Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Indiana Decides

Today is primary day in Indiana and it is a pretty big deal. Normally we are so far down the path to the nomination that it is sewn up tight when it gets to us but not this year. The airwaves are full of unpleasant ads, the candidates are in town and the largely one-sided showdown between Trump and Cruz comes to a head here. It reminds me of being in New Hampshire where the candidates and media congregate at the beginning of the process rather than the end.

While I am voting for Cruz I also recognize that he has thus far failed to really seize the opportunity. He isn't very photogenic and the lack of support from the GOP, or even outright hostility from tools like John Boehner, hasn't helped. Many have claimed that Cruz is *too* conservative and now probably will get the least conservative Republican nominee in my lifetime. Should Mr. Trump get the requisite 1237 votes, he should be the nominee no matter how distasteful that notion is. Really, given the reality of 8 years of President Obama being pompous, hectoring and sneering at the little people and anyone who doesn't kiss his ring, and the prospect of Hillary Clinton screeching for four more years, Trump is not that terrible of a choice. That says a lot about how bad the last 8 years and the prospect of  years of Hillary really is. Anyone who thinks that Hillary wins in a landslide if Trump is her opponent is delusional, Trump's "message" resonates with a lot of people in the critical Midwestern states.

We also have some tight contests for state and local offices and those ads are pretty much all accusing the other guy of being a closet liberal and their guy being the real conservative. In the area we live winning the GOP primary is essentially winning the general election so this is important for those aspirants.

I kind of look forward to slipping back into political irrelevance as a deep red state that is locked up for the most part in the general election...

Saturday, April 30, 2016

U Mad Mo Bro? A Look At Cult Mind Control Techniques.

I came across a link to this talk by mormon "apostle" Jeffrey R. Holland. As a member of the "Quorum of the Twelve" Mr. Holland is considered to be a prophetic apostle on par with the twelve apostles of Christ. Listen to what he says at around the 2:10 mark:

If you didn't catch that here it is transcribed:
"Don’t you dare bail. I am so furious with people who leave this church. I don’t know whether ‘furious’ is a good apostolic word. But I am. What on earth kind of conviction is that? What kind of patty-cake, taffy-pull experience is that? As if none of this ever mattered, as if nothing in our contemporary life mattered, as if this is all just supposed to be “just exactly the way I want it and answer every one of my questions and pursue this and occupy that and defy this – and then maybe I’ll be a Latter-Day Saint”?! Well, there’s too much Irish in me for that."
Notice the less than subtle suggestions embedded here in his talk. If you leave it is because you are a pouting child that doesn't get everything they want. If you leave it is because you are caught up in the "me first" mentality of this age. Even his "occupy that" comment tries to link people who leave mormonism with the Occupy Wall Street spoiled brats. His screed against those without firm convictions is pretty hilarious coming from an "apostle" of an aberrant religion that changes "revelations" from God like I change shirts.

One thing every cult or cult-like movement needs is a barrier to people leaving. Usually, and this is the case with mormonism, the threat is that by leaving the cult you become cut off from God spiritually and are separated from your friends and family terrestrially. In mormonism this is a multi-part threat. You are "cut off from the blessings of the temple", you are cast out of the "true church" which lands you in a worse afterlife than Adolph Hitler. Worst of all for many people, you are torn from friends and family that stay in mormonism. Another part of the control mechanism is to reject any possibility that people are leaving for legitimate reasons. It is always that they have been offended by someone or have some dark, hidden sin in their life or that they are just faithless. You can never allow any hint that someone left because they discovered that mormonism is a false cult.

I wanted to share this because it is typical of cult mind control techniques. For believers we need to see and recognize the signs of a cult. When you witness to a member of a cult the conversation is very different and often more difficult but as someone who has escaped a controlling cult like the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints", I have a burden to help those still trapped and bewitched by false prophets like Jeffrey Holland, a man who profanes the name of Christ every day and heaps judgement on his head by leading others astray.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Irony Of Income Inequality Rhetoric

If you pay any attention to the political scene, one theme comes up over and over again from the political left, namely the specter of the "income inequality" boogeyman. Never mind that there has always been and will always be income inequality and also never mind worrying over whether or not income inequality is actually bad or if the government should "do something" about it. This is the cause that is central to both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns and will be repeated over and over again in the general election regardless of who gets the nomination. It is the entire sum of the Democrat economic agenda, "curing" income inequality (and of course letting deviants use women's bathrooms because nothing matters more than the whims of a tiny percentage of mentally ill people). What makes this entire argument so dumb is not that it is a meaningless platitude but that it actually harms the poor and traps them in the cycle of poverty.

The alleged method of solving income inequality is for the government to take money away from those who have too much money, to be determined by a government panel, and give it to someone else who doesn't have enough money. Now it doesn't really matter how hard a person worked or how long they saved to become rich. Nor does it matter if the poor person has done nothing to change their circumstances. Whether you earned and deserve the wealth you have is irrelevant, all that matters is that person has too much money and that person has too little. The promise is to take all that money controlled by a tiny minority and spread it around. Except that is not what is really going to happen. Here is why...

So we are going to take all of this wealth out of the control of a tiny percentage of private citizens and turn it over to a tiny percentage of government bureaucrats. The end result is the same, a tiny fraction of the population controls most of the wealth. This is supposed to be better because of course because while rich people are evil and eat puppies, government bureaucrats are all pure as the driven snow and there isn't a hint of corruption to be found in the boundaries of the District of Columbia. What hasn't changed is the reality that a small percent of the population controls most of the wealth, just the people who control and the means by which they obtained it.

Let me clue you in to a little secret. All of this talk about income inequality has nothing to do with leveling the playing field or other such nonsense. It is all about concentrating even more money and therefore power into the hands of the self-anointed cultural elite, oddly enough the very same people who are clamoring the loudest about income inequality. Here is how it works. The government takes $100 from an evil rich person. The government keeps $22 of that money to pay bureaucrats to sullenly push paper around and be rude to taxpayers. The government gives $75 of that money back to the rich person in the form of some sort of complex tax haven or other scheme that the lobbyists have arranged. That leaves $3 to go to the "poor" in the form of "free" health care, food stamps, welfare payments and Obama phones. The poor stay poor. The rich stay rich. The government gets bigger. Everyone wins except the poor people who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of all this whole charade. 

I know that few people bother to think about this issue. All they hear is "That is unfair! I will make it more fairererer!!!" I still feel the need to rant about it. 2016 is going to be equal parts ugly and fascinating so expect the rants to keep coming.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Importance Of Precision

We live in a day of imprecision, an age of ambiguity and sloppiness. From the way we dress to how we communicate, everything we do is marked by a lack of precision and even worse an utter lack of concern. A large percentage of our population is utterly unable to express even a simple thought coherently and many people don't know the difference and don't care about simple things like their, there and they're. Conversations are littered with "like" and "um" because many people don't know what they want to say and even if they do they don't know how to say it. Like so many other ills of our general culture the church suffers from this same lack of precision. The difference is that while lack of precision and indifference to accuracy might make for a frustrating experience ordering a meal at a restaurant, it can mean the difference between a true expression of the Gospel or a incorrect and damning expression of the Gospel.

I have been watching some of the presentations from the recent Together For The Gospel conference and I can't say I am all that excited by the couple I have been watching. It seems a little forced even though the topic is such am important one, a topic (the necessity for and basis of the Protestant Reformation) that is central to so much of what T4G and other groups focus on. I was able to watch one speaker via live-stream, John Piper, and his was the best talk so far. He also said something, sort of an aside that I don't think was part of his prepared comments but when he said it early in the talk I got perked up pretty quickly and I have been waiting for the videos to come out so I can share it. Here is the video:

"The Bondage of the Will, the Sovereignty of Grace, and the Glory of God" — John Piper (T4G 2016) from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

Watch from about the five minute mark to around the 5:30 mark. Really you should watch the whole thing but for purposes of this post watch those 30 seconds because what Piper says is a clarion call that the whole church needs to understand and to heed. I want to highlight a couple of things he says, parsing them down for emphasis.

Every word counts.

Oh yes. This is an age of the disposable. Nothing has value. We toss words out without a thought and with no concern for how they are received. Many of us don't care much for what we say because we assume (rightly) that no one is paying much attention because they are focused on their phone.

My policy has always been simple: Say what you mean and mean what you say. The words we use and how we use them matter and again this is true nowhere more so than in the church. Some might say "Just love Jesus and love people and it will all work out!" but we see in the New Testament, especially in Galatians, how quickly people seeking another Gospel and attempt to add to or take away from the saving truth of Jesus Christ.

I love precision.

Me too! People who are alleged theologians or elders who are sloppy in their study are a huge liability for the church thanks to our subcontracting system of ministry and teaching. I am not talking about locking yourself away in your study to wrangle out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin but Christians should know what they believe and those who teach doubly so and those called to lead as elders triply so. The source material of the Bible is absolutely the most critical information and revelation one will ever encounter, if you are sloppy in handling it what does that say about your concern for the oracles of God?

The abandonment of precision and definition is the gateway to liberalism.

Yes and again I say YES. It seems to me that a lot of people read through the Bible and just sort of skim it until they find something that they like, or worse yet thanks to our myriad methods of directly searching for what you want they just skip reading the Bible as a whole and use it to pick and choose. Errors like universalism, rejecting substituionary atonement, women elders which often leads to embracing homosexual behavior, adopting a modified evolutionary worldview, etc.

Let me reiterate and restate what Piper said. Imprecision in handling the Word of God is the gateway, and not only the gateway but I would say the expressway, to liberalism which to put it simply and succinctly has meant grievous error in every manifestation past and present. 

It takes a long time to be precise, it is hard work.

Exactly, and if there is anything people hate today it is taking their time and working hard. Our world is a world of emojis and memes and twitter and abbreviations because spelling stuff out is so,,like...um....like....HARD, you know? We like our religion in convenient, easy to hear and promptly ignore, sound-bytes. No one wants to read hard books or study the deep questions of the faith or wrestle with the tough parts of Scripture, especially when the Scriptures seem inconvenient to daily life. There is an old saying, anything worth doing is worth doing right.

We are talking about the eternal destiny of the souls of billions of people. We have been given a comprehensive and sufficient Word from God. At the very least we should take the time to know what we are talking about and drink deeply from the well God has provided.

Give Piper's talk a listen. As usual he doesn't fail to deliver. Especially ponder what he says about precision in handling the Word of God, a task for every Christian, because it is the very voice of God preserved for us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Something You Don't See Everyday

The Amish around here typically have a building they call the shed, sort of a utility building (although some are huge and rather fancy) that serves for storage and once a year or so as the place that family holds church. One Amish family near us built a new shed and therefore had an extra so they were having it moved to their kid's place. I filmed this video from another Amish place on the route, it was a pretty weird sight to see...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Singing Men (Or Not)

Albert Mohler, posting from Together for the Gospel, makes a point I have long believed.

A lot of people assume men won't sing in church but I think the reality is that men will sing "songs of conviction and gospel" rather than sappy, effeminate songs. The same is true with sermons and other forms of teaching. Give a man some lame morality lesson wrapped up in religious jargon and little wonder he falls asleep. Give a born-again brother the unadulterated meat of the Gospel and if he is a believer he will be riveted. The problem is not a lack of interest, the problem is a lack of content, of conviction, of the power of the Gospel, the magnificence of the Kingdom and the glory of Jesus Christ our King and Savior. Give us that and watch us grow!

Monday, April 04, 2016

Book Review: Imbeciles

When you hear about a government using forced sterilization to eliminate "undesirable" traits in the population, your first thought would probably be that I am talking about Nazi Germany. You would be correct in that the Nazis were well know for their grotesque fascination with racial purity achieved by whatever means necessary, whether that means forced sterilizations or the outright murder of entire populations of people who had the misfortune of being born with a disability or being of a hated racial group like the Jews. What you might not realize is that when Adolf Hitler was still a young lad, eugenics was a hot topic in the land of the free and the home of the brave, even to the point of having the Supreme Court of these United States give an 8-1 decision that blessed the practice of forcibly sterilizing those deemed to be polluting the American population pool with their undesirable traits. In fact later on during the Nazi war trials after World War II, the Nazis pointed to America as leading the charge in eugenics well before the Nazis took power.

That Supreme Court decision and the simple young woman caught up in this legal precedent form the basis for a new book from Adam Cohen, Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck. Adam Cohen details the parallel lives of Ms. Buck, her family, the legal and scientific authorities who created the foundation of forced sterilization and the nation herself during this time. As Cohen relates, Ms. Buck was considered the perfect individual to be used as a test case for Virginia's forced sterilization law. In a case reliant upon pretty sketchy science, dubious "evidence" and an utter lack of reasonable representation for Ms. Buck, the champions of eugenics found their ideal case to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court, where it received a warm welcome and most especially from liberal legal icon Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. While Cohen seems disheartened by a so-called "progressive" championing forced sterilization, Justice Holmes is in good company with other progressives like Planned Parenthood founder and heroine to Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton Margaret Sanger seeing many people as less than human impediments to progress, especially blacks.

Imbeciles is a deeply researched work. I can only imagine how many boxes and boxes of irrelevant documentation he had to dig through to get the information he sought. He also is a pretty decent story teller, avoiding for the most part the tendency of historical works to drift into a dry recitation of names, dates and events. Most of all, Imbeciles is a chilling reminder of the power of an unrestrained government to wreak havoc on the lives of people it is supposed to be serving. The American courts have long been responsible for dehumanizing decisions that have decreed certain types of people (blacks, the "feebleminded", unborn children) as subhuman and worthy of being controlled, repressed or outright killed. We divest ourselves of our liberty at our peril as has been demonstrated over and over again. I do wish Cohen had dealt more with the topic of forced sterilizations in America post Buck v. Bell and that he had expanded on the chilling rise of a new form of eugenics in "designer babies" and the abortion of less than desirable babies. Buck v Bell is still the law of the land even if individual states no longer practice forced sterilizations.

Cohen stumbles in a couple of places. First he tends to do a lot of hypothesizing about what someone was thinking or feeling to help fill in his case. Certainly one can infer from other evidence what is likely to be thought in a particular case by a certain person, but that doesn't pass the sniff test for a painstakingly researched historical work. I also found that he tended to repeat himself, almost verbatim, in places making me wonder if I had not already read a page before. Finally he spends far too much time trying to prove that Ms. Buck was not "feebleminded". To me, her alleged lower intelligence or mental retardation is irrelevant to whether the United States government and the various state governments should be in the business of forcing people to be sterilized. In one telling passage Cohen recounts that Ms. Buck was sent home from a family she was staying with for using one of their dishes as a chamber pot. That seems to be a behavior that a person of normal intelligence wouldn't do. Overall though this is a worthwhile read and one that should inform your decision making well beyond questions of eugenics.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Scientific Consensus Has Often Been Wrong

Those of us in the majority of Americans who are not "scientists" are repeatedly told that we must defer to those who are self-described as "scientists" on any question that is related to "science". Any questioning of their pronouncements is treated as a heretical attitude and the backlash makes the medieval Roman Catholic Church look like Mennonites in comparison. We are told that when the scientific community is at a consensus, defined as a majority of scientists agreeing to a particular premise on an issue, that issue is settled and no questions may be asked. I say that is bunk, that even though I am not a scientist in any sense of the word, I am hopefully observant enough to distinguish between actual science and science done with an agenda. Those who push "settled science" like global warming climate change and evolution and a universe that apparently sprang into being at the "Big Bang" but we aren't really sure where the stuff that banged came from often have a different motivation than expanding human knowledge and understanding. They are not terribly good at hiding their ulterior motivations if you take the time to look.

The reason I bring this up, a topic I have written about often in the past, is a book I am reading by Adam Cohen, Im*be*ciles. Today many people use imbecile or idiot or moron as a slur mostly against people who are not really any of those things but around a century ago those terms had specific "scientific" meaning and were used as labels for people who were deemed mentally deficient or just a simply undesirable sort of person. Here is one quote from the book I found fascinating, not just for what it had to say in the early 20th century but also for what it tells us today:
"The medical establishment not only spoke out in favor of eugenic sterilization but did so with near unanimity. No prominent medical professors or surgeons publicly opposed the sterilization movement-or if they did, they were not being heard. One survey found that every article on the subject of eugenic sterilization published in a medical journal between 1899 and 1912 endorsed the practice." (Imbeciles, p. 66)
So in the early 20th century the consensus of the medical profession was that those who are labelled mentally deficient in one way or another ought to be forcibly sterilized. The academic community was also largely unanimous on some variant of what we would call eugenics. You could just about replace the references about eugenics to references about climate change and you would be describing the current state of scientific discourse. Another deeply ironic thing we learn, although one I am not at all surprised by, is that many of the most vocal advocates of forced sterilization were also the most "progressive" or liberal members of society. Cohen points out that the strongest objection to this practice came from Roman Catholics. This shouldn't surprise anyone. Progressive icon and personal heroine to Mrs. William Jefferson Cliinton, Margaret Sanger the founder of Planned Parenthood, was as vile a racist and eugenicist as you will ever find. That fact is conveniently ignored by those on the left who hold her and the bloodthirsty cult she founded as heroes of American history.

But! But! BUT! We are far more enlightened and civilized today compared to a century ago! Yeah, sure. Want to bet that the same academic and scientific communities calling for forced sterilization in the early 20th century probably bragged about how much more advanced they were than their predecessors?

My broader point is two-fold. First , the notion of "scientific consensus" is not a new one and I would suggest that history has shown in retrospect that that consensus was wrong far more than it was right. As such, simply pointing to "scientific consensus" on an argument doesn't make something true anymore so than scientific consensus one hundred years ago makes eugenics valid. The second is a caution to those who would look to the government to protect us and represent our values. The same government that is in place today was the government than interned Japanese-Americans, that made legal the forced sterilizations of thousands of citizens, that provided a legal framework to own slaves.

One of the most important traits of a healthy society is a citizenry that knows to and actually does ask difficult questions. In our increasingly ignorant and politically correct society fewer and fewer people are willing to engage in critical thinking and most of our fellow citizens are historically illiterate. Books like this are incredibly useful to the formation of a healthy, skeptical and critical mindset that is often missing in America. A full length review will follow.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Constitution Is Not A Mere List Of General Principles

I was in the car at 11 A.M. today and listened to the first part of President Obama's futile nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to replace Justice Scalia. It is a futile and empty gesture because the Senate has declared that they will not hold hearings until a new President is elected, sworn in and makes their own selection. The type of nominee to be selected to replace a towering legal intellect like Antonin Scalia will rightly be a major focus of the upcoming election. Of course President Obama nominated someone anyway. What was troubling about his statement occurred early in his speech at around the 00:41 mark. When I heard this in the car I caught this right away. I am sure others caught it as well but it really rang a warning bell for me. Here is the part that is at issue.
"The men and women who sit on the Supreme Court are the final arbiters of American law. They safeguard our rights. They ensure that our system is one of laws and not men. They're are charged with the essential task of applying principles put to paper more than two centuries ago to some of the most challenging questions of our times"
So what is wrong with that? At a glance it is just some political speech mumbo-jumbo, meaningless prattle especially from a man who has decreed that because he has a pen and a phone, he is within his imaginary Constitutional rights to make laws apart from Congress. What struck me though was the deeper meaning behind the carefully selected words in his announcement. This was no off-the-cuff speech.

There are two problems. First, President Obama said: " They (the justices of the Supreme Court) safeguard our rights".  Incorrect. The Supreme Court does not safeguard our rights. The Constitution safeguards our rights. The rights enshrined in the Constitution lay out rights, responsibilities and restrictions, the rights of the people and by proxy the states; the responsibilities of the three branches of the Federal government; and the myriad restrictions placed on that Federal e government. There are a lot more restrictions placed on the Federal government than there are areas of authority by the way. The Constitution is a document that places the people above the state and that has a bias toward the individual states over  the Federal government. I do not trust the Supreme Court, no matter who nominates the nine Justices, to safeguard my rights and our rights as a people. This is not without reason. Time and time again the Justcies have circumvented the very Constitution that they are sworn to uphold to either take away rights guaranteed by the Constitution or to create from their own imaginations new "rights" that have no mention or implication in the same Constitution (ex. the "right" to an abortion, the "right" of homosexuals to marry, etc.). The whimsy and prejudices of man are precisely why we have a very specific and limited Constitution, leaving little up to chance, at least when properly applied. So right away President Obama is showing either a naïveté about the nature of man or he is shrewdly exhibiting his own bias toward a super-Constitution activist Supreme Court that overrules the unwashed masses when they are not sufficienly enlightened.

The other problem is similar. President Obama said: "They're are charged with the essential task of applying principles put to paper more than two centuries ago ". This is also incorrect. The Constitution of the United States is not and never intended as a series of general and malleable principles that we apply selectively as we see fit based on the current whims of popular culture or the vagaries of the masses. Being a good neighbor is a principle. Always being honest is a principle. Principles have to do with beliefs and moral assumptions. The various articles and amendments that make up the Constitution are rather the governing laws of these United States, the highest law of the land. The President clearly sees the Supreme Court as a sort of super legislative branch, nine  unelected and essentially unimpeachable men and women who feel free and even encouraged to make law from the bench to override the laws made by the people and the states. When the Constitution is relegated to a mere set of guiding principles, it loses it's most powerful safeguards against encroaching tyranny, a very real threat when the Constitution was written and I would argue a very real threat today. President Obama has, I believe, a very different and a very dangerous notion of what the Constitution is and what it was intended to do compared to the men who actually wrote the document.

This sort of subtle deception by the President is precisely why I agree that the next President should be the one to appoint the next Supreme Court justice. If the people choose the next President foolishly, then we will have to live with that decision which quite possible could be the next and perhaps decisive step toward an end to the dream that is America and our Republic. If they choose wisely then we ought to see a principled nominee who will apply the Constitution under the restrictions placed on the Court and the entire Federal government by that same document. For once in my lifetime, let the people have a voice in how the Supreme Court will be constituted for the next several decades to come.

A quick note about the entire charade and the faux outrage by the Democrats. The authority to nominate a Supreme Court Justice does indeed reside in the office of the President. Please note that word: nominate. Under what conditions does a nominee become an appointee? The language of Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution is quite clear: "...and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint...Judges of the supreme Court..." (Emphasis mine) That is pretty clear. A nominee only becomes an appointee with both the advice and the consent of the Senate. No consent means no appointment and the nomination is null and void. I am sure that President Obama is aware of this but in the kabuki theater that is our government he still needs to play his part in this farce. I always point back to the hatchet job done to besmirch the character of one of the most qualified men to ever be nominated to the Supreme Court, Judge Robert Bork. With that atrocity perpetuated on a legal giant without peer in our generation the nominating process became completely politicized. To the Democrats I say: You made your bed, now you get to lie in it.

I will be writing my Senators to encourage them to deny a hearing and vote to Judge Merrick Garland. He seems like a decent man who has the unfortunate distinction of being a sacrificial lamb sent forth by the President. However he should not be the next Justice of the Supreme Court unless he is nominated in 2017 by our new President.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Two Chapters That Go Hand In Hand

Eric Carpenter penned a brief post on a topic I have been harping on for years, A Pilgrim's Progress: The Danger of Separating Romans 13 from Romans 12. The church speaking generally tends to view the end of Romans 12 and the beginning of Romans 13 as completely separate thoughts even though when read together it is clearly a single argument Paul is making. If you read Romans 13 by itself you can sort of make a case for "just war" and the participation of Christians in the violence of the state but that completely falls apart when you read the end of 12 in the same sitting. Check it out and remember that the chapter and verse divisions we take for granted were added well after the actual writing of the books of the Bible.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

This Should Go Without Saying...

....but Christians really shouldn't turn to the Huffington Post to inform their faith. Exhibit A is a post yesterday from a Christopher Cocca with the provocative and yet inexplicable title "Bernie Sanders Is the Most Christian Candidate in History". Apparently Mr. Cocca is a fan of Bernie and has dubbed him the most Christian candidate, not in this election year mind you but for all time. That is a pretty bold pronouncement but as you might expect I have a couple of issues with his assertion.

There are two problems here, one that is huge and the other that is pretty significant.

The first problem of course is that one cannot be "the most Christian cadidate EVER!" if one is not a Christian. That seems pretty self-evident but apparently in this day and age even the most obvious and common sense notions need to be reinterpreted on a daily basis. Senator Sanders is, as I understand, a Jew and not only Jewish but a non-practicing, secular Jew who is Jewish by ethnicity, not faith. As such he seems pretty vague on the notion of God in general and to the best of my knowledge has never proclaimed Jesus as Lord. The Bible is clear on this, if you don't declare Jesus you deny Him and anyone who denies Him has no part in eternal life. Jesus said:
So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33)
That is a pretty unnuanced statement but that is kinda how Jesus rolled. If you do not say Jesus is Lord, if you have not been born again, you are not and cannot be a Christian and if someone is not a Christian in any sense of the word, it follows that one cannot be "the most Christian candidate EVER!" if one is not a Christian. One person on social media commented that Bernie is the "nicest" candidate in the race and that makes him Christian, which is totally ridiculous theologically and to be blunt whenever I see Bernie he seems mostly angry, wagging his finger at those who have a nickle more than the next guy, engaging is class warfare and racial pandering (White people don't know what it means to be poor!). 

The second problem is the definition Mr. Cocca has for what makes one Christian and what Christianity teaches. Let's look at some of his statements....
Yes, I do believe that health care is a human right. Yes, I do believe that gainful education is a basic human right. We are not granted these rights from "The Market," or from our navigation of it. These are birthrights.
OK. Why exactly now, in 2016, are these "basic human rights"? Who declared them as such? More importantly what does the Bible have to say on these issues? The answer to that question is "nothing at all". Zero. Zilch. Now a progressive might retort "Oh yeah, well the Bible doesn't say anything about abortion or gay marriage!" That is technically true but the Bible also doesn't talk about shooting someone with a gun but that doesn't make it less sinful. The Bible does speak at length about willfully murdering another human being, which is what abortion is at its most basic definition. Also with "gay marriage", while the Bible doesn't say anything about "gay marriage" by name, it does define marriage as being between a man and woman for life and it also declares unequivocally that homosexual behavior is a grievous sin. Regardless, what Mr. Cocca is apparently talking about is not merely health care and education but those being provided by the government and paid for by coercion.

He then launches into a rambling and incoherent tirade about why Matthew 6:26-34 is an economic treatise which is anti-capitalism and free markets. Read it for yourself, it is equal parts progressive bogeyman pseudo-economic mumbo jumbo and leftist religious talk dressed up as Christianity. What follows that is the most off the wall "interpretation" of the Genesis account you will ever read. It is pretty clear that Mr. Cocca is skeptical about the Genesis account but apparently the Garden was a socialist paradise until Adam and Eve turned to capitalism and ate the fruit, eating more than "Enough". As an aside it is pretty funny that Mr. Cocca randomly capitalizes words like "Enough" and "Secondary Marketplace". After this rambling trip through the fever swamps of progressive economic theology. Mr. Cocca ends with this:
In this election, don't be so surprised that the person most in keeping with the prophetic vision of Jesus is a so-called secular Jew. Bernie Sanders is standing with the ancient Hebrew prophets and in the tradition of our Lord, Jesus the marginalized Jew, but, unlike some other populist candidates, he's not running a campaign of identity politics. As a Christian, I cannot judge the hearts of others claiming to also follow Christ, but am also taught that the faithful will be known by their fruits. Bernie Sanders may be a secular Jew by the standards of the media or by other modern indentifiers, but he may just also be the most Christian person running for president, maybe ever.
Notice that Mr. Cocca identifies Jesus not as God but as "the marginalized Jew". Is that the primary definition of Jesus or even in the top ten? Also note that while he claims to not be able to judge the hearts of other candidates, candidates who openly profess their faith in Christ, he does seem able to judge the heart of a cultural unbelieving Jew. If that seems a little inconsistent to you, don't adjust your TV because it is.

Blogs like this are the result of unmooring Christianity as a faith community from rigorous and robust exegesis of the primary means God has communicated with His people, namely through His written Word. It is a sign of how Biblically illiterate we are as a people that articles like this get serious consideration. Bottom line, socialism is not a Christian economic system. Neither is capitalism or Marxism or Libertarianism. These are all secular attempts by society to form an economic system that provides structure to human interaction. Trying to fuse Christianity and socialism is bound to fail because the Bible simply doesn't call on Christians to use the coercive power of the state to take from some who have earned money to give to others who have not. Bernie Sanders is not the most Christian candidate ever. He is not even a Christian. Likewise his economic policies are not Christian and they are incredibly dangerous and naive.

In this election let's try to avoid compounding the circus we already have with bad theology and for Pete's sake stay away from  the Huffington Post.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Unions And Evangelicals

I try to stay away from politics but this election season just keeps sucking me in. For someone who comes from a politically savvy family and also majored in political science in college this has been an unprecedented and fascinating couple of months. The only thing I can see that comes close is the Ross Perot experiment that handed Bill Clinton the White House. Not many people remember old Ross or that at one point it seemed like he might actually win.

Anyway, listening to NPR today and heard a bit of a piece about union rank and file members bucking the union leadership and supporting Donald Trump. At the same time there is another story about Max Lucado who is befuddled by support from evangelicals who support Trump. As I pondered this I saw a similarity between two normally disparate groups.

On the surface there seems to be very little linking these two groups. Evangelicals are typically consistent and reliable voters for Republicans, the party that is far less union friendly. Growing up in a union town, Toledo, Ohio, it has always seemed to me that the epitome of the union family is an ethnic Catholic family, usually white, that votes Democrat no matter what. In Toledo you could run a parakeet as a Democrat and it would win. Where I see the linkage is in the disconnect between leadership and the regular folks who make up the bulk of each population.

In both cases the leadership, the movers and shakers on the stage, pretty reliably tell the masses the same thing over and over. Evangelical leaders talk about abortion and gay marriage and why you have to vote Republican if you care about these issues. Union leaders talk about Democrats as the champion of the little guy, watching out for workers and defending them from the evil corporations. I don't really know any national or even regional evangelical leaders personally but I used to work for a bank and many of my customers were unions so I spent a lot of time with the local and regional leadership.and they mostly seemed interested in how many expensive lunches and tickets to sporting events they could finagle out of the bank. A lot of ministries seem mostly interested in keeping the lights on and the staff paid, spending the funds they raised to turn right around and raise more funds, making it seem like the primary purpose of the organization is fund raising. The union bosses keep their cushy jobs funded by the wages of hard working union laborers and the big name evangelicals keep endorsing each other's never-ending books which sell like hotcakes.

Why then this sudden revolt by the rank and file of evangelicals and unions workers alike? What seems to be happening is part of the broader shift in our country, a shift that sees an unraveling of the former social contract where the vast majority of Americans formerly placed their trust in revered institutions: the government, unions, religious denominations, the education establishment, the police, the military. Bit by bit the foundation that compact was eroded until it suddenly is collapsing. People no longer trust someone because they are a member of the clergy, the Roman Catholic abuse cover-up helped shatter that illusion. The advent of smart phones, dash cams and body cams has revealed that all too often police shoot people inexplicably. The teacher's unions seem mostly interested in keeping as many people employed in "education" as possible, even when a teacher is incompetent, not to mention the regular reports of teachers having sex with their students. Titles, authority, tradition, all have lost what used to be their power over the little people, power granted because of trust. Trust that was betrayed and has been revoked.

It will be interesting to see what the endgame is. If it is indeed Trump versus Hillary, the reality show con-man versus one of the most corrupt, patronizing politicians to ever sell themselves, what will the masses do? Will they listen to their leaders one more time or is that time at an end for good. If it is over, what will replace it? It is going to be an ugly and fascinating and revolting all at once. Buckle up!