Politics and U.S. Current Events
Posted 12/22/14 at 1:49 AM | Thomas Reed
We understand intuitively that narrative is far and away more powerful than abstract reason. Some suggest Jack Bauer of “24” explains popular American support for torture. This may well be true. That lengthy, wildly popular series grounded torture in righteous, efficacious necessity, as also does Dick Cheney and various CIA operatives. The left sees torture through a very different narrative lens: the actions of a sick mind without restraint in serial killer lit and horror films like “Saw (umpti-whatever).” That they do so “now” without explaining the almost 100% consensus in favor of it “then” is a question for another time (thank-you Sen. Feinstein).
Behind these two narratives are two different answers to the question of human dignity. Pastor Zahnd mentioned this only in passing: the in-humanity of torture should exclude it, much less our Christ-like-ness (http://brianzahnd.com/2014/12/christian-support-torture/). Jack Bauer sees the morally culpable enemy as an instrument only, not as a divine-image-bearer. The more tender-hearted sees any human as an image bearer, regardless of their culpability, and so exempt from ... well, anything, from harsh language to incarceration without cable TV and curly fries. Christians affirm every human is made in the image of God. Is there, then, a straight line from this doctrine to opposition to torture, whether by sleep deprivation or curly-fries-deprivation?
This is perhaps the greatest objection to torture, the one with the most fundamental and widespread salience in western, liberal, Christendom. Doesn’t torture debase “us,” as bearers of God’s image, as much as it violates their image-bearer status?
Moral culpability is not to be dismissed lightly. It distinguishes, for Christian conservatives, abortion from capital punishment. On the premise that a particular detainee has received due process and is, without doubt, morally culpable, the question remains: is that a sufficient basis to treat a divine-image-bearer as merely an instrument of state policy? Yes, if we were talking about show trials and public acts of intimidation, for example, sawing off the head of an opponent and publicizing the video ... [ahem] Yes, if the goal was, for example, simple sadism or in reprisal for the actions of others. Still, even under the strictest standards of justice, is it legitimate to use a divine-bearer-image as an instrument of the state?
If we take it as a moral absolute, as most do, that we should not use another human being as an instrument for own purposes, the question doesn’t end there. We also take it as a moral absolute that we can, and should, intervene to help an innocent third party. In fact, we see the failure to intervene as a moral evil. Consider, as our national security leaders did then, this scenario: we are in a life-and-death conflict; the enemy has shown their willingness and ability to strike our civilian population and threatens to do so at every opportunity; we have in our custody persons who possess critical knowledge that will prevent that from happening. Now we have a conflict of absolutes. If we “get” information from detainees to protect innocent third parties, i.e., the civilian population the leaders have sworn to protect, including their own loved ones; then we have violated the absolute against instrumental uses of divine-image-bearers. If we place the dignity of morally culpable enemies above all else; then we place 300+ million divine-image-bearers, whom we have sworn to protect, including our own loved ones, in mortal danger. In moral absolutist terms, it’s a draw. There is no right answer.
“When I was a child, I thought as a child ... But when I became a man ...” This is not a new dilemma for moral philosophy. Reasoning by moral absolutes will always, eventually, put them in conflict. The only choice is a hierarchical ethic, to argue that one moral “absolute” is more “absolute” than another. We can leave aside the debate between “the lesser of two evils” vs. “the greater good” and argue for one moral absolute over another. And so we ask, should we not see the instrumental use of another, especially a culpable enemy, as a lesser evil than allowing their “dignified” silence to lead to the deaths and suffering of those under our care (otherwise innocent citizens)? Moreover, should we not see the failure to intervene here in order to protect our own innocent masses, as a greater evil than the instrumental use of morally culpable enemies?
The counter-scenario is telling. If we intervene and “torture” the detainees for information and no bombs go off in the US. Then, we’re free (and alive) to complain or to order more bacon with breakfast. But if we do NOT intervene and bombs DO go off ... who will say then, “Good for you! We’re so glad you maintained the dignity of those morally culpable enemies! Excuse me while I hose off this radioactive dust ...”
On the subject of torture, then, under the moral constraints illustrated above, true torture is excluded. “Enhanced interrogation techniques,” as we know them, are more than morally justified. They are a moral obligation. The interrogator doesn’t violate their image-bearing dignity but affirms it by alliance with a divine institution, the state. Interrogation doesn’t violate the morally culpable enemy’s dignity. Rather, it insists the enemy re-align themselves with the dictates of the image they bear.
In the end, the most un-dignified alternative is the supposedly tender-hearted, humane choice. On a more practical note, we can say with Bill Clinton, such techniques should be “safe, legal and rare.”
Posted 12/21/14 at 11:48 AM | John Dillard
Execution of NY Police Officers; 100 Ways We Can End Discrimination in a Generation
1. Be a light.
2. Talk about your conversion experience.
3. Tell others about what God has done for you lately.
4. Tell others how God has answered prayers.
5. Tells others about John 3:16.
Posted 12/21/14 at 8:46 AM | John Dillard
In Light of the Execution of Two Police in New York, Will There Be Nationwide Protests for the Loss of THEIR Lives?
It all starts inside. It does not matter we are blue or purple on the outside. It matters what is in our heart. What we are facing is NOT a problem in America. It is a problem in our hearts. Whether we feel like we are oppressed or helping those who are, it all begins for Good or for Evil with whom we chose to honor.
Posted 12/19/14 at 8:13 PM | Thomas Reed
Yahoo news offers a nice piece describing the concept of compound interest. This is when the interest gained is fed back into the formula or "compounded." This feedback loop is the self-reinforcing or "recursive" principle of all complex systems, including those annoying screeches when you get the microphone too close to the speakers ...
As the article says, it is the fundamental concept of all finance - and of prosperity. It's "the invisible hand.” It's "path dependence.” It's why anyone can "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” It's why hard work and common sense is a better strategy than theft (whether criminal or legislative ...). It's the opposite of the usual linear view of things as a "zero-sum game" where every ounce of “progress” for me equals an ounce stolen from you. In that scenario, we’re either all equal precisely or you’re a thief and exploiter.
Feedback, however, not only makes you richer (if you use it as suggested here) but it is a deep truth of reality. That makes it a great litmus test, a discernment factor, for various politician's and pundit's claims. Are they assuming a static, zero-sum game or a dynamic, growth model? Or, are they claiming to have a growth model but really just waving their hands over the numbers ("Move along! Nothing to see here! Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?").
In other words, as part of God’s “divine design,” it's a signal in the noise.
Posted 12/19/14 at 8:02 AM | Mrs. Yvonne Perkins
For weeks the world headlines has been focused on the social injustice against Blacks as the Grand Jury failed again to indict a White police officer for the death of an unarmed Black man.
Protestors have been taking to the streets almost daily and in growing numbers. The world is watching and Blacks, White, Hispanic etc are willing to come together for a common cause. Various groups are coming together to form these protests.
This is the opportunity for the churches to step up and take the lead. Just marching is not enough. Prayer must take place. The people are hungry for direction. They need a true leader to emerge. This is the church opportunity to open up the doors of the church and point the people to the only one that can comfort and change.
I know someone is saying “pray, you need to do more than pray”. Yes, you need to pray and fast, receive instruction and then act. 2 Chronicles 7:14 KJVIfmypeople, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Proverbs 3:6 KJVIn all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Those with an ear to hear God must seek God to receive divine direction to change the course of history. The people are hungry for direction. FULL POST
Posted 12/18/14 at 11:04 PM | Larry Fell
1 Timothy 4:1-2 New Living Translation (NLT)
Warnings against False Teachers
4 Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. 2 These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead.
In looking around at what is happening in the world today I am convinced that now, more than ever before, the evidence is clear we are living in the times God as chosen as the final period before He, the Father, will send Jesus back to claim His Church. The Latter Days, The End Times, label it however you want, the point is the Prophecies outlined in the Bible are coming to pass more quickly than ever before. Of course I do get a bit of mocking along the lines of being Chicken Little running around with a sign saying "Repent! The End Is Nigh!" Let me be clear, the signs seem clear to me, but ONLY the Father knows when Jesus will be sent back [Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32]. Tomorrow, next Thursday at lunchtime or 10,000 years from now, it is all in God's hands. FULL POST
Posted 12/18/14 at 9:37 AM | Candice Lanier
A fellow blogger at the Christian Post has written a candid article on how Christians, not infrequently, attack other Christians on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. Entitled, Welcome to the Christian Attack Culture, it illustrates how technology has aided the constant barrage of insults, carping and contentious discussion afforded by the anonymity that online communication provides. Here's an except from that article:
"There’s no question that the Internet has brought Christianity many wonderful things. Today we have online education available to virtually everyone, social media that encourages people to support great causes, and online communication tools that allow us to connect from the four corners of the earth. But it’s also created something I believe is tearing at the very fabric of our faith. It’s created a culture of attack. FULL POST
Posted 12/17/14 at 9:52 PM | Zebulan
Until the government stops being racist, the people won't stop.
Everything you read, everywhere you go, race is constantly pointed out. Frankly I have a very low opinion of anyone I see holding their hands up and saying stop, don't shoot. Doing that is racist. It means that you have examined the Ferguson trial by skin color and not by evidence. The evidence is pretty substantial, there never really was a case. Remove the color of the skin of the two people and there's no issue. But to those "racists" that only look at skin color, it's a big deal. I have no frame of reference to even understand a world where a man attacks a policeman. In my world, that's risking your life right there. If it were my son that had done that, if my son had been killed, if my son had been all over the internet robbing a store, my response would have been very different. In my world we take responsibility for our actions. The consequences of those actions are real and must be paid. That's how I teach my children. But it's a different world, different values obviously.
In our country we are constantly reminded of race. It's in our laws, in our everyday life. We have crimes based on race, that's racist in itself. We have quotas for jobs, schools, all based on race, that's also racist. We have pageants, colleges, clubs, groups, all defined by race, also racist. People must be treated as equals if we are ever to defeat racism and it must start at the top and treat all people equally, regardless of race. FULL POST
Posted 12/16/14 at 12:53 PM | Thomas Reed
So, Jesus took my torture. He took my death. All the punishment I justly deserved, God, The Sovereign, All-Knowing, All-Wise Judge, laid on him. If I had not accepted His sacrifice by faith, I would pay this penalty for myself in hell for eternity. This is the beauty and the terrible-ness of the cross. The terrible-ness is His innocence. The beauty was His voluntary acceptance of torture for my benefit. This is the fundamental truth of Christian revelation found in both old and new covenants. It turns on the sinfulness of sin, leads to the magnitude of torture and the equal magnitude of Christ’s salvation. Now, I’m ready to go out and torture others ...
Weeeeelll, not so fast, there, sport. First, this is a category mistake. The gospel says Jesus took our torture, not that he was the torturer. That is how we “take up our cross and follow him.” We don’t seek it out. We don’t mete it out, but we do accept it if it comes our way (and we can’t escape it; Mtt 10:23) on the gospel road.
Persecution, including torture (e.g., Acts 22:25), is a just function of government. Crime not only should be persecuted, it must be persecuted. When directed at Christians for their faith (as opposed to their criminal behavior; see 1 Peter 3:13-18, 4:14-19), or any other innocent victim, it is wrong. But the persecution is wrong not as a category or function in toto but in application to the wrong persons for the wrong reasons. That sort of argument never arises in the Bible. It could not for it would destroy the gospel entirely.
The second problem is responsibility. God the Father is the Judge who defines and controls punishment. So, technically, He is the torturer. He has, however, delegated to humanity a number of His sovereign functions from Creation. Cain was notably concerned with revenge. God instructed Noah about the justice of blood-revenge, i.e., capital punishment for capital crimes. The Law regulated this to a degree through Levitical due process and cities of refuge. Paul acknowledged the state bears the sword for good reason, as Peter later summarized: to commend the good and condemn the evil. No one has ever erased the Proverbs on rods for either fools or foolish children (for fools: Prov. 10:13, 14:3, 26:3; for parental discipline, Prov. 13:24, 22:15, 23:13-14, 29:15; the last is general, with application to children).
For believers, however, Paul reminded the Corinthians we judge matters within the church. He offered them “the rod” or “love and gentleness” (1 Cor 4:21). Clearly, either was acceptable. The ultimate punishment appears to be expulsion (1 Cor 5:1-5; see also 1 Tim 1:19-20; 2 Cor 2:6; Matt 18:14-17). He told the Romans “God will repay.” In the kingdom, we will judge with Christ, but that remains in the future. Torture, as part of the category of punishment or revenge, was off the table for the individual Christian and for the Christian community. It was not, however, off the table for secular governments for that or any other reason. If the Church operates by New Creation power and principles, civil government still operates by Creation mandates. This is only reasonable, given the overlap of the New Age on the old in God’s salvation-history. God’s people must affirm both the ages and their domains, for both are God’s.
None of these affirmations address the proper conditions. Sadism and hatred, getting the wrong punishment or the wrong person, are never a problem for God. They are always a problem for humans. This is no different from any other (impossible) righteous demand of God on a fallen people. Whether it’s a prohibition on gossip, perjury, or theft, or a demand for just punishment or complete devotion to God alone, our inability has never been an acceptable excuse for our responsibility. This is why we have due process. It’s also why we have accountability and various avenues for correcting mistakes and making restitution. Whether for fear of mistakes or laziness for the hard work involved, eliminating different categories of punishment only makes things worse. It diminishes the entire scale of measure for justice as also for forgiveness.
Posted 12/16/14 at 12:44 PM | Donna Lee Schillinger
A week ago today, my cat walked out of the house and never came back. Is she alive? Did she run away? Is some well-intentioned cat-lover holding her hostage? I don’t know, but if she did meet her doom, thanks to Pope Francis, I now have some hope we might meet again. That’s right. A week ago, there was no hope, but now that the Pope has said, “paradise is open to all God’s creatures,” I have a hope.
Except one thing. Regardless of the doctrine of papal infallibility, popes don’t create truth any more than I do. If it is true that animals have an afterlife, then it’s always been true. If it’s not true, then Pope Francis’ hopeful statement can’t make it true. Yet people are responding to his recent statement as if he were issuing a new truth. It seems we all, Catholic or not (even PETA), subscribe to the doctrine of papal infallibility. However, with this very statement, Francis has created a conundrum in regards to this doctrine. FULL POST