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Immigration, both legal and illegal, has been a major topic of public and political discussion for some time. This is not anything really new. These United States were born by immigration and the addition of new immigrants to our Melting Pot has been a source of pride and strength. The sum of our parts is greater than the arguments we have. Yet, it would be untrue to say that immigration of any kind has been a bed of roses, regardless of time period. So, while I sit here at my writing group, I’ll go through why I think like I do about immigration.

My fundamental beliefs about immigration come from three areas, my faith, my experiences, and my citizenship as a Texan. My faith as a believer in Christ compels me to treat all people as family, regardless of their race, color, or ethnic nature. I grew up with kids of all colors. I don’t care about your color or your race. I care about your character. Christ said that He had flocks in places his listeners didn’t know. God told Moses to remind the Israelites they were once strangers in a strange land and to treat the foreigner well.

In 1999 and 2000, I made four trips to Honduras as a team helping folks that were impacted by Hurricane Mitch. I encountered people that were hard-working people of character and faith. In turn, they treated us as family and honored guests. I learned that any person looking for a better life deserves our help instead of our derision.

Texas holds a fairly unique place in American history. It began as a part of the Spanish Empire and later as Mexico. Settlers were required to become Mexican citizens and to convert to Catholicism in order to receive a land grant. When the trouble with Santa Anna broke out, there were not just white settlers that rebelled, but Mexican residents of Texas as well. These are Tejanos. Our culture in Texas has been Hispanic since day one. To those that have a problem with this idea, get bent. Not sorry.

Logic and pragmatism do require me to note that we area a nation of laws and if a person comes illegally, then they are an illegal alien. Capture will get them a ticket back. However, if we are lax on enforcement, especially enforcement against those that actively employ an illegal alien, then we get what we deserve.

It is true that the quantity of illegal aliens working in certain fields has caused a problem where native citizens cannot gain employment. But, this does more than just depress wages. It also allows unscrupulous employers to mistreat illegal aliens. Remember, regardless of their status, these are humans. If we allow mistreatment or exploitation, we are all at fault. We are also at fault for constantly wanting cheaper products and services.

However, I think we could do better. Why not give folks at the border that aren’t criminals and don’t have records a temporary visa, say 30 days. If they can locate a job in thirty days, then they can become residents, not citizens. They can work, but they will pay income taxes. They will also be covered by our minimum wage laws and other labor protections. In this manner, it evens out the ability for native citizens to find jobs and will make mistreatment a crime. Since most of our health insurance comes via our jobs, then they will be covered just like the rest of us.

Some would say, “But we can’t support that many people!” To that, I will use my favorite Texan word: bullshit. We already are supporting that many people. They just have to live in the underworld as illegal aliens. If we can enroll them as working residents, then they would be paying taxes (a common complaint) and their care and such would be provided the same way we do. And, if you are a believer in Christ, do you really have so little faith in your Lord that He won’t provide?

This is what I think. People that need work and a place to grow compel us to find a way to solve the problem, not complain and vote for harsh measures. My faith compels it. Logic and pragmatism show that we could make it work for most of us. That is, assuming we aren’t just looking for scapegoats to blame instead of taking responsibility for our problems. But, that is a different story.

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After my travels this week, I never want to hear another anti-gun person comparing their wishes for more gun control laws with the laws we have in the US on vehicles. Nothing shows the failure of laws to regulate the use of firearms than the lack of obedience in following laws placed on vehicles and their use.

It is popular among the anti-gun crowd to compare their wishes for more gun control laws with the laws and regulations on vehicles.

Cars and trucks are dangerous, therefore:

  • One must earn a license to drive.
  • Cars must be registered, inspected, and maintained to certain levels.
  • Cars require the owner to carry insurance to cover injury and damage to others.

While drivers of all types must, allegedly, earn a license to drive, it doesn’t show in their actions. The comparison to firearms is that if a person must go through an extensive training and licensing program, there would be fewer shootings. The counter is that criminals don’t obey laws; therefore, would skip the licensing and training, as do still a significant portion of drivers.

I see few people on the roads that actually drive correctly. The incidences of drivers watching their cellphones is astounding. While many do drive near the speed limit, the quantity that disobey speed limits boggles the mind. They disobey not by a few miles per hour, but can blow your door off when you are doing the limit of 70 mph!

It’s a limit, people! Does no one understand that? It’s not a suggestion. In calculus, a limit is a line or point that you never can touch, just approach. But, I digress.

Yes, we are all supposed to have our cars registered and inspected (which also means maintained), the quantity of unregistered cars and trucks is still high, including a business in false inspection stickers.

Nearly every state requires either vehicle liability insurance or proof of the ability to pay for damages in an accident. Yet, even in states requiring insurance, many do not carry insurance, and many that do have the minimum do so in such a manner as to make the insurance useless.

These failures to comply with state vehicle laws are not difficult to discover. If you are a driver, you probably see a great deal of disobedience to the laws no matter where you live. Statistics on compliance with vehicle laws are available on the Internet, easily. If there is this much disobedience in following the laws about vehicles, how can it be used as a comparison for additional gun control legislation?

It can’t. It completely exemplifies what most gun owners (and even some that don’t own guns) already know: criminals don’t obey laws. And, yes, failure to obey vehicle laws, no matter how minor one thinks they are, makes one a criminal. Because, you can’t legislate good behavior.

If someone wants to kill, maim, or destroy, he or she is going to find a way to do so. Lack of firearms access doesn’t make the violent less violent, it only diminishes the ability of others to defend themselves. This is part of why we have a second amendment in the Constitution. We all have a natural right to defend ourselves against violence, whether that is in the form of another person, a foreign invader, or oppression from our own government. I do hope we never need the last two measures, but the first is quite common.

Good, moral people with a solid ethic will obey the laws they are given. Lazy, indifferent, or violent people will disobey. That’s overly simplistic, but makes it easier to diagram. Our laws work post-event, to punish the one that disobeys. That’s how our system works and for good reason. It assumes we are moral people and will observe certain norms of behavior. The law assumes you are a good person and doesn’t infringe upon your right to be free.

Now, vehicles on the other hand. Sheesh!

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I was sitting at lunch yesterday in our break room listening to the constant banter about the Bayer lawsuit situation. Bayer bought up Monsanto, it seems, and then Monsanto got hit with lawsuits concerning a product they make, Round-Up. It’s a herbicide. I’ve used it. Works well.

Apparently, it’s more dangerous than just being a poison and because Bayer is now the parent company, they get to deal with the lawsuits. My colleagues tend to be a conspiracy thought tank and they were waxing on the evil of both Monsanto and Bayer. It grew very tiresome and I eventually left.

I’m not going to comment on this situation or take it into great detail. However, it did bring to mind an issue that we deal with today, and have for a while; government regulation of businesses that do dangerous things.

On the one hand, you have the businesses (usually quite large corporations) that say, “We know what we are doing. Your regulations and controls are stifling our business because it costs too much to comply with all of them.”

On the other hand, you have John Q. Public saying, “We don’t trust you because you all have bad track records.”

Both sides of the coin are true. Business works on one premise: make profit and all of it you can. They want to spend as little as possible on the production of a product so that the profit is as high as possible. It’s less expensive to not use the environmental and safety controls and processes required to really do the job safely and protect the environment in which we all live. The track records of many large chemical, petrochemical, and radiation businesses is dismal, Three Mile Island, RSR Smelters, Love Canal, and others.

Our forefathers in America believed in capitalism and we still do, and should. Capitalism works and provides a lot of economic power for the USA. I can’t prove this, but somehow, I still think that our forefathers were honorable people that had a code of ethics to follow concerning how a person should do business. I don’t think that most would be pleased at the disregard for human safety and life when businesses make decisions (injury and death have occurred, including increases in cancer rates). I know even much of that was coming apart through the middle and late nineteenth century. Hence, the labor laws and antitrust laws of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century are the result of how businesses acted during that time.

Since that time, we’ve seen a steady increase in governmental regulations concerning safety of people and environments near these businesses, and of their products. We don’t use DDT anymore. We don’t use Mercurochrome anymore. Ford no longer makes the Pinto. Some of the mistakes a business may make in the development of a product are not intended at first. However, when someone discovers a problem with a product or business action, that’s where bad things can escalate.

There is a logical reason for why this adversarial nature exists between government and business. As background, we first need to ground in our thinking that the government is “us”. The US government is not an “other” looking out for the public, it is the public. Then, we have to understand the nature of the large corporation. Our Supreme Court gave us a clue in a recent decision on campaign funding and voting rights when it declared “corporations are people, too”.

While, legally, this equation may be true, one must examine what kind of person a corporation really is. Under many of the things we know now, a corporation would be amoral (no concept of right or wrong) and a sociopath (no ability to feel for others). It would have some level of narcissism (vanity, feelings of self-superiority) and consider itself above reproach.

It’s possible my definition is overdone, but not by much. Detractors would say, “Wait, there are people in corporations. They would be capable of morality and compassion.” While true on some levels, I don’t give it much credence as a check on how the entity reacts. Corporations, like people, determine threats and mobilize resources to counteract those threats. They often tend to see government or public intrusion as threats to survival and use all available means to do so. Much of the reaction from a corporation comes from its leadership. That leadership, as explained in a previous post, is now very connected and enriched by the leadership’s position in the entity. I think this type of symbiotic relationship forces down any rebellion in the entity when people do wake up and see the damage done by the entity of which they are a part.

Yes, John Q. Public is right, business cannot be trusted to act in a moral and thoughtful manner in regards to decisions that affect the safety and welfare of the public or our environment. If we accept that corporations are people, then we should also accept that its amoral and sociopathic nature means the entity needs external controls on behavior in order to safeguard human life and where we all live. That is why I think that business needs regulation despite the fact that we live in a society where capitalism is our economic model.

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Today was a hard day at work, so I’ll probably keep it brief on this post.  However, I do want to thank those of you that are reading these essays and interacting.  Even if readers do not agree with my beliefs, values, and observations, it’s still good to know someone is reading.

I wish to extend from the last post about wealth and status.  I pointed out the observations I made about the views of folks concerning those with little wealth.  I need to also examine my thinking about those with great wealth.

First, my faith is not anti-wealth.  Gaining wealth is biblical and there are plenty of examples of folks that were and are blessed by God with great wealth.  However, the scriptures are very clear that wealth is a distraction or an impediment to following God.  There are warnings across scripture on those that handle wealth poorly, especially by treating others badly.  It is important for one to recognize that wealth is from God, not just from personal effort.  This is the same as a farmer must view that the bounty of the land has more to do with God’s blessing than with hard work.

What I have observed over the past three decades is that the concentration of wealth is being placed in fewer and fewer hands. CEO’s of many companies now earn many times more than the average employee of the companies they lead.  Even CEO’s that fail at leading a company into prosperity often leave a bankrupted company with significant wealth.

In addition, we are learning of many ways in which large corporations seek tax cuts, property tax abatement, and have armies of accountants and lawyers to reduce tax liabilities to near zero.  They do this under the umbrella of ‘job creation’.  Look Mr. Mayor.  We’ll be bringing thousands of jobs to your city.  Give us thirty years property taxes for free and you’ll make it up on all the people we bring in. But, does it? Who is minding the store?

Please understand that I have no problem with paying my taxes, as long as everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE else is doing the same.  I’m not against tax cuts for those that can create jobs.  I’m not against tax abatement to sweeten the pot getting a new large business to move to town.  However, I am against companies and businesses effectively reducing their tax payments to minimal percentages of their total income thereby placing the burden on folks that earn a great deal less.  That’s not logical as a sustainable plan for the future, nor is it fair to the taxpayers as a whole.

But, then there is pragmatism.  One the one hand, yes, it would be wrong to force corporations and businesses to be more responsible taxpayers.  Taking the advantages that we’ve allowed them isn’t illegal, just distasteful. Yet, we’ve already seen this type of situation before.  Go and read of the Gilded Age of the turn of the 20th century.  The kinds of squalor that many lived in versus the opulence of the wealthy was stark.  That situation did lead to a rise in populism and eventually forcing the breakup of many monopolies.

So, where does that leave us?  I think the two best things we can hope for in bringing some common sense back to wealth is a mixture of good examples and at least some threat of negative legislation against the large corporations.  Sounds harsh, doesn’t it.

Believe it or not, I liken the problem to that of the Mafia.  You know them.  The criminals and crooks of the prohibition era and many still operating today.  We see them as petty thieves, thugs, and often murderers.  Yet, if you ask the Mafiosos how they see themselves, they’ll say they are just businessmen and you do whatever it takes to be successful in business.

I see a lot of those same similarities in businesses gaining wealth today.  They simply believe that doing whatever it takes to gain a profit is alright and they shouldn’t be fettered by anything like morals, ethics, or plain old generosity.  I don’t think that is the answer I’d like to give Jesus when He asks.  I better watch my P’s and Q’s as well.

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A friend recently challenged me about why I think as I do.  I was stunned a bit when asked, as I often ask that of others, but don’t often have it asked of me.  It’s not a bad request.  We should know why we think like we do.  I consider myself an individual and not part of the mob; just being carried along.  Therefore, I consider it a good thing to make myself really look at why I think (or believe) as I do.  Since I find it better to do such a thing with writing instead of speaking, this series of posts (yes, there will be many) will be about why I think as I do.

Today, I’m just going to cover the basics.  What are the foundations of my way of thinking and how does that influence all the other many concepts and issues that make up the me, myself, and I.

The basics of my thinking exist in my belief system as a follower of Christ, logic, pragmatism, and the heart. 

I’ll interchange thinking and beliefs as I see these as similar items and concepts.  Values are the “working out” of my thinking in everyday life (IRL to some).  

Everything, but everything is filtered through my belief in Jesus as the Son of God, Who died on the cross in order to save me from both the sin of Adam and from my own sins.  Jesus accomplished this through His death (the shedding of blood as an atonement to fulfill the Old Testament covenant), burial, and resurrection.  I believe in Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit; not as nice concepts or myths, but as real living beings through whom all things in this universe gain existence.  I believe the Bible is a real collection of books, written by men (possibly a woman or two), inspired by the Holy Spirit and given to us as a revelation of God, history of His working to redeem and guide humans, and a foretelling of things to come.

I follow logic as a regular rule of life, filtered through my Christian belief.  Logic is the knife by which we can evaluate situations.  Logic, as I see it, requires me to move to a result of true or false.  In observation, my use of logic often sets me at odds with others because logic reduces to one of two outcomes.  Some call this a black/white outlook.  I recognize that outlook bothers some, but I’ll own it.  I also acknowledge that there are times when logic has difficulty reducing to two outcomes.  When these occur, I just do my best to use other sources and thinking to help.  That’s when I remember the axiom that life is messy and move on.

Pragmatism is the ability to use a system of thinking that many call common sense.  Some may also call it the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) method.  While, yet others call it using Occam’s Razor (the obvious and simple solution is often the best).  Pragmatism exerts itself in my thinking when I realize that while my faith and logic call for a situation to exist in a certain way, pragmatism limits that outcome because there are hurdles that I or others are unwilling or unable to cross.

The heart is what separates humans from animals.  Yes, some will disagree. That’s for a later post.  For now, it’s an axiom.  Deal with it.  Back to business. If I simply followed faith, logic, and pragmatism, I really could see everything in life as just black or white.  That’s where the heart comes into play.  Through compassion, love, good feelings or bad, we adjust the outcome when faith, logic, and pragmatism alone will not provide a complete answer.

But, wait, you say!  Faith involves the heart!  Or, faith is all about heart!

No, not to me.  Faith is real.  It is a relationship with an existential Other so different from ourselves that normal rules don’t apply.  Yet, that relationship isn’t bound just by “feel good” or emotional considerations.  It is also bound by God’s revelation and His character, His perfect moral character (more on that later).  

The heart modifies the brutality of logic and pragmatism; it completes faith.  Yet, the heart is fickle.  It cannot always be trusted, as both Scripture and a good preacher, Joe Beam said. The heart is capable of lying; therefore, it cannot be used without the other methods of thinking.  But occasionally, when the other methods struggle to help define my thinking, the heart supplies just enough to get things right.

Please remember that these definitions of my foundations of thinking are mine, as I see them.  They aren’t meant to be the dictionary definitions or the classical definitions.  For the record, they don’t have to be.

How do these four basic methods of thought define my thinking?  I’ll explain it this way.

The words of God described in the Bible show believers a specific world view.  God made the universe and humanity.  Man is made in God’s image but is now fallen because of Adam and Eve’s failure and also because of mine.  Our redemption is through what Jesus did on the cross not through our own efforts.  Right and wrong are defined by God, not by humans.  Through the teachings of Jesus, believers should consider themselves as members of a universal kingdom with Jesus as the head of the kingdom.  We are to be influences in the world we live in.  We still have choice, so we can influence for good or for bad.  

I find that when I consider the whole of humankind as those created by God, in His image, then I must (logic) see value in all people regardless of color, language, religion, or ethnicity.  I should seek the good welfare of all people.  Though pragmatism says I can only do that in a small area through family, friends, and acquaintances.  Yet, the heart inspires better solutions than just the small ones I can contemplate.

That seems to be very simplistic, and yes, it is.  Because today’s social language revolves around many “hot button” issues, I’ll be spending time in future blog posts dealing with how I think about those issues.  While this is not an exclusive list, and I hold the right to change some as I go, I will explore the issues of social welfare, economics, religion (mine and others), and ethnology (our country, its people, government, etc.).  I recognize (pragmatism) that several of these may require more than one post.

Thinking about how one thinks is meta-cognition.  It’s not a bad thing to do every once in a while.  By posting this out here, it obligates me to not be lazy but to go and get it done.  I’ll leave it to you all to hold me accountable.

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Recently, listening to someone that I thought I respected, I was told that I shouldn’t use “Rube Goldberg” methods in trying to solve problems. The person in question had seen how over the years, I would use any means at hand, complicated or simple, to accomplish the goals set before me. This often resolved into not pursuing the goals any further because this person couldn’t understand how I got there.

(more…)

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On Thursday, the 14th of June, Flag Day of all days, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited a passage of the Letter of Paul to the Roman church. Specifically, he referenced the following:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
Romans 13:1‭-‬4 NIV
https://bible.com/bible/111/rom.13.1-4.NIV

Sessions referenced this passage as he spoke to law enforcement during a speech in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. He was commenting on his department’s zero tolerance policy on illegal immigration on the southwest border. This policy has caused controversy and dissension because it requires that children be separated from their parents and detained while the parents are arrested. It also requires detaining unaccompanied minors instead of release to other familiy members.

I am not going to tackle the thorny issue of whether or not children should be separated and detained because I consider it wrong. Period. The only passage of scripture I need for this reasoning is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It is from the Law of Moses and reiterated by Jesus.

What I am going to comment on is the lack of insight and incorrectness of Session’s use of scripture in this manner.

First and foremost, while I believe any Christian in public service should neither deny nor hide their faith (or leave it at the door as some suggest), we should not quote scripture in “mixed company” or act as if scripture is somehow binding upon non-believers.

While all of scripture is “God-breathed and useful for instruction”, it doesn’t apply to believer and non-believer equally. Scripture was written to the church. In the case of the Old Testament, it was written to the nation of Israel. The Mosaic Law was binding on Israel only (with some rare cases involving non-Hebrew people living among the Israelites and taking part in ceremonial holidays).

Except for what we believe is the call that Jesus wishes to reach and include all peoples everywhere in His kingdom, most of scripture isn’t binding on non-believers. Therefore, it is arrogant of Jeff to reference a word from the Apostle Paul as if it applies to everyone or that it is useful for him to admonish non-believers concerning Paul’s words. Paul’s words admonish and instruct the Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ that lived in Rome (his audience) and by extension those of us that profess Christ.

Second, use of this passage must remain in context with what Paul meant it to mean for his audience, the Roman church. Paul wrote a church he had never visited. He knew very few of the congregants. But, the church lived in a turbulent time. Nero is Caesar. The great fire of Rome had yet to occur, but when it does, Nero will not just fiddle around, he will do what other politicians do; look for a scapegoat. He will find his scapegoat in Christians. It is written that when Nero began the persecution, he lined the roads with the burning bodies of Christians upon the cross. Therefore, Paul was urging his audience to not stir up any trouble unnecessarily. He does this by telling them to recognize Rome’s authority just as if it came from God.

While that may sound like a rough thing to say concerning Rome’s behavior towards Christians or any group they disliked. Roman Jews had just recently been allowed to return after being expelled by Emperor Claudius for several years. It was important that the Roman believers live as good citizens despite the bad actions of their government.

While I understand that some American preachers used this passage in the past to uphold slavery, I reject that in the same manner for the same reasons. We can only seek to understand the principle as it applies to us, the believers in America. We have to be very careful with literalness and legalism here (if you want to know more about what Paul said about legalism, read the 14th chapter of Romans and Galatians, it ain’t pretty).

The principle we can glean from Paul’s words here is to be good citizens, even when it seems difficult. We have to behave as if he (with me its not ‘as if’ but He really does) appoints our leaders. Do I like the way many in authority treat the church (universal meaning) or its members? Do I like believers having to go to court to defend their right to uphold their own faith? Do I like it that the electorate chose Trump? The short answer to all of these is, “No!” My nature is to fight, to have it fixed, to win out over those persecuting Christians. And, if you think that our persecution is less than others, you’d be right…and wrong.

We are still called to be good citizens of our cities, states, and nation even when we disagree with its policies (like separating kids from parents in immigration battles). Our system does allow us to band together and petition our elected officials to change their minds. Our system does allow us access to courts to defend our beliefs. Our system of laws does not allow us to hurt others, start riots, or any other sort of mayhem. We are called to be good citizens so that we don’t bring a bad reputation upon Christ, His Word, or His people. Yes, you can carry that out where it is headed, but remember, non-believer–while it is my belief that you cannot be held to my faith’s tenets in public, it also does not afford you to criticize believers. That is our job to handle, just as I am doing here.

While the bigger picture of illegal immigration is that the current “zero tolerance” policy is wrong, it is also wrong for Jeff to use scripture as a support for his enforcement of that policy. I use ‘Jeff’ because I’ll not consider him above me in this matter. He is an equal brother and I’ll talk about him that way. Paul’s admonition to believers to be good citizens applies to the Roman church that is his audience and can be extended to us as a good principle to live by. However, it cannot be construed to mean that when the laws allow us remedy that we should avoid that either, Paul didn’t.

It is true that the best quote from this portion of Romans would be good for all believers concerning immigration issues, “Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others, has fulfilled the law.” We’d all be better off if we took care of those less fortunate than ourselves. God told Israel through the prophet Malachi that if they lived according to God’s intentions and brought their own sacrifice into practice that they would receive a bounty without measure. I believe if we as Americans did right by our neighbors that want to live with us and work that our GDP would be more than sufficient for all of us. I truly believe that. Why won’t you?

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