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This Month's Scripture Verse:
Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil -- I Timothy 6:9-10a

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Monday, December 22, 2014

ONIM For December 22, 2014

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Friday, December 19, 2014

What Would Martin Luther King Jr. Say To Today's Racism


In Martin Luther King Jr.'s Nobel lecture (click here), which is not to be confused with his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, he said the following:
This problem of spiritual and moral lag, which constitutes modern man's chief dilemma, expresses itself in three larger problems which grow out of man's ethical infantilism. Each of these problems, while appearing to be separate and isolated, is inextricably bound to the other. I refer to racial injustice, poverty, and war.
In his speech in which King expressed opposition to the Vietnam War (click here), he said the following:
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.
And the difference between how both many Whites and Conservative Christians approach the problem of racism today and King's approach can be discovered in the two statements above. For with many Whites and Conservative Christians, racism is a separate problem to itself which has been amputated from the other problems that co-exist. Thus, many Whites and Conservative Christians think that racism can be solved without addressing the other problems especially those that are a part of the status quo, such as our materialism, that are maintained by our Capitalist economic system. And here, we must single out our materialism because it is often used by many Whites and Conservative Christians to either prove that what we have been doing is either approved by God or proof that we are special. But King doesn't agree because he sees all of these problems being linked together. Where does he see the connection?

King sees the connection between racism, poverty and materialism, war and militarism in their causes. In the Nobel lecture, King notes that our moral, internal development has fallen far behind our external, technological capabilities. And what measures our moral capabilities is the degree of connection we have with and the concern we have for all others around the world, not just those who live with us and in our communities. That we need to see that we are all brothers and sisters and thus we are connected so that we cannot afford to neglect the suffering of any. Thus, when we, because of our technology, can enrich ourselves with more and more wealth, things, and physical capabilities, but show that we are not able to live as family, we show that our internal lags behind our external.

In his speech against the Vietnam war, we should note what precedes his tying together of racism, materialism, and militarism; it is our choosing to be a thing-oriented society over being a person-oriented society. And King is specific in naming the values of what makes us a thing oriented society: when the things we have and can accumulate are more important than people. And we should note that by including property rights, King is not just referring to tangible things. For King, people are more important than what we are usually most concerned about.

So King has much to say to those who have wealth and power about how to eliminate racism. They, or we, must replace our affinity for things, including profits, with growing connections with and love for all people. And in changing our main concerns and loves, we will not only eliminate racism, we will begin to do away with poverty, which always seems to accompany materialism, and the violence of war. But we should note that if we only target racism as something to eliminate, we will never eliminate it because improving the morality of our decisions targets more than just racism.

King speaks strongly to those with wealth and power and to those who benefit from the status quo. But he also has something to say for those who are struggling against marginalization and oppression and this message is very important in the wake of the past protests conducted by the those in the Occupy Movement and the present protests against racism and police brutality. That one's ends never exceeds one's means. That unless we are not only nonviolent, but also work to persuade and win over our opponents rather than conquer them, we will only be repeating the sins of those who oppress us. This why, in other places, King not only warns us against the use of physical, external violence, but against using internal violence, which can be found in the attitudes of our hearts and spirits and in the words of our mouths. That just because someone is oppressing us, we cannot afford to cut that human connection with them. Certainly if we cannot win them over, then the actions of our opponents must eventually be controlled. But we cannot afford to give into hate and bitterness against those who harm us have because we are all connected. Just as the rich cannot use the poverty of others or the obstacles to the personal accumulation of greater wealth posed by other to deny their familial connections with others, so the oppressive actions of others must never be used by us to deny that they too are our brothers and sisters.

In the end, for as long as poverty, materialism, militarism, and war exist, then we should only expect racism to exist. Why? Because the human values that allow for or produce those states, characteristics, and events will also produce racism. And until we attack the root cause for poverty, materialism, militarism, and war, we will never adequately address our problems with racism. In addition, as this world continues to be plagued by the love of money and tribalism, not only will we fail to control or eliminate racism, we will also fail to survive.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For December 17, 2014


Dec 16

To Erick Erickson and his disapproval of the release of the CIA Torture Report and his calling criticism of our use of torture moral equivalency. This appeared in the Red State blog

It seems that this article is really contesting moral equivalence which is simply equating similar or the same actions done by one's opponents with those done by one's own group. We should note that with waterboarding, we found the Japanese guilty of torture for using it though one of the reasons why they used it was to get 'useful information.' However, according to this article, suggesting that waterboarding is torture when we use it merits scorn according to this article. As Dick Cheney noted, the Japanese did far more than use waterboarding. But as the CIA report documented, so have we.

We should note that the more one rejects moral equivalencies, the more one is embracing moral relativity. And the starting point for this kind of moral relativity is the assumption of one's group's own innocence. And to further the claim that moral relevance is being embraced here, all one has to do is look at the grounds for which this article seems to smile on our use of waterboarding. According to the article, our use of waterboarding is ok because it has popular support. Of course, if we were to suggest that same-sex marriage is now ok because the majority of the people support it, then we would be accused of abandoning our morals or embracing moral relativity.

In the end, tribalism reigns here for what is right and wrong depends on who does what to whom.

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To Elise Hilton and her blogpost on working conditions for some of the Chinese people. This appeared on the Acton Blog.

Certainly the descriptions of what some laborers must endure is simply horrible. But there is one characteristic of this labor that was not fully mentioned. What these laborers produce becomes part of the global economy.

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To Elise Hilton and her blogpost on Entrepreneurs and the effect they have on the Globally economy. This appeared in the Acton blog

There is no doubt that individuals can produce positive results for others in today's economy.  But what we need to do is to gain an overall, multi-perspective view of the Global economy. And from what we know, the Global Economy is creating growing wealth disparity, employing sweatshop, trafficked, and slave labor, making smaller nations into Hunger Games like districts, weakening national sovereignty of many nations by transferring control of national economies into the hands of outside investors, and is hurting the environment.  With that in mind, we might want to ask if reports of benefits created by entrepreneurs are here to distract us.

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To Joe Carter and his blogpost on the current decline of war in the world. This appeared in the Acton Blog.

Another way to look at this is to realize what we are comparing today's situation with. We are comparing conflicts today with 2 world wars among other conflicts. In addition, the "civilized" nations cannot engage in the same kind of warfare against other civilized nations because of the possible use of nuclear weapons.

But before we give thanks for our chickens before they hatch, we should note two things. First, what was done on the battlefields of yesteryear is now being done on economic fronts. We are still relying on conquest rather than cooperation to get our way. Second, with the proliferation of WMDs being inevitable and the use of force still a predominant method of how the some, especially the powerful, get their way with much weaker enemies, the use of such weapons in conflict is not a matter of if but of when.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Kind Of Revolution We Need For Ferguson et al

There is something that has gone wrong in the exchanges between the police and the protesters who are reacting to the grand jury decisions in Ferguson and New York. While one side chants 'shut it down,' the other takes offense at any sympathy shown to the protesters and their cause. And as for my fellow Leftists, as long as we are content with the current divisions, we are missing an opportunity to further democracy.

Some of the protesters want to exert their power by stopping events or processes by their mere presence. At this point, such is actually a call to maintain the current power game only to change the identity of those who are in charge. It's not that I couldn't protest with them, it is that we are focussing more on who is in control rather than how to change the control game. So though I could join them because of the rampant racism and abuse of power that exist in law enforcement, a Leftist perspective to solving the problem is missing here.

And when we combine that with the negative police response to sympathetic expressions made to the protesters shown by NFL players, the end result is that we see ourselves in a tribal war between those who favor team Black versus those who favor team Blue. And what confirms that this war is tribal, that is what is right and wrong in this war is mostly determined by who does what to whom, is that we are being forced to pick sides. It seems that we are not allowed to show understanding to both the police, whose jobs can be excruciatingly difficult and even life risking, and people who belong to minorities who have continued to suffer from a harsh racism exercised by those in power.

There is a Leftist solution to our current tribal struggle that has been perhaps deliberately overlooked by many on the Left. That solution would not replace the protests, such would be wrong. Rather, that solution would be added to the protests. That solution would consist of creating groups of representatives from both law enforcement and minority communities who would both listen to each other and share their concerns so that they could perhaps come up with a list of joint suggestions and even demands on which our elected officials would act on. And here, we should be clear that there should be multiple such groups of representatives from  both groups across the whole country who would be participating in such a venture.

Such a getting together is more of an exercise in democracy because we would be involving more of the stakeholders in our  society in making decisions. The more stakeholders involved here, the more self-rule we are exercising. And the more self-rule we are exercising, the stronger is our democracy. 

And for these meetings of the minds between those in law enforcement and those from minority communities to contribute to democracy, they must be put together voluntarily and in great enough numbers. If we wait for the government elites to put together these meetings or to speak for all of us, we would be showing our passivity. Here, we should note that citizen passivity and enjoying a strong democracy is a contradiction in terms. We can't have both. We should also note that democracy is not just exercising the right to speak one's mind, it is working to both create the opportunities for others to speak their minds and to listen to what they have to say despite any possible disagreements one might have with them. To work to have one's own group seize control so that they tell others what to do is undemocratic. 

This blog stated in a previous post that democracy is a state of being for a society. That the more democratic a society is, the more all of its citizens are involved in self-rule. Thus, how democratic a society is, is at least partially determined by the number of democratic processes we practice and employ. Our problem is that we are so easily divided by ideologies and other differences and our personal identities have become so tribally determined that we easily sacrifice the practice of democracy in order to preserve our own group loyalty and advance the causes of our ideological and other tribes or gangs. And proof of how we have sacrificed our democratic processes and state of being can be seen in how unwilling we are to listen to our "opponents" speak. Proof of how we have forsaken democracy can be seen in how willing we are to live in our ideological and other ghettos. 

So thus far, those who have been orchestrating the protests to the Ferguson and New York City grand jury decisions have repeated the mistake that we in the Occupy Movement committed. That mistake was not the mere conducting of protests and establishing encampments. Rather, that mistake was not including with our protests and encampments the inviting of our opponents, the 1%, to come to the table to break bread and talk. This invitation to come together to both listen and make demands should be extended by those from both the minority communities and law enforcement in multiple instances across the whole nation. And the refusal to accept such invitations or to manipulate the proceedings will tell all of us who is for or against the rest of us.


Monday, December 15, 2014

ONIM For December 15, 2014

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Evangelicals Are Beginning To Not Be What They Use To Be

Michael Gerson has recently written an article in the Washington Post reporting on the changes that are occurring in Evangelical circles (click here). These changes are due to the varying Evangelical reactions to changing cultural values and the role of religion in public life. These varying reactions has put today's Evangelicalism in a partial state of flux

The two most prominent cultural changes Gerson mentions include a growing acceptance of moral libertarianism and how religion has begun to be seen as a threat on public life as it attempts to continue to infringe on individual rights by dictating personal morality.

The varying Evangelical reactions to changing cultural values, and we are especially talking about continued changes in public values concerning sexually related issues, varies with age with younger evangelicals being more accepting of those who were previously marginalized to older evangelicals who are not so accepting. 

Regarding politics, while, according to Gerson, there have been no major shifts in party affiliation, there has been a change in the level of satisfaction evangelicals have with conservative politics in general. A study cited by Gerson indicated this by the responses evangelicals made to a number of questions. Here, evangelical millenials, whose circle of friends consist mainly of people with similar views, have a more unfavorable opinions of the traditional evangelical view of how religion should interact with the general public. According to Gerson, the authors of the study believe this is due to a spurning of their parents' sometimes brooding reactions to changes in cultural values and the loss of Christianity's privileged place in determining society's values. 

Gerson suggests an alternative approach to older evangelicals regarding how they should react to the changing times. Gerson suggests that unhappy evangelical conservatives should embrace civility, inclusiveness,  and be devoted to the common good. But some of these suggestions indicate that Gerson does not adequately know either evangelical conservatives or religion's interaction in the public sphere.

An example of Gerson's lack of knowledge regarding evangelical conservatives is seen by the fact that one of the major defenses evangelical conservatives make for denying same-sex marriage has to do with what is optimal for society.  These conservatives assert that the best home environment for children is when there is both a mom and dad at home. Thus, one of the reasons why some conservative evangelicals oppose same-sex marriage is because of their view of what is the common good.

And because of conservative evangelicals' view of what is the common good, they feel obligated, which kind of American Christian's burden, to seize a paternalistic role in society. These evangelicals' disgruntlement is not just due to a loss of an idealized past, as Gerson suggested in his article; rather, their discontent also has to due with the future for themselves, their children, and the beloved nation. And as long as they are in the driver's seat in determining society's laws and values, they do offer a more limited exclusiveness than what is desired by both evangelical millennials and the general public. 

And though there should be no disagreement with Gerson's call for evangelical conservatives to embrace what he suggested, there are too many details left out of that list to describe conservatives and how they should change. The figure below shows how Christianity interacts with society.















At one end of the continuum is a Christian domination of society while while at the other end is a Christian withdrawal from influencing society. The real debate in America about Christian involvement with society, especially concerning supporting legislation,  revolves around these two issues. For the crux of the matter is about what concerns are Christians exerting influence. I believe that while millennial Evangelicals oppose Christian influence being used to write legislation controlling personal morality issues, I don't believe they would object to Christians trying to influence laws regarding social justice issues. To show the latter part of this claim, all one has to do is check and see if evangelical millennials object to what Martin Luther King Jr. advocated.

Evangelical conservatives tend to have opposite positions on those issues so that they want to influence legislation that would revolve around personal morals while tending to let social justice legislation go by the wayside. The social justice issue for which the majority of evangelical conservatives would support legislation is racism and how to control its effects. But, from what I see, the majority of evangelicals would note support legislation for social justice issues like economic justice, the environment, and American imperialism.

It seems that while evangelical millennials prefer a Christian influence on society without gaining a privileged position in determining society's laws and values by accepting a moral libertarian approach while supporting Christians who take stands on social justice issues, conservative evangelicals tend to want the other middle point in the continuum because many of them want to control the personal morals of those around them. We should note that the pairings here which are associated with Christian influence sans privilege and those which are bound to Christian influence with privilege are not fixed. These pairings are due to historical movements and events.

Gerson definitely has provided some valuable insights in his article and might be saying much more than this post is giving him credit for. What this post has tried to illustrate are some of the details I feel need to be fleshed out which were not in his article.



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For December 10, 2014


Dec 4

To Dylan Pahman and his commentary on the movie The Hunger Games. This appeared on the Acton blog.


It's rather ironic that a site that puts in juxtaposition Judeo-Christian values with the free-market might look for some deeper meaning in any Hunger Games movie. Here are at least two reasons why. We should note that the more extreme the competition that exists in our capitalist economy, the more the actual Huger Games in the movie serves as a metaphor for our economy where one's survival relies on how one wins the games. 

But even more than that, the idea of dividing people in the differing districts where each district has its own function in feeding the Capital directly mirrors the practice of 'comparative advantage' that has been both used to serve the global market economy and extolled by this website (see http://blog.acton.org/archives/70406-christians-know-comparative-advantage.html). Note that for the poorer countries, this division of labor, which should be celebrated as reflecting God's diversity according to the just cited website, is both outside of their own choice and robs them of the ability to be self-sufficient. 

One more item, how is the empty lives of those living in the Capital not drawing our attention to our consumerism that leads to a thing-oriented, rather than a person-oriented, society? And yet consumerism is a result of the kind of Capitalist economic system so celebrated by this website. Again, thus the irony of this website drawing attention to the deeper meanings imbedded in the movie The Hunger Games


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Dec 6

To Chelsea Patterson and her blogpost on how suffering is for God's glory and our good. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

I think that a post like this needs both expansion and nuance. I say this because sometimes this teaching on suffering, which has a validity, is sometimes used by us Christians to decide to be passive in face of the different kinds of injustices we and nonChristians face on earth.

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Dec 8

To Joe Carter and his blogpost on the spiritual and economic indicators of unemployment. This appeared in the Acton blog.

Two items that are missing here are:

1.    Average and median pay of new jobs
2.    How underpaying employees or offshoring jobs to increase net profit reflects on the spirituality of the job creators/providers.

In the article linked by this post, the definition of under-employment is faulty. For being underemployed not only refers to the number of hours one is working, it also refers to the number of employees who work at jobs for which they are overqualified.

So it seems here that with regards to employment problems, not enough focus is being placed on the job creators/providers.


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To R. Scott Clark and his short blogpost quote on the current changes occurring in colleges. This appeared on the Heidelblog.

Using some different terminology, what is described above has already been commented on by Noam Chomsky in the article below:

https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/corporate-business-models-are-hurting-american-universities/

What we should note is that the terminology used to describe the growing authoritarianism of our colleges and universities will differ according to whether one sees big government or corporations as posing the greatest threat, the move from any kind of democratization of educational institutions to elite-centered control is obvious to the faculty and some others. Before retiring, I remember having conversations with colleagues over this. And this was combined with the influx of not-ready-for-college-time students in order to meet some enrollment goal. IMO and that of some others, we believe that education is being deemphasized and is being replaced by a focus on the college experience. In the meantime, students are being more and more viewed as customers.

And if we follow the money, we will easily observe our educational institutions are putting their priorities.


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Dec 9

To Brian Stanley and his blogpost on 10 myths about World Christianity. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

If memory serves from a world religions course as well as some internet sources, not only is Christianity a Western religion, so is Judaism and Islam. This has to do with distinguishing these religions from the religions prevalent in East Asia. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam had their start in West Asia. These three religions are monotheistic religions and who claim Abraham as a key figure. Calling these three religions western does not necessarily mean that they began in Europe.

Regarding point #2, I believe Marx protested Western Colonialism and Imperialism as did those who followed him in some shape or form. In addition, victims of Western Colonialism and Imperialism protested it well before the late 20th Century. The question of who protested colonialism before the late 20th century seems very Eurocentric.

Regarding point #3, Western religion was certainly imposed on the indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere. The writings of Bartolomé de Las Casas, in his The Devastation Of The Indies documents how Western religion, as well as servitude, was forced on the indigenous people there even to the point of death. The Puritans looked at their portion of America as a new Canaan and themselves as the new Israel and thus participated in the ethnic cleansing of the land.

Regarding point #7, Christianity actually had a mixed record with regard to slavery in America. But not only that, it had a mixed record with regard to Jim Crow too. There were Christians who used the Bible to justify both sides of the fence in both of those practices. And that just is with regard to America. I cannot speak to how missionaries conducted themselves in other parts of the world. In addition, we have to remember that the merging of Church & State came from the same place where almost all Western Imperial powers came from: Europe.

Points #9 and 10 are very good points, however.