Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Protocols Of The Elders Of QAnon

As Solomon once noted, there is nothing new under the sun. QAnon is no exception. 

It turns there are a lot of parallels between the plot line of the Q narrative and the infamous Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion, the anti-semitic forgery that fueled the Holocaust. Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that anti-semitism - which at this point is largely on margins of the movement - is beginning to creep closer to the center of the storm. 

But you don’t have to take my word for it. I have the opinions of those who are deeply invested in this issue - namely, those who have been the targets of anti-semitism.

I spent some time this week looking up what Jewish people and Israeli news sources have to say about Q. It's one thing to read about Q from within the sphere of my comfortable life as reported on by people who are merely observers. I wanted to hear about from those who have a lot at stake in the discussion. The amount of links that follow may seem like overkill, but I want to stress that these were easy to find with a simple google search, and all but one come from a source in the nation of Israel, or feature interviews with people of Jewish ancestry.

If those who feel the full brunt of anti-semitic movements dismissed the concerns about anti-semitism in QAnon, I probably would too. 

They don't. 

I think I won't, either.

Barriers vs. Boundaries

We don't tend to like restraint here in the United States.   "I did it my way" is our favorite anthem;  "Don't tread on me" our historical birthright. As Kacey Muscgraves sings so whimsically, "Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy." 

I get it. Who doesn't want to be free? There's a ton of upside. I don't think anyone disputes that. 

And yet none of us who live around even one other person are free in the most unfettered sense of the word, at least as the word is used when we talk about our rights. 

Rights coexist with responsibilities. My freedom to do or not do X means someone else has that same freedom to do or not do X, which means - if we are remotely morally consistent - we have responsibilities  of non-interference, at minimum. This means - if we want a remotely civilized society - we will live in the tension of freedom and restraint, of rights and responsibilities. My right to swing my fist ends at the space where your nose begins. Same with you. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

800,000 Missing Children? A Deep Dive Into The Numbers

Human trafficking is a blight on the world, with a reported 5 million adults and children around the world trafficked for sex each year – and that doesn’t include those trafficked for labor.  I find it encouraging that news outlets everywhere are covering this moral pandemic. (When I google “human trafficking United States," I get 108,000,000 hits. AP news is the top hit in my feed.) 

I decided to look more deeply at this issue after seeing numerous memes stating that 800,000 children go missing or disappear every year, and many then insinuating these children were trafficked.

This struck me as a) horrifying if it were true, and b) a really high number, since that would mean 1 out of 5 kids born each year in the United States eventually go missing/"disappear" and apparently end up in the sex trade. So, I took a dive into the numbers, because as stomach-churning as this topic is, I don't want to be blind to even the harsh realities of the world. 

The bad news is that the disappearance, sexual abuse, prostitution and trafficking of children are real and terrible things. The good news is that the situation, while devastating in terms of the depth of impact to every individual involved, does not have the breadth of impact so often portrayed. 

Thursday, August 6, 2020


It's frustratingly tense for evangelical Christians to talk about justice issues.

The Social Gospel movement in the 1920s became mostly social with little gospel pretty quickly; Social Justice Warriors have turned the discussion of justice into a vehicle for Identity Politics and Marxist ideology. Perhaps it is understandable why, to many evangelicals, "social" and "justice" have become dog whistles signaling leftist, neo-marxist radicals to storm the doors of their local church.

There is a danger that we Christians will disengage from the cultural conversation about justice because the empire is redefining kingdom words, or because empire ideologies have coopted biblical principles.  Why do I call this a danger? Because we are at risk of giving up land God established for us to inhabit. After all, justice was a just God's idea. 

God rolled out a vision for a just society through biblical revelation, starting with the Israelites in the Old Testament and moving into the church in the New Testament. Being the people of God was not just a personal covenant; it was a corporate commitment. A just society reflects just people who image a just God. And the foundation built in the Old Testament era found eager builders in the New Testament to continue the work God started.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Living With Wisdom In A Time Of Fear

If you google “bible verses about fear,” you will find a lot. The Bible is full of admonitions to Christians not to give in to fear, but to be filled with the kind of peace and hope God gives. I think all Christians agree on this. This is pretty standard Biblical Principles 101.

But we’ve been tripping up over how to define unbiblical fear, and what it looks like, and what counts during this coronavirus storm. That’s what I want to address today. There can be a fine line between prudent wisdom that orders our life – which is good – and a stunting fear that controls our life – which is obviously not. There is also a fine line between graciously admonishing one another to live free of unbiblical fear and shaming one another for what we perceive as succumbing to it.

I get it – there is a HUGE range of opinion about which voices to listen to, what kind of protocols to observe (and which ones even work) and how to respond reasonably in a way that simultaneously balances the importance of personal health, constitutional freedom, and economic stability, let alone just how closely churches should follow state mandates or recommendations for services. 

Those are discussions for a different day. This is about our internal state, our attitudes, our mindset, no matter where we stand on these issues.

So, Christian friends, let’s chat. This is food for thought, and nothing more. I welcome thoughtful comments that further the discussion.

Monday, June 1, 2020

A Cold Case Detective Evaluates COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories

J. Warner Wallace is a cold case detective. He became a Christian when, as an atheist, he applied his cold case skills to the resurrection – and determined that Jesus really rose from the dead. He has since become a well-known Christian apologist. I highly recommend his book (and website) Cold Case Christianity. 

He recently sat in for Frank Turek on Turek’s podcast to discuss conspiracy theories, since he investigates criminal conspiracies all the time. Click on this link to listen to the entirety of  "PRINCIPLES TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN EVALUATING COVID-19 CONSPIRACY THEORIES."  This presentation is timely: not only have these theories permeated the discussion of the coronavirus, but as of several days ago lots of conspiracy theories are popping up in reference to the protests and riots.

I am condensing and paraphrasing his presentation and points. From this point on, everything is based on Wallace's presentation. A lot of it is directly quoted (thanks, google speech to text!); some is paraphrased/summarized. 

Friday, May 22, 2020

Why You Can Go To Walmart But Not Kohl's

I saw this meme posted yet again the other day, and I decided rather than just taking my blood pressure meds, I would work at offering responses with links to sources where possible. 

Some of the questions in this meme are valid; some are not. Some just didn't need to be asked in such a conspiratorial way, as the answers were easy to find.

Most of these have reasonable answers; some have reasonable answers that will probably change (especially as the scientific understanding of this virus grows and shifts).

So, here we go.

#1. Why can you go to Walmart but not Kohl's? Because clothing retailers and department-store chains are “non-essential”.  See also #11. 

#2. Why the Dollar Store and not a mom-and-pop shop? Being essential vs. non-essential is not about size. Its about whats being sold. See #1 and #11. Stores are not closed simply because they are mom-and-pop stores. If there is any restriction because of store size, it will have to do with the ability to practice social distancing within the store. 

#3. Why can't you have an elective surgery, but you can have an abortion which is elective? Thats a really good question. 

#4. Why should you stay inside but yet heat and sunlight kill the virus? The advice is to stay at home for social distancing purposes, not to stay inside. In fact, the advice is to get outside while social distancing. Also, see #5 for more about sunlight.

#5. Why can't kids (who are not at risk) play on an outdoor playground, where sun kills this virus? Sunlight helps a little – in combination with heat and humidity, but its not that significant. It slows the virus, but doesnt wipe it out.  UV light needs to be much higher than what is in sunlight.  The kind of UV light used to kill viruses doesn't make it to the earth's surface. Worth noting: all climates are getting nailed by this. People are getting infected in sunny, hot places too.

As for kids playing on playgrounds, it's become clearer that the virus does not spread effectively on surfaces, so that does not seem to pose much risk at all. Breathing on each other: that's the issue - not for them, but for those to whom they could carry it. 

#6. Why don't people know that these are "recommendations" not laws because they have not gone through due process?  A recommendation is only that, of course, and I for one have never been confused. As for executive orders:

The authority for governors to issue executive orders is found in state constitutions and statutes as well as case law, or is implied by the powers assigned to state chief executives. Governors use executive orders—certain of which are subject to legislative review in some states—for a variety of purposes, among them to:
  • trigger emergency powers during natural disasters, energy crises, and other situations requiring immediate attention;
  • create advisory, coordinating, study, or investigative committees or commissions; and
  • address management and administrative issues such as regulatory reform, environmental impact, hiring freezes, discrimination, and intergovernmental coordination.

For state by state information on the power of governors to issue executive orders, see “Gubernatorial Executive Orders: Authorization, Provisions, Procedures” (Table 4.5, The Book of the States 2019, source: The Council of State Governments).

#7. Why is it okay for government officials to get a haircut, but not common citizens?  Its not okay. I have not seen anyone defend that except the politicians who get caught. Duplicity in politics has been a thing for a loooooong time.   

#8. Why the fear, when this virus has a less than 1% death rate? I assume this is meant to be a comparison to the flu.

In Michigan, the last year we have official stats for the flu is 2017.  1,798 people died of the flu/pneumonia.  As of right now, over 5,000 have died of COVID-19 in Michigan in half the time with PPE and social distancing.  In New York, 4.500 died of the flu/pneumonia in 2017. As of right now, 28,800 have died of COVID-19. 

In 2017 in the US (last year with official stats), 55,000 people died of the flu/pneumonia from a full flu season with no PPE and social distancing (thats higher than the average yearly flu deaths in the US). We will pass 100,000 this week in half the time with PPE and social distancing. It's valid to ask when our reaction has been an overreaction, but it's clear this is more than the flu.

#9. Why have coroners questioned death certificates listed as CV-19? For the same reason coroners question other kinds of deaths: there are comorbidities or multiple reasons people might have died. People die of COVID-19 who also have other life-threatening illnesses, and its not always easy to tell if COVID or another illness killed them. Its not a conspiracy. Heres a coroner explaining the method.  The Philadelphia Inquirer explains why it can be tricky. 

#10. Why are areas like Chicago and NY gearing up for mass vaccination? Because hopefully there will come a day when mass vaccinations are available.

#11. What makes one person essential and another not? Thats a good question.  Categories will almost certainly be revised if these lockdowns become a "rolling" reality. Its not a label on someone's value as a human being, of course. It means that if they stop working, the businesses deemed essential cant run. I think the bigger question might be why are some businesses excluded from being deemed essential. Heres a thorough list of "essential." 

#12. Why are they dividing us? How are they dividing us, exactly? And who are they? Im assuming this is meant to implicate politicians and national news organization. If thats happening, I guess the answer will be the same as it has been since 1776: partisanship and power.

#13. How do people not know that we are a Republic, not a Democracy? Not sure what this has to do with the coronavirus. 

#14. Where has the flu gone? Its still here.

#15. Why do the homeless consistently demonstrate the lowest infection rates? They are outside.  It hits them hard if they are in shelters, which is why a lot of shelters have closed. 

#16. Why are they telling us to mask up after 2 months of lockdown? Because "they" are increasingly realizing the importance of stopping our breath from unknowingly spreading the virus. 

#17. Why is the CDC saying kids need to be masked when they return to school or attend church, when they know cloth masks restrict oxygen?  First, Ill fix the question: Why is the CDC recommending kids wear masks when they are in groups of people outside the home? Now the well isnt so poisoned. Simple: to stop them from spreading the virus with their breath. You might not think masks are effective, but that's the reason.

Dont wear the masks medical personnel wear (specifically n95), because these filter so thoroughly they can cause problems over long periods of time. Assuming kids nave normal health and you give them a mask designed for them, their health will be fine. 

#18. What is this oppression and loss of liberty doing to the mental health of our us? Ill rephrase the question so it can more accurately raise an important point: :What is social isolation doing the mental health of all of us? Thats a good question.  This is a serious issue. You could also add what will happen if unemployment and poverty take a tremendous spike.

#19. Why have most other death rates dropped since the virus? I cant find info online that suggests this is true.  I cant even put in a link because I literally cant find an article talking about this. If you have some info, share a link. 

#20. Why did world leaders meet in China in October 2019? Google it. There were a bunch of meetings with a lot of world leaders throughout 2019 because China is a superpower. You can read about them online. There were also meeting here, and in other countries I think this is suggesting something nefarious, but I dont know what. If it has something to do with the lab in Wuhan, the lab has been going for a long time, and scientists all over the world go there to study coronaviruses. If thats a secret, its a poorly kept one. The Wuhan Institute of Virology was founded in 1956. 

#21. Why are the common people being controlled by the government and no one is controlling the government? The government has controlled people since it started. Thats what government does. The US was set up to balance powers and give people a voice. Those things are still in effect.  See lawsuits. Worth noting: a court in Michigan just ruled that Governor Whitmer's orders have been constitutional. We will see if this makes its way up the court ladder. 

#22. Why are hospitals paid more for Covid 19 deaths? I think they mean to add "than flu deaths." Because they cost a lot more to treat than the flu.  

#23. Why are some doctors speaking out and then getting silenced? It's either a) because "they" are conspiring against them or b) because they are wrong, perhaps even dangerously wrong. I'm not going to change your mind if you lean one way or the other.  Worth noting – they are not being silenced by the government, so... not Orwellian. 

#24. Why did Obama give the Wuhan lab $334 million dollars? The idea that there is something scandalous here is a misrepresentation at best.  Once again, go to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and check out their international partnerships page. Nations and leaders have funded and worked with them for years because the work that happens there is important. 

#25. What does a computer geek have to do with a pandemic and why does he want 7 billion corona virus vaccines? Because he runs the Gates Foundation, and vaccines are a huge thing for them, because vaccines save lives. Also, the Gates Foundation will not profit from a vaccine. 

Worth noting: Gates wants the world's population to go down. He is a fan of vaccines because when vaccines are introduced into countries where the child mortality rate is really high, parents gain confidence that their children will live, and they have smaller families. He does not promote vaccines to kill kids, like I have seen suggested in other memes. He promotes vaccines because the safety they bring lowers family size. I think his worry about population is misguided, but he is not trying to lower the population by killing kids through vaccination.

#26. Why did the CDC have a job posting for pandemic relief workers in November 2019? Because they hire workers for that reason all the time. 

#27. Why did Dr. Fauci say in 2017 that the Trump administration would be faced with a " SURPRISE PANDEMIC " and then runs the pandemic team? He said it at a conference about pandemics, which are often a surprise (not the conference the pandemics). Many of other people were saying similar things at that time – I mean, a LOT of books and articles have been posted about this for years. They know what they are talking about.  And Fauci runs the team because he's been in the business for 30 years. 

#28. Why are they infringing on Christian and Jewish religious freedoms? They arent. 

#29. Why can people shop at Lowes or Home Depot, but we are not allowed to go into a church building? Because #science. They also arent allowed to eat at restaurants yet, or go to concerts or sports events, because the virus looooooves to spread in enclosed areas where people sit for a while. It has to do with air flow and how the virus builds up in your system.