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John Lennon’s 1971 anthem, “Imagine,” has become his requiem. People play or sing it reverently as a romantic hope for the world. Consider the lyrics:

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky

Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too

Imagine all the people living life in peace, you

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

No heaven, no hell, which is to say no afterlife, nothing to live for, and best of all for one aspiring to fantasy, no accountability. Just an opportunity to live life in any way you wish with no consequences. It is the hedonist's and/or the humanist's dream.

Living for today, no countries, nothing worth dying for, and no religion. Just a meaningless, unfettered, undirected, secular or athiestic existence built upon the now and nothing else, which is to say a nihilistic existence.

No possessions, greed or hunger, just a brotherhood. Sounds interesting. Might work. Except for one thing. Sin, or if you prefer, evil. The perennial human predicament. We’re capable of noble deeds and aspirations, but we’re incapable of divesting ourselves of pernicious intentions, acts, or lawlessness.

Imagine living in peace, sharing the world, just a human race of one. These are understandable desires but unreachable because they forget reality. 

No idealistic romanticism can wish goodness and peace into existence. If it could it would have happened long ago. Yet world history is a record of man’s inhumanity to man, of evil leaders, regimes, and ideologies that were only stopped by coercive response from others wanting some kind of justice. 

John Lennon was a gifted lyricist and an international rock star, and he died too young, tragically and violently. Lennon wasn’t entirely wrong. He hungered for something better, something kinder, gentler, and secure. But the worldview he expressed in “Imagine” is seriously lacking, unworkable and inept even if appealing to certain yearnings of the human soul.

Nothing can deal with sin or evil except the biblically Christian redemptive story of the life, sacrificial death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Love and peace come from God and only he can restore these gifts to us who are born in sin through his grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation. It’s worth thinking about and working toward. Imagine all the people hearing and responding to the Gospel, blessed in this life with forgiveness and peace, blessed in eternity with the presence of God.

 

Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2018   

*This blogmay be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with meat www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

I still think Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's "I Have A Dream" speech, Aug. 28, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, is the greatest example of compelling, principled political oratory since Abraham Lincoln's “Gettysburg Address” one hundred years earlier, Nov 19, 1863, or Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, Mar 4, 1865, both of which are inscribed on the walls inside the Lincoln Memorial.

You can read MLK, Jr's words, but even better, watch and listen. My favorite quote from the speech: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

While we’ve come a long way in race relations since slavery in the 19th Century and a Civil War to end it, since Jim Crow laws in the early 20th Century and Dr. King’s work and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, still, recent racial division and violence in the U.S. suggests we have a long way to go. And sadly, one especially unsettling manifestation of this divide intensifying the issue today is a periodic stand-off pitting Black communities against police.

The debate rages, is it “White supremacy” as some say, or racism that is the root of all explanations about Black social ills, or is it a long list of choices made within the Black subculture (as well as within other subcultures including White) that result in social pathologies, or is it some combination of these variables?

This “new” 21st Century, American racial division is actually nothing new, but it's sad, destructive to individuals and society, and threatening to our future, to say the least. Even after having elected the first Black President of the United States, we don’t seem to be able to hold public discussions without things devolving to verbal, then physical, push and shove. It does not help that the President in the White House now often uses phrases or makes statements about racial and ethnic groups, or immigrants, that sound demeaning if not are demeaning, that sound racist and perhaps are racist. Such noise and heat sheds very little light, to say the least.

One thing that might help is to rediscover the worthy aspirations that helped create and define America. Aside from his well-known desire for peaceful civil disobedience, Dr. King employed two enormously important tactics, which many protesting individuals today do not seem to embrace. He focused his work and his rhetoric upon American ideals. And he built his case on these ideals in the name of everyone, Blacks certainly, but everyone.

In the midst of public uproar in American cities in recent days, some Black and some White activists have sounded like they assume a "zero sum social context," i.e., there’s one size pie and the only way my group can expand our piece of the pie is to take from, tear down, or reduce your group’s piece of the pie. This sounds simplistic, but it’s not as far off as it may first appear.

Even if you say, one group has been or is consistently being denied it’s piece of the pie, it’s right to liberty, justice, and opportunity, then you can still argue your point based upon a set of ideals envisioning a country and culture open to all. In any event, the point is, zero sum was not Dr. King’s approach and it is not what American ideals are about.

American ideals have historically proclaimed—even when they were not always embraced—liberty and justice for all, economic opportunity and equality before the law for all, shared working toward peace and prosperity for all. This is what Thomas Jefferson meant in the Declaration of Independence when he wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” These basic rights belong to all men (and women), regardless of race, color, ethnicity, religion, or gender. Yes, it took American politics, society, and culture a long time to more fully embrace these ideals, and clearly, we're still learning to apply them, but the ideals articulate the goal.

Racial consideration and reconciliation are not easy. Too much human nature and human history get in the way. But an America for all is still history’s greatest Great Experiment, one well worth supporting.

For those who struggle with prejudice, consider the Christian perspective simply but profoundly shared in the poetic lyrics of a 19th Century children’s song:  “Red, brown, yellow, black and white, They are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Concern for everyone’s human rights is everyone’s concern. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr lived and died for it. We now must live it.

Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2018   

*This blogmay be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with meat www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

Recently, on Facebook I saw a Christian leader and his wife at a black-tie banquet in Florida, “Celebrating Israel.” It was a Christian affair. I’m not sure what they were celebrating per se. 

Of course, I am not “against” or Anti-Israel as such. It’s just that I think being supportive of, caring about, and praying for Jews or the “peace of Jerusalem” as Scripture commands is decidedly different from blessing or blindly defending everything the modern nation-state of Israel does.

This confusion is evident in social media, but it’s long been a part of American Christian culture, the idea that to be considered politically correct in a conservative Christian community or church one must be loud-n-proud when talking about Israel. I’ve long seen people on social media sort of “beat their chest” about being “Pro-Israel” as a way of demonstrating their Conservative or Republican or Christian bona fides.

Again, let me be clear. I am not against or anti-Israel, much less anti-Jewish people. They, like all others, are part of the divinely created human race, are in need of salvation like all the rest of us, should be able to rear their children in peace and security, and should be appreciated for who they are and what they contribute to global society. Certainly, actions that bespeak antisemitism, racial discrimination, or the worst in the genocides of history, are wrong, immoral, and evil, not the attitudes and behaviors that bless civilization, or the Church.

This said, I still wonder about the over-the-top posturing I see among conservative Christian Americans pertaining to Israel, and by implication, pertaining to Arabs, Persians, and Turks living in the Middle East and North Africa. To hear some Christian leaders speak on television, you'd be forgiven for thinking if they are not anti-Arab they certainly sound anti-Arab. But God created Arabs too.

For comparison, let me think aloud about my country the USA. I am patriotic, red-white-n-blue, glad to be an American, proud in some sense of the land of the free and home of the brave, but I do not believe and would not make the case that the USA has always done the right things or done things right, much less given Republican or Democrat, or for that matter Whig or Federalist, leaders have always done things right. 

I think one can love his/her country without arguing it is and always has been right or best. And I think one can critique one’s country without buying into the contemporary revisionist line that the USA has never done anything right, so we must reject and put down and deny our ideals in favor of any and all global alternatives.

Back to Israel, I want this nation-state of people to enjoy human rights to life and liberty, to self-determination, dignity, and respect. I want for them peace, security, and prosperity. But I want these things for other Middle Eastern and North African countries too. It need not be zero-sum, us or them, America supports Israel or American Christians support Israel no matter what they do. No, it can be an intelligent and sophisticated relationship committed to lofty ideals and values.

American Christians and/or Conservatives and/or Republicans or Democrats need to think before they speak, honor good and right causes, reject bad and wrong behaviors, work together for mutual benefit in a free and peaceful world.

 

Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2018   

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

Can political leaders accomplish admirable social goals or useful political changes if they are, at times, less than perfect individuals?

I’ve run into this idea before, not just regarding President Donald Trump, who some reject not simply because they disagree with his policy perspectives but because they feel he is not a nice person, or they believe he hurts or otherwise defames others or entire groups of people with his words, or they simply do not like him.

This piece is not about pro or anti President Trump.  You can make that determination on your own.  This is a think-aloud-consideration about human beings who become leaders.

One reason this is not per se about President Trump is that if you’ve lived awhile, you realize he is not the only political leader who is or was flawed or, at times, a jerk.  In the American context alone, we’ve had some doozies.  FDR, admired by millions for helping stand in the face of Nazism, had a mistress in his youth, may have had others later, and was with his first mistress when he died. 

JFK is by now known to have been an incorrigible womanizer, including during his presidency.  Yet JFK stood up to the USSR’s Kruschev during the Cuban Missile Crisis in a manner that is yet studied in the military as well as leadership studies in general.  He is admired for his vision for the American space program that eventually put men on the moon.

LBJ was a known shamelessly and maybe obnoxiously flirt or perhaps to sexually harass women, but another great failure was the way he treated people in general.  He was arrogant and boorish and imperial to say the least.  But LBJ helped pass the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, two enormously important pieces of legislation that changed the American social fabric.

Richard Nixon said, “I am not a crook,” but well, Watergate proved otherwise.  But Nixon ended the military draft, opened China to diplomacy, signed the Paris peace accords ending the Viet Nam War, and more.

Bill Clinton will forever be known for saying, “I did not have sexual relationships with that woman,” even though he did have encounters in the White House with intern Monica Lewinsky.  He lied under oath, was impeached, and barely stayed in office.  But he presided over a long economic expansion, paid down on the national debt, enjoyed a “peace dividend,” passed NAFTA, and helped end ethnic cleansing in the Balkans.

You run into this leadership character issue, too, with race politics today, wherein some groups wish to disavow any recognition of Thomas Jefferson because he owned slaves (something that has perplexed many historians), even while he wrote some of the most important human liberty and human rights documents in history.  Or the groups that want to remove Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill because he treated Indians pretty much like unwanted cattle or worse (The Trail of Tears), which he did.  Yet he helped America win the War of 1812, and he strengthened the national government, helped resolve the Nullification Crisis, and ushered in an era of common man democracy.

Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr was apparently a womanizer in private, yet he earned a Nobel Prize and helped awaken a nation to its open secret in ongoing discrimination against Black citizens.  King, flaws and all, clearly should be honored for his nonviolent civil rights work and lasting legacy seeking a color-blind society.

The list could go on. The point is not to overlook the wrong-doing or character flaws or outright sin in leaders’ lives, but to acknowledge that no individual, therefore no leader, is perfect, and if perfect defines leader then we have to stop with Jesus Christ.

Even King David, the great psalmist who solidified the nation of Israel in Old Testament times, and who was called a “man after God’s own heart” put himself in a position of moral failure that had to be called out by Nathan, one of God’s prophets.

This is not to excuse leaders or to give them a free pass to be a jerk or pursue immoral behaviors at will.  It’s simply to recognize that even flawed human beings can indeed accomplish good or even great things at given points of their experience.

It’s a lesson, too, that one should not be over-awed by any leader, i.e. one’s favorite leader of the moment who seems to represent your hopes and dreams so well, because he or she too is only human.  He or she can fail and if you put your full faith and trust in a person, you are vulnerable to disappointment, and so is your philosophy or policy perspectives or movement.

It’s a reminder, too, to not promote “your side” leaders in a manner that states or suggests that somehow he or she is better than the candidate or leader on the “other side.”  Why?  Because as noted, your side leader may fail, and even if not, time passes, your side will be out of power and the other side will be in, and the other side will put forth leaders who accomplish good things perhaps while being less-than-admirable people.

Finally, recognizing that leaders who are not good people can indeed do good things is a reminder that it’s possible to support and appreciate the “good things” while at the same time holding the leader accountable to a higher standard of personal behavior.  Because I think a leader is a jerk does not mean everything he or she does is ipso facto unworthy, or in reverse, because I think a leader is doing good things does not mean that he or she gets a pass to be a jerk.

Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2018   

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

 

One of the things I find fascinating, and at times frustrating, is trying to convey to young adults just how much societal and cultural things have changed. I mean from the time I was their age, and especially since I was in my 20s or when I was a kid.

This may not sound like much, or it may sound like just another old codger grumping about getting older, and maybe it is. But I don’t think so.

For example, I remember the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s, which in some ways is similar to race discussions now but in other ways not at all. Yes, there is more to be done, but No, it is not true that no progress has been made. And if you read speeches given by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, you’ll hear him calling for human rights for people of all colors and creeds. You’ll hear him dream about a “color-blind” society. This is decidedly not what we are hearing today. Now it’s about “identity politics.” It’s about advancing one group’s rights, or power, versus another. It’s not about respecting and realizing the ideals of the American experiment, as King called us to do, but about rejecting those ideals. Race politics in the 2000s is qualitatively different from race politics in the 60s and 70s.

The abortion issue looms large. Since Roe vs Wade (1973), more than 58 million abortions have taken place in the United States. Now it seems there are fewer political leaders on either side of the aisle who are willing to stand as pro-life, and even more importantly, actually work to change this situation. We’ve had “pro-life Presidents” like Reagan or GW Bush, but we still have abortions. More and more of the next generations simply consider abortion a civil right, so things are not likely to change soon.

Moral issues were front and center in the 60s: “Make love not war,” do what feels good, the whole spectrum of loosening and changing sexual mores, except one key difference. The sexual discussion in those days assumed the existence and historic attractions of man and woman, not the 71 hybrid versions of gender identity some now say exist.

In addition, LGBTQ has become a social force demanding recognition for any and all manner of self-proclaimed sexual proclivities, which in turn are presented regularly on television programs, i.e. sit-coms must have a gay character and entire shows are built around LGBTQ characters.  It’s really incredible how quickly LGBTQ points of view have been embraced by the general culture and by political leaders, like for example former President Barack Obama who began his term opposed to same-sex marriage and by the end was its best-known advocate

“Trans” quickly became the next frontier after same-sex marriage was accepted, particularly through the high-profile transition of Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn Jenner. Bruce, a gold medal decathlete in the 1976 Olympics, and later the increasingly emasculated father of the Kardashian clan, had worldwide fame, so his inexplicable and sad transformation got global coverage and thus reinforced the idea anyone who wants to be trans should be saluted for doing so. And the rest of the population must make accommodations from public restrooms to youth camps. Corporations made a pell-mell rush to present themselves as “with it,” proclaiming their support, or not-supporting athletic tournaments or even entire states like North Carolina where laws existed that seemed to discriminate against trans people using public facilities. In any event, there’s an ongoing movement to try to normalize LGBT and now every manifestation represented by Q, and for a sports fan like me, seeing a hero athlete like Bruce, who was young when I was young, follow the path he has taken is a sad experience indeed.

Don’t get me wrong.  I support human rights and civil liberties. I do not embrace or endorse discrimination against any American citizen, including those with different gender or sex orientation than I understand, nor for that matter undocumented immigrants. I do not want any American citizen to be prohibited from working or living in given communities, etc. But I do not believe every inclination, sexual included, of any individual must ipso facto be embraced and normalized. Some things people want to do are objectively wrong and injurious and should not be legalized.

For example, I do not believe in “cultural relativism.” While I do not in any way believe immigrants or refugees should be discriminated against or in some other way socially harmed because of their faith or culture, at the same time, I recognize that among both Muslim and Christian subgroups in some cultures, actions like FGM or honor killings or forcibly arranged marriages are practiced. I reject these actions, regardless of the religion or culture involved, because these actions are, on a human rights level, immoral and threatening to the individuals involved and to society. They are quite simply, wrong, and I believe society must be able to say so, thus preventing these behaviors. But today, there are many who argue otherwise, saying whatever one’s culture prescribes is, in essence, OK, and the public has no say. This is very different from the American social logic generally applied when I was younger.

I could list other examples of societal or cultural change but perhaps this is enough. And I do not mean to imply that all change has been bad or wrong. I appreciate the progress American culture has made in recognizing how women are treated and in giving them access. I am glad for the progress made in the ways American culture views physically or mentally disabled individuals.

But I am also concerned about what seems to be a cultural decline based upon sporadic and now systematic rejection of American ideals, the ones drawn from centuries of Western Civilization and ones that proved their time-tested worth, like respect for human life and all human beings, respect for truth—even the idea of truth, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech—the right to be heard, not silenced, and the right to access to the public square. If these values continue to be rejected, the changes we are experiencing in American culture will not be beneficial to the generations that come after us.

 

Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2018   

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

 

Is there any other kind of news? All news sources are biased, in some way, even if unintentionally, but many today are intentional.

So, the only way around this is to read multiple sources. And I say "read" because reading is better than watching or listening. The depth available in a print source, even digital, is often better than the rush-to-judgment infotainment on broadcasts. Plus, in print you can avoid commercials and self-promoting celebrity anchors.

I take umbrage immediately w/pieces alleging news bias is "Conservative" or "Liberal," i.e., the other bad guys. Baloney. They all do it. You don’t detect bias in the news sources with which you agree because bias is in the eye of the beholder. To hear ideologues and partisans talk, you’d think “their side” was always right, never got anything wrong, always supported the best leaders, yada yada. But, of course, this is simply not so.

Tapping into international sources once in a while is helpful, even if you don't like what they might say, because they see us/US from a different angle. This doesn’t mean these international news sources are not biased, just that they’re biased in a different way so you hear a different take and perspective, which in my book is good for thinking.

Gone are the days of Huntley-Brinkley, and gone is Walter Cronkite. But they weren’t unbiased either. So check multiple sources if you really want to gain as much perspective as you can on the breaking “news” of the day.

Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2018   

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.