Monday, May 26, 2014

Should Christians Fear Science?

Creationism versus Evolution, Big Bang versus God’s creative act, Ex-Nihilo—the fight for explaining the origins of the universe goes on.

As a Christian, committed to Christ Jesus, Lord and Savior of humanity, I am concerned about Christian negative attitude toward science, reflecting a stubbornness that leans toward a kind of willful ignorance and naiveté regarding scientific knowledge and research.

I’ve been watching the newly made Cosmos series, with its new host Neil de Grasse Tyson.   He’s the new Carl Sagan of our time.

It’s sometimes direct and sometimes subtle, but, like Sagan, it would appear that his scientific worldview gives no place for a Creator God, as revealed in the Bible.  However, does that mean that we Christians should reject everything he presents to us in the Cosmos series regarding time and space, and the make up of the stars and galaxies, the forces of gravity and quantum theory, the speed of light, and more?  I don’t think so.

If God IS, and we truly believe that God is, and that God created all that is, we have nothing to fear.  Ergo: Scientific knowledge is simply a way of pulling back the curtain on the stage of life, revealing the mechanisms which God put in place that allows life to be what it is.  God’s assertive I AM will not be threatened by science.

Science has its limits.  It can only explain so much and do so much.  However, in terms of physical and material needs, faith has its limits as well—unless we expect God to miraculously provide us with a well-balanced meal every day, like manna from heaven—we need to use our God given brains to work, produce, and care for our daily needs.

When religion fights science, religion becomes ignorant, naïve, foolish, and inept.  Worse, it also becomes authoritarian and abusive of its social, political, and ecclesial power.  History has proven as much.  Remember what the church did to Galileo—and many others.

However, when faith embraces science, it becomes not only more informed but that much wiser for it, more appreciative regarding the nature and power of God, and thus more respectful and awestricken, less conceited and self-righteous.  Faith is deepened.

Thus, Christianity could benefit from having more Christians willing to study and embrace scientific research in all branches, without fear of losing one’s faith or becoming an apostate.  Faith in God that is unable to endure the discoveries of science is weak and pitiful and deserves to be lost or discarded.

Indeed, if every single person of faith that ever entered into a lifelong career of scientific study ended up an apostate that should be a wake up call; it would mean something quite significant.  But that is simply NOT the case.  There are many physicists, astronomers, chemists, theoretical mathematicians, physical and cultural anthropologists, and other scientists who are devout and committed believers in Christ and followers of Christ; their lifelong study of science resulting in the deepening and expanding of their faith, rather than diminishing it.  That is a mighty testament itself.

My fellow brothers and sisters, in Christ, let us not fear science or demonize the scientific community.  Yes, there are those atheistic scientists who would wipe religion off the face of the earth, if they could; believing religion itself is a threat to humanity’s further evolutionary progress.  But they have no such power.  As believers, we know where the greater power lies.

We Christians simply need to learn, study, and grow in the knowledge of the universe ourselves, like any other intelligent and mindful human being.  After all, in the end, if something is TRUE, it will be true for all people, at all times, and in all places.  And the nature and reality of TRUTH is what we’re talking about.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Body Cameras: the new Eye-Witness in Police Accountability

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is testing a new hi-tech innovation.  For ninety days, about forty LAPD foot patrol officers are wearing a small video camera on their shirt collar, which apparently they are to turn on when making an arrest or otherwise engaging in, shall we say, official duties with individuals on the street.  I understand that these video records will be stored for five years.

Apparently the results are positive thus far.  When the people on the street are made aware of the fact that an officer’s every move is being recorded, along with his subject, there seems to be a change—for the better.  Complaints against the department have been reduced.  According to one news report, officers believe that the presence of these cameras actually serve to diffuse potentially explosive situations (see Kelly Goff’s article in the Los Angeles Daily News).

Why is this important?  Police are often put on the defensive, facing accusations of police brutality and misconduct, abusing their power and authority.  These accusations do not happen in a vacuum.  Many members of inner-city communities distrust and fear the police.  While the suburban middle-class family sees a police officer as a friend and helper, an inner-city household will often view a police officer as an enemy and a threat to their bodily safety and personal freedom.

Body-cameras provide that nice ability for instant replay: What really happened, who started it, what was said, who did what, and why.  It provides a kind of transparent accountability safety-check for both the police officer and the subject of arrest or person under suspicion.  Unless tampered with, what’s captured on video tape pretty much says it all: This is how it happened, in truth.  End result?  Both officer and subject are more careful, more mindful of their words and actions.  They realize they will have to answer to that all-seeing-eye that’s recording everything.

What do you do, what have you done, when “no one is looking”?  Isn’t it funny how much more well behaved we are, when we know that we’re “being watched.”  If for no other reason, perhaps this is a good argument for our need of God.  A Being far greater than ourselves, and better—righteous and good, holy and pure—to whom we must give an account of our lives.  Most of us cringe at such a thought.

Do we really want God to playback our lives on some gigantic celestial screen, come Judgment Day, showing us every bad deed we’ve ever committed, deserving of judgment and just deserts?  I should say not.  But then, how shall we then be held accountable?  Why do we want so much for our enemies to be condemned under the strong arm of truth and justice, while we beg to be excused from the same?  Isn’t that a bit one-sided and unjust in itself?

Justice will be had.  Every human being must be and will be held to account.  The record will speak for itself.  Are you ready for that celestial instant replay of your life?  Just how innocent and pure are you really?

This is why we need a Savior, one who is not only able but willing to redeem us.  In comes the person and message of Jesus—who is both the substance and subject of the message, the good news—we can be saved, redeemed, and forgiven for our wrongs committed.

So, next time you think you are alone and no one is watching, think again.  It might help to remind yourself that there is a kind of a celestial body-camera on your person, recording every action, every word you speak.  And someday you shall be held accountable to those very same words and deeds.  God knows.  It’s all on tape, His tape.   Or perhaps you are perfect in every way and don’t need to worry about it.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Road Rage versus Courtesy, Consideration, & Thoughtfulness

You’re in a hurry.  You’ve got business to take care of, errands to make, people to meet, and things to do.  The last thing you need is an overly cautious, timid or insecure slow driver in front of you, or worse, a self-absorbed distracted driver paying no attention to the road.  It happens—seemingly now more than ever.

Road Rage is inexcusable—acting out, doing harm, causing damage or even personal injury to others because we don’t like the way they drive.  There is no justification for it.  But all too often we simply focus on the bad deeds of the driver with road rage and ignore the misdeeds of those who contribute to the building up of road rage in others.

What about the preoccupied driver that is crawling maybe ten miles below the speed limit, holding back traffic while doing so.  Or that first car, waiting in a left-hand turn-lane, that fails to notice that the green arrow says go, thus causing the last two cars in the same lane to needlessly wait yet another turn, because that first car delayed way too long in going, all for not paying attention to the turning of the light?

Small, insignificant, tolerable setbacks you say?  Yes, but they do build up.  It is not one or two incidents.  It is the accumulation of missed signals, distracted drivers, road blocks and detours, train crossing delays, stop and go school busses, etc. that cause one to become exasperated.  Pile up these incidences and you get one frustrated and growingly impatient driver.

Well, drivers need to learn to be more patient, you say.  Yes.  We do.  All us drivers need to become more patient while driving.  But there is something else we need to become more of.  We drivers need to become more conscientious, courteous, thoughtful and considerate of the drivers around us.

The first thing this means in practice is to simply stay aware and alert.  Courteous driving and respect for the other driver means driving in a way that says, “I am aware of the fact that there are other drivers, with whom I share the road, and my actions directly affect these other drivers.  I don’t own the road.  Thus, I won’t unnecessarily block, hinder, cut off, or delay other drivers if I can help it.”  For example, if you are greatly slowing down traffic and you know it, might you pull over to the slow lane (or road side), if you can, and let the other drivers go by, so as to not make them wait on your time if you can help it?  That’s courtesy.

Courteous and considerate driving also simply means obeying the basic laws of the road.  You’d be surprised at how much more smoothly driving conditions improve when everyone simply does what is expected of them as the law dictates.  Go when it’s green.  Stop when it’s red.  The car to your right has the right-of-way when two cars come to a four way stop sign, and so-on and so-forth.  Know the laws and simply abide by them.  This is also considerate and respectful driving.

Allow for individual variations of driving patterns.  There will always be the fast driver, the slow driver, and those in between.  Don’t appoint yourself as Mr. (or Mrs.) Citizen Police, determined to slow down the fast driver.  Leave it to the police to catch them.  Meanwhile, if and when you can, move aside and let them go.  Stay out of their way.  There is no doubt in my mind that this simple gesture will go a long way in reducing road rage incidents.

I suppose that there will always be idiot drivers out there, driving like maniacal imbeciles.  Okay, in my forty-plus years of driving, I’ve no doubt that I myself have been one of those idiot drivers, at times.  I know no perfect driver.  (I wonder what Jesus’ driving pattern would have looked like, had he lived in these times.)  Nevertheless, if we all became a little more consciousness, respectful and considerate of the other drivers on the streets, I’m sure we can make a difference and reduce the overall frustration and anger we all experience when driving in today’s overly congested roads.

Monday, May 5, 2014

U.S.A. Threatened by a Foreign Language Invasion?

English Only!!  Really?  Why?

Recently a Facebook connection of mine came across a Facebook posting about a man’s reaction to a cellphone conversation he had overhead which was conducted in a different language other than English.  Here is the posting account:
     "[There was] overheard at a grocery store by someone waiting in line behind a woman speaking on her cellphone in another language.  Ahead of her was a white man.  After the woman hangs up, he speaks up.

    Man: ‘I didn’t want to say anything while you were on the phone, but you’re in America now.  You need to speak English.’

    Woman: ‘Excuse me?’

    Man: *very slow* ‘If you want to speak Mexican, go back to Mexico.  In America, we speak English.’

    Woman: ‘Sir, I was speaking Navajo.  If you want to speak English, go back to England.’"
The posting was entitled “Go Home!”

The average European speaks minimally two languages.  Many can be found that speak three or more.  Europeans are comfortable with the fact that there are a variety of languages spoken throughout Europe.  It is a sign of being an intelligent and well-rounded person, having had a good upbringing and a good education, for a European to speak several languages.

We are Americans.  We speak English.  Yes, we do.  But why must that mean we have to be monolingual?  Why should we proudly champion ignorance of other languages?  For some reason we Americans feel threatened by foreign languages, which means that we must be insecure about the status of English in our country.  Is English in danger?  Are we going to wake-up one morning to find that English is gone, taken over by an invading foreign language?  Some act as if that is exactly what’s going to happen, a foreign language invasion.

And what is that foreign language?  Spanish of course!  Hence, more than half of all U.S. States have established “Official English Laws.”  Okay.  We can live with that.  Make English the “official” language to do official business and legal transactions.  Why not?  After all, business, government, and legal transactions have to be conducted in some specific language on this planet earth and one that everybody should understand.  Let it be English.

That’s fine.  But to get-up all in a dither because some private citizen is having a personal cellphone conversation in a language other than English—though in a pubic setting, such as in a supermarket or in a mall or while waiting in line at the bank or post-office—what’s the harm?  What’s the threat?

Ignorance and disrespect for other people including their various languages, cultures, and/or customs is nothing to be proud of.  On the contrary, we need to grow in our appreciation for and respect and consideration of people’s differences and their unique backgrounds.  We can all be Americans without all becoming vanilla flavored.

The English language is far from being threatened.  English Official Law policies can ensure that official business is carried on in English.  But let us then get beyond our small mindedness and expand our thinking, widen our experiences, and build our knowledge and abilities by celebrating the learning of and speaking of foreign languages.  After all, we do value a good education and a good upbringing, and one of the first signs of having a good education is the ability to speak and/or read more than one language.