Love is the Final Fight

From the Switchfoot YouTube video of The Sound (John Perkins’s Blues)

I have been struggling for the right words since I learned of the Charlottesville tragedy. Of course, I denounce the hate-filled act that took a life and put others in the hospital. I denounce racism in all its ugly forms. I joined in with other voices to acknowledge that this was an act of terrorism. Plain and simple.

But, when the dust settles and the loud cries for justice fade to a simmering  fury, it isn’t that plain and simple.

How did we get here? More importantly, how do we escape this rat trap that seems to have perpetually bound us to the doom of repeated history?

I listen to the clamor of voices, and I just want to weep – so much heat and very little light. More knee-jerk reactions are not sufficient to counter the forces that have lead us to this place and have entangled people in their grip since the first man clubbed his brother to death. We desperately need something more!

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Finely-Tuned For Love


Science, philosophy and faith are each interesting subjects in themselves and even more interesting when considered together. In this piece, we take a quick look at the philosophical principles of determinism, necessity and chance, springboard to consideration of the observations of Stephen Hawking on the subject of determinism and free will, and finish with  some observations about faith and love.

We start with determinism, defined as “the philosophical idea that every event or state of affairs, including every human decision and action, is the inevitable and necessary consequence of antecedent states of affairs.” Many modern scientists and philosophers alike believe we live in a world that is deterministic. Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Kraus, Daniel Dennet and others ascribe to this view.

In his show Genius, in which Stephen Hawking walks three “average” people through a series of exercises that lead them to understand great, nuanced principles of science, he agrees that the universe, including people, are determined by the laws of physics. He asserts that, if we could know where every cog in the machine of the universe is at any one moment, the laws of physics would allow us to know what would happen at any point in time. Therefore, Hawking  says, free will is an illusion.

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Love, Hate and Disagreement through the Tears for Orlando

Two days after the Orlando shooting, the initial shock and horror has turned into residual anger and sadness.  A determined resilience begins to take over that is the best of the American spirit, but the inevitable finger pointing and pontificating are in full swing, even as the tears for Orlando are still flowing.

It is hard to resist the urge to say something. Some should try harder. I hope I am not in that category, but a tragedy the size of the Orlando shooting cries for response. The various headlines I read two days later were the trigger for me.

The first headline was “ACLU Blames Conservative Christians for Orlando Terror Attack”. To be fair, the headline was wrong; the statements were made by two ACLU attorneys who were not necessarily speaking for the ACLU. These attorneys have accused “Christian conservatives” for cultivating a social and political environment that led to the Orlando shooting. They call for solidarity between Muslims and the LGBT community.

Whether one ascribes to the views of “Christian conservatives” (whatever that broad category may really include), the environment in which they operate is the same social and political environment in which the ACLU operates and the ACLU seeks to protect – the one that is the bedrock of the freedoms we have in this country – the foundation of freedom of speech, freedom of association and the freedom to practice (and talk about) the faith of one’s choice.

The same freedoms protect Muslims, gays and queers who advocate for their causes and express their beliefs.

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Finely Tuned Universe


We live in a finely tuned universe. Not everyone would put it that way, many people who do not believe in God, for instance. For them, the existence of life is a product of random chance. Though the odds are low (extremely low), they would rather believe that we are product of chance than the design of a Maker.

To take the position that chance explains everything, we also need to be able to accept that our rational minds came from the same random, meaningless, irrational process of chance. Life sprang from inanimate material; reason came from matter; morality developed from natural selection; love is something more like indigestion than anything more noble or meaningful. In fact, all is meaningless if the atheist is right. There is no point to life, let alone our lives, at all.

If that is the way it is, so be it. It is not like there is anything we can do about it. It does affect how we live, though. Does it not?

If there is no Giver of life, we are not beholden to anyone. If there is no Rational Mind, how can we trust our own minds? If there is no Author of morality (or Judge of it), I am free to do as I please (as long as I do not get caught by someone who does like what I do). If God is not Love, fulfilling any pleasant sensation or feeling is as good and certainly no worse than the next; there is no difference between the prostitute paid for sex and my spouse.

There is no absolute scientific proof for either position, not should we expect any. We are infinitesimally minuscule in comparison to time and space. It is incongruous that we should expect to know more than we do.

From a purely rationalistic position, the odds are a pretty good indication of the probabilities. You can watch the video below and decide for yourself.

Tribute to Nelson Mandela

From  (Photo Credit: Corbis)

(Photo Credit: Corbis)

The world mourns the death of a great man today, Nelson Mandela. On the way into work, I listened to an interview with Johnny Clegg, a white British man, who formed the first integrated rock band in South Africa. He wrote Asimbonanga ((Mandela) in 1987.

Mandela was in prison at the time. He was imprisoned for 27 years. His release came in 1990.

It was illegal at the time Johnny Clegg wrote the song to possess even the likeness of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Before reading further, take a moment to watch Johnny Clegg perform Asimbonanga in 1999 with Nelson Mandela making an appearance.

Asimbonanga——————–(we have not seen him)
Asimbonang’ umandela thina—–(we have not seen mandela)
Laph’ekhona——————–(in the place where he is)
Laph’ehleli khona————–(in the place where he is kept)
Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the island into the bay
We are all islands till comes the day
We cross the burning water
A seagull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me

Clegg explained in the interview I heard this morning that the song was inspired by the Poet, John Dunne, who wrote “no man is an island”. The meaning of the words written by Clegg were that as long as Mandela was imprisoned and separated from the nation, all people were separated from each other.

The song was prophetic, in that Mandela was freed in 1990. He went on to become President of South Africa, a country in which a very short time before would not allow white people and black people to interact legally. The lifting of Apartheid brought the people of South Africa together; it lifted the weight of Apartheid from the shoulders of all South Africans, black and white, said Johnny Clegg.

Nelson Mandela is a man who stood strong against the evil of separation. He did it not with violence or anger, but with peace and love. He did it by refusing to succumb to the pressures that make people bitter, hateful and spiteful. He did it by loving himself, his people, his captors and everyone who met him. He was a light in the dark night of Apartheid by refusing to let Apartheid define him.

Imagine having spent 27 years in prison for nothing other than being black and refusing to accept the man-made separation between people of different colored skin. Yet, he did not allow the wrong of Apartheid to conform him to its image; he did not allow Apartheid to harden his own heart; he did not allow it to create separation in his own heart between himself and the people who created the separation.

Nelson Mandela found a higher perspective, and he lived it. By living it, he paved the way for change. He showed the world how real change is affected. It is affected by standing firm on higher principles, self-sacrifice, refusing to bend to hate and responding to everything and everyone with an unwavering love. This is a very short summary of the impact Nelson Mandela had in the world in which he become the catalyst for dramatic change on this day after Nelson Mandela’s death at the age of 94: Nelson Mandela’s Release from Prison