The Election From Hell


electoralcollege2000-large-bushred-goreblueI thought it was bad when Florida was re-counting their votes for President back in 2000. For days we saw video on the news of election officials holding up ballots and trying to determine if an indentation or a puncture with a hanging chad was sufficient to indicate a vote. The networks all inappropriately called Florida for Vice President Gore while their polls were still open. There were accusations of voting rights violations and of biased state supreme court action, of “butterfly ballots” that caused confused voters to mark their ballots incorrectly, and assertions that attempts had been made to suppress military mail in ballots.

That’s the tip of the iceberg, but all of it pales in comparison to this year’s election. Not because the voting was so close but because the results were so unpalatable to many on the losing side. As time passes, things have become worse, not better. Yes, the protest marches seem to have died away, but the legal wrangling may have just begun. First the Green Party candidate demanded a recount in Wisconsin, then in two other states. Next Sec. Clinton joined in—just to make sure the process was up and up.

Mr. Trump responded—which he seems sure to do whenever he feels attacked—by accusing three states of wide voter fraud that denied him “millions” of votes. He has given no details. But others have—suggesting illegal immigrants may have voted and that people who have died also (miraculously) voted.

Some have once again taken up the call to do away with the Electoral College and go with a straight popular vote. Others say that some states voting electronically were hacked.

Above—or more accurately, below—it all are supporters of Hillary Clinton who have unfriended people on Facebook, and worse, broken relationship with actual friends and even family members. This after thousands of students (including high schoolers too young to vote) took to the streets, blocking traffic and vandalizing businesses. Sandwiched in between marches were attacks on individuals and on mosques by those using racial or religious slurs.

The point is, people don’t seem to be calming down. They seem to be intent on making the transition from President Obama’s administration to the Trump-Pence administration as rocky as it can be.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m pretty sure breaking relationship isn’t a solution.

Christians above all should work toward reconciliation, not division. Christians should openly and loudly decry verbal or physical attacks on others—which this election has seemed to unleash. We should be at the mosques and synagogues helping to paint over the slurs. We should be telling those involved in racist behavior that there is no place in America for that kind of treatment of anyone.

When I grew up, we were taught that America, imperfect though it was, was a melting pot, benefiting from the people all over the world who came here at great risk because they wanted freedom and a chance to work hard and become more.

That “American Dream” is really the reality of the Christian Church. We are believers from all over the world who are part of a family. We have freedom in Christ, and all we want is to work for His kingdom. We are rich and poor, persecuted and free, of African descent and Asian.

Christianity Today recently had an article about the flourishing of Christianity in India, for example:

Christianity Today circled India from north to south and back again for two weeks in order to witness the innovative and successful mission efforts of Indian evangelicals—this, despite rising persecution from Hindu nationalists. In fact, evangelical leaders across India agree that their biggest challenge is not restrictions on religious freedom, but training enough pastors to disciple the surge of new believers from non-Christian backgrounds. (“Incredible Indian Christianity”)

Christians here in the US most certainly can play a part in breaking the divide between the two political extremes here in our country. Ideas might be harder to overcome than ethnicity, but if we are to live as Christ did, I don’t think we have any choice but to love your “enemies”—those who persecute or abuse or disagree with us. It’s the Jesus way.

Published in: on November 29, 2016 at 6:27 pm  Comments (2)  
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Christians And Voting For Donald Trump


anti-trump_protest_san_franciscoHere in California there have been protests up and down the state against President-elect Trump. Worse, on Facebook there’s been blame cast by Christians on Christians for electing a man who has exhibited behavior most like a racist, misogynist, and xenophobic. One particular post, which I found offensive on several levels, said that Christians have “some explaining to do.”

OK, I’ll explain.

First, if I haven’t made it clear yet, I did not vote for Mr. Trump and have serious reservations about his taking the office of President. I hope I am wrong, but I fear for our democracy.

Nevertheless, I understand why some Christians decided to vote for him. I DON’T understand why certain ones supported him early in the primary process when there were good options and candidates who would have turned this election into a Republican landslide in the face of all the scandal Secretary Clinton has faced. That aside, here are the reasons some (including Christians) have given for voting for Mr. Trump.

1, His stated pro-life position. For many, myself included, this is the single most important issue in American politics. How can we stand for justice, for freedom, for rights of the most vulnerable in our nation and then turn around and slaughter millions of unborn persons. I liken it to the people of Israel in the Old Testament choosing to worship a false god that required child sacrifice. Here in America, our false god is ourselves. We promote sex at every turn and treat celibacy and abstinence as aberrations. We do not exercise self-control because we believe we deserve to be self-indulgent—it’s Me-ism on steroids. We want what we want when we want it, and we’re willing to sacrifice the lives of our unborn children in the process.

2. The opportunity to nominate at least one and possibly as many as three Supreme Court justices. This point is actually a corollary of the first issue. In order to meaningfully reverse the cultural changes of the last eight years and of decades of the Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, and which continues to prevent states from passing meaningful curbs on abortion, the makeup of the Supreme Court needs to be more conservative. In other words, it needs conservative justices who will honor the Constitution instead of creating law from the Bench. Mr. Trump has pledged to nominate such justices. It remains to be seen whether or not he will do what he said, but believing that his promise was better than a certainty that Secretary Clinton would nominate activist judges, some opted to vote for Mr. Trump.

3. Illegal immigration is illegal. Many people want our federal government to uphold the rule of law. We don’t. Hence, federally it is illegal to use marijuana, but more and more states are declaring its use, medicinally or recreationally, as legal while the federal government does nothing. In the same way, here in California certain cities have taken the status as “sanctuary cities” where illegal immigrants can safely reside without fear of deportation, and the federal government does nothing. In fact, no comprehensive immigration reform has come from the White House in a very long time. Consequently, thousands of unaccompanied minors have poured over the southern border, and no measures have been taken to stem the tide. From the November 22, 2115 Washington Times:

Nearly 5,000 unaccompanied children were caught in October, and nearly 3,000 more had been caught in the first half of November — a record pace for those months — and it signals just how closely smuggling cartels and would-be illegal immigrants themselves are paying attention to lax enforcement in the U.S.

Two years ago the numbers were even more staggering:

The vast majority of 50,000 unaccompanied youths and children who have illegally crossed the Texas border during the last few months have been successfully delivered by federal agencies to their relatives living in the United States, according to a New York Times article.

A second New York Times article report revealed that officials have caught an additional 240,000 Central American migrants since April, and are transporting many of them to their destinations throughout the United States. (From The Daily Caller, as quoted in the Independent Journal Review)

The issue isn’t racism or a fear of immigrants. It’s a desire to return our nation to one that believes in the rule of law. Congress passes laws and the Executive Branch is to enforce them. What happens, then, when the Executive Branch decides simply to ignore what Congress has passed? That’s what’s happened with the “open boarder” policy of these last few years.

4. Economic concerns. Some people have witnessed the sole industry of their town close down, leaving unemployed workers with no hope. Others have seen their jobs discontinued as businesses outsource work to other countries. Then there are the environmental snags that have stopped production of clean coal and the like. A number of people say they voted for Mr. Trump because they want his economic expertise to work for the country.

5. Media influence and the elite. Another group mention that they voted for Mr. Trump as a protest against insider government. They want a President who is not beholden to big money or the “good ole boys” in Washington. They also want to stop the media from telling the everyday person what they should think and how they should vote.

6. A vote against Secretary Clinton. Some people think that the scandals in which Secretary Clinton has been embroiled are indicative of her corruption, deceit, greed, and abuse of power. They do not believe she is qualified to be President.

7. A vote for a worldview, not for a man. Pastor John McArthur took this stand, basically saying that Mr. Trump’s ideas about our culture are more in line with Scripture than are Secretary Clinton’s.

There well could be other reasons, too, but these are the ones I’ve heard most often.

I’ve not heard, “I’m voting for Donald Trump because I share his racist positions.” Are some Trump supporters racist? I am pretty sure they are since the head of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, endorsed Mr. Trump during the primary elections. Do some of those belonging to white supremacist groups self-identify as Christians? I suppose they might. It doesn’t mean they actually believe the Bible, however. In fact, it’s hard to see how they could align their racial beliefs with Scripture’s clear teaching about God’s love for the world!

Nevertheless, the point remains, Mr. Trump was a flawed candidate who by practice and by word took a stand that isn’t consistent with the Bible. But news flash: Secretary Clinton was a flawed candidate who by practice and by word took a stand that isn’t consistent with the Bible.

How, then, can a Clinton supporter turn to a Trump supporter and accuse him of not heeding the Bible by voting for a flawed candidate?

The Church does not have to apologize for Donald Trump becoming president. Last I checked, we the Church do not vote in lock step. We don’t vote with the same reasons in mind. That a flawed candidate won is no surprise. Had Hillary Clinton won, Christians could have been blamed for not opposing her more vocally or for voting for third party candidates or for not working to get out the vote or . . . there’s a myriad of reasons people could have turned on Christians in that scenario too.

In other words, the election is just one more reason some are using to bash the Church. It’s time we say, enough. Christians are not perfect, but we are not the cause of all ills in society as some atheists (looking at you, disciples of deceased Christopher Hitchens) would have us believe.

In fact Christians want very much to proclaim the cure for society’s ills. And that cure is not Donald Trump. Nor is it Hillary Clinton.

The Connection Between Pride And Anxiety


scan-2016-11-8-0002As I stood before a cashier this evening, a woman behind me said how worried she was about the election. Later at home, I heard on TV that people in state X are exhibiting signs of anxiety as they anticipate the election returns.

I don’t think worrying about the results or the next four years of struggle and/or change is the road God wants those who fear Him to take.

Here’s a re-post of an article I wrote three years ago that addresses this issue.

1 Peter has some great “one liners” and lots of people quote various verses from the book, but I’ll admit, I never paid much attention to the context in which those verses appear. I’m talking about ones like, “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (2:24). Or how about the last half of 4:8, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Then there is 5:8, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.”

Just before that verse about the Christian’s enemy, though, come two other well known verses, and I realized for the first time how they relate to each other. The first one is this:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (5:6).

The thing is, the next verse continues the thought: “casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you” (5:7).

The sentence construction, as I understand it, means that casting our anxieties on God is a working out of the previous command to humble ourselves. It would be like me saying, Drive to the store, stopping at all the red lights on the way. Stopping at the lights is a part of carrying out the command to drive to the store.

I never before saw casting anxieties on God as a working out of humbling myself under His mighty hand. Looking at 1 Peter as a letter from an evangelist to the churches he helped to start, however, rather than a collection of quotable Christian sayings, has changed my understanding.

Traffic_lights_red.svgI now think the two ideas fit really well. If I humble myself under God’s mighty hand, I have to let Him be God. I have to recognize Him as sovereign, but then I also have to trust Him, even when things are hard and don’t seem right. I have to be willing to relinquish my concerns and put them in His care. I have to stop worrying, in other words, and trust that He sees the big picture better than I do.

The problem I struggle with is knowing what part I am to play as I trust God. I don’t think it means I take my hands off the wheel (with all due respect to Kelly Clarkson). God has put believers on this earth and keeps us here to be His representatives. Therefore, I can’t sit back and say, I have to trust that God will bring people to Christ without also doing what I am capable of doing.

I can’t say, God will feed me, so I don’t have to worry about working. I need to give myself to my work, understanding that God is the provider, but that He is providing through my efforts and the doors He has opened up for me.

I think contentment is critical in understanding the interweaving of pride and anxiety. If we recognize that what we have is from God’s hand, that He is good and loving, then we can be content in His watch care. If we want more than He provides, we can ask Him for more. He may lead us to more or He may not.

Anxiety sets in, I believe, when we think we have to circumvent God to get the more we asked for. We know MORE is what we need, and God isn’t coming through or He’s too busy. So it’s up to us to figure out how to get MORE.

The problem is, we are the agents through which God works, so sometimes we really do need to do something to bring about the thing we’re asking. The trick is to know when to do and when to stand and watch God work.

Well, the real trick is to cast all the worry about the matter upon our good God because He cares for us. If we give Him the worry, I believe He’ll give us the understanding about what we’re to do.

I don’t think this principle is only applicable to money and jobs. It’s true about anything we humans tend to worry about. Over and over God promises us peace, and yet we seem to rush about so, trying to do and fix and change and make, when we need, first, to hand our worries over to God and trust that He’ll show us our part in due time.

Published in: on November 8, 2016 at 5:33 pm  Comments (8)  
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The Impossibility Of Empathy


donald_trumpEmpathy, according to my atheist blogger friend Violetwisp, provides a moral framework by which a person can make moral judgments. So, no, God did not “set eternity in our hearts” or a “God-shaped vacuum” or a “moral compass.” Our morality comes from our ability to “understand and share the feelings of others.” (Oxford American Dictionary)

Which is impossible.

No one can actually understand and share the feelings of someone with a radically different experience from ours. Take Donald Trump, for example. I’ve never been a multimillionaire. I’ve never had my own TV program. I’ve never had multiple marriages. I’m not a man. I have never wanted to run for President or to deport illegal aliens by the truckload or to carpet bomb the Syrians. There are many, many other things that make my life and experience different from Mr. Trump’s. So how am I to understand and share his feelings?

I can’t. We could easily be from different planets. He says deplorable things about women. He encourages violence against those who protest against his positions. He advocates for religious discrimination in the name of homeland security. He condones torture. Many of his “plans” for solving the problems in the US are unconstitutional.

I don’t understand someone who behaves as he does unless I assign motives behind his actions. My conclusion is that he cares more for himself than he does for others. Consequently, he’ll find a loophole so he doesn’t have to pay income taxes, then blame the government for the existence of the loophole. “If you’d just stopped me from being greedy and selfish, then I would have been like all other Americans,” he seems to be saying.

Am I empathetic toward Mr. Trump? No. I believe I understand him. He wants what he wants when he wants it and doesn’t care who he bulldozes out of his way to get the power or prestige or possessions he’s set his sights on. But do I feel for him? He’s had advantages in this life that few have had, and he comes to the twilight years of his life as a power-hungry bully who lies and manipulates and blusters and fawns—whatever works to create sycophants. I don’t feel for him. I think he should know better, that he should have done more with what he’d been given.

The truth is, he might have experienced heartbreak when he was young. He might have been lonely and alone as a child and has been acting out from a place of pain ever since—to live in a way that keeps him from feeling the heartache, to exact revenge on a perceived perpetrator, to make up from what he considers his lost youth. I simply have no way of knowing what is behind his deplorable actions and words and ways of relating to people in public.

I do not empathize with him. I don’t even want to. I don’t want to explain away what he’s done or what he continues to do.

tex_watsonEmpathy is a failed strategy. It cannot move me closer to Donald Trump. I could extrapolate from that one example to a host of others. I don’t empathize with David Duke and other racists. I don’t empathize with the Planned Parenthood execs who sold fetal body parts. I don’t empathize with the Manson family prisoners who have had parole denied repeatedly.

How am I supposed to empathize with a sex-trafficker? With a mob hit man? With an ISIS suicide bomber?

In case after case after case, I don’t understand someone or I don’t feel with them. And we haven’t even begun to talk about people from other countries who have customs and practices and traditions that are completely foreign to my experience.

Empathy doesn’t cut it. Can’t cut it. I don’t know enough to understand all these people. I don’t care enough to feel with them in their experiences.

Empathy doesn’t give us a moral framework apart from our own personal experience. And then we only feel with people based on our own perspective. Consequently, our moral judgment becomes, what do I want to have happen? So if I want abortion, then it’s legal. If I want slavery, then it’s legal. If I want divorce, then it’s legal.

Another gaping failure of empathy is to explain how all those unempathetic behaviors came into being in the first place. If the first humans were empathetic toward one another, all should have been well. But someone at some point introduced behavior that contradicted the moral framework that existed because of the perfect empathy governing those early relationships. What caused empathy to break down?

There is no answer to that question in the moral framework constructed by people who look to empathy as the solution to sin.

Yes, sin. That’s what we’re talking about. When one person violates another person, either in word or deed, it’s sin. Sin is actually deeper than that, but for the purpose of this post. focusing on the observable is sufficient.

Empathy can not change sin. That’s really what I’ve been saying. Empathy can’t explain why people sin, and it can give no answer to the cycle of sin—either those who sin against another or those who have been sinned against.

There’s only one remedy that has proven effective—forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t depend on my understanding or my feeling with another. I can forgive without knowing why someone behaved in a despicable way. I can forgive and work toward a restored relationship without feeling with the person who holds hatred in his heart.

I’ve played the empathy card before. I’ve sat with friends and listened to their tales of woe. I’ve worked to understand and feel with them when they have been wronged and mistreated. And what did it bring? Relief? No. It nurtured more of the feelings of resentment and anger that the original actions engendered. No relationship healing occurred. Only greater division.

But forgiveness—that’s a different thing. Forgiveness humbles and heals. Forgiveness bridges gaps without excusing or erasing responsibility. Forgiveness requires growth and added maturity in both the forgiven and the forgiver.

I suppose forgiveness is impossible too, apart from the great example of forgiveness God enacted when He sent His Son to provide a way for us to access His forgiveness; apart from the power of God to work in and through our frail human desires.

Yes, God alone is stronger than the heinous acts one person does against another. Only God can turn people who hated each other into friends. Only God can give the ability for a Nazi concentration camp prisoner to reconcile with one of her guards. Only God can lead a kidnap victim to forgive the men who were responsible for her husband’s death. Only God can put it in the heart of a congregation to forgive the racist who gunned down their loved ones in their own church.

God does what empathy can never do. Because God can do the impossible. Empathy . . . not so much.

Published in: on November 4, 2016 at 6:27 pm  Comments (3)  
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Advocacy For Life


Perhaps the greatest sin in the US today is abortion. I don’t mean the individual sin of a woman deciding to abort her baby. I mean the ongoing legality of it and the complicit nature of government in allowing it.

Because that’s my belief, I sympathize with conservatives who have begrudgingly declared for Donald Trump. They intend to vote for him because he says he will appoint pro-life justices when he is President. The argument is tempting.

But I’ve decided against voting for Mr. Trump. Why, if I believe so strongly about the sin of abortion? The answer to that question is multilayered, but one aspect is this: pro-life views won’t be imposed on people who embrace naturalism.

Four years ago, I wrote a post here at A Christian Worldview Of Fiction entitled “Your Body, Your Own.” It’s a clear statement of what I believe about life. But I’ve come to realize there’s an entirely different view shared by those who think this material world is all there is, that there is no life after death, and that, in fact, there is no supernatural anything.

First, the post in question (yes, I used to write much shorter articles):

“A woman has the right over her own body” has become a rallying cry for abortion advocates. But because a fetus is inside a woman’s body does not make that life a part of her body.

Anyone born without all the usual body parts is normally classified as disabled. Is someone without a fetus disabled? Certainly not, or all women who aren’t pregnant and all men would be in trouble.

In this day of liposuction and plastic surgery, women are exercising their rights to change their bodies. But how many willfully discard body parts? “I don’t like this toe, so I’ll chop it off.” Or, “Who needs that other kidney . . . think I’ll have it removed.” A woman keeps the parts of her body because she needs the parts of her body.

Not so with a fetus. Instead, the fetus needs her. She doesn’t gain nourishment from that growing baby. She gives nourishment. She doesn’t gain protection from that little one; she gives it.

When a woman decides to have an abortion, what she is really deciding is to remove the fetus from the safe environment in which this new life is growing, maturing, developing.

If someone were to remove an infant from the safety of their home because they didn’t want it, and that baby dies, we’d call it child abuse. When a pregnant woman does so, we call it legal.

At the time I wrote those words, I thought the logic was unimpeachable. What I didn’t account for was this view of life that sees humans as no different from a dog or whale or titmouse or mosquito. In this view, the human does not have a soul and has nothing of intrinsic value other than the value ascribed to it by society. So, society says the unborn have no rights and are not valuable unless the mother gives it value.

Consequently, to end the life of an unwanted unborn child is no different than ending the life of an unwanted cockroach.

Appointing a pro-life Supreme Court justice will not change this thinking. In fact, as Mr. Trump accurately pointed out in the last Presidential debate, if the court should overturn Roe v. Wade, the legality of abortion would be determined by the states instead of by the federal government.

I have no doubt that California would quickly pass a law legalizing abortion. I suspect all blue states would, and I have to wonder if the red states would be far behind. In other words, changing the law is not going to change the culture that has fostered this attitude toward the unborn.

We need meaningful change, not band-aides that stem our feelings of guilt. We need to address the wrong thinking that allows women to choose abortion, that promotes the devaluation of human life, that turns the other way when abortionists sell fetal body parts and refuses to do anything to stop it.

First we must understand why people believe as they do—that abortion is not murder. People with this perspective might ask, Is swatting a fly, murder? Killing an unwanted fetus is no different from ridding your house of an unwanted pest.

Such thinking sounds outrageous to us who belief that human life is sacred, that men and women are made in God’s image, that we have eternal souls which set us apart from all other creatures.

This belief about humans is the fundamental difference between abortionists and pro-life advocates.

My guess is that the majority of women who have an abortion never think about the reasoning behind their decision. They believe what the kind abortion clinic personnel tell them: it’s not only legal, but it’s preferred: you don’t want to bring an unwanted child into the world where they might face abuse and neglect.

But what about the unborn child’s inalienable rights? What about their soul? What about their intrinsic value as a person? These are the questions pro-life advocates need to bring front and center if we are to change the way our society thinks about abortion.

The answers are in the Bible, but also in our Constitution, starting with the Preamble:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (Emphases mine)

Abortionists might not identify the pre-born as persons, but surely there can be no doubt that our “posterity” by definition refers to those yet to be born.

So the facts, both legal and moral, are there. But until we do the hard work to influence the thinking of our culture, we ought not expect that a Presidential Supreme Court nominee will fix the mess we’ve allowed to exist for more than forty years.

Leadership


Republicanlogo.svgThis week yet another Republican declared his candidacy to become the party’s US presidential nominee. The Politics And Elections Portal lists 33 declared candidates—thirty-one men with Carly Fiorina and Shawna Sterling as the only women. Some of these individuals have impressive credentials—having been executives, either of a state or large corporation. Some have worked in Congress. Some have served in the military.

Unfortunately the one person who gets the lion’s share of the press is an individual who does not exhibit true leadership qualities. Of course I’m speaking of Donald Trump. The man is rich and famous, and he loves to wield power. But that does not make him a leader.

For one thing, leaders don’t talk without thinking. When a person runs for a public office, he or she talks a lot and it’s possible they’ll say something that comes out wrong. If that happens, they’ll own it, not repeat it.

Of course, speaking boldly and forcefully rather than giving carefully scripted sound bites is kind of refreshing, especially to anyone who pays attention to politics for any length of time. But railing at problems is not a strategy for fixing problems. A leader doesn’t just criticize and judge.

A leader sees himself or herself as a public servant. One thing I cannot see Donald Trump doing is proclaiming himself a servant. Maybe I’m wrong.

One thing that’s evident is Mr. Trump’s bombastic pronouncements have earned him followers. Seriously, I’m troubled about that fact. Apparently there are a significant number of people who think the office of President consists of calling people names, taking criticism personally, and retaliating because of it.

Leaders have to have thick skins. They can’t be mean and petty.

I’d say there are some things that leaders ought to be or do, but there are others they can’t be or do. Mean and petty fall into the latter category.

Mr. Trump isn’t short on opinion, but neither am I. Voicing an opinion does not make a person leadership material, even if a good number of people agree.

The thing is, Mr. Trump touched a nerve when he spoke so candidly about immigration—wrong, though he was. I live in California, and I can guarantee you that not all immigrants from Mexico, including those who have come illegally, are rapists and drug dealers.

Instead of saying such outlandish things, Mr. Trump would have done the nation a service if he’d talked frankly about solutions to the problems. As long as politicians are afraid of the fall-out with voters, nothing meaningful will ever get done about immigration.

Mr. Trump demonstrated that he’s not afraid of voters, but he also showed he’s not particular about the truth, that he’s unimaginative about solutions and out of touch with the majority of Americans.

His tirade against Senator Lindsey Graham was a bit frightening. In case you missed it, Senator Graham “started it” (are we in third grade still?) by calling Mr. Trump a jackass for what he said about Senator John McCain. Mr. Trump retaliated by calling Senator Graham an idiot and giving out his cell phone number (so mature).

Leaders aren’t childish. They also form logical, informed opinions rather than saying one thing at one time, then another at a different time (see “How Do the Republican Candidates Stack Up on Afghanistan?” by my nephew Paul D. Miller who gave Mr. Trump an F grade).

I’m hoping that this year of politicking will bring a leader to the forefront. There seems to be an understanding that former Secretary of State Hilliary Clinton will be the Democratic nomination. While she clearly has knowledge about foreign affairs and understands the office of President like few others, I have some reservations about her leadership abilities.

She’s not like Mr. Trump. I wouldn’t say she speaks without thinking, or rails against policies with which she disagrees. I wouldn’t call her mean and petty or childish either. But there are some troublesome questions about her trustworthiness.

Interestingly, the Republican field of candidates seems stacked with people affiliating with some form of Christianity. One Pew Research article notes that eight different candidates identify as Roman Catholics—which seems to be a shift from the past when Catholics voted nearly as a block for Democratic candidates.

All this to say, I’m hoping we’ll soon see a shift away from “train-wreck reporting” to coverage of serious candidates who actually have leadership abilities.

Published in: on July 23, 2015 at 6:53 pm  Comments (2)  
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Love Without Standards


daddy-loves-me-648389-mThe word “love” and the word “hate” have been bandied about a great deal of late. The Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage is supposedly a triumph for “love,” while those who call homosexual activity sin are said to “hate.” But what do people mean by these words? Once I would have thought the meanings self-evident, but not any more. Blogger Matt Walsh pointed this out in a recent post which he started by quoting from recent comments he’d received:

    Bella: the Supreme Court matters more than some bigot with a sh*tty blog and ugly kids. Try again
    Anthony: Oh Matt, you are a perfect assh*le… Take your worthless version of the bible, and set yourself on fire. That would make my Sunday:)
    Marc: Matt Walsh is a F**king MORON!
    Steven: F**k you, you f**king worthless douche.
    Maria: Matt you really are a piece of sh*t.
    Brian: The world would be so much better off with you.
    Matthew: Go f**k yourself, Walsh. You not only are a bigot, but you ignore facts and twist and distort truths to make your false point. It’s a common tactic I see from people like you. Equality wins out, bigot.

    Remember, #LoveWins.

There’s nothing like being called a bigoted pile of garbage in the first sentence and being told in the next that love has won. Indeed, you know love has emerged victorious when a bunch of liberals are screaming in your face, calling your children ugly, and urging you to kill yourself.

O-o-o-k-k-ay! Whatever else you think of Matt Walsh, or if you’ve never heard of him before, he has a point here.

Saying “love” in the context of calling someone names and wishing them a painful death does not convince me that any of those commenters understands what love actually is. Rather, the way people seem to be using the term, I’m more reminded of the way toddler-type children behave than of true love. You know, it’s the I-see-it-and-want-it-so-I-should-have-it syndrome. But now society agrees because “love” is involved.

But love without standards is simply selfishness.

Parents, of course, are the best example of love. When their infant cries in the middle of the night, one parent gets up to feed the little helpless bundle. There’s no return for this sacrifice. The baby doesn’t thank the parent and undoubtedly won’t even remember that it ever happened. But a parent who doesn’t care for such basic necessities is guilty of neglect. There are no feelings here. Only other-needs and sacrifice.

No parent will get away with saying, I didn’t feel like getting up and feeding my baby so I stuck a sock in his mouth to keep him from waking me up with his crying.

In the same way, it’s not OK for a parent to say, I want my child to experience life, so there are no rules. If the toddler wants to stuff rocks up his nose, he can. If he wants to flush his sister’s stuffed pony down the toilet, he can. If he wants to jump into the backyard swimming pool, he can.

In actual fact, a loving parent will say no to these things. It is not loving to let a child handle dangerous things in a dangerous way or to do dangerous activities. True love means setting loving standards.

This principle works for husbands and wives as well. A loving husband won’t disappear with his buddies for a week or two, then show up at home as if nothing had happened. A loving wife doesn’t say she wants to have a second husband along with the first one. Husbands and wives may not always “feel the love,” but that doesn’t give them the license to act as if they are not married. If either of them acts as if they’re single, the other one is bound to conclude, you don’t love me. No one would be surprised if divorce followed.

Love has standards.

Sometimes those standards are for the good of the relationship and sometimes they are for the good of the other person. A husband who loves his wife won’t want to see her keep smoking. He knows she’s putting her health at risk, and he wants to see her get rid of the habit.

Of course, when it comes to adults, no one can make another grownup behave in a responsible, sensible way. But love has standards: if you love me, you won’t ignore me; if you love me, you won’t leave me if I get fired; if you love me, you’ll get help with your gambling problem.

Most of these standards are clearly understood, though some couples have standards certain people think are strange while others are so lax with their standards, those same certain people are left shaking their heads. In other words, the standards aren’t universally set. What is universal, however, is that standards exist.

People have some benchmark that shows their love, and often this benchmark puts limits on the other person. Without limits, there really is no love. No one says, I love you, so you can do whatever you want. You want to rob a bank? Sure, go for it. You want to jump out of a plane without a parachute? Hey, I love you too much to stop you. You want to sleep with prostitutes night after night, with no condom and still sleep with me? Well, I love you, so of course I’m fine with that.

Love without standards is no love at all!

And yet any number of people are horrified that Christians believe God loves us any other way. Your god is hateful, they say, because he tells you who you can or can’t love. Well, yes, He does, not because He’s hateful, but because He loves us.

He knows that letting us do whatever is not healthy. He wants the best for us, and out of His love gives us guidance so that we can find what is good and right and best. He not only gives us guidance, He gives us help and strength to say no when we need to—though we still manage to go our own way too often, and suffer the consequences He warned us about.

Slowly, as we mature, we accept God’s standards as evidence of His love for us. He’s actually pretty clear about those standards:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Cor. 13:4-8a, ESV)

Are Christians Really So Hateful?


church2I’ve pretty much had it. Every article I read about the response of Christians to the same-sex marriage ruling by the Supreme Court seems to be an indictment. Some serious head-shaking at the missed opportunity Christians had, but didn’t seize, to show the love of Christ. Recrimination over Christians responding in anger. In other words, in one form or other, it’s been, Shame on you Christians for reacting so badly to the Supreme Court ruling that has changed our culture.

One article, for example, in listing out six ways Christians blew it, said this:

We could have looked around at the hurt generated this past week; at the deep sadness so many LGBT people and their loved ones felt at being the center of such violent arguments and the horrible aftermath of them, and responded in love. We could have moved toward them with the mercy and gentleness of Christ, seeking to be the binders of the wounds. Instead, far too many of us felt compelled to rub salt deeply into them. We basically walked past those who were down—and we kicked them hard on the way. (John Pavlovitz)

My first thought is, Where are all the posts responding in anger? I haven’t read them. Perhaps I was somewhere else when all the kicking took place. I haven’t seen it. In fact, I didn’t see a lot of LGBT people in deep sadness. Most I saw were celebrating by putting rainbows on their Facebook avatars and rushing to the court house for marriage licenses.

On the other hand of course is the exhortation that we Christians aren’t taking this same-sex marriage ruling seriously enough (see Matt Walsh), or that we’re not doing enough to fight it or are doing too much to fight it.

I come away from it all feeling beaten down, like Christians who believe the Bible are misbehaving.

The topper for me was an article that actually came out some time ago about the Christian’s attitudes and actions being more like the Pharisees than like Jesus Christ. The conclusions were reached from a 2013 research project by the Barna Group, a Christian research organization. The conclusions were reached by identifying five attitudes and five behaviors of Christ and five attitudes and five behaviors of Pharisees, then respondents were asked which they agreed with.

This could have been a very interesting study, but in truth, the statements seemed more consistent with Love Wins than with the four Gospels.

Here are the attitudes and actions chosen to represent Christ:

Actions like Jesus:

I listen to others to learn their story before telling them about my faith.
In recent years, I have influenced multiple people to consider following Christ.
I regularly choose to have meals with people with very different faith or morals from me.
I try to discover the needs of non-Christians rather than waiting for them to come to me.
I am personally spending time with non-believers to help them follow Jesus.

Attitudes like Jesus:

I see God-given value in every person, regardless of their past or present condition.
I believe God is for everyone.
I see God working in people’s lives, even when they are not following him.
It is more important to help people know God is for them than to make sure they know they are sinners.
I feel compassion for people who are not following God and doing immoral things.

I’m more mystified by the attitudes attributed to Jesus, though I don’t think the actions are accurate either. God-given value? I don’t know how His conversations with the Pharisees revealed Jesus’s belief that they had God-given value. When someone was setting himself against God, Jesus openly opposed them.

Did He show God is for everyone? When He told the Samaritan woman that He wouldn’t heal her child because He’d come to the Jews, did that communicate His belief that God is for everyone?

Other places in Scripture let us know that in fact God takes no delight in the death of the wicked, that He desires all to come to Him, that His plan was for the nations to follow Israel’s example as His chosen people, and that now He has brought together people of all nations and tribes and tongues into His body, the Church. But was that Jesus’s message? I don’t think so. He praised those of faith and commended the Samaritan woman on that level (and therefore healed her child). But He didn’t start a healing ministry in Samaria. I think you’d have a hard time validating the idea that Jesus showed God is for everyone.

I could go through the whole list, but that’s not my intention here. The point is, I don’t think those actions and attitudes are a fair reflection of who Jesus is and what He said and did when He was on earth. So comparing Christians to that caricature of Him is bound to make Bible believers look different from the artificial construct.

Reading that report was the last straw. Christians are being blamed and bashed, but a lot of the unpleasantness isn’t coming from people who believe the Bible.

I think it’s telling that no Christians rioted in the streets or burned down gay bars or bombed a gay pride parade. I haven’t read a single blog post in which a Christian cussed out gays. If these things are happening or if a vocal group like the Westboro Baptist few is hurling insults at homosexuals, it’s more an indication that they are pretend Christians than evidence that Christians are behaving badly.

Please, can we Christians at least stop bashing Christians!

No, we aren’t perfect. We have not prized marriage as we should and have left the door open to the perversion of the covenant God invited men and women to make with one another. Yes, this redefinition of marriage is a game changer in our culture, but it doesn’t change the mandate we have to share the good news with the lost.

Rather than pointing fingers at what we didn’t do in the past or should have done in the present or had better do in the future, perhaps we can let Scripture guide us into all truth. Who knows better and who cares more for the Church than Christ? We are, after all, His bride.

I’m not sure why we think it’s OK to beat up on the Church. After all, we’re clothed in the righteousness of Christ; we’ve been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; we’ve been rescued from the dominion of darkness; we’ve been saved by God’s grace, through faith. We are who Christ is making us. When we rail against the Church, aren’t we, in a way, railing against God Himself?

Published in: on July 8, 2015 at 6:51 pm  Comments (18)  
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Safe And Sane – A Reprise


Timing. I suspect many people in the US are well on their way to their Fourth of July long weekend get-away. And here I am, writing a blog post.

Plus, we’re celebrating our Independence when a good many Americans don’t feel so independent. Instead of having representatives vote on some key lifestyle issues, we’ve had a handful of scholarly, appointed-for-life judges make decisions that are redefining the American way of life. The procedure reminds me more of an oligarchy than of a democracy and certainly seems more oppressive than anything King George did those two hundred plus years ago.

With both those factors in mind, I’ve decided a reprise of this Safe and Sane post is in order—with some small revisions.

* * *

It seems odd to me that a holiday which should engender joyous celebration has needed to be tempered by the sound bite “safe and sane,” at least here in SoCal. It seems we’ve had too many children maimed by firecrackers, too many injuries from stray bullets, and too many brush or house fires caused by illegal fireworks.

Safe and sane indeed.

The morning after the big Independence Day celebration, the air is clogged with the residue of fireworks across the LA basin and into Orange County. We’ll breath the thick air until we get an onshore breeze that will blow it all into the next county. I’m sure they’ll appreciate the leftovers of our safe and sane celebration.

Don’t get me wrong. I find fireworks—the legal ones, especially the big shows that are accompanied by patriotic music—fascinating. They’re beautiful but also demanding of respect. Not to be misused or abused.

I’ve sat on the grass at Dodger Stadium or at Angel Stadium and looked up at the sky lit as bright as day while the concussions vibrate in my chest. It’s an awesome sight—far removed from the street rockets and sparklers and the less safe and sane fireworks going off all across the city.

Holidays. Seems we need one during the summer so we have an excuse to shoot fire into the sky, to light up the barbecue in the backyard, and to bring family and friends together.

It all seems so divorced from the cause which it celebrates—a day of independence which was not noted for being sane or safe. Or frivolous, purposeless, or just for show.

Too bad we can’t celebrate the Fourth of July by doing something as radical as the founding fathers did—standing up to tyranny, setting free those enslaved to senseless laws. You know, something that actually has a connection to freedom.

Ah well, we can dream, can’t we. Meanwhile, I guess I’ll enjoy the show—I can see four or five legal fireworks displays from my front porch and then there are all those behind-the-house or in-the-street family affairs. It’s quite a sight.

For those of you in the US, may your celebration be safe and sane on the outside, but radical and freeing on the inside. 🙂

“For our citizenship is in heaven from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 3:20)

In Remembrance Of Sir Christopher Lee


Saruman-christopher-lee-2509258-800-600Sunday actor Sir Christopher Lee passed away at age 93. He had the unenviable task of playing the part of the turncoat Saruman in The Lord Of The Rings movie trilogy. I don’t know where he stood spiritually except that he took a firm stand against the occult.

Adversaries are rarely appreciated, but we writers need them. Stories need them. They are the opponents against which our heroes must struggle, and Sir Christopher Lee played his part admirably. So in his memory, I’m re-posting, with some slight revision, an article that first appeared here at A Christian Worldview Of Fiction in December 2012 under the title “Saruman or Faramir?”

Some while ago, I re-read The Two Towers, the second volume in the Lord of the Ring epic by J. R. R. Tolkien. The first half of the book is devoted to the conflict between Saruman the White, once head of the Council of wizards and Gandalf’s superior, who secretively aligned himself with the great Enemy in the East, against those who aimed to forestall the evil sweeping the land.

For years, in his leadership role, Saruman counseled patience and waiting rather than active resistance as their Enemy grew ever more powerful. Saruman acted the part of a friend, but in reality he was undermining the efforts to withstand the Great Evil.

In the second half of the book, the protagonist Frodo and his servant Sam fall into the hands of a man named Faramir, charged with patrolling the border between the Evil Lord’s stronghold and that of Gondor, the land taking the brunt of the conflict.

Faramir is rightly suspicious of these two hobbits who say they are travelers. There are no travelers here, he says, only people for the Evil Lord or against him. His inclination is to take Frodo and Sam with him back to Gondor.

At some point during Faramir’s inquisition of Frodo, Sam interrupts with these lines:

It’s a pity that folk as talk about fighting the Enemy can’t let others do their bit in their own way without interfering. He’d be mighty pleased, if he could see you now. Think he’d got a new friend, he would.

These two characters, Saruman and Faramir, seem to me to reveal the dilemma of the Church. On one hand there are people pretending friendship, even high up in authority, considered wise, people with influence and standing who others listen to and follow. Yet all the while, they are working for the enemy.

On the other hand there are those who seem wary and suspicious, who want to interview and question, who insist on details in order to be sure which way a person is aligned, all the while delaying and perhaps discouraging those from the work they have set out to accomplish.

Either there is lax acceptance leading to betrayal, or scrupulous investigation leading to division and potentially the undermining of significant work.

Interestingly, in the last sixty or seventy years the Church has tried to utilized the equivalent of passwords to alleviate the problem: Jesus people, born again, Bible believing, Christ followers. All are designed to alert others of a person’s true beliefs so that Family members can find one another.

The reality is, Saruman ended up showing his true colors when he held Gandalf captive. And Faramir showed his true colors when he let Frodo go free. In the end, their actions, not their words, showed their allegiance.

I suspect the same is true today. Whether or not a person claims some sort of connection with Christ matters less than whether or not they actually listen to Christ, put their trust in Him, obey Him. Who is taking up their cross? Who is seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Who is dying to self and living to righteousness?

Handsome is as handsome does, Sam says to Faramir at one point, and the old adage is still true. Christians don’t need to talk the talk as much as live the life. Then it will be quite apparent who is Faramir and who is Saruman.

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