Tag 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.

Telling the Truth About Islam, Part 3: The Powerful Weapon…of Humility

In the previous essays, the Islamist ethos of conquest was exposed. We must honestly face this threat to human liberty.

Confronting totalitarian ideology requires military and political courage and wisdom. The policies since 9-11-2001 have been haphazard at best and utter failures at worst.

But there is one more resource needed in the battle for liberty: humility about the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of the West. The battle against fanaticism will never be won without integrity at the core of the fight. At first this sounds counter intuitive. Often folks say that if our opponents fight dirty, so must we. While there may be moments of compromise and subversion in any war, at the heart of success must be an unflinching faith in the values and vision for the civilization we are defending.

One of the Islamists’ most destructive and divisive tactics is their blistering critique of Western decadence, including our materialism, narcissism and racism. Each of these self-centered characteristics creates fertile ground for the poison of ideological extremism.

History loudly exposes the darker side of the West.All of these events embolden radicals with long memories:
• 15th-19th century conquest and exploitation of the Americas;
• 19th and 20th century European “mandates” in Africa and the Middle East;
• The conquest of the North American continent at the expense of indigenous rights;
• And the 20th century American domination of her empire acquired in war.

For the past six decades, the West has struggled to atone for prior evils and bring aid to the world, with mixed results. One thing does ring true, in spite of all the mistakes made:

Everywhere there is freedom of conscience and economic opportunity in the world, there has been some form of Christian and Western influence encouraging values that lead to human flourishing. And Islam has never produced a truly egalitarian democracy. These values include more than “freedom.” Religious faith, personal responsibility, access to markets, property rights and the rule of law are all part of this liberating ethos.

Time for Truth

Courage and humility, joined with reverence for the Almighty and respect for all persons, provide the moral and spiritual core strength for the long battle we must face with the global jihadists. If we continue to waste our energies in amoral and immoral entertainment and cultural distractions, there will not be the energy and focus needed for wise confrontation and defeat of determined enemies.

9/11

9/11: We all remember where we were. (Flames Restaurant, San Jose, CA).

9/11: Grief. Horror. Shock. Anger.

9/11: And prayers in full churches. Hugs with family and neighbors. Our Persian landlords bring a fruit basket and share tears with us.

9/11: Our eldest son’s 18th birthday. We still have cake and presents, because life is still worth living.

9/11: A nation in mourning. A nation facing an intractable and zealous, elusive and untraditional foe that hates every value we hold dear.

9/11: Not a conspiracy – a tragedy. Not a time for a religious crusade, but repentance and resolution, moral and spiritual reformation and action.

Today is 9/11/14.

Mr. President, will you lead with civil and political consensus, with international support and moral and military courage? The enemies beheading Americans (and raping and killing across all cultural and religious lines) must be opposed without qualification. We are not facing victims of Western imperialism. Israel is not a genocidal state, she is a democratic ally. Even Egypt knows this!  The West is weak, but not destroyed. The question of the hour is simple: will be stand for freedom, oppose tyranny and not be reduced to the morality of our opponents?

9/11/14: Time to act with courage and wisdom, not platitudes and wishful thinking. We must not allow our self-hatred and historical guilt (some of which is valid) to cloud our vision. Our enemies want our complete submission. We must call for complete freedom of conscience and religion and defend for all others the rights we want for ourselves.

Like the 1930s, we are war weary – and hopeful that generous financial arrangements and a wide toleration of cultural differences will persuade our enemies to desist. Our lack of internal integrity and strategic inaction only increases their resolve.

9/11/14: A time to act.