Ponderings on the Purpose of Law

Law is for the purpose of ‘cushioning’ where two diverse and valid rights collide and for maintaining a consistency whereby all can safely and in good faith pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  It ought not to be to control or limit rights out of revenge or promote any one group over another through preferential treatment or exclusion.  We all have the right to be who we want to be – until that collides with what someone else wants to be.  I have the right to smoke until I blow it in your face unwanted.  I cannot drive through red lights because others are going through the green ones.  I have the right to dislike or find appalling any behavior of yours and let you know that – so long as I do it in a respectful manner, acknowledging your rights to pursue it.  You have the same rights as me.  These intersect with and run afoul of one another – especially as we become a more diverse society with greater access to divergent opinions and worldviews.  Yet it is in that very diverseness that we find strength and can see ways around issues and reach out-of-the-box creative solutions.  Don’t tread on me and I do not tread on you – which means at times we need to each curtail some of our rights to permit others’ rights.  I am allowed to believe strongly what I believe, and so are you.  It is not discriminatory to disagree.  It is in the discourse of ideas that we come to an understanding of our uniqueness and infinite value as brothers, sisters, partners, friends, citizens of this great land.


“CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else.”

Chief Justice John Roberts – 6/17/2021

The Current Epidemic

I usually am a moderate in most of my posts because I see both sides. We do have an epidemic of violence that needs to be addressed. But it is not an epidemic of gun violence as much as it is an epidemic of a cheapening of life, an overzealous sense of personal right, an epidemic of financial and social desperation, and abuses of power. We have an epidemic of glorifying violence as a means to an end. Without addressing the root epidemic, any laws or rhetoric will be at best a bandaid over a chainsaw wound, and at worst a stripping of rights only from the law-abiding populace.

“…the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech…” – Barack Obama

The best way to follow the scripture “If it be possible, as much as in you is, have peace with all men” (Romans 12:18) is not to silence dissidence, but to promote rational and safe dialogue. It does little good to force someone to stay with you who yearns to leave. Control incites rebellion. The burning of books does not make their contents less believed, on the contrary it entices great curiosity over what might lie therein. We all have different ideas and values – and especially in a society as varied, rich, and complex as the United States, we need to be not only cognizant of others’ notions, but in dialogue about them with each other. Some ideas, to be certain, are not promoting the general welfare – and that will come out through rational discussion. Other ideas are simply mistaken – and through clear and open dialog, the laws of physics and characteristics of human nature will become evident. Committee may be a terrible way to run anything efficiently, but it is the only way to run something equitably.

The more we know about a person – the miles they have walked in their specific shoes, the rationale they have for what they hold to be true – the more we can see that they are not the enemy at all, rather a brother or sister with a different perspective we likely can also learn a thing or two from.

Unity in Days of Division

Asking the citizens of the great land of the United States to remain united. For peaceful discourse as this election wraps up and as we settle in to another four years with leaders barely elected. Remember that we really do need one another; burning bridges, gloating, or castigating will not help anyone or change any hearts or create any space we can build anything in. People have reasons for what they believe and accept ideologies and do what they do, even when it does not make sense to someone else. But it might take a good bit of tough listening to hear through the noise and know the heart. We need to work toward unity, not furthering the divides by pouring in salt to wounds – we need connective tissue to grow, not scar tissue. Our nation will not fail or succeed because of who is elected – it will fail or succeed because of what we as neighbors, citizens, families, friends, and acquaintances do to set aside enmity and find common ground for peace.

Racism and the USA

I have seen racism. I have seen bullying in childhood as well as in adult life. I have also been a victim of underlying racism and xenophobia while living as a foreigner in Japan for nearly a decade. The ‘gaijin’ concept in Japan is certainly systemic. I was questioned by the police on my relationships and told I had no place in the country regularly as I walked to and from the train station. At other times, mothers scooped their kids up and took them inside when I walked by their house. People would refuse to sit next to me on the train unless they had a rude request or a curious fascination. Some places flat out told me that their restaurant or clothing store was for natives only, and kindly redirected me to the tourist district.

Some of the things that went on are still hard to believe. This behavior was directed against me as a foreigner – systemic, pervasive, part of the underlying culture. To be a foreigner was to be suspect, assumed to be up to no good, distrusted, hated by some as messing with the cultural way of life by my very presence. It is a subconscious bias, woven into the history taught in elementary schools, the tv commercials, the pop culture, the news. It is subtle, ubiquitous, and ‘common sense’ among the general populace. That is what systemic means.

I would concede there are places in our great country of the United States where a culture of racist belief is firmly entrenched, but not everywhere nor to the same extent. I would also need to concede that as a white guy growing up in a predominantly white community between the ages of 10 and 20, there is likely a great deal I was insulated from or unaware of. Your experience with racism or bigotry may certainly differ.

I have seen it raise its ugly head in the way news is presented or the accused treated by authorities. But not everywhere and again, it is subtle. Most folks, if accused, would not believe it, would not believe they are guilty of being a part of it. Some victims have bought into it, assuming this is the way things are.

However, even the tiniest mote of such a scapegoating and xenophobic and demeaning attitude (whether subconscious or intentional) is unacceptable in our nation. It poisons the well. It clouds the freedoms we have declared as immutable for every person by our Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

In many other places, such behavior and thought are encouraged as a means to solidify the ruling class or national genetic heritage. But the USA is founded on the belief that humanity has a set of common human rights, that governance should be by the people – not by a ruling class, and that all people are created equal. A racist mentality goes strongly counter to the ‘why’ of our existence as a nation. It is, therefore, more apt to secrecy and more publicly hated when unearthed. It comes out as a big deal and gets used by politicians of all designations to point fingers at the other … interestingly, another type of xenophobism, and deeply hypocritical at that.

Although I am still a bit skeptical of a national, systemic racist bias – or at least an organized and intentional one – I do, of course, see even intense racism in specific cities and communities. I am also aware of several inherent biases I am personally working to overcome. Interestingly, none of them surround the color of one’s skin – but that’s just how I was personally brought up. I am not any better or worse than anyone. Everyone has inherent and often unconscious biases, stemming from personal experience as much as upbringing. Awareness is key to combating this. I highly recommend taking several bias tests at Project Implicit® from Harvard University for some curious introspection.

We need diversity exactly because we are all diverse.

Any racism is intolerable. Any bias starts to fray the very fabric of what we are about as a nation and society. We all need one another. That is not to say we are all exactly the same – otherwise, we would not need one another. We need diversity exactly because we are all diverse. The key is that no one has lesser or greater value, potential, or worth – but we are each a unique and inestimably valuable work of art. My faith tells me that the Creator intentionally made us all unique. Divisions such as male or female or somewhere in-between are all a part of who we are. Skin color and heritage and language and culture are all a rich contribution to the larger society in which we each live, breathe, and have our being. We need each other; we need peaceful discourse over our differences and over our different mindsets to enrich society as a whole.

The United States is a grand experiment toward equality from its inception. Not a perfect one, by any means, but one with grand and sweeping ideals and lofty goals. Reading our founding documents is inspiring. Government of, by, and for the people. All people created equally. Working together for a common defense and welfare. Noble ideas way ahead of their time.

Since our humble beginings, we have matured some – disavowed slavery, passed laws to ensure equality in pay and opportunity, and granted universal suffrage for all citizenry. But not without terrible growing pains – and there is certainly a great deal more left for us to do. Humanity will always have a distrust for the unfamiliar or unique while at the same time curiosity and fascination. Our founding principles demand we continue seeking justice and equality and provisions of equity regardless of how difficult it may be – while refraining from revenge. Revenge merely moves the weight of bias and racism to a new victim instead of removing it.

What we need is systemic acceptance. We need the arguably Voltairean concept of “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” The understanding that we are all in the same sinking ship and need to work together to keep even partially afloat. We desperately need each other – especially when we disagree or are different in some way or have an out-of-the-box thought. That is the benefit of our great land, we the people are an eclectic mix and have the legal right to be different and speak out about our differences. We bring various ideas and unique perspectives together in ways that few others can.

What we need is systemic acceptance.

Yet we are still wrestling through the struggle actually to achieve the intended and declared goals of our founding. This is not because our forefathers were racist or intolerant bigots – it is because we are people, humans on a journey, imperfect and in need of both grace and deep repentance and change. We need to overcome and stand alongside the persecuted and privileged alike, aligning ourselves with the motto on the Statue of Liberty, the ‘Mother of Exiles’ – gatepost to entry to our Land of the Free…

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.Send these,

the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Such are all who chose to come here; yearning to be free, deemed wretched by our homelands, not fitting in, seeking rest from the tempest – regardless of (and often due to) the color of our skin or language or culture or race. Undeniably, this is how we owe to treat those who were brought here without choice or found themselves in our midst as well.

Systemic inclusion, systemic acceptance needs to be our cry and our daily action as written on our founding code. As difficult as it may seem. Bringing about a Land that rings true to the goals and dreams of our inception. An ideal that echoes in the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, a few excerpts I will post here in closing for your pondering, although I recommend the entirety of this great message …

“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”…

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”…

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.…

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:Free at last! Free at last!Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”


Teaching the Gifted

Many ‘smart’ kids never learn how to learn. At first, it comes too easy, and then when challenge comes, they do not know what to do. Learning how to conceptualize multiple solutions and then implement one without decision paralysis (and especially letting them know this means multiple iterations until the best solution is found) would help a lot of people.

False expectations on brain power are no match for hard work and persistence. It is not those with better tools that are successful in life – but those who put what they do have to best use. It is a good thing to be intelligent. To like thinking. To be capable of understanding things easily. To connect ideas out in out of the box and creative ways. However, unless these abilities can be harnessed by the possessor, they are as useless as an unplugged super computer or sportscar without fuel.

Cultivate intelligence and a love of learning, but compliment kids on their effort, especially repeated effort until success. It is a better result to get a ‘B’ in math and truly understand the concepts and be able to apply them in real-word situations, than to get an ‘A’ on the examples and textbook problems on a standardized test.

On Guns in the USA

I am deeply saddened at the attacks that have become so seemingly commonplace these days. Yet after living in Japan, I know that humankind will find a way to perpetrate horrible things without guns. Drive-by sarin gas attacks, bombs on the subway, and a lot of knife killings (including one where a guy broke into an elementary school and sliced up a classroom of kids before taking his own life). I’m all for better controls and checks on guns – but don’t think a ban would do much more than change the weapons of choice, or only give those who already disobey the law an advantage. Pipebombs, ricin, pressure cookers, explosives made from manure that took out an entire building, these have all been used in the not-too-distant past here in the US. We need to address underlying social, psychological, and spiritual issues much more than pass a few laws.

These attacks cause such tragedy and injustice. Especially because these were not carried out by some external power seeking to tear our society apart, but by citizens, some with criminal intent, others with delusions. The weapons used were whatever was expedient, and guns are ubiquitous, on sale at grocery stores. However, if guns were not so readily accessible, other options do abound. Daily items such as manure, turpentine, chlorine bleach, gasoline, LPG, kitchen knives, axes, chainsaws, fireworks, motor vehicles – all are useable for destructive purpose. Broadly banning anything that could possibly be used to cause harm is not the long term way to fix our problems.

Many have a deep distrust in our institutions, our police, our seats of power. We have removed God and faith and therefore, a reason for acting sacrificially of personal rights. And we have enshrined violence as the way to deal with frustrations and issues not immediately conforming to our felt needs.

Dealing with these three failings (and others) will have far more impact on the safety and solidarity of our nation than merely passing laws about a specific type of weapon. Although such laws may help in the short term. They would be but a band-aid over a chainsaw wound to the chest.


 Failure is not to be admired, rather not wasting failure is to be admired.

– Christopher M. Kelly

Failure does not need to be the end. We all try things and fail, it is one of the main ways we learn and grow, and arguably it is the only way we attain success. Failure and getting back up and trying again are the stuff of epic legends and blockbuster movies.

However, espousing the notion that one’s employees should be able to fail and learn is easier than implementing company policy that does so.


Striving and Accepting

““Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Gospel of Matthew 6:19~21

For me this verse is at first seemingly very simple.  Earthly treasures do not last, heavenly treasures do.  

In other words, the most important things in life are not those that are temporary.  Money goes away, physical treasures rust and decay, bodies age; however, loving others, devoting time to those who cannot repay you, and repenting from sin provide an eternal reward (one that might not be entirely seen while on Earth).  We are commanded here to not focus on the temporary, but on the eternal.  Why invest all your focus in things designed to wear out instead of things designed to bring permanent increase and blessing?

In this same sermon, Jesus continues with:

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 3But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Gospel of Matthew 6:25~33

This expands the simple concept of investing in eternal things instead of temporal things to the concept that God will care for your temporal needs if you focus in on the eternal ones.

That takes a lot of trust!

It’s not saying that we must never seek or invest in mundane things, but that we need to first seek the heavenly – put God first.  We still need to cut the grass and save a portion of our wages for the future.  But did we spend time in prayer today as well as in cutting the grass?  Did we invest money and time in service to others less fortunate before we budgeted what we had to save?  Or did we go to the chores first and only if there was enough time, sit down and pray?  Did we pay ourselves first, then the bills, then get groceries, and only if there was any time or money left after that, give to the poor out of the leftovers?

If we read through the Old Testament, we can see that God does not want our leftovers.  Seems to me a constant theme through the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  All these laws about what kind of sacrifice to give for which thing all have in common the idea of the best of the heard or the first fruits of the crops.  

After all this is the God who created everything and is therefore not really in need of anything – especially second-hand things left over from what He granted us or gave us the strength to produce in the first place.  We don’t give back to God because He needs it to change the world or because He is lacking in anything.  We are to give to God the very best of what we have as an act of sacrifice and trust.  

It is a sacrifice, because if we give away our best then we don’t have it to use on ourselves or to direct as we wish.  It involves trust because if we give away our best then we are relying on God to keep His promises to add to us what we need instead of using our strength to try to gain it for ourselves.

Where is our focus?  Is it God first?  Or is it the mundane and material things that rust and decay?  Honestly, I tend to focus on those human and physical things.  I want money to pay bills, effect home repair, pay for kids’ college, buy food, keep the heat on.  I spend far more time focusing on pleasure or work than on reading the Bible or prayer.  When looking for a job, I first consider the salary and hours involved before I consider the impact for Christ.  According to Jesus’ sermon in Matthew, this is all putting the cart before the horse!

Human wisdom says that we deserve happiness, need to pay ourselves first, have to care for our needs so that we can care for the needs of others.  But Jesus is telling us to forgo those things and seek Him first – commanding us really.  Then He tells us that God will add to us (note this is not an earned wage) the things that we need – food, clothing, shelter, purpose, meaning, satisfaction, joy, peace, belonging, love.  

How very interesting that when we invest in heavenly things, the things of this earth grow strangely dim.

Under Authority

As a Christian, I am a person under Authority.  The Lord Jesus is my king.  I love Him and I worship Him.  He is the greatest superhero I could have ever imagined and the only real one I have ever known.  Since He is my Lord, He is authority over me.  He decides what I am to spend my thoughts on, what I am to do, believe, adopt and reject.  He decides what is best for me to pursue.  His desires trump my wants and felt needs.  His commands supersede my natural inclinations, DNA, and intrinsic motivations.

This is OK because He loves me and designed me and wants me to have a truly abundant life.  We ought to accept that He knows better than we do about what will truly satisfy, what our true skills are, what will engage us the most, what will be the happiest path, what will be the path that strengthens and blesses us individually as well as those around us.

Now all of that sounds really scary if Jesus were just human.  I’ve just elevated him to cult-leader status!  Honestly, I would not trust a pastor, a best friend, a TV personality or any politician in the same way or with the same confidence.  I certainly would not trust any organization – business, political party, or church – in this way, either.  Nor would I advocate for that.  So what is the difference?

Well, if Jesus did not die on the cross in my place for my sins and then rise from the dead to prove his being God incarnate, then I would not believe in him or trust him to be my guide, let alone my Lord.  This is essential to research for yourself if you are skeptical or unsure.  If Jesus died just because he had some trumped-up trial for no deeper purpose or reason, then he is not worthy of trust or following.  If Jesus did not actually claim equality with God in his lifetime and perform attesting miracles, then perhaps folks made up stories about him after his death.  If he did not prove his claims of being equal to God by bodily resurrecting from the dead, then he is not powerful enough to actually save me – and how would he have any say in the matter?

Even the scriptures say that if Jesus did not die on our behalf and rise from the dead then our faith is in vain (I Corinthians 15:12~19).  Certainly the disciples were surprised, because even though they had been told multiple times what was going to happen they simply could not believe it.  Peter rebuked Jesus for saying such things before it happened (Matthew 16:21~23).  After the Ressurection, Thomas refused to believe eyewitness testimony until Jesus stood before him and he touched his wounds to verify they were real (John 20:24 ~ 25).

It is only because I have become convinced that Jesus is God incarnate, did take my place on a cross to pay for my sins before I ever thought to ask, and bodily rose from the dead that I consider him to be Lord.

That said, there are two things I need to admit and mention:

  1. I do not always do what I am supposed to do.  I fail as an act of my personal will.  I sometimes dabble in things I know my Lord has forbid.  Sometimes I jump in wholeheartedly thinking I have some special case or permission – or that it can’t really be all that bad.  These are instances of sin that I need to confess and repent of, and apologize from the heart for.  They are not logical to pursue when I believe that Jesus died on the cross in my place for these very things.  It is hypocrisy.  I am ashamed of them after I do them.  They hurt others and myself and put me in places where God has to go after me and bring me back to get me on the right path.  They sometimes carry consequences.  I praise God that He has mercy and grace sufficient for my failures – but that is no excuse for me doing them.
  2. There are times when God’s plans and knowledge of reality are vastly different than my hopes and limited understanding of reality.  The Lord will at times place me in situations or places that I do not want, things I do not understand, things that are painful to endure or distasteful to me.  In those times, I am supposed to praise the God worthy of praise regardless of my situation.  I am to thank God for what He is doing and trust that He knows better instead of getting angry or bitter or frustrated.  (However, see number 1 above).

God’s ways are higher than I can attain understanding of and more intricate and custom-built than I could ever imagine.  He works with me and speaks to me and guides me to scriptures and friends and helps me understand – but there are many times when I just have to say the situation is ‘above my pay-grade’ and lean on trusting in my Jesus.  Sometimes I need to wait out a situation.  Sometimes my Lord has simply said ’No’ to me.  Sometimes my desires are in line with God’s plans.  But regardless, I need to focus in on the fact that God is God, not me.  Not even over my own life and situation.  Certainly not over anyone else’s.

Since He is Lord, Jesus has the rights to command me.  I desire to obey because I believe He has my best interest in mind as well as for all those around me – friend or foe.  I sadly balk at times because I do not like being told what to do – and this is always disastrous on some level.  Yet, in His love, patience and grace, He always draws me back to Him and the conclusion that His ways are best.