If I Like It, Then It’s Good: Moral Judgments, Part 2


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The question, then, isn’t should we make moral judgments. We do—that’s a simple fact. The question ought to be, on what should we base our judgments? (“Moral Judgments, Part 1”

When I taught seventh and eighth graders, I soon learned that a good number of the boys students found it amusing to look for double entendres, particularly ones with a possible sexual slant. I decided early on that I could either learn all the latest slang and work to avoid any words that might carry sexual innuendo, or I could teach my students to employ a little self discipline. I opted for the latter.

The problem I came up against was that some bright kids astutely said, in essence, But why shouldn’t we laugh? It’s funny. They were right, of course. Suggestive interpretation can be funny. Dirty jokes can be funny too.

So, I asked, is that the standard we use to determine what we listen to — if it makes us laugh?

It’s the question we should all be asking today. Is the standard we use to determine what we read, watch on TV, listen to on our iPods, where we go, who we hang with, how we spend our time, what Internet sites we visit nothing more than that it entertains us? Is the highest good, our feelings of pleasure — happiness, mirth, satisfaction, gratification, amusement?

You’d think so, judging by what we talk about and how we spend our time. But most of us realize there are more important things than what pleases us — the good of our family, for instance, or for Christians, doing what God wants us to do. In public schools here in California, the overriding principle students are to use as a guide for their behavior is, Do no one harm.

But all those and the countless other standards used in the business world, in government, in the legal system, in the marketplace, offer no definition for “good” or for “what God wants” or “harm.”

Is it harm to make fun of someone? If so, then why do we allow Saturday Night Live to stay on TV? Is it “good” for someone to be mocked for his lack of singing ability on national TV? Is it “what God wants” when we write a book that says there is no hell?

How are we to make such judgments?

We could go with what pleases us. Saturday Night Live is a funny show, so whatever they joke about is just fine.

We could say, A person gets what he’s asking for, so the clowns who try out for talent shows when they have no talent, deserve to get hammered. But does that mean someone cheering for the Giants in Dodger Stadium is asking to get hammered?

We could say, What we think is right, is what God wants us to do. So when people like President Obama support fetal stem cell research because they believe many, many people will be cured of diseases as a result, does their belief in their cause mean they are doing what God wants?

Clearly, every issue has two sides. Who’s to say what’s right? Person A says pornography hurts a person and tears apart marriages. Person B says it’s an innocent way of releasing sexual tension.

Person A says abortion kills babies. Person B says abortion saves children from lives of abuse and neglect.

Person A says bullying is part of growing up and every kid gets teased. Person B says bullying destroys self-esteem and pushes victims toward retaliation of one kind or the other.

On and on, round and round. Is it true that we should just go with what the majority of people believe to be right? Do we take a vote? Today it’s wrong to throw Jews into concentration camps, but tomorrow, if we have enough votes, we can decide that good means Jews will be arrested and jailed?

Is there no fixed standard? No way to know what is right and what is wrong for all time? Or are we left to our whims or to the trends of society fashioned by the best propaganda money can buy?

One of the telling facts that came out of President Obama’s statements about the Supreme Court’s deliberations about the Constitutionality of the health care law was that he considered the popularity of the law to be a reason it should stand and not be struck down. As if popularity outweighed the Constitution he has sworn to uphold.

But President Obama is a man of the times. As is Donald Trump. Secretary Clinton is no less a product of our times. How do they define good? It would seem they do so by whatever they want.

Essentially, our society has come down to this: every person does what is right in his own eyes, and if he’s doing something the law says is illegal, he moves with greater caution so he doesn’t get caught.

There ought to be a better way to determine what is right and wrong. And there is.

This post, part two of a short series on moral judgment, is an edited version of one that first appeared here in April 2012.

Immigration Reform And President Obama


President_Obama2I’ve long been an advocate of immigration reform in the US. The situation we’re in is unconscionable. Reportedly 11.7 million illegal immigrants reside within our borders. I don’t know another nation that has had such a situation with which to deal.

President Reagan’s unfortunate approach to the problem back in the 1980s was to proclaim amnesty and start fresh. Except that policy only gave those wishing to bypass the legal routes to immigration a higher incentive to carry out their plans.

Here’s what we need to fix:

    * A porous border
    * A ponderous law that makes people applying for legal immigration wait, sometimes for decades
    * The means by which criminals in our country illegally can be cull from our population
    * The means by which those who entered our country illegally and who are productive members of society may earn legal status

Apparently the Republican controlled House of Representatives has taken a “piecemeal” approach to these issues rather than aiming at a comprehensive approach. I see some wisdom in that. There ought to be solutions for some of the problems on this list with which we can all agree.

Nevertheless, the Senate hammered out a bipartisan comprehensive bill that offers viable solutions. The House of Representatives would be wise to bring the bill up for debate and offer whatever amendments they deem necessary.

The fact is, immigration reform ought not wait! Will it take another influx of unaccompanied minors for us to realize that what we’re doing now simply does not work?

But here’s the problem. President Obama has poisoned the water by acting unilaterally, and in my view, illegally. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so:

President Obama ’s decision to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants by his own decree is a sorry day for America’s republic. We say that even though we agree with the cause of immigration reform. But process matters to self-government—sometimes it is the only barrier to tyranny—and Mr. Obama’s policy by executive order is tearing at the fabric of national consent. (Wall Street Journal | Editors | I, Barack as quoted in “Obama’s unilateral action on immigration“)

As I see it, Congress is unlikely to roll over and let the President act like a dictator. But what will be the issue the two sides will fight over? Some media people, despite the assurances of GOP leaders that this is not so, say the House will once again shut down the government when the vote to fund government operations and agencies comes up. I have to think past experience will show Congress this is not what the American people want.

But all indicators seem to point to the American people wanting sensible, humane immigration reform, too. I’m afraid that will be the policy about which Congress decides to fight. I don’t see this being a better choice than shutting down the government!

What I’d like to see the GOP controlled Congress do instead is to craft some strong language repudiating this broadening of “executive order” that circumnavigates the Constitution which gave Congress the responsibility to make law. Not the President. Congress!

I’d like to see a Constitutional Amendment to this effect, though we ought not need a law that says the President must obey the law. But apparently we do. Past Presidents have used this “out” to get things Congress wouldn’t vote for, but this method of ruling turned a dangerous corner this week. It’s use is on the increase, and this latest order clearly circumvented the Constitutional process.

In many respects, I see President Obama’s speech which pointed the finger at “Congress,” rather than at the House of Representatives, as a first salvo at the new Congress coming into office in 2015 with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate. If the President can turn the tide now so that the American people will blame Congress for perceived “wrong directions” instead of him, then the Democrats will have a leg up in the next election.

In other words, this President seems to be playing politics even as he is undermining our system of government.

I don’t think the immigration issue should suffer, and with it all the people who will be affected by inactivity regarding the vital issues connected with immigration policy. I also don’t think revenge is the right approach because these representatives need to be thinking about the people, not their own bruised egos.

The President was wrong to take matters into his own hands. The House leadership asked him not to do so. I understand that they would rightly be upset that he ignored them. But they’re not alone.

That’s been a problem of this presidency—Mr. Obama has not listened or led. He bullied “Health Care” (really, Mandatory Health Insurance) into existence, he ignored the advice of the military people who said we shouldn’t set dates for withdrawal in Iraq and Afghanistan, he didn’t formulate a policy on Syria for over a year, he’s had six years to work with Congress to pass immigration reform, and more.

Nevertheless, the Republican-led Congress must not lower themselves to school-yard brawl status. They need to act like statesmen. They need to pick their battles with the President carefully—something that the Newt Gingrich-led Congress failed to do with President Clinton several decades ago.

In short, the American people should not have to suffer while the executive and legislative branches play tug-of-war for power. We have three branches of government for a reason, and it’s time to get the judicial branch into this mess. Unless, of course, we like the idea of a dictatorship.

Published in: on November 21, 2014 at 6:43 pm  Comments (5)  
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President Obama, Impeachment, And Hitler


Shoes of victims of Auschwitz

Shoes of victims of Auschwitz

I couldn’t help myself. I was in the middle of a blog tour and needed to vent, so I turned to Facebook.

You see, a couple with “Impeach Obama” posters and pictures of the President with a Hitler-style mustache, planted themselves outside the US Post Office which I frequent. As I came out, they drew me into a conversation. I only intended to say they ought not use such slimy tactics to voice their disagreement. I figured they’d hear me because I began by saying I was not a supporter of President Obama.

While they didn’t defend the Hitler allusion, they did boisterously and rudely defend the impeach idea. Such nonsense. I had to rant.

But lo and behold, some of the comments I received on Facebook supported the idea that Mr. Obama should be impeached and some even that it was right to compare him to Hitler.

Support for this kind of character assassination and slander is horrifying to me.

President Obama has done nothing that would equate with what Hitler did. Some might suggest that the millions of babies aborted is absolutely a parallel with Hitler’s genocide. I wouldn’t argue that point, but the fact is, the decision was not President Obama’s.

Abortion has been the law of the land for more than forty years, so one President is not solely responsible for those deaths in the same way that Hitler was responsible for the six million Jews gassed in the extermination camps and the millions of Catholics, disabled, Gypsies, Slavs, Ukrainians, many of Germany’s own citizens, and civilians and soldiers all across Europe. In the abortion issue, if anyone’s to blame, we the people are for not voting a Constitutional amendment to prevent it.

Americans are rightly horrified at the beheadings committed by the ISIS soldiers. Multiply that by millions and you have an idea what Hitler was like.

It’s despicable to compare President Obama to that kind of violent, megalomaniac. What’s more, it’s slanderous, and therefore sinful. Yes, it is sin to say that President Obama has guilt for something he did not do.

Of course, someone might be speaking from ignorance. Perhaps they don’t know what Hitler put the Jewish people through—how he treated them like cattle and forced them to live in inhuman conditions until he came up with his Final Solution.

After the invasion of the Soviet Union, in June 1941 the Nazi government began to conceive of a plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe. Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler was the chief architect of the plan, which came to be called the Final Solution to the Jewish Question. (“Final Solution,” Wikipedia)

Suitcases of Auschwitz detainees (Auschwitz museum)

Suitcases of Auschwitz detainees (Auschwitz museum)

By the end of the war, Hitler and his henchmen had managed to kill an estimated two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe.

No, President Obama is not Hitler. To put the two names together is to slander President Obama and to denigrate the millions who lost their lives because of the Nazi power grab and subsequent effort at ethnic cleansing.

What’s more, people who make such connections between a despicable, violent, evil man and a President who holds to liberal beliefs, weaken any attempt to show voters why liberal politicians aren’t good for our country. The more unreasonable the opposition, the more likely reasonable people will assume all opposition has such illogical and irrational underpinnings.

Same for the impeachment issue. President Obama should not be impeached because he bombed Syria without receiving Congress’s declaration of war (the contention of the man in front of the Post Office). President Truman, President Kennedy, President Johnson, President Reagan, President Clinton are all former presidents who authorized military force in a foreign land without a Congressional declaration of war. President Obama is following precedent.

Further, on Facebook someone brought up the IRS scandal and the Benghazi attack and cover up. “If President Obama knew . . .” the comment read. Well, that’s it, isn’t it. Usually a person is not tried unless there’s some evidence that he took part in the crime. Until there’s an investigation that uncovers real criminal activity, such as the Watergate investigation turned up, or the evidence that President Clinton lied to the grand jury, then there is no grounds for impeachment. Hearsay, supposition, rumor—none of that provides legal cause for bringing President Obama to trial before the Senate.

But it gets worse. God tells us to honor our leaders. Honor! Not because the man is right or because we agree or we think he’s doing a good job. We are to honor him because of the position he holds as our leader.

It’s a fundamental attitude toward authority that we are losing in the US. The Bible tells children to honor their parents, but today kids disobey and backtalk, and society censors parents for spanking. Workers (servants) are told to do what our bosses say (masters is the actual term) not only when they are good and gentle but even when they are unreasonable.

And the admonition to honor the king came from Peter, for one, during the first century when Rome was hauling Christians into the coliseum and feeding them to lions.

Yes, this is counter-intuitive. And I certainly don’t expect non-Christians to get it. But the truth is, God is in control. God. And He has bigger things in mind than putting band-aids on a well-meaning but fading democracy in the US. Sure, it would be great if the US would be the shining city on a hill, but guess what? That’s actually the role God gave to the Church.

So ought we who profess faith in Jesus Christ as our resurrected Lord who we look to return in power and glory—ought we not be about His business? And how can we claim to be doing so if we spurn such a simple command as honor your king.

I mean, really. What does that mean? It doesn’t mean endorse him or approve of his wrong policies or agree with him when he says something harmful. It does mean we speak about him in a respectful manner and we pray for him—not just that he’ll fail, either—and we praise him when he does right.

If Christians are to be light to the dark world, we need to start with some of our most public expressions—showing that we would rather obey God than the impulses of our hearts.

Published in: on October 2, 2014 at 6:44 pm  Comments (5)  
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Health Care And The Responsibility Of The Church


The Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday that President Obama’s health care bill is Constitutional, besides coming as a surprise, has stirred up considerable discussion, some vitriolic and some jeering, depending on which side of the issue a person falls.

I have a tangle of thoughts that I haven’t sorted out yet. Maybe I can do that here.

First, I believe President Obama’s intention is to right a wrong. It’s wrong, for example, for insurance companies to deny coverage to people once they get sick. It’s also wrong for medical costs and insurance rates to be so high poor people can’t afford insurance and small businesses can’t afford to offer that benefit to their workers.

One of the arguments for this health bill is that the uninsured cost the rest of society because medical professionals must raise their rates on everyone else in order to make up what they lose treating those without insurance.

Here’s where I think things have gone astray. Once, doctors didn’t expect to get rich by practicing medicine. They understood that their time was not their own and that they might get paid in eggs over weeks and weeks, if at all. That was OK with them because they saw their job as a service to the community. They were willing to work sacrificially for the good of others.

All that’s gone. Now doctors and hospitals and pharmacies and insurance companies are in business. It’s all about making money.

Don’t get me wrong. I know there are some dedicated doctors and nurses out there, doing what they can within the system. But by and large, the health profession has changed from a helping profession to a lucrative one. As far as I’m concerned, it’s wrong for individuals or a corporation to get rich off the misery of others. Insurance companies, if we’re to use them, ought to be non-profits. But it’s probably too late to close that barn door.

That’s not all that went wrong, I don’t think. Health insurance has reduced the sense of obligation for a neighbor to look out for those in his community.

Years ago a friend of mine was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She had good health care, but as a single, unable to work for a time, her disability insurance only went so far to cover her rent, utilities, food, and the like. Her church and the Christians she worked with rallied around her, and she told me that the months when she was unable to teach, she actually made more money than when she was working. Christians stepped up to care for her much the way Scripture instructed believers to provide for widows.

Insurance or no insurance, believers are supposed to care for one another and to help the poor. But more and more, the government is stepping in to do what the Church is supposed to do. Has government taken on the role of providing for the needy because believers no longer live in obedience to the Word of God?

I suppose it’s futile to try and figure out what caused the breakdown of the Church’s role as the primary resource for the poor. I have to believe, however, that “universal” health care will only increase this trend. Who will think to help his co-worker who is going in for surgery? That’s what we have insurance for, isn’t it?

And how will individuals learn to trust God in the crunch of adversity? We have insurance now. Our trust is in the government programs.

Except, the reality is, government programs fail.

This week the city of Stockton, California, has been in the news because they had to declare bankruptcy. Another city, I believe, declared they were cutting back on city employee pensions which had provided them with something like 80% of their salary after they retired, for the rest of their lives! How anyone ever thought that was a workable arrangement, I have no idea, but the thing is, those employees undoubtedly put their trust in their government pensions.

But shouldn’t our trust be in God? And hasn’t God given His people the mandate to share with those in need?

Every time I read God’s plan for the nation of Israel, I’m amazed. If they had followed what God set down, there would have been no poverty among them. It’s quite an involved plan that included a “jubilee,” or a time of giving back to the former owner the land you’d bought. In essence no one actually bought land. They bought a number of harvest seasons before the next jubilee.

Unfortunately unscrupulous rulers like Jezebel and King Ahab ignored God’s law and took what they wanted which brought the whole system down.

I bring this up because I believe God has structured and called the Church to look out for the needy and for one another so that there should be little poverty today.

Instead, we have the government inserting itself in our affairs, ordering us to look out for ourselves.

It strikes me that Peter instructed believers in his first letter to submit to “governors as sent by [the king] for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right” (1 Peter 2:14). Today, however, the government has decided it’s up to them, the leadership, to do right instead of praising individuals who do so.

The question that comes up next is, Who then will punish or praise the government?

That’s the best I can do for now. What are your thoughts about the Supreme Court decision?

Thoughts On President Obama’s Evolving View Of Marriage


Yesterday, in the wake of North Carolina passing a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and amidst his plans to attend Hollywood fund raisers, President Obama declared that his evolving views on marriage now lead him to believe that same-sex partners should be allowed to marry.

My thoughts about these developments in the US culture will be somewhat rambling because I haven’t had time to process everything into a cohesive whole. So as they come to me:

Words. Words matter. Yes, definitions evolve over time, but not because someone imposes a new definition from without. In the case of marriage, thirty of the fifty states — thirty-one, if the courts hadn’t gotten involved in California — have passed laws or amendments (we passed both) defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. In fact, every time the issue has gone before the electorate, the people have voted for the traditional definition of marriage. The only states in which same-sex marriage is legal, legislatures (and perhaps the courts?) have dictated it.

The fact that we need the qualifier, “same-sex,” shows that in the minds of those discussing marriage, there’s a distinction between marriage and same-sex marriage.

Learning from children. In explaining his new position, President Obama said he believes it is a generational thing. His daughters have friends whose parents are same-sex partners and they think nothing of it. Since when did adults surrender standards of right and wrong to our children? If President Obama’s daughters thought nothing of teens street racing, would his view on that subject evolve?

Relativism. The concept of evolving views of right and wrong fits so perfectly into postmodern relativism, so I’m not surprised at the President’s shifting opinion. (I have to admit, I’m also cynical enough to wonder whether or not Mr. Obama didn’t want to insure that the big donors in Hollywood would be liberal in the amount they give to his campaign. But that’s a side issue.)

Relativism basically says there is no moral standard other than the one a particular group of people agrees upon at any set time. Hence, in this day and age of equal rights and tolerance, those values trump all else. Except when it doesn’t.

According to a relativistic way of thinking, countries that permit sweatshops should not be flagged for human rights violations because there really are no such things as human rights. Who gives humans any rights?

I suspect that’s where Western culture is headed, but it’s not there just yet.

Evolving Definition of Marriage. If a societal institution like marriage can be redefined once, why not twice, three times, or as many times as we want? So in five years (or sooner), someone will want marriage to include a man and multiple wives or a woman and multiple husbands. Why not a man and his dog? Or how about a man or woman and a consenting child? Who is to say that these can’t also be considered marriage if marriage becomes a fluid term?

Marriage and Sin. I’m always dismayed when I hear Christians talk about homosexuality as if it is the unpardonable sin. The truth is, the Hollywood movie stars so many people revere, or many of the sports figures who get caught up in the celebrity lifestyle, engage in “fleshly lusts.” Meaning, homosexual individuals are not in a special class. All of us, homosexuals or straight, have gone astray. We all stand in need of forgiveness and redemption.

Homosexuality does not make a person sinful. A sinful person chooses to sin and that might take a wide variety of forms. Is a person more sinful if they cheat on their income taxes or sleep around or engage in homosexual behavior? Answer: there is no “more sinful.”

There might be more consequences, but the one issue each person must resolve is what do they do with Christ? Is He the very cornerstone of their faith or is He a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”?

The Distraction of President Obama’s Declaration. All the discussion of President Obama as the first President in favor of same-sex marriage (as if this was an issue thirty years ago, or even twenty) has taken the focus off some other critical developments.

In California, for example, there’s a bill in the Senate that would would ban children under 18 from undergoing “sexual orientation change efforts.” (You can read about it here.) In other words, parents could not seek help from a professional for their children in an effort to steer them away from homosexuality. Would the parents themselves be unable to counsel their children in this way? It’s a frightening thought, but most people aren’t talking about it because they’re talking about Mr. Obama’s evolving opinion.

There’s also a courageous man in China who stood against forced abortion and has sought asylum in the US. What are we hearing about his situation?

Unfortunately, the President seized the bully pulpit (what a politically incorrect term!) and his opinion has overshadowed other stories that are newsworthy. (Sort of like the Secret Service scandal overshadowing the General Services Administration scandal).

The Place of Leadership. One more reflection on our President’s “historical” stand. When God sent prophets to Israel and Judah, declaring their sin, He pointed the finger at the priests, false prophets, and kings who led His people astray.

I think the leaders in America are letting down her people as well. The Supreme Court did so in 1973 when it issued the Roe v Wade decision legalizing abortion. Countless religious leaders have done so by buying into health-and-wealth messages or deconstructing the Bible or re-imaging Christ.

What’s so incredibly sad to me, though, is that we have the Bible available in our own language, translated over and over again to make it easy to understand. In other words, we are without excuse. It isn’t the leaders’ fault when we ignore the best and primary source that gives what we need for Salvation.

In the end, that’s where we’re at, isn’t it. As Peter says, “for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word and to this doom they were also appointed” (1 Peter 2:8b).

Published in: on May 10, 2012 at 6:41 pm  Comments (7)  
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If I Like It, Then It’s Good


In thinking about Moral Judgments yesterday, I ended with this:

The question, then, isn’t should we make moral judgments. We do — that’s a simple fact. The question ought to be, on what should we base our judgments? And that will take a bit more thought.

When I taught seventh and eighth graders, I soon learned that a good number of the boys students found it amusing to look for double entendres, particularly ones with a possible sexual slant. I decided early on that I could either learn all the latest slang and work to avoid any words that might carry sexual innuendo, or I could teach my students to employ a little self discipline. I opted for the latter.

The problem I came up against was that some bright kids astutely said, in essence, But why shouldn’t we laugh? It’s funny. They were right, of course. Suggestive interpretation can be funny. Dirty jokes can be funny too.

So, I asked, is that the standard we use to determine what we listen to — if it makes us laugh?

It’s the question we should all be asking today. Is the standard we use to determine what we read, watch on TV, listen to on our iPods, where we go, who we hang with, how we spend our time, what Internet sites we visit nothing more than that it entertains us? Is the highest good, our feelings of pleasure — happiness, mirth, satisfaction, gratification, amusement?

You’d think so, judging by what we talk about and how we spend our time. But most of us realize there are more important things than what pleases us — the good of our family, for instance, or for Christians, doing what God wants us to do. In public schools here in California, the overriding principle students are to use as a guide for their behavior is, Do no one harm.

But all those and the countless other standards used in the business world, in government, in the legal system, in the marketplace, offer no definition for “good” or for “what God wants” or “harm.”

Is it harm to make fun of someone? If so, then why do we allow Saturday Night Live to stay on TV? Is it “good” for someone to be mocked for his lack of singing ability on national TV? Is it “what God wants” when we write a book that says there is no hell?

How are we to make such judgments?

We could go with what pleases us. Saturday Night Live is a funny show, so whatever they joke about is just fine.

We could say, A person gets what he’s asking for, so the clowns who try out for talent shows when they have no talent, deserve to get hammered. But does that mean someone cheering for the Giants in Dodger Stadium is asking to get hammered?

We could say, What we think is right, is what God wants us to do. So when people like President Obama support fetal stem cell research because they believe as a result, many, many people will be cured of diseases, are they doing what God wants because they believe in their cause?

Clearly, every issue has two sides. Who’s to say what’s right? Person A says pornography hurts a person and tears apart marriages. Person B says it’s an innocent way of releasing sexual tension.

Person A says abortion kills babies. Person B says abortion saves children from lives of abuse and neglect.

Person A says bullying is part of growing up and every kid gets teased. Person B says bullying destroys self-esteem and pushes victims toward retaliation of one kind or the other.

On and on, round and round. Is it true that we should just go with what the majority of people believe to be right? Do we take a vote? Today it’s wrong to throw Jews into concentration camps, but tomorrow, if we have enough votes, we can decide that good means Jews will be arrested and jailed?

Is there no fixed standard? No way to know what is right and what is wrong for all time? Or are we left to our whims or to the trends of society fashioned by the best propaganda money can buy?

One of the telling facts that came out of President Obama’s statements last month about the Supreme Court’s deliberations about the Constitutionality of the health care law was that he considered many people in favor of the law to be a reason it should stand and not be struck down. As if popularity outweighed the law he has sworn to uphold.

But President Obama is a man of the times. How does he define good? It would seem he does so by what he believes to be good.

Essentially, our society has come down to this: every person does what is right in his own eyes, and if he’s doing something the law says is illegal, he moves with greater caution so he doesn’t get caught.

There ought to be a better way to determine what is right and wrong. And there is.

Published in: on April 25, 2012 at 5:57 pm  Comments (7)  
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President Obama, Faith, And Authority


I don’t know if I can articulate my thoughts adequately in a blog post, but I’ll give it a try. I apologize ahead of time for offending people, because that seems to be the rule of the day — someone speaks their opinion and someone else gets offended; the first someone then clarifies their opinion, but in the end apologizes for it. This way I’ll take care of the apology right off the top. 😀

The opinion, offense, clarification, apology round occurred yet again last February and the first someone was Franklin Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The second someone would be those who thought it necessary to defend President Obama, because it seems Mr. Graham said he didn’t know if our President is a Christian. This offended some, in particular those who think President Obama should be taken at his word, and he says he’s a Christian.

It seems he knows quite well what Christianity is about. A year ago at the Easter Prayer Breakfast, he said in part

“But then comes … the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross. And we’re reminded that in that moment, [Jesus] took on the sins of the world — past, present and future — and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection.”

I read those lines with my understanding of Scripture and nod my head. The President has it right.

But what if …

Could he mean that Jesus taking on the sins of the world brought salvation to each person in the world regardless of his faith in or rejection of Christ? Other public statements the President has said don’t rule out that possibility. In fact, they more nearly corroborate it. This for example:

“I didn’t become a Christian until many years later, when I moved to the South Side of Chicago after college. It happened not because of indoctrination or a sudden revelation, but because I spent month after month working with church folks who simply wanted to help neighbors who were down on their luck — no matter what they looked like, or where they came from, or who they prayed to. It was on those streets, in those neighborhoods, that I first heard God’s spirit beckon me. It was there that I felt called to a higher purpose — His purpose.” (From the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 6, 2009 quoted in “President Obama’s ‘theology,’ in his own words”)

Is President Obama a Christian? I don’t know. I do believe from his recent comments about the Supreme Court, however, that he sees himself as above the authority of the Constitution, and that gives me pause.

The news hasn’t done a particularly good job of following this story, I don’t think, but in a nutshell, this is the situation. President Obama made comments on Monday that can be described as pressure tactics directed at the Supreme Court, stating that it would be “unprecedented” for them to declare Obamacare unconstitutional, that this would be the hallmark of an “activist” court, something conservatives decry.

The reason conservatives stand against an activist court is because the Constitution gives Congress the right to make federal law. When the courts do so, they are usurping authority.

Is President Obama right that the court would be taking unprecedented action? Well, no, and he knows it.

The Supreme Court, for the most part, is an appellate court, meaning that it reviews the decisions of other courts. In 1803, thirteen years after the Constitution was ratified, the case of Marbury vs. Madison established what has become known as judicial review — the Supreme Court determines the constitutionality of other laws.

President Obama, with his degree from Harvard Law School and his lectures in Constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School, certainly knows this.

Furthermore, Mr. Obama asserted that Obamacare was passed by “a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress,” when, in fact, it squeaked by in both the House and the Senate.

The health care law wasn’t passed by a “strong majority,” but rather by a small majority through a technical “reconciliation” measure in the Senate to avoid a filibuster, and a narrow vote in the House that didn’t include a single Republican supporting it. House Speaker John Boehner’s office has made a point of reminding the media of the vote — 219-212 in the House, including 34 Democrats who voted against it (from “In Obama vs. Supreme Court, Politics Knows No Bounds”)

The Los Angeles Times makes another interesting observation — even if Obamacare had passed by huge margins, the numbers would not play any part in a decision about the constitutionality of the law.

Furthermore, the implication of the remark was that the number of votes in favor of a bill was somehow relevant to its constitutionality. It’s not. Otherwise, whichever party or point of view is in the majority would be free to tyrannize the minority. (from “Obama’s Supreme Court comments off the mark”)

What troubles me, then, is this willingness on the President’s part to play above the law and above truth. If he is prone to bend the law he has sworn to uphold and politicize the truth to make his case, what does he think about God’s authority?

Don’t his actions regarding abortion indicate that he is also playing above God’s clear instruction not to kill? Can anyone who has read the Bible miss how heinous God considers child sacrifice?

They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. (Jeremiah 32:35)

(Yes, yes, I know — there are also stories of bloody massacres in the Bible, but that’s got a different context. There is no wiggle room when it comes to God’s attitude about killing children in the process of worshiping a false god. Abortion is nothing less than killing babies in the process of worshiping self or freedom or a woman’s right to choose).

Part of President Obama’s remarks on Monday appealed to the human element — the fact that people’s lives will be affected. I believe he is acting in good faith. He thinks mandated health care will solve a problem, that it will help people. Just like abortion helps women with unwanted pregnancies.

The human element set over the law puts some person in the position of deciding which humans are going to be affected favorably and which adversely. It says a person, not the Law governing the land, is to decide what is right. And not the Law of God.

Published in: on April 4, 2012 at 7:49 pm  Comments (8)  
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The Way We Speak To One Another


The public is often appalled at the negative ads on TV during election campaigns, and once again much is being said in the news about all the trash talk flying over digital transmissions and into average voters’ living rooms, and cell phones, and tablets.

How odd, I think. Mitt Romney is going after President Obama, accusing him of all kinds of things. But apparently he doesn’t realize that something like 48 percent of voters still approve of what the President is doing.

Why, I wonder, can’t politicians wake up and realize that everyone they attack has fans who in turn may become defensive and much opposed to the one on the attack. Wouldn’t it be wiser to give the opponent the benefit of the doubt as another citizen who wants to do what’s best for the country, but who has a different vision for how to achieve that?

Seems to me, then, that people who are tepid about the President’s performance just might embrace this kinder, gentler approach that doesn’t tear down the man or besmirch the office, but that lays out a plan that will bring about different results.

But no. We live in the age of Jerry Springer.

Yet, how we talk to one another isn’t so different from how people talked to each other down through the centuries. Job’s friends prove this. Though they are often characterized as having bad theology, which they did, they also ended up getting into a sparring contest with Job, as if it was more important to win an argument with a man devastated by grief and loss than it was to let him talk out his problems.

In chapter 16 Job called them mockers, and apparently Bildad took offense. He responded in chapter 18, “Why are we regarded as beasts,/As stupid in your eyes?” But he wasn’t content to ask Job why. He himself went on the attack. Some of what he said doesn’t sound so bad — until you remember who is sitting across from him: a man who lost the bulk of his wealth, whose children had all been killed, who was covered with oozing sores, and was sitting in an ash heap.

Indeed, the light of the wicked goes out,
And the flame of his fire gives no light.
The light in his tent is darkened,
And his lamp goes out above him.
His vigorous stride is shortened,
And his own scheme brings him down.
For he is thrown into the net by his own feet,
And he steps on the webbing.
A snare seizes him by the heel,
And a trap snaps shut on him.
A noose for him is hidden in the ground,
And a trap for him on the path.
All around terrors frighten him,
And harry him at every step.
His strength is famished,
And calamity is ready at his side.
His skin is devoured by disease,
The firstborn of death devours his limbs.
He is torn from the security of his tent,
And they march him before the king of terrors.
There dwells in his tent nothing of his;
Brimstone is scattered on his habitation.

His roots are dried below,
And his branch is cut off above.
Memory of him perishes from the earth,
And he has no name abroad.
He is driven from light into darkness,
And chased from the inhabited world.
He has no offspring or posterity among his people,
Nor any survivor where he sojourned.

Those in the west are appalled at his fate,
And those in the east are seized with horror.
Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked,
And this is the place of him who does not know God.
[emphases mine]

Here’s Bildad’s speech in summary: So, Job, all the horrible things that have happened to you? That’s what happens to people who don’t know God. Guess what that means about your spiritual condition!

I’m sorry, but that was nothing short of mean!

Of course, the apostles weren’t far from this same way of thinking when they asked Jesus if they should call down fire on the Samaritans who didn’t welcome Him because he was headed toward Jerusalem (see Luke 9:52-54).

In contrast, this is what Paul said to the Romans:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (Rom 12:14-15)

Jesus makes a radical difference in how we talk to one another — or should. I wonder how a Christian campaigning like a Christian would fare in today’s political climate.

I wonder if Tim Tebow would consider running for office. 😆

Published in: on January 18, 2012 at 6:27 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Selfishness Of Socialism


The primary election season has begun. Of course the string of Republican presidential candidate debates brought politics to the surface last year, but now the interest in the question, who will oppose President Obama, has ramped up the media coverage and public awareness.

What troubles me is that some Christians, along with other conservatives, talk as if the chief end of the 2012 election is to defeat the President. Consequently, the most important quality in a candidate is “electability,” another way of saying, any Republican is better than President Obama.

Again, I’m troubled by this line of thinking, on several fronts, not the least being that so many look at our President as not just wrong, but evil, as if he is intentionally choosing paths that will bankrupt our nation, literally and morally.

I don’t believe for one second that President Obama is doing anything but what he thinks is right, even good. Is it evil to want health care for every citizen in the nation? Is it evil to want the income to fund programs for the poor? Is it evil to want an end of armed conflict in Iraq? Is it evil to want justice and fairness for every person?

While I don’t believe President Obama is acting with evil motives, I can agree that he may be wrong in the way he’s going about achieving some of the things I think he’s right about, specifically things involving the economy.

As I see it, his approach is to increase the socialism that already exists in the US, and I think that’s wrong. Biblically wrong.

The government, in the socialist view, is the all wise and knowing dispenser of goods and services to those who are in need. To pay for the programs, taxes must be increased, and those most able to pay should bear the brunt of the burden.

The problem with this position is multifaceted, but the worst part is not the “class warfare” that President Obama’s detractors decry. Rather it is the undermining of God’s command for us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

That statement will surprise anyone who views socialism as a more Biblical way of living than capitalism. The Christians in the first church held all their belongings in common and gave to whoever had a need. Socialism, right?

Actually not.

The church was not acting as a government. The church did not mandate giving or sharing of possessions. Peter made this very clear when he addressed Ananias who withheld some of the money he made from selling his house:

“While it [your land] remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:4)

Rather than socialism, the communal property of the early church was a reflection of believers living out what they understood the Christian life to be — that of caring for one another’s needs.

Here in America, that value of caring for those in need has been passed down from generation to generation. Besides Christian underpinnings, perhaps the necessity of depending on neighbors in a wilderness environment also had something to do with the eager and generous response to those in need.

The point is, socialism undermines the idea that individuals should do something to help the person down the block who is less fortunate. Instead, we are fostering an “I gave at the office” mentality:

    My tax dollars are already going for their food stamps; why should I give more?

    Help the homeless? Why doesn’t he just go to the local shelter?

The responsibility for caring for our neighbors is not-so-slowly shifting from individual citizens to the shoulders of the government. In other words, we no longer have to love our neighbors because the government will take care of them.

Unlike the Good Samaritan, we don’t have to stop when we see someone lying in the middle of the road. We may not quite be at the place where we will cross the road and pass on the other side, but we are at the place where we think we’ve done our duty if we call 9-1-1.

Socialism lets us off the hook. It’s a way of saying, Love your neighbors as yourself? Not needed. The government will do it for you.

Somehow, I don’t think Jesus would agree.

Hand The Ball To The Referee


In football some coaches are stricter than others. They teach their players to win with dignity, to respect their opponent, and to keep their emotions in check. Consequently, after their players score a touchdown, they are to hand the football to the referee, not spike it into the ground or chuck it into the stands.

Interestingly, other coaches believe the sport is physical and the players will naturally get emotional about what’s happening on the field. Why not let them have a little fun? So what if they do a little dance in the end zone or taunt the other team with an exuberant celebration over top a sacked quarterback.

Using this familiar football backdrop, President Obama told the American people yesterday we were not going to spike the football in the face of al-Qaeda.

This made me think once again about the very sobering subject of our armed forces attacking and killing Osama bin Laden a week ago. I’ve heard some of the comments wrung out of people who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks. In most cases it was some version of “they’re glad he’s dead.”

I have to admit, I have mixed emotions, and apparently so do many others. Essentially the man was a mass murderer and needed to be brought to justice. He also didn’t deserve the world stage his capture undoubtedly would have given him. But some are characterizing the actions of the American forces as an assassination. Others are regaling the servicemen as heroes.

My discomfort, though, is confounded by the spiritual implications. Unlike Rob Bell, I believe by killing a person steeped in idolatry we have closed the door on his last opportunity to repent. And heinous people in history have repented. Not many, to be sure, but some. Nebuchadnezzar comes to mind, as does the Jewish king, Manasseh.

God Himself says He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked:

‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.’
– Exekiel 33:11a

On the other hand, God is the Judge, and He will bring the consequences of the wicked man’s ways down on his own head.

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy
– James 4:12a

He also says that vengeance is His:

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.
– Romans 12:19

All through the Old Testament the instrument of God’s wrath, if it wasn’t drought or famine, was assault by other nations. Who’s to say, then, that God did not use America as the instrument of judgment on this wicked man?

I guess this is the point where we have to trust that God does have the heart of the king in His hands, that the events of this world are under His sovereign direction.

I’m not going to rejoice that Osama bin Laden is dead. I’m more inclined to mourn that the man was deluded and did not believe Jesus Christ is the way to God.

Consequently, I’m quite happy President Obama made the decision not to spike the football. It’s the right call to hand the football to the Referee.

Published in: on May 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm  Comments (7)  
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