Open Letter to Attorney General, Brad Schimel (Part II)

And speaking of radical ideas, John Rawls had a notion that this thing called “justice” matters, enough to write a rigorous philosophical explanation of how justice is at the heart of the justification of an order based on the social contract. He writes:

 

Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought. A theory however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue; like wise laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust. Each person possesses an inviolability which is founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override. For this reason justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others. It does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on the few are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many.[1]

 

Wow! Is he actually arguing that we ought not trample upon the rights of others, even when we are absolutely certain that a few small compromises here and there would benefit the majority of people? It sounds to me as though he is not only confronting ethical utilitarianism as illegitimate, but that he is suggesting we may want to err on the side of over-preserving rights so that we are not falling into a slippery-slope situation where we can justify depriving a few individuals of fundamental rights. Thus, maybe when someone does not always have their papers in order, we might still want give them the benefit of the doubt and allow them their freedom. Sure, it might be more fun to make a bunch of rules to hamper that freedom. But it redounds to everyone’s benefit to preserve these rights.

 

One of the reasons that I voted for you was your commitment to justice. I recall reading somewhere that, as your predecessor was leaving the office and not running for another term as Attorney General, you were quoted in the media as saying something to the effect that you would investigate and prosecute Governor Walker, if there were substantial allegations supporting it. I was glad to have voted for someone who would stand up for justice, no matter what, even if that meant investigating someone who belonged to their own party. Obviously, justice overrides partisanship, as it well should.

 

I wouldn’t want to see someone’s right to vote taken away or impaired for whatever reason, whether that be difficulty in getting to a DMV location, having an out-of-state birth document which has to be re-certified, or, as in our case, having birth documents which were once declared acceptable and later unacceptable by some bureaucrat in Madison who doesn’t like religious people who don’t fit into his world-view. African-American males living in the Milwaukee area may also fear government buildings due to their previous involvement with the “authorities” in their lives, as we are now witnessing with the recent events transpiring in Milwaukee.

 

Charlie Sykes makes a good point in favor of your pursuit to have the Voter ID law upheld by noting that only 96 people were affected by the Voter ID restriction which negatively impacted their right to vote. Thus, in his view, it is silly for a Milwaukee judge to create an exception and allow those who sign an affidavit that were unable to obtain an ID at their DMV location. Point taken. However, a few points need to be made to put that figure of 96 voters in perspective. First, as we saw in Rawls’ treatment above, it does not matter if it is only a few people who are being deprived of fundamental rights. That does not justify the imposition on civil liberty. Ultimately, preserving civil liberties of individuals is part of the justice which sustains the social order. Second, I’m pretty sure that Sykes’ count does not include our family and our struggle to obtain IDs without the documentation which the DMV required nor would it include those who simply gave up after being turned down by the DMV and didn’t even want to vote anymore. So, if Sykes is only counting 96 as those who would swear out an affidavit, then that is really poor accounting.

 

I wonder, therefore, if our taxpayer dollars wouldn’t be better disposed by spending a bit less time and energy and resources at the AG’s office in trying to publicly defend laws which are potentially abridging the ability of Wisconsin citizens to exercise their Constitutional and God-given rights on election day. I certainly don’t want to tell you how to do your job. You, no doubt, have your priorities set. But I wonder if you would reconsider them just a little.

 

What if you were to pursue investigation of police brutality in the Milwaukee area where African-American youths are subject to violence, occasionally even from the law enforcement officers in their lives? They are incarcerated at such a high rate here in our home state of Wisconsin that other states with less apparent disproportionate punitive systems really do put us to shame. But instead of shaming ourselves, which we could easily fall into, we can take active steps to improve this situation right now by listening to the voice of this people and actively investigating and prosecuting when allegations of ethnic targeting by police are raised. Imagine that: going to bat for the African-American community instead of working to limit their freedom to vote!

 

I don’t know if you had a chance to check out the Netflix program, The Making of a Murderer. It’s incredible to see such a miscarriage of justice, again, this happened right here in Wisconsin. I believe that the program raised awareness of how law enforcement can frame up a pretty solid case against someone who is socio-economically disadvantaged and who, therefore, may not be able to afford the slickest lawyers to defend him- or herself. One of the really peculiar aspects of that program is how it seems as though one of your predecessors may have glossed over some of the police corruption going on when she was called upon to investigate the Manitowoc County sheriff’s department back in 2003. Did you notice that as well? I’m guessing that with all of the media attention now given to Brendan’s release from prison due to the police persuasion and coercion that led to his false confession, this might be a great time to reopen that investigation that really seems to have been short-sighted. What an ideal opportunity to bring justice to a small, rural community where law enforcement seem to have had some kind of a axe to grind against Steven Avery!

 

Well, there is a great deal to contemplate in regards to these situations. Your office can become a shining example of how justice is truly blind to color and economic class and help Wisconsin to move on.

I thank you for your time and hope that you will reconsider your priorities.

Sincerely,

Adam Zens

 

[1] John Rawls. 1999. A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: President and Fellows of Harvard College, p. 3.

[Note: This is part two of a two-part series of a slightly edited letter being sent to Wisconsin’s Attorney General, Brad Schimel, who was elected in 2014 after his predecessor, J.B. Van Hollen, did not seek a third-term as Attorney General. Wisconsin Attorney General, Peg Lautenschlager, was in charge of the investigation of charges of corruption against the Manitowoc County’s sheriff’s department.]

Pride and Prejudice the interactive quiz IAudiobook Nook

Have you ever read Jane Austen’s classic, Pride & Prejudice? If you have enjoyed this classic story before and would like to test yourself to see how well your memory holds up, then you may want to check out this interactive quiz based on the classic (soon to be turned into an audio book). A more recent release is the spiritual story of Beyr Reyes entitled Renewable Energy and a new audio book which chronicles the aggression of the ultra-rich against impoverished citizens in the United States in Reverend Bern’s Occupying America. Check out these entries and more on the Facebook fanpage of Locust & Honey today.

Some video book trailers have been created for recent audio books. One of these, which was co-produced with author, Mike Freze, takes a look at the historic and apparently miraculous Shroud of Turin in an effort to gauge its level of authenticity given the forensic teams which have examined it. You can see this book trailer and listening sample today on YouTube as well as listen to a shortintroduction of this audio book here.

 

 

 

 

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Open Letter to Wisconsin Attorney General, Brad Schimel

By Adam Zens

Dear Mr. Schimel,

I am writing to ask you to reconsider your priorities. Recently, I had read in the news that you had decided to continue the legal appeal process for Wisconsin’s Voter ID law, even after a Wisconsin judge had struck down the new Voter ID law. I know that this has been a tangled, back-and-forth process where one court will uphold and then another deny the Constitutionality of this law. This must be tough and taxing on the resources of your office.

 

What I’m wondering is why you are spending taxpayer dollars attempting to defend and impose this new Voter ID law on Wisconsinites, many of whom may already feel disenfranchised or marginalized. After all, just getting out to the polls is an effort of itself which many don’t even bother to do whether due to having a busy schedule or maybe even because they believe that the system is rigged against them and it doesn’t matter who they vote for. Either way, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to add any additional barriers to people getting out to exercise their right to vote.

 

You’ve probably heard a time or two the one where someone says, “Well, gee, you have to present an I.D. to go on an airplane or make certain purchases.” I’m pretty familiar with that line myself. The analogy between boarding a plan and exercising a fundamental civic duty and right eventually breaks down upon closer inspection, however. Riding an airplane is a fairly costly venture and not everyone can afford that. But voting is free and doesn’t cost anything besides being a tax-paying citizen of one’s democracy. Furthermore, the more that we treat voting as an act of consumption or purchase, the more it demeans the participatory act in electing one’s representative.

 

For some people, it may not be as easy as you would think to obtain an ID. Our own story is an interesting one. We did not have the correct “birth documents” that the DMV required for our children to obtain a State-issued ID. As our kids were approaching voting age, this became a concern. Were our children going to be able to vote at age 18, even though the DMV did not accept our current documents. It became a bit of a hardship for us. The documentation that we had was, in fact, valid at one point, but some bureaucrat at Vital Records had changed the policy so that this documentation was no longer acceptable. That was frustrating, to say the least! To top it off, one bureaucrat at Vital Records referred to me over the telephone as “you people.”…”You people”?… Apparently, he already had some stereotype about who I was. Years later, as I was placing phone calls to Vital Records, all that I kept receiving was the answering machine from the bureaucrat in charge of our case. When I would leave a message for this person, they would refuse to call me back. I could go on and on about what we went through to obtain the documents that the DMV would accept, in fact, I could probably write an entire book about the experience. I will say that going through that situation has made me substantially more receptive to those with stories from Milwaukee or any other area in Wisconsin who were having trouble getting the required ID for voting. In a related story, I had talked with an elderly man who had worked as a poll worker in northwest Wisconsin who would become ineligible to vote with his current ID. He had no idea why Wisconsin was trying to pass a new Voter ID law since voter fraud is so miniscule of a problem to begin with.

 

As Wilson, et al., summarize in their findings of the relationship between racial imagery and the perceived need to regulate voter identity more restrictively, a negative bias against the color of one’s skin appears to exist in society, such that:

 

The data come from a survey experiment embedded in the 2012 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (N = 1,436) randomizing the race of a voter and poll worker shown to respondents (African American voter and poll worker, white voter and poll worker, or no image). The results show that white respondents who saw an image of an African American voter and poll worker expressed greater support for voter ID laws than those in the no image condition, even after controlling for the significant effects of racial resentment and political ideology. Exposure to an image of a white voter and poll worker did not produce a similar effect. The findings provide new evidence that public opinion about voter ID laws is racialized.[1]

 

Now, admittedly, this study is demonstrating correlation, not causation. Still, isn’t that significant that when people who see an African-American voting, that observation seems to stir up a legislative urge to put tighter measures into place. That’s simply amazing that in the 21st century we still have this sort of thing going on. We really need to ask ourselves the question, “Should we spend our effort in putting up legislative walls that will reinforce existing stereotypes against African-Americans or, radical idea coming, what if we were to spend our energy tearing down those false expectations and biases by removing those walls?”

[1] Wilson, David C., Paul R. Brewer, and Phoebe Theodora Rosenbluth. 2014. “Racial imagery and support for voter ID laws,” Race and Social Problems 6 (4): 365-71.

 

[Note: This is part one of a two-part series of a slightly edited letter being sent to Wisconsin’s Attorney General, Brad Schimel, who was elected in 2014 after his predecessor, J.B. Van Hollen, did not seek a third-term as Attorney General.]

Occupying America new audio cover

Audiobook Nook

Is the war that Warren Buffet talks about between the 1% and the 99%, is that war primarily a matter of racial bias and prejudice or is it a concern of socio-economic classes fighting it out with the 99% in the losing category? Interestingly enough, Reverend Bern argues that it is both! His book, Occupying America, is more than a historical chronicle of the Occupy Wall Street and the We are the 99% movements; it’s a manifesto of sorts about how those who are disenfranchised do not have to take it lying down. Skillfully, Occupying America shows that both “race” and “socio-economic” class can be used by the ultra-rich to alienate the “have-nots” even further from the real issues that matter.

If you enjoy sci-fi literature and TV programs like the Twilight Zone, then you may enjoy the spiritual story of Beyr Reyes entitled Renewable Energy. You might not recognize the protagonist, Agent Kane, at first, but as his official report of Commander Abaddon and Supreme Leader Sook unfolds, you would probably start identifying the characters. Shortly, we will make available a listening excerpt on our Locust & Honey Facebook page or one can find the excerpt of the audio version here.

Finally, if you have a philosophical bent of mind, you might want to delve into The Problem of Induction by J.M. Kuczynski. This newly created audio book analyzes the original problem of how forecasting the reliability of certain inductively observed patterns does not, by itself, lead to a certain outlook. In fact, we cannot determine that the future will resemble the past in terms of our observations of nature. Thus, scientists do not know that current inductive patterns will continue into the future. The author has an interesting way to approach the problem which may cover at least one aspect of the historic problem uncovered by Scottish philosopher, David Hume.

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What is Your Poop Telling You?

The trackers in old movies have always fascinated me. You know the guy who could tell what an animal had eaten or where to find it by tasting its droppings. Turns out that poop can tell you a lot about a person too. I am not suggesting that you start eating your neighbor’s or your prospective date’s poop to find out more about them. That would be gross. But our stool is as informative as a health history.

 

What does a normal bowel movement look like? Yes, I want you to look at it. I also want you to   notice the experience and accompanying sensations.   A normal healthy bowel movement should start with a moderate urge to defecate. The urge should allow for enough time to find a bathroom. No mad dashes to the restroom.   No pain or cramping should proceed the urge. The bowel movement should exit the body easily with no straining.   The poop should be soft and unformed.   You should feel empty and the urge to go should be gone. If that is not your experience, then you have a problem with your microflora.

 

Your stool tells you the state of the microflora in your gut. Our intestine is filled with trillions of living organisms that are vital to our health. There are over 500 species of bacteria living in your gut. We have both pathogenic and friendly bacteria.   These little guys are responsible for completing digestion, synthesizing vitamins, and protecting us against disease causing microbes. Dr. John A. McDougall describes the protective role of friendly bacteria stating, “They carry on a conversation with our internal bodies through the surface of the gut.” So basically the bacteria tells our immune system what we need.

 

We want to feed the friendly bacteria because you feed your friends, right?   But those eating a Standard American Diet are feeding the pathogenic bacteria that  love animal products and junk food.   Meanwhile, they are starving their friends who thrive on plant foods. Our bodies are meant to operate in balance. When we allow pathogenic bacteria to overpower beneficial bacteria, it creates an imbalance. The imbalance manifests in constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome.

 

So if your poop is telling you that your microflora are out of balance, what can you do?

  1. Start a green smoothie habit. Green smoothies are a fast and easy way to get more plant foods into your diet. A quart of green smoothie is the equivalent of 10+ servings of vegetables. If you would rather eat 10+ servings of vegetables. Great!       Knock yourself out. The goal is for your diet to be 95% plant based.
  2. Drink lots of water. Many people are dehydrated and do not even know it.       Humans acclimate to their environment. It is important to start the habit of drinking water to allow our bodies to adjust to normal hydration.
  3. Get some daily exercise. When we get moving, our bowels get moving too.

So take care of your friends, and they will take care of you.

Renewable Energy cover II

Audiobook Nook

Most recently released on audio book was a collaboration between Locust & Honey and short story author, Beyr Reyes. This work, entitled Renewable Energy, offers readers a fictionalized view of how an outsider might see the unfolding drama between the spiritual kingdoms of Commander Abaddon and Supreme Leader, Sook. Many readers and listeners will recognize the major characters in this story, including one who is among the first to appear in the Genesis narrative. You can listen to an excerpt of the audio version here (a non-Audible site).Audiobook Nook

Finally, we hope to have a forthcoming publication ready by next weekend which is a fascinating and historical look at the transfer of power and wealth from the many to the very, very few in America. This work, entitled Occupying America, documents the recent struggle for social and economic justice by the Occupy and We are the 99% Movements as well as older struggles between elected representatives who began suspending and/or curtailing the rights of their constituents and the citizens whom they represent. Revolution against abuses of power and suspension of freedoms is a time-honored, if controversial, tradition in America and it’s time to stand up!

 

 

 

 

 

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Living without MSG and Doctoring Ramen Noodles

By Adam Zens

P1130052Some friends of ours had taken us on a short trip and we had arrived in the small town with only one grocery store. I was very thankful for these folks and we were all in a celebratory mood and it was time to buy some potato chips. While the others had their errands to run, I had a simple mission: to pick out some (relatively healthful) chips that we would all munch on together. I went into the store and looked over several brands of chips, carefully scanning the ingredients to determine whether the chips were healthful enough for human consumption. When I returned to our group, I promptly learned that I had failed to identify one key negative ingredient in the chips that I chose: monosodium glutamate. Since that time, I have become a more cautious selector of potato chips.

 

Yet for college students and others who have a limited food budget MSG-laden Ramen noodles are an absolute staple in life. So, it’s time to think up some creative alternatives for replacing the packet that attends the Ramen noodles.

 

It’s not really possible, is it? I’m talking about making the very cheap Ramen noodles without resorting to any of the fake, chemical ingredients in the “flavoring” package, such as MSG (Monosodium Glutamate). Well, it’s not impossible, but it may not have the zingy flavor and impact that MSG carries with it. Hey, I want to spin “natural” as a substitute for “artificial” as much or more than the next guy, but I’m not willing to lie outright. There is something in the MSG that “hits” you. It reminds me of the scene in the movie, Limitless, where Bradley Cooper describes this feeling of seeing everything so clearly after he has taken this new drug, NZT. He is able to see problems clearly and MSG has an effect like that.

 

YouTube Link for better Ramen:

 

https://youtu.be/yMFg8Dltb8Q

 

MSG also seems to have the blessing of corporations who can use it in their foods or food products without having to use a warning label; therefore, it is safe. Or so we are told.

 

But back to the mission at hand: How to create tasty Ramen noodles without MSG? I certainly put my best food forward by advising that the cook use lots of natural and fresh substitutes for the “flavoring” packet that accompanies the Ramen noodle package.

In this case, I happened to have at my disposal plenty of garden salsa which my wife had poured lots and lots of TLC into which I used liberally along with nearly an entire diced red onion. As I point out in this video, I generally drain nearly all of the water from the Ramen noodles and allow the noodles to cook a bit longer on very low heat with the onions and Amish butter for at least a few more minutes.

 

Even with the two packages of Ramen noodles and a few slices of Amish butter and a few tablespoons of garden salsa, the total cost still falls below the $1.98 per person cost suggested in the $1.98 Cookbook. One thing that you may experience is a much fuller feeling of being satisfied from this MSG-free improvisation. But you will not experience the “zing” or “jolt” of the MSG-based high. Corporations may have won a Pyrrhic victory here. They have the “high” for consumers but we have the sense of fullness or satisfaction so that we are not craving our next meal. Take that, corporations

 

Audiobook Nook

Now available from the Locust & Honey audio store:

Don’t Forget the Part About the Sheep and the Goats: Can We Pick and Choose from What Jesus Said?

Also, don’t forget to check out the following, if you haven’t already!

 

The Names of God: Exploring God’s Character With 1000+ Names of God and Their Meanings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pass the Third Party, Please!

By Adam Zens

Amid yet another secrecy-oriented scandal in the Clinton campaign whereby a certain leader of the DNC who was plotting for Hillary and against the senator from Vermont and renewed revelations of corruption in Trump’s quarters to the effect that he is ripping off workers who contract with him (big surprise!), many Americans have grown tired of the cliche about “voting for the lesser evil.” There is no “lesser” here! Maybe that’s a good thing since voters are increasingly seeking out third-party candidates to support this November. Granted, those of us on this path will be told in no uncertain terms that we are “throwing away” our vote since third-party candidates don’t have much of a “shot.” Yes, there will be those who are so partisan and/or #NeverTrump or #NeverHillary that they will step out and vote for the presumed “lesser evil” to try to make their vote count. “It’s time,” they will no doubt urge, “to drink that hemlock for the greater good.” But while this line of reasoning may be convincing to some, some of us need to vote with our consciences “front and center.”

 Drinking the hemlock
Expansion of the Executive Branch

Voting for a lesser evil is not the only reason, however, to reconsider supporting a third-party presidential candidate this year. Expansion of the federal executive branch under *both* George W. Bush and Barack Obama is significant and, some would say, downright alarming. It isn’t simply the number of new executive orders which are issued that should pique the curiosity of Americans who might be thinking that this “backburner” issue certainly deserves a wee bit more attention in the “balance of powers” referred to in the Constitution.

Just ponder these questions for a moment:

Has either Trump or Hillary even mentioned the cause of limited federal executive powers as an objective or priority? 

Has either one spoken out against the reckless use of executive orders by any of their predecessors?

How about using the “War on Terrorism” as an excuse to violate the fundamental, God-given rights of the individual? 

Has either one addressed these systemic problems of United States justice?

I cannot find either major candidate speaking out against the abuse of executive powers. In fact, there’s absolutely no indication that either one will uphold the rights of the U.S. citizen against government intrusion by the executive branch! What’s worse is the openly made statements by both camps about how they would use the power vested in them as President to issue freely executive orders to have their own way. Imagine Trump going ballistic when Congress refuses to follow one of his plans du jour and by-passing the usual channels with executive-order mania? What about Hillary going off half-cocked and determined to issue harsher gun-control executive orders after a public shooting?

Thankfully, running rough-shod over citizens is not the case with many or all of the third-party candidates running for the Oval Office this year. At least one of the independent parties is fully committed to reining in the executive branch when it is doing things like suspending the rights of U.S. citizens by detaining them through the broad powers of the N.D.A.A. (National Defense Authorization Act).

Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party has reasserted the restrictions on presidential power and executive action when he notes,

The President then has no legislative authority, none!

Dr. Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson, on the other hand, sound like they would go along with executive orders, although perhaps not as openly as Trump and Hillary. Like it or not, unfettered advocacy of executive orders just isn’t what the U.S. Constitution has in mind for the president.

Jill Stein does, however, offer a snippet of wisdom which many voters can relate to nowadays:

Neither party of the evils will do it for us.

This November doesn’t have to be about voting the “lesser evil” into office. God is in the voting booth along with the consciences of those who won’t settle for anything less than a third-party.

 Third party picture

Audiobook Nook

This week, Locust & Honey is running a special promotion for Wisconsin author, Fred A. Brede, and his book, Follow the Gandy Dancers. Old-fashioned storytelling at its best with Tim Halligan at the helm, this historical fiction journey takes the reader to meet John Doelan, a reporter who gets caught up in much more than a mere newspaper scoop. His series about the end of the railroad line in Frederic, Wisconsin, will eventually pique the curiosity of an unattached preacher’s daughter who may hold the ticket to Doelan’s future as a journalist and as an amateur sleuth! If you’d like to participate and receive a free audio book in exchange for a review, then feel free to comment below or send us an email.

Is God in control, even when Nazis are in power? The faith of Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a lasting testament to the power of spiritual love over evil. WWII history was changed forever when this faithful servant stepped out and refused to compromise with evil.

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You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling

Have you noticed sometimes that in marriages that have lasted awhile, the couple does not seem to enjoy one another as much as they once did? I remember watching my grandparents who were married for over 50 years. You could see that they loved each other. You could also see their irritation at the others comments or behavior.   Sometimes you could feel the build-up of resentment. Understand, my grandparents were amazing people that I look to for an example in many things. Since my own parents were unable to make their marriage work, I look to my grandparents as an example in that area as well.

 

Of course, I want something better than their marriage. I see their struggle with keeping the “loving feeling” going in their marriage reflected by many other couples today. I wrestle with it in my own marriage. I am blessed with a partner that I can truly say is the love of my life. I always love him. Sometimes I want to kill him, but that is another topic. Sometimes I find myself being irritated by him. I struggle to enjoy his company. Sometimes I resent him. Sometimes I feel that I am the one doing all the work in the relationship with little return. I refuse to settle for these feelings because I do not want my grandparents good marriage. I want a great marriage. I want to wake up everyday thankful for my amazing husband. I want to feel desperately in love with him all of the time. I want the dream.

 

I know the dream is possible because marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Jesus–Christ and the Church. I do wake up everyday thinking that Jesus is wonderful and knowing that He is good.   Sometimes I blame God for the bad experiences in my life. But I have learned to take these feelings to God right away. I have learned to talk to Him and ask what’s going on.   Starting with the premise that God is always good and wants what is best for me in every situation, I ask what am I suppose to be learning here? Why are you doing this to me?

 

Fortunately, God is never offended by this behavior. He is happy that I bring these feelings to Him so that He can address them. He is happy to point out my assumptions and change my viewpoint on a situation.   This allows me to correct my view and gives me clearer vision and a changed attitude. So when talking to the Lord about what I want in my marriage, He reminded me that I could use our relationship as a model for my marriage relationship.

Abstract Pointsetta

I realized how important it is to start with a foundation of knowing that my husband loves me and wants the best for me. (I am fortunate that I do actually know this.) I do not always use this as a grounding context in which to understand his comments. Sometimes flippant remarks or observations sound to me like attacks and complaints.   Many times this is not the case.   It is “the story that I am telling myself.” Brene Brown coined that phrase to allow people to discuss the assumptions and misunderstandings that come up in relationships in a non-threatening way. So for instance after I have spent all day cleaning and my husband leaves his socks/books/dishes on the floor, I sometimes take that as a sign of disrespect (especially when I am tired).   Starting a conversation saying, “The story I’m telling myself is that you think I am your personal maid and have nothing better to do than clean up after you all day. I know this is not true. Please help me understand.”

 

This gives him an insight into how I have interpreted his actions and allows him to correct any misinterpretations before I get angry or resentful.   Hearing him say, “No, I don’t think that. I was planning to clean that up.   I know how hard you work,” dissolves all negative feelings immediately. Now obviously, we do not have to bring up every single little thing.   Our spouses, like us, are human.   They have flaws. They do stupid things. Most the time we see this and let it go. But for the things that are bugging us, it is vital.

 

Another important practice in maintaining that “loving feeling” is to ask God to remind you why you like this guy. Sometimes our appreciation of our spouse’s awesomeness is lost in the business of life. We forget or lose track of how great they are. As God brings those things to your mind, you fall in love all over again. What is great about this is that it turns into a mini-worship session because you begin thanking God for giving you such an awesome partner. So then you are blown over by the thoughtfulness and care of the Creator while reconnecting with feelings of amazement for your partner. God is good.   You are sharing life with a stud.   All is right with the world.   I’ve found that “loving feeling.”

 

Audiobook Nook

Faith is not an award for our achievements; it is not a goal to strive for, as though the follower of Christ could simply tick off a checklist of positive ways to attain faith. Instead, faith comes to us supernaturally as a gift; we can take it and live in it or refuse it altogether. How do we as believers share that sort of message and the level of enthusiasm that should accompany such a message with those who do not understand “faith” this way at all? And He [Abraham] Believed in Yahweh looks at how a Christian-Islamic dialogue might begin with certain surahs (sacred sections) of the Qur’an that are based upon or rooted in stories of the Old Testament patriarchs and other biblical figures which Christians, Muslims, and Jews all have in common. These biblical accounts can be a good jumping-off point for explaining how Christian faith is appealing to those who have a very “works-oriented” approach to grace and/or salvation. Faith is not “worked for” but it is “worked out” as faithful pastor and World War II hero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, understood and practiced in his daily walk with Christ. A classic work which shows that the believer’s sanctification is not a passive process is his seminal work, The Cost of Discipleship.

 

 

 

 

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Antidote to Romans 7

Almost every believer who has thumbed through the pages of Paul’s Letter to the Roman Churches has puzzled over Romans 7. Is the “I” that Paul is so self-conscious about in his or her struggle with sin an unknown or hypothetical “I” that transcends any particular historical person who has grappled with his or her sinful tendencies? Is it Paul himself remembering how he had a legalistic struggle under the Mosaic Law and could never quite “will” himself to do right under that antiquated system fulfilled by Christ? Or is it Paul writing to every believer generically, as though every Christian goes through a particular internal, psychological struggle to do what is right before eventually reaching that point where deed corresponds in symmetry with word?

 

Scholars themselves cannot reach a consensus about who or what Paul is indicating in this passage. Whether it is any of the above possibilities or some fourth alternative may never be known with any precision, but one characteristic of the text stands out to evangelical Christians who have been subject to legalism at some point in their walk with Christ: this chapter portrays a bondage from which Chapter 8 proclaims a release. This is exciting news, indeed! Romans chapter 8 presents the antidote to the sense of defeatism about the pervasiveness of sin in the self and society that chapter 7 depicts so unflinchingly. The inexorability of sin is thwarted in the remedy of Christ in chapter 8. When believers nearly throw up their hands after reading Paul’s poignant words about wanting to go in one direction and so obstinately winding up in the opposite direction, they receive a divine countermanded through the redemptive sacrifice of Christ, as developed in chapter 8.

 

The New English Bible renders this Pauline narrative compellingly:

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am not: I am unspiritual, the purchased slave of sin. I do not even acknowledge my own actions as mine, for what I do is not what I want to do, but what I detest. But if what I do is against my will, it means that I agree with the law and hold it to be admirable. But as things are, it is no longer I who perform the action, but sin that lodges in me (Rom. 7:14-17; NEB).

 

Those who have experienced the bondage of legalism, much of it passed off in the name of Christ, understand the internal conflict defined by Paul. Moral laws themselves, no matter how “spiritual” they are, wind up drawing out of human nature something vile and sick. Sincerely trying to obey the moral law for one’s own good or the good of one’s society does not actually yield the type of righteousness that God requires. Ironically, it leads the self or ego into the trap of good works where one’s actions have the opposite effect that one intends.

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Yet the solution to the dilemma of chapter 7 is clearly found in chapter 8. There Paul outlines the overcoming of that internal law that gravitates toward legalism and that refuses to see that good works do not save or bring people closer to Christ:

There is therefore no condemnation to them who walk in the flesh after the spirit of Jesus Christ. For the law of the Spirit of life which is in Jesus Christ has made you free from the law of sin and death. For the law was weak through the weakness of the flesh, so God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin, in order to condemn sin by means of the flesh : That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, for we do not walk after the things of the flesh, but after the Spirit (Rom. 8:1-4; Lamsa Aramaic).

 

The “law of sin and death” which Paul refers to feeds parasitically upon the legalistic schemes of those who are never quite satisfied with the justifying righteousness of Christ. Those who are trapped in legalism may feel as though there is no way out of the impasse, as though the self is caught in the cycle of producing disobedience when attempting sincere obedience.

 

Paul’s remedy should be ours. Christ has set us free from legalism to follow the “Spirit of life” which was exemplified by Christ who paid the legalistic debt for us. His freedom, purchased on our behalf, is real and overpowers the tendency to want to keep the moral law as a way of obtaining or maintaining salvation. Only Christ kept perfectly the moral law. In Him, we are free to live and to obey. Since Christ condemned sin, we no longer need to swing the pendulum between trying earnestly to fulfill the moral law and, well, failing to do so. Christ fulfilled that law and is now fulfilling it in us, despite our attempts to go “solo.”

 

Thus, how precisely Paul is using the “I” pronoun in chapter 7 may never be entirely understood or explained, but that Paul is solving the problem of the self performing righteousness in chapter 7 through the righteousness of Christ and the anointing of that Spirit of life in chapter 8 is beyond dispute. The latter contains so many promises to hang onto including that there is nothing that can possibly separate the believer from the love of Christ (8:35).

Audiobook Nook

If you are an audio book listener and would like to try out a free audio book in exchange for leaving a review, don’t hesitate to message us or check in with the site, Audiobookboom.com. We are currently out of codes for the audio, Warden Watch, but still have plenty of codes remaining for Lost at Starvation Lake (Audible link here). If you’d like to listen to any of the interviews with authors, the Locust & Honey Google drive folder is open to explore and to listen to, including an introduction to the work on the Shroud of Turin co-produced with author, Michael Freze.

 

 

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Law Enforcement’s “Elephant in the Room”

Rodney King is beaten; it is captured on camera and many tragic results appear to follow including massive Los Angeles rioting and the jury nullification and acquittal of O.J. Simpson. Now, several slayings of African-American men by police has led to or catalyzed the Dallas, Texas assault on police. Our nation mourns the confusing outburst of violence and the families affected by the tragedies, but behind the tumult there lies a bigger issue about the role and scope of law enforcement within America.

 

This is the “Elephant in the Room” which needs to be addressed lest further violence erupt in typical “backlash” patterns. That “Elephant” is the double-standard of Law Enforcement ethics, or lack thereof. Police can do one thing while enforcing something quite different on the general populace. If there is a legal and statutory standard, it should apply equally to the “enforcers” as well as the “enforcees.” But that’s not how law enforcement seems to work in our country.

 

A recent example comes from the double standard of applying the legal maxim that ignorance of the law is in no way an excuse for violating a law. Somehow the courts are upholding that the police are not subject to the law the way that ordinary citizens are. Police obtain a special exemption. If they are ignorant, either about the facts of a situation or the laws governing it, then they are given many discretionary powers, particularly in making traffic stops, and the laws apply differently to them since they may or may not respect the individual’s Fourth Amendment rights (against search and seizure). However, if the citizen breaks the law, that is a different story. People can sense this discrepancy.

 

One court case which seems to substantiate this pattern of the law enforcement double-standard was Heien vs. North Carolina. Apparently, an officer of the law was unaware that state law required only one working brake light.  So one non-functional brake light did not provide a reason for making a traffic stop since no law was being violated. Lo and behold, the officer uncovered something incriminating while searching the vehicle in the unwarranted traffic stop. Normally, in United States anything discovered during an illegal search would be declared inadmissible in court. But not for this officer. The court decided to “bend” its interpretation of the Fourth Amendment rights of the citizen in favor of the officer in question, even though he was not supposed to have pulled over the motorist in the first place. Anything he found would usually not qualify as legally obtained.

 

This dangerous precedent in the courts erodes the rights of We the People in favor of Law Enforcement. As Madison Coburn argues in a legal piece on the implications of Heien vs. NorthCarolina,

 

In Heien v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court surprisingly adopted a low baseline standard for Fourth Amendment protections, holding that a law enforcement officer’s mistake of law, if statutorily “reasonable,” does not constitute a Fourth Amendment violation. n1 This approach was in the extreme minority of federal circuits. In fact, prior to Heien, the Eighth Circuit was the only circuit to adopt this approach. n2 Before Heien, the Fifth, Seventh, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits squarely held that a law enforcement officer’s mistake of law was a constitutional violation and applied the exclusionary rule when evidence was found following a traffic stop premised on such a mistake of law. n3[1]

 

Thus, if the courts are siding with the police who take liberties with the citizen’s civil freedoms while police are able to remain somehow cushioned from being held accountable for knowing the laws they enforce, is it any wonder that people are becoming frustrated with this situation? What is needed is a civil and peaceful conversation on the double-standard that haunts Law Enforcement. Until we begin to have that conversation, why shouldn’t we expect a seething powder keg?
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Again, commenting on the balance which American courts have tried to uphold between law enforcement doing what needs to be done and preserving the rights of Americans from illegal searches and seizures, Whitehead sees the court shifting here as well in Heien v. North Carolina:

Toleration of seizures, based on mistakes of law or fact, is needed, the State contended, because “officers must be given some leeway if they are to do their jobs effectively.”n16 Law enforcement, however, already enjoys broad leeway in the performance of their duties, n17 and introducing a “mistake of law” exception to the Fourth Amendment would further imperil the right of citizens to be free from unwarranted seizures by the government.[2]

It bears repeating that if citizens are going to be held to one standard, then the police ought to meet that standard, at a minimum, if not exceed it, due to the fact that they are professionals and have their salaries paid for by taxpayer funds. But if public servants are able to be easily excused for ignorance of their own laws which they are supposed to enforce, then why are citizens unable to plead ignorance of various laws when violating them? As Whitehead points out, the courts have already granted police officers “leeway” when performing their job. If the courts continue to discover that police can be held less and less accountable for their understanding of the laws which they are enforcing, it is hard to see how a routine traffic stop could be justifiable since the motorist may not even be aware of the laws, or law enforcement’s interpretation of the laws, which they are breaking.

 

Every time the court “bends” the law in favor of law enforcement against the average citizen, this sends the clear message that there is an ethical double standard. Is it any wonder that there would be a “backlash” to this sort of phenomenon? Of course, many in law enforcement are just “doing their jobs” and do not want the courts to impair the Constitution rights of the average citizen in their favor. Yet this has the unavoidable appearance of an “us vs. them” controversy. We are a “house divided,” to use Lincoln’s borrowing of KJV’s language, because we have not resolved the “double standard.” As long as the issue is ignored and swept under the proverbial rug, we will remain a “house divided.”

The double-standard has to go. Americans can only close their eyes for so long. If officers of the law are not familiar with the laws that they are presuming to enforce on the public, or at least, are not responsible for any consequences of not knowing the laws being enforced, then we have two “Americas.” The bureaucrats who have to apply hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of minutiae contained within their administrative law books and the people who have to abide by these bureaucratic rules may someday be at war. For now, these skirmishes are fairly petite. Eventually, they may increase. As the Farmington Daily Times reports,

Because traffic codes are filled with minor and sometimes arcane requirements, it’s already too easy for police to stop a car ostensibly because of a minor infraction but actually because they have a hunch that the vehicle contains drugs or other evidence of a serious crime. It would undermine the protections of the 4th Amendment even more if police could stop and possibly search a car because of a violation of a law that existed only in the officer’s mind. The Supreme Court must hold law enforcement to a higher standard.[3]

Many Americans were struck with horror when watching the Netflix documentary, The Making of a Murderer. To see a young man have a murder pinned on him because he was forced into a false confession after hours of interrogation was simply wrong. The system is rigged against those who cannot afford a lawyer when being interrogated by the police or even against those who do not understand that they do not have to submit themselves to hours of grilling when they are not being charged with a specific crime. Naturally, the officers believed that they were acting in their community’s best interest by solving a harrowing crime with speed and efficiency. If a young man is thrown under the bus to solve a case quickly, then why not?

 

We’ve got to reform this “elephant in the room.” It would serve the law enforcement community as well as the communities which they strive to protect. The dialogue needs to be about having the same standard for police as for ordinary citizens who still have a few God-given rights remaining that the courts and the police have not entirely eroded.

[1] Madison Coburn, “The Supreme Court’s Mistake on Law Enforcement Mistake of Law: Why States Should not Adopt Heien v. North Caroline,” Wake Forest Journal of Law & Policy 2016.

[2] John W. Whitehead, “Is Ignorance of the Law an Excuse for the Police to Violate the Fourth Amendment?” NYU Journal of Law & Liberty 2015 108 (9).

[3] “Editorial: Police Should be Required to Know the Law They Enforce,” Farmington Daily Times October 15, 2014.

Audiobook Nook

Locust & Honey is proud to present another great audio book; this one is about the life and self-sacrifice of a German pastor who stood up to fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, and the Nazi war machine. While he resisted peacefully as much as he possibly could, he recognized that the love of Christ compelled Christians to fight actively against Hitler’s ideology and megalomania. Who is this amazing servant of God? Find out here. His book, The Cost of Discipleship, has become a staple for Christians who are serious about their faith and communicating the truth to a culture which has fallen.

We have had numerous requests for A.R. Horvath’s Warden Watch this week through a promotion with Audiobookboom and have now run out of free “listen-and-review” codes.

 

 

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Let’s Monkey Around With History

Scopes Trial Monkeying aroundIn the quiet, sleepy town of Dayton, Tennessee in 1925, a news-related furor was started. One of the high school biology teachers who also taught sports became indicted for teaching the theory of evolution to his biology class.

What would follow would become not just the stuff of ordinary, everyday newspaper headlines, but it would generate national headlines, prompting citizens, nation-wide, to wonder what could possibly come from Tennessee that would be of value. Was it wrong to teach evolution in the publicly funded classroom or was it wrong to teach it as the only theory of the origin of humankind?

It all depends on how one phrases the question, doesn’t it?

For generations, the Scopes Trial has taken on a surreal place in the American imagination. It has become an opportunity to develop a fairy-tale about educated individuals winning the battle against those who are poor and uneducated. The media wished to portray the public court-room demonstration as a fight between people who read and naively trusted their Bible and those who were scientifically literate and would never naively trust the biblical narratives.

When Genesis, Chapter 1 reported that God, in the beginning, created the heavens and the earth, the statement itself could not be taken at face value without somehow incorporating beliefs that simple forms of life spontaneously develop into more complex, more advanced, and in the minds of progressive scientists, more “evolved” life forms. In other words, God could not simply be true and every man the liar, to use Paul’s parlance via the KJV’s Romans 3:4. The Genesis text had to be controversialized to satisfy the demands of evolutionary theory. In that sense, the Scopes Trial is perhaps supposed to illustrate from American history how God is a shrinking God. He devolves from Creator and Sustainer to a cog in the overall evolutionary wheel of life. Natural processes are themselves “deified” and God is rendered a god of the deists. This thinking portrays a god, not omnipresent, yet who manages to wind of the gears of evolutionary change and progress and “kick back” as it were. If the scientific elite had their way, The Scopes Trial would have been the historical turning point of American culture away from benighted fundamentalism toward  the Enlightenment world-view of science and rationality.

Hollywood got in on the gig, too. While the playwrights who wrote Inherit the Wind and helped to spawn its subsequent Hollywood production renounced any historical accuracy or merit of this fictionalized dramatization of the Tennessee trial, many American authorities, including historians, later came to recognize the film as authoritative for understanding fundamentalism. Once an idea gets stuck in the head of the popular American imagination, it becomes mighty hard to dislodge it and replace it with a sounder view. Hollywood’s jumping on the bandwagon to turn the play into a film is not only highly inaccurate, as AiG scientist, Dr. Menton complains, but it is ironically viewed as a sort of “documentary” film despite the film’s actual intentions. Was the trial a momentous occasion in the history of U.S. litigation? Absolutely! Was it a quintessential display of learned scientists triumphing over uneducated Tennessee hicks who believed the Bible word-for-word? Absolutely not! And it is the latter sort of conception which has to be challenged in order to make headway against the movement to monkey with history to support a doctrinaire stance that wouldn’t stand two minutes in the company of civilized dialogue and debate over the real issues of history, such as whether the American cause for eugenics and sexual sterilization, and even some forms of racism, would play a substantial role in how Darwinism would be taught in the classroom.

 

 

Audiobook Nook

Next week, Locust & Honey will be releasing a new book on faithful servant and protestor of the Nazi regime, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This short work covers the basics of Bonhoeffer’s life vis-a-vis the movement of Hitler up the echelon of power in Germany, as it became more and more imperative for churches and their representatives to take a stand for or against Hitler’s “pro-Aryan” ideology.

This week, we are promoting the YA work of western Wisconsin author, AR Horvath, entitled Warden Watch (Audible linkhere). If you would like to try out a free copy of the audio book in exchange for providing a review after listening to it, you can comment below or message us at LocustandHoneyProductions@gmail.com and simply put “Warden Watch” in the subject line. Casey, the young protagonist of the story, goes on an amazing and other-worldly adventure while deepening his faith along the way. This special promotional offer will also be listed with audiobookboom.com for those listeners who are already involved in the listen-and-review process there.

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The Foundation of Scripture

Scripture memorization is one practice that I feel was vital to our home schooling success. My four-year-old son was an incredibly busy boy. It was never a good idea to leave him to his own devices, because he was very smart. He needed some work to keep him busy and use his boundless energy in a productive manner. So I began having him memorize Scripture. This worked amazingly well. He loved memorizing and reciting Scripture.

 

I loved it too because it met many of my educational goals for my son.   Most importantly, it exposed him to the very words of God. It allowed him to hide those words in his heart for future meditation in later years.   It began the moral training of his soul, helping him to distinguish good and evil. It gave him good things to ponder. Did he understand all that he memorized? Certainly not. He understood more than adults usually give children credit for. He understood quite a bit and his parents where there to explain what he did not understand.

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It also allowed him to memorize good English verse. It allowed him to hear and play with the sound of language helping to develop his future writing skills. It gave him a foundation in the stories found in great English literature.   It is very difficult to understand the classics without a background of Scriptural literacy. Knowing the origin of   common phrases like “the blind leading the blind,” “the patience of Job,” “an eye for an eye,” “David vs. Goliath,” “a house divided,” “proclaim liberty throughout the land,” “the lion and the lamb,” “justice rolls down like water,” “pride comes before a fall,” and “weighed in the balance and found wanting” much richer and more meaningful.   (Matthew 15:14 and Luke 6:39, Job, Exodus 21:24 and Matthew 5:38, I Samuel 17:12-51, Mark 3:25, Leviticus 25:10, Isaiah 11:6, Amos 5:24, Proverbs 16:18, Daniel 5:27) Our country’s founding documents, Winston Churchill’s speeches, Shakespear’s plays and Martin Luther King Jr. speeches are full of biblical illustrations. Memorizing Scripture is a way to pass down both Christian culture and enables one to understand Western culture. The great thing is that you are passing down your culture and the tools to evaluate that culture at the same time.

 

Soon my younger daughter wanted to join in on our family ritual of Scripture memorization/recitation, and she did as soon as she could. So it went with each of the younger siblings until our whole family was reciting together.   It is something we did every morning and every evening together. We started by memorizing Scriptures that are basic to the faith and explained the nature and character of God. I wrote a little booklet with a verse, a picture and the concept I was trying to teach on each page. So for instance I started with John 4:24 to define God as a spirit. On the next page, I used Revelation 19:6-7 to introduce God’s omnipotence. “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him…” Then I used other verses to further define that term on the next page. I continued this for all the attributes of God that I wanted to teach my children (omniscience, omnipresence, perfection, goodness, loving kindness, justice, holiness, mercy…). Then I had them memorize verses about Jesus (that he is the Son of God, that he is our Savior ect.). Finally I had them learn verses that explained the gospel such as Romans 3:10-12, Romans 6:23, Hebrews 9:22, John 1:29 and 3:16-18, Romans 10:9, John 14:6, John 1:12 and 2 Corinthians 5:17.

From there my family proceeded to memorize the first ten chapters of John and then let the children pick what books and verses they would memorize. I really poured myself into creating the little booklet with verses and principles that were meaningful to me.   Passing on values that were important to me motivated me to be consistent with this practice. I highly recommend Scripture memorization to any homeschooling family. I credit my children’s interest in philosophy and theology to the fact that they were thinking about deep issues in their early years. It is not about the number of verses that you memorize.   I know many families that memorize much more Scripture than we did. It is about using memorization as a moral, spiritual, literary, and cultural training tool. It gives your children a standard with which to think about and evaluate all other things. It is about crystallizing your values and passing them on.   It is about pouring your time, effort and love into your children. It is about giving them your best. It is about sharing the thing most precious and valuable to you. Practicing together builds discipline and family unity.   It builds family culture because you create a family tradition. Happy memorizing.

Audiobook Nook

Locust & Honey is very proud to present the recently published audio, Lost at Starvation Lake (Audible link here). Author, Gary P. Hansen, weaves an engaging tale about the continuing adventures of Paul and Sally after Sally becomes saved and accepts Paul’s marriage proposal becoming Mrs. Sinhuna, all of which takes place in Book 1, Survival at Starvation Lake (Amazon audio link here). They have their “ups and downs” together; it’s not always a cherry-blossomed path that God has placed them on in life. But they recognize His handiwork, no matter where His will leads them. Lost is Book 2 in the Starvation Lake trilogy and Book 3, entitled Mission: Starvation Lake is due out in audio book format in late summer/early fall 2016. The author and narrator have something exciting planned for this audio book release. Instead of being available at Audible.com, it will be available only at an off-site location, Athanatos Ministries, at a discounted price. This new collaboration with A.R. Horvath, author of Warden Watch, we hope will be a big success and blessing.

 

If you missed it in last week’s blog, here is the first part of the interview with Christian author and philosopher, Pradeep Tilak, as he talks with us aboutWorldview Apologetics.

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