Collision: When An Irresistible Sense of Entitlement Meets Immovable Economic Reality

london

A swarm of socialists, anarchists, “students,” and random ne’er-do-wells took to the streets of London this week to smash, loot, burn and assault–all to express displeasure and general grumpiness about the British government’s attempts to restore some fiscal sanity and sustainability to the economy there.

Put simply, the British economic car is hurtling toward a cliff (as are most other national cars that have succumbed to creeping socialism and swelling entitlements over the last 50 years.) The current Tory government was elected by a majority of British voters to at least apply the brakes if not turn the car around. And in response to a tap on the brakes, the above-mentioned groups have responded as expected.

Yes, the violent anarchists are only a small subset of the teachers, firefighters, nurses (who in socialized Britain are government employees) who descended on the city in the hundreds of thousands. But they are all united in their profound wrong-headedness.

As with the riots in Greece, Spain and Italy over the last year–these protests serve to validate what conservatives and libertarians have been warning about for decades, going all the way back to Barry Goldwater and Bill Buckley in the ’60s and even earlier to Paul Harvey in the ’40s and ’50s.

(By the way, I know of a great book that brings you the timely wisdom of Paul Harvey plus his fascinating story–coming in softcover in June!)

Paul Harvey warned about a encouraging a sense of entitlement and fostering dependency on messianic government:

Well sir, when that early pioneer turned his eyes toward the West he didn’t demand that someone else look after him. He didn’t demand a free education. He didn’t demand a guaranteed rocking chair at eventide. He didn’t demand that somebody else take care of him if he got ill or got old.

There was an old-fashioned philosophy in those days that a man was supposed to provide for his own . . . and for his own future. He didn’t demand a maximum amount of money for a minimum amount of work. Nor did he expect pay for no work at all. Come to think of it, he didn’t demand anything.

That hard-handed pioneer just looked out there at the rolling plains stretching away to the tall green mountains, and then lifted his eyes to the blue skies and said, “Thank you, God . . . Now I can take it from here.”

That pioneer spirit isn’t dead in our country . . . it’s dormant, it’s been discredited in some circles, driven underground . . . but it isn’t dead. It’s just that a few seasons ago politicians, baiting their hooks with free barbecue and trading a Ponzi promise for votes, begin to tell us we don’t want opportunity anymore, we want security. We don’t want opportunity, they said, we want security. And they said it so often we came to believe them.

We wanted security. And they gave us chains. And we were “secure.”

Harvey wrote those words a few years after Harry Truman took over for FDR. Nevertheless, even FDR was opposed to public employee unions and “collective bargaining” for government workers.

All of which brings us to Wisconsin–where the very economic future of our nation is being fought out by proxy. In Madison, the rage is somewhat more controlled, but there has been enough union thuggery, muscle-flexing, intimidation attempts and even death threats against Republican legislators to make all the liberal hand-wringing about “civility” after a nut-case shot an Arizona congresswoman seem at once cynical and farcical.

When a critical mass of people in any society begin to believe they are entitled to certain levels of government largesse, and when a generation of citizens arise who have been trained to believe that government power can trump the laws of supply and demand–setting the prices of everything from bread to medical care–riots are inevitable.

In Europe, government regulation of business has almost made labor unions superfluous. The entire populous has come to adopt a union mentality. In Wisconsin and in other bankrupt states, the choice is being made as to whether to continue on the road to European decline, or to reverse course toward an American renaissance of pioneering spirit and self-reliance.

Update:  IowaHawk tweets:

Instead of ‘anarchists,’ call the London rioters what they are: shock troops for the Nanny State-Union Complex.

And:

Same message in London riots as in Madison. “Elections, shmelections. Keep forking it over or we burn the mother down.”

"Bad Theology Part II: Can God Make a Rock So Big Angels Can't Dance On It?

At the close of the post below titled Tragedy: The Mother of All Bad Theology, I wrote:

I believe this pervasive and flawed view of God’s sovereignty keeps most Christians from praying as often and as effectively as God intended. And I suspect it is turning a whole generation of Postmodern young people away from God.

In the time between writing those words and writing these, a video of MSNBC’s Martin Bashir interviewing Pastor/Author Rob Bell has gone viral on the interwebs. You may have heard buzz over the last few weeks about Bell’s just-released book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.

Immediate controversy about the book served to generate tons of advance buzz. The publisher has to be thrilled. People who hadn’t read anything except the proposed title were discussing it or condemning it. Now that it’s out, it’s hovering at #3 among all books currently moving on Amazon.com.

I don’t intend to address the central controversy surrounding the book (at this time, anyway). I mention it only because the opening question Bashir asks Bell strikes at the heart of the what I do want to tackle:

Bashir frames a question that encapsulates the age-old “If God is good . . .” problem of evil thing.

Bashir says:

Before we talk about the book, just help us with this tragedy in Japan. Which of these is true.

God is all powerful but doesn’t care about the people of Japan, and therefore they’re suffering. Or, He does care about the people of Japan, but is not all powerful. Which one is it?

Here Bashir does a pretty clever job of concisely summarizing the logical conundrum that has plagued thinkers for centuries and, in recent years, caused hundreds of thousands of young people raised in Christian homes to abandon the faith of their parents.

As a parent of late-teens and twenty-somethings, I’ve heard my girls talk about numerous friends at their Christian school and Christian college who were questioning everything about their faith as a direct result of grappling with this “if God is sovereign”–“problem of evil” thing.

For decades, media mogul Ted Turner pointed to the slow, painful death of his sister when he was a boy as the justification for his agnosticism and hostility to Christianity. (In recent years he has softened his rhetoric and apologized.)

If There Is a Loving God . . .?

Nevertheless, an entire generation of postmodern individuals are traveling the same road of logic. They say, “You Christians tell me that God exists and that He loves all mankind. Have you looked around? Reconcile mass starvation, human trafficking, and tsunamis with your concept of God.”

As with Bashir’s question posed to Rob Bell, there is a certain logical tidiness to the question. The problem is that all logical constructs stand upon some presuppositions (assumptions, or “givens”).

A logical argument can actually be air tight, but if only one of the assmuptions underlying it is false, sound logic leads you to a false conclusion. For example:

If one assumes that the earth is flat, it is quite logical to be nervous about sailing too far in one direction, lest one fall off the edge.That’s sound logic built upon a flawed assumption. The insidious thing about presuppositions is that they tend to remain buried in our worldview–unexamined and unquestioned.

The fact is, the very reason that we have liberals and conservatives; Republicans and Democrats; Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly; Jersey Shore and Jerseylicious–is not because half the population is irrational or crazy. In the vast majority of cases, two people who disagree are both reaching logical, reasonable, positions built upon differing, largely unexamined presuppositions they hold to be true.

The “Bruce Almighty” Model

Underlying the doubts of most postmodern skeptics is a key assumption about any being in the role of “God.” The assumption is that God gets exactly what He wants in every spot on earth in every second of every day. This is what Bashir meant when He used the term “all powerful.”

The vast majority of Americans–Christian and otherwise–assume the answer  is “Yes.” This is basically the American, pop culture, Hollywood sitcom concept of God–pulling all the strings, hands on all the levers, including the levers of human action and choice.

In the movie Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey’s title character gets to become “God” for a couple of weeks. As a result, he finds himself with the power to make anything happen he desires, including the power to take control of a rival’s body and force him to make a fool of himself on camera.

This Hollywood view of God as having unlimited freedom of action on the earth and in History–the belief that everything is happening just as God has ordained right down to the granular level of the child molestations that are almost certainly taking place in various places around the planet as I write these words–is shared by most American Christians who simply haven’t thought too deeply about these questions.

We’re taught that God is “sovereign.” And, as the Bible makes it clear, He is. But most of us go on to define that sovereignty in the cartoonish Hollywood terms described above.

This view fails to properly build upon three fundamental presuppositions:

  1. The Fall
  2. Free Will
  3. God’s Self-Limiting Character

In my humble view, the neo-Calvinists have a good handle on point one. And their Arminian brethren across the aisle have an important grasp on point two. And I haven’t heard anyone significant properly (in my view) articulate point 3.

What does all that mean? I’ll explain in Part 3 of what is rapidly evolving into a dissertation (or perhaps a down-payment on my next book.)

No "Undo" Button

Instapundit (Glenn Reynolds) says:

“Personally I think a WAITING PERIOD FOR AN ABORTION is no more reasonable than a waiting period to buy a gun.”

Not a surprising position for a libertarian. And I’m in the libertarian’s corner most of the time. But the difference in this case is that if you change your mind about buying a gun, you can always return it.

A gun can be confiscated if a crime is committed. It can be thrown away. Or sold. In other words, it’s a revocable decision. There is an undo button.

As millions of remorseful women can attest, there is no “Undo” button for an abortion.

Mmmm. Tastes billionaire-y.

boug

As those who follow me on Twitter already know, I made a quick trip to the highlands of Central Mexico Friday morning–returning this afternoon.

The bougainvilleas are in full show-off mode. The jacaranda trees are still blooming purple. The air at the 6,000 ft. plateau that is the state of Guanajuato is clean and clear.

The project that takes me there must remain confidential but I can’t resist boasting that yesterday I enjoyed a grilled tuna steak (about an inch-and-a-half thick) that had recently been line caught off the coast of Mexico by some fishing buddy of my host named Barron Hilton (yes, that Barron Hilton.) Delicious.

I know I owe you Part II of the “Bad Theology” post below. Stand by. I’ll get to it shortly. (I know you’re beside yourself with expectancy. Take deep breaths and distract yourself with basketball.)

Tragedy: The Mother of All Bad Theology

job

Job and Friends

Each of Job’s friends had an elaborately constructed theological explanation for the epic crap storm they had just watched their friend go through. They argued their hypotheses eloquently. The presented them forcefully. But at the end of the book, we find God Almighty lining them up, verbally pulling their pants down, and drawing the word “LOSER” on their foreheads with a Sharpie.

God was apparently insufficiently impressed with their theological arguments.

From then until now, spiritual and/or religious folks have been irresistibly drawn to to making sense of tragedy (Mr. Moth, meet Prof. Flame. Flame . . . this is Moth. You two should get together.)

This is on my mind because it’s been a very tough week for a few people close to me and for about 127 million folks very far away.

Our pastor’s long-time administrative assistant died quite suddenly a few days ago. We’d known Judy for pretty much all of her nine-year tenure as the administrative hub of one of the fastest growing churches in America. In excellent health, she picked up a nasty strain of E.coli in something she ate. This led to a cascade of catastrophic health events that ended in her passing away in less than a week.

At pretty much the same time, a young man at my daughter’s high school, a senior, active in his church and a worship leader in his youth group, died after having spent a couple of months in a deep coma resulting from some sort of aneurysm.

Luke, like Judy, was a good person. Bad stuff happened to them. And as I write, bad stuff on a massive scale continues to happen in Japan.

japan-quake

Tragedy tends to bring out the armchair theologian in many. And I understand why. For one thing, it’s when we’re most likely to hear people impugning God’s character. We hear people uttering questions like “If there is, as you Christians claim, a benevolent God in charge of the universe, how is it that he allows things like this to happen?”

Or we hear others using the opportunity to reject our faith altogether. My daughter tells me several of her fellow students at her Christian school announced this week that they no longer believe in God because of what happened to Luke.

Now we like God. And we have chosen to align ourselves with His cause. And we want others to come over to the cause as well. So when people start talking trash about Him, we tend to rush to His defense.

On top of this is another very human tendency, rooted in our insecurities, to feel personally rejected when someone rejects the thing upon which we’ve built our entire lives.

Our reaction tends to be to rush in and passionately defend our choice by defending God. We can’t resist the urge to become God’s PR agent–explaining him and improving His image.

draper

Of course, this requires addressing thorny theological issues like The Fall, the nature of God’s sovereignty and how it comports with Man’s free will. These are questions with which Christendom’s best minds have been grappling since the first century.

But faced with a doubter or a skeptic pointing to tragedy, few believers can resist rushing in to explain it all in two minutes or less.

clarissa

Here’s the problem with all that. First of all, God is not insecure. His self-esteem is not fragile. And He’s been handling rejection with grace and patience for quite a long time now. Sometimes, when the doubters and fist shakers get really fierce and fiesty, God finds it amusing (See Psalm 2:1-2).

Furthermore, doubters and pointy-headed skeptics are rarely won over by intellectual arguments (although Paul attempted this at Mars Hill with mixed success.) The Bible makes it pretty clear that our primary weapons of persuasion are these:

Love. And Power.

Our trouble is that the brand of Christianity most of the American church displays right now is somewhat deficient in one or both of these commodities.

Finally, I think most Christians have a deeply flawed, overly-simplistic view of God’s sovereignty to begin with. Which means that when they go to explain tragedy to doubters and cranks, they simply don’t know what they’re talking about.

I believe this pervasive and flawed view of God’s sovereignty keeps most Christians from praying as often and as effectively as God intended. And I suspect it is turning a whole generation of Postmodern young people away from God.

“So Davey,” you’re probably saying, “enlighten us. Where has most of the Church gone wrong?”

Well, this post has run on long enough. So the answer, dear reader, must wait until my next post!

The Courage of Hollywood Writers (and Other Topics)

CSTL SinglePageKeyArt.indd

So, Mrs. Blather and the daughter unit have this show that they love to watch. Eventually they got me pulled into it too.

Castle is implausible but fun. The female NYC detective is, naturally, Vogue-cover beautiful. And for some reason, a crime novelist is allowed to be her partner and solve murders with her every week and will-they-or-won’t-they romantic tension carries everyone along.

So a couple of weeks ago a special two-episode story has a plot to set off a dirty bomb in Manhattan unfolding. The story line gives us some Muslim immigrants from a Middle Eastern country as suspects. But wait.  As it turns out, they’re only suspected because we’re all bigots and xenophobes.

Your actual bomb plotter turns out to be this guy:

terrorist

He is ex-military. Special forces. And he and some of his buddies who served together in Afghanistan are going to set off this dirty bomb because, according to the words Castle’s writers put in his mouth, they are “patriots.”

Ironically, the same week that this episode aired, police in Lubbock, Texas uncovered a plot by a real guy who is working on building a real dirty bomb. It was this guy:

r-khalid-aldawsari

His name is Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari and he is an engineering student from Saudi Arabia.

So we have two worlds. The world of Hollywood writers in which the only terrorists are U.S. soldiers who speak of patriotism and honor. And the real world, the one you and I have to live in.

After watching this episode, I tweeted: “Is there a writer left in Hollywood with the courage to write a drama in which the would-be terrorist is Muslim?”

I think I know the answer.