Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Blessed Christmas to All

Now it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be enrolled.   This was the first enrolment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.   And all went to enroll themselves, every one to his own city.   And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David;  to enroll himself with Mary, who was betrothed to him, being great with child.   

And it came to pass, while they were there, the days were fulfilled that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.   

And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock.  And an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.   And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people:   for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:1-11

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Disarming Americans is Not the Answer

Emotions are running high throughout our troubled land right now, and understandably so, in light of the horrific massacre of twenty innocent young children and seven adults at the hands of a mentally deranged gunman last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  I have had decidedly very un-Christian thoughts regarding the evil done at the hands of this killer myself.  That said, there are many people that are letting emotion overcome their sense of reason.  That can only serve to exacerbate an already terrible problem.

Already there are well-meaning, if not well-informed, people that are petitioning for greater gun control from our White House, as if that would have prevented this problem.  And of course, there are the opportunistic and cynical politicians that are abiding by Rahm Emanuel’s dictate to “let no good crisis go to waste”. 

I even saw a blog listing various Facebook posts from some despicable people calling for the murder of the NRA president and its members as their proposed solution to this gruesome problem.  Evidently those geniuses are unaware of the fact that the National Rifle Association has always adamantly supported that felons and the mentally ill not have access or ownership of firearms and have worked with law enforcement accordingly. 

There have also been a slew of people calling for the repeal of the second amendment.  I cannot help but shake my head in sadness and some disgust that these likely well-meaning people would want to disarm themselves thereby making even greater evils a possibility on down the road.

The second amendment states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” 

Now there is a very good reason why our founders placed this amendment as the second one to our Constitution.  The people, that means individual Americans, have the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of and by necessity to “secure a free State” and the Supreme Court clearly ruled that this is an individual right in supporting that understanding. 

Many gun-control advocates have argued that the second amendment is a now-archaic right and was written so that the federal government could arm citizens for the national defense via militias and was not ever intended as an individual right.  After all, we have a standing army now, so there is no need for private citizens to be armed, right?  This is nonsensical because if such had been the intention of the framers of the constitution, they would have said as much in the body of the constitution where the rights, duties, obligations, and restrictions on the federal government were listed.  The fact that the right to bear arms is listed in the Bill of Rights along with the other rights guaranteed to The People, clearly indicates that this was always intended to be an individual right, and so it absolutely must be. 
"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."  - Thomas Jefferson, 1 Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334

"The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honor with all that's good.” -- George Washington

"The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed." -- Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-188
Disarming law-abiding citizens via more stringent gun-control legislation is hardly the answer to curbing such massacres.  As long as there are people in our society that are bent on doing evil of their own free will, or because of mental illness, they will find a way to do so.  Indeed, last week in China (a land where private ownership of firearms is illegal) a deranged man with a knife stabbed 22 children. 

Even with this horrible crime in Connecticut last week, the very tough gun control laws already enacted and the “gun-free zone” signs on the elementary school did not dissuade this person bent on committing evil.

Putting aside any emotional aversion one might have towards firearms, think how different an outcome there might have been in Sandy Hook Elementary and how many kids could have been saved if only the Principal or one of the teachers had been carrying a firearm.  Creating gun free zones like schools, or the theater in Aurora, Colorado where the evil  person killed twelve people earlier this year, only ensures that the perpetrators’ victims will be unarmed and easier targets accordingly.

Indeed, overshadowed by this horrific slaughter last week was the sad, but not nearly as tragic killing of two people at the Clackamas Towne Center mall in suburban Portland, Oregon that previous Tuesday.  The person that was responsible for those killings was well-armed with an AR-15 and had a bullet proof vest on at the time.  How come this man who had thirty round magazines was unable to kill more than two people in a very crowded mall of Christmas shoppers?  It is because one of the patrons at the mall, Nick Meli, was legally carrying a concealed fire arm.  When the shooting started, he drew his weapon and the evil perpetrator saw him.

“He was working on his rifle,” said Meli.  ”He kept pulling the charging handle and hitting the side.”  The break in gunfire allowed Meli to pull out his own gun, but he never took his eyes off the shooter.  “As I was going down to pull, I saw someone in the back of the Charlotte move, and I knew if I fired and missed, I could hit them,” he said.  Meli took cover inside a nearby store.  He never pulled the trigger.  He stands by that decision.  “I’m not beating myself up cause I didn’t shoot him,” said Meli.  “I know after he saw me, I think the last shot he fired was the one he used on himself.”

The gunman knew that there was a citizen that was armed and wasn’t going to be an easy victim.  All of a sudden, his plans for massacre were curtailed.  He now had to worry about being killed himself before fully implementing his plan.  Nick Meli saved untold lives in that mall last week simply by drawing his weapon and not even firing a shot.  How come this profound lesson is not being reported in the media? 

Back in 2007, a lone shooter entered the “gun-free” Trolley Square Mall in Salt Lake City and opened fire.  He killed five people and managed to injure many others.  The only reason why there weren’t more deaths or injuries is because an off-duty police officer was eating dinner at one of the mall restaurants with his family.  When he heard the shooting, he quickly secured his family, drew his firearm and managed to pin down the assailant until other police arrived.  Had an armed person not been there to stop this evil man, dozens more people could easily have been killed – all in a gun free “safe” area.

In 1997, a sixteen year old boy bludgeoned his mother to death and then drove to Pearl High School which he attended.  He shot and killed his girlfriend that had broken up with him and one other person.  The assistant principal, Joel Myrick, went to his vehicle, retrieved his legally owned .45 pistol, and subdued the evil shooter until police arrived.  Again, an armed citizen prevented the likely killing of many more innocent people accordingly.

Perhaps it is time we start talking about real solutions to these too-common mass killings.  Outlawing firearms in violation of the second amendment is not the answer.  Indeed that will only inflame an already horrible problem and ensure that future people will more likely be victims without the ability to defend themselves.  I know the pain and outrage that many Americans are feeling because of this horrific evil.  I share that with them.  We need to work to decrease the likelihood of these problems and not react in knee-jerk fashion to disarm those citizens that are law-abiding so that they are unable to adequately defend themselves and their loved ones. 

Benjamin Franklin understood it quite well: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christianity and the Creation of Science

In our ever-increasingly secularized world today it has seemingly become rather hip to run down or mock people of faith as being unenlightened, backwards, willfully ignorant, or just plain dumb.  Our new modern age culture teaches us that science (and progressive politics) should guide us in our lives.  Anyone that still believes in an omnipotent divine creator is a curiosity at best.  Today they are often looked down upon with sadness and a slow back-and-forth nodding of the head as one might do when a not-particularly-bright child trys to stick a fork into the electrical outlet.  Either that, or with outright sneering and scorn.  Indeed, these foolish Christians that believe in such myths and fabrications of an all-powerful and loving deity must be dragged from their pews and into the new millennium for their own good, whether they want to do so or not.

The truly amusing thing is that irony abounds in the fact that today many atheists and agnostics are championing Science as their god.  Unfortunately for them, Science as we know it today would never have developed without the Catholic Church.  Indeed, it was the Catholic Church that developed the scientific method in the High Middle Ages via the Bishop of Lincoln,  Robert Grosseteste.   It was Bishop Grosseteste that was the very first man credited with formalizing the Scientific Method, under the concept of “composition and resolution” using Christian, Islamic and Aristotelean texts. His ideas were translated into the Scientific Method we know today by Roger Bacon, a Franciscan friar who used terms like “observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and independent verification” for the first time.  Indeed, even the Big Bang Theory was formulated by a priest, as was our modern theory of genetics.

This must be very confounding, if not outright vexing, to our atheist friends today.  How can it be that the Catholic Church and Christian Western Civilization developed the Scientific Method and empirical science in general?  How come it was not developed by the Chinese or in India or other advanced cultures of those days?  For that matter, how come ancient Greece or Rome did not formulate the Scientific Method?

The answer will further confound and vex my atheist and agnostic friends, but I would submit that it lies in two simple words: Monotheistic Religion.
“WHAT?!”, you say!  “How can that possibly be?” 

Well, quite easily, actually.  History show us that the fragments of intellectualism that remained after the collapse of the Roman Empire were salvaged by Christianity.  Further, that same Christianity provided the philosophy on which the Scientific Method was founded.  Now Christianity has as one of its core tenets of belief that the Universe was created by a magnificent and supremely rational God.  Logic would thus dictate that the Universe He created must therefore also be rational.  This rational Universe that God created abides by very specific laws;  Laws regarding physics, gravity, thermodynamics and entropy and so forth.

At least through the 18th century, discovering the laws of nature and how they worked would be the same as discovering how God ordained that events and the Universe should unfold. Without that guiding philosophy and rationalism, it leaves only a conception of nature and the Universe as a succession of different events that just happen to show patterns and regularities.  To the atheist, it could be said that it is just one damn thing after another, accordingly.  Tom Bethell of The American Spectator and author many books and essays regarding science said it best, “Christianity elevated the faculty of human reason and fostered a spirit of inquiry.  Without it, there would never have been a scientific revolution.”

Atheism not only had absolutely nothing to do with the creation of Science but it could NOT have ever created Science.  To an atheist who thinks that life and the creation of the Universe happened as a matter of random chance coming to fruition over billions of years, this seems to be in direct conflict with an ordered universe.  “That’s just how things are” is hardly the basis for sound scientific thought, let alone the creation of the Scientific Method.

If, however, the very laws of nature and the Universe come from a supreme lawgiver, and we as mankind are made in the image of that lawgiver, then indeed the Universe absolutely explodes with possibility.  Everything is a subject for observation and rational study accordingly.

So the irony is supremely rich: The New-World Atheist claims that Science — created and promoted by religion, and indeed made possible by religion — invalidates the need for religion.  It seems to me that the religion of atheism requires a far greater leap of faith than does the rationality of Christianity accordingly.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Rich and the Greedy

When I was growing up in the suburbs of Portland, the Johansen Family (not their real name) lived down the street from us.  They had a son that was two years older than I was and a daughter that was two years younger.  They went to the same Methodist Church that we did at the time and were exceptionally warm and loving people.  I used to love to go and play at their house and to hang out with my friend Mark. 

Now Mr. Johansen was one of the heirs to the Levi Strauss company fortune and they had lots of money.  They didn’t flaunt it in anyone’s face and were never obnoxious about it though.  Although they owned what was arguably the nicest home in the neighborhood by far, they really were just another typical American family.

I remember loving Mr. Johansen’s showroom-condition convertible ’66 red Mustang!  And their house!  It was awesome!  They had converted their basement to look like the local Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor.  They had a pool table and a wet bar with their very own soda fountain!  And in the room next to it, they had the new Atari game console!  In the summer, they would always invite me and my little brother over to swim in their huge pool!  It even had a slide. 

I remembered thinking how wonderful it must be to be rich and have such nice things.  More importantly, I remembered how much I truly liked them and enjoyed being around them as often as I was able.

The Johansen’s were a wonderful family.

If I were to be honest, I suppose I was a little envious of Mark and his sister Debbie, but they were my friends and I never thought ill of them.  It would never have occurred to me to think that it was not fair that they should have all of those cool things and live in such a neat house with its own built in swimming pool.  I never considered that Mr. and Mrs. Johansen came by their money by somehow taking it from the poor or needy.  Indeed, I suspect they were quite generous with their money.

You see, I was taught by my parents, and indeed by the entire culture of my youth, that if I studied hard at school and put my mind and hard work into it, I too could grow up to be financially successful – just like my friends the Johansen’s.

Sadly I see very little of that same strong work ethic and play-by-the-rules mentality taught to our youngsters these days.  Instead the prevailing mindset today seems to be one of greed and wanting to take what others have earned.  There seems to be damned little interest in having to work hard to get ahead.  Too many of the younger generations today are looking for the shortcuts to wealth and to get rich quick.  They all want instant gratification.  And the rich, well they obviously got their money by taking it or cheating it out of the poorer people.  It seems only right that they should thus be punished and have a substantial amount of that ill-gotten wealth taxed so that it could be redistributed to those people that were not lucky enough to have “won life’s lottery”. 

Look at the college-aged kids today as an example.  Look at the Occupy Wall Street Crowd.  What was one of their many complaints?  Capitalism is unfair.  And it was unfair that they should have huge student loans.  Those loans should be forgiven accordingly.  Never mind the fact that these kids knowingly applied for those loans and entered into the agreement to pay those loans back.  People now want something for nothing.  And as we just saw earlier last month, they evidently comprise the majority in America now and vote accordingly.

Instead of working hard for one’s self and attempting to better one’s financial standing through talent and the sweat of one’s brow, today we want to tax the rich even more and redistribute that wealth to those who have less – even if they haven’t worked for or earned it, nor have any intention of every doing so, for that matter.

Instead of looking at the rich and seeing that as a goal to strive for, like I did when I was a kid, today we want to tear them down and punish them for having the temerity to have more than the rest of us do. 

Ironically, instead of being frugal and financially responsible ourselves, we try to imitate those rich people we inwardly loathe by buying things we cannot really afford.  “I am going to strain my budget and buy that Lincoln Navigator or that Escalade instead of buying that Hyundai that I can actually afford.  And, since Fannie Mae doesn’t require that I have a well-paying job or any collateral, I will go out on the limb and get a loan for that 2500 square foot house, even though I really won’t be able to keep up with payments, unless I settle for that 1200 square foot home instead.  It just isn’t fair!  All of these young people in the movies have nice cars and beautiful homes and Ivy League Educations.  I want that too and it just isn’t right that these things are seemingly only available to the rich.  If I cannot have such things, then they should be punished for not contributing their fair share to society.”  Such seems to be the prevailing mindset among many Americans today.  Never mind the fact that as of July 2009, the tax burden of the top 1% of wage earners in America finally exceeded that of the bottom 95% combined. They should still pay MORE, they say!  One wonders what they think the rich's fair share should actually be.

This class envy nonsense that has been stoked by progressives has become so prevalent today that class warfare is a standard tactic amongst many of the less scrupulous Democrats in office.  Why?  Because it seems to work.  Never mind the fact that our economy is tanking and growth, when there has been any in recent years, has been anemic, the Democrats still scream that the rich aren’t paying their fair share.  They have gotten their wealth off the backs of the poor.  Therefore, Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi are bound and determined to right these wrongs and ensure that the rich finally pony up what is owed.  The irony of that is that to do so will only make our economy worse and thus hurt the poorest among us even more so.

Mitt Romney was castigated severely during the presidential campaign for having had the temerity to point out that 49% of Americans today pay no net federal income tax and are often beneficiaries of others’ tax dollars.  Now granted, many of these folks are retirees living off their well-deserved social security, or military retirees, etc.  That said, when nearly half of America doesn’t have any skin in the game and our politicians are stoking the fires saying they deserve more from those that are paying taxes, well the sustainability of such a system is obviously not a very long term possibility.  I long ago learned that we don’t often appreciate what is simply given to us without us having earned it.  If anything, that tends to breed more resentment and further foster an entitlement attitude. 

On the other hand, when we work hard and achieve some success through the sweat of our brow and the sacrifices we have made in time and effort, we are often far more appreciative of our accomplishments.  It is a concept that is seemingly lost on many today.  They would rather rant and rave at the unfairness of their situation and blame the rich for having more than they do, rather than working hard to become rich themselves. 

Many decades later, I have long since moved away from my beloved childhood neighborhood.  I sometimes wonder what became of the Johansen’s.  I suspect that Mark and Debbie both grew up, worked hard, and became successful and productive citizens, just as their parents were.  After all, they were taught that same work ethic and respect that I was taught.  I wonder if they look at society today with bewilderment at the loathing and envy many folks have towards them for their great success.  After all, that was something that was never seen or even considered as they grew up in a wealthy family nearly forty years ago.  Sadly, that is the norm today.  It is an upside down world now when it is considered greedy to want to keep most of the money one earned himself. Evidently it is not greedy though to be an unemployed-by-choice and slothful person that thinks that other people’s wealth is owed to him without having to work for it.  Yep, I think the transformation of America that President Obama and the progressives were looking to build has finally started coming to fruition.  It is an America I no longer recognize and I mourn greatly for its loss.