Category Archives: public virtue


Observations on a Friday:

The human condition is summed up well by watching preschool children play. One minute they are hugging, laughing and sharing…the next they are crying, pushing and refusing to share.

Federal government leaders are like dieters confronting a box of doughnuts. They know they should walk away after eating one and sharing the box, but they end up eating all of them. Restraint is not an easy virtue.

“Redefining” marriage and family does not change the empirical and intuitive truth that humans are conceived by one man and one woman and children are best served by their biological parents staying together.

Just when I am about to embrace pacifism fully, Iran, North Korea and the Taliban do or say something that awakens a sensibility that we need military force in a fallen world.

But when the noxious odor of crusading and militarism appears, I realize that I am first a citizen of God’s kingdom and must love and pray for my enemies even as nations try to resist evil.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam see the world very differently, even as they share certain monotheistic and moral concepts. Civil discourse with love and respect is a must; pretending that “they worship the same deity” is intellectually and spiritually dishonest.

Academics are a funny lot sometimes. They love to rage against capitalism while teaching in buildings funded by people that were productive and employed others…and, gasp! – made a profit.

Why do so many environmentalists express deep concern for obscure animal species while allowing the elimination of unborn humans? Conversely, good ecology is good economics…if we care for creation, it will care for our posterity.

The local church can be the incubator of spiritual and social transformation. As people connect with God and each other, they become creative and productive and the world is better.

We cannot regulate all risk out of our lives.

Warm homemade bread and butter shared with people you love is profoundly gratifying.

2012 Insights

This week a student texted a question to me, “Dr. Self, is the world going to end in 2012?” The inquirer was a sincere, thoughtful Christian and concerned about the dire predictions of friends, media moguls and spin doctors on the left and right.
I answered that all Christians believe in the hope of Christ’s Return; however, we are to fulfill our callings well until that Day. As we live in hope we can plant trees, invest for our posterity, establish new products, develop new forms of compassion and give more than we take from the world.

The question reflects more than pop-cult interest in the Mayan calendar or the latest televangelist interpretations of the Book of Revelation. There is an unsteadiness in the USA that reflects the erosion of public cohesion that has been accelerating since the late 1960s and is taking nasty turns in this election year.

There are no “good old days” in US history – just better or worse actions of a few or many persons that create conditions for progress or regress. The 1950s were an amazing moment of economic and social growth; however, millions of African-Americans could not vote and had no access to many fields of work. The 1960s brought Civil Rights – and Vietnam. Technology has expanded exponentially since the 1950s, but social mores have fragmented and public virtue is scoffed at by the chattering elites.

The dis-integration of our land is evident when we exonerate a standing President for lying about his moral life in the 1990s, give any consideration to a current candidate that is a two-time adulterer and outright lie to ourselves about current economic conditions.

We have a regime in power with deep distrust of the Founders’ vision and the U.S. Constitution. Obama’s declaration that his administration is the “fourth most influential” after Johnson, FDR and Lincoln unveils the hubris, narcissism and self-deception that are foundational to his leadership. His declaration that Israel has no greater friend that his administration and “don’t let anyone tell you otherwise” reveals a totalitarian streak that is dangerous for the future of the USA and democracy around the world. His latest appointments without Congressional approval verify his utter disdain for dissent and his moral and political laziness. Forging lasting change through effective compromise is hard work and thus far Obama is unwilling to tackle issues in real dialogue with his opponents.

Conservatives are not exempt from critique. Where is a compelling vision of prosperity that includes compassion and resources for retooling and vocational change? When are Republicans going to realize that some defense cuts are needed as part of an overall budget-balancing goal? Conservatives talk about less government, but are they willing to lay aside thousands of earmarks, subsidies and pork barrel projects, including unwise ones that may bring a few jobs to their district or state?
Will conservatives join with progressives to secure our borders while making legal immigration less onerous? Will conservatives stop calling all environmentally-concerned folks crazy and pick up the mantle of Theodore Roosevelt and affirm that free enterprise includes holding companies accountable and managing resources well?

We can unite compassion and wealth creation.

Personal and social responsibility are inseparable.

We can have an effective military response to terror without being an occupying force.

We must stand for Israel’s existence and be real peacemakers, negotiating Middle East peace.

We can simplify the tax system and grow revenue by stimulating investment.

Sound ecological practice is good for the economy as we leave the world better for our children.

We must stand against any ideology that despises human rights and reject our democratic principles.

We must want for others the rights we claim for ourselves. Government does not bestow freedoms and rights; it exists to protect God-give/Natural rights that are inherent in the human condition.

We must resist moral relativism and reaffirm that there are “first principles” that are the root and fruit of a free and noble society.

We need to aspire to maturity and honor milestones that celebrate transitions to adulthood. Let’s stop rushing kids into sexual adulthood and extending adolescence into our 30s.

Life and politics need to be local again, without a retreat into obscurantism or xenophobia. More money needs to be spent locally and less money managed by the elites inside the DC Beltway.

Will the world end in 2012? God alone knows the moment when current history is transformed into the kingdom of God and all swords become plowshares, lambs and lions lie down together, we cease making war, tears are wiped away and the dwelling place of the Almighty is with humankind forever. Until that moment we have daily opportunities to be signposts of this future shalom, emissaries of peace and reconciliation, ennobling work and being stewards of a bountiful world. We cannot bring instant perfection, but we can partner with God and each other to ensure that no one is hungry. We can encourage creativity, initiative and liberty to grow. Let’s shape our lives so that the deepest wellsprings of reverence and mutual respect are nurtured in homes and communities of hope.

Some Good News

We are just a year away from the 2012 elections. The economy is a mess, our “outreach” to radical Islamicists is a failure and our current President – the least transparent in US history – is losing popularity daily. Republicans still struggle to find a unifying leader who will galvanize the base and appeal to non-partisan, thoughtful people. The EU is struggling, China is gobbling up all the oil they can and from Wall Street to the Wailing Wall the Jews are once again being blamed for the world’s ills. What looked like a populist call for accountability has degenerated into left-over Marxists mini-mobs of a few score folks with nothing better to do. The Left can’t even agree on authentic “blackness” with their half-African-American President losing credibility and a 100% African American gaining popularity from the right. Why is it that every conservative Black is an “Uncle Tom” ( labeled and libeled by folks who have never read the original Harriet Beecher Stowe novel) while every Marxist agitator is “progressive’?

Where is the good news in all of this? What is heartening is the reawakening of the true American ethos by people on both sides of the political aisle. Clear-minded folks are discovering that we need to create wealth in the private sector if we are going to have any public largess. A solid work ethic coupled with public fiscal restraint, is the only pathway forward. Our federal government is incapable of creating jobs directly – it must regulate, not administrate. Government must become more local and less D.C.-centric. Democratic politicians are distancing themselves from Obama and Occupy Wallk Street ius a footnote to real news and the daily focus of most people. The failure of Solyndra is not stimulating gas-guzzling and environmental disaster . quite the opposite is true – Amricans are constantly inventing in backyards and laboratoies, in coffee-bars and corporate boardrooms. Creativity is alive and well – if only we could apply our social networking and technology development energies to new governmental systems!

Hard work, clear thinking, creativity and the end of the warfare-welfare state open new possibilities for a better American future. Our current headlong rush to self-destruction can be turned around in a moment if we will recover courage, humility, reverence for the Almighty, respect for one another and self-discpline that looks beyond the next paycheck. We can drill for oil AND develop new enery sources without environmental armaggedons. We can advocate for a new Palestinian State AND assure Israel’s security. We can recover public virtue AND respect privacy. We can have toleration AND debate our deepest differences. My moral objections to homoerotic behavior are not hate speech or intolerance. My support of Israel is not colonial racist zionism. My affirmation of the free market is not an endorsement of rapacious capitalism. Cutting public entitlements includes cutting over-bloated defense spending, recalbrating our global war on terror and choosing seek and destroy missions instead of foreign occupation.

Let’s agitate intelligently by reading about the issues, asking searching questions of our public servants and insisting that politicians and public unions play by the same rules as private-sector businesses. There is good news – perhaps we are arising from a half-century of lassitude and willful ignorance. We do not need bumper stickers and other agitprop devices – we need to wake up every day ready to make the world a better place.