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Its the Idea of America I Love

He is an American, who leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones with the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds … Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men.  — Jean de Crevecoeur in Letters from an American Frontier, 1782.

This is a bit of a prelude to some essays percolating in my mind, in which I will discuss some grave errors that have been made by various countries in the past, including the United States of America.  I want to have some thoughts on “America” on record before I write those posts.

First, I want to take issue even with the idea that the United States is like any other country in the world, past or present.  If I discuss America’s ‘sins’ is that even a meaningful concept?  To what degree is it meaningful even to discuss the sins of ‘Germany,’ such as what transpired under the Nazis?  What is ‘Germany’?  In what sense do Germans today have to answer for what Germans did almost 100 years ago (the Beer Hall putsch was in 1923)?  Not every German went along with it; some, like Bonhoeffer, actively opposed it, and paid for it with their lives.

In an important way, the idea of a ‘country’ is conceptual short cut, which is real enough, but also obscures other realities.  For the purposes of this conversation, one of those ‘realities’ it obscures is the fact that if you’re going to try to make people TODAY accountable for the behavior of people 100+ years ago, you’re going to need something more expansive than merely the fact that they happened to live in a region geographically described as being within the ‘German’ or ‘American’ territory.

The point is driven home when you look at certain regions which have been in the hands of different ‘nations’ repeatedly over the centuries.  The country of Czechoslovakia has had its borders changed dramatically over the centuries.  One decade, the Czechs are Hungarians, the next, they are Poles, and the next, Germans.  To which ‘nation’ do present day Czechs need to answer for? Similarly, should the people who live in the region of the Alsace today answer for the actions done by Germany or the actions done by France? There is a wry bit of ‘humor’ in The Gulag Archipelago where Solzhenitsyn describes ‘Russians’ who were sent to the gulags for treasonous travel without the proper papers–travel that had occurred decades earlier, before the region in question had fallen under control of the Soviets.  They had betrayed Russia decades before they were subject to her laws!  But that did not stop the Soviets from imprisoning them or even executing them.

These kinds of realities seem essential to recognize if one is going to start talking about ‘generational justice’ and reparations, and so on.  It is all well and good to make someone pay for their crimes, and maybe even proper to have the child pay for the sins of the parents, but should someone be made to pay for the sins of people who were not their ancestors at all?  If 100 years from now, the Canadians sweep down from the north to conquer the state of Wisconsin, should residents of Wisconsin be made to pay for the Canadian crimes against their aboriginals?  If so, on what basis?  On what logic?

If I had to wager money, it would be based on no logic whatsoever.  It would be a pure emotional argument, with the truth more likely being that the ‘justice’ argument was a paper thin cover for pure greed and covetousness.  But I’ll be speaking on this more in the upcoming essays.

Back to the topic at hand:  just what is America?

America is not like any other country, past or present.  It was not organized based on tribe or religion or political party.  Most of the people who flocked to the geographic area now called ‘America’ were in fact fleeing countries that were organized based on tribe, religion, or ideology.   These knew intimately and directly what atrocities followed from the principles espoused by other statists, especially but not exclusively in Europe.  They wanted nothing except to be left alone, and they designed an organizing document that would enshrine these principles of liberty.

Granted, many of these principles were corrupted before the pen even went to the paper.  Granted, many of the Europeans modes of thought that they had wanted to escape nonetheless followed us here.  Granted, even these people who felt these principles of liberty most keenly failed to implement them.  Granted, granted, granted… and yet….

America is not a ‘country.’  It is an idea.  And you can have that idea wherever you live in the world, regardless of the circumstances of your birth.  These ideas lived in the bosoms of Mankind before there was the land we call ‘America’ but until there actually was a land, people were enslaved to the whims of strongmen, ‘nobles,’ and ‘systems.’  Contrary to much of the gibberish spouting out of the ivory towers today, ‘America’ flourished not because the region happened to have a lot of natural resources or because it plundered resources, but because the people it attracted were the bravest and most noble people from any region.

They sold all that they had, took every risk, and suffered immeasurably, to escape the tribalism and dictatorships of the other countries all around the world.  When they tossed King George on his ass in the late 1770s, they had no desire whatsoever to appoint a new king.  When they fled Prussia in the 1850s, it sure as hell wasn’t to create a new Prussia.  We could go on and on with such examples, whether they be Chinese settlers or Irish immigrants, one of the defining characteristics of these people was that they were adamantly opposed to implementing the philosophies of the lands they left.  However different they were in other respects, they had this in common, but it was only in the land we now call ‘America’ was it possible to avoid doing otherwise.

To put it another way, you could almost carve out any other territory in the world and hand it over to these kinds of Americans, and they would there build a city on a hill that shines as brightly as it now shines today.  That’s because there is a connection between the philosophies enshrined in the US Constitution and the great wealth and prosperity the US has enjoyed.  There is a connection between the constitutions of the people who flocked to the shelter of the US Constitution and the great wealth and prosperity the US has enjoyed.

There is a reason why the rest of the world limps behind ‘America’ in so many respects, and that reason is that the people who love America as an idea love a better idea.  What is that idea?

In a nutshell:  every person has intrinsic dignity and worth and has the right to strive mightily for their own self-interests, worshiping as they see fit, living as they see fit, and governing themselves.  But, people will abuse both powers and freedoms, thus robust checks and balances are necessary.  A republican scheme of governance allows for the most pertinent issues to a community to be resolved by the community itself, with only select powers given to the higher levels of governance.  Both the mob and the tyrant are to be feared.

The rest of the world is still bound up by its old world concepts, with its ethnic divisions and squabbles over petty issues, which is all well and good if that’s what they like, but the spasms of violence and grotesque atrocities that are constantly percolating make it clear that the idea of ‘America’ must be carefully preserved and protected–for it can be lost.

Indeed, it could be argued that it is being lost.  As second and third and fourth generations are born in land area called ‘America,’ it has been easy to forget just how God-awful things were for their parents, grand-parents, great-grandparents, and so on.  It has become easier to contemplate, nay, even embrace, defective and destructive policies that have laid previous populations into ruin.  Aye, are even now laying people low:  look to Venezuela or North Korea.  These things could happen in this land area, given time and circumstances.  Ideology matters.

‘Americans’ have sinned horrifically over the centuries, but the idea of America is nearly without blemish.  I renounce and hate those sins, but the idea of America is the closest thing to heaven that we’ll actually have on this earth.  If it is lost, there is no haven besides heaven left.  The further away we get from that ‘nutshell’ understanding of the American ‘idea,’ the greater the danger of having that last haven disappear, with all of the attendant tragedies likely to be inflicted in short order.

Thankfully, the idea of America is not bound up by borders or genes, so even if the region now called ‘America’ were to succumb to old world toxins, America could spring up again–in China, perhaps, or the Congo.  And the world’s best and most bravest will go there, instead, and raise the light of freedom high once again.  But you can be sure that many people will have died in the intervening hours.  It would be far better if we remember not only why America as an idea is great, but just what it was that our immigrant ancestors repudiated with their feet, and guard ourselves appropriately.

 

 

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A Tale of Two Shootings

There are 2 released videos out showing people killed by police officers.  I suspect that they’re not going to make too much of a ripple, so I’d like to offer some thoughts of my own. Please don’t leave a comment addressing anything I say unless you watch the videos.

Here is the Daniel Shaver (hotel hallway) video (start around 12 min mark):

Here are couple of perspectives of the Pierre shooting.

This one is helpful, because it provides a bit of audio.

The first video outraged me, and I was further outraged to hear the police officer was acquitted. It almost makes you think that maybe we should take guns out of the hands of even law enforcement. But then you see the second video(s), and you see that multiple non-lethal methods are attempted, and even tazing the guy doesn’t stop him. A guy like this is capable of anything and all the evidence is that he would not have stopped unless he was shot–unless, of course, the police officers were to put themselves even further into harm’s way.

In reality, there are more examples of the latter than there are of the former, so armed law enforcement agencies are on balance necessary. But it is still a reality that there are plenty of shootings by police officers that are not justified or where other methods could have obtained better results.

I am not drawing all my lessons from these 2 videos alone, but I think both offer some good jumping off points for discussing some of those lessons, so here is a bit of analysis.

Evidently, the Shaver incident began because someone saw someone ‘waving a gun’ and called the police. It was actually a pellet gun. The officer who shot Shaver bears the bulk of the blame, but I wonder if the person who made the call feels any responsibility. I think I can almost picture this person in my mind’s eye… the kind of person… the mere sight of a gun throws them into a cold sweat… IT MUST BE REPORTED! Despite the fact that Arizona allows people to carry weapons–both concealed and openly, on one’s hip–without even a permit, the sight of the gun INSIDE a hotel room prompted this person to call. Well, better safe than sorry, right? RIGHT?

Wrong.

But if we can’t expect some ninny off the street to properly assess a threat, you should at least expect your local police officer to be aware of the laws of Arizona and what that might mean when you encounter someone. When you look at these two people come out of their hotel door, you can plainly see, if you have any capacity for situational awareness and reading people, that these people are nowhere near ‘up to something.’ And even if he did have a gun, damn it, he was lawfully entitled to have it.

Listening to the background audio on the first video, I gather that one of the police officers was relatively new. This may have impacted the behavior of the other officers, who perhaps were over-compensating for having the liability of a new guy with them.

Shaver bears some responsibility here, and it is a lesson for all of us gun owners. 1., assume your fellow citizens are idiots. If at all possible, prevent them from knowing you are carrying at all. They can’t be trusted to take the measure of a situation. Shaver apparently flashed his pellet gun inside his hotel room being none-the-wiser, and died for it. This is, in my opinion, a good reason for concealed carry rather than open carry. 2., assume the LEO is as dumb as you assume your fellow citizens are. Of course, if you are intoxicated, as Shaver may have been to a degree, you might not be thinking all that clearly. But the irony with Shaver is that he didn’t have a gun with him AT ALL and he still was killed. So, the bottom line is that you should have your wits about you ALL. THE. TIME. Take responsibility for your actions.

As for the LEO himself, I think it speaks to a toxic strain that runs through America’s law enforcement mentality. Yes, the job is dangerous. Yes, you might get killed in the line of duty. Yes, your discretion and patience may actually get you killed. Yes, you may have to make decisions super quickly based on limited knowledge of the situation. Sorry, but the Shaver scenario shows what can happen if you allow this toxic strain to manifest without restraint.

This is still a Constitutional republic, and within this constitution, there is a second amendment to bear arms. There are other amendments, too, protecting citizens. You, as a law enforcement officer, are duty-bound to treat your fellow citizens as FELLOW CITIZENS with rights and privileges that come under the Constitution. You receive certain accommodations on the use of force, but you do not have a license to disregard the Constitution just because you are afraid for your own life. If you cannot maintain a high view of the Constitutional rights of the people you encounter, then GET ANOTHER JOB.

I thought this National Review article put it well:

That’s especially true when the police — through their own incompetence — create their own fear. Philando Castile was shot even as he followed his killer’s instructions. Shaver died trying his best to comply with a highly unusual, complicated set of commands while under extreme duress. Scared cops still need to be competent cops, and members of the public shouldn’t face death because a police officer can’t keep his emotions in check.

Finally, I know that police have a dangerous job, but they’re not at war. As I noted above, it’s infuriating to see civilian police exercise less discipline than I’ve seen from soldiers in infinitely more dangerous situations. Not one of the men I deployed with would have handled a terrorist detention the way these officers treated American citizens.

Emphasis added.

And who holds law enforcement accountable? The local municipalities. In other words, elected officials have the responsibility to make sure their officers have the right attitude. If law enforcement is allowed to set its own rules and expectations, that’s like the fox guarding the hen house. It is easy to defer to the ‘experts’ in law enforcement, but it is not wise. Hold their feet to the fire. This toxic strain I referred to can only be reversed when local communities and states make it emphatically clear that the rights of citizens shall be preserved, even in the execution of law enforcement activities. This is the United States of America, not some two-bit third world country. And, as David French put it, we are not at war.

In the second video, we see too much restraint! I honestly don’t know what that police officer was thinking. His posture and demeanor from beginning to end was bizarre, although maybe if I had more information it would make sense (eg, as he enters the room he seems to be unprepared for the possibility a hostile is inside it). It should have been evident almost immediately that this guy would not be stopped by anything short of lethal force (or non-lethal force that put the lives of LEOs at risk).

One gets the impression that this officer was highly reluctant to use lethal force. Perhaps here the elected officials over-did it? Maybe he was more frightened of what the American media would do to him if he shot Pierre (a black man) than what Pierre might do to him–even if Pierre killed him!

This officer is frankly lucky to be alive. His own weapon could have been taken from him, or perhaps Pierre was armed with a firearm all along and could have transitioned to it. Less than decisive action by LEOs have led to their deaths at the hands of bad men.

The second video helps us see why we do need to give law enforcement some latitude in their use of force. We see how fast situations can escalate, and how quickly one has to make decisions. It reminds us that there are some bad hombres in the world, and if one of them happened to be in your house, you want the responding police officers to have the capacity to use the necessary force. Although, the same lesson is again an argument for why citizens should be allowed to arm themselves.

If a bad hombre like Pierre is in your house, there probably won’t be enough time for the police to respond BEFORE YOU ARE DEAD. In that second video, there appears to be a full 90 seconds before backup arrives–and this is with his partner ALREADY ON THE SCENE. There is plenty of time for Pierre to put this officer down for good. 90 seconds may not seem like a long time to wait for help, but hopefully this video helps the reader think more clearly about the realities of such encounters. Per the saying among advocates for guns: when seconds count, the police are minutes away.

How far do you live from your police department?

This is the real world, not some fantasy make-believe world where given enough time and good intentions we’ll iron out all of our problems. There will be bad men, bad accidents, and bad misunderstandings. Very little of it can be addressed at a level above the individual, with some of it falling appropriately under the scope of the local community. But lurking behind all this is an even more disconcerting truth… what happens if the bad men control the nation?

Better to work through these issues before you are in them, in my humble opinion.

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It’s time to grow up and believe in Santa Claus–and Christ.

“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house…” begins some of the most enchanting verse in American literature.  The enchantment is real, and powerful.  Clement Moore’s poem may not have started the commercialization of Christmas, but it certainly added fuel to the fire—enough, perhaps, to turn it into a raging inferno.

Yet, even for Moore’s poem to ‘catch fire’ the way it did, some kind of explanation seems warranted.  In fact, to say that Moore tapped into a powerful human current is, after all, to admit to the existence of a river for the current to flow through.  Or is it an ocean?

For the Santa Claus ‘Myth’ is one that has been percolating over the centuries throughout various cultures.  Each region had its own take on who and what Santa Claus was, and yet there were common threads that ran through them all.  Prior to America’s application of business acumen, none of them had a Santa Claus that was particularly magical, per se.  In point of fact, the Santa Claus of the centuries seemed rather mundane, rather human, compared to the Macy’s version.

The point is worth considering.

Before doing so, we must say a word about ‘Myth.’ In modern parlance, the purpose of calling something a ‘myth’ is to make it clear that the thing in question is not true.  You’ve surely heard it said, “That’s only a myth…”  This is unfortunate, because the word’s older usage is more helpful in explaining the phenomena discussed in this essay.

The television show MythBusters comes nearer to getting it right.  In this show, various popular beliefs in society are actually put to the test.  Yes, some of the beliefs do not survive their testing.  However, some of the beliefs are shown to be plausible or even confirmed.  In other words, on this view, a myth is not necessarily true or false, rather, it is a story that is believed to be true by some people.

Here is a definition that provides some utility, rather than merely blanketing an account with disparagement before one has even begun to examine it.  It begs some provocative questions, like, “Why did the people come to believe it is true?”  Perhaps they had good reasons?  Or, “What is it about stories that they move humans so powerfully?”  Maybe the power of Story testifies to something in the human make up that cannot be explained merely by thinking of them as “fortuitous concurrence of atoms.”  Or maybe, “Does the power of Story signify the existence of a Storyteller?”

These are all ripe lines of inquiry for the truly inquisitive—but the modern concept shuts down inquiry at the beginning, suggesting subliminally that the matter has already been settled by someone else as false.  It rarely occurs to anyone that this someone might have himself been wrong in his conclusions, or worse, this someone merely dismissed the account with smug hand-waving.

One sees this sort of smugness wherever ‘myths’ are discussed, and the Story of Santa Claus provides the base for much of the hand-waving, along with that unfortunate fellow, the Easter Bunny.  After all, isn’t it always said that people grow out of their beliefs about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny?  Believing such things as a child is alright, but once you are an adult, you know better!  You believed in X as a child, but now that you are an adult, set aside your belief about X, just as you now know the truth about Santa Claus!

But the Truth about Santa Claus is apparently much more foundational and enduring, as is evident by a thousand sappy movies and a few famous books which, every Christmas, people enthusiastically drink up—adults as well as children.  Whatever the Truth is about Santa Claus, it is such that at the very least, much of humanity desperately hopes that it is true; or perhaps it is better to say, that much of humanity already knows ‘it’ is true, and humanity finds in the Myth of Santa Claus a way to access ‘it.’

But what is ‘it’?

As it happens, I am a Christian.  I have a particular passion: explaining and showing to people that Christianity is actually true.  There are a great many Christians who are quite prepared to jump in with the materialists and rip on the Santa Claus Myth, with the difference being that Christians believe the commercialization of Christmas represents a society-wide forgetting of the ‘Reason for the Season.’  I do not agree with either of those perspectives, as usually argued.

First, let me speak to the Christians.

In the first place, I take issue with the notion of ‘society-wide’ being a proper focal point for Christian advocacy.  If you and your family do not forget the ‘Reason for the Season’ and your Christian friends do not forget, and your church does not forget, I fail to see the problem.  We could get ‘society’ to adopt every behavior that Christians approve of, but that would not make ‘society’ Christian, per se.  It might, rather, make ‘society’ a ‘white-washed tomb,’ instead.

If you have a concern about the commercialization of Christmas, it is only to yourself and your fellow Christians that you have any responsibilities.  After all, if they aren’t Christian, the mere knowing what the ‘Reason for the Season’ isn’t going to change anything.  If they don’t know the ‘Reason for the Season’ that is the least of their problems, and de-commercializing Christmas is not likely to help. And, well, it’s not likely to happen, either.

In the second place, there surely must be something to be said about the fact that the world’s greatest party is thrown, every year, with the celebration of the birth of Christ as the cornerstone, by Christians and non-Christians alike.  No such parties are held in honor of Hanukah of the Fourth of July or Ramadan.

Oh, sure, Jews around the world celebrate Hanukah.  But do non-Jews?

Yes, the Fourth of July is a popular American holiday.  But is it celebrated in China?

Ramadan is observed by millions of Muslims.  Do non-Muslim children eagerly look forward to the arrival of Ramadan each year?

But wherever Christmas goes, it is lapped up gleefully.  There are places today where Christmas isn’t celebrated, but that is only because Christmas hasn’t yet reached it.

The Christmas phenomena strongly suggests that there is something about it that resonates with people.  This ‘something’ represents an opportunity for Christians.  Identify the ‘something’ and harness it as a means for preaching the Gospel, for it is the one occasion when non-Christians draw themselves closer to Christ.  And they do this every year!  Without coercion, legislative, social, or otherwise.  Amazing.

To the materialist I would take this point and submit it as evidence that, despite their protestations, humanity is not just a “fortuitous concurrence of atoms.”  The materialist outlook does not satisfy, and its failure to satisfy is itself evidence of its deficiency in explaining the world.

I need not limit myself to Christmas to make that point.  Whether it is the existence of religious fervor among the great majority of humans, or even the widespread superstitions and enjoyment of ‘ghost stories,’ the fact is that most people know that the materialist viewpoint does not obtain, even if they can’t express why in a syllogism.

Yet it is at Christmas, in the West, at least, where the materialists themselves abandon their philosophy and join in the party.  The great tendency of humanity to party is itself a testimony to the defect of materialism.  Have you ever seen a pack of coyotes celebrate a birth day?  Do apes bake wedding cakes?

But it can be said that nonetheless, it must all be an illusion, or perhaps a neurological ‘misfire,’ since (the materialist says) the Santa Myth shows how people can believe something that is not true at all.

Ah, but there is the rub.

It is not true that it is not true at all.

Indeed, there is not much that people believe that is not true at all.  There may be accretions, and it may not always be possible to know which is the fundamental reality and what is the accretion, but more often than not, the existence of a fundamental reality can be discerned.  This is not a blow to Christianity, which contains within it the ability to interpret these fundamental realities in a way consistent with the Christian worldview.  It is a blow to materialism, which, by definition, must reject anything non-material.

In the case of the Santa Myth, it so happens that it is possible to peel back many of the accretions and get a glimpse of the fundamental reality.  One of those accretions you hold in your hands—Moore’s A Visit from Saint Nicholas.  The fundamental reality is that there really was a Saint Nicholas.

He was a Christian bishop who lived around 300 AD.  He suffered grievously at the hands of the Roman emperor Diocletian.  After suffering so much, he was not sympathetic to those, like Arius, who insisted that Nicholas had suffered only for a man, not God incarnate.  There is a legend that St. Nicholas punched Arius in the face at the Council of Nicaea (325 AD).  How is that for ‘jolly Saint Nick’?

Surely the reader sees how ‘Saint Nicholas’ and ‘Sinterklaas’ and ‘Santa Klaus’ are a reference to the same person?

Yes, accretions do exist.  But nonetheless, the evidence is that there was a man, Nicholas of Myra, who did exist.  While we may not know very well the true reasons for why he became so popular throughout the Roman empire, the popularity itself is evidence that he did something that was perceived as out of the ordinary.  The accretions, also, are evidence of the same.

In other words, the ‘Santa Myth,’ rather than providing justification for waving away old tales as proof that they are ‘not true at all,’ is justification for taking old tales seriously, as there may actually be some truth in them after all.  Not truth in the hard to gauge sense of ‘humans like to party’ but truth in the sense of ‘there are certain definite things we can determine from the historical record.’

To actually ‘grow up’ out of the ‘Santa Myth,’ one does not dispense with his belief that Santa is real, but rather puts the belief on a still stronger foundation that begins with acknowledging that Santa is real.  (Or ‘was real,’ depending on your perspective.)

Those who say that the ‘Santa Myth’ is a good example of what we ought to do in regards to Jesus of Nazareth have badly misunderstood their own position.  In reality, doing with Jesus what we do with Santa threatens to expose the fact that just as we can establish that Nicholas was a real person in history, despite certain ambiguities, we can also establish that Jesus was a real person in history—despite certain ambiguities.

But Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, upon closer, unbiased inspection, does not appear to be one of those ambiguities.

So, I say embrace Santa!  He is no friend to the materialist, and threatens to be a powerful ally for the Christian.  The commercialization of Christmas is indeed a challenge, which Christians themselves should rise to meet in their own lives, but on the other hand, this commercialization is itself evidence that “the harvest is plentiful.”

 

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The Coming Sexual Gulag Archipelago? On the Truth about Sex

Maybe its because I’m currently reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn‘s The Gulag Archipelago, but this growing spate of accusations on sexual misconduct is making me queasy.  If you know anything about the various purges of the Soviet regime, you know that people were shuffled off to oblivion over nothing more than accusations, if not executed outright.  On top of that, people were making false confessions left and right.  They perceived that they had little chance of being found innocent anyway, so they sought to limit their punishment, or the punishment of those they loved.

Reading Solzhenitsyn‘s book, I was faced again with the uncomfortable question of how it is that seemingly normal, educated people, could commit such vile acts, and acquiesce to them.  Has anyone ever pondered how it is that an otherwise sensible people manage to fall into such a nightmarish century, where in the end, tens and tens of millions died?  If you wondered how it was possible, take a good look at what is going on with all the accusations of sexual misconduct.

Evidently, we have a society which is happy to inflict consequences on people based on nothing more than ‘trial by media’ and a perceived ‘public opinion.’  It is hard to see how this will end well.  Anyway, I reflected on the downsides of ‘trial by media’ almost a month ago, which I’ll just re-submit here:  Accusations of Sexual Misconduct IN THE MEDIA are Themselves Inappropriate.

I’ve taken several stabs at what I wanted to communicate in this post, but I’m tired of even thinking about the ‘media by trial’ angle, even as the number of these grows exponentially.  I’ve decided instead to talk about what this phenomena tells us about sexuality.

Here we have a big problem.  How best to put it?  How about we start with Mike Pence?  Surely the reader remembers the derision heaped upon Pence for his application of the ‘Billy Graham’ rule.  It seems poetic that the people who pounced on Pence for the rule are now finding their own lions in public life falling fast and and often for not taking such ‘rules’ seriously.  Have they changed their minds?  Surely there must be one or two out there, but in the main, it seems these people are still sneering at Pence–that is, sneering at conservative Christian values.  How can we possible have a conversation with such people?

And its worse than that!  These very same people are apparently thoroughly befuddled by human genitalia.  If you say to them, “That man is bald!” and they look and see the man has hair on his head, they will turn to you and counter, correctly, “Ah, no.  The man has hair on his head.  By definition of the word ‘bald,’ if a man has hair on his head, he cannot be bald.”  But ask them if a girl can have a penis, and a look comes on their face–the face of someone thinking very hard–as if they are in desperate need of a laxative.

These people are positively flummoxed on basic biology; if you point out easily verifiable fact that penises and vaginas clearly were made for each other, you’re trounced as a bigot.  The extent of the mental deformity that must be present in these minds is illustrated by the simple fact that nearly every person actually walks around with a penis or a vagina and is able to directly inspect his or her own genitals at his or her own leisure, and furthermore, a great many of these people have actually participated in an activity where a penis and vagina have interacted, and–surprise, surprise–about 40 weeks later, they say hello, face to face, with a new person.

I am not saying all this as an insult.  This is simply observation.  If you cannot understand that if you have a penis, you are a boy (by definition), and if you have a vagina, you are a girl (by definition), you really can’t be expected to understand anything.  If you miff this, why should we take you seriously when you wax eloquently on politics?  If you find the presence of a penis hanging on your body mystifying (“What is this dangling appendage?  Its presence is so ambiguous, I am as justified in inferring from it that I am an automobile, as anything else!”), why do you think you can weigh arguments for and against Christianity–or ANYTHING?  How can I possibly use LOGIC and LANGUAGE to talk about SEXUALITY when vast portions of the population are stupefied by all three?

A friend of mine says, “Seems like men in positions of power have a tendency to be dicks to women, regardless of their politics. I would think that this would be trumpeted as yet another proof of our fallen & sinful nature, except that would put you in a tricky position re: your defence of Roy Moore.”

There is a measure of insight in this statement, as it indicates at least some accurate knowledge of Christian doctrine.  These incidents are indeed indicative “of our fallen & sinful nature.”  But I can’t help but think his sudden appeal to non-partisanship by hiding behind my own views on Sin (which are absolutely non-partisan!), after his scathing denunciations of Roy Moore (at the time), is really just a ploy to distract from the fact that, at present, we’re running about 50 – 5 in terms of liberal/atheist/progressives vs Christian conservatives caught in misbehavior.  When the Moore thing first ballooned it was only like 20 – 5, and its been an unhappy string for liberals since.  If I had said in response to Moore, “Ah, well, this just proves that we are fallen and sinful!” he would have denounced it as a cop-out.  But now that the ratio is roughly 10 to 1, he wants me to embrace the doctrine.  A bit convenient, no?  (And has he changed his tune on the wisdom of the Pence Rule?)

Indeed, these things are proof of our ‘fallen and sinful nature’ but that is not even the half of it (at present).  To say that we are fallen and sinful is to say something about human nature itself, which is obviously very controversial.  But to be wrong on sexuality, where misconceptions can be remedied merely by taking off one’s own pants, suggests that the situation has metastasized well beyond a point where we can explain it merely as it being more evidence of our sinful nature–although it certainly is that.

I saw the same kind of right track but incomplete answer in a recent article titled, “Conservatives Were Right About Sex.”  It makes some good points, like this one:

Again, it’s worth noting that it wasn’t “society” writ large that boarded the sex train—it was the culturally influential liberal elites who control the universities, the media, and the entertainment industrial complex. Further, there’s a giant subculture who never boarded the train. They’re called religious believers.

But to call something ‘religious’ is to call it ‘mere opinion.’  My purpose in this post (and many other posts on this site) is talk about reality.  To your average American reader, there is no relation to reality in religion.   The author of the piece does not explain WHY it was religious believers had the views they did.  Your average American reader will think, “Oh, its because they read it in the Bible.”  The average American reader is fundamentally incapable of understanding that instead, the religious believers dropped their pants, inspected what they saw there, and called it as they saw it.  No great Revelation needed.

The author ends with:

It’s way past due for liberals to meet conservatives halfway on some some important social issues. A good first step is acknowledging that conservatives were right about sex all along: That there is a connection between sex and virtue, and that our politics and our culture should do everything possible to strengthen this connection.

Another good point, and one with merit.  But it isn’t just that there is a connection between ‘sex and virtue’ that conservatives were right about. They were right about what sex is, and what humans are.  And as for a ‘meeting halfway’, I wouldn’t count on it.  I was amazed to see the Politico–the Politico!–publish research that exposes the liberal talking point that red states are more dysfunctional than blue states as the sham that it is, No, Republicans Aren’t Hypocrites on Family Values.  Although the conclusions can be verified and tested by anyone who wants to look, you can tell by the comments (telling us who likes to read the Politico!) that there will be no meeting halfway, anytime soon.

No.  Any distinctly religious argument is going to fail.  I think any and all arguments will fail.  We’re talking about a population which has completely jettisoned one of the basic laws of logic.  “If any X has a Y, then it is a Z; X has a Y, therefore it is a Z” has been completely submerged by the pulses of hormones.  No, no argument is going to work.  What will?  Imagine someone disputing with you that running into a wall head first and at full steam is going to hurt.  You work it all out with pen, paper, and calculator, but they still insist running into a wall will be painless.  There is nothing else for it except to let the dude run into the wall to see what happens.

This is where we are at on sexuality.   Until and unless society runs as fast as it can, head down, into the brick reality wall of ‘sex’, and feels the pain, there will be no conversation possible.

The collapse of the nuclear family and the (purely coincidental!) rise of poverty within the black community did not convince liberals that there was a relationship between the two.  The widespread damage wrought by the intentional dismantling of the institution of marriage via ‘no fault divorce’ hasn’t phased them.  Men and women in ALL WALKS of life (not just in places of power) were told, over and over and over and over and over and over again that we’re just animals (“Let’s do it like they do it on Discovery Channel“) and now we find that we are dismayed when people act like animals?

Ah, but that’s not how animals act, is it?  No, let’s not make it about religion.  For the moment, lets just look at the animal kingdom, which, presumably, most liberals believe is fully the result of unguided naturalistic processes (Darwinian evolution).  Nothing else has convinced you, so lets compare the conduct of the animal kingdom with the conduct of humans.

Throughout human history, past and present, humans–mostly men–have been raping people, women, yes, but also girls, and, yes, young boys.  Even babies.  Remember, humans are the result of the same evolutionary processes that gave us dogs, chickens, and flowers.  We’ve all seen a dog hump a tree, I reckon, and watched dandelion seeds fly through the air.  But in these and every case I can think of (I’m leaving room for someone with more biological knowledge to provide examples of exceptions) you do not see these organisms behave as malevolently as humans.

We may suppose that a dog does what he does because it gives him some pleasure, but dogs seem to keep it pretty well in proportion.  They don’t mix their humping with food fetishes.  They don’t find a special attraction to dogs that are on a leash.  And they certainly do not engage in analagous behavior to pedophilia.

The birds of the air do not fly into a tree and capture young birds just after they have learned to fly, and then sell these young birds into sex slavery.

To my knowledge, horses do not sneak to the barn to see if any of the other horses are getting undressed.

Based on my limited knowledge as an ignorant Christian conservative (thus, I may be corrected), rose bushes do not film themselves copulating with each other, with special attention to the ‘barely 18’ roses.

The honeybee queen allows herself to be ‘impregnated’ by the drone, but then both get on with their lives.  The drone does not slap the queen bee’s rear as she comes by, depositing her eggs, and the queen never thinks to herself, “If I give this drone bee a good time, maybe he’ll give me a part in his next movie!”

It is my understanding–and here, our friendly public health official can advise, if I’m wrong–that there is no need among the apes to launch massive campaigns to prevent unnecessary pregnancies and counter national waves of STDs.  It’s almost like… can it really be?… that the apes are not so infatuated with their genitalia and the (presumed) pleasure from using them, that they do not behave in such a way as to threaten their own community?

Do the eagles maintain a series of abortion clinics, where unwanted eagle eggs are brought to be dashed into pieces (and the parts sold to the pigeons) out of fear that the eagle population might get out of control?  Do the vultures lend assistance by handing out condoms?

Sexuality has so consumed us that humans are actually orienting their IDENTITY around their GENITALIA.  Can you imagine an armadillo waving a rainbow flag, as if the most important thing to the armadillo is that the armadillo understands itself to be is attracted to sage brush?

Need I go on?

Within the rest of the biosphere, sex is occurring all over the place, mostly, if not always geared towards reproduction.  And apart from the reproductive side of it, the rest of the biosphere easily keeps its sexual inclinations in healthy perspective.  It is only the human population that is so utterly inflamed by its sexuality that at every turn we see humans running from danger to danger, abuse to abuse.  What does this suggest about humans?  (And our putative evolution?)

When I was a teacher, I explained that sexuality was like a campfire–something that provided an an appropriate amount of comfort, but which must be carefully tended to make sure the fire does not leap out of the fire pit and become a raging forest fire which consumes everyone, and the forest with it.  We’re well past that!   The better analogy today might be that sexuality is like nuclear power–something that will lay waste to an entire region, making it inhospitable to all life for centuries, unless it is kept in careful bounds (eg, the Pence Rule?).  Worse, it has been weaponized, so that people are enslaving and being enslaved or advancing themselves or tearing down others.

No, there is something definitely very different about human sexuality.  I’ll leave it to the reader to ponder how well evolution can account for these differences (emerging strangely only very recently, it appears, within the last 10,000 years or so, despite humans being around for hundreds of thousands of years), but for our purposes it ought to be enough to point out that there is something very, very, very, very very, very, very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  very, very, very, very very, very,  wrong with the human species when it comes to sex.

Now, what is the best explanation for this?

Well, it goes back to exactly what ‘conservatives’ are right about.  Is it the sinfulness of humans?  That’s a start, I suppose.  But most of the conservatives I know (more of the Christian sort) understand that we are right about other things, too, which our liberal secular atheist friends wave off as nonsense.  First of all, we are right when we say that there are biological differences between men and women.

For example, there are REASONS why men are the main perpetrators of sexual violence, and it is not only because men are demonstrably more physically powerful than women.  Human males–as opposed to males throughout the rest of the biosphere–are disproportionately aroused by the sight of sexual acts and naked ladies.  If you think I’m wrong, do the test.  Take pictures of dogs having sex and show them to other male dogs and tell me if their reaction is even slightly sexual.

In a society that is saturated by visual acts of sex, whether in magazines or movies, or their fraternity in college, any attempt to mention that this rank immodesty is not helping is met with bloodshot catcalls about ‘blaming the victim.’

Yea, sorry, but welcome to the real world, where whether you like it or not, men are far more turned on by the sight of flesh than women.

Now add to that the fact that men are more physically powerful than women, you can easily see why (if this was a sane universe, and we were attempting to ‘meet halfway’), the cultural acceptance of sexually provocative content throughout the media could give men the idea that the behavior they are engaging in is actually condoned by society.

Aren’t you the ones who believe humans are just mammals?  Ever hear of Pavlov’s dog?  Ring the bell, the dog slobbers.  Show a man a naked lady… what do you expect?  — Except even dogs are not aroused by the mere sight of other dogs.

Now you might think that instituting training, or creating a sexual Sexual Gulag Archipelago to try to recreate moral boundaries after systematically undermining morality for a hundred years, and mocking those who point out the existence of that morality, will finally resolve (ie, ‘perfect’) our society.  No.  Its like C.S. Lewis said, albeit in a different context:

“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

No, just no.  If you gut the basis for morality, but then expect people to be moral, you’re going to be disappointed every. single.  time.

Keep flaunting basic biology and basic observations about the truth about humans for another 40 years.  Go for it.  But don’t expect me to take your shock and outrage seriously when situations flare up over and over again.

On the other hand, if Christian conservatives are RIGHT, then people are made in the image of God, and yes, quite fallen from that image.  That is, they are not just animals.   They were made ‘male and female’ and given the gift of sexuality, which, as it happens, is extremely volatile when expressed by sinful creatures.  Nobody, and certainly no man, is able to avoid lusting in their life, and if you have a man walk about a society filled with naked people, it would take someone with a special dispensation of the Spirit to avoid acting on their lusts.  Remember, Joseph knew better when Potiphar’s wife made herself available to him:  he didn’t have a debate, he got the hey out of there, ASAP!  Why?  Not because Joseph was better than the rest of us, but because he knew he was just as bad!

Atheists walk around thinking that Christians, in espousing a moral code, are somehow immune from transgressing that moral code, and from the position of 100% holiness, are able to judge others who transgress it.  This is based on an understanding of the Scriptures and Christianity that is as unreal as their understanding of genitalia.  It is nearly the opposite:  Christians understand that NONE of us are immune from transgressing that moral code, and NONE of us will be able to present themselves as 100% pure before God.  The whole idea of the ‘Gospel’ is based on this–and yet atheists fail to understand it every. single. time.

When Christians issue their warnings about sexuality, the goal is not (or had better not be, if they know their Scriptures!) the purification of our society, but a frank and honest statement about the real nature of humans and sexuality, which, if people disregard, will lead them to experience consequences which entail a great amount of suffering.  Not for the Christian, and not because the law might be involved, but because mishandling sex is like playing with fire–or uranium, if you wish–and eventually YOU WILL GET BURNED.

So, here we are.  A spate of allegations of sexual abuse has arisen, directed ironically (largely) at people most prone to make fun of Christians and their prudish viewpoints.  Who is surprised?

Not Christians.

Maybe this spate will be a ‘wake up call’ to re-appraise one’s views on human nature, and sexuality in general.  Maybe there will be some who will not run headlong into a wall, but, seeing others do it just ahead of them with bloody results, will draw the right lesson.

Hint:  the right lesson is not simply to put on a helmet before you sprint towards the wall.

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40 Year Old Accusations? Really?

I don’t know whether or not Roy Moore actually did the things he is accused of doing, but unlike some, I actually care.

I have seen innumerable statements on Facebook, comment sections of articles, and so on, stating that Christians conservatives are really hypocritical for supporting Moore.  This is interesting, because from the very beginning, I’ve seen many conservatives ready to give weight to the accusations, and those who ‘supported Moore’ did not support Moore so much as dispute the idea that just because the WAPO reports something, it must be accepted.  Here is one of my favorites, especially this bit:

If the allegations are true? Well, of COURSE. If the allegations are true, the citizens of Alabama ought to do more than politely request that Moore step out of the race. If the allegations are true, they ought all to pitch in, buy the world’s biggest frying pan, fill it with about half a foot of piping hot bacon grease, and fry the good judge a deep brown on both sides.

Now I will admit it—that previous paragraph was a tad flamboyant. But I put it that way for a purpose. A defense of the presumption of innocence ought never to be read as a defense of the guilty. If he is guilty of this, he deserves everything he is getting and more.

Exactly right.  Indeed, I saw one of my own points put pretty well on an internet comment, to the effect of, “Of course conservatives will throw Moore under the bus if he is guilty.  That’s the difference between conservatives and liberals.  Conservatives toss their perverts; liberals stand by them.”  Again, the question is whether or not the charges are true.  Already, I’ve noticed quite a few on the conservative side stepping away from Moore, including Rush Limbaugh, perhaps, whose comments seemed to suggest that he was inclined to think Moore was guilty as charged.

Anyway, this whole thing has prompted an interesting development re: sexual allegations, in that after decades of sticking up for Bill Clinton and deriding the women who accused him of RAPE, the rank hypocrisy is so profound even they cannot miss it.  But that will have to be another topic, perhaps, because my purpose in this essay is to ask people who instantly believed the WAPO whether or not they really had a sound basis for doing so.  That is the heart of all such accusations: are they true?

My target audience is not those who backed Moore, who backed him initially but no longer do, but those who leapt to “we must believe the women!” Who–coincidentally?–all seemed to be liberal atheists.

Let us lay out the basic outline of what transpired.

Roy Moore, a Christian conservative who liberal progressives especially detest, was accused just a few weeks before an election, of various sexual misdeeds that occurred nearly 40 years ago, 38 to be exact.  These accusations were made in a Washington Post article, the WAPO being a ‘news’ outlet that is notorious in its left-leaning bias.

We are given the names of some of the women:  Leigh Corfman, who says she was 14 at the time.

Moore’s first encounter with Corfman was with her mother present.  Pretty brazen move, for Moore, I’d say.  In support of this accusation, one anonymous source and Betsy Davis, allegedly childhood friends, are reported to have told the WAPO that they recall Corfman telling them only “that she was seeing an older man.”  According to the article, Corfman’s own mother was not told until “the mid-1990s”.  Corfman recalls certain details, only some of are things we can corroborate (he called her on HER phone number).  We are told Moore touched her intimately, over her clothes, while he himself was also down to his under garments.  We are not, naturally, supposed to ask why it was that Corfman thought it a good idea to go on a car ride with Moore, nor what might have prompted Moore to think Corfman would welcome such advances; we’re not supposed to read into her (boasts?) that “she was seeing an older man.”  We are not supposed to give any weight to the fact that, after she asked to be taken home, Moore did so without objection.

The WAPO is not curious about this, and neither, evidently, are the liberal atheists who accepted this depiction on its face.

We are then told of other incidents by women who found Moore’s attention “flattering at the time” but who also remained silent about their ‘troubled’ views as they grew older.  WAPO says:  “None of the three women say that Moore forced them into any sort of relationship or sexual contact.”  No one wonders why, if this is the case, that we’re hearing about it at all.  We are told that the WAPO interviews more than 30 people.  By my count, only about 6 names are actually listed in the article as references.

We are told that none of the women knew each other, and that they did not approach the WAPO, but rather WAPO approached them.  We are not supposed to be curious how the WAPO found out about them, if indeed the women kept the matters to themselves over the years.

To sum it up, we have a highly partisan news outfit–the WAPO–magically coming up with 4 ‘reluctant’ women just before an election, who give us their word that they are telling the truth, corroborated by a couple of mothers who offer mild corroboration, and 30 unnamed people–all of whom, I suppose, have motives as pure as the wind driven snow.  Just like the WAPO!

And this is what liberal atheists believed instantly.

Since the article, there is one more woman who has come forward, assisted by the completely unpartisan Gloria Allred.

Again, we aren’t supposed to be curious about how this managed to unfold so quickly after 4 decades of nearly complete silence.  But we do have the emotional testimony which indeed sounds compelling.  Nelson said that Moore tried to grope her and then when she resisted she says that he says, and I quote, “You’re just a child,’ …. ‘I am the district attorney of Etowah County and if you tell anyone about this, no one will ever believe you.'” Pretty good memory, right?

She remembers all sorts of stuff:  “Mr. Moore was wearing brown hush puppies on his feet.”

We are told the name of the restaurant, “the Olde Hickory House.”  Interestingly, Beverly Nelson has a yearbook where Roy Moore evidently wrote, “To a sweeter more beautiful girl, I could not say, ‘Merry Christmas.'” [signed] “Roy Moore, D.A.”.

She remembers other details:  it was after her shift at 10 p.m.., which we are told is when the restaurant closed.  It was cold.  Her boyfriend was late.  Moore happened to walk out at the same time, and saw her waiting, and offered to take her home.  She describes where Moore parked.  She gives a pretty vivid and detailed account of what then transpired.   Very detailed stuff!

She said she left after her shift was over, which is the same time the restaurant closed.  We are led to believe she had been sitting there for some time (no one pressed her on it), as her boyfriend was late.  No one seems to wonder how it is that Moore was leaving a restaurant that was closed, and had been closed long enough for at least some of the workers (Beverly) to have already left and then sit around for a bit.

She says in her statement that Moore would stay until closing often, but this seems to be a late departure by Moore even on this view.  And besides, wouldn’t he be seen by others leaving so late?  Or are we to believe that she was not only ending her shift, but she was the last person on the premises–besides Moore, who exits AFTER she leaves AFTER the restaurant is closed.

Then there is the thing about the yearbook.  The following picture is provided:

 

This is interesting corroboration.  But I have questions.

If you are going to sign a yearbook, why would you list the date?  Its a YEARBOOK.  One already has a good idea of the date, no?  Why would anyone say, “Merry Christmas” and then repeat himself one word later, with “Christmas 1977”?  This redundancy is compounded by yet another redundancy with Moore not only telling us it is “Christmas 1977” but ALSO 12-22-77.  And now this is bizarre–why does a man who is the DA think that after putting DA after his name, he thinks he needs to jog her memory further by putting the name of the restaurant?–which just happens to be the ‘scene of the crime.’  How lucky for Beverly to have such corroborating documentation!

And yet, this lucky corroboration begs another question.  What kind of dumb ass DISTRICT ATTORNEY writes something as incriminating as this in the yearbook of a woman he later assaults?  How stupid would one have to be?  Speaking of stupid, Moore was actually the ASSISTANT District Attorney.  An ADA would not generally represent himself as a DA.*  It is easy to gloss over the fact that Young claimed that Moore said he was the DA (“I am the district attorney of Etowah County”), suggesting that she was young and ignorant, and anyway, it was a traumatic incident.  However, a few weeks earlier in the calm of the restaurant, the older and well-educated Moore would know how to sign his name:  Roy Moore, ADA.

I note, too, that the rest is in cursive, but the date and name of the restaurant is printed.

Something doesn’t smell right about this yearbook signature, but at least its some kind of documentary evidence.  And she does say that she is willing to testify under oath, which is great.  But what she really needs, like the other women in the WAPO post, is a good cross-examination.  Ah, but what poor luck for them… the statute of limitation has expired for all of them.  No justice for them is available… only a fortuitously timed assassination of a man’s reputation.

Now I want to be clear.  For all I know, these women are telling the God’s honest truth.  I do not know them, and I do not know Moore.  I do not live in Alabama, so I don’t have to make a judgement here.  My complaint is the one I already made, where people are alleged to be sexual predators and then either, A., allowed to continue their predation for decades because no one presses charges on them or B., they are deprived of any ability to clear their name if they are falsely accused.  If we find a way to verify these charges, I will be happy to join the flock of denouncers.

I am just very curious to know why atheists will believe accounts that are 4 decades old.  Who can remember things like “Mr. Moore was wearing brown hush puppies on his feet.” after 40 years?  Do 14 year olds in 1979 have their own telephone numbers?  Where is the skepticism from the avowed skeptics?

Could some atheists please explain to me why we can trust these 40 year old accounts coming from two sources (Allred and the WAPO) who are known to be biased?  Who can believe anything this detailed and specific after so many years, presented at such a suspicious moment?

Much appreciated.   The comment section is yours.  Thanks!

* I thought this was the case, but I chatted with some I know who works at the level of a state supreme court to see if my assessment was accurate, and without knowing why I was asking, affirmed it.

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Tips for Knowing that What you Know is True and Real

In a preamble to this topic, I set forth some important caveats.  I may have some more when I am done.  In this post, I aim to set forth my basic principles and practices for drawing as close as I can to ‘knowledge.’

1.  Have as few preconceived notions as possible, and be aware of the ones that you have.  The universe is a big place, and the earth fairly large, too, relative to your own experiences.  Be as skeptical of your own apprehension of reality as you are of others.  Many people trust that they OF COURSE are able to process reality, but one flawed assumption can send their whole epistemology careening into the ditch.  That is to say, until reality breaks in.

In the legal field, there is the concept of ‘fruit of the poisonous tree,’ which refers to evidence gained illegally.  In other words, you may gain evidence that exonerates or convicts, but it is inadmissible because it was gained improperly.  A similar idea is in view here, except that the ‘evidence’ you gain, or better yet, your interpretation of the evidence, may not be valid and genuine at all, because you started from a false position.  Think of it like fouling up a math problem early on, and not detecting it until much later.

It is hard work gaining knowledge as it is.  Having to backtrack through the steps to figure out where you made your mistake in the first place is work you don’t want to have to do.

A good example of a flawed assumption that colors all that follows is the presumption of atheism.

2. Make sure you are using the right tool for the job.  Remember the boiled woman from the preamble!  If you are trying to gain knowledge about the physical realm, then the scientific method may very well be the way to go.  If you are trying to gain knowledge about a past event, the scientific method, along with a variety of methods applicable to historical scrutiny will be in order.  If you are trying to determine if Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a fine play, you will need different methods.  If you are trying to determine if your wife loves you, or if you love your wife, an entirely different set of tools is necessary.   Sometimes multiple tools are appropriate.  Think it through.

3.  Read widely and study.  I finish off about a book a week, mostly non-fiction.  I read a variety of websites almost every day.  I don’t necessarily count any of that as ‘knowledge’ but it does help expand my experiences vicariously, as it were.   By having this expanded framework, it becomes more practical to sort out the wheat from the chaff.  One does not have to form judgements from what they read–in fact, I would urge that one does so gingerly, provisionally, and tentatively.  On the other hand, if it is a topic that you feel important to render a judgement on, then you should dive even more deeply into it.  These kinds of things take time and energy… that’s why most people don’t do it.

4.  Read those you disagree with widely.   I have far more books on my shelves written by atheists, Darwinists, Buddhists, and the like, than I do of Christians.  Besides offering a corrective to any flawed assumptions that I might have, their different perspectives will often help bring out other relevant points to consider–or reject.  I mentioned the presumption of atheism above.  It turns out that many of atheism’s best ‘arguments’ actually hinge on their assumption from the beginning that atheism not merely is true, but must be ASSUMED to be true.  Well, obviously if you assume atheism is true and then evaluate evidence in light of the assumption that atheism is true, then you are going to conclude that atheism is true.  Duh.   However, one might not ever discover this chain of reasoning back to the first principles if one does not read their entire argument.

It does not just apply to these philosophical issues.  As someone with a distinctly conservative-libertarian bent, I am interested of course in reading essays and news articles that reflect my position.  However, I like to read the Huffington Post, Salon, and Politico to hear what else is being said–for myself.  I also read the New York Times and that other rag, the Washington Post… but I wouldn’t say I like it.  🙂

I read once that conservatives are more likely to read liberal material than liberals will conservative material, and that definitely fits my experience.  Many people who reject Fox News and Rush Limbaugh have never watched or listened to them, for themselves.  They rely on fellow liberals to represent conservatives to them.  That’s a recipe for epistemological disaster.   Liberals had a great big taste of the kind of disaster that awaits them for behaving like that in the election of Donald Trump.  They could not understand how he could become the GOP candidate, let alone win the election, and frankly even to this date they seem ignorant.  If they are aware of the concerns of those who voted for Trump at all, they are smugly dismissive of them.  Since this attitude and approach is persisting from the left, expect more disasters to come.

5.  Primary sources are to be preferred, whenever they can be gotten.  This includes the idea of performing experiments yourself, when it comes to exploring the physical universe.  Practically speaking, of course, one cannot do this about everything which we think we ‘know.’  We rely on secondary sources, or even tertiary sources, for most of it.  However, the more important something is, the more you should seek out primary sources.  That is to say, original source documents, journals, diaries, government documents, direct observation, etc.  Referring to secondary sources can be helpful because they might bring to light other primary source material which might be relevant, but in my experience, after one has spent days, weeks, or months delving into something, more and more flaws appear in the secondary sources.

For example, I started the website www.eugenics.us to post my research into the eugenics movement of the early 20th century because it was clear from reading some of the important secondary research that many extremely important facets of the eugenic mindset were overlooked, understated, ignored, or forgotten.  I’m not necessarily knocking them, as one has to make choices on what one presents, if one is not going to present everything.  My point is that a look into the primary sources yourself will not only give you a broader feel of the reality of things, but will also put you in a better position to test the reliability of secondary and tertiary sources.  (In my experience, most secondary sources on eugenics are fairly decent, but the tertiary sources are rubbish.)

6.  Corroboration is essential.  If you only have one account for something (eg, cold fusion), and/or cannot duplicate it, then one must be cautious about whether or not something counts as ‘knowledge.’  Here is a good segue into the topic of ‘fake news.’  If only one outlet is reporting something, and references an unnamed source or sources, and no other outlet is reporting it–or the other outlets are only reporting that some other outlet has reported something–red flags should go up.  Our contemporary society will insist that you draw a conclusion from this single source.  You must either accept it or reject it, or else you are a bad citizen!  Don’t fall for this trap.  Remain agnostic until better evidence surfaces that can be substantiated.

Of course, it might be that the single source you have is one that you have previously determined is generally reliable.  Of course, that judgement depends on having subjected that source to some kind of scrutiny at some point.  Hard work!

It is worth mentioning that when you can get corroboration through different strands of inquiry, all the better.  Can you back up a witness testimony with physical evidence?  If so, you’ve not only solidified that particular point, but you’ve also provided yourself with non-arbitrary justification for assigning that witness extra weight.

7.  Indirect Corroboration.  I’ll talk more about this when I talk about detecting ‘fake news.’  Corroboration is very important, but precisely because it is important, nefarious parties might work to contrive the ‘corroboration.’  It may not be as malevolent as that.  A person telling a story may have a subtle inclination to speak well of some people and poorly of others, which even they may be unaware of.  One of the ways around this problem is to give weight to items which are outside the scope of their attention or their purpose for writing.   They might taint stuff related to their purpose in the area of their direct attention, but the items that the source himself deems unimportant are less likely to be contrived.

For example, if you are assessing an account of a famous battle as told by one of the participants, you might suspect a slant regarding the battle itself–but he is not likely to lie about growing up in Kansas.  Where he grew up is likely immaterial to the account of the battle itself, and probably not something he cares about at all.  Its an incidental, ‘throw away’ detail, which nonetheless can be useful in determining if the source is credible.  Or, if your goal is to learn stuff about Kansas, since this source’s remark is ‘off hand’, not meant as a defense or attack on the state itself, this source’s statement on Kansas can be given more epistemological weight than, say, his statements about his conduct in the battle.  The statement about Kansas was otherwise inconsequential–but precisely for that reason, gives information that is potentially of consequence.

8.  The criterion of embarrassment.  Whether its in history or in today’s newspaper, the criterion of embarrassment is a very nice and efficient way to determine if something is (more likely to be) true.  It is very easy to understand:  people don’t like being embarrassed or humiliated, or having their perspective undermined, and would prefer not to give justifications to others for ridiculing them.  So, if X hates Y, but nonetheless concedes something nice about Y, that ‘something’ is probably true.  If X loves Z, but nonetheless acknowledges something less than flattering about Z, that ‘something’ is probably true.

In the above example (in #7) of the Kansas soldier, if he behaved poorly in the battle he described, and he is ashamed of his conduct, or not as glorious as reported, etc, his statements are probably more reliable than if he was tooting his own horn.  We have a real life example of such testimony.

So it is that it is generally the case that one is more likely to ascertain true things about liberals and conservatives (for example) by giving more weight to the things they concede or acknowledge that undermine them, then the things that flatter the people or events they support.  Yet another reason to read broadly, and read things you disagree with.

One last thing, and then I need to wrap this up for now.

It’s “ok” to not know something.  It really is.  What is not “ok” is to paper over your ignorance by regurgitating headlines and tweets.  Don’t do it.

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Tips for Knowing that What you Know is True and Real: Preamble

Many disagreements on issues come down to a fundamental difference on how people arrive at what they consider to be ‘true’ and the different weighting they give to different kinds of knowledge claims.  It is even worse when people are unaware of how they are arriving at their conclusions and have given no thought whatsoever to whether or not these methods are sound, or appropriate to the categories they are applying those methods to.  I have given thought to this, indeed, you could even say I wrote the book on epistemology.  😉 There have been many occasions where I thought it would be helpful to my interlocutor to understand my approach to knowledge, but recently, one of my sons asked me how to determine if something is ‘fake news.’

Well, that’s a deep question to fall into!  My full answer would require another book, but in interests of giving some insight to my son, and perhaps some debate partners on the way, I will summarize it.

A proper treatment of the question would first of all examine the axiomatic nature of it.  The assumption is that it is preferable to have knowledge than to not have it.  But why is that the case?  Second of all, we have to recognize the basic mystery of knowledge.  We ‘know’ that 2+2=4, and this is corroborated by, for example, putting 2 baseballs with 2 baseballs and noting that every time we do, we have 4 baseballs.  But why not 3, 5, or 500?  Why is it that our logic correlates with the universe?  We don’t strictly know it, but the assumption seems to hold true, so we call it knowledge, and not without good reason.

Nonetheless, its good to be able to tell the difference between things we assume and things we know, and even better if we can admit it to ourselves and others.

A full treatment of the question would also entail a discussion of what I call ‘the golden rule of epistemology.’  (That’s what my book was about.)  Its very easy:  if our ‘knowledge’ leads us to a conclusion which requires that we declare it impossible to know anything (including our knowledge that it is impossible to know anything), we must reject that which we considered to be ‘knowledge’ out of hand.  Sawing off the limb you are standing on works in cartoons, but creates devastation in the real world; Chesterton had this idea in mind when he attacked ‘the thought that ends all thought.’  There are a great number of viewpoints that are out there that are self-defeating, with the adherents being none the wiser.  Post-modernism, relativism, Darwinism, would be examples.  One that many tend to agree on is logical positivism, which took awhile, but eventually even most of its proponents realized it could not be supported by its own weight.  So, the ‘golden rule’ is not an abstraction.  It is very relevant, as it is widely flaunted.  But eventually reality breaks in.

We naturally have to offer a definition of knowledge, too.  Philosophers have argued about this, too!  For my purposes, I will simply say that “knowledge is the personal awareness of information that accurately conforms to reality as it actually is.”  Reality is the baseline for our truth claims, not our perception of it.  On this definition, we can immediately see that there are pitfalls all around.  One might be aware of a state of affairs that conforms to reality, but may arrive at that awareness by flawed methods or approaches.  We’re not going to parse that sort of thing here, but I thought it might be good to at least highlight my view that if what we consider knowledge does not correlate with actual reality, whatever it is we think we ‘know,’ we do not actually ‘know.’

However, one thing I will say is this:  most people don’t actually know a quarter of the things they think they know.  For example, I find that the ‘fallacy of the collective we’ runs rampant in society.  In this fallacy, you will hear someone say something like, “We now know that….” But the person making this statement doesn’t actually know jack.  He is appropriating someone else’s knowledge, and for all he knows, this person is likewise appropriating someone else’s knowledge.  And, at bottom, we might find that the knowledge claim our chain is resting on is held by someone who has a whole host of problems–he may be hopelessly biased, or morally compromised, or on the take, and so on.  Or, an equally plausible possibility, although more charitable, is that the first link in the chain himself doesn’t consider the knowledge claim to be 100% established fact.  If that is the case, then we don’t actually know the the thing that we now know, do we?

People who say “We now know that” are usually arrogant (and ignorant) snobs who read a headline in Time Magazine and then think they know something. Or my favorite, the folks who read a small paragraph in a 9th grade text book and now think they know the end of the matter… because obviously, it wouldn’t be in the text book, or in Time Magazine, if it weren’t real!

It is critical to understand that we don’t ‘know’ all the things we think we ‘know’ and be willing to tell the difference.  We might casually say that we know that Person Y did Action B, but we should be self-aware enough to know that what we really means is, “Article X in Publication Z says that Person Y did Action B.”  So it is that strictly speaking, we don’t know that Person Y did Action B.  We know that’s what we read… but if anyone has knowledge, its the author of Article X, or, even more likely, it is Person Y.    And even Person Y might have an incomplete picture of the action in question.

All these ambiguities and caveats matter a great deal if you hope to navigate life’s many decisions without hurting yourself or others.

Now, before I go through and set out my method for determining what is most likely real, I need to also address another important preliminary issue.  Namely, not all knowledge claims are determined through the same methods.  Sometimes, the nature of the knowledge claim cannot even in principle be determined through a particular method.  This is very important, because you can screw up your entire worldview if you don’t get it right, although here again, reality tends to break in.  That is to say, people might say that they consider one method of gaining knowledge to be preferable, but in their real life, they hardly ever use the method.  Not because they don’t have opportunity, but because even they aren’t that stupid.

One of the best examples of this are the secular humanist atheistic skeptics who elevate the ‘scientific method’ above all else.  Now, to be clear, I’m a big fan of the real scientific method, and I consider it to be a powerful tool.  But, as with anything, one must use the right tool for the job!  So, the scientific method is a great tool for determining, say, if water boils at a particular temperature at a certain pressure.  If, however, you are trying to determine if a woman loves you, and you throw her into a pot and boil her, we can say with great confidence that if she ever loved you, she doesn’t now!

Of course, your average empiricist does not settle questions of the heart by boiling the objects of his affection, or burning them to a crisp and putting the ashes into a test tube and carefully weighing them.  Your average empiricist does not settle 1/100th of the issues he thinks he ‘knows’ via the scientific method, because, as I am saying, reality often breaks in.

(Hint:  if you want to find out if someone loves you, your most reliable guide is what we would call ‘revelation.’  Ie, she reveals it to you.)

The scientific method is nice because when it is the appropriate tool for the job, it can often provide more definitive ‘knowledge.’  But here is where the “fallacy of the collective we” comes tearing in with a vengeance.  Not one of us has performed 1/1000th of the actual experiments that have given us information that we reasonably consider knowledge.  Someone may have performed the experiment, but it wasn’t us.  In point of fact, your most hardened atheist who insists on rock solid empirical demonstration for truth claims actually relies on the revelation of those who actually carried out the empirical demonstration.  It is worse than that: I bet that most of us, myself included, could not name 50 specific individuals who are responsible for the scientific investigations behind some of the things we think we know are true about the physical universe, and yet I bet we believe we know 5,000 things we think are true about it.

I don’t fault anyone for trusting that Scientist K has accurately performed experiment G and learned knowledge J, and then behaving as though J is a legitimate piece of knowledge.  I only fault them for being unaware of how much they depend on revelation in their epistemology.

In our actual experience of reality, it is usually the case that we cannot be as definitive as what we can theoretically be when weighing or boiling things.  On the other hand, as I have argued, the best way to know certain things is sometimes not going to be by weighing or boiling them at all.  That does not mean that we are out of luck.  There are still methods for determining truth which often give us good, reliable results.

The American justice system offers a good example.  In this adversarial system, evidence of various sorts are brought into the courtroom, and subjected to cross-examination and other (hopefully) rigorous tests.  The scientific method provides some of that evidence.  The trustworthiness of revealers is evaluated (ie, ‘witnesses’).  Claims are weighed, deemed significant, or even discarded.  But here again, this is a system that we cannot often avail ourselves of in the ordinary course of business.   Nonetheless, it is a system which allows us to compare propositions against the standard, ‘beyond a reasonable doubt,’ which is sufficiently robust that if the standard is met, we have been known to execute people.  So, it is not a method to be sneezed at.  And yet it remains that most of us cannot convene a grand jury to ask, say, “Do I know for a fact that drinking coffee every morning will not give me cancer?”

From the foregoing, it should be clear that determining if what we know is something we really know is not an easy task.  There are many pitfalls, caveats, exceptions, all along the way.  For some people, that is an excuse to throw up their hands in despair.  These are usually the same people who in their next breath will say, “You’re wrong.  We now know that…”

The complexity and difficulty of determining what is true and real only means that it is not something we can take for granted.  We must man up to the problem, even if 95% of our fellow citizens are clueless.  With any luck, over time, we can knock that number down a percent or two.  If not, at least you’ll be better off.  Because when reality breaks in, it tends to do so painfully.  The best play is to find out what reality is, and conform ourselves to it.  It’s for our own good.

The next part will come in due time.

 

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Accusations of Sexual Misconduct IN THE MEDIA are Themselves Inappropriate

Updated at the end to include a response to an argument made re: Moore.


Yes, of course, there is the long pattern of claims of rape and other examples of sexual misconduct that have been revealed to be completely untrue and fabricated… the Duke lacrosse team… the Rolling Stone fiasco… Tawana Brawley… almost certainly Anita Hill… but this essay is going to assume, for the sake of argument, that there is an underlying legitimate basis for the claims.  But the false claims are not irrelevant to this post, and the point I will be making, so we will do well to remember the larger context.

We might begin with the Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey allegations, which are noteworthy for a number of reasons.  First of all, there is the fact that as near as I can tell, neither men have denied the accusations.   Secondly, there is the irony that they are said to refer to an ‘open secret’ among a group of people who are constantly berating their fellow Americans for their various moral depravities.  Not to put too fine a point to it, but for example it seems that whatever Donald Trump is accused of doing, most of Hollywood actually has done it, is doing it now, or has been looking the other way on for decades.

As I write, I see reports that Louis C.K. is being accused, as well as Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Roy Moore.  Louis C.K. is not talking and Moore is denying the charges, and given how quickly the liberal drive by media has lodged accusations in the past, only to have them revealed as outright fabrications, we should not be too hasty in accepting them as legitimate.

But let’s assume that all of these accusations through the media are actually legitimate.  In nearly every case that I’m aware of, the incidents occurred years earlier.  Even decades earlier.  Why, then, are we only hearing about them now?

Rape and many other kinds of sexual behaviors are against the law.  These laws are there for the purpose of allowing us to prosecute bad actors.  However, if someone does not avail themselves of the laws, then these prosecutions cannot happen.  There is a serious problem with trotting them out as allegations, shopped to the media.  The criminal procedures offer protections both to victims and to the accused.  However, as we see so often, no such protections exist in the media for the accused.  Indeed, we see over and over again how people are deemed guilty based on allegations alone, largely because we have a grotesque media culture that engorges itself on such situations, calling it ‘news.’

This is a horrible way to run a society.

That’s why the Weinstein-Spacey allegations are somewhat unique.  By not defending themselves at all, they essentially conceded the charges made against them.  This, I think, is telling.  First of all, I think it means that they are unconcerned about any long term fallout.  I suspect they figure that their Hollywood friends, many, if not most of whom, are already engaged in the same kind of behavior or worse, are going to eventually ease up on them.  I suspect they understand that for normal people, being crucified in the media is a fate nearly as bad as enduring the criminal justice system, but since they are not normal people, it is far better to drink the cup of media agony than put up a fight and end up in court.

It is one thing for people guilty of the charges to make such calculations, but for innocent people, there is little recourse if one is falsely accused by the media.  It’s called the ‘drive by media’ for a reason.  At least in a court trial, evidence is heard and evaluated, and verdict is rendered.  If someone is innocent, they may very well be able to prove this in court.  But if they are convicted in the court of ‘public opinion’ there is no way to get one’s reputation back.

A further advantage to trial by media:  there are certain ‘victims’ who would prefer not to be cross-examined in such a way that their false statements could get them sent to jail.

The bottom line is that if you are sexually assaulted, it is not commendable to wait 40 years before bringing out your allegations, and it is not commendable to bring out those allegations to the media.  And society should not tolerate it.  If someone is sexually assaulted, they should promptly report it to the authorities so that the scum bag can be put in jail and deterred from committing similar acts against other people.   On top of that, its a little silly to think that we can root out such behavior in our society if we allow it to unfold over many decades; I mean, the proposition is absurd on its face.  Obviously if you want the behavior brought under control, it must be dealt with quickly and effectively as soon as it manifests.

However, this spate of allegations has an entirely different feel about it.  The claims smell spurious, and the media’s participation in spreading them smacks of something despicable in itself.  I began by assuming that the claims in many of these cases are legitimate, but one does not end someone’s reputation on claims alone.  If the whole purpose appears to be to bring someone down in the media, it calls into question whether or not the cases are legitimate at all.  If someone doesn’t want to be disbelieved when they make their accusations, then perhaps they ought to level them before it seems obvious that they get something out of it.

On the way things are proceeding, any American could be destroyed merely by someone saying that they were sexually assaulted.   No evidence required, or even desired.

Its easy to see how this could eventually backfire on the people who most revel in it. It is easy to see how it might then be too late.


Updated:

Everyone is fixated on the Moore thing, but my blog post is NOT a response to Moore…. because I am not a tool.  My post is focused on a broader, more dangerous pattern.  To that end, I recently made these comments to a friend:

I am aware that you said you didn’t know if he was guilty or not. That’s not what I said. What I said is YOU DON’T CARE if he is guilty or not. And that’s a real problem.

For example, you expressed doubt that Hannity appropriately grilled Moore. I suppose you want Hannity to really go after Moore, taking bits of flesh out with every question. You want Moore subjected to vicious interrogation and cross-examination, as befitting a pedophile. Very good, then! Let’s run pedophiles into the ground! Ah, but what if Moore is innocent? Well, then you will have subjected to him to punishment that he never deserved in the first place.

And you don’t care.

My interest in this is not limited to Moore. See #3 on my blog priority list.

We’re talking about a trend that is facilitating several very dangerous currents in our society.

1. Delaying prosecution of sex offenders has the obvious effect of allowing these people to inflict more harm over the ensuing years, creating a climate where the offender draws the obvious implication that if no one is bothered by his behavior, it must not be all that bad. Not pressing charges on a rapist obviously leaves the rapist to rape more women, which he will be inclined to do, and if it is ‘lesser’ offenses, such as exposing oneself and so on, he will be even more inclined.

2. I’ve only been following it moderately but it seems that in all these cases, the behavior was an ‘open secret.’ (Moore again seems to be an exception, in that there was no hint of anything until just this week, FWIW). This means that not only the perpetrators, but the many people around them, allowed bad conduct to persist for years. Yes, this meant more people victimized, but ponder as well the kind of culture we’re talking about where these things fester. Now picture yourself or loved ones possibly coming into contact with that culture, and think about what might happen to them. You were oh so concerned that no one would come to your defense if you were falsely accused, but you exhibit an utter lack of concern when the same thing is already true for countless others, past, present, and as I warn, future.

3. It must mean something that in some of these cases, the people did not deny the charges, allowing themselves to be flayed by the media. While it does help us bystanders determine whether or not there was something to the charges, it suggests that these people (Weinstein, Spacey, and now CK) believe it is in their best interest to accede to the charges rather than put up a fight. My hunch is expressed on the blog: they know that media storms will likely pass, but jail time is far from ideal. Actually innocent people would prefer the trial in a court of law to the media storm, because they at least can clear their name.

4. While all this is going on, there is a widespread pattern of false accusations that are proved later to be false, but which were gleefully accepted on their face by, yes, a largely liberal population, who rarely come across a ‘victim’ they won’t adopt as their own. Here there are at least 2 categories, 1., the trial by media vs 2., the trial by a criminal court. In America, people are innocent until proven guilty, at least in the eyes of the law. This is not an accident. It was put in there because of a long pattern of abuses by the British and other European powers who, like you, thought it fine to treat someone as a criminal even before it was proved he was a criminal. Our system, while imperfect, attempts to balance the rights of the accused with the rights of the accuser.

Here, the cases of Weiner and Cosby are noteworthy, as, for better or worse, they were actually given a chance to defend themselves because, unlike in pop culture, the criminal justice system is not allowed to treat someone like a criminal until they are actually shown to be a criminal. The media by trial dispenses with all of that, and this dangerous trend is facilitated further when the media drops the chum in the water, and the unprincipled sharks gather to join in the mauling.

5. This is the climate that my children will be coming of age in. My sons are going to have to find women to marry in an era of microaggressions and false accusations; My sons and my daughter might be sexually molested by people who are known already to have a long history of sexual misconduct. My sons will grow up in a culture that thinks it is a wonderful idea to wait 40 years or more before lodging an accusation.

I have already instructed them that they will have to be on their guard throughout, that the Billy Graham rule must be taken seriously, and so on. Some of this advice is warranted at all times. But some of the advice is unique to our age, where people are destroyed for no other reason then the fact that the media makes money destroying people because people enjoy watching people be destroyed. Do they know if the people being destroyed are guilty or innocent?

Why, they don’t even care.

How is that going to end well?

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The Skubala Missives: Letter 3

To the Most Eminent Secretary Kugelpuss:

Well, that escalated quickly.

You misunderstand my gentle council as veiled threats, which if ever there were any doubt that you were new to office politics, that doubt is now removed.  I am an underling just like you, Kugelpuss!  I mean only to help, devil to devil. And really, invoking the name of Gakjab as if I had slighted him was really unnecessary.  Gakjab was there with Screwtape when the present policy was designed and implemented.  They worked together in dark concert, and were rewarded together with appointments to our Master’s cabinet.

Moreover, who is it, do you think, that tasked me to reach out to you in the first place?

Let that question sink in.

But let us not descend into pedestrian squabbles.  You asked some good questions, which I will (if only in obedience to my superiors) render my best answers to.

The reason for our new policy, breaking with our patterns for thousands of years, is simply because this policy was not even possible until relatively recently.  When Hobbes imagined his Leviathan, there were no grounds for thinking that it would exist anywhere except his imagination.  While I have not inspected his file, I would be willing to bet that the whole scheme was encouraged merely as a mechanism through which to win his soul, since there was not even the slightest reason to think that an overarching organization such as the one he proposed was on the horizon.

But today we live in the cold glow of Taylor’s maxim, “In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first.”

Several centuries of human history have led us to a place where much of the infrastructure for Leviathan’s rule has been laid, and, more than that, more humans than ever are primed to submit to such a scheme.  Some of this has been carefully inflamed by our Master in Hell, some has been the natural response of the little scumbags to their own bloody history, and some has been good fortune.  In all of this, it seems that very little has been going the Enemy’s way, and a great deal of the credit for that goes to the workers in your department who have fully embraced our policy.

How so?  One of our great tasks has always been to conceal to them what is obvious to us–and obvious to any observer.  In this context, it means carefully obscuring the fact that the ‘system’ is still managed by Man.  It is their goal to escape the excesses of humanity, the greed, the lust, the envy, the bloodthirsty quest for power.  How stupid of them to think that they are free from such things if you have a State sufficiently empowered!  But they believe it!  The reason they believe it is because our master tempters prompt them to forget that there is no power exerted by the ‘State’ that is not guided and directed and implemented by their fellows, who are no less human than they are.

What this does for us is exquisite.   In the old days, we had to take care in raising up a great devil of a man.  He was hard to protect, for a man’s deeds were more clearly evident to his fellow man.  Remember the Berkman-Frick affair, and never forget it!  Nowadays, you couldn’t get anywhere near one of our agents, not only because of the many intermediate layers of bureaucracy with its increasingly impenetrable security, but because in most cases their names are not even known.  By day, they plunder their fellow man, gorging themselves on their succulent self-satisfaction even as they facilitate mass murder, always, of course, doing so while lining their own pocket books.  By night, they amuse themselves at restaurants and theaters, walking the street in perfect anonymity.  In a bygone day, they would be slain in the street.  In our modern creation, nobody has any idea what horrors on our behalf they have wrought, so they are left quite alone, getting plumper every day that passes.

There is a beautiful irony to this, which does not escape our calculations.  Just as the victims do not know the names of their victimizers, the victimizers do not know the names of the victims.  The whole scheme is flush with the Impersonal.  And there is, you will agree, nothing we detest more than persons, the personal, or The Person.

Yet there is even more to be said than this.

You will be aware of the fact that our Enemy possesses certain unfair advantages when it comes to the technology he employs.  Our Experimental Department has been hard at work over the centuries attempting to duplicate some of these advantages.  There was one technological innovation that we greatly desired but feared would never attain, which is embodied in that grotesque phrase, ‘the body of Christ.’

As an experienced tempter, you know all about this bizarre aspect of the Enemy’s relation to humanity.  It is clear from his conduct towards them that he really wishes to regard them as persons, even as he unites them with each other, and him.  Phrases like ‘one flesh’ or ‘buried with him in baptism’ are not, as the humans suppose, mere dogma, but actual realities which serve to make our work extraordinarily difficult.  There is safety in numbers, and it is even worse when they are not only joined in cause, but also joined ‘organically.’

Our Experimental Department has been hard at work attempting to duplicate this phenomena, and bring it to bear for our own purposes, but the best we’ve been able to do is create mere ‘organizations.’  But the advent of the System offers us our first real advance towards possibly being able to re-create the same kind of thing.  Under our careful stewardship, our agents fatten themselves up for the slaughter, and what is it that they’ve consumed that made them so fat?  To the degree that it is possible in their realm, they’ve gobbled up the souls of those they trampled upon.

Hence, by consuming them, we enjoy the many flavors of those that they consumed.

Do you see then what we are at the cusp of accomplishing?  Heretofore, whenever we brought someone into our storehouse, there was little hope that we could feast on our harvest without also exhausting it.  There certainly is not enough to go around for you and I and all of our co-laborers! But if we succeed in our efforts here, by creating our own Organism, with its self-sustaining nature, deprived, we hope, of any individuality and the various specializations found in the Enemy’s method of making the many ‘one,’ we will all engorge ourselves–forever.

Yours quite sincerely,

Skubala

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Do babies who don’t believe in Jesus go to hell?

Most of my work in ‘apologetics’ (the defense of the Christian faith) involves fielding stupid questions by arrogant people who know next to nothing about what it is they are objecting to.   The truth is that many of the reasons put forward for not believing in God and Christ are exceedingly lame, and would not be tolerated in any other scenario.  (For example, the 19th century Christian Richard Whately responded to David Hume’s arguments by showing how they equally show that Napoleon  didn’t exist–an absurd proposition.) To top it off, many of the people who object to Christianity are ‘bad faith’ debaters.

In this context, you can well imagine that someone might get tired of dealing with such people, and I freely confess that I am tired.

There are, however, a class of questions which are totally understandable, fully expressed in good faith, and real stumpers.  If there are genuine objections to Christianity, they are usually expressed by people wrestling with what we call the ‘problem of suffering.’  The problem with the ‘problem of suffering’ is that on intellectual grounds, it can be answered (see: Plantinga or Eleonore Stump) but that is hardly the point.  The problem of suffering (and its cousin, the problem of evil) are often raised by people who have suffered profoundly, or been close to those who have, or have been inflicted personally by evil men or circumstances which are out of everyone’s control–except God’s.  Hence the very personal question, where was God when it was all going down?

Well, I can’t know the personal backstories of all who will read this.  Just let it be known that this is being written by someone who has also experienced the death of loved ones and other various tragedies.  While I have not yet experienced the horrors of Job, I myself feel the weight of these questions.

Now to the question, “Do babies who don’t believe in Jesus go to hell?”  A loaded question, if ever there was one.  My ‘bad faith’ debater described above rarely conjures up this question, because to piece it together, you have to have some actual knowledge of the Scriptures, and make some attempt to piece together a logically cogent worldview.  This question usually surfaces on the lips who have attempted to reconcile difficult teachings within Christianity, without pre-judging it.  Which is ironic, because this is a question that is even harder than the one often raised, about why God called upon Israel to destroy the Canaanites, including women and children.

I mention this distinction between the good faith and bad faith debater because the ‘answers,’ as it were, comes from taking the Scriptures even more seriously, not less.  In our modern era, it is common practice to slice and dice the Scriptures up, ejecting the unpleasant parts, or those that frown on behaviors we really don’t want frowned upon, but in my experience, most of the hard questions are addressed by simply taking the Scriptures as they are.  In ejecting an unpleasant part, you may very well chop out the very idea that answers your present concern.  Astute readers will notice several things I use in my answer that are widely repudiated these days, even within Christian circles.  I would maintain that those repudiations make finding an answer to this question even more difficult.

Let’s give it whirl.

The Biblical account of world history goes like this:  In the beginning, God created everything good and perfect.  This included two human beings who possessed what God intended them to have, namely ‘free will.’  They used this will to disobey God, effectively severing the intimate relationship that existed between humanity and God.  The result of this severance was that people would now die.  While God was constrained to allow this to play out (if ‘free will’ was to be a real, not an imagined feature of human existence), it did not mean that he didn’t love us and didn’t want to repair the damage.  He initiated a plan to rescue the human race.

It is essential to understand in this context that the entire human race, with no exceptions, became subject to the reality of death.  On this portrayal, there isn’t a single person who has ever existed–save Jesus himself–who did not warrant punishment, even of the eternal sense.  (Romans 3:9ff pounds home this point).

In this view, the fate of little children and the fate of grown adults are all under the same judgement.  There isn’t a real difference between how we would address the fate of babies and how we address the fate of everyone else who has ever existed.  The difference is in our emotional response.

More on that in a moment.

Yes, this account paints a dire picture of the human race, but if we examine the Scriptures closely we see that God is hard at work in history implementing his plan for redemption.

He made a promise to Abraham, which was stalled for 400 years while his descendants were enslaved in Egypt.  But he rescued them with power.  The Jews were judged again for their disbelief and disobedience (of a particularly obstinate sort, since they were direct witnessed to God’s power!), forced to wander the wilderness for many years, but eventually they entered the promised land.  Even here, the people who were evicted had been given time to repent, and had not.  Later, God showed his affection even for those who were not of Israel by sending Jonah to Nineveh, which was filled to the brim with Israel’s enemies.  In that story there is a profound statement by Jonah:  he does not want to preach repentance to Nineveh because HE KNOWS that God is patient and forgiving, and there was thus a real chance that Nineveh would be saved–a horrible thought in Jonah’s mind.

The nation of Israel now went through a cycle of obedience and disobedience, with constant interventions by God who sent prophets to warn them, and Israel often killed those prophets.  Finally, God allowed the Assyrians and the Babylonians to send them into exile.  But even here, God did not forget them.  Eventually, the Israelites came home and rebuilt Jerusalem.  Then followed a four hundred year period in which the Jews patiently awaited the coming of the Messiah, who was supposed to end this cycle definitively.

Throughout the Scriptures (there was no ‘New Testament’ at this point), God had made it clear that he would send a person to reconcile Man to Him, and gave details of his identity.  For example, as early as Genesis 49:10, God hints that this redeemer would come through the line of Judah.  In Deut. 18:15, Moses alerts the Jews to the fact that a prophet would come like Moses.  Isaiah 11:1 narrows it further, saying this redeemer would come from the ‘stump of Jesse.’  Which Jesse?  The one referred to in the book of Ruth (4:22).   Didn’t you ever wonder why the little book of Ruth was included in the Scriptures?  Now you know.

These passages traverse more than a thousand years (and I could give more), and show that while God was a holy God, not to be trifled with, it also showed at God that was in pursuit of people.  He wanted as many to be saved as could be saved.

When finally the Messiah appeared, it would not be to deal with the relatively minor matter of restoring Israel’s place among the nations, but to provide his over-arching answer to the problem of death itself.  Not only for the Jews, but for everyone.  God’s story of grace unfolds over thousands of years and offers a definitive path to redemption and reconciliation to every person who has ever existed, exists today, and will ever exist.

This is the testimony of the Scriptures, both ‘old’ and ‘new.’  In saving Mankind, God did not minimize our sinful disobedience, but made it abundantly clear just how serious it was–to deal with it required that He himself pay the price.  In saving Mankind, God did not want to obliterate our free will and our free choice.

And now we turn our attention to all of the suffering, and wonder if the suffering is a fair price to secure our free will and free choice.  Well, on this narrative, we don’t even know a tiny fraction of the suffering that has been endured.  For whatever horrors we may have experienced personally, it is a small slice of human history.  God has experienced the suffering of every human who has ever existed, exists today, and will ever exist.  God is not at all indifferent to our suffering.  Through his own suffering and defeat of Death, he intends in the end to bring about an entirely new heaven and new earth, at which point, well… maybe I’ll actually provide the whole verse this time:

Revelation 21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Today we live in a period which is not without precedent in the Scriptures.  God told Adam and Eve that he would reconcile–but they did not live to see it.  God told Noah that a judgement was coming… it took 100 years to come about.  God told Abraham that the land of Israel would belong to his descendants–it took 500 years for this to actually take place, but it did.  Then the Jews were exiled, and upon their return, urged to watch out for the Messiah (Daniel 9), whose arrival they were eagerly anticipating at precisely the time when Jesus came–and launched an entirely ‘new religion’ to which more than 1 billion presently adhere to.  That we would now be in the ‘lull’ between certain promises (eg, Jesus will come again) and the fulfillment of those promises (his actual return) isn’t really surprising, given God’s observed pattern.

And he has his reasons, I suppose:  “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9.

On the face of it, it may seem that I haven’t answered the question about babies.  Not directly, I’ll concede, but I have laid down some very important groundwork.  If we’re going to answer a question like this, we need to place it in the full context of the Scriptures, and use all of the Scriptures to help us understand any passages that may be relevant to the question, but also to help us understand God’s nature.

And for that last point–understanding God’s nature–I am convinced from the Scriptures that God is fully aware of the conundrum regarding little children and their fate, and while I may not know exactly how he reconciles the fact that due to original sin, they warrant death and damnation as much as the rest of us, with his unquenchable grace which seeks the redemption of everyone, I am fully persuaded that HE WILL DO THE RIGHT THING.  In His own time and in His own way, but he WILL reconcile these two aspects of his posture towards the human race.

I don’t personally need to know the ‘how’ in this particular case, because I believe he has given sufficient evidence in the rest of his conduct towards us that he does in fact have a ‘how.’

To bottom line it before I go further:

Though I don’t know exactly the fate of the innocent (from our perspective), I know that whatever He does, and however He does it, he will not minimize the seriousness of the separation between Mankind (including these youngsters) even as he reconciles them and us to Himself, consistent with his wish that we retain our ‘free will.’

Having said all this, the Scriptures give us some hints on God’s approach to the matter.

Before delving into that, we should resist the urge to minimize the ‘original sin’ element, and simply say, “Every innocent person, whether the mentally handicapped, or the unborn, or the newborn child, will go to heaven–God would never punish the likes of them!”

Why?

Well, if this is your view, then it rationally follows that if you wanted to ensure that these people go to heaven (read: live on the ‘new earth’), the best thing you could do for them is KILL THEM before they get old enough to disobey or choose to reject God.  Abortion, instead of a horrific murdering of the unborn innocent on a scale beyond all that Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, and Pol Pot ever did, is in fact the best way to stuff heaven with people.

Don’t laugh.  I’ve heard this argument before.  And there is historical precedent for people reasoning like that.   I remember hearing a tale that I cannot presently substantiate, that there was one occasion where the natives were forced across a river, baptized half way across, and then murdered on the beach–thus ensuring their salvation before they could commit another sin.

In other words, while it might seem thoroughly compassionate to merely declare that no ‘innocent’ person will be damned, it could lead to a thoroughly uncompassionate approach, wherein we reconcile ourselves with grave injustices, on the view that “at least they will be in heaven” when we should remain thoroughly outraged.

Not that this view is inevitable, mind you, but it is a rational position based on the premise.  The one who does not want to take that position has the responsibility for shoring up their worldview in a cogent manner so as to preclude that position.

While I cannot provide a definitive hope for the case of all innocents, I believe, as I said, that there are clues that God does have a special place in his heart for them.

Let’s take, for example, Jesus’ words: “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14).

That sentiment, uttered by God incarnate, strongly suggests that God does indeed have a way to reconcile his firm stance on sin with his insatiable grace when it comes to young people.

Further evidence comes a little earlier in Matthew (18):

 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, a it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

This being the case, one can imagine God’s response to those who slaughter little ones wantonly–or justify it.

From these two passages alone, it is clear that while we do not know for sure how God resolves the problem of reconciling his own justice with his own compassion, in the case of little children, he surely does have a resolution.

There are further hints as to how God might do it, but they really begin to narrow the problem.

I am thinking in particular of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:

If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

Why does Paul argue this way?

He is referring to the fact that according to God’s plan for man and women, when they have sex, they literally and truly become one flesh.  He has just referred to this principle in  1 Cor. 6, when he warned against sexual immorality.  He makes an argument that I don’t think many people would expect, then and now:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”

Yes, Paul is saying that all sexual intercourse unites the people as one flesh.  Uncomfortable implications there!  But note his support:  “The two will become one flesh.”  And where was that written?  All the way back in Genesis 2.

Here, then, you have your most direct example of how cutting out a piece of Scripture ends up harming you later on.  Many people are very willing to dispense with Genesis 2 (and the rest of Genesis, as well, for that matter), but it is based on the logic of Genesis 2 that Paul makes his claim that the children are holy, merely by virtue of being born where one of the persons is a believer, even if the other person is not.

If the ‘children are holy’ this surely provides further basis for having hope that the child of a believing parent is near to God’s grace.  But if you chop out Genesis, you chop out the basis of Paul’s argument, and you therefore undermine your hope that God has a ‘tweaked’ outlook on the ‘innocent.’  So, chop up the Scriptures at your own risk!

But I said that this narrows the problem, which is to say, it doesn’t eliminate it.  This passage only applies to the children of believers, and does not address the children of non-believers.  Thus, while we may have given some tangible hope to believers, we don’t have a similar basis for the millions of children born of non-believers.  Are we right back to where we started?

Perhaps.

However, before I give up on this angle, I wish to address this idea of ‘believing’ as a basis for salvation.  In full disclosure, I should indicate that my outlook is Lutheran.  As such, I already have an expanded basis for understanding the concept of ‘faith’ than a lot of my protestant brothers and sisters.  For example, it is clear in Romans 6 that baptism is an act of God, not of men, wherein God–not men–joins a person into the actual body of Jesus.  By virtue of being (literally) with Jesus when he died, we are with him (literally) when he rises from the dead.  It’s all right there in Romans 6.  (I have a defense of ‘Lutheran’ baptism in this book.) Romans 6 makes no reference whatsoever to the age of the person being acted upon by God.

Many protestants think of ‘believing’ and ‘faith’ as almost purely intellectual acts, acts of the will which give assent to God and his will for us.   I do not exclude such things but I also include the relational element of ‘faith.’  The best way I can briefly describe it is of a child growing up in the household of loving parents.  In the beginning, the child contributes virtually nothing to the arrangement, and certainly never intellectual ‘assents’ to being part of the family.  The child is a part of the family because of the parent’s decisions and actions.  As the child grows up, he observes the patterns of the parents (like I did earlier, observing how God interacts with humanity over the long stretches of history), and if the parents are loving (as I posited), there is a growing intellectual awareness of the nature of being part of that family, but it is grounded on a trust for the parents which was absorbed early on, long before the child has the powers of cognition to put into words. I regard this whole enterprise–the grounding of trust, as well as the intellectual assent–‘faith.’

I believe the passages of 1 Corinthians I mentioned above and Romans 6 (to name just 2) support this expanded understanding of ‘faith’ and gives further hope for the children of those born of believing parents–or also the stillborn.

Which brings me now at last to the narrowed case of those who are not born of believing parents.  What of them?

We have officially returned to my bottom line:

I don’t know exactly the fate of the innocent (from our perspective), [but] I know that whatever He does, and however He does it, he will not minimize the seriousness of the separation between Mankind (including these youngsters) even as he reconciles them and us to Himself, consistent with his wish that we retain our ‘free will.’

I believe this because of my own faith in God, which is not mere intellectual assent, but the trust I have in God which I have acquired by looking at his pattern of behavior over history, and my daily walk with him.

It’s a loose end, but then, my own children do not yet understand all my reasons for doing things, and perhaps they never will.  But hopefully my children know me, and know that whatever I do, I’ll at least try to do it for the best reasons, and the more they come to know me, maybe it is the case that they will understand my actions even more.  But at any rate, I am nothing compared to God, who unlike me (flawed, and inconsistent, and weak), is able to bear all pain and suffering while he awaits the unfolding of his plan to its fullness.

I don’t know the full answers to every question in this class of questions, but I do trust God, my father, who has a long history of being both firm and compassionate.

 

 

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The Skubala Missives: Letter 2

To the Most Eminent Secretary Kugelpuss:

Your willingness to take counsel is commendable, although I concede it is not always easy to know the tone in which something is written.  Due to the great import of our cause, it is essential that we are all on board with the direction we are going, so I will suppress my doubts and carry on in good faith.

Of course I recall some of your earlier conquests, in particular your skillful engineering of the so-called ‘Cult of Reason’ during the French Revolution.  You really did not need to mention it.  Certainly, your deft touch at stoking the fires of white-hot carnage was critical to your assignment to the young Adolf.  Yet there is in that episode the kernel of that process which we have now turned into our modus operandi.  It is, therefore, a useful bridge for explaining our current approach.

You will recall that the bloodshed wrought by those who denounced God was answered by bloodshed wrought by those who did not denounce God.  It would be a wonderful thing if we could sustain such cycles of cacophony indefinitely, but eventually our prey tires of such cycles and, insofar as they are able to do something about it, put a stop to it.  Despite all of the vulnerabilities of our prey which we can exploit, we must not forget what they are and how they were made.  We can prod and stretch them but there always comes a point where they ‘snap’ back, much as a rubber band returns to form once tension is released.

It is certainly true that there is grotesque pleasure for us throughout that entire scheme.  The flavor of souls that have been steeped in the stress of imminent death for several decades is delectable.  The ‘snapping’ back itself usually entails chaos, which is ecstasy to us, because within chaos there are often massacres and other means of harvesting, but, unfortunately, those who are harvested tend to be those in the Enemy’s camp, rather than our own, who are carrying out the harvest.  Eventually, we reap our reward when the bloodthirsty miscreants succumb to death, and ripe morsels they are!  But in the meantime, the spasm of terror we have inflicted will itself have dissipated into some kind of pattern which the humans can themselves tolerate.

It is this state of affairs, which we might roughly call their ‘default’ state, that serves as a stark reminder to us that if left to their own devices, accounting of course for their own inherited slant towards depravity, they will return to the values that our Enemy enmeshed within their very being.  We are once again on His turf at that point, which is very dangerous territory, as you well know.  And that serves as yet another stark reminder that if our efforts do not end in stuffing our own coffers, rather than His, our work was ultimately in vain, despite whatever pleasures we obtained in the process.

Skipping ahead a bit in how we got from ‘there’ to ‘here,’ the point is that we have seen value in taking the opposite tact from what you are used to taking.  While it is true that we do not necessarily get to sip the decrepit remains of those whose lives are cut short with radical dispatch, on our present policy  we still get souls to sip.  In fact, the discovery was this:  our harvest is more secure when we lull our prey into a drunken stupor, setting before them various temptations that are veritable narcotics to their spirits.  Yes, there is vast joy for us by provoking them into rash outbursts of bloodletting, but there is eternal sustenance for us if they carry out their actions, as they perceive it, voluntarily.

To put it more bluntly, when it is more obvious that we are hard at work, our prey’s created defenses eventually kick in and our work becomes harder.  We find that we have to start over, over and over again.  When we let our prey believe they are merely about their own business, they will happily deposit themselves into our nets.  But here is the brilliance and innovation of our department’s stratagem: the trap remains set, even as it is sprung.  It falls to us merely to keep the mechanism going, by greasing the wheels and providing discrete nudges along the way.

It is not as flashy as the work you are used to doing, I will readily grant.  Nonetheless, the building of this Machine and its maintenance is our current policy.  The expansion of its reach is our prime directive.  The signature of our Master himself is on the bottom of the document putting it into force; I have seen it myself.

Here, then, is the rub:  Hell has marshaled its great resources towards soothing its prey into our clutches, while you appear to be hell-bent on arousing their passions–and hence their suspicions.

This is worthy behavior of the direct tempter, but you are an administrator, now.  As the newly appointed chair of the board that matches freshly trained devils with newly identified subjects, it is critical that you issue assignments that are consistent with our official doctrine.  Within that role, it falls upon you to discipline those who leap beyond the accepted parameters, making sure that all who are under you know of our guiding principles, and having stern words with the schools themselves if they continue to turn out candidates with a penchant for ‘slash and burn.’

As one of the champions of that approach, I can only imagine your reluctance to inflict the stern punishments that may be necessary.  You may even perceive that in punishing those who engage in such activities, you are actively repudiating your own line.  There is another way of looking at it:  by curbing the violent ambitious of your underlings, you secure for yourself a permanent place in our records as one of our greatest tempters, without concern that you may be ‘bumped off’ by one of them.

This raises an important point.  As with the vermin that we mercilessly chase, once someone has ascended into the administrative ranks, it is not usually the underlings you need concern yourself with.  Rather, in that rare air, you must watch yourself from those breathing air that is even rarer.

Yours quite sincerely,

Skubala

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The Skubala Missives, Letter 1

To the Most Eminent Secretary Kugelpuss:

It is of course with the most earnest trepidation that I bring a matter of great importance to your attention.  Your reputation precedes you, but I will be an enigma to you.  Lest you mistake your resume as a warrant for any response you deem appropriate, I must sketch out the details of my own expertise, which of course I invite you to verify.

I arose to my present position from Screwtape’s division, and under his tutelage and by his efforts.  If my name is not enough to arouse within you some terror, then I know, my fellow gentledemon, that the name of Screwtape will do the trick!  You will surmise from this that I have not arrived at my station merely because Screwtape had a fondness for me, but because I delivered.

I know you will point to your glorious conquests in the hunt, conquests which are known throughout the third Hell, and you will make sure to remind me that nobody knows the names of those that I have brought to the table.  Nonetheless, I should like you to ponder how it is that you and I have arrived at equal rank.  It cannot be for no reason!

True, in the capacity of a tempter you gave us Hitler.  Certainly, the feast resulting from that conquest is on-going, and the aroma of his decaying soul continues to linger in the halls and caverns of our abodes.  I dare say the scent is in the very walls, giving us a taste of what the humans reference when they speak of ‘smoking’ and ‘non-smoking’ rooms.  Yes, you turned the man masterfully, and the resulting carnage yielded strong dividends, which we enjoy to the present moment.

Following this, you gave to our cause Pinochet, for which we are most grateful.  It was for this long history that you have been honored with your recent promotion, which I congratulate you for.  Nonetheless, there is a strong rumor that despite being promoted you still dabble in direct tempting; I know, because I receive the complaints filed by lesser tempters who do not appreciate the interference.  Surely, you didn’t think such intrusions went unnoticed?  It is not worthy of your newly acquired station, and not compatible with your appointed role.

I do not dispute the largesse you have delivered to us, but you appear to be completely unaware of the present strategy being employed, and in fact are treading closer and closer to disrupting it.  It has fallen to me to send this friendly letter because I was among those who helped craft the strategy.  You gave us the windfall of the likes of Hitler and Pinochet, I gave you the steady income of unknown or under-estimated brands such as the Osborns, a certain Huxley, and Jaffe.

Importantly, these I delivered to our feasts not by direct temptation–if you must know, I was promoted out of such trivial work long ago, in recognition of my efforts related to Godwin and Malthus–but through a mechanism you seem to be utterly ignorant of:  institutional inertia.  Look into it, and you will see that I was central to the development and diffusion of Taylor’s efficiency movement.  That’s the sort of work that pays in the long-term.

Within a few decades, even the delightful stench of Hitler in our walls will have finally dissipated, but in a century, thanks to me, we will enjoy a perpetual crop of staples that will not merely sustain us, but make each of us plump and well-satisfied.

This was the approach taken by the Esteemed Screwtape, after the pattern of other enlightened Master-Demons who understood that our inclination to immediate gratification was blinding us to the advantages of systematic cultivation, decade over decade, century over century.  It is an approach that has now been formally accepted by the Organization.  As such, by undermining that approach, it is not a mere disciplinary board you must fear, but the Organizer himself.

It would be insulting for me to lay out the details of that strategy, as you are certainly competent enough to do so, and you have your own underlings who can advise you.  It’s all there on Form 350 in section 3 in sub-part A; see also addendum 12.

Suffice it to say that the strategy we have adopted today is more like putting Man into a drunken stupor, distancing him from a life of purpose, and instilling in him a gnawing ache of desperation, which we then help him ‘satisfy’ through various measures which make him even more desperate, distancing him further from having a life of purpose, and, most importantly of all important things, taking him further from the Enemy’s long reach.

Meanwhile, you continue to throw veritable bombs.  The carnage is lovely, don’t misunderstand me, but the whole idea was to have them all smolder.  If you continue to inflame our prey, they will all burn out, and the structure we have spent almost a century building will be consumed right along with them.  I trust you can see that not only is this not in our own collective interest, it is not in yours, either.

Please do advise if I can render any further counsel.

Yours sincerely,

Skubala

Secretary of the Department of Systems

 

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Whatever is true, whatever is noble: Christians are forbidden from being tools

In the post immediately proceeding this one, I shamed people who respond in knee-jerk fashion to whatever the new national outrage is.  It was a general tirade that applied to all who were guilty.  However, some additional thoughts directed to the Christian are in order, for they, more than anyone, should not so easily fall in with the outrage du jour.  As with that post, this one is also not to be read into whatever today’s outrage is, and should be seen as applying to all of them.  The intended audience for this post is specifically Christians.

The Scriptures tell us how to direct our thoughts each day, and it isn’t based on whatever is highlighted on Good Morning America or even the Drudge Report for that matter.  Surely, we’ve all seen how the shape of our day’s thought-life can be shaped by things we see in the media.  The agenda for our mind should not be determined by the world, and all the more when there are agents in our society who have the intentional goal of determining what we think about each day.

As for the Scriptural side of things, we could begin with this passage:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

I don’t suppose I have to work too hard to persuade the reader that most, if not all, of the things we are called upon to think about by the world, are not honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, praiseworthy… and need I say, it is rarely true?

There are some important reasons for Paul’s list here.  Obvious ones include “You are what you (mentally) eat” and “Why are you letting secularists manipulate you as if you are Pavlov’s dog?”  But Paul already gave us the more important guiding principle:

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:17-21)

This world and all it consists of is passing away.  To the extent that there is anything within it that we should give attention to, it should be done very carefully.  We most certainly should not let non-Christians set the terms of engagement.  If something is important to a non-Christian, does that mean it is important to us?  Maybe it isn’t important at all, but because the non-Christian has no other horizon to look to besides this earth’s, it is the best they have?

In our present climate, this is particularly true on the question of ‘justice,’ which they are all abuzz with–and by abuzz I don’t mean bees, but drunkenness.  The best of them are drunk on the idea of ‘social justice’ but neither for reasons that we Christians are interested in justice nor the same measures of what constitutes justice.

On any sane, informed, view, grave injustices have plagued our globe throughout its entire history and plague it now, and will always plague it.  You will never be able to make the world ‘just.’  NEVER.   You may, however, live justly yourself, and possibly bring justice to your own narrow sphere of influence.

But the worldly approach to such issues is not satisfied with such limited aspirations, and in the name of ‘justice’ is quite pleased to inflict as much injustice as they feel necessary “for the common good.”  The Christian is not permitted to harm one person or group in order to help another (ostensibly).  A Christian can, however, ‘harm’ himself for the good of another.

Along these lines, another dynamic that we Christians cannot ally with is the inclination towards ‘statism’ and the feeling that rectifying an injustice must be done at all costs because otherwise a person might not experience a remedy in time for them to benefit from the remedy.   For the statist, after a person is dead, it is too late for them to have justice.  For the Christian, it is understood that 1., At the end of all things, there WILL be justice, but it will be God to enacts it and 2., acting unjustly in the name of justice is still injustice and 3., you’re never going to eradicate injustice anyway, no matter what powers you give to the state, and 4., humans being what they are, if you give the state more power, the state is likely to abuse that power, but your power to curtail the abuse of power is proportionally less.

But for the worldly, the ‘state’ is all there is.

But do not be fooled.  Many of those who say they are trying to bring justice are still being guided by the ‘god of their belly.’  First of all, most obviously, they may be profiting gloriously from their ‘efforts.’  You can often recognize these by the fact that even though they say they are against such and such, all their efforts seem directed to ensuring that such and such continues.  Why? Because if the problem they say the are concerned with is solved, they are no longer needed.  And if they are no longer needed, they will be deprive of their position and of course, their money.  Secondly, less obviously, some people say they care about helping others, but actually, what they care about is the good feeling they get when helping others.  In other words, its not about the people being helped so much as it is the feeling they get in their ‘gut.’  Once again, if they were to actually succeed–eg, if overnight there were no poor people left to feed–they would undermine their own self-importance.

If a Christian wants to help someone, they do it because of the intrinsic worth of that person, not because it makes them ‘feel’ good.

But most worldly ideologies deny that people have intrinsic value.

I have touched on the idea of ‘social justice’ here only to highlight how differently a Christian might engage an issue as opposed to how the worldly person might engage it.  These different mindsets would naturally create different priorities and different things that rise to our attention.  The things the world thinks about each day, and how it thinks about them, are not necessarily what the Christian is supposed to think about, nor is it likely that we are going to think the same way about them.  So, why is it that we let ourselves so easily get sucked into the day’s national outrage?

This world is going to pass away.  In the eyes of much of the world, the people also will pass away.  As Christians, we know that it is not the State that will remain, but rather the people.

When we are told to ‘fix our eyes on Jesus’ it was not a devotional platitude.

It was an order, and for good reason.

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Don’t be a Tool, You Child

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 1 Cor. 13:11 [follow up blog post for Christians in particular]

I have been wanting to write this post for months and months, but have delayed doing so because I did not want any readers to think it was the result of any particular ‘national outrage.’  Not surprisingly, it is precisely because the phenomena I’m addressing is a constant, continual kind of thing, a ‘lull’ never came.  Well, it was starting to look like I would never write the post, so I’m just going to break down and do it.

Thus, I must issue this disclaimer:  THIS POST IS NOT ABOUT ANY PARTICULAR EVENT, AND THAT INCLUDES ANY EVENTS THAT MIGHT MEET MY DESCRIPTION THAT MAY BE TAKING PLACE AS I WRITE.

A second disclaimer:  my blog is generally trafficked by an, ahem, somewhat higher order of reader.  There is a chance, then, that if you’re reading this, this post may not apply to you.  In that case, I would suggest that you file this post away, and whenever you see someone transgressing against the principles described in this post, refer them to it.  The people who most need to see this post will not do so, unless you direct them.  The rest of this post is addressed to these people, even though they are unlikely to see it.

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One of the things that I’ve learned about politics is that the one who sets the agenda is the one who has the most power.  No money gets spent and no decisions get made unless a matter is first brought into the proper channels for execution.  The people who set the agenda are not often politicians, but bureaucrats.  The village administrator or city manager and any number of un-elected, virtually invisible, individuals, can ensure that the politicians talk about the things they want the politicians to talk about.  It may be something that neither the politicians themselves or 99% of the community has any interest in, one way or the other, but the bureaucrats can force the conversation, and, as you may very well expect, put their thumbs on the scales so that the politicians come to the decision the bureaucrats wanted them to.

This is all true, but its meant as an illustration only.

In our society, we find that every few weeks, we the people are called to deliberate on yet another new national outrage.  It is like clockwork:  we are minding our own business and BAM, we suddenly have to form an opinion about something. We have to choose a side.  Naturally, we have to broadcast that opinion.   But how did the national outrage du jour get selected?  The ‘item’ was put on the agenda, and the people obediently took up the matter for deliberation.

Now, seasoned politicians understand the influence that unaccountable bureaucrats can have in directing public policy.  But YOU are so daft, it never occurs to you that you are being manipulated.  YOU are so obtuse, you fall for it Every. Single. Time.

Do you even remember what you were angry about three weeks ago?  Given that goldfish have a longer attention span than the modern American, I am reasonably confident you don’t.  Even if you do, you probably don’t remember the one before that.  You might remember what you were angry about a year ago, but that was only because it was an election year.  Even then, I bet you would have trouble recalling the particulars.

Indeed, since we are now knee-deep in the Twitter age, where we cannot think in terms longer than 140 characters, I have probably lost most of my readers:  oh look!  A squirrel!  Coming soon:  a new website where you are only able to express yourselves in monosyllabic grunts.  You watch, it will become the new platform for our high political discourse overnight.  If I still (just barely) have you, here is a 1:15 minute video summarizing a whole lecture I gave on it a couple of years ago:

Now, the embarrassing part is not that you can’t remember what you were angry about, but that you probably don’t even remember being angry in the first place.  By now, any reasonably sensible person would have noticed how we Americans are regularly getting riled up and put at each other’s throats.   Has it not occurred to you that for this to happen on a constant basis, it has to be intentionally contrivedSomeone is setting the agenda.

More accurately, any number of individuals are competing to set the agenda.  Their goal is to make their own agenda item go ‘viral.’  They often succeed.

When these people make things go ‘viral,’ they aren’t just trying to get ad revenue.  They want to achieve something.  I don’t want to get into specific examples here because inevitably some reader is going to want to discuss them, rather than the underlying principle.  It is enough to say that the public sentiment is used as a rationale for some action that these manipulators wanted to achieve, but which otherwise there was no public interest, one way or another.

And you keep falling for it!

I found your picture on the Internet:

In case you were wondering, you are the one on the left.  And yes, you are so tame, even a child can guide you through the village.

How absurd is it that because Person X, one person out of three hundred million, said comment Y, and suddenly everybody and their mother is shouting at each other, and you right along with them on Facebook?  And just who is Person X?  A veritable nobody.

Dumb.

How silly is it to get all worked up about some event that went down 1,000 miles away from you?  In what sane universe can an event that happened in some far off place, involving people you do not know and will never know, doing things that will never matter to you, become something you need to get angry about?

Surely, these two scenarios alone should remind you of some recent outrages which you blissfully participated in.  I could go on, but again, I don’t want to get into particulars.

Basically, you are a tool.  Someone wants to build something, and they reached into their bag and they pulled out you.  And here is the crazy thing:  as they slam you against your fellow man, you sit back and revel in your own sense of righteousness.  An adult would have figured this out by now.

It might help if you understand that this manipulation is truly intentional and purposeful.  We have been studied.  The technocracy is real, and these elites really believe that they are Pavlov, and you are their dog.   And they don’t believe it for no reason!  They ring the bell, and you start slobbering!

Have you no dignity?  Have you no pride?  Have you no self-respect?  Drool is soaking your shirt, and you are proud of yourself!  You’ve contributed to society!  You got angry at the ‘right’ things at the ‘right’ time!  See Spot run.  See Spot hear a bell.  See Spot spout on Facebook.  Good boy, Spot!

GROW UP.

STOP BEING A TOOL!

Here is what you need to do.

The next time you smell a ‘national outrage’ brewing, deliberately refuse to comment on it via Twitter or Facebook, or Grunt.  Just let it go.  In a few days, it will blow over, anyway.  If you find that you cannot resist posting about it, then the odds are very high that you are a tool.  My guess is you don’t want to be a tool.   I have just given you a strategy for becoming a person, not an instrument.  You’re welcome.

Now, this isn’t to say that there aren’t things worthy of comment.  There certainly are!  However, one of the things about ‘national outrages’ is that they often begin before anyone actually has any facts in hand in the first place.  The most important things worthy of comment are complicated things, and in the off chance some event in Wichita actually is worthy of further consideration, its going to take time for the whole story to be told, anyway.  So just wait.

Not to say, either, that I myself haven’t fallen victim to these manipulations.   There are a couple of times where I think I did.  However, as far as I’m concerned, if you’ve waited a good 3-7 days before piling on, that’s not the kind of thing I’m addressing here.

I mentioned above that we have been studied by the technocracy.  If I have pricked your conscience even slightly, I would strongly suggest you begin studying them right back.  I would start with Edward Bernay’s The Engineering of Consent, or even his Propaganda.  Speaking of propaganda, while Ellul’s Technological Society seems to be better known, his book Propaganda shows vividly how mass audiences are studied and deliberately manipulated.  Here is an excerpt on ‘anger’ that I think is about right.  It is long, but worth it.

Let me sum it up:

  1. You lead a trivial, meaningless life, and you know it.
  2. You are powerless to give meaning to your life, because the ‘machine’ is too big and convoluted for any one person to influence, let alone control.
  3. You want to have a purposeful life, so you flail about looking for things that will satisfy your need for purpose.
  4. You have been led (by the nose) to believe that doing things at a level where you might actually accomplish something (ie, in your own household, or your local community) is trite and insignificant.
  5. Hence, you believe that if you don’t accomplish something that is enforced on everyone, you haven’t really done anything.
  6. But, you yourself are powerless to do anything like that anyway.  (See #2)
  7. And, anyway, doing stuff within your own household or your local community can be grueling, exacting work.
  8. But being angry is easy.  Consequently, anger is substituted for actual action.
  9. Your anger, therefore, is how you find your purpose.  It is how you contribute to society.  It’s literally all you got–or, at least, all you’re willing to do.

And that is why people are happy to be tools.  That is why the people who manipulate us via the mass media, etc, know they can continue to get away with it.  We want to be manipulated, because otherwise the meaninglessness of our lives is exposed.

So, BAM BAM BAM — for a hammer, everything is a nail! — there you go to Twitter, Facebook, and Grunt, to spill out your animus, and you think you’ve done your part for society!

Well, there are all sorts of things wrong with this.  The fact that you take offense to this post is proof that you don’t really want to fit the characterizations of this post, which testifies to the fact that, in actuality, you’re not just an animal, subject to the conditioning of the totalitarians.  There is hope for you, yet!  But one of the other reactions to this same phenomena is that sometimes people wake up to the vacuous nature of their own lives and realize that a Tweet is the hollowest measure, so these people channel their anger into actual violence–always in the name of the common good, of course!

No.

Besides growing up, thinking for one’s self, taking the time to actually EDUCATE YOURSELF BEFORE YOU SPEAK, and refraining from being a tool, you should disregard this lie that “all problems are national problems” and turn your efforts to the very places you could actually do something.  That is, your family, or your local community.  Wise up!  You know that ‘national solutions’ are just ways to line the pockets of the elites and further empower them in their position.  They are just using your good intentions!  You know it.

Meaning and purpose really is right around the corner, if you want it.  You may, have to rethink your entire paradigm, however.

I beg you, rethink!

Unless Americans remove themselves from the ‘tool box,’ and soon, I shudder to think we will become.

The ball is in your court, reader.

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