The Collection of Private Information

 

I do find this meme humorous, and it raises an important issue.

Some thoughts that came to my mind when I saw this:

Information is power. There are questions about how that information is obtained, who accesses it, and how that information is used.

The Dark Knight (2008) had an excellent scene regarding this issue of invasion of privacy vs public safety: Batman used Lucius’ sonar idea on the people of Gotham’s cell phones to locate the Joker. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kr7AONv3FSg

The government may invade our privacy for a stated purpose of protecting the public from potential terrorists among us. Or it may use that knowledge to manipulate us into supporting its agenda.

Mark Zuckerberg may invade our privacy and give that data to a political data firm for an efficient marketing strategy. However he is somewhat better than the government, since he generally gives potential Facebook users a notice beforehand that our data may be collected and thus there is more of an emphasis on consent.

So both the government and Mark Zuckerberg are guilty of invading the people’s privacy, albeit for different reasons.

Generally, our privacy should be protected, but there are times when an invasion of privacy is warranted if it is done for noble pursuits. It is similar to how HIPAA permits a covered entity to disclose protected health information to law enforcement if there is a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of the patient or others.

Collecting our private information for marketing purposes is a little different. Ideally the collector would be transparent about the gathering of data and ask for permission to collect said data. They also need to be careful about how they use that data. They may obtain it for research/academic purposes or to subtly manipulate public opinion and behavior.

All in all, transparency and accountability are key.

Generally, private information should be obtained by consent.
There are exceptional times when invasion of privacy is warranted, as in the case of public safety, for example.
There is a moral expectation that the information gathered should be used in a responsible manner and respects the autonomy of others as much as possible.

Whether it be the government, Mark Zuckerberg, political data firms, marketing firms, and the like, these are some of the guidelines that should be followed.

Looking at Syria through a Prophetic Perspective

Regarding the situation in Syria, I find this passage from Jeremiah particularly apt:

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:1-2)

God might as well be saying all this to Bashar al-Assad and to the leaders of Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia who amplified the civil war in Syria.  Bashar had a responsibility to lead his people well, but he has been and continues to use his authority for evil, even going so far as to wage chemical warfare on his own citizens.  Perhaps one day God will soon attend to Bashar for his evil deeds in one form or another.  Perhaps Russia will be effectively rebuked and Putin will actually pressure Bashar to stop using chemical warfare against his people. Perhaps the United Nations will be able to effectively call for a temporary ceasefire in the land so that much needed humanitarian aid can be given to the citizens still living in Syria. Perhaps the United States will find a way to intervene in the crisis to bring the conflict to an end sooner. Only God knows.

“Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:3-4)

God might as well be saying all this to the Syrian refugees, who like ancient Israel, are scattered throughout the world from their homeland.  I hope that one day, these refugees can come back to their homeland to leaders who look to their interests better than Bashar ever did.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” (Jeremiah 23:5)

Ultimately, the best hope I can offer to Syrian refugees is the Lord Jesus Christ.  God already sent and raised up the Davidic King Jesus.  He is not the Savior of just ancient Israel, but the whole world as this passage in Isaiah greatly clarifies:

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)

Therefore the offer of salvation and deliverance that Jesus offered to Israel is also available to Syrians and so if these refugees accept Jesus as their reconciled Lord and Savior, perhaps they may come back to their land filled with the peace, joy, and forgiveness that Jesus can bring.  In other words, they can experience the blessings of His reign in their hearts, no matter where they are, and perhaps, Lord willing, they will return to their land in external peace as well.

On Racial Bias in School Discipline

So this article came up in my Facebook feed, and here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

Ideally, this should be the standard: a person guilty of an infraction should be given the same degree of punishment as another person committing the same infraction.
This article claims: “Black students continue to be disciplined at school more often and more harshly than their white peers, often for similar infractions.”

I will try to outline the important points of the article below:

An Obama era guidance in 2014 urged schools to examine the disproportionate rates at which black students were being punished.  The guidance was established to respond to data that showed that in 2012, black students were suspended at 3x the rate of their white peers.

The guidance informed schools that wide racial disparities could signal discriminatory practices that could result in a federal investigation and loss of federal funding. It also suggested a number of strategies for managing nonviolent behavior without resorting to kicking students out of school.

The Government Accountability Office (G.A.O.) found that black students were the only race in which both boys and girls were disproportionately disciplined across six disciplinary actions examined, which included corporal punishment, in- and out-of-school suspensions, expulsions and school-related arrests.

The agency found that black students were suspended more often than their white peers in schools of all poverty levels. In the most affluent schools, 7.5 percent of black boys had been given out-of-school suspensions, while 1.8 percent of white boys had.
This finding challenges a common claim that poverty, more than race, may be driving disproportionate rates of disciplinary actions.

Other research shows that even black boys raised in rich neighborhoods were likely to earn less than their white peers. This finding further shows that poverty is not explaining the disparities. The article concludes that there’s a racial discrimination problem, and that statement can no longer be disputed.

The G.A.O.’s findings apparently underscore the need to strengthen the guidance, not rescind it as some have recommended.

Critics state that the report’s scope was too narrow to draw broad conclusions.  They believe that discipline reform is being applied unevenly and that this study does not answer whether there are some specific districts and schools that are responding particularly poorly to this. The study also does not answer whether racial bias accounted for all the disparities.

Basically, the article believes that there is a racial bias in school discipline, and I believe the article could have done a better job in defining “racial bias” better.

When people hear “racial bias,” they might imagine that school officials are going out of their way to accuse an innocent black student of school offense and thus they are punished unjustly.  However this may not be the case.

It is important to keep in mind that black students are justly accused and disciplined for offenses that they actually did commit.  So the racial makeup of people being disciplined should be representative of the racial makeup of people who commit an offense.

However, with that said, we do see disproportionately more black students disciplined than white students.

The all important question is “Why?”

Is it because prejudice causes more black students than white students to be convicted of offenses that they did not commit?
Is it because, on average, a black student is more likely to commit a school infraction than a white student and therefore more likely to be disciplined for what they’ve done?

It is true that we have individuals, who happen to be black, making bad choices for which they have to deal with the consequences.

The laws are fair and just on paper. But the system does not deliver fair and just results. After all, why do individual black students deserve more frequent and harsher disciplines relative to other races?  It is appropriate that these students are punished for their infractions, but should not the severity of their punishment fit the severity of their infraction?  Do their infractions warrant more severe punishments than those of their lighter skinned peers for essentially the same infraction?

If black student infraction rates justify high discipline rates, what is the cause of the higher infraction rate?

Personally I feel that a societal argument, namely culture, best explains the reason for this high black student infraction rate.  However that culture is heavily influenced by a past history of institutionalized racism in America. Here I define racism as the ideology that believed some races are intellectually and morally superior to other races because of genetics.

When you codify such a sinful idea into law, it will take time to undo the consequences of that sin in the generations after the removal of those laws.

We had institutionalized racism and oppression from the birth of this country to the mid 1960s when Jim Crow laws still enforced the idea of racial segregation. That is quite a long period of racism and oppression, and certainly such a long period will still have lasting effects on our society in one way or another. If those in power enslave a given race, prevent them from getting education, break up their families, confiscate their belongings, deny them the vote, subject them to a post slavery period where for generations they are forbidden by law from attending the best schools and all other rights afforded the majority, these laws will have lasting effects.

Institutionalized racism placed our neighbors in bad positions.
Our legislation has gradually changed to give our neighbors civil rights.
But the legacy of institutionalized racism still exists.

Poverty and black culture in the US is in large part created by this history of oppression.
When white people actively oppressed black people for such a long period of time, it should not be surprising to see that black individuals will possess a culture of rebellion and dissent that will be seen by the majority as punishable offenses.  In other words, sometimes a people group will engage in rebellious behavior precisely because they were so overly regulated and restricted that they had to rebel just to survive.

Say there was a law that forbid you from breathing.  The mere act of breathing to continue living would make you a rebel.  Essentially, your very existence is considered a crime.  The fault is not because of the individual but because of a horrible law and institution.  Now what happened to our black neighbors is not to that extreme, but the laws that governed them back in the day certainly nearly approached that level.  Racism is an ideology that practically believed that individuals of African descent were a crime of nature.

Now that the restrictions are loosened, it will take time for the current culture to adapt to the new freedom and use the freedom responsibly.   Now that does not morally excuse the misbehavior of black individuals, but it does caution us to consider to do what we can to reverse the lasting effects of institutionalized racism.  Racism may no longer be institutionalized, but the effects of that ideology are still felt in our society.

The effects manifest itself in black culture, which may, on average, be resistant to authority precisely because that authority was once used to oppress them.  If there was such bad blood between African Americans and authority figures such as law enforcement officers and judges, it will take time to gain that trust back.  So if black students engage in infractions that are punishable by the school, it is likely because they lived in a society that was born and raised in a context of rebellion under an oppressive regime.

The effects of institutionalized racism are also seen in the facts that black citizens are generally associated with poverty, less education, and more crime.  These socioeconomic realities came about because of an ideology that believed that black Americans were inferior to their neighbors by genetics.  In other words, a socioeconomic reality produced the same results predicted by an ideology that operated on the basis of genetics.

Racism is a self-reinforcing ideology.
-When employers and federal administrators think people with dark skin, by genetics, will be poor, less intelligent, and violent, then they are not likely to invest resources into them.
-With the lack of resources, people of color will end up and continue to be poor, less intelligent, and violent.
-The continued state of being poor, less intelligence, and violence becomes justification for continued refusal to invest resources into them.

Even when the racism, with its emphasis on genetics, is removed from legislation, the effects of it and the outcome can still look the same as before.
-Employers and federal administrators see that people of color are poor, less intelligent, and violent, and so they are not likely to invest resources into them. Not by genetics, but because that is the current socioeconomic reality.
-With the lack of resources, people of color continue to remain poor, less intelligent, and violent.
-The continued state of being poor, less intelligence, and violence remains justification for continued refusal to invest resources.

The difference is very subtle but the outcome becomes the same.  Racism believed that people with dark skin were, by genetics, intellectually inferior to people of lighter skin.  Racism as an ideology may be repealed, but its effects is still felt as a potential employer still associate people with dark skin with higher crime rates and low education, not because of genetics but because of socioeconomic factors.

So institutionalized racism operated on a basis of genetics.
The legacy of racism operates on a basis of socioeconomic factors.

So when we are saying “racial bias,” the phrase should not be taken to mean that school officials are going out of their way to accuse an innocent black student of a school offense and thus they are punished unjustly.  Rather the phrase should be taken to mean that there is a high black discipline rate in a response to a high black infraction rate that stems from an incomplete reversal of the lasting effects of institutionalized racism.

School officials are not punishing black students on the basis of their genetics, but they are punishing them more often than their white peers because that appears to be the socioeconomic reality.  I will give the school officials the benefit of the doubt and assume that they punish black students justly for things that are legitimately considered misdemeanors.  However, this article claims that they are punishing them more severely than their lighter skinned peers for the same infraction.  I agree that such a disparity deserves further investigation. I am also interested in further investigating the reasons why black students in even affluent neighborhoods are still punished at higher frequencies than their white peers.

Ultimately the high black discipline rate is a symptom of a deeper problem.  America may have done away with racism as an institution, but the effects of its history still remains, and it will take this country some time to sufficiently reverse the legacy left behind by the generations of lawmakers who came before us.

Institutionalized racism actively restricted people from obtaining the opportunities they need to thrive and prosper in our society.  Personally I wish we could help rebuild the neighborhoods and inner-city regions that were left destitute by lawmakers who refused to invest in our neighbors.  Institutionalized racism left our neighbors without a strong foundation to launch their productive careers, and we should consider what we can do to help them rebuild.

In order to fix this problem, we need to change the outside world and system, just enough to facilitate our neighbors’ abilities to participate in the greater society, and at the same time, emphasize personal accountability, hard work and entrepreneurship. Both aspects need to happen.

To conclude:
So we see there is a disproportionate rate at which black students are punished in school.
-Is it because of racial bias, in the sense that school officials are punishing black students on the basis of their genetics? I believe for the most part, this is not the case, as officials are punishing black students more often than their white peers because these students misbehave more often.
– However, I am interested in seeing why black students are punished more severely than their white peers for the same infraction. If this is truly the case, that would be an example of an injustice, that may involve racial bias, which needs correction. School discipline reform would be merited in this case.
-I am more interested in preventative measures.  Why are black students misbehaving more often, or at least engaging in behaviors that the school deems worthy of punishment?  I feel that such behaviors come from a culture of a distrust of authority that was born out of a long history of authority that was misused to oppress an entire people group.  A proposed solution in this case is to find ways to rebuild that trust and faith.  So I do not simply seek school discipline reform, but I want to find the root cause of the student misbehavior and find appropriate solutions.
-I want to see reduced suspensions, but not from refusing to suspend students when they commit offenses that deserve suspension, but by helping them to pursue upstanding behavior, and finding out why they would engage in bad behavior in the first place.

 

Seeking Common Ground on the 2A

The 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The premise behind the 2nd Amendment is that American citizens should be able to protect themselves against a tyrannical government by having access to firearms.  For the security of a free country, citizens should be able to purchase and keep firearms.  Thus our Constitution classifies civilian access to firearms as a fundamental human right.

The phrase, “shall not be infringed,” is rather problematic, though.  If we were to consider guns and ammunition as consumer products, the phrase “shall not be infringed,” would come off as justifying unfettered capitalism.  Gun manufacturers could produce any weapon that they want without any federal safety regulations, and their customers may consequently suffer from bad product designs.  In addition, if background checks are seen as an infringement on citizens’ 2nd amendment rights,the general public may suffer from people exercising their 2nd amendment rights in an irresponsible and destructive manner when there are no effective background checks in place.

The situation with the relatively easy access to our guns appears similar to what this country had with food poisoning before Upton Sinclair wrote his book, “The Jungle,” which led to Theodore Roosevelt’s creation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  In addition to regulating the meat industry, the FDA also regulates the production, sales, and use of drugs to maximize public health.  Without federal safety regulations, both the meat and drug industries would lead to greater harm to the public.  I fear that a similar situation has come about with our current legislative status regarding guns.

My proposal for reducing gun violence in America would be to create and enforce an universal background check for all gun sales, so people who are likely to use guns for malicious purposes and less likely to get guns through legal avenues and have gun violence restraining orders where if someone demonstrates an intent to harm themselves or others, then their 2nd amendment rights are temporarily restrained until they get the help and counsel that they need.

The situation for gun violence restraining orders is not unlike where if you have a child that is about to run around with scissors, you would temporarily prevent that child from possessing the scissors and then proceed to teach the child the importance of not running around with scissors.  Likewise, if someone demonstrates an intent to harm themselves and others, then a close friend or family member should be able to petition the local court to temporarily remove their access to firearms and then get them the mental health service that they need to work out their issues better.

I would also like to see an analogous system for purchasing firearms that we already have with our automobiles.  We have driver’s education classes and applications for a driver’s license before people are able to legally drive cars, even if they purchased one for themselves.  I do not see why we cannot have mandatory gun safety classes where a professional firearms instructor mentors people about using guns in a safe and responsible manner.  We could require citizens to go through rigorous checks before they receive a license to purchase and carry firearms.  These kinds of systems would help reduce the number of people killed by gun violence.

Now I have been hearing “since the premise of the 2nd Amendment is to give citizens the ability to fight back against a tyrannical government, why would we give the government the power to strip us of the very right that would help us fight it?”

To me, I feel this calls for a medical analogy.  2A Defenders are like cells that secrete immunosuppressants (strike down gun control laws) for fear of an autoimmune response (tyrannical government).  However, their immunosuppressive effects are to the point that the whole body (the country) suffers from secondary infections (irresponsible gun owners who purchased guns through legal means).  If we were to empower the immune system (the government) a little better, we could prevent some of these secondary infections from happening.

In other words, sometimes the gun lobbying has been acting like HIV and giving this country AIDS with respect to gun violence and the country is suffering from some preventable secondary infections of gun violence.  Now granted, not all acts of gun violence come from legal avenues, as criminals by definition, will find ways around the law to pursue gun violence, but we had a few incidents that could have been prevented or at least delayed if we had tougher gun laws.  So why should we give the government the power to strip us of our right to fight back? It is to help promote public safety in protecting them from citizens exercising their 2nd amendment rights in an irresponsible manner.

I am not asking for a mass confiscation of guns, but a very targeted confiscation of guns from people who show signs of using them in an irresponsible and destructive manner.  Now granted, perhaps we should not give the government this power for fear that someone could hijack the system and label us as political opponents and use that as justification to disarm us before forcibly imposing a hostile agenda on us.  But I feel that perhaps we could still keep our government accountable and be vigilant for any signs of such a hostile takeover from happening.  We can still protect our neighbors from preventable instances of gun violence and still keep our 2nd amendment rights and keep our government accountable to us.

However, if for whatever reason, we still decide not to let the government have the power to infringe our 2A rights, could we not still hold civilian access to firearms accountable through other means?  I already argued that safety regulations would benefit the gun industry just as they already have with automobiles, drugs, and meat.  If such regulations do not happen at the federal level, they would have to be at least from the lower levels, such as state or local.  The presence of safety regulations should be a given, but now it becomes a question of how do we enforce such regulations effectively, if we were to forego federal aid.

Also I am against gun-free zones, as I feel responsible gun owners should be free to carry their weapons in public for self-protection if need be, but only in conjunction with a standardized regulatory structure.  Again it would help if we had something equivalent to the DMV where you can get a license for gun ownership and such a license was state-specific, but recognized in other states as well.   Also schools could use armed protection, whether it be by teachers who volunteer or by school resource officers.

Another thing I would consider are mandatory fingerprint recognition gun safes or equivalent for those gun owners who store their weapons at home and have small children present.  Considering the case of Jesse Osborne, he might have done less harm if his father’s guns were locked away in a safe (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-south-carolina-school-shooter-20180303-story.html). Now granted, his motivation would have pushed him to seek guns nevertheless, but at least it would have been harder and longer for him to do so.

These are some of my thoughts.  I like the idea behind the 2nd amendment, but I am against any irresponsible interpretations of it where it is considered an unrestricted, unlimited civilian access to firearms.  I am also against the other extreme, where we give the government too much power that we systematically disarm all citizens from possessing firearms.  So my middle ground is that we protect the 2nd amendment but perhaps we give the federal government, or some other regulatory agency, the power to regulate and temporarily restrict civilian access to firearms to protect people from preventable instances of gun violence.   I understand that not all instances of gun violence are preventable, but some of them can and should be.

The Great Commission

Jesus died on the cross to save a people who would trust in Him from the wrath of God.
Jesus rose from the grave to vindicate His own sacrifice and to be His people’s living intermediary.

The death and resurrection of Jesus were necessary to secure the eternal redemption of those who would put their trust in Him.

One way to help imagine this event is that both the death and resurrection of Jesus form the basis of a peace treaty between God and man.  All of the terms for both parties have been set out in this peace treaty and it is ratified by the blood of Christ, and Christ rose from the dead to act as our living mediator.

The only thing left for us to do is to sign that treaty, agreeing to the terms therein, namely that we would let go of our sins (dead works) and bring ourselves back under God’s authority (serve the living God) for our good and for His glory.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify ourg conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:11-15)

What next?

Imagine that you are a rebel that was now newly reconciled to your formerly estranged King.  Now imagine that this King commissioned you to go out and reach other people to be reconciled to the King as well.  You need to reach out to your fellow rebels and tell them to be back on good terms with your estranged King.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

I understand the phrase, “Make disciples of all nations,” as being two-fold.
-making new disciples, as in telling the gospel to people who have never heard it before
-teaching new disciples, as in cultivating the growth of immature Christians in established communities.

In other words, there is an in-reach and out-reach dimension to the Great Commission. Either way, the ideal is that once people accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, or in other words, submit themselves to the authority that Jesus already possesses, they need to act accordingly.  They will require Spirit-empowered teachers to tell and model for them what living under the Lord’s reign looks like, and the hope is that these students would be able to teach others as well.

On a small tangent, I like this clip from Naruto where the titular character shares his chakra with his allies during the 4th Great Ninja War.  Especially around the 2:47 mark, where you see where a small group of people suddenly grow exponentially to a larger group.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvF3We5N3Fw)

Ideally that’s how the gospel, the peace treaty inaugurated by Jesus Christ, should be spread.  The gospel begins with reconciled people telling rebels to seek forgiveness of their sins and be reconciled to God in Christ Jesus, and those former rebels will live with the same passion and conviction as their teachers and will have students of their own.

Ultimately it is the Spirit who teaches former rebels how to live in submission to the King. This submission looks like such things as the following: worshiping God, loving others, seeking justice, and so on.  Ideally the good works that you do in allegiance to Jesus will attract others to your cause.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
 (Matthew 5:16 ESV)

It would not be proper for someone, who claimed to be reconciled to God, to be living a life that was still in rebellion against God.  For example, if someone said he or she accepted Christ, but then goes on to live a life of unrepentant sin, that would be continuing in the very crime and rebellion that rejected God and led to Christ’s death to spare that rebel from just retribution.

All of this is to say, as James once said, that faith without works is dead.  Someone who is reconciled to God must bear fruit in keeping with repentance, or in other words, live a life that is consistent with a renewed allegiance to the Lord’s authority.  To live a fruitful faith out is to say that you are living out your renewed allegiance to the Lord and not continuing in the rebellion that you once had before you accepted Christ as the payment for your crimes.

It is therefore important for professing Christians then, that we understand the message that we accepted, live the terms out well, and seek to share that message with others well, both in word and in deed.  We must practice what we preach.  We show others with both our words and our lives what it is to be reconciled to God.  We tell others of their problem of sin, the solution that Christ provides, and the joy to be had in being back in God’s fellowship.  We do not merely tell others this truth, but we live the truth out for others to see and we adorn the gospel in this way. We are to continue this cycle of teaching and modeling for each generation that comes until the whole world hears.

Christians, as part of the local church and the church universal, are meant to be the lessonbook to the nations of what it means for reconciled subjects to live under God’s reign.  We are to show the world what it is to live as a people under God. We also invite others to join us and we hope, by the Spirit’s empowerment, that our words and deeds are consistent with the allegiance that we pledge to our King.

Preparing for Good Friday

If you were to ask me what I think about Good Friday, I would say that Good Friday is the most outrageous event in human history.

At the center of the day is this event: The God, who created the cosmos that Stephen Hawkings admired, died at the hands of the people He created.
What a tragedy when creation does not recognize and even kills its own Creator.
“But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life” (Acts 3:14-15a).

We know from our reality such saddening events as the following:
-Lupus and other autoimmune diseases are when the human body attacks itself.
-Civil wars are tragic because you have brother pitted against brother, or a government attacking its own citizens.
Perhaps we recognize the unimaginable moral ugliness and offensiveness of such events precisely because they ultimately point us to our failure to recognize our Creator, even to the point of killing Him.

Now what makes the death of Jesus, God the Son in the flesh, even more outrageous is that He willingly gave up His life on our behalf.  He knew that He would be killed by His own people and He gave His life up so that He could secure their reconciliation to Himself.

We humans are mere specks compared to God, and even more than that, we committed high treason against Him. For all intents and purposes, God could have left us alone since we were the party that broke off our agreement with Him.  We have forsaken the LORD, we have despised the Holy One of Israel, and we are utterly estranged from Him.

But God on His own initiative went to the trouble of securing the means of our forgiveness and reconciliation.

The significance of Good Friday would make headlines that you would not see any time soon:
-King dies for traitorous rebels.
-Husband dies for a wife that cheated on him.
-Father dies for a son that hated him and ran away from home.
-Man takes the place of someone on death row who was guilty of killing his family.

In essence: we have a holy God dying for sinful mankind.

Given that we have a Creator that gave His life up for our sake to bring us back to Him when we forfeited that right to His presence, how much more should leaders at every level of society use their authority in a manner that seeks the good of the people in their care even if it comes at their own expense.

World leaders such as Xi Jinping, Kim Jung-un, Bashar al-Assad, Putin, and Trump are all in a position of authority, and they have a moral responsibility to use that authority for the good of their people and of their neighbors.  Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Wayne LaPierre are both people who have used their authority and influence in ways that have caused people a lot of harm and destruction.  They both propagated a narrative that has led to the deaths of innocent people. The police, military, and other law enforcement officers have a moral responsibility to exercise their authority in a responsible manner and not put to death innocent people even as they do what they can to bring guilty individuals to justice.

In our country, we hope our lawmakers would find sense in creating legislation that can bring justice and accountability to such things as immigration, gun safety, environmental issues, sexual identity, police brutality, abortion, opioids, Syrian refugees, and the like.  With a proper understanding of force of law, and doing our best to wield that authority properly, we have to do what we can to find common ground and put forth measures that will benefit us all.

Good Friday is also a picture of forgiveness.
Forgiveness builds bridges, but it is costly.

Note also that Jesus did not wait for us to apologize before He came and took the initiative to set out measures needed to secure our forgiveness and reconciliation. We were the guilty party and by all intents and purposes, we should have been the ones to ask God for forgiveness. God already secured the means of our reconciliation before we even asked for it.  How much more should we adopt the same gracious attitude towards one another?

Both sides, the right and the left, have to swallow their prides for forgiveness to happen.
The right have been called racists, fascists, and bigots and the left have been called “libtards,” snowflakes, and commies.  Both sides have members that are quick to demonize the others, but there are also those who do not dive into such extremes, and they are just not as vocal and public as the more outrageous, outspoken individuals.

This past presidential election has done a lot in dividing this country.  Perhaps it is time that we do what we can to heal the divide before it gets worse.  I would love to see more conversation happen between the two sides of this country.  I would like to see bridges built instead of burnt.

Both sides should not have to wait for the other side to apologize to start having a civil discourse about the things we need to do to help our country pursue justice and the public good.  Once one side calls the other side names, that just shuts the conversation down and we would not get anywhere productive. My proposal is to ask both sides to see the best in others even when they fail to give it back to you.

In other words, be gracious with your opponent.

Take some time to hear from the other side, and do not immediately shut their arguments down by calling it “bigoted” or “socialist”, but at least take some time to explain why you think such and such an argument is unsound and unhelpful.  Also it is far too easy to make a straw man of the other side, so at least actively look for the best arguments put forth by the other side and work with the people who have nuanced, thoughtful opinions instead of those who dive into an all or nothing mentality.

To conclude my thoughts:
-Good Friday is the most outrageous event in human history:
God became human and gave up His life on behalf of people who wanted nothing to do with Him.
Some implications for us:
-ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior so you can be reconciled to God
-if reconciled to God, you should now behave in a manner befitting of your renewed allegiance
Some things that Jesus modeled for us to imitate:
-authority is at its best when it seeks the good of others even at its own cost, so seek self-sacrificial leadership
-forgiveness is costly but it builds bridges and is proactive, seeking to respect others even before respect is received, so be gracious to your opponent for the sake of unity

A Gospel Informed Thought on Environmentalism

Say that we were a tenant living in an apartment.
We were found guilty of violating our lease.
The landlord has legal grounds to evict us before our lease has ended.
We are also horrible at keeping the apartment clean to the point that it is becoming a public health hazard to ourselves.
Which case takes priority?
Seeking forgiveness from the landlord or cleaning up our apartment?

If we were to try to clean up our apartment without seeking forgiveness from the landlord, we would be kicked out of our apartment once the landlord saw fit to do so.  We would be leaving our now clean apartment for another to inhabit, but we ourselves would be out of luck.

The priority should be to seek forgiveness from the landlord, not just on keeping the apartment clean. While we should devote some of our time to cleaning up our apartment, we should devote the rest of our time to getting back on good terms with our landlord so the apartment remains ours to keep.

Not only that, but the landlord would actually help us out once we’re back on good terms with him.  This landlord would go the extra distance and help us clean up our apartment.

  • God entrusted the earth to mankind to steward for His glory and for our benefit.
  • We have been terrible at taking care of it the best way we know how.
  • For all intents and purposes, He can evict us from the earth and start anew.
  • However He sent Jesus to be the means by which we can be forgiven of our violations of our lease.
  • Once we seek reconciliation with Him, the earth would remain ours and the world would be renewed starting with our moral transformation.

However much our science can help us manage our resources better (and they have), they still do not hold a candle to the possibilities that God has in store should we enlist His aid.  He currently is not legally bound to help all of us, since much of our neighbors still remain in a state of rebellion against Him.  They remain at war with God until they accept the peace treaty that is Christ Jesus.

So if you were to ask me why Christians prioritize the preaching of the gospel, it is because getting back on good terms with our landlord takes priority since He has legal rights to evict us from our planet for breaking our lease with Him.  He graciously provided a means by which we could be reconciled with Him and through a renewed legal contract, He would be legally obligated to help us with our problems, even as we do what we can to solve them on our own.  God is our greatest ally, why should we not do what we can to enlist His aid?