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

“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.

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.