Archive for the ‘Spirit’ Category

Matthew McConaughey’s Counter Cultural Speech

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

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Remember moments of Oscar night rebellion? Marlon Brando comes to mind. Someone on Twitter said they were happy that the Oscars were devoid of politics.

Actually, politics did enter the artistic arena–it’s just that for the average God-believing American, it went unnoticed because it is part of their culture.

For the Academy, though, Matthew McConaughey’s speech was profoundly counter cultural and “weird”.

This is where we are in America: Thanking God, humbly and passionately, is viewed as strange, different, and even subversive.

America has been transformed, alright. You’re a rebel if you’re a sincere God believer and willing to say so.



Indecent: The Inhumane Response To The Newtown Tragedy

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

When the BBC hosts pilloried me about remaining mute and not opinionating in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, I noted that it seems like we should at least be quiet until families are notified. It’s unseemly to be politicizing a very personal tragedy.

“This isn’t about politics,” one host shrieked,”it’s about GUNS!”

I responded,”Well, the solution to the gun issue the president brought up would be political.”

The host continued by saying that he felt the reason I hadn’t written about the tragedy and that the NRA hadn’t spoken about it was because we were ashamed. I countered with the fact that I was, presently, talking to the BBC about the tragedy and defending Americans rights to keep and bear arms. I was not ashamed to defend that.

But I was ashamed that defending the Constitution had to be done in this way at this time.

It was unsettling. It was too soon. And yet, someone had to push back against the philistines willing to ride on the backs of dead children to pursue their political agenda. And though sickened, I spoke up.

Jonah Goldberg captures this disgust nicely. Please read his whole post. Here’s a snippet:

I haven’t written much about the Newtown shooting. I did write my first column of the week about it because I felt I had to chime in. But I resented it. Maybe it’s because I’m becoming too sentimental about kids. Maybe it’s because I’m sick to death of death. Maybe it’s some other personal failing on my part, but I nonetheless resent being dragged into the political maw so quickly after a bunch of little kids were picked off by a madman with a gun. I agree with 90% of the things written by my colleagues about guns and gun control and the second amendment over the last week, but I nonetheless find it a bit grotesque that it’s necessary for anyone to be celebrating or defending guns before these little, little, kids have even been buried. It feels indecent to me.

It is indecent.

No, your ends do not justify these means.

I have to wonder: Do the folks indulging in this orgie of political posturing know loss and death? Are they so distanced from sorrow that they cannot empathize with the parents and suffering families? Are they such zealots for their cause that they’re willing to step on a heap of dead children to fight for it? Do they not see what they’re doing?

Maybe it’s just that when you’re a humanist, your instinct is to blame humans. If your worldview is that people are essentially good, that they’ve been nurtured wrong, or society failed, and then evil, evil guns were around, then blaming parents, doctors, teachers, gun manufacturers, “society” is the route one goes. And this time, the usual blamable subjects don’t quite fit that worldview. The boy’s mother, school officials, psychologists, everyone, were trying to do something to help him. The boy couldn’t be helped or wasn’t helped soon enough. Maybe he didn’t want to be helped.

So, it’s the guns and people who have guns who are evil. Someone must be blamed.

It is devastating to look at the deaths of twenty children and see the horror unfold in a lovely community (that did all the right gun control things) and for evil to still happen.

One feels helpless.

Helplessness is the natural human state. Humanists just live under an illusion — more laws, or better people, or the right resources will make all societal ills vanish. No, they won’t.

And so, we see folks fighting like badgers about guns, because it feels like Something Can Be Done. It’s better to be angry and active, then passive and helpless.

It is tougher, as Eugene Kennedy says, when tragedies strike, to accept what is. Andrew Malcolm and I interviewed Professor Kennedy about the Newtown tragedy.

Rather than talking about guns or laws or even mental illness, Professor Kennedy talked about the nature of man, of suffering, and of our walk on the earth. To me, it seems like we should be talking about those things.

Instead, we’re talking about guns. It is, as Jonah says, indecent.



Adam Lanza And The Look Of Mass Murder: Why do mass murderers look the same?

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

What do mass murderers have in common? Their facial expressions. At least, that’s the way it looks to me.

I don’t know what to make of this, but I thought I’d share these pictures and let you judge for yourself. Basically, I was looking at this Lanza kid and that professor who killed her colleagues came to mind. Then, I thought of the guy in Colorado who killed the people at the Batman showing, and I thought: they all look the same.

Clinically, they all look mildly hyperthyroid–you can see the whites of their eyes in some cases. Their faces are drawn. Their hair flat, dull, and looking like they may be nutritionally deprived.

I want to know what medications these people were on. The public has a right to know about them: their family situation, their parents’ psychological profiles, birth order, any psychological diagnoses, their I.Q.’s, surgeries, illnesses, vaccinations, medications, nutrition, genetics… everything.

Public policy will be suggested, but how can we come up with adequate solutions if we can’t pinpoint the problem? And clearly, all of these people have problems–and they aren’t new ones. People knew they were trouble. In many cases, family tried to intervene.

Don’t they look the same? What goes wrong in the wiring that we recognize this form of crazy? No one is surprised by them. Or these cases seem to rarely surprise anyone. Is it because we see and/or sense the crazy emanating off of them? Very often, they cross paths with psychologists, teachers, doctors, and their parents are worried, overwhelmed, in denial, or inept. [Lanza’s mom had confrontations with the school system.]

What do we do with this?









It doesn’t matter their names. In fact, I don’t want to dignify these killers with showcasing their names. They all look the same.

They share a bleak, blankness in their eyes. Their mouths are drawn. They seem to be removed, distant. And underneath it all, there seems to be a suppressed fury.

The world is unfair. Nothing matters. So kill the world.

These seem to be the faces of malignant nihilism.

Emptiness.

Evil.

Possessed?



The Atlantic’s Anti-Christian Bigotry: Tim Tebow Reveals The Press’ Hate

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Imagine reading this in The Atlantic:

The Twitterverse is already taking notice of the “holy” pairing of last month’s sensation New York Knicks point guard Mohammed El Arabi with this afternoon’s sensation: New York Jets quarterback Abd Al-Ala Awwal. (We’re still getting used to typing that last one.) New York City’s professional sports won’t be lacking in the Qu’ran thumping department. As you may have already heard, the New York Jets have traded a fourth round pick to the Denver Broncos for Abd Al-Ala Awwal’s services. For now, the trade sort of puts a stop to the schadenfreude surrounding Abd Al-Ala Awwal and the Peyton Manning acquisition. So what now? Well jokes, of course. For some–the pairing of the very-Muslim, pro-life, Allah-loving Tebow and New York City might be bit odd. (However, we’re guessing there’s some cheering going on around the New York Post and Daily News sports desks). We won’t know how this will work out for the Jets until the fall. But with Allah, Mohammed El Arabi, and Abd Al-Ala Awwal on New York City’s side, who’s going to take the blame for next season’s losses?

Or better yet, this:

The Twitterverse is already taking notice of the “unholy” pairing of last month’s sensation New York Knicks point guard George Carlin with this afternoon’s sensation: New York Jets quarterback Christopher Hitchens. (We’re still getting used to typing that last one.) New York City’s professional sports won’t be lacking in the The God Delusion-thumping department. As you may have already heard, the New York Jets have traded a fourth round pick to the Denver Broncos for Hitchens’ services. For now, the trade sort of puts a stop to the schadenfreude surrounding Hitchens and the Peyton Manning acquisition. So what now? Well jokes, of course. For some–the pairing of the very-Atheist, abortion loving, God-hating Hitchens and New York City might be bit odd. (However, we’re guessing there’s some cheering going on around the New York Times and Wall Street Journal sports desks). We won’t know how this will work out for the Jets until the fall. But with biology, George Carlin, and Chris Hitchens on New York City’s side, who’s going to take the blame for next season’s losses?

And then read this:

The Twitterverse is already taking notice of the “holy” pairing of last month’s sensation New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin with this afternoon’s sensation: New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow. (We’re still getting used to typing that last one.) New York City’s professional sports won’t be lacking in the bible-thumping department. As you may have already heard, the New York Jets have traded a fourth round pick to the Denver Broncos for Tebow’s services. For now, the trade sort of puts a stop to the schadenfreude surrounding Tebow and the Peyton Manning acquisition. So what now? Well jokes, of course. For some–the pairing of the very-Christian, pro-life, God-loving Tebow and New York City might be bit odd. (However, we’re guessing there’s some cheering going on around the New York Post and Daily News sports desks). We won’t know how this will work out for the Jets until the fall. But with God, Jeremy Lin, and Tim Tebow on New York City’s side, who’s going to take the blame for next season’s losses?

The aforementioned was actually written.

God-hating. Christian-despising. American-loathing.

Our modern media is very out of touch with America.



Christopher Hitchens: Always Learning…And Coming To The Truth?

Friday, December 16th, 2011


Christopher Hitchens died yesterday, here in Houston at MD Anderson.

A faithful atheist, Christopher Hitchens wrestled with God. I appreciated watching it in action. It was like witnessing Jacob go round after round with the Maker begging to be blessed. Hitchens wanted to be blessed with belief, I believe.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but it seemed to me he felt cursed by not being allowed entre into an intellectual world he couldn’t understand. His unbelief limited his understanding of the world both literary and literal and unlike so many, he seemed aware of his lack. He seemed to resent it. So, he fought.

An honest believer of any stripe fights. The mindless, whether atheist or God-fearer, makes a mockery of belief itself. Some might be surprised that a man who seemed to so despise God would be respected by believers. Here’s been my experience: the fighters acknowledge Something whether conscious or not.

Reminds me of the verse Revelation 3:15:

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.”

In a politically correct world of facile sophistry, Christopher Hitchens was either hot or cold. He certainly wasn’t lukewarm.

He didn’t brook the flabby self-congratulation of the likes of Bill Maher the king of cheap and easy pseudo-intellectualism.

One of my favorite Hitchens moments was between Christopher Hitchens and Andrew Sullivan in a debate moderated by the incomparable Tim Russert. At one point, Hitchens decried Andrew’s whining like a little girl. It was offensive, un-p.c. and completely deserved.

One of the most painful Hitchens exchanges was Hitch and his brother debating over the existence of God. What pained me was Christopher’s brother Peter’s pain.

Peter wrote about his journey to Christianity (well worth the read):

Being Christian is one thing. Fighting for a cause is another, and much easier to acknowledge – for in recent times it has grown clear that the Christian religion is threatened with a dangerous defeat by secular forces which have never been so confident.

Why is there such a fury against religion now? Because religion is the one reliable force that stands in the way of the power of the strong over the weak. The one reliable force that forms the foundation of the concept of the rule of law.
The one reliable force that restrains the hand of the man of power. In an age of powerworship, the Christian religion has become the principal obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for absolute power.

While I was making my gradual, hesitant way back to the altar-rail, my brother Christopher’s passion against God grew more virulent and confident.

As he has become more certain about the non-existence of God, I have become more convinced we cannot know such a thing in the way we know anything else, and so must choose whether to believe or not. I think it better by far to believe.

And then he writes of his brother:

My brother and I agree on this: that independence of mind is immensely precious, and that we should try to tell the truth in clear English even if we are disliked for doing so. Oddly enough this leads us, in many things, to be far closer than most people think we are on some questions; closer, sometimes, than we would particularly wish to be.

The same paradox sometimes also makes us arrive at different conclusions from very similar arguments, which is easier than it might appear. This will not make us close friends at this stage. We are two utterly different men approaching the ends of two intensely separate lives.

Let us not be sentimental here, nor rashly over-optimistic. But I was astonished, on that spring evening by the Grand River, to find that the longest quarrel of my life seemed unexpectedly to be over, so many years and so many thousands of miles after it had started, in our quiet homes and our first beginnings in an England now impossibly remote from us.

It may actually be true, as I have long hoped that it would be, in the words of T. S. Eliot, that ‘the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time’.

And if that peace could come…

Well, we all get old and we all soften, or most with any shred of wisdom do. And so, the question was asked by Mark Judge,”Is Christopher Hitchens about to convert?

My initial answer to the question was a version of “isn’t it pretty to think so”? My second thought was who can know the mind of men? And that reminded me of I Corinthians 2:11 (again in the King James version because I’m partial):

“For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.”

Or said in a modern way, “After all, who knows everything about a person except that person’s own spirit? In the same way, no one has known everything about God except God’s Spirit.”

We can only know believers by their fruit and forgive me, but Christopher Hitchens was withering. Ultimately, his belief is between him and God. It is for all of us.

Either way, I’m thankful for Christopher Hitchens. His keen mind and incisive questions forced a believer to be better in his answers.

And that is why I’ll miss Christopher Hitchens most–his unintended consequences. It is with great irony that he caused many who were learning, to come to the truth–even if he couldn’t.

UPDATED: Please read his brother Peter’s eulogy. It’s excellent. A smidgeon:

He would always rather fight than give way, not for its own sake but because it came naturally to him. Like me, he was small for his age during his entire childhood and I have another memory of him, white-faced, slight and thin as we all were in those more austere times, furious, standing up to some bully or other in the playground of a school we attended at the same time.

This explains plenty. I offer it because the word ‘courage’ is often misused today. People sometimes tell me that I have been ‘courageous’ to say something moderately controversial in a public place. Not a bit of it. This is not courage. Courage is deliberately taking a known risk, sometimes physical, sometimes to your livelihood, because you think it is too important not to.

Another moving tribute by his friend, Peter Robinson.



Boomer Blame

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Very interesting (but rather wrong) piece about the younger generations blaming the Boomers by Walter Russell Read by way of Monty at Ace. The comments are far more insightful.

Says Alex Scipio:

Sorry, Prof. Mead, but you have widely missed the mark.

When the 18-yr olds, the lead Boomers, were given the vote in 1972 and shortly began their careers in office, the Debt was $400B. For this America had purchased and/or conquered a continent, invented air and space travel, modern manufacturing, fertilizers and pharmaceuticals, invented and commercialized computers and telecommunications, and won every war we had tried to win.

The Boomers? Have invented nothing. Have discovered nothing.Have generated wealth only in bubbles based on intenet (also invented by their parents as ARPANet) fantasy.

Sure – Boomers are in everywhere pretending that they have anything good to say or any worthwhile thoughts. But take a look around. The world of the past 50 years is a steady decline of cultural and societal courtesy, manner, education, volunteering, education, exploration, education (did I say education?).

Even better, John Lynch concludes:

I’m Gen X, and I’ve been stuck listening to Boomer [folderol] my whole life.

Now the Boomers are all doom and gloom. That’s not because the world is really all that much worse off than it’s ever been. It’s just the impending death of the Boomer generation. They’ve mistaken their own decline for that of the nation and the world.

The Boomer generation has always thought that nothing happened until they arrived (see that beautiful piece of propaganda, Mad Men) and are equally convinced that nothing will happen once they are gone. All the environmental millennialism has its origin in the Boomers. From The Population Bomb to Global Warming they’ve persistently believed that not only are they a social force but a cosmic one as well.

The world will survive their passing. I’m already enjoying the lack of 60s music on the radio and the blessed silence about Woodstock and the Vietnam War. My generation has accomplished far more, with less noise, and we won our war.

History will not be kind.

A couple thoughts:

1. I blame the parents of these indulged brats. The WWII/Great Depression parents, in an attempt to shelter their children from all difficulty, brought up a bratty, superficial, spoiled generation.

2. Learn the lesson. Children today have even more wealth and good fortune (for a while) than the Boomers started out with. The OWS-ers are astonished and dismayed because their Boomer parents sold them the same tripe they believe about themselves. So these little snowflakes are upset that the world is not interested in their brand of special.

Discipline, hard work, responsibility, right and wrong, common sense, diligence, fidelity, and humility don’t go over big but they’re characteristics that win over the long-term.

Overindulgence makes for rotten grown-ups.



Forced Abortion: “I had no choice”

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Good old Brian of TRScoop sent me this video and I’m going to include it as a post because I want the permanence. It’s a clip from Blood Money talking about the concept of “pro choice” when many women say, “I had no choice.”

My first patient in practice told me of her experience of being forced to have an abortion. In fact, of all the many women (and many you’d never guess) who had abortions, only one woman told me she was happy she’d done it and would do it again if she had the choice.

The majority of women say that parents, boyfriends, and worst of all, husbands forced the woman to abort the baby. The trauma is devastating and long lasting.

It is a lie that women are getting to choose. Many women are victims of abortion–it is used against them.

Please watch this video and share it:

So many terrified women in crisis just need one person who will say, “It will be okay.”

Just one person.

Thankfully, I see the younger generation turning against the abortion culture. They have lost siblings to abortion. It is real to them.

We need a return to honoring adoption. Adoption is a wonderful gift–both to the child and to the adoptive parents.



You Should Know Rob Radtke

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

On September 16, 2010 I found out that one of the best men I have ever known, my chiropractic mentor, Rob Radtke had been diagnosed with Stage IV Pancreatic cancer. The diagnosis is a death sentence, and a quick one at that. It took me three weeks to muster the gumption to call him; three weeks to swallow my grief so that I wouldn’t be a self-indulgent mess when I talked to him.

Today, I discovered I was four days too late. Rob died October 2, 2010 at the young age of 59. His funeral was two days later. I missed both. I’ve had crying jags all day.

The world needs more Rob Radtkes. Rob loved his wife and girls. He loved his patients. He loved nature. He loved Michigan. He was full of life and love. He was just good. You know, one of those people who radiates light and you want be like him; to live up to his high standards and example.

“Melissa, the world needs more women doctors, more women chiropractors, you do it,” he said when I was 15.

I whined about the science classes and he laughed at me. My senior year of High School, I decided that he might be right and loaded up on science taking AP Anatomy & Physiology and Chemistry, to add insult to academic load. Forget skating to graduation.

In college I avoided science again and went for the marketable Theology B.A. with a minor in Mass Communications–I’d have all the qualifications necessary for a televangelist. But Rob’s admonition wouldn’t leave me alone and so, I went back to school, finished the pre-med stuff and followed in his footsteps to become a chiropractor.

More prestige would have come from being a medical doctor–and probably more money and worse hours, too, but Rob’s example persuaded me otherwise. He helped prevent disease. He “fixed” problems. His sunshiny optimism, clinical deftness and brilliant treatment innovations saved and transformed lives. I wanted to do that too. It was an intimidating prospect. Little did I know that I had stumbled into and been treated by one of the foremost chiropractors in the country, if not the world.

When I got to chiropractic college, I was stunned to find that not all doctors ran their office like Rob did. He was special.

Rob treated every patient the same which is to say he treated every patient like he was the only patient. In the waiting room, you’d see NBA stars and little old ladies, babies and teenagers. Status or lack thereof, wealth or lack thereof, reputation or lack thereof mattered not to Rob. If a man ever judged the heart, it was he. And his patients felt privileged to be treated by him.

In fact, Rob’s patients were so eager to see him, they’d wait. Sometimes, for hours, they’d wait. Another doctor friend of ours, Lance West, would shake his head about Rob’s horrible habit of being overtime. “Terrible business practice,” Lance once good-naturedly grumbled to me. But Lance was Rob’s friend and mentor and Lance had never been Rob’s patient. I had. I knew why they waited. They waited because fifteen minutes with him could transform your day, month, life. He heard you. He saw you. He cared for you.

Empathy alone won’t help heal a patient, though. Smarts matters, too. And Rob Radtke was brilliant. Do you know that the treatment for sub-clinical thyroid malfunction was innovated by Rob Radtke? It was. He taught a local medical doctor everything he’d discovered. He explained it to him and the MD wrote the book–crediting Rob for the work. Rob was too busy treating patients to write books, but he could have written many. He researched all sorts of disorders and came up with novel, often nutritional, solutions.

In Rob’s spare time, he’d hike up North (Michiganders know what I’m talking about) and hunt for naturally gown herbs. I kid you not. He was overjoyed when he found wild comfrey. (Great for joints!) He biked to work. He fished. He loved communing with the outdoors.

Rob was better than me in this: he walked the walk. Religiously. That is to say: He ate organically. He exercised. He lived an utterly congruent healthy life. If he bitched at you about your diet or exercise, he was negotiating from a place of strength. His work life mirrored his own life. This makes his loss to pancreatic cancer all the more mystifying and horrible. Of all the people I know in the world, I don’t think Rob could have done one thing healthier. Rob’s life demonstrates that there is much we don’t know yet about diseases like cancer. If good living and strong genetics guaranteed long life, he would have never gotten this cancer.

I wish I had more time. I wish I could have told Rob what his example meant to me. He was my doctor, mentor and to my great honor, a friend. I remember when he told me, “Call me Rob” after I had graduated from chiropractic college. For years, it felt strange to even think, little less say. He was Dr. Radtke.

Who will I call when I’m stuck with how to treat a challenging patient? Who will I call when one of my family members is ill and I need advice and a clear-eyed perspective? When I’m cynical about all the mean, ruthless people in the world, who, by his very existence, will be there to remind me that there are good and decent and kind people?

I’m reduced to clichés. Life is short. It’s fucking unfair who lives and who dies. It goes fast. But it’s all so true. Rob is gone in a blink and it just seems so wrong.

Funny aside: Rob was averse to all new technology. His appointments were in an old-fashioned appointment book. His practice 100% cash. I cannot find, anywhere, one picture of him online. Not one. I’d like you to see his picture, to get a sense of him. I guess that won’t happen.

Rob was one of the good ones. He deserves to still be here. He should be growing old teaching his grandchildren how to fish. But Rob Radtke is gone.

The world is darker today.

May Rob rest in peace. May God bless his family. Surely, their loss is a great one.



America At The Crossroads–No Event Horizon, Yet

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Not so long ago, I was upset with the State of Things and it was Andrew Malcolm the LA Times Blogger, my podcasting co-host and former NYT editor, who disabused me of the notion. Recalling the race riots of the late 60s and the angst around the Vietnam war, he convinced me that we ain’t nowhere near bad, yet. I’m inclined to believe him.

Politics, these days, is what politics in our Democracy has been a long time: pointed, shrill, symbolic and silly. One only needs to read Mark Twain, to know that average Americans have long held their leadership in tolerant contempt. We all just think what we are experiencing is the worst ever. Why wouldn’t we? History, especially in this self-centered, immediate-gratification age begins with us, well, “me”, right?

So this morning, my longtime online friend Brendan Loy decried the political environment. I suggest that you go read his whole post. He pretty fairly encapsulates the bulk of our intense Twitter back and forth argument. He says,”America is at something closer to an event horizon than a cross-roads“. Rather apocalyptic for a professed non-religious person.

A couple things occur to me as I’ve contemplated his anxiety and anger. I’m going to put my thoughts in a numbered format in no particular order of importance–it will just be easier when people disagree with me.

1. America faces an identity crisis: Are we going to be Europe-lite and recede into irrelevance ala Britain. Are we going to value, as I say, a social safety net over freedom? The two are inversely proportional. America, as it stands, wants both. They want a less bossy government. They also want the government to take care of them permanently. Americans are much like teenagers: all the fun, none of the responsibility! But the bill is about to be paid. The population statistics cannot support this current double-bind. The economics of it are failing. So the overriding tension in America is an identity-crisis. It is a crisis within each citizen. It is not resolved.

2. America faces a cultural crisis. The young people and the left side of our country seem to dislike America. This is supported in polling. They don’t like the culture. They don’t like the word “capitalism”. They like the word “progressive” and “socialism”. They view America as essentially bad. Of course, they’ve been told that America is bad, so it’s no wonder they see that perspective. Unlike during World War II, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, both resulting in the freeing of heretofore abused people, Hollywood has portrayed soldiers as merchants of death and destruction and evil instead of liberators of people. So the older WWII generation love America and see it as a force for good in the world. The young and left do not. In fact, they believe in a quasi-we-are-the-world, utopianism that elevates third world despots to the level of America. American exceptionalism? Oh, hell no! That would mean someone is better than another. But America is better. Objectively better. A culture cannot survive if it hates itself. And so there is tension. Remember, we now have a generation of kids who have received awards for participation. Every no-talent-ass-clown believes he’s as good as anyone else. Competition, capitalism, merit and excellence have been exchanged for participation, redistribution, self-esteem and trying. America didn’t win culturally by being communal but by freeing individual creativity. There is cultural tension against this very notion–against the notion of greatness itself.

3. America faces an institutional crisis. The church was undermined with the pedophile priest scandals. Science has been undermined with global warming, I mean cooling, I mean climate change. Academia has become a propaganda churning machine. The government writes more laws and our leaders seem more lawless. The press is not trusted as an unbiased forum for fact. The courts seem capricious. No one trusts any institutions anywhere.

4. America faces an economic crisis. In this, we are not alone. The world suffers with us. There is a lot less money going in than going out. We cannot print money forever. We simply can not do it. Eight million people (8 million!) people have lost jobs and they are not going to start working tomorrow. Not only that, but many Boomers face retirement and reality is dawning: money is running out. Not only that, but doctors willing to deal with Medicare/Medicaid, etc are running out. The jig is up all the way around. This is anxiety provoking.

5. America faces a moral crisis. I hesitate to write on this because it’s a can o’ worms. What I mean: Americans used to have a collective ethic that they shared–hard work, church, marriage, kids, home, etc. Life from one home to another at least appeared to be relatively the same. People married young. Had kids young. This had the result of forcing kids to grow up. Being a perpetual adolescent didn’t work so well when you had another mouth to feed. It also created social cohesion of sorts. Things have changed. People stay single longer, get married later. People may have kids or not. Now, there are positives and negatives to this, I don’t intend to oversimplify–only to note that social expectations, well, there aren’t any social expectations or no uniform expectations, anyway, which is my point. This causes anxiety, too. What is right and wrong? What is the best way to do something? This used to not be a question, right? My parents generation didn’t seemed to be plagued with this self-doubt. Fill-in-the-blank was just “the way it was”. Now, there is no “way.”

6. America faces an educational crisis. American education lacks an overarching historical context and cohesion. I believe this lack of understanding of history also contributes to our unease. What caused the Great Depression? How about the World Wars? How did Rome fall? What caused the French revolution? How could a civilized people support the rise of Hitler? We have a vague sense that things are bad, but how bad? And do we have any context to put our current crises into? Not really. Not only that, but Americans have been institutionalized from cradle to grave; systemized from day care to end of life care. Yes, it matters. Have you seen how children are forced to march through halls with their hands behind their backs? Of course, it’s for expedience sake, but with education so systematized, the deficits in learning are universal. Not only that, following the system is valued over critical thinking. Also, objective truth, established facts, are dismissed as “that’s your opinion”. In addition, fierce debate and being forced to defend a position seems to not be the way of education these days. The act of debating is itself stressful because children aren’t forced to defend their opinions. They are honored by sharing them. It makes for an intense interest in politesse but a lack of cogent thinking and overt hostility to having a thought challenged or corrected.

7. Technology amplifies every good and ill. Where the loud-mouthed jerk used to only annoy his family and neighbors at reunions and picnics, now he blogs and annoys everyone. Good news, fair news is also amplified. But the ignorant, arrogant, clueless, mouthy, amoral, mediocrity now has a platform. It can be annoying. Still, on the whole, the best rise to the top, and the arena of ideas is debated across the country–like Brendan and I did this morning. I don’t even know where he lives now. Tennessee? Colorado?

Anyway, this all reminds me of a scripture. Sorry agnostics reading this, but this scripture seems so apt. 2 Timothy 3:

1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. 9 But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.

There is no question that in these times we have more information, more knowledge, but less understanding and nearly no wisdom, it seems.

Discourse can be disrespectful and unfair. A general lack of kindness can be extended to our ideological adversaries. There seems to be no sense that “we’re all in this together.” Demonization passes for communication. Humor is really ridicule and meanness. Charity seems extended to no man.

Well, there is a crisis in America, more than one actually, and if it feels like war, it’s because it is. We are struggling for our very souls as a nation of free people. Who are we? What do we stand for? Who do we want to be? What do want for ourselves and for our children?

The first phase of a fight is ideological. And we’re in this phase. Ultimately, this is an individual struggle. People are having to reassess their notions of themselves. Do they believe they can take care of themselves? At what point does a person need, want, deserve a bailout?

I mean, these are painful questions. Shaming questions. America suffers generally because we’ve been indulgent individually. And our institutions have reflected the individual failure. We tolerated sin in our churches. We tolerated dishonesty in our halls of science. We tolerated propaganda in our schools of higher learning. We tolerated living beyond our means economically. We tolerated immaturity and selfishness in our relationships. We tolerated things because, like the Corinthians of Paul’s time, we thought it made us more righteous. We fell in love with our tolerance and we indulged our self-indulgence.

Each American stopped viewing himself as a responsible patriot and more like a co-dependent citizen. Everyone was drunk together.

Now, Americans are furious with bailouts here and there, a stagnant economy and the general State of Things. They are cutting back their lives. They’re making hard choices…well, most are. And still, it doesn’t look to be getting better. Meanwhile, the government, in contrast, spends like a meth-addled lottery winner. And, blaming the people while they’re at it.

So in this environment, people fight. Will a solution come, Brendan? I don’t know. Will America have to fully implode to reset the button? I doubt it will come to that. More likely, there will be internal struggle and strife as tough decisions are made out of necessity.



Podcast: Redemption and Derision

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

The story of enslavement to freedom is inherent in the Judeo-Christian culture. During this week where emancipation–being freed from slave owners and ultimately our own limitations–is a central focus, it was fitting, then, for Iris Blue to join me. She spent months in “the hole” in a Harris County (Houston) jail. She suffered addiction to heroin. She fought wardens. And she did it all to herself, willfully, angrily and stubbornly. Her story is inspiring and I hope you’ll listen to it. We talk about child-rearing, the church, and who is Jesus?

In the second half, another, less successful religion is discussed: Global Warming. Charlie Martin, now the science editor at Pajamas Media discusses the latest happenings and the bitter clinging to a discarded belief.

Listen here

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