As i See it Today

 

Hopefully, the universe of our thinking and understanding is always evolving. That’s not to say that we should never believe in anything nor should we consider all things subject to uncertainty. But concerning how we apply the principles we conserve, we ought to keep an open mind.

As a Christian, i’ve experienced (mostly in the last 5 years) considerable changes to my understanding of Jesus and culture. Jesus hasn’t really changed much. Culture changes all the time. Where those two meet must also remain flexible and open to change. i used to think that because i’ve experienced the transforming grace of Christ that somehow i’m a better person than those who haven’t or have rejected the offer. i also believe that is the crux of what annoys non-believers; that Christians in America in particular have for a long time tried to use the power of government to lord over their lesser heathen neighbors. And this, not solely because they believe it pleases God or will somehow make their fellow citizens better but, because they feel it’s their perogative as better people.

i no longer embrace that hubris.

This morning i noticed something disturbing. The very thing that non-Christians have found irksome about Christians is on display prominently yet subtly on the cover of Newsweek. It’s time that we all take a step back and recognize when our stongly held beliefs, creeds and opinions cause us to conclude that those who oppose us are to be judged and condemned. It is the literal definition of bigotry and lays the foundation for perpetuating our cultural misery and perhaps demise as we live out the warning of this saying:

“Societies don’t become more tolerant; they just change targets.”

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AS I SEE IT

What with the passage of a ban on same sex marriage in NC there seems to be renewed – yet misplaced – attention to the debate. In debating, the true art is to frame the topic by asserting a premise that suits your argument thereby putting your opponent at a disadvantage. In the debate over same-sex marriage i’m saddened that the popular and predominant premise is a contradictory one which may produce a win for one side, but will undoubtedly result in serious cultural defeat for both.

“Fairness” has become a pretty popular buzz-word these days. At the heart of the pro-same-sex marriage position is that it’s fundamentally fair to allow gays to marry. If that were all there was to the issue the debate might be over. But what’s at the heart what that actually means is that there are inherent benefits for the married recognized by the government that heteros receive to which homos want access. Again, that is fundamentally a natural and Constitutionally sound premise. But what can and should we say about the fairness of a government that is in the practice of handing out perks and offering assumed legal advantages to one type of citizen at the expense of another?

The third way – if you will – is a premise not thoroughly enjoying the light of day in this murky cultural fray. If the government were truly treating its citizens equally under the law there wouldn’t be value judgements placed on their personal, relational, vocational, social, ontological, or economic status. The presence of policy that places “progressive” expectations on its citizens is innately prejudicial and not impartial. If i were single or childless i would resent that the government treats me with less value as a person and more as a fungible financial asset. If i were a person with strong religious, moral convictions i would resent that the government is forcing me to adopt a standard in keeping with its own tiered and capricious values. Most of us share a deep empathy with gays in this regard: that our government is giving benefits to some folks and not to us… often, and literally, at our expense.

A federal government constrained by a Constitution such as ours ought not be in the marriage business. Nor should it be in the practice of endorsing or condoning lifestyle choices. And, most importantly, should not be in the practice of separating its owners into classes of worth.

Mikey and Me

It isn’t a secret nor should it be a surprise that i am not a fan of Michael Moore. As a Documentary artist… i find him to be more of a skilled propagandist. His deft approach to issues being so blatantly one-sided that nobody would ever suggested his work be considered fair and balanced. But i don’t begrudge anyone their biases.

Agendas on the other hand…

A friend encouraged me to watch Piers Morgan interview Mike regarding the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Aside from the 45 minutes of my life i’ll never get back, i must confess it wasn’t a total waste of time. Mike was very casual yet passionate, affable and engaging – very hard to dislike. But very easy to disagree with.

It’s been almost a week since i watched but i remember one thing i found objectionable, and one thing indicative of our broader problem of being narrow minded and incurious:

Piers asked Mike who he blamed for our current financial crisis and predictably he answered, “Corporations”. i suppose it would first be  helpful to define what one means by “corporations”. A simple search of the word reveals that there is far more corporate activity than most would be willing to admit. It has become vogue to assault the “big corporation” (BC) these days as a greedy, deeply flawed, self-interested, zealot bent on getting ahead at the expense of all those outside its family. On some level that describes every group or legal gathering of humans under the sun. We gather for a cause usually recognized as bigger than ourself, more important than ourself, and requiring more membership than ourself to accomplish goals. But at the heart of every corporation is self-interest.

Piers probed a little by asking Mike if he blamed at the government or the individual for any of our problems and he emphatically said, “no”. This was my biggest point of disagreement with Mike. His agenda – whatever it is – is as shifting and muddled as OWS save for this one ax to grind with BC. One can only assume Mike’s goal, given his penchant to espouse the glorious egalitarian impulses of Communist Dictatorships, is to remedy our current woes by growing and empowering the biggest BC in the western hemisphere. It would be terribly inconvenient to cast any blame on his savior of choice or on the populist machinery he masterfully manipulates. So the government and the individual are out-of-bounds categorically regardless of their obvious complicity.

It would have been sweet if Piers had the acumen to push this issue, you know, like ask a follow-up by injecting some information into the conversation. People make up the groups and corporations and they usually get what they ask for either directly or through the law of unintended consequences. Since it is people – in the U.S. – who have the power and the prerogative to elect government representatives to set the boundaries of commerce, it is we through our own ignorance or misguided self-interest who are mostly to blame for our present predicament. If you have a 401k or are using the stock market in any way to pad your retirement years, to possibly bring them sooner, you’ve taken the bait of entitlement, envy, and the kind of greed that when multiplied produces money-making juggernauts and Wall Street money changers.

My second issue is that a person in the audience brought up a great point that went by the way-side – again – because of its utter logic and disutility. We are victims of our own advancement. Remember when we used to dream of an age when life would be simpler and a lot less sweaty? The prospect of robots and devices to free us from toil was laughably distant. Yet here we are. We are there.

Industry that has benefitted so much from information processing and delivery has been able to shrink so much, so rapidly that its ripple is producing a wave of discontent. It has freed us from half our work effectively making only one man productive and the other… unnecessary.  This isn’t like the automobile; when the horse-and-buggy industry went caput people moved to the assembly line. There was a time when folks lived on less and weren’t so close to the guilded sidewalks of Easy Street. Today we are fat and lazy and view what was once a priviledge as a right. No matter what action is taken to right the listing ship there will be winners and losers and you don’t have a right to be either.

But that second point is secondary to the broader, more salient aforementioned one. Mike wants to be able to pick winners and losers by rigging the game. We are suffering now because that is the status quo and more of it will cause greater and perhaps permanent ruin. He sounds like he’s advocating a different path, but he’s really just suggesting we dismount our limping steed and saddle up a bull. i expect nothing less from him.

Appropriate.

CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS

Some very good friends of mine just experienced one of the most frustrating assaults on their dignity:  their identity was stolen. It seems that some miscreant in a far away state got hold of their banking information and made some debit withdrawals from their account. While money is more scarce than abundant for these friends, it isn’t really about the money.

Money comes and goes. But what these thieves stole from them is the first thing you get in this world, is really all you have, and it’s the only thing you take with you when you go… your name.

Few things incense me more than identity thieves. It comes second only to child molestation. It takes a special kind of degenerate to do both. Identity theft isn’t some random, passionate act perpetrated by the disenfranchised and desperate. It takes a certain level of skill and planning that most people don’t possess. Because of that we should stop treating it like it’s the unfortunate baggage of the technological age – a simple law of unintended consequences. The people who steal in this way are highly resourceful and often underestimated and they prey on anyone. These criminals are not society’s uneducated dregs; they demonstrate by their cunning that they only lack character and perhaps a soul. It requires a high degree of depravity to violate someone in this way.

i say we should make a public example of these perps in a way befitting those who betray public trust or defraud investors. Oh wait, we don’t actually do much to those people at all! When law makers and enforcers do get around to processing those types the results are often short of justice or lacking exemplary punishment. The time to make an example of just how damaging crimes of character are to the fabric of our corporate spirit is NOW!

i say public flogging is a good start; something bare-assed. For the ones who enjoy that kind of sport and might actually beg for it, we should consider something a little more permanent like “drawing and quartering”. We might want to consider something special for our public servants who with misguided fervor run to protect and abet these felons like… i don’t know… maybe, KICKING THEM OUT OF OFFICE!!!

Let’s take “Weenergate” (yes, i know i misspelled it. i did so on purpose because everybody mispronounces his name anyway… it’s “whiner”). The guy’s a first class jerk to begin with but that’s not important. We can all be jerks. What he did was violate the public trust by implying someone was framing him or hacking him – both of which are serious character crimes.  He almost succeeded in bringing the full investigative force of the FBI to bear on some non-existent crime at the expense of the tax-payer to cover up his douche-baggery. It’s akin to filing a false affidavit. Flog his bare ass on the floor of House Chambers! Then strip him of every lifelong perk he’s accumulated from his service and toss him in the general population of Riker’s for 20 years. i’m sure they’d love his bulging underpants in that place.

As far as the people who violated my friends:  chain gang. Twenty years of breaking rocks or digging ditches ought to set them on a path of appreciating the merits of an honest day’s work. But before that, they should have to go on Oprah or The View wearing a sandwich board (and nothing else) with something like this message:

“My name is ____. i am a first-class, low-class, dishonest, degenerate scum. i impersonated someone and committed a crime in their name. i’m not sorry and i’m on my way to the penitentiary where i will someday become really sorry. ”

 

 

A SEERS REFRAIN

On the heels of a moving, inspirational speech at the Tuscon Memorial Service, President Obama is poised this evening to make his mid-term State of the Union address. Much of the nation’s press and punditry are agog in increasing certitude that Mr. Obama will deliver again the kind of oratory that cements a world leader’s mark on history. It seems to me that there’s every reason to expect this will occur. But if history is any guide, it shouldn’t surprise us when a person with President Obama’s gift of oration hits a home-run: it’s simply a matter of probability.

The real question which I fear will go unanswered or even unasked by those who long to see Obama’s Shekinah restored is, “what are you going to do?” It wasn’t long ago when the “Hope and Change” mantra went grossly unchallenged on its substance by the media of record. This abdication en masse resulted in a massive lurch toward socialized medicine in response to a non-existent crisis. While it’s arguable that the unfunded mandate of non-discriminatory “health care” for all has been a waxing fiscal strain on our country’s deficit, the manufactured ruse that federally mandated “health insurance” for all is timely, necessary and proper medicine has been a near fatal distraction. It is the created crisis which has divided us even further into ideological camps.

The real tragedy of being wooed and wowed by the silver tongued elocution of our 44th president is that the moony fawning over his remarkable style will cause the weak-willed middle to forget that effective address of our jobless rate, outrageous national debt and crippled global economic status has been purposely ignored for two years. That is unfortunately as much a statistical certainty as tonight’s address being more stump than stuff.

SUCKERS

Gosh, i hate politics.   By “hate” i really mean “love”.   On the surface that may sound a bit contradictory, but both feelings being so passionate to the human heart are often times indiscernable.

i’ve been doing a lot of research on the web trying to find some details about the the 9/11 First Responders Bill and i’m having a devil of a time.   What i really need is to see the history of first responder health and punitive compensation:  how much has already been spent, how has it been allocated, who actually gets the money, how much do lawyers get, etc.   Maybe some solid medical science detailing pathology and causality relating to WTC dust illnesses.   And perhaps a layman’s understanding of how the moneys in this particular bill are to be allocated with accountability.   But i haven’t been able to find much.   All there seems to be is politiking by lawmakers, pundits, and muck-rakers.

99% of the vilification seems to land squarely on the shoulders of the feckless party out of power – the Republicans.   Evidently, they’ve been able to thwart the passage of the 7+billion dollar version of the bill for two years.   When you look back at what’s happened legislatively in that time it ought to make you wonder why this Bill wasn’t a priority for the Democrats.   If i were a skeptic i might think they saved the fight – complete with procedural hijinx – for the months and weeks prior to the 2010 elections.  

i mean, come on, 7 billion?   That is such chump change compared to the TRILLIONS of deficit “stimulus” spending that occurred while this bill withered on the vine.   Appropriating a few billion here and there for such a noble cause should not have been difficult. 

Me, i’m not buying the rhetoric that some politicians want to help sick first responders and some don’t.   It is such over-the-top character assasination as not to be believed.   Rather, i would suggest that NONE of them really care a hoot about any of the first responders and are playing them like they play everyone and every opportunity to gain a leg up in election year politics.

And what do we end up with usually?  Waste, fraud and abuse.  

The bill that finally passed is only 4.3 billion.   What happened to the “need” for the billions excised from the original legislation?   Is there something more here than meets the eye or the smell test?   i suspect so.   Why would this be any different than any other spending program the government creates?

If you’re one of those people who’ve condemned Republicans for obstructing this bill, you owe them an apology.   The bill passed.   If you condemned them for not passing it, you must now commend them for its subsequent passage.    Yes?   

What’s your complaint now?   Maybe you’d like to join me in a complaint against the media for not illuminating more of the content and process instead of choosing sides and shoving microphones in front of blustery, miscreant politicians bent on diddling our heart strings. 

Accountability anyone?

ME THINKS THOU DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH

Does it rise to a level of interest to sufficiently stimulate my brain?

That’s often the question of a blogger – or a writer (the latter of which i don’t consider myself).   Thoughts are one thing, but thoughts that translate into words and the careful, dextrous movement of my fingers are quite another.   If you’re like me, you probably think about a lot of things; issues that scratch at all depths of passion.  Yet it isn’t often that we either find the time or the acumen to string them together to make… music. 

It’s a cacophony most of the time – really.   A din of clattering pans and hissing whispers competing with the steady conversation of our inside voice.  i hate that.

There’s this thing going on at the moment that’s making music in my head:  so much so that i called a local radio show to share my opinion – something i rarely do.   Evidently some pastor of a local Florida church is planning to burn the “holy” book of some other religion.   It’s causing quite a stir.

i heard this “pastor” say a few things about his motivations for doing such a thing and this is what jumped out at me:  the response by the movers and shakers and leaders of the… wait for it…  WORLD have risen to the occasion to condemn this action.  Correction:  threat of action. 

It would seem that the level of intensity with which the world is reacting might suggest one of two things:  it’s a bad idea, or it’s a great point.

i actually think it’s both.

On the one hand; as a Christian myself i am always hopeful that others who profess to follow Jesus would do so in a way that honors his life and message.  We’re fond of calling it the “Gospel” which means “good news”, so doing and saying anything OUGHT to be motivated and measured by the same goodness offered by our Lord.   Gratuitously inciting the anger of our neighbors is not part of that.   Even non-Christians recognize the impropriety of trashing something others hold dear.

But as i said, i’m hopeful.   i don’t believe this pastor is actually going to burn the Koran.   i believe he’s making – trying to make – the point that we’re behaving foolishly.   We’re acting like cowed children tip-toeing around a drunk and belligerent father.   That’s no way to live.   That’s no foundation for conducting a conversation. 

i hope that when the cameras show up to record this “blessed” event the embroiled pastor whips out a Bible and begins to preach the “peace that passes understanding”, and the whole lot of his flock toast marshmellows and hand out sm’ores to the anxious.

Do vultures eat chocolate?

SUBLIME

i’m a Chistian. 

There, i said it.  It’s out there for better or for worse.  

Forget for a moment what that means.  And don’t try to think about what that means to me.   Instead, think back a few seconds and think about what it means to YOU.  

What sort of response in  your gut did you have?  

What sort of conceptions of or experience with Christians have you had that have shaped your thoughts and feeling?

Are they painful or volatile?

Do they even involve Jesus?

Can you even say the name?

In mixed company… without it being a profanity?

Alone?

Yes, it’s designed to do that to you.

Love it or hate it, it has great power over you.

Is it any wonder?

pity

A man has become obsessed with origins and fleeting cause-effects
Like the echo of some distant Bang on a march to decay
It rings in his ears when the power is out.

A meadow once rolled its glossy green over the pimpled landscape
And he wonders in awe at what might grow there someday
from seeds dormant and mysterious

The sun rises and sets an illusion of motion above shifting sands
And a cold magnetic earth plays host to his waltzing
Feet desperate to be led

But I digress to suffer what tip-toed past his intellect unnoticed
While it guarded the fragile frame of a paralyzed boy
Too frightened to move or cry for help

The chase was on to find the offending missing piece to complete
A prerequisite or the catalyst which hardens cement
Upon which to build a legacy

With one foot raised a man balances often in bitter winds poised to step
Into the shadows between buildings made darker
By brightness in the street

And he wonders if it’s real or imagined that one day, long ago
A street was a patch of grass and Black-Eyed-Susans
Cloaking what might have grown there

DIONYSIAN DILEMMA… BACCHUS AGAINST A WALL

Sometimes I try to understand the Liberal mind.  Having been one myself for a good portion of my early adult life, I think I’m at least a little qualified.   What strikes me most about the Liberal mind is that – like most organs – it relies heavily on the quiet, shadowy contributions of at least one other organ to function.  The human body is funny that way.

It is the heart that supposedly drives the Liberal mind.   No, not the actual heart, but the figurative heart that stands in juxtaposition to the reason and logic of the mind.   It’s the stuff of literature and prose fraught with compassion and grace for our fellow man (and pets… ok, more so pets…and wild animals…and algae).

An old saying says something about the tarmac to hell that I’m beginning to understand with greater clarity these days as I study the lessons of the most caring, compassionate person who ever lived.   Everybody give “it” up for the Author of Grace, Jesus! (Applause)

Now, I have a few very committed Liberal friends who I love very much and care about deeply.  They’ve taught me a great deal about relationships and the value of people.  It isn’t so much that I didn’t value people before, but being challenged to love someone in spite of their maddeningly flawed worldview is a humbling pivot point which will cause anyone to go either way:  reclusive-provincial-combative or, at peace.   So at the end of the day, in spite of our herculean differences primarily in the realm of socio-politics our humanity makes us very much the same.   As an old football coach once said, “their finger goes through the toilet paper just like yours does.”

 So I’m not that into bludgeoning Liberals anymore (though I do confess to finding great sport in it).   The challenge for me now is to look at an issue divorced from the notion that there are more flawed people on one side or the other… which brings up this whole Arizona immigration situation that has everybody tied up in knots.   

What Jesus is teaching me about the sad state of human affairs has leveled the only playing field that matters.   Law matters.

Law is foundational to any act of compassion.   It is the order that exists from law that is the cornerstone of grace.   Upon it can be built any kind of structure; the stuff of tyrants or the land of milk and honey.   The absence of law and order is the invitation for chaos and confusion and relativism – an environment in which the worst of our nature thrives.

Jesus was very clear about the law.  He said that he in no way came to abolish it, but to fulfill it.   The necessity of that predicating the age of Grace and the gift of forgiveness is paramount to true freedom.   It is only on such a firm foundation that we are free to pronounce spiritual truth and engage in genuine acts of kindness.  

In Arizona there is a law.   It’s a Federal law actually and Arizona has passed more of a “resolution” to uphold it and enforce it.   Say what you want about that law, but the lack of resolve to enforce it or change it has produced a dangerous chaos that typifies lawlessness.  Critics of the resolute are standing on the sandy soil of name calling and obfuscation to preserve the status quo in hopes of overwhelming the systems of law and order for some unclear benefit.   They say it’s the compassionate thing to do, that this law is unjust and inhumane.   That’s Liberal-speak for “our ideas are so right that most people just aren’t smart enough to know what’s good for them”.

It isn’t so much that Liberals are opposed to law; in fact, they love the laws that they write.   But they play a dangerous game of eroding the order that exists from the inside out to produce an unruly atmosphere designed to produce desperation for a new paradigm.     Rather than reforming, fixing or making a reasoned argument for change normally characterized by thinking, they rely heavily on playing the heart strings of those who abhor suffering.   All the while ignoring the suffering created by the bedlam. 

So this is what I hope for my aforementioned friends who happen to be Liberals:  that someday they would see that compassion without law leads to death.   I hate to use this analogy but it works too well.  If you gather and keep every stray at your house you will eventually help none of them and will become one of them.   And worst of all, they will destroy your home in the process and dispossess you of your stewardship. 

The new landlord may not be as sweet as you.