Tag Archives: diversity

Kurt Eichenwald and his presuppositions

500-Newsweek-cover

With the coming of Christmas and other Christian-observed holidays often come the obligatory Christianity-bashing articles that seem fit to be printed by publications like Newsweek, The Huffington Post, and Patheos.com.  No one should be surprised that these types of articles are written.  What should be of surprise is the lack of scholarship that is being used in writing these critiques.

I for one long for the days of Bart Ehrman’s informed criticisms (though they are far from right).  You have to hand it to folks like Ehrman who write polemical work aimed at Christianity:  At least the guy knows where the library is.

The article in question appears in the latest issue of Newsweek Magazine.  It is written by Kurt Eichenwald who is very well known inside the readership of the New York Times and the Vanity Fair publications.  He has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and it is safe to say that this guy is no slouch.  His area of expertise seems to be in the areas of business or financial topics, and especially covering business scandals.

The cover story here isn’t about a scandal in a Fortune 500 company.  Instead it is titled, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin,” and unfortunately, in this particular instance Eichenwald seems to be far removed from his area of expertise.  I cannot stress that enough.  It is amateur hour at best.  He tries to establish his credibility by claiming to be standing upon the work of mainstream biblical scholarship; however, when one investigates this further, it is clear that he only cites critics of evangelical Christianity–and even in this–he fails to accurately portray some of their views.

This essay doesn’t come across as an objective piece of scholarship.  Instead, it comes across as a hit piece.  When he does cite scholars, it is only those on the critical fringe of Christianity.  I cannot locate a portion of his essay where he cites any scholar who works within the orthodox Christian tradition.  For those who say Fox News is biased, at least they have Juan Williams and Bob Beckel.  Eichenwald doesn’t want a debate.  He wants to remove the need for debate.  Eichenwald doesn’t waste any time getting to the point, either:

 “They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation.

They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.”

Now, to be fair:  I do know some folks that fit perhaps most of that description.  They do exist.  I concede this without reservation.  The problem is, they are as far to the fringe of evangelical Christianity as pro-lifers are to the Democrat party.

Why only talk about the thought that is going on at the fringe?  How in the world can surveying the fringe thinking be considered objective journalism or scholarship?  Shouldn’t like Matthew Arnold said, we look at things by examining the best and brightest that has ever been said or thought?  Isn’t it a mistake to judge a worldview by looking at its worst representatives?  Why not cite those who are well respected by both critical and orthodox scholars?

When I think of the greatest thinkers in modern Christianity, I don’t think of the notorious Fred Phelps, or the guy at the breakfast joint who has a Scofield Commentary on the table, a “South Will Rise Again” t-shirt on, and a God made “Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” trucker hat on.  I think of men like the late Francis Schaeffer, Ravi Zacharias, R.C. Sproul, William Lane Craig, John C. Lennox, Peter Kreeft, Eleanor Stump, Michael Ramsden, Alister McGrath, Paul Copan, Gary Habermas, and Stephen C. Meyer.  None of them are on the fringe, but all of them are respected.  This angry fundamentalist riff that Eichenwald gives us doesn’t seem to reflect reality.  Does Ravi Zacharias sound angry at homosexuals here?  Hardly.  Take William Lane Craig.  Does he sound like he is sympathetic to anti-science views? Not a chance.  What about Alister McGrath?  Does he sound like the fundamentalist anti-evolutionist that the author would make him out to be?  Not even close.  I mean, I can find atheists like Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins, or PZ Meyer who say some pretty acerbic things about Christians—does that mean I dismiss them flat out and refuse to take any of their arguments seriously?  Hardly.

What this author is attempting to do is take the whole of evangelical Christianity and lump them into a straw man at whom he can toss fiery darts.  It doesn’t work.

I do however think his criticisms are worth looking at.  Many Christians cannot interact with an essay like this and make a lucid rebuttal.  If it were up to the guy at the breakfast joint, he’d reply with—“Well, my pastor says different.”  This is not the way to “give an apologetic.”  We are commanded to be able to provide answers.  Therefore, we must already in our pre-evangelism begin to look at what the questions are.  There are no new questions, only new people who ask them.  There have been several outstanding rebuttals already made elsewhere on the internet(Michael Kruger, Al Mohler, Daniel B. Wallace), and for those reasons, rather than focus on Eichenwald’s egregious attempts at exegesis, I am only going to focus on a few of his assumptions.

One of the first of his assumptions that is almost ubiquitous in the writings of the anti-Christian worldview adherants is the univocal contention that if you believe in God, this somewhow means you believe less in science.  I am reminded of C.S. Lewis who noted, “I believe in God like I believe in the sun.  Not because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  He also noted more specifically, “Man began science because he expected law in nature.  He expected law in nature because he believed in a lawgiver.

I am not going to go into a lengthy discussion about faith vs. science here, I have done it elsewhere.  What I am going to say is that the conflict doesn’t lie between faith and science.  It lies between two opposing worldviews, theism and naturalism.  Theism on the one hand says that all matter is derived from a purposeful agent; atheism on the other hand says that all matter is the end product of a mindless unguided process.  Let me ask you a question:  If you knew that the computer that aids the flight of a jumbo jet was the product of a mindless unguided process, would you trust it?

Secondly, this assertion that anyone who posits an intelligent agent as the creator of the universe is just absurd.  Let us look at it one way:  If I walk onto the beach and see giant letters that spell the name “Barack Obama,” do I suddenly deduce that this is the result of chance?  No, I posit a person.  Why?  Because words carry semiotic meaning.  Why is it then when the longest word in the history of man (the human genome) is seen, we suddenly posit chance and unguided process?

David Berlinski says it well:

I imagine this story being told to me by Jorge Luis Borges one evening in a Buenos Aires cafe.

His voice dry and infinitely ironic, the aging, nearly blind literary master observes that “the Ulysses,” mistakenly attributed to the Irishman James Joyce, is in fact derived from “the Quixote.”

I raise my eyebrows.

Borges pauses to sip discreetly at the bitter coffee our waiter has placed in front of him, guiding his hands to the saucer.

“The details of the remarkable series of events in question may be found at the University of Leiden,” he says. “They were conveyed to me by the Freemason Alejandro Ferri in Montevideo.”

Borges wipes his thin lips with a linen handkerchief that he has withdrawn from his breast pocket.

“As you know,” he continues, “the original handwritten text of the Quixote was given to an order of French Cistercians in the autumn of 1576.”

I hold up my hand to signify to our waiter that no further service is needed.

“Curiously enough, for none of the brothers could read Spanish, the Order was charged by the Papal Nuncio, Hoyo dos Monterrey (a man of great refinement and implacable will), with the responsibility for copying the Quixote, the printing press having then gained no currency in the wilderness of what is now known as the department of Auvergne. Unable to speak or read Spanish, a language they not unreasonably detested, the brothers copied the Quixote over and over again, re-creating the text but, of course, compromising it as well, and so inadvertently discovering the true nature of authorship. Thus they created Fernando Lor’s Los Hombres d’Estado in 1585 by means of a singular series of copying errors, and then in 1654 Juan Luis Samorza’s remarkable epistolary novel Por Favor by the same means, and then in 1685, the errors having accumulated sufficiently to change Spanish into French, Moliere’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, their copying continuous and indefatigable, the work handed down from generation to generation as a sacred but secret trust, so that in time the brothers of the monastery, known only to members of the Bourbon house and, rumor has it, the Englishman and psychic Conan Doyle, copied into creation Stendhal’s The Red and the Black and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and then as a result of a particularly significant series of errors, in which French changed into Russian, Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Anna Karenina. Late in the last decade of the 19th century there suddenly emerged, in English, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, and then the brothers, their numbers reduced by an infectious disease of mysterious origin, finally copied the Ulysses into creation in 1902, the manuscript lying neglected for almost thirteen years and then mysteriously making its way to Paris in 1915, just months before the British attack on the Somme, a circumstance whose significance remains to be determined.”

I sit there, amazed at what Borges has recounted. “Is it your understanding, then,” I ask, “that every novel in the West was created in this way?”

“Of course,” replies Borges imperturbably. Then he adds: “Although every novel is derived directly from another novel, there is really only one novel, the Quixote.”

All kidding aside, this is where his presumptions begin:

The first is that truth cannot be known.  This is a pervasive view in the academy today.   It used to go something like this:  “Look, What is true for me is true for me, and what is true for you is true for you—let’s all have our own truths and just be happy that way.”  This fell out of fashion a while ago because quite simply its absurd.  If someone were to make that statement, they aren’t only wanting you to believe it, they are wanting you to consider it absolute truth.  What they are saying is, “You should think this way too.  This is how all enlightened people think.”  The problem is, if that is true, then it is not the case that what is true for me is true for me and what is true for you is true for you.  If it is true for everybody, it isn’t just true for me.  This is a problem.

I am reminded of a talk I heard a guy give—he said that after engaging with a group of skeptics at a major university, a professor who was in attendance came up and challenged him to a verbal duel.  They ended up going to lunch the next day, and the professor began to tell this particular guy how he had greatly mistaken what Eastern logic is all about (the speaker happened to be from India though).  The professor had a problem with the idea that something is EITHER true OR it is false.  Something cannot be BOTH true AND false at the same time.  This is the law of the excluded middle or the law of non-contradiction.  So, this professor, in the middle of lunch began to regurgitate all his vast philosophical ideas about the Hegelian and Marxian dialectic down onto the placemats around him.

When he was finished, the professor began to cut into his food.  The man who had sat dumbfounded by all this then said, “So what you are telling me is that something cannot be EITHER true OR false?  It must be BOTH true AND false?”  The professor nodded and answered in the affirmative.  It was here that the professor was trapped.  The other man kindly said, “But if something can only be both true and false, rather than either true or false, aren’t you telling me that when looking at the world, EITHER I use the both/and view OR nothing else?”

At this point, the professor who had just put a piece of congealed halibut into his mouth uttered begrudgingly, “The EITHER/OR does seem to emerge doesn’t it?”  Something is true or it isn’t.  There is no alternative.

This is where things have begun to change in the last 20 years or so.  Now the common line is, “It isn’t that truth is relative to people; on the contrary, truth doesn’t exist.”    The view is that everyone thinks they have truth, and everyone is looking for it—but no one has it—which is good news because it is liberating.  The problem with this view is that when someone says, “There is no truth,” they are telling you that they believe the statement, “There is no truth” to be true.  Here is the rub:  It if were true that there were no such thing as truth, then what they are saying isn’t true.  But if it isn’t true that there is no such thing as truth, then what they have said is false.  But if there is no such thing as truth, then they have said absolutely nothing but in a very complicated way.  This is why British philosopher Roger Scruton says, “When someone tells you there is no such thing as truth, they are asking you not to believe them—so don’t.”

But you see, this presumption is even more sticky.  Today, the view has shifted to this idea that truth can be known, but it can only be known—but it can only be found in science.  Science alone can lay claim to truth.  The problem with this is obviously, it is a self-defeating statement.  If only science can make truth claims, it is false.  That isn’t a scientific statement, and science doesn’t say anything.  It is a method.  Hume said that all truth must be either self-evidently true or empirically verifiable—if it is neither—toss it to the flames.  Well, is his statement self-evident or empirically verifiable?  No. Toss it to the flames!  It was poor logic like this that caused ardent atheists like AJ Ayer and Antony Flew to reconsider their views.

But from this, the view has become that anyone who believes in God believes in something that cant be empirically tested—therefore they are believing in something that isn’t there.  Today, the politeness around this area of conversation has all but disappeared.  I used to hear things like, “John, I am happy that you believe what you believe.”  What they mean by that is “I can see that you are genuinely fulfilled as a Christian, and that your belief excites you, and that it has given you meaning.  I am happy that you believe this, and I wish I could believe it too, but I cant!”  I have heard that almost word for word over the years and I started to think about just what they were saying.  What they are saying is:  “Look John, I am happy that you are happy, but the reason you are happy is because of your faith (which they understand is believing in things that aren’t there). “  Now what do you call people who believe in things that aren’t there?  Crazy People!  What they are saying is, “John you are insane, but the main thing is, that you are happy and insane.  I am happy that you are happy, and I wish I could believe what you do, because I would like to be happy, too…but I simply cannot embrace such insanity and join you!”

The second assumption that Eichenwald holds is that faith is a positively bad thing.  It isn’t good for you and it isn’t good for society.  It is best demonstrated by people who go around blowing things up.  So the above politeness has turned into, “I am not happy for you.  I am against what you believe.  Faith is dangerous.”  I was reading something right after 9/11, and one of these atheist writers basically said, “Do you know what Christianity and the 9/11 hijackers have in common?  They fuel their fanaticism at the same holy gas station.”  The attack is on the idea of faith itself.  The problem is, there is a lack of understanding about what faith is that is prevalent today.

This idea that faith is blind belief in something absent of evidence, or even contrary to evidence, is a definition that goes against 2,000 years of Christian thought.  Of the hundreds of thousands of books written on the idea of faith, you will not find a definition of faith that sounds like that.  Likewise, faith is not believe in something that makes you happy, or is convenient, or fulfills your wishes.  Faith isn’t fantasy.  The word faith, when used in the bible (pistis), is always used in response to something that us true and real.  In other words, it would be like me saying, “I have faith in the President.”  By my saying this, I am acknowledging that he exists, that he is trustworthy.  It doesn’t matter whether or not I want him to exist—if he exists, he exists whether or not I wish for him to or not.  Secondly, I am acknowledging that he is dependable and keeps his promises (perhaps the current president is a bad example here).

This is the sense that the Bible speaks of faith.  It talks about knowing that he is, and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  That is a statement about his truthfulness.  In Hebrews it talks about being “certain (fully persuaded) as to things that are not seen,” or talking about a full and complete assurance that something is real.  Notice, that this use of the word faith is completely different than saying, “I hope the Lakers win tonight,” because this cannot be guaranteed.  Christianity claims to be rooted in reality and truth.

The third assumption that Eichenwald holds is that many Christians are arrogant because they are certain.

Now, to set this up, we have to realize that many people find Christianity to be offensive because it claims to reveal things as they really are.  If I were to say to you that there is a book on the table—and you look and there isn’t—then my statement claims to reveal something that is wrong.  It doesn’t reflect any reality.  Either I was mistaken, or there is moral issue of deception at play.  It is the revelatory nature of truth that makes people uncomfortable.

Aristotle wrote a book titled, Politics which sheds light here.  In the book he asks for you to imagine a perfect society—and in this perfect society, a perfect person suddenly shows up.  They are so perfect that they are considered to be a god amongst men.  Aristotle asks, “What would a society do with such a person?”  He is very clear in the answer:  They would be killed.  Why?  A perfect person, if he ever did show up in our midst; his very presence would reveal our faults and all our imperfect, and even the imperfection of our society.  In other words, would you want it to be openly revealed, who you are?  Who you really are?

This is what Jesus claimed to be—a God amongst men—a being without fault.  Do you see the problem?  When Jesus himself stood before a judge, he proclaimed, “Everyone who is on the side of truth believes in me.” To this, the judge replied, “What is truth?”, and then walked away.

If you knew the moral complications that were happening inside of the man examining Jesus, you would understand—but interestingly enough, the man proclaims to the crowd that he finds no fault in Jesus—that is to say, nothing deceptive or morally wrong.

It is the idea of certainty that makes many of our contemporary friends upset.  In fact, this is what Eichenwald is driving at.  “How can you be so rude as to be so certain?”

I remember talking with a friend who happened to be a Buddhist.  She had a problem with what I was saying about Christianity.   She said to me, “Christianity is so arrogant.  It claims to be the only right way.  How can you hold to such a morally abhorrent view?”  I replied to her, “Do you follow the teachings of the Buddha?”  To this, she replied in the affirmative.  I asked her, “Didn’t the Buddha, after leaving Hinduism to start his own system, say that he rejected the Vedas?  Doesn’t this fly as an insult in the face of millions of Hindus?  How can you believe such an abhorrent view?”  To this, she said, “Uhh, John, I don’t like where this is going.”

Here is the thing, whenever you say that something is true, you are saying that any contrary statement is not true.  Further, when you say that Christianity is true, and that those who follow God are going to heaven, many people take offense to this.  It is as if they think you are saying, “I know I am going to heaven—I am better than you—you aren’t going.”  That isn’t at all what the Christian faith says.  What it says is that those who trust in God will inherit the Kingdom of God.

But this is where the idea of certainty gets uncomfortable to people.  They will say, “Surely being good is all that matters.  If I am good, and God is loving, how could he send me to hell?”  The interesting thing is that in the Bible, Jesus addresses this very question.  A guy asks him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Why do you call me good? No-one is good, but God alone.” (If good people are going to heaven, and only God is good, then who is going to heaven?  We need help.  In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus tells a story that is pertinent to our situation, which shows us that there are only two possibilities as to how a person can become righteous, either (1) we make ourselves righteous or (2) someone else makes us righteous.

So the question persist:  “How can you be so certain, when it all seems so fuzzy?” Now, my first answer would be, “On what grounds am I certain that my wife loves me?”  If I asked this of my Dad, he would reply, “After 30 plus years of marriage, I am absolutely certain that she loves me.”  You know, I think God wants for us to be certain.  It is no mistake that in the Bible we are told, “These things are written so that you may know…”  You see, there is a basic issue with the question itself.  Here it is:  When people ask me, “How can you be so certain,” they are presuming that I am coming to believe in God because of all the reading I have done or all the high power arguments that I can give.  In truth, nothing could be further from reality.  Of course the arguments are important—but, think of my wife again.  I can’t prove to you through mathematics that she loves me.  Even the certainty we get in mathematics cannot be found in science.  We can’t get it in medicine; we can’t get it in biology.  What we can talk about is evidence.  I would say that I am an evidence based Christian.  There is no difference, except that when it comes to eternity, there is more at stake than in science.  My faith in God is based on evidence just as the doctor has faith in medicine.  Neither can be proved in the mathematical sense of proof, but evidence can be given to support the veracity of what we believe.

Many people will follow the Freudian path and say, “You know, you Christians, you have just constructed God.  You need an idea of God in order to be happy.”  The problem with that, besides the fact that if God does exist, this very argument can be turned around at atheism; is that Christianity and its veracity has nothing to do with my intellect or my desires.  Christianity isn’t about man looking for God, it is about God looking for man.  The central claim is that God became a man in Jesus and that through Jesus God was revealed to us.  Let’s supposing I wanted to get to know you.  I could submit you to a PET scan and put all kinds of microbes and wires on your head, and even monitor your heart—It might be true that I could learn a lot about you this way—but I could not know you this way.  To know you, you have to reveal yourself to me.  We have to talk.  I can begin to develop, based on our relationship a high level of confidence in you.  I have a high degree of confidence in my wife because I know her.  What gives me the confidence?  She does.  It isn’t that within myself, I have to come up with all this confidence—no.  The power of my faith lies in the object that I place my faith in.  God gives me the confidence the more I get to know him.  I am confident in Christ, but this confidence has nothing to do with myself.

In fact, only the Christian faith is set up this way.  If you look at every other belief system, you will find that it is either based in knowing, feeling, or doing.  You must master a certain set of thought, experience something specific, or follow a list of rules.  In philosophy we would call this epistemology, existentialism, or pragmatism.  The Christian faith does not rest on any of these three.  The Christian faith isn’t a system of knowing, even though there is no knowledge more important than knowing Jesus as Lord.  It isn’t an existential system where one must engage with feeling—even though, there is no feeling greater than coming to know the Lord.  Finally, it is not a system of pragmatism, even though Jesus said you will know true Christians by what “They do.”

The Christian system is a system of being.  It has to do with Christ’s being in us.  You can take every religious system and remove its founder and it will still stand.  Remove Muhammad, and Islam can still stand.  Someone else could have been the prophet.  You can remove Buddha from Buddhism and it can still stand.  In Christianity, if you remove Jesus you have nothing.  In fact, Michael Ramsden quips, “If you remove Christ from Christian, you are left with Ian and Ian cannot help you.”

When people follow these other systems, it is as if they are basing their faith on a merit system, and ultimately in their abilities.  The question, “How can you be so certain,” then has a more stinging meaning.  It is as if they are saying, “Who are you to be so confident that you will be accepted by God?  You are a human like the rest of us.”  To this I say, “absolutely—I am just like you.”  The secret is, my relationship with God isn’t set up on a merit system.  It isn’t like a university system.  In school, how you do you know you will get a degree?  Well, honestly you don’t.  If you told your professor on the first day, “I am absolutely confident I will ace this degree program,” I am sure he would reply, “Yeah?  We will see.”  You cannot be certain here.  Not only that, but the professor himself cannot guarantee you that you will get a degree.  Why?  It is a merit based system.  Either you meet the requirements or you fall short (there is that either/or again).  The problem with God is that many people think that he works in the same way.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

When I met my wife, what if I had decided the minute I met her, to propose marriage?  What if I brought her a cookbook, and in the cookbook it stated, “These are the laws for making Cherry Pie.”  The law says, “Thou shalt take 100 grams of flour, and 40 grams of cherries…., and so much sugar and water…and heat it up to such a temperature,” and so on and so forth.  What if I then told her, “Do you understand how to follow these laws?”  She replies in the affirmative.  Then I reply with, “Of course I wouldn’t dream of accepting you now, but if you will keep the rules in this book for the next 30 or 40 years I will think about accepting you—will you marry me?”

Unfortunately this is how many people think about God.  We wouldn’t begin to insult a human being with this type of thinking, yet we gladly subject God to it.

The last thing I want to say comes by way of Isaiah Berlin.  Berlin was a 20th century polymath who lived in the United Kingdom.  He was a brilliant thinker and he wrote on a variety of topics.   One of the things he wrote a lot about was the idea of freedom. He asked often, what does it mean to live in a free country?  He talked at length about monism—or the view that there is only one form of truth. He equated this with the despotic regimes of Hitler and Stalin.  Unfortunatly, Berlin saw tyranny first hand and they bothered him.  He began to say that if you want a free society, pluralism must be allowed to live.  Now, keep in mind, his definition of pluralism is different from the way a postmodernist would define it.  What he wanted was a free, loving, and just society.  The essence of this is pluralism.  There are multiple truths.  We are back at where this essay began.  Here is what Berlin said:

“The enemy of pluralism is monism — the ancient belief that there is a single harmony of truths into which everything, if it is genuine, in the end must fit. The consequence of this belief (which is something different from, but akin to, what Karl Popper called essentialism — to him the root of all evil) is that those who know should command those who do not. Those who know the answers to some of the great problems of mankind must be obeyed, for they alone know how society should be organized, how individual lives should be lived, how culture should be developed. This is the old Platonic belief in the philosopher-kings, who were entitled to give orders to others. There have always been thinkers who hold that if only scientists, or scientifically trained persons, could be put in charge of things, the world would be vastly improved. To this I have to say that no better excuse, or even reason, has ever been propounded for unlimited despotism on the part of an elite which robs the majority of its essential liberties.

Someone once remarked that in the old days men and women were brought as sacrifices to a variety of gods; for these, the modern age has substituted the new idols: isms. To cause pain, to kill, to torture are in general rightly condemned; but if these things are done not for my personal benefit but for an ism — socialism, nationalism, fascism, communism, fanatically held religious belief, or progress, or the fulfillment of the laws of history — then they are in order. Most revolutionaries believe, covertly or overtly, that in order to create the ideal world eggs must be broken, otherwise one cannot obtain an omelette. Eggs are certainly broken — never more violently than in our times — but the omelette is far to seek, it recedes into an infinite distance. That is one of the corollaries of unbridled monism, as I call it — some call it fanaticism, but monism is at the root of every extremism.”

This is a sobering thought. After reading this, I found myself struggling with it.  I believe that there is one truth—am I really like that?  I think the answer to this question is answered simply: Can one hold truth and at the same time extend grace?

I think what Eichenwald and Berlin and many who hold this view would say is: How can you dare to know truth—you will judge everyone else with it!  Instead, we need to love.

Here is the problem: Love discriminates, love judges, love fights.  Love does not exist in the absence of judgment, but only in the presence of it.  Have you read the brilliant treatise written by modern day philosophers, “The Black Eyed Peas?  They have a song called, “Where is the Love,” and in the song it says at one point, “If you never know truth then you never know love” I don’t know if they wrote that lyric themselves, but it is exactly right.

Peter Kreeft says it this way,

“Love fights. Love cares. Love discriminates. And therefore there is in Scripture, very clearly, a thing called the ‘wrath of God’. God hates all enemies of love as the doctor hates the cancer that’s killing his beloved patient. If you really love a human being you will hate all the dehumanizing forces that are harmful to that human being.  If on the other hand you don’t really love a human being but just tolerate a human being, then you will hate nothing, so, love and hate go together. Love of a human being, no matter who he is, and hate of a human being, no matter who he is, are exact opposites, they are black and white. But love of all humans and hate of all sins – that goes together.”

Consider for a moment—what is mercy and what is justice?  Well, for humans, we always extend mercy at the expense of justice, and we exercise judgment at the expense of mercy.  If your sister is raped, and the judge lets the offender go free, saying, “we must be merciful and understanding of those who rape,” then where is the justice?  In Christianity alone, do we see a God who exercises mercy not at the expense of justice, but through the exercise of his justice.  This is the justice of the Cross.

A friend once asked me, “Don’t all roads lead up the mountain, to God?”  The issue is this, if you stood at the top of a mountain, could you see all the paths at once?  Where would you have to be to have such a perspective?  Answer:  In multiple places at once—omniscient.  So, when a person says that all paths lead to the top of the mountain, they are saying that they can see all the paths.  If only God has that type of view, who are they claiming to be?  I think Jesus answer to the question, “Don’t all paths lead to God” would be, “There are no paths that lead to God, only the path that God has made in coming to us.”

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Peter Kassig, Beheadings, Islam, and Multiculturalism

I am in a bit of a somber mood today.  We are becoming irreversibly multicultural in the United States.  Multiculturalism and diversity are where societies go to die.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I was born abroad—and I love true multiculturalism.  I would love to see more diners that represent a worldwide palate and I love to hear music and regularly listen to singers from different parts of the world.  I love the idea that if you are tired of eating ham and rye at the diner night in and night out for your entire life; that if a Hungarian diner opened up across the street, and now you can eat goulash–that is great.  That is the best kind of multiculturalism.  I am in favor of cross cultural co-mingling.  Why not?   In fact, I count it a virtue that I have so many friends from other parts of the world.  You see, I have the assumption that everybody, if given a choice would like to live in an advanced Western society.  That’s why you see alot of immigration movement from Yemen to the UK, or from the slums of Mexico to Dallas, Texas.  There just aren’t alot of Scandinavians who want to live in Yemen, and not many Texans who want to live in Guadalajara.  Even leftists, who call themselves multiculturalists use the term, “The developing world.”  Their assumption is that these countries are developing toward something more like the arbiter of North America or Europe.  The idea that all cultures are equal is false.  There is only one civilization that offers greater prosperity, greater freedom, better health care, and better opportunities to reach your full human potential.  To pretend that this isn’t the case is just absurd. I think multicultrualism really stems from the “Who are we to say” types in our society.  For instance, “Who are we to say that democracy is better that sharia?”  Or, “Who is to say that our democratic republic and rule of law is better than the tribal system in this particular patch in the middle of nowhere?”  We feel bad about saying this, but the fact is, common law is a better form of justice than Islamic law.  There shouldn’t be anything wrong with saying that!  Now, someone may come back and say, “Oh but that isnt true.  You cant make comparisons about two different placs in the world.”  that is false.  For example, in Saudi Arabia, if a woman is raped, she is punished, not the rapist.  This is a backwards form of justice that tramples on the victim.  No, you can compare societies and freedom.  there are objective measurements by which you can look at freedom in society.  You can look to see whether or not there is a political system that isnt tribal. You can look at property rights and whether or not you  have them.  You can look at the role of women in society.  These are objective measurements of freedom in society. But to me what is sad is that today’s multiculturalism has been hijacked by this elementary type of ideology that seems to say:  A person is truly multicultural if they put a bumper sticker on their car that says, “Free Tibet.” Now, of course my 4 year old daughter can see the problem here.  Everyone is for a free Tibet, but no one is for freeing Tibet.  If during the Bush administration, Donald Rumsfeld had come to the podium and said:  “As we speak the 101st airborne division is systematically and strategically freeing Tibet.  They are being supported by fighters and bombers, and we expect to have eradicated all tyranny by lunchtime,” the multicultural crowd would throw a fit.  They would be creating new bumper stickers that say, “War is not the Answer!”  You see, multiculturalism is a safe haven for people to go to who don’t care to and don’t know anything about any other parts of the world.  It is a cult of ignorance.  Being a multiculturalist absolves you from knowing anything about other places.  Do a man on the street interview, and find for me a multiculturalist for me who can tell you the primary exports of Bhutan, or the capital of Nepal.  Good luck.  Multiculturalism isn’t about knowing anything about the world at large—it is only a name to throw around in the faculty lounge.  It means “I am one of you guys.”  It is a fraud. Along those lines: Do you find it somewhat coincidental that in the wake of some of the most blatant and obvious crimes—a woman being beheaded in Oklahoma, a police officer with a hatchet stuck in his skull in NYC, a guard being shot at the War Memorial in Ottawa, someone hacked to pieces in the streets of London in broad daylight—even the most obvious examples of violence, motivated by err, Islam—we duck into multiculturalism?  What is sad is our president, Barack Obama, the citizen executive—who is currently trying to come up with a way to overextend his executive authority in hopes of letting upwards of 5 million people illegally enter the country—keeps saying in response to these type of attacks:  “No Islam to see here, folks.”  It is immediately saying something like this of course, that he runs to the nearest golf course. Does it feel reassuring to be told “No Islam here,” by the same guy who said, “If you like your health care plan you can keep it.  If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor?”  Is it reassuring that this is the same guy who said of the IRS, “Not even a smidgen of corruption?”  I mean this is the same president who warned that amnesty would be bad for our middle class, but now, he wants it.  I digress (a lot it seems when I am talking about Obama). I haven’t even mentioned the latest incidence of Islamic head chopping (is there a verb for this yet?).  We have yet another death at the hands of the Islamofascists—this time, an American citizen and former Army Ranger, Peter Kassig.  It is already clear that the citizen golfer is going to go to every extent possible to ensure that this guy’s head being chopped off “represents no faith, least of all the Muslim faith“. That isn’t even the biggest insult.  To me, what insults the greatest is The President’s dimwitted assertion that Kassig’s enforced submission to Islam is in fact, a genuine conversion. But I mean, why should any of this surprise you or me?  Do you remember the story that came out not long ago that paints into broader significance— this multicultural fascination with Islam?  Of course, I am talking about the German lingerie ad.  Mark Steyn brought this to attention a while back, and he notes that it is the small things, not the big events, that to me paint a clearer and more somber picture of our current state of disaster.  It is the little things that are ignored.  You can’t ignore a beheading.  Even if Obama talks idiotically about it, it can’t be ignored.  As Steyn noted today in a column, a “head being chopped off on YouTube has to be acknowledged—Obama has to talk about it.”  It is the things that our leaders say nothing about that bothers me. So, paraphrasing Steyn:  there is a German lingerie ad where this attractive woman—seemingly having just finished a shower, is getting ready to go out on a date or something.  The picture is kind of blurry, so as to imply what you are seeing.  But, she is putting on all this lingerie and putting on her stalkings and bra and the rest of her outfit.  Right before she leaves to get in her car, she pulls a burqa over her head and then closes the door as she leaves. The message is:  hey look—you evangelical right wing bigots,  Islamo babes are just as hot under the burqa as any of your women—and it is just as sexy to wear a burqa as to not wear one. First of all, no one cares.  Who have you heard argue that?  What makes me cringe is the reality.  In reality, if a Muslim woman—or a Muslim actress actually played that role in the commercial, she would be dead.  In the words of Obama, “Let me be clear”:  She would have been honor killed.  As Mark Steyn deftly notes:  Her husband, upon finding out about it would have thrown her off a balcony, as happens in Sweden; or he might have run her over in the car like the incident in Peoria, Arizona—or he might have just chopped her head off like the incident in New York.  Steyn continues by saying that no Muslim woman, when her husband says, “Honey, where were you today,” can reply, “Oh, I was in lingerie for 8 hours filming an ad.”  She would be dead. Don’t you find stories like that or like the fact that Mattel has decided that it is necessary that little girls are presented with Barbie…being issued in a burqa—To me, these things are almost more disturbing than the beheadings. Maybe the most egregious example is the Toronto Public School that uses its cafeteria as a mosque on Fridays. At the school mosque, boys enter the front door and girls enter the back.  The boys sit (kneel) in the front, and of course the girls sit in the back, because clearly, they are inferior.  Who sits in the furthest rear portion of the cafeteria?  The menstruating girls, of course.  They are after all, unclean. Doesn’t it smack of diversity to have a guy at the rear entrance asking every girl who comes into this taxpayer funded mosque, whether or not she is at that point of the month?

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White Privilege

While I usually like what Matt Chandler has to say, I think he has ventured into territory that he should have left untouched; or at least he should have thought about his words before saying them.  Chandler explained recently that white privilege is not like blatant racism, and folks who live through it may never have a racist bone in their body—but it is racist nonetheless.  Seems harmless right?

Chandler noted:

“What is so deceptive about white privilege is that it is different from blatant racism or bias…A privileged person’s heart may be free from racist thoughts or biased attitudes, but may still fail to see how the very privilege afforded to him or her shapes how he or she interprets and understands the situations and circumstances of people without privilege.”

He goes on to say that most whites are unaware of their ubiquitous privilege.  He warns emphatically that thinking whites and blacks are playing on the same field is not right.

“The challenge with white privilege is that most white people cannot see it,” Chandler explained. “We assume that the experiences and opportunities afforded to us are the same afforded to others. Sadly, this simply isn’t true.”

This is the same sentiment fomented by the likes of Barack Obama who says that all Americans must have the same fair shot at success—the same opportunities.  Now, I have had all the same opportunities that Michael Jordan had.  The problem is, he has talent and I don’t.  Is this black privilege?  Have I been disenfranchised or not given a ‘fair shot?’  No.  It is a matter of his having skills that other people are willing to pay for.  Just because a black guy is interested in golf, should he be given a spot in the USGA U.S. Open next year?  No!  It seems that it is only in sports or entertainment that the left allows merit to rule.

Chandler then notes:

 “It has been my experience that there are few things that enrage a large portion of white people like addressing racism and privilege.  We want to move past it, but we are not past it. Clearly, we are not past it. So, let’s press in to it.”

By ‘press into it,’ Chandler clearly means that he is going to make statements about the Michael Brown situation in Ferguson, Missouri.  And by ‘enrage a large portion of white people,’ he clearly means anyone who disagrees with his comments.  What he fails to mention is that this talk of white privilege also enrages a large portion of black people.   Shelby Steele, Walter E. Williams, and Thomas Sowell have all written innumerable pages on the fact that white privilege is a myth.  Why doesn’t he include them in his ‘enrage’ statement?  Oh, it’s because they aren’t real black people.  They don’t count.  Right?

The Christian Post says this:

“When Chandler was asked on Twitter what white privilege had to do with Brown’s murder, he correlated the feelings of the community of Ferguson to the fact that the treatment just isn’t the same for those of a different community.”

What was Chandler’s response?  Well here it is:

“The facts are still being debated, and I am hopeful that justice will take place once those can be established, but the way white people tend to perceive the situation in Ferguson, Missouri and in situations like this is through distinctively white lenses.  We believe that our experiences, histories and benefits of our hard work are universal experiences for everyone. This is simply not true. I’m not a sociologist, but I’ve read enough, lived in enough places and have enough friends that I’m beginning to understand what motivates the frustrations and anger that can exist deep in the hearts of young black men.”

Here is what people do when they say things that sound wonderfully erudite, but at second glance are completely nonsensical.  He makes a lofty claim and then runs for cover by saying, “oh, by the way…I’m not a sociologist.”  Why is he using his position to make a public statement on such an issue if he isn’t going to claim some sort of authority or at least take responsibility?  He doesn’t do this in the books he tries to sell.  Chandler isn’t a sociologist, yet he makes the above statement anyways. He says what he thinks fits the narrative and then systematically exculpates himself by claiming he isn’t a sociologist.  This is utterly embarrassing.

To thoroughly confront Chandler’s diatribe, let me offer this thought.  If disparities do exist, and they do, isn’t there someone to blame?  Well, Chandler would say, “Yeah, without intending to, whites have caused it.  We are to blame.”  Who does Chandler propose is the solution?  Whites.  We must change the way we conduct ourselves in every area of life in order to fix the problem of white privilege.  from the eminently wise Dr. Thomas Sowell:

“No individual or group can be blamed for being born into circumstances…that lack…advantages.  But neither can ‘society’ be automatically assumed to be either the cause or the cure for such disparities.”

Whites aren’t responsible for it.  Blacks aren’t responsible for it.  It just exists.  And I am not arguing that is equals ought.  I am only arguing that one group cannot fix it; and in the same regard, neither are they the cause!  Trying to fix things externally does nothing.  Sowell isn’t speaking as a Christian, but his statement has more appeal to the gospel message than does Chandler’s.  Chandler is calling for external action, Sowell is saying that external action doesn’t work.

Let me just offer one instance of data.  Did you know that tests were done on IQ and general well-being of students on U.S. military bases in Europe?  Do you know what they found?  That white and black students were virtually the same in all measurable respects.  They were equally smart, equally articulate, equally well behaved, and equally poised for success.  Why is this?  For one, the whites weren’t exposed to the perpetual shame narrative, and second, blacks weren’t exposed to gangster rap and the bigotry of low expectations.  They were all expected to do their work, excel, and behave.  Period.   External factors didn’t shape them to the extreme that they do in the United States, and their true characters shone through.

Could it be that we bring this entire myth on ourselves?  Could it be that whites and blacks are…wait for it…equal?  YES.

It is being force fed down the throats of children in public schools. You know the shame narrative: Whites came to America, exterminated the Indians, brought in black slaves from Africa and beat them and treated them as animals, and then slave-owners wrote founding documents that called men equal—and it all culminates with riots and protests (opposed by whites) in the 60’s that eventually led to the first black president in 2008—though whites opposed him and continue to do so just because he is black.

What they are doing in the schools is taking large swaths of time and focusing in on singular events that further a particular agenda.  This isn’t teaching history.  This is perpetuating an agenda.  The agenda that the academic left have invested in, is this shame agenda.

Now, I fully admit—Indians did die.  We did bring slaves from Africa, horribly enough.  Some whites did oppose Obama because he was black.

While it is true in many places throughout history—and even now— blacks are treated like second class citizens, the data doesn’t support this ubiquitously like we are told.  In fact, some might even go to the extreme of saying that racism and discrimination fluctuate in parallel to each other.  You know something?  That is not what the data shows.  In fact, the unemployment rate of blacks was lower just 10 years after slavery ended than it is now.  I know such a statement will be flagrant at first read, but like Henry Rosovsky says,

“Never underestimate the difficulty of changing false beliefs by facts.”

John Adams said it this way:

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

Secondly, I certainly recognize that America has seen injustice committed on its soil—and it needs to be pointed out and justice should be served.  Has it not been?  The truth is, I think, that a famous historian is right when she noted that, America should be willing to face its past—regardless how virtuous it looks.  What I point out when it comes to slavery is:  Slavery was a worldwide institution since the dawn of man.  It needed no defenders because it had no critics.  Eugene Genovese is right when he notes that

“Race relations did not determine the patterns of slavery in the new world…the patterns of slavery…determined race relations.”

There is nothing exclusively western about slavery.  Even Zora Neale Hurston, the celebrated Harlem academic and writer said —

“The white people held my people in slavery here in America. They had bought us, it is true, and exploited us. But the inescapable fact that stuck in my craw was: My people had sold me…. My own people had exterminated whole nations and torn families apart for a profit before the strangers got their chance at a cut. It was a sobering thought. It impressed upon me the universal nature of greed.”

Reflecting further, Hurston laments:

 “My ancestors who lived and died in it are dead. The white men who profited by their labor and lives are dead also. I have no personal memory of those times, and no responsibility for them. Neither has the grandson of the man who held my folks. . . . I have no intention of wasting my time beating on old graves. . . . I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negroes who hold that nature somehow has given them a low-down dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it. . . . Slavery is the price I paid for civilization, and that is worth all that I have paid through my ancestors for it.”

Why didn’t those quotes make it into Howard Zinn’s A Peoples History of the United States?

Many think that slavery is an exclusively western institution.  Actually, the thing that is exclusively western however isn’t slavery itself—but the movement to end slavery.  Consider, what Orlando Patterson said:

 “There was no word for ‘freedom’ in most non-Western languages before contact with Western peoples.”

You cannot overlook the deaths of 300,000+ white northerners, who didn’t own slaves—who gave their lives to secure a freedom for the slaves that they were in no position to secure for themselves.  Many will counter with, “Those soldiers didn’t know they were fighting against slavery or they wouldn’t have fought.”  While the history seems to show that to be false, we must note:  Without slavery there wouldn’t have been a civil war and without a civil war, we would still have slavery.

Many also think that it is a movement way from the founding documents of our Country that ended slavery ultimately.  This doesn’t jive with the facts.  Did you know many feel the constitution is a “living document?”  Do you realize what they mean when they say this?  They are saying that the laws in the founding documents are not absolute.  Here is the problem, why is their view that the founding documents are not absolute–well, absolute?  Why do they have a view that is absolute, yet deny other views that founded this nation to be absolute.  In fact, the founding principles, specifically the Declaration of Independence were the documents that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. referred to when he cashed his promissory note.  It wasn’t a movement away from America’s founding that helped to further civil rights in America—it was a return to it.

In our history classes, we also learn that Columbus is saddled with the accusation of mass genocide of American Indians, even though—he never set foot on American soil, and he came some 300 years before America was born.  Maybe we would want to include in the long list of world genocides—the Europeans killed by the bubonic and pneumonic plagues that swept from Asia to Europe.  Neither of these are “genocide” in the way the term is meant to be used.  People unfortunately die as their immunities are not able to handle illnesses.  The native Americans were killed by diseases for the most part—why is that called genocide but the plagues in Europe aren’t?  We are led to believe that white settlers actually murdered through intentional violence, some 2,000,000 native Americans.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Did they or are they now talking about William Ellison in classrooms?  He was one of many black slave owners in the south who from all accounts, treated his slaves worse than white slave owners. Maybe we’d want to include the prosperity, amidst devastatingly challenging times by Sarah Breedlove, aka Madam C. J. Walker—who became the nation’s first female self-made millionaire marketing a line of beauty and hair products for black women.

Finally, in terms of the history of white privilege, I do wonder why these events don’t make it into the shame narrative:  The Norman Conquest, Irish Potato Famine, Decline of the Hapsburg Dynasty, Napoleonic and Czarist adventurism, and gratuitous speculations and insults about the intelligence of Europeans of Polish decent.  Why don’t those make the list?

I think that we need to examine the history and be more open minded when it comes to those of other races—But—why is it that when statistics show that black applicants for conventional mortgage loans were turned down at twice the rate for white applicants, the media went ballistic crying racial discrimination and white privledge—But when those same whites were turned down almost twice as often as Asian Americans — no one thinks that is racial discrimination?

Further—from personal anecdotal evidence—we are in the process of adopting a black infant.  Why is it that we are forced to watch innumerable movies perpetuating the Roots narrative (which the author Alex Haley admitted was a myth) and shaming us for being white and having the audacity to adopt a black child?  I would have little problem with it—IF—the same documentaries existed so that black couples who adopt white children could receive the same shame narrative.

Here is Walter Williams:

“What would you think if your 8-year-old came home and told you that “white privilege is something that white people have, meaning they have an advantage in a lot of things and they can get a job more easily?  You would have heard that at the recent 15th annual White Privilege Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, attended by 2,500 public-school teachers, administrators and students from across the nation.

The average parent has no idea of the devious indoctrination going on in classrooms in many public schools. What follows are some of the lessons of the conference.

In one of the workshops, “Examining White Privilege and Building Foundations for Social Justice Thinking in the Elementary Classroom,” educators Rosemary Colt and Diana Reeves told how teachers can “insert social justice, anti-racist information” into their lessons that “even little kids” can understand.”

Much of the public’s understanding of ‘white privledge’ comes solely from public school indoctrination.  If it is a fact, teach it.  The problem is, who is deciding that white privledge is a fact?  Is there a special caste of thinkers who have access to knowledge that we as common Americans don’t?

Shelby Steel thinks it’s a myth.  “I grew up in segregation, so I really know what racism is. I went to segregated school. I bow to no one in my knowledge of racism, which is one of the reasons why I say white privilege is not a problem.”

Steele claims,

“The real problem is black irresponsibility. … Racism is about 18th on a list of problems that black America faces. It is White peoples preoccupation with guilt and compensation such as affirmative action is actually a subtle form of racism,” writes Steele in his book White Guilt.

“One of the things that is clear about white privilege, and so many of the arguments for diversity that pretend to be compensatory, is that they advantage whites. They make the argument that whites can solve [black people’s] problems. … The problem with that is … you reinforce white supremacy. … And black dependency.”

“White privilege is a disingenuous idea.” 

He argues in contrast that what really exists is“ minority privilege.”

Steele notes,

“If I’m a black high school student today, there are white American institutions, universities, hovering over me to offer me opportunities. Almost every institution has a diversity committee. Every country club now has a diversity committee. I’ve been asked to join so many clubs, I can’t tell you. … I don’t have to even look for opportunities in many cases, they come right to me.”

Steele admits there are problems. 

“The fact is,” he adds, “we got a raw deal in America. We got a much better deal now. But we can’t access it unless we take … responsibility for getting there ourselves.”

So, what about responsibility?  It is hard to think that black culture writ large is taking responsibility when we consider the knockout game, the senseless killing of a WW2 veteran in a parking lot, or the killing of an Australian baseball player by black youth who were bored.  Further, we hear stories from both Philadelphia and San Francisco that talk about black students who beat up Asian students.

As Thomas Sowell laments,

“This is especially painful for those who expected that the election of Barack Obama would mark the beginning of a post-racial America.  While Obama’s winning majorities in overwhelmingly white states suggests that many Americans are ready to move beyond race, it is painfully clear that others are not.”

Sowell is right to continue,

“When black schoolchildren who are working hard in school and succeeding academically are attacked and beaten up by black classmates for “acting white,” why is it surprising that similar hostility is turned against Asian Americans, who are often achieving academically more so than whites?”

But, it isn’t just blacks doing this.  It is all troubled human beings.  We see the same phenomenon happening in lower class white Britain.  The white brits who do well are beat up by those who don’t.  It has nothing to do with race—it is all jealousy and a refusal to rise out of intellectual poverty.

 

I think, however, the white privledge myth has been most perpetuated through a lack of understanding the history of American success.  The clearest example of today’s misguided policies comes from examining the history of the American South.

The old South was a society that was three tiered.  Blacks and common white folks were dominated by white elites who played up racial tensions to keep power.  Did you know, “At the height of slavery, in 1860, less than 5% of whites in the South owned slaves. The eminent black historian John Hope Franklin wrote that “fully three-fourths of the white people in the South had neither slaves nor an immediate economic interest in the maintenance of slavery.””

Far from boosting it economically, slavery and the Civil War devistated the South—both in terms of capital and human capital.  Both blacks and whites were affected.

In 1938, FDR created a national commission to study what he termed “the long and ironic history of the despoiling of this truly American section.” At that time, most industries in the South were owned by companies outside the region. Of the South’s 1.8 million sharecroppers, 1.2 million were white (a mirror of the population, which was 71% white). The illiteracy rate was five times that of the North-Central states and more than twice that of New England and the Middle Atlantic (despite the waves of European immigrants then flowing to those regions). The total endowments of all the colleges and universities in the South were less than the endowments of Harvard and Yale alone. The average schoolchild in the South had $25 a year spent on his or her education, compared to $141 for children in New York.

Facts like these don’t disappear overnight and they do affect how culture progresses.  In 1974, a National Opinion Research Center (NORC) study of white ethnic groups showed that white Baptists nationwide averaged only 10.7 years of education, a level almost identical to blacks’ average of 10.6 years, and well below that of most other white groups. A recent NORC Social Survey of white adults born after World War II showed that in the years 1980-2000, only 18.4% of white Baptists and 21.8% of Irish Protestants—the principal ethnic group that settled the South—had obtained college degrees, compared to a national average of 30.1%, a Jewish average of 73.3%, and an average among those of Chinese and Indian descent of 61.9%.

It was convenient for policy makers and pundits to ignore these facts about white culture while advancing programs only to help minorities.  Whites were treated monolithically.

While some whites are successful, some blacks are as well.  While some blacks live in poverty, so do some whites.  While there are racist whites, there are racist blacks.

The human problem is the issue.  Man is fallen and cannot help himself through programs, laws, or ideas with no evidence for their virtue like “diversity.”  It is only when man is changed from the inside that the culture writ large will see any discernible change.

 

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Some Thoughts On a “Multicultural” Education

Nearly every graduate from prestigious American universities and even the Ivy Leagues that I know—can tell you unequivocally that “evolution is a fact;” but they cannot tell you the difference between smooth evolutionary process and punctuated equilibrium theory. They are proud of the fact that they can say with confidence that Homer wrote the Odyssey, that Aquinas lived in the Middle Ages, and that Max Weber’s name begins with a “V” sound. Despite this, most of them aren’t sure if the Renaissance came before the Reformation; they couldn’t tell you what was going on in Britain during the French Revolution; they couldn’t tell you what was happening in China during the Enlightenment; and they certainly look bewildered if you ask them why the American founders favored a representative democracy over the kind of direct democracy that the Athenians had. Allan Bloom is right when he concludes in The Closing of the American Mind, that ‘educated’ Americans aren’t educated at all.

Do you know folks who argue for the virtue and necessity of a multicultural education? Maybe they proclaim the need for “diversity.” Diversity is a biological fact—it has nothing to do with ideology. Look—I am all for multiculturalism in schools. Let’s teach Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese—let’s read the Qur’an in the original Arabic. Let’s study the Vedas. Let us read the Analects by Confucius. Let’s study policy in India. I think we should teach the Tale of Genji, and the Gitanjali—and so forth. Why not? I think we should expose our students to what Matthew Arnold called, “The best that has been thought and said.” What is the problem? This isn’t what multiculturalism is today.

Instead, we get something else. What is assigned today is I, Rigoberta Menchu. Why? Because it is about a Marxist Feminist from Guatemala who experiences oppression travels through the Southern United States. Now, I am not underestimating the importance of Guatemalan Marxist feminism as a global theme, but is this really the best output of Latin culture? Does this even represent the culture of Guatemala? Menchu claims on page 4 that she is a victim of “quadruple discrimination.” She is a person of color, and therefore, oppressed by racism. She is a woman, and therefore, oppressed by sexism. She is Latin American, and therefore, oppressed by Americans. Finally, she is of Indian extraction, and she is oppressed by the people of Spanish descent within Latin America.

This explains the appeal of the book to liberal academics:  She is not representative of the great works of Latin America—but she is representative of the politics of the Stanford or Ivy League faculty lounge. Now what I love is that one academic when pressed on the merit of the historical accuracy of this book actually said, “Even if Rigoberta Menchu did make stuff up, her memory must have been distorted by years of oppression.”

Now, I believe this book should belong in the liberal arts curriculum. It should be taught in courses that survey celebrated literary hoaxes.

What about multicultural education today? Well, today there will be no study of India, Asia, or, Middle Eastern culture. Why? Because they don’t typically treat women, gays, or atheists well. They tend to have a zero tolerance on those groups. You will be surprised to see that non-Western cultures, though they have produced many works worthy of study, are usually classics that contain the same “unenlightened views of minorities and women” that multiculturalists deplore in the West. For example, the Qur’an has a clear doctrine of male superiority. Further, the Tale of Genji, is a story of hierarchy and ritual life in the court—this is far removed from Western egalitarianism. Finally—take the Indian classics—the Vedas and the Bhagvad Gita: These are rejections of materialism, atheism, and the separation of church and state.

The reason true multiculturalism won’t be studied is because they are politically incorrect. So the liberal academics pass over these representative works and focus on marginal and isolated works that are carefully selected to cater to Western liberal prejudices about the non-Western world.

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Does Sin Exist?

We live in period of history in which nothing is wrong, well except to claim unequivocally that there is such a thing as wrong.  We live in a society that that feels that nothing is off limits, well except the idea that there are things that are off limits.  We happen to live in a world that dogmatically asserts that what we do is what we are wired to do.  That is, in the words of Richard Dawkins, it is our DNA that dictates what we do, “and we just dance to its music.”  We have moved a long way from Flip Wilson’s, “The devil made me do it.”  Now, we are prisoners of our own material body.  My DNA made me do it!

Before you you go believing this rubbish, let me just plant a word of doubt and skepticism in your mind (and yes you can be skeptical of the self styled freethinking skeptics).  When someone says that you are pre-wired to behave a certain way based on your DNA or molecular makeup, what they are saying is:  You are determined.  Determinism is the view that there is no free will and that we are captive to time, matter, and chance.  In a sense, it is the belief that Darwinian evolution is in business, and it will do what it likes–including controlling your behavior and thoughts.  Here is the problem.  If one holds to determinism, by definition, they did not come to hold this view based on weighing the pro’s and con’s for the argument.  They weren’t persuaded rationally to believe that determinism is true.  Instead, determinism would purport that they just hold the view because they were determined to do so.  If we are determined to do the things we do and believe the things we believe, how can we rationally affirm anything?  How can determinism be rationally affirmed if we are predetermined to believe it?

Don’t buy this stuff. Well, that is, if you are determined not to buy it, don’t buy it.  If you are determined to buy it, you have no choice. (please sense the sarcasm)

 


 

Now, the more interesting question is,does sin exist? Is man by nature good, or is man evil? These are questions that must be answered.  And trust me, regardless what worldview a person holds–whether they are a theist, atheist–whatever–they have a position on these issues.

Consider a story:

“Two brothers were notorious around town for being as crooked in their business dealings as they could possibly be. That notwithstanding, they continued to progress from wealth to greater wealth until suddenly one of the brothers died. The surviving brother found himself in search of a minister who would be willing to put the finishing touches to the funeral. He finally made an offer to a minister that was hard for him to refuse. “I will pay you a great sum, he said, “if you will just do me one favor. In eulogizing my brother, I want you to call him a ‘saint,’ and if you do, I will give you a handsome reward.” The minister, a shrewd pragmatist, agreed to comply. Why not? The money could help put a new roof on the church.

When the funeral service began, the sanctuary was filled by all the important business associates who had been swindled through the years by these two brothers. Unaware of the deal that had been made for the eulogy, they were expecting to be vindicated by the public exposure of the man’s character.

At last the much-awaited moment arrived, and the minister spoke. “The man you see in the coffin was a vile and debauched individual. He was a liar, a thief, a deceiver, a manipulator, a reprobate, and a hedonist. He destroyed the fortunes, careers, and lives of countless people in this city, some of whom are here today. This man did every dirty, rotten, unconscionable thing you can think of. But compared to his brother here, he was a saint.”

Every group of students I tell this joke to laugh out loud.  Why?  What is it about this story that resonates with all who hear it, regardless of cultural background or place of birth? Why can a stadium of people hear this story through their respective linguistic interpreter, and all at once let out a seismic roar of laughter at the punch line? The answer is quite simple. We are all aware of what man can be at his worst. We know the evil that resides within all of us and what it can do if allowed to prevail. If this was not a common understanding, there would be no laughter. Am I wrong?

I am reminded of the great English journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, who wrote in the first volume of his two-volume biography, a story that dealt with sin.

Working as a journalist in India, he left his residence one evening to go to a nearby river for a swim. As he entered the water, across the river he saw an Indian woman from the nearby village who had come to have her bath. Muggeridge impulsively felt the allurement of the moment, and temptation stormed into his mind. He had lived with this kind of struggle for years but had somehow fought it off in honor of his commitment to his wife, Kitty. On this occasion, however, he wondered if he could cross the line of marital fidelity. He struggled just for a moment and then swam furiously toward the woman, literally trying to outdistance his conscience. His mind fed him the fantasy that stolen waters would be sweet, and he swam the harder for it. Now he was just two or three feet away from her, and as he emerged from the water, any emotion that may have gripped him paled into insignificance when compared with the devastation that shattered him as he looked at her.  Muggeridge writes:

“She came to the river and took off her clothes and stood naked, her brown body just caught by the sun.  I suddenly went mad.  There came to me that dryness in the back of my throat; that feeling of cruelty and strength and wild unreasonableness which is called passion.  I darted with all the force of swimming I had to where she was, and then nearly fainted for she was old and hideous and her feet were deformed and turned inwards and her skin was wrinkled and, worst of all, she was a leper.  You have never seen a leper I suppose; until you have seen one you do not know the worst that human ugliness can be.  This creature grinned at me, showing a toothless mask, and the next thing I knew was that I was swimming along in my old way in the middle of the stream—yet trembling…It was the kind of lesson I needed.  When I think of lust now I think of this lecherous woman.” 

The experience left Muggeridge trembling and muttering under his breath, “What a dirty lecherous woman!” But then the rude shock of it dawned upon him—it was not the woman who was lecherous; it was his own heart.  He was the lecher.

Muggeridge himself admitted the real shock that morning was not the leper, as mind-banding as that would be. Rather, it was the condition of his own heart, dark, with appetites overpowering his weak will. He writes,

“If only I could paint, I’d make a wonderful picture of a passionate boy running after that and call it: ‘The lusts of the flesh.’”

Muggeridge, who was himself a latecomer to the faith, would go one to say,

“The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.”

Are instances like this reserved for the elite caste of the most lecherous and morally repugnant individuals in society? Hardly. Think back to the great figures we know from the Bible. David, a man after God’s own heart. He let sin overcome him and it let to lust, immorality, deceit, murder, prevarication, and dishonor. Why? All because of sin that was not dealt with properly. Think of King Saul. Perhaps Saul is a man who could have been the greatest King to ever live. What was his problem? Pride. He could not stand the fact that David had slain the giant, and as a result the songs were being sung about him, and not himself. This sin led to problems. Remember Jonah? His sin of disobedience didn’t only affect him, it affected all of the other men on board the ship!  If you remember, it took the pagan captain of the ship to get Jonah to pray to God!  You know things are messed up when sin takes control of your life to the point that unbelievers are willing to ask YOU to try God out.

I was once talking to a woman about the Christian view of the world, and she admitted,

“Being a woman about to give birth, I do wonder to myself how anyone could bring a baby into such an evil world.”

I responded to her,

“You are right about the evil out there, but what about the evil in us–in you?”

You know, the Bible refers to sin not only as being something that we do, but also as a power that controls and consumes us.  It isn’t that we do sinful things, but rather, that we are sinful.

Sin is a problem!

 


 

Fast forward to our modern age. Sin has become a problem “no more.” Sin is now seen by the postmodernists, liberals, and relativists as merely a concoction and archaic holdover from fundamental Christian dogmas.  Jacques Derrida, Michael Foucault, and their ilk will tell you there there is no absolute truth (though didn’t they just state an absolute in making their claim?). There is no absolute truth; so, how could there be something called sin?  It was Foucault who noted,

‘To die for the love of boys: what could be more beautiful?’

and,

‘all the rest of my life I’ve been trying to do intellectual things that would attract beautiful boys.’

 

Isnt it a shame that a man could admit these things, but his biographer only refer to them as the “passions of Foucault?”  This isn’t passion, this is depravity.

 

This refusal of sin as a reality affects more than just sexual freedom, however.

C.E.M. Joad once noted that

“It is because we rejected the doctrine of original sin that we on the [political] Left were always being disappointed”

Unfortunately for the Left,  this is right (pun intended).  Why is it that we can erect all-powerful legislation and control the lives of all citizens, yet still stand in complete shock when something tragic happens at the hands of human beings?  I posit that it doesn’t matter how many laws are instituted.  If man doesn’t realize that sin is real, and that evil is a reality, then I agree with Dr. Johnson who lamented:

“All the laws of heaven and earth are insufficient to restrain them from their crimes.”

 

I think G.K. Chesterton can teach us a few things when it comes to this issue of objective sin.  First of all, objective morals do exist.  Chesterton once noted that,

“Though we may differ over whether or not abortion is virtuous, we all agree that they should be performed with sterilized instruments.”

That quote may seem a bit harsh, but think about it.  Two people may disagree over the virtue of abortion–that is to say, whether it is right or wrong.  What they do not disagree over is the medical necessity of universal precautions.  Why are precautions universal if there werent a moral mandate to take care of the patient because–well–life matters?

This is the essence of the medical mistake.

G.K. Chesterton taught us that in medicine we all agree on what a well person is, but disagree on what sick is. In social and political theory however, we agree on what a malady looks like, but tear our eyes out over what a well-functioning society looks like.  The problem is, politicians and social critics continually use medical terminology to talk about social issues–“The health care situation in this country is sick.  It needs to be reformed.”  OR  “The country is sick–vote for my policies, and we can return it to health.”  This is a fallacy says Chesterton.  How can they talk about what ‘well’ is in absolute terms, if the idea of well is the most disputed issue in all of academia?  Only in medicine can this terminology be used.   It is a fact that a man may have pain in his leg and walk into a hospital, and due to medical necessity, come out with one leg less. Never will that man walk into a hospital and in a moment of creative rapture, walk out of the hospital, having being given one leg more.

Absolutes do exit.  Wrong exits.  Good exists.  We just refuse to say what it is.

I believe that Oliver Sacks, an M.D. who is no Christian said it best in his blockbuster book, Awakenings:

“For all of us have a basic, intuitive feeling that once we were whole and well; at ease, at peace, at home in the world; totally united with the grounds of our being; and that then we lost this primal, happy, innocent state, and fell into our present sickness and suffering. We had something of infinite beauty and preciousness-and we lost it; we spend our lives searching for what we have lost; and one day, perhaps, we will suddenly find it. And this will be the miracle, the millennium !”

Did you understand that?  Isn’t that interesting?  Billions of dollars have been spent on research–and here we are–stuck at Genesis 3.

Along those lines, here is an interesting quote from the renowned professor of psychology; and one time president of the American Psychological Association, Hobart Mowrer. This man was also an atheist who took his own life in his seventies:

“For several decades we psychologists looked upon the whole matter of sin and moral accountability as a great incubus and acclaimed our liberation from it as epoch making. But at length we have discovered that to be free in this sense, that is, to have the excuse of being sick rather than sinful, is to court the danger of also becoming lost… In becoming amoral, ethically neutral and free, we have cut the very roots of our being, lost our deepest sense of selfhood and identity, and with neurotics, themselves, we find ourselves asking, “Who am I, what is my deepest destiny, what does living mean?”

What is the solution?  The modern man has a solution for what the archaic man calls sin. That solution is education.  Notice that the boundaries of this debate are enforced by the self styled intellectual caste.  Is this really the way things should be?  Wasn’t Oliver Wendell Holmes correct when he stated, “The life of the law is logic not experience”?

Contrary to the beliefs of modern utopianists, education does not change the way people behave. This has been exemplified by various instances of white collar crime where ivy league university graduates are the ones committing the crimes. What then is the difference between the common street criminal and the thoroughly educated high class criminal? Method and magnitude! The common street criminal will employ crude weapons to steal a car from the other end of town. The educated criminal will employ his academic degrees to gain prominence and steal millions of dollars from the corporation that he runs. The uneducated criminal will break into a house and rape a woman. The educated criminal will use position and power to rape a nation.

As D.L. Moody put it,

“If a man is stealing nuts and bolts from a railway track, and, in order to change him, you send him to college, at the end of his education, he will steal the whole railway track.”

It is a snobbish assumption that the ignorant are the dangerous criminals. The most dangerous criminal is the educated criminal. All education does is to make the criminal more sophisticated.

The only solution to sin can be found in the person of Christ. Listen to what an the avowed skeptic, E.H. Lecky had to say on the matter:

“It was reserved for Christianity to present to the world an ideal character, which through all the changes of eighteen centuries has inspired the hearts of men with an impassioned love; has shown itself capable of acting on all ages, nations, temperaments, and conditions; has not been only the highest pattern of virtue, but also the strongest incentive to its practice; and has exercised so deep an influence that it may be truly said that the simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers and all the exhortions of moralists.”

G.K. Chesterton said that original sin is as “practical as potatoes.” We may try to deny it, overlook it, or re-describe it, but the fact remains. We are capable of many kinds of evil. The diseases of the body are not nearly as hideous and grotesque as the diseases of the soul.

It is not merely external behaviors that vex our souls, but our internal intentions as well. Jesus explained this clearly when he said that if we lust after a woman we commit adultery with her in our hearts; that if we are unforgiving of our brother, it is like murdering him. Jesus brings ethics from the social sphere to the personal one by showing how intentions can be just as wicked as actions.

Have we taken stock of our soul recently? Have we sensed the nuances of evil in our own hearts? We need to stand guard today, and every day, with humility that we are capable of terrible evil. And at the same time, we need to avoid those things that draw us into it. Sin starts at the heart level and works its way outward.

Comparatively, leprosy on the body is not nearly as ugly as the pockmarks of sin on the soul. The good news is that Christ has broken the power of both and asks us to begin eternity now by building a soul in this world appropriate for our glorified body in the next.

How do we find the answers?  What worldview gives us a hope? Ravi Zacharias gives us an interesting method:

First, there are 3 tests that a worldview must pass.  It must be:  1)Logically consistent (its teachings cannot be self-contradictory), 2)Empirically Adequate (its teachings must match with what we see in reality, 3) experientially relevant (its teaching must speak directly to how we actually live our lives.

Second, each worldview must address the following four ultimate questions:  1)Origin (where do the universe and human beings come from?), 2)Meaning (What is the meaning or purpose of life?), 3) Morality (how do we know what is right and what is wrong?), 4) Destiny (What happens to us after we die?)

Third, there are five academic disciplines that must be employed to comprehensively study a worldview:  1) Theology (the study of God), 2)Metaphysics (the study of what is ultimately real), 3)Epistemology (the study of how we can know things), 4) Ethics (the study of moral right and wrong), 5) Anthropology (the study of what and who humans are).

You will find that only a worldview based upon God and through a relationship with the person of Christ will one view hold up to this test.  But, don’t take my word for it.  Do your own work.  Try it.

Joseph Damien was a missionary in the 19th century who ministered to people with leprosy on the island of Molokai, Hawaii.  Those suffering grew to love him and revered the sacrificial life he lived our before them.  But even he did not know the price he would pay.  One morning before he was to lead them in their daily worship, he was pouring some hot water into a cup when the water swirled out and fell onto his bare foot.  It took him a moment to realize that he had not felt any sensation.  Gripped by the sudden fear of what this could mean, he poured more boiling water on the same spot.  No feeling whatsoever.

Damien immediately diagnosed the problem.  As he walked tearfully to deliver his sermon, no one at first noticed the difference in his opening line.  He normally began every sermon with, “my fellow believers.”  But this morning he began with, “My fellow lepers.”

In a greater measure, Jesus came into the world knowing what it would cost Him.  He bore in His pure being the marks of evil, that we might be made pure.  “For this I came into the world,” he said (John 18:37).

The gospel points to the person of Christ who went to the cross, not just to transform the Jeffrey Dahmers and the money-grabbers behind the scenes, but to renew even those whose self-righteousness blinds them to their own need.  It wasn’t just the prodigal who squandered the fathers love, it was also the older brother—for he was so close to the fathers love the whole time.

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