Category Archives: Politics

On Refugees: A Plea for Compassion

(I wrote this a few months ago on another site. Re-producing for this site).

Reading discussions of various political issues, I am occasionally reminded that an American-centered worldview is not synonymous with a Christian worldview – nor is even a “conservative” worldview, necessarily. Not every position that might be considered “conservative” – or that is based on the mantra of “America First” – is compatible with a truly Christian worldview, which I consider essential to being right.

There is an enormous, unprecedented refugee crisis in the world today, affecting over 60 million people. In Syria alone, over 11 million out of a population of 22 million have been displaced or killed.

And yet, many professing Christians here in America would rather prioritize their own material comfort and safety, putting up literal and metaphorical walls to keep out these people who are fleeing terrorism. They are seen as a threat and a burden.

This should not be so. Instead, this is an opportunity. An opportunity to carry out Christ’s commands to love our neighbors, especially “the least of these,” and as James said, to minister to widows and orphans, which is essential to true religion. (I am a passionate pro-lifer and we conservatives do a great job on compassionately opposing abortion, but we should also consider how the same principles of compassion, the sanctity of life and the value of every human being, also apply to the refugee crisis). An opportunity to witness to lost souls (many of whom were trapped in repressive regimes with little opportunity to hear the Gospel), and to show the love of Christ to rest of the watching world – how the love of Christ transcends borders and cultures, and casts out fear.

The command to “be not afraid” is one of the most repeated instructions in the Bible. It is certainly legitimate to have concerns and to expect the government to practice prudence. But many of the concerns that have been raised (economic, legal, religious, and security-related) are based on misconceptions, and the fears are overstated.

First, the fact is that the U.S. screening process is one of the strongest in the world – thorough and very strenuous. The likelihood of being killed by a terrorist attack from a refugee in the United States has been calculated at 1 in 3.6 billion.

No refugee, of the three million admitted through the resettlement program since the late 1970s, has committed an act of terrorism within our borders.

Of the domestic terrorist attacks inspired by extremist Islam since 2001, 70% of them were committed by U.S. citizens. In the same time period, about as many people were killed by white supremacist terror attacks as by radical Islamist attacks, and more were killed by dog attacks.

And even if the concerns and fears weren’t overstated or based on misconceptions, the command would still apply. “Be not afraid”, not because there is nothing to fear, but because God says, “I am with you.”

Putting America first over being disciples of Christ is great folly for Christians. To me, it’s astonishing and sad to see so many putting their own fears ahead of helping those who are desperately in need. Please, open your hearts and have compassion for the strangers.

In the Chronicles of Narnia, Mr. Beaver was asked if the lion Aslan – the Christ-figure of the stories – is safe. He replied, “Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” What’s true of Christ is also true of the Christian life. Safety is fine, and reasonable actions can be taken for protection; but safety can never be the main concern if we are following Christ.

This thought-provoking blogpost by an acquaintance of mine really hits hard:

If we truly loved, as Christ loved us, we wouldn’t be arguing about whether or not we should let refugees into our nation. People’s lives are at stake, and we could do something about it. Many of these people aren’t walking in relationship with the Father, and we could show them how.

Instead, we are afraid of losing our freedoms or being blown up in our own land. As “disciples of Christ,” we are arguing over statistic numbers while thousands are ending up dead.

Can you really call yourself a follower of Christ and refuse refugees?

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Roy, Douthat, McArdle on GOP healthcare plan

Avik Roy and Ross Douthat were the first two guys I thought to check in order to learn more about the GOP health care plan. (Roy is, of course, well known as a health care wonk, and Douthat is my favorite columnist). Like many others, their reaction is negative.

Here is Avik Roy’s article at Forbes. He mentions that the best part of the bill is its overhaul of Medicaid, but criticizes other parts, such as its failure to repeal most of Obamacare’s insurance regulations because Republicans decided to pass the bill using reconciliation, which can only be used for taxes and spending; the flat tax credit, which creates a disincentive that traps people below the poverty line; the high threshold for phasing out the tax credit, etc. Best quote is at the end:

Expanding subsidies for high earners, and cutting health coverage off from the working poor: it sounds like a left-wing caricature of mustache-twirling, top-hatted Republican fat cats. But not today.

Ross Douthat had a series of tweets that I feel are worth mentioning. First, this:

Then, this series:

He also re-tweeted a decently fair-minded explanation of what Paul Ryan might be thinking – almost, but not quite, a defense – from a surprising source, Matthew Yglesias at Vox.

Finally, Megan McArdle at Bloomberg takes apart the plan – it’s basically Obamacare lite, among other problems – and provides a rather funny line, if you’re in the mood for snark:

I must point out that it’s actually quite clear what problem this bill solves: the problem of Republican legislators who want to tell their base that they repealed Obamacare, just like they promised. Tada!

She also points out that, since it’s not likely to work, the GOP would own any ensuing failures; no longer could they point to Obama and the Democrats as the problem.

As it stands, I’m inclined to doubt it should be passed. Something should be done, but not anything. It needs to be something good; something with enough bipartisan support to pass both the House and Senate. Something that won’t simply get repealed when the Democrats inevitably win an election and return to power. We can’t just keep passing the health care yo-yo back and forth every four or eight years. And it needs to be something that won’t let the Democrats credibly declare the “conservative” plan a failure and therefore show the need for single payer health care.

If I were the GOP leaders, I would seriously consider dropping the philosophical opposition to a mandate as a sort of litmus test for any reform, and begin to tout a plan like Switzerland’s. Republicans get to lower government health care spending, and transform the system from an employer-based system to a private, individual, consumer-driven market, while the mandate, regulations on insurers, and goal of universal coverage could be what entices enough Democrats to support it. That might be a way to get 60 votes in the Senate and change the system for the long term (and avoid single payer).

If that’s not possible, perhaps just go with Cassidy-Collins for the “federalist compromise.”

Here’s a post about politics.

We all know who Sarah Palin is, after this last election cycle. The Republicans nominated her for Vice President. She’s an evangelical Christian and the governor of Alaska. Personally, I think she’s great.  Governor Sarah Palin Sarah Palin In Iraq

Many liberals seem to hate her. If you look around the internet at liberal blogs and at comments made by liberals under news stories at places like Fox News and CNN, you can see that. They basically seem to think that she’s an extremist, she’s dangerous, she’s a hypocrite, she has no “intellectual curiosity”, she’s stupid, blah, blah, blah. None of this is fact-based, by the way. It’s all based on inaccurate, biased reporting by the mainstream media, and on their own preconceptions about conservative Christians.

So, this is about an article that appeared in the online Wall Street Journal not long after the election. (Not sure if it appeared in the print edition or not). Here’s the link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122610558004810243.html  It was written by Mark Lilla, and titled “The Perils of Populist Chic.” Basically it said that the conservative intellectual tradition is dead, implying that Palin and her supporters are dumb. I thought it was a pretty stupid article. I felt like I’d stumbled onto some liberal blog.

Then I read the comments, a lot of which disagreed with the article. They were much better. There’s one that I want to copy and show on this site. Here it is:

As a pro-Palin ‘intellectual’, I would have to seriously disagree. ‘Intellectualism’ on both the left and the right has become an end in itself, an arrogant competition in who can spin the most complex webs. The end result of that is already visible in the market; look up what the Nobel Prize winners of Long Term Capital Management wrought a decade ago, or the the current disaster of ot he GSE’s aided and abetted in large part by Harvard Law grads Frank and Dodd. Go through the list of failed investment banks; most were led by people with advanced degrees in that softest of sciences, economics, while advanced degrees in mathematical sciences were a prerequisite for the geniuses that created toxic debt instruments.

Intellectualism to be useful needs to be grounded in reality – that somewhat forgotten notion of common sense. This is especially true in any field that has to do directly with assessing risk, because risk itself is not quantifiable, it is subjective. The Wall Street brain trust forgot that; people like Palin, or Joe the Plumber, have to live with it every day. Unlike the professorial class, there’s no job tenure for for your average person. Palin was able to articulate it very well, but unfortunately that message – through a rather dark MSM filter – was seen as ignorant, provincial, demogogic.

But just how true is caricature? I would suggest, not very, and in fact I would suggest that those who subscribe to that belief ask themselves on just what real evidence they do so. There’s very little to support their claims; if you sit down and trace the most egregious complaints about her -particularly with respect to abortion, or drugs, or education, to her actual political stands, and her accomplishments in office and in her family, you’ll find more often than not that what the public is being shown is what the media has chosen to project upon her. This is just bad partisan reporting, and in itself is not unusual. Reporters are not paid to think. Her actions in office indicate a person that – while strongly committed to her own view – are both open and tolerant to others, and flexible enough to generate real, political consensus. The failure of the self-annointed intelligensia to use that fundamental tool – doubt – supported by independent research to clarify issues for themselves and others stands in far greater condemnation of academia than of those they oppose.

It’s a very dangerous precedent for the US, where, on the whole, history has been more balanced. There have been slips (like Kennedy’s ‘Best and Brightest’, who brought the US into Vietnam, or FDR’s economic revolution, that kept unemployment well above 10% until the advent of WWII). But on the whole, the US professoriat stayed away from the hard partisanship one found, say, in 1931 Germany, in which academics led suport for National Socialism by a two-to-one margin relative to the working classes. It should be worrisome to anybody that they seem to be slipping back into that mode now, particularly with regards to the manner in which they are doing so.

So, there it is. Hope you weren’t too bored with it.

Here are some more pictures of her, followed by a couple videos.

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