Archives August 2019

Throwing Stones Only Breaks Glass

A recent column by Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America has received some attention for its criticism of Virginia Tech’s orientation. She attended this year with her son, an incoming cadet. Nance and I have a few things in common: parents of cadets, conservative, and Christian.

When I initially read her concerns about the university embracing self-selection of personal pronouns on orientation ID badges, and some of her other worries, which included religious freedom and preferences, I thought, “Absolutely!”

However, with a little soul-searching (prayer, if you will permit), I see not only my own error in thinking, but must also respectfully disagree with the activist approach that she is encouraging.

I understand that in today’s world, attention and, perhaps, financial gain goes to those who create the most controversy. Nance, a president and CEO of a national political action organization, is able to stir the pot in spades. After all, that is her job. But when it comes to offering a perspective of love, compassion, humility, generosity, faithfulness, and, in general, staying true to Christian beliefs, she missed the mark.

Honestly, academia is hardly innocent. It seems to welcome drawing negative attention. Campuses all across the country are easily identifiable with left-leaning orthodoxy. From safe-spaces to the shouting-down of conservatives, many universities hardly promote the free exchange of ideas they piously claim. I am sure this thought played a role in why Nance lamented that her son is about to embark on four years of “indoctrination” to “leftist propaganda.”

Nance, having heard enough, stated that it is time to stand up to the “liberal, ivory-towered academic’s worldview.”

Perhaps. Instead, I am reminded of a Bible story. Are you familiar with the account of when the adulterer faced certain death by stoning from the scribes and Pharisees?

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her,” Christ famously challenged the mob (John 8:7).

He then turned to the sinner, after the now-neutered prosecutors sheepishly dropped their projectiles and dispersed, and asked the woman where those who had condemned her had gone. She did not know. He then said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11)

This is the Christian example of confronting what is wrong.

We are all incredibly sinful beings. From our vanity to jealousy to anger and everything else, none of us can claim the moral high ground.

I understand that the LGBTQ community does not think of their identity as a sin, however, expecting the religious faithful to condone and accept the practice is next to impossible. Especially at public universities when kids are involved.

On the other hand, for those who are believers, they should also recall that no sin is above another. For example, it is sinful to shout or even think, “you fool!” to the person who cut you off on I-81 yesterday or to worry about how a presentation will go tomorrow. Yes, worry is a sin.

In other words, from our birth to our death, there is no way to escape our own sin, no matter what it is or who we are. We need help. We need repentance. We need faith. We need not cast the first stone.

I saw what the College Republicans at Virginia Tech had to say on this topic and they could not be more on point: “One of our main goals as an organization is to foster a community of respect, love, and inclusivity. Virginia Tech is a place where one should feel safe to grow as a person and not be worried to freely express themselves, a right given to us in the First Amendment.”

That same First Amendment gives Nance the freedom to be critical of the Virginia Tech practices. It is the same right that I have to respond to her. It is also the same right that students have to participate, ignore, or, better yet, discuss like adults the pronoun issue.

It is also the same right that her son, my daughter, and thousands of Hokies past, present and future swear an oath to protect and defend; a right enjoyed by all Hokies, Virginians, and Americans regardless of their political or social perspective. Ut Prosim (‘That I May Serve’), indeed.

The left may have done a good job of marginalizing common-sense beliefs and ostracizing those of faith, but no one ever said being a person of faith would be easy.

“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God.” (1 Peter 2:16-17)

Stating the truth is the right thing to do, but state the truth in love. Especially when trying to set the tone of the conversation and affect hearts and minds. Also, recall Jesus did not come to the world for a Biblical debate with scribes and Pharisees; He chose to commune with and save the sinners: us.

Nance is worried that the university stated, “Parents, don’t be shocked if your kid comes home changed.”

In my view, I certainly hope so; I hope these challenges have made my daughter’s faith stronger.

I believe it has.

This column also appears in The Roanoke Times.

PJ Media: The Thrill Is Gone?

PJ Media shares an article by Stephen Green to illustrate how the Democratic party isn’t all that energized about their candidates. On first glance, that makes me feel slightly better about the underwater numbers President Trump continues to score in approval rankings.

However, this quote did catch my attention about Joe Biden:

Berman quotes Portsmouth, N.H., resident Elizabeth Keniston saying, “Whoever can beat Trump is most important. I want him in prison,” which makes it sound like she’s looking for a combination of a presidential winner and an FBI agent.

Is it just me, but couldn’t that very quote read, “Whoever can beat Clinton is most important. I want her in prison” circa this time in 2015?

Power down for a bit

“Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave?”

In the 1968 classic Stanley Kubrick movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, an incredulous H.A.L. 9000 supercomputer, fresh off of eliminating most of the crew of the Saturn-bound Discovery, is quite concerned that Dr. Dave Bowman is proceeding to power him down.

In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, living rooms are dominated by flat-screen televisions that bring the viewer into the drama depicted in the show.

George Orwell in 1984 describes an authoritarian state with a watchful eye – Big Brother – who sees into your home and monitors your behavior.

2001 is 51-years-old, Fahrenheit 451 was copyrighted in 1953, and Orwell published 1984 in 1949, 60 years ago. While the dates might be a decade or two off, they certainly had a vision of what was to come today.

Is it any wonder that now, with immersive technology, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things (building the web into other objects), some of us get mildly nervous regarding the future of civil liberty?

While it is my hope that we continue to guard against “newspeak,” the “thought police” or the “firemen,” it is hard not to see the current climate of mass media and social media intoxicating us with its ever-present echo chamber. And, that we are continuing to be divided further into our tribes and closer to openly assaulting the First Amendment.

That said, we are really not all that far from quickly going from “marketing efficiency” to Draconian society. Without a doubt, we are being watched. Marketers crave our data to tailor their product offerings directly to us. Politicians, too.

They love to know our voting patterns and pet issues to ensure we’re aware that they’re on our side. And the media and social media giants are guilty, too. They seek to offer you your personal clickbait for the purposes of advertising and have what appears in your feed be exactly what you want to see.

While you might expect the rest of the column to be about my making points about how to prevent a dark, dystopian society, I’d rather focus on a simple, much more personal and highly practical action that we all can take to forestall authoritarianism, totalitarianism or mob populism.

It’s easy and incredibly simple, and, as we move into August, now is the perfect time for a reminder: take a break. You have to unplug and unwind. Take a walk. Stop and smell the roses – or the seafoam.

What better way to ensure that the behaviors that guard against a societal downward spiral – love, patience, tolerance, personal ownership, integrity, etc. – than to simply relax?

Take a vacation. Rest. It’s common sense that if you sleep and rest well, you wake up in a better mood, and that means a better world.

If a vacation isn’t in the cards, another easy way to reset is simply by putting away our phones and social media for at least one day a week.

Wouldn’t it be nice to just go one day without hearing about a Trump tweet and the subsequent global response?

In “The Hard Break: The Case for a 24/6 Lifestyle,” Aaron Edelheit argues that productivity improves simply by putting the phones down for one day a week. With the barrage of emails, texts, and tweets keeping us ever connected, the mobile phone which was supposed to be a business optimization tool isn’t actually making us any happier – or more productive, as designed.

So, do yourself a favor this August: take a break. Put the phone away.

Keep the laptop shutdown. Put your smart speakers on silent. Do this if only to preserve your sanity and, ultimately, our democracy.

And, if you haven’t already, use your newfound free time to watch 2001 and read Fahrenheit 451 and 1984. Maybe even visit Sandbridge or Knotts Island to simply listen to the water.

It’s the American thing to do.

This article also appears in The Princess Anne Independent News