Frustrated By The Fringes On the 4th

flag in the clowds

As we prepare to celebrate the 4th of July this year, I have some anxiety about the polarized conversations that are coming, especially on social media. I feel like the last few years have seen two groups shouting at each other on account of this holiday. These groups may have been the fringe in the past, but they seem to be gaining ground. And the message of both sides leave me frustrated.

There are those with an irrational love of America that keeps them from acknowledging her faults, both past and present. These folks are offended by any suggestion that America has blood on her hands or mud on her face.  These folks are often very patriotic, and tend to whitewash history. Many of them confuse Christianity with America. They view any criticism of the U.S. and her history as a stab at all the brave soldiers who defended our country.  It is sometimes hard to take this group seriously, but they should not be ignored, as our last election revealed.

On the other hand there are a growing number with an irrational hatred of America that can only see her faults. They are so focused on fighting the nationalist zeal of the first group that they can only see her failings.  They simmer in the sins of the past (and their effects in the present) to such an extent that it blinds them to her virtues. They don’t see bad groups of people doing bad things contrary to our written values, as happens in every country in history.  They consider the worst elements of our country to be her essence.  This group can’t appreciate that the principles of our republic, while imperfectly applied (an understatement), have at least provided the possibility of excising her cancer. After all, history tells us that without freedom of speech you can’t criticize such a powerful government without bloodshed. Many in this group would like to see America as we know it destroyed and replaced.

I believe there is another position, and I would like to strive to attain to it.  I am probably too idealistic.  It is a position as a Christian where my highest loyalty is NOT to my country. Only Jesus is Lord. I think this allows me to be a true patriot, one that can love my country and yet honestly point out her failings. And one that allows me to condemn her sins precisely because I love the virtues of freedom and equality under the law. I would also like to be one that can see her faults and failures in full color, and yet avoid hating her people and her principles.  We don’t have to choose between ignoring America’s vices and loving her virtues. We don’t have to choose between being proud of our country and ashamed (often at the same time) of the many times she has missed the mark.

I love America, not because she is flawless or even the greatest country ever, but because she is my home. I do love the American experiment of democracy and freedom. I love her with all her faults, but I don’t love her supremely.  I ache for a day when she will shed the rest of her sins and trade them for something better.  I am heartbroken that the dreams of America have been elusive to so many, and I long for better days.

So I offer this for your consideration: The only way to love your country and not be corrupted by that love, is to have a higher and better love.

Happy 4th of July.

Our Problem With Public Apologies

I just had a thought, are there any similarities between Kathy Griffin’s apology for a mock beheading of Trump, and other public apologies from the right side of the isle (just reflect on what happened before the election with Trump and his treatment of women)?
Do we have a problem with public apologies as a culture (maybe as human beings), rather than just partisan problem? Do we have a problem with apologies that are designed more for PR and damage control than honestly accepting responsibility for bad behavior? Do we as Americans have problems blaming others for our transgressions rather than owning them without qualification?
What would it look like to say: I was wrong, there is no excuse for that. No one else is to blame for my choices but me. I am sorry for the damage I have caused and apologize to those I hurt. I am going to do what I can to make amends, and I accept the consequences.
 
This is really, really, hard. But I think anything less hurts everyone involved. When we are more concerned with saving face, than owning the truth we perpetuate the problem.
This is a hot topic, just google the issue of organizations, governments, law enforcement, or doctors apologizing and you will see that we have a big problem.

Discipleship in the “Age of Authenticity” | TGC

 

This is a very important article, in my opinion.

You should read it, maybe twice, if you want to gain some perspective about what is really happening in our culture. It is beyond left and right. And it is likely that you are aware of this as a problem existing in other people rather than yourself.

Personal expression as a moral virtue has become an unquestionable absolute. It is driving the bus. To suggest that it might not be a virtue is blasphemy. It rages against any other idea or obligation- historical, political, biological, familial, or religious. While it promises fulfillment it will leave a trail of broken promises that are an opportunity to speak about a better way.

 

Source: Discipleship in the “Age of Authenticity” | TGC

All Our Good Guys are also Bad Guys: Steve Jobs

Last night my wife and I watched the documentary  Steve Jobs-The Man in the Machine. It is now available on Netflix, and I think it is worth your time.

The film is a depiction of his life that includes his darker side, which was largely lost in the hero worship of the wider culture. It is full of original footage and lots of interviews with people close to him.

This essay reflects on some of the themes in the film. While I don’t agree with all that the author says (who ever does?), the big picture is spot on. All of our good guys are also bad guys. One point that comes across so well is that Steve Jobs was celebrated and promoted even though he was such a bad person. Those around him, and the broader culture was willing to accept so much evil because he gave people what they wanted. When and why we turn a blind eye to evil may be one of the most revealing tests of character there is.

That is a sobering reality.

Here is the conclusion of the essay:

“Jobs did not need to be cruel, but he chose to be; we did not need to reward him with our dollars, but we chose to. Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine shows us, because we desperately need to be reminded, that all our good guys are bad guys. Lest the viewers judge too harshly, though, the film’s implicit concluding argument is, essentially, that we are allbad guys—not just Steve Jobs, but also Steve Wozniak, Bob Belleville, you, and me—because we tolerate and even admire such outward cruelty. The screen of an iPhone dims after 30 seconds, but, thank God, grace shines the light of forgiveness when we are alone in the darkness we allow and the darkness we create.”

Only in the grace of God do we find the hero and leader that instead of exploiting us, lays down his life for us.

 

Life Lesson on Money

I found this in an old journal entry. An idea that impressed me a while ago and when I read it, I was glad that I written it down. I was encouraged and convicted by my own words:

In financial matters there can be a considerable delay between decisions, actions, and results. Choices made today may not be felt for weeks or months, either for good or bad. Therefore we must think ahead! It is like planting and watering. This is hard to remember when we live in a world obsessed with the instantaneous and the impulsive.

Feminists Have Succeeded in Becoming The Men They Hated

Wow.

I am not a Catholic but have appreciated some of the observations I find at “First Things.”  The author of this article, “If Women Ran The World,” eloquently describes some of the most destructive elements of feminism today.  And she does it by sharing their own words.  The whole article is worth reading.

From time to time when I comment on feminist ideas, someone reminds me that that the particular view in question doesn’t represent all feminists.  Fair enough. But there are too many permutations for me to keep it straight. So I won’t dare suggest that this represents all feminists.

Here is what is clear to me. First, many of the most prominent feminist voices in journalism and politics today (like the one quoted below) represent destructive ideas that do not represent mainstream thinking. Second, they do not represent the ideas of feminists from a previous age. They wanted respect and equality. They condemned the bad behavior of men in a specific way. But they didn’t want to imitate it.

Elizabeth Scalia quotes a significant feminist voice:

“Writing for The Atlantic in September of 2012, Hanna Rosin argued that the “hookup culture” so prevalent on college campuses and in the lives of young adults is “an engine of female progress—one being harnessed and driven by women themselves.” She wrote:

‘To put it crudely, feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture. And to a surprising degree, it is women not men—who are perpetuating the culture, especially in school, cannily manipulating it to make space for their success, always keeping their own ends in mind. For college girls these days, an overly serious suitor fills the same role an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.’

In other words, women have succeeded in becoming the men they hated.”

Source: If Women Ran the World | Elizabeth Scalia | First Things

Some Unexpected, And Brutally Honest Marriage Advice from Tolkien.

I stumbled on this blog post and had to share it. I am not a Roman Catholic, but I agree with most of this article.  Our culture is awash in selfishness. It is so deep that it has been camouflaged as “love.” We have attempted to twist the virtue of love into “loving yourself,” which is actually the opposite of love. The very nature of love is to put others before ourselves.

Concerning the article, I think I would temper some of what he says regarding self denial and monogamy with “the rest of the story.”  The honest truth is that self denial is necessary because of our fallen nature. The idea that men are “not monogamous” is true because we are fallen, discontent, and unfaithful creatures. It is true in the same way that men are not peace loving by nature.  Only when we operate in grace and practice self denial we will find the truest expression of ourselves.

Tolkien’s perspective reminds me of the premise behind Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage.  I would highly recommend the book and use it for premarital counseling.

The excerpt below comes from a letter that JRR Tolkien wrote his son:

“THERE IS NO ESCAPE”

“Men are not [monogamous]. No good pretending. Men just ain’t, not by their animal nature. Monogamy (although it has long been fundamental to our inherited ideas) is for us men a piece of ‘revealed ethic, according to faith and not the flesh. The essence of a fallen world is that the best cannot be attained by free enjoyment, or by what is called “self-realization” (usually a nice name for self-indulgence, wholly inimical to the realization of other selves); but by denial, by suffering. Faithfulness in Christian marriages entails that: great mortification.

For a Christian man there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify and direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains. It will not satisfy him—as hunger may be kept off by regular meals. It will offer as many difficulties to the purity proper to that state as it provides easements.

No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial. Too few are told that—even those brought up in ‘the Church’. Those outside seem seldom to have heard it.

When the glamour wears off, or merely works a bit thin, they think that they have made a mistake, and that the real soul-mate is still to find. The real soul-mate too often proves to be the next sexually attractive person that comes along. Someone whom they might indeed very profitably have married, if only—. Hence divorce, to provide the ‘if only’.

And of course they are as a rule quite right: they did make a mistake. Only a very wise man at the end of his life could make a sound judgement concerning whom, amongst the total possible chances, he ought most profitably have married! Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might have found more suitable mates. But the ‘real soul-mate’ is the one you are actually married to. In this fallen world, we have as our only guides, prudence, wisdom (rare in youth, too late in age), a clean heart, and fidelity of will…(Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, pp. 51-52).”

Source: Tolkien Speaks: The Secret to a Happy Marriage | The Catholic Gentleman

An Old Prediction About Trump, the Left, National Pride, And Scapegoating

Here is a fascinating, deep, albeit brief look at something unexpected: A liberal philosopher predicts of the rise of a Trump-like figure 20 years ago based on the worst elements of the left’s political  and philosophical blunders. He is not the only one to make such an observation (note the linked video from Jonathan Pie is one profound explanation of the rise of Trump, but it is NSFW- lots of bad language). Back to Rorty. He explains:

“National pride is to countries what self-respect is to individuals, a necessary condition for self-improvement”

My thoughts: A few things that are becoming more apparent to me:

The political left despises America, many of its historic values, and many of its citizens. They don’t want to improve America so much as bury it and create something new in its place.

The modern left, just as the neoconservative movement, has departed from it’s more historic values (liberalism).

In the article there is another insightful paragraph. In trying to remove the stigma from minorities and the underprivileged, the left has shifted it onto middle class white people. Many of them were glad to throw it back.

The lesson? Demonization doesn’t work.

“Rorty’s only issue with identity politics was that the left, having worked so hard to transfer stigmatic cruelty away from received categories like race and gender, had done too little to prevent that stigma from landing on class—and that the white working class, finding itself abandoned by both the free-market right and the identity left, would be all too eager to transfer that stigma back to minorities, immigrants, gays, and coastal élites.”

Source: Richard Rorty’s Philosophical Argument for National Pride – The New Yorker

I Have Come to Indoctrinate Your Children Into My LGBTQ Agenda (And I’m Not a Bit Sorry)

shoes

Here are some thoughts on an older article from the Huffington post with the title above.

For a long time the sexual revolution has been advanced through the idea of tolerance. Once upon a time that seemed to mean: Please leave us alone, let us live the way we want. But that meaning has gradually morphed into something else. This article is a soft reveal that the LGBT agenda is not about tolerance, it is about transformation. It is about social  re-engineering disguised as tolerance. Because if you disagree, you shouldn’t be tolerated.  There are numerous examples of people within the LGBT community itself who have expressed dissent and are subsequently attacked in the name of tolerance. Here is one. Here is another. And another.  Here is another example of tolerance unleashed against your own team. These aren’t attacks on Christians, they involve hostility towards people who disagree with the LGBT agenda on one or two points.

Tolerance…

The article actually says a number of true things that I agree with. I don’t believe in demonizing people, and I am sad that this happens to anyone. Whether to transgender people, or to the religious folks that believe there is a God-designed physiological difference between boys and girls that is the basis for gender.  I am against bullying on both sides.  And make no mistake, there has been plenty of bullying going on in the name of tolerance.

What this author makes clear is that the present battle is a battle for the hearts and minds of children. He interacts with the idea that LGBT folks have to recruit and indoctrinate because many of them can’t reproduce through their romantic relationships. So the only option is converting people. And the author embraces this. Unashamedly. Since they can’t indoctrinate their own children, they are coming for yours.

True tolerance is a good thing. It involves respecting people that disagree with us. But I have come to believe, in large part because of articles like this, that the idea of tolerance in the present discussion is a Trojan horse for a larger sexual ethic. It is presented as simply “love and kindness to all,” but that is just the spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down.  And here is why I say this: my beliefs are often criticized as intolerant. However, I am not criticized for hurling insults, committing acts of violence, trying to deprive LGBT folks of their rights, etc. I haven’t done any of these things. Simply disagreeing with the agenda is enough to earn the label of bigot.  This doesn’t bother me that much, I have another set of marching orders.  I have raised my children to love and respect their LGBT friends and classmates while at the same time maintaining a philosophy of sex and gender that excludes most elements of the LGBT agenda. And I do this because my allegiance is to Jesus and his teaching in all of life. His teaching confronts our sexual sin. His teaching confronts MY sexual sin. It is dishonest to claim to follow Christ but reject what he says in situations where I want something really bad.  You can’t follow Jesus and define right and wrong by your appetites or attractions. Gay or straight.

This larger public agenda explains why these discussions almost always include a discussion violent persecution. The author mentions the murder of trans women, which I abhor, as his motivation for writing children’s books. Ironically, the group that is opposed to “the binary,” have framed this issue in a binary way. If you do not celebrate the LGBT program, then you obviously agree with gay-bashers. There are only two options. Anyone who disagrees with the sex and gender revolution must be depicted as sick. They are sick with the virus of hatred and bigotry. This is the same virus that leads people to murder. Perhaps the infection hasn’t advanced that far, but just wait. If you think this is hyperbole you aren’t reading enough from LGBT advocates in mainstream magazines like Salon, HuffPost, Vox, etc.  And even if a well-respected progressive author in the New York Times suggests that maybe his team is being, perhaps, a tinsy-weensie intolerant, the response is venom. Read the comments.

Ironically, this perspective advances the same kind of ignorant bigotry that it seeks to decry.  There is a certain kind of intolerance that grows when you don’t have any real LGBT friends. What is the answer? “Get to know them, they are nice people.”  The same thing is true in the gender debate. I know hundreds, if not thousands of Christians that hold to strong religious beliefs about gender and sexuality. And these people hold no hatred or violence toward members of the LGBT community.   The options are NOT limited to A: Celebrate, or B: Hate. The reality is much more complicated. (Even the Onion picked up on this one) It it involves the shocking idea that you can disagree with someone without hating them. But that perspective isn’t useful for the revolution. And you probably won’t find it in any LGBT children’s books.

Reader be warned: The author has admitted his purpose for your children. Take note that he is not only telling a story about LGBT folks, he is telling a story about YOU as well.  That story is not loving or peaceful. And in my experience that story is not true.

Source: I Have Come to Indoctrinate Your Children Into My LGBTQ Agenda (And I’m Not a Bit Sorry) | The Huffington Post

C.S. Lewis Was a Secret Government Agent

A CS Lewis Scholar recently found an unknown vinyl record of a CS Lewis radio broadcast for sale on eBay. The record has several of his lectures that were broadcast to Iceland. The British invaded Iceland during WWII to prevent the Nazi’s from gaining the upper hand in the North Atlantic. Lewis’ role was to try to further the peace between the British and the people of Iceland via literature. A fascinating episode of history.

“How Lewis came to be recruited and by whom remains a secret. The records of the Secret Intelligence Service, known popularly as MI6, remain closed. Perhaps one of his former pupils at Oxford recommended him for his mission. It was an unusual mission for which few people were suited. J. R. R. Tolkien had the knowledge base for the job, even beyond that of Lewis, but Tolkien lacked other skills that Lewis possessed. Perhaps someone had heard Lewis lecture on his favorite subject in one of the two great lecture halls in the Examination Schools building of Oxford University. At a time when Oxford fellows were notorious for the poor quality of their public lectures, Lewis packed the hall with an audience of students who were not required to attend lectures. In the 1930s, Lewis was the best show in town. Somehow Lewis had developed the skill to speak to an audience and hold them in rapt attention, in spite of his academic training rather than because of it.”

Source: C.S. Lewis Was a Secret Government Agent | Christianity Today