Showing posts with label Government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Government. Show all posts

Friday, June 16, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: The Surveillance State

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

CNET reports that the Chinese government is now using surveillance cameras, facial recognition and smart glasses to score people on their social behavior.

Tom: Mariel Myers says, “China plans to give all of its 1.4 billion citizens a personal score, based on how they behave.” Not ten years down the road, or even five, but next year. The technology is already up and running. Get a low enough score, and you could be publicly shamed or denied all sorts of privileges.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Enforcing Conformity

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

In an opinion piece entitled “Bigotry, the Bible and the Lessons of Indiana”, Frank Bruni of the New York Times says what much of our culture is thinking about Christians these days.

Riffing on the ‘Memories Pizza’ story from back in 2015, in which a pizzeria in Indiana was forced to closed its doors by a barrage of online threats after its Christian owner answered a hypothetical question about catering same-sex weddings, Mr. Bruni starts with the statement that “Homosexuality and Christianity don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere.”

Friday, July 29, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Keeping It Controversial

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Matthew Block at the National Post says it’s a bad time to be religious in Canada.

Now of course he’s looking across the religious spectrum, not just at Christians, touching on everything from proposed government training and certification of imams on to the Quebec government’s plan to ban ostentatiously religious clothing through to the resistance to Trinity Western opening a law school.

Evidently it’s not just terrorism the Canadian government is concerned about, and it’s not just Canada where religious restrictions are either being considered or have already been rolled out.

Tom: I’m not a fan of the hyper-regulatory state, Immanuel Can. Do you see any silver lining here?

Friday, January 28, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Brimstone and Deceit

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Tom: Here’s a hot topic we’ve yet to discuss, IC — at least, it’s generated some serious heat for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, sufficient to rate an article in The New York Times.

At issue is the government’s determination to tie federal funding for youth job programs to the expression of politically correct opinion. It’s about $113 million annually, give or take, and approximately 70,000 jobs are at stake.

The Prime Minister dismisses the very predictable negative reaction from Canadian conservatives as a “kerfuffle”.

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Don’t Think It Can’t Happen Here

The unjabbed stand outside and sing their own Christmas songs as
Finnish churches are now requiring the pass to enter.

An online acquaintance in Finland confirms.

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Christ and the Police State

The Rutherford Institute is a nonpartisan organization whose self-appointed mission is to hold the U.S. government accountable to abide by the rule of law, sound the alarm over institutional abuses of power, and educate Americans about reclaiming their constitutionally-guaranteed but steadily-eroding freedoms. Its founder John Whitehead is deeply concerned that America is becoming a police state, and he offers plenty of evidence to back up his claims.

All very important stuff in its own place, I’m sure, but what does it have to do with Christians? Well, Whitehead has written a Christmas post entitled “The Christmas Baby Born in a Police State: Then and Now”, in which he asks the question “What if Jesus had been born 2,000 years later?”

Okay, now I’m interested.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Religious Freedom, Limited

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

The Independent reports that Belgium’s Walloon region is the latest territory to ban kosher and halal meats. Denmark, Switzerland and New Zealand all got there first, in each case turning a deaf ear to the protests of Jewish and Islamic minorities.

Tom: That’s fine with me. We’ve already established in the U.S. and Canada that there are reasonable limits on religious freedoms, though these have been applied more frequently (and certainly more visibly) against Christians than against religious minorities recently.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Reality Check: Religious Freedom

Religious freedom is not a Christian value.

There, I said it.

Now, let’s be real about it: religious freedom is certainly a value held and promoted by many Christians. It is also a benefit that, when conferred on us by the occasional society that looks favorably on the faith (or simply neglects to single it out for special persecution), has made preaching the gospel a whole lot less painful for those who preach it. If I could have religious freedom or not have it, I would certainly prefer to have it.

Nevertheless, these things in themselves do not make religious freedom our inalienable right, and they should not remotely encourage us to seek to spread it around.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

The Motive Doesn’t Matter

In chapter two of Daniel, the Chaldean king Nebuchadnezzar dreams of the end of all this world’s great secular empires ... including his own. A great stone representing an eternal kingdom set up by the God of heaven destroys the image of which Babylon was the golden head.

The weak point of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was its feet, which were a less-than-sturdy composite of iron and clay. Perhaps with this in mind, the king eventually decided to build an image of his own. His version was ninety feet high, with no weaknesses which might be easily targeted by other would-be empire builders. Anyone who observed it saw nothing but gold from head to toe.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Civilly Disobedient

“Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name.”

We’re all doing it. You know you are.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Breaking Point

There is a lot of talk these days about Christian COVID “conspiracy theorists”, the spectrum of which ranges from anyone who does not accept lock, stock and barrel the ever-evolving mainstream media narrative about masks, vaccination and the efficacy of social distancing, all the way to the full-blown “George Soros and Bill Gates set up the whole thing” crowd.

A not-insignificant movement is underway to encourage these whispering saints to please curtail their speculations before they manage to ruin the collective testimony of the people of God by making us all look whack-a-doodle.

Monday, March 08, 2021

Anonymous Asks (135)

“Do Christians need a marriage license?”

Kurt Russell is 70. Goldie Hawn is 75. While working on a movie together in 1983, the two actors spontaneously spent the night in a hotel room (details thankfully not disclosed) and have gone on to live under the same roof — by all accounts faithfully — for the last 37 years, producing two children over their years together. Both were previously married, but their current very deliberate non-marriage has outlasted both their original “legitimate” unions combined, has soundly beaten the U.S. average marriage duration by almost 30 years, and seems to have made them both a good deal happier than any previous relationship. Neither Kurt nor Goldie expresses any desire to legalize the successful partnership they currently enjoy.

As a Christian, would you want to publicly critique that? I sure don’t, not with the limited information I have about it.

Friday, March 05, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: The Wrong Set of Chromosomes

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Bill C-16 amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. It also amends the Canadian Criminal Code to protect any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression against “hate propaganda” and to increase sentences accordingly against those who violate it.

Tom: The bill was rammed through Parliament with little discussion, no public consultation and no recorded vote. Thank you, Justin Trudeau! Last I heard it’s before the Canadian Senate for final approval. If the bill becomes law, people who say they’re transgender become a specially protected class of citizens in Canada.

How do you feel about that, Immanuel Can?

Friday, October 09, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Making Tough Choices

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Tom: Last month, IC, you and I had a conversation in this space about what might come after the COVID crisis for local churches, as well as for Christians generally in a transformed economic and social environment, and I don’t want to revisit the topics we considered at that time at any length.

But in the last week or two (assuming you are not reading this in Sweden), you are probably hearing about significant “spikes” and “surges” in the COVID-19 infection rate wherever you live. Some people are calling it a “second wave”. The U.K. has seen the worst surge, topping what they experienced in April and May, but Canada is looking ugly too, as are the U.S., France and especially Spain. (I’m using the World Health Organization (WHO) stats; graphs of confirmed cases and deaths day by day in each country are found by scrolling down below the maps.)

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Inbox: ‘Systemic’ Racism

Israel had the greatest system in the history of our planet.

God gave a plethora of laws to Moses on Sinai, yet they did not make for a perfect society because people are not perfect. Individuals observed those laws from time to time, and in doing so, benefited from them. But on a national level, Israel would not — nay, could not — follow those laws, notwithstanding the fact that they were morally excellent, decent, orderly, and taught lessons humanity absolutely needed to learn, not to mention they pointed to Christ. So God gave them, man received them, and the result was systemic failure.

Or was it?

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

No Standing

The argument may be made that John Glover Roberts Jr. is the most powerful man in America.

As the 17th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, when Roberts says no, even the current president reluctantly backs down. For that matter, lower court judges have blocked, delayed or nullified Mr. Trump’s initiatives over the last four years on any number of fronts.

Surprising, no?

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Time and Chance (45)

Governing is tough.

Even in traditional monarchies, governance has always required a team, the rough equivalent of a cabinet or executive; the right people in the right combination. A king needed experienced, mature, educated men to serve as his administrators and advisors; men able to make policy and to accurately estimate the short- and long-term consequences of implementing it.

Finding the right people to put in secondary positions of authority is a critical matter. It has tremendous consequences for a nation. Kingdoms have been lost because a ruler listened to the advice of the wrong man or men, or refused to listen to the advice of the right man.

Generally speaking, slaves don’t make strong candidates for such positions, as the writer of Ecclesiastes is about to tell us.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Anatomy of a Genocide

Serious efforts to exterminate Jews have happened more than once, and the word of God assures us they will happen again. The book of Esther is the story of a relatively early attempt.

The Medo-Persian empire was not Nazi Germany, and it is not Armageddon, but there are still a few interesting things to be observed about genocides, how such things can even come about at all, and what a persecuted (or soon-to-be-persecuted) minority can learn from them about how best to conduct itself in the face of overwhelming numerical opposition.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Time and Chance (35)

Let’s back up and remind ourselves where we were last week in Ecclesiastes 8, because the subject under discussion in the first five verses continues just a little longer.

The Preacher was considering the temptations and opportunities that face people under authority in the performance of their duties; in this case, servants of the king. There are really only two possibilities: either the servant is doing the will of the king, or else he is using the king’s authority as cover to promote his personal agenda, or to advance some ideological position.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Time and Chance (34)

When we try to get some practical help for daily living from scriptural reflections 3,000 years old, it is obvious we are going to have to do a little bit of thinking: first, about whether these things can be applied to our own situation at all; and secondly, assuming they can be, what reasonable conclusions we might draw from them about our own situation.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Time and Chance (20)

One thing I have neglected to point out over the last two weeks of posts in this series is that the first seven verses of chapter 5 of Ecclesiastes are different from everything that has come before them. They are the very first commands we have encountered in the Preacher’s writing.

Everything up to this point has been description; the Preacher looking around at his world and telling us what he observes in the absence of divine revelation, most of which he finds disappointing and confusing. But chapter 5 commences with a short series of what we might call prescriptions. The Preacher has actually begun to issue the occasional instruction. “Guard your steps,” he says. “Be not rash with your mouth. Let your words be few. Do not delay in fulfilling your vows.”

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Time and Chance (17)

I do not own or read many Bible commentaries.

Why? Well, I find commentaries tend to sway me toward specific interpretations of the text. That makes them bad places to start the search for truth — for me at least — because they rarely lay out all possible options for me to consider. Further, these selective impressions about meaning may or may not be well informed, linguistically accurate, carefully thought out, or consistent with the rest of scripture. Some are and some are not. The sheer number and variety of impressions gathered by different writers from any given passage demonstrate that not all can be correct, though some are definitely better than others.

So I prefer to read a passage multiple times, pray through it and mull it over, then do word studies and comparative analyses to develop an opinion about its meaning on my own. Reaching for a commentary is a very last resort. Confirmation, maybe.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (56)

Egotists and self-interested people are the bane of civilization.

Once upon a time, a nation divided up its countryside and farmed it. Everyone did roughly the same thing and required approximately the same knowledge and physical skills.

Then came city life and with it the need for specialization. No longer self-reliant and autonomous, those who embraced urbanization came to prize men and women who could manage the affairs of thousands efficiently. When they did it well, everybody enjoyed life. When they did it poorly and selfishly, everybody suffered.

Solomon comments on aspects of this phenomenon.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: The Surveillance State

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (31)

The Western world has no lack of powerful people. Still, the rulers of today’s first world countries are constrained to a much greater extent than many of us think by the political systems in which they operate and by the vagaries of public opinion.

All Western leaders test the political climate with internal polling before making significant moves. Canada’s Justin Trudeau, for instance, rarely makes even a public statement without his entire inner circle weighing in. Donald Trump, often accused of being unilateral and arbitrary, accepts the rulings of lower court judges and the limitations of working through Congress.

I suspect the Israelites of Solomon’s day might not recognize our leaders as real “rulers” at all.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Enforcing Conformity

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (19)

When the U.S. congress passed The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) in 2007, it is highly unlikely they anticipated triggering a cereal grain price jump of 67.4%, or that the rising food prices that resulted from the passage of the bill would end up plunging nearly 70 million people into extreme poverty.

What prompted the EISA? In theory at least, it was the desire to reduce dependency on foreign oil, scale back greenhouse gas emissions and keep the price of gas down. None of these are bad ideas. While I am as easily attracted to conspiracy theories as the next guy, I doubt the average elected representative planned on starving the third world to reduce U.S. gas prices.

But the unintended consequences of the Act have caused and continue to cause near-incalculable damage. This is where wisdom comes in.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Brimstone and Deceit

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Kings and Functionaries

One must be careful what one wishes for, not to mention one’s choice of words.

Israel said to the prophet Samuel, “Appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” They were looking for a judge and a defender, someone who would grant them justice against their domestic enemies and take up arms against foreign enemies on their behalf. Instead, in Saul, after an initial honeymoon period, they got a king who judged them arbitrarily, oppressively, selfishly and moodily, and who fought on their behalf with only limited success.

Exactly like all the nations.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Religious Freedom, Limited

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Message You’re Sending

“There’s always someone looking at you.”

The line was penned by Sir Bob Geldof way back in 1979, long before personal computers with memories that the average person cannot easily erase, long before the Internet, before the NSA was on your hard drive and tracking your every movement through your cell phone, before your TV started watching you while you watch it, and before the unblinking eye in the sky that is Google Maps. It seems more than a little prescient, but Geldof had become (briefly) famous, and the world was paying more attention than he would have liked.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Day Without Me

If you missed “A Day Without a Woman” last week, don’t feel bad: I didn’t notice it either until I read about it online. Women were encouraged to take the day off and not to spend money to show their economic strength and impact on American society. Most did not.

Perhaps our U.S. readers will tell us if they felt the impact of some sort of message being sent.

Cassady Findlay, spokeswoman for the protest, says, “We provide all this value and keep the system going, and receive unequal benefits from it.”

Friday, February 03, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: The Wrong Set of Chromosomes

The most recent version of this post is available here

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Bowl of Fake Rights

Fake rights are all the rage.

Sure, the “right” to almost anything, duly constitutionalized and conferred upon us by government, can be created out of thin air provided there is sufficient public demand. But in the absence of heavenly authority, state-enshrined rights are both morally incoherent and logically inconsistent. In practice they are largely unenforceable.

In short, fake.

The hottest new fake right on the block has to be the “right not to be offended”.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Rights and Freedoms

In the wake of the U.S. election, Crawford Paul muses on the role of the church in a democracy. Here’s his setup:

“The dilemma comes when the church, which is NOT a democracy, exists in a nation that IS a democracy. How does the church uphold a democracy that would ensure their right to follow the teachings of the Bible while at the same time grant rights to those who contradict the Scriptures?

Hmm. I agree with much of what Crawford says in his piece, but I have a very different take on a few of his assumptions.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Everybody, Take a Holiday

Unless the political process degenerates even further (and we certainly can’t rule that out given the revelations of the last few days), by Tuesday we MAY have some idea who will serve as the next president of the United States.

Many commentators have expressed concern that even if, against all odds, Donald Trump should somehow win the presidency, he will be unable to deliver on the numerous promises he has made on the campaign trail — the “big, beautiful wall” comes to mind — because even if the House and Senate retain Republican majorities (which is by no means guaranteed), neither legislative branch will agree to forward a Trump agenda.

To which I reply, “Uh ... so what?”

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Anarchy and Violence

I used to like democracy. As forms of government go, I liked it a lot.

Not to say I’m all that emotionally invested in any particular way of running the show. As an adult Christian, I now recognize the built-in limitations of all human institutions. But for most people, unless the system in which we grew up was transparently horrendous, it tended to define our political horizons. I was no exception.

Mind you, as a lifetime reader of the Old Testament, a monarchy sounded like it might be cool — always assuming you had exactly the right sort of monarch. But the books of Kings suggest such a hope is a bit of a long shot: Israel’s 19 kings were a total moral washout, while Judah went a mere 8.5 for 20 in the “good king” department.

Not a great track record.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Keeping It Controversial

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Under the Shadow

People do things. Things good or bad, generous or selfish, trustworthy or manipulative, wise or horrendously ill-considered.

Paul tells the Corinthian church that the people of Israel were examples. The things that they did in the desert on the way to Canaan and the things that happened to them as a consequence of their behaviour were written down to instruct us, “on whom the end of the ages has come”.

It seems reasonable to assume this is true of most of Bible history: it happened, not randomly but with divine purpose. And we can benefit from observing the mistakes and successes of those who lived thousands of years before us, avoiding the former and pursuing the latter.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Institutional Fix

Government should do something. That seems to be the consensus.

Never mind what the issue is. Could be the economy. Could be women’s wages. Maybe aboriginal affairs. Certainly immigration. Definitely climate change. But if only those people we elected would just get to it, things would be better.

People love the institutional fix. Specifically, they love identifying a problem and ranting about it. These days, personal responsibility begins and ends with firing off a critical blog post, Facebook screed or nuclear Tweet. Whatever the problem may be, with any luck someone else will deal with it. Hopefully they’ll start a program.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Persecution Complex

Rachel Held Evans, what would I do without you?

The redoubtable (and frequently doubtable) Ms Evans would like believers to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, and to stop feeding Christian paranoia about looming government persecution. Further, we ought to do it “for the sake of the gospel”.

(That “for the sake of the gospel” is delivered with all the sincerity of the progressive’s “It’s for the CHILDREN!”, I suspect, but let’s let Rachel carry on.)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: Let’s Make Sure They Hate Us Enough

A more current version of this post is available here.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Recommend-a-blog (10)

William Lane Craig has one of the better-reasoned takes I have come across on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that has redefined marriage.

Like Roe v. Wade, this is a seismic event for the U.S. and the consequences for Christians who seek to follow scripture will be significant. Craig’s analysis and advice to believers is eminently more sensible than David Brooks’ column in last week’s New York Times, which may as well have been entitled “Resistance is Futile”. (My thoughts on Brooks’ advice may be found here.)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Matter of Moral Indifference

The setup is this: in Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approach Simon Peter to ask if Jesus is in the habit of paying it.

Presumably, like the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, they are looking to catch the Lord out in some way. Or, like many officials, they are simply being officious. Or more charitably, perhaps they are merely doing their job.

In any case, Peter says “Yes”, the Lord pays the temple tax.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Getting Sucked In

As a Christian, how do you know when an argument is not worth getting sucked into?

The titular head of Roman Catholicism clearly doesn’t. Feminists, the media and the political Left (admittedly there is some redundancy in those categories) walked him right into five miles of social justice quicksand when he felt compelled recently to weigh in on the subject of equality.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Painting A Target

If you haven’t read it, Bernie’s previous post on this subject, Reading the Tea Leaves, may be found here.

There remains among many the rosy view that life for the church in North America will continue as it seemingly always has done. There certainly was a time in the not-too-distant past in which church attendance was commonplace, prayer at schools or before city council meetings was far from unusual and the public square welcomed, if not encouraged, Christian ideals and ideas. In those days, only a generation or so ago, a politician was respected for his or her beliefs rather than derided. Today — in Ontario at least — the political litmus test for a candidate is whether or not they marched in the last Gay Pride parade.

It isn’t even worth discussing what happened or why it happened — but those halcyon days where faith and unbelief could co-exist peacefully are very much gone.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Counting the Cost

Following up on Bernie’s post from a few months back, David French at National Review has a few notable things to say on the subject of the looming hot-button issue of tax exemptions for charitable organizations, including churches (and presumably parachurch entities as well) in the U.S.

Canadians should note that we are rarely far behind on such developments.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: Enforcing Conformity

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Reading the Tea Leaves

The Gangster and the Amish.

Ok, that’s a fairly weird combination, I grant you, and sounds like a really bad Lifetime Network movie. Hang with me for a minute or two because there really is a sort of odd connection with what I have in mind.

The Amish

The Amish are an intriguing group remarkable for their passivity and lack of involvement. At some point a long time ago they drew a hard line between modern society’s choices and their own. They effectively said “this far and no further”, and in large measure they have maintained that line. I don’t particularly want to join them nor do I think their example is a great one for Christians to emulate; we ought to be in the world to be effective for God but we shouldn’t be of the world. That line between “in” and “of” may be a hard distinction to retain some days, but retreating entirely from the world as the Amish have done strikes me as unfortunate and unfulfilling.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Big Government, Micro-Regulation and Morality

In a 2012 article for National Review entitled “The Perversion of Rights”, Mark Steyn laments the age of micro-regulation:
“That’s the real ‘hot topic’ here — whether a majority of citizens, in America as elsewhere in the West, is willing to ‘leave it up to the government’ to make decisions on everything that matters. On the face of it, the choice between the Obama administration and the Catholic Church should not be a tough one. On the one hand, we have the plain language of the First Amendment as stated in the U.S. Constitution since 1791: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’

On the other, we have a regulation invented by executive order under the vast powers given to Kathleen Sebelius under a 2,500-page catalogue of statist enforcement passed into law by a government party that didn’t even bother to read it.”