Sunday, December 31, 2017

Another Turn of the Calendar

Well, 2017 was one for the record books for the nation and the world. January brought the inauguration of a new President of the US, Donald Trump. Part of the public seem to almost have a nervous breakdown at the mere thought of a Trump presidency, while others looked forward with eager anticipation, or at least with a sigh of relief that the excesses of the recent past might be corrected.

Charges and counter-charges filled the air, with investigations into alleged Trump-Russia collusion in the 2016 election. While the special prosecutor's investigation is ongoing and inconclusive so far, revelations have surfaced about alleged misdeeds by the Clinton campaign and the Obama Administration. Here too, the real situation awaits further investigation. How much and what you've heard about any of these situations may depend on what sources you are obtaining your news from. One of the top stories of 2017 should surely be the credibility gaps of various sources of information. It's no wonder the public is so divided when there are differing perceptions on what is real v. "fake" news.

To the approval of some and the distress of others, real accomplishments were achieved by the Trump Administration and Congress. The confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and numerous lower court judges could signal a dramatic shift in court rulings on various legal and social questions in the coming years. A year-end tax bill that also included provisions on heath care and other issues broke a months long logjam in significant Congressional legislation and could help enable long-term economic growth. A new more muscular foreign policy appears to be taking shape with implications for America and for peoples around the world who strive for liberty and peace.

Acrimony extended beyond politics in DC to other social questions. The most bizarre was probably the uproar over the presence of statues of Confederate war figures in public places. (Maybe there should be more focus on the injustices of today v. refighting  the Civil War 150 years later.) More currently consequential were the revelations of sexual harassment and sometimes assault by various public figures in politics, media, entertainment, sports, etc. This problem is part of something that goes much deeper than policing specific behaviors and requires a challenging of recent cultural assumptions about human nature and sexuality.

For all of the social and political controversies, natural events took center stage, especially in the late summer. The total solar eclipse that crossed the US on August 21 was an occasion of awe and scientific curiosity, even among many who seldom look up at the sky at other times. The following weeks brought natural events of a more destructive nature with three hurricanes that devastated parts of the US and the Caribbean. Wildfires in California and elsewhere also exacted the toll of destruction, as did earthquakes and other events in parts of the world during the year.

As we turn the page to 2018, the controversies and upheavals will likely continue. Meanwhile progress in medicine, technology and other fronts may become increasingly amazing. The test launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket (hopefully) in January will accelerate progress toward expansion and commercialization of space. We may see humans launching into space from the US again aboard commercially developed  (by Boeing and SpaceX) spacecraft before the end of the year.

May we continue to make headway in protecting life and defending liberty while respecting the dignity of every person despite our differences. And may God's blessings and peace  be upon you and yours and wishing all the best on this new frontier we call 2018.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Have a Holy and Merry Christmas!

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

Luke 2:1-14

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hanukkah and Our Attitude about the Future

(This is a post I originally made in 2003 and feel is worth repeating each year, especially in light of some very dark anti-human views of the future vs. ongoing and emerging developments that can provide resources, from the Earth and from other locations in the Solar System and beyond, for future generations.)

Rabbi Daniel Lapin has a provocative column in WorldNetDaily on a message of Hanukkah that is relevant to people of all faiths. He shows examples, ancient and modern, of how a pessimistic Malthusian worldview has been repeatedly disproved by the Creator's providence of material resources and the ingenuity to utilize them to provide for the future. Rabbi Lapin says:
It only seemed that we lacked sufficient copper, whale oil or wood. In reality, our God-given ingenuity developed exciting new technology that eliminated our need for each commodity just as it was becoming scarce.

Hanukkah's miracle was that, day after day, the Temple's menorah just kept on burning in spite of an apparent shortage of fuel - a metaphor, surely, for all apparent shortages that can be overcome with faith. Hanukkah invites us all to express gratitude to the Creator whose beneficence is boundless. It stimulates discussions that can spur our spiritual growth. It reminds us that with His gift of creativity, challenges become optimistic opportunities to partner with God in creatively solving all material shortage.