Saturday, May 28, 2016

I Think Therefore I Feel

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child,
and reasoned like a child. When I became a man,
I gave up my childish ways.
~St. Paul

Last week, I observed that anti-intellectual education inevitably results in a feelings-oriented (emotional) rather than a thoughts-oriented (rational) populace.

But why do I contend this result is inevitable?

I believe it’s inevitable because feelings arise naturally but rationality is learned and developed. That is, most humans need not be taught to emote but do need taught to reason.

Isn’t this why whenever we see a grown person throwing a tantrum we think he or she is behaving as a child?

Thus I reiterate from my previous article:

We allow feelings to replace thought processes altogether, so that what looks outwardly like a reasoned discussion is actually an exchange of unreasoned emotions . . . reasoned discourse is abandoned in favor of the politics of the playground. . . . Without reasons, all we are left with is emotional blackmail . . . the implied juvenile threat of having a tantrum unless everyone else gives in.1

We must be taught to think and reason and then to feel properly.

Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought. . . . Plato before him had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful. . . . The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and it should, obey it.2

Aristotle and Plato were great philosophers but I am I am fully persuaded that Jesus Christ is the greatest moral philosopher, in both His belief and behavior, who has ever lived. I believe His person and teaching—His Way—is the foundation for proper thinking, feeling, and acting.

Would you be His student, His disciple? Would you daily give your heart (like a child) and your mind (like an adult) to Him?

If you will, I assure you, He will cause you to think and feel differently.

____________________
1N.T. Wright, "After You Believe," p.p. 155,156 

2C.S. Lewis, “The Abolition of Man,” p.p. 29, 31-32

Saturday, May 21, 2016

More Than A Feeling

I thinkfeel therefore I am.

Not long after World War II C.S. Lewis created a magical world called Narnia. In one of his works a young girl named Lucy claims to have visited there. Naturally, her siblings are incredulous. So, they bring the matter to the Professor in whose home they are staying.

“Logic!" said the Professor half to himself. "Why don't they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn't tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”1

What fun fiction the Chronicles of Narnia are! 

But here Lewis addresses a very real problem: the sliding standards of public education. Needless to say, I don’t think things have improved.

Nowadays, it seems schools (generally speaking) are more concerned with student testing than student thinking.


Inevitably, anti-intellectual education results in a populace geared towards the emotional, not the rational. That is, anti-intellectual education produces cultures that are feeling—not thought—oriented. 

Maya Angelou observed, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

It sounds nice but if you think about it, the implications of forgetting everything but feelings are rather disturbing.   

Also, consider this. Because we tend to speak in terms of “I feel” instead of “I think,” contemplative, rational discourse is fading.

We allow feelings to replace thought processes altogether, so that what looks outwardly like a reasoned discussion is actually an exchange of unreasoned emotions, in which all participants claim the high moral ground because when they say, “I feel strongly we should do this,” they are telling the truth: they do feel strongly, so they will feel hurt and “rejected” if people don’t agree with them. Thus reasoned discourse is abandoned in favor of the politics of the playground. . . . Without reasons, all we are left with is emotional blackmail . . . the implied juvenile threat of having a tantrum unless everyone else gives in.2

Tantrums aren’t only for Facebook, dear reader. Fit-throwing is commonplace. This is more than an embarrassing inconvenience. Non-thinking, feelings oriented people who lack the capacity for reasonable, respectful dialogue are vulnerable to all sorts of manipulation.

To whom should propaganda be addressed? To the scientifically trained intelligentsia or to the less educated masses? It must be addressed always and exclusively to the masses. . . . The whole art [of propaganda] consists . . . in attracting the attention of the crowd, and not in educating those who are already educated or who are striving after education and knowledge, its effect for the most part must be aimed at the emotions and only to a very limited degree at the so-called intellect. . . . Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower its purely intellectual level will have to be.3 (emphasis mine)

 Ideas have consequences. So do feelings.
________________________

1C.S. Lewis, "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe," p. 52

2N.T. Wright, "After You Believe," p.p. 155,156

3Adolph Hitler, "Mein Kampf," p.p. 179, 180



Saturday, May 14, 2016

God & Fat Caesar

As I listen to folks complain about the lack of money in the wealthiest empire in the history of the world, the solutions offered come in two basic forms: 1) Government needs to raise wages and 2) Government needs to raise walls. (Some may argue for government to do both of these things.)

But I hear next to no one talking about a very doable third option: Government needs to stop taking money from employers and employees. What a concept!

Consider.

Both payroll taxes and income taxes are based on an employee's wages or salary. The difference is who pays. A payroll tax is paid at least partly by the employer, while income taxes are paid by employees.1

The U. S. income tax system—as well as most state income tax systems—requires employers to withhold payroll taxes from their employees' gross salaries and wages. The withholding of taxes and other deductions from employees' paychecks affects the employer in several ways . . . it reduces the cash amount paid to employees . . . it creates a current liability for the employer . . .2

While policymakers obsess about the income tax, they often lose sight of an important detail: For two-thirds of households, the levy that matters most is the payroll tax. . . . Many taxpayers may not even recognize the difference between the two levies, especially since both payroll and income taxes are withheld from their paychecks and the payroll tax is often listed on their pay stub under the cryptic acronym of FICA. Nonetheless, those households who pay their payroll tax but who may owe little or no income tax are often forgotten in the great tax debates in Washington.3

What could happen to incomes in America if our government didn’t take money by force from those who pay and from those who earn wages? I think it’s possible—even likely—that we’d see more jobs and higher wages.

Certainly there would be consequences—intended and unintended. (This is true of every idea.) But do you think it may actually be worth trying? Could we at least talk about it? Well, it doesn’t seem likely. Small, non-intrusive government just isn’t on the menu these days.

Nevertheless, Christ tells us to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. So, we surrender the taxes. (I’m not sure if we do this because we love Jesus so much or jail so little…but the beat goes on. It must! Gluttonous Caesar has a voracious appetite, you know.)

Okay, enough about money. There are things far, far more important than taxation.

Jesus also says we should give to God what is God’s. Where’s your heart these days, dear reader? About what or whom are you most passionate, most loyal, and most protective? Find your treasure. Find your heart.
____________________________





Saturday, May 7, 2016

Soul Searching Politics

The Constitution of the United States of America reads,

...no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

When one considers the millions of people killed in the name of religion, historically and today, all across Europe, the Middle East, Northern Africa, and various other places; this type of separation between church and state has served America well.

But while the state wisely precludes religious tests in politics, many within the church have fallen prey to the opposite and more insidious error. That is, they wholeheartedly endorse political tests in religion.

How often have you read or heard Christians questioning or condemning the faith of others on the unbiblical criteria of their voting record (or the lack thereof)? On a daily basis I see professing Christians savaging each other for no other reason than differences of political preferences or opinions. How it must grieve the heart of the Father!

Jesus shows us a different Way.

The Gospels inform us that Jesus purposefully chose as His disciples a tax collector named Matthew and a Zealot named Simon. It’s difficult to imagine two men more politically polarized. In so choosing, Jesus forcefully demonstrates that His kingdom transcends all the kingdoms of this world.

That Christ’s kingdom is greater than every system of man is further revealed in that Sadducees and Pharisees also came to follow Him (Acts 6 and 15). And it seems perfectly reasonable that Herodians would have come to Jesus as well.

In other words, dear reader, Jesus imposes no political tests for living in and enjoying His kingdom. And He says: Follow Me.

So, the past few days I’ve been doing some soul searching.

Do I truly believe that Jesus’ kingdom of love surpasses every other? Do I embrace all those He welcomes into His fellowship? Am I known as His disciple because of how much I love my brothers and sisters without regard to political allegiances?

I think I’m leaving politics behind.

Sure, I’ll commentate on moral and ethical issues; but I’ll avoid the overtly political (things like parties, politicians, and policies) in so doing. I’m learning that Jesus shows us better, more effective ways of communicating His truth.

I realize some will malign and deride me for saying these things. But I’ve no more stomach for it. Christians crucifying Christians in the name of Caesar is nasty, nasty business.

So, goodbye politics! You won’t be missed.