Vacaville, CA.: She is walking her dogs, smiling at the thought of an intimate lunch with her husband when she gets home–he has just retired. As she approaches the house, she barely even notices the nondescript sedan with government license plates parked in the driveway, until her gaze shifts to the front door and the 3 men in Army dress uniforms with the yellow horsehead patch on their left shoulders standing in the threshold, talking to her husband. “No! No! No!” she screams, and runs towards them, waving her hands as if to make the whole scene disappear, before collapsing into her husband’s arms.

Midland, TX.: A woman is addressing a package to her son-in-law in Iraq, when she notices a similar nondescript sedan pull up, and she knows what it means even before the 3 men with the same patch get out. But her daughter answers the door, and greets them before her mom can stop her. “Mrs. Guadalupe Garza, is your husband specialist Israel Garza serving with the First Cavalry?” She is still smiling as she answers in the affirmative. “The Secretary of the Army has asked us to express his deepest regrets that your husband was killed in action in Iraq…” As the smile begins to turn into something else, this brief moment of denial before the horror sets in will be the only comfort she knows for years to come. Even now, their two small children are asking, “is this about daddy?” She slams the door shut before they can finish, while yelling “No! No! No!” She yells through the door, “you have the wrong house” as her kids stare uncomprehending.

The 3 men are the Army “casualty notification team.” These scenes are out of the series The Long Road Home, from National Geographic, about the ambush of my former unit, the First Cavalry, in Sadr City, Iraq, 2004. I am crying too as I watch. Those scenes could have been my parents in 1970. They are the parents, the spouses, the children of countless war casualties. And for what? Even now, ISIS is killing Shiites in this same place. And how goes it with our longest “war”?

From Marty Skovland, Task and Purpose, December 2017: “Whenever the justification for the ongoing war in Afghanistan is called into question, the response is typically that it’s a vital national interest. In fact, that was the very justification Obama used for his troop surge in 2009. That sentiment has been echoed more recently by Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, Jr., who said that continuing to put pressure on terrorist organizations in Afghanistan and the greater South Asia area “is critical and vital to our national interests.”

“But is it? In 1996, a bipartisan working group, The Commission on America’s National Interests, proposed “vital national interests” be defined as “conditions that are strictly necessary to safeguard and enhance America’s survival and well-being as a free and secure nation.” How could an unstable, non-nuclear, economically unthreatening nation in Southwest Asia merit such a label?

“I received a little bit of clarification during an intelligence brief at Resolute Support headquarters. Officials explained that the country is home to approximately 20 of the world’s 98 U.S.-designated terrorist and violent extremist organizations, and the rationale has long been that it’s better to “fight them over there” than on American soil. That said, many of these groups did not even exist when Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force on Sept. 14, 2001.

“The fact is our real national interest in Afghanistan has very little to do with Afghanistan at all. Increasingly, the more important conflict playing out is our ongoing effort to contain Russia. (sounds familiar, like the “Domino Theory” used to justify the Vietnam War) In recent years, the Kremlin’s escalating aggression has included incursions into Georgia, the invasion of Ukraine and subsequent poaching of Crimea, and a habit of meddling in foreign elections, as well as successfully maneuvering for unilateral control of Syria. These power plays have not escaped the attention of NATO-aligned countries, who have certainly made note of Russia’s recent hints about ramping up military operations in Afghanistan if the situation there grows too unstable.

“Meanwhile, Iran and Pakistan see the country as a vital trade partner, and also a critical stage on which to exert regional influence. Additionally, many of these countries see untapped economic potential in Afghanistan’s significant mineral resources — including enough battery-grade lithium to become “the Saudi Arabia of lithium.” The coming year will probably be the bloodiest to date. Most Afghan and NATO military officials that I talked to agree that 2017 was a year to build momentum, and that the first-year goals of the four-year road map have been met. But the violence will get worse before it gets better.”

OKAY, THAT’S ENOUGH. After Cain killed Abel, and then pretended innocence, the Lord declared “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” The blood of all of our dead, as well as that of the innocents in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places where we didn’t need to be cries out to us, “ENOUGH!” Of course, I am being naive and foolish–the bloodshed will not end until the Lord redeems the earth from the curse!

For this Christmas season, let’s revisit one of the most reprehensible songs ever written.

Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try,
No hell below us, above us only sky. Imagine all the people living for today.
Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too. Imagine all the people living life in peace, you may say I’m a dreamer,
but I’m not the only one, I hope some day you’ll join us and the world will be as one.”
You know this one; in fact, as you read the lyrics it’s easy to sing along. I can’t help myself, it’s such a pretty melody and oh so noble. John Lennon, with Yoko Ono, wrote Imagine in 1971, was killed by Mark Chapman in December of 1980, and eulogized by Jay Cocks in Time magazine that same month. “The outpouring of grief, wonder and shared devastation that followed Lennon’s death had the same breadth and intensity as the reaction to the killing of a world figure: some bold and popular politician, like John or Robert Kennedy, or a spiritual leader, like Martin Luther King Jr. But Lennon was a creature of poetic political metaphor, and his spiritual consciousness was directed inward, as a way of nurturing and widening his creative force. That was what made the impact, and the difference—the shock of his imagination, the penetrating and pervasive traces of his genius—and it was the loss of all that, in so abrupt and awful a way, that was mourned last week, all over the world.”
Even Monday Night Football’s Howard Cosell weighed in. “Yes, we have to say it. Remember this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City, the most famous perhaps, of all of the Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead on arrival. Hard to go back to the game after that newsflash, which, in duty bound, we have to take.”
In the face of all this, how do I dare to call one of his greatest songs “reprehensible?” Bear with me as I examine some of the lyrics and more important, the philosophy/beliefs and worldview behind the lyrics. My presuppositions about John Lennon are:
  • He is at least indifferent, and probably hostile to Christianity, and therefore the “heaven” and “religion” he wants you to imagine gone are based on the Bible;
  • He is a “utopian”–someone whose ideal of heaven is unity of hearts and minds on earth–and thus believes it is possible and desirable for human beings to be “as one.”
  • Explicit from his lyrics, national sovereignty (which requires borders, laws and all that they entail) and beliefs strong enough to “kill or die for” are bad things.

You may challenge my presuppositions about Lennon, but my evidence is in his writings and statements. The real challenge would be reconciling his lifestyle with his stated beliefs. Like most wealthy and famous celebrities, his lifestyle was one of extravagance and privacy/exclusivity. He earned the right to enjoy both, and his preaching does render him a hypocrite. No big deal to me, most people are. In fact, I won’t even dispute that he believed the sentiments he expressed in Imagine. If he didn’t he would certainly be a hypocrite, but if he did believe them he’s either a naive fool, or a closet totalitarian.

But why, you ask? Utopian visions have always required totalitarian measures, because people want what THEY want, and Utopia requires submission of the individual desires to the goals of oneness and equality of outcome. I read that George Orwell once debated a Soviet apologist, who excused Stalin’s tyranny with the lame cliche, “you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.” Orwell’s response was “where’s the omelet?” While the words of Lennon’s song are dreamy, the reality of attempts at utopia without Christ is in the cries of pain and despair of the broken “eggs” in gulags and reeducation camps, the agony of the peasantry in Mao’s “Great Leap Forward “, the destruction of the intellectual class by Pol Pot.

The “omelet” of an earthly utopia that did not require the breaking of human beings occurred only a few days after the ascension of Jesus Christ. The very things Lennon wanted to eliminate–Heaven and religion–created the first successful community of oneness. Acts 2: 41-47. So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, these lovers of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem were comprised of people “from every nation under heaven.” There was no compulsion necessary, everyone shared and everyone cared. Why? Heaven and religion. They all looked forward to eternity–their actions sprung from hearts attuned to and cognizant of heaven awaiting. The religion was later called Christianity. There is much more to be said. Soon it will be Christmas 2017. John Lennon died December 8, 1980, and still the birth of the Savior of the world was celebrated that year and every year, and always will be. Imagine is not immortal, nor was it’s composer, but the religion he wanted gone is immortal.


Is the psychic cost of collateral damage is too great to fight certain kinds of wars?

I served in Vietnam in 1969-1970 and saw the results of both “collateral damage”, when our troops killed non-combatants either accidentally or in a fit of frustration-fueled rage, and the viciousness of the Vietcong against their own people. Now, watching a show about my old unit, the First Cavalry Division fighting in Sadr City during the Iraq war in 2004, I see that the enemy has changed only in outward physical appearance–heavier beards and bodies–but displays the same fanatic brutality and willingness to use their own people as shields and suicide squads. While the Islamic Jihadis and “Buddhist” communists differ in appearance and philosophies, their brutal and atavistic tactics, and their rationales are similar, as is their contempt for freedom and the envy that really drives them (high-minded justifications for envy aside). Those ruling over such people have never embraced and probably never will relate to the concept of self-government.

Neither Islam nor Communism believes in a loving God who wants a relationship with His people and rules through justice and mercy. Only a people who believe in such a God are capable of self-government without tyrannizing those who are weaker. The United States was founded on such principles, and while we have applied justice and mercy very imperfectly–as befits our sinful human natures–we have at least tried to do so, and have been getting better at it. There are many here who decry our flaws–since their standard is a perfection that doesn’t exist and never has–but name a single Islamic- or Communist-ruled society that doesn’t trample on individual freedom!

I say it is time to for us to get real about who is capable (not simply desirous of) of self-government and to whom–which nations and systems–we can afford to try to bring liberty to. The psychic cost to our nation’s soul, and to the souls of the legions of young soldiers we send into battle, of witnessing and even being drawn into the killing of non-combatants, has not been worth what has been accomplished. Are the kinds of wars we fought and are fighting in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan actually producing a groundswell of liberty to offset the alienating of generations of young people in those countries and the furthering their misery? Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a quagmire of fear and oppression, but have we made it better? Or are there many who hated Saddam now hating us? The dreadful Taliban in Afghanistan have captured so much U.S. equipment from our “allies” that many of their units are as well armed as our own soldiers. We opened schooling to girls again, only to have a better equipped Taliban come and kill the teachers and kidnap the girls.

It is time to say “certain kinds of wars we will no longer fight.” I am merely a former soldier and informed citizen, not a military or political policy expert, so the following questions are just to start the discussion:

  • What then, should be our criteria for fighting “wars of liberation” and what historical justifications are no longer (if they ever were) valid?
  • The stated rationales for starting the war in Vietnam and continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is “fight them there rather than here” and “stopping the spread” of Communism–Jihadism–whateverism. Were those ever valid? Are they valid in this world, where the U.S. is unequivocally the militarily mightiest?
  • Can a people who have never known self-government, and who have lived under or worship a religion that prizes complete submission of the individual to religious forms and rituals, adapt to and prosper under our kind of liberty? Will the more radical among them ever allow it?
  • In the one case I can think of where the U.S. broke down an oppressive feudal system and successfully transplanted democracy–post WWII Japan–we were ruthless in prosecuting the rulers of and suppressing the old system, forcing an unconditional surrender and disarming their citizenry. Do we have that kind of resolve, and belief in our system anymore?
  • Since the answer to the last question is a resounding “no”, I say that our further efforts to transplant democracy in barren soil will fail.
  • The Communists won Vietnam because they were a native movement who proactively sought the logistical assistance of outside powers (China, Russia) and were willing to do whatever it took, including shedding their own blood, to be victorious. If there is any realistic hope for transplanting democracy/self-government in tyrannical soils, won’t it require the same elements from the native populations that was demonstrated in Vietnam? Of course it will, and I have not seen it.


What is your tribe?

Today I was watching a sermon by Tony Evans, my favorite preacher. When he said “if you are under fire from the enemy, you don’t care about the color, class or culture of the man fighting next to you, as long as he is shooting in the same direction” people in the congregation, both white and dark, stood up cheering. When I saw those people, I said “that’s my tribe!” Yes, I belong to a tribe…and so do you. Humans are tribal. One of the most important understandings you can come to in this life is establishing what I call your “hierarchy of identity.”

Whom do you identify with most? What is the basis of your identity? Is it what you were born with or into–skin color, geographical location, economic class, family faith or secularism? Or have you consciously chosen your hierarchy of identity? I was born into a white, jewish, middle-class family in Philadelphia, Pa., but I don’t identify with any of that. In descending order of importance, I identify as a Christian (believer in and beneficiary of the atonement of Jesus Christ); a father of my three daughters, a husband, a citizen of the United States. Those are the identities that I labor to represent well. While I am also male, heterosexual, caucasian and middle class, I don’t labor to represent well those traits nor do I promote any superiority about them–they just are. You could say that’s an indication of how fortunate I am, since those traits automatically confer great advantages in this society. I agree…and so what. I am what I am, you are what you are. What matters most is what you can become, which is a function of what you believe OR what dominates your hierarchy of identity.

Those people cheering for pastor Evans’ words–most of whom were black Americans–are my tribe because they identify first as Christians, rather than by their skin color. I have no idea what their economic class is or where in the Dallas area they live. I don’t know if they are married or are parents, but none of that precludes us from being members of the same tribe, as I define it, which is the first level of my hierarchy of identity–Christian believer.

The “tribe”, as I define it, is the main filter of your worldview. Specifically for me, I filter everything that comes through my sensory apparatus as “either agrees with Biblical truth (or at least doesn’t contradict it), or opposes Biblical truth.” If the sensory input is the latter, then I know it’s false. That doesn’t mean I disregard it. My goal is to recognize the errors and to be able, when the opportunity arises, to refute, debate, oppose, ridicule or persuade–as appropriate–those who are spreading and preaching that gospel. What are some other prominent tribal identifications that present gospels in opposition to Biblical truth?

Skin color being the most visible, it is probably the most prevalent. There is also gender (feminism, transsexual), sexual preference, political affiliation, and other religions, notably Islam. So as I said, my goal is to recognize the errors and to be able, when the opportunity arises, to refute, debate, oppose, ridicule or persuade–as appropriate. So when is each appropriate? My system:

  • When their counter-gospel results in aggression–including violence and frivolous lawsuits–against members of my tribe, as with militant jihadism, militant LGBTQ activism I prefer debate, but since those tribes don’t want to debate, I am fine with ridicule/satire, opposing and refuting.
  • When their counter-gospel hurts members of their own tribe, as with gender-change surgery, I want to refute and oppose, but not ridicule, since many of the victims are children and their misguided families.
  • When their counter-gospel tries to recruit and persuade, I try to debate and oppose.
  • When their counter-gospel victimizes the helpless, like babies in the womb, I want to expose/debate, oppose and persuade.

This list of tribes and strategies is neither exhaustive nor final, though I do hope it will serve to inspire and educate members of my own tribe.  Does identifying with your tribe lead you to become a better person?



Demonstrations: Digging a deeper hole, or a lasting positive legacy?

Sound policy-making requires ability to THINK. More to the point, the kind of thinking I am referring to is following the future implications of your ideas. Have the future leaders of our country–as a group–lost, or never developed, this ability? Possibly. The following editorial is well worth reading. lost art of thinking

One of the best recent examples of this inability or unwillingness to follow the implications, or extrapolate future results, of your actions is the athlete “protests” that started with a guy named Colin Kaepernick (CK)–quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers– sitting instead of standing for the national anthem at a football game. I will use that example to illustrate the pitfalls of emotion as a form of policy-making:

  1. Fail to recognize the actual principles your actions inadvertently demonstrate: CK thought that sitting down during the anthem while all the other athletes and virtually all the fans stood, most of them respectfully, demonstrated his stand that there is too much racial injustice in this country. While that is no doubt true, that truth got lost immediately in all the inevitable counter-narratives.
  2. If a protest is intended to increase awareness of a problem, with the ultimate goal of effecting positive change, then the perception of your action is more important than your intent. (Of course, if the intention of your protest is to signal your virtue, demonstrate your anger, or merely to disrupt the status quo, ten you don’t care about perception, and no logic or reason need apply).
  3. Not only is perception crucial, but so is the venue for protest. If you want to draw attention to injustice AND effect positive change, your chosen venue should be conducive to demonstrating positive solutions AND controlling your narrative. Some venues can be, but are not always, more destructive than instructive–Twitter (unless all your principles can be summed up in 140 characters), (anti)-social media in general, public events where the interviewer and the crowd control the narrative, reactive “off-the-cuff” remarks in response to a reporter.
  4. Extrapolate how your actions are likely to be co-opted and misinterpreted by various self-interested parties, and project the probable consequnces. In this case, the parties who have co-opted, twisted, misunderstood or denied his intended message include President Trump, Black Lives Matter (BLM), some NFL owners, many fans, anyone who has another agenda. All of this was entirely predictable, as were the results: CK has no job (though he did opt out of his contract voluntarily, believing he could get a better one with another team); his intended message has been buried under an avalanche of competing messages; his fellow athletes took up his offenses in ways which were ineffective and ended up casting themselves as entitled, privileged and overpaid; enough fans were turned off by the attitudes demonstrated by the players that the game has become significantly less popular (if the trend continues on the present trajectory all the players livelihoods will be imperiled); the NFL is being mocked by the President of the United States. Good job, Colin….and the rest of you.

Now, for some suggestions:

  1. Whatever your message, write it out, over and over again, until it is refined and unequivocal, and you can deliver it in any venue effectively! This is often called your position statement or more to the point, your “elevator speech.” That means you can interest even a total stranger during an elevator ride to ask you questions. That takes self-discipline, which many protesters lack. CK’s explanations were overly generalized, kept changing and therefore ineffective.
  2. Make sure the method of “protest” or the demonstration of your beliefs doesn’t detract or confuse i.e. make it relevant! As I said, the perception of your actions is ultimately more powerful than your intent. CK’s method showed nothing, was perceived as unpatriotic by the paying customers, and his intent was primarily appreciated by his peer group–who are often perceived by the paying customers as “overpaid, entitled and privileged” athletes–making it appear that his gesture was signaling his virtue to his peers. Warrick Dunn, a former NFL all pro running back years ago, used his money and his platform to build homes for primarily minority single mothers and their children (Homes For The Holidays), scholarships, literacy programs and a training program for volunteers for his foundation (Philanthrogens), all of which are going strong after 20 years!!! warrick dunn foundation
  3. The venue for your demonstration should enhance and promote a clear understanding of your mission. Warrick Dunn is, once again, a prime example of the right venues, so when he was interviewed, it was a time and place he controlled the message (the families moving into their new homes).
  4. If the previous 3 principles are heeded, and your stand improves lives, you can extrapolate a future of being joined in your efforts–because people want to be a part of something great–instead of the mess of more protesting, more confusion, more anger. Did the CK protest produce anything positive? Oh, it got the “conversation” going? No, it got more vituperation going, more polarization.

Next to Donald Trump, this is the guy campus radicals and “social justice warriors” hate the most!

His name is Ben Shapiro, and this short post is my comments on a speech he gave at University of Tennessee, October 18, 2017. I agree with this entire speech! If you want to know what I stand for, read the whole thing. If you don’t have the patience to read the whole thing, here is the crux. “Anger is not what gives us meaning. Purpose, again, is what gives us meaning. Purpose is what creates the pursuit of happiness that we need. It is that purpose that we can restore.”

So why is he so hated? He is hated on campus and by leftists for exactly what he says in this speech. If you have the patience, read the whole thing. shapiro



Race relations, part 2: What are the “solutions” rooted in?

What does “racial reconciliation” look like?” Is it just a shorthand, high-sounding platitude that masks revenge or reverse oppression, or does it represent a true and honest attitude towards achieving God’s design for harmony in human relations?

I am going to start by citing an example of the WRONG WAY to approach racial reconciliation, chromosome/melanin “diversity”.  A leading Christian University, Biola, fired a white male long term exemplary employee for his chromosomes–XY–and low melanin content–caucasian level–and replaced him with a less experienced, less qualified person with a more acceptable chromosome pattern–XX–and the “proper” attitude towards melanin content, though if her melanin was greater she would have been even more welcome! biola controversy

For her doctoral studies, Deborah Taylor had conducted a racial and ethnic diversity related study of six “predominately white” Christian universities in California, including Biola University, in 2007. She interviewed faculty members about their views concerning university commitment to diversity, minority students’ experiences and their strategies when teaching students of color. Some noteworthy snippets from Taylor’s dissertation:

  • “One of the greatest powers associated with white privilege is the enjoyment of a number of unearned advantages without even recognizing or acknowledging them … Because white privilege gives White individuals the choice to ignore or engage in racial issues, perceiving its presence and understanding its implications is often difficult for White people …” (citations Page 43).
  • “First, inaccurate beliefs about diversity and cultural differences are prevalent on university campuses, and confronting these beliefs can be quite uncomfortable … Second, researchers advised that a cognitive understanding of diversity is not enough; people must experience a real change in their affective attitudes and beliefs in order for diversity initiatives (i.e. chromosome melanin–italics mine) and programs to succeed … Finally, the literature clearly indicated that changing these attitudes and beliefs among White faculty will require leading them through a process of white identity development and examination of white privilege” (citations Page 78).
  • “Although many of the current racial problems in contemporary society are rooted in painful memories of historical oppression, White evangelicals have difficulty seeing the significance of these historical factors in shaping current diversity issues … While people of color experience daily reminders of the impact of race on their efforts to succeed in American society, it seems particularly difficult for White Christians to understand the dynamics and implications of race” (citations Page 83).
  • “Due to a surprising level of ignorance regarding structural inequalities, White faculty are prone to see students of color as being individually unprepared, rather than seeing this as a societal issue of inferior school systems within many ethnic communities. (this is the one I have the most problem with–can you see Ben Carson or Thomas Sowell or Clarence Thomas or Booker T. Washington using this excuse? Mr. Washington was born a slave! Here are his own words BTW society) As a result, when a predominantly white Christian university makes a commitment to recruiting a more diverse student body, the faculty often view this as lowering the academic standards of the institution” (citations Page 67).
  • “In order for faculty at evangelical Christian institutions to fully embrace both relational and institutional change, this study confirms … that developing culturally competent faculty must be rooted in scriptural framework for diversity, racial reconciliation, and justice” (citations Page 238).

LET’S HEAR IT FOR “SCRIPTURAL FRAMEWORK. If she really believed that, she would have stood up for Dan Paschall, the guy she replaced! Three passages from the Gospels are more than sufficient to demonstrate the scriptural framework.

Matthew 5:43: You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 22:33: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

John 13:1: Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

What we need in this country, this world, our communities, schools and churches is more humility and less superficial and false narratives. mr. rogers feet