Sunday, October 20, 2019

Where Did I Go?!

The observant reader will note I haven't written here in quite some time, since March 30 of 2018 to be exact. That doesn't mean I am not writing, I actually am and with some volume I might add. In April of 2018 I stared a new blog that I am calling Dissident Thoughts and it has a somewhat edgier tone and very different focus. I plan on explaining that different focus in some detail later but for now it is enough to say that I am concerned about a very different range of topics today. That has always been the pattern in my blogging, I consider myself intellectually as a work in progress, something you can see from the way my blogging has changed since I first wrote here in March of 2004, more than 15 years ago. Just writing that is kind of staggering.

People are still showing up here, when I started my new blog I was at around 835,000 pageviews and as of right now I am over 950,000 views and rapidly approaching the one million views mark. Over 115,000 page views even without writing anything is pretty cool.

So I would invite you to check out Dissident Thoughts. You might not like what you read and you certainly will find it rather different from The Voice Of One Crying Out In Suburbia but I have always tried to be open and honest about where I am and what I believe. Thanks to everyone who read this outlet over the years!

Friday, March 30, 2018

On The Cross As Our Substitute

For most of the Western world today is known as Good Friday, a seemingly odd qualifier for a day when Jesus was crucified. What is so good about a tortuous death? It wasn't good for Jesus but for those who have faith in His substitutionary death it is the best of all days. It was at the cross where Jesus took my sins in His own body and paid the penalty for my sins on my behalf. He made Himself sin for me....

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

And on that cross as He cried out to His Father....

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

Something happened. He paid what I owed, He forgave my trespasses, He canceled my debt. My Lord and my sins, both were hung on a cross.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)

God made those who were dead alive with Him as He had purposed to do before time began. His wrath was turned away and satisfied by the propitiation of His Son.

...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (Romans 3:23-25)

The day after He ate the Passover with His disciples, He then showed that the Passover was a mere shadow of the greater passing over that was to come, the Lamb of God without blemish sacrificed for His own people. That is why we celebrate the Lord's Supper and declare His death and resurrection rather than celebrating the obsolete Passover. 

By this we know that God loves us, by sending His own Son to die for us to atone for our sins.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

The central truth of the cross is that God Himself in the body of His Son bore our sins in our place, a doctrine we call penal substitutionary atonement.

Check out this brief video on penal substitutionary atonement. A lot of people don't like PSA, mostly because they don't understand it or just misrepresent it, but I think it is one of the clearest doctrines in Scripture.

It is the great truth of the great Savior that He died in our place. This was foretold long before He took on flesh in the writings of Isaiah the prophet...

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:1-12)

Good Friday is not about the Jewish Passover. It is not about social justice or capital punishment. It is not about Mary. It is all about Jesus and what He did on the cross.

If you know and are known by Jesus through grace by faith today, it is a good day to remember and give thanks for what He did on the cross to save His sheep. Praise Him!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The End Of The Republican Party?

The budget deal that Trump yesterday threatened to veto and then inexplicably signed just hours later was an unmitigated disaster. The more we learn about it, the worse it becomes and what is worse very few of our "representatives" even knew what was in it outside of a few bullet-points. Senator Rand Paul tweeted out a picture of himself holding this monstrosity...

And he seems to be one of t he few people that bothered to actually try to read it. A few Senators, including Senators Paul, Cruz and Lee voted against in but it passed overwhelmingly with "bi-partisan" support, a sure sign of a bad bill laden with pork. Trump signed the bill and the "Great Negotiator", Mr. "Art of the Deal", the Grand Master of 4-D chess, got completely hoodwinked by the doddering Nancy Pelosi and Smirkin' Chuck Schumer. Maybe more time fighting for priorities and less time blustering about fighting Joe Biden?

As an example, the budget fully funds Planned Parenthood to the tune of $500 million dollars. That money would have made a nice down-payment on a border wall but instead it is used to subsidize infanticide. No wall and funding for Planned Parenthood is pretty much what we were promised from Hillary Clinton but instead that is what we are getting from Trump, who has inexplicably linked border wall funding with "DACA reform", i.e. amnesty, which makes little sense as there is no compromise on the horizon on DACA and therefore no border wall either. The obvious way this is going, as I have said before, is that Dems will get amnesty for hundreds of thousands of illegals which will in turn make them life-long Democrat voters in return for an empty promise to maybe, someday, think about what it might take to build a wall. On the "bright side" there was a massive increase in military spending. According to Defense Secretary Mattis it is the biggest ever:
“Today we received the largest military budget in history, reversing many years of decline and unpredictable funding,” Mattis said. “Together, we’re going to make our military stronger than ever.”
If you are keeping track at home, we are not technically at war with anyone other than the amorphous "War On Terror". Our main military "rivals", the Russians and Chinese, have combined two aircraft carriers, the Russians with the rattletrap Admiral Kuznetsov, she of the freezing toilets, and the Chinese with the hand-me-down Ukrainian carrier renamed the Liaoning, which is technically just a training aircraft carrier so the Chinese can learn how to sail aircraft carriers in the first place. I would guess that a showdown between either party against the U.S. Navy with ten or eleven aircraft carriers would be a short and very one-sided conflict, Russia's new magical super weapons (supersonic missiles, nuclear powered cruise missiles, etc.) not withstanding. So by all means let's spend the biggest military budget in human history at the same time we pass a huge tax cut and just recently eclipsed $20,000,000,000,000 in national debt. Even leftist mouthpieces like CNN are suddenly worried about the national debt now that Trump is in office, pointing out that we are on an unsustainable course (emphasis mine).
In our latest nonpartisan analysis, we found that interest payments will quadruple, topping $1 trillion per year in as little as a decade. That's more than we will spend each year on the military or Medicaid, and as a share of the economy, it is the highest in history.
Read that again, just servicing the interest on the debt, NOT playing any of the debt off, will eat up more than $1 trillion dollars per year. There are 327 million people in America so that means that to service the debt each person will need to pony up over $3000 before we spend any money on stuff like the military, education, infrastructure or health care. The silence on the debt from almost all Republicans is deafening.

The grand bargain we are supposed to cheerfully accept is that “conservatives” get limitless military spending, which is basically just big-government-in-uniform spending that enriches large global corporations, in return for liberals getting pretty much everything else they want. Lost in this bargain are middle and working class Americans who are not very interested in foreign wars fought for every reason but American national security. As “regular” Americans, we get nothing we are promised in return for showing up in droves to vote for Republicans. What we get instead are accusations of privilege, jobs shipped overseas, a laughable “immigration” policy and our sons and daughters returning in caskets or missing limbs from the latest neocon war adventures. It has been painfully obvious that the ruling elite of the Republican party are not “conservative” in any historically meaningful sense and what is needed is a new political movement. Trump’s latest betrayal is not that he is acting like a Democrat, rather he is acting exactly like what we have come to expect from Republicans: big talk on the campaign trail and repeated betrayals in office. The way Trump is heading is indistinguishable from how a Jeb! Bush or Hillary Clinton would have served in office and is quickly losing any resemblance to the promises and rhetoric of candidate Trump. Why exactly should we show up in November of this year to protect the Republican House majority or to add to the Republican majority in the Senate?

Oh I know, we shouldn't.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Repost: That pesky fellow!

I posted this way back in October of 2008. I love the penitent thief. It could be just a throwaway account, something in the background of the crucifixion narrative but I always assume everything recorded in Scripture is there for a reason. Here is a man who is justly being crucified under the law of the time and in light of that, rather than demand Jesus save him from his fate on the neighboring cross, he instead pleads with Jesus to remember him when Jesus comes into his Kingdom. What faith! And his faith is not in vain because Jesus makes him a promise that he would be with Jesus that very day in Paradise. There is no mention of him being baptized or attending church or receiving any sacraments or going through new member classes. His simple profession of faith gained him entry into Paradise. He is a troublesome fellow for those who would add works to justification but I imagine that is precisely why his words to Jesus are recorded for us.


One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:39-43)

There is probably no figure that causes more trouble to those who buy into doctrines like works salvation or baptismal regeneration quite like the repentant thief on the cross next to Christ. He really confounds those who believe in some version of works based righteousness. We see a man who does nothing to merit paradise, just condemnation, one who is justifiably being punished hanging next to one that merited no such punishment. There are many ways he confounds those who insist on works for all or part of their salvation.

His simple declaration of faith

His faith is simple, it is a faith of one who places his hope on the One who can save him. His hope is in spite of the life he lived up to that point, not because of it. When a Christian is saved, he or she is saved despite the utter sinfulness of their prior life. We are saved not by our litany of good works, we are saved by Christ.

His recognition of his own sin

He sees and realizes his own sins, and Christ's sinlessness. It is a recognition of sin that must precede salvation. We cannot be saved until we see why we need to be saved. That flies in the face of a faith+works salvation. The image of the thief is little different than the image of the saved Christian. We are that sinner, a lowly criminal hanging next to His King. We bring nothing to our salvation, we add nothing to our justification but the sin that Christ atoned for.

His salvation

His salvation requires no action on his part, only His blessing. Nothing else needs to be done. Indeed I think the reason we see this account is to show us that this thief, like us, is utterly helpless. He cannot get down and go do righteous works to show himself worthy of salvation. All he brings is all God demands: a penitent heart, changed by God, that declares Jesus Christ as Lord. That is all we need, and when we seek to add our works to His work we put the cross to shame and deny the Lord.

Something else I love about this guy: He is anonymous. We have no idea who this guy is or what his name is or what kind of life he lived. He was a thief, we know that and that is about all we know. The conversation is not about him, it is about Christ, about Christ being merciful on an undeserving sinner. In a day when “me, me and me” is the new Trinity, when we wonder what God can do for us, when we seek to stand insolently before God and claim our reward based on our works and our righteousness , this anonymous thief reminds us all that each of us has a cross we should have faced, but that in the case of redeemed Christian He faced it for us so that we wouldn't have to.

Whenever you hear someone say that it is our works that save us, remember this lowly thief who brought nothing to the cross but his sin, but today dwells with the Lord in paradise and remember that we can do nothing to save ourselves. That's O.K. though, because Jesus has paid for it all with His blood and that was good enough for this thief and it is good enough for us. Praise God for His mercy and praise God for recording the story of this thief in His Word to set to rest the question of who and what saves us!

Monday, March 12, 2018

What My White Privilege Looked Like

If you know much about me you could be forgiven for seeing me as a poster child for "white privilege". I grew up in a fairly large house in the suburbs on an acre plus lot on a road lined with trees and nice homes. I went to pretty good schools. My parents are married and have been for over fifty years. They both went to college and my dad is a doctor. It wasn't a question of if I would go to college, it was really only a question of where and thanks to my exceptional standardized test taking abilities I had very good schools around the country lined up to accept me (ironically I spent my first year at Ohio State where being able to write my own name was sufficient to get accepted).

On the other hand, going back just to my dad's upbringing unravels the "white privilege" narrative. This is the home he grew up in....

It is a tiny little place, around 1100 square feet, that was home to my dad, his parents and a ton of siblings as would be expected from a Polish Catholic family in those days. My grandparents never owned a car. Lest you think this is a little house in a nice suburb, this is an aerial view of the neighborhood.

As you can see it is surrounded by industry and in the middle of a triangle of three of the busiest roads in Toledo, Ohio: Detroit (aka U.S. 24), Lagrange and Sylvania. The street is a dead-end and where the recycling place is now used to be Feeley Box Company that made shipping crates for Jeeps in World War II. It is the sort of street that many people in Toledo grew up on, row after row of little houses packed on streets in neighborhoods surrounded by factories. This is where we came from, Polish and Hungarian, Irish and Italian. Like my dad who worked his way through college and medical school in an era when going to college was often seen as a waste of time, many people of his generation and later mine broke into the middle-class. They did so by virtue of hard work and struggle. No one gave them anything. There is not a secret fund that white people can tap into or hidden answer keys for tests that we can access at will to give us an unfair advantage in school. Sure there is a small, mostly white, aristocratic class in America, mostly back East, that sends their kids to the best prep schools and gives them a built in network to help them succeed but most of us don't have anything at all like that. We got where we are the old fashioned way, by hard work and sacrifice.

So which is it? Am I the product of an above average privileged upbringing or the result of an ethnic working class family in Toledo that lived the American dream?


Did I have a "privileged" upbringing? Sure I did. My parents have been married for more than 50 years. They read to me and encouraged a lifelong love of reading in me at an early age so I got to kindergarten an already pretty decent reader which put me way ahead of my classmates. They instilled in me certain moral standards that have kept me mostly out of trouble with the law in my life. They both went to college and expected me to do the same. I believe in the promise of America because I have seen it lived out in my own family. I had every advantage a middle class kid in Ohio could have had.

But what is really important to note is that none of the privileges I grew up with are racially specific or racially restricted. There is nothing that stops black couples from getting married before having children but only around a quarter of black children are born to married parents. There is nothing that stops black parents from reading to their children. There is nothing to stop black parents from instilling in their children a respect for the law and law enforcement and teaching them that breaking the law has serious consequences so don't do it. Of course many black parents do these things and many black kids grow up with the same privileges I did and are successful in life. On the other hand, you can be white and end right back up in poverty if you don't remember how you got where you were.

Sure my dad was a doctor and could afford the best for us but he grew up in a tiny home on a dead-end street in Toledo. He had no greater opportunities to succeed in life as a Polish kid in Toledo than any black kid has in the U.S. today. Given the scholarships, grants, student loans, etc. available today I would argue that the average black high schooler today has more opportunity to seize control of their own future than my father did in the early 1950's.

But what about institutionalized racism? What about white supremacy?

Meaningless buzzwords. Terms designed to obfuscate rather than enlighten.

Too many of us in the church adopt the bigotry of low expectations when it comes to blacks and other racial and ethnic minorities. They are loathe to point out the role of personal responsibility and consequences of choices and all too ready to parrot back the liberal talking points to explain why blacks continue to lag far behind whites. It isn't their fault because whites benefit from white privilege. It isn't their fault because they live in a system of "white supremacy", a term that is in the top five most overused and incorrectly defined in our current "discourse". Those who adopt without question the language used by the political Left, which in no way is a friend of the Gospel, on matters of race do minorities no favors.

I am sure there were plenty of people that laughed at my dad, some polack kid wanting to go to college and be a doctor. Who did he think he was? But he did it anyway. He worked hard and sacrificed so his kids could have every advantage in life. Doing that used to be something praiseworthy. Now it is seen as cheating to try to give your kids the best possible foundation. I grew up with a lot of privileges. I try to give my kids the all of the privileges I can. Every parent should and no parent should feel bad or guilty for that and any parent can choose to do that because the basics of being a good parent are not restricted by race. If you are black you can be a good parent. You can go to college or trade school. You can be as successful was you want to be. Yes you will face some challenges but we all do. Very few people go to prep school in Andover, the vast majority of us have to fight and scrape for what we get. Don't let anyone tell you what you can't do but also don't let anyone tell you nothing is your fault. We are all responsible for ourselves.

Did I benefit from a privileged upbringing? I sure did but it had nothing to do with being white.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Wake Up: The New York Times Doesn't Care About Racial Reconciliation In The Church (Or Anywhere Else)

The New York Times ran an editorial today about blacks leaving majority white evangelical churches, A Quiet Exodus: Why Blacks Are Leaving White Evangelical Churches. This is a topic that I have addressed before (see for example Are We In A New Paradigm Of Race RelationsAre Reformed Christians Influenced By White Supremacy? and A Response To Lecrae, Jemar Tisby, Thabiti Anyabwile And Anyone Else Who Cares To Listen ).

This article finds a sympathetic figure, Charmaine Pruitt, who left her former church, Gateway Church headed by Robert Morris because as she describes it after a pretty overtly political sermon she felt uncomfortable.
Ms. Pruitt sent messages to several white couples she had befriended at the church, telling them she was going to take some time off. She had become uneasy at a church, she told them, that speaks of overcoming racism on one Sunday “and then turns around later and asks me to support” Trump, who she believed was “a racist candidate.”
She then recounts that a couple had her over to talk about it and the experience was sufficient for her to never go back.

The essay is full of the usual stuff that accompanies these articles, like the reference to Trayvon Martin but as usual fails to note that the man that shot him was Hispanic, a Democrat and that he shot Martin in self-defense. Like Michael Brown in Ferguson, Trayvon Martin is invoked as a talisman of racial injustice and you are supposed to take for granted that his shooting was unjust. I feel badly that Martin and Brown were both shot but I also recognize that in both cases the overwhelming fault for their shooting falls on themselves. George Zimmerman was being a jerk but Trayvon Martin was slamming his head into a concrete sidewalk which can cause serious injury or death. And still years later we are supposed to assume that simply invoking the Trayvon Martin case is proof of racial injustice.

There is a reference to Lecrae of course and the ubiquitous Dwight McKissic and his risible anti-alt-right resolution stunt. There is also something that I am seeing more and more of and it goes beyond a "failure" to be on the "right" side of the NFL player kneeling dispute. In reference to white evangelicals overwhelming support for Trump, the editorial quotes "Chanequa Walker-Barnes, a professor of practical theology at the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University in Atlanta". Ms. Walker-Barnes left her position at a white church after the election where she was employed, which of course is her prerogative as an employee, but what she is quoted as saying in the editorial is far more troubling. The support of white evangelicals was a sign of a systemic problem in white churches:
“It said, to me, that something is profoundly wrong at the heart of the white church,” said Chanequa Walker-Barnes
Wow. This reminds me of the rhetoric of Anthony Bradley who claims that evangelicals, i.e. white Christians, have "never had the Gospel. Ever.". To make a sweeping condemnation of "the white church" because 4 of 5 white evangelicals made an informed choice to support one candidate over another is frankly obscene. I wonder if the good professor would agree with Anthony Bradley that we as white evangelicals have never even had the Gospel in the first place.

Something interesting to note. In 2008 black religious voters supported Obama overwhelmingly. From a Pew recap, emphasis mine:
Let’s just look at some of the key groups in 2008. Toward the top of the chart, virtually all of the strong Obama groups have this character of being minorities in one form or another. Of course, the first group, black Protestants, has been a strong Democratic group for a long time. In these data they voted nearly 100 percent for Obama.
So when black Protestants show up in 2008 to vote essentially unanimously for a far left candidate that supported the legalized infanticide that murders far more black kids in a day than cops do wrongly in shootings in years, a man that used to attend the church of racist "pastor" Jeremiah Wright, that is just an interesting electoral factoid. It is OK that one segment of the religious population, black Protestants, vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. It is not OK that a different segment, white evangelicals, vote overwhelmingly (81%) for Republicans. Do you see the problem here? Black Christians can be a monolithic voting bloc for Democrats and no one says a word, white Christians do the same thing for Republicans and it is blamed for black Christians leaving majority white churches. Later in the essay there is mention that Ms. Pruitt tried out Mt. Olive and that "But for two young white men, all the worshipers were African-American.". Many majority black churches are not only monolithic in voting for Democrats, they are also overwhelmingly monoracial but you will wait in vain for a scathing editorial from the New York Times about black churches not "looking like the Kingdom".

If we are going to have a "real conversation about race" in the church, it can't be marked by one-sided lectures and double-standards. I am willing to talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime about race, what the Bible teaches, how we can try to overcome historic differences and suspicions and so on. I am glad to. If you want me to sit mutely while you scold me about things that I have never done and have no guilt for? Not interested. The Bible calls for me to love my brothers but that doesn't require me to sit still while someone bears false witness about me.

The essay isn't really about blacks leaving white churches. It is about Trump and the New York Times' endless war to see Trump impeached on trumped up charges (trumped up, get it?) or defeated for re-election in 2020. Trump is mentioned a dozen times in the essay and it is clearly suggested that the reason for racial division in the church today is that white folk voted for Trump. The messaging is clumsy and obvious: if you care about "racial reconciliation" you can't vote for Trump. I will be the first to admit that white evangelicals are often pawns for the Republican party that promises us the moon and delivers potholes but the same is true for black Christians and the Democrats. In other words this is not first and foremost or even primarily an editorial about religion. It is an editorial about politics. If you don't recognize that at the outset you probably come away from this essay with a far different viewpoint than if you go into it with your eyes wide open to the inherent political bias you are going to get from the opinion section of the New York Times.

We have a lot of issues in the church that we need to work through, and race is one of the big ones. What is not helpful is when we allow people who don't really care about the church to define the terms of the conversation for us.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

We Bring Ideas, They Bring Garrotes

This week has brought an unusually high number of assaults on free speech with speakers met by violent protests ranging from titular Alt-Right leader Richard Spencer to Youtuber Carl Benjamin, better known as Sargon of Akkad all the way to professed feminist Christina Hoff Sommers and unerringly polite Jordan Peterson. It was so bad that it warranted a scolding editorial from the New York Times of all places, We’re All Fascists Now.
But it is also a concerted attempt to significantly redraw the bounds of acceptable thought and speech. By tossing people like Mary Beard and Christina Hoff Sommers into the slop bucket with the likes of Richard Spencer, they are attempting to place their reasonable ideas firmly outside the mainstream. They are trying to make criticism of identity politics, radical Islam and third-wave feminism, among various other subjects, verboten. For even the most minor transgressions, as in the case of Professor Beard, people are turned radioactive.
It is worth noting that the Times editorial by Bari Weiss seemed more concerned with who was being violently protested rather than the act of violent protest itself. In fact the editorial seems to almost make excuses for the behavior when it is directed at people like Spencer because of the rise of "politically fascistic behavior" like free elections in Italy and the annual milquetoast CPAC. And of course the mean stuff President Trump says encourages it all. In general it is a pretty predictable response from the New York Times where showing up to a Richard Spencer talk with violence is not condemned as such but if you do the same for a female feminist speaker, that is simply out of bounds!

At the previously mentioned Jordan Peterson talk at Queens College, met as usual with violent protests, one protester (a 38 year old woman!) was arrested for smashing a window and was found in possession of a garrote. If you are not familiar with that term, a garrote is a length of cord or wire that is intended to be used to throttle someone to death. It was the method used to kill Luca Brasi in The Godfather and is commonly associated with the mafia. It is an entirely offensive weapon, you can't defend yourself with a garrote and you generally need to sneak up behind someone to use it. The only use of a garrote is to strangle an unsuspecting person to death.

Some "protesters" seemed enamored of the idea of killing the speaker and anyone listening:
While the protest was going on, the university’s newspaper, the Journal, reported that a member of the crowd yelled, “lock ‘em in and burn it down,” which was met with approval from the mob of extremists.
This is not empty rhetoric. When you show up to speaking events armed with homemade flamethrowers, spiked brass knuckles, mace, bags full of urine and garrotes, you aren't there to exchange ideas. You are there to shut down and intimidate people you disagree with and if that means people get badly injured, well that is the price you gotta pay to advance the revolution or protect my tender feelings.

The Left doesn’t distinguish between moderately conservative people like Charles Murray, Christina Hoff Sommers and Jordan Peterson as opposed to more far Right figures like Richard Spencer. That is partly by design to shift the Overton Window to the point where any even moderately conservative thought is treated like Mein Kampf and partly because many people on the Left, especially students, are not sufficiently able to think critically to the point of being able to differentiate between variations on the conservative/Right spectrum.

I think there is a lot of silly, wrong, obscene and often dangerous rhetoric that comes from Leftist speakers and groups but I don't gather a couple hundred Right-wing buddies and show up to shout down the Leftists with megaphones and brass knuckles. Therein lies the problem. We are in a classic "bringing a knife to a gunfight" scenario, or to paraphrase Sean Connery in The Untouchables "They pull a knife, you pull a gun, he sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way"

As a primary example, I saw some quotes from the new president of the Heritage Foundation, Kay Coles James, named to replace Jim DeMint who was allegedly too cozy with Trump. She was lamenting the "toxic" political environment with Alex Marlow.
Marlow and James lamented the current toxic political environment, arguing that it makes it that much more difficult to debate America’s pressing issues.
James argued, “It’s become a debate of personalities, a debate about who we like and who we don’t like. At the end of the day, it should be a debate about ideas.”
James continued, “If we can’t as a nation demonstrate to the rest of the world to have profoundly different points of view, debate those ideas in a civil way, it’s not just a problem for the country; it’s a problem for the entire world.”
Marlow contended, “I think we’re building up a huge advantage on the right, learning how to communicate with the people on the left.”
When you show up with great ideas and they show up with flamethrowers and won't let you speak and intimidate those who might be in your audience into not showing up, what good are your ideas? I am NOT suggesting that the solution is to fight fire with fire and show up armed to the teeth for speaking engagements and seek in turn to shut down Leftist speakers. But something needs to change. For genteel think-tank types, it is sufficient to have the better ideas. You have a symposium and you chat about your theories and then you all go have a cocktail. But what happens when the antifa shows up at a Heritage event and shouts down the speakers?

So what do we do?

The most important thing is to abandon this idea that we are in a civilized debate over ideas. We are facing people who are nihilistic and seek anarchy and chaos. They want nothing less than the wholesale destruction of Western civilization and everything we hold dear, from the traditional family to freedom of speech. We can't just sit on the sidelines or retreat to a monastery and hope they will leave us alone. They won't. If we lose this fight it isn't a matter of our taxes going up. It is a matter of our civilization being burned to the ground and the earth salted. There is no coming back from what the far Left that dominates academia and "entertainment" and increasingly the Democratic party is pushing. If they win this country goes up in smoke, likely literally.

We need our own venues, our own platforms. The university of today is enemy territory and every kid we send there for any reason other than they have to get a degree (to be an engineer, a doctor, etc.) is more money we beg, borrow and scrape together to subsidize our own destruction. Twitter and Facebook and Youtube are policed by far-left idelogues from the $PLC and ADL and they can make your content go away with the snap of a finger. I am not saying abandon those platforms but be sure you are not totally reliant on them.

The marching of our children off to schools where they are taught the opposite of everything we believe has to stop. Conservatives, Christians, anyone that doesn't buy into Groupthink needs to invest in education for kids. The public school system is irredeemable.

Most of all we need courage. We need to abandon our middle-class passivity and flaccidity and not be so worried about our reputations. Having a reputation as being a go along to get along guy is going to get you squashed like a bug. Again I am NOT calling for us to get down in the mud, to show up looking for a fight, to bring brass knuckles to speaking venues, to abandon our principles and our convictions but I AM calling for us to stop pretending that the world will respect our stoic silence in the face of cultural obliteration. Most of our leaders have sold us out. The Republican party is held hostage by the neocons who don't care one bit about Americans displaced from their jobs as long as they keep getting funding for the next war they get us into. We need new leaders and we need to support them, men who are not beholden to the establishment.

We are in a fight that makes the cultural struggles of the 60's look like child's play, in large part because the Left never stopped fighting while Right got complacent: "Reagan won, the war is over!". When I look across the landscape of "conservative" leaders right now I see a whole bunch of men and women that are not up to the task. The clock is running out. We need a new direction, new leadership and some real fire and we need it right now.

Monday, March 05, 2018

On The Canon Of Scripture

The greatest gift God gave His covenant people is of course His Son Jesus Christ in all of His works and teachings and glory. The second greatest gift God gave His church is the Bible by which we can know about His greatest gift in the person of His Son. But how we got the Bible we have, why we have 66 books as opposed to the additional books recognized by Rome, why the Book of Mormon is not Scripture, etc. is given very little attention in the church. So I can recommend this fascinating conversation at the G3 conference between James White and Michael Kruger on the Biblical canon. It sounds like a very boring, esoteric topic and it can be kind of deep but if you are someone who loves Scripture and encounters people that don't, this is the sort of information you need to have.

At around the ten minute mark I think Kruger hits on a critical distinction. We shouldn't talk about the canon with an attitude of what books has the church accepted and instead ask what books has God given us.

The canon of Scripture is not primarily the result of an academic endeavor. We don't have a canon because of monks or church fathers. We have the Scriptures because God Himself decreed to reveal Himself to man in His own manner and ordained that these revelations that we call Scripture would be preserved in a way that His people would be able to access them throughout history, even though there were many times and many places, even now, when Scripture is hard to come by. To put it more simply, the Bible is the result of a supernatural action by God in the same way that the creation of the universe, the parting of the Red Sea and the resurrection of His Son were supernatural acts.

Watch this video and be sure to thank God that He made provision to preserve His Word for His people that they might come to know His Son.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

They Won't Just Leave Us Alone

Rod Dreher of The American Conservative is a man that lives in two worlds. On the one hand he writes a book, The Benedict Option (see my review here) that calls for a new monasticism that is based on a 6th century monk and essentially calls for a Christian retreat to ride out the culture wars until we can emerge afterward to restore Christianity and Western culture. On the other hand he constantly is telling us, and with reason, that the far Left in this country will never be content to leave us alone. You can't have it both ways. The Left in America has gone from "Love is love" and "Keep the government out of our bedrooms" to truncheon wielding masked thugs and attempting to destroy the lives of anyone that dares stray from the ever-changing political orthodoxy. Don't think for a moment that appealing to "Muh First Amendment!" is going to dissuade them from crushing you underfoot if you are not properly obsequious.

He wrote an essay yesterday, Enemies Of The People, that rehashed several interesting interactions with readers but also dealt with some new examples of the "progressive" war on Thoughtcrimes, including Mike Huckabee being forced off of a Country Music Association philanthropic board in large part because a homosexual record producer was upset about his appointment. I am not sure who the CMA thinks buys their music but I would guess that the majority of the votes of country music fans didn't go for Hillary. This is the comment I left on Rod's post...
Most normal people just want to be left alone to live their lives in peace but that is going to no longer be an option in the very near future. We are not going to be able to retreat into new monasteries or become Amish and hope they will just leave us alone. They won’t. It might not come next week or next month but it is coming when being a White, heterosexual Christian is going to make you untouchable and that is going to have catastrophic effects on our society. Right now most of us are distracted by the day to day drudgery of life (by design) and just flip the channel when the latest outrage pops up on our TV but it won’t be long until that no longer works. Your reader Zapollo is hardly unique. In fact I sense that a lot of what he is saying is precisely what you yourself are thinking, even if you are still unwilling to write it. The Trumpian movement, nationalism/populism, White racial tribalism, etc. all represent people who are not trying to see people like you and me and millions of others stomped into the ground and literally exterminated, by silencing us and/or attrition if by no other means.
What happens when you have millions upon millions of Americans who feel that their family and livelihood are under immediate threat? A brief look at the 1860’s should answer that question. We are close to some sort of triggering event that will push this nation over the edge and when that happens no one is going to care about the topics at a Heritage Foundation symposium. The Right in this country needs to redefine itself as something more than an uneasy alliance between religious conservatives and globalist corporate interests. If outlets like The American Conservative are afraid to do it, then the Dissident Right or Alt-Right or what-have-you will do it for you. The only question left is this: when will you get off the fence?
The hard truth facing the American Right is that the old model isn't going to work anymore. Conservative thinktanks, AM talk radio hosts, stodgy neo-con magazines, are not up to the task. Trump exposed that in 2016 and the recent behavior of giant corporations granted tax breaks by us that turned around and took the side of the Left against gun owners reinforced it.

A new path forward that either expropriates the current machinery of the Republican party or a path that seeks leaves the GOP entirely behind is something I am think a lot about. I am considering a new webpage with a real domain name and everything to house my thoughts on that topic as I am not sure how many of my admittedly few regular readers here are all that interested in what I think on this question. Although I grew up politically aware and conservative, I don't feel like I have a good grasp on the lineage of the political Right in America so I am reading a lot about the conservative movement in America, especially as it existed before Reagan, and other forms of Right-wing thought from books like George Hawley's Right-Wing Critics Of American Conservatism. Also on tap some paleoconservative writers like Paul Gottfried and the venerable Pat Buchanan, who at nearly 80 is still pumping out columns and has entered into something of a renaissance in his old age. We need to know where we came from to realize where we are, how we got here and the way forward.

Being on the Right can be frustrating. I would argue that we have all of the best ideas and the firmest grasp of reality. Our side produces such good content in such volume that it is nigh impossible to take it all in. I could quite literally spend all of my waking hours listening to podcasts, reading essays, watching videos, checking social media and of course reading books and still miss a lot of great content. I am not talking about unstable boobs like Glenn Beck that will say whatever they think will get them more content subscribers to subsidize their snack food habit. I am talking about people who are actual "deep thinkers", who occupy the public square of today as intellectuals, people who often have taken a career hit to stand for what they believe and who constantly battle the forces of social media censorship just to get their message out. The Left has late night talk show hosts, celebrity bimbos/actresses and faux scientist Bill Nye. But the Left also controls the media, the academy and the educational system and so it seems like we are constantly losing ground.

For too long we have been on the defensive, just reacting to whatever new outrage comes along and in doing so we have often let the Left change the battlefield. They keep advancing and we keep retreating, a fighting retreat to be sure but a retreat nevertheless. The "If liberals are for it, I am against it" model has been a catastrophic failure and it is time to get on the offensive. If anyone knows about being offensive, it is me.....

Friday, March 02, 2018

Regeneration Must Precede Sanctification

One of the most confusing areas of distinction in theology and church practice is the distinction between regeneration and sanctification. We often in conservative circles get the order backward, we demand evidence of sanctification via external compliance to certain rules rather than emphasizing regeneration. The reality of human nature is that external adherence to rules will get you so far but no farther. You can control behavior for a while by creating strict controls and instilling them young, and there is something to be said for this, but external conformity is no substitute for regeneration.

We have seen this first hand in conservative Anabaptist groups where a desire to "be not conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2) has morphed into a very rigid set of rules to prove one is not conformed to the world, while at the same time tending to create distinctions not just between the church and the world but just as often distinctions between the church and other parts of the church.

Simon Fry takes aim at this in his new series on Non-conformity. The second post in the series, Nonconformity- (part 2) When Does Transformation Happen?, which looks at non-conformity from a conservative Anabaptist perspective, does a deep dive on how Romans 12:2 and non-conformity are understood in that community. Simon's main point can be summarized in this one sentence:
Though we might not hear it emphasized, transformation must happen first; or nonconformity is worthless.
In other words, or as I might put it, regeneration must precede genuine sanctification. Genuine sanctification includes external signs of a non-conformity to the world but it starts with and is primarily a renewal of the mind, heart and affections away from the things of the world and toward the things of God. I can put a young woman in a homemade yoke-style dress with sleeves to the wrist and hem to the ankles but if she is harboring gossip and slander in her unregenerate heart, she is still conformed to the world no matter what she looks like.

That is not to suggest that there is no place for non-conformity. The Bible teaches modesty so a woman who tells me she is a Christian while intentionally dressing provocatively might get a raised eyebrow. An every-week-church-attending deacon at a conservative church who regularly cheats his customers in business likewise raises questions. I think brothers should be respectable in their communities and honest in their business dealings, sisters should dress modestly and submit to their husbands but only as a response to regeneration, not as a substitute for it.

Check out Simon's post, it is typical for him in being well reasoned, Scripturally based and thoughtful. Also check out the comments, there is some good back and forth going on there as well. Ultimately our Gospel priority is to see the whole man changed and not just the wardrobe.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

It Is Time For New Thinking About Poverty


in·san·i·ty  \ in-ˈsa-nə-tē \

- Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

That is not the actual definition of insanity but it is a time tested understanding in our culture. If you hit you head on a brick wall and it hurts and you do it ten more times to see if it keeps hurting, that might be a sign of insanity.

I was reminded of this today by an item in Facebook's trending stories that linked to this article: Report: Inequality remains 50 years after Kerner Report. The Kerner Report was the result of the Kerner Commission which originally carried the unwieldy name The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders and was organized in response to race riots. The article being passed around contains a lot of unsurprising statements:
Barriers to equality are posing threats to democracy in the U.S. as the country remains segregated along racial lines and child poverty worsens, says a study examining the nation 50 years after the release of the landmark 1968 Kerner Report.
The new report released Tuesday blames U.S. policymakers and elected officials, saying they're not doing enough to heed the warning on deepening poverty and inequality as highlighted by the Kerner Commission a half-century ago, and it lists a number of areas where the country has seen "a lack of or reversal of progress."
"Racial and ethnic inequality is growing worse. We're resegregating our housing and schools again," former U.S. Sen. Fred Harris of Oklahoma, a co-editor of the new report and last surviving member of the original Kerner Commission created by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967. "There are far more people who are poor now than was true 50 years ago. Inequality of income is worse."
And so on. The report is long on bemoaning things like schools re-segregating, black homeownership getting worse, income inequality, etc. The "solutions" demanded by the report are about what anyone paying attention would expect:
The new report calls on the federal government and states to push for more spending on early childhood education and a $15 minimum wage by 2024. It also demands more regulatory oversight over mortgage leaders to prevent predatory lending, community policing that works with nonprofits in minority neighborhoods and more job training programs in an era of automation and emerging technologies.
More spending, more regulations, more sweetheart deals to "nonprofits" to keep "community organizers" employed and of course the ubiquitous $15 minimum wage, a favorite of people with no clue how economics and businesses work. I posted a slightly different take on Facebook:
So maybe the lesson here after half a century is that the solutions that we have tried: income redistribution, forced desegregation, affirmative action, etc. have not worked so instead of doubling down on policies that failed and in many ways made things worse, we should look for different solutions?
We have tried spending trillions in alleged anti-poverty measures and income redistribution and mostly succeeded in cementing generational poverty. We tried forced desegregation and people just keep fleeing urban areas entirely, meaning that blacks and whites just don't seem to attend the same schools. We are drowning in diversity officers and multicultural centers and anti-racism programs and the only people who seem to benefit are those that have learned to game the system for their own advancement. We give people funds that they can use as conveniently as possible to buy food and 20% of their purchases go to pop and salty snacks with soft drinks the largest single category of spending for food stamps, at the same time that obesity and obesity related diseases like diabetes are epidemic among the poor.

It is pretty clear that half a century of fighting poverty and racism, real and imagined, in the way "progressives" have demanded has not only wasted a lot of money and not worked, it has actually made things worse. Maybe we can try something different?

  • With almost 3/4 of black births to unwed mothers, maybe we should stop subsidizing behaviors that lead to unwed motherhood and stop providing incentives to poor decision-making?
  • Instead of pouring money into four year degrees that don't provide any job skills and saddle students with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt while enriching universities, we instead focus on vocational schools? Learning a trade will move people out of poverty, sinking them in debt to get a degree in Intersectional Queer Theory won't and just makes them dumber.
  • Maybe structure food and other aid programs to reward people for transitioning from dependency to work instead of punishing them for trying to better themselves and giving them incentives for destructive behavior?
You get the idea. I don't pretend to have all of the solutions but I do know what has not worked and it is the exact sort of stuff we keep being harangued about: arbitrarily raising the minimum wage, more bureaucratic oversight over every aspect of our lives, spending even more money on an education system that already consumes an enormous amount of money and is giving us a worse result from year to year. The very people who clamor the loudest about these issues are also the ones who are the most dug in when it comes to opposing new ideas. Just look at the response to President Trump suggesting replacing a part of the EBT/food stamps benefit with prepackaged nutritional foods. You would have thought he was suggesting we force feed poor kids drain cleaner.

After half a century of trying it the "progressive" way, it is time to admit that it didn't work and give some actual new ideas a chance. Doing the same thing we have been doing is guaranteed to do one thing, give us more of the same and this country can't afford that any longer.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Dissolving The Union: The Central States Of America

My series on how the U.S. could dissolve the union and form several independent nation-states now moves to a more difficult and near-and-dear region for me: the Midwest. The states that make up this new region, given the horribly unimaginative name "The Central States of America" (CSA herafter, which I know also used to mean the Confederate States  )  includes the states where I have lived most of my life: Ohio, Michigan and Indiana. We also lived for several years in Kentucky and a short stint in Wisconsin so this is my homeland.

The CSA would stretch from the eastern borders of Cowlandia to the western borders of the Yankee States of America and to the northern borders of the as yet to be named new Southern nation.

It would include by far the most politically diverse mix yet thanks to the vast swaths of deep red rural and suburban areas surrounding the deep blue cities like Chicago and Detroit.

The CSA includes the industrial heartland of the U.S., the so-called "Rust Belt" that runs along the top of Indiana into Ohio and Michigan. The amount of manufacturing in places stretching from Gary, Indiana to Toledo, Ohio is incredible as anyone who has lived in this area knows.

It also includes a lot of the most productive agricultural ground in America. While Cowlandia has a lot of wheat, the CSA is home to the corn/soybean states of the U.S. plus some of the biggest dairy states around in Wisconsin and Michigan. While Cowlandia has the lion's share of cattle feeding production, the CSA is king of hog production with six of the top eight states for hog raising including the granddaddy of pork Iowa which has triple the production of the next closest state.

Add in the coal grounds of West Virginia, Kentucky and SE Ohio and you have a very economically vibrant and independent area. The big issue I have tried to avoid is a very 19th century preoccupation with having access to the sea, which the landlocked nation I propose would at first blush not seem to have but that doesn't take into account the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes have a ton of ports and thanks to the Saint Lawrence Seaway you can get from the ports of Chicago, Detroit and Toledo to the Atlantic Ocean.

I originally carved off the northeast corner of Ohio, including the city of Cleveland, and put that in the Yankee States of America. I am not sure that makes sense now as culturally Cleveland is very Midwestern.

Chicago is by far the largest city in the CSA, has a huge airport and rail system and is centrally located so it would make sense to be the capitol.

The CSA would have around 65 million people if you leave Cleveland out of the mix. That is 20% of the population of the U.S. so one in five current citizens would find themselves in this new land which is about right. It is rich with large cities: Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Des Moines, Kansas City,  St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Columbus, Cincinnati,  Louisville. From high tech to farming to manufacturing, there is a lot of economic activity. Infrastructure is powerful with criss-crossing interstate highways, major airports, seaports and railways. Perhaps most importantly of all, the CSA sits on the greatest treasure in America, the vast fresh water reserves of the Great Lakes. When you include the plentiful cultural and educational resources, including the research schools of the original Big Ten, I think the CSA could very easily thrive as a nation.

Sounds great, right! Not so fast. Look at an electoral map by county from 2016 focused in on the CSA:

While you see a lot of red, as is true in most of the US, there are a lot of pockets of blue and even deep blue. Those happen to include a lot of the most populous areas like Detroit and Chicago. Trump carried the entire CSA except Minnesota and Illinois but that can be a little deceptive. Trump won Michigan by around 10,000 votes and Wisconsin by 22,000 votes. On the other hand Hillary won Illinois by almost a million votes. While you can drive around where I live for an hour and not run across a Hillary voter (Trump won my county 71%-23%), in terms of total population the people of the CSA are very divided. Just four years earlier Obama won half of the ten states that make up the CSA.

There is more to life than politics. The people of the CSA, for the most part, are joined together by a lot of threads from our sports rivalries to our common Midwestern culture. Having lived in the Northeast and the Mountain West in addition to the Midwest I can tell you that the culture of rural northern Michigan is a lot more similar to Midwestern large cities (except maybe Chicago) than those cities are to the big urban enclaves back East. We tend to be more down to earth, more religious, we call it pop instead of soda. We like fishing and mowing big yards.

We also have our issues here in the Midwest. Many factories are idled. The CSA is ground zero for the opiod epidemic. There are a lot of dying small towns as farms keep getting bigger and the jobs move overseas. Racial animosity is still very strong in many parts of this region. Some states, especially Illinois, are a fiscal trainwreck. So this is not all just taking our Big Ten schools and quietly leaving the Union.

As I said initially, I started with the two easier new nations, the Yankee States of America and Cowlandia, because they were the neatest two regions in an inevitably messy process. Creating a new nation out of the Midwest would be challenging but I also believe that thanks to our willingness to work together and our shared values that transcend politics, we would survive and thrive on our own. That leaves me with the Pacific West and the Southeast and those have some issues of their own.