Cops

RESPECT

There has been a lot of discussion about cops, their role within society, their militarization, and race relations in the last couple of weeks due to what has been happening in Ferguson, Missouri. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know any more than anyone reading this article about what actually transpired with Michael Brown; I’ve seen the evidence for both sides, I can appreciate both sides to some degree, and I know that in any situation there’s “your side, my side, and the truth.” I would humbly ask everyone to remember that we have a very well established justice system that will eventually bring the truth to light and deal with it justly. It will take a while, but we need to give due process its time. I can guarantee that looting stores doesn’t do any good for anyone.

Stephen Covey, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, writes about one habit I’d like to discuss today: “First seek to understand, then be understood.” In other words, if you’re going to criticize someone, first walk a mile in his or her shoes. Clichés aside, I’d like to discuss something with both the police officers and the citizens they protect and serve, but in reverse order.

To The People

We need cops. Even the most adamant and belligerent member of Cop Block would respond to a home robbery by immediately calling 911 and asking for a police officer. The responsibilities of the police have grown over the years and there is a legitimate discussion to be had regarding whether the laws they are asked to enforce and the methods they utilize are infringements upon our Constitutionally protected rights; however, no one but a person completely ignorant of history wants to live in anarchy. We live in a well ordered, safe, and free society – much of the day-to-day credit for that goes to cops.

We hire cops to deal with the stuff we don’t want to deal with. I’ve been on multiple police ride-alongs and can tell you from experience that dealing with a couple of drunk crack-addicts at 2 in the morning in a domestic abuse situation with scared kids involved is a situation no normal person ever wants to be in. But cops do it because we ask them to, and the vast, vast majority of them help to make your city a better place. If you cannot appreciate this type of situation then you have no business criticizing cops.

A cop’s job is uncertain. A cop wears a bulletproof vest every day to work because they never know when they could be randomly attacked. We have to take the nature of their work into consideration whenever we dissect individual actions in isolated circumstances – we cannot examine their actions in a laboratory, isolated from all other variables. A police officer who has spent any time on the job has seen things which would sear our souls, and they never know when the next situation like that will pop up. It is no violation of your rights to be polite, narrate your movements, and keep both hands in plain sight when you’re talking with a cop. Being considerate starts with you.

A cop is hired, in part, to be a warrior. You may think you could get along fine without cops (see three paragraphs up). You may not like the thought that we need warriors on our streets (see two paragraphs up). You may have gone your whole life without seeing a situation where you thought violence was required (see one paragraph up). But in the end, you’re simply wrong on all three of those points. Again, we can have a discussion regarding the extent of police involvement, the degree to which they are armed, the specific laws they’re asked to enforce, what would constitute the firing of a cop or even his imprisonment – but arguing that we shouldn’t have cops is akin to saying the world is flat.

I saw a report the other day doubting whether the use of force by a cop was justified when he shot a young man charging him with a knife. The cop had stated that the individual was 3-4 feet away when he shot him and, upon video review, it was later determined that the actual distance was 10-12 feet. Some people thought that this was evidence that the cop should not have put the man down. Some people are ignorant. If you know anything about combat you know that within 21 feet a knife is generally considered to be more dangerous than a gun. If you’re charging an armed person with an edged weapon your intentions are pretty clear, and the cop was completely justified in his use of force. The same is true when people publicly question why a cop shot someone three times when one would have done the trick – if you’re asking this question, you know nothing about combat.

There is a concept in economics called a “positive externality,” or a benefit enjoyed by all even when there is no direct involvement by many. For example, public education and a literacy rate nearing 100% causes many positive externalities; these are benefits enjoyed by everyone in a literate society even if you’ve never done one thing to teach someone else to read. The safety that cops provide is another benefit of positive externalities. Arguing that you’ve never seen a situation where a cop is needed is about as ignorant as arguing that air doesn’t exist because you haven’t seen it.

I’ve got my share of beefs (beeves?) with how cops are utilized in society today, the laws they’re asked to uphold, and how they’re militarized to do it, but the mark of a mature adult perspective is the willingness to sit down and have a conversation about it. I’m totally fine with folks videotaping cops and posting it online; it’s a First Amendment right and helps provide accountability. But when your “protest” involves paying your traffic fine in $1 bills folded into origami pigs delivered in a donut box, you’re really just undermining your position and appearing to be immature. It’s certainly your right to do so, but you’re acting like a two-year-old and then getting upset when people don’t listen to you.

If you dislike cops, go on a ride-along. Don’t do it for the purpose of insulting the cop the whole time, but sit down, shut-up, and attempt to understand things from his point of view if you ever want him to appreciate yours.

To The Cops

Do you realize the following?

  • As a law enforcement officer you are more subject to the law than any other citizen.
  • A badge gives you additional responsibility, not additional privileges.
  • Resorting to violence when words could do is the mark of a bully.
  • Your first and foremost allegiance is to the law, not to your brothers-in-arms. Allowing a fellow cop to get away with breaking the law, no matter how small, is heinous.
  • You are a public servant. If you despise or disrespect the public you’re choosing to serve, you should probably find another line of work.

Finally, you should realize the following: if you simply lived according to the above rules no one would have a problem with you.

If we have a problem with someone, our first step should be to understand their position. If we reach a position of understanding and still call it wrong, that’s fine – but then we need to have a reasoned discussion about it. If we all started treating each other with a bit of respect, we’d probably be a whole lot better off, and that applies to both parties here.

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The Second Amendment: Least Important. Most Essential.

Bill of Rights

The purpose of the Second Amendment is easily understood for anyone who truly cares about discovering the intent behind it – and it has nothing to do with hunting. This Amendment exists to enable a free person to defend his liberty against whatever threatens it.

There are three main potential threats the founding fathers saw fit to arm us against: individual lawbreakers, foreign invasion, and a government which had divorced itself from the principles of the Constitution. The ultimate line of defense against all of these is the armed citizen standing in opposition to those things which would challenge his liberty.

Individual lawbreakers:

“The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes…. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”
– Thomas Jefferson (quoting 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria)

“Arms in the hands of citizens may be used at individual discretion in private self defense.”
– John Adams

 Foreign invasion:

“… arms … discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property…. Horrid mischief would ensue were (the law-abiding) deprived the use of them.”
– Thomas Paine

A government divorced from the principles of the US Constitution:

“The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”
– Joseph Story

“The ultimate authority resides in the people alone.”
– James Madison

“The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.”
– Thomas Jefferson

Our forefathers knew that the most essential liberty we must have is the ability to defend all of the other rights and liberties we enjoy here. It is the most essential because without it the United States would soon fade into history, having devolved into tyrannical oppression like every other society has always eventually done. An armed populace is the final line of defense against oppression.

However…

Although the Second Amendment is the most essential, it is the least important, and it is absolutely vital that our citizens understand that. It is least important because without the rights and freedoms outlined in the other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights, it is completely irrelevant whether we have unrestricted gun ownership or not! If we have nothing to protect then our ability to protect it is completely irrelevant. Consider these questions:

Does owning a gun make a lick of difference if you can’t worship God in any way you choose?

Does it matter if you can carry concealed without any interference by police if you can’t speak your mind, and you can be arrested for speaking poorly about the government?

Does it matter if you can own an antitank weapon, a fully automatic machine gun or submachine gun, grenades, and suppressors if you can be jailed for writing down thoughts that challenge government oppression?

These questions stem from the First Amendment alone, and they don’t even exhaustively explore that one. The point is that if all we focus on is unrestricted access to the Second Amendment while the government systematically disassembles the rest of our rights around us, we’re winning the one battle we’re choosing to fight and we’re losing the whole stinking war.

Think of the Second Amendment like the locks on the doors to your house. Perhaps you own a home valued at $200,000. Your locks cost what, fifty dollars apiece? Whoopee. Least important part of the house – no one buys a house for the locks. But they’re the most essential part, because without them anyone can help themselves to your things or move in and usurp your dwelling (which are the reasons you bought the house) without you saying anything about it. Locks are therefore the least important, but the most essential, part of your house. If all you focus on is the status of the locks and ignore the rest of the house, however, someone could rob you blind. They could literally disassemble the house around you and you wouldn’t say a word as long as you get to keep your locks! “No one’s taking my right to keep and bear locks! It’s my RIGHT!”

Pop quiz time: here’s how you know whether or not you’ve placed undue importance on the Second Amendment. What are the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment?

The Fourth?

The Sixth?

The Ninth?

If you have no idea what those are then you have no idea whether they’re being infringed upon. If you don’t know that then you can’t possibly use the Second Amendment in the ways our forefathers meant for us to and it’s pointless for there to even be a Second Amendment.

The Second Amendment is the final defense the people have against a government which has divorced itself from the principles of the Constitution – at that point, it is a government which has betrayed its allegiance and become destructive of the ends for which it is created, and it is therefore the right of the people to alter or abolish it, by force if necessary.

If you have no idea what those principles are that the government is supposed to be upholding then you don’t deserve the rights guaranteed you in the Second Amendment, plain and simple. In fact, you should probably march straight down to the nearest FBI office and turn in all of your guns before you hurt yourself. If you haven’t asked yourself: “Under what circumstances, in what situation, would I finally be willing to take up arms against a tyrannical government? What Constitutional line would our government have to cross for me to start shooting?” Then you are proving yourself a fool every time you argue that the Second Amendment was put in place to protect us against tyrants. Because you’re never going to pull the trigger. You’re never going to use these tools in the way you’re claiming they’re meant to be used.

The only person who can effectively wield the Second Amendment is the one who has trained himself to understand the reasons we need it. The son or daughter of liberty who is so impassioned for the cause of freedom that they know their rights, they can articulate those rights, and they desire to die rather than surrender their rights, is the only person to whom the Second Amendment truly applies. Anyone else is fodder, an afterthought, a speed bump on the way to tyranny.

Or worse, they’re helping.

When we focus solely on preserving the right to keep and bear arms and allow our other, actually inherently important rights to be infringed, then we are doing nothing but shuffling the order of the dominoes of our rights and the order in which they fall.

Jon Stewart Freedom Math

Learn your rights. Demand they be preserved. Don’t allow someone’s rights to be trampled, even if you think they’re a horrible person – that’s why they’re called human rights. Does this make our country more dangerous? Probably. Does preserving our liberty mean we sacrifice safety to some degree? Absolutely. But in the words of Thomas Jefferson:

Malo periculosam libertatum quam quietam servitutem.

I prefer the danger of liberty to the peace of slavery.

Words Matter

We’ve all sung this little ditty:

Sticks and stones
May break my bones
But words will never hurt me.

I would be willing to wager that less true words have never been written. Words matter – we know this instinctively. We’ve all been hurt by another’s words, and whether they were intentionally or unintentionally cutting, they still stung.

But what if there’s another aspect; something more than just bullying or insulting or being crass? What if our words are teaching people not to trust us? What if we’re shouting at people to not hear us? What if we’re conditioning people to dismiss our words as not worth listening to?

Consider these lyrics from Adele’s song Rumor Has It:

Just cause I said it, it don’t mean that I meant it
People say crazy things
Just cause I said it, don’t mean that I meant it
Just cause you heard it

If anyone ever said these words to me I can tell you one sure-fire thing they’d communicate: run. Any person who is going to put this level of significance behind their communication is someone who is going to go from broken relationship to broken relationship in every area of their life. That probably makes for rich song-writing material, but it’s doubtful that it makes for a happy life.

Or perhaps these from Skillet’s Believe:

If you believed
When I said
That I’d be better off without you
Then you never really knew me at all

Talk about a win/win: in this one we even get to blame the person who was listening to us for taking us seriously! “It’s your fault that you believed what I said. What a moron.”

But as stupid as that sounds, don’t we all do this at times? Don’t we use that low blow in arguments when we say: “Look, you should have known I didn’t mean that!” Well then you shouldn’t have said it! We can’t treat our own words as inconsequential and then get ticked that people don’t take us seriously.

Usually we don’t realize that we’re doing this. Stephen M. R. Covey in The Speed of Trust tells us that: “We judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions.” That’s a pretty revolutionary concept. What would happen if we started judging ourselves by our actions, or attempting to judge others by their intentions? It would probably change our entire outlook on life.

I was discussing something with a friend the other day on Facebook and one of her friends interjected himself into the discussion. Without so much as an introduction he called me ignorant, a jackass, and then a fool in successive comments. Then he said that he was done discussing anything with someone like me.

Four minutes later, he commented again.

The worst part was that I hadn’t said anything between comments, so he just instantly went back on his word without me doing anything to provoke it. I told him that if he took his word that lightly and didn’t even believe himself, how did he expect me to act?

We condition people to not hear us when we don’t even respect ourselves enough to take our words seriously. According to mental health professionals communication problems are the number one reason couples split up, followed by couples inability to resolve conflict.

What would happen if we took ourselves seriously and only said what we meant and we meant every word that we said? It would probably get a lot quieter for starters. We would have to think about what we were going to say; we’d have to consider the other person’s point of view; we would have to give up cheap shots like: “You should have known not to listen to me when I’m angry and overdosed on Rocky Road!” We’d probably end up not burning as many bridges, losing as many friendships, or surrendering the thing we all seem to want so badly: respect.

Do we all deserve respect? Sure, to some basic degree just because we’re human and have a pulse. But to really command respect we should be all about the business of becoming respectable people – the first step towards this is taking ourselves seriously.

Become someone you would like to be friends with, or married to. Judge yourself by what you actually say and others by what they intended to say. I think you’ll be happy with the results.

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Robin Williams, Matt Walsh, and Me.

I miss Robin Williams.

Robin Williams

He was such an incredible person. What he did in Dead Poets Society influenced my own teaching style, efforts, and goals immeasurably. The part he played in Good Will Hunting personified who I wanted to be as a counselor. Now my job involves both of these roles, and the person I am today is owed, to a significant degree, to him.

I never met him, nor did I ever think I would. But he was such a force, such a commanding presence; I once heard that those who saw him live described him as someone who “filled the stage completely, from one end to the other” by sheer force of personality. He was an incredible person.

Many folks have written that it was his disease of depression that killed him. I’ve read their articles, and I can certainly understand their viewpoints from an intensely personal perspective. My own journey with depression has illustrated their arguments well.

Matt Walsh wrote a piece titled “Robin Williams didn’t die from a disease, he died from his choice.” His words were much maligned and, as I’ve noticed is typical with blogs that declare truth in our attention-deficit-disordered country, few of his critics actually took the time to read or understand what he wrote. Had they done so, they would have understood the truth of what he said and the loving intention with which he had done so. But Matt was missing three key points in the eyes of his critics: he wasn’t a psychologist, he hasn’t suffered from depression to the point of suicide, and most importantly: he didn’t agree with them.

I’m not the perfect solution; I’m only 1.5 out of those three. But let me tell you my story.

I’m 29 years old. I have now approached the point of intentionally losing my life three times: once as a high school senior, once as a college senior, and again this year.

When It Snuck Up On Me

The first time I ever contemplated letting go I was 17; I had gone into the hospital for an emergency appendectomy and ended up not getting the laparoscopic procedure but went under the literal knife for a three inch incision and several muscle groups being pulled apart to get in there. Sufficed to say, it was mild trauma.

Well, the head nurse of my recovery unit was a bit of a sadist and refused IV painkillers after the surgery; she would only give them to me orally and only if I ate something first. After I came out of anesthesia I attempted to down some crackers but only accomplished making myself sick. If you’ve never vomited after having your abdominal muscles pulled apart, well, I wouldn’t exactly recommend it.

Soon after this (~4 hours after I had come out of surgery) I noticed my hands starting to curl inward involuntarily and I couldn’t straighten them out; my eyes had also started to get cloudy around the edges and my vision was narrowing. My mind was very foggy at that point and I remember thinking it was strange, but didn’t say anything to anyone. When I finally realized something was going on, I also realized my body had retracted into the fetal position on my bed, my hands were curled into claws, and my eyes had narrowed into tunnel vision. I couldn’t do anything to straighten them out, but worst of all, I realized I had stopped automatically breathing. Each breath was a conscious choice, and if I didn’t choose to inhale nothing happened. No pressure, no need to breathe, no intentional holding of my breath. Just… nothing.

My dad was napping in the chair next to my bed and something woke him up; he looked over and instantly recognized I was in trouble. He ran into the hall and began yelling for doctors and the room instantly filled with people. I’m not sure of all of the circumstances surrounding “coding” but I’m pretty sure that’s what I was doing.

As the docs began working on me I realized something in my very addled, foggy, oxygen-deprived, childlike mental condition: I didn’t have to fight this anymore. I was a Christian, and if I really believed what I said I believed then Jesus was literally right there on the other side of death. Death didn’t seem so bad – it was just choosing to not fight this battle anymore. Things were so simple in that moment. So took a deep breath in (which was actually more of a shallow gasp), looked at my dad, and said:

“Romans”

(shallow gasp)

“Eight”

(shallow gasp)

“Twenty”

(shallow gasp)

“Eight”

And I stopped breathing.

There was no pressure, no pain. I wasn’t fighting any survival instincts in the moment, I was simply choosing to meet my Savior over fighting this stupid battle.

After a few moments one of the doctors verbalized that I wasn’t breathing anymore and my dad started screaming at me to breathe. Like I said, I was very childlike in the moment and so I started to choose to breathe simply because someone was telling me to. The doctors were able to pull me back, reverse the shock that was apparently the cause, and I fully recovered.

Except for the thought that had been planted in my brain.

I didn’t have to fight.

When It Was My Fault

Four years later I was a senior in college and, although I’d achieved every single academic and occupational goal I had at that time, it had come at a cost. I’d lived for myself for four straight years and all but abandoned any guiding moral principles; my life was completely relativistic at that moment. As a result of that selfishness I had killed or severely damaged almost every single meaningful relationship in my life. It was my fault, and I knew it.

In that moment, I despaired.

So one night when my fiancé was out of town working, I sat down and wrote a note.

Then I loaded my .45.

Then I went out and had a last meal.

I dropped by the house of the one friend I thought would still listen to a goodbye, as vague as it was going to be, and I said goodbye. She followed me out to my truck and told me that I had made a difference in her life; that something I had done over the past several months had meant the world to her. And she hugged me.

That gave me a glimmer of hope. And that night I didn’t pull the trigger.

When It Wasn’t My Fault

This year my work put me in an absolutely unwinnable situation. Although I had done what I thought was right at every turn I was driven into a position of more intense pressure, stress, and defeat than I had ever known before. My work caused me to be physically separated from my wife and kids for four months and in that putrid environment of loneliness despair began to rear its ugly head again.

“This isn’t worth it.” Came the whisper in the darkness.

“You can’t win.” I heard constantly.

“You don’t have to fight.”

I timed it at one point: I was thinking of dying at least every twelve minutes. Every waking moment. Every day. For two months straight. Even if you don’t start out depressed, consider what that thought pattern will eventually do to a person.

I quit going to church.

I quit talking to friends.

I quit responding to emails and listening to voicemails.

And I began self-medicating.

I’m a very happy drunk, so the only time I could get away from thinking about stopping my life for more than 10-12 minutes at a time was to get so drunk I didn’t remember going to bed. This went on almost every night a week.

Thankfully I didn’t end it here, either. But in the back of my mind is that constant, nagging thought:

“You don’t have to fight.”

 And I wonder if someday I may buy into it enough to stop fighting.

Matt Walsh is right: Robin Williams did make a choice. But those who have never been to that place where it’s so dark you can’t see the light cannot understand. The best way I can describe it to those who have never experienced it is this:

It’s as if you, the normal person, are driving along in a car at 5 mph and are considering how you could end your life – at 5 mph, it would take an inconceivable amount of effort to find a situation where you could end your life at that speed, in that situation. You don’t even understand how it could happen. For us who suffer from depression, however, it’s as if we’re going 90 mph in the same situation. Now it’s simply a matter of time: a curve that’s too sharp, a slippery patch of black ice, an unguarded sneeze when your hand jerks the wheel too far to the right.

The person in the car going 5 mph would have to work so hard to get to that point of vulnerability they can’t understand how it could happen; the person in the car going 90 is simply playing the odds, waiting.

Each time I’ve been at that place it’s been me making the choices; I know that. But in that moment I’m not equipped with the same tools, the same resilience, the same mental fortitude that Matt Walsh talked about. I’m playing the odds. I’m hoping I don’t get overwhelmed. I’m hoping I don’t trip.

Robin Williams was, is, and always will be a personal hero of mine. He was a bright, shining light in a world so filled with darkness. Robin Williams fought a battle, and he won, and he won, and he won… for sixty-three amazing years. And then finally, he lost.

I’m in the military and we have our share of heroes. They’re generally honored for one of two things: Often, it’s because they won. They won amazing battles, campaigns, and wars. They exemplify victory, they exude confidence, the very air they breathe seems to be drenched with vitality. Their aura is intoxicating.

But just as often we honor those who fought, who played their hearts out, who gave it all they had, who stood in the gap. And then, they lost. And very often, they died.

Very rarely do the latter get to taste the sweetness of victory, of triumph, of overcoming all odds. Usually their last moments are filled with pain, darkness, and abandonment. But we honor them because they fought so well and sold their life so dearly. I look up to Robin Williams because he fought the battle I’ve almost lost three times… and he did it for more than twice as long as I’ve been alive before he succumbed. He is a hero to me. Not because he fell, but because he stood for so long.

10 Reasons Christians Shouldn’t Reject Islam

The vast majority of American Christians hate Islam – but we shouldn’t. We (yes, I’m an American Christian) love to tell everyone how Islam is a religion of war, their whole goal is to take over the world and establish a religious government, they treat women like property, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

But we shouldn’t.

The reason why is significant: when we tell non-Christians to reject Islam based on these (and numerous other reasons), then we’re telling them that these are legitimate reasons to reject a religion. We’re telling them that these are indicators, perhaps even hallmarks, of a false religion.

But what if those same standards applied to us?

You see, if we tell a non-Christian to reject a religion based on X and X also applies to Christianity, well… yeah, probably not a very effective evangelism strategy.

So here’s the deal: I believe that Christianity is the right way to go, otherwise I wouldn’t be a Christian. But here are 10 reasons Christians should not reject Islam (and one very good reason to do so).

#10: Islam worships the wrong God. Actually, Islam worships the God of Abraham and teaches the there is only one God, and that He is the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe –the same God that Christians worship. If you respond that ours is a triune God and you must accept all three coequal parts of one God and Muslims reject this, therefore Muslims don’t worship the same God – well, you’d be correct. However, it’s interesting to me how many American Christians will exalt Judaism by saying they worship the same God (God of Abraham, but reject the Trinity and divinity of Jesus) and then turn around and claim Islam to be a false religion based on the same standard.

#9: Islam teaches the establishment of a single religious government spanning the entire world, and that this is ushered in by killing everyone who won’t convert. Have you ever read Revelation?? Both the Bible and the Koran teach that there will be a day of judgment initiated by conversion or death, people will be judged according to their works, and there is a hell and paradise where they will be assigned, and then God will reign on earth.

#8: Islam is a religion of war, bringing the sword. Jesus speaking in Matthew 10:34 – “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” “But look at Islam’s history of warfare!” Um, look at Christianity’s history of warfare.

#7: Islam is a religion of hate. American Christians love to reject the notion of a “moderate Muslim” saying that they deny the core teachings of Islam, and that any true Muslim is a hater, pure and simple. I wonder how Christianity is portrayed in the Middle East? Think it has something to do with this?

 Westboro Baptist 1Westboro Baptist 2

#6: Islam has a screwed up idea about prophets & Scripture. Did you know that the Koran teaches that God sent prophets such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Joseph, and John the Baptist? Did you know that the Koran teaches that the Torah, the Old Testament, and the New Testament are holy scriptures? Did you know that the Koran tells us to abide by the teachings of Jesus?

#5: Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet. So did Jesus (Matthew 13:57, Mark 6:4, John 4:44).

#4: Islam has a draconian system of law known as Sharia. Check out these horribly non-Western laws:

  • If a girl is accused of not being a virgin she is presumed guilty until proven innocent. If proof of virginity is not found (i.e., intact hymen, for which there could be many reasons) she is put to death.
  • If a girl is raped in the city, she gets stoned.
  • If a guy rapes a girl he can avoid all punishment by giving her father the equivalent of ~$500 and marry her.
  • Bestiality requires the man (or woman) and the beast to be stoned.
  • Having sex with your daughter-in-law or father’s wife requires the offending parties to die.
  • Homosexuality requires the death penalty.
  • Marrying both a woman and her daughter means they all get burned to death.
  • You can beat a slave almost to death, but as long as he survives you get off scot-free.
  • Eating bread with yeast in it during certain feast times causes you to be exiled for life, as does having sex with a woman on her period.
  • Cutting off someone’s hand for certain offenses (like grabbing a man’s genitals during a fight).

Pretty horrible, right? Oh wait, I pulled this list from the Bible, not the Koran. We can’t very well tell people to not believe in a religion because back in the day they had a pretty severe and fundamental legal system that a minority of the religion are attempting to enforce today, even if the majority of the religion no longer abides by it.

#3: Islam is against independent thought: the very word means “submission.” Ever catch this verse in the Bible: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” – Mark 10:45. Or this one: “Although (Jesus) was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” – Hebrews 5:7-9.

#2: Islam treats women as property. For example, a woman has no choice in marriage but is given away by her father. A woman is presumed guilty until proven innocent in most legal matters. A male who arrives at marriage without being a virgin is no big deal, but a female who arrives at marriage having lost her virginity should die. Women shouldn’t speak or lead in a church setting; a wife refers to her husband in the same language a slave did (“master” or “lord”); a woman is treated as a possession, not a person, et cetera. Pretty chauvinistic, eh? Oh, wait. I keep forgetting to pull from the Koran; this list was pulled from the Bible as well.

#1: What Islam teaches about Jesus is incorrect. Actually, did you know that both the Bible and the Koran teach that Jesus is the Messiah? Koran 3:55, and 4:158-159 teach some pretty darn Christian stuff about Jesus, like He is the Messiah, God raised Him from the dead, He is in heaven with the Father awaiting the judgment at the end of time, et cetera. The Koran teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin and therefore miraculously conceived; it also teaches that Jesus Christ will return to earth by descending from heaven and slaying the Antichrist.

Alright, so here’s the deal: I’ve pretty blatantly misrepresented Christianity in this post, particularly with what I’ve cherry-picked from the Bible, completely out of context. If I believed these things were core teachings of Christianity, as they are presented here, I’m gonna go ahead and guess that I probably wouldn’t be a Christian. I did this to demonstrate how Christians (mis)represent Islam. I very, very rarely hear a contextual, reasoned response to Islam from an American Christian.

Christians should not reject Islam for what I’ve listed here for two reasons: first, the average contemporary Muslim would probably tell you that an American description of Islam is pretty out of context and therefore incorrect in the same way I would tell you that my representation of Christianity thus far in this post is out of context and incorrect. Second, if we teach people to reject a religion based on ignorant assumptions of what we think they teach, or on what fringe weirdos do while claiming to be mainstream representatives of the religion, then there are plenty of reasons to reject Christianity.

So what is the lone reason that Christians should reject Islam?

Easy. The Gospel.

 The Gospel is simply this: that all people have sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect standard. There is only one way to make up for this, and that answer is through Jesus Christ. Jesus is fully God and fully man, and came in the flesh to be born, to die, and to be resurrected in order to atone for our sins. We are saved by faith in Him alone. This faith is demonstrated in our lives by actions which are fruit of a changed life – we are not saved by the works themselves.

The Gospel is the one thing that makes us different from all other religions. It is the one thing that makes Christianity, well… Christianity.

Islam does not teach this, and therefore I reject it as a religion. However, I reject it in the same way I do atheism, Mormonism, paganism, Hinduism… you name it. I don’t militarily reject it and desire death to all Muslims; I don’t arrogantly mischaracterize them and treat them as less than people. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for how many Christians in America approach Islam, and the truly unfortunate thing is that we’re chasing people away from Christ and the Gospel by doing so.

It’s time for us to stop. It’s time for us to realize that Muslims are no different from us: all of use are screwed up people in need of grace and forgiveness. Many Muslims are more moral than many Christians, and vice versa. The only difference is right standing with God, and per John 14:6 that can only be achieved through faith in Jesus Christ.

Won’t you join me in living in respect, love, and grace to all men? Won’t you join me in leading people to Jesus Christ?

The Third Option

Over the past two days I’ve told you why you’re not a liberal if you’re the least bit principled, and why you’re not a conservative if your values aren’t determined by whatever liberals thought was cool forty years ago. The fruit of conservatism and liberalism are the same: larger government.

I have a two-year-old and a four-year-old; they’re currently at the stage of life where “appeal to authority” has become very appealing. Their natural tendency is to run to their parents to mediate every squabble without even discussing their desires with the antagonizing party. But that’s not what I want for my kids, so the rule is that unless they use their words and ask the other kid to stop what they’re doing first, they’re not allowed to ask mommy or daddy to interfere (with obvious exceptions like broken bones, stolen cats, and if one of the kids grabs my rocket launcher).

You see what I’m doing here? I’m empowering my kids to deal with problems themselves without relying on someone else to use their power to broker a deal. I’m teaching them to first deal with the other party, perhaps understand their position, and then act accordingly.

How is it working, you may ask? Well, they’re two and four, so still lots of tattling. But even with that in mind the transition has been remarkable: they get along better, play together more often, and have both developed remarkable vocabulary and argumentation skills for their age. Overall, if the average US citizen dealt with each other on the same level as my two and four year old currently are, I would be satisfied. (sad statement?)

When we don’t use this approach, all we do is surrender the natural sovereignty and power we possess as individual citizens to the government.

“Hey big G! I don’t like how these liberals are acting. Will you outlaw what they’re doing?” *conservative hands over a chunk of empowerment.*

“Look Mr. Fed – I’m pissed that you outlawed what I want, so I’ll seize power and outlaw the other dude’s opinion!” *liberal hands over a portion of personal rights*

And so it goes, on and on, each side participating in a slow ratcheting devolution that surrenders personal power over to the government. A great example of this would be DOMA, or the Defense of Marriage Act. Religious conservatives took the position that the government shouldn’t be allowed to redefine marriage, so they attempted to pass a law that would force government to define marriage the way they wanted.

Say wha?

So what do you think the other side did?

Look, if your position is that the government should stay out of defining marriage, then don’t ask the government to define marriage for you. If you do so, you’re literally giving the right to define marriage to big G and if you do so then you have to be happy with the way he defines it – whether it lines up with what you think or not.

So if liberalism and conservatism aren’t really options for thinking, principled folks, and both have the same natural end of bigger government which is more impersonal with less justice, rights protection, and more invasion of privacy and liberty for everybody, what’s left?

It’s simple, really. Libertarianism is really the closest ideal to what we all (should) want: personal liberties, protection of individual rights, and avoiding the government stepping into our lives unnecessarily and telling us how to live in ways that honestly shouldn’t concern anyone else.

Libertarianism2

The basic premise of libertarianism is the conservation of individual liberty. Whatever human rights we have we’re free to exercise; the only time those rights may be limited is when the exercise of those rights limits someone else’s rights. For example, I have the right to throw my fist straight out in front of me – it’s fun. I love shadow boxing. When my neighbor’s face happens to be in the way, however, the exercise of my rights infringes on his, so I wouldn’t be allowed to do that.

Bad example? OK, here’s a more realistic one. People can marry anybody they want. We can’t infringe on that right because it doesn’t hurt us. Does it make us uncomfortable? Yeah. Does it create a society we may dislike? Quite possibly. But what’s our job then? Simple: go out and change society’s values to reflect your own. (Easy? No. Simple? Yes.) You don’t do this by running to your mommy like my two-year-old and begging for her to outlaw the other person’s behavior because it’s icky. You demonstrate the legitimacy and benefit of your own position in such a way that any thinking person would join you anyway. If you can’t do that, if your position is actually less conducive to happiness, freedom, and a life well lived, well… you’re probably in the wrong. And other people are free to discover their own happiness (or misery) without you telling them you know everything. Look, “It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.”  So sayeth Thomas Jefferson.

Here’s another one: you have the right to sexual liberty. If you want to engage in consensual sex with whoever you want, go for it – I may not agree with it from a moral perspective, but I’m not going to invite the government into anyone’s bedroom to define what are normal sexual practices (imagine where THAT would end up). But when the exercise of your rights leads to pregnancy, which is you holding another’s life in your body, you cannot infringe on her rights by aborting her. The exercise of your freedom (reproductive rights, you’ve absolutely got them) get limited only when they infringe on someone else’s rights (in this case, the right to life).

That’s one of the hallmarks of liberty.

We tend to think we should tell people they should only do what’s best for them and outlaw everything else (hallmark of the Republican and Democratic parties). The only legitimate manifestation of that is really in the parent-child relationship, and with very few exceptions (generally with very young children) that’s not even an effective way to parent. If you’re constantly refusing your kids the ability to make their own choices and learn from their own mistakes (i.e., the concept formerly known as “liberty”) then you’re crippling them. When they get out on their own they’ll do one of two things: come crawling back to inhabit your basement for most of their adult years, or they’ll rebel, jump off the deep end, and it will be the effective end of your relationship.

Not the outcome parents generally want.

Why did it happen? The result of bad parenting. Good parenting is like good government: it constantly forces the children(citizens) to exercise their liberties, make good choices on their own, learn from bad ones, communicate with others, and become effective and free human beings. Is it uncomfortable? Abso-friggin-lutely. Does it often result in outcomes you wouldn’t have chosen? Yes. Is it right. Undoubtedly.

But here’s one thing you’ve got to hold onto: when people exercise their liberties, it’s inherently uncomfortable. Somehow we’ve grabbed onto this idea that we have a right to not be made uncomfortable. Look, the type of speech that doesn’t need protecting is: “My, what wonderful crumpets you’ve made!” The type of speech that needs protecting is: “Insert whatever controversial statement you want that people will dislike and disagree with.” For example:

“Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, and if you don’t accept him you’ll go to hell.”
“Jesus Christ is not the only way to heaven, and if you don’t accept him you can still go to heaven.”
“Jesus Christ was God in the flesh.”
“Jesus Christ is a myth.”

Controversial? You bet. Each statement makes a certain sector of America uncomfortable? Absolutely. But thankfully we’re all adults and we can handle being made uncomfortable. We’re big enough for that. May demonstrated truth win.

The foundation of libertarianism is a principled stance: I’ll defend liberty so both of us can practice it, and I’m enough of an adult to appreciate that you’re grasping your liberty and using it even if it makes me uncomfortable. I’ll mix stripes, plaids, and polka dots just to piss you off, and know that you’re enough of an adult to deal with it. The basic premise of libertarianism is that we all deserve Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, however we see fit to exercise those. Rights should only be limited when they infringe on another’s rights… not on a comfort zone.

Libertarianism1

You Think You’re a Conservative (but you’re really not).

I grew up as a conservative in a red-blooded American family in the Deep South: we voted Republican, home schooled the kids, went to church regularly, and every male in the family ended up in the military at one point or another. It wasn’t until I started examining conservative policies, actions, and typical positions that I realized that millions of people think they’re conservatives, but they’re really not.

The working definition of a conservative is this: someone who thinks the way America is right now is okay, but it would be much better if we could get back to the roots of who we truly are as a nation. The Founding Fathers, while imperfect, had it pretty much right. The way we are is okay, but the way we were is better. A liberal, by contrast is someone who believes that the way we are is okay, but the way we will be once we change some stuff is going to be better, and this irks the conservative to the core.

The problem with the ideology of conservatism is that it’s downright ignorant of the totality of human history. You’re only truly a conservative if you’re the firstborn male of a royal family. Everyone else is pretty much a liberal to some degree. All we have to do to demonstrate this is have you take your viewpoints and change the clock a bit to find the point where you would have ceased describing yourself as a conservative and started describing yourself as a liberal.

For example, conservatives today are okay with women voting, but that’s only been a belief conservatives have ascribed to since around 1920 or so. Before that, anyone holding the same stance they do now (namely, that a woman can have a political opinion and vote) would have been a liberal. Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, and Megyn Kelly would have been hallmark liberals if you simply change the clock a bit. Here are a few conservative posters from the day.

suffragettesuffragette2

Conservatives today are okay with treating black people with the same rights as whites, but that’s only been okay with conservatives since the 1960s or so. Before that, a black person who believed that black people had the same rights as white people (e.g., to use the same restrooms, sit in the same seats, or use the same water fountains) would have been a liberal. To make Herman Cain, Ben Carson, and Condoleeza Rice liberals, all we have to do is flip enough pages on the calendar. Look at these nice conservative signs.

 whites only restroom whites only water fountain

Conservatives today love to look at the Revolutionary War as the most holy war of American history. However, in the mid to late 1700s the assumption that we should be set free from the supposed divine right of kings to rule us and that every person deserved a democratic voice was, well… a liberal notion. In fact, the conservatives were called Tories (and were mistreated and sometimes murdered by the liberal revolutionaries), or simply stayed out of the war altogether – some estimates state that as little as 33% of the population (e.g., 3% of the colonists fought, 10% actively supported, and 20% intellectually supported the revolution) were behind this most liberal notion of armed revolution to take power away from the lawful government and impose these liberal policies of universal freedom (for white men, at the time). Fast forward to 1787 and a conservative would have been against the Constitution in favor of the Articles of Confederation; the Constitution grew the size of the federal government drastically and consolidated powers that had formerly belonged to the states in the hands of a central government. Conservatives today love the Constitution… but they’ve only done so since the late 1780s. Most of our Founding Fathers were decidedly liberal for their times.

“As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.”

— George Washington

Most people dismiss this with a simple wave of the hand. “Duh.” they say. “We know people had issues back in the day. Thankfully we have it right now.” The problem is: no, you don’t. If you want to know what the conservative position will look like in 40 or 50 years, simply look at what the liberal position is today. Don’t believe me? Twenty years ago you couldn’t find a conservative who supported gay marriage; now you find them filing amicus curiae briefs in support of it, and citing Ronald Reagan to do so. The fact is that most voters simply vote along party lines and sacrifice many of their convictions to “avoid the lesser of the two evils” and the average voter can’t tell you what the issues are, let alone both sides, and often not which side his candidate stands for. Which is the greater of the two evils, you may ask? Oh, the dude from the other party, whatever he stands for.

Conservatives supposedly stand for small government, but now you have the Republican party at large and outspoken “conservative” pundits like Ann Coulter calling for proponents of small government to give up their pursuit of what they believe to be right. Why? Because it could hurt the Republican party at large, and their own political careers specifically. A sitting Republican senator used various tactics such as race baiting, double voting, and bribery to win a runoff election, and the Republican party rank and file aren’t interested in rooting out the corruption if it comes at the expense of the establishment.

Conservatives love to espouse the rights they have explicitly outlined in the Bill of Rights. However, when those rights actually come into play they show their true colors and desire to erase those liberties:

Jon Stewart Freedom Math

What you’ll find is that there is no common consensus on what conservatives believe: it’s all relative. Anything right of where we are right now legitimately falls into the conservative bastion (no matter how far right), while anything left of it falls into what conservatives will eventually buy into. Here’s one example: Sean Hannity vehemently, repeatedly, and unconditionally defended rancher Clive Bundy in his dispute with the federal government – that is, until Bundy made some statements that Hannity disagreed with. The problem is that Bundy’s statements were more fundamentally conservative than Hannity’s position; if one started rewinding the clock, Hannity’s position on race would have been classified as liberal far more recently than Bundy’s position. Both Hannity and Bundy claim to be conservatives, and both vehemently disagree on what they would classify as fundamental political viewpoints for the conservative side. Here’s a clip of Hannity reacting to Bundy’s comments:

Listen to Hannity characterize the liberal position on what conservatives believe and then summarily dismiss it as incorrect. The problem is that those are fundamentally conservative viewpoints – they’re just more conservative and less moderated than Hannity is comfortable with.

Conservatives traditionally believe in fiscal conservatism: balance the budget, get the nation out of debt, and we’ll be that much better off. Throughout the recent recession Keynesian economists in the Democratic party repeatedly called for a lifting of the debt ceiling. They were rebuffed by conservative heroes staunchly defending their ideological position… that is, until the Republicans decided that you could actually be conservative and do what the Democrats had been recommending. Speaker of the House John Boehner suggested that the debt ceiling be lifted in 2012 , and so it was done. He, and other Republicans, have continued to repeatedly, but “temporarily,” lift the debt ceiling since then.

Congressional Republicans have repeatedly called for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare); when that failed, they repeatedly called for it to be defunded. Then Boehner proposed, to the great applause of the conservatives, that he sue the President for being a bad president. His justification? That President Obama had repeatedly failed to enforce that the Affordable Care Act be required in its entirety, to all Americans, on schedule.

I could go on about abortion, states rights, big government, immigration, welfare, and others, but hopefully you see my point. The conservative position is completely relative: there’s no bastion of conservative thought, no foundation upon which conservatives stand, and in fifty years they’ll be staunchly defending everything they oppose today. The good news is that if you’re a principled person who thinks for him/herself and think you would have believed the same things you believe now no matter when you would have been dropped in history, you’re not a conservative. Check back tomorrow for a discussion on what you probably are.

In case you think I’ve unfairly roasted conservatives, feel free to click here and check out what liberals are all about.

Why you should never, under any circumstances ever, be a liberal.

You should never, under any circumstances ever, be a liberal.

I don’t say this because I disagree with the stances that a liberal takes; in fact, I think that liberals can be credited with keeping many of the civil liberties our Constitution guarantees intact over the past couple hundred years. I say you should never be a liberal because being a liberal means utterly surrendering all of your principles.

To be a liberal is to refuse to abide by principles and choose instead to base your beliefs solely on applications that benefit you. Principles are the underlying philosophies or laws which express themselves in a variety of situations in the form of applications; in order to be principled, we must align ourselves with those underlying concepts and be okay with wherever the applications of those principles lead us: it means to be okay with an application that benefits us, and also to be okay with an application of the same principle which may not benefit us. To affirm a principle in one application and deny it in a second application is, well, downright unprincipled.

Here’s an example: at the United States Constitutional Convention in 1787 a decision referred to as “The Three-Fifths Compromise” was made. This compromise determined the number of representatives a state would have; a lot of political wrangling happened because a high number of citizens meant a lot of political representation (yay!!) but higher levels of taxation (boo!!). In the end, it was decided that Native Americans and enslaved blacks would be counted as 3/5s of a person. Now, they were considered fully human, but humanity is a biological concept whereas personhood is a philosophical concept. This latter concept refers to the argument that only a person deserves the rights we all assume a human should get (e.g., Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness). So a bunch of white dudes ruled that Indians and blacks were only, eh, 60% of a person.

Liberals hate this (as they should).

This is a horrible principle. All humans are persons as well (hence the term “human right” not “person right”), and should receive the rights and privileges inherent with that station. However, liberals flip-flopped on this principle in 1973 during Roe v. Wade when abortion was made legal, not because a fetus was not yet a human, or viable, or a life (which are all commonly misunderstood to be some of the reasons for the legal decision today), but because someone the courts recognized as human was not granted the legal protections and Constitutionally-guaranteed rights of being a person.

Justice Blackmon wrote in the majority opinion that: “The [state of Texas] argue[s] that the fetus is a ‘person’ within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well-known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, [Jane Roe’s] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.” The Fourteenth Amendment being one of the legal steps taken to reverse such views as the Three-Fifths compromise.

To be a principled individual, you have to align yourself with a principle and abide by whatever applications it leads to, no matter how uncomfortable that is. If a human is a person then a human is a person, period. A person deserves all of the rights and privileges inherent with that station. We cannot subjectively withdraw the status of personhood from a class of humans whenever we feel like it; imagine the implications of that position.

Here’s another one: Liberals have called for sodomy laws to be struck down all over the United States since the 1960s under the proposal that whatever consenting adults do in their own bedrooms is none of the state’s, or anybody else’s, business. Liberals argue that their own private endeavors, which violate no one’s rights, are not subject to the whims, opinions, and convictions of others. I would agree. I may not agree with what you do, but that doesn’t mean that I have the right to force you to believe what I believe or act according to my convictions if you’re not harming me or violating my (or others’) rights by your actions. Such is the definition of liberty.

However…

Striking down the sodomy laws wasn’t good enough. For the past several decades there has been a militant campaign by liberals to demonize anyone who disagrees with them. Lawsuits have been initiated, media firestorms started, and opponents of homosexuality have been ostracized, boycotted, and even sued for not agreeing that homosexuality is the best thing ever.

No, wait a second. If the principle you wanted conservative heterosexuals to abide by was allowing you to be free to act even if it violated their comfort zone, as long as it wasn’t harming them, then why can’t you abide by the same thing? It is your constitutional right to engage in consenting homosexual activity in the privacy of your own home. It is your right to believe that heterosexuals are wrong if they believe you are wrong. But it is not your right to require others to compromise their own beliefs and convictions to align ideologically with you simply because you require it. Hate crimes are one thing – making the statement that homosexuality is morally wrong is constitutionally protected freedom of speech.

Here’s another one: discrimination is defined as “treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category (e.g., gender, race) to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.” In the 1960s liberals campaigned against racial discrimination, stating (in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words): “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.” The principle is that individuals should be judged by individual merit, not by any racial characteristics chosen for them by fate before they were born. I think that’s a great principle.

But…

How do you explain affirmative action? How do you explain policies which give preferential treatment to one race over another? Why are you okay with the principle when it favors you, but not if it doesn’t favor you? That’s the hallmark of a two-year-old who doesn’t want any other children to play with his toys, even if he isn’t playing with them at the time. This kind of position isn’t the hallmark of a mature, thoughtful, principled adult.

And that’s the problem with liberalism: it defines its positions solely based on the application which is favorable to itself, not based on ideological principles which can be universally applied to all of mankind. It is the worst kind of elitism: the kind that says “whatever laws you pass must favor me before others” but does so under the auspice of justice and fairness. To be a liberal is to surrender one’s principles.

Liberal meme

This is the first in a three-part series discussing political ideologies. If you think I’m unfairly discriminating against liberals, click here for what I have to say about conservatives.

I’m a Christian, and We Shouldn’t Be Fighting ISIS

I’m a Christian, and we shouldn’t be fighting ISIS

 

Seen this picture on your Facebook feed in recent days?

Women Slave Market 2

Or perhaps this one?

Women Slave Market

Both of these are examples of a women’s slave market run by ISIS. These have been flooding the internet recently and spurring on our feelings against the fundamentalist Muslim group. The only problem is… well, they’re fake. OK, not so much “fake” as they are “totally something else,” or in this case that something else is “Muslim theatre.” Specifically, it’s a type of theatre known as Taziya and these particular pictures are from the reenactment of the battle of Kerbala in 2011 (warning, clicking on that link involves some graphic pics). These pictures were not taken in Iraq, and they were not taken of ISIS.

Perhaps you’ve seen some other horrible pictures, like these of a massacre of 1700 Iraqi soldiers:

ISIS massacre 1

These are pictures showing a bunch of bodies after a summary execution. Horrible, isn’t it?

ISIS massacre 3

Only one problem (well, two really): First, these photos are staged. If you look closely at the hands tied behind the bodies in the first pic, you’ll notice many of them aren’t even tied; they’re simply together. Conduct this experiment for me: lay on your stomach on your floor and put your hands together in imitation of this picture. Now relax all of your muscles, as if you were dead. You’ll find your hands fall to your sides, and can only be held in that position if they are bound (which these are not) or if they’re consciously held in that position by a live person. These folks were not recently executed. You may reply that these pics are of people right before they were shot, but according to the source claims these are pics of the dead.

Second, you’ll notice some rather bad photoshopping when you look at the second photo. For example, you’ll see shirts blending together, and sun shining in the midst of places that are specifically in shadow. This is so bad that several groups (including Human Rights Watch and the Times of London) have publicly doubted the authenticity of the pictures, even going so far as to venture that they had been edited.

I could go on with more sets of pictures and stories, but I hope you get the picture by now. “Wait,” you say. “You’re telling me we’re being LIED TO??”

Yes. Yes, I am.

Look, it’s not like this hasn’t happened before. Meet Nurse Nayirah:

Nurse Nayirah

She testified before the non-governmental Congressional Human Rights Caucus on October 10, 1990. Her testimony was cited seven times by US Senators in speeches backing the use of force in Kuwait and President Bush publicly told Nayirah’s story at least ten times in the following weeks. Her testimony was pivotal in turning the American population’s sympathies towards invading Kuwait and Iraq.

She testified: “While I was there (in a specific hospital in Kuwait) I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators and left the children to die on the cold floor. [she began crying] It was horrifying.”

Representative John Porter remarked that he had never heard such “brutality and inhumanity and sadism.” Her testimony was initially corroborated by Amnesty International and numerous evacuees, but after the war it was discovered that her testimony was completely fabricated. Doctors in the hospital Nayirah specifically stated she had witnessed these events told investigators that no such incidents had happened. It was later discovered that she was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador and had been carefully coached in what to say, and how to say it, in coordination with other witnesses before the caucus.

Franz van Eemeren, in his book Strategic Maneuvering in Argumentative Discourse, discusses Nayirah’s testimony as an example of argumentum ad misericordiam, or a type of logical fallacy (specifically, appeal to pity) purposely designed to win support for an argument by exploiting her opponent’s feelings of pity or guilt. Van Eemeren states that this kind of argument “can be so drastic that rational argumentation becomes almost impossible.” These most recent pictures of ISIS fall into the same category. 294 Americans lost their lives as a result of our action in DESERT STORM. If you think Hussein was a bad dude and should have been knocked out of power just because, consider these two facts: first, we were the ones who essentially put him in power, and two, his invasion of Kuwait was a completely justifiable act of war.

It isn’t like we should be surprised, though. In fact, the American public has been lied to in order to get them behind almost every single war we’ve been involved in for the past 125 years. For example, most Americans believe we invaded Afghanistan to get Osama bin Ladin, but don’t know that the Taliban offered to give us bin Ladin multiple times in the years and months preceding 9/11, and several times between 9/11 and when we invaded Afghanistan, and even multiple times after we invaded… and we turned them down. Others say we invaded Afghanistan to remove the Taliban from power, which is interesting in light of the fact that we put them in power. 2,340 Americans (and counting) were killed in this action.

We were told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the years leading up to our invasion in 2003 when we had no proof that he did. Bush and Cheney explicitly told their cabinet that they needed to find a way to get rid of Saddam, even explicitly ordering investigators to find a way to tie Saddam into 9/11. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary (of WMDs, ties to 9/11, and every other accusation) we invaded with little objection from the American people. 4,487 Americans lost their lives in this engagement.

To get involved in Vietnam the US government sold us on the Gulf of Tonkin incident(s), two separate naval engagements with the North Vietnamese. The only problem is that one of these engagements was greatly exaggerated and the other never actually happened. 58,200 Americans died as a result of this war.

We launched our involvement in World War I as a result of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania when Germans sunk a civilian cruiser, killing 1,198 passengers and crew, including 128 Americans. This was widely billed as an unprovoked attack on civilians and in a manner contrary to international law, making the Germans evil, inhumane bastards who needed to die. What wasn’t reported was that the US & UK governments were using civilian cruisers as human shields (wait, only terrorists do that!) to ship war materiel to Britain, and that Germany had repeatedly warned them to stop or be fired upon, to no avail. In fact, the German embassy in the United States had even placed a newspaper advertisement warning Americans to not sail on the Lusitania and had publicly declared the area in which she was torpedoed to be an active war zone and warned ships not to enter it. However, the American public was spared these details, we went to war, and 117,465 Americans lost their lives.

It is almost certain we would not have had a Spanish-American war without the publicity following the USS Maine incident, wherein a US ship experienced an explosion and rapidly sunk in the Havana Harbor. The source of the explosion was so rapidly and completely pre-judged by the media that it became a classic historical example of “yellow journalism,” a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate, well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. The New York World and the New York Journal, for example, competed to see who could sensationalize the event more, at times even fabricating news when nothing had been reported. According to Ivan Musicant’s book Empire by Default: The Spanish-American War and the Dawn of the American Century, “the American public, already agitated over reported Spanish atrocities in Cuba, was driven to increased hysteria” (emphasis mine). An independent investigation concluded that the explosion was an accident (a conclusion confirmed in multiple subsequent investigations) but this was not reported to the public. 2,910 Americans lost their lives in this conflict.

So here we go again: same old song, different verse. Now, I don’t actually know what’s going on in Iraq any more than you do, but that’s kind of the point. Here’s what I feel pretty confident in assuming:

  1. ISIS is doing some pretty bad things.
  2. They aren’t as bad as what the media is reporting.
  3. There will always be a reason to engage in war in the Middle East if we look hard enough.
  4. This is now our fourth incident of military meddling in Iraq since the late 1970s (two invasions, one event of arming Saddam, and now a standoff bombing campaign). Each time, we’ve made the situation in Iraq much worse than before, and now we’re proposing that the very tool by which we’ve made the lives of Iraqi citizens demonstrably worse every time we’ve used it is the tool we should use to finally fix their problems once and for all.

Are we really that foolish? Have we let critical thinking slip that far in America? Do you know how I found out the first set of photos was fake? Hours of research went into this post, but to find out the truth about these pictures I simply clicked on the link that someone had shared talking about the ISIS slave woman market linking to www.jewsnews.co and looked at the very first comment. This told me what it was, and subsequent research confirmed it. For the second set, I did exactly one Google search. One. If it is that easy to validate this information, why aren’t we doing it? In fact, many of the pictures being shown around the internet seem more indicative of what has happened in Syria among groups that elements of the US government attempted to arm; I saw many of these types of pictures and videos during the height of the media coverage of the Syrian rebellion. Here’s John McCain posing with members of ISIS on a trip he took to support them in 2013:

McCain ISIS

After attempting to get the US to arm ISIS north of the Iraqi border, McCain publicly denounced Obama for not attacking ISIS south of the Iraqi border. What do you call someone who attempts to arm criminals then declares war on them for using said arms?

In fact, if you simply do a Google image search for “Syrian rebels beheading” you’ll find many pictures very similar to what you’re seeing which is supposedly happening in Iraq by ISIS. There’s no proof any of the pictures or videos (any that happen to be real, not staged, faked, or doctored) you’ve seen of alleged ISIS action in Iraq didn’t happen by ISIS in Syria, where Republican senators and congressmen were publicly supporting them.

Full disclosure: I’m an American. I’m a Christian. And I’m an officer in our armed forces (as if it had to be said, the opinions outlined here are mine and mine alone and do not reflect those of the federal government, DoD, or any department of the DoD). The fact that intelligent friends of mine would so easily jump on the bandwagon of military engagement without even taking the time to read what they’re sharing or doing a single Google search to corroborate it angers me. The fact that they would support putting my and my brothers-in-arms lives at risk for something so easily discerned as overblown, if not outright fraudulent, makes me doubt the sincerity of their support. The fact that my children could be potentially robbed of a father, and my wife robbed of a husband, for such a stupid reason as an out-of-context dated picture of the Muslim stage version of Hamlet… I don’t have words.

If this is you; if you have allows your opinions to be formed by something as simple as this without questioning it or doing any research on your own, if you have actively or tacitly encouraged that lives, no matter how horrid you think they are, be ended without seriously questioning what is going on, then shame on you. My life, and the lives of my brothers and sisters, are being laid on the line for this. Don’t you, the citizen, the voter, at least owe it to us to make sure that your support for armed intervention lies on something more solid than what I’ve shown here? Look, each one of us was willing to die for you – that’s why we put on the uniform. But don’t trample that gift; don’t throw away that sacrifice. All we ask of you, the voter, is that you practice discretion and discernment when you support military action. If it’s the right call, we’ll go. But if it isn’t, if we’re going to war over something that is so obviously exaggerated, if not outright fabricated… That is shameful. It is immoral.People will die. That shouldn’t be taken lightly.

You may have assumed that the government exhaustively researches any intel and that military engagement must be the right decision because they wouldn’t let us go in if it wasn’t. Such an assumption displays naught but ignorance and naiveté. Here’s an example: in 1999 much of the case for going to war with Iraq in 2003 was made based on the testimony of “Curveball,” an Iraqi defector and low-level engineer who attempted to enter Munich on a German visa. The only problem was that Curveball’s character (a convicted sex offender), motives (he was desperately trying to be admitted to the country), and intel (German intel officers described his information has “highly suspect”) were all in doubt. Despite this, his information (which later proved to be erroneous) was passed on to senior policymakers in the US without ever having been debriefed by American agents and without having his information corroborated and while the people passing the information on were saying it was “highly suspect.”

On 30 Jan 01 George W. Bush held his first national security meeting, and the top item on the list was the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. Bush told his staff: “Go find me a way to do this.” Dick Cheney began secretly meeting with oil executives days later and mapped the division of oil fields in Iraq, even going so far as to have the Pentagon put together a document titled “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.” This, despite Secretary of Defense Rumsfield publicly stating “Iraq is not a nuclear threat at the present time” (11 Feb 01) and Secretary of State Colin Powell stating that Saddam “has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction” (24 Feb 01). A CIA analyst known only as “Joe” told the Bush administration that aluminum tubes Iraq had bought could only be for nuclear centrifuges. The Department of Energy got hold of this information and thoroughly eviscerated it, demonstrating it to be untrue, but the Bush administration ignored the proof that this was not true and testifies before the public that this is reason to go to war. Later it was discovered that Karl Rove gathered White House aides together and explained that it would look bad if the American people knew that Bush had been advised that the aluminum tubes were probably harmless.  Curveball was granted asylum in Germany in Sep of 2001 and quits cooperating, causing British intel agency MI6 to say that “elements of (his) behavior strike us as typical of…fabricators.”

Five hours after the 9/11 attacks, a Rumsfield aide took notes at one of the meetings and wrote this: “Best info fast. Judge whether good enough to hit SH (Saddam Hussein) @ same time. Not only UBL (Usama bin Ladin).” The next day, when Bush was told that there was no evidence Hussein had anything to do with this, Bush ordered investigators to find “any shred” Saddam was involved. Dissatisfied with the intel reports he was receiving from intel agencies and the Department of Defense which indicated absolutely no evidence linking Iraq to 9/11, Vice President Cheney started having raw intelligence sent straight to his desk from the Pentagon “with little prior evaluation by intelligence professionals” (The New Yorker, 27 Oct 2003).

And that’s how we went to war in 2003.

You see what happened? Certain individuals in power prejudged this to be an outcome they wanted to pursue: an invasion of Iraq. They then manipulated, and at times all but fabricated, the evidence in order to sway public opinion to support this war. The same thing is going on now. Please wake up. Please, please, please wake up, and stop creating enemies, killing Americans and others, and making the situation worse. Question your assumptions and biases. Find out if any of this is true before you go sharing links and “raising awareness” on social media.

No matter what, I hope that no one ever treats the lives of your loved ones in such a cavalier manner, as many Americans have so casually treated mine.