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ACM’s Arts and Apologetics Festival — August 4-7, Greenwood WI

AAAF_300x300UPDATE:  Click  here to see videos and pics from the event. [9/6/16]

Well, I haven’t posted anything here for awhile, and I have my reasons.  It wasn’t because I didn’t have anything to say or that there wasn’t anything worth commenting on!  Regardless, I’ve bit my tongue.

I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention here on my blog the fact that Athanatos Christian Ministries (of which I am the director) will be hosting a Christian arts and apologetics festival… and its coming up FAST.  August 4-7, in Greenwood, WI.  (central WI)

Here is the website: http://christianartsfestival.us

Consistent with my overall vision and purpose for ACM’s work, the festival is designed to encompass a wide variety of art forms, with an eye towards prompting artists to think ‘apologetically’ and apologists to work through the arts.

To that end, we have a variety of authors (eg, Joseph Courtemanche), the filmmaker Mark Spence, of Ray Comfort’s “Living Waters” ministry who will be screening their newest movie, “The Atheist Delusion” (Best known, perhaps, for the movie “180“), the musician Sean Michel, and a host of others.  Including yours truly.  🙂

Camping is included in the registration.  Also included:  the writing workshops, the music workshops, and the drama workshops.  And the volleyball.  And the bonfire.  But you gotta pay for your own food.  Sorry!

Hope to see you all there!

But Stathei, if you come, you gotta give me a heads up!

 

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What Sin Really Is and Why Acknowledging It Offers More Reason to Live than Denying It Exists

I had an interesting conversation recently with an atheist.  Essentially, the atheist built a syllogism (with a little helpful prodding by myself) where he accepted both of the premises, and then refused to complete it.  It was pure logic–but he wouldn’t accept it.  The irony, of course, is thick.  He believes atheists are the masters of reason.  But, as I have recognized time and time again, atheists are among the most irrational people on the globe and don’t give a lick about ‘logic.’  It is a lesson for other Christian apologists out there, who think that all that is necessary is to produce a reasonable argument… reasonable arguments are not binding on the rebellious soul.  So, then what?

The problem is that it is not just about producing a reasonable argument, or winning an argument, but doing what is necessary to try to ease someone a little closer to the Kingdom.

In this instance, it was a debate on ‘sin’ that got the feathers flying.  It was evident from the beginning, of course, that this atheist didn’t have a clue about what the Bible means by ‘sin.’  To an important degree, he has himself to blame.  If he’d actually read the Bible, he wouldn’t have said the silly things he said.   But the Church hasn’t helped, either.  Over the centuries, it has persisted in the use of theological language as if people will understand it simply because people were culturally immersed in it.  But people haven’t been culturally immersed in it for 150 years or so.   The Bible describes ‘sin’ as ‘falling short’ or basically, not ‘measuring up.’  See here and here.

This appears to have been a pure revelation to my atheist friend, who clearly thought I was just making things up (“I don’t have the time or energy to deconstruct your self-serving definitions…”).

But, in a move he surely regrets, he points out the obvious, and in doing so, lays down the first premise of the logical argument:

A. “Falling short requires a standard to fall short of.”  [Direct quote by the atheist.]

He says this as though it is an objection, but of course he’s quite right.  To not ‘measure up’ necessarily implies a measure.  To not have a ‘share’ in something means that there is something to have a share in (see the links on the word for ‘sin’ above).

Here came my prodding, getting him to admit that he does not even ‘measure’ up to his own standards.  Ie, he says that it is all subjective, so if ever there came to be a case where he didn’t ‘measure up’ to his own ‘standard’ it should be as simple as changing his ‘standard’ to alleviate the pressure.  It isn’t just the standards of others that accuse us… its our own standards that testify against us.  This is important.

In this instance, I asked him if he had ever failed to live up to promises he had made, to himself, or others.  The implication here is that not keeping promises is tantamount to ‘falling short’ and he did not dispute the implication.  He accepted the premise, and acknowledge that he’d failed to keep promises:  “…definitely.”

So falls the next premise:

B. “I have fallen short.” [paraphrase of ‘definitely.’]

Do you have the courage to complete the syllogism?

It would look something like this:

C. “In my own life, therefore, I acknowledge the existence of a standard.”

Like I said in my essay, “The Limited Value of Logical Arguments“, this is still far away from belief in God.   It doesn’t necessarily tell us much about that God, even if we came to believe that the best explanation for our experience of reality is that the standard implies a God.  To me, though, to ignore it is to defy reality in a dangerous way.  Especially, when it turns out that most of the humans on the planet also acknowledge that they don’t ‘measure up.’  This requires some explanation.

My atheist’s friend’s explanation?

He refused to offer one.  Quote:  “there’s no sense looking for a proximate rational reason.”  When I asked why he would even care that he fails to keep his promises (ie, rather than merely changing his personal standard so his ‘failures’ don’t accuse him) he says, “I just do.”

While this is plainly pure stubbornness, it is at least honest.  Having had countless conversations with unbelievers, a fair number will try to obscure the fact that their position represents nothing but a sheer act of the will.  A good number, though, will, like this atheist, refuse to even try to understand what is going on, even in their own heart.  Add it to the list:  they also refuse to explain why reason is reasonable, and then they thump their chests saying they are the reasonable ones.  Well, gosh, I suppose constructing an atheistic worldview is easy when you refuse to try to explain the really interesting and provocative aspects of human existence!  (I wrote a book about this:  “The Golden Rule of Epistemology.”)

After some pushing, my atheist friend uttered the epitome of a non sequitur:

Sin is a great tool for inspiring guilt (which, entirely incidentally, benefits organised religion to a large extent) but explains precisely nothing, and if we all have it – always – then there is no possible way to demonstrate its existence (apart from word games, obviously). If it meets your needs, or anyone else’s, to believe in it then I won’t argue with you, but I’m not inclined to allow such a toxic concept to be promoted as if it were a) explanatory, b) generally useful or c) not a weapon of oppression and enrichment for cynical old churchmen who have been collecting the exculpatory donations for imaginary offences for thousands of years

And then he summarily brought the conversation to an end.

Very interesting.  Me thinks the lady protests too much…

His comments clearly have nothing whatsoever to do with the argument to that point and they certainly don’t miraculously rescue him from the implications of his own argument.  Maybe, if the conversation had not already come to a close, I would have turned him back around on the argument.  (This blog post serves as that, but…)

But, I think here we find, finally, some of his first, real objections.  They don’t at all follow logically from anything.   They are not rational, they are guttural.  And don’t they all concede the point he is warring against?  Why get all bent out of shape about anyone ‘inspiring guilt’ if this were not bad in some way?  Who cares if it is a ‘weapon of oppression’?  Sounds like a wonderful Darwinian innovation, to me!  But apparently to engage in ‘oppression’ is to ‘not measure up.’  He wants to find people guilty while denying the existence of any standard they could be measured up against.

Typical.  Insane.  Irrational.

But, to a certain degree, understandable.

Because, of course, ‘sin’ has been used as a way to ‘inspire guilt’ and it has been used as a way to finance the construction of big buildings and pad the wallets of ‘cynical old churchmen.’  But when I say it, it is cogent, because in the first place I accept the existence of a standard and in the second place, I recognize that it is indeed ‘explanatory’ as it explains and predicts that humans have always been ‘sick’ and will continue to be ‘sick.’  The concept of ‘sickness’ is another thing that implies a ‘standard,’ that of ‘health.’  And there we find a pragmatic implication–only if one is sick do they seek out a doctor.

Although, being sick does not mean that there are doctors.

But if we are sick and there are no doctors or no Doctor who can treat our condition… we are SOL, aren’t we?

The problem is that it is not a ‘toxic concept’ but rather a regularly observed aspect of the human condition, which, if true (and all evidence is that it is) means that we should not be surprised in the slightest when people act in ways that disgust us, or when I act such that I disgust myself (happens all the time).  We could explain how my friend’s observations are not particularly insightful–Martin Luther made almost the exact same arguments hundreds of years ago, and he made those arguments because… wait for it… he actually read the Bible.  But, this Easter season, I think the better thing to do is double-down on the stark ramifications based on really appreciating that we are ‘sick.’

There seems to me to be no question, I mean, not really, that we have ‘fallen short’ or ‘do not measure up’ or ‘are sick.’  This is a reality that we all live with, regardless of whether or not you want to acknowledge it or be curious enough to seek out a “proximate rational reason.” Certainly, whether or not we acknowledge this reality informs our politics and our life’s work.   But also, whether or not we think there is a Doctor.

And who, ultimately, we conclude is that Doctor.

In my experience, atheists do not stay atheists for long, even if they don’t become Christians.  Why?  Atheism is a pathetic explanatory system, which ‘succeeds,’ as I have said, by refusing to explain the truly interesting things.  And one of the things that Atheism cannot explain is why people feel like they are ‘sick.’  Atheism is like a ‘gate way’ drug, which first convinces people that they don’t need a God, but when the ‘high’ goes away, reveals the fact that they still needed something.

That thing can be, yes, drugs and alcohol, and just as often sex.  But it can be any of the varieties of pantheism, paganism, New Ageism, and Eastern philosophies, like Buddhism.  (I actually have another friend who is an atheist, but aligns himself with Buddhism.)  For those who stay atheists against their better instincts, it is not uncommon to find hedonists or nihilists.  But the one thing they all have in common, in my experience, is that they are all very, very, depressed.

I mean, when they really think about it, they are depressed.  Hedonism, of course, is the attempt to try NOT thinking about it.  But it doesn’t take much conversation to go beyond even that subterfuge.  The reason they are depressed is because none of these things ultimately offers any hope for Hope.  Not for other people, you see, but for themselves.

It is all well and good to try to focus on the ‘sins’ of others (eg, “cynical old churchmen”) and condemn the world for being ‘sick’ its quite another to come to grips with the fact that not all guilt is ‘inspired’ or ‘manufactured.’  When we are honest with ourselves, we know very well that much of our guilt is completely legit.  “Organised religion” does not ‘benefit’ because they have invented something entirely new, but that they offer an answer to something people already know is real in their own lives.  Importantly, though, if the ‘answer’ is accurate, we can expect that even those who bring word about the ‘cure’ will themselves bear signs of being sick.  Thus, it is absurd to expect that those who preach the reality of sin are not themselves sinless.  Uh, that’s the point.

As the saying goes, “We are but beggars telling other beggars where they can find bread.”

The atheist insists that we aren’t even hungry, but it doesn’t fly.

In light of this post, we may say, “We are but sick people telling other sick people where they can find a Doctor.”

But it draws a stark contrast, too.  What will the atheist say?  What hope can they give?  When they are counseling a depressed person, what can they offer?  Pharmaceuticals?  Platitudes?  If a man is on the ledge of a bridge, poised to jump to his death, what can the atheist offer as a reason for living?  I am not merely being facetious here, although its true that people don’t often turn to suicide in response to their awareness of their ‘sickness’ but its nonetheless on the table.  See Camus, reacting to the implications of his worldview:

“There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that.”

Suicide is a very real problem in our society, and one of the things that victims almost always have in common is that they’ve lost all hope.  No one, in their view, really understands their predicament, and there is no hope that their predicament will change.   Try to tell them they shouldn’t kill themselves while also telling them that they are nothing but bags of puss and dirt, meat machines, as it were.  What do you expect?  Ideas have consequences.

But in at least three separate occasions (that I am aware of) talking with people ‘on the ledge’, I have been honored to have been the instrument through which an acknowledgement of one’s real predicament was spoken to, and the good news that there is a Doctor who can heal us was argued, and those people live to this day.  Ideas have consequences.  But this isn’t an ‘idea’ so much as affirming that what people are experiencing is real.

In a sense, then, I find comments like “If it meets your needs, or anyone else’s” to be arrogant and repulsive, as if the fact that we need hope to survive is mere wishful thinking.  We need food to survive, too, but it is neither manipulative to recognize this fact, or wishful thinking to presume that if there is a need, it likely means there is something out there designed to fulfill that need.  Moreover, insinuating that it is not “generally useful” seems like the kind of thing you say when you don’t normally work with broken people.   Christians who take their faith seriously interact with such people all the time.  (And they count themselves as broken, too, and often in need of a reminder about the Hope.)

Here again is a concept with an implication.  “Falling short” implies a standard.  Sickness implies a standard of ‘health.’  ‘Broken’ implies a correct, functional state.   ‘Hungry’ implies a deviation from ‘well fed.’

The whole world cries out that this life is incomplete.  That something doesn’t add up.  That we see through a dark glass.  Whatever turn of phrase you want to give it, it all falls under the framework of what Christians call ‘sin.’  And everyone in the world acknowledges that this is real, and most feel it needs to be grappled with.  They try to do something about it.

But only Christianity says this:  “You are indeed broken, and there is in fact nothing YOU can do about it.  But there is One who aims to do everything about it.  If you’ll let Him.”

That is only an assertion.  A false comfort indeed, if in fact the One did not do anything about it.   As Paul put it:

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Note that Paul is leaving it has a hypothetical possibility that Christ has not been raised, but taking it for granted that people would nonetheless still recognize that they are ‘in their sins’ even if there was no Doctor.

Fortunately, there is good news:  Jesus did exist, he did die, and he did rise from the grave.  Those inadequacies that haunt you?  Real.  They aren’t imagined.  They aren’t ‘manufactured.’  You can’t medicate them away.  If you are reading this today, a few days before Easter, I would invite you to think seriously about your own condition and think seriously about the differing explanations and recommendations that exist.   Not all of them will admit what you know in your heart to be true about your own heart, but there is one, Christianity, that not only does, but insists that the evidence is such that Jesus really did rise from the dead to save you from your ‘sins.’

Not in imagination, but in the objective world.

The same account that explains why you are sick (and you know you are sick, you don’t have to be told) tells you where you can find Healing.

At minimum, its worth looking into, before you check out.  No?

Maybe drop the chip on your shoulder, first, though.  After all, what have you got to lose, really?  If atheism is right:

our minds are the product of a material brain. We are literally soulless machines made of meat, honed by millions of years of ruthless, pitiless evolution. And so is everyone else. When we die, there is no paradise, no hell, not even a grim gray afterlife of darkness and regret…we are just gone. Everyone who has ever lived has or will simply end, and become nonexistent.

If I’m right, we’ll live forever.  And in living forever, it won’t be in our current, broken, state.

(In that article, note again the willful lack of curiosity:  “I simply do not worry about what will happen after I’m dead.”  It’s not that the topic is uninteresting or that there aren’t good leads to explore, its just that they refuse to think about it.)

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Trump, Hitler, Stalin, and other Tyrants of America

I am a Cruz supporter, but my last two posts could be construed as coming to Trump’s defense, and this one, likewise.  But these posts are not a defense of Trump, but an attempt to point out that if it is really possible for an American president to do all of the things that people are worried Trump might do, then that is really the least of our problems.   It means that the office of the presidency has way too much power.  It means that we have no faith in the checks and balances our Constitution is supposed to embody–and remember, those checks and balances were specifically designed with the deep fear of a tyrannical monarchy in mind.  It means that we think that the States, our Congress, and SCOTUS, will do nothing to prevent a president from doing anything any given president wants.  It means that we worry that our military will obey illegal orders.  It means that we believe the American people are powerless to resist a tyrannical government.

hitler-donald-trumpAnd, sad to say, almost all of these things are true, and all are true to a degree.  Right now.  They have been true for quite a long time, actually.   The dirty little secret, then, is that the Republic is already dead.  It just so happens that there hasn’t been a man audacious enough yet to take advantage of it, or at least, not take advantage of it in a way that lends credence to comparisons with Hitler and Stalin that I have been seeing, such as in the ‘meme’ to the right.

If all this is true, than I almost welcome a Trump presidency, because it might mean that the States may finally assert their 10th amendment rights.  It might mean that the Congress will strip away the various Federal powers that the ‘unitary executive’ presently has access to.  It might mean… *gasp* that SCOTUS might actually follow the rule of law by interpreting the ACTUAL law, instead of making it up as it goes along.

History has shown that people cannot bring themselves to act until it is too late, or admit that something is dangerous or toxic until it is already fully ingested.  For over one hundred years, Americans have allowed the Constitution to be dismantled right in front of their eyes.  It is instructive, when thinking about a Tyrant Trump, to think about the tyranny our presidents have already engaged in:

  • Abraham Lincoln, who suspended the writ of habeas corpus.
  • The progressive president, Theodore Roosevelt, who wrote:  “society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce their kind.”
  • Woodrow Wilson, the proto-fascist progressive who firmly established the bureaucratic state and enforced the Sedition Act of 1918, actually putting people in jail for exercising their right to speak freely.
  • Franklin Roosevelt, who actually did put Americans into concentration camps.
  • Harry Truman, who incinerated hundreds of thousands of Japanese, instantly.

Are you getting the picture?

Then we may jump ahead to folks like Nixon, who was nearly tossed out of office for using the IRS to target political foes… and Obama, who did the same thing, without facing any consequences whatsoever.

Some of these things were reversed.  Some of them we may even reluctantly concede were necessary and appropriate.  Regardless, the overall trend has been towards more power in the hands of elites and less in the hands of the governed.  And the governed have gone along with it.

Until recently, that is.

In the last 20 years or so, at least on the political right, there has been an overall move away from such things.  The elites have not gotten the message.  Or, they don’t care.  Things really came to a head in 2010 when a truly audacious president came to power and began exercising that power, and the people trounced him and his ideology throughout the country, state, local, and Federal.  In 2012, he was trounced again–winning at least in part because he used the IRS to undermine groups that were organizing to defeat him in a bold, tyrannical, and typical abuse of Federal power.  But in 2014, he was defeated yet again.  After handing this man massive defeats in three successive elections, people expected to see results.

They didn’t.

So, now here we are, with a man like Trump poised to be the nominee and with a good chance of being the next occupant of the White House.   And hence, with access to the same powers that have been used and abused for the last hundred years.  Now, most people are focusing on the man, but I’m telling you, this is the least of our concerns.

You see, our country did not lapse into they kind of nightmare that Germany and Russia fell into because we had better tyrants, who in their benevolence, allowed the peons a greater measure of freedom.  No, many of our presidents and leaders were scoundrels, who desperately wanted to do exactly in America what was being done in Germany and Russia.

It was Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who, upholding compulsory sterilization, wrote: “The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”   The superintendent of one of our public hospitals, Joseph Dejarnette who complained, in 1934, “The Germans are beating us at our own game.”  It is the sitting chief science officer of the Obama administration, John Holdren, who argued that compulsory abortion was justifiable under the U.S. Constitution.   It’s not that the people in our country are more benevolent than the tyrants in other countries.  It’s that their hands have been tied by the mighty ropes of the Constitution.

It is these very ropes that have progressively been loosened over the last century, landing us in our current predicament.

I would prefer Cruz, but Cruz would probably tighten the ropes back up, and people would howl.  Leftists, who need the power and might of the government to do what they want (because otherwise they’d never get what they want), will fight him tooth and nail.  But if Trump is in fact the president that everyone fears, then that might be the wake-up call that will unite both the left and the right in the awareness that our freedoms and liberties truly depend on a radically scaled back, limited government.  (A Clinton presidency would not have this effect; Clinton would be just as tyrannical as Trump is presumed to be, but since leftists don’t mind tyranny when its them doing the tyrannizing, there is no hope that they will band together with those on the right).

And I should like to mention one last thing.

One of the first things that every tyrant has done before he has done anything else is disarm the masses.

In America, we still have our guns.

People, especially leftists, have had trouble imagining that there could ever be a need in civilized society for the deterrence embodied in the second amendment.  Their eyes may indeed be opened, shortly.

A Trump presidency may very well be our last chance for a bloodless revolution.

 

 

 

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Why We Shouldn’t Try to Stop Donald Trump

Yesterday’s post created interesting conversations and was the fruit of interesting conversations, but it raised some questions for people that I thought I’d answer here.

First, some analysis.

1., Obviously, the only way that Trump is not going to be the nominee is if Kasich and Carson get out, and Cruz and Rubio consolidate into a single ticket.  Cruz with Rubio as VP.  This is not going to happen.  Trump is going to be the nominee.

2.  There is much gossip about finding ways to work the system so that even if Trump is the selected nominee, someone else will be put forward, instead.  If the GOP does this, it will be the end of the GOP.  It is precisely because of shenanigans like that, that Trump has the support he has.

3.  Many people are talking about running a third party candidate if Trump is the nominee.  I find this fascinating.  For the last 20 years, they’ve been shoving, “A vote for ‘Mr. Third’ is a vote for the Democrat.”  Now that they are the Third, this logic is out the window.  Note to the establishment:  perhaps if you stopped putting up weenies, in the House, Senate, and President, there wouldn’t be this persistent threat of a third party candidate.  Duh.  Can you really not take a hint?

4.  What people don’t understand is that if Trump is deprived of the nomination, he would not need to go ‘third party.’  There would be open warfare, with the result that Trump would take millions and millions with him. The GOP itself would, in effect, become the third party.   This speaks to the post I’m about to write.

5.  There is much talk about people leaving the country if Trump wins.  This is one of the best arguments for Trump that I know of.  Trump should immediately give air fare to all who want to leave the country.  Send them off to England or Germany.  These places will take anyone, and since they’re almost out of “other people’s money” to fund their socialist programs, they will welcome the influx of new money.

To the post.

In yesterday’s post, I argued that if we are so concerned that a President Trump will destroy the country, this actually speaks to a much more important, more fundamental problem:  the executive branch has WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too much power and authority.  It certainly well exceeds what the Constitution states.  Not that anyone has really cared about what the Constitution really states for a long time.  But still.

One of the common sentiments that I heard in response to my post yesterday was that, yes, it is unfortunately the case that the executive branch has the power and authority that it does, so we don’t want Trump in that spot.  As a Cruz supporter, I would certainly much rather not have Trump, but it should be very clear by now that the ‘purists’ like myself aren’t going to get our way.  So, what then?

In my post, I argued that the problem and the solution are largely the same:  CONGRESS.

If you simply went with what the Constitution allowed the President to do (or SCOTUS, or Congress itself, or the Federal branch as a whole), it just wouldn’t be possible for any president to do massive harm to the country.  Some harm?  Absolutely.  Even in that more limited sense, the harm that a president could do is significant.  But you would be hard pressed to think of something in your life that is not presently dictated from some level of government beyond your local municipality, with quite a few of those items falling right into the laps of the Federal government.  From the amount of water in your toilet tank, to the kind of gas can you have, to what kind of information is on food labels, to the kinds of light bulbs you have… to whether or not you have health care, and whether or not having that health care will actually get you health care, or, as Obama said, “just a pill.”

The thing abut these items is that there really isn’t anything we can do about them.  You literally need to persuade tens of millions of people to elect the president of your choice, and hope that this president’s policies will embody your perspectives enough to filter down to the 2,000,000+ Federal bureaucrats–bureaucrats who are adept at trench warfare and perfectly capable of working the system to maintain their own position and policies.  Even Mr. Trump, or Cruz (who would be more likely to try) can monitor them all.

The GOP establishment is presently burning much brain power trying to figure out how to steal the nomination from Trump.  But, a President Trump can only act on the authorities granted to him by legislation generated by the CONGRESS, sanctioned by SCOTUS, or spelled out in the Constitution.  If we really are concerned about the great damage Trump can do, the legislation stripping the Executive Branch of as much power and influence as possible–ie, returning things as close to what the Constitution actually said in the first place–is a much more appropriate place to invest our time and energy.  It would also have the added benefit of DOING WHAT THE HELL THEY’VE BEEN ELECTED TO DO IN THREE STRAIGHT ELECTIONS.

We can never lose sight of the fact that it was the establishment that created Trump by their refusal to make good on what has been expected of them.

Now, the other problem here runs deeper, but is connected.  The establishment has no interest in radically limiting the scope of the Federal government.  After all, they were complicit in created the bloated THING we have now.  They love big government… although they vastly prefer they are the ones in charge of it.

The problem that the establishment has, which is shared by liberals, progressives, and other elites, is that they just don’t understand why Trump has the support that he has.  To all of them, the Trump candidacy represents the manifestation of an ‘ugly under-current’ in the American populace.  Now, why do they think this?

Very simply, the establishment, liberals, progressives, and other elites, all think they are absolutely the smartest people who have ever lived, and if you were as smart as them, then, well, you’d be a liberal, a progressive, and back the policies of the establishment.  This puts them in a bind, because they know many people who are smart, who nonetheless do not share their views.  How can someone who is intelligent not come to the same conclusions as them?  Answer:  they must be bigots; they must be racists; they must be misogynists; they must be greedy; they must be selfish.  And so on.  Hence, the spiraling and out of control ‘political correctness’ movement, replete with its war on ‘micro-aggressions’ and ‘safe spaces’ and ‘wars’ on everything.

And people are sick of it.

I saw a bit of Mike Huckabee this morning on Fox News and I thought he really put his finger on it.  I began watching at around the 2:30 mark where he explained the ‘evangelical’ support for Trump:

http://video.foxnews.com/v/4782807715001/huckabee-on-the-possibility-of-a-brokered-gop-convention/?playlist_id=930909787001#sp=show-clips

He nailed it.

Remember, it was Paul Ryan just a few months ago that allowed funding for Planned Parenthood to sail on through for another year.

To make sure my own point is crystal clear, as much as I don’t like Trump, I believe that he is going to react favorably with pretty much whatever CONGRESS sends his way.  If CONGRESS sends a bill to him that would defund PP, notwithstanding Trump’s tepid views on PP, I think he would sign that bill.  If CONGRESS pushed a revised TPP, a new ‘deal’ with Iran, an overhaul or even total elimination of Obamacare, I think he’d go along with it.  I’m talking about things, here, that CONGRESS heretofore has only given its own tepid opposition to… except the TPP, which, bizarrely, even the GOP… ahem… pay attention… even the GOP… supported.

We should stop trying to stop Donald Trump because we cannot stop Donald Trump without completely annihilating the GOP.  Increasingly, people on the right are ‘ok’ with that.  That is a BIG warning sign!  Instead, we should start working to make sure that in 2016, CONGRESS has a strong conservative majority, with as few ‘establishment’ types as possible.  This CONGRESS should then immediately start sending up legislation that would not only have the effect of limiting the president’s authorities and influence, but also its own.

I have to tell you that Huckabee’s comment regarding ‘ballots vs. bullets’ is prescient.  Many, many, many, many people on the political right have given up on the idea that any of its elected officials are actually going to do what they are elected to do.  This is why Trump has the support he does, but we have not yet seen a mass of Trump-like candidates and politicians for the House and Senate.  If CONGRESS fails to follow through on conservative principles this time, regardless of who the president is, if you thought that this election cycle was extraordinary, wait until you see what is coming.  Patience is wearing out.

And if you don’t like that prospect, there is a solution:  if you are on the political right, you can stop treating your own base like dirt.  If you are on the political left, you can stop calling people racists and bigots.  If you are on the political right, when lefties start calling people racists and bigots, you can do like Trump, and tell them them they can go pound sand.  Have the courage to start implementing conservative, limited government principles, while the people you deem ‘sane’ are in position to do so.  Otherwise, you’ll get the ‘insane’ people.  And, honestly, just like we are unable to stop Donald Trump, I don’t think we’ll be able to stop them, either.

So you see, all signs point towards Paul Ryan as being the symbol of what’s wrong in the GOP rather than Donald Trump.  But you have to be willing to read those signs.  So far, the movers and shakers in the GOP have been unwilling to do so.

 

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Our Next President-Tyrant: Trump?

I haven’t posted much on the presidential campaign, or even followed it as closely as I’ve followed others, because I’ve been busy.  And if the reader says, “But the stakes are too important to not follow it extremely closely!” the reader will be making my point.  One of the main ideas behind the republican system is that it allows the average person to have life and liberty, while pursuing happiness.  We elect people who reflect our values who have the job of following things closely.

One of the other main ideas behind our republican system is a robust system of checks and balances.  So, theoretically, if any of the people elected get out of hand, there should be other people perfectly placed to put a stop to it:  no insurrection by the citizens necessary.

trump-hitler-time-coverI am a ‘big picture’ kind of guy.  I like fundamentals.  I inspect foundations.  I don’t live in the present moment, carried along by the latest mass-media inspired ‘hate du jour‘ which are presented as having no history, no source, and no roots.   In fact, I think roots are pretty important.  We debate the ‘fruits’ of things, but pay no attention to the branches.  If we did, we’d follow the problem all the way back to the trunk, and from there to the roots, and understand that unless the whole thing is pulled up, your disputations and rage are ultimately for nothing.  You may have delayed the inevitable, but the tree will grow back again, in another generation, and threaten to bear fruit yet again.

It is with great interest, then, that I have watched the controversy regarding Donald Trump unfold in Republican circles, but not as a manifestation of 2016 politics, as though 2016 was the first year humans have ever existed, or the first year the United States has elected a president.  My Facebook feed is thoroughly populated with people who despise and detest Donald Trump.  I mean, they really hate him.  I’m talking about conservatives, here.

In the main, they pull for Cruz.  In the main, they are Christians.  And, for the record, and to immunize myself from the vitriol of the aforementioned Facebook friends, I myself support Cruz.  (And I am a Christian).  But, I have to wonder why it is that we’re so worried about Trump.  I wonder if, in worrying about Trump, we are accepting a premise that is far more sinister than Trump.

Let’s consider some of the concerns that have been raised about Trump.

  • There is, of course, the concern that he is like Hitler.   This probably has as much to do with the populist appeal that Trump has.
  • There is the concern that Trump will move unilaterally to… well, do anything and everything.  Examples:  Ban Islamic immigration, make Mexico pay for a wall, get rid of the EPA, etc.
  • Some of us are concerned that despite his assertions to the contrary, he would fund Planned Parenthood.

Now, this last is of some interest, and feeds into the point that I’m making in this post.

Aren’t you a little interested in exactly how a President can fund… anything?

As it happens, a lot of the people who have the long knives out for Trump on funding Planned Parenthood actually funded Planned Parenthood.

Like, only 3 months ago.  They may have voted for the legislation that came later, that would have defunded Planned Parenthood but was vetoed by Obama… but then, they knew that the latter would be vetoed but the former would not.  Net effect:  Planned Parenthood is funded for another year.

When raising the various concerns that have been raised, are we then accepting the premise that a president actually can

  • unilaterally fund Planned Parenthood?
  • unilaterally get rid of Federal agencies?
  • unilaterally act on immigration issues?
  • unilaterally revise the tax code?
  • unilaterally confiscate guns (allegedly, his position in 2000)

In the first four cases, if the point isn’t obvious by now, the president only has the power that is given to him BY CONGRESS.

And it is CONGRESS that has so pissed people off that they are supporting Trump in the first place.  In three consecutive elections, large conservative majorities were elected throughout the land–state, local and Federal.  Except for the re-election of Obama in 2012, there is a near-complete overhaul of the country, in the ‘conservative’ image.  And for all these efforts…

Very little to show for it.   The CONGRESS has had the ability for six years to put a stop to unilateral executive action, whether through legislation or by exercising the power of the purse, and they’ve pretty much just let Obama get away with everything he wanted.  No one wants to have a showdown.  No one wants to put their money where their mouth is… except folks like Cruz, who is hated and despised by people in his own party… for having a showdown and putting his money where his mouth is.

I mentioned the last item, the confiscation of guns, to highlight another aspect of the question.

Let’s assume that Trump really moved to unilaterally confiscate guns.  Do we imagine in this scenario that Trump begins going door to door, compelling homeowners to turn over their ‘automatic’ weapons?  If they resist, Trump straps on his SWAT gear and goes Rambo on them?

No.  To enforce such a thing he would need the compliance and active support of municipalities and law enforcement.

Thus, by issuing our concern about a fascist Donald Trump as president, are we not doing two things at once?

1., Are we accepting the premise that our presidents get to be fascist if they want?   Is the only thing that separates whether or not we live in a tyranny or the ‘land of the free’ the whims of a particular president?  Should it really be possible that a president can make or break a country, all by himself?  Should a country’s economy and prosperity hinge on the power and authority of a single man?  Or even 535 men and women (House and Senate), plus 9 for SCOTUS, and another 1 for the president for a total of 545 men and women reigning supreme over a population of 300,000,000?

My friends, if our life, liberty, and well-being, hinges on the whims and will of less than a thousand people, it is stupid to be arguing over the respective characters of those people and what they will or will not do.  The problem is much more foundational:  Even 1,000 elected Hitlers should be relatively harmless, if the checks and balances established by the Constitution were in place.

2., Are we voicing our concern that the mass of America’s people will simply go along with something just because the president, Congress, or SCOTUS, declares it?  To confiscate America’s guns would require America’s army to carry out the collection.  Are we saying that, deep down, we think that our soldiers would follow unlawful orders?  Are we saying that our state governments will comply with plainly unconstitutional rulings by SCOTUS?  That our governors and state elected officials will not stand up to Federal overreach?

Well, if you think the concerns expressed in #2 are legit, I wouldn’t argue with you.  I think those concerns are valid.  But they are the fruit, not the root.

To get to the ‘root’ we have to go back to a time before most of us were born, at least as far back as Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, if not further than that.  And, frankly, Republicans have been complicit.

If we live in a time where a president of the United States could actually be a tyrant… and there is ample evidence already that we have long reached this point… then our problem is not any particular candidate for president.  The very foundations of the republic have been eroded.

Elect Donald Trump or don’t elect Donald Trump.  The mere fact that you think he could actually destroy the country means we have bigger fish to fry.

 

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Snopes: “Uncommon Core” Article… FALSE

So, I had the misfortune to ‘share’ a link that I saw on my phone which turned out be ‘fake.’  It wasn’t until several hours later that I had a chance to investigate the details for myself.  As usual, Snopes had spoken.  As usual, Snopes had found a way to insert its bias into the article.  Ironically, people trust Snopes in the same uncritical fashion that we tend to trust fake news stories.  I am reposting my Facebook comment outlining my own research.  The purpose is not only to skewer Snopes, which I do tend to relish, but also to call attention to the fact that the fake news story was more true than people might suspect, just not in the ways they could have expected.  And certainly, you can’t count on Snopes to flesh it out!

What follows then is a slightly modified cut/paste from my Facebook conversation on the subject.

Re:  http://www.teaparty.org/common-core-6th-graders-taught-use-strap-dildo-55644/

To which Snopes replied: A Florida teacher gave 6th grade students an explicit sex ed lesson involving a strap-on sex toy to satisfy common core requirements.

 

We already see the problem:  Snopes has it out for Infowars… even though Snopes itself identifies and links to the source that Infowars got it from, which was a very clever attempt to pass off a work of fiction as an actual news story.  The ‘Claim’ goes far beyond the ‘Florida teacher.’  The real claim should have been:  “Jacksonville, Florida Teacher Suspended After Shocking Sex Ed Demonstration.”  That, after all, was what fed all of the social sharing that followed.   But that would have been fair.

In what sense is this fake? Are we saying that the pictures are faked? Staged? Is it only the association with Common Core that is ‘fake’? Was it a real presentation, but not to 6th graders? And so on. How you answer these questions matters.

Now, the Snopes article on this is a good illustration for why Snopes itself can’t be trusted. Think of like Wikipedia:  at best, a place to start your investigation.  The insinuation made by Snopes is that it was all conspiratorial mumbo-jumbo (vis a vis Infowars). What Snopes fails to mention is that someone DID intentionally try to pass this off as news. Snopes links to them but fails to call attention to tidbits that would tend to make a story seem more credible.  But if the story smelled ‘credible,’ one couldn’t attack Infowars.  You see how it works?

“In an email exchange with Modern Woman Digest, Sandra Mercer insisted that her suspension was an act of bigotry, and a step back for gay rights in the workplace. Clinton Elementary School declined to comment on the teacher’s suspension, returning neither our phone calls nor our emails.”

One can easily see how such comments could lend credibility to the account. Indeed, there are 76 comments by people who were taken in on the original posting source. So, what we have here is someone deliberately trying to create a fake news story. I found the story on a variety of sites, including some that most would consider credible (opposingviews.com)

This is the world we live in.

And yet, the pictures were not staged. They really were taken during a presentation delivered to students. Not 6th graders, but how much better it was that it was college kids is something I don’t know. Allegedly, this was the original event:

https://archive.is/VEROA

But there is evidence that this woman has given plenty of presentations at high schools. Here is a very early article that seems (seems!) very credible:

http://www.macleans.ca/society/health/youre-teaching-our-kids-what/

Quote:

“About a year and a half ago, Good For Her’s founder, Carlyle Jansen, started getting phone calls from an unlikely market niche: local high school teachers, asking if she would come by their classes and talk to the kids about sex. […] In her workshops, Jansen urges teens to ask about anything and everything, from masturbation, gender identity and same-sex feelings to sex toys (which they keep on hand in case the subject comes up), why people like oral sex, and why that particular act should go both ways. She encourages them to role play in order to learn how to broach difficult conversations.”

Perhaps Carlyle Jansen bent over backward and simulated anal sex in these workshops, too, but we just don’t have the pics. At any rate, it seems pretty clear that that was on the table for discussion… if not demonstration.

So, the original story and its derivatives are ‘faked’ and ‘contrived’, and the derivative went too far linking it to Common Core, but that doesn’t mean CC is off the hook and it doesn’t mean that the event(s) didn’t actually happen. In fact, it looks very likely that it did happen–except it was a real person who lived in Ontario, not a fake person in Florida, and in Ontario she was applauded and invited back, repeatedly.

It’s kind of funny, actually. The real story and the fake story are almost identical in content. The only difference is that the faked story had pictures and the ‘news’ that the teacher was suspended, when in fact, the ‘teacher’ continues to this day to give graphic presentations.

The faked article (by that, I mean the original in Modern Woman Digest) has additional credibility in that anyone who is paying attention is already aware of plenty of other stories that no one doubts. For example, this story made me think of this one, from Minneapolis:

http://www.startribune.com/minneapolis-private-school-takes-students-to-sex-toy-store-for-sex-education-lesson/305770831/

Very real, I’m afraid.

And in Chicago, very graphic curriculum that taught 5th graders how to have anal sex (among other things) was submitted to the Chicago public school system. I myself documented that one:

http://sntjohnny.com/front/?s=5th+grade

In fact, I have a nice collection of graphic sex education curriculum/guidelines. Canada, U.S., and UK.

If I had had the opportunity to review the link that I posted here before posting it, I probably wouldn’t have posted it. However, I don’t think it does the issue justice to write it off as ‘fake.’ It was a faked news story (MWD), no doubt, but, strangely, that was almost the only fake part about it.

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An Unexpected Reason Why Apologetics Fails

I have been involved in Christian apologetics for a little over 20 years, with about 7 years of ‘professional’ church work under my belt. I’ve had many, many conversations with unbelievers, online and off.  Many, if not most, were not raised as atheists, but were former Christians.   We tended to focus on argument and evidence (ie, the merits or demerits of Christianity), but in many cases, it was clear this had very little to do with their falling away.  It usually had to do with some unloving thing some Christians, or perhaps their whole church, did to them, or those they loved.  You can guess the most common word heard:  “hypocrites!”

Notwithstanding the fact that the inability of Christians to live up to their own worldview is not only predicted by Christian doctrine, but is the point of Christianity, it never occurs to them that if their problem is the hypocrites (people espousing a standard that they don’t live up to), that is testimony to the fact that they have high regard for the ‘standard.’  Rather then discrediting Christianity, they affirm its power; rather than walking away from the church, maybe they should instead show all of us ‘sinners’ how it is to be done!  Think:  “There has been only one Christian. They caught him and crucified him–early.”  (Mark Twain)

Twain’s remark reflects a common sentiment.  I hear things like it all the time.  But it isn’t a fair characterization in the slightest, and doesn’t do justice to reality.  In point of fact, there wouldn’t be Christians today, at all, if not for the undeniable historical fact that for nearly three hundred years, in the face of intense, frequent persecution, Christians put their faith into action in a powerful way, especially in reference to the poor of the Roman Empire.  Castigate the Church Institutional for drifting away from these profoundly inspiring roots all you want, but there is no denying the impact of Christian charity on the growth of the Christianity prior to Constantine.

At an apologetics conference this weekend, I was delighted to hear a speaker addressing such issues.  He referenced the ‘apologetics of love.’  (Ie, ‘Love’ persuades when reason and argument fail).  This is certainly been something that I have been sensitive to for many years now.  But, knowing a little about his politics, I thought a short conversation would be in order.  🙂

This essay is not a rebuttal to him, per se, but since it is the first time the topic has come up since I penned a lengthy essay on this very point, I wanted to take the occasion to re-visit it.

So, I asked him if he had heard of Julian the Apostate.  I was pleased to hear that he had, which is itself somewhat rare in the Church, but sad that he was not aware, or had not yet related the significance of Julian’s approach, to Christian charity.  Julian complained:

Whilst the pagan priests neglect the poor, the hated Galileans devote themselves to works of charity, and by a display of false compassion have established and given effect to their pernicious errors. See their love-feasts, and their tables spread for the indigent. Such practice is common among them, and causes a contempt for our gods.

HJTADTCIA-cover-1-smallIn response, he launched government philanthropic programs in an attempt to render the Christian message impotent.  In my lengthy essay, “How Julian the Apostate Defeated the Church in America,” I argue that what Julian the Apostate attempted to do has been achieved in our day… with the active help of Christians.  Ironically, Christians like this speaker at the apologetics conference, who by all appearances, ought to know better.

His argument was that part of the reason why the Gospel proclamation doesn’t get a fair hearing these days is because of our ‘lovelessness.’  By ‘lovelessness’ there was the sense that he meant, among other things, not supporting massive government entitlement programs, managed by experts.  He seemed to be unaware of the fact that prior to FDR, there were Christian charitable endeavors in abundance.  In fact, they were so abundant, that this was raised as an argument against Christian charities, and for the bureaucratization of ‘charity.’  He did not know that Christians themselves were among those who made such arguments, and Christians themselves that backed efforts to put ‘experts’ in charge of society’s altruism.  The Church, and the multitude of local organizations that formed to help the poor, was deemed ‘inefficient.’

This gentleman’s own apparent ignorance about this (he looked at me with disbelief and made some comments about the Church lacking the expertise that ‘case managers’ have) proves the point of my essay:  “The fact that Christians displayed their generosity in this way has been completely forgotten, such that they get no credit for it, now.”

If even this gentleman, who has thought about such things and is a stout Christian, who almost certainly was aware of the vast impact of the ‘Social Gospel’ movement, did not connect that movement’s success in institutionalizing charity with the impression today that the Church is loveless, what of the multitudes who get their information from Twitter?

The institutionalization of charity has had several profound consequences that I don’t think the Christians from 1900-1930 anticipated.

1.,  The taxation to support ‘government charity’ sucks funds away from individual Christians who obviously then do not have it in order to express their own altruistic desires.

It’s all there in Bastiat:

[This is seen,] The fifty millions expended by the State cannot be spent, as they otherwise would have been, by the tax-payers. It is necessary to deduct, from all the good attributed to the public expenditure which has been effected, all the harm caused by the prevention of private expense, unless we say that James B. would have done nothing with the crown that he had gained, and of which the tax had deprived him; [… ] He would have become a member of the Mutual Assistance Society, but now he cannot; this is what is not seen. On one hand, are the enjoyments of which he has been deprived, and the means of action which have been destroyed in his hands; on the other, are the labour of the drainer, the carpenter, the smith, the tailor, the village-schoolmaster, which he would have encouraged, and which are now prevented – all this is what is not seen. [1850]

2., Christians aren’t the only people subject to taxation; since non-Christians are taxed as well, and the taxes of each group go to the same government programs, there is no particular reason why anyone would suppose that the Christians are any more ‘generous’ than anyone else.  There is no particular reason… and so, no one supposes it.

3., There is no end or limit to the ‘charitable’ impulse of the State, such that the taxes always go up to pay for an increasing number of services, administered by a continually growing number of experts (who are more likely to be secularists, than Christians), with the result that there is very little for the individual or small group of Christians to do, even if they wanted to.

The example that the gentleman gave was of bringing meals to the sick.  I have been both the recipient and giver of such a kindness, and I don’t mean to diminish it.  But, if you happen to be thinking, “Non-Christians do that, too… and/or …county services has been known to do that, too… what does it possibly say about the veracity of Christianity?” you’re starting to get the picture.  The early Church went above and beyond, which is precisely one of the reasons why their testimony had the impact it did.  Today, ‘above and beyond’ is handled by the State, and Christians have only the ‘altruistic scraps’ that fall from the table… that anyone can do.  Christians helped set that table… which no one remembers.

4.  With very little left to practically do that large institutions (eg, the State) aren’t already doing, with diminished resources to do even those things, what it means to be ‘loving’ has been reduced to attitudes, words, and sentiments.

In other words, your Christian witness is evaluated based on whether or not you raise your voice in a conversation.  I am convinced that many of the atheists I’ve talked to, if we could cut through the crap, have an argument that amounts to basically this:  “The resurrection of Jesus did not happen because if it did happen, then I would have to be an ass like you, hating on gays and depriving women of abortions.  And I don’t want to be an ass.”

5.  And homosexuality and abortion are almost the only issues left for Christians to take a stand on, since much of the other things we are concerned about have been handed over to the State.

With the final result that Christians come across as legalistic bigots.

In a whopping case of beautiful irony, the Christians of a generation or two ago joined forces with non-Christians to give governmental backing to the ‘social Gospel,’ in the name of all that is best about Christianity, in view of the pure grace of the Gospel, but the eventual (inevitable?) effect was that the Christians that would come would be left without a leg to stand on.

argument from loveOur apologetic for Christianity fails in large part because people do not believe that we ourselves really believe what we are saying.  In the meantime, the types of activities that would validate our testimony are being carried out by the State (which many Christians support).  It’s a recipe for… well, exactly what we’re seeing.  The greatest ‘crimes’ in our society now consist of things like “he looked at me wrong!” and if you did ever suggest that maybe people could better administer their own money, you’ll be assailed as ‘selfish.’  Not exactly the motivation for generosity that Paul had in mind in 2 Cor., I suspect.

So, what to do about it?

That would probably be another 5 blog entries, but honestly, it would be more productive if you thought it out yourself.  What I will say is that if we don’t do anything about it, all the evidence and argument in the world is not going to persuade most of the people that we talk to.  An ‘apologetic from love’ is, indeed, probably the most powerful defense of the Christian faith that we can make.  Consider for yourself what that might look like in your own life, and the life of your congregation, or the Church in general, and then contemplate whether or not you think you could actually pull it off, even if you tried.

And then I think you have a measure of the problem.

 

 

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Solving the Islamicist Problem Once and For All, Part 7, The Rampart, B: Embracing the First Amendment

In Part 7.A of this series, I tried to explain some of the features of a Christian culture that made it a ‘bulwark’ against Islamicism.  Opponents of this perspective nearly always interpret such statements to mean, “Christians are better people, and that’s why…” but that’s no where near the real argument, which is, “All people are corrupted, every one of them, Christians included.”   All systems built on the idea that people are intrinsically good devolve into tyranny, given enough time… and it usually doesn’t take that long, relatively speaking.  But if you believe the latter position, then you build precautions into your system.  If all people are corrupted, including you, and you don’t want to be abused by your fellow man, then you will put in heavy-duty checks and balances.  Not because you you think any particular person or race is superior, but precisely because none are.

As secularists have watered down Christian belief and reduced the number of Christians in their midst, there have been fewer people with this more sober understanding of humanity casting votes, running things, and taking over the leadership of institutions and governments.   While some secularists value checks and balances and see the need for them, there is very little within their worldview to put that value on a firm foundation–certainly, they aren’t going to enthusiastically talk about those foundations.  Thus, as the number of Christians have gone down, and the number of secularists have gone up, ‘checks and balances’ have been steadily eroded.  Some day, they will be gone, and only revolution will remain as an option for the oppressed.

But the oppressors may not be secularists, but Islamicists, because, as I have been arguing, there are elements within Christianity that make it more amenable to ‘secularization’ that do not exist within Islam.  Moreover, Islam is an intrinsically militant ideology, with world domination part of the creed.  The main difference between a ‘moderate’ Muslim and the Islamicist is that the Islamicist is not ashamed of that part of the Koran, and indeed, pleased to embrace it.  Just as the secularists move to secularize the Muslims, and fail, the Muslims move into a system that is ripe for the picking by people who see power as a virtue in itself.   Both Muslims and secularists are people of this sort, but, as I have been showing, it is the Muslim that ultimately will prevail.

Step one in rebuilding the ‘walls’ is re-establishing a system of checks and balances and–and this is very important–put that system on an ideological foundation that can actually support it, and boldly transmit that foundation to the next generation.  This alone will have cascading implications that will manifest at a level, finally, where we can deal with whole countries that are infused with tyrannical philosophies.  Can secularist ground such a system on a firm foundation?  Even if they could, I don’t think they would.  For them to make ‘progress’ they need a free hand.  What I am arguing is that the very system the secularists are steadily creating leaves them vulnerable to people more ruthless than they are, and that part of the answer is to reverse course.  ASAP.

Let’s consider the nature of some of those checks and balances.

You may as well start with the first amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

What does this mean to you?  Well, to the secularists, it doesn’t objectively mean anything.   And if it doesn’t mean any one thing, it can mean any ol’ thing, and the ‘winning’ interpretation is, almost in Darwinian fashion, the one that ‘survives to reproduce.’  IE, the ‘right’ interpretation is the one that the people with power impose on other people.  In the liberal mind, ‘the rule of law’ boils down to nothing more than an orderly expression of power.  For example, if the Supreme Court decides says that the Constitution says something that it clearly does not say, you are supposed to think that the ‘rule of law’ has held, because you took your case through the process.   You didn’t get the results you wanted, but the ‘law’ was respected.

But before anything else, the ‘rule of law’ means two things:  1., that the words constituting that ‘law’ actually mean a particular thing, which cannot be stretched to mean any conceivable thing and 2., the people are willing to abide by the ‘particular meaning’ without having to litigate everything up to SCOTUS in an attempt to win a justification for their ‘conceivable meaning.’  Secularism wars against both, and worse, fuels and cultivates the perspective that ‘words’ don’t have a particular meaning.

How does this relate to the problem of Islamicism?  Well, in the first place, it explains why secularists have such a darned hard time properly weighing the danger that Islamicism poses.  An Islamicist can cite any number of passages out of the Koran or the hadith that plainly justify their actions and attitudes.  The secularists chief retort:  “Well, we could construe those passages differently, you know.  Where it says ‘treat the Jews like dogs’ that could be taken as ‘love them like you’ll love a puppy.'”  The problem is that Islamicists don’t accept the premise that words can be stretched infinitely–and they are very willing to live by the plain meaning of the text, without litigating it.  A nasty combination, in this instance.

In the second place, if the items discussed in the first amendment aren’t taken as they plainly mean, then we lose an important way to fight back against tyrannical systems, whether Islamic or otherwise.  But SCOTUS has murdered just about every clause in this amendment.  The amendment specifically refers to ‘Congress’ (presumably for a reason) but the prohibition has been extended to the states, local municipalities, and the school systems (eg, Dover).  The examples of the violation of ‘prohibiting the free exercise thereof’ are legion, especially during Obama’s rule, and, per the secular playbook, what constitutes ‘religion’ and ‘free exercise’ are going to be decided by the whims of 9 (or 8, as of this writing) interpreters, rather than on grammar and basic reading skills.

Each item is steadily being eroded, winning by fiat pronouncements, to which we are all supposed to bow before, and we haven’t even gotten to the other amendments, namely, the second amendment, the future of which is suddenly very much in doubt.

These various freedoms, up to and including the right to brazenly stand up to the ‘powers that be,’ while appealing directly to the plain meaning of the texts, are precisely what is needed to insulate the West from the encroachment of Islamicism.  (It will also have the pleasant consequence of checking the secular tyranny that would have arrived if Islamicism didn’t.)  It is absolutely imperative that people be able to speak their minds directly, defending their positions with passion, without having to put up with small-minded insults about ‘bigotry’ or ‘hate speech’ or whatever new offense to sensibilities is alive today.*  Ideological combat needs to be waged, because if ever Islamicism is going to be de-fanged, it needs to be defeated on the battleground of ideology.

In order for that combat to take place, words have to mean things, and people have to voluntarily live by the plain meaning of words.  And then you have to ‘arm’ people to ‘wage that war’ and actually send them to it.

In other words, to end Islamicism, ultimately, Muslims have to be persuaded that Islam is false.

I am not talking about a separate category of engagement, here.  If you want to end… eco-terrorism, neo-nazism, or whatever, then you have to deal with the underlying ideological commitments that spawn those ‘isms’ in the first place.  If the underlying premises of white supremacy are true, or, at least, perceived to have merit, then that perspective is going to continue surfacing, over and over and over again.   You can wag your finger at such ideas or hide behind phrases like ‘settled law’ but you won’t have really put the misfit ideology to rest.

In this series, I have been arguing that secularism cannot win its argument against Islam on the merits.  But Christianity can.

So, it is not without irony that as secularists have waged war on the Christian belief system, they have also deprived themselves of their best antidote against Islamicism.  But, for the sake of argument, let me allow that there could be non-Christian ideologies that could put up a good argument against Islam, and that maybe even secularism could find a way to do it.  Some of these non-Christian ideologies would be ones that I would find to be dangerous, and I would oppose.  I have mentioned before that Russia and China seem to be able to oppose Islamicism, and I certainly don’t stand with them!  I’ll even allow that there are some that I would oppose, but don’t think would be dangerous, which may still effectively rebut Islam.

I’ll allow all of that, because what is needed here is a huge contest of ideas, where each idea is allowed to compete.  Then, that competition needs to be cultivated such that it spills over our borders.

Interestingly, while thinking through these issues, I have talked myself out of a position that I’ve had concerning tax exemption.  My ministry has not been tax exempt, in large part because I felt that 501c3 status would ‘muzzle’ me.  Well, Obama’s use of the IRS to target Tea Party groups validates that concern, I’d say.  But what if tax exemption did not entail muzzling?  I now think that it is very much in our common interest to facilitate as much conversation and debate as possible, because it serves as a  ‘check and balance’ against threats, foreign and domestic.  In other words, in the past, I didn’t put much stock in the original justification for 501c3 tax exemption (which did not, at the time, entail ‘muzzling’), but now I see that a vibrant community of thinkers and communicators is very much in our national interest.  Not only is there no shame in having tax exempt organizations, but having them represents a commitment to having and maintaining an ideological ‘bulwark.’ **

So, amazingly, I find myself considering making my non-profit tax exempt!  After all, it is far more likely that a Christian apologetics organization is going to try to tackle Islamic ideology in a manner that counts (ie, on the basis of whether or not it is TRUE) than secular ones.

But it runs much deeper then this.

We should return to the original intent and meaning of the Constitution.  When it said, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” we should take that as meaning what it means, and stop trying to hollow out exceptions through judicial fiat.  Yes, that might mean an occasional school district allows Young Earth Creationist materials to have a hearing (GASP!), or it might mean that a big company could refuse to pay for drugs they fear could be abortifacients (THE HORROR), or it could even mean putting up with honest to God hate speech.  Besides being more accepting of true ‘free exercise’ of one’s beliefs, we should be encouraging it, and certainly not shaming it.

The problem, of course, is that this is anathema to secularists.  If there was truly an open marketplace of ideas, secular humanism probably wouldn’t last long.  But then, a closed marketplace doesn’t seem to be boding well for secular humanism, either… except, instead of seeing a society filled with more Christians and operated more on Christian principles, it will be filled with more Muslims, operated on more Muslim principles.

And many of those Muslims will be Islamicists.  Increasingly so, as time goes on.

The secularist is going to have to pick their poison, I guess.

For the rest of us, we should bend over backwards to re-assert our rights, while we can.  If we can.

Although, to be honest, I believe we have come very close to reaching the point of no return.

* I’m not talking about people being offended and merely saying so.  If I say something and another person responds by saying that they are offended, I should, on my logic, be prepared to put up with that person’s own expression of free speech.  But that is not what is happening.  The ‘offended’ people also do everything in their power to use institutionalize their sense of ‘being offended.’  They bring the force of law to bear on the people they deem ‘bigots.’  Here again, we see something that will only work in a society lately infused with the Christian worldview.  Christians will go along with such treatment… Islamicists will happily exploit the precedent and use the law in the same way the secularists do.   With one critical difference:  if you confront the Christian ‘bigot’ by insulting Jesus, you’ll be able to sleep in peace that night.  If you confront the Muslim ‘bigot’ by insulting Mohamed… prepare to die.  Welcome to the real world.

** Obviously, I always felt that free and fiery discourse was necessary and important, but previously didn’t see a ‘government interest’ in furthering it.  However, my earlier position isn’t too far out of line with the current position, because I’ve always felt that the government should just stay out of such things altogether. This would have the same effect as tax exemption, if only because most of our taxation apparatus would be dissolved.  But, while the government is so engaged, then cultivating robust speech through tax exemption conceivably has, in my mind, a more clear ‘public interest’ basis than I allowed before.

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Solving the Islamicist Problem Once and For All, Part 7: Rebuilding the Rampart – A

“There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death. I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.”  Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion.  Emphasis added.

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams

In Part 6 of this series I offered this same quote by Dawkins, and noted the irony in the fact that Dawkins has done more than his fair share to undermine Christianity.  The ‘decline of Christianity’ has been matched by a corresponding increase in the power and influence of secular humanism.  Throughout this series, I have been arguing that secular humanism is fundamentally powerless to resist Islamicism.  In short, Christianity provided a bulwark “against something worse” that secular humanism is incapable of providing for itself.  This poses a particularly serious problem, since secular humanists seem to be hellbent on bringing as many Islamicists as they can get into Western culture.

Now, secular humanists actually intend this as a strategy for defanging Islamicism.  They believe that if only more Muslims were exposed to the delights of Western culture, over time, Islam would go the way Christianity has gone in Europe.  This indeed was a successful tactic for undermining Christianity, but this is because there are certain aspects of Christianity that facilitated the tactic.  Islam does not share those aspects, and in fact, has doctrines directly contrary.

The steady encroachment of Sharia in Europe seems to support my contention that secularizing Muslims does not, and will not work.

This series is about ‘solving the Islamicist problem once and for all,’ so it follows that what we need to do is consider just how it is that Christianity was a bulwark, why secular humanism fails, and what can be done to rebuild the bulwark.

First, an anecdote.

Who else remembers the scorn that was heaped onto George Bush and the neocons for promoting a free election for the Palestinian Authority in 2006?  In this ill-fated venture, the idea was that people–Muslims included–would elect respectable, non-terroristic folk, if given the opportunity.  You would think that liberals and Democrats would have heartily supported such an effort, but you would be wrong.   In the end, the Muslims elected Hamas, a fine pack of Islamicists if ever there was one.

Now, the irony here is that it is precisely this sort of thing that secular humanists think will be their winning strategy:  if only Muslims get a good taste of the benefits of the best part of Western civilization, democratic rule high on the list, they will slowly but surely move to adopt the ‘humanistic’ values that go along with it.  This has not been the case, and, I am arguing, will never be the case.

Not because of any ethnic or racial aspects (per some who lean towards white supremacy) but because of the nature of the Muslim religion itself, which does not fuel a culture that is compatible with democracy.  To get a taste of the kind of ‘democracy’ that Islam is inclined to produce, consider this ‘draft constitution‘ for the Caliphate, written up by Western Muslims.  Now, these proponents believe that their government would be highly tolerant and completely consistent with Western values, which deepens the irony considerably.  For example, they write:

Article 6

All citizens of the State shall be treated equally regardless of religion, race, colour or any other matter. The State is forbidden to discriminate among its citizens in all matters, be it ruling or judicial, or caring of affairs.

My secular humanist pals are sure to rally around that one!  Look at that tolerance!

But then, there is this:

Article 7

The State implements the aHkaam shar’iyyah on all citizens who hold citizenship of the Islamic State, whether Muslims or not, in the following manner:

a. The aHkaam shar’iyyah is implemented in its entirety, without exception, on all Muslims.

b. Non-Muslims are allowed to follow their own beliefs and worships.

c. Those who are guilty of apostasy (murtadd) from Islam are to be executed according to the rule of apostasy, provided they have by themselves renounced Islam. If they are born as non-Muslims, i.e., if they are the sons of apostates, then they are treated as non-Muslims according to their status as being either polytheists (mushriks) or People of the Book.

Tolerance, right?

In previous episodes of this series, I have explained the dynamics of ‘Islamic tolerance’, with reference to terms such as dhimmitude, and so on.  It isn’t my purpose here to dwell on this, but rather to make clear that we have to clarify John Adam’s quote:

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

It is imperative to note that by ‘moral and religious’ he meant, contextually speaking, Christians.  Not just any ol’ ‘moral and religious people’ will resonate with the Constitution… or the underlying principles that created the Constitution in the first place.

I haven’t researched all of this to make a truly definitive defense of the following proposition, but the research I’ve done seems to suggest its accurate:  the freedoms and liberties most enjoyed by Mankind in the last few centuries have existed almost entirely within Christian communities operating on basic Christian principles.

One strains to find exceptions, and the ones we might consider are usually short-lived.  Turkey, for example, was secular… up until recently.  Japan seems to have a pretty good, working democracy, but then they had to have their clock cleaned 60 years ago, and democratic principles forcefully impressed on them.. by a largely Christian culture.   The French Revolution was ghastly, but the democracy that finally emerged (many decades later), I would submit, emerged only because the Cult of Reason failed to murder all the Christians in France.

I would argue that observed correlation between Christian culture and freedom has very much to do with the fact that the culture was Christian.  I have said repeatedly that it is this culture that is being slowly and steadily dismantled, but what I want to do in this post is highlight some of the specific things intrinsic to Christianity that made it the ‘bulwark’ it was.  I will leave it as an open possibility that the ‘bulwark’ could be rebuilt without making Christianity the ‘state religion.’

After all, the U.S. Constitution achieved this… but then, it did so trusting in the fact that most of the people were already Christian in the first place… which is sort of my point.  Will the Constitution continue to deliver freedoms and liberties after Christians have been reduced to a minute minority?  I don’t think so, hence my warnings.  The Constitution will not succeed in a secular-dominated culture, and certainly not in an Islamic one, in large part because both secular humanists and Islamicists share this ideological affinity:  statism.

Islam breeds a statist point of view, which I have been terming ‘Islamicism’ (ie, Islam + fascism).  Not all Muslims are Islamicists.  Secular humanists also tend to be statists.  There are, again, exceptions (eg, the Ayn Rand school).  All statists have this in common:  the belief that given enough time and effort and ‘good will,’ a government can be ‘tweaked’ so that it eliminates abuse, corruption, tyranny, and so on, and maximize freedom, liberty (within limits), etc.

When the government fails to deliver this, the statist proposes more government as the solution.  Eg, the reason why Communism fails is because it so far has only been implemented ‘locally’; if only the entire world were subjected to the Central Planners, it would all work out.  Eg, if the entire world were under the dominion of Sharia, there would be world peace.  Eg., we can deliver health care to all, but only if we make everyone participate in the system.

Now, I would be willing to strongly consider the possibility that ‘more government’ could in fact solve many issues, but another of America’s founding fathers already put this in perspective, too:

But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature. If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In forming a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” —James Madison, The Federalist No. 51

The secret of the Constitution’s success is that it reflected the reality that men are not angels.  And since ‘government’ basically just means ‘the ruling over men by other men’, and men are not angels, it follows that ‘more government’ actually ends up just giving men more ways to hurt the men they rule.  That’s why the Constitution enshrined a ‘limited government’ perspective… which is one of those things that secular humanists in the U.S. have been busily dismantling for well over a hundred years.

‘More government’ would solve many issues if men were angels, but then, “if men were angels, no government would be necessary.”  Since men are not angels, statism will always, inevitably, inexorably, drift towards the demonic.

The Christian doctrine describing this phenomena is ‘original sin.’

It isn’t just that the Constitution took this doctrine to be a real facet of humanity, but that the people the Constitution originally ruled also took this doctrine to be a real facet of humanity.  That is, the people themselves understood that their own freedom depended very much on restricting the powers granted to other men, which necessarily meant that they themselves would have to pick up the slack.  That is to say, if they weren’t going to turn to ‘more government’ as the solution, then they would have to take ‘self-government’ very seriously.  The idea of ‘checks and balances’ implemented at the Federal and state levels would have to be implemented in some way at the local and individual level, as well.

Since one cannot even trust one’s self to operate at all times in an ethical way, one had to be prepared to give wide latitude to one’s fellow man.  And since most men shared the same viewpoint about themselves and each other, it followed that for the most part, people left each other alone.

This is the source of America’s history of ‘tolerance.’  The secret of its success lies in the belief that Man is a corrupted, dismal creature, who tends to want to devour his fellow man.  The doctrine of ‘original sin’ is itself a check and balance against tyranny.  By contrast, the belief that man is capable, through the march of progress, of creating ‘liberty and justice for all,’ has usually brought tyranny.  Often, in a short amount of time.

Part of the ‘bulwark’ that was dismantled is this more realistic perspective on humanity, and, over time, its implementation in our core institutions.  It’s restoration is critical, especially if we want to co-exist with Muslims in our communities.  Nobody–whether atheist, Muslim, or Christian–should be able to even contemplate the idea that, “if only Massive Bureaucracy X were managed by people with my viewpoint, all problems would be solved.”  But the only way this idea can be ‘checked’ is if there isn’t a Massive Bureaucracy to co-opt in the first place.

There are several other aspects of ‘rebuilding the bulwark’ which I will have to treat later installments, but I have to say a word about how this is to be applied in a wide scale.

In many respects, Islamicism is very much like Communism, and poses the threats that it does precisely because of its global aspirations.  What I have discussed above only ensures that any of these Global-statist ideologies can do any real damage within Western Civilization.  It does not say what we are to do about, say, an ambitious Islamicist (or Communist) regime.

But it is not hard to extend the principle of ‘original sin’ out to the level of ‘nations.’  In the same way that we cannot trust ourselves, even if we have good intentions, we cannot very well trust other nations.  Not even the ‘Christian’ ones!

An individual must be prepared and allowed to defend itself — hence, the second amendment.

A community of individuals sharing this worldview also has the right to be prepared and allowed to defend itself–through policing, a ‘national guard,’ and so on.

A nation consisting of such communities consisting of such individuals must be prepared to defend itself.

Precisely because other nations cannot be trusted, our own nation must be armed to the teeth.  But, this ‘arming’ must reflect robust checks and balances, for the very same reasons and based on the same rationale.

A nation so armed, and so equipped with checks and balances, at the very least, will never be able to be subjugated by ‘Statist’ powers, in whatever form they take.  The most important thing a Statist power needs to understand when viewing a nation such as the United States is that any attempt to attack it is going to be met by decisive, overwhelming force.  There is more than self-interest, here.  One of the reasons why Statist regimes grow in the first place is that they have a reasonable hope that, some day, they really can dominate the world.

Depriving them of this hope creates a ‘rot’ within their own system.  We saw this with Communism.  We’ll see it with Islamicism, too.

For now, though, one of the biggest reasons why Islamicism poses a threat to the world is because Islamicists smell blood in the water.  They really think they can win.  And this is what makes them so dangerous.

 

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More Atheistic Hubris that Amounts to the Death of Knowledge

One of the things that led me to reject atheism is the realization that most of its arguments, if true, mean that we couldn’t possibly know its true.  It violates what I call “the Golden rule of Epistemology,” which means, basically, “any epistemological approach that undermines epistemology itself must be rejected out of hand.” I have a long essay written on the subject with many examples, which you can buy on Amazon.  Sometimes, it isn’t an argument, per se, but a tactic, or an attitude, or approach to truth propositions, in general, that has the actual effect of undermining our ability to say that we ‘know’ what we say we ‘know.’

One of the areas that I see this frequently is in attacks on ‘religion’ based on the myriad of different interpretations that exist for different passages, and so on.  This, is almost always raised in contrast to ‘science’, where, apparently, there are never different interpretations.  *rolls eyes*  And pretty much every atheist I’ve ever met believes that he is better than his fellow man because he is a man of science, not myth, fable, superstition, or what not.  Although, I will grant that the atheists of old don’t share the same arrogance… but then, I wouldn’t have met them, would I?

I saw this line of argument recently in a similar context.  As usual, the attempt is being made to distinguish one’s approach as ‘scientific’, over against the pure subjectivity of ‘religion.’  I will save my criticisms of this perspective on ‘science’ for another day, but it was one of the clearest, most direct examples of the self-defeating nature of the argument against religion, I’ve seen in awhile.  The correspondent wrote:

A Bible or any written word can be made to say anything you think it says which is why there are so many different sects of Christianity and other religions based on books.

To which I replied,

I am very insulted by that comment. Why did you just call me a moron?

You can see his confusion in his next remark:

For the same reason you commented.”He seems to think that it can be made to say anything that he thinks it can be made to say.” Therefore calling everyone but you a moron for thinking different. Your words. You can choose to be insulted on not. I defend your right to feel that way as much as I defend the right not to be worried about it.

To which I replied,

Why have you now invoked the Scandinavian mud-toad to explain the existence of diabetics?

An onlooker, sympathetic to my correspondent, now chimes in…

Am I having a stroke?

I try to help him understand the situation:

Hey, “any written word can be made to say anything you think it says”, right?

But even now he doesn’t get it.

Why is [this] conversation degenerating into a Lewis Carroll nonsense poem?

The fact that this guy also doesn’t get the joke reveals, in my opinion, just how deeply entrenched this ‘attitude’ is that views words as infinitely malleable… when addressing ‘religious’ matters, and how unaware they are that if their statement was true, it would rebound onto every other matter where ‘words’ were used.  So, I have to spell it out:

argument ad absurdem?

And finally one of them ‘gets it.’

Ah, I see.

Unable to help myself, I conclude:

This is no time to bring up Christopher Columbus.

My comments are ‘absurd,’ but if the proposition is true: “any written word can be made to say anything you think it says” then, well, any written word means whatever we think it means… and this can’t be limited to to religious matters, which the correspondent stated.  Remember, the added phrase, “any written word” was his.  Not mine.

This is not by any means the first time that I’ve encountered this line of argument, and not by any means that I’ve responded by replying with absurdities, and not the first time that I received blank looks in response.  The fact that they have difficulty following their own ‘logic’ illustrates a great deal of things, some of them certainly not confined to atheists.   But let’s stay on the atheist a little more, especially in light of their smug self-assurance that their own position, by contrast, is based on ‘science.’

In point of fact, very little of what they think they know is based on ‘science.’  I would be willing to bet real money that not one of them has performed even 1% of the experiments that have been conducted or 1% of the ‘analysis’ that they, in their divine discretion, consider ‘science.’  How then did they come about this knowledge, if they didn’t themselves do the experiments?  Why, I do believe they read about them… or heard about them… that is, someone used ‘words’, which they in turn interpreted.

Or, to put it another way, almost everything an atheist believes as ‘science’ they actually received as ‘Revelation.’  In this sense, there is nothing all that different between an atheist and a religionist.  The only difference are the priests the atheist pays homage to.

Of course, it never occurs to them that when interpreting the ‘written words’ of the accounts of these ‘scientific’ studies, that “interpretation of ‘any written word’ is infinitely malleable”, so undermining their very hope that what they just read actually correlates to reality.  They may have read, “The sun is the center of our solar system” but interpreting this as “I like hot pockets” is as viable as any other possible interpretation.

Moreover, I would be willing to bet (real money) that not one of them has even read 1% of the available primary sources detailing these accounts of what we ‘scientifically’ know.  What they think they know about what we ‘scientifically know’ comes to them second hand, third hand, or fourth hand.  They read it in a text book, or a news article, or picked it up in a meme on Facebook.  Which means that even the words they are interpreting have already been interpreted.  It’s worse than the dreaded ‘telephone game’ that is supposed to have rendered the Christian Scriptures completely untrustworthy, because on their own account, what they have interpreted could very well have come about through a sequence like this:

Original scientist: “There are blades of grass in the ocean…”

Reported in a newspaper:  “We found onions in Richard Nixon’s sock drawer.”

Translated into a meme:  “We atheists are smarter than ya’ll.”

Finally interpreted by the given atheist, “The sun is the center of the solar system.”

By which they may very well mean, “If I know anything, its that I’m smarter than a ham sandwich.”

Of course, it isn’t actually like this, because in point of fact, it is not true that “any written word can be made to say anything you think it says…”  It is an atheistic article of faith that this is true, but only vis a vis ‘religious’ words.  If the principle was applied consistently, it would rebound upon all words, written or otherwise.  So, they don’t apply it consistently, and in this way are able to maintain the belief that they are the ‘brights’ and we are the ‘dims.’

Well, you can guess what I think about that!

Does this mean that there are not difficulties related to interpreting language?  Of course not.  It just means that the epistemological challenges felt acutely by theologians–who take these challenges far more seriously than most atheists will ever know (because they don’t actually read theology, but rather get it second, third, and fourth hand)–are in some ways more pronounced in this field of inquiry rather than in others.  But that doesn’t mean the epistemological challenge is unique to this field of inquiry.

Indeed, this epistemological challenge pervades all human experience.  Allow this fact to sink in, and then have another run at the whole “is there a God” question, and get back to me.

If anyone did not like this post, well, its not my fault your livers wear shoes.

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Solving the Islamicist Problem Once and For All, Part 6: Relativism

You don’t know whether to laugh or cry when you read stories such as this one.  Do people really think that the divide between a culture based on the Koran and a culture based on secular humanism can be bridged by having the ‘refugees’ take sex education classes?  Yes, actually.

Such stories represent a microcosm of the West’s tragic inability to deal with the threat the Islam poses to it.  At the macro-level, the West thinks of all ‘socially inappropriate’ behaviors as properly dealt with in the same way you would train a dog:  conditioning, in the sense that Pavlov meant it.  This is why secularists are hellbent on making sure that their worldview is the only one reflected in educational materials, because, on their view, society can save itself a lot of trouble if you get to people early with ‘secular’ values.

I have been arguing in this series that these types of approaches essentially only ‘work’ in a (post-)Christian society, and that they are no match against an Islamic ideology.  In my most recent post, I gave one reason:  The question of ‘identity’ is answered powerfully in Islam (at least for men), while secular humanism tells people they are lately descended from pus.   The ‘conditioning’ is supposed to dampen the implications of this, but it doesn’t work with most people.

In this post, I want to focus on another reason:  relativism.

Before I proceed, I should probably explain a little bit about why I am going after the secular humanists so hard in this series.

To put it bluntly, its because the secular humanists are effectively in charge of everything.  They are the ones that run the show in Europe and America, both.  These are the people who have taken upon their shoulders the duty of protecting us from threats, foreign and domestic.  Pick a bureaucracy to inspect, and you will find that it is dominated by liberals.  (There is a reason for this, having very much to do with the question of identity, but that’s a different post.) As I happen to live in such a culture, and the well-being of me, my family, and my community, are in the hands of such people, I have a special interest in their intrinsic inability to do what it takes to protect us from a threat such as the one posed by Islamicists.

After all, while there is a widespread concern that the ‘refugees’ will transform the demographics of the West by assimilating us, absorbing us into their caliphate, rather than us assimilating them, there is no similar concern in places like, say, Russia or China.  To say that Putin would never put up with such a thing is to put it mildly; to say that Obama would wag his finger vigorously is to overstate his efforts.

Why is Islamicism a threat to the West but not the East?  Well, a lot of it has to do with the moral relativism that is a direct extension of the secular humanist worldview.  Secular humanists find it profoundly difficult to say something like, “This is wrong”, because, in most cases, they are atheists who believe that there is no objective thing such as ‘right or wrong.’  Subjectively, of course, there are all sorts of things that can prompt them to make moral statements, but if you try to get them to justify their statements (ie, explain why you should care about what they just said, and change one’s own position or behaviors accordingly), about the best you will get is an appeal to something akin to the ‘social contract.’

To illustrate, in the article I linked to initially, the Norwegian courses aimed to teach the immigrants to “at least know the difference between right and wrong.”  And what is the basis for these differences?  The article rules out a religious basis in Norway, since it is “not religion that sets the laws.”

Indeed, when reading the article, one never really gets the idea that anyone thinks its WRONG to rape women, only that this is not what the culture is like in Norway, eg.,

“To force someone into sex is not permitted in Norway, even when you are married to that person.”

They may have well been teaching them about traffic laws:  “In your country you drive on the left side of the road, but on ours, we drive on the right side.”  Not saying driving on the left side is ‘wrong’ or anything!

This relativism dovetails seamlessly into a cultural relativism.  The hesitancy to judge an individual’s actions or attitudes bleeds into a hesitancy to judge another culture’s actions or attitudes.

Secular humanists also tend to think that the ‘truths’ they believe about the nature of culture and cultural relativism hold true in other cultures, as well.   Ie, if someone has a particular viewpoint in another culture, its not because they have a reason for that viewpoint.  No, someone has that view because they were conditioned to have that view (and thus cannot be blamed for having that view).  The article illustrates this sentiment, too:

Many refugees “come from cultures that are not gender equal and where women are the property of men,” Mr. Isdal said. “We have to help them adapt to their new culture.”

“There are lots of men who haven’t learned that women have value,” said Ms. Rohde, who wants mandatory sexual conduct classes for all new male migrants. “This is the biggest problem, and it is a cultural problem.”

There is no hint in these comments that there are specific, ideological reasons for the view that women have no value or are the property of men.  There is no sense that this view is built on a conviction born of an objective source, which these folks believe is objectively true.

The same ideology that says that women have no value says that infidels have no value, too.  Think about that when you read this excerpt from the article:

Mr. Kelifa, the African asylum seeker, said he still had a hard time accepting that a wife could accuse her husband of sexual assault. But he added that he had learned how to read previously baffling signals from women who wear short skirts, smile or simply walk alone at night without an escort.

“Men have weaknesses and when they see someone smiling it is difficult to control,” Mr. Kelifa said, explaining that in his own country, Eritrea, “if someone wants a lady he can just take her and he will not be punished,” at least not by the police.

In Eritrea, you can also hunt down Christians.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, or anything… but in Norway, they don’t slaughter infidels.  Very confusing, right?  For now, Norway is a confusing place, but if enough asylum seekers arrive, they will, by virtue of nothing more than representing a critical mass, be able to bring some clarity to the situation!

It is bad enough that the people tasked with protecting us cannot bring themselves to categorically denounce certain things, but they also, for reasons outside the scope of this essay, think it is a fine idea to bring into our midst even more people who share beliefs and values that are incompatible with the very ‘pluralistic’ society they mean to foster.

So, it is probably the case that a well-organized Muslim army would be able to conquer Europe today, but its more likely that no army will be necessary.  The Muslims will just grow their numbers inside our own society, keeping their convictions, and using our own ‘cultural’ tolerances against us.  This, by the by, is probably an actual plan, implemented deliberately.

This series is about solving the problem ‘once and for all’ but this essay has basically been a sustained attack on secular humanism’s ability to prevent or resist the spread of Islamicism.  Where, then, is the ‘solution’?

Well, obviously it is found in the inverse.  If the liberal is paralyzed by nuance, then the solution is to figure out a way to be decisive.  If the problem is that we can find no safe harbor for making definitive moral statements on a secular humanistic viewpoint, then something has got to go–may I suggest, the secular humanistic viewpoint?  If the problem is that we view all cultures as valid and legitimate, may I propose that we come up with a way to legitimately judge and condemn other cultures?

I am not at all advocating for ‘cultural imperialism.’  I think there are things that are culturally ‘neutral’ and I think that humanity has done tremendous harm in the name of importing their ‘culture.’  Christian missionaries have learned hard lessons, on this point.  Indeed, I dare say you can chalk up a lot of the world’s problems to the fall out of several centuries of such efforts, better known as ‘colonialism.’

In fact, I would be willing to bet that a lot of the hemming and hawing one sees in the secular humanistic community, in particular in Europe (since Europeans were the worst offenders), stems from the hesitancy to commit similar crimes again.  I certainly welcome that!

And yet, if we cannot find sure footing we will never enjoy the ‘progress’ that is constantly promised and will probably be overwhelmed by people who are far more decisive than us.  We must find a non-arbitrary, non-capricious, robust basis for declaring some things good, and some things bad.

Consider this quote from a certain British general named Charles Napier.  As an administrator of England’s colony in India, he was confronted with the Indian practice of ‘sati,’ which was the burning alive of a woman with the body of her husband.   He banned the practice in no uncertain terms.  When the Hindu priests objected, he is to have said,

“Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.”

Is this all it comes down to?  The ‘custom’ of Britain over against the ‘custom’ of India?  Might makes right?  Is that all there is?  If ISIS was happy to behead people in Iraq and Syria, with no global aspirations, would our condemnations constitute nothing more than preferences, on the level of saying, “I would rather you didn’t behead those people, but then, I also prefer three cubes of sugar in my coffee, rather than two, so who is to judge?”

If we do not find a reasonable way out of this impasse, we will be paralyzed until overcome by those who themselves have found a way out of this impasse.

I regret to inform the reader that there are only a few reasonable ways out of this impasse, and it so happens that secular humanists have been busily undermining one of the most prominent options, and this, for decades.   In that, at least, the Norwegians and the Eritreans can find common cause!

But, there may be hope:

Even among the world’s most famous atheists, the crisis of faith among Christians in Europe has been met with concern.

Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said: “There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death. I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.”

Says the man who has been instrumental in facilitating the decline of Christianity… irony, right?

Today we are considering whether or not the secular humanism that Dawkins has been trying to establish can stand in as a ‘bulwark against something worse.’  The growing evidence is… “No.”  Which begs obvious questions, right?

 

 

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Solving the Islamicist Problem Once and For All, Part 5: Who Are You?

When I was a professional church worker I constantly raised this question:  “Who are you?” and attempted to instill in each person this answer:  “I am a unique child of God, full of potential, and my life is hidden in Christ.”

Life experience has taught me that there is power in this identity.  I have actually witnessed a person turn away from killing themselves as they let it sink in.  The question of ‘Who are we?’, in a word, of our identity, is of vast importance.  It is not a made up feature of religion.  It is part and parcel of what it means to be human.  Importantly, for the purpose of this essay, the fact that religions have endeavored to take up the question is a strong indication that non-religious answers have failed, will continue to fail… will always fail.

If you pay attention, you can see the question raised repeatedly throughout the past and present, in all cultures, and even our own.  From The Who to Supertramp where the question is asked directly, to more indirect, but nonetheless powerful examples such as when people who are adopted feel compelled to seek out their birth parents, the question of identity haunts every person, from the moralist to the hedonist, the theist to the atheist, the rich to the poor, and so on.

I would submit that the vast sexual confusion seen in our Western societies is due in large part to people attempting to answer this question, and, having found everything else tossed into doubt in our relativistic society, feel they can only turn to the only ‘facts’ they can ascertain with some certainty, namely, their own genitalia and their musings about them.  There, at least, is something that can’t be deconstructed by modernity!  Nonetheless, even this does not satisfy.

We will never be able to rid ourselves of angst.  Not by drugs, not by sex, not by platitudes, not by doctrine, not by anything.

It is not my purpose here to expound upon why I believe that Christianity has the definitive answer to the question of “Who am I?” but I will state that the phrase, “and my life is hidden in Christ” (derived from Col. 3) addresses this angst directly.  Christianity predicts that we will never find satisfaction in any answer to the question of “Who am I?”, even if that answer is “bought and paid for by God himself.”  By pointing out that our life is “hidden in Christ,” the Christian scriptures liberate us from our fixation on trying to find out “Who am I” by compelling us to find peace in the answer to a different question:  “Whose am I?”

In Christianity, we belong to God, purchased by his own blood in and through Jesus Christ.

In Islam, we belong to Allah, to be used as he sees fit, and tossed aside once you fall out of his good graces.

But at least in Islam, there is a ‘whose’ one can appeal to.

In atheism, there is not even that.

This why Camus said, reacting to the implications of his worldview, “There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that.”

Given Camus’ starting point, he is quite right in this assessment.  However, the fact that atheists aren’t killing themselves in droves is, in my opinion, prima facie evidence that his starting point… their starting point… is wrong.  Bear this in mind as we go forward.

I have been arguing in this series that we will only be able to defeat Islamicists by showing them in no uncertain terms that Islam cannot deliver to them what they believe is promised in the Koran.  This means defeating them decisively militarily when it comes to it, because Islamicists draw sustenance from the expansion of Islam-controlled territories.  This validates their cause and is instrumental in converting ‘nominal Muslims’ into Islamicists (see Part 2).  But I have also been arguing there have to be decisive cultural victories as well.  So long as Islamicists can maintain that they can offer people a satisfying existence, even if they suffer temporary ‘set backs’, we will see, whether in this generation or the next, or the one after that, yet another outbreak of deadly violence.

Moreover, given the explicitly expansionist program that the Islamicists hold (which is totally in line with the plain reading of the Koran, mind you), there is the additional, monumental, question, of whether or not the areas the Islamicists seek to occupy have the ability to resist that occupation.

This resistance cannot be seen in military terms alone.  It must be an ideological resistance, too.  Unfortunately, due to the peculiar kind of ideology that Islam endorses, not just any ol’ ideology will be able to do the job.   The culture that would breed the sorts of people who could stand up to the forays by Islamicists cannot simply be a rival culture.  It must be more robust.  It must have more backbone.  It must be made of more sterner stuff.

Now, in the United States at least, I think a lot of people are coming to see that our culture is nothing of the sort.  Our culture is breeding weenies.  Our educational system, the media, etc, are producing people who are offended by, well, everything.  They demand to be left alone in their ‘safe spaces’, oblivious to the fact that only certain people would actually honor that demand.  Islamicists absolutely won’t.

The breeding of weenies is, in fact, an outgrowth of a particular set of answers to the question of “Who am I?”   Over the decades, all the potentially satisfying answers to that question have been dismissed, attacked, discredited, demeaned, and so on, with the result that the only thing left are surface issues and trivialities.  But, since the question of identity is part and parcel of what it means to to be human, the weenies commit themselves to these trivialities with a vengeance.

It pains me to say it, but people, on the whole, do not find this ‘culture’ attractive.  Not only is it ill-equipped to stand up to evil men bent on death and destruction, it is ill-equipped to draw away the ‘nominals’ into their fold.  You cannot tell a restless young man from the Middle East, “Do you want to have a fulfilling life?  You should become a panzy, like me! Just yesterday we began a tweeting offensive against micro-aggressions!”  It’s not going to work.  If anything, it will feed into the Islamicist narrative, and nudge them more in that direction than away from it.

There is very little in the West that appeals to a person’s deepest desires.  Worse, the things that could appeal to a person’s deepest desires are ridiculed and undermined.  Whether by implosion or conquest, unless there is a huge change, the West’s days are numbered.  Don’t hold your breath waiting for that change.

We need to ask ourselves what makes the Islamic identity appealing, and that of the secular humanists so appalling.

(We focus on the secular humanists, because they are effectively in charge of everything, from education to government to the military, etc.  More on that as we go.)

First, let’s look at the Islamic identity.

Now, if you are a Muslim woman, I have to say, I don’t see much appeal to the Koran’s account of ‘who they are.’  But, most jihadists are male.  Since they are not above using violence, and women are not as strong as men are or as inclined to use force, whether or not Islam satisfies the average woman is, in my opinion, irrelevant.  Probably, most women in Islam, if suddenly there were not Muslim men around, would convert to something else in short order.  If not them, their children.  If there were no Muslim men in the world, Islam would probably be finished in a few generations.

The real attraction in Islam is for men.

What’s not to like?

If you are a man in Islam, you can have multiple wives and dispense with them easily if you tire of them.  Islam gives natural venting to a man’s natural inclination towards force and violence, the key consideration being whether or not the one you are using violence against is a fellow Muslim.  If he is a fellow Muslim, then you face restrictions.  But if that person is an infidel, you can do pretty much whatever you want with him.  Or her.  You can rape an infidel all you like and have a clean conscience about it.

Atheists like to say that God is man-made, but this is much more likely to be true of Allah than the God of Christianity.  ‘Allah’ gives expression to all of man’s base passions and desires, while giving them a clean conscience.  There is very little about the God of Christianity that a man would invent if he were cobbling together a deity.  But ‘Allah’ also has an answer to the ‘identity’ issue.

I found an expression of this in an ISIS document.

5-Ebook Black Flags from ROME

black-flags-rome-cover-small

Then I leaned in even closer to him. I spoke in my lowest, most conspiratorial voice.  “They are for the Muslim umma (nation), for the Jihad.  His eyes flickered for a moment, and I knew I had him.  There are guys like this all over the world:  they drink, they smoke, they snort coke, they are complete infidels in the eyes of real Muslims.  But at the first mention of the words Umma or Jihad, they suddenly reconnect with Islam.  I think that is particularly true in Europe, where young men are so far from everything from the Muslim land.  Jihad is nothing to them, nothing real.  But it is also everything.

The speaker, here is talking about how he cajoled this fellah into helping him by arms for jihad.

I like to read primary source material as much as I can, including that of Islamicists, but also of secularists, atheists, and so on, so when some person (usually a liberal) comes and tells me that my characterizations are wrong, I can tell them to blow it out their ear.  I know that the characterization is correct, because I can usually point to a basket of examples where the viewpoint in question is expressed EXACTLY how I characterize it, by the very people who adhere to it.  Of course, usually people don’t stick around to see this corroboration, largely because they simply don’t care.

I say this because you must care.   You must give their own comments the weight they are due.  You must research their beliefs, as they themselves describe them.  You cannot afford to go with your gut feeling, “Ah, but everyone is intrinsically good; maybe just a little misguided.  Nothing a little sex education can’t fix.”  You can’t afford it, because it very well could mean your head, and if not your own head, the head of your fellow man, which you put at risk for having views untethered from reality. If you read the document that I’ve linked to, and a great many more that are out there, you will see that the question of ‘identity’ is very well understood by the Islamicists.  (Do ctrl-F “identity” in this particular document to see other examples).

And they understand very well that Islam is a far more satisfying account for ‘identity’ than what they are finding in the West.  They can appeal to this fact, because this fact appealed to them.

To put it another way, the ‘identity’ presented to them in the West is boring and banal.  Islam offers (men) something exciting and meaningful.

Now, secularists are fully aware of the ‘identity’ issue, and not just how it relates to Islamicists.  There have been deliberate efforts over the course of a solid 150 years to undermine the ground beneath the Christian account for who we are, in order to lift up the secular account for who we are.  And this has been effective in many ways, but its really only effective in a Christian culture, because of certain characteristics of the Christian worldview.  That’s a different post.  It has not been effective in bringing Muslims into the secular fold, because of certain characteristics in Muslim culture, but also because of the fundamental inability of secularism to bring satisfaction on the ‘identity’ angle.  This is why, hundreds of years after Voltaire is alleged to have said that in a hundred years, the Bible will be forgotten and about a hundred years after Nietzsche said “God is dead”, there are still millions and millions of people who turn to religious explanations for the world… and themselves.

This is not a side point.  It is critical that we understand just why it is that the secular identity does not satisfy, because the actual strategy the secularists have for dealing with recalcitrant religionists (of all stripes) is to try neuter them by removing, by hook or by crook, the religionist identity, and replace it with the secular one.  But young Muslim males have no desire to be neutered, and of course, who could blame them.

So where does secularism go wrong?

Pretty much from the beginning.  🙂

But if you had to pick one moment, you could say that it all starts in 1859, where Darwin supposedly proved that humans are descended from a common ancestor with animals, through a purely mechanistic process.  This was a welcome innovation, because Hume’s arguments and so on, as compelling as they were for the secularists, were powerless in the face of Paley’s argument from design.  Everything about life, from the big to the small, inspired the self-evident inference that it was designed.  Their atheistic evangelism was highly ineffective without a naturalistic explanation for phenomena with such an easy inference.  Darwin succeeded, where Hume et. al, had failed.  As Dawkins famously said, paraphrasing, “Darwin made it finally possible to be an intellectually satisfied atheist.”

Quite right.

But it turns out intellectual satisfaction isn’t all that a human needs.  Telling someone that he is lately descended from pond slop doesn’t exactly resonate.  It doesn’t resonate, because people feel it in their bones that it simply isn’t true.  And so, they go looking for something that more closely jibes with their experience of being human.

Now, atheists could undercut this by not being so offensively arrogant in their insistence that Darwinism and God are incompatible.  Indeed, in the early days, they took pains to argue that Darwinism and theism were compatible.  It turns out to be bait and switch.  What they really believed was that if once you could rip up the cultural roots of theism and present materialism to young people without the theological baggage, eventually you could just dispense with that notion, and go straight to the view that it has been ‘scientifically’ shown that there is no God, religion would simply die out, as the older believers, well, died out.  In the last fifty years or so, the secularists believe that they have turned this corner, hence the sheer rudeness of the so-called ‘New Atheists’, who themselves just cannot believe that anyone would have the audacity to reject pure ‘science.’

But they do reject it.

george-carling-memeThe secularists, essentially doubling down on the materialistic outlook and the strategem that if you could just ‘educate’ people in secular, ‘tolerant’ values, you’d eradicate religious extremism.  (By religious extremism, they mean, of course, being religious at all.  See again the contempt of the New Atheists as illustration).  The secularists thought that if they just gave people free, consequence-less sex, this would satisfy most of the animalistic tendencies people have.  To deal with the intuition that altruism smacks of the transcendental, they bureaucratized the impulse, putting our charitable efforts into the hands of the Leviathan.  They offered people a deal:  become cogs in our machine, and we will do things for the ‘common good’ that could never otherwise be done… and oh, by the way, they only work if everyone becomes a cog in the machine (which they, by the by, operate).

In this way, people could have darn near all the sheer pleasure they could handle while believing they have fully met their deeply felt need to care for others.  All that is needful is that everyone submit and go along with the program, and you will be satisfied at every level with ‘who you are.’  Replace the word ‘God’ with the word ‘State’ in discourses like this one, and you will have the sense of things, from the perspective of the Managers.

Now, there is no question that this works for some people.  The problem is that it will never work for most people, because it is seen as poor fare compared to the richer, more satisfying offerings that can be found elsewhere.  They chafe at this scheme because the scheme does not actually take into account the real nature of Man.   Man’s discontent with this viewpoint is reflected in our culture in more ‘secular’ offerings, such as in the movies Fight Club or Office Space or (one of my favorites) Shaun of the Dead.

Nonetheless, it is this intrinsically nihilistic and hedonistic worldview that the secularists keep throwing at people, including young Muslim males, fully believing that if only folks would give it a shot, they’d just see how fulfilling it all is.

This is the elites’ plan for countering Islamicism.   To counter Man’s need for a manly identity, the secularists will give them… ‘safe spaces’ and a war on micro-aggressions.  And you can join them!  There is a cubicle waiting for you, as we speak!

I maintain that this plan is virtually destined to get us all killed or turned into chattel.  And that’s the menfolk.  Only God can imagine what is in store for the ladies.

The converse of this is that people need to be presented with a more robust ideology and worldview that actually does satisfy them.  Unfortunately, secularists are hell bent at undermining every contender in society, and thrusting forward instead the proposition that humans are dirt scrapings, the ejaculations of the universe.  Since the secularists are in charge of nearly everything, there isn’t much hope that Europe will be able to resist what is coming their way, and neither will America, once it hits our shores.

In fact, Europe is probably already lost.

It is to America to heed the warnings, and take action, while it still can.

May I propose a first step?  Secularists should make nice with the religious ideologies that people do find satisfying, and end their FFR-style crusade to undermine them at every chance they get.  There truly are things worse than a country thoroughly drenched in the Christian worldview..  A country under Sharia law comes quick to mind.

 

 

 

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Christmas and the Pri(n)ce of Peace

On balance, I think the Christmas holiday is a good thing.  This, despite the rampant commercialization, the secularization, and the demythologizing. This, despite ‘works righteous’ theology in which Santa only brings gifts to the ‘good boys and girls,’ which is especially ironic given that Santa is associated with a gift of God that only has value for the bad boys and girls, and is useless for the ‘good’ ones.  (Mark 2:17)  So be bad for goodness sake.

Yes, despite all that, it is clear that the holiday resonates with people near and far, of various backgrounds and ideologies, and so on.  Even people otherwise hostile to Christianity can’t help but get into the ‘spirit of the season.’  It is an annual encounter with Myth, and by virtue of that, I think, we are better for it.  And yet, I have one more thing to add to my list of things that I don’t like about Christmas.

Namely, the focus on Jesus as “holy infant, tender and mild.”  This, through Hallmark and the inertia born of not really thinking clearly, has come, within the Christian Church itself, to epitomize what God’s gift to man consists of:  a crisp winter night, the snow dulling the sounds of your feet crunching across the field, the stars twinkling down, and voila!  An encounter with the Ethereal Numinous!  The God who loves you so much that he came as a little child, who pats you on the back and says, “There, there!”  All is warm and cozy, and a feeling of peace falls upon you like heavy, wet blanket.   Why, if only we could bottle this sentiment, we could have world peace on the morrow!

There is your annual encounter with Myth, but forgotten is the fact that the peace actually obtained by this  precious infant was obtained by virtue of being murdered, hung on an instrument of torture.  As his blood dried on the rocky soil beneath him, his followers scattered to the four winds.  They had expected peace, too.  It was a peace that was going to be obtained by the son of David coming at last to restore his kingdom.  So it was that when Jesus had indicated to his disciples that the time was finally night, all they could think to do was say, “Here are two swords!”  (Luke 22:38)

You can almost see Jesus shaking his head, sadly.  Even now they did not understand his mission.

The world is unquestionably a violent place, filled to the brim with rape and war.  Man strives against man, kingdom against kingdom, and so on.  Christmas is ostensibly about bringing reconciliation between warring parties (“peace on earth, goodwill towards men…”), but in the real story of Christmas, God came to earth to end one specific war.   It is the war between God and Man.

Man has rebelled against God.  God has every right to put down the rebellion without mercy.  But, even while seeking to be merciful, God knows he cannot obtain real, lasting peace, without someone, somewhere along the way, DYING.   The rebels cannot be won over by negotiation.  They are too far gone for that.  How, then will peace be won?  In the full story of Christmas, the ‘gift’ is this:  GOD dies.   Instead of us.

And here we come upon an interesting part of the real story of Christmas that flies in the face of our soft sentiments.  We focus on the baby Jesus as meek and mild, and extend this soft sentiment right on through to the rest of his story, where Jesus is thrust upon the cross.  We come away with the idea that peace, and being people of peace, means being soft-spoken doormats, allowing everyone and their mother do as they please with you.  You know, like Jesus before Pilate.  Right?

In point of fact, Jesus was a tough dude.  He was not ‘tender and mild.’ In fact, it is precisely because he was a tough dude that makes his sacrifice laudable.   If a weak man gets pushed around by a strong man, no one is impressed, for the simple reason that a weak man can’t very well stop people from pushing him around.  If a strong man gets pushed around by a weak man, though, we know that the strong man is holding back.  He’s using discretion.  He has a larger agenda that transcends the current humiliation that he is enduring by allowing the weak man to have his way.

Many writers have pointed out that Jesus was a carpenter and as a consequence, probably a strong man.  Few, however, would suggest that anyone was afraid of him.  Nonetheless, if you look at the story of Jesus’ arrest and trial, it is clear that he was feared.   All signs pointed to him not being a mere carpenter.  Remember, he had performed many miracles and had just raised a man from the dead.  This is the man they set out to arrest.  Wouldn’t you fear him?

Did you ever notice what happens in John 18:4-8?  Jesus is about to be arrested.  He asks “Who are you looking for?” and they say, “Jesus of Nazareth.”  When Jesus replies, “I am,” “they went backward, and fell to the ground.”

Jesus is in charge, even here.

When Peter comes to his defense, Jesus reminds him that he needs no help from any mortal:  “Do you think that I couldn’t ask my Father, and he would even now send me more than twelve legions of angels?”   Jesus told the Pharisees right to their face that he sits at the “right hand of Power” and will come again “with the clouds of the sky.”  To Pilate, who thought he was something, Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world. If my Kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight, that I wouldn’t be delivered to the Jews.”

The strong man did not put up a fight because he had a larger agenda.  It is described succinctly in Ephesians 2:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Jesus never perceived of himself as weak. He did not lay down his life because he was powerless to resist.  Jesus was not a panzy.  He did not overwhelm Pilate, the Pharisees, Death, and the Devil, by being “wrapped in swaddling clothes.”  Jesus knew full well that he could have instantly stopped the whole thing… easily… quickly… decisively.   But this would not have won us real, lasting peace.

We spend a lot of time crying out for ‘peace,’ forgetting that, historically, whenever we obtain something that comes close to passing for ‘peace,’ it is brought about because somewhere down the line, the blood of man was shed by other men.  It was always incomplete.  The ‘peace’ that Man wins almost always contains within it the seeds of the next conflagration.   We act as though peace can be won by hurling platitudes at each other, but in the real world, it never works that way.  We have to work to maintain it and it nearly always requires powerful men exerting themselves violently against other powerful men.

The peace that God obtained for us is full and complete.  But, this Christmas, we may wish to remember that it was still a peace that was won through violence and the shedding of blood–the blood of the most powerful man who has ever walked the planet.

The blood of Jesus, called the Christ.

Talk about a Myth to stir one’s soul!  Fortunately for us, this is a Myth that is also true.

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How Julian the Apostate Defeated the Church in America

HJTADTCIA-cover-1-smallI have penned a lengthy essay which is now available on Kindle and other digital outlets called “How Julian the Apostate Defeated the Church in America.”  I consider it one of the more important things that I have written, especially in light of my experiences as a Christian apologist, and also as a pro-life advocate.  Surveys and polls continue to show that the American Church (especially the mainlines) is in decline, and that the ‘religious nones’ are on the increase.

In the course of my various activities, it has become clear to me that Church itself is facilitating this twofold trend.

All signs point to the trends becoming even more pronounced.  I am very skeptical, in fact, that Christians of this generation are ever going to come to grips with the real reasons for their loss of stature in this country.  In a sense, this essay is almost better served as a post-mortem, something to be looked at two generations hence, after it has finally and fully come to pass.

I have invoked Julian the Apostate before on this blog.   He intentionally sought to carry out the ‘good works’ that the Christians were doing, recognizing that the Christian proclamation of the Gospel was given significant credibility in the eyes of non-Christians because of the near miraculous nature of those ‘good works.’  What Julian the Apostate attempted to do as one hostile to Christianity, Christians themselves have wrought, in the name of Christianity.

Not that Christians were alone in bringing it all about.  In fact, that’s kind of the point.  There are plenty of non-Christians that are perfectly happy to take on whatever ‘good’ that the Christians could properly be credited for, and then strip that ‘good’ from its Source.   Separated from the ‘Source,’ many things are considered that many Christians find reprehensible… alas, its too late.  Should have thought about that before handing these matters over to the State to administer!  (I use the Jaffe Memo to illustrate, but it is not by any means the only example.)

In the course of my research for my dissertation, which was on the topic of Darwinism and Eugenics, I had the opportunity to read a tremendous amount of primary source material in the time period of, say, 1890 to 1930.   I frequently encountered people–Christians included–advocating that the time was right for a ‘Scientifically Managed Society’ (my phraseology, but see here) in order to fight all of our social ills.  On top of that, I frequently encountered musings about how best to make the Church a less potent force in society (and they often meant by this, the Catholic Church).  This was necessary, because the Church wouldn’t go along with the more extreme ‘Management’ proposals, such as wiping out the weak and/or forbidding them from reproducing.

Taking the ‘duties’ of the Church over and having them done by the government, where, of course, the religious content and basis would have to be gutted to be ‘fair’ to the non-Christians in society (separation of ‘church and state’, anyone?), was hinted at as one possible way forward.  Eugenics was often put forward as a candidate for a new state religion for a somewhat related reason, in that it was seen that once the scientifically disproved religions were dispensed with, there would still be a need to fulfill man’s ‘spiritual’ needs.  Google Haeckel’s monism to get started.

The effort to take over whatever the Church was doing and have it done by the State seemed to pick up dramatically after the second world war.  A case can be made that folks like Julian Huxley pursued it as an active program, but whether or not this was intentional or deliberate or not is really besides the point.   The question is “What was the actual effect?”

The American Church is experiencing the ‘actual effect’ right now, in pretty much exactly the fashion that Julian the Apostate, who certainly was intentional and deliberate, anticipated.

As a case in point, even though the essay is written to Christians in particular, I let a British atheist friend of mine preview the essay.  I guess I was interested to see if he might say, counter to my charge in the essay, “No, that’s not true!  Secularists have not forgotten the valuable contribution that Christians made in erecting our innumerable social services!”  A man can dream, right?

But when I asked him about it, he seemed to miss the point completely, and in missing it, made it.

I had said that I was not as familiar with how things went down in England as I am in the US, but that I would be willing to bet that even there, their national health service was brought about with the help and advocacy of Christians there.  He protested, “In fact, our universal health system was established by the Labour party” (ie, liberals, and mostly of the non-Christian sort, I would guess).

But I would wager that if we looked at the ones who helped advocate for that system in England, a great many of them were Christians, or self-identified as such, or at least considered their efforts and support as consistent with Christian values.  I couldn’t produce documentation for the British Christian support of their health system the way that I could for, say, American Christian support for social programs in the United States, but I would be willing to bet money that British Christians advocated for universal health care just as American Christians were among those who advocated or backed FDR’s ‘Social Security.’  For, in the 1920s and 1930s, at least from my readings, many in Britain still considered their country to be ‘Christian.’

And now look at it.

And look at where the United States is today, and where it is clearly going.

Perhaps there is a pattern?

Christian ‘charity’ is not by any means the only thing that the State has taken over that originally was motivated largely by Christian concerns.  Many Christians have already spent some time talking about these, probably most prominently education.  My essay addresses ‘charity’ in part because it was a subtext of much of the debates of the Progressive movement which I studied so much, but also because I think it is one of the most vivid examples of something that has become almost thoroughly politicized which, at least from a Scriptural point of view, was always represented as something that individuals or small groups of Christians were responsible for.

And, in case you haven’t been paying attention, the pressure is on to make sure that religion is kept totally separate from politics.  A bit like that quote by C.S. Lewis that (paraphrasing), ‘religion is what you do when you are alone… and we will see that you are never alone….’  The same thing is happening here, except now it is “you can have your religion as long as you keep it out of politics… and we will make everything political.”

In this kind of context, it is not hard to predict what the outcome will be.  The sad thing is that Christians, past and present, have been complicit in creating this ‘context’ in the first place.

May this essay be a starting point for Christians who care about the Scriptures, as written, to begin following through on Paul’s commandment in 1 Thessalonians 5:21… “Test everything.”

You may purchase this ebook on the Kindle, here.

P.S., the short answer to, “Many people, think Christians only care about abortion and gay marriage. Since that is not true, how did this impression come about?” is, “Christians have given every other issue over to the state to manage.  These were… until recently… the only two issues left.”  Without even these, the Church in America is on the verge of complete irrelevance.

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