Obama gets tough on immigration

Carnival_Liberty_Cuban_RefugeesWith about a week left in office, President Obama has finally cracked down on immigration:  against Cubans.   Escapees from our Communist neighbor have long been given automatic legal immigrant status once they arrive on our shores. But no more.  Now they will be returned for punishment.

The Obama administration says that now, in light of our “normalized relations” with Cuba, Cuban refugees will be treated like any other immigrants.  Except other immigrants are allowed to enter illegally with impunity and they are hardly ever returned to their homelands.  Yes, Fidel Castro is dead, but his brother Raul, now in charge, is also said to be a merciless dictator.  Cubans fleeing Communism tend to be freedom-loving types who–like the families of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz–tend to become conservative Republicans. Could this have anything to do with this tightly-focused crackdown?  Surely not.

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Letter from a Birmingham Jail 

512px-Recreation_of_Martin_Luther_King's_Cell_in_Birmingham_Jail_-_National_Civil_Rights_Museum_-_Downtown_Memphis_-_Tennessee_-_USATo observe Martin Luther King Day, read his classic “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”  It was written to fellow pastors who were concerned that a man of the cloth would engage in protests that would get him arrested.

The letter is interesting in itself for the case that it makes for civil disobedience, under certain very restrictive conditions.  Some of what he says will resonate with pro-lifers and religious freedom advocates.

The letter also shows how it was possible back then in 1963 to continually quote and allude to Scripture and to appeal to moral absolutes.  I don’t know if a person could do that today.  I don’t know if the Civil Rights Movement, with its moral appeal to the nation, could happen today.

Read “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” after the jump. [Read more…]

Luther’s influence on German culture

Luther-Catechism-1560-LeipzigThe Economist has a fascinating article on “How Martin Luther has shaped Germany for half a millennium.”

I’m not sure how accurate it is.  (Luther’s moralism?  For the person who insisted that salvation is by grace through faith, rather than good works?  Well, maybe so.  Maybe this is evidence that an emphasis on faith really does bear fruit in good works.  But “dour,” for the most uproarious of theologians?  “Lutheran socialism,” finding the origin of the northern European welfare state in Luther’s neighbor-centered view of vocation?)

But that Luther influenced Germany’s love of music, emphasis on education, love of books, work ethic, etc., rings true.

UPDATE:  Note the critique of this article by German journalist and confessional Lutheran Uwe Siemon-Netto in a recorded interview on Issues, Etc. (HT:  Jeremiah Oehlerlich & Carl Vehse)

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Gay divorce

divorce-1021280_640We have gay marriage.  Now we are also getting gay divorce.  The New York Times has published an op-ed piece entitled  “I Got Gay Married. I Got Gay Divorced. I Regret Both.”  The author, Meredith Maran, tells with poignant honesty how she crusaded for gay marriage, took the plunge, but then went through a long, costly, and painful divorce.

After the jump, theology professor Denny Burk quotes from the article and comments on the problem:  wanting the rights of marriage without the norms of marriage (fidelity, permanence).

The same could be said of many heterosexual marriages.  But is there anything about gay relationships that makes permanence especially difficult?  What role might bearing children play in making marriage permanent?  But how would you account for marriages with children that break up anyway?  Some people are saying that marriages shouldn’t necessarily be permanent at all, though breakups are still traumatic, even for those who think that way.  Do you have any suggestions for lowering the incidence of divorce, including among heterosexual Christians?
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Legal rights for robots as “electronic persons”

I_Robot_-_RunaroundA committee of the European Parliament has passed a measure that would give legal rights to robots, classifying them as “electronic persons.”  It also imposes obligations, such as liability for any damages they might be responsible for.  The report also says that robots must not be made so as to appear “emotionally dependent” and must have a kill switch, should they go rogue.
That the committee is thinking in science fiction terms is evident in its implementation of Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, which he developed in his I, Robot series:
  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

The committee measure says, “A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm,” while allowing robots the right to defend themselves as long as this rule is not violated.  The measure specifically says that developers must follow Asimov’s laws.

The entire European Parliament will vote on the measure in February.  For the entire document in English go here. [Read more…]

Trump and the prosperity gospel

Paula_WhiteGiving the opening prayer at Donald Trump’s inauguration will be Paula White, a megachurch “pastor” and televangelist who is a leading proponent of the “prosperity gospel.”  In fact, prosperity gospel preachers were the leading “evangelicals” who supported Trump from the beginning in an organized way.

Westminster professor and White Horse Inn host Michael Horton has published an op-ed piece in the Washington Post about the prosperity gospel movement and its connections to the president-elect.  He goes into its history and its beliefs, including the teaching that “you are as much the incarnation [of God] as Jesus of Nazareth,” rejection of the Trinity, and that Christ died not for our sins but for our prosperity.

I suspect Trump neither knows nor cares about any of this, though he did attend Norman Vincent Peale’s “power of positive thinking” church as a child and though Paula White claimed to have “led him to Christ.”  Most Christians who voted for Trump surely did so for secular rather than theological reasons.  But giving the “Word of Faith” people another seeming name-it-and-claim-it victory, as well as prominence and possible influence, is not good for American Christianity.

Conservative, orthodox Christians who supported Trump–does this bother you?  Should we give the Trump regime a pass when it comes to condemning false doctrine and heresy?  Do the religious beliefs and alliances of someone in a secular office matter?

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