Thursday, December 30, 2010

Race, Tyranny, and Christian Politics

None of these columns made Worldmag's top 20 of the year, but they're pretty darn good, even if I do say so myself. I roll out my schtick on race, I state what tyranny is and apply it to public service unions and Charlie Rangel, and I lay out sources of the Colbert-O'Reilly fisticuffs over whether Jesus would identify with the current politics of the Democratic or Republican Party.

"[W]hat we call “race” is a vague and thus questionable basis for identifying people. A race is, after all, only an extended family that reaches far beyond one’s immediate family, community, or clan. As descendents of Adam, we are all part of the same universal family, and thus one “human race.” The census calls me “white,” but for the Census Bureau that category includes everyone from Swedes to Southern Italians, and even Arabs. But I am a Scot, so I am racially Celtic (as are the Irish, the Welsh, and the Bretons of northern France). We are racially distinct from the English, the French, and the Germans. The same significant distinctions exist among Africans, Asians, and people of other regions."
"Our Puzzling Race Problem," December 29, 2010.

"No one asks about the politics of Muhammad. They are perfectly plain in the Sharia Law of Islam and the autocracies of the Middle East. Nor are the politics of Moses in doubt. The Law he gave Israel contained not only moral and ceremonial elements, but also a complete civil law. But Jesus is remarkably different. While having fundamentally transformed the world—and continuing to transform it—He did not come with a primarily political agenda. But what He did and what He taught (and what His apostles and prophets taught) has profound implications for political life as they do for all of life."
"Would Jesus Register Republican?," December 22, 2010.

After quoting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, David Brooks, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty on the destructive record and nature of government worker unions, I add...

"We political theorists have a technical term for people in government using public authority for private advantage instead of public service. We call it “tyranny.” These unions are organized not to help their members serve the public better but to maximize pay and benefits while minimizing work. Taxpayers want just the opposite (within the bounds of decency, of course). Essentially, government unions are public enemies. Insofar as they control our government (and they do), they have institutionalized tyranny from within our public administration."
"The Tyranny of Government Unions," December 15, 2010.

I applied the same principle to New York Congressman Charles Rangle who has made himself a very wealthy man in time he has been in office (40 years!), though the people he represents are as poor and miserable as they've ever been.

"If most people in a district live in public housing, their representative should also live in public housing. If most people in a district are served by appallingly bad public schools, their representative should have his or her children (if there are any) in those same schools. Finding this unacceptable, congressmen would soon start supporting effective ways for opening up economic opportunities for their neighbors to better themselves. Otherwise, politicians have that much less incentive to do what they legitimately can to improve their people’s overall quality of life. They become, one might say, political farmers instead of political representatives, bilking the people instead of benefiting them, standing on their backs rather than 'having their backs,' as we say."
"Prince Charlie and the People," December 8, 2010.

Happy new year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Best Worldmag columns 2010

I have been busy grading for most of the month...oh, and then there was Christmas. But I see that I have not posted all month. But I have still been active over at And it seems that I got three of the top 20 commentaries of the year, as did my friend and colleague Anthony Bradley as well.

1. Farewell emerging church, 1989-2010 by Anthony Bradley

2. Proclaiming Christ on Fox News by D.C. Innes

3. To brainwash a parent by Megan Dunham

4. ‘Hallelujah’ for Macy’s by Marcia Segelstein

5. We’re doomed by D.C. Innes

6. Why black liberation theology fails by Anthony Bradley

7. Mishandling twentysomethings by Anthony Bradley

8. Sneak peek: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader trailer by Megan Basham

9. Sultans of snoot by Marvin Olasky

10. The Episcopal Church, Wiccans, and the Divine Feminine by Marcia Segelstein

11. Leaving out God by Ken Blackwell

12. A Palin skeptic takes a second look by D.C. Innes

13. Genuine revival by Cal Thomas

14. So, you want to date my daughter? by Amy Henry

15. Those pesky homeschoolers by Megan Dunham

16. Homosexuality healed by Marcia Segelstein

17. The Fourth on the Fifth by Lee Wishing

18. Marketing the ‘religion of peace’ by Tony Woodlief

19. Whoopi, Joy, and Barbara do theology by Janie B. Cheaney

20. Yes, Virginia, there is a Jesus! by Ken Blackwell

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Extemism in the Defense of Security

In my Worldmag column today, "What We Lose When We Fly This Year," I close with this reductio ad absurdum extension of the TSA logic.

Perhaps we should hold our breath, grit our teeth, and just get through those dreadful pre-flight moments for the sake of safe skies. But why should we expect it will end with air travel? When it comes to terrorism, we can’t remain simply reactive. Shouldn’t we consider what terrorists might think of doing next? What about trains, and even commuter trains? Expect an increase in rush hour motor traffic. But an underwear bomber could target a bridge or a tunnel! We’ll need personally invasive pat-downs for everyone entering or leaving Manhattan, even carpoolers. And what about the possibility of an underwear bomber in a public school? Get ready for personal frisking of the kids before the school day begins. Oh, and principals and teachers, too. We have to be fair. By the way, is it possible for a terrorist to conceal explosives in his or her body cavities? Now there’s an interesting search.

Well, Christopher Hitchens went there already in Slate.

Consider: The decision to make us all take off our shoes was the official response to the scrofulous "shoe bomber" Richard Reid. The ban on liquids and precisely specified quantities of gel was the best we could do by way of post-facto thwarting of a London-based scheme to mix liquids in-flight and cause a mid-air detonation. The decision to inquire more closely into our undergarments was the official response to the "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. The more recent decision (this was a specifically British touch of genius) to forbid the shipping by air of any print toner weighing more than 500 grams was made after some tampered-with toner cartridges were intercepted on international cargo flights leaving Yemen a few weeks ago. (Fear not, by the way, you can't have these hard-to-find items in your carry-on bags or checked luggage, either.)

In the more recent instances, the explosive substance involved was a fairly simple one known as PETN. Now consider again: Late last August, the Saudi Arabian deputy minister of the interior, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, was injured in the city of Jeddah by a suicide bomber named Abdullah Hassan Al Aseery. The deceased assailant was the brother of Khalid Ibrahim Al Aseery, the suspected bomb-specialist of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and the man sought in connection with the underpants and toner attempts. In the Jeddah case, the lethal charge of PETN was concealed in the would-be assassin's rectum.

Perhaps you can begin to see where, as they say, I am going with this. In order for us to take them even remotely seriously, our Homeland Security officials should by now have had no alternative but to announce a series of random body-cavity searches some months ago. At least that might have had a deterrent effect and broken the long tradition of waiting for the enemy to dictate all the terms, all the time. It is a certainty that this deadly back-passage tactic will be tried. It is equally a certainty that it will find us even more defenseless than before.

Read more in "Don't Be an Ass About Airport Security."