On The Ambiguity Of Color Politics

On a recent drive I took a couple of days ago to The Dalles, I saw two billboards, one on the way there in the rural hinterlands of Portland and one on the way back, in Eastern Portland itself on the way back, that either spoke in praise of the blue or urged the driver to do so. I took this to mean, given the symbolism involved in the billboards, to be a praise of police officers, which takes a fair amount of bravry to do in American cities. Yet while I have no issue with this sentiment whatsoever, being in general a fan of law and order behaving decently and receiving the respect and honor of similarly law-abiding citizens accordingly, it does at least give some indication of the ambiguity of color politics. Similarly, for example, I am listening to an audiobook that has spent some time talking about red scares, and in the context of politics, red scares refer to fear and panic about the threat of Communism within the United States (and other Western countries). Yet these colors have specific political references that vary widely with their significance in other politics-adjacent subjects. For example, those who are fond of Red America (because they vote Republican) are immensely hostile to reds (as is Communists) but are often very strong in backing the blue (referring to police officers). Likewise, those who support Blue America (because they vote Democratic) are often pretty soft on reds (Communists again) while being much tougher on cops (blue) because it gains them support with their political base of leftists who resent any kind of restraint and orderly tendencies hemming them in.

And things get even more complicated when you add more colors or more contexts to it. In Thailand, for example, red was the color of the populist political coalition that has been dominant electorally for the last twenty years or so in Thailand and its most popular in the North and Northeast of the country but which has been periodically thrown out of power by military coups. And that is not even adding other colors to the mix. For example, it has become popular in certain areas and in certain circles for people to show black patches to show they are in support with Black Lives Matter, a Marxist group that is dedicated to using racialist politics as a way of spreading the gospel of victimization. When it comes to my own political views, though, I am a strong white in at least two reasons. One of them being that I have zero tolerance for political worldviews that are hostile to any of my own personal identities, be they being white, Christian, male, and so on. I am also strongly white in the sense of politics as white being hostile to Communists and socialists, as in Russia, Finland, Spain, and so on in their civil wars over Communism and socialism. In this case, the ambiguity of color politics is not an issue because the same color can be viewed in multiple senses and be generally valid, albeit with some important qualifications, in both cases.

But there is significant ambiguity in such matters. Colors are powerful ways of representing people and categorizing them because they make it easy to see who is on our side and who is not. It is little wonder that colored clothing and uniforms have long marked a large part of the identity of such groups as urban gangs, political parties, military and paramilitary forces, police and fire departments, and the like. It is often hard to know who is on one’s side in ordinary life when one walks wearing one’s own clothing. But there is no doubt when you are part of a group of hundreds or thousands or even more people together who is on what side by virtue of the uniform or color scheme that one is wearing. There is a sense of safety in those numbers that gives a strong sense of identity and bonding with people one would otherwise be strangers to. It takes a long time to get to know someone personally and figure out where they stand, if they will let you know in the first place (which, if they are a private sort of person, they may not). But if you see yourself and others carrying the same flags and wearing the same uniform, there is a sense of comradeship and friendly fellow feeling with them because you have symbolically communicated to each other and to others that you are all on the same side, all working together for common goals, all possessed of the same identity. And that communication means a lot, as it can lead people to act in concert that would be extremely difficult to do based on one-on-one motivation.

Yet the power and the ambiguity of color politics ought to be plain. The obvious power that is presented by the solidarity of sharing the same colors and symbols encourages some people who may not necessarily share a passion for political matters to virtue signal by wearing certain colors. At times, people who are entirely ignorant of such matters may accidentally and unintentionally and unwittingly communicate something to someone else, as when a clueless person totally unfamiliar with the gang situation in an urban area just happens to wear the gang colors of the local area by chance. At still other times colors may be seen as being in conflict with each other, so that people of very different political worldivews may attempt to appropriate the same color or the same symbol in support of very different belief systems, or where one group will attempt to prevent anyone else from using a particular symbol or cultural marker outside of a privileged in-group. And of course, the very obviousness of the symbols and colors used by different groups makes it easy (if very hazardous) for people to engage in espionage as a way of infiltrating such a group. Whatever can be used to signal and communicate something can be corrupted by those who would wish for others to think a certain thing while the truth remains different. The problem of communication and the problem of trust and the issue of lying are always connected to each other, since anything that can convey truth can also be used to attempt deception.

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Book Review: It Takes A Family

It Takes A Family: Conservatism And The Common Good, by Rick Santorum

This book was an interesting read in many ways, but it is also an example of the way that politics can often pass a book by, and the attempts to be particularly relevant can go awry. This book is clearly aimed at Hillary Clinton, and in particular it takes her to task for her vision of American society promoted in “It Takes A Village,” where the author repeatedly, even continually, skewers the leftist “village elders” for their hostility to families and to the well-being of families and the sort of society that is produced by strong families that are able to overcome the pull towards collectivism that Clinton endorsed in her books. And while the book’s points are certainly excellent, the author really missed the point to make an attack on Obama, who ended up being the nominee in 2008, as by the time that 2016 came around he did not have the same degree of appeal as a candidate and Clinton was no longer associated as much with her earlier book and its viewpoint, which is a great shame as it might have gotten some use in that campaign as a reminder of her collectivist appeal even if she was no longer the candidate of choice for the socialist left.

This book is about 400 pages long and it is divided into six parts and forty generally short chapters. The first part of the book introduces the author’s thinking about family and it taking a family to raise up good children and set them up for a lifetime of success (I). After that there are a few chapters on social capital and the ties that bind people together, including civic matters as well as matters of religion (II). After that there are some chapters that look at the family and the habits acquired there as being the roots of prosperity, including the dignity and honor of work and the importance of wealth and knowledge (III). After that there is a discussion of moral ecology, including the question of abortion and the role of judges (IV). After that there are a few chapters that deal with the subject of cultural matters such as the importance of engaging in culture and matters of music and sexual politics (V). Finally, the last part of the book discusses matters of educational excellence and the point of raising adults rather than children (VI), after which the book closes with a conclusion, bibliographical note, and index, all of which demonstrate the author to be not only a populist of sorts but a very well-read one as well.

As has been my case with the author’s work in general [1], this book strikes an appealing and populist tone that demonstrates how it is that conservative Republicans have sought to frame their appeal to those who might not seem to be an obvious fit for right-wing politics. The author points out that marriage and a focus on the well-being of the family can be of great benefit to those who struggle as single parents or those whose own family backgrounds may not be very good. It is striking how much this book anticipates the appeal that Trump would have in mobilizing conservative populist voters who might not have felt at home in a Republican party with someone like Romney as a head but who can get behind Trump. And if Santorum has not himself benefited as a political leader from the populism that this book represents, and the down-home family values that the author takes from his own personal experience as a rural Pennsylvanian family man who just happens to have been a senator who was well-traveled and interested in families around the United States, this book does demonstrate the wide appeal of his approach in the hands of others.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/11/26/book-review-blue-collar-conservatives/

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Book Review: What Is Conservatism?

What Is Conservatism?, edited by Frank S. Meyer

This book asks a great and obvious question, and the answer is, unsurprisingly, not very obvious. What is conservatism indeed? On what does it depend? The various essays in this book, which are written by an illustrious group of thinkers, some of whom are definitely not conservative themselves (Garry Wills) and some of whom did not consider themselves to be conservatives even if they would be in the American sense (F.A. Hayek). It is rather unsurprising, though, that where there is at least some degree of cachet in being seen to be on the side of those seeking to preserve liberty and freedom and culture from the barbarian hordes in and around us, there are going to be people who consider themselves to be friends and allies of a noble and glorious tradition who may not strictly deserve or belong to be a part of that. And it is likely going to be unsurprising that this book is full of essays and reflections that speak to the narrow personal experiences and particular worldviews of the author and that illustrate by their diversity the lack of systematic approach in what is considered to be a conservative in the first place, which is both a great weakness and a great strength depending on the circumstances.

This book is a bit more than 250 pages long and it is divided into twelve essays as well as a bit of other material as well. The book begins with a foreword and introduction that discuss the importance and significance of the book. After that comes a discussion of the common elements of conservatism as they relate to freedom and tradition by Frank Meyer (I, 1). This is followed by two essays that discuss the emphasis on tradition and authority (II), including one on ordered freedom by Russell Kirk (2), and one on the Bill of Rights by Willmoore Kendall (3). After that comes three essays with an emphasis on freedom (III), including the conservative case for freedom by M. Stanton Evans (4), one on education in economic liberty by Wilhelm Ropke (5), and one on why F.A. Hayek did not consider himself a conservative (6). After that there is a prophetic view of conservatism (IV) by Stanley Parry (7) as well as a couple of less conservative essays that urge accommodation (V) by Stephen Tonsor (8) and Garry Willis (9). Then the book turns to some empirical observations (VI) by John Chamberlain (10), and William F. Buckley (11), after which there is a summing up (VII, 12) by the editor, an appendix about the dogma of our times by Frank Chodorov, acknowledgements, notes, contributors’ info, and an index.

In reading this book, it is likely that the reader will not be all that much better informed afterwards than before as to what is conservatism. And that is not a bad thing, because the lack of a doctrinaire approach to conservatism means that it will be protean and highly flexible in terms of what is included or not depending on definitions as well as the behavior of particular people involved. But the reader should be better informed about what sort of strain of conservatism most appeals to them or that one would be included into. This includes, it should be remembered, those who would consider themselves to be classical 18th or 19th century European liberals, as Hayek does, or those who would consider themselves to be reactionary conservatives. This complexity makes it clear why some people would tend to be fierce about the boundary conditions, especially when it is not always clear what it is that someone is really interested in conserving beyond their own power or influence or wealth. And as this is not always easy to know, it is worth to figure out exactly why someone else considers oneself to be a conservative and why one would think the same of oneself.

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Book Review: The Future Of Conservatism

The Future Of Conservatism: Conflict And Consensus In The Post-Reagan Era, edited by Charles W. Dunn

This book is a fascinating example of how it is that political works can become both more relevant and less relevant with the course of time. This particular book was written in the period leading up to the 2008 election, and some of the people who wrote in it would no longer be considered to be conservatives at present because their supposed interest in conservatism was for placement and power that was denied with the rise of Trump and his supporters in 2016 to the present day. In many ways, then, this book is like being in a bit of a time warp, seeking to separate out that which is timeless about what the authors say about the many aspects of the Conservative coalition, while also commenting on what aspects are not timeless (namely the particular people who that coalition supports and the strength of each particular element or the issues that they are most concerned about). If this book is therefore not nearly as timeless as one might hope, it also is worthy as a tale of particular times and the way that political books tend to be of rather limited value once time has passed because it is hard to tell between what lasts and what does not.

This book is a relatively short one at less than 150 pages in length, and it is divided into nine chapters and other materials, by a variety of different authors. The book begins with an introduction by Charles W. Dunn about conservatism being in center stage, which happens from time to time. After that comes an essay by George Nash that discusses the uneasy future of American conservatism (1) and one by James Ceaser that talks about the various branches of conservatism that work more or less in harmony with each other (2), as well as one by George Carey that discusses the irony of conservative success (3).. There is an essay by Harvey Mansfield that pleas for constitutional conservatism (4) , and another by Michael Barone that speculates on the electoral future of conservatism (5). There is an essay on Conservatism, democracy, and foreign policy by Daniel Mahoney (6) that is followed by a call for Christian conservatives to add and not subtract by Marvin Olasky (7). The book then ends with an essay about the movement of pro-family Democrats to Republicans by Allan Carlson (8), virtue conservatism by Peter Lawler (9), and an epilogue by William Kristol on the enduring Reagan, after which there are notes and an index.

When you strip away all of the not very conservative grifters who sought to join the Republican coalition to increase their own power or feather their own bed, what remains is a picture of a diverse group of people who tend to be conservatives. We may consider some of these to be core conservatives, like religious and traditional conservatives, who have a high stake in preserving traditional and religious culture and have nowhere else to go to politically at present or for the foreseeable future. In addition to these we may add to them those who are not really truly conservative but may be allies at particular times or to a particular extent, including pragmatic midwestern conservatives with their penchant for compromise across the aisle, or neoconservatives who support militarism and a big government, albeit one that is intensely hostile to Communism, or libertarians whose morality is not up to snuff but who can at least be trusted to speak out in defense of freedom and liberty. And if conservative victories require coalition building, it is worth remembering that not all members of the coalition are on board with everything that some might want, which is a lesson that has to be periodically learned when electoral victories do not lead to the results that people would want.

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In Praise Of The Savvy Of The Middleman

It is easy to razz on companies for their lack of skill in being able to offer customers what they want, but sometimes business do a good job in ensuring exactly what is necessary, and in those circumstances I feel it necessary to give praise in such matters where praise is due. After I dealt with some of the technical problems this morning from a Zoom meeting of sorts with ZoomCare relating to an upcoming Covid test required for my travel this year to the Feast of Tabernacles, I had a conversation with the doctor on hand about their setup and lab certifications and I was informed that as ZoomCare has sought to profit from providing Covid that they have the tests and certifications that are necessary in order to provide such services. And they were able to do it in a timely fashion as well. I had scheduled the meeting early so as to be able to provide enough time to schedule a test, but it so happens that I could have gotten tested today if it had fallen within the testing window for my trip. As it was I was able to schedule an appointment at a nearby office right after my LabCorps appointment for a blood draw, so I figured I would get two appointments out at once, figuring that to be a pretty wise strategy. It was nice to see that a company was able to figure out a good niche in an area where time and trust are at a premium.

Why should we praise this savvy? If I am in general rather skeptical about the efficacy of the rules and regulations that are so highly treasured by contemporary public and private bureaucracies, such rules and regulations provide niches for others to operate in. In most years, would I need to be scheduling a medical exam shortly before traveling internationally? No, not at all. But if those are the rules in 2020 and one wants to travel, then it is a good thing when there are services capable of allowing for those rules to be met. To be sure, there are costs and inefficiencies involved. Is my time wasted by getting a test that will likely tell me that I don’t have the dreaded roni? Probably. Is it a worthwhile price to pay in the current climate of fear and panic related to a supposed plague? Absolutely. A company I am familiar who shall remain nameless adopted a similar strategy when the laws for Obamacare were passed, deciding that it would be a worthwhile and profitable strategy to appeal to a demograhpic of people who would be seeking insurance as they were legally mandated to do so, in the hopes of being able to profit off of providing them with a suite of insurance options that would cover the deductible as well as provide ancillary services. And by and large it was a savvy and profitable decision as well, even with the recent uncertainty as to how long the regulations will endure.

The savvy here praised is the savvy of the middleman. The world is full of inefficiencies and full of gaps between that which is needed and that which people can do on their own. Could I create a covid-19 test for myself that would meet the standards of the nation of Jamaica for travelers in this time of pandemic fears? No way. Do I strongly desire such a test to be done to allow me to travel, even if it is a bit riskier this year than it would otherwise be? Without a doubt. This sort of situation provides space for people to provide services that meet needs and wants and that also satisfy the regulatory demands of others. This sort of situation is extremely common. Indeed, the existence of brokerages is general is due to the inefficiencies that exist between highly technical and highly regulated markets like investment banking and insurance and the needs and wants of customers who do not and should not be expected to know the very complex environment of such areas. What they do need is people who can earn a decent livelihood and a high degree of self-respect in helping others to navigate such areas by responding to their needs and wants for a reasonable fee to be paid for by someone, be it the customer themselves or be it some sort of company who profits off of the middleman service out of the proceeds that come from the customer.

If it seems strange to praise the savvy of the middleman, that is only because are not used to thinking of their savvy as a good thing. But let us consider the alternatives. It is certainly better to construct and design well-functioning systems without inefficiencies, but this is in practice very difficult to do (if not impossible) because of the complexity of such situations and because of the political limitations of those who are engaged in designing and operating systems where the public interest is involved. The love of politicians and bureaucrats to regulate is a veritable factory for creating market inefficiencies that provide the space for middlemen to proliferate. And if we cannot restrain the Leviathan from creating useless and wasteful bureaucracy, the next best thing is to praise those who find profitable niches in being able to operate in such inefficiencies and provide the necessary knowledge and connections to serve as go-betweens to provide goods and services where they are needed and wanted in a way that meets the demands of the legal and regulatory environment that exists. Their existence is not itself a problem, but rather a sensible and reasonable response to the evils of our present world. Yet all too often those middlemen serve as scapegoats for troubled environments rather than people whose often heroic efforts at overcoming flawed social and economic systems is to be praised. It is just that those who provide goods and services be paid fairly for it, and if we do not feel such goods and services ought to be necessary, the fault is not with them, but with those who write bad laws and bad regulations, and who often have no shortage of justifications for why they act as they do, whom it is more impolitic to condemn.

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Book Review: Oregon Politics And Government: Progressives Versus Conservative Populists

Oregon Politics And Government: Progressives Versus Conservative Populists, by Richard A. Clucas, Mark Henkels, and Brent Steel

What went wrong? Can we blame the influx of Californians into Oregon over the past fifteen years or so for the sad state of affairs that Oregon finds itself in? This book bemoans a conflict in Oregon between rural and exurban counties with populist conservative worldviews (not so different from my own, I must admit) and urban progressives who operated from a perspective of some parity. Such circumstances do not at present exist in Oregon, and at least this reader thinks that it would be a good thing for there to once again be a situation where urban progressives had to moderate their desires or be able to frame them in ways that could be accepted by rural populists who wanted lower taxes and less ridiculous regulations. 2020 has been a bad year for seeing how urban progressives can run amok by taking advantage of an atmosphere of fear to try to run roughshod off of everyone else, and this book shows that it wasn’t always the case in Oregon, and with some proper development a better future that is more in lines with what this book talks about may be possible where Portland and Salem leftists don’t ruin life for the rest of us in Oregon.

This book is about 300 pages long and is divided into eighteen chapters that discuss various areas where there has been a great deal of debate and disagreement between Progressives and Populists. The book begins with a list of illustrations and acknowledgements and then moves into a discussion of the divided state of Oregon (1) in terms of its politics. After that there is a look at the places and people within the state (2) as well as Oregon’s place in the nation and the world (3). After that there is a chapter on parties and elections (4) as well as one on direct democracy (5), a legacy of the early Progressives of the beginning of the 1900’s, as well as interest groups (6) and the media (7). After that the authors turn their attention to various aspects of the government and its operating and how this has been contested, although not enough in recent years, regarding the legislature (8), where Democrats once skipped town to try to deny quorum and then got mad when Republicans did that not so long ago to them, the weak office of the governor (9), the bureaucracy (10), the judiciary (11), as well as local government (12). After that there are a series of chapters that examine the areas where conflict is particularly fierce between left and right, such as fiscal policy (13), environmental policy (14), health policy (15), social issues (16), and education policy (17), after which a closing chapter provides a discussion of Oregon in perspective, after which there are notes, suggestions for further reading, notes on contributors, and an index.

In many ways, this book fails because it assumes that a given status quo will exist, or that the increase in power of the side the authors favor (urban progressives) will lower the state of conflict within Oregon, which has not been the case at all. If Oregon no longer votes for quirky Republicans for statewide offices, that does not mean that conservative populists are any less present in the state, for all of their political weakness. It simply means that progressive political leaders rule as if their (our) opinions and perspectives do not matter. And such a tack seems very likely to create huge problems for the state at some point, even if it has not happened yet. What sort of revenge will populists have if the power of Oregon’s progressives falters for some reason? This book does not deal with such unpleasant subjects, but it does show that even in its present state, there are still reminders of the importance of populism in Oregon’s tax and governmental structure, for all the harm that has come to our beloved state as a result of the depredations and oppression of the progressives among us.

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Book Review: The History Of Oregon, Geographical And Political

The History Of Oregon, Geographical And Political, by George Wilkes

This is a strange history. I’m not sure exactly why this book strikes me as such an odd example of a history, except that it contains elements that I would not associate with a history, but rather with other genres. At some point in the distant past, when this book was written in 1845, it was considered to be of considerable worth that one’s writings were considered to be a history and not something else. And yet if this book was written nowadays, it would not be considered to be history, but rather something else, and something decidedly miscellaneous at that. To be sure, this book was written in large part because the interest in the “Oregon question” of who would end up ruling over the area was such a hot political topic, so much so that it was the second-greatest territorial question for the United States of the age, the most obvious one being the boundary of Texas and its own presence as part of the United States. Somehow the United States managed to get itself involved simultaneously with conflicts involving Mexico and Great Britain over its boundaries and wound up getting what it wanted, more or less, in both cases, which is a stellar achievement beyond the scope of this work, alas.

This book is a relatively small one at a bit more than 100 pages. It begins with a preface that discusses the legal status of Oregon and its interest in contemporary American politics. After that the author gives a history of Oregon and of various claims from various colonial powers, and is more of a legal brief trying to disprove British claims than a straight history. This is followed by a geographical view of the state, which includes its natural divisions as well as the population of its native peoples. After this there is a proposal for a national railroad to go from the Atlantic to the Pacific, what later writers would call a Transcontinental Railroad, of which several would end up being built. The second part of the book consists of the travels undertaken by the author from Missouri to the Pacific Ocean, as well as a discussion of the area on behalf of the recently organized Oregon territorial legislature that would help shepherd the area into statehood.

One of the more entertaining parts of this book is the way that the author disparages international law. Now, as a realist I tend to take a dim view of international law, but a higher one of international treaties that are agreed upon and that are viewed as the law by all of the parties involved. What ended up happening is that this book, and others like it, encouraged enough people to travel to Oregon so that the population of the area was overwhelmingly American and likely to become increasingly more so, all of which sabotaged the claims of the British trading firms to rule over the land. And if this book is not really a history, its multiple parts do at least hint at the importance of demography in that they contain a discussion of what it was like to travel along the Oregon trail in its very early periods, as well as containing a well-argued case for America’s claim for Oregon in light of the sketchiness of the rival claims that had existed which had already been extinguished for one reason or another, and even containing a bit of a natural history of a sort, all of which is interesting to read, even if the end result is not really something that I would consider to be a history, although it would be hard to determine what indeed to call such a miscellaneous collection of material.

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Book Review: The Oregon System At Work

The Oregon System At Work, by Richard Montague

This is one of those books, written in 1914 as part of a much larger collection of writings about municipal politics, that takes local pride a bit too far. Perhaps Oregon felt itself to be politically progressive in 1914 the way it feels a bit more than a century later, but while it is at least debatable that Progressive politics had at least some good in the early twentieth century, even if it had many of the same flaws and shortcomings it has now, it certainly is something to be embarrassed about rather than celebrated these days. Indeed, what makes the Oregon system seem so progressive is that it allowed for the ordinary people to have a high degree of authority and power in choosing what laws would be put on referendum, or what authorities needed to be recalled because they had exceeded their mandate. Indeed, progressive politics in this period did mean, on at least a formal level, a putting of the power in the hands of the people so that they could make sure that laws and authorities met their standards and could be changed or removed otherwise. It is important to remember that when we seek to compare what was progressive in the past with what is seen as progressive today in the refusal to submit various decisions to the vote of the people or to their elected representatives.

This short work of about 40 pages or so was written by an author who happens to be a lawyer who wanted to argue that making laws and regulations with the voice of the people and with their active involvement made for better laws. That is what Oregon was all about, once upon a time, seeking to encourage the participation of the ordinary people in the running of government, which helped to increase the legitimacy that the government had with those people because their input and their suggestions had been sought and their support had been enlisted. And by and large this is backed up with statistics about the way that Oregon voters declined a lot of requests for money on the part of government and became more involved because their input was sought rather than being coerced or manipulated. Sadly, things are not at such a level today, but this book reminds us that once upon a time Oregon did have pretty decent government. What happened? Can we really blame all the Californians?

As it happens, I have some personal experience with the mechanics of recall that are part of the workings of the Oregon system. When I was a college student at the University of Southern California, Gov. Grey Davis found himself, after having won a brutal campaign, being recalled for general incompetence, and replaced with an actor who may be the last Republican governor for quite a while in that accursed state. Based on their behavior this year, especially the tendency to abuse ideas about public health regulations to enact rules and regulations without the passage of legislatures (to say nothing of the assent of the people), there are plenty of governors who could stand to be recalled for the well-being of our republic. And so it may happen that the Oregon system may become relevant again, if only because Oregon’s politics and that of so many other areas is so riven with deep conflict and so filled with contradictions about what it means to be seeking the well-being of the people when one has only the slightest and usually the wrong ideas of what that means and how it can be attained or encouraged.

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It’s Hard To Say What You Mean

It is striking just how often communication becomes an issue in life. Today was, like many days for me, even as someone who does not necessarily interact with very many people personally over the course of day, a day that had a great deal to do with problems of communication. And as the same sort of problems revealed themselves whether I was engaging in my own conversations with others or whether I was examining what I was reading through the course of the day, I thought I would share at least some of the reasons why I think it is often hard for us to say what we mean. And this is true regardless of what we are talking about, or in whatever way we are trying to communicate, it would appear. Rarely does the theme of a day make itself so obvious, but today was such a day, and it is worthy of pondering why indeed that was the case.

This morning, as I relaxed in bed, I received a couple of e-mails from one of our local deacons with whom I have very humorous and intriguing conversations on a regular basis. In each of the e-mails there was a paper that had been written by someone that he had obtained somehow that dealt with the issue of rights. Each of the papers had some serious issues that related to the difficulty of defining terms correctly and engaging in logical conversation. Rights is admittedly a hard term to define. The first writer sought to defend a view of rights that defended his sense of personal dignity while conflating an idea of rights that sprang from the benefits of obedience to God’s ways as well as rights derived from history and those derived from the constitutional law of the United States and it was clear that the writer was unaware of how these aspects of rights were in tension with each other, to say nothing about reality. The second writer, who viewed all rights as being mere privileges, was on a bit sounder ground as far as his or her conception of rights, but even here there were questions about false dilemmas and a general lack of charity and some serious failures to distinguish between killing and murder when it comes to the obligations and limitations that are placed on the behavior of Christians. The exercise, as challenging as it was, was useful in letting me know that the discussions of people, and their beliefs to prove themselves, are intertwined with difficulties in making themselves plain and in recognize the different senses and meanings of the words that they use. And what is true of others is certainly true of me, especially given the form of short personal essay that is my stock and trade as a writer.

And this was by no means the end of such concerns. After going grocery shopping for the work week and eating breakfast dinner (more on that anon), I sat down at my desk to do some work and to schedule an appointment to get a Covid-19 test of a particular type for my upcoming trip to Jamaica. I figured this would be a difficult task, for several reasons. For one, various other people I happen to know have already had a difficult time with the test and finding the right labs that would provide results in the narrow time window that is required. It is an ambitious task, it must be admitted, and in seeking to get the task done I ended up getting on the phone with a couple of strangers. Talking on the phone with strangers is not a task I particularly enjoy, and it was not necessarily easy to make myself understood. That said, what I did find out was that there are at least a few ways it would be possible to get the test in the window between 9/25 and 10/1, when my flight departs, hopefully with me on it. The conversations included the question of which places were available for those who had particular insurance, and which offices used which labs with specific certification. As a result of the various phone conversations I ended up planning a video conference for tomorrow morning where I will have to explain exactly what I need as far as tests are concerned in terms of the timing of the test (which has to be taken on or after 9/23) as well as the reporting of the results online to Jamaica, which must take place on or after 9/27, but before 10/1. This will be complicated, but without a doubt it will be very interesting.

While all of this was going on, I had a simultaneous conversation online with a couple of friends with whom I was planning the logistics of the Day of Atonement. I plan on driving up to the Dalles to enjoy Atonement with some friends with whom I spent time this past Sabbath, and I plan on arriving in plenty of time to enjoy a light dinner with them and relax (and likely do some reading) during the evening. The issue with logistics came about for the meal after Atonement is done. Since I have work the next day, I did not wish to stay in The Dalles and eat, because the drive back would be about two hours after the meal is done, which would put my return home at an unreasonable hour, where I would still have to wind down and then get ready for work the next day rather exhausted from what would likely be a short night of sleep. So instead I was planning a “breakfast dinner” with other friends closer to town, knowing that sunset would be around 7PM and that would give enough time to return home after eating before it would be too late. Of course, the term “breakfast dinner” presented some confusion, since one would not think of these things being related until one explains that as breaking a fast during the time of dinner is something that occurs during the Day of Atonement, and for some of us, quite a bit more often than that, and it is good to have a term to describe such a meal, even if it is not always easy to make oneself understood. But when it is ever?

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Book Review: Why Am I Not Healed?

Why Am I Not Healed? (When God Promised), by Glen Berteau

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Chosen Books in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Questions about divine healing have always been deeply controversial and remain so for a variety of reasons, one of them being that the presence of debilitating or chronic illnesses in the life of a believer can be the occasion for people to attack their faith and can serve as a deep burden to bear on multiple levels far beyond the illness itself. When a writer or minister stakes a claim, as the author does, on the blessings of good health and divine healing as being something that God promises to all believers rather than being something that may ultimately be fulfilled only in the world to come, there are necessary consequences of this when it comes to discussing why it is that someone is not healed. In such circumstances a message can go from preaching to meddling in no time whatsoever. This danger is magnified when the writer of a book seeks to proclaim God’s working of a healing miracle in his own life, which can easily color the approach that is taken to the subject of healing in general.

This book is a bit more than 200 pages and it is divided into thirteen chapters along with other materials as well. The book begins with a foreword and introduction that discuss the issue of healing. After that the author talks about the way that people can suffer from illness and feel that they have lost the joy and beauty in life (1). The author proclaims that God is into whole healing of the soul and not only the body (2) and then rhetorically asks if healing is God’s will (3). This leads to a discussion of why bad things happen to good people (4), as well as the importance of being at one with Christ (5). There are questions of the worthiness (or lack thereof) of being healed (6) as well as the primary way to kill one’s sin nature (7). The author discusses the reality of present miracles (8), and encourages readers not to be afraid to believe (9), while also discussing why we still need the Word of God (10). There are chapters of God’s willingness to heal (11), the fate of the double-minded (12), and seventeen hindrances the author believes hinder healing (13). After this comes a conclusion, several accounts of the author’s own experience of healing, and some naming and claiming of specific scriptures involving healing.

Given its complex motivations and purposes, this book is by no means an easy one to review nor to appreciate. To the extent that this book has a lot of praise to give to God for his work in healing the writer from a situation that involved prolonged oxygen starvation, this book is to be praised an account of healing. By and large, I must admit that I appreciate healing accounts to a great degree [1]. But this book’s structure and approach does not permit me to enjoy this book in a straightforward fashion, because my desire to share in the author’s appreciation of his healing is mixed with a sense of irritation that he views those who are not healed with such intense criticism, blaming them for their lack of healing and assuming that someone who is sufficiently faithful and godly will be healed, in stark contrast to the Bible’s far more nuanced discussion of the reasons why some people are healed at some points while others are not. And this tone of being judgmental towards those whom God has not healed, for whatever reason, prevents this book from being as good as it could be. Sometimes contempt and judgmental attitudes simply get in the way of fully appreciating a work, even one like this one that I would like to appreciate a lot more than I do.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/09/27/book-review-miracles/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/09/04/book-review-a-pair-of-miracles/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2019/12/03/book-review-shameless-persistence/

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