Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Omens, Disasters, Prophecy And American Pride

I have written elsewhere about other concerns I have about how the modern church handles the Bible in relation to prophecy.  In this post, I want to focus on a particular observation that has sunk in over the past week or so: Most of the discussion in the United States about eclipses, hurricanes, judgment and prophecy only makes sense if you live in the United States. 

The entire world didn't have a total solar eclipse last month, yet somehow because the U.S, got it, that was a signal of the end. In 2016, South/East Asia, North/West Australia, and the Pacific and Indian Ocean had a total eclipse. In 2015, it was Europe, North/West Asia, North/West Africa, East and North America, the Atlantic and the Arctic. Total eclipses happen a lot all over the world, but for some reason they don't count unless they blanket the United States. The rest of the world was having natural disasters in 2017 as well, including tropical storms and flooding (some of which devastated church communities) but apparently their experiences did not merit the same prophetic consideration as ours.

This, I think, ought to give us pause, and I will offer several reasons to explain why.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Harvey, Irma And Global Warming: The Facts From Experts Whose Opinions Matter More Than Mine Or Yours

After hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it was hard to miss the multitude of headlines demanding that we pay attention to global warming now. Those who refuse to see this connection are science deniers at best and possibly criminals at worst (some are suggesting politicians who deny or minimize global warming should be arrested). 

But there were other voices as well, voices cautioning that the correlation was not so clear. The more I read, the more I realized how many 'weasel words' permeated the coverage (might, could, likely, probably, many speculate, etc). Even worse, headlines and even conclusions within articles often did not align accurately with the actual facts in the article. 


I figured it was time for some research. I looked for national and international agencies, think tanks, meteorologists and climatologists. I did not try to avoid anything or confirm a particular bias. As far as I know, what I have to offer represents the mainstream or consensus scientific view. I know "consensus" is a dirty word in some circles, but if it's good enough to give force to the global warming argument, it should be good enough to give weight to this topic as well.


These quotes will address the number of hurricanes, their strength and duration as compared with existing data over the history of hurricane activity, and whether or not we should be drawing a connection between the power of the recent hurricanes and global warming. 


I think you will see that while there is minor disagreement, the general consensus is solid: global warming does not get credit for Harvey and Irma (except for perhaps a couple extra inches of rain). These are not climate change deniers saying this. Everyone I read affirms that the globe is warming, and that if trends continue we should eventually see significant impact, even if it might be a while. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The End Is Near - Again

“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars: and on earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the seas and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and expectation of those things that are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26)

"And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth." (Revelation 12:1-2)

____________________________________________

These verses are suddenly front and center on social media. Why? For the passage in Luke, it's because the eclipse was on the 21st, Hurricane Harvey began on the 25th, and the flooding hit on the 26th (there's the numbers from the chapter and verses). There's more, however.  According to unsealed.org:
"Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane, made landfall exactly 4 days after the Great American Eclipse and 4 weeks before the Feast of Trumpets, or, on the Jewish calendar, exactly 4 weeks before the Revelation 12 Sign featuring a woman with 12 stars on her head who symbolizes the 12 tribes of Israel.  The storm was the most powerful hurricane to make landfall in 12 years and brought with it 12-foot storm surges."
This isn't the first time Luke 21 has been referenced in relation to natural disasters. Charisma magazine wondered last year if Hurricane Matthew was perhaps the referent. It wasn't, apparently.

The verses in Revelation are being cited because on September 23, 2017, the sun will be in the constellation Virgo (the virgin), the moon will be near Virgo’s feet, Jupiter will be in Virgo, and Venus, Mars, and Mercury will be in the constellation Leo. There are nine stars from the constellation Leo; the other three are found in the conjunction in Leo of Venus, Mars, and Mercury. Some are claiming that this is a fulfillment of a sign in the Revelation 12 passage cited above.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Facts About DACA And DREAMers

"We will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion -- but through the lawful Democratic process -- while at the same time ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve," he said. "We must also have heart and compassion for unemployed, struggling, and forgotten Americans." – President Donald Trump
 _________________________________________

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which was started by President Obama in 2012, lets young immigrants who came to the United States as children of illegal immigrants to a) apply for temporary protection from deportation, and b) obtain work permits, attend college, get a driver’s license, etc. There was a $495 fee attached to this, and it needed to be renewed every two years.

These immigrants became known as DREAMers after the DREAM Act, a failed piece of legislation meant to give these particular immigrants legal status in return for attending college or joining the military, and to eventually help them apply for citizenship. Though it kept popping up in Congress between 2001 and 2010, it never passed. 

So in 2012, President Obama used an executive order to issue DACA, which meant that these DREAMers who met certain criteria could apply for “deferred action” every two years. This was not a path to citizenship; "deferred action" meant that deportation proceedings would not be started against them. They would be “lawfully present” for those two years. This was only available for immigrants who met the following criteria:

  •  lived in the US since 2007
  • arrived before they were 16
  • were 30 or younger as of June 2012
  • were in high school, had a high school diploma (or a GED), or were discharged from the Coast Guard or US Armed Forces
  • had a mostly clean criminal record (not convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor)
Unfortunately, most people under DACA have no path to become citizens, because "federal immigration and naturalization law contains a categorical bar that prevents, in most circumstances, a person from applying for permanent residency or citizenship if their most recent entry to the United States was 'uninspected'" - which is precisely what happened. "Permanent residency is the step necessary to become a citizen and since DACA recipients are not eligible to be permanent residents, they cannot become citizens."

In 2014, President Obama decided to expand DACA by a) loosening age restrictions and b) including parents in what was called Deferred Action For Parents Of Americans (DAPA). Suddenly, half of the illegal immigrants in the United States were covered. A lawsuit against both DAPA and the expansion of DACA was successful (the Supremes deadlocked, so the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision to block the action stood). This was not, however, a lawsuit brought on constitutional grounds. It was because of “Texas’s claim that it would incur costs” and because “the Obama administration did not go through the APA’s notice and comment process when creating them.”

When Planned Parenthood Fights For the Right To Live - and DREAM

“DACA has helped so many young DREAMers to go to Planned Parenthood abortion centers. We are resolved to fight back against this cruel and heartless decision — and I hope you are, too.

Here at Planned Parenthood, we firmly believe that every person has the right to live, work, and raise a family freely and without the threat of deportation or separation.

We believe in every person’s right to control their own destiny and their own body.

We stand with our allies who are leading this fight and will never stop fighting for this vision. Protecting immigrant families from inhumane attacks, assault, and deportations is critical to making that vision a reality.

- Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Federation Of America

_________________________________________

Oh, my.

Planned Parenthood clearly does not believe every person has the right to live, work and raise a family. They are responsible for ending the life of unborn babies at the remarkable rate of 887 a day on average (that’s about 320,000 in 2015 in case you were wondering).  Oh, and “79% of their surgical abortion facilities are located within walking distance of African American or Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods.” So those DREAMers they are helping? They are helping them abort the next generation. Deportation is bad for business, a business that makes at least a third of its income (and perhaps as high as 50%) through inhumane attacks and assaults against unborn human beings (click on the link to see my defense of this definition of a fetus).

Oh, Cecile, you have such moral clarity for the born, and I’m with you on that. I, too, think DACA needs to be reinstituted by the legislative branch. It is a morally good law implemented poorly. Let’s use the just means this time to achieve the same just ends.

But please, please apply your thinking to those who have not had the privilege of being born. They are truly the marginalized, the discarded, the ones being deported not just from this country but from this life. They are the ones being separated from their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. Let them live so that they can truly control their own destinies.


I actually agree with your vision (with some clarifications about when deportation is appropriate): "We firmly believe that every person has the right to live, work, and raise a family freely and without the threat of deportation or separation. We believe in every person’s right to control their own destiny and their own body." Cool. Just…don't stop there. Walk it back. Every person's life begins not at birth, but at conception. The biology is incontrovertible. All they did after that moment was grow. 

Let them live.

Let the dream, too.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Wind River's Modern American Frontier

Wind River is the third film in a loosely connected trilogy linked to Taylor Sheridan. As a screenwriter in Hell Or High Water and Sicario, he set both in what Sheridan calls the "modern American frontier."  As a director, Sheridan uses the same setting in Wind River to take a stark look at the ways in which sin shatters the world in a 21st century Wild West.

I noted in my review of Hell or High Water that I was conscious while watching the film that it was a remarkably well made movie. I thought the same thing during Wind River. I didn't realize until later that Sheridan was responsible for both. I'm impressed that he got y attention with both. The dialogue and pacing, the brooding silence that suddenly explodes in violence, the way in which the landscape is just as much a character as the actors (the cinematographer also shot Beasts Of The Southern Wild)...  Wind River is just really well done in terms of cinematic art.*

During the opening credits, a voice intones, "There is a meadow in my perfect world." There is no idyllic meadow in this film.  Instead, there is the bitterly cold mountains of Wind River, the only American Indian reservation in Wyoming. As cold as that wind is, there is one just as bitter that moans through too many hearts as well. One character says, "You'd think people would realize this is sheep country." Hello, foreshadowing. Sheep country attracts wolves. There is more than one kind of sheep, and there are many kinds of wolves, and a howling, harrowing wind flows relentlessly through them all.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Is The Nordic Theory Of Everything Really As Great As It Sounds?

Several weeks ago I had the privilege to talk with Mella McCormick, a philosophy professor at Northwestern Michigan College, about a book called The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life, by Anu Partanen. Here’s Mella’s overview:

The book compares the Nordic approach to life with that of the United States, which interestingly enough is polar opposite in many ways; for example, the Nordic countries provide their citizens with free universal health-care, free higher education, paid maternity and paternity leave, to name a few things. 
Despite the United States' proposed claims to value principles such as liberty, freedom, independence, the U.S. has created a system that makes its citizens dependent on others: students are dependent on parents to help pay for higher education and thus become beholden to them (this could potentially influence where the student goes to school, what she studies, selected career path, etc.); employees are dependent on their employees for health benefits, thus potentially enslaving a person to a job that he does not like or finds unfulfilling but cannot afford to leave; due to the high cost of geriatric care, adult children are left with the task of caring for their elderly parents which could potentially corrupt the elderly-parent/adult-child relationship (i.e. elderly parents feel like a "burden" to their children, children feel overwhelmed by medical tasks they are not trained to perform).
Partanen argues that the social services that Nordic countries provide for their citizens is what allows them to lead more authentic, free, and liberating lives, not less, as the anti-socialist rhetoric that portrays Nordic countries as "welfare states" would have you believe.
According to "For Generous Parental Leave and Great Schools, Move to Finland" (New York Times Review), there are many facts to support this contention:
  • Finland’s child poverty rate is less than 5 percent, compared with 25 percent for American children. 
  • Smoothly functioning and comprehensive health insurance 
  • A full year of partially paid disability leave 
  • Nearly a full year of paid parental leave for each child and a smaller monthly benefit for an additional two years (should I or the father of my child choose to stay at home longer with our child) 
  • Affordable high-quality day care 
  • One of the world’s best K-12 education systems 
  • Free college and free graduate school.
“The core idea,” Partanen writes of the Nordic Theory Of Love, “is that authentic love and friendship are possible only between individuals who are independent and equal.” A Norwegian friend said it this way:

"The basic view on government in Norway is that you elect people whose responsibility it is to help create a society where people aren't necessarily 'dependent' on others or government but actually have a fair chance at creating a good life for themselves with the help of good government regulations and equal opportunities."

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

White Supremacism, Antifa, And The Ethics Of Protesting

It's no secret that tensions are rising in the United States. Hardly a week goes by without another march, another protest, another shouting match (or physical fight), another cry against injustice in some fashion. These clashes often seem to generate a lot more heat than light. Is it possible to navigate our way through these skirmishes in a way that productively leads us toward truth, justice, reconciliation and peace, or are we stuck with simply shouting and posturing until the loudest or strongest side wins?

In our most recent episode of Etctera, Beth and I discuss the recent controversy in Traverse City involving the replicas of Columbus's ships before addressing Charlottesville and other places where clashes over civil and human rights have been front and center in the news. We offer a starting conversation on a complex subject; hopefully, it can contribute in some fashion to a cultural move toward truth, justice, reconciliation and peace.

As always, you can listen to this podcast on Soundcloud; we also encourage you to become part of the conversation by posting thoughts on this page or on our Facebook page. Meanwhile, here are some links that will further your search for truth on this subject.    

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Reader's Digest's 12th Mind-Blowing Discovery Scientists Made This Year

The latest Reader’s Digest (September 2017) has the click-bait worthy “13 Mind-Blowing Discoveries Scientists Made This Year.” Though I must confess my mind remained relatively calm, the 12th one did catch my eye:

A tool to repair DNA in embryos. Chinese scientists devised a gene-editing tool that may eliminate certain disease-causing mutations in the DNA of human embryos. It is the first such technology to be used on viable human embryos and could one day help prevent babies from inheriting serious genetic diseases. But it has already raised ethical concerns about the potential to effectively design children – and alter the genetic heritage of humankind.”

I note the following:
  • This is the DNA of something living, not something that will potentially live.
  • The DNA being repaired in human embryos (unborn children) is the DNA of a human being. There has been a diagnosis of a serious genetic disease that is passed on from one human being to another. Not from a human being to a blob of tissue or to something that may or may not vaguely have personhood. It’s what human parents pass on to human babies. The distinctive embryo/baby language used in the article may be helpful in identifying the stage of life the baby is in, but there is no ontological difference between the child mentioned with both those terms.
  •  The repair done in utero will be a part of a 10-year-old’s history or a 70-year-old’s history. There is a unity to his or her life that begins before birth. What happens to this unborn baby happens to the person whom that baby was, is and will be. A 50-year-old who had this kind of treatment probably won’t say, “Before I was a baby (or a human or a person) I had this treatment…” They will likely say, “Before I was born...” Before I was born. 
  •  The DNA being repaired is not the mother’s or the father’s. Neither one is affected by this. It is the DNA of a unique, separate human being. This is not something done to the mother’s body; it’s done in the mother’s body to the baby’s body. 

There is a unity to human identity that begins at conception. The story of our life begins in the very first moments, and every stage adds chapters. Abortion does not stop a story from starting; it ends a life story that has already begun.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Big Pharma, The Triangle Of Death, and AI: Three Documentaries You Should See in 2017

This past week, Etcetera's podcasting crew had the opportunity to interview writers, producers and directors associated with three documentaries showing at the Traverse City Film Festival:
producer Andrew Grant and director/writer Anniken Hoel (Cause of Death: Unknown); director Zaradasht Hairan (Nowhere to Hide); and producer Greg Kohs (AlphaGo). You can listen to the podcast on Soundcloud; as always, we welcome your thoughts on our Facebook page and on this post!

To give you an idea of where the conversation ranged on these three films, here are some observations and questions that worked their way into our discussion with them, as well as some links with which to pursue each topic. I think you will find what our guests had to offer as fascinating and insightful as we did!

Monday, July 24, 2017

War For The Planet Of The Apes

War For The Planet Of The Apes has received widespread accolades, and rightly so. More importantly than the remarkable special effects, it tells a thoughtful story about war, morality, revenge, justice, goodness, and hope. And it once again features apes riding horses, which is hard to beat in terms of sheer entertainment value.

What stood out to me in this final (?) installment of the series was the remarkable biblical imagery. I said to my son after I watched it, "That was a story of Caesar, the Ape Moses, leading his people to the Promised Land." I went home and jumped online, and sure enough - that's what the director had in mind:
In Reeves’ mind, the character’s death was almost biblically preordained. “He was sort of this ape Moses, so for him not to be able to be in the Promised Land with them — I thought reaching this place could be tremendously emotional,” he said.
 Director Matt Reeves told EW:
“We watched Bridge on the River Kwai...We watched The Great Escape. We watched Biblical epics, because I really felt like this movie had to have a Biblical aspect to it. We watched Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments. We didn’t go, like, ‘Let’s take a little bit of this, a little bit of that.’ When you surround yourself with something that feels emotionally right, there are connections that make sense to you that somebody else might not see…[the films] informed the vibe we felt about this thing.”
The parallels to the biblical epic of Moses are unmistakable.

The Shape Of Reality: What Is Justice?

As noted in the opening post in this series, I believe Christianity offers compelling reasons to believe that truth is found most fully and consistently within the framework of a Christian worldview. The second post addressed the need for an objective foundation for morality. The language of morality only makes sense if we are significant moral agents who have an obligation to choose good and avoid evil, so the third post addressed the issue of whether or not we are really free.

The concepts of freedom and moral obligation brings with them the idea of justice. If right and wrong are objectively real, and we are people deserving of praise and culpability based on how our choices align with moral goodness, then part of the morally obligatory good would be to treat people justly. So, what is justice?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

SpiderMan: Homecoming

Spiderman: Homecoming, the latest movie in the Marvel Universe
franchise, is getting great reviews (93% at Rotten Tomatoes from critics, 92% from the audience). It’s not the best movie Marvel has done, but it’s solid. This version of Spider-Man is going to be an interesting addition to the Avengers: he’s lighthearted, somewhat naïve, and not yet jaded (matured?) by life; he’s also strong, fast, brilliant, and incredibly excited about fighting evil and injustice with his heroes. But, as this movie makes clear, he’s got some growing up to do.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Etcetera #3: What Comic Book Superheroes Tell Us About Ourselves

Thanks, Karl Meszaros, expert on "everything that could stop you from getting a date," for joining us for this podcast's discussion of comic book superheroes heroism, and the impact is has in both society and individuals. In this episode, we look at several different aspects of this cultural phenomenon:
  • the rise of the superhero genre
  • the changing nature of what is considered heroic (how did we get from Superman to Deadpool?)
  • the reflection of and impact on readers and viewers
  • the benefits and pitfalls that this type of storytelling has to offer
You can link to the podcast on Soundcloud here; you are also welcome to join a post-podcast discussion on our Facebook page. Meanwhile, here is a list of related articles that you may find helpful.

In an act of bald self-promotion, here are links to some of my reviews, which include occasional guests appearances by both Beth and Karl (whose perspective influenced probably all of these reviews):

Friday, July 7, 2017

Freedom

“There are two freedoms - the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought. “ Charles Kingsley

“Order without liberty and liberty without order are equally destructive.” Theodore Roosevelt

“Freedom, like any other virtue, does not exist in a vacuum. It must be worked and practiced to exist at all. And like any other virtue, it imposes upon those who would have it the unpleasant tasks of discipline and sacrifice. A materialistic people do not learn these tasks by reading posters or listening to pep talks, any more than you can learn to play the violin by the same methods.” Ralph Austin Bard, United States Assistant Secretary of the Navy,

“What is this liberty that must lie in the hearts of men and women?
It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not the freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check on their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few — as we have learned to our sorrow."  Learned Hand, in "The Spirit of Liberty"

“The basis of self-government and freedom requires the development of character and self-restraint and perseverance and the long view. And these are qualities which require many years of training and education.” John F. Kennedy

“The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.” Nelson Mandela, in Long Walk to Freedom

“Only free peoples can hold their purpose and their honor steady to a common end, and prefer the interests of mankind to any narrow interest of their own.Woodrow Wilson, address to Congress.

* * * * * * * * * *
Freedom in our culture often means the right to be and do as you please, how you please, when you please, where you please. It means doing your own thing, being your own boss, looking after number one first. The Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary says it means “exemption from necessity in choice and action.” It is the right to any choice so long as it is your own personal choice.

I’m not so sure this is the deepest, truest form of freedom. It’s probably better described as license. John Milton wrote in Tenure of Kings and Magistrates that “none can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license.” As is easy to see simply by surveying our world, license results far too often in an exploitative callousness that objectifies others and deadens one’s own conscious.

We can fill our brain on fake news sites; we can engage in addictive behavior; we can blow every paycheck rather than make long term plans; we can tweet whatever we want or troll any social media site; we can watch all kinds of pornography; we can use dating apps to go through people as if they were playthings; we can pollute; we can support entertainment that spoils the moral fabric of our culture; we can take all the toilet rolls in a portable toilet and throw them into the toilet (sorry...recent experience that really peeved me); we can gorge yourself with food or drink ourselves into a stupor.

We can do all that. But at what cost? Check out Chase Holfelder's rendition of "My Way." He captures the ambivalence well - it's supposed to be a song celebrating radical license, but  it's sung through tears, with some regrets, with an acknowledgment that at times he bit off more than he could chew. This version lingers: it's not the breezy, careless Sinatra version. It's a haunting reflection of one who is desperately - and uneasily - wondering if "my way" was the right way to live.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Etcetera #2: Travel Bans, Immigrants, And Refugees

The President's recent 'travel ban' and the Supreme Court's partial affirmation of it have been front and center in the news lately. In this week's podcast episode of Etcetera: More Than Talking Points, we take a look at several aspects relevant to this discussion.

  • The details of the 'travel ban'
  • The ruling of the Supreme Court
  • The Trump Administration's use of the Immigration and Nationality Act to define "bona fide relationships" as it applies to family members
  • The threat to national and personal security (or lack thereof) posed by refugees and immigrants

You can link the the podcast on Soundcloud here; you are also welcome to join a post-podcast discussion on our Facebook page. Meanwhile, here is a list of related articles that you may find helpful.

The Shape Of Reality: Are We Really Free?

As noted in the opening post in this series, I believe Christianity offers compelling reasons to believe that truth is found most fully and consistently within the framework of a Christian worldview. The second post addressed the need for an objective foundation for morality. Of course, using the language of morality only makes sense if we are moral beings - that is, if we are significant moral agents who have an obligation to choose good and avoid evil.  This can only happen if we are free to make that choice, and therein lies another key question: Are we really free?
Generally, people believe that at some point everyone freely chooses  to make good and/or bad choices. Jaegwon Kim, philosopher at Brown University, has noted,

"We commonly think that we, as persons, have a mental and bodily dimension.... Something like this dualism of personhood, I believe, is common lore shared across most cultures and religious traditions." 

 Mind and Language published a paper in 2010 entitled “Is Belief in Free Will a Cultural Universal?” After studying a broad sample of people in the United States, Hong Kong, India and Columbia,
“The results revealed a striking degree of cross-cultural convergence. In all four cultural groups, the majority of participants said that (a) our universe is indeterministic and (b) moral responsibility is not compatible with determinism.” 
Consensus is not an air-tight way to arrive at truth, of course, but it is an insightful way to see what experiences humanity in general share. Most people believe we exercise some form of free will.

Not everyone agrees. When Rodney Brooks and Rosalind Picard debated the question, “Can Robots Become Human?” at a Veritas Forum at MIT in 2007, the following exchange took place (as recorded in “Living Machines” and published in A Place For Truth) :
Brooks: “ I think of myself as a robot, as a bag of skin full of biomolecules, and if I step back, that’s what [my wife] is, that’s what my kids are. But I have this completely different way of interacting with them, with unconditional love, which is not part of that scientific view. So I have multiple views I operate under every day.”
Picard: “I don’t just call those multiple views, I call those inconsistent views…so there’s no purpose, there’s no meaning, there’s no free will.”
Brooks: “That’s why I said I have a set of inconsistent views that I live under, because that’s really desolate, but it’s the truth.”
Picard: “Yeah, that does seem pretty desolate, and I wonder how you – why you care?”
Brooks: “I live in a fantasyland. That’s the fantasyland I’ve chosen to live in…”
So what is actually happening?

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Shape Of Reality: Identifying Evil

As noted in the opening post in this series, I believe Christianity offers compelling reasons to believe that truth is found most fully and consistently within the framework of a Christian worldview. Considering what we read in front page headlines, it seems appropriate to begin by looking specifically at ethics and morality.
In the aftermath of the Penn State scandal, everyone agreed that a long-standing taboo ought to remain: child molestation is not good. The case involving Dr. Gossnell’s butchery of newborn children, as well as terrorist incidents such as the bombings at the Boston Marathon  engendered an additional outcry against the presence of moral evil in the world.

People from all walks of life have found common ground in their stand against this type of injustice. However, it is increasingly difficult to find a consistent explanation for why these are examples of objectively bad things - that is, actions that are wrong irregardless of individual feelings and preferences.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Shape Of Reality

“Any benefit that people get from religion – any power it has to fulfill them emotionally or motivate them morally – comes from the conviction that it is first of all true.”  Nancy Pearcey, Saving Leonardo

The Christian worldview claims to provide a rational, compelling presentation and defense of the Christian faith. Through reason, revelation (of the natural and supernatural world) and experience, we search for knowledge about God and His creation. This accumulation of knowledge is not simply a process of absorbing dull facts; it's the way in which we access foundational, transformative truth.

Christian theologians and philosophers claim to say something profoundly true about human experience. The claim is supported in numerous ways: archaeology; historical documents; eyewitness testimony; deductive, inductive, and abductive arguments; philosophy and transcendent personal experiences. But if the truth claims of the Christian faith don’t actually explain our existence truthfully and meaningfully, none of these things matter.

“Your worldview has to have the same shape that reality does.” – J. Budziszewski

Monday, June 26, 2017

Etcetera: More Than Talking Points

I am excited to be starting a podcast called "Etcetera: More Than Talking Points" with Beth Milligan, a journalist and long time friend. Our goal is to take the time to delve deeply into issues that effect our lives: religion, politics, ethics, entertainment, philosophy, theology, and a lot of current event issues (immigration, sanctuary cities, abortion, health care, religious freedom, free speech, science and tech, marriage and the family...the list could go on and on!) You can access what we currently have available at the following places:


We are working on several other social media platforms as well as putting more streaming opportunities in place. I will update this post as our platform broadens.

If you listen, please feel free to leave comments, suggestion, questions, etc. We want this to be interactive. Hopefully, we can offer a groundwork of truth that can promote a healthy, respectful and vigorous discussion of the issues in life that matter most.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Wonder Woman: The Hero We Need

There are a lot of really good reviews about the new Wonder Woman movie. I really feel no need to replicate them. One thing is clear: this (most excellent) movie has generated a lot of enlightening discussion about how women are portrayed in media.

I posted an article on my Facebook wall last week hoping for some discussion. I was not disappointed. Several friends whose opinions I value* weighed in with some thoughtful if not at times profound observations. Rather than writing a review, I am simply going to let this conversation unfold. (If you want the full effect, you will need to click on the links to read or watch the various links.) Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section!

* * * * * * * * * *
Here is the opening article that started the conversation: 




Can we cheer Wonder Woman as a symbol while being disappointed in it as a movie?
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Becky Childs Maybe I'm missing something--she fought to *end* war and save innocents; that's not the same as fighting for the sake of war itself or for power. I do agree about wishing we lived in a world where this movie didn't have to seem groundbreaking.
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Anthony Weber I thought the article made a good point about her motivation. Is it really that different from the men's ? At least the good guys? They too want to end suffering. They too wish that war would end. And WW was just as ready to use violence to bring about peace as they were. She did it to end the suffering of the villagers right in front of her; they men did it to end all wars. Couldn't one argue these are complimentary things? I felt like the movie was trying to show that women wage war from compassion and love and men from...well, I don't know. Corrupt hearts because they are men? Because men love violence?I think one could argue that both men and women wage war and long for it to end for the same reasons. 

FWIW, I really liked WW's idealism and nobility. It was refreshing. She's right: she is too good for them. But that idealism also contrasted well with Steve's world-weary but honest realism. In the end they felt like compatible views to me, not contrasting ones. Both had something to offer the other.  I'm still mulling this over.... I may need to see the movie again... 
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Becky Childs Sure there are some similarities between WW and the male superhero counterparts (though how similar seems like a case by case comparison). She did strike me as having an extra compassion bone ("Oh, your sharp shooter can't shoot? That's cool, he can sing for us.") I guess it felt dismissive of WW by boiling it down to a gender swap, and what's the big deal anyway? With all due respect to the (male) writer, I am going to throw down the woman card and say there is a piece here you can't appreciate fully. Maybe just let us have this one.  Also, good idea about seeing again to be REALLY sure 
Becky Childs Also I felt like Steve had a heroism that was admirable too--WW had super powers to back her boldness, he did not. His bravery was going into battles with no certainty of winning. ALSO, YOU COULD HAVE SHOT THE PLANE FROM THE GROUND. 😭
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Karl Meszaros I think there's a massive difference between Steve's view of the war and WW's view. Steve is against the idea of war. He's concerned with the war in theory. He speaks of millions of people dying. But when he sees people suffering right in front of him, he doesn't really care. I think this true of many superheroes. They do what they do because they have a great responsibility to do so. WW does so not from duty or responsibility, but because she legitimately cares about people. It's one of the most admirable traits anyone can have.