Understanding Ukraine and Russia Conflict Through a Historical Lens

With the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, it is a good time for a history lesson. I commend to you a very insightful and well-guided discussion. You’ll glean valuable information and enjoy learning some of the history of the Ukraine – Russia situation in order to better understand it.

Recommended resource below – Podcast or video format “Ukraine and Russia: History and the the Theology of Nationalism”

Let me take a moment to set up what I’m commending to you, as your time is valuable. I will not pretend to fully understand the situation in Eastern Europe between Russia and Ukraine.

To my own detriment, I tend to see everything from my limited American historical lens. We Americans tend to believe that world history revolves around American history. American history is very important. However, American history is set within a much larger historical context of world history which is equally important.

Nations are important to God

As a thinking Christian, I must understand that there are theological undercurrents that shape events, cultures and nations as well. The situation in Ukraine did not arrive out of thin air. It is hundreds of years in the making. That said, we have an opportunity. We can recover a theology of nations. “Nations” (Gk. ἔθνος, ους, τό – ethnos) is mentioned throughout the Bible. It’s where we get the English word ‘ethnicity.’ The notion of nations distinguishes people of a common culture, common customs, and typically a geographic location (Samaria, Canaan, Rome, etc). So, nations must be important to God.

Cultural Movements in history and ideas that shape them

Furthermore, the events and cultural movements we are witnessing today have historical pathologies. Events are caused by preceding events which are caused by preceding events, and so on.

People have ideas that create and shape cultures – ideas shape histories. Sometimes those ideas are good, like the invention of the telephone. Sometimes those ideas are bad, like Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’.

We live in an unprecedented historical cultural moment of a connected world. As I’ve said in a previous post, our devices bring the horrible situation in Ukraine into the palms of our hands in realtime. As usual, there is no shortage of ideas being put forth by politicians, pundits, technocrats, celebrities, and others as possible ‘solutions’ to the conflict. But, are those ‘good’ ideas? Do the people pushing those solutions thoroughly understand the problems?

Benefits of wisdom in this historical moment

My good friend wisdom tells me to pause and try to understand the bigger historical situation in order to better understand the current moment. This action offers several benefits. First, I actually turn off media and turn on learning. Second, I’m seeking to understand a situation by diving into the history leading up to it. Third, I remember that these geopolitical events are usually way more complex than I imagined. Forth, I remember that over-simplistic, one-size-fits-all solutions sound good but typically cause more harm than good. Finally, I have a greater appreciation for the current moment when I understand the history leading up to it.

Recommended resource well worth your time

With the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, it is a good time for a history lesson. I commend to you a very insightful and well-guided discussion. You’ll glean valuable information and enjoy learning some of the history of the Ukraine – Russia situation in order to better understand it.

Below is a link to a podcast (or video if you prefer) that provides some historical insights into what is going on. Dr Glenn Sunshine is a history professor emeritus at Central Connecticut State University, a Research Fellow of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, an associate at Reflections Ministries, founder of Every Square Inch Ministries, a theologian, and a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Previously, he taught at Calvin College and was a visiting professor at the Universität der Bundeswehr-Hamburg (now Helmut Schmidt University) in Germany. He is also an adjunct professor at Ostroh University in Ukraine with family roots in the region. I trust Dr. Sunshine’s historical analysis and theological perspective.

 

Theology Pugcast: “Ukraine and Russia: History and the Theology of Nationalism”

“With the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, Glenn thought it a good time for a history lesson on Ukraine and Russia. As you might expect, he started over 1000 years ago, but noted especially more recent history and why the Ukrainians want to get out from under Russian domination. Along the way, he noted some genuine problems with Ukraine and their treatment of Russian minorities, part and parcel of the messy way borders work in Central and Eastern Europe. The guys finish with a discussion of the theological significance of nations, noting that they seem to survive in a purified form into eternity.”

Word Wars – How Academic Activists Manipulate Language to Win Political Battles

Who wields cultural power? Whoever tells the stories that shape the cultural imagination. Whoever creates ideas and concepts that diffuse throughout a population over a period of time. This is accomplished through language.

Language and more precisely, words are extremely powerful. Words have the ability to shape identity, reality, and the future.

Why do academic activists manipulate and distort language?

Here’s the short answer. When attaining cultural (hegemonic) and political power are the goals, distorting and weaponizing language is in the realm of options. Progressive academics who have colonized our universities and schools know that words can confuse, silence and break the will of their political enemies. But the question is, ‘How did we get here?’

All social engineering is preceded by verbal engineering.

William Smith

A little set-up is necessary.
Let’s consider something familiar. The old saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me” seems like a good sentiment when dealing with toddlers and school bullies. However, is it a wise sentiment?

Having ministered to several people who’ve experienced childhood abuse, I have learned that while the physical injuries eventually heal, the damage inflicted by words leave deeper wounds than most of us realize.

My intention is not to diminish the horrible pain and lasting trauma caused by physical abuse. On the same token, I’m not attempting to claim that every single offensive word, disagreement or challenge to one’s political identity should carry a trigger warning. Furthermore, I’m not advocating for any censoring or silencing of free speech. I’m attempting to demonstrate that words carry more force than we recognize. Force for good or for ill.

I have met adults who, as children experienced terrible physical abuse from a parent. At the same time, the abusive parent was calling them, “worthless” and “stupid”. Uttering vitriolic statements to their child like, “I wished you were never born!” or “I wish you were dead!” Let’s STOP right here and read that again. Imagine your father, mother, or the person you trusted most saying those words to you.

Statistically, based on the numbers of readers and subscribers to this blog, some of you have experienced abuse. I am so very sorry for how you, as an image-bearer of God with intrinsic value and eternal worth, were treated. I pray you experience the grace of God to bring healing and restoration in your life – as several of you have shared with me. My intent is not to bring up past trauma but to bring insight to my readers on the power of language.

Let’s continue. The physical wounds leave lasting scars on the body and emotions. However, the verbal wounds cut deep into a child’s mind and heart. Those harmful words from an abuser potentially shape the psyche, thought-life and eventually the identity of the victim. That will extend into one’s relationships with others. If left unaddressed, the dysfunction begets dysfunction. There is a phrase that I hear from time to time, “Hurt people, hurt people.” In other words, people who have been abused often times (not always) end up abusing others. That doesn’t excuse an individual’s responsibility for wrong-doing.

While words can inflict great, sometimes irreparable harm, words can also build-up, encourage, bring order and restore.

I share this in order to demonstrate the power of words and language before addressing how language shapes the social imagination and culture.

Theologians, philosophers, poets, and academics have understood the power of language for thousands of years. Language forms the fabric of human history, relationships and cultures. Language shapes the contours of our thoughts and comprehension of reality. It’s also internal dialog and external expression of what we believe and thus, our behaviors.

As a part of my studies in anthropology, courses in linguistics were required. Through the study of linguistics, I discovered the profundity of human language. I admit, I did not fully appreciate what I was learning at the time. I do now.

Leading up to now

What I’ve discovered in the last several years is the extent to which words and language have been warped, distorted, disjointed or re-defined. We are creating new words, like “Google”, which can be a noun or verb (I “Googled” my name yesterday). 30 years ago, no one would understand what you meant if you said, “I Googled my name to see what came up.”

In 1950, the majority of people would have understood truth as being objective. What’s true about reality for me is also true for you. Truth doesn’t change, truth just is. Back then, the social order and society ordered itself around objective truth. However, with the rise of post-modernism, standpoint epistemology and obsession with individual self-expression, “truth” has been re-defined to mean what an individual wants it to mean. Truth is based on their subjective experience and how they view reality. Some academics go as far to argue that “truth” is a social construct. Today, it’s progressed to point of absurdity.

How did we get to a place as a culture where words don’t mean what they use to?

Why are we seeing a growing trend of weaponized language?

This is where we must pause and exercise discernment. I think Carl Trueman said it best, “Understanding the times in which we live is a precondition to responding appropriately to the times.” It’s vital that we have a basic understanding that there are cultural pathologies and undercurrents that led to this moment.

“Every man is a creature of the age in which he lives and few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of the time.”

– Voltaire

For the sake of clarity and time, I will not go into great depth here. Suffice to say, philosophers and academics realized obscuring language and distorting meaning was a powerful tool to change society. We can trace this back to influential people like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Karl Marx and so on.

The Rise of Progressivism

At the turn of the 20th century, we begin to see the ideas of Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Antonio Gramsci worm their way out of the academy into cultural institutions like the arts, elite circles, and eventually diffuse through politics in America. By the late 1950s and early 1960s, Marxian academics came to the full realization that language is a tool to attain political and cultural power and dominance. We saw the emergence of the “New Left” that would evolve into what we now call “Progressivism.”

Progressivism is one of those words that is new to the modern lexicon. It represents a philosophy and totalizing vision of life, history, and reality. In the 1940s and 1950s, most Americans repudiated Marxist ideas like socialism and Communism. So, Marxist academics in places like the Frankfurt School, began to create linguistic cloaks to conceal and camouflage their ideology in oder to make them more palatable and acceptable to the masses. Terms and concepts like “Critical Theory”, and “Social Theory”. Progressivism eventually emerged. Given, I know I am over-simplifying. But, the point is, redefined language could be used as a cloak for ideas. In the mind of the progressive academic activist, words should be both emotionally and politically charged in order to be used as weapons of revolution.

Recently, new phrases and categories employ familiar words but their meaning is obscure or totally new. You’ve probably heard words and combinations like, “white fragility“, “white privilege“, “antiracism“, “birthing person” or “transgender“.

Remember, words carry ideas that shape how people think about reality. Where did these words and ideas come from? Well, they originated in the academy (universities).

Familiar words have been re-defined. Words like, “justice”, “racism”, “tolerance”, “equity” and “truth” don’t mean what they meant just a few years ago. Fifty years ago, people would be perplexed if you told them you were transgender. No one would would understand what you meant if you told them you were fighting for “climate justice” or “equity”.

Why do academic activists manipulate and distort language?

Here’s the short answer. When attaining cultural (hegemonic) and political power are the goals, distorting and weaponizing language is in the realm of options. Progressive academics who have colonized our universities and schools know that words can confuse, silence and break the will of their political enemies.

Don’t be fooled or lulled asleep by nice-sounding words (justice, antiracist, equity). Those words don’t mean what you think they mean. No, words are their preferred weapons of war. Don’t believe me. Try to debate a progressive activist on the merit of their ideas, or logical consistency, rational coherence, or basic reason, it will not be long before they call you a name (racist, sexist, bigot, intolerant, deployable, misogynist, etc).

A word of caution, not every liberal-leaning self-described ‘progressive’ thinks this way. I have many liberal friends with whom I disagree and debate. They don’t buy into the total war of leftist progressivism bent on destroying political enemies to obtain power. So, don’t go out there attacking everyone who uses suspect words and language. Marx, Alinsky and Marcuse would love it if you responded that way (if they were alive). Instead, pause and think.

How does one respond?

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Proverbs 15:1

Ask questions like, “What do you mean by that?” Help each other define terms. “What do you mean by justice?” And when you use a word or phrase in a disagreement or debate, pause and define it for the person.

For example, “When I say, “tolerance”, I mean it in the traditional sense which means I will endure or allow for disagreement. In other words, we can disagree without being disagreeable. Is that fair for you?”

Who wields cultural power?
Whoever tells the stories that shape the cultural imagination. Whoever creates ideas and concepts that diffuse throughout a population over a period of time. This is accomplished through language.

From a biblical perspective, we understand that the Word (logos) that grounds and shapes total reality in truth is found in God. In the beginning God created… He said, “let their be…” It was by His word that all creation, reality, language and culture came to be. So, God gets to define reality, not academic activists. Someone once said (using a baseball analogy), “Reality get to bat last.”  In other words, reality and truth have the last say… It doesn’t matter what you believe. If what we believe is not grounded in reality, sooner or later the world will crash in around us.

Furthermore, Christians ought to reside in the spheres of academics and art where the stories are told and concepts are argued. We bear the truth about total reality through God’s Word and His created order.

In conclusion, we must recover language and words that have been highjacked and distorted. We must ground them in their biblical meaning. Why? Because language shapes reality and how we understand the world we live in. If we do not take back language and plant it in the bedrock of truth, reality and the world around us will grow more confusing and chaotic.

All truth is God’s truth. Remember that.

Cancel Culture, CRT, and Joe Rogan – Why it matters

“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.”

Saul Alinsky

Why do all of these attempts to cancel Joe Rogan matter?

Because if is happening to him, it could happen to you.

Do not be silent in the face of evil.

Background – My involvement

I began sounding the alarm in earnest on “Cancel Culture” and Critical Race Theory (CRT) during the early summer of 2020. The George Floyd incident was the bomb that set cities around the country aflame for months. Many thought this came out of nowhere. Others believed that centuries of racism and oppression had come to a head. Still others knew exactly what was going on. The fuse that set off the explosion of BLM and Antifa riots, beatings and chaos had been lit decades prior to the summer of 2020.

It was a cultural “sucker punch” that most did not possess the moral courage, nor cultural awareness of the times to understand much less respond appropriately to what was happening.

Mid-Summer of 2020

In June and July of 2020, I began to see books like Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” and Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be An AntiRacist” circulating in the Christian community. I had heard their names and others but I had not read much of their stuff, other than a few quotes here and there. It all reminded me of some of the stuff I read in Anthropology and Sociology classes in college in the late 1990’s. I considered it all to be fringe pseudo-academic mumbo-jumbo that was regulated to life, death and burial in university classrooms – never to escape.

This book (White Fragility) is unapologetically rooted in Identity Politics.

Robin DiAngelo

Fall of 2020

Fast-forward to the fall of 2020. All this fringe pseudo-academic critical theory stuff was front and center. To my astonishment, these Neo-Marxist ideas had escaped what I believed their academic tombs and were resurrected and injected into society. People began to point to these bad ideas as the solution and deliverance from an invisible and yet unknown ills of systemic racism, white supremacy and oppression not realizing it is all Marxism clothed in racial terminology. Parents were seeing it in schools, and employees were seeing corporations attempting to “re-educate” them with “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)” struggle sessions (I mean “training”).

As growing numbers of Christians recommended DiAngelo’s book “White Fragility” to each other, I decided to order a copy and read it. The print edition was completely sold out (that’s how popular it was). So, I bought both digital and audio versions (and backordered the printed version). [You’re welcome Robin DiAngelo – I contributed to your bourgeois lifestyle]. After reading the book, I went to church leadership and said, “We have a problem.” Then, I was tasked with writing a summary of the book to help leadership understand this foreign doctrine being circulated among the flock.

What I thought would be a weeklong project turned into a much larger enterprise that spanned more than a month. Not only did I read DiAngelo’s book but I was dusting off old books from college, reading other books on the topic, source materials, and (peer-reviewed) academic papers spanning from – critical theory, gender theory, queer theory, intersectionality, Hegelian philosophy, and much more. I emerged from my “Alice in Wonderland” rabbit-hole experience with an extensive two part piece I titled, “A Critical Response and Worldview Analysis of the book “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo.” I handed this off to church leadership, checked the box and tried to go on with my life. But, not so fast!

Understanding the Cultural Moment

Simultaneously, friends and people from our church began approaching me asking questions. They were reading these woke books and seeing vitriolic posts by other Christians on social media attacking each other based on race, “privilege”, etc. Not to mention, all of the virtue signaling going on. They were trying to understand what in the hell was happening. Lifelong friendships were being fractured and destroyed by this stuff. So, I decided to published my two part series on “White Fragility”(here) in order to help people understand what they were seeing in the world around them. If you read it, you’ll see that I go far beyond the book’s title to pinpoint the underlying worldview and philosophy driving this new toxic cultish orthodoxy. Make no mistake CRT, Cancel Culture and Wokeism make up a CULT. Yes, I’ve studied cults as well.

I was stunned when my piece on “White Fragility” began to get shared and circulated widely. What I intended to be a resource to help people turned into a season of life that I occupy nearly two years later. Since the summer of 2020, I have presented on Critical Race Theory and related topics over 15 times to various groups in different formats (here are a few).

What does all this have to do with “Cancel Culture” and the unfolding situation with Joe Rogan?

It has everything to do with it because this is ALL related. We must understand an issue in order to respond appropriately to an issue.

[Disclaimer: I understand that Joe Rogan is a public figure. I do not support all his views on every topic nor do I agree with everything he says or does. I do believe that Joe Rogan has a right to speak his mind on the platforms that he’s on. Thinking Christians ought to pay attention.]

As I have pointed out in my presentations, Critical Race Theory is the present iteration of Marxism, and “Cancel Culture” is the enforcement of this ideology. Cancel Culture is a politically motivated collective attempt to harm, silence, or destroy a person’s reputation, livelihood, social standing, for “for violating a particular ideological standard” of the political left. 

Cancel Culture can be linked back to Herbert Marcuse‘s essay entitled “Repressive Tolerance” (1965). He basically states that in order to achieve a Marxist cultural revolution leading to a utopian dream, effective Marxists must tolerate and promote leftist/Marxist ideas while being intolerant, suppressing and silencing ideas from the political right. This intolerance, suppression and silencing of all things considered emanating from the political right is where we get the modern militant form of “Cancel Culture.” It’s just Repressive Tolerance theory put into practice (praxis). CRT and Cancel Culture are inextricably linked and rooted in Marxism. CRT is the worldview, Cancel Culture enforces it and prosecutes dissenters on it’s behalf.

Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left…‘Repressive Tolerance’ the practice of discriminating tolerance in an inverse direction, as a means of shifting the balance between Right and Left by restraining the liberty of the Right…”

Herbert Marcuse - Repressive Tolerance

Ideas have consequences and bad ideas have victims.

Cancel Culture is a really bad idea.

Many agree, we are living in Marcuse’s “Repressive Tolerance.” It is a modern reality in America and much of the West. Cancelling voices that dissent or question the new Marxian Critical Race Theory orthodoxy is spreading like invasive cancer across the institutions of the west. Yes, it is a religion.

Woke corporations, media companies, sports teams, politicians, the military, big tech, religious organizations, celebrities, musicians, influencers (don’t get me started), nonprofits, universities, and countless others are stumbling all over themselves like drunken frat boys looking to ‘hook-up’ with a girl after an all-night bender in order to show their allegiance to the new woke orthodoxy. And if anyone disagrees, or even questions the orthodoxy, they are dragged off to the “digital guillotine” to be be-headed (aka. “Cancelled”). It can be described as a modern version of the French Revolution. Once ‘cancelled’, the guilty party is digitally dead. And this is not limited to social media. Financial institutions, corporations, even law enforcement agencies join their Big Tech overlords to punish dissidents.

 …

Enter Joe Rogan into the ring.

Joe Rogan is an enigma. He is a comedian, black belt in Brazilian Jujitsu, MMA enthusiast, and former reality TV host among many other things. Rogan is best known for his podcast (The Joe Rogan Experience) which is the most downloaded podcast on the planet (13 million and counting). He has 14.5 million followers on Instagram, 8.2 million Twitter followers and 9.1 million on GETTR (after Twitter censored one of his posts linked to a podcast interview with Dr. Robert Malone).

Rogan recently signed a reportedly $100 million deal with streaming service Spotify to host his massively popular podcast. Spotify has been his home for several months.

Rogan is no stranger to hot-button issues or controversial guests or even stranger topics. He interviews a wide range of guests and those conversations last up to 3 hours. His fans eat it up.

Something interesting occurred following two specific podcast interviews in the last 3 months. Out of nowhere, Twitter began censoring his posts. And there were calls from across the Big Tech, government and media landscape for the de-platforming, silencing, and cancelling of Joe Rogan. What did Joe Rogan do wrong? Why were the Woketopians calling for his head?

Joe Rogan dared to interview Dr. Peter McCullough and Dr. Robert Malone. Both men are medical experts in their fields. Dr. McCullough is one of the most published physicians on the planet, he’s a cardiologist and expert / advocate for early treatment of COVID. Dr. Malone is the “original inventor of mRNA vaccination as a technology, DNA vaccination, and multiple non-viral DNA and RNA/mRNA platform delivery technologies” and one of the top researchers in the space.

Whats wrong with interviewing two of the best medical experts on the planet?

Well, both doctors are following the science that is completely discrediting the new COVID medical political ideological cult orthodoxy. Drs. McCullough and Malone dared to question the safety and efficacy of COVID response and mRNA vaccines. Joe Rogan interviewed them both and asked them great questions. He gave them opportunity to share their expertise. Both interviews went viral. In fact, to date, the Dr. Malone podcast is the most downloaded podcast in the history of podcasts.

Then, what appeared to be a coordinated effort to attack, smear and cancel Rogan came out of nowhere. The Woketopians took a page right out of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals – A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals.” (1971)

Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

Saul Alinsky (Rule #13 - Rules for Radicals)

Twitter banned Rogan for posting links to his podcast interviews and Youtube censored his videos. Ironically, washed-up bourgeois revolutionary hippie rockers from the 1960s like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell (and others) accused Rogan of spreading ‘misinformation’. So, they shifted from fighting back against ‘the man’ to aligning with authoritarians attempting to silence Rogan (chilling free speech in the process). Not known for their wisdom, Young and Mitchell (and others) pulled their music catalogs off Spotify in protest and retreated to their mansions to sip lattés. I guess, Neil Young wants to limit who he will allow to “Keep Rockin’ in the Free World“(like what I did there?)

Code Word – “Misinformation”

The accusation against Rogan was that he was spreading “misinformation” about COVID. In the new woke cult orthodoxy, “misinformation” is code for “information that does not align with political ideological orthodoxy.” The response is to coerce, smear, silence and cancel the individual who dares to get out of line. It’s almost like Herbert Marcuse spoke from his grave, “Cancel Him!!!” (in Darth Vader’s voice). There was a tremendous amount of pressure on Rogan and Spotify.

When one attack fails (or backfires), switch tactics!

When the “misinformation” tactic did not have the desired effect, the Woketopian legions turned to their tried-and-true method of silencing and cancelling – name calling. Prior to February 1, 2022, Joe Rogan was a podcaster loved and respected by people from all kinds of backgrounds, political persuasions, ages, religions, and ethnicities. Now, the cult claims Rogan is a racist!

The woke mob always resorts to calling people racists because woke arguments always fail. Name-calling has been effective since they were toddlers – immaturity is a hallmark of wokeness.

The timing was uncanny. As soon as the Marcuse Marxists learned that the “misinformation” weapon wouldn’t work against Rogan, they resorted to the racism grenade to destroy him. Out of nowhere, an out of context video collage from a decade ago showing Rogan using an unacceptable racial pejorative on his podcasts emerged and went viral. Again, amazing timing… as if this was planned. Kudos to the midwit who dug through thousands of hours of audio, compiled and edited the hit piece (I hope you were paid well to waste your life on such an asinine endeavor). The interesting thing is that Rogan wasn’t using the pejorative against a guest or anyone else. Many of his guests have pointed this out. He simply said the word (pejorative) instead of the more “politically correct” and acceptable description of the word.

No matter! The mob doesn’t care about anything but political power. As they see it, when attaining power is the ultimate goal, context and truth don’t matter. Joe Rogan was out of line and posed a threat to their ideology . The cult revolutionaries had their target (Rogan) and they were hell-bent on destroying him to teach the rest of us a lesson (including Christians).

Redefining and distorting definitions (definition inflation)

Important Note: The modern definition of “racist” is not the same as the definition we’ve come to understand over the last 200 years. A Racist is no longer someone who harbors ethnic hatred or ethnic prejudice based on skin color. The CRT cult has given us a new definition of racism. Basically, you are labeled a “racist” if you do not bow to the new cult orthodoxy and tow the Marxist party line. That’s why the woke mob can call ethnic minorities ‘racists’ today for not embracing the ideology. That charge would have made no sense 20 years ago.  The new definition is stupid, illogical and ethnically biased. In their warped view of reality, you are a good little Marxist or you are a racist!

A few days ago, Rogan shared his side of the story and apologized. Millions are coming to his defense. The media platform Rumble offered Rogan $100 million to move to their platform when it appeared that Spotify would cave under pressure. So far, Spotify hasn’t budged except for removing some past podcasts they deem “inappropriate.” This is just “soft -censoring” or Spotify’s attempt to appease the Woke piranhas.

A decade ago, no one had any problem with what Joe said. There were no protests or calls for cancelling him. Why? What changed?

Well, a lot has changed.

The culture has shifted and we’re living in Marcuse’s “Repressive Tolerance.”

On this new CRT-driven Marcuse Marxian road to utopia, there is no forgiveness, no mercy- only judgment for questioning the woke orthodoxy of identity politics of attaining power. You either “get with the program” (cult) or else! If you do not bow to the woke idols, you will be cancelled or worse. And they are calling THAT justice, equity, and liberation. It’s anti-freedom, anti-family, anti-American, anti-truth, anti-church, and anti-God.

The bait is the utopian dream of equity and justice for all (meaning socialism and communism for all). The hook is a totalitarian dystopian nightmare. If people like Joe Rogan get cancelled, it matters for the rest of us (including Christians).

Joe, no one expects you or anyone else to be perfect. Don’t fall for their stupid games. You can sincerely apologize until the cows come home, it will never appease them. It will never ever be enough. They smell blood in the water. They are not interested in your apologies, all they are interested in is power. Read Marcuse’s “Repressive Tolerance” and you’ll see why…. Or just ask James Lindsey or Voddie Baucham 😉

The poetry of Martin Niemöller is both haunting and a warning…

“First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.”
-Martin Niemöller

Why do all of these attempts to cancel Joe Rogan matter? Because if is happening to him, it could happen to you. Do not be silent in the face of evil.

The response to CRT and “Cancel Culture” is to tell the truth. Personally, I see through the manipulation and know their cult political orthodoxy better than they do. So, their stupid tactics won’t work on me. Now, (hopefully) their tactics won’t work on you either. You can accomplish this gently and respectfully but courageously.

“Know thy enemy.” Stand your post and don’t abandon the battlefield. Pray for and yes, love your enemies. Stand against dark ideologies that cripple the mind and enslave the heart.

Video: How to Navigate and Guide Conversations During the Holidays

This video is designed to help the Christian to guide and navigate discussions in a helpful and positive direction.

This video is designed to help the Christian to guide and navigate discussions in a helpful and positive direction.

Biblical Foundation:

A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
PROVERBS 15:1

Focus on what is Good, True and Beautiful

Ask yourself these four questions:

  1. What is good that we can celebrate, promote and preserve?
  2. What is missing we can contribute?
  3. What is evil we can stop?
  4. What is broken we can restore?

Share your story and encourage others to share with you.

  • Share your best memory from this year.
  • Share your biggest challenge, loss, failure, or heartbreak.
  • Share what you learned or how you changed this year.
  • Share one thing you would change about yourself or the world around you.

Help people to think by asking really good questions:

  • What do you mean by that?
  • How did you come to that conclusion?

Respond with kindness and a gentle answer… “Thank you for sharing your point of view. This conversation has been valuable to me.”

Break the stereotypes and narratives by allowing people who may be at odds with you to see a really Christian.

Remember, you are not called to ‘win’ arguments, you are called to be a witness.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” MATTHEW 5:14-16

[DISPLAY_ULTIMATE_SOCIAL_ICONS]

Part Three: Should the Church Get Involved in Politics?

Part Three: A proper understanding of God’s word and ordering God as our first love. Fearing God, not man, the Christian has permission and a compelling reason to engage in legitimate government and political activities in ways that honor the God who created all things and instituted government.

As I have established previously. Over half a century after the Church abandoned cultural domains due to fear of man, we’re living in the results.

“The fear of man bringeth a snare.” [Proverbs 29:25a]

“Satan spreads the net and fear drives people right into it.” – John Flavel

In my previous two posts, I attempt to establish a distinctly Christian approach to culture, politics, and government. In Part One, we established that politics is downstream from culture. In Part Two, we defined the purpose behind the Christian’s Role in Culture, Politics and Government. In Part Three, I’ll attempt to give some reasons why the church should be involved in politics and government (as best I can with God’s help).

Either God is sovereign over all things, including political and government activity, or he is not. Either we fear God or we fear man.

Should the Church Get Involved in Politics?

Yes.
That said, we can do the right thing the wrong way and get politics and government wrong. As Christ-followers, we must (with God’s help) endeavor to do the right thing the right way. That is the path of obedience that honors God.

First, we must properly order our loves and allegiances:

You shall have no other gods before Me.
The primary role of a Christian is not political. However, there will be political and governmental implications flowing from our first love and primary allegiance. The first question of the Westminster Larger Catechism makes it clear. “What is the chief and highest end of man?”The answer, “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.”

“The sum of the four commandments containing our duty to God is, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind.”

Christians (who make up the church) commit the sin of idolatry when we place a politician, a political party or social cause above Jesus Christ. Christians also commit the sin of idolatry when we place our comfort, safety, family, celebrity, affluence, status, worship preference, nation, identity or ourselves above Christ. Christ is the sovereign Lord over all domains of human existence. Our job is to tell the world this truth and live in a way that reflects it so that the world may know that Jesus is Lord of all (whether they accept it or not). Our first love and allegiance is to Him. He is our King and we represent Him.

Second, we must have a biblical understanding of government:

Government was instituted by God for a purpose and resides under God’s providence [Romans 13:1-2, Daniel 2:21, 1 Peter 2:14, Isaiah 9:6]. Government is ‘built into’ reality and in to the ordering of things. Whether you are dealing with a modern first world nation or a small tribe or a company, you will find forms of government.

The institution of government is a blessing from God.

Just government restrains unbridled evil and violence from being unleashed.

“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil…. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain” [Romans 13:3-4a].

“It [fear of civil governance] is necessary for the world’s peace, order, and comfort. This passion [fear] acts like a bridle, curbing our corrupt inclinations. If God had not planted it in us, our nature’s corruptions would make us incapable of any moral restraint from the most heinous and barbarous crimes. If fear did not clasp its chains and shackles upon our wild and boisterous lusts, we would suppress all milder motives and break loose from all bands of restraint; the world would be filled with disorder, tumult, theft, murder, and all manner of uncleanness and unrighteousness.

Decency would disappear from the world, No one would be safe; the capacity and opportunity to do mischief would result in the break-up of all societies, This observation is true: Whoever fears not them loss of his own life will master another person’s life. It is the law and the accompanying fear of punishment that keeps the world in order. People are afraid to do evil because they are afraid to suffer for it…. Blessed be God for law and government.” – John Flavel

Government twisted by evil men is a curse.

‘Unjust government operates outside God’s purpose when it violates, dehumanizes or exploits individual image-bearers, violates God’s moral law or good conscience. When this occurs, the Christian has two choices. Either engage or retreat (appeasement is also a retreat).

Third, we need a proper understanding of politics:

There are many definitions of politics. Merriam-Webster offers a helpful definition among several – “the art or science of government.” I try to keep things as simple as possible. So, politics basically describes the governing affairs (activities) of humans and societies. These activities create structures and forms of governance. Governance is ‘built into’ reality and the order of things. 

Politics is a distinctly human cultural enterprise.

Politics is the behavior of humans in regard to governance. Behavior is always guided by worldview. The dominant worldview of a society will shape the characteristics of that society.

For example: Societies where Christianity is the dominant worldview will look a lot different from societies where Marxism is the dominant worldview. Hindu dominant societies are very different from Muslim dominant societies. Government and politics that emerge from different worldviews will take varying forms.

Forth, we must recover the true meaning and purpose of politics:

Currently, in the West, we have a new understanding and redefinition of ‘politics’. If you take a moment to ask people what they mean when they say, ‘politics’, their definition sounds nothing like the traditional meaning.

I submit to you the modern description of ‘politics’ sounds more like what I call “sectarian tribalism” masquerading as politics. Melding the two definitions, “Sectarian Tribalism” is excessive devotion to a party or group that is marked by loyalty to one group over others expressing negative sentiments (or hatred) of outsiders.

Therefore, we must recover the true meaning and purpose of politics. Let’s focus on three teleological questions. Teleology is a fancy word that means ‘purpose’. When we know what something is for (it’s purpose), we can properly understand its relationship to reality. Chainsaws and scalpels both cut things. However, they have two very different purposes. Here are three questions that help us drill down into the purpose of government, politics, and the church.

1. What is government for?
2. What is politics for?
3. What is the Church for?

Politics describes the governing activities of humans in society for good or for ill. Either political activity cultivates, promotes and protects righteousness, justice, peace, and human flourishing or it promotes evil and death. Politics can be used for either purpose. But, politics is not an end in itself, it is merely a means. The means and the ends should be equally important to the thoughtful Christian.

Fifth, we can look to our Bibles for examples of political activity for guidance.

Legitimate political activity is legitimate cultural activity. The Bible is full of ‘political’ characters. Both good and evil. Moses, Abraham, Daniel, Nehemiah, David, Esther, Nicodemus, and Paul expressed political influence in their place and time. While not it’s primary purpose, there are strong political implications and themes running through scripture.

Sixth, we can challenge the privatization of faith and abandonment of cultural domains by the church.

Our Christian forbearers would not recognize modern privatized Christian faith. Even as it is commercialized, Christians are trained to keep their faith to themselves. Nevertheless, Christians cannot retreat from the ideas, institutions, laws, edicts, and movements that harm our neighbors and still claim we love God or the people God created in his image.

Christians who decry cultural engagement or specifically engagement in politics don’t realize they are the beneficiaries of their Christian forbearers who set the conditions of their freedom (to decry cultural or political engagement in the first instance). In other words, they saw off the limb on which they sit. If it wasn’t for the Church, the Reformation would not have occurred, slavery would not have been abolished and America would not exist (neither would hospitals, orphanages or the scientific method). All these emerge from the Christian worldview.

Some say, “We shouldn’t get involved in cultural or political issues!” I’ve heard this drumbeat over and over again from Christians. The problem is that humans are cultural beings. It is impossible not to be involved in cultural issues. Culture includes politics (governing behaviors and activities).

What they are trying to say is, “We don’t want to take a public position on a controversial issue that could be seen by the watching world as ‘political.'” In other words, they desire to appeal to the world by not offending the world’s political sensibilities.

Seventh, we confront sinful fear of man by offending the world… its the loving thing to do:

Some Christians fear that taking a stand might offend some pagans. God forbid standing for righteousness creates controversy and offends someone.

Guess what? Jesus Christ, the Gospel of the Kingdom, and the Bible are controversial and offensive to the world. The unbelieving world hates God, hates the Bible, and hates Christians. In fact, there was a time when Christians were so offensive, they were thrown to the lions, burned at the stake, crucified and sawed in half. By trying NOT to offend the goats, we offend and abandon the sheep and leave them to the wolves.

Issues like, human trafficking, corruption, pornography, debt-bondage, abortion, medical euthanasia, dismantling of the nuclear family, identity confusion, etc. left unaddressed by the church bring death to society. This creates an “anti-culture” and the result is “deathworks” (topics for another time). Examples here: one, two, three, and four.

We should not confuse offending the world with being mean or hateful or bigoted. The world knows timid Christians are afraid of being called names. So, name-calling is a very effective tactic used against us. The world desires that the church not only tolerate but celebrate and promote sin. Therefore, sinful fear of man drives many pastors and well-meaning Christians into the snare of complacency, appeasement or silence.

For example: Pastors will gladly speak out against the scourge of human trafficking or poverty because the worldly culture has accepted those positions. Pastors avoid issues like abortion, pornography, ideological indoctrination, and gender confusion because the worldly culture has ordered them not to speak on those issues. Fear drives them into a snare. Meanwhile, evil is allowed flourish.

Fear of offending someone or creating controversy acts like a prison. Many rationalize, justify and defend their position by stating that the church ought not to involve itself in cultural or political issues. Leaders can cover it up with theological garb and try to proof-text congregants into submission. But, at the root is fear of man. Discerning Christians can see right through the smoke and mirrors.

What most seminarians don’t get is that theological training and resources are widely available for free or low cost for those who want it. So, the posture that many pastors take of “leave theology and understanding to the trained experts” is losing ground and status. Nowhere in the Bible does God insist that only seminary graduates are capable of the proper handling of God’s Word. Training in wisdom, public theology and cultivating an integrated Kingdom vision are hard to find in institutions. I’m not against seminary training (some of my best friends and mentors have degrees from wonderful Christ-centered institutions). Seminaries are a means, not an end. 

Furthermore, I am not saying that politics and government ought to over-shadow the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. I’m not saying that at all. However, from God’s Word flows the truth about reality and a moral imperative that is undergirded and infused with the Gospel of the Kingdom. We should not confuse the Good News (proclamation – how we’re saved) with God’s commands (how to live).

We speak from the Bible about issues that affect God’s image-bearers. But, we do so carefully and fearfully to ensure that our first love is God. When we speak about cultural issues, we are discipling the nations, pointing them to Christ and commanding them to obey Him (not our political inclinations). This is extremely difficult to do because Christian leaders are under social pressure to keep silent about the deathworks and evil all around us. Nevertheless, our fear of God, love of the truth and love for the lost will offend the world. That is a biblical reality.

Eighth, we must understand that the Bible is a worldview book and God is sovereign over all things, even politics:

If our worldview is not big enough to contain politics, then our worldview is too small.

Attempting to avoid politics is a political act that will have political ramifications. At the end of the day, avoidance is a deflection and cover for fear. Again, fear is a tyrant that can drive Christians into many snares. Taken to its logical conclusion, this non-political illusion is unlivable within the Christian worldview.

When the Church abandons cultural domains like politics and government, bad ideas take root. Those ideas become laws and inflict harm on the most vulnerable in society. Do Christians not believe that we won’t be held to account for stepping aside while other image-bearers of God are harmed, violated, enslaved or killed? [Proverbs 24:11-12, Matthew 25:35-40, Micah 6:8]

“In the beginning God created…” The conditions have been set by the creator. Within those conditions God’s co-regents operate. We exercise dominion and stewardship over all which God has placed in our care. Dominion is not domination. Stewardship is not tyranny. Don’t allow the world to redefine the meaning of these biblical principles.

Loving God above all else puts our human tasks and activities in the right perspective (including politics). Our loves and allegiances must be ordered under God. He is our primary love.

Christ is King and sovereign over all things… All things means “all things.”

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” [Colossians 1:15-20]

Ninth, we must be ready for every good work and proclaim the only hope for a dying world:

We must have a proper understanding of God’s Word and ordering God as our first love. Fearing God, not man, the Christian has permission and a compelling reason to engage in legitimate political and government activities. We can joyfully and boldly enter political activities in ways that honor the God who created all things and instituted government in the first instance. In doing so, we bring a good into the lives of other humans who bear God’s image. He also calls us to be his witness, to show no partiality as we do justice. Doing justice is often a political act that is expressed in most instances through government.

The Christian engages in political activities because we love and fear God. In doing so, we love our neighbors as well. Historically, Christians shaped the societies and times in which they dwelled. Christians were different – set apart but never apathetic to the people and communities around them. As a people redeemed through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, they lived redemptive lives and cared for people. Our hope is not in the state or politics. Our hope is in the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. We are the bearers of hope. Hope and love can be expressed anywhere, even politics.

Tenth, Christians must be courageous in the place and time God put them:

We are not called to a “holy huddle”. We are called to disciple the nations (societies). It is no accident that we live in this place and time in this cultural moment (Act 17:26). We obey God’s commands as individuals and collectively as His Church. From the pulpits to the pews, we each have a role to play. We have a prophetic voice. We understand what is wrong with the world and the solution. We worship a God who is sovereign and is not indifferent to the evil in the world. He will hold us to account for what we say and what we don’t say.

When Christians who bear ‘the light’ retreat inside the walls of the church, the world becomes a very dark place. Jesus Christ carried out his ministry in public, therefore, we must recover a public theology and put to death our privatized faith.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” [Matthew 5:14-16]

Every Christian has the opportunity to be courageous in their time. We are to be salt and light in the world God created that is marred and distorted by sin. We bring Hope.

When it comes to politics and government, we can celebrate what is good, contribute what is missing, fight what is evil and restore what is broken. We can rest at night knowing our God reigns and is sovereign over all.

Parting Encouragement for my fellow pilgrims from all places and times:

“We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. We will cast down the powers of darkness that are in the world by our faith and zeal and holiness; we will win sinners to Jesus; we will overturn false systems; we will convert nations. For God is with us, and none shall stand against us. This evening let the Christian warrior sing the war song and prepare for tomorrow’s fight. Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.” – C.H. Spurgeon (adapted by Alistair Begg)

Dive Deeper: Here are resources on the Christian tradition of resistance against tyranny (click here)

*This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.

Part Two: The Christian’s Role in Culture, Politics and Government

Christians cannot retreat from the ideas, institutions, laws, edicts and movements that harm our neighbors and still claim we love our neighbors or God. Historically, Christians shaped the societies and times in which they dwelled. Christians were different – set apart but never apathetic to the people and communities around them.

This post is the second on a series on the Christian’s role in regard to politics and government. Part Two is better understood by reading my previous post. Click here to read “Politics is Downstream From Culture”

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

When Christians who bear ‘the light’ retreat inside the walls of the church, the world becomes a very dark place.

Hundreds of books have been written on the topic of the church’s role in culture, politics and government. Some are helpful others are quite harmful. My intent is to bring clarity and point to a biblical vision for the individual Christian’s role in culture, politics and government. Our roles and expressions will be different but our cause is the same. We are His ambassadors, reflecting His glory and offering a reason for the hope we have. Please note, I am making a distinction between the individual Christian and the institutional church in this post. We’ll dive into that later.

Let me begin with understanding a few things and some approaches we are NOT to employ:

1. I understand the modern over-emphasis of the social implications of the Gospel at the expense of the salvific Gospel is problematic and heretical. I reject the liberal theological approach and understanding of the Gospel, also referred to as the ‘Social Gospel.’

2. I understand that our battle is not against flesh and blood. It is a spiritual and a battle of ideas (the mind).

3. I understand we are to approach culture and society as Christians not politicians or “culture warriors.”

4. I understand putting our faith, hope or trust in anything except Jesus Christ as Savior is idolatry.

Historically, Christians shaped the societies and times in which they dwelled. Christians were different – set apart but never apathetic to the people and communities around them. As a people redeemed through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, they lived redemptive lives and cared for people. They built hospitals, orphanages, built cathedrals, wrote music, poems, and books, and involved themselves in all manner of social and cultural activities. They abolished the universal historical slave-trade and sacrificed themselves for fellow image-bearers because human beings mattered.

A redeemed and transformed life transforms society.

How Christians abandoned positions of influence in society.

Secularism did not occupy society in America by dislodging Christian ideals of freedom, virtue and faith that formed the foundations of America. In the mid-19th century, Christians vacated the public square as a fearful overreaction to the liberalization of biblical faith. In other words, instead of engaging bad (heretical) ideas in the public square, Christian leaders thought it best to retreat inside the institutional church. This left societal domains deserted and empty of Christian influence for the most part.

Nature abhors a vacuum and Satan knows a good deal when he sees one. So, secularism didn’t invade as much as it occupied the empty cultural spaces left by the church (Christians). We simply allowed secular armies to march through the institutions of the church, the family, education, arts & media, and government. They took them over with little to no resistance – they are little more than squatters on Christian properties. Dark ideologies such as Atheism, Nihilism, Marxism, and Secularism took up residence on prime cultural real estate and inside powerful institutions, not lost but vacated by Christians.

During this period we observe the bifurcation of the Gospel and a reduction of the Christian vision. The “Gospel of the Kingdom” was deprived of its societal impact/implications and was reduced to a plan of personal salvation plus a pursuit personal holiness. In other words, the Gospel was rendered to a King without a kingdom and rendered Christians to a lifetime of holy navel-gazing. This theological movement finds a perfect home in a mid-20th century American culture growing more individualistic and autonomous. It fit nicely in our distinctly American “It’s all about me” ethos. At the end of the day, all evangelicals could do was get people saved (fire insurance) and focus on personal piety (moralism – being a good person). Remember, this result began as well-intentioned response to liberalism invading the church.

From a cultural study perspective, this over-reaction and retreat into the institutional church creates the conditions for liberalism to gain a foothold in the evangelical church. It’s a form of theological loss aversion. This is the reason why the woke social justice movement is gaining ground inside the institutional church. Christians of goodwill are simply not equipped to deal with the realities of life in the 2020s and are grasping for the tools offered by worldly culture. Instead of the robust practical and spiritual resources offered through biblical faith, the message has been reduced to, “get people saved from hell, be a good person, and everything else will be okay.”

As an aside, this is a big reason why the church in America struggles with discipleship and forming biblical community. A limited individualistic personal understanding of the “Gospel” lacks the force and inspiration to compel Christians to go and make disciples. In America, we want our Christianity the way we want our McDonald’s burger… “I want it my way” and “I want to be comfortable!” The result is a ‘Privatized’ faith instead of a public theology.

Honestly, there never was a “Culture War”, there was a slow abandonment. Limiting the Gospel to a personal plan of Salvation, a focus on personal holiness, a rise in biblical illiteracy, and side-lining of prayer and social engagement in order to form a ‘holy huddle‘ resulted in a removal from prayer in schools, dismantling of the biblical sexual ethic, legitimizing no-fault divorce, legalized abortion, rise of pornography, out-of-control fatherlessness, sexual confusion and legalized euthanasia. All the while Christians are told, “this is not our problem.”

As we see throughout the Bible, God works through His people. Our job is to know him, love him, worship him and be faithful in the moment. We demonstrate our love for God and the Lordship of Christ over our lives by serving him in all areas under his rule (everything – Psalm 24:1).

We cannot retreat from the ideas, institutions, laws, edicts and movements that harm our neighbors and still claim we love our neighbors. If we love God, we will love our neighbors. Christians ought to desire the best for all image-bearers as we bear witness to Christ as Savior and King. We offer hope by pressing into the darkness and chaos not by retreating from it.

Remember, when Christians who bear ‘the light’ retreat inside the walls of the church, the world becomes a very dark place. Christ is King over all domains of society, that means academics, art, music, media, politics, family, government, etc.

Below are some verses to meditate on and below that, a helpful video on Christians and politics.

Philippians 2:15 ESV
That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Matthew 13:43 ESV
Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

*This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.