Nothing but the Truth


We are all, deep in our souls, disturbed by lies – even the left likes to complain about prevarications, if only at a surface level.  Instinctively we know that a society cannot function without some level of trust. If we can’t trust what our doctors tell us, what our children’s teachers tell us, what our newscasters, our pastors, our statesmen tell us, how can we function? If we can’t rely on our tradespeople, our manufacturers, our store owners, how can we carry on? Yes – buyer beware, but if commerce and government is nothing but a free-for-all, everything collapses.

These last 8 years have brought us very close to that crumbling edge. Our entire federal government, which has now engulfed the 4th estate, has turned its back on truth and we are going to have to be most diligent in returning it to its proper place.

To do that we will have to be able to discern truth from smoke and mirrors, a difficult task for beings who can only “see through a glass darkly.” I’ve been reading J. Warner Wallace’s book Cold-Case Christianity and he makes some interesting points. As a cold-case detective he has had to deal seriously with this question, so I take his analysis seriously. He points out that truth has 5 attributes that we must look for. Truth is always:
1.    Feasible; we can imagine anything, but we all (unless we’re completely disconnected from reality) know instinctively what is not only possible but plausible. The small truths will always reflect the big truths – about human nature, about nature, about the supernatural. Strange things occur, yes, but there is always a down-to-earth explanation – quantum physics, without realizing it, is now showing how it might have been that Jesus could have walked on water.
2.    Clear. Truth is simple, uncomplicated and fairly obvious.
3.    Thorough. It should answer all the questions, deal with all the arguments, and cover the bases – no loose ends left to trip on.
4.    Logical. God is not the author of confusion. I recently was part of a discussion involving an atheist scientist who tried to wiggle out of the corner he’d painted himself into by claiming that logic was merely a human construct, which can be employed when one wants to use it. No. Truth is always logical – though logic is not always truth.
5.    Superior. The truth is always of highest quality.
Now, Wallace is talking here in terms of the kind of truth one has to have to convict a person of a crime. What kind of proof is that? Proof beyond a reasonable doubt. There’s that pesky term reason again.

I love, and have quoted before, I’m sure, Ravi Zacharias’ line from Jesus Among Other Gods, that if God were to come crashing down into a room full of people “in all His Michaelangeloid glory” that half the people in the room would kneel in awe and the other half would wonder who had drugged their coffee.  He’s right. Proof doesn’t necessarily lead to acceptance and belief. Our sullied hearts are too hard for that.

The Pharisees of the New Testament were forever demanding signs (we modern, sophisticated people use the word proof). They wanted a demonstration that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, but after he healed the leper (the first time that had been done in all of Jewish history), after he restored sight to the blind, made the paralytic walk, and cast out demons, these “devout” men merely claimed that the miracles were done with the help of the devil and refused to see that Jesus was the Son of God. Why didn’t they accept these things, which they saw with their own eyes and which had been prophesied throughout the Old Testament, as proof?

Why didn’t the left see all the evidence stacked against Hillary as proof? Why don’t they see all the odd and questionable things in Obama’s murky past as at least cause for concern? Why don’t the NeverTrumpers see the actions Trump is taking as evidence that he means what he says? Because they blindly choose not to.

But let’s return to the courtroom approach -- we also have to look at another standard for proof – the civil case standard – the preponderance of the evidence – in other words, most of what we know has to point in one direction. A reasonable person will look at Fibonacci numbers and fractals, at the complexity of the human eye, at the clockwork precision of the galaxies and conclude that the preponderance of the evidence indicates a designer rather than random chance as the explanation for all things. A reasonable person would add up all the instances of voter fraud and conclude that there’s a problem. A reasonable person would want more than some computer models to believe in global warming. Preponderance.

Does proof in a legal sense have to be scientific? Does it have to involve forensics? Or can it be a pastiche of motive, location, availability, eye-witnesses, videos, tape recordings, etc.? (Actually, even “scientific” truth is in question these days because we have to realize that science takes money, lots of money, and money can buy results. A lab coat does not guarantee honesty and fairness; it is not synonymous with integrity.)

We expend a great deal of argumentative energy demanding scientific proof for everything from Hillary’s shenanigans to the creation of the universe, but, truth be told (and pardon the pun) science will not solve those conundrums because data has to be interpreted and interpretation opens the subjectivity door.

I teach college writing classes and we talk about the need for a thesis – stated or implied, and the need to back up that thesis with examples, logical arguments, or evidence. We don’t, however, talk about proof. Very little can be proven in the absolute sense of the word, and certainly not in a 10-page college paper.  We can, however, stack up the evidence and at some point, the scale on our side will outweigh the opposition.  But even that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve persuaded anyone because stubbornness is also part of human nature. Most of those who loved Hillary to begin with kept loving her even after the Wikileaks material came out.  Those who saw Trump as a misogynist still saw him that way long after the claims were debunked.

So my point is that as we move into this next phase of our national existence, we are going to have to work hard at this truth thing. It isn’t something we can pawn off on the scientists, the experts – whatever that means (I actually heard on the radio the other day the term “pajama experts.” Gees.) We know we can’t rely on the mainstream media and who knows which of the startup news outlets are news and which are circus sideshows? And since we’ve socially embraced all that is perverse and silly and outrageous, we’re going to have a lot of trouble sorting out the outlandish lies from the actual occurrences – remember the woman with green lipstick sitting in a bath of Cheerios?

This will require us all to think, to develop defensible values, to use those to guide our decisions about how to translate the mountains of raw data dumped on us daily into some meaningful conclusions and rational, unemotional opinions. We have our good sense to go on, the rules of logic to follow, and we have the standards of the Word of God to bounce things off of.  We’ll fail from time to time, but when that happens, we’ll have to shake the cobwebs out of our brains and be more aware next time around. Truth is also vigilant.

 

 

 

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!

Christmas marks the time when angels sang close enough to the earth that humans could hear them. Shepherds out on the hills outside Jerusalem watching over the flocks of sacrificial lambs must have been terrified at the sight of hundreds of glowing beings streaming at them from out of the cold, black sky. Talk about unidentified flying objects! “Be not afraid,” an angel said, which tells us how scared the shepherds must have been…
    “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:10-14)
 

Even the stars celebrated. Men traveled for weeks to honor this birth, on the mere say so of those stars -- wealthy, educated men. Can you even imagine? Christmas marks the time when God Himself stepped into history, took on a human body and committed Himself to live a life under the limitations of His own creation. Astounding. He walked into time to demonstrate to both humans and angels His perfect justice and mercy and His so doing made every life meaningful and redeemable.  

The miracle of Christmas – even after 2,000 years, even though watered down by all of our prosperous fuss-and-bother -- remains a breathtaking event. A baby born of a virgin, a perfect baby arriving on earth without the taint of Adam’s sin, born into an impossible situation; Mary, the virgin (all of 14 years old, 9 months pregnant and unmarried, traveling for three days on the back of a donkey only to find herself in labor, stuck in a barn, a cave really, far from home and the women who might have helped her) just she and her betrothed, Joseph, clueless except for the information he’d had from an angel – who talks to angels? How preposterous, how unlikely.

How astonishing that news of this baby’s arrival would so unhinge Herod that he’d order all male babies killed. What?!

And yet there the baby was, wrapped in swaddling clothes – strips of cloth used usually to wrap corpses in – wrapped as His body would be some 33 years later. There He was complete with the “same hinged thumbs and toes, the same valved heart….” (John Updike Seven Stanzas at Easter)

There he was
    “… this amazing Jesus
Who made Uranus and Venus became a fetus
It’s such a secret that few if anybody knew it
Months later, he’s covered in amniotic fluid

The subject of the gospels, praise of Apostles
Armed with eye sockets, arm pits and nostrils? (Shai Linne The Hypostatic Union)

So – it was a baby. Big deal. But this child would know more about God by the time he turned eleven than the priests in the Temple knew. This child would, by the time he became an adult, command crowds of thousands, heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, and withstand the temptations of Satan himself. This baby would grow into the man that would one day storm into the Temple and overturn the tables of the money-cheaters. This baby would stand on the walls of Jerusalem and weep for His city, for what He knew would happen to it. This child would grow into the man Pontius Pilate would one day crucify – a horrifying event, accompanied as it was by earthquakes and lightning, a blood moon, and the Temple veil ripping from top to bottom.

And this is the baby who would, after being beaten beyond recognition, through the streets of Jerusalem, up to Golgotha with a cross dragging on his torn shoulders, nailed to that cross and hung up for all to ridicule, who after all that would die and then vanish from his grave to be seen and talked with by hundreds in the weeks after his brutal execution.

This baby was the “woman’s seed” promised in Genesis, the one Isaiah prophesied – “For unto us a son is given.” This baby would be the Lamb of God, the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace. He would be called Immanuel – God With Us. He will one day rule over the whole world from his throne in Jerusalem.

This is a baby who would walk on water, and calm the storm, who would feed the 5,000 and bring Lazarus out of his 4-day tomb. That baby. THE baby. The one who would hang on that cross and finally, after hours and hours, shout, “Tetelestai!” It is finished. In fact, if one looks closely at the Greek here, it means, “finished in the past with results that continue forever.” Ah… THAT baby. The one who would take the punishment that the justice of God demanded from each of us. The one who condensed all of the law into two – Love God, and love your neighbor – and then showed us what that might entail, and what the ultimate reward would be. The “not my will but Thine” baby.  That baby.

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace! /Hail the Son of Righteousness! /Light and life to all He brings /Ris'n with healing in His wings/ Mild He lays His glory by /Born that man no more may die /Born to raise the sons of earth/ Born to give them second birth /Hark! The herald angels sing /"Glory to the newborn King!"    (Charles Wesley 1739)

 

 

 

Faux News and the Value of Truth

 Gold supplies have always been small enough to keep gold valuable. The same is true of Cuban cigars, Russian caviar, and hand-built Italian sports cars. And now we find that the truth – about both particulars and universals – has become so unusual, so scarce that many of us would give all we have for just a drop of it.

Consider how hard it is just to find out what important political events happened on any given day. We used to be able to turn on the local news station at 6:00 p.m. and a handsomish man with slick, dark hair would read the latest happenings to us off a sheet of paper.  Then another man would point a stick at a map and tell us what the weather would do the next day.  We believed the newsman and paid little attention to the weatherman because he was rarely right.  It was simple.

We know now that they weren’t telling us everything; we didn’t know that JFK was sleeping around or that LBJ was a jerk. True. But they didn’t specialize in making things up, in just digging up dirt. I suspect that the switch to 24-hour news has put a lot of pressure on stations to produce enough juicy stuff to fill the hours and attract viewers.  And I understand that reporters are expensive, so, even though the world is just chock-full of fascinating happenings, they can’t cover everything and tend to beat the life out of what few events they do investigate.

That’s all a given, but I think we need to make some rules about the news, shake the bugs out of the rug, so to speak. Mostly we need to define news and we’ll do that by declaring what it’s not.

News is not what a person has said in an ordinary conversation.  That’s gossip, not news.  If a powerful person gives a public speech, what he or she says needs reporting, but if MollySue McGillicutty says something in an offhand way at a dinner party, that is none of anyone’s business. When Hillary asked, during a Congressional hearing, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” that was news – we learned a lot about her from that one, very public sentence. When a tape was leaked of Trump making a crude remark in a private conversation 20 years ago that was gossip. And it was twisted and misconstrued into a “confession of sexual assault.” Which brings up another point:

News is not what we want it to be; it is what it is. When Mary Mapes and Dan Rather went after George W. Bush about his stint in the National Guard, they were trying to find something with which to attack him during his second term candidacy. They weren’t reporting anything pertinent to the nation’s wellbeing; they were trying to defame him and they wanted that so badly they were willing to accept as truthful a fabricated document. Journalism schools need to be making that clear – news is what is. Period.

Which brings up another point: news is not narrative, not in the fictional sense. You don’t get to make up a story just to fit a preconceived “narrative” – a code word that means, “what we wish were true.” You don’t get to twist your phrasing to make the story mean something it doesn’t. You don’t get to mess with the bare facts. Innuendo has no place in a news story.

On another note, a free press is not a means for changing a society. Anyone who got into the news business with the idea that he or she was going to change the world is out of line and suffering from a highly contagious form of arrogance. It is the business of the 4th estate to keep a watchful eye on government in order to maintain the status quo, to keep corruption at bay, to keep the public informed. What the public does with that raw information is up to the public, and given the sinful nature of human beings, any change we concoct is likely to be a mess, anyway.

News is also not history. History is 10 years ago, a hundred years ago, a millennium ago. News is yesterday. There has to be a statute of limitations on past mis-steps, on things we let slip, or mistakes people have made. We must make room for growth and improvement in a person’s character. At some point bygones need to be gone. Digging up old dirt is just that – old dirt; it is not relevant and it is not news.

What might happen in the future is also not news. We don’t know the future – no matter how much of an expert (an un-measurable term that we should always be concerned about) a person claims to be, anything he or she predicts is not news. The future is, generally speaking, unknowable; this is a good thing. The present has enough going on to keep us busy and we can’t do much about what befalls tomorrow anyway. We’ve learned to be suspicious of the weather man for just that reason, but let a newscaster tell us that in 15 years the polar ice caps will have melted and New York will be under water, and we forget all about the unpredictability of tomorrow’s high.

The problem with forecasting the news is multifaceted. In the first place, if you say often enough that in 10 years most teenagers will have contracted an STD, you might normalize that idea so much that you contribute to the nonchalance with which teenagers regard that specter. You end up causing the event by your prediction. Secondly, if people expect a certain thing to happen, they see it as a done deal and you end up causing intense confusion when it doesn’t. Just look at this election. We have the fascinating situation now where newsfolk are so shocked that their own prediction didn’t pan out that they’re barely coherent. They made the mistake of believing their own story.        

We don’t know, even in this Information Age, who will start the next war, which volcano will erupt when, where the next hurricane will form or tornado will touch down. We don’t know which team will win the Super Bowl, or whether or not Obama will pack up and go away. We don’t know and we need the humility to admit that. News organizations are so busy trying to outscoop the next guy that they leap on into next week, but that is not news; it’s guessing, educated or not.

And now, post election, we find the very people who so happily manufactured lie after lie after lie (and tried to sell them as news) so unhappy with the ineffectiveness of those lies that they’ve suddenly noticed a new phenomenon – fake news. What a revelation! Why, we conservatives had no idea! How typical – accusing the opposition of doing what you’ve been blatantly doing all along, and having the audacity to act shocked.

Yes, reader beware -- of course. But it has become harder and harder to tell which organizations are dependable and which aren’t now that the Gray Lady has shown she can’t be trusted. What are we to do? When actual events are adequately shocking and outlandish, it gets hard for even the most highly developed common sense to tell if a story is too weird to believe. News sites all look real, even when they’re satire (which now means “prank”), even when they’re on the opposite side from what they claim to be, even when they belong in the sideshow of a traveling circus.

The truth may be rare, but even so, it is not a luxury. It is an absolute necessity, even if it as costly as gold.

 

 

 

The Opposite of Right

Many times in the last 8 years we have had to endure Barrack Obama’s pontification --“That is not who we are.” Really? Who are we? The Left has no idea. We – all human beings – are not what the Left likes to pretend we are, and therein lies the rub.

This election has turned the spotlight on the vast, wind-swept chasm between Worldview Left and Worldview Right. In the early days of the union people differed as to how much power the federal government needed, but beyond that, they appear to have all started from similar launching pads. While the government power-divide issue still exists, a much bigger dichotomy of assumptions grows ever more blatant -- assumptions about the nature of truth and the nature of man.

Team Left bases all its philosophical conclusions on the conjectures that absolute truth is absolutely nonexistent, and that human beings are basically good. The first is a silly, self-refuting statement and the second requires the wearing of serious blinders – we do not behave as if we’re morally responsible, loving beings.  

Team Right, spinning off of our nation’s Christian beginnings, sees Truth as a foundational, capital-letter concept and that Truth includes divine moral standards. Also, leaning back on biblical basics, the Right sees man as 1) made in the image of God and therefore valuable, but 2) fallen and therefore not to be trusted to live by the Truth that we so seriously value. The Right relies on common sense.

The walloping the Left took this election has been hard for them to handle, not because liberals were in love with Hillary, but because their most basal ideas just got kicked in the philosophical ribs; they’ve had the breath knocked out of them.

Being a leftist requires a huge amount of imagination and wishful thinking. One has to believe, in one’s heart of hearts, that society is to blame for man’s foul habits. We human beings, if as righteous as they believe we all are, would not rob and kill and rape and lie unless something extraneous drove us to it, so society takes the blame, never mind the fact that said society is made up of these badly behaving, yet “perfect” creatures.

Social organization is to blame, essentially for itself, which is an untenable thought, so the Leftist must believe that it’s possible to change that organization -- if enough people decide to “change the world” then utopia is in sight. Right? It has to be.

If we pass enough laws everyone will obey. If we take enough money from the rich, the poor will cease to exist. If we erase boundaries and ignore the differences between nations, there will be no more war. If we pretend that sinful behavior isn’t a choice we make, then we’ve eradicated sin. Easy peasy.

However, in order to do that we need massive government – run by our fellow man, who is still damaged by our less-than-perfect social environment, but who will, nevertheless, have life-or-death power over us all, and will ring a Brave New World.

In order to extract enough money from the rich, we have to 1) define down “rich” until it covers even those in the middle class – there aren’t enough of the wealthy to do the job -- and 2) convince the “rich” that they want to keep working in spite of the fact that the money they earn will go to others they neither know nor love, to others who do not work. This gets us back to oppressive governing techniques.

If we plan on avoiding war by playing nicey-nice with sworn enemies, we will have to embark on a dangerous mission of tip-toeing around atrocities and getting used to being attacked. If we pretend that sexual promiscuity, homosexual practices, and pederasty are not sinful then we have close our eyes to the dissolution of the family (which does destroy societies), damaged psyches, and rampant sexually transmitted diseases. If we think we can run a tidy community whilst lying to each other about everything important, we have no way to organize commerce, no way to maintain friendships, no way to choose those who will govern us.

Since all of this is really hard to accomplish, we have to take one more step: we have to change the language. That way if we fail to wipe out poverty, we can still talk like we succeeded. If we run up against implacable enemies, we can just quit calling them enemies. We can change the meaning of “marriage,” narrow the definition of “racism,” and twist “tolerance” into forced acceptance.  But this gets us right back to government again.

Team Right, relying on God and common sense, studies history, observes our fellow man and realizes that nothing can be built on a lie. We call a spade a spade and we like others who do – hence Trump’s popularity. We know we are all self-interested and likely to take that too far. We can admit that, without standards, we run amuck, but we only trust God to determine what those standards will be. We also know that God has given us all intelligence and ingenuity and the ability to work and that, given adequate freedom and encouragement, we will do a fabulous job of taking care of ourselves.

Team Left, having killed off God with their stance on Truth, has no common standards, no greater purpose, no One to rely on besides the government they’ve built out of smoke and mirrors, so liberals will defend their “leaders” with irrational fury. Their governmental betters are all that stands between them and the awful truth (pardon the expression) that they have been very wrong about some very important things.

This election, and even more, the coming Trump administration, will prove the error of their most basic assumptions. Just as the discoveries of the Intelligent Design scientists has given their Darwinian colleagues a bad case of the vapors, Donald Trump is going to poke huge holes in the hot air balloons of socialism, hedonism, and pacifism.

We, all of us, are imperfect and will, Truth be told, need to look out for our selves. It’s not just that Trump won, but that this election also shone a light on the inevitable corruption of a government built on two serious misunderstandings.  The Left does not know who we are, preferring the make-believe version of human nature to the obvious truth, but this election taught me that much of America has still got it right – Truth is truth and man is flawed. The opposite of right isn’t left; the opposite of right is wrong.

 

Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

Cuts heal slowly, and they heal even more slowly if picked at and chewed on. We can, however, gain some insight into the wreckage of this election if we do a little calm analysis. I have the privilege of still being in contact with many of the students I taught years and years ago and watching their reaction to the Trump presidency has disturbed me. These young people are smart, well-educated (in the 21st century sense of the word), and hold responsible jobs. They aren’t discontent n’er-do-wells. Most of them, in spite of having sat in my classroom, are left of center and are filled with self-righteous indignation, and they are scared. I’ve been mulling this over, trying to figure out why fear is such a big part of this and I have some ideas.

For one thing, the 18-25 age group has never consciously known any other administration than Barak Obama’s. They have no personal experience with a Constitutional president. They see the presidency as an absolute power and seem to think that Trump will just sail into the Oval Office and start wildly issuing near-Papal bulls outlawing birth control and locking up the LGBT crowd. They seem to think that he can, within days, pack the Supreme Court – whether anyone resigns or not.

It is true that he can rescind any of Obama’s holy decrees that he chooses, and when he chooses – but that’s what we all elected him to do. He can, if he wants, send back to the states responsibilities that the federal government had previously absorbed, as per the 10th Amendment. It’s interesting that this seems to be scary to these young people; I suspect they’ve grown accustomed to thinking of the federal government as a deity of sorts and find the dissolution of that god frightening.

They are really, really scared about global warming and The Donald’s disdain for the concept. I noticed this fear years ago when I was still in the classroom. My colleagues were doing a bang-up job terrifying kids about this issue – I read hundreds of papers (I was an English teacher) wherein students bemoaned the fate of the planet. Occasionally one would come flying into my classroom, breathless and shocked, asking if it was true that I didn’t believe in global warming. Well that chicken has come home to roost. How are we going to unteach all these well-drenched people that it was all nonsense to begin with? It’s easy to prove, but this will take much more than proof.

They also seem to have no idea what danger the nation has been in for the last 8 years. They should have been frightened then, very frightened. In fact, they seem to have no concern at all for our national entity. They care about themselves and their families, but not for the nation, and not for their freedom -- in any sense other than their cherished license to climb into bed with whomever, whenever, sans consequences.

They’ve been most thoroughly taught that there is no absolute truth, and no objective reality. Therefore, they have felt fine believing that their own made-up rules of behavior are valid and must be obeyed by everyone; that if they want socialism to work, it will; that white people are the cause of all problems; that human nature can be changed by banning words; that ISIS is ok and no danger to us; that their freedoms and prosperity will always, effortlessly go on forever; and, most importantly, that the Constitution is irrelevant.

Trump’s election poked a huge hole in that balloon and these kids hit the ground with a spine-cracking thud. They had actually believed the media and the polls. This is not their fault, however. They had believed their teachers, their parents, the culture at large. Their brains, despite being efficient and filled with all kinds of impressive expertise, are thoroughly saturated with the idea that all conservatives are, to quote a recent presidential candidate, “deplorable;” that what people say is more important than what they do; and that lying to achieve a properly leftist agenda is just fine.

This election’s outcome has them pretty thoroughly discombobulated. It’s starting to dawn on them that all that fairytale stuff they’ve been stuffed with may not be true, a rough landing indeed.

What’s made it even rougher is that our current Commander-in-Chief has spent the last eight years demonstrating that it’s ok to be intolerant of people with whom they disagree, showing them how to stick stubbornly to their own version of reality regardless of the facts, and how to keep on demanding what they have no right to demand. Being a leader involves not only the power to give orders and sign laws, but a leader’s very soul trickles down into the tiniest crevices, fills up the smallest capillaries, and if one didn’t know better, hadn’t seen other styles of leadership, one wouldn’t know that the example is bogus.

At the beginning of my teaching career I taught in a small school whose principal, a kind, decent man, left in the middle of the year. Our new principal, who was quite different and suffered, I suspect, from an advanced case of paranoia, changed the tenor of the entire school within days. Students, who weren’t used to being treated like delinquents, started acting like they were. We teachers developed our own brand of paranoia—we learned quickly that the nicer he was to us, the more horrible his next move would be.

Later that year, he disappeared. He told the superintendent that he was off to a conference and just never returned. Within days of his departure the school snapped back into its gentle, relaxed tenor and life returned to normal.

I tell this story because I so hope that the same thing will happen in Washington. Donald Trump trusts the American people, even the deplorable, bitter clingers, to work hard, to support him, and we will, in turn, trust him to do what he promised. I don’t think it will take long for his realism to saturate everyday life.

Whether our millennials will be able to grasp and apply this new paradigm I don’t know. It may be that’s what they’re afraid of – having to do that. It will be hard. They’ve not been taught to think in syllogisms, but rather in sound bites and lists of isms and ists. The history they’ve been taught is so fraught with untruth and innuendo that they don’t even have that to fall back on. And since some 80% of Christian students have their faith torn to shreds in college, they don’t have that anymore either.

I, like everyone else, am really tired of being labeled and disparaged by people younger than my grandchildren. I’m exhausted from trying to reason with folks who don’t have any sense of actual morality or logic—it’s OK for my candidate to do this, but when yours merely says it – horror upon horrors. But I’m also aware that these bright young people have been sold a bill of goods that our generation paid for.

I started complaining about what the schools were doing to kids 40 years ago and it got me nowhere. I started teaching myself, argued with my colleagues and ultimately closed my classroom door and tried my best to teach clear thinking. With a few I succeeded. So, I’m not sure what else we could have done, but I do know that it is not the fault of these kids. As they bind up their wounds and whine and cry and throw fits I’m going to try to remember that this is where liberalism, where leftist, socialist thinking has lead us -- to a generation that can do nothing to cope but paint misspelled signs and scream about fascism – a word that to them means nothing.

 

Pearls and Swine

It’s time somebody laid this out. I’m tired of being told to vote on principle, to vote my conscience like a vote for Trump couldn’t possibly fit that mold, as if wasting my precious, bought-with-blood vote on a person I’ve never even heard of, like James G. Birney (Liberty Party) would somehow put the universe back into its normal spin. What’s more, these NeverTrumpers are fanatically furious about it, as if Trump didn’t win the primary properly.

I live in Oregon and we don’t have our primaries until May, so the vote I cast for Cruz amounted to nothing more than the carrying out of my earlier decision; I knew it would have no effect on the outcome one way or the other; it was a symbolic vote. Then came the convention and Cruz’s speech and my deeply felt disappointment in him, and my admiration for both Trump’s masterful playing of his opponents and his obvious, genuine pride in his children. Come November, I will be voting my conscience just as Cruz urged, but I’ll be casting that vote for Donald Trump..

I will be doing so because I live by these principles:

I believe in freedom. God created mankind with free will and he flourishes best when his volition has the most leeway. Hillary Clinton will destroy, via the bench, any shred of freedom we have left. A refusal to vote for Trump gives her and her evil a leg up. I refuse to provide that for her.

I believe that there is such a thing as absolute truth. I believe that connected to that is my awareness of objective reality.
Reality #1: A conservative candidate must actually win a term in the White House in order for it to matter at all. We need conservative policies, not just a figurehead.
Reality #2: In order to do that the electorate, which is a smart but busy bunch of people, must know who the candidate is. I have been angrily exhorted to vote for Tom Hoefling or Darrell Castle, who may very well be fabulous men, but I keep close watch on conservative politics and I’ve never heard of them, they didn’t even make the primary stage, let alone win, so how can they win the general?
Reality #3: The American psyche is a brash, energetic, no-nonsense, just get-er-done mentality. As is the Donald. We are an adaptable, idiosyncratic, fiercely independent people. As is Trump. The media has become elitist. Academia has done the same, but the average, ordinary American is a street-smart, savvy, inventive guy and when Americans look at Trump they see themselves. They’ll vote for themselves.

I believe that God intended for people to live in countries, to develop a love for their countries, a protectiveness for their homes. I believe in loyalty. I do not buy the elitist multiculturalism tripe, as if all cultures are as valid and virtuous as every other. They aren’t. Throughout history God has used one nation to vaporize those cultures that become lethally evil -- the Amalekites of the Bible who believed they needed to throw their babies into the fires of Molech while they had ritual sex, the Assyrians who held contests to see which soldier could skin his captive yet still keep him alive. Without borders, without countries we’d have no way to rid the world of such evil. What would have happened in the 1930’s if Hitler had come to power, not in Germany, but over the whole world? Who would have stopped him? I’ll vote for the candidate that has the best chance of protecting our borders… someone who at least thinks we should have borders.


I also believe that America has served as God’s surrogate for most of its existence. I believe it is special. I believe that we’re not down here on our own, but that God has a plan not only individually, but corporately. God has a plan for this nation much like He had for Israel and Israel blew it many times, in fact she was more often out of God’s will than she was in it, and yet Israel still is. America came into being as no other nation has. She is the product of the coming together of a group of extraordinary men and women in an extraordinary place at exactly the right time. That was God acting in history, and no matter how bad things seem, He’s still there, nudging us, whacking us on the rear, but still providing a way out, if we’re wise enough to follow it.

I also believe that God uses surprising people. Look at the women in the line of Christ: Tamar, who seduced her father-in-law, Rahab, the prostitute who helped Joshua take Jericho, Ruth, a Moabite, Bathsheba, David’s married concubine, Mary who was unmarried, 14-years-old and pregnant. Not your average prissy church ladies and yet they are named in scripture, their stories told, their place in the lineage of Our Lord clearly proclaimed.

Look at David, who not only seduced Bathsheba, but had her husband murdered, and yet he was God’s anointed and the best king Israel ever had. Look at Moses who killed an Egyptian taskmaster, at Paul who was, by his own admission, the chief sinner in Israel, at Peter who denied Christ 3 times. I could go on and on. I believe that we are all sinners in God’s eyes, and that He sees those of us who have believed that Christ died to pay for that sinfulness as unique individuals that He created to be full of awesome potential. If He chooses to use Donald Trump, then who am I to say no?

I also believe in logic. If I stick my stubborn, snobby nose in the air and proclaim that Trump is inadequately unsullied to deserve my pristine, picky vote and I either stay home, or write in some unknown, make-believe name, then I’ve succeeded in assisting the election of a woman whose behavior is clearly criminal. That does not serve logic. If I refuse to buy a very serviceable car because the previous owner cheated on his wife and is often rude, and buy instead a broken-down stolen car from a drug dealer – how does that make sense?

Yesterday, a woman I was discussing this with said, regarding another person in the discussion, “You should respect his vote. It’s his and he can do what he wants with it.” Yes. Of course, but a vote isn’t like picking out a paint color. You can paint your living room snot green or bubblegum pink; it’s your living room, and I don’t have to look at it.  But your vote affects me and mine. If you help Hillary into the White House, America is over. And I can’t respect a vote that is thrown away; if it’s of so little value to the NeverTrumper, why should I see it as holy?

Remember the passage in Matthew (7:6) when Christ warns, “"Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” He was speaking of the gospel, but the message can be applied here. My vote is a precious pearl and I’m NOT throwing it to the dogs, not even if they’re very nice dogs. I’m voting my conscience.

 

What a Tangled Web

As we grope toward election day we’re hearing more foggy thinking than most of us can process on the spot. We hear people say, like a broken record, that the sluggish, dwindling economy is Bush’s fault. Or it’s proof that capitalism doesn’t work. That makes as much sense as claiming the recipe for the failed cake was at fault when you know you added 4 ingredients the original instructions didn’t mention. You can’t stir salsa into a chocolate cake and get a successful dessert. And yet we do that all the time and no one seems to notice.

What passes for clear, cause-and-effect reasoning is appalling. Let’s say you bought an 8-year-old car from a used car dealer who failed to tell you it had been T-boned by a drunk running a red light. Then this car proves hard to handle at high speeds. Whose fault is it that you now own a lemon?  The dealer who lied, you, who didn’t do a good job shopping. But would you blame the person who owned the car before you? The wreck wasn’t even his fault. Would you blame the entire auto industry? People do; it’s Bush’s fault.

Now, I’m no Thomas Sowell, but I can read and I can think and one of the best ways to do that is to write. Writing requires sorting, and cataloguing, and organizing, so let’s group some ideas into appropriate piles --

Basic socialism:
Equality is the poster principle for socialism. Everyone has to pay his “fair share” (whatever that means). That’s the web the leftists weave to trap the unsuspecting.  The system works like this: tax the rich, but since there aren’t enough rich with enough money to make much difference, you also overtax the middle class. This has two effects –
1. The rich either go elsewhere or quit producing because the returns are too low, and/or
2. The middle class doesn’t have enough expendable income to buy the products the rich were producing, so the factories shut down and neither the working class nor the middle class even have jobs, and the rich no longer have any capital. The government is now responsible for providing for all three classes since no one is working, but the government can’t do it because it can no longer collect enough taxes (hence a burgeoning national debt and the mess Venezuela finds itself in today).

This economic model affects society negatively by rewarding damaging attitudes and behaviors – laziness, disrespect, boredom, hopelessness, anger. These character traits cannot support a vibrant and prosperous economy. They destroy trust, an essential in all business dealings. They do not support general moral integrity, therefore requiring more laws and government supervision.

If you add auxiliary socialist modalities like environmental activism, political correctness, government-run schools, and nationalized healthcare you have government controlling the means of production, control of personal property, personal health, and public speech. Almost everyone is poor – but there is still no equality because those at the top of this heap – the government people – get very, very rich, yet they produce nothing.  Government becomes the god of the society because everyone is reliant on it for everything.


Basic capitalism:
    
The capitalist view is that equality is not nearly as important as freedom, merit, and fairness. In a free market those with ideas, initiative, talent, and endurance end up with more money and power than those they hire, but they do hire a lot of people and they keep good workers by paying them and treating them well. Those responsible for production are inspired to do so because they are rewarded for it.

The free market monitors itself since those who build and sell inferior products lose customers and therefore revenue. Customer demand determines what and how much is produced. Businesses address environmental issues because they cannot afford to run out of natural resources or harm their customer base. Because all this happens naturally there are always ups and downs.  These occasional retractions in the market serve to weed out non-functional businesses and they keep the market lean and efficient.

Such an economic system requires and produces people of determination, decency, high work ethic and social responsibility. The society values and rewards those traits. For those few who resist living responsibly, there is government.
The free market produces enough revenue to support a reasonably sized government designed to keep folks safe from the unproductive and dangerous people mentioned above, foreign and domestic. It doesn’t need to do much more.

The demarcation between these two economic models is simple and clear: one features government controlling everything, the other, the free market, calls the shots – i.e. the individual, but the two have become so tangled here in the last century that cause-and-effect is obvious only to those who read and grasp economic theory.  The American economy is supposed to be a free market economy, yet we have the highest corporate tax rate in the world, our government micromanages businesses via stringent and destructive EPA, OSHA, and union entanglements.  The government now controls large parts of the auto industry, education, and healthcare. How is that a free market economy?

Adding more to the confusion, when government begins encroaching on business, business has only three options: 1. Quit, , 2. Move their business to another country, or 3. Get in bed with the regime.  Health insurance companies had little choice but to go along with Obamacare. Target could see the handwriting on the wall so it jumped out ahead on Obama’s bathroom decree. As capitalists we’d like to see corporations as the good guys, but when their lobbyists consort with government bullies, it’s hard to watch.

And we must realize that government schools are not going to teach economics in any way that isn’t flattering to government control of the economy. Duh. It’s no wonder that most folks don’t realize that economic “laws” are just as unavoidable as scientific law. The law of supply and demand is always true. If cost of production goes up, the price goes up as sure as the sun rises. Government can’t control the market any more than it can outlaw tornadoes or cockroaches. All government can do is slow down and strangle the natural processes of laissez faire economics.

We are now trapped in an Alice-in-Wonderland system so corrupted by cronyism and nonsensical over-regulation that we wouldn’t be shocked to see Michelle banging a croquet hedgehog around the White House lawn using a flamingo mallet. The administration, through its spokesperson, Josh Earnest (you can’t make this stuff up) insists that all’s well, it’s Bush’s fault, and all children should pee together. Certainly that will create jobs.

Just ask a man on the street and he’ll tell you that all things bad are Republican; he has no clue how the economy works, or what complications happen when government sticks its spoon in the stew, or how personal morality plays into the whole thing. It’s all too complicated and he’s been lied to so much that he has no idea which way is up.

The socialist half of this society has been pretending theirs is a winning option ever since Woodrow Wilson and the graduated income tax. They have been twisting and weaving and screwing the truth around until the web is large enough to capture and hold the goose, but not its golden eggs.

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Powers

 

The news is all in a twist about the elections, and for once they have something a little right: the elections are important. However, there’s another half to the story that doesn’t get adequately discussed.

There are two halves of national prosperity and power: the virtue of each individual, and the policies put forth by the government. These two elements must be in perfect balance. Where there is little virtue, there must be a plethora of governmental policies. Where the people govern themselves, there is little need of formalize restriction.

On the other hand, if the government gets out of line, it can have a detrimental effect on the moral dignity of the people. I once taught in a Catholic high school under a new principal who came into our sweet, small, Mid West institution and began treating our students like they were gangsters. Within just a few weeks of having to march through metal detectors and being slammed up against lockers and patted down for drugs that the students began acting out; they became what the principal thought of them. When he disappeared that spring (another story altogether) it took only a few days for the kids to snap back to the fun young people they had been before. What a lesson in leadership that was for me, a new teacher.

This very thing, on a much larger scale, has happened to our country; the morality-to-government ratio has gotten out of whack. Some of it is our fault.

We are at an all-time moral low – not just in behavior, but in thought as well. We no longer have the background knowledge with which to think or the backbone to use what little information we have. Our national bullsh*t detector malfunctions so often that Hillary Clinton actually has followers. What’s more, our thinking seems to rotate no further from ourselves than our own immediate circumstances, which has resulted in record high arrogance ratings.

Just haul out the Ten Commandments, dust them off and have a look. We do have other gods before the Creator of the Universe and we even deny that He did the creating. In fact, we have so little respect for the Lord of Lords that we don’t hesitate to use His holy name in any way we want.  We ignore our parents; we kill indiscriminately – look at the murder rate in Chicago, or at the abortion stats, or at the Clinton body count.  No one is particularly shocked by those things. No one is shocked by adultery, either. We steal, both personally and corporately (I mean that word both ways.). Evidently we now esteem people who lie or Hillary wouldn’t have one foot back in the White House. And who can deny that we’ve made coveting a national past time? Wanting what others have is one of the main planks in the Democratic platform.

But we are also in trouble as far as governmental policy goes.
Our economy has struggled through financially unsound principles for decades and the last 8 years have been horrendous. Never in history has a president put us so far into debt. Never has an administration failed so miserably to stimulate production and create jobs. We have before us the unfolding saga of Venezuela and yet our current policies are morphing into theirs.
Our national sovereignty is collapsing around our ears because we no longer recognize our own borders, or respect our own language, or see ourselves as worthy of protection from foreign invasions. Those making policy see us a subordinate to the United Nations and make policy accordingly, regardless of the United States Constitution.
Healthcare rules and regulations have made good medicine even more difficult to attain – doctors and nurses quitting in droves, insurance costs skyrocketing, care becoming de-personalized and hurried.
Our attitude toward our enemies is astonishingly naïve. We keep debilitating and demoralizing our military and our police while both crime and terror flourish.

I could go on and on, but we know all this. My point is that these are parallel developments. People who are honest with them selves don’t make bad policy decisions. People who care about those beyond them selves don’t make those mistakes, either. People who have been raised in well ordered, loving, God-aware families tend to make more reliable, mature, and rational decisions. Those who were raised with a respect for the property rights of others are not as likely to develop policies that allow them to help themselves to other people’s money.  Do you see the connection?

Question: does it work the other way around? Can policy changes affect public morality? Yes – leadership, good leadership can have good effects and can do so indirectly.  Policies that encourage families to stay together, that encourage churches and private education to flourish, that produce financial security and opportunity do prepare the soil for the planting of good decisions and clear thinking.

Does this good leadership have to be a perfect moral example? That would be nice. I think of the young Josiah and his effect on a staggering Israel. He returned the country to an awareness of God and His will for His people. Perhaps in Ted Cruz we might have had that experience. But here we have to flip the coin again.

We are a people who value audacity and determination, but we also respond to flamboyance and outlandish risk-taking. We are used to sparkling squirrels – oh, look! Can we switch cold turkey from flash-and-dazzle to predictable, methodical morality? Evidently not. Many of us would have liked that, but since it isn’t, in reality, an option, what can be done?

We can turn from the outrageous immoral and mendacious sneakiness of the Obama/Clinton view of things and move to someone who does have some of our moral values – hard work, family, risk-taking, determination, clear financial thinking, realistic understanding of human nature. We can do that. And we can pressure him into policies that will foster the growth of a moral backbone in the everyday American. We don’t need a purist to turn the corner. I doubt we could have stood the shock of a moral perfectionist at this point in our history, anyway and I doubt that any man or woman who actually wants the most stressful, dangerous, exhausting job on the planet is ever entirely sane.

God is being gracious here. If a Ted Cruz could not capture the American psyche in the primaries, it’s silly to think a similar person could come jumping out of the election cake at the last minute and sweep the general election. Americans are realists – or we used to be. This frustrating reality could be tragic, but God is being gracious, as He always is. He has inspired an unlikely and unusual man to run for this overwhelming office, a man who, though flawed, has what it takes to capture the American psyche and who knows how to be successful. He is a man who knows how to delegate to the hyper-competent, how to capture the imagination and how to bandage our wounds. He’s not the faith healer some of us want, but he may be able to get us to a place, to a grotto where we may find a saint to follow later.

We need to get our powers back in balance, but evidently God knows we can’t handle the adjustment in one fell swoop. We’ve been very ill and it will take a while to recover. Let us be patient and remember that God works in creative and astonishing ways. Let’s be as right as we can be, given our choices, and wait on the wisdom of the Lord.

 

Vote With Your What?

 I’m tired of people boasting that they are “voting with their conscience.” I was confused and appalled to hear Ted Cruz utter those words the other night. Does anyone even know what that even means? Does it mean they will never vote for anyone who commits the sins they don’t like? Does it mean they will only vote for the person whose apparent political stance matches their own 100%? Or are they saying that they will only vote for the person whose strategy and tactics match their own? (Was Cruz really meaning what Newt surmised – that it would be unconscionable to vote in such a way that Hillary got elected?)

So then, if this is what we’re going to do, where is the breaking point? If you favor the destruction of the IRS, must it be done via a flat tax or a value-added tax? If you would not dream of voting for a person who wasn’t dedicated to making all abortion illegal – where do you draw the line? Would a no-late-term candidate do? Or an only-in-the-first-trimester guy? Or will you refuse to vote unless he goes the whole nine yards? What about the voter who worries about the unfairness of illegal immigration? Will he stay home unless the candidate promises to deport all illegals or will he be willing to hold his nose and vote for the candidate who is only interested in building a wall?

Just where is that point of no return? How flexible are your principles? Or are they just preferences? As far as I can tell right now there are 15-20 major issues facing this country. Does voting one’s conscience require a candidate who agrees with you in all areas?

And what about the voter spouting the vote-my-conscience mantra, thinking not of policy issues, but of Trump’s own moral missteps? Can’t vote for him; he committed adultery. Can’t vote for him; he builds gambling casinos. Can’t vote for him: he’s been divorced. Nine times out of ten we hear this from Christians. Christians who should know all there is to know about forgiveness. We should remember that people who have logs in their own eyes should not gripe about the guy dealing with a speck. We ought to be the ones who are more aware of our own sin than we are of anyone else’s. Why aren’t these Christians remembering King David, from whom our Lord descended, King David, of whom God said, “He is a man after my own heart?” And God said that of David after he had seduced (raped?) Bathsheba, impregnated her, and then had her husband killed. Yet David was the greatest king Israel ever had. He made Israel a great nation. Many, however, in the NeverTrump faction wouldn’t have voted for David – even though God, knowing in advance all that he would do, appointed him to that office.

As Christians we’re to remember that God, being omniscient and perfectly righteous and just, has designed history and continues to control it. If Donald Trump is the Republican candidate, then it is as God wanted. This can mean that Trump has potential many can’t see right now. It may mean that God has some more lessons for America to learn and Trump or (may the Lord forbid) Hillary is to be our school master. Maybe it’s up to Trump to clear the decks, shake out the ranks, and clean things up so a Ted Cruz can come in and solidify the changes. We don’t know and we hadn’t ought to be thinking we do – God works in mysterious ways, and if it is His will Cruz be president, he will be. We don’t have to be at each other’s necks.

Neither do the candidates. Yet, we must also recall that leadership is often fueled by testosterone, sometimes a near-lethal dose. We watch in horrified amusement as Cruz and Trump fluff their feathers and bare claws at each other over who said what about whose wife. Good grief. But, strong, masculine intensity is what we’re going to need in the near future and obviously either guy has that going for him.

I do plan on voting my conscience, but it is a practical conscience. I would bear a terrible guilt if I did not vote and Hillary was elected. I know this because I still regret my vote for Ross Perot. I helped Bill Clinton into office. Yikes. The stakes in this election are far higher. If I chose to write in a name or stay home or vote for a third party candidate, of what would I be guilty? I would be partially culpable for the communizing of the Supreme Court. I would bear the responsibility for 30, maybe 40 years of anti-freedom, in-your-face anti-Christian, anti-free enterprise decisions. We were all pretty shocked by the John Roberts Obamacare decision, by the gay marriage decision. Just wait and see what things are like with Barry Sotero and his ilk filling the court. My conscience couldn’t take knowing I’d helped that happen.

My conscience demands that I vote for the man who stands the best chance of beating back Hillary Clinton. We all know she’s a traitor, taking foreign blood money, allowing top-secret information to get to our enemies. How does anyone in good conscience aid and abet her (and don’t forget that Slick Willy is coming with her) to sit behind the desk in the Oval Office and make life-and-death decisions about our troops, our police, our general safety?

How, with a fully functioning moral compass, can anyone, by default, elect a person who lies more comfortably than she tells the truth? How can we allow that, knowing that she lies because for her the truth is actually headed-to-jail dangerous?

Our votes are not just effective for putting a candidate into office; they are also a vital part of keeping another person out. Each of us has one unit of say in who gets to be president and it’s a double-sided vote; you cast your ballot both for your candidate and against another. Let’s say that in a village there are 100 voters in the mayoral election. Suppose 50 voters are Republican, and 50 Democrat. If 20 of the GOP voters decide they don’t like their candidate and stay home, then the Dems win by 30 votes. The same thing happens if the disaffected voters form a third party, or write in another name. Such vacant voting allowed Obama to stay in office for 2 terms. If you turned up your nose at Romney because he’s Mormon, shame on you: you owe us all an apology and a promise never to do that again.

We are, as we all sense in our bones, at a crossroad and we will take the right turn only if we stick to biblical concepts. A friend shared this passage with me this morning:
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 1 For,
“Whoever would love lifeand see good days must keep their tongue from evil     and their lips from deceitful speech…”  1 Peter 3:8-10

Let’s do that and quit strutting about comparing our respective consciences. Let’s face the danger we’re in and make the only possible choice we have knowing that history will play out just as God intended.

 

 

To Think or not to Think

Thinking has gone out of style; it’s not trending. People don’t even seem aware that thinking is an activity with strict rules and straightforward outcomes. In a thinking society a person can confidently put forward the following syllogism:  
Premise #1 --It is illegal to handle classified materials on a personal server.  Premise #2-- The FBI found at least 110 classified documents on Hillary’s server.
Conclusion -- Hillary broke the law.
See how easy that is? How inescapable? A thinking person can’t look at both premises and come to the conclusion that there’s nothing to worry about, nothing to see, no need for an indictment. And yet on July 5th we watched the director of the FBI – a person we would expect to be good at basic thinking – do just that. We need a national refresher course on entry-level thought.

This is our first brush-up lesson – binary thinking. (If you are a millennial, this may be an entirely new concept since all your school years you were taught to sneer at the simple and direct.) Binary thinking – either/or thinking -- stems from the three rules of logic.
1.    The Law of Identity. A persimmon is a persimmon: it isn’t anything else. See, already we’re in trouble, “identity” being such a loaded word these days. What if the persimmon feels more like a pear?
2.    The Law of Non-contradiction. A persimmon is not a pear, nor a lamp, nor a gearbox. It is not, what it is not. Aristotle thought this was the most important law – without it, we would be unable to make distinctions. We’ve been trained to suppose that it all depends on what the meaning of “is” is. We’ve been indoctrinated in the idea that a family is just any friendly group of people, that a man can be a wife, that an AR15 is a machine gun, that a Republican is a racist. Just calling things whatever you want to call them, regardless of whether or not the term contradicts the reality, is a handy habit and will be hard to give up, i.e. “ISIS is the JV team.”
3.    The Law of the Excluded Middle. There is no middle ground. No comfortable, non-committal, have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too position. Things are either persimmons or they’re not. Binary – two choices. One does not choose one’s sex; it is what it is and not something else; there are not 51 options.

The truth is (I know, I know – I used the T-word. Sorry) that most decisions are binary decisions. “Should I stay, or should I go?” chants a recent TV commercial. Either/or. Is an action moral, or not? Is a person lying, or not? You can’t travel, sort of to, say, New Orleans.  You can’t cheat on your wife just a little bit. You can’t kind of tell a lie. Hillary didn’t just sort of break very explicit laws.  I know that the term “absolute” is not trendy either, but these things are absolute, and if we cannot deal with truth as an absolute concept, we can’t think. We have to get a grip on the fact that a thing is what it is (which is why we can’t morally screw around with the language), that a thing is not what it is not, and that there is no third choice. (May Republican delegates understand this.)


Let’s look at the first caveat and explore a couple of examples. Oppression is a word we hear a lot these days. White people “oppress” blacks. Really? The word oppression, when I look it up, has the following synonyms: domination, coercion, cruelty, tyranny, and subjugation. Those terms would be appropriate if we were talking about actual slavery where you were whipped if you disobeyed and shot if you tried to escape -- but we (white people) ended slavery 151 years ago. Follow me now, this isn’t rocket science: oppression = slavery, slavery = being bought and sold and forced to work. It is not being arrested for stealing cigarettes from a convenience store. It is not collecting a welfare check every month. A thing is what it is. (And Slick Willy is the only person I know of who is uncertain of the meaning of is.

Let’s look at the term Islam. Remember, a thing is what it is. Islam means submission; it does not mean peace. Submission means obedience, compliance, capitulation, surrender, acquiescence. Those synonyms make perfect sense in a religion that collects converts via jihad, but are at odds with the concepts of peace and love. Our president seems so confused by this that he can’t string the words Islam and terrorism together in the same phrase. I can’t imagine how we can hope to stop jihad from overtaking us if we can’t even face the fact that it is what it is.

Now turn to the second law – a thing is not what it is not. Black Lives Matter is not an organization concerned with the deaths of black people. We can tell this by the fact that the members seem not at all exercised about the millions of innocent black babies aborted each year, but are instead claiming to be upset about the demise of a handful of violent felons. They are not complaining about the alarming amount of black-on-black murder in the inner city. They aren’t worried about the dismal state of education in black communities, nor are they worked up about the high unemployment rate amongst young black males. They are not what they are not, and yet the media would have you think otherwise. We cannot possibly fix any problems if we cannot use accurate terminology.

The Law of the Excluded Middle is a really tough one for the 21st century – we are surrounded by choices. But all choices eventually boil down to yes or no. I can shop for shoes and try on 270 pairs, but, in the end, the choice boils down to buying or not buying. I can peruse a menu of 20 items and still I must either follow my diet or blow it.

No matter what the situation, in reality, there are only two choices. Let’s take the agnostic, for instance. He can look at the religious options and conclude that he can believe, not believe, or declare himself neutral, like Switzerland. But that isn’t true. A person can, for instance, choose to believe that her calico cat, Spot, is God. Or she can declare that proposition preposterous and refuse to buy into it, but what if she doesn’t choose one way or the other? That would make her an agnostic, however, remember the Law of the Excluded Middle -- this undecided cat-owner is merely a subset of the set of nonbelievers. She may not be an anti-catian, but the bottom line is that she is not a believer. She has not yet declared for Spot. To Spot or not to Spot: that is the option.

We have a choice in November to vote for socialism or capitalism, establishment cronyism or no-nonsense, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead leadership. Neither will be perfect; both will cause upheaval, but they are clear, diametrically opposed choices. Disgruntled Bernites and Cruzites can choose to stay home, but that just places them in the opponent’s corner, so not choosing is always choosing, it’s just doing so passively.

We also have clear options in that we can decide to either return to carefully constructed thought or barrel on, like nap-less 2-year-olds powered by nothing but anger and adrenalin. We can either choose to call a thing by its right name, or continue lying by pretending it’s something else. We can face up to the stark choices in front of us, or muddle along imagining utopian third options. I heard Hillary the other day trying to sell the crowd on the idea of “the third way.” She, of course, didn’t say what that would be.

Thought has always been a human being’s ace in the hole, but we have to think according to the rules or we end up with non-thought. And, after all, a thing is what it is and it is not something else. And there’s nothing in the middle.

 

Five Questions

                    Please note that when I use the word “Christianity” I refer to essential theology as discovered through study of the Bible, not to “churchianity,” the elaborate, human construct that includes ritual, cant, legalistic rules and regulations, the accumulation of wealth, and the construction of hierarchies. When I refer to Bible study, I mean the grammatical, historical, contextual search for truth, not the random cherry picking of verses, not the total reliance on English translations, and not the dependence on traditional, church fathers’ writings. When I use the word “church” I refer to the church universal – the body of believers, not a specific congregation or denomination.

A friend recently asked me several excellent questions and I’m honored to address them.  He was asking about Christianity – what is it exactly? – and he was kind enough to offer some options: Is it a faith? Is it a religion? Is it an identity? Is it a club? Is it just a heaven-based entitlement?   Let’s look at each of these:

Is Christianity a faith? Well, yes, in the sense that faith is a way of thinking, a way of learning. We learn through empiricism-- actual experience or observation, or through rationalism – coming to logical conclusions about the events we observe, or by faith, by far the most common – someone tells us 2+2=4 and we believe it. Jesus Christ told the people who followed him that if they believed in him they would have eternal life. They accepted that as fact, as have hundreds of millions since. Christianity is more than faith in the sense that its doctrines rely on historical and scientific fact (empiricism) and on logic (rationalism). We can trace Christ’s lineage back to Adam and Eve, generation by generation. It makes complete sense that if man is flawed and can’t fix himself that he needs a savior. And we can prove the first premise by just watching the news; man is obviously a mess and is evidently not getting better. Is it a faith? Yes, but not a blind one. It is a faith that does not run counter to science or history and is perfectly logical.

Christianity is a way of thinking about the world. No other worldview is like it. And Christianity, regardless of what some preachers claim, begins with Genesis. Without a creator, a perfect, all-powerful creator, and man’s choice to walk away from that perfection, Christianity would make little sense. This is why Darwinian theory has had such a devastating effect on the church. Evolution and Christianity are diametrically opposed. Christian doctrine is very clear that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” and that “No man comes unto the Father but by me,” Perfection cannot be attained by gradual evolutionary improvement, not physically – the law of entropy applies here, and not spiritually.

Is Christianity a religion? The answer to that is a resounding No! A religion is a human effort to placate, appease, gain the approbation of God, or gods. People have to kill other people to please Allah. They have to grovel their way through countless existences to gain Nirvana. They have to starve in the presence of herds of cattle to please their Hindu gods. But Christians have one mandate and it doesn’t depend on our merit at all. We are to, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” And, to go back to our discussion on faith, it’s not having faith that’s the issue; the issue is in the object of that faith. It is Christ who did the work, not us.

In Christianity it is God trying to reach us, trying to make it possible for us to have a relationship with Him – trying even to the extent of becoming human Himself in order to stand in for us and absorb in Himself the punishment due all of us. In all religions it is up to man to rectify our less-than-perfect condition. But here’s the problem –that which is broken cannot un-break its self.  Yet religion attempts to do exactly that – DIY spiritual repair.

It is sadly true that man has been, since Cain and Abel, trying to turn simple belief into a religion. Abel understood that he was to show his grasp of the idea that a sacrifice would have to be made in order for him to be right with God and he did so by killing a perfect animal. Cain wanted to do it himself – Look, God, what I grew! And from then on man has been trying to come up with his own way to save his ego and make his own contribution to salvation and that impetus has infected the church from the very early days. Much of what non-Christians find repugnant about Christianity is not Christianity itself, but the religiosity that’s been layered on top of the reality. Where there is religion there is inevitably pride, which is what got us in trouble in the first place.

Is Christianity an identity? Most certainly. When we believe – at that very moment and forever after – we are identified with Christ and when God the Father looks at us, He sees His Son. “Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness.” God sees not our own real desperate imperfections, but the perfect goodness of Christ. We are identified with Him, with His perfections and with His destiny. Not because of anything we did to earn that. We merely believe – and even better – should we drift away from that belief later, we still maintain that identity as a member of the family of God. We know this from the Greek verb tenses – we believe in one point in time and results continue forever.

Is Christianity a club? I love this question, because from the outside looking in it sure looks like that, and in the sense of Christians being made “joint heirs with Christ” I guess it’s true. But it’s a unique club. In the first place anyone can join. There are no restrictions. After all this is a club predicated on the assumption that we are all substandard beings – how picky can we get? People often make the mistake of judging Christianity by the Christians they know, assuming that if a self-righteous jerk can be in the club then it isn’t one they want to join, but our failings are proof of our beliefs.  

Christianity is, ideally, a club with a clear, unchanging mission – to demonstrate to the angels God’s perfection. It is a club with a charter and its own rules of order given to us by God, but filtered through human brains so we can understand. This club does not have dues (I should write another piece on tithing), it doesn’t have a hierarchy of leaders (and another on denominations), nor does it have a uniform and a lot of petty rules and regulations. We are to “study to show ourselves approved unto God…” and “love each other as we do ourselves,” but that pretty much covers it.

Is Christianity a heaven-based entitlement? I’m not entirely sure what my friend meant here, but our worldview does see this universe as temporary, sees time and space as transitory limitations. We know that another way of life exists outside of what we see here and that life is eternal and unburdened by sin and death. We are merely passing through; this isn’t really home.

Is heaven an entitlement? Only in that once we are related to Christ, identified with Him, we are, no matter what follows, always His, but not because of anything we do or are, but because we applied faith-thinking (something we can all do) to the all-important question, “What think ye of Christ?” The merit is all His.

Which is mainly the answer to the “What is Christianity?” question. It is knowing that all merit and glory and goodness is in Jesus of Nazareth.

 

The Sinking Sands

For the last century Western civilization has been playing make believe. We have been “slouching toward Bethlehem” across a desert filled with bones and all we seem aware of is the mirage of an oasis out on the horizon. The longer we stagger across these burning sands, the further off paradise seems, and yet we are sure it’s out there --- if we just take another step --just one more bill passed in congress, just one more Supreme Court decision, just one more election and we’ll reside permanently in Shangri-La.

The unease of the country – and of Europe – belies this, however. Deep in our bones we know that if we keep going in this direction, we’ll find nothing but pain. The human soul was not made for deception – the Fall cramped our hearts so that we turn to it whenever we’re in a tight place, but we can’t thrive on prevarication, we can’t plant our crops in fake dirt, and more and more people are beginning to understand this. We can taste the difference between saccharine and sugar; the former leaves a tinny aftertaste that betrays its poison --so with this terrible mirage.

Evidence of this mass delusion pops up everywhere:

Many of our churches are satisfied with the mere appearance of growth. Just get the butts in the pews and the mortgage paid off, and leave actual spiritual improvement for someone else. True spiritual growth is tedious and painful and is unlikely to attract crowds. The “health and wealth” gospel does. So does loud music (which eliminates, in good Harrison Bergeron fashion, any tendency to actually think). Youth groups draw crowds where little but fun games and soda pop fill the agenda. If we just concentrate on the hallucination on the horizon – a better world, one made by man, one filled with fuzzy feelings and emptied of pain. Just lift your hands heavenward and sing one more tuneless chorus and the pearly gates will open here on earth.

Our schools have been most guilty in promoting the hazy hopefulness.  Educators (and parents) thought they could merely praise kids into learning; there would be no risk of failure, no hard work. When that produced miserable results school districts did two things: they demanded more money, and they opted for good PR instead of good performance. Before long students caught on that it was all just pretend and the scores dropped even lower. Not only did public education become a mirage of its own, but what little was successfully taught was just more of the illusion – global warming, multiculturalism, evolution, white guilt, sexual license, all smoke and mirrors, all slight of hand.

Philosophers dreamt of financial equality for all – a beer in every hand, and financiers (who liked the idea of moving money around, shell game style) thought they could use government to accomplish that (and get rich themselves while they were at it). They instituted the Federal Reserve as a smoke machine to protect and manipulate the illusion. Now no one knows where the money is, and the public is choking on the phony figures we’re supposed to swallow. We live out here in the sand and we’re beginning to doubt the fantasy.

Government, like the Wizard in Oz, hides behind the curtain pretending it’s God, selling always the idea that it is the goose laying golden eggs while it creeps around stealing our chickens. Apparently half the country still thinks government will provide for them and protect them just as a parent or as God might, but more and more are realizing that any contact the government has with the goose is the stranglehold it has on it.

The press, the supposed 4th estate, is nothing more than the screen the Wizard hides behind. It has also bought into the phony utopian fog. Journalists seem drunk with the power they have to herd the public off into the wilderness of financial and social experimentation. But arrogance won’t get you paradise because arrogance makes us all stupid.

The concept of actually loving our fellow man proved difficult so we decided to fake it. We sought to eradicate racism by merely imagining a world in which no one ever talked down to, or badly about anyone – ever, so we learned to be aggrieved about everything. We made petty rules about words and symbols, about cakes and bathrooms, and then we ruthlessly enforced those rules. We made racism (sexism, homophobia, etc. ad nauseum) even worse by talking about it all the time, picking the scab, and by concentrating on the differences between groups, therefore making everyone into faceless members of an angry club. So the oasis recedes before us.

Women attempted to bolster their sense of importance by complaining about every imagined slight – being called Mrs. or Miss, or having a door opened for them, or suffering through a compliment. They complain about our supposed rape culture, but have become immodest and sexually aggressive themselves. They falsely accuse and then complain that they haven’t been taken seriously. Then they support Sharia Law and Muslim extremists even though, of all people groups on earth, the Muslims treat women the worst. Thus feminists have become laughing stocks, and women cringe at the thought of voting for the first female president because she is the perfect caricature of womanhood – shrill, snarky, power-mad and devious, shackled to a philandering thief.  Have we reached Nirvana yet?

We thought we could rid the world of war by inculcating a multicultural ethic – teaching that all cultures are equally effective and equally able to provide health and prosperity for their constituents, which is pure nonsense. All we’ve done is destroy our own customs and ethics. American culture has always been fragile because it is always being altered with each new immigrant group, but now it is overloaded with South American Marxism and with Islamic practices – neither of which mesh well with the energy and independence of American life. Instead of creating utopia, we’ve created chaos.

We thought all foreign policy problems would go away if we worked toward a one-world government. It has only made us weak and vulnerable. The Bilderbergers can plan all they want, but a complete world government will not happen under the auspices of mere humans – not even in the tumultuous events of the Great Tribulation. Not until the reign of Christ the Messiah will that happen.

We thought we could get rid of sin by just calling it something else, as if the word we use somehow changes the very nature of the behavior. That’s not pederasty; it’s a preference for sex with children. That’s not sodomy; it’s a same-sex attraction. That’s not adultery; it’s open marriage. That’s not a man; it’s a woman. That’s not promiscuity; it’s free love. That’s not lying; it’s misspeaking. That’s not treason; it’s diplomacy.

The truth is that man is not suited for building heaven. It’s not ours to build. Christ said He was going to prepare a place for us, so we should leave it up to Him and quit pretending that we can do it ourselves. There’s a reason we refer to the perfect society as Never-Never Land. We’ll never get there. To think we will is delusional. What was it Paul said? “For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie.” (2nd Thessalonians 2:11). We have bought that lie hook, line, and sinker and we’re sinking deep into the shifting, hellish sand.

 

 

Oh, for the Love of God!

Our society worships many gods and we have built many temples – government buildings, department stores, movie theaters, sports arenas, bars, and universities, to name a few. We bow down to the human body, to sex, to technology, to inebriation, to money, to science.

We expect a great deal from our gods – these gods that we’ve invented. We expect pleasure, which we confuse with happiness. We expect security, amusement, excitement, status, and we expect answers to our questions. We look to the god of science for that.

Yet science can explain very little and that is disappointing to a generation of materialists. If all that is, is merely matter, then science should be able to answer all our questions. If there is no God, in the Judeo-Christian sense of the word, and no supernatural forces operate in this universe, then science should be able to formulate hypotheses, construct experiments, repeat those experiments with similar results and, either adjust the initial assumptions, or conclude they were correct to begin with. It should be doable. But it’s not.

Let’s look at some of the marvels of this world that science can’t wrap itself around:
 
Hummingbirds and owls, for instance. Their specific, fine-tuned attributes are so complex, so specifically designed for those species that random mutation seems really silly explanation. The owl can fly in almost absolute silence – something no other bird can do – and science can’t explain it. The hummingbird is able to vary its metabolic rate drastically, can rotate its wings in a helicopter hover, and retract its long insect-seeking tongue into a channel that winds around its skull. How could that have happened by guess and by golly?

Butterflies are another good example. No one knows what goes on in that chrysalis soup let alone how it happens. What survival of the fittest advantage does that peculiar arrangement provide? How do those chemicals know how and when to re-arrange themselves in that miraculous metamorphosis? Nor do we know how the Monarch manages its 6,000-mile migration that only happens once every other generation.

Which brings up migration in general -- how do animals, sans GPS or maps or directions find their way each year to the same place? Whether we speak of Canadian geese or Coho salmon, we’re baffled by the enormity of the task of moving entire populations enormous distances with no clear mechanism for so doing. And they always arrive on time.

And what’s with Fibonacci and his amazing number sequence that pops up everywhere in nature? Explanation please.

Those are just a few of the little things that stump science. What about the BIG questions that plague us all?

I started asking these questions in earnest decades ago when I first read Virginia Woolf’s wonderful essay, The Death of the Moth. It’s a short descriptive piece that paints a wistful picture of a moth fluttering around a lamp just before it dies. The perplexing part of the essay is that the moth dead appears to be exactly like the moth alive, but life is gone. So what is life? We know it has something to do with movement if nothing more than lungs sucking in air. It has something to do with brain waves, electrical impulses, but beyond that a dead person appears to be all there and yet totally different than when he was alive. What is that difference? Is there a “ghost in the machine?” Apparently, but science has no answer for us.

Which brings up the question of mind. What is that? We don’t know how the brain works exactly. We have metaphors we use to talk about that clear, but incomprehensible difference; my brain is an organ I have; my mind is Me and I am different from everyone else. Somewhere lodged in that material brain is a strong sensation of ethereal self – that ghost in the machine again. C.S. Lewis once wrote: You don’t have a soul: you are a soul. You have a body. That dichotomy is black and white, and yet scientifically inexplicable.

And science has no clue about what’s going on when we sleep. We know that we fall apart if we don’t, and we feel a lot better when we do. But science, so far, hasn’t been able to explain it any better than that. We dream when we sleep and though many theories about that phenomenon exist, none are any more than theories. Pharaoh found his dreams important and accurately predictive, but most of us find them either amusing or disturbing. I still have those awful college dreams where I show up finally on the last day of class unprepared for the exam. That never happened; I was a diligent student, but the dream haunts me, and haunts many who’ve slogged through higher education. And science can’t tell us why, let alone how our brains run those movies in our sleeping heads.

Even the hard sciences come up empty when push comes to shove. Ask a physicist to tell you what gravity is. We know it is some exquisitely tuned force that’s essential to all the workings of the universe, but that’s about it. We don’t know the cause, the source, nor can we explain its precision. As I age I feel its force more keenly, but it is constant and dependable. I can’t look down at my bathroom scales and complain that gravity is obviously growing stronger. It doesn’t do that, but we don’t know why.

Science can’t explain the existence of music. It doesn’t in any measurable way improve our survivability as a species – though we do know that those who can and do play musical instruments sport brains that are more efficient than those who don’t. Science can’t explain the other arts, either, though we know from cave paintings that man had that sophisticated ability early on in human history. And science cannot explain our amazement, joy, and appreciation for the artistic accomplishments of others. Why does the Tchaikovsky violin concerto make me cry? I did likewise when I stumbled across the Degas bronze of the dancer standing demurely in her own little room at the Metropolitan. I cried – with joy at the realization that someone else in this world had once loved dance as I did? Partly, but that wasn’t all of it. Can any scientist confidently explain that completely in terms of chemical reactions and electrical charges? No.

Nor can science explain evil. Good is somewhat understandable in that the survival of the species is dependent to a certain extent on us behaving ourselves. But evil – the desire to cause pain to others just for the fun of it – makes no evolutionary sense. Competition makes sense, but not cruel, violent, damaging domination. So why does it exist? Is it buried in our DNA? How so?  We don’t know. Nor can we explain what makes some people willing to give up everything for someone else. Altruism isn’t very evolutionary either.

And yet, science is worshipped like the Oracle at Delphi. All is science. God is not dead, but mankind is getting good at shutting Him out of all of our understandings. But when we do that we have to live in an artless vacuum; we have to put up with answerless questions – questions that urgently need resolutions – questions about our purpose, our future, our social decisions. Science is a wonderful tool for appreciating the world God has made, but it is a lousy substitute for Him -- science knows nothing of love.

 

 

My Country Was of Thee

Our father's God, to Thee,

Author of liberty,

To Thee we sing.

Yet, Obama says that we are not a Christian nation. And maybe we aren’t anymore. Let’s define that term:
              It does not, nor has it ever meant, that every citizen is a professing believer in Jesus Christ, or ought to be. Even in the earliest days of westward migration there were Jews amongst the brave souls who ventured to cross the Atlantic.
              It doesn’t mean that all of the founding fathers were Christians, though the language of their writings, both private and public, would indicate most were.

A Christian country is one saturated with Christian standards, with biblical thinking, with a societal organization that runs close to the precepts of the Mosaic Law.  For instance, the “trickle-up” allotment of power -- from family, to village, to county, to state, to federal government –power was intended to be distributed most heavily at the lowest levels, as it was in the fledgling nation of Israel – family, clan, tribe, nation, God. (Note: no king)

A Christian nation bases its core law close to the Ten Commandments and America’s commitment to that concept can be seen in the monuments bearing those edicts on government buildings from small town to the Supreme Court.

America is a Christian nation because our culture has always been saturated with Christian assumptions, references, and behaviors. The cords that have held this nation together are biblical.

It is biblical thinking that brought people here, and the hard work such thinking produces built, in a very brief time, a thoroughly prosperous and functional civilization. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the Old North Church. I had expected a rustic building, barn-wood red perhaps, weathered and crude. What I found was a gem of architecture – brick, white trimmed, and gracefully steepled, the interior sunny, orderly and beautiful. It was then that I understood what the colonists fought to keep. They had created a whole new world and England had no right to it. The world they built was Christian.

Our bedrock suppositions, our ideas of what ought to be, are Christian principles. Americans grow up believing in the value of loving our fellow man, in justice, goodness, faithfulness, in producing things of worth with hard work and devotion to duty. True, our most recent generations are not learning these concepts; much effort has gone into disabusing our youth of the principles taught them by their parents and clergymen, but these concepts are so woven into the fabric of this nation that they take much effort to pull out. This makes America like no other country.

You don’t see these traits in predominantly Muslim societies. In those places women and children are treated cruelly, filth and sloth are the rule, and integrity is not seen as a useful, beneficial standard. Murder and mayhem prevail.

I have had, over the decades as a high school teacher, a fair number of exchange students come through my classroom. Many have been from Asian countries, and those students have told me how much they love being in America because Americans are so kind – a trait they saw much less of in their home nations.

Even while church attendance drops, that concern for the wellbeing of others remains embedded in our thinking. That didn’t come out of nowhere; it came from several hundred years of being admonished to “Treat others as you would have them treat you.”

Christianity saturates the artistic part of our culture as well. From Negro spirituals, to more traditional hymns our music has been washed in Christian thought. Everyone recognizes the strains of “Amazing Grace” or “Silent Night.”

Our literature, too, is rife with biblical references, starting with children’s stories about Noah’s Ark, or Jonah and the Whale. Most people know that the Red Sea parted and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. The name “Nimrod” is still synonymous with “idiot,” though many may not know he was the fool who built the Tower of Babel. Those stories are buried in our national soul.

It’s hard to find a classic American novel that’s free of biblical allusions, even when the author claims no biblical allegiance. The Christ-figures alone are impressive – Jim Casey in Grapes of Wrath, Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea, McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Owen Meany in John Irving’s famous novel bearing the same name. Over and over again American authors reach for a symbol of ultimate sacrifice and guess who they come up with? Jesus Christ. He is in our cellular structure, our cultural bones. Yet these authors are not evangelicals trying to proselytize. They are writers trying to connect with a readership that will know what they are talking about. We are a Christian culture.

Or we were. Now all things Christian are fair game for ridicule, lawsuits, physical attack. Not only are our school children being robbed of their opportunity to learn our Christian heritage, they are being assaulted on one hand with anti-Christian teaching in many of their classes, followed by Islamic propaganda. The phrase separation of church and state masquerades as a constitutional statement applicable only to Christian concepts. A student entering public school from an un-churched family could complete his entire education and never hear the name of Christ, never know His story, let alone His message. He’ll know who Mohammed was, but not Jesus. This student, like our president, will have no idea what made this country the greatest nation the world has ever seen.

As our culture pulls further and further away from biblical morality, common sense evaporates. I recently began watching House of Cards– years late, I know – and I enjoyed the Machiavellian plotting and the Iago-like performance of Kevin Spacey until I hit the episode that had the vice-president of the United States, his wife, and his driver involved in a drunken, gay three-some. It’s true, now that we’ve had the Clintons in office, just about any debauchery is possible, but placing it in my living room with no advanced warning passed my limit. It evidently wasn’t past the limit of most viewers, though, because the show is moving into its fourth season.

Much of the demise of the Christian tenor of America lands squarely in the laps of the churches. Little biblical teaching is going on in most of those institutions, so little that the Barna Group research shows 80% of Christian college students claim to have lost their faith. They evidently were not “armed with the full armor of God.” The popular rock-band-youth-group theology failed to prepare them.

The subtle anti-Christian multiculturalism that places exceptions as more important than the norm, will undo the whole fabric of this amazing American experiment, an experiment in human social organization that brought civilization forward into a prosperity, a decency, a national integrity that had never been seen before. The warp and woof of that society has been Christianity.

Our Christ-inspired largess toward those of other persuasions is not a surrender of our high ground; it is an expression of it.  

Our Christian concern for the welfare of those less fortunate is not a submission to Marxist principles because it is personal, not collectivist.

Our Christian desire to come to the aid of refugees is not a willingness to offer up the wellbeing of our own children as sacrifices to other gods.

Our readiness to treat others as we would be treated is not a refusal to stand up for all those ideals our Christian faith teaches us to hold dear.

Long may our land be bright

With freedom's holy light;

Protect us by Thy might,

Great God, our King!

We are a Christian nation -- or we are no nation at all.

 

 

 

To Trump or not to Trump

That is the question: Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the presidency of Hillary Clinton, or by voting Trump risk the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune? Aye. That is the rub.

But it’s actually a series of much bigger questions: Should we be noble or practical? Should we vote out of anger or out of duty? Should we see electing a president as a moral statement or a pragmatic one? It gets down to this – What is the true nature of politics?

What is politics? We can say it is dangerous business. It combines some very combustible elements: greed – for both money and power, altruism – or the appearance thereof, necessary work, and both military and judicial force. This brew can produce massive corruption --  a palm-greasing, back rubbing incestuous sliminess that would shock even Iago, but it can also, in the right hands, produce safety and prosperity for the entire world – theoretically; we haven’t seen that for a spell now.

Politics is a practical, existential business. When it goes wrong, people die. I know there are those who like to imagine that human society is possible without government, but I’ve lived long enough to be sure mankind doesn’t have the capacity for that much freedom. He barely has enough to handle what little we have right now. Man’s tendencies to run amuck need curbing, both internationally and domestically. The question is how much curbing is required? When is enough, enough?

A large proportion of the American people have had enough – are sure that we’re way over that line, dangerously so and I agree. After all, those curbing our activities are no better than we are. But how do we undo what’s been done without such violent disturbances that render America as desolate as Syria?

Sound of trumpets and -- enter Sir Donald, seated high on his white horse, armor clanking and sword swinging, come to slay the government, the GOP stuffed shirts, and misery in general. Obviously a lot of Americans welcome his appearance on the scene.

But here we are, we Republicans, the party of the purists, the party of the Constitution, the party of morality, “family values,” and the Bible, yet we have as our standard bearer a man who appears to know little about the Constitution, even less about the Bible, and whose vast fortune is based, at least partially, on less-than-moral endeavors. What are we church-going folk going to do? We believe in our hearts that our nation’s demise is largely due to the decline of a Christian moral stance – so then we choose as our candidate a man whose philandering is public knowledge, who has been married three times, who doesn’t seem particularly concerned about abortion?

There’s the dilemma: to Trump or not to Trump? Many are stamping angry feet and screaming, “Never Trump!” The rest of us are taking a deep, disappointed breath and looking the future right in the face – and that face looks frighteningly like Hillary.

OK. Enough background. How are we to think about this? Allow me to propose an approach:

--- Let’s first scrape all the tar and feathers off the issue and get back to the purpose of all this: we need government and government requires a leader.

--- Given that, then what must a leader be? What must he/she be prepared to do? He or she must be able to:
    Handle power well. (i.e. Walk softly, but carry a big stick.)
    Shoulder responsibility honestly and graciously.
    Delegate power to capable and trustworthy people.
    Stand tall and demonstrate resolve and dependability.
    Inspire the rest of us.

--- That’s what I want.
I want a candidate who is not at war with me, with my country, or with my religion.
I want a candidate who has tremendous energy – enough to fight his way through a ferocious election and still have the stamina left to launch a thousand more government skirmishes and win them all. Win.
I want a candidate who can.

You see, that’s what politics is. Winning. As a democratic republic America inserted two new elements into governance: a constitution that limits that governance, and a chance to choose our leaders and therefore the policies that govern the nation. That last part is politics. And where choice is involved there are two options – winning and losing. There is no high moral ground here – we either win or we lose.

Imagine three people being stranded on a mountaintop. We’ll call them James, George, and Henry. They haven’t eaten in three weeks. Rescue is still off in the distant future, Henry has just died, and James is fading fast. What should George do here? It’s morally repugnant to think in terms of eating Henry, but if he doesn’t prepare some of that flesh and feed it to James, James will have no chance of holding out until rescue, and George will be left up there alone.

In that scenario George has to choose between pure morality and pure practicality. We like life a lot better when those choices don’t happen. I would like it much more if Ted Cruz was our candidate, but he’s not. Just as it would do James and George no good to take the moral high ground and refuse to eat Henry, it will do us no good to lift our honorable noses in the air and refuse to go vote.

Granted the analogy falls apart pretty fast, so I’ll venture a more direct approach:
We have a duty to vote – that isn’t a political choice; it’s our civic duty.  This is something all good citizens do; to sit out an election because we’re too lazy to go vote is, practically speaking, exactly the same as staying home because neither candidate pleases our moral sensitivities.

I don’t much like the Donald. I don’t like his brashness. I don’t like his vagueness, his vacillations on important policies, his pie-in-the-sky promises. I don’t like his three marriages, his gambling casinos. I don’t like his hair. But none of that is the point.

The question isn’t whether or not I like him. I’m not moving in with the man. I just want him to get the damn skunks our from under the house. The question isn’t even whether or not he’d make a great president. (Most of us feel that it will take a great president to undo the damage Obama has done.) The time to address that issue is over. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should pack up our toys in a huff and go home. It means we have to realize that the choice has changed.

The question now is which candidate would best discharge the following-- will he or she:
    Handle power well.
    Shoulder responsibility honestly and graciously.
    Delegate power to capable and trustworthy people.
    Stand tall and demonstrate resolve and dependability.
    Inspire the rest of us.
Note, I didn’t ask which would perfectly, or profoundly, or historically perform those essential functions. The question is just between these two admittedly flawed individuals. Ideology and high principles are not, right now, the issue. They will be again if we gain a foothold in the Oval Office, but if Hillary wins, the issue of principle will be gone, and in all likelihood, forever. There’s nothing noble about that, so I’ve decided that I’d rather vote against our sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.