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Friday, November 15, 2013

Observations in dealing with a strong willed child, year 1

The beginning of this year God gave me a truly remarkable gift:  an amazing, loving woman.  Just recently I married her.  In addition to having such a wonderful woman, a spirited, cute two year old girl was also brought into my life.  I love her like she was my own.  Though, like every child, she was different from my other three.  Quite different.  None of my other children were quite as strong willed as she's been.  Of course, this is not a bad thing by any means.  There's a lot of good qualities in being strong willed.  But, like any child, a parent needs to encourage the positive qualities while discouraging the negative.  Now I also know that being a stepfather coming in at age 2 that I had a lot of ground to make up.  However, despite that, this last year has been educational and joyful despite frustrations.  So below is a quick list of things that I'd like to share.  Most of this stuff isn't just limited to dealing with a willful child nor are these really any new revelations by any means, but I've found them key...

Be mindful of what you tell them to do
A strong willed child will challenge you quite often.  This can be outright defiance to simply ignoring what you told them.  Therefore if you say things you want them to do or not do haphazardly, you're setting up potentially unnecessary conflicts or easy chances for them to defy you unchallenged.  

You must stick to you word
For bad or good, you must stick to what you said you would do.  If you tell them they will lose TV privileges if they don't finish their dinner, then you have to follow through if they don't.  If you don't, they will remember.  Even if the consequences for them defying you isn't immediate, they still need to be carried.  Never forget how smart children really are.  They pick up on your behavior as much, or more so, than you do theirs.  So if they see that they escaped punishment because it too long afterward, you can expect them to hope for delayed discipline in the future.  This also works on the flip side.  If you say that if they do a certain thing, that you'll do this for them, you MUST do it. Because if you don't stick to your word, they'll lose respect for you, which will encourage them to challenge your authority as a parent.

Only give discipline warnings that you're willing to do
While it might be tempting to throw out a very stiff punishment right away when a child is defying you, you will paint yourself into a corner if you're not truly willing to do what you said.  And if you think a strong willed child won't call your bluff, you'll be in for a rude awakening.  They will, constantly.  And if you don't to your guns, as mentioned above, you will have undermined your own authority.  

Find what can be used as leverage
I know that may sound manipulative or horrible, but in any relationship where one wields authority and the other is supposed to yield to that authority, the person in charge needs to have leverage of some sort.  An employer has leverage over their employees since they can choose to terminate an employee who's insubordinate.  It's the same thing with children, especially a strong willed child who will challenge your authority constantly.  You need to know what things they'll find important enough so that they'll think twice about their behavior if access to those things is put into jeopardy.  

Full disclosure:  I support spanking (when done right,of course).  The threat of force, while perhaps distasteful from an adult social perspective, is a very instinctive, visceral feeling that children will want to avoid. (This doesn't mean I advocate beating one's children, but spanking can be done effectively without causing any psychological damage).  However, spanking is also leverage that you won't be able to use all the time.  You definitely will want other avenues of leverage.  For example, my stepdaughter loves her television shows.  Promising to take that privilege away when she misbehaves has proven quite effective at times.  

Now some may also encourage positive reinforcement over negative reinforcement.  I would encourage caution in this realm because if a child is misbehaving, you should not offer something positive for them to stop the behavior as all this will do is encourage them to misbehave if they know they will get something nice out of it.  Positive reinforcement should be used proactively to encourage new or better behavior, but never to stop bad behavior.  Doing so will not only undermine your authority, but your smart strong willed child will figure out that they have leverage on you since you'll give them whatever they want (or close to it) when they misbehave.  

Your authority is earned, not automatic
A strong willed child, just by their nature, is challenging your authority.  And ultimately that means someone will win: either you or them.  Therefore, if you want to maintain your authority, you have to earn it in their eyes.  Look at this way, there's place of authority and someone has to fill it.  If you don't fill it, the strong willed child will in your place.  

Every conflict will gain or lose you respect
This doesn't mean the child is going to like you.  That's different.  But every conflict, even the small ones, will either increase or decrease their respect for you.  Letting the child continue their behavior unchallenged will lose you respect.  Establishing, and administering, what is acceptable and what isn't will actually gain you respect.  

The more respect you've earned, the easier it can be
As you gain respect, a strong willed child will be more inclined to listen because you've "earned" it from them, so to speak.  Of course, that can always be dashed if you don't stick to your guns.  But, from what I've experience, it does indeed get better.

Overall, it's been a pleasure taking part in raising my stepdaughter this past year.  And I look forward to the gift in her God has given me in allowing me to shape her life to walk in Him.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

Conservative House Cleaning: Simple things to do to help your message and the conservative movement

While it's no secret that I stand behind Christian and conservative values and I will until God has decided it's my time, I some times feel a bit of frustration not from the liberal side, but from my own conservative side, when I see how they respond to liberal nonsense.   And while I may agree that perhaps the liberal that's talking sounds like they're lacking in intelligence, I cringe when someone actually responds openly that way, especially in a brusque manner.  Furthermore, it's quite hypocritical to call those on the left the nastiest people on earth (which I agree with), but then turn around and be nasty ourselves.  

So, below are some guide lines I'd like to share when it comes engaging in political disagreements.  In a number of ways they're similar to my Keys to Repeating the Truth post.  Overall though, if you follow these guidelines, you will not only be more engaging to that liberal you're responding to, but it will overall portray correctly that conservatives do know what they want and aren't just a bunch of hate filled dung throwers.

The overall theme to remember is that you want the person you're responding to take you seriously to actually take what you're saying to heart.  Yes, I'm aware there are trolls.  Yes, I'm aware that there are some arrogant know it alls that won't listen no matter you seem to say.  However, not only is no one ever going to respond positively to negative nastiness, those people will use that nastiness to strengthen their notion about conservatives being dumb and hate filled. 

No Name Calling

This is a big one.  In reading articles in places like Breitbart, Truth Revolt, and The Blaze, I'll comments where they call Obama things like Obozo and Obummer.  Comments by liberals, trolls or otherwise, are met with your standard range of pejoratives like idiot, moron, libtard, etc.   even when the liberal is actually trying to make a point in a somewhat civilized manner.  This has got to stop.  

Let me ask:  Do you mind being called stupid? Or idiot?  If someone were to call you an idiot, would you even be listening to anything else they had to say? Probably not.  

Name calling shuts down any hopes of reaching that other person.  It is disrespectful.  On top of that, it reinforces the negative prejudices liberals have been projecting onto conservatives for years.  Yes, that person may be saying some pretty unfounded, dumb stuff.  But if you call them dumb, that's all they're going to hear and just get mad no matter how right your following argument may be.  Yes, they be disrespectful to you first.  But are you going to sink to their level by not respecting them or are you going to show that you're the better person by showing them that you at least respect them enough to not call them names?

Never start with "You're wrong"
Just like the name calling thing, you start with "you're wrong" and you've immediately lowered the other person's ability to listen and reason out your response because after hearing "you're wrong", they're too busy figuring out other ways to express their perspective to show you that it's right.  It can also incense someone to anger and increase their reluctance in listening to your points.

Always counter with conservative principles
It's not enough to point out the flaws in a liberal's argument.  We all know may know them quite well.  But keep in mind that a classic liberal retort to conservative criticism is "well at least we're doing something about it! All you do is criticize!"  If you don't present the conservative solution in your rebuttal, it's easy for a liberal to apply the obstructionist label: "You don't want to help anyone, all you do is keep us from helping!"  Instead, if you point out their flaws and then supplement it with the conservative solution to the problem, it transforms your "obstructionist" stance to one of advocating a different policy.

Always make the moral argument
While numbers are important and they should be minded, they unfortunately are a hard sell because numbers alone are never going to trump someone's emotions.  People will care more about doing the right thing than they will about how much money something costs.  Consequently, by making only the money argument, you can be seen as "caring more about money and profits than about actual people", a common liberal trope against conservatives.  

This can be a tough one to overcome because we're admittedly at an immediate disadvantage.   The very basis of liberalism is that government "takes care and helps people", therefore their intentions, regardless of the disastrous results, already make a strong moral argument: we want to help people!  So naturally, anyone opposing that is seen as evil and nasty.  Therefore, when we oppose one of these "help people!" initiatives, we have to make sure to point out not only the morality of being fiscally conservative, but also the far greater good that can come from fiscal liberty.  

In either case, it's not enough to point out the failures.  It must be coupled with an argument that makes the conservative solution sound like the right thing to do.  

Ask questions
Believe it or not, many liberals do not seem to know much beyond what they're told on TV by the mainstream media, even those that like to claim the intellectual high ground.  If you're good at asking the right pointed questions, it's possible to lead them to the right conclusion.  By steering them via questions, it will also open up more holes in their argument on which to counter (in civility, of course).   

Know your stuff
The converse of the above.  If you make an opinion about something, make sure you have at least some rudimentary facts to back up your assertions since you might be challenged.  If you want to blame our sluggish economy on Obamacare, then you should understand what about Obamacare is hurting the economy.  You don't have to be a policy wonk or watch/read politics non stop to stay up on stuff, but you should understand at least why you believe the things you do.  

Lastly though, these guidelines are not only limited to conservatives despite them being my focus.  Christians can also apply these in their lives and pretty much anyone else with any belief system can.  However, when it comes conservatives and Christians, we're held to a higher standard by not only the left's own double standards, but our own principles'.   So take to heart and remember that if you want to truly have someone understand, you need to be willing to do what it takes to keep the communication bridge open.  

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Tea Party is not the extremists you may believe them to be

Senator Ted Cruz, a Tea Party favorite,
is under continuous hateful attacks from liberals and RINOs....
He must be doing something right.
When one hears the Tea Party mentioned, there's generally going to be a variety of negativity attached to it. deliberate attempt by the opposition to make them look like the most horrible people on this planet (oh, the irony).
 Whether you're one that believes all the bad things or a tea party supporter that has put up with said bad things being said, there's been a negative stigma attached to them since their inception.  They've been called extremists and terrorists.  People have nice little nasty names for them Tea Baggers and Teahadists.  They're called the "fringe right" element.  And today, I'm writing to say that not only are all those accusations unfounded and false, but they are also a

What is the Tea Party isn't

Before we get into what the Tea Party actually, let's cover all the things the Tea Party and its supporters are not:
  • Racist
  • Sexist
  • Science Hating
  • Climate Change Denying
  • Extremist
  • Political Terrorists
  • Created by the Koch Brothers / Manufactured by Evil Corporations
Of course, the litany of accusations about the Tea Party could fill an entire page, but these seem to be the major accusations.  So let's just get those out of the way.  In a broad swath of forms, from entertainment to the media itself to raving liberal activists to even members of Congress and the President himself either on the radio, TV, Twitter and other social media, the Tea Party has been called all of these and more.  The effort against the Tea Party has been so successful in its branding that even those who share the same values as the Tea Party are hesitant to voice their support for fear of getting smacked with the RWNJ (Right Wing Nut Job) label.  

But for now, let's put those aside and focus on what the Tea Party actually is...

What the Tea Party is

Origins

Contrary to popular belief the Tea Party movement didn't begin with the election of Barack Obama.  It didn't begin with the passing of Obamacare.  It, in fact, began during the Bush administration as a reaction to TARP and the bank bailouts.  What they saw, at the time, was a grievous injustice to the American people being taxed hundreds of billions of dollars to clean up the mess many banks had left behind in the housing bubble collapse.  This is what gave rise to the modern day Tea Party. Other events, such as Obama's stimulus package and, of course, Obamacare, only strengthened the movement's resolve to do something.  

No, the Koch brothers did not manufacture the Tea Party.  While yes, the Koch Brothers have indeed lent their support to some Tea Party groups, there was no vast hidden conspiracy of right political operatives whipping the "dumb" people into a constitutional frenzy.  The members of the Tea Party were, in fact, just every day people that started to get fed up with the government.  

And the fact that the beginnings of the movement cannot easily be traced to one individual (though Keli Carender is commonly, but not exclusively, cited as the first protest organizer) points to the legitimacy of its grassroots origins (unlike Occupy).  

Beliefs

To sum it up, the core of the Tea Party's beliefs are that:
  • Federal taxes and spending are too high and that the government has a moral obligation to be responsible with the people's tax money.
  • The politicians in Washington are not listening to their constituents and instead believe they vote based on their own personal agenda. 
  • The federal government has been, for decades, eroding the people's constitutional rights.
  • The Constitution has endured the test of time (ie not oudated) and is the foundation on which the country should run.  
While there may be other beliefs someone affiliated with the Tea Party might espouse, you can guarantee that these four are universal among all Tea Party organizations.  

If you were to boil it down further, you could say all the Tea Party wants is for power to return to the people as it was originally outlined in the Constitution.  That's pretty much it. 

Again, these are pretty much every day people alarmed with the way the country is going and doing it the way that the Consitution allowed: peaceful protest and the power of the vote.

Connections with Conservatism

The Tea Party and conservatism go hand in hand.  The reason for this is the Tea Party is based on the notions our founding fathers laid down (hence being named after the Boston Tea Party).  Conservatism, in practice, aims to conserve that founding framework as much as possible because it's been seen as the reason why our country has prospered as much as it has.  But what is that founding framework that has led to our nation's success? It's simple:  The founding fathers knew one thing: the key to success lies in unlocking individual freedom.  When anyone had the opportunity to become great, you increase the nation's success rate much more so than if you just limited greatness to a stagnant upper class (aka nobility/royalty).  However, in order to allow that freedom, two things needed to happen:

  1. The government's power needed to be explicitly restrained.  All of the founding fathers had first hand knowledge how unchecked power can corrupt.  A government without limits is a government ruling despite the people, not for the people.
  2. Citizens needed to have economic freedom, for it's the cornerstone of all other freedoms.  They knew if people were free to keep the fruits of their labors, then they would not only have the incentive to succeed, but the power to do so


This is why you will not see any liberals or left leaning folk affiliated with Tea Parties.  Their beliefs aren't really compatible.  However, this doesn't mean that Democrats and other liberals haven't converted.  One of the Tea Party's staunchest supports, Andrew Breitbart, was a liberal for most of his life.  And, of course, the venerated Ronald Reagan was a liberal long before he was a conservative.  

The Tea Party and Barack Obama

Ok so you know what the Tea Party is about.  And I've also mentioned what it's not about: racism.  Yet, when it comes to President Obama, I believe the relationship between the two needs to be further explained.  Let me just say one thing though:

The Tea Party does NOT oppose Obama because he's black

Despite mounds of evidence showing that is not the case, the lie persists.  Back when the Tea Party protests first started to gain momentum, charges of racism were raised against the protesters.  Claims were made of racist signs and posters being spotted at rallies.  But when Andrew Breitbart vehemently denied these claims and offered $100,000 for proof of this racism at any Tea Party rally, no one could produce the proof.  In fact, the only evidence that might come close to that happened nearly 5 years later when someone at a recent veterans rally had a confederate flag present (which I, and any many others, do not support). Hardly proof of the rampant racism the Tea Party has been accused of.

Anyway, the Tea Party opposes Obama's agenda because it is indeed the most liberal, farthest left of any president before him.  This is what they oppose:
  • The ~$900 billion stimulus that the tax payers ended up paying for, very similar to the bank bailouts, that did nothing to help the economy.  
  • Obamacare's individual mandate and its attempt to take over the healthcare industry.  
  • Obamacare's burden on our economic freedom
  • A number of alarming scandals under his watch:  Fast & Furious, IRS targeting conservatives, Benghazi, mass wire tapping, and criminalizing journalists.   
This is whyTea Partiers, and myself, oppose this president so vehmently.  And it's not only those things, it's how this adminstration truly is different than any other liberal administration before it.  It's different than the Clinton administration or Roosevelt administration.  This is not just "another liberal administration". It's fundamentally different.

No administration has ever been so secretive about their agenda despite their promise to be most open administration in history.  No administration has so brazenly disregarded the law as this one has.  No administration has been so polarizing and uncompromising.  No administration has vilified a news organization or a talk radio host as they've done with Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.  No administration has ever blamed such organizaitons and individuals for their own shortcomings.  No administration has ever attempted to teach the military that evangelical Christians and the Tea Party are extremists despite the fact that the Occupy movement and other leftist advocate groups cause far more destruction, are far more violent, and far more disruptive than anything the Tea Party has ever done.  No administration has systemically purged its military officers that do not agree with their ideology.  No administration has lied so brazenly to the American public.  

We don't oppose this administration because "we lost".  Keep in mind that the Tea Party opposed the liberal stuff the Bush administration did as well, particularly the bank bailouts.  Again, this isn't politics as usual. This administration is different.  And this is why the Tea Party has risen.

Legitimacy

Unlike a great many other advocacy groups, the Tea Party has actually had some real success by doing
exactly what's outlined in the Constitution: they protested peacefully and then spoke with their votes.  They're the reason the Republicans took the House back with a mission to restrain the government from its reckless path.  They did exactly what our constitution outlines.  They did that, and got demonized for it.  Why?  Because this administration, and its public supporters and cohorts, fear a populace that would become wise to their deeds.  If the general public understood and knew what the Tea Party has come to understand and know, they - and every other Democrat - would be swept from office and be kept out for a long time.  So they do their best to make these average people who want the country run according to the constitution look like the worst people possible.  They have to since that's the only way to keep the rest of the country from catching on.  

Sarah Palin has been called many hateful names.
Liberals have even made fun of her mentally
handicapped son, Trig.
So the next time you see someone on TV or facebook disparaging the Tea Party, really take the time to examine their remarks.  It's usually hateful and bigoted.  It's usually highly uninformed.  Keep in mind that a majority of the country identifies with conservative values and morals.  And that what you see on TV and facebook are not how it's like everywhere.  Keep in mind these Tea Partiers are every day people trying to get the government back to the way it should be run through peaceful and legitimate means.  

The irony is that the people telling you the Tea Party are extremists are actually the extremists with beliefs that most Americans do not hold. They want you to believe the Tea Party is the enemy when in fact the Tea Party is for helping all Americans prosper.  They're not extreme, they're standing on principle and integrity.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Keys to repeating the truth

Speaking truth is powerful.  When spoken with true belief and conviction, it can resonate inside someone's soul without them even realizing that's what's happening to them.  From a Christian perspective, this is what's known as planting the seed.  It's the beginning of someone realizing and acknowledging the truth.  Speaking this truth is part of the charge God gave His followers when he set forth the mandate to extend His kingdom here on Earth.  It's the simplest to do, but can also be quite daunting.

So what happens is this:  your average person will have moments of courage will they will speak the truth, despite the fallout it may cause.  Many times it manifests as some type of righteous anger in the face of something that's undermining or belittling that truth.  In these moments, our soul punches through our fear in order to speak out against the wrong being said or done.  And after we're done, we feel a little spent but also content into "letting things lie" for a while.  And understandably so; no one wants to rock the boat too much.

However, when it comes to planting the seed in others, this sort of righteous indignation type of response isn't enough.  It doesn't happen often enough, and admittedly doing so too often will not only wear one out, it can cause avoid damage.  Just like everything, high octane emotional response are great in certain situations, but it's not meant for every day life.  And it's that every day life, that moment after one's spent from an emotionally charged truth speaking moment, that moment when you wake up in the morning and that moment when you go to bed for the evening where speaking the truth needs to be done.  It needs to happen repeatedly, all the time.

So if there's one thing that liberals have gotten right, it's their ability to repeat their messages, no matter how false they may be, ad nauseam until everyone has heard it and, in many times, believe it.  And pay attention to how it's done.  While there are the emotionally charged activists screaming for the rights of albino llamas in Newfoundland, there are other channels, such as the media and television that repeat the messages over and over in not only a calm, rational sounding demeanor, but also in subtle indirect ways that also work to plant the seed of their message in such a way that you wonder why you've never considered the rights of those poor albino llamas.

Of course, this isn't to say that liberals have the right message, because they don't. It's just to point out that they have figured out, much to many Christian and conservatives' chagrin, how to effectively get their message across.

And this is what Christians, and conservatives, need to do as well.  It's very easy to get tired of saying the same thing ad nauseum.  Believe me, I get quite frustrated at times.  But when I come across someone that not only doesn't know the truth, but instead is believing the lie fed to them, it reminds me that if I'm going to get the truth out, I need to be just as relentless as the opposition is.

So, what can an average, every day person do when it comes to speaking the truth?  It's quite simple: you just start speaking it.  And while I'm not to tell someone to tone down their truth speaking or do it in the same way I might, we should do our best to pattern our truth speaking after the Bible.  So with that in mind, here are some guide lines:

Never Condemn - While it may be easy to say something like "You are going to Hell if you keep living this way!", it is not our role.  Just as Jesus came to save and not condemn, so should we.  This goes for any truth speaking.  Do not condemn your audience because of their misdeeds and falsities.  They are already condemned for it.  Not only does this model after Christ, it has a very wise real world application (like most Biblical principles):  people don't like being condemned.  And if there's one way to harden a heart to your message, it's to condemn them.

Speak your Truth with Certainty - If you waiver when speaking the truth, those listening might thing that you do not ardently believe in what you're speaking. It undermines truth's authority.  Yes, there will be people who will challenge you and will want to debate about it.  This is where knowledge about truth will come handy.  However, this doesn't mean you need to be able to intellectually debate those that challenge the truth you speak as speaking the truth is not about winning over a debate right that second.  IT's about relaying the truth, even if they don't immediately accept it.  And if you relay that truth with certainty, even those that would walk away not believing will still have your belief in this truth planted within them.

Always with love - It doesn't matter what truth you are speaking.  Always have love.  Anything done without love is ultimately fruitless.  This includes the angry atheists doing their best to blaspheme God or those people that believe that all Republicans are racists.  Always with love.  Love your fellow man.  Love your neighbor.  Especially those that seem to deserve it the least.  God loved the least of us, so should we.  So when you're speaking the truth, remember that love and temper your message accordingly.  This isn't to say you need to be soft spoken and walk on egg shells.  That's not speaking with love.  It means keeping in mind that you love the person(s) you're speaking to.  Doing so will shape your words and actions in a way that will convey to the other person that you're speaking this message out of love for them, not hatred or the previously mentioned condemnation.

Day in and day out, this is one of the most powerful things Christians can do with extending His kingdom.  But this can also be done in the political ring as well.  And it needs to be done.  Speaking the truth, over and over and over and over and over and over again until you're tired of saying it, then say it some more.  The moment we be quiet for fear of upsetting someone else, is the moment we've lost.  If you truly believe in something, never be afraid to repeat it endlessly despite what others might say.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Now is the perfect time for you, yes you, to run for public office...

Today's political landscape can be pretty craggy and treacherous.  There's a heightened sense of extreme politics, whether real or imagined, and hyper partisanship that not only adds plenty of hostility, but also creates a very attractive looking "middle ground" which ends up not being as much of a middle ground as it is which side did the best in prettying up their own views.  So you have the craggy hyper partisanship and a very deceptive, but still quite dangerous, "middle ground".

When an average, every day citizen takes a look at this landscape, there's a good chance they'll get disgusted with it and wish they could change it, but ultimately feel like that it's not something they can accomplish.  Perhaps they think they're not polished enough.  They're not good with speaking to people.  They're not smart enough.  Don't have the right education.  They're not a lawyer.  They've never ran for office.  Pretty much, they're not what the politicians they see on TV today.  

But you know what?  That's a good thing.  Why?  Simply put, it's because we do not need more of the same.  See that disgusting political landscape?  Know how it got that way?  It's because we stopped electing people of principle and instead started electing the people that said exactly what we wanted to hear. What has happened?  As King Solomon has said, we should look well into the matter.  What does that mean, exactly?  Simply put, before making any major decisions (such as voting), we should do our homework.  We should look well into the matter.

 And honestly, we have not.  Though while the blame should squarely fall on our shoulders, there are other factors to consider.  For example, the media has been our source for information for just about everything, particularly politics.  Yet, when the media pushes one agenda heavily over another (hint: it's not conservatism) and attempts to pass it off objectively, it makes it more difficult for the average person, so used to relying on the media for their information, to look well into the matter.  It also does not help that our entertainment is so ubiquitously saturated with that same agenda, that it's very easy for someone to succumb to that 1-2 punch.  Basically, when then there's deliberate obfuscation and slanting of what's been regarded as an "objective" source, that means in order to look well into the matter, it takes more than just turning on 60 minutes or basing your opinion solely on one article written in the Huffington Post or Breitbart.  And as a majority, Americans have not.  So because we have not looked well into the matter of our politicians, we've allowed ourselves to  be deceived by smooth talking serpents that are good at telling you what you want to hear.

However, I believe that's turning around.  Whether they know or not, people are crying out to have someone with courage and principle to follow.  They're sick and tired of having the same spineless schmooze weasels continually back down and compromise their supposed beliefs while simultaneously spending most of their energy trying to mitigate the political damage their own spinelessness has wrought.  They tired of people telling them what they want to hear only to turn around and not stand for what they said they did.  They're tired of politicians more worried about securing votes for re-election than they are about doing their job.  People want someone with common sense and down to earth principles.  And I'll have to say, many will probably like someone that isn't a polished, smooth talker.  

If you want an example of this, just look at Ted Cruz.  While there are plenty that dislike this man, particularly Democrats and liberal Republicans, one thing you can say with certainty about him is that he stands on principle.  He's doing exactly what he was elected to do:
  • Stand up to the ever encroaching power of the federal government
  • Stand up for the Constitution
  • Stand up for conservative principles
I've heard plenty of like minded conservatives say: "Now if we can only clone Ted Cruz 30 or so times".  What I say to that is, instead of just wanting more Ted Cruzes, that normal people rise to the electoral challenge.  

If there's any a time for a return to "normalcy", it's when the political landscape is so polar like this.  Now when I say normalcy, I don't mean the politically correct palate of the "moderate" candidate as these types are part of the current problem.  They exploit the heightened sense of hyper partisanship and make themselves look like the voice of reason.  However, all they have are slick words to obfuscate their own personal, non constituent driven agenda which seems to be to just get elected, then do as little as possible to keep getting re-elected.  In other words, these moderates only want the job itself instead of using the job to fulfill a principle driven agenda.

No, the normalcy I'm talking about is the return to the common sense, integrity, and decency that's founded on a firm belief in their own principles.  True believers.  This is what every day folks want: every day folks representing their values in the federal government.  The demand is so visceral that you'll see it arise in forms of PACs and other political bodies just dying to have someone of principle to stand behind.  And you know, when one arises, the people will know.  It's similar to the difference between a real man and a beta male trying to act like a real man.  It's something you can just instinctively tell.  People will know a real candidate when they see it.  Whether they agree with their views is another thing, but they'll at least know.

And where are we going to get real candidates?  The answer is simple:  from anywhere, particularly outside of the Beltway.  From every day people that work hard.  Maybe they're business owners, or doctors, but not necessarily so.  They could be the construction foreman fed up with new regulations.  They could be the office worker seeing his insurance premiums continually rise.  It could be the little old lady seeing her benefits gutted or the retired army veteran sick of watching America go down the tubes.  People that weren't necessarily heavily indoctrinated with far left ideals from a university.  And most importantly, people of God.
What? Religion has no place in politics?!  I beg to differ.  Religion and politics go hand in hand.  If they didn't, why is it those two specific topics that are always considered taboo topics at casual social gatherings? It's because you really can't talk about one without eventually talking about the other.  Politics is an extension of religion (yes, even atheists and agnostics and those silly Christians that scoff at all religion .. they each still have a religion).    And as servants of God, our political views should be based on our biblically founded religious principles.  A servant of God, full of grace, humility, and faith would be a powerful symbol of what it truly means to be a representative in this country.

And while most of our career politicians are highly polished and do their best to hide anything bad, I see a good person who not only is flawed, but isn't afraid to admit their flaws as being someone people can truly relate to.  No one is perfect and it'd be refreshing to have someone that admits to the mistakes of their past and doesn't profess to have all the answers, but knows where they stand on principle.

Don't be fooled into believing you need to be a lawyer or a doctor to get into politics.  Anyone can.  And if there's ever a time we need more down to earth, God loving, folk in Congress and state legislatures, it's now.



Saturday, August 31, 2013

Apologies, Forgiveness, and the Art of Conflict

Disclaimer:  The below are my opinions.  I don't claim to be a relationship "expert" by any means.  These are my suggestions based on my observations.  And while I'm fully aware that I'm flawed and my conclusions may also be flawed, I am confident enough in their foundations that I feel I can share them without giving terrible advice.

The messy business of social interaction

Now with that out of the way, let's get right into it.  Social interactions can be pretty complex.  While we're all blessed with an intuitive "feel" for them (to varying degrees), if you were to look at all the factors that go into even a simple argument about what to watch on TV, you'd find a signification number of factors, such as:

  • watching preferences
  • recently watched content
  • current mood 
  • current disposition toward the other person
  • who chose last
  • who chose the last X times over the last few weeks
  • previous arguments over what to watch
  • the proposed content to watch
  • the day of the week
  • the time
Now take all those factors and realize that many of those have pairs representing the factor's value for either side such as your current mood and their current mood.  And even some of those factors have their factors.  For instance, previous arguments over what to watch will have factors such as perception of the argument and what they remember about those arguments. 

It's all about perspective

Simply put, due to a combination of feeling intuitive and having a lot of impacting factors, it's very easy for people to misunderstand the other person.  For example, someone may think they know all the factors influencing someone's words or behavior, but in fact could be way off because there's factors they aren't even aware of or hadn't considered.  

A good example of this is some school bullies.  I'd say most aren't liked alot at school.  They can be mean spirited and act like the most vile person on the face of the earth.  So other children, particularly the ones the bully is picking on, believes the bully deserves full retribution since not only do they have no redeeming qualities, they are just despicable human beings.  Yet, what they might not see is that this bully's home life is magnitudes worse.   They could be getting abused at home and/or their family could be thoroughly dysfunctional.  Of course not all bullies are victims like that and in any case these factors definitely do not justify their reprehensible behavior.

However, if other children knew the situation at home, they might not consider this person to be the worst person imaginable.  Heck, they might even try to help the bully out.  The point is there were factors they didn't consider when they originally determined this bully is the scum of the earth and fully deserving of the worst types of punishment.  

So when it comes to forgiveness, apologies, and the art of conflict it's important to note that many of the disconnects in these areas come from a lack of perspective.  Again, lack of perspective by one party doesn't necessarily justify poor behavior by the other.  However it can impact the quality and the resolution of these three key areas of social interaction.

Why these three?  Because conflict, and its two primary reactions apology and forgiveness, generate the most drama, strife and misunderstandings.  So I feel they're the most important.  We'll work our way backwards through these, starting off with the reactions apology and forgiveness, then get to the art of conflict.

We all need forgiveness

Forgiveness is easily the most talked about of the three and rightfully so since it's the most powerful.  The power of grace fueled forgiveness shouldn't be underestimated.  Funny thing is, forgiveness is also the hardest to do out of the three.  I mean what's more grating? Getting into an argument, having to apologize for a perceived wrong doing, or forgiving someone of wrong done against you - even when they don't even think they did anything wrong and won't apologize?  It's definitely the last for me.  As 10th Avenue North sings, "Father, give me grace to forgive them because I feel like the one that's losing".  I for one don't like feeling weak by allowing someone to "get away" with doing wrong things against me.  

Why is forgiveness, true forgiveness, so powerful?  Because holding grudges and resentment is absolutely toxic to a soul.  It doesn't even matter how "right" someone may be in the situation.  Holding long term negative feelings like this will poison a person and can lead them to become a decrepit, jaded individual who's no better than the person they've resented.  

So while you may feel like you're losing by "letting go" and letting them get away with it, particularly with an unrepentant person, you're missing a couple important pieces.  First, it's really not your position to pay anyone in kind for the wrong doings they've committed against you.  That's God's job.  And second, just because you aren't the one "getting back" at them, doesn't mean they're "getting away" with it.  Remember that whole part about not knowing all the factors?  Consider that God is always working in their lives, so He may be doing something with them that you can't even see.  So from that perspective, no one truly gets away with anything.

It's important to note this because when it comes to forgiveness, people may end up practicing Fauxgiveness instead.  Fauxgiveness simply means you indicate that you forgive them, out loud or even to yourself privately, but deep down you still harbor resentment toward them or that you've "forgiven them as far as you'll ever forgive them"..aka a partial forgiveness.  You've never truly forgiven them of their transgressions.   I cannot stress enough how this is even worse than simply refusing to forgive altogether.  The danger with fauxgiveness is that you claim to have forgiven, all the while that resentment and grudge continues to poison your soul and you may not even realize it since you feel that you've done "enough" forgiving.

I'll say this as plain as possible:  Forgiveness needs to be complete and unconditional.  Anything less than that and you risk poisoning your own soul by holding on that resentment.  

Now there's one aspect I want to talk about when it comes to forgiveness.  It's important to understand that while you're supposed to completely and unconditionally forgive them, it does not mean you have to be a perpetual victim of someone's abhorrent behavior.  You can forgive someone of their wrong doing, but that does not mean you have to let them do the same thing to you again in the future.  You can forgive, but also take measures to prevent the behavior from happening again.  Like if you loan a friend some money and they don't pay it back.  You can forgive them of their debt, but that doesn't mean you have to lend them money again (Now if you did, that would be an additional extension of grace on your part that goes beyond the act of forgiveness).  God has given us the ability to learn from our past experiences, which would include situations where someone did something bad to us.   

I also want to bring up "forgive and forget".  Someone might take the idea to mean that you forgive the offense, forget about it, allowing you to once again get taken advantage of again in the future since you've forgotten it.  That's not the forget they're talking about.  The forget, in this case, refers to not using the incident as "ammunition" for blame later on.  To not dwell on the incident.  What it does't mean is to wipe your memory of this person's wrong doing.  So when your friend asks for money again, promising this time to pay it back, it's ok to allow his precedent of not being trustworthy in satisfying his debt obligations toward you to impact your decision.

So I guess to sum it up, when it comes to forgiveness, it needs to be absolute and unconditional.  No strings attached.  No using it as ammunition for blame in the future.  You can use the incident to help guide you in the future, but it shouldn't be dwelled upon, particularly in a negative light.

Oh and one more thing.  You should never expect forgiveness from another.  While yes, that person should indeed forgive, you as the potential forgivee are in no position to demand forgiveness.  Even more, you should not hold resentment against someone that refuses to forgive you.  Instead, there should be sincere sympathy for the person that's struggling to let go of your wrong doing.  Grace can be asked for, but it can never be demanded nor expected.

Repentance - the only real Apology

On the flip side of wrong doing, you have the perpetrator of the wrong deed.  And like forgiveness, repentance, the turning away from wrong doings, is pretty powerful.  And like unforgiveness, the lack of repentance, is a self harming act.  On top of that, however, repentance has an additional, but very important, caveat.  This caveat is you must be truly repentant of all your sins before entering Heaven.  Therefore, if you're unrepentant of your sins, you will not get into Heaven.  That's a hard pill to swallow, isn't it?  But that's what it means to "truly confess" your sins to the Lord.  You're supposed to not only recognize your evil deeds, but turn away from them as well.

That's one reason why repentance is so important: your soul's eternity is at stake.  Yet, when it comes to social interactions and repentance I'm not trying to say you'll burn in hell if you don't repent.  I'm just pointing out there's a lot of emphasis and value placed on true apologies, aka repentance, in the Bible.  So while forgiveness is the ultimate expression of grace, repentance is the ultimate expression of humility and submission, two things that are important in a godly life.  

As with forgiveness, apologies have their own brand of "fakeness" or fauxpologies.  And just how partial forgiveness can be worse for a person than not forgiving at all, fauxpologies are often worse than if the person refused to sincerely apologize in the first place.  Because a fauxpology typically has two nasty components embedded into it:  
  • The person doesn't really have any interest in truly apologizing
  • The person demonstrates they really don't care for the other person's feelings on the matter.  
Fauxpologies are often used as a way to escape an uncomfortable conversation one is having with someone else who's bringing up an issue they have with them.  Has this ever happened to you?  You bring up an issue you find important with someone and their response is, "I'm sorry you feel that way".  This fauxpology in turn makes you more upset and so when you continue they say something like "What do you want from me!? I apologized ok?!".   But the problem is, they didn't really.  They just wanted you to shut up already.  

An apology, in my opinion, should only be offered when one really is sorry for what they've done and they truly believe that in their heart.  And not because they're being called out, but they must truly believe that what they did is wrong.  If they don't, then don't insult the person with a fauxpology.  People can usually tell when someone is being disingenuous towards them in an apology.  

Of course, much like how one should never demand or expect forgiveness, one should never demand or expect an apology.  For starters, you can't control how someone feels.  If you've plead your case in hopes that they will see it from your perspective and they still refuse, that's as far as you should go.  If you demand an apology, chances are you're going to get a fauxpology.  Remember:  people are prideful and stubborn.  And the last thing many folks will do is openly admit they're wrong.  You'd have better luck knocking over a brick wall by screaming at it.  One thing also to keep in mind is that even if someone does not immediately, or ever, apologize, it does not necessarily mean they're not taking what you said to heart.  Like I said, some people are just too proud to fully submit in their wrong doings.  And while that is a problem, it's not really your problem.  That's between them and the Lord.  However, I recommend paying attention to their actions and you might see a positive change in their behavior that reflects the grievance you had with them.  And while that's not an open expression of repentance, you can get some comfort realizing that your feelings and thoughts were indeed considered genuinely.

Now, there is one aspect of apologies that requires a bit more granulation.  Often times when someone perceives a wrong doing by someone else, there's usually an explanation for the wrong doing.  Not necessarily a justification, but as mentioned before, there's bound to be factors unseen from the person accusing someone of wrong that may need to be expressed.  Or, there's also the case where you may genuinely sorry for part of something you did, but not all of it.  For example, let's say you're objecting to something your friend says to you.  It, in fact, makes you a little angry.  So you object, respectfully at first.  Maybe your tone gets a little heated, but you're in control.  But your friend makes a very snide, demeaning comment about your objection, so you in turn start shouting loudly and call them some terrible names that ends up hurting them.

Let's not get into who's right or who's wrong in this scenario as it's not relevant to the point.  We're looking at your reaction.  It's important to first make sure you apologize for exactly what you're sorry about, which in this case would be calling your friend a name and losing control by shouting loudly.  You do not, however, feel you should apologize for all of your actions, such as  your initial objections because you believe them to be valid and deserve to be addressed maturely.  It's very important to separate what you're sorry for and what you're not.  The problem here is how you handle your apology particularly if you still feel the need to discuss your original issue.  If you apolozie first and then tack on your issue right after, your apology may come off as a fauxpology since you went into nagging at the person right after you apologized.  It's better to apologize first, wait for a response, and then add on something like "I still would like to talk about my original issue".  So here's a short list of things not to do in a sincere apology:
  • As mentioned, if you still have some valid grievance to discuss, do not immediately go into it after apologizing.  Give the person a chance to respond first.
  • If your wrong doing was a result of poor handling on your part based on something wrong they did to you, do not immediately begin explaining why you did what you did.  This will look like justification for your wrong doing (even if you say that's not what you're trying to do).  Instead, start with the apology, indicate how you did not like that particular thing they did followed by indicating that it's no excuse for your own bad reaction and once again reiterate that you're sorry.  
  • Your apology should never blame the action your apologizing for on the other person.  An example of this would be "I'm sorry I hit you, but you were pissing me off!"
  • You should never apologize for someone else's perception aka "I'm sorry you feel that way" or "I'm sorry you think I'm being mean".  By doing so, not only are you not apologizing for your behavior, you're actually apologizing for theirs instead.
  • Never apologize with hyberbole (aka exaggerating the other person's grievances to extremes).  It comes off as an accusation against the other person.  For example if someone brings up a grievance about you making a snide, hurtful comment and your response is, "I'm sorry I'm just a big screw up!" or "I'm sorry I can't be as perfect as you!", you're essentially putting extreme accusations in the other person's mouth, which is a roundabout way of accusing them of being extreme.  It's not sincere and will be seen as a fauxpology.
As you can see, I'm spending a little more time on fauxpologies just because they're quite common these days.  But let me reiterate that this type of apology is destructive behavior.  It pulls apart rather than stitches back together.  And while someone should never withhold forgiveness even in the face of a fauxpology, that doesn't mean that the fauxpology itself won't leave lasting damage.  It's one thing to be unrepentant.  It's another to be unrepentant and tell the other person how much you don't value their feelings and opinions.  That's a killer.

As for advice for those on the receiving end of a fauxpology, this is a hard one for me because getting infuriated over it will not do any good.  Once you've received the fauxpology, that's typically all you're going to get.  Any further dialog, especially about the fauxpology itself, is usually pointless.  On the other side though, it'd be remiss if you simply accept it since that sends a signal that you're fine with receiving fauxpologies (which I believe no one should be ok with it).   I think there's a decent middle ground where you receive the fauxpology, but you don't get mad.  Instead, you realize there's not much else you can do, so express your disappointment with their choice in offering an insincere apologgy, but indicate that you'll leave it at that.  That way, you're able to tell them that you're not buying it even if you give them what they usually want out of a fauxpology: to be left alone (or least for you to stop pestering them).  

The Art of Conflict - steering toward remedy instead of destruction

You can consider the art of conflict a dance through a minefield where one wrong move can blow everything up in your face.  It's not necessarily about stepping lightly since even the lightest steps can cause a mine to blow.  It's more about stepping confidently along the inbetween spaces that allow you to get your points across, genuinely listen to the other person, offer an apology and grant forgiveness (privately in some cases).  Below are some points I try to keep in mind when getting into a social conflict.  I'm far from perfect in following these, but they are things I keep in mind and want to follow as much as I can.
  • No name calling.  It doesn't matter if the other person is indeed acting totally insane, calling them a crazy ****** is still not good.  First, it's wrong to do it and second, it will genuinely shut down everything following it as the conversation has suddenly changed from the actual grieving to you being a jerk for calling them a name.  
  • No swearing.  I don't know about you, but whenever I do swear in an argument, I can feel myself losing control bit by bit.  Swearing during moments of intense emotion has a habit of letting that emotion run wild.  On top of that, it as well takes focus off of the issue at hand as now the issue is your swearing.
  • No physical violence.  This one's a no brainer.  No amount of frustration or anger is ever enough to justify physical violence directed at a person or even in a person's vicinity.  Even if you don't harm someone directly, if you're smashing things around them it will send them the signal that you can't control yourself when you're angry.  And they'll start to question whether or not you'll direct that anger towards them next time.
  • No screaming.  This one needs clarification.  Raising your voice is part of arguing, in my opinion, but screaming at the top of your lungs can have the same effect that swearing does - it can loosen your control.  
  • Never lose conrol.  Obvious one.  Once you've lost control of yourself, you've lost any chance of remedying the situation.  Stay in control.  You can still be in control when you're angry.  You can still be in control when you raise your voice, but if you go over the line and are in a blind flurry of raw emotional venting, there's nothing you can do immediately afterward to fix the problem.  And usually, the only chance you have is a sincere apology on your part.
  • Disagree, but do not mock.  You're bound to have disagreements with someone whose opinion doesn't seem very well thought out or you have a tough time fathoming how they could come to such an ill gotten conclusion.  It's very easy in those times to don an air superiority and show how dumb their opinion is.  Don't do it.  Much like calling someone a name, this can shut down the conversation. Insinuating someone is stupid because of an opinion you find stupid will only build resentment toward you.  They're not going to listen to anything else and instead will most likely look for ways to in turn make you feel stupid.  Instead, find ways to respectfully disagree with their opinion by explaining your side of the disagreement.  If you find flaws in their opinion that you feel you must address, ask a question regarding that flaw that gives them the opportunity to explain.  In a number of cases, you may find out that they have a reasonable answer to a glaring flaw you hadn't considered.
  • Never say "you're wrong".  Again this is another of those things that will just turn the other person.  They state something that you find to be wrong, or wrong thinking, and you tell them flat out that it's wrong and wrong thinking.  Just bypass saying the words and move right into your counter argument, respectfully of course.  There are several less abrasive phrases that can be used to lead into your response.  Use those instead.  "You're wrong" just has too much finality to allow further conversation growth. 
  • Do not seek a "win".  Going on until the other person admits defeat usually doesn't end up that way.  If you're someone that requires someone else to admit their guilt, admit you're right, or what not you've probably been continuously disappointed in the past when someone absolutely refuses to admit you're right, or they're wrong, even when there's overwhelming evidence proving your side.  Remember, people are prideful, insecure, and stubborn.  Get your point across as best as you can, but expect nothing more than them listening.
  • Articulate, but don't lecture.  This one's a tough one for me.  I like to be articulate, but when I explain things, I feel my tone can sound like some teacher trying to explain something new to their students.  No one likes being lectured.  So if your explanations are taking too long because they're too detailed, you might consider breaking them apart or condensing them to something more amiably consumable by the other person.  
  • Remember the goal.  Above all else, remember the goal in the conflict.  To resolve it.  And you can't resolve anything if the other person is no longer receptive toward you.  Of course, you don't want to be a weakling walking on egg shells too afraid to take any steps.   But you also don't want to be someone that is more concerned with "scoring points" or "winning" than they are actually healing the rift.  
Anyway, this is a super long post that I probably should have divided up into three pieces.  Yet, I think having them together like this ties it altogether.  There's an art to forgiveness, apologies, and conflict.  And treating them like an art you strive to perfect is a goal Jesus wants us to undertake.  So to sum it up in three short phrases:

Forgiveness must be absolute and unconditional.  Apologies must be truly sincere.  And you should always seek real resolution to conflict.  I hope this helps you as much as it does me.  God Bless.









Friday, June 21, 2013

Weighing in on Edward Snowden and the NSA Snooping Scandal

Edward Snowden - NSA Leaker
While there are plenty of issues the Obama administration now faces, such as...

  • The IRS targeting conservative groups for intrusive and horrid scrutiny
  • The IRS leaking private documents to a conservative group's ideological foe
  • The DOJ gathering a wide swath of the AP's phone records
  • Considering James Rosen a criminal for doing his job as a reporter
  • Benghazi
  • Fast and Furious
  • Arming al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria
...I'm going to talk about the NSA snooping scandal and Edward Snowden today.  The others I might touch on in the future, but this article should lead into a more generalized article later on about why the latest concerns are not mere politicizing as liberals like to believe and tout.  

The scandal in a nutshell
So what is the NSA snooping scandal exactly?  If you haven't been following a news source covering the issue, here's a brief run down:  The government is running a program called PRISM which is collecting phone metadata (like the number called, where both parties are, and how long the call is - but not the actual content of the calls) along with other internet data such as emails, photos, videos, stored personal data, etc. all in the name of national security.  This program was unbeknownst to the public until Edward Snowden, a contractor for the NSA, went to the press with this information.  Ever since, the reactions of politicians and the punditry has been quite a unique mix.  Because unlike the other scandals listed above, this one cuts across party lines because of its inception during the Bush administration and its continuation during the Obama administration.  

Edward Snowden - Hero or Villain?
The reception to Edward Snowden has also been a quite thorough mix where simply labelling him a hero or villain is just too simple.  It's easy to think of him as both...

As a hero, he brought to light a clandestine program that has a huge potential for abuse.  This is something the American people needed to know about.  Maybe not in so much detail, but the fact that my emails and my phone calls are probably stored in some big data warehouse doesn't sit very well with me.  And while I'm a law abiding citizen and have nothing to hide, the information sitting there sounds like government overreach just waiting to happen (more on this below).  So for that I thank him.  

As a villian, I believe he want about this the wrong way.  There are whistleblower mechanisms in place that protect those that divulge information without causing any harm to our national security efforts.  Because yes, making public the information about prism makes our enemies aware of how we're going after them.  And if they know how we go after them, they'll find other ways around it.  It's like if you knew your house was being bugged, you wouldn't talk openly about anything you wouldn't want other people to know.  Instead, you might turn up the music loud and/or write down what you wanted to say to those in the house with you.  In this respect, he hurt our national security interests by being so reckless with his revelations.  

Furthermore, I have to question his character for a few reasons.  For starters, instead of courageously standing up for what he believed in, and thus going to jail in the process, he fled .... to China of all places.  I'm a firm believer that if you make a principled stand against the law, that you should be prepared for the legal repercussions of breaking that law.  What Rosa Parks did took courage because she defiantly did not give up her seat though law said she had to.  By running, it's indicative that Snowden thinks he shouldn't go to jail for breaking the law (even though he had legal channels he could have gone through).  It does not matter if he "only trusts the press", he broke the law and shouldn't be trying to evade capture.  And the fact he went to China (well Hong Kong first) casts aspersions on his character by going to one of our biggest global opponents.

Secondly, considering that he considers Dick Cheney calling him a traitor the "highest honor imaginable", it makes me believe he's one that harbors the ridiculous liberal notion that America is an evil empire and/or that republicans are evil.  If he had this type of self hating mentality going into work for the NSA, then it seems to me he was predisposed to take virtually anything he found to be evil and run with it without even bothering to understand its full impact or any of the checks and balances in places. So because America is evil, in his eyes, and he happened to find something on the surface that appeared to fit this view, he just had to go "YOU SEE? AMERICA IS EVIL!!! LOOK WHAT I FOUND!!!"  

So while yeah, what he blew the whistle on is important for us to know, but his motives for doing so fall well outside the realm of heroics and more in the realm of anti-American leftist willing to sell his country out.

Should Snowden go to jail?  Absolutely.  He broke the law.  Plain and simple.  One shouldn't be absolved of wrong doing simply because they "did it for a good cause" (which you can see to me is suspect anyway).  And one definitely shouldn't feel entitled to immunity because they feel justified.  This is how leftists think.  They will willingly break laws and expect not to be prosecuted because they felt fully justified in their actions.  What's funny is this is how a lot of criminals think too.  Take for example the car thief that steals a car that was unlocked.  Their justification:  "Well you shouldn't have left it unlocked!" Like it's somehow the car owner's fault that they were inclined to take a car that wasn't theirs.  Dumb to leave it unlocked, perhaps, but not their fault.  

What this means to the rest of us
Now, onto the bigger picture with what we've been told about PRISM.   For me, it isn't the capability of getting this information that's troublesome.  It's the current mechanism, and its oversight scheme, that bothers me.  

To begin with, storing all this data in some massive warehouse that the government can tap when it needs to is just too big of a temptation.  You see, access to this data is not technologically blocked.  It's only blocked by rules and regulations.  So what that means is that if someone wanted to 'spy' on someone whenever they wanted to, they could.  It'd be illegal, yes.  But there's allegedly nothing stopping them nor is there enough technical oversight to catch this illegal access.  In short, it'd be like having all of a bank's deposits kept in your closet and you're told you can't withdraw any of that cash unless you get written permission from the bank's board of directors.  But, the door is unlocked and there's no cameras watching it.  In other words, there's nothing really stopping you from not only taking some cash, but also getting caught.  The temptation to just take some cash when you feel you need it is pretty high.  And if the risk of getting caught is pretty low, then why not, right?

So while for expedience's sake having this data on hand may be great, the supposedly easy access to "get what you need" combined with poor preventative safeguards makes it too great a temptation.  In addition, if we have all this information stored somewhere, what's to say someone from China or Anonymous can't figure how to get in as well?  

In addition to the mass storage, you have the current "safeguard" oversight mechanisms.  The fact these appear to merely bureaucratic machinations via court, as mentioned above, means that not only could someone easily just ignore the rules and get the data they want, but that this safeguard is prone to corruption since I doubt there's any oversight on the oversight safeguard.  So even if someone "went by the rules" to get the data, we're not guaranteed that those reviewing the request are going to give it the proper 4th amendment litmus test it deserves.  

But we should trust this court to be impartial and uphold citizen rights, right?  Well here's a nice little fact for you:  the court overseeing access to this program has not denied a single request to this data in 3 years.  That's right, 100% approval rating.  Now that in and of itself isn't necessarily bad if it means that only the best cases get brought to the court for approval.  Maybe the DOJ, or whomever, doesn't bring cases that are shaky. 

But this is where all the other scandals come into play.  When we have the IRS unconstitutionally and illegally targeting groups that just so happen to be ideological opponents to the president.  When we have the DOJ going after a journalist that just so happens to be a part of the only right leaning news network on television.  When we have the DOJ gather enormous swaths of AP phone records in a very liberal, dragnet fashion.  When we have an Attorney General that stonewalls and lies to Congress.  When we have partisan judges sitting on various benches, including the Supreme Court, that will place their personal subject partisan view over the mandated objective review.  When we have IRS officials not taking the conservative scrutiny seriously, what's to say they won't abuse (if they haven't already) PRISM to their political advantage? (Tinfoil Hat moment:  The 2012 Obama re-election campaign was touted to be the most technologically sophisticated in targeting individual voters to get to the polls......I wonder where they were able to gather all that personal information....)  

This is particularly why the founding fathers chose to restrict government in a conservative sense.  It wasn't that they doubted their own hearts or intentions.  It was because they knew that it was quite possible for men of lesser integrity to get elected.  Men that would be tempted to abuse the power at their finger tips for their own purposes.  That's why in these situations, they erred on the side of citizen rights than on the side of government with good intentions.  

This data PRISM is gathering should NOT be stored.  If it's needed, the original source should be requisitioned only at the time there's probable cause.  In addition, there should be accountability built in to those that make the decisions to approve getting this information.   If a judge rubber stamps an unconstitutional information grab, they should lose their job.  If the judge rules that the request clearly violates  the constitution, then those requesting should be held accountable for not keeping their case at the highest possible standards.  

Obama is right in saying that if we can't trust the government to do the right thing, then we have a problem.  The problem is the government's crumbling credibility, in all branches, with an executive branch that seems more interested in admonishing those seeking the truth than it is at restoring credibility.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

EHK: Not keeping quiet about God

One of the things that seems so ubiquitous today that it took God speaking to me to realize how far Satan
has influenced our lives is how taboo it's become not to talk about God.  Think about it:  what are the two topics that you're not supposed to discuss at social gatherings, public, or at work?  That's right: religion and politics.  Also think about this:  does this social norm of not talking about God ipretty much everywhere except church bother you?  If it doesn't, why not?

Chances are because that's how society has been for decades.  We've been conditioned to believe that talking about God openly is offensive to other people, particularly those that don't believe in Him.  And as we're all well aware of, we live in a society where we avoid saying things that someone might find offensive. But this still shouldn't bother us, right?  We should just let our deeds do the talking, right?  And while yes, this is true that we should live our life to server as testimony to others, this does not indicate that we should not talk about God.  Because while deeds are great and can be far more valuable that words, this does not mean that words are worthless.

Because if words were worthless, we wouldn't have the Bible.  Jesus, in combination with his deeds, used parables and wise words that led many to believe in Him.  Why shouldn't we strive to do the same?  All of us should strive to be like Jesus.  Now we shouldn't believe we are like Jesus in His divinity, but we should be always working toward that perfection.  And part of that perfection was speaking of God and his wonders and glories.

It should bother every Christian that the world doesn't want us talking about God.

God uses words through us to touch people's lives.  God uses words through His church to bless, encourage, strengthen, and renew His children.  Again, if God uses words in His church to help His children, should we not use these words as well to extend His Kingdom?

Words, when used with His guidance, can be very powerful.  Combine these words with deeds to match and you have a very convincing, very potent message to those who do not believe or are unwittingly seeking Him.  So words, speaking about God, is just as vital to extending His Kingdom as is walking the walk.

Now this isn't to say we should walk around beating people over the head with the Bible at every opportunity we get to talk to someone.  Instead, our every day conversations should naturally yield opportunities to plug God in some fashion.   For example, when it was time for my mom to move out of her house, we had an enormous amount of help from people at church.  And so when I'd talk about the move with other people, either at work or wherever, I would make a casual note that we had a lot of people from the church come by to help.  Other opportunities may present themselves, such as when someone asks your opinion on something or even something as facetious as someone asking "How do you make it through the day without wanting to kill someone??"  The answer:  "Well, I do want to strangle people, but I ask God to bring a grace over me that brings me back down to earth and calms me down."

One reason why Bible thumping isn't the way to go is because directly quoting scripture, while sounding impressive (particularly if you quote the King James version), lacks that personal connection with whom you're talking to.  While I think it's important for Christians to know these verses and what the Bible tells them to do, what a non believer needs to see is how a Christian is applying what they've learned in the Bible to their lives.  And relating that comes from being a witness of God's work in your own life which you do through natural language.

Let's put it this way.  The Bible is God's instruction manual for His followers.  For people that have come willingly to Him and want to live a life according to His will.  The two key words there are followers and willingly.  A non believer is not a follower nor have they come to Him willingly.  Our part in extending His Kingdom is to live a Godly life and witness to them so they are enticed to come willingly.  And once they've come willingly, then we hand them the instruction manual.  But until then, reading from the instruction manual to someone who isn't interested in coming willingly isn't going to get anywhere.  In fact, it might even turn off a non believer.

So, by not being quiet about God, I'm talking about not suppressing our opportunities to witness because our politically correct environment frowns upon it.  We should not let the world dictate when it's ok to talk about God.  For starters, God is greater than the world, so why should we allow the world to bind our witnessing?  Second, this political correctness push is nothing more than Satan at work.  You notice how many of the pc world's taboo subjects pertain to morality and God?  This isn't a coincidence.  If we keep quiet about God, we're crippling ourselves in extending His Kingdom - something Satan wants.  He wants to take as many souls to hell with him as he can, so retarding the growth of God's Kingdom is something he's very interested in pursuing.   And this can take different forms.  Over in the middle east, Islamic theocracies literally kill Christians for "undermining Islam".  In war torn Africa, there are "ethnic cleansings" which will kill certain sects of Christianity.   And in the United States, we have atheism and political correctness continually pushing God out of our lives out of fear that we'll offend someone.  And every time we tacitly accept that talking about God in public, or at work, etc. is taboo, we give them authority over us.

As a Christian, this should be unacceptable.  So the next time you sense an opportunity to witness, ask God for courage and let Him use you as a witness to extend His Kingdom.  We definitely can't do this alone, but what we can do is at least recognize the way the Enemy is moving and how we shouldn't just accept the rules of a ungodly world.



Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why the AP snooping might be the worst mistake the Obama administration had made...

These last two weeks has brought some startling news about some things our federal government has been up to.  First, we get shocking new testimony from some brave Benghazi whistleblowers that mentioned that there not one, but two, orders to military support personnel to stand down and that the Obama administration knew this was a terrorist attack the same night the attacks were occurring.  If you seem to recall, the administration tried to blame the attacks on a spontaneous outrage to some Youtube video.  In other words, they were lying to the American people.

Second, we receive a surprising admission that the IRS has been targeting conservative minded groups with increased scrutiny the past few years.  This alone is quite frightening to think about.  Keep in mind while the scrutiny itself isn't the problem, it's the fact that they targeted specific political groups that just so happened to oppose the Obama administration's liberal ideology.  Liberal groups were not put to the same level of scrutiny.  People in the past having jokingly pointed out the irony of power within the hands of the desk job pencil pushing taxman (IRS).  But people aren't laughing now as they're realizing how much power the IRS really does have.  If there's one organization that has the power to destroy anyone in this country without considerable amount of effort and risk, it's the IRS.

Now, while both of these are indeed alarming, it's actually the least alarming action that could turn out to be the biggest mistake the Obama administration has made.  This week, we've also learned the Department of Justice confiscated huge amounts of the Associated Press' (AP) phone records.  While the claim is that it was done in the interest of national security to find a leak, the problem is that it's so widespread and blanket that it's hard to believe this is what would be done when investigating a security leak and starts to wander into territory that smacks of intimidation.

However, all of that is besides the point.  Because what matters is that the AP feels betrayed.  As I've pointed out previously, the media has a great deal of power.  They are the major player in the 4th branch of government and have the power to shape government policy by holding the government accountable to their actions by bringing stories to the attention of the American people.  For the past 5 years, the media has been fawning over the Obama administration and willfully believed it could do no wrong.  Most media outlets downplayed scandal after scandal, mistake after mistake in an effort to shield this president from genuine criticism.  It's the media's narrative that has wrongfully labeled Tea Partiers as crazy racists.  It's the media that downplayed Fast & Furious and Benghazi.  With a complicit media, the Obama administration wasn't being held accountable to the level that it should have been - levels that are almost always placed upon Republican administrations (and rightfully so).  However, the AP phone records is turning the tables.  With the AP feeling betrayed, you can bet that the rest of the media are paying very close attention and are waking up to the fact that perhaps being the Obama administration isn't the friends they thought they were.  Whether the actions were legitimate security procedure or not, now that the AP feels like it's been betrayed, this administration is losing its media shield as mainstream organizations appear to start asking tougher questions that conservative outlets and pundits have been relentlessly talking about for years.

If the media continues to do its job properly, such as holding the Obama administration's feet to the fire, then Obama and his cohorts will find it very difficult to gain any political ground.  On top of that, their relentless campaigning will start to turn sour as it will start to look like someone whining about having to be held accountable for their decisions.  Turning on the AP, whether truly malicious or not, is making the press turn, which will open more American eyes to the problems the Tea Party and conservatives have been talking about for years.  I pray this continues because every administration should be held accountable for their misdeeds and a complicit media, no matter which type of administration is in office, is a truly scarey, Orwellian idea.

Monday, April 22, 2013

EHK, Standing up for your Beliefs: Refusing to be religiously politically correct

Throughout this past week as the Boston Marathon Bombing events unfolded, a common theme running through the media was not only to "jump to conclusions" about the terrorists' motives or their associations (aka don't assume it was the work of yet another Muslim extremist), but to even stretch and reach to try to pin it on potential "right wing extremists".  And one Salon writer went on to say he hopes the bomber is white since, you know, our country is racist and the supposed "white privilege" would prevent us from being wary of Islamism and all the poor peace loving Muslims out there caught in the cross fire.

While I'm all for the not jumping to conclusions part, I was repulsed by our media's continual castigation of our country's natural reaction to foreign influenced terrorism occurring on our own soil.  For the most part, this is born out of a need to be politically correct.  See , it's ok to frown upon and even offend Americans and their straightforward (typically Christian God based) values, but it's not ok to point out how Islam is continually racking up an extremist high score that leaves all other extremist causes in the dust.  In other words, even though the cause is staring us right in the face, those adhering to political correctness not only will not touch it, they'll admonish those that do point out the obvious:  Islam breeds far more extremists the world over than any other religion, be it spiritual or secular.  The PC police are so afraid to confront this truth, they'll look everywhere they can, make far reaching assumptions and stretch already tenuous connections in their scramble to show that this is not the case.  

When it comes to Christians, this same type of political correctness regarding other religions needs to be avoided.  Let's get one thing straight before I continue.  I'm not for proselytizing.  And I'm not for condemning those that believe other religions.  That's not my way nor do I think it's Christ's way.  We're the light on the hill and by our works we attract those to follow.  Yet, being passive in the pursuit of Extending His Kingdom does not mean being passive in accepting that "different religions work for different people" doctrine that seems prevalent these days.  

There's a couple things wrong with this type of thinking.  First, a "whatever works" approach means that someone is choosing a religion based on how well it meshes with their own feelings, thus putting the religion's tenets as secondary to one's own personal feelings. In other words, this type of relative/subjective choice of religion based on feelings makes practicing said religion pointless as someone's true religion in this case is their own feelings.  They want to find a religion that adheres to their feelings rather than adhere themselves to their religion.  While it's quite possible that someone may actually become influenced enough such that the religion changes their feelings (which has happened alot in Christianity), believing that people will be naturally led to Christ by their own feelings is just lazy from an EHK perspective (not to mention it means that we're not actively attempting to fulfill His mandate).  It puts all the work on God to convert them through conviction of the Holy Spirit while we'd do pretty much nothing.  

Second, "whatever works" belies an under lying attitude that is undermines EHK.   If someone believes "whatever works", then they must not believe Christianity is the best and "correct" religion.  To truly Extend His Kingdom, we must fully embrace the idea that Christianity is for everyone.  Not just the people that feel good about it.  Furthermore, Jesus said it Himself, "...no one comes to the Father, but by me."  Meaning that the only path to salvation involves in believing and accepting Him as our Savior.  So any religion that does not recognize this simple fact will not work for anyone as it is not correct.  So again, if someone doesn't believe in the sovereignty of Christianity, then there's a good chance they don't really care to Extend His Kingdom, which seems pretty clearly as disobedient to God.  

Again, we don't need to proselytize.  This isn't justification for dropping a Bible on someone's head.  This is recognizing the distinction between actively letting our light shine and believing the relative nonsense that every other religion is just as valid as Christianity.  It's ok to believe Christianity is correct and right while not condemning or scorning non believers.  In fact, that's what I believe should be the proper course.

Case in point, I'll say it:  I don't recognize Islam's legitimacy.   I think it's a perversion of Christianity.  As I previously touched on the origins of Islam, there's several reasons to believe so.  However, the biggest one comes from the fact that Islam does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God and part of the Trinity.  He's just another prophet, which directly contradicts the above mentioned John 14:6.  Furthermore, Paul warned against "alternative gospels" to the Galatians:

6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.   Galations 1:6 - 9


This wasn't in direct response to Islam itself since this epistle is about 500 years before the time of Muhammed, which I consider the "start" of Islam.  However, the message is quite clear:  You preach a gospel contrary to Paul's gospel, and you're cursed.  And what could be more contrary than believing Jesus was just another prophet instead of being the Son of God and our Savior?  It doesn't matter how much co-opting they do of the Old Testament, this one simple fact is enough for me to know its falsity.

And looking to today with the high levels of extremism running through Islam, you could chalk it up to mere coincidence.  I, on the other hand, see it as Paul's warning come to fruition.  By following an alternative gospel, they are cursed.

Now keep in mind, I'm not going to be running around condemning every Muslim I come across.  I'm not going to go out and trash them and their religion.   But I AM, if asked, going to state my opinion if someone asks me or if something is said that challenges my beliefs.  There is nothing wrong with standing up for the sovereignty of Christianity, especially when it's under attack.  If that makes me politically incorrect religiously, then so be it.

So while people are free to practice their own religions and I'll not condemn them as such, I'm also free to believe those religions to be false and pray that in my continuing efforts to Extend His Kingdom, they'll be Saved.