Suppressing Science

Over the centuries, we have found that the best way to discover truths about the natural world is through the method of examination, observation, and experimentation known as science. The use of science over the last few centuries has allowed us to make discoveries about the universe and invent new technologies that have fundamentally changed the world we live in, for better or worse but mainly for the better.

Science only works, however, when the people practicing it engage in a relentless, even passionate pursuit of the truth, whatever the consequences. Scientists must honestly report the results of their observations and experiments, even if the results are not what they would like. They must be willing to acknowledge when an experiment disproves the theory they are trying to prove. In particular, for science to work, scientists must be able to work without fear of political or ideological interference.

This is why I find the article, And Yet it Moves, by Jukka Savolainen in City Journal.

Nature Human Behavior, one of the most prestigious journals for social science research, recently published an editorial titled “Science must respect the dignity and rights of all humans.” Though short, the article generated tremendous pushback among academics and intellectuals concerned about the spread of social-justice ideology into science. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker said the journal was “no longer a peer-reviewed scientific journal but an enforcer of a political creed,” while Greg Lukianoff, the CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, described the journal’s statement as “an epistemic catastrophe.” What did the editorial say?

In short, it took the position that scientific truth should defer to politics. The journal now considers it appropriate to suppress research that “undermines—or could reasonably be perceived to undermine—the rights and dignities” of people or groups, as well as “text or images that disparage a person or group on the basis of socially constructed human groupings.” Researchers are urged to “consider the potential implications of research on human groups defined on the basis of social characteristics” and “to contextualise their findings to minimize as much as possible potential misuse or risks of harm to the studied groups in the public sphere.” Anything that could be perceived as disparaging is now fair game for rejection or retraction.

The implications on scientific inquiry and truth-seeking are clear. As the journalist Jesse Singal observed, an empirically flawless study could be retracted under the guise of social justice. “What’s most alarming is that unless I’m missing something, research that is perfectly valid and well-executed could run afoul of these guidelines,” he wrote.

Mr. Savolainen points out that this kind of censorship has become increasingly common in the scientific community, especially in the social sciences. He gives two examples of studies that were attacked and suppressed because their results were at variance with politically correct orthodoxy. Such findings might “cause harm” to a particular group and therefore should not be published. Some things are more important than the truth.

The problem with this approach is that it is impossible to suppress the truth indefinitely. Sooner or later, the truth comes out. As the title of the article, what Galileo allegedly whispered to himself, suggests, the Catholic Church tried to suppress the knowledge that the Earth moves around the Sun. The Inquisition may have been able to intimidate Galileo into proclaiming the Earth does not move, but the Earth does move; what the Catholic Church did by silencing Galileo was to gain the undeserved reputation of being a body of ignoramuses. Scientific journals which try to quash inconvenient studies will acquire a similar reputation.

The motivation for these acts of censorship may be noble. The editors seem to be concerned that reporting facts that might reflect negatively on groups that have historically been oppressed, perhaps providing excuses for further oppression. Whether the motivation for concealing truths is or is not noble, it is still a bad idea. If the members of a particular group suffer from some social dysfunction, perhaps they commit crimes at a greater rate than the national average, or lag in educational attainments suppressing the studies that reveal such dysfunctions does not help anyone. We cannot resolve the problems that a particular group of people might have unless we know all of the relevant facts. Suppressing these facts only gives credence to the bigots who use this ‘suppressed knowledge’ to suggest that the marginalized people the censors imagine they are helping are inherently inferior.

When you value politically correct ideology more than the truth, you will never discover what the truth is. You cannot do science unless you are willing to pursue the truth where ever it may lead. You may use scientific terminology and perhaps some aspects of the scientific method, but you are not doing science. You are performing what the physicist Richard Feynman called cargo cult science. The people at Nature Human Behavior have decided to give up real science in favor of the cargo cult variety.

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Twenty-One Years

It has been twenty years since the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, and I still remember it as if it were yesterday.

On that Tuesday morning, I was at work, driving from Madison to North Vernon when I got a call from my wife. She asked me if I was listening to the radio. I was not. She told me to turn it on because something terrible was happening. I turned my car radio on and listened to the coverage of the attack.

I went about my duties at the stores in North Vernon in a sort of state of shock.  The North Vernon Walmart and Jay C played continuing news coverage of the day’s events instead of the usual soothing Musak. Not too many people were working or shopping in the stores. They were mostly just listening.

I had to go to Seymour for a meeting that afternoon. On the way, I noticed that some gas stations had raised the price of gasoline to a then unheard-of price of $5 per gallon. At the meeting, no one wanted to discuss the business at hand. Instead, we talked about the terrorist attack. It seemed certain to us all that more attacks were on the way and that this time we couldn’t just launch a few missiles, blow up some tents, and then move on. We were in for a long fight.

I don’t remember much about the rest of that day. I went home but I don’t remember much about it.

I was once in the World Trade Center. I was in New York with some friends as a sort of tourist and we took the elevator to the top floor of one of the twin towers. There was a gallery up there where you could look out over the city of New York. The day was foggy so I didn’t see anything. They had a gift shop in the center section of the floor. It sickens me to think that the people who worked there went to work one morning, and then had to choose between burning to death or jumping, Not to mention the tourists, who only wanted to look at the city.

It still sickens me to think about the people who were only doing their jobs having to lose their lives.

It sickens me, even more, to have an alleged president turn tail and run from the kind of terrorists who committed this atrocity, abandoning Americans in Afghanistan, or to have this so-called president declaring his fellow Americans a threat to the country while ignoring the external threats, probably because the traitor president is bought and paid for our enemies, but there it is.

twin

Chronological Snob

I saw this posted somewhere on the internet.

This is a prime example of what C. S. Lewis called chronological snobbery. Chronological snobbery is the idea that because people in earlier times were less knowledgable than we are about natural science, they must have been less intelligent and less knowledgeable about everything than we who live in these more enlightened times. The person who created this meme is suggesting that because the men who wrote the constitution were ignorant about the developments in scientific understanding after their time, they have nothing worthwhile to say to us. The constitution they drafted must be based on their ignorance and should perhaps be discarded as a product of an earlier, benighted era.

The meme isn’t entirely true, even in a real sense. The men of the eighteenth century did not regard women as literal property, except for their Black slaves, but that is another matter. If anything, they probably had a more realistic view concerning men and women than the average gender studies major of our times. At least they knew what a woman was. No educated person at the time would have viewed a light bulb as the product of witchcraft. They would have easily understood the principles of the workings of an incandescent light bulb if someone had explained it to them. Benjamin Franklin and perhaps Thomas Jefferson could have deduced these principles by observation. In fact, Franklin could have invented the light bulb if he had lived a half-century later. These were not ignorant men.

As for the rest, it may be true that the framers did not know about atoms or dinosaurs, though Jefferson at least was aware of the fossils that suggested large animals had existed in the past. They only knew about the prevailing scientific views of their time, just as the creator of this meme only knows about the common views of xir time. It is true that the average college or even high school graduate knows more about the natural world than the most educated persons in the eighteenth century. That is hardly to their credit, however. They had no hand in developing modern scientific theories. They are only repeating what their teachers tell them. It is not to the framers’ discredit they didn’t know better. They could not have known about advancements in knowledge that occurred decades or centuries after their deaths.

In any case, a knowledge of modern physics or medicine is not what is needed to establish a new and lasting government. What is needed is a knowledge of human nature and political history. This sort of wisdom the founding fathers possessed in abundance much greater than the average woke college graduate of today. These men had all read Plutarch, Polybius, and Plato. They were familiar with the works of Locke, Burke, and Montesquieu. Men the woke would dismiss as dead White males with nothing to say to us in these more enlightened times. The men who drafted our constitution had studied the constitutions of many states ancient and modern and had managed to create a political system that has provided the American people with an unparalleled degree of freedom for more than two hundred years. I doubt if any system of government devised by our woke contemporaries would do so well. Indeed, if the history of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is any guide, we still have a lot to learn from the wise men who wrote that allegedly outdated constitution. We should not dismiss the people who lived in the past as ignorant because they did not have the knowledge we have gained since their time. We should learn from their wisdom that we have perhaps lost.

The Hippie and his Hat

The post The Anti-Capitalist Capitalist reminded me of an anecdote about a hippie, and his hat, that I read many years ago. I have forgotten most of the details and am unsure if it is a true story. It doesn’t matter, though. The story is worth repeating.

Back during the 1960s, a hippie, one of the famous bomb-throwing radicals, I believe, was giving a speech advocating Communism. By Communism, he did not mean the totalitarian dictatorship practiced in the Soviet bloc. Instead, he proposed that everyone should live in communes where the people shared everything equitably. The hippie inveighed against private property of all sorts, arguing that selfish ownership was the cause of all evils, and spoke feelingly of the paradise that would follow if only everyone would share everything equally. When the hippie finished speaking, the narrator of this story went up to him and complimented the hippie for his excellent speech. He then admired the hat the hippie was wearing and asked if the hippie would give him the hat., Shocked, the hippie said no, of course not. Why not? “Because its my hat.”

It is strange and more than a little ironic that the people who most advocate sharing the wealth somehow never believe that the sharing applies to their own wealth. Bernie Sanders is a socialist who believes we don’t need twenty-three varieties of deodorant, who honeymooned in the Soviet Union is a millionaire with three mansions. Black Lives Matter founder Patrisse Cullors, a self-described Marxist, owns four houses. Socialist star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has shown no signs of giving up her Congressional salary to live the lifestyle of a bartender, despite calling for increased taxes on the rich. The Castros and the Chavezes happen to be the wealthiest families in Cuba and Venezuela.

I am beginning to think that the whole idea of socialism is a scam, a means to get money, property, and power that other people have earned. The great industrialists of the Nineteenth century have been called ‘robber barons’, but at least they gained their fortunes by providing goods and services other people wanted. Our modern socialists are truly robber barons who take in the name of the poor and powerless to enrich and empower themselves. They are nothing but thieves and hypocrites and should be treated accordingly.

The Evil Party and the Stupid Party

It is often said that the Democrats are the evil party and the Republicans are the stupid party. If there is any doubt that the Democrats are indeed the evil party, consider the complete meltdown they are having over the Supreme Court’s recent overturning of Roe versus Wade. Keep in mind that the Court’s decision on Dobbs versus Jackson Women’s Health Organization does not actually outlaw abortion anywhere. It simply refers the matter back to the states, where state legislatures can settle the question democratically. The idea that the people of each state can decide for themselves what to do about abortion ought not to be controversial yet the Democrats are furious over the possibility that fewer infants will be murdered in the womb. That is evil.

Let’s be clear about what the debate on abortion is really over. It is not about women’s bodies or reproductive health. It is about murdering human beings before they are even born. Killing an innocent person is always an intrinsically evil act, whatever the justification. Deliberately killing an innocent human being can only be justified if it is necessary to save the life of another human being, and even then, it is a lesser evil rather than a positive good. A mother who kills her child is performing an abominable act, one that is contrary to nature. Abortion is always an evil act unless it is done to preserve the life or health of the mother. A political party that supports abortion right up to the moment of birth can only be called the Evil Party.

If the Democrats are evil, the Republicans are stupid. I do not believe that any other political party in the history of politics has demonstrated quite the knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory as the Republican has consistently shown. As it stands, due to the catastrophic record of the alleged president Biden and the Democrats in Congress, the Republicans are poised to win huge victories in the November election. All Republicans have to do to ensure a red tsunami this fall is to avoid alienating their base into staying home instead of voting. What are the Republicans, at least the GOP leaders in the Senate doing? Working to alienate potential voters so that they will decide to stay home by supporting a highly problematic Democrat “gun safety” bill. Fourteen Republican Senators, who ought to have known better, including Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and Indiana’s own Todd Young, along with the usual traitors like Mitt Romney voted to support a bill that will do nothing to make our streets safer but will help to abridge our constitutional rights.

Alienating your supporters to appease people who will never support you is stupid. Making compromises with people who believe that compromise means you give up something you want while they give up nothing at all is stupid. Making compromises with people who view each compromise as just another step towards their long-term goals is stupid. Breaking promises to your voters and refusing to fight for your principles in the face of opposition is both cowardly and stupid.

The leaders of the Republican Party are, for the most part, either stupid or cowards. Why should we continue to vote for people who will not deliver? Maybe we need a new party in America. Instead of the Evil Party and the Stupid Party, maybe we need a Smart, Good Party.

Roe Hysteria

If the leaked draft of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion is any indication, the Supreme Court may soon be overturning Roe v. Wade. Naturally, the Democrats are throwing a fit. They are getting out their Handmaid’s Tale costumes

 

Women’s fashion after Roe is overturned

and predicting that overturning Roe v. Wade will result in back-alley abortions all over the country, a ban on contraceptives and interracial marriages, the segregation of LGBTYQEIEIO children in classrooms, dogs, and cats living together, and other signs of mass hysteria.’

 

They should calm down. The only thing that overturning Roe v. Wade will do is return the issue of abortion to the state legislatures, where it rightfully belongs. It is likely that the more conservative states, like Utah or Alabama, will either ban or place severe constraints on abortion, but more liberal states, like California or Massachusetts, will continue to permit abortion right up to the moment of birth. Those states in the middle will place varying restrictions on what point in pregnancy abortions are allowed, as the people of each state see fit. 

It is usually best to resolve contentious social issues like abortion through the democratic process of compromise, give and take, and consensus-building rather than have solutions imposed by judicial fiat. Solutions that develop that way may not be to everyone’s satisfaction; the best compromises leave everyone equally unhappy, but everyone feels as if they have had some input into policymaking rather than having policies imposed upon them. Given that a consensus on any controversial issue is impossible in a continent-spanning nation of more than three hundred million people, controversial issues like abortion ought to be resolved at the state level rather than trying to impose a one-size-fits-all solution for the entire United States. Diverse nations need diverse policies. I thought that the progressives support diversity, but perhaps that is the wrong kind of diversity.

If the Supreme Court had not legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade, some general consensus would have evolved over time. The consensus would have changed as public opinions about abortion changed. It is most likely that abortion would have been legalized in most states during the 1970s. Then, in the more conservative 1980s, many states might have imposed more restrictions on abortion, perhaps limiting abortion to the first trimester. If public opinion on abortion changed, the laws concerning abortion would change. That would be the democratic and diverse way to address contentious social issues. I thought the left was in favor of democracy and diversity. Perhaps that is the wrong kind of diversity, while they are only really in favor of ‘our democracy’ as opposed to real democracy in which people govern themselves.

The Democrats are fond of calling pro-life positions extreme. If this is the case, they have nothing to worry about. If the Republicans adopt extreme positions on abortion or any other social issue, they will be punished at the ballot box. Perhaps the Democrats realize that it is their own position, permitting abortion right up to the moment of birth for any conceivable reason, is, in fact, the extreme position.

Americans are deeply ambivalent about abortion. Few Americans want to see abortion banned altogether, yet more and more Americans are coming around to the idea that abortion is morally wrong. A majority of Americans may believe that women have a right to choose whether to get an abortion, yet many feel that this is a choice women ought not to make. Even most pro-choice Americans do not believe that late-term abortion should be permitted. If there is any consensus at all on this most contentious issue, it is that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, not that women should shout their abortions.

By imposing a solution by fiat and cutting short the necessary debate necessary in a democracy, Roe v. Wade played a not inconsiderable role in making American politics more divisive and polarized. In the end, overturning Roe v. Wade might be one of the best ways to purge some of the poison from American politics and restore some degree of civility. Unless the Democrats decide the resolve the issue the way they tried to resolve the last major issue they were on the wrong side of.

Race Race

I try not to pay too much attention to what entertainers say about politics and current events because what entertainers generally have to say about politics and current events is often very silly. Sometimes I can’t help but notice some particularly silly comment made by an entertainer. Recently the very silly named Whoopi Goldberg said something about the Holocaust that was not merely silly but more than a little pernicious.

The last time I heard anything stupid and obnoxious from Ms. Goldberg was some years ago when she commented on the View that Roman Polanski’s actions, while deplorable, were not exactly rape-rape. Of course, forcing sexual intercourse with an intoxicated, thirteen-year-old girl is considered rape-rape in almost every jurisdiction in the civilized world, and Whoopi ought to have known better than to say something so profoundly stupid.

You wouldn’t think Ms. Goldberg could ever top the rape-rape comment, but she managed it again on The View, by saying that the Holocaust was not about race.

Whoopi Goldberg argued on ABC’s The View Monday the Holocaust was “not about race,” prompting pushback from co-hosts on the show.

“If you’re going to do this, then let’s be truthful about it,” Goldberg said. “Because the Holocaust isn’t about race. No, it’s not about race.”

Co-host Joy Behar asked Goldberg: “Then what was it about?”

“It’s about man’s inhumanity to man,” Goldberg responded. “That’s what it’s about.”

Ana Navarro, another co-host on the show, interjected, saying, “Well, it’s about white supremacy. That’s what it’s about. It’s about going after Jews and gypsies.”

“But these are two groups of white people,” Goldberg cut in. “But you’re missing the point. The minute you turn it into race, it goes down this alley. Let’s talk about it for what it is. It’s how people treat each other. It’s a problem. It doesn’t matter if you’re Black or white, because Black, white, Jews … everybody eats each other.”

So, according to Whoopi Goldberg, the Holocaust was not about race because both the perpetrators and the victims of the atrocities were White. This conclusion would be surprising to the Nazis who planned and carried out the Holocaust. According to Nazi ideology, Germans, Jews, and Slavs were distinct and ultimately incompatible races, despite all being the same color. If one follows Ms. Goldberg’s logic, such atrocities as the massacre of the Tutsis by the Hutus in Rwanda in 1994 or the Japanese atrocities against the Chinese during the Second World War were not about race either, although in each case, those responsible for the mass murders clearly did not believe the victims were the same race as themselves, despite having roughly the same skin color. It would seem that race is not just a black and white matter if you’ll pardon the expression, but something more complicated.

That brings us to the question of just what race is anyway. According to the free dictionary;

1. group of people identified as distinct from other groups because of supposed physical or genetic traits shared by the group. Most biologists and anthropologists do not recognize race as a biologically valid classification, in part because there is more genetic variation within groups than between them.
2. group of people united or classified together on the basis of common history, nationality, or geographic distribution: the Celtic race.
3. genealogical line; a lineage.

A bit overly politically correct, but it will do. In America, we believe that skin color is the most important physical trait to distinguish between groups of people or races. Elsewhere, where populations have similar skin colors, other characteristics are more important. These characteristics are just as important to people in Europe, Asia, and Africa as skin color is to North Americans. A person from Europe or North America might find it hard to tell the difference between a Hutu and a Tutsi or a Japanese and a Chinese, but a person from Africa or East Asia would probably have no difficulty making such distinctions. A person from Africa or East Asia might not be able to tell the difference between a German, a Jew, or a Slav but making such determinations in Central Europe in the middle twentieth century was a matter of life and death even though everyone was what Americans would consider White.
Just because two people happen to have the same skin color, it does not follow that they will view each other as belonging to the same group or race. If I were to travel to my ancestral homeland in Germany, no one in Germany would mistake me for being German or even European, despite my light skin. I suspect that if Whoopi Goldberg went to Africa, few Africans would see her as a fellow African, despite her dark skin. They would see her as a Black American. Her language, mannerisms, and cultural assumptions would show her as foreign to most Africans.
The curious thing about racial distinctions is how trivial they appear when looking objectively from the outside. Physical or even cultural differences that seem so consequential on the inside, as it were, are utterly meaningless to anyone not familiar with the local circumstances, culture, or history. Even so obvious a distinction as Black and White, which any human might consider significant, might be meaningless to an extraterrestrial visiting Earth for the first time. An alien would wonder why we are so concerned with racial differences since we are obviously all of the same species. The differences between any two groups of human beings would be minuscule compared to the difference between the alien and ourselves. From an extraterrestrial point of view, there is only one race that matters on Earth, the human race.
In a way, Whoopi Goldberg is right, though not at all in the way she might have intended. When viewed properly, The Holocaust and every other instance of man’s inhumanity to man is not about race at all since we are all members of the same human race. Maybe if we could get used to thinking about ourselves as the same race and learn to ignore the trivial differences between us, there would be a good deal less of that inhumanity.

The Nativity According to John

Like Mark, John does not include a narrative of the nativity. Instead, John chooses to go all the way back to the beginning.

 1.In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life,and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-4)

“The Word” is the usual translation of the Greek word λογος (logos) but logos means more than just “word” Logos means something like speech or discourse or reason. Hence the word logic is derived from logos, as well as “ology” as in geology or biology. The Stoic philosophers used the word logos to refer to the divine Reason in their pantheistic belief system while the Hellenistic Jews identified logos with the wisdom or spirit of God. John follows the Jewish view by identifying the logos with God. Notice he also identifies light and life with God this is a theme found throughout his gospel and in the first letter of John.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe.He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (John 1:6-8)

John the Baptist was not the Word. He was only a messenger.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:9-14)

The Word became flesh. But who was the Word or the Son?

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:15-18)

The Word made flesh was Jesus Christ. Of the four gospels, John most emphasizes the divine nature of Jesus, even to the point of omitting incidents that show any weakness on the part of Jesus. John does not mention Jesus’s temptation in the desert by the Devil after being baptized by John the Baptist nor does he show Jesus’s agony at the Garden of Gethsemane. There is no cry of despair from the cross. Jesus is always shown as being calm and in control of events.

It may be that John wanted to emphasize the divinity of Jesus as a rebuttal to those who either believed that Jesus, while the Messiah was merely human and those who held that Jesus was born human but had been adopted as the Son at his baptism or at some other time. John states that Jesus has existed since before time began as the eternal Word of God. At the same time, John firmly rejects the other extreme that Jesus did not really have a body made of matter but only seemed to be flesh. This idea was held by many Gnostics who taught that physical matter was an inferior substance to the spiritual realm, created by an inferior, and perhaps evil, deity. Jesus Christ, being an emissary from the higher God could not have a body made of mere flesh. John asserts that the Word was made flesh and that really did have a body and really did eat and sleep.

Curiously, both these heresies are still found today, clothed in modern garb. Many liberal theologians cannot believe in the divinity of Jesus and insist that he was merely a great moral teacher. Some Atheists insist that Jesus never really existed in the physical realm but only as a myth. Maybe there really is nothing new under the Sun.

 

The Nativity According to Mark

The Gospel of Mark does not include a narrative of Jesus’s birth. Instead, Mark gets right to business with John the Baptist.

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,  as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way”
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’”

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

(Mark 1:1-8)

Then Jesus makes his first appearance, fully grown and ready to begin His public ministry.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

(Mark 1:9-15)

English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ
English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mark’s gospel was probably the first gospel written. It is the shortest of the four gospels and seems to have been intended as a sort of FAQ for Christians wanting to know more about the central figure of their faith. Mark doesn’t include a lot of details about Jesus’s life and teachings. He just gives the basic facts about Jesus’s ministry, his miracles, and his death on the cross.

The earliest Christians weren’t really interested in the details of Jesus’s birth or His early life. Even His teachings were of secondary importance. For the early Christians, the most important fact about Jesus was that he was crucified, died, and then came back to life, defeating death and sin and redeeming the whole world. Paul, whose letters are some of the earliest Christian writings hardly mentions any details of Jesus’s life. He was surely not ignorant. Both he and the recipients of his letters already knew the information found in the Gospels. For both Paul and the people he wrote to, the most important thing was the death and resurrection. For the earliest Christians Easter, not Christmas, was the most important day of the year. Indeed, the birth of Christ may not have been celebrated by Christians until the third or fourth century.

There is a lot of talk, these days, about the War on Christmas, and I have written posts about the Secular Christmas Grinches who seem determined to ruin Christmas for everyone, or at least strip it of all meaning until it is a generic “Holiday”. As Christians, we should remember the importance of Christmas and should fight against the increasing marginalization of the Judeo-Christian worldview that this nation was founded upon. Still, we should also remember that Christ’s death and resurrection was the reason he came into the world. If Jesus is the reason for Christmas, Good Friday and Easter are the reason for Jesus. We should remember Christ on the cross as well as baby Jesus in the manger.

Twenty Years

It has been twenty years since the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, and I still remember it as if it were yesterday.

On that Tuesday morning, I was at work, driving from Madison to North Vernon when I got a call from my wife. She asked me if I was listening to the radio. I was not. She told me to turn it on because something terrible was happening. I turned my car radio on and listened to the coverage of the attack.

I went about my duties at the stores in North Vernon in a sort of state of shock.  The North Vernon Walmart and Jay C played continuing news coverage of the day’s events instead of the usual soothing Musak. Not too many people were working or shopping in the stores. They were mostly just listening.

I had to go to Seymour for a meeting that afternoon. On the way, I noticed that some gas stations had raised the price of gasoline to a then unheard of price of $5 per gallon. At the meeting, no one wanted to discuss the business at hand. Instead, we talked about the terrorist attack. It seemed certain to us all that more attacks were on the way and that this time we couldn’t just launch a few missiles, blow up some tents, and then move on. We were in for a long fight.

I don’t remember much about the rest of that day. I went home but I don’t remember much about it.

I was once in the World Trade Center. I was in New York with some friends as a sort of tourist and we took the elevator to the top floor of one of the twin towers. There was a gallery up there where you could look out over the city of New York. The day was foggy so I didn’t see anything. They had a gift shop in the center section of the floor. It sickens me to think that the people who worked there went to work one morning, and then had to choose between burning to death or jumping, Not to mention the tourists, who only wanted to look at the city.

It still sickens me to think about the people who were only doing their jobs having to lose their lives.

It sickens me, even more, to have an alleged president turn tail and run from the kind of terrorists who committed this atrocity, abandoning Americans in Afghanistan, or to have political leaders more eager to fight their fellow Americans than the enemies of our country, but so it is.

twin

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