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[240] Marijuana

The pro-pot advocates have essentially won, and that is a big deal of campuses—Christian and secular.  Marijuana has long been regarded by its advocates as basically harmless.  In fact, I have been hearing that marijuana is harmless since I was in college, more decades ago than I choose to count.

But that is nonsense. It is not harmless.

First, as with alcohol, marijuana use impairs functioning.  Hence, driving, and other mind-body activities, become less certain—more dangerous.

But let me go in another, less cited issue.  A psychotherapist friend of mine once said something to the effect of, “Show me a marijuana user and I will show you an emotional midget.”

Powerful words, but ones containing much truth.  We develop mental and emotional maturity by engaging problems, whether they be intellectual, personal, spiritual, whatever.  Our personality gets stronger through problem-solving.  Marijuana does not help us do that.  Instead of taking on cognitive challenges, it is a form of withdrawal, opting out.  Put the problem aside and get high.

This avoidance behavior of dropping out becomes, for many, a consistent pattern—a habit.  When it does, mental and emotional development is retarded.

Although there are some compelling arguments to be made for the medicinal value of pot, recreational use is not without potential consequences.  “Pothead” connotes many things, but mental and emotional maturity are not among them. DC.

[239] Veer

Remember four years ago when Republicans were skeptical about Trump, concerned that he would be too far to the left of the party?

Well, to reword an old saw, “The more things change the more they become different.”  Not only has Trump positioned himself safely inside the Republican foul lines, but that position, coupled with his less than diplomatic style, has pushed the Democrats to the left.

Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Bernie Sanders are a long way from Dems like Al Gore, Bill Clinton—both Baptists, and Joe Lieberman, a practicing Jew, and should any of these candidates be elected the nation is likely to change quickly.  I suspect it will continue to veer in the direction of Western Europe and its secular culture, only at an ever faster pace.

Let’s be careful here.  The concern is not about basic Republican or Democratic ideology—small vs. large government for example, or even capitalism vs. socialism.  It is about a Judeo-Christian foundation vs. a secular progressive agenda, with the latter dominating the far left of the Democratic Party.  I don’t think I need to tell you that not every Republican is God-fearing or that no Democrat is, but we are not talking about individuals here.  We are talking about a spiritual clash here, one that will do much to determine the basis of our national moral values and our hospitality toward matters of faith.

DC

[238] The Reality

Amid the furor over the Trump presidency, something is lost: the current national political paralysis is not about Trump—his style, his wall, or his showdown strategies.

It is about power.

Over a half century ago John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage detailed members of congress who sacrificed politically to do what they believed was right for the country.

I see few if any such profiles now.

Instead of people who place the best interests of the United States above party affiliation or personal ambition I see people in serious combat for power–on both sides of the aisle.

Over a decade ago Mitch McConnell made clear his goal to make Obama’s presidency unsuccessful.  This was before Obama had even settled in the Oval Office.  Democrats were promoting impeachment before Trump’s first national address.

Why?  Because servanthood is being sacrificed on the altar of power.  Servanthood is about listening and working toward consensus, the common good.  Power is about domination of the vanquished.  When the vanquished are members of the opposite political party we are vanquishing our own citizens.

DC

[237] Deception

One thing stood out to me after the deaths of Sen. John McCain and President George Herbert Walker Bush.  The Democrats and the liberal media treated them with respect, even trumpeting their careers and service.  This in a time in which neither Republicans nor Democrats seem to find any redeeming value in any member of the opposite party.

So what do we make of this?  This anomaly is not about people wanting to speak respectfully of the dead.  It is about celebrating McCain and Bush’s resistance to Trump.  Surprise!  It is all about politics.  It is all about advancing the party’s agenda by citing these two figures for their refusal to support the now undisputed leader of the Republican Party.

And it’s disgusting.  Neither McCain nor Bush got much respect from the Dems during their lifetimes.  The Dems unloaded on McCain in his presidential run in 2008 and in his campaigns for the senate.  Bush was vilified by Clinton in 1992 and his son was the political punching bag of the Obama campaign.

If you are reading this as a swipe at the Democratic Party you are missing the point.  I expect Republicans would do the same if given similar circumstances.

No, this is about something as old as Genesis 3.  It is about deception, the toxin of democracy. DC

[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

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