Wednesday, December 22, 2010



As some of my readers know, I tried opening a new blog for a while called Ex Posteriori. It never really took off for me. I only posted 23 times in 7 months, and it just wasn't the same, but I WAS ready to blog again, so I decided to reopen the ol' Memento Moron digs. The irony is, the last entry I ever posted at Ex Posteriori was also the longest and, I believe, best effort I made over there. The topic of it was one that has since then come up in further conversation, so I thought I'd repost it here, along with the comments that ensued:


I have an odd little habit... well, ok, I have quite a few odd little habits, but this one in particular: When driving, I tend to actually pay attention to peoples bumper stickers. I like to read them, both for content and style. I almost always have an opinion on them, but I like to give each one a moments consideration before passing judgement.

Take today for instance.

On the way to The Lad's swimming lesson, I noticed a car up ahead sporting a sticker that said "Jesus Is a Liberal". You can imagine my first response. And you'd be wrong. Because my first response was not, "No, He wasn't".

Oh, don't get me wrong. I utterly reject the assertion made by many, particularly amongst Christians of certain old mainline denominations, that the teachings of Christ and the early Church most closely jive with the modern philosophies of the left. But that's an argument to take up in another thread, another post, because despite the fact that I most certainly do assert that no, He wasn't, it wasn't my first response. My first response was, "Pfft. So?"

Let me explain.

It's obvious that the assertion implied by said bumper sticker was "So you should be too". And, given my own beliefs about applying my faith to my life, if I agreed with the first sentence, yes, I'd accept the assertion of the second. In fact, therre was a time when I was a young, impressionable Christian when I did just that. I advocated socialism and the "Justice" movement as being Christ-like. However, as I've said before, I outgrew that line of thinking. I reject the latter assertion because I reject the former.

But I find the whole argument particularly unpalatable coming from the majority of the left, because even if the former were proven to them to NOT be true, they would NOT discard the latter. These are the same people that scream "Separation of Church and State!" anytime Christians oppose abortion, or gay marriage, or sex ed in schools, or try to have a Prayer at the flagpole day or promote the teaching of Intelligent Design or any other of a myriad of issues that happen to be spiritually or religiously informed to one degree or another.

Again, I don't want to misrepresent myself or be misrepresented regarding my OWN stances on such subjects. I'm not saying if I agree or disagree with fellow Christians on such topics. My views tend to get me in trouble equally with both the religious and the secular alike, and those views would take up more time and words than the scope of this blog entry.

My point is that like most such issues with the left, they're really less concerned about the actual principal of the thing and more with the issue of whose ox it is that is being gored. They're quick to tell you that you can't legislate morality, but they're just as quick to tell you that you're immoral if you reject their legislation. They're all for the Separation of Church and State, but they tell you, thinking it should change your politics, that... Jesus is a Liberal.

Which is why my response was "so?" Why should the teachings of a religious leader (no matter how much reverence I personally have for said leader) affect my political positions, if religion has no place in politics? And if it DOES have a place in politics, if individuals have a right to let their personal beliefs inform their public policies, can you PLEASE hold ALL beliefs to that standard, not just your OWN?

Because only then am I willing to move on and discuss with you whether or not Jesus really IS a Liberal.

Ed.: The comments for this entry over at E.P. generated more activity that any other, but below are these which contributed most to the dialogue:

OregonGuy said...
What does it take to define one as a Christian? One needs simply to ask the question, can I fully and in good conscience hold and aver the truth of the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed?

The Apostle's Creed is the more elegant of the two:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth;

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Nicene Creed is rather less simple, but covers the main points:

the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his
Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost the Lord, and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spake by the Prophets. And I believe one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church; I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. AMEN.

Jesus, Himself, answered the question in John 3:15, "That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life."

These are the creeds and the teachings of Christ. These are the penultimate requirements of being Christian. For the laws of God you need read Matthew.

But nowhere that I can find, does the Lord tell you that taking from your neighbor to make your own life better was ever one of the commandments. Mebbe being a Liberal (Leftist) means you can read the Scripture better than you and I, eh, B.B.?

B.B. said...
Ah, I'd argue it's even easier than that to be defined as Christian: If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

But now you're getting into the discussion of whether or not Jesus IS a Liberal, and whether or not Leftists CAN read scripture better than you or I -- something I'd LOVE to discuss in another post, and I'm sure you and I would find common ground. But I'm trying to AVOID that debate in this post. All I am trying to say is that if a Leftist is to make that argument, they have to violate their own vehemently averred aversion to letting an individuals religious beliefs seep over into their political ones. They can't have it one way part of the time and the opposite way the rest of the time, all dependent on whether it suits their ends or not.

I know, I'm asking too much, but akin to Oliver with his empty porridge bowl, I have to ask, "More (intellectual honesty), please, sir..."

Anonymous said...
Your reaction was right but for the wrong reason. Using a 2000 year old myth which has been subject to massive redaction and politically inspired editing as a basis for anything is questionable. Trying to fit it into modern politics is just stupid. Jesus would not recognise your version of reality - he and his followers seemed to believe
that the end was coming. As a result despite apparently being divine he didn't
share much of general use beyond a reasonable, if unoriginal, set of ethics. The
germ theory of disease would, for example, have been a rather more useful
insight than that the meek will inherit the earth. The former is more useful if
everyone is going to be around for 2000 years: the latter is helpful if the
apocalypse is coming. Similiary, I do wonder if he might have said something to
Christians about not perseceuting the Jews.

The research evidence actually suggests that those on the right of Amercian politics are more likely to disregard anything that contradicts their original position and those on the left are more likely to question this. This is probably why the right is so much stronger.

You criticize the bumper sticker owner for a range of imagined prejudices - you have no evidence for these - but seem to have just as many of your own.

Carolynp said...
Nice post B. Dying to have the other argument.
BTW anon: to what research evidence are you referring? To give an
oppositional position, researchers consistently find that while liberals demand
that government take more from the "wealthy" to give to the "poor", liberals
give nearly half as much to charity. Because I can refer to that research and
link it, I think I can succinctly say they are hypocritical in that they are
very generous with someone else's money, but very stingy with their own. Brooks
does a nice composium of this in "Who Really Cares" (how do you underline this?)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fa La La La La La LOL

For those of you who, like I do, get lost around Day 10....

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Search is for Rescue

I was referred, via The Port Stands at your Elbow, to David Mills' column The Advent Search over at First Things (I love that name). Mills writes, in part:

“Derek? Who’s Derek?” begins a flyer I have in my files. “He isn’t a
prophet or a god, just a member of the Unitarian-Universalist Community at Pitt. You see, we draw upon many sources in our search for truth. Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism. And most importantly You[sic]. After all, you determine your own faith.”

The flyer then explains that you don’t have to believe anything
to be a member of this community, and concludes: “It’s a religious community for people who question. People who look for life’s meaning. People who think. People just like you and Derek.”

But maybe not a good community for people like you and Derek. The trouble with this kind of religion is that no one in the Unitarian-Universalist community expects you to join in order to move on
to a committed Christianity or Judaism or Islam. The community isn’t really about searching at all, because real searching leads to finding. I don’t think I’m being unfair to the Unitarian-Universalists by saying that they are not really big on finding.

The column itself is quite well-written, and I quite agree with Mr. Mills, but what really got me thinking were the reactions to it: both on other blogs, such as the initial post at TPSAYE, and in the comments section of the column itself; and by both defenders and critics of the column.

My good friend Robert at TPSAYE, as is his wont these days, sees the similarities between Unitarian-Universalist thought and the more theologically liberal arm of Protestantism when he comments: "I’d say that a great deal of what Mr. Mills says also applies to the liberal wings of the mainline Christian denominations." While the point is valid, I'd gently remind him that that is in no way an indictment of all of non-RC denominations. Rejection of U-U thought is not enough to thrust me into the arms of Rome, I'm sorry to tell him.

But the response that really got me thinking, and with which I agree in a great part, if not in all the details, is by Professor Mondo. He writes, in part:

What I find interesting is what I see as two yoked ideas from the tract
— the capitalization of You (which Mills has the good sense to [sic]) and the idea that we determine our own faiths. As I’ve mentioned previously, I don’t see my faith as my own doing — in fact, I spent a portion of my life trying to run away from it. What I have is something that God has given me, perhaps as a tool for whatever purpose He has for me. I didn’t choose God — He chose me. To believe that we determine our own faith is to put the wrong entity in charge of the transaction.

I'm not sure I agree that faith is not my own doing -- I do agree that God should be the "entity in charge of the transaction", but I see that as the role of grace, whereas faith is my response to the initiator of the transaction.

Where I agree STRONGLY with Professor Mondo is in our objection to the subjectification of faith. As one UU defender comments at First Things, "There are a great many of us who believe strongly. The thing is, it doesn't matter what in, as long as we can agree to certain principles." It's not WHAT you believe, the UU argues, but THAT you believe. You've reached the point of faith in... faith. Or perhaps I should say, Faith.

This is also one of the biggest shortcomings in the prosperity doctrine heresy known as the Word-Faith Movement. In their thought, Faith is a "force", a spiritual equivalent of a law of science that has to be heeded by all actors, including God Himself. Speak something in Faith, enough Faith, and it is destined to come about. Once again, faith in Faith. But this reverses the actual order of things. Faith is not a force, it is not a higher end, it is a response to a force, a means to an end. It is objective, not subjective -- it really does matter what you believe, and in what you have faith.

Why? Because there really are consequences to believing something that is untrue. Because at its core, faith is not just belief -- faith is entrusting yourself TO your belief. That's what James meant when he wrote that faith without works is dead. Faith goes beyond merely the intellectual assent of belief -- faith places reliance on belief. Faith is the process of belief informing action. Whether that is external action, in how we interact with the material world, or spiritual action in how we open ourselves up to being changed by our beliefs, if it isn't put in action, it isn't faith.

And since actions have reactions, consequences, WHAT we believe really is as important as THAT we believe. faith that puts into action incorrect beliefs is going to cause undesireable consequences and reactions -- perhaps not always immediately, though that is often the case, but eventually. Searching implies that something is missing. Searching without finding is failure, but so is finding the wrong thing. If you're not careful, that failure can be fatal.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Exit, Stage Implausible

I once read that while he was studying in war college as a young officer, Von Clausewitz was given the assignment of planning an assault on a fortified castle as part of a fictional war between two countries. His immediate response was to ask why the two countries were at war. He was told it didn't matter, just plan the assault. His response was, of course it matters, how can I know what outcome to pursue for the battle if I don't know what the causes of the war were?

Clausewitz understood, you see, that nothing occurs in a vacuum. And that's my biggest gripe with Life After People, a show on the History Channel (or as I've grown to see it, the Aliens/Holy Grail/Nostradamus/FreeMasons/Cryptozoology/2012/Crackpot Theory Channel). The series starts with the premise that overnight, every human on Earth is just... gone. It doesn't explain how, or why, or even try to -- did we die? Get abducted by aliens? spontaneously combust? Evacuate? Phase shift into another dimension? Or did we, in the words of Chekov (Pavel, not Anton), simply "Wanish"? It apparently doesn't matter to the writers of the show. We're gone, and everything on the planet is exactly as we left it, and then we watch over the cours of hours, days, months, years, centuries, and even millenia to see how man-made objects stop functioning, go haywire, fall apart, deteriorate, etc. And in that sense, it does have some interesting and informative points regarding human made structures, devices, systems, and how they must be maintained and the effects of entropy that would take place if they were not. But in terms of giving an accurate general picture of how life on Earth would look without the human race, it doesn't, and really, can't. The two adjectives are mutually exclusive. Because HOW we go and WHY we go really are crucial, aren't they?

I mean, look, there are now almost what, 7 Billion of us? That's a lot of people to haul outta here in one fell swoop. To do it all in one literal 24-hour period would require either a level of technology and infrastructure unimaginable even by all but the most far-fetched of science fiction writers (I mean hell, this makes Greg Bear seem timid), or a natural catasprophe on a scale that would definitely affect far more than the biological entity that is the human race -- we're talking planet killing asteroids, etc. Whatever the cause, the outcome is not going to take us and leave everything else untouched and pristine. And if the exodus takes time, humanity will have reacted to whatever circumstances caused it.

So while, as I've said, it's an informative look at just how things fall apart if the center cannot hold, because it focuses only on what happens after our exit, stage implausible, and not during it, the show falls short for me.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Misfortune Pronated

This past Monday, my son, or "The Upgrade" as I call him, had an appointment with a pediatric orthopedic specialist. It turns out he has a congenital condition in his left arm called Radioulnar Synostosis. What that means is that his radius and ulna are fused together at their upper end. This prevent him from rotating his arm past 90 degrees, or supinating it at all. It's uncorrectable, so he'll never have full range of motion in that arm.

It hit me at a really rough time. I'm still dealing with regret about not living with him 24/7 since his mom and I broke up, it's the holidays and I'm struggling to afford any gifts for him, and now, I get to wonder if my crappy genetics brought this on him.

Still, he's such a happy, active 5-year-old, and such a loving, considerate child, I think he's more of a comfort to me than I to him at this point.

An Inconvenient Atrocity

So since I closed this place down, in fact, just recently, domestic terrorism hit close to home. One of the reasons, in fact, that I decided to start blogging again. I'm talking, of course, about the Portland Christmas Tree Bomber. Oregon's in the national spotlight, and not just because the Ducks are kicking ass all over the west.

Here's the thing that disturbs me the most about the whole thing: as part of their sting operation, the FBI sold him the bomb he tried to use -- albeit, a fake one. that means the kid was buying a bomb from them.

And that's what's wrong with kids today: they want everything done for them. No work ethic, no patience, just instant gratification. What happened to the days of terrorist nutjobs with work ethic and pride in their craftsmanship, like Ted Kaczynski or Timothy McVeigh? Sure, they were psychopathic monsters, who deserve everything they got, but among all their evil faults, laziness was not one. On top of all the misanthropic psychosis of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, he was also a slacker, and a stupid, lazy one to boot.

Guy Fawkes would be spinning in his grave. If he were in one piece.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

I'm Back

Watch this space.