April 15, 2016
March 17, 2016
The Federalist Party

It would happen that I swear off politics and then Donald Trump, of all people, comes riding in with his clown show to destroy the Republican Party. And true to my comments last year, I continue to be disgusted by much of what politics in America has become. As of right now, the front-runners are Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and Donald Trump for the Republicans. They’re old friends, elites, and the very image of cronyism and corruption in America.

I don’t say that lightly either. I truly believe that Trump has already done irreparable damage to the GOP, and if he becomes the nominee, he will actually take it down with him.

But does that upset me? No. While we may have a two-party system in this country, there’s no reason it must remain these two parties.

Something’s got to change. We can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. We need something radically different. What if we resurrect the Federalist Party?

The Democrats and Republicans have both taken as their name political principles important to the American system of government—and we all believe in both of them. But there is another principle that was equally vital at the founding and has been gradually discarded over the past century: federalism.

A federal system is one in which power is divided between levels of government. This was an important part of the American experiment because the Founders intended the checks and balances to operate not only among the branches of government, but between the levels of government, as well. The states were to check the federal government and vice versa. In the multitude of centers of power, there was freedom.

This was so important that the “Federalists” became the name for America’s first organized political movement and the republic’s most prominent architects. The Federalist Party was the party of George Washington, and the first party secretary was Alexander Hamilton.

Now that’s a movement I can get behind.

July 27, 2015
Can Hipster Christianity Save Churches from Decline?

Brett McCracken in the Washington Post:

“If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it’s easy or trendy or popular,” I previously wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “It’s because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It’s not because we want more of the same.”

July 16, 2015
Who Owns Your Heart

Rosaria Butterfield, a former atheist, former lesbian, and former tenure-track professor specializing in English literature and Queer Theory:

I have no personal sexual orientation to call my own after Christ chisels my heart anew — and neither do you. We have Christ orientation, an alien identity to which we claim no rights. Do we struggle with sin? Yes. Is temptation a sin? No. What distinguishes temptation from sin? Temptation clobbers you from the outside and lures you to do its bidding. Sin makes temptation a house pet, gets it a collar and leash, and is deceived to believe that it can be restrained by impositions of civility.

July 03, 2015
“No Basis in Science”

​Seems dietary fat is making a comeback, according to a new paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Forbes has the story:

The fats restriction largely stemmed from the fact that saturated fat was once thought to be a major culprit in heart disease – and this somehow extended to all fats. But in recent years, it seems that saturated fat may not be so bad, and may even be good in some ways (as in its effects on HDL or “good” cholesterol), or at least neutral. This is especially true when compared to a diet high in refined carbs, which do nothing for cardiovascular risk, except possibly increase it. In fact, refined carbs and added sugars, which have typically been the alternative to fats, are linked to a laundry list of health ailments.

The previous restrictions led us to make all sorts of crazy diet decisions, like thinking Snackwells were a healthy choice.

“Placing limits on total fat intake has no basis in science and leads to all sorts of wrong industry and consumer decisions,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, one of the authors of the new paper. “Modern evidence clearly shows that eating more foods rich in healthful fats like nuts, vegetable oils, and fish have protective effects, particularly for cardiovascular disease. Other fat-rich foods, like whole milk and cheese, appear pretty neutral; while many low-fat foods, like low-fat deli meats, fat-free salad dressing, and baked potato chips, are no better and often even worse than full-fat alternatives. It’s the food that matters, not its fat content.”

July 01, 2015
June 26, 2015
The Trouble with Swearing Off Politics

I wrote a long post yesterday declaring an end to my obsession with politics. I was tired of being consumed with it, focusing on all the minutiae, and letting it affect my relationships with people around me. I wanted freedom from it.

But politics invades nearly every aspect of our lives. (That’s part of my frustration with it, actually. One almost can’t have an opinion about something without it being tantamount to a political statement.) So it’s going to be impossible to never talk about something that is political. That’s not my goal. My goal is to set my mind on the best of things.

Today’s Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage is a perfect example. How utterly political. Yet I’m not interested in the politics of it. Frankly, I would’ve been shocked had the Court ruled any other way. What reasoning would a secular society have for forbidding it?

But as a Christian, I am very interested in living by the will of God, speaking truth in love, and loving truthfully. Which means I shouldn’t avoid discussing things just because the political realm has snatched them up (as it will with everything eventually). And ironically, I think a lot of Christians are jammed up by the politics of same-sex marriage and the fact that we’re using one word (“marriage”) to mean two entirely different things. Fellow developer and Christian Greg Baugues has some wise things to say about that.

So I won’t be avoiding things just because they have a political component. But I’ll be focusing on those things from other angles and leaving the political mudslinging to others.

As you were.

June 25, 2015
What’s the Point?

I have been so naïve.

This morning, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that though the text of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (casually known as Obamacare) very clearly says one thing, it actually means another thing. It means the opposite thing, in fact. It means the opposite thing because that’s now what the Government wants it to mean, never mind that the chief architect of Obamacare ran around the country for years telling state governments that the law means exactly what it appears to mean.

The Court ruled that where the law reads, “established by the State”, it somehow also means “not established by the State”.

(If you need a quick explanation of what this means and why it’s important, read the first few paragraphs of this article at Reason.)

How? What could possibly be the reasoning for such stunning absurdity?

Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is con- sistent with the former, and avoids the latter. Section 36B can fairly be read consistent with what we see as Congress’s plan, and that is the reading we adopt.

Majority Opinion in King v. Burwell

In short, words no longer have meaning because whatever lawmakers intended is what matters, even if they were too rushed or ignorant to make sure they used the right words to say so. To put another way, the Supreme Court declared itself an umpire who says “Well, he was obviously trying to throw a strike, so it’s a strike.” If the rules you thought mattered actually don’t, the game was never what you thought it was in the first place.

And with this, something like scales fell from my eyes.

It’s not just this ruling. It’s the whole system. I saw the futility of my own frustrated attempts to understand, analyze, and comment on our political system, the most impressive of mirages. None of it is real. It doesn’t matter what our laws actually say. They have no constraining power. It doesn’t matter that we have three branches of government, each designed to provide a check against the others. They don’t.

These despots will do exactly as they please, and our system of government will find some way to make it legitimate. Nothing will stand in their way because nothing is standing in their way. The political and economic elite are all in this together, and any appearance of conflict in Washington is just theater. Our entire political system only serves to give the people the illusion they’re in control. But guess what? Your vote doesn’t matter. Stand defiantly against this monster all I want, I’m a nobody with no influence and nothing I do will change a thing.

So I’m done.

I won’t waste my life with this fruitlessness anymore. I won’t let the stress of Rome burning paralyze me and poison my relationships with loved ones. This goes further than merely declaring an end to political activism, a nasty sport I swore off years ago. This is a hope to live by Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

I can’t think of a passage of text that more beautifully describes the very antithesis of engaging in political gossip.

So I will instead focus on my actual world, the world around me. The one filled with neighbors and loved ones with whom I interact on a daily basis. The one where my desires and decisions have a real effect. Where little things that I do can make a big difference.

I’m not saying I won’t slip. Most drug addicts don’t kick it the first time. So this post is addressed to my future self more than anyone else.

If you’re a friend of mine, hold me to this. When you see me going on another political tear or wasting time catching up on the latest political gossip, just say, “Hey Kev, remember that blog post you wrote?” That’ll be all you’ll need to do. I’ll know.

Here’s to dwelling on the best of things.

An addendum.

June 05, 2015
“The Christian faith will always be offensive to every culture at some points.”

​Tim Keller tackles the most common arguments in favor of loving gay relationships in the Christian context:

[W]hen I see people discarding their older beliefs that homosexuality is sinful after engaging with loving, wise, gay people, I’m inclined to agree that those earlier views were likely defective. In fact, they must have been essentially a form of bigotry. They could not have been based on theological or ethical principles, or on an understanding of historical biblical teaching. They must have been grounded instead on a stereotype of gay people as worse sinners than others (which is itself a shallow theology of sin). So I say good riddance to bigotry. However, the reality of bigotry cannot itself prove the Bible never forbids homosexuality. We have to look to the text to determine that.

I’d say a change of heart after getting to know gay people who don’t fit our previous bigoted stereotypes easily accounts for the biggest shift in cultural acceptance of homosexuality, especially within the western Christian church. That’s certainly what I’ve seen. Most people aren’t doing intense, sincere study of these things in pursuit of the truth, no matter how uncomfortable they may be with it. They’ve simply met some gay people they genuinely like, and they want their friends to be happy.

Keller is spot on: if all it took to change our minds was befriending gay people who don’t fit our preconceived notions of homosexuality, then we were bigots indeed.

The whole piece is worth a read.

May 30, 2015
Inbox Zero vs. Inbox 5,000

​Well, this pretty much describes me in a nutshell. I certainly get anxious when I know there’s a queue of things asking for my attention.

After interviewing several people about their relationship with email, Mark has noticed that, for some people, email is an extension of autonomy—it’s about having control. One subject, she said, told her, “I let the sound of the bell and the popups rule my life.” Compulsively checking email or compulsively clearing out queues of unread emails, then, can be a form of regaining some of that control. “So I might refine your theory to say that those who feel compelled to check email may be more susceptible to feeling a loss of control [and] in missing out on information,” Mark said.

When someone drops everything just to get an unread count back to zero, productivity might be taking a hit. “It takes people on average about 25 minutes to reorient back to a task when they get interrupted,” she says. Yes, that includes even brief interruptions, like dashing off a quick response to an email, and it often takes so long to get back on task because the project you start doing after handling an email often isn’t the same as the one you were already doing. (These interruptions are so integral to modern workflows, Mark says, that when people lack external interruptions, such as a coworker striking up a conversation, they voluntarily interrupt themselves—sometimes by checking email.)

I happen to like Mark’s theory, but I also think there’s another urge that fuels the nagging feeling that comes with unread messages: Immediately reading and archiving incoming emails is just like checking a box on a to-do list and clearing out unread stories in an RSS feed. In other words, the appeal of these behaviors lies in the illusion of progress that they foster. Few tasks have a sense of conclusion as neat and immediate as archiving or deleting an email. For that reason, neurotically tidy people like me can’t help but triage emails the moment they arrive.

Bingo. Instant sense of accomplishment. I know that’s why I do it.

May 12, 2015
“Elton took Islam seriously.”

I Knew Elton Simpson: My Jihadist Friend:

No, Elton was not insane. Elton was not mean. Elton was not rude. Elton was not wild-eyed. Elton was not constantly angry. Elton never threatened me. Elton was calm, level-headed, smart, and studious. He was generally kind and well-mannered. Bright and articulate, he spoke smooth and easy. Elton was not a poor unwanted outcast; a down-and-outer he was not. Neither the simplistic narratives of the right or left work for him.

The core is taking Muhammad, his words and his actions, seriously. Elton took Islam seriously.

Perhaps we should stop telling devout Muslims that they don’t really believe what they say they believe and start taking them at their word.

More on what Elton believed.

November 21, 2014
August 17, 2014
It’s Not That Simple

It’s easy to say “you stand with Michael Brown or you’re a racist!” It’s easy to hate the cop that shot him, or to think that all the protesters are thugs. And yet, it’s not that simple. Reports consistently indicate that most of us would like both Michael Brown and the officer who shot him, if we knew them individually. It’s entirely possible that they would like each other! Demonizing one side or the other helps us feel better, but it doesn’t make the world better.

It’s easy to say “Israel should stop killing civilians.” And it’s easy to say “Palestinians should stop shooting missiles at Israel.” And yet, it’s difficult to admit that the entire event is fraught with nuance, history, grudges, and more. Picking a side feels easy, but it isn’t.

Filing this one away for the next time someone wants to argue on Twitter. The medium just encourages the worst kind of discussion.

May 22, 2014
March 24, 2014