Weekend Reading: May 20, 2017

Welcome to the Weekend Reading.  Just thinking about all the news items that occurred this week was a bit overwhelming for me last night. Not only did a lot happen this week, but a lot of pretty crazy things happened – things that need thoughtful reading and time to digest.  Here’s what I found most interesting…

By far the biggest news item was that a special investigator was appointed by the Deputy Director of the FBI to explore any possible mischief between Trump Campaign operatives and the Russians.  The man they appointed was former long-time FBI head, Robert Mueller.  Mueller is universally respected on both sides of the aisle, and there seemed some sense of relief when the appointment was made. You’ve seen all this news, but I thought that the most helpful recap of the last two weeks was put together by the editors at the Weekly Standard.  Helpful excerpt:

Trump defenders are fond of saying there’s no hard evidence of collusion between Trump associates and the Russian government. Fair enough. But Trump’s first national security adviser resigned because of misleading claims he made in relation to his contacts with a Russian official. Trump’s campaign chairman resigned amid questions about his work for pro-Putin politicians and entities. And a foreign policy adviser quit after questions about his continuing contact with Russians. Justifiably or not, such a string of coincidences raises suspicions. The president himself will benefit enormously if an investigation widely seen as thorough, professional, impartial, and independent dispels them.

What are we to think of all of this?  As a Christian who is an American, I am always hopeful and desirous that the truth comes to light – and especially so at this stage of a potential scandal. As painful as truth can be, it often serves as a disinfectant in the political world, and a good reset. Remember, there are many important policy matters that are still being worked on, such as tax reform, and finishing the healthcare reform (the Senate is sitting on it at present).

The second thing to note is just how powerful words are in the life of our country. I was reading Hannah Arendt’s classic work ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’ this week, and it struck me as incredible that the German high command had created an entirely new vocabulary to use in the case of any discussion of the Final Solution, or death camps etc. The reason being that they knew that over time their words would have a demoralizing, and even an unhinging effect on soldiers downstream in the chain of command. So they had to speak in their own version of newspeak in order to keep sanity in the ranks.  I’m not making a one-to-one comparison of the political situation, but pointing out that the power of words that come down from on high (so to speak) in the American government are often dispensed with too much ease and not enough thought by our leaders. Words matter, and even more so the words of very powerful people. Lives hang in the balance, wars are started, markets shift and fluctuate based on the words of leaders.

Perhaps the most caustic example from the last few weeks came in a story first written (I believe) in the New York Times entitled Trump Told Russians That Firing ‘Nut Job’ Comey Eased Pressure From Investigation’.  Growing up, my parents had a rule that you never said anything bad about your family to your friends. If you had an issue with your brother, that’s between you and him and you weren’t to slander him to your best friend. It was a big no-no in our home.  The family is sacred, and they come first.  They knew something of the power of words.  What Trump has allegedly done here is sold out his family, his fellow American, in order to score points with a “friend.”  This isn’t behavior fitting for any leader, much less our President, and I hope it doesn’t prove to be simply the tip of the iceberg.

Moving on…but not really: Dwayne Johnson Sounds Pretty Serious About Running for President.  That was probably one of the most discouraging headlines of the week. I literally got done reading all the stupid things going on in Washington, and then read this story and just about lost my lunch. America, please….please do not tell me that we’re going to make ‘The Rock’ our next President…

Did anyone see this???  Dutch King Reveals Secret Life As Part-Time Pilot On KLM Airline.  WHAT????  Like, when did he have TIME for that?  How did no one know of this (it’s been going on for a few decades)? What bank account were they sending those pilot checks to?  What did he put on the application as his current or last job “I am your lord and sovereign the king”?  This is Monty Python stuff. 

More of the ridiculous…Turkish leader comes to visit our cozy capital and his thugs beat down protestors (some of which are AMERICANS). I mean, think of this, if it was the middle ages that king wouldn’t have made it back to his horse – our king would have thrown him in the tower, raised and army, and slaughtered his people like chickens headed to a Chik-Fil-A staff retreat!  If it were just a hundred years ago, we would have had another world war on our hands. Incidents less crazy led to WWI for heaven’s sake. Today it just barely makes it into the Daily Show, because, alas, we’re a bit busy with other scandals at the moment, and key allies like the king of Denmark couldn’t be reached for advice due to the fact that it was time for the in-flight coffee service.

I saw this article, Who’s in Charge of Outer Space?and thought immediately of my friend Tyler, a bright young attorney who had already seen the article by the time I’d sent it to him, and had told me months ago about this way big corporations are tangling with the legal implications of who owns what in space…I hope the king of Denmark isn’t in charge because I’m told he’s really hard to get a hold of.

Hilarious: The Bee Explains: Calvinism Vs. Arminianism

This was pretty cool: This is an American Workday, By Occupation

Erickson must have been a bit depressed this week: Aesop’s Washington: Perhaps It is Time to Dissolve Our Union.  The sad thing is that he has a few good points but they don’t come until the very end. The reason I post stuff from Erick is because he’s an influential voice on the right in American politics, and when he starts sounding alarms, then you know that there will be a few ripples (maybe even felt by monarchs cruising the atmosphere).

This was a good reset…from David Mathis: Set the Soundtrack of Your Mind.  His first sentence is really one of the great takeaways, “Leave your mind on autopilot (like the king of Denmark?), and distractions will dictate your life. Set your mind above, and God will.”

The Culture: Americans Hold Record Liberal Views on Moral Issues.  Al Mohler featured this as part of a Briefing this week.  It’s worth digging that up for some commentary if you want more context. But the key takeaway is that, other than abortion, Americans are more liberal on every moral issue we face today.  My personal opinion is that Hollywood and the movie and TV show industries are the key culprits, though we are all responsible for what we put before our eyes. What you watch, read, listen to changes you as much as who you hang out with or admire. We were designed this way. We become what we behold.

What I didn’t get to but want to: How Pixar Lost Its Way (basically how Disney ruined Pixar…shocker, I know)

FYI, not a headline most probably saw: Sessions delivers on gang crackdown: Over 1,000 arrested.

Beautiful rendition of It Is Well with My Soul was sent my way this week (h/t Matt R.)

There was certainly some ridiculous stuff going on this week – some of it was so outlandish that I am unsure how to appropriately or helpfully comment on it. But one of the things that come to mind when I read about this nonsense is just how broken the world is, and how fallen we all are from grace. Sometimes it seems like the glimpses of heaven are few and far between – heck, just a glimpse of NORMAL boring life would be a nice change for a country (and world) wracked by drama, discord, and divers dilemmas (like the alliteration?!).  What is your reaction when you read these stories?  What do you think after the thought of “boy this world is messed”? My next thought is that yes, while it is messed up, and while people are estranged from any sense of normal sometimes, it was into this state of things that Jesus stepped 2000 years ago.  The world wasn’t any less messed up then as it is now (trust me, I’ve read the history books and it wasn’t pretty).  Yet into that mess, he stepped.

The thing about being a Christian is that your eyes are opened to how messy things really are – you start seeing not only the reality behind the mess, but you see your own evil as well.  I realized again this morning just how things stood in my life before God entered in. The Apostle Paul describes is well:

Romans 5:6-11 says this…

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. [7] For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—[8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [9] Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. [10] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. [11] More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

God didn’t save people who were good and just on the brink of greatness. He didn’t come into a world that had political order, and justice and grace all figured out.  He entered a world of slavery, disease, and oppression. This was a world riddled with evil – evil people doing evil things.

Knowing my own state of things prior to Christ, and my proclivity to still do and say hurtful, messed up things, helps me to show mercy on those in the political space who we read about in these stories.  But for the grace of God, I would be on my way to hell and rightfully so.  Therefore my reaction to crazy news items and mismanaged leadership in the White House and Congress is to yes, first shake my head in incredulity, but to then show mercy and recall my own state.  Things need fixing in this world – politically and otherwise – but it starts at the individual level. Reconciliation with God begets social peace and reconciliation with our neighbors.  Pray for the eyes of leaders to be opened to these truths, and for wisdom to follow repentance.

Enjoy the weekend,

PJ

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