F & L in the News - Faith & Learning Forum

Archive for the ‘F & L in the News’ Category

[253] True Believers

We will all remember what dud Mueller’s testimony was.  Yet the impeachment movement—though out of the news for the most part–grinds on.  Why?  So a group of evil, pathological Trump-haters can destroy his presidency?  Is that why?

Methinks not.

There are a sizable number of political figures who truly believe that Trump, in fact, colluded with the Russians in their attempt to fix the 2016 election, and he went on to obstruct attempts to uncover his wrongdoing.  They are committed to this belief to a point of near fanaticism.

Social philosopher, Eric Hoffer (1898-1983) became famous for coining the term, true believer.  Hoffer went beyond the first wave of the term—a genuine belief at the individual level—to how those committed to certain beliefs manage to turn them into social movement.  It is in the social movement phase that the commitment of the true believer has force.

The campaign to impeach Trump is—if nothing else—a genuine social movement. It has millions of enthusiasts.  According to Hoffer, in his book, The True Believer, “A [social] movement is pioneered by men of words, materialized by fanatics and consolidated by men of actions.” But there’s more, something that rings true of so much of today’s politics.  Hoffer states that the bandwagon is populated by large numbers of frustrated people, who out of the emptiness of their lives, invest themselves in a movement that will bring radical change. This investment, however, becomes an escape from the self, not a genuine life purpose that fulfills their individual aspirations.  “A mass movement attracts and holds a following not because it can satisfy the desire for self-advancement, but because it can satisfy the passion for self-renunciation,” wrote Hoffer.  The quest for impeachment is one such movement.

Maybe the impeachment adherents are right, and Trump is guilty on all accusations.  But that is not the point here.  The point is that we live in a society filled with purposeless people—people who have no sense of a providential God.  There is emptiness all around.  Issues like impeachment become emotional highs in a life with few points of healthy elation.  All it takes are a few true-believing zealots to strike the ideological match and millions will welcome a movement (pro or anti-Trump) as an opportunity to escape their vapid lives. DC

[252] The R Tag

I have had a bellyful of people being hit with the R Tag–called a racist–simply because they do not agree with a person of color.  The tag has moved from among the last canards to be thrown at an ideological or political opponent to among the first.  And this verbal bomb is nearly daily thrown because, going back 60 years, the label has been among the most repugnant tags one can have.  Trump is regularly deemed a racist largely because of Tweets that are not complimentary of the words and actions of some people of color.  Biden has been zinged because he negotiated with segregationists in the Congress decades ago.  Even Pelosi has taken the racist hit from the AOC crowd.

None of these people’s words or actions pass a serious test of racism.

Sociologically, racism is simply the belief in the moral or intellectual superiority of one race as compared to another.  In the US it has historically taken the form of white supremacy.  Again, the actions or words of Joe Biden, Donald Trump, or Nancy Pelosi cannot realistically be deemed racist.  You may well believe that one or all are racist, but nothing they have said or done publicly crosses the racial goal line.

This near random use of the R Tag is damaging.  Not only does it unfairly tar people’s moral reputations, all but paralyzing them in terms of influence, but perhaps more important, the noise of these meaningless accusations results in a lack of understanding of the truly toxic nature of racism, creating an ideological fog in which genuine racists can find camouflage.  There are white supremacists out there.  More than you think.  And I am sure they are happy that no one is noticing them because the “white” noise of reckless use of the R Tag.  DC

[251] Hate Crimes

Despite being a sociologist, I have never been comfortable with the concept of “hate crimes.”  The reason is that it creeps into identity politics and First Amendment issues. I have a hard time understanding the legal concept, as many such crimes are crimes regardless of motivation.  And while we are at it, all crimes have some motivation but we do not take that into account upon arrest, conviction, or sentencing for most felonies.  First degree murder is just that, irrespective of its motivation being that of hate, greed, or revenge.

More important for the faith and learning adherent is how the hate crime focus soon tumbles into condemning hate speech.  Just exactly what is hate speech?  Oh, I know there are nifty-worded definitions, but that is not the issue.  At what point does speech become hateful?  I can answer that for you.  It becomes hateful at the point at which it violates secular political correctness.  You are well to pick your words very correctly when you speak about race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation or the hate finger will be pointed your way.

How long do you think it will take before the gospel will carry that hate speech label?  Think about it.  From a secular standpoint, what is more offensive than being told you will spend your eternal life in hell if you do not commit yourself to an invisible person who claims to be divine?

The early Civil Rights leaders focused on law.  Martin Luther King said it well.  We cannot legislate hate, but we can make shooting people, because of our hate, illegal.

Prosecute crime, not intent, and let all of us say what we want to say.  DC

[250] No Secular Space

Polarization is perpetually in the news, and it can create what Ryan J. Pemberton calls “secular space” among believers.  Pemberton is a minister for university engagement in Berkeley, CA, a boiling cauldron of political passion.  His aim is to make the love that should bind believers in Christ stronger than the secular (in Berkeley’s case, political) space that divides them.

“Look down the pew to the right,” he said one Sunday morning.  “Now look to your left.  There’s a fifty percent chance that your neighbor is voting differently than you.”

“it’s a difficult way to do church, but it is also is a beautiful reminder of what it means to for the church to be the church and not an affinity group.” says Pemberton in the Christianity Today‘s “What My Berkeley Congregation Taught Me About Loving My political Enemies.”  Affinity groups segment a church, creating secular space between believers.

Pemberton wisely points out that the key to preventing secular space lies in affirming that our primary identity is as fellow followers of Jesus Christ.  And that is working in Berkeley. “There are communities where I’d find people who share more of my political views,” said one of his congregation, “but they wouldn’t care for me like this community.”

“I couldn’t believe it when I pulled into the parking lot,” said another, “and saw a Trump sticker beside their [church] bumper sticker.  When I realized whose car it was, I also realized not only am I in a small group with that person, but that I love them.”

This is a model to a lost world.  It is incarnational proof that if we let him, Christ can unify us in ways we cannot imagine. DC

[249] Post-Journalism

Sean Hannity of Fox News, regularly laments, “Journalism is dead.”  And he is pretty much correct.  We now have consistent politicization of the news—current events communicated through the lens of an ideological worldview (something at which Hannity is very savvy), rather than carefully expressed as factually as possible.

There are reasons for this.  One is that news channels go 24-7.  In generations past, major networks had one hour for the evening news, a slot so narrow that the major concern lay in deciding what stories of the many daily possibilities would be covered.  The news outlets of today have the opposite problem—too much time to fill.  When that happens the game changes.  Instead of competing for excellence at keeping the populace properly informed through the careful gathering of facts, it degenerates into a battle for ratings.   Flat, white-bread fact is not very stimulating.  It appeals to the cognitive rather than emotional component, and is hardly very enticing to would-be viewers.  Furthermore, in a polarized nation, presenting a uniform political point of view gives the network the best chance at dominating one or the other of the dichotomous political demographic.

The days of Walter Cronkite, John Chancellor and Tim Russert is past.  They are being replaced with the likes of Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow, and Brian Williams, pallbearers of what once was journalism.   DC

[248] Abortion

The zealous efforts of the pro-abortionists are another expression of identity politics.  Think about it.  The argument begins with gender—a woman’s right to manage her own body.  Men have no business trying to invade that gender-based turf.  But it has dialed up from there.  The push for the end of the Hyde Amendment is also rooted firmly in identity politics.  The argument is that the denial of tax monies to fund abortions discriminates against a identifiable group—the poor–those who cannot afford the procedures.

For many in the world of politics, identity supersedes all other considerations—from religion to the common good.  Because in the postmodern kingdom of identity politics there is no truth.  There are only perceptions of truth, perceptions that are much a function of the worldview of the group with which one identifies, whether that be one’s race, gender, income, or sexual orientation.  The only point of consensus in identity politics is that no objective metaphysical truth exists, so no one has the right to advocate a set of ethics that should govern the conduct of everyone.  DC

[247] Politics as Religion

Politics has become emotional. Rallies for Trump are reminiscent of passionate homecoming ready-to-do-battle pep rallies, while many of his opponents justify violence and physical confrontation as a means to stop his advocates.  The MAGA cap is the most divisive symbol in the US.

Although politics has always stirred emotions, it has for the most part, remained within the boundary lines of civility.  What has changed?

There are many theories on this, but I invite you to consider this.  The more secular a culture becomes, the more spiritually empty the population becomes.  Religion, in general, is much about meaning and purpose.  The less religious a people become, the less purpose many of them have.

What will fill that vacuum?  For many, it is politics.

Politics—the borders, the celebration of identity, the many sides of diversity (from immigration to admissions to college), and the near civil war over abortion—becomes not bigger than life, but for many the central meaning to life itself.  The current out-of-control fanaticism is a spiritual rather than an ideological reality.  DC

[246] Fruits

Despite the raging success of the economy among other things, Trump is very vulnerable in 2020.  The reason is that too many people do not like him.  The polls indicate he is consistently short of an even 50% approval rating.

Why is that?

The Apostle Paul may be a bit helpful here.  In Galatians 5:22-23 he tells that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control.”  There is much discussion as to the nature of Trump’s faith, but little debate that he is a bit short in some of these divinely advocated characteristics. Worse, his words and actions are often antithetical to these Christian traits, causing his popularity to wane.

In polarized times, the devoted partisans on each side will vote along party lines, irrespective of the personalities of the candidates.  Those less passionate about party will make two decisions when they vote: First whether they believe a given candidate is competent; and secondly–for those candidates who pass the first test—who they like best.  That is why it is called the popular vote.  And Trump, much the favorite of evangelicals due to his responsiveness to their issues, may lose nationally because he falls short in the very areas of character Christians advocate. DC

[245] Blood

Memorial Day is a unique day.  It is not about celebration as is the case with the 4th of July and Labor Day—or for that matter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter.  It reminds us that freedom is not cheap, that its cost is paid in blood.  Memorial Day is about blood.  It is about death.  It is about people who literally gave up their lives so we can enjoy the fruits of living in this incredible country.  Please give thanks for all those people—living or dead—or who either gave, or risked their blood for us.

These heroes are symbols of the one who demonstrated that salvation is also not free.  It is also paid for in blood, the blood of the Son of God.  As we commemorate the blood sacrifice for freedom, may we be reminded of that even greater sacrifice at Calvary.  And may we pray that the giver of that freedom and salvation will have mercy on us and our country.  DC

[244] It’s Coming

If any good can possibly come out of the attacks on Christians in Sri Lanka, leaving over 300 dead and the assault on the California synagogue, I hope it will be to heighten the awareness of the rising tide of religious persecution around the world, including in the United States.

There is more persecution of Christians today than ever before.  It’s coming here.  In fact it is already here–visible if you have your eyes open.

Here are some global facts:  One of 9 Christians experience persecution.  Each month 345 people are killed for faith-based reasons.  Each month, 105 churches or Christian buildings are burned or attacked.

We live in a flood of noise–information, data, facts, and non-facts.  Some of it comes from Christian sources. Yet you rarely hear a snippet—not even in our churches–about how badly our Christian brothers and sisters are treated around the world—or even here.  How they are being murdered.

The Christian-friendly media ripped into Obama and Hillary for statements denouncing the Sri Lanka attacks, using the term “Easter worshippers” rather than “Christians.”  What about the Christian media, the churches, the Christian colleges, and other sources of news for Christians?  Where are these people?

American Christendom remains blind and docile.  Subtle (and not-so-subtle) persecution of Christians is rampant in the United States.  Once acknowledged as a “Christian country,” in many settings it is now no longer politically correct to identify oneself as a Christian.  Not in Hollywood, not in the mainstream media, not on the talk shows, and not in the world of secular politics.

The secular progressives are hard at work in driving any mention of God out of the public discourse.  Out of the schools.  Out of the Pledge of Allegiance.  Off our coinage.  They are using the laws to do it.  And it is working.  Yet I almost never hear a sermon on this.

Remember that long ago slogan, “Take back our country for Christ”?  How archaic!  About as contemporary as leisure suits.  We are nowhere near taking.  We have been largely taken.  Our country is slowly being placed under the dominion of secular-progressivism in all things.  Sri Lanka and the attack in California should awaken us to that. DC

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