Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Four Most Dangerous Cities

Anytime someone prefaces a statement by "I'm not racist" or "I'm not bigoted" you can expect the statements that follow to be exactly that -- racist and bigoted. The person knows that or they wouldn't say preface their statements that way. What they are really hoping to do is to convince you that their form of racism or bigotry is okay. They are trying to justify their hatred. Such is the case with the following link:

The mistake made by the author, Red Dawn, is that they believe that the facts prove they are neither racist nor bigoted, when the racism is not in the facts, but the way the facts are interpreted. The author intentionally connects race to violent crime, and suggests that this is the most important connection. That insinuation is what makes the statements racist: saying that cities where a high percentage of the population is black and the liberal policies of their leadership have directly caused the violence. Why? Because the connection itself is an error of causality.

Let's start with race, and turn the statistics upside down. The ten countries worldwide with the lowest crime rates from 10th to 1st are: Cyprus, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Switzerland. These are countries from different parts of the world, representing different racial and ethnic groups. Race itself does not appear to be directly related to the ability to be peaceful.

Let's try something interesting, just to be irritating and generally aggravating to the writer of the article and address the liberal policies connection. Taxation. Of those ten countries with the lowest crime rates, three of them also appear in the list of countries with the highest tax rates. Denmark -- number 3 in tax rate, 9th lowest in crime. Japan -- number 7 in tax rate, 6th lowest in crime. Ireland -- number 10 in tax rate, 7th lowest in crime. If we only look at those examples we might conclude that the way to have low crime is to raise taxes. Apparently the liberals are right, and we should raise taxes to reduce crime, right? A more honest evaluation would be that taxation level, generally considered a liberal policy, is unrelated to violent crime.

Another example of false causality: country size. All of the countries on the list are relatively small geographically. Most are far smaller than most of our states! Does that mean that all the big countries in the world would have less crime if they just chopped themselves up into bite sized pieces? Perhaps if every county was self governing? More likely their is no causal relationship.

Now, let's look at the 'facts'. The writer claims that these four cities are among the highest in violent crime. According to neighborhood scout -- Detroit is number 3, St. Louis is 14, Baltimore is 18, and Washington DC is 29. Hardly the 4 worst in the country, like the writer makes it sound. Ignored are cities with more conservative bents like Myrtle Beach number 12, Indianapolis number 39. The reality is almost all big cities are Democratic in political bent, Of the top 50 cities in population, only two have Republican mayors -- Indianapolis, and Fort Worth, Texas. So most cities are liberal even those that would make the list of the big cities in the US with the lowest crime rates. Political party has no correlation here.

What the writer gets partially correct is the issue of racial segregation. The cities with the highest levels of racial segregation do experience higher levels of crime, but the cause is not the race of the individuals committing the crime nor the political party of their leadership. Rather it is the systemic, subtle racism which has been allowed to continue. When a city has a history of racial hatred and fear which leads to redlining, white-flight, and other formal or informal methods of segregation, it can hardly be surprising that those tensions eventually erupt into violence. Look at South Africa, Israel, Sarajevo, and countless other international examples.

So here's the point. Red Dawn, by drawing the conclusions that the most important issues leading to the violence in the cities are the race and politics of the individuals and not their history of persecution -- is actually perpetuating the very fear that has caused the problem in the first place. It may be subtle, it may be couched in misleading facts, but it is still bigotry. It is still racism.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Response to the Response to President Obama's Speech at the Prayer Breakfast

For what I am about to say, you will need to see this video. Also, remember that I am a pastor, a Christian, and not at all interested in becoming Muslim. I find much of Islam's teachings to be problematic. However I do not like false-characterization of the ugliness of my own faith's history, nor false-characterization of the faith of others.

I would never justify the crusades. Having read a great deal about them in my church history classes, they are one of the worst things that Christians have partaken in. There is very little good about them, and all Christians should be deeply embarrassed by them. He skips such things as the children's crusade, the knights slaughtering Christians because God would sort them out, and the whole concept of fighting a holy war solely for the purpose of taking back the holy land. These were foolish, bloody, and there was very little holy about them.

Dr. Bill Warner distorts several facts. The motivation for the Crusades was not to free Christians. There was the desire to push back the Muslim offensive -- I will give him that, but always the desire was to take back the holy land from the infidels (both Muslim and Jews). Christians were seldom freed by the actions.

The armies left with little provisions. As the armies traveled they looted they Christian cities along the way, fighting and killing people to feed the armies. When they arrived, they were seldom acting to free others, but simply to kill all. One example, on July 15th 1099, Christians took Jerusalem. What followed was a horrible bloodbath. Women were raped, infants thrown against the walls. A synagogue in which many Jews sought refuge was set fire and they were prevented from escaping. The eyewitnesses say that the horses waded in blood.

Third, he only considers the official crusades, and none of the other battles which Muslims might consider acts of aggression. Nor other Christians offensives into other lands. The establishment of Israel could certainly be considered one. I have heard Christians talk about Gulf war, the war in Iraq, and the war against terrorism as religious wars. If Christians talk about them in that way, how do you think Muslims perceive them? Although we see them as defensive -- they take place in their homelands -- so they probably don't feel defensive to those whose soil they take place on.

He talks about slavery but ignores that Islam has very strict guidelines on the treatment of those slaves, including seeing them as human beings with certain rights. Consider the millions of slaves that Christians have taken from Africa, and it was justified because they were not Christian, the treatment was inhumane and there were few if any rights. What follows is a deep and lasting problem of race relations in the US. He doesn't mention lynchings of Muslims in many Christian countries, several within the last year (see the Central African Republic for one example). You can bet those Muslim extremists do consider those acts.

He also claims that there is no command to kill non-Christians in the New Testament. Close, but not quite true. Jesus parable of the vineyard in Luke 20 (also in Matthew 21) has been used to justify the killing of non-Christians. Revelation frequently mentions the armies of God killing large numbers of people, and often when people start believing that the end of times is near, they justify themselves by saying that they are those armies.

He also assumes that all Muslims consider Jihad to be a physical war. The term itself means struggle and often does include military battle. However, some consider it to be the internal spiritual struggle. And he assumes that it has a negative connotation; however some wars -- even most Christians would agree -- are against such evil that they are indeed necessary and part of the duty of the followers of God.

Before you judge the president's words at the prayer breakfast, remember that history is often an ugly thing, that much evil has been done in the name of religion, and that denying our own capacity for evil is one of the first steps to committing great evil. Yes, ISIS, is committing great acts of evil. But the crusades were as well, as I quote one crusader, who was bragging about the holiness of the soldiers in their treatment of the women that had been left behind in a Turkish camp, "We did nothing evil to them, but simply speared them through." And I could go on and on through history pointing out Christian brutality -- we must be willing to see the log in our own eye, before working to help our brothers and sisters with theirs.