Methinks he doth protest too much

>> Friday, September 9, 2011

I originally wrote this as a status update for Facebook but it was about 53 characters too long and I didn't want to cut it off and. So, I decided to just expand it into a blog post. :-) The opportunity to wax eloquent (in my mind) notwithstanding, I will endeavor to keep this short and in the style of an opinion commentary. :-)

While driving home from work today, I listened to a prominent Evangelical leader being interview about the exclusion of religious leaders from the 9/11 memorial in New York City, an exclusion which elicited much dismay and outrage from him. To a great extent I share his dismay and sorrow caused by this event and a general trend to reject our historic faith, but I am also very concerned by the reaction of many Christians to these things. Many seem to think it necessary and good to loudly decry such treatment as "un-American" and "disrespectful" and call for some sort of socio/political action to arm twist the organizers of this event into including religious leaders, particularly those of an Evangelical stripe. To this, the famous line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act III, and Scene II comes to mind. Methinks we doth protest too much.

I absolutely believe America has historically been a "Christian Nation", but it also seems apparent beyond dispute that we are an increasingly secular nation. Practically speaking, outraged and dismayed insistence to the contrary won't alter that fact, and spiritually speaking we should carefully consider what eternal value is to be gained from such expression in this sort of matter. It seems most consistent with scripture and in keeping with an eternal perspective to simply and respectfully state (and demonstrate) the enormous and overwhelmingly positive role of Christianity in the fundamental shaping of this country...and leave it at that. Brow beating and arm twisting is a distinctly political tool - not necessarily a Christian tool - and the Christian should be quite prepared to accept rejection and ridicule from the world and continue about the task[s] given to us by Him without fear, discouragement or anger.

As an aside, I agree with Dennis Prager wholeheartedly when he calls for "clarity above agreement" and believe this principle is important for Christians to consider as we engage with and in the world. I would rather a person openly reject my God than that they pretend adherence to it if that is their true spiritual state...especially if that person is seeking to benefit from such pretension.

For Christians, increasing secularization simply emphasizes the need to "be holy" as He is holy (I Peter 1:13-16) and study to show ourselves approved (II Timothy 2:15) so that we are always ready to humbly and gently give an account of the hope that lies within (I Peter 3:13-15). Perhaps we should consider the possibility that we have strayed from the basic tenets of our faith and hope and have become more conformed to the patterns of this world than we ought.

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2)


God bless and veritas supra omnis!


Thoughts on the possible shutdown

>> Friday, April 8, 2011

Hello all,

I've been out of blogging for quite a while now out of necessity, but I foresee possibly being able to take it up again on a regular basis (probably with more posts that are just "brain splats" with less attempt at polish) and because of that have a bit of the "blogging bug" at the moment. Consequently, I can't help myself and would like to offer a few thoughts on the possible government shutdown and related controversies.

First, I don't think it would be good for there to be a full shutdown of the government (or any shutdown at all, really, because negotiations that need to take place are the same whether they take place before or after a shutdown). By this I mean that the most core and essential functions of the government like the military, for instance, and any other essential functions that the two parties agree/should agree on, should be funded separately before and separately from less essential "functions" like funding Planned Parenthood, the EPA, National Endowment of Arts, etc, etc, etc. The problem with my viewpoint of course, is that the main sticking points seem to be entitlement spending, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and such. It's possible that within minutes a compromise will be reached on the main sticking points, but if they aren't the responsible thing to do would be to pass a few stop-gap measures funding the military and essential government employees and yes...keeping Social Security checks going out (at least at a reduced rate) and perhaps Medicare and Medicaid too, although if my understanding of the process is correct, IOU's can be issued to those programs (Medicaid and Medicare) which can be paid back at a later time (please correct me if I am wrong and you have the time). It's not right for the government to create programs for and by which people become dependant upon the government to buy groceries, pay the electric bill, the rent and such, and then suddenly cut that funding totally off before cutting off funding for such programs and departments such as Planned Parenthood, the EPA, the Education Department (the individual states can keep their own schools open) and so on.

Second, why are more people not seeing and calling out the Democrats on their "TEA Party" smokescreen? According to the Democrats, the only thing prevent a resolution of the budget debate is the TEA Party. I'm not a TEA Party guy and never have been. I've had a "polite" relationship with the TEA Party (for lack of a better description) and think it has it's good points and it's not so good points. So, don't mistake me as a hard line TEA Partier. Make no mistake though. Blaming the TEA Party for holding up all progress is an obvious smoke screen intended to conceal that the Democratic Party likewise is unwilling to make concessions. If they weren't refusing to make concessions then, logically, a resolution of some sort would already have been reached. Granted, according to the Democrats, their "principled" stands are in "defense" of the middle class and such, and the TEA Party's is about big business and "extreme" ideology, but it's not hard to see that they are as ideologically motivated as the TEA Party.

Third, when did it become wrong to be ideological? And...who isn't ideological? I don't have problem with ideology; in fact, I have my own ideology which happens to include a belief in the necessity of governing which from time to time may require that most hated of all things..."compromise"...on certain matters. I may disagree with other peoples ideology but I neither expect nor request that they scuttle it when they come to the negotiating table. I would only hope that the ideology of the individuals I'm negotiating with have some ground we can find in common.

Fourth, and finally, the Republicans have a smokescreen of their own. They keep calling for Presidential "leadership" in the budget negotiations, but the last time I checked the House of Representatives hold the purse and are primarily responsible for building and negotiating budgets. Does/should the President have a place at the table? Sure...and obviously he can veto a bill (which the house can then override with sufficient numbers) but House leaders are supposed to be at the head of the negotiating table when the budget is the matter at hand. The Executive Branch is supposed to be the third of four arms of government to weigh in on budget matters ( 1) the House of Representatives, 2) the Senate, 3) the Executive Branch, 4) the Judicial Branch). House leadership, both the majority leadership and the minority leadership, wanted their respective jobs. They got those jobs and are now responsible for them. Deal with it and be more careful what you wish for next time.

Clearly, everybody is posturing themselves politically, which is fine and necessary to an extent. But in this case most of the key players have been so focused on posturing BEFORE beginning negotiation (in anticipation that any possible compromise will be more unpopular than popular) that real negotiation has only recently begun, and that's a problem. Job security is very important to a politician. Oh! And the good of the nation too.

Ironically, the people with the greatest job security in the next election (outside of those who aren't up for re-election in 2012) will probably be those "ideologues" who actually stuck to their guns unequivocally, and rightly so. It's time voters more readily reward character and integrity in their elected representatives, which, btw, I think TEA Party voters will and have done, for which I applaud them.

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


Eduardo Verastegui: tolerating what can't be seen?

>> Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hello all,

I was struck this evening by something said in an Eduardo Verastegui video message posted to the Cry Action Blog. I don’t agree with all that is said in the video, at least not as it is put, but this portion conveys important and true food for thought that I would like to help pass on.

Speaking in defense of using graphic images of abortion to defend life, Mr. Verastagui says this:

Perhaps some of you question whether it is necessary to show a video like this, and my answer is the same that they give in schools about showing movies of the Nazi holocaust. Teachers don’t show these videos in order to emotionally manipulate students. They show them because the Nazi holocaust represents a terrible evil that words alone cannot describe. The holocaust of abortion is no different. We all instinctively know that abortion is something evil and if it is something so terrible that we can’t even see it, shouldn’t we perhaps not tolerate it either?

If you would like to see the whole video message (it’s about 4:24 long) you can see it on the Cry Action Blog by following this link.

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


Kevin Bales on fighting modern slavery: the power of small things

>> Monday, February 7, 2011

Hello all!

Ever wondered how to fight slavery? Ever wondered what young people and/or people with limited resources can do to help? If you have asked yourself these questions then I highly recommend the following video to you. It won't answer all your questions probably, but it will help set you on the path to finding your own answers.

Watching this video, I was flabbergasted by the impact that "small things" can have on a global level. I've always known intellectually that small things could make a big difference but the projected impact that small things could have in fighting slavery simply shocked and convicted me. I was convicted because I see how much impact I have likely been wasting. Take for instance my love of Starbucks Caramel Macchiato's...

I am a frequent patron of the local Starbucks, frequent enough that most of the regular employee's know me by name and all of them know my regular order; a Grande Caramel Macchiato. Nothing can beat a Caramel Macchiato for a bit of relaxation and awesomeness. But, at what cost do I indulge in this treat?

Well, suppose I have 1.5 Caramel Macchiato a week (I try to limit my intake). They've raised the price this year from $4.28 to $4.60 for a GCM, so if I have 1.5 a week that = a total of $6.90. Multiply that by 52 and you get $358.80 a year spent on GCM's. If I get 2 GCM's a week, by no means something unheard of, that total number jumps to $478.40 a year spent on Grande Caramel Macchiato's.

How much does it cost to free a slave? In many parts of the world...$400...for sustainable freedom according to Kevin Bales.

Wow. I am both angry with myself by those calculations and joyfully amazed at the impact I can have!

Now tell me. What does it say of a person who refuses to do small things for God's glory?

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


These are serious issues, Mr. Linkins

>> Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hello all,

Be warned that this post is a bit of a departure from normal fare on this blog and I’m not bothering with the disclaimers that I normally include. If you are normal reader of this blog, just imagine the balancing (hopefully) disclaimers I usually include.

I read the Huffington Post pretty much daily. I admit that it’s a fun and engaging site, even if I disagree with most of the views and opinions of their writers and bloggers, and I enjoy the intellectual stimulation and insight into opposing views available on Huffington Post. There is also a good deal of content on the site that I am careful to skirt due to appropriateness issues, which is a disclaimer I am throwing in.

Anyway, while reading yesterday, I ran across a story about controversial statements recently made by former Pennsylvania Senator, Rick Santorum. The story includes an imbedded video of the actual comments themselves as well as a brief debate between Santorum and Al Sharpton on the Sean Hannity show. The video is worth listening to if you have 6 minutes and 59 seconds of extra time. The subject of this post though is a different article, this one by Jason Linkins. I should preface this by saying that I have never enjoyed or really read Linkins’ articles as they have never struck me as worthwhile. But this one caught my eye because of its title.

“Santorum Abortion Remark Spurs Incomplete Discussion”

Hmmmm... That got my attention. What could he be referring to?

What I read made me mad. I don’t often get angry by what people write as I accept it as a fact of life that people don’t always agree with me (which is both good and bad) and are sometimes deeply misguided; but Linkins post conveys callousness towards life that is deeply appalling. If you will bear with me, I would like to break down the relevant portions of his article by sentences and paragraphs. The rest of the article, the parts I am not breaking down, is a largely useless and snarky summation of why Santorum would say what he said. You can read it here though if you would like to see the entire context.

“Got that? In case it didn't sink in, Klein summarizes it all thusly: "Now, once again, you may not believe that a fetus is a person--but if you do, as Santorum does, this is a perfectly reasonable argument, an argument against limiting the civil rights of anyone according to race or life status."

This portion is basically summing up Joel Klein’s summation of Santorum’s beliefs regarding life. It’s a reasonable and fair summation, for which both Klein and Linkins deserve credit, though I hate to give credit for things I would expect of any decent journalist and/or opinion writer.

“Yes, okay. But I'll tell you what it isn't. It isn't a "reasonable argument" against "limiting the civil rights of anyone according" to gender. To all the people falling all over themselves to assert the fact that Santorum really believes what he says and that there are others that agree with him -- two facts that no one has actually disputed -- I'll remind you that there actually exists a sizable portion of the population who have consistently made a "reasonable argument" that women are neither chattel nor brood-mares, and that Santorum's non-alignment with that argument is what makes him a radical.”

I know something else nobody has disputed – that women are not “broodmares”. What pro-life advocate has ever said anything remotely similar to that? The closest you can get to that is the very, very small portion of the population that believes large families (i.e. as large as possible) are essentially a biblically mandate and even that is more than a considerable stretch reality. But that portion of the population is so small that it barely registers on the radar. Pro-life advocates as a group believe life begins at conception. That’s it. Being pro-life has nothing to do with making women “broodmares” and there is nothing approaching any kind of consensus among pro-life advocates concerning family size. If Linkins does not know that he has no business writing on the subject. Additionally, Linkins’ assertion that Santorum believes women to be broodmares is absurd.

“Additionally, it shouldn't be overlooked that if we're comparing fetuses to slaves, we're equating women with amoral slaveowners, and elevating the rights of the fetus over those of the woman to choose whether to proceed with a pregnancy that has significant medical risks above and beyond the actual act of parenting.”

Actually, we’re comparing slaves’ God given human rights to unborn babies God given human rights and concluding they are the same. Linkins just summed up Klein’s summary of the pro-life belief that “fetuses” are fully human and thus deserving of basic human rights so you would expect him to grasp this nuance. I guess he just doesn’t understand that we are elevating the right of one human (the fetus) to the same level as the rights of another’s (the mother).

I know people like Linkins scoff and rage at this sort of statement, but women do have reproductive rights and freedom – the freedom to reproduce or not to reproduce. To confuse that right with the “right” to terminate the life of a human is the tragic confusion of abortion advocates.

In closing his article, Linkins makes this bold and unyieldingly principled statement.

“I just wanted there to be at least one blog post on the Internet that sort of considered those matters worthy of discussion, okay?”

Wow. What would we do without this courageous cultural crusader?

Look, people can and do (obviously) disagree on such matters as the beginning of life, women’s rights, and the role of government in protecting both. All of these are very serious issues that demand and deserve very serious treatment. Santorum at least treats these issues with the gravity they deserve, while Linkins does anything but, despite his apparent conviction to the contrary. I don’t expect there will ever be strong consensus on the aforementioned issues, but I am fully convinced that voices such as Linkins will only impede good and grave thinking on these crucial life and death issues.

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


Censor Huckleberry Finn?

>> Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hello all,

Normally I don’t write posts “off the cuff” as I am doing now, but I was dismayed this evening to learn that NewSouth Books’ upcoming edition of Mark Twain’s 'Huckleberry Finn' will be edited to remove the “N-word” and replace it with “slave” and will do the same to an upcoming edition of 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer'. The new edition will also remove the word “injun” though I have not heard and am not sure what it will be replaced with (I presume it will be something obvious like “Indian”).

What I don’t want to do is overreact. I realize this may have a limited impact for some time to come if it has a significant impact at all, but at the same time I think this has potential to be very significant in our educational system by promoting and charting a new “course” and means of writing and learning history that would be severely detrimental to learning. In my estimation, it should therefore be treated as significant.

One of the big themes in Huckleberry Finn (if not the primary “take away” lesson/theme) is the silliness, wrongheadedness and moral indefensibility of race based discrimination. Racism imbeds itself into cultures in both subtle and not-subtle ways and in obviously wrong and marginally wrong ways. Terms and labels are often used by a group or groups to demean other people...though such terms and labels in and of themselves might otherwise be harmless. In the case and times of Huckleberry Finn both the terms “nigger” and “injun” were demeaning terms that denoted the slavery, segregation and racism of the times. Jim, the enslaved (runaway slave) Negro friend of Huckleberry Finn represents a class of people who at that time were widely enslaved and treated as less than human physically and - perhaps worse yet - viewed consciously and sub-consciously as inferior beings to their "masters". Terms such as "nigger" are largely born of the conscious and sub-conscious varieties of racism and commonly associated with it...which is why such terms are always a sensitive matter.

As Huckleberry and Jim grow in friendship throughout the story Huckleberry begins more and more to see and view Jim in his true light - not as a “nigger” - but as a human, as a friend and as an equal. For his part, Jim proves himself to be the deepest and truest sort of friend (John 15:13) and by the end of the story both Huckleberry and the reader are struck by the silliness and wrongness of the term “nigger” and - more precisely - what it represented. To remove the cultural words and connotations of the time would be to remove the essence of Jim and his role in the story.

Huckleberry Finn is a carefully crafted masterpiece that does more than tell a good story. But, if we expunge the terms and cultural context of the time how are we to learn from our past? And, if we don’t learn from our past, how are we not doomed to repeat our mistakes?

All this being said…I haven’t even touched the censorship issue and that issue is deserving of much discussion.

I neither doubt nor question the good intentions of NewSouth Books’. No doubt many will question and analyze them and their motives and cast aspersions on them. I don’t wish to do that though. I believe their decision is wrong irrespective of their good or bad intentions and I hope their reasoning does not become a trend. We must not sugar coat history. It is what it is and we are foolish to take offense by it. We should learn from it, and learn from its fullness, even when it is ugly.

In closing - Anderson Cooper conducted an excellent interview (in my opinion) on his show that I am linking and recommend you watch. I don’t necessarily agree with all that is said, but it is worth viewing nonetheless.

New Edition of 'Huckleberry Finn' to lose the N-word

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


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