Saturday, June 20, 2015

Rooted in Evil

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”- Ephesians 6:12

In the aftermath of the mass murders in Charleston, a lot of the discussion has been about racism and guns in America. And these are subjects worthy of discussion. They are major factors in what happened in Charleston. But, the core of what happened there is rooted in EVIL. In today’s world we are reluctant to talk about evil and when we do talk about evil it tends to be an adjective not a noun. Actions may be described as evil, but we tend to relate them to some sort of cause and effect process. If we can figure out “the cause” then we can remedy “the effect”. If we are forced to admit that real EVIL exists and is “a thing”, then we must move from the physical world to the meta-physical world and ultimately outside of ourselves as the shapers and creators of “our world”.

I tend to think that it was not just coincidence that Dylann Roof chose a church and a bible study group as the place to make his “statement”. Through the journey of his young life, he made choices that led him to this moment. Were there other influences? Of course, and they may go deep into his DNA. If he had grown up in a country without such an awful history of racism and less access to handguns, might there have been a different outcome? Perhaps. But where evil is at work, another madman in America would have likely taken his place. And Dylann Roof might be out there doing some other horrible thing somewhere else on the planet.

Theologians and philosophers have argued over free will vs determinism for centuries. And there are many who would argue that what happened in Charleston was “predestined” or somehow in line with the mysterious, unknowable will of God. I tend to believe that we all play the hand we are dealt and God in his Providence offers a way out. He is more generous and shows more mercy to some, but we are all given the choice.

“God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can't. If a thing is free to be good it's also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they've got to be free. Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk” – C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


"Money Magazine ranked McKinney as the #1 Best Place to Live in America! McKinney has been featured in the top 5 on the list since 2010. Money editors and writers look at data about employment, schools, crime and safety, and also evaluate each city’s overall quality of life to determine the rankings" -

I live in North Texas, just 40 miles up the road from McKinney where earlier this month some white folks got crossways with some black folks. It happened in a nice neighborhood where teenagers were having an end of school year pool party. A black girl, who was a resident, was hosting the party and there was a mixed crowd in attendance. Apparently the DJ tweeted that it was an open party and pretty soon it was overflowing with kids and noise and the general mischief in which teenagers tend to engage. It was a neighborhood pool and apparently some white women who were not there for the party took offense to the shenanigans and pretty soon there were racial slurs followed by some hair-pulling and face-slapping. The police were called in and things escalated quickly. One policeman in particular was pretty riled up and aggressively started rounding up and cuffing black kids. A young black girl objected loudly and when given the chance to walk away objected even louder and ended up pinned, face-down on the ground with the police officer’s knees in her back. A couple of young black males moved toward the officer and he drew his gun. Other officers gained control of him and the situation. Thankfully, no one was shot.

McKinney is a nice place. A growing suburb on the northern edge of the DFW Metroplex with great schools, beautiful neighborhoods and a diverse citizenry. One does not expect a “racial incident” to occur in McKinney. Certainly not in one of their nicer neighborhoods. But it did. And now everyone wants action and answers. The police officer has resigned. There have been protests. But, for the most part the community has come together and handled it the right way. Black and white leaders, mostly ministers, have taken the lead. This is the Bible belt and, believe it or not, a lot of Christians see Christians and not color. McKinney will be alright.

The media has milked “the incident” for all it’s worth. It’s just what they do and who can blame them. As long as we pay attention and the story gets “views”, the story will be considered newsworthy. And, I am inclined to say that we should pay attention. The fact is that “the incident” was not in “the hood”, it was in “the neighborhood”. The kind of place that used to be all white. Twenty years ago, this doesn’t happen. The black girl doesn’t live in this neighborhood and therefore doesn’t host a party at the community pool. The music is probably still too loud and some of the teenagers are probably out-of-control. Twenty years ago or today, some might be drunk or high. Yesterday or today, if adults aren’t watching the boys and girls are doing stuff they shouldn’t be doing with each other. Twenty years ago, the party is probably just about as bad as it is today except that it’s all white kids. (And Twitter isn’t around to facilitate inviting a bunch of un-invited guests. ) Teenagers tend to do crazy stuff. Mix hormones with alcohol or drugs and it only gets crazier. Happened in my day and it hasn’t gotten better since then.

But now we have “kids of color” in the picture and it’s complicated. Everyone sees color, more so if you were born sometime in the last century. And if you are in law enforcement you notice color and a lot of other sights and sounds that through experience tell you to be on guard. Is it profiling? Duh...yeah. Is it fair? Nope. But it’s there and we must deal with it. And the good news is that, to a significant degree, we are dealing with it. A lot of other McKinney police officers were there at the pool party. All but one of them demonstrated levels of patience and restraint that were admirable. Most of our law enforcement officers “get it” and go out of their way to do it the right way.

But it only takes one to create an incident. Even in places like McKinney, Texas. Then it falls back on all police officers. And at some point, being in law enforcement just isn’t worth it. Especially, for the really good people who might make the best police officers. We’ve pretty much gutted the teaching profession and now we are well on our way with law enforcement. Yes we need to continue the conversation about police-race relations. But we better start a conversation about supporting and respecting those we hire to enforce our laws, the vast majority of whom are well-deserving of such.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Land Of The Free

One of the big news items this week, perhaps the biggest news item this week, has been Caitlyn Jenner. The Vanity Fair cover shot pops up with every click. Check on the weather…there’s Caitlyn. How’s the market doing…there’s Caitlyn. Did Tiger break 80….there’s Caitlyn.

I guess it’s news worthy up to a point. I remember Bruce Jenner and his accomplishments as a gold medal winning Olympic decathlete. He was a “pretty man” and the women loved him. He tried his hand at acting and was really bad. But he had some success as a race car driver and a businessman. Eventually, Jenner’s celebrity star brightened even more as a member of the Kardashian circus. And now we have Caitlyn. As the saying goes, you just can’t make this stuff up.

Five years before Bruce/Caitlyn was born, thousands of young men (most of them younger than Bruce when he won the gold in 1976), hit the beaches of Normandy. A lot of them died. A lot of them were seriously wounded. All of them and their families and the world, were forever changed. My dad was there as a member of the 101st Airborne. They missed the beach party having dropped in behind the lines a few hours earlier. A lot of them died there, too.

If you talk to combat veterans, they will tell you that they fought to survive, fought for each other and fought to get back home. But, they also know that they fought for a reason, for a cause. WWII veterans will tell you that the cause was Freedom. I doubt that any of them could have imagined a world in the future so free that a male Olympic champion might opt to become a transgendered female cover girl. We can debate the morality of Jenner’s decision. But if the Nazis had won or if Islam ruled the world, Jenner would not have the freedom to choose other than to choose death. Our world may be going to “hell in a hand basket” but that just comes with the territory we call freedom.

In today’s political world, my dad would have been a libertarian. His philosophy was live and let live, but don’t step on my toes. He was the Clint Eastwood character in the movie, Grand Torino, wielding a shotgun and warning the punks to “Get off my lawn”. But he would have just looked at Caitlyn Jenner and muttered something like “to each his own” and “it’s a free country”. And, he would ask why we are more interested in Caitlyn Jenner this week than we are in remembering and honoring those brave young men who stepped up and did what they had to do back in 1944 on the 6th day of June.