Tag Archives: War

#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.

img0058Guns

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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