Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Children at the Border

I just get tired of people -- especially friends of mine who are usually good, smart people -- simply refusing to do their research and putting thoughts and ideas out into public that simply are not true. It's so frustrating, and really disappointing.

If you don't like Donald Trump, that's fine. Just be adult enough to admit it and stop trying to blame things on him that simply aren't his fault.

I did not like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton -- or most of their administrations. I still don't. I think they're snakes, and I think we're really just starting to see all the awful, and illegal things they did while in office. But I never tried to pin things on them they didn't deserve. I never attributed things to them they didn't create, or wasn't their fault. I don't like them, I think they were bad at their jobs.

This whole "separating the children from the parents" thing is just ridiculous. RI-DIC-U-LOUS!

First, a little research will show you that Presidents don't create or establish immigration laws. They don't establish any laws, really, but that's beside the point. Only Congress can create immigration legislation. And then that legislation gets sent to the President to sign into law. A President can propose legislation to Congress, via strong suggestions, but after that, really all a President can do is to mandate how strictly his administration enforces those laws as they exist.

Further research will show that there is no such law requiring immigrant families to be separated. It does not exist. Clinton or Obama didn't pass one, and neither did either Bush president, and Trump didn't either.

Here is a link to a good article from the National Review that explains the situation, including the Flores Consent Decree that was passed under the Clinton administration in 1997, and gives some relevant ideas on how to fix the whole problem.

If you take all the immigration laws that DO exist, and boiled them all down in a pan, what you would have left over is this: It is against the law for immigrants to come into this country without registering at a federally mandated checkpoint to so.

End of story.

It is illegal for non-US citizens to enter the United States without either the proper documentation, or by going through a United States checkpoint. If one enters this country any other way, they are -- according to the laws of the United States already on the books -- a criminal. Our current immigration laws have been on the books primarily since at least 1987, when Ronald Reagan signed into law what was at the time the most sweeping immigrant legislation up to that point. There have been tweaks and twists added since, but the bottom line remains the same. If you try to enter the US illegally, you are a criminal, no matter your reasoning for coming here.

Now, every President since then has basically chosen how strictly to enforce those laws. Generally speaking, even though each party talks tough about immigration when they're campaigning, Republicans have enforced them more strictly, and Democrats more loosely. But all have enforced it to some degree.

Which brings us back to the children. In this country, when you are arrested for a crime, generally speaking, if you have children, those children are taken away from you and put into our foster care system until the case plays itself out. At some point, you might get your kids back, or if you turn out to be a real slimeball, you probably don't.

It happens hundreds, maybe thousands of times every day in the United States. Has for two centuries. Rapists, murderers, drug dealers, burglars, thieves, et al, if they get arrested and have kids, their kids get taken away from them.

Happens. Every. Day.

Nobody really seemed to care until our news media, in their latest attempt to smear the Trump campaign, decided to start reporting that it's now happening at our borders with illegal immigrants. Immigrants, when caught at the border, if deemed to have attempted to cross illegally, are then arrested, according to the law. If they have family, that family is separated and the children are taken into the ICE version of foster care. And the case plays out...

The media have reported this in such a fashion as to make us believe that Donald Trump, and he alone, has started the practice. But the truth is that it's been going on forever. Every President has, to some degree, been enforcing the practice, some more than others.

However, here's what's also true: Democrats need not only minority voters, but illegal immigrants, to win elections. Any election. Doesn't matter. Check the polling numbers. They cannot win elections without them. (It's why they're so against Voter ID laws.) Obama was not only the best example of this, but also embraced the concept as a part of the larger Democrat platform, and as such, virtually did everything within his power to open the borders and all but instructed his administration to cease enforcing any of the immigration laws on the books. Sure, as all candidates do, he talked tough about immigration before he was elected, but once he took office, he opened our borders to unprecedented levels.

And here's what else he did: He demonstrated that if you, as an immigrant, came to the border with a family, you were far more likely to get to cross, no questions asked. You see, for decades, the vast majority of border crossers were single males. They would cross, legally and illegally, hope to get established here in the states, and then send for their families when they could reasonably hope to get them across safely.
Because of the threat of capture and incarceration -- and the subsequent breakup of their families -- they simply did not try to bring their families across the border that often. It just wasn't safe.

But Obama changed all that. For the first few years of his administration, he prosecuted illegals -- and took the kids away from the criminals -- just as Trump is doing now. But once he adopted the policy that the more immigrants in the country, the better for Democrats, he halted the policy of breaking up the families of those who cross illegally. He simply told his border agents to stop enforcing it. And as word got out that if you brought your family to the border, you would likely be allowed to pass unchecked, then the flood gates opened.

All of the sudden, the flooding did indeed happen. By the hundreds and the thousands, illegals started showing up at the border with their wives and children, and for the past several years, have been flowing into the US and basically disappearing into the crowds.

By now, you know Donald Trump's position on immigration. He campaigned heavily on fixing immigration and stemming the flow of illegals into the country, even demanding the building of the now-infamous Wall. It's something that desperately needs to be done, of course. Everyone knows it. But most people don't have the stomach for it, and Democrats can't win elections without them. So the fight was on.

Trump, who has done little else but tick off one campaign promise after another since being elected has continued his fight to fix the problem. He cannot, however, enact any immigration legislation without Congress, and Congress, the boneheads, refuse to do it. So Trump is left with two options: Pass some Executive Orders, and enforce the laws already in place.

Initially, even Trump was reluctant to enforce the policy of breaking up families at the border, but as he realized the problem wasn't getting any better, he re-instituted the policy. He basically told his border agents to start enforcing the law. And that law requires that if you are arrested for a crime -- as some illegals are -- then you get your kids taken away.

Of course, it's happening far less than the news wants you to believe. The latest figure I saw in a New York Times article last week is that roughly 2700 kids have been separated from their families since the policy was reintroduced last year. When you contrast that with the hundreds of thousands who have attempted to cross in that time, and the fact that most families have multiple kids, the number is relatively low. It remains to be seen whether the policy will stem the overall flow.

But here's the real problem: Nobody -- and I mean NOBODY -- cared until Trump's name got tied to it. Nobody cares that it happens hundreds of times everyday all over the country with law-breakers. And nobody cared that it's been happening at the border for decades. They only cared until the press told us it was all Donald Trump's fault.

I have never seen a person, let alone a President, so vilified as Donald Trump. Never has a man been so maligned for trying to serve his country. It's absolutely atrocious and sad. But beyond that, it's just wrong.

Much has been written about Trump's past indiscretions. Everybody knows about them, and nobody can change them. But this immigrant issue now is just another example of the kind of unfair political bias that has virtually wrecked our American political system.

I'm so disappointed in my friends -- people I know to usually be smart, fair, and loving people -- who have chosen -- yes, chosen -- to pile on to somebody and perpetuate lies against someone simply because they don't like a guy. It's unbelievable to me.

Who am I? Well first, I'm a father. I get it. You don't think I can imagine how tragic it must be to have your children ripped away from you? For those who witnessed me raise my boys, and watched me work with youth in my life, you think I don't have a heart and compassion for children? I'm offended at the notion. I don't like that children get ripped away from their families.

But I'm also a regular guy, who wants the laws of our country enforced. I'm not a scholar of anything. I don't have any special powers. So why is it I can do a little research on the internet and find the truth about something and you can't? It's absurd.

You don't like Donald Trump? Fine! You don't have to. Nobody is going to make you. In the end, it's only your loss if you refuse to see the things he's fixing in this country. But have the guts, and be adult enough to stand up and say so without having to make up lies about him.

If you didn't give a rip about children being separated from their families -- legally -- and you only do now because you found out it was all "Trump's doing," than you are being highly disingenuous, and you should be ashamed.

I have no problem telling you where I stand. And I'll do my best to back up my stand with facts. Sometimes I get it wrong, and I've had to eat a lot of crow over the years when I was wrong in my opinions. But at least I try. And you can rest assured I won't perpetuate -- or worse, create -- a lie about someone just because I don't like them.

What's happening at the border right now is tragic. For a whole variety of reasons. Mostly because our Congress won't act and fix the problems and give the President something he can get behind. Also because we have laws on the books -- passed by both Republicans and Democrats -- that our previous President chose to ignore, and ordered his administration to not enforce, even though he took an oath of office to defend and protect the laws and Constitution of the United States.

I don't like some of these laws. I think they should be changed. But I would rather my President see to it that the laws we do have are enforced, than to ignore them altogether. I would like to think you would want your President to do the same. It's infuriating to me that some of you don't.

And even more infuriating that the only reason you don't is because his name is Trump.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Honoring Heroes at the Indianapolis 500!

Every year for the past 30+ years, I have been attending the Indianapolis 500 with my wife's family. It is a family tradition for them, and I have been swept up in it since we started dating back in 1987. We go every year, and I absolutely love it.

If you've never attended the 500 race, you should. There simply is nothing more exciting and exhilarating in all of sports than the green flag start of that race! Especially if you sit in Turn 1. Until you see it for yourself, you will never truly understand how 33 cars, traveling at the speed of some jets in flight, can fit into a corner that is really no bigger than one side of 278 in Bluffton or I-465 on the south side of Indy. You could fight the crowds to get there, watch the green flag start, and then leave, and it would still have been worth the price you paid for the ticket. It's that exciting. (And the green-flag restarts the rest of the race -- especially those near the end -- can but just as exciting as well.)

But I'm not writing this to tell you about the race. I'm writing this to tell you about what happens before the race.

There's something else the folks at the Indy 500 do well, too. And that's honoring the men and women of our armed forces, especially those who have given their lives on behalf of our country. As you know, the Indy 500 is held Memorial Day weekend every year. Has been forever, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and it's entire staff, goes out of its way to honor our military heroes.

It's not cheesy. It's not patronizing. And it's not over-the-top. They do it very well, and they do it right. A top-brass military official typically kicks off the festivities, saying a few words on behalf of our armed forces, and then introducing the parade of military personnel, representing all branches of the military, who hop aboard official Indy 500 track trucks and make a parade lap around the Speedway. I don't know how many there are for sure, but there's several dozen, maybe close to 100, who circle the track to the standing ovation of the fans.

That's followed by the invocation, which is followed by a moment of silence, which is in turn followed by a 21-gun solute from military personnel, capped off by an always-moving rendition of "Taps" by a lone military bugler. It's stirring, and played before 300-400 thousand silent patrons.

More festivities follow, which includes a performance of "God Bless America," traditionally sung by the late Florence Henderson, but in the past few years by an Indy-local musical artist.

All of that is then followed by the National Anthem, performed this year by Kelly Clarkson, which culminates with a military flyover, which was done this year by a lone stealth bomber, but has, in the past, featured in various years a squadron of fighter jets, a Harrier Jump Jet, a B-12 Bomber, and a squadron of Blackhawk helicopters.

There's various other nods to the military during other pre-race festivities as well, and it's all very moving. The only thing left after it all is to sing "Back Home Again in Indiana," start the engines, and watch the most exciting moment in all of sports.

I tell you all that to say this: They do it right because it's the right thing to do.

In light of recent events in the news, I made sure this year to look around during most of the festivities. I watched to see who was paying reverence to the ceremonies, and who wasn't. Without fail -- and with the exception of some who clearly had imbibed a bit too much to that point in the day -- everyone was standing and showing their respect. Everyone was honoring those who deserved that respect.

In the effort of full disclosure, I will freely admit that the Indianapolis 500 does not -- at least to the extent that I could see -- attract a large faction of minority fans. There simply is not, at least where we were sitting, a significant number of racial minorities in attendance. Some, but not a lot. Certainly any minorities were in the minority, if you catch my drift. It is a mostly Caucasian crowd. I have no control over that, and I really don't know why. It simply seems that watching cars turn left for three hours at 230 MPH seems to appeal more to white people than to other races. Make of that what you will.

But when it came time to honor the military, they all stood, they all removed their hats, and they showed respect where it was due.

All of them.

Why? Does every white person who attends the Indy 500 have a perfect life? Have none of them had a rough go of it in life? Have none of them been beaten down, unfairly treated, faced discrimination in some form or another, or otherwise been given the short end of the stick?

Did none of them have nothing to protest?

By now you've most likely heard of the NFL's new policy requiring their players to stand and show respect during the playing of the National Anthem before games, all in response to the ongoing saga surrounding Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the Anthem and now no longer has a job. Several NFL players followed suit. The players' reasoning for doing so, they claim, is to shed light on injustices they perceive other minorities face in our country on a daily basis.

Here's the problem: There is a right time and a wrong time to protest. Just because we have the right to protest doesn't mean the timing is always right. And often, the protest can be held in such a way as to ultimately be counterproductive to the cause.

Each year, on the way into the Speedway, there is always someone from a local Indy church standing on one of the corners near the track screaming into a little sound system about how everyone entering the track is going to Hell unless they turn their lives over to God. It's a fire and brimstone message that cannot be missed if you're walking by. It happens every year. It's almost become tradition.

He's right, of course. We are going to Hell if we don't turn our lives over to God. And he has every right to stand out there and scream his message. But the delivery of the message is more annoying than it is encouraging. Screaming at a bunch of people who intend to get drunk is not an effective way to tell them about Jesus. So the message gets lost in the delivery. If he runs more people off than he saves, what's the point? (The Bible is very clear, by the way, on the perils of causing others to turn away from God.)

No right thinking American believes Colin Kaepernick, or any other person or NFL player, doesn't have a right to protest. Whether we agree with the reason behind the protest or not is irrelevant. I wouldn't want my right to protest taken away, and I don't want anybody else's right removed either. Despite what the media wants you to believe, we, as Conservatives don't want the right to protest silenced, and we don't think Kaepernick's right should be either.

What we think is simple: The place and timing of his protest is all wrong. The message is getting lost in the delivery because it's aimed at the wrong target. If you believe minorities are getting the shaft in this country, you might be right, but it certainly isn't the fault of the brave men and women who fight every day, and who have given their lives so the rest of us can live freely every day and play a game or watch a race. The National Anthem isn't solely about celebrating America. It was specifically penned, and tied to the significance of a waving flag, because of a brave fight our military was waging. The National Anthem isn't just a song. It is specifically performed to remind us of those who fought for our rights to do whatever it is we might be doing at the moment.

It is not a time to protest. It is a time to celebrate our right to protest, and all the other rights we have as free Americans, given to us by those who paid the price of their lives to attain those rights.

The NFL, as a private organization, is well within their authority to create this rule. I've had many debates with many liberal friends who like to remind me that our "rights" don't always translate to private businesses and organizations. This is no different. The NFL pays its players to do a job, and they have every right to require certain things of their employees, as does any other business. Requiring employees to honor something that gives them the very right to become millionaires by playing a game seems like a reasonable request. This is not discrimination, nor is it a violation of anyone's rights.

Regardless, it is impossible to watch what happens during pre-race ceremonies at the Indianapolis 500, and pay attention to what it means and what it stands for, and not support the NFL's policy. If you cannot see that demanding people to stand and give respect where it is absolutely due is not a violation of rights, but simply the good and right thing to do, then you are very likely a part of the problem.

If Colin Kaepernick, or anyone else, can't honor the very men and women who gave their lives so they can have the types of jobs they have and live the kind of lives they live, then they simply do not deserve the job. Period.

And if you want to see the proper way to honor those brave men and women, get your tickets to next year's Indy 500. But hurry... they can sell out fast.

And get your seats in Turn 1 if you can. You don't want to miss the green flag drop!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Trump Train: Still Rolling Along!

As they did during the last GOP primary season, and leading up to the 2016 presidential election, I believe that the pollsters are getting it wrong.

Well, let me clarify a bit: I believe the media is lying to you when they cite polls that Democrats are going to clean house in the upcoming mid-term elections. The polls aren't just wrong, they're intentionally misleading.

If you'll recall, from the moment Donald Trump entered the presidential race, virtually every poll, and virtually every media outlet tried to lead us to believe that he had no chance to win. They said he'd never make it through the primaries. And then they said he'd never get the nomination. And then they said he'd never win the election. All along the way, most polls showed Trump trailing and losing, in some instances by double digits.

I, as you may recall, said all along they were wrong. I agreed with the likes of conservative talking heads like Rush Limbaugh that there was a grass-movement, ground-swelling group of conservative voters "out there" who had been disenfranchised for a long time. A group that was being ignored by the "experts," and who were just waiting for someone like Trump to come along and shake up the whole system so they could rise up and support him.

Republican voters over the last decade or so have become very discouraged with the candidates we've been electing -- politicians who promise us one thing (like repealing Obamacare) and then bend over for liberal ideology once they get to Washington. Many of us were then, and still are, sick of it. All it took was someone like Donald Trump -- who wasn't a career politician, and who is well known for saying and doing what he believes -- to come along and galvanize that group. He did, and he won.

Along the way, Trump laid waste to the most serious Republican heavyweights the party could throw at him, and then beat the single most popular Democrat on the planet outside of Obama on election day. And did so all the while the media was telling us it wasn't possible, and they had the polls to prove it.

Now, they're trying to feed us the same lies again. They tell us that Trump is so unpopular that the voters are going to turn out and reject his mandates and fill Congress back up with Democrats and other liberals. It's a done deal, they're telling us.

I didn't buy it then, and I'm not buying it now.

First, a look at Trump.

What's so fascinating is that the media, and the Washington elite in general, still have no idea how to deal with him, a full year and half after his election. They're still dumbfounded by his win. If you watched election night, it was a beauty to watch the media talking heads completely collapse in on themselves in a drunken stupor at their complete and utter surprise over Trump's victory. In some instances, they literally did not have words for it as they were absolutely convinced of a Clinton victory. It was magnificent.

If you watch media coverage of Trump today, and especially his press conferences, they still don't have it. They have no clue how to deal with him. They are so used to decades of politicians doing and saying exactly what is expected of them that they cannot deal with a man who doesn't play by their rules. They're so full of themselves they don't realize how Trump played them like a fiddle during his campaign, and they're too stupid to realize he's still manipulating them everyday now. Just yesterday, Trump waived off an ABC reporter's question as "stupid" and you'd have thought he stabbed him in the neck with a knife. The reporter was dumbfounded, and so was the network when it reported the exchange later in the day. Priceless.

They still have no clue why he was elected in the first place. They have no clue how to deal with him on a daily basis. They have no clue how he continues to follow through on his campaign promises, and no clue how his policies continue to pass, let alone work. They have no clue how he remains so popular with his base, despite massive, daily attacks from both Republican and Democrat elites. They have no clue why he can't act more "presidential" (whatever that means), especially via his Twitter account. (If you're still worked up about him on Twitter, you need to get your noses out of your phones and catch up with the real world around you.) And they have no clue that his popularity and successes are going to carry the day come the mid-terms.

Donald Trump is an enigma, I'll give you that. He's rude and brash. His past is streaked with immoral personal behavior, and he still has a way of saying things in such a way that doesn't put him in the best light. And yet he is a highly successful billionaire businessman, and was a wildly popular celebrity. But those of us who voted for him will tell you he is doing exactly what we voted him in to do: Fix the business of the United States of America.

You see, Trump is not a politician. Never has been. Every problem the United States faced prior to January, 2017, and every hole we seemed to find ourselves in has absolutely nothing to do with Donald Trump. Every problem our country faced was either the fault of Barack Obama, the hundreds of politicians currently in office in Congress, and those who preceded them in the years leading up to their terms. But they weren't Donald Trump's fault.

And Trump was the only candidate from either side that was A) offering different solutions to the problems than the same old, same old, being offered by the other candidates; B) had the business track record that gave credibility to the solutions he was proposing; C) wasn't a career politician; and D) had the guts to stand by what he said. He spoke from the hip, without a filter, not worried about Political Correctness, and didn't care whether you liked what he had to say.

There were a lot of good Republican candidates in the primaries. Good, quality guys and gals I believed would be good choices. But I have to admit: after years of being jilted by the candidates I'd elected, I was excited to back an outsider, and someone I believed had the experience and cajones to do the job I think needs to be done.

So Trump, since his election, has done little else than make good on his campaign promises. IN just over a year, ISIS is nearly non-existent. Taxes have been lowered. A wall is being built. The economy is growing at record levels. Our military is as strong as it's been in years. The greatest nuclear threat on the planet -- North Korea -- is backing down, and ending their war with South Korea. China is losing the perceived "trade war." A mere Tweet causes oil prices to drop. And it goes on and on. And the promises that haven't been fulfilled yet, like the repeal of Obamacare and stronger immigration laws, aren't because Trump isn't trying, but rather being held up in Congress by boneheaded GOP members who can't seem to get a handle on things themselves.

Trump has had to endure daily the most vitriolic attacks from his opponents and the media that any President has every had to endure. He's had to stand by and watch an investigation into his campaign that not only has turned up zero evidence against him, but only continues to bring to light the lawlessness and improprieties of not only Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration, but the entire Democrat party. I mean, Marcia Clark had less evidence on OJ Simpson than the Mueller investigation has turned up against the Democrats!

Trump has been labeled as everything from a bigot, a hater of women, and a racist, labels none of which were tied to him in the 35+ years he's been a celebrity in this country. He's filled his administration with minorities and women, and done absolutely nothing to lend any credibility to the racist claims. (No, he did not call Nazis "good people" after Charlottesville, and his travel ban bill is not a "Muslim ban." Those are media lies that simply are not true.) Bottom line is, they have nothing on him.

At all.

Those of us who are truly paying attention know this. Which brings us to the upcoming elections. Voters in the last several mid-term elections, and again in this last major election, have given the GOP overwhelming majorities, with a mandate to go to Washington and stop the liberal ideology landslide. And they've failed to do so. Miserably.

So many felt all warm and fuzzy every time Obama signed another law in the name of inclusiveness, but was in fact further pandering to liberal ideology that has sent our society into further moral decline (we wonder why whackos keep shooting up schools with increasing regularity.) We stood by and watched as a liberal congress passed a healthcare bill that has proven to be a disaster and was, in fact, a ruse for gaining liberal voters, and nothing more. We stood by and allowed Obama to decimate and belittle our military, all the while handing away military secrets and signing agreements that put our very existence in jeopardy. We watched as Obama was played by other world leaders to sign a climate deal that put virtually all the financial burdens for the deal on the US, and offered no repercussions to nations who failed to comply, all so everybody would like him better.

And we stood by and watched as Obama pitted different classes and races against each other, championing criminals and denigrating our police men and women, in attempts to create a permanent underclass that is dependent on the government, and that has, in fact, set race relations in the country back 50 years.

All we have to show for it as conservatives is a bunch of Republican rhinos who, despite their campaign promises, not only have capitulated to the Democrats, but in many cases have actually signed on to their policies. It truly is shameful in some cases how they have sold out their constituents.

But what you're beginning to see -- and this is what the media has latched onto as evidence of a Democrat victory -- is Republican stalwarts beginning to fall. They're resigning and retiring. They're announcing they won't seek re-election. They're losing special elections. It's happening because they have done little but prove the point of why we voted for Trump in the first place. And they're starting to see the writing on the wall: they're going to lose their jobs. Those of us who voted for an outsider President -- and got him elected -- are not afraid to do the same with our representatives. The process is just beginning.

The Democrats think because the likes of Paul Ryan, Orinn Hatch, Bob Corker, and Jeff Flake are getting out, they're going to win those seats. I hate to disappoint them: Those guys are getting out because they know they're gonna lose this next election, and not to some retread Democrat. Trump voters are making it clear we're not going to stand for the status quo any longer. And if Donald Trump can accomplish the things he's accomplished in just a year and a half with a hostile Congress, imagine what he can do when he actually has people there who want to work with him.

Many Republican incumbents have begun to see reality, and for every one who's getting out, you're seeing two or three others who are beginning to buddy up to Donald Trump. Buyers beware: If your horse isn't running with Trump, he's gonna lose the race, plain and simple.

I believe GOP candidates who align themselves with Trump will do very well in these mid-terms, and a desirable side effect is that we're going to clean house of a few rhinos who should have gotten out of the game years ago.

None of this is to say that the Dems won't put up a spirited fight. They'll succeed, in many ways, of continuing to paint Trump with brushes that are just plain lies. And many people will fall for it. But for every Trump voter who may have fallen off the train, I'm willing to bet there are former detractors who have jumped on board, especially after they finally got a job, or after they've seen their tax return, or their IRA statement, or watched as Kim Jong Un and virtually every other terrorist leader right now is backing down.

It doesn't really matter whether you like him or not. It's not important whether I like him or not. He's getting the job done. People are getting jobs, working again, and having more money in their pocket. America's prominence as a world leader, financially, militarily, and benevolently, are being restored. Bullies around the world are beginning to realize we can't be trifled with. Other countries still look to us to provide financial assistance in times of need, as we continue to be the #1 provider of aid around the world. And he's making honest efforts to protect us from foreign entities who wish to enter this country and do her harm.

There's a lot left to do. We've got to stem the tide of declining immorality in our society. If you haven't noticed the farther we've strayed from traditional family values, and the farther we've strayed from Christian principles, the more our society has declined, you're simply not paying attention. In the end, Trump may not be the guy to lead us in those fights. But I'll say this: He has waged the fight to protect religious freedoms and Constitutional freedoms far more than did our last President, far more than Bill Clinton, and an argument can be made that he's fought harder for those freedoms than either of the Bush administrations. Trump freely admitted in his acceptance speech that he hasn't done much in his life to deserve the support he's received from Evangelicals, but he made a vow to fight for our religious freedoms. So far, he's done that.

Don't believe the lies the media will tell you leading up to the elections. They will be desperate. The polls are intentionally wrong. They're designed to mislead you into believing what they want you to believe. Don't buy it.

No, the GOP -- or the "new" GOP -- is going to do very well come November.

You heard it here first.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Modern Day Worship

A good friend of mine posted an article recently to his Facebook post, and tagged me in the post, along with many others, asking our opinions on the piece. Rather than gum up his FB feed, I thought I'd put my thoughts down here.

The piece is titled "Nine Reasons People Aren't Singing in Worship." As a long-time worship participant and leader, this is a subject -- along with worship services in general -- that I've thought long and hard about for some time. I won't rehash the whole article here. You should read it. But I'll list the nine reasons the author gives:

1) They don't know the songs.
2) We are singing songs not suitable for congregational singing.
3) We are singing in keys too high for the average singer.
4) The congregation can't hear people singing around them.
5) We have created worship services which are spectator events, building a performance environment.
6) The congregation feels they are not expected to sing.
7) We fail to have a common body of hymnody.
8) Worship leaders ad lib too much.
9) Worship leaders are not connecting to the congregation.

I'm not going to go through these point-by-point. I will say this about them all: They each have some merit. They are legitimate problems in today's worship environment, albeit some more than others. Not every church, of course, struggles with all nine of these issues. Most struggle more in one area than another, if they're struggling at all. But each of them are issues that indeed need to be addressed to some extent or another in our modern-day worship services.

Rather, what I want to do is address some issues this list -- and many others like it -- ignores. I don't pretend to know the author's overall mindset behind the piece, or his overall abilities as a worship leader, or his experience therein. I do, however, believe the piece illustrates his own frustrations in worship, and probably speaks to some specific agenda or stylistic beliefs he holds regarding modern day worship. That's not a bad thing, per se, but a piece like can easily imply the author believes there is a proper way and an improper way to conduct modern day worship, and as such, either accidentally or on purpose ignores other factors that shape the whole worship discussion.

So let's dive in...

First, as a church, we often hold an inaccurate definition of what worship in the church is. Worship, all-encompassing, is not the music service alone. Its important to understand the a church's music service is only one tiny piece of Godly worship as it is defined by the Bible. The truth is that music could indeed be eliminated entirely from Sunday morning church, and you could still have one whale of a worship service. Godly worship encompasses many aspects, music included, but also giving, prayer, fellowship, discipleship, evangelism, etc. Worship involves many facets. A case could be made that the biggest mistake we make as a church is that we put too much emphasis on music, and all too often cause new believers or transplanted Christians to believe that worship is all about the music, and if we don't have some killer band and some killer singers, then that church just ain't gettin' it done. It simply isn't true. Music is indeed a part of worship, and we should strive to do it with excellence, and as inclusive as possible, but it ain't the end-all-be-all.

Second, lists like these assume that everyone who walks into a church is a singer. As a long-time karaoke DJ, I've often joked, "Everyone can sing. Some people just do it better than others." The truth is that not everyone is a singer, nor desires to be one. True, there are many who want to be singers, and it isn't their talent. And indeed still others who believe it is their talent, and bless their hearts, it simply isn't. But the reality is that not everyone is a singer. And if you want to be brutal about it, very few are. The Bible teaches us that everyone is given different talents. It's not the talent we're given that's important, but rather, how we use that talent for the Lord.

As a musician and singer, I'm often given much praise for that gift. And while I dearly love making people happy with my talent, I often have to remind them that there are many, many --many -- things I'm not good at. Like fixing the brakes on a car, or sewing, or drywalling, or painting, etc... etc... I'm a singer, and a guitar player. That's my gift. But it's not everybody's. Entertainers and athletes are often afforded a lot of glory, and I truly appreciate it. But I am just as fascinated by the guy who can fix the brakes on my car as he is of my ability to sing. The sad part is that he doesn't have people packed into his garage applauding him everytime he changes a caliper!

So ask yourself: How many really good mechanics do you know? How many talented seamstresses? How many really good lawyers, or teachers, or doctors or preachers do you know? They're not a dime a dozen. It's the same with singers. The reality is that God gives out talents to each of us, and they're all different. Some have the talent to sing. Everybody else is just along for the ride.

That's not in any way meant to imply that someone who isn't a singer can't come into a church and fully participate in the musical worship, and sing their hearts out for the Lord. (Jesus doesn't care how good you are, I promise!) Not at all. What it means is that many people come into church and are just fine NOT singing. Many are just fine to sit and watch the band, much like they would a good concert, and they get just as much out of the musical service as the guy who's singing his brains out. So inasmuch as we can all go and enjoy a really good concert, and have a great experience doing so, it doesn't diminish our worship services at church if people truly just come to enjoy the show, as it were. There's nothing inherently wrong with that.

I RARELY sing in the worship service when I'm sitting in the pews. I sing so much outside of church, or when I'm on the worship team, that when I get a break, I'm more than happy to just sit back and enjoy the band. I watch the drummer most of the time, if you must know the truth, and just dig the musicianship I so often see displayed on the stage for Jesus. So it's wrong of us to assume everyone wants to sing in the congregation, and certainly wrong for us to assume that if they're not singing, they're not worshipping.

Third, we often wildly misrepresent the concept of volume, and what it actually means with regard to our music service. Far too often, we confuse volume with sound quality. Make no mistake, there are indeed volume limitations in any setting. But most often, when people complain about the volume of our musical worship, what they are really complaining about is the quality of the sound. And because sound reproduction (or music in general) is often not their area of expertise, they equate bad sound with volume that's too loud simply because they don't know any better and don't know how to articulate what they really mean.

For those of us who are old enough to remember the old dial-type car radios, remember how you had to get the dial just right on a station so the sound would be nice and clear? Otherwise, you would get static and background noise on the station. And at any volume, that static could just about drive you nuts. So you'd turn it down. But once you got the station dialed in just right, what did you do? You turned it up! And you could keep turning it up because it sounded good! And you'll sing louder in the car when the music is cranked.

The same concept applies in our musical services. Most professional concerts you go to have professional, quality sound gear, and professional sound people to run it, and it often sounds very good. So those concerts tend to be really loud. Because they can be -- because they sound good. By contrast, many of our church musical services are run by volunteers, and often on sound gear that was purchased because it was cheap, not because it was the best. If you happen to attend a church that spared no expense on it's musical equipment, and/or have volunteers who just so happen to have sound and musical expertise, then you might have a pretty nice sounding service. If not, then you're at the mercy of people who are doing their best, but might simply not have the ability or the resources to dial in the quality of the sound like a professional. And if the quality of the sound is poor, it will almost always sound TOO LOUD! And people will complain about the volume.

If churches would put more of an emphasis on buying quality sound and music equipment, and endeavor to either hire people with expertise, or properly train their volunteers to run sound well, they would actually eliminate a large portion of what they consider to be volume problems. And they would eliminate volume as a problem in congregational singing. You don't sing in your car until you can crank up the radio when it's sounding just right. The same principle applies in the church.

Fourth, music today is not too complex. If anything it's too simple. Have you ever really checked out some of the old hymns? Many of them are extraordinarily complicated! So complexity is not an excuse. I agree in part with #1 on this list, but I believe it misses the bigger picture. People do indeed tend to participate more with songs they know. But that is true for every person in every generation, and we often ignore the fact that many people simply may not like today's modern praise and worship music style.

Think about it this way: If you grew up, say, a big Tom Petty fan, it's a good bet that your kids aren't. Generally speaking, our children often don't enjoy the same music we grew up listening to. Just as we didn't like what our parents listened to. If you're a Tom Petty fan, you're probably not much of a Perry Como fan. I'm generalizing, but you get the point.

Conversely, you don't like what your kids listen to. Again, if you're a Tom Petty fan, you're probably not much of a Justin Bieber fan. If you and your children attended either of those concerts together, one of you is going to be jamming, and the other is going to be bored.

The same concept is happening in our churches. Today's style of praise and worship music is vastly different from inaugural praise and worship music of just 15 or 20 years ago, and virtually unrecognizable to the groundbreaking Christian music of the late 70's and 80's. If you're in a megachurch of 2500 people, what's the chances they're all Switchfoot fans, or Chris Tomlin fans, or Rich Mullins fans, or Petra fans, or Gaither fans? Virtually nill. So the reality is that some people aren't singing because they simply don't like the music. Perhaps they could get lucky and find a church that plays nothing but 80's Christian rock, but I doubt it. So, to a certain extent, they're stuck with what they have. If they don't engage, it's not always because we're doing something inherently wrong in worship. That shouldn't be discouraging to the worship team. It's simply reality.

Which brings me to my final point. Churches need to stop trying to please everyone. They just need to stop. Because it ain't ever gonna happen.

Back in the early, heady days of Contemporary worship, a church had to decide whether it wanted to "go Contemporary," or stay "traditional." Eventually, someone came up with the ultimate compromise: "Blended" worship. And churches took a lot of pride (some still do) in being able to bill themselves as "Blended" worship. All it really means, of course, is that you played a few contemporary songs in worship, and you threw in a hymn or two for the old people, sometimes even still accompanying it only on the piano -- and even better, actually using the hymnal book. If you did this every week, you could call yourself "blended."

Back in my days as a church staffer, the subject would actually come up in the weekly staff meeting. "We didn't have a hymn in worship this week. Make sure we do next week." Or, "One too-many hymns this week. Better back it down next week."

All the while we ignored the fact that it was absurd to believe that by doing what we were doing, we were actually making everybody happy. I used to complain in the staff meetings, "Hey, when are we gonna do an 80's Christian rock song in the service?" I mean, that's what I grew up with. It helped lead me to the Lord, and what caused me to devote my musical talent to God. It's what still resonates and speaks to me today. But nobody -- and I mean NOBODY -- is doing 80's Christian rock in their weekly musical worship. Not then, and certainly not now. So I got a little tired of the whole "we gotta make everybody happy in worship" chatter. Because if you liked Contemporary worship, or you liked hymns, you were golden, and the church was satisfied in believing they were doing "something for everybody." But if you liked any other kind of Christian music style, you were simply out of luck.

And, sadly, you still are. There are very few truly "traditional" churches left, and once Chris Tomlin started rewriting hymns, there really was no need for the hymnal at all anymore, so there isn't any "blended" churches left. Most churches are doing musically what is considered modern day Contemporary worship. And so they've lost all pretext of trying to keep everybody happy anyway. Which is why the lip-service to it is so futile. It's simply not possible, and as such, it's virtually impossible to not violate at least some of the bullet points in this list.

Churches today should simply choose what they're gonna do, and what they wanna be, and then strive to do it the very best they can. Preachers do it all the time. Any preacher worth his salt will not care how his sermon is going to offend someone. They're going to preach from the Bible. If you don't like it, tough. Church worship services really ought to be this way.

The church I attend currently in my new hometown is that way. Being a former church staffer, I know full well they get a lot of pushback the general congregation probably doesn't know about, but they do what they do, and they do it well. It is a large church, with a large congregation. The worship staff overall is relatively young. Youthful and vibrant, and they are very in-tune (no pun intended) with today's worship style. And they do it with excellence and precision. They've spared no expense on technology, sound and musical gear, and their overall production, from the lighting to the sound to the musicianship and the technology is fantastic. It's very hard for a church to have a large production and it not feel like a large production. Our church does, and they do it about as well as any I've ever seen. And I've seen a bunch.

And you know what? They hand out ear plugs at the Welcome Centers for those who'd like them. Because our services are loud. And living in a vacation spot as we do, our congregation is made up a wide variety of age groups and generations. And our worship teams do what they do. They play the same songs on the Jr. High and High School worship nights as they do on Sunday mornings. And everybody (well everybody I've talked to anyway!) of all age groups love it. They're not trying to "do something for everybody." They're very confident in who they are, and they do THAT to the best of their ability.

The nine points in this list are good guidelines. They truly are. But they're only a part of the bigger picture when it comes to our modern musical worship. And the truth is, trying to adhere to and fix every single one can actually bog us down at times. No matter how hard we try, we're never going to make and keep everyone happy. So the best we can do is to strive to be excellent, and remember that our audience is not our congregation, it's Jesus. And there isn't a separation between the worship team and the congregation. We're all -- every one of us -- on the SAME stage and the SAME team leading worship for the Lord. Everything we do is a sweet sound, whether it's an 1800's hymn, a Petra rocker, or a contemporary hit, and we should strive to do it the best we can.

Worship of all kinds is deeply personal between you and God. If you remember that, and focus on that, then it won't matter what your worship team is doing. Jesus will show up and inhabit your praise. THAT'S the goal.

Everything else is just clutter in the way, and we should stop worrying about it so much.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Common Sense Gun Control

Common Sense Gun Control...

What does that even mean?

If you took a poll of 100 people, you might very well get 100 different opinions on what actually constitutes Common Sense Gun Control. (Heretofore written as CSGC.)

After every mass shooting now, we hear that phrase bantered about. "We need more Common Sense Gun Control!" It becomes a rallying cry -- primarily from the middle. Once you weed out the far right, who are against any kind of gun control at all, and you weed out the far left, who want to outlaw every gun ever made, including most BB and Cap guns, you wind up with those in the middle, both conservative and liberal, who start crying for more CSGC.

Problem is, nobody really knows what that means. If you lean right, you might say CSGC means better background checks. If you lean left, you might say CSGC means that we should start banning assault-style weapons (whatever those really are.)

In either case, it certainly is meant to imply that we, as a society, should begin limiting people's access to firearms in some fashion or another, either by weeding out those who we believe don't deserve to have a gun -- i.e., the mentally disabled, or those with criminal backgrounds -- or by outright denying the ability to buy anything north of a hunting shotgun, if that.

We've all seen the statistics. We've all read a gazillion different set of stats, from US cities, from Europe, from Canada, from Australia. For every stat that shows some positive movement in limiting guns, there's another stat that shows there's absolutely nothing definitive to prove that banning guns solves anything, or curbs any real crime. For every argument that states more gun laws will stop more murders, somebody still shoots up some people in a gun-free zone, some guy blows up people with bombs in FedEx boxes, some nut stabs 30 kids in China with butcher knife, some guy beats his wife to death with a baseball bat, or some religious zealots fly some planes into some buildings.

We've all heard, seen, and read all the statistics. And in the end, none of it seems to matter, let alone make any sense.

And so, after each new mass shooting, the media creates a rallying cry to latch on to some new item they think should be banned: silencers, bump stocks, magazine clips, AR-style rifles, and the list goes on. It's all an attempt to feel like we've accomplished something, to make us feel good about ourselves, to achieve some sort of CSGC. And it's done because they know this one truth: Guns are never gonna be outlawed in this country. Not now, not ever. The left knows it, and the right knows it. Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, and Liberals. They all know it.

Its. Never. Going. To. Happen.

Nor should it, and there's a good reason for it.

Because the right to bear arms to protect ourselves is written into the Constitution of the United States. It is the 2nd Amendment. That means it falls right behind the 1st Amendment. That means our founding fathers thought it was important enough to list right behind our freedoms of speech, religion, and press.

Ah, yes, our founding fathers. Smart guys, them. And with a unique perspective on life that we cannot possibly fathom in our world of Facebook and sanctuary cities. They had a foresight beyond anything we can comprehend today, and the wherewithal to protect a principle that many of their day never dreamed possible.

And before you join the nutballs who believe our founding fathers only had muskets on their minds, or those who believe their only concern were the British soldiers, you need to learn that muskets and the Redcoats were merely the symptoms of the bigger principle they sought to protect. Protecting muskets and defending against the British are akin to treating a runny nose and a cough in your battle against the flu.

The 2nd Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights has nothing to do with muskets, or the British, or hunting, or target shooting. No, the right to bear arms has everything to do with the individual citizen protecting himself against an oppressive, tyrannical government. By any means possible. Plain and simple. Period. End of story.

Thomas Jefferson wrote this to James Madison in a letter dated December 20, 1787: "What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms."

You see, our founding fathers lived in a society where the government could come to your door, take away your guns, and imprison you at will, for no reason at all. And it happened all the time. And in their struggle for independence, they understood that it would never be enough simply to create a law stating the government wasn't allowed to do that anymore. They realized that a provision would need to be written into that law that ensured the citizenry had the ability to forcibly resist the government when they attempted to circumvent that law, which they would surely one day try to do.

Thus the 2nd Amendment. They wanted the law to state unequivocally that if the government ever tried to usurp our rights, the citizenry not only had the legal ability to resist it, but also the firepower.

And that included ANY type of arms the citizen saw fit with which to defend himself. The most powerful weaponry of the day was the cannon. Under the 2nd Amendment, people were allowed to own cannons, and many individuals, and certainly many businessmen, indeed did.

You see, the 2nd Amendment wasn't about a particular weapon, or a particular foe. It was about a concept. A principle. 

Sure, you might say that one lonely citizen could never resist our modern military weaponry, and you'd be right. But A) you're assuming American soldiers would actually follow the orders of turning their guns against their own people, and B) you're forgetting that it wouldn't be one citizen fighting back. It would be millions.

Both of those scenarios, of course, along with countless others, encapsulate implications we don't even want to think about in our society, but nevertheless were accounted for by our founding fathers, because they DID have to deal with that very scenario. And so, a bunch of citizens, with musketry and cannon, and with freedom on their minds, did indeed band together with their arms and defeated what was at the time one of the most powerful militaries on the planet.

So, yeah, it does happen.

Regardless, the 2nd Amendment was written with a very specific purpose in mind, and for a very specific reason, and that purpose and reason remain relevant even today, maybe even more so in our current society than ever before. We have, quite literally, been stripped of one right after another virtually since the Constitution was established. The federal government and various states have indeed limited what types of weaponry citizens can individually own. (Joe Citizen doesn't need military grade weapons, they say, even though that is exactly what the founding fathers had.) Not to mention the hundreds of other rights and liberties that have been taken away over the years. We have allowed it to happen, having voted for the very members of our government who have been instrumental in eroding those rights. It only stands to reason, therefore, that they would eventually get around to trying to completely take away our right to bear arms.

They've succeeded in indoctrinating a great number of the minds of our children. We watched this past weekend as a million or so teenagers shamefully marched on Washington in one of the worst shows of Liberal puppetry in modern history. Kids who know nothing more than what the media left has told them (and a great many of them don't even know that) believed the right thing to do was to go to Washington and ask -- nay, demand -- that their government officials take away their rights. Oh, they cloaked it in CSGC, because that's what they were told to say, but make no mistake, they were demanding to be stripped of their 2nd Amendment right. Leave it to the modern education system to teach our kids that protesting to have your rights taken away is a smart thing. And if you are a parent who allowed your child not only to be brainwashed and used by the political left, but to participate in such a ridiculous display of hatred, intolerance, and stupidity, you are indeed part of the problem.

But what of personal protection? What of crime, as it relates to CSGC? Well, seems old Thomas Jefferson had some insight to that as well. In Commonplace Book, he wrote, "The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."

Even Jefferson knew the only way to stop a bad man with a gun is with a good guy with a gun. Banning guns only stops good guys. It doesn't stop bad guys. A body of laws is good for a civilized society. It helps separate the good from the bad. It gives us leverage and justification to punish those who want to harm others. Laws are good when they are used to help establish law and order. But in the end, they're really only definitions of good and bad. They don't really stop those who are intent on breaking them anyway. Yes, they exist as a deterrent, and it is true they serve that purpose for a great deal of people. But they won't stop those whose hearts are truly set on hurting someone else.

We know this to be true. As a society, we know it in our guts. And yet we try... we still try to legislate a lot of things that simply cannot, by nature, be legislated. You can't legislate morality, as they say, and so the laws will only stop the moral, and allow the immoral to run unchecked.

And so it is why we will never completely ban guns. Many of those teenagers who marched this past weekend will come to not only know this as they grow up and mature, but will come to abhor the very idea they protested for. As they grow to realize the realities of the world we live in, most of them will come to believe in the value of, and the need for, an armed citizenry.

It is interesting that our country not only survived, but thrived, for over a century and a half with nary a hint of a call for gun control. It is only in the last several decades -- and if you want to be specific, it can almost be traced back to the Reagan assassination attempt -- that we, as a society have begun to call for gun control of any kind. And it is only since that time that we see a rise in mass shootings and the like. The first real major piece of gun control legislation went on the books with the Brady Bill in 1993. Since that time, while overall gun murders have gone down, mass shootings as we know them have essentially increased, even as more and more gun legislation has gone into place. We have more CSGC measures on the books than at anytime in our nation's history, and yet the largest mass murder in our history happened just six short months ago.

Wonder why that is?

It's because the notion of CSGC advances a political narrative. Liberals know guns are never going to be banned. They really don't even want them banned. But they also know that if they can ride that horse, and manipulate young minds in this country, they can achieve political goals that cannot be achieved on their merits. They are indoctrinating a voting base, under the guise of safety for our children (while Liberal-backed Planned Parenthood murders millions of babies every year).

They are, in effect, wiping our runny noses to get what they want, knowing full well they will never cure the flu.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

I'm Not Fighting Anymore.

I'm done.

I'm done arguing with people on Social Media. There's an old saying that says the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

I'm going insane.

It's not getting me anywhere, and it's probably doing more harm than good.

First, a few truths: 1) At the end of the day, there are only a handful of people who regularly oppose my posts. And by a handful, I mean five or six different people. I know full well there are others who do so as well, and for whatever reason -- not the least of which is family and friendly peace -- they choose not to engage the debate, at least publicly. I can totally respect that, and at times would have been wise to act accordingly likewise. Go figure.

2) There are many, many more who agree with my posts. Of course, our friend lists tend to encompass many who usually see eye-to-eye with us more often than not. I'm a Conservative Christian. It would only be natural that the bulk of my friends would be Conservative Christians as well. As such, they're more likely to agree with my thoughts, and I theirs, most often. Nevertheless, usually, many more of my friends tend to agree with my posts than disagree. It's not imprudent to make a decision on where I want to spend most of my energy.

3) Social Media in general, and Facebook specifically, is really all about the personal nature of it all. "It's my wall," is a phrase often seen on FB. That's true, but then, if I'm willing to advertise to the world what I'm thinking that day, or what I'm having for dinner, or my hot daughter in her bikini, then I suppose I should be willing to accept whatever comments come my way. And unless I'm totally willing to either seriously whittle down my friends list, and/or change all my postings to private settings, rather than public, then I shouldn't be surprised when I get a little backlash every now and then.

And the reality is, I'm not surprised. Not at all, actually. But there was a time, not too long ago, I rather enjoyed some of the give and take. I just don't anymore.

Not because it's not important, but because it has become totally pointless. (There are some who would tell me, "Duh, Paul, we knew that a long time ago." I guess I'm not as smart as I want to believe I am!)

But, you see, its very trendy in today's world to tout the concepts of open-mindedness, open-dialogue, frank discussion, and what-not. I've espoused those very ideas before myself. But at the end of the day, the end goal, whether we want to admit to it or not, is not to have an open debate, but to attempt to sway the opinion of the other, and prove our point. We all like to believe we're being open minded, and that we're open to new ideas, or even changing our old ones. But in my several years of social media debates, I haven't changed one mind of those who regularly disagree with me. And they haven't changed mine.

Maybe I'm not the great debater I think I am. Perhaps I'm just not very good at making an argument. Maybe. But I suspect rather that we're all hard-headed.

I'll speak for me, although I'd bet we all think this way: I don't want to debate. I want you to come around to my way of thinking. I'm not an old rooster, but I'm not a Spring chicken either. I've been around the block enough to be pretty set in my ways. America has been having "conversations" about things for two centuries, and yet, here we are. Society is as divided today as it ever has been.

Today's society wants to believe it's enlightened. It's not. We want to believe we have some sort of handle on things no generation before us has ever grasped. To wit: Two thousand years of Bible study has given way to the belief that we've somehow grasped some new meaning of Scripture in the last 10 years that the greatest Bible scholars in history never got. It's absurd.

I'm opinionated, no question. I have been for a very long time. Especially politically. And I've always believed that one's opinions only matter if they're based in and supported by truth and facts. It's not enough to just say, "I believe this..." and not back it up with anything. People won't listen to that very often. I've tried to operate in this fashion as often as possible. There are those who would disagree with that, but I promise I've tried.

But I've come to the conclusion that most people won't listen regardless. A favorite pastime in today's world is to accuse others of being too "judgmental." What right do we have to judge, they say. Christians are most often accused of this, and far too often, by other Christians. The problem is that they have a totally messed up interpretation of the concept of "judging" they're trying to peg on us.

So, we get accused of not "loving" enough,  or not "adding to the conversation," or not being "open-minded" or "wanting to dialogue."

But I've come to learn the people who oppose my ideas don't give a crap about what I think anyway! They don't want to "have a conversation" with me. They just want to tell me how wrong I am.

And that's OK. If I've learned anything in my 45+ years, it's that I'm not always right. And others have every right to oppose me, even if they are the ones who are wrong. But, if I thought the "conversation" was getting me anywhere, I might continue it.

It's not.

So I'm choosing not to participate anymore.

But that doesn't mean I'm going away. In fact, it means the opposite. But before I elaborate on that, let me explain one more thing.

As a Christian, I believe in some absolute truths. There are ways of God that are simply not open to discussion, interpretation, evaluation, and so forth. Again, understanding that others might disagree here, let me say this: I don't care.

Every good preacher will encourage his congregation to study the Word for themselves. He will tell them not to just blindly take the preacher's word for it. But you won't hear them stand in the pulpit, deliver the sermon, and then say, "But hey, that's my interpretation of the Bible. If you choose to interpret it differently, feel free. Whatever truth you come up with is fine by us!"

Matt Walsh is a blogger I read regularly. I've said this before and I'll say it again here: I do not always, blindly, agree with every opinion he posts, but I find I agree with his thoughts far more often than not.

He wrote a blog a couple days ago that spoke to me deeply. Because it has been something that has been on my heart for some time. I won't rehash it all here, but you can check it out here, and you should go read it right away. My detractors will not like it very much, and there will even be many Christians who don't like it very much.

I think it's spot on. We have become a generation of Christians who have allowed the outside world to define our Christianity for us. They accuse us of "judging" when we're pointing out sin. They accuse us of not "loving" people the way Jesus did when we seek to hold others accountable. They tell us we're close-minded when we're not accepting of "alternative" lifestyles. The tell us the Bible is old, out-dated, and not relevant in today's society.

Inasmuch as I believe it is unfair of me to expect non-Christians to live by Biblical standards, it's also unfair to allow others who don't believe in the Bible anyway to tell me how I should act in my Christian faith. I know the truth of the Bible. And while we always have room to learn, I don't think it's boastful to say that I'm comfortable in standing on what I believe those truths to be.

I know the Bible doesn't teach us never to judge, but rather it teaches us how to judge. I know that Jesus was the most loving individual to ever walk the earth. I know we're called to love others, and there are a lot of lost people out there who need that love. But I also know Jesus loved people enough to not encourage them to continue in their sin, and often called out their sin to their faces. It will never be OK with me to "agree to disagree" with people who are engaged in sin that is going to send them to Hell, all under the ruse that we're "meeting people where they are." If we truly love them, we are going to encourage them to leave the world and cleave to Jesus.

In today's world, we're told it's not OK to claim we're right. We're told everything is up to interpretation, and that we have no right to assume we're correct about an issue, and someone else is wrong. Compromise is all the rage. "Agreeing to disagree" is seen as a better alternative to standing on absolute truth.

Well, they're wrong. There are things that are good and right in the world, and there are things that are bad and wrong. And I'm done trying to defend my views to others who simply won't ever believe I'm right anyway. Everyone has a right to their opinions. And everyone doesn't have to believe I'm right. But I don't have to think they are either, and I'm done fighting about it.

I tell you all that to say that I'm done trying to defend what I believe, at least in the way most people on FB want me to. In 1 Peter 3:15, the Bible tells us we should always be ready to provide a defense for what we believe, and I'm more than OK with that. I'm happy to discuss the Word of God with anyone who genuinely wants to learn more about it, and I'll share the Gospel every chance I get. But I'm done fighting with those who only want to oppose my views because they've chosen not to believe the Bible anyway. I'm going to tell people what I believe to be the truth of the Gospel without shame, and without compromising it so as to not hurt others' feelings. I'll let God do the rest.

I've considered long and hard about blocking some folks, or unfriending others, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I still don't want to close myself off to opposing thought. And I'm not dumb enough to believe I can never learn something from someone else. There's a lot of wisdom out there still to be found, even from those who don't think like I do all the time.

So from now on, I'm going to post what I want on FB, either in a post, or a link to my blog, or share some other article or thought, and leave it at that. If others want to fight about what I post, so be it. Have at it. But I'm not gonna. If I didn't believe it was a valid point to begin with, I wouldn't have posted it. I'm simply not going to fight about it about it anymore. And I'm not going to fight with others on their posts. If I don't agree with something a friend of mine posts, I'm just going to disagree privately and move on.

If people want to comment I'm a scumbag, or tell me I'm a genius, so be it. If someone points out something I'm wrong about, and it proves to actually be wrong, I'll apologize and fix the mistake. Otherwise, I'll stand by my posts. Hopefully, the many who seem to enjoy and get something out of my posts will still do so, and I don't want to discourage anyone who wants to message me privately to discuss one of my posts. If we can have a profitable, civil, and meaningful discussion about something, I'm all for it. But if all someone wants to do is fight and oppose, forget it.

There was a time I enjoyed the fight, and even got a kick out of stirring the pot. I don't anymore. The time spent fighting with the same people over and over again is not only not getting me anywhere, it's taking time away from me doing other things I'd rather do. I don't blame them for that. I blame myself. And I'm not going to indulge it anymore.

If you like what I post, thanks. I hope it helped. If you don't, then do what you have to do. Block me, unfriend me, scream and yell, whatever. I'm not wasting any more of my time fighting about it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Kneeling for the Anthem: So Misguided.

You may have missed it as the season wound down, what with all the NFL players doing their thing during the National Anthem, and all the subsequent fun and frivolity it caused on social media, but there was actually one -- only one -- player who knelt during the National Anthem in Major League Baseball. His name is Bruce Maxwell, and he is a second year, backup catcher for the Oakland Athletics.

Maxwell is of mixed decent: His father is black, and his mother is white. By all accounts, he is a really good dude, and like most black people in this country, he has, at various times in his life, been on the receiving end of some pretty nasty racism.

I won't recount his whole story here. Here is a link to a really good story about him. It's really long, so you gotta want it, but if you want to know everything about the guy and what he's been through, and why he made the decision he did, you should read it. I think it will open your eyes.

It opened mine, though not in the way you might think (or some others would want!) I have been on record as stating I believe anyone unwilling to stand for the National Anthem is a Piece of Trash. (Trump, you might recall, gave them a slightly more colorful name. You get the idea.) In the case of Mr. Maxwell -- and only this case, for now -- I will rescind that moniker. I do not think Maxwell is a piece of trash. After reading the story, there's no doubt that he is indeed a really good guy. (Even if he did say some pretty nasty things about Trump.)

But I still think he's wrong.

Here's why: First, it has become clear to me, even though I've really known this all along, that some of these men engaging in the protest actually think they're doing the right thing, for the right reasons. A case could be made that that is at least half the battle. They actually believe this is the right thing to do, and they're not hoseheads doing it specifically to be disrespectful to the flag, to the country, or to the veterans. And that belief can stem from a variety of reasons, good or bad, that I won't bother to go into here.

Ah... but disrespectful they are, nonetheless. And therein lies the problem.

Regardless of what side of the issue you fall on, there are some absolute truths that cannot be denied. And at the top of the list is the idea that standing for the National Anthem is universally seen as a sign of respect. We've all seen countless social media memes portraying one President or another during the playing of an anthem without his hand over his heart. I saw them all the time about President Obama, and I've seen a few since Trump took office. Regardless of the authenticity of those pictures, the point is clear: It is expected of people, especially people of authority, and certainly people in the public eye, to show respect for the flag, honoring the country that has afforded them so much. Additionally, it is understood that the National Anthem is played specifically to honor the brave men and women who not only are currently serving to protect our country, but those who gave their very lives to protect the freedoms our country represents.

It's universally understood.

It is precisely why the anthem is played at sporting events. Most people understand that at the end of the day, professional sports in this country is just grown men and women playing kids' games. In and of itself, it's really not all that important. But the respite it provides to everyday schmoes like us, the break from reality it enables, and the entertainment value professional sports offers all lend themselves to the idea that but for those brave warriors who put themselves on the wall for the rest of us, we simply wouldn't have the freedom to celebrate in such a manner.

And there's another absolute truth about the Anthem: It has absolutely nothing to do with racism or policemen. None, whatsoever.

Which is why, unless you're protesting the military, the idea of kneeling during the anthem to protest anything is so wrong. It's misguided. You're pointing your protest in the wrong direction. Why would you want to slap the face of someone who hasn't done anything to harm you?

It would be like me picketing out in front of your child's elementary school to protest the rising cost of healthcare. It makes no sense. They're not related.

Maybe a better example would be this: It would be like an anti-abortion group protesting in front of a church. Christians aren't promoting abortions. The protest would be better served in front of an abortion clinic, or a Planned Parenthood facility.

See, that's the rub here. You can say you mean no disrespect to the flag, the country, or our veterans, and yet, that's exactly what you're doing. If I walk up to you and slap you in the face, I can't, in turn, very well say to you, "Sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you or disrespect you." When you kneel during the anthem, no matter the reason and regardless of your intentions, you are dishonoring everything it represents. You are -- period.

Colin Kaepernick, who started this whole mess, has a very specific skill set. He's not a scientist, or a world-renown mathematician, or a global finance genius. He's an athlete. A professional athlete, to boot. As a pro in the NFL, that makes him one of the best in the whole world. And as a professional football player, the ONLY country in the whole wide world where he can ply his trade and be afforded the money, the status, the fame, the platform, and the notoriety he has, is -- that's right -- the United States -- the one he's chosen to protest.

Can't happen anywhere else on the planet. He's jobless in any other country in the world. No other place on the entire globe offers him the unique opportunity he has right here in the good ole US of A. And he's starin' the old gift horse right in the mouth. He's chompin' on the very hand the feeds him. He's standin' up the one that brung him to the dance. He's slappin' Lady Liberty square in the face.

Which brings me back to the A's Bruce Maxwell. For all the reasons above, he's wrong for his choice. But there's something more.

America doesn't represent racism. It doesn't. It never has.

Our very Declaration of Independence confirms this. "ALL men are created equal." Long before our forefathers understood what that phrase truly means, they certainly understood the concept.

I'm not going to get into a long discussion here of the racial history of our country. I'm trying to make a larger point. Slavery is an unfortunate thread in the history of not only the United States, but most other countries around the globe as well. But it's important to remember that the ideals on which our country was founded wasn't wrapped in bondage, but rather, freedom. And it was that very ideal -- freedom -- that caused the better half of right-thinking Americans to wage a Civil War against those who couldn't and wouldn't accept the fact that one man should never see another man as inferior just because of his race.

Since that time, our society has slowly but surely continued to weed out those who still don't get it. Many great men and women of all races have given their lives over the past 150 years in that cause. But as we flash forward to today, does any right-thinking American really believe that our country is inherently racist? I mean, for real?

Make no mistake: the episodes of racism Maxwell and his father have witnessed in their lives are very real. As are the episodes that most other minorities have faced at one time or another.

But those instances stand out because they are out of the norm. There are, indeed, some real boneheads out there. Mean, nasty, racist bigots dotting the landscape. But their numbers are thin, and thinning.

The group that initiated the rally at Charlottesville, Virginia a few months back put out a nationwide call for like-thinking individuals to join them in their rally for the weekend. A nationwide callout resulted in what the media reported as "hundreds" of protesters.

Hundreds.

Think about that. There was a time in this country where a callout like that in a single state might net protesters numbering in the thousands. Not anymore. "Hundreds" is a lot -- too many, truth be told -- but in the whole scheme of things is minuscule in light of a call for protesters that went out over the whole country.

Maxwell is right to be disgusted by such actions as he's witnessed. It's good that he's been shaped by such incidents and that he's chosen to make himself a better person because of them, and to be a better person to others. But to aim his protest in a direction that doesn't represent or stand for the very ideas he's protesting is simply wrong. It's pointed in the wrong direction. America doesn't represent racism. A few bad apples doesn't define what we stand for.

I wanna be clear: I don't believe white cops are murdering black people at random, for shear kicks, in grossly exaggerated numbers the way others want us to believe. Statistics show that white cops killing black people account for far less than 1% of all the black murders in the country each year. In fact, black on black murders account for upwards of 90% of the total.

Nevertheless, there are some bad apples. And the incidents that many black persons are faced with are in most cases very real. We can do better. We can always do better.

But none of that has anything to do with the National Anthem, why it's played at the beginning of each sports contest, the brave men and women it honors, or the freedom it represents.

To openly defy it -- for any reason -- is just wrong.

It's just plain wrong.