A Look At Your Dinner from Your Dinner’s Point of View

Halloween has passed and the real horror story is approaching: Thanksgiving. We will enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, watch the Vikings beat the Lions and cut coupons for Black Friday sales. Meanwhile, behind the scenes on this holiday, 46 million turkeys will die. Thanksgiving is becoming a gluttonous day that stuffed and tortured flesh essentially becomes our own.

Most people I interact with admit that eating meat provokes at least slight cognitive dissonance. No one wants to watch the sad factory-farming documentary, because it makes them feel guilty. Sir Paul McCartney, vegetarian of 30 years said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarians.”

image-2.jpegPhoto via rtfitchauthor.com.

Our human nature wants to correct this cognitive dissonance by changing either thinking or behavior. Most will justify it in their minds with excuses (“I don’t have time to prepare all those vegetables.”) or humor (“I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t eat bacon!”) and consequently detach themselves and make no personal sacrifice. Vegetarians are simply those who have chosen to change their behavior based on this cognitive dissonance.

Instead of asking why someone would possibly be a vegetarian, ask yourself, “Why am I eating meat?”

It tastes good. I crave Cane’s chicken fingers, but there are other foods without a face that are just as deliciously deep-fried and battered. It’s no secret that you must stop a beating heart to produce a juicy steak. You also have to roast, boil, sauté, grill or season that chunk of flesh, and it’s still a chunk of flesh. I can’t rationally justify stopping a beating heart for a non-essential “indulgence.”

It helps me reach my daily protein quota. Consumers are positioned now more than ever to purchase meat-free, protein-rich foods. Plant-based products like quinoa, soy, chia or hempseed have all the essential amino acids one needs. Plant-based foods also have antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals, while animal proteins come with the baggage of hormones, antibiotics and saturated fat. Again the question arises: Is meat really necessary for our diet?

The government recommends eating meat. With friends in high places, America’s meat industry is one powerful political bear no one wants to poke. The industry has cozied up to the United States Department of Agriculture. Despite studies from Harvard, American Institution for Cancer Research and World Health Organization that prove the correlation between meat and chronic disease, the USDA still remains silent on the issue. The government has a track record for surrendering to the special interests of the meat industry.

The animals die quick and painlessly. A man working in a pig slaughterhouse once described his workday like this: As the pigs are tied up by their back legs, they screech out in pain before the life leaves their wiggling bodies. Outside, fainting pigs—afraid for their lives—thwart the flow of traffic. Aware of the inevitability of what is coming, they can’t stay conscious enough to take their last steps. This is their final memory before their throats are slit, which is the quickest, most “humane” way to kill.

One person won’t make that much of a difference. On average, a vegetarian diet saves 95 animals per year. Additionally, if every American participated in Meatless Monday, 1.4 billion animals would be saved from factory farming in one day. Over a lifetime, one vegetarian makes a huge difference for the environment and animal life.

There is no moral or ethical case. Sure, humans and animals are on a different cognitive capacity or moral standard. But if you physically abuse a dog in America, you will be shamed or jailed. There is no cognitive or moral difference in a dog or turkey. There is no reason to dress one in a sweater and dress the other with stuffing; there is no reason to love one and exploit the other.

God gave us dominion over animals. Perhaps you see no ethical or religious argument for vegetarianism. God granting humans dominion over animals in Genesis 9 is not a hall pass for abuse. In fact, God addresses his originally intended diet plan in the first chapter of the first book:

“I give you all plants that bear seed everywhere on Earth, and every tree bearing fruit which yields seed: they shall be yours for food. All green plants I give for food to the wild animals, to all the birds of heaven, and to all reptiles on Earth, every living creature, it shall be theirs for food.” (Genesis 1:29-31)

According to this verse, God intended the first humans to eat plants and herbs. We see this change in Genesis 9:3-4:

“Every creature that lives and moves shall be food for you; I give you them all, as once I gave you all green plants. But now you must not eat the flesh with the life, which is the blood, still in it. For the blood is the life.”

This verse makes the most sense in its post-flood context. All vegetation has just been destroyed and countless animal corpses are left behind. God gave Noah and his family the approval to eat meat, but the only living animals are the ones Noah saved, which is only two of every kind. It doesn’t make sense to eat the animals they need to repopulate the earth. Perhaps God was referring to the animal corpses. Meat-eating may have been just a temporary solution to the vegetation problem. It is also interesting that people started living shorter lives after the flood.

In conclusion, Proverbs 12:10 says a righteous man respects the life of his animal. God intended us to love and care for the living beings he breathed into life. The meat industry is not exemplary of God’s intentions.


Media Convergence In A Participatory Culture

A participatory culture is impactful for communicators of all ages. It gives opportunities for innovative expression of ideas, art, beliefs, culture and more. Society can interact in the marketplace of ideas more than ever before. Young people are expressing themselves in the culture with various social media channels, developing a language and humor of their own with memes, gifs, hashtags and idiosyncratic jokes. As the media has moved away from its one-way distribution channel to a participative structure, three major changes have occurred: globalization, interculturalism and collaboration.

Communication technology and the participatory culture add new possibilities for cyberdemocracy on a global scale. Despite language and culture barriers, globalization and international communication is easier than ever before. We can use media to exchange ideas more freely in a mutually beneficial way. To succeed in global communication, one must understand aspects of the culture, which inspires listening, interacting and learning. A digital divide between those that have access to technology and those that do not is inhibiting the participatory culture and globalization of technology (2017). Many are working to overcome the divide so more cultures can add to a richer, more diverse participatory culture.

Coupled with globalization is interculturalism, which challenges the human desire to gravitate toward people most like ourselves. It helps people become more confident in interactions with different ethnic groups by teaching them to consider the ways they relate rather than being threatened by what differences may arise between them (Cantle, 2016). The media gives diverse cultures a stronger voice. Communication breeds understanding, and understanding builds compassion and relationships. Interculturalism takes multiculturalism a step farther, as multiculturalism is simply living in an area with mixed ethnic groups and cultures; interculturalism seeks to create a society that does not force, but encourages people from a different background to intermingle, knowing even people so different from us have something valuable to offer (Schriefer & Schriefer, 2016). Participatory culture and media convergence lay the foundation for an intercultural society.

As the media moves away from one-way distribution of communication, collaboration becomes a stronger resource. More journalists are relying heavily on their audiences to create and curate the content (Lavrusik, 2009). There are some ideas that are bigger than a single person. So many talented people are able to use the media to connect with the right people and achieve their goals, whether political, personal or business.

Media convergence and the growing participatory culture are also affecting the Christian mission. Globalization gives us an opportunity to reach more people with the gospel, although many think it is a proliferation of non-Christian ideas (Thomas, 2015). Similarly, interculturalism helps us understand the cultures to which we ought to interact with, pray for, sympathize with, share good news and exemplify the love of Christ. Interculturalism helps us relate to people who are different so we can engage in a mutually beneficial dialogue. Christians should always collaborate in their church home among brothers and sisters in Christ, building knowledge, sharing ideas and taking care of one another. They should also collaborate with caution in our postmodern culture, not to lead to distortion of Scripture or an obligation of toleration to false claims of truth. The possibilities of the participatory culture are immeasurable.

Sources: About Interculturalism, Cantle, T. (2016); Digital Divide (2017, September 11); 7 Ways News Media are Becoming More Collaborative, Lavrusik, V. (2009, December 29); What’s the difference between multicultural, intercultural, and cross-cultural communication? Schriefer, P., & Schriefer, A. P. (2016, April 20); A Christian Perspective on Globalisation – Banner of Truth, Thomas, G. (2015, August 18)

OJ should not be in jail…for that

OJ Simpson should not be in jail for his 2008 crimes. In 1994 he was acquitted of the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. In 2008 he was convicted of burglary, kidnapping, conspiracy and possession of a deadly weapon. OJ claimed he had sports memorabilia and other things stolen, including family photos, and he held the thieves hostage in a Las Vegas hotel. He was sentenced 33 years in a Nevada prison.

Contrast that with his accomplice, Clarence “CJ” Stewart, who was with OJ through it all. His conviction of 27 years was reversed. How do you keep one person in jail and let the other walk free for the same charges?

OJ did not receive the 33-year sentence for this alleged robbery. He received it as punishment for getting away with murder. Based on double jeopardy, the decision in this robbery case should not be judged by his criminal history.

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

“Nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb…”

This includes protection against retrial after acquittal or conviction. The court must also consider collateral estoppel, which says once the court has decided an issue of fact or law necessary to its judgment, that decision precludes relitigation of the issue. The rationale is that it will prevent legal harassment and abuse of judicial resources.

A criminal jury decided OJ did not kill two people. A civil court ruled he did, and he received $33 million in punitive and compensatory damages, which he cannot be forced to pay. It’s the law. No one ever said it made sense. Because humans made the law there will always be flaws, and our criminal justice system is wrought with injustices.

If we’re going by the book, OJ should walk free tomorrow. I think Judge Glass had his mind made up going into the courtroom in 2008. His decision was biased and unconstitutional. Perhaps this is one of those rare cases where a subjective opinion is justified. Sometimes you have to say, “Screw the book, lock up the Juice!” I have faith that our judges, police officers and other civic leaders generally have our best interest in mind.

OJ should not be in jail for burglary, conspiracy or kidnapping. He should be in jail for the brutal murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman.

The Evolution of First Amendment Tests

“Clear and present danger” – the ambiguous test adopted in landmark case Schenck v. Unites States by Justice Holmes. It determines under which circumstances First Amendment limits apply.

The country was deeply divided in 1919 when the U.S. entered into the Great War. The war, opposed by radical leftists and German sympathizers, was a time when the First Amendment was brought into question.

In Schenck, the Court chose not to protect the First Amendment rights of men who distributed anti-draft leaflets to young men, promoting resistance to the war. Based on the idea that their actions could impede the war effort, the Court upheld the conviction calling it a clear and present danger.

This clear and present danger test adopted in Schenck meant Congress had a right to prevent speech used in circumstances, such as wartime, that create a clear and present danger to bring about basic evils. However, weeks later in a similar case, Justice Holmes dissented in Abrams v. U.S. on the means that the defendants didn’t have the necessary means and specific intent to “cripple the U.S. in the prosecution of the war.”

Six years later, in Gitlow v. New York, the Court upheld conviction based on the rationale of the bad tendency test, saying a state may forbid speech or publication if it might result in dangerous action even if the danger isn’t clear or present. The majority stated:

“A state in the exercise of its police power may punish those who abuse this freedom by utterances inimical to the public welfare, tending to corrupt public morals, incite to crime or disturb the public peace.”

Dissenters believed the criteria established in Schenk should apply to the case, meaning the clear and present danger test should be used rather than the bad tendency test. Holmes argued that the writings present no danger to violently overthrow the government.

Brandeis and Holmes in 1927 promoted the clear and present danger test in Whitney v. California, but encouraged even more freedoms this time. They adjusted the language from “present danger” to “imminent danger” to support greater protections for speech.
The clear and present danger test was adopted and used by the majority in 1940, but rejected in 1950 in Dennis v. U.S. when they adopted the “balancing test.” This variation of clear and present danger meant that in each case, the Court could decipher whether the “gravity of evil, discounted by its improbability, justified such invasion of speech as is necessary to avoid danger.” This led the court to consider many different factors in each case, deciding whether it is appropriate to take privileges when compared to the likelihood of success. This balancing test was used for two decades.

Today, the courts use a variation of the clear and present danger test that is narrower, with less freedom for the courts to interpret, as is their preference. The courts do not like ambiguity, and have applied a standard established in Brandenburg, which holds, “The constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action.”

SOURCES: Wikipedia: “Clear and Present Danger,” “Schenck v. U.S.,” “Abrams v. U.S.”

Austrian For a Summer


Living in Austria has shaped my view of my country, my faith and my world outlook. On the first day in Vienna, I was asking for wifi passwords, looking for air conditioning and thinking about what I wanted to do in the States. By the time I left Vienna, I thought about the books I wanted to buy, the languages I wanted to study and new lifelong friends I just made.

I experienced a few recognizable turning points during my European stay. One was at Mauthausen concentration camp. I walked through the grounds where 81,000 prisoners lost their lives. I felt a heavy weight standing there, knowing afterwards, I would leave on a charter bus and go get gelato.

IMG_7743.JPGMauthausen concentration camp, liberated by the U.S. Army in May 1945

Anger and sadness grew in me as I learned more about the horrific, inhumane events that went on during World War II, knowing that this was less than 80 years ago. I pictured my brother if he had been born at that time, willingly laying his life on the line to liberate these prisoners who were children of God. Knowing America had a large hand in the defeat made me more proud of my country and even more in awe of those who have served it.

IMG_7858.JPGMauthausen was liberated by the U.S. Army 65th Infantry Division.

Another turning point was at the Roman Forum. As we walked to the chamber where Paul was imprisoned, someone read from Acts 16 where Paul and Silas were stripped and beaten with rods. After being severely flogged, they were thrown in the prison next to the Arch of Septimius Severus that I stood in front of. I have heard these stories since I was a toddler, but seeing the ruins, relics and excavations gave it a whole new meaning. Sometimes I read the Bible and feel very removed from something that happened so long ago and so far away. Seeing these sites firsthand has served as a much-needed reminder that everything in the Bible is historically accurate. It has strengthened my faith and made me want to read these stories from this new perspective.

FullSizeRender.jpgRoman Forum, Paul’s prison is behind the Arch of Septimius Severus on the right. 

My outlook on life shifted on this trip. Most of the things I worry about don’t matter, and most stressful situations have good lessons to reap. When we missed the only train back to Vienna from Croatia from our station, we had the opportunity to solve a complex foreign puzzle. With no time to waste, instead of getting angry and stressed, we calmly took logical steps to get to our destination and made it back to Vienna only five hours later than originally planned. We stayed optimistic and even met some fascinating people along the way.

On a more serious note, I was sad to come to the realization that America isn’t what it used to be. If I were to generalize my generation, I would say most are spoiled, entitled, intelligent and apathetic. I can’t imagine what a modern day draft would look like. During World War II, men who weren’t even selected to serve left the comfort of their homes to fight for their women, children and future Americans. They were guided by something that must be done, ready to give their lives. I think of Desmond Doss when he said, “I can’t stay here while all the other people are fighting for me.” I sincerely hope my generation would have the same response.

Today, many clueless millennials openly flirt with the idea of a Trump assassination, complain about the “rights” they are entitled to and always ask “what’s in it for me?” It is a very different America. Today, a man is praised for sitting during the national anthem, yet cursed for standing to better the lives of veterans.

I am a different person because of this experience. I will always be more aware of my surroundings, more appreciative of people’s differences, more confident in my ability to overcome obstacles, more grateful for my country and more likely to thank a veteran. This experience has given me something no classroom could ever teach and no words could ever fully capture. My only regret is not staying longer.IMG_1215.JPGThe Roman Colosseum, in the words of Maximus: “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?” 

(no title)

Chains of an irrelevant past
Will take you down if you allow
distorting the here
disturbing the now

Words once meant everything
Fleeting as they are
Turn into a wound
a scratch
a scar

Relentless knives
Interruption so unsought
puncture time’s disguise
Beguile each thought

Meandering discourse
Ignorant to what might be
You show no remorse
And you lose me

Can you heal in but three months time?
Or coalesce
to another so blind

The house is destroyed but the home
a rhapsodic sentiment
The foundation cracked
the nails bent

Objectivity in the 24-hour News Era

Both biases and objectivity have their place in the news. Everyone sees the world through a different lens, and I might even say objective journalism is unattainable in our 24-hour news cycle; however, objective information testing and evaluation is not.

Objectivity, like any skill, must be practiced and can be improved. To borrow a phrase from Dr. Philip Patterson,

“It would be ideal for both sides to either be equally happy or equally outraged at the finished product.”

While it is not realistic to think our 24-hour news era can make every player content, most of the time it should be the goal that everything is reported accurately and impartially.

Biases are not always a bad thing. They could bring passion in investigative journalism. Alternatively, some news stations thrive on the credulity of their audiences. Most people don’t watch the news objectively. Even if facts are presented objectively, it’s human nature to put a subjective meaning to it.

The news industry is becoming more of an entertainment industry, leaning one way or the other as a successful business model. Arguing is entertainment, and entertainment is money.

We make objectivity much harder than it has to be. Third party evaluation is important in journalism, and any sensible national news station should have a third party check system. Developing a consistent and reliable way for testing cultural and personal biases and keeping them out of the way is one way to achieve balance.