The Ubiquity of Evil and the Hope of Christmas


IMG_0031Whenever describing the evil actions of a person, most Americans will typically turn to the WWII Nazis as an example of evil personified. For the Russian writer Dostoevsky, he turned to the actions of Turkish soldiers to describe the detestable nature of human deeds. We can point to almost any nation at any given time and find people performing some of the most inhumane and violent acts. One can point to a San Francisco sheriff’s deputy who stands accused of attempting to choke a hospital patient to death and then charged the patient with assault. He did this for no apparent reason, which just stands as evil. Or we can turn to New York where two police officers – one a husband and father, the other a newlywed – were murdered for “revenge” right before Christmas.

It is near impossible to look into this world and not see it consumed by evil. Certainly, it seems that we have fallen into a void, one in which all can agree that we have gone astray. Many people hold to some form of naiveté believing that they could never be the perpetrators of evil, forgetting that Nazi guards were also fathers at home, that psychotic cop killers were once someone’s child. Evil is so prevalent in our world that we are, at any given point, just moments away from performing any given evil. The men who put people in gas chambers were not monsters, but men like you and I. The soldiers who perform war crimes are not subhuman, but quite human with hopes, dreams, and even good qualities outside of their acts of evil.

In a way, the humanity of those who perform monstrous acts makes them all the worse. Were they monsters then we could expect their evil as a part of their nature. It is why there is no conflict in fables when the hero goes off to fight a monster; monsters are, by their nature, evil beings. But what if the hero goes off to kill the dark knight, only to discover that while the knight did burn a village, he’s also a father to two children and a husband to a loving wife? He is a man, who by his nature is good, neglected his nature and turned to evil. Evil seems all the worse when we realize that partaking in it is the abandonment of our nature as humans.

Contrary to popular belief, humans are not evil by nature. Were we evil by nature then God would be a liar, calling his creation “very good.” Christ would have had to been evil by nature, that or have not taken on a human nature. Rather, Christ took on a human nature, showing that it was not the human nature which was evil and fallen, but the human will that fell. Thus, our engagement and enjoyment in evil does not stem from some natural inclination towards evil, but against our very nature; we must choose to engage in evil, we must choose to enjoy it. The Nazi guard did not do what came natural to him, but rather had to rationalize his actions and justify his actions, because deep down he knew them to be wrong. Such is the cry of all tyrants throughout history; “I was only following orders,” “It was my duty,” “I did it to protect my nation,” and so on. But acts of kindness, acts of love, never need such justifications. No man says, “I gave to the poor because I was told to,” or “I helped the orphans to help my nation.” No man who performs an act of love, an act of goodness, must ever justify his actions, for his actions speak for themselves. Only acts of evil need justification, and while the perpetrator might rationalize his actions, he will never justify them.

Through our rationalization of evil – of recent, rationalizing torture, isolation, subjugation, killing of the innocent in the name of authority, killing of the innocent in the name of revenge – we must admit that our world is a very dark place. Indeed, evil seems commonplace in the world and impossible to overcome. Somewhere in the world a child is starving because a warlord decided to horde the food for himself and his minions. Somewhere a woman cries out to apathetic ears while being violated by tormenters. Elsewhere a child sells himself to rich men for their acts of debauchery so that his family might eat. A man is killed for some arbitrary reason and to satisfy the evil urgings of another. A wife discovers her husband has cheated on her and seeks to cheat as well in order to exact revenge. Children sit in the same home as their parents, but are technological orphans, finding more connection with their cell phones than with the flesh and blood that brought them into this world. A man yells at the person with a foreign accent, hating someone for the mere fact of being different. Another hates people for a different shade of skin. The list of evils continue, all occurring within seconds of each other, overlapping each other, covering the globe, displaying the ubiquitous nature of evil.  Continue reading

Torturing the Image of God: Reflections on Christmas, Our Current Problems, and G.K. Chesterton


IMG_0039Amidst all the glitz and glimmer of Christmas we sometimes ignore that this is one of the most important holidays on the Christian calendar. Christmas marks the celebration of the birth of God into this world, the moment when in order to redeem a fallen creation, God the Son took on our flesh in order to redeem it. While made in the image of God, we ran away from this image and denied our purpose, thus losing all purpose in living. The Incarnation serves to remedy our flaw and to bring us back to Christ. Christ came into the world to redeem it from the ills visited upon it by us, he came to save us from ourselves.

It is not without the greatest irony that as we are here during Advent, the time before Christmas, that our televisions are full of stories that run contrary to “peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” We’re told stories of how our leaders authorized torture of suspected terrorists, some of whom turned out to be innocent. We see multiple protests against the police brutality in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, and other places. We saw Congress pass a spending bill that all but showed that they no longer regulate Wall Street, but instead are regulated by Wall Street, creating a scenario that will eventually lead our economy into another collapse. This Advent, we’ve seen stories, with increasing frequency, that show we’re becoming more depraved, more individualistic, and more of what we don’t want to be. Is this not what Christ came to stop?

We live in a fallen world, one in which difficult decisions must be made and sometimes difficult actions must be taken. But does this mean we must sacrifice our souls in order to save our lives? Must we torture someone for information, especially when this information doesn’t really do anything? Must we, like former vice president Dick Cheney, be so callously evil in our apathy towards the torturing of innocent people? While torture goes against human nature and one need not be a Christian to oppose torture, why does it seem that so many Christians embraced the CIA torture with glee? Why is it that, like Cheney, we can say that “real torture was 9/11,” as though only Americans can suffer torture? How can Christians, who ought to be humanists because God both created humans and became a human, celebrate the destruction of their fellow image bearers?

Or what do we do with the constant berating of the late Michael Brown. We’re told that it couldn’t be a case of him making a bad decision in robbing a store, or allegedly a bad decision in going after Darren Wilson. No. He must be a “thug,” he must be evil incarnate, and no matter what, we must be better off that he is dead. We must mock his death, celebrate his eradication, and not care that the image was destroyed. The same story runs for Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, or the many others innocent victims (especially black males) of police brutality. Or what of those who end up on my end of the spectrum, who look upon the police with suspicion in these instances? Where is our compassion for the multitude of good police, the ones who do their jobs and sometimes lose their lives in service to their community? Where is the concern for the image of God in such discussions?

Christianity is a rough religion, it is not easy, and it’s quite impossible to actually follow it with any hope of consistency. To quote from G.K. Chesterton:

“My point is that the world did not tire of the church’s ideal, but of its reality. Monasteries were impugned not for the chastity of monks, but for the unchastity of monks. Christianity was unpopular not because of the humility, but of the arrogance of Christians. Certainly, if the church failed it was largely through the churchmen…But I have only taken this as the first and most evident case of the general truth: that the great ideals of the past failed not by being outlived, but by not being lived enough…The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” (from What’s Wrong With the World)

In the entire chapter Chesterton raises the point of how ideals are important, not because we hope to achieve them, but because we can hope to strive for them. We can hope to make the world better. A conservative looks to the past and says, “We must get back to that golden age.” A liberal looks to a utopia and says, “We must make this occur.” But a realistic idealist looks to the ideal and says, “We must strive towards this, away from the past which did not achieve the ideal, but away from a future in which we think we have obtained the ideal.” Christianity presents an ideal that, at least this side of eternity, will never be obtained.  Continue reading

The Idealization of Marriage: A Response to Joanna Moorhead


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Lest the Church should become too enraptured by the way things ought to be, Joanna Moorhead calls for its leaders to remember that real life sucks.

In a recent edition of TheTablet* Ms. Moorhead criticized the, “sepia-tinted movie version,” of marriage depicted by a series of videos produced by the Vatican.  She berates the films for portraying a naive and idealistic picture of marriage.  “The truth about real-life marriage,” she insists,

is that very often marriage is far from happy.  Most unions start, like the wedding scenes within the films, on a positive, upbeat note: the participants feel connected; together, ‘two become one‘ as one of the couples getting married [in the videos] puts it.  All is well and happy and right in their world.  But then–after a few weeks in some cases, a few months or years in others–come the trials, the difficulties, the disappointments, the surprises.  No marriage is without these ructions: there are no perfect marriages outside of Hollywood, or perhaps outside of the Vatican, where marriage only exists as a concept anyway.

Ms. Moorhead’s diatribe suggests that the Vatican is out of touch with reality, and insensitive to the real life struggles of regular people.  Discussing and promulgating information about the essence of marriage–depicting how things ought to be–only reenforces how detached the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is.  In short, she thinks the Vatican is frolicking in the idealistic world of make-believe and has forgotten that we common folk struggle and toil with the realities of real life (which is messy and disappointing).

But what type of videos would Ms. Moorhead have the Vatican produce?  Should they have hired Quentin Tarantino to direct a gritty short film about an abusive husband beating his wife (complete with blood splats on the camera lens)?  Or perhaps the producers of Fifty Shades of Grey to make a sensuous film about a woman caught in adultery?  The writers of Coronation Street could have created a soap opera about a young couple, savagely arguing over a utility bill, who divorce after a drawn out and painfully mundane court battle.  Or, in true Hollywood style, they might have produced a special effects driven remake of the 90’s thriller Sleeping With the Enemy . . . 

You see, Ms. Moorhead is right.  Real life is tragic; it’s full of struggle and toil and pain and suffering and sadness and heartbreak.  We’re all painfully aware that the actual world is not the ideal world that we long for.  But where, in this mixed up, dysfunctional, relativistic, utilitarian muddle of Western culture can we look to see how things ought to be?

Of all places, we should be able to look to the Church!

In spite of Ms. Moorhead’s pessimism, the Vatican understands the unfortunate condition of real life all too well.  Which is precisely why they have produced the films she so cynically mocks.  In a society in which it is extremely difficult to find happy, healthy, long-lasting, monogamous relationships–in a world struggling to understand what marriage is–it is absolutely necessary to depict the ideal.  It is precisely because the world is detached from the Truth and wallowing in a nightmare of its own making that the Church must portray marriage as it ought to be.

In real life people lie, cheat, murder, and steal.  Yet, when rearing our children, we don’t (one would hope) fail to teach them the way things ought to be.  We don’t, on account of the facts of real life, fail to teach them it is wrong to lie, cheat, murder, and steal or fail to encourage them to live a life of virtue.  We instill in our children moral values–ideals–so that they might live successful and healthy lives. We know that living out these ideals can be quite difficult; but we instill them nonetheless.

Likewise, the Church lovingly teaches its children what marriage is and shows them how it ought to look; it idealizes marriage knowing full well that it is not, “straightforward, or easy, or cozy, or even harmonious, in its living-out.”  But, if we pay attention to the teaching of the Church on marriage and sexuality, in spite of the difficulties we face, we may find our marriages looking closer to the idealization that Ms. Moorhead holds with such contempt.

*The article in question was published in the November edition of the monthly magazine.

“Why Don’t They Protest Black-on-Black Crime”: Why Eric Garner Must be the Last Straw


DSC02085As I was writing this post today, the media announced that the New York grand jury failed to indict an officer who killed Eric Garner. Never mind the video evidence coupled with a medical report that stated quite emphatically the death was a homicide, caused by a chokehold, the grand jury didn’t find sufficient evidence to prosecute the officer. Once again, a giant spotlight is placed on the racial divide within our country, a divide always seen by the minorities who suffer from such a divide, but one ignored by those who benefit.

In all the arguing, I’ve watched many white people try to say that racism isn’t that bad, that the system works most of the time, that black people are just complaining. Of course, there are a multitude of innocent young black men who would beg to differ that the system works. Some white people choose to respond back, “Fine, we’ll grant that the system doesn’t work, but why don’t you protest black-on-black crime? Where’s your outrage over the 95% of black people killed by other black people?

The implied message is basically, “The problem is with the race, not the system.” It seems that no matter what we argue in terms of helping the black community, we’re met with, “Let the statistics speak for themselves. Now, from the view of statistics it’s quite hard to argue that black-on-black crime isn’t an issue. Statistically, even if we remove death by police, growing up a black man comes with an inherently higher risk than growing up a white man.

What are we to make of this? Shall we continue to lay hold of the popular question, “Why don’t black people protest black-on-black crime?” Of course, while it’s a popular question to ask, it  has no basis. There are numerous protests ever year over the violence within poor black communities. There have been multiple articles, multiple programs, and multiple attempts to lower the crime rate within poor black communities. Yet, the problem persists. It leaves us with one of two explanations: Either there’s a problem with the system or there’s a problem with the race. If the problem is with the race, then we have to embrace some pretty unsavory conclusions. The first being there’s no scientific explanation between white people and black people (other than the color of the skin), thus we’re coming to the conclusion without a shred of evidence. Likewise, we must accept that the KKK and white supremacists aren’t necessarily wrong, just that we disagree with their methods. Essentially, if we conclude the problem of black-on-black crime isn’t systemic and is rather a problem with the race, then we must embrace an ideology that puts one race ahead of another.

I would hope few people would be willing to embrace such a view, especially since it lacks evidence, logic, compassion, or a Christian view. If, then, the problem is not the race, then it must be the system. Which raises a very important question; Why don’t white people protest black-on-black crime? More to the point, why don’t we protest a system that breeds poverty and violence? Why do we look upon it as “their” problem, with apathy, when it’s a problem that impacts us all? If we truly believe that human life holds intrinsic value then the loss of any life should matter to us, but even more so when the system has failed and worked to create an environment in which poverty and violence breed. Where, then, are the white protests against a system that creates such an environment? Why aren’t white people protesting the crime that exists because the system is broken?

None of this absolves criminals of their own responsibility, mind you. If a young man is in a gang and is killed by a rival gang member, then both made their choice. Even in environments geared towards producing violence, people are still responsible for their choices, but sometimes the system can influence the decisions they make. Consider the following:

We take a person and place him in a room that has a huge assortment of foods. However, there’s a giant wall separating him from the food. Likewise, there’s apples on his side of the room, but we’ve told him not to eat the apples. Now, he can get over the wall, but he has to overcome barbed wire, electric wiring, and a very narrow gap at the very top.

It doesn’t take long to realize that at a certain point, given enough people, some people are going to make it across the wall. Some will overcome the odds and get through. More, however, will give up and eat the apples. Some simply will lack the proper means to get over the wall and be forced to eat the apples. While it’s still their choice to eat the apples, the system is geared in such a way to prevent them from having better choices.

Likewise, when you take a group of people – regardless of race – and put them in an environment where there are little to no jobs, little to no education, police brutality, and rampant violence, can we be shocked if they succumb to the environment and make poor choices? Yes, we can say, “Well they should clean it up,” but how can they when the system for a number of years has worked to prevent any clean up from occurring? Up until the 70s and even 80s bias ran rampant within city officials, creating policies that negatively impacted black communities. Sadly, while these mentalities aren’t as open today, they do exist.

What do we do with a system that allows police to kill black people without any recourse to justice? A medical examiner stated that the chokehold killed Mr. Garner, labeled it a homicide, and there’s a video of the entire indicent; but that still wasn’t enough to grant justice. That is a broken system. That a man can walk in Walmart holding a toy gun and get gunned down by police without a warning while the police walk away freely is proof we live in a broken system. That a DA can make a half-assed attempt at a Grand Jury in Missouri, that he can essentially toss the case and not make an effort is proof we live in a broken system. That black men and women must worry every single time a police car pulls up behind them, even though they’ve done nothing wrong, is proof we live in a broken system. Why aren’t white people more upset, more willing to protest, more willing to change the system for their brothers and sisters?  Continue reading

The Trinity and Ferguson: A Lesson in Community and the Root Cause of Racism


IMG_0540No matter where you stand on the lack of an indictment against Darren Wilson, what’s going on in Ferguson is a tragedy. While the violence and the occasion that brought about the riot is tragic in and of itself, what makes it a bigger tragedy is it underscores just how divided we are as a nation. I’ve seen multiple Facebook posts and even a few articles filled both with explicit racism and implicit racism. Everything from, “Well what do you expect from animals” to “well, how come ‘we’ [read: white people] never riot when we don’t get our way?” Both views are incredibly racist. But I’ve also seen interviews and Facebook statuses saying that “white people are just racist, it’s in their blood.” Sadly, both approaches are incredibly racist and don’t solve the problem. They’re both very nihilistic approaches to the issue of race, essentially declaring there is no hope for the other, because the other’s problem is within his skin color.

There’s a temptation within the white community to pat ourselves on the back for ending slavery and segregation (as though the eradication of both were unilaterally done by white people). Some, especially the more liberal or social justice minded, go further to talk about how they support welfare and food stamps, so obviously they’re not racist. The implied message is, “Because I support programs for the poor, that means I can’t have anything against African Americans; I even have African American friends.” Of course, the other implied message that is missed is the assumption that the majority of people who benefit from social justice programs are somehow non-white, but the statistics show that the majority of people on social welfare programs are actually white. This doesn’t stop people on the left from stereotyping blacks, however.

Those on the right tend to be much more blatant and upfront in their racism. They just assume that rioting is something “black people do.” They’ve replaced the N-word with the word “thug,” so as to avoid the controversy. All black people who protest what happened to Michael Brown are subsequently labeled “thugs.” We’re told that the black community just needs to get it together, that they’re out of control, that they’re doing something whites would never do. Of course, they completely ignore the fact that if we fired a longtime college football coach for turning a blind eye to sexual abuse of minors we’d riot (such as Penn State did a few years ago) or over pumpkins (as this happened this year). It completely ignores that white colonials rioted against the Colonial British authorities prior to the Revolution, that whites rioted against the Irish immigrants in the 1800s, that whites rioted against peaceful Civil Rights protests in the 1960s. We also conveniently forget the most shameful aspect of American history, the lynch mobs of the early 1900s all the way up into the 1960s (and later in some places).

Racism has always existed within the United States, which points to our bigger problem; individualism has failed us. Shortly after finishing the War for Independence, early Americans were concerned about German immigrants; they weren’t Anglo and therefore weren’t “white.” Around the mid to late 1800s, the concern was over Irish immigrants, again, because they weren’t Anglo and therefore weren’t white. Then it was over Italians in the early 1900s because they weren’t from Northern Europe, they were criminals, they were thugs, they wouldn’t learn the language, and they weren’t “white.” By the 1910s to 1930s, it was Eastern European immigrants (my great-grandfather falls into this category, coming off the boat in 1912), because they weren’t “white.” In our history we’ve committed genocide against Native Americans without considering them human, we’ve enslaved millions of black people and then segregated against them, and overall we’ve been very unkind to anyone who didn’t share our skin color. Why? What is this underlying cause of racism that would cause typically good natured people to turn to the basest of human sentiments, that my color makes me better and your color makes you lesser?

To understand the cause of racism and what plagues our current condition, we must understand who we are as human beings. Within the Christian tradition there’s the belief that we’re created in the image of God. Of course, being in the image of God has nothing to do with our physical appearance as God does not have a physical appearance within his essence. Socrates and other classical philosophers described the essence of humans as rational-animals, meaning we are spiritual and thinking beings who happen to also exist within the physical realm. The animalistic part is our physicality while the rational part, what drives us and separates us from other animals, is where we find God’s image. But what does it mean to be made in the image of God?

God is Trinitarian, that is, he’s three persons within one essence. Without getting into too much detail, that means God is a community unto himself. The easiest way to think of this is as follows:

God is infinite, God is infinitely good, and God is love. Every aspect of God is without limit and is perfect. In order for love to be perfect and maximally great, it much be actualized. For instance, a married couple might love a child that has yet to be conceived, but their love will be greater once the child actually exists. Thus, if God is love and that love is maximal, it means from eternity past there had to be an object for God’s love; that love is shared within the community of God. The Father, Son, and Spirit all love each other maximally. When Christ prayed for those who would follow him, he prayed that “they would be one as we [the Father, Son, and Spirit] are one.” Christ’s prayer is that all those who follow him, all of humanity, would unite within the community of God.

When we sinned a division was placed between us, which is where racism comes from. Racism, no matter what, finds its root in a lack of community, and a lack of community finds itself in our first sin when we separated from the community of God. One of the biggest causes of racism is ignorance, typically ignorance of what other people are going through. One need look no further than the current debate over white privilege, that our system is inherently tilted in favor towards lighter-skinned people. Of course, some white people deny this is the case, but they are the recipients of the favor, so it’s hard for them to see how others are impacted by this favor. Even me as a white male who acknowledges white privilege exists still struggles at times to see the ways in which this privilege manifests itself. This isn’t because I’m a foaming at the mouth racist, but because of my racial and social status I can never put myself into the shoes of the other. I can never imagine what it’s like. But I can talk to those who suffer from white privilege, I can form a type of community with them, I can learn from their experiences, I can be a human being to them.

The underlying cause of racism, no matter the person being the racist, is a lack of community. It’s a lack of talking to and trying to see the other person’s point of view. The solution, then, is to get back to community, but community stems from God since he is the original community. The simplest solution to racism is for people to recognize that they belong to the bigger community, the one that originates with God. The solution is to listen and even befriend people who are different from ourselves.

None of this, however, ought to be construed to mean there is no diversity within community. For people who say, “I don’t see color” or “we’re all a part of the human race” would be like looking at a Rembrandt or Picasso and trying to say you don’t see the patterns or the colors. Of course there are differences within cultures (though, those cultures are not necessarily limited to or contained solely within color barriers). Having community with each other isn’t the same as monoculturalism; it’s entirely possible and ideal for differences and diversity to shine forth within a community. We learn from each other that way and even enhance our own cultural experiences.

Ultimately, the solution to our racist problem is to realize that if we claim to love God, we must first love our fellow man. There’s a reason Christ said that the greatest commandment (to love God) is similar to the second greatest (to love your neighbor); to accomplish one commandment, one must participate in the other. It is impossible to love God without loving your neighbor, and it is impossible to love your neighbor without loving God. It is also impossible to love your neighbor if you can’t first talk to him, empathize with him, and attempt to understand his experiences and his points of view. Without empathy and attempts to know your neighbor, there can be no way to fix racism.

Immigration, Executive Orders, and the Christian Message: Another One Matt Walsh Gets Wrong


IMG_0547At this point I feel like I could make a living off writing against Matt Walsh. I’ve yet to come across anything he’s written where I can sit there and go, “This post was substantial, informative, and something I can mostly agree with.” Instead, reading a Matt Walsh post is a lot like trying to chug cheap whiskey; it’s a bad idea and you’re going to regret it. Walsh is the Kardashians of the conservative movement. No one really knows how someone who has done literally nothing became so popular and annoying, there’s just no explanation for either the Kardashians or Walsh. And yet, he persists. His latest ramblings on immigration reform attack President Obama’s executive order as well as the idea of immigration reform, all the while Walsh is proving that he’s not really pro-family, unless your family happens to be American.

First and foremost, someone should alert Walsh to the fact that if you’re going to refer to someone using the poetic apostrophe “O” that it’s spelled “O,” not “oh.” “Oh” is an emotive interjection, such as, “Oh, I was just thinking…” If I want to address someone, I’d say, “O Holiness.” A minor note, but one worth noting. I know of the above because I used to make the same mistake. Thankfully, my English teacher in the tenth grade corrected me.

The biggest complaint that Walsh has with Obama is the use of an executive order. Cutting through all the wording, Walsh’s argument boils down to this: “Obama bypassed Congress and in so doing created the law by fiat, which makes him a tyrant.” I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m not too keen on executive orders. There’s a reason that up until the late 19th century, they were used quite sparingly. Regardless, the last president to have less than 100 executive orders within his term(s) was Chester Arthur (who?), back in 1885. In other words, for 129 years every president has issued at least 100 executive orders. In that timespan, there have only been four presidents who issued less executive orders than Obama (who, to be fair, is halfway into his second term, so that number could go up). Regardless, as far as precedence goes, Obama is pretty low on executive orders. Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton all sat above 300 executive orders.

Again, while I’m not a fan of executive orders, they’ve been common place for 129 years, they do allow clarification on the role of the executive office in executing a law. Since George Washington – who issued eight executive orders – they’ve been used to explain the internal functions of how any given law ought to be enforced. They give the parameters and to what extent the law will be executed. The very first executive order was issued by Washington declaring that all US citizens had to stay out of the conflict involving England and France; what makes it more amazing is that Washington did this without interpreting any present laws, but rather created the decree because Congress was out of session. In other words, our very first President essentially created a law by fiat and hardly anyone batted an eye at the time. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus without Congress in session in 1861 and Congress didn’t back him until 1863. And let’s not forget possibly the most famous executive order ever issued, the Emancipation Proclamation.

There are multiple examples of presidents, many of whom are considered great presidents, using their executive power to decree laws without Congress in session. In fact, the last few presidents have all issued executive orders dealing with immigration reform. Thus, Obama doing the same – while not necessarily a good thing – isn’t out of line or odd. If it were then Republicans could easily defund the executive order to challenge it in court (as all executive orders can be subjected to judicial review). Republicans already did this with the famous “birth control” executive order. They could attempt it with the order on illegal immigration, but there’s not a lot in the Constitution to show how the executive order is wrong. Thus, contra Walsh, Obama didn’t do anything tyrannical, nor did he break the law, nor did he really do anything wrong from a legal standpointContinue reading

So About the 2014 Midterm Election: A Few Lessons We Ought to Learn


DSC02079The morning after the day of an election can either lead to much celebratory moods, or to the rending of garments followed by the weeping and gnashing of teeth. Or, in some cases, it leads to an frustrated apathy towards the entire system, believing that regardless of the win, nothing truly changed. Voting is a privilege and a civic duty so long as the vote is truly free and contributes to the political process; I leave it up to others to debate whether or not modern voting in America actually matters considering the massive quantities of corporate money flooding into the elections.

Aside from celebration, mourning, or apathy, there are a few lessons that we ought to learn from the midterm of 2014, something that no one is really covering.

  1. Voters don’t support Republicans – yes, Republicans won in a landslide, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they accept the Republican ideals, especially of the far right. The election was more about the frustration towards an ineffective Congress and an ineffective government. Were it the American people crying out to end “Obamacare” then the Republicans could have had this landslide back in 2012, yet they didn’t. For the past 20 years, Congress has fluctuated back and forth between Republican and Democrats, showing that the populace doesn’t necessarily agree with either side, but merely that they can only tolerate one side for so long before having to take a break. It shows voter frustration with the political process and the [lack of] progress of Congress. The midterm had far more to do with people tired of suffering in an economy that isn’t progressing; yes, the GDP is higher as is the stock market, and we’ve added jobs (though the quality of jobs is never addressed), but wages have remained stagnate and low while cost of living has increased. People are frustrated and changing parties doesn’t reflect a change in values or ideology, but a growing frustration that neither party is willing to admit exists. By ignoring it, voters become more and more angry, which at some point will reach a boiling point.
  2. Nothing actually changed – for all the supposed differences between Republicans and Democrats, nothing really changed. We still have a President who can veto bills, we have a Congress that is still pro-intervention in anything and everything overseas, we still have a pro-corporate/big business Congress, and we still have a Congress that will vote to cut taxes. Everyone forgets that Obama inherited a majority in the House and Senate in 2008 and subsequently did very little with it. Why? Because there aren’t a ton of differences between Democrats and Republicans; while differences exist, it’s like pointing to the differences between Baptists and Presbyterians, not Baptists and Atheists; it’s still one party cut from the same clothe.
  3. Our problems are cultural, not political – while these problems manifest themselves within political debates, they aren’t political to begin with. Until we address our cultural problems, it doesn’t matter who has the majority or what happens the midterm election, we’re voting in an ineffective congress. As a culture, or many cultures contradictory and competing cultures within one nation, we’re failing to understand each other and allow for disagreement. We want to enforce our point of view on everyone, to make them legally culpable to live the way we desire. And it doesn’t matter if we’re on the left or the right, we see our cause as just and believe no one ought to have a right to be wrong. Likewise, we have one culture that sees the plight of the poor and thinks it’s fixed through better government assistance (though such a thing doesn’t hurt, it’s ultimately ineffective if wages don’t increase) while another culture thinks the poor are poor by choice. They think private charity – something which simply isn’t big enough – ought to be used, but then they in turn rebuke the poor for being poor, calling them lazy and leeches. We have white people who don’t believe they’re privileged and we have black people who think if you’re white you’re automatically racist, by fact of being white (which is, ironically, racist). Culturally we’ve moved away from the progress made by the Civil Rights movement and instead moved towards self-imposed segregation. We’re not longer a people who value education, but rather value results; we want the test scores up, never stopping to question if pushing for increased test scores is actually our problem. And in the end, education isn’t truly valued as we come down on teachers and not the system.
  4. Our problems are even bigger than cultural, they’re spiritual – as a people, we don’t value the family. We still allow and promote abortion under the guise of “reproductive rights,” as though anyone has the right to terminate a human life. Yet, we also tell the poor to get two jobs, for both mom and dad to work and to work as much as possible, never thinking that such an economic system destroys the family. The left destroys the family through abortion and lax views of sexuality. But the right destroys the family through its economic policies requiring more work for less money, low-quality healthcare for pregnant women (which causes us to have a higher infant mortality rate than most other nations), and doing all we can to punish women for getting pregnant, leading many to see abortion as their only option. We’ve lost all sight of the sanctity of human life on both sides of the ideological spectrum. Both champion the individual above the ethical obligation to his neighbor. Both promote individualism, a heresy that places the individual above his community; for the left, this takes place in their social policies, and for the right it takes place in their view of why the rich ought to pay more. The left has abandoned God, only to bring him up when convenient. Yet, their version of Jesus is not too different from them, not indicating that they’ve conformed to Christ, but rather they’ve created a Christ who is conformed to them. On the right, however, the idea of America has supplanted God to the point they are one in the same. In the middle of it all, the idea of a God independent of nations, politics, or us is abandoned instead for a God crafted in the image of a Democrat or Republican. Spiritually, as a people, we’ve lost our way.
  5. We’ve lost our view of the common good – the midterm has shown one hard fact about us as a nation, and that’s that we’ve lost a view of the common good. The left has collapsed to the earth, pouring dust over their heads while crying out about how the end is near. The right is celebrating and gloating in their victory. Republicans are saying, “Finally, our views can reign supreme,” never thinking that perhaps their views aren’t absolute. Perhaps their views do not encompass what is best for everyone involved, but just for some. The same stands true of the left, having passed many laws that protect one class, but not all classes and even harming some classes. We no longer care for what is good for us all, merely what is good for me and my political party.

The midterm of 2014 won’t really change anything, but it does show something; our nation is dying. No one knows how long she has, but it should be clear to even the casual observer that she is mortally sick, that hospice should be put on notice, and that her end is sooner rather than later. To those who think that we’re immune to such a collapse or destruction, I merely ask you to look at history and observe that no great empire is immune to collapse or destruction. All Republics who move toward empire, who become as divided as we currently are, ultimately collapse. With our divides and ineffective political machine, choked by unqualified politicians and money from oligarchs, the United States is crumbling and dying, but not quite yet dead.

If we wish to revive our nation, if we wish to fix our broken political machine, then we must first become a better people. Our culture must change before our political system changes. Our recovery must occur from the inside, it must happen within homes, communities, cities, and states. As a people we must become better, we must become virtuous, otherwise we’ll continue to elect ineffective politicians after ineffective politicians. We must never forget that we are the solution to the problems in Congress, for the problems in Congress reflect one ultimately problem; us.