Bill Eccles: December 2010 Archives

Why, God?

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A friend from high school is watching someone near and dear to her in the final stages of life, and it’s enough of a burden on her—someone who is always upbeat and positive—that she posted something on Facebook about it. In her post, she struggles to reconcile the belief that we can do good as long as we’re breathing with the suffering that she’s witnessing. She says that this can’t be how it’s supposed to be, and wanted an explanation someday.

I have a big mouth.

So I volunteered what I thought on the subject in a response. Since then, several other people have replied that they had needed to hear these words, too. I thought I would share them here so that others can read them, and hopefully they may help.

Remembering that I’m no theologian and I’m not a pastor, that I’m just a Christian, a husband, a father, and an engineer, here’s what I wrote:

First, I’m sorry things aren’t going well for someone near you. Same here. It’s all the tougher when something happens during this season. It just plain sucks.

As to your other ponderings, them’s a toughie. You can either explain it with lots of theological mumbo-jumbo or make it simple enough that even I can understand it. I prefer the latter. Here it goes, hope this helps:

I am glad that God didn’t create evil. He couldn’t—He’s all perfect and stuff like that. Instead, He let us do what we wanted to do from the very beginning, and being given free will, we created evil by removing Him from parts of our existence.

Think about darkness for a moment and recognize that it’s an absence of light—it’s not a real “thing” as much as it’s a thing caused by the lack of something real. (It would be interesting, though, if it were: we’d have darkbulbs in aisle 10 next to lightbulbs.) Just like a vacuum isn’t a “thing,” but is something caused by the lack of gunk to fill the void. So, too, evil is not a real “thing” but is the absence of good, and all the good stuff there is comes from God (James 1:17).

And when the door is opened to the bad stuff (thanks, Mr. Adam and Mrs. Eve), it gets busy and wrecks stuff for us. Always has, always will. It kills people. It breaks up marriages. It finds ways to make our days really, really crappy in ways that we haven’t even thought of.

But I’m with [another correspondent to the original post]. Whatever is going on is no surprise to Him. He saw it coming, and He will make good use of it to serve His purposes and work out well for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Do we necessarily know how it will work out? No. Do we know when it will work out? No. Sometimes we see the results, other times… not. It may happen in our lifetimes, and it may not. Why not? Dunno’, but the Bible says it’s going to work out, so I have to believe that.

Why can’t he just fix everything? I suppose He could, but He chose not to make us automatons, robots, doing just good stuff. Instead, He lets us screw up at will. Makes things a lot more interesting that way, I suppose.

So, “Why, God?” Why free will? Why let us do what we want to? Why let us push Him out of our ways? Why not make everything perfect? My answer is, “We don’t know.” The Bible doesn’t answer these questions. Instead, we are told that the ends justify the means, and we’re not told what the big plan is in the first place. I think it’s a little presumptuous for us to think that we could understand all of what He has in His plans. You know, He’s infinite, and we’re a bit smaller than that. If He answered the question “Why?” to us, I’m thinking our collective brains would explode. “YOU WANT THE TRUTH?! YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!” comes to mind.

I’d still like to try understanding His answer. It would be really, really interesting.

All that having been said, it doesn’t make it any easier for us to watch others endure circumstances which are distinctly not good. But it does make it easier to focus on bringing Him into the situation if we can get away from the angry “You’re not such a loving God after all, are you?!” phase and move to the “OK, so be it, now… HELP! (Please.)” phase. Just like it’s hard to make up and be nice with [your husband] if you’re still mad at him after an argument. Get past the argument, and you can make up. Get past the blame game, and you can ask God to do just about anything.

And He’ll listen and He will answer. Maybe not with the answer we expect, but with an answer that suits His plans, and we know that His plans are good.

Again, I’m sorry things aren’t all well, and hope that I’ve been of a teensy bit of help. I’m no theologian, and these things might all be wrong. I’ve picked up bits and pieces here and there and assembled them into my engineer’s way of thinking—some settling may have occurred during shipping and handling. And they may not have helped at all. But if they have, then my Christmas has been made a bit brighter, and so has yours.

Merry Christmas,
Bill

Merry Christmas, everybody.

Via Geeks Are Sexy (aren’t we?) comes this great Robot Chicken-like Star Wars Christmas Special parody.

Enjoy, and be of good cheer!

Ron Paul thinks that Julian Assange should get some form of protection as if he were media—or, more correctly, a journalist—as described in this article by Andy Barr. Paul says:

“This whole notion that Assange, who’s an Australian, that we want to prosecute him for treason. I mean, aren’t they jumping to a wild conclusion?” he added. “This is media, isn’t it? I mean, why don’t we prosecute The New York Times or anybody that releases this?”

My question is, just why wouldn’t we prosecute The New York Times if they pulled a similar stunt? The media—journalists—are not immune by protection of the Constitution to do things that are 100% illegal, which revelation of classified information certainly is, no more than any other citizen or group of citizens are.

Paul’s reasoning is faulty, too:

“In a free society we’re supposed to know the truth,” Paul said. “In a society where truth becomes treason, then we’re in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it.”

I cannot agree with his premise. Living in a “free” society does not guarantee any knowledge of “the truth.” For starters, there are laws in this society, so it is not totally free, and thank God for that. Second, the laws that we do have may only guarantee the right to seek the truth. And finally, the laws protect some of the truth from being found because failure to do so would damage the greater good of the society.

Also, it’s not “truth” that “people” are revealing: it’s classified information, which is protected by law, and it’s Julian Assange and his organization who are doing it.

If The New York Times pulled a similar stunt and wholesale revealed classified information, information which has been classified for reasons which are also dictated by our laws, the Times should certainly be prosecuted. First, the greater good would not have been protected by its acts. Second, and probably most damning, there is nothing journalistic or protected about the mere act of publication. In this case, the Times would merely be acting as publishers, and publishers have none of the special rights afforded journalists. Publication is not the same thing as journalism.

If, on the other hand, the Times had an informant who revealed classified information because doing so would help the greater good, and the Times further did its journalistic due diligence, corroborated the information if possible, and made a conscious decision that revelation of the classified information would be beneficial to the country, then they would most certainly not be prosecuted. Here, the Times would be acting as journalists—people who create, people who analyze, people who do not merely pump out quantities of paper for the sake of publication.

Need a concrete example? AT&T publishes the white pages. Are they journalists? What if AT&T published everybody’s Social Security numbers? Does AT&T deserve protections afforded journalists and to get off scot-free?

No. Emphatically, No. And neither does WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks has dumped a bunch of data onto the web. They have not created, they have not analyzed, they have not corroborated, they have not investigated, they have not acted in any way like journalists.

Instead, they are merely publishers, facilitators of distribution, and are guilty. Guilty as hell. They do deserve to be brought up on charges of treason. And as leader of this rogue organization of traitors, Julian Assange should take the fall.

So get off your soapbox, Ron Paul. It’s rickety, rotten, and doesn’t support you or your position.

Update:

First, in a rather lively debate on Facebook (why do I put this stuff on there?), it has been pointed out to me that the government did indeed prosecute the Times for publication of the Pentagon Papers back in the early 70’s. The SCOTUS upheld the right to freedom of the press, but the court also essentially said that the government could suppress the press if the government met the burden of proof that the public good would be harmed. And in that case, “embarrassment” wasn’t exactly going to make or break the public good. So, if the government wanted to prosecute Assange, it could, press or not, but it would have to prove its case.

Second, Assange is afforded none of the protections of the Constitution because he isn’t a US citizen. Paul’s comparison of a clearly-protected organization, the Times, to a clearly not-protected person and/or organization should have been what I pointed out in the first place and would have saved many bytes on the intarwebs. His argument is therefore null and void.

Third, another person made a point that Assange couldn’t be charged with treason as he isn’t a US citizen (which is what made me think of the above). Not true. The US can charge anybody with anything anywhere anytime. Think Manuel Noriega. Whether the US succeeds in extraditing him for trial is a different matter entirely, but Assange doesn’t seem to have the greatest track record for picking citizenships to operate under. (Dude, if you’re going to attack the US, at least go to Switzerland to get a running start…)

And finally, somebody mentioned that as “finder of the information,” Assange was not obligated to protect the classified information, that he could do whatever he wanted to with it. Interesting that as citizens, I think, though I cannot find definitively, that we are all responsible for protecting classified information as best we can and cannot do with it what we will any more than we can traffic in stolen goods.

But as a non-citizen, he’s certainly not subject to our laws unless he breaks them from afar. I saw posted elsewhere that perhaps espionage is an appropriate charge then, in which case everybody’s using the wrong word, but the crime remains committed regardless of the name.

Of course, this too is mostly irrelevant to the discussion because Paul’s statement is predicated on a bad premise in the first place.