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[230] Elizabeth Warren

So we now find out that Elizabeth Warren’s physiology houses perhaps less Native-American ancestry than that of Trump.  How embarrassing.

But you don’t need me to tell you that.  There is, however, much more below the surface of this self-defeating act of the Senator.  Warren appears to have cozied up to Native Americans (at least conceptually, not biologically) as if such affiliation makes the 69-year-old, patently pale-faced woman more avant garde, more relevant—chic, if you will, in a time of identity politics.  It conjures up memories of whites fawning over blacks, as they frantically sought black acceptance back in the 1960s.

If that’s all it is, Warren’s gaffe is simply silly—sophomoric—but relatively harmless.  But I think it is more than that.  And it is dangerous.  It plays into the worst form of identity politics—the secular tendency to venerate one’s race or ethnicity (or denigrate the race or ethnicity of others) over character.  For the thinking Christian, this is idolatry.  We are who God made us to be, and there is no getting around that.  Hence, there is nothing special about being German, Mexican, African, or Chinese.  What is special is that each of us is in the image of God, with a calling and purpose so much larger and more important than the physical container in which we are housed.

We can have our ethnic festivals and guard the rights of the imperiled, but anything more than that sends us in the direction of worshipping the creature rather than the Creator—the container rather than the person inside the package.

A half century ago, Martin Luther King dreamed of a day in which people would not be judged according to the color of their skin, but rather on the content of their character.  King was dividing the flesh from the spirit.  It is what every Christian needs to do.

DC

[229] Kavanaugh

You saw secular progressivism in action during the Bret Kavanaugh drama.  Kavanaugh represents everything the progressives oppose.  He is male, he is white, he is politically conservative, he is a Constitutional constructionist, he is likely pro-life, and he is a practicing Catholic.

The last three form the linchpin of the opposition to Kavanaugh.  The secular progressives do not accept Judeo-Christian values—the philosophical context of the Constitution—as authoritative.  They want to create a society bound by ever-evolving human values.  In short, they wish to be their own god.  This is what Genesis 3 is all about—humans wanting to be their own authority.

With that as the non-negotiable belief, the end justifies the means.  The words of Chuck Schumer, stating at the outset of his nomination that Kavanaugh needed to be defeated “by whatever means necessary,” ring prophetic.  You see, for progressives there is no divine authoritative code, because they believe humans are the most highly developed form of life in the universe and therefore fully capable of making their own moral rules.  They are rarely going to state that publicly, as so many liberal voters embrace some form of theism.  But make no mistake, that humanistic notion is a bedrock doctrine of secular progressivism.  Hence, the need to obliterate Kavanaugh—even if it means indefensible and uncorroborated character assassination—as it serves the larger goal of preventing someone with his beliefs and worldview from influencing the future of the United States.

The biggest risk to the preservation of this country is not liberalism or conservatism.  It is unvarnished secular progressivism, and it was on display in all its ugliness during the Kavanaugh hearings. DC

[230] A Must

I have long been beating the drum for a required course in Christian Apologetics in Christian colleges.  I am more convinced than ever that such a course is a must.  You name a biblically-based Christian college and I will show you their courses in theology.  Valuable as they are in spelling out the faith for the theologically uninitiated, these courses often serve as little more than reinforcements of what has been already learned by the many students from Christian families.  Again, these courses do well in presenting the cognitive elements of the faith, but that is not what so many students need.

In a world awash in secularism and postmodernism, students need to have a defense of the faith.  They need, as Peter states (1 Peter 3:15), a ready answer to the forces who will challenge their faith. Christian students really need that because many of them come from environments in which they feared expressing even the slightest doubts as to the truth of Christianity. 

In many Christian homes and churches, children are not educated in the faith.  They are indoctrinated with the faith.  Before they can think for themselves they are taught the faith as if it were as provably true as gravity.  Unfortunately, as these children develop intellectually, their scientific certainty is continually confirmed while their faith often encounters challenges—challenges that create painful doubt.

Many feel they have no place to go with those doubts.  Expressions of doubt and questions that challenge the faith are not very welcome in many churches and Christian homes.  Worse, many young people already feel guilty about even entertaining doubt.

The Christian college is to be a place of education, not indoctrination.  It is a place in which students should learn how to think critically, rather than accept bodies of knowledge without question.  There is no better place for students to investigate the case for their faith than right there.  It is the best place for them to express their doubts and ask their challenging questions without guilt or condemnation.  And find some answers.

Consider the all too common alternative.  It is often a double life, one that looks like one of faith on the surface (going to chapel, following the norms of the Christian college community, and going to church with their family when at home) but actually one of dwindling and ebbing faith.  Once free from the restraints of the Christian community–home and college—the movement out of the life of faith accelerates.  Worship stops, relationships with non-believers (often including marriage) multiply, and that once Covenant child is gone.

I have no idea how many young people could be rescued from this all too common plight had they had a safe place to examine their faith.  I can tell you that place is the Christian college.  DC

[229] Intimidation

Why is the church scared?  Why does it back away and equivocate in the face of secular-progressive attack?

Over the decades, faith and culture are sometimes aligned, sometimes at odds.  Despite all the sins of our nation—from slavery to the exploitation of the poor—for about 200 years the US mainstream culture was loosely aligned with the church through public acceptance of Judeo-Christian values.  In that context, many Christian churches saw themselves charged with being a transformative influence on the mainstream culture, repeatedly calling it back to God.

I don’t see that much anymore.  I see the church trying to avoid polarizing issues of values and lifestyle–and when addressing them–doing so in ways that will minimize push back and disapproval from the larger culture.  Over and over when the secular culture and the church are in a stare-down it is the church that blinks.  It is the church that changes, because it is intimidated.  Instead of cultural transformation (or at least attempts at it) I see intimidation shivering through the church, resulting in backpedaling and compromise on critical matters in hopes of avoiding public ridicule.

So much for the cost of discipleship.

Let me clarify something here.  Prayer, discussion, and study on incendiary issues like those of gender roles, sexual orientation, and abortion have their place.  It was through just such activities that Christians became enlightened with respect to the evils of slavery and segregation.  The Civil Rights Movement, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., emerged from an examination of the Second Great Commandment.  In short, Christians were spiritually enlightened and through that enlightenment many were changed.

I don’t see that now.  I see the church changing through intimidation, and then trying to reduce the dissonance of these shifts by issuing carefully worded reports and rationales, as if the changes were the result a enlightened Christian worldview rather than fear of mockery, dismissal, and rejection—even discrimination.

We live in enormously complex times, in a world drowning in information and intellectual diversity.  Christians need to be vigilant, open to putting everything on the table for prayer, discussion, and study.  Any change of position on a major issue, however, needs to emerge from these spiritual exercises rather than cowardly attempts to appease an increasingly hostile culture.

Eleven of the twelve apostles who founded the church were martyred, and the twelfth died in exile.  They cared only for divine approval; not at all for human acceptance.   That legacy of courage is not very visible now. DC

[228] Non-spiritual

Faith and learning is arguably more important today than it was a decade, two decades, five decades ago.  The reason is that our culture is increasingly non-spiritual.

By non-spiritual, I am not talking about trust in in science as some final authority here.  As far back as I can remember science has been venerated.  In my youth, commercials regularly presented their products as “scientifically proven.” I am talking about the marginalizing—the making irrelevant—of all things spiritual.  It is as subtle as the serpent in Genesis 3, but over the decades our culture has evolved into one in which a spirit world—angels and devils, for example—is not a part of our consciousness.  For many, even the thought of such spiritual realities is preposterous, a venture into a sort of religious science fiction.

Thinking Christians are surrounded by exactly that mindset.  To the secularist, the notion of a Christian colleague moving from the scientific pursuits of academe, business, or some other professional sphere to a time of prayer is incredulous.  It is a quantum leap from scientific reality to unprovable fantasy.  For the Christian it is seamless.  Science is part of the Creator’s order, so studying that creation in the context of a personal relationship with the Creator is smooth logic.

Prayer may increase in importance for the thinking Christian, as she is living and working in a non-spiritual culture, one which dismisses as fiction the central force in her life.  DC

[228] Jimmy Obama

Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, in the eyes of presidential scholars, had the two most ineffective presidencies of my lifetime.  Never mind that they are both Democrats.  Republicans have had their share of clunkers in the two-and-a-half century history of our republic.  Presidential fecklessness, however, is not all Jimmy Obama have in common.  Both seem driven to rescue their ineffective–if not destructive–administrations from the condemnation of historians. Carter has made that a near obsessive 40-year quest. Such a thinly-disguised four-decade endeavor itself suggests that he had what scholars call a “failed presidency.” Obama is at it already, trying to rationalize his lack of accomplishments and take credit as the author of our current economic recovery.

Carter will be known for explosive inflation and unemployment rates, Iran hostages, and a blowout loss in his attempt at a second term.  Obama, who in all fairness inherited a brutal economy, presided over eight years of a laggard economy and persistent joblessness, along with engineering the calamitous Obamacare, and leading from behind on the international front.

But they are both out there trying to tidy up their historical profiles.  I can forgive these apologists in their attempts to defend their presidencies.  It must be painful to pour oneself so fully into something so important and come up short.

What is much more difficult to tolerate are their attempts to critique the performance of their successors–all of whom have been substantially more successful than Jimmy Obama.  And they are pretty much alone in doing this. Reagan, and both Bushes, have assiduously avoided such pettiness. George W’s public position is that the presidency is an enormous challenge and he wants whomever resides at 1600 Pennsylvania to be successful.  Bill Clinton has made public service announcements with the elder Bush and been remarkably restrained in his statements about his successors.

A Hall of Fame pitcher once said of a manager (who never played major league baseball), when the latter tried to critique his performance, “All he knows about pitching is that he couldn’t hit it.”  All Jimmy Obama know about the presidency is that they weren’t very good at it. DC

[227] Consciousness

Why do so many people seem so uninterested in things of faith?  Some time back I dined with Bill, one of my dearest professional friends on one of his trips to Las Vegas.  He asked what was new in my life.  I think he was surprised when I told him that it was the impact of a prayer discipline I was practicing—and still do.  “I’m not interested in that,” Bill said dismissively.  I was startled. Such a cold shutdown was unlike my charming friend, who used to be a practicing Lutheran.

So what is going on here?  I submit that Bill is the product of an era that–due to the carefully orchestrated efforts of secular progressivism–no longer has a “God consciousness.”  The mention of God is unwelcome in our schools; many groups recite the Pledge of Allegiance omitting the “under God” phrase, or do not say the Pledge at all; the national media assiduously avoids reporting on stories of faith and avoids any reference to the God of the scriptures, Yahweh; and sports reporters show their disrespect for our Judeo-Christian tradition by referring flippantly to “the gods of basketball” or some other sport.

The secular progressive movement wants to remove any consciousness of God from our culture.  They want a nation that simply does not put God into its life equation, hoping to spawn new generations that will be functional atheists.  This movement goes back to the Madalyn Murray O’Hair days of the 1960’s and has gathered force ever since.  Its members would be proud of Bill. DC

[226] Prosperity Gospel

The prosperity message qualifies as gospel in that is indeed good news.  Good health, more revenue, and an upward spike in one’s career direction are a good return—a nice payout—for a meager faith investment.

And that is the problem with a prosperity gospel.  It is not about taking up one’s cross, glorifying God, or standing strong amid unanswered prayer—the stuff of discipleship.  It is about self-interest.  It is about “your best life now,” to borrow from the nicely-coiffed Joel Osteen, with the key word being your.  The life of faith, however, is not about us, the creatures.  It is about God, the creator.  Faith is not about what you put into some divine vending machine as you await the size of the payout.  In fact, you may get no material payout at all.  Myriad martyrs, including all but one of the disciples experienced that.  Your payout is a membership in God’s kingdom, the only payout really worth having. DC

[226] Men

By virtually every metric, men are less involved in the church than women.  They attend less, like church less, and engage in ministry less.  Yet, the consensus among church scholars is that “if you get the man, you get the family.”  That’s right.  Women will follow men to church—and make certain the children attend.  The reverse is not true.

So the question is begged: why does the church continue to feminize itself?  Sanctuaries are awash in pastel colors, group hugging characterizes the greeting time, art displays are regularly in view, and exhibits are often called “fairs.”  Conversely, colors are not bold, preaching is often not challenging, music is not forceful, and events are rarely things men really care about.  In many churches, things pretty much begin and end for men with the church softball team.

This does not have to be.  There are plenty of resources available to make the church more male-friendly.  The website, http://churchformen.com/ is just one of them.

This is personal with me.  For years I really didn’t enjoy going to church much.  I went because corporate worship is part of the life of the believer, but often without much enthusiasm.  Male ministry is the passion of our sometimes movie reviewer and my good friend, Steve Launer, and he knows plenty about it.  Our dialogues turned the lights on for me.  It is time they go on in the church in general.  Just don’t give them a pastel tint.  DC

[225] Trump’s Faith

Is Donald Trump a Christian?  That is the focus of a fascinating book entitled, The Faith of Donald Trump, by David Brody and Scott Lamb.  Brody is a reporter with the Christian Broadcasting Network, and Scott Lamb is a Baptist minister and biographer of Mike Huckabee and the baseball icon, Albert Pujols.

In it, we find the likes of Vice President Mike Pence and evangelist Paula White stating unequivocally that Trump has accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Clearly, The Donald might be well to tighten up on the fruits of the Spirit, but Christians close to him see him in the kingdom.

But that, according to the authors, is not why he has an almost record level of support from evangelicals. It is because he affirms their political values.  Mainly he is pro-life, pro-God, and pro-religious freedom.  And he has acted on those values.  His anti-Political Correctness—though a put-off in terms of its often course style—is welcomed among those who see PC as a subtle extension of the secular progressive movement.

In short, Brody and Lamb state that Christians are not looking for a pastor or Bible-study leader.  They are looking for someone who will advance their agenda in the political marketplace.  In fact, many believers who are skeptical of Trump’s faith see him as a latter day King Cyrus of Persia, one who God used to liberate the Jews after the Persian conquest of Babylon.  In other words, Trump does not have to be a disciple of Christ to be used by God for his purposes.

In some ways, this thinking is encouraging. For too long, political candidates have tried to manipulate Christians by making themselves appear, for want of a better word, holy—genuine believers.  The result is that the person of the candidate became larger than his actual values—values often kept hidden from his Christian admirers.  The result has too often been disappointment; lip service to cardinal Christian beliefs, but little effort invested in translating them into policy once, the swearing in ceremony was completed.

The authors repeatedly state that what you see is what you get when it comes to our 45th President.  They see a “maybe Christian” or perhaps a growing Christian, albeit without much spiritual maturity, but one who is on the right side of the spiritual line of scrimmage when it comes to the preservation and advancement of Judeo-Christian values. King Cyrus never looked better. DC

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