Robert Jeffress, Trump, and North Korea: Does Romans 13 Apply?

Back before the nominations, I wrote a post about how I found a lot of Christian support of Donald Trump to be curious, and one name I mentioned was Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas.  I’ve heard him preach a few times and I do not doubt his commitment to the gospel, but he’s also known to create controversy with his comments on politics.  Recently, he made the news again when he stated in an interview with The Washington Post that he supported Trump’s strong remarks against North Korea because God has given Trump the authority to “take out” Kim Jong Un.  He cited Romans 13 as his basis and said that the president, as part of the government, should not seek to follow the Sermon on the Mount in his role.  His comments were met with widespread criticism from the media as well as other Christians who accused of him of warmongering and for using the Bible to justify violence.

I’ll mostly leave aside the question about what to do about North Korea.  As a Korean, I know full well that North Korea has an evil government that might be the most backward on the planet, but what to do with them is not a question I’ll seek to answer here.  Instead, I’ll narrow my focus to Jeffress’ use of Romans 13.  He actually has a point, but the application of Romans 13 to this situation is a bit murky, and he could have worded what he said more carefully.

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Manufacturing Controversy Once Again: The Media’s Pathetic Handling of John McEnroe and Serena Williams

Recently, former tennis great John McEnroe said something hateful, sexist, and mean about Serena Williams.  Or at least that’s what most of the news and sports outlets want to say, such as ESPN, SB Nation, BBC News, Salon, Deadspin, CNN, The Huffingpost, and… well, virtually everyone.  Headlines burst forth that McEnroe claimed that Serena would only rank about #700 in the men’s tour.  When Serena responded on Twitter by telling him to not make statements that aren’t “factually based” and to respect her and her privacy, the media and people on social media cheered.  She put McEnroe “in his place.”  She “owned” him.  She had a “perfect” response.

Too bad all of this is an example of childish over-sensitivity, delusion, terrible logic, and pitiful reading comprehension from most people.  It’s also an example of the media taking words out of context to manufacture a controversy to get gullible people riled up.  McEnroe was not only right, he was also merely answering a question.  Look at his words in context:

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Police Shootings, Emotional Accusations, and the Standard of Beyond Reasonable Doubt

Recently, former police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter after he shot and killed Philando Castille on a routine traffic stop.  Castille was armed, but reportedly told Yanez that he was licensed to carry.  Yanez still ended up shooting him when he believed that Castille reached for his gun as opposed to his wallet.  It was yet another high profile shooting of a black man by police (though this time by a Hispanic and not white officer), and once again the public (particularly the black community) was outraged when the officer was acquitted of all charges.  Cries of racism, systemic racism, and injustice filled social media again.

Much of this reaction is understandable.  While critics might argue, somewhat correctly, that the way the media chooses to cover these events gives off the impression that cops just go around shooting black people for no reason when that statistically isn’t supported, it’s still disturbing how some of these incidents go down.  Certainly, the Castille shooting looks very fishy at first glance, and nobody wants to see such stories whether they are rare or not.  Nonetheless, people need to be better at calmly and rationally evaluating these incidents without jumping to emotional conclusions, and they need to ask themselves this simple question: Was there enough evidence to criminally convict?  If not, no matter how we feel, an acquittal is the right decision for the jury to make.  Pointing this out is not racist, insensitive, or apathetic to injustice; it’s simply an acknowledgement of the facts as well as the limitations of our human courts.

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Wonder Woman Review: DC Has a Hit

The DCEU has made a ton of money, but the critical reviews have not been kind.  While some of the criticisms struck me as illegitimate, as I noted in my BvS review, a lot of them were spot on.  Suicide Squad was straight garbage, while Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman both had some great moments surrounded by lackluster writing and pacing.  However, with Wonder Woman drawing rave reviews and outperforming box office expectations, it’s possible DC might be finding its footing in its future battles against Marvel.

And Wonder Woman deserves it.  It’s an entertaining origins story with humor, grit, and likeable characters, and Gal Gadot hits it out of the park with her portrayal of the titular character.  Gadot was the breakout star in BvS, and her own movie did nothing to take away from that.

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Tribalism Over Wisdom: Health Care Reform Just Because

Honestly, I don’t really like talking about politics, especially when the NBA playoffs are going on, but I think the new health care bill that just passed the House is worth discussing because it highlights so many things that are wrong with politics.  The American Health Care Act barely passed the House and will await the decision of the Senate, and it is, predictably, quite controversial.

I’m not going to discuss all the details of the bill and its differences with the ACA.  One reason is because, quite frankly, my understanding of healthcare does not go much deeper than surface level.  I’ve tried to do some reading on the bill, but I’m not going to sit here and pretend to be a policy expert on it.  Secondly, my aim is not even to defend or criticize the details of the bill over and against that of the ACA, though some details will arise.  My main purpose is to talk about the danger of political expediency over wisdom and the climate of political tribalism, a climate that makes it difficult to have honest, civil, and intelligent dialogue.

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The Distinction Between Government Compulsion and Christian Duty

Recently, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against the Christian florist who refused to sell flowers to a gay wedding.  I skimmed over their decision, and it contained many of the same tired assertions that have yet to receive any sort of extended logical argument: The conflation of desire and behavior, of race and sexual orientation, and of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s and now.  These are all dubious presumptions and there are good arguments against them, but I won’t rehash them here.  Instead, I will address a common argument which states that Christians who are fighting for religious liberty in these cases are being hypocritical because they should be nice, “nondiscriminatory,” “loving,” “like Jesus,” or whatever.  This same argument is used when Christians oppose the expansion of government programs or actions such as welfare, the minimum wage, the Affordable Care Act, amnesty for illegal immigrants, etc.  Both so-called “progressive” Christians and non-Christians (amusingly enough) often yell that such Christians are disobeying the Bible’s teachings about taking care of the poor.

While common, these arguments are very confused, and unsurprisingly, their proponents betray their extreme lack of knowledge of Scripture when they presume to cite it.  They also betray an inability to make clear distinctions and argue logically and instead rely on emotional rhetoric and catchphrases that ultimately argue nothing.  In reality, there is a distinction between believing that a Christian has a duty through Scripture and that a Christian (or anyone) should be compelled to do that same thing by the government.

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Reviewing Donald Trump’s First Month and How Christians Can Respond

I was busy in January and didn’t pay much attention to Trump’s first couple of weeks, but I’m getting slightly caught up (only slightly), and boy, isn’t this a circus.  It seems like if he were to cough in a certain way, people would freak out and call him an evil man while his defenders would come out and say that this cough is a tough cough that will be good for America.  It is a fascinating, if not disheartening, environment.

So how has Trump done so far?  On the one hand, he’s only been in office for less than a month, and I’m sure he’s doing a lot of learning on the job that everyone goes through when they tackle a new occupation (most of which aren’t nearly as difficult as the presidency).  On the other hand, he’s actually already done quite a few things, and it is absolutely fair to critique his actions and words.  The early returns here are not terribly encouraging, as Trump and his team are acting in the sort of ham-handed, egotistical, and abrasive way that I worried they might if he won.  I’ve said time and again that he’s not a true conservative, but unfortunately, he is the public representative of conservatives, and at this rate he is going to do some long-term damage that will be difficult to rectify.  I’m not a big fan of protests that consists of mindless chanting and shouting down people from talking, so I feel no need to defend the maturity of the recent protests at various town hall meetings; at the same time, it’s not like I feel that sorry for the politicians either, and these protests are an indication that many people, some of who were Trump voters, are already pretty ticked off at Trump and the Republican Party.

Trump supporters may object that he has a lot of haters who never intended to give him a chance: Fake-outrage liberals, the mainstream media, bandwagonning celebrities, etc.  They will say these groups have often exaggerated, mischaracterized, and even lied about Trump’s words and actions.  I will grant that much of this is true; such people clearly have an ax to grind and rarely scrutinized Obama in the same manner, and their commitment to thought-policing is hitting new levels of immaturity and stupidity.  However, even so, that doesn’t mean everything that they have said isn’t true.  It can still be true that Trump is making mistakes that can really submarine the effectiveness of his presidency (and make it likely that there will be a massive backlash against the Republican Party) if he doesn’t get certain things under control.

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“Alternative Facts,” “Fake News,” and the Rhetoric of the Emotional and Close-minded

I expected Donald Trump’s presidency to be… eventful, and in his short time in office, this has proven true.  I was pretty swamped with things the past couple of weeks, but it was impossible not to notice the social media meltdowns over Trump’s executive orders and policy decisions concerning the wall, the refugee crisis, and global warming.  My Facebook feed exploded this past week with all sorts of hashtags, drawings, pictures, and articles which shouted particular positions especially on the so called “Muslim ban.”  Trying to find nuanced and sober analysis within that sea of nonsense was close to impossible.

In this jolly environment, accusations of “fake news” and “alternative facts” are getting thrown around to go along with personal attacks that the opposing side is full of idiots and/or immoral monsters.  Basically, if someone cites or links an article that disputes one’s position, a quick way to dismiss that article or point is to mock it as “fake news” or an “alternative fact.”  It is this rhetoric that I want to address right now more than specific issues because such memes threaten to make an already toxic political environment even worse.  Essentially, while we should of course not want news out there that says straight up falsehoods, this kind of rhetoric fails to realize that evidence selection is a very important part of any discussion, and it is the foolish, the immature, and the close-minded who refuse to consider facts that may not fit their preferred narrative.

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Review of Sherlock S4: Interesting Characters Surrounded by Plot Holes

SPOILERS AHEAD

The fourth season of Sherlock ended this past Sunday, marking the 10th and potentially last episode of the series if they so choose not to make more (three seasons, three episodes each, plus one special).  It was good to see Sherlock, Watson, and Mycroft again after a couple of years, and this season introduced a pretty interesting character.  Still, the show continued to struggle to write sensible material that was actually smart and reasonable and instead gave plotlines that were borderline ridiculous and full of holes.

In many ways, this is an understandable struggle because the writers and creators have to try to portray super-geniuses with outlandish and unrealistic intellectual powers solving incredible problems and living life, while they are… well, not super-geniuses like that (who is?).  Because of this, some amount of leeway should be given for “deductions” that really cannot be made.  After all, we have to believe the premise that Sherlock, Mycroft, and maybe some others possess fantastic deductive abilities by observing things no other human can.  However, there is a limit to this; when they start solving and predicting things that are positively absurd (while at the same time missing obvious things that they should easily see), it comes off as a lazy writing.  Throw in massive plot holes and storylines that seemingly have nothing to do with solving cases, and you have some legitimate gripes that the show has lost its way a bit.  Yes, I know Moffat and Gattis have repeatedly tried to say that it’s not a detective show but a drama about a detective, but that still kinda makes it a detective show, and it doesn’t excuse plot contrivances.

A good example of this failure is from last season.  Charles Augustus Magnussen was far from a good villain; we were supposed to believe that he was just as smart as Sherlock and outwitted him at the end before Sherlock blew his brains out.  However, he ended up giving the game away by telling Watson and Sherlock he had no hard proof for his blackmails (even bragging that he can just print stuff anyway in the news) but relied on his “mind palace” to recall incriminating facts, a concession that made his whole enterprise a joke and Sherlock’s struggle nonsensical.  All Sherlock had to do was tell Mycroft or Magnussen’s enemies and someone else would have shot him.  Not to mention the fact that it is somewhat deceptive to show Magnussen actually walking down to the Appledore vaults that turned out to not exist.

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Common Pro-Choice Arguments That Wildly Miss the Point

The Republicans in Congress are seemingly trying to remove federal funds from Planned Parenthood, which is reigniting arguing and anger over the abortion issue.  Once again, we’re hearing the nonsense 3% statistic being thrown around to go along with a host of other common arguments to defend abortion and Planned Parenthood.  Much of these arguments miss the central point of this debate, being red herrings that distract from the key issue: Do we have good reason to believe that the baby is or is not a human life?  Does the mother have the “right” to end that life for any reason of her choosing?  Even if we aren’t sure, is the chance that the baby is human great enough to make elective abortion morally wrong?  It is frankly frustrating how many people, unfortunately including many confused Christians, use the following arguments when they are all simply irrelevant.

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