Category Archives: politics

What did Jesus say about ethnocentrism?

The events in Charlottesville last weekend around a planned white nationalist protest called “Unite the Right” have raised the ugly specter of racism again in a country which has been steadily growing ever more diverse. Given that white evangelical Christians famously voted in droves for the same president that the white nationalists cite as inspiration, one naturally wonders: Should we be also allow ourselves to be united to such a cause?

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Truth Telling Under Uncertainty

“Thou shalt not lie.” Perhaps the most misquoted commandment of them all is actually not that broad:

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What if we actually valued everyone equally?

I’ve previously written about the less commonly examined consequences of believing the life, with all of its dignity and worth, begins at conception. This week, I’d like to examine another common belief that tends to be voiced on the other side of the political spectrum: that we should value everyone, not just people we know or who are similar to us in some way. If I didn’t know better, I’d summarize this by saying “all lives matter,” but somehow that phrase has come to mean something closer to the opposite notion.

Without a convenient handle, I don’t have a relevant survey statistic to cite. Instead, we find this notion in how our country’s first revolutionaries justified their actions:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. (Preamble to the Declaration of Independence)

Beautiful language, which would form the basis of the grand experiment of the US. At the same time, I know some of you are thinking: “Just men? What about women?” Or perhaps you readily think of the already-widespread pattern of slavery and marvel that it took at least another 80 years and a civil war to overcome what some have called America’s original sin. But if your mind is drawn in those directions, it probably means that you think you believe in the equality of humanity even more than the Declaration signatories did.

The only problem is, you don’t act like it. How would we all behave if we actually valued everyone equally? Read more of this post

What happened to the promise of the internet?

Back in the fall of 2004, I had just entered high school and was really enjoying learning German. I had taken the first year of the sequence back in middle school, but then worked so far ahead in the workbooks that I ended up moving to the third year once I entered high school.

Just four years prior, Wikipedia was first launched, and I had already learned to ignore my teachers’ persistent warnings against it. Only having just entered high school, I quickly realized that whatever expertise I had was far below the current level of quality on Wikipedia. So I looked further, and found Wikibooks, a sister site focused on developing high-quality, open-source educational materials. From my experience, I had some ideas about how German should be taught, and spent my free time in the evenings building some of the content for that Wikibook. (For a taste of how I described my work there a couple of years later, see my user page.)

The emergence of Wikipedia and its sister sites was the first of the really special things that emerged last decade, the aughts or whatever we want to call it. The free access to information came with it the promise of universal education. And if widespread education could raise entire populations out of poverty, it invited us to believe that the 21st Century would bring us to higher and higher standards of living and public discourse. Little did we know…

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The Highest Form of Flattery

Fox News founder Roger Ailes passed away last Thursday. Among his more surprising mourners: MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow. Take a look:

Think about this for a second. Maddow is as liberal as cable news commentators go, but she still considered Roger Ailes a friend, going so far as to credit him with essentially inventing the way we process politics through polarized cable television. She admits to asking him technical questions about colors and angles, but I’d expect that wasn’t the only thing that liberals’ version of Fox News learned directly from Ailes.

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