Category Archives: Research

Defend Yourself!

“I learned a long time ago that anything worth doing is worth defending.” ~ Mike Rowe

Does God call us to follow him blindly and without question?

Some like to accuse Christians of being blind sheep, ready to dive off a cliff simply because God said so. I’ve heard some Christians accuse others that to doubt and question is a lack of trust and faith in God — and could even be considered blasphemous (I was told this once as a teenager when I revealed that God makes me angry sometimes).

In a previous entry, I talked about how God appreciates when we doubt. A friend commented thusly (in part), “Though a Christian may from time struggle with the no fear part of our faith, I believe when we still follow God’s word despite that fear, that God rejoices in our faith, love for him. So submit to His Word!”

To which I respond:

I’m not suggesting God doesn’t rejoice in our faith. Of course he does! Nor does doubt mean we love God less. All I’m saying is God understands and even expects us to doubt. Having doubts is part of who we are in this world. Nor do I recall him ever saying we should never ask him questions, or to never get angry at or frustrated with him (acting out in that anger is a bit different. When God told Moses he couldn’t enter the promised land because he acted out in anger, and as such didn’t give God credit a good example [See Numbers 20]). As if we could hide our doubts from him anyway.

Doubt isn’t always a bad thing, as long as we come to him with those doubts.

Moses argued with God, as did Abraham (which saved Lot and his family). David and Job had doubts. Lots of doubts! Jonah tried to run away, and got angry with God when Nineveh repented. Naomi believed God had abandoned her (as did Mother Theresa for most of her life). Peter argued with Jesus, Thomas doubted him. Paul worked against him, and Ananias felt a little betrayed when he was asked to heal and forgive Paul who had persecuted so many of them.

So what does all that have to do with defending oneself as the title suggests?

Because when we struggle and doubt (and as long as we turn to God with those struggles and doubts) he teaches us where we have fallen short or are mistaken in our assumptions. When we learn through those doubts and struggles, we grow stronger in our faith, and as such can better defend that faith.

God often compares us to sheep, because sheep are stupid creatures. They will literally jump off a cliff following other sheep, never realizing the danger until it’s too late. That does not mean, however, God wants us to remain like sheep. He wants us to be able to defend our faith to those who also question and struggle (including ourselves).

Proverbs 2:1-5 says, “My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Emphasis mine).

Other such examples of the importance of seeking God and his wisdom, and for defending our faith:

Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

1 Peter 3:15: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (Emphasis mine)

2 Corinthians 10:5: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

Titus 1:9: “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

In short, yes, we need to submit to God and his word, but by submitting without question or not attempting to overcome our doubts, we can neither grow, understand, or defend our faith.

Thoughts from an NRA Member

I’ve hesitated giving my honest thoughts on this whole “gun control” hullabaloo for several reasons.

I don’t like confrontation. Nor do I like to label myself, and with all the hatred and vitriol against gun owners in general and NRA members in particular, the coward in me prefers to stay silent in the hopes it’ll all go away.

But even this quiet coward has her limits.

This is not a rant so much, but a recitation of facts, both the purpose of the NRA and why I’m both a member and why banning firearms and repealing the 2nd Amendment is a bad idea (now before you say, “No one is suggesting banning all firearms or the repealing the 2nd Amendment,” I can share plenty of statements all over social media advocating for exactly that).

The NRA was founded in 1871 by Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate, because they were “dismayed by the lack of marksmanship shown by their troops.” The NRA then and now “promote[s] and encourage[s] rifle shooting on a scientific basis.”

In 1904, the NRA began “promoting the shooting sports among America’s youth by establishing rifle clubs at all major colleges, universities and military academies.”

In 1934, due to concerted and repeated attacks Second Amendment rights (see the National Firearms Act of 1934 and 1968), the NRA formed the Legislative Affairs Division (now known as NRA-ILA [Institute of Legislative Action] which is the lobbying arm and formed in 1975).

Still today, the NRA focuses on promoting shooting sports, hunting, and education (to name a few) while NRA-ILA focuses on state, local and federal legislation pertaining to Second Amendment rights.

The Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program (established in 1988) is geared toward firearm safety for children. They are taught “that if they see a firearm in an unsupervised situation, they should ‘STOP. DON’T TOUCH. RUN AWAY. TELL A GROWNUP.’”

Now for a bit of American history.

The Founders saw first hand what an oppressive despotic government looked like, so they wanted to take as many steps as humanly possible to prevent the fledgling USA ending up the same way.

They wanted the People (and the individual States) to have more power than the federal government. They didn’t want future Americans endure similar or worse oppression. so they took steps to protect their power.

Not only are those steps outlined in the Constitution with the separation of powers between the three branches of government, but also the Bill of Rights.

Aside: Many states refused to ratify the Constitution, because they didn’t think the Constitution as written protected their individual rights. Hence the addition of the first ten Amendments, which are designed to protect both individual and State rights that the Founders (and many of us still today) consider both God-given and inalienable.

The Founders understood that one way to make sure the new government wouldn’t grow too powerful was to guarantee both the States and the People retained certain rights. Those rights included the right to be a part of any religion they choose. They didn’t want anyone forced to be a member of a government-approved or sanctioned religion before they could participate in said government.

As the old saying goes, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” The Founders understood this as well, that speech, especially unpopular or critical speech against the government needed protection.

The rest of the Bill of Rights includes more protections, but my focus is on the Second which states: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

First, here are a few quotes from the Founders with regard to rights:

“[The] Supreme Being gave existence to man, together with the means of preserving and beautifying that existence. He . . . Invested him [man] with an inviolable right to personal liberty and personal safety.” ~ Alexander Hamilton.

“There can be no freedom where there is no safety to property or personal rights. Whenever legislation . . . breaks in upon personal liberty or compels surrender of personal privileges, upon any pretext, plausible or otherwise, it matters little whether it be the act of the many or the few, of the solitary despot or the assembled multitude; it is still in its essence tyranny. It matters still less what are the causes of the change; rather urged on by the spirit of innovation, or popular delusion, or State necessity (as it is falsely caused), it is still power, irresponsible power, against right.” ~ Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story

The right to bear arms:

“The . . . Right of the [citizens] that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defense. . . [This is] the natural right of resistance and self-preservation when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression. . . . [To] vindicate these rights when actually violated or attacked, the [citizens] are entitled, in the first place, to the regular administration and free course of justice in the courts of law; next, to the right of petitioning the [government] for redress of grievances; and lastly, to the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defense.” ~ Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws.

“[S]elf-defense, or self-preservation, is one of the first laws of nature, which no man ever resigned upon entering into society.” ~ Zephaniah Swift.

“[T]he said Constitution [should] be never construed . . . to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.” ~ Samuel Adams.

With regard to who the militia is:

“A militia . . . are in fact the people themselves . . . [and] are for the most part employed at home in their private concerns.” ~ Richard Henry Lee

“Who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people.” George Mason.

I could go on, but I doubt I need to, and my fingers are getting fatigued.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what’s behind him.”

While I can’t speak for every NRA member or firearm owner, I am willing to bet many would agree if I changed the above quote slightly to read, “We don’t own and train in the proper use of firearms because we hate those in front of us, but because we love what’s behind us, and because we love our country and the freedoms she represents.”

For more information on the NRA’s purpose and history, see https://home.nra.org/about-the-nra/

For the history of and principles behind the Second Amendment, and where I found many of the quotes above (and where they originally came from), I encourage you to buy this book: https://www.amazon.com/Second-Amendment-David-Barton/dp/0925279773/

Listen and . . .

Listen and . . .

I’m reading “Socratic Logic. A Logic Text Using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, and Aristotelian Principles” by Peter Kreeft. I started it a few months ago, but am only about a third through it. Meaty stuff.

I bought it, because I wanted to learn how better to debate and discuss, and that includes knowing when to not engage. The book has helped, although I still fall into traps once in a while, and engage when I shouldn’t. Often those times occur when my opponent isn’t interested in listening and learning opposing views, but to scream at me.

One of my friends on Facebook tagged me with thoughts on a particular video, specifically on whether or not we’re listening enough: I Went Undercover in The Alt-Right

My response:

First off, thank you for sharing, and for tagging me!

He makes a lot of valid points, and I admit I’m constantly tempted to stay within my own echo chamber.

Part of it stems from frustration.

For example, when people malign the NRA. I so desperately want to have a real conversation with those who hate the organization, so I can show them what it means to be an NRA member, and why it’s so important to me. Instead, all I get is, “You have blood on your hands,” and “You love your guns more than your children.” I can’t engage in a conversation that way. No one can. At that point, it’s best to simply stay silent and walk away.

So yes, we need to not only step out to hear opposing views, we also have to set aside our pride just a little bit and ask, “Could my own preconceived notions be wrong? Does their point of view have validity?”

Like all conversations and debates, both sides have to be willing to set aside emotions, preconceived opinions, pride, and prejudices. We also need more logic when it comes to discussions and debates, and try not to take any disagreements personally. Until then, we’re all simply yelling at ourselves within our echo chambers. Those outside can’t hear, because they, too, are yelling at themselves in their own echo chambers.

We need to start by asking more questions without first throwing accusations. Anything less is disrespectful at least, cruel at worst. I don’t know about you, but I never once changed my mind because someone swore at me, or called me an awful person because I happen to be a member of a certain group.

Comedian Owen Benjamin has a great video titled, “If you can’t argue the other side, you can’t have an opinion.” It’s just over seven minutes long, but well worth it.

Listening to opposing views is a start, but it’s not enough. I can listen all day and decide not to be swayed by anything, regardless of how logical or factual the opposing argument is. It also takes a bit of humility, and asking, “What if I’m wrong?” Or “Do I see, and can I argue for the other side?”

Still, even if we can argue the other side, in the end we can still reject it. At least then we’ll know our rejection (or acceptance) is based on quantifiable logic and facts, and we can be confident that our decision has real merit.

Once we’re better informed, we can approach an opponent with, “I know exactly where you’re coming from.” It eases any initial discomfort, and real discussion can begin.

Better informed is always better armed, which means seeing (and arguing for) as many sides as possible, both at the extremes and in the middle.

Coincidentally, at the same time my friend shared the video, I was writing a rather ranty entry on my frustration with the never-ending vilification of the NRA. I will add it in a later entry, but after I edit out some of the rantiness. Part of why I want to tone it down is because i sounded a bit whiny and pitious.

I don’t want anyone’s pity, or to argue “ad Misericordiam,” which is an argument based on a strong appeal to the emotions, or an appeal to pity or misery. Appeals to emotion rarely work, especially long-term, because emotions by definition are irrational and fleeting.

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” ~ James 1:19

Is There An Echo in Here?

The easiest temptation on social media is to follow people, blogs, websites, etc. who reinforce what we already believe.

More difficult is to follow those who have near the opposite point of view. The exceptions of when we do, it’s usually to laugh, scoff, or get offended by. We don’t do it to learn, and listen but to argue, sometimes in the hopes of convincing the opposition the rightness of our cause.

Too often, though, the opposition has no more desire to listen and learn than we do. In the end we give up, and return to our little echo chambers filled with people of like mind.

I don’t often read so-called news sites such as Vox, Slate or Salon. I find their news rife with too much bias for my taste.

Sometimes, however, I run into a headline that so intrigues me (and not in a good way), that I have to read it.

This is one such headline:

When I debate or discuss, I make sure I have truth and facts to back me up, otherwise, not only will I fail to convince, but I waste my time and that of my opposition. I don’t argue with emotions, because emotions are not rational or logical. Too often they are baseless, and fleeting. Too often they are based on misunderstanding of a smattering of facts, and can do more harm than good when trying to debate a specific point.

As Ben Shapiro likes to say, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”

You can understand then, why I found this headline befuddling to say the least. Why would anyone give up facts in favor of emotion to win people to their side? It’s idiocy. And temporary.

Out of morbid curiosity, I decided to read the piece. Too many news websites love to write provocative headlines in order to get people to read it (such as me). Click-bait as it’s called. Often, however, the headlines can also be misleading to the point that the article ends up making the exact opposite point.

As a writer, I found a lot of the opinion piece objectionable such as using emotions as a weapon. It implies that the author doesn’t want to convince, but to manipulate. It read less like a professional article and more like a personal journal entry (kind of like this lovely blog entry). The author isn’t trying to make a specific point so much, but exploring his/her thoughts in order to discover that point.

Still, after weeding through the verbosity, I surmised the author’s overall point was not to give up on facts, per se, but to appeal to a person’s emotions with facts instead of presenting facts alone. It’s a valid point, because in this day and age, regardless of what side people take on an issue, they are so emotionally entrenched in their point of view, facts proving their contentions false won’t deter them.

The entire article can be found here.

It’s worth thinking about, and for me will be one heck of a challenge. I don’t argue emotionally. Only facts matter to me, because they’re immutable. Still, I have to see the other person’s emotional point of view, and try to understand it before I can debate a specific issue.

I have to learn how to speak their emotional language, otherwise communication will be near impossible.

If I hadn’t stepped out of my own self-imposed echo chamber, I wouldn’t have discovered, let alone considered the idea.

Search Words

When I first created my website, I made sure to include keywords for search engines so people looking for content like mine will find me easier.

I understood that, and I included the most relevant ones. Still, I didn’t expect a lot of traffic. I read somewhere there are over 125 million blogs available for people to read. Who am I in that sea of writers?

In 2005 I signed up to writing.com, a website dedicated to writers to encourage them to write, but also to read, to review and be reviewed. In fact, as of a week ago, I celebrated my 12th year. While it took me over six months to post my first item for people to read/review, I now have over 100.

About a year later, my church asked me to write what the youth pastor titled, “Bible Monologues,” for the Easter service. He and I both wrote short monologues from the perspective of little-known people of the Bible during the time of Jesus.

Three I wrote for the Easter service, but since I liked the premise so much I wrote two others.

About six months later, a church representative found one of them to use for one of their own programs. I was surprised and even honored that one of my little stories that took so little time and effort on my part made such an impression.

Fast forward eleven years.

I received this email today:

I am contacting you in inquiry of a monologue you’ve written. I would love to use it for my class, and a student to perform during our fundraiser. I was wondering, if we credited correctly, if it would be possible to use “My forever stained hands” for our class? If you could email me back as soon as possible, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you!

Of course I let her use it, and even sent her the link to the all the ones I wrote.

I asked how she even found my monologues, because as vast as the Internet is, for her to find one of my little stories seems near impossible, especially since it was something she was hoping to find. She said she had gone to writing.com and searched “Biblical monologues.” Because I used both of those words as keywords for my stories, they popped up.

I need to go through all my other items, and my website in general (perhaps even this blog), and see what keywords I need to adjust and/or add. Who knows how much interest I will gain. It certainly couldn’t hurt, because there’s a lot of competition out there vying for people’s attention.

For History’s Sake, Write Your Life

We’ve all heard the refrain that history is written by the victors, and as such, the entire story can never be told.

In a society where the loudest people get all the attention, and biases in news agencies grow more obvious and prevalent, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for those not in the literal midst of important events to know what’s true and what’s false.

I don’t recommend we ignore important events, but I do recommend we do our research, and see if we can find people who were there to get their perspective of what happened. And not only one person, but more than one, and from all sides. The truth will eventually be found.

Discernment is key. And honesty.

Yesterday’s devotional focused on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) who “wrote books that shed a true light on what was happening behind the Iron Curtain.”

Without him and others like him who wrote and spoke fearlessly and honestly about what happened in their country, it’s likely the truth of that time would never have been revealed.

We must do the same.

With all the furor over so-called offensive statues with regard to the Civil War, and calls to rename everything because some people find it offensive is not only silly, but dangerous. As ugly as our history is at times (and no country can claim otherwise), destroying it is equally as ugly. If we’re not honest and open about our history, we can never learn and grow from it.

And where does it end? Will we now destroy the writings of people who lived during that time, because what they wrote offends some people?

Who ultimately gets to decide what’s offensive anyway?

Plenty of people find our founding documents offensive, including the Constitution, simply because it was written by people who did what many consider terrible things. Who wrote them is unimportant compared to the document itself. Should we ignore the wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because he cheated on his wife?

But I get off topic.

We live in interesting times, sometimes dangerous times. If we don’t chronicle them, and do so with complete honesty, our children will never know what we accomplished — both good and bad — and they will in effect never learn from either. History will then be guaranteed to repeat itself.

It might anyway, but that’s another entry.

I believe that world literature has it in its power to help mankind, in these its troubled hours, to see itself as it really is, notwithstanding the indoctrinations of prejudiced people, and parties.

— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Expanding Empathetic Horizons

I tried to find a synonym to "horizons" that started with an "e", because a little alliteration for a title is always kinda neat methinks. Alas, I found none.

Aristotle theorized that people who read fiction in particular are better able to understand and experience life, and empathize more with their peers.

Several studies have shown his theory has credence: The Neuroscience of Your Brain on Fiction

What I found most interesting in the article was how the mere mention of a word such as cinnamon or other smells lights up the part of the brain dedicated to smells as if that person actually smelled it. The same goes for how fiction describes characters, their thoughts and how they interact with other characters and their surroundings. Our brain activity when reading reacts as if we're engaging with actual people.

So if we want a more empathetic society, we need to read, and encourage others (children especially) to read more. It doesn't have to be fiction only, because some non-fiction is written in the same way as fiction such as describing the world around them, and interactions with others.

God's genius is obvious here, because he not only designed our brains to learn language at an early age, but the desire to share our lives and experiences through that language, whether written or spoken. He did so, because of our inherent need to understand the world around us, ourselves, and each other.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some reading to do.

"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little." —Anne Lamott