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Archive for the ‘faith’ Category

I recently heard it said that liberals base their arguments on emotion while conservatives rely on reason. While I think it is true that modern liberals often appeal to emotion in order to advance their agenda (welfare, radical environmentalism, and such), they by no means hold a monopoly on the played-up emotional appeal. As with almost all examples of the liberal/conservative dichotomy, the two philosophies are remarkably similar in their use of this technique; they are the two sides of the same coin. A glaring use of emotion over reason is currently on display in the curious case of the Ground Zero Mosque.

It seems that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, has purchased the Burlington Coat Factory building near the 9/11 Ground Zero site for $4.85 million, and intends to turn the property into a new 13 story mosque and Islamic center. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has approved the project.

Outrage over the Ground Zero Mosque has poured forth from the conservative movement. The main points of their argument can be summed up in the online petition located at stopthemosquenow.com. The petition originated with the editors of the conservative organizations Human Events and Redstate.com. As you read the petition, notice the strong negative emotional language:

…the building, with its towering design, “triumphantlyā€¯ peering down on the hallowed ground…

…constructed with questionable funding on a deliberately insensitive location…

…not an issue of religious tolerance but of common decency…

…to build a mosque at Ground Zero is to stab at the hearts of those who lost loved ones…

…we sincerely request that you do everything in your power to put a halt to this outrage…

Notably missing from this petition and almost all conversations about the Ground Zero Mosque is the fundamental issue of property rights. A secure system of property rights is what has allowed the United States to become the most wealthy and prosperous nation on Earth. The simple fact that American citizens are allowed to earn, possess, and improve their personal property is the cornerstone of our economic prosperity. Conservatives currently claim to champion the cause of liberty, specifically economic liberty, yet, in this case, they allow their strong emotions of hatred and fear for Muslims to handcuff their reason.

There may be other factors involved, including where Imam Rauf obtained the funding to purchase and build his project, but the fundamental issue in the case of the Ground Zero Mosque is simple: the owner of the property, operating within the law, can build what he pleases, be it mosque, mall, or monument. That’s property rights; that’s liberty; that’s America.

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shavingI have recently taken up traditional wetshaving as a hobby of sorts. Many of you say, “Shaving? Why shaving? That’s just a boring chore we have to do every day.” I used to feel that way, too. In fact, I used to hate shaving so much that I would only do it about two or three times a week, giving me the look of a borderline hobo and thoroughly annoying my wife and my employer. Then, while mindlessly wasting time on YouTube one afternoon, I stumbled on a video that changed the way I felt about shaving. Suddenly a whole new world opened up before me. I discovered that there are groups of men that get together online to talk about shaving (shaving forums). I found out that what I was using to shave was probably just about the worst thing possible for my skin and beard. I also learned that the number of alternative and vastly superior products available for shaving was nearly infinite.

So I got some inexpensive (but high quality) traditional wetshaving soaps and creams, a new double-edged safety razor (a gift from my wife) and a introductory level boar hair shaving brush. I watched every single one of mantic59‘s shaving videos (famous clear across the shaving universe) and read hours worth of forum posts at Badger & Blade. Finally I felt ready. I installed a fresh new razor blade in my Merkur HD, lathered up my face, and…shaved. The result? Well I won’t lie to you; it wasn’t pretty. Not only did I still have itchy patches of facial hair, but now I had large amounts of blood oozing from my face as well.

The thing is, you can’t approach traditional wetshaving like you approached what I call “mass-market quickshaving”, using a Mach 3 and a can of goo. There is technique involved. There is skill. And there is something spiritual you can’t quite explain…I’ll call it, shavatation. As my technique improved, I began to get the best shaves of my life while immensely enjoying myself. Suddenly the first half hour after waking up in the morning became one of the favorite parts of my day. I loved the smell and feel of the shaving cream, the song of the steel blade, and the cool burn of the aftershave. The more I learned about wetshaving, the more I realized that the process of daily shaving is a lot like life, a perfect metaphor if you will.

We are born with a smooth face: a fresh, clean slate. As we grow, we begin to acquire peach fuzz experiences; nothing especially disturbing or distracting, just enough so that you know it’s there. As the years go by, the real growth and life experiences come in: worry, sorrow, tragedy. For some it is thick and heavy, for others thin and light, but we all get the inevitable beard of life. Trouble is, if we let the beard grow and grow without thinning it out, our countenance is soon covered with a heavy, scraggly burden. We need a way to remove the troublesome beard that distracts us from what is deep below the surface, the true, genuine face we want to present to the world. We have to rediscover that fresh face again. We have to SHAVE.

We need something special with which to remove the beard of life, and, like I discovered in traditional shaving, the options are almost limitless. Your cream and razor of choice may be different than mine. We all have that someone or something that we turn to for help, rest, and rejuvenation. For many it is family, or faith, or friends. Some turn to recreation, travel, or hobbies. Whatever it may be, we all search for that special shaving kit that will help us remove the scratchy stubble of life. If you have taken the time to learn the technique, skill, and shavatation required, you can feel brand new again, almost like you were just reborn. Because we know that there ain’t nothing like a baby’s butt shave to make you look and feel a little better. And don’t worry about losing that beard, it will always grow back.

So there you have it, shaving as a metaphor for life. Search out the smoothest face you know and find out what they are shaving with, literally and metaphorically. You’ll be glad you did.

I dedicate this post to Josh, who seems to have it very together, even with the biggest, craziest beard on Planet Earth. And to Mark, who continues to show us the way.

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ArrowsHello, dear readers. Sorry for the long hiatus, but it has been a very busy summer here in my Sleepy household. Time has been so short and things have been changing so quickly in our republic that it seems to write in depth about any one event would be to do injustice to all of the others. Instead I have been watching events unfold, as I am sure you have, and intend to speak to some of the larger issues in the near future.

Today I had a brief online conversation with a young aspiring politician whose acquaintance I have made. Our topic was the legitimacy of the laws prohibiting the use of marijuana. Early in the conversation he made the following statement:

Fortunately we still have a government that (somewhat) believes in the rule of law, protecting its citizens, and upholding morality–which is, after all, the purpose of government.

I was passingly disturbed by his claim that “upholding morality…is…the purpose of government”, not to mention the absurd claim that “our government believes in the rule of law”, but I let it pass at the time, as the debate was headed in a different direction. However, I feel that this sentiment is shared by many who have not spent a lot of time carefully thinking about the shape of American morality and the government’s role in promoting it.

Let’s go back in time for a moment. It is indeed true that our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. It is also true that many (but not all) of our founding fathers were practicing Christians or Deists, although in some cases I am playing it a bit fast and loose with the term “practicing”. For the sake of brevity I will not go into details, but do a little research on the personal lives of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin and you will get the gist. The point is that the United States was founded by men who believed, though didn’t always practice, the Christian concepts of morality. In this sense the United States has been, from its birth, a Christian nation.

As time passed, Americans tried several times to unsuccessfully legislate “Christian morality” from the seat of government. The most obvious example was the 18th amendment to the Constitution (repealed by Amendment 21) which outlawed intoxicating liquors. Other issues held dear and vehemently defended by early Americans on moral grounds such as slavery and exclusive male suffrage were overturned as well. In our own time the prohibition of recreational drugs (though not tobacco, which is responsible for over 400,000 deaths per year) has been hailed as a victory of national morality.

There is a clear line where issues of morality and government should meet. Laws prohibiting murder, assault, rape, and theft come to mind. These laws are clearly in line with Christian moral principles and they also prohibit one citizen from forcibly abusing the rights of another. As such, these laws are legitimate methods for the government to legislate morality. On the other hand, there are areas where the government should steer clear of enforcing morality through law. This is where I think things may get a little sticky for my friend, the young politician.

If we believe that the purpose of the government is to uphold morality, then it becomes clear that we must establish a solid and workable definition of the term “morality”. For many this is easy; they automatically jump to their Christian faith for this definition. They believe that the purpose of the government is to uphold, under established law and threat of force, the Christian values on which their faith is based. This would be perfectly agreeable if all Americans were Christians, or if all Americans were extremely easy going, or if the United States was a dictatorship, but none of these is the case. We are a land of many races, creeds, religions, and philosophies. Many have similar moral codes; some have very different moral beliefs or none at all. Fortunately for each of us, we are all still at liberty to believe what our families have believed for generations, or to head in a completely different direction. As thoroughly diverse Americans sharing and subject to the same laws we can not all possibly be forced to hold the same government mandated Judeo-Christian moral standard. We have declared ourselves to be the land of the free, not the land of the same, and, shockingly, not the land of the good.

By way of example, let’s look briefly at the issue of drug abuse. I hesitate to broach this subject because so many people I know will immediately jump to the wrong conclusions. Based on my Christian worldview, I do not believe that using recreational drugs is morally right. I believe that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and should therefore be treated with the utmost respect. I know from the experiences of family members and close friends how devastating drug abuse can be. However, I also am able to see that the way drug law has been implemented in the United States has been an absolute disaster. Billions of dollars have been wasted in the futile attempt to stamp out drug trafficking and distribution. Billions more have been spent feeding and clothing incarcerated non-violent drug abusers in America’s prisons. Still the situation is as bad if not worse today than the day Ronald Reagan declared the “war on drugs”. The facts are clear, his war has failed. On the other hand, hundreds of private treatment centers exist across this country that are making a difference in the lives of those affected by drug addiction. These centers often do not receive any public funds, yet somehow they are phenomenally successful. How on earth do they turn drug abusers around without tossing them in jail? The answer, of course, is morality.

That’s where my young friend, the politician, gets it so wrong. He still sees government as the enforcer of morality, the warrior of goodness, the savior of souls at gunpoint. He does not yet realize a key fact: government = force. You can not force morality on people. Christian morality is shared and taught through one on one communication of kindness, compassion, and love. That is why faith based drug rehabilitation programs are so successful. They teach abusers to respect themselves as servants of God. Private secular programs like AA and NA are also overwhelmingly successful because of personal transmission of clear moral principles. While they do not focus on Christ, they still impart to their members the importance of respect for the body, mind, and soul. Our morality is personal, not political. It should never be forced, by governments or individuals, on anyone who is not freely willing. The function of government is not to uphold morality through force of law. The function of government is to protect the rights of its citizens and give them the freedom to choose their own road. I happen to believe that those who freely choose a moral path will have a better life. I also believe that the more Americans turn to God to establish a moral heading, the stronger our nation will become. But Christian morality should be forced on no one; each should have a choice.

So don’t make the same mistake that my friend did. The next time you find yourself thinking “There should be a law against…” what you think is someone else’s moral shortcoming, remember that the government has not been established to enforce your moral standard. Each of us is free to choose; not even God forces us to follow Him.

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He is risen!

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But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.

And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them,

“Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”

And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.

But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.

Luke 24:1-12

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brokenwallI am seeing more and more evidence that the United States is headed into a unprecedented period of turmoil and uncertainty. For many people this revelation will come as a great shock. The comfortable existence they have known all of their lives will be drastically changed. They will learn, out of absolute necessity, to survive on much less than they are accustomed. They will learn the hard lessons that their grandparents and great-grandparents knew and lived by: thrift, ingenuity, and faith in the Almighty.

It is possible that our society will be altered in ways that we can’t possibly imagine. The days of rugged individualism will be over. Those who shun the protection of their families and communities to strike out on their own will be hard-pressed. It is essential that now, before events unfold any further, we come together to learn as much as we can about our changing world and how we will exist within it.

Our advantage lies in our faith in God. He is unchanging. He is not concerned with earthly kingdoms or countries, but He is concerned about His people. God is willing to give us the wisdom we need to face the future, but only if we have faith in Him and do not doubt (James 1:5-8). Consider the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“Cry loudly, do not hold back;
Raise your voice like a trumpet,
And declare to My people their transgression
And to the house of Jacob their sins.
“Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways,
As a nation that has done righteousness
And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God.
They ask Me for just decisions,
They delight in the nearness of God.
‘Why have we fasted and You do not see?
Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’
Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,
And drive hard all your workers.
“Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist
You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.
“Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it for bowing one’s head like a reed
And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?
Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the LORD?
“Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
“Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
“Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am ‘
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
“And the LORD will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
“Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.

We will soon have many opportunities to serve. May God give us the strength and wisdom to face an uncertain future, and may He bless us with friends and family to lean upon in the coming days.

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God and state

give_us_a_king
I have observed some interesting phenomena in America during the past couple of years. It seems many have begun to depend on the state, and the President as the embodiment of the state, for not just their daily bread (that’s nothing new), but for their very salvation. A part of the electorate, thoroughly distressed by the Bush years, hailed the coming agent of change as the savior and hope of the entire world. Are these extreme cases? I don’t think so. People have become so enamored with Barack Obama that they actually think he alone can deliver us from our bondage.

This situation is not unique. Nations have always looked to their leaders to guide them to the promised land of plenty. The American founders, while not all devout Christians, nevertheless recognized the power and authority of the Creator to bless and prosper this country. They believed in this trust so strongly that they adopted a statement of faith as the national motto of the United States, even going so far as to emblazon it on our currency. How different from today’s leadership. The current administration, much like the last, professes a trust in God while practicing a trust in state. They set themselves up as saviors and kings, refusing to acknowledge any authority but their own.

If any man ever was destined to be an American king, it was George Washington. But Washington was, by many accounts, a politically humble man. He was very reluctant to leave retirement and become the United States’ first President, despite the fact that the American people nearly unanimously wanted him for the job. After serving two terms he retreated back to the comfort of Mt. Vernon rather than establishing himself as a permanent American monarch, which he probably could have done. Perhaps he had the following story in mind:

And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel.
Now the name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judging in Beersheba.
His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice.
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah;
and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.”

But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us ” And Samuel prayed to the LORD.
The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.
“Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day–in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods–so they are doing to you also.
“Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them.”

So Samuel spoke all the words of the LORD to the people who had asked of him a king.
He said, “This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots.
“He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.
“He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers.
“He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants.
“He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants.
“He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work.
“He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants.
“Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us,
that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

Now after Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the LORD’S hearing.
The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to their voice and appoint them a king.” So Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”

~1 Samuel 8

God did not condone dependence on the state. He wanted his people to have no other master, no other savior, than Him. But notice that he gave in to the people’s desire for a king to rule over them. He didn’t stand in their way, and He won’t stand in ours. If we want to reject the Father and anoint Mr. Obama the savior of the world, God will not prevent it. But if that is our choice, we must be willing to accept the consequences, as the children of Israel did.

There are two roads before us. To trust in God is liberty; to trust in man is tyranny. I think we should do some serious re-thinking of which road we will take and in whom our trust should lie.

Do not trust in princes,
In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.

~Psalm 146:3

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falling_dollar
Tonight as most normal people gather around their idiot boxes to indulge in championship college football, I thought I would sit here instead and pound out some general predictions for events in 2009. I was prompted to do this after listening to a speech Barack Obama gave today that thoroughly snuffed out all hope I have for sane and constructive action from the incoming administration. Instead of looking to history and learning from past mistakes, it seems that the Obama administration will charge headlong into a repetition of disastrous 1930’s economic policy, except on a much more massive scale. As a result, I predict we are in for a repeat of the Great Depression, only worse. As I see it, events will unfold something like this:

1. Obama made the case today for “stimulus legislation” that will most likely top $1 trillion. This money will supposedly be used to “create 3 million new jobs” and pull the economy out of recession. In addition to this massive spending, Obama also proposed $300 billion in tax cuts for businesses and middle income Americans, including low income earners who don’t pay taxes. He warned the American people that the country will run trillion dollar deficits for the next several years in order to pay for this plan, but that we have no other choice. Poppycock. I will not expound on the idiocy of this idea, other than to say that it won’t work. The government cannot and does not create anything. All resources diverted to this “economic stimulus” spending will be funnelled away from the private sector, further depleting capital in the markets and worsening the economic situation. We can’t spend our way out of debt; cutting spending is the only answer. Nevertheless, the Democratic majority in Congress will pass this legislation or some version of it, and Obama will have his trillion dollars.

2. Or will he? The money has to come from somewhere, and we’re fresh out. The government will either have to collect it via taxes (which Obama has vowed to cut), borrow it from other nations, or print it at the treasury. We will likely try to borrow the cash, probably from China. The problem is, the Chinese are getting kind of tired of loaning us money. I predict that soon foreign governments will be unwilling to give loans to the United States, and will start moving out of the dollar as a reserve currency altogether. Don’t believe it? It’s already happening. When this process is complete (I think it will be this year), along with the inevitable firing up of the printing press, the worldwide value of the dollar will plummet and massive inflation will set in.

3. What does this mean? It means all of the U.S. dollars that you and I have saved will be nearly worthless. It means that our 401k’s, savings accounts, and treasury bonds will be wiped out. It means that bread, milk, and eggs will each cost $100 dollars or more. It means the government will institute price controls on consumable necessities, resulting in severe shortages, bread lines, and destructive rioting. It means we enter a Greater Depression, except this time, there are several million more mouths to feed, and we have forgotten how to be nice to each other. It’s going to be bad. Really bad.

4. On the other hand, it might be just the lesson our country needs. Unrest at home would force the government to abandon destructive foreign imperialism and would finally force us to live within our means. Many would perish, but the strong would survive, leading to a smaller but more responsible and self-sufficient population. I would hope that many would turn to God for help, sparking a revival of faith in America. We will emerge stronger and, hopefully, wiser.

Will these predictions come true? I think so, but I hope not. I hope I can sit here this time next year and laugh at my paranoia, but my gut tells me our time is nearly up. I know this is getting lengthy, but I thought I would offer a humble list of suggestions for getting ready. If you think I am full of it, then you can stop reading now.

1. Pray. In this, as in all things, the Lord is in control.

2. Wake up and get your head out of the sand. Learn about what is going on around you. Find out what your government is up to so that you can be ready for what they do. And don’t take their word for it; find out for yourself.

3. Call your elected officials and beg for sane legislation. Grovel. Promise them your firstborn. Do your best to knock some sense into them. There may still be time to turn this thing around.

4. Put some stuff back. Food, water, supplies. Pay off your debts and live within your means.

5. Learn a new skill. Mechanics, gunsmiths, and green thumbs are all going to be in high demand. Conversely, accounting and hospitality management may not be the best fields to dive into right now.

That is all. I’m not watching the game, so somebody let me know how it turns out.

Cross-posted to Facebook.

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