Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Canadian Charter of Rights vs Freedom

Post 47--:

New Arrangements

Hi! Yes, I’m back with considerable embarrassment. I just cannot seem to muster the necessary pace to keep up with three blogs on a part time basis, while also working on my current major project, namely the writing of our memoirs, the “our” here referring to my wife and myself. So, I have decided that for the next few months I will write only one post per blog and quit pushing myself beyond reasonable limits. Heh, I am in my 70s. Though I may now have the time, I no longer have the energy with which I was brimming not so long ago. If somehow here and there an extra bit of unexpected time should become available, well, I may just try to squeeze in an extra read for you. But don’t forget, there are three blogs for you to peruse, not just one. Three a month does not sound so bad, does it? Almost weekly! You think I should simply join them together?

Need for Citizen-Friendly Legal Environment

Today I present you with some musings on the Canadian Charter of Rights. Again, remember, I write as an ordinary citizen for ordinary citizens. Of course, the professionals are free to join us and even to comment. I would be happy with that, very happy. My lay status means I will not get bogged down in technicalities that so often derail court decisions and, hence, justice, causing delays reasonable only to the professional, but irking the citizen to no end. Justice is not a matter of technicalities. It is something that must be experienced by the citizen. Go ahead, professionals, and tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. Do you?

Introducing Selick and Smith

Karen Selick of the Canadian Constitution Foundation had an interesting article in the Vancouver Sun recently (“Courts Milking Their Power,”Oct 17, 2011) about Farmer Michael Smith. Smith was told by an Ontario Court of Justice that he had no right to sell raw or unpasteurized milk via a system best described as “cow-sharing.” Initially he was acquitted by a justice of the peace, only to have the judgement reversed at the next level. Well, what do you know. Ever heard of such a thing before, a judgement reversed, overruled or denied by a higher court? Smith and his customers were once again subjected to that mixture of a mismash of conflicting laws that pass for our legal system and the personal worldviews and values of judges that constantly lead to contradictions and overrulings. A citizen never knows where he’s at, not even when a judgement has already been handed down. Someone higher up will overrule and undo it. Let’s not even talk about the money the system and the wolves called lawyers suck out of the hapless citizen’s pocket.

The Right to Brush My Teeth

The issue as Selick explains it is whether I have the right to brush my teeth in the morning. After all, it is not listed among my human right and is therefore not a protected right. The same is true for everything we do routinely and on a daily basis. Do I have the right to go to the bathroom? Do I have the right to choose between an apple or a pear? And does Smith have the right to sell his raw milk? None of these daily activities are listed in the Canadian Charter of Rights. Are they therefore unprotected and illegal?

Who Needs to Be Reined in?

If that is how our rights and freedoms are to be protected, then, Selic argues, the Charter would be “a zillion pages long.” Everything people do would have to be stipulated to be protected and legal. This is nonsense, of course. Actually all these mundane activities in our lives are all bundled together under “the right to liberty.” And then Selick declares what I would consider a very profound and important principle, namely that the Charter does not aim to “rein in individuals” so much as “to rein in governments.” It does not “grant us our rights,” so much as to recognize “that those freedoms already existed.”

Need for Citizen Plain Legal Understanding

There are more revelations in the Selick article, but I will let it go at this today. Possibly I will discuss her article further in the next post, but this is enough to chew on for the average citizen. I hope you will chew on it, for I, frankly, like her arguments and believe citizens will profit from a sharper awareness of these issues. We need to be freed from the lawyer regime and start developing an independent understanding of law, rights, freedom and responsibility. At one time the Catholic church prevented people from reading the Bible. Muslims on the whole cannot read the Qur’an, except perhaps to recite it in a language few of them understand. Similarly, citizens are largely prevented from understanding or even reading the law by the obscurantist jargon in which everything is expressed. It is time we make everything plain. Perhaps we need an “Occupy the Courts” movement. Game anyone?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ian Mulgrew vs Harper Crime Bill

contribution to Western Christians. We needed it and deserved it. Thank you.


Failed Plans

When I first returned to Canada ten years ago, I had hopes to start a movement to civilize the legal profession and to conscientize especially Christian lawyers and judges about the demands of the Gospel upon them. Due to a number of reasons, I was not able to get that off the ground, though I did make an attempt, ill-formed as it was. Then I was hoping to start a whole series of posts on the BC legal system. I have not been able to do the research to get a series started either, though I have on my shelf hundreds, if not thousands, of newspaper clippings on all things relating to the law, to the courts, to judges and to lawyers. So, with both of these projects having failed, I will for now be satisfied with writing occasional posts about these subjects.

Introducing My Main Characters

For those not living in Vancouver or Canada, Ian Mulgrew is a Vancouver Sun columnist; Stephen Harper is Canada’s Prime Minister. Mulgrew recently wrote a column discussing BC Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman’s criticism of Harper’s crime bill as “a strain on [the] system” (“Judge Deems Harper’s Crime Bill a ‘Strain’ on System,” Sept. 28, 2011, p. A6).

A Raging Controversy

Bauman’s critique and Mulgrew’s column aimed at the Harper are by no means the first. A veritable tradition has arisen complaining about crowded prisons and, more recently, about the Harper bill that will increase the number of prisoners so much that more prisons will need to be built—and that at a time of economic scarcity and reduction of crime. Mulgrew refers to a raging controversy.

The Critique

Bauman warns that it will strain every aspect of the justice system, the courts, the judges, the prisons. Correctional officers complain about prisons already overcrowded. In BC, the system is plagued by shortage of personnel and of “dockets so clotted you can’t get a trial date in less than a year.” Cases are thrown out of court simply because it has taken took long for them to get to trial. Many serious cases take too much time for prosecution—three to five years, and sometimes even longer. Mulgrew notes the “absurd anomaly” that under the proposed new law, “pot growers are …penalized more harshly than child molesters.” This crime bill, according Mulgrew and many others, will make all problems worse, not better. And with each prisoner now costing up to $120,000 per annum, the predicted outcome of the new legislation will be a huge increase in the citizens’ tax bill.

Alternative Tethering System

Please recall a suggestion I made back in April of this year in Post 33. I suggested that, instead of putting all criminals in prison, most of them should be placed in qualified homes and severely tethered. For details please go back to that post, for I am not about to repeat what I wrote there. Of course, such an arrangement would not be appropriate for violent and other dangerous offenders, but, it would seem to me it would keep most criminals out of prison while still having their movement severely curtailed. The savings could be phenomenal and no additional prisons would need to be built.

Not only would the proposed system save tons, but it may also prevent new offenders from being further contaminated by fellow prisoners.

Not Based on Leftist Ideology

This is a very sketchy and incomplete proposal from a legal and correctional layman that would need serious fleshing out. But I do assure you, my reader, that this proposal is not another hair-brained idea from some leftist ideologist. I am hardly leftist. In fact, I am a card-carrying member of the federal Conservative Party. I agree with the Prime Minister’s emphasis on doing away with the slapped wrist so many judges are seen to be dishing out. People, including yours truly, have become impatient, not to say furious, with leftist judges who seem to regard criminals as misguided angels and who leave the victims of crime to their own lot.

Elected Judges

Perhaps an additional change needed is to turn judges into elected officials. That would make them respond to the people instead of ignoring them as legal imbeciles.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Second Pre-emption

Post 45--:

Wonderful Summer Weather

It’s been a wonderful summer here on Canada’s West Coast, though it was unusually slow in coming. I have loved it and spent a fair amount of time—weeks in fact—away from my desk and, hence, away from this blog. Visiting our kids and families in WA and near SF in CA with days of RV-“camping” in between. Since then, “backyard” RVing in southern BC—with more to come. If you like a moderate climate without extremes of heat and cold, then BC’s south-west coast and much of Vancouver Island is the place to be. So a bit of a lull, but one you can understand, I believe. But, while it’s still great summer stuff in the middle of September, here I am, once again slogging/blogging it out. This morning the temperatures are pleasant but the sky is cloudy, something we have not seen for a while—and have not missed. Welcome to Fall.

Writers about Secularism

I told you in the last post that I have a second pre-emption to share with you, a good thing about secularism. Secularism did not just pop up out of the West’s woodworks; it took centuries to develop, the story of which is told in great detail by Canada’s philosopher Charles Taylor in his tome A Secular Age. Kuyperians, among them “Father” Abraham Kuyper himself as well as the movement’s primal philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd and others, have also traced its historical development and exposed its roots, origins and influence.

Secularism as a Chastener

Secularism has lured many Christians into its trap and thereby seriously reduced the scope of their faith to the private, the home and the church, but it has also served as a corrector and chastener of Christianity. In volume 5 of my series Studies in Christian-Muslim Relations, I wrote that “secularism is at least partially the result of an aggressive and intolerant version of Christianity that needed chastening.” Of course, Christians were not the only ones to practice intolerance; it was a major human characteristic down through the centuries; it marked all civilizations. Tolerance and its child, pluralism, are of rather recent vintage everywhere.

Jonathan Chaplin

The British Kuyperian scholar Jonathan Chaplin, a one time faculty member of the Institute of Church & Society in Toronto, a Kuyperian tertiary institution, wrote,

Let me make it clear that the anxieties shared by many secular liberals about the impact of public religion are real ones. Some of them are mine too…. And let me alswo r3ecord that the response of early modern liberalism to public religion was compelling and necessary. In the 17th century religion was not only public, it was backed by force of arms. In such circumstances, we can see why moves to confine the public expression olf faith seemed so necessary. In time, Christians who had stoked up religious warfare were humbled and had to allow liberalism to teach it again what its own deepest principles had always implied: that authentic faith cannot and may not be coerced. So, a religious response to contemporary liberalism must begin by appreciating liberalism’s vital historical contribution to religious freedom and democracy.

In spite of my constant anti-secular bias in my writings, including this blog, I want this contribution of secularism recognised and remembered as we go along. Honour to whom honour is due!

Of course, since then, secularism has gone far beyond its original form and can now be legitimately described as intolerant, more so than most North American Christians. That’s the reason I frequently write negatively about it. But may I never forget their original chastening contribution to Western Christians. We needed it and deserved it. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fixation on Secularism?

Post 44--: August 30 2011

Tim's Complaint

Tim is a good friend of mine and a long-time lecturer in theology. Under most other circumstances, what with his doctorate and many years of experience, he should have attained professorial status. As it is, he is teaching in a theological college in Nigeria that does not have provision for such rankings, though its academic level is fully equal to that of Nigeria’s public universities, if not higher. Tim recently commented to me that I seem to have a fixation on secularism. According to him, whenever I write, it is about something related to secularism. Whenever I open my mouth, the term “secularism” or some derivative comes out. A slight exaggeration, Tim, but only slight!

Complaint Accepted

Yes, I am deeply concerned about secularism. Putting his comment in a broader context and as I myself once remarked in a seminary chapel speech, we Kuyperian Calvinists seem to find a secularist or dualist behind every tree. Tim is thus not far off the mark. No matter what I write about or in what context, whether an entire 8-volume 2700+- page series on Christian-Muslim relations, magazine article, blog or public lecture, I just about always bring in the topic of secularism and often identify it as the main or basic culprit of whatever problem I may be writing or speaking about. And now you have this whole new blog with “secular” in its very name!

How This Works Out in Practice

Of course, I could counter Tim’s remark with the observation that, no matter what he writes or lectures about, it is almost sure to be about theology. It is not that Tim knows nothing but theology or I nothing but secularism, but Tim, for reasons of his own, has decided to specialize in theology, while I have picked on secularism as a major issue in many social problems that I write about. I may write an article or a blog without a singular overt reference to secularism, but you may find it lurking just around the corner—and usually seen from a negative perspective.I usually write about the general negatives or refer you to other discussions of mine on the subject in past or future posts.

Pre-Emption No. 1

But before I proceed with that, I want to pre-empt a couple of questions or objections to my negative stance towards secularism. I am not suggesting that all secularists are (potentially) bad or evil people, except in the general sense of being members of a fallen human race, of a race of creatures that somewhere in early distant history broke its covenant with God and since then is partially crippled in spirit, mind and body and thus potentially capable of every kind of evil. Even the generally humanistically inclined columnists in the Vancouver Sun, the people with whom I often respond to in my blogs, in response to the recent Vancouver hockey riots and to the Norwegian home-grown terrorist attack, are admitting that, given the right circumstances or stimuli, most of us, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, religious or secular, can turn vicious, violent and downright evil. You don’t have to look far for examples; history is full of them.

My Secular Friends

But most of us also have the potential for good, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, religious or secular. Though I regret their secularism, I have some very good secular friends for whom I have the highest respect and in whose company I delight. They are the finest humanists you can possibly find: decent, kind, compassionate, cultured, tolerant and a whole lot more positives. But as much as I appreciate them and delight in their company, there is always a deep chasm between us that we have agreed to acknowledge and accept. This covenant makes for challenging discussions of which we seldom tire. I thank them for this unique opportunity of rich human experience and sharing. Thus, when in these blogs and other writings I strongly disagree with secularism and its adherents and, not infrequently, become somewhat harsh, let these friends remember that, though they adhere to the worldview I attack repeatedly, I am also aware that not all secularists are proud and antagonistic to the worldview I represent in these blogs. One of them has often referred to me as an exceptionally tolerant Christian, but not quite. My tolerance is not so exceptional; it is typical of many Kuyperian Christians with our strong sense of pluralism. And from what they tell me about the reaction of their fellow Humanists to our joint project, I deduct that these friends are exceptional among their peers.

The second pre-emption will be featured in Post 45.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Scientific Explanations of Religion

Post 43--:

Wired for Religion
I have a promise to keep: to deal with scientific explanations of religion. Remember Anderson Thompson and Clare Aukofer (A&T), co-authors of the book Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith from the last post?
A&T summarize for us attempts by scientists to unravel religion’s “DNA.” Backed by empirical evidence, scientists “have produced robust theories…that support the conclusion that it was humans who created God, not the other way around. And the better we understand the science, the closer we can come to ‘no heaven… no hell…and no religion too.” The mechanisms within us that support faith developed over the ages. Scientists have identified around “20 hardwired, evolved ‘adaptation’ as the building blocks of religion.” They go on to argue that “the better we understand human psychology and neurology, the more we will uncover the underpinnings of religion.” “We owe it to ourselves to at least consider the real roots of religious belief, so we can deal with life as it is, taking advantage of perhaps our mind’s greatest adaptation: our ability to use reason.”

Now, going by what I wrote in the previous post, we have good reason to be skeptical about the ideas A&T have about religion. Please review them, if you’re vague. That should put you on your guard with respect to this scientific stuff as well. If they misunderstand the inside of religion, how will they understand the “outside” of it?

Children's Altruism
OK, so, for the sake of argument, let us grant that those various scientists have indeed uncovered some significant physical, psychological and other factors within us that support our religious lives. Not being a specialist in any of these areas, I would be the last to argue with the veracity of their findings, which real scientists always regard as tentative and open to correction or even rejection. However, when they tell us with all the assurance in the world that science has demonstrated with “a wealth of research” children’s “capacity for altruism” and that “we are born altruists, who then have to learn strategic self-interest,” I do begin to wonder about the value of non-scientific, pre-scientific or anecdotal knowledge. I am well into my 70s and member of a large international clan. My parents both had many siblings—in the 10-12 range; I am one out of ten. Between my wife and myself, we can count something like 70+ nieces and nephews, never mind the size of the next generations. So, through the decades I have seen many children grow up in my own nuclear family as well as in the larger clan. My decades of non-scientific anecdotal observation and experience is that babies are concerned mainly if not only for themselves and that as they grow up, especially in the family context with other children, over the years they learn to become less egocentric and more altruistic, a process that takes them into young adulthood before it somewhat matures. I have experienced myself slowly becoming less egocentric and more altruistic as a life-long process and I am very conscious of the fact that I have not yet arrived, not even with a strong dose of my Christian faith encouraging me along this path.

Science and Adherents of Religion
Be that as it may, T&A are thus arguing that we are hardwired to be religious. In other words, that it is natural for us to be religious. In a way this seems a case of rediscovering the wheel, except that this time around it is supported by secular scientists. Non-secular scientists have long recognized this along with philosophers and theologians, while there is nothing in science itself to deny it. In response to debates around the 9/11 horror, Leonard Stern wrote in 2008 that “religiosity is hard-wired into the human condition” and that the secularist expectation—and hope-- shared by T&A, that religion is going to disappear and be replaced by reason has proven totally unreal. Stern also noted that the alleged hostility between religion and reason has little basis in fact, since the percentage of highly educated adherents is striking. For example, leaving the Christian majority religion aside, a quarter of US Buddhists have post-graduate degrees; Jews, 35%; Hindus, 48% (“Religion Isn’t Going Away, but It Needs Examination,” Vancouver Sun, March 25, 2008, p. A11). I will resist the urge to present you with an extensive bibliography of published writers who affirm the human hard-wiredness of religion, of belief systems, of faith, of worldviews and satisfy that urge by referring you to Volume 5, Part 2, of my series Studies in Christian-Muslim Relations (See Islamica page in my < www.SocialTheology. Com > or type in < Jan H Boer > on < www.lulu.com >. It is especially the Kuyperian Christian school of thought, including its numerous scientist adherents, that has affirmed this view for nearly a century and a half.

Twisted Logic
What I find very strange and twisted logic is the assumption that if science can prove that we are hardwired by nature to be religious, then religion is proven false! This is absolutely absurd! If, as Christianity and Islam both affirm, the human race is created to be religious, then one should not be surprised if science found physical evidence supporting this. On what basis would such scientific hunches prove their opposite?! It is the same logical distortion applied to miracles: If you have a scientific explanation for an event interpreted as a miracle, then it cannot be a miracle! There is a decided antithesis between this kind of “science” and Christianity. Behind this strange “science” of A&T is an ardent anti-religion attitude shared by many secularists who just hope that religion will go away and not constantly call them to account. And then there is a deeper layer that consists of a dichotomy or dualism between religion and the world, including science, between the spiritual and the physical, that has been central to the major western secular worldview for centuries and, in fact, constitutes the western “common sense.” Few scientists, not being inclined to philosophy and other abstract ways of reasoning, are aware of this dualism. Why waste time on “common sense?” Again, at this point I can only refer you for details here to that same series and that same < lulu.com >, Volume 5, Chapter 5, especially pp. 151-157. One day I will devote a post or two to this subject.

A sneak preview: next post will deal with my alleged fixation on secularism.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Old Secular Saw: Reason vs Faith/Religion

Post 42—:

Why Again on This Stuff
If you’ve been following this blog, you will know that a major emphasis has been the relationship between Reason and Faith and/or Religion. (I capitalize these words to emphasize their centrality in this post.) I am putting you on notice that I don’t get tired of this subject and I won’t in the future as long as spokesmen/spokeswomen of the secular establishment don’t get tired of the subject and keep foisting their vision as the only reasonable one on the rest of us. As long as they unload their secular old saw about Reason vs Faith/Religion on us, so long will I counter them with my Kuyperian Christian guns about Faith/Religion and Reason or, better, Faith/Religion in and underlying Reason.

The "Sensible" World of the Secularist
This time the subject is triggered by an article the Vancouver Sun borrowed from the Los Angeles Times by Anderson Thompson and Clare Aukofer (A&T), co-authors of the book Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith (“Imagine: Man Created God,” July 22, 2011). The article begins by declaring upfront that they strongly wish for a world without religion. To clarify their religionless utopia they pit a number of things against each other. In a world cleansed of religion, “mistakes like the avoidable loss of life in Hurricane Katrina, would be rectified rather than chalked up to ‘God’s will.’” Or take this gem: “…Politicians would no longer compete to prove who believes more strongly in the irrational and untenable.” They long for a world “where critical thinking is an ideal. In short, a world that makes sense.”

"Scientific" Caricatures
Since I am an openly religious person and a missionary at that, those scenarios are supposed to describe me. You know what? I don’t recognize myself in any of that. Our “faith scientists” have just drawn up a scarecrow. To be sure, there may be some individuals, groups of them even, that fit one or more of these caricatures, but as a general situation, these are just silly caricatures hardly worthy of serious scientists. They express secular prejudice more than anything else, certainly not serious science.

Inside vs Outside Knowledge
True, Christians and Muslims—I confess that I don’t know enough about the other religions to speak for them—may see natural and other catastrophes as somehow incorporated in the will of God. However, I don’t know of any Christian or Muslim who would, on basis of that perspective, not work at or, at least, not favour preventing their re-occurrence. Seeing things in relation to divine will simply does not negate corrective or preventive action. Muslims have a reputation of being fatalistic, but they are very active and even pro-active in life’s affairs and by no means twiddle their thumbs while life overtakes them. Pitting such concepts against each other is typical of the outsider who makes logical deductions without having delved deeply into the subject, in this case, specific religions. They appear to have asked some scientific questions of and applied some scientific methods to religion, but they seem to know very little about the content or the inside of religion or about the way adherents experience their religion. How scientific, rational and critical is that?

Utopia: Freedom from the Irrational
Or take their snide at politicians. Most politicians are, unfortunately, politicians. Many will appeal to almost anything they think will bring votes. If it is not religion, it will be something else that A&T would describe as “irrational and untenable.” There are plenty of other issues to which voters cling with strong convictions and emotions. A&T seem to want a total make over of humanity so as to exclude all the “irrational and untenable,” their characterizations of Religion/Faith. They want a world of “critical thinking,” one that “makes sense” to their secular souls. Being isolated academics, they seem to demand that everyone should drop all of life’s reactions to reality except the rational. What an impoverished life that would be—a cold, strict, linear rational affair. God help us!

Secular Faith in Reason
As a serious Christian, I am at this very moment engaged in critical thinking and I am trying to make sense of this world, including the extremely biased views of A&T. Again, they are pitting concepts against each other that in real life always co-exist, namely Faith and Reason, even in their own article! It is they who are uncritical, for they do not seem to have subjected their own secular faith to the critical thinking they demand of others. They appear to simply accept it as the plain unassailable truth that does not require any corroboration or proof. Reason is the source of all truth. Punkt. That’s it. And don’t you dare to challenge that, for then you have ventured into the land of the politically incorrect. But pray tell: who has ever proved that assumed “unassailable” assumption? A&T, until you have proved that article of your faith, you are contradicting yourself. Yes, your faith, your belief system. You are demanding a world without faith on basis of your own belief in unassailable Reason. I can’t rewrite the same things time and again. So, if you're really interested in this issue, skim your way through previous posts and you will find it referred to repeatedly.

Next Post
I hope to deal with A&T’s scientific explanations of religion in the next post.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Change of Course: Introducing an Additional Blog

Post 41--:

For some time I have been aware of the need for a change in this blog. It is too much a mixture of the concrete and abstract, of comments on events and on more philosophical-theological issues, on principial issues if you will. Though some people will read both, I sense that some people prefer the one over the other and read the one more readily than the other. In order not to bore either group, I am from here on going to separate these two.

The Old and the New
This blog will continue under its present name and will deal with more abstract considerations. I will open a new blog for the events part of the discussion. Its principial underpinnings and the basis of my opinions will be dealt with, but not in great detail. For that kind of material you will have to turn to this existing blog. The new blog with its event character will be called “Christian InTheSecularCity.blogspot.com.” The capital letters are only for easy reading; they are not necessary when opening up the blog. The numbering of this blog will continue on into the new, so that, like this post, it will start with Post 41. This is in order to provide a sense of continuity. I foresee that there will occasionally be cross references from the one blog to the other.

Reminder: ChristianMuslimWorld.blogspot.com
I remind you that the other blog will continue under the title “ChristianMuslimWorld.blogspot.com.”

Schedule Change
I hope you will appreciate the new arrangement. As for me, it will be more work. So, it may well be that the average time span between posts on these two blogs will somewhat increase. I hope you will stay with me and even that some of you will read both blogs regularly. I will appreciate any comments you may have on this new arrangement.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Secularism—A Major Cause for Hockey Riot (3)

Post 40--:

My Connection with Sports
I promise: this is the last one on Vancouver’s hockey riot. It’s the closest thing I have ever written about sports and its associated culture and certainly the most—4 posts. I did not know I had it in me, for sports is not a major factor in my life, though I do enjoy watching a game on TV now and then and even try to attend a live game once or twice a year, games other than hockey: especially baseball, soccer or tennis. I watched a lot of Vancouver’s Winter Olympics on TV and was intentionally sucked into its very exciting atmosphere. After all, the major street crowds were less than fifteen minutes walking from where I live, as was this year’s hockey riot. While the Olympics were very orderly and made Vancouver proud, the aftermath of the final hockey game was anything but that and made the city bow its head in shame. So, yes, both about sports, but very different events, not to say opposite.

However, different as these events turned out, they generated the same question in my mind and the same tentative suspicion. The question is the same that thousands of people are asking, including columnists in our local press: How could this have happened? When I try to formulate the question to make it appropriate for both events, it becomes: How can so many people, a whole city, be so infatuated and caught up in sports, so influenced by it? Even to the point of sporting t-shirt slogans like “This is what we live for?” In the past posts I have summarized some of the public discussion and opinions about the cause(s) and acknowledge that most of the explanations and theories offered have elements of truth to them.

The Secular Factor
I am going to suggest one more explanation. It does not invalidate the others. Mine is neither the only nor the entire explanation. I do not expect mine to be popular or acceptable to most Vancouverites, for it will touch many in the centre of their soul, but it is one entirely in tune with the spirit of this blog. If you have been following this blog regularly, you may already suspect the point I am about to make: secularism. Yes, secularism is a major cause for the hypnotic drawing power of sports and for the violence sports can generate, not only in Vancouver but in many cities around the world. This does not hold true for every sports fan. I know some very religious and spiritual people who are sports fans, hockey fans even—I think of my pastor—practitioners even. Here I think of a close friend of mine in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. Sorry, Nick, I’m not going to mention your name or list all your sports achievements.

Secular and ….
But I do seriously propose that secularism is a major underlying cause of sports riots in the Western world in general, including Vancouver. Secularism has replaced Christianity as the major mainstream worldview or even religion. If that sounds outrageous to you, check out discussions by sociologists and philosophers of religion. An 2010 Olympic slogan appearing on the streets read, “I believe.” That’s kind of religious language and not simply a coincidence. Secularism affects even people who officially adhere either to Christianity or another religion, for secularism spreads by stealth: It influences people and slowly changes their values and standards without their even being aware of it and without their foreswearing their official religion. Their hearts and minds are divided; they adhere to both, though they may call themselves Christian, Muslim or Sikh or whatever. These bifurcated people are also sucked into the world of sports and, given the right circumstance, may participate enthusiastically in the sports culture and fall out of sports events. They have traded in the strength and standards of their religion for the values of the secular pop culture around them.

A Secular Vacuum
In earlier posts, I have argued that secularism is basically just another religion with its own sets of beliefs and unproven assumptions. As mainstream Vancouver veered farther and farther away from its previously more influential religion a lot of meaning and standard was lost. A vacuum was created that humans cannot tolerate, a vacuum of meaninglessness and purposelessness. As nature abhors a vacuum, so does the human soul. Such a vacuum demands a replacement to fill it.

Secularism a Religion
The replacement can take many forms. It can be art in any of its variations. It can be reason, money, fame, power, nature or some addiction. It can also be sports. Apart from addiction, none of these things are negative per se, but when they take on the power of directing your life and become your central concern, then they become, as it were, your god. The Bible calls it idolatry: replacing God with something in creation. And you will replace Him with something. That’s just the way we are by nature. Every culture has its pop stream, the one most secularists will follow, unless they happen to be of a more reflective, intellectual type. It is no accident that the negatives of our culture, drug addiction and homelessness, have been on the increase, for meaninglessness will drive many people in that direction either to search for new meaning or to drown their meaninglessness.

From Vacuum to Violence
For many people naturally caught up in our pop culture, sports is a natural choice they embrace without much thought. You just go along with the crowd. It’s almost automatic for many. You give yourself over to it lock, stock and barrel. You participate in the shouting and whooping that is part of that world. It gets hold of you more and more. As the shouting and whooping and other forms of excitement increase and you descend into an almost religious trance, mindlessness sets in and all reason and other restraints are suspended. Given the vacuum of values and standards with which you have grown up, you have no resistance to your adrenalin rushing to a boil and there you go. It only takes a few intentional purveyors of violence to start the ball rolling and the adrenalin-driven crowd, full of either excitement or disappointment and anger, gets whipped up into a frenzy. Add a little booze to the mix and the rest is history. The next morning hundreds of people kick themselves for the stupid frenzy that overtook them. Their vacuum, their lack of internal restraint, deep down, that they should have learnt from their parents, took its toll. They just went for it.

I advise you to read a column by Penny Gurstein and Howard Rotberg in the Vancouver Sun. They ask, "What if these young people do represent what Vancouver is and what it shall be?" Another of their question: "What if what we see being reflected are the cultural consequences of a post-religious society with no clear moral compass and no overarching guiding values?" Then this statement: "Vancouver has adopted a Lotus Land ideology of cultural relativism in which we tell our children that there are no good cultures and bad cultures and no good versus evil." Or this: "A vast number of people in Vancouver view themselves as 'secular but spiritual.' Too often it means a worship of nature and the absence of discussion of values and morality. If they are raised without any clear values, is it any wonder that young people....?" Finally: "The riots are reflective of a loss of hope and deep-seated anger that we have created in our own children" ("Have We Lost Our Moral Compass?" June 24, 2011).

I invite you to spend some time meditating on these paragraphs. Is there a vacuum in your life? That means you are standing on the edge of a steep cliff with a deep ravine just before you.

(For further reading along this line go to volume 5, part 2, of my series Studies in Christian-Muslim Relation. This is an ebook you can access free of charge at < www.lulu.com >. Just type in < jan h boer >.)

Thanks for sticking with me--Jan

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Why the Mindless Vancouver Hockey Riot?

Post 38—:

Overtaken by Surprise
I cannot resist devoting a couple of more posts to Vancouver’s hockey riot I wrote about it two posts ago. The riots took place several weeks ago by now, but the scars are still very noticeable on Granville Ave. while the local media are still busy discussing and analyzing them. Especially in the press, there is an agonizing search for the motives of the riot. How could a city that only a year ago hosted a successful Winter Olympics with its huge international crowd, fall apart upon the loss of the Stanley Cup hockey trophy? Some say it was because at the Olympics every conceivable security measure was taken, including a considerable military presence appropriately kept invisible in the nearby mountains. Nothing was taken for granted; no expense spared. The hockey championship game was approached with assumptions based on the Olympic experience and the lessons allegedly learned from similar riots for a similar hockey defeat 17 years ago. The city invited its entire population by blocking off downtown streets to traffic and installing huge TV screens. This was going to be a clean event. After all, Vancouverites are a decent and cultured people. This was going to be one big party that was going to reset the benchmark by which such events are measured. Alas….

Faulty Assumptions Led to Faulty Security
Upon hindsight, security measures were pitifully inadequate precisely because the assumptions were wrong. Andrew Cohen of the Vancouver Sun (VS), the main paper in which these discussions are taking place, reported a discussion with a police officer prior to seventh and deciding game. Cohen asked the officer whether he expected any trouble that night, win or lose? The officer answered that in either case “It will be a party.” Cohen commented, “With naivete like this, who needs police?” This man was not just airing personal opinion; he was mouthing the opinions of his superiors, the Mayor and Police Chief. Practically all writers disagree with the Mayor and the Chief of Police who tried to place the blame on outsider agitators and hooligans who had come equipped with rioting as their aim. It does seem to be true that a number of people overheard conversations about planning a riot during the days before.

Boastful Pride
The perpetrators were obviously very proud of their achievements, a pride that was further fed by the support of the cheering and clapping ordinary Vancouver citizens. So proud that they photographed themselves on their cellphones. “They just could not help themselves,” wrote Cohen. “They had to boast. It felt so good to smash things up.”

Identity of the Rioters
While some authorities insisted that the perpetrators were either outsiders or fringe insiders, most columnists know better. Among them were “normal, middle-class kids wearing expensive hockey sweaters…. Real rioters don’t wear…hockey sweaters,” Cohen insists. Mark Braude, a Vancouverite himself, stopped just short of blaming himself but insisted that those who participated in the riot “are our neighbours…our classmates and co-workers” (“There are no simple answers to explain riots,” VS, June 22). Penny Gurstein and Howard Rotberg took it one step further by attributing the chaos to ourselves, not just to others near me. “The enemy is us,” they wrote in the VS (“Have We Lost Our Moral Compass?” June 24, 2011). I will return to this article shortly. One “happy hooligan,” Cohen writes, every time he threw more fodder into a burning fire, “raised his arms in triumph and acknowledged the cheers of the mob”—and that mob was us, Vancouverites, not some marginalized nobodies. “And cheer they did,” he continues, “or dancing like Druids at Equinox.” That sheep-like, mindless and cheering crowd was us, Vancouverites.

Inflation of the Inconsequential
We Canadians think of ourselves as decent, civilized people, but Pete McMartin referred to the perpetrators as “self-entitled little pukes,” our children, siblings and friends and, for many, ourselves “who had invested an obscene amount of emotion and money on what was only a game.” “We let something as inconsequential as sport do so,” he lamented. That was our shame (“The View from Another Counter…Ontario,” VS July 5, 2011). He is right, absolutely right—in so far as he went. Sports have their legitimate place in recreation, building of team spirit and healthy life style, in economics even. In my younger days I enjoyed a vigorous tennis game, while today I enjoy watching certain sports, whether on the field or on the screen. I am grateful for sports. But in the end, after affirming much of sports, we must remember that, after all is said and done, played and watched, it is only a game. No more. That’s it.

Why the Inflation?
Part of the answer to this “why” question lies within the sports world and its powerful organizations themselves as well as by various levels of government who encourage this inflation by massive spending on arenas and other facilities. That the sports establishment should encourage such developments stands to reason—vested interest. It is the source of their wealth, power and status. Governments often support this addiction to sports to divert the attention of their citizens from more serious matters arising out of their own misgovernment.

But the question still is: How can these developments be so successfully encouraged that it often totally consumes people so that they live for little else and it becomes the very centre and meaning of their lives? They develop a deep passion and strong exclusive loyalties that lead to t-shirt declarations such as “This is what we live for.” During the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics the slogan was “We believe!” As my pastor, a self-confessed hockey addict, commented in one of his sermons, “Oh, really?”

I am still asking the question: How can these feelings run so deep, arouse so much passion and, given the right circumstances, cause such an explosion? Even though I have not yet answered the question or presented my particular theory on it, I hope I’ve given you a few things to think about it. In the next post I will present my theory. If you have been a regular reader of my two blogs, you can perhaps guess which direction I’m going to take this. Mull over it and, when you read the next post, see if you have caught on to my basic vision.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Kuyper Common Grace Translation Project

Post 37

My intention for this post was to do another one on the Vancouver hockey riots. However, unexpected intrusions into my week over which I had little control, made it impossible for me find the time. So, hopefully next week I will fulfill that promise.

What's in this Post
In the meantime, today I introduce you to some new kindred spirits along with a translation project of one of Abraham Kuyper's major works. Kuyper, you may remember, is the father of the Kuyperian movement of which this blog is a member. Apart from this introduction, the rest of this post is simply copied from the website of the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. The information below will inform you of an important translation project not only, but also acquaint you with the Acton Institute, and will enable you to become part of their network. Some of it is info you generally do not get in a blog.

Qualified Kindred Spirits
Though I refer to the Roman Catholic Acton as a kindred spirit, that must be taken with some qualifications. I feel a kindred spirit with them in that they are very aggressive in promoting a full-orbed Christian approach to society, but they often do so within a framework for which I have considerable respect but sometimes is too dogmatic for my Kuyperian soul and too one-sidedly capitalist. Anyone acquainted Kuyper's angry Christianity and the Class Struggle or its various English translations, will know that Kuyper was very aware of the negatives associated with capitalism.

Then there is mention of Kuyper College as a partner in the translation project. I confess to not being "up to snuff" when it comes to this Calvinist institution, also in Grand Rapids. It started out as a Bible college, a notion more Evangelical than Reformed, let alone Kuyperian. They have since adopted the name of Kuyper, but to what extent they now espouse Kuyperianism, I do not know. If interested, check out their website. Perhaps some time in the future I can devote a post to them and introduce them better.

Acton's Summary re the Kuyper Translation Project
There is a trend among evangelicals to engage in social reform without first developing a coherent social philosophy to guide the agenda. To bridge this gap, Acton Institute and Kuyper College are partnering together to translate Abraham Kuyper's seminal three-volume work on common grace (De gemeene gratie). Common Grace was chosen because it holds great potential to build intellectual capacity within evangelicalism and because a sound grasp of this doctrine is what is missing in evangelical cultural engagement. Common Grace is the capstone of Kuyper's constructive public theology and the best available platform to draw evangelicals back to first principles and to orient their social thought.

Acton Press Release: Fuller Explanation
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (April 19, 2011)—The Acton Institute and Kuyper College are collaborating to bring for the first time to English-language readers a foundational text from the pen of the Dutch theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper’s three-volume work, Common Grace (De gemeene gratie) appeared from 1901-05, during his tenure as prime minister in the Netherlands. These works are based on a series of newspaper editorials intended to equip common citizens and laypersons with the tools they needed to effectively enter public life. The doctrine of common grace is, as Kuyper puts it, “the root conviction for all Reformed people.” “If the believer’s God is at work in this world,” says Kuyper, “then in this world the believer’s hand must take hold of the plow, and the name of the Lord must be glorified in that activity as well.”

Dr. Stephen Grabill, director of programs at the Acton Institute, serves as general editor of the project. He points to the contemporary need to understand Kuyper’s comprehensive and cohesive vision for Christian social engagement. “There are a host of current attempts to try to describe how evangelicals should be at work in the world,” Grabill said. “Kuyper’s articulation of the project of common grace shows how these efforts must be grounded in and flow naturally from sound doctrine.”

Placing social engagement, particularly within the context of business activity, in the broader context of sound theology is a large part of what led Kuyper College to partner in this translation project. “Abraham Kuyper’s project in Common Grace helps provide a reliable and engaging theological basis for our new business leadership program,” said Kuyper College president Nicholas Kroeze.

John Bolt, professor of systematic theology at Calvin Theological Seminary and author of A Free Church, a Holy Nation: Abraham Kuyper’s American Public Theology, will serve as a theological advisor to the project. He describes Kuyper’s work as intended “to challenge the pious, orthodox, Reformed people of the Netherlands to take seriously their calling in Dutch culture and society. His basic argument was: God is not absent from the non-church areas of our common life but bestows his gifts and favor indiscriminately to all people.”

The translation and publication project will cover a two year period, and the three volumes total over 1,700 pages in the original. Dr. Nelson Kloosterman of Worldview Resources International and translator of numerous Dutch works will oversee the translation of the texts. The completed translation will be published by Christian’s Library Press, the recently acquired imprint of the Acton Institute. Volume one of Common Grace is scheduled to appear in the fall of 2012.

Additional Miscellaneous Info from the Acton WebsiteResources
• Kuyper Common Grace Brochure (PDF)
• Kuyper Common Grace Table of Contents (PDF)
• Kuyper Common Grace Volume 1 Foreword (PDF)

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Reactions to Vancouver’s Hockey Vandals

Post 36—

Vancouver, the scene of the final game in the recent NHL Stanley Cup runoff, shocked its own socks off when the post-game mourning celebration deteriorated into a mindless, idiotic and violent riot. It has received enough coverage in the media, both public and social, that I do not need to describe the details of the event. I am interested here in the public reactions and in the process will reveal my own.

Why This Violence?
The last half dozen posts of this blog have been heavy on responsibility and accountability. This one will follow that line as well. But first of all, why the vigilante reaction demanding instantaneous justice? I suppose that is the natural product of the public’s impatient indignation. But it is also due to the very low confidence the public has in and its contempt for the BC and Canadian “justice system,” such as it is, a lack and contempt I totally share.

Proposal: Citizen's Committee
But to prevent further vigilantism and the unconscionable delays that marks the system, I want to propose a middle way outside of the existing system. I want either the Mayor or the Premier to appoint a committee of “ordinary” citizens who are not afflicted, blinded or handicapped by the contorted thinking characteristic of our legal system and who are capable of using common sense in promptly meting out judgement to the perpetrators.

Two-tier Tether
Please refresh your mind of Post 34, where I propose an alternative to prison, namely a serious tethering system. In this situation, I propose that those found guilty by the above committee be sentenced to a two-tier tether system. Two years for those who stupidly followed the leaders and a minimum of five years for the leaders. Now I am restraining myself here. If I simply respond to my anger and indignation, I would demand ten years for the entire bunch, every one of them.

My restraint comes out of Christian compassion and mercy, but that does not exclude justice or taking responsibility for the damage done. I was going to add the element of repayment by having these losers participate in the repairs, but which company or crew would want them around?

Diana Purkis' Public Stocks
I am intrigued by Diana Purkis’ proposal in her letter to the Sun. The culprits should be put in public stocks for a week, during which they could be humiliated by the public pelting rotten eggs and tomatoes, after which they would forced to clean homeless shelters and toilets. I would not insist on the pelting. A week in public stocks, with or without the pelting. Just the sheer humiliation and embarrassment of it would be excruciating. Perhaps we can combine our two proposals.

Offer of Volunteer Service
Mayor, Premier, I volunteer for that committee and so would, I suspect, Diana Purkis. I would not even need to be paid! I make my offer not to ensure vengeance. My heart is big enough to separate the sheep from the goats and I believe I can distinguish between guilt, various degrees of it, and innocence. My offer comes out of mistrust of our “justice system.” They will waste an inordinate amount of time and an even more inordinate amount of money, but come out of the process with little more than a hand slap.

These Poor Boys!
After all, we must understand the pressure and grief these poor dear boys were suffering. They lost a hockey game! In other countries people riot merely because of political oppression, injustice and hunger. Thanks, boys, for showing us what’s real!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Obesity: The State Has No Place in….


Excuses, excuses, excuses

Once again, I apologize for an almost two months-long interruption. Life sometimes becomes too hectic for me to cope. I take on too many responsibilities or obligations and then find I need to temporarily change course. This time around it was a trip to Ibadan, Nigeria, where I was invited to deliver an annual lecture about Muslim law or sharia in Nigeria. My title was “Re-tooling Our Approach to Sharia: A Wholistic and Pluralistic Perspective.” Readers interested in that issue may contact me at < boerjf@hotmail.com > for an electronic copy. If you do forward this request to me, please be sure to mention this blog post and tell me what province or state and what country you are from. Of course, if you are interested in such issues, you would do well to also turn to my other blog: < Christian-Muslim World.blogspot.com >.

Trudeau: The State Has No Business....

If there is one statement by Canada’s “philosopher-king,” former Federal Minister of Justice later to become Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, that lingers in the collective memory of the Canadian people, it is probably that “There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” According to a CBC transcript, the context was his response to a reporter’s question. It seems that it was not a carefully thought out statement but, rather, an off-the-cuff remark without official backing. He bumbled his way through as follows:
“I think the, the view we take here is that, uh, there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation, and I think that, uh, you know, what's done in private between adults, uh, doesn't concern the Criminal Code. When it becomes public, this is a different matter."

Mclean's: The State Has No Business....

Whatever the statement’s official status, it has been quoted left and right—and been used as a takeoff for parallel statements about other concerns. Recently the editors of Canada’s Maclean’s captioned an article about obesity among kids with this: “The state has no place in the lunch bags of a nation” (May 2, 2011). They explained, “In the name of fighting obesity, schools everywhere are taking away the freedom of students and parents to make their own lunchtime decisions.” After giving a number of examples just how far this can go, the editors insist that “Eating remains a personal responsibility, not a government mandate.” Proper diet, they affirm, “is a matter for the family, not the authorities.”

Mutual Responsibility

Well, yes, in an individualistic world this may be true, but Canada is not a nation of rugged individualists. The nation has decided that the people are responsible for each others’ health and enforces this responsibility by means of a mandatory socialized medical regime to which everyone, except the very poorest, contributes through taxation.

Christian Responsibility

Of course, Christian tradition has always upheld mutual responsibility and concern for each other. Some Christians, usually more liberal ones, would extend this expression of mutual care by involving government, while others, often more conservative, may insist that this responsibility must be handled by both individuals and by the community, including the church, but not by government. Kuyperians like me cannot be placed in such boxes. Our criteria are different. Sometimes we sound like the one and sometimes like the other, sometimes we sound totally different. This is not due to a wavering posture of uncertainty—Kuyperians are hardly known for that!—but to our different criteria.

Mutual Accountability

Put bluntly, if I have to pay for your health problems, then I also demand a degree of accountability towards me on your part. And if we communally pay for each other’s health problems through government, then we, through government, also have a right to responsible living, including eating. Trudeau’s statement also includes the rider, “When it becomes public, this is a different matter." Through the national health care system to which we all contribute, we have become our brother’s and sister’s keepers via the government. It does not make sense to insist that it is purely your own business to eat as you like and then, when obesity or other problems set in, the public has to pay for your folly? Then it suddenly becomes a public concern—while you probably continue to consume mountains of junk food?

Radical Solutions vs Bandaids

The Maclean’s editors are right that it is hard to control dietary restrictions of students. Attempts to do so, they clearly show in their article, have not worked. However, one way of getting at it that the editors have not mentioned is control at the manufacturing and distribution level. A soft attempt at control would be heavy taxation on all problem foods. A hard approach would be to simply outlaw the production, importation and marketing of such foods. In the end, this latter approach may be the only one that could work.

When our health care system is overworked and underfunded and when the citizenry refuses responsibility, why do governments hesitate to apply the radical solutions needed? Is it the old democratic saw of powerful lobbyists and corporate finance? If democracy cannot fix things at their root or radix level, does it then doom us to patchwork solutions and limping along while our problems intensify?

Responsible Parenting

Of course, the other radical solution that is also desperately needed is responsible parenting. But who can imprint that on a secular population that rejects the teachings of stewardship, responsibility and accountability, the sacredness of the human body, etc.—all the classic teachings of Christianity? With the church sidelined in the lives of many and the government prevented by ideologies from enforcing responsible parenting, what do we have left? Things look kind of hopeless, I am afraid. Do an irresponsible citizenry and irresponsible parents call for some form of dictatorship? Perhaps our secular irresponsibility has driven us beyond the limits of democracy towards a new governing model? Perhaps--and now hold on to your seat!--we need to take another look at God and His guidelines as found in His revelation. Now that would be radical--going to the root of things, our spiritual roots.

Responsibility of Christians

I am not suggesting that Christians do not share in the responsibility for our derailed dietary habits and addiction to junk foods. Christians are often more influenced by their society and culture than by their religion. Too bad. Seeing that they are familiar with Christian thought and values, they should be among those providing formulae for solutions, not simply adhere to the dictates of pop culture or to middle class values and ambitions. It is time for churches to prepare their members to make hard-nosed decisions with respect to family diets and eating habits. Yes, it is first all of all a parental and family responsibility. Secondly, the church has an important task here. Thirdly, if both of these fail to function properly, the government may have to wade in and either insert strong nudges towards solutions like taxation or force the issue by legislation.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Gangsters--What Would Jesus Do?

Post 34--

The basic message of the Bible is about love, forgiveness and reconciliation. It is possible that you do not detect much of that spirit in the past few posts. I seem rather harsh and unforgiving. Though the above concerns are indeed dominant in the Bible, there are also subconcerns that betray a different spirit. These subconcerns are directed at people who represent the opposite of the dominant spirit and work against it; against oppressors of the people.

John the Baptist

When Jewish religious leaders came to John the Baptist, he berated them with all the harshness he could muster. Of course, neither he nor Jesus were invested with official power and thus had to restrict themselves to the power they had, which was one of warning and castigating. “You brood of vipers,” John yelled at them and threatened that “the ax is already at the root of the trees…” (Matthew 3:7, 10; Luke 3:7-9).


Jesus blasted those leaders time and again for putting an impossible load on the shoulders of the people that they themselves were “not willing to lift a finger to move them.” Jesus’ preferred name for them was “hypocrites”—“you shut the kingdom of heaven in man’s faces. You yourselves do not enter…” (Matthew 23:4, 13-14; Luke 11:46). Like Canadian gangsters, Jesus accused these leaders of traveling “over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” Upon them “will come all the righteous blood” they have caused to flow (Matthew 23:15, 35). He cursed those who did not take pity on the poor and helpless and assigned them to “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41, 46). He accused religious leaders of devouring “widows’ houses” and warned that “such men will be punished most severely” (Mark 14:40; Luke 20:47). He pronounced “Woe” on the well-fed (Luke 6:24-25), and that allegedly includes gangsters. His “Woes” are scary and not to be ignored. Jesus did not leave it with mere words. One time he violently overturned the tables of merchants in the temple and drove them out, probably with a whip (Mark 11:15-17). And all of that from a Jesus who describes Himself as “gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29)—“meek,” according to the old King James.

Compared to Jesus

Yes, meek under most circumstances, gentle and humble. Love and compassion personified. But when it came to the high and mighty who oppressed the people, he reserved nothing but scorn and threats of the worst future imaginable. Hell, even. Rejection by and separation from God Himself. Compared to that, you must admit that I am pretty mild comparatively when it comes to gangsters. I do not threaten them with hell. I do not demand capital punishment, but if they insist on divvying that out amongst themselves, I suggest we give them the space for it. Instead of imprisonment, I prefer having them tethered in homes. Out of the box? Yes. Cruel? Compared to Jesus, I am a wimp with my proposals!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Treatment of Gangsters (and other criminals)—Preposterous Proposals (4)

Post 33--

Apology and Subject

I once again apologize for the time lapse between this and the last post. I was under such intense work pressure that I just had to let go for a while. I may as well tell you now that I expect to be in Nigeria the full month of May and am not sure I will have the facilities or the files I need to write new posts while there. So, perhaps one or two posts over the next week and then off to Nigeria. When the next one after that? We’ll see. Possibly early June.

Please refresh your memory regarding my first preposterous proposal in the previous post with respect to the self-cleansing of the gangster world. Though I continue with the subject of gangsters to provide continuation with Post 32, my basic concern today is more with prisoners in general, including gangsters.

Second Proposal

The second proposal has to do with the fact that the prison population of this country and this province is increasing by leaps and bounds. The institutions are overcrowded something fierce. The Federal Government is planning to build more penal institutions. The latest statistic I read is that it costs approximately $120,000 annually to house one prisoner in Canada. $120,000! Imagine. And that will only increase along with the numbers incarcerated. It has become impossible and unaffordable.

So, my second proposal: Instead of incarcerating gangsters and other criminals in prisons, they should be put on a very short leash in someone home, whether their own, a friend’s or relative’s or even a home some individual organized for that very purpose. They should feed themselves or be fed by friend, relative or whoever. Though living in private homes, they are actually incarcerated prisoners with no more freedom to move around than they would in actual prison. They would be subject to the same restraining orders and restricted contact with the outside then if they were in prison, with the exception of people living in the same house with them. They should be stripped of most human rights and be banned from any contact with the criminal world whatsoever during the course of their sentence. In fact, they are not allowed to phone anyone or conduct correspondence in whatever shape or form, except with their “keeper” or “handler,” that is, their caseworker. The terms “parolee” and “parole officer” would not apply in their case, for they are prisoners. No email or internet or social network access or connections. Complete isolation via comprehensive restraining orders. This is prison at home. If they wish to improve themselves in preparation for the time they have served their sentence by distant learning, special arrangements can be made with their keeper.

No doubt, there will be all kinds of problems to be solved before this system is workable, but it would be a lot cheaper than the current method of incarceration. And thus a lot easier on the pockets of citizens. It is these pockets, that is, the welfare of ordinary citizens, that are more important than the welfare of these hicks. My concern here is to reduce the burdens of innocent citizens who have to foot the current $120,000 p.a. per prisoner. My primary compassion goes out towards the hard working tax payer. I also have a strong but secondary compassion for many prisoners, but, I must confess, little for gangsters. I would think that my scheme would be much more humane for them and would protect them from the barbarization that appears to affect many in the current prison system. Being in the company of “ordinary” people might be a more effective way of rehabilitating, re-socializing and re-humanizing them.

I am very eager to hear of your response to these proposals. I know that they don’t stand much of a chance, but perhaps mulling them over will at least get us out of the box to something better than we have now. Personally, I would be overjoyed if they were accepted with the proper tinkering to make them workable. Email me at boerjf@hotmail.com for discussing these proposals. Go ahead and tell me I’m crazy or cruel.

Capital Punishment?

I am not even proposing capital punishment at this point, though, according to recent polls, that would not be so outlandish, since the majority of Canadians support it (Guest Editorial, Vancouver Sun, Jan. 26, 2011, taken from the Ottawa Citizen). I confess to being tempted with regard to gangster dogs and other murderers, but I hesitate because of the lengthy and expensive legal appeals capital punishment often triggers, another impossible expense for which we need to tackle the legal profession from whom I want to protect the taxpayer. One of these days I will engage in a series of blogs directed at those gowned legal gangsters.


In summary, while in Post 32 I advocate self-cleansing of the gangster world so that the police can go about the more important business of protecting the innocent, in this one I propose reducing the expense of incarceration and exchanging the barbarization of the current system with rehabilitation in the context of more civilized and normal people. Between the two of them, we would create a more humane world for both taxpayers, my primary concern, and for prisoners, even for those gangsters.

Future Discussions

The next post will show how my apparent harshness in this and the previous posts mirrors that of Christ Himself. After that, I plan to change gears. Before long I hope to start a series of posts about lawyers and the court system. You should see the files of materials I have amassed about these “friends” of ours. It’s going to take me some time to organize the material. So, have patience. We will get there. In the meantime, we will occupy ourselves with some more innocent and less volatile issues—perhaps!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Treatment of Gangsters—Preposterous Proposals (3)

Post 32:—-

I am really going to take you out of the box with this post. I am going to offer a proposal that I have never heard of or read about before. I have tested it on a crime journalist who rejected it outright as ridiculous. But what we’re doing now with gangsters is, according to me, even more ridiculous, at least if you go by “success.” The population of BC, especially in the south, is being traumatized by constant shoot outs in public places with innocent bystanders or passers by getting killed. Many people feel that the “justice” system seems more concerned with the human rights of monster gangsters and with proper legal procedures than with the safety of ordinary citizens. And after one gangster has killed another gangster, all the manpower and other resources of police forces are marshalled to investigate the killing to the finest detail, while other policing needs receive insufficient attention. They even go out of their way to protect gangsters against gangsters!

So, my proposal: Deny gangsters human rights and police protection. Remember from the last post, that in the scheme I am currently discussing, gangs themselves are now seen as illegal and it is illegal to belong to them. When a gangster—i.e., a member of a known gang-- is killed, let the gang world take care of the dog’s corpse and dispose of it. No investigation on the part of the police. Who cares? That’s one down. Their work has just become a little easier. If gangsters know that no one is concerned about such murders and no one will investigate, perhaps they will kill each other more without restraint and so reduce the further chaos they cause in the civilized community. In the meantime, the police can turn their attention to more worthwhile issues.

There, I’ve said it with all my gruffness without any euphemisms. I just called a spade a spade. This is the proposal that crime journalist rejected almost indignantly. You could think of it as gang suicide or self-cleansing. Goodbye to bad rubbish. And if you don’t like the animalistic terms I use for these dogs, well, I’m in the good company of Kim Bolan, a crime journalist and of Andrew Wooding of the Abbotsford Police whom she quotes approvingly as saying, “It is animalistic.” Indeed. So why not give it a more concrete name with apologies to all respectable dogs?

Recently more hoodlums have been arrested. Bolan reports that Wooding expects that increasing arrests will lead to “less public gunplay.” “It will drive things underground, unfortunately. But I think that is safer for the public.” With all respect for Wooding’s experience, I cannot follow his logic here. Whether the hoodlums shoot each other publicly or underground, what’s the difference? When they do, just leave them lying in their own blood for the dogs to lick up. I don’t believe for one moment that more arrests will instill greater caution in the hearts of gangsters. I know of no research that proves arrests stop criminals in their tracks. If that were so, the US should have fewer criminals than any other nation. Alas….

My rather crude sense of justice has some backing in the Old Testament of the Bible. The prophet Elijah was sent to chastise King Ahab of Israel who had arranged to kill a man called Naboth in order to seize his property. The prophet said, “In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!” His wife, who had instigated it all, was to suffer the same fate along with their entire family (I Kings 21:19, )! Now even for me that’s a bit over the top!

I’m not done. Stay with me.

Source: The source for the journalistic materials is Kim Bolan, “Murder Charges….” Vancouver Sun, Jan. 26, 2011, p. A8.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Gangs are Terrorists: More Outrageous Proposals (2)

Post 31—:

My question for this post is why gangs are not considered and treated as terrorists.

My dictionary defines a terrorist as one who engages in “the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion.” That seems simple and clear enough. For my purposes, I would probably drop the term “systematic” from the definition, for I doubt that gangsters do their shooting according to a systematic schedule, but they do according to a set of priorities that they may not have defined carefully—do gangsters define anything?—but by which they operate instinctively. Applying the word “instinctively” to gangsters seems to degrade them to animalistic levels, but that is not so far off the mark.

Do we need anything more? Since terrorism is an international problem, we should listen to the international political community. Unfortunately, it has not been able to reach agreement on a definition. Some experts have found over 100 definitions and, it appears, productivity and imagination are still cranking out more. The political community generally links terrorism to violence for political ends. That is not the case with gangs. They are not primarily politically inspired and I see no reason the definition should be exclusively political. One terrorism expert, Walter Laqueur, has concluded that the “only general characteristic generally agreed upon is that terrorism involves violence and the threat of violence.” That seems to come pretty close to the essence of gangs.

When you turn to the definition of gangs, especially the legal definition, you once again end up in the land of multiples. Alabama law has defined it more precisely than some as follows: a "street gang" is, "any combination, confederation, alliance, network, conspiracy, understanding, or similar arrangement in law or in fact, of three or more persons that, through its membership or through the agency of any member, engages in a course or pattern of criminal activity." That’s probably pretty good, except that it does not necessarily include violence. For my purposes I would like to take the Alabama version as my working definition of gangs with the addition of “frequent violence.”

But is it legitimate to subsume gangsterism under the umbrella of terrorism? Back in 1988, California enacted the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act. Since that time, at least 28 other states have enacted similar legislation. (Sorry, but I have not found parallel info about the Canadian situation. Perhaps I should try harder?) Here gangsterism is subsumed under “street terrorism.” So, my proposal to bring them together is not unheard of. I stand by it.

Why these thugs are not treated like terrorists and their organizations classified as terrorist organizations is beyond me. If they were, the gangs would be illegal and their bank accounts could be frozen. I am not a lawyer and so do not know whether simple membership in a terrorist organization is illegal in Canada, but in my opinion, it should be.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada explains what Canada should and/or is doing to counteract terrorism in this website: http://www.international.gc.ca/crime/terrorism-terrorisme.aspx. Check it out and see how much of it you think should or could be applied to gangs and gangsters. One of the things I fail to understand is the emphasis on the need for paying special attention to human rights in this framework, unless the reference is to the human rights of the targets.

In my humble opinion, gangs should be treated like terrorist organizations and gangsters like terrorists. Their organizations should be illegal as should membership in them, whether or not an individual member has personally committed any act of violence or not. Their assets should be seized and used to pay for the expenses of countering them.

I am not done yet with these monsters. In the meantime, I invite you readers to dialogue with me on this subject. Tell me where I am wrong. Insult me all you wish. But one thing I will not accept, namely to be told that the law, whether national or international, forbids the kinds of things I am suggesting. Law is becoming oppressive. It is increasingly used to protect terrorists and gangsters. That climate must be done away with. God is the ultimate law giver, but much of today’s positive law with respect to our subject goes counter to His law and has become a prison to the ordinary citizen. In the previous post I wrote about the need for revival. Well, positive law needs to be revived and refreshed to make it more hospitable to freedom and peace. In this process, our lawyers, these so-called “legal experts,” should be assigned a backseat and the “lay” citizen take control of the process.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Crime, Gangs and Secularism

Post 30—:

The past few years BC has had to live with a very lively gang regime that goes far beyond anything reasonable and kilometres beyond anything we should put up with. Shootings, killings, guns, drugs and every kind of violence and vice make up the picture. We are living in a reign of terror. Innocent neighbours, bystanders or passers by are getting shot. The police are doing the very best they can under the circumstances. In the process, they are spending fortunes on staff hours, finances and every resource at hand.

Acording to Kim Bolan and her colleague Daphne Bramham, both of the Vancouver Sun, the murder rate has been going down. Quite a number of gang leaders are behind bars, awaiting trial in the province. Others have been charged and convicted south of the border. So, the police are making serious progress and we ought to appreciate them for their efforts. I so do.

What to do about it? It is clear from letters to editors of local newspapers that the public is getting tired of all this violence and danger lurking all around us. Not a few argue for stiffer laws and stiffer sentences. They get terribly impatient with judges who to them appear to be overly lenient with these thugs and do more to protect their civil rights than the security of ordinary citizens.

Both Bolan and Bramham—see above—are among my favourite columnists around town, Bolan especially because of her crime beat. Bramham has a couple of general suggestions. “We need to act boldly,” is one of her recipes. Fair enough, but how, in which way? “We need to address the root causes” is another one of hers. You don’t know how often I have heard that advice in various community workshops discussing social ills around town. It has become a mantra among those dealing with the issue. Indeed, address the root causes, but I have noticed that people never get beyond pointing to just another level of underlying symptoms such as drugs and alcohol. But why are those causes so common? They are not causes; certainly no underlying causes; they are mere symptoms of something deeper that Vancouver does not want to address.

I have an idea that most people around Vancouver will regard as outrageous and even offensive. When I suggested it once to my table mates at one of these seminars, they looked at me with shock in their eyes. The whole table was quiet for some seconds. Then someone started another discussion—a blatantly diversionary tactic. No one wanted to address the basic cause I suggested. I picked on secularism as a basic cause. Yes, secularism. Since my statement constituted a direct challenge to the worldview of almost everybody around the table, they were not in a mood to accept the challenge and look at it. No surprise, really. Most people resist serious challenges to their worldview. That comes too close to home. That could make me partly responsible for the problems under discussion.

Why did I suggest secularism as a basic cause? Because secularism has replaced Christianity in Vancouver but only in a general way. Though Christianity was never perfectly practiced by anyone, it had provided a perspective with which people could handle and interpret the challenges life hurls at us. Secularism may have replaced it, but it is largely an empty frame of reference on which most people cannot build their life. It is a weak base on which to build a society. It gives a person no moral hold with any degree of imperative. It does not offer firm standards by which to conduct oneself. Everyone sets his own standard.

When a society recognizes no spiritual transcendent standards beyond itself that it it regards as sacred and inviolable, all too many people cave in to the process of lowering standards that is taking place in society. Parents have little or no firm guidance to bequeath to their kids and so the next generation lowers its standards even more, a generational cycle without end. All you have to do is compare the movies of 50 years ago with the current crop and you will immediately notice the difference. Same thing for fashions. What was considered sexy, shocking and avant garde then, is now blasé. What is common now, would have been highly offensive then. This process has been going on at almost all cultural fronts—marriage and divorce, abortion, free-lance sex of every kind, reduced sense of authority and respect. People have lost their sense of meaning. Many wander around on this planet with a feeling of emptiness and uselessness. So they find some sort of relief in alcohol and drugs; others in diversions like sport. Moral sensitivities have dulled and the challenges of an exciting gang life with money and power overcome many young people.

I am not suggesting that every secularist is a drifting clod in a sea of meaninglessness, open to every temptation that comes his way. I have several secularists as friends and they are the finest of people. They are Humanists in the best sense of the word with high morals and clear vision of right and wrong. They are guided by an elevated moral reason that largely keeps them on track, though they also espouse the horror of abortion. They are strong intellectuals who can mostly resist the situation described above, but the next generations?

Here, I believe, we have a major basic cause, one that is hard to overcome, that most of us cannot and do not even want to overcome. So, if we wait until we have overcome this basic cause, we will be paralyzed and achieve nothing, since we don’t want to overcome it.

Now you may think I have really gone cuckoo, I bet! Question secularism?! Get off the pot! But it’s actually nothing new. The latest challenge to secularism is postmodernism. But long prior to that, I am the product of a revival that challenged secularism and continues to do so, a wholesale revival across all cultural segments. It’s called the Kuyperian revival that started a century and a half ago and is still working and spreading its tentacles across the world. It has actually successfully challenged secularism at various fronts in Canada, in the courts, in education, in labour and in areas of social justice, but it has not dethroned it. While some of us pray and work towards such a revival, others of us should work on reducing the negative effects of the symptoms. Both need to happen, but in the next and other future posts I will concentrate on ways to reduce these negative effects, the symptoms.

In the next post I will begin to offer a suggestion or two about tackling the symptoms. These suggestions will likely be considered be equally outrageous by “experts.” In fact, one expert has already done so when I contacted her some time ago. As I occasionally get back to this subject, I will often ask you to think outside of our current boxes of political correctness. I am no expert on these subjects, but, judging from the results the “experts” have to show for so far, it may be the time for an open and blatant non-expert to throw his hat+ into the hopper and see if we can’t shake things loose a bit. In the meantime, if you haven’t done so yet, I urge you to check out this Kuyper and Kuyperian stuff I refer to occasionally, so you know what I am talking about. You can google and find plenty to chew on. You can also go to the Kuyperiana page on my website www.SocialTheology.com>.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Government Transparency (3—and last for now)

Post 29--:

I don’t want to keep flogging the same horse, dead or alive—the horse, that is. But I do want to report on some progress that is being made at the transparency front.

Transparency could be dangerous to our health. The decision in favour of transparency of the BC Ferries is a case in point. The recently released info about the outrageous annual income of its American CEO has upset many citizens, judging from letters to local newspapers. Some, including yours truly, are—well, let me not embarrass my family with Vancouver’s favourite street vocabulary—blooming angry, especially as they learn of additional charges and reduced services to pay the pigs at the trough. Over a million p.a., according to a caption under the man’s picture in the Vancouver Sun (Dec. 27, 2010, p. A14). As I read angry letters, my own anger rose right along with them. Not good for my high blood pressure!

It would be nice if this public outcry would cause shame among the pigs at the trough. I must admit I doubt that. Corporate pigs have been exposed much since the beginning of the current economic crunch, but I have not heard of any public repentance or confession. They themselves and their lackies continue to argue that in order to get highly qualified people, they have to be paid “market prices.” That is, as high as they dare to make it. They won’t do it for less. Have these people heard how they describe themselves? They seem to be incapable of shame and beyond embarrassment. Let me address them in the second person directly: Do you realize how extremely egoistic and materialistic you sound? Listen to yourself, man! I can’t imagine! How can you live with yourself?

If you pigs are enjoying your trough too much to listen, perhaps the public anger will make the authorities in government a bit more careful in future doling out their largesse by thinning what goes into that trough.

I love the work of Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF). They are on the ball and provide taxpayers with lots of great info. I enjoy their work and thank them for it. They push hard for financial transparency. Nevertheless, at the end of this post, I will critique them. But first, the positive, the progress that their Federal Director, Kevin Goudet, writes about in the Vancouver Sun (Dec. 22, 2010, p. A15).

One item that gladdens my heart is that Kelly Block, a Member of Parliament (MP) from Saskatchewan, has sponsored a bill “for transparency of reserve remuneration for chiefs and council.” The idea is to “put reserve politicians’ pay online”! I love the unintended pun—online vs “on the line” “Even the Assembly of First Nations has buckled to the pressure and is now promising to make this information public.” Wow! That’s big news! Rumours have it that some chiefs of small bands make as much or more than the Premier of the province they live in! If you compare that to the squalor in which many members of these bands live, then such incomes place these chiefs also among the pigs at the trough. So, this new development could mean significant progress in terms of transparency, though you never know, for promises and new laws often end up as mere smoke screens.

The second item reported by Gaudet is that, due to pressures from various quarters, the Auditor General of the Federation is going to “be allowed to look at the books of MPs and Senators. The voices were heard, sense prevailed and the books will be audited.” Having read about some of the high expenses these “servants of the people” incur, seemingly without real worries about the welfare of the people or sense of responsibilities towards them, I am very happy to learn of this development.

But I cannot suppress the question how it could be that the Auditor General of the entire Federation of all people needed such special permission! How did it develop that that high office did not have access naturally, automatically to this info? I am stunned. But I’m also happy. The next step is for that info also to be accessible to the general public. Canadian transparency ain’t what it should be by a long shot. I believe a party that makes this a major component of their platform and acts upon it, will be honoured by the people. For transparency goes along with a cluster of attitudes that together spell “democracy,” something of which Canada has a serious deficit between elections, what with Prime Ministers and Premiers acting like tribal chiefs.

I did promise you a word of critique of CTF or, at least, of its Federal Director. His closing paragraph starts with this sentence: “Undoubtedly the list of all the things governments did wrong this past year would dwarf this list of things done right.” That comment, Mr. Goudet, is unbecoming of someone of your stature. “All the things” our governments—note his plural—do are amazing in keeping this country going, from the smallest details of city curbs and sewage you seldom see, through providing health care and security for all, to representing the country on the international scene. Canada is admired by the international community for the way she negotiated her way through the global economic crisis. To negate all that by a flippant condemnation as mostly wrong is nothing short of irresponsible. You owe all the governments and their civil servants in Canada a serious apology and all the people an explanation. Yes, transparency please. Yours is a low blow.

I would refer you to the National House of Prayer (NHP)in Ottawa, an organization that teaches serious politically impartial prayer support for Canadian government ( www.nhop.ca ). Perhaps they can help you develop a more serious, wholesome and responsible attitude. Christians critique, yes, as I do here, but they also support the governments of the day with respect and prayer. There, that’s the Calvinist in me peeping out, referring you to an NHP operated by a Baptist. John Calvin could be shocked! Probably surprised. Most likely pleased.