second chances?

Let’s do this a little differently today. Let me share what I want to talk about before we begin. I don’t want to get off track in the rabbit trails and red herrings. I don’t want to minimize any detail, but I also don’t want the specifics to keep us from wrestling with the underlying question. Let me be clear: the specifics are hard. The audacity is unthinkable… sobering… and nothing short of infuriating. We will not minimize the severity. I simply want to talk about an underlying angle. I want to wrestle with the excellent question of: what’s too much to pay?

I want to talk about forgiveness. And consequence. I want to address pardon… propitiation… a restart, so-to-speak. I want to talk about second chances. When do they and when do they not apply? When does a person not deserve a second chance?

And… who gets to decide that? Could different people, have different, okay ways to proceed?

Let me offer the awful example…

Joe Mixon is a 20 year old, aspiring NFL athlete. Soon after arriving on the college campus, one day after his 18th birthday, Mixon punched fellow student, Amelia Molitor, in the face, breaking multiple bones, requiring hospitalization, surgery, and a jaw wired shut. Not only did Molitor have to endure the physical recovery, she was also subject to the extended stares, shame, social media avenues attempting to blame her, and to the fans, attorneys, etc. who prioritized Mixon’s football future over Molitor’s mental and physical health.

While the horrifying incident happened three years ago, the video wasn’t released until last December, which spurred on even more stares at Molitor, more outrage directed at Mixon, and more fans and attorneys attempting to minimize Mixon’s criminal actions.

Molitor has seemingly worked hard to heal and survive. Some would say she has found a way to thrive. Part of her chosen way through was to meet not long ago with Mixon.

From Molitor on their meeting: “Joe and I were able to meet privately, without any attorneys, and talk about our experiences since that night. I am encouraged that we will both be able to move forward from here with our lives. From our private discussions I am satisfied that we are going to put this behind us and work towards helping others who may have found themselves in similar circumstances.
I greatly appreciate his apology and I think the feelings he expressed were sincere. We both could have handled things differently. I believe if we had a chance to go back to that moment in time, the situation would not have ended the way it did.”

From Mixon: “I’m thankful Mia and I were able to talk privately. I was able to apologize to her one-on-one. The way I reacted that night, that’s not me. That’s not the way I was raised. I think she understands that.
Talking together helps move us past what happened. I know I have to keep working to be a better person, and this is another step in that direction. I love working with kids, and I’m looking forward to more chances to do that kind of work. I want to lead a life that inspires them, and I hope I can lead by example from today forward.”

The initial incident was awful. The apology was also accepted. I’m also not close enough to either Mixon or Molitor to gauge the depth of sincerity nor entirety of motive.

Note that Joe Mixon is considered one of the most skilled NFL prospects — possibly, even, talent-worthy of being drafted in the top five or ten. When he was finally selected by the Bengals in the mid-second round Friday night, many were outraged — as character-worthy, prompts the controversy.

If a person chooses to never cheer for Joe Mixon, they will find no active argument from the Intramuralist. If a person chooses to jeer, they will also find no argument. But if a person feels led to give a second chance to another — investing in him, walking alongside him, providing structure and discipline and helping him grow — you will also find no argument. A second chance is not a right, but it can be beautiful, contagious, and inspiring.

Hence, this isn’t about Joe Mixon, Amelia Molitor, the Bengals, or the NFL. The question is: when does a person deserve a second chance? Who gets to decide that? And is it ok that we will have different answers to that question?

When an athlete, celebrity, public servant, felon, or friend, does actually redeem themselves… when they do grow, change, repent, and become a positive influence… when a person or relationship is redeemed or restored… is that not most beautiful?

Tough, I know, as it only starts with a second chance and the specifics are hard. I just don’t want to miss wrestling with the underlying questions… those that affect us all.

Respectfully… always…

the itch

This has been a bit of a rough week on this semi-humble current events observer. With the house on the market, the need for extended single parenting, a sick kid, and all that accompanies a graduating senior this time of year, my week has been challenging. Hence, when an unexpected allergic reaction prompts hives on over 90% of one’s body, it can be arduous indeed. Yes, it itches all over; and yes, I won’t be taking any antibiotic containing sulfamethoxazole again any time soon.

Let me be frank in saying that while the Intramuralist has never shied from sharing a personal reaction to a current scenario — albeit respectfully, of course — sharing my personal reaction to bactrim seems a bit of a stretch…

… well, sort of…

Let’s go back to the itch.

I itch all over.

Let me say it another way. While there’s a ton going on all around me, a ton going on in this world today, a ton happening not just to me but to all those around me — people I know and people I don’t — I can’t think about them. All I can think about is how much I itch.

Remember that iconic “Friends” episode guest-starring Charlie Sheen? Sheen plays a military man on leave, eager to spend a passionate two weeks with his girl, Phoebe. As foreshadowed by the episode’s title, “The One with the Chicken Pox,” Phoebe has contacted the infectious disease, and it quickly spreads to Sheen as well. Ever insistent Monica mandates the two strap oven mitts to each hand, thereby making physical touching — and itching — impossible. When the afflicted are enthusiastically able to free themselves from Monica’s need to control the behavior of other people, all the passionate pair want to do is touch each other… that is, all they want to do is scratch. Their itch is pretty much all they can think about.

That, my friends, is how I feel today.

… again, well… sort of…

That is how I’m tempted to feel today.

I want to be totally transparent…

The itch is bad. It’s strong. I was forewarned by my wise medical professionals that it would take a while to resolve and in the meantime, I may be more irritable and hungry. It truly is hard for me to think more of anything or anyone else.

In other words, my itch is affecting my reaction to all that ton of activity going on around me. It’s affecting how I feel, think, and respond to other events, scenarios, people, etc. It’s affecting everything. I am totally tempted to see life through my itch. My sensitivities are exponentially heightened; my reactions are nothing short of instantaneous. I’m less gentle… less kind… less openminded… and less empathetic. I’m also more blunt… more passionate… more stubborn… and yes, more irritable.

One of the things I oft advocate is to step outside my circumstances long enough to gain an accurate perspective. In fact, perhaps one of the most sincere questions I humbly ask of another is whether we are allowing God to be defined by our circumstances — or are we stepping outside of our circumstances long enough, in order to see him first. In other words, how much are our circumstances affecting our perspective?

Right now, my circumstances justify a less kinder, more stubborn response. Let’s go farther… remove my circumstances from me… project them onto one of my children or onto another I love or hold dear. You can bet I will be just as “lesser”… that is, less gentle… less kind… less humble… etc. I can’t be as rational nor wise when I’m focused on the itch.

Man, I need to find those oven mitts. Maybe, too, I’ll go grab something to eat.


tribal mentality

One of my fair-minded, progressive friends has suggested for several years that we are witnessing the manifestation of a tribal mentality — groups banded together by belief or emotion that will squelch anything it perceives as a threat. They move as a group — as a “tribe,” so-to-speak — and survival of the tribe becomes what’s most important.

That means that objectivity, rational thinking, and relationship are each secondary to the survival of the tribe. “If you aren’t with us, you’re against us,” is the often vocalized clamor and adhered-to thinking. There thus exists a push to resist anything or anyone who thinks/feels/believes differently, suggesting that they are a threat to what is wisest or best.

That means, too, that empathy, compassion, and tolerance are also secondary. At best, each of those virtues is limited… “we can only relate to the likeminded… we will only have compassion for those who think like us.” Hence, some who proclaim to be the most tolerant blindly become intolerant in that they only accept those with similar beliefs. They are no longer willing to be challenged by thinking that is different.

Let me be clear with my concern… any ideology which diminishes objectivity, rational thinking, and relationship, cannot be wisest nor best.

I get concerned, no less, with the number of highly intelligent persons who so willingly accept said mentality. So many of my friends don’t think like me; in fact, last I looked on this planet, there is no one who thinks exactly like me (… although there is one fairly handsome, special needs teen who comes pretty close…). So why are we demanding like-thinking from others?

Have we equated different opinion as wrong?

Why do we see different opinion as a threat?

Why can we sometimes simply not allow different opinion to exist?

When collaborating with my fair-minded friend, together we recently wrestled with a few more, poignant conclusions…

  • When we are offended by other points of view, we can’t hold any meaningful dialogue…
  • When we refuse to see any other perspective as valid, we close our minds to reconciliation…
  • When we close our minds to reconciliation, we are blind to how beautiful and powerful reconciliation is…
  • When we hunker down in our so-called tribes, we have become the intolerant…
  • Silencing the opposition is a key part of the tribal mentality…
  • Silencing the opposition leads to tyranny…
  • Wisdom includes a respectful give and take…

I remember realizing several years ago that if I fly East or if I fly West, I will still eventually get to the same place. I can fly over the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean, from Ohio to Bangladesh, and still arrive at the same place, at the same time.

But the challenge with the tribal mentality is that it has no tolerance for flying in any other direction than their own… “West is the only right way.”

That’s simply inaccurate…

East… West… we end up the same place… but only if we listen to and respect one another, especially those who think differently.


what’s positive?

Last post, we asked our audience: what is the biggest problem in today’s culture? With a plethora of responses, many responded with an answer related to personal responsibility, the ill effects of social media, declining moral/faith values, over-value of self and own opinions/wants/and needs, and some kind of “lack” — especially lack of education, reverence for God, and respect for one another.

I appreciate, too, the answers that filtered in thereafter, with one of the more poignant responses centering around how our culture treats those with unseen illness, specifically mentioning mental illness. From my limited perspective, there is no “side” that consistently treats those with mental illness or cognitive disability consistently well. Sometimes we as a culture can be quite judgmental of what we do not see… what we do not know… what we do not understand.

That said, we flipped the question for today’s dialogue. What do you think is the biggest positive regarding today’s culture?

Allow me a couple of acknowledgements prior to sharing the responses. As in our last post, I heard from many — and I heard from a diverse many… persons from varied age, stage, ethnicity, circumstance, political leaning, etc. I love that! … and I value it deeply. The same was again true. I also witnessed significant overlap within that diversity. I love that, too. Such tells me that we may not be as far apart or polarized as the supposed “sides” as some want us to believe we are in order to fulfill their own agenda.

However, I did find persons having a harder time vocalizing their opinion and doing so concisely. I have thus tried to group the responses and overlap, as possible. Here’s what people said: what do you think is the biggest positive regarding today’s culture?

  • Freedom (… answers included individual liberty, lifestyle, religion, from government, etc.)
  • Awareness (… much in regard to ongoings in the city, country, and world… as one person said it, “We are more globally connected to the struggles across the globe.”)
  • Speed of social awareness
  • Innovation
  • Technology
  • Social media (… answers centered around two primary aspects: one, the global awareness as above expressed; and two, the ability to maintain friendships regardless of geographic location…)
  • Ease of access to varied perspectives and points of view
  • Compassion
  • Generosity
  • Passion (… as opposed to apathy, that passion could lead to positive results, if used for good…)
  • Acceptance (… both of people and varying lifestyle…)
  • Openness
  • Tolerance (…not political…)
  • Improved opportunities (… especially for people that, in the past, would have been marginalized due to race, religion, or gender…)
  • Improved educational opportunity
  • The respect and voice women have (… said by an American currently living in foreign country…)
  • The youth
  • The number speak out for the voiceless, feed the hungry, take care of the poor and practice justice and mercy
  • That this culture is temporal — not eternal
  • God’s grace
  • God is not dead
  • God is working
  • God is still in control — in spite of us!

And there were several who added the following:
There are still good, kind and humble people in this world!

Hence, a couple concluding notes…

Just as we found when asking about the problems instead of the positives, there was no consistent pointing to a specific person or party. There were not these so-called political divides; the above answers came from persons who lean all over the place politically.

Also, with the exception of the social media responses (which, one will note, showed up as both a positive and a problem), as one participant shared, “A good number of the responses relate to problems that aren’t entirely new. It seems that many comment on the universal human condition — a condition that has existed for many years — and not solely the decline of American society in 2017.”

That should tell us something. That should stop some of the finger pointing. That should prompt us to increased empathy and forgiveness… and decreased selfishness and “sides.”

There is good in this world.


what’s wrong?

In a very unscientific study, I asked a simple question regarding today’s culture. Fascinatingly, there seems significant belief that there is something wrong; however, there is also significant disagreement in regard to what that wrong actually is.

90 respondents offered various insight. I was struck by the overlap; many people shared similar answers. But the reality within the responses is that there are some eye-opening themes, beginning with some basics… what do you think is the biggest problem in today’s culture? (Note that answers have been somewhat simplified and combined…)

  • Forgetting common courtesy
  • No more manners and patience
  • No kindness and humility
  • Entitlement (… even “in our youth,” said one, noting the infamous “participation trophy”…)
  • Expectation of immediate results; instant gratification
  • Denial of what is true
  • Hardheartedness
  • How political correctness inhibits teaching and truth
  • Little knowledge of history
  • The value of money being placed above that of humanity
  • Politics for profit
  • Polarization
  • Government dependency
  • Basic respect and appreciation of differences
  • Intolerance of different opinions
  • Ignorance disguised as confidence
  • The abandonment of “innocent until proven guilty”
  • Becoming a culture of entertainment rather than work

There is also significant concern about ethical activity… what do you think is the biggest problem in today’s culture?

  • No common morality (no more right/wrong — do what feels right for you)
  • The erosion of any sense of moral standards
  • Fuzzy grey area being tolerated for everything

Many spoke about family and relationship… what do you think is the biggest problem in today’s culture?

  • The breakdown of the family unit and prevalence of single parent households
  • Changed parenting expectations
  • Distracted parenting and distracted people (… usually via technology…)
  • The societal devaluation of God, life, and family
  • God being eliminated from everything
  • Not much emphasis on respect for another person/relationship
  • The way we interact with and treat each other
  • No grasp of authentic love (… without love, there is no discipline; without discipline, there is no respect…)
  • People no longer  take the time to truly understand a situation before they give their opinion

One surprising thing to me was the number of different ways respondents expressed concern about how we see ourselves… what do you think is the biggest problem in today’s culture?

  • Selfishness
  • Self-righteousness
  • Self centeredness (… this idea that “your happiness is all that matters”…)
  • We actually believe the advertisers claim that “it’s all about you!”
  • A “me-centered” outlook
  • Self-love or self-worship
  • Putting self and things in a role only capable of being filled by God
  • Relativism or self-exultation (…thinking oneself is what matters most…)
  • People believing their opinions/wants/needs are more important than anyone else’s
  • Minimal concern for others (It’s all about a “me first” attitude anymore; driving, waiting in line, etc.)
  • Our human nature to focus only on “me”

Not to be outdone, many mentioned some aspect of media or news… what do you think is the biggest problem in today’s culture?

  • Social media (… it creates many different problems… from bullying, to the “keeping up with the Jones’s” or the “grass is always greener” mentalities, to the hiding behind the computer and saying things you might not say to someone’s face.)
  • Too much social media, news & no privacy (Everyone is looking at everyone’s lives and not living their own.)
  • Sensationalism in the news and everyday life
  • The free flow of information — creating, unknowingly, a surface-level-only knowledge

Lastly, I was struck by the plethora of “lack’s” (some just as above, that have been combined, and that overlap with above topics)… what do you think is the biggest problem in today’s culture?

  • Lack of empathy
  • Lack of compassion for others
  • Lack of critical thinking
  • Lack of education
  • Lack of forgiveness
  • Lack of foundation on truth
  • Lack of commitment and loyalty
  • Lack of moral values and faith
  • Lack of reverence for God
  • Lack of knowledge/belief/honor/respect of God
  • Lack of decency and civility
  • Lack of personal responsibility
  • Lack of respect for the sanctity of human life (… including unborn, elderly, disabled, minority races…)
  • Lack of trust
  • Lack of tolerance
  • Lack of respect for other nationalities, religions, customs etc.
  • Lack of respect for our fellow man
  • Lack of self-awareness
  • Lack of perspective on how good a life we have and what we’re capable of accomplishing
  • Lack of thoughtfulness
  • Lack of accountability for one’s own actions
  • Lack of love — true love — wanting the “best” for another
  • Total lack of respect

That’s a lot of concern. Hence, allow me to conclude by sharing a single, brief reflection…

90 persons responded to my question. Of those 90 — people who hail from totally varied age, stage, circumstance, political leanings, etc. — there was much common ground and ample overlap. It thus seems to me that if we could somehow get past the age, stage, circumstance, political leanings stuff, then maybe, just maybe, we could start to wrestle with what’s actually wrong.

Respectfully… (yes, always…)


On Sunday, April 9th, CNN host and CBS correspondent Anderson Cooper presented the a piece on “60 Minutes” with the following lead in:

“What is ‘brain hacking’? Tech insiders on why you should care…”

In a culture that continues to buy into this idea that Facebook is somehow authentic conversation, Snapchat is an accurate picture of one’s life, and any of the above and other social media apps/sites qualify as any kind of listening or dialogue, we should care about “brain hacking.”

Cooper began: “Have you ever wondered if all those people you see staring intently at their smartphones — nearly everywhere, and at all times — are addicted to them? According to a former Google product manager you are about to hear from, Silicon Valley is engineering your phone, apps and social media to get you hooked. He is one of the few tech insiders to publicly acknowledge that the companies responsible for programming your phones are working hard to get you and your family to feel the need to check in constantly. Some programmers call it ‘brain hacking’ and the tech world would probably prefer you didn’t hear about it.”

Cooper proceeds to interview Tristan Harris, who according to CBS, “was living the Silicon Valley dream. He dropped out of a master’s program at Stanford University to start a software company. Four years later Google bought him out and hired him as a product manager. It was while working there he started to feel overwhelmed.”

Said Harris: “Honestly, I was just bombarded in email and calendar invitations and just the overload of what it’s like to work at a place like Google. And I was asking, ‘When is all of this adding up to, like, an actual benefit to my life?’ And I ended up making this presentation. It was kind of a manifesto. And it basically said, you know, ‘Look, never before in history have a handful of people at a handful of technology companies shaped how a billion people think and feel every day with the choices they make about these screens.’”

Harris put together a 144-page presentation for Google execs arguing that the constant distractions of apps and emails are “weakening our relationships to each other” and “destroying our kids ability to focus.” With little change, Harris decided to quit three years later.

Again, said Harris: “It’s not because anyone is evil or has bad intentions. It’s because the game is getting attention at all costs. And the problem is it becomes this race to the bottom of the brainstem, where if I go lower on the brainstem to get you, you know, using my product, I win. But it doesn’t end up in the world we want to live in. We don’t end up feeling good about how we’re using all this stuff.”

Tristan Harris says the only thing the apps and sites and their developers want is our attention. The longer they hold our attention, the more money they make. (Question: know why texts and Facebook use a continuous scroll? It’s a proven way to keep us searching longer.)

Note that as Cooper’s report continues, one psychologist says that the typical person checks their phone every 15 minutes or less — and — “half of the time they check their phone there is no alert, no notification.” We are checking into Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. We are checking in on — and investing in — things that are not people.

Let me attempt to be more clear…

We are spending more and more time on our apps. We are often using them to connect with other people, thus potentially investing in relationship.

However, we are mistaking these connections for authentic communication.

We are mistaking status updates and opinion sharing as good, give-and-take dialogue.

And thus, we are mistaking social media for being a solid investment in other people.

Seems like we are doing a lot of mistaking.

As the tech industry prioritizes grabbing our attention, the reality is that such will pull our attention away from someone or something else. Hence, it’s not only our brains which are being hacked; it’s our relationships, too.


what I think about today

For a few select years, this semi-humble parent took time out to homeschool two of her three children. It was no intended disrespect of any of the excellent educators in our community, nor was our family any less involved; we love our local schools and will always support them. This was simply a choice that for two of our three kids, for those few, specifically selected years, a more targeted one-on-one educational approach would be fruitful. Socialization was never an issue (… and no, with all due respect to my homeschool family friends, I never wore a denim skirt nor some sort of bun in my hair).

One of the educational units we most enjoyed during those years was the study of world religion; it was fascinating! While some have opted for religion being on the short list of things people don’t talk about, I felt it was wise and appropriate for my children to understand the interworking of each major faith…

… what is the origin?
… who was the founder?
… are people encouraged to worship God or worship man?
… what is the primary doctrine?
… what are the primary behavioral components?
… where has the information come from?
… how do we know if it’s true?
… what parts are hard? … and if so, why? … because they don’t make sense or because of any stubbornness or unwillingness on my part to understand and attempt to comply?
… how through the centuries, has its prophecy proven true?
… what seems based merely on human thinking?

Such is a fascinating study. And while I believe that true religion must fully affect a person’s head, heart, and feet (meaning it needs to make sense, spur us on to love other people well, and then put our feet into motion/service), that study gave us excellent head knowledge.

For example, did you know that the Jehovah Witnesses teach that only 144,000 people will go to heaven? (… someone might want to review those odds with their 3.5 million members…)

… or that Scientology, founded by L. Ron Hubbard, teaches that 75 million years ago, an evil leader called Xenu decided to eliminate the excess population from a galactic confederacy, tricking billions of people and then exporting them to Earth? (… note that Hubbard was a career science fiction writer… shocking…).

All that to say that it is an entirely false statement to say that all religions are equally good, true, and right. That is simply untrue.

One of the aspects, no less, that fascinated my boys and I, as we took advantage of the opportunity to learn together some dozen years ago, was that as we studied the world’s religions, only one teaches about a central figure who died and came back to life. The bodies of all other founders and leaders of the world’s religions remain dead and decaying in a tomb somewhere.

Let me not be callous nor disrespectful. Such is not my intent.

My intent is simply to share that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the one aspect of Christianity my boys and I could never shake. We could never quit thinking about how it’s the one aspect that differentiates Christ from the leaders of all other faiths and ideologies.

I am not saying that all parts of Christianity are easy for me; they’re not. But on Easter Sunday, the day the world remembers that radical, unparalleled-by-any resurrection, I must pause. I pause asking myself what I believe and why… where am I right? … where am I wrong? … and for me, where has my own stubbornness and unwillingness gotten in the way?

I think of the resurrection this day.

Respectfully… always…

the american dream

As stated here previously, one of my favorite authors is Peggy Noonan. She’s witty and wise, articulate and animated. I’ve watched her on multiple networks, from ABC and NBC to MSNBC and FOX News. While conservative in nature, she is fair-minded. This week she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

In an election season when the individual emotions of many journalists seemed far more vocal than any presentation of news or balanced perspective, Noonan was a consistent, fair, thought-provoking editorialist. The prize judges said Noonan rose “to the moment with beautifully rendered columns that connected readers to the shared virtues of Americans during one of the nation’s most divisive political campaigns.”

Ah, those shared virtues… so many seem to have forgotten…

Last week, Noonan had yet another great column, attempting to again connect us. She wrestled with “What’s Become of the American Dream?”

She started by saying that the dream is not dead, but “it needs strengthening.” She defines it as “the belief, held by generation after generation since our beginning and reanimated over the decades by waves of immigrants, that here you can start from anywhere and become anything.”

She then gives some tremendous examples… Abraham Lincoln, the one time “backwoods nobody”… Barbara Stanwyck, who lost her parents… and Jonas Salk, the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland. One became President, another a “magnetic actress,” and another cured polio. But then Noonan makes an important distinction…

“… The American dream was about aspiration and the possibility that, with dedication and focus, it could be fulfilled. But the American dream was not about material things—houses, cars, a guarantee of future increase. That’s the construction we put on it now. It’s wrong. A big house could be the product of the dream, if that’s what you wanted, but the house itself was not the dream. You could, acting on your vision of the dream, read, learn, hold a modest job and rent a home, but at town council meetings you could stand, lead with wisdom and knowledge, and become a figure of local respect. Maybe the respect was your dream. Stanwyck became rich, Salk revered. Both realized the dream.”

Somehow we got the dream mixed up. Part of that, Noonan opines, is that when Grandpa shared that “this is the American dream,” the kids looked around, saw the houses and car, and assumed the American dream is “things.” But it is not; “material things could be, and often were, its fruits.” Noonan poignantly continues…

“… The American dream was never fully realized, not by a long shot, and we all know this. The original sin of America, slavery, meant some of the oldest Americans were brutally excluded from it. The dream is best understood as a continuing project requiring constant repair and expansion, with an eye to removing barriers and roadblocks for all.

Many reasons are put forward in the argument over whether the American Dream is over (no) or ailing (yes) or was always divisive (no—dreams keep nations together). We see income inequality, as the wealthy prosper while the middle class grinds away and the working class slips away. There is a widening distance, literally, between the rich and the poor. Once the richest man in town lived nearby, on the nicest street on the right side of the tracks. Now he’s decamped to a loft in SoHo. ‘The big sort’ has become sociocultural apartheid. It’s globalization, it’s the decline in the power of private-sector unions and the brakes they applied.

What ails the dream is a worthy debate. I’d include this: The dream requires adults who can launch kids sturdily into Dream-land.

When kids have one or two parents who are functioning, reliable, affectionate—who will stand in line for the charter-school lottery, who will fill out the forms, who will see that the football uniform gets washed and is folded on the stairs in the morning—there’s a good chance they’ll be OK. If you come from that now, it’s like being born on third base and being able to hit a triple. You’ll be able to pursue the dream.

But I see kids who don’t have that person, who are from families or arrangements that didn’t cohere, who have no one to stand in line for them or get them up in the morning. What I see more and more in America is damaged or absent parents. We all know what’s said in this part—drugs, family breakup. Poor parenting is not a new story in human history, and has never been new in America. But insufficient parents used to be able to tell their kids to go out, go play in America, go play in its culture. And the old aspirational culture, the one of the American dream, could counter a lot. Now we have stressed kids operating within a nihilistic popular culture that can harm them. So these kids have nothing—not the example of a functioning family and not the comfort of a culture into which they can safely escape.

This is not a failure of policy but a failure of love. And it’s hard to change national policy on a problem like that.”

[Insightful commentary… thought-provoking once again…]


nothing like the originalism

[Today’s post is from a guest contributor. Meet articulate brother #1…]


Last week, the United States Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch as the newest member of the Supreme Court. I am a fan of Gorsuch because he adheres to the judicial philosophy of originalism. What exactly does originalism mean?

Some people view judges as having the ultimate say in what our laws should be. That is not what the founders of our country intended. The judicial branch is just one of three coequal branches of government. As we all remember from elementary school, the legislative branch makes the laws, the executive branch administers the law, and the judicial branch interprets the law. Plain and simple, it is not the courts’ responsibility to make law, nor should they make law.

Originalists like Gorsuch (and me) believe that the proper way to interpret law is to ascertain its original meaning, or in other words, what those who wrote the law were thinking when it was passed. If the text of a law is silent on an issue, it is not up a judge to determine what it should say. That is up to the legislature.

Unfortunately, not all judges are originalists. Many are judicial activists who allow their personal opinions to influence their decisions. Instead of following the text of the law and allowing it to lead them to a conclusion, they choose the outcome they want and then twist words into their own desired meaning to get to that outcome.

In a democracy, it is vital that courts, especially the Supreme Court, refrain from making law. Because justices aren’t elected and have lifetime tenure, we can’t hold them accountable if they make laws we don’t like. If we don’t like laws that legislators make (or if they won’t pass laws that we want), we can get new legislators.

An egregious example of judicial activism was a 1965 case called Griswold vs. Connecticut. The state of Connecticut had a law on the books at the time that prohibited the use of contraceptives. Now I think most of us would agree that is a stupid law, but here’s the thing: if Ms. Griswold thought it was a stupid law, she should have lobbied her legislature to repeal it. That’s the way our system is supposed to work.

Instead, the Supreme Court found that although the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution didn’t explicitly declare a right of marital privacy, there is a “penumbra” of undeclared rights as such and therefore overturned Connecticut’s law as unconstitutional.

Let me be clear… I am not taking issue with the result in this case as unjust. I think the people of Connecticut should be free to use contraceptives as they see fit. The problem is how the courts came to that result. By their very nature, the edges of penumbras are blurry and not well defined. If indeed the Constitution has an enforceable penumbra, what other rights are included? The right to smoke marijuana? The right to own an automatic weapon? The right to assist in a suicide? The right to free health care?

We would all disagree on what’s within the penumbra and what’s outside. If unelected judges determine what’s in or out, that’s not democracy; that’s despotism. Therefore the whole concept of a Constitutional penumbra should be rejected and only the text of existing law should guide judges.

Note that judicial activists can be either liberal or conservative, although there are many more instances of liberal judicial activism in the fifty years since Griswold, for example on abortion and gay marriage. It is inappropriate for judges to allow their personal feelings to influence the outcome of a case, regardless of their political leanings.

It used to be that judicial activists were less conspicuous with their law making. Now that the practice is commonplace and difficult to hide, judges have become overt about their intentions. Just last week, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeal (which is comprised of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana) in Hively vs. Ivy Tech Community College, ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act which bars employment discrimination on the basis of sex bars employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as well.

No one believes that the original intent of the 1964 Congress was to include sexual orientation as a protected class in civil rights law. It is striking that Judge Richard Posner acknowledges that fact but brazenly admits that he and his colleagues are making law. For an excellent write-up on Judge Posner’s opinion, see Josh Blackman’s blog at

Allow me to reiterate: I don’t think employers should fire someone just because they are gay. Yet, if we the people want a law to prohibit such discrimination, the proper channel to bring about that change is through the legislative branch, not the judicial. Otherwise, we will cease to live under the rule of law and will have embraced the rule of men.


just war?

Save for the testosterone-infused, teenage boy lost in the latest video game craze, I’m not convinced there are any rational-thinking, goodhearted people who actually like war. The question, therefore, is not: who likes it? … who wants it? The better question is: when it warranted?

On Thursday evening, as Syrians slept (and others across the globe had their eyes closed in regard to current events), America launched missiles to destroy airplane and fuel facilities allegedly used by Pres. Bashar al-Assad’s regime to mount chemical weapons attacks. Two/three days prior, Assad’s military had dropped chemical weapons on persons deemed oppositional to the Syrian government; they dropped them on their own people.

While the Intramuralist is one whose head and heart are typically both fully engaged in decision-making and the building of perspective, my heart hurt seeing the horrific pictures associated with this chemical attack. Chemical weapons are some of the most dangerous to ever exist; they attack the body’s central nervous system, which includes control of functions such as our heart rate, breathing, digestion, waste, etc. My heart grieved at initial glance.

To be clear, I am one not comfortable with any cheers where violence is involved. Such is true whether it’s military conflict, political protests in the streets, or crime directed at one. Violence is not something to be celebrated. Celebrating and believing that there is a “time for everything,” however, are separate, capable-of-coexisting perspectives. There is a time to be born and a time to die… there is a time to mourn and a time to dance… and there is a time for peace and a time for war. The question thus becomes: when is that time?

The best, time-tested guidelines go back centuries, initially put forth by St. Augustine of Hippo and added to by succeeding, societal leaders. They developed the concept of a “Just War.” The purpose of this timeless doctrine is to ensure military force is morally justifiable but is also conducted in an ethical way. It seeks to reconcile (1) the wrong in taking a human life, (2) the duty of states to defend their citizens, and (3) the protection of innocent human life and of important moral values.

Hence, the first premise of the Just War concept is the admonition to all citizens and governments to work for the avoidance of war. Assuming all non-violent options have been exhausted, the principles of a Just War are as follows:

• A Just War can only be waged as a last resort.
• A war is just only if it is waged by a legitimate authority.
• A Just War can only be fought to redress a wrong suffered.
• A war can only be just if it is fought with a reasonable chance of success.
• The ultimate goal of a Just War is to re-establish peace.
• The violence used in the war must be proportional to the injury suffered.
• And the weapons used in war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants; civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians.

As this doctrine has developed over the centuries — and as modern warfare methods (nuclear, biological and chemical) have become so extreme — crimes against humanity are also viewed as something to be especially guarded against.

Friends, I have serious concerns about escalation in Syria and elsewhere. I also will never celebrate violence against any. I do, though, believe a just response is sometimes necessary. I will also add that I am no expert. I am thus thankful for the veterans and career military men and women who have far more expertise than I — and whose perspective is shaped by more than their heart or by their politics.

And while I sincerely doubt peace will ever fully come until heaven is a reality, my strong sense is that we should never tire to work for it… peace on the planet… peace with the people around us… recognizing peace is not always possible.

Let’s be bold enough to ask the question of when war is just. But let’s do so in reverence, sobriety, and with zero celebration.



[Editorial note: significant external sources were utilized extensively for the contents of this post, including but not limited to the BBC Ethics Guide, the “Big Think”, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Mount Holy Yoke College, and Wikipedia.]