Category Archives: Courage

There are Answers: If We have Courage

This is the beginning of a series entitled, “There are Answers: If We Have Courage.” We will examine what many regard as intractable and unsolvable issues. We will fearlessly look at economic justice and the future of work, tax reform, immigration, Middle East policy, human identity, including gender, sexuality and transhumanism, racial tensions, religious freedom, academic and intellectual liberty, political polarization and principled compromise and global/local culture and life.

As always, we will distill insights from as many perspectives as possible – within the bounds of axiomatic principles and critical thinking. Conservatives may balk as the complexities of institutional transformation are evaluated. Liberals will worry that emphases on personal responsibility and certain enduring values will reverse gains in liberty. Good! We need deliverance from narrow ideological agitation propaganda.

In this essay, two issues foundational to all the rest will be examined: 1) the crisis of human identity/nature (anthropology); and 2) the crisis of objective knowledge and truth (epistemology). Without clarity on who we are and what we can know, all dialogue devolves into subjective opinion, with any critical comments deemed intolerant or a microaggression. Without such clarity, human freedom is confined to certain private experiences and life is increasingly controlled by a totalitarian state, since people “need help and cannot care for themselves.”

What does being human mean? Diverse philosophical and religious traditions answer this question in a variety of ways, from accidental evolutionary materialism to bearing the image of God. Are we merely highly evolved animals or divinely-crafted beings called to steward the rest of creation? Is human nature defined by physical processes alone or in there a unique interaction of body and spirit, brain and mind? In addition to our basic identity, are humans (like most of nature) either male or female or is there an almost infinite spectrum of identities?

Regardless of worldview, most people through most of history have not questioned the unique nature of human beings and the basic binary realities of male and female identity, albeit with a variety of opinions of erotic affections and actions.

Going forward, our American and global experiments in ordered liberty rooted in truth and virtue rest on humankind being uniquely endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights and responsibilities. Anything less than this and we devolve into arguments over blood and soil, raw scientism or fantastical speculations on human/machine singularity.

What about our foundations for knowledge? Until a half-century ago in the West, a basic correspondence theory of truth allowed for both cohesiveness and spirited debate, unity of essential facts and diversity of interpretations. No one argued whether certain events actually happened, though their impact and interpretation made for lively discussion. Today, we are told that there is no objective “there” – all we can do is interpret stories and hopefully find some convergence with shared narratives and opinions. Former President Obama’s two (!) pre-presidential autobiographies are perfect examples of ideological fabrication. Why do we need his “composite” portraits of friends and mentors? Why can we not have access to his records and writings? Why? Because history no longer stands on its own – it must serve the purposes of political advocacy. Beyond historical narrative, our epistemic crisis has fueled the same subjectivism for private and public morality, gender confusion and even allowed some to question full freedom of conscience and speech!

The uniqueness of being human and the knowability of the world are essential for grounding all arguments over justice and truth, love and human flourishing. Instead of marginalizing philosophical traditions, we should rediscover the wisdom of ancient texts and the goodness of contemporary research and synthesize these insights, so we can have a basis for social cohesion.

Our future as a nation – indeed as a human race – rests on this.

A Letter to Congress

Dear Republican and Democratic leaders,
While the public is distracted by kneeling, standing and tweeting, you are failing in your public service. Only courage will stop the polarizing forces tearing us apart.

Republicans, you were elected so we can have better stewardship of policy and public funds…and you cannot seem to pass any bills of note.

Democrats, you keep drifting to radical extremes while most of America wants a principled middle…can’t some of you propose bills for negotiation and eventual passage? Lock-step voting is a tired excuse for serious labor.

To both parties: Please stop the grandstanding and self-righteousness and start doing your job.

The president is not a king or a savior…and the courts are not legislatures (despite some of both branches antics over the past half-century). Instead of hand-wringing and blame-shifting, start working. I want to believe you have the best interests of our citizens in mind.

Prove it.

 

Critical Minds, Tender Hearts and a Prayer

A critical mind is not a judgmental heart.
May we (re)learn the art of evaluating arguments and evidence, without castigation or hypocrisy. Disagreeing with another’s perspective – even on moral and political issues – does not mean hatred or intolerance.
Living peaceably with our deepest differences while we find common principles of ordered liberty requires humility and courage.

A Joyful Lament:
Lord, hear my praises and receive my tears:
Rejoicing in the goodness, love and power of Christ.
Lamenting the immature and polarizing words of people in power, from the President to celebrities.
Rejoicing in all the good work done by millions no one hears about.
Lamenting the sufferings of so many and praying for comfort in Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, Mexico City and scores of other locales.
Rejoicing in the progress of many dialogues, community outreaches and on-the-ground renewing of communities.
Lamenting the inability of so many to live with diverse views and honor one another.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Holy Spirit, come anew with purifying and transforming grace.
Amen.

Courage and Grace: The Morning After 2014

Once again, midterm elections humble an incumbent President. Since 1938, almost all midterms bring favorable gains to the party outside the White House. Apart from an idiotic editorial in the New York Times calling for the elimination of midterm elections, what does this mean for America during the next two years…and beyond?

The drubbing of the Democrats in the House and Senate means little if the Republicans cannot articulate a fresh vision for America’s future that is inclusive and inspiring, passionate and principled. In my next essay on this sight, I will present one of my most important posts ever: “Vision 2016.” It is vital that clear and courageous directions are offered with sincere attempts at bipartisan cooperation. The “ether/or” polarization of the past six years must yield to integrity and statesmanship as we forge a preferred future.

Moral courage and political grace is needed, with Republicans adopting a principled and practical agenda that will benefit America for generations, not just secure the next election. There are four things that I hope ‘the morning after’ will bring:

First, a willingness to bring all legislation to the floors of both houses of Congress. The more the people know about the debates over pending bills the better for our democratic ethos. Harry Reid’s refusal to bring bills forward must change. Oh, and by the way, the lawmakers should actually read the bills before debate and passage!

Second, The House must give leadership to fiscal stewardship of public monies, reversing the last 50 years of White House control of the budget. It is time for federal financial matters to originate from their Constitutional source while challenging the Senate and White House to real negotiations over how our money is spent.

Third, President Obama’s judicial nominees deserve thorough scrutiny for both their ideology and legal records. When it comes to lifetime appointments, our nation needs better appointees.

Fourth, the spirit and tone of Republican communication must be civil and compassionate, firm on principles and flexible on some details. Republicans must learn the art of winning hearts as well as minds, garnering emotional support as well as being “right.” People of all classes and cultures want a better future for the next generation.

The next two years are the greatest test for the American Experiment in virtue-based liberty since the era of the Civil War. Will we reaffirm our first principles and articulate a fresh vision that inspires our nation/ Or will we continue on our present trajectories of anarchy, dysfunction and polarization? May we choose courage and grace and forge a better tomorrow for generations yes unborn.

One Moment Changes the World

One moment can change the world. Billions of human decisions are made every day across the globe. On the surface, most are innocuous or mundane, from changing a diaper to going to work. Sometimes they are history-altering, such as protests in the Ukraine or stock market crashes or rallies.

Sometimes unforeseen changes begins with a simple decision. St. Francis begins to rebuild an church one brick at a time…and a movement still vibrating begins. John Wycliffe begins translating the Bible into English and now billions can read the Scriptures in their own tongues. Bartolomeo de las Casas protests slavery and the long road to Emancipation begins. William Wilberforce stays in politics and fights for the end of slavery and scores of other causes for 50 years.

The challenges of the USA compel action, but voices of change are quickly drowned out in a sea of agitprop polemics. The current levels of hypocrisy and self-deception, short-term thinking and political manipulation are unprecedented in our history. It is not only the elites that are to blame. Millions of people are consciously or unconsciously capitulating to a fatalism of inaction. The gulf between professed principles and actual practices in widening daily. Consider:

  • “Everyone” loves the concept of a balanced budget. But no one will even begin with small cuts in over bloated salaries.
  • Immigration should be guided by law, but anyone supporting a modicum of regulation is a racist or xenophobe.
  • Millions are looking for work, but unwilling to labor in fields or service jobs.
  • Leaders decry the influence of lobbyists, then join their ranks as they depart “public service.”
  • Amoral anarchy is lamented as millions quietly engage in vicarious games and entertainment venues.
  • Tobacco is social evil number one…but billions of tax dollars flow from its consumption and we are making a worse mistake with “medical” marijuana. 
  • We advocate a healthy lifestyle, then pass out condoms to middle-school kids and offer “4th meal” fried food at midnight (to all the consumers of “medical marijuana.”)
Lamenting these and other evils, from abortion to divorce, redefinitions of marriage and family, educational outcomes and government intrusions into religion is easy – changing minds, hearts and wills in not.
Cries for spiritual awakening are the best start…and may they grow in intensity and sincerity.
Calls for activism and voting are helpful.
Maybe there is one more step…or millions of steps…that can propel lasting change. Perhaps each of us can have one moment that changes the world.
Our one moment arrives unexpectedly. It is veiled in other apparently “normal” decisions. Our moment dawns as we decide each day to love God supremely, love our neighbors unselfishly through our work and demonstrate in deed and declaration the veracity of the first principles that make for a flourishing life and society. If millions of “ordinary” people embark on a devoted and disciplined pathway of reverence for God, respect for all people, rigorous self-examination and right practices in their private and public life, the world will change. 
Some may emerge as leaders, even historic figures. Others will be agents of change one relationship at a time. Instead of continual lamentation, let’s ceaselessly labor for the common good. Instead of captivity to edutainment, let’s learn the proven pathways that yield prosperity for future generations. Instead of immediate pleasure, let’s infuse principles that allow the next generation to flourish.
One moment changes the world – it is our decision today.