Category Archives: Christianity

Taiwan and Chinese Relations

Taiwanese and Chinese relations are growing closer.  This is an exciting international piece of news!

Since 2008, and the election of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, there have been increasing closeness with regards to transport and trade.  For years, there were tensions, even high tensions, between the China (sometimes called the “mainland”) and Taiwan.  I recall a cruise missile incident about fifteen years ago which seemed scary.  Taiwanese presidents would provoke mainland Chinese anger by intimating that they were independent of mainland China, or that they would like to be so.  The People’s Republic of China has long been bristling at such notions.  President Ma has more of a “building on common beliefs” philosophy with respect to China-Taiwan relations, and it seems to be working well.  He works with the mainland on issues of mutual interest in a way that is innocuous or at least inoffensive to mainland China.

How have the countries grown closer?  Consider trade, for one.

Since 2000, direct trade between the countries was $31 billion.  In 2008, it was $100 billion.  Even with this increase, Taiwanese businesses and entrepreneurs would like even more trade barriers removed.  At this juncture, Taiwan and China are working on a trade agreement (called Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement) which would enable even closer ties with fewer trade restrictions and tariffs.

Another difference would be travel.  In 2000, individuals desiring to travel from Taiwan to mainland China had to go through Hong Kong (and vice versa).  This restriction was recently lifted, and direct flights to the mainland are now commonplace.

In a world where the West (Europe and North America) seems increasingly statist and bent on cluelessly spending itself into oblivion, those in the East, especially China and India, seem to be moving in the other direction, at least in some aspects.  These are to be applauded.

I look forward to the day when the doors of the Gospel will be opened in mainland China.  Increasing closeness with Taiwan can only help in this regard.

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Filed under Christianity, fiscal policy, foreign policy, Libertarian, role of government, War

On President Obama, Moral Source of America’s Authority, and Sacred Trust

I start my long public absence from cyberspace with with two quotes from President Obama:

We must draw on the strength of our values — for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not.  That’s why we must promote our values by living them at home — which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.  And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom and justice and opportunity and respect for the dignity of all peoples.  That is who we are.  That is the source, the moral source, of America’s authority.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-address-nation-way-forward-afghanistan-and-pakistan

The U.S. “is ready and eager to assume that sacred trust…I urge you to choose Chicago. And if you do — if we walk this path together — then I promise you this: The city of Chicago and the United States of America will make the world proud.”

http://www.shallownation.com/2009/10/02/obama-olympics-2016-video-photos-10-2-09-chicago-2016-bid-in-copenhagen/

Interesting, these two quotes, from President Barack Obama.

First, let’s discuss the first of these two.  (Remember that this first speech is to drum up support, of which there was and is plenty on both sides of the aisle before this speech, for an increased military presence in Afghanistan.)  What is the moral source of America’s authority?  Some sort of Lockean social contract?  Some sort of transcendent goodness or truth?  God-given inalienable rights?  It’s not really clear to me what exactly he’s referring to, but in context, it seems at its root, to be a more flowery yet similar argument to what President Bush said, that you are either with us or with the terrorists (see here) in that to oppose this plan is to oppose morality itself, or perhaps the moral source of America’s authority, as if America is necessarily propelled to its current and currently increasing levels of hyperinterventionism because of its moral authority.  (One would wonder, then, was the Founder’s noninterventionism somehow less moral?)

It is also clear that God is not mentioned, even obliquely, as a moral source of America’s authority (lest there be any confusion, let me be clear: this is not limited to Democrats; Republicans are guilty of the same omission; others hypocritically invoke His name while their actions betray Him).

Actions and ideology indicate that this kind of opportunity and justice is more closely related to a notion of positive rights.  In addition, volumes could be spoken of how hypocritical this statement seems on its face, in that to hundreds of millions, if not billions, the very policies America is pursuing domestically and internationally promote the opposition of freedom, justice, opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.

Now, for quote number two.

Notice the use of “sacred.”  For me, as an active Mormon, and along with many other religionists of all creeds, I reserve this word for my relationship with Deity.  That, alone, is sacred.  Yes, as a Latter-day Saint, since I believe associations may continue into the next world, those also are sacred, but mostly in a theological contrast.  If God is removed from these, the sacred goes away, too.

So what does the use of this word tell us about President Obama, and the ideology which he (and many other Americans) subscribes to?  What, for him, holds the highest importance?  What is sacred to him?

No question that it is important to certainly respect one another, and to value one another’s trust.  But the use of that word “sacred” seems a little over-the-top, at minimum.  Perhaps, you might say, it is just trivial political pandering, begging to get a global economic stimulus into his beloved Chi-town.  But maybe it means something else….

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Ahistorical Culture of Laziness

We are at spiritual war.  The adversary, Satan, seeks to destroy us.  He seeks to make us miserable.  One area the adversary is laboring dilligently regards our work ethic and related culture of gratitude and cultural awareness.  All three are related, and as the paths to destruction are many and varied, the adversary would be pleased with us taking one or more of these.

One of the marks of a declining civilization and sagging culture is an overall sense of laziness.  Each of us likely has countless tales of individuals in the workplace or classroom (or chapel) whose laziness and apathy knows no bounds: they seem unwilling to do much of anything, and unconcerned at the notion of accomplishing little or nothing.  If honest, most of us could recount instances where we ourselves manifested an unholy laziness, an idleness which does not breed the best in individuals or families spiritually, emotionally, socially, mentally, or temporally.

A recent co-worker was lamenting over the hardship of sitting in a relatively long (by our standards) meeting.  An hourly five minute break, he claimed, barely made the whole experience tolerable.  I was annoyed at this attitude.  After all, he was at work.  Was he getting paid for self-amusement or entertainment?  If only he could go back a few generations and see the sort of subsistent farming his ancestors (or mine) required to merely survive, laboring sixteen hours a day in cold, heat, etc., with no retirement plan or paid holidays.  How can sitting in an air conditioned room be considered any sort of hardship?

It is a sad indicator that few people understand where we have come from, and therefore lack any sort of significant appreciation for the good in our current circumstances.  There exists neither motive for improvement, nor gratitude for current blessings, nor awareness of the billions today who live literally in poverty, in the humblest of circumstances, living day-to-day and meal-to-meal.  This sort of ahistorical and myopic, self-centered view on life is emblematic of our entire culture.

And it is counter to teachings of Latter-day prophets.  For instance, the admonition in D&C 88:79 for all to seek knowledge:

Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home; things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations…and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms.

We could consider other examples related to gratitude and charity, to name a few others. 

There are opposing forces to this over-arching laziness.  Redemption continues to be possible, not just for liars, thieves, and Sabbath-breakers, but for the lazy and ignorant as well.  If such poses a significant barrier to spiritual growth and progress, then we are assured that the Savior’s grace is indeed sufficient (i.e. Ether 12:27).  His power is able to save and redeem us from not only external enemies, but from internal constraints which inhibit spiritual growth and development.

Scripture is full of admonitions to shake off our laziness, to awake and arise, to gird up our loins, to shake off the dust or chains which bind us, etc.  Surely the Lord wants us to take this counsel to heart!

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Sunday Morning Thoughts on Nihilism and Transcendentalism, and Exaltation in Film

I recently have been persuading my four year-old to watch snippets of the Disney film Fantasia 2000 (one of my favorite all-time films) on youtube.  So far, he has been willing to do so.

I have a passion for classical music, and I find that the music featured on Fantasia 2000 (similar to the music featured on the original Fantasia) includes some of the greatest musical achievements of western civilization.  I have a desire to show my children that there is something valuable, something profound, something meaningful, something transcendent, and even something divine in these great orchestral works, and thus in life itself.

The stories told by the animators, too, are primal and transcendent.  Themes include pure romantic love, family love, the power of community, transcendent communal unity with the divine, individual strength, sacrifice, and timeless struggles of life vs. death and light vs. dark, among others.  Thus, the movie is moving, enjoyable, and profoundly meaningful.  I realize how far off the mainstream I am with this analysis: for instance, when watching this movie nine years ago with a friend and two siblings, I was the only one who thought the movie was better than a marginal “OK.”

And yet, when I compare these transcendent, timeless themes coupled with sublime music, I cannot help but compare this film presentation to that of the other extreme: nihilism, (or meaninglessness) as in The Dark Knight and The Fountain.

Discussing nihilism is pointless and contradictory: if everything is meaningless, then why put forth any effort to preach such a philosophy?  If there is meaning or purpose in preaching meaninglessness, then one does not truly believe in meaninglessness.

It does not take a brain surgeon to comprehend this: such is really the default philosophy of existence.  Just as failure is the default mode of success in life (if we do nothing, we fail to accomplish anything), so nihilism is the default mode of existence (if there is no meaning in anything we do, life must be meaningless).

Who is it that encourages us to adopt this philosophy, that life is dark and meaningless, that values bind us down, and that there is nothing else beyond this dark and dreary existence?  The answer is obvious: the adversary wants us to believe this.

In contrast, the Lord wants us to be happy and to find joy even in darkness and despair.  As we do so, we find the sublime fruits of progression, unity, love, and holiness.  Living the disciples’ life, we can find the good wherever we look and wherever we go, if we choose to do so, and use that knowledge and those experiences to our eternal benefit and our exaltation.

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Prince Caspian Movie Review

I enjoyed reading The Chronicles of Narnia a few years ago.  I found them to be an enjoyable set of fantasy novels.

With C.S. Lewis’ Christian perspective, I found them to be filled with great analogies (and I would venture to say some doctrinal inferences) on Christianity and discipleship.  In short, I found them to bring me closer to Christ, when considered appropriately.

It should come as no surprise, then, that I would be interested in the film versions of the novels.

Prince Caspian is an interesting novel.  It involves a restoration, a renaissance, a rebirth of faith among the key characters, the Pevensie children who have been away from the mystical land of Narnia for several years.  Near the midpoint of the novel, after years of absence from this land of faith, the youngest girl (Lucy) spots Aslan, the god-like lion figure.  Or does she?  She begins to question and doubt.  The others disbelieve.  However, Lucy’s faith wins out, and as they travel, they each begin to see at first the form and shadow and ultimately the entirety of Aslan.  With Aslan involved and faith restored, the battle and central thematic conflict, though ugly, is largely won due to this restoration.

Unfortunately, the film version nearly leaves this key point out of it.  The restoration anticlimactically takes place at the very end, after the battle is over.  Aslan comes to the rescue, but only after an action-oriented horse race to find him.

Grand interpersonal themes of pride and arrogance are hinted at but never fully explored or discussed.

The dancing aspect near the end of the book, an element of pure, communal, triumphal joy, is completely eliminated from the story altogether.

The narrative is all contorted.  Instead of following the novel’s engaging flashback format, the story is told in a more confusing and less compelling linear fashion.

In short, the movie, while entertaining and worthwhile, was a bit of a disappointment.

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