Non-denominational?

I wonder if there is an alternative to expressing one’s self as non-denominational. Usually, non-denominational is understood as having no association or ties with other Christian communities or branches. But is that accurate? Doesn’t a belief in the Trinity constitute a connection or association with other Christian communities that believe the Trinity? I would imagine so. I’m under the impression that most (if not all) Christians agree with at least 98% of the content in the Apostle’s Creed (the other 2% being the “he descended into hell” clause and what it means). Is it possible for a person to be unassociated with a Creed which is made up of content they support? How does that work? Is the person really non-denominational, or just ostensibly non-denominational, or Non-denominational INO, or even Nominally Non-denominational?

What does it mean to be non-denominational? Is the difference in practice? Which practice? Most Non-denoms I’m familiar with practice believers-only baptism. Generally, those who support believers-only baptism are labeled Baptists. That’s a broad category in which non-denoms would fit. I’ve heard some of the reasons that people give for wanting to be non-denominational. Perhaps it would be best to pick another label. One that reflects the fact that Non-Denoms have a lot in common with other Christian denominations.

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I used to believe in liberty like you, but then I took a shot of patriotism to the knee

I used to believe in liberty like you, but then I took a shot of patriotism to the knee

As you probably already know, there are NFL players who refuse to stand during the national anthem. This practice was popularized by Colin Kaepernick for the purpose of protesting the systemic racial inequality in America. As you can imagine, a lot of people have become livid at this gesture of protest, for a number of reasons. Reasons range from a simple desire to watch football without tired appeals to political rampage to a strong sense of patriotism. The type of patriotism that says  “People died for this country, dammit! You better respect them!”  So, emotions are heated on both sides of the issue.

Now, I don’t plan on giving a detailed analysis of the chronology of the events. I only wish to speak to a troubling trend I see among my fellow conservatives. At this point, I should lay my cards on the table. I am a libertarian with a heavy bent toward conservatism. So, I’m about as uncomfortable with this narrowly defined patriotism as I am with bold sweeping claims of systemic racism behind every bush.

Before I can discuss what I believe to be ‘narrow-patriotism’ I need to provide a definition of patriotism. None of this is intended to be comprehensive. In fact, I want to keep this discussion as brief as possible, for now. Simply stated, American patriotism is a dispositional appreciation, respect, and/or love for American values. This disposition may be more or less deep-seated. Regardless, the disposition at least prefers American values over the values of countries who do not share them. In this regard, one can still have an appreciation for another country, so long as it doesn’t contradict the values of say ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’. Now, this is a broad and inclusive definition of American patriotism. I think American patriotism can be somewhat inclusive because the basic idea of the country is the peaceful co-existence of different viewpoints, inasmuch as these differing viewpoints allow one to ‘play nice’.

Now, this is a broad and inclusive definition of American patriotism. I think American patriotism can be somewhat inclusive because the basic idea of the country is the peaceful co-existence of different viewpoints, inasmuch as these differing viewpoints allow one to ‘play nice’. That is, America is a country that was meant to welcome cultures and views that do not hinder or harm another’s  life, liberty, and/or pursuit of happiness. We are not North Korea. So we do not have to be of the mindset “America or else”. 

 I’m aware that we don’t live in a perfect world, and that there are always going to be Americans who are out to harm the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of another, but that’s a topic for another blog post.

Now that I’ve provided a brief (and hopefully satisfactory) definition of this inclusive patriotism, I want to address what I’m referring to as narrow-patriotism. Narrow-patriotism is the view that anyone who does not conform to a strict set of rules, activities, or celebrations is, at best, out of touch with America. This is best exemplified by those who believe that the performance of the national anthem requires everyone present to engage in a participatory set of activities, whether it be standing, saluting, removing one’s hat, meditating on everyone who has served in the military with special reverence to those who lost their lives in service.

The problem I find with narrow-patriotism is its short-sightedness. America is the result of a tradition of questioning and/or challenging the misuse of power by those in authority. Is the American gov’t doing a good job of administering justice? Is each branch of gov’t staying within its boundaries?

Why exactly do people join the military? Do they join the military in order to defend the rights of Americans or not? Isn’t the free expression of speech a right? If so, then wouldn’t it follow that people fight in the military to protect a citizen’s right to protest or express disagreement during the national anthem?

The NFL has the prerogative to take Trump’s suggestion and prohibit players from kneeling. If they decide to do so because they don’t want politically expressive football players to curb their ratings, then that’s one thing. However, I find it wrong-headed and ironically anti-patriotic to ban protests that occur during the national anthem. Colin Kaepernick, for better or for worse, is being patriotic by expressing his opinion peacefully. We may believe that his opinion is wrong, but that doesn’t mean the way he is expressing his opinion is wrong.

Social Media Validation

Social Media Validation

Why use social media? To keep in touch with friends? Is it to share all of our best memories to the world, like graduating from high school or college? Perhaps we use it as a catalog of firsts: first day of school, first day on the job, first 100 days “in a relationship” with [name]. We are very celebratory persons. It is difficult not to take any event and mine some significance out of it so that we can then place it on our honorary mantle of achievements. All of that is as it should be. A person is, by definition, value-laden. We pick things up and offer our appraisals. We do this both consciously and subconsciously to anything that has our attention. This obviously carries over to social media. There isn’t anything too troubling about that aspect of social media.

The troubling aspect of social media is the potential it carries to amplify those characteristics in us that psychiatric professionals would probably consider anti-social. When I say anti-social, I’m not referring to heated political discussions on facebook (even when there is name calling). I’m referring to something a bit more subtle than that. I’m referring to the deep-seated human desire to be known and approved by our peers.  The type of desire that results in a corrosive feeling of emptiness when there is no approval given or love received. The jealousy, the envy, the heaviness.

Perhaps this sounds alien to your own experience. If so, imagine yourself to be in a particular situation where, for some reason or another, something prevented you from going out and having a good time. Perhaps it was out of pure ignorance that there was any fun out there to be had. That is until you check the newsfeed where there are dozens of photos of your friends out having a good time! Okay, no big deal. There will be other opportunities, right? So you scroll down a bit, to see that a friend of yours got the position that you applied for a couple of weeks ago. After being interviewed, it seemed like you had it in the bag. The disappointment and sadness you experience are amplified by the fact that you told them that you were applying for that position (which tipped them that the position was open in the first place).  Your friend’s facebook status reads “[enter friend’s name] started working at  [desired employer]” to everyone else. To you, it reads “thanks for the tip, you dope.” However, what really does the trick is when you scroll down just a little more to find that person you were crushing on is now “in a relationship.” The circumstances and events leading up to the relationship matter to them, but to you they are a sharp dagger through your lower back.

None of these examples require social media in order to have this effect. The same could still hold true in some possible world which doesn’t contain social media or the internet. One would simply learn of the events in a different way. Through word of mouth or some other means. Social media simply offers the opportunity to learn about these events at the speed of light. Or at least faster than the speed of however long it takes to process setbacks.

In response to our perceived loss, we may try and find other ways of validating our existence. So what, you didn’t get the job? Just go wash your car and post before and after pictures of how much fun you [didn’t] have today! That’s newsfeed-worthy! Take a picture of your cat or dog, that has to result in at least a like, if not a comment. No significant other? Photograph that cup of coffee, or the stylish Chacos you’re wearing on your feet when you dangle them from an ENO. You’ll get a like or a love. Perhaps if you’re high enough off the ground you’ll get a WOW.

All of the time and energy we spend staging our own existence seems absolutely ridiculous. Perhaps in trying to prove ourselves, we begin to believe that we are ridiculous, and thereby unworthy of anyone’s attention. Which leads us to spend more time and energy staging….etc. etc. It’s a catch-22. But the alternative is facing up to the emptiness.

Ironically, all of this is anti-social. In our jealous, envious, and depressingly self-centered activity, we lose touch with others. We enter a dark place where we want to be loved but are unable to give it. You become tired and angry and bored. It may be that most never really reach that point. Perhaps many don’t even see how any of what I just wrote resembles them in any way. Ah well, you can read some stats. Or, you can watch a short film here, if you’d like.

As Shrewd as Doves

With the horrible tragedy occurring in Orlando, many of the christian prophets have taken to writing ways in which Christians should respond.

There have been excellent responses that remind us of the evil involved when someone takes it upon themselves to play judge, jury, and executioner toward a hundred or so people to fulfill some twisted sense of justice. Christians that are biblically self-aware know that people, whether believing or unbelieving, are made in the image of God. To sin against someone (or yourself) is a direct offense against God Himself.

However, there have been responses that were not so excellent. At best, they  say true things, but botch the application.

For example, consider one response having to do with Guns and the Christian. I will focus on one particular line of reasoning:

“Christians: Being like Christ does not mean looking out for your self-interest and safety and comfort and rights above all else. Being like Christ means thinking of others before you think of yourself; prioritizing the safety of others above your own safety; willingly ceding your power and privilege and guns and freedom out of love for the powerless, the underprivileged, the weak and the vulnerable.”

Let me first acknowledge the good things that he said:

(1) “Being like Christ does not mean looking out for your self-interest and safety and comfort and rights above all else. [emphasis mine]
(2) “Being like Christ means thinking of others before you think of yourself; prioritizing the safety of others above your own safety”

I give a hearty “amen” to both of these statements because they are both biblical. Both of these things are an expression of self-denial. (Phil 2:3; Rom 12:3; and Eph 5:21; Lev 19:17-18; Mark 12:30-31) Because the Lord has delivered us all from slavery, we are to love Him above everything else, and love others as we would ourselves. We are not our own, we have been bought with a price (1 Cor 6:19-20).

Well, If I agree with him then where is the beef? I’m glad you asked!

The fly in the ointment is the application. On first read, it sounds correct, especially after building up the first half with sound theology.

“willingly ceding your power and privilege and guns and freedom out of love for the powerless, the underprivileged, the weak and the vulnerable”

The first problem with his conclusion is that it doesn’t follow.

How exactly do we conclude  that  the presence of weak,   powerless, and vulnerable people that happen to be in Jones’ neighborhood means that he has to get rid of his AR-15?  Is that really how Jones’ should practice self-denial in this particular situation?

For the sake of argument, let’s say that Jones has a family to protect. There is a rough crowd that visits his neighborhood every now and again. Further, consider that these crooks know that Jones is an expert at marksmanship. They don’t give a second thought of pulling anything funny in Jones’ neighborhood. Jones has never had to use his AR-15 on these crooks. What keeps them at bay is the fact that Jones has quick access to the gun, just in case he needed to use it.

Consider  “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from himwho has been entrusted with much, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48)

Our rights, privileges, and anything else we enjoy are given to us from God. God provides different things for different people at different times in order to edify the body of Christ. Compare this with the suggestion that prioritizing and protecting others means getting rid of guns. He didn’t provide any clear basis on why we would throw away our guns, but the above passage seems to require us to use what God has given us to the benefit of others. I.e. keeping the AR-15 in case someones seeks harm against our neighbors and/or family. This leads into the second point  (Let me note first that to those who would respond to this suggestion with the question as to why we would need a semi-automatic ASSAULT rifle to deal with attackers, I respond: because criminals don’t play fair.)

The second problem with his conclusion is that it is a contradiction.

He rightly concludes that Christians do have the liberty to keep guns (he takes it for granted when he suggests we cede it;) yet his whole schtick is accusatory. Somehow it is “Fear-driven self-interest” to hold on to the liberty of owning assault rifles out of concern for family, friends, or neighbor. One expression of love and service to God (protecting the weak, and the vulnerable)  in making good use of the liberty of owning weapons is demonized as selfishness. Perhaps he should cede his first amendment rights to prevent him from drawing broad generalizations and burning straw men.

“Fear is not our policy” is not a policy

[Prudence] is taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it.  – C.S. Lewis
Washington Post published an article authored by Mark Hetfield and Jack Moline. The former is the president and chief executive of a non-profit organization. The latter, a rabbi and the president of Interfaith alliance. Their major concern is the welfare of syrian refugees, the religious liberty of those who sponsor the refugees, and the general approach and attitude of SC in handling all of this. I do not intend to interact with the full length of the above post, at least not initially. Rather, it serves as a reference to provide context to this particular discussion. I wish to analyze a couple of points in the bill, particularly the controversial points. I also want analyze some of the objections to the bill, and examine whether the objections are sound. If they aren’t sound, are they valid? If the arguments aren’t valid, are the premises true? I will briefly discuss the rhetoric The full bill can be accessed here.
I.
Section 1.1 of the bill would require “sponsors placing refugees in this State pursuant to the federal Refugee Resettlement Program” to enroll the refugees into the Department of Social Services within a period of thirty days upon their entry into the state. DSS would then forward the information “to the State to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.” The objections that I’ve read so far have to do with the sufficiency of the system now in place. The reasoning goes that since refugees are already go through a number of agencies to be vetted and screened, it would only complicate matters to add extra measures. Extra measures would:
(1) “waste” tax payer money
and
(2) lengthen the amount of time it would take them to get here
As to (1), I’m sympathetic to that. I’m all for low taxes. There are many ridiculous things we are taxed on. However, given the fact that this tax happens to be relevant to national security (not abstract gov’t campaigns to build nations,) I’d be quite alright with paying that sort of tax. In terms of efficiency, it would work to fill the gaps in our current system. What are these gaps? One gap, according to FBI director James Comey, is the lack of intel we have on syrian refugees:
“We can only query against that which we have collected… so if someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database, we can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing show up because we have no record of them.”
He also notes the difference between Syrian refugees and Iraqi refugees. We were involved in Iraq for decades, so the intel we had on Iraqi refugees was comprehensive. What of (2)? It would lengthen the amount of time in certain respects, but the requirements to be enrolled assumes they are already here in the first place. It could extend the amount of time it takes to resettle them, but section 1 seems to imply they are on U.S. soil in the first place.
Section 1.2 and 1.3 are conjoined. 1.2 would require the sponsor to provide detailed information about the refugee (address, telephone number, employer, et al.) This sort of information is required of American citizens.
1.3 would have them placed in a database. There were concerns over the earlier version of the bill, which would require the immigrant’s info to be made public. This was amended. The database will not be available to the public eye: “ The registration information required in item (2) shall be maintained by the department on a database and that database shall not be made available to the public.”
II.
Section 2 is the rub. It would hold the agencies sponsoring refugees responsible for any damages just if the refugee turned out to be a domestic threat. For the sake of argument, let us say this section of the bill were cut out. This raises a number of questions: Who should we hold responsible for any damages caused by a thug or terrorist posing as a refugee? Who should be required to pay for any damaged property, hospital bills, or (God forbid) funeral bills? What exactly is the sponsor sponsoring? Are they sponsoring the refugee, or just particular expenses?
By the very nature of the case, investing into a person or cause involves risks (seen or unseen.) If the consequences of a course of action are overbearing then one would need to reconsider taking the course of action.Why worry about the liability in the first place? On the one hand, objectors to the bill tell us that the system we have now isn’t broken, they tell us that there isn’t anything to worry about, and that “fear is not our policy!” On the other hand, they find it appalling that they be held responsible for damages. If the system works, then you won’t face any liabilities. If the refugees are here to start a life in which they can take care of their families, then the sponsors don’t have to worry about taking responsibility for damages.
III.
Next the rhetoric:
“This proposal rests on a fundamental misconception about refugees and immigrants, one too often promoted by those who peddle in bigotry and fear.”
This statement rests on the fundamental failure to distinguish between syrian refugees who are seeking to escape oppression and people posing as refugees in order to spread oppression. It’s as if the author(s) of this post haven’t bothered to understand the argumentation presented by those concerned with national security. It’s quite typical of the intellectually lazy to label their dissenters as “those who peddle bigotry and fear.” Notice their own refusal to address circumstances that involved thugs/troublemakers/terrorists posing as refugees.
“From our experiences, from the stories of our families and communities, and from countless people we’ve worked with over the years”
How many of these experiences involved a group willing to pose as harmless individuals in order to enter the country?
You’d think this group would at least try to develop the mental capacity to try and respond to this potential domestic threat. Seems like they are much more interested in name-calling. As to fear, they fail to note that the fear isn’t of Syrians refugees. It may just be that they aren’t accustomed to communicating with people who disagree with them. Many SCians prioritize the safety of their family and friends, the people we are responsible to protect. Is that a failure to love? We should have concern over the safety of the syrian immigrants trying to escape. It does no good to relocate the problem to domestic territory.
The Third Love: the kind of love which lovers are in

The Third Love: the kind of love which lovers are in

“that state which we call ‘being in love’; or, if you prefer, that kind of love in which lovers are ‘in’ ….In some mysterious but quite indisputable fashion the lover desires the Beloved herself…”  – C.S. Lewis

“What is it to be?”; this is one of philosophy’s  greatest questions and  it takes up the heading known as ‘metaphysics’.  The second  is like unto it: What it to be in love?  The second question will be the  focus of this reflection.

How does something as enigmatic as a romantic relationship come about?

A.  Perhaps this is due to a sense of entitlement; the thought that romance will be served up to us when we are good and ready to take it. This approach to romance is put on display by the use of applications such as “Tinder”:

(i) You create a profile and you are presented with potential matches. If you consider their profile presentation to represent good potential, you swipe right. Rejecting someone is as easy as a swipe to the left.

(ii) This approach assumes the idea that “what you see is what you get”.  Any form of social media can be potentially similar (unless you just add people in whom you’re already well-acquainted). But in Tinder, the idea is that you don’t know the other (that is, the potential ‘beloved’) personally. It’s a means of going outside the familiar because familiarity hasn’t been good to you.

(iii) Just how far outside of the familiar does this take you? Remember Tinder presents quasi-profiles with digital images of the potential beloved. There still remains a good amount of ‘space’ between you and  these digitally imaged quasi-profiles of the potential beloved. Is it truly possible to gain a sufficient amount of information through these presentations to come to the conclusion that you could qualify them as  the potential beloved?

(iv) Obviously, they are not their Tinder profiles. It doesn’t take a genius to conclude that the person is only being represented, and they are not really and truly there on the screen; just like you are not equivalent to your reflection in the mirror. But didn’t we just conclude that Tinder wants you to believe what you see is what you get? Don’t they want you to believe that just a little bit?

(v)  But it may be that we already knew all of that. We agreed to sign up, recognizing the risks involved. We will hold on to the belief that “what you see is what you get” provisionally. We agree to this because we  know that Tinder puts us behind the same veil.  We don’t have to be truly  exposed to the judgement of the potential beloved, at least not yet. We’ll wait until we know more about them until they can know more about us. We will redact until they decide that they trust us enough. We will take the unfamiliar and keep it as familiar as we can. We don’t want to be exposed  in the way  romance demands, at least not until they expose themselves to us

B.  It’s very difficult to provide an explanation for the development of a romantic relationship, for no one has an objective view of it. The fact is, “God only knows.”

(i) On the face of it, it seems like an objective view of romance could be obtained. Sure, those within the relationship may have trouble defining it. After all, we have an acronym that encourages potential couples  to “define the relationship (DTR)”.  However, that assumes the existence of a relationship  to be defined (or RtbD, for those obssessed with acronymns). Usually we don’t DTR our friends, nor do we DTR our family members. Wouldn’t it be awkward if someone you considered your best friend DTR’d you? In any case, we don’t have any definitive answers as to how a romantic relationship develops.  So the participants in the RtbD may not have an objective view.

(ii) Wouldn’t  the outsider’s perspective be objective? After all, they can observe the way in which some person becomes co-attracted with another. I’m a bit skeptical about the observant as well.
(1) The passive obervant doesn’t have access as to why either party loves the other
(2)  There can be a cynicism that distorts the persepctive of the passive observant,

As to (1), our patience toward a friend’s  beloved probably will not  extend as much as our friend’s patience. How is it they deal with all of their beloved’s pet peeves? How is it they can endure all of the hardships that come with particular personality of the beloved? She wouldn’t let him hang out with his friends for just one evening when she has all the rest; how does he put up with that? He kept calling over and over when she was out with her friends for lady’s night; When is she going to set some clear boundaries? She spends too much money on, well, whatever it is women spend a lot of money on! He literally just spent $60 bucks to buy that video game!!  Such is the nature of romantic love: It pursues the beloved, the beautiful and the ugly. In all their glory, and in all their sin. It isn’t just the warm-fuzzies; it’s also the nitty-gritty.

As to (2); it relates to (1). We can’t see what the lover sees. We aren’t with the beloved as much as the lover is. In our eyes, the pair are absurd. However, the cynicism originates from more than just our ignorance. It can originate from envy. If one is single (whether divorced, widowed, or never married) and desires to change their status, then we could perceive the romantic relationships of others as if they were mocking our singleness. The frustration that singles have may be something they do not wish to acknowledge. Instead, they see the frustration as originating from the romantic pair. The romantic pair, they may think, is naive. “Can’t they go elsewhere?” “Those two are so needy, they can’t go one place without dragging the other one along. I mean really, have  you seen them apart for 5 minutes? ” Perhaps they do acknowledge their frustration with singleness and wonder why their friends won’t consider their state before parading, as it were, the fact that they are in love.  But one doesn’t have to be single to be envious of the romance of another pair. Maybe they don’t believe in their own romance, and when they see the romance of another, they see ghosts of what they used to be.
So in (1) they don’t have an objective view because they don’t have access to the subjective views of the romantic pair. In (2) their envy and bitterness cuts of any access they may have had. The passive observers withdraw from trying to understand, because it will be  painful  for them.

 

C.  Romantic love is something that most (if not all) of us desire, yet, it is very difficult to admit that we desire it. It is mysterious in many different ways and for many different reasons. If one gives an explanation for love, it will be limited to the subjective experiences of those who are in “the kind of love that lovers are in” or the subjective experience of the outsider. Both can offer true things about the romance, but still, only God has the full picture. We know romance exists objectively, because the two lovers share in one experience

D. Is there a reason for romance that goes beyond the love in which lovers share? Probably not.

(i) Sure you consider them to be physically attractive. But you don’t love them simply on the basis of their outward appearance. That would be shallow

(ii) You love their personalities. But what if they develop a mental condition which has the potential to alter their personalities once every few days, weeks, months, or years? You learn that you don’t love them simply for their pleasant personalities

(iii) You love that they act decisively and firmly; yet with humility and the love for the image of God in others. But you don’t love them based on their performance

It’s like one lover asking  “Why  do you love me?” to another. The only reason that can be given is circular “I love you because I love you.”

The question remains to be answered: “What is it to be in love?

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free, – John Donne

That’s Not Good

“Five and a half days of ‘And God saw that it was good,’ and now, ‘not good.’ God sees something missing, a gap in His creation that must be filled. But let’s just start with the obvious: when God says that it’s not good for man to be alone, it would have been entirely inappropriate for Adam to say, ‘What do you mean ‘alone’? I have you, God.’ That’s absolutely true; and completely beside the point. Adam’s solitude (even with God as his companion) is a defect, and God in His goodness acts to remedy this lack. Note this: God actsGod meets the need. God gives life and breath and all things (including companionship). But God has designed us so that He would meet some of our needs through other people. We ought not dispute with God on this point.” 

Joe Rigney, “The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts” pg. 49

That Kind Of Beauty

That Kind Of Beauty

“It was beauty that did not astonish you till afterwards when you had gone out of sight of her and reflected on it. While she was with you, you were not astonished. It seemed the most natural thing in the world…She made beauty all round her. When she trod on the mud, the mud was beautiful; when she ran in the rain, the rain was silver. When she picked up a toad…the toad became beautiful” 

C.S. Lewis, “Till We Have Faces” p.11

Human priorities

Why is it, that we are enraged over the abuse of an animal, but are silent concerning the termination of a child in the womb?

(1) A potential answer may be that the lack of pain experienced by one constitutes a false analogy. Is it really a concern that one feels pain and the other does not? If so, just because something is painless, does not mean that it is moral. Some things that are moral involve a lot of pain.

(2) Some may answer that these are not morally equivalent. I would agree, however, I would say that the termination of a child in the womb is a lot worse. Because the child is created in the image of God and a dog is not. People who do not hold to Christianity would object on theological grounds. However, there could be someone who is a Christian, and for some reason or another, would disagree with such a claim.

(3)  But the question to Christians  who support abortion yet object to animal abuse would concern why they disagree. Is it a  debatable point among Christians  that humanity was made in the image of God?

(3a) Perhaps one  may answer by emphasizing  “stewardship” or “responsibility over animals” as a responsibility of mankind. (Gen 1:26-27) However, that doesn’t elevate animals  over humanity.