Asperger’s Is Not an Excuse, Actions Still Have Consequences, and Humanity is Still Totally Depraved

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I am glad that some thinking people are starting to understand that keeping people from protecting themselves and their families does nothing to change the fact that killers will kill. Even in the light of the past couple weeks’ worth of senseless shootings- and I freely admit that the existence of evil is something I don’t comprehend- I still believe that the Framers of the Constitution had the right idea when they included:

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary for the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed. “

The Second Amendment has been expounded upon by far greater minds than mine, however, there are two points being made here.  Some more left-leaning interpretations of the Second Amendment take the first part about a well regulated militia and assume that meant that the Framers were talking about the armed forces, National Guard and law enforcement but not about private individuals.  What they are leaving out is a knowledge of 18th century history.  In the 18th century there was really no full-time armed forces, but individuals who would volunteer in time of war (a concept similar to a very rudimentary National Guard) and individuals had to keep their own weaponry in order to be able to be available when the need arose.

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Fast forward to the 21st century.  Most Americans have no concept of what it would be like to have to defend one’s life and property if a scenario such as the one proposed in the film “Red Dawn” would arise, where there would be war in streets and neighborhoods rather than an abstract concept of soldiers and armies fighting over obscure hills and fields in far-distant lands.  However, many Americans have experienced armed robbery, assault and other crimes of violence that could have been prevented if the victim had been able to defend him/herself.  The Framers had a solution to that: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”  The Framers not only believed so heartily in a strong national defense that it is one of only two responsibilities of the Federal government spelled out in the Constitution, but they also added it to the Bill of Rights- along with the proviso that individuals also have the right to defend their person and property.  In this statement the right to self defense is underscored as a natural right rather than a privilege granted (or withheld) by the whim of the state.

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I don’t have any problem at all with responsible gun ownership.  The law-abiding person who owns a gun and has had appropriate background checks and safety training is not generally the person you have to worry about- unless you are trying to perpetrate crime.  On the other hand, the unarmed are all potential victims.  All one has to do to be a victim is to be in the wrong place at the right time.

This being said, I can go back to the fundamental argument that guns don’t kill people any more than spoons make people fat.  The conscious decision to aim a firearm and pull the trigger is what kills.  It’s easy to go around screaming “gun control,” until one realizes that the decision of a killer is the root of the lethal mechanism.  It is possible to kill with bare hands, with knives, with poison, with motor vehicles, with a baseball bat.  The possibilities of potential lethal weapons are only limited by a potential killer’s imagination and desperation.  Banning firearms just means killers will find weapons other than guns to kill people with.  There are still murders in the UK and in every other country where strict gun control has been enacted.  The murderous impulse does not lie in an armament of steel, but in the convoluted and dark malice dwelling in a killer’s heart.

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Dark malice that can lead to murder can surface in any human being alive today if circumstances and opportunity press that individual hard enough.  Evil is that pervasive in this world.  I don’t subscribe to all of Calvinism (my soteriological leanings are more congruent with Molinism) but I agree with 100% of one of the petals of Calvin’s TULIP- the Total Depravity of man.

Human beings, if left to their own devices, are 100% self serving.  I’ve heard every excuse out there for why people kill- video games, bad childhoods, being deprived, being over-indulged, crappy schools, being bullied, being introverted, being mocked, et cetera and so on.  I think a better question, given the total depravity of man, is what keeps everyone from becoming a killer?   Or are we all killers, and the severity of our behavior is simply a matter of degree?  If so, then what is the mechanism of our restraint?  Does it have to do with the wiring of the frontal lobe of the brain, or is it a matter of the will, or a combination of both?  I believe it is entirely possible that the only thing that restrains most from indulging their darker urges is simply the grace and mercy of God.

Even though I believe that there is a God and that He is highly involved in the lives of humanity, I also believe that He expects people to respond to Him. I believe He has expectations for his creation (and maybe this is my repressed Catholic guilt coming out.)  After all, when one reads Scripture we learn that most of humanity’s problems arise from thinking our ways are better than God’s ways.

We don’t have the liberty to simply say, “the Devil made me do it,” if for any other reason than at the end of the day, God holds us accountable for what we do or don’t do.  Psychology would say that humans do what they do to pursue pleasure and avoid pain, but there is a deeper aspect- the aspect of “you own who you are and what you have become.”

Things in life can and do suck, but it’s every person’s responsibility to choose how to react to things that suck.  The question is, do we turn to God and His will or do we let evil win?

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I find it disturbing that society is all too willing to absolve people from individual accountability and blame their abherrent behavior on everything from being bullied as children to being on the autistic spectrum.  As someone who experienced both gratuitous and fierce childhood bullying and is a high-functioning autistic,* (apparently that’s what the medical community is calling Asperger’s Syndrome these days) I am here to tell you that both of those theories may have some credence, but at the end of the day, the decision to move beyond a painful past and to learn to work the wiring is not only possible, but it is also a moral obligation.  Maybe I say this out of a sense of noblesse oblige that I was taught- that those who are given more are held to a higher standard.  I can say that the convoluted and sometimes vexing wiring of Asperger’s or “high functioning autism” or whatever is the current terminology used to categorize the introverted, weird and/or eccentric is not a license to allow the depravity within to overcome.  Video games are no excuse. Technology in general is no excuse.  The laxity of discipline and the pervasive faux feel good PC philosophy being taught in the schools (while dreadful, false, and a contributor to the delinquency factor) is not an excuse either. There is a God, and He has standards and rules, even when it seems like society does not.

I don’t discount the influence of mental illness, and how society so conveniently “mainstreams” the mentally ill, denying that some people do have an inability to control their rage and that some people should be isolated from the greater community for a time to receive mental health treatment.  I do understand what it is to be depressed and near suicidal, but I also understand that there is help available for individuals and families when mental illness becomes overwhelming.  I’m no poster child for mental health, and insanity is downright pervasive in my family tree.  If there is anything that society (as opposed to the individual) can do to help prevent violence it is to identify mental illness and provide ways for those at risk to get help.

insaneI wish this were a joke, but it’s not.  I have ancestors who were crazier than shithouse rats.

I may never know for what purpose God decided to plop my sorry carcass on this earth, but I’m pretty sure that no matter how beat up on I was or how bizarre my wiring, He didn’t intend for me to load up an assault rifle and shoot up a classroom of unarmed, defenseless kids.

Sexy pole dancerI’m pretty sure God never intended me to be a pole dancer, either.  I’m doing good to walk a straight line without tripping over my own feet.

There I go again with that whole morality thing again, and no, I am not talking about the mundane concepts of morality- refraining from fornication,  eschewing the use of swear words, and those sorts of trite formalities, but a deeper morality.

One that says, “There is a God, and He has rules.”

Fire and Brimstone, Faith for the Cynical, and Unpopular Moral Absolutes

Crucifixion was not this pretty.

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of my life researching theology.  I am wired in such a way that it’s difficult to take anything on faith.  The way that I’m wired, I generally default to Murphy’s Law.  The sad part of that is I’m right way too much of the time when I take my own default and assume the worst.

That might have been the reason why I was terrified of everything when I was a kid.  A good deal of my unrelenting fear was justified.  I did get my ass kicked a lot.  But I also had a certain knack for imagining the worst in a situation, like when Dad’s weirdo friends thought that I enjoyed swinging upside down while being grabbed by the ankles.  All I could imagine, other than sheer terror, was the ass pilot letting go and my sorry carcass flying clean through the picture window.  I don’t like too many people grabbing at me to begin with, but add the elements of my poor balance, centrifugal force, height, and a moderately shady character, and I am good and truly freaked.   Perhaps it is a good thing that I have to be on the verge of death before I can puke.  Then again, if I would have spewed a good one (after eating Spaghetti-os or something else colorful, like lime sherbet) perhaps Dad would have prohibited his buddies from repeating this torture.

Come on down to the Baptist Tent Revival!  Music!  Fun! However, no dancing, and no liquor will be served.

In Christian traditions the Pentecostals and Baptists get a bad rap for fire and brimstone sermons, but the Pentecostals and Baptists have nothing on the old-school Catholics.  Pentecostals and Baptists could “get saved” and then they’d have a “get out of hell free” pass.  In traditional old-school Catholicism, you don’t just “get saved.”  God is keeping score, and hellfire awaits the person who Dies In Sin.  The only way to clear your slate is to go to Confession and then do whatever Penance the priest assigns you.  It was always better to get a laid back priest who would give you easy Penance.  Father Furey was everyone’s favorite because he was pretty easy on the small stuff and he had a sense of humor.  The other ones could be downright scary and mean about it and you’d be saying Hail Marys and Our Fathers for days.

Yes, you are headed straight to Hell for setting your Mom’s tape deck to the “Like a bat out of helllll!” portion of the Meatloaf tape.  And for flipping the bird at the bug eating kid at school, and for calling your sister an “asshole.”  You get to be bunkies with Beezelbub unless you say 400 Hail Marys, 1000 Our Fathers, and clean the toilet with your toothbrush every day for a month without being asked to do it.

It was usually my luck to end up with whichever priest hated kids the most.

The worst thing about Confession is that it would only be a matter of minutes before sin would rear its ugly head again.  Almost everything I did or thought could be considered a sin, so it was a vicious cycle. Sin-confess, sin-confess, etc. and so on.

Mom was really good at dragging us kids to Confession at least once a month if not more often.  I understand her logic- because if a Catholic Dies In Sin, you at the very least get time in Purgatory, and at the very worst, if you have a Mortal Sin on your scorecard, you go Straight to Hell.  And you don’t have to actually do the Mortal Sin- you just have to want to.

I can admit I never had this problem.  I always had plenty of sins on my plate.

Sins were everywhere when I was a kid.   Using swear words- even the word “fart”= sin.  Taking the last fish stick on the plate= sin,  unless you were sure no one else wanted it.  Giving my sister’s Barbies buzzcuts= definite sin.  Hanging out in the farmer’s field behind the houses across the street (even though the farmer had a 12 gauge and dogs and he and his dogs would chase kids if he saw them) was also a sin.

So by the time I was about five I was terrified of sin, and even more terrified of Mortal Sins even though at age five I had no idea what “adultery,” “fornication” and “apostasy” truly meant.  I did know if anyone was going to die with Mortal Sins, it would be me, even if it’s not even really clear to me at that point what they are, and I would probably be on the toilet, which means I’m partially naked, and being naked is a sin too.  I had some pretty scary logic as a child.

Believe me, Catholic kids were taught a lot more about hell than one might think, at least back in the day.  At least on the rare occasion Mom would let us go with Grandma to the Baptist Sunday School (it amazed me she ever did, because at that time Protestants were considered “heathens,”) we sang “Jesus Loves Me” and made crafts with popsicle sticks.  I always wondered why Jesus loved us at the Baptist church, but at the Catholic church he lived in the little gold box on the altar -when He wasn’t out making rounds with His scorecard, marking down our sins.

I’m surprised that I ended up having any kind of faith at all, but that is where the grace of God comes in.

The apostle Paul, (who strikes me as a fellow rational thinker) in his letter to the Philippians, puts it as “working out your own salvation with fear and trembling…for it is God Who is at work in you.” (Philippians 2:12-13)  God, not me.  God, not inept leaders.  God, Who isn’t primarily occupied with keeping score, or for sending people to hell for having naughty fantasies about Steve Perry in spandex, or for having the bad fortune of being on the toilet and partially naked at the hour of death.  The challenge is to slow down and listen to God’s voice- not my own, and not the talking heads.  It’s not as easy as one might think.

Yes, he did have one hell of a voice!

It’s comforting for me to understand I’m not in charge, and neither is Mr. Murphy, no matter how much Murphy’s Law seems to prove itself out.

I do believe in the perseverance of the saints, though maybe not in a strictly Calvinist sense, (I’m not a Calvinist but I do agree with certain elements of Calvinism) because it’s God doing the transforming, or the saving, if you will.  It’s not about me trying to be good- because I’m not.  If I had to explain my theological position it would be that of Molinism.  God knows, but I don’t, if you take it to its Cliff’s Notes version.   It’s OK that there are some things I’m just not going to understand.

Even though I believe that salvation is by the grace of God and is not contingent upon how much penance I attempt to do, there are still absolutes.  The rules are there for a reason- mostly to act as boundaries to keep us from doing more damage to ourselves and others than we would were we left unfettered.

Anarchy always fails.  While it might sound good to have freedom from rules, when society breaks down it’s not a good thing.  Simply take a look around and see what all the drugs and violence and thievery have led to.   Free love bought society broken families, rampant VD and AIDS.  The decline of traditional social mores and the prevailing moral free-for-all where there are no absolutes has turned society into a freak show, that I can’t necessarily say is a good thing.