Tag Archives: War

#432: Whole New Worlds

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #432, on the subject of Whole New Worlds.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first seven novels,

  1. Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel,
  2. Old Verses New,
  3. For Better or Verse,
  4. Spy Verses,
  5. Garden of Versers,
  6. Versers Versus Versers, and
  7. Re Verse All,

in serialized form on the web (those links will take you to the table of contents for each book).  Along with each book there was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as I am posting the eighth, In Verse Proportion,  I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look may contain spoilers because it sometimes talks about my expectations for the futures of the characters and stories–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued, as being written partially concurrently with the story it sometimes discusses where I thought it was headed.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

It was suggested in connection with Re Verse All that shorter more frequent behind-the-writings posts would work better; they proved to be considerably more work in several ways.  Thus this time I am preferring longer, less frequent posts.  This is the first mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 1 through 21.

There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.

Chapter 1, Kondor 172

The first decision that had to be made about this book is which characters’ stories it would recount.  That wasn’t that difficult a decision, because Kondor, Slade, and Brown had all been absent from the previous book, the seventh, Re Verse All, and so there would be a strong argument against omitting any of them from this one.  Meanwhile, I had Hastings and Takano together in the same world, and if I carried them over I would have five viewpoint characters, which while I have done that before it makes for shorter stories.  Besides, if at some point I split them I would have more trouble.  I could bring Beam into it, but since on the last page of the previous novel he verses out he is the easiest one to delay.

The second decision was the sequence of the characters.  The argument against Joe was that he was the last chapter of Versers Versus Versers.  On the other hand, there were a lot of chapters since then in the intervening book.  What Joe had in his favor was that his first chapter actually had some action in it.  Further, when I finished writing Versers Versus Versers I tackled a short story continuation for each of the six viewpoint characters, and for him I wrote three consecutive chapters, so there was a strong argument in that for beginning with him.

In the end of the previous book I had had Joe suggest to Zeke that they attempt to sink the boats by shooting holes in them.  After I finished it, I remembered that canoes don’t sink because they’re buoyant, and these wooden boats would swamp but stay afloat.  Thus I had to rethink the strategy, but more significantly I had to think of why Kondor would know this and have him rethink it.

As usual, as I started writing the book it was untitled.  I had received suggestions when I was writing the seventh book, although I used my own idea of Reversal to create Re Verse All, which I liked and ultimately used.  I had also been considering Inverse Proportion.  Then there were the suggestions from readers:  Eric Ashley recommended Chapter and Verse, and Bell, Verse, and Candle, and To Verse is a Verb; Kyler Young put forward Conversation; John Walker suggested Joe Verses Slade (although I felt like there must be something better than “Slade” to make that work, such as Tornado).  As I am reaching the sixth chapter, I am leaning toward Con Versation, or else In Verse Proportions.  While I was working on setting up the HTML pages of Re Verse All I thought of Ner Verse, but am not sure how I would use it.

I am thinking that for the gather I’ll use The Farmland beta, in which aliens invade a primitive world and the verser defends it.  I could put this in Slade’s current world, the parakeet world at the level of the industrial revolution, which is more advanced than the world of the book version but should be workable.  Slade, Derek, and Kondor have all done spaceships by this point, so they’re a good set to put against the aliens.

Chapter 2, Slade 168

The argument for making Slade second was that I had written three consecutive chapters for him as well, so it would be quick and easy to put together a good part of the beginning of the book.

I wanted Bob to be able to communicate with the Parakeet People, but it was not credible that their language would not have changed at all from the time when they wove baskets and lived in wigwam-like nests to the age of the industrial revolution.  Thus I decided that the first bird he encountered would be a scholar of ancient civilization who knew the language.  Bob, though, does not know it well, and it is likely that the scholar would shift to the modern version of it rather easily–for example, someone who knows the early Greek of Homer and also knows modern Greek would probably revert to the modern if he started conversing in Greek, despite the similarities in the two languages.

When I created this world in Verse Three, Chapter One I never really made decisions about the biases.  I decided that some things worked and some didn’t, but I didn’t put numbers on anything.  As I bring the world back into play, that gives me two problems, the one figuring out what was possible then, the other deciding whether that has changed, and to what degree.  When I do Mystery of the Vorgo (which I did in Old Verses New, but it didn’t matter there because Kondor doesn’t believe in magic), I keep the magic curve but drop the level, so everything that was possible is still possible for the verser, but not for the indigs, and it’s all more difficult.  Eventually Shella is going to try to figure out what she can and cannot do, and I have to make it consistent with what is already established about this world.

Chapter 3, Brown 196

The problem with Derek’s story is that not only did I write only two chapters for it, they’re not consecutive.  The first follows immediately from the cliffhanger of Versers Versus Versers, but the second is clearly set later, after Derek and Vashti have become more established.  That means I face more writing when the next Brown chapter is due.

I recognized the Commander Brown problem, and decided to play with it a bit.  The robot does not recognize the problem, and Derek has to find a way to get it to do so.

In the previous book Derek had noticed that the indigs he encountered were left-handed.  I remembered that, and assumed that it would mean that the top assistant would be the left-hand man because of it.

Chapter 4, Kondor 173

This was again one of the chapters I wrote immediately after finishing Versers Versus Versers, and so was continuing the battle there.  I had not yet decided which characters would be in the seventh book and which would be in this one.

Chapter 5, Slade 169

This was another chapter written before the decision had been made concerning which characters would be in which books.  I was beginning to paste the three characters together in this book and so creating the story, while at the same time formatting Re Verse All for publication, and getting the opening of the ninth novel in place (there were aspects of Lauren’s and Tommy’s story that needed to be covered before I forgot them).

Originally I had called the apartments “Married Student Housing” as they were called when I was in college (although my colleges didn’t have any such dorms), but I changed it to “Mated Student Housing” as perhaps better translation for what the birds might have called it.

Chapter 6, Brown 197

This was the first chapter I had to write to continue the story.  I had another Brown chapter, but it was several chapters later, and I needed to bridge from here to there.

I wanted Derek to address Vashti in a language the homonoid did not know, but I had to look up whether he had programmed the computer with Arabic or Farsi.  (It was Arabic.)

I started this and gave it its head, but had to interrupt in the middle without knowing where it was going to go after Derek commented that he didn’t know the native language.  At the time I was trying to set up Re Verse All for online serial publication, so I didn’t get back to this for perhaps a month or so, during which time I had thought of a different direction.  Returning once I’d finished the last behind-the-writings post for that book, I picked up and integrated the two ideas.

Chapter 7, Kondor 174

This was another chapter written shortly after the previous book was finished, so I would know where I was taking Kondor.  There is one more Kondor chapter already drafted, and this one actually sets that one up, but boxes me into I’m not sure what.

The notion that amirates give silver chains like the gold chains given by the caliphate seemed appropriate.

Chapter 8, Slade 170

This was the last of the pre-written Slade chapters, and even a month or so later I am not certain what happens next.

The fact that they appear as gods is significant at this point.

I had originally written that the porter’s name was “unpronounceable”.  In editing, it bothered me, but I didn’t realize the problem and make the change to “untranslatable” until the night before it was published.

Chapter 9, Brown 198

At this point I was struggling with all three stories.  I knew quite a bit of what had to happen with Derek and with Slade, but wasn’t sure how to organize it; I was not at all certain what to do with Kondor.

With Derek, I realized that he did not know for how long he was expected to stay at his post, and in fact he didn’t even know how the ship’s time system worked.  In contemplating this, I decided that there was something rational about dividing the day into twenty-four equal hours, the hours then into sixty minutes each of sixty seconds, but that there was nothing rational about supposing that the day of the originating planet was the same length as that of earth.  I thought perhaps it should be the equivalent of twenty-one hours, with each second correspondingly shorter such that the clocks counted twenty-four shorter hours in each day.  That would give me a bit of math to resolve, but it was manageable.

The next problem, then, was how many of those shorter hours comprised a standard shift, and was it different on the bridge.  I was much inclined toward making the standard work day eight hours, but making the bridge shift shorter, six hours.  But the problem was communicating all of this to Derek.

Beyond that, they had to find their quarters, and it would be separate quarters for each of them because they would be officer’s quarters.  They would of course move in together into Derek’s room and turn Vashti’s into some kind of study area–which was the next problem, that Vashti had a tremendous amount of learning to do, and Derek had to learn some himself, so they had to put that together from the ship’s computer.

All of this had to be done without belaboring the text.

I tackled the time questions first.

Chapter 10, Kondor 175

This was the last pre-written Kondor chapter.  There was one more pre-written Brown chapter, but its content was for later in the book and I had a lot to write before I could insert it.

Chapter 11, Slade 171

Before I started this chapter, I was approached by a publisher who was willing to publish my Why I Believe and wanted me to write a book based on the Temporal Anomalies in Popular Time Travel Movies web site.  These occupied a significant amount of my attention for several weeks, and I realized that I was not moving this book forward, which might be a problem because Re Verse All was a relatively short book and was progressing rather quickly through the online publication process.  Still, I was unsure how to proceed with a lot of this.

I had been struggling with how to move Bob forward, knowing all the things he had to do but not how to get them into the story, and abruptly it occurred to me to do something I’d done before:  have the characters talk about it, and see what ideas they had.  Most of what I was trying to work toward had already occurred to Slade, and was easy enough to put into the story, along with the idea from Shella that he learn the language mind reading trick.

Chapter 12, Brown 199

I pushed forward by moving Derek and Vashti off the bridge to living quarters, and as I was setting them up I realized that they hadn’t eaten in five or six hours, and I was going to have to address that first but had not given it any thought at all.  I wanted to avoid replicators and food dispensers, but knew I didn’t have a kitchen crew and wanted to avoid forcing them to make their own meals.  I’ve got a couple chapters to work it out while I catch up the other two characters.

Chapter 13, Kondor 176

I was concerned that I not wind up putting Kondor back into a situation in which he was introducing modern medicine to a technologically primitive society, and wondering how to avoid it, when it struck me that this is a highly magical world and to this point although there have been a number of people injured, no one has been sick.  I wondered about whether I could credibly create the idea that there is no disease in the world, and floated it on one of my social media pages to get feedback from fans.  Some of it was excellent, and I started piecing together how to make this work.

Chapter 14, Slade 172

I was several weeks stalled on this.  It was only partly because during this time I completed a first and a second draft of the promised time travel book.  It was also because I was stymied on all three stories–on Joe because I really couldn’t think of what to do with him, and on Bob and Derek because even though I had a lot of pieces through which to move them, I couldn’t figure out how to connect them.

I had considered having Bob botch or fail on the language link, but I had some significant problems ahead for him and didn’t want to add this to them.  I might still have a language link failure at some point, but for the moment I just need to push forward.

I’m thinking that Bob can invent the internal combustion engine and the telephone and maybe the light bulb easily enough.  I’ll have to decide whether they have electric generators, but I think they do because I think they have electric motors and batteries, although it is possible their vehicles are all steam powered at this point.  I don’t see him refining petroleum, but he can run a vehicle on alcohol fuel, and if they don’t have distillation that’s easy enough for him to create.

Chapter 15, Brown 200

I was trying to get things organized, and realized that food was the priority, so I sent them to the officers’ galley which, I realized, would probably be stocked much as the other kitchen but would have no staff so Derek would have to cook.  Then I tried to work out where he would think to start Vashti’s education, and moved on from there.  I have to move them forward quickly, and bring in instruction on using their stations, but I couldn’t put more into the time than was credible.

The bathroom kept nagging at me, probably because I had just set up to publish the chapter of Re Verse All in which Beam teaches his lieutenants how to use one and I didn’t want to omit it from Derek’s story.

Chapter 16, Kondor 177

I was stuck with how to keep Joe’s story interesting in the Arabian Nights world, and took it up with several people, one of whom suggested I should just verse him out–but I didn’t have anywhere to send him, and I was going to need to take him to Slade for the gather which would limit how much I could do in any intervening world.  Then it struck me that he was a highly eligible bachelor, obviously a wealthy foreign nobleman, and that it might be time to entangle him in some kind of relationship.  As I considered it, the notion of someone trying to arrange such a thing struck me, and I figured I could launch that and see where it might lead.

This was a short chapter, much shorter than I had intended.  However, when I wrote the last words, “I would like you to marry my sister,” I needed a way to convey the shock of this, and in less than a minute I decided that the best way to do this would be to end the chapter here.

Chapter 17, Slade 173

I couldn’t decide whether to do the engineering discussion or the legal discussion first, but since I saw the problems arising in the latter I decided to move forward with engineering.

I decided that the language link failed mostly because I didn’t want it to succeed constantly, particularly considering that both of them were fairly new at it.

When I was setting up the HTML page for publication for this chapter, I realized that the next chapter, Brown 201, had the wrong number–the digits had been transposed to 210.  What was worse is that the error was copied both to my outline notes of the book and to the behind-the-writings document from which these posts are produced, and then followed, every chapter nine places higher than it should have been.  That was forty-five chapter numbers that had to be corrected individually in three different places.  At least, though, I caught it before I had done images for them.

Chapter 18, Brown 201

I needed Derek and Vashti to learn what they needed to know at a swift but credible pace, and I needed to make it happen without it becoming boring reading.  Eventually I’m going to have to create a problem, probably an intercept course with a comet or other huge ice ball, but I’m going to want Derek and Vashti to be able to handle it when it comes, so I need to get them trained first.

Chapter 19, Kondor 178

I had a number of things to deal with, and decided to stretch the time a bit by having Mohammed try to persuade Kondor to come meet Leah and instead he insists that she must come to him.  I had thought briefly that perhaps he brought her with him, but decided that was not the way he would have done it, so there will be a delay while he goes to get her.

I need to pick an amirate for Mohammed, who will be the recently installed Amir there.  I’m thinking southwest, but that’s terribly convenient; the problem is all the others are north of the Capital, and would take a longer time to reach.  That’s not necessarily bad, but I’m not sure how to stretch it at Kondor’s end.

Chapter 20, Slade 174

I had been trying to construct a conversation here, and it wasn’t working.  At one point I had imagined the professor saying something like “but you’re not parakeet; you’re not even avian”, but I couldn’t make that make sense.  That is, in our world we might say “You’re not human; you’re not even hominid” or maybe “primate”, but we wouldn’t say “mammalian” even if that were the case.  In the end I’m not sure whether I conveyed the “legal nuances”, but I think I got the problem across.

Chapter 21, Kondor 179

This was going to be a Brown chapter, but I wasn’t sure what to write.  Then as I thought about it I decided that I left Derek and Vashti in a routine, and giving them a bit more time before the next chapter would make it feel like they had continued working that way for a while.  Besides, I knew exactly where the Kondor chapter began and a lot of what it contained, and people would be waiting for it, so I decided to go for it.
The idea of telling the prospective in-laws about the verse had occurred to me already, but the idea of having Zeke suggest it was new.

This has been the first behind-the-writings look at In Verse Proportion.  If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue with more behind-the-writings posts for it and another novel.

#413: The Abomination of Desolation

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #413, on the subject of The Abomination of Desolation.

I received a question by private message.  I prefer to answer questions publicly, partly so that more can benefit and partly so I don’t have to answer them again, so I am copying it here:

Have another biblical question for you.  What is the desolating sacrilege?  I have always been puzzled by this verse in Mark.  Is it in fact referring to the destruction of the Temple and the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans?

It should be said that there are interpreters who believe that it in fact refers to events still in the future, and that is not impossible.  However, there are at least three reasons to believe that it is about the destruction of the city in the first century.

The reference appears in Mark 13:14, and is paralleled rather closely in Matthew 24:15, and particularly the words my questioner cites as “desolating sacrilege” which is usually referenced as “the abomination of desolation”.  Looking at the context, in Mark 13:1 the disciples comment on the grandeur of the temple, and in the next verse Jesus declares that the entire structure is going to be totally demolished.  Two verses later the disciples ask when that is going to happen, and Jesus launches into a teaching which we think is about the end of the world but which if it is answering the question that was asked and not the question that the disciples thought they were asking is actually about the destruction of the temple.  The same sequence happens in Matthew 24:1ff.  Thus when we get to the abomination of desolation, it logically is still about that destruction.  Titus and the Roman Legions wrought that kind of devastation in 70 A.D., and so the prediction is consistent with that event.

We have the same circumstance launching the same question and the same teaching in Luke 21:5ff, and that gives us our second reason.  Following all three accounts, they go through the same pattern up to the statement that the one who endures will be saved, in Mark 13:13, Matthew 24:13, and Luke 21:19, and in Matthew and Mark the next verse is the one in question here.  However, in Luke 21:20 the following text translates (my translation) to “Yet when you see encircling Jerusalem by armies, then know that her devastation is impending”, and the next verses in all three accounts tell us to flee to the mountains.  It thus seems that Luke has replaced “abomination of desolation” with “Jerusalem besieged”–but Luke fairly commonly replaces phrases that would have particular meaning to a Jewish audience with words expressing the same concept to those in the greater Greco-Roman world.  Thus if we honor Luke’s understanding, what Mark and Matthew called “the abomination of desolation” was understood to refer to the siege of Jerusalem, which again fits the events of A.D. 70.  Some will say no, Luke is talking about something else, but since in the next verse he is back on track with the others either we have to say that Luke’s Gospel is in error here, or Luke has provided us with the correct meaning of that phrase.

What might be most telling, though, is that next part, where all three Gospels tell us to flee from Jerusalem.  The problem is that once the city is surrounded, it’s too late to escape.  However, history tells us that Titus brought his legions to Jerusalem and surrounded it, but then was called to withdraw due to a different problem, leaving the city for a brief period, then returning and finishing the job.  It was probably the case that devout but unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem believed that the withdrawal of Titus was the hand of God saving them, but Christians had this prophecy and so would have known to leave.

It might be suggested that a similar siege will occur in the future, but warfare has changed since then and such a siege is unlikely as a military strategy in the modern world.  The circumstances seem to be very particular to that event, and thus we should probably understand Jesus as predicting the first century destruction of Jerusalem.

As a footnote, we don’t have much in the way of historic confirmation of the fact that the Christians did leave Jerusalem at that time, and the suggestion has been made from that that Luke interpreted the statement after the fact to make it fit the events.  However, C. S. Lewis has somewhere noted that this is irrelevant.  By the end of the century the book was certainly in circulation, so either Christians did exit the city or they had to explain why having been warned in advance they had failed to do so, and on a naturalist viewpoint Luke would have been very foolish to include a prophetic command that had not been followed.  Therefore Luke is either providing the warning in advance or explaining after the fact why it was that Christians knew to flee the city at that time.  Either way, the pre-existence of the prediction (before the event) is confirmed.

I hope that helps.

#360: Voting in 2020 in New Jersey

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #360, on the subject of Voting in 2020 in New Jersey.

I was watching for my annual sample ballot, and realized that what I received instead was a mail-in ballot, and that due to its not entirely unjustified COVID paranoia the state wants all of us to mail in our votes.  They are not opening as many polling places this year, and would rather no one come to them.  (Given the public fights that have occurred over the current Presidental race, one might think that the disease issue is an excuse, but we’ll take their word for it that that’s the reason.)  In the past such mass mail-in voting systems have been fraught with fraud, and already there are reports of fraud in the present election, but the penalties are fairly severe including loss of the right to vote, so the best advice is don’t tamper with any ballot that is not your own.

My initial reaction was to write this article on how to vote.  Then I saw that both Google and Facebook were promoting pages on how to vote, and thought I would be redundant.  Then I rummaged through the pack of papers which came in the envelope and decided that it was a bit confusing, and perhaps I should tackle it.

It is important to understand that your packet contains two envelopes, and you might need them both.  Mine also contained two ballots, one for the general election and a second for the school election, so be aware of that as well.

You will need a pen with black or blue ink.  Ballot readers cannot process red ink or most other colors, and pencil is considered subject to tampering.

The school ballot, assuming you receive one, is specific to your district, and probably is just candidates for the local school board.  It should be marked and placed with the other ballot in the envelopes, as discussed below.

The general election ballot is two sided, at least in my district, with candidates for office and three somewhat extensive and controversial public questions on the other.  Avoid making any marks outside those indicating your selections.  The ballot this year includes:

  • President Trump and his Vice President Pence, with those running against them;
  • Senator Booker, with those running against him;
  • one seat in the United States House of Representatives, specific to your congressional district
  • Some number of county/local offices.

Each candidate name is in its own box, rows across identifying the office, columns down generally the political party.

In the upper right corner of each candidate’s box is a small hard-to-see red circle.  fill in the circle completely of each candidate for whom you are voting.  You are not obligated to vote for anyone simply to have voted for someone for that office, that is, you can decide to leave a row blank.  There is a write-in space to the far right end.

In most districts, you will have to flip the ballot over to get to the ballot questions, and these are somewhat important this year.  The questions are, of course, yes/no votes, with the little red circles at the bottom of the page below the Spanish text.

Question #1:  Legalization of Marijuana.

The state wants to amend the (state) constitution to allow regulated sales of something called cannabis to those at least 21 years old.  There is already a Cannabis Regulatory Commission in the state to control our medical marijuana supply, and they would oversee this.  The bill includes a clause permitting local governments to tax retail sales.

It should be observed that the restriction to those at least 21 years old is likely to be about as effective as the similar restriction on alcohol use.  On the other hand, a lot of our court and jail system is clogged with marijuana user cases.  Yet again, whatever the state decides, marijuana use will still be a federal crime, and it will still be legal for employers to terminate an employee who fails a reasonably required drug test.

This would be a constitutional amendment, so if the change is made, it is permanent.

I have previously suggested issuing drinking licenses which I indicated could be used if the state decided to legalize other drugs.

Question #2:  Tax Relief for Veterans

When you enlist in the military, it’s something of a crap shoot:  even if you know we are at war when you enlist, you don’t know whether you will wind up fighting.  Still, there is a benefits distinction between those who served during times of war and those who served, ready to fight if necessary, during times of peace.  One of those distinctions is that those who were enlisted during times of war get property tax deductions, and those who are disabled get better ones.  Question #2 would extend those benefits to veterans who served in peacetime, including those who are disabled.

Veterans get a lot of benefits; on the other hand, we should not begrudge them these.  There might be a difference between those who fought and those who didn’t, but that’s not the distinction the law makes–it rather distinguishes those who served during a war even if they were behind a desk in Washington from those who served during peacetime even if they were part of military aid to other war-torn countries.  There are good reasons to remove the distinction, and I’m not persuaded that the reduction in property tax income is a sufficient counter argument.

Question #3:  Redistricting Rules

The United States Constitution requires a census every decade.  The states are then required by their own constitutions to use that information to create new voting districts that more fairly represent their populations.  This year the fear is that due to COVID-19 the census data is going to be delayed and will not be delivered to the state in time to create the new districts for the fall 2021 election cycle.

To address this, the legislature has proposed an amendment that states that if census data is not delivered to the governor by a specific date in the year ending 01, previous districts will be used for those elections and the redistricting commission will have an extra year to get the issue addressed.

It sounds simple and logical, but there are those opposing it as potentially racist and benefiting politicians, not people.  On the other hand, it solves a potential problem before it becomes serious.  It would apply to any future situations in which a similar information problem occurred, and while this has never happened before and might not happen even now, contingencies are worth having.

Submitting the Ballot

One of the two envelopes has some bright red and yellow coloring on it plus your name and registered address and a bar code.  Once the ballots are completed, they go into this envelope.  I will call this the ballot envelope.

It is necessary that the information on the flap of the ballot envelope be completed.  This includes your printed name and address at the top and your signature, the same signature that is on the voter registration rolls.

Once you have completed this, you have three options, one of which creates more complications in filling out the envelopes.

One is to use the other envelope to deliver the ballot by United States Mail.  This envelope has the postage pre-paid business reply certification, addressed to your County Board of Elections.  I will call this the mailing envelope.  If you do this, it must be postmarked not later than 8:00 PM Eastern Time on Election Day (November 3 this year) and must be received within a period of days specified by law.  After having sealed the ballot envelope, place it in the mailing envelope such that your name and address on the ballot envelope appears in the clear window on the back of the mailing envelope, and seal that as well.  Your name and address should be written to the top left on the front.  It can then be mailed by any normal means.

The second is that there are reportedly ballot drop boxes, generally at polling locations, and you can insert the ballot envelope in the ballot box (without the outer mailing envelope) to deliver it directly to the board of elections.  This too must be done by or before 8:00 PM Eastern Time on Election Day.

The third is that you can use either of these methods but have someone else deliver your ballot either to the ballot box or the mailbox on your behalf.  No one is permitted to deliver more than three ballots, including his own, in an election, and no one who is a candidate can deliver a ballot that is not his own.  A person who handles your ballot must put his name, address, and signature on the ballot envelope and, if mailed, on the mailing envelope.

So that’s the whole ball of wax, as they say.  Remember, you should vote if you have reason to do so, but you should not feel obligated to vote for any office or any issue about which you are uninformed.

#347: Versers Scrambled

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #347, on the subject of Versers Scrambled.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first five novels, Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, Old Verses New, For Better or Verse, Spy Verses, and Garden of Versers, in serialized form on the web (those links will take you to the table of contents for each book).  Along with each book there was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as I have posted the sixth, Versers Versus Versers,  I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look may contain spoilers because it sometimes talks about my expectations for the futures of the characters and stories–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued, as being written partially concurrently with the story it sometimes discusses where I thought it was headed.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

This is the eighth and last mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 78 through 86.  Previous entries in this series include:

History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.

Chapter 78, Kondor 168

At this point I had two problems.  One was pacing; the other was bringing each of my characters to a satisfactory end for the book.  I still did not have worlds chosen for Slade or Beam, and was going to have to do one of them next, but I had at least two more Kondor chapters to bring him to the finish point, one more Hastings chapter, and probably one more Brown chapter.  I also had to decide who would be last.

This had been chapter 67 before the addition of the Takano chapters.

Chapter 79, Slade 167

Sometimes in play one gets an idea for a world, and sends a player character there to see what might happen.  This was like that, only less so initially–I had the notion that Slade would return to a future version of the parakeet valley world, but I was not at all certain how far future.  My three notions were medieval, modern, and science fiction, but I was not seeing much of a story for any of these.  I put it to Kyler, and he said definitely modern, but perhaps not quite modern–mid twentieth century or even late nineteenth century.  The notion of our auto mechanic appearing in the age of steam appealed to me, so that’s where we went.

I had already decided that the version of the language he spoke would have become something known only to scholars, but would still be recognized as language.

This was chapter 68 until the Takano chapters shifted it.

Chapter 80, Kondor 169

I had originally thought to do most of this in retrospect, but remembered an editor friend suggesting that action was better, so I tackled trying to tell more of it as it happened.

Before the addition of the Takano chapters this was chapter 69.

I once saw a Doctor Who special in which one of the companions commented that her job was to say “What is it, Doctor?” so the Doctor could explain, and that there were only so many ways to say that.  I think of that as the Amir asks Kondor that question.

Chapter 81, Beam 55

I pondered where to send Beam, and the best thing I could think of was a published world called The Industrial Complex.  The player on whom he is based was there when I was running him, and did some surprising things, so it might be a good direction for me.

Prior to including the Takano chapters this was chapter 70.

On the last edit I discovered that this was double-numbered Beam 54; there were no further Beam chapters in the book, so it just involved fixing this one.

Chapter 82, Hastings 185

At this point I decided I had to add the other character, so I began writing the Tomiko Takano stories.

I had originally written that Lauren did not sense any other versers, but was changing events such that Tomiko would be the girl on the curb, and that meant Lauren would detect someone but would not have time to learn more.

This was chapter 71 before the Takano chapters were added.

Chapter 83, Kondor 170

I had thought that I would be going directly from the report to the Amir to the defense of the shoreline, but then I recognized that there had to be some discussion about where the attack would come.

This had been chapter 72 until the Takano chapters were added.

Chapter 84, Takano 12

I knew this would be the end of the book for Tomiko; I still had to write the last chapter for Kondor.  I had to integrate what Tomiko saw with what I had already written for Lauren, as the stories were now overlapping.  The other problem was exactly how much of this new world I should write, knowing that I was going to have to pick it up in another book.

Then, of course, I was going to have to interweave the dozen Takano chapters into the six dozen chapters of the main story.

The decision to place it here between two Kondor chapters was connected to the decision to switch the order of the final two chapters of the book, discussed in connection with them.

Chapter 85, Kondor 171

Even though I had only written four chapters of the Tomiko story, I expected this would be the last chapter of the book, as all the characters came to cliffhanger endings.

This was originally chapter 74, and the final chapter of the book.  The reasons for changing that are discussed in connection with the final chapter; moving it also meant placing the last Takano chapter before it, so I wouldn’t have two Kondor chapters in a row.

Chapter 86, Brown 195

There was a question about whether when Derek got to the bridge a voice would say “Captain on the bridge” and some mechanical crewmen would snap to attention, or whether it would go as it did, with an artificially intelligent humanoid holding the position of captain.  When I got here, I decided that making Derek First Officer had a lot more potential for interesting story, including addressing why the captain has not maintained the education of the humanoid indigs aboard.

I swithered about whether this would be the last chapter, or whether Kondor would end the book.  I had considered Lauren as well, but decided against her at some point.

Originally I ended the book with Kondor 171, with this as the penultimate chapter.  However, when Kyler was reading the chapters he said that the Brown chapter was the best ending for the book, the best cliffhanger.  However, if I moved it that would give me two Kondor chapters in a row–which was remedied by putting the last Takano chapter between them, also having the benefit that it prevented me from going directly from Lauren throwing the child to Tomiko catching her.

This has been the eighth and last behind the writings look at Versers Versus Versers.  If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue with another novel and more behind the writings posts for it.

#327: Verser Separations

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #327, on the subject of Verser Separations.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first five novels, Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, Old Verses New, For Better or Verse, Spy Verses, and Garden of Versers, in serialized form on the web (those links will take you to the table of contents for each book).  Along with each book there was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as I have posted the sixth, Versers Versus Versers,  I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look may contain spoilers because it sometimes talks about my expectations for the futures of the characters and stories–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued, as being written partially concurrently with the story it sometimes discusses where I thought it was headed.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

This is the third mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 23 through 33.  Previous entries in this series include:

History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.

Chapter 23, Kondor 158

Once I got this part of the story moving, it was difficult to interrupt for other tasks.  I had just written three chapters in a row (originally 16-18), but took a break here for other tasks.

The explanation to Zeke about primary and secondary versers arose organically, but as I wrote it I realized it was going to be vital to the resolution of a future encounter I had planned.

This was chapter 19 before the Takano chapters were integrated.

Chapter 24, Beam 47

Mostly I wanted Beam to recognize that there were more versers than he’d guessed, and retreat to get better intel.  I picked up a few extra points along the way, including giving him the word “versers”.

This was chapter 20 before the Takano chapters were integrated.

Chapter 25, Slade 158

The briefing was a necessity; it also saved me several telepathic conversations between versers in different locations.  By having Bob tell the Caliph what he had been told, I didn’t need to go through the part about telling him; I only needed to include his instructions to Lauren at the end of their conversation, so that worked.

This was chapter 21 before the Takano chapters were integrated.

Chapter 26, Kondor 159

When I reached this point, I was not certain whose chapter this should be.  I wanted to delay Derek’s entrance to the next world partly because I wanted the reader wondering and partly because it was still coalescing in my own mind and I wasn’t entirely certain I had chosen a next world for him.  I wanted to delay Beam’s next chapter because it would move the plot closer to the endgame than I wanted to be yet, and I wanted to give the impression of time passing as he made the return trip.  I had just done Bob, so that left Lauren and Joe, who were in the same place, a place where I needed to figure out what was happening there.

While I was discussing this with Kyler, I commented that I was not certain what was happening at Vashti’s home, and among other comments said something about a memorial service for Derek and Vashti, which Kyler said was probably appropriate.  So I decided to go with Kondor’s viewpoint for it, and cover it as the deaths of heroes.

This was chapter 22 before the Takano chapters were integrated.

Chapter 27, Beam 48

It took a while to work out this plot, and I still am not certain how it will play out, but for the moment it gave me a good solid direction for the story.

Before the Takano chapters were integrated this was chapter 23.

Chapter 28, Brown 182

I had been toying with what kind of world to use, and I wanted something high-tech.  I had been working on something called The Wanderer, a fairly stock lost colony ship world, and settled on it mostly by default.  Since I had never gotten very far with it, I had a lot of room for details, and one of them was what kind of indigs would be aboard.

I discussed the aliens extensively with Kyler.  The question was whether to make them humans, or if alien just how alien to make them–Vulcans who could hide a few distinctive features, Klingons who were entirely humanoid but could never pass for human, Greys who were still humanoid but very alien, or E.T.s, clearly very different.  We agreed on something like Greys.

We also discussed the functions of melanin and chlorophyll, and decided on a paler skin color with some melanin but also some chlorophyll.

I was going to have Derek reunite with Vashti in this chapter, and then encounter aliens in the next, but it struck me that if he were running down main corridors it would be incongruous for him not to encounter anyone aboard.  Thus I had to introduce my aliens sooner, and put Vashti on hold until the next chapter.

Before the Takano chapters were integrated this was chapter 24.

Chapter 29, Takano 5

I am still exploring this world and trying to figure out what happens here, but I’ve a feeling it’s going to come to an abrupt ending fairly soon.  Tommy’s meeting with the witch probably doesn’t go well.

I wrote everything here before the meeting with the eagle before I went to bed, and then did the rest in the morning; I had intended to include the part about eating apples and forgot it when I was writing about breakfast, but went back and added it before I finished the chapter.

It had been six chapters, and seemed a suitable place to insert this one.

Chapter 30, Hastings 177

I put Lauren here because she had gone longest without a chapter; I realized immediately that I didn’t know what she could do, but then that was because she didn’t know what she could do, sitting at the Amir’s castle with only Joe and Zeke, so that gave me opportunity for her to teach Joe and Zeke.

I needed the Arabian story to move considerably more slowly at this point, which was difficult because I had four viewpoint characters in it and I had to keep their stories active and prevent them from being dull.  I also had to figure out what was happening in Derek’s story, which was not happening just yet.  My one advantage was that my four viewpoint characters were on three separate stages, so I could see what I could do with each of them.

This was chapter 25 before the Takano chapters were inserted.

Chapter 31, Slade 159

Part of this was the feeling that the story had to slow a bit here, and on every front.  Things were changing, and Slade was going to feel it, but they were getting tense in a different way.

This was chapter 26 before the Takano chapters were integrated.

Chapter 32, Brown 183

I had pondered the problems of the elevator, and it occurred to me that it would be a simple matter to adjust gravity to negate the feeling of movement, and that meant that the indigs would not realize the elevator moved but would regard it as a magical transport between decks.  It further would mean they didn’t have any sense that the decks were stacked above and below each other.

This was chapter 27 before the Takano chapters were integrated.

Chapter 33, Beam 49

I started from the point that Beam had no proof of his claimed victory over the unknown enemy verser, and went from there, winding up in the idea that he saw this as a game he would win.  It gave me a good spin on Beam’s thinking.

Before the Takano chapters were integrated this was chapter 28.

This has been the third behind the writings look at Versers Versus Versers.  If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue with more behind the writings posts for it.

#219: A 2017 Retrospective

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #219, on the subject of A 2017 Retrospective.

A year ago, plus a couple days, on the last day of 2016 we posted web log post #150:  2016 Retrospective.  We are a couple days into the new year but have not yet posted anything new this year, so we’ll take a look at what was posted in 2017.

Beginning “off-site”, there was a lot at the Christian Gamers Guild, as the Faith and Gaming series ran the rest of its articles.  I also launched two new monthly series there in the last month of the year, with introductory articles Faith in Play #1:  Reintroduction, continuing the theme of the Faith and Gaming series, and RPG-ology #1:  Near Redundancy, reviving some of the lost work and adding more to the Game Ideas Unlimited series of decades back.  In addition to the Faith and Gaming materials, the webmaster republished two articles from early editions of The Way, the Truth, and the Dice, the first Magic:  Essential to Faith, Essential to Fantasy from the magic symposium, and the second Real and Imaginary Violence, about the objection that role playing games might be too violent.  I also contributed a new article at the beginning of the year, A Christian Game, providing rules for a game-like activity using scripture.  Near the end of the year–the end of November, actually–I posted a review of all the articles from eighteen months there, as Overview of the Articles on the New Christian Gamers Guild Website.

That’s apart from the Chaplain’s Bible Study posts, where we finished the three Johannine epistles and Jude and have gotten about a third of the way through Revelation.  There have also been Musings posts on the weekends.

Over at Goodreads I’ve reviewed quite a few books.

Turning to the mark Joseph “young” web log, we began the year with #151:  A Musician’s Resume, giving my experience and credentials as a Christian musician.  That subject was addressed from a different direction in #163:  So You Want to Be a Christian Musician, from the advice I received from successful Christian musicians, with my own feeling about it.  Music was also the subject of #181:  Anatomy of a Songwriting Collaboration, the steps involved in creating the song Even You, with link to the recording.

We turned our New Year’s attention to the keeping of resolutions with a bit of practical advice in #152:  Breaking a Habit, my father’s techniques for quitting smoking more broadly applied.

A few of the practical ones related to driving, including #154:  The Danger of Cruise Control, presenting the hazard involved in the device and how to manage it, #155:  Driving on Ice and Snow, advice on how to do it, and #204:  When the Brakes Fail, suggesting ways to address the highly unlikely but cinematically popular problem of the brakes failing and the accelerator sticking.

In an odd esoteric turn, we discussed #153:  What Are Ghosts?, considering the possible explanations for the observed phenomena.  Unrelated, #184:  Remembering Adam Keller, gave recollections on the death of a friend.  Also not falling conveniently into a usual category, #193:  Yelling:  An Introspection, reflected on the internal impact of being the target of yelling.

Our Law and Politics articles considered several Supreme Court cases, beginning with a preliminary look at #156:  A New Slant on Offensive Trademarks, the trademark case brought by Asian rock band The Slants and how it potentially impacts trademark law.  The resolution of this case was also covered in #194:  Slanting in Favor of Free Speech, reporting the favorable outcome of The Slant’s trademark dispute, plus the Packingham case regarding laws preventing sex offenders from accessing social networking sites.

Other court cases included #158:  Show Me Religious Freedom, examining the Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley case in which a church school wanted to receive the benefits of a tire recycling playground resurfacing program; this was resolved and covered in #196:  A Church and State Playground, followup on the Trinity Lutheran playground paving case.  #190:  Praise for a Ginsberg Equal Protection Opinion, admires the decision in the immigration and citizenship case Morales-Santana.

We also addressed political issues with #171:  The President (of the Seventh Day Baptist Convention), noting that political terms of office are not eternal; #172:  Why Not Democracy?, a consideration of the disadvantages of a more democratic system; #175:  Climate Change Skepticism, about a middle ground between climate change extremism and climate change denial; #176:  Not Paying for Health Care, about socialized medicine costs and complications; #179:  Right to Choose, responding to the criticism that a male white Congressman should not have the right to take away the right of a female black teenager to choose Planned Parenthood as a free provider of her contraceptive services, and that aspect of taking away someone’s right to choose as applied to the unborn.

We presumed to make a suggestion #159:  To Compassion International, recommending a means for the charitable organization to continue delivering aid to impoverished children in India in the face of new legal obstacles.  We also had some words for PETA in #162:  Furry Thinking, as PETA criticized Games Workshop for putting plastic fur on its miniatures and we discuss the fundamental concepts behind human treatment of animals.

We also talked about discrimination, including discriminatory awards programs #166:  A Ghetto of Our Own, awards targeted to the best of a particular racial group, based on similar awards for Christian musicians; #207:  The Gender Identity Trap, observing that the notion that someone is a different gender on the inside than his or her sex on the outside is confusing cultural expectations with reality, and #212:  Gender Subjectivity, continuing that discussion with consideration of how someone can know that they feel like somthing they have never been.  #217:  The Sexual Harassment Scandal, addressed the recent explosion of sexual harassment allegations.

We covered the election in New Jersey with #210:  New Jersey 2017 Gubernatorial Election, giving an overview of the candidates in the race, #211:  New Jersey 2017 Ballot Questions, suggesting voting against both the library funding question and the environmental lock box question, and #214:  New Jersey 2017 Election Results, giving the general outcome in the major races for governor, state legislature, and public questions.

Related to elections, #213:  Political Fragmentation, looks at the Pew survey results on political typology.

We recalled a lesson in legislative decision-making with #182:  Emotionalism and Science, the story of Tris in flame-retardant infant clothing, and the warning against solutions that have not been considered for their other effects.  We further discussed #200:  Confederates, connecting what the Confederacy really stood for with modern issues; and #203:  Electoral College End Run, opposing the notion of bypassing the Constitutional means of selecting a President by having States pass laws assigning their Electoral Votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote.

2017 also saw the publication of the entirety of the third Multiverser novel, For Better or Verse, along with a dozen web log posts looking behind the writing process, which are all indexed in that table of contents page.  There were also updated character papers for major and some supporting characters in the Multiverser Novel Support Pages section, and before the year ended we began releasing the fourth novel, serialized, Spy Verses, with the first of its behind-the-writings posts, #218:  Versers Resume, with individual sections for the first twenty-one chapters.

Our Bible and Theology posts included #160:  For All In Authority, discussing praying for our leaders, and protesting against them; #165:  Saints Alive, regarding statues of saints and prayers offered to them; #168:  Praying for You, my conditional offer to pray for others, in ministry or otherwise; #173:  Hospitalization Benefits, about those who prayed for my recovery; #177:  I Am Not Second, on putting ourselves last; #178:  Alive for a Reason, that we all have purpose as long as we are alive; #187:  Sacrificing Sola Fide, response to Walter Bjorck’s suggestion that it be eliminated for Christian unity; #192:  Updating the Bible’s Gender Language, in response to reactions to the Southern Baptist Convention’s promise to do so; #208:  Halloween, responding to a Facebook question regarding the Christian response to the holiday celebrations; #215:  What Forty-One Years of Marriage Really Means, reacting to Facebook applause for our anniversary with discussion of trust and forgiveness, contracts versus covenants; and #216:  Why Are You Here?, discussing the purpose of human existence.

We gave what was really advice for writers in #161:  Pseudovulgarity, about the words we don’t say and the words we say instead.

On the subject of games, I wrote about #167:  Cybergame Timing, a suggestion for improving some of those games we play on our cell phones and Facebook pages, and a loosely related post, #188:  Downward Upgrades, the problem of ever-burgeoning programs for smart phones.  I guested at a convention, and wrote of it in #189:  An AnimeNEXT 2017 Experience, reflecting on being a guest at the convention.  I consider probabilities to be a gaming issue, and so include here #195:  Probabilities in Dishwashing, calculating a problem based on cup colors.

I have promised to do more time travel; home situations have impeded my ability to watch movies not favored by my wife, but this is anticipated to change soon.  I did offer #185:  Notes on Time Travel in The Flash, considering time remnants and time wraiths in the superhero series; #199:  Time Travel Movies that Work, a brief list of time travel movies whose temporal problems are minimal; #201:  The Grandfather Paradox Solution, answering a Facebook question about what happens if a traveler accidentally causes the undoing of his own existence; and #206:  Temporal Thoughts on Colkatay Columbus, deciding that the movie in which Christopher Columbus reaches India in the twenty-first century is not a time travel film.

I launched a new set of forums, and announced them in #197:  Launching the mark Joseph “young” Forums, officially opening the forum section of the web site.  Unfortunately I announced them four days before landing in the hospital for the first of three summer hospitalizations–of the sixty-two days comprising July and August this year, I spent thirty-one of them in one or another of three hospitals, putting a serious dent in my writing time.  I have not yet managed to refocus on those forums, for which I blame my own post-surgical life complications and those of my wife, who also spent a significant stretch of time hospitalized and in post-hospitalization rehabilitation, and in extended recovery.  Again I express my gratitude for the prayers and other support of those who brought us through these difficulties, which are hopefully nearing an end.

Which is to say, I expect to offer you more in the coming year.  The fourth novel is already being posted, and a fifth Multiverser novel is being written in collaboration with a promising young author.  There are a few time travel movies available on Netflix, which I hope to be able to analyze soon.  There are a stack of intriguing Supreme Court cases for which I am trying to await the resolutions.  Your continued support as readers–and as Patreon and PayPal.me contributors–will bring these to realization.

Thank you.

#58: Acceptable Killing In Our Society

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #58, on the subject of Acceptable Killing In Our Society.

This began because someone of my acquaintance posted a video supporting abortion.  The blurb under the video read, in part:

There are many reasons why a woman might decide to end a pregnancy—and many barriers to safe and legal abortion.

I did not want to start a fight, but I found that statement quite offensive–offensive enough that I felt it necessary to reply:

There are many reasons why a parent might want to kill his or her own child, but that does not mean we as a society have to approve that.

The question is whether an unborn child is still a child.  The answer cannot be so easily presumed.

I included a link to mark Joseph “young” web log post #7:  The Most Persecuted Minority.

She replied:

You are close in trying to identify the correct question in regards to this issue.  The real question though, remains when in the stages of pregnancy do you develop a child?  Only when than [sic] can be determined, should it be appropriate to address your question.  In our society, the answer is yes.  It is acceptable to kill.  We kill in war.  We kill on the streets.  We allow for capital punishment.  We allow for assisted suicide.  I am never going to argue if abortion is morally correct.  But what you attempted to address is the one question others throw out there with buzz words like “kill,” and “child.”  If the question was simply, should a pregnant female be given rights to determine to carry a child to whatever capacity she chooses, then hotheads would have little to rage over.  What America is trying to measure with your argument Mark, is can we limit human potential, and if so, to what extent?

I could see that pursuing this in that format was going to become unwieldy, so I pondered for a while and decided to respond here.


I will confess that I am not entirely certain of everything she meant in that post, particularly at the end concerning the phrase “limit human potential”.  Is she talking about limiting the potential of mothers by requiring them to bear the children they have conceived, or of children by killing them before they breathe the air, or something else?  That, though, is not the bulk of her comment, and it is the other part that particularly disturbs me.  She raises the question of whether in our society killing is acceptable, and affirms that it is, following this by a list of “acceptable” situations for killing.  I am going to change the sequence some, but I argue that killing people is not acceptable behavior in our society, despite her examples to the contrary.

Let’s begin with

We kill on the streets.

I doubt she means in traffic accidents.  Vehicular homicide frequently results in at least an involuntary manslaughter charge.  Certainly there are accidents in which someone dies and it is ruled that no one is at fault, just as if a bit of space debris happens to crash into your house you can’t sue NASA.  That amounts to an admission that we accept that modern technological life is a bit dangerous and some people are going to die through no one’s fault.  Yet clearly, although there are vehicular murders (and they are so treated), this is hardly an example of society accepting that we are permitted to kill each other.

Killing on the streets seems rather to imply the intentional action of killing each other, and we have a fair amount of that in gang warfare and drive-by shootings.  That we have them, though, does not mean we accept them.  Every such incident is treated as a homicide investigation with the intention of bringing murder charges against the perpetrator.  They are not all solved, and not all the perpetrators are convicted, but we don’t really accept that these killings are blameless despite their frequency in our society.  Sometimes we call it “terrorism” and make a federal case of it.

On the other hand, it is sometimes the case that the police shoot people on the street and are exonerated.  The famous cases are of course when a white police officer shoots a black person, but black police officers shoot white people also.  In every case of an “officer-involved shooting” there is an investigation, the officer is usually suspended pending the outcome of the investigation, and in some cases charges ranging from disciplinary actions to murder convictions follow.  That in most cases our officers are cleared of guilt indicates bias only sometimes; it more often commends the training they have been given.  After all, there are situations in which we excuse and even justify killings–self-defense and defense of third persons the two that most commonly apply in these cases.  Yet when a claim is made of self-defense or defense of third persons, there is always an investigation to determine whether indeed those claims are justifiable.

Our justification for killing the unborn is that they pose a threat to the life or physical well-being of the mother, but no one investigates whether that claim is justifiable, and “the health of the mother” has become a phrase with little more meaning than her convenience.

So what of this:

We allow for assisted suicide.

Do we?

The most current information available to me says that four states–California, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont–have passed legislation permitting physician-assisted suicide, with very specific guidelines (patient must be a resident of the state, at least 18 years of age, have not more than six months of life expectancy remaining, and have requested help from the physician at least once in writing and twice orally not less than fifteen days apart).  One state, Montana, has a state supreme court ruling allowing physician-assisted suicide for state residents, without any clear parameters otherwise.  There are four other states in which the law is uncertain–Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and North Carolina.  In the remaining forty-one states, if you assist someone in a suicide you may be charged with conspiracy to commit murder.  In no state is it lawful for someone who is not a physician to assist.  That hardly counts as “acceptable”.  It is also illegal in most countries around the world, although a few have permitted it under specified conditions.

Certainly there are a lot of people who think that we ought to permit suffering terminally ill persons to end their own lives, and allow medical professionals to help them.  There are also people who think we ought to do this for the severely handicapped, without their consent.  To this point, the bulk of public opinion is against the idea that people should be permitted to kill themselves, or to help others kill themselves, with impunity.

Our justification for assisted suicide, in those places where it is permitted, is that the patient wants to die, is suffering terribly, and will not live much longer anyway.  No one asks the unborn child if he would rather live or die.

The next might be more difficult:

We allow for capital punishment.

Yes, in many cases we do.  As of last year, thirty-one states had a legal death penalty; of those, four had such a law but with a moratorium declared by the governor so that there could be no executions until specific issues were resolved.  Nineteen states have made the death penalty illegal, and although they include populous states such as New York, New Jersey, and Illinois, they do not include the most populous California or the significant Ohio, Texas, and Florida.  Popular opinion seems to favor the death penalty.

However, death penalty cases involve what we call due process:  judges and juries must listen to the evidence and arguments presented by trained legal professionals, and reach the conclusion that this individual deserves to die.

One of the two objections to the death penalty, the one that is the more cogent in practice, is that given human fallibility it is entirely possible that we are killing the wrong person.  That criminals on death row are later released (not usually because they have been exonerated but because some flaw in the legal process leading to their conviction or sentencing has been identified) certainly demonstrates that fallibility.  That, though, only means that were we completely certain of the guilt and desert of the criminal the sentence would be accepted.  The more significant objection, in our present concern, is whether anyone ever deserves to be killed.  As Gandalf says to Frodo, many died fighting in the war who should have lived; if you are unable to restore them to life, do not be overly quick to take life from another, however guilty you might think him.  We might agree that someone ought to die, but object to the notion that any of us therefore ought to kill him.  So we have this argument, and gradually more and more of the country is rejecting capital punishment.

However, we are having this argument precisely because we have an agreed moral/ethical principle that it is wrong to kill another human being, and we disagree as to whether this is a viable exception to that rule.  Yet if it is, it is based on the conclusion that this person deserves to die.

No one has attempted to say that the aborted child deserved to die, or if they did it was by transference of hatred toward the parent to the child.

That leaves only the most difficult example:

We kill in war.

Yes, we do, and we consider such killing justified, at least when we do it.  Yet it is important to understand why.

There were quite a few wars in the twentieth century.  They occurred for one of two reasons:

  1. One group believed that their lives or freedoms were threatened or compromised by another group, and initiated a war to free themselves from this threat.
  2. One group desired to take possession of the territory, population, or resources of another group, usually based on some claim of right, and so initiated war to seize possession.

Throughout the twentieth century, the United States has always sided with groups we perceived as the oppressed or threatened and against the aggressors.  Our justification for being involved in the war was always the defense of third persons or, ultimately, defense of ourselves.  Our motives might be impugned in many instances–did we defend Kuwait for the sake of Kuwait or because of American oil interests?–but enough of us considered the defense of the people of one country from the aggressions of another a viable moral basis for becoming involved in a war that had already started that these fit the general pattern.  We do not approve war; we do not find it acceptable to wage war for any interests other than stopping someone else’s aggression or oppression.

The reasons for killing in war again do not apply to killing an unborn child.

There are ultimately only three questions concerning abortion:

  1. Is it wrong to kill a human being, absent some specific justification or excuse?  If you answer no to this question, you invalidate all laws against murder and manslaughter and all liability for accidental death.
  2. Is an unborn child a human being?  This is the usual point of the argument, to which I note first that in the absence of certainty we ought to err on the side of caution and defend the life of a “potential human being”, and second that most vegetarians who won’t eat chicken won’t eat eggs, either.
  3. Is the convenience of a parent a sufficient justification or excuse for killing a child?  If you answer yes to this, you justify infanticide, and must find a point at which that no longer applies.  People usually say “viability”, but on the one hand medical advances are pushing back the moment at which a child can survive outside the womb, and on the other hand if viability means the ability to survive completely unaided by anyone else, there are few adults in this country who could do so absent the infrastructural support of thousands of others who provide the necessities of life.  I’m not viable anymore; I could not survive a month in the wilderness unaided by supplies provided by others.

I thus disagree that our society has accepted killing, in the sense that it is acceptable to kill another human being.  If we had, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Boston Marathon would not have been crimes.  We pretend that abortion is a justifiable killing because the victim is unable to speak for himself.  That applies, though, to thousands of infant, handicapped, and elderly persons, and society is not ready to justify the killings of those people, because we recognize them to be people and do not regard the killing of people as “acceptable”.

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#23: Armageddon and Presidential Politics

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #23, on the subject of Armageddon and Presidential Politics.

A popular atheist recently suggested that Presidential candidates, and particularly Republican candidates, needed to be asked a theological question:  do you believe that the end of the world is imminent, and if so is that a good or a bad thing?  If war in the Middle East is positioned to blossom into Armageddon and the return of Christ, do we want to prevent the war, or encourage it?

Austrian forces ascending Mount Zion in World War I
Austrian forces ascending Mount Zion in World War I

That might be a good question for a potential leader of the most powerful military forces in the world, but it might also be a good question for the rest of us.  At least, we should consider what answer our leader ought to give.

Despite what many prophecy teachers say, the sequence of events leading to the end of the world is not at all clear–some predictions touted as major parts of some theories are almost certainly predicting the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by Titus.  I have briefly reviewed the major theories (in The Sandy Becker Theory of Eschatology) along with some of the strengths and weaknesses of each and why I believe we cannot resolve the matter.  However, there are many who are quite persuaded of one theory or another, and the one currently in ascendancy, indeed since early in the twentieth century, has been a version of “pre-millenialism” (if you do not know what that is, read the other article and return) in which Israel plays a major role and there is a massive world war centered in the Middle East.  Every skirmish that occurs in the region, from the battles which took the territory from the Ottoman Empire in World War I to the Yom Kippur War to the current Islamic State battles, sparks anew the expectation that this might be the fight that brings all the armies of the world together to be defeated by the return of Christ.

The return of Christ is an event which Christians around the world have been anticipating for nearly two millennia, whatever our beliefs concerning what precipitates it.  Late in the first century, the book variously known as The Revelation (from the Latin for “unveiling”) or The Apocalypse (from the Greek for “uncovering”) introduced to the faith the word which in English we make “Maranatha”, “Come, Our Lord” (although whether the original was marana tha, “Come our Lord”, or maran atha, “Our Lord has come”, is a question that cannot be settled from the manuscripts).  We are instructed to watch for that coming, to anticipate it, to be prepared for it, even to want it and to work to hasten it–and in times when the world is falling into chaos and wickedness and darkness, it is easy to want it more.

On the other hand, we are told by Peter that the delay is an expression of God’s mercy:  the moment Jesus returns, the door closes, and anyone who has not entered may not do so.  It does not seem to be our place to call for the end of mercy, the closing of the door, and many of us would not do so merely because we have family or friends or colleagues who have not turned to Christ for forgiveness and salvation.  I would rather not see strangers excluded from grace, and while I often note that there is no one apart from myself I am completely certain without any doubt has been forgiven and accepted by God, with varying degrees concerning other specific persons from “almost certainly” to “probably not”, I am not really in a hurry to have God terminate the free limited-time offer of acceptance into His family, and I don’t think that other believers should be so, either.  Don’t get me wrong:  I would love to have gone home already, if I were the only person who mattered.  I just don’t think that I’m the only person who matters, even to me, nor to most believers in the world, and certainly not to God.

How, then, do we hasten the return of Christ and the end of the world, without hastening the end of the world as a path to the return of Christ?

The first thing we need to understand is that the one leads to the other, but the other is not the path to the one.  That is, whether or not theories about a literal military battle at the Valley of Megiddo (har-megeddon) in which all the armies of the world are defeated in combat against an angelic host led by the resurrected and returning Jesus, we do not make that happen, indeed, we are completely unable to cause that to happen, by leading the world into war in the region.  The return of Christ brings the end of the world as we know it, but it is possible that the world as we know it could end without bringing the return of Christ–indeed, arguably that has happened several times in history, most notably with the fall of the Roman Empire.

The second thing to grasp is that if such a battle is in fact the solution to the mysteriously metaphorical explanations of future events in John’s great apocalyptic vision, we will not be able to prevent it–but that does not mean we are not obligated to attempt to do so.  “God has called us to peace,” and while that was Paul’s reason in I Corinthians for why a Christian whose spouse had been unfaithful should let the unfaithful spouse decide whether to preserve the marriage or get divorced, it is used as a fundamental principle of Christian conduct:  we do not pick fights.  We were instructed once by Christ to take swords with us if we had them, so we certainly have a basis to justify fighting when it is clearly necessary (and to debate just what fights are clearly necessary and when the right choice is to suffer the injury, to “turn the other cheek”).  Yet our preference should always be for the peaceful resolution, even while keeping our sword within reach.

So for our Presidential candidates, the “right” answer to the question is probably this:

I eagerly anticipate the return of Christ, and whatever events will lead up to that, but I do not know with any certainty what those events are and will not be party to a war we can avoid honorably for any reason other than it is necessary for the safety of this country and the world in terms that persons of every faith or no faith can at least recognize as plausibly legitimate.

That is also the answer we should give if we are asked that question.

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