‘The Lord is My Shepherd’

I just finished a book titled, And God Said — a fascinating linguistic approach to why the King James Version hides some of the Bible’s true meanings. My favorite example was that of a shepherd (ro’eh) in ancient Israel. Dr. Joel M. Hoffman gives some good examples of why a shepherd was not who we think of. Anticipating this chapter, I thought I knew what he was going to say because of the many discourses over the years comparing shepherds (leaders) to sheep herders (managers). Fortunately for me (and my lack of patience for things I already know), this was not what I’d expected at all.

In Jeremiah 25:35, God shows his power by saying that “the shepherds will have no way to flee.” Dr. Hoffman goes on to compare shepherds to marines, saying they had to be able to protect the sheep from wolves, lions, and bears. He later compares them to lawyers (since that’s a more modern way of protecting from danger), knights in shining armor (because there was a heroic element to their work) and even to kings (since there was something regal about a shepherd’s ability). They were fierce and noble. In fact, when David says that he’s a shepherd that can slay lions and bears to protect his herd (I Sam 17:34-35), he was actually declaring his confidence that he could take on Goliath, rather than demonstrating some smallness or humility. He was a killer shepherd and knew the Lord was on his side.

So when Dr. Hoffman brings this to the point in Psalm 23 where the Psalmist writes, “The Lord is My Shepherd”, instead of picturing a humble sheep herder with a staff, perhaps we should picture someone more like Ammon in the Book of Mormon who protects the king’s flocks by cutting off the enemies’ arms. Hoffman says, “The original model was a brave, strong, valiant, regal protector of the weak, providing safety and food, and ensuring tranquility.” (p. 144) On the next page he continues, “God will give me protection, guidance, security, and safety—like a ro’eh—so I’ll have everything I need and I won’t have anything to worry about.” I love that. We shouldn’t worry when we have faith in the Savior. He’s there for us and will always provide a way to get through our challenges, if we have patience and trust in Him.

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Time to Cut the Pork

“… if Alaska doesn’t want all that money, they can send it our way to other states,” said E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post when discussing Lisa Murkowski’s defeat. How can the pundits not get what the people are saying when they vote out pork candidates? Let me spell it out for you: we don’t want senators who think that there’s a limitless fund to compete over. Stop printing money. Stop thinking we can borrow from our children forever. Clue in already.

How Transparency Has Changed Us

The Internet has really unleashed a fury of information. We don’t think twice about how to learn a fact, we just Google it. No thought about when to stop at the library or to call your nerdiest friend. But in this age of ubiquitous information, I’m surprised by how few organizations understand the mighty power of transparency. Businesses who would rather stick their heads in the sand than respond to public issues don’t realize that publicly available conversations are happening — joining it is really the only option. Piggybacking off some other blogs I’ve read recently, I’m surprised it’s not obvious to everyone.

Business

Dell learned the hard way with what’s been referred to as ‘Dell Hell’ — a time when their batteries were catching fire and users were trying to get service but Dell was blowing them off. Just before the whole company went up in flames, Dell jumped into the social media foray. But they reacted so well that they lead their industry in social media awareness and interaction. According to a recent interview by Emergence Technologies, the “incident gave them no choice but to jump full force into embracing the social on a large scale.”

Francois goes on to say,

Companies that successfully embrace the social are those, like Dell, that make it part of the fabric or DNA of everything they do — it cannot just be managed as bolt-on programs to existing strategies. It is also interesting to note how companies like Dell and IBM, which have managed to totally transform themselves, were able to do so only after “near death” experiences (and those are my words/observations, not Dell’s). Dell truly rebuilt itself with the customer at the core of everything they do — how they sell, how they market, how they service and support, how they communicate, and how they design new products.

If the customer isn’t at the center of everything a company does, then what is? Companies who focus more on revenue than on filling a market need won’t last. Do you innovate to make money or do you innovate because you want to solve a problem? Richard St. John talks about what happens after people (or businesses) become successful. He says sometimes they forget to endure — they begin to focus how to spend their money and not so much on how to take care of their clients. “Clients didn’t call. ‘Cuz they could see I was no longer serving them, I was only serving myself. So they took their money and their projects to others who would serve them better.”

When businesses forget to put their customers first, it’s almost like the customer has a sixth sense for it. It becomes even more apparent when there are complaints logged on the Web — maybe about how the business has failed them or how the product doesn’t do what it said it would — and the business doesn’t do anything about it.

Government

Information and the ability to control it has been a tool of power for millennia. In an age when investigative journalism is no longer well-funded, we’re left to the devices of a dichotomy of amateurs and large, mainstream media. We can get our news from ‘fair and balanced’ sources like FoxNews or other neutral sources like NPR.

Our country and its allies are fighting a War on Terror. What is a War on Terror? Is that like a War on Hate? A War on Fear? Sounds like a great, achievable objective. When is it over? When nobody wants to terrorize? When war goes back to army vs. army rather than army vs. ‘freedom fighter’? It’s not going to happen. The only enemies left are underfunded. I’m not siding with the terrorists by any means but by selling citizens on the need to wage war on terror (rather than revenge for 9/11), there is no end in sight.

Salon.com recently wrote about the federal government and Pentagon’s efforts to shut down WikiLeaks.org. WikiLeaks is a site that allows people to anonymously post secret or insider information. While I don’t agree entirely with some of WikiLeaks’ past decisions (such as publishing copyrighted church material), they serve a valuable purpose in an age of information control. According to the article, the New York Times has reported that the Pentagon has added WikiLeaks to its list of enemies. The content exposed on WikiLeaks this week shows that the CIA is working to persuade the public in Europe to continue to support the War on Terror. Glenn Greenfield of Salon.com says, “It is odious — though, of course, completely unsurprising — that the CIA plots ways to manipulate public opinion in foreign countries in order to sustain support for our wars.”

Does the federal government really think it can manipulate opinions without recourse? Probably. But it’s too easy for the truth to get out, whether it’s a site like WikiLeaks or some other means, we live in an age when people don’t put up with being tricked, and they find out all to easily. A great example is from another breaking story: apparently Sean Hannity and Oliver North have a charity they haven’t been completely honest about. These men who are considered socially conservative and take pride in their righteousness are now alleged to have spent charity money on non-charity events. For the sake of social conservatives who truly do have integrity (and for the sake of the donors), I hope these allegations are false. But you can’t fool people anymore.

We are really at the beginning of a new age. The information age may be moving forward with full force but our ability to understand and deal with limitless sources is still immature. I’m optimistic for the future. A free market system and an age of accountability that’s never been possible is coming to fruition. Transparency will expose hypocrisy and bring to light organizations’ true colors. Bring it on.

John Hall with Aaron

Someone on Facebook posted a video compilation of memories from my dorm, John Hall, at BYU. I took a screen shot from a frame of us lip syncing to Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right to Party”. Aaron and I were on guitar. I had a lot of fun times with Aaron from about 1988 to 1998 when he passed away. Here’s the picture.

Aaron and Ryan with friends at BYU

Changing the Definition of Marriage

A friend sent me a long but very thorough article on the effects of changing social norms. It was interesting because it started with this, “Unlike most libertarians, I don’t have an opinion on gay marriage, and I’m not going to have an opinion no matter how much you bait me.” But, she went on to give various reasons why this decision goes much further than whether or not we’re discriminating. She discusses the changes to welfare, social security, and divorce law. I found it very helpful to see through the flawed arguments on both sides. Towards the end she says, “My only request is that people try to be a leeetle more humble about their ability to imagine the subtle results of big policy changes.” Humble? What’s that?

Religious Discrimination?

I recently read an interesting comment about Proposition 8 apparently from a gay man:

As a gay man….none of my rights are being violated or taken away by prop.8! I already have “domestic partnership” rights! I do believe, however, that the rights of parents, and religion as a whole, are about to be disrupted and violated in a very profound way. The moral fabric of our society has been slowing eroded by liberal views over the years. If prop 8 fails to pass, in order to protect civil rights we will likely be forced to return to the courts for additional protections of religious rights. It’s not unreasonable to assume that failing to pass prop 8 presents real possibility for restrictions on religious freedoms. Same-sex marriage could lead to more widespread social acceptance of homosexuality that would create a polemic tension with religious groups whose negative attitudes towards homosexual behavior derives from faith in the divine inspiration of church leaders or traditional scripture. Their doctrines and institutions could more and more find themselves under the label of bigotry. And since members of religious institutions behaviors, practices, and even perceptions are framed within these doctrines, individuals will find their very conscience under siege. We may very well find ourselves in a situation where we must choose whether we would prefer religious discrimination over orientation discrimination!

When those who say that gay rights are a civil matter and not a religious one, they forget that most of our laws are based on morality. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a Utah Supreme Court Justice and U of Chicago Law professor, said the following when addressing BYU students in 1999, “[Some say] we should not legislate morality. Those who take this position should realize that the law of crimes legislates nothing but morality. Should we repeal all laws with a moral basis so our government will not punish any choices some persons consider immoral? Such an action would wipe out virtually all of the laws against crimes.”

I’m sad to see the world change so drastically in the last few years. The protests against LDS members in California are disheartening to say the least, but we have to remember that a vote is an opportunity to give your opinion, and everyone is entitled to one. Comparing lifestyle and behavior to skin color is disrespectful to those who’ve suffered centuries of hatred and bigotry simply because of their family tree. The experience of this LA Detective is insightful.

The Economy is all Bush’s Fault! I Think?

Let me first say I don’t enjoy defending Bush. But it’s important that people understand where problems begin. Plenty of problems have been caused by this administration and I believe most of them can be categorized under an umbrella of hubris and all its fruits, including the loss of hegemony . But to say that the economy is the result of Republican leadership is frustrating. I’ve always understood that it takes time to see the effects of legislation that influences the economy. I came across this insightful article on how Clinton pushed for mortgages to be made available to people with poor credit. There are so many elements to the credit crisis I don’t think any educated person would dare place blame on any one person or factor.