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.

Beware Christian Nationalism: God Loves Other Nations Too


10641202_10152824339564592_2910779974545791756_nApparently Fox News found it appropriate to run an op-ed by Lost’s John Locke Terry O’Quinn Keith Ablow titled, It’s Time for an American Jihad. Within his opinion he says that we ought to be able to do whatever we want to tyrants, bring “Freedom®” to all lands, and continue to be the best nation in the world. I’m not making this stuff up, the actual article is far more disturbing. Consider just the first two paragraphs:

An American jihad would reawaken in American citizens the certain knowledge that our Constitution is a sacred document that better defines and preserves the liberty and autonomy of human beings than the charter of any other nation on earth.

The Constitution, along with the miracle of our nation’s founding and the providential history of America fighting and winning war after war against oppressive regimes, proves our manifest destiny not only to preserve our borders and safety and national character at home, but to spread around the world our love of individual freedom and insist on its reflection in every government.

Were you to play “Patriotic Bingo” in which each space had a patriotic buzzword, his opening salvo within the article would be more than sufficient to win at Patriotic Bingo. Look at the words used: sacred, miracle, liberty, providence, manifest destiny, and – of course – freedom. In other words, the United States was created specifically by God to complete his purpose to bring about liberty and justice to the world. All of this sounds nice, but of course it’s not, and it’s quite dangerous and heretical.

For the Constitution to be a sacred document it would need to be on par with the Bible, or something from an Ecumenical Council, or in some way holy. Yet, it’s none of the above. It was not divinely inspired by God, otherwise it couldn’t be amended. Could you imagine Christians attempting to add amendments to the Bible, specifically amendments that contradicted previous teachings?

And how is our nation’s creation a miracle? We defeated a massive military force (with major help from the French) who struggled to send messages back to the homeland and struggled to get an adequate army out to us. That’s not a miracle, it’s logistics.

Ultimately, what Discount Terry O’Quinn Keith Ablow advocates is forcing other nations to adopt our Constitution and follow it. Essentially, he wants a pure American Empire, one in which all nations must submit to us. What’s worse is that he takes this absurd nationalistic fervor and masks it in Gospel terminology, acting as though America – and not Christ – is the long-awaited Messiah. Apparently our form of democracy is superior to all others (despite that monarchies have actually created longer-lasting, prosperous, more stable nations, at least compared to any democracy), and what we need to do is basically turn America into a giant church. He even implies as such:

An American jihad would make every tax dollar a tithing and the squandering of those dollars a sin. An American jihad would make every hour spent working in an American company — or founding one — an offering. An American jihad would make every teacher of American history not only a public servant, but a servant of the Truth.

Notice how in the interview, or “rah rah” session, that Ablow says that we need to “sell our brand from On High which is the United States of America…we’re aligned to something called the Truth. We should be proud of it, we should act on it.”

In Ablow’s theology, the implied message is that God is America, that God is abstract, but manifested within the United States Constitution. The incarnation did not take place with Christ, but rather in the founding of our nation. He even dares to call the Truth “it,” though God is a person and no one would properly ever call a person “it.”

Ablow, as with too many evangelicals and others, conflate Christianity with the nation. Sadly, for Christians this isn’t a problem localized to the evangelical populace within America. One can look at Russia and see how many Russian Orthodox use their beliefs as an excuse for nationalism. The same stands true for Orthodox in Greece or Catholics in Italy. The true oddity in such a “jihad” is that while a Christian nationalist must place his religion within the realm of the nation, the radical Muslim must place his nation within the realm of his religion.

Christianity is absolutely against nationalism of any form and is against being co-opted by any national message. In an early Christian document, an Epistle to Diognetus, an apologist (possibly Justin Martyr) writes,

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity . . . They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers . . . They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.

From early on in Christianity there was no idea of having a “Christian nation.” The view was that while here we would be responsible citizens, but if called to leave the nation then we would do so. Our loyalty to any nation extends no further than necessary, and certainly not to the point that we’d dictate a nation ought to be viewed as sacred, holy, or on par with God.

When we fall into the trap of Christian Nationalism, no matter our nation, it blinds us to those of other nations. It causes us to ignore that God loves them as well. Thus, when Ablow says that we’ll have to put boots on the ground in order to enforce our Constitution on foreign lands, it places us as superior to those who might also follow Christ, and who are certainly made in God’s image by fact of existing.

Nationalism is always a heresy because it supplants God with the nation, making God subjected to the nation itself. The Gospel is no longer a matter of communion with God, but of falling within and defending the right borders. Salvation comes not as a free act nor through God’s mercy, but through the patriotic acts towards one’s nation. Christian nationalism ignores that God loves other nations too and doesn’t call them to the right form of government, doesn’t call them to the right laws, but calls the people to himself.

There were many nations before the United States, there are many nations now, and there will be many nations long after we collapse, but all will hold a common theme; in them all, God will call out to the people within to follow him.

Lessons in Cognitive Dissonance: This is what feminism looks like?


1187168955For good reason, the past few months we’ve been bombarded with feminists trying to tell men to shape up. Let’s face the facts too, we (men) really need to shape up. How women are treated in our society as nothing more than sexual objects or as unintelligent isn’t good, it’s very much wrong. Both come with incredibly negative ramifications, specifically leaving women in compromising, unsafe, and brutal conditions. While the solutions proposed are sometimes far out of left field, the fact remains that we do need to reevaluate how we, as a society, look at women.

That being said…

There’s also a ton of absurdity surrounding the recent raised voices. In the modern age it’s popular for social causes to become social fads, something people spend money on in order to seem like they’re progressive and aware, but who are only perpetuating the problem. For instance, while it might be popular to buy shirts saying, “This is what feminism looks like,” the reality is you’re paying good money for a shirt that is in turn perpetuating a company that oppresses impoverished women in India. Oops?

See, we want equality for women…so long as they’re civilized and living within the Western World. Outside of the Western World? Meh. Consider that Anita Sarkeesian was given time on the Colbert Report to cover the whole “Gamergate” controversy, and rightfully so (the threatening of lives and targeting is disgusting and wrong). Gamergate as a whole has received a lot of coverage. But Iran just hanged Reyhaneh Jabbari for killing a man who attempted to rape her and hardly a peep was made over her death. Women in Iran, Pakistan, and much of the Muslim world are grossly mistreated, beaten, and killed for being victims. They’re victimized for being victims. I have many Muslim friends who are disgusted by how women are treated (or in the case of Muslim women, how they are treated). And of course it’s not just Muslims, but many other nations: Italy, for example, has the famed Casanova, the rich man who has a wife at home and a mistress in the hotel. But if the woman does the same thing, she’s considered a whore.

It’s completely okay to call for equality here, especially concerning the catcalls and aggressive nature of men. But at least be consistent enough to realize that women elsewhere in the world have it worse and that our way of living only contributes to their situation. Buying these T-shirts from India, or Indonesia, or elsewhere in the world only subjugates women in those sweat shops. “This is what feminism looks like” should come with a warning label: “By buying this shirt, you’re actually perpetuating the oppression of women. But hey, you’ll feel really good about yourself and it’ll give social cred at elite parties.”

I think the commodification of women overseas is more a result of feminism being a “fad ideology” within the US, something that seems nice, but has no real backing. For one, modern feminism wants equality for equality’s sake, but never considers if what they’re trying to be equal in is wrong to begin with. Not so long ago – and even today – a man who had sex with multiple women was a hero, while a woman having sex with a bunch of men was a slut. Today that stereotype still exists. We’re told that we should celebrate such sexual independence of a woman as we would with a man. Yet, no one stopped to think, “Maybe neither sex should do this.” No one stopped to question if the activity itself was wrong.

At first men left the homes to go work in factories. They were gone for 50-60 hours a week, never coming home. This left the wife in the home, stuck with the kids, not having time to obtain an education or to better herself. It made de facto single-parent homes long before divorce was as rampant as it is today. The feminist movement, rather than decrying such work conditions and demanding that the men leave the factories and return home, instead argued that they too should be able to leave the home. Rather than correcting the wrong, they only furthered it. And so today we’re told that women should be able to do any job a man does and get paid equally for it without first questioning is either sex should actually perform that job.

A lot of times men have been granted the freedom to do something while woman have not and feminists, instead of arguing that men should do what they do, instead claim that women should make the same mistakes. It’s absurd. It’s not right for a mother to be away from her kids 40-60 hours a week, married to her job. Her children and husband are her obligation, whether she likes it or not, whether that ruins her career or not. BUT ON THE SAME TOKEN, it’s not right for a father to be away from his kids 40-60 hours a week, married to his job. His children and wife are his obligation, whether he likes it or not, whether that ruins his career or not. It’s not that we need better daycare so men and women can choose to leave their families, it’s that we need better families. The idea of the husband trotting off to work all day, leaving the woman to be “domesticated” is a modern invention, misogynistic, and wrong. Yet, the view of both husband and wife trotting off to work all day, leaving the children behind, is equally modern and wrong. Both approaches take the parents out of the home for long periods of time, thus both are ethically wrong.

Without diving into our economic problems and how Capitalism is one of the most anti-family economic systems to ever exist, modern feminism arose because we abandoned the family in pursuit of the dollar. Today modern feminism wants women to be equal parts of the Capitalist system, but doing so – especially in a globalized society – requires the objectification and commodification of women elsewhere. Any system that would destroy the nuclear family for a buck while exploiting families across the ocean ought not be supported by anyone crying out for equality. Yes, we must support equality on the home front, but not if it entrenches inequality elsewhere. We must speak out against the objectification of women, but only if we hold to a standard of ethics that leads us to being better people, not just being equal in our wrong actions. If we truly care about equality for women, then we should pursue equality in the right things and pursue it for everyone, not simply perpetuate their inequality to soothe our social conscience by purchasing a T-shirt.

From a Christian perspective, we know what a feminist looks like. A feminist in the true sense of the word – someone calling for and advocating justice for all people, for equality – is the Theotokos (God-bearer, Blessed Mary). The Theotokos didn’t consult her husband-to-be when she embraced the God-child within her, she didn’t back down, she didn’t become weak, but instead stood strong and as the perfect example of faith. She became the first follower of Christ, the first witness of hope to the world, and through her act of obedience salvation came into the world. When all the male disciples, except John, fled Christ, it was Mary who went to the foot of the cross. While all the male disciples hid in an upper room and moped around, not trusting the promises of Jesus, it was the women who went to the tomb. It was women who spoke the Gospel – that Jesus is risen from the dead – into the world first. It was women who lent their homes to the early Church for meetings (read Acts; almost every house mentioned belonged to a woman). Some of the greatest martyrs of the early Church, some of the most stalwart examples of the faith, were women. A truly Christian perspective, one that doesn’t demean women by mixing culture with the faith, understands has a proper feminist perspective; that women are capable of virtue, of doing incredible things, and ought not be stopped from accomplishing these things. A proper Christian view of women forbid catcalling or mistreating women. It doesn’t allow for the objectification of them, but rather to treat them with dignity and respect. While no man is perfect in this ideal, it still remains an ideal we ought to pursue.

True feminism doesn’t lead to further exploitation or the demand to commit the same sins as a man, but rather seeks the liberty of all people in the world while seeking to lead a virtuous life, and calling on others to do so as well.

 

Eugenics in the Modern Age: A Lesson We’ve Yet to Learn


DSC02059The State of North Carolina passed an incredibly inadequate law to compensate victims of its eugenics program. It’s incredibly inadequate in that it only offers $20,000 to the victims of the forced sterilization and not all victims qualify. Everything about this is disgusting; that it’s kept mostly out of the news, certainly not studied in history, the victims get next to nothing in terms of actual compensation, and not all the victims are compensated. Considering that the Eugenics Board of North Carolina existed until 1977 and the laws allowing for eugenic sterilization weren’t repealed until 2003, added with the fact that we’ve ignored these facts, only forces us to lose any moral standing as a nation.

North Carolina isn’t alone either. In California, female inmates were sterilized up until 2010. Just last month a Republican candidate out in Arizona gave up campaigning because he advocate the forced sterilization of welfare recipients (specifically women).  Historically speaking, eugenics has never been anything more than a tool for people to promote their bigotries under the auspices of science. We’ve been told time and time again that eugenics isn’t a legitimate scientific study, that there’s no real science to eugenics, and yet here we stand in 2014 and social commentators and scientists continue to support it.

John Entine – director of the Genetic Literacy Project – is a strong advocate for the “New Eugenics,” believing that with modern science we’ll somehow make better decisions. As Paul Campos points out, there is seemingly popular sentiment that those in prison and on welfare ought to be sterilized (an opinion he finds repugnant). Some scientists counter that if we can conduct gene manipulation to eliminate harmful genetic structures, then why not? Of course, gene therapy – in which a person is not harmed or loses the ability to reproduce – isn’t really eugenics. If we developed a genetic therapy that could eliminate heart disease and that genetic therapy didn’t require the termination of selected individuals, or the non-breeding of selected individuals, then it’s not really eugenics. Even the afore-linked article makes the assumption that after WWII, eugenics fell by the wayside and out of popularity. As seen from the evidence, however, WWII simply changed how eugenics was conducted, but the popularity of eugenics didn’t wain even in the face of eugenic genocide.

The biggest mistake of Nazi Germany wasn’t just that it hated those it deemed less than socially acceptable, it’s that they treated those they deemed so as less-than-human. Hating Jews for the fact that they’re Jews is wrong in and of itself; hating anyone for arbitrary reasons is wrong. But that hate takes on a deeper evil when we allow ourselves to view those we hate as less-than-human. Hatred for a specific group of people is why traditionally oppressed groups of people in the United States have consistently faced subjugation to eugenic practices. We’re simply repeating the core component of the Holocaust; while the methods of enacting eugenics today are drastically different from Hitler’s Germany, the core philosophy – that some types of people just don’t deserve to pass on their genetic information – is alive and well. Thus, our disgust with what Hitler did isn’t necessarily over the idea of eugenics, but instead over how he handled it. Or, to put it another way, we’re not against the idea of eradicating certain groups of people, we just think Hitler was too broad in his selection and too zealous in his application, but there’s no real disagreement with his philosophy.

Of course, merely pointing to a similarity shared with Hitler doesn’t make that similarity necessarily wrong, but in this case the link should be obvious. Whenever we devalue human life because of its functionality or desired traits, a type of genocide or tyranny is inevitable. Who gets to decide what is and is not a desirable trait? A parent finds out their kid is at risk for having freckles, which they abhor and think it will only harm them in finding a good job. Thus, out of “compassion” they elect to terminate the child. What about the growing polarity within our political structure? What happens if an extreme right-wing ideology becomes the majority in a state or the nation? Then non-whites and the poor must again face the prospect of being selectively breeded out. What if an extreme left-wing ideology takes over? Should religious folks and prisoners who refuse to reform be equally worried?

The above examples are not “what ifs” or scare tactics, but rather looking at history and seeing that every single time eugenics rears its head, oppression persists. The problem is devaluing human life due to some trait or functionality, but the reality is that human life ought to be celebrated, flaws and all. Whenever we impose a judgement on the intrinsic aspects of a human life – such as lighter skin being more attractive or being athletic makes you better – we’re creating an arbitrary standard. There’s no real reason behind what we say other than our subjective feelings and thoughts. Even if our subjective views are embraced by the majority of people, they remain subjective. Even if 99 out of 100 people believe that blond hair is better than brown hair, there’s no real non-arbitrary reasoning behind that belief. Tomorrow, 99 out of 100 people could change their minds and support brown hair being better than blond hair.

Thus, eugenics is a failed science not only because it always leads to genocide, but because it ignores the fundamental fact of human existence, namely that life ought to be celebrated. While it’s important to fix actual genetic defects – such as heart disease or other deformities – such treatments ought not come at the expense of a human life. If we can improve upon a person’s life without harming the person, then so be it, but eugenics should never enter into the conversation.

In the Twilight of Mortality: Reflections Upon Death and Suffering


DSC01745I’ll never forget seeing her, as it made such an impact upon me. A few years ago I worked as a delivery driver for a food delivery company and had to make a run to a children’s hospital. I picked up the order and made the delivery to the nurses there. As I was leaving, a girl walked through the hall and I was immediately struck by her presence. Her emaciated frame made her seem far frailer than other kids her age. Her bald head reflecting the lights, a pink and colorful hospital gown flowing as a dress, and her holding onto a portable IV and almost dancing around with it. She smiled and waved at me and I waved back through the windows of the closed doors. A child, no more than ten years old, facing a level of suffering that some people will – thankfully – never see in a lifetime.

We live in a beautifully tragic world, a world where beauty emanates from the darkest crevices of existence, yet those dark crevices still exist. In many instances, we have put words to our suffering. A man who loses his wife is a widower, a woman who loses her husband is a widow, a child who loses her parents is an orphan, and so on. Yet, some suffering is so great, that we have no word for it (at least not in English). What do we call parents who have lost a child? “Childless” can refer to those who have never had children and therefore have never experienced the joy of their birth or the agony of their death. No word for someone enduring cancer can summarize the suffering, especially of one dying from cancer. We hold no word for those who suffer greatly; we leave our verbal confirmation of the suffering at the word “patient,” or “enduring,” or at the name of the disease, but we dare not create a word to name the suffering. To name the suffering makes it more common, more real, and so we avoid it.

Suffering, both emotional and physical, is a burden which all of us must carry in one form or another. All of us are on death row, walking a very long mile, until the end of our days come. We do not know when our lives will end, merely that they shall end sooner than we had hoped. Our curse is that we must die and in this curse, death becomes an enemy. It becomes a foe we struggle against, who we war with, and in this war we will exhaust all resources to gain even an inch of life. But the battle is futile as we shall always succumb to death.

In our sufferings we believe it better to die, to take our own lives and deprive death the joy of our suffering. In taking our lives we feel we allow death to collect the debt, but to forgo the interest. Admittedly, for those who’s death is inevitably close, for whom death immediately beckons, prolonging their lives are cruel and only serves to create additional pain and suffering. The patient who is terminal, who must rely on machines for life, has suffered enough and we should let death overtake him, as in this way death becomes a friend who ceases his pain.

Yet, the one constant in ancient history is that “So long as there is life, there is hope.” This sentiment is found in Ecclesiastes 9:4, but also Theocritus, a 3rd century BC Greek poet, said the exact same thing, leading Cicero – the Latin statesman and philosopher – to quote it as well. So long as you draw breath, there is hope, but hope in what? Ecclesiastes says it is better to be a live dog than a dead lion while Theocritus says that the dead have no hope.

What if suffering is not a prelude to the end, but the signs that one lives in the twilight of mortality? When we are born, we suffer. We are leaving the only world known to us and must endure great physical pain in the birthing process. Yet, we enter into a world of overwhelming possibilities, one vastly superior to the one in which we lived. What if suffering is merely the birthing pangs we must endure as we enter into another stage of life, a final stage. What are a few moments of suffering compared to an eternity of ecstasy?

Death is immanent for us all, but not immediately so. Whenever death is immediately immanent, it is best to forgo modern medicine’s attempt to prolong a life already lost and embrace the inevitability of our death. Yet, so long as I draw breath, I have hope, even in the greatest amount of suffering. My hope isn’t necessarily in a recovery, but in a God who will not forget me.

For those who fall asleep in the Lord within the Orthodox Church, the patrons chant “Memory Eternal.” Memory eternal is to remind us that God, who is infinite and without time, keeps us in his memory. We are immortal through his doing and his doing alone. In our falling asleep, we awake to his presence where we continue to grow in our love and knowledge of him.

In our disembodied states we shall remain in God’s presence, through his constant remembering of us and eventually we will resurrect into new bodies. Those bodies, though very much physical, shall not endure suffering. We look forward to the day when there shall be no more flag-draped coffins, when we don’t have to create words that describe our suffering, when suffering itself is a distant memory, a vague memory from a long-ago bad dream. In that moment, our present suffering will stand as nothing more than a grain of sand in the infinite hourglass of time. And so we endure our suffering unto death, realizing that as suffering begins we are witnessing the death of death, we are living in the twilight of mortality and stand upon the dawn of eternity.

How the Church Failed America: Reaping What You Sow


IMG_0248Currently in Houston there’s a mayor doing some major backtracking due to some subpoenas. Without diving into the issue too much, Houston issued subpoenas for five pastor’s sermons and correspondence for all issues related to homosexuality, transgenderism, HERO, and the mayor. It was all part of discovery in an ongoing case. Now, there’s nothing wrong with putting a subpoena on most sermons as they’re available to the public anyway (via church websites), but it still seems icky. After all, it would seem odd to do the same for an Imam’s messages, or a Rabbi’s teachings; while it’s available to the public, forcing a religious institution to hand over its religious teachings to be used against it in a court case just seems wrong. Regardless, the subpoenas were far too broad and the city is limiting their scope (when they should just dismiss them).

Meanwhile, in Idaho, a Christian couple who are ordained ministers are facing a fine and jail time for refusing to officiate a same-sex marriage. From a purely legal point of view, what’s happening in Idaho is a direct violation of the couple’s freedom of religion and will more than likely not be held up in court. It would truly be shocking if it were upheld because then one must ask what’s the difference between someone performing weddings as a wedding chapel and someone getting paid to perform a ceremony elsewhere? If a pastor accepts a donation to do a wedding – since he must take time out of his schedule to do it – or even charges for it, is he subjected to the same laws? What if the court rules that while the couple doesn’t have to officiate the wedding, since the building is used for weddings it must be open to all marriages? In such a case, does this mean churches should stop hosting weddings, which would then inhibit their freedom of religion?

Whether you agree or disagree with the Christian (or Islamic, or Jewish, or most religions) stance on the act of homosexuality, certainly one can see the problems by removing the freedom to practice one’s religion, even if wrong. It establishes a precedent where only that which is agreeable is allowable; you have the freedom to do what you wish so long as I agree with what you wish to do. Such a sentiment is great until you find yourself in the minority. It would appear that in attempting to cease being oppressed, the oppressed have happily become the oppressors. Under such a system rights are not guaranteed, nor do they mean anything in any real sense; your rights are determined by the majority. Welcome to the end of democracy, as Plato predicted and as we’ve seen acted out numerous times in history, where the tyranny of the majority destroys the rights of the minority.

Yet, in many ways, the church in the United States is merely reaping what it has sowed. For too long churches used the political realm as a way to “further the kingdom,” not by winning people over to Christ, but instead by forcing them to live in a “holy” way. For whatever reason, Christians honed in on homosexuality as the chief of sins above all other sins and then sought to fight every legal battle they could against it. Now, we could say that it’s because there was a “movement” and an “agenda” that Christians had to fight back. But what about the sexual revolution in the 60s? What about the lax divorce laws that came from it? How come Christians didn’t fight to repeal them or to push a cultural war against such advances? Is it because the sexual revolution offered benefits to members? Maybe Christians ignored that the real battle for marriage is within the home, not the court room.

I’ve argued consistently that the government should absolve itself from the marriage debate. Stick to civil unions that can only be obtained through the county court; no pomp, no ceremony, nothing. You go in, sign a legal document, get it witnessed by an officer of the court, and leave. Sadly, the Religious Right wanted to continue to define marriage for everyone through a Christian lens. It led to a legal battle, one in which someone was destined to lose and have their religious liberty squashed. The homosexual Episcopal couple for whom marriage is both allowable and a sacrament lost with the anti-gay marriage amendments in various states; the minister couple who makes a living off wedding ceremonies lost with the pro-gay marriage rulings. The Religious Right created an environment in which there was a winner and loser, not a compromise, and now they’ve lost. For doing so, many of us “non-combatants” who had no desire to wage a culture war will become victims of their blunder.  Continue reading

The Soul of a Nation: An Alternative View to Preventing the Ebola “Crisis”


DSC02073First, let’s get a few things straight:

In 2010:

  • 600,000 Americans died from heart disease, but no one called for us to ban fatty foods.
  • 73,000 died from diabetes, forcing Wilford Brimley to lose many people he knew, but no one called for bans against sugar.
  • 54,000 died from the flu, but no one called for travel bans from state to state or countries known to have the flu. It didn’t get reported.
  • A guy dies from Ebola and suddenly we want to close off all of Africa, take our kids out of school, and burn Texas to the ground (might not be a bad idea that last one).

People, perspective, please. You do understand the media is for-profit, correct? They have to scare you in order to get you to pay attention to them, that way advertisers will pay them more money and increase their profits. It’s not a coincidence that as viewership and subscriptions to traditional media waned around a decade ago that suddenly everything became ‘breaking news’ and a ‘crisis.’ Stop buying into their scare tactics, look up the facts yourself, and realize that even with the Dallas hospital totally screwing up the first known case of Ebola, an outbreak still didn’t occur.

Regardless, Thomas Eric Duncan passed away from ebola in the United States, sending panic and fear to everyone. Even though his death has much more to do with the hospital mishandling his condition (by releasing him the first time he came in), none of his relatives contracted the disease even though he was showing severe symptoms. In fact, to date, only two people have contracted ebola from the late Mr. Duncan, both of whom were nurses who were in close contact with him. More than likely there was a mishap in their sanitation and protection, leading them to contracting the disease.

Now, what Mr. Duncan’s passing and the nurse’s contracting ebola shows us is that while ebola isn’t really a threat to the US (even in west Africa you’re more likely to contract HIV than ebola) population, the CDC is really full of it. What I mean is their claim that if a highly contagious disease were to ever hit our shores, we’d be ready to stop it. If anything, ebola has shown us that we’re so ill-prepared that we might as well accept the inevitability of such a disease. We turned away a man showing all the symptoms of ebola after he said he came in from Africa, we allowed a nurse with a slight fever who had been in contact with Mr. Duncan to board a plane, and every step along the way we’ve shown more failure than success; were ebola more contagious, we’d be in trouble. Thankfully, this is not the case.

Yet, we still get the people calling for a ban on travel to west Africa. We’re told we should just stop all flights in and out. In Season 2 of The Walking Dead, one of the most horrific scenes is when Shane , to save himself, decides to shoot Otis in the leg, slowing him down and allowing the walkers (zombies) to devour Otis while Shane gets away. In a way, we have multiple people who want to take that approach to ebola, to just shoot west Africa in the leg, let ebola take its course, while we make a clean getaway. Except we’re asking the wrong questions and thinking the wrong thoughts. By restricting travel, people will just seek alternative ways into the US, which will of course lead to the disease getting here without us knowing it; now that could be a problem.

The one solution that hardly anyone is bringing up is sadly the most obvious one, but one that just sounds too liberal and too hippie to accept; why don’t we pump money into sending proper treatment to west Africa? See, Mr. Duncan passed away from ebola because he was, in essence, refused service at a critical point. Had he been treated, more than likely he would have survived. How so? Thus far, everyone who’s received modern treatment has survived, even those who were “near death” on their flight over from Africa. It follows, then, that the solution isn’t necessarily to try and restrict travel to and from these countries (as that’s simply impractical; we might as well try and put toothpaste back in its tube), but instead to pool our resources – we industrialized nations who pride ourselves in our civility and humanity – and then take a trip to west Africa.

Ultimately, such a move, while possibly expensive, would certainly cost less than attempting to prevent and contain an outbreak at home. Think of it this way; let’s assume that ebola evolves and becomes slightly more contagious (which could happen if introduced to a bigger, more mobile population). Imagine the cost it would have on our system, with people having to take time off work, not putting money in the economy, making massive claims on insurance, and possibly (in a worst case scenario), overwhelming some local hospitals. Certainly, in the longterm, it’d be cheaper to just send medical equipment and doctors over to west Africa to contain the disease there; which is what we’re doing, but mostly through private organizations. To my knowledge, there’s no real unified effort.

What does it say about the soul of our nation that we’ll beat the drums of war to gather a coalition of the willing in order to bomb a nation, but we really don’t do much in the way of gaining a coalition to heal a nation? We, who have vast resources, technology, medical equipment, and wealth opt to discuss hoarding it and blocking the sick from having access to it rather than taking the most logical – and cost efficient approach – and just send aid. Why is our first response to demand that we block access from Africa and not, “Wow, I guess we ought to send aid there so we can help those people?”

How selfish have we really become? The common argument is that people are worried about their children or their health, but what about the children and the health of those in Africa? Contrary to popular implied ignorance, children do exist in Africa, and they’re dying. Closing the borders might work for a moment, but eventually it leads to people starving (due to a de facto embargo), which leads to them finding ways around the borders, which leads to the disease spreading anyway.Buried at the bottom of an AP article with some African officials claiming border closings have helped is the admission that it’s had more to do with luck than anything else. In this instance, compassionate help is the best treatment. Certainly if we can organize governments to spend combined billions to fight unwanted and unnecessary wars, we are capable of organizing these same governments to spend money and effort on treating those dying from this disease.

We imagine the danger that ebola poses to our children, our elderly, to those who have weakened immune systems; but what of what it’s already doing to Africans? Should we be any less concerned? Would we not want the world to help us if our system collapsed and we found ourselves unable to help our countrymen, our neighbors, our families, our children? Would we not wish for compassion and aid? Why, then, do we withhold it from those who need it most? A nation that has lost its compassion to help other people, when it has more than enough means to accomplish such a task, is a nation that has lost its soul.