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Archive for the ‘Civil Debate’ Category

The transition of power has occurred. We look forward with hope or dread or some ambiguous go between.

With all of the wrangling and division that has gone on, politics is about the last thing you want to read about right about now. But I kept having a thought run through my head during all of the insanity: This reminds me of the Dr. Seuss book, “One fish Two fish Red fish Blue fish”.

“One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish,
Black fish, Blue fish, Old fish, New fish.
This one has a little car.
This one has a little star.
Say! What a lot of fish there are.
Yes. Some are red, and some are blue.
Some are old and some are new.
Some are sad, and some are glad,
And some are very, very bad.
Why are they sad and glad and bad?”

Was Dr. Seuss only talking about differences in people or was he also making a political statement?

Well, “One fish…” was published in 1960, the year I was born. The present color scheme for Elephants and Donkeys solidified in the 2000 presidential election. So, no, Dr. Seuss was not being prophetic about politics.

But “why are they sad and glad and bad?” Politics is broken in America. Many, not all, are “very, very bad”. Contrary and contradictory worldviews have separated us into camps so that we don’t even know how to understand each other, let alone want to. There is very little talk about what God would have us to do that would work. And since He knows best, this lack of acknowledgement and seeking of His counsel will spell disaster, even if ever so slowly. There is non-stop wrangling about how the other side is stupid or trying to cheat or lie into power (see my blog called “The Basis of Civil Debate”). The words “public servant” are used but the idea and the sacrifice are missing.

So we have red fish and blue fish all living in the same pond trying to eliminate the other population in a feeding frenzy brought on by the very, very bad blood in the water and fear mongering croakers and immoral snappers dragging us down. The only hope for clearing the waters so that various stripes of fish can live in this habitat is a return to the ecologically sound living of repentance and acknowledging the Caretaker, Creator God.

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I frequently hear in election cycles these days a repeated phrase that sounds something like the following: “This is the most important election of our life-time.” I think the purpose of the statement in its various forms is to stir certain emotions and resolves toward rushing to the polling place and casting a vote to stop this madness. But like the 100th artillery shell to fall near your trench, you become numb to the effects of these dire predictions. Either the effects of this election will end life as you know it, or it won’t, and there is little to be done about it. We are “election shell-shocked”. That does not mean that there is less danger because we are insensitive to the falling declarations of disaster, but only that we can no longer respond to it as such. But the situation is grave for the continuance of our free society and it causes me to think about the first verse of a hymn:

“Once to every man and nation,
comes the moment to decide,
in the strife of truth with falsehood,
for the good or evil side;
some great cause, some great decision,
offering each the bloom or blight,
and the choice goes by forever,
‘twixt that darkness and that light.” (1)

“One salient point of this hymn is the burden that it places, not only upon the individual man, but upon nations as well to obey God and to honor His Law. If decisions to obey God are made in the hearts of the people of a nation, that nation will also follow in like obedience to that Law. If we find that our beloved nation today has gone from following God to following after the world, it is because our ministers and churches have failed to call her citizens to repentance. When we begin to see national laws that forbid sin to be repealed, and those laws converted to the side of evil, then we shall know the extreme danger of our national condition. There is only one great decision – to follow God!” (2)

Take note about the conclusion to this quote about the hymn. It does not say panic and run off doing some Herculean task. It says “follow God”. That is a daily, in the trenches, persistent, long-term repentance. It matters not what shells of destruction fall around you. You continue about your duties to your ruler. Live a life different from the world that pushes and pulls others, even a society toward God.

Furthermore, though the hymn verse is grave, the situation is not yet so grave as the hymn talks about. Later verses speak of “by the light of burning martyrs” (3) and “Tho’ her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong”. So, I think that in reality there are many choices on the road to hell, not just one great decision. There comes a time certainly when God says enough is enough. When the Israelites turned away from entering the Promised Land (Numbers 13 and 14) and God made them wonder in the wilderness for 38 more years until “your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness”, (Numbers 14:32) there was a “Once to every man and nation.” But this judgment had been building, for God says in His first response after Moses pleads that God not immediately destroy them, that “none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it.” (Numbers 14:22-23) Did you see it? Not once but ten times they spurned God. As He says in Hebrews 3:16-19: “For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.” It was not merely a single act of rebellion but a condition of unbelief revealed through continued rebellion over time.

So, where are we as a nation? At the time of this writing, purposefully so, this is prior to the election. I do not know the outcome or the ramifications of that outcome. Regardless of the outcome, repentance, trust in God, and perseverance in right living are far more important than what the result of this election will be. God may again be gracious to us and prolong our prosperity, or He may gives us what we deserve, and our demise will be swift, but we must turn to God for the good of our nation, our neighbors, our family, our posterity, and our world.

What is the hope for a nation over whom destruction has been declared? In the case of Israel, it was God’s mercy for the children, for He says, “But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness.” (14:31-32) God may yet be entreated by a repentant people, just as He was by Nineveh (Jonah 3:10).

May God give us “a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.” (Deuteronomy 29:4 says He had not yet done so for Israel.)

1. Hymn: “Once to Every Man and Nation” by James Russell Lowell in 1845

2. http://www.faithfulcenturion.org/AOCBlog/Hymns/Hymn%20519%20-%20Once%20to%20Every%20Man%20and%20Nation.pdf#:~:text=%E2%80%9COnce%20to%20every%20man%20and%20nation%2C%20comes%20the,by%20forever%2C%20%27twixt%20that%20darkness%20and%20that%20light.

3. Surely this is a reference to Nero using Christians as torches in his garden, though many others were burnt at the stake over the centuries.

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Here is a recent scene from early voting in my small town:

When I first came to this area 27 years ago, our voting place was a one room school house no longer used for anything but voting. It gave the feel of voting from times a century and more before. All who voted there were neighbors of long standing and we were the new ones, welcomed and smiled upon for voting in the long held tradition.

This year all tradition seems gone. Many would contradict, saying the voting has prevailed, but we wonder if it will be a free and fair election. Neighbors are distanced by disease and rhetoric and the persistent electronics. Somehow, I don’t feel like I am in the same nation I grew up in, the one that taught its young the regional songs and tales of the frontiersmen and miners and canal workers and farmers. We had connections to our past and stability in our present. Now we have neither. Rather than gain these things for those who lacked them as newcomers or oppressed people, we further divide ourselves from each other in order to scrap anything good about our nation for a future of slavery to the ruling class. (1)

The voting does not look and feel different because of polemical pandemic and politics. We have had division in the past. We have had disease and drought and war and depression and social unrest. It is different because we are giving up our freedoms for slavery of mind and one day body.

John Basil Barnhill, in a meeting in 1914, said, “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.” (2) At present, the people are in fear of the government while simultaneously not respecting its institutions or personnel. This is a formula for disaster.

On the subject of the cruelty of slavery, Thomas Jefferson said, “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just and that His justice cannot sleep forever…” (3) We have long since righted the wrong of the institution of slavery, though many have not changed there attitudes about it on either side. Now we threaten the liberty of us all by giving it up to control by government, to the continuance of slaughter or the unborn, and outright denial anything moral according to God’s law.

Why are we doing this evil to ourselves? We have turned away from God. Even many in the church do not know Him and the culture as a whole does not acknowledge Him. Many have argued that we have no need of acknowledging God as a nation since ‘we are not a Christian nation’, but God warns otherwise. “Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling.” (Psalm 2:10-11) “Nations are obligated to worship the true God,” said John MacArthur in a recent sermon. (4)

You may be asking what this turning away from God has to do with voting. I can think of several ways, all of which involve God’s judgement on our forsaking Him and running to wickedness:

1. We will lose our incredible freedom to have substantive say our government.

2. God judges individuals and institutions.

3. The righteous in general are delivered over with the wicked in times of judgement.

4. Voting may no longer be neighborly and civil.

It is on this last point that I want to dwell upon for just a short moment. I have friends who have been missionaries with AIM/Air in Nairobi, Kenya, for many years. As a mechanic, the man is head of maintenance to the many planes that fly out to villages for the many ways they help people. The woman has taught in a local seminary. In their newsletters over the year by paper and then email, they would periodically ask for prayer about national elections. This is frequently a time of violence in the streets and at the polling places and upon the candidates. This nation is not the only one plagued with this problem, but one that has dealt with it more or less since their independence. With the level of division, selfishness, and God hating present in our nation, it will come here if we do not repent.

Intentionally pray for your repentance and mine and our neighbors and our nation. Pray that God will yet again be merciful and patient to give us a time of renewal and turning to Him. Vote for righteousness and the rule of law. Pray for civility throughout this election process.

  1. Read ‘anarchy, socialism, communism’.
  2. https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/when-government-fears-people-there-liberty-spurious-quotation
  3. https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/07/jefferson-1781-indeed-i-tremble-for-my-country-an-exchange-of-situation-is-possiblenoted.html
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5vAA_QpNh8 This is well worth the listen since he lays out the scriptural requirement for nations in detail.

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“The uncontested absurdities of today are the accepted slogans of tomorrow. They come to be accepted by degrees, by precedent, by implication, by erosion, by default, by dent of constant pressure on one side and constant retreat on the other- until the day when they are suddenly declared to be the country’s official ideology.” Ayn Rand

Wow! You want to have a worthwhile history/social studies lesson? Have students write a short interpretation of this and the following quote: “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” Adolf Hitler.* Then have them discuss the following proposition: Propaganda and ignorance are happy partners that ravage the land.

It occurs to me that by quoting these two individuals, I could be wholly dismissed by anyone who knows their philosophies. Many Empiricists and Naturalists would applaud Ayn Rand for clear-headed objectivity, but she dismissed faith and religion out of hand. So much for logic and fair-mindedness. Her nearsightedness blinded her to evidences of God. We all have blind spots. I wholeheartedly disagree with her perspective in order to point out that we may learn truth from many people in many places, even opponents, if we are open to it. Her quote here is apropos to our present situation. We have a phrase yelled at us, proclaimed and assumed to be true, day after day, scouring away any right or level-headed thinking by demand and insinuation. So it’s true, right?

And the Third Reich demonstrated that persistent and horrendous lies will be taken as truth. It need not even be believable at first, nor crafty, nor partially true, only persistently and passionately told. We are experiencing these repetitions in several arenas at this time. 

The question is, “Will we allow the lies to drown out the truth by our deafening silence?” All of the loud protestations of lies as truth are the propaganda. Silence is the willful ignorance that partners with it to promote destruction of our freedoms. And yet silence is the passive willfulness.

Our ignorance runs deeper and more active: “‘They bend their tongue like their bow; lies and not truth prevail in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know Me,’ declares the Lord.” Isaiah 9:3 We repeat lies by meme and manifest, little caring that our “causes” promote evil.

Go to the source of truth (John 17:17, Psalm 119:60) and ask the Author of Truth (Psalm 86:15) to strain out all of the man-made lies that have seemed as truth to you.

Lord, have mercy on us, and draw Your people and many lost people to Yourself. Cause us to stand for truth as surely as men of valor in battle and saints in the fire. Thank You for the God-ordained institutions of the family, church, and government that give us order, peace, and joy. Strengthen us to defend them against subtle and outspoken lies that seek to destroy Your gifts to us.

*probably originating from Joseph Goebbels

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If you are reading this blog entry and have not read the prequel (“Basis of Civil Debate“), it will seem to lack context and may be confusing. Please read the previous blog entry first so that I may be truly heard in this one.

The debate itself was about the following subject:

Mr. L stated that he hated child labor laws because they represented an abrogation of family jurisdiction. The state does not have the right to tell the family how to function even if the family structure is severely compromised or clearly in the wrong. I pointed out that the reason such laws exist was because of Dickens’ writing about conditions during the Industrial Revolution. Those conditions were not right and needed to be stopped. At least two times, and I think more, I agreed in principle with Mr. L’s statement and Mr. F’s restatement of their point.

In part I may have not been heard because of my initial statement about Dickens. Why you may ask? It was immediately thrown back at me that poor conditions are no reason to lay aside the law of God. Again I agreed, but I was not allowed to state my case. The more I tried the louder the counter repetitions of the first point became.

What then was my point? I agree that it is wrong to lay aside the God-given jurisdiction of the family in favor of a mis-placed jurisdiction of government. However, I do not believe that, for instance, child labor laws are the problem or that eliminating them will solve the problem. In fact, I do not believe that under the present form of government, ruled mostly by emotion rather than law, that child labor laws, or many other family jurisdiction abrogating laws, will be rescinded until the real problem is solved. Why do I believe that? I believe that people will not allow abuse of women and children to continue even if the means of attempting to stop it is wrong and a failure* in practice.

So, what is the real problem and what is the solution? We the people, by and large have turned away from God and His Law. Until and unless we repent and turn back to His way we will not rescind these laws because we think we know better than God. And maybe we should not even try to change the laws and we definitely won’t, because there is too much travesty and hurt in a society where God’s rule is debased and ignored. Does that mean we can never go back to being a godly nation**? No, it does not, but there will need to be some deep repentance on the part of parents and employers and government officials, both bureaucratic and elected, and most notably those who claim to know God. The order of retracing our steps to godliness is more likely repentance, revival, renewal, then reformation of life and law. That does not mean that to have just, God honoring laws we must be a perfect nation, but we must first have a majority of the people acknowledging God and God’s Law.  When the travesties of child abuse in the home and the society at large are rarities rather than regular fare, then we will be more likely to correct our laws to reflect God’s Law.

To simplify this idea, let me summarize by saying the following: You don’t legislate morality; morality determines just law. Mr. L stated the first half of my statement at one point in his argument, and I believe he could agree with the second half of the statement if he had truly heard me. That might have involved me having a better handle on how to present it to him and Mr. F.

The Founding Fathers, by in large, got it right. They based our laws on God’s law. Even as we, they had influences that drew them away from the knowledge of God and His law. Therefore, unlike the Scriptures, the Constitution is a human document, which cannot be perfect. It is very likely the best document of its kind produced by humans, because it so largely reflects God’s law. And I agree with Washington when he said to Henry Lee, “Let the reins of government then be braced and held with a steady hand, and every violation of the constitution be reprehended. If defective, let it be amended, but not suffered to be trampled upon whilst it has an existence.” (letter 10/31/1786) It has been and is being trampled upon because the basis for this document, God’s law, is trampled.

*Yes, child-labor laws stopped children from working in dangerous conditions, but it did not stop the abuse of children.

**I do not equate us with Israel, nor do I say that we have no heinous sins for which God will judge us. However, we have a system that is based on God’s laws with many past examples of godly people and building of God’s kingdom around the world.

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What is the way forward for our country in this time of crisis?

Awhile back I was having a discussion with two people, who we will call Mr. L and Mr. S, that turned into an argument. They were on one side of a position and I was on the other. I do not like to get drawn into arguments for reasons far deeper than the immediate discomfort, but I dislike even more when truth is being trampled. Well, from my perspective, things got worse, because I was no longer concerned about the statements being made. I agreed in principle with them, but I did not like the fact that I was never heard. Mr. L and Mr. S would tell you that they fully understood me and could see that I was patently wrong, but that is simply not true. The evidence I would give is that I was never allowed to state my point, so that I was never truly heard, and therefore, they could not have known if I was wrong or not.

And this is the reason for this blog entry*. The basis for civil debate is the requirement that the views of the parties** in the debate be heard, truly heard. If not, there has not been debate, but there has been monologue, haranguing, putdown, and dismissal. This does not mean that the two or more parties must come to agreement, though that would be a further needed step for legislative progress. But they must hear each other in such a way as to believe that the other party, at the very least, thinks that their position is reasonable. The end result will be some change in all of the parties. They will have seen, I mean really seen, that is heard, another perspective. The result may well be that they have more evidence for why they don’t agree, but it might also mean that they come to see a reason to modify their own position, even if ever so slightly.

This basic tenet of civil debate and discourse has another underlying prerequisite. In order to really hear someone, you must have some minimal respect for that person or party. When that is lacking then the monologue and so forth commences. I highly suspect from watching this scenario play out numerous times and being party to this mis-step myself, that the reason for the lack of respect, and therefore lack of listening, is essentially fear. If you believe that the other party holds some wicked position or intention that will undermine your worldview, status quo, or comfort, you are apt to attack it vociferously. But if you are confident that the truth will win out, either in the short-term or long-term, you may feel at ease enough to hear the other party out for the purpose of learning or modifying your own position.

Take note that those who least hold to what is true most vehemently avoid listening to their opponents. And be doubly aware of those who feign listening but never really hear what their opponents say.

What I have essentially just defined is open-mindedness. Some who claim to be the most open-minded, the kind who will not hold to one or any particular point of view, listen the least and are the most closed-minded. Why? Frequently they are unwilling to commit to a position, not because they don’t know (agnostic), but because they don’t want to know (stubborn). Other people wear closed-mindedness as a badge, thinking that they uphold the “real” truth. Their fear of straying from their understanding of the truth causes them to cling to a shallow truth at best. These two problems reign on both extremes of political and belief perspectives and in the middle as well. In reality, their close-mindedness is of no value to anyone, including themselves. And I do not ascribe to the definition of open-mindedness that believes that there is no truth, and therefore everyone has their own truth. That is counter to Western thought, logic, and any view of the society that works.***

A listening ear is not a rejection of truth, but a confidence that there is truth and that it appears in surprising places and can instruct and benefit the hearer from wherever or whomever it comes, and that it will win out in the end.

In summary, here are the points I made: 1) Civil Debate requires that all invested parties are really heard. 2) Really hearing someone requires a little respect for the person, even if not for their position, 3) Lack of kindly respect for your debate opponent points to fear that your position might be overcome, and 4) Open-mindedness is good and beneficial for debate.

I hope that you have heard me and benefited.

*What happened to Mr.s L and S? Stay tuned. That description will come soon, but I do not want to distract from my main point.

**Modern liberal thought that absent parties must be in the debate don’t work since that means that people no longer alive, non-citizens, non-vested interests, and others not party to the debate run the debate. Equity is not that non-parties to the debate rule the debate, but that they be allowed to become parties to the debate through involvement in the process and vested interest in the debate. That involves allowance to include other parties and commitment on the part of all parties to be involved and invested. Certain parties cannot be allowed into the conversation, because their purpose and presence is disruptive.

*** Why society without truth will not work is a topic for another day, but a worthy one.

 

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