About mormonchess

Arabic linguist. Married to a wonderful wife with children. Crypto-geek. Proponent of Bardolatry.

The Rittenhouse Apocalypse

The saga reveals where we’re at currently, and where we’re probably headed

The Rittenhouse saga has, at least in my own mind, made clear that we no longer live in the United States of my youth and upbringing. I cannot pinpoint precisely when our country was transmogrified into something else entirely, but it happened fairly recently (within the last ten or fifteen years) and the result is that we are, broadly speaking, two radically different peoples living under the same system of government and society. For open and obvious reasons, this can’t continue indefinitely. This is going to get resolved, one way or the other.

Don’t believe me? Then look at the Rittenhouse affair, from beginning to end. From the very inception of the controversy to the end of the trial yesterday with a verdict of Not Guilty, people were viewing two radically different scripts, despite there being only one set of clear facts.1 Kyle Rittenhouse was attacked by thugs with criminal records and he defended himself using lawful and legal means. Yet for the past nearly year and a half, the mainstream media, powerful elites and politicians, and progressive drones all maintained (and continue to do so, despite the not guilty verdict) that Kyle Rittenhouse was a white supremacist vigilante who murdered two people and nearly murdered two others.

These two narratives are so diametrically opposed, and so intrinsically unreconcilable, that one is left to wonder how our society has devolved to this point. I don’t claim to have all the answers. But I have some thoughts on the subject, which I will share in this essay.

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Sudan On the Brink

Sudan is currently poised on a knife’s edge. After decades of strife, genocide, and brutal civil wars, two years ago in April 2019 the population rose up against their autocratic dictator and indicted war criminal, Omar al-Bashir. When his own military forces refused to fire on the demonstrating civilian population, he was deposed the very next day. (Autocrats depend on a loyal military to enforce their will; once al-Bashir lost that trust with his military, it was game over for him.)

Since 2019, Sudan has been governed by a very uneasy partnership between various and sundry civilian groups, led by the Freedom and Change party (“الحرية والتغيير”), and the military and security apparatus. This is essentially a power-sharing agreement, with the executive and legislative functions being controlled by six civilians and five military leaders. It is very much a transitional, temporary arrangement that ostensibly is obligated to lead to democratic elections next year in 2022. The current civilian leader is Abdalla Hamdok, who spent decades in Sudanese public administration. The military leader is Abdel Fattah al-Birhan. The clock is ticking and 2022 is right around the corner. Will Sudan achieve its goal of complete transition to a democratic state?

Right now, there is a festering power struggle between the civilian Hamdok and the military al-Birhan. How this power struggle resolves itself will determine the fate of millions of Sudanese. It seems apparent from recent decisions and actions by al-Birhan that he is seeking to marginalize Hamdok and the civilian groups led by Freedom and Change. If these indications are true, then this is a troubling development in a country that seemed to be trending toward a brighter and more just future over the last two years.

Why do I bring all this up? In early 2020, Elder David A. Bednar and his wife visited Sudan. You can see a summary of his visit here and here. In May of this year, Sudanese government officials visited Salt Lake City to meet with Church leaders, including Elder Bednar. Reading between the lines, it appears that the Church is trying to establish deep and firm ties with the new transitional government. Naturally, we’re giving aid and humanitarian support to a country that needs it. But I also think that Elder Bednar is laying the foundation for the Church to be officially recognized in Sudan. This is a golden opportunity for the Church to be able to work openly in a country that has been closed to our missionary efforts for many decades.

If Sudan veers back to military dictatorship, then that window will close once again, quite possibly for many more years. Thus, it’s imperative that the civilian side prevail in this ongoing power struggle and that democratic, pluralistic norms take root and flourish in a country that so desperately needs it.

I also bring the issue of Sudan up because I have some personal reasons to care about it. Many years ago, when I learned Arabic as part of my job with the military, many of my Arabic teachers at the Defense Language Institute were Sudanese expats. To this day, I’ve not met a nicer group of human beings. Easy going, apt to laughter, with light in their eyes and a genuine concern and caring for others — those are the characteristics that I found in every Sudanese teacher I came across.

I believe that Heavenly Father wants the Sudanese people to have the opportunity to welcome and receive the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is why Elder Bednar and his wife have been working so hard on forging relationships with the transitional government of Sudan. That is why they were able to break off the shackles of dictatorship and give a taste of freedom to so many good people.

Will you join me in praying that Sudan can survive the current threats to its peace?

Immanentize the Algorithm

A brave new world of thought control.

Some disturbing developments have been afoot in the socio-political realm for quite some time. We are all familiar with the censorious behavior of Big Tech, where you can be deplatformed for being a Bad Person. But only the right kind of Bad Person. Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States, can’t be allowed on Twitter, for instance. However, the Taliban is welcome.

We have seen over the past year Democrat politicians openly asking Big Tech to censor conservatives. They aren’t even being subtle about it. They have full-on embraced a model referred to as the corporate governance model. I follow Jonathan Turley’s blog, and he has covered this issue in excruciating detail. For those that don’t know Mr. Turley, he’s on the left, although he is what you might call a classical leftist: a believer in freedom of speech. That almost makes him a conservative these days.

Turley tells us that Democrat politicians, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., are calling upon corporations to do what the government constitutionally cannot: censor viewpoints that they disagree with. Inevitably, this almost always involves corporations controlling, deleting, or suspending, the stated opinions that people like Senator Warren deem “unacceptable.” Like, for instance, skepticism over COVID-19 origins, or the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines developed over the past year, or the truth of climate change, etc. Usually these are embraced by conservatives, although not always. (For instance, large numbers of black Americans are refusing to get vaccinated, which is ironic since President Biden and his handlers routinely engage in fantasy that vaccine holdouts are only found on the right.) There’s a legal argument to be made that these private corporations are becoming agents of the government. And as government agents, they lose their own first amendment protections. The Supreme Court has ruled consistently that private corporations acting as government agents are bound by the U.S. Constitution. All that is needed is the right case and the proper court and I think Big Tech can eventually be reined in. Not before, however, a lot of damage has been done.

They frame these calls for censorship as a “harm reduction model.” As always, it’s Safety First for these fascists. Liberty, freedom, agency . . . all that stuff has to go. When you frame having a viewpoint or opinion as “causing harm,” you’re engaging in the absolute worst kind of venal manipulation. My hat’s off to the Left: they really know how to win.

Turley says: “In her letter, Warren gave the company 14 days to change its algorithms to throttle and obstruct efforts to read opposing views. What was most striking about this incident is that Warren was eager for others to see her efforts to promote a form of censorship.”

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Persecution Is Coming


Geoff B suggested this needed to be posted here at Millennial Star. I’m happy to oblige. These are my thoughts, your mileage may vary, of course.

For many years, I’ve followed a rather eclectic group of men and women who spend a lot of time thinking deeply about various issues, and then writing their thoughts about those topics. I don’t always agree with everything they say, but I deeply appreciate knowing what they have to tell us, and I recognize that many of them really do know what they are talking about because they have spent years or decades thinking about the issues and studying them in great detail. I have been enriched by their thoughts and writings, and over the last decade, my viewpoints on a lot of things have changed drastically, primarily due to their influence in opening my eyes to some festering issues that have laid just under the rock of our social structures.

One writer that I have followed consistently is Rod Dreher. Mr. Dreher is formerly a journalist, currently an author, blogger and pundit. He has written several books, the most prominent of which are Live Not By Lies and The Benedict Option. Both are must-reads if you care at all about living a religiously informed life in the West or in the United States. He has a world wide following, particularly in Europe and the United States. But he has readers in Africa, Asia, all over the place. He is religious, and his faith informs his study and his viewpoint. However, he doesn’t push his religion on his readers, but he is very transparent about his beliefs. For many years he was a faithful Catholic; he broke from the Catholic Church nearly twenty years because of the international pedophile priest scandal. He fled to the Orthodox faith, and that is his spiritual home.

I don’t agree with every jot and tittle of what Mr. Dreher writes about. We don’t view politics, for example, through the same lens. He was, and is, extremely hard on Donald Trump whereas I am far less critical. But whatever. His value to me is his profoundly deep insights into religion, into our cultural insanity in our contemporary society and politics, and his quite trenchant commentary on a host of issues that we grapple with in the now third decade of the 21st Century.

Without stepping the reader into all the details, Dreher has been keeping his finger on the pulse of our rotting corpse culture for many years now. He was clear-eyed from the very beginning about what Obergefell was going to do to religious freedom in the United States. He saw the growing intolerance in our social and secular institutions towards Christians before most anyone knew that it was becoming a problem. He saw the handwriting on the wall long before many other people saw these issues. His is a voice that needs greater dissemination.

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Why Loyalty to the Church as an Institution is Part of the Baptismal Covenant

A cross-post from my blog.

As I survey the “Bloggernacle”, I see and hear many disparate voices competing for attention.  The most strident of these voices are those who seem to have a bone to pick with the Church, whether administratively, constitutionally, or with doctrine or policy.  Some of these voices continue to express dismay over the composition of the leading officers of the Church (e.g., not enough persons of color, too old, too many millionaires, not enough women, etc).  Some continue to complain that the Church hasn’t issued an apology for its past institutional “sins”.  Some argue that it is necessary for grassroots “agitation” in order to get the Church to “change for the better”; a bottom-up agenda as opposed to the current centralized, top-down management of the Church.

This is just a mere summary of the critical nature of many, many sites of the “Bloggernacle”.  One could be led to conclude that many, many online Mormons are intensely or at least partially dissatisfied with the Church, whether with its doctrines, practices, composition of the leadership, or its style.  This leads me to ask the question: why this intense dissatisfaction?  Is loyalty to the Church simply out of the question for the “Bloggernacle” at large?

When people are formally baptized, they gain admission to the Church as a “member”.  A record is actually physically created, their names go on the books, and they then become a claimant to the blessings and privileges of membership in the organization.  They get the benefits.  They get to participate.

Yet membership also implies certain duties and obligations.  As a member, I am expected to contribute my time and talents in support of the organization I join.  For example, it would be silly to join a national chess federation if I did not plan on playing chess, watching games of chess sponsored by the organization, or pay my dues to support its functions.  Likewise, I would not join the organization and then spend the balance of my life telling people how lame the group was, or how insipid, or out of touch the governing board of the federation were.

My point in bringing this up is to illustrate an attribute of membership that doesn’t get a lot of attention or focus.  It’s also a word that does not merit a whole lot of respect in our early 21st century culture.  This word is an ideal that we humans seek to share with each other in many contexts and situations.  The word is Loyalty.
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