I Need To Re-Think My Life

Friday I was in town, so I swung by the dry cleaning place to get my laundry. Most of the trousers I wear for work are dry-clean only, so I go there a couple of times a month.

I have never, ever, ever never, spoken to the woman who works the counter about any personal aspects of my life. Unless she googled me, there is no way she knows anything about me other than I am well-dressed.

Until Friday.

Friday, we had this conversation.

HER: “Are you a pastor?”

ME: “Why do you ask? It’s the hair, isn’t it?”

HER: “No, not your hair.”

ME: “Then what makes you think that?”

HER: “You’ve just got that pastor-vibe.”

This is a horrible development.

I need to make some changes, because the last thing I ever want is to have a pastor-vibe, whatever that is. Something has gone terribly wrong.

SOME THOUGHTS ON SCHOOL SHOOTINGS

President Obama
President Obama at a forum on gun violence. I think he’s partly right.

This is the kind of blog post that usually gets me in trouble.  Nevertheless, I’ve been thinking about this for a while.  It is bothering me.

We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while–Guy Montag in Fahrenheit 451.

I’ve been contemplating the tragedy of school shootings.  I am very bothered by the almost faddish development of such acts.  What I don’t know is if enough people are.  It will not be until we’re bothered enough that something actually will change for the better.  Until the pain of the existing situation exceeds the pain of change, nothing will be done.

They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety–Benjamin Franklin

The first reaction is to take away all guns.  But would that really solve the problem?  Guns and firearms are an important part of not only our nations legacy but of individuals rights (2nd Amendment, anyone?) to protection.  Liberty should not come at the expense security.  My personal feeling is that people want too much security.  I also think that guns are really only part of the problem.

I grew up in the South with guns everywhere, and we never shot anyone. This [shooting] is about people who aren’t taught the value of life–Samuel L. Jackson

Me too Sam.  In fact, I remember very well people driving pickup trucks to school with gun racks holding loaded rifles and shotguns.  It never once crossed our mind to kill anyone.  Guns were not a problem.  They were a tool.  Something else is going on here, and the value of life might well be part of it.  Violence is the logical result of a society taught to believe that a human being is just another animal and there is no such thing as eternal judgment.

The Carrying of Firearms Strictly Prohibited–Dodge City, Kansas public ordinance sign, 1878

It is foolish to believe that there have never been gun laws.  It seems to me that, though not a fix all, better and more restrictive gun laws would help.  The problem is legislators go at it the wrong way.  They pass laws outlawing certain guns, clips, or ammunition.  I think we’ve seen that is ineffective.  A better solution would be to regulate who can legally own a firearm.

The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people. It’s not the only country that has psychosis. And yet, we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than any place else–President Obama after a school shooting in Oregon

The President is right.  Crazy is a universal constant.  Where he is wrong, though, is the context.  The United States has a large population that is prosperous and free.  That sets us apart, from say, crazy people in China (not free), crazy people in Uganda (poor), or crazy people in Norway (small).  When these factors are combined, the potential for crazed violence grows exponentially.  Now, add to that caffeine driven diets, irregular sleep patterns, and drugs–both legal and illegal.  The result is that the United States does have a unique situation that defies comparison.

I suppose, in summary, I come to these thoughts.

1.  Our current gun laws are insufficient.

2.  Something is lacking in what we teach at school.  It is young boys doing this, not middle-aged depressed moms or dads who want to protect themselves.

3.  Admit that a purely materialist worldview fails.

4.  Stop acting like some people aren’t crazy.  Mainstreaming mentally incompetent people is a detriment to the well-being of society.

 I do not pretend to have all the answers to such a huge issue.  I would love to hear what anyone else has to say about it, so long as the discourse is civil.

 

 

image from http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/obama-speaks-gun-violence-u-s-schools-article-1.1824890

 

 

LIFE, OFFENSIVE WORDS, AND THE DEATH PENALTY

Nestled between two worship services, a small group meal and study and a quarterly business conference was my presentation for the 2013 annual Apologetics Conference.   Past topics have included writing and marriage.  This year the topic is abortion and apologetics.  Yeah, not for the faint of heart is this conference.  If you want to see my presentation, you’ll have to register at the conference homepage.  They have everything archived, including my previous years presentations.

I began by insisting that we who value life are winning the struggle and I used Facebook to prove it.  You’ll just have to watch to see how I do that.

Everything was rocking along pretty well until I insisted upon two concepts that I think are pretty important but apparently not many people in the conference agreed.  In fact, someone accused me of being ‘liberal.’  It has been a very long time since that has happened.  I actually enjoyed it.

What did I insist upon that got people riled up?  Well……

  1. Well, the first thing that seemed to raise hackles amongst people was my opinion that the word ‘abortion’ is probably too strong a word to use in sermonizing and in general church discourse.  My reasoning is that it has become one of those harsh words that can have a very negative connotation to many people.  There are only a handful of words that are stronger in the English language–such as the “N” word,  faggot, and masturbate.  Even if one uses the words properly and without emotional connotation they just take the focus off the goal and move it onto something else.  Notice how as you read this, me writing “N” word probably makes you feel so much better than actually typing out the awful word.  Why?  It carries so much emotional baggage for understandable reasons.  I think the word abortion does the same thing.  It takes people’s minds away from our argument about the purposes of God, the sanctity of life, and our responsibilities as sexual beings.  For this I was accused of adopting ‘liberal Gen-Xer language.’  Maybe, but I think I’m right.  I want to persuade people, not offend them.
  2. The second thing I did was to connect the abortion issue to the death penalty.  I put forward the argument that we in the Christian community lose credibility when we argue for the sanctity of life of the unborn but vociferously advocate for the death penalty.  My reasons for opposing the death penalty are nuanced and complicated but the key reason is that in the United States the practice is racist.  People of color tend to be executed at substantially higher rates, while those who are wealthy are able to afford better lawyers.  Life and death should not depend upon the skill of a lawyer.  Other reasons include the concept that Jesus was executed by the state for crimes he didn’t commit, because the state is not always right and the aforementioned lack of credibility on the issue when engaged with the world in general about policy.  I would gladly cede capital punishment to strengthen the defense for the unborn.  Turns out, this is pretty controversial.  Many folks disagreed with me on this capital punishment issue.  Their arguments ranged from citations of Old Testament biblical passages to the case that harsh penalties save lives and establish the importance of victim’s lives, thus paradoxically preserving life even as it takes it.  I accept these arguments, perhaps in a perfectly just world they would sway me.  We do not live in that perfectly just world.

I said a lot of other things, but if you want to see those, you’ll have to register and watch the video.