I Have No Opinion About Whatever Is Making You So Mad

I have no opinion about whatever it is that someone did, said, wrote, or believed that has you so upset.

Even if I had an opinion about it, I might not want to air it publicly.

Simply because I am not speaking out for or against whatever just happened does not mean that I am against or for it. Nor does it mean that I am a co-conspirator in injustice. That isn’t how guilt works. Really.


I have strong opinions about many things. Many of them are also deeply researched. I am, academically and vocationally speaking, competent and qualified to speak on a number of issues. I am personally acquainted with some things well enough to comment on them and have reasonable and warranted opinions.

I am not, however, prepared to comment on the latest snippet of news, out of context interview sound bite, or social hoopla that has been uncovered or invented in the last 24 hours. In fact, to speak on this issue would be inappropriate unless I had some unique background in the subject matter, additional context to add, and awareness of more than the drive by commentary that has everyone so upset.

A Historical View

When the historians write the story of our present age, I fully expect them to describe how much disinformation and overreaction there was because people didn’t take time to think and weren’t equipped to do the necessary thinking.

They may call us this the age of the flip out, the knee jerk, and the public flop and twitch.

It’s not like these are different fundamentally than any other generation. Propaganda was alive and well in previous centuries. Wars have been started due to failed romances and jilted lovers.

What is different is that the flop and twitch is constant and ever shifting. We don’t even have the common decency to get upset about one thing and rail against it for several weeks. Instead, we have a new freak out every day.

Also, something different is this foolish idea that not flopping and twitching over everything that makes X upset—which may or may not be true—constitutes material participation in the alleged evil that is being freaked out about.

Just the Facts, Ma'am

In fact, many times, the freak out is not over what someone actually did or said, but what someone thinks they meant based on misreading or misunderstanding what they wrote, said, or did.

Someone sees something and misinterprets it as malicious. Several people blog about the evils of the malevolent action. Suddenly there is a fire storm in which anyone who doesn’t storm the battlements is guilty of hating puppies. Several people blog about the lack of response by “important people” who haven’t spoken out about the issue because they obviously don’t care. Meanwhile, half the people being maligned may actually know something that gives them a different position, not be aware of the situation, or simply not feel that the issue is worth addressing with such vigor. However, they must be burned at the altar of activism for their sin of inactivity.

While all of this is happening, before a response can be ventured and research conducted a new “crisis” has arisen that demands instantaneous, fact-less condemnation. Even if a correction is made, it is rarely read and the “hot take” condemnation of the event and the silent people allegedly condoning the supposed evil remain permanent artifacts on the internet. Rinse and repeat.

False Alarm Fatigue

Do you remember the red cups at Starbucks? I don’t think anyone was actually ever upset about the cups themselves, but there was a veritable cyclone of blame and aspersion flying around the web.

This is creating an environment in which Twitter—a social media platform that could be fun—is dying because smart, thinking people are getting tired of people with too little information demanding absolute agreement with their opinion of everything instantaneously and without qualification.

How many well-wrought books are we going to lose to foolish reactions on the internet? How many reputations are going to be ruined on the altar of condemnation for an improper or insufficient response?

In the meanwhile, I have no opinion about what you are upset about. Or, perhaps I have an opinion, but I don’t think it adds to the conversation.

Reclaiming Hope - A Review

Michael Wear’s recent book Reclaiming Hope is a call for Christians to remain hopeful about the future, despite the misuse and abuse of religion in politics in recent years. Although similar messages have been promoted and led to failure, Wear’s message is a worthwhile one: authentic Christian hope should lead to Christians continuing to participate in politics as Christians. This means that we need to seek the good of the city in which God has placed us and remain critical of both political parties.

Wear is one of the many in the millennial generation who believe that greater government participation in redistribution of wealth is a good thing. The front half of the book recounts his alignment with the Obama White House on the good of passing the Affordable Care Act, which has made purchasing medical insurance legally required with financial penalties for those who choose not to participate in the market. Wear recounts Obama’s use of religious language in supporting things as way that faith can influence policy. For those that oppose the seemingly ever increasing growth of the government through programs like the Affordable Care Act, the front end of the book seems like a bit of tedious hero worship of President Obama. Those who find themselves so frustrated should continue on through the volume. Wear is recording the events as he saw them at the time, though he appears to more critically examine those events later in the volume.

Aside from Wear’s bias toward the government as a means for achieving economic justice, a portrait of the President Obama’s faith begins to emerge. Wear, a socially conservative evangelical Christian, participated in both of Obama’s campaigns and in the first term White House Staff as part of the faith outreach. Part of Wear’s job was to counter the attacks on Obama’s faith, which came from more conservative Christians based on Obama’s apparent support of the continued legalization of abortion and other causes supported by the platform of the Democratic National Convention.

The portrait of Obama’s faith that emerges is of an authentically faithful, liberal Christianity. In this sense, I am not using liberal as a dismissive insult, but to qualify the form of Christianity that Obama appears to hold and to have held. That is, a Christianity that truly holds to certain tenets of the orthodox faith, but sees fit to accept other elements that do not accord with biblical Christianity when historical orthodoxy appears to conflict with modern understandings of the world. This is the sort of Christianity that sees the gospel as primarily a call to social justice rather than personal conversion that leads people to pursue true justice in society in response to God’s justice. Wear, whose doctrine appears to be more consistently orthodox than Obama’s, paints a portrait of a President who sees the impetus toward apparent goods from within Christianity and finds motivation from that, but who may not have accepted the authority of Scripture over all areas of life and practice.

The first half of the book recounts the Obama political machine’s pursuit of doctrinally conservative Christians and efforts to enact a unifying vision for politics. The second half of the volume, however, outlines the ways that the Obama White House subverted those processes, discarded efforts to meaningfully work for a common vision of the good. This failure to seek common cause is highlighted by the Obama Administration's refusal to drop the contraceptive mandate despite the large number of Roman Catholic Bishops who would have otherwise have supported the measure. Wear documents his frustration that the White House staffers were unable or unwilling to understand that prohibition of contraception is a longstanding, significant tenet of Roman Catholic doctrine and to unnecessarily impose a violation of conscience on Roman Catholics in the marketplace would result in alienation of a large base. Additionally, Wear recounts the instant amnesia sexual revolutionaries developed in their efforts to excoriate and persecute those who held a vision of marriage that even Obama held until 2011. Wear reveals a political machine that, at least in part, did not (and likely still does not) understand the place and power of faith in the lives of the faithful of many religions.

Later chapters document the anti-religious influences in the White House overcoming the efforts of Wear and other faithful staffers. This was punctuated by the DNC’s overt pushing of social advocate, shock-value entertainer Lena Dunham’s video comparing voting for Obama in 2008 with her first sexual encounter. Also, the Obama campaign in 2012 used profanity laced e-mails to rally support. The shift into a post-religious White House (which is not to say a post-religious Obama) could be seen in the demonization of Louie Giglio prior to the 2013 inauguration, whose 20-year-old sermon expounding traditional sexual morality was sufficient to result in many public attacks and his ouster from praying at the inauguration. As Wear notes, “In 2009, our diversity demanded we accept that there will be voices we disagree with in public spaces. In 2013, diversity required us to expel all dissent.” (pg 190) This is the reality that many have experienced, which has alienated many of the faithful from the Democratic National Convention, and has helped to push some to vote against Hillary Clinton in the most recent election.

Wear closes the volume with a constructive appeal to a biblical concept of hope, which Christians alone can bring to politics. Whatever policy disagreements I have with Wear, these chapters are helpful. The loss of real hope is detrimental to politics, it leads to fragmentation, hatefulness, and eventually a politics that must win at all cost for fear or retribution. If nothing else, this last section is worth the price of the book, since it reveals the reality of socially conservative, faithfully living evangelicals who have participated in politics with the Democratic National Convention and don’t hate orthodox Christianity. Wear’s willingness to communicate his basis of support for some of the DNC’s policies while seeking to effect change from within. He should be honored for such efforts.

This is a helpful book in many respects. It undermines the notion that being a faithful, socially conservative Christian prevents engaging in politics with the DNC. It provides a glimpse to some of the machinations of the political machine, which should cause both the right and left to question exactly who wrote and how sincerely are meant statements that seem faithful from politicians. It may be that people like Wear are, in good faith, helping politicians craft statements that allow them to seem rather than be truly faithful. Finally, and perhaps the most important lesson in this bleary eyed post-election season, Wear’s volume reminds the reader that we cannot cease participating in politics even when both parties hold positions repugnant to faithful Christians. We must, necessarily, seek to gracefully engage in politics for the common good as we best understand it. We must also seek to be gracious with those with whom we disagree and seek to critique their policy, not their faith.

Note: I received a gratis copy of this volume as part of the launch team for this book. There was no expectation of a positive review.

Worth Reading - 10/8

Here are some of the more significant posts and podcasts that I've come across this week.

1. A history and overview of the Gregorian Calendar from Vox. Likely not the most important thing you'll read this week, but one of the more interesting. We are due for something a little lighter and more interesting right now, I think.

The fundamental problem that anyone making a calendar has to grapple with is the fact that it takes just a shade more than 365 days for Earth to make a full trip around the sun. More precisely, it takes 365.24219 days. . . .
This dilemma was grasped early on by astronomers in Alexandria, Egypt, who helped Julius Caesar devise a new calendar in 46 BC. Until that point, the Roman calendar was a messy hodgepodge, with months based on the cycles of the moon and extra days tacked on in February every now and again based on the whims of politicians. Caesar wanted a steadier, more reliable way to mark the dates.
But the new Julian calendar that resulted was still flawed. It had a leap day every four years, which turned out to be an overcorrection. The average year now had 365.25 days in it — just a shade more than 365.24219.
By the 1570s, those slight differences had added up. The calendar was now out of sync with the solar year by about 10 days.

2. This is not new, but it has been making the rounds of late. It is a satirical academic article poking fun at the textual critical methods often used to denigrate the validity of Scripture. This time, however, it's being applied to the works of A.A. Milne. A worthwhile article for a chortle, and it exposes some of the tomfoolery that goes on in higher critical circles.

Since on the earthly level the chief focus of attention in the corpus is the hero Pooh, on the mythological plane great importance must be attached to the deity whom he worships. Pooh is of course a devotee of the goddess Honey. The stated time of her service he observes with unfailing regularity – as we learn from H 5.82 it is 11am (a traditional time for divine service). He speaks of this hour as the time when 'I generally get home. Because I have One or Two things to Do.' Naturally he speaks indirectly of his faith when addressing an unbeliever (Rabbit), but the capitalization makes plain that the things to be done are the performance of sacred acts. Pooh is no ordinary lay worshipper of Honey, but obviously a priest dedicated to her service; his so-called 'house', liberally furnished with 14 or 15 cult-objects (pots) (H 3.35), which he speaks of as 'comforting' to him (H 3.36) – which is the very function of religion – is undoubtedly a sanctuary, a 'house' or temple, of Honey.
Honey is a fertility goddess (cf. the use in the common language of 'honey' as a synonym for 'love', and the frequent use of terms for sweetness as endearments). She is referred to in the old gnomic saying, 'What is sweeter than Honey, what is stronger than a lion?' (originally, 'What is stronger than a Tigger?'). She is frequently alluded to in the Pooh corpus by reverential periphrases such as befit a deity of her statue, e.g. 'a little something' (W 8.116; H 4.56), 'a little smackerel of something' (H 1.2). I should like here to make the suggestion that we have in the figure of Honey a clue to the enigmatic inscription to be found in one of the primitive illustrations (W 1.18) Bath Mat. This is surely the Hebrew bath me'at 'Daughter of a Little', a well-known Semitic idiom for A Little Something.

3. A few weeks ago, mega-church pastor Andy Stanley leaped into his latest controversy by declaring that the Bible is an impediment to evangelism. Since he likes seeing people saved, he tries to avoid referencing the bible in his "sermons" on Sunday. His defenders argue that his methods work and he stills says the right things. His less rabid attackers have continue to push on the problems of stripping the Bible from the congregation. Jared Wilson picks up some of the more significant problems in this post.

If I may speak to another issue I believe central to the more recent debate about the sufficiency and reliability of the Bible in worship gatherings and in evangelism and apologetic conversations with unbelievers: I think if we trace back some of these applicational missteps to the core philosophy driving them, we find in the attractional church a few misunderstandings. The whole enterprise has begun with a wrong idea of what — biblically speaking — the worship gathering is, and even what the church is.
In some of these churches where it is difficult to find the Scriptures preached clearly and faithfully as if it is reliable and authoritative and transformative as the very word of God, we find that things have effectively been turned upside down. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul uses the word “outsider” to describe unbelievers who are present in the worship gathering. He is making the case for our worship services to be intelligible, hospitable, and mindful of the unbelievers present, but his very use of the word “outsider” tells us that the Lord’s Day worship gathering is not meant to be primarily focused on the unbelieving visitor but on the believing saints gathered to exalt their king. In the attractional church paradigm, this biblical understanding of the worship gathering is turned upside down—and consequently mission and evangelism are actually inverted, because Christ’s command to the church to “Go and tell” has been replaced by “Come and see.”
Many of these churches—philosophically—operate more like parachurches. And the result is this: it is the sheep, the very lambs of God, who basically become the outsiders.

4. The Winning Slowly podcast did a good job covering the nature and problem with civil forfeiture. It isn't the highest injustice on many people's list, but it does have a significant negative impact on people. It's worth listening to this brief discussion to get an idea of what the concept is and how you can help.

5. A University of Toronto professor refuses to use the neutral "they" for individuals who label themselves transgender. This has, obviously, caused a great deal of hoopla and accusation of bigotry. His argument is careful. He is not a prude, nor even opposed to the sexual revolution. It's worth reading the argument to see how he responds. The last paragraph, which I quote here, has significant explanatory power for contemporary politics and may present a view of the future.

It's not the role of society to make people feel included. That's not the role of society. The role of society is to maintain a modicum of peace between people. It's not the role of society to make people feel comfortable. I think society is changing in many ways. I can tell you one thing that I'm very terrified of, and you can think about this. I think that the continual careless pushing of people by left wing radicals is dangerously waking up the right wing. So you can consider this a prophecy from me if you want. Inside the collective is a beast and the beast uses its fists. If you wake up the beast then violence emerges. I'm afraid that this continual pushing by radical left wingers is going to wake up the beast.

6. This is even more significant in light of the latest damning evidence about Trump's character. A young conservative explaining why he feels betrayed by the conservatives that have backed Trump in this election.

Many claim a vote for Trump out of desperation, and I can understand a desperate vote. A conservative should only vote for Donald Trump like a fox gnawing off a leg stuck in a trap. But publicly urging support for a candidate, even “given our choices,” is another matter. Conservatism has always wanted to win elections. It has been willing to compromise on candidates and platforms. But behind conservatism lay real principles, advocated not simply because they were popular or would win at the ballot box, but because they remain good and true. We should not promote a candidate who is the opposite of those principles in the hope that we are actually furthering them.
Others claim that Trump might advance the causes conservatives care about. Perhaps, but when conservatives I’ve trusted endorse Trump, it brings to mind Jack Sparrow's words from Pirates of the Caribbean: “Me, I’m dishonest, and a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. Honestly, it’s the honest ones you have to watch out for. You never can predict if they're going to do something incredibly stupid.” We can trust that Trump will continue to be dishonest. He is not worth pledging the honor of our movement.
It also brings to mind Doug Kmiec, the Pepperdine Law School professor who traveled the country making a Catholic case for Barack Obama. My friends and I thought that secular progressives were not going to take their cues from Catholic thought. Clearly, we were right. For his services, Doug Kmiec was made ambassador to Malta, but President Obama has never relied on Catholic leaders for advice as President Bush did. Before long, the Department of Health and Human Services started issuing mandates, forcing Catholic universities and religious orders to fight for their rights in court.

7. Even given the tense and especially rancorous election season, Trevin Wax provides a good word on how Christians should handle this election season. Give lots of space and grace.

Christians, of all people, should remember that politics is not ultimate. There are more important things in life, truths that unite us across party lines into one body of Christ. Most of the issues we debate at the dinner table must fade away at the Table of our Lord.

So should we resort to publicly shaming people who decide to vote for one of these candidates? Twist the arms of those who, out of conscience, withhold their vote? Pounce on people when something happens you think makes them regret the decision they’ve made?

When we blast people who have come to a different ethical conclusion about the best way forward this election cycle, we give the impression that this year’s choice is ultimate. We look just like people on the Right and Left who live and breathe politics because they don’t see anything higher.

This won’t do. I have too many friends and family members and fellow church members on all sides of Election 2016 to let their choice in the voting booth affect my affection for them.

8. Trillia Newbell wrote a very good post for the ERLC about the problem of apathy when it comes to issues of race.

My point is there are plenty of stories about race today that should cause each of us to pause and ask hard questions.

Part of my friend’s struggle to care seems to me to be apathy. It’s simply easier to coast through life not worrying about others who aren’t immediately associated with you. It takes effort to know those not like us, to study history and ask hard questions. This apathy could be masked by the thought, “Haven’t we all moved past racism now?” But the stories above prove otherwise. We get used to “our own” and can soon fall into the temptation to be partial.

James, inspired by the Holy Spirit, spoke strongly about the temptation to be partial toward others, reminding us that it’s ultimately about the second of the great commandments—to love your neighbor as yourself. He wrote: “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:1, 8-9 ESV).

9. Bruce Ashford raises some important points about religious liberty (note the absence of scare quotes) and why we really need a world where we can believe differently and live those beliefs out. This is too important an issue to allow the progressivist antagonists to silence conservatives of good will.

Religious liberty is a first freedom because it stands at the center of what it means to be human. As a Constitutional freedom, it declares each person has value and dignity, each person is free to hold his or her own convictions about ultimate reality, and each person is guaranteed the liberty to align his or her life with those convictions. And just as importantly, each of us is free to do so openly, without fear.

When religious freedom is threatened, every other freedom is threatened as well. Religion alone can check the government’s perpetual intrusion on the liberties of individuals, groups, and mediating institutions. For that very reason, however, certain governmental and non-governmental actors in our nation wish to restrict religious liberty. Confining religion to the realm of privately held beliefs and semi-public houses of worship, would allow government to function in all manner of capacities beyond its Constitutional mandate. This is the very outcome being sought by certain progressive organizations and political actors.