The Us-Versus-Them Culture

In the wake of the El Paso and Dayton mass murders, I have to ask myself, what is causing people to think that mass murder is the right thing to do?  Why are radicals on both ends of the spectrum and people with certain social disorders being emboldened to actually act on their impulses and ideologies?

I think, in part, it’s because we have created a dangerous culture of us-against-them.

Every problem we face is being framed by the media and both political parties as being us against them.

  • Whites against minorities
  • The poor against the rich
  • Republicans against Democrats
  • Immigrants against citizens
  • The NRA against gun control supporters
  • Pro-life against pro-choice
  • Men against women
  • Millennials against Baby Boomers
  • Christians against Muslims
  • Environmentalists against corporations

In every case, one side of the debate demonizes the other side, and attacks anyone who even questions the validity of their cause.

This culture of us-against-them is emboldening the radicals and those with certain social disorders to act on their impulses, rather than suppressing them. This mentality is being pushed by both the right and the left, and it’s tearing our country to pieces.

We have always had differences.  In the past, however, we have been able to discuss our differences civilly.  We had tolerance.  We could rationally consider others’ viewpoints, and could agree to disagree and move on.  This is no longer the case.  Our culture has adopted the mentality that “we” must prevail against “them” at all costs.  This dangerous change in attitudes is what’s inciting the fringe radicals and people with social disorders to feel justified in planning and carrying out mass murders.

Until we stop pushing the us-against-them mindset, the violence will continue.  It’s not just the politicians, media, and entertainers that need to change; ordinary people on social media are just as much to blame, if not more.

Let’s change the us-against-them culture, before it destroys us.  Let’s stop blaming each other.  We will never agree on everything, but let’s work to have civil discourse and agree to disagree.

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

If you truly want to “make America great again,” then do two things:

  1. Stop making racist, misogynist, and crude personal comments about your opponents. Your disrespectful bullying is counter-productive. Instead of personal attacks, focus on attacking failed policy. Stop being an asshole.
  2. Listen to the underlying concerns of liberals, and then actually fix the problems. Make quality healthcare affordable to everyone. Bring jobs to economically depressed areas, such as Indian reservations. Unclog the immigration system. Bring people together like Reagan did, instead of dividing them like Obama did. Stop talking, and actually fix the problems.

Sincerely,

A Former Conservative

A Worldview Shift

I haven’t blogged much over the last couple of years, partly because I’ve been busy, but mostly because I’ve been thinking.  I’ve been reevaluating why I believe much of what I believe, and as a result, there’s been a shift in my thinking.

 

My foundational axioms haven’t changed.  They never will.

 

What’s changed is how I apply those beliefs, especially to the realm of politics.

 

I came to faith in Jesus Christ in 1979, as a college freshman.  A year later, Ronald Reagan was elected President.  Since that time, I’ve been a political conservative – pro-life, pro 2nd Amendment, pro traditional marriage, against illegal immigration, pro fiscal conservatism, and so forth.  Although my views on these issues haven’t completely changed, my view on the importance of these issues has shifted.

 

There have been many things that have triggered this shift in my thinking, but the two that stand out are my trips to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and the election of Donald Trump.

 

In Pine Ridge, I have seen entire communities living in poverty, in the middle of the richest nation in the world.  I have gotten to know the Lakota people, and they defy the stereotypes portrayed by both the left and the right.  For generations, they’ve been used, lied to, abused, stolen from, and abandoned by the government.  The politicians on the left make all sorts of promises they never keep.  The politicians on the right vilify them then ignore them.  The Lakota people live in poverty, not by choice, but because the government has imposed it on them.  The addictions and suicides on the reservation are because they have no hope.  They desperately need Jesus, but most don’t want anything to do with Him, because churches were used by the government to murder them, steal their children, and destroy their culture.  I realized that, on Pine Ridge, the government is the problem, not the solution.

 

The support of evangelical Christians for Donald Trump has mystified me.  Trump makes blasphemous statements.  He is a pervert.  He’s a blatant liar and adulterer.  He is greedy.  He is a racist and a misogynist.  He is divisive.  His character is everything the Bible calls sin, yet most evangelicals continue to think he is a great man.   This completely baffled me, until I came to a realization:  American Evangelicalism has fallen into idolatry. It has become a political movement rather than an evangelistic movement.  Although they give Jesus Christ lip service, most prominent evangelical leaders have put their faith and trust in American conservative politics rather than in Jesus Christ.  They are more concerned with protecting the culture and their material wealth than in advancing the Gospel.

 

Confession:  I realized that politics had become an idol for me as well, and that many of my political views were unbiblical.

 

I realized that I was more concerned with what the government was doing about issues like abortion, marriage, gun rights, racism, poverty, and other issues than I was about following Jesus and sharing the Gospel.  I also realized this had to change.

 

My latest epiphany is that it is it is completely unbiblical to expect the culture to accept godly values and practices.  Most people in the United States are not followers of Jesus Christ.  They are unregenerate sinners, separated from God, and therefore have no rational reason to accept biblical truth.   They are their own gods, deciding for themselves what they accept as truth.  Why would a person who doesn’t know Jesus Christ and doesn’t have the Holy Spirit have any reason to reject homosexuality or abortion?  Why would racism, greed, or drug use be wrong?  Truth and morality can be whatever is convenient, if a person rejects Jesus Christ and the Bible as truth.

 

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, my message to you would be to make sure your faith is firmly placed in Jesus Christ alone.  Anything else is idolatry.  Faith in the government or politicians to solve our problems is idolatry.  I have had to shift my thinking away from trying to change the culture, and instead focus on trusting Jesus to change individual people.  Abortion and homosexuality are symptoms, not the illness.  The illness is sin, and the only cure is Jesus Christ.  Donald Trump cannot save us, and Nancy Pelosi is not the enemy.  Only Jesus Christ can save us, and Satan is the enemy.

 

If you consider yourself a Christian, but think God is OK with homosexuality and abortion, or greed and materialism, or any of a host of other things the Bible calls sin, then you are worshipping a fake God.  God has told us His stance on these and other issues in the Bible.  Please dig into God’s Word, and see what it actually says.  If you cannot agree with what God has told us in the Bible, then you either aren’t actually saved, or you are spiritually immature and need to grow up.  Jesus Christ isn’t a liberal or a conservative.  He is God.

 

If you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, I don’t really expect you to agree with what the Bible teaches about abortion, sexuality, materialism, or anything else.  You’re simply going to decide for yourself what you want to believe.  But, please know this:  God will hold you accountable for your every thought and action, whether you believe it, or not.  All of us, Christian and non-Christian alike, are guilty of sin before a holy God, and deserve the punishment of Hell.  Only by turning to Jesus Christ and receiving forgiveness through His death, burial, and resurrection can we escape the fires of Hell.  Only by receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit can we understand the truth and be changed into the person God created us to be.  It’s not about being a good person, with the good hopefully outweighing the bad.  It’s about the fact we cannot be good; we must rely on Jesus Christ to change us.  God loves you so much that He sent Jesus Christ to suffer the punishment you and I deserve.  He doesn’t want your sin to send you to Hell.  He desperately wants you to deeply know His love and forgiveness.

 

Issues like stopping abortion, gay marriage, and illegal immigration used to be very important to me, as were protecting gun rights and religious freedom, and a host of other political issues.  What I have come to realize is that these issues cannot be solved by legislation or the courts.  In the grand scheme of eternity, our cultural and political issues are temporary, and should not be our focus.  They can only be solved by turning our nation to Jesus Christ.

America’s Blessings

Many American Christians believe the United States has been blessed because we have been a “Christian nation.”
 
Many also believe that the United States has become less Christian, and that we have begun to lose God’s blessings as a result.
 
How do most American Christians respond? By fighting to keep the blessings, rather than fighting to make America more Christian again.
 
We spend far too much time and effort fighting politically to keep the blessings. We spend far too little time and effort fighting spiritually to turn Americans’ hearts and minds back to Jesus.
 
This is idolatry.
 
And, I believe the idolatry of believers, not unbelievers, is why God is withdrawing His blessings.

Thoughts on Judge Kavanaugh and the #MeToo Movement

“Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”  (Matthew 7:1-2)

The recent rise of the #MeToo Movement has brought the issues of sexual abuse, sexual assault, and rape to the forefront of public discussion and debate.  The pendulum has swung from dismissing most claims of sexual impropriety to accepting such claims.  Evils that have been swept under the rug are now being acknowledged and addressed.  The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and the subsequent claims of sexual assault that have come out during his confirmation hearings have made these issues the focus of public attention.   Did Kavanaugh sexually assault women in high school and college, or are the women lying?

I think the pendulum swing in attitudes toward sexual abuse claims has been a good thing, but I also think the pendulum has swung too far, and needs to move back toward the center. We’ve moved from the extreme of doubting most claims to the opposite extreme of accepting almost every claim. The problem in both cases is that people jump to a conclusion without due process, without objectively examining the evidence to arrive at an informed opinion. All claims of sexual abuse should be taken seriously, but judgement should be held until the facts have come out. Believing one side or the other should wait for the evidence.

What makes the Kavanaugh case more complicated is the political motive, on both sides. There are many on the right who would do anything to swing the Supreme Court to the right, including putting a known rapist on the court. And, there are many on the left who would do anything to prevent the Court from swinging to the right, including deliberate false rape accusations against an innocent man. The Kavanaugh case is so heavily politicized that the truth has become irrelevant. Almost everyone on the left believes the accusers, and almost everyone on the right believes him. And most in the middle are sick of the whole situation and just try to ignore it. The truthfulness of the claims has become inconsequential.

Jesus said we will be judged by the same standard we use to judge others.  When the nation unfairly judges Kavanaugh and his accusers based on their views about Roe v. Wade rather than the merits of the accusations, we open ourselves up to similarly unfair judgement.  The time has arrived when people are being tried and convicted, not because they’ve committed a crime, but because of their ideology.  And, I believe these sorts of accusations and convictions will increase.

As the nation drifts further from the truth and toward political correctness, God is judging us.  His judgement has included giving us evil leaders, in both major parties.  His judgement has included allowing us to reap hatred and division.  If we continue to ignore the truth, God’s judgements will become increasingly severe.  Unless we as a nation repent and turn back to God, things will continue to go downhill.  The measure we use will be measured back to us.

 

 

Jesus and the President Caught In Adultery

Then the liberals and Democrats brought to Jesus a President caught in adultery. And when they had set him in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this President was caught in adultery, in the very act. We can’t stand him, and we think he should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, hoping that they might have something they could twist to accuse the President. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger:  Al Franken.  Bill Clinton.  Barney Frank.  John Edwards.

So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at him first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground:  Gary Condit.  Anthony Wiener.  Gary Hart.

Then those who heard it, ignoring their conscience, said, “Shut up, Jesus.  Stone him!  Stone him!”  And they began to hurl rocks at both the President and Jesus.

Then Jesus turned to the President and said, “I do not condemn you; go and sin no more.”

And the President said to Jesus, “Whatever.  My lawyer paid her to be quiet.  She should have been quiet.”

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.  You all, on the other hand, are condemning yourselves to Hell by ignoring Me, by choosing to walk in darkness.  I’m out of here.  When you’re ready to listen, let me know.“

Then Jesus shook the dust from His sandals and left that region.

My Evolving Thoughts on School Shootings and Gun Control

As my thoughts on gun control and mass murders continue to evolve, two things have become crystal clear to me.  First, what we are currently doing isn’t working.  And, second, the sound-bite, blame game, quick-fix solutions being proposed won’t do anything to stop the shootings.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

The psychiatrists, social workers, politicians, pundits, and law enforcement experts cannot agree on the causes of the current epidemic.  Some blame guns.  Some blame a lack of mental health care.  Some blame the decline of morality.  Some blame violence in movies, music, and video games.  Some blame poor parenting.  Some blame racism.  Some blame bullying.  Some blame the breakdown of the family.  Some blame the NRA.  Some blame economic inequality.  Some blame turning away from God.  Some blame Obama and the Democrats.  And some blame Trump and the Republicans.

The proposed solutions are equally contradictory and muddled.  Ban all guns.  Ban some guns.  Arm teachers and school staff.  Raise the age to buy weapons.  Provide more funding for mental health.  Hire armed veterans to secure schools.  Offer free conceal-carry classes.  This list goes on.

What nobody seems to want to do is to put ideological dogma aside and to sit down to discuss the problem and solutions rationally and pragmatically.  People are more concerned with pushing political ideology than in finding solutions that work.

I don’t have a bunch of letters after my name, and I’m not an expert, but I am a reasonably intelligent, well informed, and thoughtful person.  It seems to me that the causes of mass shootings are extremely complex, and vary considerably from case to case.  It also follows that there are no simple solutions to a problem with such complex and varying causes.

Both the left and the right make valid points.  Easy access to high-powered, multi-round rifles obviously makes it much easier to shoot a lot of people, but so do “gun-free zones” where the assailant knows his victims will be unarmed, easy targets.  And while it’s clear that someone that shoots up a school is mentally unstable, it’s equally clear that the vast majority of people with mental illness are of absolutely no threat to others.  Most gun owners are law-abiding citizens and responsible people, yet many mass shooters use firearms they purchased legally.

How do we solve the problem?  Again, I’m not claiming to have all the answers, but it seems to me the place to start would be for each side to begin listening to what the other side has to say.  Those on the right need to understand why the left is so terrified of unregulated gun availability.  Those on the left need to understand why the right is adamant that gun ownership is just as much an absolute right as free speech or freedom of religion.  We then need to come together to find practical ways to protect people from these attacks, as well as addressing the complex social, religious, political, emotional, and medical reasons why people shoot other people.

It seems common sense to me that if conservatives believe “extreme vetting” is necessary to keep terrorist immigrants from entering the United States, it might also be necessary to keep terrorists and violent people from obtaining certain types of high powered semi-automatic weapons.  It also makes sense to me that mass killers are less likely to target a school where teachers and staff are known to be armed and trained to defend themselves and their students.  Obviously, not all teachers would want to be armed, and nobody should be required to violate their conscience and be forced to carry a weapon.  And many communities would rather risk an armed attack against an unarmed school than to permit loaded weapons in classrooms.  These choices should be made by individual states, communities, schools, and teachers, with significant input from community members, parents and students.

Woman with AR-15

It also seems obvious to me that the causes of the rise in mass-shootings are related to the causes of many of the other societal problems.  We have seen an increase in mass shootings, racial violence, hateful rhetoric, violent bullying, sexual assault, and violent protest.  Behaviors and beliefs that our nation once abhorred are now not only tolerated, but are embraced and celebrated.  We have given up our God-given moral compass, and replaced it with a moral Ouija board.  Conservative Christian leaders who once denounced racism, fornication, and blasphemy now defend a racist, adulterous, blasphemous president.  In the past, our leaders worked to try to unify our nation and work for the common good.  Today, our leaders work to divide our nation to promote partisan ideology.  Technology has isolated us as individuals; parents no longer discipline their children or themselves; schools teach that we are meaningless accidents of evolution; churches teach that we cannot take the Bible seriously; and we blame others rather than taking responsibility for our own actions.

We dehumanize the unborn to justify abortion, and then we wonder why some people dehumanize others to justify mass murder.  We teach that morality is whatever our hearts tell us is right and wrong, and then we are surprised that some people’s hearts tell them mass murder is right.  We teach people to blame others because they are helpless victims, and then wonder why some people think it’s OK to take revenge against those they believe victimized them.  We make mass murderers famous, posting their names and images on the evening news, and then we wonder why the next person tries to kill more than the last.

How do we prevent mass shootings?  We return to the values we once believed.  We teach our children that they are loved by God and that each person has great value and worth.  We become less isolated, and more caring of our neighbors and associates.  We encourage people to arm and defend themselves, while making it harder for deranged people to get access to high-powered, semi-automatic weapons. We stop making mass murderers famous.  We stop glorifying violence.  We do a better job of identifying those with violent tendencies, and get them help.  We start listening to each other and work together, rather than blaming and demonizing each other.  We repent and ask God to forgive us, and sincerely ask for His guidance and wisdom.