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

[271] Intent

There is a very unhealthy practice in today’s politics, markedly different from previous generations.  It is employed on each side of the aisle.  It is about intent.

In less vicious times, Republicans and Democrats would criticize the actions of the other when they genuinely disagreed with those actions.  In other words, counterpoints were raised when there were real disagreements on policy and practice. The key word in the previous sentence is real.

Times have changed.  For the worse.  In our current age of demagoguery, criticism and political attacks are not based on genuine disagreements.  They are an end in themselves.  In brief, politicians begin with the intent to destroy their opponent, and then look for issues and practices which they can use—disingenuously—as the ammunition in the attack.

Although this is common practice in both parties—and the media, a current example is the Coronavirus.  It is rather apparent that many of Trump’s enemies are using this malady as ammo to get at Trump.  Joe Biden left all doubt recently with a blistering, anti-Trump attack, followed by an appeal for donations to his campaign.

All the while these critiques were going on, a wide range of medical professionals including Dr. Drew (Pinsky) urged the politicians (and the media) to calm down and realize the Coronavirus was a minimal health risk compared to the flu.  But for the Trump critics, the actual issue in question is not the point.  The point is that this new epidemiological development provides manipulative ammo to attack their political enemy.

Again, this is a dangerous trend, one used by both political sides.  It is dangerous because it is deliberately misleading.  Instead of the seriousness of the issue determining the level of critique, the critique artillery is already in place, waiting for an issue to use as political bullets against an opponent.  When our political leaders and the media engage in these toxic practices the ultimate victim of their attacks is not a give political figure, but the well-being of the democracy. DC

 

[270] Who Are You?

In an age of identity politics, who are you?  If your first response is not “a Christian,” ask yourself if you are one.  DC

[269] Ball On

The cancellation of all NCAA basketball tournaments—conference and national—makes utterly no sense.  Worse, it is destructive. I say, Ball on.

Let me see if I have this straight.  The coronavirus is hardly life threatening among all non-senior citizen populations.  NCAA basketball players are far west of 65, as are most of their coaches.  People who do contract the virus–no different from the flu–recover rather quickly. Not only does susceptibility itself decrease the younger the population, but the overall risk for the coronavirus is lower than for the flu.  Of course there are occasional cases of the virus among all groups, but people also get the flu—more often.  And what do you think these young people are going to do during this basketball quarantine?  You guessed it, continue to play pickup hoops on their own.

The hysteria over the coronavirus has resulted in a tide of impulsive and foolish decisions, ones with profoundly negative unintended consequences.  For millions, sports are a form of therapy—a healthy diversion, release, or distraction from the rigors of daily life.  For generations, millions of shut-ins have organized their lives around watching and listening to sporting events.  For many of them, it has been their sole form of recreation.  Right now–amid the panic, chaos and fear–we are all at risk of being shut-ins in one form or another.  Shut-ins without baseball, hockey, NBA basketball, and college basketball.

You can make a medical case for suspending MLB baseball, NHL hockey, and NBA basketball, as their players are constantly traveling from city to city.  But the college conference tournaments are held in single cities, and without fans.  Empty gyms.  The national tournament begins in designated cities, and by the end of the first weekend, has only sixteen teams left.  So the players, among the least vulnerable-to-the-virus population, would simply be playing against other players in a city to which they have to travel one time.  Again, with no fans present.  Eight of the sixteen remaining teams would travel to one more city before being eliminated.  Four more would be out after one more excursion, leaving the Final Four.  They would all go to a single city.  Amid all that, every conceivable safeguard would be put in place to drive risks down even further.

But the NCAA says no.  Too risky.  All this while businesses remain open, politics rage on, and the airplanes continue to fly.  All this, leaving millions–already severely restricted in so many ways by the government—now desperate for a therapeutic release from the corona obsession, without the March Madness to which they have looked forward for six months.  DC

[268] Shambles

Why are we surprised when famous Christians fall, leaving their institutions in shambles?  The story is as old as King David, who tried to cover up an adultery with the killing of the husband of his mistress.  More recently we have Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Bakker, Bill Hybels, James MacDonald, and on and on.

In defense of the more recent fallen leaders, it is important to realize it happened to one who was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).  Moreover, the Catholic Church cites pride as one of its Seven Deadly Sins.  It is easy to become prideful when one is given near unquestioned authority, great fame, growing wealth, and the adulation of myriad believers while at the top a Christian institution—whether it be a church, a college, or parachurch ministry.  Soon one is tempted to take the attitude Jim Bakker professed—that the person and the ministry are one.

There are clear warning signs that precede a fall, and stewards of Christian institutions need to have built in sensors to detect them.  According to abuse advocate, Ryan Ashton, warning signs include lack of accountability, lack of discipleship, and an unhealthy culture, one that allows leaders to persist in questionable behavior.

In the instance of Hybels and MacDonald, there were long strings of indicators of impropriety.  In the case of Hybels, there were a number of reports of questionable conduct with women, but many of these were dismissed or countered until they could no longer be denied. A retrospective of MacDonald, from the Wagenmaker & Oberly legal firm, revealed a “powerful and subversive leadership style,” “development of an inner-circle leadership group through which he could control” the church, “marginalization of broader leadership, particularly the former elders,” and “other aggressive tactics that thwarted healthy nonprofit governance.”

It hard to argue with the validity of the charges in both cases, particularly in view of the conduct of both Hybels and MacDonald after their dismissal.  To this day, Hybels has shown no repentance, and James MacDonald is in arbitration with Harvest Bible Chapel, hardly indications of attempts at Christian healing.

Willow Creek and Harvest Bible are in shambles.  The damage has been done.  But there are lessons for the future.  Chief among them are accountability and early investigation of reported concerns, with both becoming more critical as the institution grows.  If Christian institutions do not take these steps, we will only see more of what we have already seen, and the Christian communities affected will be better labeled as enablers than victims.  DC

[267] Profanity

An old friend called me today, wanting to buy me lunch, because he regarded me as “a man of God,” and wanted some advice.  He asked me if I was a “Trumper.”  I support many of his policies while disapproving of much of his behavior and told him essentially that.  He responded by saying, “Then you are a Trumper and so you can’t be a man of God.”

With that he clicked off.

Meanwhile in Washington DC we have people questioning the faith and prayerfulness of people with whom they do not agree.

Though very different from irreverent expletives, these are profane behaviors.  They take the name of God in vain in some very disturbing ways.

One of the evidences of discipleship is loving one’s enemies. It is one thing to fall short of that.  It is much worse to question the sincerity and validity of their faith.  DC

[266] Cameron Douglas

Cameron Douglas is the 41-year-old son of the celebrated Michael Douglas.  He was sent to prison in 2010 for possessing and dealing drugs.  He was in 2016 after spending a portion of his sentence in solitary confinement.

 

Though taking responsibility for his life choices, young Douglas lived a life of despair.  The disintegration of his parents’ marriage amid infidelity, being sent off to boarding school, and the belief that he could never live up to the lofty secular accomplishments of his father or his grandfather, Kirk Douglas, left Camron with the sense that was no place he really fit in, no hope for a successful life.

 

Apparently he is clean now.

 

His current profession of faith comes from William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus,” in which the poet states, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

 

What do you make of that?  On the positive side, it resonates with personal accountability, a major first step in recovery.  On the other, it is not compatible with the 12-Step doctrine of acknowledging powerlessness over one’s addiction and a need to yield to one’s High Power for recovery.

Regrettably, Henley’s 1875 poem is the secular theology of our postmodern times.  Though the poet thanks “whatever gods may be for [his] unconquerable soul,” we are essentially alone in Henley’s universe.  Truth and reality come from inside ourselves.  There are no spiritual forces of good and evil, no forces stronger than the will of us humans.  We can conquer anything by simply coupling self-responsibility with an iron will.

The message of the gospel is the opposite.  It says we are not alone in the universe—that truth exists outside ourselves and that the forces of evil (and addiction) are stronger than our puny wills.  It is when God becomes the captain of our fate, and Christ the master of our souls that we become unconquerable.

I pray Cameron Douglas will yield his will to the real captain and master of life.  DC

[265] Romney, a Hero

Mitt Romney is a hero, a shining light amid the dark siege of impeachment.  Appealing to his Mormon faith, he rejected partisanship and voted for Trump’s removal.  And Trump’s classless denigration of him was disappointing, particularly in the context of the National Prayer Breakfast.

In an ancillary fashion, Alan Dershowitz, a celebrated liberal, is also a hero, putting aside his political dislike for the President to defend him based on the professor’s commitment to civil liberties.  And those in the liberal media who have shunned and disdained him for it are also a shameful embarrassment to our country.

Returning to Romney, the point here is not that he voted against the President.  The point is that he stood on personal principle rather than party allegiance in doing so. I find it hard to believe that every Democrat—and no other Republican–truly believed Trump should be ousted.

The vote itself was another sickening manifestation of the disease that is eating away at our republic: polarization in the form of partisanship.

One of the most celebrated books of the previous century was John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage, a compilation of stories of politicians who took a stance based on conscience rather than political expediency.  Romney–and in a related way, Dershowitz–did exactly that.  Actions like these are the only real hope for our republic.

DC

[264] Despair

Recently, Andrew Yang stated, “Our country is falling apart …. We are seeing record high levels of depression, suicide and overdoses. Our corporations are recording record profits while our people are literally dying younger.”

Yang’s comments pertain to the phenomenon of people dying younger—for the first time in a century the lifespan of Americans is getting shorter.  A series of studies, among them a study by the National Center for Health Statistics, indicate that the lifespan decline is due to “deaths of despair.”

We are talking about self-inflicted—direct or indirect—deaths.  They include drug overdoses, liver disease related to alcohol, obesity, and suicides. In a similar vein, there are significant increases in homelessness, mental health issues, and gun violence.

Many attribute these increases to the deterioration of the US nuclear family.  A good case can be made for this to be a major cause.  According to Pew Research, 35% of US children are living with no parents or an unmarried parent in 2017—about 20 million.  It was 15% a half century ago. reached has jumped from 15 percent 1968 to 35 percent in 2017.

Pew also reported that 46 percent of two-parent homes have both parents working full-time. Princeton University’s Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, found that children raised in a home in which parents were cohabiting, or where there was a lone parent, had dropout rates twice that of those from traditional families.

In short, the Princeton report stated that “most scholars now agree that children raised by two biological parents in a stable marriage do better than children in other family forms across a wide range of outcomes.”

None of this should be very surprising.  Christians are pro-family for more than theological reasons.  But for me, this tidy summary of solid studies does not really address despair.

Despair is everywhere.  Its manifestations—drug and alcohol abuse, obesity, and suicide—are very present among rich and seemingly stable families.

Despair is a psychological condition related to purposelessness, and lack of purpose is an outcome of spiritual emptiness.  Spiritual emptiness is a consequence of secularism–godlessness. The more a society abandons the belief in a Creator, one who has a purpose for his creation, the more meaningless and empty become the lives of its people.

There is much to be said—sociologically and theologically–for making certain mom and dad are married, living together, and spending time with their children.  But until our society stops trying to drive God out of its life, until it starts looking up toward heaven, rather than down on their smartphones for purpose, family structure will not count for much. DC

[263] Kobe

The death of 41-year-old Kobe Bryant merited the extensive coverage it has received.  He was much in the news for more than two decades, a sporting figure who was worshipped by many adoring fans.  Yes, worshipped, in the sense of being revered, venerated, and adored. Not just admired—worshipped.

And that brings me to the public, secular reaction to his death.  He was regaled for the excellence of his performances and his commitment to excellence.  But it did not stop there.  He was revered for “giving so much to Los Angeles.” But there’s even more.  He was venerated for being “a great father and husband.”

He may ultimately have been all these things.  We don’t know.  We do know he was a great athlete, intensely dedicated to being the best he could be.  There is evidence of philanthropy as well.  We also know he was charged with rape in 2003, resulting in a long and drawn out legal proceeding that ended in a settlement–the polite word for payoff.  We also know he was on the brink of divorce from his wife but a few years ago.

I do not mention these negative things to judge him.  Many of us believers have plenty of disturbing items on our behavioral rap sheet as well. Sin is no respecter of persons.  I say these things because the secular world all but dismissed these things, grieving his loss as if there is no hope (1 Thessalonians, 4:13).

And such hopeless grieving is as it should be for those who believe this world is all there is. In that world, people like Kobe are worshipped, with their frailties dismissed or denied.  His life is polished, gussied up, to justify their allegiance to human gods.

For the Christian, word of Kobe’s passing moves quickly past the startling, I’ll-always-remember-where-I-was-when-I-heard-it shock, to the only concerns one should have for him.  Was he a believer?  Was he a disciple?  Only God knows that.  Eight other persons entered eternity at same time, one of which was his 13-year-old daughter.  They are just as important as Kobe, and for the Christian, prompt the same concerns.

The secular world doesn’t care.  In fact, one can only imagine the fury one would elicit if these eternal questions were voiced publicly.  But in the context of the eternal, they are the only real matters of concern.  I sincerely hope he and those seven others were believers–disciples.  Forty-one years is not long when weighed against eternity.  And I doubt God cares all that much about basketball.  DC

[262] Quiet Death March

The secularists, by intention, move quietly, but they are moving.  They have very quietly used laws, organizational policies, and political correctness campaigns to drive the gospel out of the culture.  For example, at Chicago’s Millennium Park, Wheaton College students were forbidden to pass out literature or preach, while Young Life was voted off the campus at Duke University because of YL’s stance on homosexuality.  Add to that the vehement opposition to teaching anything other than naturalistic evolution in the public schools, attacking Catholic Hospitals in court for refusing to perform abortions, assailing Chick Fil A and other business owned by Christians for their beliefs, all but eliminating any depiction of the Nativity Scene in public areas, opposing even saying, “Merry Christmas,” along with myriad other attempts to silence, or least intimidate believers from expressing their faith publicly, and you see this spiritual death march in action.

 

Again, the goal is to eliminate theism, most notably Christianity, from the culture.  And it is working.  According to Pew Research, ten years ago 77% of the US identified as Christians.  It is now down to 65%, while those claiming to be non-religious has gone from 17 to 26%.

 

None of the previously mentioned actions to drive out religion was put to a vote.  The secularists know better than to do that.  They cannot win a “Let’s get God out of everything” campaign at the ballot box.  Instead, they enter lawsuits, introduce anti-religious policies, and push a secular political correctness, knowing that the more God-consciousness can be removed from the society, the fewer the number of believers there will be in the long run. It’s a slow game, built on the long view, but it is working.

 

Will the Christian world ever awaken to this?  Will it make countering this quiet death march a major agenda item?  DC

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