Evil, or Not?

It seems those who call for controls of various kinds, lately that of guns, avoid the thing that must be addressed. The thing is sin and humanity’s propensity for it. The reasoning is objects must be the cause, not the person, or the evil influence it has over the person. When we fail to call the problem the problem, we will fight for the wrong thing. We constantly hear “fix it”, when the thing itself can’t be fixed, except by recognition of the God who created humans and the way to him. If we fail to distinguish right from wrong, then what’s wrong with killing someone? If there is right, there must be a standard and origin of right. If that standard is taken out of the picture, then we look in all directions for someone to blame.

Demanding to regulate “things” does not alter human behavior, except to cause some of them to find a route around the regulation. As the saying goes, “Laws are made to be broken.” It’s hard to say someone is at fault, so we pick out a thing that must be at fault. The reason why objects are blamed is because people can be regulated only so much. The fallacy in requiring everyone to purchase healthcare coverage failed to take into account that many people simply don’t want to purchase healthcare coverage. On paper, it may have seemed to be a relatively easy “fix” for a perceived problem, but the problem is not fixed by regulation. It is never fixed as long as humans are involved. The greatest problem-solvers can’t solve problems that are not brought to them, especially if no one recognizes there is a problem. Probably the most dangerous thing on the earth is the free will of human beings. If they would be honest, the regulators would do just that, take away our free will.

Only when we are willing to admit that the problem is human avoidance of responsibility do we even come close to asking a question that can be answered. The late Billy Graham did more to recognize and offer a perfect solution for imperfect people than all the scientists and social reformers put together. Even then, not all will accept that solution, and that proves the point. If an action is wrong, such as killing people, then we must call it that. Sin is missing the mark of perfection that is God. Turning to him is the solution to the problem of rampant evil. No object can do that.


A Message in the Argument

We are in the midst of verbal combat, with words like “slam”, “boom” and “eviscerate” being common themes in the barrage of insulting debates. The one-liners used to silence others are applauded as effective replies to other insults. If you can “slam” the opponent in five words or less, you win. Conversations are no longer necessary under these rules. Hit quick, hard and with more bold derogation to come out ahead.

All this criticality has led to a big mess. The question is how do we withdraw from the method without giving up our message? I believe we should slow down, listen and then talk, in that order. When we keep our statements concise and clear, they tend to carry more weight. This should be done in a conversational tone. The moment we digress to personalities and away from ideas, we head directly to the arena where combat is conducted. This does no good for our views or for our dignity. In fact, we lose any foothold we may have had in the minds of those we are trying to persuade. Let them run out of content. Let them make it personal. Let them descend into shouting. Step out of the way and let them run off the debating cliff. Leaving their last shouting words hanging in the air tells more about them than about us.

We will still be who we are afterward than we were before. No one has the power to take away who we are. Throwing our pearls to swine will only bury them in the mud. If we use our pearls wisely, we can regain some sensibility in the long run. We might even gain some new friends in the process, people with whom we can disagree but still go to lunch.


Real News

Real news is local.

It’s understandable that a major event with many people affected, and requiring a large response is news. That’s news we can and maybe should be aware of, especially if we can help. However, what if there are no such things happening on a given day? Tons of money and 24 hours in a day must be filled with something. Then, news is created by giving urgent attention to people and events that few outside a ten-foot radius really care about. I just read a headline saying a politician was seen with a woman who said something about another woman. I can’t even track the meaning of the headline much less what the real story might be (I didn’t read the story). I can’t help but suspect someone with a deadline on a “non-news” day had to come up with something.

It’s hard for us to even imagine finding out about major events two weeks later in a newspaper. How did those late-learners manage to carry on with their lives not knowing those things? I think they probably did their daily business as usual. What passes for news today would not get 10 seconds of their time. They would not have looked up from their plow or desk. Life would not change in the least.

It’s only important when something happens to someone close by, and we can help. I do want to keep up in a general way with current events on a large scale. But an opinion from someone who has no real knowledge of it in the first place is simply extra debris thrown in the way of useable information, and is a waste of my time. Our two most important resources are time and energy, and it’s important to use both wisely. I was stuck in the snow a few years ago with my small pick-up truck, and it wasn’t someone’s opinion that got me out. It was the kindness of someone who could pull me out that accomplished something. My real news was getting unstuck and the gratitude to someone who helped.

Real news is local.


It Will Not Work

Any effort to squelch Christ, the church, Christmas or any positive sentiment or hope will not work. The body of Christ has been here longer than any existing civilization, and will be until God brings this world to an end.

Efforts to rid society of God may seem at times to be winning, but are temporary and limited. God is unlimited, and so are his people, though frail and weak at times. They will continue to try, in the name of some cleansing or constitutional notion, but it is futile. Neither in this country nor any other will Christianity be eliminated.

Let them ricochet off the walls, in the square or in our schools. They cannot win their misguided war. A few battles may seem to momentarily put them ahead, but to no eventual avail. As someone has said, “As long as there are tests in schools, there will be prayer.” The same is true for everyday life at work or home.

They can protest, scream or cry. They will have to put up with the peace and love that pervades our world as the light continues to shine through the cracks of their armor. We pray and hope they will allow the unfailing love of his presence to mellow any need for resistance. Meanwhile, enjoy his hope and promise of a permanent place where there will only be his eternal presence.


Hiding Behind the Questions

In a spirituality group recently I observed what I have seen many times, and have done myself. In an effort to avoid facing the larger story of God’s relationship to man and the teachings of the Bible, countless questions are asked. The questions were not about basic promises, benefits and God’s desire to have us under his wing, but about whether Adam and Eve had an umbilical cord. Discussion among the group members was not about our deep need to be in control instead of turning it over to God, but ranged from which daytime talk show host was best to where Cain got his wife.

Part if the fault is mine; I am sometimes not as good at keeping the topic in a general area of spirituality as I should be. The concept is real, however, in that we get lost in the weeds, and aren’t able to view the lay of the land. I believe is often intentional, though never admitted. We would rather use the unanswered questions as a reason (excuse) for not facing the hard truths of our inadequacy. The basic broken human condition is hard to accept, but is essential to understanding our need for salvation and guidance. We will always have more questions than answers, so we might as well get used to the fact. The basic temptation that started our mess came from the first couple’s desire to know.

I’m not advocating ignorance for the sake of bliss. We should find out what is knowable, but not allow our lack of knowledge to stand in the way of our path to God. Claiming God must provide answers to all questions means our ignorance is his fault. He will teach us new things as we follow and trust him. Can we be okay with not knowing? We say we want to see the way; we convey truth to be important; we claim to want more light. We have all those in one source: the way, the truth and the light. If we begin there, we operate from a platform of knowing all we need to know. We then can make amazing discoveries along the way.


Just Say No

There are many problems with the current idea of “diversity” as practiced and taught at our nation’s universities and other institutions. While thoughts about diversity are part of a natural movement in history that will happen as humans come to understand each other better, the current insistence on immediate changes in action and (more disturbing) thought result in threats and violence toward those slower to agree with the concept. The irony is that “tolerance” is not at all tolerant and diversity is seen as what advocates consider it to be. There are simply no other definitions allowed. The questions regarding these and many other ideas put forward by the advocates of instant change is: Who decides?

Who decides what is acceptable morally and ethically within the individual and community realm? This is not even to mention the larger view from a national perspective. Who decides what a person who is a male or female by birth is on any given day? We could say it’s that individual’s prerogative to make the decision. We could also say it’s the prerogative of others to regard the original sex to be the legitimate one. I do not intend, even out of politeness, to ask, “What is your name today and which bathroom will you be using?” prior to addressing an individual. This will render us non-functional in daily life. I can’t go from “Eve” to “Steve” that easily. Plus, I will not accept the label “bigot” for not complying with the demands of diversity.

Who decides what type of weapon a person needs? I have opinions about what the average person needs, but I won’t propose to make law on that. Is there someone who claims to be wise or moral or ethical enough to make decisions for all? No doubt some believe themselves to be part of a special group (elected or not) that can make the right choices, and impose them (by force if necessary) on all.

You can demonstrate; I can ignore you. You can sit; I can stand. You can kneel on TV; I can turn it off. I can also do something else with my time and money than contribute to your actions. You can demand; I can walk away. You can huff and puff, but my house will stand. You can ignore history; I can remember it. It won’t go away because we forget. There are many more issues to be added to this list, but these make the point.

I will treat everyone with dignity and respect, by my own definition of those terms. No one will be harmed by my speech or actions. I can be offended too, but I will deal with it. I will not expect others to change to cater to my preferences. If we talk, I will offer my impression, and hope the other person will offer theirs. It need not go further than that.

Without some sort of agreed-to community norm, there will be chaos. We don’t have to contribute to it. We also don’t have to play the games of people who simply desire to confuse those norms as though they are walls that must be torn down. We can simply say “no”.

Just Play the Game

There are some sports that are meant to be for pure entertainment, such as professional wrestling and roller derby. Even participants will agree that it is a show. On the other hand, there are sports that are meant to be competition with winners, and therefore, losers. Winners want to keep on winning and losers want to practice in order to get on the winning side. This is the nature of competition. Spectators once gathered to see who the best competitors were and root for their team. It was exciting and intense at times. College bowls were for the few teams that could qualify.

Things are changing. At the high school level and small college level there is still competition. Also at some major colleges there is still a sense of the game itself and competing to win. The excitement is still there in a team sport that focuses on “we” instead of “me” with a supporting cast. At the major college and professional level, with some exceptions, demonstrations, dances and silliness comes after a good play or touchdown. The adolescent mode kicks in and it resembles an elementary schoolyard more than a competitive game. Even with two of my favorite university teams, one my alma mater, the emphasis during the pre-game hype seems to be on what uniforms the players will wear this week. Maybe we should go back to real grass and leather helmets to find out what these men are made of. Even some college teams with losing seasons can still play in a bowl game, since some company with a product to sell will pay for it.

My interest in professional sports (with the exception of baseball), has decreased with the “show time” approach. As I’ve said before, I believe professional baseball players still respect their sport, making them the exception. I’m for the days of Jim Brown and Dick Butkus. I would love to see Bart Starr and Ray Nitschke on the field, playing on frozen turf. I want to see sod fly under real cleats. I must be a relic indeed. Yes, players got hurt, because it was a rough game. I once thought these sports were an integral part of the American scene, players we all wanted to be. Not anymore. If the current NFL is who we are, count me out.


They too shall pass

A major catastrophe has a way of making the impact of a few lost individuals of little worth. The mass rush to assist those who are genuinely in need far surpasses the confused wandering of a small mob looking to do some damage. Their point seems pointless, as it is. Whether with boats to Texas or bales of hay to Nebraska, people rise to the occasion of construction rather than destruction. Just like those of an aging generation whose lungs now bear the burden of smoking strange stuff, those who cover their faces and incite violence will one day use walkers to get to the bathroom. There’s nothing like some reality to keep perspective.

The thugs are not us. They are them. They put themselves on the other side of decency and respect for others, and thus put themselves on the outside looking in at good things. Hopefully they will see and experience enough good things to learn what they could do if they let go of their self-importance long enough. They claim to care about a cause of some sort, but ruin the claim by creating chaos and rubble. They promote what they claim to hate.

Once their professional agitation jobs are done, they will still be lost and in need of help themselves. Then, maybe someone with a boat will pluck them out of the angry flood that has consumed them. Maybe they will come to their senses and help.


Bad Results From Bad Instincts

Does non-visual action equal inaction? I say no, and there is a reason for it. Non-visual action ideally represents thinking rationally about a problem to come up with an appropriate response. This response could be to change something or the keep something the same. Either way, the thinking itself contributes to a wise conclusion as to direction and later action.

Inaction, on the other hand, is no action and no thought. Both non-action and inaction look the same outwardly, but are very different. When an incident occurs, as they are and have been for thousands of years, some believe immediate action for a long-term solution is the answer. Such remedies are often short-term and serve no purpose for the long-term. It results in a mob mentality that only generates further problems. The response against violence becomes violent, and nothing is accomplished of lasting worth. The new issue (which did not exist before) is who is at fault for the violence.

When a person commits a crime, that individual makes a decision to do so. He could have been influenced by others, but it was he who committed the crime. The consequences of his actions could be widespread, but no more so than those who take advantage of the crime want to take them. This is why all German people were not obliterated for the actions of Hitler and his band of evil-doers. It’s also why Japan was allowed and aided to re-build after the devastating war initiated by its leaders. To do violence to those who believe a particular way but do not hurt people or destroy property is to render the original problem further down the list or priorities. Creating worse problems never solves anything. This is how mobs grow without thought and tragic results come about. To respond to an event within thirty seconds is not required, even if demanded by others, nor is it wise. To say something helpful requires intentional words and actions that lead to better things. The term used when I was young was, “popping off.” We hear much of that, but too little careful responses in an appropriate amount of time. A reflex does not think, and neither do careless, immediate word battles bring sense to senseless action.


A Lot Too Much

The current trend toward aggressive, pressurized and even violent reactions to the past election reflects a world view that is at odds with an orderly society and Christian teaching itself. It reminds me of complaints (and sometimes rightly so) of high-pressure attempts to get a person to become a Christian. I attempted to debate people into the ground if necessary to get them to admit I was right and they were wrong. I not only learned that this was the wrong way to pursue spreading the gospel message; it was also never successful.

So, why do some who are dissatisfied with the results of the vote feel compelled to disrupt every notion of order and propriety to change the outcome? At its extreme levels (and it seems it’s becoming much more mainstream) these efforts are no better than the inquisitions that people complain about as if all Christians secretly want to torture non-believers. The talk that comes over the news is about the latest statements made by well-known people who act as if their very existence is at stake by having a government they don’t like. This is true only in their minds. It doesn’t look as though it is getting better.

The ultimate outcome, if some have their way, is public punishment of about half the voting population to teach them never to vote that way again. Those who rejected bullying attempts by overzealous evangelists should also reject such bullying by those who threaten those who voted the other way. In other words, inquisitions are wrong, no matter who initiates them. If religion has become too political (and it has), then politics has become too religious. Being fanatical goes both ways. We should not abide by either. We are better than this.