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KFC and Starbucks: 3 ways to change culture

A Kentucky Fried Chicken store in Boulder City, Nevada, late at night, empty of customers, after closing, November 29, 2006 (Credit: Allen via Flickr)A KFC employee in Jackson, Mississippi has been accused of asking a three-year-old girl to leave the restaurant because her facial injuries were disturbing to other customers.  Victoria Wilcher was attacked by pit bulls at her grandfather's home last April.  The dogs broke her nose, jaws, cheekbones and right eye socket.  She lost her right eye; the right side of her face is paralyzed.

Her grandmother, Kelly Mullins, recently took Victoria to a KFC restaurant, where she ordered mashed potatoes.  Mullins says, "I sat down at the table and started feeding her and the lady came over and said we'd have to leave because we were disturbing her other customers.  Victoria's face was disturbing the other customers.  I never thought anyone would act like that."

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Obsessive compulsive religion

A person washing their hands in a bathroom sink with running water and a bar of soap (Credit: Lucille Pine via Flickr) When I was seven years old, I thought God would come down to earth in a spacecraft to take everyone to heaven.  I was terrified that if I disobeyed my parents or told one of my older brothers to "shut up" that I would be left behind in this science-fiction rapture.  There is a psychological diagnosis for people that go through their lives with this type of thinking.  It is a subcategory of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) called scrupulosity.

Sufferers of scrupulosity fear punishment from deities for their actions. "They're walking around with this black cloud of 'I'm going to hell,'" expert Jonathan Abramowitz of University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill described.  If you have this condition, you believe that your thoughts have the same moral implications as your actions.  A colleague of Abramowitz explains that "Scrupulosity literally means 'fearing sin where there is none.'" In order to alleviate their fears they perform whatever rituals their religion prescribes compulsively and methodically, like we'd expect a person with OCD to wash their hands after shaking hands with a stranger or straighten a crooked picture frame.

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Robotic morality?

concept image for robotic morality, a white robot holding open panels in its chest displaying its heart inside (Credit: Denned via Fotolia)A somewhat unique "morality play" is being staged . . . and the Artificial Intelligence (AI) community is all abuzz.  It involves the idea of programming military robots with "morality."  We're not talking the lovable "Star Wars" duo of C-3PO and R2-D2 here, but robotic killing machines which have been programmed with a "morality" that enables them to be autonomous and effective on the field of combat . . . all according to certain prescribed rules of warfare.  Writing in the recent issue of DEFENSE ONE, Patrick Tucker reports on how the US government has made a number of grants to universities with the goal of seeing if it is indeed possible to program a "moral code" into a machine that will govern its conduct under combat conditions.

How might Christians respond to this whole idea?  If you are a Christian pacifist, your response is an easy one.  Since the whole concept of war is immoral, any talk of "moral" robotic soldiers is simply ludicrous, and a waste of time and effort to even consider.

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The fifty dollar baby and the smiling sisters

Photo of the baby that was offered to Tanner Wendell Stewart for $50 by a Bulgarian Roma Gypsy man (Credit: Tanner Wendell Stewart) I visited Sofia Bulgaria in 2012 and my life was changed forever. I was volunteering for The A21 Campaign, and on my last day I visited a small village to photograph some Roma Gypsy street portraits.

Upon entering the village I approached a group of people to take their photo. I snapped a group photo and I noticed one of the men was holding a baby. I asked him "May I photograph your baby? He's beautiful."

He said yes, so I took a picture. While I was shooting, the man said something in Bulgarian. Suddenly, my translator told me that it was time to go. I asked why and he responded that the man had just told me "If you think my baby is beautiful, you can buy him for fifty dollars." I thought it was a joke and looked up, smiling at the father. He wasn't smiling back. My translator was right, we needed to leave.

That moment changed my life forever.

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The Grammys: 3 ways Jesus would respond to 'Same Love'

Macklemore, Mary Lambert, Madonna, Ryan Lewis and Queen Latifah (L-R) perform 'Same Love' at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards held on January 26, 2014, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles (Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)The New York Times recently reported on anosognosia, which occurs when a person with a brain disability doesn't know he or she is sick.  People with anosognosia might drive with dementia and get lost, or walk after suffering a stroke.

Watching last Sunday's Grammy Awards, I witnessed moral anosognosia in prime time.  Rap duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, who had already won the award for best new artist, appeared on a set made to look like a church sanctuary, complete with stained glass windows.  They performed their single, "Same Love," then rap star Queen Latifah announced that 33 couples would be "married" onstage.  Some were heterosexual, some were homosexual.

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