What Are We Saying

Steve Jobs died.

I’m not an iPod, -Pad, or -Phone person, but I’ve used Macs ever since the little SE30 came out, before they put the i in front of the name.

I consider Steve Jobs to have been a genius, a techno and marketing genius. Whether we realize it or not, he revolutionized the way we live. His inventions changed our lives as much as Henry Ford’s did a century earlier.

But he died young.

And although people praise him for his work, I’ve heard little about his family and nothing about his faith.

All this makes me think about how fleeting life is.

At ninety-two Andy Rooney finally stepped down from Sixty Minutes, and in his final show said how short life is, how he doesn’t want it to end, and he wishes he could keep doing what he’s doing. But he can’t.

Those two men are well-liked it seems, and people for the most part say nice things about them. But two other men who’s lives are also fleeting receive regular ridicule. I’m thinking of Pat Robertson and Harold Camping, but I suspect I could have named a half dozen others and would not have exhausted the names that came to the minds of different readers.

Eighty-nine year old Harold Camping was vilified — by talk show hosts and Christians alike — for his false prophecy about the end of the world. Soon after, he had a mild stroke and has been in a nursing home until recently. Apparently his recovery allows him to hold onto his new prediction that the world will end (or finish ending) October 21.

About Pat Robertson, one Christian blogger said, “He’s an idiot,” a reaction to Robertson’s recent unbiblical statements (since retracted) about divorce.

Much loved or much hated, these four are mere men with fleeting lives. They will much sooner than we realize come into the presence of their Maker and ours. And how will we answer for what we said about them?

Don’t speak ill of the dead, the proverb says. Speaking ill of them after they’re gone doesn’t hurt them. And praising them as the world is doing with Steve Jobs doesn’t help them. They’re gone. We either used the brief time we shared with them here on earth to bless them or to curse them.

But someone may well point out that some things, some people don’t deserve to be blessed. Actually that isn’t true. None of us deserves to be blessed. If someone thinks we do, it’s because they don’t know the parts of us that reveal our sin nature. They don’t realize that the good they see wasn’t something we manufactured but rather the result of God’s magnificent creative power and astounding grace.

So we don’t remember our own sin and we don’t give God the credit He’s due; therefore, we feel superior enough to (publicly, no less) call someone else an idiot. Why, I wonder, do we Christians think this is OK?

God’s pretty clear about the fact that it isn’t.

With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. (James 3:9-10)

Published in: on October 6, 2011 at 5:51 pm  Comments (8)  
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Have You Heard The Latest About Harry?

When I was a kid we sometimes played a stupid game on rainy days called Telephone. The idea was, the teacher (usually) whispered something into the ear of the first student who then turned and repeated it in his own whisper to the person next to him. Finally after what seemed like hours, everyone in the room had passed the phrase along, but it no longer resembled the original. (Ha, ha, ha! So fun sitting there watching other kids whisper! 🙄 )

It was a boring game, but the message got through — repeating a thing can change it, and we really shouldn’t believe what we hear when it’s a rumor. Some kids even intentionally changed the original phrase just to spice up the game. Others filled in gaps when they didn’t hear the whole message clearly, adding in their own thoughts so what they were passing along made sense. One way or the other, the original always changed.

I think some adults need to play a round or two of Telephone. Today, with Internet chatter and email forwarded messages and Retweets, it is so easy to start a juicy bit of something going, and people believe it, often without challenging the veracity. I read it, they say, which makes it so. Or I heard it from my ___ (pastor, hairdresser, friend, spouse, co-worker, boss, or some other person in the know).

Off we go, then, repeating a thing as if it is true when in fact we have no idea if someone someplace along the line of repetition didn’t misunderstand or intentionally change the message.

How does this connect with Harry Potter? Once again, because of the recent release of the final Potter movie, Harry is making headlines. It seems some Christians are once more claiming untrue things about the books, movie, and author. As a result discussion is popping up on Facebook and on blogs at at media sites.

In his article “Pat Robertson Warns Against Harry Potter, TV Witchcraft And ‘Demonic’ Ouija Boards,” Eric Hananoki posts various video segments of Robertson expressing his views about Harry Potter and J. K. Rowling. The latter bothers me the most. Here’s the most troubling line”

“Well, Narnia is different. It’s not glorifying magic and the occult,” Robertson replied. “The lady who wrote Harry Potter [J.K. Rowling], I understand, was deeply involved in some of the occult things.”

Back in 2008, the watchdog site Snopes debunked a letter that was circulating about the evil influence of Harry Potter and how the books were drawing kids into the occult. It seems that much of the source material for the letter came from a satirical article meant to poke fun at the very ideas the letter embraced.

In my article “Harry, Harry, Harry” I concluded that bad logic, an indifference to the meaning of words, or closed ears had to be behind a continued accusation of the occult against Harry Potter and his imaginative author. I’ll add one more likely possibility: people are simply repeating what someone else before then said — never mind that the message may be scrambled or completely made up. Why, after all, should we let a little thing like the truth spoil a good rant.

And ranting against the occult gets attention. I remember when a pre-school director and her staff were mercilessly grilled in court and their entire school torn apart, the yard dug up, because they were accused of ritualistic Satanic abuse. Those people’s lives were destroyed, yet no evidence ever turned up and several witnesses later recanted their testimonies.

We Christians should do better. It’s not a minor thing to accuse another person of involvement in witchcraft. For an influential television personality to do it despite evidence to the contrary, breaks my heart.

After the last book came out in 2007, Rowling finally discussed the religious themes of the series. Witchcraft and satanism wasn’t part of the mix.

Are the Harry Potter books Christian? I have no reason to believe they are. I have lots of reasons to believe they are not entwined with the occult. And it’s time Christians stop parroting uninformed bits of falderal, especial when it slanders someone else. Did we not learn what idle repetition does when we played Telephone?

Published in: on July 19, 2011 at 6:34 pm  Comments (2)  
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Earthquakes and God

Pat Robertson’s comments about Haiti in light of the most recent tragedy, the devastating earthquake centered near Port-au-Prince, have made many of us ask about spiritual ramifications and/or causes of such natural events. We’re no different from people throughout the ages. Seeing a man born blind, Jesus’s disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” (John 9:2)

Luke records a similar discussion centered on the death of numbers of people—not from natural causes, but still on point.

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were {greater} sinners than all {other} Galileans because they suffered this {fate?} “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were {worse} culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

– Luke 13:1-5

Here’s the issue. Was God punishing the Haitians because of their history of occultism as Pat Robertson suggested? Expanding on that question, Does God still deal with nations as He did in the Old Testament when He clearly brought judgment to any number of countries, including Israel and Judah?

I have a hard time saying that the earthquake in Haiti was punishment on the nation. I lived in Guatemala in 1975 when a 7.9 (Richter scale) earthquake hit, killing over 25,000 people. Note that the power of that quake was nearly thirty times stronger than the Haitian quake. And it hit a country that had become the first Protestant nation in Latin America. (I suppose Catholics might say, Ah-ha, that’s why God visited His judgment on them.) Maybe others were saying about Guatemala what Robertson said about Haiti; I don’t really know. Certainly the missionaries I knew weren’t coming to that conclusion.

But here’s another piece of information. In 1994 a quake hit near Northridge, California, killing 71 people, some indirectly (heart attacks and disease attributed to the effect of the quake—yes, disease, but I don’t have time today to explain this). And the power of this quake? It was measured at 6.7 on the moment magnitude scale, not so much less in strength than the Haiti quake with the projected death total around 50,000.

I draw several conclusions from all of this. The number of deaths and the widespread destruction in Haiti don’t have a one-to-one correspondence with the strength of the natural part of the disaster. (Maybe the sin that needs to be confessed and turned from is that of the building contractors who allowed cheaper construction to flourish throughout Port-au-Prince.)

But ultimately disasters wherever they occur should make us look to ourselves. Jesus’s words to those reporting the local news to Him should drive us to our knees: “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Should not America look to our national sins—greed, pride, selfishness, and the failure to pass on to the next generation the truth about God—and repent?

Shouldn’t Australia do the same? And Great Britain, Canada, Guatemala, all repenting of national sins?

In the end, it doesn’t matter if I believe God still metes out national punishment today or not. What matters is that I understand He is judge and He is righteous. He is also sovereign and just. What I must know is this: Unless I am covered by the blood of Christ, I will likewise perish.

And if I am covered by His blood, does this somehow inoculate me from tragedy? No. But I have His promise that He will go through the fire and the flood with me:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.

– Isaiah 43:2

The truth is, Jesus told us there would come a time of great earthquakes.

and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.

– Luke 21:11

I don’t see anywhere in His words that these earthquakes would affect only the most sinful nations. In light of this prophecy, however, I think it’s important to remember who God is.

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar {and} foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.

– Ps. 46:1-3

Published in: on January 18, 2010 at 11:50 am  Comments (4)  
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What Pat Robertson Said

If anything is getting as much attention as the earthquake in Haiti, it’s what Pat Robertson said about that nation. Evidently he began discussing the most recent tragedy there by recounting a story in which the Haitians made a pact with the devil in order to gain their independence from the French.

Predictably, critics are outraged, venting in such articles as Andy Borowitz’s “Pat Robertson ‘A Public Relations Nightmare,’ Says God” and Paul Raushenbush’s “Go to Hell, Pat Robertson: Haiti Needs Help, Not Stupidity.” The accusations include racism in particular.

The thing is, this is not the first time Robertson has said something insensitive at the time of a crisis. He made news for comments after Katrina, 9/11, and others.

At first I wondered why he hadn’t learned his lesson. I mean, it’s one thing to wonder if God is bringing his retribution upon a place and another to say so publicly while people are still buried under the rubble. What was he thinking?

Perhaps he sees it as his role to help people look at the spiritual issues, to consider the eternal ramifications. But I can’t help wondering if there is a proper time and place.

The devil’s curse sounds mean spirited to lots of people, but no one has said the slave uprising that gained Haiti’s independence was other than what Robertson described. They laud it for being first, for setting in motion a wave of independence in Latin America, and for other positive results. They don’t say Haiti didn’t turn to the devil.

I know by reputation, Haiti has been associated with voodoo and the black arts even to this day. So could Robertson be right?

But the question I want to explore is this: even if Robertson is right, should he have said what he said or taken a pass on verbalizing his opinion about the spiritual cause of Haiti’s difficulties?

Is the day after a crisis the right time to delve into the spiritual causes of a tragedy? Is it even right to speculate publicly about such things, because surely we do not know God’s mind about this matter.

We know He hates sin, but can we conclude that therefore He has withheld blessing from Haiti—or worse, has allowed a curse to doom them?

I’m reading the book of Job, and interestingly, such was the thinking of Job’s friends. Tragedy equals a loss of God’s favor. In my earlier notes I called Elihud the first health-and-wealther because he insisted that God blessed the righteous, implying that Job, therefore, could not be righteous. (See “Thoughts on Job” for a more in depth treatment of this). Later he or one of the others came right out and said as much. I see this as reverse health-and-wealthism. They stated unequivocally that the unrighteousness would incur disaster in this life … eventually.

The point is, the friends were wrong about Job because they were wrong about God.

I wonder if caution isn’t the best way to go rather than an assumption about what God is doing. Maybe Pat Robertson’s critics have it right. Maybe the only thing we Christians need to do in a crisis is roll up our sleeves and start digging.

Published in: on January 15, 2010 at 8:00 am  Comments (13)  
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