Archive for the ‘Current Issues’ Category

I probably shouldn’t be writing this, any perspective I have is no doubt built upon “unearned authority”; but I can’t help it, because the heart of the issues lying in the ashes of Ferguson remain unaddressed.

Many issues have reared their ugly heads in Ferguson. The issues dominating the airwaves and the public psyche did not begin with the death of Michael Brown; they began long ago, in a more primal form. It is this beginning, this genesis, which has sadly been forgotten while we rail and shout at TV screens.

The real issue is often overlooked and rarely spoken of. It is as the saying goes, for every finger you point there are three more pointing back at you. There may be many symptoms of America’s racial dilemmas but there is only one core from which they spread out…the human condition.

The human condition includes the propensity to be fallible, to be blinded by passion or hate, to side unquestioningly with those who share our commonalities. But who has been speaking about the human condition? Who has pointed out its inherent faults? But truth remains silent while hatred and sadness pour out of Ferguson and onto our TV screens.

What we have heard is who to blame; and everyone else is to blame, but not ourselves. We couldn’t possibly bear any blame, all of our excuses are lined up in a pretty and neat row.

We live too far away, why should we care? We’re not racist, but all the people we disagree with are. We don’t judge people by the color of their skin but everyone else is judging us by our skin. People are judging us based upon our socio-economic status. People don’t understand what it is like to be us. People are judging us on our ancestral history. It’s an institutional problem, a law-enforcement problem, a race problem, an economic problem. The media doesn’t tell the true story, the media has an agenda.

All the answers are in our hands, aren’t they? As long as we’re not to blame, it’s all okay, we didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not us, it’s them.

But it is us. Racism isn’t something that died with Civil Rights or with electing the nation’s first African-American to the White House. Racism doesn’t discriminate, it’s tendrils of darkness threaten even the most honest and loving of persons. The history of plundering and ignorance is not something confined to the past, nor does it reign exclusively in a particular segment of society.

Everyone likes the part of the truth that makes us feel better, that justifies our position; we don’t like the part that implicates us, which is why members of all sides fling vitriolic words designed only to cut and divide. It can’t be us. We proclaim the truth, we seek true justice but those who oppose us are blind; the only feeling the other side harbors is the utmost hope for our continual degradation.

So now the paradigm has shifted, we no longer seek excuses for our ideas and beliefs, we now excuse our speech and actions. We believe that by pointing to America’s bloody past, we can justify our present and future bloodshed. We proclaim “property damage and looting”, that violence in general, has been an important “tool” in our respective “social progress”.

Merriman-Webster defines progress as “the process of improving or developing something over a period of time” or “gradual betterment; especially the progressive development of humankind”. Could

anyone consider the ashen skeletons of buildings, the rampant terror and fear on the streets, the torrential downpour of schismatic dialogues and hateful speech, to be anything but the opposite of ‘social progress’?

America the violent…America, the land purged by blood. It may have been who we were, it may be our heritage, but it doesn’t mean we presently have to stoop to our history’s lowest common denominator. We could be better; but alas, we’d rather speak of how ingrained racism is in the American identity, of how impossible it is for it to ever die out. We could love, forgive, and express understanding but we would rather our “side” be justified; we’d rather be right than righteous.

Some say we need only to obey or fear the law when the law upholds justice and order, but the heavens will shake when the law fails, for we declare ourselves righteous enough to cover the sins of our destruction of the physical and the spiritual. We are justified in our anger and rage, because the end justifies the means.

We declare this is the America generations past and present have shaped and molded, they have created this monster…as have we. Then, we are arrogant enough to turn around and say that we do not have the will or fortitude to change our ways, we do not have the right to hope. And so the cycle continues, new hope will find no home here; we have become pariahs to our own creeds.

Perhaps we do have no hope, perhaps things will never change within our lifetime, this lifetime marred by injustice and hate. But as time continues to pass, will things naturally get better on their own? Our forefathers of freedom, of every color, had more reason than us to believe in the absence of hope but we arrogantly think our time is worse than theirs.

We do not acknowledge our ability to have our present civil discourses of shouts and defamation are completely dependent upon their sacrifice.

Hope is indeed earned, it was earned by women and men who fought for a better future. They fought against bigotry, hatred, and violence; but they didn’t win by force of arms, a physical victory will always become temporal. They won by changing hearts and minds. Many did not see the fruit their labors had produced, but they had hope and it was enough for them.

Violence, hate, slander…all of these will continue, there won’t be a day where division will stop trying to rend the common bonds of humanity. For as many who fought for the rights of humanity, there were as many to oppose it. Does that mean we give up, that we allow anger and hatred to win? We might treat hope as the stuff of fairytales, but they never did.

What right do we have to let the dreams of those before us die? Is their hope, not enough for us anymore? They bled, suffered, and died for a dream of a better people in a better world. They fought for the future, but we can’t see beyond the haze of our anger and self-righteousness.

They deserve better. The future deserves better.

We could discuss what needs to be done, we know the truth, but sometimes we don’t want to face it. We don’t want to be wrong. We don’t want to be a part of the problem. Do you want to be able to deflect the blame, or do you really want to fix the hurt, heal the scars, and fight in common brotherhood? Do you really want to fight the evils of the human condition?

You know the answer, I pray that we all desire to find it. Now is time to be better.

With the utmost love, respect, and hope,

An American

Now onto Romans 12.
I have heard the pacifist argument that to understand Romans 13 you must read it in context of Romans 12, which I will do soon, but let’s address the issues directly arising in Romans 12.
What is the chapter of Romans 12 specifically speaking about? The header in the translation I am currently using (NASB) reads “dedicated service.” Dedicated service? To whom? Well to God, of course. Only reason this is important to bring up is that Romans 12 is not specifically addressing the issue of violence but rather the all-encompassing service (actions) that should be seen in a Christian life.
There are many good verses here, some of which I will touch upon later but they do not directly pertain to the current discussion of violence; so we will jump to the first one, Romans 12:14, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
The verse is often used as evidence for pacifism, so I looked up the original Greek words in Strong’s Concordance, ‘bless (G. 2127),’ ‘persecute (G. 1377),’ and ‘curse (G. 2672).’ Even with study, these words only carry the same sort of understanding that our English words have; there is no hidden meaning. I bring this up to make the point pacifists use this verse to justify their beliefs, but does it answer the question ‘is violence an action a Christian can never take’?
Let’s analyze some more verses in Romans 12 to gain a better perspective.
Romans 12:17-21 “17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘VENGANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,’ says the Lord. 20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.’ 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (emphasis in original text)
‘Never pay back evil for evil’ is speaking about vengeance, whether big or small. This is confirmed latter where Paul commands to ‘never take your own revenge.’ Paul goes on to say that all vengeance belongs to the Lord and He will assuredly repay those who have done evil with justice.
This verse also a warning, if a Christian (or Non-Christian for that matter) decides to take matters into his own hands; not allowing the Lord to mete out His justice, but decides to bloody his hands (whether figuratively or literally), they have become as guilty as the one who committed the original evil against them.
How are we to let such justice come? That will be fully answered when we dive into Romans 13 and its implications, but it can be partially answered by what Paul speaks of next.

‘Respect what is right in the sight of all men’ could be referring specifically to the topic of vengeance, as vengeance is the subject Paul was speaking of just before and shortly after. What Paul would be saying in this interpretation is that a Christian should not be surprised if they are punished by their act of vengeance by others, even if those others are Non-Christians (the ‘all men’ Paul refers to).
Here would be a modern-American example.
Let us say a husband avenges the rape and death of his wife by killing the man who committed the terrible crime. A Non-Believing judge could still sympathize with the husband, as he, being a husband himself could understand that he would probably desire to do the same thing had he been in the similar position. However, it doesn’t matter how much sympathy the judge feels for the husband, the husband still committed murder. The judge must still bring about a sentence, no matter how “justified” the killing was or how much sympathy he feels for the husband.
Paul could be referring to a situation like this, however, it seems more likely that he is referencing a broader form of proper conduct, what is often called Natural Law, an aspect of Common Grace. If you are not familiar with the term Natural Law, here is Webster’s 1828 definition “Law of nature, is a rule of conduct arising out of the natural relations of human beings established by the Creator, and existing prior to any positive precept. Thus it is a law of nature, that one man should not injure another, and murder and fraud would be crimes, independent of any prohibition from a supreme power.” (emphasis in original text)
Just for clarification, a ‘positive precept’ is considered right only because it is commanded and ceases to be obligatory if it is repealed (e.g. laws concerning marijuana use). ‘Supreme power’ is referring to human-made government of some sort as opposed to being a reference to God.
God’s Common Grace is imbued into all of us (Romans 1:18-21, 32), as evidenced by the vast majority of humanity that still adheres to certain aspects of God’s universal laws (aka, Natural Law) such as not to murder, steal, commit adultery, etc. It is because of Common Grace and Natural Law that God is able condemn all sin, even Non-Christians have “no excuse” (Romans 2:1) for their lawlessness. God gave every person a conscious, hence Paul’s admonishment to “respect what is right in the sight of all men.” (Romans 12:17b)
This sentence naturally leads to the next verse, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Romans 12:18) Once again, I looked into the original meaning of ‘possible (G. 1415, but the word is derived from G. 1410),’ and it does not change the meaning of the passage.
I tried looking up the word ‘depends’ but Strong’s actually didn’t have a numbered reference for the word, and the closest references to the word on either side (G. 991 and G. 2749) didn’t seem to fit too well, so if you know an expert on Biblical Greek, you might want to get their help to fully understand the word and thereby the phrase; but it shouldn’t significantly change your understanding of the phrase we see in the English versions of the Bible we possess.
I also looked up the phrase ‘be at peace with all men.’ which contained the very similar words eireneuo (G. 1514) and eirenopoios (G. 1518). Eireneuo, means “to be (act) peaceful,” while eirenopoios, means “pacificatory, i.e. (subj.) peaceable” which is often translated to “peacemaker.”
This particular part of the verse does seem to support pacifism, it certainly supports peaceful living and being at peace with fellow humans but even supporters of self-defense would agree with this assessment; most Christians after all, do desire to live in peace. However we must look again at the words that proceed the sentence ‘be at peace with all men.’
‘If possible, so far as it depends on you…’ This seems to denote that there will be times where Christians cannot ‘be at peace with all men,’ so a strong argument for pacifism shouldn’t be made here; even though pacifist thought (in comparison to self-defense or protecting others) is the strongest within the passage. This verse doesn’t condemn violence, in fact it could possibly be used as evidence that certain types of violence are acceptable, but it also doesn’t specify what sort of violence; Paul after all, could just be implying taking a verbal stand as opposed to a physical one.
Another thing to consider is what sort of event or thing would cause us to no longer be at peace with other individuals? Like what we did with verse 14, let us pause for a moment until we come to the conclusion of the chapter.
We already covered verse 19 (vengeance) so let’s jump to verse 20, “but if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
This verse is directly taken from Proverbs 25:21-22, although the original passage also has “and the Lord will reward you” (Proverbs 25:22b) at the very end. One mustn’t ignore the context in which the original passage was written. Fortunately we are given that very context in the Bible, “These also are
proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, transcribed.” (Proverbs 25:1) Solomon is giving these instructions on wise and Godly living, so now, Paul is using them to remind Christians of their dedicated service to Christ.
Is Romans 12 New Testament proverbs? Perhaps, it is more akin to a proverb rather than any particular declaration of pacifism or justification of violence. But what about loving your enemy as verse 20 clearly speaks about; certainly that can only be taken in defense of pacifism? But is verse 20 speaking of pacifism, or is it speaking about loving your enemies?
The word ‘enemy’ is ekhthros (G. 2190), it comes from an even more primitive word echtho, which means ‘to hate.’ Ekhthros, means “hateful;” passive use of the word can mean “odious” while an active use of can mean “hostile.” Ekhthros, as a noun means “an adversary (especially satan): enemy, foe.”
Given this particular usage of the word, especially considering the reference to satan, in combination with verse 14 ‘bless those who persecute you’ (referring to suffering inflicted upon us because of our belief in Christ as opposed to suffering being inflicted upon us because of some other reason), and that the entirety of Romans 12 is pertaining to service to Christ; I believe it is reasonable to say that the enemy in reference to in verse 20 is an individual who desires to persecute Christians for their faith as opposed to an individual trying to murder for gain (self-defense) or participating in genocide (defense of others).
This is not to say that the verse condones violence if a Christian is not being attacked because of their beliefs. There is nothing contained within verse 20 to give that impression, one could even say that the verse could apply to all situations as adherents of pacifism believe about the verse. They are not necessarily wrong but that doesn’t make them right either, given the context in which the word ‘enemy’ is used.
Paul gives the final teaching in verse 21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Once again, Paul could be specifically speaking about vengeance, since he was talking about it just a few verses ago; but this teaching could also be a general admonition as when he asks for Christians to be at peace with others as much as possible.
Taking an overview of Romans 12 with what has been discussed, Paul is writing about dedicated service to Christ, not about specific lines of thinking pertaining to violence. Violence is never specifically mentioned, this is important to keep in mind as there are multiple ways one can ‘curse’ (verse 14), ‘pay back evil’ (verse 17), and take revenge (verse 19), without taking another person’s life or even physically harming them.
Remember that Jesus said that to be angry without reason towards another is the same as murder (Matthew 5:21-24). Just because our minds may naturally fall to thoughts of lethal vengeance when regarding Romans 12, doesn’t mean that only lethal vengeance is what Paul is speaking about; he is speaking about vengeance in all its forms.
Verse 18 could be used to make a case for the possibility of self-defense and defending others, but the verse simply states for Christians to be at peace with all people as much as possible. Never once is the broken peace specified. Does the absence of peace include the use of lethal force or physical force in certain situations? Maybe, but it isn’t said. It could mean that only forms of non-physical, and by extension non-lethal, means of breaking the peace are allowable. Maybe, but it isn’t said. Or perhaps Paul is just saying that we don’t have to agree with everything people say, especially considering many people do not posses views that honor God; it’s okay to disagree, but you can do nothing more. Maybe, but it isn’t said.
The only conclusive thing Romans 12 does speak about concerning the issue of self-defense is that we are not to curse or seek vengeance upon those who persecute us for our faith; and also to not seek vengeance period. Does this mean that if our lives are only threatened because we are Christian, that if we are only being physically attacked because of our faith, we then do not have the right to defend ourselves? A case could be made for this but we can only get a better understanding by studying Romans 13, which will be dealt with shortly.
Thus, strong evidence for pacifism as a whole, for self-defense, or for defending others, is not overly strong in Romans 12; and to make a case for any of these systems of belief based solely upon this chapter would not be the wisest of moves. Of course, there are other verses that will be analyzed and the observations made from Romans 12 will be used in those analyses, but Romans 12 must be looked over independently as well, and conclusions must be drawn. Unfortunately, the only thing that can be concluded from Romans 12 is that there is no conclusion (yet) upon this subject.

The end of the world has come…or so at least some say; but truth be told, I never knew the end of the world coincided with the election of a president. And however illogical that statement is, there is still going to be a sizable minority who believe that the election of a single person will either save or doom a nation. They are the Chicken Little’s of the world who believe that because of a single event the world as we know it will collapse to pieces.

The only thing I know that is collapsing is the frail thing known as humanity; it’s the reason we are in the problem we find ourselves in, whether personal or national. The reason humanity, we the people, are failing is because we keep putting ourselves first and others last.

This isn’t something new; it has been going on ever since we took that first fateful bite of disobedience. Our natural inclination is to sin, as shown in Romans 7:14-25, and as such it is a struggle for us to put others in front of ourselves. We desire to do right, but we only end up in the lamentation Paul expresses in these verses.
            So we have identified the problem, what then are we going to do about it? Only one thing to do: run no matter what troubles beset us. I could write plenty of words to expand upon what I am saying, but find that the words of the Bible are much more efficient of my own.

We have around us many people whose lives tell us what faith means. So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back. Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect. He suffered death on the cross. But he accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the joy that God put before Him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne. Think about Jesus’ example. He held on while wicked people were doing evil things to him. So do not get tired and stop trying. Hebrews 12:1-3.

 

What I want you to take from these verses and the verses before it, the stories of others who did not see the promise of Christ but suffered terrible things for a future hope (Hebrews 11). We as humans, but especially as Christians are not promised anything. The political pundits may say we deserve everything under the sky and more, but this simply is not true, no matter how much our sinful flesh may wish for it to be.

What I mean to say with all these words is that no matter what the world throws at us, we cannot give up, for it is at that very moment when everything seems darkest that we are needed the most. So smile, lift up your head, and keep your legs moving, because every life matters, every choice matters, and there is a God who is in control. We all walk this road together, let us encourage each other and no matter what may befall us; good shall prevail, even if we do not see good wipe away the veil of darkness in our lifetime. We must embrace sacrifice and not selfishness, no matter how much it hurts. It will be a struggle for all of us, even me, but it’s like they say “anything worth doing is worth doing right.”

So let us do what is right and “run the race that is before us and never give up.” There are too many others out there in the darkness depending upon us to bring the light. Our road may be hard and full of peril, and there will be times of temptation and trials of pain that will beg us to just stop trying.

But remember the words in Hebrews, let us remember those who did not give in; and let us remember that Jesus Christ prevailed, let us remember that no matter how dark times may seem, good always prevails. Good always prevails.

I really didn’t want to talk about this subject, I really didn’t but upon further analysis I felt there were some major subjects that needed to be talked about that this work of fiction brings up. No I’m not talking about the Hunger Games, I’m still doing my reviews upon the trilogy, I am talking about Mass Effect Three.

            For those of you unfamiliar with the Mass Effect trilogy (why does everything need to be a trilogy nowadays?), Mass Effect, or ME, is a RPG video game produce by Bioware that has received numerous awards and is probably considered one of the greatest stories ever presented in a video game format…at least until the ending ME3.

            For those of you unfamiliar with ME3 ending controversy, let me try to be as brief and clear as possible as one can be with a story a hundred hours in the making (a rough average time if you put all three games together).

 

            The Mass Effect games place you a hundred and fifty years into the future, with space travel and aliens and all, in the shoes (or shall we say futuristic metal combat boots?) of Commander Shepherd, a soldier of some renown that serves in the Alliance military (the group that represents Humanity’s interests in the galactic community).

            Right at the very beginning you are given choices, whether Shepherd is male or female, what their back-story is, how they look, and what their combat specialties are. Right at the beginning you are given choices, and that is what the Mass Effect story is all about: choice. You can choose to be a kind and good and work out difficulties by diplomacy kind of guy, or you can be a malevolent, evil, and “shoot first ask questions later” kind of guy, or somewhere in between.

            Every single choice you make matters in these games, so much so that what you did in the previous games effects what kind of experience you have in the next game. Never before has such a game interwoven choices with an incredible story with unforgettable character, which brings us back to the ending.

           

            Before we continue let me make a side-note and say that there are spoilers in the following paragraphs; if you want to buy the games, something I don’t recommend in light of what I am about to say, don’t continue. Also the story is one of the best, up to the ending, I have ever experienced, however plentiful language litters the landscape and there are quite a few times of sexual innuendo, all things that tarnish the story…but let us continue

 

            So here we are…at the ending…about to defeat the genocidal, galactic scourge of the Reapers (the story’s “bad” guys), when we find out it that all the choices we made were completely meaningless.

            Now the original ending was poorly put together and had plentiful plot-holes in it, but the kicker was that the player was given an ultimatum of only having three narrowly defined choices at the end of the game, all of which resulted in an almost exactly the way. This turning back on the core principles caused such outrage that the Bioware team came back together to create an extended “explanation” to the ending they had chosen.

            Honestly the extended ending did address the plot holes and gave me more satisfaction with the story coming to an actual conclusion, but it only made me angrier about how meaningless the Mass Effect story ultimately is.

 

            It starts with a philosophy, a philosophy that is exposed as meaningless in the Mass Effect trilogy. The worldview of the story is based upon evolution and through the ending the games exposes, not purposefully, the utter lack of ultimate purpose or meaning to life that characterizes evolution.

            It comes full circle and rears its ugly head in the last twenty minutes of the saga, when you find out that the Reapers are not “evil”. As the uber-“logical” Catalyst AI child explains that the Reapers are like a fire, they are only doing what they are programmed to do (which by the way is to destroy “advanced” organic life but also absorb it so that it is not fully lost, otherwise synthetics, i.e. robots, would completely wipe out all organic life) and although it is not stated, by implication the Reapers cannot be evil, although they contain the knowledge and understanding of what they are doing, a paradoxical statement.

            To be concise, what is being said is that the Reapers are only doing what they are programmed to do, like a mindless piece of machinery. However, the Reapers are sentient and thus by definition would have an understanding about morality of a certain form. The Reapers then are a paradox, an impossibility in reality.

Now one might say that Mass Effect is a work of fiction, and science fiction at that, so that the story doesn’t match reality shouldn’t be that big of a deal. But we are not talking about a suspension of disbelief as is common when one participates in a work of fiction; what we are talking about is a complete denial of one of the realities of our existence: the acknowledgement of good and evil.

 

What the Reapers are doing is evil by every definition in the book, but we are told in the end that they are not evil, they are just what they were programmed to do. It is the Nuremburg defense to its logical end, the Reapers were “just following orders”, how could these sentient galaxy destroying AI’s be held accountable for their actions?

It is a ridiculous argument for the Reapers, but to top it all off, despite the fact that you are not in a struggle of good versus evil, you are given an utterly meaningless choice to end the “conflict.” It is also through these choices that reveals the foolishness of the Mass Effect story and ultimately the philosophical implications of evolution.

Without going into to detail, the four, extremely narrow choices, leave you with only one “good” solution, the synthesis of organic and synthetic life, leading to, as the AI Catalyst child says “The final step in evolution”.

 

So that was it? The whole point of the story, despite uniting the galaxy and getting them to work for the common good of stopping the Reapers, despite all the countless people that gave up their lives to accomplish said goal, despite doing thing hard and right way, despite investing so much time, money, and emotion into a series, the point of whole story was so that sentient life could merely evolve into a final stage of “improvement”?

Where is the point in that? The Answer? None.

 

Now some may use this to point out the foolishness of fiction, that it serves no purpose. But that simply is not true, fiction (or literature) is meant to be used to reflect reality, that is why so many people unknowingly hated the ending to ME3. A proper use of fiction is to portray some facet of reality in a different light, so that it may be easier to grasp it. We as humans build up walls so often that when we hear certain keywords or ideas we just block them out without giving them a chance; fiction allows us bypass those wall we put up. Even Jesus used parables to preach His message, to make His point.

Fiction has its purpose, but if that purpose does not reflect reality in some way, it loses its meaning. ME3 had its purpose, or should I say understanding, in the human mind because we all have a concept of good and evil, but when all that got turned on its head, we were left floating without any foundation.

 

I didn’t write this piece to bash ME3, although I would not recommend this game to anyone because of its ultimate meaninglessness, I wrote this piece to address the game’s meaninglessness, and the philosophy that allowed it to happen.

What I mean to say in all of this is yes your decisions matter, your values, your choices, your life, they all matter. They don’t matter because of evolution, evolution can’t answer the meaning of life, you have to have an absolute to have that. What I am saying is that there is an absolute, just as every person did who felt empty inside at the conclusion of ME3. We knew there wasn’t something right, but many didn’t know why it was, and to be honest I didn’t know for awhile, but the answer came to me and I felt I needed to write this.

Despite what the unintentional message of ME3 sends, your life has value and I believe it to have value because of Jesus Christ, because He wrote the parameters of value and life and meaning. You may not believe that the Triune God of Christianity is the truth, but let me tell you this; just as you cannot define a word by using the same word, you cannot define “good” by personal means, otherwise it is just your opinion, you have no basis for it.

“Good” by definition then cannot come from one’s self, from anything material or human, it must come from something beyond us. Going back to the example, goodness then can only be found in the definition of that word, not in the word itself. Just the same, we cannot find meaning in ourselves, finite life; we can only find meaning in an existential force that goes beyond material life as we know it, and only then can we realize that our decisions, choices and values truly have importance and a ‘mass effect’ upon others. 

Yahoo ran a story on Thursday about the Creation Museum halting in their plans on building a replica of Noah’s Ark. Apparently they have wanted to do this for some time, but attendance at the museum has been dropping over the years and they credit the recession for reason that it has been so hard to raise funds.

            This article however, is not to talk about the Creation Museum’s struggles but rather the response to the article.

 

            The writer gives a pretty evenhanded review of the situation the museum is in, but it was the comments after the article that grabbed my attention.

            I read about thirty or forty comments and all but ONE were pointing out how stupid creationism was. Of course there was variance amongst the comments, from downright mean-spirited attacks to humorous downplaying of creationist beliefs. I’m okay with this, I really am, although I’m sure there are a few (like the Amazing Atheist) that would disagree, but those few (should we call them Fundamentalist Atheists?) who have so angrily latched onto their beliefs that they do not promote civilized discourse, I really don’t care about their opinion because it’s just based upon pure bias (and that goes for Fundamentalist Christians as well, this is an issue that is confined to one philosophy or way of thinking, but that subject is for another day).

            So my concern is not that people are speaking their mind, but as to what their mindset is. Again, I have no complaint with people thinking differently than me, for a society that allows only one way of thinking is truly not free, I am only concerned with what that line of thinking brings out in a person, and culminates as a society.

           

            Even though the study itself cited a Gallup poll that 49% of people still believe that God created the world without any evolution, is that really a number we as Christians should be proud of? The answer of course is no, but the percentage of people who thought creationism was dead wrong was in the high 90%. Now if I had gone through all the pages of comments I probably would have found a better ratio than the one I am currently talking about, but the percentages are not the point of this post, just the motivation to write this post.

            The fact is, Christianity has lost in the culture wars, and we are now playing, catch-up. I am not saying that it is bad that we are playing catch-up, we have to, otherwise any shred of Christianity will be swept away in the tide of Humanistic Materialism that pervades our society. But we need to realize the situation that we are in so that we may properly address it. What I mean by this is that we need to stress the Gospel and not the Creation Story.

            I am not taking anything away from what Kent Hovind, Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis, or the Creation Museum are doing, their work is necessary and is great for the edification of believers, but is it exactly the best for reaching out to the lost?

           

            I am also not saying that the Creation Story does not play an important role in the Gospel, it does, but it is not the Gospel. Jesus, when he give his first recorded sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, does not start out with the Creation Story, but actually with what moral conduct should be. The main reason for this is that his audience was Jewish and familiar with the Creation Story. However, when one looks at Jesus’ sermons or at the letters written to the New Testament Church, the Creation Story is not the main thrust of their argument, it is the Gospel.

            The only possible exception is the Gospel of John, which starts with the Creation Story: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shined in darkness; and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5)

            So we have a really basic Creation Story, but the whole point of telling us the story was so that we would realize the beginning of the Gospel; the good news that Jesus has redeemed a fallen world to himself.

            To have a proper understanding of the Gospel we need to know the Creation Story, but it is as C.S. Lewis said about understanding everything that causes our salvation; that we need not know how every single thing in Christ sacrifice redeemed us, we need only know and believe that it did redeem us, just as one who eats does not need to know how the food nourishes us for the food to nourish us. The best Bible verse that epitomizes this thinking, and hence the Gospel is Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

            The whole point of everything I said in this post was not to demean the importance of the Creation Story or those who teach about it, it is very important; I am merely trying to point out that it doesn’t matter how well we present, how well we word our speeches, how much we advertise or spend on the Creation Story; many people will not be able to wrap their head around a concept of a literal six-day creation, many will think it silly.

            It is a stumbling block, for good and for ill, especially in our evolution-centric society we live in. The victory then is not found in how many people believe in a creator who made the universe, but a savior who rescued them from the moral quagmire their soul was in.

            There will still be those who will laugh and mock and taunt no matter what we say, but if we have preached the Gospel to them, well the ball is in their court now and there is nothing we can force them to do. All we can do is preach the Gospel, and preach we must. People who are saved will accept the Creation Story, but people who accept creationism do not necessarily believe in a savior, as exemplified by the Gallup quoted earlier which said the 36% percent of those polled believed in a creator but that he used evolution to progress the universe’s existence.

            This is the battle we are fighting, a battle against a false but seductive philosophy, and we must fight it with facts, but only way to destroy its grip upon our country is to preach the gospel.

Fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12)

Ah yes, the people of Europe are angry again…surprise, surprise. Many of the EU’s citizens feel that their respective governments are elitist. A government, elitist? Never.

But enough with the jests, there are very real problems with the financial systems in Europe’s various governments, and the people are unhappy that they are being forced to pay more taxes and take cuts in their pay, as I would be, but the masses fail to see that they did this to themselves. They are the ones that caused this financial crisis; indirectly yes, but without their involvement it never would have happened. They are the ones who gave their respective governments the power to make the mess they are in. They allowed the honey-dipped lies of the politicians to please their ears with the phrase of “more for less”. Government would take care of more and more things, what we now call the “nanny state”, and less would be required of the populace. Or so they thought. The fact is the people wanted a welfare state, a government that would take care of all their vital needs (like medical care and schooling), but still give them the freedom (or better put: enough cash) to do what they want to do. But now that personal cash pool is drying up, all because of austerity measures; Measures that are a last ditch effort to save the economies of countries who didn’t possess the word “thrift” or “saving” in their vocabularies.

So far the austerity measures have worked, the governments and economies still stand (however teetering), as world confidence is regained in their fiscal responsibility. But at home it usually is not the same. The backlash to these austerity measures can be as mild as mere grumbling or as severe (and totally idiotic and unnecessary in my opinion) as full out riots, which includes the usual gamut of illegal activities of widespread vandalism, stealing, assault, and an occasional murder (or killing, whatever term you prefer). While such anger over broken promises is understandable, the severity of such outrage is uncalled for, and I believe does more to hurt their cause then to promote it. Basically what I see when these people take to the streets with violence is physically grown-up (not mentally mind you) toddlers throwing a temper tantrum. They reveal by their actions the same selfish cycle that social institutions breed. The governments are selfish because they thought they knew how to handle a person’s money better than that person does (collectively known as the public). Only They knew how to make sure a person could get everything they need, they could take away all their worries, if only the public asked. But who could blame the public? I mean honestly, the vast majority of modern-day European nations were created (or recreated) by either WWII or the fall of the Soviet Union, not exactly easy situations to get a government started, and it was probably kind of a hard a frightening time for those living in those countries. So the vast majority turned to the only source of stability they knew: the government. I am also sure that in the beginning the government as well wanted to help the public, to reassure them that everything was alright; not condescending like elitist, but genuine like a parent. But even with the best of intentions, there are those who are not so idealistic or moral and desire only power. As the old adage goes: “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And what does this situation brings us? Nothing good. As time goes on, the public, once fearful and vigilant has become content and fat upon the government handouts, now that it is taken away, the public does not know how to exist without it: they have become dependent upon it. The governments of Europe were the ones originally at fault, and they still are, for getting their countries into fiscal disaster because of delusional promises. But now the cold hard drenching of reality has hit those politicians, and the delusion is fading away. The politicians are having to do what needs to be done to make sure that their countries do not go under, for they realize that to go bankrupt would be far worse for the future of the country than to go through with austerity measures now and salvage the sinking economy.

But now the people have become the greedy ones, they want what they have been promised, what they believe they deserve. They are willing to go through bankruptcy and impact the rest of the world economies negatively than to lose their privileges (even though it is from a state that cannot pay them). The situation in Europe has proven the old proverb true: “The leech has two daughters, crying give, give.” (Proverbs 30:15a) The daughters in this case being the greed of the government and the people. We must learn from Europe’s mistakes, before we dig ourselves into a hole so deep that we too are ordered around by a trans-national government (like the EU is doing to its member nations to make sure that they pursue austerity measures) to do what they want us to do, because we were too greedy, grandiose, and selfish to keep our impulses under control; our impulse to have what we want when we want it.

A recent story was run in the USA Today that grabbed my attention. It was about a program that is being used in major metropolitan areas, namely Baltimore, New York, and Chicago.

            The programs go by different names in different cities, because thankfully they are run by the cities and not the federal government; and hopefully it will stay that way. But despite the different names they all have the same goal: reducing violence on the streets.

            And by all accounts it has worked. This isn’t some miracle worker, violence hasn’t vanished magically, but there have been significant reductions since the implementation of the programs, especially in the Chicago program, which is the flagship and the originator.

            The founder of Chicago’s program, called Ceasefire, is Gary Slutkin an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He says the idea came to him out of his experience to curb cholera and tuberculosis in Somalia and in his fight against AIDS. When he returned to Chicago he developed and pushed his ‘violence-as-disease’ concept.

            And it is this concept that I both praise and criticize. In execution it is excellent, especially as it uses former convicts as its frontline fighters to prevent violence.

It wins on three accounts: 1. It gives a job to former convicts (though it doesn’t pay high enough for what they do in my opinion), unlike how our broken “justice” system just pushes out ex-cons into the world, with no opportunity to provide for themselves, thus helping to perpetuate the vicious cycle of crime and imprisonment.

2. It uses the particular skills that these former convicts possess to prevent violence (and I am not referring to criminal activities, I am referring to their observation and information skills; as well as the connections they have with the local populace to keep on the up-and-up on what is going on).

3. Those employed by the programs use their “foot soldiers” to persuade those considering violence towards opportunities in furthering their education or getting a job.

And it is this last point of praise that also brings up the criticism I have with the program: it is the Social Gospel.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Social Gospel, it basically states that the reason anything is bad is because of societal ills, not personal decisions to do evil things. The reason for all our problems is because the economy is bad, or the system disfavors the poor, there are not enough employment opportunities, or the system or society discriminates against certain groups of people. All of these are cases that the Social Gospel makes and says will be solved if only everyone has everything they need, then no one will covet and crime will eventually disappear.

But the fact is the social gospel does not work, one need only to look at Greece and France. These are governments that are (although now they are to a lesser degree) “Social Democracies” that still allow their populace many political freedoms, but not as many individual freedoms. These governments rely heavily upon the teaching of Karl Marx (as do most western and westernized countries), and use his teaching (directly or indirectly) to help bring forth a society without want. But, as it has been seen, the policies pursued by these two countries (and by others, although they haven’t felt the full brunt of their actions like Greece and France have) have failed to bring about a society without want. They simply do not have enough money (and haven’t used it wisely enough) to fulfill all the wild promises they made to their people. As a result, the people showed their appreciation by rioting, part of which is justified, most of it not.

So national governments fail in this goal, but can private or local governments succeed? Can these programs like Ceasefire and S.O.S. turn the bad and unfortunate situations of people around, and stop crime? The answer, unfortunately, is no. It can however do what it is doing, making things better. And for that, as I have said earlier, I salute the programs for, and I am glad they are continuing to pursue their goals of stopping street violence.

But the program will never reach its full potential if they keep following Mr. Slutkin’s thesis of “violence-as-disease” as based upon societal ills. Mr. Slutkin is correct in that violence is a disease, but his diagnosis as to the source of the disease is wrong: it is not societal ills; it is an individual’s flawed choices.

Now some may scoff at this “religious” statement, but no statement of any particular religion or faith has been made. I merely make this statement from the contradictory views the Social Gospel espouses. As Abraham Maslow said in his book Motivation and Personality, “Sick people are made by a sick culture; healthy people are made possible by a healthy culture.” Or as Carl Rogers said “…experience leads me to believe that it is cultural influences which are the major factor in our evil behaviors.” (Cited in David Noebel, Understanding the Times)

But what is culture? Is it not as the dictionary says: “the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.” (Random House Webster’s College Dictionary copyright 1997)

Thus culture is a collaboration of individual humans coming together and producing a society. Or as the dictionary says: “an organized group of persons associated together for religious, benevolent, cultural, scientific, political, patriotic, or other purposes.”

The key phrase is “an organized group of persons associated together”. A society, which is the word being used by Maslow and Rogers, is made up of individuals. But the statement that Maslow and Rogers are saying is that bad society is what makes individuals do bad things.

Are you beginning to see the problem here? It is a classic case of circular reasoning. Individuals do ‘evil behaviors’ because of a ‘sick culture’, but a culture of any sort is made up of individuals coming together for some reason.

The argument of the Social Gospel (and the humanists who think similarly) cannot work, it is flawed, no argument that resorts to circular reasoning can stand; it is in fact not even an argument. It only persists because people want it to; they cannot accept a philosophy that exists beyond themselves, so they must make one up with pure materialistic reasons to rationalize their existence.

But as you can see, even their best laid plans are made null by their own words. They only persist they are right because they refuse to be wrong, for to be wrong means that what they are doing is violating some moral code of some sort, and that they can’t live their lives as they see fit; but that is another subject to touched upon at a later time.

So in conclusion, what do I think of programs such as Ceasefire?

I think they are great, and I am ecstatic of the progress they are making and I hope they continue to make inroads. These programs need to get more media attention and more support. But their impact will only be as great as their faulty view of the world can carry them, all of society’s ills cannot be solved with an education and a good paying job. If that was all that was needed, kings wouldn’t covet other people’s lands, CEO’s wouldn’t embezzle money from main street humanity; But they did, they do, and they will continue to do so rampantly if we continue push a flawed message that the problem is not us.

But that’s the scary news, the news Mr. Slutkin, Maslow, and Rogers don’t want to deal with: we are the problem.

But as I said, that is another subject for another time.