F & L in the News - Faith & Learning Forum

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

[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

[243] The Side Door

We have been deluged with news of celebrities and other well-heeled citizens buying their children’s way into elite universities.  In short, instead of having their offspring earn their way into the front door of these august institutions–via test scores, grades, and other conventional criteria–they have been writing checks to strategically-placed university personnel who can slip their unqualified prospective students though the side door.

Their devious machinations have been ingenious–bribing coaches in non-revenue sports to enter their children’s names as athletic recruits and sliding them past the admissions people.  On the surface, everybody wins.  The kids get into the elite institutions, the coaches get some welcome extra cash, and the parents are assured they have given their already privileged adolescents every advantage possible.

Not exactly.

Clearly these academic institutions are being compromised, and some more worthy would-be freshmen’s places are taken by outliers.  But there is another, more concerning matter to consider.

These parents have criminalized not only themselves, but they have tainted their children by making them part of an illegal scheme—children, who in many cases, may not have had no knowledge that they were unqualified to enter the front door.  No different from the football or basketball coach who engages in unethical recruiting, they are tarnishing these would-be students by drawing them into a despicable scheme.

They are teaching their children that operating outside the rules is not only acceptable; it is the way to go if life’s front door is closed.  And that may be more powerful than anything these students will ever learn in the classroom.  DC

[242] Trust

We are indeed in perilous times.  Those who fear for the future of the republic have well-founded concerns.  The reason is the absence of trust.

Republicans do not trust Democrats.  Dems definitely do not trust Trump, and the citizenry does not trust the news media—print or electronic.  In short, there seems to be no larger bridge that unites the disparate groups.

We have been polarized for so long that it is hard to remember previous eras in which political partisans would intensely disagree with those “across the aisle” but never questioned the patriotism or intentions of their ideological adversaries.

Partisans no longer merely disagree.  They hate.  The contempt is expressed in personal attacks on the character of their opponents.  The media is equally divided.  We now know when we choose a source for news we are also choosing an obvious point of view.  About the closest one can come to getting an even-handed view of life in these United States is to watch news feeds from another country, but they also have points of view.

Let’s return to trust.  Relationships are built on trust.  When trust collapses, relationships end.  In a United States we need trust to survive.  DC


[241] No Collusion

We now have the Mueller verdict.  Trump and his minions did not collude with the Russians in the 2016 election.

We now face the other side of this two-plus national agony—all the nefarious (and likely illegal) shenanigans of Trump haters among the Deep State that appear to have propelled the investigation in the first place.

Whether or not you feel another investigation of possible wrongdoing among the Deep Staters should be launched, an important question looms.

What is in the best interests of the nation?

Clearly justice is a pre-eminent concern.  From that angle, a “bring-in-the-fuzz” careful examination of Trump-negative manipulation is in order, with the culprits exposed and punished.

But there is another very practical concern.  An institution (and that includes a republic) can take only so much boat-rocking before it comes loose from its moorings.  Vicious polarization generates zero credibility for each side in a time in which we need to establish trust and rapport.

We are faced with a dilemma as ancient as the scriptures—justice vs. mercy, or perhaps grace.  In this instance, however, how we respond may have reverberating effects on the future health of our nation. DC

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