Category Archives: Religion

The Donald’s Big Move

In the wake of the San Bernardino shooting, Trump has come out supporting a ban on all Muslim immigration to the United States. This plays to the justifiable fears of Americans who worry that Islamic extremism is coming to main street America. While—from a paranoid viewpoint—there is some merit to the idea, America has always been a nation of immigrants. Banning immigration goes against the very foundation of this country. Having said that, many people are attacking Trump for his position on Muslim immigration. One might even wonder how he could hope to remain a presidential candidate after saying something like that.

Now that the primary is getting near, more people are beginning to see the Donald for the whack that he is. This is not accidental. This is not even unexpected. It is planned. Trump’s bid for the republican nomination was never a serious bid for the presidency. Donald doesn’t really have ambitions for the White House. His primary mission, from day one, was to throw the republican party into disarray and to prevent them from rallying behind a serious candidate to challenge Hillary. His mission was to draw the GOP into following him, then to drop out at the last minute so that voters won’t have unity in the republican party, thus allowing Hillary to benefit from the fractured electorate. He will probably drop the GOP and run on the ticket as an independent.

It is a brilliant strategy. The Clintons are well known for brilliant strategies. It follows they masterminded this one, just like they masterminded Bernie Sanders’ vice-presidential bid. Sanders is not a presidential primary candidate. He is there merely to make it look like the DNC is taking the primary seriously. Hillary was promised the nomination in ’08, when she (not-so-graciously) bowed out of the primary for Obama. Sanders is her running mate.

The GOP needs to rally behind a real republican candidate now before the fractures get too big and the disenfranchised voters jump ship for an independent candidate, or worse, follow the Donald to an independent ticket.

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Talk the Talk

How many ways can one person explain what should be a simple concept? It seems as though no matter how many times people define freedom, others seem to fail to grasp the concept. Freedom is a God-given, government-enforced social construct. What that means is that people have defined the freedoms as expressed in the Bible, and applied these freedoms to society contingent upon social agreement. Different societies have different understandings on what freedoms are applied based upon cultural and religious/moral imperatives. Even atheists believe in freedom; they just omit the God-given part—which may explain why we continue to struggle with the concept.

The freedom that seems to be the most confusing is the freedom of speech. People make statements that they intended to have a specific meaning. Others hear these statements and take a different meaning. Sometimes this misunderstanding results in someone taking offense to the aforementioned statement. What is the source of the offense? Was it the hearing or the uttering of the statement? This is an important distinction, because if the offense was generated at the uttering, that is to say that the person making the statement did so with full knowledge that the statement would or even could conceivably cause offence, then the statement maker is culpable in the offense. If, however, the person making the statement meant no offense, nor could have anticipated the statement would be taken as an offense, then the problem is not with the statement maker, but with the receiver, who assigned the offense to the statement.

Now, that may sound convoluted, but look at it this way: If I say that I’m fat and I need to lose weight, I do not say that with the intention of offending anyone. Yet if someone hears that and assumes I meant that everyone who is overweight needs to lose weight and they put themselves into that category, and then take offense thinking I’m calling them fat, that is not my fault. I will not apologize for their offense because I am not the source of their offense. They are.

If I know that someone considers themselves fat and are very sensitive about it, common decency dictates that I not joke about it in front of them. But if I have no idea that they have this insecurity, how is it my fault if they get their feelings hurt? Is it unprofessional to call myself fat just because someone else is overly sensitive to their own weight? Are they right to complain to company about it?

Is it right that people have to watch what they say so that no one could even possibly draw offense from it? It would be nice if we could sue for our first amendment rights to get this individual to quit complaining and to have our jobs protected. Unfortunately, it does not work that way.

The first amendment was written to protect Americans (pay attention to that) from reprisals from the government for speaking out against the government. Other countries (including Great Britain) have historically put political dissidents (those who speak out against the government) in jail, sometimes for life, to punish them for their speech. The founding fathers wanted to ensure that Americans (again, this is an important distinction) are protected from the American government for speaking out against the government. There is no provision in the first amendment for protection for saying intentionally offensive things to other citizens. If you call someone fat, and they get you fired for it, the first amendment does not apply. It is morally wrong, but it is not a first amendment issue.

Some people are more sensitive than others, but some are downright crazy about it. Islam has decreed that it is a sin to make any representation of Mohammad, either drawing or painting. This has been the case from the onset of their faith. It does not matter that someone from outside their faith does not understand the reasoning behind this restriction; it is a restriction that is foundational to their religion. The more radical members of that religion have already demonstrated a willingness to kill those who violate the tenets of Koran. So does it make sense to openly defy their faith by intentionally violating this restriction?

You call someone fat. That someone then holds a gun to your head and says “Go ahead, call me fat one more time.” Are you going to call them fat? I doubt it. I don’t think you can even make a claim that your free speech is being restricted. This is common sense. You know, without a shadow of a doubt, that to call that gunman fat is going to offend him and result in a negative outcome for you. Your freedom is in your choice of what you do at that point. If you choose to exercise the freedom to say whatever you wish to say, then you have to be willing to take the consequences of that action. You call the gunman fat. He shoots you. He goes to jail, you go to the morgue. You were not arrested. You have successfully exercised your freedom. Congratulations.

The Isis attacks in Texas at the drawing contest illustrate this point in glorious detail. Some liberal media group thought it would be a good thing to intentionally offend Muslims by inviting artists from around the world to a group “screw Islam” party, wherein they would all try to come up with the funniest and (probably) the most insulting cartoon of Mohammad. This is calling the gunman fat. Can we be surprised when he shoots?

This is not at all to suggest that the attack was justified. No sane person would say that it is ok to commit mass murder over a cartoon. Radical Islam has committed acts of terrorism too numerous to even mention, and it is never justified, never understandable, and never ok.

The reality of radical Islam’s violent tendencies makes the decision to have this contest even more idiotic. Who would have thought that doing so would NOT have invited an attack of some kind? You don’t poke a lion with a stick, you don’t throw stones at a beehive and you don’t play chicken with a locomotive. Some things shouldn’t need to be tested to be believed.

The ability to say anything to anyone anywhere at any time is not and never has been a protection afforded by the constitution. It is and has always been an issue of social interaction governed by the mores of polite society. If you say the wrong thing, you deal with the consequences, no matter how unfair it may seem.

Criticize the president, criticize the legislature, criticize the courts. Do it verbally, write about it, post it online. The government cannot take action against you. But remember, our first amendment rights do not apply to entities outside the US government. Nor do they protect us from the repercussions from other people. The amendment only protects American citizens from the American government. That is all.

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Social Activism or Self Promotion?

Hash tag activism is the latest buzzword forged in the wake of the geopolitical flashpoint surrounding the kidnapping of school girls in Nigeria by Muslim extremists. Social activists are claiming that creating the hash tag puts the issue before the people and could—emphasis on could—motivate the Nigerian government to do something to facilitate the release of the students. Many people, on the other hand, feel that the celebrity promotion of the hash tag is nothing more than grandstanding and ineffective in the long run of doing anything to help the victims and serves only to promote the celebrity in question.

The Nigerian government has been woefully inattentive to the plight of the kidnap victims, despite the kidnappers posting videos of the girls recanting Christianity. The media in the US did not spend a lot of time covering the issue, nor did the rest of the world. It was only once family members in Nigeria created the hash tag and saturated social media with it did it become a trending topic that garnered the attention of an ADHD world.

For the uninitiated, a hash tag is a social media tool originated by the social site Twitter and now used in almost all forms of social media. It is a way of discovering messages about a specific topic by using the keyboard pound symbol (#) in front of a simple word or phrase written together with no spaces. Some people make status updates that are nothing but a hash tag that is 140 characters long, which can be difficult to decipher.

It became fashionable to pose in a selfie with the kidnapped girls’ hash tag featured proximately in the picture, even to the point that first lady Michelle Obama had the Whitehouse photographer take a picture of her in the Whitehouse posing with a hand-scrawled sign (probably done by the Whitehouse calligrapher) touting the hash tag. Other celebrities followed suit and now the selfie itself is a trending topic. There are those who think that this is the key to motivating change in the world.

There are also those who decry this kind of promotion as pointless. A marine took a selfie with a sign saying that a military intervention is the only way to secure the release of the hostages, parodying the hash tag theme. Bill O’Rielly has spoken out against the first lady and others who promote the hash tag as being nothing more than self-serving self promotion, designed to do nothing more than make the famous seem concerned and interested in the plight of the unfortunate.

They are both right.

Those celebrities who pose with the hash tag signs are doing nothing more than bolstering their own image in the name of a “greater good,” and are no better than those who flock to disaster areas for photo ops showing their good deeds. These celebrities could keep the hash tag trending by simply retweeting it without the selfie, but they don’t. They have to photo bomb the hash tag to keep themselves prominent.

But the hash tag is doing some good. Public awareness by itself is a pointless goal, to be certain. That people know about varies issues does nothing to resolve the issues. Awareness driven action, on the other hand, can accomplish something. The Arab Spring is proof that social media can drive people to do something about social issues, even if it does not have immediate, tangible results. The Nigerian government has indicated a greater willingness (for whatever that’s worth) to take more action on the issue.

I, like many people, get frustrated having these issues drilled into my consciousness at every waking moment by both the regular and social media. My Facebook feed gets littered with cries to keep the hash tag issue of the day going (as well as way too many requests to like this cute kitten or like the poor unfortunate person who lost everything in a disaster or the long-lost soul looking for birth parents) and twitter keeps chirping and my mailbox blows up. Add the news covering these “trending issues” and my tolerance for hash tagging—never real high to begin with—drops to non-existent.

I tweet, I blog and I update Facebook. Since I am social media savvy, I not only know how to use hash tags, I actually use them quite regularly; just not to the extent of those who do nothing but hash tag. No one, however, will see me holding a sign promoting a social issue hash tag—unless it’s about me.

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Citizen Who?

There is an important discussion in progress that promises to inform the debate and be a hinge pin in the midterm elections next year continuing to the presidential elections in 2016.  Immigration reform has been a topic in the public sphere for several years now, decades, even, but no one has really driven the issue to the forefront until this administration.  The left has been crying over what they perceive as a wrong that needs to be righted while the right decries the move as nothing more than an attempt to drum up more democrat-leaning voters.  While there are salient arguments to be made both ways, the underlying issue has nothing really to do with immigration or reform.  It has to do with something much more fundamental and much more important to the American way of life.  It has to do with rights and responsibilities.  It has to do with the foundational tenants of political affiliation.  It has to do with what it means to be American.  It boils down to one word: Citizen.

The Seattle Office of Civil Rights last week issued a policy letter to the city workers striking the word citizen from all official documents and replacing with the word with “resident.”  They claimed that the word “citizen” was offensive to residents who were living there without citizenship.  This is part of a larger language guidance that removes the words dinosaur and birthday among many others from official documents for the same “offensive” concern.  This is the most egregious case of political correctness run amuck to date.

The Eugene, Oregon city council in 2011 voted down a measure that called for reciting the pledge of allegiance at the beginning of all council meetings.  While many opponents claimed the words “Under God” violated their understanding of the separation of church and state, Councilman George Brown said that said that he did not feel any allegiance to the country, but rather to the world.

Is a citizen an integral component of controlling government, or does government exist to control the citizen?  This begs the question: what does it mean to be a citizen?  If you ask the average person on the street you might get answers like “to be born in the country” or “someone who pays taxes.”  These seem like good answers on the surface, but that is the point.  They are superficial.  They are easy to spit out and don’t require any thought.  But if you look deeper, there is a significant difference to how the word can be defined, and that difference, not surprisingly, can be drawn along the same ideological differences that separate liberals and conservatives.  Liberals tend to think that the citizen gives the government a reason for being; the citizen is dependent on the government for guidance and support.  Conservatives view citizenship as a duty to the greater good; that the citizen guides and supports the government.

This dichotomy is why compromise seems so hard to come by in politics.  The force behind any change in legislation is fundamentally opposed by the opposite corner.  When a politician from one side of the aisle reaches across to work with the other camp, they are accused of “selling out” and abandoning their principles.  This idea, while often harshly stated, is not far from true, but that is the definition of compromise.  No one wins the debate.  And as is true in so many polemic debates, there can be no clear winner.

So who wins in the citizenship debate?  Is a citizen an integral component of controlling government, or does government exist to control the citizen?  That is the idea that really drives the political debate and will continue to do so for as long as we have participatory government.  Once we lose the ability to debate, we have lost our government, our country and ourselves.  We would be a country of nothing but residents and no citizens.

Some conspiracy theorists have postulated that the Seattle initiative is related to the immigration reform “amnesty” that is before congress.  The thought is that if Americans come to believe that there is no such thing as citizenship, then “THEY” can come in and take over our country.  The “THEY” being socialists, communists or any other nondescript non-American entity.  While entertaining to consider, most people dismiss these allegations as extreme.  But as entertaining as it is, these theories are borne out of observation of real events and they are not all so farfetched as to be ignored.  The founding fathers warned that freedom requires diligence on the part of the citizen in watching the government, lest the freedoms so fiercely fought for would be willingly surrendered.  It would be so much easier to take the freedoms from residents than from citizens.

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Getting The Debate Wrong

The American people are speaking out about a slight against a would-be protected class distinction and the backlash against the perpetrator of this egregious insult.  Unfortunately, the American people are attacking the wrong person.
Chick-Fil-A is a well-known fast food restaurant that pioneered the chicken sandwich and is quite popular with many people, enjoying a good amount of success.  The company was founded by S. Truett Cathy, a devout southern baptist who runs the company on Christian principles.  The company does not open its stores on Sundays in keeping with those principles.  It is now run by Cathy’s son who continues the Christian-oriented policies.  
Last week Cathy, in response to a question from a reporter, issued a statement supporting marriage as being between a man and a woman, incensing the left and the media and generated an outcry and a call to boycott Chick-Fil-A stores.  Conservative Christians led by Mike Huckabee have called for a day of support for the restaurant in response to the boycott.  The comments in the blogosphere and across all social media platforms reflect the polemic division the issue has created in society, and demonstrates a problem this division is exacerbating.
Homosexuality has existed for centuries in and out of the closet, depending on the mores of society at the time.  The right has traditionally found the practice an affront to normal, decent behavior while the left has espoused tolerance for alternative lifestyles.  This dichotomy has left this issue in flux through the ages.  In today’s “enlightened” and tolerant society, homosexuality has found an acceptance in Hollywood where it is promoted in films and television and the media spends hours of news coverage encouraging acceptance of this alternative choice.
Meanwhile, Christianity has been blasted by the left as being intolerant, hateful and controlling, especially on this issue.  If a person professes a faith in Jesus Christ as the son of God and as the path to salvation for the mortal soul, that person is labeled as ignorant and backward.  The left would assert that no reasonable intelligent person can believe in God in the face of so much “evidence” that God does not exist.  Surely all of mankind’s achievements prove that man is the center of the universe and since there is no heaven, there is no afterlife, the only thing that matters is what happens during life.  As long as one does not hurt another, anything goes.  Christians are hurting gays by denying them equal status, therefore Christians are bad.  Christians hate gays.
This is one point that the left gets wrong.  Christians do not hate gays.  Christians are taught to love God’s children.  While I cannot speak for all Christians, I do know most do not hate gays per se.  I disapprove of homosexuality.  I believe it to be an affront to nature and counterproductive to the survival of our race.  I do not believe that gays are entitled to any rights that any one else doesn’t have.  I do not believe laws should be rewritten to give them new rights.  I do not, however, hate gays.  I have several friends who count themselves homosexual.  I simply disapprove of the practice.
God does not hate gays.  God loves all his children, even the ones that are making wrong choices.  Much like a parent disapproves of a wayward child, that parent does not stop loving that child.
While I do not know Dan Cathy, I doubt he hates gays.  He is a business owner who employs hundreds of people and generates taxes for his local community.  He gives to philanthropic groups and charities and supports his family.  He is a Christian and is happy to testify to his beliefs on the matter.  He never said he hates gays.  Having said that, this is a free country and Cathy is entitled to his opinion.  If his opinion is that marriage is between a man and a woman, he can say that in any forum he so chooses, even in the media.
Of course, the left has the freedom to express their opinion as well and they are quite vocal in doing so.  The mayors of Chicago, Boston and San Francisco all have expressed outrage and urged Chick-Fil-A to avoid opening stores in their towns (as if they could stop it).  However to condemn a man because of an expressed opinion is the opposite of democracy.  This is the other point the left gets wrong.
In today’s society, discourse has degraded to nothing more than name calling and violent verbiage.  No one tries to enter into open discourse anymore because people are not interested in changing other’s minds through logic and reasoning, rather they would prefer to insult and vilify anyone who does not believe as they do.
Long Live Chick-Fil-A.

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The Reason for the Season

‘Tis the Season. This is a phrase that has been used to introduce what the media is euphemistically referring to as the “holiday season,” because the true name of the holiday in question is no longer considered politically correct. Stores have holiday sales, and people say Happy Holidays as a greeting to each other. Even the phrase “Happy Hanukkah” is more accepted. Congress has been admonished that they cannot express any salutations on official correspondence that refer to the holiday. There is a concerted effort to marginalize the holiday (a term referring to a Holy Day) that is significant to Christians, and this attack is coming from humanists, atheists, agnostics and muslims among others. These assaults are both direct in the loss of the saying “Merry Christmas” and indirect in the abandonment of the holiday traditions because of the commercialization. They use the very symbols of Christmas to argue against Christian observation. The enemies of Christianity’s victory will not come when Christmas is outlawed, but when Christians surrender Christmas.

Many Christians have decried the commercialization of Christmas which seems to be growing more blatant every year. Retailers set out their decorations earlier, sales get bigger and hyped with more enthusiasm as retailers look for the biggest profits, and people are bombarded with opportunities to donate to any number of charities. This year, Black Friday was actually Black Thursday as many retailers opened for business on Thanksgiving Day. Perhaps they do this to try to marginalize another Christian holiday in Thanksgiving.

Jesus was most likely not born on December 25th. The Bible doesn’t say it and a scientific study of the scripture indicates that it is more likely he was born in September or October, although it is still a matter of discussion and debate. Some claim that the December 25th date is set to coincide with the pagan ritual of saturnalia, but many Christian scholars hold that Constantine, the first Christian emperor, set the holiday date. To refuse to celebrate a Christian holiday because it may fall during a one-time pagan observance is to say that I should not celebrate my birthday because it also happens to be Adolph Hitler’s.

Santa has been attacked by many Christians as a false god or an idol that represents the commercialism that is distracting people from the true meaning of the holiday, that of celebrating Christ’s birth. Some shun Christmas decorations as a pagan ritual. All these reasons may seem a noble cause to shun the traditions of the season, but all that serves to do is to promote the commercialization, humanization and de-Christianization of Christmas. Santa Claus in his popular jolly form with the bright red suit and white fur trim is the creation of the Coca Cola marketing department and was introduced in the 1950’s. He is the quintessential marketing tool and has been one of the most successful in history. Kids wait up all night on Christmas eve looking for Santa’s reindeer to land on their roofs.

Beyond Coca Cola’s Santa Claus is the actual story of Kris Kringle. The name Kris Kringle actually comes from the German KristKindle, which translates Christ Child. According to Wikipedia, Kris Kringle was promoted as a gift bringer during the reformation to replace the figure of Saint Nicholas, a catholic priest known among other things for leaving coins in the shoes of children. So Santa Claus is not a pagan symbol, nor is he an idol or false god. He is the personification of Christ’s love and based entirely on Christian principles. Christians should continue to welcome Santa into their homes every year. The moral implications of telling children about the reality of Santa and the truth of the spirit of giving and its origins in history are an individual issue.

The tradition of decorating for Christmas is not based in the pagan rituals, although some would compare it to a Yule tree to try to remove any reference to the Christian holiday. Some accounts ascribe the origins of the Christmas tree to a representation of the paradise tree, honoring the tree that provided the apple that Eve gave to Adam. Other origins are associated with more modern interpretations in northern Germany of celebrating around the tree, then burning the tree at the end of the festivities. Granted, festooning one’s house in light bulbs and garland may seem garish and commercial, but it is an opportunity to enjoy and pass on a shared family tradition. This helps draw a family closer together.

The commercialization of Christmas is rampant and not just for commercial reasons. Granted, businesses want to make as much money as they can. The term black Friday is a reference to the fact that many retailers operate at a loss (negative ledger balances are usually written in red ink) for most of the year and their ledgers finally run in the black (positive balance) for the first time the day after Thanksgiving when more people head out to begin their Christmas shopping. Retailers have marketing companies working year-round to help people find gifts to give. Man’s greedy nature has reversed the onus so that more people make wish lists of wants rather than lists of gives. The practice of giving gifts may seem disingenuous to the solemnity of the Holy Day, but it is based in the historical Christmas story. The magi brought the baby Jesus gifts befitting a king; gold for its value, frankincense, an incense symbolizing prayer and myrrh, an oil for anointing. Christians give gifts at the holiday in honor of that spirit of giving.

Opponents of Christianity want nothing more than to strip America of all things Christian. They try to purge our history books of any Christian references from our founding fathers. They try to twist the first amendment—the one right that guarantees our right to our Christian faith—to silence us as separation of church and state. They try to strip our recognition of our savior’s birth by making it a commercial celebration.

When Christmas is no longer a Christian celebration, then it is nothing more than a 2-month long advertisement and sale with no significance other than how much people can buy for how little money. It is imperative that Christians remember not only the origin of the day—Christ’s birth—but also the traditions of the holiday. Put up a tree, put up a Santa, tell your kids the story of Christ’s birth. Once we surrender our claim to the traditions, we surrender our claim to the season. Keep Christ in Christmas, keep Christmas in your heart, and keep the traditions alive. Tell everyone you meet “Merry Christmas” eschew saying Happy Holidays and worry not about political correctness. The first amendment gives every Christian the right to say Merry Christmas. Use it at every opportunity.

Christmas is a Christian holiday; may it always be so.

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The Trouble in Praying

There’s trouble, friend. Yes, there’s trouble. I say we got trouble. Right here in Houston. There’s some politician preachin’ in the stadium, and that spells trouble with a capital ‘T’ and that rhymes with ‘P’ and that stands for preaching.

Well, for some people it seems to be trouble anyway. Texas governor Rick Perry has been backing a national day of prayer event called “The Response” for the past several weeks and it has the political left all up in arms. This prayer event is being held in Reliant Stadium near downtown Houston on Saturday, August 6th. Rick Perry will be in attendance and will speak and I imagine, will pray.

The news has been replete with stories of “activist groups” who oppose the event, oppose Perry’s backing the event and oppose his speaking at it. Some call it an anti-gay event since some of the religious groups sponsoring it are opponents of gay issues.

The most vocal have been the agnostic/atheist groups who claim that Rick Perry’s involvement somehow violates the separation of church and state. This is the claim that gets to me. The supposition seems to be that, once you become a political leader, you cannot express your faith at all. The Response is not a mandatory thing. Rick Perry is not forcing the citizens of Texas to kneel and pray. He is not decreeing that Christianity is the new state religion. He is not saying that people of other beliefs cannot pray in their own fashion.

Governor Perry is simply asking for those who wish to participate to pray for the future of our country.

Rick Perry is Christian. The organizers of The Response are Christians. The event is a call to prayer to Jesus Christ. This is a Christian event. Should political leaders abandon their faith just to satisfy the left? What’s more, Rick Perry is not a minister. He is no preacher, just a man of faith who wishes to freely exercise that faith.

If you choose not to pray, then don’t. But it seems that the anti-Christian movement is actively trying to deny Christians their constitutionally guaranteed right to pray. The leftist agenda has long been trying to water down Christianity by insisting that any public expression of faith MUST include all faiths, which is kind of ironic since it is tantamount to a state-enforced religious structure.

I recommend to every Christian to pray, even if you cannot make it to the stadium. God does not need the stadiums PA system to hear prayers. Pray wherever you are. Our nation desperately needs our prayers, especially at a time when so many are trying to silence them. That’s the real trouble not only here in Houston, but all over the country; trouble with a capital ‘T’.

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