Thoughts from the Abbey – October 2021

Immortality Through Science

God gifted mankind with a natural curiosity and desire to explore His creation. We want to understand our environment and how things work. This is the foundation on which science is built and it is good and natural.

As with many human acts, it is less the act than it is the heart behind an act that is sinful. There is an adage that goes “The path to hell is paved with good intentions”. I’m not so sure I necessarily agree with that. I think God honors selfless acts of Love and kindness. The trick, perhaps, is in the self-assessment of our true intentions.

Consider being healthy. If I eat well, sleep well, work hard, keep my body strong, and avoid foods, activities, or excess that can harm my body, is that a bad thing? Again, I would argue that in all things, it’s the heart behind the action that matters, and not the action. Why am I being healthy? Is it so that I am able to serve God and serve others in a larger variety of ways? This is good. Is it so I can respect the Temple of God which is my body according to scripture? Then this is also good. But is it so that I can prolong my life for my own personal gain or even cheat death? This is a vanity.

Scientific breakthroughs and increased knowledge of hygiene, food, and diseases have all helped increase both health and lifespans across the world. All of this is good. But there are those among us now whose goal is to live forever. Their fear of death has led them to desire to find a way to cheat death. At what point does scientific knowledge pass the realm of being good stewards of our bodies and into the realm of blaspheming God by creating something prolonged only by the means of man’s limited understanding of God’s amazing creation?

If you’re looking for an opinion from me, you won’t find one. This is a complex and personal topic, and I don’t have answers for anyone else. But I will argue that in all things the issue is the heart behind it. Are we making decisions based on the fear of death or the good stewardship of our bodies while they are ours to look after? If the last year and a half has proven anything to me it’s how many people fear death. So many people have no hope. Science tells them that when they die, they are dead. Their bodies rot like any other animal and there is no more. Science tells people that the only way to experience joy is to do so here and now while you can and that there are no eternal consequences to choices. Ironically, in my city there are billboards that say, “In science there is hope”.

Scripture tells us that this existence is not our home. That in this place there is disease, hate, a multitude of sins, and ultimately death. We are told that God so loves us that He has given us a path out of sin and death. This path is to simply accept the freely given gift that is open to all and can not be earned. That gift is the forgiveness and everlasting life we received in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins. For those who believe, this place is not our home, but our actions here have eternal consequences. Scripture tells us that we will still have to account for our actions in this world. Forgiveness is there, but also accountability. As a man, I am told that I will be held accountable for the actions of my household. That is my wife and my children, perhaps even my grandchildren. So, when I am not letting the world distract me, every decision I make and word that I speak is done with eternal consequence in mind.

There are some who believe that my generation, if not the next, will see the advent of immortality through science. If it was available to me, would I accept it? No. Immortality in this broken, hateful realm of Satan and man would be a punishment, not a prize. I will wait on my immortality from the only giver of good gifts, the Lord God himself. In the meantime, I will serve Him as best I can with what strength He has given me. I will do my best to be a good steward of His money, His body (in which His Holy Spirit dwells), and His creation in general. But most importantly I will do my best to share the Gospel with whoever will hear it so that they too can have eternal life in a place without sin.

Do I Trust God?

Do I trust God with my provision? My Health? My protection? My life (both in this one and the next)? My salvation? Or do I lean on my own strength and intellect and judgement?

When I “say Grace”, thanking God for the food He has provided, haven’t I worked for it? Scripture says that God provides and yet it also says if a man doesn’t work, he won’t eat. So, what is it that I am thanking Him for? I’m thanking Him for the opportunity that I know was provided by His providence. When I think about how I came to be where I am, in this city, with this job, and with this family, I have no choice but to bow my head and praise God for His provision. Some may say that I worked hard for what I have, and that is true so far as it goes. But the Truth is that God made a way for me, and I have been obedient in working for Him at whatever he put in front of me. I worked, but He gave me success.

When I eat healthy foods and take vitamins to supplement what my body needs am I relying on my own wisdom and actions to extend my life or give me health? Not at all. I know that I can’t add a single day to my life. But I am being obedient to God to be a good steward of this life and body He has given me. It is He who makes all the components work as they need. And in times of need it has been God who Has rescued my body and my life when it was beyond my works. Not all the healthy food in the world can extend my life forever, nor can any medicine protect me from every disease. But I walk with the Lord. I do what little I can, and He blesses my obedience with His works.

My days of fisticuffs are long since over, not that I was ever a great brawler. So, when I was considering whether or not I could carry a weapon and still claim that I was trusting in God for my protection there was a great deal of prayer and reading of scripture that went into it. When I look back on my life, I see numerous instances that God directly protected me, even before I came to Christ. In the end, like all things, I believe that I have a part to play in the protection of myself and my family (and those around me), but that in the end it is still God who guides my hand and gives me success when I am obedient.

I have no choice but to trust God with my life in its totality. Whether it’s where I live or where I work or what provisions He gives me. The world is a large, complex place with so many pitfalls and dead ends. If I try to figure it out on my own, I am doomed. But instead, I trust that scripture provides me wisdom and that the Holy Spirit guides me to God’s will in any circumstance. I trust these for guidance in my life above my own wisdom and instinct.

But most importantly of all, I must trust God with my salvation. When I read scripture and assess myself critically, I can’t come to any conclusion other than that I am not worthy of saving. I have done nothing that deserves the Love of God. And yet, I know I have it because He has said so. He Loves me and He has paid the penalty for my sins. I must rest and trust in that because otherwise I will go down a road of self-righteousness where I fool myself into believing I am “good enough”, or worse, that I know better than God what is right and good. God is the final judge, and Christ is my savior from the penalty I owe for my crimes. This is where all my hope lies and it is the guiding truth of my life and my interactions (not that I don’t still stray, but praise God there is forgiveness for that as well).

Whose Son is the Messiah?

Matthew 22:-42-46

“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Psalm 110:1 

A Psalm of David. The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” Whose son is the Messiah?

I have to admit that I have glossed over this passage in the past because I didn’t understand the implications. I really wasn’t sure what Jesus was getting at. I now realize that Jesus was revealing that David prophesized that the Messiah would not have an earthly father despite being from David’s line. Just as Jesus did not have an earthly father. But instead, that the Messiah would be the Son of God as well as the Son of Man (being born of the Virgin Mary). There are many passages where Jesus asserts His unique relationship with The Father (and usually has to leave before getting stoned). But I appreciate that he put the crowd on the spot here and makes them connect the dots, which they fail to do.

A Little Harmless Conjecture

Matthew 24:29-31

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

So, a little harmless pondering on this passage. When I read it, I got to thinking about a recent article I read about scientists trying to find a way of diverting an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. It seems to me that a large enough asteroid coming at the Earth from the direction of the sun would not only dim the sun but conceivably do so enough to also blot out the light that the moon reflects. With all our astronomical advances we would likely know it’s coming, and all the nations would certainly mourn. Perhaps it is at this time that Christ will come to bring the remnant to Heaven. It is of course pure speculation, but I thought it was an interesting piece of speculation anyway.

Is It Unclean?

In Romans Chapter 14 Paul has a great deal to talk about in regard to cleanliness. He opens by stating:

Romans 14:1-6

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.”

So, we see two examples of differences of opinion about what is clean or unclean. In more current terms we may say what is allowable in the sight of God and what is not. These two issues were important during this time because there were many Messianic Jews who weren’t sure what was OK as they were now sitting next to Gentile (non-Jew) followers of Christ who didn’t have any of the food restrictions and may have had no special day for the Lord or a different one.

Paul makes it abundantly clear that whether it is a sin to consume something, or do something, that isn’t specifically forbidden (like murder or drunkenness), is up to the individual conscience of the believer. He concludes by saying:

Romans 14:21-23

“It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

So, from this perspective, it is up to the conscience of the individual to determine if something that may be generally allowable (such as eating certain kinds of meat) is not allowable for their walk with the Lord. This is true of foods, holidays, and dare I say, vaccines. Consumption or injection of anything that a believer has doubts about regarding whether it’s OK with God is by its very definition not OK. One must be certain by faith that his choice is in line with God, or it is a sin. This is an important aspect of the Christian faith that may be overlooked as we look at introduction of vaccination requirements for a growing portion of the population and whether religious exemptions will be permitted.

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COVID-19 – What the Heck was that?!

Let’s start off with, what is it? COVID-19 is a virus that is a member of the Coronaviridae (Coronavirus) family. This family causes respiratory tract infections for which there are currently no officially approved anti-viral drugs or vaccines. This family has been around for thousands of years and typically shows up as the common cold but can also cause pneumonia depending on which member of the family you get. COVID-19 is the second Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) human Coronavirus that has been identified. (

Between 2014 and 2020 the CDC expected to see about 7-8% of all deaths to be influenza or pneumonia related at the peak of “flu season”. For the years 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16, and 2017/18 it peaked between 10-11% of deaths. Because COVID-19 has symptoms similar to the flu and pneumonia, it shows up very clearly on the Pneumonia and Influenza Mortality Surveillance (PIMS) from the National Center for Health Statistics Mortality Surveillance System (NCHSMSS). This shows a peak of almost 16% the week of March 29 – April 4. One of the useful measures of the PIMS is that it tracks all deaths per week and there is a fairly good reporting system in place. Not only does the system know there is a lag time for death certificates, that’s actually part of the system. So it knows when all the certificates are in. The last full metric is from the week ending May 10th. Another nice thing about it is history puts things into perspective. Let’s take a look.

In the chart above the grey line is the percentage of all deaths attributed to influenza and pneumonia compared to all deaths. The orange line is the “baseline” expectation and the blue line is considered the epidemic threshold.This doesn’t officially include COVID-19 but you’ll see the spike anyway. Now there’s been a great deal of arguing over deaths, attribution, etc. So, let’s take a look at the big picture with raw numbers of deaths from all causes.

What’s interesting about the chart above is it shows that we were about to exit a fairly normal flu season when COVID-19 hit. But what’s also interesting is that the sharp front end with a peak and sharp drop looks just like all of the previous seasonal viruses that hit us. The difference is it’s sitting on top of the regular season. What does this suggest? Well, we’ll probably see a plateau for a few weeks before we get back into a regular off-season drop. There’s no way to know at what level that plateau will happen or how long it will last since you can see that there is some variation on the tail end of these “flu seasons”.

But here’s the Multiple Trillion Dollar Question. What, if any, effect did all of the chaos and mayhem of closing down the country do for us? Well, to figure that out let’s take a closer look at the current scenario.

Now, at first glance one might postulate that the quarantine and stay at home orders worked. We were headed for catastrophe and “Big Government” saved the day! Well, let’s get some more data, shall we?

We can see that States started closing down between March 19 and April 6. It was a somewhat gradual two and a half week process. So, for starters, we would expect to see a more gradual change in fatalities connected with this gradual change of behavior. But then the other question is, how long does it take from when you contract the disease and show symptoms until you die? Well, we have that information as well ( The average is about 18.5 days. So, when we look at the first spike in  deaths the week ending March 29, we need to look back about 19 days to see when they were infected. So, those folks would have been infected the week ending March 10. That’s a minimum of 9 days before the first Stay At Home Order.

OK, so we saw a sudden drop in fatalities (as we have seen repeated over the years with other viruses that make their rounds according to the PIMS data) right after a peak. Let’s go back about 19 days from the week ending April 19. That would be the week ending April 12. By the week of April 6-12 the last State locked down. 

So, we see that in the midst of the States shutting down the fatalities were spiking and then suddenly, about a week after the last State closed we saw a plunge that has continued. I put forward that the States shutting down had no measurable effect on the spread of the virus. Instead, it spread through the country as it would always have done at the rate it was going to spread and the country will drop back down to normal death rates over the next few weeks no matter what we do as far as social distancing and shutting down businesses goes. In short, the leaders of almost every State in this country got it wrong and have caused irreparable harm to the people of this country by attempting to wield the heavy hand of a nanny State government instead of doing it’s best to provide good information and allowing citizens to make their own choices. 

Now, as far as the data goes, I intentionally used older data than is available because I wanted it to be as accurate as possible (as some data gets back filled) and I wanted to show that this information, even if preliminary, has been available to our leaders. If you look at more current data we look even better and are closing in on “normal”. Again, I reiterate, that has nothing to do with all of the cleaning, social distancing, and shutting down of our nation. 

I mean, think about it. Most people were still going to the store. Some wore masks, many didn’t. Has anyone ever actually read the instructions for antibacterial wipes and other products? I assure you that almost nobody has read them and even fewer follow the directions which clearly state that they are ineffective if you don’t follow the instructions. The quick wipe that most folks do does absolutely nothing for most anti-bacterial cleaners. It was all a sham and the data will continue to show that even as politicians try to push the idea “It would have been much worse if we had done nothing!” There’s absolutely no evidence of that unless you play around with data and make scary looking charts and graphs.

All orders from the Health Department in all States in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic should be cancelled effective immediately.

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Thoughts from the Abbey – November 2019

(Scripture quotations come from the Complete Jewish Bible)

How should Christians view the Torah? And what is our relationship with Jewish tradition? These are questions we struggle with today. I have listened to positions from both extreme sides of the answer. Some say that Christians should obey all of the Torah and others say we can completely ignore it and just piecemeal Christ’s commands from the New Testament alone.

Let’s start with some definitions. The Torah is the combination of the first 5 books of the Old Testament (also called the Pentateuch). That is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Now there is another word, mitzvot, which means commands. There are many mitzvot, or commands, scattered throughout the Torah.

This problem of which ones are relevant to Gentiles is addressed partly in Acts 15:10-20 where the Messianic community addresses the issue of Gentiles accepting Jesus as their Savior and receiving the Holy Spirit. The question was, “What does adopting Gentiles into God’s family look like?” They quote Amos 9:11-12 as evidence that Gentiles don’t have to be circumcised and become Jews to follow Jesus.

They then write a letter that outlines some things Gentile believers should refrain from:

  • Consuming food sacrificed to idols
  • Consuming blood
  • Consuming things that were strangled
  • Fornication (any sexual act outside the confines of a man and his wife)

Now, this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of things believers shouldn’t do. But it’s worth taking a look at where these particular commands may have come from. We can see as far back as God’s covenant with Noah and his family that consuming blood was forbidden (Gen 9:4). The consumption of things strangled may be implied in this, I’m uncertain. Fornication (adultery) is explicitly forbidden in the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:14). Consuming food sacrificed to idols could be construed as worshiping or serving idols, which is forbidden in Exodus 20:3-5. It’s interesting to me that none of the laws in Leviticus or commands exclusive to Deuteronomy are referenced. When people want to make ridiculous example of following “Old Testament Laws” in the present they almost exclusively pull from Deuteronomy which functions more of as a Middle Eastern Treaties or Constitution for the nation of Israel. Deuteronomy is referenced about 80 times in the New Testament but not in this context of Gentiles serving God.

While we often focus on the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17), I would like to point out that a long list of rulings/judgements/laws follow the commandments in Exodus 21:1 through 23:33. Having read through them I would like to try to summarize a bit. Please consider reading them in more depth yourself.

First, God very clearly states that murder, kidnapping, sorcery, sex with animals, sacrificing to false gods, and cursing your parents are very serious crimes (punishable by death).

Secondly, when you harm another person or their property in any way, whether intentionally or accidentally, you owe them compensation for the harm you have done them. This could look like replacing property or restitution for lost days of work.

Third, God’s people are to be kind and compassionate to, and not take advantage of, foreigners, the poor, widows, and orphans.

Finally, God’s people give offerings to God and do not curse Him or their leaders. Instead they celebrate God with festivals. They do not allow themselves to be ensnared into serving false gods.

For me, Exodus 23:1-3 really stands out. “You are not to repeat false rumors; do not join hands with the wicked by offering perjured testimony. Do not follow the crowd when it does what is wrong and don’t allow the popular view to sway you into offering testimony for any cause if the effect will be to pervert justice. On the other hand, don’t favor a person’s lawsuit simply because he is poor.” It just feels very relevant with the rhetoric and misinformation flying around in every direction and the many presumptions and gossip that are bandied around as fact.

The other section I found interesting comes right afterward. Exodus 23:4-5 states “If you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey straying, you must return it to him. If you see the donkey which belongs to someone who hates you lying down helpless under its load, you are not to pass him by but go and help him free it.” I like that this is already setting the stage for Christ’s command to “Love your enemy”.

What we get from all of this is a good outline for what God sees as good and evil and what we should be looking to when Christ says in John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” We should also not neglect which two commands are the greatest according to Jesus. (Matthew 22:36-40) “’Rabbi, which of the mitzvot in the Torah is the most important?’ He told him, ‘‘You are to love ADONAI your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’ This is the greatest and most important mitzvah. And a second is similar to it, ‘You are to love your neighbor as yourself.’ All of the Torah and Prophets are dependent on these two mitzvot.’”

We can see how the commandments in Exodus are reflected in the two great commandments. And of course, Christ took it to a whole new level, didn’t he? In the Sermon on the Mount he took the commandment to not murder and said in Matthew 5:22 “But I tell you that anyone who nurses anger against his brother will be subject to judgement.” Again, in relation to the commandment to not commit adultery (which is defined as sex outside the confines of a man and his wife), Christ says in Matthew 5:28 “But I tell you that a man who even looks at a woman with the purpose of lusting after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Thus brings us to the real challenge of showing our Love for Christ by obeying His commandments. We must do so in a wider range of ways than we tend to consider and we must do so in our hearts as well as our words and actions. When we harm someone we must sincerely repent and be eager to make reparations. When we sin against God in our hearts we must be quick to repent and follow Christ’s command to the adulterer and “don’t sin any more” (John 8:11). But we must also proactively desire to show compassion to the marginalized (the poor, the widow, the orphan, the foreigner) and take what concrete actions we can to aid them. These are the things that the Torah and Christ demand of us as Children of the Living God who was, and is, and is to come. We are separate and Holy and it should show in our Love for people, our condemnation of sin (particularly in ourselves), and our Love of God. All of this is, of course, only possible by receiving the Holy Spirit through Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. In the end, it’s God’s transformational power through the Holy Spirit that unbelievers should see as most startling and most appealing. That is how we should shine God’s Light into the darkness and bring His lost sheep back to Him.

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My Response to the Article “My Evangelical Church Is Gaslighting Me, But I Refuse To Fall For It Anymore”

There is an article that I have seen shared several times about an Evangelical Christian discovering that she needed to change aspects of her Faith because of Donald Trump. You can read it here. I am going to run on the assumption that everything the author writes is her true life experience and that she is, in fact, where she says she is in her Faith journey. However, for others who feel they may be following her down that path from a person who has put their Faith in Christ to someone who has not, I would like to point out some things that I think are important to consider. I wish someone had been there for her during her struggles. 

She starts out by describing her horrific mental and emotional state at this time. This is understandable since she was raised in a Christian environment believing and trusting in Christ but now, describes her upbringing more in terms of brainwashing. She has a clear distaste and disbelief of God’s story and the Salvation we have through Christ. Transitioning from Believer to non-Believer is rough. Consider what Peter says in 2 Peter 2:21 “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” My heart goes out to her that she’s in such a horrible place. 

Naturally we want to know how she came to be in this place and she has some ideas. She starts by pointing out that she grew up white, middle class (I’m inferring this part), in a district that is mostly Republican, and surrounded by other Christians. She also points out that she had no real interaction with or understanding of the struggles faced by marginalized people such as people of color, LGBTQ, other religions, and other groups. She calls her bubble a “Christian bubble” but I would argue it was actually a socioeconomic bubble that had nothing to do with the Christian faith. 

What she describes as happening in 2014 is very important. She was suddenly hit from all sides with messaging that shook her world. She was bombarded with the message that her life had been easy because of the color of her skin. And, since she had lived inside a bubble, she really didn’t know folks who were different than her. So she had no personal life experience to question these accusations. The fact that the poor and homeless come in all races, genders, and even “privileged” backgrounds was unknown to her. The fact that the Asian minority in the U.S. actually has a much higher median income than a privileged “white” person was unknown to her. She believed that anything good that happened to her was primarily (or solely) because of her color, not her choices. Now, I’m not saying that the African American community in the U.S. doesn’t have a lower average income than the average Caucasian. I am simply arguing it is not primarily a skin color issue.

A second important event happened in 2014. Although she had been to many church camps and was raised in a Christian atmosphere, she seems to have had a fairly weak understanding of scripture. And scripture has been strongly used and twisted by those wanting to justify and normalize all kinds of sin. Her strongest struggle, and understandably so, was about homosexuality. She had been taught that homosexuality was a sin and therefore a homosexual can’t be a Christian because they are a sinner. I think that if she had really internalized her earlier statement “And because of this sacrifice, I owe him a lifetime of gratitude, worship and a commitment to follow his commandments (even though, because of my human flesh, I will always ultimately fail him)”, she would have understood that all committed Christians are sinners. I would argue that if you honestly can’t see the sin in your own heart every day, and fight against it, you should be very concerned about whether or not you really understand your sin or His sacrifice.

The piece that she seems to have been missing in her understanding of how to handle sin is what Paul says in Romans 6:1-2. “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” When a person is predisposed for whatever reason to any kind of sin they are to acknowledge sin for sin, resist it, confess it, and repent of it. Or, as Christ said to the woman brought before him to be stoned for adultery in John 8:11 “Go now and leave your life of sin.” So can a Christian be gay, or a liar, or a thief, or a murderer? In Christ’s own clarification of murder in Matthew 5:21-22 he finishes with “…anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (He is comparing this with the punishment for murder) So the answer is a resounding yes, seeing as how I’ve never met a person who, by that definition, isn’t a murderer. However, if they have given their lives as slaves to Christ they will not portray these sins as good, nor will they endorse or condone them but repent and ask forgiveness.

But there are many Christians who like to create a hierarchy of sin. People like to pick and choose which sins are “big” sins and which ones are “little” sins. We even have a classification of lying called “white” lies. We say it’s not sinning because even though it’s a lie we deem it’s not harmful and therefore not really a sin. Christ would disagree. Sexual sins have long been high on the hierarchy of sins and not evenly enforced. Even in my earlier reference to John 8:11 only the woman was brought before Christ to be stoned even though the law required both the woman and the man to be stoned. Our culture has been eroding the idea of sexual sins for quite some time now and homosexuality is the most recent one. But it’s really no different than a man cheating on his wife or a man and woman having pre-marital sex. Those of us who believe Christ Is who He says He Is, should be resisting sin in our own lives and encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same. We should not endorse or condone any sin, but let Grace abound when there is true repentance. 

After describing the effect of watching Social Media for 2 years she goes on to describe gaslighting as a “psychological manipulation that leads one to question one’s own feelings and perceptions of reality.” But then she says that the Church began to “gaslight” her. That’s an interesting point of view. She now believes that the Republican platform is just rhetoric while the Democratic platform aligns with her personal Christian values.

So let’s talk about political platforms for a moment. I know Republicans who are all kinds of different religions and even atheists. I know Democrats who are all kinds of religions, and even Christians. I know Republicans who are for stricter gun control and I know Democrats who are for less gun control. The Democratic and Republican parties have Pro-Choice and Pro-Life folks mixed in. This idea that everyone in one or the other party supports everything that the official platform may support is ridiculous. For that matter, the idea that the two parties are really all that different is even more so. But both parties want to claim the higher moral ground because that tends to get votes. The problem is that both parties are full of sinners. So it becomes a beauty contest between two people who throw as much mud at the other as possible so they are the prettiest contestant covered in filth. I’d say the Democratic Party (with a great deal of help from the media) has done a heck of a job slinging mud over the past 2 years.

At this point she goes into a wide variety of Democratic talking points and I’m going to skip much of that because I want to focus on the spiritual aspect of the article since it appears to be designed to pull people away from Faith in Christ.

She asks the question “Is any of it true? Have I wasted my life on a religion that hurts more than it helps?” Somehow, she has gone from pointing out (rightly) that Christians can be Democrats too, to wonder if Christianity is a false and harmful religion (presumably because she used to think Christians were only Republicans). This idea, that both parties like to push, but Republicans have pushed better, that they are the party of Christ and morals is simply wrong. Neither party is devoted to Christ. They weren’t meant to be. There is documented corruption in both parties, because they are full of corruptible people. This binding together of politics and religion is a bad idea. Now, I’m not saying that those of us who are strongly committed followers of our Lord Jesus Christ shouldn’t be in politics. What I’m saying is that it would be a bad idea to pretend that either party is the party of Christ. I think this claim hurts both the political party and the body of Christ.

Next she summarizes her walking away from Christ and the Church and comes to a conclusion on Christianity:

“I stopped attending church regularly almost two years ago, but I am more invested in my spiritual life than ever before. Although I’ve lost the majority of my local Christian community, save for a few precious friends, I still cling to the true teachings and example of Jesus to inform my politics and moral code. I now understand that Scripture pays more attention to serving the needs of the oppressed than to regulating their lifestyle. Sin is not as much about my behavior as it is about my inability to love people well.” (Emphasis mine)

This is, of course, completely opposite of what scripture teaches repeatedly from Genesis to Revelation. Sin is all about not just what we do, but what we say and what we think. And by loving people what she is really implying is allowing and even endorsing all kinds of sin. This is the exact opposite of what God has told us from the beginning and through Christ who revealed our need for Him to take our punishment for our sin so that God can show both the vastness of his Righteousness as well as his Mercy.

My heart breaks for this woman. Just within the last few weeks I actually heard a preacher speak a prayer that I had to spiritually absolve myself of because I believed it to be blasphemy. It intertwined politics and scripture in a way that was a false teaching. So I know that there are places where scripture is being misused for political gain. We see examples of that even in Scripture. Satan himself tempted Jesus by quoting scripture. But if you, as a fellow Believer in Christ find yourself being torn up by politics and the media; if you find that you are questioning your Faith, or what it means to serve our Lord in the unimaginably unique way in which He designed you to serve; please, reach out to a trusted firm Believer who will speak openly and honestly about these issues and topics (in person please, not over the Internet). If you want to come and talk to me, I would be happy to do so. It concerns me that I have seen so many of my fellow Believers pass this article around and miss that the crux of it is designed to break your Faith in Christ and to twist scripture to say something it doesn’t. Don’t exchange one set of false teachings for another.

Posted in Politics and Government, Religion | Leave a comment

A Framework for Immigration Reform to Discuss

Immigration reform is complex and there are many different aspects. I have several variations of ideas with different limitations and benefits. Please don’t read this thinking I am even pretending to have all the answers. This article is simply meant to be a framework with which productive discussion of the complexities of immigration reform can begin. I will propose some ideas and then provide some pros and cons for various issues at different points. So please be patient as you read and wait until the end to start forming too many opinions. I will destroy some of my own ideas for you near the end by providing problems I haven’t found good answers to.

Coming to America – It’s Complicated

One thing I noticed about immigration to the U.S. is that it is large and complex because it seems to deal with every kind of person from every different country for every different reason differently. There are a myriad of different kinds of ways in (mostly temporary). This causes great confusion in even knowing if you can qualify to come to this country and if so, how long you can stay. But let’s be honest, the majority of the people who come to the U.S. for any reason other than vacation, end up wanting to live here permanently. So why not just make that the presumption and simplify the process for permanent residence?

Work and Education

Let’s start with those who are coming for the employment opportunities (like I did) or the educational opportunities. It seems to me that we could replace the various temporary educational and work visas with a single permanent resident application. It would reduce the complexity since everyone would go through the same process and have the same requirements and if people want to work seasonally or are moved in and out of country for the same employer it’s all the same process. Additionally, the process only has to be done once.


So what should you need to qualify for permanent residency based on attending school? I would say simply an acceptance letter at an accredited school with a minimum 2 year program. That’s it. For those 2 years the individual will be contributing to the economy by paying for the classes and living in general. They will likely find employment and be able to contribute to society in other ways. Eventually they are going to either obtain gainful employment and/or creating a new enterprise of their own, or they are going to choose to go home where they may fair better having had access to our schools and perhaps bring back some of the ideas that are unique to the U.S..

For those applying for permanent residency based on employment I would simply require a formal offer letter from a U.S. based company. If a U.S. company wants to hire you, you’re welcome to live and work here. Currently the business has to go through a lengthy and difficult process to prove they can’t get an American to do the job. Also, you must meet minimum skill and /or education requirements in many cases, which are set by the government.

For those applying as business owners I would want proof of a solid business plan along with capital and/or loan approvals. I know, this is vague, someone way smarter than me would need to iron that out. But I would want anyone with a solid business plan to be granted permanent residency because businesses employ people and contribute to the economic growth of the country.


Let’s be real, it’s way faster and easier to hire locally than to wait for someone to go through immigration and then uproot themselves from a foreign country just to start a job. The employer is best suited to determine whether or not the candidate is best qualified to do the job. It’s not realistic to have the government try to decide who is “qualified” to come in and work for every different kind of occupation. When I applied I had to provide some “equivalent” job title because the government had never heard of an Access Technology Specialist.

Most folks who come here want to stay. And why not? It’s a great country. By providing temporary work and education permits we are encouraging people to come under false pretenses and then over-stay their visa. Or, perhaps they come with the intention of it being temporary and then discover they like it here and want to stay but are then forced to leave. To enforce the law with temporary work and education visas is prohibitively expensive (and difficult) to attempt to find and deport these folks. Then there’s the whole “sanctuary city” issue where the State and local governments may actually be intentionally working against Federal law enforcement. Then there is the whole underground criminal system that thrives in a community of people living in fear of deportation and needing ways of re-entering the country illegally. This causes an entire marketplace for human trafficking across borders. Then there is the current calamity of families being split up because children have been born while the temporary resident was in country (albeit often, but not always illegally).

The other problem with temporary work visas is that they can be used by employers as leverage to use and abuse foreign workers. This has been a problem both in the tech industry as well as the farming industry where working conditions that were unethical and illegal occurred because the victim (the foreign worker) is unwilling to speak up in fear of losing their job and being deported. If a company offers a job to a foreign resident and then begins to treat them unfairly, that person can utilize the freedom that permanent residency offers them and simply find a better job without fear of deportation. Workers who can find work elsewhere can’t be intimidated and abused by bad employers.


The issue of dealing with refugee status is far more complex. For one, refugees are generally fleeing with little or no resources and traveling in desperation and fear. This means there may be little or no documentation, no plans for income or temporary housing, and there may also be a significant language barrier. All of these things can make the application process very difficult and time consuming. How do you know what country a person is from or if they are giving you a real name when they are fleeing persecution from their own country and can’t get confirmation of their identity or are from a country that has been destroyed by natural disaster along with the infrastructure to identify people? If you have no proof of who they are or where they came from then how can you know that they qualify as refugees?

That being said, the total number of refugee or asylum requests per year peaked around 115,00 in 2016 and that seems like a reasonable annual intake. If we can ascertain with reasonable certainty they meet the requirements and we can tone down the paranoia I think we can make this work.


So then the question has to be asked, who qualifies as a refugee? People fleeing natural catastrophes affecting a significant portion of a country, such as what happened to Haiti certainly come to mind. People fleeing countries that have governments which target them for imprisonment and/or death because of their ethnic or religious identity seems to qualify. In those situations I would think the above permanent residency process could be done after the arrival instead of before. But that only works if the people coming as refugees can already know they qualify as refugees. Otherwise we are back to the existing problem of people trying to cross illegally because they don’t qualify for entry.

Various Problems With My Ideas


For asylum seekers to know they qualify before coming, the U.S. would have to be clear about which countries they believe are so impoverished or devastated that their people qualify as refugees or are so biased that they persecute certain people groups. It’s doable, but would require the U.S. government to throw diplomacy with many countries almost completely out the window. I hear it’s politically incorrect to call countries shit holes, but when you agree as a country to take in refugees from a certain country, that is effectively what you are doing. You’re just saying it politely.


My hope would be that we could trust that our country was built on the concept of creating a better life for yourself and your family through ingenuity and hard work and that a large influx of new people would add to that. My concern is that the growing culture of entitlement and handouts would transfer to the newcomers and crush our current social safety nets by sheer volume.


By easing the requirements we will likely see an influx of applications. We already receive about 1 million permanent residency applications per year and about 800,000 temporary job applications per year. With all of those new folks coming in we’re going to get some bad eggs. There really are large groups of people around the world that want to kill us because we’re the U.S.A. But the truth of the matter is that the world isn’t safe anywhere, including here. We are supposed to be living in the land of the free and the home of the brave. I believe that compassion and freedom are worth the risks. Besides, those who come to this country and break our laws by harming others will be dealt with when they commit a crime. In the meantime, living here may actually change some hearts.

The Devil’s in the Details

Obviously, there is still much left out of this document and various issues like verifying employment offers or school acceptance letters is left out. What to do with refugees while verifying their identity was also left out because that is also a somewhat separate and difficult issue. But I believe it’s resolvable. I also completely left out what to do with the current illegal immigrants because I want to focus on the system going forward. The conversion process is a whole other difficult topic. My main goal here was to show a general direction and strategy.

Various concerns I think I have addressed (and possible side benefits I may not have mentioned)

Some folks worry about foreigners taking all their jobs. I believe that the combination of “home field advantage” and the inability to effectively hold foreign workers hostage will cause employers to favor local hires but still have access to global talent to strengthen their companies. Requiring the proof of job offer in advance means folks aren’t coming first and then trying to get a job. The job they are getting was never “yours” in the first place.

I believe that this new clear and (dare I say) liberal approach to immigration will greatly reduce the number of people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally because there will be a safer, possibly less expensive solution to gaining access to the U.S. This should reduce the strain on the border patrol which makes over 500,00 “apprehensions” of illegal crossings every year.

I think this new process will also reduce the burden currently on employers for trying to get foreign workers, which can give them easier access to the best human resources in the world.


OK, so that is a lot of information. If I had to boil it down it would be this:

  • If you have a job offer from a U.S.-based company, you get permanent residency

  • If you have been accepted to an accredited U.S. School for at least a 2 year program, you get permanent residency

  • If you can be imprisoned or killed for your ethnicity or religious beliefs in your country, you get permanent residency

  • If you’re country was just devastated by natural disaster and it will be years before it’s infrastructure can be put back to the level it was, you get permanent residency

  • If you come here and commit an act of terror, we have a high percentage of armed civilians. You will be arrested or shot, we will mourn your victims, and then we will move on as a free country.

Helpful source material to learn more about U.S. Immigration (and where I got my numbers)

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Basic Income – A Response

I came across a Facebook post that linked to an article that, at first blush, seemed a reasoned and researched argument in support of Basic Income. I read it carefully and even read some of the studies and source materials used. Perhaps more so than the author did. Here is my response to his positions.

So the author starts by saying that Basic Income is money, not socialism. This is a strong part of his basis for discrediting most common sense opposition and is the foundation for his arguments. This, of course, is absurd. From Wikipedia “Basic income systems that are financed by the profits of publicly owned enterprises (often called social dividend, also known as citizen’s dividend) are major components in many proposed models of market socialism. Basic income schemes have also been promoted within the context of capitalist systems, where they would be financed through various forms of taxation.” Basic Income isn’t just money. It’s either someone else’s money (via taxation) or it’s “The Government’s” money via State owned businesses. This is the very core of socialism. Whether you are for or against socialism is irrelevant. We can’t have an honest discussion of a topic without acknowledging that Basic Income is absolutely a part of socialism.

He then goes on to espouse the benefits of a free market system where people vote with their money. No argument there, I’m all for a free market where you can only make a profit by selling what people want to buy. But his underscoring inference is that if you give people more money there will be increased markets and profit. Again, he’s ignoring where this money comes from. But since he saves that coup de grace for the end, so will I. However, he does go on to point out that you start with free money in Monopoly so surely that would work in the real world. I guess he’s glossing over the part where you win the game by bankrupting all of your opponents despite their access to “free money”. In his world, free money means you always have enough to live on. He’s clearly never known any homeless people. But I’ll save that for part of my rebuttal.

Then comes the comparison to Alaska. It almost sounds compelling until you really do the math. So if you live in Alaska you can get a whopping $1000 (approx) per year because the State of Alaska put a 25% tax on all natural resources pulled from the ground. So, with a relatively small population and a 25% tax on all natural resources they can only manager about $100 per month. In a state that has a cost of living about $30% higher than the national average, it’s a pittance. And, most importantly, it’s not scalable. They couldn’t tax enough to get folks to a Basic Income. As a side note, here is where he says again “Does this sound like Socialism to you?”. We’ve already answered that question. And he has proven the issue by pointing out an effective 25% tax that still isn’t enough to do any good.

Now he goes on to philosophizing, effectively saying anyone who disagrees with Basic Income just doesn’t know what it means and then lists a huge selection of studies to prove it works, including the Alaska example. The problem I see immediately as I start looking into these is that they are all small pilot programs. Some of the links were dead, but even of those that weren’t, many of these experiments were known to be short-term experiments. This in itself can skew the results but even in that, the publication about Seattle and Denver showed that it did reduce “work effort”. That means people stopped trying to work because they didn’t need to even though they knew it was only temporary. How much more if it were permanent?

Next he moves on to discuss Social Security as an example. But even how he couches it leads me to believe he realizes the problems. He asks if seniors are “worse off” for it. Well, no, the people receiving the benefit they paid into and were promised are not “worse off” for it. However, even at that, Social Security income rarely is enough for them to live on. Also, it’s designed to start at age 65 until you are dead, which in the US is typically 78. So let’s be generous and say it’s designed to last most folks 20 years. And that doesn’t include folks who paid into it and died before they could collect. Did the author not know about the $11 trillion dollar shortfall? So here’s a program where the government was entrusted to invest money on behalf of citizens and provide retirement funding but has over-promised and now is having to find ways to either under-deliver or over-tax people in the future to make up for it. You’ll see what that looks like in my rebuttal.

Then he goes on to link back to the partially broken list of “studies” and claim they provide evidence that Basic Income effectively solves all of society’s woes. He has clearly never met a drug addict if he’s going to claim that providing money to an addict magically cures them. Many of the other claims are also suspect since, again, these were a hodge podge of programs, not all Basic Income, and with limited scope and duration.

At this point he takes a breather to imply that if you aren’t convinced by now it’s because “you don’t care how basic income improves lives”. That’s the polite way of saying you are evil and heartless even if you think his premise is bunk. Then he pushes the idea that since other people came before you and bought up the whole planet, you are entitled to a piece of what they have because they don’t deserve it. He clearly isn’t aware that thanks to death taxes, competition, and sometimes just gross incompetence, many fortunes have been won and lost over the years. Being born rich doesn’t ensure you stay that way and being born poor doesn’t ensure you stay that way. Or at least, not in this country.

I also found it humorous in a kind of laugh so you don’t cry sort of way that he says that taking away from the top 20% so the bottom 80% could live better would mean taking an inch off their yachts. This is where I think a lot of socialists show they can’t do math. First off, based off Federal Income Tax data, I fall in the top 25% (perhaps the top 20% but the available chart doesn’t provide the 20th percentile). I assure you, I have no yacht. The simple fact of the matter is that there isn’t enough wealth in the US to provide the standard of living that people are saying is a bare minimum. This is a recurring cry from those with any sense and math skills. But we’ll get to that later because the author effectively acknowledges this later.

The author then glosses over two huge glaring problems. First he says that everyone should be given enough money to be able to refuse to work so employers have to provide a higher incentive to get workers. This is a huge problem because if nobody needs to work and employers have to provide large incentives (read, high cost, low productivity) then who is going to produce the goods? The author implies nobody and gives the solution, which is the other glaring problem. Automate it with robots! Right. He has clearly read far too many high-tech futuristic tech articles. The kind of automation he is talking about is still in rudimentary stages and extremely expensive. We are, of course, seeing some industries (such as fast food) trying to automate because the cost of real people is already getting too high. If it’s already too expensive to support a productive person, how are companies supposed to make enough revenue to support unproductive (ie. unemployed) people? Perhaps, when we have replicators, androids, and limitless clean energy like in Star Trek we can do this. But we are not there yet. Oh, and he finishes his point by effectively saying that all business owner (presumable including small businesses) are just benefiting from involuntary labor. Those heartless beasts…

He then goes on to say that automation is already causing middle skill labor to lose their jobs and have to take low skill labor jobs. To prove his point he shows one graph out of a long and thorough paper. The conclusion of which, BTW, was that automation is nowhere near a problem in the foreseeable future and that the real problem is the unskilled people our education system is churning out. In fact, the paper he cites also points out that it’s actually high level skill jobs that are dropping both in desire and in pay and low skilled jobs that are showing an increase in demand and pay. Have you watched “Dirty Jobs”?

The next section shows he was getting tired and losing his ability to reason. Somehow in his world of Basic Income there is less income variability. But presumably, an employer would need to put in a pretty sweet incentive to get someone to work so if a person is going to school or unemployed he would have much less income than if he were being enticed to work. And, since there’s no real desire to stay employed, I would think income variability would actually increase. Just ask a small business owner in a trade like painting how hard it is to get a new employee to come back after the first paycheck already, (I didn’t ask but I got to hear all about it many times). The same goes for the fast food industry.

The following section on the pitfalls of the existing welfare system is probably the only area where I agree with the author about a legitimate problem that seems to be resolvable with some tweaking. The problem is that once you are on welfare it’s very hard to get off because you lose too much benefit if you get a low paying job. I agree wholeheartedly that there should be a way to incentivize people to get off welfare wholesale. Even if that means continuing to support them awhile after they start getting income and not removing all the benefits right away. Where he and I disagree is that I believe the goal should be that the individual stop receiving benefits from the government at some point and support themselves through employment. I think it also points out an interesting side note, that the welfare system is already so good that there IS a disincentive to leave it.

OK, and so his final statement is to effectively admit there isn’t enough money and so he goes off into la-la land to explain where all the magical money comes from. Cryptocurrency and Federal Reserve-based hyper inflation of currency. We can just make enough money to give it to everyone! And that’s pretty much where his lack of critical thinking comes shining through. Oh, and you deserve it. You are owed money. About the only statement I agree with in his conclusion is that “Basic income is not free money”. It’s true, someone other than you worked for it. It cost someone else time, effort, labor, and work to produce it. It just wasn’t you.

So far I have only exposed a few holes in his logic and his source data. But let’s move away from random small scale studies and look at the real world. Because, none of this is new. Millenials didn’t think of this nonsense on their own. Socialism has been around a long time, is around now, and has plenty of real world examples of why it fails.

Let’s start with Venezuela. Here is an example of Socialism over an extended period of time where things seemed mostly fine so long as the money the government made off the sweat of others was enough to spread around to everyone. But since governments tend to be bad at business and finances in general, when things turn south on the government’s income stream all of the people dependent on the government suffer. Well, that is, of course, except for those who have “most” benefited who remain loyal and aptly rewarded. You see, with Socialism there is always a small cadre of people who get to direct the flow of resources. And they have always, and will always, protect their own power and wealth first. When it’s big corporations, you have your choice of master. When it’s government, you have no choice. If the government isn’t corrupted, it can have power over corporations to ensure they obey certain restrictions on how they operate (such as environmental laws, fair labor laws, etc). I’m actually not against those so long as they are sane and reasonable. But right now the people of Venezuela are starving and bakers are forced to sell bread at a price that’s lower than it costs them to bake it. The government says they are evil profiteers. Who do you believe?

Then let’s look at Italy. There have been riots in Italy for the past 5 years because of austerity measures. Here’s 2012 and here’s 2017. What are they rioting for? The government is running pretty much solely on debt (and it’s not alone in the region). It has earned itself the 8th spot in the world’s quality of life index but now it’s creditors are refusing to extend any more credit unless they back off the benefits to their citizens. The request of an additional reduction of their deficit spending of 0.2% of GDP by reducing benefits or increasing taxes is what set off the most current riots. And all of that is without a Basic Income. That’s just strong labor benefits and retirement benefits.

Finally, I would like to finish with something that might be hard for some of you to swallow unless you’ve tried to encourage people to not be homeless in the U.S. There are a large number of safety nets in this country. There are numerous organizations that will help you with food, shelter, education, and employment all on top of what the government might have to offer. Poverty isn’t always about lack of resources. Sometimes it’s a lack of self control. No amount of resources can fix that. I’m not saying it’s everyone, I’m saying it exists. If there were a Basic Income in this country would we still need homeless shelters? Food banks? Subsidized housing vouchers? I believe we would. But there would be even fewer resources to support those things because the money would have been wasted. Yes, money can be wasted. It can be spent on things that aren’t necessities. That’s fine if you have to do so, but I am not inclined to work extra hard so that someone else can work less and receive the same benefit. I am willing to help another person in any way I can to get on their feet. I am willing to support a person who truly can not support themselves and have nobody else who is willing. But I suggest that all of these people who want to make other people’s lives better start by taking care of their own families and supporting their needs. Then look to their neighbors and support their needs before telling me who I should be supporting.

Like the author said, “Money is freedom.” And his whole article was about making me give up my freedom to someone else without any say. No thank-you. I will choose who I will support with both my time and my money.

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Why do I find myself “defending Donald Trump”?

I did not vote for Donald Trump and I did not vote for Hillary Clinton, I voted for Gary Johnson. My decision to not vote for Hillary Clinton had nothing to do with Benghazi, private servers, Russian money filtering into her family Foundation, or any of the other controversies, slurs, and negative things said about her during the campaign. My decision to not vote for Donald Trump had nothing to do with his over the top ego, his private vulgarity, his lack of eloquence or any of the accusations, slurs, and innuendos about KKK connections. If you want to know why I voted for Gary Johnson you can read my previous article “Comparing the Candidates”. When I wrote that article I intentionally stayed away from all of the negative comments, attacks, innuendos, etc that were rampant throughout the campaign and I compared the candidates based on what they said about themselves and what they said they wanted to do as President.

So why did I do my best to ignore all the negative stuff? I guess it really comes down down to this. These people are just people. They are applying for a 4-8 year contract doing an incredibly hard job that a person would have to be insane to want and it’s generally accepted, sadly, corrupt to win. I mean, seriously, look at Ben Carson. I can find several situations where those in politics effectively said he’s nice, he’s smart, but he’s too naive to be president. What does that mean? Naive is the political correct way of saying honest (IMHO). So, realistically, I didn’t expect any candidate, including Gary Johnson, to not be a bit of a nut case and have personal flaws that they would generally try to cover up while campaigning. Most folks who go to a job interview do the same thing if they want the job. (Some might say Trump did a better job than Gary of hiding personal flaws because Gary has a very odd sense of humor that came out more than once.)

Why does this matter now? Because I still see Trump as I saw all three candidates before the election. A flawed person with an agenda that they think is good for the country that they live in. I disagreed the most with Clinton’s vision of what the President should do and disagreed least with what Johnson thought the President should do (yes, there are some issues he and I don’t see eye to eye on). But the media has continued to push the message that Trump is a tyrant that hates everyone except white males no matter what he says or does. I think one of the things that I found myself having to come to terms with was that Ben Carson, whom I respected based on his life and what he said, began to work with Trump after he dropped out of the race. I had to come to the conclusion that there was more to Trump than what was being fed to me through the media. (I kind of already knew that because I actually read the details of his plans and some of them made good sense). Since Trump has taken office he has put men and women of various ethnicity into positions of authority based on his opinion of their merit. But it doesn’t matter. His wife is an immigrant who is fluent in five languages and his daughter (who also speaks multiple languages) is a successful business woman in her own right with a bachelors degree in economics but he hates foreigners and doesn’t respect women. Yet it was the media who focused on the nude photos of his wife. And don’t even get me started on the media and left’s great acclaim to this repulsive (but Emmy award nominated) video.

You see, it’s not that I want to defend him because I don’t really care. He’s the President, and I agree with some of what he has laid out to do and I disagree with other parts of his plans. I think he has handled some situations well and others not so well. I felt the same about the previous president and the one before that. But my opinion doesn’t really mean anything until the next election and I will try to see what he accomplishes and who else is running and get my say then. But until then, this hate filled, heavily biased constant character assassination based on a sound bite here and there often taken out of context has pushed our whole country into a state of hysteria where people truly feel like it’s not safe to talk openly, honestly, or critically about events and decisions. Most of the nonsense thrown at Trump is so easily debunked that I call it out for what it is in hopes of staving off some of the frenzy, although often to absolutely no avail.

The problem with this level of fear and lack of critical thinking is that it diverts attention from the real racists. You know, the one’s who are loud and proud and appear to be gaining momentum? And honestly, even discussing race over the past several years has become difficult because apparently, since all white males are racist, misogynistic privileged rulers of the world, my opinion and thoughts don’t count. So, when everyone is considered the enemy there is no way to win. If those who claim to want to fight tyranny, terrorism, and racism would focus their attention on those who are actively screaming “I’m a terrorist/KKK member/etc” then perhaps we can make some progress. But “racist” has become a term that means “I don’t like you”. How can we fight the real problem together when we can’t agree on who the enemy actually is?

The other problem all of this perpetuates is the division between Democrats and Republicans because anyone who identifies as Democrat points at Trump and says because we say he’s a racist, all Republicans are racist. Most Republicans, who are not racists, point at Democrats and call them liars and spout off about fake news. Rinse, wash, repeat. I hate to break it to you, but there are racists in both parties and in the ranks of independents. Heck even the great Bill Clinton was chastised for going to a “White’s Only” golf course for some golf time. I’m not saying that makes him a racist, but he was in friendly territory so some of those “friends” absolutely were. As a side note, Republicans and Democrats have more in common than differences. You can hardly tell a fiscally responsible Democrat and a socially conscious Republican apart. So why all the animosity?

Racism is a disease that does not discriminate and can be found in all socioeconomic areas. It’s wrong, but it’s true. Each one of us is called to combat racism with truth whenever we encounter it. I dare you to try to tell me a joke that demeans women, minorities, or anyone for that matter. I will at a minimum not laugh and depending on the situation you may find yourself with an earful. I may not change your mind but you won’t repeat your error in judgment in my hearing.

So, after all of this, why do I find myself “defending Donald Trump”? Well, because he is not actually encouraging or supporting racism, sexism, or xenophobia. The mass hysteria that has ensued since his election (propagated strongly by the media for ratings and sour grapes) has caused a spike in tensions between people groups and brought any kind of civil discussion to an almost complete halt. Finally, so long as this firestorm continues, the majority of the citizens in this country who care enough to be informed are being distracted from working together to hold all of our elected officials accountable for their individual commitments to their respective constituencies.

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Comparing the Candidates

Choosing a President, not a Dictator

What is the role of the President of the United States?

According to the White House web site (, the following are the roles of the President of the United States:

  • Under Article II of the Constitution, the President is responsible for the execution and enforcement of the laws created by Congress.
  • The President has the power either to sign legislation into law or to veto bills enacted by Congress, although Congress may override a veto with a two-thirds vote of both houses.
  • The Executive Branch conducts diplomacy with other nations, and the President has the power to negotiate and sign treaties, which also must be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate.
  • The President can issue executive orders, which direct executive officers or clarify and further existing laws.
  • The President also has unlimited power to extend pardons and clemencies for federal crimes, except in cases of impeachment.

It may come as a surprise to some how limited the President’s power really is. If you’ve taken any civics classes in school hopefully it isn’t such a surprise. I bring this up because I am about to provide the “campaign promises” of 3 of the presidential candidates. I would like you to try to keep in mind the above while I provide the information from each candidate’s web site as to what each candidate is claiming they will do if elected President. Anything in parenthesis I have added for clarification (I pretty much copy and pasted the promises right from the site so I wouldn’t contaminate what the candidate was trying to say. The sarcastic labels and ridiculous fake quotes are mine.

The Promises

Hillary Clinton

The Socialist Dictator – “I will fix all of your problems and make everyone be nice to you.”


  • Hillary will make debt-free college available to everyone and take on student loan debt.
  • Hillary will commit to preventing, effectively treating, and making a cure possible for Alzheimer’s disease by 2025
  • Hillary will work so that every citizen is automatically registered to vote when they turn 18, unless they opt out
  • As president, Hillary will work to reduce air pollution
  • As president, Hillary will End violence against the transgender community—particularly women of color.
  • Hillary believes that we can afford to pay for ambitious, progressive investments in good-paying jobs, debt-free college, and other measures to strengthen growth, broaden opportunity, and reduce inequality. Hillary will use the proceeds from ensuring the wealthiest and the largest corporations pay their fair share to pay for these investments without adding to the debt.
  • She will also guarantee equal pay for women.
  • She will help families that are being squeezed by rising health care costs—reducing the burden of co-pays and deductibles, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and making insurance premiums more affordable.
  • Hillary will set bold national goals to eliminate lead poisoning within five years, protect public health and safety by modernizing drinking and wastewater systems, clean up the more than 450,000 toxic brownfield sites across the country, and expand solar and energy efficiency solutions in low-income communities.
  • Hillary Clinton will fight to bring an end to sexual assault on America’s campuses.
  • Hillary will build the tech economy on Main Street by:
    • committing that 100 percent of households in America will have access to high-speed, affordable broadband by 2020
    • Deploying 5G wireless and other next-generation systems that can deliver faster wireless connections and enable the Internet of Things
  • As president, Hillary will work to fulfill the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Hillary Clinton is proposing a bold plan to prevent and treat addiction, support people in recovery, and take on this epidemic (drugs) once and for all.
  • As president, Hillary will make preschool universal for every 4-year-old in America.
  • As president, Hillary will double our investment in Early Head Start and the Early Head Start–Child Care Partnership program
  • Hillary will increase funding to support the next generation of farmers and ranchers in local food markets and regional food systems.
  • As president, Hillary will strengthen American manufacturing through a $10 billion investment in “Make it in America” partnerships that bring together workers and labor, business, universities, community colleges, and government at every level to harness the strength of manufacturing communities across America.
  • As president, she would oppose Republican efforts to raise the retirement age
  • Hillary will ensure Medicare can negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, so we lower costs for seniors.

Donald Trump

The Businessman – “I’ll hire the best, fire the rest, and make my company… err…  country great again!”


  • Provide 6 weeks of paid leave to new mothers before returning to work.
  • Incentivizing employers to provide childcare at the workplace.
  • Order an immediate review of all U.S. cyber defenses and vulnerabilities, including critical infrastructure, by a Cyber Review Team of individuals from the military, law enforcement, and the private sector.
  • Make the VA great again by firing the corrupt and incompetent VA executives who let our veterans down, by modernizing the VA, and by empowering the doctors and nurses to ensure our veterans receive the best care available in a timely manner.
  • Negotiate fair trade deals that create American jobs, increase American wages, and reduce America’s trade deficit.
  • Reduce taxes across-the-board, especially for working and middle-income Americans who will receive a massive tax reduction.
  • Ensure the rich will pay their fair share, but no one will pay so much that it destroys jobs or undermines our ability to compete.
  • Issue a temporary moratorium on new agency regulations that are not compelled by Congress or public safety in order to give our American companies the certainty they need to reinvest in our community, get cash off of the sidelines, start hiring again, and expanding businesses. We will no longer regulate our companies and our jobs out of existence.
  • Cancel immediately all illegal and overreaching executive orders.
  • Decrease the size of our already bloated government after a thorough agency review.
  • Work with Congress to fully repeal the defense sequester and submit a new budget to rebuild our depleted military.
  • Increase the size of the U.S. Army to 540,000 active duty soldiers, which the Army Chief of Staff says he needs to execute current missions.
  • Establish new immigration controls to boost wages and to ensure that open jobs are offered to American workers first.
  • Protect the economic well-being of the lawful immigrants already living here by curbing uncontrolled foreign worker admissions
  • Repeal and replace Obamacare with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).
  • Immediately add an additional federal investment of $20 billion towards school choice. This will be done by reprioritizing existing federal dollars.
  • Establish the national goal of providing school choice to every one of the 11 million school aged children living in poverty.
  • Appoint justices to the United States Supreme Court who will uphold our laws and our Constitution. The replacement for Justice Scalia will be a person of similar views and principles who will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.
  • Defend the Second Amendment of our Constitution. The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed upon. Period.
  • Enforce the laws on the books. We need to get serious about prosecuting violent criminals.
  • Reform policies with a pro-growth tax plan, a new modern regulatory framework, an America-First trade policy, an unleashed American energy plan, and the “penny plan.” (reduce discretionary spending each year by 1%)

Gary Johnson

The Libertarian – “Sex, drugs, and peace man…”


  • Governor Johnson has pledged that his first major act as President will be to submit to Congress a truly balanced budget. And he pledges to veto any legislation that will result in deficit spending, forcing Congress to override his veto in order to spend money we don’t have.
  • Governor Johnson advocates for the elimination of special interest tax loopholes, to get rid of the double-taxation on small businesses, and ultimately, the replacement of all income and payroll taxes with a single consumption tax that determines your tax burden by how much you spend, not how much you earn. Such a tax would be structured to ensure that no one’s tax burden for the purchase of basic family necessities would be increased.
  • Limit terms. Increase accountability. Bring back representation.
  • We simply need to apply common sense to regulatory policy. Let’s get rid of the unnecessary laws and taxes that syphon the resources businesses use to create the jobs we need.
  • Protect Privacy. Promote Freedom. Trust Liberty.
  • No Nation Building. No Policing the World. More Security Here at Home.
  • Protect Religious Freedom. Enforce Common Sense Non-discrimination Laws.
  • Our military will not be asked to engage in nation-building or to somehow resolve conflicts on the other side of the globe that have defied resolution for hundreds of years. The men and women of our military will only be asked to protect and defend the United States – and to do so with a firm understanding of the objective.
  • For our veterans who have served and returned to civilian life, many with injuries and emotional scars, Gov. Johnson pledges to provide them with the health care, support and transitional assistance they deserve – and rightfully expect.
  • Practical (Immigration) Reform. No Walls. Incentivize Assimilation.
  • End the War on Drugs. Reduce Recidivism. Support Law Enforcement.
  • Too many unnecessary laws have produced a society with too many people in our prisons and jails.
  • Keep the Internet Free (as in speech, not beer). Protect Privacy. Get a Warrant.
  • Protect the Environment. Promote Competition. Incentivize Innovation.
  • Governor Johnson believes that state and local governments should have more control over education policy. Decisions that affect our children should be made closer to home, not by bureaucrats and politicians in Washington, D.C. That is why he believes we should eliminate the federal Department of Education.
  • Appreciate Life. Respect Choice. Stay Out of Personal Decisions.
  • Governors Johnson and Weld would remove cannabis from Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act, which will allow individual states to make their own decisions about both recreational and medical marijuana — just as they have done for decades with alcohol.

My take on these goals/promises

Hillary Clinton

While one could argue that many of these campaign promises are noble goals, I have a few problems with several of them. I will go over just a few, and it’s worth noting that the list of what she is promising to do is nowhere near complete above.

But first, let’s start with something I appreciate in concept but have my doubts about. She will work to fulfill the promise of the ADA. Now, obviously this is near and dear to my heart and I certainly want to ensure that universal accessibility is encouraged so that people with various disabilities have the same opportunities for success that everyone else has. This is at least a constitutional mandate and something which she has some control over since she is supposed to over-see enforcement of the laws on the books and those laws already exist. This is all at least plausible.

Now for some not so plausible promises. For instance, apparently, a vote for Hillary means we’ll have a cure for Alzheimers, campus rapes will end, air pollution will be reduced, lead poisoning will be eliminated, and nobody will be harassed for being different than anyone else. I’m sorry, but the idea that the person who holds the office of the President of the United States is going to magically be able to fix all of society’s problems in 4-8 years is preposterous. I find it hard to take anyone seriously who doesn’t have realistic goals. Speaking of realistic…

The idea of offering free college tuition to all AND taking on all of the existing student loan debt is an insanely expensive proposition. There is currently over $1.2 trillion in student loan debt (per Federal Reserve report). Now, I realize that she is convinced that she can just take enough money from rich people to pay for all of this. In fact, in another of her statements above she mentions that if rich people and large corporations just paid their “fair share” of taxes, this country would have enough money to pay all our debts and pay for all of the new things she wants the Federal Government to do. Honestly, I’m not sure how anyone thinks this is realistic.

Another unrealistic claim is that Hillary is going to provide affordable high speed internet to 100% of households by 2020. First off, the Federal Government doesn’t deploy high speed Internet for consumers so, no, she isn’t. Now, if this is a real goal perhaps she means she’s going to pay for the infrastructure required to get high speed Internet everywhere and then lease it to telecommunications companies. If that’s the case I don’t think she has even considered both the upfront costs and ongoing costs for something like that. There are many technical, legal, and logistical reasons it’s been slow to reach rural areas. But honestly, I think it’s more likely that she’s just not thinking of rural areas. Her primary support comes from big cities.

My final concern with these goals is that I don’t want a Dictator in Chief. I don’t want the Federal Government determining down to the city level what has to happen. That’s not how our country was designed and there are many excellent reasons for this. My son had a writing assignment asking him to explain how the Constitution defends our country from tyranny. It does, and that is why I get concerned when people call it a “living document” to be interpreted like it’s some ancient script. It’s the law. It’s the law that the government must follow to ensure we are able to live free from unwarranted intervention.

Donald Trump

Mr. Trump seems to have put a great deal of his focus on military and law. He wants to increase the size of the military in terms of people, weapons, etc. There also seems to be a strong desire to strongly enforce existing laws. Interestingly, I find this a bit worrisome since I don’t think many people know the actual laws of this country. There are simply too many to know and many that exist have been unenforced for so long that people ignore them. His stated goals of putting our country first is reasonable and understandable but I am concerned that doing so by re-negotiating all trade treaties while bolstering a military which is already larger in many ways than the next several countries combined could certainly be taken as “saber rattling”. I’m not convinced that’s the posture that we, as a country, should be taking. Defend our country? Absolutely. Make sure the whole world knows we can take them all out? Not so much.

I do appreciate his statements regarding stopping additional regulation until the existing ones have been vetted a bit. Regulations are a significant cost to small businesses and can make it very difficult to try to start a company without accidentally running afoul of obscure rules that you didn’t know exist. You shouldn’t need a lawyer, accountant, and HR consultant just to build and sell some widgets.

While he appears to be staying within the confines of the Presidential office, I do have a problem with the rather heavy-handed approach that he appears to want to take out of frustration. He has stated his frustration with the government for many years, especially in regards to what he sees as “weakness” or “leniency” and I am concerned his goal is to over-correct for this.

Gary Johnson

I think one of the most difficult promises Mr. Johnson has made is the one to balance the budget. This is no small or simple task and it is certainly unpopular. Consider that we are currently running a deficit of about $500 billion. Making a real budget that actually reduced our expenditures to what the government was expecting to bring in through taxes would be no easy task. It should also not that while he can submit a budget for approval, and he can veto spending bills, at the end of the day it is still Congress who really decides where the money goes. Gary vetoed many spending bills as Governor of New Mexico but still couldn’t stop increased spending in the State. But at least he’s honest about it and he’s done it before.

While Mr. Johnson does want to ensure that the US is defended from enemies he also feels strongly that our interference in foreign conflicts has actually made us less secure and has not been the correct use of our forces. I believe a focus on strengthening real defenses around our country instead of being spread out around the world will allow us to spend more wisely and get more bang for our buck (forgive the pun) when it’s not being spread out across the entire planet.

Finally, I feel Mr. Johnson is even stronger than Mr. Trump in his desire to reduce unnecessary regulations while still using the rule of law to protect people and the environment. I also believe Mr. Johnson will make sane, rational, decisions for our country and take steps to wind back much of the over-reach the Federal government has made into States, counties, cities, and neighborhoods.


Obviously my writing is biased, I support Gary Johnson. So please don’t read this thinking I have taken some completely logical and disconnected analysis of the candidates. However, I think I have fairly summarized what they would say about themselves. I have also done my best to avoid the controversial issues such as legal problems, personality traits, etc. There has been enough dirt digging and mud slinging. I thought it would be interesting to look at what each of the three candidates was saying about their policies and approach to the position and look primarily at that. I think that even if we just look at that, Gary Johnson best represents what most Americans want for our country. Less government, more freedom, and less war.

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Gary Johnson for President of the United States

What is a Libertarian?

Hi. My name is Michael, and I’m a Libertarian. I say it like that because it almost feels as big a stigma as admitting I’m an alcoholic. There are some pretty strange ideas about what a Libertarian looks like, and realistically, that makes perfect sense. That’s because Libertarianism should, by definition, attract a very diverse group of people.

For instance, the Libertarian platform supports the right for anyone to marry anyone. Score one for the left. It also supports lower tax rates for everyone, including businesses. Score one for the right. It supports the right for people to have access to drugs such as alcohol and marijuana. Score one for young adults. It supports a smaller government with fewer laws and regulations which could eventually lead to the revocation of laws that allow people to be targeted by police (such as misdemeanors, jay-walking, panhandling, broken tail-lights, loitering, etc). Score one for the poor and targeted minorities.

There is a misconception that Libertarians are for no government. That would be anarchists, not Libertarians. Libertarians believe in limited government. There should only be the amount of government and law necessary to secure the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Now, this article is not really about Libertarianism. However, I thought it necessary to at least touch on what it means a little before going on because I have done a reasonable amount of research on former Governor Gary Johnson, who is running for President of the United States in 2016 and is endorsed by the Libertarian Party. I would say he is the Libertarian candidate but that might confuse things a bit because he’s not actually allowed to run as a Libertarian candidate in all States. In fact, in some, such as Ohio, he will be listed as an Independent.

Who is Gary Johnson?

Gary Johnson was born in 1953 in North Dakota. In 1975 he graduated from the University of New Mexico with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science. During college he made money as a door to door handyman. In 1976 he started his own company, Big J Enterprises. It was a mechanical contracting company that started as just him. When he sold it in 1999 it was a multi-million dollar construction company that employed over 1,000 people.

His political career started when he ran for Governor of New Mexico in 1994 as a Republican. He won against a Democratic incumbent and kept his campaign promise of reducing the 10% annual growth of the State budget. In order to do so he vetoed 200 of 424 bills in just his first 6 months and used his line-item veto on nearly every other bill. He earned himself the nickname “Governor Veto”. According to former New Mexico Republican National Committee member Mickey D. Barnett, “Any time someone approached him about legislation for some purpose, his first response always was to ask if government should be involved in that to begin with.” However, that didn’t stop him from increasing spending on education by ⅓ during his first term because he understands the value of an educated constituency.

Governor Johnson was re-elected in 1998. After seeing that his plan to improve education by putting more money into public schools failed, he attempted twice to introduce a voucher system which would allow students in poorer performing schools to go to the school of their choice, on the government’s tab. Unfortunately, the Democratic majority congress refused to do vouchers and both initiatives were blocked. Governor Johnson did not run for a third term due to term limits for Governor of New Mexico.

What are his stances on the major issues?


In 2000 Gary Johnson joined others who pointed out that the war on drugs had been largely unsuccessful and very expensive. He feels that drug addiction should be treated primarily as a health issue, not a criminal issue. He is for the legalization of marijuana and for currently illegal narcotics to be treated instead like other restricted narcotics currently used by doctors. It’s not that he is against education about and restrictions on the use of marijuana. However, he feels that the end result of the war on drugs has been much like that of prohibition.


The tax code has been used as a tool for government to pick winners and losers in a wide variety of areas. Providing tax incentives for some activities but not others has affected decisions such as:

  • Whether or not to get married
  • Whether or not to use debt to buy a house
  • What kinds of investments to invest in
  • What kinds of savings accounts to put money in
  • What country to put your corporate headquarters in

The list goes on and on. Ironically, many of the people I hear crying about corporations “not paying their fair share” seem to be forgetting two things. First, most of them are obeying the law and paying exactly what the law requires of them. Second, the consumer pays their taxes. The money that any corporation receives to qualify it to pay taxes comes from me. So, why not lift the complex veil of secrecy and have a flat consumption tax so that for the first time ever we might begin to actually see just how much money the government has been taking from us?

The Federal Budget

Speaking of taking money from us, apparently we don’t have enough to take. So, the Federal Government has been borrowing from foreign countries at an alarming rate. Gary Johnson would require a truly balanced budget. No gimmicks, no borrowing, an actual balanced budget where the citizens of the United States contribute directly to the funding of necessary Federal Government services. I know, it’s unheard of. Inconceivable. But it’s more than necessary. The current 2017 U.S. federal budget is $503 billion. Total spending is $4.1 trillion. That means we are projected to spend 13.8% more than we take in. Let’s not forget the fact that we owe about $14 trillion already. As Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson vetoed spending bills and line items in spending bills to reduce government spending.

Term Limits

Despite being on the receiving end of term limits himself, Gary Johnson is in favor of enacting term limits on congressmen in order to curtail the negative effects of having career politicians. At some point, campaigning becomes nothing more than job security and even the best intentioned person can become stuck in the rut of focusing on the next election instead of on the real work and issues necessary to keep the government running. I would point to the existence of large regulatory bodies which have taken the place of lawmakers in many ways as one of the unintended negative side effects of career politicians.

Government Spying

There has been a great deal of information revealed about the extent to which the U.S. government has been spying on it’s citizens. At best, there have been easily obtained warrants requiring almost no evidence. At worst, there hasn’t even been that. The Federal Government has even attempted to require private companies to intentionally weaken the security of their systems by building in secret back-doors that would give the Federal Government access to all encrypted data and computer systems. Gary Johnson is against this kind of all-invasive and all-knowing government intrusion.


Gary Johnson’s strategy for illegal immigration is a unique one. Fix the immigration system. I know, that shouldn’t seem unique. Yet, with all of the talk about immigration going on the simple fact of how complicated and expensive and, quite honestly, seemingly arbitrary the system is it’s no wonder people choose the easier route. That would be illegal immigration. Having gone through the entire process from temporary foreign worker to permanent resident to citizen I can assure you that every natural born citizen I have told my story to has been shocked at how hard it all has been. I wonder if H1-B visas still have the education exemption for fashion models (no I’m not kidding).

But You’re a Christian

Some people might wonder how I, as a very conservative Christian can support a candidate who is for same sex marriage and marijuana. It’s pretty simple, really. From my point of view, the government needn’t be involved in marriage at all. Marriage is a religious ceremony and many different religions do it differently. This is a country that espouses the freedom of religion for good reason. So, if the government wants to give permission to people to marry animals it really doesn’t affect me because I’m not going to marry an animal. As for marijuana, honestly, I see it as being about as dangerous as alcohol. There are many things in this country that are legal that I will never do. It doesn’t mean they should be illegal.

It’s Not a Wasted Vote

I have encountered many people who have said they agree with most of what the Libertarian Party, and Gary Johnson, stand for but aren’t willing to throw away their vote. The Democrats I know don’t really like Hillary but are terrified of Trump. The Republicans I know don’t like Trump but are terrified of Hillary. Most folks seem to be encouraging each other to vote against the “other” candidate instead of “for” any candidate. And really, who can blame them? But seriously, I’m going to vote “for” Gary Johnson because he is “for” the Federal Government following its constitutional limitations and “for” more freedom and less debt for us all. Please read more about Gary Johnson and his running mate, former Governor of Massachusetts, Bill Weld at and consider voting for Gary Johnson for President of the United States.

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Thoughts from the Abbey – April 2016

The Teaching

I don’t generally attend the Saturday morning teachings offered by the monks. In the past I have found them to be a bit too “theoretical” and amorphous for use in daily life. Sometimes there was even far more reference to extra-biblical sources than the Bible itself which I tend to question when the teachings seem “non-traditional”. However, a newer monk named Brother Carlos, who had only been around for about 20 years, gave the introduction Friday evening. He really caught my interest so I decided to attend the teaching the next day.

I appreciated that he shared a bit of his own life in his teachings and stories. I also appreciated that he had some very practical advice about both life and how to spend the time in retreat. He encouraged us not to dwell on all of our past failings. These, he said, were the sign of a chaotic heart and we should be here to quiet our hearts. He also discouraged creating resolutions while we are here for the simple reason that what seems like a good idea in the quiet of solitude doesn’t necessarily work out when you hit the world again.

Another topic he touched on was tenderness. He pointed out that we often see tenderness as a sign of weakness but that, in fact, it is a sign of great strength. He shared a story of when he was watching a group of sumo wrestlers get off a train in the presence of many fans in Japan (Brother Carlos apparently gets around). A woman broke free from the crowd and “shoved” her baby in the face of one of the wrestlers. He smiled, took the baby in his huge arms and cradled it lovingly, much to the glee of the baby. That is how Brother Carlos asked us to think about tenderness, as great strength that gives comfort, security, and joy to the receiver. Isn’t that exactly how Christ is toward us? Isn’t He all-powerful and yet comforts us when we are weak?

As a side note, when we entered the room there were some notes on the whiteboard which apparently had been from someone else giving the same lesson at some other time. There was a part of the notes that, while I couldn’t be sure of the context, seemed wrong and out of place to me. As Brother Carlos was going through the teaching and using the notes already on the board he noticed this extra part, stopped, and said “I disagree with that, I’m going to remove that”, and continued on with his teaching. So, of course I like him, we had something we disagreed with in common and how uniting is that?

The Catholic Bible

There was a Catholic Bible on my desk this time and I noticed it said “The Revised Standard Version Catholic Bible”. The name intrigued me because it sounded not far off of the kinds of names I hear for Protestant bibles. I read the introduction and it was a very interesting history about why the Catholic Bible has more books than the Protestant Bible (called the Apocrypha). It also mentioned a hope that a single Bible based on critical translation principles of the oldest original texts could help bring together the various denominations and reduce the amount of misconception and prejudice between the Churches.

I decided to read the Apocrypha. They were Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and 1 and 2 Macabees. Sirach felt kind of weird and out of place but the others seemed to fit in well. Not that I would know how to determine something like that. I also appreciated that the Macabees helped fill in some history closer to Christ’s coming.

The Catholic Explanatory Notes

I was reading the “Explanatory Notes” section in the Appendix, which appears to be a bit of a watered down version of the notes found in a Study Bible. In there I found a few things that concerned me and would like to expound on some of those.


While I have no problem with the statement that the Bible isn’t meant to present a scientific picture of the creation of the universe, I do object to the fact that this often, as is the case in the notes on Genesis 2:4, turns into a statement that this does not exclude the evolution hypothesis.

However, we see constantly throughout the Bible the theme that sin brings death. God clearly wants to get this point across to us. Before “the fall” (or sin), animals and humans ate plants, not meat. There is no indication of death in human or animal. After the original sin, death came to creation. Creation was changed so that there were thorns and thistles. God himself killed the first animal for clothing Adam and Eve. Now, scientifically, evolution states that life evolved from a primitive single-cell organism to eventually mutate over millions of years into the wide variety of creatures we see today (I won’t even start with the purely scientific problems with that). If you believe that, then death existed long before even the concept of sin. At what point in human evolution did God reveal himself to mankind then? Were Adam and Eve Homo Erectus or Homo Sapien? Or, is it just a fairy tale with a moral to the story?

Here’s why it matters spiritually. If sin does not cause death then we don’t need to be forgiven for our sins. If sin does not cause death then when we die either we really are just dead (as the atheists believe) or God gives everyone everlasting life and “everyone goes to heaven” (as many “progressive” churches try to claim). But neither of these beliefs hold up to the rest of scripture. All of scripture from Genesis to Revelation points the believer to the fact that a Holy God has defined “sin” and that the consequence of sin is death. However, God is also merciful, so He sent His Son to live a sinless life in our place and to take His wrath in our place that we may have eternal life with the Father. Who is “we”? We are those who God has pre-ordained to receive the Holy Spirit and believe.

This is a hard truth because it feels “unfair” to the human mind. Why doesn’t God choose to save everyone? For that matter, why does he save any of us? But God is the creator of the entire universe and everything in it. He knows each and every one of us and made each of us in His image. He gets to set the rules and everything He does is to reveal His attributes. But all of this hinges on whether or not it is sin that leads to death or if death is just a tool God used to turn us into people over millions of years and is really no big deal.

The Manna

While I’m on my soap box, let’s talk about manna. The “Explanatory Notes” state that “The mysterious manna may have been a substance secreted by the tamarisk or perhaps by an insect that feeds on its leaves and is edible.” OK, so, if you want to try to make this all scientific then let’s be realistic. According to the rest of the story this fed an entire nation just the right amount of food 5 days a week and then doubled up once a week and stopped once a week. Also, these bugs or this substance just happened to be all over the desert as they wandered for 40 years and was able to feed the entire nation of Israel which likely numbered in the hundreds of thousands of people (conservatively). Then there is the term “Manna” itself as well as the description. The word “manna” suggests it was something they had never seen before (and the fact that the first thing the people asked was “What is it?”) and the description has not matched anything in the region before or after. This was clearly something completely unique created by God to sustain his people. If you struggle with that as a believer then I must presume you also don’t believe Christ’s miraculous provision of food to the masses.

The Name of God

One more rant before I get off my soapbox. In the Catholic Notes regarding Exodus 3:14 where Moses asks the name of God and God replies “I AM that I AM”, the notes say that “The translation is uncertain; it is, therefore, difficult to decide whether this is a refusal to disclose the name or an explanation of the divine title Yahweh revealed immediately afterward.” OK, so, you aren’t sure if God refused to give His name, and then changed His mind in the next breath. Whenever God doesn’t answer us the way we think He should we get all freaked out. I’m not certain why the translation is uncertain. There could certainly be something that got goofed up in different copies that is causing confusion (that I am unaware of). The KJV/Strong Concordance combo I used to study this seems pretty clear.

הָיָה אֲשֶׁר הָיָה

haw-yaw’ (Strong’s H 1961) / ash-er’ (Strong’s H 834) / haw-yaw'(Strong’s H 1961)

Now, admittedly, haw-yaw(1961) is a pretty generic term. It’s a single word that is used for the English words: is, was, be… You see a tonne of it throughout scripture for obvious reasons. So I can get where we, as humans, might not fully understand the implications of what God was saying. (If you wanted to be silly you could translate it “I is what I is”) But in the very next sentence He uses his covenantal name “יְהֹוָה” (yeh-ho-vaw’ – Strong’s H3068). I’m not sure how it’s not clear He was saying something profound about his existence and then “dumbing down” the conversation (because clearly we weren’t going to get it).

Do you believe?

Reading more through the “Explanatory Notes” I find a distressing pattern. God’s miracles are washed over and one seems to be encouraged to “take it with a grain of salt”. In reference to Joshua 6 and the fall of Jericho the “Notes” simply state “Here, as elsewhere, the history has been worked over in accordance with certain theological ideas.” Seriously, I would expect that from an atheist, not a believer. I get that the chronologies often skip generations and that numbers in Hebrew writing are often have more meaning than merit. However, if you can look at direct specific quoted conversation and basically just say “Yeah, someone probably just threw that in because it sounded good” then you can’t trust what’s in the Bible. If you can’t trust the Word of God then you can’t trust God and so, by definition, you don’t believe and you aren’t a believer.

And that’s OK. I’m not saying all of this to bash anyone. Either you believe the Word of God or you don’t. Either you have hope in your salvation through Jesus Christ or you don’t. But if you don’t believe the Word of God passed down through millennia and you don’t rest in the forgiveness of your sins through Christ’s work on the cross, please stop calling yourself a Christian. As I look at the world around me it’s clear that it is going to stop being “cool” to be a Christian in Western countries pretty soon anyway. You know, like how it’s not so cool to be called Christian in some places in the Middle East and Africa where you can be publicly executed for it. So please, stop checking the little box that says “Christian” when someone asks.

What is a Christian?

A Christian isn’t someone that thinks the fairy tales about a guy named Jesus Christ have some good ideas worth taking or leaving. A Christian is someone who, by the grace of God, believes that the God of the Hebrews, the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac, has judged all of mankind and found every one of us guilty of sinning against a Holy and Righteous God. A Christian believes that God, in his Mercy, sent his Spirit to Mary and she gave birth to Jesus Christ who was, in fact, a part of God humbling Himself to be born into flesh in order to live a sinless life as a human. A Christian believes that Jesus came for the sole purpose of being crucified on the cross as a physical representation of the wrath of God that He took in our place for our sins so that we could be forgiven. A Christian believes that 3 days later Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared physically in a real, working, (mostly) healed body to be a sign for all believers that they can share in His resurrection through faith in His works. A Christian believes that eternal life and forgiveness of sins can only come through faith in this truth. This is why Christians preach the Gospel whenever and wherever they can. If you truly believed this was the only way to save mankind from God’s wrath, wouldn’t you?

This is perhaps the real reason for the divisions in the Church. It’s not just about translations and inconsistencies. It’s about intentionally taking texts out of context. It’s about looking at a single verse instead of the Bible as a whole (which presumes you have even read it). It’s about not believing that God can and did get His message passed down to us over millennia despite using fallible humans. It’s about placing traditions over the authoritative word of God. It’s about teaching heresy in the name of Christ. That’s where the divisions between believers are created. And quite frankly, we saw some of the beginnings of this in the letters from the Apostles so we shouldn’t be so surprised that it exists today.

What is Human Life?

The Bible says God breathed life into mankind (Genesis 2:7). Science says human life is defined by DNA markings that are only slightly different than that of other animals (and even plants). The Bible says that God knew Jeremiah before He formed him in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). That would indicate that a soul was prepared for the womb and that God forms us in the womb. Science would say you are a composition of the DNA strands that begin reproducing after the sperm fertilizes the egg. In fact, much medical research and technology is going into the science of reading that information so that diseases and other attributes of the person being born can be determined before birth.

I would argue both are true. It’s probably one of the few arenas where science and theology are more or less saying the same thing. So, if this is true, how can one argue that the fertilized egg is not, in fact, a human being? And if the unborn child is a human being, does it not have the same rights and protections under the law as a newborn, whether prematurely born or delivered via cesarean section, or otherwise? Obviously, I would argue yes. In that case, then intentionally cutting the human life short is murder.

So what then about abortion? How can we, as a civilized nation condone murder? Well, let’s consider the “actions” of the infant. At some point the child will come to term and need to be born. There are certainly medical issues that cause a very real risk of death or severe injury to the mother. Those are very vague terms which could lead to a large grey area. But is that a scenario where the right to health and safety are awarded to the mother over those of the child?

What of instances of rape? A woman has already been horribly assaulted and will already keep the emotional scars for life. Does the mother have the right to end the life of the child to avoid the trauma of giving birth to a child that is a constant reminder of her assault? But then, isn’t it also fair to ask about the trauma inflicted through abortion? It seems to me that this is a truly horrible position to be put in. There has already been one traumatic experience and now a woman (or child) is put in the position of choosing between two different traumatic experiences (one arguably shorter than the other but not necessarily less traumatic). But in all of this, what of the rights of the living human being? Who is his/her advocate?

Then what of “oopses”. What of the use of abortion to end an unwanted pregnancy because contraceptives failed (which happens a lot). The mother may or may not be married or have a committed partner. The mother be a professional and unwilling to give it up for motherhood yet. The mother may simply not desire children at all. So, one might argue (weakly) that it’s not the mother’s “fault” and that she has the right to “fix” the problem. However, this argument against the rights of another human being to live seem to pale in comparison.

Again, it’s not that I am looking to judge or say what is right. These are very difficult questions. However, I do believe the discussion around this issue is fraught with the “dehumanization” of the child in question when by both scientific and Biblical standards the unborn child is unquestionably a human being. Now whether or not the legal system wants to acknowledge the rights of a person not yet born is a whole other issue. At this point in the discussion, the law does not. So long as that is true, there is absolutely no legal protection for an unborn child and it has no right to life unless the mother says so. An interesting legal question to me would be, how long after a living child leaves the womb must it live to count as a person under the law? I ask this because that clarification might at least conceivably make the process of killing abortion procedure survivors illegal. Right now, I don’t believe it is.

Final thoughts

We continue to try to put God into a box we can understand. We want to be able to explain how He does what He does. We want to make Him more like us. This is all understandable. The idea of a God who can by His Word change the laws of physics, create a new element that doesn’t exist, or even change the constant of the speed of light and knows every thought we are thinking even before we think it is an awesome and frightening concept, as it should be. So we fear God and want to feel like we can control Him and manipulate Him. Well, that only works if He thinks and reasons like we do. So we imagine He is like us and can be tricked or bribed or that He likes the same things we like. But as Isaiah wrote:

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

So He’s way smarter than us, morally perfect, all powerful, and scariest of all, He’s actively involved in our lives. Some people find peace in the hope that if there is a creator He’s off doing His own thing and ignoring us. But millennia of records state just the opposite. So where does that leave us? Well, as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. Although I am imperfect, petty, jealous, and sinful, I will serve my Lord with as much Faith as He has given me and constantly ask forgiveness for my sins even as I battle against them to live a holy life. I don’t do this to earn anything, but out of love and gratitude for the saving changes He has made in my heart and His promises for what is yet to come.

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