Thinking Out Loud

March 17, 2019

Thoughts on the Aftermath: “This Is Not Who We Are”

Filed under: Christianity, current events — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:40 am

Jacinda Ardern

re-blogged from Random Thoughts from Lorne

Thoughts on the Aftermath

by Lorne Anderson

This is not who we are,” she said. “This act was not a reflection of who we are as a nation.”

How many times have you heard that? The speaker changes, the message is the same. This time it was New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern

“They (the victims) are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was.”

Friday it was killings of worshippers at mosques in New Zealand. There was shock, outrage and horror. (Considerably more than for attacks on churches in the Middle East, but I guess no-one gets excited about violence in the Middle East any more.) There was that phrase about how this is not a reflection of who we are.

I’ve heard those words used so many times before. They come after mass shootings of school children in the US, by politicians who can’t see the cracks in the American psyche. The words are spoken by Muslims, insisting Islam is a religion of peace as ISIS uses the Koran to justify beheading those of different faiths. The fanatics of ISIS are not Islam, they say. That Mohammed liked to behead others is something they prefer not to talk about. They don’t want to believe that, like it or not, such violence against “infidels” is very much a part of who they are.

We all have constructed a mental image of what we look like. We don’t check that image in the mirror. We are kind, we are caring, we help others, we are good people. When something bad happens, it shocks us. Even when the bad things happen time and time again. Each time there is shock. We don’t want to face the truth, which is that we are deluding ourselves as to who we are.

When unthinkable violence happens, we shouldn’t be surprised. We are rooted in violence and disobedience, though we may not want to admit it. They are in our spiritual DNA, going back to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve disobeyed, Cain killed Abel. From the beginning of our race we have been less than perfect. All of us. What differentiates us from the killers is that we have not given in to those sin impulses.

It is who we are – we just don’t want to face that fact. We tell ourselves that terrorists and mass murderers are an aberration when the truth is, they are the norm.

If this is indeed who we are, do we have to stay that way? Can we learn from past mistakes? Can we turn things around? Or are we doomed to stay on the treadmill of violence?

When I was reading about Friday’s events in New Zealand, I had a portion of the New Testament book of James running through my mind, especially the fourth chapter with its words about both inner and outer conflict. I won’t quote it all, but I thought these verses were especially applicable, a guide for those who want the violence to stop.

 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

For most people, those words, and the rest of The Bible, are not taken seriously. Which is sad, because Jesus offers hope for this broken world. Admitting we are all fallen people changes the narrative. Authentic Christianity brings new life, and as individuals change, so too will nations.

Friday’s terror attack in New Zealand was very much a reflection of the nation. But it wasn’t a reflection on the nation. The attack could have taken place anywhere. I doubt there is more evil in New Zealand than any other place.

We don’t want to see ourselves that way. Terrorists and criminals try to justify their actions. Cain, the first murderer, asked “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

How can we stop the cycle of violence? Only through changes in the hearts of individuals. Is that really possible? The Bible says it is.

But are people willing to go that route that would bring about an end to terrorism and mass murder? Are you? Do we really want to change? If not, there will be more attacks like the ones in New Zealand Friday, because this really is who we are.

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December 14, 2018

Strasbourg: From Someone Who Lives An Hour Away

We’ve linked to or reposted material from Lorne Anderson’s blog Random Thoughts from Lorne several times over the past few years. Lorne is a friend, so I get to ask permission after the fact. Montreal born, raised in Ottawa; Lorne has also lived in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Liberia, West Africa. Our interest today is because he and his wife are currently living in Germany, not far at all from Tuesday night’s attack just over the border in Strasbourg, France. When I read his article this morning, even though we covered this yesterday, I thought it was worth returning to the topic for one more day. The title below is a link to read it at source.

Terror Too Close To Home

This was as close as media could get on Tuesday night. The sign in English would possibly be something like, ‘Strasbourg: Your Christmas Capital.’ (Photo credit FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

by Lorne Anderson

When they are far away, they are just news items we may or may not pay attention to. It is different when they happen in your neighborhood.

Throughout the day Wednesday, people in Canada were forwarding me news stories about the terror attack at the Christmas market in Strasbourg, France. It is only an hour’s drive from our home in Sulzburg; it is conceivably a place we might visit. Indeed, I was in the city on business in October.

News of the attack brought a jumble of thoughts to my mind. As a journalist I was bemused by the coverage I read that described the suspect as having been radicalized in prison. It was supposedly a religious radicalism, though the particular religion wasn’t mentioned.

I get that. The media don’t want to imply that all followers of a certain religion are dangerous, so they omit the name. It was obvious anyway, given that the attacker, since killed by police, was allegedly shouting in Arabic.

I didn’t fully realize the effect locally until my wife mentioned she passed through two police checkpoints Wednesday on her drive home from a neighbouring town. It was thought the suspect may have crossed from France into Germany.

If the intention of terrorist attacks is to stop people from gathering, they are pretty much a failure. There was a deadly attack on a Christmas market in Berlin two years ago, but that doesn’t stop people from attending them today. I think most of us figure the odds are that there won’t be an attack while we are there.

I don’t know if there is much thought to security at these things, though from the news reports there was a lot of police presence in Strasbourg. Certainly there is none at the small-town markets in my area.

Even the bigger markets I have attended haven’t had much visible security. I don’t recall seeing police last year in Colmar, France or Vienna, Austria, this year. I did see police in Freiburg last month, but they weren’t at the Christmas market itself, rather keeping an eye on a street demonstration a block away. There have been lots of people at every market I attend – and I don’t expect that to change.

My first thoughts though upon hearing news of the attack was not about market crowds but of individuals, people I know here and how they would feel upon hearing the news. Becasue I think the intention of many terrorists, though they may not be able to articulate it, is not to strike fear into the general populace, but to sow a generalized fear of Muslims

In Europe, certainly here in Germany, it seems to me most of Muslims are immigrants and refugees. They don’t speak the local language well, they don’t dress like Europeans, they seem different. Integrating into European society (or any new society) can be challenging at best. When people view you with distrust because of your background, it is much harder. When they stare at you when you walk down the street, when you feel the mistrust when you shop for groceries, you wonder if it is worth it to try and fit in to this new society. You might as well give up – you will never be accepted as a full member of society.

That is the terrorist’s ideal. They don’t want Muslims to become French, or German or Canadian. They want them to remain part of a closed society. They want them to remain in bondage.

How we react to a terrorist attack says a lot about who we are. Are we willing to allow terrorists to set the agenda and convince us that all members of an entire religion are evil, intending our destruction? (Please note, I do think there is a difference between the religion and most of its adherents.)

Think about it. How would Jesus have responded? That is how we should too.

 

December 13, 2018

Strasbourg Christmas Market Shoppers Weren’t Expecting Bullets

Reports of killing rampages which take place in Europe may seem a world away, but it’s different when you walked those same streets just five months earlier. You have a mental picture which no television news crew can come close to approximating. You remember how those streets fit together. You remember the crush of people when you were there. You try to imagine what you might do or where you would run if the same thing had happened on the day you visited.

Crowd scenes have always been potential threats. For as long as I’ve lived, I’ve been aware of men switching their wallets to their front pockets and women clutching their purses more tightly. But of late we’ve realized that every concert, every sporting match, every trip to the shopping mall is fraught with the possibility of a random act of violence being carried out by someone mentally deranged or having a political agenda.

As we walked the streets of Strasbourg earlier this year, those thoughts are always in the back of your mind, but they are buried deep — very deep — as you take in the sights and sounds and smells. The people at the Christmas market on Tuesday night were no doubt in the same head-space; not expecting anything the second before the bullets could be heard.

The city we saw was beautiful. In the collage above, the upper left corner looks like it’s from a tourism photo. The tour boat came by at the right time and there was a young couple, possibly on their honeymoon, standing next to us who I chose not to photograph. We had crossed the border from Germany an hour earlier and after an unnecessarily long bus ride, had been let loose in this picturesque place that stated so clearly we were now in France.

Christmas Markets are a big deal in Europe. Our friend Lorne has written about them extensively. When you’re in the moment of a scene like the one upper right, you never think of people firing shots into the crowd; you never consider your vulnerability. Your brain doesn’t say, “I could be dead in the next five seconds.”

Which is how it should be. You ought to be able to enjoy an occasion like this in relative security. But that’s not the world we live in.

As of this morning the confirmed death toll is 3, with 13 people injured.


(I’ve included enlarged versions of the two pictures mentioned below.)

 

August 13, 2018

Willow Creek: From Bad to Worse, but with Some Hope

Filed under: Christianity, Church, current events, leadership — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:07 am

Steve Gillen, interim lead pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, IL addresses the church’s weekend services.

Just six days ago I reported on the resignation of teaching co-lead pastor Steve Carter, incorrectly assuming perhaps that the worst was over. Instead, just days later co-lead Heather Larson resigned along with the entire Willow Board of Directors (in graduated steps to ensure some continuity in the very short term.)

I was greatly impacted by Willow in the 1980s, so for me, this is personal. While I’ve only attended 4 or 5 actual services — my wife attended an Arts conference as well — I’ve been a part of an extended Willow culture which preferred lost people over simply doing church for the benefit of the membership. Willow was a model for many of us attempting “seeker sensitive” churches, and when the needs of spiritual seekers was seen to have changed over a decade ago, Willow had the courage to change the model appropriately.

So for me it’s been a time of grieving the damage that has been done to one of the most significant movements of the last century, the loss of reputation for Bill Hybels, and the demise of the succession plan for Willow he worked for years to put into place.

I considered updating that story from last Tuesday but decided to revisit this again today.

Watching the Saturday night service live, new lead pastor Steve Gillen — previously at Willow Creek North Shore — was honest in his reluctance to accept the interim position at the main, South Barrington Campus. (You can read that here, or watch the service yourself.) But at the same time, as a seasoned preacher, he spoke with authority, while at the same time cautioning that the church is not out of the woods yet; more difficulties could follow.

Should they have chosen someone with a 20-year history in the organization or brought in someone completely fresh, from outside, to fill the position? Regrettably, time was not on their side, so they acted decisively and swiftly.

I tweeted that “I feel a small measure of optimism returning.”

I really do. I don’t think that all the families who have kids in Promiseland and youth programs are going to sever those relationships just yet, especially with a new school year commencing. I don’t think the people who are fixing cars and distributing food are going to just walk away from those they serve. Even in the middle of their own sorrow as a church, they rose to the occasion last week and welcomed a deluge of pastors and leaders to the annual Global Leadership Summit.

Willow isn’t the type of church where people stay away when it’s the pastor’s week off. Guest speakers have been common. That, at least, is something they built into their culture which other churches could emulate; especially those congregations in which attendance drops by 25% or more when the teaching pastor is on vacation.

Yet another investigation will commence, with Scot McKnight part of the team, though for many, what’s missing at present is an apology and confession from Bill Hybels.

Screen shot of capacity crowd at last week’s Global Leadership Summit at Willow Creek Community Church. Despite their internal challenges, church volunteers stepped up to serve pastors and leaders from around the world, and those watching by satellite in over 600 locations.

 

June 16, 2018

A Sad Day for Christianity in Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada had an entirely different view on dealing with religious or theological matters in 2004 than what was announced yesterday. [Source: ]

CBC News:

Trinity Western loses fight for Christian law school as court rules limits on religious freedom ‘reasonable’

Supreme Court of Canada says 7-2 decision will ensure open access for LGBT students

A B.C.-based evangelical Christian university has lost its legal battle over accreditation for a planned new law school, with a Supreme Court of Canada ruling today saying it’s “proportionate and reasonable” to limit religious rights in order to ensure open access for LGBT students.

In a pair of 7-2 rulings, the majority of justices found the law societies of British Columbia and Ontario have the power to refuse accreditation based on Trinity Western University’s so-called community covenant.

The mandatory covenant binds students to a strict code of conduct that includes abstinence from sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

The majority judgment said the covenant would deter LGBT students from attending the proposed law school, and those who did attend would be at risk of significant harm.

It found the public interest of the law profession gives it the right to promote equality by ensuring equal access, support diversity within the bar and prevent harm to LGBT students.

In the court’s view, the law societies were acting within their mandate in considering TWU’s admission policies in the accreditation process…

…there’s much more, continue reading here. CBC also mentioned:

Other professional programs at the university, such as the teaching and nursing programs, have been operating successfully for years, turning out graduates who are well-respected in the community, [TWU Professor Janet Epp] Buckingham said. She said she does not anticipate any challenges to those programs, whose students are also required to sign the covenant…

…But Andrew Bennett, director of the religious freedom institute at the Christian-based think tank Cardus, said the ruling could have broader implications for other professions such as medicine, and for other religious schools…

The Catholic Register reported:

…Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver, whose diocese includes Langley, B.C., where TWU is located, said he was “saddened” by the decision “with its potential to undermine freedom of religion, conscience and association in Canada.”

“The decision runs counter to Canada’s tradition of balancing rights and freedoms, and the implications of this decision for constitutional freedoms in Canada are severe,” Miller said. The Archdiocese of Vancouver intervened in the TWU case jointly with the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) and the Faith and Freedom Alliance.

“With this decision, the court has moved away from our historic tradition of reconciling competing rights, and closer to a prioritization of rights, essentially ruling some are more important than others,” Miller said.

The CCRL said the decision could have ripple effect. “The broader implications of the SCC’s decision will cast a pall on the future interface between religious viewpoints and state engagements in the public square,” said the League in a news release. “Questions will now be raised on continued or future access to state benefits, public funding or government approvals of available programs.”

“It’s a terrible, terrible decision,” said constitutional lawyer Iain Benson, who now teaches law in Australia. “It’s a very dark day in Canadian legal history.”

According to the majority view on the Supreme Court, “the standard religious position on sexual morality no longer accords with a reading of public interest,” Benson said.

“That is extraordinarily serious,” he said. “It has the potential to open up whole swathes of Canadian culture to scrutiny under so-called ‘charter values.’”

…read their entire report; continue reading here.

Peter Vogel of the Christian Heritage Party wrote,

This case has very serious implications for future decisions of the courts. Why? Because judges at every level, including the Supreme Court, are selected from the ranks of experienced lawyers. By making it more difficult for young Christians to pursue the study of law at an institution that honours their beliefs, this judgment has effectively closed the doors to many future Christian judges. The inevitable result will be courtroom decisions that ignore, not only Christian moral values but, the rule of law. Without the rule of law, justice and freedom will eventually disappear.

…for his entire column, continue reading here

There was also an interesting graphic on CBC News quoting the Supreme Court decision:

But one could argue the decision restricts access to legal education of Evangelical Christians. In another time, another place, the statement might just as easily read:

Realistically, it’s more in line with how things stand today. Further, the percentage of people in the general Canadian population identifying as “Christian” or “Catholic” is much larger than those who identify as LGBTQ. The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many, I suppose. 

In context, this decision comes just weeks after another event which has riled Canadian Christians from coast to coast: Federal funds for summer job grants were denied to religious institutions and Christians charities which refused to sign a statement saying that “anti abortion” wasn’t part of their “core mandate.” This, plus the legalization of marijuana, just weeks away, is seen as an attack on the values of Canadian Christians.  

Certainly, 2018 will see Canada’s attitudes on Christian values end much differently than the country started the year, leaving many Catholics, Evangelicals and even Mainline Protestants asking, ‘What’s next?’


Some comments on Twitter yesterday:


The school posted this video yesterday, although it doesn’t really address any of the issues:

May 7, 2018

When Tragedy Strikes Your City

Filed under: Christianity, current events — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:59 am

I spent the first 33 years of my life in Toronto, so when NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt led off with the story of a van driving down a 1 mile (2.2 km) stretch of a major street killing people, I immediately thought the stores in the background the design of the traffic lights looked familiar.

Sure enough, on April 23rd, a city outside the United States opened that newscast. I knew the area of Yonge (pronounced Young) Street and Finch Avenue well. It was stomping ground for my late-teen and early twenty-something years, and furthermore, our son currently lives just a few miles north, at Yonge and Steeles. The event is not being regarded as an act of terrorism.

Saturday night after attending a concert for which tickets had been purchased several weeks in advance at, yes, the same Yonge and Finch, I said, “Let’s go for a walk up the street as an act of defiance.” Defiance in the sense of taking the street back from those who would render it a soft target. Defiance in the sense of not allowing fear to overtake us as we walk. Defiance in the sense of supporting the local merchants by buying a slice of pizza. Defiance in the sense of supporting the other people doing the same.

But it only took less than one block to come across the first memorial.

A group of people were busy repairing that one from damage incurred by a major windstorm on Friday night. The bouquets of flowers and memorial candles were being held in place by sandbags.

This was real.

This was everything I’ve seen on programs just like NBC Nightly News only this time it was our family which was standing at the memorial, about which the only positive thing that can be said was the beautiful aroma of the flowers themselves.

Otherwise, we were looking into the aftermath of tragedy. Ten lives, needlessly taken. All I could think was, “These people shouldn’t be dead right now.”

One man commented about the victims “having peace wherever they are.”

I wanted to talk to him about that. To get him to expand on what he meant. To — yes, forgive me — turn it into an evangelistic moment.

That’s what I do. I love striking up conversations.

But (a) I wasn’t alone, and (b) we were facing a 90-minute ride home. I don’t live in Toronto now, but I do believe the ministry opportunities in an environment like this abound, if someone is there to see and hear them and know how to gently respond with grace and hope.

There are many, many people in Toronto very broken by the experience. I don’t want to see their grief exploited, but I think this is the very place Jesus would be and should be. It doesn’t mean handing out tracts and seeking immediate conversions, but it does mean bringing Christ into the conversation and being his very presence in that location.

Had only one person or even two died, there might not be this outpouring of grief and tribute. But when it’s ten, it attracts greater attention. I looked at some of the pictures of the victims and the notes and comments about them and wondered aloud if they could see the enormity of the response their deaths had brought. Locally. Regionally. Nationally. Worldwide.

Then I quickly backed away from such conjecture. Perhaps they would be embarrassed at the attention being paid. Conversely, they might feel vindicated that their dying was not for nothing. Toronto now joins the ranks of many cities where barriers are being placed to control access to pedestrian walkways.

At one point someone had laid a hockey stick on the flowers, conflating this tragedy with the other Canadian tragedy just days earlier, the deaths of 15 aboard a hockey team’s bus in Saskatchewan.

It was later, but as we drove north on Yonge, we saw a larger memorial. I had to stop.  I just couldn’t drive by. We revisited the process of slowly, reverently circling this cluster of flowers and signs and candles. Something compelled me to see this one as well, despite having seen the other. It was an event in the city’s history, that will never be forgotten. I asked my son if he remembered us visiting the Vietnam Memorial in Washington as something struck me about the similarity.

One cardboard sign quoted Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

My desire is that both immediate families, complete strangers, and everyone in between would know the reality of that.

 

 

March 6, 2018

“Stopping a beating heart is never health care.”

At least one reader took me to task last week for wading into the gun control debate. Truly, I try to keep the blog’s “faith focus” mandate top of mind as I choose topics for articles here. But at risk of offending others, here we go again.

The topic is the state of Iowa’s “Heartbeat Bill” which would ban abortion if there is a beating heart. I’ll just let the story tell itself, from LifeSiteNews:

DES MOINES, Iowa, March 1, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – On Wednesday, the Iowa Senate passed landmark pro-life legislation known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” which if put into law would outlaw aborting babies with detectable heartbeats.

Pre-born babies’ hearts begin to form around 21 days into pregnancy, and are detected on ultrasounds just a few weeks later.

Iowa’s Republican-controlled upper chamber approved the bill in a 30-20 vote along party lines.

The legislation which now awaits a vote by the state’s lower chamber – also controlled by a Republican majority – would make it a felony for doctors to commit abortions after detecting a fetal heartbeat.

The only exception would be for pregnancies that threaten a mother’s life.

“This bill is the logical beginning point for all of civil governance,” said Sen. Amy Sinclair, adding that it strikes “at the very heart and soul of what it means to be an American, what it means to be a person.”  …

…Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, who served on the subcommittee which produced the legislation, said he believes culture has been moving towards a pro-life view for decades – a view that has become repulsed by a “holocaust of death” related to abortion.

“This may be what our culture is ready for,” Schultz continued. “Stopping a beating heart is never health care.”

But the bill faces opposition, including from one very pro-life group you would expect to be in its corner, the Iowa Catholic Conference. They see it opening up a constitutional challenge that could result in greater access to abortion, not less.

We acknowledge the efforts of legislators and groups who challenge the current legal precedents to abortion.

We respect the fact that legislation often involves judgments about the most effective and timely means for advancing the protection of unborn children.

At the same time, we should take into account that this bill is likely to be found unconstitutional. We should consider the unintended long-term consequences that could result from a court finding a robust right to an abortion in Iowa’s Constitution, which could include the elimination of some of the limitations on abortion we already have in Iowa. Therefore, the Iowa Catholic Conference is registered as neutral on the legislation.

The same thing happened in Tennessee:

When a similar Heartbeat Bill was introduced in Tennessee last year, Tennessee Right to Life opposed it. The organization’s president, Brian Harris, was as far as to testify against the legislation, saying that his group wants to support measures that stand a stronger chance of holding up in court.

Read the full story at LifeSiteNews.

I guess they don’t want to pick a fight they can’t totally win. But there’s no escaping the logic of the statement:

“Stopping a beating heart is never health care.”


Related: In a more recent story from the UK, there is a movement to lower the abortion limit from its current 24 weeks. (A full term is 39 weeks.) “Maria Caulfield MP said that the current limit was introduced ‘at a time when babies were really not viable at 24 weeks’.” She also noted, “We’ve got one of the most liberal abortion laws in the world.”


I don’t know how sensationalist this video animation of an abortion is, but I suspect there’s more truth in this than people would want to realize. Again, this blog doesn’t get into this issue much, and neither do I on Twitter, but I felt this was worth sharing. Warning, content is graphic and disturbing.

February 26, 2018

Guns: The Road to Beating Swords into Plowshares

Today we move away from our usual faith-focused writing to something being discussed in the broader culture which, especially if you follow my Twitter feed, is a topic that’s been inescapable, even when writing one country away. That’s not to say that social justice issues should not be front-and-center for the Christ follower…

Another way is possible. I firmly believe that. But I will be accused of not being entirely realistic. Right now, the choke-hold the NRA has on the American public seems unchangeable. I’d like to give you some hope with two examples. You don’t have to buy in on both of them, just pick the one you like the best.


The Bell Telephone Breakup of 1984

In short, the U.S. government broke up a very, very large corporation because it was deemed in the public interest to do so.

At the time of the Bell system breakup in 1984, the monopoly advantages enjoyed by the company (which were wrongly attributed to the free market, not government favoritism) had created an economic behemoth with $150 billion in assets, $70 billion in revenues, and a million employees. The Justice Department had determined that the company had grown too big, however, and filed suit under the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1974. The case, United States v. AT&T, was settled by a consent decree in January 1982, under which the company agreed to give up its 22 local exchange service companies, but keep its interests in Bell Labs and Western Electric. The 22 companies were divided into seven independent Regional Bell Operating Companies, RBOCs, or “Baby Bells.” AT&T continued to operate its long-distance services.

…But the competition that AT&T had been successfully avoiding for so many years very quickly took its toll on a company not used to competition. AT&T’s Computer Systems venture failed; its purchase of NCR was a notable failure as well; and Bell Labs and Western Electric were sold to Lucent. The Western Electric manufacturing plant was eventually closed in the face of foreign competition. AT&T wound up being purchased by one of the RBOCs, Southwestern Bell, now SBC Communications, in 2005.

In the midst of “Ma Bell’s” troubles came the Telecommunications Act (TCA) of 1996, which was designed to open up the long-distance telephone service markets that had been closed to competitors since the consent decree. The act also forced incumbents to allow newcomers to enter their markets by giving them access to their own infrastructure, which was meant to allow competition. But the TCA didn’t lead to multiple companies working to improve existing long-distance service. What the TCA did, instead, was allow the free market to provide lower rates and better service to customers while resulting in the consolidation of the seven Baby Bells to the point now where there are essentially only two competing companies providing traditional hard-wire, plain old telephone service (POTS): AT&T and Verizon.

-Bob Adelmann writing in The New American, May, 2010

It’s worth adding that this was a business, whereas the NRA is a non-profit. Despite its status, the government stepped in to undo the monopoly market.


The Abolition of Slavery

13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of Slavery:
Passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, the 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States and provides that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”.

-from archives.gov

Let’s not miss that this radical change in the social order involved a change to the — now treated as sacrosanct; untouchable — Constitution of the United States.

There’s another parallel as well; a National Geographic page on the history of Slavery invites readers to:

Browse through a timeline of America’s ‘peculiar institution’

in other words, while slavery existed and continues to persist in other parts of the world, the situation was unique to the United States and was eventually deemed untenable.

Sound familiar? 

Wikipedia adds another parallel:

Since the American Revolution, states had divided into states that allowed and states that prohibited slavery. 

in other words, like the situation today, much was state regulated but was overturned by a federal act.

See the similarities?


I know statistically that in this blog’s dominantly U.S. readership there are people who are opposed to gun reform and people who don’t see what’s wrong with the status quo. I really despair being drawn into the vortex of this discussion.

But for those who long for a different day — long for the realization of the dream of ‘beating swords into plowshares*– I wanted to provide some hope.


*Found in two passages:

The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.
-Isaiah 2:4 (NLT)

He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
-Micah 4:3 (NIV)

February 19, 2018

When the Cries Bring About Change

Heather Booth is a professional book editor. On the weekend, she tweeted out a rather remarkable story and I quickly sent the link to several people I know who are connected to major media because I wanted to help “get this story out there.” Then, on Sunday morning it occurred to me that Thinking Out Loud is also media, maybe not major media, but instead of asking others to share this story, I could be part of making it happen.

I have a thing to say about growing up after tragedy. When I was a senior in high school, seven of my classmates were killed and 24 injured. It was an awful day full of fear, confusion, and pain. Press swarmed. News helicopters hovered overhead all day filming footage of the carnage.

Nothing made sense. Over the days and weeks that followed, we went to vigils, wakes, and funerals. We openly wept in the hallways. People who had never spoken before embraced, clinging to each other. We felt broken.

People said the things that are being said now. “I put him on the bus and sent him to school. He was supposed to be safe.” Classrooms were rearranged so the empty desks weren’t a constant reminder.

Time passed. We started living with loss, but we still startled at the noises that reminded us of that day. We were now people that THIS had happened to.

More time passed. I did the memorial layout in the yearbook. By then, our shock and raw pain had changed to anger and questioning. Why did this happen? What went wrong? Whose fault is it? Investigations, we learned, were ongoing.

A federal official said, “The thing that upsets me most–we teach our kids to learn the importance of accountability. In this, there was a failure of accountability by a number of organizations.”

And then, things changed.

29 recommendations were made by the NTSB and implemented from the local to federal level. Because this wasn’t a shooting. It was a train hitting a school bus. One train. One bus. Seven deaths. 24 injured. One year. 29 changes for 16 organizations.

And as kids, here’s what this meant: we saw something awful happen, then we saw adults support us, then we saw them make change happen to keep that awful thing from ever happening again. Now, I’m an adult who grew up having seen adults fix things.

Think about the worldview we create for youth when their awful experiences result in nothing but hand wringing and despair. Thoughts and prayers. When a tragedy hits that’s far more deadly and far less accidental than what Cary-Grove High School experienced in 1995 and nothing changes?

What kind of lifelong scars do we inflict on youth when the adults who are there to protect them don’t force change in the wake of preventable tragedy? What kind of foundation do we lay when their world breaks and no one fixes it?

I don’t care which avenue you pursue to change the scourge of gun violence against youth. There are plenty. Pick one. Do something. Call your reps. Donate. March. Volunteer. Vote. Force the issue. Empower teens. Don’t let them down. Make change happen.


Story reference:

Chicago Tribune: October 30, 1996.

To repeat, “One year. 29 changes for 16 organizations.” Changes were made to ensure that this type of thing would never happen again. Adults responded to protect children. Need we say more?

I am not aware if Heather has a particular faith-connection or if she does not. I felt this was worth sharing today irrespective of our usual considerations.

February 15, 2018

To Our American Friends, Again

You can’t fix this.

I’m sorry, but the intricacies of your political system have painted you into a corner and now you are trapped and can’t get out.

You will never fix this.

I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but try to imagine a scenario or series of scenarios that would result in enacting, for example, a repeal of the 2nd Amendment. It’s just not possible.

You, as a nation, don’t have the political will to fix this.

The system is broken and all your politicians know this. It’s a given that is whispered in hushed corridors of power, while the external message is, “Thoughts and prayers.”

…Just over five years ago, in December of 2012, I wrote the first “To Our American Friends” article. At that time I earnestly believed with all my heart that the U.S. had had a wake-up call and would start the conversation that would result in social and constitutional change. I wrote:

…Please accept our heartfelt sympathies.

Even though we’re close neighbors, we don’t fully understand the U.S. gun culture that is part of the DNA of those with whom we share this continent. And before we start to sound judgmental, we don’t always get it right up here, either; neither have we been immune to gun violence.

But we don’t think the framers of the U.S. constitution had yesterday in mind when they drafted the 2nd Amendment. Rather, I think they would be appalled, provided they were not completely bewildered trying to process where things presently stand.

This is only going to get worse. And worse and worse…

In June of 2015, I quoted President Obama:

“But let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it.” – President Obama

Does he really believe “it’s in our power to do something?” By October of the same year, the President’s tone had changed. It was more a lament. I wrote at the time,

President Obama went on television for the 16th time in his presidency and said, “Somehow, this is becoming routine.”

Gun advocates say that people need to have guns to defend themselves, but where are the headlines where a mass shooting was aborted because some civilian took out the shooter?

Again, it’s not my place to comment on the laws of another country. But know this: To those of us outside what Pope Francis reminded Americans is called “The land of the free,” we don’t believe the authors of the U.S. Constitution had days like these in view. Not for a moment.

It certainly is “The home of the brave.” You’d have to be brave, to leave your house in the morning not knowing if you’ll be having supper with your family at night.

Today, I have a different message.

You need to get out.

You need to get out before you’re next.

If traveling through Europe last summer taught us anything, it taught us that geography or place of birth need no longer limit the trajectory of a person’s life. Especially our last two days, as we got to know Prague in the Czech Republic, we remarked a few times, “We could live here.” We could easily envision ourselves uprooting from friends and family and starting an entirely new life in an entirely new place.

And so could you.

English is widely spoken. You’d want to learn the local language, but you would be amazed at how much you can get by in the world with English.

The places are sophisticated. Many have innovations in education, medical services and consumer technology that have not yet become commonplace in the United States.

Your skills as a teacher, mechanic, IT worker, nurse, editor, contractor, dietician, etc. are transferable.

Think about it.

Book a trip. Book it now, before summer while the rates are lower.

If you have a passport in a country that is part of the British Commonwealth, consider England, Australia, or New Zealand. Otherwise, start subscribing to website bulletins posting jobs in Europe. If you speak a foreign language, all the better. You won’t be 100% safe; some of these countries have issues with terrorism, but you will be safer. So will your kids.

You need to get out.

There’s no other solution.

I’m sorry.

 

 

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