Import jQuery

Forming your conscience correctly, Egyptian democracy epic fail, and why John Lennon’s lyrics sound good but really aren’t.

John-Lennon-john-lennon-10226277-1664-1217Fine blog reader, consider these statements and guess what they have in common:

  • “Follow your dreams.”
  • “Avoid name calling.”
  • “Follow your conscience.”
  • “Never compromise on your ideals.”
  • “Don’t speak ill of other people.”
  • “Be true to yourself.”
  • “Treat everyone with respect.”

What do these statement have in common?

Answer: they all sound good, but they’re not really true. They may be true on some basic level, but unless you dig deeper, they’re almost meaningless.

For example: Follow your dreams. That’s good, right? No, actually, what’s more important than following your dreams is that your dreams are good. If your dreams are to invade Poland to restore national pride, then you’d be well advised not to follow your dreams.

Don’t just follow your dreams; go a lRiotsevel deeper and ensure your dreams are aligned with good. Then follow your dreams.

Or how about, “Don’t call people names”, isn’t that a good sentiment? No, not really. Name calling in itself is not evil. In fact, name calling can be good. What’s more important than avoidance of name-calling is ensuring that the name with which you’ve labeled is accurate. If you called a person “thief”, the morality of that act depends entirely on whether that person is a thief. If he is a thief, then name calling was not only permitted, but may actually be required of you. And that applies for thief, adulterer, dictator, control-freak, hateful, whatever.

Don’t avoid name-calling; go a level deeper and ensure your what you’ve said is accurate. Then, yes, go name calling.

And by all means, never compromise your principles. Unless your principles are bad, in which case you should compromise as much as you can.

See the pattern here?

These nice-sounding sentiments upon which western culture seems to rely on so much are not actually good for moral guidance.

Name calling is good

A few months ago, it bothered me that you fine Kineti readers were name calling in the comments to this blog. “One Law Messianics are supersessionists!”, “Bilateral Ecclesiology Messianics are racists!”, and so on. The name calling went back and forth, and finally I put my foot down and said, “No more name calling, or I delete your comment.”

And much DEL key pressing ensued.

However, this foray into censorship bothered me because, on some level, those accusations could be accurate. And if they are accurate, then I was, on some level, deleting truth. (Suddenly I feel very zen.)

It reinforced the reason I almost never delete comments: removing evidence of what people think doesn’t solve anything. It’s basically censorship; generally it does little good.

Democracy is bad


In the present hour, political upheaval is taking place in Egypt.

Riots in the streets, people getting shot, government smack down stuff. Big stuff.

The standard commentary I’m hearing from our western media is: “The Egyptian people have a right to vote! They have a right to choose their leaders!”

The New York Times, a popular left-wing publication in the US, has had numerous opinion pieces saying, albeit with more flowery words, this very thing.

But stop for a moment and go a level deeper: yes, it may be basically true that the Egyptian people should be able to choose their own leaders. But more important than the right to choose your own leader is ensuring your motives are aligned with good. Forgive the premature invocation of Godwin’s Law, but the German people had a right to choose their leader in 1932, and choose they did, with 13,745,800 Germans choosing an evil greater than any the modern world had seen.

That isn’t to say Egypt will choose some evil on par with Hitler.

But on the other hand, the future’s not looking too bright for Egypt. The party looking to make the most gains from the Egyptian upheaval is the Society of the Muslim Brothers, or Muslim Brotherhood for short.

Are the Egyptian people making a good choice in ousting its dictator and replacing it with the Muslim Brotherhood?

Probably not.

Unless you define good as an Islamic theocracy that suppresses religious and social minorities, this group doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in its running towards goodness. It’s founding credo, for example, states,

Allah is our objective; the Quran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.

And the modern Egyptian head of the Muslim Brotherhood recently told a newspaper they will institute stoning for adulterers and the death penalty for those who leave the Islamic faith. 150px-Muslim_Brotherhood_logo

I mean – ferchristsake – their logo is comprised of swords with the subtitle, “Islam is the answer”.

Not exactly subtle about that “we hate non-Muslims” thing.

Admittedly, if Islam is right, and Allah is God and Islam the only way to God, then we should be cheering for beheadings of infidels and suppression of minority religions and all that. But I say Islam isn’t right, in fact, it’s so bad for humanity, it is worth fighting against.

So when you hear, “Egypt has the right to choose their leaders!”, go a level deeper and ask whether their choice for a new leader is good. More important than the right to choose your own leader is ensuring your motives for change are aligned with good. If you’re going to choose badly, better to not choose at all. Or, in the words of Mark Twain,

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

Right now, it’s looking bad for Egypt. I hereby offer the heretical view that it is better for Egypt to suffer in its current dictatorship than it is to institute the bad choice of leadership it is now putting into power. I predict Egypt will, in the next 10 years, suffer more than they ever have under the old dictatorship. And I predict the surrounding nations, particularly Israel, will also suffer because of Egypt’s choice.

Democracy is only as good as the people it puts into power.

John Lennon, and why his lyrics sound so good but are actually really bad


I’m a fan of music. I find beauty in all kinds of music. I like classical, I like rock, I like Messianic, I like metal. I can find good in almost all kinds of music, really.

Most of all, I am a fan of the Beatles. And I like John Lennon’s music.

But it dawned on me the other day that John Lennon’s lyrics are rather terrible. They are great on the nice sounding platitudes for change, but dig a level deeper, and they’re actually quite horrible if implemented.

Take, for example, the famous John Lennon hit, “Imagine”:

Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will live as one

Sounds great!John-Lennon-john-lennon-10226277-1664-1217

Well, maybe not the “no religion” part so much, but hey, I’ve always been a Cowboy Religionist anyways, so who needs religion when you can have God? And besides, nothing to kill or die for? Oh man. Sign me up to be one of the dreamers, I want to live as one!

But hold on, while it does sound appealing to any peace-loving person, is it really good? Go a level deeper.

Yes, no killing is good, everybody wants peace. But what about having something to die for? Or having something to live for?

When a man feels passionately enough about something, he is willing to give his life for it. A man willing to lay down his life for his wife, or for his friend, a man willing to die for his ideals & beliefs, a person standing up for what’s right.

Without anything to die for, this all sounds like Equilibrium, some kind of Orwellian nightmare, where all emotion and expressions are frowned upon by the society. After all, emotion might breed passion, or worse, lead to fear, and fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, … and suddenly we’re all fighting again.

Lennon’s utopian lyrics sound nice, but considering a world without religion, without anything to die for, without any ultimate justice (“no hell below us, above us only sky”), I think his utopia would actually be hell on earth.

Make no mistake, if religion were to disappear tomorrow, people would still fight – and kill and die – for the things they feel passionately about. Nations, beliefs, philosophies, races, pride, grievances, women, name any motivator, good or bad. Remove the big ones (religions, nations, races), we’ll just move onto fighting about the small ones. Humans fight for what we believe in, but – get this – that’s not always a bad thing.

Sometimes it is good to have something worth fighting for, worth dying for.

More important than not fighting is fighting for what’s good, standing up for what’s right. And doing nothing in the face of evil is not some great act of peacemaking, but one of great moral cowardice.

In summary, I’m insane, but I think I’m right

The morality and ethics of all the west is based on what are essentially nice-sounding catch-phrases like “Be kind to all people”, “Follow your dreams”, etc. And all it takes to debunk them is going a level deeper. But most people just stop at the nice-sounding part.

I’ve finally moved past that nice-sounding part. And I’m feeling a bit freer in my thinking already.

More important than your obligation to follow your conscience, or at least prior to it, is your obligation to form your conscience correctly. Nobody — remember this — neither Hitler, nor Lenin, nor any despot you could name, ever came forward with a proposal that read, ‘Now, let’s create a really oppressive and evil society.’ Hitler said, ‘Let’s take the means necessary to restore our national pride and civic order.’ And Lenin said, ‘Let’s take the means necessary to assure a fair distribution of the goods of the world.’

In short, it is your responsibility…not just to be zealous in the pursuit of your ideals, but to be sure that your ideals are the right ones. That is perhaps the hardest part of being a good human being: Good intentions are not enough. Being a good person begins with being a wise person. Then, when you follow your conscience, will you be headed in the right direction.

-US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Being good starts with being wise. For such an important foundation, you’d think wisdom would be taught in schools.


  1. I agree with most of what you said except for the name calling part. Too many people, after they've called someone a name and hurt another person, excuse the behavior by saying, "I'm just telling the truth". Even if you're telling the truth, it may not be called for. It's like calling a guy did prison time for a robbery he committed as an 18 year old, but who is now living an honest life as a bus driver at age 35, a "thief" in front of his wife and children. It's technically the "truth", but it doesn't reflect who the person is now.

    Truth may not be the final arbiter of whether or not it's OK to call someone a name. If you're telling the truth about them, but calling them a name just for the sake of hurting them or embarrassing them, then perhaps intent, rather than truth, should be the deciding factor of saying something or keeping it to yourself.

    Matthew 18:17-17 outlines how to deal with a "brother who sins against you." Notice that instead of immediately draggng the matter in front of the whole congregation, you first approach the person privately so as (in my opinion) not embarrass the person (even though it may be a fact that they sinned against you) publicly. Only if the person remains stubborn and unrepentant do you escalate the matter.

    I know the issue of whether or not calling someone names in public has been debated in these various blogs before, but I don't necessarily believe that the ends justify the means. I expanded on this matter in one of my blog posts and I can point you or anyone to it upon request.

  2. Well said!

    Last week, in a moment of clarity (or insanity, depending on your perspective), it suddenly dawned on me why so many sheeple don't listen to what their leaders are really saying. It is because they like familiar jargon. When we all speak the same jargon, we all feel like we belong. But as your blog post rightly points out, the reality lies a level deeper.

    Ideas and words are not the goal of faith. They are merely a conduit for revelation. Most of today's religious endeavors are about words and jargon - not true faith. To most, agreeing to creeds (statements of "faith") is more important than righteous deeds.

  3. @James, was Yeshua's use of "vipers, hypocrites, white-washed tombs, you-of-little-faith" etc. simply an expression of a different culture? Or does being Messiah give Him the responsibility to say what we should not? Oh, wait, Paul does the same thing...

    Western "civility" sometimes seems "biblical" but is it?

  4. I can't post the link to my blog post, but go to my blog and read what I wrote for February 12th. It's called "Living a Worthy Life". I answered your question more completely than I can in a blog comment.

    I realized I was taking a minor risk by posting my opinion, since many people, not just in the Messianic world, but in general, feel they have to right to say and do whatever they want to, no matter what the circumstances or consequences. Particularly in the U.S. we tend to focus on our personal, individual rights and liberties rather than thinking through the consequences of our actions. If it makes us feel better to call someone names, it doesn't matter how our words affect others. Consider Psalms 34:13 and James 3:3-8.

  5. So, does it means I can still call BE people racists?....LOL!

  6. Judah~

    I came across this quote on a friend's fb status, and immediately thought of your blog post and the idea that we can justify saying something because it is the "truth". No, I have no firm position here...but just thought I'd share:

    "Lord, deliver me from the urge to open my mouth when I should shut it. Give me the wisdom to keep silent when silence is wise. Remind me that not everything needs to be said, and that there are very few things that need to be said by me." ~Elizabeth Elliott

    :) Love the humility in that last phrase, 'very few things that need to be said by me'.

    Also, some of what was said about "truth telling" makes me think of a paper I read on lashon hara (evil speech/tongue--did I get that right?). It was a challenging read...since the conclusions that apparently some rabbis come to is that any speech about another person--even complimentary--could cause another to speak poorly about the complimented person, and therefore be categorized as lashon hara. Don't know how I feel about that as a sweeping rule, but I am respectful of that position (and the self control needed to embrace such a stance!). If we're honest and attentive, how often have we spoken highly of someone's actions, only to find our audience saying, "yeah sure, but he isn't all THAT great...he's actually a creep in other ways". (This JUST happened the other day when I was singing your praises, Judah. *snort*) :)

    Anyway, have a fine evening gentlemen~

  7. It is so weird to me how folks just seem to chime in to disagree with a post without (apparently) having even grasped what the post says. It's not just here, obviously (and unfortunately).. I see it everywhere.

    But here, we have Judah saying, among other good points: “Name calling in itself is not evil. In fact, name calling can be good. What’s more important than avoidance of name-calling is ensuring that the name with which you’ve labeled is accurate."

    If you're in disagreement, here's what you may have missed:
    Name calling in itself is not evil. It isn't, unless Yeshua is evil.
    In some instances it can actually be good. I can think of many.
    We should be sure that what we say is true. Words to live by.

    In other words,if you're going to call someone out, be sure what you're saying is true and that it is either for their benefit or the benefit of the community. Both would be ideal. Most name calling does not fit this bill. This is probably what some of you are getting hung up on, though you shouldn't be.

    Judah did not say, "Insulting others is the way to go. Find someone to insult today." He said, essentially, that we ought to look past the platitudes thrown about our culture that often masquerade as sentiments of lasting value or truth. His view is that these empty phrases offer only one, shallow and sometimes erroneous perspective, but often sound good, and will generally be accepted as true by most. Looking past what is being said and determining the motivations of the speaker will reveal whether the statement is actually true and of value.

    Follow your dreams.

  8. Judah...just to clarify the "rules" of commenting (you know I'm still pretty green, so please set me straight):

    When commenting, must one always refer to your blog posts point by point, and comment on every point (so as to assure others that we have "grasped what the post says")?

    Is the idea of diverting off-topic, or turning a subtopic into foder for commenting, like: "Oh, this kinda-sorta made me think of this...". Is that a no-no that makes one look like she (apparently) needs one of your well-crafted posts reinterpreted for her?



  9. I fully agree that Democracy as a principle is bad. Democracy without the basic law of God as a principle and thereby the understanding of good and evil, will end up in anarchy and rebellion against God.

  10. In other words,if you're going to call someone out, be sure what you're saying is true and that it is either for their benefit or the benefit of the community. Both would be ideal. Most name calling does not fit this bill. This is probably what some of you are getting hung up on, though you shouldn't be.

    I'll buy that up to the "though you shouldn't be" since in my experience, most people don't call others names for "their benefit or the benefit of others". Also, the term "name calling" carries a rather negative connotation, kind of like "gossiping" or "tale-bearing".

    You are more describing "confronting" someone (I know most of this is just a matter of nomenclature), which doesn't have to involve "name calling" at all. Also, not all confrontations, even if based on the "truth" (as opposed to "facts"?) is necessarily beneficial. It depends on the context. For example, confronting someone in private (Matthew 18 comes to mind) is more likely to get a person to listen than embarrassing them in a public venue (think of it as email vs. blog comment or blog post),though sometimes when the former fails, you may end up resorting to the latter.

    As I said before, people often use "the truth" and "I'm doing this in love" as excuses to publicly embarrass someone (definitely not "in love") and for their own benefit. Confronting another's error should be done with extreme care and only after calming down about whatever they said that set you off.

    "Blowing out someone else's candle doesn't make your's burn any brighter."


Appending "You might like" to each post.