Monday, April 30, 2007

Radical And Moderate Muslims

"And I must say, this goes to the whole point about the moderate/radical Muslim difference: it doesn't exist.

The Koran is a radical text from start to finish. So called moderates cherry pick their theology from the Koran, but the problem is that these alleged moderates cherry pick over and leave out the very things that Jefferson, Adams, and we modern Americans face: violent Jihad, Muslim aggression, subjugation of non-believers, slavery, and world domination."

I read this comment on a discussion of Christopher Hitchens’ “Jefferson Vs. The Muslim (Barbary ) Pirates. I couldn’t respond to it. But, it reflects a common perspective; that Islam is by nature a radical and violent religion. I can agree that definite doctrines of the Koran can only be interpreted that way. Unlike Jesus, who I think did, I don’t believe that Mohammed saw himself as the foundation of a worldwide religion that would last beyond a millennium. But, I don’t believe that there is no distinction between moderate and radical Muslims. Aside from the manifest fact that not all Moslems behave this way (we’d have a present planetary calamity on our hands if they did), this commenter says “that these alleged moderates cherry pick over and leave out the very things that Jefferson, Adams, and we modern Americans face”. They do exactly that. That’s why they are “alleged” moderates. People allege that they are moderates because they are not hard about killing the infidels.

So, we can talk about the message of Islam, but to accuse all people who identify themselves as Muslims is false, ungracious (Jesus was big on grace, you may recall), and imprudent. It’s false and ungracious for obvious reasons. It’s imprudent because these people have expressed a disinclination to this violent, radical behavior, and this piles them in with the urgent adversary that we need to highlight, distinguish, and deal with. We don’t want to divide “us” (non-Muslims) from “them” (Muslims) We want to divide violent from non-viloent Muslims. Why do “moderate Muslims “cherry pick?” Why have they spurned a path that a strictly fideistic submission to the defining document of their religion advocates? An ostensibly, though not actually philosophically, denuded response might try to slide by the assertion that they want to side with some basic morality, without bothering to offer how such a morality might be justified.

But, I’ll tell you right out front how I believe the neglect of the violent directives of the Koran are “cherry-picked” out. I believe in a natural law that God has endowed all men with the knowledge of. We know what’s clearly right and clearly wrong. We are naturally cautious in our approach to that knowledge. And we act in defiance of it only in unadorned self-interest or utter surrender to a religious/philosophical dogma, that incidentally is not necessarily theistic. In The Bible, the book of Romans describes a basic knowledge that all men are endowed with, and the book of James describes sin a not doing what is known to be right.

All wrong action takes this same route: I’m a passionately anti-abortion Christian, but anti-abortion violence perpetrators and people like the Topeka, KS Baptist group wich pronounces divine judgment on all but a few like them and travel to protest honoring children slain in gun-violence, are “Christians” who behave in definitively unChristlike ways. Incidentally, Christopher Hitchens, whose article sparked this comment, is a fairly seething scorner of all religious belief. Do we want to indict people who have responded to their God-given sense of what is moral on the mere basis of the name, “Muslim?”

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Provocation, Media, And Men

William F. Buckley was once asked how he maintained inspiration to accomplish his column schedule. Buckley responded that his contract required him to produce three weekly columns and, “I am provoked at least three times a week.” I have no contract. But, I am often provoked, by the real and the “fake” news, which is how Saturday Night Live used to introduce its news parody. It looks like I may need to divide into multiple blogs, so selected interests can be focused on. My provocations are not so focused.

It says something that “the news,” should now be enclosed in quotation marks because a substantial and growing part of “the news” isn’t news at all, in the sense that it matters any more than to engross a significant portion of the public. In that sense, “the news” now often offers little service beyond what used to be the job of game shows and sitcoms. The trend has been around a while, now: I remember the SNL skit over twenty years ago, satirizing Nightline with a story on the shooting death of Buckwheat: the skit constantly repeated the theme music, once saying, “Buckwheat Dead! Brought to you by Texxon…because Buckwheat would have wanted it that way.”

But the trend gets progressively worse, almost by the week, now. I imagine the newsrooms watching for a ratings horse that they can ride for days or weeks. The old SNL skit wouldn’t be as funny, today, because it isn’t much of an exaggeration. “The news” satirizes itself. The Roman distraction of the masses was bread and circuses. Most of this isn’t as important as bread or circuses either, for that matter, which are more interesting than most of what is broadcast. A trapeze act or a discussion of Paris Hilton? A lion tamer or a grating interview with a swaggering Donald Trump? No need to go on, but I could. Even the real stories are stretched and distorted like an image in a funhouse mirror.

I can’t help wondering if this is the contortion of traditional media trying to compete with the growing Internet presence. Television still has the advantage that you needn’t type (or peck, as the case may be). But, though not universal online, the cameras and microphones are there for the use, and ever more present. As for postal services and phone companies, the traditional electronic media’s decline is ongoing and its doom is sure. Yes, there’s a LOT worse stuff on the Internet. But, there’s a LOT better stuff, too. That’s where we are heading: from the control of communication by a few to the input and preference of most. And, there will be no “THEM” to blame. Like the information available, the people will get worse and better, and the responsibility will be all their own.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Economically Challenged Say No to Barney Frank’s Say on Pay::By Tom Borelli

This article draws into stark relief that The Democratic Party is still deluded by power and economically challenged. It is power-induced near-sightedness that presumes the propriety and utility of the economic Jugheads in Congress deferring over how commercial operations ought to proceed. They draw attention to the question of whether CEO’s ought make hundreds of times what the average worker makes, and assume that reflexive sentiment gives them the right and wisdom to intervene. The focus should remain on the 1st question. As to the 2nd question, no, they do not have the right, morally or constitutionally, and even less do they have the wisdom, even if they had the right.

A shallow response could easily sink to the unrefined reaction: “Gee! I wish I could make millions of dollars a year! Executives shouldn’t make hundreds of times more than other employees!” But, that is not the point. The point is that it’s none of my or Congress’ business. If boards of directors do wrongly, the market will punish them and they will correct it. Their job is to pursue the highest possible profits and best return possible for the investors for whom they compete! They hire executives in a competitive market for the same reason, just like sports teams hire players and movie studios hire actors: for money. And in this way, consumers get the best products at the best prices, or the organization loses to its competitors.

And shareholders could already vote, if they wanted. This lame-brained idea would artificially force them.

Lawmakers who propose or support these kinds of things are eith dishonest or economically challenged.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

The ONLY Thing Important About The Alec Baldwin Flap - Hannity Off The Rails

Obviously it’s important to the family and their friends and associates, but there is nothing that we should be interested in, about Alec Baldwin’s agitated voice mail to his daughter. I felt a little creepy just hearing it once, and downright slimy hearing it multiple times, which is standard delivery in today’s media world. This is how it now operates: Find a personal story and hammer it into public consciousness, making the traumas of real people’s lives today’s Peyton Place diversions. We have the great communications innovations to induce an ill society: a tabloidization culture on steroids; and at the expense of living, breathing people.

That’s the only important thing to consider about this story: what it says about American society. It is rude, intrusive, almost universally presumptive, and heartless. I made mention in the previous post of the news getting “tediously silly.” This is just the latest installment. Pop sociology and psychology about the Va. Tech shootings, Rosie O’Donnell’s latest, Anna Nicole Smith, Natalie Holloway, Scott Peterson, and on and on… It could make you want to be a hermit. It seems like you could lead a fuller and more productive life if you were deaf and not at all distracted by the sludge.

A good example of how disoriented we are, is Sean Hannity’s screeching about legal intervention against Baldwin: this from a supposed “conservative.” Listen, I don’t think Baldwin has a clue about how the world works or should work. He is a little bit more relevant as an able dramatic and comedic actor. But, Hannity has absorbed the liberal idea that some authority should defer over the conduct of a man’s family! What, because he is a liberal? If conservatives want to bore out that path, they will soon find authorities arbitrating over an unlimited scope of private behavior, instead of just the at least slightly limited sphere over which they have already intruded.

One might hope that Hannity will realize one day, that members of families, including his, say and do things they wish they hadn’t, AND, unless the child is being routinely beaten to a pulp, IT’S NONE OF ANYONE ELSE’S BUSINESS! Sitting in on it is grotesque. It is utterly tactless that someone released this to an utterly tactless media. Wisdom and decency over greed would have destroyed the recording. I’d never have thought I would feel sorry for Alec Baldwin.

This might seem to be an aside from commenting on the day's news (which is getting tediously silly) and Mike Huckabee's campaign for president (incidentally, Huckabee moved his campaign and staff to Iowa today, with August's Iowa straw poll in mind). But, if you see either the nation or yourself as a part of an enterprise of global scope, you should find George Will's article interesting.

As a young man, I was a great fan of George F. Will. I read Will and Buckley loyally. While still a teen, I recognized that Will was gifted with both illustration and the literary breadth that lifted those illustrations from history, documentary, philosophy, and fiction. It was as though Will held books to the side of his head and just absorbed them. Anyway, the illustrations effectively illuminated the Will’s points. Conversely, Buckley’s ventures in diction seemed almost designed to challenge, hopefully driving the reader to a dictionary.

Now approaching seniorhood myself, I am no longer an acolyte of either Will or Buckley, having staked out my own distinctive, if lonely, dispositional claim. Will, though reliably offering a conservative viewpoint, seems often to do so, on a liberal perception. Maybe, having spent his entire adult life in Washington D.C., to expect Will to detail an extraordinary perspective would be on the order of expecting one to pass 30-40 years in Birmingham, Alabama, without it affecting your pronunciation, besides the fact that it would make his comment seem irrelevant to much of the media-saturated public. Still, Will is always the most stimulating of writers in popular culture, provoking an otherwise fading activity: thinking.

Though my feelings are less reflexive about it in the last several years, I’m still certain that considering the direction of
China and how we should be disposed to it in the coming years, is critical to any conjecture about how world history will unfold. In the article linked below, Will points out an interesting question regarding what has become almost conventional thinking: is commercial “engagement” and ideological passivity the most constructive treatment of authoritarian China? My sense is that China’s government probably already is suspended between addictions to power and to the wealth of progressive commerce (Marks’s critical realization of “industrialization” before revolution was always an illusion – production of goods and services is a historical process, not a landmark, as an initial machination in production suggested – that’s why Soviet communism dried up and died: commerce was captured and not nourished by competition).

The government will want to feed both of its addictions as long as possible. It will incline to subjugate the rural poor for the same reason: human nature. That’s also the issue in Mann’s question about whether a satisfied commercial class will care. It’s probably a bigger question to ask what is implied by China’s burgeoning under-the-radar Christianity. A Christian conviction that has been refined with persecution, rather than having declined with oxidation.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ashamed of the Gospel? Missed Opportunity at Virginia Tech

This article was posted at a Townhall blog. It certainly is not a huge surprise that Christ was not mentioned and the gospel was not proclaimed by a “progressive” minister, nor that he was chosen to deliver the “Christian” words at the Va Tech convocation.

The first comment on the bloge read, “Ah, yes Just what we need after a tragedy like this. Another chorus of "We're right, everyone else is wrong."

I understand the obligatory hostile reaction to a non-relativist Christian suggestion. Mr. Pastore’s resume shows a graduate degree in philosophy. His studies have doubtless required instruction in logic, which quickly asks the question: How do you discuss a belief that says that contradictory statements are also true? Does the dissenter similarly object to the other presenters’ citations of their religious documents?

All of that aside, Pastore’s lament was not about the absence of an overt negation of “everyone else.” His lament was about the absence of the defining proclamation of the Christian faith: a positive one that says that God loves all men and has sacrificed of himself in Jesus Christ to redeem them from their offenses. For a “Christian” presentation, that is the omission of the essential component of the Christian faith. The “Missed Opportunity” was not the lack of an argument. It was, as Pastore said, the lack of a Christian message, which Christians naturally grieve.

But, just as I’m not surprised that a “progressive” Christian minister might omit it, I’m not surprised at a contemporary public university’s preference for a non-offensive “Christian message. Even more important than lamenting is for Christians to raise the question: “What should we do?” Shouldn’t we focus on being positive and engaging people who at the same time, cannot deliver a “Christian” message without the loving and redeeming Christ?

Mike Huckabee is focused on a positive presentation of an uncompromising and unapologetically Christian perspective। That’s probably the main reason I support him.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Vain Imagining

Now, the terrible mass-shootiong at Va Tech is sliding into the latest media fixation in an endless series of voyeuristic entrancements. In this case, there is endless pondering and questioning about how this could happen and what might prevent it. Flip Wilson would have had a more accurate and succinct summation: The devil made him do it.

As long as human history demonstrates them, some people seem unable to come to grips with a few simple things: 1) We're all going to die, it's only a question of how painfully. Thousands of Americans die every day in a manner more protracted and painful than being shot. 2) People do destructive and deadly things. They always have. They always will.

Our media seems determined to distract us from coming to grips with these basic facts. Now, the endless intervies with Va. Tech students, faculty, and officials unsparingly prod about anything that might have been detected that might have been a tip-off that this guy was "a nut," to put it curtly. I know that media people must fill the air and work to be interesting to the listener. But the questioning, as always, gets tedious. This morning, I heard one of these probing interviews of a student who had lived in the dorm room next to Mr. Hui, the gunman. Coming back from a break, the interviewer in introducing the next questions says, "I can't imagine what it must have been like for you al that time, living right next door to him!" Oh, my God! When I think about t, I might have been in an elevator or something with a killer!

Anyway, he wasn't "a nut." He was unsatisfied with life. He and millions of others. Which ones will go off like this? Which ones will just kill themselves? Which ones will submerge themselves in french fries or ice cream? And, which ones will just deal with it? We dom't know. And, we can't tie down society with laws and rule hoping to stop the sort of thing THAT WILL NEVER BE STOPPED, IN THIS LIFE!

What we should learn, more than how to regulate ordinary life, is how to recognize isolated and lonely people and befriend them, instead of spurning them. THAT"S what we're here for. Americans have been marinated in the idea that we are here to perfect the laws and rules OVER society, regardless of personal responsibility. WRONG! You don't have to be a star, or an authority. It's your job to be the ost loving individual IN a society that you can be.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

I'm no one with a certificate in psychology or counseling, to hang on the wall (though I did get my undergraduate degree in psycholgy-excuse me. Hey, it was the 70's!- I don't think that makes your input particularly valuable or needed, anyway), and I'm not directly affected by the Va Tech event. But, it doesn't seem right to be entirely undeterred about the mass-shooting at Virginia Tech, yesterday.

Warning: duck if you don't want to hear the first Huckabee plug: Today at , a reference and link are given to "Kids Who Kill: Confronting Our Culture of Violence," which Huckabee wrote after the school shooting in Jonesboro AR, when he was Arkansas' governor.

To me, the Va. Tech incident just grips you with sympathy for the families, as you realize how much you love your own. I have explained to my kids how no tension in the house quenches the love that a parent feels for a child, citing David, whose sin, Absolem rallied and plotted against his father. Yet, when Absolem was killed, David was wrenched and cried out, "Oh Absolem. Absolem! My son, my son!"

Jesus' parable of the prodigal son is the picture of God's love for His errant human children: After leaving his father's home, the son squanders all that his father gave him and wound up in squalor. After reasoning that he would be better off as a servant in his father's house, and straggling back home, his father sees him approaching and runs out to meet and embrace him. "Kill the fatted calf! My son has come home!"

In this life, there is no extinguishing parents’ love for their children. We are made that way for a reason: Whatever has happened or wherever you are, there’s no end to God’s love for you.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

I just started this BLOG. I have been writing email for about twelve years. I started out in 1995, with a political campaign, but as these political contacts passed and others have developed, I have gone from writing about a candidate, to writing about social topics and current events, to philosophy and theology, which I studied in college (in the late 70's, but mostly early 80's - I just turned 50), and even science, which I've read a bit in.

I named the BLOG "Stranger In A Foreign Land," because 1) That's how I've come to feel in the contemporary world. My thinking doesn't seem to be exactly like anyone else's. I admire people for their character. Perspectivally, I'm no one's follower, today. I want to be a follower of Jesus. But, other people who follow Jesus will view things a little differently. And 2) The Bible describes people who went out as strangers; sometimes "peculiar people." Sometimes, ,people seem to see my thoughts as "peculiar."

Though for the first time in several years, I have taken up supporting a (reasonably) recognized political candidate, and I'll no doubt be saying things about him, I don't want to make this BLOG just a campaign BLOG for Mike Huckabee. If I want to do that, I'll start another one. But, I do recommend you read, listen, and see what you can of him, on the web. There are links to television appearances at Huckabee BLOGS, and a lot of video of and about him on YouTube. Now, he even has his own page, there.

No doubt, things will strike me or play on my mind that I have to discuss. But, aside from those thoughts about social or philosophical matters, some people (not me) will find it more interesting if I discuss more of my own life. Perhaps that will add perspective to some of my other thoughts. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1993. That has brought some surprising and unpleasant things to my life. But, it's nothing that merits complaining, compared to the things I see other people face.

I'm not in the process of dying. I have a loyal family. They are three assertive people: so that makes four of us. My children's four grandparents are alive and in our city and we see them regularly. MS? And, yes, there are other problems, too. But, I can easily feel guilty about how much I have. And, the older I get, the more I know that I didn't earn it.

I have to retire, for now. But, I'll be back with plenty of thoughts for discussing or scratching your head over.