Russia and Wiretapping

In America today we are now neck deep in a battle of scandals involving Russian subterfuge and domestic espionage that we will not be able to extricate ourselves from for quite some time. The most important thing to keep in mind is that this is a battle taking place in Washington and not so much elsewhere. To be honest very few of the great unwashed care about this story. Trump supporters are not disturbed by his chumminess with the Russians because it is all part of his dealmaking persona. Liberals don’t care about Obama spying on Trump because anyone who disagrees with or opposes liberals deserves to be spied upon.

As someone who measures morality by the Biblical standard I have something to say about the behavior of both factions in this fight.

First, Trump is demonstrating political incompetence. In this day and age you can be fired from a job for the slightest sortie into the politically incorrect. Therefore, we have all learned to be very guarded about what we say and to whom we say it. I don’t particularly care for this state of affairs, but this was a reality in politics long before it became a reality around the water cooler. For a presidential candidate to be so careless about his associations is simply stupid. Merely having interactions with people in the Russian government creates the appearance of impropriety and allows the Democrat accusations to appear plausible. Mark Cuban tweeted today that Trump made some money in Russia and was merely pressing flesh without realizing the Russians were using him for their own purposes. This scenario has the ring of truth to me, although there is no evidence one way or the other to substantiate it.

Very little needs to be said about the activities of the Obama administration in this sordid affair. If what appears to be true is true – that Susan Rice was searching for Donald Trump and his team in recordings of agents of the Russian regime – it makes Watergate look like a silly misdemeanor. In a republic that was functioning properly, this would likely lead to a series of indictments.

As we all know, you can say a lot about our republic today, but you can’t correctly say it is functioning properly. As a result, I will make a bold prediction right here and right now about what will happen as a result of all these scandals:


First, the Democrats themselves know they have no evidence against Donald Trump as it pertains to the Russians. As much as they would like to be rid of him (as would their Repulican establishment friends), they will have to be happy with staging a gigantic distraction that will prevent Trump from governing with any effectiveness. This strategy has been effective so far and Trump has even assisted to this end.

As far as the Republicans are concerned, I don’t think there is anything that could get them serious about investigating their Democrat buddies short of Mitch McConnell’s murder. In other words, the Republicans lack the political courage to take on their beloved political establishment even if they would be morally right and gain from it politically.

This is yet another way that a legitimate third party could enter the scene and be the voice of sanity among the irretrievably corrupt. Somebody please tell me where to sign up.


How I Wish I Was Wrong…

I have just reread an entry I wrote in my personal journal last November after Trump’s stunning electoral victory.  I regret not having posted it on this blog at the time because it has proven to be prophetic after less than 3 months of the Trump presidency. I can’t take too much credit though, since these circumstances weren’t all that difficult to predict.

Here is an excerpt from that journal entry from November 19, 2016:

I have been surprised at some of the initial reaction to Trump’s victory among conservatives. There seems to be a relief that a Republican won the office and that Republicans control Congress. I am confused by this, since the Republicans have shown a marked paralysis when it comes to leading on any issue except saving themselves from criticism from the left. I think even the cautious optimism many people are urging is unjustified. It requires me to forget everything I have witnessed in politics over the last 20 years.

Additionally I made this prediction about Obamacare:

Trump will not repeal Obamacare. It would be foolish from a practical point of view unless it is packaged with a replacement the next day. All evidence from his past points to the fact that Trump is a Progressive, so I am fairly certain he won’t choose a free market approach on Healthcare.

Where are we today?  There was hope among evangelicals that Trump, who does not appear to have many principles, would be malleable in the hands of good conservative advisors. Unfortunately, his choice of advisors was poor because it was made based on paying back support during the campaign. This is not unusual under normal circumstances, but we must remember this candidate ran as a populist who was going to “drain the swamp.”

To date Trump has been defeated on immigration and healthcare and has done nothing on religious freedom. The defeat on healthcare was a total humiliation. There are several things that went wrong. First, he let the Republican establishment lead him during the legislative process. This group has no incentive to make Trump look good. I also think Trump is a supporter of government run healthcare, so he was unable to see that this bill was disastrous for his base. In any case, he made it clear he didn’t care what passed as long as something passed and he could claim a political victory, as fleeting as it would be.

Everyone by now knows that no bill was passed. Trump and the establishment Republicans blame the Freedom Caucus.  The irony is that Trump is now attacking the very demographic that he relied on to win his election.  The Freedom Caucus is asserting that the Republicans including Trump are selling out the voters and they are right. Regardless of which side you are on, one thing has become obvious. The Republicans in charge of their party have very little in common with the conservatives in their base. They do not share the same value system. The Republican party has bought into the Progressive world view wholeheartedly, which is a large part of what the populist uprising in November was opposed to. Because the Progressive view is diametrically opposed to the views of conservatives, it is obvious there is not room in the party for everyone.

The statement above now seems so obvious to me that I am embarrassed that I didn’t include it in my November analysis.  Before the election, when we all knew Donald Trump was going to lose, the Republican party was tearing itself apart over the nomination of Trump.  For some reason, after he won we all held hands and sang folk songs for three months, deluding ourselves into thinking that the divisions within the Republican party did not exist any more.  We’ve all been rudely awakened from our dreams now.

So what happens next? Many were talking about a third party before the election. These latest events have galvanized some into believing it is a necessity. I only wonder if enough people who can make a difference have the courage to make a stand once they count the cost. Separating from the Republican party will likely be followed by many years in exile for conservatives, but perhaps afterwards they will have a new platform to convey their morally superior ideas to the people without being lost in the noise of intraparty squabbling.  For them it may be the best option, since they will not win a single battle with this president and this congress in power.

A Brief Review of Les Miserable

I recently completed reading Les Miserables and found that it highlighted some fundamental truths about life in general and the Christian Life specifically that are worth sharing.

Jean Valjean, the main character of the book, accepted Jesus Christ as Lord shortly after his release from prison.  Jean was not an evil man when he went to prison, but his experience there made him bitter against humanity.  This made him spiritually capable of committing almost any evil act, including stealing from a child.  After his conversion, Hugo paints Jean Valjean as an ideal Christian – kind, gentle, and generous, even to those who are the lowest of the low in society, such as a penniless prostitute.

The problem that Jean faced was the fact that, although his heart had been transformed from evil to good by the power of Christ, it was still he who had committed crimes that, in his age, were punishable by a long imprisonment.  In the end Valjean decided not to continue running from who he was.  His decision was to face the human judgment that was coming to him.

There are many Christians who have a similar story to Jean Valjean.  We did things before we were saved that make us ashamed or embarrassed.  Maybe we did something that was illegal.  The fact is that there are people out there that know who we were before we were Christ’s and those people may not care that we are living a better life now.  Perhaps, like Jean Valjean, we have been blessed with wealth or power.  These things will make you a target for those who are greedy or envious and you may have to give up the things of the world to show your complete submission to God.

les-misLes Miserables is filled with political commentary on the French criminal justice system and society’s treatment of the poor.  Most reviewers talk about this and say that Hugo provides a glimmer of hope in this pit of despair.  What most miss is that the form of this hope is kindness and gentleness of Jean Valjean, which is the result of Christ living through him.  Whether it is his adoption of Cosette, or saving the man pinned under his heavy cart, Hugo shows us how the life of the ideal Christian should impact the lives of all around him or her.  Jean Valjean demonstrates the principle of loving his enemy by sparing the life of Javert, the man who had hounded him ceaselessly.

Very few people will argue that Les Miserables is not a classic piece of literature.  However, it really is a classic piece of Christian literature.  It is written to demonstrate the change that Christ will make in your life and the impact that Christ will have on the world through you.

My only problem with the book is how at Jean Valjean’s death, and other places in the book, he glorifies the man who led him to Christ, rather than Christ Himself, which may reflect the fact that Hugo was a Catholic like most people of France at the time.  Though of theological importance, this flaw does not detract much from the pleasure of reading this classic.


Was Joe McCarthy right?

We have been trained by our culture to respond in a certain way when we hear a particular term or phrase.  There is no more stark example of this than the term McCarthyism.  For decades this term has been a synonym for demagoguery, false accusations, and heavy handed prosecution.  While there are some good reasons to draw these comparisons, there is a lot more to the story than our modern culture has been willing to reveal to us.  Any modern discussion of Joseph McCarthy and the events of his time in the Senate always seems to focus on the methods used by McCarthy and the presumption that he was universally condemned.  There needs to be more discussion of the fact that he garnered considerable support for quite some time, and that arguably the fears he exploited may have been justified.

When Joe McCarthy entered the public consciousness, it was at the point of the Cold War where post-WWII posturing by the Soviets and Americans were leading to action, namely the war in Korea.  The recent Chinese revolution was also a major source of concern.  McCarthy began criticizing the government for tolerating Communists within its own ranks when the sensitivity of the public to this sort of thing was at a very high level.  As he became more well known, the support he had from the American people hovered around 50%.  As long as he was a Republican criticizing a Democrat administration for tolerating Communist infiltrators he could depend on the support of his own party.

Unfortunately McCarthy was either not very pragmatic or not very good at estimating his political capital.  In spite of the Republican Eisenhower winning the 1954 presidential election, McCarthy did not relent in his criticism of the executive branch.  This caused his support within his own party to ebb.  It did not help that he launched investigations into places where no direct evidence of wrong doing could be found, which earned him the infamy that his name continues to suffer to this day.  However, it is important to understand that McCarthy was undone by political circumstances and positioning within the Republican Party as much as his questionable methods, which means he was a non-partisan man of principle, whether you agree with him or not.

In researching this post, I found that after 60 years there is still a shortage of objective information about the substance of the accusations McCarthy made.  We are either told that McCarthy was a hater who was corrupt and ready to exploit the fears of the American public, or we are told that he was an American patriot that was suppressed by forces that were already under the influence of Communism.  Neither of these explanations is very satisfying to me.

Here are some things we do know:

  • The Venona papers, which were declassified in 1995, clearly supported McCarthy’s accusations that there was evidence of Soviet infiltration of the US Government during and immediately after WWII.
  • President Eisenhower, though withdrawing support from Senator McCarthy, did, in fact, make significant changes to policy in response to suspected Soviet infiltration
  • The accusation by Democrats that McCarthy could not decide on how many Communists there were in the State Department was actually debunked shortly after it was leveled
  • Senator McCarthy did all he could to protect the names of the accused from being released in case they could be cleared, contrary to public perception.  This can be clearly seen in the transcripts of the hearings.
  • Of the 159 persons investigated, 9 were found to have involvement in espionage
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests that McCarthy’s claims about security problems at the Ft. Monmouth, NJ top secret facility were correct

Given these facts, it is difficult to argue that McCarthy was merely a demagogue.  Why then does history condemn him?  When I consider the character assassinations that have occurred in my lifetime, such as Robert Borque, Dan Quayle, and Clarence Thomas, I can begin to understand that McCarthy was simply one of the first victims of character assassination by leftists through a process that has been repeated hundreds of times.  For me, this is further evidence that he was on to something.

Perhaps you are not convinced that McCarthy was merely an innocent victim of propaganda.  Let’s study a different angle then.  Let’s pretend it is 1950 and think about what America would be like in 60 years if McCarthy was right and Communists had infiltrated the American Government.  This is not that difficult to do considering the abundance of dystopic novels that were published around this time, such as 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, Atlas Shrugged, etc. Also, in 1963 the Communist Party published a list of goals they needed to achieve to subvert America.  This can be easily found on the internet and is yet another way of evaluating if the Communist infiltration was successful.

If you read any of these, you will find it quite frightening how successful the Communists have been in the United States.  For example, one desire of Communists is a society that has discarded Biblical moral standards.  Does that sound familiar?  How about excessive government regulation with the purpose of controlling the economy?  One of the predictions that is common to the novels listed above is the corruption of the media and its collusion with the government.  Whether it is the perpetual entertainment in Fahrenheit 451 or the doublethink of 1984, it is disturbing how closely this parallels the America we know today.

The history and social upheaval that has occurred over the last 60 years is undeniable evidence that not only did Communists desire to infiltrate America, but they were quite successful, and continue to succeed today.  In the end McCarthy was right, whether you agreed with his tactics or not.  The final piece of evidence that he was right is our own government, that has failed its citizens in order to pursue its own utopic vision of equal outcomes (i.e. misery) for all.  Sounds like Communism to me.

The Meaning of American Independence

My wife and I were out today and a very kind lady wished us a “happy 4th.” At that moment I was determined to write this post because most Americans seem to have forgotten the reason we observe Independence Day, or have never been taught the reasons at all. There has been some discussion lately in our anti-American pop culture about the Constitution and ideas of liberty being “obsolete,” so I want to provide some facts related to Independence Day and the founding of this nation. I will attempt to be as impartial as possible, but I must disclose that I find the Constitution to be the greatest political document created by man and the revolutionary period in history to be the most unique.

What is Independence Day?

Independence Day was created as a federal holiday only in 1941, but Americans had been celebrating their Independence dating all the way back to the Revolution.  In fact, Independence Day was celebrated in Philadelphia in 1777 by setting off fireworks.  The reason we celebrate Independence Day is to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  This was the significant political event that brought the relationship between the American colonies and Great Britain to a breaking point.  Though the war with Great Britain had been going on for more than a year, signing this document effectively changed a fight for colonists’ rights as British citizens into a war of independence from Britain.

Why do we celebrate Independence Day on July 4th?

Like most political processes, the political act of independence did not occur in one day.  Only the final passage and signing of the Declaration of Independence took place on July 4th, which is why we celebrate the event on that day.  On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee presented a resolution in Philadelphia to absolve the colonies from allegiance to the King.  This resolution was much discussed, but not acted upon immediately.  However, the resolution was the impetus to enlisting Thomas Jefferson to pen a formal document that would sever the political ties between Great Britain and the colonies for good.  On July 2, 1776,  Lee’s resolution was adopted by 12 of 13 colonies.  After some minor revisions the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed on July 4th, after 9 of the colonies voted in favor of it.

Why is the historical significance of Independence Day?

To many, this may seem like a very broad and basic question.  However, the fact is that most Americans today do not dwell on this question as much as they did 100 years ago, or even 30 years ago.

While the American Revolution was unquestionably the most significant historical event of the 18th century, it is important to understand the evolution of the idea of liberty in European and Christian thought before the Revolution.  Most scholars trace the idea of liberty back to the Magna Carta, signed in 1215, which gave the English nobility rights in exchange for service to the King.  While this seems like a small concession today, in the context of the feudal society of the time, it was a major concession by King John, whose supporters considered it the greatest of many failures by this weak king.

During the Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries, one of the issues at stake was an individual’s right to have freedom of conscience.  While we as Americans take this right for granted, at the time few governments were willing to openly allow their citizens to choose a religion other than the state sanctioned religion.  As a result of the multitude of brutal wars of the period, governments began to tolerate people of other denominations within their borders, but almost always with limitations that those who practiced the state religion did not have to contend with.  There was also very limited freedom of speech.  Because of these limitations, many people, such as Pilgrims and Puritans, left for the New World, where they could have greater freedom to practice their religion as they chose.

Because of the circumstances of their emigration from Europe, the culture and traditions of the colonists started to differ in significant ways from the home country.  Individual rights were enjoyed by the colonists due to the inability of the government to exercise very much control.  Several generations enjoyed this liberty, which caused early Americans to have an expectation of individualism and self determination.  When King George tried to raise money by levying new taxes on the colonies after the Seven Years War, he discovered a large percentage of the population would resist any additional taxation without being given a voice in their government.  This he was not willing to give, and it ultimately led to the signing of the Declaration 240 years ago today.

Are the principles in the American founding documents obsolete?

The war of independence from the British Empire that was fought over 200 years ago may seem like ancient history to many people.  However, there was a more general enemy that many of the founders fought against.  This enemy they named tyranny, which is defined as “oppressive force exerted by government.”  The writers of the Constitution not only were protecting us from their enemy – the British Empire – but any other enemy that will pick up the mantle of tyranny.  That is why the Bill of Rights is such a frustration to those who would exert tyranny in the United States.  The Bill of Rights was written to clearly define what government should not do.  Barack Obama calls this a list of “negative liberties,” because he clearly desires the government to do more than the Bill of Rights allows.  Consider the following incomplete list of government activities that are in violation of the Bill of Rights:

  • The enforcement of political correctness is a violation of the First Amendment (freedom of speech)
  • Gun control is in violation of the Second Amendment
  • The Fourth Amendment is violated daily by the NSA (illegal search and seizure)
  • The welfare state is a violation of the Tenth Amendment

Before you consider the founding documents obsolete, consider carefully the implications of lifting protections on liberty and limitations on government.  Even though the Constitution is still credited as “the law of the land,” our unwillingness to hold our leaders accountable to it has caused the erosion of many of the liberties we greatly value.  Even if you consider the present government worthy of your trust, and you are willing to accept their encroachment upon our Constitutional rights, how long will it be before someone takes power who does not have your best interests in mind?

Thank you for taking time to read. I wish you all a wonderful Independence Day

Communication Pitfalls

One of the real tragedies of the human condition is our inability to effectively communicate with one another.  I am not referring primarily to communication of our daily activities, although we all know that there are endless difficulties with communicating these simple thoughts.  We have all been on the giving and receiving end of communications that were misunderstood because we heard the wrong word, thought of it in the wrong context, or any number of other miscarriages.  Knowing we have so many problems with these simple communications, it is amazing we are ever successful in conveying our deeper philosophical and spiritual thoughts.

In fact, there are many instances when we are given a chance to communicate, but we decide not to, or we decide to communicate somewhat less than we could. As an example, let’s say you are going through a difficult trial and a friend approaches you and asks how you are doing. Here you have two choices. The first choice is to suppose that this person is trying to be kind and doesn’t really want to hear about your problem (this supposition could in itself be a mistake). In that case you answer the question “Fine.” This could also be the answer if you don’t want to talk about the problem. Of course, if they know anything about you they probably know you are not fine. The second option supposes the friend is really interested in the true answer to the question and you are in the mood to share. In this case you may describe your trial and some of the reasons for it or some of the things you are doing to get through it.

At this point the communication can really derail. When we get to talking about ourselves there is no stopping us, so we can easily say something self serving. The listener might hear your communication and agree with it. Or disagree. How many times during our conversations do we disagree with a point that someone makes, but we don’t say anything because it is not worth compromising the friendship over a minor point? Yet you walk away from the conversation holding something against the speaker. The speaker walks away from the conversation feeling better, not realizing that the relationship has suffered.

A wise man once told me “when we speak we only convey a small part of what is on our mind.” The human mind is so complex, and can evaluate a subject from so many angles, that language is very limited in its ability to convey thoughts, which are laced with impressions and nuances and emotions, etc. I find that more often than not I fail to get across the entirety of my thoughts on a particular subject. It is either misunderstood by the listener, or it comes across as fragmented.

On the other hand there are many different ways through language to convey a fragment of a thought. For those that are multilingual this fact is even more apparent when translating between languages.  Depending on our personality and our experience, the communication choice can either be heavy handed, subtle, or somewhere in between.

How do we minimize the damage caused by these communication pitfalls? First, honesty is the best policy. Sounds obvious, but we humans can be so unwilling to confront others even when doing so will help the people we care about.  Secondly, etiquette and manners can be a great enemy to honest conversation. It causes us to put our guard up and makes us think “this is not the time or place for this conversation.” These barriers need to be removed for us to be able to be the best servants we can be to our fellow man.  Finally, our ability to forgive is crucial to maintaining good relationships. It is easier too destroy a relationship through conversation than to build one, so our default position must be to believe the person speaking to us means well, even if they say something stupid.

The Apathy of the Middle

Anyone who knows me knows that I am disappointed in the direction the United States is going these days.  I continue to be bewildered that the American people tolerate the wholesale changes being made to our political system with little more than a whimper.  While I think it is dangerous to categorize people too broadly, the present day American political landscape can be described broadly as being made up three groups.  The first is the group that understands what the collectivists wants to do and supports it. When I say they support it, I mean that not only do they believe it is right, they are taking action to achieve the goals. The second group are the people who oppose every move the collectivists are making. At the moment they don’t have a voice in our political system, as those politicians who say they agree with the dissenters lack the courage to take any action. The third group is quite simply not actively involved on either side because they just don’t care.

The ancient Roman government had a saying that if you gave the people “bread and circuses”, that is to say benefits and entertainment, you could govern in any way you chose. I look at the political landscape today and can see the truth in this. 120 million Americans voted in the last presidential election. 300 million people live here. Why do so few vote? Many people look at politics as a pastime, like you would look at a sport. Some people are interested in soccer. A lot aren’t, so they don’t watch the games. People who aren’t “fans” of politics often don’t “watch the games” because there are other pastimes they find more interesting.

I have also run into a lot of people who are not engaged in politics because they dislike the confrontation and convictions that go with strong political beliefs. They want us all to be tolerant of each other and live peaceful lives. I can’t blame them for those desires, but they are incredibly naïve.

In contemporary politics, polling is critical. Therefore you see the population broken into demographic groups and analyzed as statistics instead of people. When analyzing polling data it is easy to miss that these groups are made up of real people.  When you see issues play out at your church or in your workplace, you can obtain insight into what people think and you can draw some conclusions about why things are going the way they are in the broader sense of contemporary politics.

Based on what I have observed at church and at the office, I assert that the group in the middle is the driving force in our culture at the moment. These people are decent people, but they don’t have confidence in what they believe. They don’t want to make waves or confront people. Maybe they don’t want to be distracted from their entertaining lives to be a part of something great.

The consequences of this political apathy are grave.  Ideally, I think there should be a sense of responsibility that accompanies the right to choose your own leaders.  I know it is controversial, but I would say that those who have no knowledge about the issues of the day should have to sacrifice their rights of suffrage, because they have shirked the responsibilities that are attached.

Obviously, that would never happen in this political climate.  As a result, the lack of principles among the American apathetic is what is turning the United States from an exceptional nation into a below average one before our very eyes.

Jackie Robinson

These days it seems as if you can’t escape the realm of adoration for Jackie Robinson.  One who is not familiar with his life may be tempted to roll his eyes at the media obsession over this man.  The media tends to go overboard on everything that promotes their agenda, so naturally I am very skeptical of anyone they hold up so high.  Every spring, Major League Baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson day, where every player wears #42 on his jersey (which is a play-by-play broadcaster’s worst nightmare).  In fact, every team has retired the number 42, so that nobody can ever wear it again except on Jackie Robinson Day.

In 2013, the movie “42” was released.  This is an excellent movie which chronicles Robinson’s experiences as he broke the color barrier.  After watching it I further studied the subject and have developed some ideas of my own about what happened and why.

First, I will jump on the bandwagon in praise of Jackie Robinson.  However, the fact that he broke the color barrier isn’t what made him special.  The barrier was going to be broken anyway and it was a matter of who and when.  It was how Robinson conducted himself during these difficult years that made him the legend he is today.  That is why Branch Rickey picked him.  Robinson had the self-discipline to absorb a lot of abuse.  He had a very supportive family.  He had a heart for his cause.  He was an outstanding player and did not have a need for self promotion.  If he had been missing one of these traits, he would have failed.  If someone else had been selected for this task, such as Satchel Paige (to whom self-promotion was second nature), he probably would not have succeeded.

Now I will stay on the bandwagon and lament the fact that Major League Baseball was too blind to see the contribution that black players could make to the game for so long.  Any fan worthy of the title is curious how Paige or Buck O’Neill or Josh Gibson would have matched up against Walter Johnson or Lefty Grove or Babe Ruth.  Unfortunately, the mainstream culture at the time had a blind spot when it came to black Americans that we cannot comprehend today.  A friend of mine suggested that it is conceivable that we have a similar blind spot in our culture today, but can’t perceive it.  How will our descendants judge our treatment of Jews?  Christians?  Hmong peoples?  the poor?  Where is our blind spot?


I am going to leave the bandwagon now and comment on the conventional wisdom concerning integration and civil rights.  The sources are clear on the point that Branch Rickey decided to tackle the integration issue for competitive reasons.  If he could sign top tier ball players that nobody else wanted he would have an advantage over every other team in the league.  This actually proved to be the case in the late 40’s when Brooklyn was consistently in the pennant race with the likes of Robinson and Roy Campanella.  I don’t want to imply that Rickey was greedy.  He was a devout Christian who believed the Bible’s teaching that God loves and values every man, so this was an opportunity to promote Christian values while improving the Dodgers.

Because of these factors, the integration of Major League Baseball was inevitable.  If Branch Rickey hadn’t done it, some other owner or GM would have eventually realized the advantages and made it happen.  This is also true of other industries.  If one company refuses to hire the best man for a job due to his race, the company that ultimately hires him will have a competitive advantage over the company that refused.  In this way free enterprise will always be the best way to overcome prejudices; not protests, movements, or riots.

What does this statement say about the civil rights movement in America?  My assertion is that this movement was unnecessary for its stated purpose.  Jackie Robinson did more for the status of black Americans in 1947 than the civil rights movement ever did in the decade of the sixties.  I am not taking anything away from Martin Luther King, who was a great American Christian and whose message still resonates today.  I also do not deny that political pressure during the sixties did lead to some changes.  However, the civil rights movement always was and continues to be about politics, not cultural change.  It takes more than political pressure to change a man’s heart and make him think compassionately about other men.

Along those lines, there is another reason Jackie Robinson succeeded where others may have failed.  Robinson lived his life in a way that mainstream Americans could relate to.  He was a family man.  He did not ask for or expect special treatment.  He served in the military during the war.  He succeeded because he worked hard and took nothing for granted.  He was a good teammate.  Because of these traits, his teammates, and, ultimately, the American baseball fan, could not resist him for long.  I think this shows us that much of what is called racism today is not actually an aversion to people of a different race.  It is actually an aversion to differences in culture that are not understood or appreciated.  The fact that inner city culture has little in common with the culture in flyover country contributes more to the conflicts between people in America than race does.  It is unfortunate that people who control the flow of information in the United States are more than happy to blur this issue by equating race with culture, which has on many occasions incited unjust accusations and mob rule.  As always, it is up to good, informed, American people to discern the difference between race conflict and cultural issues and be the voice of sanity when emotions carry lesser men away.  We can learn a lot from Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey.

Review of Son Of Hamas

The book “Son Of Hamas” is an autobiography written by Mosab Hassan Yousef and chronicles his conservative Muslim upbringing within the Hamas power struggle.  The book became a real page turner when he started to share his experience as a collaborator for Shin Bet and his conversion to Christianity.  This book has been on my reading list since it was published in 2008, but only recently have I had the time to search for it and read it.

son of hamas

The style of the book is very frank in nature.  Yousef describes bloody scenes of terrorism and reprisal in a way that sometimes seems detached.  He goes on to explain how these experiences affected him in a deeply personal and moving way.  However, the style of writing tells me that 1) the sheer quantity of violence a Palestinian witnesses in a lifetime is numbing, and 2) the culture in Israel and Palestine doesn’t value life the way we do in the United States, or even in Europe.  Though these points may seem rather obvious it is important we do not take them for granted as we read this book.

My understanding of the political circumstances in Palestine improved exponentially after reading this book.  I will admit my understanding was very weak before reading this book, but I think that is typical of 99% of Americans.  We tend to trust the information fed to us by the media (both conservative and liberal) that is always heavily slanted one way or the other.  Yousef does a marvelous job capturing the Palestinian bitterness over the Israeli occupation and conservative Muslim predispositions toward Jihad early in the book, as he explains how he was filled with hatred for Israel as a youth.  Ultimately he made a decision to act on that hatred, which landed him in prison.  On the flip side, he does an excellent job of describing the events and circumstances that led to his decision to help the Israelis.  These involved seeing the Israelis as people instead of objects of hatred, witnessing the cruelty of Hamas against the Palestinians, and seeing his father, a non-violent Muslim, passively condone the violence of Hamas against Israel.

The most important theme of the book in the eyes of Yousef is the power of Jesus Christ to solve the problems in the Middle East.  That is Yousef’s mission in this life.  More precisely, the command that Jesus gave us to love our enemies is the passage in scripture that led Yousef to Christ.  He is right to believe that if 1,000 influential men on each side took this command to heart, they could change the world and save many lives in Palestine.  Admittedly, to us this seems rather far fetched considering the Jews and Muslims have been at each other since 1948.  On the other hand, would you ever have thought one of the most powerful men in Hamas could embrace Christ and work to save lives in Israel?  This is an incredible story that should give us a great deal of hope.

After finishing the book, I spent some time combing the internet for additional material about this interesting man.  What I found were a couple of very good speeches he gave to a secular audience.  One of these speeches in particular struck me between the eyes.  Even though Yousef became a follower of Christ, he is very critical of the American church because of our many denominations and our tendency toward legalism.  In Yousef’s view, a follower of Christ is a follower of Christ and the disunity that is created by all of our denominations and silly rules only distracts us from what is most important – the spreading of the gospel of Christ.  I happen to agree with him.

Creation Museum – review

About a month ago our family visited the Creation Museum located in northern Kentucky just outside Cincinnati, Ohio.  To be honest I wasn’t certain what to expect, however, it did not take long for the tone to be set.  One of the first exhibits was an explanation that the predisposition that people have, based on their belief, biases how those people use the facts they obtain.  In other words, someone who believes in evolution will evaluate a fossil and it’s surroundings and come to a completely different conclusion than someone who believes in the Biblical account of history. 

The founders of the museum are not shy about the fact that they are interpreting artifacts and science based on their Christian beliefs.  The exhibits walk us through history as it is told in the Bible, assuming it is true, and make educated guesses about how those events happened.  What I found particularly interesting was the explanation about how the flood occurred, which incorporated much about what has been hypothesized on tectonic plate movement.  The difference is they maintain this all happened in a very short time.  These assertions are not free of problems, especially considering that tectonic plate theory is not universally accepted as true in any context.

Another major observation is that there are many wonderful archaeological exhibits, but there are even more artistically created scenes from the Bible that use skillfully produced wax models.  This gives the museum a less scientific feel than artistic one, but that should not minimize the great scientific displays, such as the massive insect collection.  At the end of the day, this museum is a exhibition of the Bible and even ends with gospel presentation.

Overall the experience was very enjoyable.  In addition to the exhibits, there are film presentations that are well produced, a planetarium, and a wonderful gift shop.  I would recommend this museum to anyone, whether a believer or not.