Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Race Ain’t the Problem

Last Thursday morning I learned of the tragic murdering of nine people in a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina. The slain were Black and the alleged shooter is White.

According to this and other such reports:

The gunman allegedly told the victims before the shooting, "You rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go."

Let’s suppose the alleged murderer did in fact say this. Did he truly believe that the people he was murdering were guilty of raping women and taking over the United States—these particular folks who were praying and studying the Bible in church? It seems most unlikely that he believed this.

So…

What kind of madness drives a person to attack people for crimes he knows they never actually committed? The illogic is more common than you may think.

While the level of violence on display here is uncommon, the mentality from which it springs is all too familiar. That is, it is commonplace to blame entire groups for the behaviors of individuals within those said groups—regardless of personal innocence.

Dylann Roof allegedly feels justified (at least at the time) in killing just any Black person because of what some Black persons do. Others feel justified in hating just any White person because of what some White persons do (or did 200 years ago).

But the fact is no one should be hated or vilified for the transgressions of others. Furthermore the personification, the blaming of a race for the behavior of individuals is non-rational.

Consider.

There have been White and Black slaves. There have been White and Black slave owners. But it is entirely wrongheaded to think that one race could enslave another race. An individual can own or be owned. A race cannot. An individual can rape or be raped; love or be loved; loot or be looted; forgive or be forgiven. A race cannot.

When will we get it through our thick heads that personifying race and then blaming all for the sins of some, is irrational and hopelessly unjust?

Fathers shall not be put to death for their children,
nor shall children be put to death for their fathers;
a person shall be put to death for his own sin.
~Deuteronomy 24:16

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

God Is Love

Not long ago I read these words: “God is a God of love. God is a God of fierce anger and wrath.”

A question immediately arose in my mind. Are anger and wrath inherent to the Person and character of God?

The Bible says, "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1Jn 4:8).

I think we must distinguish between that which is essential and that which is secondary to God's nature. God is love and always has been—even in eternity past.

But can we say God is angry or wrathful and always has been—even in eternity past when there was nothing and no one (save God Himself) for God to be angry or wrathful towards? I don't think so.

I think folks who know Jesus best affirm that He was and is a Man of love. They would say, "He is such a loving Person." Does this mean sin doesn't anger Him? No. Jesus could and can be angry. But we would not characterize Him as an "angry man."

Sin angers Him because He loves, not because He hates. As has been often observed, he who loves the garden must hate the weeds.

Similarly, we don't think of godly people as "angry" people, though sin can anger them (especially their own). Thus, the Apostle John correlates our loving others with knowing God—God is love. Love is essential and primary to the essence of God.

We can say in agreement with 1 John that God is love. I don't think we can affirm "God is anger/wrath/hate" (these things being secondary rather than essential). In other words, love and hate are not of equal ultimacy.

And let us Christians be especially mindful that Jesus says people will know we are His disciples—not by how angry we are—but by how loving we are.

By this all will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another.
~John 13:35



Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The New Normal

I’m the new normal. ~Caitlyn Jenner

I remarked a few weeks ago that “gay marriage” is in our culture’s review mirror. In fact, it seems almost passé. Transgenderism is all the rage now.

But is the “new normal” rational? Should gender be changed? Can it be changed?

Dr. Paul R. McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital and its current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry, answers “no” to all three of these questions. He contends that transgenderism is a mental disorder.

This intensely felt sense of being transgendered constitutes a mental disorder in two respects. The first is that the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken – it does not correspond with physical reality. The second is that it can lead to grim psychological outcomes.

. . . And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a “satisfied” but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.

 . . . “Sex change” is biologically impossible . . . People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.

Upon what rational grounds do those who favor “surgically amputating normal organs” stand? Do the pro-transgender folks favor surgically removing fully functioning feet or hands or eyes?

Perhaps you are thinking that I am being absurd; that no one advocates such irrational procedures. If so, you couldn’t be more mistaken.

Caitlyn…meet Jason…

When he cut off his right arm with a “very sharp power tool,” a man who now calls himself "One Hand Jason" let everyone believe it was an accident.

But he had for months tried different means of cutting and crushing the limb that never quite felt like his own, training himself on first aid so he wouldn’t bleed to death, even practicing on animal parts sourced from a butcher.

“My goal was to get the job done with no hope of reconstruction or re-attachment, and I wanted some method that I could actually bring myself to do,” he told the body modification website ModBlog.

His goal was to become disabled.

People like Jason have been classified as ‘‘transabled’’ — feeling like imposters in their bodies, their arms and legs in full working order.

“We define transability as the desire or the need for a person identified as able-bodied by other people to transform his or her body to obtain a physical impairment,” says Alexandre Baril, a Quebec born academic who will present on “transability” at this week’s Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Ottawa.

“The person could want to become deaf, blind, amputee, paraplegic. It’s a really, really strong desire.”

Researchers in Canada are trying to better understand how transabled people think and feel.

So I ask again: What’s the essential difference between surgically removing a fully functioning foot and surgically removing a fully functioning penis? How does one rationally advocate for either?

Transability. Before you know it, Caitlyn, it’ll be the new normal.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Existence Is Futile

Last week on my way to a Peoria Chiefs baseball game, I drove past a lone statement spray-painted on an otherwise naked wall: existence is futile.

What is one to make of such philosophical graffiti?

My first thought is, how can one know this? If existence itself is truly futile we should be none the wiser for it. As C.S. Lewis observes,

If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. (Mere Christianity)

Thus, it seems to me that “existence is futile” is a self-refuting, and therefore a false, sentiment.

Nevertheless, it is entirely possible to honestly believe an erroneous statement. That is, the human mind is susceptible to sincerely holding false beliefs. This brings me to my next query.

Why does our graffiti philosopher go through the effort of spraying his message—if he actually believes existence is futile? Is there not a contradiction between what he sprays and that he sprays? The act of spraying belies what is sprayed. He does not—indeed he cannot—live what he claims he believes.

Finally, I wonder how or if the futility of existence can be meaningfully demonstrated. I suppose some would suggest suicide as one possible way. Atheist, Albert Camus philosophizes:

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.

Thankfully, most folks professing the futility of life keep on living; viz. they commit philosophical but not physical suicide. Either way, it’s a pretty tough sell.

No matter. I’m not buying “existence is futile” because I’ve already sold out to Jesus Christ. Because of Him I know intellectually and experientially that life has meaning, value, and purpose.

And besides that…

About an hour after reading the writing on the wall I was taking in a minor league baseball game on a spectacular May evening with my main squeeze. We were in love and elbows deep in a larger than life bag of caramel popcorn. Existence isn’t futile. Not even close.