Note to Shaun King and Others Who Politicize Tragedy: Kindly Shut Up

Most people have read about the tragic shooting that occurred in Las Vegas recently, where a 64 year old man, Steve Paddock, open fired from his hotel room upstairs down at a crowd during a country music concert.  Fifty-nine people are reported dead with over 500 wounded.  It was the worse mass shooting in modern American history, and everyone is reeling and trying to find answers.  It is no doubt an evil event that causes both sadness and anger.

Of course, whenever tragedy like this strikes, it doesn’t take long for people to politicize it in order to further their own preferred narrative in a way that is both transparent and idiotic.  I get that people are angry and grieving and trying to look for ways to make sense of this, but some people are reaching far into the deep crevices of their own rear ends to find whatever they can to shout at their political enemies.  It is both intellectually dishonest and pretty insensitive to the actual tragedy.

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Useless Kneeling: A Pompous President With a Big Mouth and a Reactionary People Full of Feelings

Last weekend, we were treated to a bunch of kneeling by NFL players during the national anthem.  The Steelers didn’t even come out on the field because they could not decide what to do as a team.  Unsurprisingly, this caused a lot of division (what else is new these days?); stadiums across the country booed the players, and social media exploded with people denouncing the players as unpatriotic or defending them as brave people taking a stand (figuratively speaking).  For people who just want to watch sports without having people trying to shove their political ideologies down their throat, the whole thing was only worthy of eye-rolling and annoyance.

As you may remember, the kneeling started with former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who, despite having a few productive years for the 49ers, only became a household name because of his kneeling stunt.  He said he was protesting systemic racism among police against blacks.  While he got a lot of publicity, there really was no movement started, so although the media kept the narrative alive because they claimed he was blacklisted by the NFL due to this, most of the country didn’t care that much.  Why?  Because he’s just a guy playing with a ball (and he’s not even that good anymore), and given his interviews, he’s also not particularly great at forming coherent arguments.

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“Do You Have Good Reason to be Angry?” If Not, Your Emotions Don’t Matter That Much

A while ago, I wrote a blog post giving a nuanced look at an unfortunate decision by some of the professors of our seminary to post an inside joke on Twitter… where, you know, everyone on earth can see it without understanding any context.  I criticized them for that, but at the same time, I also pointed out that ignoring context and loudly screaming “Racist!” was also foolish.  You can do both: Criticize the professors for doing something unwise but also understand the context of their picture and why it’s not racist.

Unsurprisingly, my article got some blow back (it also got a lot of support), though none of this blow back dealt with the main argument.  Instead, what got a lot of attention was a throw-away line in the article (again, in the context of actually criticizing these professors for posting that picture on the internet):

Given our hyper-sensitive culture these days, where even stating bare facts like “There’s a very high rate of single-motherhood in the black community” can draw accusations of racism, it was foolish to post that online.  That’s not to excuse our hyper-sensitive culture, but surely a joke like that is not worth the controversy and potential damage to the witness of the professors as well as that of the seminary.

Many people latched on to this line with great offense (though I’ll repeat, it had little to do with the main argument, and it was a comment about the culture as a whole which honestly shouldn’t be that controversial).  “How dare you call people hyper-sensitive!” “You can’t fault people for how they feel!” “You shouldn’t invalidate people’s emotions!” So on and so forth.  What is interesting is that virtually all of these comments came from Christians.

This honestly squares with my experience both from within and without the church when people’s emotions are criticized.  These days, when someone is told he is being too sensitive, that his anger is unjustified, that his jealousy is irrational, or that his hurt feelings have no bearing on the truth of a matter, the typical response from him and others around him is to have varying levels of anger and shock.  The implicit assumption is that emotions are always uncontrolled responses, always valid, and ultimately unassailable.

The problem with this line of thinking for Christians is rather simple: It is far from a biblical stance (not to mention counter-intuitive if you really think about it).  The fact of the matter is that the Bible implies that we are accountable for how we feel and that our emotions can very well be wrong.  Notice what I did not say; I did not say that how you act due to your emotions can be wrong, though that is of course true.  I said the very emotions you have can be wrong, sinful, selfish, or irrational if they are unreasonable and/or come from a wrong heart.  As unpopular and surprising as this is for many Christians (and especially non-Christians), this is what Scripture teaches.

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Answering White Nationalist Arguments Better Than the Left Can

The unfortunate events at Charlottesville have ramped up the racial and political tension in this country, and blame and accusations are flying around at anyone who does not find a side and scream at the top of his lungs.  For some odd reason, we are not allowed to say that both of these are true: Antifa as well as the the alt-right are overly-sensitive and violent fools who have stupid philosophies.  If you do, there will be some people on both sides who call you a Nazi sympathizer or a communist.  Lovely.

In any case, here’s the problem with Antifa and, generally, the response from the Left: They usually don’t address any arguments.  When they do try to address arguments against the more articulate of the alt-right, they look clueless, emotional, and/or unable to explain how they are not creating blatant and unjustified double standards against white people.  Couple this with violent reactions, and this only serves to bolster the alt-right because they can argue that they’re victims of violent persecution when the other side is too afraid to address their arguments.

Here are a couple of cringeworthy performances: The first is Jared Taylor speaking to television anchor Jorge Ramos and the second is Taylor speaking to Eddie Huang of Huang’s World.  Ramos was unprepared to answer Taylor’s arguments and tried ducking his questions most of the time, and while I credit Huang for having a civil conversation, he resorted to silly arguments like, “But aren’t we all evolved from Africa?”, a statement so irrelevant that Taylor simply said, “So what?”  It was also an argument that can backfire because people like Taylor actually use human evolution to show that certain races have developed inherent traits that may be superior to others.

Clearly, there needs to be better answers to the alt-right, and frankly, the Left is not where those answers are going to come from.  The reason is that the alt-right has turned much of their logic against them.  The far left has jumped head first into identity politics, where people are grouped by allegedly genetic or otherwise immutable traits like race and sexual orientation and told that they are disadvantaged by “systems” such as the white patriarchy.  Therefore, they have to think a certain way and fight aggressively for their survival and “rights.”  White nationalists have simply taken advantage of that logic and have pointed out that white people are a group too with certain traits and who should look out for their own interests and survival against “systems” such as white guilt and wanton immigration, especially as their majority percentage dwindles in the West.  While it is entertaining to see how people on the Left stumble to answer this and throw out red herrings such as colonialism, it isn’t exactly helpful.

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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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