All posts by creno7

About creno7

I decided to write a blog because I felt like recording my thoughts on a wide variety of topics, you could call it developing my own take or philosophy on life. I have always kept a journal, so in a sense I have just expanded this effort into the digital age. I don't expect a large audience but believe this to be a healthy venue for expressing some thoughts. My areas of interest include: Christianity, education, the economy, and other aspects of American society. My personal/professional life is involved in multiple roles....I am a Christian, Husband, Father, Educator, and Coach. If you are interested in my meanderings....pour yourself a BIG cup of coffee to stay awake and enjoy!

Identity Crisis: Reflections and Recommendations for the Republican Party

 

In our two party system both parties attempt to build a constituent base that provides them with blocks of voters in an attempt to build a constituency that will carry them to victory in local, state and national elections.   The Republican Party dominated not only my hometown and state growing up but really the entire region.  While both parties may have expert political scientists recommending that their respective party move further left or right; I would like to see the Republican Party maintain the ideals I grew up to know while moving more toward the center.   Of course I am no expert political scientist, this is simply my attempt to reflect on the Republican Party’s constituent base while recommending some bold policy changes moving forward.

I grew up in a western state in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.  The Rocky Mountain west encouraged a culture of independence. We were driving at a young age (15-16) and with that freedom came road trips, camping trips, and other outdoor excursions without the direct supervision of adults.   All this being said, it was this atmosphere and culture of independence that seemed to also dominate our local politics. The Republican Party nurtured this sense of independence in the west largely through land and gun rights.

In many western states, zoning laws are more relaxed as are the gun laws.  For example, I bought my first pistol (legally of course) a  .45 caliber; at a place called Rocky Mountain Sports and Liquor.  This was a gun and liquor store which included a drive up window for convenient service.  How’s that for relaxed zoning and gun laws?

People living in the west also have a strong connection to the land as a privately owned and managed entity to be protected from the ever invasive feds.  The land also has a sacred connection for many western natives due to the natural beauty of its landscape while also serving as a source for hunting and fishing.  The Republican Party (G.O.P.) stood for low taxes, private ownership, and local jurisdiction in regards to land policy while staunchly supporting the second amendment.  As far as land was concerned; some western landowners contested the federal government’s right to regulate and own the land.  The feds own anywhere from 25%-65% of the land in western states which can lend itself to increased tension with the locals.  In essence, the feds are really the landlords in much of the area.  The G.O.P. did a great job of gathering western constituents based on protecting gun rights while representing the “independent” landowner against the ever encroaching federal government.  After all it was this bloated federal government that could be blamed for land and wildlife mismanagement in addition to increasing firearm restrictions.  Specifically the blame could be directed toward the EPA,  the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture and of course what blame game would be complete without the A.T.F.  Now this might be some of my western sympathies shining through, but not all of this blame was unfounded and that is why Randy Weaver won his lawsuit against the federal government and let us not forget Waco, Texas.

Another important part of the G.O.P constituency, included religious social conservatives.  Where I grew up this group was largely based on higher Mormon populations and other Evangelical groups.  These social conservatives and specifically the Evangelicals, are a vital part of a nationwide base for the G.O.P .  The party had successfully targeted social issues of importance to the Evangelicals such as abortion and gay marriage.   This G.O.P. recipe spelled dominance in the west and ultimately had a national impact culminating in the election of George W. Bush and his VP Dick Cheney (Wyoming).  George being your Born Again Christian while Cheney represented those western ideals.  It was clearly evident how important these Evangelicals were once again in 2004.  Part of Karl Rove’s strategy as Bush’s campaign manager, was to appeal to the base and of course that meant courting Evangelicals.   The Evangelicals in return, turned out to not only vote, but volunteered during the campaign.  This group overwhelming supported Bush in his reelection.

The rest of the Republican base then includes a pro-business element or what I call economically conservative voters; these are your free market advocate Wall Street types, the millionaires, small business owners and some financially conscientious middle class people looking to reduce their tax burden.  These are the groups of Republicans that I have gotten to know while being out here on the east coast.   In contrast to many social conservatives (Evangelicals etc.) this group is perfectly fine with gays getting married as long as that gay married couple pays their taxes and those taxes are low.  The Bush/Cheney combination and to a certain extent even the Trump ticket, appealed to these Republican voters because the party continued to endorse tax cuts, and less business regulation. In addition to this group then, the national base of the G.O.P. finishes off with a sprinkling of self-identified Libertarian folks which have a stronger presence in the west.

Now that I have established what I have seen as the G.O.P’s base of supporters,  I believe the party now needs to reevaluate their political platform.  Moving into the future, it is within the best of interest of the party to prioritize equal rights while simultaneously protecting the rights of churches and religious institutions.  This recommendation is a bit more radical than what it seems on the surface and risks losing a portion of their recent historical base.

The G.O.P. should not oppose gay marriage nor gay adoption.  The party should move forward as an equal legal rights party.  In support of gay marriage; Why not approach it from an economically conservative vantage point?  No matter which way you slice it, increasing the number of marriages ultimately increases the number of financially stable families even with the divorce rate etc.  More financially stable families means more families could be in the pool for adoptions which theoretically then means less people being dependent on the state for welfare or other services over the course of their lives.  The first form of welfare is really the family unit. The sociological viewpoint of the family being the cornerstone to a stable society is true.  While the G.O.P. endorses the importance of the family, they should not attempt to specifically define a marriage or a family.  This platform position would definitely rock the Evangelical boat no doubt about it.  However, the bigger war for the Evangelical crowd and all socially conservative folks for that matter, will be protecting their right to practice their principles freely.

The G.O.P. currently endorses protecting religious institutions and their non-profit status.  Within their platform, the party also endorses religious institutions still receiving federal funding because of the important role they play in providing services for local communities even if they object to certain federal mandates.  The party’s position on Religious Liberty needs to continue and this should help to maintain some of the Evangelical vote and other socially conservative voters like practicing Catholics and Mormons.   While abortion and gay marriage were at the forefront of the so called “culture war” the current battleground issue is to protect the rights of religious institutions pertaining to mandated services.  For example, Catholic hospitals should not be mandated to provide abortions and birth control.  Their federal funding should not be compromised because of their religious objections. These hospitals still have a tremendous value to the communities they serve and because of that, they should still receive federal funding.  These types of legal issues are now front and center and will quickly be replacing gay marriage and abortion as viable voter concerns.

In all of this, I would like to say the Republican Party would benefit not from abandoning the culture war, but redefining the terms by protecting the right of religious institutions to practice their principles.  The decisions made in Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges are not going anywhere.  The march of Western civilization is socially becoming more liberal.  On these issues, the G.O.P. needs to continue to be the party of smaller government while recommitting to their ideals of personal liberty but personal liberty and equality for all.  At the end of the day, smaller governments are not in your bedroom.  If the party continues with an unchanged platform they may find themselves on the wrong side of history while losing elections.

 

Link to an article on political alignment that I found interesting:  http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/05/2016-election-realignment-partisan-political-party-policy-democrats-republicans-politics-213909

Link to the political cartoon artwork I used for my image: https://www.usnews.com/cartoons/republican-party-cartoons?slide=26

*The statements made in this blog do not necessarily reflect my personal or religious views but are simply statements on what I believe is the best path forward for the Republican Party in maintaining political relevance.

 

 

 

Advertisements

A Lesson on Selfishness: The Ultimate Virus

stomach-virus-creature

 

Every Sunday evening my wife and I sit down to go over the upcoming week.  You know the sort of thing where you discuss which of us has evening meetings, who will pick up the kid, when we should have dinner. We are basically trying to coordinate the week in a vain attempt to provide some sort of organization and order to our lives.  Kelly was preparing to go on a business trip to Florida (yes actually a beach resort) for a conference and would be gone Wednesday-Saturday night.  I knew this trip had been coming for quite some time and admittedly I was a bit jealous of her but I felt mentally prepared for the event. What I didn’t realize was that my work schedule for the week was jam-packed.  I had work obligations for the entire week, seven days in a row.  At that moment, frustration set in as I realized my sacred weekend downtime for the upcoming week was non-existent.  It was in this moment, that I vented to Kelly; thinking and saying things like; You have to go on a business trip during the busiest week of my calendar?  My business trips are never this long and how am I going to meet all my work obligations while taking care of our daughter?   And of course, most importantly, I need my weekend or at least a day off…..When is that supposed to happen??  Obviously, none of this was her fault, and by this time in our marriage she knew this was my way of reacting irrationally while blowing off some steam.  It didn’t take long for me to realize the immaturity of my venting and my lack of composure in adversity (Titus: 2:2).  I eventually calmed down, refocused, and said all the right surface statements all the while trying figure out ways to deal with my complex weekly calendar.  With no immediate family conveniently located, Kelly knew I might need a little help.  She had already appointed a couple of friends to be on standby in anticipation of her trip (yeah she’s that good).  I felt a little more at ease knowing that I had a couple of reserves on the sideline.

Wednesday morning, Kelly was out the door by 5am.  I was ready to take this challenge head on.  I was up, saw Kelly off, made breakfast, woke up the kid, fed the kid, packed lunch, and we were ready to roll.  I got us both out the door on our way to school and work on time.  At the end of the day I picked the kid up, made dinner, and made it home by 5:30pm. Day one conquered like clockwork. Day two Thursday was a similar day. On my way out from work that day, a couple of members from my administrative team took their jabs at me in jest by saying things like how “being a mom isn’t so easy” and “see how much Kelly has to juggle?”  I really thought I understood and acknowledged their points; but to be honest, things seemed to be going very smoothly. Dare I say…. motherhood is overrated? Ultimately day two ended with Thursday mirroring Wednesday in its flawless execution (Proverbs 19:21).

Thursday night the kid and I went out to eat and even made it home in time to take the dogs for a walk.  Not only were we executing the week near perfection, we were even able to take care of our dogs properly. What a week indeed! (Daniel 4:4).   All of this was short-lived and changed drastically in the wee hours of Friday morning, 1am to be exact.

As a parent you know the sounds I am talking about. You wake up a bit startled because you can hear your child bursting out of bed, quickly followed by the sound of their feet pounding on the floor as they quickly dart for the bathroom. I don’t need to say anything more about the next sounds I heard once she had reached that bathroom.

At this point, I am trying not to panic and can’t believe it but my daughter has a stomach virus.  From 1am to 4am this dreaded routine had a frequency of every 30 minutes. To make a long story short, we completed this miserable war at 10am Friday morning. My routine was simple; hold her hair back, wait it out, get her back in bed and clean… clean… clean. Once I finished this routine, my mind went immediately to my workday as I knew there would be no way I would make it there that morning.  So the first thing I did when I completed my fatherly responsibilities was to email my team at work to forewarn them about my upcoming absence.

11am marked the beginning of a new peace, a true Pax Romana if you will.  As exhausted as I was, my daughter seemed to be making her way out of this and that brought a sense of calm.  By this time everyone on my admin team knew the situation. They fully understood, and offered their sympathy while suggesting a few remedies for my daughters ordeal.  I had reached out to Kelly as well on more than one occasion and thanks to her, I had a friend on their way bringing reinforcements of all the fundamental staples; Lysol, bleach spray, Saltine crackers, ginger ale, and a bottle of Coke.  Now that was a brave friend.  Anyway….away from our domestic war zone, work was busy, real busy. My admin team had their hands full.  Of course “missing work guilt” started to settle in my head a bit.  Believe it or not I actually enjoy what I do and I possess a serious sense of obligation. I was able to battle through that “missing work guilt” effectively because I know my daughter’s health is more important, but I had fallen short with my behavior toward Kelly because I was not communicating positively with her throughout the process.  Age old jealousy would sneak in there every now and then and I would respond with a passive-aggressive text message every so often.  Images of her frolicking about at her professional conference, which I remind you just so happens to be at a beautiful beach resort, kept haunting my thoughts (1 Samuel 18:8).  Then there was me; bleaching the entire house, washing sheets, cleaning the bathroom, and trying to get the kid to drink some ginger ale.  Then I had what alcoholics might call a “moment of clarity.” This was not the first stomach virus my daughter ever had.  Where was I when all these things were being done before?  Oh yeah, I am not a mom. Forgive me Lord for I have sinned, motherhood is most definitely not overrated.

My daughter’s stomach virus had reminded me about all the things that Kelly does and continues to do for our family.  I had to be in her role for just a few days and it was exhausting.  I made it a point to tell Kelly in person how I valued her as a wife and mother and how appreciative I was for her efforts.  In our conversation she had another point that continues to further illustrate the idea that we need to be careful with what we hold sacred.  At the end of the ordeal, I missed work obligations on Friday and Saturday. Kelly had said; “In a weird sort of way, our daughter was able to get your weekend back.”  I had complained and whined selfishly about the loss of my weekend at the beginning of this journey and had finally realized that the Lord said “Well, you can have your precious weekend, but there will be lessons to learn” (Proverbs 3:11-12).

Titus 2:2  Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.

Proverbs 19:21   Many are the plans in the mind of of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that we will stand.

Daniel 4:4   I Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace.

I Samuel 18:8 And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?

Proverbs 3: 11-12  My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

Bible verses ESV translation.
Continue reading A Lesson on Selfishness: The Ultimate Virus

If everyone is super…then no one is.

The Incredibles

 

Having a younger daughter basically means that my wife and I have seen every animated-cartoon movie known to man.  Honestly, we even find ourselves only quoting animated movie lines in adult conversations which can be embarrassing.  Of course, I will now quote yet another cartoon movie, because the line really resonated with me.  The movie was The Incredibles and the line was from a scene where the villain, as all villains do, took the time to let Mr. Incredible know the details of his evil plan.  His plan was to make everyone a “Super Hero” with his gadgets and gizmos and in doing so, once everyone became “Super” then nobody would be “Super”.

I will  now attempt to connect this animated gem on a personal and professional level. My daughter used to be in a baton twirling group.  Yes, I admit I was also surprised to learn that “baton twirling” was still a thing.  Apparently, it is actually a “thing” that comes with an opportunity to earn scholarship money for college….wow….who knew?  Anyway, I remember her big competition of the year and all the parents with their camera phones, the girls with their glitzy outfits, and the loud music that initiated the routine on the gym floor.  Then suddenly in the corner of the gym, there it was;  a big table which proudly supported hundreds of trophies.  At the end of the day each participant was of course awarded a gigantic trophy for simply being a part of the program.

While it is always great to be a part of a program, it is being an outstanding, or exceptional part of the program that we should distinguish.  Participation trophies, while attempting to foster self-esteem often do the opposite. Many kids themselves are aware that these trophies do not distinguish a notable honor or performance.

That brings me to self-esteem.  All of us as parents, guardians, grandparents, teachers, whatever our role may be, want to see our children as confident people in who they are and their abilities.   What we need to do is build what I like to call “authentic confidence” because self-esteem is fleeting.  Even as adults there are days where we are really on top of our game, we have most if not all the answers, and people look to us for guidance.  Then there are those days where we may feel a bit drained, unsure if we even deserve our position or title, as if we don’t have the answers or the skill set to move forward.  My point is simple, our self esteem may fluctuate with the days and possibly even the hour, but our authentic confidence will always remain because it is built with integrity, honesty, and hard work. In other words, our authentic confidence has been earned and with our perseverance, we can handle the natural fluctuations of self-esteem.

When we decide to only recognize the average or everyone that participates, we are really doing a disservice to those who have invested extra time, worked harder, or those that may be just exceptionally gifted.  Don’t get me wrong, participating in sports, clubs, activities, whatever it may be has tremendous value and should be recognized, but not everyone is the club president, the M.V.P.  or on the Honor Roll because after all; if everyone is “Super”  then no one is.

Free Speech…I’m a fan.

free speech cartoon image

As someone who values our Constitution specifically the 1st Amendment,  some trends and news as of late have been alarming to say the least. Where do I begin, well lets start with “microaggressions” and “trigger warnings”.

First, I want to give credit where credit is due.  I had no idea about microaggressions until I read the shockingly fascinating article “The Coddling of the American Mind” by Greg Lukiano and Jonathan Hardt which appeared in The Atlantic. I have attached a link to the article and of course, I highly recommend that you read it.  (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/)

Their article has permanently caused facial damage as my jaw kept dropping as I read.  In short, some Universities have found it to be sound practice to make students aware of statements that they have labeled as microaggressions.  Microaggressions are statements which may be interpreted as violent, racist or offensive even though the words on their surface or standing alone, don’t seem harmful.  Some Universities are even policing the use of these microaggressions through their rules and polices.  The article provided a great example when the authors said it may be considered a microaggression to ask an Asian American or Latino American, where they were born, which then implies ‘they are not a real American’.

My fear as an educator and a human being is that this erects an unnecessary brick wall against conversing as a whole.  In teaching philosophy, history, or any social science for that matter, it is important to be able to have honest conversations, and ask real questions.  As an educator, I may avoid subjects which historically are true, worth knowing, and enlightening all because I fear using the wrong term.  The result may then be constantly fearing if I use the wrong term, phrase, or example; What will be the consequences?  Do I need to memorize the ever-changing politically correct lexicon in order to communicate ideas that I know are not racist or bigoted but may be construed to be so?  Even as I write this post, I find myself constantly reviewing and asking if the last written statement will cost me a job.  This is no way to educate, as a fear of microaggressions may come to cripple our ability to connect on real issues that need to be discussed.  A healthy, honest, civil, discussion is what a democracy needs to not only thrive, but survive.

The second term that I learned from The Atlantic article was “trigger warning”.  This is the practice of college professors, who will provide a disclaimer for their students about the potentially offensive subjects in their curriculum, literature, lectures etc.   Once again I ask;  Should I avoid teaching specific material out of fear that some special interest or group has declared it to be violent, offensive, or capable of inciting post traumatic stress disorder? If this is the case, then higher learning is in danger as is our democracy, because the strength of any democracy rests on the proper education of its’ citizens.  The premises behind these trigger warnings is to provide an emotionally safe environment.  Once again, to restrict human responses or emotion inhibits the human experience as a whole and can serve as an obstacle to authentic learning.  I believe being offended doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative experience but rather one can use this emotion as a catalyst for response and a call to action.  I am confident that Martin Luther King Jr. was offended by the segregation that existed in his community and nation. But rather than sheltering himself from the situation; he was immersed, even uncomfortable, and at times found himself in life threatening situations.  I am sure that this experience and environment proved to be the motivation that generated change.  Great things do not happen in a safe, comfortable, environment.  Rather than omit, or declare something as a transgression, we should acknowledge information for what it is then possibly confront, debate, analyze, whatever we may need to do in order to enlighten those around us on the validity or invalidity of the issue or comment.  For another example, albeit not as grand of a scale, I know a student who was offended by Donald Trump’s recent comments concerning Mexican immigrants coming across the border.  He did not want to discuss Trump as a candidate at all but to simply dismiss him as a racist, ignore all of his policy statements, label him as offensive and move on.  He believed discussing Trump and his policies would create an uncomfortable environment and would trigger some negative emotional responses, so therefore it should just be avoided.  My suggestion to the student was rather than simply blocking out Donald Trump, why not confront, analyze, and in this scenario, prove his statements to be ultimately false and ridiculous.  To simply label Trump, therefore refusing to address or confront his statements, does nothing for the learning experience and can really retard a person’s intellectual growth.

We must remember that people in this country have the constitutional right to be offensive and I rather have an open conversation because at least those statements or opinions are out in the open with ownership to hold people accountable to their opinions and positions. After all, we ultimately have the power to choose whether or not we are offended because it is a reaction. So now I find myself being offended by the words; microaggressions, trigger warnings, and even the word “offensive”.   All of these terms represent censorship, hinder our first amendment right, and represent a threat to the heath of our democracy.

 

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

 

baby and bathwater

On to Princeton…..a group of Princeton students participated in demonstrations demanding that Woodrow Wilson’s name be removed from the buildings that bore his name on their campus.  Their reasoning goes something like this; Woodrow Wilson was a racist and for the students to see his name being honored on the physical buildings of their campus was to remind the black students of racism and segregation (which are not honorable), therefore Woodrow Wilson should not be recognized and his name should be removed.  First, yes Woodrow Wilson was indeed a racist, no doubts about it.  He was a southerner, grew up a southerner, and was a product of his environment.  The entire United States in the late 19th early 20th century was a racist, segregated society.  During this time in American history, if a white American was not racist, or if they did not endorse some sense of white racial supremacy, they were in fact EXTRA-ORDINARY in every sense of the word.   There was not only segregation in the south but many northern states in private businesses, public facilities and our government.  If consensus public opinion was not racist, or did not endorse some false sense of white supremacy, then it would have been reflected in the organization of American society in the late 19th early 20th century, but that was not the case.  The unfortunate fact is many, if not most, white Americans during that time in American history would be considered racist.  Woodrow Wilson just happens to be on a public, much grander stage, where it is much easier to identify and document his racist beliefs rather then your everyday “Joe Schmo” white guy from 1906.  So then the question becomes; Do we judge and label Woodrow Wilson as a racist then remove his legacy from the annals of American History?  Do we throw away his honorable political accomplishments such as winning a Nobel Peace prize for establishing the League of Nations and serving as our President during WWI? Do we dismiss Woodrow Wilson because he held views which many if not a majority of white Americans held during that time? Of course not, that is ridiculous.  Our human experience is marked by flaws, inaccuracies, and imperfections.  Should we remove the legacy that is Martin Luther King Jr. because some can make the argument that he objectified women as an adulterer?  Of course not, he was an inspiring charismatic leader that generated a movement that has forever improved our nation.  All people have their imperfections, should we allow their imperfections to blemish what may otherwise be a positive historical legacy? To do so is indeed throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Immigration: The same but different (a true you Yogi-ism)

1892 immigration

“The culture of poverty has some universal characteristics which transcend regional, rural-urban, and even national differences…..

-Oscar Lewis, “The Culture of Poverty” in Four Horseman

The United States has always been a nation of immigrants.  Immigrants like the Irish in the 1840’s who left to escape starvation and would later in the 1860’s welcome the Civil War as a job opportunity with guaranteed meals and a roof over their heads.  Whether it is the Italians, Scandinavians, English, Scottish….you name it, let’s face it, they were not “European nobility”  upon their arrival by any stretch of the imagination. Immigrants were struggling, often times impoverished. Now, we are faced with what has been labeled our current “immigration crisis”.  Numerous immigrants are arriving from our southern borders and they are coming to America for the same reasons Immigrants have always arrived here; opportunity.

A lot of people are motivated by the American dollar. In many Latin American countries the American dollar is one of the main sources of income with remittances accounting for up to 15% of some Latin American countries total G.D.P. (http://www.pewhispanic.org/2013/11/15/remittances-to-latin-america-recover-but-not-to-mexico/ph-remittances-11-2013-1-03/). These immigrants actually provide a weapon against inflation.  The value of the dollar has remained strong because of these immigrants coinciding with the fact that American’s wages have decreased as a percentage of our total G.D.P (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/sunday-review/americas-productivity-climbs-but-wages-stagnate.html?_r=0). This pinch on the blue-collar middle class has unfortunately helped restrain inflation and the remittances from immigrants have helped as well. The immigrant contribution is the siphoning of the American dollar outside our borders which serves to help maintain the value of the dollar by making it more scarce within our borders.  In addition to their resource as an anti-inflation tool, these siphoned American dollars then also provide an important source of income for countries just south of our border.  These countries are often impoverished, in desperate shape. These exported American dollars not only provide a restrain on inflation, but serve as an aid package to countries close to home and their political/economic stability is in the best interest of the United States.  Therefore without a doubt, Immigration is good but….

…I do understand the need to document and regulate immigration.  What was once the land of opportunity remains as such but unfortunately the bureaucracy and guidelines for immigration are not the same.  The process has now become lengthy, clumsy, and inefficient (http://www.cfr.org/immigration/us-immigration-debate/p11149).  There is a definite need to streamline the process for those immigrants whose primary reason is to work, while exporting their dollars. Documentation would also provide these immigrants with a level of protection allowing our law enforcement to share information on the identity of these workers  (although sharing information seems to be a huge obstacle at all levels of government which is bewildering in and of itself in this day an age of cloud computing and shared data bases).

I also sympathize in part with Arizona, specifically regarding their struggle to identify who is responsible for immigration as our federal government and state responsibilities are not clearly defined.  Regardless if you support President Obama and his latest efforts to reform immigration, or if you are a conservative who believes that immigration is the responsibility of congress, or a conservative who is a state’s rights advocate in regards to immigration; one thing remains the same and that is we would all benefit by the clarification of our immigration policy that would ultimately refine the process making it much less cumbersome.

We were all immigrants and at one point the system did work for our ancestors.  Our current system needs fixing, so let’s get beyond partisan politics and do something but beware… it will involve compromise.

Old Testament Law and Jesus

As a practicing Christian, I decided to read the Bible in its entirety.  If you have done this and even if you have not, one of the challenges is developing a working mental paradigm to understand the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.  This was one of the challenges for the apostles as well (circumcision or no circumcision in the Book of Acts for example). This challenge even led to some splits within the early church when the Gnostics refused to reconcile the God of the Old Testament and Christ as one and the same.  With this post I am focusing just on the concept of the law as it exists in the Old and New Testaments not the nature/actions of God in the Old and New Testament which is a much bigger undertaking.  In order to better illuminate the relationship between the Old Testament and the New in regards to the law, I looked to the teachings of the early church,  the words of Jesus, and my Protestant faith.

Old Testament law can be a bit overwhelming, when you begin to read the Bible. There are many laws that are clearly not binding on our lives as Christians.  I looked to St. Thomas Aquinas for clarification on all the different types of rules/regulations (a.ka. Old Testament law).  Aquinas dividend the Old Testament law into three categories; moral, ceremonial, and judicial.  Moral law is dictated by natural law,  while ceremonial law is affiliated with divine worship and the judicial precepts are determinations of the justice maintained among men.  St. Thomas Aquinas then determined the only law applicable to Christians was the moral law.  The ten commandments would be an example of moral law, while the book of Leviticus contains many other examples of ceremonial and judicial law.  As a Christian the law has been sharply reduced in light of Aquinas and the early church, so now we can look to the New Testament and specifically the words of Jesus to further develop our understanding about the law and its relationship to the New Testament.

In Matthew 5:17 Jesus directly addressed his relationship to the Old Testament law when he said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them”.  Clearly the moral law is applicable but Jesus has fulfilled the law perfectly on our behalf.

Further in the book of Matthew (22:34) the Pharisees were attempting to trap Jesus with his answers when they asked him, “Which is the greatest commandment”?  Jesus then replied…..”You shall love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

This is a very powerful quote from Jesus and it relates directly to the relationship between Old Testament law and Christianity.  These words also serve as a practical guide for Christians on how they should approach their daily lives as well as their relationships with others.  Jesus has made the law even easier to understand by providing a further simplification of what the law really means.  First, love the Lord God with all your heart, soul and mind.  Clearly a daunting task!  We should seek the Lord daily through his word and prayer.  With all of the distractions around us today this is always a challenge, but if we seek the Lord daily we are off to a great start.  Secondly, to Love your neighbor as yourself seems to be much more approachable in many ways.  This should guide all of our interactions with other people.  This can also be challenging when that certain someone is very difficult to love.  In relationships such as those, we must also remember that all of humanity is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  I also believe that these two commandments from Jesus clearly direct us to genuine Christian service to those who may be in more difficult or less fortunate circumstances.

My Protestant faith has also developed an understanding of the law (and when I refer to law I am referring to the moral law only).  The law serves as a mirror to show us our sin (Romans 3:20). The law makes sin recognizable to us and it is easy to recognize because the law is written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33, Romans 2:15).  Now it does all come together, because when we love the Lord God with all our heart, soul and mind, we are made aware of our sin, and through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit we hope to avoid sin with an understanding that we will never be sinless.

As Christians we can hold onto the actions of Jesus as having fulfilled the law but realize the law serves to show us our sin.  When we are aware of our sin, we are then moved to repent.

In closing, I have to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer at length to provide even further clarification for the daily grind of the Christian life…. “Everyday Christ’s followers must acknowledge and bewail their guilt.  Living as they do in fellowship with Him, they ought to be sinless, but in practice their life is marred daily with all manner of unbelief, sloth in prayer, lack of body discipline, self-indulgence of every kind, envy, hatred and ambition” (Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship).

As Christians we will continue to fight the daily battle.  But we live in hope because in the end we know Christ has won that battle for us and that all the law and prophets come down to seeking Him with all our heart, soul and mind while loving our neighbor as our self.