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

[232] Isaiah 1:18

More than a half century ago, President Lyndon Johnson, facing potential division over his accidental presidency on the heels of the assassination of the popular John F. Kennedy, quoted a piece of Isaiah 1:18.  He prefaced his remarks with “Come, let us reason together…” in an effort to set a tone for unity.

It is interesting that the scriptures so often offer sage counsel in what seem this-worldly practical matters.  Indeed, we need the words of the ancient prophet more than ever now.  We are living in a time of unreason, ungrace, unforgiveness, intolerance, incivility, and emerging violence.  These are not traits that make for a stronger nation.  Just as societies crumble when the family structure collapses, so also does the social order of a nation when polarizing viewpoints are more powerful than the values that bind a citizenry.

The Democrats are reaping a bitter harvest for their actions during the Kavanaugh hearings, but we need only go back to Obama’s administration to find members of the GOP also more committed to wrecking a presidency than improving the national wellbeing.  The sin of division is the only true bipartisan issue.

Regrettably, Christians are too often participants in this divisiveness, and that is the point of this blog. Evidencing the fruits of the Spirit amid political debate over third rail issues is a challenge Christians need to meet.  The call to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” is of special significance and a unique challenge in our current polarized environment.  Abortion, borders, law enforcement, immigration, and health care are intensely passionate issues, ones that do not give rise to “reasoning together.” There can be no better witness to our faith than to be role models in how we conduct political discourse in the home, at work, or in the public arena.  For Christians, perhaps more important than the issues themselves is the importance of their being engaged in a “reasonable” fashion.  If we join the rest of society in abandoning such conduct, the issues may become irrelevant because the nation that houses them will not survive. DC

[231] The Caravan

The infamous Caravan, making its way toward the US border is a challenge for the faith and learning believer.  On one side, we have the issue of law—the sovereignty of a country.   Sovereignty is an interesting word here, as it is usually associated with the God of the universe, a bit more authoritative than a nation state, but I digress.  Law does have its place.  Without law the social order crumbles into anarchy, and perhaps more to the point, a group has no more moral right to march into a country because its members are in desperate need of its resources than one’s indigent neighbor has to seize what is in your refrigerator.

There is another side.  Matthew 25: 31-46 pretty much hangs salvation on one’s care for the hungry and thirsty, the sick and the imprisoned.  Christ is not judging on faith here.  He is looking for cost-of-discipleship, self-sacrificial behavior.  Hence, to slam a “sovereign” door in the face of the needy simply because one has the legal right to do so, should be less than satisfying for the thinking Christian.

Now of course there are the grimy fingerprints of politics all over issues like these.  In fact, often people on one side or the other are less than likable and seem driven by selfish or partisan motives.  Faced with open-border advocates whose motives and character seem less than honorable, the believer needs not let that be a permission-giver to favor closing down the border to the poor on our doorstep, freeing us of the messiness of concern and involvement in their tragic state.

The point of all this is that for the serious, thinking Christian simple answers are at a premium.  The dominant color of social issues is often more gray than white or black.  It is for just this reason that we are to pray for guidance, rather than react reflexively. Thinking—employing the exercise of faith and learning—and praying, rather than reacting in anger, is critical if we take seriously the haunting words of Christ in Matthew.

DC

[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

[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

[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

[225] Polarization

I see no end to our current political polarization. It is not like the Civil War, divisions over FDR’s liberalism, or Nixon’s Watergate.  The current divide is spiritual.  It is a culture war between Judeo-Christian values and secular progressivism.  Though the water is muddy on both sides of the divide—those advancing the Judeo-Christian side are often neither Jewish nor Christian, just conservative, and not everyone in the secular progressive wing is at war with Judeo-Christian thinking, just politically liberal.

Nonetheless, at core, the struggle is between those who want God in the national equation and those who want him out.  It is a battle for the soul of the country.  And that makes the war spiritual.  For 200 years, from the Founding Fathers to recent times, the name of God was welcomed in the institutions of the nation. Often that mention was merely ceremonial, or from the lips of deists, or other not necessarily Christian public leaders.  But the mention was there.  In fact, it was expected, because America was a Christian country based on percentage of its citizens that claimed to be Christian.

In the last half century all of that has changed.  Famous people openly profess their atheism, and it is no longer politically incorrect to deride Christian beliefs or values in public.  In short, it is open season on God and all he represents.

For the time being, this is a war without guns.  More concerning, it is a war through which many Christians are sleeping while their always-at-the-ready adversaries are steadily advancing. DC

[224] Purpose

In a recent blog, I cited the epidemic of loneliness among Generation Z (18-22-year-olds).  Some years previous, USA Today posed a question: If you came face-to-face with God what would you ask?

Here are the responses.

–What is my purpose in life? 34%

–Is there life after death? 19%

–Is there intelligent life elsewhere? 7%

–How long will I live? 6%

The results reveal a stark fact.  People are aimless.  They are alive, but do not know why. And it bothers them.  They are less concerned about life after death than why they are alive now.

This was a national survey.  Given how unchurched, and drenched in secular progressive thinking the lonely members of Generation Z are, I suspect the concern over one’s purpose is life would be even higher.

There is no transcendent purpose in life without God. Without God one has to determine his own reason for staying alive.  Life purpose becomes the product of one’s own wholly subjective efforts. It is completely devoid of any objective reality, in fact any reality outside of one’s self.

For most, finding purpose that way is above their pay grade.  For the believer, the answer is simple: The purpose of life is to honor God and enjoy him forever. Interestingly, that is the very first answer in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Honoring God is one’s purpose.  Enjoying him is the benefit.

I have met a lot of people who take that seriously, and they seem to have a very clear and meaningful agenda for living. DC

[223] Epidemic

Decades ago I wrote a book about what was becoming a national epidemic: loneliness. Little has changed. Loneliness not only continues to be a national killer, it is apparently getting worse.

Christianity Today cited a survey, sponsored by Cigna, that found young people were more likely to report being lonely than senior citizens. Social isolation among those between 18 and 22 was higher than that of those 72 and older.

So in other words, that college student next door is more likely to feel lonely than granny (who longs for visitors).  How is that possible?

One reason is that we are an increasingly urban, impersonal society.  Another is that social media has replaced social relationships. The article quoted Jagdish Khubchandani, a health science professor at Ball State University. “I have students who tell me they have 500 ‘friends,’ [in social media] but when they’re in need, there’s no one,” Khubchandani says.

I would push this cart a bit further. Generation Z is one step further away than the previous one from being part of a culture that affirms the existence of God. As secular forces continue to succeed in driving God out of every inch of the public sector they succeed in removing any thought of him from the minds of millions, particularly young people.

Think about it.  Unless a child is brought up in a believing family, there is little likelihood she will engage the thought of there being a God, much less a personal one. God has been removed from our public educational system.  Not much chance there. Virtually any serious public mention of God in government elicits a nasty separation-of-church-and-state attack, making God at best, irrelevant. Judeo-Christian values—an expression of God—have been replaced by secular progressive ones.

This removal of any thought of God is not an accident. It is the goal of secular progressivism.  Away with God–and especially rules that interfere with the human desire to be “free” and make one’s own decisions.  Submission is even less popular now than in the Garden of Eden.

But without God we are alone.  And Generation Z is feeling the impact. DC

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