Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

“But I was born this way.”

October 1st, 2011 4 comments


Time to re-engage. Since I seem to like hate mail, I figured to jump in with a splash.

Recently, I was engaged in a lively argument/discussion about Rick Santorum’s little dustup at the Republican Debates. I referenced a GOProud press release (mostly ’cause I like the organization) that called Santorum out and demanded an apology. My original post (on a social networking site) read like this:

Not that he ever had my vote, but the cowardice in failing to simply answer the question up front, his entire preamble to answering the question and his failure to even thank the soldier for his service reveals the kind of bigotry that is second nature.

As for the boos that some of my liberal fellow pundits were “so terribly shocked” by, pack sand and get in the real world. You see the same kind of boos directed at people who support the defense of marriage act (or name some other contested policy) in a liberal audience. Get over the fact that people have differing opinions and keep your eye on the ball.

Santorum… Apologize.

The responses ranged from heated to well reasoned. I implied both that Santorum was a coward and a bigot. I was called out on the bigotry charge, for good reason (especially since I had just complained about living amongst a bunch of moon bats that sling the charges of racist, bigot, homophobe, etc., at the slightest criticism of their position). Kind of galling to get called out for something I find particularly egregious. So I retracted and apologized for the charge of “bigot,” but will definitely keep the charge of cowardice ~ specifically being a moral coward about answering a direct yes/no question and the horseshit equivocation in order to justify it.

I like debate. I like argument (when you understand it in its more classical definition, or even as legal sharps might define it). This lively discussion also raised an issue I discussed on my old Skalduggery site, and I decided to resurrect it since it garnered so much hate mail. So then, here’s the old post:

A few days ago I participated in a hackneyed discussion with some fellow officers at work. It centered on the nature and morality of homosexuality. Mostly, I am tired of the topic, but I also realize the “controversy” is here to stay for some time to come. The reason I mention the topic today is that the tired line of argument that was used to justify homosexual behavior is ultimately so ridiculous. So then, before you tune out, let’s make a few things clear. First, I am not going to address the morality or immorality of homosexual behavior per se. Second, I am not going to address the truth or falsity of whether there is or is not a “gay gene,” or whether homosexual behavior is biologically determined. Finally, the aim of this post is not to provide a positive or negative judgment about homosexual behavior (update: since I have several gay friends, I want to convince them to use a different argument).

Before I do get to the aim of the post, since part of the background is about the notion of being “born gay,” it seems reasonable to provide a few starting points for independent research concerning the “gay gene.” For a somewhat “moderate” view of things that contains a bit of history and looks at some of the research from an obviously postmodernist perspective try out PBS’ Is Homosexuality Inherited? by Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet. For a contrarian and less than moderate view that traces both the history and science involved try out Ryan Sorba’s The Born Gay Hoax. With these as a starting point, finding any number of social science perspectives that fit with one’s preconceived notions of homosexual behavior should be a breeze!

Now then, what is the aim of this post? Simply to make the point that claiming one was “born this way” is not a justification for any kind of behavior. The correlative to this is clearly that homosexuality primarily describes a behavior – not an identity.

During our discussion, the group I’ll call the “religious right wing-nuts,” argued belligerently that homosexual behavior was a sin, morally wrong, and should be legally sanctioned. The group I’ll call the “loony left nutroots,” argued just as belligerently that homosexuals were “born that way,” and therefore should not be punished any more than someone who is born black should be punished for an accident of birth. Mostly I was just listening, but when the “born that way” comment was made I “couldn’t help myself” and said, “That’s an incredibly poor argument for justifying homosexual behavior.” I was pretty much immediately attacked as a bigot and Nazi like the right wing-nuts were being attacked. The following paragraphs reflect what I tried to explain to both parties.

At this point, I don’t care whether homosexual behavior is right or wrong. You guys on the right are saying a specific BEHAVIOR is wrong, while you guys on the left ignore the behavior being addressed and try to equate the behavior to an identity. The point is truly simple: two guys or two girls having sex is nothing like simply being black. You guys on the loony left need a new argument! Don’t use this one, it’s useless!

For the sake of argument, let’s pretend for a moment that homosexuality is somehow like race – one is simply born that way – and that sodomy is illegal. One is not punished for being black, white, or brown; however, a black, white, or brown person will be punished for murdering his neighbor – because it is against the law. Likewise, a person would not be punished for being a homosexual; one would be punished for a behavior called sodomy.

Now then, here in today’s America, very few states punish homosexual behavior. However, to extend this line of thinking a bit further, let’s make another comparison. Again, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that there is a strong biological/genetic component to homosexuality. Let us also pretend, for the sake of argument, that there is a strong biological/genetic component to pedophilia. Since pedophiles are “born that way,” and are unlikely to change their sexual preference, should that somehow make their attendant behaviors as legal and moral as the homosexuals’ behaviors?

Do not think that this comparison is a stretch. Dr. Michael Werthheimer in A Clash of Worldviews interview, while discussing pedophilia and the fact that pederasty was normalized in ancient Greek culture made the following comments in response to the question: “[I]s ANYTHING, in your view, an objective disorder? Would you consider pedophilia normal and desirable, if a particular society says it is? Could a pedophilic relationship ever be “good”?

I’m sure that various somatogenic problems due to severe brain trauma may be close to “objective” disorders. But I know of no convincing evidence that even pedophilia is harmful to the boy. In ancient Greece, for example, a pedophilic relationship with a young boy was viewed as the ideal kind of relationship for an older man. What’s the actual evidence–not just principled moral prejudgment–that such a relationship is damaging to the boy?

That’s why I said the “born gay” notion is not the point. If people (whether gay or straight) fail to think about the premises of their arguments and the logical conclusions that can be drawn from those premises, then too soon simple identity becomes a justification for immorality and illegal behavior. So, to my conservative straight friends, listen to what is actually being said when you’re in one of these discussions 🙂  As for my friends I refer to as loony left nutroots, please find a better argument! But especially my gay friends (liberal or conservative), bail on this lame justification. Goodness, “what happens between consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes,” I believe, is still a much better start!


Restricting Freedom of Speech

April 4th, 2011 2 comments

If you haven’t visited The Virginian, take a trip on by for this tidbit: The Virginian: U.S. flag burning: OK…Koran burning: Restricted. I’ll be attempting fuller and richer posts of my own soon, but I had to get back in the swing of this blogging business the easy way… with someone else’s work 🙂  Be seein’ ya!

Intellectuals, Graduates, and ummm

June 10th, 2010 6 comments

This post was initially headed in the direction of parsing a little history around the word intellectual. It just didn’t come together as a single post, and I am not great at separating a long post into constituent parts – so the beginning of my posts on men of letters as they were once called, will begin next week. On the other hand, during the course of my research (actually, I was avoiding the work and watching PJTV’s Bill Whittle), I ran across a video by a guy over at PJTV that gave a graduation commencement address that is unlikely to be heard. You might have heard of this guy; his name is Bill Whittle.

My generation was pampered beyond good sense, we were molly coddled and told a pack of lies – all with good intentions – “yes, you’re a special, unique, creative little soul…” and as a consequence, I wonder if we have failed our own children by placing notions of self-esteem above both common sense and reality. Have we done our children a disservice? Bill Whittle’s recent serving of Afterburner: Graduation Nation, really hits the mark. It’s another installment that is worth the ten minutes it takes to watch it, and it strikes at least tangentially on my topic of intellectuals…

Part of what has motivated me to write a series on intellectuals is in response to current “experts,” both within and without our current administration, speaking ex cathedra on matters us common folk simply wouldn’t understand. Online, print, and video articles seem to have taken up this topic with a certain verve. I’ve also just about finished a couple of books that have seriously sparked my interest and curiosity. The first is Intellectuals and the American Presidency: Philosophers, Jesters, and Technicians by Tevi Troy. The second is by an author whom I greatly admire, Thomas Sowell, and his newest book is Intellectuals and Society.

I often find it depressing that many will use “quotable quotes” from books or movies without understanding both the author’s intent and the context of quotation. I have been guilty of this on too many occasions, and I understand the desire. For example, in keeping with the subject on both counts, a common Thomas Jefferson quote used throughout the media from blogs to movies is: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” This is from a letter written to William Smith while Jefferson was in Paris, dated November 13, 1787. A more complete quote that reveals some of the context is illuminating:

What country before ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. Link to the letter

Changes the tenor of the quote just a little bit, hey? I was honored by my oldest daughter when she called one day and said, “Dad, you’ve got to watch The Rock! You’re the Ed Harris character. Get it. Watch it.” So I got it. I watched it. And was flattered beyond measure – and yet hoped that I was more like the Michael Biehn or Sean Connery character. Now I’m not so sure, and I think my daughter had a better insight into her old man than, well, the old man did. Ed Harris uses Jefferson’s line (only a part) in protest of lying and uncaring government. He and Sean Connery’s characters were thinkers, men of letters, intellectuals. Where have our intellectuals gone wrong? As a teaser for what’s to come, I’ll share something out of Thomas Sowell’s preface to his book:

Distinguished professors, gifted poets, and influential journalists summoned their talents to convince all who would listen that modern tyrants were liberators and that their unconscionable crimes were noble, when seen in the proper perspective. Whoever takes it upon himself to write an honest intellectual history of the twentieth-century Europe will need a strong stomach.

But he will need something more. He will need to overcome his disgust long enough to ponder the roots of this strange and puzzling phenomenon. ~Professor M. Lilla, Columbia University, in his book The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics

Certainly the defense of both Mao and Lenin by our last few crops of intellectuals is confusing… considering that together they have killed their millions, in fact, more than all of America’s war casualties on both sides. A strong stomach indeed.

So family, friends, and readers all, remember, though I gave up religion for lent, I still find wonderful verses in the bible – as I still read it. Remember I Corinthians 9:24-27:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

Remember to watch the video! Click a picture or the link at the top of the post.

Tear me up in the comments 😀

Cheers all

Obeying Your Thirst

February 4th, 2010 No comments

Another Sort of Temple

The shingled gray of clouded
thunder shook me in the trees
on Little Digger Mountain.

Roiling the rain,
white flashes of lightning
seared holes in the sky, and the air

clapped back in on itself, with me,
standing there in the trees
on Little Digger Mountain.

I stepped off the bank,
knee deep, and let the river rush
through me.  Swelling, rain gorged,

the Alsea slapped my thighs.
I cupped my hands
and drank the sky.

Marginally injured, feeling a little creative (Thanks Jeff and Susan), so your stuck with photography and a poem this Thursday 😉

Cheers all!

Ft. Hood Redux

November 19th, 2009 6 comments

Islamist CartoonI opened this new version of Skalduggery with a post concerning cowardice and virtues that had as its triggering subject an article by Christopher Hitchens. It happened that I disagreed with Hitchens in that case – I found his claim that “religion poisons everything” unconvincing. More, it’s often easier to find ideological zealotry outside of religion; a god was not required for the butchery perpetrated by Mao, Lenin, or Hitler. Religion has produced some of the finest episodes in mankind’s short history; however, it has also been conducive to some of the worst intolerance in our history. I wonder how Muslims would respond to Hitchens’ most recent article and my commentary on it?

In Christopher Hitchins’ latest article for Slate, HARD EVIDENCE: Seven salient facts about Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, he doesn’t just outline seven salient facts concerning the shooter at Ft. Hood, he also provides three salient characteristics of the Muslim death-squad type. Since I’m not really going to focus on the seven salient facts of the article, I encourage you to take a trip over to Slate and read the article. Hitchens opens this way:

The admonition not to rush to judgment or jump to conclusions might sound fair and prudent enough, perhaps even statesmanlike when uttered by the president, as long it’s borne in mind that such advice is itself a judgment that is more than halfway to a conclusion. What it plainly implies in the present case is that the actions of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan should not be assumed in any meaningful way to be related to his Muslim faith. (Slate 20091116:1146)

It is easy to see that the president’s admonition not to rush to judgment is in fact a judgment. If you haven’t seen his video address concerning the “Ft. Hood Tragedy,” then here it is for your consumption.

Just to reassure my readers… I. Am. Not. Rushing to judgment. If you’ve read my posts, then you know I have little patience for chowder headed extremists of any stripe. Unlike Hitchens, I am actually quite tolerant of most religions having been a devout follower of a religion at one time myself – I gave it up for lent. However, like Hitchens, “I do not say that all practitioners of woman-hating, anti-Semitic, sadomasochistic suicide immolations are themselves insane, but I do say that the teaching itself is demented. In the same way, I do not say that all Muslims are terrorists, but I have noticed that an alarmingly high proportion of terrorists are Muslim” (Slate 20091116:1146)… especially in the last 25 years.

Hitchens then points out that the “gallant major,” the sarcasm is obvious in the original text (ok, dry humor for my fellow seminarians), may have been subject to a little ill treatment, but only up to a point. Hitchens reminds us that the major’s parents were given refuge here, that he joined an all-volunteer army, and was given permission by omission to “vent extremely noxious opinions about members of other faiths, to say nothing about his adopted country” (Slate 20091116:1146). To drive a point home that is apparently lost on some members of our citizenry, he reminds them:

Black Americans used to be segregated. Jewish recruits were mercilessly hazed, as were men or women who looked as if they might be gay. Did any of them ever come up with an act of mass murder as a response? Did any of them ever offer a black or Jewish or gay ideology in justification of it? Would they have earned sympathy and understanding if they had? By the time the mushy “pre-post-traumatic” school was done with the story, Maj. Hasan was not just acquitted of being a bad Muslim. He was more or less exonerated of having even done a bad deed (Slate 20091116:1146).

The next portion of the article should come as no surprise to people paying attention. A person worrying about the motives and intentions of a Muslim colleague is not “Islamophobic” in circumstances such as these. Take a gander over at the HuffPo on this subject and you’ll find assorted complaints about the right-wingnuts who mention these concerns – oh, and to be honest, there are actually a vanishingly small number of very legitimate complaints about behaviors this atrocity has spawned. I guess we Americans, whether Muslim, Christian, Jew, or atheist just can’t seem to follow the president’s advice on this one. On the other hand, it seems obvious that people will respond to an event of this magnitude – and Christopher Hitchens closing remarks seem especially appropriate:

I wrote some years ago that the three most salient characteristics of the Muslim death-squad type were self-righteousness, self-pity, and self-hatred. Surrounded as he was by fellow shrinks who were often very distressed by his menacing manner, Maj. Hasan managed to personify all three traits—with the theocratic rhetoric openly thrown in for good measure—and yet be treated even now as if the real word for him was troubled. Prepare to keep on meeting those three symptoms again, along with official attempts to oppose them only with therapy, if that. At least the holy warriors know they are committing suicide (Slate 20091116:1146).

Somehow “Cheers” doesn’t seem like the appropriate sign off for this post. My daughters and wife have a perfectly serviceable adieu –

Love and light to ALL of you.

Of Virtue and Liberty

August 13th, 2009 4 comments

Once upon a time religions were categorized or classified as either Apollonian or Dionysian. The Apollonian faiths were more cerebral, focused on knowledge, poetry, and the arts. Dionysian faiths were more earthy and visceral, focusing praise, celebration, fellowship. Think in terms of Episcopalians and any of the many Charismatic churches. In a variety of ways, western systems of government can be classified in just such a fashion.

Today, it is commonly believed that our government is patterned on the democratic Greek city states. The Greeks were the Apollonians of government. This is cerebral man, theoretical government. Think in terms of the polis, policy, police, and of course, our word politics. We too often forget the very real impact of the Romans on our system of government. From Rome we get civility, citizen, civilization – being civic minded. Central to Roman government was our visceral man – love of country forged a Roman’s perspective on citizenship. “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” – It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. One can see the root for our word patriot in that Latin sentence.

Perhaps the most fascinating and one of the more important features of the Roman Republic was its notion of the auctoritas. Almost ancestor worship, its body of “something more than advice but less than law” was foundational to the moral base of Rome’s august body known as the Senate. For so many in the West throughout our history since Rome, it was Rome’s moral anchor, its virtue that made such wide spread freedom possible. Our founding fathers managed to make a splendid blend of both practices. Whether it is in the terms of gods or governments, leaving out either the mind or emotion leads to an imbalance in practice.

Long way round to the topic of virtue, but I wanted to tie cerebral man to visceral man. Leaving gods and governments aside for the moment, the kind of virtues I want to talk about are the natural or cardinal virtues. Before enumerating these, a moderately simple definition of virtue is in order. Merriam Webster’s definition of virtue:

1 a : conformity to a standard of right : morality b : a particular moral excellence
2 pl: an order of angels see celestial hierarchy
3 : a beneficial quality or power of a thing
4 : manly strength or courage : valor
5 : a commendable quality or trait : merit
6 : a capacity to act : potency
7 : chastity esp. in a woman

Though all of these definitions are useful, the first is obviously the one I want to tinker with when it comes to the cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice. First, according to Britannica, the word cardinal is from a Latin word meaning “hinge,” because on these four virtues “all lesser attitudes hinge.” Second, it would be easy to spend pages on each of these four virtues, but I’ll leave that to you 😉 What I’m interested in here is a reasonable and concise definition of each of these cardinal or secular virtues. Again from Merriam Webster’s:


1: the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason
2: sagacity or shrewdness in the management of affairs
3: skill and good judgment in the use of resources
4: caution or circumspection as to danger or risk


1: moderation in action, thought, or feeling: restraint
2: habitual moderation in the indulgence of the appetites or passions


strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage


1 a : the maintenance or administration of what is just esp. by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments b : judge c : the administration of law ; esp.: the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity
2 a : the quality of being just b  (1): the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action (2): conformity to this principle or ideal : righteousness c : the quality of conforming to law
3 : conformity to truth, fact, or reason : correctness

As citizens, I believe it’s easy to see the value in each of these virtues to our right action, to our beliefs, to our shared responsibilities. These are the primary elements in a moral suspension that provides our liberty. I believe the failure of these virtues results in a tyranny of some sort. I ran across a quote by Abraham Lincoln in a short speech he gave in Baltimore, Maryland in 1864. The entire speech is definitely worth the read because it speaks directly to slavery and the analogy of the wolf and sheep is a sound one. I’m going to include a little more in my rendering than did Mark Levin on the dust jacket of his new book Liberty and Tyranny. So then, in closing:

The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name – liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names – liberty and tyranny.

update – The second and third paragraphs contain a collection of ideas expressed in Politics: A Very Short Introduction and verified in a few other text books from college. As for the linked book, I think it’s an excellent little essay by Kenneth Minogue and well worth the read! It’s been awhile since I’ve read either the book or texts from college – but I’ve pretty decent  notes.


Freedom of Speech, A Quaint Civil Liberty

July 21st, 2009 2 comments

Ever hear of Theo van Gogh? Ayaan Hirsi Ali? Based on conversations with random people at coffee, sandwich, and ice cream shops it seems many Americans don’t really remember or know these names. Understandable, but if I asked if they remembered a Dutch movie director murdered because of a movie he made – then there was a fuzzy recollection. Theo van Gogh directed the movie Submission which was written by Hirsi Ali, who was essentially exiled though he was a member of parliament. This happened in the Netherlands in 2004 I believe, and is by now considered “ancient history.”

The Netherlands was once considered one of the most tolerant countries in Europe. Enter the EU and its notions of free speech, notions that our left is increasingly advocating for consumption here in the United States. Both the American Spectator’s (AS) Roger Scruton and The Weekly Standard’s (TWS) Christopher Caldwell had articles on the February refusal of the UK, “on the advice of Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary,” (AS) to grant Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch Parliament, entry to the UK to show his film Fitna. Why comment on free speech? I write about free speech because “we the people” seem to be increasingly constrained in our speech by our government in direct violation of our first amendment rights. Take a look through the new hate crimes legislation that was attached to a defense bill by House Democrats, it’s just a little bit like limiting thought and speech.

Those two articles are worth the read, but if you don’t, here are a couple of entries that reflect the content of the articles:

But free speech is not about permitting only those voices of which you approve. It is about understanding your own beliefs and the beliefs of those who disagree with you. It is about creating the public space in which truth and falsehood can openly contend for their following. Free speech is critical to all the other freedoms that we enjoy, and the impulse to defend it—and in particular to defend the free speech of those with whom you disagree, of whom you disapprove, or who have been targeted by some mob or faction determined to silence them—is proof of the democratic spirit. (AS)

…the British government has grown less interested in freedom. After the July 2005 transport bombings, and even more after the foiled airplane plot of the following summer, the government said so explicitly. “Traditional civil liberty arguments,” said Tony Blair, “are not so much wrong as just made for another age.” Since then, 270 people have been refused admission to Britain on grounds of sowing hate. Only four of these have been Europeans. This kind of disparate impact must leave Jacqui Smith feeling she has little to apologize for in banning Wilders.

The new European conception of freedom of speech, based on anti-racism, protects a lot less speech than did the old British and Dutch conceptions of freedom of speech, based on sovereignty. Maybe membership in the family of man relieves one of a certain amount of worry about the liberties of one’s fellow citizens. (TWS)

Do we, as American citizens, really believe that traditional civil liberty arguments are anachronistic? I certainly hope not. It saddens me when the ACLU is more apt to defend free speech than post-secondary academia:

Many universities, under pressure to respond to the concerns of those who are the objects of hate, have adopted codes or policies prohibiting speech that offends any group based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.

That’s the wrong response, well-meaning or not. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content. Speech codes adopted by government-financed state colleges and universities amount to government censorship, in violation of the Constitution. And the ACLU believes that all campuses should adhere to First Amendment principles because academic freedom is a bedrock of education in a free society.

Jeff, a commenter on the post Hate Crime Legislation is sooo Useful, made several keen observations about hate crime legislation – but he summed it up nicely:

Hate crime legislation is simply an attempt to control ideas and limit speech. It was passed by guilty consciences to raise up a stereotyped cartoon of downtrodden masses. It’s race law.

Seems like a bummer that our representatives in congress would actively seek to violate our civil rights in this underhanded way. My father has a tag line at the end of his emails I like: Polite, yes.  Politically Correct – don’t hold your breath. Though I would like to quote J.S. Mill from On Liberty, I’ll save that for some other rant because I’d rather end on a humorous note. I’m lousy at written humor – I just don’t have the chops. However, for a great ending to this post, P.J. O’Rourke emailed a little bit to the Scrapbook, a section of The Weekly Standard that addresses just this issue. Since I couldn’t seem to find it on line, it’s the APRIL 13 / APRIL 20, 2009 issue, and as it’s a relatively short little screed here’s all of it (with my sincere hopes this is perfectly ok):

The U.N. Human Rights Council —with the championing of human rights led by delegates from Belarus, Venezuela and Pakistan—has passed a resolution urging countries around the world to make “defamation of religion” illegal. Given the Obama administration’s desire for closer cooperation with the U.N., those laws may be on the books in America by the time you read this. But we will defy Attorney General Eric Holder and the fearsome weapons of the U.N.’s black helicopters enforcing his writ. Herewith a last stand for the defamatory rights of free speech:

How many Episcopalians attend church on Sunday? Fore.

What do you get when you cross a Jehovah’s Witness with a Unitarian? Someone who goes door-to-door for no reason.

Hey, Presbyterians, if everything is predestined by God, how come the tornado blew your double-wide to God-knows-where?

What caused the Catholic priest to have a sex change? Altar girls.

Then there was the Baptist congregation that put up a sign, “CH_RCH What’s Missing?” And they spent all week trying to figure it out.

Why was the Dalai Lama reincarnated as a compulsive gambler? So he’d get Tibet.

Did you hear about the dyslexic Hindu who had 47,000 dogs?

What do you get if you call a Sikh a reckless, insane maniac? A taxi.

And what’s the difference between Jews and Muslims? A profit.

Cheers all.

Friends, Christians, and Communists

June 30th, 2009 No comments

This is a post from the old site, but one that fits the direction I’m headed. I received about 25 emails in response to last week’s post… of course; only 15 of them actually provided anything worth reading. Some spam, a little ranting, and a couple accusing me of being part of “the right wing conspiracy/noise machine.” I’m not certain why this (email) seems better than commenting, but either way I’m game for a continuing conversation. Along the way you will be meeting a friend of mine, Mr. Grim. Additionally, you’ll meet a few others with views from “both sides of the aisle.” I get a few responses in the comments section, but the lion’s share are spammers and trolls, I hope that changes some time soon.

Back to this post – remember last week I posed the question, “Why have prisons?” This post might seem an unusual continuation, but it fits the current theme in both corrections and criminal justice. Anyway, keep it in mind as you read through this post.

I’ve heard that nasty word “social justice” once again, and I’m always interested enough to ask my erstwhile conversation partner what he means by this interesting compound idea. Erstwhile? Former conversation partners because I’m generally opposed to the common or popular notion of what “social justice” constitutes, and my opposition seems to color me as Satan himself to some of the liberal nutroots I’ve engaged in conversation (despite their intense opposition to religion, it is ok to label opponents as the minions of Beelzebub). Taking the adjective social away from the concept at least leaves the actual noun being modified in some fashion. Make no mistake, English works precisely this way.

“No, no, no, you don’t understand. It wasn’t simply a man; it was a little green man!”

Granted, that’s poking a little fun, but whether used rationally or irrationally, that’s the way we use our language. Clearly, progressives are trying to make it plain that they are NOT talking about the classical meaning of justice, and hence, the adjective “social.” I had always thought justice by nature and definition must be social. Something else is meant in this case – so, for comparison, let’s take a look at the origin of the word “justice.” I’ll use the Online Etymology Dictionary:

1140, “the exercise of authority in vindication of right by assigning reward or punishment,” from O.Fr. justise, from L. justitia “righteousness, equity,” from justus “upright, just.” The O.Fr. word had widespread senses, including “uprightness, equity, vindication of right, court of justice, judge.” The word began to be used in Eng. c.1200 as a title for a judicial officer. Meaning “the administration of law” is from 1303. Justice of the peace first attested 1320. In the Mercian hymns, L. justitia is glossed by O.E. rehtwisnisse.

Generally, “the administration of law” was once a common understanding of the term “justice.” On the other hand, the term “social justice” uses the adjective “social” to incorporate the notions often associated with socialism/communism. The always popular “take from those who are more prosperous and give to those who are less prosperous” – whether on a national or global scale depends largely on who is promoting the idea. For example, Anthony Brunt at the University of Iowa puts it this way:

The first component of social justice is a minimum standard of living in the realms of employment, health, housing, and education. This is the portion of social justice that is best dispensed through government agencies. According to the 1999 U.N. Human Development Report, for forty billion dollars the most disadvantaged portions of the world can achieve basic healthcare, education, sanitation facilities, potable water, and an adequate food supply for all. To contrast this amount in relative terms, last year Microsoft chairperson Bill Gates had an estimated net worth of fifty-two billion dollars. I do not believe that allocating an additional forty billion dollars will strain those living in a state of luxury.

Only somewhat tongue in cheek, Kfir Alfia and Alan Lipton in A Field Guide to Left-Wing Wackos, says that communists are “Anyone who likes the things you have, wants them for his own, and doesn’t mind if a totalitarian state is what it takes to make that happen.” This idea of using a government to accomplish their ends is highlighted by Brunt in the next paragraph of his paper, albeit for logistical concerns.

Why even mention this topic? Because I find it at least a little ironic and humorous that this unusual group of liberals shares so much in common with the very people they are so opposed to having any influence on our society. Truly, the only real difference between the liberal nutroots and the Christians in this case is the means by which we ameliorate poverty. I really cannot say it better than C.S. Lewis on this topic, and he makes the point so forcefully, I’ll close with a small portion of The Problem of Pain:

Those who would most scornfully repudiate Christianity as a mere “opiate of the people” have a contempt for the rich, that is , for all mankind except the poor. They regard the poor as the only people worth preserving from “liquidation,” and place in them the only hope of the human race. But this is not compatible with a belief that the effects of poverty on those who suffer it are wholly evil; it even implies that they are good. The Marxist thus finds himself in agreement with the Christians in those two beliefs which Christianity paradoxically demands – that poverty is blessed and yet ought to be removed. (C.S. Lewis, 1940, pp. 108-109)

P.S. “And that’s Entertainment”


Once Upon a Christian

May 22nd, 2009 No comments

I’m sure most of my readers (all eleven of you so far) are familiar with the Wounded Warrior Project. I’ve two daughters who are veterans, and one is still on active duty. I watched a segment on the Fox channel; I think it was their morning program that featured a singer I enjoyed once upon a time. I was once a member of the Christian community, and her music and bearing had a tremendous impact. It seems lately, I have felt a tug to visit that community again, but what is more important here, is that Amy Grant is helping to create and provide support for a new organization that aims at these same vets.

Challenge America 2009, hosted by Amy Grant and Vince Gill, is an evening of entertainment, welcoming home our country’s wounded military and launching the nationwide Challenge America initiative. The initiative’s mission is to support the development of recreational and occupational programs in willing communities to link new and existing services to better serve returning injured military and their families.

Just one of those sparkly things I happened to come across this week and it seemed worth sharing. Once upon a Christian, I would have said something about taking up the challenge. Now that I seem less than Christian to myself, I still think it’s a worthy thing to support a faith-based group involved in a worthwhile initiative. Please, go take a look – there’s music involved!


Categories: Religion, Virtues Tags:

Paine on Society and Government

May 12th, 2009 No comments

As I mentioned in my previous post, the aim of these posts will hopefully be predominantly corrections; however, I reserve the right to chase any sparkly thing! Sometimes, I believe the sparkles and corrections may converge. Sometimes, a patriot’s writing provides a number of avenues to explore. For example, one of Thomas Paine’s most famous pieces is his political pamphlet Common Sense. It relates Paine’s distaste for the necessary “evil” of government. I wish more people would take the time to read the whole pamphlet! It turns our current notion of “left” and “right” on its ear. More important, is the responsibility it ascribes to society and government.


Political Continuum - sent to Beck by Insider BrokenParadox

In Glenn Beck’s opinion, our Founding Fathers had a much less intrusive government in mind. Though I enjoyed this photo at Beck’s site, I really enjoyed his commentary on the “continuum of left and right” in our current political discussions, i.e., the claim that the GOP has moved too far to the “right.” It’s a fun episode to watch. Regardless of one’s opinion of Beck (most progressives think he’s a nut job), giving each side an honest hearing seems – well, somehow, very American. Beck thinks that the founders wanted to provide a government just small enough to avoid anarchy and allow maximum liberty – a thought that Thomas Paine also seems to share:

SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamities is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer! (Paine, in Common Sense)

Society encourages our virtues, government punishes our wickedness. Not much further in to Paine’s wonderful little tract, he makes it clear that security is bound up in the government’s responsibilities. He was a real word mechanic that Paine:

For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others (of course, the emphasis is mine).

Hmmm, he sounds kind of conservative. Regardless, the point I want to walk away with is that society and government are not the same, and that while we argue about what punishment is really all about (“corrections” in modern parlance), we very often fail to discuss society’s responsibility to inculcate the virtues – the four cardinal virtues, the three “theological” virtues, and of course, our civic virtue!

In future posts, whether discussing our security or the government’s punishment of wrongdoers, conceptions of these virtues will be central to many of the conclusions drawn. Consequently, at least some discussion will be aimed at an understanding of these virtues. The government’s job of security and its collateral responsibility of punishment must rely on society’s demand for virtuous conduct by our representatives. Whether right or left, Democrat or Republican, Libertarian or Progressive, one can hope that at least some of these old virtues are still shared.

A final note: Please feel free to comment and engage in a dialogue – and as long as it remains civil (now there’s a word we should explore!) the comments will be only lightly moderated. I look forward to the conversation!

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