Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Gospel Coalition’s Thabiti Anyabwile: A Descent into Racial/Theological Incongruity and Liberalism


I personally do not know Thabiti Anyabwile, but I do know his theology and social philosophy; it exists for all to read, daily, weekly, monthly and year-by-year at his blog, Pure Church, which is hosted by The Gospel Coalition. Thus, this essay is not about Thabiti Anyabwile, personally, but theologically and philosophically. Further, it specifically has in view his stated desire for a marginalized people's justice theology to be created and adopted under the umbrella of the Great Commission and the protocols given to the church, the body of Christ.

That said, I do wish to make clear, unlike some of his peers at The Gospel Coalition and beyond, I do not believe Anyabwile to be guilty of theological/ecclesiastical malfeasance. He is sincere, earnest and makes genuine effort to hold himself (beyond the average celebrated Pastor-Bible Teacher) accountable to his own standards. Additionally, he appears, to me, to have a well developed conscience, more so than many. All of these are virtues to some extent.

However, in my view, while all of the above are good and worthwhile, they do not balance out bad thinking regardless of the good motives (and certainly not theology which claims to be conservative while at the same time calling for a an ecclesiastical construct which has been birthed and enlivened by way of leftist or liberal Protestant theology). This cannot be more evident than with his recent histrionic, as I see it, blog essay, Is It “Goodbye Evangelicalism” Or “We Join You In Your Suffering”?  (This begs me to ask what collective "we" Anyabwile is referring to, isn't he part of the Evangelical collective?)

Anyabwile’s Demand to the Conservative Evangelical Community

I wish I could write both a long rebuttal to the many unreliable presuppositions contained in Anyabwile’s article (which alone defeats its seriousness) along with its other arguments, while I write this general essay but time simply does not permit. Thus, I will only highlight the climactic point(s) of the article.

In it, Anyabwile builds his argument by claiming blacks are marginalized as a people without being willing to discuss why they collectively, it seems, persist in disadvantage, as if it cannot be known by things other than outside causes identified or presumed by Anyabwile. Then he voices a lament toward inaction by Evangelical leaders regarding injustice saying, “they’ve been silent en masse” (I am certain theological leftists like Tim Keller who lead The Gospel Coalition, as left scratching their heads).

Anyabwile then attempts to enlarge his narrative in claiming that “racist systems and people so disfigure the body it can’t be shown” (in referencing the many funerals of black victims of violence), all the while ignoring that FBI statistics demonstrate that 91% of murders of blacks are black on black. I'm sorry, who is doing the disfiguring dear brother?

His audacious claim is theater, not truth. Thus, my claim of a descent into racial/theological incongruity (or what some might colorfully call “theological madness”) is because someone like Anyabwile, as I have seen him demonstrate, thus believe, knows better than to use such exaggerations and strongly prejudicial descriptions in dealing with serious and multifaceted issues. It seems he has abandoned his good senses in favor of a fictitious and racially-aggrandizing narrative in which he, as I see it, apparently has invested himself so greatly that retreat from this battle and its justification is far passed.

The Ultimatum

As I said, Anyabwile goes to great lengths to build a case for his grand ultimatum. As you read the article you will observe an absence of finesse, objectivity and full consideration of all possibilities, at least in my view. He is judge, jury and executioner (metaphorically speaking, of course). He begins and ends in a tightly formed narrow peep-hole which permits his view and his alone. Thus, he ends where any good self-righting crusader is expected to end, with the demand of believe or perish (metaphorically speaking, again). Finally, he comes to what he calls “The Call”. And here it is:

So here’s my call: Let there be the founding of a new conservative evangelical body with the aim of (1) providing clear, understandable, biblical theological frameworks for the pressing problems of the marginalized coupled with (2) organized calls to action and campaigns consistent with that framework. Let there be a body tasked with answering, “What does the Bible say about justice and mercy for the vulnerable and weak (of which there are many such groups)?” and stating, “Here then is a biblically-informed campaign for a genuine evangelical church living out that faith.” Let the leaders of the movement stand as leaders in this moment.

Following this are some details in which he prescribes to Evangelicalism the task of coming up with a “how to think, and how to act in these moments” theology, as if the “conservative church” has never historically or recently taught relative principles to such events (again principles he may not identify as such seeing they do not agree with his presuppositions and conclusions).

His incredulity does not stop there. He goes on to bemoan (because he is “soul-deep tired”), with veiled accusations toward the majority culture and specifically evangelicalism, many alleged failures (ultimately this has to be white society/white evangelicalism as the perpetrator as I deduce since he is talking to America) :

“How long evangelicalism before you show deep Christian love for your neighbor?” “How long evangelicalism before you both preach the gospel and show compassion?” “How long evangelicalism before you stop putting people on trial before you grant them your mercy?” “How long before you turn off the television and turn on the porch light for a neighbor?” “How long before you weep openly for someone that doesn’t look like you, earn what you earn, live where you live?” “How long before you stop reflexively identifying with the perpetrators and system administrators and at least show equal empathy for the outcast?” How long? How long before you come on out and say with loud unequivocal voice, “This is wrong!”
Could Soul-Tiredness be from Something Else?

Could it be, Thabiti, your soul is tired and worn out by your pursuing only what God has promised in the next life? That your soul is weary because of emphasizing the wrong thing as a minister of the gospel and chasing the ghosts of a liberal utopia that cannot exist on earth and of swallowing many unorthodox ideas, narratives and theologies which have produced in you, unwarranted and unjust expectations of your brother and sister evangelicals resulting in you painting them in a light so unfavorable that you now crusade with unbridled passion against them with charges for which you appear to have but anecdotal evidence or very general claims? Yes that too will make one’s soul tired, dear brother.

The Fundamental Problem(s) with Anyabwile’s Call

First and foremost, there need be no “founding of a new conservative evangelical body”, we have one, and it is called, the church, the body of Christ. Are you, Mr. Anyabwile, suggesting a schism in the body; that we deliberately form a body within a body with “special interests” which do not either include the rest of the body or demand the rest of the body now revolved around this special interest? Because, brother Anyabwile, you do know that the body revolves, not around racial and/or social interests but around Christ and spiritual interests for his all of his people without distinction and toward the unsaved world we do so with the gospel, right? Is this a new paradigm you are designing?

Secondly, this has been done, over and over again by many, even in the conservative  (whatever this means to you, Mr. Anyabwile, and the rest of us who likely all have something imprecise in view) sect of Christianity but likely you are unaware since you do not recognize any form, it seems, other than your own articulations on the matter. The fact is, dear confused brother, what you are proposing assumes certain propositions that are founded in liberal or leftist Protestant theology as well as their subsequent wayward conclusions and endeavors.

That is to say, you have charged the church to do this with both presuppositions and assumed conclusions that apparently you have special insight into and now demand acquiescence to! Have you considered that what is reflected in your essay and its very prejudiced and narrow narrative might not be what would be reflected in the product, even if such a body were formed for the advancement of race based and/or special interest theology?

Maybe, brother Anyabwile, someone will bring up Philippians 4:12, where we are exampled to learn how to be content, whether abounding or abasing. How does that work out in its application? Which brings me to a point.

Secular Regulations/Protocols vs. Christian/Spiritual Regulations Protocols

While social constructs are legitimate concerns of any member of any society and God frees us, as citizens, to pursue a better government and more righteous state, both individually and corporately, spiritual tenets which are prescribed only to believers (seeing they operate only under the Spirit empowerment of a regenerated individual) cannot apply to the rest of society.

Special and exceptional Christian/spiritual protocols for the believer only apply in that context. Unfortunately, in many of your essays, brother Anyabwile, you mix social contexts with spiritual contexts and passages meant for spiritually enlivened people (of which the general population of a state is never presumed in Scripture to recipients of these special orders, rather only the confessing Christian community), as if society in general can adopt these as social protocols. Thus, your prescriptions often are faulty in and of themselves, just from your lack of distinction between contexts which result in your use outside of proper contexts.

Yes, there are divine protocols for secular or human government but in Scripture there are very few that are absolute. Your discussion about justice assumes so many conclusions and divine rights which simply are not present in Scripture.

Moralizing Government forms and Personal Rights

Let’s take voting, for example. Is voting for a public official a divine right given to all humanity? No, that is nowhere found in the Bible. Suppose you live in a Monarchy, then what? I guess it is time to overthrow the Monarchy because no one is getting to vote?

The Bible does not present governmental forms in any nuanced manner as just or unjust, nor do the Scriptures present civil rights within a society with any detail as divinely ordained (all with the exception of the theocracy of Israel, a divine institution which, regardless of one’s theology, all recognize as nullified at this time). That is because, while nationalism/government itself is a divine institution and its function is intended to follow some elementary prescriptions, its details are determined by its people, its citizens.

What You Describe is the Work, not of the Church and its Resources, but of a People, its Government and Its Resources

The church, God’s bride, does not exist to determine the course of social matters and more specifically build in theory and then demand, in practice, special social constructs they view as more socially just than others. It can and must point out Biblical principles as it relates to God’s desire for divine institutions such as nationalism/government, marriage and so forth. But to build proprietary governmental constructs (specific forms of government) and demand they be employed, all in the name of God, is not the church’s call nor license. Those details beyond general principles are left for those people and their government to work out. And this, in my view, is the ultimate reach you wish to have with this new body.

Yes, Christian Citizens May and Must Involve Themselves in Government

And yes, it may involve Christian citizens whose value system is unique but contributory toward a good society. Still, even when believers are involved they are not so in the name of the church but in the name of their citizenry (and by God but all men, saved and unsaved, are equally called by God to involve themselves in government), that is, their human membership to a society and its national/governmental identity.

Thus, social justice in its detail and policy is a matter of social liberty in which such arguments, policy formation and empowerment are devised in the appropriate context, social/governmental contexts. The church is not called nor permitted to begin assigning moral status to governmental forms and governmental details, including civil order, where the Word of God does not.

Are there Biblical principles which can possibly shine a light on details? Yes, but most are not binding in any conclusive manner and may not be treated as dogma, which, again, seems the intent of your reach, Mr. Anyabwile.

Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement’s Co-Opting of the Persecuted Hebrew Narrative: The Misuse of Scripture to Turn Social Issues into Moral Issues

The title of this segment is what was done by Martin Luther King in co-opting the Moses/Hebrew persecuted narrative in order to make civil rights for blacks a moral issue and not a social one. Now, I agree with King constitutionally, but not morally. That is to say, he did not have a Biblical commission, though he had a Biblical freedom, in his quest for civil rights. Ultimately, he did have a constitutional point which eventually is what convinced many lawmakers.

Unfortunately, King’s turning civil rights into a matter of morality thus, sin (that is to say, to deny civil rights is equal to a sin against God because God demands equal social rights for all people, which is not in the Bible anywhere but King and others elevated their arguments so successfully that this is the subconscious approach by society). Civil rights, as a moral issue, is a conclusion based on proof-texting which, unfortunately, became the model by which much of the church approaches racial issues seeing they dare not be labeled a “racist” – what a weapon that is – or be found guilty of promoting the “sin” of not agreeing with certain views of social justice.

Consequently, but erroneously, it no longer is a social issue in the minds of much of society including many Evangelicals, rather it is categorically a moral/sin issue. Thus, there can only be one right answer and to disagree is to take the side of sin, how dare we, eh? And let me guess, brother Anyabwile, your side is the righteous side and to disagree is to be…?

What, then is the Role of the Church?

Is the church, thereby to be impotent on principles of justice? Has anyone suggested such? I observe that different conclusions have been arrived at by Pastors and Bible Teachers down through the ages on this broad topic which, in and of itself, ought to inform us that crusadership mentality on such matters is destructive and never a means to a well-vetted social philosophy.

Marriage as the Example

The divine institution of marriage is given to mankind by God for his perpetuity. There are binding Biblical principles for all human marriages and exceptional or further ones for Christians who are married. The church is to teach on the subject with regard to what the Bible revels, both dogmatically and in principle.

However, apart from dogma and even toward principles which are applied by the two marriage officers as they see fit per their conscience before God, it is not the church’s role (because they are not licensed by God) to begin to attempt to micro-manage domestic administrations. When a child feels there is an injustice, does he or she appeal to the church? Certainly not.

The church isn’t the arbitrator of domestic conflicts nor governmental. Each has officers for that. In marriage it is a husband and wife, there are no other officers. The church cannot insert itself, rightfully, into a marriage and start demanding things a go a certain way. That isn’t the role of the church to usurp such authority, though it has been known to do this.

Jimmy got Ice Cream but Susie Didn’t

So let’s take it a step further. Last Sunday, little Jimmy was permitted a bowl of ice cream while Susie, his sister, wasn’t. She appealed to the church and asked the church to form a body who will speak on her right to receive what Jimmy receives, in her family. The church responds, “Sorry Susie, we will teach what explicit dogma is and then, by way of affinity, the order of principles for conduct in marriage and family, to your parents as members of the church. However, no such demand exists in Scripture that if you do not get ice cream like Jimmy, an injustice has occurred.” Little Susie said she is going to get some friends and protest outside her home and show the world what terrible parents she has. Her view of justice is not being affirmed and isn’t all so obvious?

The Same Principle Applies to Government

There is no Biblically presented right to many privileges we have in the United States. These are considered constitutional rights, not Biblical ones. Sadly, much of society has heightened the role of social privileges to that of Biblical rights, thus we have the crusading mentality and efforts with all of its anger and hostility present in our country.

How a national government or any government’s administration is constructed and carried out is not prescribed by the Bible in any real detail. The Bible talks about justice, indeed, but leaves those weights to hearts and minds of its people, something for which I am sure they will account.

In that manner, if Anyabwile were speaking and placing his efforts, as a citizen and constitutionally, even with Biblical principles in mind (with the willingness to concede he lacks commission for dogmatic insistence on many points because many principles are debatable in both interpretation and application and when he doesn’t get his way he may not parade around crusading in protest how wrong, sinful or evil those who denied his view are), he would have a proper context for his efforts. But he isn’t doing that nor suggesting that.

He is, in how I read him, attempting to recruit the church and formulate within the church, a specific prescription for what racial justice must look like in a specific society and national government (yes he did refer more largely to marginalized people but his emphasis and devotion in the article was mainly toward race. Also, remember he said this body formed for racial justice theology should teach the church “how to think, and how to act in these moments”, wow, talk about out of line micromanaging the private consciences of believer priests)  And within his essay and other essays, he certainly has revealed that he has very specific conclusions in mind which all others ought to be coming to, suggesting a morally superior position on debatable issues which he does not have.

Anyabwile’s Trend, A Racial Preoccupation?

Finally, I have noticed over the past few years a graduation from broad ministerial emphasis on Reformed theology and Christocentricism in writing by Thabiti Anyabwile to one which has become increasingly race conscious. This and similar isolated pursuits by Ministers reduces them in ways they do not notice.

And I say this, not without prima facie support, as I see it. I suggest you spend some time looking through the history of his work and you will find an increasing devotion, at his website, to racial identification and its relevance.

A Christian minister is not a minister on behalf of blacks, whites, or any other group, they are so on behalf of Christ to toward their brothers and sisters in the Lord. Unfortunately, in my view, he seems to be drawn to racial polarization in his ministry. The call of the Shepherd in the church is not to right to social injustices of the world but to right to spiritual deprivation by preaching the good news of Christ.

Does this mean he may never work as a citizen for good? Of course not. But he is not doing this outside of the church. Rather, as I said earlier, he is attempting to recruit the church and its resources for a specific social justice end, one he has in view and wishes to prescribe to the country/state in the name of God’s Word, hence God himself. I believe he has been overtaken in this matter and is losing his way, very quickly, theologically.

The people you wish to find, brother Anyabwile, exist. They have a very developed social justice theology. But what you are wishing for does not exist. To formulate what you desire and see as right is a social justice theology which comes from the mind of a liberal/leftist Protestant which came to life in the 1950’s and 60’s. There is a reason a conservative body who holds to this theology does not exist, the two are not compatible.

Conclusion 

Racial and ethnic conflicts between the unbelieving world, I believe, has some remedial answers. Answers, however, I also am convinced much of the world cannot endure.

However, I do not speak to the unbelieving world but to the believing world. We, in Christ, are co-heirs and have equal opportunity and equal access to Christ and his riches. He works, without distinction, in our lives, in bringing his promises to pass.

This does not mean your social context will improve, that is not his promise to us. He has promised us spiritual riches, wisdom and understanding. By these you will know the good and perfect will of God.

My suggestion is that you permit God to be your problem solver by applying his promises. Certainly Christian Brother, wherever you live, you have a right to pursue a better social order for yourself and fellow citizens but that is not a spiritual issue, it is a social one.

This is why God told slaves to be content and to work as though working for Christ. Not that they could not seek freedom but that the betterment of their social context was not the objective of Christ, which comes later, in the eternal life with the eternal body. Thus, our battle and preoccupation is a spiritual one.

Is God so weak that as a slave he cannot make you an invisible hero where your glory will be revealed at Christ’s return, though it appears to the world you are but nothing? But you are not a slave, you have so much freedom the world is still running to America for that freedom. Yet, it is not enough for some Christians because their emphasis is on this world accommodating them, affirming them and vindicating them when Christ said, he will come to do that for his children.

Monday, August 18, 2014

(Police Militarization) Why You Should Never, Ever, Ever Invite Law Enforcement into Your Life Unless Absolutely Necessary

         

Reprinted with edits. Original article published March 2013.

(In light of the events in Ferguson, Missouri, I felt it worthwhile to republish this essay on Law Enforcement.)

The intervention by "the police”, better stated law enforcement (law enforcement or LE encompasses more than the police or cops and includes officers such as jailers and the courts) is a popular remedy for many things in life and in many cases the right one. But in other cases it is disastrous. And more than ever we live in a world where the children of cosmos diabolicus (and sadly along with this many of God’s children) are convinced that when disputes, offenses, injury and conflicts arise between people the  involvement of LE should be a defacto response to most of these social ills. That is to say, instead of dealing with issues, conflicts, offenses and injuries by ourselves or with the offender, today’s citizen in the western world and most specifically in the United States, forgoes the enterprise of personal resolution and action and instead, amps up their feelings of offensiveness and contempt for even the most petty slights and impulsively appeals to a forceful power they assume will deal with things as they wish and that power, typically, is a Police Officer. 


A Police Officer is a representative of the law. He has the power to arrest an offender. He can take an offender into custody, thus giving the apparent victim the upper-hand. But before you decide to invoke your privileged right to call upon law enforcement to deal with what you perceive to be an offense against you, you should understand some things about law enforcement which will affect not only the situation in which you are and for which you seek resolution but may affect you in a rather life-altering manner which you did not anticipate. 


At the Request of Citizens, Law Enforcement Points in One Direction, Particularly the Police


The police and often the courts, point in one direction. That is their main duty. That direction is not with sympathy toward you, the victim, and certainly not toward the offender, but toward the law. The law is king with LE, again, not the apparent victim or the offender. Now if the victim is indeed viewed as a victim then LE treats that person or persons with some sympathy but again, not because of their victim-hood but because they determined that the law says this. And ultimately, this is the direction in which LE must point in their decisions and the outcome of their decisions. 


Now, at this point you might be thinking, “they aren’t sympathetic to the apparent victim”? Right, they are not. That is not to say that if, let’s say a horrendous beating has occurred and immediately LE finds the alleged and very likely perpetrator standing over their victim. It does not mean that that they (LE) don’t have some sympathy toward the victim of a beating but that sympathy, while present, still does not get to dictate their actions.


The perpetrator can be arrested on suspicion but even then, he gets a bond hearing. He can, if he is able to post a bond with a bondsman or from his own resources, release himself from a detention center while awaiting trial. And, though the victim may know many things the perpetrator knows things as well. Maybe the beating was warranted. Maybe the other person had, unbeknown the LE, been threatened with a lethal weapon and to defend himself the alleged perpetrator had to beat what appears to be a victim. 


The person receiving the beating might be where immediate sympathies lie but suppose, upon discovery, there is something far more sinister going on? Sometimes, no, in fact often, people solicit LE without thinking things through. They forget their contribution to a situation and if a personal conflict does not result in someone’s liking, they become emotional if not hysterical and call the police thinking, by way of their hysteria and emotionalism, LE will see things completely their way. But LE (abuse of  LE cases aside) by in large, is interested in the law and it being served. Their belief, as is the belief of most rational people, is that law is based on principles which are good for society and if the law (or the principle) is served, then we, the citizens are served. And this is a right approach. So regardless of the emotions and view of an alleged or real victim, still the law and its principle is the ultimate thing being served to insure people or citizens being served.


George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin: A Case in Point 


Most people are familiar with the case of George Zimmerman, a participant in a community neighborhood watch program and Trayvon Martin, a visiting relative of one of that neighborhood’s residents and the conflict which arose between the two men resulting in George Zimmerman being beaten to the point he believed his life was being threatened, thus shooting and killing Trayvon Martin. In its initial discover, the Stanford Police Department determined that there was no just cause for arresting and charging George Zimmerman with a crime. They accepted the self-defense claim of George Zimmerman based on the evidence of his smaller stature compared to the significantly larger Martrin along with the vertical lacerations to his head and bleeding nose. The evidence fit the claim of self-defense in their view.


But the family and sympathetic others of Trayvon Martin were not satisfied. They demanded more involvement of LE, at the level of a Special Prosecutor whom they and the sympathetic media, pressured greatly into charging George Zimmerman with the crime of second degree murder.

I am not here to deal with the case more than this but to make a very important point. Simply because the Martin family believes Trayvon was unjustly killed and has managed to gain the cooperation of an element of LE in charging George Zimmerman with second degree murder, does not guarantee, in any real way, that the charge is accurate or that he will be found guilty. In fact, it is highly like based on the opinion of many former prosecutors and current defense attorney’s that the state of Florida will fail in their case again Zimmerman regarding second degree murder because the evidence supporting Zimmerman’s narrative is stacked so high it is simply insurmountable. The charge against Zimmerman is based on emotion and the debased practice by many blacks in America and their sympathizers  in which they accuse the Stanford Police in not charging Zimmerman as based in racial sympathies toward Zimmerman and against Martin.


What Will Result in the Likely Not-Guilty Outcome? When someone summons LE to aid in a situation they the often mistakenly assume that LE will see things their way. Most people simply do not understand the facts of a matter outside of their own prejudices. Simply calling the police, as is commonly said, assumes you are not doing anything wrong when, in fact, you may be. In this case with Zimmerman and the Martin family, the Martin family and their sympathizers are making a very big mistake. They, long ago, invested in the idea that because Zimmerman has been charged he will be found guilty and that he is, in fact, guilty and that certainly, because a Special Prosecutor has charged him, it simply cannot go any other way. You see, to the Martins, Law Enforcement is on their side, thus they cannot be in error.


But LE is not on their side. Law Enforcement is on the side of the law. In the trial the facts will speak, not opinion, though often opinion is sought to be inserted and sometimes successfully, as a replacement for the facts. Evidence will be the greatest weight. And though it is not a certainty and George Zimmerman could, in reality, be found guilty, it is far less likely he will. What then? What will result?


The result will be more upheaval, more discontinuity and more racializing of a tragic circumstance because of the assumptions people have stemming from their having LE involved in their affairs. LE works very hard to maintain its point toward the law and a just use and application of the law. It understands what ensues if it does not, namely judicial anarchy. No, not the kind of anarchy that results in socially unpopular but legally just renderings in which segments of society protest by destroying property and injuring, if not murdering, people but institutional anarchy where no justice can be found which is a far more injurious and wicked a form of corruption than that of social groups who simply are out of control because they do not like legal renderings. Civilization, especially advanced civilization, depends on courts with integrity even if its society is losing its integrity, or at least parts of it.


Law Enforcement by Necessity Has Become and Will Continue to Become More and More Militarized


Another thing you must understand about LE is that it has become and will increasingly still developed into a militarized organization. This may not, on the surface, seem significant but practically speaking it affects our social experience and order in meaningful ways. Our world has become far more sophisticated than during the 1920’s and 30’s, even into the 50’s and 60’s where, expect for large cities, policemen where more part of a community than a fraternity. That is to say, while police officers are quite fraternal in their relationship with one another and understandably so (try being one for a while and you will understand or if you have ever served in the military or been on a sports team you will get this) their fraternity in the past was not utilized to the degree it is today in many places, where it isolates the LE person and functions as its main if not only social outlet, rather than incorporating him into society.


While LE officials, even in the most comfortable and idealistic setting do not have the social consciousness of their status removed entirely with friends and family, in the past and in many places, their distinction was understood as one with their job and not necessarily their person. However, because of the advancement of sophisticated forms of social sabotage by anarchists, the police have been forced to modify their function and increase their response capacity with regard to surveillance, apprehension and investigation. This requires high caliber weaponry, less discretion in decision making and far greater use of force in order to protect themselves from personal and legal harm in their policing of society. And this has had a changed in the cop, himself. He is far more pronounced in his behavior, even off the clock, as a representative of LE.


The culmination of this all of this is a great de-personalization of LE, particularly cops. And it is really, in a great way, not their fault but the fault of citizens who insist on this kind of police force but as well, somewhat of a necessity in a sophisticated and potentially dangerous society. So, what I am saying is not a finger-pointing toward LE but toward you, the citizen, who must understand who and what LE is when you decide to invite them as the party to resolve your issues. They will respond, but it may be with a force, reach and consequence(s) you never wished for, even toward the person against whom you may have a complaint.


“The Police” Represents Power for the Weak, a Power Easily Abused


Weak people can also be tyrannical people. When a person is weak in some area or areas of their life there are two potential directions in which they can go in responding to these deficiencies. First, they can humbly acknowledge their area(s) of weakness and not allow it to rule their life, always seeking to strengthen these areas as much as possible. On the other hand, they can arrogantly refuse to either acknowledge or if they acknowledge, reign in and remedy as much as possible, their area(s) of weakness and instead, selfishly allow them to become a controlling mechanism in their personality and mentality with a myriad of excuses and apologies while never doing a thing to change, thus directing their response and reaction to things.


The second approach I just gave describes the kind of person who abuses the use of police power. They seek to summon the police over the slightest thing. They use the police as a relationship manager with others. They are tyrants. They are children in adult bodies who now have the social privilege of calling the police when they believe they need them and do so at the drop of a hat if they believe, in the least bit, LE will resolve things to their advantage.

Ask yourself, are you one of these? You might be and if so, you represent the worst of our society, you ought to be ashamed and repent of such abuse of LE.


Why People are Understandably Reluctant to Involve Law Enforcement


Customarily when you read about criminal cases which involve someone apparently delaying going to the police the question arises, “why didn’t they call the police in the first place”? You need to stop doing that so often, it is a foolish and short-sighted question in many instances. Do you call the police every single time it is permissible or have you, all of your life? No, you don’t and haven’t and nor does anyone else.


Who and what LE are ought to enlighten you as why people are reluctant to call them in the first place. They are a point of no return. They represent putting affairs into the hands of those whose interests may not be the best for you or your family even if you are a victim.


Domestic conflict is one of the best examples of why people are reluctant to call the police. Suppose a husband and wife are arguing and the wife gets so upset she slaps her husband. He has every right to show her a thing or two and call the police and have her arrested for assault, right? No, really he does not and nor does she if it is reversed.


This is not to say there is not a case, ever, for the police to be called but the fact is spouses who love each other are not interested in having strangers resolve their conflicts, even when they get physical, and certainly they are not interested in having a loved one arrested and charged with a crime resulting, in the least, with an arrest record and at worst a criminal record that will probably follow them the rest of their life.


There is a segment of our world I am about to get to that, unfortunately, has been embraced in a great way which is the hysterical segment, the emotionally based raging victim-hood segment who, at the slightest provocation and particularly in domestic contexts but usually in any relational context, believe it is essential to self-respect and personal dignity to invite LE into situations where they believe in the most mild manner they have been offended by someone where LE may intervene. It is called “empowerment” and they will be damned before they are denied this.


The fact is they have no skills either resolving disputes nor any integrity or character which forgives. They want their ounce, if not pound, of flesh. Many Christians are foolishly embracing this error.


Judges, Handicapped by the Bill O’Reilly's and Nancy Grace's of the World


Not long ago a family friend got a prescription from a doctor. The pharmacy informed him that it need what is called “prior approval”. He did not understand, wasn’t the doctor’s prescription obvious and prior approval? But according to the pharmacy, that was not sufficient. The doctor’s office, themselves, had to call on the phone and justify this to some pharmacy arbitrator. What he described seemed surreal. A doctor's decision for medication is going to be arbitrated by a non-doctor? Weird but Orwellian.


It reminds me of our court system which places trust in our judges. It is true that some judgments are not what we always want as a society but a judge is a man or woman who, normally, has had extensive legal experience. They are, indeed human, but it is just that, their humanity, which is so critical to their role. It is this integral property that is being removed, more and more, by the Bill O’Reilly’s and Nancy Grace’s of the world whose television platforms are being used as bullhorns to tell the American people that judges can’t be trusted to make decisions and use discretion, rather that they must have prescribed to them strict and inflexible guidelines which insure generic and indiscreet outcomes and sentencing.


They are wrong, dead wrong and so are you if you think such public crusaders are right. I don’t watch either, much, maybe O’Reilly sometimes but I do watch them enough to understand they haven’t changed in years. They represent the worst regarding a healthy and just approach toward crime and the courts. They do not care about details or mitigating factors, they prefer, instead, to teach their audience that it is okay to play judge and jury never minding that in cases where they are bloviating regarding their dissatisfaction, they either are ignorant of all of the facts or simply selective and extremely prejudicial regarding their use of them.


Judges, as part of LE, are the last respite for mercy, mitigation and justice rolled together. Remember, the judge in a case is not invested in the alleged victim, the alleged perpetrator, prosecutor or defense attorney. The judge, he or she, is different, though part of LE. He or she is the most human element of all of LE. And the judge must be freed, more than ever, to consider all mitigating factors so as to render both a just and where and when applicable, merciful and redemptive judgment.


But we are moving farther and farther from this, every day, in our world and particularly in our country.  We have to have things “our way” thus, we permit a police state to develop. We cannot stomach anything other than the crushing of someone who has offended us, even in the most minor way. But understand, friend and sad Christian who supports such a view, it has a price, one you might find you have to pay one day in inviting the police into your life thinking it was a day of victory for you and your loved ones when it may result in heartbreak from which you can never recover or in the least are socially and emotionally debilitated for a long time. Remember, never, ever, ever invite Law Enforcement into your life unless absolutely necessary.


*I have written this article in light of the George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin case which provoked in me a more thorough consideration of LE and its present condition as well as the mind-set of many Americans which, unfortunately, includes many Christians as well.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Selfishness of Suicide and the “Depression Excuse” Industry



Well known comedian/actor Robin Williams committed suicide this past week. What he did was a selfish act, one of passive violence toward the rest of society, his family and friends particularly and in the least, indirectly toward God. This is not a personal comment or condemnation, it is a general one, with respect to the nature of the act when anyone commits it, always aware of course, that rules have their exceptions which is just what an exception is, something uncommon, exceptional.

However, in this case, among the public and unfortunately among Christians, we have a cacophony of voices all decrying the stranger called “depression” and its predatory work in making victims of its owners, so much so that we must come to understand the murder of one’s self with couched terms and at times, simply that of a victim and not as the perpetrator. The overwhelming calls are for more understanding because no one understands depression like the depressed and ultimately because depression, after all and don’t you know, is a mental illness.

Depression is a Mental Illness?

Referring to depression as a mental illness is like referring to a gardener as someone who takes pleasure in mutilating plants. It is misleading, at best. 

The term “mental-illness” is broad and in my opinion, over-used. But in this case, or should I say in the case of the cult of "depression victimization" where victimology is alive and well and the first place depressed people are taught to run as a way of viewing their depression and subsequent moods/actions, mental illness is an escape clause, a liberty pass or a way to not take responsibility for one’s actions.

Why?

The reason is because when we talk about mental illness, in general and without clearly defined parameters, we normally assume an inability to make healthy and appropriate distinctions about right and wrong. Unfortunately, this assumption is simply carried into or imposed onto any actions a depressed person may take, without discretion.

In other words, when a known depressed person acts in an inappropriate manner, he or she will often refer back to their depression as the cause of their poor decision and action(s) as though they cannot be responsible for them due to this infliction of darkness in their life. And typically he or she will have commiserates who echo such thoughts as well as many other sympathizers.

However, in truth, rarely does depression lead a person to the kind of mental dysfunction which disables their ability to distinguish right from wrong. Hence, their culpability is not removed.

Mental illnesses which disaffect sound cognition will be accompanied by a life which is maladjusted to the norms of a morally and ethically reasonable society. In other words, they will not be able to function in society in any cultivated manner. They will not be aware of normal values. They usually cannot hold down jobs because timeliness has no reference outside of their impulses. As well, they must have some kind of guardianship. Along with this you will discover the inability to become self-organized so that they can own and maintain property which exceeds their carrying capacity. They are itinerant in their style of living due to their disorientation to social structures. 

These are classic symptoms of genuine mental illness. That is, their mental faculties have a true disruption which impair rational abilities and value assignment. Retardation is a mental illness. Psychosis is a mental illness which normally is qualified by hallucinations and extra-ordinary delusions but even then those with some forms of psychosis are not rendered incapacitated regarding understanding their actions and being liable for them.

Depression is a Mood Disorder

Under the umbrella of mental illness we have what are considered mood disorders by mental health professionals. This does not mean it will not have an effect on our thinking but it does mean that it does not originate with our thinking. That is to say, it does not render us too incompetent to function in a manner which understands right from wrong, unlike psychosis or mental retardation.

Now, it is true that some mood affects are so strong that they discourage normal function and when someone experiences depression at a magnitude so great sometimes they simply “drop out” of society and isolate themselves in their depressed state. And it is true that they are making decisions influenced by their depression. However, they, very most often, can tell you that they need help and what they are doing is neither constructive nor healthy, rather that they simply cannot give themselves the shove they need.

This is critical to understanding depression. It is not a cognitive attack. It is a disaffection of the mood and/or emotions. 

Cultivated Lives and Depression as an Excuse

As I said earlier, depression is the club of supreme victimization wielded on the heads of society in general and often on the heads of friends and family, specifically, in defending misbehavior by depressed people. “You just don’t understanding depression, especially my depression”, is the mantra. “You lack compassion and are judgmental”, it is said. “How dare you speak of what you do not know?”, it is chimed.

These are all forms of posturing and crusading. It is arrogance in a bright color as if people who don’t experience something cannot understand it. Poppycock. This is precisely why we observe, study, take notes and test theories, so that we can understand something apart from ourselves. In fact, what a small world such victims of depression demand of us all; that we only speak of what we have experienced first hand. Talk about no advancement in civilization!

Most people suffering from depression who ultimately murder themselves, i.e. commit suicide, do so in the midst of a rather normally cultivated life in which social and even biblical norms and standards are observed and by which their lives abide. They know right from wrong.

Day in and day out and unlike those whose mental illness causes them disorientation toward reality whereby they cannot discern right from wrong, most people who suffer from depression do not have this dilemma. Rather, the large remaining portion of their lives clearly manifest the ability to achieve, to acquire, to maintain and to function in society because they understand its nuances and rules.

Consequently they do understand right from wrong on many levels, not just on elementary ones, thus depression is not a valid excuse for misbehavior.

Problems with Others vs. Problems with Self

Imagine if Robin Williams had a problem (non-life-threatening, of course) with another person that was contributing to a depressed state and he chose to murder that person. Would society be telling us to be understanding because he was depressed? Would we be talking about how it is the fault of depression and how we all must get a better grip on its perpetration upon society so that depressed people can get treatment and not murder? Unfortunately, maybe in some places (I recall the sympathy that Saturday Night Live member Phil Hartman’s murderer was given, his then wife, after she had murdered him and then murdered herself) but by and large, no. He would be seem as someone who selfishly perpetrated a heinous crime, the ultimate crime, of taking another person’s life, homicide.

Why is it then, we so often fail to make clear the utter selfishness and narcissism of self-murder or suicide? Why can we not see its villainous nature, its passive violence on others and its illiberal nature? Yes, most often its perpetrators know exactly what they are doing and do know the pain they will leave behind.

Are they in pain and do they want relief from their pain? Indeed they do and that is not unreasonable. But just as we do not murder others in order to make difficult relationships which contribute to depressed states go away, hence the problem, we must view suicide as the same kind of selfishness yet this time, if any time, we are in total control (no other person involved as a variable) and have less excuse.

We are afraid because of Suicide's Collateral Victims

Thoughtfulness toward to collateral victims of suicide, family and friends, generally keeps us from speaking directly about the matter. And just for the record, I don’t know the details of Mr. Williams’ situation so I am not addressing it personally or with respect to its issues, I am speaking generally and to the principal ideas. Thus, when suicide occurs we soften our language so as to not appear insensitive to its victims who are grieving.

What must be said?

However, there is a time to speak and as I said I am speaking to no one situation or person directly or personally. If you believe you suffer from depression you have an obligation to confront your mood disorder and live with it like everyone else lives and pushes through their challenges. If you believe you need medication and/or therapy to treat it, do it. 

However, you have an obligation to not seek it as an excuse or liberty pass to engage in inappropriate behavior. God gives no such relief. You retain your ability to know right from wrong and are without excuse.

Is it hard? Yes, so is being a paraplegic, worse a quadriplegic.
 
Further, you have a duty, - a responsibility - to live a life filled with commitments to God, yourself and others. You have roles which God intended for you to perform based on his principles, that of a father or mother, sister or brother, aunt or uncle, husband or wife, single or friend, employee or employer, grandparent and good neighbor and so on. This is your life, with or without afflictions.

God never says your mood must be a good one, a positive one or a happy one. There are times it will be but if you are melancholic, if depression is often the haunting expression of the fallen Adam, you have all the more reason to live by faith. Trust in the promises of God and live as you should, not as you feel. He will reward your faithfulness, not your moods. Press on to the high calling and dare not give way to an industry and society of sentimental excuse makers.

 __________

*This essay is not written without consideration of the causes and treatment of depression. However, it is not my intention to address that segment of the issue other than to say that I recognize the various forms and/or degrees and that at times, medication along with various therapies exists as a valid treatment. However and with respect to its initial and/or ongoing causes, I believe that many people simply do not wish to deal with self-contribution by way of inappropriate thinking and past/present actions which are often major causes which go unaddressed since it would require “victims” to admit they are victims of themselves and many egos simply could not endure self-correction on this level.