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.

ISIS/ISIL – What’s In A Name?

Flag_of_the_Islamic_State.svgI finally did a little digging to see why the US media refers to the terrorists operating in Syria and Iraq as ISIS while the White House calls them ISIL. Not that I got a good answer.

I did learn a few things, though. First, the term the President and all his staff use—ISIL—stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. Levant? Sorry, but I didn’t know that term so had to look it up. Turns out Levant refers to “the eastern part of the Mediterranean with its islands and neighboring countries” (Oxford-American Dictionary). A pretty broad area, in other words.

The terrorists themselves have changed the name of their organization more than once. In 2013 they adopted Islamic State of Iraq and Syria—ISIS—but just this past summer they changed to the broader name Islamic State, a term some news outlets are now using.

In all this it appears to me that varying groups are bending over backwards to get the name right, to stay up to date, or to be consistent. But here’s the thing—names carry meaning.

Add to that fact this key point played out in every one of our government elections—defining your opponent is key to success. For example, four years ago in an election here in California, Senator Barbara Boxer (not known for much by way of legislation or clout or pretty much anything in the Senate at the time) seemed to be in real trouble against the smart, well-connected woman entrepreneur, Carly Fiorina. But Boxer’s campaign team hit the air waves first, during a period of economic downturn and high unemployment, and defined Fiorina as someone shipping jobs overseas:

Boxer . . . was able to get TV commercials on the air earlier that defined Fiorina as an out-of-touch CEO and someone too socially conservative for the state (“Barbara Boxer Defeats Carly Fiorina”).

Jerry Brown, in his run (or re-run) for governor of California in 2010 did the same thing, defining his wealthy opponent, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, as someone trying to buy the governorship.

Years before, during the abortion wars, the media came under fire for defining the two sides with the names they favored—Pro-choice for groups favoring abortion and Anti-abortion for groups opposed to abortion. The latter, in contrast, called themselves Pro-life and referred to their opponents as Pro-abortion.

Good propaganda capitalizes on the power in a name, defining oneself before his opponent does or defining his opponent before he himself does.

I’m at a loss to understand, then, why both the media and the White House are showing the extremists trying to hijack Islam the kind of respectful attention that using their puffed up title affords them. Islamic State?

Imagine what people would think if a group of Christians decided to declare Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska the Protestant State. Would the media and the White House politely be calling those Christians the PS or the PTOKN? Not likely.

But this past June these Muslim extremists went a step farther. They showed their hand by declaring a caliphate headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (known by his supporters as Amir al-Mu’minin, Caliph Ibrahim). “A caliphate represents a sovereign state of the entire Muslim faithful, (the Ummah), ruled by a caliph under Islamic law (sharia)” (Wikipedia).

Caliph refers to “the chief Muslim civil and religious ruler, regarded as the successor of Muhammad” (Oxford-American Dictionary). The group, then, claims dominance over the Islamic world:

In its self-proclaimed status as a caliphate, it claims religious authority over all Muslims worldwide, and aims to bring most Muslim-inhabited regions of the world under its political control (Wikipedia).

In other words, this group of extreme terrorists has taken upon itself the mantle of their most respected religious figure and, by the newest iteration of their name, are declaring themselves to be THE representation of Islam. My guess is Saudi Arabia doesn’t agree, or Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Iran, Turkey, or any of the other Muslim countries.

Why then, do we here in the US politely go along with their self-aggrandizement? Why are we not defining them as they certainly appear to Christians and to many non-Christians as well—manipulative, power-grabbing terrorist bullies. We could call them MPTB for short, since initials seem to be all the rage these days.

Names matter.

God thinks so, which was why He gave the command to treat His name as holy.

Muslims think so too, holding the name of their Prophet in highest honor.

Propagandists (and campaign managers fit into this category) understand the power of tagging labels on those they support or oppose.

It seems to me it’s past time that Americans wake up to the power of a name. We bandy God’s name around as if He has no meaning, but we fire people for daring to call another individual “the N word,” or some other offensive term.

We validate terrorists by calling them the Islamic State (whether IS or ISIS or ISIL) and we disparage Christians and Church by labeling them “traditional” or (horrors!) “fundamental.”

Because names have meaning and communicate, it’s important to use them wisely and with purpose.

God’s name should be revered, whether we call Him God or Yahweh or Father or Lord or address His Son, Jesus or speak of His Holy Spirit. All should matter because He matters. Those of us who bear the name of Christ should validate His importance to us by conducting ourselves in obedience to Him.

But in this topsy-turvy world where good is being called evil and evil, good, we put more effort in calling a heinous terrorist group by its “right” name than we do identifying God.

What too few people realize is that one day ISIS or IS or America or all other names will pale in significance, and the whole world will bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. There’s the name that matters most!

Published in: on October 15, 2014 at 5:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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Christians And Ferguson

Riot_Police_tear_gasRioting and looting broke out in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, last week, and calm has only just been restored in the last day or two.

The issue that incited the unrest was the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed eighteen-year-old who’d been caught on a surveillance camera walking out of a story carrying some merchandise. As he left, he thrust an arm against the throat of an older man who seemed to be confronting him.

At some point he and a police officer came into conflict. Witnesses reported that the unarmed young man had his hands up and was in compliance with the officer, who nevertheless opened fire and killed him.

The officer, Darren Wilson, who received a broken eye socket and other facial injuries, reportedly shot because he feared for his life. One report says he was beaten almost unconscious, another that Mr. Brown tried to take his gun from him.

Soon after the shooting, sides were being drawn. Any number of people jumped in to make a political statement of some kind—about racist America (since only a small percentage of the Ferguson police force is African-American), police brutality (since the man who died didn’t have a weapon), gun violence, the undermining of American society.

The media carefully framed the story by introducing it, nearly without exception, as about an unarmed teen shot and killed by police. The exception I heard was “an unarmed black man shot and killed by police.”

The problem, of course, is that those sparse details, while sounding factual, are actually painting a one-sided picture. Buried in the story was why the officer confronted the young man or where he was coming from and what he’d just done.

On the other hand, the small number of African-American officers on the Ferguson police force made its way into the story about one officer and one alleged robber (though he was confronted for walking in the street, not for robbing the store)—somewhere near the lead.

Evidence has surfaced that indicates Mr. Brown may have been moving toward Officer Wilson, as he reported and in contradiction to the witnesses who claimed he was backing away with his hands up.

The media reports generated a burst of anger from around the country. Soon Ferguson was the poster town for racial violence as rioting and looting, military-style police presence with tear gas and curfews brought an escalation of the tension.

In that mix, outsiders arrived—those who simply wanted an excuse to steal and those who wanted to exploit the situation for their own political or social agenda. Still others wanted to perpetrate hatred. According to one source, outside agitators who joined the protest began calling for the death of the officer:

Just prior to Saturday’s governor-ordered curfew in Ferguson, Missouri, New Black Panthers leader Malik Zulu Shabazz led a crowd in a chant, calling for the death of Darren Wilson, the officer identified in the shooting death of Michael Brown:

“What do we want?” “Darren Wilson.”
“How do we want him?” “Dead.” (“New Black Panthers Lead Death Chant Against Officer Involved in Ferguson Shooting“)

My first thought is that this kind of behavior reminds me of the old stories about the Wild West when mobs formed their own opinion and went after the person they determined to be guilty with the intent to lynch him.

The French Revolution also comes to mind, with their nominal trials of those who had once held a place of influence in society, which always led to the guillotine.

Of course there are also the recent beheadings that have taken place in Iraq.

If nothing else, the latter should cause Americans to pause and think. Is this the kind of “justice” we want?

But more importantly, what should we as Christians think? It’s hard not to form an opinion, certainly. I mean, when an eighteen-year-old dies, no matter what the circumstances, it’s a sad story. Someone who drives drunk and dies isn’t “deserving” of death any more than a looter would be or someone committing adultery and caught by an enraged husband.

Understandably parents, friends, and loved ones will be grieved. How media people think it’s OK to shove a microphone in the face of someone who’s just lost a person they care about and say, “How do you feel?” is beyond me.

So the first thing I think that should frame a Christian response is compassion. Someone died—and people are rightly devastated.

The second thing I think that should guide a Christian response is a desire for truth. Consequently we should avoid forming a definitive opinion until the facts are known.

Often times, the side which gets to tell their story first is the one many people believe, but “first” doesn’t count in a court of law. According to our judicial system, a person is innocent until proven guilty, and that applies to police officers as much as to a home owner who shoots someone because he says he thought his life was in danger.

Christians should refrain from repeating as fact a statement, even if it comes from the press, about the guilt or innocence of individuals until such time as both sides have had their say and the experts have weighed in with their evidence. Anything else is gossip. It serves no constructive purpose.

Third, Christians should be advocates for changing the culture that creates antagonism between police and citizens and that tolerates looting and violence as a way to protest. What can we do differently to bring communities together?

Ferguson has come up with some creative ideas in the last few days. But what if Christians around the country or the world, did what we could to bring our own communities together without waiting for a crisis such as Ferguson has experienced? What if we did random acts of kindness? What if we showed the love of Jesus to our neighbors? What if we made a lifestyle of serving others?

One more thing. We Christians can turn the heat down on the debate. For one, we can point out how media slants articles (watch for loaded words, either particularly negative or positive, and watch for what details get into the beginning of the story), and we can determine not to be bandwagon jumpers—on either side. We can be more concerned about speaking kindly to others and discussing rather than debating.

Christians should not be silent about events like the shooting death of Michael Brown or its aftermath, but we should have kingdom purposes for what and how we enter into the conversation. Let’s put away political agendas and think long term—about people and their need for a Savior—and may that guide what we say.

Published in: on August 21, 2014 at 6:14 pm  Comments (1)  
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What The Media Had To Say About Robin Williams

Born 1951 - Died 2014

Born 1951 – Died 2014

Like so many others in America, I was stunned to learn about Robin Williams’s death, doubly so when I understood that he had committed suicide. I can only express my deep sadness.

When a person takes his own life, it’s the kind of sadness that feels hopeless and regretful at the same time. If only someone had realized, if only someone had reached him, if only . . .

But in Robin Williams’s case, I am not only saddened, I’m mystified by the treatment the media gave his death. The overwhelming response seemed to be to shower him with accolades—except, of course, he was no longer here to appreciate all the nice things people said.

People set up little shrines on his Hollywood star and at his home. The theater where six of his movies debuted darkened their lights in his honor. ABC’s 20-20 pushed aside their planned programming to do a special honoring Williams.

One picture shown over and over was of a comedy theater putting up a sign: Rest in peace, Robin Williams. We miss you. Make God laugh. (This may not the exact quote).

But what I didn’t hear was, what made him do it?

Now if someone else had shot him, I’m confident we would have had many news reports delving into the mind of the perpetrator. Why would anyone want to kill a talented, much loved actor like Robin Williams?

So my question is, why didn’t the media ask that same question when they learned he had taken his own life? Clearly Williams was successful. He had done what few actors can successfully do—he’d crossed over from comedy to drama and back again. As the news ran through the number of movies he was in, I couldn’t help but wonder how he’d managed to be in so many hits. Did he make the movie or did he just have a good eye for the scripts that would be successful?

In addition, one standup comedian attributed to Williams a complete revolution in comedy. Essentially he was saying Williams was to comedy what the Beatles were to music. High praise. Clearly he was respected in his profession.

In all this, however, there was little recognition of Williams as a human being. Yes, one report mentioned that he’d been married three times, that he had a daughter and two sons, that he’d had a drug and alcohol problem but received treatment some twenty years ago. Only recently he’d sought help again and planned to check himself back into rehab.

Today there’s a spate of articles about the “national health problem” which suicide has become. The Huffington post put out an article about the relationship of suicide with sleep problems. Others deliver caution about how the young are most at risk when it comes to suicide.

The UK publication Mirror published an article specific to the causes of Williams’s suicide, the chief being money issues and depression about having to work in TV again and take parts in movies he didn’t want. Add to that the fact that The Crazy One, the CBS comedy in which he starred, was cancelled after one season.

None of which answers the question: why? Other people have money problems and setbacks in their career. He was certainly not homeless or penniless.

I don’t think there are easy answers here. When someone who identifies as gay commits suicide, the media is quick to accuse society for bullying and rejecting and isolating gays.

But Robin Williams was loved and talented and successful.

Mental illness is another part of the suicide discussion. And drugs have been blamed for other actors who have taken their own life.

But Williams doesn’t seem to have a history of mental illness. He’d been off drugs for twenty years before seeking help for problems with alcohol.

Then why?

What media pundits are unlikely to discuss in regard to his suicide is Williams’s spiritual condition. I’m not suggesting that our relationship with God eliminates depression or the potential for suicide.

Too many pastors have transparently admitted to their own struggle with depression, including my own pastor, Mike Erre. Too many other believers have lost someone close to them because of suicide.

Nevertheless, we humans are not just bodies, minds, and emotions. We have a spiritual dimension, and we’d be foolish if we looked at the physical factors such as sleep problems, and the mental and emotional factors such as money worries and career disappointments, without also looking at spiritual issues.

For one thing, Williams was 63. It seems clear the boomer generation has been trying to deal with impending death one way or another. Of course you don’t conclude that someone who committed suicide was afraid of death, but he well may have been afraid of life.

Could it be possible that his love of humor in part shielded him from thinking about grave issues he didn’t want to face?

More importantly, could it be that his worldview lulled him into thinking he could bring an end to the unhappiness of his life, not realizing that this life is not the end?

My hope is Christians will step forward and let the world know that God belongs in this discussion, that a person who is hurting for any number of reasons, needs the complete picture.

God is a God of grace and mercy, a God who gives second chances and plans for our eternity. He is the only one who will be with us when we leave this life for the next. Why would we think a person’s attitude about God won’t make a difference?

What we believe about God is not a magic antidepressant. But neither is He indifferent to our problems. God matters, and we as believers need to let other people know that He offers hope and help and healing for the lost and lonely and discouraged, yes, and for the depressed.

Published in: on August 13, 2014 at 6:13 pm  Comments (3)  
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The Tragedy Of Trayvon Martin And George Zimmerman

May_Day_Immigration_March_LA68There are so many things wrong with the scenario that led to demonstrators in the streets yesterday. First I find it sad that a neighborhood could be targeted for break-ins and petty theft–repeatedly–without some kind of intervention by law enforcement. (In little over a year, police were called over 400 times; there were dozens of attempted break-ins, eight burglaries, nine thefts, and a shooting).

I also find it unsurprising that in a state that has a stand-your-ground law like Florida’s, there was a tragic shooting. Yes, tragic. No matter who thinks which party or what government agency or media handling or lawyer errors were at fault, the fact is that a seventeen-year-old young man died. That’s the worst part of all these events.

Yet I’m also disturbed by the way the media tried and convicted George Zimmerman before he’d been arrested–before anyone knew that his head had been bloodied; in other words, before all the facts came out. People had already taken sides, drawn their lines in the sand, and had made this a case of race.

That’s another thing that is sad about the events surrounding Trayvon’s death–race has once again been trumpeted as an endemic disease in America. This, after we elected an African-American, twice, to the office of President. Fact: not every confrontation between people of different races has something to do with race.

Add to all the sad events, the fact that most people apparently don’t understand how the legal system works in the US–that it has less to do with uncovering truth than it does with winning by playing according to a specified set of rules.

Another sad part of this saga is that people disregarded Trayvon’s parents’ wishes in the name of defending Trayvon. They ignored President Obama, too. But in the end, a number of them seized the opportunity to get their faces on TV and to have a good time parading in front of the media. I can’t help wondering how many demonstrators would have showed up if the cameras hadn’t been rolling. Be that as it may, the actions of a part of the demonstrators was nothing short of self-serving and criminal.

Yet a media person who had just reported about a group of people wandering onto a California freeway and stopping traffic, had the gall to say that the demonstration was law abiding. Behind her were approximately fifty to a hundred people walking down the middle of a downtown street.

This is how our media sees law abiding.

The media also reported “dozens of cities” where people were demonstrating, and “all across the country” people were protesting. Interestingly, the “dozens” was changed in the next news hour to “half a dozen,” with no admission of the incorrect number reported earlier.

In all, I never saw on the news shots, a group larger than a hundred to two hundred in any one place. I also never heard of a place where demonstrations were being held other than New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and … I’m leaving one out, I’m sure.

Somehow small groups can capture the attention of the media, which then blows up the event out of proportion by interviewing person after person who is part of the demonstration. Who was interviewing the people that thought George Zimmerman got a fair trial, that he had acted in self defense? Who was rallying Hispanic-Americans to defend the rights of one of their minority? Who was crying “racism” on his behalf?

Yes, Trayvon’s death was terrible. No one can deny that–even if he turned and attacked George Zimmerman. I can see that happening. In this same troubled neighborhood, why wouldn’t Trayvon think that he was being stalked by someone, perhaps with the intent to rob him? Why wouldn’t he take the initiative to protect himself? In a troubled area, it’s hard to imagine he’d do otherwise.

Is there a solution to this mess?

We need an overhaul of police procedures in high crime areas. We need a criminal justice system that is bent on getting to the truth (so no lingering suspicions and allegations can continue to haunt an innocent man). We need a media that is interested in truth more than in hype or in their own skewed way of looking at the world. We need people who are willing to forgive rather than seek revenge.

In short, we need changes in people’s hearts–from the criminal element that started the snowball rolling, right on down to the demonstrators who, in their efforts to get noticed, jeopardized the safety of countless people. No institutional fix is going to bring about the radical changes that need to take place. PEOPLE need to change, but sociology will tell you the odds are long for that happening.

Ah, but there is good news! There is a God in Heaven who longs to make a difference in people’s lives, who heals the brokenhearted, who sets the captive free, who saves and forgives and restores. Perhaps His Church needs to be about the Father’s business in a more pro-active way.

The Influence Of The Media On Culture

Today Justin Taylor over at The Gospel Coalition posted key excerpts of a New York Magazine article by Jonathan Chait addressing the influence of TV on culture.

In the past any number of people denied the (mostly conservative) accusation that the media was exerting influence on viewers. It was a silly denial since of course those creating commercials clearly believed they were able to influence those who watched their short spots. Certainly a regular length show, airing week after week for years would have an even greater impact.

Apparently the denials have come to an end. Research and data have surfaced, but also admission about the intentions of some in the media to move society in a different direction:

A trio of communications professors found that watching Will & Grace made audiences more receptive to gay rights, and especially viewers who had little contact in real life with gays and lesbians. And that one show was merely a component of a concerted effort by Hollywood—dating back to Soap in the late seventies, which featured Billy Crystal’s groundbreaking portrayal of a sympathetic gay character, through Modern Family—to prod audiences to accept homosexuality. (excerpt from Jonathan Chait’s article as quoted by Taylor)

I guess this article was written before NBC unveiled its newest program in that line: The New Normal.

But rather than focusing on one particular social issue, I want to think about the influence of story. This came to mind as I was reading the posts for the recent CSFF Blog Tour. About a particular aspect of the book we featured, one blogger questioned if a Christian novel should contain such a thing. Secular novels, sure, but not Christian.

That comment reminded me of Mike Duran’s suggestion that Christians hold Christian writers to a higher standard when it comes to theology.

And shouldn’t we?

Which is more apt to influence those in the church, an atheist like Richard Dawkins saying no one goes to hell or a professing Christian like Rob Bell saying it? Who’s going to introduce the idea of universal salvation to Christians more effectively, a New Age guru like Eckhart Tolle or Paul Young in The Shack?

But what if an author is writing a story about the realities of the human experience without delving into the greater truth of a person’s interaction with his Creator? Must the fictional world align with Scripture in that case?

In other words, can angels who aren’t really Biblical angels inhabit our fictional world? Or wizards who aren’t anything like the wizards God condemned. Or dragons who aren’t like the Dragon of Revelation. What about priests and prophets? Sacrifices? Demons? Ghosts? Heaven? hell?

Here’s the greater question: Will a fictional portrayal of real supernatural beings begin to undermine the Biblical truth about those? Is Gandolf the Wizard in danger of dulling the senses of Christians to the existence of real wizards who seek to acquire illegitimate power?

I suppose some people think these questions have already been asked and answered, but I wonder if they shouldn’t be asked again in light of this awareness that the media influences culture.

How, then, should a Christian writer influence those who read his work? And I’ll say in advance–shame on any who say our job isn’t to influence, but to tell a good story. Whether we think it’s our job to influence or not, clearly, stories have that affect on people. We can either do it well and intentionally or we can watch from the sidelines as others convince our culture that a sinful lifestyle is a viable option.

Occupy Movement The Darling Of Media Eyes

Occupy LA, which has had the help and support of City Council, finally got their eviction notice. In reporting the official pronouncement, one news outlet finally released some numbers. In all 700 people have been involved over the months, though the numbers “swelled” from time to time to as many as 1000. In all fairness, I may have misunderstood. She may have meant 700 tents, swelling to 1000. This could double, even triple the numbers.

I’ve been suspicious of low numbers since the media coverage of the occupy movements began. After all, the camera shots were all tight close ups, no wide views, no sweeps panning a broad area. Nevertheless, the media has religiously covered the events, especially any clash with authorities, though the details of the provocation of such clashes were most often bypassed.

How odd. I mean, there are more people at my church week after week, even if we use the tripled numbers, than showed up at city hall. Did the media bring their cameras to our church service? And how about those 1800 dinners members of our church served on Thanksgiving — media coverage there? I must have missed it.

Another thing I missed from our nightly news and the national early morning news show I watch from time to time were the five rapes connected with the Occupy Movement and the sexual assaults. Yes, I did hear about some property damage, but the news anchors were quick to point out that this activity was perpetrated by a group of anarchists who have attached themselves to the movement. The real leaders, the anchors reported, were actually involved in helping clean up the mess the usurpers created. The news show then put on screen a lone worker trying to scrub graffiti off the side of a building.

No word, however, about using some of the millions of dollars earlier reported that were coming into the Occupy Movement in support of their protests, to pay for the damage and clean-up.

The thing that stands out the most to me about the way the media at large has handled the Occupation movement is the disparity with how they covered the Tea Party. Note, for example, this quotation:

“Tea Party supporters”, says Patrik Jonsson of the Christian Science Monitor, “have been called neo-Klansmen and knuckle-dragging hillbillies”. Jonsson adds, “demonizing tea party activists tends to energize the Democrats’ left-of-center base”. He notes that “polls suggest that tea party activists are not only more mainstream than many critics suggest, but that a majority of them are women (primarily mothers), not angry white men” (from “Tea Party movement”).

A fairly objective view of the media coverage comes from Poll Watch Daily, reporting on the findings of the Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism analysis comparing media coverage (good or bad, apparently) of the two protests.

What I find informative is the decline in Tea Party coverage and the rise in Occupy Movement coverage, though apparently many more thousands of people were involved in the former.

What’s a Christian to make of all this? First, political protests and media coverage, problems in government, in business, in labor organizations, in the political process only reflect the problems in the human heart.

Second, there will be no perfect human solution. Interestingly, the Antichrist will offer a solution which will seem to be The Answer. But there is no answer apart from Christ.

Believers need to focus our energy and efforts on what ultimately makes the only significant difference — changed lives. Only through faith in Jesus Christ will anyone be other than greedy at the core.

We sinful humans are selfish, prideful people; our goodness serves us or conforms to societal expectations more than it serves those we say we’re helping. That’s true for the members of the media, politicians, bankers, anarchists, Tea Party organizers, and homeless people. It’s true for those of us who stayed home through all the protests.

Christ alone can mend the rift that our sinful natures create. He brings us back into relationship with God. In turn God gives us the impetus to care for others as He’s told us to.

When we love our neighbor, and when we see the corporate banker who looks like he’s getting away with highway robbery as our neighbor, we love him anyway and determine not to steal from him no matter how much he’s stolen from others. We also work for a fair and just government that will hold thieves accountable, no matter what color collar their shirt is. And we pray.

Mostly we should pray. God can do far beyond what we ask or think, so imagine if His people rose up and had a Prayer Party or an Occupy Prayer Movement asking for a revival in our land — not so the economy would improve or so that the people we want to see in office, win elections, but so that many more people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, so that they place their faith in Him, and find forgiveness for their sins — what couldn’t God do?

Published in: on November 28, 2011 at 7:35 pm  Comments (2)  
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Contentment and the Book Promoter; CSFF Run-off Poll

You may have assumed I was off earlier this week on unrelated tangents when I wrote about contentment and our bent to believe we deserve all that the world tells us we deserve. I actually saw these ideas related to writing in two ways.

First, I was reminded about the power of the media, and whether we realize it or not, fiction is “media.” So are blogs. Here’s what I’m thinking. The movie and TV industries, and the commercials that go with them, often say they don’t influence society; they reflect it. And there is truth in this line. Pop culture is popular. So the media flock around octo-mom for weeks and weeks, way past the point that most of us care to see another picture of her, because their ratings are up.

Same with Michael Jackson. More and more pop-star-weariness articles surface all the time, but the books that publishers churned out about the deceased star hit the best-seller lists right off. So the media does seem to give the public something a good portion of the public wants.

At the same time, the media is shaping those interests. Would any of us cared about Nadia Sulemon if the media hadn’t first told us about a woman who gave birth to eight babies who lived? Then teased and tantalized with the unreleased-identity tidbit? Followed by this rumor and that suggestion and finally a picture.

Media, after all, is about piquing curiosity. Even fiction. We have opening hooks and book trailers and back cover copy designed to intrigue. We want to pull readers in.

Which in turn allows us to say what we want to say.

So in part we give readers what they want so we can influence what they want. It’s a curious cycle.

But the next thought I had in connection to this realization was this: How ethical is it for us to create an artificial thirst? I mean, if the Bible is right, and Godliness with contentment is great gain, shouldn’t we be helping others realize contentment rather than stirring up disquiet?

I have a hard time telling people with limited resources they need to buy such and such a book (maybe someday mine) or telling overly busy people they need to spend time reading my blog.

Do I want people to read my blog? Well, frankly, yes. And someday, should God open doors for my fiction to be published, I will want people to buy my books.

But how am I to promote in light of contentment? I think it would be wrong to say the two have nothing to do with each other. I also think it is off base to say promotion is wrong.

However, I don’t see trying to convince people who are unaware of an interest or a need, that they really should have an interest or need. I suppose there are exceptions. Someone about to step out in front of a bus needs to be told not to keep going.

But is that what most promotion is doing? What do you think?

– – –

Here is the run-off poll for this month’s award. Check out these posts, and give us your opinion who deserves to be honored this month for their creative, thought-provoking posts:

Published in: on July 30, 2009 at 11:35 am  Comments (6)  
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Worry and the Media

I’m not discounting the fact that financial institutions in the US took some foolish risks that put some of them out of business. Or that their demise had a domino effect on the economy. I’m not discounting the fact that unemployment is on the rise even as the stock market continues it’s herky-jerky slide.

But I have to tell you, I think we Christians are allowing ourselves to be manipulated by the media. Haven’t we learned yet that the media thrives most on bad news? Sure, they love the hero story of a pilot successfully bringing down his plane in the Hudson, especially because they were able to get a few pictures.

For a while they even loved a moose-shooting, basketball-playing female governor, too, but then they found out she was a Christian. You see, what the media mostly loves is what fits in with their worldview.

Well, that makes them human, not monsters, but we Christians should not allow ourselves to fall in line with their thinking. Most recently that means worrying about the economy.

I’ve read on blogs by Christians and Christian writer groups questions about the economy, the scary economy. What’s it mean, how is it affecting us, how are we coping? It seems as if we are on the verge of panic.

The thing is, when we look at the world, the facts just aren’t all that bad for US citizens. I don’t have the stats in front of me and I’m not interested in looking them up either, but let’s say unemployment has risen to 10 percent. That means that nine out of ten Americans are working. I know a lot of places that would love to have that kind of number! Others are worried about how much their retirement fund has shrunk, but most people in the world live without knowing what retirement is, let alone a retirement fund.

I recently read in To Fly Again (Tyndale), the book by Gracia Burnham, survivor of a year-long captivity by a terrorist group in the Philippines, that only 25 percent of the people in the world sleep in beds. The other 75 out of a 100 sleep in hammocks or on mats or on the ground.

We Americans don’t have it so tough. And yet, the media has convinced us we should worry.

Worse still is the fact that the Bible explicitly says we should NOT worry. Paul writes, “Be anxious for nothing.” Jesus said, “Do not be anxious, then,” and a little later adds, “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow.”

But it seems “tomorrow” is exactly what we worry about. Yet the Bible doesn’t stop with the commands not to worry. First, God reveals Himself in the pages of Scripture to be Sovereign. That’s reason enough not to worry.

Second, Paul tells us we have an alternative: “By prayer and supplication, let your requests be known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus said we are to seek first His kingdom and His righteous and then trust. Well, OK, technically, I added trust. Jesus said “all these things”—food, clothing, the stuff we need to live—would be added. So if I believe Him, isn’t that trust? And if I trust Him, will I still worry?

Published in: on February 13, 2009 at 2:19 pm  Comments (5)  
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No, this is not a rant against anyone for some inconsiderate, insensitive, uncharitable act. It means I have no particular thoughts I think readers here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction might be interested in.

I thought about writing up the dog incident that happened this morning, though for the life of me, I can’t come with a solid connection to writing or the Christian worldview.

I thought about gathering bits and pieces of news, reviews, and other people’s views, but that seems too time consuming.

My big emphasis of late has been an editing job I’m working on, my crit group (which I neglected for about six months, so I owe them big time!), and my work on The Lore of Efrathah. And blogging! I’m not forgetting my loyal readers here.

But what I’m experiencing is the difficulty of balancing that many priorities, all requiring a good chunk of time. Still, that hasn’t affected my blogging before. Rather, what I’m finding is, my mind is on either my projects or some other topic I don’t cover here at ACWOF. (I know it is a shocking revelation, but I do think of other things besides writing and Christianity. 😮 )

So for today, I’ll dribble out a few of these and you’ll see how thought-less I am today:

Soooooo excited that the Denver Broncos trounced the Oakland Raiders last night. Wish I had cable and could have seen the game.

If the plumber shows up tomorrow, my bathroom will be torn up for how long?

I’m hoping the magazine article I’m working on turns out good, but I haven’t heard from my primary source yet! (Did he get my questions?)

I’m enjoying the presidential campaign at last. The coverage is the best part of the nightly news, but I usually think of a couple letters to the editor I want to write after I’ve watched it.

Speaking of letters to the editor, one opinion columnist (once upon a time these pieces were called editorials, written by the editor of the paper. Now anyone with strong views and a good turn of words can have a column) came out with a defense against “right wing” accusations of bias. It was ironic because I just watched a rerun of Saturday Night Live this weekend in which the actors did a spoof of a media-run debate between Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton. Nothing right wing about the position, certainly, but clearly the spot poked fun at the media for the love affair they had (have?) with Obama. Perhaps this “journalist” needs to take a crash course on propaganda!

Published in: on September 9, 2008 at 5:28 pm  Comments Off on Thought-less  
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