Saturday, January 26, 2013

Culture Warriors

To my conservative evangelical Christian friends:

I don't know if of you realize this, but for many of us we have slowly drifted from the ancient path of making disciples of Jesus... of seeking first His Kingdom... of being salt and light in a dark world, and have degenerated in too many cases to working valiantly to perpetuate a culture. 

To be sure, there are good things about Western Judeo-Christian culture, and the loss of it has some serious ramifications. But culture building is not the reason we were called by Jesus. While I heartily agree that we should be engaging our culture, and at some level we have a responsibility to be activists, Jesus' kingdom is not of this world. It is invading this world. We're kind of like ambassadors and heralds of that kingdom, and we await the day it comes. And certainly, we can work for justice and righteousness in this world without becoming beholden to any human system.

For the sake of God's work in his world, let us rethink what we are putting our passion and energy into.

Friday, January 25, 2013


It is very true that people don't care what you know until they know that you care. 

But our [Western, white, postmodern] culture seems especially queasy about any kind of certainty or any narrow views of truth. So much so that I find it suspect that it is merely historical bad behavior by confessing Christians that has fueled all this, as some very apologetic believers seem to think. I think such aversion is rooted in human nature. 

So this aversion to certainty and truth is nothing new. Perhaps the extent of it is, but the idea is quite old. Here is evidence of the problem and what I think is a good addressing of it from over a century ago:

"[Dislike of dogma] is an epidemic which is just now doing great harm, and specially among young people… It produces what I must venture to call… a “jelly-fish” Christianity in the land: that is, a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or power. A jelly-fish… is a pretty and graceful object when it floats in the sea, contracting and expanding like a little, delicate, transparent umbrella. Yet the same jelly-fish, when cast on the shore, is a mere helpless lump, without capacity for movement, self-defense, or self-preservation.

Alas! It is a vivid type of much of the religion of this day, of which the leading principle is, “No dogma, no distinct tenets, no positive doctrine.” We have hundreds of “jelly-fish” clergymen, who seem not to have a single bone in their body of divinity. They have not definite opinions; they belong to no school or party; they are so afraid of “extreme views” that they have no views at all. We have thousands of “jelly-fish” sermons preached every year, sermons without an edge, or a point, or a corner, smooth as billiard balls, awakening no sinner, and edifying no saint.

We have Legions of “jelly-fish” young men annually turned out from our Universities, armed with a few scraps of second-hand philosophy, who think it a mark of cleverness and intellect to have no decided opinions about anything in religion, and to be utterly unable to make up their minds as to what is Christian truth. They live apparently in a state of suspense, like Mohamet’s fabled coffin, hanging between heaven and earth… and last, and worst of all, we have myriads of “jelly-fish” worshippers - respectable Church-going people, who have no distinct and definite views about any point in theology. They cannot discern things that differ, any more than color-blind people can distinguish colors. They think everybody is right and nobody wrong, everything is true and nothing is false, all sermons are good and none are bad, every clergyman is sound and no clergyman is unsound. They are “tossed to and fro, like children, by every wind of doctrine”; often carried away by any new excitement and sensational movement; ever ready for new things, because they have no firm grasp on the old; and utterly unable to “render a reason of the hope that is in them.” …Never was it so important for laymen to hold systematic views of truth, and for ordained ministers to “enunciate dogma” very clearly and distinctly in their teaching."

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900), an evangelical Anglican clergyman and first Bishop of Liverpool.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

What Doesn't Work

I'm telling you the truth, and you can choose to believe it or not: Simply banning "assault rifles" in an effort to stop school shootings neither addresses the actual problem nor accomplishes anything of substance. All it takes is a handful of these weapons available in the underground economy to do what was done in Newtown. 

It is effectively impossible to eliminate even 90% of high-capacity weapons, let alone all of them. The multiple mass shootings in Western Europe should decisively demonstrate that. The Black Market will always be a ready supply of weapons, if people want them badly enough. 

I am NOT saying we shouldn't regulate, try new ideas, increase penalties, innovate, work against gun trafficking, etc. We have to do something. 

I AM saying that the "assault rifle" ban has already been tried (1994-2004), and Columbine and other shootings took place anyway. It's like trying to strain out a bacteria with a fish net. 

Ultimately, I don't care if they ban them. I don't own one, I don't want one, and I know that my constitutional rights are not compromised by the banning of weapons by category. I'm simply insisting that to think that this legislation will "prevent tragedies like Sandy Hook" is to believe a FANTASY. At the very best, all it can do is reduce the probability by a tiny percentage. 

I am a parent of four kids in Chicago public schools. I want something that might actually work, not political posturing.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Politics and the Merit of Ideas

Politics makes people irrational.

Back in 2000, on the one-year anniversary of the Columbine shootings, Bill Clinton proposed that federal money be used to provide armed and trained police to guard schools.

From the LA Times article: "WASHINGTON — Marking the first anniversary of the shooting deaths at Columbine High School, President Clinton announced $120 million in new federal grants Saturday to place more police officers in schools..." (

Not surprisingly, the Republicans opposed the idea: "Republican critics said the federal government is a clumsy middleman in trying to cope with problems that should be addressed locally."

Fast forward to 2012. In response to the Sandy Hook shootings, various conservatives propose that armed and trained police be used to guard schools. This time, not surprisingly, the Left says that's an unreasonable idea.

From the New York Times: "The N.R.A.’s plan for countering school shootings, coming a week after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was met with widespread derision from school administrators, law enforcement officials and politicians, with some critics calling it “delusional” and “paranoid.”" (

Moral of the story: It's not the merit of a given idea that is the issue, but rather the political affiliation of the person who comes up with the idea.