All posts by Dr. Charlie Self

We Know Better, Part 3: A Sustainable Energy Future

Humankind is wildly and wonderfully inventive. From harnessing fire to cook our proteins to replacing foraging with farming, we historically keep developing ways to enhance our lives. From indoor plumbing to access to transportation, from electricity to the internet, we continually elevate our access to goods and services. In the last seven decades, abject poverty in our world has declined from 40% to 15% of the global population.

In the area of energy, the last three centuries have been amazing. From steam to coal to oil and gas, from geothermal and natural gas to nuclear and solar power, we keep inventing new ways to give more people access to affordable energy.

Development has its price, and we have had to work hard to clean up the ecosystems we damage with our progress. We all know about environmental disasters, from Three Mile Island to Love Canal, Chernobyl to Great Lakes pollution. For many sensitive to environmental concerns, these and other moments are a call for drastic action and the immediate end to fossil fuels. Add to this the apocalyptic language of climate change advocates and the stage is set for increased coercive national and international power to regulate energy and compel change.

What this history is lacking is the positive contributions of free markets and scientific progress to a cleaner future without massive transfers of wealth impoverishing the working and middle classes. All the policies of the UN, Davos, and a variety of non-binding agreements call for massive bureaucracies and wealth transfers that have no guarantee of any improvements in global temperatures. The price tag and Leviathan controls keep increasing. Several UN officials have admitted that even if all nations signed on to the Paris Accords and take drastic action, that the impact would be negligible. All officials affirm the real goal – wealth concentration and transfer that impoverished the middle class in the West as well as developing economies globally.

The current Administration has deliberately moved the USA from energy independence to skyrocketing prices and programs costing trillions in inefficient green technologies. What is never highlighted in most media are the tremendous quantum leaps in lowering emissions, increasing efficiency, and the research into true alternatives to fossil fuels. European nations have refired coal plants to power electric cars. Nuclear energy sustains much of Western Europe. The rare minerals and slave labor employed for batteries is not part of the narrative. We CAN recycle plastics better, make current fuels cleaner, AND develop new technologies.

The same people telling us to drive expensive electric vehicles buy their organic produce in local markets, with their arugula transported from family farms in diesel trucks. Line-caught salmon and tuna come to our shores in boats using regular fuel. Celebrities take private jets to lecture the masses about conforming to global governance. We can do better.

The way forward is not the “Good old days” of gas guzzlers and no environmental standards. We have come too far for that. We must refine current energy sources while we develop cost-effective new ones. Free markets must lead the way, not inefficient federal agencies. We need new oil and gas leases properly administrated. We need to commend Israel’s ability to supply energy to Europe without hindrance and favoritism to an aggressive Russian empire. Reasonable incentives for cleanliness and efficiency are helpful, but current draconian laws in California and elsewhere will only continue shrinking the working and middle classes.

This both/and prudential approach is what most people favor, except for the political and technological elites that believe they are the smart ones and should tell “the people” what they really need. We must shrink federal and global bureaucracies, and have more local and regional governance. We can improve our ecosystems while expanding economic opportunity, if we have courage and wisdom empowering creativity and innovation through free markets.

We Know Better, Part 2: Creating a Culture of Flourishing

Half a century ago, Roe v. Wade created a right to abortion out of thin legal air. Fabricating a right to privacy loosely connected with human rights amendments, The Supreme Court overruled many state laws. The language of the ruling is rooted in ambiguity, with the majority opinion admitting that future scientific progress on viability could alter the application of this right. Feminists hailed the ruling as a woman’s right to bodily autonomy and the end of the, “back alley/coat hanger” era of abortions. Since 1973, over 62,000,000 babies have been killed, a disproportionate number being babies of color, especially African American children.

For the first thirty years after Roe v. Wade, leaders in both parties were found in the pro-choice (pro-abortion) and pro-life (anti-abortion) camps. Almost all agreed that abortions in the final trimester should be avoided. Pro-life leaders understood there were rare exceptions that needed medical accommodation. The Hyde Amendment prevented federal funds from being used to finance abortions. Casey vs. Planned Parenthood further cemented pro-abortion policies. In the mid-1990s, the late Justice Ginsburg admitted that Roe rested on dubious legal and scientific foundations and needed to become federal legislation.

In the last two decades, pro-abortion advocates have gone from, “safe, legal, and rare” to “anytime, for any reason, up to and even during delivery” and “shout your abortion” as a positive thing. Economics, emotional happiness, and depersonalization of the developing child in the womb are all part of this radicalized strategy.

With a Supreme Court ruling immanent on abortion restrictions in Mississippi, the stage is set for the partial or complete overturning of Roe v. Wade. An unprecedented leak of an early draft penned by Justice Alito has enraged pro-abortion forces and threats of violence loom large as I write this essay.

As a thoughtful Christian and caring human being, I cannot in good conscience condone the destruction of innocent life, from conception to coronation. Tragedies of natural miscarriages and occasional urgent medical emergencies are one thing, but making the exceptions a general rule is nothing less that dehumanization of the vulnerable and state-sanctioned killing. By the way, I am also against the death penalty for civilian criminals, mainly because of 1) the possibility of a mistaken conviction; and 2) the desire for redemption for the convicted, even while in prison for life. Many current euthanasia laws are immoral and the number of intentional deaths is increasing.

Our need: a new vision of human flourishing

What I write here will not change the minds of advocates on either side, unless there is a fresh way of envisioning and framing the entire issue. We need a culture of life, a conscientious consensus on human flourishing that can unite women and men of goodwill and welcome children as gifts, not burdens, and unique persons, not clumps of cells. Here are some beginning axioms, some values that can help refocus and even reimagine the conversation:

  • Protecting the unborn is part of a larger vision of caring for the vulnerable and affirming the value of every human person, regardless of their utility to society. From the unborn to the physically and mentally challenged, to the mentally ill and those struggling with diseases and old age, ALL people matter.
  • We must create safe pathways for women to report sexual assaults and foster a climate of dignity so that perpetrators cannot intimidate their victims, with shame displaced by liberation for those who receive help. 
  • Anti-abortion advocates are often accused of not caring for mothers and children outside of the womb. This is an unfounded assertion, as there are hundreds, even thousands of agencies, centers, churches, and community groups ready to help. We can do better in empowering single moms (and couples) for a brighter future, including education and job training, housing and medical care. 
  • Churches and community groups can expand their services for adoption and foster care and help place children in loving homes, as well as offer safe haven for incest and rape victims.
  • We can incentivize marriage and work by demanding greater accountability of the fathers for the children they help conceive and working to get people off unemployment and welfare. 
  • We can encourage young adults to delay sexual intimacy until marriage, finish at least a high school education, then remain faithful in their marriages (with exceptions for abuse, abandonment, and adultery, of course). Marital sexual intimacy is not only for procreation; however, we must stop divorcing this sacred act from one of its divinely-intended purposes.
  • We must reject dehumanizing euphemisms for the developing child in the womb. An embryo and a fetus are growing human persons, not clumps of cells.
  • In this flourishing future, we are not punishing the vulnerable, but persuading women and men of conscience with moral arguments, as well as scientific evidence.

The late Theodore Hershberg, former president of Notre Dame University, prayed we would be a society that welcomes children as a gift, not a burden. Philosopher Peter Kreeft argues that abortion is the moral issue of our day because underneath all the arguments are our understanding of God’s gifts of life and choice. May we choose life and flourishing.

“We Know Better” Ignoring Conscience and Choosing Compromise

When I was growing up, my parents would often say to me, “You know better!” as I messed up, and said and did things that were foolish or wrong. We are watching the infantilizing of our social ethos as emotionalism, erotic passions, and ideological narratives triumph over critical thinking, lasting virtues, and the search for the truth.

“We know better” a friend said to me in a coffee shop recently as we shared about many “hot topics.” As he spoke, my mind went to a whole list of inversions and perversions that are being peddled as true, and any disagreement is labeled as hatred, intolerance, or one of the new “phobias” that pop up each day.

In several coming posts, I will continue this theme of “We know better” and offer insights around the following issues where we deceive ourselves:

  • We know that abortion kills a pre-born human being. While we may differ on permissibility, we know that a life is ending. Replacing “baby” with “fetus” does not change this.
  • We know that the future of any child is improved when the biological parents finish high school, delay children until after marriage, work, and stay married. We know that fatherlessness is destroying communities trapped in poverty.
  • We know that China is a serious threat to democracy and freedom, yet we refuse to take serious measures to confront their aggrandizements and injustices.
  • We know that the world will not end in 10 or 100 years from climate change, but people in power love apocalyptic narratives that infringe on personal liberties, compel wealth transfers, and destroy the middle- and working classes.
  • We know there are two biological sexes and that all but a miniscule number of persons are born female or male. We also know there are complexities involved in attractions and gender identity, but these do not change the binary nature of humankind.
  • We know there are structural challenges to achieving equality for all people. We also know that every story of success includes agency, relationships, and hard work, regardless of gender or race.
  • We know that parents bear primary responsibility for their children, including their education, religious beliefs, and moral sensibilities. We also know that teachers should be teaching basic subjects that prepare children for adulthood in the 21st century.

We know better about all of these topics…and we are afraid. We fear being labeled as the oppressor of women for opposing abortion. We fear being called racist for demanding fathers take responsibility for children they are producing. We are afraid of being called colonialist or xenophobic when we call out the Chinese government (We have no contentions with Chinese people per se) for its abuses. We are called callous capitalists if we do not mouth the inanities of climate fear. We are considered zealots and full of hatred for affirming basic biology. Making the family more important than government is impeding the “long march of Marxism” (Os Guinness) and hence the “new freedom” of the “new humanity” shaped by collectivism.

It is time to displace fear with love, for the Bible says that, “Love perfected casts out fear.” If we love God and our neighbor and desire flourishing for all, we will “know better” and stop lying to ourselves. Let’s not just react, but respond to these inanities with courage, love, and wisdom, seeking the maximum consensus possible. Stay tuned. In the next post we will take on abortion and offer a new vision for receiving children as gifts from God.

A Special Update and Invitation from Dr Charlie Self

Dear friends and readers,
It has been too long since I have posted. We have been in several transitions with family (two new grandbabies – Yay!) and work (I am advising, authoring two books, speaking and teaching and looking for more opportunities since leaving Made to Flourish as of November 1, 2021), so my focus has been on several arenas other than my own website.

In the coming weeks, my co-authors and I will publish a new book: Life in 5-D that will transform how the church and thoughtful people see Christian discipleship and personal wholeness. This work is rooted in the Discipleship Dynamics Assessment ™ that is gaining momentum among leaders and organizations (see the site here: www.discipleshipdynamics.com). The pandemic and accelerating cultural changes are demanding a reimagining of discipleship and mission for the local church, Christian ministries and thoughtful followers of Jesus. We covet your prayers as the editing and layout are completed.

The second book, Thoughtful, will be published later this year and represents twenty years of observation and reflection, research and writing.  In this book, I present a four-step pathway from reaction to response as we navigate life, social issues, and living peaceably with deep differences in a contentious culture.

I am preparing TED-style talks based on both books and I believe these works will help bridge many divides as well as call people to a flourishing life found in Christ.

Here is my invitation: Will you consider doing three things that will help our mission?

– First, will you pray for us? This is not a cliché – it is the fuel of all effective work for our Lord.

– Second, will you please share your thoughts on issues you desire me to cover in in future blogs and books? I do not want to be answering questions no one is asking! You can email me directly at drcharlieself1959@icloud.com.

– And third, will you consider a gift that will help all this happen? Please note the “support” button on the website. We need patrons that believe in this mission of flourishing and thoughtfulness. Your gifts are tax-deductible and will help us serve many organizations and leaders that lack funds for contracts.

Our current cultural conflicts center around three issues: 1) A lack of reverence before the Almighty and the crafting of idols to suit our pleasures, with erotic passions displacing unselfish love. 2) Deliberate perversion what it means to be humans made in God’s image and created male and female. We will address this dehumanizing vision head-on in future posts. 3) A crisis of knowledge as people refuse to debate issues with civility, banning or canceling those that diverge from their preferred narratives.

Thank you, thoughtful friends for caring deeply and working decisively for the common good. Easter is the reason I am hope-filled and I trust you will find peace and renewal as you ponder the victory of the resurrection of Jesus. 

Celebrating the With-Us-God: Divine Humility and Human Hope

Christmas is the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, who is proclaimed by the faithful as the Prince of Peace and Savior of the World. The hopes of Israel are embodied in an heir of David who will be King and bring deliverance, healing, and restoration (See Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2). We are familiar with the humility of Mary and Joseph, the humble setting of the birth, shepherds receiving angelic visitations, and, eventually, Magi coming to worship a toddler Jesus in his home. May we nourish these thoughts forever.

But there is something even deeper about Christmas that can be lost in the familiar festivities. Christmas is the great moment of divine humility: The eternal Son, “God of very God, Light from Light, begotten, not made…” (from the 4th century Nicene Creed) assumes human nature and enters our history. Michael Card expressed this profound truth so well: “Behold the mystery fantastic and wild; a Mother made by her own Child.” The Eternal steps into time. The Infinite assumes finitude. The Holy One becomes forever human. This is why Matthew 1:22-23 declares that Jesus is Immanuel, which translated literally, means, the “With-Us-God.”

Jewish scholars were stunned by Jesus. On one hand, he was hailed as the Son of David, the Messiah coming to liberate God’s people. Yet Jesus chose a path of healing over violence, deliverance over despotism, inclusion of outsiders over catering to the elites. Jesus’ humility, powerful teaching, and miracles won him many followers. But Jesus was more than an expected King: he declared himself one with the Father and assumed divine attributes reserved only for the One True God: forgiving sin, receiving worship, and declaring his understanding of Scripture the final and full word. For the Jews, this was blasphemy and the unity of the Father and Son was impossible, for God is One. And this oneness is absolute, with no room for rivals.

As Christianity spreads beyond Judaism and welcomes converts from Greek and Roman philosophies and religions, the idea that Ultimate Truth could assume human nature was deemed illogical and impossible. After all, the soul was trapped in the material body and that which is perfect could never be contained in flesh. This dualism would later infect Christian thinking, with unfortunate consequences. Popular religion in Rome had a place for many gods, but Christians refused to bow to any other lords or gods other than the Eternal God revealed in Jesus, who is Lord and the Christ. So Greek dualism and Roman polytheism were rejected in favor of the adoration of the Father, the Son (Jesus of Nazareth) and Holy Spirit.

Let’s come back to divine humility. In Jesus, God is forever one of us! What an affirmation of being human! Jesus’ experience was just as ours, though without the sin that ruined our first parents and continues subverting our lives. Jesus developed from a child to an adult, faced all our temptations, experienced our emotions, knew physical fatigue and limitations, and enjoyed life with friends and family. His crucifixion was excruciating. On the Cross he carried our sins and sorrows, sufferings and unanswered questions. His bodily resurrection on Easter offers a preview of the eternity for all believers: our future includes embodied work and play, community and worship. Jesus is forever one of us. If we could somehow have Scotty (of Star Trek fame) beam us to heaven, we would be able to touch Jesus, for even as the glorified Lord, he is one of us.

This Christmas, let’s allow divine humility to heal us from inferiority or inadequacy arising from our past and the abuses and rejections we remember so well. We are worth God forever becoming human. We are worth the painful and unjust death of the Cross. We have a vision of our future on Easter. With God’s help and the support of many around us, we can walk in confidence and hope, for we have welcomed Immanuel into our lives.