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Our Capacity For Evil

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Most people today look at Nazi Germany with a sort of befuddled wonderment.  They consider it the pinnacle of human evil, but they do not comprehend how a nation could get to that point and view it as some sort of aberration.  Of course such analysis ignores the other “great evil” – American slavery – about which everybody assumes racism is the cause, never realizing that it takes a capacity for evil far beyond mere racism to get into such a state.  In fact they ignore most of human history and that it is really only the Christianized west that has ever developed to a point where such atrocities look aberrant rather than the norm.  Humanity is capable of extraordinary evil -and worse we are capable of justifying it to ourselves.

Remember in August the furor in many circles over the CBS story about how Iceland, among the least religious countries on the planet, had virtually eradicated Down Syndrome through an aggressive program of genetic screening and abortion?  (Awfully close to eugenics, wouldn’t you say?)  Well, that particular evil is not ending there – it is getting worse.  You’ll have to forgive the article I link to here, it is written by someone for whom English is a second language and most of the links/references are in Dutch or German, but there are people in Europe arguing that,”Handicapped children cost money, so parents: abort or face a fine.”  In other words, under the auspices of socialized medicine (otherwise known as “single payer”) and socialized childcare, the argument is being made that to give birth to a child, known prenatally to be handicapped, is morally abhorrent.  Here is great evil born not of impulse but reason.  As one respondent quoted in the article said, “We haven’t come this close to Nazi before.”

If that does not send a shudder down your spine, if you do not want to cast out the person making such arguments as demonic, then let me suggest that you are part of the problem.  I know, we are supposed to be reasonable and accepting of all people, but we cannot let the need to be reasonable provide cover to the advocation of such evil.  Evil must be declared as the evil it is.  Where does this stop?  What about the severely disabled in their final years?  Forget the “cost of dying” stuff and just think about those that suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia. Such people are very expensive to care for.  Are we to declare their life as too expensive to maintain and euthanize them?  What “reasonable” difference is their between the abortion argument and the one I just made?  This is more than “those that do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.”  This is Wormwood whispering in the ear of his patient.

It is not enough that we be able to reason well and argue ably.  Here you see that reason and argument can be perverted as easily as anything else.  There must be more, we must be transformed on such fundamental levels that when we hear seeming reason like this we are repulsed.  We need be transformed.

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And Then It Got Funny

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OK – for the record – H-bombs over the Pacific – NOT FUNNY.  The threat of H-bombs over the Pacific – NOT FUNNY.

But, “mentally deranged US dotard” – FUNNY.  Think about it for just a minute.  The “esteemed” leader of North Korea, upon hearing news of new sanctions, starts to shout and when it comes to an epithet he just gets stuck and sputters.  Being supreme leader, he starts yelling, “How dare you let your supreme leader be without words!” This outburst sets the entire English knowledgeable population of his nation to their Korean/English dictionaries to find the perfect insult – only to have them arrive at one so antiquated that no one that actually speaks the English language has used it in a couple of hundred years.  This is classic stuff.

Trump has won this round of The Dozens before it has even really started.  This is not what one would consider classic statecraft, but it sure is entertaining.  If the stakes were not so high, Trump responding by challenging “Pudgy DO-Boy” (Yes, pun intended) to a “Hell in a Cell” match would have me ROFL.

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Our Decline

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Every now and then you encounter a story that is more than sad or depressing – its a punch to the gut.  This is one of them:

Five Wheaton College football players face felony charges after being accused of a 2016 hazing incident in which a freshman teammate was restrained with duct tape, beaten and left half-naked with two torn shoulders on a baseball field.

Wheaton has been considered the most prominent Evangelical institution of higher learning in the nation for some time.  It was high in the running for places I might attend.  I have countless friends that attended Wheaton – all of them good, solid Christian people.  But most of all, Wheaton’s Football Coach Emeritus was my high school football coach, a man I still call friend and that I admire more than most.  I know J.R. Bishop had nothing whatsoever to do with this, his current state of health, and an issue he has struggled with for some years now, would not permit it.  At any rate, some years ago, his retirement took him several states south.  J.R., more than any other Christian leader in my life, taught me that you can be highly successful in your earthly endeavors and remain deeply committed to your faith.  This news dishonors his legacy which is something that I hold very dear.

But moreover, as a prominent institution of faith, this dishonors Christ and His church.  Of course, Wheaton is distancing themselves as fast as possible, but that is PR.  They are an institution responsible for first screening who they let in their school and then for shaping them into people of God.  They failed in both efforts with these kids and that does not reflect well on any of us that call Jesus Lord.

While this story is personal with me, it is hardly unique…

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When Things Change

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Salena Zito’s latest Rust Belt portrait, in this case of the host’s home territory, is quite poignant. It describes the day the steel plants started closing and the aftermath:

The events of Black Monday forever changed not only the Steel Valley, but her people and eventually American culture and politics. Just last year the reverberations were felt in the presidential election when many hard-core Democrats from this area broke from their party to vote for Donald Trump, a Republican who promised to bring jobs back to the Heartland.

Even today, after the election, the Washington establishment still hasn’t processed or properly dissected its effects. Economic experts predicted that the service industry would be the employment of the future. Steel workers were retrained to fill jobs in that sector, which was expected to sustain the middle class in the same way that manufacturing did.

It did not. According to a study done by the Midwest Center for Research the average salary of a steel worker in the late 1970s was $24,772.80. Today, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor statistics, the medium household income in the Mahoning Valley is $24,133.

There was also a push for Americans to be more mobile. Lose your job in Youngstown? Fine, move to Raleigh or Texas. No one calculated that the tight-knit people of Youngstown didn’t want to leave their town.

They liked Youngstown. To Washington and New York that seemed odd.

When I read this story I had two visceral reactions.  On the one hand I too am from the Rust Belt, though in my case I come from the lovely state of Indiana, not the host’s lesser Ohio.  My first “real, serious” job post-college was at a consumer electronics factory.  When I worked there it employed 2500 people – larger than the town my father grew up in.  At its height in WWII the factory employed nearly 15,000 and built the then super-secret radar sets for the military.  When I worked there we built television sets, and not just any television.  At the time it was the proudest brand name in consumer electronics – RCA. There are now several generations that have never heard of it.  The factory is as long gone as the company.  Less than a mile away the once monstrous Western Electric plant, employing 10,000 even in my day, now sits on the near east side of Indianapolis as a massive presence too big for anybody to use any more and too expensive to demolish.

There was a pride working in such places….

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