“Cultural War” rules to myself.

Yes, there are “cultural wars.” The totalitarian spirit lives, and thrives in the desire to impose rules for living on others. In such a world, it’s good to impose rules on yourself, so when the time comes, you will know what is worth defending. My own “cultural war” rules are:

1. The million multiple rule: judge your actions by the question, “if a million people were to do the same thing, how would society be affected?” Example: changing the meaning of words to suit your agenda. If a million people each changed a word to suit their own personal agenda, and insisted that others agree on the new meaning, what would happen to truth in communicating?
2. Know the difference between compassion and enabling. Mistaken actions that feel compassionate but are really damaging: enabling, appeasing, indulging. Truth is compassionate, empowerment is compassionate, rebuking and chastising can be compassionate, accountability is compassionate.
3. Rehashing old grievances is disempowering. You may feel justified, but no one will ever owe you a living. See #11.
4. If you truly believe in relativism, jump off a tall building holding a sign that says “gravity is just relative.” Some things are just plain true!
5. Expect more of yourself than of others. Hold yourself to much higher standards than you expect of others.
6. What love is, and isn’t. Love is sacrificial action, not feelings.
7. Feelings as a basis for decisions are as substantial and lasting as clouds.
8. Get over yourself and your offenses. If you are offended at any of my rules, that’s my problem how?
9. If you aren’t making the kind of forward progress you expect, look behind you to see what kind of baggage you are dragging.
10. The Bible is my standard for truth. Everyone needs a standard, especially those who don’t think they need a standard. Your senses, inferences and emotions lie.
11. You are not entitled to feel safe. For anyone to be Entitled to feel safe, that necessitates suppression of whatever feels unsafe…to anyone. If you are entitled to something you haven’t earned, then that something has to come from someone who has it. What happens when they don’t want to give it up?
12. Race relations can only improve as individual relationships take precedence over group identities. The formula for making race relations worse? See #1 to 11.
13. “Virtue-signaling” is the root of most of today’s ginned up conflicts. I am not interested in appearing virtuous, nor is it necessary for those who put duty before pleasure. Striving to appear virtuous encourages an individual to cast disagreement as evil rather than a different perspective. If you believe something that makes you feel virtuous, and someone else believes something entirely different, and that means to you that either they are evil and/or deluded, you aren’t virtuous but deluded.

Does Faith Trump Reason?

Does Faith Trump Reason?

A long time ago, before I embraced my faith, I made my living as a psychotherapist. What a strange concept that is, therapy for the psyche! The word therapy presumes that something crooked can be made straight, or something dysfunctional can be made functional, as in physical therapy. But I digress. The need for correcting the psyche is not purely subjective, since the results of twisted or crooked thinking are manifest in the works of the sufferer.

At one point, late in my career, I had been retained by a physician who specialized in treating drug and alcohol addiction. She had me see her most difficult cases in her office. The most memorable was a disheveled young man who came in on crutches, with his head bandaged and a cast on one arm. He had recently been in his fifth auto accident while drunk, in this latest case the collision was through his own garage door. Our entire dialogue consisted of his self criticism of his stupidity and helplessness to change. I listened for awhile until our session was about done, when he asked me what I thought. I said “I quite agree with you, that you must be one of the most stupid people on the planet.” He was shocked. Then I hit him with one question, “but given how stupid you are, how can you believe anything you think about yourself?”

We were done and he hobbled out. The next time I saw him was two weeks later. He was completely cleaned up, and off the crutches. It seems a miracle took place. He said that for the first time he could ever remember, he had experienced no desire for or even thoughts about getting high. His internal dialogue about his stupidity was completely turned off, after he had tried but failed to answer my last question. When he had indulged in that dialogue, the truth of his being stupid was unquestioned. But once he could no longer trust in that “truth” he was free to believe what would give him the ability to overcome his habits. I was hoping he also had the psychological resilience to accept that whatever he believed was a matter of utility rather than absolute truth. 

That’s true of everything we choose to believe, and that’s why faith can be more effective than reason. In fact, everything we believe, we take on faith. My assertion that whatever we believe is, or should be, a matter of utility–what works–rather than truth, is based on a three simple principles: 1-our sensory systems are so limited that we cannot apprehend much of the reality around us; 2-our inferences about the reality beyond what we can sense, whether distant galaxies or the inner workings of the mind, are limited and tainted by both the first principle and a myriad of unconscious and largely false assumptions; 3-our memories of events and experiences are fluid and malleable; they change over time in ways we are not conscious of. Those principles are demonstrably true, rather than opinion or conjecture. So either give up hope that you can truly understand anything, or rejoice in your ability to think useful, and thus ultimately happy, thoughts.

In the New Testament Bible, in the Book of Acts–the violent persecutor of Christ followers and over-educated Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus–meets Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. “Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Saul became the apostle Paul. I say “became” but it was not a gradual transformation. All of his great learning, his upbringing as a devout Jew, his zeal to persecute and destroy the early church, were wiped away in a moment. His encounter with the Author of Truth trumped everything. He was finally free of the shackles of his enslaved reason. Will you be? You have faith, but faith in what, your reason? Or something/someone else equally flawed?

Stephen Hawking, a certified genius, the “world’s most famous theoretical physicist”, died on March 14, 2018. (From The New York Times): In “A Brief History of Time,” Dr. Hawking concluded that “if we do discover a complete theory” of the universe, “it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists.” He added, “Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of why it is that we and the universe exist.” “If we find the answer to that,” he continued, “it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we would know the mind of God.” 

Really? How would we know that we know the “mind of God?” Sorry, if you ever think you know the mind of God, your god is pretty small. Hawking might have been the certified genius, the “world’s most famous theoretical physicist”, but in the end, his brilliance was undermined by not knowing his own presuppositions!

The Insult of Superior Ability.

A Wikipedia review of a Kurt Vonnegut short story, Welcome to the Monkey House.: In the year 2081, the 211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the Constitution dictate that all Americans are fully equal and not allowed to be smarter, better-looking, or more physically able than anyone else. The Handicapper General’s agents enforce the equality laws, forcing citizens to wear “handicaps”: masks for those who are too beautiful, loud radios that disrupt thoughts inside the ears of intelligent people, and heavy weights for the strong or athletic. One April, 14-year-old Harrison Bergeron, an intelligent and athletic teenager, is taken away from his parents, George and Hazel Bergeron, by the government. They are barely aware of the tragedy, as Hazel has “average” intelligence (a euphemism for stupidity), and George has a handicap radio installed by the government to regulate his above-average intelligence. Hazel and George watch ballet on television. They comment on the dancers, who are weighed down to counteract their gracefulness and masked to hide their attractiveness. George’s thoughts are continually interrupted by the different noises emitted by his handicap radio.

On television, a news reporter struggles to read the bulletin and hands it to the ballerina wearing the most grotesque mask and heaviest weights. She begins reading in her unacceptably natural, beautiful voice, then apologizes before switching to a more unpleasant voice. Harrison’s escape from prison is announced, and a full-body photograph of Harrison is shown, indicating that he is seven feet tall and burdened by three hundred pounds of handicaps.

George recognizes his son for a moment, before having the thought eliminated by his radio. Harrison himself then storms the television studio in an attempt to overthrow the government. He calls himself the Emperor and rips off all of his handicaps, along with the handicaps of a ballerina, whom he proclaims his “Empress”. Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, enters the studio and kills Harrison and the Empress with a ten-gauge double-barreled shotgun. She forces the musicians to put on their handicaps, and the television goes dark. George, unaware of the televised incident, returns from the kitchen and asks Hazel why she was crying, to which she replies that something sad happened on television that she cannot remember. He comforts her and they return to their average lives.

Like I said in the previous post, guaranteeing equality of outcome requires either forced redistribution of wealth, or handicapping superior abilities. Did I say “or”? Perhaps it should be both methods. About 70 percent of people who suddenly receive a windfall of cash will lose it within a few years, according to the National Endowment for Financial Education. (Time Magazine, Jan. 12, 2016). Ever heard of broke professional athletes who had earned millions? These stories hold a larger truth: If you were to redistribute all wealth equally, in not too many years, most of the previously wealthy would be wealthy again and most of the previously broke would be…..you guessed it, broke again.

Most, but not all. I would apply some simple lessons in my do-over, and I don’t charge for my wisdom:

  1. Start very early saving 10% of your earned income, and don’t touch that money until the amount represents a year of earnings, allow the interest to accumulate in the account, or reinvest the dividends if your own stocks;
  2. Also tithe to your church or give to charity another 10% of earned income, permanently;
  3. The first two “come off the top”, that is, before you spend anything, then create a budget for the other 80% of your earned income, so that you decide in advance how and where your money is spent;
  4. Hire an honest and competent financial advisor to be your coach, mentor and impartial third party, and implement his/her advice.
  5. No matter how much or little you make, repeat steps 1-3. 

You won’t need a handicapper general.

Social Justice? Sure sounds good.

From pachamama.org (a social justice coalition): “The word duo, social justice….relayed the same core idea, that all members of a society should have equal benefits and opportunitiesIn its early days, the term social justice specifically targeted poverty and the need for an equal distribution of resources. Today, the term has acquired a broader and more detailed definition (including issues of segregation) that accounts for specific modes of moral treatment. The blueprint for achieving social justice is often structured by governmental implementation of laws/rights that provide equal distribution of resources and opportunities, which in effect protects human dignity. If a government supports inequality with oppressive laws then it is up to a non-government coalition to stimulate the change of such laws in a non-violent manner.”

From Wikipedia: “Social justice is a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society. This is measured by the explicit and tacit terms for the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity and social privileges. In Western as well as in older Asian cultures, the concept of social justice has often referred to the process of ensuring that individuals fulfill their societal roles and receive what was their due from society. In the current global grassroots movements for social justice, the emphasis has been on the breaking of barriers for social mobility, the creation of safety nets and economic justice.”

Notice the confusing of  “resources” and/or “benefits” (in the Pachamama context) with “opportunities”.  Further, note the distinction between the traditional “receive what was their due” (in the Wikipedia definition) and the “current global grassroots movements” what “social justice” has come to mean “the creation of safety nets.” I believe that everyone should have equal opportunityEqual benefits/resources, that is, outcomes, is not the same thing. God gives to each individual abilities, and those abilities are not equally distributed. Opportunity means to me that no artificial barriers are placed between your abilities and your outcomes. Who, or what, places those artificial barriers?  Only those in power have the means to erect barriers. The “rulers”, be it government bureaucrats or tyrants, place those barriers. What are the barriers? 

The Bible is the handbook of justice; the word justice appears in the Bible 138 times. In most of those passages, the barriers are also named and condemned. Let’s see how “justice” is used within the Biblical context. The following passages are a brief sample:

“You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.” (Exodus) You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy)

And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice. (1 Kings)  Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive against them. Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely. Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways. (Proverbs) The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice. An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous, but one whose way is straight is an abomination to the wicked. (Proverbs)

Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow’s cause does not come to them. Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. (Isaiah) 
“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. Like the partridge that gathers a brood that she did not hatch, so is he who gets riches but not by justice; in the midst of his days they will leave him, and at his end he will be a fool.” (Jeremiah)

So it’s clear where the Bible lies. Evil–in our context erecting barriers to subvert the use of God-given abilities to pursue opportunities–is: showing partiality, whether to the poor or to the powerful, siding with the mob (the many) because of “fear of man”, accepting bribes, stealing from the efforts of others (“Like the partridge that gathers a brood that she did not hatch, so is he who gets riches but not by justice”), bearing false witness, electing leaders (“princes”) who are corrupt and rebellious.

NEWS FLASH: ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE, LOBBYISTS WHO BRIBE OFFICIALS AND BUREAUCRATS WHO INTERPRET RULES TO FAVOR PROPERTY THEFT ARE EQUALLY EVIL. SO IS PARTIALITY–FAVORITISM TOWARDS A PERSON SIMPLY BECAUSE OF THE GROUP THEY ARE REPRESENTATIVE OF.

To those who still cling to the leftist wet dream of equality of outcome, “Justice comes from the Lord, not from man.” If God has given each of us differing abilities, then the only ways to get equality of outcome are: stealing the output and redistributing it, or handicapping the superior abilities. Bureaucrats have perfected the former. As to the latter, see my next post, “The insult of superior ability.”

LINKS TO POWERFUL RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS OF THE DAY.

ABORTION AND EUTHANASIA: Claiming the Creator’s prerogative to take life.

Is euthanasia ever justifiedeuthanasia

MASS MURDER/SCHOOL SHOOTINGS:

Exactly the wrong way to understand the school shooting issue. teen trauma

The true perspective on school mass shootings. peck perspective

What is the relationship between “gun rights” and human rights? gun rights

Racial self deception in the matter of guns (this is one of the dumbest screeds I have ever read) white problem

THE DECLINE OF THE U.S. PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM:

Who bears the main responsibility for the state of U.S. education? dewey

SEXUAL ISSUES

The myth and damage of “gender dysphoria”. pediatrician

CLIMATE CHANGE/GLOBAL WARMING

Lots of tales of woe,  wild assumptions, but few facts. climate truths

Sucking PURPOSE out of life.

Sebastian Junger, famous author (The Perfect Storm), wrote a book called Tribe, in which he said “We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding–‘tribes.’ Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary.” 

Further, he says, “There’s no use arguing that modern society isn’t a kind of paradise. The vast majority of us don’t, personally, have to grow or kill our own food, build our own dwellings or defend ourselves from wild animals and enemies. In one day we can travel a thousand miles by pushing our foot down on a gas pedal or around the world by booking a seat on an airplane. When we are in pain we have narcotics that dull it out of existence, and when we are depressed we have pills that change the chemistry of our brains. We understand an enormous amount about the universe, from subatomic particles to our own bodies to galaxy clusters, and we use that knowledge to make life even better and easier for ourselves. The poorest people in modern society enjoy a level of physical comfort that was unimaginable a thousand years ago, and the wealthiest people literally live the way gods were imagined to have……..And yet.”

What is your “yet”? What is missing from your life? (Well, if I knew what was missing, it wouldn’t be missing, would it?) In my case it all started with a stroke in March of 2016. I lost my strength, my balance, and my optimism about things that my body could do. Suddenly, here I was, weak, uncoordinated, walking like a drunk. Suddenly, no optimism about what my body was going to do in the future and yet, and yet. My yet is this: I am actually more content that I have ever been. God has a way of transforming us into what we most need to be. Before the stroke, independence formed the core of my being. I thought I loved God, but He doesn’t favor independence, He favors dependence on Him, and others He puts in my life. Now, I am somewhat dependent on others, and will probably be more so in the future. Love of interdependence was what was missing.

Junger says, “Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.” But we don’t have to give in to that feeling of being “useless.” We can choose to be useful to an ever widening circle of others. I can’t walk but I can drive, so I drive a woman who is not allowed to drive, to our church home group. I can still be useful in small ways to my children and a small circle of friends. Perhaps the circle will grow wider over time, if my abilities recover better. This circle is my tribe. What about your tribe? How can you make yourself useful?

Let us now praise Europe–they are so “enlightened.”

Proposition: Shall the United States emulate Europe? Let’s examine that question through the lens of these marked differences:

THE “IRAN DEAL”

In short, Iran entered into years-long negotiations with the West over whether it would have a nuclear program, during the course of which it developed said nuclear program. The deal allowed it to preserve a temporarily curtailed program in exchange for the shipment of $1.7 billion in cash to Iran and relief from Western sanctions that had begun to bite. For the mullahs, it was the deal of the century. The economic benefits of the Accord were predictably poured into Iran’s expansion around the region. Rather than a new era of peace, the deal has coincided with more widespread conflict in the Middle East, at the hands of Iranian forces and Tehran’s proxies.” (National Review, May 2018) But Europe (and former President Obama) loves it, and can’t fathom why we pulled out. 

ASSISTED SUICIDE/EUTHANASIA

Doctor administered deaths by lethal injection has been legalized in the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg and Colombia. In Switzerland, the previous little-known 1942 law permitting assisted suicide has become the basis for a flourishing “suicide tourism” industry. Tens of thousands of people have now been legally killed or assisted in suicide by doctors in these jurisdictions. There are so many examples of abuse of these laws I can’t even recount them, but some of the most egregious occur in the Netherlands. Here’s an example in 2016: A woman with dementia wrote a note stating she never wanted to live in a nursing home. Despite that, she was institutionalized. Her doctor, without asking, deciding the time had come to end her life, drugged the victim’s coffee so that she would sleep while they were administering the lethal injection. But during the injection, she woke up and fought to save her life. The doctor required her family members to hold her down while she forcibly killed her. The regional Review Committee exonerated the doctor because she had acted in “good faith.” (“Good” for whom? “Faith” in what?)

In our country, Oregon was–predictably if you’ve ever navigated the downtown Portland streets–the first state to legalize euthanasia. Definitions of “terminal” have predictably expanded. Once again, Oregon (for shame) leads the way. Their “Death with Dignity Act”–DWDA)–(see Netherland’s example for where that phrase leads) allows patients who cannot afford curative treatment (which includes insulin) and who would be “terminal” without it, to qualify for life-ending drugs.

CLIMATE CHANGE/GLOBAL WARMING

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, acting in his capacity as depositary, communicates the following:
On 5 October 2016, the conditions for the entry into force of the above-mentioned Agreement were met. Accordingly, the Agreement shall enter into force on 4 November 2016, in accordance with its article 21, paragraph 1, which reads as follows:
“This Agreement shall enter into force on the thirtieth day after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 per cent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.” So says the U.N. memo on the “Paris Accords.” The Paris Agreement: establishes binding commitments by all Parties to prepare, communicate and maintain a nationally determined contribution (NDC) and to pursue domestic measures to achieve them; prescribes that Parties shall communicate their NDCs every 5 years and provide information necessary for clarity and transparency; reaffirms the obligations of developed countries to support the efforts of developing country Parties to build clean, climate-resilient futures, while for the first time encouraging voluntary contributions by other Parties; relies on a robust transparency and accounting system to provide clarity on action and support by Parties, with flexibility for their differing capabilities of Parties. In addition to reporting information on mitigation, adaptation and support, the Agreement requires that the information submitted by each Party undergoes international review. The Agreement also includes a mechanism that will facilitate implementation and promote compliance in a non-adversarial and non-punitive manner, and will report annually to the CMA.”

That’s the usual vague and ambiguous U.N. language. The Heritage Foundation listed 4 reasons why the Paris Accords were terrible for the U.S. Here are my main two:

1. The Paris Agreement was costly and ineffective. If carried out, the energy regulations agreed to in Paris by the Obama administration would destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs, harm American manufacturing, and destroy $2.5 trillion in gross domestic product by the year 2035. The Paris Agreement would have extended long beyond the Trump administration, so remaining in the agreement would have kept the U.S. subject to its terms. Those terms require countries to update their commitments every five years to make them more ambitious, starting in 2020. Staying in the agreement would have prevented the U.S. from backsliding or even maintain the Obama administration’s initial commitment of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28%.

2. The agreement wasted taxpayer money. In climate negotiations leading up to the Paris conference, participants called for a Green Climate Fund that would collect $100 billion per year by 2020. The goal of this fund would be to subsidize green energy and pay for other climate adaptation and mitigation programs in poorer nations—and to get buy-in (literally) from those poorer nations for the final Paris Agreement. The Obama administration ended up shipping $1 billion in taxpayer dollars to this fund without authorization from Congress. Some of the top recipients of these government-funded climate programs have in the past been some of the most corrupt, which means corrupt governments collect the funds, not those who actually need it.

That last sentence says it all to me–so U.N.!!! (The U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) members include such stellar champions of human rights as: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Venezuela…). Just the kind of folks the USA wants to be affiliated with through U.N.-enforced accords. Ugh.

IMMIGRATION

Just ask virtually any citizen (NOT government officials!) of any country in Europe how much they like their country’s immigration results in the last 5 years. If they get over their fear of consequences for saying the wrong thing–a chancy proposition–I doubt you will find much approval. Increasingly crime, especially violence against women and terrorist-type attacks, have soured most ordinary (non “elite”) citizens on the open arms idea. Here in the U.S. crime continues to be pursued by the “usual suspects”, but is down in most places, and terrorist-type attacks are still very rare. Here in the U.S., a 2017 study by the libertarian Cato Institute found that radical Islamist terrorists accounted for 92% of the deaths and 94% of the injuries due to terrorist attacks on U.S. soil over the last 25 years, the bulk of those in the Sept. 11 attacks.

My conclusion: I don’t miss the President who curried favor with Europe, and I won’t tolerate any future Presidents who do. In the meantime, I will praise what Trump has done regarding Europe. While the self-appointed elites bemoan our “loss of influence” because we don’t follow Europe, I cheer it!