All posts filed under: Opinion

Credit: Caleb George/Wikipedia

Vegas and Hollywood: the truth

On the evening of October 1, 2017, a man named Stephen Paddock used a gun to kill and injure spectators at a country music concert in Las Vegas. You probably know something about the story, but have you noticed all the comments and conspiracy theories that have spun off from the incident; the story about the story? It’s interesting because Mr Paddock is such a mystery. We don’t know why he shot those people except that he made a decision. His background story gives us no clues, so we are free to make our own judgments. That’s useful for some people. Related: 2017 Las Vegas shooting A few days later, on October 5, the New York Times published an article about Harvey Weinstein, one of the most powerful men in the Hollywood movie industry. He has been accused of gross misconduct with young women who were trying to make careers in movies and television. At this time, it is fair to say the accusations have been denied, and any accusations are only alleged; but that …

Edmonton Credit: Dave Sutherland/Flickr/Creative Commons

The terror attack on my street

On Saturday night I had trouble sleeping because of the flickering lights. Red meant police with no sirens, and no color was the helicopter searching for someone. I wasn’t concerned, but I stayed inside. I learned later that a man, possibly police, was digging in a garbage bin nearby, and shining a light on passing cars. The morning news said something about a driver who hit a police officer, and a small truck that flipped over, both close to my home. I drove to church on Sunday and saw a police car parked near our home. At church, I couldn’t get in because of a big celebration that filled the parking lot, so I went to another place. In the new church, the preacher kept telling us that God was going to do great things; we only had to trust. I didn’t disagree, but I didn’t see anything big. In the afternoon I went for a walk and many police officers were searching my neighbourhood. A news crew tried to get a man-in-the-street interview from …

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The crime of climate-change denial

North America had a solar eclipse on August 21, 2017, followed by a string of hurricanes and earthquakes in Mexico. Also, we have been warned that the world will end, or begin to end, on September 23, 2017. RELATED: Will the World End on Saturday, September 23, 2017? This is ammunition for people who believe in global warming, or climate change caused by all the carbon dioxide we are putting in the atmosphere. Some of them are saying that “denial”, disagreement with their ideas is criminal because it will lead to human suffering. We need to take action to prevent a disaster. They have an opposing side that believes climate change is caused by radiation pulses from the the sun, and volcanoes produce more carbon dioxide than humans do. RELATED: Sorry, But With Global Warming It’s The Sun, Stupid In Canada, the solar people advertised on buses that the sun causes climate change, and the atmosphere people convinced the government to start an investigation for criminal charges. The investigation was suspended after 14 months, but it …

Joel Osteen Credit: Faith Church.com/Flickr/Creative Commons

Joel Osteen and the Gimli Glider

On August 26, 2017, Hurricane Harvey landed in Texas. Houston was badly damaged, and one of the casualties was Lakewood Church and its pastor Joel Osteen. One of the biggest news stories from Hurricane Harvey was the pastor’s refusal to let victims of the storm shelter in the church building. RELATED: Joel Osteen tells Hurricane Harvey victims to not have ‘poor old me mentality’ This may sound strange, but I think I agree with Joel Osteen. If you are wondering, I live very far from Houston, in Canada, and no one asked me to write this. These are some of my reasons: Disaster management includes shelter that is designed for occupation. A huge church is not a dormitory and it may put people at risk. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and people moved into a covered stadium. It was unsanitary, the police lost control, and criminals moved in with guns. People had to be rescued by force from the shelter. Feel-good self-serving charity is always wrong. Victims need useful help; donors don’t need …

Charlottesville, Virginia protest August 2017 Credit: Evan Nesterak/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Riots in Charlottesville … and Darwinian Evolution?

We know about the demonstration in Charlottesville Virginia. Groups described as Right Wing gathered and demonstrated for their beliefs. The trigger was a threat to remove monuments to leaders of the Confederacy in the American Civil War, more than a century and a half ago. That war was fought with muskets and sabres and horses, and the good guys won. The demonstrations were ugly, with symbols and language that related to Hitler and the Nazis, and the Klu Klux Klan. Counter demonstrators gathered, including some dangerous violent people. It all ended when allegedly a car driven by a man with a history of mental illness rammed into a crowd of counter demonstrators, killing a woman and injuring 19 others. Two police officers also died when their helicopter crashed as they monitored the demonstrations. It was a terrible day. To understand what was happening, some researchers brought up Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Really. A survey was sent to members of the alt-right supporters asking for their opinions about human evolution. Related: Psychologists surveyed hundreds of alt-right …

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But We Can’t Afford That

A few days ago, a young woman who lives near me overdosed on Fentanyl. Her family drove her to a hospital and I think someone did CPR during the ride. She almost died, but the hospital staff were able to save her. Something bothered me about that story, and then I noticed that they drove her in the family car; they didn’t call an ambulance. I don’t know the family but I guess they can’t afford a five-hundred-dollar ambulance ride every time their addict overdoses. Transporting critically ill patients in a private vehicle is something we should never do; the ambulance crew might save a life before arriving at the hospital. But that ride has a cost, the whole system costs millions, with dispatchers, EMTs, vehicles and equipment, and sometimes helicopters. And life-threatening problems like drug addiction are becoming epidemics. And another story; I keep the tickets from McDonald’s coffee cups. Where I live, each cup has a peel-and-stick ticket and a detachable card. Seven tickets will buy one cup of coffee. I don’t need …

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Help, I can’t get promoted!

For part of my career I worked in a large university. I also trained to be a Christian minister but jobs were just not available in churches, so I taught in a university. I was promoted to be the coordinator of the department, like a vice-principal in a school for adults. This promotion was a surprise to me, and I was supposed to be interim; our Director was going to quit and someone had to hold things together until the new Director arrived. When he finally came, he needed people like me, so he extended my tenure as coordinator. That’s when my friends started hating me and senior managers started looking at me as a liability instead of an asset. They needed to save money and I was a cost, and my friends wanted my job. On the success side, I schemed and politicked my way into a large window office, in a place where most of us worked in cubicles, with no outside light. I am ashamed to tell you that now. God never …

Tolerating Muslims

Last Sunday, as I drove to church, I noticed police cars on the road ahead, with flashing lights. It looked like a big accident or a crime scene, but when I got to the site I saw people coming out of the Islamic Center. Muslims celebrate Eid, at the end of the fasting time of Ramadan, and the police were managing traffic and providing security. With crowds of people and busy parking lots at an Islamic center, the police were being careful. So, are we supposed to tolerate those people? They were mostly new immigrants and most wore ethnic costumes from the old country. And they certainly have values that are different from mine. So, should we tolerate them? No, certainly not. I am a Christian and I follow the example of someone who loved us so much He died for us. Barely tolerating my neighbor is wrong for me. What I give out must be in the higher levels of kindness, at least; God’s love is the language of Christians. This is not even …

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Raging Billboards

Someone put a religious message on a sign beside a freeway near Indianapolis. You can see what they wrote in the picture. The message is a summary of some things conservative Muslims believe about their founder. In the twenty-first century, these ideas don’t look good, but people are outraged that the sign is critical and hateful. There are some lessons for us in this story. You can’t win against the critics: Every human organization or movement has skeletons in the closet, historical things we wish would go away; and the Internet lets the critics dig out those facts and tell the world. In Canadian and Australian history, people who called themselves Christians forced native children into residential schools, away from their families. Today this is a national embarrassment. The Mormons have many things to explain. In the U.S. the Democratic Party was the political base for slavery, segregation, and ugly racism. They are trying to do better now. The message on the sign was skillfully written and researched. If the author is sued, he will …

Hitler in Finland Credit: Wikipedia/SAkuva/Creative Commons

Those Pictures of Hitler

A few days ago I met a man who saw Hitler. He told a small group, including me, that he was four years old, in Czechoslovakia, and he remembers shiny black cars and a man in the distance. He says the memory is still clear. If you follow news on the Internet, there are several photo albums and collections of pictures that show the ordinary life of Hitler. For some reason, this information seems to be in the news now. I don’t know why some of these pictures were kept hidden, and have emerged this year. One example of a photo collection is a recent article with a free discussion by the readers: 50  rare photos of Adolf Hitler. There are several other sources of these pictures of the “human” Hitler: Unseen photographs reveal the private life of Adolf Hitler Never before seen photos Adolf Hitler found in an album in mistress Eva’s bedroom These pictures of an ordinary man, doing ordinary things, have generated angry debate. In the discussions, some people openly speak out …

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Post Modernism: The Case for Rachel Dolezal

You might have heard of Rachel Dolezal, also known by her new legal name Nkechi Amare Diallo. She was once the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter in Spokane, Washington. Her parents, who apparently had been Pentecostal Missionaries in Africa, exposed her as a white woman with Czech, German, and Scandinavian ancestors, and she was forced to resign in disgrace. Today Rachel, or Nkechi, is labeled as a liar and a fraud and life is difficult for her. She is famous enough to have her own article in Wikipedia, and you can read more about her interesting life. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Dolezal Rachel is someone I have never met, and probably never will, but I know there are some lessons for us in her story, and Christians should be careful with their judgment. Rachel Dolezal is an expression of a philosophy called Post Modernism. Most of us live in Modernism, with the idea that people belong to groups, them and us, and the differences between groups never change. With that thinking, …

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UFOs and Christians

Do you remember movies like ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind? The concept of aliens from other planets has been entertaining us for years. And sometimes the belief in flying saucers with strange passengers, and alien abductions becomes like a religious cult with true believers. Also, life on other planets is a mainstream scientific theory. One of the hottest things in modern astronomy is the search for Earth like planets. When I was a boy, probably about eight years old, my big brother found a new hobby. He became a UFOlogist. He found a source of cheaply printed books with blurry pictures of weird things in the sky, and he let me read them. For a little boy, that was the best hobby ever. I still remember those stories about visitations and abductions, and things in the sky that the Air Force denied. Eventually our mother learned about this and she was not happy. The tension was broken one Sunday, in church. The pastor said something about UFOs, in his sermon, and I …

Church in Flesch, Wallis, Switzerland Credit: Oliver Regelmann/Flickr/Creative Commons

How Dangerous are Religious Radicals?

There is an interesting video of a religious conference where the speaker talks about radicals in his community. The religion, in this case, is moderate Islam. If you believe all the people who raised their hands in the video, moderate Muslims are actually dangerous radicals. Before you panic; the people in the room self selected, they were so devout in their religion that they attended a conference, and they easily made extreme statements. They also were under peer pressure to raise their hands when the questions were asked. And they were young people at the age of idealism. Life will look very different in twenty years, with a family, a mortgage, and a spreading waistline, and maybe a receding hairline. The people in the audience are probably not very scary, but the speaker has an interesting message. For him, all moderate Muslims must be extreme radicals who want to impose Sharia law on the world, including stoning of women who commit adultery, and permission for a man to have several wives. I am sure that …

Crosses overlooking Matera, Italy. Credit: Hugh Bell/Flickr/Creative Commons

Religion Doesn’t Work Anymore

In 2015, Muslim pilgrims in Mecca were caught in a human stampede and thousands were killed. The Hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca, is a requirement for all Muslims. A devout Muslim should do the Hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once. Now, squeezing millions into a small place in the desert, for a few days, and keeping things traditional, is becoming impossible. When things go wrong with the Hajj, thousands die in the stampedes and governments almost go to war. Now the lunar cycle for setting the date has come to the hot desert summer, and it will stay on the summer for a decade. Management of the Hajj has become a crisis. Believers must go, but it’s so hard. I remember when I was in High School, my church told me to “win my friends for Christ.” I looked at my school friends and I didn’t see any way to make that happen. At church we had music with a piano and organ, and a strict Sunday schedule, and so much more. We had a …

Protestors Credit: washingtonydc/Flickr/Creative Commons

We Need More Sin in 2017?

We have a lot of complaining in the world. I wanted to give you a link to someone whining about something on video, but I can’t. This is a Christian blog and they all swear like angry sailors. Maybe try words like “millennial” or “Trump” or “Brexit” or “safe space” or “immigration” with a search engine. I’m sure you get the picture. You might see a video of a violently angry complainer, or maybe someone with an equally angry response. And I warned you about the swearing. I don’t remember people acting like this ten years ago; the world has changed. Now a democratic election is close to a civil war and people seem to hate their neighbors who vote for the other side. Arguments are loud and emotional and we win if we drown out the other side, or maybe insult them into silent shame, or steal their election signs. It’s a cage match between the Deplorables and the Snowflakes. Here’s a problem; we don’t have enough sin. We have loud emotional arguments, on …

Seshadripuram, India Credit: P.L. Tandon/Flickr/Creative Commons

Are you a Bigoted Conservative Fundamentalist Right-Wing Christian?

Christians need to be careful these days. People fight and bicker about politics and Christians are usually assigned to one side in the wars. Democracy includes the right to choose, and you can have any political view that you want, and you can change your mind any time, but be warned; there is a grievance industry with a script that needs bad guys, just like an old cowboy movie. Bigoted, conservative, fundamentalist, right-wing Christians are about as common as unicorns, in my experience, but that might disappoint some grievance specialists. The script needs villains, like cowboys with black hats and bad attitudes. Recently, in my city, a man-made a noose with a piece of rope and said “This is for you” to two Muslims and then he then sang the national anthem. This was one man, one time, and I guess he has mental problems. The Chief of Police denounced this offensive intolerance on the front page of the news paper saying “We have zero tolerance for hate.”  I respect that. He defused the situation …

What do you feel about the death penalty? Credit: Carlos Y./Flickr/Creative Commons

Should Christians support the death penalty? — A response

The death penalty is a controversial subject for Christians. Believers fall on both sides of the issue. Some believe the death penalty should be part of the criminal code and others do not. In this article, I want to respond to Katherin Dwyer’s article entitled Should Christians support the death penalty? posted on the Gospel Herald website. In her article, she explains why as a Christian and conservative she opposes the death penalty. Katherine is a Charles Koch Institute Communications Fellow with Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty. Her article was in part sparked by the recent US presidential election, where three states also held referendum votes on the death penalty. Katherine takes a reasoned approach on her opposition to the death penalty and I believe she made some valid points. But I don’t agree with all her conclusions and simply want to discuss why I believe the death penalty is still a legitimate form of justice, even today. Eye for an eye The first thing Katherine delves in to is the “eye for eye” …

Sameba (Trinity) church in Tbillsi, Georgia Credit: Berdo Maghularia/Flickr/Creative Commons

One More Way to Kill a Church

This is my fourth time to write about how to kill a church, and I think this is enough; I don’t want to get morbid. But it is simply true that success or failure depends on us. God hasn’t moved, and “Trust and obey” is still the route to great things. The world around us will never hold us back. I once heard about a new church in my city that met in a rented building downtown. Successful churches are usually in the suburbs, with Christian families and free parking, so I had to check this place out. I am still surprised; on a Sunday morning I walked into a huge auditorium filled with young adults, and they were all talking at once. Loud and lively conversations were everywhere. I didn’t have any young friends to chat with, so I sat down and waited for the service to start. As I waited, a young woman came and sat beside me, with her head turned to a conversation. I knew what was coming and I waited …

A church in Egge, Norway. Credit: Gert Andreas Barring/Flickr/Creative Commons

How to Kill a Church – Part 2

One man in Japan made himself famous for a few days in October. He is probably the most surprised, but a comedian named Piko Taro made a video and millions of people watched it. He is a viral one-hit wonder. There is one thing he did not do; he did not wreck the conversation. Mr Taro did some excellent teaching, even if we learned nothing. The conversation was phatic, the teacher opened the channel of communication and maintained it. You probably watched right to the end. Everything was presented well, from the lighting and camera focus, to his costume and smile, and his dance and song, and his enunciation, and more. Also, I am sure someone did some preparation. The only thing missing is a message. I am sure Mr Taro could have added an important message to his presentation, and the world would have listened. He could have convinced us of something, or asked for money. The video is now filled with other people’s promotions and additions. They will be selfish if he isn’t. …

Church in Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland Credit: Glen Forde/Flickr/Creative Commons

How to Kill a Church, Part 1

In the modern world, we have a culture that is dying. Follow any election news and you know what I mean. Prosperous and democratic societies are severally stressed these days. If you follow political and social commentary, you know, we listen to intelligent comments from comedians. One comedian, Norm MacDonald, tried to get serious with another comedian who made fun of Christians. But really, we don’t get intelligent comments from comedians, we get entertainment. Sometimes the comedy is intelligent, but it’s only jokes to make us laugh. Many comedians are very good at what they do, but we should be concerned about what they don’t do. If there is a problem, it’s with us. There seems to be no interest in thinking, teaching, and learning to make things better. Someone told me recently; we have this amazing Internet so we can talk to anyone in the world, about anything, and solve any problem, but we send each other funny pictures of cats behaving badly. Entertainment rules; comedians sell us what we want to buy, and …

London, England Credit: Nick Kenrick/Flickr/Creative Commons

Predict the Future with Heinrich’s Triangle

Is Christianity dying? In the future, will the religion of Jesus even exist? Well, yes and no. One critical writer did an excellent job of explaining why Christianity is dying in the USA. Many years ago I led a church planting effort in a small town. Every Sunday morning I would get up early, walk to the bus depot, and ride about 100 miles to a small town. Our lowest attendance was two other people, and two cats. That happened many times, but eventually the group grew until a resident pastor could move in. But I am sorry to say, after a few years, in that very small town, the decision was made to close the church down. Imagine; all that effort for nothing! Herbert William Heinrich is one of the great pioneers of workplace safety, and many of his ideas were expressed with number ratios. He could predict your future with the numbers in his triangle ratio 300-29-1. Mr Heinrich was concerned about your chances of avoiding injury or death in the near future, …

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People Who Pet Dolphins

Recently, Oscar winning actress Brie Larson apologized. In 2004, when she was 14, she petted a dolphin. Now she is building a successful career in Hollywood, and she has tried very hard to clear herself of any controversy. In this case, controversy is animal cruelty. Brie Larson is a dolphin petter. More correctly, she was a petter, as a child. Now she has apologized. Movie stars with fabulous careers have corporate teams of managers, publicists, and stylists; and a public apology indicates some alarm. This dolphin petting accusation seems to be a serious threat to someone. We live in interesting times. Now, the eternal and universal moral principles that underpin everything in society seem to last about a week. Tourists used to enjoy petting dolphins, and I remember when we were not offended by oil in pipelines, and when good electricity did not always come from windmills. A few days ago someone asked me to explain the words behind the acronym LGBT. We were having a conversation about transgender access to public washrooms. It’s hard …

Mormons, Toyota, and God

Mormons: Mormons, in the heartland in Utah have an interesting problem. Young men are leaving the church in large numbers, but many young women are staying. Traditionally, Mormons marry young, and have large families. They have a belief that childbirth brings a soul from the realm of the unborn into salvation; so being born is like being born again. You can see how young and unmarried men cause a problem when they leave. Why is this happening? My best guess is the leavers follow the reasoning of all young men; they do it because they can. When I was young, Christians in my church were often called fundamentalists, and they liked the name. I once passed a line outside a movie theater, and I’m sure I saw my aunt. We did not make eye contact and I have kept her secret all these years. Christians were not supposed to go to movies, in those days. Another time, in a church library, I found a book with a chapter “Should Christians go Bowling?” I forget the …

Oakland Protest Photo: Jaegar Moore/Flickr/Creative Commons

White Privilege Christians

I was offended recently by a newspaper article from a local feminist Rosemary Westwood. She talked about white Christians like me and our privilege, and how we need to adjust our thinking, as we are “forced to listen.” White Christian culture is declining and losing influence, and people are resentful as they lose their position. There is a popular idea that Christianity is the religion of white privilege, and it will die, as the surrounding support system erodes and gives way to something new. A news video shows a race riot on Milwaukee with people stopping traffic and “beating all the white people.” I am offended but Rosemary Westwood is correct. I’m offended because most of the people I know are not privileged, we have to work for everything, and we always settle for less. I think that makes us working class, and most people do not want to be us. We have to make our own luck and build our own success, and then we have to pay our taxes, and the mortgage. All …

Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio De Janerio Photo: Artyominc/Wikipedia

Bad Idea: Keep the Jews off the Bus

A story has recently come from the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Lebanese participants blocked Israeli Jews from getting on a bus. Lebanese athletes were already on the bus and they refused to share. The Lebanese team in these Olympic games will always be remembered as the people who kept the Jews off the bus, and that will overshadow anything else they do. It’s all about a brief conversation at the door of a bus. This is one of those issues that will never go away. In our times, stories are recorded and published, and the interesting ones stay with us forever. Nothing can be done in a corner anymore because informal news comes from cameras in cell phones, and it travels quickly to the whole world, through venues like Twitter and You Tube. For official journalism, this incident happened at the Olympics, while the whole world was watching. The popular saying is ”all eyes are on Brazil.” The Olympics always attract large numbers of news reporters who desperately need something to write about. …

Photo: BostonBill/Flickr/Creative Commons

No, You Cannot Have a Billion Dollars

I am sure that you are here for a reason. Every human being has a purpose attached to their existence, and feeding ourselves is not the meaning of life. Building important things means more than becoming the richest person in the cemetery. Recently I had to wait in a parking lot for someone, while a thunderstorm poured water on everything. I was safe and dry in my truck, but I got bored so I drove over to a huge home improvement center and went inside until the rain stopped. Window shopping for paint, and power tools, and patio furniture distracted me for a while, and just when that got old, a friend walked around a corner and said hello. My friend goes to the church I used to attend, until I moved, and we talked for a while. One thing was clear, my friend wasn’t hiding from the rain; he was working in the mega home improvement store. The economy is in a recession, where I live, and my friend found a low paying retail …

Why do some Christians love to hate? Photo: Bart/Flickr/Creative Commons

Christians Who Hate

Wikipedia has a list of “List of terrorist incidents, January–June 2016” and it is a long list for just six months, with everything from mob violence to airport bombings. Human beings are violent and unhappy. When I check the news, someone else has died in some terrorist attack, somewhere in the world. I hope we never get immune to the fact that most killers, in these news stories, hate and kill in the name of God. The good news for Christians is that most religious violence has come from other religions; until now. So can Christians hate? Can we hate people, and not just bad things? Would the death of anyone make your life better? I know that the mean and miserable people in my life are growing older; but every time one of them dies, my life does not get better. There is no improvement down that road. My happiness is tied to God, not to them. So is there any possibility of Christian-inspired violence in the world? Yes. I have never met someone …

The changing face of pornography

The Economy of Pornography

When I was six, some curious boys explored an empty house that was being demolished, and I went with them. Inside, one of the older boys called us to see a mail order catalogue that he found. I remember we sat on the floor and a big boy showed us pictures of women in their underwear. I didn’t understand, but I knew we were bad boys and those were dirty pictures. I still haven’t told my parents. The world has changed since then. Now three things are true; 1) products are mass produced and mass consumed 2) sex sells everything and 3) any business that succeeds evolves and expands rapidly. 1) Success is Consumption: Mass production and consumption dominate our economy, and all we need is money. For example, people everywhere eat fast food, made with mass produced sugar, salt, starch, fat, and additives. It’s bad for us, and it’s everywhere. We are struggling to manage this new set of rules. Pornography is one of the most overproduced commodities in the world, and people consume …

Photo: John Curley/Flickr/Creative Commons

Free Dating Advice, and that MGTOW thing

I learned a new word, new for me, “MGTOW.” It’s pronounced migtow, and it means Men Going Their Own Way. “M.G.T.O.W – Men Going Their Own Way is a statement of self-ownership, where the modern man preserves and protects his own sovereignty above all else. It is the manifestation of one word:“No”. Ejecting silly preconceptions and cultural definitions of what a “man” is. Looking to no one else for social cues. Refusing to bow, serve and kneel for the opportunity to be treated like a disposable utility. And, living according to his own best interests in a world which would rather he didn’t.“ Note that most MGTOW Internet sites include strong language; swearing, and crude statements about women. MGTOW is an emerging movement that could change society like feminism before it. We should not underestimate this new force. Also note, Christians like Paul rejected the corrupt society around them and went another way; and claimed their rights: “Am I not a free man? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord? And …

Donald Trump Photo: Michael Hogan/Flickr/Creative Commons

Trump, Harper, Bush, Jesus

A man stood outside a meeting room and heard the speaker say “47” followed by loud laughter from the audience. This laughter was repeated, with different numbers. The man asked what was happening, and he was told “This is a joke club. We know all the jokes, and each reference number prompts us to laugh at one of our jokes.” The man stepped into the room and shouted “four hundred and seventy-eight.” The room went silent, and then someone giggled. The giggling changed to loud laughter from everyone, and soon people were crying and falling out of their chairs, from laughter. The man was confused, and someone said, “You just told a joke we’ve never heard before.” Evoking means we wave the flag, shout out the number, and trust that the audience knows the back story. It’s a form of cheerleading. Rick Mercer is a famous commentator in Canada, and he has the fluency, articulation, and gift of the gab of a true Newfoundlander. Even when I disagree with him, I admire his skill. But …

Rwanda refugee camp Photo: Elisa Finocchiaro/Flickr/Creative Commons

Lies and Refugees

World news everywhere is about refugees and migrants. Millions of people are leaving their homes and travelling to better places. In France the “Jungle” camp for migrants who want to break into Britain is being moved, with tear gas and rock throwing. Police in Macedonia are keeping migrants out, with tear gas and rubber bullets. Donald Trump wants to build a wall on the Mexican border, where organized crime cartels smuggle people, and kill the surplus. And the list goes on. I live in Canada where the government promised, in October 2015, to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by Christmas. They achieved the number by March of 2016. Something is missing in all these stories. Some clues about the missing story are the delay in bringing refugees to Canada, and the strange story about refugees from Iraq, living in Finland, returning home by the thousands, and kissing the ground of Iraq when they get off the plane. Someone lied. I live in a wealthy place that is now in a severe recession; where the government …

Praying during Ukraine revolution in 2014 Photo: Steve Evans/Flickr/Creative Commons

Talking to your imaginary friend; praying to God

Do you remember when people were courteous? That was before the Internet. Now we have blogs and mean trolls who express hatred that could get them arrested, or assaulted, in a public place. Hatred of Christians is one popular theme. If you wait long enough, everyone gets hated by someone on the Internet, and I don’t think we are special victims. But the experience is painful for a Christian. “Yesterday lunchtime I walked past a street preacher who was yelling through a bullhorn that there can be no morality without an imaginary friend. I felt it to be my moral responsibility to tell him that not only was he wrong, but that he is also a complete idiot.” Other comments are like: Have you had a conversation with your invisible friend lately? How is Jesus different from a pink unicorn? Children have imaginary friends, the rest of us have grown up. If one person believes in something invisible, that is insane; if many people believe together, it’s religion. There is more, and worse, but I …

The waiting harvest. Photo: Coloneljohnbritt/Flickr/Creative Commons

The silent crisis: Mormons, Muslims, and the rest of us

I have been to church many times, and I know one topic we don’t want to talk about. I can’t ever remember a sermon on the people who are dropping out. And they do drop out, including some people who are very close to me. The old people called it “not living for the Lord.” People are dropping out of most religions, including Mormonism, Islam and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian churches. This is becoming the one big issue, the silent crisis among Mormons. Some people drop out and make dramatic statements, but most claim to belong and don’t bother to practice. Passive and agnostic dropouts number in the millions, and they don’t get persecuted. In any religion, people who convert to something else stand out and can pay a high price. A recent video recording shows teenage Muslims in Germany saying nasty things about German people. They are offensive little brats, but in their defense, when I was in high school we said lots of dumb things, and I’m so glad no one recorded …

Mural: Dig out of the drug hole. Photo: photographymontreal/Flickr/Creative Commons

The Addiction Epidemic

I know a young man who turned out right. He has a wife and two children, a career, and a good attitude. When he was a troubled teen, a man in his church met with him for breakfast every second Saturday, and that simple kindness helped him to get focused, and stay away from trouble. A news article from Australia shows how bad it can get. An entire generation is being damaged by meth cooked in local labs. I have traveled through Montana, where large billboards warn about the dangers of meth, and many towns have lost their young people. Drug impairment is an important topic in defensive driving courses. Addiction is cheap, and addicts are profoundly sick. When I worked in a college, my favorite program coordinator was a recovering addict. One day, in a business meeting, she looked straight at me and said “I will be dead by Christmas.” I gave her my well-meaning Christian denial and I was sure God and the doctors would save her, but a few weeks later I …

Murals in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photo: Daniel Kulinski/Flickr/Creative Commons

Islam in Ireland: the Great British Debate

In mid December of this year a court trial started in Britain. The leader of a Muslim community in Belfast Northern Ireland has registered a complaint against Rev McConnell, a Pentecostal minister who made negative comments about Islam in a sermon. Outside of the courtroom, the issue has created a large public debate in Britain. It is not clear that the court trial will reach a conclusion, but the court of public opinion has already decided. The public debate has some interesting trends: 1. Rev McConnell has already won the publicity battle. He might emerge as a victor with a verdict of innocent, or a martyr from a guilty verdict. In the court of public opinion, his supporters can claim both; he is persecuted by ungrateful and intolerant immigrants, and he is now a hero. One unusual spin off is the benefit to Irish Republican nationalists. Belfast, in northern Ireland is part of Great Britain, and Irish nationalists want it in the Republic. Some will say, this would never happen in the Irish Republic, and …