Category Archives: musings

Should Christian women wear bikinis?

Bottom line: Be mindful of your wardrobe’s effect on others. That is, if you want to be viewed as a person and not an object.

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Individualism vs Collectivism – The True Debate of Our Time

Some short term mission trip stats

In order to try out my cool new charting plugin I decided to gather some statistics on short term mission trip opportunities from ShortTermMissions.com. Enjoy!

dyerware.com


The case for private law enforcement

Jamie Campbell: Cultivating Spaces: Tending the Sacred

How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb …in Obamacare

From the Forbes’s article which attempts to persuade us that Obamacare really is chock full of puppy dogs and sunshine just as Obama promised:

Failure on the part of insurers to meet this requirement will result in the insurers having to send their customers a rebate check representing the amount in which they underspend on actual medical care.

That sounds all well and good until you stop and think about it. Who decides what constitutes “underspending”? Ultimately, under Obamacare, prices will be driven up through inflation as outrageous hospital bills are presented as evidence along with insurance companies’s counter-proposals that they are “underspending”.

A concrete example of this would be my recent experience my fourth child’s birth.

By the fourth child you pretty much know what’s going on and, barring any complications, things generally tend to go like clockwork. Well thankfully that’s pretty much what happened in our case. Biologically the birth was seamless, labor for about 2 hours, 3 pushes, and we welcome our son into the world.

So what could I possibly say about an uninteresting birth to show how Obamacare is such a terrible idea?

Enter the nurses.

When we arrived at the hospital we were taken to the prep room where my wife was to change into a hospital gown, get checked, and wait for the room to be prepared for us. It took my wife about 5 minutes to get prepared and it was apparently somewhat of a slow day so rooms were available and already prepped. But it still took us about 30 minutes to get into one. Why? Apparently there are new regulations which call for the nurses to play 20 questions with the mother-to-be before she can be admitted into a room. This process took so long that the mid-wife, who is not considered a medical professional by the way, decided to cut in and actually check how far along my wife was. I’m glad she did, too, because my wife was basically ready to deliver right then.

We were quickly whisked into a delivery room where the nurse playing 20 questions was joined by a team of nurses whose primary focus was to give my wife an IV because she had tested positive for strep and according to their regulations the mother needed to have at least two doses of an antibiotic before giving birth, a process which they expected to take about 20 minutes. Keep in mind at this point my wife was completely ready, biologically, to give birth.

This IV was so important to the hospital staff that they called in at least 4 different nurses to try and find a vein. After the fourth my wife finally told them she couldn’t hold back anymore and would push whether they liked it or not. I passed the last nurse who had tried to give my wife the IV in the hall later and overheard her complaining to the head nurse about how she didn’t want to get written up because procedures hadn’t been followed to the letter. So all the nurses run out into the hall way to discuss the situation and how to reconcile what is happening in the delivery room to their procedures, leaving us alone with only the midwife in the room.

And that’s how we welcomed my 3rd son into the world. With the medical professionals debating their procedures in the hallway while the non-medical professionals, unencumbered by a sense of obligation to follow procedure or the threat of the loss of our jobs if we failed to follow that procedure, got the job done.

The following morning my wife was cleared to leave by her doctor about 12 hours after giving birth but the nurses wouldn’t let her go until she had been there a minimum of 24 hours because, once again, procedure had to be followed.

Two weeks later we received the bills from the hospital. All told the hospital is charging about $14,000 for about 12 hours worth of work and since its itemized we get to see that my wife was given an $11 aspirin (single pill) and my son was given a $6 passifier (we bought a two-pack of the same passifier from a store for less than $4). Thankfully we won’t have to pay the full $14,000+ bill. My employer has graciously provided me with an insurance plan I had no say in and that plan is supposed to help deflate the bill somewhat. By how much we don’t know yet, hopefully it won’t be more than what we budgeted.

And that brings be back to why the bomb the Forbes article tries to tell us is actually a good thing is not, in fact, a good thing.

You see, the insurance company is rightly going to counter the hospital’s outrageous bill with a statement of how much they think it should be and they will base their percentage of coverage on that. Under Obamacare it seems the insurance company will simply be forced to pay whatever magic numbers the bean counters at the hospital dream up. In other words, we will be moving from a badly damaged pseudo-market system to a completely centrally controlled one where the prices charged have absolutely no relation to the real world at all. The hospital can charge thousands of dollars for an aspirin and under Obamacare insurance companies will be forced to pay every cent either then or later after the customer has been stuck with the bill. Either way the result is the same, the cost of medical care will skyrocket because of their government-granted monopoly.

Of course that’s not the only change that will take place. The other part of Obamacare is, as the Forbes article rightly notes, the destruction of any “for-profit” insurance company. Meaning the only insurers who will be able to survive such lunacy are insurance companies that don’t have to operate according to the virtuous system of profit and loss. It is, as was noted before Obamacare passed, the perfect scenario for sneaking in through the backdoor a universal healthcare system.

Now you might be thinking at this point that free healthcare for everyone sounds like a great idea. But there are two catches to that notion.

One is the simple fact that nothing is free. Defenders of other socialized healthcare systems like to point to how their cost of medical care is cheaper than ours. But if the cost of medical care is fixed by the state then such a claim makes no sense since it cannot be objectively compared to anything else. Remember that $11 aspirin? We only know that such a price is outrageous because we have a much more free market outside the hospital which currently charges as little as .0001 cents per pill.1 If the prices were fixed, as they were during World War II for many goods, we simply have no way to know whether we are being over or under charged.2

The other is that the further you remove the good or service provider from the person paying for the good or service, the less of an incentive the provider has for making sure what they are providing is worthwhile to the consumer. The insistence of the nurses to follow procedure rather than attend to the actual medical need highlights this point.

As I said in a discussion on this topic on Facebook:

It would help to drive costs down if I were the one paying for my care, even if I leveraged an insurance company who is my client and not my employers’, and if I were the one who got to determine my care, instead of merely accepting whatever the doctors and nurses dictated to me.

The answer to our healthcare problem is not more intervention. Its freedom.

  1. A quick search yielded a deal on Amazon of .01 for 100-pills. []
  2. Consequently, this is also why its invalid for economists to claim that World War 2 brought us out of our recession []

Why are Christians not winning the culture war on marriage?

We respond to polished presentations like this:

With this:

I support traditional marriage but if I had to make a decision based solely on the testimonies above I’d have to side with the person who made an articulate case based on freedom.

Worst possible misery for everyone

Sam Harris, in his book “The Moral Landscape”, defines good as that which moves away from “the worst possible misery”.

Once we conceive of “the worst possible misery for everyone” then we can talk about taking incremental steps towards this abyss. -Sam Harris, Moral Landscape, pg 39

While listening to Sam’s opening speech in his recent debate with William Lane Craig (audio, video), it occurred to me that by “misery”, Sam means, “physical misery”. That made me wonder, what about nonphysical misery? It seems that Sam’s dedication to physical materialism could prove to be a great hinderance here.

The best example of non-physical pain in my estimation is phantom pain experienced by amputees. In this case its the memory of a limb is the source of pain. I’m sure physicalists would argue that the neurons in the brain which supposedly constitute memories are the physical source of pain in this instance, but it seems like a stretch to think that memories themselves could be the source of pain since, in our memories, our limbs are still in tact. Phantom pain is not only the recollection of a limb that no longer exists, but an extrapolation from there that the body must be in pain since the limb is no longer providing feedback to the nervous system.

Next to phantom pain for non-existent limbs would be psycogenic pain, ie mental disorders. Mental anguish is one of the most common forms of pain we experience all the time. From mild discomfort (ie small insults or slights) to insurmountable pain (ie the loss of a loved one).

In conclusion I believe there is sufficient evidence for the claim that metaphysical pain trumps physical pain in

  • Duration – it is not possible to remove metaphysical pain through medication or amputation.
  • Intensity – while both metaphysical pain can be mitigated somewhat through medication, its intensity is not limited by natural constraints.
  • Capacity – physical pain does end at some point. Nerves get overloaded and either shut down (become numb) or the body builds a tolerance or the body itself shuts down (ie the person passes out). Metaphysical pain is bound by none of these physical constraints.

So if the greatest possible pain is not confined to physical states of affairs, it follows that any solution to the problem of pain would need to entail a metaphysical component to it if it is to be a complete and coherent. Sam’s solution is simply incomplete. It fails to adequately address metaphysical pain which would still exist even under the most ideal physical circumstances. And since it is possible for the metaphysical to effect the physical, and not vice versa, it also follows that any solution to the problem of pain should come primarialy from a metaphysical source, not a physical one.

So while I agree with Sam that morality would entail the transition from a state of pain to a state of pleasure, I find Sam’s solution to be shallow and incomplete. The greatest possible pain is not physical, its metaphysical. So the solution we ought to be looking for, if we are serious about looking for an exhaustive solution, should be metaphysical, not physical.

The radicalness of ordinary

The best way to write a bestseller is to have a compelling, action-packed narrative. In the Christian market it seems the best route to take is to buck accepted wisdom, to tell everyone that what they thought was a good idea really isn’t and that what we should do is overhaul our lives.

This isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, nor is it particularly wrong in itself to call to attention traditional practices of Christians that legitimately do need to be changed. Martin Luther was arguable one of the first christian bestsellers, and for a good reason. His books were lengthy and detailed. Luther wanted to convince his readers of the truthfulness of his position.

Today, however, I wonder if much of what passes for christian literature, is not meant (or otherwise merely has the effect of) producing an emotional reaction.

Take the grandfather of what I’ll call “get busy for Jesus” books. Charles Sheldon wrote In His Steps around the turn of the 19th century in order to encourage his readers to ask the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” The intent of the question is sound, to encourage people to be courageous Christians, but the method is wholly existential. In order to answer the question one is asked to, at some level, pretend they are Jesus. The result is that the answer to what Jesus would do turns out to be whatever the one asking the question subjectively decides.

The alternate to this approach, in case you’re wondering, is to ask “what did Jesus do and say?” This is the difference between a deconstructive and an analytical approach to the acquisition of knowledge.

But that’s the problem. Luther wrote to impart knowledge. Sheldon wrote to impart an experience. And it is Sheldon’s intent that I find in many Christian bestsellers today.

Three modern variations come to mind. Henry Blackaby’s bible study, Experiencing God, Francis Chan’s Crazy Love, and David Platt’s Radical series. Each one has, at its core, a call to an experience. And each one, if closely analyzed, is inherently against the analytical approach to gaining knowledge.

Another common factor in these books is a call to “be radical”. To make sweeping wholesale changes, preferably without much analysis or forethought. Not only is this reckless, but it runs afoul of what Jesus taught about carefully calculating the cost of any decision we make.

Sometimes radical changes are necessary. But more often than not they are merely destructive and should be avoided in favor of slow and gradual change.

One of Luther’s radical conclusions was that the normal, average person was important. That even the most ordinary work could be glorifying to God. That one didn’t need to be a rock-star in order to have an impact on the world.

What is really radical are ordinary people doing ordinary things day after day. What is radical is a family that lasts. What is radical is a responsible financial plan that helps mitigate unforeseen circumstances while allowing for a slow and steady accumulation of wealth to be handed down to subsequent generations.

Here are a couple of other great reviews of David Platt’s Radical:

Subversive Christians

Easter Sunday I participated in a lively discussion with a group of atheists on the topic of the resurrection. It was all kicked off by a friend who posted “Happy Zombie Jesus Day!”

And while the exchange with the non-Christians on the thread went pretty well, I was dumbfounded when the following was posted:

Dan can not prove the absence of God any more than believers can absolutely prove the existence of God. This is why it is called Faith (or lack of). So at the end of the day we should either celebrate either the second coming or the Easter Bunny bringing candy, whichever works for us individually, and move on. My position on the subject is my position, it neither grows stronger or weaker if I get someone else’s input. Actually, someone passionately challenging my position may only serve to strengthen my resolve. So for many Dan may actually be working to further solidify their faith. For others his comments may strike a chord of familiarity. At the end of the day those that believed in the second coming still will and those that think a pink bunny actually brings candy… well, they still will too. So, whatever you celebrate today, enjoy the fact that Winter is over and Summer is around the corner!

On the surface this may seem like a simple plea of “why don’t we all just get along?” But I suspected something else, so I posted this by way of reply:

George, your position sounds rather anti-intellectual to me and decidedly post modern. Facts matter and our discovery of them is absolutely paramount. If I am holding on to false beliefs I would certainly like to know and the best way for me to go about doing that is to regularly expose myself and my positions to others who hold differing opinions. Sure, that exchange may strengthen my resolve, Dan knows I appreciate his help in making me a better Christian, but it may also cause me to abandon false beliefs. The worst thing we could do, however, is to think that our persuit of truth is of no importance or to think that encouraging others to examine their positions does not enrich all of us (how’s that for self-interest Dan?).

To this George responded:

Wes, enjoy the debate. I hope you find what you are looking for.

I am open to debate things that can be proven, debating things that can’t are largely mental masturbation. So I go with my beliefs on those, and you are welcome to respect those or not. Whatever your choice, I am fine with it. Not a factor here.

Me:

George I must admit that you’ve piqued my interest as to what you are looking for here. It seems to me that your aim is merely to shutdown the conversation through an appeal to relativism “that’s true for you but not for me” and/or agnosticism “I know that we can’t know”. Both, I would argue, are not only indefensible positions but also display a sort of intellectual cowardice. What’s worse than mental masturbation is mental impotence.

What makes you so sure that the resurrection of Jesus can’t be proven? I suppose that begs the initial question of what you would consider to be a proof and, from that, how much proof you think is required.

George:

Wes, for all of your “wisdom”, You don’t even know what my position is. I was once told by an old sales mentor that “to Assume makes an ass out of you and me”. So you are picking a fight with someone who may, in fact, be on your side (though I never stated a position and, as a rule, don’t debate my position on faith). A poor choice in battle plans on your part if that is the case. It is traditional to fight the enemy, not the allies.

Key is knowing who the allies, and are not, are before you aim and pull the trigger.

Not sure I would bother to debate someone that has not taken the time to figure out if I am even on the other side.

That, my friend, is what makes your argument simply mental masturbation and likely most important to you alone… My comment above was more focused on enjoying the day regardless of your position, because spending time on Facebook today is taking time away from faith, family or some other enjoyable activity. I have checked my blackberry far too much today and will remedy that. I wish you well as you debate anyone that responds, regardless of their position.

You did get pulled in by Dan’s comment that was delivered with great shock value (Dan’s apparent specialty). I laughed when I saw it, it was hard to take it too seriously.

You are one REALLLLY smart cookie…

From here I decided to take our conversation into private messages instead of continueing the conversation on our mutual atheist friend’s wall. And in the interest of full disclosure I’ll go ahead and tell you I wasn’t very nice in our private exchange.

Sadly this is not a fluke. I have a similar conversation with most Christians I meet. Not only are they ill-prepared to join in the battle we’ve been called by our common savior to join in on, they resent anyone who does.

I decided to make a blog about the exchange above to illistrate something I’ve thought for a long time. The biggest enemies the church faces today are not on the outside. They are professing believers in Christ who want to go to church every Sunday and get high on the religious expierience, but who never engage the world around them. In fact, they see it as

While some of the blame certainly falls on the pastor, I place most of the fault in the person who chooses to adopt the prevalent secular mindset which discourages any serious examination of worldviews in search for truth.