Monday, May 21, 2018

Voting guide for May 2018

I know that it's super last-minute, but I've finally got my voting decisions for tomorrow's Republican primary.

First observation: Negative campaigning via Google. As I was searching for Hunter Hill, the top link was a “sponsored” page on Clay Tippins’s website criticizing Hill. Searching for Geoff Duncan and Rick Jeffares gave me “top links” to pages paid for by David Shafer. Interesting.

For Governor

I am leaning strongly towards Hill in this race. Here's an article of interest.

The top contenders are Cagle (currently At. Governor), Kemp (currently Secretary of State), and Hill (state senator, former Army).

Cagle lost my support especially over that Delta issue. While I appreciate the sentiment of supporting the NRA and the second amendment, I am disgusted by the pandering and the threat of using government power to force others to share my support.

Kemp had that “intimidating the guy who wants to date the daughter” ad which has gotten so much attention. I appreciate the attempt at humor, but still didn't care for it.

Hill has the bold idea of eliminating the state income tax, which I like. I like how he explains not just conservative positions but his principles as well.

For Lieutenant Governor
    • State Representative from Cumming, no other political experience
    • Former professional ball player, CEO of a health startup. Attended GA Tech, drafted out of college into the Florida Marlins
    • No bill sponsorships.
    • Highest recent rating from American Conservative Union
    • Former state senator, former Locust Grove city manager
    • Professional experience in water management, wastewater services
    • Challenged Shafer to a clay pigeon shooting competition. (Didn't happen.)
    • Few bill sponsorships: Opportunity School districts, DUI’s a felony for undocumented immigrants
    • Current state senator
    • Small business owner, campaign manager
    • Many bill sponsorships: Support for pregnancy resource centers, prohibiting increase in sales tax, prohibits state employee insurance coverage of abortions, proof of citizenship for voter registration, permitting public venue alcohol sales on Sundays, prohibiting sanctuary policies, and more
    • Highest rating from NRA
Relevant article:

I’m going back and forth between Shafer and Duncan. All of them seem rather similar. Shafer has the longest record (and it seems like a positive one). But then, Shafer also has the Google sponsored search results associated with names of his opponents. That, and he has the background in campaigning. I think I lean towards Duncan, just because of that.

For Secretary of State
    • Lawyer
    • Mayor of Alpharetta
    • Not much data available, due to limited history
    • Real Estate Agent
    • State representative
    • Close second for American Conservative Union lifetime rating
    • Only candidate to provide “positions” for
    • Lawyer
    • State senator
    • Strongest American Conservative Union lifetime rating
    • Strongest NRA Rating
    • Pushed for live streaming of legislative meetings
    • Engineering/Business management, Steel manufacturing, Building manufacturing
    • State representative
    • Sponsored bill prohibiting undocumented immigrants from serving in local elected governments

Raffensperger has the most interesting “non-political” background. McKoon and Brockway both seem to have solid legislative histories. None of them are setting off any alarm bells. I think that I am leaning towards McKoon. I like his government transparency efforts.

For Commissioner of Insurance
    • Former Deputy Insurance Commissioner
    • Marketing, Insurance, and organizational leadership background
    • Website lists specific promises on “priorities” page. Including increasing constituent accessibility, fraud punishment, and consumer protection
    • Former Deputy Insurance Commissioner
    • Enforcement attorney for Department of Insurance
    • “Issues” page does not give specific actions
    • City Council member
    • Pharmacist and realtor
    • Priorities include changing law to limit auto insurance rate hikes

Of these three, I think I lean towards Jim Beck. Florence has public sector experience, Jordan has business experience, Beck seems to have both.

For State School Superintendent
  • RICHARD WOODS (Incumbent)
    • Has pushed local standards over Common Core and other DC-driven initiatives
    • Website touts initiatives during his term that have produced solid results
Woods is my choice here.

For Public Service Commissioner
  • TRICIA PRIDEMORE (Incumbent)
    • Appointed in January by Governor
    • Background: Chief Marketing Officer for an online marketing company

Very little info available on either candidate. Pridemore has just a little more information available. 

For U.S. Representative From the 3rd Congressional District of Georgia
  • DREW FERGUSON (Incumbent)
    • Dentist. Incumbent since 2017.
    • Cosponsored legislation on “protection of pain-capable unborn children” and concealed carry reciprocity
    • Army pilot, National Security officer
Ferguson was one of my "not ideal but acceptable" candidates last time he ran. So far, he hasn't been bad.

For State Senator From 16th District
  • MARTY HARBIN (Incumbent)
    • State senator since 2014
    • Insurance and financial services background
    • Tea party guy. Endorsement from NRA.
    • Traffic stop led to changing law. Not a “do you know who I am” moment as depicted in opposition advertising.

For Judge, Court of Appeals of Georgia

Both seem to be qualified, and I don't see any red flags. But the fact that Shigley literally wrote the book on Tort Law is interesting.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

"Why does God expect an apology for our sin?"

Yes, it's another Reddit DebateReligion post. In this case, I'm answering a fellow who put forth the idea that God is too "big" to care about our sin, and that demanding a sacrifice to pay for it would be a sign that God is brutal. Here's my answer:

If one of my daughters starts wilfully ignoring household rules and basic manners, and starts bugging her sisters, how does it possibly affect me? Why would I expect an apology?

The disobedient child's disobedience disrupts the whole household. It reflects poorly on the parents. If my two daughters are fighting, I can't just sit idly by. The form of my intervention may vary from scolding, to temporary separation, to punishment. I've had to take stuffed friends away at night, and from their reactions you would think that I was crucifying them. Certainly they don't think that any punishment is fair when they are going through it. But then, I'm the one with the greater perspective here.

We don't see our sin as God sees it. We don't see death as God sees it. Yes, our sin can't "spoil" him, but it can spoil other parts of His creation. Christians believe that mankind was intended to have a particular place in God's creation, as creatures of both body and spirit. We are to be connected to God on the one hand, and the world on the other. When we decide that we don't want or need our connection to God, that decision has ramifications. That is what sin does.

In order to make it possible for that relationship to be healed, the Son of God, second person of the Trinity, came into this world to experience it as we do. To walk our walk. And yes, that included dying, as we do, and experiencing our separation from His Father. As Jesus cried out from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?", He was feeling that loss and emptiness that every one of us has faced at some point in our lives. But it could not hold Him. And if we follow Him, then we can find our way back to the Father.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

"Are faith healers real?"

Yes, it's another Reddit "debate religion" question that I felt driven to take on. And here's what I had to say:

I've known people who have been healed of poor vision, breathing troubles, and other ailments from prayer alone. I also know folks just as faithful who have prayed and not been healed.

Here's the thing: God is not some genie, you rub a lamp and get your wishes granted. Prayers are not magic incantations, they are conversations and petitions that may be granted, or not. As Gandalf said of himself, do not take God for a conjurer of tricks. In the Chronicles of Narnia, it was often remarked that Aslan isn't a tame lion, after all.

No one I know who is really practiced in prayer for healing ever promises 100% results. There are people who make that sort of promise, and they are generally hucksters. It's no contradiction to believe that there are both real healers and fraudsters, any more than it is a contradiction to believe that there are both real doctors and snake oil salesmen.

Legitimate churches do not generally preach against medicine or science. The God that gives spiritual gifts is also the same God that gives doctors and nurses their talents and skills. Luke wasn't just the writer of a Gospel, he was also a physician.

Yes, we are to ask God for healing. And yes, we are to seek out the help of trained doctors. And yes, we are to pray that God will bless those doctors and aid their work, even those doctors who may not believe in Him.

So why does God heal some miraculously, others through ordinary medicine, and others not at all? Hard to say. I personally don't think that capriciousness, cruelty, or unfair partiality is in His nature. At least, that's not my experience. My understanding of God's whys and wherefores grows with time, but it's far from perfect.

One priest I heard recently talking on the topic gave this metaphor as food for thought: We are promised that in the final resurrection, all will have healing, of sight, of mind, and of every other ailment. We aren't there yet, and no one can say for sure when it will be. But just a few weeks ago, we had a few days of warm, nice weather, a foretaste of the spring that we know is coming before the cold came back. In the same way, we sometimes get just a taste of Heaven before we get to experience the real thing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

"There's no proof that He exists!"

Here's another train of thought inspired by reading atheists on Reddit.

"If God is so all-powerful, surely He can prove His existence to me! I might believe if there were any evidence!"

Let's be real, atheist friends. I respect you, but I don't think you're giving enough credit here to the human capacity for skepticism. And skepticism can be both good and bad at times.

There was at least one time during Jesus's ministry when an actual voice from Heaven told a crowd, "I am the Lord, this is my Son, listen to what he has to tell you." And some in the crowd said, "Meh, thunder." So, even presented with direct proof, people came up with alternative explanations.

Can you honestly tell me that if I were to show you a sign from God right now, out of the blue, that you wouldn't look for a hoax behind it? Of course you would, and it's sensible to do so. With photoshoppers and video manipulation neural networks producing more impressive fakes all the time, saying "I'll believe it when I see it" doesn't even work any more.

Something else you may be surprised to hear me admit: Religions have long been plagued with hucksters and fraudsters wanting to make a quick buck. But, it doesn't follow from that that all miracles and healings are frauds. Weight loss scams are a dime a dozen, that doesn't mean that Weight Watchers isn't the real deal. Real supernatural miracles don't tend to get many headlines, because the people who God uses in these cases aren't out to make that quick buck.

Even the best evidence doesn't always convince. There are otherwise sensible people out there who will never believe that certain medicines are safe and beneficial, no matter what evidence you give them. Still others will never be convinced of the ineffectiveness of snake oil. Yes, their skepticism hurts themselves and others. But you can't just shove "proof" in someone's face and expect them to automatically buy it. So, I can't shove any "proof" that I may see for God's existence in your face and automatically expect you to buy it, either.

I'm not asking you to give up your skepticism, but I am asking you to be honest about it. Accept that the burden isn't just on God to provide proof, but also on you to accept His proof when He offers it. Accept that just because you haven't seen God's hand in the universe, doesn't mean that others haven't. Many of us who believe, do so based on what we have seen with our own eyes. Quite a few of us have scientific or engineering backgrounds that have taught us to examine evidence critically. You are free to accept our testimony, or try to explain it away. But, I wouldn't lie to you. I gain nothing by it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"Why do you think God would care about you?"

This question was posed by an atheist on on Reddit some days ago, and I have been mulling over how I might answer it since. Instead of replying in that environment, I thought I might put my answer here.

Really, I have a number of points to make to answer that challenge.

1) He is much better at giving attention than I possibly can be. For me to give time and attention to one thing, I generally have to take time and attention away from another. God exists outside of time, so He doesn't face this difficulty. Imagine history is layed out like a book to you: You can spend all day reading and rereading one page, or skimming back and forth between chapters. That's what it's like to be outside the timescale experienced by the characters.
     Furthermore, our issues of size are not an issue to God. He can look at galaxies in one moment of eternity, then look at atoms the next, and still have plenty of "timeless time" for each of us in between.
     This isn't an argument that He does pay any attention to me. It's just an assertion that He can, at the same time, be God of All Creation and my Lord and Savior, without either taking away from the other.
2) God is a Creator, and creators tend to be mindful of their creations. I am also a creator, on a much smaller scale: I write software, I have built computers, and I dabble in creative arts. I have a family of creators: My wife is a performer, my mom is a painter, and my dad makes things with his hands. Every person feels a bit of connection to the things that they make with their mind, hands, and skills. Even the things that aren't necessarily of professional quality are special because they are ours, especially if we have put time and effort into them. We are God's creations, would He not be interested in us?
3) He said so. I take the Bible to be the Word of God, His self-introduction to humanity delivered through inspired human authors, including historians, poets, and prophets. In the Bible, we are described as His children by adoption. Jesus says that the smallest sparrow's fall doesn't escape His attention, and each of us is worth more than many sparrows. Jesus taught His followers to call the creator of the universe "Father". More than that, the Arameic word he used, "Abba", is a word that has strong connotations of affection and close relationship. God asked us to call Him "Dad". It would be utterly presumptuous of us to assume that relationship if He had not offered it first.
4) I believe because I have experienced. This is a point that can't really be debated, but I include it because it is part of my personal answer. I cannot prove it to anyone else, they can't disprove it to me. It would be like trying to prove the existence of snow-covered mountains to someone who has only ever lived in the desert: You either have to just take my word that I have experienced what I say I have experienced, or you can decide to disbelieve, but don't blame me if you aren't willing to come and see for yourself.
     My life has always been better whenever I have involved God in it. The more I pray, and study His words, and seek to follow His ways, the more I understand that He really does love me. I have stumbled plenty of times, and gone off in my own direction; He's always ready when I come back to Him. That's not to say that my circumstances magically become easier when I'm following Him. But He settles my unsettled heart, gives me perspective on my problems, and helps me to make better decisions. He has even helped me out from time to time with downright uncanny coincidences.
     I believe because I have seen. If anyone wants to come and see what I have seen, I would be glad to have you walk with me.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The consequences of crying wolf in politics

A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook to an article claiming that President Trump's election was made possible by "fear of losing white privilege". Here's my response, trying to be respectful in my disagreement: