Innocence and the Beast

A young boy, five year old Cannon Hinant, was recently murdered while riding his bike with his sisters at his home in Wilson, North Carolina. A neighbor, Darius Sessoms, walked up to him and shot him in the head at point blank range without warning.

Even though this happened weeks ago on August 9, I am still enraged whenever I hear about it or think about it. That a grown man, twenty-five years old, could coldly execute a boy who had only begun to live, simply makes me boil. It makes me furious that someone can have so little disrespect for human life, especially young children, that he would just “snuff out” everything that this little boy was and could have been.

My heart aches, not only for Cannon’s family and friends who are the first responders of grief, but also for the killer’s family, which must deal with the aftermath. They have to live with what has happened as well and it might very well be harder for them than for the boy’s family.

When I think about the man who committed this heinous act, the song by Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody comes to mind and I grieve for him as well.

“Mama, just killed a man, put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he’s dead. Mama, life had just begun, but now I’ve gone and thrown it all away.”

Cannon Hinant’s future was pure potential, Darius Sessom’s is certain. He will be tried, found guilty of first-degree murder, and either executed or locked up in a maximum-security prison for the rest of his life. Execution would be the more merciful punishment.

This episode, however, is just one of many in a society which has gone insane. “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” is the ancient saying and it should be evident that American society has plunged headlong in that direction. It seems that every day brings us one step closer to a complete breakdown of civilized society and, once started on the road to ruin, there is no turning back. There is only the hope that someday, somehow, this madness will be over and we can get back to getting along with each other peacefully.

America’s problems are not unique, however, because they crop up in other places around the world, sometimes where most people wouldn’t expect them. For instance, Alex Utopium has written about a twelve year old girl who was killed by gunfire during a shootout between rival gang members in Stockholm, Sweden. Yes, Sweden, that socialist paradise so beloved by progressives everywhere, has a problem and it is just as ugly as it is in any other country where human life is of no concern.

Why should we be surprised, though? For decades, we have systematically killed our youngest and most vulnerable citizens through the practice of abortion on demand, otherwise known as “woman’s rights”. We have applauded Hollywood (and rewarded them financially) as they pumped out more and more graphic violence, depicting the most heinous scenes possible to a warped mind. We have saluted as “our troops” have swarmed over and slaughtered untold millions of people in other countries, small, poor, and unable to adequately defend themselves–all in the name of “national interest”. That is, if you understand it correctly, money and the power it can buy.

Modern human society is bankrupt. The bills of three or four centuries of continual “Enlightenment”, of trying to build a utopian world on sinful human nature are now coming due and will be paid. The books will be balanced–in one way or another and most of us will probably not like the results.

Who is to blame? Street gangs in Stockholm? Black men in America? Yes, absolutely, but also everyone else, including you and I. All of us share some amount of the responsibility for what is happening around us as our world burns and collapses. All of us ought to consider the beam which is in our own eye (Matthew 7:5) before we start to “fix” the troubles that our brothers and sisters are dealing with.

This is why I cannot condemn Darius Sessoms. This is why my rage is not so much directed at him nor any other individual, but more toward myself, the character flaws I struggle with, and the culture I live in.

I can be better. We can be better. We must be better. Our world depends on it.

Hezekiah Revisited

I don’t claim to be perfect. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life and I know where my weaknesses are. There have been more than a few times where my actions have been in stark, vivid contrast to what I said I believed. However, over the last few years, I have been working on this and now make the self-conscious effort to operate under the principle that I should live in conformity to my stated philosophy, worldview, and creed. There are still times I slip, but they are fewer, farther apart, and easier to recover from.

Any American who can read the signs knows that this country is in some serious doo-doo. It would be easy to start listing the reasons why, but I really don’t have the time or space to hit every one. Besides, it’s a lot easier to hit a far-distant target with a rifle than it is with a shotgun. Therefore, I’m going to focus on one target and fire one bullet.

Can anyone say Republicans?

Before you start attacking me for being un-American, charging me with treason, or questioning my salvation, let me say that I don’t have any love for the Democrat Party. Or the Libertarian, Green, Communist, Nazi, and People’s. All of them are full of people who espouse one set of beliefs, but act another way when it’s convenient. And beneficial to them, I might add. For the record, my political views are most closely aligned with the libertarian viewpoint, but even within this so-called bastion of liberty and freedom, there is what I can honestly call rot. But that’s for another time.

Let’s get back to the Republicans. We are told over and over again that Republicans are the party of fiscal conservatism. They are the ones who are most concerned about government spending, the deficit, American debt, etc. We hear that they will restore the country to financial sanity if we just vote them into office and give them the power to work it out. Election cycle after election cycle, ad infinitum, until it makes us sick to hear about it one more time.

Right! And pigs fly too!!

There was a time where the acronym NIMBY (not in my back yard) was used frequently, most commonly with reference to building nuclear power plants. We don’t hear it much anymore, but the spirit of NIMBY is alive and well. This fits in well with the dominant attitude so prevalent in America today. Cut! Cut the deficit! Cut government spending! Don’t, however, even think about cutting my own special interest. Go ahead and cut somewhere else, but not in my back yard. You can protest as loudly as you want, but with respect to this topic, the Republicans are as bad as the Democrats.

Consider Chris Christie, for instance. Governor of New Jersey. Conservative. Republican. Sweet Darling of the Right. Presumed shoo-in for the Republican Party presidential nominee in 2016, 2020, or beyond if he should decide to run. Yet, how fiscally conservative is he anyway? Think about what he said and the way he acted because John Boehner (another fiscally conservative Republican) failed to expropriate sixty billion dollars to bailout all of the “victims” of Hurricane Sandy. You can read his comments here.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57561665/christie-blasts-boehner-on-sandy-bill-shame-on-congress/

Let’s think about this for a moment. This country is in the worst financial position that most of us have ever seen, up to our eyeballs in debt with no end in sight. The deficit grows larger every minute. So does government spending. Economically speaking, any sane person would say that we really need to call a halt to it before it destroys us. Supposedly, the Republicans represent sanity, but that’s not what is being manifested. We have a “fiscal cliff” to avoid, yet one of the leaders of the Party of Fiscal Prudence and Budget Restraint screams bloody murder when his ox is gored. Surely, Mr. Christie, you can see the light here, can’t you? Or are you listening to your constituents who scream bloody murder because their ox has been gored. Perhaps Christie is looking ahead to the next election where he can “honestly” say that he brought home the pork, $60, 000, 000, 000 worth, to be exact. Perhaps the voters of New Jersey will be so grateful they will put him back into office for another term. Perhaps the country will be so enamored of his generosity that he will be compelled to run for President next time and save us all from our own disasters.

Perhaps it really won’t make any difference. After all, with budgets running four trillion dollars plus and growing, deficits in the range of sixteen trillion plus and growing, long-term entitlement commitments (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) estimated to range from $100- 200 trillion dollars, 60 billion is a drop in the bucket. The question is, however, where will it end and who (or what) will put an end to it? Certainly, if Chris Christie has anything to say about it, the end won’t come on his watch.

This reminds me of King Hezekiah. You can get the full story in Second Kings 20, but for our topic, the following quote is sufficient.

“Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord. The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
“The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”

Ah, yes, now we’re getting somewhere. Peace and security in my lifetime. Prosperity too. Who really cares what will happen when I’m dead. What difference does it make if my grandchildren have to pay through their noses so long as I get what I want? Life is too short to be painful. After all, as John Maynard Keynes so famously put it, “In the long run, we’re all dead.” For those who aren’t familiar with Keynes, he’s the fellow who convinced governments everywhere to start deficit spending. Today, he’s dead, but his legacy lives on, like the Hydra which can’t be killed and we’re all paying for it. Unfortunately, not all of us are going to die before the Babylonians roll into town.

I’m realistic enough to know that I’m not going to change Gov. Christie’s mind. I won’t be able to convince John Boehner to stand firm and refuse to write any more bad checks. I can’t persuade Paul Ryan to start producing budgets which actually work. But I can change how I think about the way I live and I can stand on my own feet without expecting that the taxpayers and citizens of this country will bail me out as soon as it gets uncomfortable. Furthermore, if I pull back my outstretched hand and convince enough others to do the same, it might be sufficient to make a difference. In the long run. In the short run, we’ve already gone off the “fiscal cliff.” That little blip of a show the other day was simply an outcrop we smashed into on the way down.

Whether we want to or not, we’re going to learn what it’s like to be taken off the teat. It’s past time to be weaned. It’s time to grow up.

Slander, Libel, and Professing Christians

It used to be that people spoke to each other respectfully and graciously, more or less. To be sure, there were times when the conversation reached lows which could only be considered repugnant and unworthy according to the moral character of the day, but they were not common nor preferred.

How far we have fallen!

If you follow blogs or news sites which promote any type of opinion, you will almost always find comments from followers which do not even attempt to debate the issue. Instead, these commentors post words which would have been considered off-limits only a few years ago. Maliciousness, name-calling, slander, and libel are now allowed as acceptable behavior, even on blogs which protest that, according to their Posting Policy, such things are not to be tolerated.

Below is a definition from Wikipedia (edited very slightly) which I think is a good description. I am posting it so that no one can mistake my intent when I declare that I will enforce my own posting policy on this blog. See the Comment Policy tab at the top of the page.

“Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, traducement, slander (for transitory statements), and libel (for written, broadcast, or otherwise published words)—is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation a negative or inferior image. This can be also any disparaging statement made by one person about another, which is communicated or published, whether true or false, depending on legal state. In Common Law it is usually a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed (the claimant).

In common law jurisdictions, slander refers to a malicious, false, and defamatory spoken statement or report, while libel refers to any other form of communication such as written words or images. Most jurisdictions allow legal actions, civil and/or criminal, to deter various kinds of defamation and retaliate against groundless criticism.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slander)

What bothers me about this whole affair is that people who claim and profess to be disciples of Jesus (Christians, in other words) engage in this exercise as much as those who are not Christian. (Don’t belive me? Go to any blog which is “conservative” and/or Republican in nature, pick an article, scroll down to the comments, and see for yourself. If you have trouble locating these, let me know. I will give you specific links.)

Generally speaking, the people who follow and subscribe to conservative, Republican blogs and news sites confess to be Christian. Many of these are proud to admit that they have been “disciples” for 20, 30, 40 years or more, yet they attack someone who shares an opinion which doesn’t fit well with their worldview and/or offends their sensiblilities. Why? Why do so many think that they have the freedom or right to air the vicious, mean, unloving comments they post? Do they talk this way to each other face to face? What do they hope to gain by this conduct? How do they think they are honoring and lifting up the Name of Jesus by the way they carry on?

Apparently, these people have never learned what the Bible has to say about this. Let me quote various scriptures.
1. Colossians 4:6–“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (New American Standard Bible (©1995))
2. Proverbs 15:1–“A gentle response diverts anger, but a harsh statement incites fury.” (International Standard Version)
3. Proverbs 15:28–“The heart of the righteous weighs its answers,
but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.” (NIV)
4. Ephesians 6:12–“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (English Standard Version)
5. Luke 6:45–“The upright (honorable, intrinsically good) man out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart produces what is upright (honorable and intrinsically good), and the evil man out of the evil storehouse brings forth that which is depraved (wicked and intrinsically evil); for out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Amplified Bible)

Did you hear that? Out of the evil that a man stores up in his heart will come words from his mouth. There is only one logical conclusion to this–those who speak nasty, foul, demeaning words to others have evil stored up in their own hearts. It is inevitable that the people who think this way will speak in the same manner.

What will it take to raise the tenor of the conversation? It’s quite simple, actually. As individuals, we have to admit that we are sinners and that we sometimes we say things we shouldn’t. In that case, we have to confess the sin and stop repeating it. Also, we must realize that we are representatives of Jesus the Christ and that, when we use derogatory, hurtful, unloving words against someone else, it is His Name, reputation, and kingdom which suffers. In addition, we need to come to the understanding that, again from the mouth of the Master, “…as you give, you will receive.” If we don’t want someone else speaking that way to us, we need to stop speaking that way to them.

There are laws which prohibit such speech and which have penalties against it. However, I am under no illusions as to the effectiveness of these laws. The legal system would be completely swamped if it started enforcing them. What would be far more effective is for the various blogs/news/Internet sites to police their own policies and simply refuse to post such comments. This probably won’t happen on a large scale, because a blog which did this would probably lose readership and revenue. The Almighty Dollar wins again!

No, the only way this is going to be substantially effected is for individuals to know what is right to say and to refuse to say anything that is wrong. Individual responsiblity before God is still the primary vehicle for positive change in society. I have committed to this course and am looking for others to follow suit. Are you in or out?

Eating My Words

In the post below, In the Wake of Massacre, I made certain predictions about what this country would not be facing as we move forward in our national grief. I must admit, with great pleasure, that I have been completely wrong about at least two of those–our insatiable appetite for violence and the heinous crime of abortion.

I said that we would probably not hear much about the pervasive and murderous violence in our society, especially that which emanates from Hollywood in the form of movies and TV shows, and video game producers. I also said that we would probably not discuss the violent horror known as abortion on demand in connection with the mindless violence of the Newtown shootings. I was wrong on both counts. In fact, from what I have seen on the Internet and (sparsely) on the broadcast news, these issues have been brought up and are being vigorously debated. This makes me quite happy about the future of our country.

I am not alone. Many others are thinking along the same lines. Like Elijah, I realize that there are others “out there somewhere” who hold to the same beliefs and convictions as I do and that God has not left me alone or without support. I will never know how many others of like-mind there are, it is enough to know that they are there and working for the same God and cause as I am. May His Will prevail!

This would be an appropriate time to quote Tiny Tim. “God bless us, every one!” And a very blessed Christmas to all of you.

P.S. I have included a link to an article, “Guns, Mental Illness, and Newtown”, in the Wall Street Journal which I recommend. Check it out. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323723104578185271857424036.html

In the Wake of Massacre

In the wake of the elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT, where 27 people (20 of them between the ages of 5 and 10) were killed, there is one prominent question. Why? Why did this happen? It seems that no one has any answers except the same old tried and truly failed, but they are easy to find if you look in the right place.

It is certain that there will be an immediate increase in the clamor over incidents of this nature. President Obama has said that there will be “meaningful action”; presumably he meant tighter and more restrictive gun control. Many other leaders have also joined in, with the consensus seeming to be that we can’t avoid talking about it anymore, but have to come to grips with the issue.

There will also be a renewed focus on the “mental” condition of the people who commit these types of criminal acts. We will probably be subjected to scores of “experts” who will expound their favorite theories as to why someone acts this way and what we must do to serve as a counterbalance to their unsocial behavior.

My guess is that the “culprits” in this act of violent barbarity will be these two strawmen. They are convenient and many people will use the emotion of the moment to try to get what they want from the situation. Besides, if we can make these the scapegoats, then we have no real incentive to explore the deeper causes of violent behavior. Oh, yes, there are deeper causes and we must face them squarely.

First, I predict there will be very little discussion about violent and murderous video games, television shows, and movies to which young men are subjected to from the very beginning of their lives. We will not talk about how someone growing up with digital murder finally decides to try it out in real life to see how it feels or to vent a lifetime of built-up rage. After all, there is no proof that playing with matches ever causes someone to light a forest fire or burn a house down. Besides, we all like to indulge. Don’t we?

Second, there will be no connection between this shooting and the undisputed fact that every year millions upon millions of small, helpless children under the age of nine months are legally killed before they are born. Some will protest that these are two completely separate issues and that it is unfair to even try to pair them. Violence is as violence does, however, and a young man who hears about women regularly ripping their unborn children out of their wombs might very well think that he should be excused if he joined in the carnage.

Third, there will be absolutely no mention made about the way that our young men and women go overseas into small towns and cities and slaughter hundreds and thousands of innocents. Absolutely none! If there is one sacred cow which cannot be sacrificed on the altar of Exceptional Americanism in the name of maintaining our lifestyle and making some people fantastically rich, it is our military, the most powerful killing machine in the history of the world. Why is it perfectly acceptable to shoot, bomb, and incinerate millions upon millions of innocents abroad, yet be completely repelled and outraged when it happens here?

America has become a violent place. Violence permeates every seam, nook, and cranny of our culture. It is everywhere and there is virtually no escape from it. We watch it on TV or the movie screen, play games with it on X-Box, practice it during abortions, promote it with our political views, cheer and applaud our military or the men and women who perform on WWE,  and myriad other ways. We are America and we are violent. We love violence. We thrive on violence. We are to blame. We are all guilty. Our society is made up of individuals and a very large part of those individuals, a very large part indeed, are violent. It is time for us to admit that “we have met the enemy and he is us.”

What are solutions to prevent school shootings like this one? Longer prison terms for violent offenders? Tighter restrictions on gun ownership? Turning legitimate gun owners into pariahs and criminals? Blaming someone’s mental condition because he broke? Blaming society? These will probably be tried and will not work any better than they did in the past. What, then? I can think of three answers, one which will be rejected outright, one which is actually happening now behind the scenes, and one which must happen but will be resisted as long as possible. Respectively, they are:

This will go nowhere. Every school district in the country ought to purchase a high-powered, high-quality pistol for all of its teachers and administration, teach them how to use the firearms, and require them to be carried while on school property. They ought to issue body armor for all their personnel. Armed, trained, and ready educators could have easily shot this young man right at the start and eliminated virtually all of the heartache he caused. Instead they cowered in closets and under desks. It would have been so easy. It will not happen.

The one solution which has some legs would be for parents to realize that the government can’t protect their children any better than they can educate them. Parents should take the initiative in this and immediately pull their children out of these “indoctrination centers” and put the responsibility for the education of their children squarely where it belongs—on their own shoulders. There is serious movement in this direction.

What must be done is to admit as a nation that we have failed, that we have sinned before God Almighty, and that we need to make a change of direction away from the appalling nightmare we are in. We need to start, as a nation and society, to become outraged by violence, any kind of violence, and start demanding that perpetrators, whoever they might be, are severely punished. We need to start asking forgiveness from God and allow His Holy Spirit to begin working in our own hearts, our hearts first of all, and then those of the people around us. We need to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace and that we must submit our murderous desires to His rule in every area of our lives. This, too, will not happen, at least on an official level, but it should. There is no better answer.