Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hate the war, love the warrior

I saw Rosie O'Donnell on Windy City Live yesterday morning.  She is gay and has 4 adopted children.  One has chosen to go into the military.  She is well-known to be anti-war, so the host asked her if she had a problem with her son choosing the military.

She said that she is not "anti-war" but "anti-unnecessary war" and that while she is opposed to killing, she supports the troops that serve in the military.

It struck me as the same reasonable logic we use about sinners in general and homosexuals in particular.  Hate the sin, but love the sinner.  She uses the same argument for her son and the military but, I suspect, would take offense if it were applied to her as a homosexual.

I thought, "what a bunch of mental gymnastics she has to go through to hate war but love warriors."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lorax Theology

Saw The Lorax movie with the family last weekend. The little peanut shaped guy said something that got my theological attention.
"Which way does a tree fall? ……The way it leans. Careful which way you lean."

We tend to “lean” our souls (will & intellect) toward God or toward self. The closer we lean toward God, the closer our desire for truth and goodness is satisfied. The beatific vision or Heaven is when we have “fallen” in union with the source of all truth and all goodness.  An eternal and inescapable state of dissatisfaction and loneliness comes when we have “fallen” toward self and away from God; this is Hell.
We must ask ourselves….. What choices am I making each day? Where do I spend my time and money? Where do my idle thoughts go? Am I leaning toward God or toward self?
Which way would I fall if I were cut down?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Christianized Color Theory

The last post mentioned color theory which got me thinking, as was evident by billows of smoke emanating from my ears. I work for an imaging company, so I need to know about color & light. I began to relate color & light theory to “the light of the world”.

I also deal in troubleshooting. The method of troubleshooting we use involves thinking in “opposites”, since a negative can often be used to help confirm a positive. This means we not only study what a problem IS, but also study what it IS NOT. The reason is because the true root-cause of a problem will not only explain what a problem IS, it will also explain what it IS NOT.
A simple example: Let’s say a light bulb IS out at your home, but the bulb right next to it IS NOT. A power outage in the neighborhood would explain why one bulb is out, but not why the other one is lit. One burned out bulb would explain both bulbs. But what does any of this have to do with anything spiritual? You shall see…..the light.

The best three words I can think of to describe Jesus would be Way, Truth and Life. Additive color theory is about three colors that come together to make white. They are Red, Blue and Green. This is like your TV set. Light is sent to you from the screen assuming your eye is capable of receiving it; just like God’s Grace can be sent to you assuming your soul is capable of receiving it.
I then began to ponder “opposites”.
What would be the opposite of Way, Truth and Life? I came up with Lost, Lies and Death. Also, the opposite of additive light is subtractive light in which three colors come together to make black; they are Cyan, Yellow and Magenta. This is like printing or painting on a white substrate or canvas. Ink or paint essentially prevents the canvas from reflecting white light to your eyes. Pigments also absorbed light away from your eyes. Relating back to God’s Grace; sin will prevent your soul from receiving Grace.
Putting this all together, the smoke from my ears became “smoke-signals” that started to take shape. The diagram below visually shows what is being said above. Think of three spot lights for the additive color. Think of three circles of paint for the subtractive color. (click HERE for a PDF version).
Both science and religion lead us to truth and can complement each other. Not sure how often they are seen in such a colorful light.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Abortion Spectrum and Biased Media

I could not say the number of times I’ve heard 100% pro-life politicians, like Rick Santorum, called “extreme” in their abortion view by the mainstream media. I do not recall one time when a 100% pro-choice politician, like Barack Obama, was called “extreme” by the same media.
Rick Santorum believes abortion should be illegal for anyone, for any reason, at any time. Barack Obama believes abortion should be legal for anyone, for any reason, at any time. In the logic of a spectrum, if one end is to be labeled extreme, the opposite end must also be extreme.
In additive light theory, the full presence of light (red, green, blue) is what we perceive as white. In subtractive light theory, the absence of light is what we perceive as black. If we were to label the complete absence of light as “extreme black”, we must then label a complete presence of light as “extreme white”.
How about this one? If 100% humidity must be called extremely humid, then 0% humidity must be called extremely dry.
Why is it then that 100% pro-choice politicians are not referred to as “extreme”? Why are they not called “anti-life extremists” if those on the other side are called “anti-choice extremists”?  A bias media is a very reasonable conclusion.

Call this man "extreme"..........if you call this man "extreme"

Sunday, March 4, 2012


In ideological discourse, it is often true that, to make one’s point, an analogy is employed.  For example, one might want to show a comparison between smoking and drinking.  Smoking is currently illegal in Chicago in enclosed public places and places of business.  One might want to wish to assert that drinking also be likewise prohibited.  One might then show by way of analogy that smoking and drinking are “alike” in some way, that they share some common attributes to support this assertion.  Let’s say that they wish to point out that both are drugs, both change behavior and both adversely affect people around them.  (All three of those things would have to be supported by the proponent of the analogy.)  The argument could then be a “good” one if the analogy/comparison between smoked tobacco and alcohol were “strong” and then that those particular attributes are the ones that caused smoking tobacco to become (and remain) illegal.  I would say more about how to build an effective analogy, but for the sake of brevity I will save that for perhaps another time.

What makes for a good analogy?  Some would say “if the similarities between the things being compared are major and the differences only minor, then it is a strong analogy.” and vice versa.  While that is a good first-pass, I have concluded that that is too weak of a test.  It only begs the question, what is a major and minor difference?  

I would refine this just a bit.  Analogies are not simple comparisons of objects or ideas.  Analogies are comparisons along one or more dimensions of comparison.  This is similar to comparing mountains to roads.  How can you make that comparison?  Roads are flat and mountains are high.  But wait, if you compare the height of a mountain to the length of a road, there may be a basis for comparison.  We do speak about a mountain being thousands of meters high and about roads that are thousands of meters long.  In THAT dimension, there is some basis for comparison.  Someone may interject that mountains and roads are so different in some OTHER dimension that the analogy is a poor (or weak) one.  

In that I would agree and in that ONLY would I make that judgment.  An analogy is a good one ONLY insofar as ALL of the relevant dimensions of comparison are good.  However, if irrelevant dimensions are not good, the analogy is still valid.  It may become more persuasive if irrelevant dimensions are good, but that’s all.

I have recently been part of discussions where an analogy was disparaged for a different reason.  The analogy in play was that of the recent HHS Mandate and Bishop Lori’s parable of the Kosher Deli.  In this discussion, the analogy was dismissed because it was considered insulting that the health of women was compared (in the parable) to a ham sandwich.  The merits of the comparison along the relevant dimension was not an issue so much as along another, irrelevant, dimension.  I say “irrelevant” in that the closeness of the comparison was not necessary to make the point at issue.  This would be to say that the mountain and road analogy is invalid because mountains are aesthetic and roads are mundane, or conversely that roads are useful and mountains are not.  

Analogies are not used to compare the same things, but comparable things.  The subjective (or objective) value of the objects compared has no real bearing on the value of the analogy.  It may be a good analogy despite any personal distaste of the analogous objects used.

This “ham sandwich” caused the discussion to derail.   

I tried to simplify the analogy by using a simpler metaphor that reduced the dimensions of comparison.  Suppose, I said, that the government says that your way of arranging your furniture (at home) is "wrong" and that some other arrangement is better and now if you don't comply because you prefer it your way, is that imposing YOUR arrangement on someone else?

I was pointing out that the issue at hand was not “women’s health” (so called) but religious liberty.  The responses were:

  • Furniture has nothing in common with a woman's productive organs. A ham sandwich has nothing in common either.
  • You have to understand/agree that comparing a woman's reproductive organ/right to furniture or the right to rearrange furniture is offensive? That analogy trivializes and degrades women and reproduction in general, don't you think? The *logic* behind the analogy might be similar, but it's just not comparable.
The problem is, it is precisely comparable because “furniture” is a non-controversial object. I chose it deliberately.  It is not a comparison between “furniture placement” and “contraception” but between “furniture placement” and “freedom to practice the tenets of a church.”  

My response was:

  • However the analogy is not that of women's reproductive rights to furniture, but that of the church's free expression of its tenets to furniture. If anything you are worried that the church's tenets are more important than furniture. Thank you!
Unfortunately, my interlocutors were not convinced.  

So, while it is really very frustrating to take the time and effort to create good, powerful analogies and have them dismissed out of hand because someone says “That’s not the same at all!” when it clearly is, I would encourage you keep on fighting for clear language, for logical and reasonable arguments that help people to reach the truth.  The Truth is the highest goal of all language and Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Stages of Learning

I’m certified to teach a course in logic (troubleshooting/decision making) for a Global 500 company. I’m often struck by how the logic process we use helps me in the area of Faith & Reason. Part of the course introduction covers a learning process expressed in four stages that you’ll be hard pressed to find in any teaching handbooks, so you’re in for a rare treat with some serious spiritual connections. Let’s take a ride!
Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetence (I don’t know that I don’t know)
When my oldest daughter was six she was learning to ride a bike with no training wheels. My youngest daughter, who was three at the time, wanted to ride her big sister’s bike too. She asked me to put her on the bike. She would have gladly let me push her down the driveway and she would have crashed. She did not know…that she did not know how to ride a bike.
This can apply to the spiritual life as well. Your secular eye is working fine, but your spiritual eye is firmly shut (see post The Weak Eye). You were never taught spiritual things. You can make no sense of it; you have no sense of it and you do not care. Although your degree of guilt is less than one who knows, you will still receive some lashes from the master (see Luke 12:47-48). Ignorance is no excuse. Falling off a bike will hurt just the same whether one knows how to ride or not; whether one understands the danger or not. Have you ever met someone that doesn’t understand enough to be embarrassed? This too is unconscious incompetence.

Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence (I know that I don’t know)
Let’s say I did send my three year old careening down the driveway on the bike to crash and then I asked, “Would you like to try that again?” She would now say, “No!” At that point she would know that she does not know how to ride a bike.
Spiritually, you may know that you are living more for yourself than for God. Sin is essentially a refusal to let God have His way in your life and you have a sense that you’re doing this. You know deep down you are more interested in what you want (an agenda) than what is right or what is true. You know you fall short, but don’t know what to do about it. You know that you don’t know. Unfortunately, it often it takes a hard crash in life to get to stage 2.
Stage 3: Conscious Competence (I know, but I need to concentrate)
Let’s go back to my oldest daughter when she first learned to ride the bike. She could clearly ride, but had difficulty starting and stopping by herself. She had to concentrate; any crack or bump in the sidewalk would send her to the ground. Turning sharp corners was a problem. Any kind of obstacle was a problem. She also did not steer very straight, often falling in the grass. No matter; she still kept trying.
So too can be the spiritual life. You succumb to habitual sin. Even small obstacles or annoyances can throw you off the spiritual path, but you persist and keep getting back up to ride further on your journey. You strive for holiness. You know what to do, but it’s a struggle and you need to stay focused.
Stage 4: Unconscious Competence (I just do it naturally)
My older son has been riding a bike for years. He is by no means perfect and could still fall when careless, however, he does not think about the mechanics of riding a bike any longer. He just hops on and takes off.
The spiritual life becomes more contemplative. You know who you are and where you are going, although you must not be careless. You have an awareness of God’s presence everywhere, almost all the time. The will is strong and the intellect is clear. Prayer requires fewer words, but more time. Virtue grows leaving little room for vice. The glory of God is seen in YOU being fully alive......Ride on!

Become unconsciously competent.