Friday, October 31, 2008

Discrimination, Liberty, and Value

What is the highest value when it comes to a culture?
I just read on 'First Things" that there was a distinction made between the values of equality and liberty. Where Europe prioritizes equality, the United States values liberty. Which value should be prioritized?

If one prioritizes equality, then, how is there anyway to 'police" that value? Wouldn't government be a form of inequality, as those in power posiition would determine who was or wasn't discriminating and on what basis (law/rule) that would be determined. Society cannot function apart from government, therefore, equality cannot be prioritized.

If liberty is prioritized, then, would there be equality, because those in government would be implementing laws that would gurantee freedom under law. As long as an individual respected law, then there would be liberty to pursue their own ends. Therefore, good government must prioritize liberty, so that justice can be upheld. There is not justice without liberty.

There has been much talk about Obama being a socialist. I don't know whether he is really commtted to the ideology of socialism, so much as against discrimination and inequality. If you listen to the pastor whose ministry he listened to for over 20 years, then one begins to understand that he wants to make sure that those who have been discriminated against will get their just due. He is for globalization on a wide scale, so that America, as an imperialistic nation, will not implement their culture on another. He is against faith based institutions because he believes in universal education, as well as universal healthcare. He wants government to implement OT law, so that individual liberty is limited to moral responsibilty. This is just short of Shairia law.

I hope that those who care enough about the benefits of living in a free society will take seriously what is at stake in this election and not "toy" with the idea of a Utopian "promise for tomorrow"!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Lawsuit States That Obama Was Born in Kenya, Disqualifiying Him for President

Many of us are tired of the demonization in this presidential race. But, this was news that is not something that should be disregarded, as it concerns our Constitution. In light of other things said about change and bringing about a different type of governing, this is an important item of news...

It was reported in the Washington Times that a Pennsylvania lawyer and Democratic activist has filed a lawsuit against Obama, on September 15th and after the 30 day request of admissions either by objection or response, there has been no acknowledgment. Therefore, it is being released as an admittance that the lawsuit is true and requesting that Obama step down from seeking the presidency.

The lawsuit states that Obama was born in Kenya. A meeting was held to discuss who might replace the candidate if he is disqualified for president. Wouldn't that be interesting especially in light of A.C.O.R.N.

Missing Finale, a Known Friend and Some Things She Taught Me

I wrote on Sunday about my dog's last day with us and explained what she meant to all of us. She has died of pneumonia. Her last day brought questions to my mind and her absence of two days has underlined some important truths.

Finale was a mutt. She was half Chow and half Golden Retriever, so she was not a "canned" breed of a dog. Finale was known as more than just a dog. She was a beloved pet. I went to the Humane Shelter (both of them) to just remind myself that there were other dogs to be adopted. But, what it revealed was how unique Finale was. She was our dog, which meant she was not "just a dog". We had a relationship to her.

When I went to the Humane Shelter, I saw many different kinds of dogs, and could see that all of them had certain qualities in common. They were, after all, dogs. Now, I am not discounting the fact that these "facts" are also applicable to Finale, as a dog. But, there was much more to her than just her "dogginess".

Her absence these past two days has brought to mind how we "knew" her. I still smell her, can imagine her running toward me when I call. She would come up to be petted and if you didn't oblige, she would nuzzle her nose into your leg, chest or hand. She had a unique way of jumping and was clumsy. But, her idiosyncrisies only endeared her to us. And I miss her terribly.

In thinking of her last day with us, I thought about euthanasia. I watched her struggle and would've done anything to relieve her of her misery, but it was the week-end. And to be honest, I still was hoping for some change for the better.

Knowing Finale as a dog, is not knowing Finale. The same is the case for people. People are more than the material bodies they inhabit and the common characteristics of "humanity". But, their material bodies and the common characteristics are also part and parcel of their existence and "revelation". We cannot reduce man to his parts without doing damage to understanding man and diminishing man to an object to be "conformed" to "right order" or "proper functioning" (discipliship is understood in some segments as a conforming in this way). Man, as an object, is not loved, appreciated, or embraced, but controlled, manipulated and experimented upon for "god", or the "common good". This is not knowing a man as a unique creation, but, controlling man through education (propaganda).

Thinking about Finale's struggle to survive also made me think about what it would be like if she had been a person, who I had loved. What if I was watching my husband or child die like this? Wouldn't I feel the same way, even more so? It was obvious to others that Finale would not survive, but I kept hoping. Is this what happens to others when they face the death of a loved one? I really began to think that it would be best in certain situations to allow life to exit, instead of heroically trying to 'fix" it. There is a time to die. And sometimes embracing death is healing in itself for the person and the family involved.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Human Formation, Conformity and Discrimination

A lot of discussion has gone on in the recent past about the biblical text. What is this text and how did it come to be an authority? The text was written to form a tradition around history. The historical Jesus' impact on his culture began with a small group, spread to become a movement that came to define a religious tradition. The Church was born upon the heels of Jewish tradition and its text was interpreted as a unique revelation (but uniqueness is understood in any tradition, initially.).Tradition is the concretelization of experience that represents a universal "ideal" and are brought about by social, religious and political reformers (some would understand them as revolutionaries.).

Tradition is defined by its beliefs and many have suffered persecution under its power. "Conditioning traditions" of ostracism, exclusion, and heresy hunting have permeated the Church's history, but, unfortunately has not been viewed as discrimination. Belief is a powerful identity factor in humanity's search for meaning. Conformity is identified as spiritual formation in a tradition. But, conformity to a tradition is not uniqueness, but identification with a certain means of understanding existence.

Evolutionary biology/neuroscience has "revealed" that man is nothing more than animal in his responses, unless he is "trained" to conform. Brain science has born out that the neural connections must be disciplined, so that humans might behave in a proper way for maintaining society's order and structure. Man is no longer viewed as primarily a rational animal, but an animal of instinct. Moral training must form the individual into conformity, so that society's flourishing will be furthered and man will attain his "teleos".

I find that there is nothing wrong with training children, but is not the epitome of man's rational development. There is something wrong with conformity, when the "form" is so narrow that the individual child cannot attain to his/her uniqueness. Conformity is what Jesus stood against in discrimination of others who did not fit with the Jewish standard, which was a religious tradition.

In the Christian traditon, how is discrimination seen? And how would Jesus' example exemplify another standard than the "christian one"?

I find that "biblical christians" those, who live by the text are always dismissing some things while emphasizing others. Is this really what religion should be about? Or should religion be about unifying and expanding human existence beyond traditional understandings, where man is seen as human within a humane context and not one driven by a religious ideology? But, then religion is about defintions and standards, which are gauged by groupism, or textual understandings. And discrimination is always about how the other doesn't fit. Traditions call the outsiders "sinners", "infidels", and "dogs". Religion, then becomes a narrowing of boundaries and limitation to man's flourishing.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Race, Discrimination, and Endorsement

Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama has been labelled by some as a race issue.

I don't know whether anyone really understands discrimination unless they have experienced it. But, reverse discrimination is what Colin Powell is being accused of. Is an endorsement valid just because they happen to be of a certain group, race, ideology, etc.? is this just and right?

Groupism is unjust in so many ways. Groupism is prejuidicial because groups are defined by certain attributes, ideology, etc. Groups are a way for humans to maintain an identity, but the identity is based on prejuidice. Although I recognize and aknowledge the lack of opportunity that many of certain groups have had, priviledging groups has a downside in meeting quotas, when there are not enough qualified candidates to fulfill a certain position. Is this just, even though it is meant to give equal opportunity? Reverse discrimination is also unfair.

The discriminated form a solidarity to gain a power base and then politic for their group's representation, which is good in our free society. But, equal respresentation of the majority's side also needs acknowledgement. This is only maintaining a balance of power and is just and right.

The fact that Obama is able to run and get his party's nomination is proof that our society is overcoming its bias. Hillary Clinton ran against Obama and was a formable foe. She has broken the wall separating the sexes in powerful leadership roles. I think our country has come a long way from 25 years ago. Granted there will always be segments of the population that remain prejuidiced, but, as more and more minorities gain powerful positions, it will become harder and harder to ignore the facts of equality.

I am hoping that Colin's endorsement is not one that is racially motivated. That would illustrate an ultimate prejuidice.

Love to Finale

My heart goes out to my dog this evening. She came down with pneumonia. It was diagnosed two weeks ago and the vet said initially she sure looked and acted healthy for a dog so sick. (He had listened to her heart.). But, tonight she is finding it difficult to breathe. She has been on four differnent antibiotics. I'd taken her in every day last week to get shots, but she has still not responded. She is little more than a walking skeleton today. But, it is so hard to know when to let go, as she is only 3 years old. But, tonight, I am willing to let her go, because I don't want to see her struggle to breathe.

I have loved all my dogs, as they have been my best friends. Dogs love you no matter what. They are loyal and faithful friends. Finale was an exceptional example and it was hard to leave her behind last year while we were in D.C. She followed me everywhere and loved showing and getting affection, which I certainly obliged. She was a happy dog. She used to jump with all four in the air, as she didn't know how big she was (she was a mix of Chow/Golden Retriever). And even though I had wanted a white dog, Finale has won my heart with her temparment. She is gentle and sweet like the Retriever and fiercely loyal and determined, like the Chow. Wim had named her Finale, as he thought it would be our last dog. But, now we aren't so sure.

Finale was loved by our whole family, but the individuals in our family had different ways of expressing it. Our son, Nate, had agreed initially to keep her here at the house while we were away last year, but it became problematic, as he was in school and working all day. Finale was used to having attention, so when I came home to visit last October she would hardly come to me on her own, as she had grown unaccustomed to human contact. It broke my heart.

Our other son, Daniel decided to keep her at the house where he lives. The family there have two outdoor dogs and two indoor dogs. She likes both the inside and outside. As the family lives in the country, she enjoyed her freedom and roamed their acrage. Both the boys had had interaction with her over our absence.

Our daughter, Rebekah, and her two dogs came with her family most every week-end before our leaving for D.C. and her two dogs grew fond of Finale. Our granchildren would love to pull her ears, pet her head and she would just let them be children with little response. Hannah would come in and the first thing she would often say was "Tallie, where are you Tallie"....

Today, Daniel and his girlfriend came for lunch and he was heartbroken upon seeing her and how she'd lost so much weight in a week. He had checked up on her through the week and asked me to call him if something changed with Finale.

Our son, Nate, came late in the day and looked at Finale and said, "Mom, she's dying, I hope you're not putting any more money into her. She needs to be put to sleep" ( His major is, you guessed it, business!)...(I told him that I knew who not to depend on when I got older :) )...

Rebekah is too busy with her children to be too concerned (and they are more important).

Our children have had unique responses to Finale's sudden demise. She is our dog and she was loved very much.

We will all miss her!


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Scripture, Social Structures, and Relationships

I am a little frustrated over many who try to "puff up" the need to believe the Scriptures. I recognize that Protestants are "grounded" (at least intially) on the Scriptures, but I don't believe that Scripture is the only means of faith.

Before the canon was the Church, and before the Church was the Jewish faith, which was also divided along many lines. Faith doesn't need support. Faith is oriented around what one values. And faith and one's values underscore what one chooses to do. Are evangelicals afraid that if they do not fight to uphold the text that people are forever doomed? Is it the only basis for establishing moral values that motivates them? It would be an interesting study.

The real world is not really guided by the supernatural, but people. I think we should focus more on the real world than the spiritual, as the spiritual is so often the psychological need in man. The social structures that define civilized society are meant to meet these needs, which is more and more doubtful in the West. While the civilized are more structured and the order is more conducive for individual flourishing, all societies have relationships, just a difference of form. And relationships are what social structures are to be about in the first place.

So, why the Scriptures to uphold faith?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Two E-mails, Two Views and Questions

I recieved an e-mail from a long time friend, that I don't hear from that often. She and I were best friends back in the 70's. She now is a citizen of Namibia and is married to a foreign service officier.

Her e-mail was a request for a signature on a petition against an organization that wants to take Christian broadcasting off the air. The hearing will be done under the FCC in D.C. I will investigate, as I believe that there should be religious freedom. While I value religious freedom, the times are such that religion has become the "enemy" to some. As I have stated before, the Somalian woman at the American Enterprise Institute is sure that Islam will take advantage of our religious freedom, minority rights, and tolerance to gain ground for power in our political world. She is opposed to any religion in schools because of this conviction. What do we do as a free society, that desires to continue to have its freedom, while protecting itself from those who do not value freedom?

Another e-mail came this same day from the Center for Inquiry that stated that there were four centers established in India promoting humanism and scientific inquiry. These rationalists value the individual, so they are standing against the caste system and for humanism. They desire to promote freedom of scientific inquiry and stand against superstition of all kinds. I do adhere to some of these values, as well.

Two e-mails that represent two different values, both of which I understand and appreciate. I am partial to the CFI's goals and values, but I do not want to deny others the right to religious expression. I recognize that many academians may not value some of the names that were mentioned in the e-mail that desired religious freedom, but does education mean that we must limit individual choices? (Paul Kurtz, was at Columbia U. with John Dewey. ) I can understand that the educated feels a need to make sure that those who have limited education are not furthered in their ignorance. I agree! But, at the same time, we must not limit the difference of opinion that upholds the free discourse and exchange of ideas in the public arena. Otherwise, we are headed down a road to propaganda, and an elite class that maintains the reigns of the information structures. We must resist this stance at all costs! So, religious education is also of value in a free society.

So, what is the FCC's concern with the freedom of religious broadcasts? And why are they even considering limiting this freedom in our country? I don't know, but I will check it out. Are you concerned about the freedom of our airways?

Personal Identity, Group Attachment and Abuse

In our local paper, one of the leaders at our university, states that "respect is yours, have it"! This is important news, because the context is a local domestic violence organization called "Hands of Hope". The abused need to know that they can have hope beyond the definitions that their abusor have given them. Hope is inspired when the heart is strenghtened with encouragement and empowerment.

Why is respect necessary to break free of abusive systems? Self respect is negated in environments that teach dependence or group mentality. Psychologists say this is an unhealthy attachment, because personal identity ceases to exist in such environments. The group defines what is right for the individual. The individual is negated because the individual has no choice about the matter. They are to obey and submit to what the system designs and desires.

A system is organizational structuring and is not wrong, in and of itself. But, if the system is not focused on giving freedom to individuals, but defining them, then the system ceases to be a healthy one. Cultures define individuals, but are not necessarily unhealthy, unless they take away the right of the individual to freely choose and determine their own life. Children, of course, are defined by their families, but young adults should come to a place where they understand their own person. This is personal identity.

Personal identity is important to develop, as it helps the individual to define their values and commitments. Reason is engaged in this formative stage and can bring about transformation of the person's understanding of themselves, their true values, and their reasons for choosing those values. This is an important stage in coming to terms with life calling. A life calling is not defined by others, only developed. And developing others in thier gifts is a life calling itself!

Thomas Jefferson on Good Government and Freedom of Inquiriy

"A wise and frugal government shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."

"Fix reason firmly in the seat and call to her tribunal every fact every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of God because if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Value of Life Calling and a Friend's Daughter

I have a friend whose daughter is in a well known university studying International Relations. This young lady is very bright and gifted in many ways. This past summer she went overseas with the Invisible Children ministry. She had thought about pursuing this course for her career choice, although many other opportunities have been open to her.

The Invisible Children ministry is a valuable mission, but I believe that this young girl's gifts would be limited in usefulness if she pursued this end. She has recently had second thoughts, which I am happy to hear.

So often, young people are idealistic and need time to grow up and understand what life is about and what their highest values are. But, this is not her case.

In a Christian context, shouldn't professors, adminstrators, and student developers seek to develop the student as much as they can, not limiting their potential? A student pursuing a college education that does not use the money, and time invested wisely is a misguided life. Shouldn't every student seek to excel in their given discipline so that excellence is what is considered "Christian"? Or is Christian only viewed as ministry in a certain way and with certain dogma to boot?

I hope that the value of a student's life calling is important enough to the educators, who by their own life investment to education, exemplify excellence, passion, commitment, and scholarship.

Doing Unto Others and Ethical Choices

Choice is a value that makes us human. Humans have a choice because they have a mind, that can reason about difference in values and the choices that uphold those most important values. People choose what they do for different reasons. But, all humans choose what they value most, or think is most important in spectrum of choices. Reason, then, is an important human attribute to develop.

World religions have different ways of addressing the ethical, but the ethical is understood to define what is universal. In the Judeo/Christian tradition, the universal is the Golden Rule. In Kant's moral philosophy, it is the categorical imperative.

People usually agree about the universals, the "ideals". But, they diverge in how to decide to act in a real world that is not ideal. That is the quandary for all decisions in this life, whether the individual, group, or nation.

How do we resolve the dilemma to the questions of choice and the ideal in an imperfect world? Well, that really depends on how you view the world and the players in the world. Conservative Christians believe that God acts in the world. But, what this means differs. Some believe that God does miracles directly impacting the world, while others believe that God has given humans the mandate to change the world.

If we believe that the world needs change, whether one believes that it comes about directly from the hand of God or not, comes about by understanding the importance of the Golden Rule. How are we to apply that in our imperfect world? The Golden Rule cannot be implemented without choice, so government is a priority. Good government is made by people who are public servants. And the American government is the best means of choosing these public servants. These public servants are called to maintain the values of freedom for our people in religion, vocation, and lifestyle (within the bounaries of law).

Therefore, good government is the most important value to pursue, so that the moral order can be maintained, and people can live in peace. It is also most important so that individuals can make their choices in freedom.

The ideal values of religion are relativized to good governance in allowing choice in a real world.


There are many ways that character is formed, but first, shouldn't we determine what character means? What do we mean by character? Is there one attribute that is necessary to be of worthy character? Character is an illustration of a person's values. Character is seen in contexts of situations.

Everyone has character, but not everyone responds to situations in the same way. The Sermon on the Mount is used sometimes in Christian circles to illustrate what Christian character is. But, this has been debated, as some believe that it is an ideal that illustrates how far we fall short and should turn us to God. Others believe that it is part and parcel of what a Christian should be. I disagree with both.

Character is a response to a situation that illustrates the person's most important values and convictions. There is no one form of response, because there is no "ideal form". Conformity is what religion is about. It is not about individual people who may differ in situations, because of personal issues. No, some believe that unless you act in a certain way, then, there is eternal hell and damnation.

There has been a statement in our local newspaper about having respect. This statement was made within the context of domestic violence. We would not believe that it is appropriate for an abused person to react as the Sermon on the Mount. No, we would desire for the abused to hold another accountable, so that there could be change in the situation. This is character, as well.

Ethical children can be raised by secular parents and they do not have to have God to do so. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, not the end. Children fear retribution and act because they fear, not becasue they have developed their own convictions or principles. As adults, reasonable dialogue is useful to bring about a change of mind. But, most adults do not respond to an anihlation of rights, in regards to their personal choices. Choices are what make humanity human, because we are not responding out of reward and punishment, but because of a conviction of a certain kind...

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Trinity, God, and the Function of Roles

I found it a little irritating that there was a discussion at Trinity Evangelical about the roles of the Trinity. The discussion was about whether the Son eternally submits to the Father. This view is a complementarian view that would influence how one views male and female roles and functions. Don't people go to great extremes to give credence to what they believe and with not verifiability to boot?

Why do we find that it is necessary to have an authority behind our opinion? Why do we think that a rationale based on our own personal conviction and reasonable explaination is not enough? Who do we want to influence to see our side of the debate and for what reason? Do we really think that some things even matter? How important are the things that we are debating? Some, I'm sure, believe that the eternal destiny of the soul is at stake. I am sorry for them.

Practical matters such as public policy, economics, government, education, national security, international relations, etc. are much more important to be informed about and to discuss because they matter in this life. We don't know about the next life, we only have a belief, that is unprovable.

I remember a time when I was so certain that what I believed was truth for all people and without their coming to understand my way of thinking, people would perish and die without God. I was passionate and committed. But, itis is not a life of rest and peace, but one filled with the responsibility for the world's salvation. The most important aspect on anyone's life was the spiritual, to the extent of denying what the real world even meant. This frame of mind is unhealthy. If God is God, and we are responsible, then I find that being responsible within our own "worlds" is all that one needs to be concerned with. We are not called to take the whole world on, but be faithful in the little that is before us.

I am not interested in Christian faith, but faith, for I believe that God does not see the kind of faith, just the trust of faith. The trust of faith is not some "jump over the moon" to prove one's faith, but a quiet rest of "what is" and a "patient diligence" in the present about what is in front of you. Great visions are not necessary, for it is the widow's mite and the prostitute's worship that meant more to God than all the Pharisees and Sadducees did all together! I find that it is in being and affirming life for oneself and others that one finds life.

So, it is not about the Trinity, or God, or the functions and roles of male and female, but a response to the grace that is given in life in the present

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Moral Order, The Freedom of Speech and The Challenge to Change

Yesterday's post was about first and foremost, the freedom of speech given to the individual in our American culture. This is an important virtue in our culture because it gives people "a voice" and it is foundational to our free access to "news", as well as an implement of social change.

Just because our press is a free one, does not mean that our press is a moral one. The freedom of our press means that it is not governmentally controlled and because it is not controlled by the government, the government is accountable. The press, in this sense, is a balance of power, because it can reveal certain "news" that would not be beneficial for a politician's reelection. This is a good thing, as it can be an instrument of educating the people to maintain "freedom".

While the press can be useful and is useful, for the most part, for maintaining accountability in government, the press is fed by the "free market" mentality. "Sin" sells and what sells brings prosperity. And profit and prosperity is what ends up defining what stories are going to be pursued. "The market" drives journalists, publishers, reporters, and the news media, in general to be the first to "get the story". But, our society is not so much dedicated to informing themselves, as in entertaining themselves. This has cheapened the media and its purpose of keeping government accountable and the people informed.

Not only is the press benefitting on the "sins" of its leaders and poplace, but the media feeds the public with their own bias. Editorials do not belong in the headlines, but this, in my opinion, is what it has become. Everyone that cares enough to inform themselves, understands that there are liberal and conservative news coverage. And it becomes the public's responsibilty to flip the channels and/or buy two newpapers, if they want both sides to the story. Is there not a way to report a story without bias? I thought this was traditionally understood to be what the news media was about, giving unbiased news to inform the public. Now, I fear that the news media has another agenda, it own political agenda. Instead of educating the poplace, the media politicizes the news and campaigns for their candidate. We become a divided people that are ill-informed about the real issues, because we are focused on the politcalization of the media and the news, itself.

This is the downfall of a "free people", a disregard and a lack of appreciation of freedom. Freedom is not won without a costs and the costs are personal, as well as societal. The costs are our moral responsiblity. Our moral order demands that our freedom of speech be directed in ways that are edifying to our poplace and not just entertaining. The challenge to change might be a sacrificial one, as far as prosperity, but it just might make a difference to our society. Besides, writers are known to be creative and they can use their creativity to write note-worthy stories in an entertaining way to woo us off of pablum, so that we can be an informed and educated people. Without this change, our lost opportunity will be the furtherance of our moral demise. And our moral demise will inevitably limit our freedom in the future. There is nothing like a lack of informatin to enslave. But, our enslavement will be one chosen by default, unless the press changes and takes their responsibility seriously.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Freedom of Speech, Moral Order and the Challenge to Change

Our Constitution guaruntees each American the right to the freedom of speech. We experience our freedom with the diverse views that are represented in our news media and positions of power. While most choose to identify with their particular "color" of view, some choose to go across the borders of conformity to wisely discern how to challenge the prevailing view, so that it can be expanded. Do we do this as private citizens? Do we choose to watch, or buy something that is antithetical to our view, so that we can really learn what the issues are really about, instead of stereotyping and dismissing the other side of the story.

When we talk about the moral order of the social structures, whether government or family, we must challenge ourselves in our free society to not limit our views to a certain position, but challenge ourselves to discriminate, and discern, what and why something is important or of value. This is seeking an education of oneself and can only enlarge our world, expand our understanding and heighten and hone our reason to defend a certain conviction.

We have experienced many changes in our society. These changes have not come about without resistance from the status quo. Power structures which are based on matienance of what is, do not seek to change positions, no matter the costs. Change is costly, but especially to power. Change challenges us to consider something we haven't considered. Change can be uncomfortable, especially to those who do not want to learn or grow. Change for change's sake is also not wise, unless it is warranted for the right purposes. And purposes themselves, are not about moral or immoral, but, sometimes just a priority of value.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Two Jesuses?

There is a distinct problem in the Christian community. It really is not a problem. Just a quandary...There are two Jesuses that are recognized and "worshipped".

One Jesus is the one most of us learned about in Sunday School. He worked miracles by healing the sick, raising the dead and casting out demons. This Jesus is a supernatural one. We worshipped him for being God. But, although he was a real person, he was too holy to consider as "one of us". He was all about love, mercy and forgiveness. The difference was who Jesus was. He was God.

The other Jesus is a historical one. He lived and died and experienced life like the rest of us. He struggled, was betrayed, and walked against the tide. His life is "worshipped" by what he did, not so much in who he was. His life sought justice.

Tradition has held that Jesus is both God and Man and theologians go out of their way to understand and explain through their theologizing what this means. The Trinity is their conclusion. This was the way for the Church to acknowledge, embrace and understand how we grow and understand our faith.

Until someone is ready to take up their life and walk out their faith in commitment to what their own personal values and convictions are, then, their need for Christ to be God for them is necessary.

Which Jesus do you 'worship"?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Ideal S(s)tate

What is the ideal S(s)tate? An ideal state can only exist in an ideal State! Man is made to be free, while the State is to define proper boundaries of behavior (laws) for the ordering of society. An ideal state would allow enough freedom, so that the individual could choose amongst many valid values and goals.

In our world, we understand the importance of affirming human rights. It is only because governments are unjust that we agree to laws which define the rights of the individual, upholding and affirming dignity, which freedom guaruntees.

The Church cannot guaruntee human rights unless it refuses to identify "God" specifically. The Church should affirm and uphold the social structures that give a healthy environment for children to be raised, as well as a healthy and whole marriage where the partners are co-partners in God's grace of life. When God has been defined and identified by the Church's leadership too definitively, she has been used to intimidate and abuse individuals. The Church, after all, is defined by human membership and whatever "authority" that leadership determines defines the church. Human leadership have used their definitions of God and church to politicize their goals and sanitize their motives. The Church is a human instrument and is not an ideal State.

The State should consist of humans that agree upon the dignity of the individual. The individual should be the teleos of government. Each individual should be considered an equal member and an important part to the whole. While the individual is the goal of the group, the group must function within a framework of organizational structure. The organizational structure of our Representative Republic is the most ideal. While a Representative Republic is one aspect of governing over the structure, there must be a mutuality and accountability that is built within the structure, so the structure and governing leaders are accountable to the individuals they are to represent. But, as has been said that when the rulers start plundering the treasury for their own advantage, then we are in trouble. The Love of money is the root of all evil. This inordinate affection has led to the downfall of our Representative Republic and is the downfall of many in our country.

What then would hinder the self-interest that would be the inevitable outcome of a free society, and even one ruled by a distribution of power and a concern for the individual? The moral imperative to maintain society for one's own self-interest, as well as the other's self-interest would maintain a balance to our blindness when it comes to our own governance. Government should be understood to bring a healthy and whole ordered society for the individual and the family to function.

Therefore, the ideal State is run by leaders whose concern is for the country and not for self-interest alone. We must be a people that understands the importance of good government.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Religious "Right" of Suicide

I have been writing on a subject that I don't think I am quite finished with, suicide. Suicide, is the taking of one's life. Is this considered a fundamental right?

The religious right in America tout a "right to life" stance. They vote along pro-life lines and are politically active in conserving life in its many forms.

But, what about the "right" of suicide? The religious right believes that it is necessary to disciple others into Jesus' image. The Christ image is above all the call of the Christian faith. How is this accomplished? By crucifixtion, of course. True believers are committed to the extinct of not considering life, when it is theirs. This "death of self" is a rite of passage to the holiness message of "total consecration and total surrender", "self-denial", and "holiness/sanctification". This is really no different from the teachings of Buddhism about self-denial and coming to a state of Nirvana! So, what is so exclusivist about self-denial? it is only "religious teaching".

I believe that there are many goals that an individual can give their life to, but the individual must make that determination based upon their own personal value commitments. And they may differ from another believer's understanding of their values and goals (noble causes). An individual who does not take responsibility for his own life is prey for those who would manipulate religious teachings and use others for their own vision of what the "cause of Christ" is....and the result is a death to everything that distinguishes one individual from another. this is spirtual abuse. Dying to values that one believes in and is committed to is not what "dying to self" is about. A death to self brought on by another in the "name of God" annihlates the personhood of the individual, and this is about stealing, and killing. Certainly, the "pro-life" stance of the conservative would not uphold such religious teaching, calling suicide a God-sanctioned act. Don't we believe in a God that affirms life?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

An Apology for Those Who Have Suffered the Effects of Suicide

I must apologize. I should have known and been more sensitive. But, we all ignore some things that are right in front of us, in light of something that we are focusing on...

Ten years ago this past May, my brother committed suicide. It traumatized me and took me a long time to "get over". I'm still not over it, in the sense that it changed forever how I view God's intervention in life. And it has become a call for me to take responsibiltiy for myself. While obviously I do and have believed that social structures do influence our lives, they should not determine our lives, unless we choose for them to have that power.

Depression, though, can take its toil on motivation, and perserverance to overcome the limitations that have been place upon us from the outside. And some drug interventions do not help but exasperate the problem. My brother was on Prozac.

So, for anyone that has experienced a suicide in their extended "community", please forgive me for possibly putting any more "burden" and guilt on you than you already struggle with...You are ultimately not responsible, and even to the extent that you are, you must learn to forgive yourself and learn from it. Healing will take different people different amounts of time, so be patient and do not compare.

And please, if there is a need to talk to a 'friend", I am more than willing to be the annonomous one that has walked somewhat in your shoes.

Suicide, the Market, the Eigth Commandment, and Human Value

While waitng for my husband to come our from his office this morning, I heard on the news that a woman had attempted to take her life. The reason was blamed on the market. Anaylsis was given that the woman "had other problems" besides her mortgage.

Just this morning I couldn't sleep, so I decided to get up and write on my blog. The subject was on suicide and human value. In that entry I argued that life's meaning was given within the context of community and when the social structures do not affirm the life, there can be the response of suicide. Suicide is not done within an isolated context, but an incident that illustrates what has happened over a lifetime. It's "speech/act" is of a de-valued life.

This morning"s sermon was on the Eigth Commandment, "thou shalt not steal". In the sermon, my pastor argued that the OT's boundaries were different from the NT's. The Old Testament regards the boundaries of self and other. He argued that the Sermon on the Mount asked us to "give all" without any regard for "self" in how, or what was required. In fact, if we do not give, we are stealing, in effect, for all things belong to God. While I agree with this in premise, I wondered to myself, and this was before hearing of this woman's suicide, how in disregarding another's improper behavior toward you would enlarge the "greater good"? Wouldn't it only empower evil? and make a statement to the guilty that there needs to be no guilt? My pastor went on to make an illustration of a burglary he had experienced, where this young man broke into his house on four occassions. Wouldn't it be appropriate to get him help? And wouldn't part of the help be reabilitation for his behavior?

Nations certainly don't maintain the NT's standard of "turning the other cheek", unless one adheres to pacifism. I find that the "ideal" of the Sermon on the Mount is just that "ideal" in an imperfect world. Idealism is impractical. What I really think my pastor meant and what I believe the Sermon on the Mount means is that possessions should not "own us". That means we are not making decisions based solel y on the market. But, that does not mean that we do not consider the market, otherwise there is no justice in our form of government. Justice is not what the Sermon on the Mount is about, but mercy. And certainly, my pastor was not asking us to disregard justice.

What does my blog's early morning entry, the woman's suicide, and my pastor's sermon have in common? A person's value....A person's value is worth more than the money he makes or has, and yet, if the community, state, nation, condones market values on life, then my pastor's sermon becomes an absurdity to the individual whose life has been weighed and measured by those standards and not loved and embraced as an individual.

I wonder if the woman who attempted to take her life, was only acting out what society's message to her was in the first place?

Suicide and Other Incidental Tragedies

Suicide happens in American culture more than other civilized cultures. Some may think it is due to the violent nature of our culture in video games and T.V. While I don't doubt that this influences individuals. I believe that there is a much deeper root.

My mother and I were talking yesterday about how our culture has changed. In her generation, and right up until mine, which was the Baby Boomer, people had a sense of community. Community was where you belonged. People knew each other and neighbors were, well, neighborly. But, when the 60's came along, something else transpired in American hearts. The American heart of individualism, which wrought the American spirit of independence, self-assurance, and a self-reliance brought upon its heels a Revolution of major proportions. While today's culture is known as a "death culture", the 60's was one of "sexual revolution".

Divorce was really a taboo in the 50's, but the 60's pushed the limits of the forbidden. "Free love", Woodstock, and drugs was the culture's defining "traditions". "Communal living" was the replacement for marriage and was only a bandaid in America's seeping hemmorahge in shaping tommorow's child.

The disconnection from the broader community through divorce, "free love", drugs, and a resentment to the status quo made a major impact on society. Police officiers were "pigs", because they maintained the order of our society and represented repression of "free expression". The monster of individualism as the epitome of identification was born. Society had no power over this "superman".

Children born and raised on a culture of social isolation through the disconnect of society's "communities of identification" are subject to an alienation in their souls, a broken-ness of heart and a de-valuation of life. As the children approach the transition years when stressors to identity transpires, these children have little resistance to the external challenges when their internal messages are so strong. These internal messages are messages of self-hate and self-disrespect.

These "handicapped" children struggle to maintain a sense of dignity and value in life. If their parent's marriage was not valued, then what makes them of value? Why were they born and why do they continue to live? A continual sense that they must fight to justify their very existence is a hard mountain to climb, when they should be struggling to develop their "gift and talents" and find out about the adventures in life. Depression and despondency can result leaving the child with any desire to live.

Suicide is the exclaimation point to a de-valued life. A life that had been de-valued by the social structures that were meant to maintain and bless it. Suicide, though experienced by family and friends as horrendously confusing and painful, is only an incidental result of a life that had long before been extinguished.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ahmadinajad's Call for Radicalized and Politicized Action

Business Interests, Tneure Track, and Academic Freedom

Academic freedom is part of our Bill of Rights. The protection of freedom of speech is a necessity in a free society. This was understood to be protected in the university by tenure track. Tenure track assured the professor of a job. Tenure is a vote of confidence that the professor will be responsible and faithful in continuing to maintain an attitude of learning in a learning environment. Tenure allows the professor to speak of challenging subjects for the sake of education and the development of "knowledge". The Academy should be about the business of being stewards of God's gift of reason.

Tenure means that others with lesser knowledge affirm and respect knowledge and the professor in their choice of vocation. This environment breeds an openness to their educational understanding and input. This culture also breeds a humility because it affirms that God is too great to be confined within our own specific discipline or limited views, even in regards to one's specialty in disciplinary knowledge.

But, what happens if business interests interfere with accademic freedom? How can this be? Suppose there was an invention that was based upon Newton's understanding of gravity, and business interests were invested in this invention being protected. Wouldn't it limit the Academy in education, if the business interests would feel threatened by the new information of Quantum theory? At what costs, then, are the business interests? Is it only the costs of the moment's educational "loss" of Quantum theory? Or is it much more? And, is tenure track a way for business interest to over-ride their interests over the interests of education?

People have been endowed by their Creator with reason. Reason is a gift which must be developed within the Academy. The individual's development is at stake when business interests collide with the educational interests of the individual. Which is most important? The investment and monies that will be attained at the costs of the individual? Or is the individual more important than the business investment?

As a Christian, I would believe that the individual is more important than the investment, because the individual is not a commodity to be bought and sold, but a human being whose development must be nutured. We must re-assess our values as a "Christian society". Although I think it is right and good that an individual can pursue his own interests (investments), I don't believe that American culture should affirm the market to the extent it does. Academic freedom and tenure track is a value to be upheld!

Evolutionary Faith, Personhood, and Traditional Understanding, an Oxymoron?

Christian faith has changed depending on science's understanding of the physical world. Today's challenge is in understanding what defines the human person and faith.

Child psychologist, and human developmental theories all hold that the person is developed within the confines of the social structures of family, church, and society. These identification factors have been understood for years, but have recently been underlined by research in neuroscience. What happens to us in our childhood becomes imprinted on our brains, so understanding faith becomes about how a child is raised in a tradition. Tradition's conditioning helps to develop the child's social conscience, self-concept and self awareness.

But, is tradition, in a religious sense, necessary to develop the person into a respectable, self-regulating, self-motivated and self-directed individual? No, for reason is a part of the individual, irregardless of tradition. In fact, tradition may inhibit the full development of the individual, depending on the tradition's teachings and understanding of faith.

A mature faith and personhood believes and trusts that the convictions, understandings, and commitments of the individual in the present is not about "being right with God", but about being true to oneself, in one's understanding, convictions and commitments. It is resting in who God made you to be and extending yourself in areas that are values that affirm those understandings and commitments.

Social structures and tradition can inhibit or benefit the person in development and do not have to determine the person's mature commitments, identifications, values, or understandings.