Thursday, June 1, 2017

Thoughts on the US and Paris Agreement

The US pulling out of the Paris Agreement was a mistake, not because Man is the leading cause of global warming (of which I am still not convinced), but because it moved the US further into political irrelevancy on a global scale.
Look at China, the filthiest and grossest of polluters of all industrial nations (a living mockery of the Paris Agreement). Yet China remains with the Paris agreement. Why? Not because they care about the environment (they most certainly do not), but because they are playing the long game. They are patient, while Americans are impatient and pragmatic.
Now Germany will begin to distance itself from the US and likely bolster ties with BRIC nations like India and China. Why? For one, Germany may be the only nation on the planet that actually cares about the environment for non-political reasons. The environment is a nationalistic passion of theirs, second only to their love of soccer. Second, the Germans smell death on the US Empire. They sense the change in winds, and its more than the grotesque flatulence of a certain US leader.
The US staying in the Paris Agreement would have been expensive economically in the near term. The US will find that backing out will have its own costs, which will have long term economic impacts of their own.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Marriage Advice from a Crusty Sergeant

I congratulated a young Airman of mine the other day on her wedding engagement.  We talked about the difficulties married military couples face.  The divorce rate in the military is almost double that of the civilian sector.  One source of stress is the frequent moves.  The average military couple moves 8.6 times over a 20 year career.  I told her that my wife and I have moved 9 times in our marriage.  Military couples also often marry young.  I told her that my wife and I married when we were both 19 years old.  Upon hearing that I had been married 17 years, she asked me if I had any advice.  I told her it had a lot to do with our learning how to resolve conflict, lessons painstakingly learned together over the years.  Here are a few of the things I told her.  

Don’t Hold Back
At the beginning of a marriage you both want to be really nice to one another.  I myself would often hold back my thoughts and feelings when I was upset.  That can only go on for so long before you eventually blow up.  Ephesians 4:26 says, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.”  Be upfront and honest with your spouse when something is concerning or upsetting you.  

Seek Good Counsel
Eventually you are going to get into an argument.  When, not if, that happens, you may need to seek advice outside the marriage.  Be careful who that counsel comes from.  Your “best friend” may not be it (if this is really the case, you probably just need a new “best friend”).  I have seen too many marriages struggle or collapse because of bad counsel from family or friends that really did not have the best interest of the marriage at heart.  Proverbs abounds in the importance of surrounding yourself with wise counselors.  Seek them out and identify them now before you need them.  

Listen to The Meltdowns
Hear your spouse out.  I came home from work one day and my wife was unexpectedly very upset with me.  I could have said, “I’ll talk to you later when you’re not acting so crazy.”  Instead, I got out a piece of paper and pen and said, “OK, fair enough.  Let’s see what I can do to make things better.  I’ll write down a list of things I can improve on.”  She then broke down in tears and said, “I think I’m pregnant.”  Was she acting emotional?  You bet.  However, all she needed from me was to show that I cared and was willing to listen to her.  Proverbs 18:13 advises us that “if one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”  

Forgive and Forget
This Airman also happened to be a Christian.  I told her to ensure that they keep Christ at the center of their marriage.  I did not become a Christian until the third year of our marriage.  Our second year was really tough and we almost got a divorce.  I learned my need for forgiveness and how to forgive others.  In marriage, there will be a lot of forgiveness going on; both parties are sinners after all.  When you forgive your spouse, you cannot bring up their sin again.  That is what I mean by “forget it.”  Sin cannot be forgot as in you will never think of it again.  You can, however, forget it by not harboring continued resentment or by bringing it up in unrelated arguments later on.  

There was only so much advice that I could give in a short conversation.  This Airman, however, has a good head on her shoulders and I think she will help improve the poor marriage statistics our generation faces.   

Friday, May 12, 2017

“The Moment”: Our Yearning to Be a Hero

We cannot help but be inspired when we hear of the heroic deeds of others.  We feel ourselves swell with pride as we imagine ourselves taking the same action in such a situation.  The problem is day-to-day life is actually rather boring and mundane.   We wonder when “the moment” may come when we can prove to ourselves and to others that we can be heroes, too.

In the meantime, we wait for “the moment” to show our quality, fantasizing about scenarios where we will reveal our heroic selves.  Here are a few possible scenarios.

“The Gunslinger” Scenario
He is always carrying a sidearm.  Everywhere.  Why?  Because he has been waiting for and expecting “the moment” to happen at any moment, hopefully in public.  An active shooter.  A robber.  The exact means does not matter as long as he is able to finally use his weapon to put the bad guy down.  He does not consider the possibility that he may actually make such a situation worse.  Any why should he?  He has gone over the scenario in his mind many times and it will go perfectly.

“The Prepper” Scenario
I met a man in the military once that had a job that would not technically start until the nuclear apocalypse had started.  Not until after nuclear weapons were in the air would his job begin, which would consist of keeping the government running in a post-nuclear holocaust world.  Problem was, it had not happened yet.  He had been training and prepping for years for this nightmare event.  When I asked him how he felt about his job, his reply was “Sometimes I feel it would be nice to see the fruit of my labor.”  He felt his work went unnoticed.  I explained to him that his state of readiness is a deterrent for the enemy, which hopefully will prevent a nuclear holocaust from happening.  He did not seem convinced.  He was still looking forward to “the moment.”

“Your Crisis is my Crisis” Scenario
You would think that it was his own wife or child that was in jeopardy.  He has spread the news of the tragedy far and wide under the guise of caring for the victim.  He talks an awful lot about how devastated he is.  One would think that the event had actually happened to him.  “The moment” has come, he believes, but all he has really done is hijack the attention of someone else’s “moment.”

“I’m Offended for You” Scenario
He has played the scenario out over and over in his head.  He has his pet peeve, and boy, when someone in public offends another, he is going to make his pet peeve known.  When “the moment” comes one would think that he personally had been offended, but he really is just offended for the victim.  He makes a big scene about it publicly and those witnessing the event walk away confused as to who the real victim was.  

A common theme in the above scenarios is that not only are they looking for “the moment,” they also seek recognition in it.  They also fabricate the moment.  “The real moment” is a real trial, however.  The heroes in all the stories worth emulating do not want or seek out “the moment,” but rather endure and overcome the trial because they must.  When the moment really comes for us, it will come unlooked for.  No, far from looking for it, we will want nothing to do with it. Consider Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings, for example.

As great of a story The Lord of the Rings is, we do not need to look to fiction for real examples of heroes. Look at the greatest hero of all time; Jesus Christ.  Even our Lord in “the real moment” said, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  Should our real moment ever come, despite how much we will want to run, may we stand our ground.  

Monday, May 1, 2017

Cause of the American Civil War

“The American Civil War was over slavery!”  “No, it was over states’ rights!”  Back and forth the two sides go, on and on.  The American Civil war was actually over both issues.  To help explain how this can be, I will use an analogy I once heard used by Dr. R.C. Sproul in his explanation for the cause of the Protestant Reformation.  

“Frequently the Reformation is described as a movement that revolved around two pivotal issues.  The socalled ‘material’ cause was the debate over sola fide (“justification by faith alone”).  The ‘formal’ cause was the issue of sola Scriptura, that the Bible and the Bible alone has the authority to bind the conscience of the believer.”

The formal cause of the Civil War was over the issue of secession.  The United States (U.S.) did not invade the Confederate States (C.S) because the latter was pro-slavery.  The U.S. invaded the C.S. because the latter had seceded from the former’s union.  Some may interject here that the C.S. started the war when it attacked U.S. property, e.g. Fort Sumter, that fell within the new borders of the C.S.  This is a mute point as the mere act of secession already made claim to such property. (The picture to the right shows Fort Sumter flying a Confederate Flag in 1861.)

The material cause of the Civil War was over the issue of slavery.  The material cause of an issue is easier to discern when one asks the question, “Why was the formal cause an issue to begin with?”  In the Protestant Reformation, the formal issue (is a believer’s conscience bound by the Bible alone or by both the Bible and Church dogma) was only an issue because of the material cause (is a believer justified by their faith alone or by their faith and their works).  Those that believed one is justified by faith alone did so on the grounds that they believed one’s conscience is bound by the Bible alone.  In like manner, the formal cause of the Civil War (secession) was only an issue because of the material cause (slavery).

Take the American Revolutionary War (ARW) as another example.  The formal cause of the ARW was also the issue of secession.  Great Britain did not invade the British-American colonies because the latter refused to pay taxes, i.e. “no taxation without representation”. Great Britain invaded the British-American colonies because the latter rejected the former’s union.  This formal cause (secession), however, was only an issue because of the material cause (refusal to pay taxes), taxes which were levied, mind you, to pay a down the debt incurred when Great Britain defended the British-American colonists from French aggression during the Seven Years’ War.  In addition to these taxes, the colonists’ infamous smuggling practices were also finally put to a stop in order to drive goods away from the black market where it could be properly taxed.  Interesting how when a people’s money is put at risk, whether it be stopping slavery, smuggling, or tax evasion, those people have a tendency to rebel.  But perhaps that is a topic for another blog.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

My 50th Blog Post

I began my Hardly Tolerable blog 5 years ago at the recommendation of a good friend who has since past away.  At that time, I expressed concern to him that I would soon have very few friends remaining on Facebook if I continued to assault them with my religious and political posts. 

This marks my fiftieth post since that time.  To no one's surprise, I am sure, about 2/3 of my posts have been of a religious or political nature.  The rest of my posts have touched on a wide variety of topics, such as history, military service, etiquette, pipe smoking, ancestry, and even satire.  Satire was by far the most fun and I really hope to do more of it.  However, in the words of wise Gandalf, "Who will laugh, I wonder?"

I thought it would be worth mentioning the top 3 most viewed posts over the past five years. 

Coming in 3rd was The Clinton Case, which was a political post about corruption in both the Republican and Democrat U.S. parties and the importance of laws applying equally to all citizens, to include the rulers.  My guess as to the popularity of this post is that it involved a high profile candidate running for President.

My 2nd most viewed post was Star Trek Convention, George Takei, and the 2014 Winter Olympics, which was a short post of a political/theological nature.  I would like to think that this post received so many views due to the really cool picture of me sitting in the Enterprise-D captain's chair while in a Starfleet uniform.  I doubt it.  The view count was likely due to the controversial nature about homosexuality in regards to religion and politics.

My most viewed post by far over the last five years was actually one written earlier this month; Presbytery: The Judicial Center of Gravity.  Surprisingly, this post was about Presbyterian church government.  I thought this would be a very boring topic, but perhaps I did add a bit of controversy towards the end when I took a jab at presbyteries that fail to live up to their intended roles.

While I do not write blog posts for the purpose of receiving high view counts, it is reassuring to know that at least some people read them.  I also find it interesting to discover what type of issues draw the most views.  It seems that the very issues that I was concerned would lead me to lose friends on Facebook are the very issues that seem to draw the most view counts on my blog.  Despite this, I plan to continue using my blog and leaving my Hardly Tolerable commentary here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Sacraments: Mental Immaturity / Disability

Disclaimer: This blog post is my thinking out loud, and as such, I am open to comments, critiques, and corrections on the topic.

I am concerned by what I have witnessed among Christian denominations that exclude individuals from participation in the Sacraments due to one’s inability to outwardly demonstrate faith in Christ, perhaps due to mental immaturity or disability.  When I say “concerned,” I mean I come close to tears thinking about it, which for those that know me is saying a lot.  

Baptist circles, for example, do not baptize someone unless they have made a public profession of faith.  Another example are Presbyterian circles (of which I belong), who tend to not allow someone to participate in the Lord’s Supper unless they have made a public profession of faith.  Regardless of why participation in a particular Sacrament is being denied, the result is a very real exclusion, a setting apart of that denied person from the rest of the Body of Christ.  That person must be reminded Sunday after Sunday that they are not like the others they sit next to.  Why?  Because they have not met their church leaders’ subjective standard of exhibiting an understanding of and faith in the Gospel.  

In the cases where one has been denied the Sacraments due to mental immaturity, i.e. children, I have often heard the explanation that the person has not yet reached the “age of accountability.”  Not only am I unable to find such a concept in Scripture, this age varies subjectively from church to church.  In the meantime, these children are forced to live in visible exclusion until they reach their church leaders’ prescribed magical age.

Regarding mental disability, I have seen men and women with Down’s Syndrome, for example, be denied the Sacraments for the same reason; their inability to articulate an understanding of and faith in the Gospel, which many of these people will never be able to do.

I believe a person with Down’s Syndrome in the church has as much of a right to the Sacraments as everyone else in the church.  Yes, I wrote “right” and notice I also qualified that this person is in the church.  This means they are attending every Sunday and likely the child of a believer.  This person is in all tense and purposes already part of the visible church and as such ought to receive the sign meant to be administered to the visible church; i.e. Baptism.

A person who has not yet met the local subjective “age of accountability” still has every right to the Sacraments as everyone else in the church.  Let us assume the following; the person is a child of a believer, has been Baptized, is a member of the visible church, and hears the Word preached every Sunday.  Why should that church member be withheld from participation in the Lord’s Supper, the Gospel in visible form?  We do not keep our children from hearing the Word preached prior to reaching an “age of accountability,” so why would we keep them from participating in the Gospel in visible form?  The same goes for those with mental disabilities; if they have received the sign of Baptism, they ought not be denied participation to the Lord’s Supper, as if they are under official church discipline.  In regards to “fencing the table,” I fear we are far too lenient with the sin of those without mental excuse and far too strict with those that are the most mentally tender and vulnerable.  Shame on us!

Perhaps it would help if we considered the means of grace, which are prayer, the Word preached, and the Sacraments.  We pray with and encourage those that are mentally immature or disabled.  We preach the Word to these people in our church, as well.  The Sacraments are effectual means of grace through the working of the Holy Spirit for those that have been given the gift of faith, which is a work of God, not man.  I caution that on the matter of the Sacraments, we too often sound more like Pelagians than proponents of the Gospel of Grace.  May we administer all the means of grace in such a manner that truly magnifies the grace and mercy of God in the saving a people unto Himself.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

U.S. Atmospheric Nuclear Testing Research Continues

No, that is not a picture of the Sun to the right.  Rather it is what it would look like if a nuclear weapon detonated at night, 2 miles over your head.

History will always associate the U.S. with the discovery, testing, and war-time employment of nuclear weapons. The U.S. conducted 219 atmospheric nuclear tests alone between 1945 and 1962. If one includes exo-atmospheric, underground, and underwater, there were 1,054 tests. Since 1962, most of the films that captured the atmospheric tests (over 10,000, as multiple cameras were used during a test) have been slowly decomposing, scattered across the country in high-security vaults.

While a dark topic, it is never-the-less important for a nation to preserve it's history. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has therefore recently been authorized to collect and scan these films into digital form. This takes a great amount of time, but a few are already viewable on YouTube. 

While the preservation of these films is valuable for posterity's sake, new things are now being learned with 21st-century technology that wasn't possible 55 years ago. As such, these films continue to contribute data to current and future weapon physicists. 

Housatonic (pictured above) was one of many tests as part of Operation Dominic in 1962. Housatonic was a low-altitude test delivered via airdrop and detonated at 12,100 ft, (just over 2 miles above the surface).

This is a link to one of these new films.