web analytics

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

[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

[225] Polarization

I see no end to our current political polarization. It is not like the Civil War, divisions over FDR’s liberalism, or Nixon’s Watergate.  The current divide is spiritual.  It is a culture war between Judeo-Christian values and secular progressivism.  Though the water is muddy on both sides of the divide—those advancing the Judeo-Christian side are often neither Jewish nor Christian, just conservative, and not everyone in the secular progressive wing is at war with Judeo-Christian thinking, just politically liberal.

Nonetheless, at core, the struggle is between those who want God in the national equation and those who want him out.  It is a battle for the soul of the country.  And that makes the war spiritual.  For 200 years, from the Founding Fathers to recent times, the name of God was welcomed in the institutions of the nation. Often that mention was merely ceremonial, or from the lips of deists, or other not necessarily Christian public leaders.  But the mention was there.  In fact, it was expected, because America was a Christian country based on percentage of its citizens that claimed to be Christian.

In the last half century all of that has changed.  Famous people openly profess their atheism, and it is no longer politically incorrect to deride Christian beliefs or values in public.  In short, it is open season on God and all he represents.

For the time being, this is a war without guns.  More concerning, it is a war through which many Christians are sleeping while their always-at-the-ready adversaries are steadily advancing. DC

[224] Purpose

In a recent blog, I cited the epidemic of loneliness among Generation Z (18-22-year-olds).  Some years previous, USA Today posed a question: If you came face-to-face with God what would you ask?

Here are the responses.

–What is my purpose in life? 34%

–Is there life after death? 19%

–Is there intelligent life elsewhere? 7%

–How long will I live? 6%

The results reveal a stark fact.  People are aimless.  They are alive, but do not know why. And it bothers them.  They are less concerned about life after death than why they are alive now.

This was a national survey.  Given how unchurched, and drenched in secular progressive thinking the lonely members of Generation Z are, I suspect the concern over one’s purpose is life would be even higher.

There is no transcendent purpose in life without God. Without God one has to determine his own reason for staying alive.  Life purpose becomes the product of one’s own wholly subjective efforts. It is completely devoid of any objective reality, in fact any reality outside of one’s self.

For most, finding purpose that way is above their pay grade.  For the believer, the answer is simple: The purpose of life is to honor God and enjoy him forever. Interestingly, that is the very first answer in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Honoring God is one’s purpose.  Enjoying him is the benefit.

I have met a lot of people who take that seriously, and they seem to have a very clear and meaningful agenda for living. DC

[223] Epidemic

Decades ago I wrote a book about what was becoming a national epidemic: loneliness. Little has changed. Loneliness not only continues to be a national killer, it is apparently getting worse.

Christianity Today cited a survey, sponsored by Cigna, that found young people were more likely to report being lonely than senior citizens. Social isolation among those between 18 and 22 was higher than that of those 72 and older.

So in other words, that college student next door is more likely to feel lonely than granny (who longs for visitors).  How is that possible?

One reason is that we are an increasingly urban, impersonal society.  Another is that social media has replaced social relationships. The article quoted Jagdish Khubchandani, a health science professor at Ball State University. “I have students who tell me they have 500 ‘friends,’ [in social media] but when they’re in need, there’s no one,” Khubchandani says.

I would push this cart a bit further. Generation Z is one step further away than the previous one from being part of a culture that affirms the existence of God. As secular forces continue to succeed in driving God out of every inch of the public sector they succeed in removing any thought of him from the minds of millions, particularly young people.

Think about it.  Unless a child is brought up in a believing family, there is little likelihood she will engage the thought of there being a God, much less a personal one. God has been removed from our public educational system.  Not much chance there. Virtually any serious public mention of God in government elicits a nasty separation-of-church-and-state attack, making God at best, irrelevant. Judeo-Christian values—an expression of God—have been replaced by secular progressive ones.

This removal of any thought of God is not an accident. It is the goal of secular progressivism.  Away with God–and especially rules that interfere with the human desire to be “free” and make one’s own decisions.  Submission is even less popular now than in the Garden of Eden.

But without God we are alone.  And Generation Z is feeling the impact. DC

[222] Division

Paige Patterson, a major figure in the Southern Baptist Convention, is out as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Patterson was caught in a cultural and generational crossfire involving the role and treatment of women.  The 75-year old church leader was charged with having made a spectrum of comments about women over the years, comments many regarded as sexist and demeaning.

You need only google up Patterson to get the details.  The issue, however, is much larger than the case of one fired seminary president. The issue is about the cultural and generational division among Southern Baptists.  There is evidence that women and younger Christians take much more contemporary approaches to the issues of race and gender from that of their male and older counterparts.

I suspect this split is present among more than Southern Baptists.

This is not a good time for the church.  It is divided—and profoundly so–over race, gender, divorce, sexual orientation, and other issues.  For years, the church—not knowing what to do with these complex dilemmas—tried to imagine they did not exist.  Denial is no longer an option.  All the concerns are now “above ground.”  Resolution will not come soon. It may never come.  Let’s pray that zealots on all sides will realize they are stewards of God’s institution, not shareholders of one that belongs to them. DC

[221] Visible Hope

One of the more disturbing elements of secularism is the disappearance of visible reminders of the presence of God.  One of these is the gradual ebbing away of churches in the city.  I am not talking about groups of believers.  I am talking about church buildings.  Daniel Darling at Christianity Today cites the trend of church buildings being sold off and converted into non-religious structures. Darling points out that church buildings are significant to urban culture for reasons beyond being a places of worship. Churches function as a spiritual sanctuary for citizens, a place to get help with temporal needs, and a meeting place for recovery programs and community events.

Darling is right, but let me add one more.  The often ancient, majestic church buildings are visible witnesses to the presence of God in the city.  As these visible reminders of God’s presence disappear, the consciousness of God in the minds of the people—believers and more important, non-believers—is also diminished.  Our cities are filled with poverty, violence, and despair.  They are desperately in need of what the prophet Jeremiah (29:12) calls “a future and a hope.” When we remove those bricks-and-mortar structures, we are losing more than buildings.  We are losing hope. DC

[220] Tools?

After waxing self-righteous on the matter of sexual assault by powerful males on female subordinates, we find NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman may have taken off the gloves and engaged in some unwelcome fisticuffs with women in his own life.

Once the cries of hypocrisy have died down we are left with a question for members of both parties.  Do these politicos care about third rail issues like sexual assault, or are their public stances mere tools for power—attempts at seizing the public high ground as a way of attracting voter support?

Over and over we see power figures from Bill Clinton to Denny Hastert to Schneiderman taking the politically “right side” on red meat issues, only to find these same people living in violation of their own words.  God told Samuel not to be taken in by King Saul’s appearance in 1 Samuel 16:7, stating that “…the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  Although appearances are huge in the political world, a closer look at some of the fallen figures of our age will reveal evidence that they were not walking their talk long before being exposed. If indeed, the Holy Spirit gives us powers of discernment, we need to use them in observing our political representatives. DC

[219] Not Voting

I am tired of hearing how unpatriotic it is not to vote.  Citizens have a right to vote—precious as it is–but not an obligation to vote.

In some cases, Christians have no good candidate to support.  The voter may not be able—in good conscience—to vote for a pro-choice zealot, while at the same time, finding the positions of that candidate’s opponent anathema.

So what do you do?  You don’t vote.  When not voting is a conscious choice, carefully considered, it may be more patriotic than picking the lesser of two miscreants. DC

Subscribe to this site
Get new Faith and Learning posts sent to you by email: