Friday, May 28, 2010

Acting as a Christian

There seems to be a lot of conflicting views on what exactly it means to act in a Christian way. The Bible expresses contradictory views on moral arguments and has undoubtedly led to the current slew of opinions and radical differences between believers that we see today. The best example of this is the conflict between conditional vs. unconditional love.

Unconditional love is something we all here about, usually in reference to the love of a parent for their child or the love of God for us. However, this second is not a legitimate view for some who say that God will turn His back on sinners until they repent and come back to Him through Christ. By the way, I use Him simply as a word to put in the sentence to make it grammatically correct. I don't believe that God can have a gender. This brings us to conditional love, which is love that is only given if the recipient has met certain criteria. This type of love seems to be more pervasive than, yet resists the simplistic style of, unconditional love.

So, which type of love are we called to take up in the Bible? The famous line by Jesus in the Gospels that says "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." (John 13:34) is referring to his desire for the disciples of Christ, including us today, to love one another as Christ loved us. Of course, this leaves the type of love somewhat ambiguous. Did Christ have unconditional or conditional love for humanity?

My view is that he had unconditional love. This is apparent to me in the fact that he died, not to save his followers, but to save the sinners from their sin. He did not sacrifice himself for the best of us, but for the worst. In this way, Christ proved that his love did not discriminate, did not exclude anyone for any reason, and did not require a person's repentance to benefit from his death. In short, he showed unconditional love.

So, if we are called to love as Christ loved, then we are called to show unconditional love, love without borders or boundaries, love without hesitation, hate, fear, sorrow, or selfishness. We are called to be as Christ was, sacrificing for the betterment of others so that we may attain grace and love in return. If we are called to this, then why is it that many Christians do not practice this love? Why is it that Christians have set up public platforms for denouncing homosexuals, slandering non-Christians, and fighting against women's rights for abortion? Is this the face of love?

To be a Christian means to love others even when we do not agree with them, when we cannot possibly accept what they say, when they scream at us or throw stones or steal from us. If we are robbed of ten dollars, we are called to give the thief another ten. If we see a person being persecuted, we are meant to stand with them and take some of their burden ONTO US, meaning we must let ourselves be persecuted, freely and without question or consideration. If we choose to be harmed, if we choose to put ourselves in the path of someone's fury and hatred, we are one step closer to the model of Christ.

This is why it is meant to be difficult to be a Christian. We are called to an impossible standard, yet we can make small changes to work towards that. We are called to be unwaveringly loving to others, regardless of our own desires and comfort. Christianity, being a Christian, is meant to be one of the hardest things to do in life. I believe that it is the difficulty that turns many people from this ideal form of love. They want to be Christians, but they are afraid to make the sacrifices. So, they rationalize their own beliefs, back it up with scripture, and pass it off as devoted truth. In fact, it is another humans attempts to rewrite the laws of the Bible and God. It is simple, difficult, powerful, dangerous, and courageous. It is Christianity in its purest form. It is three words: Love One Another.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More political posturing

It's a game of pointing fingers, as this article shows. It's ironic that the GOP complains that the president will not meet with them, then complain when he does. They complain that he is not meeting their expectations, then refuse to give him their suggestions and choose instead to bash him for not listening. They say that he is not meeting them halfway when they refuse to negotiate their conservative agendas. To the GOP: you can't expect the Dems and the left to compromise their views if you are not willing to compromise yours. You seem to have forgotten that politics is a game of compromise, of going back and forth to find a middle ground that benefits the people. I know you have ideas to help people, but there are two things the keep you from implementing them. One, you also have ideas and a position that works to benefit business at the expense of the people, meaning you can't push one position while weakening the other. Second, you refuse to acknowledge that the Left may have good ideas as well, and don't seem to understand that you must make an effort to work together for change. You may be gaining momentum and may end up getting the numbers to halt any reform coming from the Dem side, but this will do nothing but make you the people you are now fighting. I'm convinced you will be defending the tactics you are now demeaning when you are implementing them. That just makes me sad. I would defend you if I could find something worth defending, but your politic antics have "poisoned the well", to use the phrase of Mr. McCain.

I pity you.

Monday, May 24, 2010

continued coverage on the oil spill

In the most recent articles regarding the oil spill, the GOP is found to have blocked reform on liability for oil companies. The new legislation is meant to increase the cap on how much an oil company owes for a major disaster like the gulf oil spill in the event that they are found liable for such a catastrophe. To be clear, this is not meant to be retroactive, meaning the new cap would not apply to BP for the current problem. However, it is meant to safeguard the American taxpayer from having to foot the bill for future environmental issues.

This is a scenario that sheds light on the GOP's agenda to protect business before individual citizens. Based on their continued opposition, their position is that the American people should have to pay for this in some way. Ironically, these are the same people who are complaining that the government's involvement is going to cost the taxpayer unknown amounts of money. Furthermore, this is the group that complained about the government's involvement in the spill at all, and then also complained about the response time of the administration to the crisis.

So, let's review:
1: GOP complains that the government should not be involved in a crisis that a privately owned (and foreign) business has started.
2: GOP complains that the government is too slow to respond to a crisis that a privately owned (and foreign) business has started.
3: GOP complains that government involvement will cost the taxpayers millions of dollars and will take liability from the business that started the problem.
4: GOP opposes and votes against legislation that will safeguard taxpayers and make businesses more liable for starting problems.

I'm not sure, but I think these are somewhat contradictory views. Even if the GOP took the position of protecting the business, I could accept that as their position. It's the fallacy that they are making sense in the vast number of opinions and arguments they are making. The only thing they have in common is that they blame the current administration. That doesn't count.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nuclear Power in the Middle East

A while back, Iran was in the spotlight for starting up their own nuclear program. This was portrayed in American news media as the first step towards a Middle Eastern nation developing nuclear weapons. This story has recently resurfaced due to Iran's decision to make nuclear trade deals with Turkey and Brazil, completely ignoring the American option of using us as a intermediary in trading nuclear technology. This decision has also be damned in the eyes of the American media and has caused the U.S. to enlist the help of Russia, China, and her European allies in placing new sanctions on Iranian trade.

There are several things that bother me about this. First of all, it is unfair for us to assume that Iran will be using their nuclear technology to build weapons. We only perpetuate idea because this is what we did. It's similar to a politician being outspoken about abstinence only education while having an affair. The only reason they are taking such a hard stance on the issue is because they have violated the ethical grounds on the issue. We can't conceive a nation where nuclear technology is used solely for peaceful purposes because our own mindset is not so pacifistic.

Secondly, I think it is absurd for the U.S. to be alarmed that Iran would make a deal to trade without them. America had proposed a trade deal with Iran, signaling that we were okay with them trading their nuclear technology just so long as it was on our terms and under our control. But, of course, Iran wanted autonomy from the U.S. (which is understandable given our history in the region). So, the Iranian government went and made their own deals with two countries that really have no issues with America. It's not like Iran was going to give nuclear technology to Iraq or Pakistan or Afghanistan. They weren't going to supply terrorists with these, they were giving them to Turkey and to Brazil. if anyone thinks that Turkey is a bad idea because of their genocide of the Kurds, keep in mind that the U.S. has also supplied millions of dollars in aid and weapons to Turkey for their continued extermination. And if anyone thinks that Brazil is a bad choice, I would like them to consider how that is, since it doesn't seem overly dangerous to me. The fact is, "we" as America are only opposed to Iran's current trade agreement because it doesn't include us, we aren't in control, and it's not with who we think it should be with. Furthermore, as stated above, we were providing Iran with a plan for trade that involved us, so we were in support of them exporting their technology, but on our terms.

Think about this scenario. Your next door neighbor is very successful building contractor that has worked with most major groups in the area. Over the past several years, you have been working as a contractor too, but your neighbor has been spreading rumors that you are not well-equipped or knowledgeable enough and that you are not capable of doing as good a job. Of course your business suffers, but you manage to stick with it. Now, suppose you are looking to expand and you happen to mention this to your neighbor. Your neighbor tells you that you can only expand where he tells you, that you must give him tips on where you are working and that you must give him a cut of your profits since he is "letting you" grow your business. If you don't follow these guidelines, your neighbor says that he will suck up all the contracts and leave you with no work, buy up your business, and turn everyone in the area against you. Instead of bending to the pressure, you go ahead with your own plan and get contracts with a few new people. Your neighbor, along with some of his buddies in the local government, continue to bad-mouth you and try to keep you from being able to complete your contracted work.

Sounds pretty unfair, right? This is what the U.S. is doing at the moment. We don't want another competitor nation, especially not one that isn't under our thumb, that we can exploit, or that will bend over backwards for us. We can't stomach the idea that lucrative trade is occurring in which we have no part and cannot glean a profit. If Iran were to establish its trade independently, the U.S. would have no way of controlling the spread of their technology. Because of this, we have set up global blockades of nations that are following our lead in condemning and punishing Iran for their unwillingness to serve our interests.

I have a good friend from Iran who, I am sure, is well aware of how this situation has arisen. I'll be sure to ask her what her thoughts are on this, and will let you know how she feels at a later date.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A movement from politics

I realized that I have been focusing on politics as the sole topic in this blog. However, this is not my only interest and the implications of the blog name are meant to go beyond the ignorance of politics. Since starting this blog, there have been times when I have felt compelled to write on a topic but have resisted from doing so because it did not seem to fit with the theme that this collection has adopted. So here I am to change that.

I recently picked up a book by Desmond Tutu, a political and social activist and Archbishop of South Africa who was a central figure alongside Nelson Mandela in the fight against Apartheid. The book is called God Has a Dream and it outlined Tutu's views on Christian faith, forgiveness, and the meaning of being God's family.

I am an emerging Christian, which means that I am only just starting my spiritual journey. I have studied and practiced many Eastern philosophies and religions and so these influences have played a major role in shaping my worldview and my view of Christianity. When I began to come back to Christ, I was very concerned for the views that many Christians seemed to have, particularly on social issues. I was worried that being a Christian would mean that I would come to believe these things or be forced to believe them. I was afraid that the scripture would end up converting my heart and mind to what I perceived as erroneous beliefs and convictions. I believe in what I feel, and I was not willing to sacrifice my deeply held convictions that we must love everyone and embrace all religions and orientations.

Therefore, I immediately felt a connection to Tutu's writing. He discusses the hyperbole and hypocrisy that comes from hate and discrimination based on arbitrary and extrinsic criteria. Things such as racism, sexism, and discrimination based on religion or sexual orientation is all the same, says Tutu, and all based on superficial and oftentimes uncontrollable criteria. He discusses what it means to know that God loves us no matter what we do, no matter how far we fall, and that his arms and heart are always and forever open to us. We have to know that God not only loves us but loves every single person including our enemies, because we are all part of the same family of God. It should not matter to Christians that a person is not a Christian or does not believe in God. God believes in them. It is incredibly uplifting to believe that God does not judge on our extrinsic actions but our intrinsic values and thoughts.

One of the terms that Tutu talks about is the concept of Ubuntu. Essentially, Ubuntu refers to a person's understanding that they are only human because they belong to a wider group of people, that the welfare of those people is tied directly to their own welfare, and that all are connected in God's eyes. To have Ubuntu is to have compassion and a giving heart for your fellow man, even your enemies. It is so simple in concept, yet so radical and so difficult in its implications and implementation.

So, this is my way of moving away from politics a little bit, and bring some different subjects to this blog. In my view, Christianity has lost its path and forgotten the overarching doctrine that we are meant to love all unconditionally and be Christ-like in our views and convictions. I will strive to follow the example of Desmond Tutu in my faith. I highly recommend the book God Has a Dream to anyone who is struggling as I have struggled with maintaining their faith in the face of mainstream intolerance.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How's that de-regulation working out for you?

It's amazing to me how short the memories of politicians and political news junkies can be, especially when it concerns issues that arose from their own party. It is even more maddening how accurate their memory can be in citing issues from their opponent's camp from decades long past. The most recent issue of selective memory comes from the mass deregulation of oil rig safety standards and practice during the Bush Administration.

If anyone is unfamiliar with the goings on of the Minerals Management Service (MMS), or what they are for, check out this article for a brief synopsis of relevant information or this one for a more extensive history of the MMS.

Not everyone sees the MMS as being an important part of this situation. FOX, for example, believes the Senate hearing with oil company leaders had this to say in regards to those on the panel: "the senators conducting the hearing, some of whom are in tough reelection battles, are sure to use the opportunity to dress down the companies for the cameras." Obviously, this whole situation is just for ratings and to get reelected.

The underlying problem is that there are no safety regulations on keeping spills contained or stopped. The regulations that were in place were lifted by the Bush Administration and the MMS was filled with oil industry leaders to promote the continued opening up of operations. In the mid-2000's, the MMS lifted restrictions on safety switches, such as the BOP's that would have stopped the current catastrophe from happening. This was done to save money on operation costs, despite the fact that the result is now going to cost upwards of several billion dollars.

This just makes it more evident that we need more regulations on big companies. They'll make their money, they'll be able to be safe and avoid environmental issues, and we'll all be better off.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Articles on energy, oil spills, and hypocrisy

Here are a couple of bits from that just made me laugh a bit and think a bit more.

The first is about renewable energy vs. offshore drilling, but in a humorous way. The interesting thing, and the part I want to check up on, is their assertion that we can use wind power and low-cost solar panels to provide energy equivalent to what we get from non-renewable energy sources. If it turns out that this is the case, wouldn't it make sense for us to pursue this? Even if it means the end of non-renewable energy, that wouldn't happen for many years, probably decades, while the old technology is slowly screened out. That means that those jobs would be kept intact for the most part, and could even be rerouted into green jobs that could be better-paying and more permanent. This would also save the environment, economy, and people from our own greed and negligence. I understand that certain people are against wind turbines for aesthetic reasons. Having wind farms in scenic ocean areas or in places that rely on their scenery for tourism, it could be a major deficit. In those situations, I would say you can put windmills in other areas, or utilize solar power, which is a little more inconspicuous. Regardless, I believe we need to invest our time and money into renewable energy in order to prevent more accidents like the current oil spill, and to ensure energy independence and longevity going into the future.

The second article touches on a point of political hypocrisy that was made apparent earlier this week on FOX News. Michael Brown, the former FEMA director whose poor decisions in the face of Katrina cost hundreds of lives and his job, appeared on the news network earlier this week to discuss how Obama intentionally waited to send help for the Gulf in order to increase the popularity of his energy and environmental reform policies. Well, first of all, it is pretty ridiculous for Brown to bash Obama for "waiting" when his indecisive days cost human lives. Second, there has been ample evidence to show that there really was no delay in Obama giving the matter his attention or aid. In fact, government officials were in place within 24 hours, assessing the situation. In fact, if government officials had not been present, they would not have known the severity of the spill, which BP down-played by a factor of 5.

Here's the article from FOX about the slow response of the President. Based on the information provided in the other articles, it is clearly misleading here to say that the administration did not immediately respond to the crisis. While the President did not visit the next day, pledge billions to the clean-up, or jump out of bed a moment after it happened, to say that the response was lacking or mishandled is not only hypocritical but untrue and defaming.

Monday, May 3, 2010

American is not a race

This morning on the Rush Limbaugh editorial, Mr. Limbaugh was discussing the lackluster response to the census in several southern states, and how this may result in those states losing congressional seats. At the end of this, Mr. Limbaugh said that, when the census employees came to his home (if they did), that he would be listing his race as American. Up to this point I wasn't paying much attention, but this particular line just made me laugh.

I wonder if Mr. Limbaugh understands that American is not a race but a nationality. Another example is that Hispanic is a race, but Mexican is not. Americans are not their own race, they are caucasian (white), African American (black), Hispanic, Asian, Native American, etc. Those are the options. American is not.

If Mr. Limbaugh believes that Americans are their own race, does he also believe that we are our own species? Are we no longer Homo Sapiens but Homo Americanus? Does his arrogant regard for this country extend so far that he believes we are a superior race of people? Similar to an Aryan Race? Does he believe that the world is there to serve us, not for us to be an equal part of? To follow this line of thinking is to find its roots in inequality, racism, and race supremacy.

I for one do not consider my race to be American. Whether Mr. Limbaugh wants to agree or not, we are all immigrants from some point. Whether your ancestors were here when the Mayflower landed, or if you're a first-generation citizen, we are all immigrants, all one nation, one people, with different perspectives and beliefs.