Sunday, August 20, 2017

More Media Manipulation: The Mysterious Case Of The Vanishing Headline

Yesterday CNN ran a piece on their webpage which made an absolutely Orwellian statement that the "Antifa" seek "Peace Through Violence" (screen-shots grabbed this morning by me).

If that doesn't invoke Orwell's 1984, you aren't paying attention:

War Is Peace
Freedom Is Slavery
Ignorance Is Strength

I have to give CNN some credit, that is an unusually honest headline from them. While the various White nationalist groups can muster maybe 1000 people for a well-planned and publicized rally, the far left "antifa" can round up tens of thousands of people at the drop of a hat to protest free speech in Boston. But lo and behold, when you click on the link you get a slightly different headline (many people took screenshots of the original story including "peace through violence")

Well isn't that handy! I like that they use the euphemism "updated" in regards to the headline. Anyway. It is a sure sign of hard-hitting journalism when you allow the group you are doing an alleged expose on ("Unmasking"!) to edit your story for content and apparently veto the headline of the story itself. I wonder if CNN asked anyone from the alt-right to edit stories that they run on them? Maybe I am just cynical but I kind of doubt it. Can you imagine the "updated" headline from December 8, 1941 if CNN had been around:

"Peaceful Japanese Navy On Humanitarian Mission Attacked Without Provocation In Hawaii By Imperialist American Warships! Forced To Drop Bombs To Lighten Load In Order To Escape! 64 Japanese Sailors And Airmen Killed!"

It is important to realize that CNN is not a "news" organization and what they do is not journalism. They are an partisan advocacy organization just like Breitbart, the Daily Caller and Fox News. If you understand that and choose to read/watch CNN and others like them (MSNBC, The NY Times, Washington/Amazon Post, etc.), that is fine but I see an awful lot of people taking what they write and say as Gospel truth because they are "journalists" and of course don't have any ulterior or partisan political motivations. Think for yourself and don't rely on a small circle of "news" organizations to tell you what to think.

We have never lived in a time when more information is as readily available as it is now. We have also never lived in a time with quite this level of overt media manipulation. Now more than ever you need to take charge of being informed and that requires you to be an active seeker, not a passive consumer of information. The days we live in are too perilous to be ignorant.

Friday, August 18, 2017

How The Media Manipulates Us

My wife and I went to Wendy's for a quiet dinner last night and our local restaurant always has two TVs on, muted with captions, one in each back corner. One has CNN, one has Fox. We were there a while, well over an hour, and the entire time we were there whenever I looked at Fox they were covering the ongoing terror attack situation in Spain. Meanwhile CNN was at least 80%, probably more, talking about Trump. The "failure" to denounce White nationalists, the disbanding of the random Presidential councils no one had heard of before, more about Denounce-Gate, a quick update on Barcelona, and then back to Denounce-Gate. Anderson Cooper had Cornell West and some other guy on and they rambled on and on with a non-stop stream of meaningless platitudes including denouncing "White supremacy" and "male supremacy", which I thought was rich coming from Cornell West since he has become no doubt terribly wealthy (for a "democratic socialist", sort of like fellow "socialist" Bernie Sanders and other "liberal" rich folk like Michael Moore) by attending and then teaching at schools like Princeton, Harvard and Yale, all universities founded by White men and funded and endowed by what I am guessing are overwhelmingly White men. It must be nice to be able to scold and hector the very people that have made you wealthy. Meanwhile Fox is covering an actual news event where 14 people are dead as of now, over 100 are injured and the driver is still at large. A second attack was apparently thwarted. For all of their faults, Fox was carrying news last night at prime time because something real was going on. CNN spent almost the entire same time period taking shots at President Trump.

Meanwhile CNN's Wolf Blitzer suggested that the Barcelona attacks were possibly copycats. Not copying the half dozen vehicle attacks by Islamic terrorists in Europe in 2017 alone. Nope, the Barcelona attackers had no idea what to do until Charlottesville.
CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Scuitto said, “[I]n light of the uproar over the last several days, five days apart, you have white supremacists in Charlottesville use a vehicle to kill, and here you have — attackers at least following the modus operandi of terrorists using vehicles, apparently to kill as well. And it’s that — those shared tactics that should be alarming.”
Blitzer added, “Yeah, and there will be questions about copycats. There will be questions if what happened in Barcelona, was at all, at all, a copycat version of what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. Even though they may be different characters, different political ambitions, they used the same killing device, a vehicle going at high speed into a group, a large group of pedestrians.”
Wolfie isn't alone in trying to somehow, no matter how obviously nonsensical it is, to link Charlottesville with Barcelona. A guy named Ian Bremmer, a professors at NYU, tweeted out the list of vehicle attacks in Europe this year.

He apparently committed a Thought-Crime because CNN's Jim Sciutto, "CNN Chief National Security Correspondent", promptly tweeted in reply ONE WHOLE MINUTE LATER:
It is almost like Sciutto was searching Twitter for someone to point out the multiple vehicle terror attacks in 2017 so he could try to lump Charlottesville in with Islamic terrorism.

Thankfully people are calling him out about it but you might notice that the original post talked about vehicle terror attacks in Europe. That doesn't stop Sciutto from trying to find a link. As of now we don't know what happened or why in Charlottesville. Did he go there with the intent to drive into a crowd? Did he decide to do so after the antifa violence during the rally? Was his car being attacked and he panicked? We don't know and for two of the three possibilities above I support sending him to jail or the chair as allowed by law. But that didn't and isn't stopping the media from assuming his motives. Here is how this works:

- A half dozen terrorist attacks using vehicle in 2017, many stabbings and a few bombings killing hundreds combined. All of them conducted by Muslims, many accompanied by either claims of responsibility from ISIS and/or shouts of "Allahu Akbar" during the attack.

Media Response: #notallmuslims We must not make assumptions. Calls attacks anything but Islamic terror. Worriedly clutches pearls over possible backlash against Muslims. The true motivations of the attackers might never be known.

- One White guy acting alone with a known mental illness drives into a crowd and kills someone.

Same Media, Different Response: Immediately understands his motivations completely before a single fact is known. All Whites share culpability here, White nationalists are all violent, we must suppress their speech and de-platform them on social media. Trump is guilty of not denouncing White nationalism strongly enough. Tear down every monument.

I employed a lot of hyperbole there but that was intentional as there is no lack of over the top hyperbole all over the place. My point is that much of the media, and especially CNN, are spinning the news to an extent that would make Damon Killian from The Running Man stand up and applaud.

Even Wikipedia and social media platforms get in on the act, from the "Top News" and "Trending" on Facebook to how material is portrayed on their website. This is what appeared on the landing page of Wikipedia this morning:

Notice that the top story is of the Barcelona attacks but the picture is of the Charlottesville incident, a story that is almost a week old but is still featured prominently on their landing page even though far more people were killed last night in Barcelona and in the mudslides in Sierra Leone and the bombing in Pakistan. The story of Charlottesville is at the bottom of the list but apparently Wikipedia couldn't get a picture from Barcelona or one of the other featured news events by doing something complex like a Google search. Or perhaps the intent was to strengthen the perceived link between two completely unrelated events. I wonder....

It is so critical in this day and age to be as independently informed as you can be. The subtle manipulation of news by omission and emphasis has been replaced entirely by overt partisanship on both sides but on the mainstream Left there is still is false aura of neutrality and objectivity. The idea of impartiality and journalistic ethics is a myth. It probably always has been and it certainly has been for my entire life but it is especially true now. Don't let them manipulate you but also don't just tune-out. A disengaged citizen is just as useful as one that has been manipulated.

There is nothing more dangerous to would-be tyrants than an informed population. Don't let anyone disarm you.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Church Didn't Have A Side In Charlottesville

Depending on where you get your news, you think that the events of Charlottesville were either a brawl between two extremist ideologies or, in the more "mainstream" interpretation, it was a gathering of violent racists being peacefully opposed by anti-racism counter-protesters that ended up with an innocent woman dead.

When spun in the second manner, an awful lot of people understandably jump on the "other side" and that is just that. Groups like the KKK and neo-Nazis, a small portion of the rally in Charlottesville, are the greatest bogeymen in our society. Neo-Nazis invoke the image of their genuine predecessors in the Third Reich and the KKK is the ultimate homegrown evil, burning crosses and lynching blacks while wearing silly outfits. The very cartoonishness of these two groups makes it easy to define them, mock them and dismiss them. I am not saying that is wrong necessarily but I am of the opinion that the Klan and neo-Nazis in general are actually a pretty small subset of the White nationalist/identitarian movement, itself a small fringe movement.

Compounding the issue, President Trump issued a very balanced, very reasonable statement that rightly pointed out that there was violence on both sides in Charlottesville. That got any number of knickers twisted and people freaked out, accusing Trump of siding with the "alt-right" when in fact what he said very specifically made the case that he didn't take either side.

But, some say, by not picking a side he was actually...picking a side. I know, I know, it doesn't make sense unless you accept the narrative being spun by the media and political Left. That narrative says that the "alt-right", White nationalists, KKK, neo-Nazis, are always violent and were in Charlottesville to engage in violence. I would point out that saying intentionally inflammatory stuff and being prepared in the event of violence is not the same as an intent to commit violence. The same narrative creates a polar opposite where the "antifa" and others groups were just there to peacefully counter-protest against racism. That sounds nice but it simply is not true.

First, it is demonstrably factual that many, many of the left-wing "counter-protesters" were headed to Charlottesville with the express intent of causing mayhem and violence. This is easily seen in social media posts, in their behavior at the Unite the Right rally and in similar prior venues (Berkeley, Middlebury College, the bike lock attack, the attempted blinding of a rally organizer, the assault by a college professor from By Any Means Necessary which led to her arrest, countless other smaller attacks involving dangerous objects and mace at all manner of gatherings, including entirely peaceful Trump campaign rallies).

Second, and this is critical to understand, these groups are not at their most basic "anti-racism" although their particular interpretation of what that means is a major part of their platform. The core ideology of the "counter-protesters" in Charlottesville and elsewhere is not "anti-racism". That is what you are being told but it simply isn't the case. The ideology of "Black Lives Matter", the "antifa", "By Any Means Necessary (BAMN)", etc. is simply old fashioned recycled Marxism. There are a number of good resources to document this, including a lot of source material from these groups themselves. For example, from The Federalist: How Black Lives Matter Is Bringing Back Traditional Marxism (language warning).
BLM has simply substituted Marx’s class conflict between the proletariat and bourgeoisie for class conflict between blackness and whiteness. But unlike income and wealth, blackness and whiteness are not temporary states: while 56 percent of American households occupy the top 10 percent of the income bracket at some point during their lives, such transience does not occur with an immutable characteristic like race.
The black vs. white dichotomy creates a permanent enemy class, to which defection is always incomplete. And unlike the proletariat class consciousness, race consciousness already exists, making mobilization easier. This can be seen in the comments of a Milwaukee protester from August: “We do not want justice or peace anymore. We done with that shit. We want blood. We want blood. We want the same shit ya’ll want. Eye for an eye. No more peace. F–k all that. Ain’t no more peace. Ain’t no more peace. We done. We cannot cohabitate with white people, one of us have to go, black or white. All ya’ll have to go!”
While there were almost certainly run of the mill people who just don't like to see racists march among the counter-protesters, just as there were certainly generic conservatives who love their Southern heritage among Unite the Right, this is the ideology of the major figures of the leftist coalition that was in Charlottesville, Berkeley and so many other flashpoints: cultural Marxism, identity politics, violent socialism, anti-liberty rhetoric and action.

In a lame attempt at being clever some are trying to frame this as if the Alt-Left is the reincarnation of the Allies in World War II fighting the reincarnation of the Nazis (the Alt-Right). The more accurate comparison is that if anything this is more akin to the Nazis and Communist Soviets fighting it out. In fact this is really just a continuation of the clash of world-views that preceded the second World War between communists and fascists, even if many of the participants on both sides are not truly ideologically pure examples of either. If the Nazis had prevailed over the Soviets, a National Socialist empire would have stretched from France to the Pacific Ocean. As it was after the Soviets fought and raped their way to Berlin they instead put up the Iron Curtain and imprisoned tens of millions of Europeans under the repression of Communism. In the fight between the Communists and National Socialists there could be no winner while either existed. In Charlottesville both sides "won". The antifa got to look like the good guys while attacking people and the alt-right got to reinforce their narrative of persecution that attracts so many disaffected people. The big loser was the vast majority of the American people that are not in either camp.

Again, what was on display in Charlottesville was not a simplistic good versus evil confrontation. Although that is what the media, a fair number of "Republicans" that want to see Trump replaced by a more traditional Republican (or even a Democrat) and a disturbing number of Christians that are so enraptured by being able to claim to be on the "anti-racism" side that they are ignoring the facts, want you to believe, what was really going on was a more basic evil versus evil fight. It should go without saying that in a clash between evils, the church does not have a horse to back. Our prophetic witness is apart from either group, calling them both to repent. That doesn't mean that there were not genuine believers on both sides of the fray. That is highly triggering to say but if I can accept that there are people who are dead wrong on specific Scriptural issues like baptism, soteriology, the end times, the Lord's Supper, church government, etc., it follows that there are genuine believers who have what most of us would consider misguided beliefs on issues of race, economics, liberty and government. That doesn't mean that these people are not wrong in their beliefs, just an admission that I think that 100% of people other than me are wrong about at least one thing.

Saying that I have to stand against racism by standing with neo-Marxists who want to quash the First Amendment (and Second and who knows what else) and destroy the traditional, nuclear Biblical family is a lose-lose scenario and I refuse to play. You should too. The Bible warns us to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers regardless of the cause but too many Christians are walking in lockstep with spiritual darkness because they want to be seen as standing against racism, just as many are walking with spiritual darkness to avoid losing their heritage.

Don't be guilted or mislead into taking sides with the ungodly. The media, political parties, violent extremist groups, none of them get to dictate to the church the terms of our engagement with the culture. Christ gives us our marching orders through His Word and the Spirit. I reject the means and message of the Alt-Left not because I stand with the Alt-Right but because what they are demanding is violent, illiberal, repressive, counter-productive and ungodly. I exhort you to likewise refuse to be yoked with the darkness to fight a different darkness.

Mitt The Hypocrite

The news has been even more unwatchable/unreadable than normal since Charlottesville on Saturday. What is even worse than the media, who I expect to be completely biased and spinning the "news" for the advantage of the political Left, are the milquetoast "conservatives" that are misrepresenting President Trump and virtue signaling for all they are worth, and completely in vain. One of the most egregious, hypocritical examples comes from the Twitter account of former Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney who wrote:

Now Romney is entitled to his opinion but it is worth pointing out that Mitt Romney is a Mormon and a graduate of Brigham Young University. As a Mormon, Romney is required to "affirm" that Brigham Young was a prophet of God in the same way that Isaiah was a prophet. What did this prophet have to say about blacks, specifically about miscegenation?
For Marriage to an African. Brigham Young said: "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God is death on the spot. This will always be so" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 110).
This is in the Journal of Discourses and is stated by a "prophet" who claims it to be the law of God, the mixing of the races carries the penalty of death. If someone is divinely chosen to be a prophet of God and says that something is the law of God, a "Thus sayeth the Lord" if ever there was one, the question becomes one of two options. Was Brigham Young wrong, in which case he can hardly be called a prophet, or was Brigham Young right and mormonism ought to enforce this law of blood atonement for miscegenation? The mormon "church" taught until 1978 that blacks were accursed and barred from the "restored priesthood", right up to the point where God magically changed his mind and the mormon church published Official Declaration 2 granting blacks the "priesthood". For the record, Official Declaration 1 records God again conveniently changing His mind and revoking polygamy. So much for a new and everlasting covenant that lasted for less than 50 years. Many religions, including some denominations of Christianity, had racist views but none were so adamant about them as mormonism.

In Salt Lake City stands a statue memorializing a famous racist...

Brigham Young Monument, Salt Lake City, UT
Is Mitt going to call for the statue of Brigham Young in Salt Lake City to be torn down? Would he applaud if Alt-Left antifa took it upon themselves to rip it down and dance on it?

The mormon "church" still sells and uses the teachings of Brigham Young as an official resource.

The flagship university of mormonism, Brigham Young University, still bears his name.

Mormonism was racist to the core long before the KKK was even dreamed of.

Mitt should heed the advice of Jesus for a change and examine the plank in the collective eye of his own "church" before he goes spouting off about the mote in the eyes of someone else.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Charlottesville Didn't Happen In A Vacuum

If you somehow missed it, there was an enormous pre-planned and legal rally yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia organized by a loose coalition of groups that would fall under the various banners of White nationalism, the alt-right, Southern heritage, etc. There were even some random KKK members and a few neo-Nazis on hand (as well as some counter-protesters waving Soviet flags but those pics didn't make the mainstream media). It was a huge event and it drew a lot of rally participants and as always a lot of counter-protesters from the so-called "antifa", many of whom went openly declaring their intent to cause mayhem via violence. To make matter worse, the local governments tried very hard to stop this rally at the last moment and only court orders (supported I believe by the ACLU) forced the local governments to honor the legally obtained permits and many, many reports from the ground indicated that the police did very little to keep the counter-protesters away from the main rally. There have been a lot of rallies like this in other places and they went off peacefully but the mayor of Charlottesville and the governor of Virginia seem far more overtly partisan.

What you ended up with was a combustible mix and it went about as badly as it could. One person who has been arrested drove his car late in the day at high speed into a crowd, killing one person and injuring many others. While the police have released his name and photo, we don't have much other information about him. That didn't stop people from instantly ascribing motivations to him, often the same people who seem baffled as to the motives of someone yelling "Allah Akbar" while attacking people. In an unrelated event that somehow has been pinned on the rally, a police helicopter crashed and two cops were killed. Even "right-wing" Fox News ran this headline:

I am not sure how the rally can be blamed for a chopper crashing unless someone from the rally shot it down and no one is making that claim as far as I know. So three people dead, dozens injured, a number arrested, passions inflamed all around.

President Trump came out right away and said the right thing for a change.

Of course that didn't placate the Left because nothing he said would have stopped them from trying to score political points. People on the Left were screaming because he didn't specifically call out "White supremacists" even though there was plenty of violence coming from  the antifa. Meanwhile Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat Governor of Virginia, called out "White supremacists" by name but was silent about the violence from the leftist antifa. The bottom line is that the rally organizers had permits and a Constitutional right to assemble whether or not you like what they have to say, just as Black Lives Matter rallies have the same right. The government has an obligation to protect the free expression of speech, especially political speech. President Trump was absolutely correct to condemn the violence without exception yesterday.

The events yesterday confirmed two things I have been saying for a while.

First, sooner or later something bad was going to happen and someone was going to get killed in one of these clashes. Leading up to the election and ever since there has been a great deal political violence and in spite of what the media tells us it was almost exclusively one way. In event after event, leftist agitators attacked people peacefully minding their own business. People going to Trump rallies were attacked, had their hats snatched from their heads, were chased by crowds of thugs in parking garages. Controversial speakers from actual muckrakers like Milo to serious academics like Charles Murray caused enormous conflagrations on campuses from Berkeley to Middlebury with enormous property damage and people getting injured. Antifa hit people with bicycle locks, something that could easily kill someone, sprayed mace in the eyes of women simply talking to reporters, sucker punched alt-right leader Richard Spencer, throw bags of urine and often seek to find protesters separated from the larger crowd for attacks. There has not been this much overt political violence in my lifetime that I can recall. I have been warning that someone was going to get killed in one of these clashes. I sort of expected to see someone either get hit and have their skull caved in or someone getting attacked pull a gun to defend themselves but something was bound to happen. You can't have inflamed emotions plus people bent on disruption and violence ("By Any Means Necessary") coming together without something going tragically wrong.

The second thing I have been saying for a while is that we cannot continue down this road as one politically united people. I wrote back in February that it was time to consider dissolving the union in my post Is It Time To Once Again Dissolve The Political Bands That Connect Us?. I made the argument that for the first time since the 1860's what divides us is more powerful than what unites us.
My proposal is pretty simple but it is also incredibly complex. We should have a serious conversation about a political division of the United States into smaller, more manageable sovereign nations. I am not sure what that looks like in practice. Four countries, a Southern States of America, a Western States of America, a Northeastern States of America and a Northern States of America (the current Midwest)? How would trade and commerce and the free movement of people work? What would we do about the military, who gets the nukes and the aircraft carriers?
Obviously there is a lot to think about but if we cannot find common ground as a people and if violence continues to spiral, is there any other choice? An amiable separation would certainly be better than a violent civil war. The United States has stood for more than 200 years, surviving a terrible civil war once. I don't think we could survive another.
The events that followed my post in February only reinforce my belief that the union cannot be saved and that we will come apart, either violently or by negotiations but it will happen. I am going to be writing more about this on my other blog in the days to come.

One more thought on the reaction of the church.

This will not be popular but it is true. There is a great deal of blame to lay at the foot of the church at large in America for what went on yesterday but it has little to do with the church spending an insufficient amount of time talking about race.

We have largely ceded the conversation on race to a single narrow viewpoint that largely reinforces the guilt-victim narrative. Minorities are all victims, Whites are all guilty. Those may not be the exact words used but that is functionally how it comes across. Even "conservative" groups are talking about "privilege". That might resonate among the rarefied air of academia but it doesn't among the average Joe working his butt off to support his family. Tell the white guy working at a working class wage who is struggling with bills, watching his health insurance rates skyrocket and college tuition spiking that he is the unjust beneficiary of "White privilege" and you are not likely to get an affirming response. There is little appetite for real conversations about race in the church and this has left an enormous vacuum in the narrative. There is an old saying that nature abhors a vacuum so don't be surprised when you don't like what fills it.

The conversation about race in the church is a close parallel to the conversation about race in America as a whole. The center where the hard conversations take place is empty and all that is left are the two extremes, the social justice warrior, "white privilege" Left on one side and the White nationalist alt-right on the other. With nothing but the extremes on either end, is it any wonder that people are gravitating toward the extreme Right end of the spectrum? Not wishing to sound arrogant but not a lot of average Christian men are inclined to take the time to think through the complex issues of race and the Kingdom. They are too busy making ends meet and caring for their family. When faced with a simplistic dichotomy of "people like you are the problem" and "people like you are the solution", which do you suppose is more appealing?

My meandering point is this. If you abandon the field of discourse to the extremes, you shouldn't be surprised when people adopt extremist positions. If the church continues to fearfully avoid having the tough conversations about race and refuses to abandon the guilt-victim narrative that pits people of different races against one another, then the church is complicit in the continuing extremism on both sides of the conversation. We are past the point where hokey and empty platitudes and out of context verses are sufficient for the task. If we can't move past a VBS level discussion of one of the most divisive topics we face, we have no one to blame but ourselves for what the results are.

What happened yesterday is only the beginning. Both sides, the "antifa" and By Any Means Necessary crowds on one side and the alt-right and White nationalist groups on the other are united by one common belief: yesterday was a success. I expect to see the rallies continue and the pace to accelerate. Those who thrive off of this are not going to see someone getting killed as a reason to back off, just the opposite. Where will the church be? If the answer is on the sidelines where it has been for a decade then the results will be the same.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Christianity Today Throws Wet Leaves On The Smoldering Mess That Is The Immigration Debate

Of the questions of the day that generate mostly a lot of smoke and confusion, not to mention anger, the immigration policy and enforcement of said policy in the United States is right at the top. This is especially true in the church. A few weeks ago Christianity Today posted something that I found to be extraordinarily unhelpful, even by CT standards.

The headline reads: Most White Evangelicals Don’t Believe Muslims Belong in America

Wow, that is powerful! Except the article doesn't make the case for that. I believe we call that "click bait".

I can have serious concerns over increasing Muslim migration to the U.S. and Europe and what that means for our liberal democracies, and I do, and I can believe that theologically, historically and empirically what Islam teaches is not compatible with liberal democracy, which is true and I do believe, without saying "Muslims don't belong in America". The First Amendment absolutely applies to Islam and I am not advocating we round up and deport legal U.S. citizens who practice Islam.

That isn't really the point of the article anyway which makes the headline doubly misleading. Here is the money quote I came away with, from the "missions experts":
As CT reported in March, missions experts worry that evangelicals’ views of Muslims are sabotaging a long-dreamed-of moment. Previous research by Pew found that only 35 percent of white evangelicals say they have a personal connection to a Muslim, compared to about 40 percent of mainline Protestants and Catholics, 50 percent of unaffiliated Americans, and 73 percent of Jews.
“This is the best chance we’ve had in human history to share the love of Christ with Muslims,” said David Cashin, intercultural studies professor at Columbia International University and an expert in Muslim-Christian relations. “Because of these attitudes, we could miss the opportunity.”
Let me provide a nuanced and theologically rich response: Baloney.

There are several reasons why I say that. First is the nature of the Great Commission. As a reminder, here it is, emphasis added:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28: 16-20
The Great Commission is a sending command. Obviously we evangelize where we are but the model in the Scriptures also includes the sending of those called to evangelize the nations. It absolutely does not imply having Caesar form immigration policies so we can bring the lost to where we are without the slightest concern over the impact on civil society. It reminds me of people who think that having the government confiscate the earnings of some people and transferring those earnings to people that did earn them somehow is fulfilling our obligation as the church to care for the poor. I agree the church needs to do more to reach the people of the world with Christ and that our spending priorities as the church ought to reflect that. It doesn't follow that we should encourage people to leave their own lands, lands that are indeed often a mess thanks to foreign policy intervention by the U.S. cheered on by American evangelicals, in order for us to "reach" them. That brings me to my second point.

The second point is simple pragmatism together with a dose of reality.

The United States contains some 325,000,000 people. Reports of religious affiliation vary widely so I just had to choose one for a very rough estimate. Here is a chart from Wikipedia because :visual:.

OK, so let's look at some basics up front. I am going to say that 100% of people in the following groups are not Christian to any degree: Mormon, none/atheist/agnostic, Jewish, Muslim, Other non-Christian and no response given. That totals 28% of all Americans. I am going to gently say that 95% of Roman Catholics are not Christian as the Bible defines it and round that up slightly to another 22% of all Americans. I am going to VERY generously assume that 50% of Protestants/Other Christians are actually Christians, which means another 24% of all Americans are not. So adding together flat out not Christians (28%) plus Roman Catholics (22%) and unregenerate Protestants (24%) comes to 74% of all Americans are not Christians in any meaningful sense. Let me show that in a raw number based on a U.S. population of 325 million.


Almost a quarter of a billion people. That is perhaps the richest and ripest mission field in the history of the church and it is literally within walking distance of virtually every Christian in America RIGHT NOW.

Over two hundred and forty million people in this country that are lost and hell-bound no less than a man in Somalia or a woman in Afghanistan. The middle-class guy who belongs to the Rotary Club and loves his kids but doesn't know Jesus goes to the same hell as the ISIS fighter in Iraq raping and killing Christians.

The top four states in the U.S. in population combined (California, Texas, Florida and New York) have about 107 million people in them. By my crude calculations those four states alone have 80,000,000 people that are lost.

I am not saying we don't have an obligation to reach the Muslims with Christ or to send and support missionaries and native evangelists in their homelands. I am saying that while it is less sexy, we have plenty of lost people right here, right now.

The lost in America ought to be low hanging fruit and give us the most evangelism bang for the buck. They are already here. They speak the language. The vast majority of them already have connections with Christians. They have a shared cultural understanding of things like the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection. They have or can get their hands on a Bible with absolutely no effort in hundreds of formats for free. I can't imagine that there are a significant number of people in this country that are not in easy commuting distance of a church.

I would hate to think that the idea of evangelizing an exotic people like Middle Eastern Muslims is more appealing to us than evangelizing our neighbors and that we get more street cred or, dare I suggest, fund-raising power by talking about evangelizing Muslims than evangelizing Roman Catholics in Boston or people in Appalachia. Doesn't it seem to make more sense to support mission work by natives in their native land to Muslims, working with people where they are in the language they speak in the cultural setting they are comfortable with?

Bringing in people with the intent of evangelizing them when they arrive when we already don't effectively evangelize the people that are here seems naive at best. What exactly are Muslims going to find when they come here?

We obviously are not evangelizing the people that live across the street from us but Muslims are going to magically be reached with the Gospel. Are they going to become Christian by osmosis? I would suggest that the very worst evangelism tool we have is the state of American cultural Christianity. A Muslim coming to America is going to see a "church" made up of the unregenerate with a blind eye turned toward sexual immorality and divorce, with many "churches" embracing homosexuality. That isn't appealing to me and I am already a devout Christian, why would a Muslim from Syria find that something to abandon her native faith for?

Let's look at some other info buried at the bottom of the story
Conversion and interfaith marriage among US Muslims have remained relatively stable: 1 in 5 Muslims in America is a convert, with 53 percent joining the faith from a Protestant background and 20 percent from a Catholic background, according to Pew.
Meanwhile, 1 in 10 American Muslims have a Christian spouse, as do 1 in 5 of those whose Islamic faith is less important to them.
So 20% of current Muslims in America are converts, mostly from a "Protestant background" or Catholicism. Not to mention a bunch of Muslims with a "Christian spouse" who apparently skipped the sermon on being unequally yoked. It sounds to me like someone is reaching the other faith for converts but not the way that CT seems to dream will happen. That isn't a reason by itself to not encourage mass migration but I am not sure that we are reaching more Muslim immigrants for Christ than they are reaching Americans with Islam.

Here is the "Big Idea" of this post:

We need to get our own house into some semblance of order before we even consider mass immigration to be a logical step in the Great Commission.

When we start to effectively reach even a fraction of the people that already live in this country, when we run out of people to evangelize, maybe that would be something to talk about.

This article from Christianity Today is pure nonsense. It creates straw-men, starting with a click-bait headline, and goes downhill, completely ignoring facts and reason in favor of clumsy appeals to guilt and emotion. We need to have serious conversations about reaching the lost and issues like the church's response to the immigration crisis but this is not even close to being serious. Unfortunately it is kind of what I have come to expect from Christianity Today.

Friday, August 04, 2017

A Poem Does Not A Law Make

Each and every day without fail brings us a new level of silliness in public discourse. It is easy to point out the intemperate and often petulant thin-skinned behavior of President Trump, after all he is the President. What is often less noticed is the behavior of the media which is acting collectively like a middle school girl at a dance that no one asks onto the dance floor, so instead they stand in the corner glowering at everyone else. The media is in open rebellion, no longer even feigning to ask questions and instead taking every opportunity to virtue signal and grandstand.

The latest blow-up had to do with immigration policy and the, quite sensible in my opinion, reforms proposed by President Trump that are totally in keeping with his pledge from the campaign. Instagram stallion Jim Acosta from CNN used his media credentials in the White House press corp to attack Stephen Miller. That was a mistake. Here is the money quote:
“What you’re proposing, or what the president’s proposing here, does not sound like it’s in keeping with American tradition when it comes to immigration,” Acosta claimed. “The Statue of Liberty says, ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,’ it doesn’t say anything about speaking English or being able to be a computer programmer. Aren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you’re telling them, you have to speak English when they get here?”
Stephen Miller then spent a few minutes totally eviscerating Acosta and making him look like not just a self-important tool but an ignorant self-important tool

Acosta is referring to the poem by Emma Lazarus, "The New Colossus", found at the Statue of Liberty. It is notable that the actual statue was dedicated in 1886 and the poem by Lazarus was written in 1883 to serve as a fundraiser for the pedestal while the plaque now found at the statue was added in 1903. Simply knowing these historic, easily verifiable facts, is apparently racist.

While the poem is 14 lines long, most people including me are only familiar with part of the final five, in bold below:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,With conquering limbs astride from land to land;Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall standA mighty woman with a torch, whose flameIs the imprisoned lightning, and her nameMOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-handGlows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes commandThe air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries sheWith silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Noble sentiment indeed. However it is not the law, not in any sense. It is a poem written as a fundraiser that appears on a plaque near a monument where immigrants, coming here legally, used to sail past. For comparison purposes, if I should jot down a little poem of my own on the subject of waterfront devlopment, and even put it on a bronze plaque, and then convinced the city fathers of Fort Wayne to place said poem on the monument to city namesake General "Mad" Anthony Wayne (also the namesake of my high school) which is found in downtown Fort Wayne, that would not make my thoughts on waterfront development legally binding or even especially pertinent to discussions of what steps the city of Fort Wayne should take in developing (or not) the city's waterfront. The Federal government sets immigration policy and there is a process in place to set that policy. 

The author of The New Colossus, Emma Lazarus, was apparently also a Zionist well ahead of her time it would appear. Just a fun fact.

Who exactly were the immigrants coming to America during this time from the writing of this poem to the placement of the plaque at the Statue of Liberty? We don't have to guess. The Census Bureau provides a ton of stats in a chart "Region of Birth of the Foreign-Born Population". The chart looks at foreign born Americans and where they are from. Here is the time period 1880-1910:

Total Europe Asia Africa Oceania Latin

1910 13,506,272 11,810,115 191,484 3,992 11,450 279,514 1,209,717
1900 10,330,534 8,881,548 120,248 2,538 8,820 137,458 1,179,922
1890 9,243,535 8,030,347 113,383 2,207 9,353 107,307 980,938
1880 6,675,875 5,751,823 107,630 2,204 6,859 90,073 717,286

39,756,216 34,473,833 532,745 10,941 36,482 614,352 4,087,863

As you can see, it is glaringly obvious where foreign born citizens were coming from, i.e. Europe and Canada. Here is the same info expressed as a percentage:

Total Europe Asia Africa Oceania Latin
87.4 1.4 - 0.1 2.1 9
86 1.2 - 0.1 1.3 11.4

86.9 1.2 - 0.1 1.2 10.6
86.2 1.6 - 0.1 1.3 10.7

So yes, a lot of Americans were foreign born but they were European, i.e. White. I am not sure how this accounts for slaves but then again slaves weren't immigrants. Not exactly the picture of a multi-racial melting pot, is it? 

Until 1960, around 85% of foreign born Americans were from Europe or North America. The percentage has been dropping precipitously ever since to 1990 where Asian born foreigners (26.3%) outnumbered European born foreigners (22.9%). What happened? The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 happened. This act, while promised to not really have a significant change, like virtually all acts of government had enormous unintended consequences (or were they????)

Prior to 1965, the demographics of immigration stood as mostly Europeans; 68 percent of legal immigrants in the 1950s came from Europe and Canada. However, in the years 1971–1991, immigrants from Hispanic and Latin American countries made 47.9 percent of immigrants (with Mexico accounting for 23.7 percent) and immigrants from Asia 35.2 percent.

You can debate the merit of this shift, I would point out that diversity and multi-culturalism are basically meaningless phrases. A nation that is more diverse is not automatically better than one that is less diverse. That is a conversation for another day. My point is that the immigration model Jim Acosta and so many others seem to pine for, essentially "anyone who wants to come here can do so" is not at all what was in place when the Statue of Liberty went up and when Emma Lazarus penned her fund-raising sonnet. Trying to play gotcha by an appeal to The New Colossus is ignorant and risible and Jim got his head handed to him live on TV and he deserved it.

The U.S. needs a sensible, skills based immigration policy that has the welfare of the United States and her citizens as the first and only priority. Let's have a discussion about that but let's not do it via an argumentative grandstanding "reporter" using a historically untenable argument about a contemporary issue.