Avoiding Media Brainwashing

I just finished reading an excellent biography of Cato, not Inspector Clouseau’s Cato but Rome’s Marcus Porcius Cato a/k/a Cato the Younger (95 B.C. – 46 B.C.). Cato was known for his integrity in a time of intense political corruption and polarization in Rome that ultimately led to the fall of the Roman Republic when Caesar declared himself dictator for life in 44 B.C..

Cato stood against both political parties, the populares (Democrats) and the optimates (Republicans), in favor of the Republic and doing what was right. As a result, Cato was highly respected, and sometimes also despised, by both sides. That is the price of speaking the truth. Even the 1st century Christians held Cato up as an example of integrity in the midst of corruption.

The current U.S. political climate bears similarities to the Rome of Cato’s time. Political opponents today are demonized. There is no rational discussion by which consensus is reached. There is no middle ground. The reason for the polarization is that people are being brainwashed by the media. But before my friends on the right say, “Amen,” read on, because for polarization to occur there must be two poles, not one.

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Was Donald Trump a Cyrus?

I was in a relatively small group of people in September 2016 before the election when a prominent Evangelical leader and author told us God had told him He had raised up Donald Trump to be a Cyrus. I thought his remarks inappropriate before a group who had assembled to hear about the kingdom of God, and I expressed my concerns to the host of the meeting, whom I deeply respect. We both said something to the effect of “Well, we will see.”

I have been an admirer of Cyrus the Great as a leader, not only because of the Biblical account but also because of Xenophon’s biography and Herodotus’s history, all of which describe a good, generous, and magnanimous ruler. I even named my Persian cat after Cyrus.

Here’s where we ended up with Trump in the final year of his presidency: (i) an out-of-control pandemic that while not his fault has to date killed 450,000 Americans (25% of those who have died worldwide) and was made worse because of Trump’s politicization of the issue; (ii) a racial uprising and riots like we have not seen since the late 1960s, not only because of a video of police killing black Americans but because of Trump’s pandering to white nationalists; and (iii) an insurrection which I doubt was intended by Trump but am convinced was caused by him.

Even if one accepts the Trump spin on all three of these crises, any one of them is sufficient to stain any president’s four year term; Trump had them all in one year. He is now the only American President to be impeached twice. Members of his own party have voted for his impeachment, and judges appointed by him have voted against his lawsuits alleging a fraudulent election. Was Donald Trump a Cyrus, or is there another Biblical character who Trump more closely resembles?

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On Conspiracies and Jericho Marches

Yesterday in Washington D.C. there was apparently a prayer march.

I must have missed the memo, or the GSB research team was asleep at the wheel and failed to inform me.

Not that I would have gone mind you. I think you have to be out of your mind to march in a largely maskless crowd in the midst of a pandemic, and with the Proud Boys on top of that. To say the optics were bad is like saying Harvey Weinstein needs to be more respectful of women.

Everything about this march was wrong. Let’s start with the cause. 

It is not enough that evangelicals marched with the Proud Boys, but they continue to squander their credibility by embracing the “Stop the Steal” campaign, a quest with the remarkable record of 1 modest win and 55 losses in federal courts, which are staffed by a mix of Republicans and Democrats, two factions that in recent years have not been able to agree on anything, yet have set aside their partisanship to become united in one voice to say this: “The President has no case.” 

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Advice to Justin Bieber Regarding Hillsong Pastor Scandal

The Biebs is reportedly pissed, and he has every right to be.

His pastor, Carl Lentz, has apparently confessed to bumping uglies with one not his wife.

Hillsong Church responded appropriately to Lentz’s infidelity by sacking him, but I’m sure Justin Bieber is left wondering how a man he apparently held in such high regard spiritually could fail so miserably morally.

Christians will likely be quick to advise Bieber that we are all sinners saved by grace, impliedly suggesting he should not have expected Lentz not to fornicate, that no one can really live in victory over sin, not even gross sin. I think that is about the worst advice someone could give to him.

Justin Bieber has every right to expect that the pastor of his prominent evangelical church is far enough down the road of sanctification that he will not commit adultery. Even in my profession, lawyers are generally disbarred when they commit felonies, and for good reason: how can clients trust their lawyers to put their client’s interests ahead of their own when the clients can’t trust the lawyers not to commit felonies?

Suggesting Bieber lower his expectations to assuage his anger is like suggesting one should not expect one’s surgeon to operate on the correct organ in case he operates on the wrong one. Expectations affirm the standard. And even though expectations will also give rise to hypocrisy, it is better than the alternative. As Francois de La Rochefoucauld said, “Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.”

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Thanksgiving With Cotton Mather

I’ve just finished two biographies on Cotton Mather and purchased a third.

Cotton Mather is likely one of the greatest men you’ve never heard of, or if you have heard of him he is probably one of the worst men you never heard of.

If you have heard of Cotton Mather (1663-1728) you have probably heard him portrayed as the instigator behind the Salem witch trials, which means you have really never heard of him. But such false and defamatory portrayals draw clicks on the internet around Halloween, so the characterization remains.

Mather was a Puritan. He was a pastor, a prolific writer, as well as a scientist who first promoted inoculation in America to prevent smallpox. Mather’s writings and influence helped lay the groundwork for the Great Awakening, America’s first great revival.

But to the point of this post, Mather was also a husband and father, and his first two wives died young. The first, Abigail, died following giving birth, and the second, Elizabeth, died of the measles, along with two of their new born twins. Another son was born without an anus, and all Cotton and his wife could do was watch him die. Mather had fifteen children, but only two would outlive him. In other words, Cotton Mather would bury thirteen of his fifteen children.

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