About Me

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I am an IT professional (a.k.a. Geek) and I desire to glorify God in all that I do and say. I like to read, write, and think about morality and worldview as they apply to public policy. In person I have an active and somewhat sardonic sense of humor. In print I repress this trait and try to avoid saying anything that could give offense when not offered with a broad grin. I strive to be genuine in my dealings with everyone and to be frank, straightforward, and kind to friend and foe alike. I believe that the defense of truth is too important to be waged with anger or malice, but when "speaking the truth in love" neither must we shrink from it.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Define "Win," Please: A Practical Case for Principle Over Pragmatism

Moral principles are sneered at by many politicians and capital cities are notorious for corrupting politicians who where first elected  to stand for something more than their own continuance in office. For those who succumb to this temptation there is a subtle shift in priorities. To these individuals, winning is no longer a means to end but an end unto itself. For the sake of securing re-election they are willing to compromise their core principles. Perhaps like the corrupt Senator Paine in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" they rationalize that by selling out in one area they will place themselves in a position to do good in some other way.

It is easy for those who care deeply about the state of our nation to fall into the same pattern of thinking. There is nothing wrong with trying to win. In the political realm you can't get anything done without it. But it must not become the all-consuming idol in the name of which any compromise can be made so long as it is premised upon the prospect of some future good that can be done right after we win the next election. The trouble is there will always be another election. For conservatives to hold back from championing our principles for fear of losing in the next election is to render our victories in the last election null and void. And, while there will always be a certain degree of give and take in the political realm, we might as well pack up and go home if, in order to win, we abandon the principles that we set out to fight for in the first place.

So what does it really mean to "win?" and are we really winning if we lose our reason for competing? We are sometimes tempted to think that our principles are a ball and chain to us - a straitjacket that puts us at a disadvantage. In reality they are all we have and we cannot truly lose so long as we stick to them. Nor can we truly win if, in order to do so, we abandon them. That's why whenever I hear someone say that we need to soften our stance on our moral beliefs in order to win an election the first thing that pops into my head is "Define 'Win', Please."

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Do not according to their deeds: It doesn't matter who said it

Lately I've been dismayed to hear the scripture quote "by their deeds you shall know them" tossed around as if it were proof positive that everything ever taught by Doug Phillips or Bill Gothard must be wrong. (Or at least the parts that the speaker doesn't agree with.) This admonition, while useful as a guide to evaluating the spiritual condition of one individual, tells us nothing about what Christian doctrine ought to be. That's what we have the rest of the Bible for. We should make use of it.

 Both men's teachings have come under fire and while I certainly don't agree with everything they taught, I find it ironic that if they had been following their own teachings in their personal lives they would have been okay. Gothard's proximity, touching, and talking rules for guys and gals, and Phillip's teaching about unmarried daughters staying at home, if followed, would have made it impossible for either of them to do what they did. I guess it wasn't really the teachings that were the problem - it was getting the idea that those rules didn't apply to them.

 So what are we supposed to do about teachings that we hear from deeply flawed people? Here's what Jesus said:

 "Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them." Matthew 23:1-3 (emphasis my own)

 Sound familiar? Some things don't change. But I want you to notice something: Jesus didn't say to not do the things that the scribes and Pharisees taught. Why? Because they were in the seat of Moses. That is to say, they were teaching from the law of Moses. The truth they taught didn't come from them. It wasn't their doctrine. It didn't come from them.

 Is everything that these two men ever taught scriptural? I know of things that I believe are definitely not. Besides, it is unlikely that one man would get every single thing right. But that should be our guide. We should evaluate teachings based on what the Bible says and not based on who taught them.

 I'll conclude with my favorite line from an old black and white Marten Luther film that we have:

 "It doesn't matter who said it. It is still the truth!"

Friday, July 4, 2014

Jefferson Smith is a Dangerous Radical

In some ways the movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" depresses me. It's all quite believable right up until the point where Senator Paine decides to do the right thing.
In real life Jefferson Smith would have been branded as a rabble-rouser throwing a publicity stunt to further his own career. Half the good people would have supported him, and the other half would have parroted these criticisms in their eagerness to show that they were not wild-eyed radicals like him.

The oligarchy at the top has reason to want to squash anyone who threatens to expose their racket, but why should we help them with their dirty business? (It wasn't a real filibuster anyway.) Anyone who is dissatisfied with our current course must consider this: We will not effect change using the same-old-same-old "go along to get along" habits that got us into this mess. If we would alter the status quo we must be willing to rock the boat.

The good-old-boys club isn't going to be happy about that and we had better count on being labeled as radicals and wingnuts. The bravest among us will be singled out for special attacks. Our response to this should be to close ranks and lock step - not to throw our most stalwart champions to the wolves by taking up the very criticisms used against them by people we ought to know better than to listen to.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

On Feminists and Rape

I keep hearing variations of something like this:

"Don't tell women to do X,Y, or Z. Tell men not to rape."

"Don't tell your children to get good grades. Tell them to eat their spinach."

Now even beyond the fact that the two are not mutually exclusive, I've always thought this was a very silly thing to say. Who are they planning to tell not to rape? The men who wouldn't do it or the men who would? The former don't need to be told and the latter aren't going to listen. (Because they're kind of evil and stuff.)

Statements like these are purely rhetorical - they have no teeth. They make great soundbites, but they do nothing to end rape. If you want to tell men something you might tell them that there will be swift and severe consequences if they attempt a sexual assault. You might even tell them that you are armed and determined to defend yourself. These are effective things that you might say to anyone who is willing to try to get what he wants using force. Words without force mean nothing to those who can only understand force.

Surprisingly, feminists recently took issue with Miss Nevada for recommending that women take steps to defend themselves against sexual assault. You would think that feminists would be in favor of women taking measures to defend and "empower" themselves. I've heard many times, and it makes sense to me, that a determined and desperate resistance can be a strong deterrent against rapists since they are typically looking for easy targets. So why would feminists, who spend a lot of time talking about rape, not be in favor of women taking effective measures against rape? In their own words they claim that this is because the mere suggestion that women take practical measures to defend themselves against scumbags is a suggestion that women are somehow at fault for rape. But this is like saying that, because I recommend that you have a home security system, I think it is your fault if your house gets broken into. Sure, you shouldn't have to have a home security system, but you might want one. Sure, you shouldn't have to learn how to defend yourself against a rapist, but who wants to get raped on principle?

It is becoming clear that feminists are concerned with rape not so much because they want to reduce the number of times that it occurs by finding practical means of discouraging it, but rather because of the excellent rhetorical opportunities it provides to beat down men in general. To this purpose, suggestions that women take measures for their own defense are quite useless and possibly even harmful. Feminists are much more concerned about assigning the blame for rape rather than preventing it. Ostensibly, we all agree about where the guilt for rape should lie. It is always 100% the perpetrator's fault. That's the easy part of the question. The hard part is what we are going to do about it. The truth is that feminists are obsessed with the assignment of blame because they would like to hijack the tragedy of rape and use it to guilt trip men who would never consider committing such a heinous act.

In my opinion this is why hardcore feminists will only ever be in favor of more talk when it comes to ending rape - at least when it comes to measures that women can take. They're cool with that because ultimately that's all they want out of it - just another talking point.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Two Songs for Memorial Day

In honor of it being Memorial Day I thought I'd share these two songs by way of paying tribute to those who have gone into harm's way on my behalf. They're both songs that kind of grabbed me and I hope my discerning readers can enjoy them.

This first one has what I must confess is a crummey music video. Apparently that wasn't the singer's forté. Just pass over that and listen.

This second one mercifully sticks to just lyrics and is equally moving.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Bill Gothard Debate: A call for Christian Charity and Civility

The recent revelations about ATI's Bill Gothard have been extremely divisive to the Christian Homeschooling community for a whole plethora of reasons that vary from person to person. This is unavoidable I suppose given the nature of the accusations and the passionate feelings on both side of the dispute. However, I had hoped that the internal discussion of these issues among Christians would remain calm and civil. I had hoped that, given the serious nature of these accusations, we would all agree, at the very least, that this was a discussion we ought to be having. Of course people disagree on fact. Of course people disagree on the interpretation of that fact. I believe that there is room for honest disagreement and I have good Christian friends on both sides of the issue.

What grieves me is to see otherwise sweet Christian friends, who I have deep respect for, doing everything short of anathematizing anyone who does not accept Mr. Gothard's limited confession at face value. I have, on a number of occasions, heard supporters of Mr. Gothard arguing that from first principles, if you are against Bill Gothard you must have a spiritual problem. Now that may be so - in fact, if you want my honest opinion, I suspect that a lot of folks at Recovering Grace are motivated by rebellion. The thing is we can't claim that only because an individual believes that Bill Gothard has not yet come clean.

Apart from the injustice of leveling such accusations merely because of a difference of opinion, these ad hominem attacks have little place in a discussion among Christians. Not only do they stray and distract from the topic in question, but they do little to convince the hearer. I can think of little use for them even for the individual who makes them since they seem to me much more likely to anger and alienate a brother than to win him.

As I said before, due to the grave nature of these accusations this is definitely a discussion we ought to be having. I hope and trust that we all take it very seriously, but I am puzzled that some feel the need to spiritually malign anyone who expresses skepticism or concern about Mr. Gothard's sincerity. The principle question we ought always to be asking is then "is it true?" (And be sure that we will be guilty if we don't do our best to find out.) But while we are asking that question we might as well face up to the fact that some folks will take longer to convince than others. Some people may come to different conclusions altogether. We're going to have to keep getting along though. (After all, we're supposed to be on the same side.) If we're going to do that we should stop talking about each other and start talking about what is true and why we think it is true. In other words, we're going to have to be civil and charitable to people who don't agree with us while we try to bring them to our point of view. If you have an argument to make, if you have facts that you feel should be considered or brought to light, then by all means, bring them to the table, but for the sake of our testimony before the world and even for the sake of your own cause, refrain from castigating those who came to a different conclusion than you did as spiritually flawed.

If you're still with me, thank you for reading this and please consider what I have said.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fiscal and Social Conservatism: A False Dichotomy

I've always felt that the classifying conservatives as "fiscally" or "socially" conservative is a false dichotomy. In my opinion social conservatives are usually more fiscally conservative than the so-called fiscal conservatives. (However, if we must classify them in parallel terms then I think we should use the words "moral" and "machiavellian" instead of "social" and "fiscal.")

Fiscal conservatives favor only those parts of conservatism that immediately facilitate economic prosperity. They do not seem overly concerned with doing what is right. In my opinion this view is not only immoral but internally inconsistent since it ignores the fact that an unjust society cannot long remain a free society, and a free society is the only society in which material prosperity is possible. In other words, left to their own devices they would saw off the branch that they are sitting on.

Those who use the terms "social conservative" and "fiscal conservative" do not understand that you cannot divorce societal morality from societal prosperity. A society which is not moral must constantly be either in a state of anarchy or of tyranny. A good historical example is the French revolution where one tyrant was overthrown only to be replaced by anarchy and eventually a series of far worse tyrants. We also see this today in Syria and other parts of the middle east. At no point can the people be considered free for they must constantly be in fear either of each other or of an oppressive government (or both). All of this tends toward the destruction and confiscation of the wealth and capital needed to drive an economy.

In a word, a society which does not remain moral cannot remain free, and a society which is not free cannot remain prosperous. To be nothing more than "fiscally conservative" is to be short-sighted.