservative Christians, fall short and perhaps with good reason. To cure racism, according to King, we need to change our economic system to one that stresses sharing and cooperation as much as it promotes individualism. So we need a new economic system to cure racism (see the speech that used the term 'economic exploitation' in place of the term 'materialism'). We also need to reduce, if not eliminate,  our reliance on war and  militarism.

 In the Vietnam speech, King identifies the general ethic society must adapt in order to eliminate racism. That general ethic consists of society counting people as being more valuable than things like gadgets, profits, and property rights. When we put the two speeches together, we not only are told that we must restructure our society's economic system, society must change its values. But unlike the Christianized solutions to facilitate racial reconciliation, King presents us with civic ethic that infringes on nobody's religious rights unless they are worshipers of Ayn Rand.

Unfortunately, many pretenders will sanctimoniously quote King on how we can eliminate racism. And they do so never having fully read him. Because if they had read him, they would have realized that, according to him, we must address the evils of racism, materialism/poverty, and war/militarism together in order to just make a significant dent in one of them. In addition, not all of the changes needed to reduce racism in this nation will be welcomed changes. To change from Capitalism will result in disrupting the financial and ideological lives of many who passionately embrace a comfortable lifestyle. Why? Because unless one changes one's economic system, the hoarding of resources and the pursuit of the self will only ensure what the statistics continue to say: that wealth disparity reigns over the economic lives of the races and thus at least one race will always feel it is being short-changed by society and its systems (click here). The fruit most often produced by a continuing of such disparities is resentment. And without eliminating race-based resentment, there can be not significant reduction in racism.

After staring into the abyss, many of us better see the need for us to put a major dent into racism. But unless we learn King's perspective on how to battle racism, we will not only fail to battle racism, we will be sabotaging our own efforts. This article fails to view racism from King's perspective and thus it fails in adequately addressing the subject.





Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For July 13, 2016

July 7

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost on what the Iowa Civil Rights Commission expects from churches. This appeared in the Heidelblog.

If you read the Iowa Civil Rights Act, the most probable reason for the approach that the Iowa Civil Rights Commission is taking to churches and religious institutions is that the Commission is applying the same criteria to the term 'public accommodation'  for churches and other religious institutions as it applies for private clubs. So that a private club is considered to be Public Accommodations if it  'caters or offers services, facilities, or goods to the nonmembers for fee or charge or gratuitously, it shall be deemed a public accommodation during such period' for an event.  (see the definition of Public Accommodation in https://coolice.legis.iowa.gov/Cool-ICE/default.asp?category=billinfo&service=IowaCode&ga=83&input=216. ). Thus, there is no targeting of religious institution in the law and thus, IMO, the title of this blogpost is a bit of an overstatement.

The problem though is the question of whether the Iowa Civil Rights Act should use the same criteria for public accommodations for church services and other religious institution events as is applied to private club events. After all, how is that we can equate sermons and other parts of a religious service to the catering, kinds of services, facilities, or goods that a private club might offer to the public? In addition, the Iowa Civil Rights Act does not provide a precise definition for the term 'religious purpose.'


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July 9

To Russell Kirk and his article that was posted on a review of Edmund Burke’s view of what makes  a good constitution. This was posted in the Imaginative Conservative blog.

In essence, Burke's principles on constitutions, as reported by Russell Kirk, was built from an exalted view of both one's own upbringing as well as The Constitution of the United States. And nothing indicates this more than principles #2 & #3.  With principle #2, his emphasis that man is a religious animal and that there is a need to be accountable to a divine authority for people to be principled kind of forgets all of the abuses people have practiced in the name of their religion. The Church's support for wealth and power prior to the French Revolution should have taught Burke something different about the need for religion. Also, in terms of how his emphasis on a national religion for America, there is no national church here is that the Revolution required a certain level of manpower and that manpower could only be drawn from a religiously diverse group.

But another point must be made about religion. That all too often the Church, that is the branch of the Church that is dominant in a given nation, has supported wealth and power at the expense of justice for many of the people. Yes, the Church can contribute to a stable society by doing so. At the same time, when that stable society can no longer be tolerated, the Church suffers persecution while it causes the Gospel to be dishonored. Though I am not a fan of Vladimir Lenin, we should note his criticism/observation about Christianity in Russia prior to the Revolution (see https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1905/dec/03.htm ):

Religion is one of the forms of spiritual oppression which everywhere weighs down heavily upon the masses of the people, over burdened by their perpetual work for others, by want and isolation. Impotence of the exploited classes in their struggle against the exploiters just as inevitably gives rise to the belief in a better life after death as impotence of the savage in his battle with nature gives rise to belief in gods, devils, miracles, and the like. Those who toil and live in want all their lives are taught by religion to be submissive and patient while here on earth, and to take comfort in the hope of a heavenly reward. But those who live by the labour of others are taught by religion to practise charity while on earth, thus offering them a very cheap way of justifying their entire existence as exploiters and selling them at a moderate price tickets to well-being in heaven. Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze,   in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of man.

Of course what Burke, according to Kirk, is praising, Lenin is protesting and it has strong connections with his next point. In point #3, Burke praises a 'natural aristocracy' which he equates with men who have made it in the business world and that any democracy that he envisions is heavily reliant on this aristocracy. Burke must have had his wish with The Constitution because it was for the most part written by America's own natural aristocracy  and it was written to maintain the status quo for their benefit against the interests of others.

Something could also be said about Burke's point #4 as interpreted by Kirk, he calls for a balance between the claims of freedom and the claims for order. But order for whom or for whose benefit? Is this order so that Burke's natural aristocracy can fulfill its role in society? The trouble here is that the elevation of any group in society goes against the grain of democracy for democracy is about sharing power rather than seeking control. For control corrupts and destroys democracy. In addition, regarding Burke's notion of natural law, we should note that natural law does not carry a universal definition.

What appeals to Burke about constitutions should not surprise anyone. His notion of an acceptable constitution, despite its use of democracy, is one that is based on a certain degree of authoritarianism. In comparison to a dictatorship, we could refer to this as authoritarianism-lite. The reliance on authoritarianism is part in parcel with Conservatism's emphasis on maintaining traditional values. And here there exists an inverse relationship between how comprehensive the traditional set of values emphasized by a given set of conservatives is to governing life and both democracy and freedom.

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To Joe Carter and his blogpost defending churches’ current tax exempt status. This appeared in the Acton blog.

I have to disagree with both the blogpost above and the article it cites. One of the reasons cited from the article is that making churches tax-exempt cuts them loose from the 'burdens of tax laws.' But any church that pays employees must meed the burdens of following some of our tax laws already. And my feeling is that churches don't want to be taxed because of the tax laws themselves, it is due to the result of following those tax laws. That is paying tax bills. And if a church cannot pay its tax bills, then it is not paying its fair share for the government services it consumes. Thus, others are left with the bill for those services.

Much of the argument here is a survival one. Making churches tax exempt allows them to operate. We should note that businesses that shirk at least some of their tax responsibilities are operating under the same idea.

In addition, there is a small government argument embedded in apologetic for keeping the tax exemption status for churches. Since making churches tax exempt gives them a better chance of surviving economically, and since religious institutions provides avenues by which voluntary associations of people can be used to provide services for people which reduces the number of services government has to provide, religious institutions should remain tax exempt. Such employs a reasoning that, in the end, makes businesses a main beneficiary of keeping churches tax exempt. Why? Because the more responsibilities that the gov't doles out to religious institutions to provide safety nets for the people, the less gov't has to spend on those safety nets and thus the less in taxes businesses must pay. But such forgets a key point when gov't attempts to help individuals or groups that are in need. That key point is that when gov't helps those in need, it demonstrating that the gov't is representing the people it is helping. On the other hand, the fewer government safety nets there are, the less the gov't is representing those in need.

Finally, there is the argument that says that keeping churches tax exempt lessens government's regulatory power.  Here we should note that the 2008 economic collapse was due in large part to the lessening of the regulatory power of the gov't. And here, we should note that the gov't already regulates religious institutions by the necessity of definition.  Regulations are needed to determine if an institution is a religious one or not.

There is no good argument for defending tax exemptions for churches. But that conservatives defend that tax exempt status shows how the Church here in America is imitating the Church during the pre-revolutionary times in France, Russia, and Spain. The Church supported those with wealth and power and the favor was returned. We should note how many religiously conservative Christians favor reducing the number of regulations and the taxes paid by businesses. And the less that businesses, especially the wealthy ones, avoid paying their fare share in taxes, the more the tax burden is shifted over to working people. Such was one of the situations that existed just before the French Revolution.

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July 10

To Annie Holmquist and her blogpost that recommended the reading of the Anti-Federalist Papers. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative Website.

At some point, we have to move off the Federalist/Anti-Federalist continuum to include with, rather than just replacing, it with a concern for and proposals for Constitutional amendments that would protect individuals from being oppressed by other individuals. We should note that the there were both Federalists and And-Federals who oppressed Blacks through the institution of slavery. And fans of both groups supported Jim Crow and support Jim Crow II. And currently there are those who still try to deny equality and civil rights for those in the LGBT community.

The government is not our only potential enemy and our Founding Fathers knew this because many of them exploited Blacks through slavery. Thus, what The Constitution with the Bill of Rights allowed for was the continuation of  individuals infringing on the rights of other individuals and thus both supported the status quo of their time.

BTW, did anyone notice what the anti-Federalists said about prosperity:

A republican, or free government, can only exist where the body of the people are virtuous, and where property is pretty equally divided


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July 12

To Denny Burk and his blogpost quoting the Dallas Police Chief as saying that too much is being asked of police officers today. This appeared in Denny Burk’s blog.

I agree with the police chief. We should also note how difficult a police officer's job can be without asking them to do too much.

The solution to the problem recognized by the police chief has multiple parts. Yes, we need children to be born in families and for families to remain intact. However, we also need revitalize economic opportunities for men of all ages living in densely populated urban areas for families to stay together. We also need to renew gov't provision of some of the services mentioned by the police chief. And for all of that to happen, we need to switch from an economic system built on the Ayn Rand's self-centered philosophy to one that is based on participation to the point of contributing, sharing, and cooperation.

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To Alexander Salter and his blogpost stating that the Brexit vote shows that it is necessary, for our own good, that democracy should be limited as recommended by the founding fathers. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.


We should note why the Federalists despised a more direct democracy, it was a threat to the status quo from which the Federalists so easily benefited from at the expense of others. After all, The Constitution was written in response to widespread dissent and Shays Rebellion. And what some of the people who opposed the new American elite proposed was politically called innovation by the Federalists. Federalists, like James Madison, believed in elite-centered rule couched in a republic where Senators were protected from the wrath of American voters which made up of around 5% of the people when The Constitution became law.
As for Jefferson's quote, there are two problems. First, logically speaking, the decisions in a Republic are made in a similar way as the decisions in a democracy only fewer people, more likely the elites, are the ones voting. So if we could call democracy, where 51% of the people rule, 'mob rule,' we could call our republic, where either 51% or 60% of the elected elites rule 'the mob rules.' Unless you have a dictatorship, the majority will have their way.

However, there is another problem with the Thomas Jefferson quote shown above is that the The Jefferson Monticello Website has no evidence that Thomas Jefferson ever said anything related to that quote (see https://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/democracy-nothing-more-mob-rule ).

In the end, those who are most opposed to Democracy are following in line with the Federalists of old. And it should surprise no one that a religiously conservative website like this one should want limits on democracy because those who are religiously conservative tend to be authoritarians. And that is where the issue lies. Will we be self-governing for which only Democracy provides the necessary political structures or should we leave the important decisions up to our elites in hopes that, in the face of any conflict of interest, they will rule with our best interests at heart? 




 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Who Is Responsible For The Recent Shootings?

The recent shootings include the shooting of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, the 5 Dallas police officers, a Missouri police officer, and a Georgia police officer. By who is responsible, we mean more than just the person(s) who pulled the trigger; we also include those whose influence made it easier for those who fired the shots to target certain groups.

This discussion of who is responsible for shooting people in addition to the gunman was inspired by a debate that followed the mass shooting in Orlando where a few LGBT rights advocates claimed that Christians were partially responsible for that mass shooting. How could Christians be responsible if the person pulling the trigger was not a Christian? It is because many of us have created a culture of hostility for those in the LGBT community. And though the main reason(s) why Omar Mateen tried to kill so many gays at the Pulse Gay Bar are unknown or may have nothing directly to do with the Christian faith, that those from the LGBT community have been, for a long time, marginalized by society could have contributed to the shooting is a worthwhile question to ponder. And Christians have, throughout the history of our nation, have played a major role in the marginalization of the LGBT community. And if we are going to ponder that question, why shouldn't we also ponder who might have contributed to the shootings listed above?

Who shares responsibility with the triggermen in the shootings listed above? If we follow the model of thought used to paritally blame Christians for the Orlando mass shooting, it would be anyone who tried to create a climate of hostility or hatred for Black people or for police officers. That climate of hostility is often the result of dehumanizing both Black people and law enforcement officers by denying their individuality and assigning them to groups using derogatory labels. 

Examples where people lose their individuality through the use of derogatory labels can easily be seen when some of my fellow Leftists refer to all police officers as 'pigs,' or as an enemy who works for the Bourgeoisie.  Some Black people might also, out of bitter anger over real past events, be tempted to use the label 'pig' or other derogatory labels to dehumanize all police officers. Note the driving motivation between the two groups. The hatred for the police from one group stems from an ideology whereas the hatred for the police from the other group comes from wounded body and spirits. And though the motivation of the second group becomes understandable to us after we have read  the personal testimonies of Black people who have suffered various levels of injustice from law enforcement officers, the response is still merely an imitation of the injustices that have been visited on Black people. And when hatred comes from wounded spirits, those who have given into such hatred have made those in law enforcement who have treated others unjustly into their teachers.

On the other side of the coin, though racial slurs thrown at Blacks may be self-censored more now than before, attitudes that are from and cause negative descriptions of all Blacks are either a sign of racial hostility in some officers or causes others to become hypervigilant while they deal with Black people. The hypervigilance can cause police officers to easily misread innocent actions or even mild resistance as being threats. We should note that both racial hostility and this hypervigilance are signs of racism, but we should also note that not all racism is the same. We should also realize how tense doing law enforcement on the street can be--I, myself, do not have what it takes to be a police officer. We cannot afford to forget that some police officers have lost brothers and sisters in the line of duty. These losses can cause a similar kind of bitterness that Blacks have experienced when they have lost brothers and sisters to police brutality.

In addition to those individuals who dehumanize the people from either the Black race or police officers as possibly being responsible for the recent shootings, we could add the general public as being partially responsible for the injustices and police brutality suffered by Black people. Why? It is because in our silence over their suffering, and their suffering encompasses more than just police brutality, we have not made it clear to our law enforcement officers how important all Blacks are to our society. Here, this is parallel to how religiously conservative Christians have not made it clear to society how important the LGBT community is to us. And if the general public had clearly communicated that message about all Blacks, perhaps some police shootings of Black people would not have taken place.

One more player that might bear some responsibility in the recent shootings is our federal government. This especially has to do with its foreign policies because a sufficient number of those foreign policies reflect a belief that America has the right to intervene anywhere in the world with moral, political, and international impunity. While we hold others accountable to international law, which is part of what Bush administration claimed for why it decided to invade Iraq, we interpret any international law being used to judge our policies as an infringement on our national sovereignty. The implication there is clear, only the US has national sovereignty while others are answerable to us. Likewise, some police officers act as if they believe that while the public is accountable to the law, they aren't when in the act of enforcing the law. 

In other words, the US acts as if the world is answerable to one set of standards while it has no one for its judge. These two different sets of standards perpetuate injustices and can have parallels to authorities at lower levels. So when a police union correctly asks for the horrific shooting of 5 Dallas police officers to be treated as a hate crime, would the same police union also support any proposal that says that every police shooting of an unarmed Black man must also be investigated as a possible hate crime?

The charge that Christians bore some responsibility for the mass shooting in Orlando is worthy of pondering for us religiously conservative Christians. When we have failed to show soceity the value that a particular group has, we need to contemplate whether our failure has contributed, even in a minor way, to hate crimes commited against that group. It's not that we should alway conclude that our failure is partially to blame, but the possibility is worthy of investigation and consideration.  

We have noted that this approach should not be restricted to crimes committed against the LGBT community. We should note that, just perhaps, the general public or influential groups should share a parital responsibility when crimes are committed against other communities like the Black community or law enforcement officers. Perhaps if we all took more responsibility for how we treat each other, we can reduce the crimes and injustices visited on each group.