Closed-Minded in an Open-Minded World: an Open and Closed Case

Even in a culture that praises open-mindedness as the ultimate virtue, the words of G. K. Chesterton still ring true: “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” In this episode of “The Kylee Zempel Podcast,” Kylee talks about the purpose of open-mindedness as a means to an end and the value of closing one’s mind around the truth.

Will the Real Christians Please Stand Up?

All across America, Christians are sitting down.

As if their lethargic posture were not enough, this apathetic sub-sector of nominal “Christians” not only remains seated, but they sit in a bothersome position. They sit on the fence–the fence that separates guardians of the truth from its relentless opposition.

I am actually quite alarmed when I consider the number of times in the past few weeks I have heard so-called Christians and other good people engaging in a practice I like to call “comfort promotion.” That is, a hands-off approach to culture that seeks to make everyone comfortable, and in turn, disregards the fate of truth. “Comfort promotion” mindsets take different practical forms, but their symptoms are unmistakable. Perpetrators take part in “comfort promotion” because, in their minds, they win on all fronts. After all, it allows them to maintain a satisfactory level of self-righteousness while at the same time affording the perfect opportunity to hold weak convictions. They often unknowingly become the most valuable players in the stripping of the truth and the spreading of the anti-gospel of self-indulgence and relativism.

Recently, I have been in conversations that yielded these statements from comfort promoters and Christians:

I would never have an abortion. I mean, I think in some specific cases it’s okay, but think it’s wrong for me personally.” or “I don’t think gay marriage is right, but they can do whatever they want. I’m not going to get involved.” or “It was definitely wrong for people to own slaves, but that was a different time. It just wasn’t the same back then.”

The reason comfort promotion is so dangerous is that comfort and truth are often opposed to each other. Human nature is to make oneself and others more comfortable, but we have begun to sacrifice the truth in order to do that. The truth is inherently uncomfortable. “The truth hurts,” is more than just a timeless adage; it is a reality. But while truth makes humankind uncomfortable, it also offers hope that cannot be found anywhere else. It offers hope that is unknowable apart from that truth.

I know some true believers who cringe at the idea of taking strong positions against immorality within the broader culture or who think it is inappropriate to proclaim any truth that is not explicitly the gospel of Jesus Christ, stopping at the doctrines of salvation. What those well-intentioned believers fail to recognize is that the broader fight for truth is not about telling people how to live. The fight for truth is not about legislating morality. The fight for truth is not about creating a society in which Christians feel more comfortable.

Most importantly, the fight for truth is not an antithesis to love.

The fight for truth is about fighting for the preservation of what is true and right and good and godly. It is about loving what God loves and hating what God hates.

The truth is being silenced on our watch. If you are a follower of Christ, it is your responsibility to guard the truth, to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and to hold forth the word of truth (Philippians 2:16). Relativism and “subjective truth” are perpetuated by advocates of such ideas, yes. But even more detrimental than explicit opposition to the truth, is individuals who possess the truth and yet remain silent or those who have knowledge of the truth but do not really believe it. Rather than standing firm in the fight for truth, people claiming the name of Christ remain seated in their weak convictions, not wanting to offend or step on toes. Passively sitting down is the natural response of human nature and sinful flesh because it is the path of least resistance.

Sitting is always easier than standing.

Standing requires you to know what you believe and why you believe it. Standing demands a defense of conviction. Standing puts passivity to death. Standing is exhausting. But standing is non-optional.

In this day, there is no place for cowardice. There is no place for lethargy. And there certainly is no place for fence-sitters.

Stand up, cowardly Christian. Apathy stops here. Quit your weak attempts at justifying your lack of conviction. Stop tacking weak disclaimers onto the end of everything you claim to believe. Pick a side of the fence, and stay on it. And if you feel like you have to apologize for which side you chose, you probably picked wrong.

A war has been waged for truth, and the victors will not be found sitting down.

For the love of truth, Christian, stand up.

Can a Bail Bill Give Hope to the Dying Art of Bipartisanship?

Out of the unbearable stagnancy of the Congressional health care impasse, one Democratic senator from California has just emerged with a legislative proposal of a different breed. Together with Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Senator Kamala Harris has proposed a bipartisan bill intended to reform one of the many broken pieces of the criminal justice system: bail.

This bill, cited as the “Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act of 2017,” aims to incentivize the reform of state bail systems by offering grant money to those states and Indian tribes which discontinue the use of money bail as a pretrial release condition. The bill would allow for $10 million to be spent annually per state for three years on grants for bail system reform.

While this price tag may evoke embittered resistance from the average taxpayer, a deeper analysis of the criminal justice system and current fiscal trends unmasks the economic practicality and necessity of such a proposal.

One of the primary objectives of bail is to create an incentive for defendants to re-appear at trial. If a defendant appears at trial, he is able to recollect the money previously posted for bail. In the same vein, pretrial preventive detention seeks to protect public safety. However, evidence suggests that as many as 50% of pretrial detainees considered to be a “high risk” to public safety acquire release through money bail. Inherent systemic flaws—such as those resulting in the release of high-risk defendants based solely on criteria of affluence—shine a glaring light on the vast disparities between intents and outcomes.

Not only do monetary bail systems undermine the foundations of preventive detention, but they appear to violate the terms of the 1983 landmark Supreme Court case, Bearden v. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660, which forbids “punishing a person for his poverty.” Bearing in mind the previously discussed issue of high-risk defendant release, money bail accomplishes less in the way of protecting public safety and more in the way of rewarding the well-to-do and punishing the indigent. In addition, the Sixth Amendment provides for a defendant’s presumption of innocence, placing the burden of proof on the prosecution. Therefore, pretrial detainees are lawfully innocent and should be treated as such. Adding insult to injury, during the pretrial detainment, defendants who are unable to afford bail may undergo unseen afflictions such as loss of employment due to un-forecasted time away from work, lack of access to health care, inability to prepare a trial defense, etc.

How can Congressmen justify to their constituents the spending of $10 million per state on bail grants? A careful look at the hidden costs of the current system makes $10 million look like pocket change. In her bill, Harris reveals the nationwide monetary burden of pretrial detention. Presently, pretrial detainees comprise 95 percent of growth within the jail population since 2000, costing taxpayers $38 million daily and $14 billion annually. While the new bill would only be a starting point and certainly would not eliminate all pretrial detention costs, even its marginal monetary trade-offs and savings would most likely prove favorable for taxpayers in the long run.  

How exactly does the proposed bill de-incentivize pretrial detention and utilize grant money? In short, the bill seeks to incentivize states to use the least-restrictive means to accomplish their desired ends. One key element of the bill is the provision for the “presumption of [the defendant’s] release in most cases.” This element overcomes current systemic failures, minimizes detention costs, and upholds the Sixth Amendment. In order for such presumption to occur, a portion of the grant money would be designated to research-based pretrial assessments that objectively measure the risks associated with releasing each defendant.

Supposing the bill passes, civilians can rest assured that pretrial defendant accountability would not be abolished. On the contrary, the new bill would implement more cost-effective and noninvasive supervisory methods, listing “court date notifications by phone call, letters or postcards, text messages, [or] in-person reminders” as potential options. Recognizing that pretrial detention is necessary for defendants who actually pose risks to public safety, Harris’s bill includes three-prong right-to-counsel criteria for states wishing to qualify for grant money. In other words, for cases in which preventive detention seems necessary, states must ensure the detainee receives a hearing with a judicial officer, counsel, and clear and convincing evidence that he poses danger or risk.

While complex components of the criminal justice system cannot be reduced to simple equations and graphs, Senators Harris and Paul demonstrate in-depth analysis and forethought in their proposed legislation. While many politicians and the media continue to spin on the polarized hamster wheel of health care, taxpayers would do well to consider the potential unseen benefits of bail system reform legislation.

 

This Just in: Gender-Reveal Parties Are Dangerous for Children!

In addition to raising the bar of absurdity, Cosmopolitan’s recent article, “Dear Parents-to-Be: Stop Celebrating Your Baby’s Gender,” single-handedly shatters the primary tent poles of modern feminism. In this episode of “The Kylee Zempel Podcast,” Kylee deconstructs the article and points out the inconsistencies of modern feminists and the left.