All posts by Dr. Charlie Self

Solving The Immigration Crisis: A Call for Compassion and Courage

Hypocrisy is an ugly trait. It is one thing to fall short of one’s ideals and humbly aim to do better; it is quite another to profess virtue while willfully doing the opposite. It is not hypocritical to fail at times, if there is repentance and resolve to improve. It is hypocritical to present oneself as a paragon of compassion and then recoil when called upon to act in accordance with one’s ideals.

Political hypocrisy is on full display as hundreds of migrants are bussed or flown to sanctuary locations. None of the leaders of sanctuary cities complained when these folks were transported under cover of night to conservative suburbs or rural locales. But the moment a few dozen folks arrive in Martha’s Vineyard, suddenly such actions are now “inhuman” “Illegal” and even “akin to the Holocaust.”

Open borders serve no nation well. Neither does xenophobia. America has a wildly contradictory history of immigration law and practice and current systems are in need of reform. Before offering a way forward, balance is needed as we critique the current crises. Some Democratic leaders want a flood of people dependent on state help and they offer rapid citizenship so migrants will vote for their benefactors. Republicans have been unfairly portrayed as White Nationalists for simply wanting order and security at the border. But many Republicans are secretly happy with an endless supply of cheap labor.

How do we make progress? We must start with ending the “either/or” thinking that poisons reasonable policymaking. We can be hospitable and secure, creating pathways for citizenship and residency that welcome hard-working people from all nations. A secure border matters. The wall must be finished and many hospitality centers constructed on both sides of the border with Mexico. Criminals must be screened out and current undocumented felons must be deported. DREAMers deserve a pathway to citizenship while we eliminate incentives for anchor babies and the tragic separation of families.

Legal immigration is a mess. It is cumbersome and expensive and we can do better. Instead of reactive, symbolic actions (open borders, shipping migrants, etc.), Let’s gather people from all sides of the issue, keep the cameras outside (I know, that is impossible!), and forge real policy. For those in the USA illegally, offer a streamlined pathway to normalization with real accountability. ONLY citizens can vote. Apart from basic food, clothing, and temporary shelter, government benefits require registration and screening. Reform the whole system and while this is taking place, take the monies designated to the IRS increases and apply them to border security and compassionate care.

There is no place for racism and xenophobia in our policies. And there is a need for secure borders and screening for criminality and diseases (which can then be treated). Once our agitation propaganda is replaced by compassion and courage, there is hope for our nation and for millions we should welcome to our land.

Unspoken Absolutes: What Lies Beneath All the Outrage

About 1,960 years ago, The Gospel of Matthew was penned, offering collections of the words and works of Jesus of Nazareth. Central to all the teachings presented are the Beatitudes found in Chapter 5. They constitute foundational dispositions and disciplines for followers of Jesus the Christ. One of these pithy and profound sayings is found in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” The “blessed” (happy, to be congratulated, under divine favor) actively pursue peace (concord, harmony, end of conflict, enemies becoming friends).

This peacemaking includes personal conflicts, peace among contentious groups, warring nations, and rival powers. Jesus was building on the Wisdom traditions of Israel calling the faithful to, “seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14) and the Apostle Paul would highlight both the individual and relational facets of peace with God and among humankind (Romans 5:1; Galatians 5:22; Colossians 3:16). Jesus’s words have inspired intercultural and interracial harmony, as well as reconciliation movements throughout history. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1950s and 1960s, and President Nelson Mandela in the 1990s are examples of peacemakers bringing justice and calm to intense struggles.

In our contentious public square, peacemaking is needed more than ever. The agitation propaganda, apocalyptic hyperbole, outright anger, and egregious personal insults are not fostering concord and harmony! Why is it so hard for people of conscience to ignore the reactive emotionalism and forge principled compromises and offer proximate justice? The answers are complex, but we can unearth the unspoken absolutes that create the conditions of contention. Underneath all the “be a good person” and “we ae all one” and “be kind” sayings are pillars of post-modern anarchy and subjectivism that make consensus hard. Here are a few of these new “absolutes”

  • Knowledge is not objective, but subjective. Pursuing the truth of a matter is now replaced by “my truth.” Even the words, “fact(s)” and “objectivity” are considered oppressive and racist.
  • The human person is now a malleable creation of the autonomous self, not an identity to cultivate and refine as a human being who is male or female. Gender anarchy is a deliberate subversion of the divine image and everyone is now their own god, manufacturing new narratives of victimhood and pseudo-liberation. Of course, anyone affirming the commonsense view that all humankind is one race (with many ethnicities, of course) with binary female and male characteristics is ignorant at best and evil at worst.

These crises of knowledge (epistemology) and human identity (anthropology) make peacemaking quite challenging. Part of peaceful relations is living civilly with our deepest differences, desiring for all freedom of conscience and opportunity to flourish. But the purveyors of the aforementioned axioms purposefully cultivate conflict so they can rage against the machine forever, instead of offering principles and pathways for a preferred future.  There are two more unspoken absolutes that govern this grievance culture:

  • Morality is subjective and traditional religions are the enemy of human freedom. Marxist ideology aims for a “new person” free from economic and spiritual history with the state in control of every detail of life. One set of absolutes is now replaced with “liberation” through class struggle…and history tells us this is disastrous!
  • History must be shaped to promote political agendas, regardless of the tapestry of narratives and the beauty and brokenness of humankind in all cultures and all eras. “Presentism” is the fashionable ideology of making today’s wokeism the lens by which all people at all times are evaluated.

Is there a way forward? Yes! Peacemaking requires values and virtues shared by diverse groups. People of conscience and common sense must affirm that pursuing the truth is noble and possible. We must allow science to speak loudly about the DNA of human identity, without imposing cultural idols. We must affirm that there are moral standards we can agree on. And we must learn all historical narratives and allow them to inform our decisions. I pray we will find the courage and wisdom for peacemaking rooted in enduring principles.

We Know Better, Part 10: Sex Education and Gender Ideology

In such volatile times, prudence is a special virtue. The moment the words gender and sex are used, accusations start flying and anger overtakes reason. In this essay, I am going to share some principles for a new civil consensus on sex and gender issues, especially in public education and public square debates.

I am NOT advocating any kind of coercive ideological or religious conformity – just the opposite.  I am searching for principled compromise that will lower the temperature, restore toleration (as a virtue of living with our differences, not being forced to affirm ideas we reject), and offer a way forward for the common good. I think liberals and conservatives dedicated to the highest ideals of freedom of conscience can find some level of agreement. Radical activists will never be satisfied with anything other than cowing their opponents and compelling eternal penance from any who differ.

Principle One: We must acknowledge that we live in a pluralistic society and that freedom of conscience is a first freedom that establishes all others. Political and social majorities do not have the right to impose their beliefs on minorities. We can celebrate cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity, and the free market of ideas.

Principle Two: We want all people to being their highest selves to work and public service; therefore, we are not demanding that religious convictions be checked at the door. We are expecting maturity that affirms Principle One and works for principled consensus.

Principle Three: The family is the primary educator and purveyor of values and worldviews. The state does not have the right to compel belief or speech contrary to conscience. Expressing deeply held moral convictions is not hate speech or violence, provided our citizens learn to share them with respect. For example, my belief that sexual intimacy is reserved for lifelong, heterosexual, monogamous marriage is not intolerance, for I share these ideas with neighbors who see the universe differently and they have the same right to share their convictions.

Principle Four: Sex education in public schools should focus on biological changes and reproduction, leaving gender ideology to the family. There is no place for schools to secretly oppose family values or impose their ideas in or out of the classroom.

Principe Five: People with body dysphoria deserve love and compassion and good counsel. Any medical procedures, from drugs to surgery, should be reserved for adults and paid for by the persons seeking the changes. If a 10-year-old boy wants to be a girl, he/she can seek out specific treatments once they are 18 or 21, just like other adult activities. In most cases, experimentation with gender and identity finds its natural place eventually (as the brain matures in the early 20s), so serious interventions are premature, unproven, and even dangerous to long-term well-being.

Principle Six: We must restore toleration to its original meaning of living peaceably with our deepest differences. Toleration is not compelled agreement. No business or artist should be compelled to promote ideas that violate their conscience. It is interesting noting that activists never target Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist bakeries or businesses, only ones owned by Christians.

Principle Seven: The mostly binary nature of humankind and the animal kingdom is a scientific fact. Exceptions exist, but we have allowed exceptions to become the rule and distort obvious statements of fact. A woman is an adult biological female. She may be attracted to the opposite or same sex, but she is a female. A man is an adult biological male. The DNA and biology do not lie. This said, we are not demanding that adults who have crafted a particular identity be prohibited form living peaceably in our world. Those who disagree with these choices are not evil.

Principle Eight: Human beings are complicated and there should never be bullying, intimidation, or any kind of intolerance or violence toward people who see the world differently. This does not mean I celebrate ideas I differ with. This does mean that we must not reduce maleness and femaleness to time-bound idols, personality and interest types, or particular subcultural characteristics. We must desire that all people flourish and bring their gifts to our world.

It is impossible to address these issues without provoking reactions. Good! Reactions mean we care. The question is, will we move from reaction to true toleration? I live among neighbors who see the world very differently. I have family members with diverse worldviews. We argue, debate, and then have dinner. May we find the courage and compassion to do the same.

We Know Better, Part 9: Economics 101: A Call for sanity

If we managed our family checkbook like the federal government, we would all be bankrupt. It is one thing having deficit spending in wartime or particular crises. It is quite another to simply print money, sell T-Bills and leave $30T for future generations to manage. It is immoral, unconscionable, and terrible economics. We have tried to be a warfare and welfare states since the 1960s and we must alter course.

In this essay, I am not ranting about the current administration’s out-of-control spending and highly political largesse for voters. Anyone can do that. I am not going to lambaste both parties for their refusal to trim waste and remember that all the money they spend in Washington, D.C. originates with taxpayers. I am going to offer a way forward that is at first glance naïve and simplistic, but upon further reflection, incorporates the insights of leading thinkers of the last half-century and is non-partisan and non-ideological.

I think we must argue about spending priorities, just like the family dinner table, a small business, or the corporate boardroom. I think we must argue about a fair tax system, from flat taxes, modified flat taxes, progressive tax rates, and levels of corporate taxation. Let the debates begin in the House of Representatives where they belong, and let Congress do its job.

We also forget that decentralized administration is almost always more efficient and fairer, so it should be a long-term priority to have our states, counties, and cities receive a larger portion of our tax dollars and Washington, D.C. much less.

OK, here are three simple points that will transform our economic future, without starving anyone or leaving America defenseless.

ONE: We must achieve a truly balanced budget ASAP, preferably in the next five years, beginning with significant deficit reductions and then living within our means. What does this mean? Here are some ways forward under this heading:

  • Reduce ALL federal spending by 15-20% across the board, targeting inefficiencies, encouraging retirements, rewarding departments under budget, and placing moratoriums on discretionary spending. (Oh, and place all elected and appointed officials back in the social security system and privatize their pensions.)
  • Look to eliminate unneeded agencies, restore as many functions as possible back to state and local governments, and welcome input from business leaders on more effective administration.
  • Decide ahead of time that we must live within our means. Need more money for a particular program that is working? Then find new revenues that are not hurting the productive and perhaps cut other budgets if needed. 

TWO: We must transform our overly-complex federal tax system. We have higher corporate tax rates that many “semi-socialist” nations in Europe. The top 10% pay more than 60% of the taxes and almost half of all American pay little or nothing. Here is a pathway forward:

  • Move to a modified flat tax that is revenue neutral from the baseline of a selected year, like 2019 (when the economy was good). Start at 5% and set the cap at 20%. Do the math. There is enough money.
  • Over a five-year period, eliminate all personal deductions – yes, ALL deductions, including charity, mortgage interest, etc. If I know I will never pay more than 20%, then I am still incentivized to earn more. If I know that at least 5% will be paid, I will aim to work hard and advance.
  • Corporate tax rates must be fair and reasonable and we must stop the cronyism that exempts some elites and places the burdens on the rest of corporate America. Tax only profits after accounting for expenses, R&D, etc., and do not tax dividend, stock, and other capital gains above the lower rate. I recommend 20% as a maximum rate.

THREE: This is the hardest of all: We must stop looking to the federal government to directly solve problems best tackled by more local private-public partnerships. WE DO need the universal ethics of the federal government, but not the ubiquitous administration. For example, an FDA is good, but a government-run meat company would be terrible. Here are some first steps:

  • End all loans for education. Encourage grants and scholarships from states and private sources. Continue with scholarships for veterans and particular fields that serve the common good.
  • Streamline military and welfare agencies so that the cost of services is reduced and the frontlines are actually helped instead of everything being entangled in a bureaucratic mess.
  • NO taxes on personal inheritances. It is immoral to tax again monies already taxed.

The burden for these changes is on us, the American citizens that vote. Will we see the moral problem of spending or capitulate to fatalism and hope we get our share? Our grandchildren need our courage! And if we make these changes, our economy will again be the envy of the world.

We Know Better, Part 8: More wisdom from Life in 5-D

Last week we shared a vision of wholeness in Christ and hope you are encouraged to pursue God more deeply and buy our forthcoming book! In this essay, I want to offer some biblical foundations and practical wisdom so that we can jump-start progress in both our personal relationship with the Lord and in our local churches being more effective in equipping healthy believers. Here is an excerpt from the Introduction of our forthcoming book, Life in 5-D:

Our starting point was a simple question: “What does a healthy disciple look like?” Another way of saying this is, “What are the outcomes of a Christ-centered life under the kingdom of God?” One leader was blunt, “What does life look like when Christ is Lord of all?”

The Bible itself contains several summaries of what God expects of His followers. In the Old Testament, The Ten Commandments (Exod 20 and Deut 5) are imperatives for the people of God, outlining a life of gratitude rooted in God’s election, deliverance, and covenant-love (Exodus 4-20). Micah 6:8, in poetic fashion, summarizes a whole-life commitment of justice, mercy, and devotion.

Jesus shared the foundational attributes of Kingdom life in the Beatitudes (Matt 5) and His blessings (Luke 6) from the sermons on the mount and plain. Jesus told His followers that the commands to love God with one’s whole being and love one’s neighbor as oneself are the foundation and fruit of all of God’s ways (Matt 22:37-40).

Paul the Apostle, in the great love chapter of 1 Cor 13, unveils attitudes and actions that are the fruit of a life devoted to Christ. The fruit of the Spirit and the virtues of divine life are outlined in Gal 5:22-23. Peter offers another list of beautiful virtues in 2 Pet 1:1-10.

In the Book, we summarize the application of these beautiful passages in 5 Dimensions and 35 Outcomes.  In visual form, here is a new picture of wholeness:

“Wow! That is so much to grasp!” yes – and we have an adventurous lifetime with the Lord to understand and grow in this wholeness.

If we are serious about a flourishing life, here is another passage from the book to encourage us forward:

Here are three insights that will help us be victors and not victims as we move forward:

One: Our life will include both joy and suffering, unexplainable difficulties, and unbelievable delights. We are always walking in both, “the power of his [Christ’s] resurrection and participation in his sufferings” (Phil 3:10). When we embrace this paradoxical power of Christ, we will find greater endurance and discover fresh wisdom as we reflect on how God is at work for our good in all circumstances (Rom 8:15-39). For those of us who love theology, this is an integration of a theology of the Cross and a theology of glory.

Two: Satan has no weapon against humility. This is why both James and Peter exhort believers to humble themselves and then see the enemy flee as they resist his temptations (Jas 4; 1 Pet 5). When we aim for God’s glory and the good of others, eschew power-seeking for service, and celebrate others more than ourselves, we are filled with peace, trusted with divine power, and fulfilling God’s will in all we do (Mark 10:45).

Three: Expect an inner battle in addition to circumstantial challenges. As we embrace the 5 Dimensions and 35 Outcomes of our life in Christ, all kinds of distractions, distortions, and even depressing thoughts will fill our minds: “Nothing ever changes.” “These ideas are fine for some people, but not for me.” “This is too complex.” “I am not important.” In addition to these thoughts, we must also guard against spiritual pride as we embark on this journey.

With hearts full of faith, Let’s decide that today’s discipline is tomorrow’s destiny and that with God’s help, we can see real progress!