Stuff I Haven’t Done

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This winter, I didn’t do much besides sleep. I did go to work, Walgreens, and occasionally church, and I’ve gotten myself severely hooked on this game.  (I recommend changing the size. 50×20 is a lot more fun and still fits on the screen if you zoom out to 80%) But that’s about it. If I think about it, I can come up with a pretty long list of valid excuses, several of which have been medically verified. The point, though, is that I really need to get myself doing Stuff again.

By now, we’re well into springtime, regardless of whether we’re going by the solar calendar, social conventions, or the weather. (On second thought, let’s not bring the weather into this. The weather is far too fickle to be given any kind of authority over people.) To be honest, I think that the season only has a slight impact on my productivity, but we’re going to pretend otherwise because that allows me to believe that I’ll soon have my life totally under control. It’ll be all good by summer at the absolute latest, right?

As a side note, I don’t understand why it’s considered negative or pessimistic to say you’re having a bad day. (Or week, year, semester, or any other unit of time) It seems to me that it shows optimism when someone says they’re having a bad day, because the implication is that the next day is likely to be better. Either the problem(s) at hand is/are minor and will quickly be resolved, or the situation will look better from the fresh perspective of a new day. Someone who’s being pessimistic and negative will think otherwise and expect current problems to stick around or to have ongoing repercussions. That attitude and expectation would not be accurately represented by talking about time in concrete terms.

But I digress. The semantics are irrelevant to my announcement that I intend to do Stuff.

At this point, I’m not committing to great feats of Thing-doing. I’m talking about relatively little Stuff. For example, I did a Thing last Monday. I came home from work, ate food, and read part of a book. (If you don’t see how that qualifies as a Thing, you can consider yourself lucky that you don’t fully comprehend the level of Not-Doing-Stuff that I have achieved) I’ve been regularly doing a Thing I like to call “Getting Into My Bed Before Falling Asleep Instead of Just Sleeping on the Living Room Floor”. (Okay, that’s not true, I’ve actually been calling it “Going to Real-Person Bed”, which doesn’t really make any sense now that I see it written out) At this point, I’m hoping to move onto bigger and better Things like establishing a consistent morning routine, regularly vacuuming the cat hair from my carpeting, and spending most of my free time in ways that are somewhat meaningful to me, like reading and writing. Notice how realistic I’m being here. I think I deserve some credit for setting realistic goals because I hate realistic goals. I much prefer unrealistic goals.

The main reason that I’m writing all of this is to avoid the generic blog post that basically just says, “I haven’t been blogging in a long time, but I think I want to get back to it.” So instead, I’m offering this brief ramble in which I vaguely overshare what’s been going on in my life. (Do I get extra credit for the double oxymoron?) But the sentiment is essentially the same. All of that was basically a lead-up to me saying that I hope I’ll be posting more stuff soon.

Long, long ago, the last time I posted something on this blog, it was supposed to be the first of a three-or-four part series. That’s still technically the plan, but the other parts aren’t coming for a while. It’s not that I was having a particularly hard time writing Part Two, or that I didn’t know what it should say. In fact, my draft in progress is quite long. It just isn’t very interesting. And right now, I’m not going to put time and effort into writing anything boring.

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What Color is the Dress?

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tumblr_nkcjuq8Tdr1tnacy1o1_500Personally, I don’t understand why some people are so annoyed by the “What Color is this Dress?” optical illusion that has been dominating the internet  for the past few days. All right, so it’s not worth ending friendships, but it’s actually a lot more interesting than, for instance, a provocative picture of Kim Kardashian, or some of the other images that have briefly taken over the entirety of pop culture.

In the extremely unlikely event that anyone reading this hasn’t yet encountered the “What Color is this Dress?” story, here’s what happened. It started at a wedding, when the mother of the bride wore a black and dark blue dress. (Sorry, team white and gold.) She posted a picture on facebook, which Tumblr user swiked shared on Tumblr this past Wednesday, frantically asking what colors people saw, since she and her friends disagreed.  Some said blue and black, some said white and gold.  Tumblr went crazy, as tumblr has a tendency to do, and the story spread to Twitter, garnering attention as celebrities weighed in on the debate. That’s when Buzzfeed got ahold of the story. The story showed up there at 6:14 PM, and the story  was quickly the most popular thing on the internet. It was by far the biggest Buzzfeed article, #thedress was the top twitter hashtag, people shared the picture on facebook, and basically every news website in existence latched onto the story… all by midnight that same day. It was about 9:00 PM, just as I was leaving work, that a couple of my coworkers alerted me to the phenomenon by asking me what color I saw. (White and gold, for the record.)

And in case anyone hasn’t heard the explanation for why different people see different colors, it basically goes like this. Everyone sees the same image. Everyone notices—even if only subconsciously—that the color quality of the picture is imperfect, due to shadows. Some of our brains latch onto that slight color distortion and just assume that it’s a bigger deal than it is. “Interesting,” our brains say, “The lighter parts look dark blue. What color are shadows? Dark blue. So, if we mentally edit the shadow out of the picture, what’s left? White. That’s it; white dress. What about the dark parts? Well, they look black. But shadows make every darkish color look black. But you see that part that looks a little yellow-tinged at the top? It must be gold! We have decoded the shadows!” Our brains then go on to pat themselves on the back, metaphorically speaking, and proudly announce to us that the dress is white and gold. And we believe them. We don’t even realize that our eyes initially saw something else. Meanwhile, other people, presumably including some of you who are reading this, have brains that take a different approach. “Interesting,” their brains say. “The lighter parts look dark blue. They must be dark blue. And the darker parts look black. They must be black.” Some people see something in between the two examples, such as light blue and gold. When I asked my grandmother this morning, she saw white and a dark color, but she didn’t see gold until I told that that’s what a lot of people see. A few people, including me and my sister, are capable of seeing it either way. (Although I have to make a deliberate effort to see it as black and blue; my visual cortex still tells me I’m supposed to see white and gold.)

Of course, that’s the super non-technical version. If you want a more detailed explanation, a quick Google search will give you several. Or just take my recommendation and read the one from Wired. What I’m interested in is what causes that difference. Does it have anything to do with the shape or health of the eyeball or optic nerve? Could it possibly have anything to do with personality? For instance, I’m more than a bit of a perfectionist and overachiever, so could that have anything to do with why my brain doesn’t want to take the easy route and take the black and blue at face value? I don’t think that personality works that way; it doesn’t make sense for it to have any control over sensory perception, but what if it does?

I think this is all very interesting. If I had to choose between seeing the internet go crazy over a thought-provoking optical illusion or seeing it go crazy over celebrity gossip, I’d choose the former any day.

Who Is Really in the Minority?

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I'm pretty sure that introversion is one of the most popular topics for internet memes.

I’m pretty sure that introversion is one of the most popular topics for internet memes.

It’s an unusual day that goes by that I don’t see something on facebook or tumblr or some internet news site about the state of existence known as “being an introverted person.” Introverted people have an affinity for telling the internet all about what it’s like to be introverted, and I myself have written such a thing on this blog. The interesting point is that introverted people are often portrayed, both by themselves and by others, as a terribly misunderstood minority. But if the internet is any indication, introversion is actually an extremely common personality trait. Granted, it is likely that introverted people are statistically more likely to be the kind of people who write about their personalities online instead of actually expressing themselves in direct conversations with actual people. But still, it’s pretty obvious that being introverted is not a unique or exceedingly rare trait.

Bell CurveIn fact, sometimes I wonder if the opposite is the case. Are extroverts the real odd ones out? Obviously, most people fall somewhere near the middle of the spectrum; “normal” people are neither remarkably introverted nor notably extroverted. If everyone was assigned a numerical value based upon how introverted or extroverted they are, those numerical values would surely form a bell curve. But maybe it wouldn’t be a perfect bell curve; maybe it would be skewed to the introverted side. After all, it’s unusual to hear anyone make a case for the awareness of what it’s like to be an extrovert. Is that because it isn’t necessary, or is it because there aren’t many extreme extroverts out there to make such a case?

IntrovertsTo be perfectly honest, most of us introverts can’t even imagine being extroverted. I can picture what it would be like to be a little less socially awkward and a little more friendly than I actually am, but I really have no idea what it would be like to actually feel more comfortable and at-home in a social setting than by myself. I can’t fathom the concept of feeling energized by having conversations. For me, talking to people is like going hiking. It’s a great thing to do sometimes, it’s generally very enjoyable, and I would love to do it more often than I actually do, but it can be pretty tiring and it wouldn’t even be possible to do it constantly. I really don’t know what it would be like to not feel that way.

IntrovertsBut extroverted people, at least those who read stuff online, are forced to know what it’s like to be introverted. They are constantly bombarded with descriptions of how our minds and emotions are different from theirs. You can’t spend much time on the internet without being reminded about the differences between introversion and shyness, reading lists of things that introverts don’t like to be told, or being told that introverts are more likely than extroverts to have any number of other personality traits. The internet frequently points out that introverts aren’t necessarily antisocial, that introverts actually do need some amount of attention and appreciation, and that the best way to connect with an introverted person is to show an interest in whatever book, intellectual interest, or hobby it is that keeps them entertained in their quiet alone time.

From my own tumblr page

From my own tumblr page

Then again, despite the extreme repetition of those facts on the internet, it seems like in-real-life people just don’t get it. I can’t tell you how often people tell me that I need to “come out of my shell,” when as far as I’m concerned, I’m not in a shell. And other times, people comment on how quiet I am, as if I’m deliberately keeping ideas from them, or they advise me that I ought to spend more time socializing, or they think they’re being kind and understanding if they interpret things that I do as being effects of shyness. Sometimes, I keep my mouth shut because I’d actually prefer to just listen. If I refrain from thinking out loud, it’s not because I want my thoughts to be secret, it’s just that my mind works better when I’m not talking. The reason that I don’t spend a lot of time just hanging out with people is that I’m busy with other things that are more important or more fun, and I wouldn’t necessarily be averse to sharing those activities with other people if the circumstances allowed it. When I say or do something really awkward, it’s not necessarily because I’m shy and intimidated; it might just be because I’m awkward. Those are all things that the internet completely understands and can relate to, but real-life people apparently don’t.

Introverts and extrovertsWhen it comes down to it, I think that the misunderstandings really go both ways, and people on either side of the bell curve are a mystery to many of the people on the other side. That’s probably largely due to the fact that most people are pretty close to the middle. But the question remains, are introverted people a tiny minority that has found its voice by making an inordinate amount of noise on the internet? Or are they a slight minority that has found its voice by claiming dominance on the internet and then playing the victim by pretending to be a smaller subset of the population than it actually is? Since the internet has become such a major part of our society, does that mean that introverts are the new “in” crowd? And if so, what impact will that have?

Old Facebook Posts

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facebookI got a facebook account when I started college back in the end of August 2009. The main purpose of facebook and other social networking sites is to stay in touch with people, whether that means old friends that you haven’t seen in years, current friends and acquaintances who you don’t see as often as you’d like because you’re all so busy, or people who you actually do see all the time. I also use facebook as a repository for memories; there’s an awful lot that comes back to mind if you look through your old pictures and statuses. But perhaps the most noteworthy purpose of facebook, at least in my experience and opinion, is to publicly say whatever entertaining things pop into my head. That’s the cool thing about the internet; I get to choose what sorts of ideas I do or do not feel like communicating to the world, and I have all the time I need to think about how I want to say them. That way, I am perceived according to things that I decided I wanted to say, instead of by the awkward situations that happen in that thing we call “real life,” where there’s no backspace key and where you don’t have the option of reading something one more time before clicking enter.

But another thing about the internet is that, despite the fact that stuff stays there indefinitely, it’s only recent things that get noticed. That’s true about content like news and viral videos, but it’s even more true about the facebook posts of a non-famous individual person. So all of my old facebook posts are essentially gone, even the ones that were clever or funny enough that I would have liked it if they could somehow remain on my permanent record as things that people think of when they form opinions of me.

That’s part of the reason that I found myself looking at old facebook statuses yesterday afternoon and making a list of the ones that I liked. Another reason was that it was fun and that it brought back a lot of memories. At any rate, I collected about eight pages of facebook statuses that still made me laugh or that seemed worthy of remembering for any number of other reasons. I have cut that list down a little for the sake of brevity. (If you can call a 1250-word blog post brief) Here are some of them, listed in backwards chronological order, that I don’t really want to fade into the oblivion of old internet content.

July 9, 2013

They say that a penny saved is a penny earned, but I think that a penny saved should be two pennies earned, because that would be a useful source of income.

April 27, 2013

Watching television is the lazy version of dreaming.

November 6, 2012

Go vote today, and they’ll give you a sticker! That’s incentive for ya.

November 4, 2012

In the middle of the night, I reset my clocks for the sole purpose of saving the daylight. But then, when I woke up this morning, it was cloudy and gloomy, so I could only conclude that my efforts had failed. Sorry, daylight. I did all I could.

October 12, 2012

It has just occurred to me that “Schrodinger’s Cats” would be a great name for a band. Now I need to learn how to play some musical instrument.

August 12, 2012

Holy Communion: It’s edible salvation, because God is awesome.

July 19, 2012

I did things before they were cool before it was cool.

June 15, 2012

I’m thinking about running for President of the United States this November. I realize that someone has to be at least 35 years old to be president, but nowhere does the Constitution specify that we have to count our ages in base 10. In base 5, I’m already 40.

May 24, 2012

You aren’t really your own worst critic unless you’re an only child.

January 22, 2012

I put pen to paper with the intention of creating a shopping list, but instead, the result was science fiction.

December 13, 2011

Phrases from statistics class that would be awesome names for bands: “The Outliers”, “Linear Regression”, “Interquartile Range”, and, best of all, “The Standard Deviation”.

December 8, 2011

You know you’re both a sore loser and a nerd when you stastically analyze all 1215 rolls in a game of risk played a couple weeks ago in order to prove that your rolls were significantly lower than the overall mean, and that it was therefore totally unfair that you lost.

September 23, 2011

My brother and I model our conversations on calculus. We go off on tangents at every point.

July 16, 2011

It was my intention to go to bed early last night. Instead, I went to bed early this morning.

May 8, 2011

I’m not entirely sure whether the word ‘finals’ is an acronym for ‘Foolishly, I never actually learned stuff’ or ‘First, I need a little sleep.” But it must be one or the other.

May 7, 2011

Five more days to finish four more courses with three more exams, two final papers, and a partridge in a pear tree.

April 30, 2011

Last night, I succeeded in getting to sleep before midnight. If by midnight, you mean, like, one o’clock. And if by ‘before’ you mean ‘not too long after’.

April 14, 2011

Either I need to stop being so distracted by the red squiggly lines appearing under all my words, or I need to learn how to spell.

March 25, 2011

It’s kind of like Schrodinger’s cat. If I don’t look at my history test, does that grade really exist? As long as I don’t know what it is, is there still a chance I can improve my grade by finding a four leaf clover or something?

February 7, 2011

Life is short. Read fast.

January 20, 2011

I am not going to give my life to God, because he has already purchased it, and incidentally, he paid a lot more for it than what it was worth.

December 26, 2010

Polka music is like fruitcake. I know people aren’t supposed to like them, but I can’t help it.

December 22, 2010

family, noun: A group of people who all know the same silly songs and sing them frequently in random situations.

December 12, 2010

I would like to point out to Santa Claus that all my sins have been forgiven through Christ’s death and resurrection.

December 11, 2010

Studying gives me attention deficit disor- I should move that blue ornament a little higher on the Christmas tree.

December 5, 2010

Homework is like a scary bumblebee. If you just ignore it, it doesn’t really go away.

November 29, 2010

Some people would say the glass is half empty. Some would say the glass is half full. And others would say, “Are you sure it’s exactly half? Let me go get a ruler.”

August 17, 2010

I was going to procrastinate today, but somehow I got busy with other things, and now I’m going to procrastinate tomorrow instead.

May 27, 2010

My house: The place where mealtime conversations revolve around such topics as Star Wars, the difference between various blood types, the execution of Anne Boleyn, and the question of whether or not tornados are life forms from other planets.

April 26, 2010

Gud spehling iz foer peepl hoo lak creeyativitee.

April 14, 2010

Late to bed and early to rise leads to fatigue and bloodshot eyes.

In Which I Continue To Rant About Bad Theology On the Internet

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The picture used in the article being discussed

The picture used in the article being discussed

A few days ago, I happened to see this online article: 10 Political Things You Can’t Do While Following Jesus, by Mark Sandlin. After wondering whether it was meant to be some kind of satire and looking for signs of sarcasm, I have had to come to the conclusion that it was written in all seriousness. It just sounds silly because it misrepresents Jesus so badly. What bothers me about it is that I’ve heard these exact same arguments from so many people on so many occasions. I understand that the people who say and write these kinds of things are doing so out of good intentions, genuine interest in other people’s well-being, and the belief that they are doing what the Bible tells them to do. But the Bible isn’t a handbook on social justice, and if you read it that way, you’re missing out on a lot. Furthermore, many of these arguments just aren’t supported by the Bible anyway. I’m writing this blog post in the format of a direct response, but I’m not so much criticizing that particular article as explaining why I’m frustrated by the common mindset behind it. Here are Sandlin’s ten “things you can’t do while following Jesus” and my response to them.

10) Force your religious beliefs and practices on others

If the point here is that it’s impossible for government to enforce faith, of course that’s true. And if the point is that it’s immoral for the government to try to enforce faith, I agree to some extent. A theocracy based upon Biblical doctrine is a nice idea, but that’s not the kind of government we have, and we wouldn’t be doing any good if we tried to turn this country into a theocracy. But I don’t think that’s what this article is saying, given the fact that it continues, “One of the strengths of the faith Jesus taught was its meekness. The faith he taught valued free will over compulsion- because that’s how love works.” Really? Jesus was so humble that He didn’t care if people believed what He said? And Jesus said that free will is the same thing as love? Where does the Bible say that? I’m finding verses that say things like, “…but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God”, (John 3: 18) and “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16) Contrary to what Sandlin says, Jesus talks about freedom less frequently than He talks about belief, and when He does discuss freedom, he says things like, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) I have a feeling that’s not what Sandlin means when he uses the term “free will”. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we can or should try to force people to become Christians. The Bible also says that “this [faith] is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8) and that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) I am not by any means advocating for a campaign to turn this country into a theocracy. But there is no Biblical basis for the postmodern belief that religious differences don’t matter or that we shouldn’t want people who we love to come to faith.

9) Advocate for war

Jesus: An Artist's Rendition

Jesus: An Artist’s Rendition

Interestingly enough, the first actual Bible quotation cited in this article is quoted in order to disagree with it. Sandlin quotes Matthew 10:34 (although he doesn’t actually give the reference in the article), which says, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” He even acknowledges that there are a couple other verses that say the same thing, but discounts them because “they don’t hold a candle to the more than fifty-some verses where Jesus speaks about peace and peacemaking.” He doesn’t offer any such verses, so I got out a concordance and looked them up. I counted, and Jesus used the word “peace” or a form thereof 24 times in the four gospels in the King James Version. In many of these cases, it is part of the phrases “hold thy peace”, “peace be with you,” or “go in peace.” In the parable being told in Luke 11:21, the word is “safe” in most translations, and it refers to possessions, not people. Luke 14:32 also is part of a parable, and “peace” is not what the parable is discussing, as is made clear six verses earlier. Then there is the aforementioned Matthew 10:34 and the corresponding verse in Luke, and a couple verses in Matthew and Luke in which Jesus tells his apostles to bring their peace to a house that is worthy, but not to a house that is not worthy. That leaves five verses that Sandlin could have quoted. I have a feeling that Matthew 5:9 (“Blessed are the peacemakers…”) is what he had in mind here. (Incidentally, the beatitudes tend to be misused; one ought to remember that a person who is “blessed” is someone who has received a gift, not someone who has earned a reward.)The others are Mark 9:50, (which ends “…and be at peace with one another”) Luke 19:42, (“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!”) John 14:27, (“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you”) and John 16:33. (“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”) There’s a big difference between “In me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation” and “In the world you will have peace because of me.” Jesus said the first one; He never said the latter one, and Matthew 10:34 (“I did not come to bring peace, but the sword”) is not, as Sandlin implies, in contradiction with the rest of the Bible. Of course, war is a bad thing and should be avoided. But it happens, (Matthew 24: 6 and 7) and when it’s necessary, Christians are not compelled by their faith to oppose it.

8) Favor the rich over the poor

This one is absolutely true, and in fact Sandlin could have used Bible verses to back this one up, particularly from the Proverbs (14:21, 19:17, 31:9) and then there’s the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55, which doesn’t actually include the word “poor”, but it does say “those of humble estate.” And Jesus Himself occasionally talks about giving to the poor.  I’m a little puzzled as to why the author of this article didn’t choose to quote the Bible. I rather suspect, though, that he’s hinting his disapproval at some particular law or practice in our culture, and I’m not even sure what that is, unless, of course, he’s arguing for a communist or socialist society. In that case, it’s obvious why he can’t find verses to go with that idea. Jesus wasn’t a political figure and he didn’t have a lot to say about politics except “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21) which isn’t exactly a radical or controversial statement. Jesus is saying that we’re supposed to respect and obey the government, which applies to any kind of political system and has nothing to do with who is rich and who is poor.

7) Cut funding that hurts the least of these

Who ever said anything about government funding? The government in Judea under the Roman Empire did not, as far as I know, have any kind of welfare system at all, and there is no place in the Bible where Jesus has much to say about that lack. If He had had a choice, perhaps Jesus would have been in favor of a welfare system, but we don’t know because the Bible doesn’t
specifically say. It obviously wasn’t an important enough issue to have a place in Scripture. There’s a reason for that; the Bible is about what Jesus did for us, not about how Jesus thinks the government should treat us. Here, Sandlin finally gets around to quoting something from the Bible to support his argument: “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do it to me.” He doesn’t give the reference, though. I can’t actually find it, but I think that this verse was taken out of context; I seem to recall that Jesus was talking about children, not poor people. If I’m incorrect about that, I do apologize, but either way, this verse isn’t about government welfare and budget cuts.

6) Let people go hungry

Pictured: Not Jesus

Pictured: Not Jesus

Ooh, now we get a Gandhi quote! Seriously, did he not have his Bible accessible when he was writing this article? Or did he look, and realized that there’s no Bible verse that says, “And Jesus said, ‘When anyone is unable to provide food for his or her self, it is the government’s job to provide food for them.’”? Sorry for the sarcasm, but it’s just absurd to quote Gandhi in an article about what “Jesus-followers” should do. Of course Jesus didn’t want people to starve; in fact, He performed miracles on a couple of occasions in order to feed His followers. But there was nothing political in that act of providence, and He never said anything to indicate that we are required to view it as a precedent for government policies.

5) Withhold healthcare from people

When did Jesus discuss healthcare specifically? Sandlin makes this point on the basis that Jesus healed people. Yes, He did, that’s true. The author goes on to acknowledge that we cannot work the miracles that Jesus could, but says that modern health care is pretty close to a miracle. That statement is dangerous; it sounds an awful lot like he’s trying to put modern medicine and/or government funding in the place of Jesus. There’s a word for something that tries to take the place of Jesus; that word is “antichrist”, and it’s generally considered by Christians (or “Jesus-followers,” if you will) to be a bad thing. Again, I’m not denying that Jesus was in favor of taking care of people, but how do you start from that premise and suddenly insist that this means that Jesus expected the government to pay for healthcare?

4) Limit the rights of a select group of people

Okay… what “select group of people” are we talking about, and what “rights”? I agree with this statement as presented, but I’m pretty sure that it’s a subtle way to refer to some specific issue, and I’m not even sure which one. But anyway, Jesus didn’t talk a whole lot about “rights”, and an awful lot of the things that twenty-first century Americans label as “rights” aren’t discussed in the Bible. The phrase “certain unalienable human rights” comes from the Declaration of Independence, which is a very nice document and one that we, as Americans, should respect. But we ought to recognize the difference between biblical doctrine and American ideology, even where they don’t conflict and we agree with both. And even the Declaration of Independence says that these rights are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, which is so vague that you can’t use it to really make a case for many of the political agendas that I think the author may be subtly referencing. I want to reiterate once again that I’m not completely disagreeing with the goodness of the principle, or saying that it’s totally incorrect. But this principle in and of itself is not biblical and cannot be used to support the kinds of arguments that I think are being implied here.

3) Turn away immigrants

Again, where does this come from? Sandlin lists travelers in the Old Testament and points out that “Christian heritage runs through Judaism. We are an immigrant people. Even our religion began somewhere else.” I understand the point, but where does Jesus say that a government is compelled to never deny immigration? Examples do not make a principle. If Sandlin is speaking against racial discrimination, he could build a better case by quoting any of the several verses in the Epistles that talks about Jews and Gentiles, but even then, this in no way indicates that the government doesn’t have the right to turn away an immigrant when those in authority believe that there is good reason. The current immigration issues in our country are problematic, and I personally don’t know what needs to be done, or whether a “liberal” or “conservative” approach is better.  Certainly we shouldn’t make it illegal for people to move, but that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be any restrictions, or that we shouldn’t do anything to prevent people from sneaking across borders without the approval of both governments. It’s not an issue with only two sides; there are many different things that our political leaders need to take into consideration. The Bible doesn’t give an answer on this issue. It doesn’t specifically discuss the political aspects of immigration.

2) Devalue education

Sandlin says this based on the use of the word “wisdom” in the Proverbs, which isn’t really a valid point because “wisdom” is not synonymous with “education”.  Perhaps that’s splitting hairs a little, but once again, what does this have to do with government funding? The author’s assertion is making the assumptions that a) education is the responsibility of the government and that b) more funding automatically means better education. Both of these are debatable, and neither of these is something that Jesus talked about.

1) Support capital punishment- execution

Christ on the CrossThis is the worst part of this list, and what makes it even more horrible is the fact that it comes in at number one. It isn’t the sentiment itself that I mind so much. Although the Bible doesn’t say anything against capital punishment, in theory there wouldn’t be anything wrong with a country deciding not to use that particular authority. But the argument that Sandlin gives has nothing to do with the authority of the government or with the Bible. It starts by saying, “Jesus died by execution. He was an innocent man.” For just a moment, it looks like there’s finally something in this article that sounds like Christianity. Here we finally have a mention of Jesus’ death on the cross, and even a hint that the purpose of his death was sacrificial. But that’s not where this article is going. It goes on to say that it’s unloving to kill, and ends, “It’s time to stop the government-sanctioned killing.” Is this article really telling us that the message we’re supposed to get from Jesus’ death is that capital punishment is bad? Instead of seeing what Jesus has done for us, we’re supposed to see a reason to criticize our own government? Instead of receiving forgiveness of sins and salvation, we’re supposed to receive motivation to push for the abolishment of a law we think is “unloving”? This isn’t just ignoring the cross; it’s using the image of the cross to cover up the purpose of the cross!

I know that there are Christians on both sides of any social or political issue who see Christianity as a reason for their position, and I know that both Republican Christians and Democrat Christians often have a tendency to mix religion and politics. Sometimes, that isn’t even such a bad thing, because it’s true that religious morals should cause us to do good things in our lives, including the areas where politics are concerned. But when we use faith to inform our political and moral values, and when we use the teachings of Jesus to explain these values, we need to make sure we’re actually agreeing with those teachings, not just manipulating them and mixing them with clichés and Gandhi quotes in order to say whatever will justify our political beliefs. And, even more importantly, something is wrong when we think that Christianity is just about politics. It’s horrible and frightening when people can talk about their “Christian” faith without mentioning Christ and his crucifixion and the forgiveness of sins. It’s even worse that law and gospel have gotten so lost that people can actually talk about the crucifixion without seeing salvation and grace there. Jesus came to die for your sins, people! If Jesus’ teachings inform your political opinions, that’s a good thing, but don’t let your political opinions redefine Jesus!

The Confusing Thing about Random Facts

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Every now and then, I see something on facebook, tumblr, or some other sector of the internet that asks participants to list a certain number of random facts about themselves. I rarely do this. It is not necessarily because I believe such surveys to be cliché or pointless; it is rather because I am confused about what determines the randomness of a fact. Does “random”, in this context, mean trivial? Does it mean that the person constructing the list is not to spend much time thinking about the facts or putting them in any particular order? Does it simply mean that the facts do not necessarily need to be related to each other in any way? My observations of things that other people post on the internet has led me to come to the conclusion that the word “random” is defined in many different ways, and that the tone and nature of a list of “random facts” will differ greatly from individual to individual. Some examples of things that can be classified as “random facts” include personal anecdotes, opinions, self-descriptions of personality or physical traits, details about one’s family or pets, personal biographical information, or a detail about one’s hobbies or interests. It would seem that the entire point of “random fact” lists is that everyone has a different idea of what kinds of facts should be on these lists. You may not learn a lot about a person by what facts about themselves they choose to share in this type of context, but what you do learn about them might be interesting.

As a nerd and a smart-aleck, I am incapable of simply accepting this. The reason for my objection is that the word “random” has a specific mathematical meaning. Granted, this mathematical meaning differs from the word’s standardly used definition as given by English dictionaries, which say that “random” means purposeless or haphazard. Normally, it is my policy to trust dictionaries. However, I believe that the official mathematical definition of the word “random” is worth noting. According to the statistics class I took a year ago (and in which I got good grades, thereby justifying my insistent use of the concepts and definitions I acquired from it), “random” means that any possible outcome has an equal chance of occurring. For example, the roll of a fair die is random because each of the sides has an equal chance of being the side facing up when the die lands. Picking a card out of a standard deck is random because each card has an equal chance of being selected. Using a random number generator is random because any number within the selected range has an equal chance of being produced. Listing facts about yourself is not random because, no matter how purposelessly and haphazardly you are doing it, you are deliberately selecting the facts that you will use.

The only way to make a list of facts random is to randomly select these facts from a larger list of facts. That is to say, in order to generate a short list of random facts, a person should first write a long list of facts and then use a completely fair method to randomly choose the predetermined number of facts from the long list. This raises another question, though. How comprehensive should the long list of facts be? It can’t actually contain every possible fact about the person in question, because such a list would be infinitely long. I think that might actually be literally true, but even if it isn’t, the list would be extremely long and therefore inconvenient to use. Thus, I suggest that the list should contain only those facts which the writer of the list deems internet-worthy based upon its coolness and the likelihood that others would be interested in reading it. For example, I might include some facts about my musical preferences or my favorite books or movies, but not a fact about my favorite brand of peanut butter. Alternatively, someone who considers peanut butter to be a fascinating or important topic might use such a fact.

It’s too bad I have a lot of homework to do tonight.  Otherwise, I would love to spend some time compiling a long list of facts about myself in order to prepare for the next time the internet wants to know some random facts about me.