Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Racial Paranoia and Jeremiah Wright

By now, anyone who isn't aware of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's paranoid rants against America has probably been hiding in the same cave as Osama bin Laden. (I'd be willing to bet that bin Laden knows about them, too, if he's still alive.) The news is all over the web, so I won't waste your time by repeating it here. That's what Google searches are for.

What I would like to do, though, is to comment on several aspects of the controversy.

In Wright's latest speech, he asserted that criticism of him was tantamount to an attack on all black churches. What unmitigated arrogance! The idea that there might be African American pastors and church members who disagree with his paranoid statements doesn't seem to have occurred to him. In his exalted opinion of himself, he speaks for all black Americans, not just for some of them. I'll grant you, the black community seems to exhibit less diversity of thought than many other demographic groups, but the diversity is there, nevertheless.

Reverend Wright needs to spend time talking with conservative African American Christians such as Alan Keyes. I'm not sure whether Ward Connerly or Larry Elder consider themselves to be Christians, but they're definitely conservative African Americans. Having read the insightful things which they have written, I can just about guarantee that they do not share Reverend Wright's bleak and unpatriotic outlook on life.

Another African American who seems to understand racial issues a lot better than Reverend Wright is John L. Jackson, Jr. Mr. Jackson wrote a book entitled Racial Paranoia. I found that book at Barnes and Noble the other day, and I found it to be so fascinating that I read the entire book right there in the store.

Reverend Wright expressed the opinion that the U.S. government had created AIDS to destroy African Americans, as if black folks were the only people who had been killed by that disease! In his book, John L. Jackson, Jr. discusses that conspiracy theory, and he also discusses the conspiracy theory which followed Hurricane Katrina (to the effect that the government had planted a bomb in New Orleans' black neighborhood). Those are just a couple of examples of the type of paranoia demonstrated by putative black leaders such as Reverend Wright. In both cases, those theories seem to be politically motivated, with the obvious intention of portraying Republicans such as myself (and George Bush in particular) as evil people. (Never mind that it was a Republican named Abraham Lincoln who liberated them from slavery with his Emancipation Proclamation.)

Of course, racial paranoia isn't always politically motivated. Sometimes it's more personal. I could cite a number of examples from my own experiences here in Chicago and elsewhere. I have witnessed and been involved in incidents in which accusations of racism were made recklessly and without any factual basis other than the accusers' assumptions to the effect that the things which they found to be disagreeable must have been motivated by racism.

To my way of thinking, such accusations are a sign of racism on the part of the accuser, not on the part of the accused! The mere fact that a white man criticizes a black man for something does not constitute proof that the criticism is motivated by racism. The mere fact that a white man says "no" to a request for money from a black street beggar does not constitute proof that the white man is a racist.

Given a choice between hiring someone who takes criticism well or hiring a person to responds to any and all criticisms by saying, "You're just saying that because I'm black and you're white," who would you want to hire if you were currently looking for a new employee? The answer is obvious. In today's climate, in which accusations of racism seem to be made at the drop of a hat, hiring black folks can be seen, by some, as a very risky thing to do. So racial paranoia becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Knee jerk accusations of racism, in the absence of any substantive proof, are irresponsible and counterproductive. They foster the perception that African Americans do not take criticism very well at all. They foster the perception that African Americans think that the world owes them a living. And they foster resentment on the part of people who, in many cases, may have previously been sympathetic with the goals of civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King. They may even lead, in some cases, to a backlash which is ultimately harmful to the African American community.

I am particularly fascinated by the thesis of Racial Paranoia, as expressed by its subtitle: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness. In essence, Jackson argues that racial paranoia actually increases as genuine episodes of white-against-black racism decrease. The reason, he argues, is that many African Americans are aware of the societal stigma which is attached these days to racist words and acts spoken and committed by white folks. White folks who have made racist statements or done racist things have often lost their jobs, and sometimes even more, as a result of their words or actions. Consequently, there are often lingering suspicions on the part of African Americans to the effect that racism never really went away --- it just went "underground".

There may be rare occasions in which such suspicions are justified by the facts, but the unsubstantiated nature of the suspicions makes it highly probable that there are many more instances in which such suspicions amount to little more than vicious slander.

Racial paranoia makes it virtually impossible for a white person to do anything to disprove accusations of racism. Such a person can vehemently state that he or she believes strongly in racial equality and the need for civil rights, and can even cite examples of incidents in which that person took a stand against racism --- but a person who is guilty of racial paranoia is so solidly attached to his or her assumptions that actual evidence is ignored whenever it contradicts those assumptions.

When you create a no-win situation for white folks who genuinely reject the racism of the past and who fervently desire to see the fulfillment of Martin Luther King, Jr.' s famous dream, it tends to create resentment among the very people who once counted themselves as your allies.

If you treat people as if they're guilty whether they're guilty or not, then you remove the incentive for them to do right and you create a strong incentive for them to do wrong. That just isn't very bright! Even if you aren't motivated by any sense of right and wrong, it's in your best interest to refrain from making accusations which are likely to diminish the number of your friends and allies.

But there are considerations which go beyond utilitarian concerns. The Golden Rule is a universally recognized rule of ethics which states that you should treat people as you would wish to be treated. What does that mean? Among other things, it means giving people the benefit of the doubt, if indeed a reasonable doubt exists. It means not accusing people of malevolent motivations when you have nothing more than vague suspicions on which to base such accusations.

People who do not act in accordance with the Golden Rule forfeit their own moral authority. If they aren't willing to treat other people with fairness, as they would wish to be treated, then they have no right to expect others to treat them fairly, either. In the case of civil rights issues, that isn't smart, because the Civil Rights movement never could have triumphed as it did without a general recognition on the part of numerous white Americans such as myself that Martin Luther King, Jr. and his followers had integrity and moral authority.

By casting a dark cloud over Barack Obama's campaign, Reverend Wright's intemperate words have diminished the likelihood that Barack Obama will be the first African American president of the United States. Is that really in the best interests of the black community, or in the best interests of Barack Obama? Wright doesn't seem to have given much thought to the likely consequences of his own actions. No wonder Barack Obama has been quick to criticize Reverend Wright publicly.

I was raised by parents who both taught me from a very early age that racism and racial discrimination were wrong. I was sympathetic with the goals of the Civil Rights movement. My heroes included men such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and George Washington Carver (whose birthplace in Diamond, Missouri was just a short distance from my home town).

My father took our family to Carver's birthplace on two separate occasions, because he wanted us to know where he stood on the issue of race. Dad bragged about having run in a track meet with Dick Gregory, in a way which made it clear that he admired Mr. Gregory. My father served as the Chairman of the Mayor's Commission on Human Rights, and he took a stand against racial discrimination even though there really wasn't any great public pressure to do so (since there were very few black folks in my home town of Springfield, MO). He preached at an African American church (Pitts Chapel United Methodist Church) at the request of the Rev. Houston Montgomery, who later became a good friend of ours.

In short, I didn't admire my father in every respect, but I strongly admired his stand against racism, and I incorporated those values into my own beliefs.

I don't regret having done so, but I have come to realize, over the years, that the issues are more complex than I once realized. Yes, there are racists in this world. Some of them are white. But more than a few of them are black.

White racists are absolutely on the wrong track, but that doesn't mean that all of their criticisms of the black community are completely unfounded. Some African Americans are good people who are worthy of admiration on many levels, but there are also a lot of black people whose behavior could be accurately characterized as dysfunctional, antisocial and morally bankrupt.

In short, black folks and white folks have a lot in common with each other. Members of both groups have a lot of good qualities and a lot of bad qualities. It's important to praise praiseworthy things, but it's equally important to speak the truth about things which ought to appall us. That's the only way that we will ever move closer to the fulfillment of Martin Luther King's dream of a world in which men and women are judged according to the contents of their character.

Creating an atmosphere in which people of both races are free to speak honestly will go a long way towards ending the racial paranoia which currently characterizes large numbers of African Americans. It's disingenuous to claim that you want "dialog" about race, when what you really mean is that you want a one-sided monolog in which only black folks have a voice.

I am growing weary of African American leaders, such as Dr. Wright, who claim to believe that racial discrimination and racism are wrong, while simultaneously demonstrating through their words and actions that they are guilty of the very things they claim to abhor. The divisive and hostile words spoken by such people hinder the chances that we will ever overcome America's tragic legacy of racism.

UPDATE: Here's a link to a good article about the relationship between Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright.

To his credit, Obama has recently spoken out against Wright's conspiracy theories and anti-American words.

However, I can't help but observe that if John McCain's pastor had been an outspoken white supremacist, the chances of McCain ever been nominated or elected for president of the United States would be virtually nil, especially if McCain's relationship with that pastor had been as well-documented as Obama's relationship with Wright. Unless we wish to embrace double standards based on race --- in other words, racial discrimination --- we should hold Barack Obama to similar standards. Jeremiah Wright's views are every bit as racist and repugnant as any white supremacist's views.

Obama has claimed that he wasn't aware of Wright's paranoid views until very recently. How credible is that claim? Not very. In light of Wright's truculent response to criticism during the recent past, I find it likely that Wright made his views known to all of the members of his church on a fairly regular basis. The only way that Barack Obama could have been ignorant of those views would be if he had basically slept through most of the worship services, or stayed at home on those Sundays when such views were promoted from the pulpit. And if indeed he was ignorant of Wright's views, what does that say about his level of commitment to his church? Any way that one looks at it, the situation reflects poorly on his character.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Photo Bedding

Vision Bedding is a company I found on the web via a Google search. Visiting the company's website shows a few of the many creative options which have become available to photographers and artists, thanks to the digital revolution.

A number of different companies produce blankets, towels and other products which have been woven with your own images. Vision Bedding is slightly different. It uses dyes to permanently print your images on your bedding.

Want to witness about your faith in Christ to relatives and friends who come to sleep overnight in your guest room (or to anyone who ever visits your bedroom)? Create a custom design, in Photoshop, which features Christ-centered art and/or photography and/or text. Then have it made into a custom blanket or pillow. This would also be very effective if you owned and operated your own Christian bed & breakfast inn or summer camp.

That's one of the many ideas which I plan to list in a book with a title such as "100 Creative Ways To Share Your Faith".

Bring Back Telephone Company Regulation!

As I write this blog post, I’m furious. I just tried to make a long distance call on an AT&T pay phone at the Omni Hotel in Chicago. After numerous unsuccessful attempts, I gave up. Fortunately, the hostess at the bar on the same floor of the hotel was kind enough to let me use her phone (which wasn't a pay phone) to make the call I needed to make.

First, I tried to call an 800 number. (Specifically, 1-800-347-2861, which is the toll-free number for my voice mail company, American Voice Mail, in California.) I got a prerecorded message saying that was impossible. I’d made other 800 calls from that phone before, so that made no sense to me. I called the operator and asked, "Why won't this pay phone allow me to call this particular 800 number?" Instead of answering the question, he transferred me to a prerecorded message saying that only customer-dialed 800 numbers could be called from pay phones. But that was totally inappropriate, because the call in question had been "customer-dialed," since I'd dialed the number myself.

I then tried many times to call the company’s non-toll-free number, using my Visa card. Every time, I was asked which carrier I preferred. I had no idea. I tried several different carriers. Most carriers wouldn’t accept Visa cards in payment. When I asked the AT&T operator to tell me which ones would accept such cards, she had no idea. So I just had to keep trying until I could find a carrier which would accept such payment. At one point, I did find such a company, and I actually got through to American Voice Mail, but my first call didn’t get the person I needed (since I got no answer when I dialed 0 for the operator), so I needed to make another call. Unfortunately, I didn’t recall the name of the carrier I’d used, so I was back to square one.

I'd have placed the call using quarters, but apparently that's no longer possible with long distance calls.

AT&T customer service stinks when it comes to pay phones. Why? I suspect that it's because cell phones have become so ubiquitous these days that only poor people such as yours truly are forced to use pay phones on a frequent basis --- and giving good service to such customers isn't a high priority for AT&T.

Go ahead and visit the AT&T website. You'll find that they have information on all kinds of superfluous and trendy fluff (such as a service that allows you to make a wireless connection to American Idol), but little or nothing to do with pay phones. If you try to send them a message via their Contact Us function, there is virtually no option which enables you to do so unless you have a specific AT&T phone number and account in mind. I tried to send them a truncated message (1,000 characters or less) consisting of the basic information from this blog post, but I couldn't even do so, because I didn't have the phone number for the pay phone I'd been using (since I was sending the e-mail message from a computer located at a store across the street).

In the old days prior to deregulation, making a long distance call from a pay phone was a piece of cake. Now a simple call of that nature is as complicated and frustrating as it can possibly be.

If AT&T is going to confuse customers by expecting customers to select the long distance carrier instead of just going ahead and selecting that company themselves, then the least they could do, it seems to me, is to have a database which enables them to answer basic questions such as, "Will that company allow me to pay with my VISA card?" How are you supposed to intelligently select a carrier if they won't furnish you with the information you need in order to assess which carrier is best for your own needs and your own situation? My time is valuable. I have better things to do than stand there for half an hour or more, trying one long distance carrier after another and making notes about the ones which couldn't accept VISA cards and which ones could do so.

This is hardly the only time I've experienced phone problems related to deregulation. It seems to me that there is no longer any accountability when it comes to big companies such as AT&T. When you get lousy customer service, it's always someone else's fault, never their fault.

I'll be glad when I have my own phone again so that I don't have to use pay phones any more. I did have a phone account with RCN, but I fell behind on my payments, thanks to the fact that I'd been out of work for so long. So RCN cut me off. Currently, the only way for me to make a phone call is to either use a pay phone or else to impose on a friend and ask to use his phone. He's allowed me to do that in the past, but I can't count on that, and I don't want to alienate him by asking to use his phone on a regular basis.

Fortunately, most of the calls I need to make are local calls, and normal coins seem to work fine for such calls.

UPDATE: AT&T and Ameritech removed its pay phone from the Omni Hotel shortly after I wrote this blog post, so the Omni Hotel no longer has any pay phones at all! Ditto for Northwestern Hospital, just a few blocks east of the Omni.

I guess that explains why they didn't care about offering good service.

Thankfully, there are still a couple of pay phones at the nearby Dunkin' Donuts shop and also at the Palmer House Hilton down in the Chicago Loop. Those companies appear to be operated by different companies, so I'm hoping that they will remain available for a while, at least until I'm able to get back on my feet financially and get a phone of my own again. But I think it really stinks to see that pay phones are going the way of the dinosaurs.

I subsequently wrote another blog post about this subject as well.

Friday, April 25, 2008

With Churches, It Pays To Be Selective

Recently I was speaking with my mother, and the subject of church came up. I had told her a few weeks earlier that I'd begun attending church again, after discovering a local congregation which seemed to show some promise. My mother is very devoted to her church, and she knows that I share her faith in Christ, so she has always strongly urged me to commit myself to a local congregation of believers.

In principle, I agree that that's a worthy goal. The problem is that finding a church which meets my criteria has been easier said than done. During my phone conversation with Mother last week, I revealed to her that my investigations had revealed that the latest church I'd visited didn't meet my most important criteria. I could hear the disappointment in her voice when she learned that I'd decided not to make that my home church.

Frankly, she wasn't half as disappointed as I was. I'd been without a church for a while, and I'd been hoping that this group I'd recently discovered was the one for which I'd been looking. But I have been to enough churches in my life, both good and bad, to know that it's a big mistake to pick a church randomly out of the phone directory and then make a commitment to that church before one really has any idea what one is committing one's self to. Life is too short to spend Sunday after Sunday after Sunday in a church which poorly reflects one's own values or which does a poor job of empowering one to fulfill God's call upon one's life. So when I start attending a new church, I tend to take a very "proactive" approach designed to help me ascertain as soon as possible whether or not the church is worthy of a long-term commitment. That means asking a lot of questions and then asking myself if I can live with the answers I receive.

When Mother spoke with me, she advised me to bloom where I was planted. But even though that advice sometimes has merit (in situations where people have no choice about where they have been planted), it's somewhat disingenuous when it comes to one's choice of a church to attend. After all, the only thing which "planted" me at the aforementioned church was that I decided to attend the church in the first place. There were no family issues or other things binding me to that particular church. It seems a bit absurd to me to say that it's O.K. for me to exercise my free will by choosing to attend the church, but not O.K. for me to go in search of a church which better meets my needs if it turns out, upon investigation, that the church doesn't offer the things which I seek.

When seeds or plants are planted in dry soil which lacks the nutrients they need, they don't "bloom". They die!!! I don't deny that there were some good aspects of the church I most recently attended. Otherwise, I never would have returned in order to attend a second service. But I was looking for some specific things which were extremely important to me. Unfortunately, I learned after several weeks that they weren't prepared to offer those things to me.

Many people would argue that "there is no such thing as a perfect church". Well, duhhh! Of course there isn't. People, even redeemed people, are imperfect, and probably always will be imperfect, this side of heaven. But what bothers me is when true statements are misappropriated in order to support false dichotomies.

It doesn't follow from the fact that churches are all imperfect that one ought to refrain from exercising discernment when selecting a church. That's the kind of gullible mentality which led people to feel as if they had to keep attending Jim Jones' cultish church (The People's Temple) even after it had become abundantly clear that the guy had become psychologically and spiritually unhinged. The tragic results, it seems to me, speak for themselves.

Not every church is as cultish or abusive as The People's Temple, but there are a lot of churches which are abusive in subtle ways, even though their doctrinal statements may look great on paper. They may have great music and great preaching, but those aren't the only things which are needed in order to make for a great church experience.

Churches are all imperfect, but it is possible (albeit difficult) to find churches which are good enough to justify long-term commitments to them. I know, because I have attended such churches in the past.

If a person is attending a church where getting up in the morning to go to the worship service feels like a dreary chore which is performed out of obligation and nothing more, then there's something seriously wrong, because church was never meant to be that way. Jesus said it well: "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27) Legalistic observations of the Sabbath can defeat the purpose of the Sabbath, which is to strengthen believers and equip them for lives characterized by joyful service to God. If that goal is not being accomplished, then the value of such regular observations is highly questionable.

The problem is that there's a mentality among many Christians to the effect that Christians who are unwilling to settle for spiritually unfruitful relationships, and who regularly change church homes in search of things they haven't yet found, are somehow selfish and undisciplined.

I understand where they got that idea. There are admittedly some Christians who leave churches over issues which are utterly trivial. The color of the carpet, for instance. Such people are undoubtedly responsible for the phrase which some Christian coined several decades ago: "Church hoppers".

But individual situations should be judged on their own merits, not on the basis of generalities which may or may not be applicable to those particular situations. I happen to think that the criteria with which I decide whether or not to continue attending a particular church are biblically defensible and extremely important.

Some people may disagree, and that's their prerogative. But it should be remembered that different people have different needs, and therefore different priorities.

For example, if I had children, it is likely that I would be looking for a church with a dynamic children's ministry which would protect and nurture my children, and which would teach the gospel to them in a way which would maximize the likelihood that they would commit themselves to Christ in a way which would motivate them to make the world a better place. But I don't have children, and the way things are looking, it seems unlikely that I ever will have children of my own, for the simple reason that it seems unlikely that I will ever get married. (Not that I wouldn't like to get married! But the older I get, the less likely that seems to happen. I'm just as selective when it comes to women as I am when it comes to churches.) So while I think that every church ought to have a great ministry to children, it isn't as important to me, personally, as it would be if I had a wife and children.

Some people greatly prefer a small church, and other people greatly prefer a big church. I have no real preferences in terms of what size of church makes me comfortable, but the size of the church can be a relevant consideration when it comes to some of my other criteria. Small churches tend to be a lot friendlier, and pastors there tend to be a lot more accessible, but the downside is often the fact that such churches don't have much in the way of material resources. That might not matter much if I were just looking for a place to worship, but I'm also looking for a church which can help me to accomplish some specific goals in my life. And that requires a church with substantial resources.

The trouble is that pastors of large churches tend to be very inaccessible. They sometimes unintentionally or intentionally convey the idea that individuals who attend their churches are somewhat expendable and unworthy of individual attention and consideration, unless those individuals are part of a very limited "inner circle" consisting mostly of staff members or people who have attended the church for a very long time.

But that's mostly a matter of attitude, and attitudes aren't carved into stone. I think that it's possible to pastor a large church which has abundant resources without becoming egotistical or isolated from the people who attend that church. It's rare, but it's possible. So I guess that if I had my choice, I'd say that I'd prefer to attend that kind of church.

Having said that, I'd rather attend a small church where people have all of the right attitudes and values than to attend a large church where their contrary attitudes and values stand in the way of my ability to achieve my life's goals. Lots of material resources are nice, but they don't do a whole lot of good if one can't utilize them.

In terms of theology, I am pretty conservative. Of course, that word means different things to different people. What it means for me is that the scriptures are far more important than "traditions of men". For too many churches today, the scriptures are only of peripheral concern --- and this, ironically, includes some churches where they give lip service to the idea that the scriptures are of paramount importance.

Where the scriptures speak clearly about issues, then it seems to me that really sincere Christians have no choice but to accept their authority and do their best to comply with their demands. This doesn't mean, however, that there will be no legitimate disagreements about what the scriptures teach and demand. The Bible is a marvelous book, and that's an understatement. But that doesn't mean that it's always 100% clear how a particular scriptural teaching should apply to us. Some people do a better job of properly interpreting scriptures (in the context in which they were written) than others. ("Exegesis" is the fancy technical term for such interpretation. The Bible itself calls it "rightly dividing the Word of God".) So it seems to me that all Christians ought to have the humility to make every effort to explain their policies and practices in the light of their understanding of the scriptures, and to listen with sincerity to those who might disagree with them on specific points.

Ideally, people would always agree with one another, but this is not an ideal world. Sometimes, when it comes to secondary issues, the best option is to agree to disagree. At other times, though, it's important to have some backbone and take a stand against immorality. Far too many liberal churches today have allowed the culture to shape them, instead of accepting the responsibility to shape the culture in positive ways which reflect values derived from the Word of God.

To many people, stylistic matters (pertaining to preaching styles, music styles, liturgical styles and so forth) are of paramount importance. I have worshiped in a wide variety of environments, some of which were very formal and some of which were very informal. I do have my preferences, of course. I generally tend to prefer a more informal type of service, because I have seen the way in which liturgy can become so stale that no real spiritual encounters with God are facilitated. But I've also seen how informality can be abused in a way which props up the egos of the people who lead such services, so that's the flip side.

Even though I might have my preferences, I would say that such matters are relatively low on my list of priorities, unless they impact the freedom which I have to use my own talents in service to God. How might that happen? Well, in one case, I was told in no uncertain terms that the pastor of the church I was attending at the time had no tolerance for any musical performances which did not involve the performance of hymns. No jazz allowed! I knew of no relevant scriptures which would justify such a position, so it seemed to me that the pastor in question was simply imposing his personal aesthetic preferences on the rest of the congregation, with no biblical justification. I felt hamstrung by the realization that as long as I attended that church, I would never have the opportunity to make the most of my musical talents during a worship service, or during any other church event for that matter. To me, that was more than reason enough to leave that church and continue my search for a church which would appreciate what I had to offer.

If I had to list my highest priorities when selecting a church to attend on a regular basis, I think I would list the following things:

  1. A strong commitment to the proclamation of the whole gospel of Jesus Christ, with a foundation in the scriptures. This includes the willingness to speak out clearly against sin (even when it's "politically incorrect" to do so) and to make it very clear to people that those who reject Christ's salvation are lost.
  2. A strong commitment to the need for social justice and compassion --- not based on Marxist presuppositions, but based on Christ's teachings, which make it very clear that we have obligations in terms of ministering to hurting people and victims of injustice, such as prisoners, sexual abuse victims, poor people, minorities, unborn children and so forth.
  3. A strong commitment to the necessity of cultural transformation --- not cultural accommodation, and not withdrawal from involvement and engagement with mainstream culture. In particular, I feel that it's important to recognize the dominant role which the arts play in terms of shaping the values of our friends, neighbors, coworkers and relatives. Churches which have little interest in the arts have abdicated their cultural responsibilities. If they aren't empowering artistically talented Christians, artistically talented unbelievers with entirely different agendas will be more than happy to step in and fill the cultural void.
  4. A strong commitment to the goal of empowering all Christians to fully utilize their God-given talents --- thereby fulfilling their biblical responsibilities --- and to leave lasting legacies which will validate the time which they have spent living on this earth.

The preceding list isn't all-inclusive, of course. But it ought to give a good idea of what I'm seeking in a church. Such a church isn't easy to find, but I keep looking, because I am convinced that God has a calling on my life. I cannot fulfill that calling without substantial help from brothers and sisters who share my values, goals and priorities.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Good Articles About Christianity and The Arts

Dick Staub is a Christian with a podcast called The Kindlings Muse. I just came across an article he'd posted online, entitled "Art Helping People See God". I recommend that you check it out.

I also recommend that you click here and then download a PDF file consisting of a "Lausanne Occasional Paper" entitled "REDEEMING THE ARTS: The Restoration of the Arts to God’s Creational Intention". It's interesting reading from the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism (founded in 1974 by Billy Graham and others). It talks about the importance the arts play in terms of reaching the lost for Christ.

I will very likely update this blog post with additional related suggestions as time permits.

Monday, April 21, 2008

What Integrity Is Not

With regard to the word "integrity," the American Heritage Dictionary gives the following definitions:

  1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.
  2. The state of being unimpaired; soundness.
  3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.
Another word for "integrity" might be "consistency". By definition, one cannot have integrity if one claims to believe one thing but practices another contradictory thing. The word for that is not integrity. The word for that is "hypocrisy". Jesus despised hypocrisy. So should we.

Here are a couple of things which I consider to be exceedingly hypocritical:

  1. Claiming that racial discrimination is immoral --- unless, of course, the beneficiaries of such discrimination happen to belong to traditionally oppressed minorities, in which case racial discrimination is considered (by many liberals) to be positively virtuous. This type of hypocrisy characterizes liberals' demands for remedial racial discrimination (also known euphemistically as "affirmative action" and "reparations"). Such a world view is incoherent. It raises obvious questions, regarding such things as how we are to determine the societal obligations of people (such as Barack Obama) who are racially mixed. But even if that were not the case, it would still be unprincipled. Either racial discrimination is wrong, or it's not. One cannot logically have it both ways.
  2. Claiming that gender discrimination is immoral --- unless, of course, the beneficiaries of such discrimination happen to be women who are enjoying the special "perks" which have traditionally been given to women by men (such as always paying the bill on a first date), in which case the discrimination doesn't seem to bother most so-called "feminists" at all. Again, gender discrimination is either wrong, or it's not. One cannot logically have it both ways. If women really want to be treated as "equals," whether they call themselves feminists or not, then they need to stop expecting special favors from men.
Aretha Franklin once sang that she wanted some R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Now, I think that every human being deserves a bare minimum of respect, for the simple reason that he or she is a human being. She was talking about the following type of respect: "To show regard or consideration for". One need not admire a person in order to show regard or consideration for that person.

But there's another type of respect. That type of respect could be defined as "the condition of being esteemed or honored". That kind of respect cannot be demanded. It can only be earned. One earns such respect by practicing what one preaches. Those who have no integrity have no right to expect anyone to esteem, honor or admire them.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Courage of John McCain

Few people question the idea that a man willing to risk death on the battlefield has a type of courage. But there are other types of courage as well. So I found this quotation interesting. I hope that you will give serious thought to the following words when you decide who to vote for during the upcoming presidential election in November.

Wisdom suggests that we should be willing to give an unborn child the same chance that our parents gave us, but it takes courage in this political climate to insist on the protection of unborn children who can't vote, have no voice, and can't reward you with support and donations. ... John McCain