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[280] You Ain’t Black

Friday morning Joe Biden, said to a black radio host that African-Americans, who find difficulty deciding whether to vote for him, “ain’t black.”  Now if this were just another of his silly verbal blunders, we could confine this statement to “C’mon man” Biden and move along.

But it is far more disturbing than that.

African-Americans, from Clarence Thomas (who was a militant activist in his college days) to Candace Owens of Fox News, are regularly harassed by liberals (often white) for not joining the black voting herd and voting Democratic.

It is insulting, demeaning, and worse, not called out.  Since JFK, the African-American vote has gone Democratic at every level–president, senator, congress, and governor.  No one is questioning that.  But when a huge slice of a national demographic is then thought to be obligated to vote Democrat, not be free to consider alternatives, or branded as ignorant or naïve in doing so, we have a problem.

It is more than reasonable that some African-Americans might look at the performance of the Democratic party–particularly in the cities–and come to the conclusion that they have been had by what might be termed latter day colonizers.  That they have become colonists of partisan politicians who come into their communities at election time, attend some church services, hold public events, tell the locals how much they care about them, and then leave the colonists to eat their promises rather than provide jobs, opportunity, quality education, and personal safety—genuine change.

A party has no right to try to do an electorate’s thinking for them, but that is exactly what these paternalistic liberals have been doing.  They are communicating the notion that their colonists should vote their ticket.  And dare any think for themselves and question the colonizers’ tired public-aid, dependency-perpetuating agenda, well, they will get the Uncle Tom label, and be exiled from their own people. DC

 

 

[279] Why Identity?

Joe Biden has already stated he will select a woman for Vice President.  And while we are it—preferably a woman of color.  He didn’t mention qualification, political views, character, or anything else.  Stacey Abrams and Kamala Harris meet the “woman of color” criterion.  In the case of Abrams, we have someone whose highest governmental office has been the Alabama state congress.  Harris is a very junior senator, up from being the California Attorney General.  Neither have jaw-dropping resumes.  Yet given Biden’s rickety status, there is a strong likelihood that whomever will be his running mate will become President should Biden cop a win in the fall.  The foregoing is identity politics in its rawest form.

All of this makes sense when we consider the basis of identity politics, something Mary Eberstadt wrote about in her book, Primal Scream: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics.  In the case of women, a part of her thesis is that the sexual revolution contributed to the crumbling of the family, and that it “has reduced the number of men offering affection and companionship of a non-sexual nature—fewer [men to be] counted on to push back against men treating [women] badly.” In short, absent a strong family anchor, people feel the need to congeal in special interest groups, built on similar experiences, looking to these alliances for protection and affirmation.

It does make sense.  Once we pull the God and family identity cornerstones out from the under the individual, the person becomes more prone to look to special interest groups for psychological grounding.

There is a challenge here for the church and the Christian college.  It is to “become a place for those who find themselves alone in the world,” according to Hannah Anderson in Christianity Today (2/19/2020). This means our Christian institutions need to be transformed into relationship centers, because relationships–more than structures and organizations–are not only the priority for Gen X and Gen Z, it is through relationships that we discover who we are.  DC.

[278] Who Knows?

Blacks know whites better than whites know blacks.

Women know men better than men know women.

Poor people know rich people better than rich people know poor people.

Conservatives know liberals better than liberals know conservatives.

Christians know non-believers better than non-believers know Christians.

The reason is simple.  Those in the majority (by number or power) can ignore those in the majority.  Those in the minority need to know the majority to survive. DC

 

[277] Peter Berger

The celebrated sociologist, Peter Berger, died not long ago at 88.  He was an outlier—a self-described “incurable Lutheran” sociologist who loved the study of religion.  Sociology, you see, is a naturalistic discipline.  In its feverish effort to establish itself as a science, it has long rejected all conceptions of reality that are not supported empirically.  In short, if you cannot scientifically support a point of view, it is either (a) false, or (b) irrelevant.  It deals in what are called social facts.  And that is about all the discipline has been able to assemble—a blizzard of social facts in search of a theory.  Unlike the elemental chart in chemistry, and the multiplication tables in mathematics, sociology has no grand theory, no real paradigm. It has, arguably, three competing major theories: Structure-Functionalism, Conflict, and Symbolic Interaction.  About all the discipline seems to agree upon is that there is no room for a transcendent deity

 

Berger’s The Social Construction of Reality (1966) was recognized by the International Sociological Association as one of the 20th Century’s top five publications in the field. It put him in the forefront of the discipline.  In The Sacred Canopy (1967) he stated that religion helped humans make sense of their reality. For a while, Berger saw religion receding in importance as secularization advanced.  Eventually he rejected this “secularization hypothesis” as he witnessed the resurgence of religion in the form of global evangelism and Christian scholarship in the US.

But he went further.  He not only influenced Christian scholars—Os Guinness, Richard Mouw, James Davison Hunter, and Michael Lindsay among them—he engaged them.  When invited by Gordon College, Berger went to the Boston area institution for a couple of years, interacting with faculty and students.

This is exciting stuff.  A genuine faith and learning dialogue with a heavyweight in a discipline.  Christian colleges need to do more of this, particularly with high-profile academic figures who are open to faith-and-learning dialogue.  They may not be evangelical but they can stimulate our thinking as Christian scholars.  They are out there.  Peter Berger was.  DC

 

[276] Gay Compromise

My researcher, Steve Launer, directed my attention to an interesting initiative by the United Methodist Church (UMC).  Unable to reach any consensus on LGBTQ issues, the denomination proposed that the church be split into two factions, both underneath the larger UMC umbrella.  It would cut a $25MM check for conservatives breaking off to form a new denomination

It is rather like MLB, with the American League using a designated hitter and the National not.

Though less than ideal, the measure is at least practical, ending the elephant-in-the-living-room tension on this issue while maintaining overall denominational unity.  A word of caution, however.  What if this is only the first of many future divisive issues?  You can only split so many times before the brick of cheese is in shreds.  Though the decision may not be Solomonic, it does allow Methodist believers to move forward as their Christian conscience directs. DC

[275] Friendly World

In my youth there was a popular song entitled, “Friendly World.”  It was a harmless little ditty that included such syrupy sentiments as:

“In this friendly, friendly world with each night so full of dreams

Why should any heart be afraid?

The world is such a wonderful place to wander through…”

It is hard to see any lyrics like this making into the Top 40 in our cynical times, but that is not the point of this blog, nor is it about any Democrat or Republican difference.  The issue is that a “friendly world” connotes a view of human nature.  That it is basically good.  That evil and wrongdoing is the exception.  In short, in dealing with people, good rather than evil is the default position.

The Good Default position is still very prominent today, especially among liberals, and it is a very dangerous one, particularly in international relations.  It is the notion that the leaders of other countries are basically well-meaning people who need only be convinced rationally of the logic of a (US) position on some critical issue to come around and see it our way. This is too often a falsely trusting position, one that creates unnecessary vulnerability.

Perhaps worse, those who oppose this thinking are commonly branded as racist, xenophobic, nationalistic, etc.  If only it were that simple.

We live in a dangerous world—one of good and evil.  Calvinists see human nature as entirely corrupt—totally depraved—with all good being the result of God’s work in us.  The Catholic view sees our nature as “deprived,” containing the propensity for both good and evil.  In any case, humans—even the best of them—have selfish, fallen natures.  The worst have evil motives, and international dialogue needs to be carried on in the awareness of that context.  DC

 

[274] Q & the 1st Amendment

Amid the feverish attempts to enforce a national quarantine, one of the casualties happens to be the First Amendment.  Remember the hullabaloo over pornography?  Its defenders grounded their case in the First Amendment.  Free speech (and by extension) pornography was considered sacrosanct via that Constitutional principle, said the smut peddlers.

There are a few other protections under the First Amendment.  Among them are the free practice of religion and the right to assemble peacefully.  Those are gone.

And many people don’t like it.  And they shouldn’t.

When the Constitutional rights of a citizenry collide with a national health concern, there is no easy resolution.  There is no reason to attribute nefarious motives to governmental officials who are trying to protect the populace from a health plague.  There is, however, a concern that in the process of that protection basic, fundamental Constitutional rights have gone down on the chopping block.  Even more concerning, is the failure of officials even to acknowledge—or perhaps, realize–that some of their actions are in violation of the Constitution.  Tim Murphy, governor of New Jersey, all but admitted that he had not even considered the First Amendment impact of his closure of places of worship, saying it was “above his pay grade.”

There is no simple answer when we encounter what many perceive as a life-and-death issue.  Nonetheless, it seems that any governmental action should be weighed against citizens’ rights, and any actions that may infringe on those rights should either (a) not be taken, or (b) taken in the most limited fashion possible.

What should never happen are draconian legal actions levied against people perceived as violating a governmental edict that actually compromises their Constitutional rights.  Arrests, issuing parking tickets, and other punitive measures should never be a part of the governmental protocol when it comes to worshippers.

Actions like these are reminiscent of the totalitarian atheistic Soviet regime of the past.  Not the land of the free and the home of the brave. DC

 

[273] Unintended Consequences

I am skeptical of the quarantine policy with respect to Covid-19.  I understand the logic—flattening the curve, keeping health facilities from being overrun, and on and on. Indeed, for the greater good, lockdown measures may be prudent.

But there are other things to think about, many of which are almost never mentioned in the press conferences and media coverage.  Here are a few.

 

First, a lockdown is a violation of our civil rights.  More accurately it is a removal of our citizen rights.  When a government, by fiat, can lock down its people within their own country, the price is a loss of freedom.  In addition, there is no empirical evidence that quarantining works.  Sweden, for example, has issued no such edicts, though the government is now pushing for more stringent policies amid a spike in cases.  The fact is that everywhere, people are aware of the virus.  Everywhere people are encouraged to keep social distance, wash their hands frequently, and practice other commonsense measures. That may be sufficient, particularly among demographic segments that are at low risk.

Given that the virus is particularly virile among particular populations, it might be wiser to apply restrictive measures accordingly.  Moving on, the death rate is under 2%.  It is not the bubonic plague, or even AIDS.  Ninety-eight out of a hundred people who contract the virus will recover.

Finally, and most important, there are unintended consequences for these policies.  Shutting down the economy will bankrupt legions of small business and will most certainly plunge myriad people, due to job loss, into poverty.  When you are poor you are not 2% poor.  You are completely poor with all the social correlates—individual and family–that go with it.  Alcohol sales are up, people are being released from incarceration, and many troubling crimes are being ignored.  And while we are at it, look for domestic violence to increase, along with suicides and other social maladies.

Sociologists tell us you can’t change one thing.  When you change anything in an interconnected society, there is a ripple effect, and the more profound the change the more reverberating will be the effect.  In short, you can isolate a segment of a society but you cannot isolate its unintended consequences for the whole society.

I pray those in authority are correct in their decisions, but I am skeptical.  DC

[272] Covid-19 & End Times

There is considerable speculation about Covid-19 as a sign in scripture of the End Times.  There are a number of scripture passages that talk about the last days, and there has been no end of speculators pointing to world events as fulfillments of prophecies concerning the End Times.  I have no issue with careful scriptural research and study of things like the Coronavirus in an eschatological context.  I do, however, encourage a guarded, tentative approach, rather than one ringing of all-too-often declarative, attention-getting statements.  The fact is, we don’t know.  And there have been many misfires in the past.  Add that to the many millennial theologies and things become more muddied.

What we do know is that the age will end with a new world order in which there will only be believers and non-believers.  It won’t be about Catholics and Protestants, Methodists and Lutherans.  The world order concept jumps out at me.  Never before have we seen such globalism.  Never before have we had an Internet that can connect us instantly with someone continents away.  And never before have so many Christians been persecuted worldwide.

Those, to me, are the signs of the End Times.  DC

 

[271] Intent

There is a very unhealthy practice in today’s politics, markedly different from previous generations.  It is employed on each side of the aisle.  It is about intent.

In less vicious times, Republicans and Democrats would criticize the actions of the other when they genuinely disagreed with those actions.  In other words, counterpoints were raised when there were real disagreements on policy and practice. The key word in the previous sentence is real.

Times have changed.  For the worse.  In our current age of demagoguery, criticism and political attacks are not based on genuine disagreements.  They are an end in themselves.  In brief, politicians begin with the intent to destroy their opponent, and then look for issues and practices which they can use—disingenuously—as the ammunition in the attack.

Although this is common practice in both parties—and the media, a current example is the Coronavirus.  It is rather apparent that many of Trump’s enemies are using this malady as ammo to get at Trump.  Joe Biden left all doubt recently with a blistering, anti-Trump attack, followed by an appeal for donations to his campaign.

All the while these critiques were going on, a wide range of medical professionals including Dr. Drew (Pinsky) urged the politicians (and the media) to calm down and realize the Coronavirus was a minimal health risk compared to the flu.  But for the Trump critics, the actual issue in question is not the point.  The point is that this new epidemiological development provides manipulative ammo to attack their political enemy.

Again, this is a dangerous trend, one used by both political sides.  It is dangerous because it is deliberately misleading.  Instead of the seriousness of the issue determining the level of critique, the critique artillery is already in place, waiting for an issue to use as political bullets against an opponent.  When our political leaders and the media engage in these toxic practices the ultimate victim of their attacks is not a give political figure, but the well-being of the democracy. DC

 

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