Posts categorized “Religion”

2014 Year in Review - The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous (and the Funny)

January 3, 2015   6:54 pm

I missed this in 2013, and this is not a 3-post series as usual. Instead of writing a lot about each topic, I’ll give a short reason I categorized it where I did. Please make no assumptions or conclusions about what I don’t say; the fact that people are so apt to do that should probably make the “Bad” list, but not this year. Since this is a single post, we’ll lead with…

The Good

  • No Terrorism at World Stage Events - 2014 saw the Winter Olympics in Russia and the World Cup in Brazil. Neither were marred by terrorism.
  • 16 Out of 20 Ain’t Bad - Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood did not want to provide coverage for 4 of the 20 forms of “birth control” mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as they work post-conception (an “abortofacient”). The Supreme Court agreed, in a rare victory for religious freedom.
  • Plummeting Oil Prices - In spite of the current administration’s best efforts, our economy overcame them. The “Drill, Baby, Drill” crowd was vindicated, as an explosion in US oil production caused prices to drop substantially. Fracking has enabled this boom while preserving the environment, and the drop in prices has hit hostile-to-us oil-based economies hard. It’s a big win-win that progressives still can’t throughly grasp.
  • Republicans Win Control of Congress - This is a qualified “good” entry, assuming that they’ll govern as they ran. Hey, there’s a first time for everything, right?
  • Tennessee Football Rises - Playing an SEC schedule and non-gimme out-of-conference games with the youngest team in FBS is a recipe for a 3-9 season; the Vols made it 6-6 (and, since this is written after their bowl, 7-6) and have great momentum for 2015.

The Bad

  • The Deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner - Neither the Brown nor Garner families had loved ones with them this Christmas that they had last Christmas. There may be speculation as to the incidents surrounding their deaths (and neither are going to trial, so we’ll likely never fully know), but even the public knowing every little detail of what happened will not bring these young men back to their families.
  • Colorado Going to Pot - The first year’s experiment with legalized marijuana has not gone well. Assurances that children will not be able to easily get it have evaporated, and nearly all the tax money it’s generated has gone to enforcement. Their governor caught some heat for saying that the citizens acted foolishly, but the facts certainly indicate he was correct in his assessment.
  • Ebola - 2014 was the year Ebola came to America. While there were some ridiculous things with how it was handled, the bad was limited, with some who contracted the disease surviving, and a new set of medical protocols helping to protect those who care for people.
  • ISIS - Nearly 10 years after being freed, Iraq fell back into enslavement thanks to a group coming in to make a hostile takeover, combined with an army that was not willing to fight for what it had won. Islamic law marches on, while Christians die, in a place where thousands of Americans gave their lives to win freedom.
  • Russian Aggression Versus Ukraine - Russia invaded and took over part of another sovereign nation. They do not appear to be done yet.

The Ridiculous

  • The Handling of the Death of Michael Brown / The Reaction to the Brown Grand Jury Verdict / The Reaction to the Garner Grand Jury Verdict - Ferguson and Missouri police handled the initial aftermath of Brown’s shooting about as poorly as you could. The riots once the grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson were unnecessary and unhelpful (and unwanted by Michael Brown’s family), and the “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” gesture would have been impactful had it been based in verified fact (which it was not). This was also the case where “unarmed teen” is supposed to imply harmless, peaceful, law-abiding child, but video showed a certain store owner who would dispute that characterization. Once the Garner verdict came out, there were die-ins all across the country, proving nothing, but inconveniencing people who had nothing to do with anything surrounding the case. Two dead New York policemen and one in Florida, at last reports, still hadn’t brought Michael Brown or Eric Garner back to their families. (If I have a chance, there will be much more on this in my MLK post.)

    p.s. ALL lives matter.

  • Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Missing E-mails - Under oath, and subpoena from Congress, IRS chief Lois Lerner claimed to have lost her e-mail. This was after other e-mails came out that pretty much confirmed their deliberate targeting of conservative groups leading up to the 2012 election. While those e-mails were “found” toward the end of the year, this Watergate-esque dodge was pathetic. IT does not work that way, and if it does, those people need to be fired.

  • Computer Security - This was a bad year for computer security. “HeartBleed,” “Shell Shock,” and “Poodle” were names given to long-existing exploits that were discovered in the software that runs much of the Internet. Target fessed up about how large their breach was, and Home Depot let a lot of customer information get away as well. Finally, targeted attacks released iCloud data from celebrities, while an (internal? North Korean? We don’t know yet…) attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment released salaries, movies, even e-mails among leaders and actors. (Maybe we should sic the Guardians of Peace on the IRS!) Hopefully some good will come of this; if nothing else, it will make people think about security before they trust a “cloud” service with their information.

  • Kaci Hickox - Kaci is a nurse who was exposed to Ebola. She defied quarantine, though, and created a lot of concern. While she ultimately was not found to have the disease, her foolish, selfish actions stirred up a lot of concern in her community. As a medical professional, she should have known better. But, of course, if she had, then her name wouldn’t be on some random guy’s blog in a year-in-review post, would it?

The Funny

Continuing his tradition which he didn’t miss last year, Dave Barry has his take on the year’s events.

Here’s to 2015 - let’s hope it’s a good one!

Post-Independence Day Thoughts

July 5, 2013   10:25 am

I’ve got a good bit on my mind this morning. I held back from posting anything negative about our nation yesterday (apart from a call to repentance - but that was me as a Christian, not as American; I would feel that way about whatever nation I called home). “Happy Birthday America - you suck!” just seemed inappropriate.

However, our nation does have many, many flaws. I’m not ready to discard her, by any means; but I see, at nearly every turn, her people and her government making the wrong decisions, and continuing her slide towards mediocrity and insecurity, under the guise of improving both. In nearly every issue, the underlying cause appears to me to be the same – an inability to dispassionately, rationally evaluate a situation, policy, etc. on its merits alone. This is displayed on both sides of the political divide, where talking points and comebacks are slung back and forth, and seems to be what passes for civil discourse. It isn’t!

This originated as a Facebook post, but I thought it was more appropriate for the blog; heaven knows it’s had some cobwebs for a while, and hits its tenth anniversary next month. Were I to blog each of these issues individually, though, I’d end up with thousands of words that no one would read, save to search it for keywords so they could post their comebacks in the comments (see above). Does it matter that I can’t succinctly express what’s on my mind? The problems I see aren’t succinct problems with succinct solutions. An exclusively inward focus seems wrong; I should be trying to leave a better nation and world for my children, right?

But, as I look back at those nearly 10-year-old posts, the issues are the same. “Gay Bishops – A Big Deal?” Well, I (regrettably) have been vindicated in my view that this gave license for people to just ignore parts of the Bible with which they disagree; at this point, were a hair’s breadth away from forcing people to behave in ways they feel are contrary to the Bible, because others disagree with parts of It. “The Ten Commandments – A Monumental Controversy” was about a man’s personal decorations in his office, yet the intervening ten years have seen a continuing push to eliminate every vestige of our Christian heritage from the public square. “Abortion – A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Passed” has seen some progress as of late, but the Todd Akin/Wendy Davis dichotomy prove my point about civil discourse; neither side is immune. However, since that post, there is one political party that has decided they should be for it at any time, for any reason, at no cost. I’m no legal expert, but I don’t think that was quite the point of Roe v. Wade, or even Griswold v. Connecticut. How does one rationally argue against such an irrational, yet quite passionately-held, position?

America is not beyond hope. We must change course, though, or we will find ourselves swimming in self-induced mediocrity, while we are crowing over how advanced we are. To get God’s blessing, we must turn to Him; to elevate civil discourse, we must teach reasoning. (Morgan Freeberg had a great (and succinct!) summary of this where he dissects Dennis Prager’s statement that he’d prefer clarity over agreement.)

p.s. The ambiguity in the title of this post is intentional; whichever meaning is appropriate will be up to us going forward.

You Are Harming the Cause

July 12, 2012   2:29 am

Earlier today, I saw a link to a blog post about a man, Michael Salman, who had been thrown in jail and fined for hosting a Bible study in his home. We’ve seen things like this before, but what made this one unique is that it was in Arizona; yes, this is happening right here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. I shared the link with others, voicing my support for him if the situation was as it was presented. However, a friend followed up with a link to a news story that gives more of the history and what has happened. As it turns out, the original post is highly-slanted advocacy that left out some key details. The more I’ve thought about it, the angrier I’ve become, to the point where I now hope that Salman comes to his senses while he’s in jail.

Here is the Cliff’s Notes version of the first post (feel free to read it if you’d like). This man and his wife were having family and friends over for a Bible study on a weekly basis. Neighbors complained about the extra cars and the traffic, and the fire department broke up one of their studies. The man then gets building permits for a 2,000 square foot building where the number of people could be without causing a fire hazard. Since erecting that building, he has been continually harassed and accused of running a church on his residential property. He maintains that these are simply guests in his home and new out-building, and that they have as much of a right to be there as would a birthday or Super Bowl party. Salman is now facing 30 months in jail and $12,000 in fines.

Sounds pretty bad, huh? Well, my opinion began to turn when I saw a picture of his yard…

A view of the yard in front of the Salman property, with a wooden cross and a message sign typically found outside churches

OK - the “this is not a church” claim just became very, very hard to swallow. From the above link, plus another from the DailyMail, we learn some other interesting facts. First, Salman is an ordained minister. Second, this out-building, contrary to the restaurant-looking picture from the Freedom Outpost article, is equipped with a pulpit, stage, and chairs. Third, these Bible studies were hosted on the weekend. A time of Bible study on the weekend in a building with a pulpit on a stage… If only there were a word that would be more succinct to describe that sort of thing! There is, and it’s the one the city of Phoenix used - church.

This brings me to the angry part. My anger is based in the blemish to the name of Christ that this has caused, and for the people who are going to look like fools for supporting this when the first, incomplete, biased, and dishonest story came out.

Yes, dishonest; candor is a part of honesty, and involved disclosing information that the hearer, upon learning that it was not disclosed, would feel wronged. There is real religious persecution going on all around the world; this does NOT rise to that level. In the realm of ideas, honesty is paramount. This is why so many arguments fall flat on their face when all the facts come out; even those who claim that their are no absolutes tend to still hold honesty as a moral character trait.

Secondly, what happened to “love your neighbor as yourself,” Mr. Salman? A Super Bowl party and a birthday party are both once-a-year events, and even those have been broken up by police and fire officials if they cause a safety concern. You knew that your neighbors did not like the extra traffic, particularly when your study expanded from 15 to nearly 40. I’m sure there is a restaurant in Phoenix that would love to have a weekly banquet room reservation for 30 people; there are two I could attend in the Albuquerque area every week. But, rather than show peace and love, you extended “the middle finger of the Lord” to your neighbors and the city. You are now reaping what you have sown; how can you expect your neighbors or the city to have mercy on you when you were not interested in giving it to them?

Thirdly, Mr. Salman, did we miss Romans 13:1-2?

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

- Romans 13:1-2 (ESV)

The city told you what you needed to do. They did not prohibit you from continuing to have meetings; they told you the codes with which you must comply if you wanted to continue doing so. All churches have to meet building codes; if you have any doubts regarding their importance, compare the earthquake devastation in countries with them to the devastation in countries without them. They ensure public safety where large numbers of people are present on a regular basis; a building does not have to be a public building to meet this criteria. You chose to call your meetings something other than church to get around that (see how that honesty thing keeps cropping up?), you got called on it, and now you have, to quote Paul, “incur[red] judgment.”

Mr. Salman, I hope you use your time away to think about what you have done. Will the world be better off if your 5 children show the world the love of God the way you’ve modeled it for them in this situation? And please, be HONEST when asking for help. There are good people who will support you, but we don’t want to be played for fools. By doing what you have been doing for the past several years, YOU ARE HARMING THE CAUSE OF CHRIST. Christ did not come to give us freedom of religion; He came to free us from sin. He chose to place us in a country where we have very few limits on the free exercise of religion; don’t lose sight of that because you happen to have bumped up against what you view as an impediment on that free exercise.

The good thing in all this is, Mr. Salman, that grace is always there. You can receive it, and you can extend it. This cause is not hopeless, especially if you change the focus from “I have a right!” to “where does God want me to hold this study?” Who knows the ministry God may have for you if you get out of a landlocked residential neighborhood and into some place with room for growth?

Contraception, Conviction, and Personal Responsibility

March 4, 2012   3:50 am

Contraception has been in the news quite a bit recently, culminating this week in testimony before Congress and calls for Rush Limbaugh’s microphone over his response. Let’s look at the timeline and how we got here, then I’ll share my thoughts on the whole thing. (If you’re in a hurry, skip to the last 2 paragraphs; but, if you have the time, read the whole thing, as it goes deeper than I have seen most analysis go.)

This issue came to the forefront of popular discussion when the Roman Catholic church expressed their opposition to the provision of the health care reform bill (AKA “ObamaCare”) that required employers to provide health insurance that covers contraceptive care. Official church doctrine regards this as sin, and requiring their hospitals and other organizations to provide this, they claim, is a violation of their religious beliefs. The fact that Rick Santorum, a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, is a practicing Roman Catholic (and has lived these beliefs for years), has brought this issue even into the primary process.

Some legislators, seeing this as a legitimate complaint from the church, presented legislation that would amend this requirement, allowing an exemption for employers who have religious objections to these requirements. To help combat this, a Georgetown University student named Sandra Fluke testified to Congress about how important she held contraception, and how she felt that free contraceptive coverage was an integral part of health insurance coverage. Rush Limbaugh, long known for “illustrating absurdity by being absurd” (his term), seized this testimony and ran with over-the-top commentary, using terms to describe Ms. Fluke that have people calling for his job.

Those are the facts as they now stand. Let’s dig in, shall we?

The first thing we need to discuss is the term “contraception;” the literal definition is “against the fertilization of the egg” (contra = against, con_ception_ = fertilization of the egg). A popular synonym for contraception is “pregnancy prevention,” but that is a much broader term. Some feminists define contraception as “that which prevents birth,” an even broader definition than pregnancy prevention. There cannot be an agreement on contraception until we can all agree on what that means. We’ll leave abortion out of it, as the view of abortion being contraception is a minority one, and it’s not part of this mandate.

What is part of this mandate, however, are drugs that are collectively termed abortofacients; these are techniques or medicines that do not prevent the fertilization of the egg, but they prevent the implantation of the fertilized egg onto the uterine wall. RU-486, the “morning-after pill,” and certain intrauterine devices (IUDs) fall into this category. These methods of “contraception” violate not only the Roman Catholic views against contraception, but the evangelical churches’ beliefs that life begins at conception - it is equivalent to an abortion. This greatly expands the pool of those organizations which would be required to provide coverage which violates their moral beliefs.

Some would say that the argument of “it’s against my religion” has been made spuriously in the past, and they would be right. However, the prior misuse of this argument cannot be used to strip away the principle, long recognized in this country, that we generally do not create laws that force mainstream religious organizations to violate their consciences. I personally do not hold to the belief that contraception is wrong; however, I do hold to the belief that life begins with conception. This is described in Scripture, and has been validated with medical advances over the past few decades. So, I believe that this law is a bad law because, among its other many problems, it forces religious organizations to either violate their conscience or face criminal prosecution. In a nation founded on the principle of religious liberty, this is not something we should do.

Now, let’s turn our attention to Sandra Fluke and her testimony before Congress. Her testimony brought a valuable insight into the mindset of many of her generation. She said “Without insurance coverage, contraception can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school.” Let’s ignore the math of that statement ($1,000/year?) for now and look at what she didn’t say. Implicit in this statement is the fact that she feels entitled to not only practice sexual activity as much as she wants, but to be free from the consequences of that activity. That is one of the lies that now permeated a second generation. They have been told that their sexuality is best expressed by using it repeatedly, and however they choose to do it, that defines who they are. The sexually “repressed” have been ridiculed or even shunned, while the sexually “liberated” are celebrated. Thanks to contraceptive methods, they can express themselves free from the traditional consequences of sexual activity.

This is a lie. “Liberated” sexuality does not empower women; rather, it strips them of their power, instinctively inherent in the human race. It is no secret that the male of the human species is inordinately preoccupied with this aspect of his life from adolescence forward; traditionally, while the female may have wanted the same thing, she would hold back, which encouraged men to make a commitment they might not otherwise make. The old adage “Why would you buy a cow when you can get the milk for free?” illustrates this principle quite vividly. 40 years out from the sexual revolution, commitment has taken a nose-dive into near non-existence. Cohabitation, hooking up, friends with benefits, and no-fault divorce now provide avenues for sexual activity that were not available to men in the past. So, rather than commit to one person, and do the hard work of changing themselves to become better mates in order to earn this gift from their brides, men can just float from one partner to another. If a partner sees something in him that, were he to change, would make him a better man, he has very little motivation to endure that change. This has led to weaker men and weaker women, and in two generations has brought us to the place where over 50% of babies born to women under 30 are now born out of wedlock.

Yes, we’re getting deep into this, but it is crucial that we do so, because this begins to get to the biggest problem with the Fluke generation (heh - I should copyright that). We can expect nothing different, because they simply haven’t been taught, and they did not see it modeled in anything but generations so old they’d never dream of mimicking them. They see no reason for people to have a problem with this. This is also why there is such a visceral reaction when these beliefs are challenged. That doesn’t absolve them of their responsibility to seek out and evaluate whether what they believe is right, but it helps to understand their thought process.

Notice also that I am not judging the character or intentions of the generation as I described it above. Even with parents teaching their children these things, and living them out in front of their children, people will make choices that are less than optimal. The above should be read as a commentary on society, not as a condemnation of its participants. Besides, assigning blame to people is counterproductive; we need to look at the decisions that were made, where they have led us, and determine what decisions we should make to get us to where we need to be. My goal is to encourage behavior that is beneficial to society.

(Wow, what a rabbit trail. OK, back to my point from 4 paragraphs ago…) Although I doubt she sees it this way, what she expressed in her testimony was a desire to choose to act however she wants, but be free from the negative consequences of her actions. This is what has provoked such a reaction from her detractors - why should I (through government-funded insurance programs) pay for your decisions, or for shielding you from the consequences of your decisions? Engaging in sexual activity is a choice; you don’t just “catch” sex. (We’re ignoring rape with this statement - but what kind of attitude do you have to have to always have contraception for fear of rape? That doesn’t apply in this argument.)

This brings us to Rush Limbaugh, who used absurdity to greatly ridicule Ms. Fluke. He said some things that he knew were over the top; that’s what he does, both to illustrate points and to garner ratings. Predictably, there have been calls for his job, and some advertisers have pulled their spots from his show. Since I started this post earlier this morning, he has apologized to her for the incendiary words that he used. (Interestingly, one of those words has been used triumphantly by feminists to describe themselves, as a celebration of their sexual freedom; if she truly is a feminist activist, one might think she would take that as a compliment. Sadly, the double-standard discussion will have to wait for another time, or this post will never wrap up.)

Just as we looked at the Fluke generation, think about the Limbaugh generation. Rush is part of the first generation that began, in large numbers, to shed the morals and values that had been with us for hundreds of years. He is now seeing the results of this, and is flabbergasted that things have gone so far so quickly. He also enjoys getting people riled up, particularly the “femi-nazis,” a group that is pretty easy to tick off. So, when we look at his statements, considering his history and background can help put his comments into their intended context. As has been proved by both the right and the left, an out-of-context sound bite can be made to say whatever one wants; however, the truth, whether exculpatory or damning, can only be determined by evaluating the statement as whole.

Are there any of you who feel that Limbaugh should have been censured, who also feel that, now that he’s apologized, all his sponsors should return to his program on Monday? Now you’re starting to see it. He may very well have to live with the negative consequences of his actions, even though he has apologized for them. Should his insurance company produce the lost revenue from these advertisers? Of course not - he would be crazy to suggest that they should. This is the exact same principle we evaluated above! Maybe seeing it turned on someone less sympathetic will help you understand the issue more clearly.

Personally, I believe that shielding people from the negative consequences of their isolated bad actions can be beneficial, particularly if they are allowed to experience part of those, and have to expend some effort in ameliorating the remainder. (I’m not talking about Limbaugh here; this is a general statement.) As the adage goes, “Good decisions come from experience; experience comes from bad decisions.” People are not perfect, and they are going to make choices which bring negative consequences. Notice, though, that I started this by saying “personally.” Forgiveness is a personal virtue, not a government policy. However, even with forgiveness, it is often neither possible nor desirable to shield the person from the consequences of their actions. What people like Sandra Fluke want is for the government to spare no expense in its attempt to shield her from whatever consequences she deems undesirable. A government policy of forgiveness, paired with the equal application of the law, amounts to a tacit approval of the activity. It is not fair to forgive or shield one person and not another; some would argue that limiting it to one instance would not be fair either. It just simply does not work.

Sexual activity is certainly not the only area where we see this mindset at work. One of the major sparks behind the Occupy movement was frustration from people who got a college education, but could not parlay that education into employment. They wanted their school loans forgiven - and, with the value they were seeing from that piece of paper, who could blame them? But, again, actions have consequences. They chose to get the education in certain degrees, and at a pace that incurred debt. Their demand that others pay to shield them from the negative consequences of those decisions was met with some sympathy, but mostly derision from people who saw them as a bunch of freeloaders, protesting their poor state from their iPhones and iPads.

Let’s distill all of the above down to five main points. First, the contraception provision in ObamaCare is wrong, and inconsistent with our legal traditions; it becomes more so as the definition of the term contraception is widened. Second, the nuclear family is the most beneficial for society, and provides the greatest motivation for both man and woman to improve themselves as they grow closer to one another. Third, while people like Ms. Fluke may not see it, they are expecting others to pay to shield them from the negative consequences of their actions, and this is what many people, myself included, find distasteful. Fourth, consider the context from which both sides originate when analyzing arguments, particularly those which generate a strong reaction; it may not make their argument any more believable, but it will help reveal not just what they are saying, but what they want. Fifth, while forgiveness is a positive personal character trait, it is incompatible with government policy.

I hope my analysis has helped you evaluate this issue; it goes way deeper than sound bites can convey. At its core, this is about respecting religious convictions and accepting personal responsibility. I hope and pray that my nation chooses to do both.

Christmas on Sunday

December 23, 2011   6:43 pm

A picture of a manger filled with straw, with the caption 'KING SIZE BED'Christmas 2011 happens to fall on a Sunday. This has led to a number of churches moving their services to Saturday in lieu of Sunday, and a number of other churches loudly proclaiming that, of all days, worshiping Christ is something that should and will happen on schedule. One would think that this would be the end of it; however, some (not all) people on both sides seem to be invoking the “more spiritual” argument in defense of their schedules. This bothers me, and I believe both sides are causing harm with this argument, turning the focus from Christ (the reason for the season) to man’s actions.

Let’s take the rearrangers. The primary motivation I’ve heard for churches modifying their usual schedule is so that families can maintain their Christmas morning traditions. Having a church service requires “work” for more than just the Pastor; for a 10am service, people may need to be there as early as 8am to prepare the facilities, and may require people as as late as 12:30pm to close everything up once the hour-long service is over. Adjusting the schedule frees all these people from these obligations. God’s presence is not limited to the walls of a church building, and as the second-biggest celebration on the church calendar, moving a service is not contrary to Scripture. The meeting is still happening, so these people are not violating Hebrews 10:25, which says:

…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:25 (ESV)

On the other side, we have the people who feel, of all days of the year, the celebration of the birth of the One we worship is the last day they would consider not meeting. They see it as an opportunity - Christmas only falls on Sunday once every 6 years (depending on how leap years fall), and this year is one of those lucky years. Worshiping on the Lord’s Day and Christmas at the same time? Awesome! They see the worship of God as preeminent, not subject to rearranging at the whim of man’s schedules.

Neither of these positions violates any Scripture I can find. And, let me be clear, I believe that “right with God” Christians can hold either of these views. It is not the views, it is the “holier than thou” arguments I’m hearing made in defense of these views. The thing is, we as mere humans cannot possibly know enough to make value judgments about either of these views. Motivation and heart are the key items here. Jesus made it clear that good works from a wrong heart are worthless.

On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.”
Matthew 7:22-23 (ESV)

If those who are rearranging are doing it out of selfishness, they are wrong. If those who are keeping their schedule are doing it out of moral superiority, they are wrong. Those who are looking down on either of these groups is also wrong. The focus should be Christ, not man’s performance.

This weekend, worship Christ, the newborn King. Do it Saturday, do it Sunday, maybe even do it both days (that’s our family’s plan). Focus on Him, not on others. Then, after this weekend, continue. Worshiping Christ should be a daily occurrence in our lives.

Jesus Is Not a Liberal, Part 1

May 19, 2010   2:51 am

Recently, one of my Facebook friends posted a link to an article entitled “How Do Christians Become Conservative?” I believe that this article was significantly flawed; I hope those friends will take the time to read this and think about what it says. Know my heart in this; it’s not a me vs. them, conservative vs. liberal thing, it’s about truth. As a Christian, I want to ensure that claims made about my Savior are accurate; after all, if we’re supposed to follow His example, shouldn’t we make sure we know what that is?

The article was written by a man named Mike Lux. In this article, he goes through great pains to show how Jesus was actually a progressive (a term liberals like to use for themselves to avoid the negative connotations associated with liberalism). I found his theology questionable, being based in large part on taking quotes out of context. Over the course of this entry (and at least one more to come), I’d like to show where this is misguided. I have no personal vendetta agains Mr. Lux, nor do I derive any pleasure at showing where his arguments break down; this is not about him or me.

(Regular readers of my occasional posts here will know that I either post short items or long items; this isn’t going to be short. Quotes below are from Mr. Lux, unless otherwise noted.)

First off, I want to address his view of Scripture.

I decided about four decades ago that since there was no way for sure about the nature of God or the soul or all that metaphysical stuff, I wasn’t going to spend much time thinking, caring, or worrying about it. If that sends one to hell, at least I’ll be there with a lot of my favorite people.

I focused here on the Jesus of the Gospels (principally Matthew, Mark and Luke - the Gospel of John is almost all focused on mystical spiritualism)…

Judeo-Christian scripture is a rich and complicated work of literature. Written over the course of (at least) several hundred years by dozens of different authors, there are a variety of perspectives and many times outright contradictions in the theology and the politics of the writing (if it’s all inspired word for word by God, He seems to have changed his mind a lot).

This, then, is an unbeliever trying to tell believers what Scripture says. He obviously does not believe 2 Timothy 3:16, which states “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness…” Either all of the Bible is true, or none of It is; if It is not entirely true, how do we know which portions are and which portions aren’t? Why base your faith or arguments in a flawed book?

Given this view of the Bible, it almost makes sense why his arguments are so selective. There are portions of the Bible that can be twisted to say whatever you want them to say. A serious study of the Scriptures must consider the many different contexts; the context within the surrounding verses, the context with Scripture even in different books of the Bible, and the context of the culture in which the statements were made.

The Jesus of the New Testament was of course extremely concerned with spiritual matters: there is no doubt whatsoever about his role or interest in the issues of the day, that the spiritual well-being of his followers was a major interest of his.

This is true; however, it wasn’t just His followers for whom He was concerned regarding spiritual well-being. In fact, one verse that is frequently taken out of context is Jesus and the woman caught in adultery.

When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, Lord,” she answered.

“Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus.

John 8:10-11

Wow! How non-judgemental! I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard this being used by someone to justify why a Christian shouldn’t point out their sin to them. There’s just one problem with this - I (just as they do) conveniently left out the last part, which changes things just a bit.

“Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” (emphasis mine)

Jesus didn’t condemn her (a point lost on some Christians, that’s for sure); but, He did not ignore her sin! He gave her forgiveness and a charge to change her behavior. This is certainly only one example (and not even one Mr. Lux made), but it’s illustrative of how omitting something can change the meaning of Scripture.

With that example, let’s dive into Mr. Lux’s use of that technique.

In Luke 6, Jesus says the poor and hungry will be blessed, and the rich will be cursed.

He’s speaking of Luke 6:20-26. “Blessed are you who are poor, because the kingdom of God is yours.” (v. 20b) However, compare this with Matthew’s account in Matthew 5:3 - “Blessed are the poor in spirit, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” So, is Jesus talking about poverty, or is He talking about pride? Balanced against the remainder of Scripture, both Old and New Testament, I believe He’s talking about pride. Realizing that one is a sinner and needs forgiveness requires a humility that’s unnatural for us humans. Generally speaking, those who are wealthy tend to rely on their wealth, rather than the saving grace that Jesus offers.

I’ll grant him that yes, Luke 6:24-25 do appear to say what he says they do when taken out of context. There are other Scriptures that speak to the difficulty someone who has riches can have following the Lord.

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Matthew 19:24

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call Me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good but One - God. You know the commandments: Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not defraud; honor your father and mother.”

He said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth.”

Then, looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” But he was stunned at this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.

Mark 10:17-22 (emphasis mine)

Jesus loved this person who wanted to follow Him. However, He knew the hindrance that these possessions would have on this man’s ability to focus on following Christ. Jesus didn’t condemn him for having these possessions and riches; rather, He told him how he should use them. Caring for the poor and needy is an outcome of one’s relationship with Christ; in fact, James 1:27 says “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” There are several other places where rich people are told to use their acquired wealth to help the poor; they’re not condemned for earning it, just directed to use it in a different way. Again, this fruit comes from the seed of a relationship with Christ.

(On a side note - this is not a governmental edict. Isn’t it “progressives” who accuse conservatives of trying to make America into a theocracy? Of trying to make God’s law into man’s law? Where’s the “separation of church and state” argument, Mr. Lux?)

For today, let’s look at one more of the claims from the original article.

He chases the wealthy bankers and merchants from the Temple.

This is true. However, did He chase these bankers and merchants from the temple because they were wealthy? Of course not - this claim shows his ignorance of how these things worked. Originally, the Jews were supposed to bring a spotless lamb or dove to the temple for a sacrifice, or certain amounts of grain or other produce for an offering. As the Jews branched into pursuits other than agriculture and farming, and as they became more busy (sound familiar?), a cottage industry sprang up with people who would sell spotless lambs and doves and measures of produce that the people could purchase, then offer to the priests to take care of their responsibilities.

Scripture doesn’t condemn this aspect; and, as with pretty much any business, a little profit goes a long way to ensuring the business can continue. However, greed soon set in, and these vendors were not selling what they claimed to sell. Some of the animals were not spotless. False weights were used to charge people more than what they rightfully should have been charged. This was the reason Jesus went through the temple like a bull in a china shop, and the only time we see Him being physically violent. What was His problem? “Is it not written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of thieves!” (Mark 11:17) “Den of thieves” was not class warfare; it was an accurate description of those selling 2 ounces of product for the price of 3, and those passing off blemished animals as spotless. This story (recorded nearly word-for-word by three of the Gospels) is about people scamming others, using their desire to worship God for their own monetary gain.

There will be (at least) a part 2; I still haven’t addressed his claim that Matthew 25 shows how to get to heaven (hint: don’t be rich), nor have I addressed the (red herring, IMO) of limited socialism within the early church, as described in the book of Acts. It will be linked below once it’s written.

Rick Warren Is the Man

December 19, 2008   2:52 pm

Via Cassy Fiano, we get a transcript and a link to video of an interview of Rick Warren by Ann Curry. As you probably know, Rick is the pastor of Saddleback Church in California and the author of the Purpose-Driven Life books. He has also been selected to deliver the invocation at the upcoming inauguration, which really has the gay community’s collective panties in a wad. Me, I think it’s funny seeing these special interest groups get their first twinges of buyer’s remorse.

Anyway, enough babbling from me. Here’s the transcript excerpt…

ANN CURRY: Your position [on gay marriage] has raised the spectre that you are homophobic.

Warren responds with a hearty laugh.

CURRY: You laugh, but that is why gay people are angry.

RICK WARREN: Well, I could give you a hundred -

CURRY: Are you homophobic?

WARREN: I don’t know any church in America that’s done more to help the gay community, particularly with AIDS, than Saddleback. But the hate speech against me is incendiary.

CURRY: If science finds that this is biological, that people are born gay, would you change your position?

WARREN: No, and the reason why is because we all have biological predispositions. I’m naturally inclined to have sex with every beautiful woman I see. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

I think this is just awesome. It’s succinct, it’s personal, and it illustrates that his views on sexual relations are, in fact, not bigoted in the least.

Video Games for the Easily Offended

October 21, 2008   12:27 am

Presbyterians? Methodists? Catholics? Wiccans? You know the answer to that…

One of the fall’s most anticipated video games for the PlayStation 3, Sony’s “LittleBigPlanet,” had to be yanked from shelves at the last minute Monday because it might accidentally offend Muslims.

You can read the whole article here. It seems that one of the songs has two lines that also appear in the Koran. You know, I’d actually be happy if a popular video game had a song with a few lines from the Bible. But, I guess since Christians don’t handle their offense the same way Muslims do, we just get to get offended.

(Not that I want censure of anything that may offend any religion - most religions can handle it.)

You've Got the Time, Albuquerque!

February 6, 2008   12:46 am

Do you spend 28 minutes a day commuting? Doing housework? Reading e-mail? If so, you’ve got the time to listen to the Bible. Faith Comes by Hearing has created a dramatized reading of the New Testament, that can be completed in 40 days, 28 minutes each day. Starting February 11th, running through Good Friday on March 21st, Albuquerque is encouraged to listen - and you don’t have to be in Albuquerque to do it, either! They offer a free download on their website - I encourage each of you to join me in listening to the Bible over 40 days.

There will be a list on this blog of the chapters that make up each day - at the top of the page, just below the Verse of the Day, there will be an entry with that day’s chapters. Also, if you’re using Linux, I was not able to get the free download to work. However, I did get my paws on an actual CD, and you can download the ISO here. (Edit: This is no longer hosted here.) (Please try to get it from them first - only download this if you can’t.)

Selective Religion

October 27, 2007   3:46 am

There is something that has been bugging me, and thanks to an episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, I’m getting around to addressing it. Here is the transcript which we’ll be discussing - a strong language warning is in effect. (Quoted portions here will be sanitized.) I’ll state up front that Bill Maher is a comedian, so I understand that some of this is his schtick. I’ll also state that I’m not picking on him, just using what he said as an example of an argument I’ve heard hundreds of time. The argument is this - current practitioners of Christianity have it all wrong. Jesus was accepting and loving, not full of hate like today’s Christians.

We’ll start with Maher’s monologue…

And finally, New Rule: If the choice in '08 is between Rudy and Hillary, “values voters” must do the Christian thing and choose Hillary. Of course, I think all religion is nuts, but at least she practices it the way Jesus suggested: privately. Like a Dick Cheney energy meeting.

I’ll certainly grant him one thing - though Hillary’s husband is a louse, they are both still married in their first marriage. But, apart from that, the only time Hillary goes to church is when there’s a good photo op, whereas Giuliani has not pretended to be religious.

Plus, she’s raised an admirable daughter, while Rudy’s kids couldn’t hate him more if they were New York City firefighters.

And let’s not forget, Hillary didn’t commit adultery. Her husband did. And afterwards, she did the Christian thing and forgave him. And then she had a GPS unit implanted in his {manhood}. But the important thing is, she forgave him!

I included these just for a chuckle or two. He does make a few good points. Some may speculate about whether her forgiveness was politically calculated or not, but regardless, she did forgive him, even after the one reason given in Scripture as allowing divorce (more on that later).

Now, I bring all this up because this weekend in Washington is the “Values Voters Convention.” Three days of peace, love and hypocrisy. Where the Republican frontrunners will spend the week kissing the {backsides} of 2,000 social conservatives who despise liberals, homosexuals, Muslims, Mexicans and Nobel Prize winners. And who believe the sound of a condom wrapper being opened makes angels die.

Now we start with the elitism and name-calling. I listen to and read conservative commentary, I am friends with many conservatives, and I consider myself to be a conservative as well. I don’t despise liberals, though I do despise their viewpoints. I don’t despise homosexuals. I’ll admit that I’m a little apprehensive of Muslims, but living and working around them for four months while I was deployed certainly helped ease that apprehension. I have no problems with Mexicans at all - however, I believe they should emigrate to this country according to our laws. And the last line isn’t even worthy of a comment. :)

It’s kind of like a “Star Trek” convention, only the virgins are angry - and they think outer space is just a theory. So, Ann Coulter, if you’ve got any more “{queer}” jokes, this is the room for you.

On the contrary, most “values voters” are not virgins; they just ascribe to God’s version of sexuality. And, they know that outer space isn’t just a theory; God created it. And, most conservatives I know can parse words well enough to realize that what Ann Coulter was making fun of the railroading of Isaiah Washington and the lack of manliness of John Edwards - not using the slur against Edwards.

Moving along…

And I know that if you can look at the war in Iraq, the melting environments and the descent of America into “idiocracy,” and still think our biggest problems are boobies during the Super Bowl and the “war on Christmas,” then you don’t have values, you have issues.

We disagree on the war in Iraq. Global warming is a religion, not science, and information keeps coming out every week disproving this religion, with it’s “indulgences” in the form of carbon credits. Conservatives are also concerned about the lack of knowledge amongst the public, which is why we are in favor of trying other alternatives to the proven failed government school system. Broadcast standards are what they are - whine all you want, that’s why your show is on HBO. And the “war on Christmas” is an assault on freedom of religion, one of the bedrock principles of this country. I’ll agree, “we” have issues, but by “we” I mean this entire nation.

If you had “values,” you’d draw the line at torture. But a startling number of people who call themselves Christians don’t. And I’m pretty sure if you asked, “What would Jesus veto,” it wouldn’t be health care for sick kids.

Sure, we’ll draw the line at torture - but not your definition of torture, which is “pretty much anything that makes the detainee uncomfortable.” And I’m pretty sure Jesus would have vetoed this latest S-CHIP bill, which isn’t health care for sick kids, it’s health insurance for middle-class kids.

Let me take this opportunity for a rabbit-trail rant. What is it with liberals and dishonest euphemisms? “Taxes” become “contributions”, health “insurance” becomes health “care”, “religion” becomes “hate” (unless it’s Islam, then it’s hallowed and is not to be trifled with), and “interrogation” is “torture”. As the Godfather has said, “Words mean things.” If they were honest about their agenda, the public would never buy it. Who here is against “health care for children”? (crickets chirping) Who here is against “taxpayer (that’s you and me, by the way)-funded health insurance for children of middle-class families through age 25”? (show of hands) That’s what I thought.

But back to Bill - here it is, folks, his grand finale…

Why, it’s almost like “values voters” don’t really believe Jesus was right about anything. [in mock attack ad voice] “Jesus Christ: wrong on gays, wrong on taxes, wrong on torture, and wrong for America.”

Here’s a passage I’ve heard I don’t know how many times, used to prove this exact point. It’s from John 8, where the people brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus. Their law said she should be stoned, but they wanted to see what Jesus would say. We’ll look at John 8:3-11 from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (click the link to read them, if you think I’m quoting them incorrectly, or to read it in a different translation).

3 Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. 4 “Teacher,” they said to Him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. 5 In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?” 6 They asked this to trap Him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse Him.

Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with His finger. 7 When they persisted in questioning Him, He stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Oooh, that’s good! That’s usually where the argument ends. “You’re not sinless, so who are you to “cast stones” at me?” They interpret “casting stones” as “saying what I’m doing is wrong.” Rather than excusing sin, though, this is a prohibition against meting out punishment. Casting stones was executing a death-sentence judgment against someone. But there’s more!

8 Then He stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. 9 When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only He was left, with the woman in the center. 10 When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, Lord,” she answered.

“Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus.

“But look! Jesus SAID ‘I don’t condemn you’!!!” Again, calling a sin a sin is not condemnation. But, there’s one part of this verse that conveniently gets snipped, and it’s the part that we as Christians believe is the most important part.

“Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

The emphasis in the above is, of course, mine. Jesus did not condemn her, but He also did not say that what she was doing was “just the way she was, and we should accept it” or “fine with Him as long as she wasn’t hurting anyone else.” He forgave, then gave her the charge of turning away from that sin. That is the truly beautiful part of this story - we don’t have to continue sinning, to continue to be a slave to sin, once we have met the saving power of Christ.

In logic, a “straw man” is a fallacious argument of an opponent’s position that is misconstrued but argued as fact. That is what people who espouse these arguments are doing. They are setting up a straw man of this religion that Jesus never taught, so they can tear down our practice of it. They’re wrong, and we should call them on it. There is a difference between being meek and defending the faith. :)

So, the next time someone tells you what Jesus would do, (as Paul Harvey would say) now you know the rest of the story.