King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (14)

King Saul and David (1 Samuel 18)

In the previous post I introduced the concept of narcissism.  Perhaps a working definition is needed prior to  proceeding:

extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.


Echo and Narcissus* – John W. Waterhouse (1903)

The Narcissism of our Present Age

The core conceit of current narcissism is this:

The evidence-less presumption that I and my like-minded comrades stand at the absolute pinnacle of human virtue.  Therefore, anyone who deviates from my worldview, regardless of if they are my contemporaries or lived centuries earlier, can be motivated only by a combination of inexcusable stupidity and evil.

man-selfieAlthough the above description is useful in a general sense, there remains a significant gap between it and a compelling explanation of its application to our particular time and place.  I finally ran across a passage, from a piece discussing the current situation in France (by Christopher Caldwell) that excellently fills this need (emphasis added):

Upwardly mobile urbanites, observes Guilluy, call Paris “the land of possibilities,” the “ideapolis.” One is reminded of Richard Florida and other extollers of the “Creative Class.” The good fortune of Creative Class members appears (to them) to have nothing to do with any kind of capitalist struggle. Never have conditions been more favorable for deluding a class of fortunate people into thinking that they owe their privilege to being nicer, or smarter, or more honest, than everyone else. Why would they think otherwise? They never meet anyone who disagrees with them. The immigrants with whom the creatives share the city are dazzlingly different, exotic, even frightening, but on the central question of our time—whether the global economic system is working or failing—they see eye to eye. “Our Immigrants, Our Strength,” was the title of a New York Times op-ed signed by London mayor Sadiq Khan, New York mayor Bill de Blasio, and Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo after September’s terrorist bomb blasts in New York. This estrangement is why electoral results around the world last year—from Brexit to the election of Donald Trump—proved so difficult to anticipate. Those outside the city gates in la France périphérique are invisible, their wishes incomprehensible. It’s as if they don’t exist. But they do.

Yes, there is no doubt in my mind that these “fortunate people” are deluded to a degree that is nothing short of scandalous.  That they occupy the pinnacle of power in our nations can only be explained by a monumental failure of the temporal Christian church, parenthood, government, education and media, among others.  This is what civilizational failure looks like.  In the following post I will address the central delusion that has resulted in this sorry situation.

*Echo and Narcissus is a myth from Ovid‘s Metamorphoses, a Latin mythological epic from the Augustan Age.


“The Strange Persistence of Guilt”

38cb7cf1a3608458634fI recommend this profound meditation by Wilfred M. McClay on “The Strange Persistence of Guilt.”  Over the past few years I’ve been struggling to understand what appears to be ever increasing levels of troubling, even bizarre behavior within Western Civilization.  This article comes closer to providing a workable hypothesis than anything I’ve seen.
And yet, in the end, even this inspired meditation appears to fall short.  For, after making a powerful case that Western Civilization is failing due to rejection of its Judeo-Christian foundations, Dr. McClay ends by, apparently, recommending a “social utilitarian” perspective for rediscovery of religion’s value.
I argue that the PC(USA) and many other denominations have already pursued this path to utter failure.  That is, we have argued that the value of Christianity is its usefulness as a tool (only one among many others) by which to identify and then advance the social good.
What Dr. McClay may not understand, and many of our denominational leaders certainly do not understand, is that Christianity’s power for advancing the social good is a consequence of actual, real belief.  And, without that real belief as a first thing, Christianity can’t be anything more than a derivative, inefficient and unreliable vehicle for social change.
It is only through real belief in Christianity’s foundational truths made available to flesh and blood people that there is any hope for humane social change.  Neither you nor I can presume to know or control the paths of God’s providence working through a Christian community.  I attempted to explain this point in a recent blog post.

The ensuing events that built Western Civilization were filled with violence, cruelty and injustice, which is not surprising to a Reformed Christian.  But, somehow, by a Divine Providence that transcends human understanding, out of this chaos of sin there yet emerged a culture that began to affirm the value of each human being as an individual, unique creation of a Sovereign God.  And, from that affirmation grew a civil tradition that, incompletely and imperfectly, sought to advance those humane values.

And so, we come to the crux of our current predicament, that being the increasing inhumanity in our supposed pursuit of social good (as profoundly explained by Dr. McClay).

What makes the situation dangerous for us, as Fredriksen observes, is not only the fact that we have lost the ability to make conscious use of the concept of sin but that we have also lost any semblance of a “coherent idea of redemption,” the idea that has always been required to accompany the concept of sin in the past and tame its harsh and punitive potential. The presence of vast amounts of unacknowledged sin in a culture, a culture full to the brim with its own hubristic sense of world-conquering power and agency but lacking any effectual means of achieving redemption for all the unacknowledged sin that accompanies such power: This is surely a moral crisis in the making—a kind of moral-transactional analogue to the debt crisis that threatens the world’s fiscal and monetary health. The rituals of scapegoating, of public humiliation and shaming, of multiplying morally impermissible utterances and sentiments and punishing them with disproportionate severity, are visibly on the increase in our public life. They are not merely signs of intolerance or incivility, but of a deeper moral disorder, an Unbehagen that cannot be willed away by the psychoanalytic trick of pretending that it does not exist.

May God bless and empower us in these troubled times.

What does the Bible Teach on Immigration and Refugee Policy (2)

bible-bordersThe Reverend Gradye Parsons’ Letter

I’ll begin the careful scrutiny of this issue by discussing the PC(USA) “Stated Clerk issues letter to Trump on refugees, immigrants” (dated October 2, 2015) that was introduced in my previous post.  The value is that a high officer is here explaining the denomination’s policy positions in an official capacity.  Thus, what is said, implied and unsaid is of great significance.  The Biblical interpretative, philosophical and communication strategies utilized are also important aspects of the analysis.  All text from the letter is included in order as quotes, with my commentary inserted as regular text.

Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.
725 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10022

Mr. Trump,

I am the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the denomination of the congregation in Queens, New York, where you were baptized. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) develops its policies through councils of teaching elders and ruling elders. At the national level it does that through the General Assembly. I would like to share with you the Presbyterian policies on refugees and immigrants.

There was a time in my living memory when such a preamble would have elicited an expectation of Christian profundity.  I detect a sense of chastisement here, as Rev. Parsons deigns to educate Mr. Trump on the refugee and immigration positions of his own denomination.  I must say that on this point we are in agreement.  However, whereas the issue at hand elicited this response, for me it began when Mr. Trump said “I’m Presbyterian.  Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness.”

Presbyterians profess a faith in Christ, whose parents were forced to flee with him to Egypt when he was an infant to save him from King Herod. Knowing our Lord was once a refugee, faithful Presbyterians have been writing church policy urging the welcome of refugees and demanding higher annual admissions into the United States since the refugee crisis of World War II.

Here we find the one and only Biblical reference, summarizing Matthew 2:13-20.  What startles is the unexplained logical leap from our Lord’s specific experience to an apparently general application.  Does the fact that Jesus Christ was once a refugee mean that any and all who claim that status have been automatically bestowed with His sinlessness?  Is it possible in Rev. Parsons’ ideology for someone who claims refugee status to yet harbor evil intent?  And, if this is a realistic possibility, would a sovereign nation be obliged to welcome that person into their population?  Note that these real and pressing issues don’t even warrant acknowledgment let alone serious consideration in this authoritative statement of the PC(USA)’s positions.

Presbyterians have a mission presence in many refugee-sending countries, including Syria and Lebanon, where we have been present since 1823. Our relationship with people of faith and communities in these countries gives us knowledge of the root causes of the flight of refugees and further cements a commitment to welcome.


1983 Hezbollah Bombing of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut Lebanon

These two sentences manage to encompass the decadence and irresponsibility that defines our national denominational leadership.  Here we have mentioned two countries, one having experienced and the other currently embroiled in bloody, brutal civil war, held up as places from which blameless refugees are guaranteed to originate.  Who, I wonder, has been doing all of the killing in Syria resulting in almost 500,000 dead?  Weren’t upwards of 150,000 killed in the Lebanese Civil War (1975-90) by someone?  Isn’t Syria the home of ISIS and Lebanon of Hezbollah, both vicious, genocidal Islamic terrorist groups who target the United States?  Is it not possible that someone complicit in or directly responsible for this mass murder might seek to enter the United States as a refugee?


2015 San Bernardino ISIS Terrorist Murderers

And yet, in the face of this absolutely obvious set of circumstances, the Rev. Parsons bestows blanket innocence upon all refugees from these troubled countries because of the PC(USA)’s supposed “knowledge.”  What can possibly account for the existence of this level of moral blindness?  The Rev. Parsons, speaking for the PC(USA) General Assembly, is more than happy to signal their supposed superior virtue while ignoring the real and present danger to their fellow citizens from uncontrolled entry of refugees.  That is, they will happily claim all of the virtue points for their “compassionate” stance on refugees but deny any culpability for associated crime and terrorism because “their intentions were good.”  This is not virtue, it is its opposite, and, it’s long past time that we ceased allowing our national leaders to have it both ways.

Presbyterians through decades of policy have demanded humane treatment of people of all nationalities and faiths who find themselves within our borders.

This sentence is a masterpiece of obfuscation.  On the surface it appears to be undeniable.  Yes, absolutely, we in the United States should treat all within our borders humanely.  And yet, what if someone finds “themselves within our borders” because they have entered illegally?  Is it inhumane to deny them social services, welfare, work?  Is it inhumane to deport them?  If they commit a felonious crime, is it still inhumane to deport them?  All of this is left unaddressed.  One has to dig a little to uncover the true position of the PC(USA).

We have challenged our government when it neglects to acknowledge the refugee status of those fleeing persecution.

Has the PC(USA) ever supported laws or policies that ensure careful vetting of refugees?  Unless information to the contrary can be presented, their position on vetting refugees from lawless, violent nations appears to be that it shouldn’t be done at all.

We have pushed for due process at the border and we continue to petition for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented persons.

I believe that “due process” likely means that a non-citizen of the United States should be given all of the Constitutional rights as has a citizen even when outside of the country.  Were this position to be accepted then the ability of the United States to control entry of non-citizens would be at the very least severely damaged.

As a Presbyterian I acknowledge my immigrant ancestors and my new immigrant sisters and brothers. I also respect that we came uninvited to a land already occupied by people. This creates a sense of humility about my citizenship that shapes my views on those who seek a place here.

This is an excellent example of the Jonathan Gruber school of political discourse: “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.”  For, obscured behind all of the virtue signaling is effectively the demand for “open borders.”  Yes, the Rev. Parsons doesn’t explicitly say this.  However, since he admits guilt for his ancestors coming “uninvited to a land already occupied by people,” the most reasonable conclusion is that anyone who seeks “a place here” should be allowed in.  Of course to say so outright would create yet another reason for members to exit the denomination.  So, the position is only tacitly communicated.  However, I have little doubt that “open borders” is both what is meant and what is being pursued by the PC(USA) leadership.

I hope you will find this helpful. I especially hope it will inform you on your policies going forward.

In Christ,

The Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

It certainly was helpful, but not necessarily in the way intended.  This letter helps by exposing the unsupported logical leaps, lack of theological seriousness, irresponsible virtue signaling, disdain for the safety of our citizens, obfuscation and purposeful ambiguity of the PC(USA)’s national leadership.  Only a leadership clique hermetically sealed inside an alternative-reality ideology could be capable of generating, approving and releasing such a defective statement.

Loving All Our Neighbors (Part 7)


I would normally not have published this post until next Tuesday.  However, the recent events in Paris make it of particular relevance.

The Case for Purposeful Irrationality

I believe that a compelling objective case for the United States as a tolerant, even welcoming nation to minority religions, including Muslims, has been made in this series of posts.  However, this result is in direct contradiction to the Presbytery of Chicago’s Interfaith Solidarity Network (ISN) position, which follows.

… provide support to the religious communities in the Chicago area if they are threatened, made fearful or hurt by expressions of hate. Responses may be in the form of written letters, press releases/conferences, or public response (demonstration or counter-demonstration.)

The fact that the ISN charter is written in this manner suggests that the United States is so saturated by inter-religious hatred by the majority population that they must regularly and aggressively counter this clear and present danger.  If I’ve convinced you that this conclusion is false, then the key remaining question is why the ISN choses to pursue an irrational policy.  As I asked in Part 4, “Is this simple irrationality, or is it irrationality with a definite purpose?”

I believe that it is irrationality with a definite purpose.  As I said in a recent post, that purpose is the destruction of our civilizational confidence.  However, we need to go back a couple of steps in order to understand what’s going on.

The people behind this movement are true believers in multiculturalism.  It’s easy to find numerous PCUSA organizations that trumpet adherence to this ideology (e.g., here, here, and here).  It’s important to note that many of the goals and actions of these groups are laudatory.  Christianity is indeed a faith that values all of humanity, it invites all individuals from all cultures to find salvation in Jesus Christ.  It indeed does integrate all people and cultures into Christ’s Body, the Church.  But this truth is used by the radical elites to obscure goals and actions that have nothing to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and everything to do with the advancement of a narcissistic, destructive ideology.

That ideology is the radical multiculturalism described in this series’ first post.  In order to understand ISN’s actions we need to first realize that, to these people, ideology comes before objective facts.  In fact, if there appears to be a discrepancy between their ideological beliefs and the existing objective facts, it is the facts that must be wrong.  Thus, when confronted with the cognitive dissonance from (a) their belief that the United States is saturated by inter-religious hatred and (b) persistent low levels of hate crimes, and, high levels of welcoming behavior, they react with angry assaults against the objective facts.

Thus, the motive for their hateful attitudes towards Morton Grove and Lombard in particular, and, Western Civilization in general, is that they are deviating from the ideological “reality” that “must be true.”  And, to these narcissistic people, the worst sin possible is to threaten their sense of intellectual, moral and spiritual superority.  Therefore, they consider themselves to be operating on the highest possible moral plane when they slander whole communities.  For, they are simply telling the “deeper truth” derived from their ideology and feelings.

That “deeper truth” is that all cultures are equal, except for Western Civilization, which is the source of all that is wrong in the world.  So, these narcissistic elite Christians have a powerful need to attack and destroy the West’s civilizational confidence.

Margot Wallstrom is the Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs (Social Democratic Party). She has also served as Commissioner for the Environment at the European Union and at the UN.  She is a typical left-of-center European politician.  And yet as reported by The Spectator, she recently said the following non-typical thing for such a person.

A few weeks ago Margot Wallström, the Swedish foreign minister, denounced the subjugation of women in Saudi Arabia. As the theocratic kingdom prevents women from travelling, conducting official business or marrying without the permission of male guardians, and as girls can be forced into child marriages where they are effectively raped by old men, she was telling no more than the truth. Wallström went on to condemn the Saudi courts for ordering that Raif Badawi receive ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for setting up a website that championed secularism and free speech. These were ‘mediaeval methods’, she said, and a ‘cruel attempt to silence modern forms of expression’. And once again, who can argue with that?

And, how did the Saudis and Arab world respond?  By throwing Europe’s suicidal multiculturalist ideology right back into their faces (also from The Spectator, emphasis added).

Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador and stopped issuing visas to Swedish businessmen. The United Arab Emirates joined it. The Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, which represents 56 Muslim-majority states, accused Sweden of failing to respect the world’s ‘rich and varied ethical standards’ — standards so rich and varied, apparently, they include the flogging of bloggers and encouragement of paedophiles.

Wallstrom has not received support from the Swedish or EU political establishment.  Although the thought surely has never entered her mind, she shouldn’t expect any support from the PCUSA elite either.  For they have decided that the West’s enlightened views on women must be subjugated to multiculturalist ideology.  The following quote is from a 219th (2010) General Assembly approved  report “Toward an Understanding of Christian-Muslim Relations.”

Christian women may also need to listen with particular care and to consider the need to accommodate different standards and mores when engaging with women and others in the Muslim community.

Thus, the multiculturalist PCUSA elite are working to make sure that no mother or father in Morton Grove, Lombard or anywhere else in the United States has the civilizational confidence to preserve for their daughters the blessings of equality achieved in Western Civilization.

This is just one issue among many.  I could have written similarly about gay rights, religious rights, free speech, etcetera.  So, make no mistake, if you ever align yourself with this group’s actions or rhetoric, you are participating in their purposeful destruction of Western Civilization.

Loving All Our Neighbors (Part 6)

Who are Our Neighbors?Reltavism

It is striking that, even after the 9/11, Fort Hood and Boston Marathon attacks (among others), hate crimes against Muslims in the United States are at lower levels than are those against Jews. We must be concerned about increased persecution of all peoples, as has occurred to our Muslim neighbors after September 11, 2001. However, the hate crime data speaks better of the tolerance and good will of the vast majority of Americans towards Muslims, including those living in Morton Grove and Lombard, than the ISN  is assuming.

My concern is that it doesn’t appear to be showing Christian charity to neighbors by assuming the worst about them without clear, compelling evidence. I do not find information even remotely approaching this standard in the Our Common Ministry, Chicago Tribune and other articles.

When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, was he teaching that our “far off” neighbors are of greater value / concern as compared to those “near by?” Or, was he teaching that our neighbor extends to those “far off” to the same extent as those “near by?” In my view it is clearly the latter. My concern is that the ISN may be behaving as if it is the former.

I have become concerned that, in their desire to befriend and support our Muslim neighbors the ISN has lost perspective regarding their non-Muslim neighbors. In particular, they have demonstrated a troubling presumption with regard to the beliefs and potential actions of non-Muslim Americans.

I can’t help wondering what unfair actions taken by churches in the Presbytery of Chicago do to harm our ability to spread the Gospel. When we accuse whole communities of “hate” and “violence,” based on the “fears” of our members, my guess is that many will simply close their ears to the Presbyterian Church (USA).

It would be comforting if the above discussion completely explained this behavior.  For many Christians involved in these incidents that is the case.  However, for those who set the strategy and tactics, I believe that something far more troubling and destructive is at work.

Loving All Our Neighbors (Part 5)


The Lombard, IL IncidentReltavism

The Lombard incident is described in the OCM article as follows (emphasis added).

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 5.25.12 AMOn August 12, The College Preparatory School of America (CPSA), a fulltime Muslim school in Lombard, had a bottle full of acid thrown at the school during Ramadan Prayers. The following Saturday, ISN members, plus members from two United Church of Christ churches, visited the school to express support and concern. They met with the teachers, then greeted parents as they arrived for school orientation, holding signs that said, “We are concerned,” “Hate has no place in Lombard,” and “Our hearts are with you.” One of our Presbyterian pastors spoke to the assembled group, saying “You are not alone” and presented a prayer shawl to the principal.

Note that the culprit has not been identified. Thus, we have no information about the perpetrator or the motive.

The Daily Herald published an article on August 14, 2012 that described the incident and interviewed numerous individuals. Of particular relevance are statements made by Mohammed Saeed and Imaad Shaikh, both board members of the school. Their statements from this article are excerpted below.

Saeed said the Lombard school opened about 22 years ago and has never before come under physical attack, other than instances of minor vandalism. About 400 students attend the school, which is used for prayer services and other activities during summer break.

Shaikh said the school has a good relationship with its neighbors and is looking to expand because of increasing enrollment.

And yet, in spite of these statements from the school’s board members the OCM article describes protestors:

… holding signs that said … “Hate has no place in Lombard.”

So, when the PoC participated in actions against “hate” and “violence” in Lombard, whom were they speaking against? Were I a passerby or resident, I might reasonably conclude that these pejorative labels were being applied to the community in general.

As of this writing, the perpetrator(s) of this incident remains unidentified. Thus, since the identify and motivation of those responsible were and continue to be unknown, the Presbytery of Chicago’s tying of the word “hate” to the Village of Lombard is both unjustified and irresponsible.

What possible rational purpose could a Christian organization have to so cruelly slander an entire community?

Loving All Our Neighbors (Part 4)


The Morton Grove IncidentReltavism

The Our Common Ministry (OCM) article led with the following sentence.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 5.25.12 AMAs Presbyterians, standing in solidarity with persecuted people is part of our mission. Churches in our Chicago Presbytery have been reaching out to people of all faiths in the face of recent violence against religious communities.

Thus, it is reasonable to assume that the specific incidents discussed fall under the category of “recent violence against religious communities.” The first violent incident discussed by the article is the Oak Creek mass murder at a Sikh temple.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 5.25.12 AMOn August 4th, the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, WI suffered gun violence that left seven dead.

The Morton Grove incident was described in the paragraph immediately following the Sikh temple paragraph.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 5.25.12 AMOn August 10, the Muslim Education Center (Mosque) in Morton Grove was shot at with a “high-velocity pellet gun” by an enraged neighbor while 500 persons were praying within the building. Fortunately, no one was injured. In collaboration with Winnetka Presbyterian, the ISN organized a visit of six churches … . They greeted worshippers as they arrived for prayers with words of support and encouragement.

Two Chicago Tribune articles (August 12 and 13, 2012) yielded the following information:

  • The conflict between the Mosque and neighborhood centered on the loss of a local park to the Mosque grounds
  • A single suspect was quickly identified and arrested for this serious crime
  • Neighbors voiced surprise and shock at this incident
  • The perpetrator could have easily shot a person with the air rifle had they so desired. However, they actually shot a wall (the second Chicago Tribune story backs off on the security guard’s proximity to the wall hit).

Clearly, shooting a pellet from an air rifle at any inhabited building is a serious offense. However, the detailed information from the Chicago Tribune articles speaks to the actions of an isolated, likely troubled individual. Additional perspective can be gained by acknowledging that there are also sometimes bitter, disputes between neighbors and Christian churches over noise, land use, traffic/parking, etc.

It would be comforting to assume that the ISN viewed this incident as an isolated but deplorable situation between the Mosque and a single individual. However, a quote from the Morton Grove Champion (original article on August 19, 2012) suggests otherwise.

“We just want to let them know we’re here to support them, and show that our community embraces their community” said Kathy McNair, a minister at Winnetka Presbyterian Church. “For this to happen is chilling, and we’re fearful that this is part of a new pattern of violence that cannot continue.”

Note the emotionally charged statements that “this is chilling” and “we’re fearful that this is part of a new pattern of violence that cannot continue.” My thoughts on the use of these phrases are that:

  • One dictionary definition of the word “chilling” is “making you feel suddenly very frightened or worried.” This phrase by itself could be appropriate to the situation.
  • However, the second phrase clearly ties the fright/worry to a “new pattern of violence that cannot continue.” Thus, the incident is placed into the context of a “pattern of violence” that is currently in progress, because it “cannot continue.”
  • So, she is implying that this violence may well continue even after the perpetrator of this particular incident is dealt with.
  • Therefore, the implication is that in and around Morton Grove there are additional threats of violence that would like to become real, but that the Presbytery’s actions are attempting to prevent.

The OCM article is clearly attempting to tie together a number of incidents into a pattern of violence. However, the first incident discussed, the August 4, 2012 Sikh temple mass murder in Oak Creek, is clearly different in both kind and degree from a couple of air rifle pellets hitting a Mosque wall in Morton Grove.

An article in the April 23, 2014 edition of the Chicago Tribune described how this incident ended.

On April 18, Conrad pleaded guilty at the Skokie courthouse and was sentenced by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Garrett Howard to 30 months probation and ordered to pay fines and fees of $799, court records show.

Thus, it appears that the local police and courts worked effectively to apprehend, try and convict the responsible individual.

What primarily interests me in the Presbytery of Chicago response is the substitution of subjective emotion for objective analysis.  That is, when the Rev. Kathy McNair said “For this to happen is chilling, and we’re fearful that this is part of a new pattern of violence that cannot continue” she was claiming that this incident was part of “a new pattern of violence” based only on her “fears.”  The Rev. Kathy McNair must have had a pretty low opinion of Morton Grove, its citizens and government, in order for such “fears” to be so powerful.  I wonder how the residents of Morton Grove felt about their community being tied to a “new pattern of violence” that had as its origin a massacre in Wisconsin.  If you doubt that this connection was being made by the Presbytery of Chicago, then reread the phrase used in the OCM article that tied all of these incidents into a single, cohesive narrative (emphasis added).

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 5.25.12 AMAs Presbyterians, standing in solidarity with persecuted people is part of our mission. Churches in our Chicago Presbytery have been reaching out to people of all faiths in the face of recent violence against religious communities.

Were this situation understood as an isolated incident caused by a single troubled person, I doubt that so intense a response would have been contemplated.  However, if, against all the objective evidence to the contrary, you believe that a BB gun shot into a Mosque’s wall is just the visible tip of an iceberg of hate and violence, then the actions taken would make sense.

Is this simple irrationality, or is it irrationality with a definite purpose?

Loving All Our Neighbors (3b)

ReltavismFBI Hate Crime Data (Continued)

The following two figures convey hate crime rates from years 2000 to 2013 against persons and property for Muslim (Islamic) and Jewish communities.

Hate Crime Rate for Persons

Hate Crime Rate for Persons

With regard to hate crimes against persons, for the year 2000 the rate for Muslims was less than one-sixth that of Jews. In 2001 we see an enormous increase for Muslims, with the vast majority of crimes likely occurring between September 11 and the year’s end. However, a surprising result is that in 2002, a year that began only 111 days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Muslim hate crime rate, though still significantly higher than in 2000, had fallen to a level significantly lower than the rate for Jews. From 2003 through 2012 both Muslim and Jewish rates fluctuate around similar levels. However, there is a trend of reducing rates for both groups in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  In 2013 the rate increased slightly for both groups.  Finally, between 2002 and 2013, the average chance of a Muslim or Jew experiencing a personal hate crime in a year was approximately 1-in-22,500.

Hate Crime Rate for Property

Hate Crime Rate for Property

With regard to hate crimes against property (see above chart), for the year 2000 the rate for Muslims was less than one-fourteenth that of Jews. Although the Muslim rate rose drastically in 2001, surprisingly, it was still lower than the Jewish rate. Once again in 2002 the property hate crime rate against Muslims fell precipitously. There has not been a single year between 2000 and 2013 in which the Muslim rate exceeded the Jewish rate.

Between 2002 and 2012, the average yearly chance of a hate crime against Muslim property was approximately 1-in-42,000. For Jewish property the chance was approximately 1-in-10,000. Thus over this period, the Jewish community had more than a four times greater property hate crime rate than the Muslim community.

The worst hate crime is that which leads to the victim’s death. The FBI data tracks hate crimes that result in murder or manslaughter. This data for 2000 through 2013 is shown in the following figure. Note that this figure shows the total number of murder/manslaughters per year, as opposed to the previous charts that show hate crime rates.

Murder/Manslaughter Hate Crimes per Year

Murder/Manslaughter Hate Crimes per Year

Note that only two Muslims have been victims of hate crime murder or manslaughter in the United States between 2000 and 2013.

Hate Crime Analysis

Given the significant differences between crimes against persons and property it doesn’t make sense to simply add these two categories to generate a composite result. However, for 2003 to 2012 the rough parity of personal hate crime rates between Muslims and Jews combined with the drastically higher property rate against Jews clearly indicates a sustained higher hate crime rate against Jews.

Let’s consider the implications of the personal hate crime rate against Muslims between 2002 and 2013. The FBI data indicates that the average yearly likelihood for this type of crime is 1-in-22,500.

Eyes tend to glaze over when presented with numbers such as these. This is where an engineering education comes in handy. If we assume independence from year to year[i], then the likelihood of an American Muslim experiencing at least one personal hate crime over a 72-year life span is less than 1-in-316.

We can use this same analysis to assess the likelihood of murder/manslaughter against Muslims. The FBI data indicates that the average yearly likelihood for this type of crime is approximately 1-in-19,000,000 (one in nineteen-million). Therefore, the likelihood of an American Muslim being killed in a hate crime over a 72-year life span is less than 1-in-269,000.

These results may seem incredible, but consider that one of the reasons you can pick up your cellphone and call a Muslim friend in Pakistan is the validity of the probability theory used here. Insurance actuaries use the same theory to make sure that their company doesn’t go broke paying claims.

This analysis puts the lie to the claim that the United States is a nation seething with hatred for and consequent crimes against Muslims. On the contrary, the Unites States is, in reality, an extremely safe place for Muslims and any other religious group to live.  As Christians, Jesus teaches us to love with our minds as well as with our hearts.


[i] The assumption of multiple independent trials with a binary (i.e., yes/no) set of possible outcomes makes this a Binomial experiment. Additional information can be found at:

Loving All Our Neighbors (Part 3a)


The Public Record

There is a substantial public record that allows for a dispassionate review of the various issues under consideration.  In the case of inter-religious hatred, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) tracks and reports on numerous categories of “hate crimes.”  In the cases of the Morton Grove and Lombard incidents, there was substantial coverage by area newspapers.

Inter-Religious Hatred in the United States

FBI Hate Crime Data

If it were the case that the United States is saturated by inter-religious hatred, then a presumption of animosity as the motivation for specific incidents could be credible, at least as a starting point for investigation. This question led me into research on official hate crime statistics. My goal was to determine if a presumption of inter-religious animosity in the United States is supported by actual data.

FBI hate crime data is organized into two primary types, crimes against persons and property. Within each of these two types, numerous crime categories are identified and tracked. For example, hate crimes against persons range from murder to assault to intimidation (among others). Hate crimes against property range from arson to theft to vandalism (among others). Thus, hate crime data is available for numerous types and categories of offense. The FBI reports the total number of all types of hate crimes against persons and property. I have utilized these totals for this discussion.

A natural question when considering information of this type is “Compared to what?” That is, hate crime totals have intrinsic value, but in order to better understand the meaning, some sort of comparison is of great help. In the best of worlds I could compare hate crime rates against Muslims in the United States with the same for other countries. For example, hate crime rates against Muslims in the United compared to hate crime rates against Christians in Iraq, Egypt, Indonesia, and other Muslim majority countries. It would also be of great interest to compare with hate crime rates against Muslims in India, France, the United Kingdom, etc.

Unfortunately, there is great variability among countries in their definitions, tracking and public reporting of hate crimes. Thus, it is very difficult to obtain, let alone reasonably compare data from one country to another. I therefore decided that the best comparison is between the two religious groups in the United States who have the highest profile with regard to hate crimes, those being Muslim and Jewish.

However, direct use of hate crime totals between two groups can be misleading. For example, let’s assume the existence of two groups, A and B, with 100 and 10 members, respectively. If, in a given year, four hate crimes are committed against Group A and two against B, then it appears that Group A is worse off by a factor of two. However, if we calculate the hate crime rate as a percentage of the group’s size, we find that while 4% of Group A’s members suffered a hate crime, 20% of Group B’s members suffered the same crime. Thus, in terms of crime rate, Group B is five times more likely to suffer a hate crime than is Group A.

Therefore, it would not be fair to directly compare the total number of hate crimes between the Muslim and Jewish communities. Rather, the hate crime rate must be the metric of comparison. The following Muslim and Jewish population data was used to convert hate crime totals into hate crime rates.  Note that in the year 2000 the Jewish population was almost 3.6 times the size of the Muslim population.  By 2013 this ratio had decreased to 2.3.  Thus, in 2013, if the total number of hate crimes against Jews were 2.3 times the number against Muslims, the hate crime rate between these two religious groups would be identical.

Estimated Muslim & Jewish Population in the United States

Estimated Muslim & Jewish Population in the United States

Loving All Our Neighbors (Part 2)

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Luke 10:29 (RSV)


ReltavismThe PCUSA is involved in a myriad of religious and public policy issues. One area of emphasis has been interfaith outreach. As one component of this initiative, the Presbytery of Chicago approved creation of the Interfaith Solidarity Network in 2008. Its stated mission is to:

… provide support to the religious communities in the Chicago area if they are threatened, made fearful or hurt by expressions of hate. Responses may be in the form of written letters, press releases/conferences, or public response (demonstration or counter-demonstration.)

Due to an article in the Chicago Presbytery’s newsletter, “Our Common Ministry” [1] titled “Standing in Solidarity with Sikhs and Muslims,” I began research on the Presbytery’s activities in this area. The article in question appeared to assume the widespread hatred of Muslims throughout entire communities. The relevant text from this article is excerpted as follows.Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 5.25.12 AM

On August 10, the Muslim Education Center (Mosque) in Morton Grove was shot at with a “high-velocity pellet gun” by an enraged neighbor while 500 persons were praying within the building. Fortunately, no one was injured. In collaboration with Winnetka Presbyterian, the ISN organized a visit of six churches (Chicago Fourth, Evanston Northminster, Morton Grove Community, Skokie Carter Westminster, Wilmette, and Winnetka). They greeted worshippers as they arrived for prayers with words of support and encouragement.

On August 12, The College Preparatory School of America (CPSA), a fulltime Muslim school in Lombard, had a bottle full of acid thrown at the school during Ramadan Prayers. The following Saturday, ISN members, plus members from two United Church of Christ churches, visited the school to express support and concern. They met with the teachers, then greeted parents as they arrived for school orientation, holding signs that said, “We are concerned,” “Hate has no place in Lombard,” and “Our hearts are with you.” One of our Presbyterian pastors spoke to the assembled group, saying “You are not alone” … [1]

I was taken aback by the apparent presumption that hate has a place in Lombard. Certainly a village with a population exceeding 40,000 will have a wide variety of inhabitants – many who are upstanding and productive members of the community, and, a few who fall short on important dimensions of moral conduct.

I believe that the attribution of a morally charged word like “hate” to an entire community must be reserved for only the most clear-cut, extreme situations. Having lived near Lombard for decades and known numerous of its citizens, I was doubtful that this community deserved to have its good name besmirched in this manner. I therefore began looking into the apparent presumption that the United States is saturated by inter-religious hatred as well as the specific Lombard and Morton Grove incidents.

[1] Our Common Ministry, Volume 29 Number 5, Presbytery of Chicago, November 2012.