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

[235] Celebrity Deaths

I have a fascination with notable deaths in each calendar year.  I recently happened on to a website on celebrity deaths in 2018.  Suicide was a common cause.  So were drug overdoses and heart attacks at early ages (possibly related to cocaine use).

Remember, these are celebrities—people our culture celebrates as symbols of success—people held up as superior to the masses of people who venerate them.

But in many cases it is all a sham.  They are failures, by their own standards.  The suicides tell us there was not enough of substance to sustain life.  In the drug deaths it is the same story.

My mother had a trite plaque in our home.  It read, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Those who decide to do that are celebrities, people who live a life worth celebrating. DC

[234] Celibacy

With respect to priestly sexual misconduct in the Catholic Church, “The hits just keep on coming.”

How long will this go on?  I say, for as long as the church holds to the tradition of requiring celibacy in the priesthood.

Sexuality is a basic component of human life.  The sex drive rivals that of eating or drinking.  Therefore, celibacy needs to be seen as a gift rather than a choice.  Paul advocated celibacy but stated in 1 Cor. 7:9 that it is better to marry than burn with passion.

Not only does celibacy severely reduce the number of men choosing to enter the priesthood (and drive many out), it places many priests in a sexual bind, putting them at  war with their sexuality.

Regrettably, the priesthood has become a haven for gay men who–wanting desperately to control acting out on their orientation—believe required celibacy is the answer.  The unending tide of sexual abuse of young boys is testimony to the tragic misguided nature of such a choice.

Keep in mind these felonious sexual activities do not include all the unreported illicit adult liaisons—hetero or homosexual—among wearers of the Catholic cloth.

There is no biblical basis for celibacy.  Peter–viewed as the original pope–was married.

Tradition is a powerful element in Catholicism.  It trumps scripture in some cases.  When it does it can leave destruction in its wake.  DC

[233] Self

Contemporary culture is characterized by a celebration of self.  Social media—Facebook, Ancestry, Instagram, Twitter, and other such channels—are focused on the glorification of the individual.  No one is anonymous.  Everyone counts.  And each can tell the world his or her story.  Announcements, posts, pictures, “friends,” contacts and all the other modes of communication point to each person’s importance and uniqueness.

All of this comports very well with a postmodern age, one which rejects the existence of any certain truth outside the individual.  Truth is all from the inside for the postmoderns.  Truth is individual—phenomenological in psychological terms.  With each person containing a unique slice of truth in the absence of any universal truth, clearly everyone is significant.  In fact each individual becomes a sort of deity, what with their being an a repository of truth.

This is all part of a spirit of error, one that emerges from an antichristian worldview, one in which the creature is all important.  The creator (if there is one) is irrelevant.  If there is a God, he or she is of little significance.  What is important are all those unique individuals.  That is what is to be venerated.  That is what is to be worshipped.  None of this is new.  In fact, it is as old as The Fall described in Genesis 3, where we read of Adam and Eve wanting be more than what they were created to be, servants of God.  They wanted to “be as gods.”

The current postmodern strain does differ a bit from The Fall.  God is not a part of the postmodern equation.  He is irrelevant, absent from its mode of thinking.  What is very much the same as the Genesis story is that humans seek to be pre-eminent.  The purpose of life is not, as Christians believe, to be centered on honoring God.  It is about glorifying oneself.  DC

[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

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