Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Workout Video

I asked for an easy, brief workout video for Christmas—something I could do in maybe 15 minutes a day without raising a sweat. I figured that, given those two requirements, Doris wouldn’t be able to find any that qualified. It was a safe request that would be impossible to fulfill. I could virtue-signal my “desire” to get in shape, without worrying about actually having to follow through with it.

My sweet wife took me seriously. Except for the “15 minute” and “without raising a sweat” parts. Those provisos she seemed to ignore. So, she actually did give me a workout video for Christmas. Ho ho ho. They say that the best gifts have layers of meaning behind them. Not sure I want to do the excavation on this one. After attempting the first round today, I’m wondering if it has something to do with my life insurance.

I should have known I was in trouble when the DVD jacket said this guy was a former Combat Controller who trains US Special Forces operators. Unfortunately the DVD didn’t come with a bell so I could ring out.

The fellow leading the workout is bald. That, by the way, is the only thing we have in common. This guy out-atlases Charles Atlas. His sculpted shoulders are the size of my cheeks, and I’m not talking about the ones on either side of my nose. He is also completely without mercy.

The DVD comes with a seven-minute warm-up video. By the time that was over, I was completely gassed. The next segment was just an evaluation workout, to see whether I should go into the level 1 beginner track, or advance to level 2 or beyond. Let’s just say I failed the evaluation video with flying colors—not only do I not qualify for level 1, I couldn’t even complete the evaluation workout. Perhaps for the next month or so, I should just do the warm-up and cool-down videos, and skip everything in between.

All the literature associated with this program trumpets the fact that you don’t need a gym or any weight equipment. His exercises simply use your own body weight. I figure if I can get my total body weight down to maybe 30 pounds, I’ll be able to do the workouts.

It’s called the 90 day challenge. I’m gonna be challenged to complete the basic evaluation workout in 90 days. Next Christmas I’m asking for Crunch Munch.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Review of Stephen Ambrose' The Victors

When I began reading The Victors and realized that it was compiled from many of Stephen Ambrose’s other books on World War II, I was disappointed. I thought I’d be reading the literary equivalent of ‘refried beans.’

It was a needless concern.

Although I recognized some passages from Citizen Soldiers, D-Day, and Pegasus Bridge, the book read as a fresh telling of the momentous stream of actions that comprise the Allied victory in the Eastern Theater of Operations. Ambrose begins with D-Day and continues the account to the signing of surrender on May 7, 1945 in Reims. Most of the account details the actions of the Americans and the Brits, with less about the Canadians, even less about the French, and practically nothing about the Soviets.

Effusive in his praise of Eisenhower but equally unafraid to critique and criticize, Ambrose gives the reader a clear picture of what Ike had to deal with as he led a multinational coalition of competing egos, competing national and strategic priorities, and competing deficits in the character or competence of the general officers serving under him. Marshall, Montgomery, Bradley, and Patton occupy the lion’s share of attention when Ambrose writes of the generals, although accounts of many other general officers are included in the pages.

Most importantly, Ambrose exercises one of his great strengths as a writer and historian: he brings the reader down to the squad level of combat, with the privates, sergeants, and lieutenants. Through numerous interviews with the men who were actually there, the author puts the reader in the soggy foxholes with the soldiers as they battle the Germans plus rain, snow, mud, hunger, cold, trench foot, dysentery, and extreme sleep deprivation.

The book includes some good photographs, but only one master map. I would have enjoyed more maps, especially when the author invested several pages detailing specific battles. Here and there Ambrose embeds passages explaining tactics, weapons, policies, or even the politics hidden behind strategic decisions—these digressions were always fascinating.

Ambrose’s respect for the common soldier crafted from the common citizen is on display in The Victors. He concludes the book with a retrospective tribute to the enlisted men without whom no victory would have been possible. It is well deserved.

I walk away from The Victors marveling at the near superhuman endurance of the teens and twenty-year olds who not only survived the extreme conditions, but beat back the powerful German army. Will there ever again be such a generation? May God grant that there will never be the need. Five stars, highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

More than an adventure story

Imagine what would happen if an extremely contagious and deadly disease (genetically-engineered smallpox) was released in the atmosphere over four major cities in a criminal act of biological warfare? Suppose there was no known cure. What would the world look like eighty years later?

This is the world of Outlander Chronicles: Phoenix. The year is 2120, and the global population has fallen south of eight million souls, a population inadequate for manufacturing, mining, refining, power generation, or even government. The scattered remnants of humanity have divided into two groups: on the one hand, tiny communities trying to scratch out a living using rudimentary agriculture, and on the other, vicious lawless gangs that survive by raiding the communities. Both scavenge abandoned, decaying cities looking for what few material goods have survived eighty years of rot, neglect and exposure to the elements. The future looks more like the distant past—there’s nothing sci-fi about it.

A young man—Jacen Chester—decides it is time to try to replant civilization. He meets a mysterious stranger, an older man named Hakim. Hakim begins to mentor Jacen, teaching him how to survive in a world of violence and anarchy. The two men could not be more different, however. They must first learn how to survive their own sharp disagreements.

Outlander Chronicles: Phoenix is much more than a fast-paced action-adventure novel. Amid the gunfire and fighting are serious philosophical discussions about God, faith, forgiveness, the source of morality, secularism and more. The story could be characterized as a “parable of forgiveness disguised as a shoot-em-up.”

The tale does contain heart-stopping violence but not any obscenity or skin scenes. Readers ranging in age from early teens to senior citizens have found it to be gripping and hard to put down. The premise of the tale along with the characters, the plot line, the action, and the arguments around the campfire combine to make this novel far more than the average mass-market paperback.

If you’re looking for a great read with a little more meat in it, Outlander Chronicles: Phoenix should be on your list. A sequel has also been released, Outlander Chronicles: Pegasus.

Both books are available from Amazon in print or Kindle formats, or from the Doorway Press store, from Bread of Life bookstore in Greenville, or from your favorite brick-and-mortar bookstore through the Ingram catalog. You can see all my books at chcobb.com.

Friday, November 20, 2020

The Christian and Marijuana

[Disclaimer: this post is NOT intended to disparage the medically helpful use of non-THC cannabinoid products, nor the careful and temporary use of medically-indicated antidepressant or anti-anxiety drugs prescribed by a physician.]

As the recreational and medical use of marijuana is legalized across America, I am concerned that believers are justifying the use of pot because “it is no longer illegal.” Though it remains a controlled substance on federal lists, the feds don’t seem to be on a crusade against states where marijuana use is now legal at the state level.

Between the general cultural lessening of the stigma regarding drug use/abuse, and the change in its legal status, some professing Christians believe that the use of psycho-active substances such as marijuana is a legitimate lifestyle choice. The most common justification I hear is, “it helps me relax,” or “it helps me deal with stress.”

There are, in my opinion, many good reasons Christians should abstain from all psycho-active substances unless specifically prescribed by a physician. There’s a medical case against it (especially regarding teens and marijuana, in terms of the impairment of brain development), there’s a psychological case against it (loss of motivation and ambition, and the development of psychological dependency), and there’s certainly a social case against it (marijuana is a gateway drug and is demonstrably associated with irresponsible behavior). Great caution should be exercised even when a physician does prescribe a drug—the over-prescription of psycho-active drugs is a recognized problem in the typical American practice of medicine.

There is also a likely Scriptural case against such drug use at the lexical level. The Greek term φάρμακον (pharmakon, from which we get the English terms pharmacy and pharmaceuticals), and its related words, is translated with the English term sorcery or sorcerer in Galatians 5:20, Revelation 9:21, 18:23, 21:8, and 22:15. The Dictionary of New Testament Theology indicates this word group was typically associated with the use of substances involved in the practice of magic: medicines, herbs, potions, and poisons. The New Testament consistently associates the word with negative and prohibited practices. Galatians 5:20 includes sorcery in the list of the “deeds of the flesh,” saying that “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21).

Modern users of marijuana may not be consciously engaging in classical “magic” practices in their use of the drug, but that neglects to consider the general shift away from superstitions in our post-enlightenment culture. For example, moderns don’t necessarily believe in animistic gods as supernatural beings—but we still practice idolatry by worshiping something other than God (sex, money, etc.). The worship no longer takes on the appearance of the cultic practices of the pre-modern era, but it is worship all the same and therefore idolatry all the same. By the same token, moderns using marijuana are not consciously practicing magic, but they are pursuing the benefits, the highs, the alteration of consciousness that ancient magic practices promised, and as such there is virtually no distinction between modern and ancient usage of drugs.

But none of those arguments are the strongest arguments against the use of marijuana by believers. When a believer uses the drug for the euphoria of the high it is no different from drunkenness, which is roundly condemned by Scripture. When a believer uses the drug to relax or escape the pressures of stress and difficulty, he is endorsing the assumption that stresses, difficulties, and trials are bad, are a moral evil, and therefore should be eliminated or avoided.

But that’s not how the Scripture treats stresses, trials, and troubles. Instead, the Bible presents these dynamics as tools in the hands of God that make us more like Christ. Peter says the trials work the “proof of our faith, being more precious than gold,” and ultimately are found to “result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). Somehow I don’t think that dealing with trials by toking on a joint produces the same glory, honor, and praise toward Jesus Christ.

Peter also says that God’s divine power has granted us “everything pertaining to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). I don’t think he meant that God’s power plus pot accomplishes the glory of Christ. If we need marijuana to cope with life, then we are obviously demonstrating to the world that God’s divine power is frankly inadequate.

Paul says that he boasts in weakness, distresses, difficulties for Christ’s sake, because in his weakness Christ’s power is perfected in him (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). I don’t think Paul dealt with his troubles with Christ plus pot.

In my opinion this is the greatest argument against the use of marijuana. The stresses, trials, troubles of life are designed to produce the image of Christ in our character. When we can only deal with those things by getting high, we are confessing that what Jesus has done for us is insufficient to deal with “real life.”

Is the inadequacy of Christ really the message you want to proclaim?

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Book Review: Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody

Pluckrose and Lindsay dismantle Critical Theory in an intellectually rigorous way. It's frankly refreshing. The
book begins with an examination of the historical development and foundational ideas of postmodernism. They contrast it with classical liberalism. Although Critical Theory is rooted in postmodern ideas, postmodernism became little more than a faddish philosophical plaything because it ultimately deconstructed itself. If all knowledge is subjective and socially constructed and all truth claims are oppressive, well, that applies to postmodernism, too.

What rose in its place Pluckrose and Lindsay identify as "applied postmodernism." The main distinction is that applied postmodernism arbitrarily considered claims of oppression to be objectively real, while continuing to view most other claims of knowledge as mere social constructions. Applied postmodernism makes up the foundation of all variations of Critical Theory.

Most of the remainder of the book, chapter by chapter, examines the following branches of Theory: Postcolonial Theory, Queer Theory, Critical Race Theory and intersectionality, Feminism and Gender Studies, and Disability and Fat studies.

The book concludes with a close look at Social Justice scholarship and Social Justice in its real-world application.

Though it is a much overused cliche, Pluckrose and Lindsay demonstrate that the emperor of Social Justice and Social Justice "scholarship" indeed has no clothes. In fact, the authors demonstrate how Social Justice themes and emphases frequently hurt the very identity groups they are seeking to help.

The book is heavily documented with primary sources, and engages Theory's various scholars by the use of their own words and writings (perhaps 25% of the length of the book is composed of the extensive documentation and end notes). If one is researching Theory, I imagine this book is a virtual catalog of the most important sources.

In my opinion, Cynical Theories is a hugely important contribution towards rolling back the progressive tidal wave of intellectual irrationality that has taken control of virtually all aspects of modern culture. Five stars: highly recommended.

Monday, November 9, 2020

You may find these hard to put down...

Want a break from the bad news, the political news, the Covid news, and the riots-in-Portland news?
 

Would you like an exciting Cold-War story about conflict with the Soviet Union at the height of America’s military strength? Want to read an intriguing espionage tale? Want to read a great action/adventure tale that does not contain any gratuitous sex or obscene language?

Let me recommend the Falcon Series. It’s an exciting tale (four novels) about an American F-16 pilot who gets shot down and captured by the Soviets in what amounts to a high-tech kidnapping. He finds himself incarcerated in a Soviet interrogation camp. He knows he has two options: escape, or torture followed by death.


The Falcon Series is set in the Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. The research behind the Series gives it a ring of authenticity often missing in the military and espionage genres. Fast paced, unpredictable action will keep you engaged from wheels-up to the final scenes.
 Kirkus Reviews said of Falcon Down: “Cobb has clearly done his research on
multiple counts and, like Tom Clancy or Dale Brown, masterly intertwines military technology and behavior into a tightly plotted narrative in which every development follows logically and smoothly from what came before. This deft touch extends to the characters: . . . This first installment chronicling the adventures of Maj. Jacob Kelly turns out to be an undisputed success.
"



I measure my success as a writer by whether or not I can make you miss your bed-time. According to a number of readers, the Falcon Series has been very successful by that metric. The books are available in both Kindle and print format. The book links below take you to Amazon--however, there are bundle prices in the Doorway Press store that will save you up to $16 for the complete set (print format).

Book 1: Falcon Down 
Book 2: Falcon Rising 
Book 3: Falcon Strike 

And one last thing: if you read any of the Falcon Series, and you enjoyed it, leave a rating or review (preferably) on Amazon or Goodreads, or other reading sites. And tell a friend! Thanks!

Sunday, November 1, 2020

When all is said and done, it's time to reboot...

First: full disclosure. I wrote this post for my benefit, to remind me of what is true and to get re-centered on what is important, and what is ultimate. I am a political junkie and sometimes get off-centered. I needed the thought that went into this essay in order to restore my own sense of balance. Perhaps it can help you, too. Take a deep breath, and read on...

Tuesday will come and go and the earth will continue to orbit the sun. No matter who is elected (and no matter how long it takes us to find out who won), you’ll still need to go to work, raise your children, love your spouse.  

Here are a few thoughts to remember:

1. No matter who wins, the outcome is ultimately an act of God’s sovereign control over His creation. “For not from the east, nor from the west, Nor from the desert comes exaltation; but God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another.” (Psalm 75:6–7). Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 4 is particularly helpful: “This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers and the decision is a command of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Daniel 4:17).

2. Do not get caught up in conspiracy theories. God’s got this. What if the vote is polluted? What if there is cheating, perhaps organized fraud? The sin of man will never overcome the plan of God. Conspirators may thwart the will of man, but they will never thwart the will of God. Psalm 2 should forever destroy the fear of conspiracies: “Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!” He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them” (Psalm 2:1–4).

3. On the other hand, don’t be glib about the sovereignty of God. The fact that Christians have confidence in God’s sovereign control of all things should never lead the believer to become glib or insensitive to suffering that is a result of wicked men and poor governance. Jeremiah knew God was in control of the Babylonian invasion—but he still wept for his nation, nonetheless. Jesus knew His Father was in control of the judgment to come, but He still wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). Caring deeply about our nation and its fortunes is neither unbiblical or unspiritual—rather, it is an appropriate response to our stewardship in this earthly kingdom.

4. Remember that relationships are far more important than politics. Our politics are certainly formed out of our worldview, but not everyone has thought as deeply about the connections. All of us, including me, live with a degree of cognitive dissonance or intellectual contradiction in our opinions and viewpoints. The Scripture is absolute; our opinions are not absolute. Don’t confuse the two. We are to receive one another: “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:1–4)

5. Do not buy the argument that concern for the economy and the policies that impact it is a greedy preoccupation with wealth. Many of those who make this charge are precisely the ones whose economic status largely protects them from the vagaries of a faltering economy. For the majority of Americans, the health of the economy translates to whether they can pay their rent or mortgage, keep the electricity and heat on, and put food on the table. The economy matters hugely, because it has a direct and often immediate impact on human suffering. Christians should care about this—not only in terms of mercy ministries, but in terms of laws and policies that add strength to the economy.

6. Do not buy the argument that the church and its mission are largely unaffected by culture in which it lives. Paul intimates in 1 Timothy 2 that domestic tranquility has a positive effect on the ability to share the gospel: First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1–4)

7. Don’t be confused: America is neither ultimate nor permanent. The Constitution is neither ultimate nor permanent. Only God, His Word, and His plan are ultimate. “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). Someday—maybe soon, who knows—all the works of man will come to an end in the fires of God’s judgment. Washington D.C. will be burned to a crisp. London, Paris, Moscow, Beijing, Seoul, and all the capitals of men will be burned to a crisp. That doesn’t mean the policies and laws of those places are irrelevant, but it does mean that they are at best temporary.

8. Don’t be confused: America has been greatly blessed by God, but Americans are not the people of God; rather, the true church comprises the people of God. While the Constitution embodies many biblical principles, it is not the sixty-seventh book of Scripture—it’s not the Epistle to the Church of Philadelphia, USA.

Here’s what we should remember: we must faithfully exercise our stewardship as citizens of an earthly kingdom, but we must never allow that citizenship to take priority over our heavenly one. On Wednesday morning, God will still be on the throne. His sovereign plan will reign supreme. He will still be good and loving and just and faithful. The blessed hope of the believer will be unchanged by political winds. Fullness of joy is found in the presence of God, not in political victory. Our joy will continue no matter who sits behind the Resolute Desk in the White House.

If your eyes (and my eyes) are fixed on Christ, our joy will be undiminished.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1–4)


Monday, October 12, 2020

Clashing Worldviews between kingdoms in conflict

 I’ve made several claims in the previous blog posts. Pulling the lever for Trump does not necessarily amount to an endorsement for the man, but could be a legitimate strategic move to block the progressive takeover of the country. By the same token, pulling the lever for Biden does not necessarily amount to an endorsement of abortion, but could be a legitimate strategic move to get rid of Trump, whose character is viewed as a cancer on the body politic.

Genuine Bible-believing Christians can (legitimately) find themselves on opposite sides of this see-saw, and it is important to the unity of the Church that we not slander one another in our disagreements. It boils down to what you consider the more compelling negative factor as you attempt to glorify God in the exercise of your stewardship to vote: the dismal character of Donald Trump, or the dangerous trajectory of the Democratic party. There is inescapable cognitive dissonance no matter which path you take. There is no decision in this election year exempt from critique—including my own. I do consider my argument to be compelling; I do not consider it to be bullet-proof.

From a wisdom perspective, however, in my opinion the choice does not amount to a zero-sum moral equivalence. I don’t see the two options as roughly equal, and this is because of the overt and aggressive hostility the various factions of the progressive movement take toward biblical Christianity. I view it as self-evident that the Democratic leadership is joined at the hip to the progressive movement; the Republicans are not so joined.

When I say that the Democratic party and its closely associated progressive movement are deeply hostile against Christianity, I’m not talking about the average Joe but the cultural and political leaders, the organizers, thinkers and philosophers of the movement. I am not referring to the genuine Christians who feel compelled to pull the Dem lever because of the terrible deficits on the Republican side. I have before stated my belief that Christians following their convictions can be on either side of this binary choice based on which factors seem to them to be more weighty.

So how is the trajectory of the progressive movement and their Democratic enablers deeply hostile against biblical Christianity? Perhaps the most critical is in their view of the nature of truth and reality, but that’s a pretty complex topic, so I won’t deal with it in this post. I’ll identify five critical areas that can be readily understood.

Sanctity of Life

The abortion movement is killing living persons in the womb at a genocidal rate. Think about it: from 2007 to 2016 nearly as many living human beings were slaughtered in the womb as comprised the entire combined populations of Washington DC, Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Montana. The abortions reported to the CDC during that ten-year period were 7,211,569 [CDC figures]; the combined estimated populations of those states in 2019 were 7,388,666 [Wikipedia]. The abortions reported to the CDC in that period are over seven times the high estimate of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 [Wikipedia]. It’s almost impossible to find a federal-level Democratic politician that will even consider the most modest limitations on abortion. And yet, Psalm 139 clearly indicates life begins at conception, and is precious to God.

The burgeoning industry of euthanasia is another evidence of the progressive disregard for the sanctity of life. The states permitting euthanasia are California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington. Every single one is reliably progressive and was controlled by the Democratic party and Democratic governors when they passed bills legalizing euthanasia. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.” (Genesis 9:6)

Human Sexuality

The Bible clearly states that God created mankind “male and female” (Genesis 1:27). The progressives of the Democratic Party have bought into the notion that gender is unrelated to one’s biological sex, that both gender and sex are socially constructed, and that gender is fluid and is a matter of personal choice from a palette of unlimited possibilities. Besides being a stunning disconnect from objective reality, this notion has led to conflict even among progressives: feminists, for instance, insist there is something unique to a woman’s experience, whereas the trans movement insists that anyone (including men) can be women—there is nothing unique about it.

The progressive insistence that gender and sex are not objective realities but mere social constructs has resulted in mind-boggling legislation harmful to women, ranging from permitting biological men in women’s locker rooms to allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports. California’s Governor Newsom signed a bill on September 29th that permits convicted criminals who claim to be “trans women” (i.e. biological males who identify as females) to be housed in womens’ prisons. This is not going to end well for some women sharing cells with “trans women.”

Some individuals desire help in regaining a normal gender/sexual identity through what is called conversion therapy. The progressive movement has pushed both sides of the aisle to ban conversion therapy in many states and cities across the country. In other words, you are permitted to enter the LGBTQ+ lifestyle, but you are never permitted to leave it. There undoubtedly are some “therapeutic” techniques that should be banned, but a general ban on helping someone reacquire a normal sense of identity simply reveals the intolerance of the progressives. They employ the law to force others to comply with their ideology.

It’s sad enough that the progressives encourage and enable such confusion, but it’s tyrannical when they try to force everyone else to enter into the delusion. Unwilling to tolerate those who disagree, the progressives demand that people use language perpetuating the lie or risk their jobs. People have already lost careers and been mobbed on social media because they refuse to use the “proper pronoun.” While many Republican politicians tolerate gender confusion and don’t legislate to restrict it, the Democratic politicians aggressively promote it and criminalize opposition to it.

The claim that gender and sexuality are social constructs, and that one can freely choose his identity is not a morally neutral position. Instead, it reveals deep hostility and rebellion against the sovereign God who created us as male and female.

Marriage and the Family

Whereas the Bible indicates marriage is between one man and one woman, and uses that model to illustrate the reality of the relationship between Christ and the church, progressives have changed the definition of marriage to include homosexual relationships and altered the definition of a family to include polyamory, among other things. They have also been very successful in lobbying for the privilege of adopting children into these distorted relationships, thus creating additional confusion in the minds of children.

This is an attack on the basic social unit of society upon which nations are built. Stable families are essential to a flourishing civilization. But not content to redefine marriage from a legal standpoint, the progressives are attempting through legislative and judicial means to make Christians celebrate the perversion. A classic example of the progressives’ use of the force of law can be seen in the multiple cases brought against Colorado’s Masterpiece Cakeshop, first in trying to compel the baker to create a custom wedding cake celebrating a same-sex marriage, and then trying to force the baker to create a custom cake celebrating a gender transition. Jack Phillips does not refuse to serve homosexuals or transgenders—he simply refuses to apply his custom artistry in support of that which violates his religious convictions. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which along with the plaintiffs pursued prosecution against Phillips, was found by the US Supreme Court to be overtly hostile to Phillips’ Christian convictions. It is precisely such an atmosphere of open hostility to biblical Christianity that is energized by the progressive movement and their Democratic enablers. It is rapidly gaining the force of law across the land.

Parental Sovereignty

Whereas the Bible gives parents the responsibility for raising children, the progressive movement views children as better served by coming under state supervision and state-mandated education. For example, Elizabeth Bartholet (identified by the Harvard Gazette as a “nationally renowned child welfare expert, and as the faculty director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School”) is agitating for a “radical transformation in homeschooling.” She claims that the state should strictly regulate homeschooling to ensure that children are not being abused (by their parents, no less!). She’s concerned that children are not learning basic academic skills, and that they aren’t “getting the kind of exposure to alternative views that enables them to exercise meaningful choices about their future lives.” Referring to families with religious convictions, she claims that children in those families might not be able to choose to “exit these ideological communities” and that “society may not have the chance to teach them values important to the larger community, such as tolerance of other people’s views…” Aside from the fact that the progressive movement is the single most intolerant collection of ideologies to appear in a long time, her concerns would be laughable if they weren’t taken so seriously by progressives.

There are multiple problems with her assertions. For one, the state is not doing a particularly good job at present protecting children from abuse, as anyone who brushes up against the system can see, and Bartholet conveniently does not mention the bullying and abuse (sometimes even sexual) that goes on in the public schools. Secondly, many public schools are doing a decidedly mediocre job teaching basic academic skills. Third, her statement about “alternative views” and “meaningful choices” are fine for her to exercise with her own children, but neither she nor the state has the right to impose her values on families that hold different values. Christians aren’t interested in their children being indoctrinated with “values important to the larger community,” but rather in passing along their own values to the children (which, historically, have included values which make for excellent communities). The progressive movement only goes in one direction: greater government regulation and control, and enforcement of their values by force of law.

Socialism

The progressive movement and their Democratic enablers is pushing socialism as a means of ensuring equal outcomes for all people. On the one hand, I share the desire that every person should be valued and treated fairly and justly in all aspects—it is a proper goal towards which we should all strive. But people are different (i.e., possessing genuine diversity), with different natural abilities, different interests, different motivations, different commitments, and different values—which means the only way to achieve equal outcomes is by government force.

The end-goal of socialism is expressed in a statement employed by Karl Marx: “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” The idea was that when socialism finally buds into full flower there will be such a supply of goods and services that there will be enough to provide for everyone. Socialism assumes that each worker will work to maximum efficiency, not because he is individually rewarded for it, but out of a natural altruism. Socialism assumes that no one will cheat, no one will be lazy, no one will hoard or collect more than he needs, and that no official of the state will abuse his position or role in the distribution of goods. Socialism assumes the benevolent redistributive power of the state. And because there is no legitimate creation of wealth in a socialist construct, socialism also assumes that the presence of wealth is prima facie evidence of oppression.

Ideological socialism is both atheistic (God does not exist) and idolatrous (the State is the ultimate reality and ultimate authority). Socialism therefore denies the most fundamental facts of human nature: first, that man is created in the image of God. With the loss of this truth, you lose genuine inalienable rights; instead your rights are whatever the State says they are, and can be changed at the State’s whim. You also have the loss of the inherent dignity of each human life. Old people a drag on your economy or lifestyle? How about a little euthanasia to take care of the problem? Is that pregnancy interfering with your goals? Why not kill the baby? When the dignity, equality, and value of each person is not set by a transcendent, sovereign Creator, the table is set for racism.

The second fundamental fact socialism denies is that man is born a sinner, with a powerful self-interest that trumps all other interests. This denial alone commits socialism to unending failure, as it is a denial of a fundamental human reality. Socialism cannot work because people are not naturally altruistic. A fascinating observtion is that every strongly socialistic economy has a flourishing capitalistic black market running just below the surface. Why? The success of socialist ideology did not create it—rather, the abject failure of socialism necessitated it.

Every society requires some proper level of benevolence on the part of the government in order to help the helpless and protect the disadvantaged. America is no exception—we have a necessary social safety net. But that’s not socialism. The closer a government moves toward controlling the means of production, and the greater the percentage of personal income levied as tax for redistributive purposes, the closer that government edges toward socialism, which will ultimately issue in tyranny and failure.

Having denied the sin nature of man, socialism takes a reductionistic view of man: man is no longer morally responsible, but is a basically good blank slate that can be molded at will through education, indoctrination, and reprogramming. Is Joe a misogynist? Send him to sensitivity training. Is Suzy a racist? Send her to a diversity reeducation camp. Is Bill a criminal? All he needs is education.

Because socialism does not believe in the universal sin nature of man, it is incapable of restraining it through the philosophical structure of the system. Which explains why all socialism—all progressivism—eventually turns brutally repressive. Repression is the only way it can stem the natural inclination of its citizens. It also explains why the lie is such a common thread in the fabric of socialism (North Korea being a prime example): you cannot admit the utopia has failed, so you must obfuscate that fact through deception: “war is peace; freedom is slavery; ignorance is strength.”

The Democratic leadership, in lockstep with progressives, is moving in an inevitable trajectory toward full-bore socialism. The Republican party is not. The Democrats have gained virtually all the cultural levers of power in America and are politically ascendant. The party leadership has joined itself to radical progressivism, which now provides both the reigning ideology and the emotional energy of the party. It is a dangerous combination, in my opinion.

In Closing

In both my blog posts and my book The Candidate, I have excoriated the Republican leadership for its failures to hold to the Constitution and the conservative principles of small government and individual responsibility. I’m not so partisan that I cannot openly condemn the failures of either the Republican party or conservatism in general. In both my writing and my preaching I have often said there is nothing stinkier than Christless conservatism.

I do not back off from that opinion in these series of posts. What I am advocating is that the demonstrable and accelerating trajectory of the progressive movement and their Democratic enablers poses a far greater danger than the offensive character of Donald Trump. Trump is an anomaly, not a revolution or a trajectory. Other than Trump himself, you’re not going to be able to cite any movement-wide tendency in the leadership of the Republican party towards racism, white-supremacy, or unconstitutional tyranny.

I don’t hold out much hope for this country. I believe we are now experiencing the righteous judgment of God for our national sins. But when I pull the lever for Trump, I will not be voting for an offensive character, I will be voting against the trend of this present darkness sweeping over our land. Perhaps God will have mercy on our sinful nation.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Personalities and Parties and the stewardship of kingdoms in conflict

The culture today does not like binaries, but like it or not this election is a binary situation: Biden vs Trump, the Dems vs the Repubs, Progressives vs Conservatives. You can’t get away from it, and you can’t honestly deny it.

Yes, you can refuse to vote—which I think is a failure on your part to exercise your stewardship. Or you can vote for a third party or write-in candidate, which can be a legitimate, Christ-honoring decision. At least you are voting your conscience.

At the end of the day, however, the result is an inescapable binary: Biden will win, or Trump will win. No matter who you vote for, or even if you refuse to vote, your stewardship of your earthly citizenship is going to be a factor contributing to whomever wins or loses. You are playing a part in the outcome: it’s unavoidable.

There are personalities on the ticket: Biden/Harris, Trump/Pence. A significant portion of the voting public will use their vote to express their like/dislike, respect/disdain for the personalities on the ticket. Character counts.

We pause from our regularly scheduled post for a personal confession: in 2016 I voted third party because I could not bring myself to vote for a character as offensive as Donald Trump. I wrote posts against Donald Trump, because I believed (and still believe) that character counts. My vote four years ago was a considered exercise of the stewardship of my Christian responsibility to engage with this fallen world. This year, however, I will pull the lever for Trump. My reasons will become clear as you read. It has far more to do with worldview than with Trump, Republicans, politics or power. More on that in a minute.

Character does count. The character of our leaders provides a (hopefully) good model for our kids. It creates (or destroys) the president’s credibility with not only world leaders, but our own legislators. It signals to the society at large what sort of behavior is going to be considered acceptable. Character is vital.

But in a presidential election, character is not the only factor; sometimes it isn’t even the most urgent factor. When we are electing a president, we are also electing a party along with its platform and its historic trajectory.

A party’s platform is comprised of its stated intentions in a variety of different areas, typically including things like fiscal priorities, domestic priorities, foreign policy, defense, entitlements and so forth. Usually some portion of the platform is successfully implemented during a president’s term while other portions wind up getting blocked, depending on who controls the Congress.

Everyone knows about platforms, but what about trajectories? Trajectories have to do with where a party has taken the country in the past; in other words, what the party has actually accomplished. The trajectory of a political party is the best, most reliable indicator of where it is going in the future. Trajectory reveals the direction and speed of momentum, regardless of the personalities on the ticket. Presidents come and go, but the momentum of the party tends to continue along the same basic lines it has established in the past.

You can look back fifty years and observe the trajectories established by the two major parties. The Republican party has stood for a conservative, originalist interpretation of the Constitution, conservative moral values, the sanctity of life, support of the family, parental sovereignty, educational choice, freedom of religion, limited government. The sins of the Repubs are many, and I have written about these. Crony capitalism, fiscal irresponsibility, graft, corporate welfare, plenty of examples of high-profile hypocritical moral failure—its all there in the Republican party. But with all its failures, the overall trajectory of the Republican party has been to stay the course and stick to the Constitution.

Over the past fifty years the trajectory of the Democratic party has been very different. While there have been good things produced by the party, the historic path has been a full-bodied support of the sexual revolution, a non-negotiable fanatical support for virtually unrestricted abortion, a growing love of socialism and redistribution, a growing hatred of America and its history, a diminishing of parental sovereignty and the importance of families, limitations on educational choice, encouraging dependence on government, and viewing the Constitution as a “living document” that can be interpreted in whatever way the culture demands.

This momentum in the Democratic party, especially with regard to the LGBTQ+ movement in the last 15 years, has been breathtaking. It is accelerating rapidly, to the point that our country in four years probably will not bear a great deal of resemblance to the America of 2000.

Perhaps you prefer the path on which the Democrats are taking the country. Perhaps you prefer the Republican’s path. Whatever your preference, the trajectories are undeniable—and the party you put in power with your vote will continue its trajectory regardless of the particular personality at the helm.

I published a novel in August, 2016, entitled The Candidate. It was about a fictional character, Henry Marshall, who found himself an independent candidate in a presidential election. Many who read that novel contacted me to say they wished they could vote for Henry Marshall. So do I. But we can’t. Marshall is not on the ticket. The binary possibility is Biden or Trump.

Given the quandary this election presents, I believe that a straightforward vote based on the candidate is not necessarily the wisest decision—in fact, it might be rather short-sighted. Far, far more important in this election is the fact that we are choosing between two well-established, undeniable trajectories. One is aggressively hostile against Christianity, against families, against moral sanity. One is not. When you are presented with the difficult choices this election represents, I am suggesting that what Christians should vote for is trajectory, not personalities.

Many people are not voting FOR as much as they are voting AGAINST. In other words, some Christians are not voting FOR abortion when they pull the lever for Biden (though some are), they are voting AGAINST Trump. Other Christians are not voting FOR Trump (though some are) when they pull his lever, they are voting AGAINST the established Democratic trajectory that threatens the moral sanity and well-being of the country. In fairness to one another, when we disagree we must not accuse each other of moral compromise, because most Christians caught in this Gordian knot will be honestly voting their conscience. But we are going to have to live with the extended consequences of our vote.

My goal is to persuade your conscience that this year, in this difficult election, the weightiest, wisest consideration is not the character of the two men involved (important though that consideration is), but the trajectories their respective parties have established. Given the established record of the past, where will the winning party take the country in the future? Do you really want to live there? Do you want your children to live there?

When you vote for a trajectory, you are voting for a worldview. In my next post I’ll give evidence of the deeply hostile, aggressive posture of the progressive movement (to which the Democratic party is beholden) toward biblical Christianity.