Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Honor and Disagreement

Election night, about three seconds after my Facebook news feed lit up with the bad news, this article showed up in my Google Reader feed. (Yes, I still use an RSS reader. So what?) There were countless others like it, but that's the one I bothered to read, so it's the one I'll interact with.

First off, I don't totally disagree with anything in the article itself. We can debate whether that should have been the very first thing to write about - this election was a total disaster and will have horrible consequences, and it wouldn't have hurt to spend a little time lamenting that. But as far as the truth - yeah, it's all correct. We are unequivocally called to honor the President, just as Peter exhorted his readers to honor the emperor even as he was lighting them on fire. Let's face it - as bad as I believe this is, and as bad as it's going to get, it's tough to say we have it as bad as Nero's victims.

Let's not pretend we're exempt from the numerous commands to honor those in earthly authority over us. Someone else's sin never excuses my own. So this brings a dilemma - how do we honor someone in authority over us with whom we vehemently disagree? And this applies not just to government officials - how do you honor your parents, your employer, your church, when they do something you disagree with, especially if it's outright sinful?

The answer, as it usually isn't, is not "balance". As in, "we need to balance speaking the truth with honoring them". The big problem with balance is that it requires two things to be in opposition. Here's a hint - if God unequivocally commands two things, they are not in opposition. They are to be obeyed always, fully, simultaneously. We don't have to decide when to be full of grace and when to be full of truth. Grace always, and truth always. Same thing here - always honor whom honor is due, and always stand for what is right. The question is not how to balance them, but how to do both simultaneously.

This is where I throw it to you, dear readers. Here's your assignment (for the next four years): how do we object to sin without sinning ourselves? What does it practically look like to stand against the sinful (or unwise) actions of those in authority over us, while giving them the honor God says they are due?

There are numerous Biblical examples we can consider. The apostles before the Sanhedrin or Roman authorities repeatedly throughout Acts, Daniel and friends serving pagan kings (and pronouncing judgment on them!), John the Baptist confronting Herod, Nathan confronting David, and many other prophets standing against kings of Israel and Judah come to mind. So pick an example, and tell us how he stood for righteousness without tarnishing his witness through sinful action or attitude.

Monday, November 12, 2012

What This Result Means

We've had almost a week for the election to sink in. Here are some thoughts.

First, read this and this. And you should probably read something like this, too. Today we'll interact with and expand the first two, God willing we'll look at the third in the next few days.

Now, a lot of the post-election analysis has focused on changing demographics and messaging and blah blah blah. This won't be any of that. I just want to look big-picture. The way we voted sends a message about us - what did it say? The following are numbered for convenience, not necessarily priority:

1. The noetic effect of sin is real and powerful.

2. We looked at disasters like Greece and Spain and Argentina, and said "We want us some of that!"

3. When teetering over the cliff of economic ruin, we want nothing to do with someone who specializes in bringing businesses back from the brink of ruin, and trust everything to someone who has never made a serious attempt to pass a budget and admits to struggling with his personal finances.

4. When Vladmir, Hugo, Los Bros Castros, Mahmoud, and others who want to see our nation severely weakened openly beg us to vote for one candidate, we oblige.

5. Being caught on a live mic arranging with a hostile foreign nation to do something which will almost certainly greatly weaken your own country? Meh.

6. We are just fine with injustice such as racism, sexism, and class warfare, so long as we perceive that our particular group may be favored. We never bother to consider that if injustice currently favors us, it can just as easily be turned around to oppress us.

7. The cries for statism/oppression emanating from the filth-ridden rape camps and riots of the Occupy Useful Idiot malcontents are much better received than the peaceful requests for constitutionally-guaranteed freedom from the peaceful, civil Tea Party rallies.

8. Whether or not to kill unborn children is not a moral issue. It's merely a preference, similar to what toppings to put on your burger.

9. If a rebellion is beginning in a radical Islamist state that is one of the greatest threats to us and the world, sit back and do nothing, and watch the people get slaughtered. If a rebellion led by radical Islamists begins in an allied or fairly neutralized Middle Eastern state, aid the rebels any way possible, including arming them. Do this, and you will be re-elected (unlike 1980).

10. Be shocked when the radical Islamists attack us with the weapons we gave them. Abandon Americans including an ambassador and Navy Seals to horrible deaths at the hands of the Islamists. Make the Seals believe they have air support, but order the air support not to fire, so they expose themselves and die. Lie about the attack for several weeks, pretending it was a spontaneous protest over a video nobody ever saw (as if that makes it OK for some reason). Send the SS on a midnight raid to arrest an American because of the lie. Mock the father of the dead Seal at his funeral. Go ahead, we don't care.

11. We like our leaders to go around the world talking about how awful we are.

12. We really don't mind if you give a bunch of weapons to Mexican drug cartels with the intent of having them commit crimes with them. We don't even care when they murder people, including border agents, in America.

13. We think that "you have the right to use a product" and "someone else must pay for it" are equivalent.

14. We're not even the least bit ashamed of wanton covetousness.

15. We don't care if our situations are terrible, just so long as you promise to make someone else miserable, too.

16. Government dependence is a stronger addiction than any chemical addiction. There's no methodone clinic that can blast it out of us. The antidote is a combination of "good theology of vocation" coupled with "work ethic" and "valuable skills". But why bother, when we can just vote for someone to take stuff from someone who worked for it and give it to us?

17. We are immune to concepts like "history" and "math" and "long-term thinking". We think there's no limit to how much money is out there to be taken from rich people and eeeeevil corporations, and therefore the gravy train will never ever ever ever end.

18. We see no correlation between producing value and being paid.

19. We believe that companies exist to employ people. Whether they make a profit is completely irrelevant. No, wait - profits are not irrelevant, they're positively evil.

20. We frequently complain about even the simplest transactions involving the government. We have no problem giving the government complete control over the most important aspects of our lives.

21. We believe it is the government's job to legislate morality, so long as that morality is immoral.

22. We cannot wait for systematic persecution of Christians to begin full-force.

23. We believe that when the government fails spectacularly and creates problems, the solution is more power for the government.

24. All those people who risked their lives to flee this garbage? Ha! Joke's on you!

25. We are perfectly happy if we lose our jobs, as long as our employers take a big financial hit.

26. We could run a grand experiment. Let's divide much of the world into two roughly equal camps (in terms of population and resources). Each camp will implement a governing philosophy diametrically opposed to the other. We can run this experiment for a good long time - say, about eight decades - and see Group 1 overwhelmingly triumph economically, socially, in terms of freedom and opportunity and all manner of human accomplishment. We'll watch in awe as Group 2 completely crumbles. We'll gaze in amazement as Group 2 nations begin to embrace Group 1 principles, even to the smallest degree imaginable, and watch their economies flourish. We'll watch as Group 1 nations dabble more and more with Group 2 principles, inevitably begin to falter, and see those that are serious rush headlong back to Group 1 to save themselves. In the end, we'll have a full century of worldwide data of the total superiority of Group 1 over Group 2. And then we'll vote to be part of Group 2.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Blind Guys and an Elephant

Several blind men took a bet that they could not correctly identify an object by touch. They were led to an elephant, and they began to feel around to try to figure out what it was. As they were doing this, the elephant spoke to them (because this is a special elephant, and anyway it's my story and I want him to, so there) and said "Hey guys, let me help you out - I'm an elephant."

Ignoring the elephant's words, the blind men began to touch its body. One of them touched the elephant's leg and proclaimed, "I know! It's a concrete pillar!" The elephant tried to correct the man, saying, "No, I'm an elephant. Like I already told you. Not a pillar, an elephant. That's my leg." But the blind man continued to ignore him, insisted that it was a pillar, and wondered what manner of capital adorned the structure.

Another touched his trunk, and announced that he had found a large snake. The elephant yelled "No! That's my trunk, not a snake. Listen guys: I am an elephant. E-L-E-P-H-A-N-T. Elephant!" The blind man continued to disregard him, debating whether he had found a python or a boa constrictor, and whether such a distinction really mattered for the bet anyway. "Of course it doesn't matter" said the elephant, "because both answers are completely wrong. It doesn't matter which you pick, you lose." The blind man decided to go with 'python'.

Others took their best guesses, suggesting that the elephant's tusks were spears and that the ears were old canvas tarpaulins. All along the elephant kept trying to correct them, and the blind men kept completely ignoring him. Finally the elephant let out an exasperated bellow, which the blind men thought might be the brass section of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. "Oh for crying out loud! LONDON?!? Yes, blind men, the streets of London are just overflowing with elephants. Are you even trying? No, you're not, or else you would have listened when I told you the answer. Forget this, I'm out of here." And the elephant stormed off.

The blind men submitted their answers to the bet. Since they couldn't arrive at a consensus answer, they decided that each would just answer whatever he wanted, because they all were right in some way. That way, they would all win the bet!

But no, they all lost. You know, because they were all completely wrong.

When the verdict was announced, the blind men indignantly protested, "Why didn't anyone try to tell us?"