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This Month's Scripture Verse:

Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless -- Ecclesiastes 5:10


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For April 6, 2016

March 23
To Russell Moore and his blogpost on how Augustine’s writings apply to this election year. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

While Moore sees prosperity gospelers being the finders of scapegoats for when an empire suffers trials or even falls, he still expresses faith in America's democracy. But perhaps he should note the works of historian Chalmers Johnson who claimed that republics that become empires will see either the end of their empire or the decimation of their republic. Why is that? It has to do with the structure demanded by empires. That the amount of external control needed to keep one's empire in check eventually turns inward because of the overhead needed to maintain control. And as it turns inward, the residents of the empire lose their privileges that make their nation a republic. 

Johnson cites 3 examples including the US as examples. The first example was Rome where its empire caused Rome to lose its Republic status and became a ruthless dictatorship under the auspices of Caesar. Great Britain picked an alternative route by letting go of its empire. Johnson made an educated guess about America saying it would lose its Republic status if it doesn't change. And evidence that supports Johnson's speculation on America can be found in a recent study stating that America has become an oligarchy (see http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746 ).

How does the above concern itself with Augustine? Certainly Moore is correct to cite Augustine and how the Church is a group of pilgrims who have a measured concern with the present because of its long term hope in its eternal future. But at the same time, our concern for the present should be more of a concern for justice than for one's own comfort. And that is what is being missed by many Christians today. We are so concerned with losing a status quo that has provided us with much contentment and prosperity that we lack the proper motivation to address the injustices being carried out in the here and now. And this should draw our attention to the empire in which we live because empires tend to produce more injustices than non-empires because of the degree of unwanted control that is warranted. This is the point that Moore should have addressed while expressing confidence in America's democratic processes while pointing us to Augustine.


April 1

To Suzanne See and her blogpost review of a book on understand jihad. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

What's missing is this: one's view of Islam, regardless of the region, must take into account the West's, and this includes America, interventions and attempts to control Muslim's Holy Land, the Middle East. And the question becomes does the book being reviewed here include that context. After all, the West's involvement, including Modern Zionism in Israel, in the Middle East is extensive and involves some of Islam's most holy sites. The history of the West's involvement in the Middle East includes European exploitation for the sake of oil as well as the creation of artificial national borders, coups, support for dictators and tyrants for business interests, support for terrorists, the selling of weapons, and invasions. And when we include that history with the fact that Islam is a religion that revolves around justice, then our understanding of Islam must include knowing well the context in which Islam currently operates. And such can present a challenge to us God-and-country loving Americans because of the vital part America plays in the making up of that context.

There are some positives to the book being reviewed and one of them is noting that Muslims do not form a monolith. Thus, it should follow that understanding Islam involves more than reading one book even if it is written by a former Muslim. And knowing that not all Muslims are the same should tell us that the Muslim understanding of jihad is not monolithic either.

Also, with his anti-Semitism, his bombastic treatment of dissent, and his advocacy for his nation in using the sword, why should Martin Luther be the reformer we mention when we say that Islam needs someone to change it?

Finally, why is love of country important? I am not saying that one should hate their country. I am saying that one can easily love their neighbor without loving one's own nation and, in fact, such an approach just might help us be more faithful to God.


April 2

To Michael Quinlan and his blogpost describing how secular man has dehumanized people in the world. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.

Though there are some valid points made here such as the points about the dehumanization involved with abortion, the problem is that this article is simply a conservative example of the pharisee from the parable of the two men praying. The pharisee declared his own state of righteousness and thus could find no fault with himself; but he could find many faults with others.

This pharisaical attitude can be found in the claims about sexual revolutionaries. It is also found in the claims about Marxists and Marxism. With the former, there seems to be no recognition of how the conservative opposition to same-sex marriage results in the dehumanization of those from the LGBT community. After all, to allow same-sex marriage in society would be to encourage people to regard those from the LGBT community as normal rather than to marginalize them by denying them full equality. Such is an example of dehumanizing others.

And the arguments made against Marxism lack objectivity. For the arguments take the first "attempts" at Marxism being the definition of Marxism itself. And the line that "acknowledges" that Marxism has not been tried in its "pure form" really misses the point. For if the attempts to implement Marxism were not close enough to what Marx said to be counted as Marxism, then we can't use examples like the Soviet Union, Red China, and Castro's Cuba as examples of how Marxism has failed. On the other hand, since many Marxists do not regard Marx as an secular infallible Pope, then waiting for a pure form of Marxism to come becomes an exercise in waiting for Godot. Rather, before we can criticize Marxism as a whole, we need to examine all of the examples in which Marxism has been or is being tried to before reaching a verdict. These examples would include the Paris Commune, the Spanish Revolution, as well as smaller examples such as worker co-ops where workers democratically control their workplaces.

On a side note, we could point to attempts at Marxism that left a trail of tears as a result. For example, when Iran's democratically elected leader moved to nationalize Iran's oil reserves, the US and the UK participated in a coup that replaced Iran's democratically elected government with a coup. That occurred in 1953. When Guatemala's newly elected President started to carry out agrarian reforms, the US orchestrated a coup and replaced this democratically elected leader with a tyrannical dictator. That was 1954. We could also point to similar examples in Greece ('67) and Chile ('73) as well as others. But such a trail of tears fails to indict Marxism. Rather, it indicts at least some of Marxism's opponents.

Instead of objectivity, we have the assumption of superiority and the claim that Conservative Catholicism has all the answers for what ails all individuals and all societies. And such ignores the history of the Roman Church and its many implementational as well as moral failures. But what is worse is the implication of this claim. That implication is that the world must submit to the Roman Church's teachings because the Roman Church has everything to teach others but nothing to learn--a saying adapted from a Martin Luther King line.

The approach to combat the dehumanization cited above is nothing more than an authoritarian approach where some people should be in charge of the rest because they have a monopoly on all truth and thus might even be more human than others. Again, we can use history to judge that claim. Here we should note that authoritarians do not know how to  work and play well with others in democracies. For such people do not look to share society with others as equals, rather they wish to share society with others by assuming a privileged position of possessing some degree of supremacy over others. Why? Because some people are more human than others.


April 5

To Denny Burk and his blogpost on pornography and Time’s article discussing it. This appeared in Denny Burk’s blog.

Considering that many performers have opted to work in porn because of an economic draft and that once there, they are abused and dehumanized and many suffer from PTSD, I think much of the criticisms used in the article above against porn are understated. So perhaps, the gov't should step in and regulate the porn industry in order to protect vulnerable people from exploitation.

But we also have to be careful about moral norms. We have to be careful because of a concept called liberty and freedom. It is one thing to have moral norms that can be freely chosen and it is another thing to state moral norms in ways that are mandated by law.


To Joseph Sunde and his blogpost about Edmund Burke’s support for Free Trade. This appeared in the Acton blog.

Considering that Smith and Burke were contemporaries of each other and that Smith so positively described Burke, then it is clear that both were reacting to a similarly perceived problem: Mercantilism. With Mercantilism, not only was there government power over trade increased, those who had power over government were people in business. So not only did government exercise over trade, it was for monetary reasons for both the government and selected sectors of the private sector.

So those supporting free trade or at least reduced trade restrictions aim at solving one problem but can easily become unaware of other problems. That is especially true for today when private sector elites are pushing free trade agreements on their respective governments for the same reason that private sector elites pushed government regulations on trade back in Burke's and Smith's day. It is because they could benefit from these agreements while not paying attention to the harm caused to others.

The term 'Free Trade' is like the term 'Free Market' in that we have to ask what the word Free relates to. And in both cases, it relates to government restrictions. And here we should note that restricting government power is not an absolute value to cherish, it is a relative one in that whether the restricting government power is good depends on a case by case basis. While lessening government restrictions in Burke's and Smith's day would challenge a certain private sector control over their government, restricting free trade today could present the same challenge to a certain private sector today. 

A good article on Free Trade can be found in The Globe And Mail (see http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/from-free-trade-to-forced-trade/article1163551/?page=all ). It discusses the difficulty that comes into play when measuring the effects and overall value of Free Trade. But their article contains one flaw. That flaw was that it picked a single nation, Canada, as its sample; it did not include the effects that Canada's free trade had with its trading partners.

Again, the word 'Free' i Free Trade denotes a relationship with the government. That the government has less and less control over trade. This can provide opportunity for improvement when government control exists to benefit selected elite sectors from the private or those in government, but it can become disheartening when government is functioning as a working representative of the people as a whole. When the latter occurs, then democratic control over society is weakened by free trade and given to wealthy private sector elites who may or may not reside in that particular nation. But the actual point of handing over more gov't control to those with wealth weakens working democracies and only strengthens elite-centered rule in nations whose governments are not working democracies.

One other point should be made. That point is that the benefit of Free Trade is not universal and absolute, it depends on what the Free Trade relates to in addition to the economic development of the trading partners. We've seen with Free Trade with Haiti and Mexico that US agriculture can drive certain farmers from those nations out of business so that those nations could experience significant deprivations of food. Or we've seen with other nations how food from poorer nations can be shipped to richer nations because people in richer nations can pay a higher price for the food and thus depriving the some of the people of those poorer nation opportunities to buy food produced in their own nations. In addition, Free Trade can prevent a nation from developing new sectors in its economy because competitive pricing makes that development impossible. We should note that much of American industry developed under protectionist policies. And now under Free Trade, we've lost a significant number of those industries while we have grown a financial sector that is so powerful that we are now classified as an oligarchy. And guess who are some of the biggest supporters of Free Trade. Here, what we should note is that supporters of Free Trade today do so using deductive rather than inductive reasoning. And thus, facts that would be derived by studying how Free Trade affects all involved are assumed to support their argument.

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