Thoughts on Charlottesville

It has taken me a while to write this. My heart hurts with what has happened, and it is difficult for me to find words. However, I know I cannot be silent.

I am a Christian. I am male. I am southern. I am descended from ancestors who were primarily Anglican and Celtic. I am proud to be each of these, and I should be. They are who I am. They are what made me.

But, I am also angry. No, I am outraged. How DARE these perversions of everything I hold dear openly proclaim the direct antithesis of these values while claiming to operate under their banner?

My faith tells me God created all things, and all of humankind is in his likeness. We are all descended from one man and one woman. Scripture never mentions race. It talks about tribes and nations, but those are political and cultural differences.

More than being a man, I strive to be a gentleman. This means I treat everyone with civility and respect regardless of background, social standing, and or potential benefit to me. Even more than that, I am a southern gentleman. I say y’all, sir, and ma’am. I can brew the best sweet tea you have ever tasted and put away fried chicken with the best of them.

As I research my ancestors, I find men who fought with honor. Unfortunately, through the lens of history we see that their causes all had blemishes. Slavery during the Civil War is at the forefront, but the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, treatment of the Native-Americans during the westward expansion, and the allowance of slavery in the first place are all dark blemishes on our collective past. But, as painful as reminders of these can be, it is important to keep them at the forefront of our memory.

The memory of this nation is short. We need the reminders. We need to be shocked. We need to experience the pain of what we have done. Only through that will be always be on our guard to never let it happen again.

We cannot rewrite history. We must celebrate the accomplishments of the past while recognizing the failures of the same men we herald. There is no historical figure who was perfect, and neither are we. It is up to us to do the very best we can to strive towards the ideal of liberty and equality espoused in our founding documents. We will never be perfect, but we can be better. We must be better. We will be better.

That being said, there is no place in the political conversation for those who wish to eliminate or segregate all those who disagree with them. The foundation of our political system is discourse, not violence. Until we return to civility with each other, the nature of our republic itself is in jeopardy.

Violence has no place in the discussion, from either side. If you feel the need to resort to violence, you should re-evaluate your argument. White supremacists who defend your arguments with scripture, try reading it for yourself for a change. Don’t call yourself Christian until you start behaving like a follower of Christ. Don’t claim your racism represents southern heritage until you embrace how many aspects of southern culture came from Africa.

We are one nation. This nation was built on the idea that ALL men (and women) are created equal. They share the same rights, responsibilities, and struggles. We are all in it together. Let’s act like it.

Thoughts on the Inauguration

“The terms of the President and the Vice-President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3rd day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.”
~ United States Constitution, 20th Amendment, Paragraph 1

January 20th. Every four years, the executive branch of government in United States changes. It is a time of celebration for the victors, and of mourning for the defeated. Today, Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States. He has been called both a great liberator and the next Hitler. A hero and a sexual predator. But today, for both his supporters and opposition, he will be President. But even more importantly, he is just a man. A man who holds the highest office in the land, but still a man.

President Obama has served this country for eight years. While I disagree with many of his policies and actions, I am grateful for his service. It is no small task to bear that responsibility and spend that amount of time in the spotlight. While I am all for opposition to policies, he and his family were attacked for things well outside the sphere of things which are up for public discussion. These attacks were despicable.

President Trump will likewise have many detractors. Some opposition will be legitimate; some will be attacks on matters not involving the public interest. As always, this country is sharply divided. Some say this division is the worst it has ever been, but I don’t believe that assertion. It is simply more highlighted than it has been in the past. Social media, despite its positive attributes, reinforces the divisions by highlighting stories which with the viewer agrees, and hiding those in opposition. So, to everyone reading this, I encourage you to be a critical consumer of information. Don’t fall for the click bait, alarmist headlines, and other marketing tricks so prevalent in these times. Check stories from multiple sources, including international when possible.

To my liberal friends, both you and the country will survive this. Our Constitution has survived great presidents, horrible presidents, times of great tragedy, and times of great prosperity. And it was designed to do so.

Federalist 10 makes it clear The Constitution was developed to allow for these changes:

It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.

Even in my lifetime, the country has swung from Reagan and Bush to Clinton, to Bush, to Obama, and now to Trump. That is why we have a system of checks and balances. And that system is what makes this country great. The presidency, while the most visible, is still just one office under our system of government.

To my conservative and libertarian friends, do not fail to hold Trump accountable because he has an R after his name. Everyone is taught about the systems of checks and balances. But most of the discussion is focused on the three branches of the national government. But in reality, it is so much more than that. The media must perform their role of letting the citizenry know what is going on. Focus on true journalism, not sensationalism. The national government is accountable to the states. The states are accountable to the national government. The branches are accountable to each other. And most importantly, all of government is accountable to its people. If the Trump administration pursues a policy which is in violation of conservative principles, let your outrage be heard. The other side surely will, and it does no one any good by our silence we get our consent.

We do not know what type of President he will be. But I do pray that he will be given wisdom and understanding. I pray that the country will prosper, be safe and secure, and be worthy of the patriotism of its citizens. Let us unite as one nation and let us all be Americans.

Farewell to Another Mentor

In September of 2004, I walked into a classroom of a man who quite frankly scared me to death. I hated math, but was still faced with a college algebra course my first term in college. To say I was terrified does not begin to describe my emotion. I would like to say that Dr. John S. Robertson was quick to alleviate my fears, but this is not the case. The more he lectured, the more terrified I became. This was a man whose brilliance was as intimidating as his bold red suspenders were distracting.

I still hate math. But, over the course of the next two years, and with the benefit of retrospect, I learned so much more from him than I ever imagined. He demonstrated to me how to manage a classroom. He showed me how to reward students who make an effort. He strove to reassure me that it was possible to be both a man of science and logic while being a man of faith. He introduced me to the world of Biblical apologetics. While we did not share the same denomination, we did share the same faith and he taught me the importance of being able to defend and describe what I believe.

He was also the faculty advisor for the GMC Amateur Radio Club, of which I was the only member. On the occasions where we would have meetings, we would sit together long after formal adjournment and discuss things related to radio, to science, to faith, and to life. Without realizing it was happening, I was being given a model of the liberal arts experience.

Dr. Robertson and I fell out of touch after his retirement, which is something I hate. But, I can still see his influences each time I stand before a classroom, each time I engage in a theological discussion, and each time I am trying to make sense of a math problem. He had a tremendous impact on my life, as I am sure he has on countless others during his years of teaching at the United States Military Academy, Georgia College, and Georgia Military College. He passed away last week; I didn’t find out until the funeral was in progress. Since I was not able to pay my respects in person, on behalf of all of his former students, I say thank you. You will be missed.

Obituary

I don’t have a picture of us together, but this is pretty close. If I remember correctly, he took this picture while we were operating a Special Event Station at the GMC Business Office.

Hello, Session

Today marked the opening of the 2013 Session of the Georgia General Assembly. As I watched the Oath ceremony via web broadcast, it brought back a swarm of memories from my internship in 2007. So, I thought I would share a few of the images from those few months with you.

One of the things I got to do early in my internship was to attend the Inaugural Ball for Governor Sonny Purdue.
One of the things I got to do early in my internship was to attend the Inaugural Ball for Governor Sonny Purdue.
To date, this is still the best dressed I've ever been. This was with my friend Jade Morey, who was in College Republicans with me at the time and now also works at Georgia College.
To date, this is still the best dressed I’ve ever been. This was with my friend Jade Morey, who was in College Republicans with me at the time. Now, she also works with me at Georgia College.
This was my HUGE work station in the committee room for Ways and Means in the House of Representatives.
This was my HUGE work station in the committee room for Ways and Means in the House of Representatives.
In addition to getting to getting to work in the capitol, we were invited to many different receptions. This one was hosted by the University of Georgia. They brought along the mascot (Uga V at that time) for pictures.
In addition to getting to getting to work in the capitol, we were invited to many different receptions. This one was hosted by the University of Georgia. They brought along the mascot (Uga V at that time) for pictures.
This was the group shot of all of the House Interns.
This was the group shot of all of the House Interns.
This was my picture with the governor, taken on Valentine's Day. I forgot until I was already at work it was picture day, or else I would have NOT worn that tie...
This was my picture with the governor, taken on Valentine’s Day. I forgot until I was already at work it was picture day, or else I would have NOT worn that tie…
This was my official headshot, GC colored tie and all.
This was my official headshot, GC colored tie and all.

I can honestly say that my internship was one of my favorite experiences in college. If you’re interested in it, let me know and I will be glad to answer any questions, at least about the program in Georgia. Even though it has been quite a few years, I still get excited at the thought of it.

Reaction to the Election

I will go ahead and say this as a disclaimer, this post will probably make people mad. But, this has been weighing on me.

I am disappointed by the election. I’m not going to even avoid that statement. I never liked Mitt Romney, but he would have been better than what we have had for the past four years. But what has grieved me was more the response from my fellow “conservatives.” From people I have considered friends over the years and who claim the name of Christ, I have now heard talk of succession, assassination, and open revolt. How ignorant of history and Biblical doctrine can you be?

Obama did not win the election. Republicans gave it to him. They abandoned the principles by which they once stood to nominate someone they thought could be competitive. It didn’t work in 2008, and it didn’t work in 2012. I am no prophet, but I’m willing to bet it will not work in 2016 either. Judging from the election and the ads, the average individual could not tell you one thing the party supported. What would they know instead?

  • Defeat Obama
  • Repeal Obamacare
  • Taxes are bad
  • Debt is bad

That is not any way to run a campaign, or win hearts and minds. Don’t tell me what you are against, tell me what you are for. Plant your standard, hoist your flag, and be an advocate for SOMETHING.

Instead of attacking Democrats, tell me what you would do and how it will make my life better. Talk about the proper role of government and the 18 paragraphs in Article 1, Section 8 where that is found. Talk about how the 10th Amendment leaves everything else to the states. If Massachusetts wants a health care system, they can have it. But, Massachusetts and Illinois cannot make Georgia have it.

Talk about personal responsibility. It is much larger than welfare. The same mindset applies to many other areas, from students saying “just give me a B” and helicopter parents swooping in to save the day, and threaten lawsuits when a deserved grade is received.

The response to Tuesday’s results has been far more depressing than the actual event itself. The defeat was political. Why we lost was spiritual. I have news for the world. Mitt Romney is not the Messiah. He will not be able to save the world, or the country. That is a role for Jesus Christ, and for him alone.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
Romans 13: 1-3

God was not surprised by the outcome. He knew the results far before he laid the foundations of the world. So, what is the point in running around talking about the world ending? How do you think you running around talking about treason honors the Lord?

The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
Proverbs 21: 1

You want to win in 2016? Pray for a revival instead of a victory. The church has turned into a compromising pile of vomit (no, not too strong of a word, read Revelation) before the eyes of the Lord. In the Lord only is our salvation. Not a presidential candidate, not a policy, not a program. None of that will work. Most of the laws which have caused so much controversy would have not been necessary if the Church had been doing its job.

You want to avoid gay marriage  Focus on building strong marriages and keeping that covenant sacred. There is no scale of sin. Sodomy is no worse than adultery,  fornication,  or idolatry. Yet, while sodomy causes outrage, the others are tolerated on a daily basis, even among church leadership!

You tired of the social welfare programs? When was the last time you gave money to the poor? When was the last time you fed the hungry? If the body of Christ did it, the government would not have to start new programs.

You want the government to be responsible? How much are you in debt? Do you accept responsibility for your actions, even the really dumb ones, or do you want someone to get you out of it? Ever had a ticket fixed? That’s a bailout.

We as individuals, and as the Church, need to get our own house in order. Then, when we talk about these issues, our hypocrisy will not be a nausea causing stench to the nostrils.

A really unusual class

It is always fun when you walk into your classroom, and you realize that sitting in your class that period are the University President, the Vice President for External Relations and University Advancement, the Associate Vice President for Strategic Communications, the Director of Alumni & Parent Relations, several other professors (some quite noted in their field), and a member of the United States House of
Representatives. I knew several of them were going to be there, but it was quite overwhelming at the overall turnout.

Rep. Paul Broun was the guest speaker for my class yesterday. While I wish I could take credit for it, it was actually Gregg Kaufman, the campus Coordinator for the American Democracy Project.  I did manage to get a few pictures during the course of the Townhall style meeting. There was a panel of students who asked questions, and then the audience had a chance to submit questions as well.

 

Rep. Broun addresses the audience.
It was almost a full house in the Auditorium.
Rep. Broun holding up his pocket Constitution.

Constitution Day, and a guest

Source: National Archives and Records Administration

There are days in history which speak their own importance. No one questions July 4th as a national holiday in the United States, nor should they. But what about September 17th? Is this day any less important? The Declaration of Independence was vital to the creation of this country, and yes, set forth some basic principles of governance. But, the Declaration is not the document that has governed the United States since that humid summer day in 1776.

But the principles set forth in the Declaration were just that: Principles. The United States as we know it did not come into existence until overly a decade later. On September 17th, 1787 the Constitutional Convention approved the document which we now call the United States Constitution. While the government would not be officially established under this document until March of 1789 following ratification, this is the day we celebrate the document itself.

This document was not without controversy, both during the convention (which had been called to amend the Articles of Confederation, not replace them) and during ratification. But, in the end, the Constitution was ratified based on a compromise which included the addition of a Bill of Rights.

Today, we celebrate the constitution. We celebrate the separation of powers. We celebrate the checks and the balances. We celebrate the republican form of government. But most of all, we celebrate “An empire in many respects the most interesting in the world.”[1] Hamilton goes on to write:

It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.[2]

Georgia College marked today by taking over my class (literally, I teach in the Auditorium) for a guest speaker. Dr. Bruce Stinebrickner was outstanding. I’ve heard many Constitution Day lectures, but this one was out of the park. Instead of doing as is typical and focusing on the Bill of Rights, he walked through a few features which made the body of the document unique. The three branches of government with full separation of powers only exist in one other country. With most other democracies, if you control parliament, you control the executive by default. Then he went on to who involved the public is in the nomination process. Most nominees are selected by the party insiders, not by the general population.

So, from this “reflection and choice” we have a document which has governed the United States for over two centuries with only 27 formal amendments. Political discussions aside, it is my firm belief, that this document has indeed been a prevention to the “general misfortune of mankind.”

Dr. Stinebrickner addresses three classes, and quite a few visitors, in the packed house at the Arts & Science Auditorium. Yes, that is the room where I teach twice a week.
And this was the view from the VIP section. Or, the section for the most junior part-time faculty member who was running the sound and assisting with the smart board. This space is also commonly referred to as the Green Room.

[1] Federalist 1, para 1.

[2] Ibid.

Where were you?

Every generation has a certain date where everyone knows exactly where they were and what they were doing. For some, it was the sinking of RMS Lusitania. For others, it is the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the assassination of John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King, Jr. For my generation, it will always be September 11th, 2001. The image burned into my mind is not that of the towers falling or of the people running in terror.

Instead, the image that promptly comes to mind is one very much like the one above, that of the Appling County Courthouse. My family and I were on our way to vacation at Jekyll Island. Well, it was a vacation for Mom and I. Dad was going to a conference. That morning, heading south for one last week of fun in the sun before we said goodbye to summer, we heard the news on the radio. It was more than my sixteen year old brain could wrap itself around. We got he early reports about an hour form the house. As we drove, more and more radio stations abandoned normal programming and went to straight news feed. By the time we got to Baxley, it was obvious it wasn’t an accident. That’s where the veterans memorial in a rural south Georgia town comes into play.

It sits next to a red light. That red light stopped our progress towards the beach, or by our thinking at the time, cable news. Sitting at that light in our old, forest green Chevy Blazer, I looked to the right and saw those flags. There are five of them around the memorial. The two on the left were at full staff. The two on the right were at half-mast. The one in the middle was being lowered. The rest of the week has faded into a horrific blur. That is the moment that stands out.

It has been running through my mind all day. But, there rose good news from the smoke and the ashes of that horrid day. The United States came together and became unified in a way I had not seen before. We worked together. We moved forward. The American spirit is strong enough to survive a crisis. In fact, crisis purifies and strengthens that spirit and makes it even stronger than before.

As the smoke cleared away, Al-Qaeda was faced with a harsh reality. Like Admiral Yamamoto before them, they soon found that instead of bringing the United States to its knees, they had only succeeded in waking a sleeping giant. And that giant is still awake, and this country is still strong. The American spirit survives.

Nerd Prom – 2012

Every year, the seriousness of politics in Washington, DC turns for a few hours into silliness and comedy. This tradition, begun in 1920 by the White House Correspondents’ Association, has since turned into an annual extravaganza where the Beltway elite gather for a little self-deprecating humor and light-hearted relief.

This year featured Jimmy Kimmel with the customary opening by the President. The video, posted on C-SPAN’s YouTube page, is embedded below.

President Obama:

Jimmy Kimmel:

If you would like to see last year’s speeches, they are also still available.