Commenting standards have been set

OK, friends, to give the new World Table comment system a true tryout, we’ve set the parameters.  You will need a rating of over 40 to comment or give ratings.  Comments with a cumulative negative or strongly negative rating will collapse, though readers can click and read them if they want to.

Now that the standards have been set, it’s time to stop playing around by purposefully giving or earning bad ratings to see what will happen.  There will be real consequences, and they will be hard to reverse.  I can still ban people outright, which I will do in the case of troll attacks, as well as blatant attempts to punish people you don’t like.  Instead of just giving a post you don’t approve of the extreme worst ratings in every category, use some nuance and be fair.  (You may not find our resident liberal gadfly’s comment to be “helpful,” but he is seldom disrespectful and is nearly always honest.  To rate otherwise is bearing false witness.)  Again, I can ban people, but I can’t bring them back from the phantom zone if they fall below 40.

As for facilitating discussion, I am told that we will be getting the option of chronological order.  (Also the option of ordering by strength of rating.  As well as by latest first, for readers who want.)  World Table has been hearing your complaints and is taking them seriously, promising refinements accordingly.

Whether or not Patheos will adopt this system permanently and for all of its blogs or if blog authors will have a choice are all open questions.  But let’s give it a chance.

Discrimination against Christian refugees

The Obama administration has indignantly rejected suggestions that the United States favor Christians and other persecuted religious minorities among the Syrian refugees.  But think tanker Kyle Shideler gives evidence that there is already a religious test, one that is stacked against Christians.  He documents  systematic discrimination against Christian refugees. [Read more...]

Bullying and intolerance at Yale

For Halloween, the administration at Yale issued dictates about Halloween costumes, lest anyone be offended.  A lecturer, who along with her professor husband, is “master” of a residential college, responded with a learned e-mail pointing out that it might not be so bad for a little blonde girl to dress up as Mulan, Disney’s Asian princess (apparently one of the forbidden costumes) and that Yale college students should be able to dress up however they wish.  For this, she and her husband are being accused of racism, among other thought crimes, and hundreds of students are rallying to get them fired.  Those who disagree are getting harassed and spit upon.

Now Conor Fridersdorf of the Atlantic has published an in depth expose of the incident and the climate of bullying, intolerance, intimidation, and anti-intellectualism at Yale.  It’s a must read.  (I post the introduction and a link after the jump.) [Read more...]

Bernie Sanders explains democratic socialism

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders gave his much-anticipated speech in which he explained his ideology of “democratic socialism.”  He said that he doesn’t want the state to own the means of production (the classic definition of socialism).  Rather, he wants to emulate Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Sanders said that virtually all of the New Deal programs we take for granted today–Social Security, the minimum wage, banking regulations, and job programs–were condemned as “socialist.”  Surveying today’s problems, Sanders wants to bring back Roosevelt’s “Second Bill of Rights,” focusing on economic rights.

At the time, when critics accused FDR’s programs and later Democratic initiatives as socialist, the Democratic answer was, “no, they are not!”  Sanders agrees with the conservatives in saying, “yes, they are.”  But at least Sanders embraces the term.

After the jump, read his explanation of democratic socialism.  What do you think of what he says?  If you disagree with his ideology, how would you answer him? [Read more...]

The 1st use of the Law and the new commenting system

We theology nerds talk quite a bit about the Second Use of the Law (the theological use, the “mirror,” which convicts us of sin and drives us to the Gospel), and we argue about the Third Use of the Law (the didactic use, the “guide,” which shows Christians how to live).  We don’t usually say much about the First Use of the Law (the civil use, the “curb,” which enables sinners to live in societies).

The First Use of the Law concerns only external righteousness.  There is no merit to it, no question of earning salvation by external compliance.  Jesus teaches us that we violate the commandment against murder when we hate our brother, and we violate the commandment against adultery when we lust after someone in our hearts.  That inner state is where our status as sinners is evidenet, and it is this inner condition that the Gospel addresses.  But it is also important not to murder anyone externally or to actually commit adultery.  This external righteousness is absolutely necessary if human beings are to live together in families, nations, and societies.  Even someone boiling over with sinfulness on the inside can, on the outside, be a good citizen.

Our sinful nature has to be “curbed.”  The Law achieves this by means of things like parental discipline, the state’s legal system, and social sanctions.  The Law’s first use can make us feel guilt and shame.  We would be ashamed to actually do some of the things we fantasize about.  Many harmful enterprises are held back when the question arises, What if someone finds out?  Being held back by such considerations does not make us a moral person–we shouldn’t have had those fantasies in the first place–but they make civil society possible. [Read more...]

Should we continue the Syrian immigration program?

The United States has committed to accepting 10,000 immigrants from Syria.  That’s far less than the European nations are faced with, but the attack on Paris has many Americans calling for a halt to that program.  To be sure, most of the immigrants are fleeing ISIS, but ISIS has boasted that it will mingle with the immigrants as a way to invade the west.  Stringent screening is supposedly in place in the U.S., but people are nervous.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has called for a “pause” in the settlement of refugees here.  The GOP presidential candidates are agreeing (except for Jeb Bush).  Twenty-six mostly Republican governors have asked that Syrian refugees not be settled in their states (though they have no authority to stop it).  Republican congressmen are introducing bills to stop the immigration.  One idea being put forward is to settle only Christians, who certainly are fleeing persecution, but the administration is indignant at the prospect of “religious tests.”

What is your opinion?  Are Republicans falling into the Democrats’ stereotype that they are mean and lacking in compassion?  Or are their proposals simple prudence?  What do we Christians do with the teachings in Scripture that we should welcome “the aliens”?  Does that apply here? [Read more...]