Contra Cruz or, I Support Israel’s Right to Exist, but I Support My Christian Family More


ChristtraThis is going to be a very long read, so let me go ahead and get the main point out of the way here: Ted Cruz was absolutely, 100% wrong for what he said. In telling persecuted Christians, “If you don’t stand with Israel, I don’t stand with you,” in his capacity as a senator for the United States of America, he effectively told these Christians that unless they give support to Israel, he will do all he can to avoid giving any aid to persecuted Christians.

Could you imagine what would have happened if President Obama said the same thing? He would be (rightfully) attacked by both the Left and the Right. In fact, Cruz has been attacked by both the Left and the Right. When traditionally conservative websites condemn what Cruz said, perhaps it’s best for Cruz to sit back and realize he’s in the wrong.

See, Cruz is a self-proclaimed believer, meaning he was telling his brothers and sisters in Christ that if they don’t support him on a political issue, he doesn’t support them. Now, there are times for Christians to turn against other Christians and those times typically involve some type of heresy. Churches have split over heresies, such as the Divinity of Christ or the Trinity. These divisions are expected and, while harmful, work to preserve the faith. Likewise, there are times to actively work against other self-proclaimed Christians, such as when a majority of German Lutherans supported the Nazis in their pursuit and eradication of the Jewish people (and other people). In these instances, it’s okay to take a stand against another Christian. But on the issue of Israel? None of these Christians are calling for genocide against the Jews and last time I checked one’s stance on the secular state of Israel isn’t a litmus test for pure doctrine, so what is Cruz thinking?  Continue reading

Dark Shadows in the City of God or, What I Saw in Mexico (excerpt)


DSC01482I’ve come across some journal writings of a young man that I know, we’ll simply call him Matthew (or Matt). Born to a successful family, he began a job in the finance field after graduating college. He felt unfulfilled in all that he was doing, so he decided to venter into Mexico. The few times he went in college were typically Spring Break trips, visiting the tourist areas of Mexico. He decided to go last year and visit what he calls “real Mexico,” the part that tourists don’t get to visit. 

His journal entries are interesting. I’m sure some of this is written creatively and even Matt might be a part of the creative fiction, but every good story must mix a bit of fiction and truth, for that is the recipe of art. Thus, I present to you his journal, fragmented though it may be.  Continue reading

Happy Labor Day! Now Get Back to Work or, A Call to All for Justice


DSC01714Does anyone else find it incredibly ironic that the people who have to work on Labor Day are the people for which the day was created? It’s the laborers who still have to work to support the non-laborers who celebrate a day dedicated to laborers.

A person I know who is a manager at a national retailer (a big box chain) told me the story once of how he had to sit down and talk about personal hygiene with an employee. The employee had to stop the person and say he knew how to bathe, he just had to choose between food for his family or the water bill that week. He chose the food and thus couldn’t shower. Keep in mind, the person who told this to me is incredibly loyal to his company and an ardent conservative, so there was no hidden agenda.

As many people enjoy a day off tomorrow, many others will be hard at work to ensure that the others are able to enjoy that day off. Some are essential – such as police, doctors, firefighters, and the like – but others are completely non-essential. Their essential jobs are to make sure we can get our stuff checked out to enjoy our Labor Day sale, or put food on our plate at the restaurant after a long day of doing nothing.

The holiday was originally set aside to celebrate the contributions of organized labor, or unions, after the US Marshals and others killed a few laborers during a strike in the 1880s. Organized labor brought justice to work, or at least attempted to, during the Industrial Revolution; thus, Labor Day recognizes their contributions. The modern celebration is ironic because 28% of America’s workforce is in retail (considered a laborious job), but only 3% of workers are unionized. Considering that the US unemployment rate is at 6.3% (give or take), but at least 49% of Americans take some form of government assistance. Perhaps part of the problem for the rapid increase of poverty, or necessity of government assistance, is that the average retail worker working full time brings in $18,500 a year.

Now, while there are practical reasons for considering a wage increase in just the retail section alone (the aforementioned link shows that increasing wages for retail workers would actually benefit out economy and only cause a 1% increase in prices), we must first consider the ethical ramifications of what we’ve been doing to our economy and, more importantly, to ourselves. Labor Day was created to celebrate not just the work done by laborers, but more importantly, to celebrate laborers. People who work for a living, who do construction, who come and fix the toilet, who work on your car, who mow your yard, who clean up after you and your rotten children at a restaurant, who help you find the clothes you “need” to have, these are people that we treat differently: they’re servants. Though no one wants to realize it, we’ve done away with most of the middle class and shifted them to the servant class. Who cares if the servants aren’t paid well and are mistreated? Perhaps they ought to get a better job and an education to help achieve that better job, never mind the fact that if everyone did that then there’d be no one to mow the yard, to fix the car, or to fix the toilet (which would lead to a pretty crappy society).  Continue reading

The Return Home: A Short Story


Source: NASA

He looked out the canopy of his ship, into the vast expanse before him. A trained soldier, engineered to serve the greater good, he reflected upon his mission. He saw the twinkling of billions upon billions of stars before him, knowing one of them harbored a planet for his people.

“Our planet is dying.” he remembered her saying.

“Aren’t we all dying?” he responded.

She smiled and kissed his hand. She had a way of pulling him away from his gloomy visions.

“We’re all living. Help us continue to do so.” she finally said.

He thought back to the green sunrise he experienced earlier in the year. Their star rising above the horizon, illuminating the lush jungle canopy. In the distance the mountain smoked, threatening more and more to erupt. And then it did. The destruction it wrought was enough to bury the village and cover the distant city of Capeton with soot, providing further proof that the planet was slowly decaying.

In all their years of space exploration, they had harvested planets, never intending to colonize any of them. At first, their laws forbid colonization, as it would inherently impact the ecosystem of any planet they encountered. Then they allowed exploration and the commodification of entire planets. Colonization was forbidden not because it would destroy a planet, but because it would prevent its exploitation. Man’s appetite was insatiable. The sweet irony was that they now needed a habitable planet to escape theirs, and they could not find one.

He was selected along with twenty other soldiers to head out into the darkness of the beyond, to find a planet and return with hope. They endured training, genetic engineering, biological implants, and years away from loved ones. His mission was to head to sector 4591, send out probes, and hope for the best.

He pressed his display and saw a holovid of her pop up, smiling and blowing him a kiss. Tears formed in the corners of his eyes and a lump developed in his throat. He thought of how he missed her and how he might never see her. Six years he’d been on this mission, and in six years the probes had found nothing.

He quietly ate his meal, allowing the hum of the ship to be the only noise made. He had long given up trying to listen to music, as it meant nothing to him any more. He wondered what she endured, if she was afraid, if she cursed him for not being there to protect her. His thoughts began to consume him and forced him to become angry at his situation. He threw his plate at the wall, the leftovers splattering over the ground.

How could he have known his second mission? How could he have known the truth, a truth hidden from everyone? He walked his way to the airlock again, contemplating forcing himself out into space. The death would be painful, but it would be quick. The thought of her somehow knowing, of her looking on at his suicide prevented him from opening the airlock.

He walked past the cryo-tubes, the cold and bitter reminders of what once was. Hundreds of embryos in suspended animation, prepared to develop in artificial wombs and eventually birthed into a new world. Representatives of a society long forgotten. How he hated these tubes, these mockeries of his life. These reminders of just how alone he truly was.

He slipped into bed. He watched the video of his wife once again, crying as he attempted to touch her image, his hand moving through it. He then switched videos, to the last transmission he received 5 months ago. Continue reading

Confessions of a White Man or, What I’ve learned from White America


Photo: David Broome Upi

Photo: David Broome Upi

Full disclosure and just to get this out of the way:

1) I am not accusing all white people of being racist. What I’m saying is that it’s far more prevalent than people realize or are willing to admit. 

2) I currently live in the South, but in an area that has a huge “immigrant” population of people from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and other North/Northeastern states, so take that for what you will. 

3) I understand the difference between someone making a joke (that’s a whole other debate entirely) and someone being serious. This is dedicated solely to those who are seriously racist, although they may not recognize it.

4) I’m merely attempting to point out the prejudice that I see within language and action. I also know that I’m not perfect and have my own biases to overcome; part of writing this is my attempt to overcome them. 

Dear non-white Americans (and non-Americans),

 

I want to let you in on a little secret; white people say some pretty racist things when you’re not around. Not all white people mind you, there are quite a few that honestly are not racist (at least not obviously so). There are many who are genuinely appalled when there is mistreatment of “minorities” anywhere, or when blatant racism happens to appear. Yet, there are others who aren’t so quick to come against racist actions. Yes, they quietly “tolerate” all these non-whites encroaching upon their existence and certainly don’t want to see violence done against non-whites, but they really don’t like you. I know this because I’m white and being white means other white people feel completely free to say whatever they’re thinking to me. After all, I’m safe, right?

I’ve had the following said to me in just the past three months:

“Well, I can’t really blame Donald Sterling for what he said, it was his right to say it.”

“I’d like to move out towards Montana, where people are more like you and me, you know what I mean?”

“Well, they’re just different, you know?”

“Figures that there’s rioting after they kill another n*gger.”

Now again, and I cannot stress this enough, there have been white people who have said the exact opposite of the above. They’ve shown genuine outrage towards the blatantly racist ongoings in this country, but more often than not there’s always a wink and a nudge when talking about non-whites when it’s just white people around. To be honest, I’m disgusted by it. It makes me feel uncomfortable, and most of my friends will tell you that it’s painfully obvious. But the fact is it still happens around me and, shamefully I admit, I don’t think I do enough to stop it. Especially when it was said to me as I was a bartender, because I was more concerned about my tips and job (which I most certainly would have lost if I spoke up) than I was about doing the right thing (admittedly shameful and wrong on my part).

Of course, what’s the harm? If some white people hold a racist view, but never act it out, then who really cares? It’s not as though racial prejudice is getting anyone killed anymore, right? Well, see, that’s the problem; the racist attitudes that occur in private are inherently manifested in public, causing massive problems and even death (especially among young black men).

Think about Mike Brown and the witness (Dorian Johnson) to his murder. Two young black men stopped by a police officer. Why? Perhaps he was looking for a suspect and saw two black men, who just always conveniently fit the description of someone who’s wanted. The witness was so afraid of the police that he moved out of his apartment, and for good cause. As we’ve already seen, the Ferguson police aren’t afraid of roughing up journalists and violating First Amendment rights, so why would they be afraid of a little retribution? They’ve shown absolute tyranny in how they’ve handled the community.

Yet, within the white community, the riots are looked upon as opportunistic and self-destructive. We look at the riots and go, “Well no wonder the police are acting this way!” We show absolutely no sympathy for the vast majority of protestors who have remained peaceful, yet have been met with teargas and rubber bullets. Why? Because let’s be honest; if one black man acts up, we green light the mistreatment of the entire race. For whatever reason, no one points out the fact that the community has suffered under the oppression of poverty, under a brutal police force, under false charges, random stops, random searches, mistreatment, and absolutely no relief from this treatment. The last time an authoritative government attempted to implement martial law on a bunch of white people, to impoverish them via taxation, to fire indiscriminately into a crowd, to brutalize, search, and seize white people’s property, a Revolution occurred and the United States was born. Continue reading

Human Dignity vs. Minimum Wage or, Where the Right Goes Wrong


DSC02097Matt Walsh, the male Ann Coulter for the right (and he’s on the same path), is back at it again, creating a straw man and then hacking it to pieces. This time around, he’s picking on Walmart employees that don’t enjoy the wages and treatment, saying they should be thankful to have a job and that if they just worked a bit harder, they’d all get promotions. In this conservative utopia where hard work is always justly rewarded, everyone becomes the manager, everyone works their way up to the top, and everyone becomes rich who deserves to be rich. Sadly, however, Matt Walsh (and conservatives in general) ignore the importance of human dignity within the wage debate (not that liberals do any better; they demonize and dehumanize the rich, whereas the conservatives demonize and dehumanize the poor).

From a purely practical standpoint, basic psychology tells us that if we treat someone as less than human then that person will act as less than human. One wonders why in the Roman Empire there were so precious few slave revolts until one realizes that beating slaves and treating them as less than human led them to believe they were less than human. The same rings true within the American south, where slaves didn’t revolt even when they made up a majority. Typically, when humans are exploited, they begin to think of themselves as “lesser than” and act accordingly. It should serve as no surprise, then, that when you put a minimum investment into a person you get a minimum return.

The better I’m treated, the less I have to worry about bills, the more incentive there is to earn higher pay for working harder, the likelier I am to be a better worker. The promise of an eventual promotion that may or may not come is merely dangling a carrot in front of the horse, getting him to run harder without the promise of ever actually eating the carrot. “If you work hard, then perhaps someday you too could become an executive in this corporation!” This, of course, is assuming that you’re able to keep a roof over your head, pay for electricity and water, and then afford the necessary education to get promoted. More than likely, however, even the hardest working Walmart employee (or any other big retail chain) will find herself stuck within store management, typically after years of hard work.

See, for all the love between Christianity and American conservatives, we would do well to remember that the two are not the same. Modern conservatism, or neo-conservativism is actually Darwinian and materialistic in its outlook on life. Modern conservatism, at least economic conservatism, is nothing more than the bastard child of Ayn Rand, the ugly offspring of objectivism. Within this philosophy the individual reigns supreme, even over the family unit. The essential core is that if a man wants to be rich, he has to be willing to outwork and undercut anyone around him, even if it’s his wife and kids. The end objective of existence is for the individual to realize himself. Such a teaching stands in stark contrast to Christianity, which teaches that the individual is nothing without the community, that a man must sacrifice himself to his family’s needs, and the objective of existence is to become like God.

Thus, the minimum wage debate is an interesting one in which we have conservatives, many of whom want to “take back” a “Christian America,” arguing for pragmatic utilitarianism, one of the most anti-Christian philosophies out there. “I’ll pay you for what I think you’re worth, depending on what you bring me.” Such a thought process inherently views the laborer not as a person, but as a commodity. The laborer is then viewed as nothing more than livestock, produce, or whatever it is the company happens to sell. While the labor itself is a commodity, the laborer is not; he is a human being and worthy of dignity and respect. The Christian view, then, is that the commodity of labor is to be treated fairly to the laborer because he is made in the image of God. Continue reading

Loving God but Hating His Image, or How Our Attitude Toward Illegal Immigrants is Reprehensible


childimmigrantpic

Photo Courtesy of Voice of America

This article is not about how the U.S. should handle the massive influx of children illegally crossing the boarder.  I do not pretend to understand all of the variables involved in this complex issue and it is not my intention to argue in favor of any particular form of legislation or promote any one solution.  In fact, I’m not interested in politics at all (at least within the context of what I’m about to say).  This article is about our attitude toward thousands of impoverished at-risk youth living in conditions so bad they’re willing to risk their lives just to make it to our boarder.  More specifically, it’s about Christians who allegedly love God yet make disparaging, heartless, and down right selfish comments about illegal immigrants.  It’s about those who claim to know the Lord but, through their actions (or lack thereof) and attitudes hate His divine image. 

Let us begin with a self examination.  Do you find yourself looking down on those who illegally cross our boarders?  Do you find them an inconvenience or a nuisance?  Do you resent them?  Do you find yourself indifferent to their plight?  Do you feel they are underserving of your charity?  Are you angry or embittered by their presence?  Do they annoy you?  Do you believe their plight is no business of yours? . . . If you answered yes to any of these questions it’s important for you to realize these feelings stand in complete opposition to the Gospel.  They are selfish, prideful, heartless feelings.  They are, in short, sinful attitudes unbefitting a follower of Christ (oh yes, I went there).

Let’s review three crucial points of theology to help us understand why:


 (1) Man Is Made in the Image of God

Christians believe every man, woman, and child has objective value, dignity, and worth because everyone–no matter their age, race, culture, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation–is made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-28; Wisdom 2:23).

(2) We are Commanded to Love our Neighbor

Christ states that the first and greatest commandment is to Love God, “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37).  Interestingly, our Lord follows this by stating that the second commandment is like the first: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.‘  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:39-40).  Why is loving our neighbor with all of our might like loving God with all of our being?  Because man is made in the image of God.  Therefore, anyone who truly loves God will truly love His image and likeness.  This is why Jesus also taught that to discard, belittle, or ignore those in need is to discard, belittle and ignore Him.

(3) If We Don’t Love our Neighbor, We Don’t Know God

The Bible teaches it is impossible to know God–to have saving faith or a personal relationship with Him–and harbor ill-will or hate in our heart toward our neighbor (I John 2: 9-11; 4: 20-21).  St. James, echoing the teaching of our Lord, states that a faith without love (i.e., works) is dead (Matt. 7:17-23; 25:31-46; James 2:14-26).


Take a moment and seriously dwell upon these truths.  In fact, take time to look up the passages I’ve cited and let them sink in.  Then, ask yourself if your attitude toward illegal immigrants (not the impersonal concept “illegal immigration” but the actual people: the helpless children, the father’s desperate to be with their families, the women fleeing sex traffickers . . . ) is truly a Christian one.  Forget your political affiliation, forget your nationality, forget your social status.  If you profess to be a Christian you claim, first and foremost, to be a citizen of the City of God; a part of the Kingdom of Heaven; a member of the Body of Christ.  Your deepest and truest loyalties transcend all worldly categories and all worldly affiliations.  Your chief duty is to love, to serve, and to lay down your life for your neighbor (including your enemies).  This is your chief duty precisely because the greatest commandment is to Love God; but it is impossible to truly love God and hate His image.

As I peruse Facebook statuses, read comments on news articles, and listen in on conversations, I grow disheartened.  I am appalled and embarrassed by the reprehensible attitudes of professed Christians toward illegal immigrants.  I feel disgusted by those who, in virtue of their attitudes, fail to empathize with or care for those suffering and in dire need of help; and I wonder how long we shall ignore the sound of their voices screaming for help?

My American brothers and sisters, please stop.  Stop speaking heartlessly; stop acting selfishly; stop worshiping your country; stop discriminating based on nationality; stop discarding, belittling, and ignoring your neighbors; stop your crummy attitudes.  My dear brothers and sisters, love your neighbor as you love yourself; for without love you are nothing.