Sunday, January 28, 2007

Politics & Change

Is it too early to be sick of the election coverage?

Of every hour of news coverage I watch or read, almost half of it is devoted to who is (will be) running for president, that person’s views and likelihood of victory. I must admit, I’m already sick of it. Perhaps this is a by-product of Iraq War coverage burnout, but it really seems rather ridiculous.

In the war of politics, its seems that neither major party is creating any new and innovative ideas. For the most part, the candidates appear to be hedging their bets, waiting to see how the next 6 months of the Iraq turn out; waiting to see how the US economy shapes up; waiting to see how minorities settle on border/immigration issues; just waiting.

Has the political arena become so treacherous that nobody does anything for fear of doing something wrong? Or even worse, they prevent their opponents from doing anything for fear that they might succeed? Just what will it take to break this infantile cycle and move forward? But this shouldn’t surprise me, when both sides cannot agree on what ‘forward’ means, it is inevitable that progress cannot be made.

At some point—I hope in the near future—American citizens are going to have to realize that they need to demand national politicians that take into account what is best for the country; then what is best for the state; then what is best for the county; then what is best for the individual. The simpleton framing of ‘For’ or ‘Against’ issues will have to be laid by the wayside, in favor of more intelligent and rational discourse & decision-making.

My personal feelings on immigration, global warming, universal health care, abortion, etc. are the least relevant items in a discussion of national policy. If individuals cannot escape the fallacy of electing politicians who always agree with them, America is destined to be replaced as a world-leader, and likely doomed to be defeated as a military superpower. The simple fact is that the population has reached the stage where there will always be a significant amount of people that disagree with any particular policy you want to consider. In fact, it seems as if the population is quickly nearing the stage where the dissenters will consistently be in the majority. In other words, no one can agree on the right course of action, but many can agree the currently pursued course is the wrong one (often for different reasons).

  • This is what has happened in Iraq. No one is happy with the present state of affairs. However the only thing that most people can agree on is that the situation is messed up. Ask 10 people how to fix the situation and you’ll get 11 opinions.
  • This is what has happened about Illegal Immigration. With the exception of certain businesses, there is overall discontent with the security of American borders, and the corresponding problems with illegal immigrant influx. But not only can no one agree on a solution, neither political party is willing to let the other try their ideas. Consequently we end up with a law authorizing building a fence that has no money to pay for it and nobody to build it.
  • This is what has happened with women’s & gay rights. Proponents of every side are disasstisfied with the progress their view has made in the last 20 years. Gay advocacy groups want more protections in medical areas, legalization of unions/marriages, and more protection against discrimination. Religious conservatives want more laws/amendments protecting the stereotypical ‘family unit’, more protection of financial assets, and more freedom to indoctrinate their children at home and at school. Women’s rights advocacy groups want more protections for economically disadvantaged women; more freedom in medical and health decisions; and more defense of children and adults on sexual and gender discrimination. Right-to-Life advocacy groups want more incentives for married couples and more restrictive abortion laws or complete abolishment of the medical practice.

As long as there are these and other issues that American voters had self-centric opinions about, professional politicians will be able to finagle their way into office, promising much but delivering mostly nothing. Will the voters be satisfied with non-action while America slowly slips into obsoleteness? As the saying goes: “Those who do not adapt, die.” If politics in America doesn’t change, we may have front-row seats to watch the decline of American industry in favor of Asian, South American, and African industry; we’ll have a bird’s-eye view as Asia races past us in scientific advancement; and we’ll have up-close & personal access to the replacement of American culture.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Updates running behind

Hey all,

Just wanted to leave a note. I’m running behind on the updates for the website. Actually to be truthful, I can’t say I’m really running, since I’m working on other things at the moment and haven’t looked at it. I’ve got over 150 pictures to update into the galleries, as well as update the writing, and HBP sections. Sometimes it is better not knowing how high the mountain you have to climb is before you start climbing it.

Hopefully, I'll have newer stuff up by the end of the month.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Some Religio-Philosophical Musings Part 1

So what is the relationship between a person’s personal philosophy and that person’s individual role in the society with which he or she lives? Of particular note is the growing tide of American religious followers who believe that Christian’s should be more active inside social and political organizations for varying reasons (spread the Gospel, help the poor and downtrodden, protect the weak, uphold moral standards, etc.). Does close examination of their primary scriptures (Bible) support the many permutations of actions these beliefs result in? How should a person claiming membership as a Christian function in society?

These questions seem to fall into two major categories: A.)Does the bible instruct Christians to support or subvert the current political/social system? and B.)Does the bible instruct Christians to hold nonbelievers to the same moral/ethical standards and actions it demands of Christians? The first question addresses what the individual Christian should do; the latter question addresses what the individual Christian should expect/require nonbelievers to do. Both questions are critical because dependant upon the answer, conflict between devout or fervent practitioners and the rest of the citizens may be incited or appeased.

For the purposes of this discussion, Category B [Does the bible instruct Christians to hold nonbelievers to the same moral/ethical standards & actions it demands of Christians?] will be addressed first. Category A will be addressed in a later post. Rather than go line-by-line through the entire bible, let’s pull out 2 small passages of Scripture every Christian should agree on, and then use the remainder of the bible as a historical commentary.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 NIV.

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all our soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 NIV.

Assuming for the moment that there is obvious and recognizable destinctions between believers and nonbelievers, a Christian is commanded first to love a neighbor. The usage here implies something different than the current conventional meaning of love; it implies something closer to the ancient greek forms of agape or phileos, the kind of unconditional love or love between family members. If it stopped there, there should be little conflict between Christians and nonbelievers since it basically commands a compassionate, proactive version of The Golden Rule.

However, the other passage clearly extends the role of a Christian much further. A Christian is to make, baptize, and teach disciples. Of question is whether the ‘all nations’ refers to individual people or the societal groups as a whole. The distinction is relevant because it could mean the difference between America being a nation of Christian people or being America the Christian Nation. The former simply indicates that the majority (>50%) of the individual citizens are Christians; the latter implies that the state itself is Christian. A Christian state—no matter how much it attempts to be accommodating—simply has no room for dissenting practices. From examining the old testament, it is clear that the God of the Hebrews did not want them accommodating foreign religions and practices in their midst. Jesus claimed to be this God’s son, and demanded the same from his followers.

Of additional concern is the meaning behind the words ‘go and make disciples.” If this phrase is taken literally (without the additional passage as context), it would seem that conflict between nonbelievers and Christians is inevitable. However, nowhere in this passage does it delineate how those disciples are to be made. This is where the command about loving neighbors comes in. Since the word ‘disciple’ literally means: “one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another; a convinced adherent of a school or individual (Websters Dictionary),” the manner in which someone becomes a convinced adherent willing to spread doctrine is at issue.

Quite simply, there is no reason to assume the process of converting people should be done by force, since it is hard to reconcile the idea of a loving way to force someone to believe. I’ve heard some people try and make the argument, that if you truly love someone and know they are making a mistake, you should force them to stop. I don’t buy it. Freedom is the opportunity to choose to do the right thing. Forcing someone to decide what you want them to decide removes the opportunity for them to choose. There is no way that can be considered loving them: rather it is dominating them.

But when an individual rejects Christian doctrine, there is little incentive for that person to abide by the philosophical and moral dictates of Christianity. For that individual it would be akin to asking them to abide by the dictates of your invisible friend. Not only would that person consider you foolish, but following your guidelines would (from that person’s perspective) be irrational. But we come to an important caveat here. The philosophical and moral dictates of Christianity may not be unique to that religion. Point-of-origin claims aside, many religions share similar philosophical and moral underpinnings, though the core details may differ. Some secular stances share philosophical and moral underpinnings with Christianity; what they differ on is usually the rationale and purpose behind them. Consequently, Christians cannot claim exclusivity on the dictates any longer.

If Christians cannot claim exclusivity on the dictates, then they can no longer demand adherence to their version from others either. If the secular stance defines marriage as something different than Christianity, there is no section of the Bible that demands forced adherence by nonbelievers; rather it is laid out that there are simply serious eternal consequences for rejection. It is not the job of Christians to bring the consequences, simply to inform nonbelievers of them and live the rightly by example, while attempting to persuade through word & action.

Monday, January 8, 2007

In Progress...

Well, I figured a way to use Adobe Photoshop to create the image gallery. It's inelegant, but it works better than the brute and ad hoc methods I was using before. Suffice to say that I'm not yet proud of the website, but I'm glad somethings finally there, considering that I've been paying for the server space for almost a year without using it.

Now I've got to update the other galleries, upload some writing samples, and fix all the layout anamalies.

Site Up on 01/08/2006

Well it's only several months behind schedule and still has major problems and bugs to be worked out but, I'm putting Version 1 of the site up today. I promised a friend it would be up in December, but family issues delayed me. Please forgive all the broken links and currently empty pages, more is coming. As the scant knowledge of web design I remember over 8 years old, I'm having an interesting adventure trying to create a website on my own using Adobe GoLive2. I still haven't got all the kinks worked out.

First Post

As the first post on this blog, I will now endeavor to indicate the blog’s purpose.

1) This is a location for random thoughts and musings that haven’t yet been organized into a coherent and clear essay, theory, or paper.

2) This is a location to quickly disseminate information about that hasn’t formally been announced on the website.

3) I hope to use this as a way for quick feedback.