At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Thinking Seriously About the Virginia Murders

posted by Jack Kerwick

On the morning of August 26, Vester Lee Flanagan, a former employee of WBDJ, shot and murdered WBDJ TV’s Alison Parker and Adam Ward on live television. He shot a third person, Vicki Gardner, who Parker was interviewing. Fortunately, the latter will survive.

Just as fortunately, the gunman is now dead (Too bad, though, that his fatal bullet wound was self-inflicted).

The 20th century philosopher Hannah Arendt maintained that there was a connection between the “inability to think” and morality. Upon observing Adolph Eichmann during his trial, she was stunned by two facts: The first was that Eichmann, in spite of being responsible for great evil, wasn’t particularly demonic or wicked at all, and, secondly, he was incapable of thinking beyond the stock phrases, clichés, and conventionalities available to him.


In other words, Eichmann was not unlike the vast majority of human beings.

Yet this “curious, but quite authentic, inability to think” accounts for much evil in the world. The reason for this is not difficult to grasp. Morality requires judgments about good and evil, right and wrong, and sound moral decision-making demands informed, critical judgment. Moreover, in making moral judgments, we must be sure to honor particulars as such even while we evaluate them in light of general rules and principles.

In beholding the chatter over the Virginia shootings, one is struck by how many otherwise (presumably) intelligent people are seized by the inability to think.

Revealingly, yet unsurprisingly, before any details regarding this outrage were known, the usual suspects on the left were decrying, not the murderer, but some abstraction they call “gun violence,” while calling for more “gun control.” And, along with some Republicans, they wasted not a moment in drawing from the Zeitgeist’s inventory of stock concepts in depicting this as a “mental health” issue.


Equally unsurprisingly is that the left has not (as of yet) spoken to the racial dynamic involved in this double murder: Not only was the killer black and his victims white, but Flanagan left behind a 23 page “manifesto” in which he explicitly identifies his sense of racial victimization as a premiere reason for his actions. He as well purports to have been victimized because of his homosexual orientation.

Let’s dare to do the unthinkable and actually think about this.

First, the notion that this double murder was “caused” by “gun violence” is patently offensive. It’s offensive to the victims, certainly, and even to the victimizer.


Alison Parker, Adam Ward, and Vicki Gardner were shot with a gun. They were shot by Vester Flanagan, a man who could’ve killed them in any number of other ways, or chosen not to kill them at all. We divest individuals of their humanity, their uniquely human, indeed, divine-like moral agency, when we ignore the reasons for their actions while instead attributing the latter to such impersonal “causes” as “gun violence” or “mental health.”

Our penchant for citing “studies” of one sort or the other doubtless proves politically and ideologically convenient, but such scientific (and pseudo-scientific) references constitute a black hole insofar as they swallow up the individual.

Second, allusions to “gun violence” and “mental health” are especially pernicious inasmuch as they obscure the evil nature of the deed being explained. To see just how egregious an offense this is, consider some analogies.


Imagine if, while discussing the Holocaust, we spoke about “gas chamber violence,” or while discussing Islamic State mass beheadings, we talked instead of “machete violence.” Or suppose that discussions of the lynching of blacks were peppered with references to “rope violence.” None of this would sit well with decent human beings, for it is clear, or at least it is thought that it should be clear, that such descriptions miss entirely that which is fundamental to the phenomena being described—the perpetrators responsible for these wicked deeds.

The perpetrators deserve to be recognized for the moral agents that they are, and their victims deserve an honest account of their fates.

Or imagine if we spoke of militant Islamic terrorist murderers, Nazis, and Klansmen, not as evil or wicked people, but as those in need of “treatment” for “mental health.” This too, you can bet anything, wouldn’t fly with most folks today. The reason is clear enough: If these notorious murderers are in need of “mental health treatment,” then they are sick.


But if they are “sick,” then they are to be pitied and made well, not condemned and punished. A mentally “unhealthy” person no more deserves blame, contempt, and punishment than does a physically unhealthy person.

To repeat: Either a person is evil or he is “mentally ill.” He can’t be both. Either his actions are evil, or they are symptoms of an illness. They can’t be both.

The reason that we would recoil from language suggesting that Nazis, Klansmen, and ISIS militants were “mentally ill” and/or that their murderous actions were a function of some abstraction or “root cause” is that once we enter this verbal territory, we leave morality behind.  The language of “causes” is the language of science. The language of morality is the language of good and evil, right and wrong.


The verdict is clear: Three innocent people were shot, and two are now dead, because one man, Vester Flanagan, freely chose to shoot them.

None of this, of course, is meant to deny that environment influences our choices. To be sure, our political environment today, and that particular strain of racial resentment and envy that currently finds expression in the Black Lives Matter movement, doubtless got inside Flanagan’s head. His “manifesto” revealed as much.

But here’s where things get really murky for the left:

If, as the left is forever assuring us, America is a land of incorrigible “white supremacy” and “racism”—if, in other words, “racism” is “institutional,” “systemic,” “structural;” if, as the left insists, “racism” is the greatest of all evils; and if, as the left further maintains, whites are never eligible to judge whether blacks who cry “racism” are sincere or not, then it would seem that one conclusion follows:

Vester Flanagan, who claims to have been the victim of racial oppression, acted justifiably in gunning down three white people who, by virtue of being white, belonged to the oppressor class.

Thinking is hard.




Trump Is No Conservative, But Neither Is…Chris Christie!

posted by Jack Kerwick

Donald Trump hasn’t the most conservative of track records. His opponents in the GOP presidential field and in segments of the so-called “conservative media” have sought to discredit Trump on this score.

But they are dishonest, for neither are their favorite candidates at all “conservative.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is a classic case in point.

Christie has acknowledged that up until about 20 years ago, when he heard his daughter’s heartbeat while she was still in her mother’s womb, he was “pro-choice.” He even gave to Planned Parenthood. Now, Christie self-identifies as “pro-life.” However, he believes that up until the 20th week of pregnancy, abortions should still be permitted.


And, of course, not unlike most other Republicans (Marco Rubio is a notable exception here), Christie holds that abortion is morally permissible in cases of rape, incest, and when the mother’s life is endangered by her pregnancy.

In other words, Christie is still “pro-choice.”

To see that this is so, consider his stance on abortion in light of an analogy with capital punishment. A person who claimed to be against the death penalty while supporting it only for, say, murderers, rapists, and attempted murders, would be recognized immediately as self-delusional, deceitful, hypocritical, or some combination thereof.

Similarly, one cannot claim to oppose abortion—the killing of innocent, defenseless human life—while simultaneously claiming to support it if the human being is of a certain age (under 20 weeks old), conceived under such-and-such circumstances, etc.


To his credit, Christie, as Governor, did indeed cut, on five different occasions, funding for Planned Parenthood. Still, we should bear in mind that until he threw his hat into the presidential ring and began addressing conservative-minded audiences, Christie has always insisted that the cuts were due solely to the fact that those monies “would deplete the state’s fiscal resources…and significantly alter the policy and spending priorities” of New Jersey.

Not unlike Ohio Governor John Kasich (and a whole lot of other Republicans), Christie insists that he objects to “gay marriage,” but now that the Supreme Court has declared it a Constitutional right, Christie regards it as a non-issue, the law of the land. The Pulse scores Republican candidates on their response to this unprecedented ruling: Christie received an F.


And in 2013, when a Jersey court legalized “gay marriage,” Christie refused to challenge it on behalf of his state.

It’s hard not to think that had Christie really been morally opposed to “gay marriage,” then he would be as about as willing to surrender to a government ruling on it as an abolitionist would’ve been willing to acquiesce to the government’s stance on slavery.

In 2014, Christie signed off on legislation that would prevent employers from conducting criminal background investigations of prospective employees. The Governor now brags over having put an “end” to “employment discrimination against people with criminal records.” Only after an applicant has had his or her first interview would the employer be permitted to conduct a background check.


“This will make a huge difference to people who have paid their debts to society and want to start their lives over again,” Christie declared.

In 2013, Christie brought Common Core to New Jersey. “We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue.” So that there wouldn’t be any confusion as to where his sympathies lay, he added: “And this is one of those areas where I’ve agreed more with the President than not.”

When Common Core justly earned its now infamous reputation, Christie began to backpedal away from it, and when he launched his presidential campaign, he expressed “regret” over having endorsed it. In February, he expressed “grave concerns about the way this is being done, and especially the way the Obama administration has tried to implement it through tying federal funding to these things.”


This remark is telling for more than one reason:

First, Christie gives the same reason for the disaster that is Common Core that communists give for the failure of communism all over the world. The problem isn’t the program itself, but its implementation.

Second, it is stupendous that anyone, let alone a politician, could not have anticipated that there would be enormous problems with the imposition of a federal program, any federal program, but particularly an educational program imposed upon a locale.

Third, did Christie seriously not expect that President Obama would not attach strings of “federal funding” to, well, a federal program?

Christie boasted about having presided over the largest amount of aid—$8.9 billion—to New Jersey’s public schools in the state’s history. When it is considered that no small portion of this is money derived from the federal government, it is obvious that Christie is interested in reducing the size of neither the federal nor state governments.


Christie expanded Medicaid under Obamacare.

When it comes to the NSA’s massive surveillance of American citizens’ data, Christie refers to objections as constituting a “strain of libertarianism,” and accused “libertarians” of engaging in “esoteric, intellectual debates.”

He also supports the federal government’s searching to see which library books Americans check out under the Patriot Act.

Christie, though claiming to oppose amnesty (who doesn’t say as much?), favors “comprehensive immigration reform”—i.e. amnesty. He also granted illegal immigrants in New Jersey the right to pursue a college education while paying in-state rates of tuition!

Trump may not be a conservative.

But Chris Christie definitely is not a conservative.




Trump Is No Conservative, But Neither Is…John Kasich!

posted by Jack Kerwick

Donald Trump may not be a conservative. His Republican opponents, both his rivals in the presidential primary contest as well as their apologists in the media, are laboring tirelessly to discredit their party’s front runner on this ground.

This line of attack, however, is disingenuous, for neither are their candidates of choice—Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina—particularly conservative.


Another rising GOP wonder child is John Kasich.

And Kasich is probably even less “conservative” than his peers.

Five years ago, Kasich called for repealing laws permitting birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants. Last year, though, Kasich said that his views on this matter have—you guessed it!—“evolved.”

Kasich implored Congressional Republicans to cooperate with President Obama’s Executive Order on illegal immigration in resolving this issue. “The country needs healing,” he remarked. “I wouldn’t ever be one to tell you that I don’t change my mind or that my thinking doesn’t evolve.”


Kasich added that he is “a different guy than I was years ago,” and noted that “this job [of being the governor of Ohio] grows you up.”

Read this carefully: Kasich would have us believe that his transition from opposing efforts to “reward” illegal immigration to favoring, in effect, amnesty, is a sign of his maturity. The implication is clear: Those who oppose amnesty are immature.

But, unsurprisingly, there is more.

“So when I look at a group of people who might be hiding, who may be afraid, who may be scared, who have children, I don’t want to be in a position of where I make it worse for them.”

Kasich claims that “I don’t want to see anybody in pain.”

As for abortion, Kasich subscribes to the same conventional GOP line: It is always wrong for mothers to kill the children growing in their wombs except for when it isn’t. And it isn’t wrong if the child was conceived as a consequence of rape or incest, or if the child poses a threat to the mother’s health.


Yet this past week, Kasich caught some heat from “a leading pro-life organization”—the Susan B. Anthony List—for castigating Republicans for focusing “too much on this one issue.” Last weekend, while on CNN’s State of the Union, Kasich said: “I think that we focus too much on just one issue, and now that the issue of gay marriage is kind of off the table, we’re kind of down to one social issue.”

So, according to Kasich, Republicans have but one “social issue” now, and they spend too much time obsessing over the killing of the most innocent of human beings among us. As for “gay marriage,” which Kasich also claims to oppose on moral grounds, the ease with which he is willing to allow the government—in this case, the Supreme Court—to settle a moral issue for him speaks volumes. Imagine if the opponents of slavery had the same attitude?


But back to abortion: Pro-life groups also blasted Kasich for refusing to defund Planned Parenthood after revelations that this abortion provider had been harvesting the body parts of aborted babies.

While speaking to the Urban League in May of 1999, Kasich said of (so-called) “racial profiling” that it “should be ended in every community in America.” This is “just not the way our justice system is supposed to work.”

Though Kasich prefers to allow local authorities the chance to voluntarily end the practice, he was quick to add that it may be necessary for the federal government to intervene.


Kasich, that is, is open to the prospect of nationalizing the police.

Kasich also endorses “affirmative action”—but not “quotas” (as if there’s a real difference).

Regarding education, Kasich has argued for allotting 95%, as opposed to the current 65%, of federal monies to subsidize public education. He as well contended that federal and local governments should provide more funding for after school and weekend programs for children.

When it comes to “day care choices,” Kasich insists that the federal government must relieve its “many strings and restrictions” that it attaches “to the money” that “it gives out,” for “the subsidized centers often are not responding to the needs of the local parents.” “If the federal government is going to be involved in subsidizing day care,” Kasich adds, “then our role should be to expand the choices of parents, not reduce them.”


Kasich also maintains that the government should insure that employers provide “flex time in the workplace to allow working parents more time with their children.” And he as well urged for the redirecting of Americorps monies to teens and the elderly for purposes of mentoring kids.

In 2013, against the protestations of the members of his own party and the Tea Partiers who at one time supported him, Kasich expanded Medicaid under Obamacare to 275,000 Ohioans.


When it comes to the redistribution of income and wealth for purposes of “welfare,” Kasich is all for it, and he sounds every bit as insufferable as Democrats who exploit decontextualized Biblical teachings on poverty for the sake of serving this end. Worse, he condescends to the members of his own party who disagree with him on this front.

Just earlier this year, Kasich remarked: “It’s really odd that the conservative movement—a big chunk of which is faith-based—seems to have never read Mathew 25” (i.e. a chapter on helping the poor). Kasich cited the latter while justifying his decision to expand Medicaid, and he asks of conservatives: “Why don’t we get into feeding the hungry and clothing of the naked and helping the imprisoned and helping the lonely?”


We—meaning, of course, the government via the resources in time, energy, and money that the Kasichs of the world plan on confiscating from the rest of us—need to comply with the Welfare State and “get away from the judgment side of” this topic: “We” mustn’t judge those whose existence we are made to subsidize.

In late 2013, Kasich charged Republicans with waging a “war on the poor!” “I’m concerned about the fact [that] there seems to be a war on the poor. That if you’re poor, somehow you’re shiftless and lazy.”


The New York Times wrote: “But few have gone further than Mr. Kasich in critiquing his own party’s views on poverty programs [.]”

The Times praises Kasich for having “surprised and disarmed some former critics on the left with his championing of Ohio’s disadvantaged, which he frames as a matter of Christian compassion.”

This is no small amount of praise coming from the Times. But there is more:

“In his three years as governor, he has expanded programs for the mentally ill, fought the nursing home lobby to bring down Medicaid costs and backed Cleveland’s Democratic mayor, Frank Johnson, in raising local taxes to improve schools” (emphasis added).

Suffice it to say, that while Trump may not be a conservative, John Kasich most definitely is not.






Trump is No Conservative But Neither Is…Carly Fiorina!

posted by Jack Kerwick

As I argued a few weeks ago, there are reasons for doubting Donald Trump’s conservative bona fides. But those of his critics at Fox News and in some quarters of “conservative” talk radio who level this charge against him are disingenuous, for neither are their candidates of choice conservative.

I’ve already shown that Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, to name but two notable examples, are certainly not conservative.


But neither is rising GOP star Carly Fiorina a conservative.

There isn’t remotely as much in the way of a political record on which to judge Fiorina as there is available for judging the professional politicians who comprise the bulk of the GOP’s presidential candidates. However, since Trump’s equally thin resume in this regard hasn’t prevented the Charles Krauthammers and George Wills from judging him, we are indeed in a position to determine whether Fiorina is a genuine conservative.

To begin with, Fiorina is no different than your conventional Republican (not conservative, but Republican) in claiming to be “pro-life” while simultaneously championing a woman’s right to kill her child in circumstances of rape, incest, and her own health. This inconsistent, phony baloney position must be seen for the species of double talk that it is.


If abortion is immoral, then presumably it is immoral because it is immoral to intentionally kill innocent human lives—whether they are growing inside or outside of their mothers’ wombs. Thus, morally speaking, the circumstances in which an innocent human being was conceived are utterly irrelevant to its moral standing.

And even if this innocent human being, the woman’s child, inadvertently poses a threat to that woman’s well-being, it is still far from obvious how this can suddenly justify a mother’s decision to kill her child.

If Carly Fiorina (and most other Republicans) are “pro-life” despite permitting abortion in these circumstances, then “pro-choice” Democrats who favor abortion only after the first trimester, say, are also “pro-life” for allowing abortion only under this circumstance.


On the other hand, if Democrats are “pro-choice” because they do allow abortion under some circumstances, then Fiorina (and most Republicans) are “pro-choice” for allowing abortion under some circumstances.

Another curious fact is that Fiorina supports embryonic stem cell research.

The Christian Coalition voter guide is designed to “educate tens of millions of citizens across this nation as to where candidates for office stand on key faith and family issues.” In 2010, they asked a slew of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, like Fiorina, whether they supported or opposed “human embryonic stem cell research.” Fiorina received the grade of  “2-,” which meant that she “strongly” opposed prohibiting this research.


During a debate with Barbara Boxer five years ago, Fiorina indicated her belief in “global warming.”

“We should always have the courage to examine the science,” Fiorina said when asked whether she believed that “global warming” was real. She followed this up by adding that “all scientists agree” that “the only way to impact global warming is to act globally.”

This is a politically brilliant move—even if it is intellectually dishonest and more than a bit cowardly: Fiorina, while trying to evade staking out a strong position on this issue, manages to tacitly affirm both the reality of “global warming” and the idea that it is supported by a consensus of scientists!


Of course, it is simply false that “all scientists agree” on what to do about “global warming,” just like it is simply false that all scientists agree that there even is this imminent catastrophe that is anthropogenic global warming.

When Fiorina was asked about her stance via “Proposition 23,” a ballot measure that would’ve suspended California’s law on “global warming” until unemployment dropped to 5.5% or lower for four consecutive quarters, she refused to take one. Barbara Boxer (of all people!) was correct when she retorted: “If you can’t take a stand on Prop. 23 I don’t know what you will take a stand on.”

This wasn’t the only time that Boxer and Fiorina agreed—even if their agreement wasn’t explicit. However, Fiorina explicitly agreed with Boxer when it came to the DREAM Act—which Boxer co-sponsored.


Fiorina, in other words, supported allowing illegal immigrant adolescents and adults to remain in the country as long as they entered either college or the military.

When it is considered that Fiorina just recently spoke out against Trump’s immigration plan to repeal “Birthright Citizenship” laws, bogusly claiming (as Ann Coulter notes) that such laws are Constitutional vis-à-vis the 14th Amendment, then Fiorina’s support of the DREAM Act isn’t at all surprising.

One thing that we shouldn’t overlook is that although Fiorina now challenges Hillary Clinton to “name an accomplishment” for which the latter can take credit, back in 2008, Fiorina lavished praise upon Hillary.


Senator Clinton, Fiorina said, was “incredibly intelligent” and “determined.” “I have such great admiration and empathy for Hillary Clinton,” Fiorina remarked. Hillary is “empathetic of all the tens of millions of people that she was trying to represent in her quest to become the first woman president of the United States.”

Fiorina said that, “as a woman,” she took “great pride in the fact that Hillary Clinton ran for president,” and she “watched with a lot of empathy as I saw how she was scrutinized, characterized, talked about as a woman.”

Hillary, in Fiorina’s judgment, got an unfair shake because of her gender.

Fiorina also claimed that Hillary’s “run for the presidency was historic. She was a great candidate.” Hillary “has helped millions of women all over this country.”

For this reason, Fiorina concluded that “women of any political party owe a debt of gratitude to Hillary Clinton [.]”

Trump may not be a conservative. But Carly Fiorina definitely is not.


Previous Posts

Thinking Seriously About the Virginia Murders
On the morning of August 26, Vester Lee Flanagan, a former employee of WBDJ, shot and murdered WBDJ TV’s Alison Parker and Adam Ward on live television. He shot a third person, Vicki Gardner, who Parker was interviewing. Fortunately, the ...

posted 10:12:39am Aug. 28, 2015 | read full post »

Trump Is No Conservative, But Neither Is...Chris Christie!
Donald Trump hasn’t the most conservative of track records. His opponents in the GOP presidential field and in segments of the so-called “conservative media” have sought to discredit Trump on this score. But they are dishonest, for ...

posted 8:51:39am Aug. 25, 2015 | read full post »

Trump Is No Conservative, But Neither Is...John Kasich!
Donald Trump may not be a conservative. His Republican opponents, both his rivals in the presidential primary contest as well as their apologists in the media, are laboring tirelessly to discredit their party’s front runner on this ...

posted 10:23:39pm Aug. 22, 2015 | read full post »

Trump is No Conservative But Neither Is...Carly Fiorina!
As I argued a few weeks ago, there are reasons for doubting Donald Trump’s conservative bona fides. But those of his critics at Fox News and in some quarters of “conservative” talk radio who level this charge against him are disingenuous, ...

posted 11:44:43pm Aug. 20, 2015 | read full post »

Trump is No Conservative, But Neither Is....Marco Rubio!
On its face, few things on the contemporary American political scene are as puzzling as Marco Rubio fans blasting Donald Trump for not being a true “conservative.” As I’ve argued recently, given his track record, the unprejudiced ...

posted 10:03:12am Aug. 19, 2015 | read full post »


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