Michael J. Thom Father. Nerd. Race fan. Musician.


Poorly Organized Thoughts on Guns and Society

So I've been fairly quiet on social media lately… well actually, not just lately -- always. I am indeed a consumer of social media and not much of a publisher, you could say.

But also it's in part because rarely does a social media post about any controversial issue accomplish anything other than further deepening the reader's existing inclinations. And most often, it spurs division among people who might have a reasonable conversation in person, but who happily resort to extremes and straw man arguments with the anonymity or at least separation afforded them by interacting via a web browser or an app.

However, even if for mere catharsis, I've felt compelled to commit a few [Editor's note: gazillion] words to page. Feel free to agree or disagree with me, and to comment below or not comment. If you want to grab a beer and talk through this stuff, I'd love that. But I'm not likely to engage online with anything other than genuine, factual discrepancies.

With all those disclaimers said, I want to discuss some things that have been in my mind lately. As you've probably guessed, it's mostly related to the murder of students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, on Valentine's Day.

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Indiana SB 101 – The “Religious Freedom” Bill

Oh, Indiana. Le sigh.

So here's the thing.

I'll start by addressing the aspects of this (overall terrible) bill that do make sense to me (don't worry, there are very few).

I do not want the government to tell me how to conduct my private business. That is indeed a basic tenant of a free market, free speech, and a free people. For the government to essentially force its private citizens and private businesses to conduct themselves a certain way is not okay with me.

However, it is SO NOT OKAY to say "oh, please, by all means -- discriminate away!" In effect, that is what this bill is saying and ensuring that all Hoosiers can (and should!) do.

We simply need no legislation on this topic.

Individuals who want to do business at a given company are already free to do so, or not. And businesses are already free to do business with a given individual, or not. That is our collective perogative in a free society.

Neither side needs to be coerced into action it otherwise would not have taken.

(Point of clarification: The unstated phrase in all these sentences is "by the government." I would, in fact, like to coerce my fellow Christians to stop judging and discriminating. I just don't want my government to do it, because it crosses so many lines, even if well-intentioned.)

The flip side of this law is bad too, so don't hear me wishing it was written 180° the other way around. I don't -- just as I have the right to walk out of any establishment I no longer want to patronize, I should also have the right to end a business relationship with anyone, anytime, for any (or no) reason (barring contractual obligations, of course).

Therefore this bill basically continues to solidify institutional discrimination. Oh and gives "religion" a bad name. A well-deserved one of late, if you ask me.


Addendum. This is particularly frustrating for the maybe-just-right-of-center among us (or the libertarian-leaning, if you will). This, just like the gay marriage issue, is so unfairly polarizing that it's hard to take a position on. You're damned if you do (support it) and damned if you don't. I don't support the bill, but it's not because of "gay rights" -- it's because I don't want the government having the power to tell me what I can and cannot do.

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Musings on the Electoral College

Since last night I have been planning on writing a post regarding the Electoral College.  First, I should clarify that I am not writing this as a frustrated McCain voter or something; I’m well aware that Obama won both the popular vote and the projected Electoral College vote.  So this is not at all based on my feelings on the outcome of the election.  Instead, it is based on some conversations I’ve had with friends in recent weeks about what might happen should the popular vote once again be very close, particularly if the electoral count should also be very close (or tied).

However, I’ll admit that I’m not writing what I had generally been planning on writing. My thoughts lately have been that the Electoral College system is antiquated and needs to be done away with.  But, in order to be fair and accurate in my writing, I did some research before beginning to write.  I now have a renewed confidence in our Founding Fathers and the work they put into crafting our Constitution and the wonderful federation that we call the United States of America.

The Electoral College (which was not originally given that now-common name) was chosen to solve several problems, a few of which I will enumerate.

  1. Around 4 million people were spread sparsely throughout the eastern seaboard, and the communication methods of the day made it very difficult for a candidate to be truly known by all voters.
  2. Candidates did not run campaigns as we know them.
  3. The USA is a federation, under the concept of federalism; thus, the Framers were wary of anything that would risk a national mindset superseding that of the individual states.
  4. Also due to the small number of original states and their sparse populations and lack of communication, it was feared that each state’s voters would only vote for a local candidate; they feared, potentially, 13 different candidates each receiving a small portion of the popular vote, which would cause a useless outcome with no majority.
  5. Additionally, many voters did not feel that they were qualified or knowledgeable enough to effectively vote, so it was felt that it would be better to elect a small number of knowledgeable, trustworthy people to then gather and select a president.

These reasons all make much sense, but all of them except number 3 are now irrelevant, as we now have a very different population and population spread, and the candidate and campaign situations are entirely different.  So why shouldn’t we get rid of the Electoral College system and just go to a popular vote-based election?  Here are some common arguments for doing just that.

  1. If we’re electing the federal president, not a state representative, then why don’t we just use the popular vote tally?
  2. We no longer have a lack of communication nationwide.
  3. The two-party system, for better or for worse, has made it such that, in reality, only two candidates have a real shot of winning on election day, so there’s essentially no chance that each state’s voters will just vote for their state’s person and no majority will be reached.
  4. Because we are a more connected society than 200 years ago, where we frequently cross state lines for commerce and pleasure, state delineations seem to have less importance.

These were some of my own arguments.  I basically said, “The Electoral College made sense 200 years ago when communication and campaigns were very different, but there’s no reason we can’t directly elect our president.”

Nonetheless, after my research today, I was reminded of the place of federalism in all this.  We are taught far too little about federalism in school, so many are not familiar with what federalism is and why our Constitution is based on entirely on its precepts.

Everything in our government is set up as a balance between state and federal power.  The Congress is half based on states (Senate) and population (House).  Likewise, our presidential elections are also a combination: a popular vote in each state (rather than by county or city or such) determines the candidate for whom the proportionate number of electors is selected (based upon a combination of the number of seats in the House and the Senate and three in the case of the District of Columbia).

In the end, the Electoral College makes sense even today.  It’s not perfect; it’s government.  However, it’s the best compromise that will continue to allow our government to be most effectively selected.  By its citizens and its states, both of which are equally important.

For a much more thorough explanation of the Electoral College, read the excellent article I read through the Federal Election Commission website: http://www.fec.gov/pdf/eleccoll.pdf


Evansville’s Best-Kept Secret

Last night, during a break from the National Student Conference (hosted by the NACCM), the rest of the Christian Campus House staff and I joined a couple other guys from the conference and drove through Evansville a bit to go to a restaurant.  It was a Greek restaurant called Acropolis, and it was absolutely amazing.  Apparently, the two other guys who went with us ate there last year as well, and, upon entering the restaurant last year, the owner greeted them at the door and said, "let me cook for you tonight!"  Well, long story short, this year they asked if we could do the same thing, and this is what happened.  We ordered drinks, and the waitress (the same one they had last year!) called Doros, the owner, and he told her what all to have the chefs prepare for us.  For $20 a person plus drinks, we had probably 4 appetizers, salad, and 3 entrees plus desert, served "family-style" for the 5 of us to share.  It was absolutely astounding, and the service was fantastic.  Mind you, I had never eaten Greek food before, but the stuffed mushrooms were the only thing I didn't try (I'm definitely not a fan of mushrooms).  I tried everything else, and liked everything else, with the exception of the cucumber sauce - but I'm pretty sure that was me, not the restaurant.

Then, after a bit, Doros arrived (he had been running some errands) and joined us for probably 10 minutes.  It turns out he has a young son who was very sick during the conference last year, and the guys we were with heard about this and told him and the waitress that they'd pray for his son.  Well, his son (who was around a year old at the time) was in a coma for four days, but suddenly came out of it and is 100% healthy now.  He said they were "blessed."  What an amazing picture of the power of prayer.  Surely our two new friends weren't the only people praying for Doros's son, but how cool that was for them to be able to ask about him and hear such a great report.

Doros also reported that, a few months ago, Evansville was the host of a baseball tournament of some sort.  Several guys from ESPN came in, and Doros offered to cook for them (he didn't know they were from ESPN until after he had started cooking for them); they essentially got the same awesome deal that we did.  They told him, on their way out, "on the radio tomorrow, we're not going to be talking about baseball, we're going to be talking about this restaurant!"  Truly an amazing place, it is well worth the time and money to enjoy an awesome Greek meal.  And be sure to ask to dine "off the menu," as Doros was so kind to do for us again this year.

Acropolis Authentic Greek Cuisine & Spirits
501 N. Green River Rd.
Evansville, IN 47715

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Election 08 – What Everyone Needs to Know

PREFACE: I did not write this. I am re-posting this excellent commentary posted on facebook, written by Alex Pombar.

As the presidential election approaches, I would like to take time to share with you what I think about the current political issues surrounding the war in Iraq.

We MUST stay in Iraq until the job is done. A few things WILL happen if our future president decides to leave:

  1. The Sunni's and Shiite's will kill each other until one side is dead. Since Iran feels they are entitled to Iraq's land (and also being the world's largest Shiite empire) you can bet that the Sunni's will not hold out long.
  2. Leaving Iraq will prove to terrorists all over the world that America can be beaten. Then they will never stop attacking us because we would no longer stand as a legitimate threat to their terrorist cause... period.
  3. They will attack anyone and everyone until they establish the new Ottoman Empire, re-instituting the Caliphate (a position Bin Laden has already claimed rights to).

The candidate who becomes the next president of this nation should ALREADY be embodying sound judgment and displaying good leadership capabilities. Leaders should be elected to hold leadership positions because of what they do NOW, not what they say they will do in the future. Senator McCain has been to Iraq at least six times to get a personal feel for the situation. Senator Obama has visited once.

The United States needs a leader who is willing to go to war, but will use sound judgment on whether we should or should not go to war. When the vote on the original proposition for the war in Iraq was cast, Senator Obama was not yet in the Senate while Senator McCain voted against the war. If anyone knows the extreme consequences of war, it is John McCain.

I appreciate the love my friends and family have shown for me, but please do not vote for someone because you want to keep me from risking my life for my country. I have thought about going to war since 2001. If you did not know, I contracted with the Army in 2004 and signed up for the Infantry Branch in 2007. I did not sign up with the Army to not go to war. I have thought and prayed about the consequences and I know what I am getting into. I would rather fight the enemy in Iraq than allow them to blow up innocent civilians here on American soil.

I promise you, it is not a question of whether or not they will attack us... it is when. If you want to get a good look at how bad they want to kill us, I highly recommend that you see the documentary film, “Obsession”. Even the trailer for it does a good amount of justice. You can see the trailer and buy the movie off of www.obsessionthemovie.com. To say that they hate us is truly an understatement. Loathe gets closer, but still doesn’t scratch the surface. With every atom in their body, they want to kill us. If it is not fellow servicemen and me fighting them there, they will kill us here. If we leave Iraq, it will give terrorists confidence that they can beat the strongest country in the world. It will also tell over 4000 servicemen’s families that their son or daughter died for ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. If we leave, there WILL be another 9/11 or worse. The ONLY reasons we have not been attacked again is because 1) the war has been brought to their doorstep and 2) because of our large and strong defense budget. Senator McCain has a strong defense plan and Senator Obama wants to cut defense spending. Billions of dollars being spent on a war may seem like too much from a stateside perspective, but there are soldiers who still don't have the best armor available to them.

Despite the fact that terrorists have not attacked us since 9-11, we are still at risk in a very real way. For example, here is a hypothetical, but very possible, situation to show you how simple a plan can be to really hit us hard. A terrorist could learn to fly a small plane and use it as a very precise and effective weapon. They could probably just steal one and hope for the best. After packing the plane full of explosives, they could fly that plane into a school. This attack could potentially kill hundreds of people or worse, hundreds of our innocent youth. Unfortunately, the attack could easily be more horrifying. As every child and teacher runs out of the school for safety, they would soon be met by responding emergency medical treatment vehicles and personnel. That is when a second suicide bomber would drive up to where everyone is located with a car filled with explosives killing most, if not all, of the people standing outside. Scary, is it not? Can it happen? Absolutely. This is what happened in Israel and the country has gone bankrupt trying to prevent this situation from happening again. Every school in Israel has AT LEAST one counterterrorist unit assigned to it. Every time the kids go on a field trip they MUST have at least one armed guard with them. This is the reality in Israel. This is how they live. If we leave Iraq, something like this is more likely to occur. If it does, we will be back in Iraq for a second time with more deaths on our side. Except now, terrorists will know that all they have to do is wait it out until the American public forgets the atrocities committed against it, beats itself up politically, and brings the troops home again. This cycle will repeat over and over.

DO NOT blame their hatred for us because of decisions we have made. Nothing makes me more furious than hearing someone say "Well, they hate us because of our relationship with Israel and because of the war in Iraq". Give me a break. That is one of the most cowardly point of views I have ever heard. They don't hate us because of our actions. These extremists hate us because we are not Muslim. Because we are a power that stand in their way of re-establishing their future empire. Because we stand for freedom and truth.

If you haven’t noticed, there has been less news about Iraq than usual. I can assure you that it is because we are winning and doing great things in Iraq. I spoke with a friend who has been there twice and the first time he was there, it was EXPECTED that an IED or small arms fire would hit every patrol. The second time he went, his patrols were never attacked. General Petraeus' strategy and surge of troops has worked wonders there. The surge of troops has demoralized terrorists from thinking they will outlast us. The General's plan of patrolling on foot, instead of from inside humvees, has worked. We are supplying water, electricity, food, schools, and building new shops. We talk to their people, help their businesses, buy things from their stores, give toys to young kids, and we are training them to defend themselves. The turn around in that country has been tremendous. In desperation, Al-Qaeda has turned to killing Iraqis when they don't do what they say. The Iraqi people are tired of it and are helping Americans instead. If we leave, that will all be lost. We already left these people in the first Gulf War. Let's not make the same mistake again.


SCOTUS Decision in Favor of Gun Owners

I am so happy to be posting these links.  The much-awaited D.C. et al. v. Heller case that went before the Supreme Court has been decided.  In a narrow 5-4 vote the Court has overturned the D.C. gun ban law, calling it unconstitutional and specifically stating that "the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self defense in the home."  While not a sweepingly broad decision, the case makes it much harder now to deny citizens the right to at least own a gun and keep in ready to be used in the home.  Only time will tell just how much more will come as a direct result of this decision, but it's at least a positive step in the right direction.

Read the SCOTUS Blog's report, or go straight to the decision (pdf).

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Spiritual Receptivity

I am a little over halfway through A.W. Tozer's classic The Pursuit of God (also available to read online).  This is my first read of the book, and, despite the language being just a bit old-fashioned (it was written around the middle of the 1900s), he is an amazing man of God with a lot of interesting things to say.  I just read one portion tonight that struck me as something that I need to keep in mind, now more than ever, in my position working at a church (but, really, to a certain degree, these are thoughts that everyone should think though).

Failure to ... [be spiritually receptive] ... is the cause of a very serious breakdown in modern evangelicalism. ... The tragic results of this spirit are all around us: Shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit.  These and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul.

Strong words, eh?  I'm just fascinated by how relevant those words are, even today.  "The preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings" - how did he know we'd be more interested in exciting music and cool slideshows than strong teaching of the Word?  "The mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit" - I know some preachers who are not the most elegant with words, but have an amazingly Godly spirit and a servant's heart.  Tozer warns that these misguided desires are "symptoms of an evil disease" - harsh, perhaps, but true.  Let us pray that our church cannot be described with any of these symptoms of a "deep and serious malady of the soul."

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Survey: More Americans dropping dogma for spirituality

Read the link: Survey: More Americans dropping dogma for spirituality - USATODAY.com

I can hardly believe some of this.  Well, actually, that's not true.  I believe every word of it; especially being near a college campus for four years, I don't doubt any of this.  I just hate to see it in words, as stats, proof of the lack of teaching that is going on and the compromise that people are willing to make.

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The Never-Ending Adventures and Journeys of the Jesus Followers

I just started reading another book, this one by the guy who spoke at the NACCM Campus Ministers' Retreat a couple weeks ago, Don Everts.  It's called Jesus with Dirty Feet, and it's a look at Jesus that attempts to do away with all of the cliches, ideas, stigmas, mindsets, and perspectives that we seem to collectively have from our 21st-century viewpoint (well, 20th-century, actually... it was written in 1999).

To greatly paraphrase his very first chapter, the term Christian and Christianity has been greatly distorted and misunderstood in modern-day society.  So, for now on, whenever you hear the term Christianity, think the following:

The Never-Ending Adventures and Journeys of the Jesus Followers.

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A New Apologetic Method

Okay, so it may not actually be totally new.  But it's new to me, and it's new to many modern Christians.  You see, many "classic" Christian apologetics just aren't as applicable to today society and situation.  With the "New Atheists" as prominent as they are, we must adapt and take on new tactics when dealing with these issues.  Dinesh D' Souza spoke this evening at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.  I will blog more on his talk in upcoming days, but here are just a couple of thoughts that he shared with us.

In his mind, Atheism has only recently become as militant as it now is.  In the past, Atheists have sought little more than for removal of Nativities from public places or the dismantling of 10 Commandment replicas from court houses.  However, these days, Atheists are attempting to discredit Christianity.  They try to "make Christians feel like idiots" for believing as we do, as D' Souza put it tonight.  We Christians were taught to defend our beliefs and explain our beliefs by pointing to the Bible.  Quoting Scripture is also recommended.  However, what do you do when somebody inherently disbelieves the Bible and its veracity?  Saying "because it said so" is meaningless when they don't give the Bible any credit to begin with.  Thus, we must become "bilingual," in a sense.  We need to be able to speak secularly with Atheists/secularists.  This is just one tenant of his methodology for dealing with Atheism as it has presented itself in modern society.

More to come soon; right now, I am simply much too tired and it is past my bedtime.  I just want to leave you with one more nugget of knowledge that I gained tonight.  I will perhaps put it in context in a future post, but, for now, know that Heaven is adult Disneyland. 🙂