Monday, October 31, 2011

OWS, World Population of 7 Billion, and other Concerns . . ., I wonder

There are many issues and concerns in the world.  I wonder how we will address these issues satisfactorily.  For example, we have placed a lot of confidence in our scientific know-how and wherewithal, too much so I think.  We assume that our scientific approach to things will discover, invent, create, dig, climb, and build our way out of the mess we’ve made of things.  I wonder.

I wonder about fresh clean drinking water and its cost in the future.  Desert cities have grown exponentially while our water resources have not.  Think of our three big Southwestern desert cities drawing from much of the same water sources: Los Angeles CA, Las Vegas NV, and Phoenix AZ.  They keep growing and growing, will they not meet the limits of their water resources at some point?  Of course they will.  Our world population is now 7 billion and more are coming.  I wonder how we are going to feed everyone and quench everyone’s thirst in the long run.

I wonder about our energy resources and our transportation system—yes, I love my car and the freedom it gives me to go wherever I want (or so I think until I drive up against closed bridges due to unrepaired structural weaknesses and bump into detours due to unrepaired roads, not to mention coming to a complete stop due to impassible traffic jams), just how long will the world’s energy resources support our individual driving independence—one car per person—across the globe.  Keep in mind that China has over a billion people, not to mention India.  I’m sure that all these people would like the same opportunity to own and drive their own vehicle and have several cars per family, as we have in the U.S.  Can the earth’s present energy resources sustain all these eager drivers?  Not at this rate.  I wonder how the world will meet its total energy needs in the future, which only keep increasing—computers, heaters, air-conditioners, electric cars and other digitized electronic energy hungry technologies.

I wonder how new scientific discoveries will get us out of this mess?  Will science save us?  We assume so, hope so.  But we also have the problem of politics getting in the way of science.  Just take the question of Global Warming as an example, one political side says that there is no such thing as global warming along with its potential disastrous effects, siting their own scientific gurus; the other political side begs to differ on the basis of scientific studies from a different set of scientists.  Who should we believe (by “we,” I mean the common layperson on the street that is neither a politician nor a scientist)?  We are turning scientific findings into a kind of commodity.  This is not good.  Real knowledge, truth, and insight are lost to the highest bidder.

I wonder why we place so much faith in pure Capitalism and therefore become unwilling to critique and correct its flaws.  Nothing is perfect, not even our precious capitalistic system.  Everything is about business, capital investment, free trade, and economic gain.  But when we make policy decisions solely based on what’s good for corporate America and global corporations—with the argument that that’s what creates jobs—we become economically myopic, wearing short-range profiteering blinders that tend to steer us away from making necessary long range investments that may require immediate sacrifice and/or losses.  Thus, we do things like support oil drilling methods that may satisfy our thirst for oil in the short run but may also be doing irreparable damage to our precious water supply in the long run.

I wonder about the haves and have-nots, global corporations, the powerful wealthy-few versus the masses who are feeling more and more financially pinched.  I wonder about the stability of a world whose economic system seems more and more unjust to the average worker on Main Street, especially when those who make any attempt to suggest improvements are accused of being trouble makers and instigating class warfare just because they ask for a more equitable economic system.

I wonder how our thinking needs to change.  For example, it seems to me that we need to think locally as well as nationally and globally respecting social, economic, and energy policies.  We also need to think long-term in the face of present day crisis and short-term demands so as not to save a dollar today only to spend a hundred tomorrow (penny wise, pound foolish).  We need to think more like a community that is indivisibly interconnected to insure the fair management of and the just distribution of vital resources for the whole—town, city, state, and nation—protecting our communities against the unfair accumulation of precious resources landing in the hands of a few tight-fisted private citizens.  We need to think of multiple precious resources at the same time, so as to prevent the damaging of one precious resource while going after another (e.g., the damaging of precious water wells and water ways when drilling for precious natural gas resources).  We need to think of just and fair systems, ways and means to satisfy the needs of the many and avoid merely pleasing the selfish interests of a few.  We need to think transparency and accountability, think of equitable regulations and just economic and tax laws that neither favor special business interests nor favor private parties and/or personal interests.

I wonder: do we really have what it takes to overcome the world’s challenges?  For those readers who believe there is no God, it means that we humans are basically on our own.  I have to ask, how are we doing on our own?  For those readers who do believe in God, I have to say: It’s no wonder that God promises a new heavens and a new earth, for we’ve certainly made a mess of this one.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Our Troops Coming Home from Iraq in December, May we Ask the Tough Questions Now?

Roughly 39,000 troops are in Iraq now.  They are pretty much all due to come home by December 31st this year.  That is great news!

Our troops were first sent over there in March of 2003, almost nine years ago.  Nine years!  I have read that since then, 4,482 of our troops have been killed and that 32,213 have been wounded at a cost of 715 billion dollars.

Without being accused of being unpatriotic, I wonder, can we now review and ask some tough questions?

Do we remember that we started this war as a pre-emptive strike?  Do we remember that we were told that we must start this war because Saddam Hussein housed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and that he was supposedly ready to use these against us and our allies?  Do we remember that all this turned out to be false?  Did the Bush administration lie to us or were they just being ignorant?

There were other reasons also given, according to the “Iraq War Resolution” of October 16, 2002 by a joint session of congress that formally authorized then president’s Bush’s military action against Iraq.  In light of these other reasons (national security, fight against terrorism, etc.), did this war accomplish its stated purpose?  How will we know and how shall it be measured?

In short, was this war worth the cost?  If not—and I believe that most Americans will now say that it was most certainly NOT worth the cost—what went wrong?  Why is it that we were so easily duped into this action—to the point that anyone who tried to argue against entering into this war at the time was hollered down as naïve, ignorant, wimpy, unpatriotic, and worse?

Why did the media not get it right at the time?  Why did they not dig deeper and ask the tough, penetrative, cynical questions that might have revealed the emptiness of the stated cause for going to war with Iraq in the first place?  And if they did, why were we not listening?

What has this war gained us?  If this was a war for national security, are we more secure as a direct result of this war in Iraq?  If this war was also about freeing the Iraqi people from a brutal and repressive tyrant, are they now less oppressed, fully and truly democratically free?  I suspect that time has yet to tell on that one.  Is Iraq now more secure against being used as a hide out for terrorists, and if so will it continue to be so in the future?  That’s “iffy” isn’t it.  Again, time will tell.

As a result of this war, is the whole Middle Eastern geo-political arena (Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.) more secure, safer and more stable?  Or is there a risk of renewed violence and national/international instability in the area (consider the possibility of Iranian interference in Iraqi development e.g.)?  And again, time will tell, another iffy situation.

Would there, could there have been a better way to have addressed our fears and concerns (regarding WMD, for example) then immediately resorting to sheer brute military force?  What might these other means have looked like in the real world?  And why were these possible other means not more seriously looked into at the time?

We’ve thrown tons of money into the war effort itself, now how are we going to treat our Iraqi war veterans who have been both physically and psychologically injured by this war.  Will we have—provide—the money to help them back home in their time of need for rehab, hospital and medical care, physical therapy, and more?  Or are we going to say that we’ve spent too much already, so they’re on their own?  After all, are we not economically worse off as a nation, as a direct result of the cost of this war in Iraq?

Now that we see how mistaken this pre-emptive strike, war policy has been, how might we prevent this kind of serious error in military intelligence and grave misjudgment in military action from happening again?  Or is that even possible?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Poisoned Rhetoric: comparing Obama with Hitler

A couple of weeks ago, more or less, Hank Williams Jr. implied/compared President Obama to Hitler and said he’s “the enemy.”  He got some flak for making this comparison, and rightly so.  Yet, according to an article in a CBS News’ blog, called “Political Hotsheet” (by Corbett B. Daly), Sarah Palin said that the criticism that Hank Williams Jr. received for this is ‘disgusting.’  Disgusting?  Really!

Let’s just take the word “enemy.”  According to “,” an “enemy” is defined as “(1) a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another; an adversary or opponent.  (2) An armed foe; an opposing military force: The army attacked the enemy at dawn and (3) a hostile nation or state.”  In that light, have Republicans and Democrats truly become enemies, as in “a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another”?  If so, our nation is worse off than we think.

Enough already!  Rhetoric matters.  We are not enemies.  Enemies are to be destroyed, annihilated and altogether cancelled out.  Do Conservatives and Liberals really want to annihilate each other?  Right Wing and Left Wing people may be political opponents and may even get angry at each other.  But to see each other as enemies that need to be destroyed?  That’s taking politics too far.  We may be political opponents but we are citizens of the same country, with allegiance to the same flag, serving the same nation, and value the same American ideals.  We are NOT enemies.

Of course we can be passionate about our convictions; we can even be loud and boisterous about them.  Let’s do argue and defend our case and support our cause, but let’s not unnecessarily and unfairly vilify our political opponents.  We are Americans.  ONE Nation under God, not two, three or however many Americas that our various parties and platforms may make us think that we have.  We are one people with one government.  We are not enemies.  Political battles are one thing, but outright disgust and hatred, vilifying and demonizing each other is uncalled for and should not be acceptable from Right or Left.

Democrats and Republican representatives should actually play golf together and have lunch together.  Yes, they should become friends.  Together they represent the same Union.  Of course, let them disagree whole heartily in their political views but let them also respect each other and hold each other in high regard as colleagues in office, friends, and citizens sharing the same love for this nation, working for One Nation Under God….

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dallas Pastor says Romney is a Cult Member as a Mormon (Implication: not a good presidential candidate)

Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, when introducing Gov. Rick Perry (October 7, 2011), Republican running for presidential office in 2012, essentially said that Mormons are a cult and not true Christians.  Mitt Romney is a Mormon. 

It is true that Mormon theology and doctrine indeed differs from mainstream, traditional, historical and Biblical Christianity.  There can be no real argument there.  Just compare the two.  A careful review of Historical Christianity as a whole, when compared to Mormonism, should prove Pastor Jeffress’ remarks about Mormonism to be true.  Mormonism is not in the same league as other historical mainstream Christian Denominations.  However, that is really not the problem with Robert Jeffress’ remarks.

The problem is the assumption that all Evangelical, Born-Again Christians are and ought to be cut from the same political cloth.  I am a Born Again, Evangelical Christian but I do not subscribe to the far, rightwing, conservative, Republican Party politics (especially the Tea Party).  The fact is, President Obama is also a Born Again Christian (read his testimony and the witness he gives to his own faith as a Christian), yet Obama is often demonized by many right wing conservative Christian Believers as if he were not only a non-believer but a scoundrel to boot.  What’s going on here?

As a Christian, I hate to state this obvious truth, but I feel that I must.  The truth is this: being a Protestant, a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, a Born Again Christian, and accepting the Bible as the Inspired Word of God, does not necessarily make someone better qualified as a presidential candidate.

For example, I accept President George W. Bush’s own testimony that he is a Believer in Christ, a Born Again Christian.  Yet I do NOT believe that his being a Born Again Christian made him a better president as such.  In fact I think that his international policies regarding Iraq and Afghanistan were naïve, foolish, and short sighted.  He made some terrible decisions as president, especially as regards his taking us to war in Afghanistan and Iraq.  And so, in my opinion his being an Evangelical Protestant Born Again Christian did not make him one ounce of a better—more capable, more intelligent, more insightful and/or wise—president.  A Roman Catholic president (remember J. F. Kennedy) or yes, even a Mormon president might have done just as well or even better than did George W. Bush when he was in office.

Christians have always drawn the line between Genuine Authentic Christianity and Heretical or Nominal Christianity.  Such arguments existed even in New Testament times (see 1 Corinthians 1:10-17).  This is nothing new.  But the danger in contemporary American politics is the pervasive assumption that a certain type of right wing political Christian is the only true voice for Christianity and for this nation’s conservative social and economic policies.  Not True!

Yes, mainstream Christianity generally views Mormonism as a cult and not as authentic genuine Christianity.  But it is also true that there is indeed a wide range of Christian expression, teachings and practices.  Consider the difference between the Friends Church (Quakerism) and the Eastern Orthodox Church or between Pentecostals and Episcopalians or Presbyterians.  Likewise, within this wide range of Christian Identity and Faith there is also a wide range of “Christian” political, social, and economic conviction as well, representing the far left as well as the far right.  In short, we Christians all follow the same Lord of Lords and King of Kings but our politics vary greatly.  Point being: not all authentically genuine Born Again Christians subscribe to the right wing political position or assume that the president of the United States of America will necessarily make a better president by virtue of his (or her) being a Born Again Christian as such.

Thus, who knows, Mitt Romney may make an outstanding president.  I’m not endorsing him.  I’m just saying, his ability to be a good or outstanding president has little to do with whether or not he is an Evangelical Born Again Christian or a Mormon.  There are many, many other qualifying skills, abilities, values, and perspectives, not to mention one’s philosophical worldview that must be weighed-in as significant factors for considering a person fit for the office of President, not just that one is a genuine Born Again Christian.  And I say this as a genuine Born Again Believer—though I am sure there will be those who question my authenticity as a real Born Again Believer on the basis of what I just said—which only serves to substantiate my point.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hospice Care, Death and Dying, and Advance Directives

Living Wills, Advance Directives, Durable power of attorney, Hospice Care, Palliative Care, treating the person versus treating the disease, are you familiar with these terms, what they mean, how applied?  Okay, so we’re back to talking about death and taxes, only this time more about death than taxes.

Death!  I know.  It’s an uncomfortable subject for many.  But it happens—will happen.  That’s life.

About once a month our church has a potluck after service and sometimes we’ll have a guest speaker.  This month we had guests from the local Hospice, “Home Care & Hospice of the Montgomery Healthcare system.”  Our guests, a Hospice Chaplain and a Hospice Volunteer Coordinator, were very informative and yet they barely scratched the surface of the things that we ought to know about and be prepared to deal with, when it comes to dealing with terminal illness and eventual death in a family.

For example, do you and your loved one(s) have an “Advance Directive” that spells out or outlines what kind of health treatment you want to receive should you ever be in a critical condition and are unable to tell the medical team yourself what you desire as far as the extent of medical treatment and resuscitation attempts?  If not, does your spouse and/or other family loved ones actually have any idea as to how you might want to be treated—let’s say if you are declared brain damaged, for example, as a result of an auto accident?  I know, these are uncomfortable questions and scenarios, but, uncomfortable as they are, they require honest attention.  And, that’s the point.

Modern medicine and medical technology has actually increased the trauma and burden of dealing with death and dying issues in some ways.  A medical team can resuscitate a person whose heart has stopped even after fifteen long minutes of no heartbeat.  We have feeding tubes and other wires and gadgets that we connect to a person’s body in order to keep the body alive and heart pumping, regardless of the vegetative state of the mind.  How, when, or who decides to “pull the plug” on Mom, Dad, Granny, or beloved Aunt Sally?

Most families are unprepared for such traumatic decisions.  They are often reeling from the suddenness of its onslaught or are unable to deal with the inevitable, not willing to come to terms with end-of-life issues.  Nevertheless, a family that openly talks about it and intentionally processes these things beforehand—what they want or do not want to be done to them respecting healthcare treatment in the face of a worst case scenario—is far better off, and far more emotionally, spiritually, and mentally healthy for doing so.

Speak to your doctor and/or your spiritual adviser, pastor or priest, about end of life care, death and dying decisions, Advance Directives and Living Wills.  You will be glad that you did before you are faced with such decisions.  After all, death and dying is in fact part of living.