Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Why Not Just Get Rid of Everything?

For those who have been sleeping on a different planet recently, the biggest news item to hit the fan is the current frenzy to eradicate the Confederate battle flag from everywhere and everything, from state houses to the Dukes of Hazzard. Of course I understand the emotion that drives the situation, but that's part of the problem. The reaction to the murders perpetrated upon a church in Charleston, South Carolina is all emotion, no substance. And at the end of all the emotion, little is being accomplished. What will removing an antique flag really accomplish? It will make someone feel better. That's it. No real change. Certainly no change of heart and no change in behavior either.

Where is the flag removal going to end? No one knows. First the flag, next removing monuments, then renaming multitudes of schools, highways, and - what? Family trees?

Will Georgia sandblast the monument off Stone Mountain?

Do we dismantle the Jefferson Memorial? He did own slaves, you know.

But then, Martin Luther King's statue is there, and he was a Republican.

But then, why stop there? If we are going to do away with everything that offends, every vestige of historic wrongdoing, why stop with America? There is lots of troubling history to go around and we might as well get rid of all the offenders.

We could get rid of Spain and all things Spanish. Does anyone recall how the Conquistadors put all those natives to death in Mexico and South America? Then there is the Spanish inquisition but don't get me started.

We could get rid of France. They created the guillotine. How could we possibly look at a French flag after that?

We could get rid of Germany: two world wars, Hitler, Nazis. Definitely a bad flag. Germany has to go.

We should get rid of the Far East, or wherever it was that Genghis Khan came from. And that would take care of Japan too. Too many sword bearing ninjas.

We should really consider getting rid of England. Henry VIII killed off all those wives. Lots of people lost their lives in the Tower of London, and those who weren't beheaded were burned at the stake. Do we really want to be associated with such a brutal history?

Actually, we could get rid of most of Africa. Africans were practicing slavery long before a bunch of white guys arrived and began ferrying hapless souls to the new world. Since slavery is wrong wherever it is, Africa was guilty long before America began.

In fact, we probably should get rid of whoever it was that started the Crusades. Enough said.

By now you're probably saying "But that would mean rewriting all of human history and that would be impossible."

Right. So short of complete insanity, how do we handle the problem of a distasteful past? We could do what we are attempting to do now - completely rewrite American history and redefine all American culture. No, wait. That is complete insanity, not to mention completely impossible.

Or we could do what Spain, France, Germany, Japan, England, and Africa have done. We could accept our past as a matter of historical fact and get over it.

But then, that would mean growing up and deciding not to be offended by every last thing.

Any chance of that happening in the current climate with the leadership we have in America?

Not on your life.

Friday, April 3, 2015

It's a New Day in America

With the recent passage of religious discrimination laws in Indiana and Arkansas, the religious landscape in the United States has been dramatically and perhaps permanently changed. The law specifies that businesses catering to the general public cannot withhold services on religious grounds. In effect, a person's religious convictions no longer have federal protection. While the law is intended to protect homosexuals specifically from discrimination, it allows for reverse discrimination against Christians for their beliefs regardless of their practice. Only churches and nonprofit organizations are exempt.

Consider several ramifications of this law.

First, if a person can be charged with a crime for their religious convictions - which is in fact the case - then the Bill of Rights is crumbling before our eyes. Freedom of conscience (soul liberty in religious terms) is fundamental to all other rights. But now we have codified in state law that a person can be forced to act against their conscience on penalty of law.

Second, if churches are exempt from the law, it means that one's religion can be practiced only within the confines of church property. This has been the goal of leftists all along and the reason why they describe religious liberty as "freedom of worship" rather than "freedom of religion." "Freedom of worship" means we can worship anytime we please so long as it doesn't leave the building. "Freedom of religion" is what we had, which is the freedom to practice our faith anywhere. So-called freedom of worship is the kind of freedom given in Russia, China, and similar dictatorships. It is the state's way of controlling the growth of religion so as to discourage a challenge to governmental authority. Welcome to totalitarianism.

Third, if individual Christians can be driven out of business because they are Christians and wish to hold onto their convictions, say goodbye to traditional "mom and pop" businesses, or any free enterprise operated by individual owners. Christians are going to be forced into a much larger and safer work environment such as one finds in larger corporations. The head office can make corporate decisions. It's safer that way. Another obvious alternative is to develop business models that do not engage the general public, such as subcontractors. A Christian who wishes to operate a bakery may do so if he subcontracts as a supplier to another business and avoids the public entirely. Christians are going to have to become creative in order to survive.

Given the current state of affairs, one can reasonably assume that the next assault will come against churches directly in the form of laws against "proselytizing" or "soul winning" as most evangelicals know it. The logic will be that seeking to convert someone from their lifestyle is a form of discrimination, and of course if it's bad for business, it's bad for everything else including churches.

If churches and Christians generally are forced indoors, how then can we engage the public and survive in a hostile environment? The answer is not that complicated because Chinese Christians have been surviving and flourishing in this environment for years. They do it by staying low key, forming relationships, and engaging people on an individual basis. It works. Chinese Christians do not conceive of a Christianity that is without evangelism. They automatically assume it is a message to be taken to others.

Persecution - and that's what we have here - has a way of sharpening our senses. As a result, Christians must become sharper and more dedicated at doing what we should be doing anyway. Making contact with people, forming friendships, and using those opportunities to share the gospel in one-on-one situations. Friends don't turn on friends. Our methods will have to change and adapt to this new life in a country that is still home of the brave but no longer the land of the free.

If the Chinese Christian population can explode under such conditions (and it is), then American Christians can take heart. If ever we needed to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, it is now. But the gospel still works and so must we as well.  Like the Chinese, we must take for granted that the message is to be shared with others. Like the Chinese, we must be willing to assume the risks that go with sharing that truth. There will be a risk and a price will be paid, but it is worth the cost. It is time we stood with the rest of Christianity around the world that is paying that price every day.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Peril of the Imperfect Candidate

It's all but a done deal that Jeb Bush is going to run for president if he isn't running already. All the signs are there. To pure conservatives, if there is such a thing, the sight of Jeb running is enough to cause convulsions. The big reason of course is that Jeb is not quite right. He has his good qualities, his conservative elements, but he is noticeably flawed. He supports Common Core and is far too lenient on immigration issues. Simply put, Jeb is imperfect.

I too am no fan of either Common Core or a weak immigration policy. But at the risk of calling down all sorts of thunder on my head, I have to raise a question. Since no candidate among the oodles of possibilities is perfect, which set of imperfections would you rather have?

For example, Jeb Bush is pro-Common Core, but he is also pro-life and very much against partial birth abortion. Given a choice, which of those positions would you rather have? Likewise, Bush is very pro business and low tax. If you had to choose between a more traditional education standard and lower taxes, which would you prefer?

This is not a campaign ad for Jeb Bush, but the reality is that conservatives are going to be faced with choices like these. Republicans - conservatives in particular - are not going to get a candidate who agrees with them on every position. There are too many of us and too many positions. So we are going to be faced with choices; choosing the candidate who offers us most of what we are looking for. Determining what we absolutely have to have in a president verses what we can tolerate.

Specifically, the question is: Is Jeb Bush good enough to vote for? Because, you see, he just might be the nominee. And if he is, Republicans can hardly afford to have a stay-at-home attitude on election day, unless they really want another four years of an Obama-like presidency. Because, dear brothers, that is what you are bound to have,

Unless you are willing to suck it up and vote for a less than perfect candidate. And that is the one thing you can be sure of. All the possibilities are flawed. How much imperfection are we willing to tolerate in order to have a better government?

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

Someone once asked comedian Johnny Carson how life was going in California. "Great!" he said, "The mudslides are putting out the forest fires."  So how do we define when we are living under the blessing of God?

At this particular time, we are facing some terrific challenges in our family. Just when we are having to adjust to life under Obama care (and our "family" deductible currently stands at a whopping $12,000), we have been hit with a flurry of medical bills. None of them will be covered by the new government mandated insurance. With any luck, we will be so overwhelmingly in debt that insurance may actually kick in, say, by December. Just in time to do us no good.

Add to that, our church has lost one of our founding members. I'm tired of funerals and the more I have to do them, the harder they are. I'm tired of burying my friends. Watching a husband say goodbye to his wife of sixty years is excruciating. Reading the family's last tearful farewells was too much to take. Except for the grace of God, I couldn't have gotten through it.

Yet in the midst of all this, our church has experienced perhaps the most fruitful period of growth in our history. It seems to be literally true that we had to lose people in order to grow. We're looking forward to Easter this coming Sunday, and for the first time in many years, church life is truly looking up.

How can I explain this? I can't except to point out a truth everywhere evident in Scripture. God moves when He wants to, and not until then. And God moves under circumstances He dictates and under which only He can understand.

All this means that with our nation collapsing under the onslaught of relentless communism and socialism driving our government; just at the time when we are losing our religious liberty like as never before; just when our culture seems to be the most anti-Christian ever, we may be in for some of the greatest work of God ever in the life of American evangelicalism.

Don't be surprised if the way up is down. If churches experience revival in the midst of persecution. If biblical Christianity experiences a rebirth in American culture. It's happened before when Christians were driven to seek God in the midst of the worst conditions.

But then, maybe seeking God is why He sends us through times like these.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Our Obama Culture

Okay, President Obama doesn't decide school curriculum. He doesn't persecute Christians. He doesn't create the rules that say a child who points his finger at someone and says "bang" can be suspended for bringing a weapon to school. Nope. You know those crazy rules? He didn't do that. He needed help - or something like that.

On the other hand, I don't remember those crazy ideas existing anywhere before Obama came into office. So how and why did they begin at just the moment he was sworn in? Or at least it seems that way. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Barack Obama's election was perhaps the single most influential change in direction in our nation's history. In effect, it was a signal to every liberal ideology which heretofore had been held in check by the effect of the Reagan legacy. Obama not only killed the Reagan legacy, he resurrected liberalism. His election declared "open season and anything goes" for liberalism in all its gory glory.

Liberals held every dominate office and effectively held all branches of the federal government, including the Supreme Court. They could not be stopped by Republican token resistance. The outcome has been not only the most pervasive and invasive liberal government in our history. It has produced the cultural revolution that is hollowing out what heart remains of this once great nation.

In other words, Obama may not make all the decisions in our cockeyed country at the moment, but he created the culture that is responsible for those decisions. Our culture is the mirror image of his values, his tastes, his ideology, and yes, his politics. We are living in Obama's world.

Like the prodigal son, when we awaken to discover the mess we're in, then and then only we will have the desire to leave the hog pen behind and turn toward a better life. But, like the prodigal, we will have to do a lot of repenting to get there.

Repentance and salvation for our country is possible, provided we come to our senses. Pray we wake up before it's too late.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Easter Bunny is a Christian? Who Knew?

It's a sign of the times. The principal of Heritage Elementary School in Madison, Alabama has banned the Easter bunny because, as she explained it, "people relate the Easter bunny to religion." Really? What kind of religion? Fertility rites? Actually, I've heard of people who think the Easter bunny is part of Christianity. These are the same people who see Christmas trees and Santa Claus as manifestations of Christianity. In other words, people are so gobsmacked ignorant of the Bible these days that even the most elemental acquaintance with Scripture is beyond them.

I talked recently with a man who assured me that although he isn't religious, doesn't know enough of the Bible to quote even a little bit, he doesn't need to go to church because "He lives it" - Christianity, that is.

Right. He lives it but he skipped all those parts about "If you love me, you'll keep my commandments" including the one about "forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is..."

When people are so stupendously ignorant of biblical truth, it should not surprise us when they try to insult Christians by doing things that only serve to display their own ignorance to the point of embarrassment, if they could be embarrassed. Like the student in one of my classes at Wright State University, a professed atheist who blurted out in class "Do you know the Bible teaches the world was created in 4004 B.C.?" Uh, no. It doesn't. That's Bishop Usher's dating system, not the Lord's.

So now we have this teacher who is trying to be politically correct by doing away with the Easter bunny so as to not show favoritism towards Christians. What she doesn't know is that many evangelicals have been trying to do away with the Easter bunny (and all those left-over, hard-boiled eggs) for years. Let's all pretend to be offended. Maybe we can be rid of yet another pagan attachment to the gospel.

I just hope the principal doesn't catch on. Come to think of it, I think we're safe.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

"Will You Pray For Us?"

The officer was not serious when he asked the question. Typical for that hour of the morning, we were spending our time enjoying some coffee before hitting the streets. It was not coincidence that we were loitering in one of the most often robbed convenience stores in the area. To say they were pleased with our lollygagging around is a massive understatement. The bad guys know our routine by now, no doubt. But there's nothing wrong with robbers knowing not to show up.
At any rate, the opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee, sans doughnuts, provides more than enough time to rib one another unmercifully about most anything. That was the occasion for the unexpected request: "Will you pray for us?"
I replied in a bit more serious tone, "I always pray for you guys." And that is indeed the truth.
But the police officer was not quite satisfied.
"No, will you really pray for us?"
He was still laughing, not really serious, when he said it, but this time he struck a nerve with me.
How often do we pray for people like  we pray for a long list of missionaries? You know what I mean: "Bless the missionaries."
What does that mean?
Prayers so general that they really say nothing also accomplish nothing. If we are going to actually mean anything for anyone, we need to pray in ways that are more precise, more meaningful. The Lord might as well ask - and in fact, I think He has - "Would you like to be a bit more specific?"
Nothing could be more important than precise and meaningful prayer when we are praying for, say, police officers who are about to put their lives in danger. Or a loved one about to go through surgery. Or a family facing the death of a loved one.
You get the idea. There's a lot of difference between praying and really praying.
If you know what I mean.