Within the age…

we cannot transcend all the errors that characterize our time.

Choosing Donald Trump – A Review

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“By the dawn of the 2016 presidential race, religious conservatives were traumatized by the Obama years and fearful a second Clinton presidency would mean more of the same. They would back anyone who could win. They would take a nonbeliever. They would accept a candidate of doubtful morality. They were even willing to risk racial and gender offense on the part of their candidate. They could not endure more years of bombardment from a religious left intent upon remaking the nation.

So they stood with Donald Trump, and in so doing they took responsibility for the Trump presidency before the nation and the world. They “own” him now. They are wed to him, whatever he does.” – Stephen Mansfield

In his book, “Choosing Donald Trump”, Stephen Mansfield sets out to explain why America’s religious conservatives could possibly justify backing Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Mansfield begins by outlining the issue: Donald Trump is a strange mixture of aspiring “saint” and self-aggrandizing sinner.

He builds this case by demonstrating the events and people that shaped Donald Trump into the quasi-religious man he is today: a mishmash of the theology of Norman Vincent Peale, Paula White, heavy doses of his father’s business acumen, and promises of vengeance for those that crosses him. Overall Mansfield paints a picture of  Donald Trump that makes perfect sense, and anyone with a cursory understanding of Vincent Peale will see how the positivity teacher has left his imprint in Trump’s message and methods.

The third part of the book focuses on the forces that prepared religious conservatives to accept Trump: The Johnson amendment, Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, and Trump’s offer to be the “voice” for American’s who felt like all the prior factors had stripped their own away.

Overall, Mansfield does an excellent job outlining the factors that have made Trump the man he is, and the factors that have led to his acceptance by religious conservatives. In fact, the only criticism I can truly offer is that the book is too short – it left my appetite whetted for a longer, more scholarly look at President Trump, and the role that “voiceless conservatives” played in the 2016 election.

I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers  program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Source: Choosing Donald Trump by Stephen Mansfield

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Written by Agrammatos

October 11, 2017 at 9:09 PM

The Whole Man

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“…if Christianity is really true, then it involves the whole man, including his intellect and creativeness. Christianity is not just “dogmatically” true or “doctrinally” true. Rather, it is true to what is there, true in the whole area of the whole man in all of life.” – Francis A. Schaeffer

Source: Art and the Bible

 

Written by Agrammatos

May 28, 2017 at 10:37 PM

Posted in General, Scripture

A Quickly Kindled Fire

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And the strong shall become tinder,
    and his work a spark,
and both of them shall burn together,
    with none to quench them.”  
– Isaiah 1:31

“Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” – James 3:4-6

Isaiah 1:31 presents an immediately ironic picture of the strong, the ones who would of their own strength stand in opposition to God. The powerful – the ones that should be counted on to defend themselves, and those that fall within their purview – they will be burned, and there will be none powerful enough to quench the fire. Not only will the strong be burned, but the image is not one of a slow starting fire. The strong are not compared to a wet cord of wood that takes effort and time for the fire to consume. God does not find himself taxed to bring about judgement… No, the strong will be tinder: the leftover chaff that catches immediately and burns throughly.

It doesn’t take a raging fire to consume tinder – only a spark; and the spark is nothing but the works of those that were considered strong. Their own actions provide the brief spark that immediately consumes the whole lot.

Written by Agrammatos

October 16, 2016 at 6:19 PM

Posted in General, Scripture

A Thriving Beauty

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One year ago, on October 15, 2015 Christopher Leavell passed away after a short battle with cancer. Chris was my pastor for a short period of time during 2013 while my family lived in the Phoenix area. We were directed to Chris’ church after my wife’s graduation from college, and we began attending after just a couple short weeks. We went out with his family for an after church meal, and found almost instantly that we were in agreement about a great many things.

When it came to the preaching of the word, Chris was concerned that it be unadorned by his own ingenuity, and that the original meaning must be clear to his hearers. He was one of the meekest men I have known personally: willing to be imposed on if he believed it would be better for everyone else involved, and only disagreeing when he felt it was a necessity.

I didn’t know Chris for a long time, in fact we only spent around eight months slowly getting to know his family before I had to uproot my own for work. While I didn’t know Chris for an extended period, there are many things about him that were impressed upon me. First and foremost was his love for the natural world.

Chris and I were in agreement on a great number of things, but he argued that one area that was almost wholly ignored was the importance of the created world in the realm of the Church and Christian Conservatism. I asked him at one point to outline his thoughts on the subject as I had never met anyone so particularly passionate about the natural world. We had some brief conversations about it, and its with regret that I say I don’t believe I ever fully apprehended his position.

In 2014, Chris published a blog post entitled: The Grand Canyon is not Beautiful. Chris was a photographer, and he worked at developing a talent for it. The aforementioned blog post is lacking his photos of the Canyon, but you can view them here.

He said in his post that he went to the Canyon, hoping to capture it’s beauty, but found himself frustrated:

“…the same frustration that comes from trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. These added elements of weather and light are truly beautiful but the Canyon itself is not. When looking at the Canyon I do not see the work the Divine hand of creation. I do not find beauty, but the scene of unprecedented cataclysmic destruction. I find the remnants of floodwaters of desolation now baking in the sun soaked cliffs all majestic in its magnitude. Like true beauty, it brings me to stillness and wonder but it lacks the goodness of the Creator that must undergird true beauty.”

At first I disagreed with him, I felt that the canyon itself could not be broken down into all its individual parts. The elements of weather, the light, the rushing water… these must be taken as one in total. However, I’ve come to see the Canyon differently.

The land, like our own nature, is suffering with the effects and scars of sin. The Canyon is a testament to the consuming effect of evil on the totality of creation: even the Earth itself groans under the weight mankind has unjustly placed upon it.

Our fallen nature is not a beautiful thing, but the beauty of the image of God still dwells within us, and in spite of us. Beauty remains, despite our fallen nature, but only because God has not allowed his image to be wholly destroyed. In Christ, the image will one day be restored in full.

This is what Chris helped me see in the natural world: Yes, the Grand Canyon is not beautiful. However, I would like to offer an addendum: While the Grand Canyon is not beautiful, beauty cannot be restrained by the stark reality of the desolation. In the Canyon, the greatest illustration of sins damaging effects, the light plays upon the ground in such a way to take our breath away. It is not just because of the desolation and magnitude of the canyon, although it is a part of it. We gather in the early morning air, crowded together, and take pictures because beauty does not just exist at the Grand Canyon, it thrives there. In spite of the desolation, the promise of restored beauty remains.

I wish I could continue the conversation with Chris, but for now, I remain thankful for a man who helped open my eyes to the value of the natural world, and what it teaches us about a God who shared with us his nature through his very creation.

 

Written by Agrammatos

October 15, 2016 at 12:16 AM

Posted in General

The Apache Wars – A Review

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At Pinos Altos the white miners had laughed and whooped as the old chief staggered away into the trees beyond the camp. It would have been better for them to have killed him, for now Mangas Coloradas pledged to join with Cochise to fight the White Eyes in a war to the death.” – Paul Andrew Hutton

The Apache Wars is an intricate tale of the events surrounding Geronimo, Cochise, Mickey Free, and many more men and women who had a role to play in the wars of Apacheria. Hutton does a fine job in tying all this history together, and moves from one fascinating account to another. The positive is that it almost reads like a series of short stories.

Negatively, the story does drag at some points, and suffers from the same problem that all accurate and wide ranging histories usually do: It’s easy to lose track of who did what/when. I don’t believe this to be a failure on Hutton’s part, but just an inherent danger in telling such a long story that involves so many players.

I would like to offer one primary observation on the book as a whole, without spoiling anything: Hutton does an admirable job at showing how both the White men, and the Apaches were at fault for what became an incredibly drawn out fight that involved so many people. While there may have been many catalysts such as Mickey Free, Apache Pass, Etc… The biggest factor in the continued violence was an incredible series of poor decisions made on both sides.

A good book to read and consider over a longer period of time, perhaps with a couple other resources to help tie down the events to their wider historical context.

I received this book as part of the blogging for books program in exchange for my review.

Source: The Apache Wars by Paul Andrew Hutton

Written by Agrammatos

September 6, 2016 at 1:55 AM

Posted in General

The Same Principle

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“The mechanized pursuit of wildlife is high on the list of violating fair-chase principles. We have invented machines to carry ourselves over land, sea and air. Evolution of the animals we pursue can not keep pace with these inventions. If we are to pursue animals fairly, the ethical choice is clear – we pursue them on foot. The ethical hunter never chases or harasses wildlife with a machine. The ethical hunter must make many fair-chase choices. In some areas chasing big game with dogs is an accepted custom. In other places, it is considered an unfair advantage for the hunter. Likewise, luring animals with bait or hunting in certain seasons is sometimes viewed as giving an unfair advantage to the hunter. While local custom and practice need to be respected, it is equally important to be honest about the result of these practices. If there is a doubt, advantage must be given to the animal being hunted.” – Jim Posewitz

“But I cannot help thinking that shooting and angling, for all their beauty, have a moral downside. For is there not something unsporting in the use of guns and hooks against creatures with no natural understanding of such things, and no defences against them?…” – Roger Scruton

Posewitz seems to accept the presence of the implement of hunting and angling: The gun, the bow, the rod, as a given. Scruton however places their use in the same category as any of the other potential objectional elements of Hunting and argues only for the fox hunt with hounds. These are not principles at odds with each other, it’s the same principle, but applied to different extents.

Sources:
Beyond Fair Chase by Jim Posewitz
On Hunting by Roger Scruton

Written by Agrammatos

July 26, 2016 at 11:16 AM

Posted in General

The Worst of Living Criminals

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“Animals are not moral beings: they have neither rights nor duties, they are not sovereign over their lives, and they can commit no crimes. If they were moral beings, then Kant’s categorical imperative would apply to them: it would be wrong to kill them, capture them, confine them, harm them, or curtail their freedom. But it would also be wrong for them to do these things. Lions would be murderers, cuckoos usurpers, mice burglas, and magpies thieves. The fox would be the worst of living criminals, fully deserving the death penalty which we from time to time administer.” – Roger Scruton

Source: On Hunting by Scruton

Written by Agrammatos

July 21, 2016 at 10:55 AM

Posted in General