In case you haven’t yet noticed, it’s election season. Every two years we, as a nation, gather together to vote on a new Congress; and every four years we vote on the president. This year our choices are between the incumbent democrat, Barack Obama, and the republican challenger, Mitt Romney. At least that’s what ‘they’ want us to believe. Every pundit and partisan is out there trying to sell this as “the election of the century.” We are bombarded with the notion that voting is a sacred privilege, not a right; and how there are many people throughout the world that would give an arm and a leg for the privilege to vote. You also hear the tired canard that “if you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to complain.” Puh-lease!!! It’s time to debunk some of these myths and deceptions.
Mahatma Gandhi was once quoted as saying, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” As a Christian, I am forced to concur with this statement. I don’t mean to make the erroneous claim that all Christians are unlike Christ in every way, but it is my experience (as well as the experience of others) that there are some very un-Christian Christians running around. Furthermore, every Christian has had un-Christian moments from time to time. Lest anyone think I am on the outside looking in on this, let me be frank: I fully include myself in the group of Christians who act un-Christian.
I am not sure which is worse, the way Christians treat unbelievers or the way Christians treat fellow Christians. I’ve seen egregious failures on both sides of that dilemma. Given the fact that Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). It would seem that Christians behaving badly with other Christians is worse; not only do we fail the command to love one another, but we also destroy our witness with the outside world. Let’s briefly examine the way Christians have treated one another over the years.
Wherever there is a public display of the Ten Commandments or a politician who invokes the name of “Jesus,” there is usually some over zealous atheist who cries out for a separation of church and state. The concept of a separation between church and state is drawn from the language of the first amendment. The first clause of that amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This clause essentially prevents congress from both establishing a state religion and from prohibiting the people the free exercise of their personal religion. The purpose of such a clause was more to prevent religious persecution (from which many of the colonists were fleeing) than it was to ban religion from the public square altogether. Be that as it may, the American nation was intended to be a place in which people of all faiths (or no faith) would be welcomed to practice their personal preferences toward religion.
A friend of mine, when I told him that I was a philosophy major in college asked me “What’s the difference between a philosophy major and a large pizza?” With a fair amount of trepidation I answered “I don’t know.” He replied, “A large pizza can feed a family of four.” I would often get inquiring looks from people when I told them I majored in philosophy in college; especially since I work in the IT (information technology) field. The question that is asked (or assumed) is why did I choose to major in philosophy? The answer to that question is the same now as it was when I graduated from college 19 years ago: Because I wanted to!
I won’t bore people with the story of my life, but I was re-enrolling in college after about a five year hiatus. I was originally a mathematics major at University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), and when I was trying to get back into school, that was the major I wanted to pursue. I ended up re-enrolling at Loyola University of Chicago and as part of the whole transfer process, there were some general education courses I needed to take. One of them was Introduction to Philosophy (PHIL 120). After finishing that class, I knew I needed to switch majors from mathematics to philosophy.
For Christmas 2010, I received the CD box set of the official Beatles albums; 16 CD’s in all! The compilation contains all the Beatles studio albums (with their original UK track listings) along with Past Masters volumes 1 & 2 to round out the collection. Every Beatles’ song ever recorded is on this set, and the packaging is outstanding. This truly is a must have set for any Beatles fan. With the exception of Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine, every Beatles’ album hit number 1 on the charts. Not to mention that they also have the record for most #1 hits in both the US (20) and the UK (17). They are also the biggest selling musical artist in popular music history.
What makes the Beatles so good? Clearly there are other musical artists who are better song writers or better musicians. I think the greatness of the Beatles can be summed up in one word: Groundbreaking. If you listen to their music, even their earlier Mersey Beat music, they don’t sound groundbreaking compared to modern pop music. Until you factor in that they were usually the first ones to come up with some new sound or technique that was copied by everyone else. Most of their early music from 1963 thru 1965 didn’t vary much, though you could still discern the maturation of their sound by 1965. This period was marked by constant recording, promoting and touring. They recorded six LP’s in their first three years. Nowadays musicians are lucky to crank out six albums in 20 years.
It’s that time of year again in which the smell of pigskin is in the air. The NFL preseason is underway, and that means that the regular season is just around the corner. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge football fan. I’m a sports fan in general, but football is my #1 love. Being from Chicago, our teams don’t really give us a lot to shout about. Both the Bulls and the Blackhawks made it to the postseason, but both teams were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. With Derrick Rose recovering from an ACL tear, there is little to look forward to with the Bulls for this season. Baseball is also a sad story. As a Cubs fan, I’ve had to endure my baseball team hanging out in the NL cellar. With that said, the NFL season can’t get here soon enough!
It’s 2012 and that means it’s political season. As usual Americans are being bombarded with political ads and commentary everywhere we turn. First there was the brutal republican primary, and now that Mitt Romney has all but sewn up the republican nomination, the political attack ads have begun from the democratic party. This year the big topic on everyone’s mind is the economy, which was also the big topic four years ago. Although in 2008, Barack Obama was running on the platform that President Bush was leading America into a new depression and that only an Obama administration can avert certain economic disaster. It’s now 2012 and Obama has increased the national debt by 50%. So much for averting economic disaster.
The title of today’s post comes from the Edwin Starr song of 1970 titled War. And the title of that song says it all. Except there is one entity that profits from war — one entity for which war is good — and that is the State. It has often been said that war is a “necessary evil,” and that a true and lasting peace can only come as a result of war. I want to challenge both notions as false. War is evil, but it is not a necessary evil. Quite the contrary, war is an unnecessary evil. Since at least as far back as WWI (and perhaps even further back than that), wars have been fought to the detriment of society and for reasons that could have been avoided had nation-states not been as powerful as they were (are).
When people say that war is a “necessary evil,” what they are trying to say is that war sometimes becomes inevitable when peaceful solutions to disputes cannot be found. However, what gets left unsaid in this analysis is why are there disputes in the first place? What are these disputes that pop up to which war sometimes becomes inevitable? These disputes are almost invariably between rival states or governments, and the dispute is usually over which of these two rival states has monopoly control over some geographical region or natural resource. When these disputes reach a ‘critical mass,’ the two states gird up for war. The next thing that happens is that thousands of hapless young men and women who have volunteered for (or worse yet, been conscripted into) military service find themselves killing one another for a cause that has absolutely nothing to do with them, but will greatly enrich the ruling class of whichever of the two rival states wins.
It’s been said that knowledge is power and that education is the key to our future. That may be true, but why is it that we, as a country, spend more and more on public education and are seeing less and less return on our investment? The politicians look at the sorry state of our public schools (particularly in large urban areas) and automatically think that we need to increase the budget for public education. We are spending well over $10K per student in America, yet national test scores do not reflect the fact that we’re spending more than ever for education with little or no results.
Why such dismal results from public education? The simple answer is that government is woefully inefficient at educating our children. That’s the answer for everything the government does. Whenever the government gets involved in something, you can rest assured that costs will rise and results will drop. The next question is why do government schools typically fail in educating our children? Here the answer is a little more complex. The factors involved in the failure of government schools include: Lack of fair competition with other education options; barriers preventing more options for educating our children; “one size fits all” methodology for education; teachers unions that prevent the removal of bad teachers and also artificially raise the cost of educating children by demanding higher than market value salaries; corruption at all levels of the education bureaucracy; etc. All of these factors (and more) add to the failure of government run education to adequately prepare our children for the future.
Okay, maybe not the “face of tyranny,” but definitely a step in the direction of less freedom and more state control over our thoughts and actions. By now many of you are aware of the recent flap in Chicago over comments a local alderman and the mayor made regarding the restaurant chain, Chick-fil-A, wanting to open a new store in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. Here’s the scoop. Chick-fil-A owner, Dan Cathy, is an evangelical Christian. The Chick-fil-A restaurant chain is a family business that promotes family values. Cathy is quoted as saying that he is “guilty as charged” for believing that marriage is defined as being between one man and one woman.