A Conflict of Visions

In the meantime, perhaps we shouldn’t vilify the person that we “know” is wrong, even terribly wrong, about matters which are of upmost importance to us.

Series: Visions, Worldviews and Divisions

Last Post: Meaningful discussion between people who disagree on the social and political issues of our day is often difficult. I posit that the primary reason that is true is because people approach those issues from radically different underlying presuppositions, especially those that comprise our worldview.

Topic #2: A Conflict of Visions

Over the last two years I’ve become far more familiar with the writing and ideas of Thomas Sowell. I wish I had started reading his book length works long ago because he has been enormously helpful to me.

One of his books that is especially insightful as we consider the deep divisions in our country is “A Conflict of Visions.”

Sowell suggests that there are two opposing visions which influence our positions on controversial social issues; 1) the unconstrained vision, and 2) the constrained vision.

Those who lean left tend to have an unconstrained vision, while those who lean right tend to have a constrained vision.

Now, one reason I like this approach to our analysis is that it assumes positive intent for both sides. Needless to say, to the degree that we vilify those with whom we disagree, the less likely it will be that we can reasonably discuss our differences. And without meaningful discussion, the chasm increases with nothing but negative consequences.

Of course, there are shallow, menacing, wrongly motivated people on both sides of the divide, but his discussion of visions allow us to assume the best about those with whom we most disagree.

The Unconstrained Vision

For Sowell, the unconstrained vision is a view of outcomes which anticipates finding perfect solutions to our societal problems. The key word is solution. Every problem has s solution, and that solution, rightly understood, altogether solves the problem.

As the name, unconstrained vision, suggests, there are no constraints to solving the problem. Perhaps there are obstacles, but they are never insurmountable; they do not have to lower our sights to the outcome we desire. If we apply ourselves and our resources we can achieve the outcomes we believe are correct in absolute terms.

Continue reading “A Conflict of Visions”

Listening Post


From Russia

“… We received an order to ban the use of the words “war,” “occupation,” “invasion.” However, we continue to call war war. We are waiting for the consequences.”

“Putin distrusts the West. He is sincerely flummoxed by talk about “Western values.” He buys wholesale former Chancellors, Prime Ministers, and ministers from Europe, putting them on the boards of state-owned or close-to-the-state Russian companies. They have a price, but they don’t have values: I’d say that this is what he thinks…”

“…Everyone had a clear understanding that Putin, by his decision, had destroyed the future for younger generations, that the country would become a pariah, that we in no way would support this war. Our office managers brought in body armor and helmets from the warehouse, which had been lying idle for several years…”

— Dmitry Muratov

(New Yorker, February 28, 2022, Article and Interview by David Remnick.)


War Praying

For those of us who pray, our list is increasing with each day that this Russian invasion against Ukraine continues. I’m sure many of us include the people of Russia who are trapped in a corrupt governmental system led by a tyrannical, of obviously ruthless, leader.

I’ve assumed, wrongly it seems, that all the media outlets in Russia are either state run or under the government’s thumb. In a recent New Yorker interview (see reference in quote block above) David Remnick interviews Dmitry Muratov, the editor-in-chief of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, we learn of a courageous group of journalists who revive our hope for what journalism can be, and challenges our own comfort in our own liberty, once fought for and now taken for granted and so easily relinquished.

Novaya Gazeta recently won a Nobel Prize. Its staff continues to work knowing the potentially lethal danger of their efforts. They remember, probably daily, their colleagues who have already paid dearly for their courage and efforts; like writer Anna Politkovskaya who was shot dead in her apartment building in 2006. 

A Divided People – The Role of Worldviews

Series: Visions, Worldview & Divisions

I have often wondered why people from relatively similar backgrounds reach such diametrically opposed opinions about the critical issues in life and society. More to the point, it seems that people can’t even communicate with each other effectively about such important matters.

I’ve come to the conclusion that one important reason for the disconnect is that people approach such issues having very different underlying presuppositions which support their thinking. The most important set of these presuppositions are those that comprise a person’s worldview.

Worldview – a Platform for Thinking and Deciding

A worldview consists of one’s most basic and foundational beliefs about the nature of reality and human life. Our worldview is important because it informs all the opinions we form, beliefs we hold, and decisions we make about politics, religion, interpersonal relationships, personal goals and behaviors, science, societal reform, and more.

Everybody has a worldview. However some people have intentionally developed their worldview over time and as a result of study, reflection, discussion, and observation. Others, have, more or less, absorbed their worldview as they have been influenced by family, friends, media, teachers, faith leaders, and pop culture. Upbringing is a key influence for nearly everyone as early life absorbers. Some of these may never grow their worldview beyond their initially absorbed worldview. However, for many of other “absorbers,” political correctness largely shapes, or reshapes, their underlying worldview, as well as conditions the morphing of their worldview over time.

Continue reading “A Divided People – The Role of Worldviews”

Here We Go Again

On April 27, 2020 I posted my first article on this blog. Ten days later I posted my last article on this site. I had hoped for so much more. This blog is as much about personal discipline and development as it is about influencing others.

So what happened. I suppose that the few people who read this will already know what happened, but just in case… here it goes.

In the middle of May of 2020 I underwent the first of two surgeries; the second being a month later. As I was recuperating, I told myself it would be okay to suspend my blog until early July. However, in late June my health began to go south. The problem didn’t appear to have anything to do with the surgeries. A gradually increasing list of symptoms started to manifest themselves, including loss of appetite (I know that is really hard to believe about me), significant weight loss, breathlessness upon very slight exertion, muscle weakenss, and some cognitive and neurological difficulty.

By the middle of August and after two visits to the ER for dehydration among other things, my primary physician put me in the hospital hoping to be able to find out more quickly via a slew of tests what in the world was bothering me. Five days, 6 specialists, and umpteen tests of various kinds later, I was discharged without any answer.

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A Short Series: Making A Difference

In this short series of blog posts we will look at some very simple ways to affirm the dignity of the people we meet…

see credits below

Introduction

We have come to expect that it will take a significant investment of money, time, energy, focus, relationships, and the like if we ever hope to accomplish something significant with our lives.

But just suppose that one worthy goal for our life may not actually be so very costly at all. I’m thinking of something that anyone can do if they so will. I’m thinking of something that can be quite profound, precisely because we can touch so very many people. But what I am thinking about will, almost certainly produce an intriguing ROI (return on investment.) Our investment will be really very small; the potential return enormous.

I must confess, what I’m thinking about won’t earn anyone a Nobel Prize, a worldwide reputation, nor a career position with an over-the-top salary. However, it is something that can make a difference, a little at a time, a person at a time; even though we may never be able to actually see tangible results.

But first, I’d like to think that we can all agree that a significant percentage of the people with whom we  daily come into contact are feeling beat-up, let down, passed over, or trodden under. Life is hard. We are fallen people, living among fallen people, in a fallen world. We see the results everywhere. It is a reality which touches us all. The truth is that we are all both the victims and the victimizer in this tragic state of affairs.

If that is true, then it also means  that  we have many opportunities each and every day to impact a person, or two, or three, in a meaningful way; in a way in which they may be encouraged or lifted up, for just a few moments, for the rest of the day, or maybe, on rare occasion, for the rest of their life.

Imagine then, being a soldier in an army of people who are committed to honoring the God designed and declared dignity of all human beings, all other human beings, wherever we find them. Now then, if that were only true, we could dare to be overtaken by a vision where those seconds, and those days, begin to really add up.

What I’m talking about is blessing people, any people, and doing so just by treating them with respect in the moment. I’m thinking that our every encounter, no matter how brief, as a divinely opportunistic encounter.

In this short series of blog posts we will look at some very simple ways to affirm the dignity of the people we meet, perhaps making a difference for that moment, or maybe for that day, or perhaps even for the duration of that life.

And in my worldview, this is ultimately done for the glory of God.

Soli Deo Gloria

Credits for above photos:

  1. little girl: Photo by Singkham from Pexels
  2. young girl: Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels
  3. old women: Photo by Pixalbay from Pexels

Next in Series: Topic 1

Yet Another Blog

Why have I started to blog? There are probably several reasons. But I fear that I’m not self-aware enough to know which of these reasons has primacy for me.

(Apri 29, 2020 – revised for actual blog launch)

A “Johnny Come Lately” – that’s how I see myself.

It takes either a certain kind of arrogance or naivety to start a blog at this relatively late stage in the development of the internet. There are more blogs on virtually every topic or category of human concern than an interested individual can possibly imagine, let alone actually read. So why write a blog that isn’t really needed and probably won’t be widely read.

I can think of several reasons for a person to start a blog:

  1. Financial: wealth – change our financial outlook. Let’s face it; most people who start a blog, just like most people who post a video on YouTube, secretly hope that their blog will catch fire and change their fortunes, either financial or reputational. Most new bloggers probably keep such hopes secret because they know that the vast majority of bloggers make little or no money for their effort. It would be embarrassing to admit the hope of being able to quit one’s full-time job to blog only to fail to do so.
  2. Personal: growth – change our personal self. Perhaps we hope to fulfill some inner need or to effect personal development through the discipline of blogging. Blogging may be a great avenue for such goals for many. Growing as a writer, thinker, or influencer could certainly be enhanced by blogging.
  3. Social: influence – change people; their minds, their lives, their hearts. Most people possess a confidence that they are correct about the important matters of life, be they theological, political, interpersonal, social, etc., and that just about everyone else is wrong. So why not use the internet to bring others to the truth. Never before has the average Joe or Jane, with only a “computerish” device and an internet connection had potential access to a near worldwide audience. After all, this type of soapboxing is so much less risky than standing on the public square with a portable microphone.
  4. Instructional: help – give some real-life, practical advice and instruction. I’m personally grateful for the web sites that have given detailed instruction on things like replacing a toilet, refinishing a desk, or selecting the best flowers and plants for specific geographical environs.

I’m sure there are more reasons, but these are the ones that come to mind.

So what about me? Why have I started to blog? There are probably several reasons. But  I fear that I’m not self-aware enough to know which of these reasons has primacy for me. But here is a list, not in any particular order:

  1. I’ve been encouraged by my family to write a blog. They seem to feel that since I’ve left the pastorate, I’ve needed, even longed for, an outlet for my pastoral and teaching passions and, they would say, gifts.
  2. I would like to write and I’ve been told the best way to learn to write is to write, only slightly ahead of reading.
  3. I’d like to be a part of a conversation, which strictly seeks to avoid the nasty tone of conversation today, be it political, social, or religious. I want to foster conversation between people who see important issues differently, but without the vilification, anger, and disrespect which is rampant on the internet today, as well as in the press, in Washington, and in the public square.
  4. Within the parameters suggested by #3 (above), I would like to influence others to think about the issues of the day from a Judeo-Christian / reformed Christian / Biblical point of view. I honestly believe that the Bible, and the biblical/Christian thinking that it engenders, has answers for today which would be helpful to so many people as well as to our culture.
  5. I want to become well off and well known. I’m pretty sure that this is well below 5% of my motivation, but I can’t deny that the thought has crossed my mind that I could make it a little easier to retire if I made even a little money by blogging. Rest assured, I’m not putting any of my eggs in this basket so far as my retirement planning is concerned, but speaking of self-awareness…

So Why Read My Blog

If someone stumbles upon this blog, they must decide if they’d ever want to come back to read it additional posts. I would suggest that they should do so if:

  • they found some ideas they want to think about and interact with,
  • they want to comment about those ideas in a safe environment; that is where the blogger won’t disrespect the commenter or his comments,
  • they care that the comments will only be managed to make sure that a respectful, civil conversation is maintained.

So I’ve been playing around with this for 3 years. I even accidentally published it in 2016 without even one completed blog post. But now I’ve decided to give it a go.

If you happen to read this, come back in a few days and see if you find any reason to read on. If you have read this post from beginning to end. Thanks. I appreciate it.

This is my second blog post; the first from two days ago in which I wondered out loud about COVID-19 and our national response, or responses.

 

Credit: Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels (a vintage typewritter)

 

Risks and Benefits: Everyone’s Concern

Now, what keeps sticking in my craw is the idea that our leaders don’t trust us to be able to think in terms of risks/benefits in analyzing what the next steps should be and what first steps should have been.

For my first post to this new blog, I’ve chosen the subject of our national response to the current COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve been uneasy about the handling of this crisis from the very beginning, but there is so much that is unknown, and so much of what is known that is difficult to understand. And that is complicated by the fact that experts abound who will tell us what is happening and how we should, even must, respond. And who am I to question the experts.

But right-minded skepticism can be healthy in the public arena when so much is at stake; specifically, the lives of so many citizens, especially the elderly and physically vulnerable, the economic wellbeing of an entire nation and world, the liberties our forefathers wrote into the constitution and too many thousands of our brave have died to defend, the retirement incomes, not of the rich, but of the middle class, the jobs of millions, many of whom go paycheck to paycheck even in the good economy that preceded the coronavirus and was stolen by it, and so much more.

To complicate matters even more, as a follower of JesusChrist I am compelled, as much as is possible, to consider even this issue from the perspective of a Christian Worldview, and in light of my commitment to Jesus as Lord. That said, often it is not as easily done as it is said. 

So, my thoughts and concerns regarding the past 6 weeks find partial expression in this post. 

I should say upfront that I have determined that the correct action for me as a Christian at this current moment, given our circumstances and the limited amount of knowledge that I have, is to obey the civil authorities; first, because they are the civil authorities and there is a biblical mandate to do so, and second because I am not sure that another course of action is better. 

But I must admit that I have a lot of concerns and questions about the way it has been handled from the word go; and I’m hoping there is a rigorous discussion, if not now, then after the current threat has passed. My biggest complaint so far is that this discussion is just now getting started; at least in the public’s hearing. I have been relieved to finally begin seeing in print and hearing over the airwaves, some critical thinking about the actions that have been taken.

Additionally, the presumption that the number of lives saved, in this moment, is not only the most important consideration, but the only consideration. I realize that for a Christian to question this presumption seems counter-intuitive and in a later post I would like to address that issue more directly; suffice it to say that i do question that presumption which trumps all other considerations.

I heard Governor Cuomo say, and please know I respect how he has handled the crisis for New Yorkers, that if his restrictions save just one life then they, i.e. his imposed restrictions, are worth it. Now I believe he means that in some sort of way; but I also believe he is smart enough to know that that isn’t strictly true. For if the saving of even one life was the exclusive concern for his role as Governor he would immediately lower the speed limit on all highways to below 40 miles per hour. Doing so would save thousands of lives each year in our country and hundreds in his state. Over the years those lives mount up. I appreciate a cars.com article from a year ago which poses the reality of such things with this article title, “Higher Speed Limits or Fewer Deaths? The Choice Is Yours, Study Shows.” Hmm! The choice is ours; provocative thought.  My son, Andy, knowing my concerns in this regard, referred me to a recent article in the New York Sun, by Edward Lampert, which makes the same point and that much better than I would be able to. 

Continue reading “Risks and Benefits: Everyone’s Concern”