The Intersection

I have seen multiple headlines and statuses on social networks from any and all sides concerning this Josh Duggar fiasco. It is clear that no, absolutely no, middle ground can be reached because folks commenting on the issue, regardless of their stance, fail to put their thoughts in a way in which a sensible and rational conversation can occur. There is fierce anger which leads to an intense feeling of defense from the opposing side, and these both materialize within any side of the argument.

I am going to attempt to portray the two primary sides of the argument here, the “progressive” or “liberal” side (that I have seen) and the “conservative” or “traditional” side (again, that I have seen). Then I will share my thoughts on the issue.

Before I begin, let me share some posts and comments I have come across in the last couple of days from different points of view (the posts are kept anonymous. It is the words said that are important, not who said them.):

“Mike Huckabee Argues Josh Duggar Deserves Forgiveness” (article)

“He has gone off the rails”

“This makes me sick. I have no words.”

“Mike Huckabee: Even Though He May Have Fondled Little Girls’ Breasts and…” (article)

“Josh Duggar: God Has Forgiven Me for Molesting Young Girls” (article)

“I doubt it”

“sickening”

“they think their god forgives…their actions…so they expect us to believe that they’re absolved of obligation or responsibility…”

“The Duggars Aren’t Hypocrites, Progressives Are” (article)

“He is so merciful and I will continue to chose [sic] not to judge this family for their mistakes. Nobody deserves to be prosecuted in this way for actions he and his family have clearly tried all in their power to make right and have had a tremendous amount of guilt for.”

“‘Reprehensible’ is cheating on a test. Molesting little girls is a horrific crime. Enough of Christian conservatives telling us how to live.”

“Tell TLC to Stop Supporting A Child Molester By Canceling 19 Kids and Counting” (article)

“…And then they kept filming their show lecturing America?”

“It is poetic justice that Josh Duggar, member of a family with an overbearing aura implicitly forcing their ‘family values’ on others, would be caught up in a child molestation scandal that remained hidden for over a decade.”

“If they had focused on Christian redemption and forgiveness, the story would be different. But Josh and his family have been elevating themselves and condemning those who are different from them.”

“Why is it we are happy to receive God’s grace that we don’t deserve and are not willing to allow others to experience the same grace. If he truly repented and it sounds as if he did, who are we to say he doesn’t deserve that same grace?”

“Jesus loves those harmed by sexual abuse and Jesus loves Josh, this I know. We are not called to be the judge of those who walk in darkness. We are called to be their light.”

“I cannot believe so many people are dismissing this man’s sexual assault on children as if because he is Christian it is okay. It’s NEVER okay!! It was covered up by his parents and now he is free to continue ruining children’s lives. Would you be so quick to forgive a child molester that was Muslim or Jewish or Atheist? Nope. But a Duggar…. oh, he made mistakes it’s fine. Disgusting!”

“If they had focused on Christian redemption and forgiveness, the story would be different. But Josh and his family have been elevating themselves and condemning those who are different from them.”

**Just a note, these are the more civil comments, articles, statuses, and posts that I have seen**

One side of the argument portrays Josh Duggar and his family as hypocrites. Regardless of whether or not that is a fair label is not the issue. Rather, the issue is why do folks see them as hypocrites. The thought comes about due to their support and activity within groups such as the Family Research Council that lobby, encourage, and sustain the political and social idea of traditional values. The website provides the group’s mission:

“Family Research Council’s mission is to advance faith, family and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview.”

The two primary issues with which the group deals are traditional versus non-traditional marriage and abortion. There are others and a link is provided so that you can view them yourselves, but these are the two that are most noteworthy.

I will not go into detail concerning the political and social friction that occurs between this, for lack of a better label, conservative group and liberal groups such as the Human Rights Campaign, other than to say that each receives and spends vast sums of money to support and further their respective causes, and that those in support of either group believe wholeheartedly in those endeavors.

The hypocritical view arises from the Duggars’ support of traditional values and their attempts to suppress non-traditional ideals based on a strict interpretation of the Christian faith and the idea of the sanctity of the traditional family unit, essentially that the institution of marriage insists on the union of one male with one female. Where bitterness comes into play is the insistence that a holy mandate such as the traditional Christian union and sexual immorality (though not exclusively these) need to be codified into secular law. Put the two together and the old phrase “practice what you preach” comes into play, and since Mr. Duggar failed to do so gives him, or those in support of him, little ground on which to stand when believers attempt to stipulate, dictate, and legislate how other folks choose to live their lives. I think that is it in a nutshell. I could elaborate more, but that would only belabor the point.

Those in support of Mr. Duggar point out that he was 14 when the incidents of molestation occurred, and since that time he has repented of his sin, worked hard to right his sin, and has attempted to lead a Godly life. As told in the nineteenth verse of the third chapter of the book of Acts, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” (NIV), by doing so he has been forgiven by God and, thus, is to be forgiven by fellow believers, and further with verse 38 in the second chapter of the same book, “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,’” (NIV). Mr. Duggar has been held accountable by God. He has confessed his sin before God and his fellow believers, and he has repented of such. Therefore, he deserves forgiveness, because no one is perfect but only made perfect through Christ (Heb.10.14). Also since the United States is a country founded on Christian values, and that those values are given by God, the law of the land should reflect such (though neither in the Bible or in the Constitution can I find any reference for such). Again, that is it in a nutshell.

As I said, the conflict lies in the above two paragraphs in a nutshell, boiled down to the simplest points I can present.

The conflicting sides meet where personal faith and divine authority intersect with secular law and authority, essentially the law and authority as established by the people (Preamble) and ratified by the states (Article VII) according to the Constitution.

According to the Bible, Christians are to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you,” (Ephesians 4.32, NIV), and to forget “what is behind” and strain “toward what is ahead,” (Philippians 3.13, NIV). Also, Christians are told that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death,” (Romans 8.1-2, NIV). Therefore, according to these and numerous other passages concerning repentance, forgiveness, and salvation, Mr. Duggar is forgiven by God, is free of his sin, and is to be forgiven by fellow believers. This is just and fair according to one’s personal faith in Christ and his divine authority.

Where the hypocrisy comes into play is when that same gift of forgiveness is not bestowed universally. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins,” (Matt. 6.14-15, NIV). According to this verse, there are no conditions in which a believer in Christ cannot refuse to forgive “men their sins.” So we cannot pick and choose which sins we will forgive or which sinners we will forgive.

A primary question asked in this vein is how can this man be forgiven when in the next breath a man committing a wholly different sin is condemned, both faithfully and secularly? This is not an unfair question. Remember back to September 11, 2001 or the Katrina disaster in 2005 when self professed men of God proclaimed God’s wrath on our country for its moral backwardness and shortcomings.

Now, these men are not fringe elements of the Christian faith. Many millions of believers believe just as these two men do. Yet, many of those millions will come to the aid and support of Mr. Duggar and will forgive him of his sexual immorality, and yet, will, and do, pass judgment on those others deemed unworthy of such forgivenss for their immorality. This is where the hypocrisy lies.

The conflict is further intensified when laws based solely on personal faith and morality are promoted, legislated, and codified into secular law. There is a difference between the divine law of God and the secular law of the United States, or any secular nation, and it is clearly noted both in the Bible and in the Constitution.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” The government has no role in religion, faith, or, really, any moral system beyond the protection of a citizen’s right to life, liberty, and property. Once a government begins to legislate an individual’s or group’s faith, it encroaches on the faith or belief of another individual or group. However, when one’s lack of morality encroaches on another citizen’s right to life, liberty or property, government comes into play. Yes, it is morally reprehensible, and morally wrong, to murder, kidnap, or rape someone. It is against secular law to do so because the rights of a victim of a crime are infringed. In the case of robbery, a citizen’s right to property is infringed upon by another citizen. In secular government, morals can only be legislated if the effect of one’s immorality infringes on the rights of another citizen. This is the crux of the First Amendment.

According to the Bible, Christians are to “submit” to “governing authorities” (Romans 13.1-5, NIV), “every authority instituted among men” (1 Peter 2.13, NIV), and “be subject to rulers and authorities…to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men,” (Titus 3.1-2, NIV). So, for Christians, there are two laws according to which we must live, the moral and spiritual law of Christ and the secular law of the country in which we live. One set of laws holds us accountable to God and the other set of laws holds us accountable to our neighbors and fellow citizens.

For those that disagree with the above statement, consider one question. Do you support a state-sanctioned death penalty for the sinful (or immoral) act and secular crime of murder, or really any secular penalty that provides secular justice?

I know the broader context of this issue will not go away soon. Friendships dissolve and families split over the central issue presented here. It does not have to be that way. All it takes is a little patience and a lot of introspection and consideration. A particular point of view does not have to be agreed upon, but should at least attempted to be understood.

There are other points and issues that have been raised and thousands of comments exist for any of them, but the crux of the argument is here. For a broader perspective, give this piece a read.

Getting Interested…

I’ve been busy.  I met with a professor within the department to which I am applying for graduate school last week.  I’ve also been speaking a little with a friend that is wrapping up her graduate studies.  Between the two, I have a pretty good reading list worked out and have buried myself in books, pen, and paper.

A consensus between the two, the point driven especially hard by my friend, is to develop a background on the theories set forth by Foucault and other postmodernist thinkers (I disagreed with this kind of labelling before I began to read Foucault, but now that I have read a little of him, I disagree with it even more).  So, I’ve begun reading, beginning with Discipline & Punish.  At first I was intimidated by the thought of reading modern philosophy, because, well, I have had a difficult time reading philosophy in the past, but (and maybe I am not reading quite deeply enough into it) I think I have at least a layman’s understanding of what is being said.

See, I have this fascination with motives.  I enjoy exploring unspoken motives, especially those motives that drive people who occupy positions of power.  As I wrote in a post a couple of weeks ago before even thinking of reading Foucault:

“As much as we respect what we believe to be pure motivations behind political decisions such as whether or not to propose and promote a bill like the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we must accept that there is usually more than one story, more than one motive, when it comes to the people in the story. If we don’t, we fail to see the whole story, and we fail to fully grasp the humanity within it.”

Maybe that’s why some of what Foucault has to say, especially concerning power, institutions, and knowledge, makes at least some sense to me, and drives me to want to know more and come to a better understanding. As I said in the referred to post,”the self-serving motive is probably the purest motive there can be,”  and what can be more motivating, or self-serving, than coming into a position of power or sustaining the favorable power dynamics within a relationship that one may already have?

In order to see the basic humanity within a story, which is really all history is, this cannot be ignored.  Even those historical, or even contemporary, figures which we admire have to be scrutinized to some degree, for they were, or are, human, and like all humans they did, or do, have flaws.  On a more positive note, such scrutinization may uncover more positive and wholesome motivations.  To be fair that cannot be ruled out.

Anyway, this interests me a lot.  There will be more to come.

The Things that Drive Us

Motive:
1 a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious: a motive for his murder.
2 (in art, literature, or music) a motif: the entire work grows organically from the opening horn motive.

Everyone has one. Good or bad. Hidden or plainly known. Everyone has a motive for every action. For some reason, however, “motive” is a word with profoundly negative connotations.

“Don’t trust that guy. He has an ulterior motive.”

“Don’t believe anything (insert the name of ANY politician) says. He has other motives other than what he says.”

Back to the beginning. Everyone, everyone of us, have motives. The reasons we do the things we do and think the things we speak are because of the motives behind them. We don’t want to believe people because they have ulterior motives? I’d bet that most motives are ulterior.

Hey, why did that lady give that guy sitting on the sidewalk half of her sandwich?

Yes, maybe she is a nice lady, but let’s say that she is also a Christian. Every Christian has a motive, and it is usually ulterior. Every Christian wants to get into heaven. Every single one. Getting into heaven is the motivation behind a Christian’s actions. Do Christians always proclaim such when they perform a particular deed or utter a particular statement? No, not all the time. So, the unspoken or hidden motive is ulterior. It isn’t bad. It’s just omitted because in the time and place the motive is not the important issue. The action is more important than the motive. Shedding light on the motive does not make the motive reprehensible. It just gives a better understanding as to why a particular action takes place.

Sometimes, well, a lot of the time, an action, like the one above, has more than one motive. The lady is a Christian and wants to go to heaven, so she helps her neighbor. The lady doesn’t want to see the guy starve, so she gives him something to eat. She wants to feel good about herself, so she does a good deed. These are all motives with good intentions, but they are unspoken, so, therefore, ulterior.

Then there are those that get surprised and/or insulted when it becomes known that one’s motivation to perform an action is self-serving. I’m not sure why this is a surprise, but it is, apparently. The self-serving motive is probably the purest motive there can be. We all want what is best for us and for those closest to us. The primary reason we want the best for those closest to us is because when the ones closest to us are doing well, we are doing well, too…usually. Yet, when someone points out a self-serving motive, you can count on offending someone or pissing someone off. It’s guaranteed.

Let’s take the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as examples. Certainly there were politicians that wanted to ensure that African-Americans received the full rights, privileges, and protections that white people experienced. Passage of these bills was the morally correct thing to do. Morality can be a powerful and effective motive. Lyndon Johnson and his allies in Congress wanted to pass these laws to ensure that all citizens, regardless of race, creed, or ethnicity, were given equal standing under law. It is a good story and is more than likely true. I have no reason to believe otherwise.

However, is it possible that there were other motivations driving this issue? Of course it’s possible. Is it possible that one of the motives of the Democratic Party to pass these laws was to curry favor with the African-American community? Is it possible that the Democratic Party wanted a larger party base in order to perform well in elections and win? Just think back to political science 101. What is the primary mission of a political party? I’ll answer for you. It’s to win elections. The primary reason for the existence of a political party is to ensure that a group of people of like political persuasion get their candidates elected to office; once the party holds a particular office, it’s motivation becomes to hold on to that particular office. The party is made up of a group of people that are, well, self-serving. They want what they want and want to make sure their opponents do not win.

Does this make the people within that party bad people? No. It makes them human.

The move Selma released a couple of weeks ago demonstrates this idea of motive quite well, giving a glimpse at the pragmatic approach Lyndon Johnson took toward passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As the president and, ultimately, a politician that still had one more national campaign to run, he had to weigh the pros and cons of promoting and pushing such a bill. He had to weigh the political costs as well as the ramifications it could have among both white and black southerners. This point of view also brought considerable criticism to the film and the story it portrays.

Yes, his morality may have guided him to the need to force passage of the bill, but he had to consider the political motivations and consequences, not to mention, also, the possible social backlash that could arise as a result of the politics. To believe that he did not take into account his political future against his moral motivation is to be naïve. To believe there was not a self-serving motive behind his support of the bill is just as naïve, if not more so.

As much as we respect what we believe to be pure motivations behind political decisions such as whether or not to propose and promote a bill like the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we must accept that there is usually more than one story, more than one motive, when it comes to the people in the story. If we don’t, we fail to see the whole story, and we fail to fully grasp the humanity within it.

Were Johnson’s motives, beyond those compelled by morality, in poor taste? Not necessarily. Were they self-serving? Probably. He was only human, and we humans have a strong tendency to look out for ourselves. Only human, this is what we fail to remember when the great figures of history are polished and glorified without consideration or knowledge of the whole story.

For those that refuse to believe such motivations existed in Johnson’s thought process, I ask these questions. When he and other Democrats pushed for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, why did they not include the laws put forth a year later in the Voting Rights Act of 1965? Why did they wait a year to add these laws to the books? And remember, 1964 was an election year, Johnson’s first, actually.

Pissed. That’s really all I can say.

I try to stay away from the news nowadays.  Usually it does nothing more than piss me off, but after hearing a little snippet on NPR yesterday or this morning (I can’t remember exactly when it was) about the President’s announcement yesterday, I decided to check out the hubbub.  Soooo, I found this.  And “this” pisses me right the hell off. I mean, I think I hit 8th, 9th, maybe even 10th level pissed upon reading this article and a few more that I decided to dig around through.

After that fateful day in September of 2001, I felt like many of us felt.  I was angry, pissed, scared, and worried.  I had kind of a kill ’em all and let God sort them out mindset.  I was all about blasting the fuckers responsible back to the stone-age.  I followed the war fever and the patriotic unity among those in government straight through Afghanistan and even supported military intervention in Iraq, just knowing that Saddam Hussein was evil incarnate and had enough “weapons of mass distraction” to wipe us out along with anyone else that he felt like removing from the face of the earth. I believed it when we were told how necessary it was to go in and take him out.  I believed it when we were told that the secured Iraqi oil reserves would pay for any military action and the cost would not be passed to the taxpayer.  I believed it when we were told that the operation would be relatively short and sweet.  I believed it when we were told that a minimum of American boys and girls would be put in harms way.  I believed it all.  All. 

What do I believe now?

I believe that we need to take care of the wounded soldiers and veterans that we have on our hands now rather than sending more of our men and women in uniform back over there to have come home wounded, or worse, dead.  I believe that we should have heeded the words of Dick Cheney, John McCain, and others that, before Bush II took office believed that any intervention in Iraq would do nothing more than remove a force that kept the various sects vying for power from killing each other and swallowing the country in a civil war.  I believe that we should heed those words now.  NOW!  I believe that sending “military advisors” to Iraq is nothing more than a prelude to a larger force that will go over there again. I believe that Iraq is not worth one more drop of American blood spilt on its arid ground.  I believe that Jim Wright was right in his opinion and indictment of those that rattle the sabers in the hopes of driving more Americans to wanting more war (If you have not read this piece, it is the most poignant piece on this entire debacle I have read, and that includes over 10 years of reading…lots and lots of articles and more than a few books).  I believe that the President caved on this.  I believe the President has let down those whom he depended on to put him in the White House in 2008, and those he needed to keep him there in 2012.  I know that he lost my vote in 2012 because he sold his political power in order to pass a healthcare reform bill that does more for private insurance companies than it does for the American people.  I believe, now, that he has lost my respect, because he lightly pushes progressive causes just enough to placate liberals so that they won’t go ape-shit on him when he does something like this.  I believe that the one “liberal” that could have kept this from happening caved in order to save face for his party and the hopes that his party does not lose too much power in November.

I firmly believe that this advisory role will escalate just as it did in Vietnam.  Though the number of dead Americans, 4,411 (according to the Department of Defense), is far less than those that died in Vietnam, 58,220, how many more Americans have to die or get wounded before we cut our losses?  I’ve read memes and posts from those that would disagree with me, stating that the sacrifices made by those that have already given their lives in this conflict will mean nothing.  And to that, I say bullshit!  To them I say does it make their sacrifice that much more meaningful to have more American blood spilt on that altar?  So, how many more Americans need to spill their blood to make the sacrifice given by those before that much more meaningful?  How many?  HOW MANY???

How many more Americans need their lives altered by life changing injuries and mind changing psychological distress?  How many more American families need to feel the loss that so many American families feel now?  Go on.  Tell me.  I’m waiting.

Not one more drop of American blood needs to be spilled; not one more American life needs to be laid down for the security of a foreign country that we have already spent a generation trying to secure. Period.  End of story.

 

I Demand! but not really…

“I think a man with a helmet defending his country would make more money than a man with a helmet defending a football.”

I happened upon this quote/meme on Facebook during the week following Memorial Day. It may have been on Memorial Day. I can’t be sure, though.  It is pretty simplistic, as memes tend to be, but in this case, it points out something clearly obvious.  Maybe not clearly obvious, or obvious at all given that the idea was presented in the first place.

Of course, agreeing with the message of the meme, I decided to share it.  I thought it would get a good reception from so many friends that unabashedly support our men and women in uniform.  It has received two “likes” so far out of some 246 friends that may have seen it.  Now, I know that not everyone has seen it, and honestly some friends just pass by my posts because we do not agree on anything, but this one was for them.  This is something that, without a shadow of a doubt, we can all agree on.  But, like I said, they probably didn’t see it.

One of my friends commented on it, pointing out the infallible dictation of the law of supply and demand (I added the “infallible” and its emphasis).

In a previous post, I ended by saying “Need vs. Want is complicated!” This is where my mind goes when the issue of supply and demand shows its head, and even though I know it is an invaluable tool that shows the price, and fluctuations of price, in terms of supply versus demand, and those fluctuations, I still cannot help but think it is an imperfect idea.

I mean, people talk all the time about how ridiculous it is that athletes, show business entertainers, and others make so much more than military service members, firemen, police officers, teachers, and other service roles.  Yet, nothing about the purported problem changes unless one of those that brings in the big bucks refuses,or takes a voluntary reduction of, pay.

Why is that exactly?

This is where the law of supply and demand rears its ugly, unforgiving head and shows us the cold, hard, and indisputable truth:

Actions speak louder than words.

Every time we choose to spend money on a given form of entertainment, be it a sporting event, a movie, a play, a musical, a concert, what have you, we influence its demand and the demand for that given product or service rises.  With enough choices in favor of the same product, the demand for it rises and affects supply in a negative way, and the cost goes up as the demand outgrows the supply and the supply cannot keep up with the demand. Increased value is attributed to the sought after product, and the cost is paid by those that demand it, and it is paid willingly.

In essence, we vote for, and decide the, value of a product or service with every dollar we spend, so each dollar, or cent, is a ballot that determines what is deemed most important to the holder of it.

There are some things that supply and demand cannot illustrate accurately for us, however.  As I said, people talk about how ridiculous it is that entertainers, athletes, and the like make so much more than uniformed service members.  This seems to make things tricky because the market, and its law of supply and demand, does not dictate the value attributed to military service members or any government expense.  The people, directly or indirectly, decide the issue themselves.

Practically, as laid out by our government’s foundation proclaims, “We the People” are the voice that influences the actions and words given out by the government, and as such, the government carries out the people’s will.  As much as people complain about the government, and that it ignores the will of the people, data and observation show that the reality is that it listens to the people, and listens well.

Every two years elections are held to reshape the government as the people see fit.  One branch of Congress is chosen completely, and one-third of the other is elected.  Each legislator is eligible for re-election at the end of their respective term of office with no limit as to how many terms they may hold.  So, theoretically, Congress can remain constant forever (hold on to that thought).

Every four years, an executive is chosen.  There is a maximum of two terms that a given individual may hold for this office, so a maximum of eight years is the term for a constant manner of executive leadership.  Every four years, theoretically, the executive can be changed, and every eight years it has to change should it not change in the first four years, according to the Constitution.

There are arguments for and against the structure of elections, terms of office, and limits of those terms, but those are issues for another time and another post.

The issue here is that people presumably wish for better treatment and pay for those serving in the military and for those who have served.  Yet, this issue is never fully resolved. Ever.  For decades, I have observed people wanting more in terms of pay and treatment for active duty, reserve, and veteran members of the military.  And for decades,I have observed the government not responding to the pleas of the people with actual policy changes, but only with sound bites and campaign promises.  Service members are paid beans next to those performing related tasks and jobs in the private sector, and veterans…well an observation of the VA tells their story.

But here is the rub.

The House of Representatives is re-elected an average of 90% of the time.  The rate of incumbency in the Senate is a little less at an average of about 80% or so.

Given that, how do people expect treatment of service members and veterans to change when we willingly (there is that word again) refuse to change the branch that dictates how service members are paid and treated by the government?

Perhaps government is not so different from the market and supply and demand.  Both are swayed by public opinion. Demand of both are dictated by choices the people make, and people make those choices based on the wants and needs they experience.  Choices are made consciously and willingly. The only difference is that one is decided by the ballot and how it is filled out, and the other is decided by the dollar and how it is spent.

Words are loud and empty.  Actions, and decisions based on those actions, are louder and have actual substance. If we continue to make the same choices but demand a different outcome, what does that say about us?