Thursday, June 30, 2016

This is less about a religion and more about the human condition.

So what is the point of radical Islam?

Seriously - what is the goal here?

Of course I get it that terrorism is supposed to get people scared.  The goal is to get people tired of constant fear - like today, when the Air Force One air base reported an active shooter.  It was a planned drill.  But it had us freaked out.  Fear gets us tired - it wears us down.

I remember being in London days after the Docklands bombing and there was an evacuation of Piccadilly Circus because of a bomb threat.  My sister and I were ushered out of a restaurant by mounted police.  We were asked to "walk briskly" in crystal clear British accents.  As I turned the corner a construction crew dropped a large sheet of steel which sounded like a bomb going off.

One of the most terrifying moments in my life . . .

Instinctively I hit the ground.  So did everyone else.  The ten seconds of silence following it and the realization that it was a construction accident gave us all a wave of relief.  But it was draining - and I was just a tourist.  Can you imagine living in that environment of constant fear?

Sadly, some of us can in this age of terrorism.

But what is the point?  Like the West will one day say, "alright . . . we are tired of being scared . . . whatever you want, it's yours!"

Like we will all convert to Islam?  Never gonna happen.

And I understand enough about Islam and it's radicals to know that terrorism is the radical Muslim's eschatology.  And end-of-the-world scenario where terrorism reaches a tipping point and God knocks out the infidel and Mosque and State are merged.

But really . . . do they think this is going to happen?  Is it really just a religious mask for wanting to cause mayhem?  At what point does fatigue even settle in for a jihadist?  Because the thousands that have been killed in the name of terrorism are just one of many reasons that we can never allow even one goal of the terrorist to be realized.

This is precisely why some warn us of the evils of religion.  Religion makes good people do evil things in the name of what is sold as holy.  But it isn't religion - it is humanity that we should be wary of.  The evils that can be perpetrated by the retrenched and ignorant religious are just one side of the spectrum of human misery.  History has seen plenty of intellectuals and progressives do horrible things in the name of progress on the other end of the spectrum.

We don't need education.  We don't need legislation.  We need redemption.

Thank God that there is a day of redemption that is coming - not from any human hand.  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Our leaders are shouting at each other and nothing gets done.


It's not true that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.  It has been (incorrectly) attributed to Einstein in the meme-dominated world of social media but it is too insipid to have come from such a smart person.  

Actually insanity is easy to define - even easier to witness.  

Just look at what is going on in our society today - we have a love affair with guns and violence in our entertainment.  Every form of entertainment: from TV shows to movies to video games all showcase death and mayhem from weaponized violence.  These forms of entertainment are exported all over the world (yes, that means we are tutoring incipient radicalized jihadists in Syria).   

But that isn't the crazy part.

The crazy part is when we wince at the brutal violence that is brought to our cities with these mass shootings.  We hold vigils for peace and then go play Assassin's Creed?  That's crazy.  A culture becomes what it is fascinated with.  A culture of death and mayhem receives death and mayhem.

But that still isn't the craziest part.

The craziest part is that we have leaders who are trying to figure all of this out and are acting like kids.  Last week our leaders voted down four proposals (two from each political party) to try to reign in gun violence.  Are you kidding me?

Both political sides voted each other down?

Yes, I get it - one side wants to establish universal background checks that allow the government to deny dangerous citizens the right to purchase guns (like those who are identified as terrorists and are currently on a list of not being able to fly anywhere).  Seems reasonable.  Just vote on it already.

The other side wants to make sure that we don't mess with the Constitution that made sure to include wording that says the government cannot limit a citizens access to weapons. They feared that at some point the government could turn evil and impose its will on a people who are unable to defend themselves.  I get it.  That is important as well.

But the way we are dealing with this is crazy.  Our 'leaders' are currently shouting at each other.  This is really sad.  Listen, those who think differently than you are not morons - respect each other and work together.

Those who say the solution is simple are adding to the insanity.  It is not true Americans from either party want to sell guns to ISIS.  Yes, a politician said that.  Yes, that is crazy.  But we can't let organizations with financial interests in guns convince us doing nothing is an option.  That is equally as crazy.

But let's not kid ourselves.  "Why is God letting this happen?" is not a valid question.  We have breezed past the teachings of Jesus long ago.  This is not His fault, it's ours.  You become what you are fascinated with.  And as we seek to find a way out of this mess, I hope we have the smarts to see that we can get out of this mess if we become a little more interested in God's rhythm of life than our own fascination with death.

Resources that link entertainment and aggression:

  1. Brad Bushman, Mario Gollwitzer, and Carlos Cruz, "There Is Broad Consensus: Media Researchers Agree That Violent Media Increase Aggression in Children, and Pediatricians and Parents Concur," Psychology of Popular Media Culture, July 2015
  2. Jeff Grabmeier, "‘Broad Consensus’ That Violent Media Increase Child Aggression,", Oct. 6, 2014
  3. Paul J. Lynch et al., "The Effects of Violent Video Game Habits on Adolescent Aggressive Attitudes and Behaviors," Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Apr. 19-22, 2001
  4. Dave Grossman, "Conditioning Kids to Kill," (accessed Sep. 16, 2015)
  5. Corey Mead, "Shall We Play a Game?: The Rise of the Military-Entertainment Complex,", Sep. 19, 2013
  6. Brandon Keim, "What Science Knows About Video Games and Violence,", Feb. 28, 2013
  7. Douglas A. Gentile, "The Multiple Dimensions of Video Game Effects," Child Development Perspectives, June 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Orlando Shooting - we are the ones . . .

The Orlando Shooting.

There are so many things wrong in our culture that come from the Orlando shooting.  Gun violence.  Radicalized religious nutjobs.  Fear-based responses to violence.  Downplaying radical Muslim violence.  Politicking in the days that followed such tragic loss.  Hatred in any form.

And we all get on social media and push our myopic perspectives.  Here is the 'hard to hear' truth:  No gun ban, no law would have kept this guy from killing fifty people.  Violence is in the heart, not the hand.  Proposing that we ban all Muslims would do nothing either.  The guy was born and raised in America.  There are no walls that keep out hatred.

What we keep coming back to is violence.

Seriously people, how can we attend peace vigils and then throw on Walking Dead on Netflix and not see a problem?  Assassin's Creed.  Grand Theft.  How can we not see that we are creating a culture of great violence and indiscriminate bloodthirst?

I once sat with a Muslim in Africa at a cafe.  He began our conversation with the words, "the reason your culture has fallen is . . ."  He went on to describe the pornography that pours out of our country all over the world. He talked about the dissolution of our families.  The selfishness that we exude.  The violence that we export through our entertainment.

So you can ban guns.

You can ban Muslims.

But you will never touch the problem until we have leaders who see a need for a new set of morals and ethics.  We need cultural leaders that show us a new way to look at life and people and relationships.  We need a country that would wince at the violence portrayed in our homes and theaters and quickly turn it off.  As it is now we are our own worst enemies.  Violence has visited us because it comes from us.

Think about it.  Gruesome depictions of hatred and annihilation is our entertainment.

That is sick.

So enough with the bans of people and weapons.  Let's start a new culture of life.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

going forward by looking back . . .

Sometimes it is helpful to go back to your roots to know the way forward.

Really back . . .

When Christianity was just a baby - the days following the resurrection - early Christians were known as followers of "The Way."  Well, that is, if you heard of it.  "The Way" was an obscure sect -  a peculiar splinter group from Judaism.  Most people just heard of Jewish people trying to stomp out this weird religious cult that had someone named Jesus as their founder.

Fast forward a few decades and Christianity had begun to spread - especially in city centers and among the poor and neglected.  It rejected mainstream Roman values and so Romans joined Jews is persecuting this growing sect of religious oddballs.  That persecution seemed to fan the small flames of the faith into a worldwide community of believers.

For the next few hundred years Christians would go through periods of intense persecution (apprehended by law enforcement, tied up, covered in tar and lit on fire for the Emperor's gardens).  

Until the fourth century, when a certain Emperor named Constantine came to power having a vision that tied him to the Christian faith.  He signed an edict that expanded religious freedoms and allowed Christians to practice their faith freely. 

It seemed like a blessing from God.

Some, however, call it the death of real Christianity.  Because the Emperor now aligned himself with this new faith, Christians came out of the closet.  The cross was now en vogue.  Hundreds of years of persecution had suddenly come to an end with the state endorsement of faith.  It was now impossible to tell who was a believer and who was using faith to their social or political advantage.

It got so bad that some people just took off for the desert.  Like moving to Canada - these were the first desert fathers - monks who had no stomach for fake faith.

And so where is your desert?  And what will it take for you to forsake the surface for the substance?  Would we do better to be persecuted?  And what does it all mean with what is about to happen in the next six months?

God help us.