Ann Coulter & UC Berkeley: Linguistic Totalitarianism?

April 26, 2017

Totalitarianism is a strong word.  Worth looking up.  It’s as sad as it is dangerous.

Ann Coulter has been invited to speak at the University of California, Berkeley, and the threats against her, along with the event, have come rolling in.

Such is the state of play in too many colleges and American centers of higher learning.  The commonplace, thankfully not universal mantra is: scream, destroy, and avoid debate.

Ann Coulter is highly articulate.  That might be an inconvenient truth, but its veracity remains.  That’s why the insecure must attempt to shout her down.

Coulter is an erudite elocutionist, and if educated individuals in pursuit of intellectual advancement cannot hear her views without melting down and mashing free speech, it highlights a much deeper problem.

Setting fires, breaking glass, and rioting as an extra-curricular activity, is the image UC/Berkeley seems hell-bent on putting out to the world.

Really?  Is that OK with the Trustees and wider student body population, not to mention the parents paying dearly to foot the bill?

Some in that institution may shrug and laugh off the antics of those they deem part of the “lunatic fringe”.

But, if my degree had the imprimatur of that institution emblazoned across the top, I’d be very disappointed.

At best.

 

 


Good & Evil

April 2, 2017

Long, long time ago, it was written:  The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;  but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

This verse in the Book of Genesis may be the most profound exposition of the human predicament ever set down with ink upon paper.  Yes, the increase of knowledge brings with it dynamics of good and evil.

Apparently, knowledge, by itself, is not an automatic happy meal.

Indeed, with increasing automation and artificial intelligence, what will we do when many jobs can easily be done by robots, with humans only required to do, what?

The day is soon coming when our burgeoning intelligence will leave us squarely facing the challenge of remunerating, and also finding a role, for those that smart machines will surely replace.

In other words, our amazing intellect will leave us with an ethical and economic question fundamentally more difficult than any society has ever had the luxury of encountering before.

Simply put, “What if we don’t need to do anything, because, by our increase in knowledge, the need to do something has been eclipsed by the emerging ability to do nothing at all?”

Can we happily sustain a society in which sophisticated computers will rule, without relegating some people to some kind of redundant slag-heap?

I have great confidence in our future, but I am also convinced that finding our future will not be an easy task.  It will be a struggle of ideals, more than technology.

The machines our knowledge has developed will force us to find a good way we can relate to one another as a community of people beyond the laws and principles of commerce.

Thus, while robots make some things easy, with that factor, other enormous challenges may well emerge.


Age of Aquarius

March 3, 2017

NASA’s Spitzer telescope has discovered a “solar system” related to a star in the constellation we call Aquarius, only 40 light-years from Earth.  Within this system, a few of these so-called “exo-planets” orbit inside the “Goldilocks zone” – a region where it is considered neither too hot or too cold to sustain life.  Thus, with liberal use of the words “could”, “might”, “possibly”, and “perhaps”, the prospect of extraterrestrial being is tendered once again.

For scientists, and actually, for anyone, even the discovery of fossilized bacteria beyond earth would warrant enormous headlines.  To date, outside of terra-firma, not a single cell of such material has been discovered, even on Mars.  This is informative because, relative to our Sun, Mars is well within a radius where an adaptable Goldilocks might choose to enjoy her porridge.

Astronomically speaking, our Martian cousin is incredibly close to our teeming abode.  Yet, to the best of our first hand, long-term, on-site, rover-based knowledge, Mars is stone dead.  Like a door nail.

What this demonstrates anew is that even within a vast Creation, where untold numbers of planets exist, many factors have to be in sync before bacteria can emerge.  Thus, the best scientific awareness we have shows that even the presence of simple microbes cannot be assumed, anywhere.

More profoundly, it means that sentient beings under the stars, who can read and ruminate on missives like this one, may be the rarest thing of all.

Isn’t it funny that some doubt the existence of God, when the real question is, why should God’s existence be any less likely than our own?

Fact is, apart from faith, there’s nothing in the known Universe that says we must be here at all.  Yet, we are.  And we take so much for granted.

What with ISIS, al-Qaida, riots and ghastly acts of war being reported on a daily basis, many of us take a dim view of the human state.  Still, even in its worst expression, humanity may well be the most sophisticated and wonderful thing the Universe has witnessed in 14 billion years.

You want a miracle?  You’re it.  So is your neighbor with the noisy dog and smelly cigars.

Space exploration tops my list of our most important planetary pursuits.  Yet, it’s amazing how in our search for what exists in far distant places, we look straight past the miraculous bounty resting at arm’s length.

God came all the way to us, bringing life in Jesus Christ.

Perhaps there is a dawning of consciousness in Aquarius.  Hopefully that awakening will continue to occur right here at home.

 


Immigration

February 3, 2017

“Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt…”  — Matthew 2:13

We are a nation of immigrants.  Hailing from Italy and Ireland, my great-grandparents persevered through a rather stringent vetting process on Ellis Island.  In time, my dad would be born in Cuba and I would arrive in Venezuela, where I still hold citizenship.

As it happens, Jesus Christ was also an immigrant.  Considering the classic doctrine, coming from Heaven, He was truly an alien as no other has been, and indeed His parents were caused to flee the little town of Bethlehem to find refuge elsewhere.

Once again, the immigration debate is raging in our country, though, in reality, deportation raids were taking place well before our most recent Presidential election.  It is noteworthy that the last administration made it easier to import Cuban cigars, while turning Cuban refugees away, even if they’ve risked their lives to reach landfall in the United States.

My eldest daughter is intimately familiar with the young lives of those whose parents hail from Mexico, and the fact that many come here to escape a horribly inhumane existence.  Her students believe in us, even when it may not seem we believe in them.  Just last Memorial Day weekend, a gentleman in San Antonio told me if he was to visit his original hometown of Mexico City by car, he’d likely be kidnapped along the way and held for ransom.

So, I am left to consider these questions…

What if we were to treat Mexican immigrants as refugees, with all the reasonable vetting attached to that designation?

Does it make sense to have any immigration law, reformed or not, if we do not have secure borders?

How much has each one of us economically benefited from those who have stepped outside the law to enter our country?

What about the many upstanding foreign nationals legally here in the United States for years, who own homes, pay taxes, have American children, yet they cannot get Green Cards to afford them a permanent stay?

Today, the UN claims there are 60 million refugees world-wide, and, while each one is a beloved child of God, no one nation can harbor and give safe-haven for all.  How do we decide who we are capable of welcoming, and who we must turn away?

The dynamic of migration is as old as the Scriptures and as new as the latest headlines on FOX or CNN.  There are many sides to this ethical polygon, and it does us no good in this country to call names or denigrate the character of those with whom we may disagree.  This national tendency will hopefully not become a permanent habit.

In a sense, as complicated as it is, the immigration challenge is a good one for us to face.  It means people deeply want to come to the United States, and the Unites States continues to represent a heartfelt and abiding respect for all good people.  In these areas, I don’t believe anything has fundamentally changed at all.

In the Church, with Christ as our guide, we can neither be personally callous or politically naive.  No one can lay claim to an easy answer, and a great nation need not take comfort in the absence of facing real challenge.  In our community, with diversity as a gift, I believe each of us needs to continue modeling, wherever we can, what it means to be a faithful person, and thereby, a good American.


Fake news?

February 1, 2017

Whatever happened to the expectation that journalists and news outlets would report what actually happened, as opposed to the speculation of what might transpire?

Back in college, I recall a national magazine cover posing the question:  “The Depression, What will it be Like?”  At the time, the economy was really foundering, but I wondered if this was news worth reporting, or simply “news” profitable in predicting.  Given how fragile consumer confidence can be, perhaps what had been published would become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For quite some time now we’ve been engulfed in a 24 hour, non-stop news-media machine that must be filled so as to avoid blowing hot and dead air.  There are some good things about being able to tune-in to a given outlet for an immediate update on what the current headlines might be.  Still, this is a far cry from consulting various news media that are feeling the pressure to jam each second, or page, with “information” that may not turn out to be factually informative at all.

 

 

 

Taking in certain outlets before the recent Presidential election, it was clear that our current President had no Electoral path to victory at all.  Then the votes were tallied and the facts became blatantly obvious.

Classic journalism might be boring for those who have grown accustomed to daily events being presented as provocative entertainment.

Yet, if simple facts, relative to what has actually taken place in our world, are not readily and reliably available from sources demonstrating some integrity, one wonders who will report that the Fourth Estate has, in fact, become extinct.

 


Darkness Lite (Christmas Eve 2016)

December 28, 2016

Some folks asked, so here’s the manuscript from Christmas Eve, 2016.  Based on MATTHEW 2:1-16, 19, please excuse the ALL CAPS (they make the manuscript easier to deliver in person)…

THE THEMES OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS ARE BAKED INTO THE INFANCY NARRATIVES, ALONG WITH JOHN’S GOSPEL THAT BEGINS BY SAYING THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS AND THE DARKNESS CANNOT OVERCOME IT.

SHEPHERDS KEEP THEIR WATCH BY NIGHT, AND WISE MEN FROM THE EAST FIND THE CHRIST BY SEEKING AFTER A HEAVENLY OBJECT THAT WOULD ONLY BE VISIBLE AT NIGHT.

PEOPLE THINK WE SEE FURTHER IN THE DAYTIME, BUT WE CAN ACTUALLY SEE MUCH FURTHER AT NIGHT.

THE APPARENT MYSTERY OF WHAT THE WISE MEN SAW IS THAT THE SAME SKY WAS AVAILABLE TO OTHERS WHO SAW NOTHING.  THE ANSWER LIES IN CARING WHO THE PERSIAN WISE MEN WERE, AND KNOWING THAT THEY DIDN’T JUST LOOK AT THE SKY, THEY READ IT.  THEY WERE ALSO VERY ATTRACTED TO THE CONCEPT OF A SAVIOR, PROMISED IN THE JEWISH FAITH.

IN THEIR STELLAR LANGUAGE, JUPITER AND SATURN REPRESENTED THE JEWISH GOD AND THE MESSIAH, WITH THE CONSTELLATION PISCES REPRESENTING ISRAEL.  7 INTO 6BC A RARE TRIPLE CONVERGENCE OF JUPITER AND SATURN, IN THE CONSTELLATION OF PISCES COULD WELL SAY THAT A MESSIAH HAD BEEN BORN TO ISRAEL.

THE WISE MEN ANSWERED A CALL THAT WAS OUT THERE FOR EVERYONE TO SEE, BUT ONLY A FEW COULD READ THE LANGUAGE.

THAT’S HOW HEROD WAS LEFT IN THE DARK.

IN SO MANY WAYS, THE WORLD JESUS CAME TO WAS SO MUCH WORSE THAN THE ONE WE LIVE IN TODAY.  CASE IN POINT, KING HEROD, WHO WE KNOW ELIMINATED MEMBERS OF HIS OWN FAMILY, AND TRIED THE SAME THING WITH CHRIST.

HEROD DIED IN 4BC, AND WHAT HE DEVISED FOR THE TODDLER BOYS UP TO 2 YEARS OLD IN BETHLEHEM WOULD HAVE BEEN WELL WITHIN HIS M.O.  IT ALSO INDICATES THAT JESUS WAS LIKELY TWO YEARS OLD WHEN THE WISE MEN CAME TO HIS HOUSE, INDICATING A BIRTH AROUND 6BC.

6BC…  JUST AS JUPITER AND SATURN FINISHED DOING THEIR THING FOR THE WISE MEN TO SEE.

THIS ISN’T BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT, THIS IS BEYOND ANY DOUBT, BECAUSE WE KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THE SKY LOOKED LIKE IN ANY POINT OF TIME FROM ANYWHERE ON THE EARTH.  IT’S ALSO COOL TOO THAT A 7BC PERSIAN CLAY TABLET, WHERE THE WISE MEN WERE FROM, TALKS ABOUT WHAT SATURN AND JUPITER WERE DOING AND WERE GOING TO DO AT THAT POINT IN TIME.

THAT’S NOT BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT, THAT’S BEYOND ALL DOUBT.  (BABYLONIAN STAR ALMANAC OF SIPPAR)

LET’S GO DEEPER.

THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS SAYS THAT GOD CHOSE US IN CHRIST BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.  WE KNOW THE STARS AND PLANETS OF THE UNIVERSE WERE EXPLODED INTO BEING 14 BILLION YEARS AGO.  (13.82 BILLION)  THIS MEANS WHAT THE WISE MEN SAW IN THEIR SKY WAS WRAPPED UP WITH A BOW BY GOD 14 BILLION YEARS BEFORE THEY COULD SEE IT.

AND WE THINK OUR CHRISTMAS PLANS ARE COMPLICATED?

IN HIS OP-ED “SCIENCE INCREASINGLY MAKES THE CASE FOR GOD”  ERIC METAXAS WROTE IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL “Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart

FOR ALL PEOPLE TODAY, EVEN WHEN OUR LIVES FEEL LIKE A MESS, AND MAY ACTUALLY BE A MESS, WE’RE ALL ALIVE WITHIN A FUNDAMENTAL MIRACLE.  WE COMPLAIN AND WE TAKE SO MUCH FOR GRANTED.

THE LIGHT IS RIGHT THERE, BUT WE DON’T SEE IT.  MAYBE THERE’S TOO MUCH FOG, OR WE HAVEN’T BEEN TAUGHT THE LANGUAGE.  THERE’S SO MUCH NOISE IN OUR SOCIETY, MAYBE WE CAN’T HEAR THE WORD.

I THINK WE ALL KNOW THE EXPERIENCE OF RECEIVING A GIFT ON CHRISTMAS THAT WE THINK WE CAN’T USE, OR DON’T WANT.  THAT’S WHERE THE CONCEPT OF RE-GIFTING CAME ABOUT, AND SOME PEOPLE IN A LOT OF UNHEALTHY WAYS, TRY TO RE-GIFT THE LIVES THEY’RE BLESSED TO HAVE, AND DON’T APPRECIATE.

BUT THEN THERE ARE TIMES WHEN WE TEAR OPEN THE PAPER AND FIND SOMETHING WE DON’T HAVE, AND SAY, “WOW, THIS IS WHAT I REALLY NEED!”  “I COULD NEVER HAVE GOTTEN THIS FOR MYSELF!”

THAT’S THE REAL CHRISTMAS.  IT’S CALLED… JESUS.

THE WORLD DIDN’T WANT HIM, AND ON GOOD FRIDAY PRINTED OUT THE ULTIMATE RETURN RECEIPT.  BUT WOW, HE’S JUST WHAT WE NEED, AND HE’S BIGGER THAN WHAT EVIL PEOPLE CAN DO — EVEN ON A CROSS.

IF YOU KNOW JESUS TODAY AS THE SAVIOR FROM SIN AND DEATH, THEN YOU HAVE LIGHT THAT MANY PEOPLE STILL CAN’T SEE, BUT THEY DESPERATELY NEED.

THEY NEED YOU TO SHARE IT, IN THEIR LANGUAGE.

THE DARKNESS CAN DO WHAT IT WANTS, BUT IN THE TINY BABE IN A MANGER, PEOPLE LIKE HEROD WILL LOSE, AND WE, IN CHRIST, WILL WIN.

GOOD NEWS HAS COME FOR ALL THE PEOPLE, GOD IS WITH US, AND ESPECIALLY IN BROKEN HOMES OR LIVES, NOTHING CAN CHANGE THE FACT THAT WE WILL BE FOREVER WITH GOD.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 


“Bless me Father, for I have sinned…”

November 24, 2016

Over a banquet of delicious food, that would be consumed in a fraction of the time it took to prepare, I remember the time my mother began to say Grace for our Thanksgiving feast.  Making the traditional Roman Catholic sign of the cross, starting with the right hand at the forehead, instead of saying, “Bless us O Lord, and these Thy gifts…” she began with, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.”

This was different.

Instead of the predictable rote pronouncement over the meal, which, in truth, may not have garnered full and rapt attention, we got the opening for a confessional encounter with a Priest!  This was going to be great!  Within nano-seconds, the delirium of an emotional cranberry sauce was being set before us, and all we had to do was wait for a further serving!

Sensing the Eldorado of admissions might be forthcoming, everyone furtively leaned slightly forward in a most careful silence so as not to disturb the current stream of consciousness and therefore miss what might be coming next.  Forget the turkey, this was an appetizer no one wanted to pass by.  The mind still boggles at the potential possibilities.

Unfortunately however, mom caught herself mid-sentence.  Thus, we were left hanging as the more predictable blessing was spoken over the turnip and sweet potatoes.  Darn.

Even so, the lesson lingers.  Gathered amidst hotly contested election results, football games on TV, and rich gravy set upon the table, reality reminds us that we have all sinned and have something to confess.  Interesting as they might be, these confessions need not be broadcast to family or guests invited to partake in our feast.

But we do carry them in our hearts.

Therefore, knowing we have a Savior, well before the Christmas rush to commemorate His arrival, we eminently frail humans have enormous reason to give heartfelt appreciation.  This gratitude runs far deeper than what we happen to have.  It’s totally based in knowing who, and Whose, we are.

Imperfect as we must be, the Scriptures declare that, “Here and now, we are God’s Children.”

Yes.  Even with skinned knees, dirty clothes, bad habits and spotty records, that Divine designation can be stained and soiled, but it can never be taken away.  Ever.

For that eternal fact, infused within and yet superseding all proximate circumstances, we can truly give thanks.