Archive for December, 2015

A Mormon Studies Islam

December 28, 2015

At my last temple visit, I felt inspired to study Islam and Muslims and to understand what it is they understand.

To preface my study, my philosophy is that there must be something good in a religion shared by over a billion people. There must be some reason why parents teach their kids and their kids teach their kids. Religions just don’t survive over a thousand plus years and spread out to so many people without there being something of value that compels people to push it forward.

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, if you don’t know. However, I have learned that my faith doesn’t teach that there are members and non-members, but that we are all one. In fact, the reason I was in the temple in the first place was to perform essential saving ordinances for someone who wasn’t a mormon and for all I know could’ve hated the mormons. I anticipate, in fact, that I will see him in the Celestial Kingdom, along with all the other saints from my religion and others. That’s the heart of my faith — that we are all one, all brothers and sisters, and nothing divides us except the arbitrary lines we allow Satan to draw for us.

In our articles of faith, the last one, article 13, states eloquently “if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, we seek after these things.” Well, my cursory examination of Islams and Muslims shows that they have virtue, their artwork and architecture is lovely, and there are a lot of people who have good things to say about them and their faith, so I must seek after it.

In summary: I am studying Islam because I think there must be something good there, and my religion teaches me that there is no divide between us, and that I must, in fact, search after good wherever it is.

My journey is going to be difficult. I think there are a number of reasons for this. On the one hand, the history of Islam has some, shall we say, less savory components. There are people who claim the title of Muslim who do some horrible things. This is a stumbling block. I can’t say that Muslims are special — many people have done horrible things in the name of any religion. Still, it is difficult to find truth when thousands of voices are shouting anger . It is difficult to ignore these angry voices. After all, we’re all human and we’re all subject to the temptations of the devil. On the other hand, I get the feeling that Muslims are not as forthcoming with their religion. They try to represent their religion with their lives not their words, which is how members of my church are taught to do it too. While this is the right way to do things, it means reading a book or looking up articles on the internet simply will not do the topic justice.

However, I think I have gotten off to a good start. I know enough that in order to understand Muslims, I should not study Islam. This sounds like a contradiction, but it really isn’t. You aren’t going to learn much about what it means to be a mormon by studying the Book of Mormon or the Bible or the writings and teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. You really need to got to our church services, eat dinner with our families, and watch us as we live out our lives. There is no other way to understand or to communicate our essence. So it seems to be with Muslims and Islam.

Islam, by the way, literally means “Submission.” This sounds rather harsh to our Western ears, but perhaps if I re-translated it as “humility” it would make more sense. Our teachings state that the Lord demands a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit, a sense that I think “submission” really covers. Those who submit to God (they call him Allah) are practicing Islam. Those who do not are not.

Islam is not terribly well-defined. After more than a thousand years and being spread throughout every culture and philosophy, it has come to mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Nevertheless, there are some core truths that unite everyone who practices this faith. These are the “Five Pillars of Islam” and you can read about them pretty much anywhere. I wish to comment on them from my perspective.

First is the testimony. “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet”. In the Latter-day Saint faith, we start with testimony, or rather, what we call faith. Our faith is not directly in God, but in Christ. We also have faith that Christ calls prophets who can administer saving ordinances and teach the pure gospel. I am not fully convinced one way or the other that Mohammed was or was not a prophet. I will have to examine his teachings to see. I know enough, however, that I dare not question anyone who has claims of visions or visitation of angels or divine intervention. I know that God works through all people at all times, and is unchanging. It takes considerable evidence before I will throw out someone’s witness as unreliable. I know that God will guide me one way or the other, and I haven’t had him tell me that Mohammed is definitely not a prophet.

Mohammed a prophet? I think the idea causes many Christians, even Latter-day Saints, to worry. What about all the bad things people say about him? I won’t bother listing them all here, but suffice it to say if there is a crime, Mohammed is accused of committing it. Well, the same can be said of Christ and Joseph Smith, and pretty much any true prophet who walked the earth. It’s not hard to find examples of prophets who have been accused of evil.

The Latter-day Saint belief in prophets is not that prophets are perfect. Far from it! We jokingly say, “Catholics teach that the pope is perfect, but no catholic believes it. Mormons teach that the prophet is imperfect, but no mormon believes it.” I am told that Mohammed himself questioned whether he would make it to heaven. I think it should be safe to say that prophets are people, too, and they make mistakes and God chastises them for that.

The part I have trouble with, however, is the idea that Mohammed is the best, ultimate, prophet. This doesn’t sit well with me because it teaches a changing God who called prophets in the past but says, “That’s it. No more!” I don’t believe this is how God operates. While Mohammed may be a prophet to the Arab people or to followers of Islam, that doesn’t necessarily imply that he is the prophet God called to preach his word to other people. Nevertheless, faithful followers must listen to what any prophet has to say and must live according to what the Spirit directs.

I thought about this idea for a while and I have a couple of thoughts. First, when you find something special, like a prophet, your first instinct should be, “There may be more!” For instance, let’s say I was walking along a river and found a beautiful diamond among the rocks. What would my reaction be? “There might be more!” I would scour the area looking for more diamonds. This is because there are very few, if any, truly unique things in the universe.

The second thought I had was that while having a unique thing makes it special, having lots of the same sort of thing makes it even more unique. This is kind of like the saying, “You are unique, just like the seven billion other people on this planet.” Truly, however, what makes me more unique is the fact that there are seven billion other people to compare me with. With so many people to compare with, you can see what makes me truly special compared to all others. Following the diamond example, diamonds are pretty cool to people who are barely acquainted with them, but to the diamond expert who has seen countless diamonds, each one is truly special. Each one has a unique set of characteristics that makes it truly one-of-a-kind in their eyes.

So it is with prophets. If you have one, you should look for more. And when you find more, the one you found first is truly even more special. As you may be aware, in our church we believe in continuing revelation. Not only can the president of our church receive revelation, but everybody can receive revelation. We sometimes talk about “our prophet”, the person who is the president right now. Sometimes we mean the person who was the president at the time we awoke to the gospel. My prophet is Gordon B. Hinckley. It’s also Thomas S. Monson. We’ve had lots of prophets, and we’ll have lots more. Each one is special and unique to us. If I were to come to believe that Mohammed was a prophet, then he would be special as well.

Nevertheless, I am distracted. The second pillar is prayer. Muslims pray five times a day. I do not understand enough about what prayer means to a Muslim but I know enough that even vain, repetitious Gentile prayers are heard by God. (Jesus condemned vain, repetitious prayers.) I would like to study further what Muslims understand about prayer. I am sure there is something more to learn. Let me state that to the Latter-day Saints, prayer is at the heart of all we do. It is the first and last act, the most important of all things. We should carry a prayer in our hearts at all times.

The third pillar is alms-giving. Remarkably, the teachings on alms-giving are remarkably similar to our teachings. This leads me to believe that Mohammed was likely a prophet, because there is no way any mortal man can stumble upon such a system. It can only come from God. I want to point out that voluntary alms-giving is the essential element to inner peace and prosperity. No one can deny that this is a beautiful element of the Muslim faith.

The fourth pillar is fasting for the month of Ramadan. Muslims fast by not drinking water or eating food from sunup to sundown for the month of Ramadan. We also believe in fasting. We fast once a month for 24-hours by skipping two meals and avoiding food or drink. I know for a fact that this is a teaching that we mutually appreciate. I respect the Muslim fast and I know that they respect ours. Fasting is an essential element to prayer.

The fifth pillar is the Hajj, a trip to Mecca where Muslims participate in a variety of activities. I thought about this trip and what it symbolizes and I am left to conclude that it is comparable with our temple worship. Every member of our church should go to the temple at least once and participate in the temple ceremonies there. I will not cover the details here for brevity’s sake. Suffice it to say, the individual makes covenants to serve God and build up his kingdom on the earth through righteous actions. From what I can tell of the Hajj, there are a lot of similarities.

I do not understand much of Islam or how Muslims live their lives, but I know enough that there is good in there, and that I need to study it. My next step will be to visit with local Muslims to get to know their faith and appreciate what they believe and how they live their lives.

There are some questions I have, important questions that all people everywhere deal with. Namely, the problem of sin. How does one escape the consequences of sin? Also, the concept of perfection. How does one live a perfect life? What sort of blessings are promised to those who do? These are a topic I will address for another time. Suffice it to say, I think I know who Mohammed really was (yes, I think he was a prophet) and how to fit it in to our faith and religion. Understanding this will help us understand the Muslims and truly join with them in sincere brotherhood.

There will never be enough money for universal health care

December 11, 2015

The famed philosopher and economist Milton Friedman had this simple parable.

Suppose you went out to buy yourself something. You’re going to find the best quality at the best price. It’s your money so you try to spend as little as possible, and you care a great deal about what you get so you get the best quality you can get.

Suppose instead you’re buying a gift for your friend. Even though you care a lot about your friend, you really don’t know what your friend needs. So you buy something good but probably not optimal, and you try to spend as little money.

Suppose instead someone is paying for something you want to buy. With someone else’s money, you buy the best thing you get and you don’t care about the price, as long as it’s within range. You see this when companies pay for their employee’s lunch when they’re on a business trip. The employee will try to get the best food they can but they won’t try to save money.

Suppose instead you had to buy something for someone you care about, and you were using someone else’s money. As in the gift scenario, even though you care about your friend, you probably don’t know what they really need. And as in the third scenario, you don’t even care much how it costs.

If you want things to cost as little as possible, you have people spend their own money.

If you want things to be as high a quality as possible, you have them buy things for themselves.

Now, for my point: Universal health care will never have enough money. Since the people who use the system aren’t paying for it directly, they’re simply going to get as much health care as they can and they won’t take reasonable measures to keep costs down. On the other hand, the people who administer the system won’t really care much about the quality of health care people receive. See, they might be careful buying a gift for their friend, but they simply can’t care about the millions of people who live in a country and what each individual actually needs.

Universal Health Care cannot work and does not work. People tout how wonderful it is, but in practice, it is obviously worse than what we have in the US which is really bad to begin with.

How do you fix health care? It’s actually really simple. Have people buy their own health care with their own money. That’s all there is to it. If they’re spending someone else’s money, they won’t care about price. If someone else is making health care decisions, then they will be bad decisions.

How do we get there from here? Obviously, we could simply erase all the laws on the books that have anything to do with health care. That’s one option, and if I were supreme commander of the United States I would do it. Political reality suggests a different plan may be in order.

First, we can replace Medicare and Medicaid with vouchers. Seniors can use the money however they see fit, but when they run out, they run out and that’s it. As a bonus, they can keep the vouchers and spend it on something else besides health care.  Perhaps a lump-sum payoff would be ideal — just write a check and be done with the systems. We could also refund all the people who have paid into those systems at the same time. Not only would this inject a huge supply of cash into the economy, it would also relieve the huge impending doom that Medicare and Medicaid have in store for everyone. We simply cannot continue these systems. Something has to break. Either people stop getting health care, or our money becomes worthless. If you feel bad about seniors that use up all their health care dollars, perhaps we can create a matching program. For every $10k a senior spends on health care beyond their limit, the government can match with $10k or $5k or $20k or whatever. The idea is that the seniors have to spend their own money, and not just meet a minimum to unlock infinite spending. Seniors must weight the cost and benefit of health treatment, and having them do so will drive down costs and direct capital and resources to the health care seniors want and actually use.

Next, we can relax all the federal regulatory burdens on medical care. Disband the FDA and leave it up to the states to make their own health laws. The only law on the books should be laws that allow people to travel between states or out of the country for health care, or that allow people to purchase health products and plans across state lines. Our current system is a great burden on health care because it is so antiquated and impenetrable.

In addition to the above, we can allow the creation of health charities and give tax breaks and even additional tax breaks upon tax breaks on organizations that service the health needs of the poor, that invest in medical research and training, or related things. Note: Tax breaks, not subsidies. Giving a tax break doesn’t encourage people to go crazy with their money; subsidies that aren’t spent tend to disappear, which inflate prices.

I want to close with this. I like to fantasize like everyone else and wish the world wasn’t the way it really was. But we must accept the reality that the world is the way it is and work within its rules and limits. One of those limits is the economic topic of scarcity. While health care is extremely valuable, it is also scarce. It is hard to train new doctors, hard to keep hospitals running, and hard to have people give correct and precise advice. If we’d like people to have more access to health care, there are really two ways to approach this, and only one has worked historically. On the one hand, we can hand out medical care for free; on the other, we can create huge incentives to optimize the few resources we have to provide medical care. What inevitably happens when you hand out something for nothing is people treat it like it is worth nothing and they abuse it. But when they have to pay for it, then the economy can go to work directing resources where they are needed most and ensuring that all innovative ideas that are worthwhile are tried out.

I think if we went with a market-based approach, we would see people take the time and effort to stay healthy, since by staying healthy, they won’t need to spend as much money on medical care. Obesity in America will decline; people will be far more careful about what they eat and how they live their lives. Not only that, but doctors will be treated with respect and patients will actually finish their bottles of antibiotics.

You And I Are Not So Different

December 10, 2015

Trump calls for all muslim immigration to stop until we can develop a plan to handle the issues we’ve faced with a certain minority population among them.

Atheists berate Christians and other believers for believing in fairy tales.

Non-white, non-male, non-middle class people accuse white male middle-class people of being bad, and when they try to go out and help, it’s just yet another example of how they are bad.

Need I go on?

It was discovered a long time ago that in the Civil War, soldiers had their rifles stuffed with multiple charges. Why they would do this was a mystery until it was realized that it’s really hard to get your soldiers to shoot the other guy’s soldiers. It is fairly typical that someone would rather die than kill. In order to combat this, it was discovered that if you labelled the other guy’s soldiers as less than human, monstrous, demonic, then it became easier for your soldiers to pull the trigger. Hence, the propaganda during WWII that labeled German, Italian, and Japanese people as monstrous and evil. The Germans and Japanese did the same, to great effect. Also, during WWII, the Germans operated concentration camps where they isolated “others” from the population and performed gross inhuman acts upon them. After WWII, we have multiple instances where people were convinced to kill and hurt others.

The method is as follows:

  1. Dehumanize the enemy. Make them seem as inhuman as possible. They are not your neighbors, they are bad people trying to kill you because they are bloodthirsty and vicious.
  2. Label them. Give them a name. You don’t have to be very clear on what is or is not worthy of being given the name. You just need a name. Names could include things like “Jap”, “Wop”, “Kraut”, “Nazi”. It could include things like “Bourgeois”, “Capatilist”, “Racist”, “Imperialist”. It really doesn’t matter.
  3. Attack strawmen under the name. For instance, “All republicans want to do is take away your reproductive rights.”
  4. Let the hate burn. After all, according to these people, hate is the only thing that motivates people.

I want to share you a story. About 15 years ago, after suffering a particularly humiliating defeat of our party in the elections in my hometown, one of the activists I associated with, in a bitter, sad outburst, said, “We need to use hate. It’s the only way to get people to do things.” A strange silence fell over us as we pondered that. Someone replied, “If we’re going to use hate, then I would rather lose.” I don’t know what happened to that individual. I do know that we chose, as a group, not to use hate. And today, in Federal Way, there are three republicans elected to our state legislature.

We are not so different, you and I.

Here’s how you diffuse the above strategy.

  1. Humanize the enemy. They are not bad or evil, they are just opposed to you. Just like you oppose them because you think you are right, they oppose you for the same. What is bad is not who they are, but what they do. What needs to be stopped is not people, but behavior.
  2. Refuse labels. Don’t give them a name, or rather, give them a name that we all belong to. Some people accuse Christians of being mean for calling people “sinners”, but in reality, they are saying, “You are like me—a sinner.” So if you must use a name, make sure it applies to yourself as well.
  3. Don’t invent or tolerate strawmen. You can eliminate strawmen by letting people speak for themselves. In my example above, ask a republican, “Do you want to take away my reproductive rights?” The answer will surprise you. Whenever there is disagreement, the answer should always surprise you. If you can’t understand why they would oppose you, that means there is something out there to learn.
  4. Ignore hate, and refuse to tolerate it or use it. If you really want to change someone’s behavior, you invite them and be an example for them. You include them and associate with them. How can poor people learn to act proper unless they are able to watch proper people act?

I think it’s a rather simple strategy. And in my experience, it works.

I don’t see the world as gay or straight, white or black, American or foreign. I don’t see muslims, christians, or atheists. I see people. People who have different ideas about things.

Going Back in Time, Looking to the Future

December 4, 2015

We’re back to the 90’s, that happy moment when Bill Clinton was in charge, reality was whatever the liberals wanted it to be, and terrorism was only a figment of our imagination, despite the growing body count. Or rather, back to the 30’s, when war with Japan and Germany was something you only thought other countries faced, because we had liberals in charge here in America.

America, I’m not going to tell you to wake up. That’s because it doesn’t work. It’s not until reality stares you in the face in such an undeniable way that you begin to act rationally and protect yourself. Seeing the Twin Towers collapse, and all those New York office workers running around in the dust, feeling the heartache of the thousands of people who lost loved ones, watching the people jump out of the windows to certain death to avoid a fiery death inside — that woke us up in September 11, 2001. Likewise, watching as our battleships burned, as they sank with sailors still inside, all the while Japan was negotiating for peace — that woke us up on December 7, 1941.

But apparently, my words and the countless words of others, along with the rising body count is not enough to wake us up yet. Sleep on, enjoy your imaginary peace. It may not be your cousin or uncle or brother or sister who is murdered by Islamic Jihadists, so what should you care?

What I am going to do is tell you what to do when you decide to wake up.

First, you will end all the surveillance and counter-terrorism efforts. Just stop. They don’t work, they never will. These programs are a trick designed to give the government more power at the expense of our rights. The bottom line is this: If we can’t trust someone so much that we have to spy on them, we might as well kill them. If we can trust them, then there’s no reason to spy on them.

Next, you will wage an all-out war against any state that endorses terrorism. Those states with regions controlled by terrorists will also be given an option: Either you let the US military in to clean up the terrorists, or you become our enemy.

Those who support us in our war-fighting are our allies. Those who do not are our enemies. And we need to show the world that you don’t want to be our enemy.

We did not choose this war. We did everything we could to prevent it. But sometimes, you don’t get to choose when you are at war. Your enemy does that for you.

The type of war you will wage will be swift and merciful. It will be merciful because it will be quick. We will not capture the enemy and interrogate them. We will kill them, by the millions, if need be. Those who insist the Geneva Convention applies to terrorists can use the Geneva Convention to wipe up the blood of our people killed by terrorists.

You will not have cameras to record the events of the war. All the public will know about is the heroes who come back in boxes, wheelchairs, or crutches. All you will know is the names of the heroes who put themselves in harm’s way to save themselves, their friends, and their country. The horrors of war will be a memory only our soldiers will bear. We, the people, will get out of the way to let them finish the job.

Any accusation of atrocity against us will be met with the stiff response: “We did not start this, but we will end it. When the enemy is ready to lay down their arms, surrender, or at the very least, put on a uniform, then we can start talking about collateral damage. Until then, we will fight until they have no more will to fight and swear an oath to God and Allah that they will never, ever harm anyone in the name of their God ever again.”

War is a sick business. Given the option, we should always choose peace. When we don’t have that option, we should choose to wage a decisive, swift war with conclusive victory. The victory conditions are we win, they die. We take all of their land, their money, their food, their guns, their bombs, their people. As a sign of their defeat, they will readily turn over all governmental operations to us, and their military leaders will come on bended knee to hand over their weapons of war. Their people will swear an oath of allegiance to us, and declare that we are the greatest country on earth. Their preachers will teach the moral superiority of our philosophy. They will do this because all of those humiliating things are preferable to fighting us for even one more second.

If we wage this war in this way, mercilessly and swiftly, you’ll find out quickly who your friends and enemies really are. Your enemies will suddenly be willing to talk more. And your friends will get your back.

We don’t need world-wide surveillance. We don’t need secret black ops to swoop in and kill the baddies. We need to wage an all-out war and wreck everything that the baddies hold dear. We need to destroy their will to fight. We need to humiliate them to the point where the only reasonable option is to farm or work in a factory. We need to tell them and the world that you don’t mess with the US. We will be your best trading partner, your dearest ally, but we will not tolerate even vague threats against the security of our people.

After this war, when entire regions of the Middle East are a smoking ruin, then we can talk about peace. Then we can begin to rebuild their countries in a way where peace can dominate. As long as there are people willing to pick up a gun and fight for Allah, however, there can be no peace between us.

Unfortunately, I doubt America will ever do this again. We started to in 2001, but we quickly lost our confidence. I don’t know that we have the moral fortitude and certainty required to wage an all-out war. If you do not know that you are absolutely in the right, you cannot do the things that need to be done in the way they need to be done. So really, America, get your moral act together, reconcile yourself with God, and get read for the coming war. Make sure that you understand that you don’t only have the ability to fight for yourself, not only the right, and not only the duty, but when you pick up arms and kill people to save innocent lives because you have exhausted every avenue of peace, God blesses you for obeying his commandments.

Why People Hate Christianity

December 3, 2015

All the talk about how Americans hate Muslims or somesuch lead me to do some critical thinking.

In reality, it appears our culture and society has bent over backwards to accommodate the Muslim faith. We have been extraordinary tolerant of them and their faith, and have welcomed them with open arms. The same goes for the other religions of the world. One doesn’t have to look very hard to see how. For instance, when a devout muslim attacks and kills in the name of Allah, we say, “Oh, he is just a minority of a minority in his group! Muslims are generally good people!”

In contrast, living as a Christin in American society seems to be the only sin left that offends our society. Whenever there is a mass-shooting in America, the media tends to blame White Christian Males. Regardless, all the violence in the world seems to be blamed on Christians rather than on the real source of violence. For instance, the muslim terrorists who attack and kill us and their own people are really upset about the Crusades from several hundred years ago, and so it’s really our fault that they are going on a violent killing rampage.

What is it that has compelled people in history and in modern times to hate Christianity?

First, some definitions are in order. When I say Christian, I mean those who follow Jesus Christ. By follow, I mean embrace the basics of what he taught, which can be summed up as the following points.

  1. God created us in His image and gave us commandments.
  2. We have broken those commandments, all of us, except Jesus Christ. This makes us all sinners and unworthy of God’s love.
  3. Despite this, God still loves us, and so He gave us Jesus Christ, so that we can return to God and become like Him.
  4. Jesus Christ asks us to have faith (trust) in Himself, to repent of our sins (turn away from sin), forgive each other and love God and love each other.
  5. Jesus Christ promises us peace in this life and to be joint-heirs with Him to inherit all that God has.

What about this message offends people? Let’s break it apart.

The idea that we were created in God’s image is an astounding one. Evolution teaches us that we are mere pondscum. Christianity teaches us that we are children of God, born and destined to be like Him. It doesn’t matter who we are — even the lowest among us are destined for the greatest things. This teaching is criticized and condemned, it seems, since once you give people the idea that they are better than who they really are, they start acting like it. The nobles of Europe wanted the peasants to no less imagine that they were as good as the lords than the rich and powerful oftentimes wish the commoners had the same thoughts. To those who want to control and dominate, this idea is very dangerous, because it means any person could be the person who replaces you.

As an example, let’s pretend we lived in Roman times. The emperor of Rome felt safe knowing that there were only a few people in the world who could ever claim his crown. He could make sure these people were supporting him, and slaughter the rest, and be done with it. What kind of chaos would occur if the people believed that anyone could be emperor? How could the emperor hope to bribe and placate the entire world’s population? Why, he would have to behave in such a way as to please everyone, namely, living a virtuous life.

The second part of this equation is the fact that as our Creator and Father, God has a right, nay, a duty, to explain how things work and how we ought to behave. This puts a damper on all the millions of people who think they know better than God and want to tell us how to live our lives. And make no doubt about it — people who try to supplant the God-given commandments with their own are fighting against God himself, and setting up some sort of vain idol worship. Just like Paul destroyed the idol manufacturing business in certain cities in Greece, Christianity destroys entire industries where people try to make themselves as gods or make their own gods for people to worship. Christianity is simply bad for business in the god-making business.

Moving on to the next idea, we consider what sin is. Sin is anything we do that is not congruent with the infinite commandments of God. When we disobey his commandments, we show great disrespect to Him. We also behave in such a way that brings some sort of evil into the world. If you consider the commandments as a Christian does, a sort of good-living guidebook, any violation of those commandments means you are not living your life as safe and as well as you could.

The idea that we are all sinners is offensive to some. I think it is because they do not imagine that there are any commandments that cover their behavior, or they imagine they are doing something else besides break those commandments, or perhaps they do not think it is wrong to do so. It is interesting to see the very people who say there is no sin in themselves wag their fingers at the sin they see all around them. Failing to admit to sin in yourself is simply deceiving yourself. You are lying to yourself in one way or another, and eventually, those lies will catch up to you. In short, failing to recognize sin all around and in us is failing to see the world as it really is. I know for a fact that people really hate the cognitive dissonance that comes from seeing the world as it really is. Physicists have fought with themselves, and continue to fight, to uncover what it is that is wrong in their thinking by trying to pay very close attention to what the universe has to say about things. It is hard, and it makes people angry to be told that they are wrong and full of error. But at the same time, it is necessary.

Once you’ve recognized sin, what is to be done about it? One possibility is to punish sin wherever it is found. In order to punish sin, you need to find it, and then you need to punish it. Those who advocate a universal punishment of sin also advocate a strong, tyrannical government who can peek into our private lives, make their own judgments, and then render punishments. If you think this is the ideal form of life, I invite you to move to Saudi Arabia or other places where governments have such a power. Now imagine that you are never, ever, ever going to find a group of people who have the exact same ideas about what God’s commandments are, and you see the problem.

I should pause to point out how our American / European system differs. We don’t go around looking for sin and error. We don’t punish the vast majority of sins. Instead, we’ve listed some very, very egregious sins that we feel we must act upon (such as murder, rape, theft, fraud, etc…), then we wait until someone breaks these commandments in a very public way. When they have done so, then and only then we send out our investigators and our judges and our executioners. As an example, although we have a law on the books that says you can’t murder, technically, you can murder, provided you don’t leave any trace of it so that no one knows about it. We’re never going to find you. So really, our law says, “You can’t murder in such a way that anyone else finds out about it.” That’s the difference.

Now, we could institute a system where there was no privacy, and then we would find all sorts of crimes and we could prosecute and punish them, but honestly, who wants to live like that? It’s better to wait until something happens in the public, and then execute on it. Besides, this is the mentality a Christian would have.

Which gets me to the point. In every other system imaginable, some one or some group of people need to be invested with some authority to either rewrite God’s laws or to find and punish violations of it. In the Christian systems, individuals are commanded to forgive one another and to encourage each other to repent and embrace Christ. This sort of thinking leads people to move away from authority and embrace a more open and friendly society without masters to boss people around. Obviously, this is the sort of thing that people who want to be masters and boss people around find disagreeable, and so naturally they want to encourage Christians to stop all this forgiving-and-loving business and get back to finding bad guys and beating them up.

The idea that God loves us no matter what we have done and has provided a way out and forward is something I also think people find aggravating. What good is a group of people who are nice to each other all the time and sincerely want to help others out? IF I were someone of ill intent, and I wanted to do bad things for my own reasons, that would be the sort of thinking I would wish to discourage. I would tell people to stop worshiping a God of infinite and unwavering love and instead embrace a god who hates and wants you to hurt and kill others. This is how I would get an excited mob to do things I want to get done.

On the other hand, I could also preach a god who has no commandments, and holds no one accountable for their actions. This sort of god would be a good god to use to convince people to do evil and selfish things. After all, a god with no commandments is no god at all.

It’s the sort of preaching that Christians make, that there is a God who has commandments and will punish us, but at the same time he loves us and wants us to embrace Him, that makes it really difficult to take advantage of people.

Which brings me to the topic of obedience to Christian principles of faith, repentance, forgiveness, loving God and each other, etc… Again, people who live like this are difficult to take advantage of. People who learn to love God also love his commandments. People who love each other won’t hurt each other. People who forgive don’t get angry and don’t form mobs. People who repent have no shame and can’t be blackmailed. People who only put their trust in Christ can’t be convinced to put their trust in other people. All of these things lead to the equalization of mankind, lead to the abolition of tyrannical forms of government, and the empowerment of the common man. If that were sincerely the desire of people who hate Christianity, then they wouldn’t hate Christianity.

The final component of Christianity, the component that probably drives people completely bonkers is the promise of everything the universe has. That is, anything you want or desire can be satisfied with Christianity. Perhaps you may not obtain everything in this life, but certainly you can obtain peace and happiness, soundness of mind in these mortal years, with the promise of eternal and infinite power and authority in future years. This sort of philosophy removes a powerful mechanism by which people try to gain control over each other. Let me explain.

Suppose you go to work one day and your boss says, “I’d like to give you a million dollars. All you have to do is lie on this form.” What he is trying to do is he is trying to get you abuse your position and power in some selfish interest. In any religion that doesn’t promise infinite rewards and peace of mind in this life, you would be tempted to agree. That is, you would be corruptible. A devout follower of Jesus Christ, however, would see this as what it is, and say, “You can fire me, but I will not behave dishonestly. See, my rewards lie in heaven, and I have peace of mind in this life, and there is nothing I am willing to trade those things for.”

Accordingly, if people become incorruptible, then what use do corrupt people have with it? What would happen if every FBI, CIA, IRS, and ATF agent were Christian and valued honesty and integrity above all else? What would happen if every commanding officer and enlisted man in our military was the same? A corrupt president could issue a command to do evil, but where would anyone obey such a command? This is the most frightful thing for those in power, and the reason why they hate Christianity above all else.

Those who rail against Christianity either fight something it is not (a strawman) or are corrupt themselves. We need not fear them. We can confidently stand up to them. Early Christians were fed to lions in the arena, and all they had to do was denounce Christ to be “saved”. We can do no less.

Stand up for Christianity, be bold, and don’t let the world get you down. Our hope lies in another.