Monday, March 30, 2015

Why Ted Cruz is not the answer

Last week Senator Ted Cruz of the state of Texas announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for President of the United States in 2016. He is the first of either party to announce, thus meaning he will have the first opportunity to court donors; as we all know it impossible to win an election without lots of funding

Senator Cruz is seen by some as a Savior of conservatism by some, as he has stood against Obamacare, opposed increasing the debt ceiling, opposed same-sex marriage, and various other conservative principles. At any rate, in the two years that he has been in the United States Senate, Senator Cruz has become an interesting an polarizing figure and will certainly be someone to watch in the coming months.

However, as a member of the Libertarian wing of the Republican Party, I must say that Senator Cruz is not the person to be the next nominee. He may be an exciting Senator, but he is not ready to be commander in chief for the following reasons:

1. Senator Cruz is too young. No, that is not a lazy argument. In fact, in the 2008 election, it was the Republican Party who said that then Senator Barack Obama was too young to be commander in chief, he then having been in the Senate a little under over 3 years. Senator Cruz has been in the same amount of time. There is a reason why the party made this argument back in 2008: The presidency of the United States is not a young mans job. It requires vast experience, the ability to negotiate, and the willingness to stand alone. While Senator Cruz has the last characteristic (which is the only one that makes him an interesting candidate), he does not have either of the former two and all 3 are necessary to be a great president.

Some will argue that the early presidents of the country did not have vast experience either. Oh, very much to the contrary. Before assuming office, George Washington was president of the Constitutional Convention and a general (a job where you are always in crisis); John Adams was the first vice president of the United States for 8 years and a leader in getting the Declaration of Independence ratified and signed; Thomas Jefferson was author of the Declaration of Independence, governor of Virginia, author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (which later became the 1st amendment), secretary of state and vice-president. These men had time to master the principles of leadership before they had to lead the entire nation. Senator Cruz claims to revere the founders, perhaps he follow there example.

2. Senator Cruz has no executive experience. This is a big problem since if elected Senator Cruz would be the chief executive of the country. As a Senator, you have no real responsibility if things are not done; you can just blame the other 99 senators. This is not true of an executive. He holds responsibility to direct the work and get the job done. Only Governors and CEO's have true executive experience, and not surprisingly most great presidents have been governors (Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan, Franklin Delano Roosevelt to name a few).

This is not to say that a Senator cannot be a successful president, John F. Kennedy was for example. But, he had also been in the military and had been a war hero, as well as having been in the United States House of Representatives, as well as having been in the United States Senate for consecutive terms. Senator Cruz does not have these characteristics on his resume.

3. Senator Cruz will not build the party. Due to his rigid conservative ideology, Senator Cruz is a favorite of the Tea Party. However, there are factions of the party that this philosophy will alienate, people that Senator Cruz will need in order to win the nomination as well as the general election. This includes moderates, libertarians (like myself), establishment, minorities, and the youth vote. In all categories, Senator Cruz trails other candidates by over 20 percent. If he trails them for the nomination, how will he get them in a general election?

It is true that polls change, perhaps Senator Cruz can get these people behind him. But history shows that generally does not happen. Mitt Romney is a great example.

4. Senator Cruz is not the best candidate available. There are candidates who have been governors who are vibrant and engaging, as well as experienced who will challenge Senator Cruz when the debates and primaries come about. Some of them are from blue states, and they have had to work across the aisle in order to get their agendas across; a trait that is extremely useful for a president. Even among his fellow senators, there are other candidates who are more original, disciplined, and exciting. Among theses candidates include Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio, and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. These are the men to look to in the coming election. Senator Cruz, we love you, but stay in the Senate.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Faith and Miracles

It has always impressed me that when Jesus of Nazareth healed someone, he often told them to not go and tell others about what had happened. The only thing he ever told someone to after wards was to go and show himself (or themselves) to the priest so that they can be accepted back into the community. It seems evident that the Master did not want the limelight, or at least his manifestations of power to be the limelight. Rather, he wanted the doctrines that he preached to be the measure of who and what he was.

I have a theory as to why he preferred those he healed to keep silent.  Perhaps it was because he kew that such things would not produce faith, only interest and gossip. This appears very evident in the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who saw many of Christ's miracles, but this did not produce faith. Only outrage, jealousy, and contempt.

In our world today, we must be grateful for miracles, but we must not allow them to become the foundation of our faith. Why? Because miracles are like many other things in life; they are impressive when they happen, but over time the effect wears off and we will need another miracle to revive our faith. It is clear from the scripture that God will not produce miracles just because we want them, so our faith may not have the chance to revive and recover if it is solely based on miracles.

For our faith to be true it must rest in the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of Humankind. Jesus himself is the greatest of all miracles, and unlike the miracles in the Bible and other holy writ, coming to know him deepens our faith and belief in him. If we truly have faith in him and show it by keeping his commandments and becoming like him, the day will come when we will see him and know that he is.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Quick Thought on Grace and Works

The other day I was reading Jesus of Nazareth's most well known sermon: The Sermon on the Mount. It is always a touching sermon that makes me want to never again do any wrong, which is always sadly short lived. But this time I got an insight that I had never gotten before.

In verse 20 of Matthew chapter 5, Jesus states "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."

This is fascinating. The Master himself worked out his own salvation with fear and trembling, now he calls on us to do the same. And he will have none of the lips only service. No, rather he calls on men to be holy and perfected, which shows how his teaching transcends the Mosaic Law.

It is often thought in the Christian world that we are saved sole fide (Latin for "Faith Alone). I was taught this growing up, even though I saw no evidence of this idea in the Masters teachings. It is true that St. Paul does mention the idea to some extent, but the fact that Jesus says nothing of the sort holds much more warrant in my mind.

No one will get into the kingdom of Heaven just by believing that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of the world; as St. James tells us even the devils do that ( James 2:19). One will dwell with him forever when he is able to obtain all of his attributes and desires good alone.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Science and Scientism

I am often told by the non-religious that science gives them there world view and that religion is outdated. This again shows that they understand neither religion nor science. First, what is religion? Religion is, according to Oxford Dictionary,"The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods." Science is defined as "The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment."

The problem with this is that science is not something that can give you a worldview or a philosophy. Science can tell you how old the Earth is, how it got here, and to an extent the origin of life. However, it cannot explain morality and the purpose of existence. In truth, science is not opposed to religion; rather it is the partner of religion. As the late J. Rueben Clark, Jr. once said "Religion teaches us why things are, science is teaching us how."

The point I really want to make is that this view that people often mean when they say "I believe in science" is not science at all, rather it is scientism. Scientism is defined as "Belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or most valuable part of human learning to the exclusion of other viewpoints." This is not really a new idea, it was the philosophy of the now gone logical positivists, men like Bertrand Russell and A.J. Ayer. They postulated what was called verification, and on this worldview unless you could prove something empirically (through the five senses), then the statement was meaningless. And these men were merely borrowing the ideas of the empiricists (David Hume, John Locke, Bishop Berkley), who taught that the best way to obtain knowledge was through the five senses, although Hume also believed to a degree that reason played a role in learning.

Simply put, scientism is not a science, so it is missing the very point in its mission. Rather than being science, it is a philosophy. And philosophy is far more nuanced than science. For instance, can I empirically prove that there are objective moral values? Can I empirically prove that I love my spouse? Can I empirically prove that that there is no God? You can say, as the verificationists  did that such statements are meaningless. But what can be more meaningful than being a moral person, in a world where morality is slowly disappearing? What can be more meaningful than being a loving spouse, when marriage is the true bedrock of society? What can be more meaningful than knowing that there is a God, who is the author of objective morality and the designer of human destiny? These are not meaningless questions Mr. Russell and Mr. Richard Dawkins

Simply put, scientism is neither science nor good philosophy. True science stays within its domain of observance to remain true; when it ventures into morality, the existence of God, and various other things such as logic and reason, then it is no longer science. Use science and reason, but never make science your reason or your religion. You mock true science when you do.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Way of the Master

Many of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth were in fact not new when he introduced them to the inhabitants of Israel between 29-33 AD. The Buddha had taught some of them, Confucius had taught the golden rule, and many other teachings of Jesus perhaps had been taught before his 3 year ministry. However, there is one teaching of Jesus that has always held me in awe of him. In the Sermon on the Mount he said:

"You have heard how it was said, You will love your neighbor and hate your enemy.

But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you;

So that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and sends down rain to fall on the upright and the wicked alike." (Matthew 5: 43-45)

Here the Son of Man is making his break with the Law of Moses. Moses had taught the children "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth), in other words justice was all the law of Moses was truly concerned with. Jesus, who had come down from Heaven to give mankind celestial law and glory, required more. He was teaching that God himself is not only just, but merciful. His example of the rain and the son could not be more profound. No matter whether people are good or bad, the sun rises and the rain comes. In like manner, God loves all of his children (although not their actions per se) and there is nothing that man can do to earn that love or to lose it.

The idea of loving your enemy is as difficult today as it was in the time that the Master himself walked the Earth. But because he was our example in all things, he showed us the way to do it. At his unjust arrest, what did he do? He healed a man and went quietly, speaking no evil of his captors (Luke 22:51-53) What did he say on the cross? "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34) Can we do the same?

For all those who call themselves Christians (which as Friedrich Nietzsche said is a mistake in itself; Jesus is the only Christian) ask yourself: Do I truly love my enemies? Am I able to forgive and forget? Am I willing to help those who harm and wish harm upon me? If the answer is yes, then you are on the path to true discipleship.  If the answer is no, repent, change your ways, and pick up your cross and follow the in the way of the Master.