6.04.2020

On Riots and Racism

Context
This is a response to some Facebook discussion with friends, made a bit more general so it's mostly understandable to all.


Personal posture in approaching this topic
In Psalm 139:23 David prays, “Search me, O God and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any wicked way in me.”  Just as Jesus extends the application of the law to the nooks and crannies of the human heart in the sermon on the mount, so we should sincerely search out unseen sinful patterns in our lives.  So I’m fine with people pressing and questioning others to consider if they have some racist impulses they didn’t realize, or if the society around them does.  Usually, this is taken too far, though, and the assumption is asserted strongly that most of the country IS racist when it isn’t true.  The same David who asked God to search his heart, could also rightly declare his innocence of specific accusations being brought against him, to push another agenda (Psalm 7).  That’s what is happening in our country right now.

Second, when the African American community is hurting and grieving, as they now truly are, it is important to weep with those who weep, and to love our neighbor.  There are times love looks like Job’s friends coming and sitting with him in silence for a week.  There are other times love offers a challenging word, iron sharpening iron.  Sometimes when we are in pain, the wound is partly self-inflicted, we blame others and we lash out wrongly.  I believe that is true of the African-Amercian community right now. 

To analyze the situation as I see it is not to explain it AWAY, like I want the problem or the people to stop bothering my comfortable life.  Nor am I trying to tell people how to feel, although that’s not always a bad thing (Nehemiah 8:9-12; Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Romans 12:15).  It seems inconsistent somehow to get rebuked for not showing enough compassion for black voices, and then told not to tell someone how to feel.  Well, you just told ME how to feel.  This is an example of injustices increasingly done to the supposed "privileged," to equalize things.  It's French-Revolution-dangerous.  As one riot went by a fraternity, the white guy inside gave them a thumbs up indicating he was on their side.  Five seconds later a rock smashed through his window.  You may respond, and say, "Now the shoe's on the other foot, isn't it?  Now you know how it feels to be black in America!"  See the end of this post on veneance, or just read Romans 12:17.

Anyway, I write to think through things, hopefully to improve things.  Not to white-splain away black pain.  Sheesh.  This is an attempt to love my neighbor.  Why can I not be believed in that?


Multi-culturalism
25 years ago when I was in school and just graduated, the Left was pushing multi-culturalism.  What is good and true about it - that each culture has much that should be celebrated - was used to advance a more sinister agenda: the values in any given culture are morally relative, since they evolve differently for different people.  Also that we need to equalize the value of all cultures, meaning the majority Western culture in the West has to be taken down several notches as we celebrate other cultures.  This argument basically won the day, and our current identity politics and the false narrative of the 1619 Project is built on it.  Now we say “let me speak my truth,” “don’t let me lose my black voice.”  We see ourselves more as members of an ethnic tribe, than as individuals or citizens of a nation.  For centuries the Left has emphasized the corporate aspect of society, and the Right asserts the individual, so this controversy is nothing new.  Both are needed in their proper place.  But we need to reject identifying ourselves and others primarily as members of a given tribe, or even as a slave.  God doesn’t let us do that:

“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” (Colossians 3:9-11)

Pride in your country and culture is okay in its place, but it needs to stay subservient to Christ.


What is justice?
There is a reason lady justice is blind as she holds up the scales.  Truth doesn’t change based on who is speaking and what their skin color is.  MLK had a dream of a color blind society, but those who claim his flag today have changed the dream drastically.  Now, if you’re white, you have privilege and have to sit down and shut up.  I’m all for listening to the voice of the marginalized, and truly giving justice to the oppressed.  But that doesn’t mean silencing others, or accusing them of silencing the oppressed when they “speak their truth.”  It doesn’t mean reparations generations later, it means doing justice to each individual regardless of race, without partiality for the police or the rich, OR for the poor.  “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:15).  

Most importantly, justice doesn’t mean we should expect racism and police brutality to never happen, but we should expect it to be punished when it does.  We have changed our laws and our ways much for the better in the last 50 years regarding this, though we are far from perfect in executing it, as the Arbery case in Georgia showed.  In George Floyd’s case, justice is being served.  The system is working.  It is not endemically racist.  Are there bad cops and corrupt judges?  Yes.  An inherently racist society?  No.


Softer, Subtler Racism?
Now, there is an expanded definition of racism being argued for these days.  “Maybe you don’t attack or discriminate against black people overtly, but you are more suspicious when one walks past your house.”  This gets tricky.  I believe one can avoid racism while also having their guard up more in that situation.  Controversial, I know.  Let me explain.  

(I live out in the country, in a suburb with large-size lots, in a county with a .4% African American population.  NOT the city!  So this scenario might not make sense to some.)  

If a young woman walks up to my house, stops and just looks for 30 seconds, my threat level is around 2 out of 10.  If a young man does that, it shoots up to 7.  If it’s a young black man, it’s maybe an 8.  I freely admit this, knowing how politically incorrect it is, but it’s NOT necessarily because I’m racist.  It’s because of the historical data and statistics of who commits the most violent crimes.  Is that expectation sexist or racist, or does it just take history into account?  

I DO believe everyone (especially the police) needs to work against that expectation, and give the benefit of the doubt to folks.  Police and everyone need to judge people by their behavior, not their skin color.  This is where soft racism can be a real thing.  What happened to Ahmaud Arbery was appalling. But it’s news because it happens so rarely, not because it happens all the time.  Protests like in my town today, based on the assumption that it DOES happen all the time are not grounded in the facts.  Having your guard up when a young man walks by is NOT inherently a lesser-grade racist sin of the same kind as chasing him down to apprehend and shoot him (the system is working to do justice in that case, too).  Some seem to think that one third to half of the country looked on in silent approval of what happened to Floyd and Arbery.  At least all the Trump supporters, I’m sure!  That’s really out of touch with reality.

I can take the exhortation to heart, though, to notice and help, when people aren’t as socialized or equipped as me to operate well in society, given their background.  But that’s a family heritage problem as much as it is a racial one.  (JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy really helped me understand the “underclass” mentality, white or black.)  It puts me in mind of greater men than me, like Clarence Thomas and others who were disadvantaged societally, endured racism and poverty as a child, but took personal responsibility to overcome it and succeed.  

So I’m not going to feel guilty personally when I see a poor or homeless black man at the DMV.  That is the fake “white guilt” of the woke.  I find it toxic and unjust.  I DO though have a calling to love my neighbor, and I may be better equipped to help him after listening to this conversation.


My town and mayor
I live in a small town an hour from Detroit.  We have a history of some Ku Klux Klan activity and sympathy nearby, 50-100 years ago.  Malcolm X’s home was vandalized when he was a child as the police looked on, about 45 minutes from where I sit.  Last week there was an isolated empty threat that people were going to come and burn the town in protest.  I was in an online meeting with our mayor, and his response was interesting.  To paraphrase: “I have not observed racism in our town, and we aren’t like that.  There will always be a few idiots out there, but let’s be vigilant and good to each other.”  That is a MUCH better response than apologizing for being racist in response to pressure from mobs, when the truth of the charge is dicey at best.  We have protests planned at our courthouse this afternoon.


Conclusion
The big picture here is that two wrongs never make a right.

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves” (Romans 12:17-19).

We shouldn’t fight injustice against African-Americans with another injustice: throwing out wild accusations or assumptions that people are racist, when we don’t know that.  Or expanding the definition to the point that I’m guilty just for being white.  If it’s wrong to get pulled over for “driving black,” it is also wrong to be accused as one of the 'privileged' of not being concerned enough about racism.

We shouldn’t fight the injustice of suppressing minorities’ voices by curtailing free speech for all, as is happening with college campus speech codes.  Criticism of a black person’s ideas is not silencing their voice or dismissing them, out of racism.

We shouldn’t fight wealth inequity by sacrificing justice: soaking the rich to give to the poor as we do in our tax policy.  

And we certainly shouldn’t fight the injustice done to Floyd and others with the injustice of destroying homes, looting businesses, and running over policemen.


May God have mercy on our nation, to show us our sins, and to restrain the wickedness in our hearts.

6.02.2020

In the Face of Injustice, Work and Produce

Things I Never Noticed in the Bible

The parable of the talents is well known.  Jesus tells it, we assume, to call us to steward our resources wisely for Him until He returns and gives us the "well done, good and faithful servant."

What's less known is the context of the parable in Luke's account (19:11-14).

"As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ "

Herod the Great actually did this, going to Rome to ask Caesar for kingship of Judea.  The Jews sent a delegation after him to appeal to Caesar NOT to give it to him, but Caesar did, anyway.  Herod was brutal, crucifying 6,000 Jews at one time for their violent protest against his putting a Roman image in their temple.

I'd known that before, but didn't realize until reading it today the enormous difference it makes in the purpose of the parable.  And it's right there in the text, highlighted above.


Jesus actually tells this parable to warn his hearers against contributing to an uprising against Herod to place Him on the throne in Herod's place.  They should instead focus on doing their work well so as to help prosper their society and nation, regardless of the injustices in it.


I don't think our usual reading of the parable is wrong.  I actually dissent from the mainstream Christian theologian's view that Jesus' parables have only one meaning.  They say that to avoid speculating on the peripheral details in the parables, which is wise.  But the parables are richer than just making one point.

Here, Jesus is saying BOTH:
  • that we need to steward our resources well for Him, and He will reward us at the last day.
  • AND, that people need to not force the arrival of utopia by violence against unjust rulers.
NO, Jesus says, be productive and work to multiply resources, even when you live under a brutal, harsh, and unjust regime like Herod's.



This is a message badly needed in our cultural moment - the pandemic, police brutality, and riots of 2020.

People.  

Please.  

Go back to work.  

Find more constructive ways to protest and work against evil.

6.01.2020

Coronavirus and Christ

Coronavirus and ChristCoronavirus and Christ by John Piper

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A rare 5 stars.

John Piper knows about fatal disease first hand. He knows the Bible inside and out, and believes it with conviction, when it speaks of God’s sovereignty in such disease.

While Piper gives specific answers to what God may be doing in this pandemic, he first wisely does two things. First, he sets a solid foundation that God has spoken to us reliably in the Bible. He then uses Scripture throughout to back up each point. Second, he wisely avoids getting into the medical and political morass of conflicting opinions on CDC guidelines, civil restrictions, etc. This may be because he published this quite early in the lockdown, before the curve was flattened and it became controversial. Still, where he could have weighed in on the health side, he focused on his theological lane, and the result is gold. It also matters less when he wrote it (when we didn’t know much about the virus!).

Giving six possible answers to what God may be doing in this, one thing I appreciated was this. Piper does not stay silent on the possibility that this may be God’s judgment on some for their sins. This was such an obvious answer in generations past. But in our “woke” culture, most people, even in the conservative evangelical church, want to avoid actually saying it, even if they reluctantly believe it themselves when shown the verses.

But I also appreciate Piper’s balance. Some would over-react and focus only on what the culture (or the church culture) is getting wrong, but he instead delivers up a well-rounded response. It’s a warning, a pointer to Christ’s return at the end of the world, and more.

Get this book for free, here.

https://www.abwe.org/coronavirus-and-...



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5.28.2020

Samson's Father Was a Dolt

Things I never noticed in the Bible

Judges 13
I remember Samson's father Manoah being dumb in this chapter.
And I remember Samson having some serious moral failings later.

I've just never seen a possible connection between them before.

In Judges 13, God appears to Manoah's wife (she is never named), announces Samson's birth, and instructs her how to raise him.  Manoah seems unwilling to believe her and asks God to appear again.  God does but says no more to him than He did to her.  It's an indirect rebuke: you could have listened to her!  After the appearance, their conversation shows her to be the wiser one, spiritually.  Manoah was a spiritual dolt.

What I never noticed:  Samson did not have a strong spiritual role model for a father.  Did that have a direct effect on Samson's later impulsivity, lust, violence, and general lack of self-control?  I won't go so far as to assume and assert that, but it IS a warning to the rest of us fathers.  Give your sons an example of self-control, and the Spirit will use it in their own souls to help them follow the Lord better.

Not that their spiritual state is up to your actions, in a works-righteousness way, but you want to "work with the grain" of the Spirit's work in your sons' lives, not cut against it.

5.27.2020

Gideon was Afraid

Things I Never Noticed in the Bible: Judges 7

When God whittles Gideon's army down to 300, His first step is to send home anyone who is afraid.

Then, when God tells Gideon to go fight Midian, Judges 7:10-11, God gives him the option to sneak down with just his servant to check it out, first, if Gideon is afraid.  Gideon takes that option.  He himself was afraid!

But he fought anyway.

Yahweh, Moses, and Joshua

Things I Never Noticed in the Bible

Joshua 5:13-6:3 – The same theophany, Jesus appearing to Joshua and telling him to take off his sandals, seems to continue into chapter 6.  I realize it is “commander of Yahweh’s army” in chapter 5, and “Yahweh” in chapter 6.  But it is a replay of the burning bush.  

God sets apart the mediator, names His Name, Yahweh, then gives instruction on what to do.  God appeared to Moses at the burning bush, and told him to take off his sandals (Ex 3:5).  He named Himself Yahweh for the first time, there (Ex 3:14).  It's the same in Joshua 5-6.  Yahweh gives Joshua instruction on HOW to execute the exodus-now-conquest.

5.25.2020

The Door Before

The Door Before (100 Cupboards #0.5)The Door Before by N.D. Wilson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Door Before, review

I can’t remember the last time I read a book in 24 hours.

Maybe it was the holiday. Or that I hadn’t read a book geared to youth in a long while. The Door Before was a real treat.

A prequel that connects to his 100 Cupboards and Ashtown burials series, N.D. Wilson explores themes of courage in the face of evil, learning about yourself, parenting young people wisely, and more. On the writing side, sometimes the author tries too hard and it shows. But usually his writing is vivid, striking and fresh.

Some themes I found interesting:



Courage in the face of evil

The world is a dangerous place. It’s Author has made it so. Wilson has traced that theme in non-fiction in “Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl.” The evil witch-queen simply steps into our world and wreaks havoc, unbidden and unwanted.

In a world clamoring for safety, especially now during a pandemic, Wilson swims against the tide. Perhaps ways between worlds aren’t inherently evil and wrong, just because it caused a lot of damage that first time. The author definitely leans toward going out and fighting evil, instead of “mitigating risk.”

This isn’t an absolute, of course. Sometimes the good guys retreat, but it’s always to regroup and fight again. We attack the gates of hell, in Jesus’ metaphor, but most of our spiritual energy seems to go to repelling Satan’s attacks. Maybe there should be more to the picture we have of our Christian lives?

Wilson paints the portrait deftly, with the main characters set on mission to go conquer the witch, while side characters offer resistance and objections, but come along in the end. There are echoes there of Jesus going to Jerusalem to die, with Peter objecting.



Learning about yourself

The main character, Hyacinth, discovers she has a secret magical power, and learns to use it on the fly. My interpretation may be simplistic, but magic is usually a metaphor in fantasy for spiritual power generally, and/or a natural talent given to some and not others. In The Door Before it is a bit of both.

It’s important for kids to learn what they can do well, what they enjoy, and how they can be useful in the world. And where those three intersect is the vocational sweet spot. Showing that in a story kids can identify with gives real hope, when they are wondering about their future.



You can’t!

Institutional opposition is a common theme in youth literature. It’s an overdone yawner for me, but maybe that’s because I’m not 17 anymore. Yes, Hyacinth’s secret power of course is forbidden by her social group, the Order of Brennan, but she uses it anyway, and it’s a good thing she does! Wilson on this point inadvertently plays into an individualism he tends to oppose otherwise. He may have a point, though, that the strength of the individual is to fight evil more courageously than an institution can. The Order of Brennan I think may have been RIGHT to have a general policy against opening ways between worlds, but can exceptions be made? Institutions tend not to, even when they should, to be consistent. Wilson may be pointing out true flaws in institutionalism, I just wish he’d swim against the tide here as elsewhere, and point out the flaws of individualism in going off half-cocked, too. The shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia recently may be an example.



Irreconcilable War

Wilson opposes individualism well in showing the true-to-the-Bible war between the seed of the woman and seed of the serpent. One characteristic of that war is that it is inter-generational. Because she was born into the Smith family, her loyalties are with the O of B, against the witch and her ravens, and so on. We are all situated in specific life circumstances without our input: gender, family, religion, geography, etc.

But this is not fatalistic. For one thing, kids need to adopt or reject the view of life they’ve been given and raised in. Wilson shows this well with the parents fighting evil with the kids knowing little about it, at the beginning. But they learn and start to fight, too. For another thing, the author has a couple scenes that show people discerning where the loyalties of others lie, when it’s unclear. The acid test: how do they respond to obvious evil and to clearly good characters? This gives growing kids an excellent tool kit to know how to read new people who come into their lives.



Parenting young people wisely

One subplot is the parents. How much do they tell the kids? When do they release them into the dangerous world? The parents make a mistake or two here, and they belong to a group bigger than the family that points it out to them. That is good. One thing parents tend to do is withhold information when adolescents are crying out for it. Instead we (I’m a parent of 4 teens!) let them figure life out on their own, while we are occupied with other things, to their detriment. Taking the time to explain why we do what we do is important. Else when they hit the world, they are engaging without critical information.

That’s enough for now. The Door Before is packed with good stuff like this.
I recommend it for young and old alike. There is a fair bit of violence described – probably best for 11 or 12 years old on up.



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5.14.2020

Spiritual wisdom when reopening church // Out of Touch

Good article here on our motives and intentions when reopening church together.


"Out of Touch"
This 2-minute short video is pretty good.  I know it's exaggerated, but I hope we're not heading for a version of this.
I would rather risk viruses and germs than never shake hands again.  Paul calls believers to greet each other with a kiss.  Apostles gave each other the right hand of fellowship.

Taliban Brutality // Back to Work? // Doctor's Orders? // Dictators Lie

Brutal in Kabul
The Wall Street Journal yesterday had a front-page picture of a soldier rescuing a bloody baby from a hospital attacked Tuesday.  The Islamic State or the Taliban most likely carried it out.  They shot up a maternity ward leaving 16 dead, including 2 babies.  As the Journal put it, even in war-torn Afghanistan this struck a nerve.  Sitting at the breakfast table with my wife that was certainly the case.  Why aren’t these people wiped out, I asked.  Why allow them to exist, when we know what they intend and we have the capability to take them out by satellite and drone?  Maybe that’s extreme.  Maybe we can’t find those responsible.  But America doesn’t seem to have learned it’s a bad idea to go half-in instead of all-in, in a land war in Asia.


Back to Work?
My local paper had a front-page article on a restaurant in town that has called employees back to work.  Those that don’t answer the call promptly have been let go.  But they couldn’t arrange child care.  But the employer needed to employ folks at 75% to keep their loan money from the government.  But the employees were concerned about the health situation.  But the employer could provide for that adequately.  What a mess!  Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has been pushing for liability protection for businesses for a while, and now I see why.  So many lawsuits coming…



Doctor’s orders 
Photo of Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., NIAID Director
On the virus, I’ve been having this thought lately.  When doctors give advice for treatment, they aim for optimal health without regard for the cost of treatment.  When things are serious, you go along and thank God for insurance if you have it.  But there ARE times the doctor prescribes a treatment, and you weigh the benefits against the high cost, and decide to forego the treatment.  This is not a moral travesty, nor is it inherently reckless.  The American people are leaning toward this course in their increasing resistance of shutdowns.  Doctors and politicians cannot maintain an iron grip on an entire society, even during a plague, to control completely our levels of activity.  People need to be responsible health-wise, and also not freak out if someone moves into their 6 foot zone.  This whole thing is a case study in how powerfully the media can affect our thinking the way they want it.  See here for that.


Dictators lie
Image result for putin pictureImage result for xi picture

Okay all humans lie, and America isn't exempt.  Granted.
Chinese hackers are trying to steal virus treatment and vaccine information from the U.S.  Amazing.  They won’t give the world important information about it, and now they try stealing what we do know.  The US denied approval to a Chinese mask making company to sell them to America, since they aren’t up to quality standards.  Meanwhile Putin’s Russia lies about its role in World War II, and about how bad the virus is there.

5.11.2020

Sing! // Re-Humanizing // Humility-Charity Needed

The Church misses its singing in these times, World Magazine magazine wisely points out.


How do we stop seeing others only as a viral threat?  Not sure, but this article shows us deep in that dismal reality.


A call for humble charity in these times of accusation and demagoguery.

Thoughts on reopening church

Liberty
Yes, churches have the right to worship, regardless of what a government says.  When the government closes down a church because it sees the church as a threat, that is persecution, and we should find a way to worship anyway.  But when the gov’t asks churches not to meet while also asking businesses and theaters to close, all for health reasons, the church should be inclined to comply.  Church leaders should check into the health reasons as best they can, so they can see and explain how closing is protecting their people.

Medical/Health Concerns
I’m not an expert, so take this for what it's worth: there is a highly contagious, airborne, and deadly virus out there that we have no effective treatment for.  So to breathe the same air with 200 other people in the same room for 2 hours doesn’t make much health sense.  This is why churches agreed to close.  Now, the virus appears to only severely affect the sick and elderly, and it is geographically limited to dense populations.  As we learn these things, it should change how we respond.  It seems the lockdown worked, in that it lowered the number of cases so the city hospitals could handle the load.  Whether we need to continue on this course is not at all obvious to me.  Next point:

How long? 
At the beginning of this quarantine, we all had the feeling that if we just did this for a month or so, we could get back to normal.  Now that we’re 2 months in, we’re getting restless and talking about our freedoms and our livelihoods.  Our governor just extended lockdown to the end of May.  I’ve recently read the Johns Hopkins medical guidelines for how governors should go about reopening.  It speaks of taking a small step to reopening, wait 2-3 weeks to get new data, then hopefully take another small step, then wait 2-3 weeks again.  If the data shows more cases, you clamp down again.  The timeline is far more extensive than was let on early on, and people are not taking that well.  What that means for church is this: going without worship for 1 month is do-able.  Considering this path for 3-6 months is not.  Churches will start meeting again, and they already have.  And this brings me to my last point.

Public perception of risk
I expect people will generally refuse to remain quarantined for that long.  They’ll start to accept the risk of going back to work and shop.  Especially the younger and healthier will accept that risk.  They will social distance the more worried they are, but they’ll start regaining a sense of normalcy.  Getting this virus is nothing to sneeze at (pun intended).  But it’s hardest on the elderly and those already sick.  Those people will see the risk as too great, and stay home.  But the rest are moving away from accepting CDC and Johns Hopkins procedures, which are extremely risk-averse to the point of tanking our economy.

Will people come back at this point?  Or will it take people a while yet to feel safe enough to be in crowds?  I myself have noted a high level of risk-aversion, yet.  But to maintain it at that level such that we don’t hold worship services until there is a vaccine is just not going to happen.  Church leaders, like state governors, may need to lead their folks back out into the church sanctuary, even when some think it’s too soon.

New expectations
Churches will need to make more accommodations for absent members to watch the service from home.  They’ll need to make clear that it’s okay to not attend if they don’t want to take the health risk.  May God give church leaders and members all wisdom to navigate these issues, and charity with each other when we come to different conclusions.

5.01.2020

An Open Letter to Politicians and Media

Dear President, Governors, and mainstream media,
In a time of crisis, society needs its leaders to act for the good of the nation, not for their own selfish interests.  You are deepening in our nation the infection of a culture circling the drain. 

Media: CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, The Atlantic, etc.,
We know the political Left has a vested political interest in hurting the economy as much as they can right now, which is their best chance to hurt Trump’s chances of winning in November.  And we know you are an arm of that left.  You pursue that agenda hard, with every broadcast and issue.  You ask “gotcha” questions of our President all day.  Would the Trump daily press conferences be as hostile if Hillary Clinton were the president?  Would the Cuomo pressers be as friendly if it were a conservative?  No, you have an agenda that is no longer even hidden.  This is journalistic malpractice and you should stop it.  
Stop making your opinion the news, and report the facts.  There was a time journalists knew enough not to inject their views into their work.  Stop highlighting only the good of Democrats and only the faults of Republicans.  Why is Georgia’s governor the devil, experimenting with human sacrifice (an actual headline of yours!!) for reopening, while Democratic governors who have taken similar steps get a pass?  Your agenda is obvious and despicable, given your high-flown rhetoric about the importance of journalism, and its role in preserving free speech.  You abuse your media platform for your own purposes, which will degrade first amendment freedoms for all of us in the long run.

Civil leaders:  Mr. President, Governors,
Please don’t blindly follow one set of experts over others.  You take medical opinions as undoubted truth, and conform an entire nation to its prescription, regardless of the cost.  No, it is up to you to weigh input from various fields and set your policy.  Have the courage to do this, rather than just do whatever the doctors say.  Thomas Sowell has described well the difference between liberals and conservatives.  Liberals see the world as a place of goals and visions, and obstacles to them.  Conservatives see the world as a place of tradeoffs between various worthy priorities.  I would urge you to see your task in terms of the latter.
Avoid self-congratulatory answers to questions.  Be honest with us about the risks of the policies you pursue – there will inevitably be some in this crisis.  You don’t have a fool-proof, bullet-proof, fail-safe policy, so be straight with us.  Stop prioritizing you getting re-elected, over serving the people.  In these times, the two can conflict, and your political courage is badly needed to help us.
Why must we remain in lockdown now that the curve has flattened, and medical capacity was not exceeded?  We all know a second wave is coming, but we must also restart an economy that has had a heart attack, and is now going without oxygen to the brain with each passing week.  Medically, and economically, this causes longer term damage the longer it goes on.  We cannot wait until there is a vaccine or until there is little risk of infection to reopen.
Let us follow the path of Sweden, reopen, risk more cases as our supply of ventilators, etc., increases, develop more immunity, and get back to work.  We are not looking to you to keep us completely safe and disease free – that is not your job, and we will not fault you for it come election time.  But making decisions that only take one (medical) factor into account, no matter any other cost, will be catastrophic for our society and your political future.
Finally, politicians, please trust us to do the right thing and social distance as best we can.  Your role is not to mother us with detailed edicts, threats and penalties, but to provide information for responsible citizens to act upon as they see fit.  We understand the need in a medical crisis to act all together according to certain strict hygienic standards.  But many of us would rather take the medical risk than forfeit our freedoms to your overdone injunctions and civil penalties.

Signed, 
We the people, of the United States of America, whom you are called to serve.

4.30.2020

Random thoughts on the extended lockdown

1.  Spiritual/social toll.
So I’m starting to notice a bit of frayed edges on people.  We have a bit less grace with each other in some interactions, especially written.  I've done this, too.  This is probably part of isolation-toll.  Tempers and patience can be shorter.  Let’s work at it, people.  Kindness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and we need to extend it to each other, as we are stretched in our own capacity to adapt to all the adjustments.



2.  Lessons to learn
Our society puts so much faith in medicine, science, government, and the economy.  We are seeing the limits of each, to a staggering effect.  God is knocking each of them down a peg.  Not that they aren't normally ways God provides for us, but we idolize them - look only to them for solutions, or for perfection they can't give.  Instead of turning to God, we are leaning IN to our idols.  Yikes.  Almost like when Dagon fell in his temple when the ark was put in it, and the priests just set him back up again (1 Samuel 5).


3. Nanny state, or needed restriction?

It's frustrating me that some state governors, including mine, are acting like our school marms, with detailed direction, and long diatribes, like we can't think for ourselves.  But then again, maybe we really are this dumbed down as a society.  Recent meme online: "how will Walmart get customers to wear masks when they can't get them to wear pants?"

4.29.2020

Red Rising

Red Rising (Red Rising Saga, #1)Red Rising by Pierce Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


A very different kind of book than I usually read.

Ben Shapiro recommended it right about the time I started listening to him a month or so ago, and now I can see why.

Set centuries in the future, Darrow is a miner on Mars. Life is hard, and short. He doesn’t realize it, but he is a slave in a strict caste system. He loses his family to the punishment of the state. He is shown the Big Lie of Society, and genetically changed to join and compete with the highest caste as a sleeper agent. I won’t spoil the rest.

With PG-13 language and R violence throughout, this is not a book for the faint of heart. It is a mix of Game of Thrones (gritty, feudal politics), Matrix (plot), Ayn Rand (freedom anthem), Lord of the Flies (civilization lost to barbarism), and Harry Potter (house competition).

Is it worth reading? I think so. Literarily, the plot structure seemed original to me, though I’m no expert in that. The suspense was good, though it lagged at points in the middle.

Red Rising is an insightful study into totalitarian societies – how they work, the tricks used to keep people subservient, to produce the next generation of a ruling class, and the choices individuals can take to fight for freedom. It’s also a case study in Darwinism run amok. What if a society’s ruling class has no brakes in their “kill or be killed” belief? Cheat or be cheated. Get them before they get you. It’s a bloody cautionary tale: we need ethical restraint or it’s just a jungle out there.

Unfortunately, not much is given in the way of what that ethical restraint needs to be. Two themes emerge. First, freedom is expensive in blood and personal sacrifice, but it’s worth fighting for. Second, loyalty is a higher value than survival. But both freedom and loyalty may need to be given up in the short run to achieve them in the long run.

The end also leaves ambiguous whether loyalty can really win over the law of the jungle. And whether individual resolve to take on and change society will win out over society making the individual conform.

There are biblical themes, though I don't know they were intended.
It's told in the first person, and on the last page there are a series of "I will" statements that remind me of Isaiah 14:13-14, which is often attributed to Satan. This goes against the grain of the book's thesis, that Darrow is a sort of Messiah who has to just bend the rules. Is he a Savior or a demon?
There is also a nice "slave to son" development.

I liked the critique of totalitarian societies, but not the view that to change the world you'll have to compromise your ethics.



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How Should Churches Meet // China // Ford Makes Ventilators

1. The state of Texas put out this excellent guideline for churches during the pandemic.


2. On US-China Relations:
"one challenge with the U.S.-China relationship is it’s pretty much unprecedented in world history for two countries to be so economically interdependent as the United States and China are and also be strategic rivals. One of those had to give."
https://worldandeverything.org/2020/04/washington-wednesday-beijing-unmasked/


3.  Wall Street has a nice article on a Ford assembly plant converted to producing ventilators, less than an hour from my house.