Ever since starting to engage in the blogosphere (and Facebook, and anywhere on the Internet, really), I have frequently encountered the phenomenon of "trolling." Wikipedia's definition of an Internet troll is "someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community...with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion." I think this is a fairly adequate description of what so many of us have experienced with disdain. I am not sure though that these frustrating people who like to antagonistically comment on everything are always doing so entirely intentionally. Sometimes, I think people actually think they are responding intelligently to something or engaging in a legitimate discussion when in fact they are not at all.

It is not easy allowing yourself to be the target of public scrutiny.

A little less than two weeks ago, I posted something very controversial. I believe it became controversial moreso because of the subject matter than because of what I actually wrote. Nevertheless, the responses affected me. Many were positive and many were negative, but the emotional impact of the negative comments tends to outweigh the positive. As rap artist KB says "If I can be honest I get depressed when people ain't feelin' me, Twenty people say awesome job man, one person hates it, I'm crushed for the week." 

I did end up changing the wording of what I wrote slightly, but I didn't change the point, which as always is to try and walk through what actually makes sense and then to begin an honest conversation. What follows is an honest inside look into my heart over the last two weeks...

It seems that these days the whole controversial issue of homosexuality (though I would say it's becoming less and less controversial in North America) has degenerated into an argument about whether gay people were born that way or choose to be gay. We only need look to Lady Gaga for a prominent example. This is sadly an irrelevant argument though because it actually doesn't matter. At all. The fact is that whether you chose something or whether you were born into it has exactly no impact on whether it is right or wrong, true or false, moral or immoral. In fact, everybody knows this in almost every other area of their lives. For some reason though, homosexuality has become a social exception.

Let's think about this for a moment... 

Is faith really a virtue as many claim, or is it a fundamental flaw in humanity that must by all means be rooted out in order to achieve a progressive society? This is a question I have come across all too often lately.

There are basically two camps that have sadly become polarized as the "religious" and the "non-religious" (though I would argue that some of the so-called religious are not and equally vice versa). In essence, the first perspective values faith as a benefit to life and to knowledge while the second degrades it as a crutch for the weak and an opponent to "real," testable knowledge. The former maintains faith as necessary for enlightenment while the latter calls it blind, stupid and ignorant. So who's right? Much more importantly, what's true?

If a culture develops a belief that killing the weakest of its citizens is morally preferable in order to protect itself from other cultures (you're only as strong as your weakest link, right?), then is it still wrong? Or  is it ok because that culture in particular has deemed it morally right?

No, I don't actually believe that murder is ok in any culture. And neither do you (I hope). Quite a few people in this day and age, however, claim beliefs about reality which actually conflict with their moral beliefs, to the point that if they truly lived consistently with their beliefs, the above society would be totally acceptable. Many, many people claim moral beliefs with their intellect which conflict with the moral beliefs they actually demonstrate in the way they live their lives. This is an interesting paradox, and one which very much gets taken for granted these days. Let us not grant it so easily here. 

‎10 years ago today, a few men changed the world forever.

I was in my first year of high school, Phys. Ed. class. Another teacher stood in the doorway and informed us that something tragic had happened. Something big. We congregated later in the library to see the footage for ourselves. I doubt any of us fully understood what was going on. There was confusion, disbelief, rumours of other planes flying up north to us in Canada. I don't think any of us fully understood that we would remember this moment for the rest of our lives. That we would tell our children where we were on that fateful day. That the world would never be the same again.

10 years ago today, a few men changed the world forever. Their actions were wrong, as were their motivations. But nobody can ever take away from them their passion and willingness to act on what they believed to be true. 

May we who stand for truth and righteousness live out what we believe every day that we have left. May we rid the world of apathy. May we not be only reactive to evil, but also proactive to prevent and change it. May we love truth, but may we also love indiscriminately. May we truly change the world.

In April 2011, soul artist Anthony David put out the above music video for his song "God Said." Watch a few minutes of it and you'll start to get the idea behind the lyrics. On his own blog, David outlined his reasons for writing this song and making the video. Here's an excerpt:

"I wrote a song called GOD SAID after watching Pat Robertson declare that the earthquake in Haiti was because of a curse from God. After hearing a man named Rev. Wiley say that he was praying for President Obama's death during the election (the prayer didn't work BTW). After hearing people fiddle around with the idea of a curse on Japan after their recent disaster. After hearing about Koran burnings and battles that seem to have peoples' interpretations of religious texts at the foundation of them all. 

I'm not one of those who claims that religion is the ONLY thing that causes all of the wars and bloodshed, but it has caused many. But not necessarily even the religion but the interpretation of a few dangerous minds put into the wrong position of power or influence.  I figured it was time to have a conversation with extremists like this, and put that kind of thinking in its proper perspective.

It's just my opinion, but I suspect peace-loving people from all walks of life will agree with me on SOME level." 

Let me first say that I have a huge amount of respect for David just for writing and releasing this song. He shows that he cares about this world, about his fellow man, and about truth. He cares about making a difference through his music, not just selling records. And he cares about people, not just winning an argument. For these reasons alone, he is automatically a better artist to me than the vast majority of them out there. 

He has a lot of good things to say too. He rightly criticizes Rev. Wiley Drake for praying for Obama's death and calling it God's will (should we really be giving people like that the title of Reverend?). He demonstrates his heart for the people of Haiti and Japan by speaking out against those who would call them cursed. And there is no question that he is right about the atrocities caused by "a few dangerous minds put into the wrong position of power or influence."  

BUT there are some clarifications that need to be made...
Note: If you are not familiar with Westboro Baptist Church prior to reading this open letter, watch a bit of ABC's 20/20 report here. You'll get the idea.

Dear Pastor Fred Phelps and members of Westboro Baptist Church;

I forgive you.

That's probably not what you were expecting. You probably don't think you need my forgiveness. Most other people reading this probably don't think you deserve it. Nevertheless, I forgive you.
His goal was to conquer all non-Greek peoples, to "the ends of the world and the Great Outer Sea." He built his life around world domination. To this end, he conquered the entire Persian Empire and parts of India before finally being turned back by a revolt of his men. Yet he was never once defeated in battle. Nothing would prevent him from achieving greatness. Any sign of misbehaviour or disloyalty from one of his men and that man was immediately executed. He was unstoppable. He even went so far as to allude to his divinity. And yet Alexander the Great died at the age of 32, still craving more power.

The story is as old as the human race itself.
Have you ever thought about how ironic it is that the statement "Truth is relative" must either be absolutely true or absolutely false?

I have. And yet it's a very popular and seemingly prevailing philosophy in our time. More and more, it seems as though people across the Western world in particular are becoming convinced that truth, especially as it relates to morality and spiritual belief, is the new beauty: it's simply in the eyes of the beholder. There are no absolutes. Truth is dependent upon a culture or a worldview or a single individual's perception of what is right or wrong for them personally...

Yeah, I'm not buying it.