Friday, June 17, 2011

In Defense of Faith - day 6

Christians and people motivated by the Judeo-Christian worldview have been at the forefront of moral activism throughout human history, certainly more so since the addition of "Christian" to Judeo-Christian. Yet their reputation has taken a beating and now atheists howl that "religion poisons everything." This mischaracterization can be largely traced back to the Scopes Trial of 1925.

Reporter H.L. Mencken covered the famous trial between those who wanted to promote evolution in school as a fact and the Christians who rightly recognized the dangerous outcomes of such an idea - social Darwinism, divisions of humanity, genocide, slavery, eugenics. A bitter foe of Christians and their representative at the trial, William Jennings Bryan, Mencken painted these foreward thinking believers as buffoons and worse. He stereotyped and caricatured those who had spent their lives dedicated to helping the downtrodden. As a result, Christianity experienced a major turning point.

Christians had been at the lead in every major fight for justice, but with the rejection and mischaracterizations now widespread in the media, this activism "came to an abrupt halt." They would not rise from the ashes for another 50 years. And when they did, the culture around them had changed in huge ways. The sleeping giant awoke to a nation with legalized abortion, no prayer in schools, and traditional society in upheaval. While they initially retook their role of champion for justice with an anger borne of great fear, the tone has come down in recent years. Christians are once again at the front of the pack in speaking up for the poor, the orphaned, and the widow.

Both believers and non-believers need to approach our current world with humility. Christians must recognize with pride the role they have played in history as advocates for the downtrodden, but at the same time recognize that in their zealousness, they can do more harm than good. In addition, at no time in history have all Christians been the reformers. Many times Christians battled Christians. Atheists must recognize their extremely limited role in the historic fight for human sanctity and their part in the worst massacres. They must acknowledge and respect the believers who are even today leading the charge. In fact most non-believer activists are actually motivated by their own victimhood rather than a pure altruistic "disinterested benevolence." We cannot rely on only the victims of injustice to lead the fight. We must have those who are willing to battle because it is the right thing to do. We create that mindset with the inculcation of the Judeo-Christian worldview.

Moving forward, Christians must answer the call of their sacred text, to recognize and fight for the sanctity of ALL human life, fight for justice (true justice, not the bastardized "social justice"), and act with disinterested benevolence. We must answer Wesley's call to:
"Do all the good you can
By all the means you can
In all the ways you can
In all the places you can
To all the people you can
For as long as you ever can."
Our Judeo-Christian faith requires it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In Defense of Faith - day 5

Finally, Brog tackles the Myth of Enlightenment Perfection. Many will say they don't need the Judeo-Christian worldviews, that they rely on the Enlightenment way of thinking. Of course, our most famous Enlightenment thinkers still regarded humans as divided into classes, whether it be based on race, nationality, gender, slave, free, religion or even physical and mental abilities. "Indeed, this idea - that certain groups of humans are inherently inferior to others - is nothing less than the mother of genocide." In taking a very utilitarian viewpoint and with their own inescapable biases and self-interest, the highly esteemed "enlightened" thinkers defended slavery, genocide, and eugenics. Brog uses example after example of the views of these intellectuals, people like Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Montesquieu, who believed contrary to the Judeo-Christian idea of the sanctity and equality of all human life.

It is tempting to say that these thinkers should be judged by the standards of their day rather than hold them up to modern sensibilities. This is true to an extent, however, "one need not judge these thinkers by our current standards to find them wanting. Men like Jefferson, Buffon, and Kant fall short when judged by the standards of contemporaries such as Wilberforce... who unequivocally rejected slavery and racism." They even fall short when compared to those who, centuries earlier, defended Native Americans in the name of Christianity.

Finally he traces the Enlightenment from Kant to Herder to Hegel to Marx and even to Hitler. Their ideas, when enacted apart from their theoretical beginnings and put into practical reality gave us the bloodiest century in human history. "The twentieth century was, from start to finish, a century punctuated by genocide. The past century was truly without precedent when it comes to both the number of genocides and the vast death toll they left behind. Almost every one of these genocides was motivated by one or more of the modern ideologies of racism, nationalism, and Communism. It is bitterly ironic, yet unavoidably true, that the greatest atrocities in human history were fueled by these competing visions for the perfection of man."

Jews and Christians already know that man can not be perfected except through the grace of God alone. Discarding God and the sanctity of all human life is neither moral nor particularly "enlightened." These God-abandoning philosophers have much to answer for!

Monday, June 13, 2011

In Defense of Faith - day 4

Next, Brog confronts the "Myths about Judeo-Christian Atrocities," specifically the only two named, the Inquisition, and the Crusades. He begins by showing the shallowness of the debate: critics have to reach back hundreds of years to prove the harm in Christianity. They then  make the leap to "therefore all religion is poisonous and should be rejected." Discussing each, he shows "the wide gap between rhetoric and reality."

As far as the Crusades, the atrocities attributed to the Crusaders, and by extension to all Christians, can be traced almost exclusively to one man, Count Emicho of Flonheim. He and his followers attacked Jewish towns in the Rhine Valley, going directly against statements from the Pope and town Bishops not to hurt the Jews. It was these town Bishops that put their own lives on the line to protect the Jews from the murderous mob headed by Emicho. Far from killing tens of thousands or millions as its infamy seems to suggest, only three to four thousand Jewish lives were lost in the Crusades - a tragedy, to be sure, especially given such a small population, but hardly in the same category as a Hitler (6 million), Stalin, (100 million) or a Mao (70 million). Yet the "Crusades" is thrown around as a reason to hate Christians and to disregard Christianity. These murderous thugs never had the church sanction or theological support. They were anti-Semites, pure and simple and used an ongoing war for territory between the west, "Christian" nations and the eastern, Muslim nations as an excuse to slaughter innocents.

As for the Inquisition, it too was similarly limited in scope and much of its abuses were not sanctioned by the official church. Again, the Inquisition's horrors are the story of anti-Semitism run amok. Jews had been forced by earlier prosecutions to convert to Christianity. This conversion had it's upside as many doors were now opened to this community. They succeeded in their new-found positions so well, and were protected by their Christian faith, that the anti-Semites had to find a new way to prosecute them. So was born the Inquisition and it's attempt to prove the converts guilty of heresy and of continuing to practice their Judaism. All together it is believed that 2000 people were put to death on the charge of heresy. Again, this is a tragedy for those at the time, but a very small number in the scale of global tragedies. The church again played the role of trying to curb the abuses, but once again the passions and interests of the people triumphed. The church can only do so much with decrees and threats of excommunication to the perpetrators, yet history slaps the church with the one word indictment, "Inquisition" and all rational discussion is silenced. It is unfortunate for the church and the faithful that they live in a world governed by human failings. The church and Christianity gets the blame for what it did not start and was powerless to prevent, despite her best efforts, time and again.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

In Defense of Faith - day 3

Finally, David Brog confronts the Myths that surround the Judeo-Christian worldview, beginning with the Myth of Biblical Immorality.
Just as the Constitution had within it the seeds of it's own perfection, despite early culturally-constrained language and compromises, David Brog states that the Bible must be subjected to interpretation and viewed in the light of its most dedicated adherents resultant behavior. Too often the harshest criticism of the Bible comes from those without a proper understanding of the text. Whether it's the alleged advocating of genocide or slavery Brog makes a convincing case that those who understand the Bible best, interpret it in the most humanitarian manner.

He begins with the command to wipe out the tribes living in Canaan when the Israelites arrived there. He shows how both Jewish and Christian scholars believe this applies to a one-time event and in no way calls for current annihilation of a people group. While Brog does not make this point, many scholars point out the excessive evil committed by these groups and the 400 years they were given to repent. The Amalakites were particularly evil towards the Israelites in picking off their weakest members as they journeyed toward the promised land. Today these scriptures are used to urge the faithful to destroy the internal Amalakite - our own inherent evil predisposition.

Next, he discusses the topic of the Biblical acceptance of and seeming encouragement of slavery. First he makes a distinction in the wording. "Slavery" in the Bible in no way represented "Slavery" as understood in America. Biblical "slavery" was in fact more like indentured servanthood. People willing sold themselves into slavery when in crippling situations. In addition, they were to be treated extremely well, with the same living conditions as the master. Finally, if a slave was injured, he would be freed immediately. In face, "man-stealing" was a capital crime! But people with ulterior motives ignored these Biblical facts and in order to preserve their own economic well-being, claimed the Bible supported their "peculiar institution." But just as their brothers in the faith were the only ones to defend the American Natives, Christians were the only ones who stood up to a hostile society, risking everything to end slavery. "Given the enormous price that would have to be paid to end slavery, it is easy to understand why so many Christians were willing to accept the pro-slavery narrative. The only surprise is that so many other Christians nevertheless saw the truth, answered the call, and stood up against the great evil of their day. It is a testament to the power of the Judeo-Christian idea that it - and it alone - was able to inspire and sustain a mass abolition movement in so hostile an environment."

It is the record of noble activism that should be the gauge of the Bible's true meaning. Time and again, it is the true believers that stood up to the evils of this world. Yet the cynics ignore this and point instead to their own twisted understanding of a book many of them have never read, much less studied.

Friday, June 10, 2011

In Defense of Faith - day 2

David Brog moves on from the Christian's role in doing all they could to save natives in America from genocide to the Judeo-Christian idea against slavery. He begins with such luminaries as William Wilberforce in Britain and his influence on the American abolitionist, William Lloyd Garrison. He traces the roots of abolition in America to the 1st and 2nd Great Awakenings and highlights the involvement of the churches in every step of the way. His case for role of the Judeo-Christian idea of the equality of all mankind in ending the slave trade and eventually the institution itself is quite powerful and compelling. As a fellow Christian, it makes me proud to be part of this heritage.

He contrasts these noble believers who, relying on their strong faith in a just God, fought evil with all they had, to the societies where a belief in God was not only not fostered, but openly abandoned. He states, "The great insight of the Judeo-Christian tradition is that we are the source of the evil in this world. The great promise of the Judeo Christian tradition is its power to inspire men to overcome the evil in their hearts. The West has yet to produce another system that has enabled so many people to so effectively transcend our impoverished genetic morality." The first attack on God began with Darwin. Seeing way to effectively break from "Jewish nonsense," Hitler embraced the survival of the fittest advocated by Darwin's disciples. "When Hitler cut his society loose from Judeo-Christian morality, he unleashed and encouraged the very worst in human nature. His new evolutionary ethics opened the door wide to some of the most abhorrent practices in human history. These horrors returned almost instantly."

Brog moves from the godless terrors of the Nazis to the horrors of Communism. "Soviet ideology was strikingly similar to Nazi ideology. Both flatly rejected the Judeo-Christian idea of the sanctity and equality of all humans.... In each case, these regimes acted on their theories to the exclusion of any external morality. Each enslaved millions, Each murdered millions. By almost any metric of human suffering the crimes of the Soviets rival those of the Nazis." Neither of these regimes represented anything new or rare in human history, rather they both reflect the danger of a God-rejecting society. From the Spanish Conquistadors to Mao, atrocities produced by these worldviews stemmed from the same fatal flaw - the rejection of the Judeo-Christian idea of the equality of man which they replaced with their own morality, thereby stripping a designated outgroup of their humanity.

Next Brog uses the example of the Civil Rights Movement to once again contrast the godless with those who understood and respected the Biblical call for the brotherhood of all mankind. In a wonderful connection back to the Judeo-Christian morality, he follows the Reverend Martin Luther King to Ghandi to Tolstoy back to Christian abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. After detailing many of the offenses suffered in segregated America, Brog quotes Catholic thinker, Thomas Merton, "It is simply impossible to comprehend how these and so many other heroes were able to persevere in their struggle without falling victim to despair, hate, or violence without understanding the deep Christian faith which inspired and sustained them."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Teen's dad spends school year waving at bus, embarrassing son

This is hilarious! When a dad finds out the his son's school bus will be passing by his house every morning, he makes it a point to come outside and wave as it goes by... in costume!

And my personal favorite...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

In Defense of Faith: The Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity

Religion is constantly maligned and David Brog takes it upon himself in the book, In Defense of Faith: The Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity, to defend the Judeo-Christian legacy as it has impacted the West. He begins with the most basic of all ideas, that of the sanctity of human life. Making a very powerful case for the fact that it is not innate or genetic or rational or even obvious that all human life should be valued on the basis solely of its existence, he states that it is culture which tells us which humans are worthy of value. The Judeo-Christian belief in the sanctity of ALL human life is a not universal by any means. It stems from the very beginning of the Bible in which God made man in His image. It is for this reason alone, and no other that all human life is to be valued. No other culture has come to the conclusion that all human life is sacred apart from this basic Biblical tenet. One need look no further than Nazi Germany to see that if Christianity is rejected, even a modern civilized society can devolve very quickly into an us and them society. And where there is a “them” there are no limits to the amount of dehumanizing possible. This scenario plays out throughout all cultures and all times.

Brog states, “We will neither inherit nor evolve a broader zone of altruism; we must teach it. Only when our culture instructs us to love and value all humans no matter what their clan or country will our compassion extend more broadly. It is our culture, not our genes, that we must vigilantly guard from contamination.” Without the preservation of the Judeo-Christian ethic of the universality of the value of human life, we will revert to our tribal roots of limited human compassion.

Not only do Christians believe in the inherent sanctity of human life, but they put it into practice through observable action. While Christianity has undergone a tug of war theologically between faith-based or works-based salvation, those who take the faith seriously have always seen a need to act in ways described as “disinterested benevolence.” Brog gives example after example of serious Christians standing up for the Native Americans in what was to be the world’s most horrific genocide. While the perpetrators of the atrocities called themselves Christians, those who took the Biblical command to love your neighbor as yourself to heart repeatedly and against great odds stood up for the beleaguered and oppressed natives. He makes a compelling case that although their actions largely failed to protect those most vulnerable people, these brave believers were motivated by their Judeo-Christian principles. All others without such firm beliefs succumbed to the prevailing mores of the day – rape and pillage in order to gain more wealth.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Losing My Cool - Redemption

I almost stopped reading the book. And that is an extremely rare thing. The "hip-hop culture" as he calls it discouraged me to the point of hopelessness. So self-destructive a lifestyle seemed completely irredeemable.

Then I got to chapter 7, "Seeing the Light." Thomas pours himself into his new major, Philosophy, after his awkward summer home, and suddenly the blinders fall from his eyes. "For all my powers of projection, though, I failed to anticipate the extent to which daily exposure to serious ideas and methods of thinking would alter me. I didn't realize that once you leave home and see new and more complex things, you might just lose the desire to measure yourself by the old, provincial standards; they cease to motivate you even when you want them to; you set your eyes on new and higher (though they used to seem lower) sights."

By pouring himself into his new-found love of philosophy, he meets his father again. He finds the influences that so propelled his dad to rise above his station in life, born to a single mother in a deeply racist culture. He devours existentialism and it's belief that we are what we act like. We create ourselves. He relates this to the countless young black people he knew striving to be wannabe gangsters and thugs and sees the tremendous waste in such a contrived existence. They had lost their true selves, their true identity for absolutely nothing. "As I thought of myself and my friends, all I could see was that the They into which we have been folded growing up had no dignity to it, no honor; it was shameful and misguided, an empty promise at best, a cruel hoax at worst."

Thomas moves to Paris for a time to escape home and all the trappings that pull at him. Wanting to discover who he really is, he must get away from all seductions and expectations to be someone he is not. He brings two friends from his neighborhood with him at one point and watches them come the realization he had come to himself, not too long ago. "... inevitably it is going to strike you that you have been lied to. You have been straight-up lied to, and not just in the most obvious way... It's worse than that; the swindling has gone down far closer to home. You have been lied to by people you have known personally, your older siblings and your classmates, your cousins and your lovers... You have been lied to and now you know that you have been lied to and you can't deny it and you are naked."

Thomas ends with a hopefulness I do not feel. He is an extraordinary young man, born into extraordinary circumstances, yet barely escapes the pull of the 'hood, and "keeping it real." His hope is that black young people will experience the renaissance he went through. He hopes the current generation will see that they have not realized the promise laid out by their forefathers in the fight for freedom.

He ends by stating, "For more than thirty years the black world has revolved around the inventors of hip-hop values, and this has been a decisive step backward. My generation, if we are to make it and to make good on the debt we owe our ancestors, must find a new vocabulary and another point of view. We have to reclaim the discipline and the spirit we have lost. We have to flip the script on what it means to be black... we have drawn this grotesque with our own hand."

For my part, I hope his hope is well-placed. Knowing the "white culture" like I do, I'm doubtful. White elites love to congratulate themselves on their openness and tolerance. They celebrate multi-culturalism and would be the last people to condemn the hip-hop culture as "a decisive step backwards." They clamor to be friends with blacks who deride other blacks as "Uncle Toms" or sell outs. They will do all they can to keep blacks from thinking for themselves and going off the plantation by straight up lying to them and calling all opposition racist. They would never allow blacks to engage in thoughtful debates that may cause some of them to question their white betters. Whites promote the hip-hop culture as they can make money off of it. They care nothing of the people they are hurting. I cringed when I saw Cee Lo Green (author and singer of Grammy award winning F*** You) heavily promoted on NBC's "The Voice." Why are white people doing this? Because deep down so many of them want to be "cool" as well. Not cool to the point of self-destruction, only an idiot or a black person would strive to be that cool (they think, but won't say), but considered cool by the ultra-cool black culture and not derided as some kind of "cracker."

I hold these views to be deeply racist. These condescending whites will smile and pat the heads of Ebonic-speaking youths and say it's their culture and we must not judge. They will look the other way as children are allowed to listen to denigrating and destructive music and call themselves open minded. They will pat themselves on the back for their tolerance and acceptance of the very forces that are destroying a proud and great people. And by doing so, they effectively "keep blacks in their place" better than any Jim Crow laws or blatant racism ever did. All the while they will toast themselves for being the good guys.

Of course, they would never let their own children act this way. Their children are white, after all.

I'm sorry Thomas, but I see a large group of the intellectuals that you love holding back the people you are fighting for with the "bigotry of low expectations."

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Losing My Cool - Glimmers of hope for Thomas

Slowly, and in very limited amounts, Thomas begins to raise his head above the disasterous culture he so desperately wants to be a part of and sees glimpses of another life. Thomas spends several weeks sick with infections leading to asthmatic attacks. Separated from his few black friends at Georgetown at this time he befriends a couple of "white" dormmates (to him, everyone not black is white, regardless of actual race).

He begins to be exposed to music, food, entertainment, and language previously unknown. One particularly humiliating experience occurs when his new friend "Playboy" asks him to pick up a baguette from a ritzy food market. Thinking "baguette" is French for "little bag" he brings a little bag. When Playboy realizes that Thomas doesn't know what a baguette is, the split-second look of pity/confusion/understanding pierces Thomas' soul and he must decide. Revert to the carefully crafted 'hood persona and rage about useless knowledge of types of bread, or realize that the tiny world created by he and his friends in which bread or any other fine food is never discussed has left him stilted and shallow. He suddenly sees that in trying so hard to be genuinely black, he has missed out on huge portions of life that white people enjoy every day.

He becomes excommunicated from his black community at Georgetown for questioning the hierarchy, the rigid caste system of "coolness", and moving in circles outside the group. He decides he no longer wants to sit at the "colored table" at lunch. He returns home for the summer to place no longer holding the attraction it once had. He is stunned at the life he once lived and the friends who still live it. They lived stuck in permanent adolescence.

Returning to school, he realizes, "An appearance cryogenically frozen at age fifteen can be appealing for so many reasons, none more powerful thant he fact that abusing sex, reeking of ignorance, using drugs, fighting, and flunking all appear more appropriate when - regardless of numerical age - you look like something less than a adult. I decided to I was ready now to take responsibility as a man for my appearance." This change, wearing size 26 ranther than size 36 pants, eschewing the "pajamas" as he called the ubiquitous sweat suit, and lacing up his shoes, led to startling revision of himself and the way others treated him.

In Thomas, I am starting to see glimmers of hope that he can become a full-fledged version of the man he was born to be. But, even by his own reckoning, his circumstances are so rare and the pull of black authenticity so strong, I don't know if there is hope for too many others.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Losing My Cool - "Keeping it Real"

As Thomas continues under his father's tutelage, he deeply desires to be "authentically black." This is where things get horrifying. While constantly pumping the hip-hop music which scripts his life, he develops a persona of which I suspect his dad would be deeply disappointed.

Now I recognize that I am a sheltered little white girl, but the life he paints of young black people "keeping it real" involves such self-destructive behavior that I felt shocked and disgusted to my core. Can it be that in order to be considered "cool" and "authentic" in black culture you must engage in every hedonistic pursuit imaginable? That to try to better oneself is to betray the race?

In one particularly disheartening passage he describes his trips to Howard University, only a 30 minute drive from his own Georgetown. "I saw a giant masquerade ball, a gangsta party where middle-class college kids - the sons and daughters of doctors and lawyers from suburban enclaves outside Atlanta and Chicago (north side) - as if just to prove that the were not middle-class, mingled and flirted with the street and everyone got dressed up as thugs and hustlers and hoes. And this vision corresponded neatly with the images I saw on television and in the D.C. clubs with the way my friends got down back home in Jersey, with the way the faux-thugs and athletes carried themselves at Georgetown. This was real. "

And these were the good ones! The ones that had escaped the life of crime and poverty that captures too many black youths. The ones who parents slaved and dreamed of a better life for their college-educated progeny. The ones that were supposed to "make it" and bring their race with them. The ones that carried future generations, yet unborn, on their shoulders. These young people were lowering and degrading themselves, abandoning their shot at a successful life, sinking into the gutter to be like those left behind, all in a desperate, almost suicidal attempt to fit in, to be cool, to keep it real.

It churned my stomach to see such self-destructive behavior. Where is the hope?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Losing My Cool

This book tells the story of a young man raised by a white mother and an extremely scholarly black father in a white middle-class neighborhood, yet still feels the pull of identifying with the black hip-hop culture. While he studies the classics at home after school with his dad, he turns into a different persona at his high school. He recognizes the inconsistency, but finds it absolutely necessary to play the role of a tough ganster youth.

Two statements from his dad lodge in his mind and get him thinking. After winning a basketball game, his dad tells him, "If you're going to compete, then do your best, son always do your best, but remember that I really don't care if we ever have another black athlete or entertainer." Later after getting into a fight with his girlfriend and resorting to his ganster persona and beating her, his dad, at a loss for what to say, breaks the boys heart with these words, "Well, let me just ask you something, then, son, because I really don't have the answer. If you had spent years of your life trying to do something, son, trying to rear a thoroughbred, say, a thoroughbred who would go on to run beautiful races and make you proud, if you had sacrificed everything for this thoroughbred, giving it everything you could, giving it he best you had to offer, if you hoped that this thoroughbred would represent the best that you and your people could achieve - well after all this effort, after all this time and hard work and hope, after all that, would you be able to just sit back and let your thoroughbred run around in the mud with a herd of mules and donkeys? I mean, it might get hurt doing that, right? It might really get hurt. Or - and this would be even worse, in my opinion - it might somehow start to believe that it, too, was a donkey or  a mule"

The question here becomes, if a man raised in a two-parent, middle class neighborhood, with a dad that spent hours every day educating him to rise above the hip-hop black culture cannot do so, is there any hope at all for millions of other young black people to break out of a destructive lifestyle that demands a certain persona to be considered "authentically black"?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Revolution Recap

I like a lot of what Ron Paul has to say. He is brave in putting forth radical and revolutionary ideas. It's these same radical and revolutionary ideas that our forefathers articulated and fought for. He simply seeks to return to their wisdom and for that he is branded "kooky, out-there, weird, and dangerous."

I say, "Don't start the Revolution without me!"

This is a must read book for anyone interested in the least bit in what is going on in the world around us. That means everyone must read this book. Agree or disagree, it's a great discussion starter. Written for the common man, it will challenge you to think outside our usual two-party boxes and consider something truly revolutionary - LIBERTY!