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

[319] Rush Reaction

Upon hearing of the death of Rush Limbaugh, I quickly “googled” his name to see what was being said about him.  Here is some of what found. The NPR website, in announcing Rush Limbaugh’s death, stated that “he embodied a counterpunch to what many on the right contended was a liberal media establishment — even as he offended millions with his racist, sexist and homophobic routines and diatribes.”

Huffpost trumped NPR with the following headline, “Rush Limbaugh, Bigoted King Of Talk Radio, Dies At 70.”

Rush Limbaugh was deliberately provocative, polarizing, and shoot-from-the-hip. Much of his success came from his style.  And yes, some of his statements were understandably received as bigoted.  But to slap the “bigot” label on him, as if that is all he was, is unfair. It is shabby journalism.

This is what’s wrong with what currently passes as journalism.  It engages in the unhealthy practice of injecting a blatantly partisan perspective into reportage. Imagine if you did not know who Limbaugh was, but heard of his death, and clicked on these websites?  Simply seeing the word bigot might lead you to dismiss Limbaugh as little more than a latter-day Archie Bunker.  That is not only unfair to the memory of Limbaugh. It diverts the reader away from what Limbaugh really was: an ideological architect of political conservatism.

The left is really good at this slanting, given their heavy influence in mainstream media. But they are not the only ones. You can get a good helping of this on many Fox News outlets as well.  Some will say Rush, himself, contributed a good deal to this patent bias, but he gets a pass here as he made no secret of his political leanings. He made no pretense to simply presenting the news.

We need to halt this propagandistic slide in reporting the news. This practice is the ideological equivalent of the nuclear arms race. Each partisan thrust invites a more polarizing counter until all that is left are two hostile, groupthink camps.  Unlike the arms race, however, we are not fighting a foreign enemy.  We are destroying ourselves. DC

 

[318] Harry Edwards

Apparently seventy-eight-year-old civil rights activist Harry Edwards still wants to be a “tuff guy” and scare those “comfy middle-class folks” into doing the right thing. Adorned in black garb, with a black stocking cap covering his bald pate, and sun glasses shading his eyes, the scowling scholar speaks in a menacing tone in his NFL ad on behalf of the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. His words and appearance have the effect of demands, reminiscent of the Black Panthers’ pronouncements of the 1960s, as Edwards orders us to “move the sticks.”

Such nonsense.

I find Edwards and the ad silly and offensive. Silly because of its patently obvious attempt at casting this septuagenarian relic as an intimidating force. Offensive because the Second Great Commandment is not about identity politics, intimidation, or demand. It is about humility, love and the fruits of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 says the fruits of the Spirit are “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  Those don’t comport well with the use of macho clothing, shades, and an unsmiling, threatening demeanor to encourage people to engage in charitable actions. DC

 

[317] Chad Curtis

On September 22 of last year, Chad Curtis, the former Major League Baseball player convicted of sexually assaulting teens girls, was released having served the minimum seven years.

He had been convicted in 2013 for assaulting four female high school students the previous two years, while working as a part-time weight trainer in their high school.

The Curtis story is particularly sad and disturbing because during his 10-year big league career he had been an outspoken Christian. He labeled himself a “Bible-believing Christian” who never drank, swore, or was unfaithful to his wife. I remember meeting him once and was struck by his serious demeanor.  It was serious enough that Curtis got into a number confrontations with teammates over everything from rap music to not attending Baseball Chapel.

One of his alleged victims said she had become close to Curtis in part because of their common Christian faith and her friendship with Curtis’ daughter. Charged with six counts of criminal sexual assault, Curtis has never admitted guilt, but the evidence is compelling.

What does one make of this?  Was he a charlatan? A believer who slipped?  One with a dangerous sexual quirk?

There is no simple explanation. But if King David, a man after God’s own heart, could commit a planned adultery and arrange for the military death of his lover’s husband, then we are all vulnerable. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” says Jeremiah (17:9).

Indeed, who can know it?  DC

[316] Aaron’s Grace

I got the late Henry Aaron’s autograph when I was 8-years-old, and caught a batting practice home run off his bat—and got that autographed—years later.  Henry Aaron was a big part of my Wisconsin childhood.

But he looms much larger now.  The barely 6-feet tall man born in Jim Crow Alabama was a giant. And not because of his iconic baseball achievements.

The reason is grace. If ever a man had reason to be bitter, inhospitable, and resentful it was Hammerin’ Hank Aaron. Neither he nor his family could enjoy his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s 714 home run record, as they were besieged with death threats, and driven into protective isolation.  In Aaron’s 1990 autobiography, I Had a Hammer, he published some of the mounds of hate mail he received during that early ‘70’s time.  It is about as despicably vile and nauseatingly racist garbage one can imagine. Every hateful effort was made to strip him of his human dignity.  And this after spending the early years of his major league career relegated to segregated accommodations.  The superstar could not eat or be lodged with his less-accomplished white teammates. Aaron was a life-long victim of prejudicial venom.

But Henry Aaron was a believer.  His niece, Wonya Lucas said, “he always chose to forgive those who meant him harm or ill will. He publicly and privately forgave others, which set a lifelong example for us.”  Aaron said the first thing he did when he went home after hitting home run #715 was get on his knees and thank God. Prayer was a daily staple in his Roman Catholic life.

Jesus tells us it is by the fruits of people’s lives that we can know their spiritual state. Henry Aaron consistently evinced almost, if not every single one of the fruits of the Spirit. While speaking to the issues of race in baseball in his principled style, he maintained a humble, kind spirit. We know Henry Aaron had an understanding of grace that few have, because he radiated that grace amid the most trying of circumstances.  For believers, that achievement exceeds all the professional accomplishments that make him perhaps the greatest player ever to play the game. I know it does in God’s eyes. DC

[315] Becky Hammon

Assistant Coach Becky Hammon, who recently made history as the first female to serve as an NBA head coach during a game in which San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich was ejected, is open and articulate about her faith.

She told Jon Ackerman of Sports Spectrum that it gave her “courage and comfort,” a sense that there was a purpose to her life. Perhaps more important, Hammon understands the faith-and-learning notion that our Christian worldview and life of discipleship needs to envelop our entire life and vocation. “You can’t separate [faith and basketball]. It would be like trying to strain my white blood cells from my red blood cells. It would be like trying to separate my personality from my soul.” DC

[314] Purging

Purging is a hot word now. In political terms it refers to the removal or silencing of “unclean” people or groups. Sounds almost holy, doesn’t it?

It is unholy as it enables those in power to decide by their standards what is “unclean,” and sanctions them to take action against those so labeled.

It is nothing more than a denial of freedom of speech. It is the stuff that keeps the porn shops open and the churches restricted.

Purging should be an affront to every believer, because it puts humankind on God’s throne, giving it the right to silence those they find “unclean” by their, not God’s standard.

It is incredibly unclean. DC

[313] Amen & Awoman

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) created quite a stir Sunday by closing the first daily congressional prayer of the new session with the words “amen and awoman.”

Here are the words: “And dare I ask, oh Lord, peace even in this chamber now and evermore. We ask it in the name of the monotheistic god, Brahma, and god known by many names by many different faiths. Amen and awoman.”

Here are a few thoughts. Perhaps more important than the gender twist is that the prayer is offered to the creator god of Hinduism, not Yahweh. Somehow that seems to have slipped past many of the critiquers.

As for the play on gender, it makes no sense. Amen is not gender-based. It means “So be it.”  To see how “so be it” connects to gender is beyond my rational capacities.

More concerning, however, is that one might think a prayer supposedly addressed to a deity would be focused on the activity of the creator rather than political sensitivities of the creatures.  Unless of course one sees this for what it is: A sop to what has become a dangerous new religion in this country–identity politics.  DC

[312] Here We Go Again

Here we go again. Another pastor felled by sexual misconduct.  Carl Lentz was the avant garde co-founder of Hillsong NYC.  With 8000 people attending Hillside weekly, the bearded former North Carolina State basketball player with a half-shaved head, adorned in jeans and leather jackets, was on the pastoral fast track–hobnobbing with celebrities running form Justin Bieber to Kevin Durant. In addition, Hillside had its own record label and sold 16 million albums, raking in $100 million annually.

Hillside and Lentz had it goin’ on.

No more. Global Senior Pastor Brian Houston canned Lentz for what was termed “leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures.” More the to the point, Lentz admitted to having an affair.

Grammy-nominated Christian rocker, John Cooper of Skillet, says “this didn’t start six months ago with this affair that he had. There is a problem going back—which I would call getting along with the world. I would call being popular. I would call wanting to be so relevant that we find clever ways to dance around issues.”

That is likely a factor in the professional demise of Lentz. But I say there is more.

Many Christians do not talk about sex.  Not in their homes. Not in their schools.  Not in their churches.  There is a Victorian discomfort with respect to carnality, one that shortcircuits candid conversation about sex. The Christian world is paying an enormous price for this sex-averse behavior by not preparing believers for temptations of the flesh.  In addition, many Christians have grown up living very pristine, restrictive sexual lives such that they are wholly overmatched when confronted by the forbidden fruit of the flesh.

The allure of illicit sex has enormous power. King David, a man after God’s own heart, was not equal to the temptation.  One “peeping Tom” experience with Bathsheba and he was willing to arrange what amounted to murder to bed the object of his lust. If David—a man with multiple wives and an abundance of sexual experience–could be leveled, why should we be surprised when naïve modern-day believers engage in sexual wrongdoing?

King David, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Tony Alamo, Bob Coy, Dave Reynolds, Doug Phillips, Ted Haggard, Bill Gothard, Gordon MacDonald, Mike Hintz, Josh Duggar, Bill Hybels, Jerry Falwell, Jr. and his wife, and Carl Lentz, to mention just a few.  The body count accumulates. Some have admitted their sin, others have not. In any case, the Christian community needs to let go its Victorian anxiety and confront this issue of sexual misconduct.  Seminaries need to address the temptations of the flesh openly.  We cannot allow this to continue to happen.  Not only are we losing some talented leaders, we are providing non-believing cynics with fodder for mockery.  DC

[311] Freedom of Religion

Recently David French of the online French Press (11-22-2020) raised an interesting issue. During the Barrett hearings, Republicans were quick to point to Sen . Diane Feinstein’s expressed concern over Barrett’s Catholic dogma as an example Dems’ religious intolerance and a willingness to violate the Freedom of Religion provision of the Constitution to keep Barrett off the court.

A month later, when Senatorial candidate Rev. Ralph Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta–where MLK once preached—stated, “You cannot serve God and the military,” he set off a firestorm.  Two Repub Senators called for him to get out of the race, while others castigated him for being a champion of the progressive theology of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Warnock’s statement is rooted in Matthew 6:24 in which Christ says, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else. he will hold to the one, and despise the other, Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Warnock was referring to ultimate loyalties.  Nothing wrong with that.

I have no objection with taking issue with the substance of his point.  That is what Freedom of Speech is all about.  I do share French’s objection to attacking Warnock for his religious convictions. To do so is to say Freedom of Religion only applies to certain religious beliefs. DC

[310] Intellectual Fiber

I wrote recently of the power of social media in amplifying the effect of faith rejection by famous people, and the critical need for parents and Christian educational institutions to be able to give an answer for the faith (1 Peter 3:15). In that context, Matt Markins, in the online Church Leaders (2-17-2020), offered some sobering research findings.

A Barna group study in 2018 showed that only 68% protestant youth pastors were comfortable talking about the origins of the Bible and historical evidence. Only 48% felt comfortable talking about science and the Bible.

Unfortunately, many adults are fearful of this type of experience with children and youth. In the Barna Group’s researchs on Gen Z, they say, “It’s important for pastors, leaders and parents to be prepared to discuss the real issues of the Christian faith, historical evidence, origins of the Bible, science, and inter-faith dialogue. This is the ‘acid-test’ for real belief in the next generation.”

Our faith needs to go beyond personal, often emotional, experience. It needs intellectual fiber—a foundation of fact. We need it as part of the armor of God, but our children and students may need it even more. DC

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