Positive Politics: Internet and Technology Policy

Well I’m not ready to jump into one of the big ugly topics yet, so maybe this one will be a little easier. (Maybe.) Let’s talk about the internet and overall technology policies.

Access / Control of Internet

There’s a current debate about a concept called “net neutrality” that, as typical, is highly spun by both sides on the issue. So I’m going to avoid that term in my discussion. I’ll try to make this one fairly simple.

Access to the Internet should be thought of and regulated like a public utility, analogous to water, gas, and electric. Market competition is difficult here because the cost for infrastructure development is relatively high and a physical connection is required to each home and business. (We don’t expect that we’ll have three electric companies run lines to our house so we can choose the one with the best rates!) Pricing should be overseen and controlled just like it is for other utilities. Access to the internet should be unrestricted – no paid “fast lanes”, no filtering, no blocking.

Once that level of utility access is in place for the internet, I’m more open to allowing mobile providers to offer variation and experiment within the market space, because there is more room for genuine competition within the mobile internet (aka cell phone) market.

Encryption

The government should not restrict the use of encryption or push for the inclusion of “back doors” into encryption systems. From a technical standpoint, if a back door exists, the probability is 100% that at some point the bad guys will figure out how to get through it. The FBI may complain that good encryption slows their investigations down, and may dream up scenarios where they suggest having a backdoor would help avert some impending attack; I don’t believe that because we can imagine such a scenario that it justifies crippling our encryption systems. Encryption helps enable the right to digital privacy. We need it.

Consumer Data and Privacy

Big data analytics, whether by the government or by corporate interests, are affecting our lives in ways we struggle to understand (or are hidden from us). While it’s folly to think we can get the genie back in that bottle, I’d be interested to explore the idea of a Consumer Data Protection agency similar to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that was created after the 2008 financial crisis. We need awareness of what’s being done with our personal data, and we need real penalties for companies that mismanage or abuse it.

Social Media Transparency

And then there’s Facebook. And #FakeNews. And election meddling by way of Facebook propaganda. I don’t know what it’ll take for the giants like Facebook to get serious about trying to patrol that type of obviously fake material – maybe they shouldn’t. But what we do need is a populous that is more educated about how to identify fake news stories so they can evaluate things on their own.

Evaluation

So let’s evaluate these against our five-principle framework.

1. Is it good for the poor?

When compared with the possibility of pay-for-access, a Net Neutrality position is good for everyone, and benefits the poor who otherwise might be shut out of the benefits that internet access provides.

2. Is it good for the planet?

I’ll rate this one as neutral.

3. Does it promote peace?

The internet can be used for peaceful ends… or for not so peaceful ends. Better consumer education about how and what to consume would help us learn to ignore propaganda, which would be a positive and usually peaceful improvement.

4. Does it challenge the powerful?

Net Neutrality and awareness / limitation of big data collection would serve to at least give us awareness of what the powerful are doing with all that information… and knowledge is the first step toward taking action.

5. Does it let the marginalized have a seat at the table to speak for themselves?

Free and neutral access to the internet would provide each user, regardless of wealth or status, the same ability to distribute their message as anyone else. While access to already-popular channels isn’t automatic, the internet provides more ability than ever before in history for an unknown person with a notable message to spread virally.

Positive Politics: Education

None of the topics I’ve teed up for my Positive Politics discussions are easy ones, but in the interests of easing into things I’ll try to take one that’s maybe not super-controversial to start. (Of course, as with anything political, I may be surprised by what becomes controversial.) So let’s talk about education. For my own organizational purposes, I’m going to break this down into three pieces: early childhood, K-12, and college.

My Background

My background is probably relevant here. After attending two different public schools for kindergarten, I was homeschooled as a child from grades 1 – 12. My maternal grandmother spent her entire career as an elementary school teacher. My parents, after some years as public educators, blazed the homeschooling trail when it was not quite and just barely legal. Thanks in large part to their efforts I did well on the college admissions tests, was named a National Merit Scholar, and graduated with an engineering degree from a private university. My wife and I are now on year 8 of homeschooling our three children, which we anticipate continuing with them through their high school years.

Early Childhood Education

Gone are the days when we could expect that preschool-age children would be cared for by a parent at home. Our modern society is nearly based on the assumption that even if both parents are present in the home – that itself a less frequent condition than it used to be – that both parents are working outside the home to make ends meet. For those with means, children may be left in educational day-care facilities and preschools, but poorer children may more usually get left in a less beneficial environment. Research shows us that these early years are critical to a child’s intellectual and emotional formation.

So what should we do? I suggest that the government should fund early childhood education opportunities. These need not be mandatory – parents should be welcome to choose their own option such as a stay-at-home parent, family member, or private setting – but it should be available for those who would need and use it. Yes, these programs would cost money, but as an investment in the good of those individual children and in society as a whole, they would be a wise choice.

K-12 Education

When compared with the benefit they provide society, I believe teachers are one of the most underpaid groups of workers in America. We require advanced college degrees, often expect that to a great extent the teachers will self-supply their classrooms, and then pay them a barely middle-class salary. I guess then I shouldn’t be surprised – just appreciative – when I see so many teachers with such strong altruistic desire to teach. Why else would they do it?

I suggest that we should significantly increase our commitment to public education, while allowing alternative options with appropriate safeguards in place. We should pay teachers at a rate more commensurate with other professional career paths and should fund associated school programs similarly. While I think local control and direction of the school system is important, schools should be funded from a broader pool – say, at the state level rather than the municipal level – so that we don’t forever build bigger and bigger rich suburban schools while having no funding available for poor districts.

Alternative options such as home schools and private schools should be allowed, but I’m skeptical of the case for routing funds to those schools via things like voucher programs. While on the face of the argument, vouchers seem like a reasonable idea – pay for results, regardless of where the results come from – the metrics make it very tricky. The example of the No Child Left Behind Act over the past 15 years should be enough for us to seriously consider whether we really want to couple educational funding to test-based outcomes. Should assessment tests be a part of an overall institutional evaluation? You bet. But funding contingent on those specific outcomes is problematic. Metrics are tricky things – design the wrong one and you get the wrong behavior.

College education

There’s probably a whole separate post to be written on this topic, but I’ll try to restrain myself. I see two primary problems with our higher education system at present: first, that the costs are increasing exponentially, resulting in college graduates with huge piles of debt; second, that a college diploma is considered nearly a de facto requirement for most jobs.

My grades and test scores helped when I went to college in the mid-90’s. I passed up several full-ride scholarship offers at public universities to attend a private school that offered more minimal scholarships. After graduating in four years, I still had enough college debt that I was writing significant checks every month for 10 years to pay it off. Now 20 years later, the College Board reports that, even adjusted for inflation, public school tuition and fees have more than doubled since I was in college. I’ll guarantee you that inflation-adjusted salaries for parents and students haven’t doubled accordingly! The result: even more debt for students and parents.

Unemployment rates make the story clear: for college graduates, the unemployment rate is nearly zero. (2.5% in January 2017, which is in practice full employment.) For high school graduates, unemployment is more than twice that – 5.3% – and for high-school dropouts, the unemployment rate nears 8%. So the most job opportunities would seem to be available for those who have a four-year diploma. But need this really be the case? Sure, in some disciplines a significant professional education is a must. (I’d like the guy designing my bridge or the woman operating on my heart to have the best education they can get!) But many blue collar and even white collar job fields shouldn’t require four or five years and a mound of debt just to buy entry to the field. Vocational training programs should be developed and encouraged for job areas that can reasonably be done without a four-year degree.

Evaluation

So let’s evaluate these against our five-principle framework.

1. Is it good for the poor?

Increased funding for the education system, with funding spread more broadly, should work to help improve education for the poor.

2. Is it good for the planet?

I’m not sure that the education system has a direct ecological impact – other than that ecological education could be part of a well-balanced system.

3. Does it promote peace?

Similar answer as to #2, though I would add here that education practices that lead to more diversity in our school populations should in the long term encourage more tolerance among diverse groups, which should promote peace.

4. Does it challenge the powerful?
5. Does it let the marginalized have a seat at the table to speak for themselves?

I’m not sure what all powerful groups need to be challenged in this area, but I would hope that the combination of more broad-pool funding combined with local control would help restrain more impersonal national forces in favor of more accessible local ones, and would empower even those in poor districts to make decisions that are beneficial for their children and communities.

[As a reminder: while this blog post is cross-posted to Facebook, I’m on a social media fast through the end of 2017, which means if you comment there I won’t see it. If you want to interact, comment here on the blog!]

[Image credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery]

Positive politics: a little bit of foundation

Before I start in on specific political topics, I want to lay out some foundation that will lie under the specifics.

First, I’m a Christian, so my approach is necessarily rooted in Christian values and a belief that the Bible gives us God’s direction for what is best for human flourishing.

Second, the Bible provides very little direct instruction on what a government should look like other than some basics like punishing evil, encouraging good, being righteous and just. There has been a lot of teaching and assumption in the American evangelical church over the past 40 years that “Christian values” are closely aligned with Republican party positions. I’m going to challenge that assumption while hopefully not irrationally rebelling against it.

Third, politics is the art of the possible, and inherent in good politics is compromise. If all stakeholders are a little bit happy and a little bit unhappy with an outcome, it’s probably a good result from a political viewpoint.

Fourth, I believe that tolerance and freedom are values that should be promoted in our society. While I am a Christian, I do not believe that the best government would promote the Christian faith over other faiths. This includes not compelling uniquely Christian rules or practices simply because they are Christian. The government should foster a society that encourages the flourishing of all its members, regardless of their faith.

Finally, while I would hope the evaluation framework I’m borrowing from Brian Zahnd (as amended by my friend Misty Granade) is rather self-evidently good, I’d like to briefly outline my justification for each principle.

1. Is it good for the poor?

God cares deeply for the plight of the poor, as is demonstrated across the full sweep of Scripture. Old Testament laws command farmers to leave food on the edges of their field for the poor to glean and define jubilees that revert bought/sold property wealth. The New Testament gives instruction to provide for the poor and examples of offerings being taken up for them. This one seems pretty clear.

2. Is it good for the planet?

God is the creator. The earth displays His handiwork. Man’s first task is to care for the garden in which he was placed. God’s ultimate plan is for restoration of all things, including creation. In the same way the government should promote human flourishing, it should also promote the flourishing of all creation.

3. Does it promote peace?

I’m going to hope this one is self-evident. While peace is not always possible, it is always the goal.

4. Does it challenge the powerful?
5. Does it let the marginalized have a seat at the table to speak for themselves?

These two are closely related. It’s a given that there will always be power imbalances, and this isn’t inherently wrong or unreasonable. But power corrupts. Look at any government and you’ll see too many in power who are using that power not as good stewards promoting general flourishing but instead as selfish stewards out for their own gain.

James Madison summed it up brilliantly in Federalist #51:

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

As such, having systems designed to challenge the powerful and let the marginalized have a voice are good because they put an elements of self-regulation into the system.

Onward!

With that set of background and caveats in place, I think it’s time to start writing on specific topics.

Thinking in more positive terms about political issues

From time to time over the past year when I’ve been tempted to write political rage posts, it has seemed to me that even though they’d be cathartic, that wouldn’t be all that constructive. And while I haven’t studied political theory or public policy much, writing helps me work through my thinking on issues. So, my thought goes, maybe I should spend some time thinking through and writing constructive opinions on various political topics.

Then I came across this tweet from Brian Zahnd (this was before my social media fast, honest!) that seems like a good framework to work from:

Off the top of my head, some topics I’d like to consider:

  • Taxation
  • Religious Liberty
  • Health Care
  • Gun control
  • Foreign trade policy
  • Foreign military presence
  • Middle East policy / terrorism
  • Racial justice issues
  • Social programs / social safety net
  • Education
  • Internet / technology policy
  • Campaign finance
  • Term limits
  • Science & space
  • Environmental issues

I’m not working through this all to get Brian Zahnd’s vote – I’d need to run for office first! But it might be constructive to think positively about what policy should be instead of just saying “well, that’s a bad idea”.


Image credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

Single Payer

I was stuck in a hotel last night watching Paul Ryan’s speech, and after he ripped on Obamacare, I had to comment on twitter:

Fellow BHT patron (and, so far as I can tell, staunch conservative / libertarian) Randy replied this morning.

So, stuck in another hotel room tonight (headed home tomorrow, thank God), as promised I want to write down some thoughts about single payer health care.

I’ll lay out my disclaimers out front: I haven’t done a lot of research on this. I’m shooting more or less from the hip. I’m not a doctor, nor do I have experience with the medical industry, save as an infrequent consumer.

So, about single payer…
Maybe I should be a good engineer and first define what I mean by “single payer” health care. I use the term to describe a system where the government provides the funding for the health care system in the country, paying for services directly. Examples of single payer systems include the British National Health Service, and, to an extent, the Canadian health care system.

Why might single payer be a good idea?

Lower costs
It’s a fair question: do we really think government is the most efficient way to run things? But let’s face it: the current system isn’t efficient. Administrative costs eat anywhere between 10 percent (if you believe the insurance agencies) and 30 percent (per a Harvard Medical School report) of the total health care dollars in the US. With $2.26 trillion dollars spent each year in the US on health care, percentage gains for administrative overhead will equal savings. Think about the number of insurance companies and billing middle-men that can be avoided in a single payer system.

Better understanding of actual costs

Any time I look at a bill received from the doctor I realize there are a bunch of shenanigans going on with the pricing of health care. The “list price” for a procedure (i.e. the price I would pay if I didn’t have insurance?) is really high. But then there’s this “negotiated” price listed. Which is a lot less. And I only have to pay a percentage of the “negotiated” price. It’s bizarre and hard to explain.

It works other places

Republicans will tell you anecdotal horror stories about the British or Canadian health care systems, but in the less-biased opinions of my British and Canadian friends, those systems actually work decently well. They’re not perfect, but they’re not atrocious, either. It’s doable.

It’s different than housing and transportation

Randy asked why, if we’re going to go the public funding route, don’t we also publicly fund other needs, like housing and transportation?

First off: we often do. It’s called public housing assistance, and public transportation.

Second off: health care is a different sort of beast. Lack of basic health care can be the reason that poor people are physically unable to work a job. A preventable dental condition or disease can be the difference between being able to show up to work and having to stay home.

The Social Contract

Whether you fully buy in to Thomas Hobbes’ idea of the Social Contract or not, I think he got at least one thing right: that there are certain ills which the government is the appropriate remedy, and that citizens should agree to give up some freedoms to that government in return for the benefits it provides.

Heck, even the Apostle Paul (Romans 13) notes that God designed government to “wield the sword”, so it seems that God isn’t completely opposed to governments.

Reading the Old Testament (and the New), it’s also clear that God places priority on caring for the poor, and in treating all classes and races of people with justice and mercy. The Marilynne Robinson essays I read a couple weeks back spoke strongly on that topic, noting that the OT law is designed in multiple aspects to protect the poor and the week, by outlawing usury, time-limiting slavery, and forgiving debts in the jubilee year.

As the people of God, I believe we should value justice and mercy more than personal freedom and rights. Perhaps our Christianity has been tied to our politics for so long in the USA that we’ve forgotten that the church has flourished over the years under many different political theories and types of government. America’s version of democracy may have attractive features, but it’s not God’s only righteous design for governments.

Shouldn’t the church do it?

I’ve been down this discussion path enough times before that I know the next objection that gets raised: “it’s the church’s responsibility to care for the poor, not the government’s.”

To which I say great, if the church can fund it, let’s go for it. But if you look at the money that each church would need to raise in order to start covering things like welfare and health care, you’d quickly exhaust the coffers of every congregation in the country. The church simply does not exist as a significant enough percentage of the population for this to be feasible.

Yes, the church should give funds to care for the poor when they can. (And probably more than most of them currently do.) But it’s not a logical jump to assert that the church is the only group that should do it.

OK, that’s a lot of words already… get to the point!

When I boil it down, I conclude that if a society values justice and mercy toward all, ensuring provision for basic health care is a necessity. If I have to choose between the current unjust mess that we’ve got, and a system that, while run by the government, provides care for all, I’ll support the government-run plan.

For an equally-lengthy, but much-better-put piece on this topic, I’d encourage you to read Michael Bird’s piece from back in June over on Patheos.

Also Bring Cold Water

Responses from right-wingers and evangelical Christians to the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” have been spread broadly throughout the cable news media and online news and opinion sites over the past few weeks. Initial responses were typical God-and-country red meat, proclaiming Ground Zero to be “hallowed ground”, and declaring that allowing Muslims to build a mosque on that site would be, (to borrow a tired phrase,) to let the terrorists win.

This response, despite the patriotic fervor with which it was proclaimed, has now finally widely been debunked (including a great bit by Frank Rich today in the New York Times). First off, the proposed building isn’t a mosque, but a cultural center. And it isn’t planned for the “Ground Zero” World Trade Center site; it’s actually two blocks away. And similar “hallowed ground” within a two-block radius of Ground Zero houses an off-track betting establishment, a strip club, multiple fast-food restaurants, and several souvenir shops (just to name a few), so it’s not like the whole area has been somehow ‘set apart’. And finally, what does it say about our belief in religious freedom if, after due process has been followed, we then want then government to prohibit the building of a religious center based strictly on the particular religion in question?

Those points may not yet have gained full acceptance, especially among Republicans looking for an election-year issue, but in general I’ve seen them make inroads in he past few weeks.

But yesterday on the Christian group blog Evangel, a post by Tom Gilson (a strategist with Campus Crusade for Christ) brings up what I believe will be the next round of argument against the project: saying that if we look at this strictly as a religious liberty issue, we are making the mistake of believing that Islam is simply another religion.

[A friend] views Islam as a religion that deserves the same rights and privileges as any other. That’s questionable, to say the least….

If you think the Ground Zero mosque comes down to a simple matter of symbolism, or of religious freedom, then you don’t understand the issues deeply enough.

Instead, the author proclaims, Islam is a way of belief whose ultimate goal is domination, and that if we don’t watch out, America will simply be Islam’s next conquest.

On this topic I have heard and seen much from both sides. I have read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s chilling account of growing up in Somalia and her passionate assertion that Islam, as a religion, denigrates women. I have also heard first-hand from a Zimbabwean Christian pastor who warned that the Islam he encountered in Africa was intent on conquest. But by the same token I have worked for many years alongside Muslims who are gentle, family men, who had no aspirations but to provide for their families and to live here peaceably as neighbors and friends. (And, let’s face it, I can no more fairly hold all Muslims responsible for 9/11 than they can fairly hold all Christians responsible for Timothy McVeigh, Aryan separatists, and, oh, the Crusades.)

The more I think on this subject, the more I am convinced that once again right-wing Christians like Mr. Gilson have mixed up their politics with their religion and gotten it wrong. Nowhere does the Bible instruct us to protect our turf, to repel the unbelieving alien, and to presciently foil those who might intend to persecute us. But it does instruct us, often, to love our neighbors. To turn the other cheek when wronged. It reminds us over and over that our battles are spiritual battles, not physical ones. That Jesus already is Lord, and that we need not fear what mortal men can do to us.

We should stop fighting new mosques at every opportunity, and stop making enemies of dear people for whom Christ died. Instead, we should follow Christ’s command and love them.

It’s time to apply Jesus’ teaching about giving both coat and cloak. If someone comes and says ‘give us land to build a mosque’, don’t just give the land; also bring cold water (in the name of Jesus) to those who are laboring to build it.

Fox News, knee-jerk reactions, and out-of-context statements

If my previous posts in which I declared my support for Obama and for civilly-recognized gay marriage weren’t enough to convince my church friends that I have become a heathen leftist Commie pinko, I’ll probably do it with this post. Why? Because I’m going to be mildly critical of Fox News and of those who blindly follow it.

Yesterday I linked to a Rod Dreher column entitled “I was wrong about Sotomayor speech”. (Yeah, there’s an article missing somewhere in that sentence, but live with it.) To catch anyone up who hasn’t heard about it, the controversial statement from Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was made in a 2002 speech at Cal Berkeley, where she said this:

I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her
experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

There was (as one might expect) immediately a lot of noise made by conservative groups like the Judicial Confirmation Network and bloggers (I’ll link Michelle Malkin here as just one example), and when I was on the treadmill at the gym for 30 minutes on Tuesday afternoon, Fox News host Glenn Beck had that quote up on the screen seemingly every minute of his show. And let’s face it: as a stand-alone statement, it seems bad. It’s not the sort of thing that a “judges apply the law, they don’t make it” conservative like me likes to hear at all.

So back to that Dreher article I linked. Conservative columnist Rod Dreher candidly notes that after reading the full text of the speech in question, he says he is

…still a bit troubled by the remark, but not in any important way. Taken in context, the speech was about how the context in which we were raised affects how judges see the world, and that it’s unrealistic to pretend otherwise. Yet — and this is a key point — she admits that as a jurist, one is obligated to strive for neutrality.

And then he quotes another passage from Sotomayor’s speech, one that didn’t ever make the screen at Fox News:

While recognizing the potential effect of individual experiences on perception, Judge Cedarbaum nevertheless believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law. Although I agree with and attempt to work toward Judge Cedarbaum’s aspiration, I wonder whether achieving that goal is possible in all or even in most cases.

Now, that puts a whole different spin on things, doesn’t it? All of a sudden Judge Sotomayor sounds a lot less like a radical legislate-from-the-bench sort of judge and more like an idealist who nonetheless understands the role of the judge in the three-branch governmental system.

At this point I have to put a disclaimer in, because just as my support of civilly recognizing gay marriage caused friends to think that I no longer believe homosexual behavior is sin, this post suggesting that Judge Sotomayor isn’t quite as radical as Fox News suggests will cause some friends to think that I’m soft on abortion. So here’s the disclaimer. Judge Sotomayor does not appear to be the type of judge I’d prefer to see picked for the Supreme Court. I much prefer the staunch conservative views of Justices Roberts and Scalia, and the late Chief Justice Rehnquist. And abortion remains a heinous sin. OK? Are we cool? So let’s proceed.

Here’s the thing I want to get to in regard to Fox News: if you watch it and for a minute think that you’re really getting a “fair and balanced” view of the news, think again. Is it truly “fair and balanced” to hammer on Sotomayor for the one line that sounds bad, without bringing in the other line from the same speech that balances things out?

So next you’ll say to me “OK, Chris, we’ll admit that Fox News is biased towards the conservative viewpoint. But all the other networks are biased towards the liberal side, so why can’t we have our one network?” And that’s OK, I guess, as long as you recognize the bias. Because, let’s face it: if your only news source is Fox News, you wouldn’t even know they have a bias. (Me personally? I don’t watch TV news at all. But my news sources of choice should really be the topic of a separate blog post.)

So my plea to my friends this morning: read, watch, and listen widely. Think about things and come to your own conclusions. Don’t just assume that if it shows up on Fox News, it’s the gospel truth. (Don’t assume that it isn’t, either.) Be willing to see shades of grey in areas where there isn’t a black-and-white standard. And be gracious and loving to all as you do it.

Post-Election Thoughts

So much has been said by so many this morning that I don’t really have anything brilliant to add. Still, I’ll consolidate a few thoughts here.

  • The scene at Grant Park in Chicago last night was amazing. Just amazing.
  • It’s good to have an election decided decisively. No nightmare like the month of November 2000 this time.
  • To those of you who supported Obama: his presidency won’t be as awesome as most of you think.
  • To those of you who opposed Obama: his presidency won’t be as terrible as most of you think.
  • As Christians, it is our responsibility to pray for, respect, honor, and obey our leaders.
  • We owe it to President-elect Obama to put aside our cynicism for a while, to assume the best instead of the worst.
  • The kingdom we wait expectantly for is not an earthly kingdom.

Culture Warrior or Disciple?

The Internet Monk’s latest post deserves more than just a bullet in my overnight links.

Michael Spencer describes “Bob”, a man he met this past summer. Bob is “a very dedicated conservative evangelical, and a pleasant enough fellow….when he [isn’t] angry.”

Bob was your stereotypical culture war evangelical. He was a Jesus follower, but his passion was what was going on in America, particularly the issues we broadly call the culture war: atheistic advances in the public schools, restrictions on Christian practice in the public square, the aggressive agenda of homosexual rights advocates.

Bob was obviously devoted to Christian and conservative media, particularly radio. He believed what he heard. Dobson. Point of View. 700 Club.

We all know people like this. We all get multitudinous email forwards from people like this. Some of us are people like this, or have those tendencies. And here’s iMonk’s word for us:

Go live like a disciple.

It’s hard to say this, but Bob isn’t seeing the big picture. Our American culture war is not worth the demise of authentic discipleship. Trading following Christ in love, even in post-Christian times, for fighting and defensiveness, is a bad trade. Bob is frightened. Our faith says “Fear not.” Bob says prepare to fight. Our faith says prepare to love.

I am particularly impressed that these days should call us together in real community, not separate us according to Christian media audience niche. There are some helpful voices out there in the culture war, but I’d like to suggest that it’s time to listen to your pastor- assuming he’s showing you how to follow Jesus- more than James Dobson or some angrier, more paranoid manipulator of fear.

You should really go read the whole article. Good, good stuff. Amen.