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Remember Aesop’s Fable about people foolishly killing the goose that laid golden eggs?  The idea is that short-term greed can motivate people to do stupid things that undermine their long-term well-being.

If we think of the USA as the goose, so to speak, then the golden egg is our individual liberty, including freedom of speech and freedom of religion, specifically as guarded by the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution.

So I could make the case that we are in the process today of killing the goose that laid the golden egg. 

    1. Government overreach responding to the Pandemic.

State governors and city mayors ran roughshod over constitutional civil liberties in the name of public health. Of course, not every decision they made was wrong or bad, but some of them were certainly unwise, even tyrannical. For example, in Michigan, churches were forced to close while abortion clinics, marijuana and liquor stores remained open. In Louisville, church attendees were threatened with surveillance. In Kansas City, an official wanted a list of all church members so his department could track them re public health. In Pennsylvania, churches were threatened by the governor, and in Minnesota churches sued a state public health official for that office's draconian and discriminatory treatment of churches. In California recently, churches were told not to sing during services. 

                 2.  Lawless riots overpowering lawful protest responding to racial injustice, police brutality concerns.

While peaceful protestors tried to make their frustrations about racial injustice known in cities across the country, they were soon and often over-run by people more interested in larceny, looting, arson, and destruction. 

In the name of racial justice, lawless agitators destroyed or defaced statues of Confederate officers, but then well beyond obvious connections to race,defaced or destroyed the statues of abolitionists, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, even Abraham Lincoln and Boston’s monument to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, an all-Black group of Union soldiers who fought against slavery and the Confederacy. Minority businesses and neighborhoods have been burned or otherwise trashed. In Portland, a statue of an elk was burned, why, no one seems to know, other than anarchy.

Meanwhile, in many cities and states, politicians who earlier had quickly acted in aggressive top-down-power fashion re public health, either stood by helplessly or actually ordered police departments to stand down as mobs trashed their locales.

This kind of arbitrary action or no action vis-à-vis freedom of expression is, to say the least, concerning.

                 3.  Big Social Media Tech: Facebook and Instagram, YouTube and Google, Twitter, and Big Biz: Amazon, positioning itself as arbiter of what’s worthy communications base on its ideological, politically correct viewpoints.

Big Social Media Tech operates with near impunity, blocking content that disagrees with the “accepted” view of C-19 response—in the name of public health calling the blocked material “dangerous” or “misinformation”—block content shared by Christian worship leaders or conservative websites like Prager U, even some of President Trump’s tweets. Certain books that question the legitimacy of LGBTQ+ mantras are rejected from sale via Amazon.

Online communication companies were given protection from lawsuits under the Communication Decency Act, but this assumed they would function as neutral forums and thus could not be libel for what people posted. But of course, now, Facebook/Instagram, Twitter, and Google/YouTube are not neutral.

               4.  Politicians pandering to special interests, again with little regard for constitutional rights.

Politicians are not having their finest hour. Some think they can wield power without concern for constitutional limitations. Others stand by as rioters destroy their neighborhoods. Some politicians even bowed their knee in a bit of political theater making the photo opp they wanted but also making themselves look foolish. Meanwhile, politicians cannot find it in themselves to condemn rioters, this for fear of angering the mob.

               5.  Major public universities creating “free speech zones” and “safe spaces,” limiting discussion of certain topics to just these areas. 

The great day of the public universities as bastions of free inquiry is over. Today, public universities have been captured by people who really don’t believe in truth or a search for truth, or allowing others to hold views with which they are uncomfortable. Free speech on the public university campuses of America is at grave risk

The USA is not perfect.  Never has been. Its history has been checkered by great nobility and great ignobility, triumph and tragedy in social action. But the US is the “First New Nation,” the first and only country ever formed to advance the cause of freedom, including especially life, religious and economic liberty.

From time to time, I’ve reminded people not to confuse what biblical Christianity is about with how the Church or individual Christians, including me, behave.

America is like that. It’s America’s ideals that make it special, not always what we Americans have done.  

Then again, our forebears did a lot of things right as well as things wrong. They handed us a free country, that like Benjamin Franklin, who after a session at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, was asked by a lady what kind of country we would have. He said America would be “a republic, if you can keep it.”

We’ve been given a goose that lays golden eggs. I hope we don’t kill it.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*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.    

A recent Facebook audit comes from ongoing public pressure, not just from conservatives but from liberal civil rights groups and corporations. The conservatives tend to want more protection of free speech, and there is already a lot of evidence of Facebook or YouTube blocking content some committee determined dangerous (e.g., about C-19). 

The liberals tend to want to block speech or advertising they consider hate speech or otherwise just unacceptable in terms of the latest politically correct or ideological pantheon of social crimes. It's actually the liberals putting on the most pressure right now. FB and YT have also blocked Christian content (even Prager U videos about the 10 Commandments). 

How they get away with this so far is that they are deemed private enterprises and "publishers," meaning they get to determine what's on their sites. This is protected by their First Amendment rights.

But then again, they also bill themselves as "public forums" where all manner of ideas can be discussed, and if you add Google, which owns YT, FB that owns Instagram, and Twitter, which also censors tweets, you could say they're actually info monopolies. As public forums and as monopolies or nearly so on information communication, it would seem the First Amendment should apply.

So for now, Big Info Tech is clearly suppressing conservative content they don't like and not blocking enough content liberals deem censorable. 

None of this is good for the First Amendment or free and pluralistic democracy.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*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.    

Since May 25, 2020, when George Floyd was brutally and unnecessarily killed by a Minneapolis policeman demonstrating what police brutality looks like, protests and eventually also riots have struck nearly every city and hamlet in the United States. Calls for racial justice, reforming or defunding police departments, rejecting what some see as “systemic racism” characterizing all of American society, noting “Black lives matter,” and a host of related or tangential issues are ringing loudly across the land.

To say race and/or racism are complicated issues is to make a profound understatement. But they are, and they “complexify” still further by mixing with many other issues and agendas in the noisy public square.

These are some of my thoughts on race and/or racism, attempting to make some sense, to create order from chaos, for now, for I like any living human being can and will likely change, though I hope for reasons rooted in a thorough understanding of my own Christian worldview.

  • God created every human being “in his image,” and as such each person is temporally and eternally significant, possesses dignity, and is the highest order of creation (Genesis 1:26-27).
  • All human beings, whatever their gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, or any other demographic, is who they are because the Sovereign God created them for his purposes: “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands” (Acts 17:26).
  • While demographics are important, they are not the ultimate definition of a human beings’ character or value: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
  • Black lives matter” is not ipso facto a contradiction of or challenge to the statement “All lives matter.” Both statements are true.  Likely most who use the phrase “Black lives matter” are simply pointing out the emphasis or the need of the moment, that Black lives have perhaps not been valued sufficiently and this must change. “All lives matter” or “Blue lives matter” are true. Undoubtedly some who use any of these phrases do so to push back at the other position, like a statement that my Dad is tougher than your Dad. But what does it matter? Most of this back and forth about phrases is a sideshow. What really matters is how Blacks and Whites and other races can and should respect each other and live well together in the same space. So it does not offend me for someone to say, “Black lives matter.” I agree. This does not mean I devalue others.
  • The organization Black Lives Matter is hugely problematic. The leaders describe themselves as Marxist, the organization has periodically supported violence, the organization is pro abortion on demand, “queer affirming,” which means an aggressive promotion of LGBTQ+ lifestyles, and anti-Western family positions, all perspectives at odds with Christianity. I do not support Black Lives Matter. 
  • Support for abortion, specifically Planned Parenthood, is one of the greatest threats to Black lives in American culture. While Blacks represent 13% of the US population they account for 36% of abortions, most through Planned Parenthood. This is one killer that must be stopped.
  • I think I understand the desire of many to see Confederate statues come down. It is true that some of these statues were erected as a statement about how the Old South would rise again and as a means of reinforcing Jim Crow laws. So while I don’t believe that removing statues somehow changes history, nor do I believe we must sanitize history, nor do I support mobs ripping down statutes at will rather than through due process, I don’t think hanging on to Confederate statues is necessary or worthy.
  • I reject the riots and mob action that first followed then overwhelmed and displaced legitimate peaceful protest. Lawless, anarchistic mobs accomplish nothing but destruction, endangering peoples’ lives, ruining property and livelihoods—often of the people the mob purportedly supports—and they undermine law and order, peace, justice, the democratic process, and social well-being. Defending mobs as “protestors” as some in media and some politicians have done is clueless and irresponsible.
  • Ripping down or defacing statues of great Americans, all in the name of racial purity, is a farce. No one who ever lived is without fault, yet many have accomplished great achievements on behalf of all people. We choose to honor them accordingly. And if it is a cause you wish to support, you can bank on greater resistance if what you do makes no sense, like defacing statues of Abraham Lincoln or Gen. U.S. Grant or the 54th(Black) Regiment of Massachusetts, etc.
  • Racism exists. It will always exit, because it lies in the deceitful, sinful heart of all human beings. Racism is not just a “White problem.” All people whatever their race can be or may have been guilty of racism at some time. Racism will always be with us. But this does not mean we should ignore it, much less advance or excuse it. We work to remove and eliminate it because we are to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”
  • There are bad and good cops, bad and good lawyers, bad and good politicians, bad and good Whites, Blacks, and more. Bad and good are not determined by race or ethnicity or profession. I do not believe all cops are racist, nor do I believe—nor can it be statistically demonstrated—that cops are hunting Black people. I do not believe the criminal justice system or the economy, much less the country, is in every way, systemically, racist. Yet I believe racism exists within all this. So I am in favor of learning, of criminal justice or police practice reform but not “defund the police,” which I believe is naïve if not stupid on the face of it.
  • I believe in the Civil Rights laws of the 1960s. They are in place, along with much legal precedent reinforcing them. If these laws were enforced, or more effectively, if people of all races acted morally and responsibly before God, we would not need more laws. We need moral recommitment and revival.
  • Despite what some on the Left are saying, I believe the United States of America, for all of its fits and faults, for all of its checkered history—like each of us—is still the freest, most open, most economically accessible, least racist country, still “the last best hope of earth.”
  • I see no reason why, realizing that many Black Americans have struggled or suffered the effects of racism, that the American people should not discuss this problem and take reasonable actions to change the social system. To do this is simply caring for our fellow human beings even as we recognize that someday we will likely need them to care for us. So I support reform or racial reconciliation and justice discussions and do not see them as an attack somehow upon what’s good in America.
  • With Abraham Lincoln, I would say, “Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.' "With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan ~ to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
  • Race is part of the variety, indeed the beauty, of God’s creation. Race is a gift of God. Racism is sin. We are called of God to live justly, to love our neighbors, to bless and do no harm, for one and all.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*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.    

Social movements, inevitably, move beyond their founders, triggering events, and initial raison d'être. Don’t believe me? Read history—that is, if anyone cares anymore about history:

  • Multiple competing agendas develop
  • Without a charismatic leader who embodies the movement they become directionless
  • Without that genuine leader, pretenders turn on each other, destroying the movement
  • Celebrities get involved but with rare exception are shallow by definition, seeking 15 minutes of fame and no more
  • Meanings of words change, to the point people talk past one another
  • Original intent can be overwhelmed, hijacked, displaced, unrecognizably recrafted, forgotten
  • Violence can occur but rarely makes the impact anticipated
  • Sustainable social change takes place when goals resonate with an objective reality that aligns with human aspiration.

“Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time” (Ecc. 1:10). 

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*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.    

Every day, some terrible discouraging development assaults our senses.  It can be overwhelming.

It helps us get a clue on what people in the Middle East and North Africa have faced for decades. Layered crises, one blending with another.

This brings to mind my Mother’s favorite Bible verse:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

Living in peace in the midst of turmoil is not sticking our ostrich head in the sand, it’s not whistling past the graveyard, nor is it being a clueless Pollyanna.

SAT-7 blesses Middle Eastern viewers with the peace and hope of the God of the Bible.

Living in peace during crises is a blessing of God.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*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.    

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) are the new frontier of cultural change in the United States.

And those in favor of advancing these ideas just got a rocket-boost from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

With Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), SCOTUS ruled that same-sex couples were guaranteed the right to marry by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. This 5-4 decision legalized a controversial political, philosophic, and religious behavioral question, effectively overruling religious liberty on this matter. 

Since this time, LGBTQ+ groups have continued to work, lobby, or promote an expansion of what they consider essential rights in every sector of society. On June 15, 2020, LGBTQ+ got a victory handed to them, actually in fact a launchpad, by SCOTUS.

In Bostock v. Clayton County (2020), SCOTUS held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In other words, the Court read SOGI back into the meaning of “sex” as written in the 1964 laws and with that move undermined the rule of law.  

Despite Justice Neil Gorsuch’s verbal gymnastics in the majority opinion, SCOTUS put religious liberty on a legal collision course with SOGI.

This ruling is a landmark of the wrong kind, making SOGI—subjective and unverifiable identities, not objective traits—what the law calls a “protected category.” This will have seismic impact upon American culture, including, but far beyond, discussions about who uses women’s bathrooms, who participates in women’s sports, what pronouns corporations are forced to use, etc.

While this ruling will undoubtedly affect schools and universities, businesses, camps, youth organizations, daycare, and other workplace conditions or sex-specific facilities, it will also affect churches and Christian nonprofit organizations. 

The Heritage Foundation said, “SOGI laws threaten the freedom of citizens, individually and in associations, to affirm their religious or moral convictions—convictions such as that marriage is the union of one man and one woman or that maleness and femaleness are objective biological realities to be valued and affirmed, not rejected or altered. Under SOGI laws, acting on these beliefs in a commercial or educational context could be actionable discrimination.” 

“Currently, Title VII, a section of the Civil Rights Act, allows religious exemptions for faith-based organizations to hire with an eye to religious qualifications. Some have used this to argue that religious organizations can refuse to hire and/or fire employees who are LGBTQ if it conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs.  However, because LGBTQ persons are now included under the “sex” category of Title VII, it is unclear whether these exemptions are still understood to permit religious organizations to discriminate on the basis of LGBTQ status.” 

In an analysis the day after the decision, the ECFA said, “In pending and future employment litigation involving LGBT discrimination claims, the Court's decision in this case puts ministry employers in a defensive posture. As the Court has now interpreted the law, Title VII presumptively prohibits LGBT discrimination. Accordingly, religious groups with theological views that do not align with that interpretation will need to show that they are entitled to an exception under existing laws, such as the ministerial exception defense. The scope of that defense will be addressed by the Court in a separate ruling expected to be released later this month.”

You can bank on it that proponents will use this precedent to argue for approval of The Equality Act and likely make it an issue in the 2020 presidential election. One problem with this act is that it defines gender identity about as broadly, and ambiguously, as it can be defined, requiring only a subjective feeling or decision on the part of transgender individuals, and no legal name change, no surgery or hormone treatment, just a person’s self-assessment.  The act recognizes no religious belief or conduct. The Equality Act specifically cites the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, indicating it cannot be used as a defense if people are charged with discrimination under this act.  

SCOTUS’s Bostock ruling also will create enormous problems for sports, and specifically also for women’s rights.  Since the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1970s the US has attempted to improve women’s access to social activities, most especially athletics.  Now, how will women maintain their status if a man saying he is a woman can participate in women’s sports?  

I’m waiting for more feminists and women athletes, like Martina Navratilova has already done, to point out that this trend is harming/destroying women’s sports, i.e. it’s hurting women unfairly, which was the essence of feminism. If this irrationality is about equity and non-discrimination, what about women and girls?

It is impossible to protect sex as a category, i.e. women, and also advance gender identity as a protected category.  Same for women’s research in universities.  If “binary” sexuality is no longer valid, then women’s studies is essentially defunct.

If biological sexuality is just a preference, just some social construct, isn’t the same true for the 58 Facebook sexuality categories now available?  What makes one subject to change and the other inviolable? 

American culture is confused, celebrating irrationality, and doing what’s right in its own eyes. Since politics is downstream of culture, SCOTUS did not lead but followed.  

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*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.