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

[218] Who Do You Trust?

According to a recent poll by Morning Consult, reported in Christianity Today, evangelicals trust the political endorsements of Donald Trump and Barack Obama more than they do the likes of Joel Osteen and Jerry Falwell, Jr.  On the face of it, this may not seem all that surprising.  After all, Trump and Obama are pretty good at politics, and the parsons are in another line of work.

But there appears to be more to this.  For as long as most of us can remember, presidential candidates have thirsted for the endorsement of evangelical leaders. The reason is very simple.  Those leaders had powerful credibility, and in a very real sense, were the key to millions of votes.

This poll suggests something different is going on.  Evangelical Christians are not taking the lead from the more famous pulpiteers.

But there is more.  Neither Trump nor Obama claims to be an evangelical.  Their personal spiritual lives are unclear—murky if you will.  Yet evangelicals will take their political leads (49% for Trump, 33% Obama) over ostensibly spiritual leaders (Osteen 28%; Falwell 27%).  In fact, 39% said an endorsement from Pope Francis would have no impact at all.  While known political evangelicals, Mike Pence, and George W. Bush did quite well—46% and 43%, respectively—both trailed Trump.

Is there any takeaway here?  Two come to mind.  First, political leaders who speak to evangelicals and their concerns do well, irrespective of the candidate’s personal religiosity.  More important, however, it appears there is no prophetic voice coming from the evangelical world.  Billy Graham is gone.  Osteen is coiffed in prosperity (“this world”) preaching, and Falwell ministers in the shadow of his polarizing Moral-Majority-of the-‘80’s father.

Without a vision the people perish, says the Psalmist (29:18).  There seems no real political vision coming from those on whom so many depend to translate God’s word to our times. DC

[217] MLK, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered 50 years ago today.

I remember it well.  The announcement that interrupted normal television programming was chilling.  King had been in Memphis supporting a strike by sanitation workers, yet another of his many self-sacrificial efforts on behalf of the powerless. In a fleeting moment this larger than life public figure was gone.

It is hard to describe the impact of this 39-year-old martyr for the cause of the Second Great Commandment.  Upon news of his death, cities exploded in violence, people—black and white–were plunged into despair; the civil rights movement—of which King was all but the incarnation—appeared over.  Everyone was in shock.

His death did all but mark the end of the turn-the-other-cheek non-violent form of political resistance.  His official successor, Ralph David Abernathy, had none of King’s charisma, and the divisive Jesse Jackson, who all but hijacked King’s mantle, has always seemed more in a quest of the nearest camera and the attendant self-aggrandizement, than the cause of justice.

It has never been the same since King died.  He was a unifier, a man of the people, shunning celebrity and a life ease in favor of the less traveled path of genuine servanthood.  Though quoting from scripture and often in prayer, some evangelicals criticized him as a theological liberal for his emphasis on social rather than specifically spiritual causes.  Yet many of the very seminaries from which those critics graduated would not admit King, because there were on the wrong side of the Second Great Commandment—the one King was living out.

His work was rooted in faith and a call to God’s work.  “Before I was a civil rights leader,” said King, “I was a preacher of the Gospel. This was my first calling and it still remains my greatest commitment. You know, actually all that I do in civil rights I do because I consider it a part of my ministry. I have no other ambitions in life but to achieve excellence in the Christian ministry. I don’t plan to run for any political office. I don’t plan to do anything but remain a preacher. And what I’m doing in this struggle, along with many others, grows out of my feeling that the preacher must be concerned about the whole man.”

The man who said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,” was a giant—clearly among the most important figures in the second half of the 20th Century.  Like Moses and David, Martin Luther King, Jr. had his imperfections, but I shudder to think of where our nation would be without his brief but shining presence. DC

[216] Reffing

The reffing in the NCAA tournament is terrible.

Every year.

I coached boys high school basketball.  I was an Athletic Director at an NCAA championship school.  I love March Madness.  I watch as many games as possible.  I simply cannot understand why the officiating is not more competent.  Replays are living testimony to how bad it is.

Go to almost any playground in America and you will see youngsters playing basketball without refs.  And these can be rich, poor, black, or white, or mixed participants—in other words, groups that have great potential for conflict.  Yet with all this diversity and desire to win, they are able to officiate their own games, often without a single argument.  Players know what a foul is.  They know off whom the ball went out of bounds.

The NCAA officials do not.  Perhaps the games should be played that way, with officials in the stands solely to resolve any disputes; of course with the help of replay.  DC

[215] Billy Graham

Billy Graham died this week, and we will never see his like again.  He was the ultimate evangelist.  In his heyday he would fill sports stadiums night after night with his Crusades.  Think of that word—crusades. For Graham, that word perfectly described his ministry.  He was God’s soldier on a campaign to bring lost souls into the kingdom.  From a human standpoint, a major key to his astounding success was likely his riveting focus on that goal.  He was an evangelist, not a pastor, not a megachurch builder, and though he ministered to presidents, not a politician.  He was all about bringing the gospel to the lost.  That is what he did, and few if any, have done it as effectively.

Handsome, dynamic, and all-in for Christ, Graham radiated a spiritual charisma.  Lamar Johnson, formerly of the Chicago White Sox told me he could feel an unnatural spiritual power emanating from Graham’s person when the evangelist spoke to a group of assembled players in a small room at what was then Comiskey Park.

He was also wise.  To avoid even a hint of impropriety, Graham took a salary rather than stuffing his pockets with the cash that rolled in to his Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Amid the scandals that have made too many televangelists little more than salesmen and carnival barkers with a bible as their prop, his organization has always been above reproach and open to audit. His personal life could hardly have been more honorable.  His policy was never to meet alone with a woman–not his wife—to insure that his character would never be questioned.

Perhaps, most of all, he preached a pure gospel.  Though sought by the powerful, Graham’s message of sin, grace, forgiveness, and salvation was undiluted.  And it was the same for every person.  For Graham, the old saw, “the ground is level at the foot of the cross,” was not a mere cliché.  It was the driving force of his message.

For those of us who remember this saint so well, the earthly ground he walked will never be the same again. DC

[214] OJ & CTE

What if the despised OJ Simpson had CTE? What then? We know that the brain of many football players have been permanently damaged. We know that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is associated with erratic, aggressive, and even violent behavior. Player after player with CTE spent much of their post-playing career behaving “out of character,” engaging in uncharacteristically self-destructive, unhealthy, and antisocial behavior.

Terry Long, Ray Easterling, Andre Waters, Junior Seau, and Dave Duerson all committed suicide. Incidents of domestic violence litter the lives of CTE victims. Dave Duerson, once honored as NFL Man of the Year for his community and volunteer service lost his Notre Dame analyst job for roughing up his wife. When he took his life at age 50, he left a note requesting that his brain be examined. I don’t have to tell you what the neurosurgeons at Boston University found with respect to the condition of Duerson’s brain.

So back to OJ. What if he suffers from severe CTE? He took a ton of football hits. His post-career behavior was apparently much different from the earlier years. No one is justifying murder here, but there may be more involved than simply sociopathic narcissism. DC

[213] MLK Day

The left consistently celebrates Martin Luther King Day as if it is a liberal holiday.  The right seems not to make as much celebrative noise.  That is unfortunate.  One would hope that at least the birthday of this champion of freedom would not be kicked around on the political football field.

But there is a more troubling aspect.  The foundation of MLK’s movement was Christian.  He was an ordained Baptist Minister and his organization was named the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Scripture was constantly quoted and long prayer vigils were regular events.  At  the individual level, King reportedly immersed himself in prayer to ward off feelings of hate in the face of injustice.

But you won’t hear much if anything about the Christian core of the MLK’s life and legacy.  The secularists have clipped those pages out of the narrative.  And in doing so, they have made what could be an inspiring day—one of putting down division and seeking unity, into little more than one in which the banks are closed. DC

[212] Reversal?

Donald Trump’s approval ratings have been lounging around the high 30’s, viewed by millions as a crude, villainous bully in need of psychiatric intervention and removal via the 25th Amendment.

But what might happen if two things occur?  What if Trump is found free (or largely free) of Russian collusion by the Mueller investigation and Hillary is found to have been trying—illegally—to manipulate his demise?  Also, what happens if Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury book is publically discredited, owing to myriad inaccuracies and poor journalism?

What then?

Suddenly, Trump moves from bully to the victim of a nefarious plot; from a dominating, out-of-control executive to the target of a grossly inaccurate literary hatchet job.

That is a reversal, and it may well show in his approval ratings.

Something this dramatic may seem far-fetched, but nothing about Trump’s political biography has been very predictable. DC

[211] PC Mental Health

Legions of pundits, all practicing psychiatry without a license, have decided that Trump is mentally unstable, and hence, hope they might be able to use the 25th Amendment to unseat the despised 45th President.  What is curious is that amid these charges no real clinical definition of mental health is rendered, and the alleged instability is not described in anything approaching clinical terms associated with mental dysfunction.  All this does not, however, mean these armchair psychiatrists do not have at least an implied definition of mental health.  One very non-clinical one surely does exist among the Trump critics.  It is simply this: Mental health is exemplified by behavior that aligns with political correctness, while dysfunction is measured by the degree of deviation from this standard.  By that bizarre definition–and nothing else–Donald Trump is not only unstable, he is crazy. DC

[210] Consensual?

It seems the most common defense among those public figures awash in allegations of sexual harassment is that their sexual encounters were “consensual.” There are two quick responses to that. First, it makes these trysts not a matter of relational significance, but rather a form of entertainment rather like bowling or miniature golf. Looking at sex as simply “hooking up” makes these meaningful, and obviously long-remembered encounters—at least if one listens to those leveling the charges–as insignificant physical acts.

Second, it indicates that those fending off the allegations just don’t get it. They do not know the difference between consent and compliance. While Matt Lauer, Dustin Hoffman, and the many other similar public figures seem to believe that they had willing and consenting partners, those partners are saying that they simply complied. And felt ashamed of having done so. They bowed to their fear of potential reprisal by these men who had significant impact on their careers, and simply gave in to their lustful advances.

This is not consent. It is compliance. It is complying with the carnal desires of someone who is more powerful than you, someone who has potentially strong influence on the trajectory of your career. Interestingly, those who tell these stories indicate they felt “dirty” and ashamed of their compliant actions. In short, they are willing to be accountable for their moral lapses. Nonetheless, they are telling their stories, because they realize there is a subtle perversion of the truth on the part of the famous people who whose despicable behavior is now being exposed. DC

[209] Magnanimity

Blogger, Kevin DeYoung of thegospelcoalition.org, had some prophetic things to say about our current political atmosphere. Using the concept of magnanimity—the capacity to let go of grudges and attempts to “get even” in favor of extending grace and generosity in the face of abuse and attack, he encourages a cheek-turning strategy in an era of divisiveness. He urges “pastors, parents, politicians, pundits, and internet pugilists…[to]…show the sort of Christian magnanimity our world needs but rarely displays…” For DeYoung, this “is not simply the way to win friends and influence people. It is the way of the cross. And the way of the One who hung there saying, ‘“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.’”

It may also be the only way to save our republic. DC

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