Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Raucous Refugee Rant

Let me introduce you to an idiot:

As of writing this profoundly inane comparison has been retweeted 20,000 times, thus proving that at least 20,000 people lack more than two functioning brain cells with which to think. I mean, we can play games with this all day. For example:

Sarcasm aside, the comparison fails for the simple fact that it has nothing in common with the current situation. The Holy family wasn't fleeing war, they were reporting for a census. Their move didn't come on the heels of a massive terrorist attack, it was government ordered. They weren't seeking asylum in a foreign country, they were going to their home town. The inn keeper wasn't heartless, he was out of space. He didn't turn them away, he let them stay in the manger!

Other than that, good job Mr. Willis! Way to use that guy you don't believe in to shame those people who do!

Then there's this:
Way to show Christian charity there Governor. Glad to see that Texas is a place that welcomes the least of these. But seriously, this is profoundly silly and is clearly a ploy to his base. Texas, being a state, does not have any real say over federal immigration policies. Once an immigrant or refugee is inside the federal borders he or she is free to move about the country. No papers.

That all being said, I have no idea what to actually do about the current refugee crisis. Kevin William at NRO has some good thoughts on the matter which essentially boil down to "proceed with caution." And happily enough that conversation is happening, with Democrats like Senator Schumer joining Republicans in saying a pause in immigration might be necessary.

Unhappily, its being overshadowed by the idiots throwing dung at each other. As our illustrious president demonstrated mere hours ago when he said he can't think of a "more potent recruitment tool for Isis" than Republican rhetoric on Syrian refugees. Yeah. I'm sure all those drone bombings of weddings were way less upsetting.

All this posturing is unhelpful, polarizing, and generally divides people into two equally asinine camps. The "how unchristian of you" camp ignores the very real security challenge posed by the present situation, while the "keep 'em out" camp ignores the very real human suffering that we ought to alleviate as much as is reasonably achievable.

As Kevin Williamson points out, the question isn't "do we help refugees?", of course we do. The question is do we help these refugees at this time in these numbers, under these circumstances. The answer to that depends greatly on your own values, the perceived threat level, and personal risk tolerance. On a national level we'll only find an answer through honest and open discussion.

So, basically, never.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The one divorce Christians celebrate

I wonder how many people celebrating Luther's posting of the 95 thesis have actually read them. For one thing, they are amazingly Catholic. For another, they only really cover the sale of indulgences.

When I was younger I was under the impression that Luther defiantly nailed a list of 95 problems with the Roman Catholic Church to that door in Wittenberg. Later I learned that this was actually really common practice when posting questions for debate, which is exactly what Luther was doing. He was asking for debate over a single subject. A very Catholic subject.
To be sure within 13 years Luther would be reduced to calling Catholics "papist asses", but you'd never know it from reading the 95 thesis, which contains such statements as:
25. That power which the pope has in general over purgatory corresponds to the power which any bishop or curate has in a particular way in his own diocese and parish.
But all this is secondary to the idea I've been trying to get into words for the last hour or so: What a sad thing to celebrate.

No matter which side of the reformation you find yourself on, one thing is for certain: We are not a unified church, and I can think of nothing sadder. Celebrating our fragmentation is like celebrating a divorce. Christ says in John 17:

20“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."
That they may become perfectly one. Perfectly. One cannot argue that Christians today are perfectly one. Perfect is too high a standard. There are major contradictory teachings on issues of great importance. We disagree on things as basic as how one attains salvation! Let alone the role of baptism! Maybe we should not celebrate the existence of such great schisms.

For a millennium after Christ the Church existed as one more or less unified body. Even up until the 16th century there were only two or three major divisions, and they were more similar than not. So whether or not you think the Reformation is still a necessary thing today, this day should be a day that reminds us of our failure to be one. Of our failure to show the world the perfect unity of God's love.

This is a day of sadness. The painful anniversary of a divorce that literally caused wars. It feels odd to see so many of my friends celebrating it.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Trials and Trumpulations

If there is one thing this election cycle has made me thankful for it is that I am no longer a teetotaler.

Between Hillary Clinton being immune to laws on the left, the actual insanity that is Trump on the right, and oh so much nonsense in between, drinking is about the only recourse left to the thinking man. That and whining bitterly to each other over said drinks at the bar the last three of us meet at each night.

How anyone can take Trump seriously I'll never understand. The man does not have a conservative bone in his body, and yet he's somehow become the figurehead of an anti-GOP establishment movement. That there is a lot of anti-establishment sentiment in the GOP is good and well deserved, that it has latched onto a man who has actually advocated for the deportation of American citizens because of their skin color is astounding. That there is a huge overlap between Trump's supports and white nationalists is to his supporters great shame, though to a man they seem not to realize this. Nor do they seem to care that up until five minutes ago Trump was anti-gun, pro-abortion, pro-single payer health care, and basically indistinguishable from a democrat.

And let's not forget our friends in blue! In what is a most breathtaking indictment of our mere lip service to the rule of law, Hillary Clinton is not only not in jail awaiting trial for storing classified information on a non secured email server *and then lying about it*, but also has a serious chance of becoming the next Commander in Chief. Hillary's guilt is so painfully obvious at this point that most of my liberal friends do not defend her, and to the democratic party's chagrin they have very few other options to support. Bernie Sanders seems to be popular among some people, and to his credit he seems to be ideologically consistent, but whether or not ideological consistency is a virtue depends greatly on the ideology in question. Sanders is an unapologetic socialist, and seeing as people are being arrested in Venezuela for smuggling toilet paper I'd rather avoid socialism please and thank you.

And so, dear reader, my exhortation for you is to come join us at that bar. Be the sort of person who doesn't just react, but who acts deliberately. Dig deeper and see what's below the surface. Don't settle for sound bites and voxplainers. Grow a healthy skepticism of the hyperbole. So often I see people react without thinking, or repeat the things they've heard repeated by people who did the same. Even worse, I commonly see arguments develop over a topic where two parties take differing positions and argue, while both being utterly wrong. Minimum wage is a great example of this. One side talks about "living wages" and the other side talks about "not deserving $15 an hour to flip a hamburger" with neither side stopping to consider the economic reality of what wages really are.

Its tempting in times like these to say that we're a special kind of stupid these days. That in the past things were better, but alas I suspect things have always been this way. The ink wasn't dry on the Constitution before Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, effectively outlawing the first amendment. People have always been reactionary, shortsighted, and fearful. I don't think that's going to change anytime soon. Fortunately, the United States enjoys one of the world's only *designed* governments, and its designers were rather skeptical men who recognized this. They've made it exceptionally hard for us idiots to screw things up so badly we can't recover.

But let us not push our luck, eh?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Planned Parenthood: All or Nothing?

One of the most striking things about Planned Parenthood's defenders is the general unwillingness, or perhaps inability, to consider Planned Parenthood's abortion "services" apart from the rest of their services. The videos released by the Center for Medical Progress at a minimum should warrant some kind of an investigation. Especially in light of today's fifth video, which shows Planned Parenthood employees in Houston claiming to be able to provide "intact specimens", one would think that even the most ardent defender of Planned Parenthood would want to know more about what's actually going on there.

Yet they don't. At least not publicly. The closest I have seen was when Hillary Clinton said that she found the videos disturbing, but later distanced herself from the comment. What's far more common is for defenders of Planned Parenthood to point out how much good Planned Parenthood does for poor women. For example, I've seen this image floating around on twitter:

Other examples abound. But this is, at best, a distraction. Presumably Planned Parenthood could continue to offer this kind of care should it stop performing abortions. Investigating its conduct concerning abortions has little effect on the rest of its services.

It makes me wonder if Planned Parenthood supporters see PP as an all or nothing deal? They seem to be touting all the services that PP provides other than abortion, and yet they are unwilling to allow its abortion services to be investigated. I am sure that Planned Parenthood does provide important services to women who have few places else to turn to. But this isn't about that. This is about the willful destruction of defenseless humans.

Here is the crux of the issue: abortion is the willful murder of a child.

No amount of good deeds can absolve Planned Parenthood of their murder! That Planned Parenthood's supporters choose to overlook this is instructive. It speaks to a massive and systemic moral failure. Whether they are the type of person who irrationally believes that a viable baby is not a human being deserving of the same rights and protections of other humans, or whether they are the type of person who doesn't believe a viable baby is human, they have failed in their duty to develop a rational morality.

So how do those of us who are still capable of calling a spade a spade deal with this? Honestly, I think we're moving in a pretty good direction. There is, however, lots of confusion present. We should do our best to clarify issues (for example, this isn't about Planned Parenthood, this is about abortion).

The other thing we should be doing is to call the pro-choice movement out on their extremism whenever the opportunity presents itself. And make no mistake, extremists they are. We now have five videos showing, at an absolute minimum, evidence of possible illegal sales of human body parts. This is the sort of thing that warrants some kind of investigation, and yet we have the White House admitting to taking Planned Parenthood at its word.

The American pro-choice movement is an extreme outlier. The American left's cry for "Free abortion on demand and without apology" literally has no equal. In Germany, a woman seeking a first trimester abortion must attend a counselling session. In Belgium there's a six day waiting period. In Europe in general it's incredibly difficult to get an abortion after 20 weeks.

The American pro-choice movement are the extremists here. Remember that the next time someone calls the pro-life movement extremist. Which brings me back to this posts title, does Planned Parenthood have to be all or nothing? Or course not. The questionable abortion practices can be investigated without affecting their other services. Planned Parenthood could even protect their funding by simply agreeing to stop providing fetal tissue. If they are telling the truth about not profiting off of those tissue donations, then this should not be a big deal.

But somehow I doubt that people who see no problem dismembering babies are entirely on the up and up.

Monday, June 29, 2015

SCotUS and Rainbows and Constitutional Abuses, Oh My!

This post is a half baked mishmash of ideas that I threw into words in about 20 minutes. I'm posting it in its current and pitiful state because I want to force myself to refine these ideas into something approaching readable upon my return to the United States.

To the people freaking out over SCotUSes decision regarding same sex marriage: You lost this fight decades ago.

To the people gloating over SCotUSes decision regarding same sex marriage: You had more states than my Texas CHL is good in. You had the overwhelming majority of the American people behind you. It was only a matter of time before you had all 50 states the proper way: by putting it before a vote. Hell, it wasn't even all that much time: In 2000 you had zero states. In February 2015 you had thirty eight!  That's about as fast as the gun rights movement has advanced concealed carry on the state level!

But no. That wasn't good enough. You had to go to the Supreme Court, and five of them had to torture the 14th amendment beyond recognition in order to invent for you a new constitutional right. You had 198 million Americans behind you but you let 5 of them decide it.

You see, I don't particularly care if the people decide to legalize gay marriage. That's the people's prerogative. But what I do very strongly care about is the legal process taken when doing so. Why? Because it is the process, not the laws, that protect our rights. You abuse the process and you get abusive laws.

It is process, not laws, that prevent the abuse of power.

Americans are sick and tired of war, yet we get more and more of it. Why? Congress could put a stop to it tomorrow by impeaching the president for waging war without Congress's declaration. But they don't because no one cares that the Constitution invests the power to declare war in Congress. The process is being willfully ignored. Why? Because the outcome of ignoring the process is beneficial to both the president (he gains more power) and Congress (they lose political risk).

We live in a culture that values outcomes over process, and such a mindset is a fundamental threat to liberty. If outcomes are all that matters, and if processes designed to restrain that power get in the way of the desired outcome, suddenly anything goes. There's no longer anything to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

Americans enjoy their liberty not because of their democracy.

No, Americans enjoy their liberty because some very smart men realized that democracies have a tendency to oppress their minorities and wrote a specific list of things that our democracy was not allowed to do. The Bill of Rights is nothing more than a list of things we idiots don't get to vote on!

So while I am impartial to the *outcome* of the SCotUS decision, I am very much against the fact that this even went to the Supreme Court, and that the Supreme Court majority took it upon themselves to invent a new right. As Thomas said in his dissent:
The majority's inversion of the original meaning of liberty will likely cause collateral damage to other aspects of our constitutional order that protect liberty.
And as Roberts stated in his dissent:
If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.
So, yeah. That's about where I stand. By all means go out and get married. But how about when we get around to legalizing polygamy we do it the old fashioned way and bring it to a vote?

Monday, October 13, 2014

No, Chron, Abbott isn't saying that

Recently, Texas' marriage law, which excludes same sex marriage, has come under attack. As the state Attorney General, Greg Abbott has been defending it. Because that's his job. Anyway. The Houston Chronicle recently published a rather confused article on Greg Abbot's judicial briefing before the 5th Circuit Court. The headline "Greg Abbott: Texas gay marriage ban reduces out-of-wedlock births," is factually wrong, Abbott argues no such thing. The actual briefing (which, to its credit, the Chron does link) is entirely unconcerned with either gay marriage or out-of-wedlock births.

I suspect part of the problem is that many people, and the media is especially guilty of this, tend to approach things pertaining to the judicial branch the same way they approach things pertaining to the legislative branch. Seeing as these branches operate in entirely different manners and are primarily concerned with entirely different questions, this leads to problems. Regardless, let us examine what Abbott is actually saying in his judicial brief.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Conversion Story

My conversion to Roman Catholicism has been, to date anyway, the most unexpected and unlikely event in my life. It is also something I get asked about a lot, and so I've decided to write a post detailing the long and slow process that led to my eventual conversion. Throughout this post I will sprinkle links to blogs and videos that were helpful to me, perhaps they'll be helpful to you.

It starts at Grove City College where I met many incredibly smart people who were, for the most part, not Baptist. They were mostly Presbyterian, and we spent many a study party getting distracted by tangents on theology. What I learned from this was that... though the fundamental Baptist church I had grown up in had done a pretty good job teaching me about the Bible, they hadn't really taught me much in the way of formal theology. It also taught me that sincere disagreement could exist over the interpretation of scripture, and that these disagreements were not born of ignorance or unfaithfulness. Over time that realization would eat away at my belief in Sola Scriptura.