Saturday, June 25, 2016

Brexit: The Triumph of Right over Left

So, I'm sure almost everyone is aware of the UK's decision to leave the EU. The incredulity of the "Leave" decision has been lobbied and debated ceaselessly for the last 24+ hrs.

I get it; the EU provides a large-scale market economy, economic sharing, open travel, and a common currency. In a sense, it is a liberal's dream and it has many benefits, especially in the short-term. It provides a glimpse of a future world peace and shared market, of everyone sacrificing something for the benefit of each other, etc, etc, etc.

What I have appreciated, though, is the singular explanation for why one individual voted "Leave". All of yesterday, the Left was smearing the "Leave" decision as poorly-educated, the fault of the older generation, out of touch with the times, foolish, short-sighted, and even calling it the "Rise of Nationalism."

I would note that all of these individuals are decently-educated and young, invested more in the global market. I think it says something that all those who voted to leave tend to be from the poorer parts of the country (that I can discern) and from lower education levels. Blue collar jobs tend to be very locally-dependent and would benefit by greater investment in local business. It's also no surprise that the older generation voted to leave, as my experience shows that, in the West, the older generations (at least here in the US) tend to value individual liberty and responsibility, that is, Libertarianism, over a social, collective ideal.

Without much ado, the post in question (Courtesy of Facebook, via a friend:

“It would be erroneous to compare the EU to the United States. The EU is only a couple decades old and it consists of countries that were completely autonomous and sovereign before entering into the Schengen agreement. Imagine if your country were suddenly linked in every way and without wiggle-room with 28 countries like Mexico, Uruguay, Canada, Iceland and Algeria. Now imagine if you had to give a minimum of 7 billion dollars to the EU in fees every year, forfeiting any control over your country’s trade, immigration, finances and law, and allowing a group of unelected individuals who meet in another country to decide how you will be allowed to proceed in any of those areas. Imagine if there were no longer ANY restrictions between the US, Mexico, Iceland, Canada and Algeria (in our case, a total of 28 countries!), and if anyone could move anywhere within those countries, being instantly eligible for all the entitlements and aid your country offers.
By joining the EU, Britain forfeited its autonomy, its sway over its own future, its ability to combat unemployment by hiring within its borders, and its control over commerce and the trade of its own goods. We have become the subjects of a “board of directors” that has no loyalty or obligation to our country. We have sacrificed our sovereignty to leadership who are not vested with making decisions in England’s best interest. Furthermore, we’ve been anchored to sinking ships like Greece, and those same authorities have decided which of us are expected to provide the majority of the funds needed to pay off the other countries’ debts, countries that have demonstrated little desire to put their own efforts behind fiscal responsibility and recovery. Imagine if the American people were no longer able to influence the decisions and laws that impact your country and your everyday life… That’s why so many of us are dead set against staying in the EU. I trust that helps you to understand our position.”
So, the "Leave" decision wasn't pushed by some right-wing nutjobs shouting "Rule Britannia!" It was advocated for by conservative individuals who were tired of a governing body in which they had no representation, a body which had no vested interest in the sovereignty, autonomy, and overall well-being of the UK except what pertained directly to that of the EU.

In short, the UK finally understands why we left back in 1776.

Friday, June 17, 2016

A Church Divided

So, I was reading through Paul's first recorded letter to the Corinthian church (In truth, if I recall correctly, it is the second of four, though we only have records for the two we call 1 and 2 Corinthians) and partway through the first chapter, Paul begins addressing some rivalries and divisions happening within the church.

He rebuked them, calling them to ponder three questions:

  • Is Christ divided?
  • Was it Paul who was crucified for you?
  • Were you baptised in Paul's name?
As I was looking over this passage, what came to mind first were some of the church splits I have seen, with individuals falling out between leaders or over minor details, thinking along the lines of "Did Pastor X die for you?" or "Were you baptised in the name of Deacon Y?"

The more I pondered it, though, the more I realised that the divisions within the church run far deeper than merely within an individual church. Many divisions today run along doctrinal or interpretational lines. Methodists vs Baptists, Orthodox vs Catholics (or Protestants/Anglicans vs Catholics for that matter). The church today is massively divided. Now, yes, there are some divisions along lines of preference. Those preferring a more ordered service may sit comfortably within a Presbyterian church than an Assembly of God. That being said, there are divisions along racial lines, political lines, policy lines. We have divided ourselves over minutiae.

In light of this passage, I am inclined to agree with Erasmus where he butted heads with Luther, wanting to bring about change within the Catholic church instead of fracturing and starting a separate church.

Yes, we are going to have differences of interpretation of scripture. For example, when it comes to the end times, my pastor ascribes more to the dispensational philosophy/theology whereas I fall into a post-tribulational premilennial standpoint. Does that mean I should leave my church? No.

Baptists, did the Anabaptists and early baptists die for your salvation? No.
Methodists, were you baptised in the name of John Wesley? No

Catholics, was Leo IX crucified for your salvation? No
Orthodox churchgoers, were you baptised in the name of Cerularius? No

We all were saved by the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. We were all baptised in the name of Christ.

Let me ask you, is Christ divided?

Then why do we, the church, divide ourselves?

Should we not focus on Christ as the unifying goal? Should not our doctrines be subject to Christ and should we not be able to come together under the banner of a single, catholic (not Catholic; it means "universal") church?

I mean, that was the purpose of creating the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed, to establish what is common doctrine to all Christians, that we may focus on the forest instead of getting lost amongst the trees.

These are my thoughts, though. I am no theologian. I do not know the intricacies of the dividing points in different denominations' doctrines and I do not profess to know. I merely am asking a pertinent question.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Taking a Bead

Okay, so I'm about to open a large can of worms. Unfortunately, I'm not the first one to do so and I have the feeling I will not be the last.

Something needs to be done about gun violence.

I understand the arguments in favour of owning guns - I am a prospective gun owner myself and I am very interested in the personal safety of my family. I also understand the cost-effective supplement that hunting provides to the family food budget. I even understand and appreciate the right to bear arms, both for personal security and as insurance against the government attempting to oppress its citizens through force and, to the latter effect, the opposition of many gun owners to a federal registry, making gun owners "targets" if "$#!+ hits the fan".

That being said, let's take a look at the statistics

In 2016 alone, so far, there have been:

  • 23 518 reported gun-related incidents in the US
    • 6 031 deaths; 12 359 injuries
      • 258 children (0-11) killed/injured
      • 1 289 teenagers (12-17) killed/injured
    • 138 were reported mass shootings
    • 519 were reported officer-involved incidents
      • 147 officers shot/killed
      • 372 perpetrators shot/killed
    • 988 were reported home invasions
    • 725 reported were of defensive use
    • 1 050 were reported accidental shootings
Unfortunately, I have no suicide data for 2016, but there were 21 334 gun-related suicides in 2014, with the numbers climbing from '99 to '14

Of course, the first, knee-jerk reaction is to declare all guns evil and protest for their complete and severe restriction. Before we do that, however, let's take a quick look at some of the current laws in the US

  • 18 to own shotguns and rifles
  • 21 to own all other gun types
  • May not own if there is a history or likelihood of family violence
    • May be denied sale or have guns seized
  • No civilian register/licensing records
  • Open and concealed carry laws vary by state
    • With or without a permit
  • Restrictions
    • Long guns (rifles/shotguns): regulated
    • Automatic: Subject to federal licensing, regulation
    • Handguns: permitted without a license
    • Semiautomatic: permitted without a license
    • Banned: sawn-off long guns, machine guns, silencers, armour-piercing rounds
      • Subject to appropriate registration
  • No set waiting period for lawful firearm purchase
  • Possession of a concealed carry waived background checks

  • Private sales are permitted
  • Private sellers need no background check
  • Dealers must carry a dealer's license
  • Dealers must pass a background check

  • Firearm dealers and manufacturers are required to keep records of gun and ammunition sales and manufacture
  • There are laws specifying safe storage of firearms
  • All firearms sold in the US are marked and can be traced/tracked
Unlawful possession
  • Punishable by 10 years in prison
So, looking at the laws shows that there is some control already in place. Honestly, I'm fairly satisfied with what is in paper. 

So, then, what needs to change?

Well, for one, enforcement needs to step up. If sales and background checks are better enforced, then we would see, in general, guns being more in the hands of responsible owners. That, unfortunately, is a bit of a wishful dream at this point.

That being said, I am a proponent of a basic gun license for owners. I hold that prospective gun owners should prove themselves capable of the responsible ownership of a gun (maintenance, storage, responsible use) and aware of state & federal gun laws. We have established such a process for driving a vehicle, so why not a similar vetting process for firearms? Such a license (let's call it the new open carry license), would ensure more responsible ownership and that, coupled with a background check with a moderate waiting period, can help ensure more responsible dealer sales. The incentive for private sales to be responsible is the threat of losing that right; having a license just makes it easier to establish rapport. Additionally, the presence of gun licenses allows for easier law enforcement. Are you carrying? Do you have your license on you? If your answers are "yes" and "no" respectively, then you are subject to the law.

So, I've taken a look at the current statistics and I've taken a peek at the law. I've given you my perspective. Let's all become well-informed citizens and arrive at a safer, yet still free, environment for ourselves and our children.