Posts categorized “Religion”

Trump's Behavior Was Not Good, Yet His Defenders and Detractors Are Somehow Worse

December 21, 2019   1:50 pm

As I write this, we are on the other side of the House’s impeachment vote, though some legal analysis says that it’s not official until those articles are sent to the Senate. Our hot take culture is filled with people sharing their view of what’s happened. That’s not really my thing, though; the early take is often completely wrong. (Exhibit A for this was the circle game non-troversy at the Army/Navy game; so glad the wokescolds wasted our military’s time investigating that.) Another of our culture’s pasttimes is giving the worst possible reading to anything that happens, and assuming the worst possible motivation behind it. (See “Exhibit A” again…) Again - not my style and not my speed, because doing that rarely leads one to the truth. So, I’ve been following the reporting, transcripts, defenses, analyses, and prosecutions from an information gathering viewpoint, trying to cut through the partisan bovine excrement and resistance-disguised-as-objective reporting to determine what happened, how severe it was, and what should be done about it.

“These are the established facts” rarely is followed by established facts as I’ve found them, using primarily the transcript of the alleged dastardly call and the testimony of the Ukrainians involved. The Congressionally-approved aid was not discussed as much as Ukraine’s desire to buy more missiles. Then, in the most quid pro quo part of the call, a White House visit was offered in exchange for Ukraine announcing an investigation. Note what this wasn’t - it wasn’t a request to do an investigation, it was a request to announce an investigation. It also wasn’t part of the previously-approved military aid or the future missile sales. The announcement would have been embarrassing to Joe Biden, whose son Hunter would be implicated; interstingly, Biden’s lowest polling to date occurred when this was the main story occupying the news. Ukrainian leaders have also said that they did not feel like they were being extorted.

The above are the facts, as the dictionary defines facts; other characterizations are something other than facts. It was neither a perfect call nor a gross abuse of Presidential power.

That being said, what President Trump did with Ukraine was not good. If there is an investigation needed, then encourage them to do it. Unless there are allegations that Joe knew that his son was trading on a connection to the US government, though (which I’ve rarely seen alleged), doing a “guilt by association” attack on Joe through his kids is way more objectionable than someone making a pun with one of his children’s names. And, connecting requests like this with a call that had discussed foreign aid is worthy of official censure…

…which brings us to his detractors. The House of Representatives, and the Democrats within it, have behaved even worse. From Adam Schiff’s creative interpretation of the transcript to open the hearings, to their misrepresentation of the facts (holding up Congressionally-approved aid for personal political reasons), to their lack of objectivity and transparency - they seem to be hanging on to a thread of legitimacy. They focus-grouped their prosecution, settling on the term “bribery,” which they repeated ad nauseum until it was time for official articles to be drafted. Then, we get a charge called “obstruction of Congress,” which isn’t even a thing, especially as applied to the executive or judicial branches. My more cynical nature thinks that they were hoping that reporters would say “obstruction of justice” (because that’s a thing, and a thing to which most people are opposed), or that people would at least think it. Given the misconduct, a motion to censure would have been much more appropriate; interestingly, until they forward the articles to the Senate, that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Those defending the President are just as bad. The call was far from perfect and the aid did not flow when it was expected to flow. Republicans have (rightly) long complained about how Presidents Clinton and Obama (especially Clinton) traded access and overnights at the White House for political gain or favors; how is this now just the way it is when it’s someone in the same party? You don’t get to claim to be the party of principle if you abandon those principles to keep or maintain power or influence. And, while Trump’s impeachment was conceived 60 days before he took office, and has been executed in a purely partisan way, Senators McConnell and Graham deciding to double down on the lack of objectivity bewilders me. In an impeachment trial, the Senate is the jury; juries aren’t supposed to pre-judge the case to which they are assigned.

One of the strangest aspects of this administration is how evangelical Christians (among whose number I count myself) wholeheartedly defend Trump not just as a politician, but as a person. This is the crux of an editorial posted at Christianity Today entitled “Trump Should Be Removed from Office.” In the editorial, the author says that this removal can come from either the Senate or the next election, but it’s hard not to view the headline as intentionally incindiary, particularly given the current context. And, true to form, I’ve seen liberals and athiests sharing it far and wide saying, “See? Even Christianity Today thinks he should be thrown out!” (It doesn’t.) It’s also prompted responses from prominent evangelicals, including Franklin Graham (Billy Graham’s son), whose defenses fall into the category of the paragraph above. Christians should be better than this; Scripture emphasizes the importance of truth, and of being quick to hear yet slow to speak.

I continue to be an evangelical Christian, believing that our problems will not be ultimately solved by government, but through the transforming work of Christ in each of our lives. This is a key point missed by those who paint Billy Graham’s silence on civil rights during his early years as racism. God working in human hearts can eliminate racism, but people in racist cultures (both oppressed and oppressor) need eternal salvation far more than earthly salvation; he was focused on the former. When government follows biblical principles, government flourishes; however, our government cannot follow biblical principles simply because they’re biblical. Our government operates “by the consent of the goverened,” and forcing behavior does nothing to change the ultimate state of a soul. To be sure, the current administration has appointed many people who protect life and religious liberty; that should not cause us to sweep bad behavior under the rug.

While my Christianity has not changed, the Republican party to which I belonged through 2016 has changed immensely. The GOP has been known, at different times in history, as the “party of Lincoln” and the “party of Reagan.” Both these men were inspirational leaders who presided over difficult times in our nation’s history, and the legacy of both only increased once they left office (with reconstruction and the end of the Cold War). The GOP is now the “party of Trump,” demanding sycophantic loyalty to a leader, and looking to use the same heavy-handed government intervention on social issues that the liberals do - just to different ends. This does not align with my conservative principles at all. No leader is perfect, and our presidents put their pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us. And, while the life issue is very, very important, a host of other issues need less government, not more.

Hello, Libertarian Party. You have a new member whose sole dissent with your platform is preborn life, but I know I’m not alone in that. I look forward to working with you to advance the cause of freedom and conservative less-government principles, and I encourage my Christian friends to consider the same things I have. I will write more about how I’ve aligned my faith and the LP platform in the months to come.

Random Thoughts on Current Events II

December 1, 2017   12:19 am

These thoughts all center around issues related to the recently deluge of revelations regarding sexual misconduct.

Men should always treat women with respect. Women should always treat men with respect. However, to deny that we live in a world where what “should” and what “are” will never be aligned.

The vast majority, if not the totality of the current misconduct allegations, are against men. The vast majority (I can think of two exceptions in the past year) of teacher sexual misconduct allegations are against women. I’m surprised there haven’t been studies on this disparity; absent those, though, this does point to power as an enabling factor in these cases.

The oversexualization of our society has been a net loss. Even natural expressions of non-sexual friendship and love, such as hugs among friends or a parent kissing a child, are viewed as scandalous. Even a literal pat on the back for a job well done can be misconstrued, and playfulness is simply too great a risk. I fail to see how this is a good thing.

Mike Pence took a lot of ridicule over his stances regarding meetings with women. In nearly every one of these recent revelations, had the men involved had the same stance, we wouldn’t even be talking about this. We certainly wouldn’t be talking about hundreds of victims, mostly female or underage.

Along similar lines - there is one worldview that acknowledges women’s inherent vulnerability in these areas, and provides protection for them prior to marriage and freedom to seek fulfilment within it. It also enjoins men to be repectful, treating women to whom they are not married as they would their own sister and mother. It’s a shame it’s fallen out of favor among so many, who don’t realize the freedom one experiences when one is prevented from even being put in the situation of having to make a potentially devastating choice.

Finally, of course there are people who claim the above worldview and use it (or use the claim of it) to their own nefarious advantage. This brings us back to the first thought above. The existence of people who misuse or fail to live up to the ideal doesn’t mean that the ideal is flawed; it’s the people who are flawed.

Popesplaining

September 26, 2015   5:44 am

Has anyone coined the term “Popesplaining” yet? If not, allow me. (If so - well, hey, my server, my rules. Why am I asking for permission, anyway?)

Popesplaining (n.)

  1. A politically conservative Roman Catholic justifying the public papal positions that disagree with their political positions and/or established church theology.
  2. A politically liberal person, typically allergic to anything religious entering the public square, justifying the papal message that coincide with their political views, while failing to recognize his message as a theological one.

(Spoiler alert: I’m not a fan of either one.)

In the Beginning

February 4, 2014   4:34 pm

Earlier this evening, Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham had a debate over creation as a valid model for the origin of man. The recorded debate can be viewed online; the remainder of this assumes that you have seen it. I felt that, all in all, the debate went well. Nothing is perfect, though, and Monday-morning quarterbacking - well, that’s probably what a good portion of the Internet is for, so here we go.

(Full disclosure - I have rather strong beliefs on this topic, which will probably come out in these thoughts. I’m doing my best to be impartial, but that’s kind of how bias works; you don’t know you’re doing it.)

  • I was glad that the debate occurred at all. For a long time, mainstream science has marginalized or even ridiculed anyone who dares to disagree with Darwin. While, toward the end of the debate, I feel that both men missed opportunities to answer each other’s questions or assertions, the debate itself was a great first step towards understanding. Personally, I learned something from both men. I hope the model is repeated, maybe on stage again, but in the day-to-day lives of all those who love learning about our world and universe.
  • The question of the debate (I guess it can’t be called a resolution, as it wasn’t a declarative statement) was “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” Were I scoring the debate the way we were scored back in high school, they’d both get a few dings for topicality, but they’d probably also get a pass on them, as most of their discussion was at least tangentially related. Also, the Ken Ham presentations of the gospel and Bill Nye’s appeals to voters and taxpayers seemed to balance out.
  • Building off my first thought - Bill Nye almost kept the snark turned off. Somehow, “creation” became “Ken Ham’s model” that was from “the Bible as it was translated into American English”; both these were repeated often, and are where the snark came through just a bit. Both of these are also distortions; the model being debated is the Biblical model, not the “Ken Ham Theory of the Origins of Species”, and I’m pretty sure that creationism (as opposed to evolution) was developed based on a Bible that had been translated to Shakespearean English. I completely get that Bill may not understand the whole “history as history, poetry as poetry, prophecy as prophecy” thing; a good number of Christians don’t understand that! Those two changes, though, struck me as unnecessary spin.
  • Ken Ham made a moderately convincing argument. Yes, the Bible is the source for the model whose viability was being debated, but for those who do not recognize it as absolute truth, I feel that a stronger scientific argument should have been made. He failed to address two key arguments made by Bill Nye, the main one being the predictive capabilities of creation science. There are arguments to be made here, the easiest of which is that creation as the origin of life does not contradict natural laws, so creation has no effect on the predictive nature of currently-observable science. Every time Bill asked for predictive science, Ken responded with confirmational science. It’s kinda cool, if you’ve ever studied it, but it doesn’t answer the question.
  • The age thing gets its own thought. One of Bill’s main arguments is that what we observe today couldn’t have come to be in 4,000 years, and Ken never really answered that either. This, too, has a pretty easy explanation (that requires no more faith than creation already requires); if God created Adam as an adult, does it not make sense that He would also create the earth with age? Created 6,000 years ago is not the same thing as 6,000 years old. And, several times Ken said that the dating process was flawed, but he never provided a specific example of one that he felt was better, and why that is. What reason do we have to believe that the atoms behaved differently then than they do now?
  • Presentation-wise, and particularly during the Q&A, I believe Bill had the edge. His responses were more directed at the actual questions. Ken gets dinged here for completely avoiding one question. He spent the first 1:30 of his two minutes dissecting the assumption behind the question, then stopped talking; what’s the answer? This was also where they started talking past each other, when I felt that they could have addressed the others’ assertions more directly.
  • Bill Nye’s explanation of science was pretty awesome, IMO. I loved his description of the search for knowledge, trying to fill in the gaps, eager to find something that contradicts what we thought. I hope the climate “scientists” were watching. (Disclosure - even I can tell that the preceding sentence contains a little bias.)

I understand the format, so I understand why some of the detail I was looking for wasn’t there. But, as I mentioned above, while Ken’s line “You know, there’s a Book…” was funny, mainstream science is not going to be convinced with “because God said so.”

(More disclosure - this is the part where I stop trying to be objective.)

A belief in Creation as the origin of the universe is not incompatible with science. Ken started to make this point, but didn’t really see it through, and if Bill had made the point, it would have contradicted his dire characterizations of what would happen if we teach people about it. There is a lot in our world that scientists of all beliefs have in common; theologically, we call this common grace. “The sun shines on the just and on the unjust.” I’ve said before that I do not have enough faith to believe in evolution as an answer for the origin of the universe. There are things for which we simply cannot find physical proof in this world; what mainstream science often cites as proof is extrapolation, which assumes facts not always in evidence. (I’m not against extrapolation as a technique; I’m against the belief that gives a 100% answer.) My praise for Bill’s description of science applies here as well. Yes, as Christians, we believe we know what’s coming at the end; but, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have the same curiosity about His creation that the rest of the world has.

To be sure, this is one of the big worldview issues, from which many other issues proceed. Take abortion as an example. If we are created by God as creatures in His image, and He makes laws for His people that state that anyone who causes a miscarriage through striking a woman should be killed (Exodus 21:22-24), we probably shouldn’t kill babies in the womb. If we evolved by chance from a big bang, though, abortion is just “survival of the fittest” (particularly as Bill described it, in a way I’d never heard it described before) - the baby didn’t fit.

As I said at the top, I’m glad the debate was held; I hope this is the first of many dialogues with people of faith around many issues. I’m convinced that neither “side” has an accurate idea of the arguments on the other “side,” and changing that is an important first step in turning back the polarization and coarsening we’ve been witnessing for decades.