Modern Pensées

Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics

Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

What Racism, Human Trafficking, and Abortion All Have in Common

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Creation of Adam, Michelangelo, Sistene Chapel

Racism, human trafficking, and abortion all share a common source to their evil – the fundamental denial of human dignity – more specifically the creator endowed dignity of being made in the image of God.  This is unilaterally accomplished by carving out groups of people (by ethnicity, gender, vulnerability, or age) who are classified as sub-human and therefore not treated as equal human beings.

Racism
Racism denies the image of God in a particular ethnicity, people group, or tribal affiliation.  It seeks to make the persons of such groups or affiliations lesser than your group or affiliation. In doing so it assails the inherent worth endowed by God.  There are several idols at work in racism – power, control, pride, and ironically likely both self-love and self-hatred.

Human Trafficking
Human trafficking denies the image of God in humanity by treating certain humans as not being human at all, but rather property.  All sense of dignity and worth must be deconstructed in order to justify the human as property.  There are several idols at work in human trafficking, most notably, greed, power, control, and lust.

Abortion
Abortion denies the image of God in those of a certain size, age, gestation, or relative level of “wantedness.”  The human is made to be sub-human because it is small, young, not yet viable, and has not travelled the magical 6″ journey down the birth canal that suddenly and mysteriously imbues it with life, human rights, and legal status.  Their are several idols at work here, most notably, lust, selfishness, comfort, and escape.

While perhaps difficult to personally engage heavily on all three fronts, I find it ironic that my own age demographic seem inclined to care about the first 2 of these 3 and not the third.  I don’t know if this is for reasons of ignorance, idolatry, apathy, or all of the above.  It will be interesting how history plays itself out on this particular issue… but I am willing to wager that our grand children will think of abortion with a similar disdain that our generation holds toward the Holocaust.  

The Banality of Evil and Our Cultural Morass

I hope we would see ourselves as being more dignified than to cut up our children for the pursuit of the ideal body, the next ladder rung of the career, or the perfect orgasm.  I hope we would see ourselves as being more dignified than to allow persons to be treated as property for sex or for unpaid work for the pursuit of cheaper goods, uncommitted and intimacy-less sex (rape).  I hope we would see ourselves as being more dignified than to allow other ethnicities to be treated as less worthwhile, less valuable, and sub-human for the pursuit of feeling good about one’s own tribe at the expense of another tribe.

There is a certain banality to evil that lulls us into going along and getting along. It was the same banality that anesthetized the very bright German people into the wholesale slaughter of persons categorized as sub-human.

What we want is what we worship and what we worship controls us.  This is true if we are pagans, atheists, agnostics, or Christians. We are all slaves to our wants.  Those wants drive our ideas… And ideas have consequences… Often dire ones.  

What the heart loves, the will chooses, the mind justifies – Thomas Cranmer

Best Links of the Week

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The Shire - Lord of the Rings Fake Travel Poster

Great fake travel posters made by artist Ali Xenos.  There are some great ones of Rivendell, Tatooine, Dagobah, and Winterfell.

Kevin DeYoung on the New-Calvinism

‘Gravity’ Spinoff: Watch the Other Side of Sandra Bullock’s Distress Call – Jonas Cuaron’s seven-minute companion short, filmed in Greenland and featuring Bullock’s voice

Brutal personal piece on about one young man’s battle with our present culture of death – “I Lost My Daughter to the Culture of Death

Modalimy – Co-parenting for those that want children but not a relationship or marriage.  You really cannot make this stuff up.

Nelson Mandela:  A Candid Assessment” – from Catholic site Crisis Magazine

Interesting piece from personal finance blog Mr. Money Mustache entitled, “Get Rich With:  The Position of Strength.”  Makes some salient points.

Woofmaker.com – just click on it, especially if you are a Home Alone fan.

Interesting piece in the Atlantic dealing with Clickbait and UpWorthy’s game changing headlines

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1E-9Z8sFyRs#t=303

Nietzsche vs. Christianity: Part 1

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Here is the AUDIO for the first lecture.

I was struck by a few things in doing my research on the life, thought, and influence of Nietzsche.  First, I am struck at how dark, bleak, and sick was Nietzsche’s early world.  Second, I was struck by the damning affects of the poison that flowed from the Tubingen School, particularly in the thought of Strauss, Feuerbach, and Schopenhauer (Tubingen was the school that started all of the criticism of the Bible that eventually led to the splitting of Protestantism into its conservative and liberal branches).  Third, I am struck by how different Nietzsche’s thought changed over time and how he moves beyond all of his influences.  Fourth, I am struck by both the radicalness and the consistency of Nietzsche’s atheism, he is the one atheist who says that morality is contingent on the existence of God.  Fifth, I am struck that Nietzsche is really a kind of Greek thinker in the vein of Dionysus and that the goal of his whole philosophy is life affirmation.  Sixth, I am struck by how much I agree with Nietzsche both in what bothers him and what he affirms.  Finally, I couldn’t agree more with David Hart when he says, “The only really effective antidote to the dreariness of reading the New Atheists, it seems to me, is rereading Nietzsche.”

Below is the outline and audio from the first lecture:

I.  Biography and Psychology

A.  Death

B.  Boarding School at Pforta

C.  Chronic Illness

D.  Bonn/Leipzig

E.  University of Basel

F.  Franco-Prussian War Medical Orderly

II.  Intellectual Influences

A.  David Frederick StraussDas Leben Jesu

B.  Ludwig von FeuerbachThe Essence of Christianity

C.  Friedrich LangeHistory of Materialism and Critique of its Present Importance (Geschichte des Materialismus)

D.  Dionysus

E.  Arthur Schopenhauer

F.  Richard Wagner

III.  Nietzsche’s Thought

A.  “The Death of God”

B.  Nihilism

C.  Master and Slave Morality

D.  Übermensch

E.  Will to Power (der Wille zur Macht)

F.  Eternal Recurrence (ewige Wiederkunft)

IV.  Nietzsche’s Influence

A.  William Butler Yeats

B.  Martin Heidegger

C.  Albert Camus

D.  Michel Foucault

E.  Jacques Derrida

F.  Martin Buber

G.  Adolf Hitler (sort of)

Why Socialized Health Care… is Unbiblical

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Bronze Serpent in Wilderness

I have heard a lot of talk and conjecture here recently about social justice and national health care.  I agree with Kevin DeYoung when he says the term “social justice” should never be used unless it is defined.  Perhaps a lot of the discussions concerning a national health care plan are futile with the “Ted Kennedy” seat going to Scott Brown.  However, it is important for Christians to be able to think about everything from a Christian worldview.

Are we thinking with a Christian or Republican worldview (aren’t they the same)?

I have been a bit saddened by the lack of evangelical disagreement with the socialized healthcare debate.  For the most part, all I hear is that I am a conservative and/or republican… and my party disagrees with that.  This may be true but it does not get at the heart of a Christian view of government.  Now, there is substantial disagreement of what the proper relationship of government is to the church and vice versa.  Much of this disagreement comes down to one’s eschatological position (some Postmillenialists favor theonomy, Dispensational Premillenialists favor Neoconservativism and pro-Israel).

Why do we have human kings?

Before we delve into what the Scriptural principles given to non-theocratic governance, we must first look at the history of the Hebrew people.  Up until Saul, Israel was a theocracy where God was King and the Mosaic Law was its governance.  God’s people rejected YHWH’s kingship and instead wanted a human king like the cultures around them.  God warned them of the error in asking for this but granted them Saul.  Saul’s regime was oppressive and tyrannical (especially in comparison with his predecessor YHWH).  He imposed hefty taxes on Israel.  The question of church and state was not a question until Israel asked for Saul, ever since, it has been an issue.  We shall examine the issue of church and state at more length in a later post.  However, suffice to say that I think it good for the state to keep their nose out of the church and for the church/Christians to have a worldview – a worldview that includes political thought.

What does the Bible say about human governments?

Romans 13 is clear that God’s sets up and takes down rulers.  They are not somehow outside his providence.  This does not mean that human rulers are just, righteous, or equitable.  This does mean that they are accountable to God for their actions and that God will use their actions, moral good or moral evil, for His purposes.  The Scriptures do establish a non-theocratic (civil) government’s authority to establish certain rights for its citizens.  The Scriptures establish a civil government’s authority to protect negative rights.  Negative rights are rights that prevent harmful or morally evil things from happening to its citizens.  For example, the civil government is obliged to protect its citizens from murder, theft… etc.  It does so by establishing and enforcing laws that punish moral evil.  In my view, the Scriptures do not establish a civil government’s authority to protect/assert positive rights.  Positive rights are rights that affirm that some beneficial thing ought to be provided for its citizens.  In other words, Scripture does not affirm that it is a civil government’s responsibility to care for the sick.  Scripture does not affirm that it is the civil government’s responsibility to give alms to the poor.

If not the civil government, then whom?

It is principally the church’s responsibility to care for the sick and the poor amongst us.  During some points in our history Protestants have been good at doing this through the establishment of hospitals and such.  However increasingly these hospitals have come out from under the care of denominations and become secularized and institutionalized… succumbing to all of the ails of reactive health care, pharmacological manipulation… etc.

Final Thoughts

The church needs to take better care of the widow and the orphan.  Our churches have become so narcissistic and inward.  Caring for others is a blessing.  If someone is truly in need (and not all with an open hand are…) then we ought to be caring for them.  I would strongly recommend reading When Helping Hurts:  Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor… and Ourselves.  I would also recommend forming a partnership with organizations that have experience in Biblical community development (vocational, health, counseling…).  One such organization for Biblical vocational community development is Jobs For Life.  I can wholeheartedly affirm their ministry firsthand.  I would also recommend reading Marvin Olasky’s books The Tragedy of American Compassion and Compassionate Conservativism.

I think it is also important for us to remember that human kings will always be imperfect and will never be fully just. Human kings ought to make us long for the perfect king in Christ whose kingdom is righteous, just, and perfect.  His administration is flawless.  His world, Universe, and creation redeemed.  His Kingdom and His government need no alms.  His Kingdom and His government needs no health care.

Post-Script

For point of clarification, the church (nor the people of God) does not have a monopoly on common grace.  The government can be an agent of common grace in a culture, society, or world.  However, civil governments are not Biblically mandated to be the institution that provides all the “good” things in that culture.  If anything, the Biblical narrative presents civil governments in a very negative light that is nearly universal:  The Egyptians, the Canaanites, Saul, Jeroboam/Rehoboam, Judah/Israel and almost every king in the divided Kingdom period, the Assyrians, Babylonians, and the Roman occupation.  The few kings that are presented with any measure of high regard are David, who prefigures Christ, at points Solomon, and Cyrus, who God raises up to release Israel from exile.  But even those kings all had major blunders that hurt both their people and the perception of those people.  I do not think it is a huge interpretive jump to say that the Biblical narrative supports smaller government.  It is really quite simple, if civil government is run by fallen humans and the Biblical/historical record shows a pattern of oppression and tyranny, then we can expect tyranny from human governments unless we afford for checks and balances to their power.

Another point of clarification, I think socialized health care is unbiblical in our present American context.  The church and the private sector have the ability to provide these means of common grace.  There is no reason to cross pollinate our hospitals with the ills of the DMV or the Postal Service.  In entirely different, largely secular contexts, pragmatism will win the day (for better or for worse).  If a country has the economy to support it, then health care will/ought to be taken care of by the private sector.  If a country is small enough a social health care system could theoretically ‘work.’  Least common denominator services help no one.  Hospitals already don’t turn people away.

Things such as roads, or city infrastructure (water, sewer…) are drastically different cases than health care.  The U.S. Interstate system was built initially primarily for military purposes.  Sometimes roads are built by the private sector also though (toll roads, turnpikes, some bridges…).  Pragmatism can dictate (and this is not always evil) that the government, local or federal, take on some project that is beneficial to all of the society.  The critical distinction between these infrastructural elements to society and a socialized health care system is that no one is ‘hurt’ if a new interstate is built, or you now have water/sewer access to your home/business that was not their before.  Whereas, with health care, substantial harm could be done to the quality of one’s own health on the altar of “social justice” or “equality.”  Laying pavement is much different that a quadruple bypass.  Laying pipe is much different than cancer removal.  In my view, federal-government has the anti-Midas touch.  We all like our roads, but even the DOT is quite a mess.  If the private sector can provide a product that the federal government is monopolizing and disallowing competition, I think a strong case be made (both through sound reason and moral principles) that privitization is the right thing.  Further, I think the burden of proof rests on big government folks and not small government folks.  I see no Bible verses commanding that government be large and tyrannical.  The Biblical burden of proof is on those who play the ever-so-vague “social justice” card.

Evangelicals have shirked and punted many responsibilities to the federal government.  Previously (here and here), I have traced this habit back to the split of Protestantism into liberalism and conservativism (the fundamentalists originally, who are now called evangelicals) .  I do not think it would be all that massive of an undertaking for evangelicals in the country to completely eliminate the foster care system.  This would take 250,000 families adopting one child into their family.  I think this is feasible.  Elders at local churches would vet potential families, and the deacons at those local churches would oversee the transfer of children out of government foster care and into adoption into elder-approved families.  I think the whole process could take less than 10 years.  It is highly idealistic with regards to the current status of American evangelicalism but, in my view, entirely possible.

Unless, non-governmental institutions step-in to provide value-added social care for a nation-state, one runs the risk of the endless march of bigger government and tyranny, as its government continues to expand its power and control by nationalizing previously private businesses and service sectors.   It is one thing to keep a wealthy nation with a small military of 10 million people in check… it is entirely another thing to keep a nation of 350 million (with a strong monopoly of violence) in check.  Evangelicals cannot think that merely voting will stem the tide of bigger government and/or socialism.  If you do not want to see this happen, then I suggest we corporately affirm James 1:27:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Tim Tebow in Superbowl Commercial

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Tim Tebow

I have been sitting on this story for a few weeks now as it was mere rumor.  However, the Denver Post and Colorado Springs Independent now corroborate that Focus on the Family has purchased a 30 second ad in this years Superbowl.

Pam Tebow had amoebic dysentery during her pregnancy with Tim.  The doctors counseled her to abort Tim but Pam and Bob would not abort Tim.  The ad will promote the obvious, life is beautiful and we are thankful that these parents chose to not kill their son.

The story hits close to home.  My own mother had shingles during the first half of her pregnancy with my older brother.  The doctors said that there was next to no chance that he would be a normal baby and their unilateral counsel was to abort him.  My parents refused.  My brother was valedictorian of his high school class and will have acquired his PhD in Materials Science this year.  He was the best man at my wedding and is my best friend.  I cannot imagine my life without my brother.

Tim’s football skills nor my brother’s academic success justify the decisions of their parents.  These men were created in the image of God, knit together in their mothers womb, and by necessity are of intrinsic worth.  If Tim had not won two National Championships or my brother been smart, the decisions of their parents were still moral.

Abortion is a stain on this country.  I honestly believe we will feel the same shame and remorse for abortion that we be feel now for slavery.  True social justice is protecting the rights of the weakest members of society.

Post-script:

I did not want to make this post to be about Focus on the Family.  I have been critical of the Christian Right on this blog before, particularly their employing of reductionistic methods that fail to understand the complexities of American culture(s).  I am also not sure if spending millions of dollars on a Superbowl ad is a wise use of funds.  I hope that the ad is well done and compelling.

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