Friday, September 4, 2009

Tough Love

An unidentified reader, who I infer from the screen name is a Muslim, sent me the following in response to the post on enhanced interrogation techniques titled Of Course They Work:

If your views on torture represent Christianity, I do not want anything to do with it as I do not want anything to do with terrorists that claim to be of the Islamic faith.

Concerning your support for torture, does that mean that a North American soldier or citizen can be tortured by your enemies in order to protect their nation from an U.S.A. invasion?

Are your views on torture the foundation of your theology about the death of Isa alMasih?

I deeply regret that the reader feels that my disagreement with the absolutist position against torture makes it impossible for him to consider the truth claims of Christianity. Nevertheless, I simply do not see rationality in the absolutist's position. Here's my reply to the writer (slightly edited and amended):

Thanks for your email. I appreciate the questions you raise.

I'm afraid, though, that you'll have to explain which views on torture you're talking about. I am very much opposed to torture, but I don't believe torture is an absolute moral evil. I believe there are extreme circumstances which justify its use. Do you disagree? Would you allow your child to be brutally murdered if torturing the murderer's accomplice was the only way to save her? Would you condemn someone who saved your child by employing painful measures on the accomplice? Would you look your child in the eyes and say that you would have rather she died than be saved through such means?

Would you allow millions of people to be vaporized in a nuclear explosion if torturing the terrorist who planted the bomb was the only way to learn its location before it went off? Do you think it permissible to use lethal force to prevent an intruder from harming your family? If so, if you think that killing a man in self-defense is morally justifiable, why would you balk at using pain to prevent a man from killing dozens or thousands of innocent people?

Christianity is a religion that enjoins us to love others and to honor their human dignity, but sometimes those two imperatives are in conflict with each other. When that's the case, I think the proper course is to love those you are responsible for and that may mean doing all you can to save them from a terrible death. It may mean violating the dignity of their would-be killer. Life is filled with tough moral choices, but for me this one isn't tough at all.

You asked about my theology about the death of Isa al Masih. I can't answer that because I don't know who al Masih is.

The question of torture, paradoxically, is really a question about who we will love. Will we love innocent human beings or will we love those who threaten them? Sometimes, in certain extreme cases, we can't do both. We have to choose who'll be the beneficiary of our mercy and compassion. When we're confronted with a forced choice, one we can't avoid, to choose the terrorist over one's children or the children of our neighbors strikes me as perverse. There are times in life when compassion and mercy require of us that we do very difficult things. Love is not always about warm, fuzzy feelings.

If you disagree please reread the questions I asked my correspondent and explain to your children why you would rather sacrifice them if the alternative was causing a terrorist discomfort.

A second correspondent's email can be found on the feedback page.


Senator Kennedy

The funeral is over and a decent interval has passed. Perhaps it's not unseemly now to offer a counterpoint to the public canonization that took place in the wake of Senator Ted Kennedy's passing.

To watch the television news and talk shows it might seem as if someone of the moral and political stature of George Washington had died. Ted Kennedy was not the sort of man that deserves the encomiums being heaped upon him by an adoring media. He was, like all of us, a flawed human being. He should be recognized for his commitment to the causes he championed, but it is a distortion of history to portray him as "great."

As a young man Kennedy was an indifferent student and was kicked out of school for cheating. He was probably intoxicated while driving home a young woman named Mary Jo Kopechne after a party on Chappaquiddick Island. Kennedy, you've probably heard, drove off a bridge into the water. He escaped but Kopechne didn't. Even so, the woman could possibly have been rescued if Kennedy had called for help, but he left the scene and spent the next several hours worrying to a friend about how this would effect his career while Kopechne slowly asphyxiated in an air bubble in the back seat of the car.

During much of his subsequent life Senator Kennedy was a heavy drinker and a philanderer. He and Senator Chris Dodd were reported to have notoriously assaulted a waitress in a Washington restaurant, wrestling her under the table as they squeezed her between them in a "waitress sandwich."

The Senator arguably committed treason during the 80's when he wrote to Soviet premier Yuri Andropov offering to work with him to defeat Ronald Reagan's attempts to neutralize Soviet influence in Europe.

He was prone to smearing political opponents, as Robert Bork can attest, and despite George Bush's attempts to reach out to him, all the Massachussetts pol ever gave him was the back of his hand. His legislative successes were almost always of dubious worth to the country and his greatest achievement in the Senate may have been his longevity.

Perhaps most disturbing of all, however, was the recent revelation from friend and former Newsweek editor Ed Klein that Kennedy actually used to joke about the Chappaquiddick tragedy:

Except that he was born to privilege, Edward Kennedy was a man like the rest of us, full of faults and flaws. That his life would be celebrated by the media in the manner it was and that he would be held up as something of a hero reflects poorly on the state of American culture. It would be better if we asked of our heroes a little more virtue than Mr. Kennedy possessed.

We should certainly be saddened by his death, but let's not think he was someone that he wasn't.

Thanks to Hot Air for the audio.


Is China Crazy?

This report is big...

A report suggests that the Chinese government is pushing the general public into buying gold and silver bullion, which could have a dramatic effect on the markets.

This is an absolutely fascinating report. Just yesterday I was making the case that our government mistakenly believes we can spend our way back from bankruptcy to prosperity. Now here's a government, China no less, not only advocating that the people save, but that their savings be gold and silver.

A several observations may be made about this report:

  • China is recommending physical gold and silver bullion as appropriate investment and savings vehicles, not stocks, ETFs, futures, options, etc. Why do you suppose that is? Answer: because the bullion is safer than the paper. A mine can be nationalized effectively sending the value of its shares to zero. Similarly, other paper investment vehicles are only promises to pay and subject to force major and can be defaulted. These risks are very real and that's why they tend to have a higher return than the bullion. The bullion is safe, and therefore, smart.
  • China wouldn't dare make such recommendations if they didn't have confidence that gold and silver would be profitable as well as be a safe store of their wealth. Note that the Chinese people buying gold and silver will probably make the recommendation something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • China wants to become an economic super power. One of their tactics to accomplish this is to steadily swap their enormous dollar holding for raw materials thus turning worthless dollars into real assets. But they know a nation can hardly achieve such a goal if the majority of its people live in poverty. China knows the fast track to wealth for its citizens is through gold and silver, especially in the years ahead as the Western economies inflate their currencies into oblivion and crash and burn.
  • This offers at least one explanation for why China continues to purchase our US Treasuries or at least hasn't dumped them yet - they are, in effect, supporting the dollar which in turn suppresses the price of gold making it relatively affordable for many Chinese. After, they start buying en masse though, the price will become prohibitively expensive if any of the metal is even available at all.

Now we have to wonder, why doesn't our government encourage us accordingly?