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.
The Shape Of Reality: Are We Really Free?
Christianity claims that our ability to choose feels real because it is real. While we are influenced by many things, we are at the mercy of none of them. They may form us, but they don't finish us. Because we can choose, our history is not our destiny. We can truly approbate those who do well, because their life reflects a conscious choice to be better than they once were. We can admonish and challenge those who choose poorly, because we know that they do not have to resign themselves to the cruel dictates of history.
The Shape of Reality: Identifying Evil
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.
The Shape Of Reality
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 The claim is supported in numerous ways: archaeology; historical documents; eyewitness testimony; deductive, inductive, and abductive arguments; philosophy and transcendent personal experiences.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.
A Closer Look At Sanctuary Cities
My hometown has recently begun considering whether or not to designate our city as a 'sanctuary city.' Considering the controversy this has raised, I decided to do some research on a topic I knew little about.
One thing is for sure: this is a confusing topic. There are remarkably contradictory studies quoted by equally passionate people, and there is a lot of dishonest reporting that distorts the facts (which is why both sides quote the same studies in some cases). I found more than one case where an article linking to a study totally misrepresented the study.
I will do my best to offer relevant facts, a variety of perspectives on how those facts are interpreted, and a summary of some issues that make the pursuit of truth and justice difficult but not impossible. I am not an expert. I'm just a guy wanting to find the truth.
The March For (At Least Some Of) Science
The March For Science, according to various news article I have read, was focused on the value of evidence-based science, an enterprise that is apparently under fire. I suspect this is mostly a political broadside against President Trump, specifically when it comes to global warming,vaccines, and alternative theories to evolution.
Now, I am a fan of both science and evidence. Though the march is largely symbolic and baldly political, I don’t think anyone actually thinks the theoretical framework of the march is problematic (“Boo evidence and science! Stop learning stuff!"). However, the march seemed to me to be somewhat naive and far too narrowly focused.
Being People Of Truth In A False World
I am really discouraged about the content and style of our cultural conversation. The internet has made us more shallow, more bombastic, more sheltered than ever before. We hide behind informational walls. We attack with our avatars in ways we never would if we had to actually talk to real people face to face. We have learned that the sound bite, the click bait title, and the bomb thrower gets the fame. We reject serious news in favor of titillating fake news that promises an emotional orgy of either self-affirmation or gleeful demonization of the "other."
There is no easy fix. We are sowing ignorance, bias and lies, and we are reaping the consequences. The solution - if it's not too late - is sowing knowledge, objectivity, and truth, and doing so with wisdom, patience, boldness and kindness. In the service of this goal, I offer the following ways to pursue the creation of a culture committed to truth.
Men, Women, And The Line Between Objectification And Empowerment
I want women (and men) to be justly empowered; I want women and men to honor each other. I want to live in a society where people are valued as people with intrinsic value, worth and dignity, not one where there value is dependent on their production, desirability, or utility.
I don’t think the sexual empowerment movement as it is currently unfolding is accomplishing these goals. In fact, I think it’s sending the women’s empowerment movement in the opposite direction. I, for one, don’t want women to lose ground.
All The News That's Fake To Print
"That's fake news!" has become an increasingly standard response to anything from a news source someone doesn't like, or to any story that challenges that narrative one wants to be true. What was once a label for a very particular kind of underhanded representation of "news" has become the label for even mainstream media outlets that make mistakes or have bias, as well as any story that suggests we might be wrong in our perspective.
It's an effective way to dodge, but it's a terrible way to engage with reality. I, for one, don't want to give up on the pursuit of truth, even if it is surrounded by a bodyguard of lies.*
So let's chat.
Beyonce's Inadvertent Pro-Life Baby Bump
Who knew Beyonce would turn her fans pro-life? It’s almost as if they suddenly recognized unborn babies for what they are – babies. If Beyonce were to miscarry, she and her fans would not mourn the loss of clumps of tissue. They would mourn the loss of her children. If Beyonce were attacked and she miscarried, I suspect the news reports would be full of language that talked about her babies, not her fetuses, being killed, and rightly so. Twenty-nine states would prosecute the attacker for murder.
Refugees, Immigrants, and Islam: In Search Of Truth And Justice
After reading all the debate about the immigration/refugee issue, I decided to do some of my own research. The result? I found out how complex this subject is. My intent is to provide a good foundation on which to begin building an informed opinion. It's certainly not the final word, but hopefully it's a good start.
NGOs, Abortion, and Federal Money: The Truth About The Mexico City Policy
The Mexico City policy (so named because it was announced at the United Nations International Conference on Population in Mexico City) has been implemented or suspended on strict partisan lines since the Reagan administration. All Republican Presidents implement it; all Democratic ones suspend it. The fact that President Trump has reimplemented it should surprise no one. However, now that it's getting either wildly applauded or criticized, it's worth looking at the reality of the policy.
Why I Am Pro-life
"Being pro-life" could potentially cover a lot of issues (capital punishment, euthanasia, etc). There is also a discussion to be had about the importance of protecting and honoring all born life. However, that's too much for one blog post. I am going to focus on abortion, a 'life' issue that is front and center in our culture, especially as we approach a day during which hundreds of thousand will March For Life. I am going to give four different arguments for this position. The first two arguments draw from Judeo-Christian history; the others will offer arguments that can be made apart from a belief in the veracity of the Bible.
Getting What We Deserve
I wrote last week that Ariana did not deserve what that fan said. By that, I meant was that no one ought to be objectified or dehumanized no matter what they say or do. That is what Ariana said she experienced; in that sense, I empathize with her anger and hurt.
But if I am to take the Cambridge Dictionary definition seriously, I must acknowledge that Mac Miller and Ariana Grande appear to have been “given something because of their actions or qualities”; particularly, their remarkably crude lyrics and highly sexualized public persona invited a mirroring response – which is precisely what they got. Their actions got a reaction. I’m not glad it happened; I’m just not surprised. Nobody should be.
Ideas have consequences. If we don’t like what we are reaping as individuals or as a culture, maybe it’s time we all personally and corporately challenge each other to sow something else.
The Hit Ariana Didn't Want - Or Deserve
What do we expect will happen when fans are fed a steady diet of this kind of language and outlook on people and sex? The artists I quoted - and there are plenty more - have decided that this is acceptable public discourse. I’m not sure why they (or us) are shocked when their fans echo the words of their heroes. And at some point, the ideas that fill people will spill out of them through their words and deeds. I assume this obnoxious fan is confused: he listened to his musical hero describe women and sex a particular way; he joined in the ‘locker room banter’ when he finally met the guy. What could be the harm in that?
Well, plenty, obviously. It’s a terrible way to view and talk about people – and it doesn’t matter if it is sung as entertainment or said to someone’s face. It's a dehumanizing and demeaning way to view and talk about people. The more I’ve thought about this, the more it just makes me sad.
National Geographic's Gender Revolution
Recently, National Geographic made headlines by putting a transgender child on the cover. The response has been mixed to put it mildly, ranging from praise for furthering human rights to criticism for promoting child abuse. In light of that discussion, I thought it worth noting several things about the transgender question that ought to be part of the discussion.
Comet Ping Pong, Pizzagate, And The Pursuit Of Truth
Based on what I have seen so far, I don't believe that the most disturbing PIzzagate accusations are warranted. Unlike the stories to which I linked at the beginning of this article, no one has been arrested; no witnesses have come forward; there are no known investigations taking place. The DC police have referred to it as a "fictitious online conspiracy theory." Megan Kelley devoted almost 10 minutes to debunking the conspiracy. There is nothing beyond speculation at this point, and frankly, too much of that speculation stretches credulity.
What This Election Revealed About The Church
Christians, let’s be honest: We weren’t ready for this election. We weren't ready for the moral quandary forced on us by both the issues and the candidates. In the next four years we have some serious soul-searching to do about a lot of things. However, I would like to focus on two that directly influence the life of the church.
Vote Your Conscience: A (hopefully) Helpful Guide For The 2016 Election
This is the kind of election where the oft repeated mandate to ‘vote your conscience’ carries more truth – and weight – than perhaps ever before. In the interest of providing a way to think through this choice, I have written a series of posts that cover various ethical theories that can be applied as one prepares for this year's election. I am convinced that no one ethical theory does justice to the complexity of our world; nonetheless, I hope the process of viewing life through different ethical lenses will bring increasing clarity.
Planned Parenthood And The Lives That Don't Matter
In response to the latest police shootings, Planned Parenthood posted the following response in an attempt to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement: "You deserve to parent your child without fear that he or she will be hurt or killed. Freedom from violence is reproductive justice." I agree with Planned Parenthood's statement. I would have phrased it differently (can we include what kids deserve?), but I embrace the general sentiment. Of course black lives matter; of course we want a world where parents don't have to worry about children experiencing violence or being killed. This is why I am also angry at the hypocrisy of this claim and heart-broken at the reality it supports.
“When it comes to the creation of a ‘moral climate’, is there a proper difference to be made between disagreeing, criticizing, discriminating, oppressing, dehumanizing, and killing, or is this all one thing on a continuum?”
Post-Orlando Question #2: How Do We Know When Individuals Truly Represent Groups?
"Is there a way to make a proper distinction between what is inherent in or necessarily follows from the beliefs and actions of a group vs. what particular individuals or sects do?"
Post-Orlando Question #1:Was Omar Mateen Created By The Conservative Religious Right?
Is it fair to attribute the actions of Omar Mateen to a climate of hate created by the Conservative Religious Right? Is there a way to make a proper distinction between what is inherent in or necessarily follows from the beliefs and actions of a group vs. what particular individuals or sects do?When it comes to the creation of a ‘moral climate,’ is there a proper distinction to be made between disagreeing, criticizing, discriminating, oppressing, dehumanizing, and violently attacking, or do these all simply occupy different places on the same continuum of hate?
Michigan's Proposal For Students With Gender Dysphoria: Is It The Best Solution?
Let me be clear: what I’m about to say is not a commentary on the need to treat those who identify as transgendered with dignity. This is about public policy guidelines that seek to weigh everyone’s rights and promote the common good of all parties involved. I don’t believe this proposed policy does either. I will be highlighting several quotes that stood out to me and offering my concerns about the rationality and impact of this policy.
North Carolina's 'Bathroom Law' And The Tension of Comfort And Safety
Laws such as the one in North Carolina protect gender-exclusive spaces that honor the privacy and safety of women and children. That strikes me as a good thing. It needs to matter in this discussion. To dismiss or ignore these concerns is to refuse to acknowledge the truth about the complexity of this issue.
NARAL, Doritos, And The "Tactic Of Humanizing Fetuses"
Did Doritos fall into the trap of a deceptive anti-choice tactic? Or did they offer a commercial that taps into the biological, scientific and philosophical reality that the fetus is an unborn human being that is living, moving and reacting inside his or her mother? To whatever degree Doritos intentionally or unintentionally pointed toward the unavoidable conclusion of the humanity of the unborn, I applaud them. However, NARAL got it wrong. Doritos isn't "humanizing the fetus." They are just reminding us that it's been human all along
Find Your Magic: How Axe Measures A Man
As much as I enjoy the overall creativity on display, it’s the socially conscious ads that reveal the most. This year, Colgate and Axe used the platform to make a statement about something they assume the audience takes seriously – or at least should. They don't just want us to buy a product; they want us to buy into a worldview.
Psychosexual Obesity And The Dating Apocalypse
Vanity Fair's "Tinder and the Dawn of the 'Dating Apocalypse'" is a must-read for those who are wondering where our culture is heading in terms of dating, sex and marriage. It's not an easy read, and it's R-rated graphic. I recommend it only because it is brutally honest about trending sexual behavior in the United States.
Rejecting Reality: How Planned Parenthood And Its Defenders Hide The Truth
In early July, The Center for Medical Progress began to release videos procured after three years of undercover work. They released short teaser videos, long videos from which the short versions were edited, and transcripts. The videos not only showed the calculating, callous way in which key players in Planned Parenthood viewed their clients and the unborn children, they also provided reasons to believe that certain Planned Parenthood clinics were breaking the law in the process of harvesting fetal tissue.
That's when Planned Parenthood and their defenders began a methodical campaign of distortion, denial and deception to help people avoid looking at the reality of abortion and the industries that profit from it. One example requires a certain amount of speculation*; the facts supporting the rest of my points are clear enough on their own.
Are The Blood Moons The Beginning Of The End?
Here are my two main concerns about the current claims. First, I believe the Bible is being read inaccurately by failing to give proper consideration to the genre, the context, etc. Christian pastors, scholars and theologians are questioning Biltz and Hagee's reading of the passages of Scripture in question, and rightly so. This inaccurate reading of Scripture concerns me because of the ripple effect when this happens. Specifically, the merit of genuine prophecy takes a hit when inaccurate prophecy grabs headlines. Generally, we can begin to apply questionable exegetical principles to other biblical issues.
Second, the history of failed predictions have a common element: sincere readers of Scripture were convinced they had discerned the time of Christ’s coming (or other aspects of the end of the world), and they offered meticulous biblical arguments to support their claim. In spite of their sincerity, Jesus’ claim that no one will know the day or the hour was confirmed each time (Mark 13:32). I see no compelling Scriptural reason why this time will be different.
Planned Parenthood, Fusion GPS, and the Smokeless Gun
The big story this week is that Planned Parenthood hired Fusion GPS to take a look at the Center For Medical Progress's unedited videos to see if they were truly unedited. To the surprise of no one, the group Planned Parenthood hired to exonerate them exonerated them. The story has legs - my Facebook feed is full of gleefully overhyped headlines. However, there is much more to the story than meets the eye.
A Response To “Planned Parenthood is Not Selling Baby Parts, You F****** Idiots”:
When Skepchick Rebecca Watson wrote her now viral post on the Planned Parenthood scandal, no one had to guess which side she was defending or what she thought of the pro-life crowd. The article is worth considering – not because she's right, but because what is presented as fact is so woefully wrong in so many ways.
As I respond to her arguments, I will be quoting the shortened blog version of the video that she posted on her website. A lot of what I have to say will challenge her claim that nothing illegal is happening. The rest will hopefully point out why it shouldn't be legal in the first place.
The 'Ick Factor' and Planned Parenthood: While discussing the recent Planned Parenthood expose, I have been told that my opinions about abortion are influenced by the ‘ick factor.’ Apparently, my opposition to abortion can be minimized or dismissed because I think abortion is gross. If I recommend that people view a picture or video so they can be fully informed, the response is fairly consistent: “There are a lot of medical procedures I don’t want to watch. Just because seeing them might make me squeamish doesn’t mean they are a bad idea. After all, I don’t want to see what happens in a heart surgery, but heart surgeries are a good thing.”
That's true. Something is not wrong because it makes me squeamish any more than it is right because it doesn't make someone else feel the same. So is this a legitimate argument? Am I and other pro-life advocates simply wanting to create a moral framework to support our weak stomachs? Obviously, I don't think that's the case.
Why The Trajectory of Obergefell v. Hodge Concerns Me: The recent Oberfell v. Hodge decisions has generated intense discussion about homosexuality, the nature of marriage, the power of the Supreme Court, the meaning of equality and rights, and the impact on churches as well as faith-based business and organizations. I don't care to jump in to any of those conversation in this post. I would like to offer a different reason that this decision concerns me.
Down the Rabbit Hole: On Caitlyn and Culture: "What follows are not observations on Bruce/Caitlyn as much as thoughts on trends in our culture's ability to process complex issues such as this one. Supporting Jenner's new self-identity does not happen in a vacuum. It requires a manner of reasoning and a particular worldview perspective that I believe is leading us haphazardly down a rabbit hole of deeply confusing philosophical and moral dilemmas."
Duggars, Duplicity, and Dilemmas In Christian Community: "The recent Duggar scandal reveals some huge problems for the Christian community. I'm not going to pile on the family here - plenty of other blogs are doing that. It's a sad story on many levels. I am simply going to note that the Christian community must learn some important lessons from this situation or we are destined to see this scenario play out over and over."
Katy Perry's Experimental Game and Superbowl XLIX: "Quite a few people weighed in on social media commenting on how "family friendly" and "clean" the show was. There were no wardrobe malfunctions or nudity. Nobody twerked. I heard, "It wasn't Beyonce!" more than a few times as people recalled previous shows that pushed the envelope much further than this one did. That's all true, but in order to conclude that it was "clean" or "family friendly" I think we need to define what that means."
Rebellion, Freedom and Art: "What happens as the rebellion against all the moral walls created by social, moral and legal boundaries becomes increasingly successful? After all, there is more than one kind of wall. Some keep us prisoner; others keep us safe. We may think we are destroying our captor when we are actually destroying our protector."
Pixar and Personhood: "I recently read an interesting article over at Discover Magazine called "The Hidden Message in Pixars' Films." The author makes an interesting case that Pixar's movies are changing the way the next generation thinks about what it means to be a person - or even what it means to be human."
MemeThink 202: Hobby Lobby Edition - "MemeThink 101 offered a perspective on the frustrating trend of using memes to talk about serious cultural issues, in particular same-sex marriage. This follow-up post will address the recent Hobby Lobby ruling as seen from the perspective of the MemeThink."
The Day Miley Couldn't Stop - "Maybe that was why the proudly open-minded, non-judgmental crowd berated her: Miley stripped away the veil between the false promise of the songs and the reality of life. Other artists have done highly sexualized shows on national TV; why was Miley suddenly villified? Because people recognized that Miley's transformation from Hannah Montana to twerking stripper was not something to be applauded. This was clearly not progress in any sense of the word.
When a woman offers herself as a thing to be objectified instead of a person to be respected, she doesn't run things. When a woman grinds on a stage with a man who calls her a bitch, wants to pull her hair and slap her, and desires brutal sex with her, she is not in control anymore. She has given in to those who do not have her best interest in mind. The night Miley thinks she owns has begun to engulf her.
What Superbowl Halftime Shows Reveal About Us - "Beyonce may be a very nice person, and she certainly is a talented singer, but dressing up in leather lingerie complete with the standard wardrobe malfunction (no, I'm not linking to it) is hardly striking a blow for a renewed appreciation of women as women. Unfortunately, just about every form of media portrays women in ways that increasingly influence us to view them not as people worthy of respect and honor but as a conglomeration of parts meant to entertain us. There's a name for this: sexual objectification."
Is Frankenstorm a Judgment from God? - "It’s a popular topic every time a storm hits, especially if it hits where we don't live. Usually, the apparent target of God’s wrath is a particular situation or people group about which the person claiming clarity happens to feel very strongly (“It’s the homosexual abortion doctor! It’s because of international policies! It’s the war! It’s liberal, feminist Marxists! It’s the greedy Wall Street 1%! It’s evolution in our schools! It's for someone with whom I am displeased!”)There’s quite a list that gets generated in the aftermath of a disaster like Hurricane Sandy. Apparently, God has lots of options."
Christians and Halloween - " I increasingly believe the celebration of Halloween is one of those freedoms Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 9 and Galatians. It's not in and of itself off limits, but it must be analyzed within the context of both personal conviction and community witness. In addition, celebrating Halloween may be a legitimate way to become all things to all people.
The power of Christ is nothing if not redemptive. Why not use this holiday - as we do with other holidays of ignoble origins or increasingly secular expressions - as an opportunity to point people toward a God who gives us a reason to truly celebrate? Christians are not called to retreat from our culture. We are called to baptize even imaginations cloaked in darkness with the light of truth."
Jonathan Cahn's Harbinger: Deconstructing Isaiah - "My following comments have nothing to do with the author’s character, heart, or presentation of Christ. I suspect that if Mr. Cahn and I sat down for lunch, we would have far more in common than not. I'm glad we are on the same team. My comments have to do with the manner in which the book leads readers toward particular conclusions. I am worried that its questionable presuppositions and unusual analysis of Scripture set a precedent that may have detrimental fallout."