Friday, July 08, 2016

RIP Rule of Law

Bombings and terror attacks in Bangladesh, the United States, Baghdad, Paris, Belgium and Turkey have left the world stunned.  Sniper attacks on police officers providing overwatch on a peaceful demonstration leave us speechless, wondering where as a nation do we go from here?

Yet for many millions of people in other parts of the world, this sort of lawlessness has been, and still is an everyday reality.  How many years have dictatorial warlords terrorized citizens in multiple nations? How many decades did the Soviet Union operate as a sort of legitimized crime family? Saddam Hussein’s authoritarian governance yielded rape rooms, torture and executions to instill fear and obeisance into the people. China’s Mao Zedong retains the title for the highest body count at around 65 MILLION. Going back a few more decades we recall Pol Pot and his ‘killing fields’, and before him Stalin, Hitler and Lenin were responsible collectively for an estimated 80 million deaths. Eighty MILLION human beings killed directly through execution or indirectly from starvation.

It doesn’t happen overnight, this decline into despotism. As a refresher, despotism is defined as “a system of government in which the ruler has unlimited power’.  (And its best to think outside of the box when pondering that definition.)  That is one reason the authors of the American Constitution ordered the government into three branches… to prevent the rise of a despot, known more properly in their time as a tyrant. Ah, but those darned loopholes.

In some cases, existing forms of ‘government’ easily lend themselves to the installation of a dictatorial monster. Japan had its share of Emperors  who viewed themselves as divine beings, and were responsible for horrific body counts. Afterall, its hard to be wrong if you’re a god.  Monarchies can certainly beget a narcissistic heir to the throne. And Communism’s leadership and power structures are populated through nepotism, which is fraught with opportunities for extortion and coercion, not to mention positions filled regardless of qualifications.

All of the above is merely a prelude to this question: Why do nations succumb to the siren call of despotism?  And more specifically, having the perfect clarity of 20-20 hindsight, why do we in America still cry out for despotism?

Oh, you don’t think we are crying out for despotism? Do you not know that every cry for Socialism is an embrace of Socialism’s own nurturing root - Communism? Socialism is just the pretty flower that attracts the worker bees.   And wherever you find Communism, you find a despot operating, either overtly or covertly. Every crime family has a boss. Even I know that much, and I’ve never watched The Godfather.  Observing the free world demand Socialism is like watching the Titanic being intentionally set upon a course to intercept the iceberg. 

And the greater question in all of this is: Why do the people in a country such as ours feel drawn to putting themselves under the thumb of despotism?

The most rational explanation is that it stems from discontentment, which can lead to malcontent in many people. When people are discontented, they seek change. Malcontents seek change by mobilizing parts of the population to do their bidding.   Regardless, it is almost always a personal issue.  Some people, and apparently that percentage of the population is growing drastically, are dissatisfied with their life circumstances and put their hope in government to remedy that, because, well, because they can’t just go and outright ask their neighbor to fix it for them. They live life sensuously, prisoner to a need to ‘feel good’ all of the time, and believe that inner, abiding contentment can be gained through external, physical and material means.   Sensuous living is fraught with opportunities for dissatisfaction.  The last ‘high’ just wasn’t quite as good as the one before it. So something new and different is needed. Better toys, better electronics, better wheels, better drugs , better boyfriend/girlfriend.  Life could always be better if it is based on sensuousness.

 This dissatisfaction is wholly rooted in envy…a personal problem, indeed a spiritual problem.  CS Lewis made an interesting observation about materialism, and pride. “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man… It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.”  On the other side of pride, lurks envy.  If those who have more than others can be fueled by pride, then those who have less can be equally fueled by envy. Neither is a good option. And neither issue should be subjected to redress by government.  Government can only leverage these conditions as a means of extracting more power from the citizenry for itself, in the case of democratically elected governments.

How so? To put your hope in government, you must first endow that government with the power to make things right. Whatever that means. Is that really a smart move?  As more power is given to a government, it grows. And as it grows, it garners more power because it draws more money from the peasants in the fields (taxation of workers) needed to sustain its growing self. By ascribing savior status to a government, its citizens are ceding their own powers to an entity over which they have VERY little control. Oh sure, we like to believe that in our ‘representative republic’ we have control over our political representatives (“Vote them out in November” goes the refrain).  But slap yourself a couple of times and then ask if that is reality, or a pipe dream.

Ask yourself, has your government ever lied to you?  Is there some reason you assume that just because a politician is elected/appointed to public ‘service’ he/she is inherently a ‘good’ person, a selfless person immune to the putrid dynamics that snake through the halls of congress, and yes, even the offices in the White House?  Do you operate on the assumption that because a person is black, or white, male, or female, gay, or straight, Democrat or Republican, that somehow that makes them better suited for a role in your governance? If identity politics float your boat, you are being set up for despotism.

Why? Because you are blinded to the rule of law, and the fact that only the rule of law - whereby rule of law is applied equally to every single citizen and resident of a country, even its political representatives - can maintain a free and civilized society.  Example:  When we prescribe extra penalties for crimes against only particular identity groups, we denigrate the rule of law because we are saying that some people’s lives are worth more than others. And face it…these sorts of laws, known as Hate Crime laws, are enacted solely to secure the votes and appease the malcontents of those specific voting blocks.  If politicians didn’t have to schmooze us by tossing us a bone now and again to keep our vote, do you think these kinds of laws would ever be written up and voted into law?

You heard it here first: Despots don’t care about voting blocks, a fact they don’t hide. They don’t care about ‘their citizenry’. They care about running their world their way. On any given day. Period.  Despots are strictly into power, and every lust for power has at its root a very strong love of self. 

Hillary Clinton is certainly benefiting from the dissolution of the rule of law.  And this is how blind we are in our own identity politics: because she is a woman and a democrat, the majority of democrat voters and a certain segment of the female population, will give her a pass, and thus give the system a pass, and drive one more nail into the coffin entombing the remains of Rule of Law.  Rule of Law is a product of rational thought, and requires at least a basic appreciation for its authority. And yes, it must be equally applied, fairly for every person, not according to race, creed, gender, etc.  Or, I might add, political connections. But, as the Western world moves more and more toward sensualism, rational/critical thinking is subducted beneath the ‘feels good’ platform of liberalism.  And we whistle merrily as we are busy constructing the walls of our own prison.

Oh don’t be deceived, sensualism pulls at us like a tractor beam, silently, invisibly.  One look at the drug culture, and the compulsive behavior of its addicts reveals the dynamic. One high is never enough. And the last high surely wasn’t as good as the next one will be.   Despite the violent mayhem America’s lust for ‘feeling good’ is wreaking in the country of Mexico and on our own southern border, Americans resolutely demand their fix.  The body count attributable to the quest for America’s next high is abhorrent, and we remain unindicted co-conspirators. Nothing changes because the people are gripped by their own quest to feel good.

Rule of Law is the safeguard of freedom. The despots named at the beginning of this missive circumvented rule of law by various means, with horrific consequences on an unimaginable scale.  When we as citizens close an eye to white washing of the rule of law, we lay a little more of our freedom on the altar of government, making a political contribution of a different kind to the next despot/tyrant who will pass across the stage of history. In the West, we won’t see him/her coming in the distance; but we will rue the day when we laid waste to Rule of Law, and find ourselves instead living under the Rule of the Despot. 

I can promise you this: it won’t ‘feel good’.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Answering Dawkins Part 2

Yesterday I offered my answers to some stated questions on famed atheist Richard Dawkins' website for secularism. Yesterday's post examined questions about free will, morality and meaning.

Today is the second installment, and the questions again come directly from Dawkins' website:

Purpose. Do teleological concepts play a useful role in our description of natural phenomena?

Epistemology. Is science unique as a method for discovering true knowledge?

(Skipped question on Emergence and reductionism) 

Consciousness. How do the phenomena of consciousness arise from the collective behavior of inanimate matter?

The question pertaining to purpose is more familiar to the rest of us as, "Why am I here?", and is strangely universal across humankind. The fact that we ask the question suggests, to me at least, that legitimate grounds exist  for our inquiry; that in fact, there really may be a 'why' element to our existence.  After all, do we ever ask about things that are completely unfamiliar and unknown to us?  We may ponder the plausibility of  life on other planets, because we observe life here, and its requirements, and are naturally inclined to wonder if those far away worlds might also be hospitable to life.  But this musing presumes that the possible life we contemplate will be recognizable to us as life, that it will be in some small way similar to what we know to be life. It will be familiar. I believe that all of our inquiries about 'unknowns' are  fixed in the familiar, even if quite distantly, thereby making them not so much unknowns, but rather as yet undiscovered, unexplored prospects.

So when we inquire as to our purpose the question stems from a context that is vaguely familiar to us, as if nearby, though not yet grasped.  It is familiar to us because it is coded by our maker into our very being.  Romans 1:19 says, "...since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

God uses creation, from the tiniest, complex component of a microorganism to the vastness of the cosmos as a universal language that points to his own existence and primacy, that we might observe nature and look for the source of its genius.  We are here primarily to be loved by God, and to know and love him, and by extension, his creation.

Epistemology. Is science unique as a method for discovering true knowledge?
Now there's a word I don't throw around on a weekly basis.  Basically, epistemology asks 'How do we know what we know is right and true?', and 'by what   avenues do we obtain knowledge, and are they valid?'

It is peculiar that the question on Dawkins' website is qualified with the adjective 'true' before the word knowledge. Because science is limited to the five senses, it is only interested in one kind of knowledge and it presumes that this one variety of knowledge represents the sum of all knowledge to be had, and anoints it as 'true' knowledge.

Yet consider civilization.  We tend to think of it as buildings and infrastructure and order and economy. But in reality, the civilized world exists because of an invisible and immaterial quality known as Integrity.  Integrity is doing the right thing - the promised and principled thing, even at the expense of damage or peril to the doer.  The global economy is built upon words, written and spoken, that promise to repay borrowed monies.  If one day every corporation, government and individual with outstanding loans suddenly said, 'Nah, I'm not going to repay that debt', we witness total economic collapse and failure. Lending would cease, and each person, government or corporation would have only its own existing capital to work with. Economies and civilizations are built upon words, because words convey intent, and intent must be coupled with integrity, or we are left with just so much alphabet soup dancing on parchment.  Promises are down payments on integrity.  I am unclear as to how science could study a promise. And yet, the promise is a powerful 'thing' that is unseen, untouchable, unheard and unknown, until made good on. Up to that point it is merely believed.  And after that point, it is no longer a promise, but a fact.

Trust is another means of obtaining knowledge. We trust (rightly or wrongly) the words of others.  We trust their experiences when they witness events. Without this source of knowledge, life in the courtroom would be very dull and inconclusive. Scientists trust the words of other scientists, even in the absence of repeatable claims. Much of evolutionary science is by consensus, and highly subjective extrapolations are made with the best of intentions.  The Bible is God's revelation of himself,  written using human minds at God's own urging. It has been given to mankind as an unchanging record of who he is, and how he has interacted with humanity throughout history. Much of the Bible is a retelling of real people's personal experiences with God. Through their recorded experiences we obtain knowledge.

So while it is true that science seeks knowledge, it does not necessarily seek the truth.

Consciousness.  How do the phenomena of consciousness arise from the collective behavior of inanimate matter?  

The question seems to be asking, "How do mindless atoms manage to collect themselves  into arrangements capable of asking questions such as "why are we here?".

They don't, is the short answer.  Does anyone seriously look at a printout of computer code and think for a moment that the order and meaning inherent in the code is the product of random chance? Don't we intuitively know that a human being skilled in the language of computers organized the code into coherent strings that would be cogent to a computer?  And yet we want to look at a DNA molecule and attribute it to chance. So, who is this Chance guy? Chance is not a being, nor is it even a thing. Chance is a no-thing.... or we could shorten that to nothing. It is one of those things that science would be ill-equipped to study, because it is precisely what hasn't yet happened. It stands in the gap between two or more outcomes, ready to take credit for whichever one prevails. Chance is nothing.  Human beings, on the other hand, are really something.

Consciousness is the awareness we possess of our own existence. It facilitates our reaching beyond our own physical confines to obtain knowledge through inquiry - scientific and otherwise.  With it we examine our place in the cosmos as we think contextually and contemplate the effect of our behavior on others. In so doing, we exhibit an integral part of our humanness: our conscience. Without a conscience, our ability to perceive the existence of  good and bad, of right and wrong, does not exist.  Do away with conscience, and integrity is not possible. And as integrity goes, so goes civilization.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Answering Dawkins

On his website, "Innovating for a Secular World", iconic atheist Richard Dawkins posits the following:

"We would like to understand how to construct meaningful human lives in a world governed by the laws of nature. Some specific questions include:
(And I am including only the first three in this installment).

Free will. If people are collections of atoms obeying the laws of physics, is it sensible to say that they make choices?

Morality. What is the origin of right and wrong? Are there objective standards?

Meaning. Why live? Is there a rational justification for finding meaning in human existence?

Well, just for fun, I will offer some responses.

To the question of free will. His question includes a premise which is exclusionary: "If people are collections of atoms..." Using an unproven premise as the platform for the question negates the question, in my opinion. It is no longer pure inquiry, but rhetoric. The answer is, of course, if we are nothing more than a collection of atoms, we are mindless slaves to the laws of physics and free will is not even a notion we are capable of contemplating.

To the question of morality. He asks about the origins of right and wrong. By asking the question, he seems to be implying these two benchmarks 'exist', though to do so they must, by definition, exist outside of the scope of the natural world, since the laws of nature are what they are. Period. They are neither good, nor bad.

How can qualities such as 'right' and 'wrong' exist in a cosmos spawned by chance and governed by heartless, value-neutral natural laws? Answer: right and wrong do not even exist in such a place, because they are immaterial. The laws of nature act upon the material world. Ideology is not self-existent in nature. Humanity exists in a fallen state, i.e. not as designed, and with a propensity for wrongdoing. Yet God has not abandoned us in our fallenness, but has revealed, literally manifested, his nature perfectly in Jesus. He tells us in Micah 6:8 what we are to be about, "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

His morality follow up question is "are there objective standards?" (for right and wrong). Well, what is a standard? A 'standard', according to,  is "something considered by an authority or by general consent as a basis of comparison; an approved model."  That definition, at least, is fraught with subjectivity.  'general consent'... 'basis'... 'comparison'...'approved'....  In the purely secular realm of scientific naturalism, just how much tolerance is there for such speculative reasoning?  None, one would think.  I would have supposed there could only be objective standards in such an environment.

Dawkin's list then moves on to the question of meaning. 'Why live'? he asks.  In the secularists' realm, that's a good question.  It is perhaps best answered by asking about the ramifications of death, not for the deceased, but upon those who 'loved' them. Why are we more grieved by the death of a child than by totaling our car?  Are not both just collections of atoms, held in temporary arrangements in the space-time fabric?

When you boil it all down, what people most value in life, the thing that imparts meaning to their existence, is relationship. We treasure our relationships above all else, and the love that is cultivated within them. When death terminates a relationship, and our love can no longer be given to, and received by, the one we love, we are left devastated, crippled by a gaping wound in the heart. This is not the happenstance result of evolution. It occurs because we are made for relationships, first and foremost with God.  Our very propensity for relationships is a reflection of God's purpose for us, that we might experience His unfailing, unflinching, unending love in relationship with him.

"Meaning" and "life" are co-dependents living under the shelter of love.  Death stings because of the damage it inflicts upon the living.  Mere atomic bundles do not suffer the way human beings suffer in the soul when a loved one dies. Period.

When he further asks, "Is there a rational justification  for  finding meaning in human existence?",  I must ask, what is rational? And who gets to define meaning?  Rational in this context must refer to making a logical argument for or against the idea of meaning, but an argument is nothing but a hypothetical set of contexts and premises, because if they were already proven, there would be nothing to argue about.  So what choice does an argument have but to follow the laws of nature? And it seems to me that things go all Darwinian at that point, survival of the fittest, etc.  That's where meaning must be found, if it exists at all, in the naturalistic worldview.  Meaning is equated with surviving long enough to pass along ones genes. That would seem to me, at least, to be the epitome of meaningless.

Next time I will offer answers to a few more of Mr. Dawkins questions.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Last Tomorrow

What would you have done differently, had yesterday been your last day?

I think the question has two answers, based on two different premises.

Premise one is that you had no knowledge that tomorrow would not come.  You lived yesterday as if today was lurking around the corner, replete with its own set of pending circumstances ranging from problematic to exhilarating. So you trudged through the day, naively jettisoning its hours off into the past like prayers from a Tibetan prayer wheel.

Its what we do with Tomorrow.  We treat it as if it were a faithful dog that will come at our beck and call, reporting dutifully, awaiting our command.

But Tomorrow has its own Master.

What would you have done differently, had yesterday been your last day?

Premise 2 allows that we know today is our last day, that we have already contemplated our last tomorrow.  Finis.

How might you live differently today, knowing tomorrow will go on without you?

God knows our tendency to rely on tomorrow as either our helping hand, our excuse, our hope, if not all three simultaneously at times.

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.'  Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.…" (James 4:13)

We are not guaranteed tomorrow. What we really know is that today is our last chance to make a difference, both in the lives of others, and in our own. And there are realizations to be made before our last tomorrow.

"You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart."  Those are the words of God as spoken by the prophet Jeremiah (29:13). To seek Him with all of our heart is to let go of some things that obscure our view of Him. Like pride.  He is not far from the humble, not far at all. In fact... He's right there.

Jesus said, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Mt 11:28). Who are the humble among the great collective of humanity? Is it not those who stagger and struggle under the true weight of the human condition. The spiritual condition is the human condition. We labor and struggle under our imperfection.  God is the standard of perfection written on our hearts, which is why we are able to speak in terms of superlatives at all... we innately know they exist, somewhere, in some form and are  grieved by our incompetence at fulfilling them.

Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter into it." (Luke 18:17)  The station of children is one of  vulnerability and inherent lack of authority, which is the human spiritual condition before God. As adults gain status and position, whether in a community or a corporation, in academia or a body politic, they grow more and more detached and insulated from the consequences of social vulnerability - which can serve as a window to our spiritual vulnerability. Eventually they are propped up by the accolades and kudos of the icons of influence in their respective field, making dependence upon God, indeed even recognizing the existence of God, increasingly difficult.

Jesus said in Matthew  7:7 , "Ask and it will be given to you;seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you."  The truths of God await  our discovery, we just need to look.

Today might be a good day to begin.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Gun Control: What really ails us?

Elsewhere I have written on the topic of Gun Control and suggested that the same logic could radically change the outcomes of 'Sex Education' in public schools.

But once again, following the Aurora, CO movie theater shooting, we find life breathed into the gun 'control' debate, replete with Nanny Bloomberg orating that the problem of death by firearms is a growing one, and whoever is the next president needs to say "what they are going to do about it."

Translated, he is demanding to know what the next president will do to fix the human heart, since that is precisely the reservoir in which murder is spawned.

In reality it isn't necessary to possess a gun to inflict mass casualties, mayhem and death on a population. The Aurora shooter had rigged his apartment with explosives powerful enough to destroy the building, so it is clear that had James Holmes not had access to firearms, he could have prepared a backpack bomb and detonated it in the movie theater, probably with far more casualties. My son is a Marine, and as part of their work-ups for deployment to Afghanistan, they had a course on Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). He said that while the Taliban have largely unsophisticated supplies at their disposal, their cunning and unbridled desire to inflict harm on US military personnel drives them to a level of extreme proficiency in the manufacture of IEDs, many of amazing complexity and lethality in spite of using largely low-tech components and resources. Clearly what motivates them is not the IED, but the desire to commit murder.  At the time of this writing, 39 American troops have died at the hands of their Afghan military and police counterparts who were intent upon murdering them.

In fact, if we are actually serious about protecting American lives, and given that we are in Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban, why aren't we unilaterally disarming all Afghans, since any armed Afghan could potentially be the source of destruction and mayhem on our troops, and by extension, America?  Because we don't want to offend the Afghan people, nor trample on their sovereign rights (not to mention there would be absolute mayhem in the wake of the resistance by Afghan nationals.)

How telling is it then, to realize that it would be far easier to disarm Americans, whom we are not at war with, than to disarm Aghans? Gun control in America could be accomplished with the sweep of a pen and in an instant, ordinary law-abiding citizens would have to make a choice: remain law abiding - by relinquishing their right to bear arms, their right to defend life and property against any and all threats; or join the ranks of the lawless.

To be fair, gun control in America would probably never occur in such an outright manner, but would be incremental in nature. All the gun control proponents need is a foot in the door, a Trojan horse, and from there, the rest is easy. We have seen it time and time again with government regulations and entitlement programs. The slow strangulation of liberty by dribs and drabs. Who would have thought even 10 years ago that shouts of 'keep the government out of my bedroom' (abortion and homosexual rights proponents) could be turned into demands that the government provide supplies (and remedies) for the activities that take place in that very same bedroom?

Gun control advocates are control freaks, period. They tend to be the same people who want to tell you what you should eat, how you should exercise, and what you should drive. Frequently they over-moralize themselves on the basis of their loyal devotion to, if not love of, Mother Earth, preaching peace and harmony with one another, yet all the while condemning and berating those who do not believe and live as they do. They are judgmental, and in general unabashed in their intrusions into your life with their own brand of religiosity, frequently invoking some version of 'save the earth' mantra. It is a religion of the worse kind, godless yet government sanctioned, with its doctrines becoming public policy which then become the law of the land. Ironically, it is the very sort of religious imposition that worried the Danbury Baptists when they wrote to Thomas Jefferson and received his personal assurance that a wall of separation exists between the church and the state.

But I digress. Let's just back up the noodle train and actually look at some statistics. (Sigh. They are SO pesky.) Below is a dataset from 2008 for the following categories: accidental death by firearm, homicide by firearm, suicide by firearm, traffic fatalities, death by unintentional poisonings, death by unintentional fall, and death by abortion. (The most recent data set I could locate).
Here is how the data works out:

2008 Cause of Death, annually:

Abortion.................... ... 1.2 million
Traffic fatality.............. 37,985
Unintentional Poisoning... 31,116
Unintentional Fall............. 24,013
Suicide by firearm............ 18,223
Homicide by firearm........ 12,179
Accidental death by firearm...592

According to the logic put in play by gun control proponents, specifically that deaths need to be reduced, and by reducing access to firearms, deaths will be reduced, it quickly becomes evident that we have more pressing causes of death in need of elimination before we even get to the whole 'death by firearm' discussion.

In order of numbers of death caused, we need to enact the following controls, in the order shown, as a means of reducing deaths in this country:

Outlaw sex, so as to eliminate death by abortion. Lives saved: 1.2 million
Outlaw cars, so as to eliminate vehicular fatalities. Lives saved: 37,985
Outlaw every toxic substance to curb poisoning deaths. Lives saved: 31,116
Outlaw walking, climbing ladders, etc to eliminate death by fall. Lives saved: 24,013
Outlaw depression so as to eliminate suicide by firearm. Lives saved: 18,223
Outlaw guns so as to eliminate homicide by firearm. Lives saved: 12,179
Outlaw firearms to eliminate accidental death by gunshot. Live saved: 592

If we just go with facts, we find that Gun control is not about saving lives. Every abortion ends a life, so no politician who supports abortion can utter a single word about gun control and maintain a shred of credibility, because he or she has already revealed an inherent disregard for human life.

Gun control IS about power, however. Had the colonists not had access to firearms, we would still be colonists, and to the Queen would our knee be bowed. Gun control will work about as well as the decades long 'war on drugs' has worked: people who want illegal, recreational drugs, have zero difficulty obtaining them. But in the case of gun control, the very people who will be disarmed are the people society would prefer remain armed: law abiding, socially attuned individuals who respect the law. Outlaw guns, and only law-abiding citizens will voluntarily disarm. The Mafia, the sleeper terrorists, the gang bangers, the drug dealers, the Mexican drug cartel members residing in the U.S will all still have ready access to firearms.... leaving the rest of us like so many fish in a barrel.

Firearm violence is not about the guns: the gun is merely the tool employed to manifest the disease that resides in the human heart. That disease is the conjoined twins of selfishness and hatred and is an ailment as old as mankind. Despite the ascent of man up the scientific, technological, and civilization pyramid, all of which are mere outward accomplishments, what comprises man inwardly has been left utterly unchanged since his beginnings. The same ill wind still blows across the landscape of the human heart, the same tempest as when Cain killed Abel, when David schemed to have his lover's husband killed in battle, as when Judas betrayed Jesus for a handful of silver, or when John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln, and James Earl Ray killed Martin Luther King Jr. The very same cancer that commandeered the hearts of these assassins is the same disease that Jesus taught would bring about our ultimate separation from God. Jesus demonstrated His ability to heal by physically healing multitudes of sick, disfigured, dying people. This healing was motivated in part from the great, sweeping compassion and love bound up in his heart for humanity. But beyond that, I believe the healings served as an object lesson about our need to be healed inwardly, a supernatural, transformational healing which no human can execute. Jesus is the only Being able to provide that healing. He proved His capacity to heal, he repeatedly proved His trustworthiness. He lived an earthly life devoid of selfishness, a life always motivated by love. God demonstrated His own love for us in the person of Christ, and Christ demonstrated his love for us through his life, crucifixion and resurrection.

And because the problem is one of the inner man - of our free will and moral compass, it is a problem beyond the scope of any politician, no matter what they might claim, and no matter how many laws they write to restrain the behavior of the citizenry. Laws do not possess, nor have they ever possessed, the power to change human nature. They may modify our outward behavior as we evaluate the consequences of breaking them, but mostly they just condemn us. Meanwhile the problems of our errant free will, our spiritual selves, are left untouched.

No amount of gun control, or any other legislated control, will renew the heart.
Correctly identifying the problem comes first. And it is a personal thing.

Then its one on one: The heartsick and the Physician.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What is Trust?

In nature invisible forces are in play without which the entire physical world ceases to exist. These largely mysterious forces act collectively to create the scaffolding upon which all matter, including you and me, is formed. Why these forces , and the laws governing them, exist is a matter of consternation for any thinking person, since without the laws, the forces either do not exist, or do not behave consistently and predictably enough to become the foundation for the entire cosmos. Conversely, without the forces, the laws remain invisible and unknown.

Nature's inorganic constituents are governed by the laws of nature and the forces those laws control. A rock perched atop a large hill will, when its footings are sufficiently eroded, obeys gravity's call and rolls down the hill, trussed and directed by an assemblage of physical laws. Likewise the moon obediently idles its way around the Earth day after day, age after age, never once contemplating a move to Venus's orbit. Nope. Around and around the Earth it goes, and will continue to do so until some other force dislodges it.

In the organic world - land of the living- things change considerably, especially as one ascends the pyramid of animal complexity. Simple protozoa can certainly react to stimuli in their environment, but it doesn't involve thought; just an off the rack operating system that aids in keeping the thing viable. Insects make 'decisions' as to which way to respond to a physical stimulus, (move toward it, move away from it). Birds and mammals must evaluate an array of stimuli in order to eat, reproduce, shelter and survive. But these stimuli all have one thing in common: they are without deceit. Light is light, dark is dark, movement is movement, water is wet, snow is cold, and so forth. The world which confronts life forms from amoebas to zebras is eerily simple, more of a 'face value' proposition, despite the myriad of difficulties inherent in their fight for survival.

But a funny thing happens on the way to the apex of the complexity pyramid. For there we are, iconic in our conspicuous place at the top, all of creation beneath our feet forged into some sort of organic pedestal upon which we resolutely bask in the glory of our free will and opposable thumb. From our vantage point, we witness the dullness of the amoeba, the creepiness of the arachnid and the silliness of the chimpanzee. We dissect them, grow them, study them, entrap and confine them. We make every creature subject to our collective will, either directly or indirectly as we seek to influence their survivability and ours. And they let us do it! It is nothing short of astounding. With scarcely a dissenting outcry, we subjugate every kingdom taxonomists have divined with little fear of revolt. It is but one facet of our free will on display - the desire to rule over the natural world - a desire that goes horribly wrong in the absence of an inner moral compass.

Any discussion of free will would have to be lengthy. But painting in broad strokes, we can illustrate it as the difference between merely walking across a deposit of limestone beneath the soil in blissful ignorance, versus quarrying that limestone and harnessing the laws of physics to turn it into cities. It is the force that has allowed civilizations to flourish and add layer upon layer of comfort and luxury to our existence.

On an intangible level we see that the entire domain of civilization owes its existence to a pair of linked intangibles existing only within the aura of free will: Trust and trustworthiness. The whole of human progress can be summed up as the effect of the promise, whether it be Pharaoh's promise of death to slacker slaves building his kingdom, or the promise of financial remuneration to architects, engineers, laborers and bond purchasers in exchange for raising a city. Since the majority of the actions required for civilization to come into existence are predicated upon promises, the critical element in the ascent of human civilization has been, and continues to be, trust. Trust comes into play because free will is in play. And where the free will of human beings is in motion, all bets are off, precisely because humans can -and do - choose to either reveal or obfuscate known truths. Unlike the environments of the rest of the animal kingdom, human interactions deal with words, spoken and written, which convey information that will force others to make a decision. It boils down to information being offered up as fact, or at the very least, theory with a probable outcome, and those encountering the information deciding to act on it by either believing it, or not.

Duplicity is the dark shadow cast by the corruption of man's free will. One need only scan the history books or the morning newspaper to come to terms with the ramifications of broken promises, blurred truths and outright lies. Duplicity is known by other names: deceit; guile; fraud; deception; hypocrisy; and trickery. Duplicity is the intent to deceive, and is always practiced as a means of self-gratification. It is the intentional abuse of trust through the issuance of a false promise. In this manner we find the world of lower animals to be less nuanced and more mechanistic than that of humans. A tree squirrel, for instance, leaves its nest and encounters a world comprised of finding nuts, remembering where he hid the nuts, and chasing girl squirrels up and down the nut tree. Squirrel society is overt and far less duplicitous than human society, simply because the desire to deceive is not wired into the squirrel and its environment. The human environment is a construct of intangible, interrelated relationships which ride the rails of truth and deception, sometimes intersecting with powerfully destructive outcomes. So if the promise is the currency, and thus ultimately the wealth of human society, duplicity is its cancer, and the arbiter of its demise.

Trust cannot be seen, touched, smelled, heard or tasted (and therefore, according to science, cannot exist.) No one will ever study a sample of trust in a Petri dish or under an electron scanning microscope. What then, is trust, this non-existent non-entity powerful enough to create the civilized world? What does it share in common with the invisible laws of nature and the forces those mysterious, supposedly self-existent laws create?

Maybe it is this: the things that ultimately make life possible, and rich and wonderful, invisible 'things' such as trust, love, compassion, and mercy, will never be identified by science and its narrowly focused searchlight of inquiry. (Pity that this has become the anointed alter upon which all truth is divined and bestowed upon the people.) But these invisible qualities ceaselessly resonate within us, invisible fingers strumming the strings of our heart or tapping across the keyboard of our soul, deep calling to deep, beckoning that we incline an ear of a different sort toward the melodious murmuring playing within.

It is a whisper we can trust.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Left vs Right: A Common Denominator

A Facebook friend recently reposted an image from the Facebook page of a group called The Christian Left. Their mission statement reads, in part: "See, it wasn’t just Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection that matter. It was his life too! The life he lived is a huge part of the deal, and he asked us to do a few things if you look at his words. Not only is what Jesus said the Word of God, but what Jesus DID is also the Word of God. Looking at the life of Jesus we see that Jesus made room for those cut off from the rest of society. Jesus put a name and a face on all who had been forgotten or pushed aside, even the dead. Jesus called us to carry our cross daily and follow him. That’s what Social Justice means."

I do not disagree with the above, in fact it's all good - at least until that last little statement on Social Justice. Here's why: Social Justice is an ideology conceived and advanced by man. Inherently it seeks to externally force society to behave in a certain manner, i.e. to compel all of society to manifest the social justice ideology (which at any rate would seem to be forcing to society to embrace tenants of a religious belief, but that is for another time). Jesus, on the other hand, makes it quite clear that the first cause of society's ills lies inherently in the heart of man, in his sin nature. This sin nature will result in eternal separation from God if not redeemed by a personal belief in Christ as the only atonement before God for our own sin. To foist Social Justice upon a society is to blind members of that society to their inherent personal need of Christ's redemptive work, and falsely encourage a salvation by works attitude.

Adherents of the Christian Left/Social Justice ideology are no less hateful toward their detractors as the those claiming to be of the Christian Right are towards them. That is how we know an individual member or an entire 'faith group' has lost its moorings in God and joined the political fray: the love of power obscures the light of love. All of politics is but a field of battle upon which the illnesses and indiscretions of the human heart are laid bare. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9

The cinematic productions of J.R.R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series cast a superlative portrayal of the darkness - and its effects - that inhabits the heart of man. Our God-given free will, imprisoned by sin, continually aspires to elevate self will, refusing to take a knee of submission before the throne of God.

"So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members." Romans 7:21-23

Paul finally asks, " Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

When we remedy the first cause - the heart of man - society will be just.

But honestly, that whole 'first cause' issue doesn't seem to be very high on any priority list, Left or Right. Perhaps because it involves something far more difficult than simply taking a stand against what ails society. It is coming to terms with a deeply personal defect of a non-material nature, the latter of which we have been re-educated to believe does not even exist.