Friday, July 3, 2015

Don't Accept the Premise


For the last several weeks the Pennsylvania General Assembly has been in budget crisis mode.  This year is especially entertaining because the new governor is a Democrat and the Republicans hold both houses.  Governor Wolf campaigned on increasing education funding (which he falsely claimed was cut $1 billion by Governor Corbett) and is pushing the legislature to raise taxes to fund it.

Governor Wolf's plan calls for an increase of about $600 million in education funding.  He wants a severance tax on oil and gas producers to pay for education and some other goodies.  Therefore his staff and supporters attack any legislator opposed to increased education funding with "putting frackers before kids." Or they may use the more general attack "not caring about the education of our children."

What are the Republicans to do?  Do they want to stand for the evil frackers against our poor defenseless, uneducated children?  Horrors, no!  So the House has proposed $145 million in new funding for education.

I have been thinking about the premise these past weeks.  I wondered why no one was pushing back or refusing to accept the premise- the premise that we need to increase education funding.  We see this pattern all too often: the Democrats propose a new crisis is upon us and we need to fix it with new programs, higher taxes and increased spending.  The Republicans react to the proposal with some opposition and then offer their own ill-advised program but at a smaller scale.

A few days ago I heard a talk show host share a similar observation.  He asked why we do we accept the liberals' premise?  Why do we publicly debate on their terms?  It confirmed my thoughts about the debate on education funding in Pennsylvania.

What is a sufficient level of funding for education?  Will we ever be satisfied? We spend an average of $14,000 per student in Pennsylvania, one of the highest rates in the country.

Try this premise instead:  $14,000 per student is enough and we should strive to more efficient and effective with that amount.  Let's stop accepting liberals' premises and stand on our own principled beliefs.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

We are Different



A couple of days ago I read an article about the most recent unfairness.  Apparently there is a problem at the National Spelling Bee.  Indian Americans have won the last seven years in a row.  This has led some fringe people to take to social media with racists rants.  I guess, to our shame, we will always have that.

But that isn't the problem I am referring to. Some people are complaining that it just isn't right that Indian Americans should dominate.  It doesn't seem fair that others don't have a fair shot at the Spelling Bee Championship. There are subtle suggestions that the organizers should do something about this unfairness.  There must be a leveling of the field they imply. The organizers are tiptoeing around the issue for fear they will be called racists.

The writer of the article referenced the similar dominance of Kenyans in winning the Boston Marathon.  Year after year, in a huge field of contestants, the Kenyans cross the finish line ahead of other nationalities and races. What to do with this prickly (racial) subject?

First let me say that I believe we are all part of the human race.  I think the notion of races is an unfortunate categorization of beings that are made in the likeness of God.  We are all the same, made in His image (yet we are also the same in that we fall short and are sinners).

However, we are given various and different talents by our Maker.  This does not make us better or worse in value before God. We each have a responsibility to use the talents God gave us.  To some God has given physical beauty, and to some the talent to create beautiful art. To some He has given great intellect.  To some He has given the ability to dunk a basketball or hit a 99 mph fastball.  To some He has given gifts of hospitality or preaching or wisdom or humility.

We humans value these God given talents more or less, and in various times what is valued varies more or less.  Can you believe, for example, the Miami Marlins right fielder has a contract worth about $350 million ... for hitting the fastball a third of the time!? 

Please note that I am not diminishing human effort and hard work from the equation.  It is a very rare successful human being who does not add effort to God given talent.  The God given talent comes first, then we must cultivate it; train ourselves; work at it.  However, no matter how much I train I will not be able to dunk a basketball (God did not make me tall) or win a beauty contest (God did not make me an attractive female).

Is this fair? Wrong question. We must be content with the uniqueness God has created in us.

Back to the Spelling Bee.  I am not a tiny bit concerned that Indian Americans are winning.  Good for those winners. You know that they worked very hard for it.  I am not even concerned if God gave them an extra portion of the ability to memorize word spellings.  Is it possible that Indians as a race or people (I hate to use the construct "race" for the reasons I described above- the Bible uses the term "nations"  -but I will resort to race for sake of discussion ) have more ability for this sort of thing? Is it racist to say so publicly?

Why can't we accept that we ARE different? Even the so-called races may have more or less various talents.  Is it possible that Kenyans run faster because God made them that way?! We could make many more obvious observations (and sure, many exceptions). 

I know, you are thinking that if we accept that God made some peoples (or races) faster or smarter that means that some are slower and dumber as a whole.  So what?  It does not make them better or worse before God who is the Creator and giver of talents.  It should not make them more or less valuable as human beings to me and you.

We're suppose to be all about valuing diversity nowadays.  It is suppose to make us better people, better businesses, better communities.  Why can't we celebrate this diversity in talents?  We can even celebrate differences in races while valuing each human as made in the image of God.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

I Want to Discriminate

Here we are at another media-driven virtual mob.  From broadcast news to fringe blogs the nation seems hysterical over Indiana's temerity at passing legislation that affirms the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in regards to the free exercise of religion.  Of course this is very similar to legislation that Bill Clinton signed in the 90's and many other states have enacted.

Critics claim the legislation is an attack on the LGBT community and the new found right for same-sex couples to marry.  Funny, I don't read that in the law, and it does not do those things. Facts do not matter to a mob though.  Reason is in very short supply when, induced by liberal media, Big Business bullies and celebrities rush out to show how indignant they are with Indiana's hateful law.  Boycott Indiana!  Threaten them with shortage of skilled (re: "diverse") labor! Threaten to relocate businesses and remove the precious NCAA basketball tournament! States to ban official travel to Indiana!  Call the governor names and shame them all!

A somewhat more arguable point is that the legislation will permit individuals and businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians (and don't forget the bi-sexuals and transgenders).  Of course the law doesn't promote that or even address that.  It allows for the free exercise of religion, a right given by God and acknowledged in the 1st Amendment.

For people that bother to think through this latest "scandal," a perceived issue does exist.  It's the perceived conflict between civil rights and religious rights.  The thinking is that gay and lesbian rights are being threatened by the exercise of others' religious rights.  The liberal mind sees this as no contest; basically because religious rights are deemed illegitimate and probably just a cover for hateful intolerance anyway.  (I don't have time to address it here, but some faithful Christians would say gay and lesbian "rights" are illegitimate because no one has the "right" to disobey God's law.)

What compounds trying to comprehend the mob's accusations is that we have lost the real meaning of words.  "Discrimination" has become a heavily loaded battle word.  I'd say it is right up there with "intolerance" now as a bludgeon of the Left. The worst thing you can have happen is to be accused of discrimination and intolerance. Better to have contracted a deadly disease.

However, all of us discriminate everyday.  When you make a decision to use ketchup instead of mustard, or watch Channel 2 instead of 4 you are discriminating.  Discriminating is about choosing between various options or attributes.  It's about, according to Webster's, distinguishing between things.  We must, of course, consider the object and purpose of discrimination.

Discrimination can be an offense when it is based on something other than individual merit.  That is to favor one thing, or person, or be against a thing, or person, categorically instead of its, or their, intrinsic individual merit.  Ahhh, but what if I were to discriminate precisely because of individual merit?  What if I favor a tall person for my basketball team?  Yes, I am discriminating based on the merit of the individual and it happens all the time.  It is not offensive or immoral.  What if I exclude a gambling addict from being treasurer of my club?  I am discriminating based on the merit (or lack of praiseworthy quality) of the individual and would be making a wise, moral choice.

Indiana, and now Arkansas, are in the cross hairs of a virtual mob.  They have moved to ameliorate the mob (it won't work; it's a mob) by passing additional legislation that specifically says the Religious Restoration Act cannot be used by individuals or businesses to discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation.  You can understand their move with the heat they are taking, but I feel they are making a very big mistake.

What they are agreeing to is that the 1st Amendment's free exercise clause is no longer in effect.  Worse than that; they are passing legislation that makes a person or business criminal for acting on their religious beliefs.  Why bother with the Religious Restoration Act if you are going to pass another law that criminalizes actions of faithful people who in rare, but necessary, occasions discriminate against actions that offend their faith?

If, as a sincere practicing Christian, you believe certain behavior is considered sinful before God you should discriminate against it.  As a Christian you do not want to associate with actions God views as sinful.  You should apply the full, inoffensive meaning of "discriminate" in this case.  Thus a Christian baker would discriminate and refuse to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding! 

On the other hand, it would be an immoral and offensive discrimination to refuse to sell a lesbian a birthday cake.  How so?  Well, you would be discriminating based on category (someone who claims to be a lesbian) and not on an action that is compromising your religious beliefs.  I do not know of any religion that finds celebrating birthdays as sinful!  (After many birthdays they may become regretful.)  In reality, none of the cases that have made national news were cases where the business refused to serve gays because of their identity.  They all have been businesses (bakeries, florists, photographers) who could not be a participant in action they saw as against God's law (i.e., same-sex marriage). 

(To my gay friends, as a Bible-believer, I don't condone their behavior and they know this. I do not "categorically" reject them or discriminate them. And by the way, I am a sinner and they have not befriended me! However, if a gay friend asked me to their same-sex wedding I would decline, and if a heterosexual friend asked me to help him move in with his girl friend [so he can "live with her"] I would also decline.  I cannot participate in an activity that the Bible tells me God is against.  I can still love my friends and I can still be friendly to them, but I will discriminate - not against them - but against a behavior or activity.)

The businesses above rightly discriminated based on individual merit.  They rightly discriminated against activity that was contrary to their religious beliefs.  For that, in this formerly free land, they are criminalized.  The mob will not listen to any talk of reason (such as what it means to discriminate) or the free exercise of religion.  Government officials and many businesses are intimidated and are now compliant before the politically correct mob.

Christians saw this coming. It does not mean we have to be silent.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Question President Obama's Patriotism

It is politically incorrect to question someone's patriotism.  It seems no matter how bitter political opponents are they will not go there.  Think of recent national elections and when it got heated the offended party would exclaim with indignation, "are you questioning my patriotism?"  The answer always has been something like: "I am not doubting your patriotism, we just disagree on what is best for the country..."  Even when the suspect was Barack Obama, who seems to never miss an opportunity to criticize America, the retort was that we would never question his patriotism, just his ideas or his actions or his motivations.