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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For May 17, 2017

April 10

To Joe Carter and his blogpost about how last century’s fundamentalism can teach us about people falling away from the faith. Part of that discussion included how socialism was a side issue that should be included in the discussion. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

The strength of Christian Fundamentalism as originally defined is that it focuses our attention on essentials of the faith: the supernatural characteristics of Jesus and what that implies in his vicarious death for our sins and the inerrancy of the original autographs of the Scriptures. The weakness of Christian Fundamentalism as it started is that it lacked a self-awareness of how the other beliefs, especially social political ideologies, could have been more inspired by men than the Scriptures. For while the distinction between Christian Fundamentalism and theological liberalism revolved around the acceptance of the supernatural vs reducing all of reality to the physical, one side was clearly championing what was taught in the Scriptures. But  when the difference between them rested on secondary issues, such as the political ideologies adopted by the followers of each movement or on the social gospel, then being able to distinguish who was rightfully interpreting the Scriptures and who wasn't became complicated. What modern religiously conservative American Christians often do is to see Socialism, and the social gospel too, as having nothing to teach and everything to learn. Thus, when discussing the fundamentalists vs modernist/liberal theology divide, every political-economic ideology or practice that could possibly be associated with the secondary issues of political ideologies and the social gospel was seen as an affront to the Gospel

There is something that we need to note about Socialism back in the days of the first Christian Fundamentalists. Because it was often associated with the Soviet Union's Communism, it was sometimes thought of as being synonymous with that and thus thought of as being monolithic. Fortunately, the link to Erdman's article on Socialism does not make that mistake. Erdman is careful in distinguishing anti-capitalist movements like Socialism, Popular Socialism (that is the popular version of his day), Communism, and Anarchism. However, he fails to point out that Marxism is more about the redistribution of power than the redistribution of wealth. Therefore, Erdman's view of the three isms mistakenly revolves around  the redistribution of wealth. For when ordinary men could make laws that controlled the behavior of the wealthy, Marx saw that as the abolition of property. On the other hand, Erdman correctly sees the elevation in morality of workers over the wealthy as being wrong and unbiblical.

What we should note is that today's Socialism is not the Socialism Erdman saw. Today's Socialism is more diverse. For example, there are many Socialists who reject the notion that Socialism can lead mankind into some utopian state. Instead, they promote Socialism as being an improvement over Capitalism.

Finally, we should note that like Marxism, Capitalism is extremely materialistic and utopian and thus represents two sides of the same coin. For where Marx believed in an absolute utopia, many Capitalists imply a belief in a relative utopia by  boasting that their system is the best system and cannot be significantly improved on by any other system. And because both Marxism and Capitalism focus on materialism by determining the distribution of goods, it matters not which side turns up after a coin flip. That is because emphasizing materialism cannot create any kind of absolute or relative utopia let alone improve society. Being thing-oriented, as Martin Luther King Jr. would put it, puts different groups at odds against each other over the competition for material goods. That is why King declared that for as long as society is thing-oriented, which is when society counts gadgets, profits, and property rights as being more important than people, we will always have racism, materialism/economic exploitation, and war/militarism. Perhaps that is because for as long as groups are at odds with each other over the accumulation of things for their own, tribalism reigns. And tribalism basically says what is right and wrong depends on who does what to whom. In addition, tribalism robs us of objectivity when assessing the faults of our own group and the merit of other groups. Instead, for Socialism to contribute to society, it must work as a facilitator  that brings all groups of people together to work on how to make society more just and sufficiently prosperous.


May 13

To Albert Mohler and his blogpost talk on when should we stand with or stand apart from others. This talk is mostly about when Christians should align themselves with or turn their back to those who claim to be believers. But there are two small segments that address how and when we should position ourselves with unbelievers.This  appeared in the Gospel Coalition Website.

While most of Mohler's talk was about when to stand with or apart from others who claim to be believers, two parts of his talk dealt with when to do the same with unbelievers in society.
What Mohler said almost at the 37 minute mark was that Christianity had lost the battle in its control of culture. That tells us much about how Mohler sees the relationship between Christians and their society. It says that Christians should have privileged place over others in society so that they can exercise a measure of control over cultural values. That rules out Christians from sharing society with others as equals.

At the end, Mohler states that we can work with unbelievers provided that it involves no compromising of values and faith. But in warning us about the continued sexual revolution as exhibited through the LGBT Equal Rights Movement, he leaves some ambiguity though a betting man would know where to place his wager. Yes, we must preach what the Bible says about sexuality. But can a Bible believing Christian support equal rights, including Same-Sex Marriage, in society just like we would support freedom of religion even for those faiths that we see as being antithetical, and thus heretical, to our own?
Mohler doesn't say much about how we participate in causes with unbelievers. One could interpret that as suggesting that he advises us to be minimally involved in joint causes with unbelievers. Such might indicate, again, a view that says that Christians should not share society with others as equals. Rather, they should semi-shun them and stick with their own kind. And while Mohler rightfully complains about Christians succumbing to the continuation of the Sexual Revolution, what he misses is this: For as long as we religiously conservative Christians do not work to share society with others as equals, we put fellow believers, especially those who are young adults and younger, who have been deeply influenced by Post Modernism into a position of choosing between a false dichotomy between opposing both inequality and oppression and believing what God's Word has to say. As this choice applies to the LGBT community, Mohler's position has asked Millennial Christians to choose between marginalizing the LGBT community by opposing their equality in society and Biblical sexual standards.
Though Mohler gave an interesting historical perspective of how different Christian denominations arose and joined forces. The most pressing issue for today is how religiously conservative American Christians should relate to unbelievers in society.


May 14

To Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg and his blogpost condemning those who participated in the March for Science. The basis for the condemnation was that these protesters had embrace an ideology of materialistic reductionism. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.

If any article exhibits what is the greatest threat to our nation, it is this article. Why? It is because the greatest threat to our nation is that we have divided ourselves into groups that no longer listen to each other. And because we no longer listen to each other, we are even more inclined than before to take control and rule over others rather than to discuss with each other in order to collaborate with them.

While there are a multitude of charges made against all who marched for the sciences as if all who marched form a monolith, there is no evidence provided to support any of the charges. Rather, these charge are deductively arrived at after demonizing another group. In addition, the charges are vague and/or are inconsistent.

Take the first set of accusations against those who marched for science. They include the charge that the marchers are both ideologically enslaved and are data-driven rather than bing principle-driven. The first problem with these charges is that to be principle-driven, one becomes ideological. But if one is ideologically enslaved, then one is principle-driven rather than data driven. Thus, there is a contradiction if being data-driven and principle-driven are opposites.

We might also note that because one supports the sciences, it does not mean that one embraces materialistic reductionism. That would be the case if one believes that science is the only source of knowledge. We might also add that Capitalism is also materialistic. But that doesn't mean that its followers are necessarily materialistic. That would be the case only if one reduced reality to what is learned in business.

Now we might ask how Rummelsburg arrived at his conclusions regarding the participants of the march. Did he use research to identify all of the beliefs of the participants or is such data unnecessary for him to make such a sweeping generalization because he is principle-driven? And if he doesn't use data, how can he verify his conclusions or does he think he needs to?

Furthermore, there is nothing inherently good or bad about being data-driven or principle-driven. Why? Because both are such generic descriptions that by themselves, they carry no implications. Thus, additional information is needed. Thus we need to ask which data  and which principles are being compared. And this is something that Rummelsburg consistently avoids discussing. He avoids talking about the details of why people were marching.

The details include Trump's plans to cut funding for scientific research in climate change, medicine and heathcare. With the former, both the EPA and NASA would have funds dealing with environmental and climate change research cut. In addition, the EPA would lose much of their ability to use regulations to protect the environment. With the latter, the NIH would receive a significant cut in funds and there also exists the possibility of structural changes that could hamper the CDC from operating at its current level. Since the march, we could also include Trump's desire to cut funding that supports the effort to continue to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. If we read why, we find that all of this is due to a politically conservative ideology that wants to reduce the size of the government. And if we follow the money, we see this reduction in the size of government via these cuts in scientific research makes cutting taxes for the wealthy more plausible. Seeing that there are no moral grounds for opposing the investigation of the climate and the rest of our environment to see if our way of life is causing significant problems for the future, then the reason cutting funds for scientific research quite is quite possibly based in materialism. Only this kind of materialism revolves around a more way of life than a metaphysical view of reality. It is the materialism of wealth.
What can be concluded from Rummelsburg's article is that principle-driven conservatives, like him, have nothing to learn from those who marched for Science. They have nothing to learn about the environment and climate change or what is needed to combat any future diseases and health conditions. They have nothing to learn because their principles have already settled those issues. And because their principles have already settled these issues, they have no need to learn from scientists whose data might not confirm what these conservatives have concluded.

And at this point, we might want to ask how different are those conservative principles from the primitive religions observed in different tribes? And if there are no differences, why shouldn't protesters, like myself who marched for science and are Christians, for example, and thus who do not believe in materialistic reductionism, consider Rummelsburg's set of beliefs to contain nothing more that primitive superstitions? I should except such thinking would cause me to believe that those with my perspective have everything to teach and nothing to learn from those who disagree with my perspective. For there are other areas of life to discover besides what we protesters marched for in the March for Science. And there are other sources of knowledge in addition to Science.


May 15

To Joe Carter and his blogpost on how protection from religious persecution, especially that of Christians, should serve as the priority in US foreign policies. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition.

Though the above article expresses very legitimate concerns, two problems stand out. What about US foreign policies or allies that promote religious persecution? Why not extend this concern for religious persecution to domestic policies as well?

When we American Christians talk about persecution, we often think of Muslim or state persecution of fellow Christians in specific locals. But we don't talk about Israeli persecution of Palestinian Christians. Palestinian Christians are facing the same fate as other Palestinians in that their is being stolen by the Israeli government. In addition, a Palestinian Christian personally told me that he faced more threats from Israeli settlers than he faced from Hamas. We should also note that Muslims also face persecution. Muslims in Burma and China have been attacked. And what we should ask in all of those situations is what has the U.S. government done about the suffering of these religious communities.

In America, Muslims face persecution from American citizens that is based on ignorance, fear and hatred. In addition, those Americans whose religious beliefs allow them to participate in same-sex relations have been persecuted by those whose religion prohibit same-sex relations. Is Carter calling for stricter sanctions that would protect those being persecuted here in America?
We should note that some Christian persecution around the world is because Christianity has been strongly associated with specific US policies. In particular, some Christian persecution is due to US support for Israel's brutal occupation of the Palestinian territories. Christian religious support for Israel has played a significant role in supporting US policies toward Israel. And because of that association, some have wrongfully but understandably perceived that support as Christianity waging war against Muslims. That perception is wrong but understandable because Christians who give carte blanche support for Israel are misrepresenting Christianity. Support for Israel's existence must be distinguished from support for the Occupation against the Palestinians and its ability to bully its neighbors.


May 16

To Joseph Sunde and his blogpost on the need to revive an ‘associational life’ that existed when de Tocqueville visited America. This appeared in the Acton blog.

I wish that those who quote de Tocqueville like Christians who quote the Bible would note the racism that existed in both his writings and the times he observed. He proclaimed that England had the superior society but England ruled a racist-based empire. America itself was an ethnocracy based on White supremacy rather than functioning as a laboratory for democracy through the associations people made with each other. So that regardless of what de Tocqueville saw, Native Americans, Blacks, and women were excluded from decision making institutions and ventures and their interests were all too often ignored. They were invisible people to the Americans whom de Tocqueville observed as running laboratories in democracy. In a very real sense, Furthermore, we should note that de Tocqueville himself did not describe Native Americans and Blacks as being equal to the Whites who had subjugated them.
Certainly there are problems for which the 'middle layer' is best at addressing. But there are other problems that are beyond its abilities to attend to. And telling the difference between the two sets of problems can be difficult. What is noticeable about how America operates today is that we have a strongly elite-centered rule that is not answerable to any democratic process throughout our nation from the lowest levels of government and business to the highest levels. For there is a great deal of political power in America that is wielded from the private sector due to the influence of money. Structurally speaking, we Americans are represented by location, not vocation. Thus whatever positives de Tocqueville noticed have disappeared. BTW, we should note that the Russian notion of a soviet which existed before Lenin hijacked the Revolution functioned as a laboratory in democracy as well.

In terms of a national set of ethics or values, there again, as in the political power resting in the private sector, money rules. Martin Luther King Jr. noted in his speech against the Vietnam war the following (see http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article2564.htm  ):

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.

But how can we shift from being a "thing-oriented" society in an economic system such as ours? For the engine of our economic system is fueled by greed. That question is ominously answered by observation. And current calls to free our corporations from their social responsibilities to all of their stakeholders and the environment are a part of that observation.
Another ethical or values concern can be seen in how we so rigidly divide ourselves. Ideological tribalism runs strong in America today. Here, each ideological group act as if it has everything to teach the other groups while having nothing to learn from them. Such a mentality is a mortal enemy of democracy.

To really address the problems in our nation, we need a significant structural change that equally incorporates all sectors of American society rather than just the wealthy who can buy elections at all layers of society, not just in the middle layer. The above article's call for a more associational life makes some legitimate points. And we need a change in values. The question is do we have the resolve to make the necessary changes? Reality from both history and the present say 'no' while reality from the future tells us that our survival depends on it.

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