The gift of forgiveness

Matthew, a firefighter, fell asleep on the way home from a 24 hour shift.  When he awoke, he had caused a crash that killed 30-year-old June and her unborn son.  Left behind were her 18 month old daughter, Faith, and her husband, Erik.  What Erik did next will astound you:

You can read more about Erik and Matthew here.

These are the types of stories that explain (a) why people who subscribe to the religious part of the Judeo-Christian doctrine are happier* and (b) why I envy religious people their deep faith.

_____________

*I subscribe to the moral part of the Judeo-Christian doctrine.  While I’m no longer the atheist I was when I was young, I would be lying if I said that I believed in a personal God, the way these two men do.

Three degrees of separation

I enjoy reading my Liberal-Lefty friends’ Facebook posts because they are so insightful into the mindsets of the Left.

One insight that I have gained over time is that the differences between us conservatives and the Progressive/Left are so profound that they are unlikely to ever be bridged, barring some cataclysmic, life-changing events. What I have tried to do is understand why this is so. I share this with you because I greatly appreciate the insights that Bookworm group has to offer on such issues – be it “yay” or “nay”.

Our disagreements appear to come down to three levels of separation.

1) First, there are objective facts (OK, I am being deliberately redundant here). These are easy enough to resolve. Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock world has arrived: everybody is so overwhelmed with information that we can’t absorb and process all there is to know and we therefore choose our facts selectively.

As Ronald Reagan said, ““It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.”

In discussions, factual disputes are easy enough to resolve: my typical response to Liberal /Lefties is simply tell them to “Google it”. Amazingly, many apparently don’t know that you can Google entire texts or sentences. A good example was the recent George Zimmerman trial…many people with whom I disagreed told me outright they were too busy to bother looking up facts. The Left operates on so many facts that just aren’t so.

2) The second level of separation involves our assumptions or premises. These are tougher to resolve, because we assume and presume events based on our past experiences. I suspect that we humans are hard-wired to build assumptions (true or false) as a defense mechanism: for example, my cave ancestors probably assumed that to allow a saber-tooth tiger to stand in their path was not a good thing and that such assumption is one reason why I stand here today.

We go through life building mental templates on how the world works in order to short-circuit decision making and evaluation. Otherwise, we would soon be overwhelmed with indecision. As long as our world templates work for us, we continue to hold onto them. Many formerly Liberals (e.g., David Horowitz, Bookworm) only became conservative when one or more events (e.g., 9/11) rendered their previously comfortable world views untenable. For me it was Reagan’s second term, when his policies led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and an economic resurgence. I, young man at the time, knew then that my Democrat world template had been very, very wrong.

I use the word “comfortable” deliberately, because our templates represent our comfort zones. Losing that comfort zone is terrifying. Imagine if all of a sudden nothing in the world made any sense to you; you would feel totally deracinated and quite possibly insane. You would also feel a deep sense of personal failure, as in “how in the world could I have been so deluded?”

And, the older you get, the more frightening that sense of loss, confusion and failure would be. So, the older we get, the more desperately we defend our mental templates, selecting and force-fitting “facts” to fit our own perceptions of reality. I believe this is where modern Liberalism and Progressivism are today (Google “Paul Krugman”). As Thomas Sowell put it, people of the Left expect the world to conform to their misperceptions. Eventually, however, reality hits like a 2 x 4 between the brow…as in “Detroit”.

I believe that this dynamic also explains the sheer viciousness expressed by many on the Left when the presumptions of their world templates are threatened (as by Sarah Palin or by black conservatives, for example). This is also the reason why I believe that world Islam will fail, because it doesn’t work and eventually people in Muslim worlds, aided by the internet, will eventually realize this (some of my Middle Eastern friends assure me that many already do). Reality is a harsh mistress.

This level of separation helps to explain why Liberals and Conservatives usually talk past each other. We try to rationalize our positions to each other, but our rationalizations only make sense if the other party shares the same assumptions and understandings of how the world works. We operate from completely different templates.

3) Faith. This the most difficult and potentially dangerous degree of separation, because it addresses fundamental values that are non-negotiable. Our “faith” defines how we perceive ourselves and our place in the world, irrespective of facts, logic and reason. I cannot, for example, “prove” the veracity of my Christian faith. Environmental extremists and atheists cannot “prove” the righteousness of their positions. We just “know” that what we believe to be true is true. There is no logical argument that I know of that can challenge faith-based values. Our values define who we are and how we perceive the world to be. Utopian fascist ideals (Progressivism, Nazism, communism, Islamism, etc.), for example, are defined by a faith in a future to come – they require no proof. Abortion is a similar issue of faith and values – there is no middle-of-the-road compromise if you believe abortion to be murder and that murder is wrong (a value proposition). Psychologists have claimed that only very powerful shocks to the system can challenge faith.

I have no dealing with the first degree of separation. I admit, however, that I am totally stumped on how to address (2) and (3). Any ideas?

I’m with Dennis Prager on this one: the “God particle” does not negate the possibility that there is a God

A lot of people have been crowing that the “God particle” proves that there is no God, because it explains the “something from nothing” aspect of the Big Bang.  These people forget one thing:  Where did the so-called God particle originate?

Dennis Prager is more erudite than I am, so he makes a more sophisticated fallacy-spotting argument:

But scientific discovery and meaning are not necessarily related. As one of the leading physicists of our time, Steven Weinberg, has written, “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.”

And pointlessness is the point. The discovery of the Higgs boson brings us no closer to understanding why there is a universe, not to mention whether life has meaning. In fact, no scientific discovery ever made will ever explain why there is existence. Nor will it render good and evil anything more than subjective opinion, or explain why human beings have consciousness or anything else that truly matters.

The only thing that can explain existence and answer these other questions is God or some other similar metaphysical belief. This angers those scientists and others who are emotionally as well as intellectually committed to atheism. But many honest atheists recognize that a godless world means a meaningless one, and they admit that science can explain only what, not why.

[snip]

Not only is science incapable of discovering why there is existence; scientists also confront the equally frustrating fact that the more they discover about the universe, the more they realize they do not know.

I continue to be agnostic on the subject of God:  Believers haven’t proven to me that God exists but the non-believers certainly haven’t proven to me that God doesn’t exist.  Moreover, the one argument that believers make, and that Prager reiterates here, is that a belief in God gives meaning to life.  That means that whether proven or unproven, God is a very important concept in elevating us above the cow that chews cud in the field or the ant that scurries back and forth.

President Obama’s church is the Chapel of (Progressive) Democracy

Best of the Web posts a 2004 interview with Cathleen Falsani of the Chicago Sun-Times in which Obama defines sin, not along traditional Christian or Muslim lines, but along self-referential lines:

Falsani: Do you believe in sin?

Obama: Yes.

Falsani: What is sin?

Obama: Being out of alignment with my values.

The President, when he made that statement about the measure of sin being his own values, might have had in the back of his head the unspoken qualifier that his values are “Christian.” I doubt it, though, because I have found the definitive doctrine of Obama’s faith. Joan Allen, in the 2000 movie The Contender, recites the doctrinal beliefs of what she calls a church based in “this very chapel of democracy.”  I think her church could be more accurately described as The Church of Progressive Political Belief, and it’s clear that President Obama is a devout member.

Here’s the video, followed by a transcript with my interlineations:

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentleman of the Committee.  Remarkably enough, it seems that I have some explaining to do.  So, let me be absolutely clear.

I stand for a woman’s right to choose.

[So does the President, and he stands for making everyone in America, including religious institutions and religious worshippers that are doctrinally opposed to that "right," pay for women's choices.]

I stand for the elimination of the death penalty.

[This has not been an issue for our president, although he does seem uncommonly fond of drones.]

I stand for a strong and growing armed forces because we must stamp out genocide on this planet, and I believe that that is a cause worth dying for.

[Here we have an early articulation of R2P -- responsibility to protect.  In the Progressive canon, our country is not worth fighting for and dying for.  Genocide -- provided that those on the receiving end of genocide are neither Christians nor Jews -- is the real reason a Progressive United States should have a military.  In this regard, it's ironic that president Obama not only presided over two wars, but started a third.]

I stand for seeing every gun taken out of every home.  Period.

[Three words:  Fast and Furious.]

I stand for making the selling cigarettes to our youth a federal offense.

[Because, really, who needs education, the marketplace of ideas, and free will?]

I stand for term limits and campaign reform.

[Obama hasn't said much about term limits, but he's made it clear that his idea of campaign reform is to stifle corporate speech, despite the fact that corporations are aggregations of citizens and pay taxes; and that his personal contribution to campaign reform is to campaign more than all the other presidents since Nixon put together.]

And, Mr. Chairman, I stand for the separation of Church and State, and the reason that I stand for that is the same reason that I believe our forefathers did. It is not there to protect religion from the grasp of government but to protect our government from the grasp of religious fanaticism.

[The Founders could not have made it more clear that Freedom of Religion, which is contained in the First Amendment, protects religion from government, not vice versa.  The Amendment's language is unequivocal:  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." There's nothing in there mandating that no religious person can serve in Congress or have a say in America's government.]

Now, I may be an atheist, but that does not mean I do not go to church. I do go to church. The church I go to is the one that emancipated the slaves [that would be the Republican sect of the church], that gave women the right to vote, that gave us every freedom that we hold dear. My church is this very Chapel of Democracy that we sit in together, and I do not need God to tell me what are my moral absolutes. I need my heart, my brain, and this church.  [And there you have it -- President Obama's creed writ large:  "I do not need God to tell me what are my moral absolutes.  I need my heart, my brain, and this (Progressive) church.]

Even in defeat, Tim Tebow is an exemplary young man

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this here before, but my dog is perfect.  Her perfection isn’t always obvious to the uninitiated.  Those who don’t know what’s really important might think that, because she’s a mutt, she’s a little goofy looking.  They may feel that her habit of slipping on the kitchen floor and crashing into kitchen cabinets bespeaks a lack of that grace and elegance that the best dogs should have.  And maybe, just maybe, there are some who think that, because she doesn’t do tricks (no rolling, no shaking hands) she’s not too bright.  As I’ve said, the people who see only those traits — traits I find endearing — are missing her essence.

My dog is perfect because she is quite possibly the nicest dog in the world, which is exactly what one wants in a family pet.  She adores people, but in a diffident way that precludes aggressive friendliness.  She stands there, face smiling, tail wagging gently, signalling to people that she would be very happy to engage with them, but allowing them to make the first move.  No wonder the little girls in the neighborhood are her biggest fans.  She’s tidy, obedient, cuddly, playful, etc., etc.  Where it matters, she’s the best.

What does this have to do with Tim Tebow?

(Image by Craig ONeal)

Well, Tim Tebow didn’t win his last football game.  It was a biggie, and his team had a fairly ignominious defeat.  That allowed the usual crowd to talk about the fact that, as a quarterback, he’s still immature (which, given his age and short career falls into the “well, duh” category), that he’s got a bizarre playing technique, that he’s too slow to react, etc.  He is imperfect and, the naysayers imply, unworthy of the attention lavished upon him.

These naysayers, of course, are missing the point.  Well, I agree that Tim Tebow is not perfect, because no human being is, he is an exemplary young man in all the areas that matter.  He is deeply kind, humble, generous and, as we learned today, truly stalwart.  Despite sustaining very painful injuries after this weekend’s game was already good and lost, Tebow did not give up and, instead, played through the pain:

“I just wanted to show character. You just continue to fight and it doesn’t change who you are, how you play, how you go out there, you should be the same at all times,” Tebow said. “That’s what I wanted to show, it didn’t matter if it was the first play or the last play or you were down by 42. I was going to be the same player and I was still going to give everything I have. Because that’s all I have to give.”

There is a fundamental decency in that statement that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with whether Tebow ever wins another football game.  It is enough that this season placed Tebow in the public eye so that as many people as possible can hear his message.  Certainly, his message his about his faith, and I don’t want to belittle that core component of his personality.  To limit what he offers to faith, however, is to do him disservice.  His approach to his faith means that, in his conduct, he sends a larger message about the human spirit, and this is a message that should reach all young people, whether they share his faith or not.

Certainly, I want my children to know that you can be famous, good-looking, talented . . . and courageous, kind, generous, moral, chaste, and all the other good stuff he is.  In a world saturated with Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Gansta Rappers, and all the other foul people polluting pop culture, what a tremendous gift Tebow is to our young people.  He uses his bully pulpit, not to tell people to use one sheet of toilet paper, buy $100,000 electric cars, or have sex, but, instead, to lead by example in the purest sense.  His is a doctrine of love, not just for God, but for human-kind.

It is this last point that makes a mockery of those anti-Tebowists who claim that they fear criticizing him lest his fans become violent.  No, I’m not kidding.  Max Lindenman, who feels as I do that Tebow has become an important symbol in the culture wars, caught a liberal columnist make precisely this point:

Yesterday in the Atlantic, I read a blog post that really turned my head. Robert Wright warns non-religious people, especially those he calls “liberals,” that “dissing” Tebow is a bad idea…because it might make the other guys really mad. Extreme “religious conservatives,” who “consider themselves to be at war with the prevailing culture,” will take cracks against Tebow as cues to “reject the entire liberal agenda, ranging from gay rights to uncensored science education in the public schools.” Liberals, he advises, should be as discreet regarding the Broncos QB as the Jyllands-Posten wasn’t regarding Muhammad, prophet of Islam.

Unlike the Islamists, Tebow is the Abou ben Adam of faith, one who manifestly loves his fellow man as part of his faith in God.  No one who respects Tebow is going to use violence as a means of expressing that support.

There are others like Tebow — Marine Lance Corporal Donald Hogan, for example, who earned was awarded a posthumous Navy Cross — who have this abiding love for mankind.  What they lack, however, is Tebow’s prominence.  There are too many heroes whose work is done in the quiet and the dark.  Tebow brings their ethos into the light.

LCPL Donald Hogan

I don’t care that Tebow is a somewhat ungainly quarterback.  As a parent, and as someone who has watched our pop culture decay for too many years, I care deeply that Tebow is almost perfect in the areas that matter.  He is a gift to our culture, and I hope that as many people as possible appreciate this gift.

So much for eternal truths

Am I the only one to be a bit surprised by Tony Blair’s chutzpah?  He’s been Catholic for about a year, and he is already presuming to tell the Pope that the Church’s doctrine is wrong and should be changed.

Perhaps, ex-PM Blair, you should have converted to a different faith.  After all, it’s not as if the Chuch kept secret its principles on such fraught modern topics as abortion and homosexuality.  In a religious marketplace, maybe you should have shopped around a bit more for a church that will bend with every trend.

And we should all be grateful that, if you’re lucky enough not to live in a Muslim country, there is a a marketplace for religion.  This competition for the faithful means that, if the Church loses too many people because its doctrines are untenable, it has the choice of changing (which it has done in the past) or of drawing a line in the sand and determining that sticking to certain principles is more important than competition.  It’s certainly not up to newbies with high profiles to launch into public critiques of the faith they so recently adopted.