Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Sky Is Falling

Oh, never mind. It's too late. We're lost. You see, Al Gore wants us to be fossil-fuel free by 2018, but experts are now telling us that we have ... 8 years. That's it. We have 100 months from August 2008 until global warming cannot be fixed.

I found the solutions in the article above fascinating. The solutions were almost exclusively financial in nature. Eliminate big financial institutions because small ones are easier to maintain. Eliminate corporate tax evasion. Take the oil companies' profits and put them in a fund to pay for ... "an Oil Legacy Fund". Raise the price of oil. (Yes, you read that right -- raise the price.) Eliminate exorbitant lending to eliminate over-consumption. Look, here it is in a nutshell. Take complete control of all aspects of the populace to control their finances, their lifestyles, their workplaces, their transportation, their consumption. That way, we can make our planet a greener place.

When I wrote my tongue-in-cheek piece about the topic, I sarcastically proposed a radical fix. It appears that the true believers are out to one-up me, because their fix is much more radical and not the least bit sarcastic. Eliminate freedom. Take control of all people. Stop life as we know it on the planet. You see ... we don't have time to think about it. Just do it!

Lord, save us from "experts".

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Short, Not Sweet

I've been told that good blogs are short. I don't often write short. And I've been told that many times my blogs are over people's heads. I don't write easy. So I'm going to try to take an extremely sticky question and write a response to it that is both brief and easy to understand. It's a good experiment. Let's see how I do.

Q: "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

A: They don't (with the exception, of course, of Christ).

(Hint: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one" (Rom. 3:10-12).)

Whew! That was tough. I think I got everything in there I needed to. Short enough? Clear enough? You be sure to let me know!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What is your problem?

Back in the '80's when the medical field discovered AIDS, there was a host of folks who read Rom. 1:27 ("receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error") as proof that the disease was God's judgment on homosexuals. I don't doubt that you wouldn't really have to go very far to discover folks around that still think that's the case. Never mind that it doesn't make a lot of sense. Never mind that not all homosexuals have the disease. Never mind that there are heterosexuals and even children that have the disease. Never mind that it makes God out to be ... well ... a really bad aim with His judgment. No, they're still sure that it's God's judgment on homosexuals.

When you look at the passage in question, however, I think you'll find something that's a bit more disturbing than the notion that God brought about AIDS as a punishment to homosexuals. In fact, why don't you turn with me in your Bibles to Romans 1 and take a look at this passage?
18 The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them (Rom. 1:18-32)
What does Paul say is the basic problem in this passage? What is it that makes God angry? It is the suppression of truth that occurs by Man's ungodly and unrighteous actions (v 18). (Generally speaking, it is understood that "ungodliness" refers to violations of our relationship with God and "unrighteousness" refers to violations of our relationships with others.) Because of our sin against God and against each other, then, the truth is obscured. What truth? Our knowledge of God (vs 19-20). Do you want to know why it is that there are people who deny the existence of God? It is sin, plain and simple.

Our sin results in the suppression of the truth about God. Suppression of the truth about God makes us foolish while we think we're wise (v 22). The natural way that humans operate at this point is to obscure the glory of God and assign that glory to Man and nature (v 23). It is standard operating procedure for us human beings to make ourselves out to be the most important things in the universe. That's a problem ... because we're not.

Here is where it gets really interesting. Paul starts verse 24 with "Therefore." It's a simple concept -- "for this reason." We can all read for ourselves what God did -- "gave them up in the lusts of their hearts" -- but He didn't do it for no reason. He did it on the basis of our obscuring the truth about Him and supplanting Him as the Most High with ourselves as the most high. Do you catch what that means? It means that our impure lust is God's judgment on us ungrateful, idolatrous beings. Oh, He didn't cause us to be full of impure lust, but it is clear that He allowed it as a product of our choice to deny Him His rightful place. And it gets worse! That didn't hurt us enough -- we served the creature rather than the Creator (v 25) -- so He let us go further. The next judgment from God was "dishonorable passions" (v 26). And when our dishonorable passions failed to get our attention, passed one more judgment: A debased mind (v 28).

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that God caused these things. But don't miss the point of Paul's statements, either. God was in control. He said, "Thus far and no farther." And we pushed it to its limits. So God, as an act of judgment, removed His hand and said, "That far and no farther." With new license, we pushed ourselves to new depths of sin. And having dug as deep as we could, wearying ourselves at sinning and not showing any repentance, He removed His hand again.

There are still those who think that AIDS is God's judgment on homosexuals. That's fine. I'm not likely to convince them otherwise. Paul, however, says that sin is God's temporal judgment on sinners. Paul says that our problem of impure lust (seriously, folks, surely no one would doubt that human beings suffer from lust overkill) is a judgment from God for our failure to recognize Him as God. He says that our dishonorable passions -- our over-emphasis on sexual immorality (including homosexual immorality) -- is a judgment from God for our failure to repent of our lust. He says that our inability to even think straight -- to recognize morality, to distinguish between right and wrong, to know what we ought and ought not do -- is a judgment from God for our failure to repent of our dishonorable passions. In other words, the reason that we are so deeply sinful is because, as an act of judgment, God removed the stoppers that would have prevented it.

There is a final judgment coming. We know that. We will all need to answer for our sin. And Christians know that the only possible answers are "Christ" or "eternal punishment." In the meantime, however, it is abundantly clear that we need to be transformed by the renewing of the mind (Rom. 12:2) and we need to know how to control our own bodies in holiness and honor, abstaining from sexual immorality (1 Thess. 4:3-4). First and foremost, we need to be constantly reminded to place our attention on God, the One deserving all glory and honor. There are temporal consequences to our sin. Don't let further sin be one of them.

Monday, July 28, 2008

How Do You Say ...

It is argued by the right all the time -- the Main Stream Media (MSM) is biased. They are liberals. They are democrats. They are pro-Obama and anti-McCain. They will report the news from Iraq with a negative slant because ... well ... they're biased. Yeah, yeah, fine.

The truth is we're all biased. We all have our preferences, the things we like, the things we don't like. We all have our perspectives. We all see things the way we see them and will report them the way we see them. Isn't it interesting, then, how you can pick up on these things from the way we say them? In fact, it's really hard to report some things without expressing bias.

The most obvious place you'll see this idea is on the topic of abortion. If I speak of "Pro-Life", you will automatically know that I believe that abortion is killing babies. If I speak of "Pro-Choice", you'll understand right away that I see abortion as a choice rather than murder. The same is true when speaking of the opposite side. Are they "Anti-abortion" or "Anti-Choice"? My choice of terms will give my own view away and bias the reader toward my perspective simply in the expression I choose.

I saw a news report the other day in our area (Arizona is obviously a hotbed for news about immigration) about a protest against our local sheriff who is delighted to arrest as many illegal immigrants as he can round up. In the protest there were several signs decrying that immigration raids split up families. Is it true that families are split up when there are raids on illegal immigrants? Of course it is. But the expression tells you who is to blame. The raids are to blame for breaking up families ... evil sheriff. Now, the sign could just as easily read, "Don't bring your family if you're going to come here illegally because you are risking splitting up your family." Maybe not as catchy, but you get the idea. You would never see in a courtroom a protest sign that says, "Don't split up my family just because my husband robbed a bank." You see, from one perspective, "It's our right to violate your laws and you're wrong for splitting up our family." From the other perspective, "You're wrong for breaking our laws and you are bearing the consequence of your choice." It's all in how you say it.

We are all biased. We all have our points of view. They don't always coincide. And we cannot help but express bias in our conversation, even when we're not trying. The words that we choose very often betray the positions we hold. Now, if we can just recognize that in ourselves, perhaps we won't be so miffed at the MSM for doing every day what we all do every day. Just recognize the bias and go from there. We don't have to be sheep, you know.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

All the Wrong Places

It seems like it's really easy for us to get lost in our efforts to find God. Maybe we're too busy in our search to really find Him. Maybe we're just looking in the wrong places.

Right after Elijah enjoyed the mighty contest between the prophets of Baal and him, the lone prophet of God, he ran off into the desert because Jezebel threatened to kill him. Out in the desert he sat down under a tree and said, "It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers" (1 Kings 19:4). Well, God wasn't done with him yet, so he sent him off to Mount Horeb. In a cave there Elijah asked again for God to take his life. God told him to stand out on the mountain because the Lord was passing by. You remember the story. There was a powerful wind strong enough to break rocks ... but God wasn't in the wind. There was an earthquake, but God wasn't in the earthquake. There was a fire, but God wasn't in the fire. Then there was a gentle breeze, and that's where Elijah found God's voice (1 Kings 19:9-14).

It seems as if we're constantly in some sort of crisis. Maybe it's not wind or an earthquake, but we're certainly in a lot of noise. Maybe it's work or maybe it's home or maybe, just maybe, it's church. We think that we're going to find God there, but we're not. Instead, we will mostly likely find God the same way that the psalmist did: "Be still (Cease striving) and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth" (Psa. 46:10).

Maybe, just maybe, part of the reason that God commands a day of rest is exactly that. We need to cease striving, to be still, to quiet our mighty efforts and endless noise and just ... listen ... to ... His ... voice. Shhhh!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Why Ask Why?

I love the word "perspicuity". It just flows off the tongue. And the concept of the "perspicuity of Scripture" is a great one. Of course, since I prefer to eschew obfuscation, I'll switch to real words. The idea is simple ... literally. The doctrine is that the Bible is understandable. Yeah, that's it. So why would someone use an obscure word like that?

Ah, well, here's the basic idea: any believer of average intelligence should be able to read the Bible and understand what it is talking about. Careful, now ... here is one thing it does not mean: "All of Scripture is simple to understand." No, there are definitely parts that aren't as easy as others. And here's another: "Scripture means whatever you think it means." Not that either. The doctrine was brought out in the 16th century in opposition to the longstanding position of the Roman Catholic Church that your standard lay person was not capable of understanding the Bible. They needed the learned leaders to tell them what it meant ... and what they told them, it meant. The upshot of this position, however, was that the Church was the primary source on matters of faith and practice rather than the Bible. So the Reformers had a problem with that idea and argued that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, any normal Christian could read and understand the basic ideas taught in the Bible.

Here's where the problem comes in. In our great desire to read and understand the Bible, we begin view ourselves as modern-day Gnostics. We come up with a novel understanding of a passage and see it as "it", "the understanding." Some people like to think that they come up with "new understanding", that they have been taught by the Holy Spirit to see something in Scripture that was never there before. You can't really question the rationale of these folks because it's "of the Spirit" and who are you to question the Spirit? In other words, we might have the tendency to get carried away with this idea that anyone can understand the Bible.

One of the places that I've seen as a most common place to go awry is when we are sincerely trying to understand what we're reading. We ask the common questions. Who? What? When? Where? And, most of all, Why? Most of those questions are answered in the text, but "Why" seems to often be missing. So ... we fill it in. Why did Lot offer his daughters to the men in Sodom? We're not told. The best we know is that he didn't want them to harm his visitors. What was he thinking when he offered his daughters in their stead? We don't know. But there is no end of definitive certitude about what Lot was thinking when he did it -- some positive and some negative. Or how about this one? I just heard it recently. Why did Satan tempt Jesus in the wilderness? It is so easy to guess -- he wanted Jesus to fall into sin -- but we forget that we're guessing. One of the singularly most common questions I've heard from people is "Why did God ...?" We want to know what the thinking of the Sovereign of the Universe was when He ... did what we find odd or objectionable or even miraculous. Most of the time He doesn't tell us. So we guess.

In the Book of Job, Job struggles with the question of "Why?" "Why did God do this to me?" He starts out pretty tame ("The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.") But after awhile it's a different story. ("I demand an audience with God.") When God grants him the audience he demands, we find something a bit strange. God spends chapter after chapter quizzing Job. "Where were you when I was ...?" He calls Job's attention to nature in all its glory, says, "I did that" and demands, "Where were you when I was doing that?" Job, of course, has no answer. He ends up with, "I repent in dust and ashes." You see, God isn't normally in the practice of divulging to His creation why He does what He does. Sometimes He stoops to give us an insight here or there, but it's not His normal approach. And while we know the front story of why God let Satan deal with Job, we don't know the back story. What was God's ultimate purpose? So ... we guess.

Guessing, perhaps, isn't all bad. I would warn you, however, dear readers, to be very careful when you guess. We may have good guesses going on. We may have rationale for what we conclude. We may have logic and support and all sorts of reasons for concluding what we do. However, always keep in mind that your guesses may be wrong. Don't make them doctrine. Keep them as guesses, where they belong. Always remember, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever" (Deut. 29:29). It's not wrong to say, "I don't know." It's not arrogant to say, "I can't always give you a reason why God does what He does." Indeed, I would think that the reverse would be the height of arrogance. "God often doesn't tell us why He does what He does ... but I have it all figured out ..." Remember, the finite cannot fully grasp the infinite. Let God be God. Be careful when you ask "Why?"

Friday, July 25, 2008

PUBLIC NOTICE

NOTICE: Due to the repeated and ongoing abuse of the term "reality" in naming a particular genre of TV shows (I mean, seriously, people, in what universe is it "reality" to pick a group of people to drop onto some deserted island so they can play some totally bizarre games and vote people off? How is that remotely "reality"?), the Universe has decided to temporarily suspend reality and recalibrate for the societal perspective. You may notice some disruption of what was considered the longstanding and traditional "normal". This disruption is a natural consequence of recalibration and cannot be avoided. We apologize to the users of reality for the interruption and will attempt to bring reality back up as quickly as possible. Be advised, however, that reality will not be what it used to be. Society has spoken ...

In the meantime, we'll play the Muzak version of the Beatle's Yesterday. Feel free to talk among yourselves ...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

How do you know?

I recently overheard a conversation. Two older gentlemen (they were at separate tables, so they had likely just met) were discussing politics. They were both Vietnam vets (part of the conversation). One was telling the other about what political views he should have. The other was nodding. "Oh, I didn't know that." And I thought, "Is that it? You just met this guy. Are you simply going to take his word for it?" You might think you'd never do such a thing. You might be able to admit you would. Change "fellow veteran" to "fellow Christian" and you'll likely see my point. If the person to whom you're speaking has identified himself or herself as a fellow believer, you're much more likely to take them at face value despite knowing the vast array of perspectives covered under the umbrella called "Christian."

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that examines knowledge -- How do we know what we know? There are lots of other places out there that examine what we know. This particular branch asks you to try to understand how you know. It doesn't care if you understand that 2 x 3 = 6. It asks, "How do you know that it is true?" Take a walk through epistemology sometime. You'll find wonderful terms like JTB ("justified true belief") (and using "justified" in a completely different sense than we do), evidentialism, reliabilism, and Deontological Justification. Yeah, it's a completely different language there.

One might think the pursuit is too esoteric (although you likely wouldn't use that word ... or any of the other words they are using), but if you think about it for a moment, you can realize its importance. We have all heard, for instance, "Seeing is believing." We've also heard, "Don't believe everything you hear." These are epistemological statements. And we know that some of what we hear can (even must) be believed and some of what we see cannot (must not) be believed. So the question is asked, "How do you know?" There are some who argue the notion of "fallibility", the belief that nothing can be truly known -- a kind of epistemological fatalism. But we obviously know things. So ... how do you know?

I played a stupid game when I was in junior high school. It didn't matter what anyone said -- I'd respond with "Prove it!" As long as I kept responding with "Prove it!" I made it impossible for them to prove anything. You see, I rejected any argument. I was a junior high fallibility proponent. Of course, it was just a game (My mom made me stop when the girl in the carpool said, "I'm a girl" and I responded, "Prove it!"), but it's not so much a game today. There are more and more voices out there arguing exactly that: "How do you know?" How do you know that Christianity is true? How do you know that Intelligent Design is true? How do you know that homosexuality is a sin? How do you know that abortion is wrong? What makes you think you know anything at all? So we might point to a Bible verse and they respond, "Prove it!"

The problem, of course, is that very few (if any) know how they know what they know. Every single one of us has come to conclusions. Every one of us believe our conclusions. We are convinced that we're right. It is the nature of knowing. Oh, we might be able to be convinced that we're wrong at times, but there is lots of stuff that we know is true without even knowing why. Explaining why may not always be easy. Explaining why to the satisfaction of those who disagree may very well be impossible.

The odd thing in all of this, of course, is that those who are shouting "Prove it!" are somehow exempt from their own rules. They are disagreeing with some position or another and demanding proof. They are not, for some reason, required to provide proof of their own position. If they do offer reasons why they think that way, you aren't allowed to question it. They'll simply tell you, "We've provided all the proof you need." That's good enough for them, but not good enough for you. Why is that? In other words, despite the protests against the reliability of what Christians know, everyone has to live under the same question: "How do you know?"

I think that too many Christians today don't know why they believe what they believe. I think it would be highly beneficial to them to find out. Ask the hard questions. Find the answers. There are lots of good sources. But keep in mind, everyone has the same problem -- we can always question what is believed. And keep in mind that no matter how good your answers, you will always find the skeptic who shouts, "Prove it!" and no answer will suffice. Just be ready.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Life Imitates Art

We all like to think that art simply illustrates life, but we all know, if we're honest, that, especially in our day, much of life imitates art. Our ideas are constantly being shaped by our television shows and movies. It is certainly not the other way around. The artists that make our programs and productions take their opportunities to tell you what they want you to hear, and we eat it up because, well, like a drug, we're addicted.

You can certainly see where they've taken us in the last couple of decades. Take, for instance, Murphy Brown. The show ran for ten years from 1988 to 1998. Candace Bergen played a reporter for a TV news show. She was tough and hard and hard to get along with. But the show made headlines when Murphy got pregnant and had a baby. Vice President Dan Quayle made headlines criticizing the show for glorifying single mothers and minimizing fathers. Of course, Hollywood, not to be outdone (and certainly not to quibble about morality) made a show the next season celebrating "the diversity of families" and people cheered, not for Quayle but for Hollywood. Yeah, we get it. All this outdated morality is not necessary. We get it.

How about Will & Grace? Aired from 1998 to 2006, the show was about Grace, an interior designer, and Will ... well, Will is gay. No, it wasn't a side issue. The show was centered on a gay guy. You see, we need to take this seriously. We need to know that it's every day, normal, acceptable, even good. No missed messages there.

There are lots of messages going on in lots of shows. Hollywood and its subsidiaries are working hard to make our lives imitate their art. From our morality (or lack thereof) to our perspectives to our political views, they are working hard to change how we think ... and they are largely succeeding.

Have you noticed lately what they're doing with our image of women? Sure, there are the classical "sex object" approaches. They haven't gone away. They still like to suggest on a practically hourly basis (or more) that buying whatever product exists on the market will make guys popular with women. No one is suggesting anymore that June Cleaver is a role model. She's not a good idea. She never was. What were you thinking? What is Hollywood replacing her with? To me, it's a frightening female.

Look around the world of movies and TV and you'll come up with what to me was an unexpected composite woman. You'll find her in the movies in roles like Lara Croft. You'll see her in television series like The Women's Murder Club or TNT's Saving Grace. This is not your standard Donna Reed. No, this is something different. In The Women's Murder Club, Angie Harmon plays a homicide detective. She has friends. There is an assistant D.A. and a medical examiner and they are joined by a newspaper reporter. They're on odd group, each willing to break whatever rules they need to break to get to whatever results they want to get. They have no sexual ethics. They aren't limited to marriage or love or anything like that. And they're viewed as heroic because they get their man or convict their criminal or ... whatever it is they're supposed to do. In Saving Grace, Holly Hunter is a hard-nosed cop with personal problems. She drinks too much and her life is a mess and God steps in to help her. That's fine ... but the show is built on the premise that she's perfectly willing to do battle with God.

These are just examples. You'll find them all over movies and the TV. They are the new woman. She's not particularly feminine anymore. She's certainly not a homemaker. She's tough and, frankly, mean. She can be very nice to you if you are nice to her, but she'll cut you to ribbons if she feels like it. If Hollywood has its way, it looks like tomorrow's woman will be ... well ... much more like a man. She will sleep with whomever she wants without any commitments or even emotion. She'll rush in where angels fear to tread, guns blazing, and save the day. Who needs men anyway?

At some point do we ask the question, "Do we really want to let the media dictate our thinking for us?" I don't, but I'm feeling like an outsider looking in on this.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Who Gets to Decide?

We're in a struggle these days in America. The country was originally based on what is commonly called "the Judeo-Christian ethic". It wasn't uncommon for laws to be derived from biblical sources. Even if laws weren't called directly out of the Bible, there was a common morality in this country that was based, primarily, on that same ethic. We, of course, have evolved pass that point. In 1947 Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black used the phrase "separation of church and state" and the concept stuck. The division has advanced so far today that the perception is largely "You can believe what you want, but don't bring it into the public square." Having removed religion (Christian or otherwise) from any right to provide input to laws and morality, we have radically and quickly modified our morality as a society. In terms of moral perspectives, what was "evil" yesterday is "normal" today. What was "normal" yesterday is "archaic" today. Having removed any mooring in something solid, we're drifting, morally speaking. Now, I'm not trying to argue or bemoan anything at this point. I'm just telling you where we are.

At some point we have to ask, "Who gets to decide?" We've had examples of bad laws that get changed. Civil rights issues have come up and positive changes have occurred. Excellent. Women's rights issues have come up and laws have changed. Very good. It is undeniable that there have been bad laws on the books and that some of those bad laws have been changed or removed for good reason. There are other changes, however, that I would argue aren't so good. But we have to ask, "Who gets to decide?"

The Spanish Parliament recently passed a resolution that the great apes should be provided "human rights". Spain is not the first. New Zealand passed such a resolution back in 1999. Other countries are following down that path. It's the product of a campaign called The Great Ape Project based largely on the work of Paola Cavalieri and Peter Singer. They argue that, just as racism and sexism were bad, so also is "speciesism" -- discrimination on the basis of species. So while Singer, for instance, sees no problem with killing or using human beings for medical testing if those humans are incapacitated (please read up on Dr. Singer to more completely understand his position -- I'm being brief here), he is anxious to extend protection to apes that he won't extend to those humans. And Dr. Singer's view on the apes has prevailed.

At some point we have to ask, "Who gets to decide?" If we strip off religion, for instance, on what do we base the notion of "human rights"? You can't use science. Evolution simply proves that we're all part of a common growth, so to speak. Evolution will support "all creatures are of no ultimate value" just as easily as "all creatures are of equal value." And if the concept of "human rights" has no real basis, on what do we base any sense of specialness to apes? It seems that we're arguing for religious values without allowing religious voices.

So we have to ask, "Who gets to decide?" Christians would like to say, "We do! We're right!", but that is obviously ... well ... not largely accepted. The more common answer would be "The majority does!" That carries its own problems. If the majority, for instance, is racist, then we have a majority making racist laws. That's not good. America's government structure with its checks and balances is nice, but it isn't foolproof. Congress is still capable of passing bad laws. The President is still capable of signing bad bills into law. And we all know that the court system is fully capable of legislating from the bench, as in California recently where they not only ruled that a law prohibiting the marriage of homosexual couples was unconstitutional, but also told the state that they had to resume marriages in 30 days. That's not merely ruling on a question; that's legislating.

But I'm still stuck here. Who gets to decide? We've determined that Christians (any religion) don't get to decide. We've proven that a majority rule isn't the best choice. We know that a representative government is still fully capable of making bad rules. So who gets to decide? If we eliminate the voices of the religious, the voices of the majority, and the voices of the government, what are we left with? It seems as if the best possible choice we can come up with is ... anarchy.

No, that's not the best option. Could it be that we already eliminated a better choice?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Raising Children

Does America hate children? Worse ... do Christians hate children? Of course we don't! I doubt you'll find anyone who would admit that we do. In fact, they will argue that what we're seeing is a love for kids. I really have to wonder.

Since I am fully aware that the world is under the bondage of sin, I'm going to focus my attention primarily on Christians. And I'm going to go first to the place that this should be happening the least -- in church. How many churches today do not allow little children in the service? If they do, it is only for the "worship time" and then they are released to "children's church." Why is that? It's a relatively new phenomenon. We didn't have children's church when I was a kid. We sat in church. What changed?

The reasoning will tell you what changed. The reason that young children are either wholly or partially excluded from the church service is that they are disruptive. It's as simple as that. They yell and scream and squirm and run around. They distract people. Depending on your particular conviction, their distraction is possibly enough to upset worship and definitely sufficient to divert attention from the sermon. People go to church to worship and learn; children prevent that. Therefore, it is obvious that youngsters must go.

We're paying a heavy price for this fact. In the world, children lack discipline. As a result, teachers cannot teach. Education declines. A single teacher could once easily manage a class of 35 well-behaved children, but such children today are almost non-existent. So education suffers. And it's not just education. People tend to cringe when children show up because they're disruptive everywhere. They scream at movies. They yell in grocery stores. Parents are wrestling with them in the aisles at WalMart (or whatever other store you care to name). They're disturbing the meal at the restaurant that you're already paying too much for. Children gone wild are disrupting not merely the church services -- they're disrupting the world.

What happened? When I was a kid we didn't get the option of yelling in the grocery store or running in the aisles at church or screaming at the teacher. But generations of parents have step by step surrendered control to their offspring. They think it is "loving" somehow to let their children reign. They bemoan their plight. "What am I supposed to do? I can't get them to do what I want." And I scratch my head and wonder "Aren't you the adult?"

I don't think I'm surprising anyone here or saying anything controversial. I think we're all aware that children are not as well-disciplined as they were two or three generations ago. But what about my accusation: Does America hate children? I would argue that what we're doing to our kids today is modern child abuse. They need to be taught morals and we abdicate the job. They need to be taught self-discipline and we decline. They need to be given rules -- how to get along with others in a civilized society -- and we refuse. Why? Primarily because it's just too much work. We buy the lie that parents are supposed to be their kids' best friends. It's a lie. We agree with the nonsense that kids shouldn't have guidance. We think that godly discipline in narrow minded and archaic. (It isn't just the world that is arguing that corporal punishment is child abuse ... despite what the Bible says.) And we think, for some unknown reason, that our children should always like us. So we -- the ones that are supposed to be older and wiser -- surrender to the "wisdom" of the child. We Christians know that discipline is necessary and discipline is uncomfortable (Heb. 12:11), but we absolutely refuse. And children continue to decline. They know more than we did when we were their age, but they mature much, much later ... if at all ... because parents, including Christian parents, abuse their children with neglect, fear, and self-centeredness. Is it any wonder that fewer and fewer couples are interested in having children?

Training our children is one of the singularly most important jobs as Christians. It ought to be one of the primary tasks of the Church to be teaching parents how to do that, involving themselves in the process, and holding them accountable. Instead, churches cater to their failures and create ... children's church, the tip of a very, very big iceberg that threatens to sink the unsinkable Titanic we call "civilization".

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I Will Praise Thee

Psalm 139:14 starts out with that phrase: "I will praise Thee." What is it that has David's attention? "I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Thy works." Feel free to examine any other translation. They all say the same basic thing. We are, indeed, wonderfully made, and, for the most part, we aren't even aware of it.

Medical science can tell you a lot of the ins and outs of your construction. They can tell you about your eyes, how they're comprised of lenses and sensors and how the brain receives this information and interprets it as real-time vision. They can tell you about your circulatory system complete with self-regulating pumping heart, self-regulating breathing lungs, and the blood with its vast cardiovascular system, nutrients, oxygen, and other life-essential components. They can tell you about muscles and how they work. They can tell you about your skeletal system and its necessary role in the body. They can tell you about your brain ... well, some things. That is quite a bit more complicated than they can currently figure out.

I mean no disrespect to science. Despite our vast amount of information and our advanced methods of measurement and analysis, there is still just too much going on in the body to actually understand it. We have made great strides in some areas, but we're still unclear. That's because we are fearfully and wonderfully made. That's because our Designer is so vastly beyond His design. What happens when hormones are unbalanced? What happens when genes shift? Where in the brain is the memory? How do we access it? What causes those occasional malfunctions? How does the body repair itself? We have some answers, but not all. That's because we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

So, here's what I suggest. If you have a body and you know the One who made it, regardless of its current condition, how about if you spend time today joining with David? "I will praise Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Thy works." It is a magnificent place to be.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Global Warming - A Solution

"Mom! He's doing it again!" Yes, Al Gore is at it again, calling on the U.S. to have every kilowatt of power we produce be fossil-fuel free by 2018. At the cost of $3 trillion, he is planning on fixing our global warming problem. Now, if sarcasm bothers you, go read the news item and don't bother reading further ...

[Begin sarcasm]

The world is coming to an end ... soon. I think we all know that. Global warming, an indisputable scientific fact (now, now, don't go pointing to scientists with scientific data that disputes it ... that's not science), is caused by humans and is so very bad that it has ceased to be "warming" and has simply become "climate change." If we don't stop it now, life on this planet as we know it will end ... soon.

So, what is the cause of the problem? "Well, it's carbon dioxide caused by burning fossil fuels." No, no, that doesn't help. First, science can't actually draw a corollary between carbon dioxide levels and climate change as a cause-and-effect item. No, be specific. Okay, first you must realize that the United States is the real problem. Other countries are problematic, to be sure, but it is us, the U.S., that is to blame. So what is happening in the U.S. to bring about the end of the world? Well, it seems that 40% of our carbon dioxide emissions come from fossil fuel powered electricity, with 93% of those coming from coal. (For the record, then, Problem #1: Electric Power.) Next on the list is the emissions of internal combustion engines, comprising 33% of our carbon dioxide emissions. (That means Problem #2: Automobiles.) After that there is a decreased but significant problem with emissions from airplanes followed by emissions from buildings. (I'm sorry ... I don't know what that means. I'm just reporting what I found.) (Let's ignore "buildings" since I don't know what it means and say Problem #3: Airplanes.) A big part of the "greenhouse gases" is water vapor. Sorry ... not much we can do there. Indeed, they're not really sure if it's good or bad. Moving on. Nitrous Oxide is produced by oceans and rainforests, but man-made sources include nylon, fertilizers, catalytic converters, and the use of N2O for anesthetic. Apparently, though, the #2 cause of global warming is deforestation, with pollution being the primary cause. Between cutting, burning, and the loss of the forests' ability to absorb carbon dioxide, this is the second largest problem. (Sigh ... okay, let's reorder this. Problem #1: Electric Power. Problem #2: Transportation. Problem #3: Deforestation.) Now, this website lists a slightly different set of causes. 1) Pollution. 2) Human population.

Okay, we've narrowed down the causes. (Hey, back off! I know that there are loud voices in the scientific community that are in sharp disagreement with these views. Ignore those people behind the curtain. We can't be bothered with facts. Anyone who disagrees with the problem is clearly divisive, ignorant, and immoral.) So, having determined the danger (the end of the world) and the causes of the danger (humans), what are we going to do about it?

I think the solution is pretty simple. Step One: While the U.S. is obviously the primary offender (We're the primary offender in anything, aren't we?), it is equally obvious that all of the civilized world is heading in the very same direction, adding their own, albeit decreased, contributions to the problem. So, what we need to do is go bomb them into oblivion. I know ... too much smoke will be a problem. I think it's a necessary risk to bring about the kind of change we need. And we can carefully limit our targets. We need to take out oil fields, petroleum processing plants, electricity generation stations, and automobile factories. Hey, take down the power plants and you've pretty much shut down the world anyway. Step Two: Having eliminated the rest of the world, now it's our turn. Dig a really big hole and bury everything. That would include our cars, trucks, airplanes, tractors, tanks, anything that burns fossil fuels to propel it. Step Three: Put a radical and sudden end to our electricity generation. Sure, more smoke, but it will dissipate, and, trust me, the results will be the salvation of the solar system. It's worth it.

There it is ... we're done. Having terminated the use of fossil fuels, we would almost entirely eliminate pollution. With the complete disabling of the world market, we would eliminate any need for deforestation. The world-wide bombings coupled with the (short-lived but deadly) aftermath likely removes a significant portion of the population. Centralized agriculture and sprawling cities become a thing of the past because there is no means to grow, harvest, or transport food, goods, or people over large areas. Most people would likely starve, further aiding in the problem of population pollution. We'd end up with a small, communal existence, much like it was back before the Industrial Age. It will be good! And if humans die out in the process, it will be even better! We, after all, are the ultimate problem.

"Oh, come on," my detractors might argue, "that's going too far!" Well, how about an alternative? We cannot maintain the current technology and lifestyles of humans around the planet with our current methods. It has already been reported that even if the U.S. cut out all emissions entirely, within a decade the rest of the world (the Third World) would have replaced all U.S. emissions. China and India are rising rapidly with complete disregard for the environment and with larger numbers of people who will have larger needs for electricity and fuel. The only way to affect real change is to affect real change, not minor fixes. We cannot sustain cities. We cannot sustain industry. We cannot sustain transportation. We have to impact the two problems: Pollution and Human Population. I haven't yet heard a reasonable plan that would change those two items. Mine would.

So ... who's with me? How soon can we start?

[End Sarcasm]

Friday, July 18, 2008

"I'm Sorry"

It's what we teach our kids. You know ... the "right thing." When Aunt Martha gives him those silly slippers, you tell him, "Tell her 'thank you'." When she reaches for the cookies you tell her, "Ask first." And when he hurts his little sister, you tell him, "Tell her you're sorry."

I know we need to train our children. I know that they don't seem to naturally know these things. I know that we need to tell them to say "please" and "thank you" and all that. But I'm wondering ... do we really need to teach them to say "I'm sorry"?

Last week Jesse Jackson stepped on himself by talking into an open microphone and saying things he shouldn't have said. I didn't misspeak. He shouldn't have said them. He shouldn't have said them into an open microphone, sure, everyone gets that, but he shouldn't have said them at all. So what does he do? When he hurts his "little brother", he is told "Tell him you're sorry" ... and he does. "In this thing that I said in the hot mic statement that's interpreted as distraction, I offer an apology for that because I don't want to harm or hurt this campaign." Hear it? He's not sorry he said it. He does not apologize for accusing Obama of talking down to blacks. He doesn't recant his wish to castrate the senator from Illinois. No, he's sorry he was heard out loud. He's sorry that it is a "distraction." He's sorry that people are upset.

My point is not regarding Mr. Obama or Mr. Jackson. Jackson has simply illustrated my concern. When we teach our kids "Tell him you're sorry," what are we teaching them? We're teaching them the repentance of Esau. "I'm sorry I got caught. I'm sorry that I might endure losses. I'm hoping that if I say the right thing I won't suffer too many consequences." That's not repentance. That's not godly sorrow. That's pure, unadulterated self-interest.

What is it, on the other hand, that is absolutely, fundamentally necessary if we want our children to be saved? They have to hear the Gospel ... sure. They have to come in faith ... sure. But one absolute necessity is repentance (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). Now, of course I believe that repentance is a gift (I can't read those passages on repentance and not see that). My concern is that our children will come to the place that they believe that they said, "I'm sorry" to God, knowing that if they don't, it is sure damnation, and they believe that they've obtained safe haven, salvation. Why? Because that's what we taught them.

Parents don't have an easy job. Today's world makes it even tougher. And we do indeed need to teach our children proper interaction with others. Somehow, though, we need to figure out how to teach them the difference between "I'm sorry I got caught" a la Jesse Jackson versus genuine sorrow for sin. That's a much more difficult lesson to convey.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Husbands, Love Your Wives -- The Sequel

In the words of a potted plant in literature, "Oh no, not again."

I am a husband. I don't think anyone is unclear on this. I am a husband who loves his wife. I am a fortunate husband because it is easy to love my wife. As such, some husbands might get tired of me bringing up this subject. Too bad. It isn't my command; it's God's command. More importantly, I think it is a command in serious danger of being lost in today's society and if it is lost, we are in serious trouble. Given the immensity of this problem, I want, then, to repeat and re-evaluate this concept:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her (Eph. 5:25).
That's enough, I think. There is more and it is important and you had likely have that entire passage memorized, husbands. It is no small task, no small command, and no small catastrophe if you fail. But this singular verse is really big, and I don't think a lot of husbands get this.

First, the command is to agape your wife. It isn't eros, sexual love. If it were, we'd all be there, right? It isn't storge, the natural affection for family. That's pretty easy, too. It isn't philos, the standard love that says, "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine." No, this is agape love. This love is demanded regardless of how you feel or how she responds. It is regardless of whether she gains weight or loses weight. It is regardless of whether she is nice to you or mean to you. It is regardless of whether she keeps a clean house or gives you a pig sty in which to live. It is regardless of whether she appreciates, respects, or values you. It is without condition. Husbands, love your wives.

The illustration offered as to how that should look is in the next phrase, beginning with the comparative term, "as". "Just like", "in the same way" -- that's the idea. In what way are we to choose to unconditionally love our wives? "As Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her." At first blush ... that is simply overwhelming. Christ died for His Bride. Husbands, be ready to do the same. At second glance, it gets worse. When Christ was dying for His Bride, what was she doing? His disciples were forsaking Him. They were running and hiding. They were denying they even knew Him. Husbands, be ready to lay down your life for a wife that hates you. But in the final look, it becomes the most difficult. It says Christ "gave Himself up." In the final analysis, guys, that is what is required. You "lay down your life." I don't mean that in the "easy" sense of "to die." No, that would be quick. I mean it in the vastly more difficult sense of laying down your life.

Before you step into marriage, you hold your life in your hands. You can do with it what you will. If you're a Christian, of course, there are limitations and requirements, but it is still basically in your own hands. When you marry, however, this is no longer the case. The love that you are mandated to give your wife means that you lay down your own life. You no longer get to do what you want to do. You no longer get to be what you want to be. You surrender your hopes and dreams, plans and goals, your expectations for yourself. Guys, you don't even get the luxury of a "mid-life crisis" because when you marry you give your self up.

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church. That means that you love her without condition. That means that you surrender your self on her behalf. That means that everything else (except Christ, of course) becomes secondary to her ... which includes you. Most husbands are not willing to obey that command. We cannot afford, however, to fail to do so. It is costing our society, our wives, and our families far too much when we refuse. I'll tell you what -- if you don't want to do it, why don't you argue your position with the One who gave the command. See how that works for you. Until then, husbands, love your wives.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Apologetics

Andrew Tallman is a local radio talk show host. On Wednesdays, he does a show he calls "Wacky Wednesday" where he argues for ideas with which he disagrees. His aim is to help his listeners to learn how to argue ideas. Last Wednesday he argued that it was wrong to engage in apologetics for Christianity.

First, a brief definition. "Apologetics" is only a distant relative of today's concept of "apology." It comes from a Greek term that was part of a Greek court proceeding. It was, in essence, the argument of the defense. It simply refers to the reasons why you should believe that he didn't do it, so to speak. It is, then, a reasoned defense. (Our evolved use of the term, then, is the "defense" asking for forgiveness.)

Okay, fine. So how did Wacky Andrew (that's how he refers to the Andrew that argues against the truth) argue against Christians using apologetics? Well, there were a variety of points. It doesn't work. (You can't reason a person into the kingdom.) "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still." Argumentation isn't love. All of the objections, in fact, turned on the concept of warfare. The idea, it seems, is that apologetics is an attack. It is intended to argue people into the kingdom -- to win converts by reason. This is not a good thing.

I would have to agree with Wacky Andrew in that perspective. Attempting to argue people into believing is not a good idea. But ... that's not what Apologetics is, is it? Notice what I said in the definition: "It is a reasoned defense." I suspect that many over-zealous Christians jump into Apologetics with both feet hoping to do exactly what Wacky Andrew argued against. They want to win converts. They want to argue people into the kingdom. They want to tell you why you should believe. Oddly, that's not something we are told to do. Oh, we are commanded to engage in Apologetics, but we are not commanded to win converts by it. Look at the command:
In your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame (1 Peter 3:15-16).
We are not commanded to "always go on the offense"; we are commanded to always be "prepared to make a defense." See that? We aren't called to give reasons why they should believe; we are called to explain why we believe. It is not a matter of convincing them, but explaining us.

More importantly, perhaps, note the section I highlighted in bold. Our defense is not to be ... offensive. It is not to be angry, irate, disrespectful. It is not to be snarky or sarcastic. It is to be "with gentleness and respect." You see, that is a whole other approach to Apologetics. Peter in this passage does not say, "Dazzle them with your brilliance." He says, "Have a good conscience and behavior so good that they have nothing bad to say about you." Somehow "Argue them into the kingdom" doesn't seem to fit into this concept at all.

When was the last time your Apologetics was based on good behavior? When was the last time your argument fundamentally resting on gentleness and respect? When was the last time you viewed it as a defense rather than an attack? This is what we are commanded to do. If you are doing something different, maybe it's time to reconsider. As wacky as Andrew can be, I think he had a lot of good points about what Apologetics ought not be.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Expensive Change

I'm one who likes the English language. Well, I should ... I blog in it. And I'm one who complains when words significantly change their meaning because it affects communication. And it has been pointed out that words often change meaning and it's not always a bad thing. Okay, fine. I shouldn't complain about change. Change, alone, in definition or in life, isn't necessarily a bad thing.

So what is it I'm actually concerned about? Is there something sacred about words ... or tradition ... or something? No, of course not. My concern is not about the words themselves, but the concepts they convey. As we change the meanings of words, we change the concepts they convey. I have no problem changing concepts. I'm just wondering how we go about conveying the original concepts if we change the meanings of the words that conveyed them. Perhaps it would be best if I gave some examples and maybe you can begin to see my concerns.

The word "love" in the Bible has a primary functional meaning. It is intended to convey a choice we make to always seek the best for the person we love. It is without condition on the one loved. (Yes, yes, there are other senses, but this one is the one that concerns me most.) When it says that God loves us, then, it is referring to a choice He makes to seek our best, not a warm, fuzzy feeling He has toward us. Today we define "love" a little differently. It is "a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person" or "a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend." Oh, but you know that's not the end of it. It also leans into the sexual realm, describing "sexual passion or desire" and even the act of sex itself. Now, if we all want to follow along with these changes and we all know what we're talking about, perhaps it's okay. The problem occurs -- and is in full force now -- when we try to find the original concept. None of the common definitions cover the original concept that the Bible means. And while it's all well and good that we have all tracked on the changes to the meaning of the word, what has happened in the process is that we have lost the ability to convey the concept. It is no small thing that we can no longer explain in simple terms what it means to "love God," "love your neighbor," or the simple truth that "God loves you." This is not a small loss; it is catastrophic.

I've already complained about the changes in the word "marriage." We're all aware by now that the "longstanding and traditional definition" of "the union of one man and one woman" has been subverted in California (and elsewhere). And we've all heard, "What difference does it make to you? It doesn't change your relationship with your spouse." Fine. But I'm looking for the word that conveys the original meaning ... and I'm not finding it. It used to mean "the state of matrimony" which referred to "the state of being a married couple voluntarily joined for life." (And how many of you think of the word "matrimony" without thinking of the preceding adjective, "holy"?) "Marriage" used to mean the foundational union of a man and a woman to form a family. That foundational union was for life. It was for procreation. So significant was the term that parents had to be reassured: "You're not losing a daughter; you're gaining a son." That sort of thing. You see, it was understood that "A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." It was a selfless act and one with strong responsibilities to the spouse, to the family, and to society. We may decide to change the meaning of the word now. Why not? We've been changing it for decades. What I want to know is where's the original concept? If you're going to change the word, what word do you leave me to convey the original idea? If I want to tell you that I am practicing the original idea with my wife, how do I do that? And while changing the term won't change my relationship with my wife, what affect will it have on future generations who don't have the slightest inkling of the original concept?

These are two, simple, strident examples. It is happening everywhere. Words are changing their meanings. That's fine. But when those words change and leave behind nothing with which to convey what was really intended, that cannot be viewed as a good thing, especially when what was really intended was something better than the new meaning. What will the children do, for instance, when what we meant when we said "freedom" no longer means "freedom"? (It is changing, you know.) We've seen how the evolution of the term "marriage" has led to a destruction of families (in terms of rampant divorce, desertion, etc.). How can we convey to our offspring what "marriage" was actually intended to mean -- what is actually expected of them? Look, as an obvious example, at what has happened to the biblical concept of "love." Christians have largely shifted from the command to love to the feeling of love ... and even think that God's love for us is a warm feeling. No effect? Hardly. How do we recapture fundamental biblical concepts like love, integrity, honesty, compassion, and so on when the words are becoming so badly subverted that they no longer mean what was intended? How do we properly communicate when our language steals away the words that are needed to properly convey essential concepts? You see, it's not change that is my concern. It is how we go about communicating truth and ideas and the biblical concepts that we cherish. If this is the cost of change, it is far too high. Some change we cannot afford.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Marriage Killer

What is it that kills a marriage? Is it infidelity or is it finances? Is it a failure to communicate or "irreconcilable differences"? I suspect it is something much more insidious. I suspect ... shhhh ... indifference.

"No, no," you all assure me, "indifference doesn't ruin marriages. It takes something much worse." And I might agree ... in part. It isn't always the cause, to be sure. And it may not be the ending point of a marriage, but it is certainly the beginning of the end. Think about it.

What are the most common reasons for marriages to fail? I'm sure if you and I listed them we'd come up with a fairly common list:

Poor communication
Financial problems
Infidelity

Sure, those are obvious. Others are equally obvious:

A lack of commitment to the marriage
A dramatic change in priorities
Failed expectations or unmet needs
Addictions and substance abuse
Physical, sexual or emotional abuse
Lack of conflict resolution skills

But I ask you, what marriage starts out with poor communication or infidelity or failed expectations or the like? They don't, do they? (At least, not generally.) No, no -- marriage starts out with people who can finish each others' sentences, with a couple who doesn't need money to live -- "We can live on love" -- and a pair who doesn't even see another person, let alone be attracted to them. So where do these things come from? I would argue, "Indifference."

Here's how it goes. The young couple starts out madly in love. They marry. They set up house together. They begin their lives as husband and wife. She waits on him hand and foot. He is dedicated to her comfort. It is a grand thing. This, of course, is not actually a sustainable condition. Passion can only be maintained for a time. After a time it becomes "comfortable." It's a friendly place to be ... not bad at all. The expectations aren't so high. "Madly in love" isn't all it's cracked up to be anyway. So he drops his clothes on the ground like he did at home and she sets up house the way she did at home. This is fine, just fine, certainly a tolerable way to live. She's no longer telling him what a great lover he is and he's no longer gushing about her beauty ... much more reasonable. Except that they still need those things. No one is saying it, but he still needs to be told he's wonderful and so does she. They don't, not because they don't think it, but because, well, they're becoming ... indifferent. It's not hate. It's not dislike. It's just ... indifference.

This kind of thing likely takes time, although varying people take varying amounts. More secure people may last a long time; less secure people will collapse sooner. But eventually there is not a soul on the planet that will not ask, "What changed?" The changes from indifference start to branch out. Not quite caring as much as at first, they don't work as hard at communicating. Not as passionately in love as before, they find they do need to eat ... and more. He finds that the neighbor lady is much more appreciative when he helps her than when he does stuff around the house. Maybe it's his secretary who is young and pretty and still sees him as a powerful man and tells him as much. Or perhaps it's the tennis pro who tells her she's really quite lovely. Those things -- those "little" things -- start to build up. They don't start out big generally. They build ... from indifference.

When the couple ends up in counseling or divorce court, it is not likely that "indifference" will be listed as the primary problem. He squeezes the toothpaste wrong (which is easily fixed if he cared about her feelings) and she doesn't support him in anything he does (which is easily fixed if she cared about his feelings) and, well, it's over. It didn't start with financial problems or communication difficulties or infidelity. Those are simply the end points of a couple who succumbed to indifference long before they caved into divorce.

Do you want a divorce-proof marriage? Sorry ... no such thing. But there are things you can do to make it much less likely. Try ... love. Try setting self aside and looking at life from her perspective. Try setting self aside and giving him what he needs. Try it. I suspect that a couple who makes a point of doing those little things, even when it is just duty rather than raw passion, will find a lifelong marriage much more sustainable. Indifference is the killer. Love is the answer. Not that warm passion you feel at the beginning, but the constant state of decision that says, "Your needs are of great importance to me. I want the best for you." It may not (will not) always be a bed of roses, but, oh, the rewards as time goes by. Ask any couple who has made a practice of it and been married for more than 25 years. Oh, yeah, that's a good thing.

Of course, there is the alternative. Try out today's theme song -- "I deserve better." See how long of a marriage that produces ...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Encouragement

We like that word. We like it when Paul tells us about the Final Resurrection and tells us to "encourage one another with these words" (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Paul further commands that we are to "encourage the fainthearted" (1 Thess. 5:14). Timothy was told, "Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father" (1 Tim. 5:1). The author of Hebrews tells us that "we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us" because of God, His promises, and the simple fact that He cannot lie (Heb. 6:17-18). Encouragement. That's a good word. We like to receive it. We ought to deliver it. But have you ever thought about what it is?

The dictionary might tell you something like this: It means "to inspire confidence, to inspire with hope, to hearten." Helpful in the search for the meaning of this concept is the antonym: "discourage." But it only takes a moment of looking at the word to figure out the intent: "en" - "courage". When we "en-able" someone we endow them with the ability. When we "en-courage" someone we endow them with ... courage.

But, oh, it gets better. If "encourage" means "to inspire with confidence", what does "inspire with confidence" mean? To "inspire" means, literally, to "breathe into". And "confidence" means literally "with trust". When we encourage we are aiming to breathe trust into the one we are encouraging. Get that image in your head for a moment. You see, the Greek word for this concept is a form of parakaleo. Those with a passing familiarity of Greek (like I have) have certainly heard something like this before: The Holy Spirit is referred to as the Paraclete -- the Comforter. Indeed, the King James version translates most of these as "comfort" as opposed to "encourage". That's okay. "Comfort" originates in a compound word meaning "to give strength" -- basically the same concept. Now, the concept of parakaleo is a compound concept as well. Para means, essentially, "in the vicinity" or "with" and kaleo means "call", so the concept is to "call alongside." The concept is to come alongside and provide support. It is to be there to breathe in trust when their trust is failing. It is to stand with and inspire courage when their courage is fainting.

Far, far too often Christians are succumbing to the society's growing distance between individuals. We have email and instant messaging and texting and chat rooms and Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) games where people "interact" as if this is a social event. New technologies are even giving us video connections so we can see the people we want to talk to. But we're not leaving the comfort of our homes and we're not walking next door to wrap our arms around a neighbor who is discouraged. We know we are commanded to "do good to everyone, as we have opportunity, and especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10). We are called to comfort and encourage -- to provide internal fortification and trust in God -- one another. And we can be part of a remarkable process that our casual use of terminology belies. We can come alongside one another and breathe into them hope, courage, confidence. Talk about being a part of the work of God! I mean, seriously, is it really all that hard to engage in interpersonal relationships rather than withdraw to the selfish comfort of your own home?

Encouragement. We like that word. We like to receive it. We ought to be deeply involved in giving it. Let's get out there and breathe courage into other people, especially those of the household of God.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Work and Ethics

Is it my job to make the company I work for ethical? I know, I know, there are limits, ramifications, conditions. "Need more input." Fine.

Someone I know is quitting his job because the company he works for has had some ... unethical practices. By "unethical" I'm not intending necessarily illegal, but not ... ethical. Credit is not given to whom credit is due. One person does the work and another person receives the credit. Or perhaps they report that they can do something that is not ... quite ... accurate. You know ... almost, but not ... quite. Maybe they can someday, but at this point in time, well, the reports of their abilities are premature. They're working on it, but not yet. Perhaps they report to their customer that the project is at X point in the process when, in truth, it's something less. I mean, it's okay. The customer isn't pushing or anything. It's just not ... accurate information. And when these things are brought to their attention, they acknowledge them and promise to fix it, but don't. So my friend is quitting. "I've done all I can. Maybe if I quit they'll change."

And I have to ask myself, "Is it my job to make the company I work for ethical?"

I understand that I have to have integrity. And the companies I've worked for over the years have understood that asking me to go along with their little subterfuge won't work. I will tell the truth. So they have kept me away from customers when the truth could damage their position. I know I have a standard of ethics to keep and I make sure that I do.

But I have to ask myself, "Is it my job to make the company I work for ethical?"

How far do I have to go? I suspect that if I decided I was only going to work for completely ethical businesses I'd have an extremely difficult time supporting my family. Every company plays fast and loose with the truth at times -- it seems. Certainly it is some more than others and certainly the effects vary, but the game goes on most everywhere at one time or another. Maybe it's the kind of thing I've mentioned. Maybe it's "Tell them I'm not in." Maybe it's on the scale of an Enron catastrophe. But it's something. Is it my job to make the company I work for ethical?

I don't know. I don't think so. I don't find a biblical calling to corporate holiness. I don't find a biblical command to make commerce ethical. I have a personal responsibility, a personal command to holy living, but I don't find one for making it so for all of those around me. So I don't think so. But it begs the question: Is it my job to make the nation in which I live ethical?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Racism in America

Good news! Racism in America is dead!!

At least, that's what I'd have to conclude from this foolish brouhaha. Apparently the term "black hole" (a term from science, not society) is deemed "racially insensitive". So is "angel food cake" (white) versus "devils food cake" (black), and "the black sheep of the family". No, I'm not making this stuff up. I'm just not that creative.

It used to be that "racism" meant that people of a particular race (or, perhaps, not of a particular race) were discriminated against in the areas of job markets, housing, and other standard freedoms. That was "racism". That was really, really bad. Well, apparently we've solved all that because this is just too "below the noise" to be a problem if we hadn't.

Here, let me illustrate. Suppose someone shines a flashlight in your eyes when it's dark. You might say, "Get that light out of my eyes!" because, well, it's annoying and blinding and unpleasant. Suppose, however, that they're shining that very same flashlight in your eyes at midday when you've got the sun in your face. Does the flashlight matter anymore? Not hardly. You see, at that point it's "below the noise" -- the "noise" in this case being the sun.

In the past in America there was serious racism. Like the sun, it was blindingly bad. And so we stood up against it. We worked at eliminating the discrimination in the job markets and housing markets and so on. At that juncture in time, before that evil was addressed, it really didn't matter if devils food cake was dark colored or if the unusual member of the family was called "the black sheep" because, well, this really big problem of racism was so much more noise.

Never mind that it's ludicrous. Never mind that stereotypical sheep are white (and not because they're racist, but simply because that's the way they are) and, so, anyone who deviates from the family norm is called "the black sheep" ... nothing at all to do with racism. Never mind that so many traditional sources including the Bible equate "light" with "good" and, therefore, "darkness" with "evil" ... nothing at all to do with racism. Never mind that a black hole is a scientific term for an event in space from which no light (science defines "no light" as "black" because it is) can escape ... nothing at all to do with racism. I would think that this absolutely hyper-sensitivity to any term having to do with color must be an indication that true racism is dead. Now all we have to do is eliminate the hyper-sensitivity ... right?

Homosexuality is NOT a Sin

Well, it had to happen. Someone is now suing two Bible publishers for calling homosexuality a sin. The judge isn't impressed -- this will likely be a mere nuisance -- but you have to know that the tide is shifting. The time isn't far off that it will be regarded as a valid argument.

I have to say, however, that homosexuality is not a sin. That's right. You read it correctly. A person who has a tendency for sexual desire for the same gender is not, by definition, sinning.

"Okay," some of you might say, "you call yourself a Christian and you claim to believe the Bible. How can you say that?"

I would, of course, ask you to show me where in the Bible it is a sin. And you might pull out Genesis 19. That's the famous passage where two angels visit Lot in Sodom. Lot suggests they stay with him and, well, get out of town as fast as possible the next morning (Gen. 19:2). They plan to spend the night in the town square, but Lot gets them to come home with him. That night, "the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter" (Gen. 19:4) (that is, it wasn't an isolated group) and demanded that Lot send out the men so they could have relations with them (Gen. 19:5). "Now, now," those opposed to the claim have said, "that's a mistranslation. They didn't ask to have relations. They asked 'to know' them." I see. So when Lot says in response, "Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly" (Gen. 19:7), he was thinking that getting to know his visitors was wicked. No, that's not working for me. "But," they protest further, "why would Lot offer them his daughters?" Exactly! If they simply wanted to get to know Lot's visitors, what's with the daughters? If the men of the city were looking for a nice little meet and greet, why would Lot offer to let them "do to them whatever you like" (Gen. 19:8) to his virgin daughters? If it wasn't for rape, what was the threat here?

"Okay," you say, "so ... you're agreeing that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is sin."

Not quite. I want more references.

You're aware that too many people dismiss out of hand the Leviticus passages as "Old Testament" and, therefore, non-binding, so you jump right over to 1 Corinthians:
Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
"There it is," you assure me, "in plain text. 'Homosexuals ... shall not inherit the kingdom of God.'"

Now, let's look at that one carefully. The first item on that list is "fornicators." What is a fornicator? The word there is pornos (Care to guess what we did with that word in English?) and refers to any sexual sin. Okay, fine, but what is a fornicator? Well, the simplest notion would be that a fornicator is anyone who commits fornication. An idolater would be anyone who commits idolatry. And so on. That's fine, but remember, verse 11 says something about that: "Such were some of you." You see, in the simplest form, a fornicator is one who commits fornication, but in that simplest form it doesn't stop when the act stops. A person who once commits fornication is a fornicator. Since Paul says "were" (past tense), it is clear that these terms require an ongoing condition, not a single event. In other words, to be a fornicator one has to make a practice of fornicating.

How, then, do we handle the term "homosexuals" in that list? The naysayers would like to tell you that arsenokites is a reference to male temple prostitutes. Fine ... but that's not what the word means. It is constructed of two terms. "Arsen" refers to males and "koite" refers to bed. It is a reference to males who go to bed with males -- to males who lie with males. It is a reference to precisely the same concept that Paul talks about in Romans 1:27 when he speaks of men burning with desire for men as they would a woman. Dance around it all you want; it is a reference to homosexual sex.

"Okay," you say, "so ... you're agreeing that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is sin."

Not quite. We're not done here. Remember, what is it that makes a fornicator? It is someone who makes a practice of fornication. So what is it that makes this term -- a "homosexual"? Is it someone who has desire for sex with the same gender? Not at all. It is someone who makes a practice of sex with the same gender. There is a fundamental difference between a homosexual and homosexual practice.

Let me try it from a non-confrontational approach. My wife has been on a diet program for the last several months. This diet does not allow her to have ice cream. Now, the fact is that my wife loves ice cream. It is, perhaps, the food of the gods to her. She dearly wants ice cream ... but she doesn't have it because it's not on her allowed diet. So, would you say that because my wife dearly wants ice cream that she has broken her diet? Obviously not. It isn't the desire for ice cream that is banned; it is actually eating it.

When I say, then, that homosexuality is not a sin, I am referring to people who are sexually attracted to the same gender. It is not a sin for me to be sexually attracted to the opposite gender; it is a sin for me to act on it. It is not a sin for them either. The sin occurs when it is acted on.

"Sounds like you're splitting hairs."

Not at all. There is a real problem in communication between Christians and homosexuals because we keep calling homosexuality a sin. It isn't. It is the act that is a sin. It is a sin just as fornication and idolatry and adultery are sins, and those aren't homosexual sins. They're human sins. If we can keep that straight, perhaps we can communicate that it is not the homosexual that is the problem, but the act. Perhaps we can communicate that God does not hate them because they have leanings toward the same gender. Perhaps we can communicate that their sin is not something unique or different than our sin. That is, we all sin, and we only sin when we choose to do so. We've got to learn to communicate the difference between the sin and the sinner, and in this particular case we are doing a really, really poor job.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

That's Gratitude

Last month I wrote about "Hard Contentment" -- the difficulty of being content when we have so much. I asked if anyone was willing to work with me about becoming more grateful. You all chickened out. (Kidding, I'm just kidding.) However, I did get an email from someone who said, "Ok ... what's the plan?" Now, I know that my mother has been working earnestly at this concept, so I asked her, "Ok ... what's the plan?" and she had some things that she has done or is doing. I found them beneficial. Maybe you will, too.

1. She wrote a letter a week to someone she appreciated. She had ground rules. They didn't do anything FOR her. It was just something she appreciated. Someone who did something nice for someone else. Someone who did something brave or noble. Stuff like that. The idea was not to be grateful because someone gave you something or did something for you, but to be alert for things that might inspire your appreciation.

2. Every Sunday, instead of reading the Bible, she makes a list of things for which she's grateful. (She calls it her "Grateful List". Go figure.) These are things you might take for granted like running water, the ability to read, and so much that we might easily take for granted.

3. She sets aside prayer time specifically for thanking God. It is part of her prayer life. (More on this follows.)

4. She sets aside time for prayer for thanking God. You know, times when she should be grateful. In the kitchen fixing dinner she thanks God for being able to be in the kitchen fixing dinner. Getting out of bed she thanks God for being able to get out of bed.

5. She makes a point of thanking God for people before asking God for stuff for them.

6. She made a promise to God (that she is not yet keeping perfectly) to thank God for everything, most specifically for the hardships, the difficulties, the hurts, the annoyances. That could include health or red lights or disappointments from people or ...

She says this is a start. Sounds like a leap to me. Maybe gratitude isn't all it's cracked up to be, eh?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Conspiracy Theory

We seem to love them -- conspiracy theories. They've been around since the beginning of time. The first one on record was the serpent's when he asked Eve, "Did God say ...?", suggesting that the Godhead was trying to pull a fast one on Man. It never lets up after that. To this day people swallow these theories of conspiracy wholesale, as if they can't get enough.

No matter who you are, you've either heard some good ones or even believed them at some time or another. We all know, for instance, that Lee Harvey Oswald did not kill J.F.K. We're not agreed on who did, but it wasn't Oswald. There are conspiracies about aliens (Who doesn't know the word, "Roswell"?), the government, the CIA, the Illuminati. There are the drug problem among blacks and the worldwide AIDS crisis caused by white supremacists. The Moon landing was a myth, TWA Flight 800 was actually shot down, and Princess Diana was murdered. Some people recommend aluminum foil hats because "they" (We're never completely clear on who "they" are) are trying to read our minds ... and they can. There are the Freemasons, the ACLU, the Communists (still), and the Vatican. It has been suggested in fiction and bought into as fact that the entirety of Christianity was a conspiracy.

There are conspiracies on the grandest of scales. World War II was actually a plot by F.D.R. to try to recover from the Depression, brought about primarily by the Industrial Military Complex (IDC). (Remember that one. They're big in conspiracy theories.) The government, nay, the President himself, conspired to have us believe that 9/11 was done by Islamic terrorists when, in truth, it was the government. The banks are conspiring today to bankrupt the nation, thereby giving themselves ultimate power. Did you know that the NSA is monitoring everything you and I do? They know what you buy, where you go, what you do. They know who you call, when you get up in the morning, what you read, and what you do on the Internet. (Shame on you!) Every single bit of data is compiled and stored about every single human in this country ... and beyond. The goal is ultimate power, and they already have it, you stupid sheep! Did you know that President Bush started the Iraq War for oil? Or was it for the IDC? (See? I told you they were big.) Or maybe it was just to recover from looming recession? I don't know. Sometimes there are too many to keep up with. I even heard one recently that conspiracy theories were being disseminated by secret government agencies to cloud the truth about conspiracy theories. You know, that way you won't know a real one when you see it.

The disappointing thing is that so many Christians buy into so many of these theories. It seems like at least once a week I receive an email from some good-hearted Christian who is concerned that we are under the threat of some conspiracy and we need to act now! Write your congressman! Get out the vote! Stop the ACLU! As if 1) the grand conspiracy against God and His people started recently by human hands and 2) we have the capacity to stop it. Don't you recognize that the only good conspiracy will be one without evidence? (That was intended as humor. If you nodded sagely and agreed, you missed the point.)

In a time when politicians are pressing for our votes and we are struggling to select the lesser evil and a time when Christians are losing favorable standing in our society and a time when we are called on to be more "involved" -- you know, part of the solution, not part of the problem -- it seems to me that we're being pushed into action against something we aren't supposed to fight. We, as Christians, have some very specific orders. Make disciples. Love God. Love one another. There are several specific commands, but none of them include, "Defend Christianity against annihilation." Jesus said, "I will build My Church." Maybe the notion that we need to save Christianity is a conspiracy theory too far. Maybe we have more important things to do than wrestle with conspiracy theories. I know I do.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

What Do You Expect?

I talked to someone the other day and he told me he had an assignment at work. Every employee was required to write down what they expected from their employment there. What did they want to be? Where did they want to end up? What were they expecting? It seemed like an odd question, but I realized that expectations can often make us angry or frustrated when they're not met. I started thinking about Christianity in that light.

Talk to a hundred Christians and you'll likely get a hundred answers about what it is like to be a Christian. There are the high high Christians and the low low Christians. There are the "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" Christians, the "Majesty" Christians, and the "If We Are the Body" Christians. There are the shallow, the deep, and shades between. There are the slow but steady types and the ones that seem to skyrocket then burn out. There are deep thinkers with a lightweight relationship and ignorant believers with a deep, abiding love for the Master. There are "full time" Christians and "secular" Christians. In fact, I suspect that, just as in any human relationship, no two relationships with Christ are the same.

That's why I find it odd that we often tend think that they should be. We look at the Christians we admire and think, "Why isn't my experience more like his/hers?" We look at Christians that we don't want to emulate and often think, "Why is my experience so close to theirs?" It is extremely common for us to sit around and bemoan the fact that we are not the Christians we ought to be.

Part of the problem is an emotional one. We get discouraged. It's just the way we are. It's not logical. It's not a rational outlook. "Evaluating all the data, it appears that ..." No, we just ... feel bad. You know, like in any relationship. We want those we love to be happy with us and we know that we disappoint them, so we are discouraged. Never mind that they appear not to show any disappointment. Don't even think about the fact that they are full of forgiveness and don't even notice what we are are sure is a grave offense. We want to please those we love, and we fall short. It's true in human relationships. It is magnified in a relationship with the Almighty.

I suspect that more of the problem is that we are closer to Satan's side of the game than our Lord's side. We are justified, sure, but we are not righteous in action. So we sin and we miss the mark -- oh, that's the same thing. And then we listen to the roaring lion who tells us we messed up again rather than the sweet Shepherd who gave His life so that our messing up no longer mattered.

What do you expect? Do you expect to be sinless and aren't? Maybe you expect to be in a long-term, sweet emotional love with Christ ... even though no human can maintain such a thing with another human, much less Christ. Maybe you expect some measurable maturity, some deep doctrinal purity, forgetting that you are, after all, human, fallible, and in constant need of the Savior.

Maybe we ought to stop looking back. It usually doesn't help. Maybe, just maybe, we ought to try what Paul said. "One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14). Maybe, just maybe, if it was a good enough approach for Saint Paul, it is a good enough approach for us. Maybe we should simply take it on faith that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us and stop bemoaning what we aren't yet. After all, isn't that, ultimately, in the hands of God? Are you sure you want to complain about how far He's brought you or not?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Universal Health Care

Do you know what we really need? It's universal health care. That's right. Other countries have it. Why can't we? In fact, just like education, health care is a right. We need it. At least ... that's what they tell me. So, what does it take to get this fundamental right?

There are a few basic questions that always swirl around the universal health care concept. First, how do we pay for it? Second, what is the quality of health care? (You see, it's a given that we don't want an inferior health care system.) Third, how "universal" is it? Every health care system proposed has to answer these types of questions.

It's not too hard to find examples in other countries. Canada and many European countries have their various versions. Most people are aware, however, that most of these systems are paid for by large taxes but provide poor quality care. Besides poor quality there are typically too many limitations. That's why many Canadians with sufficient funds come to America to get their health care requirements met. In fact, as bad as American health care is purported to be, it seems that this is still the place to come for the best care.

Sweden and Denmark are often touted as exceptions. Denmark in particular is viewed as having a workable, affordable, high quality health care system for all. What about it? Well, in Sweden and Denmark the medical professions went on strike in April. In Denmark, some 93,000 medical workers were striking for higher wages, the biggest strike in Denmark in a decade. And they weren't asking for a pittance. They demanded more than a $1000 a month (668 euros) increase. And consider that the average worker in Denmark makes $22/hour. Of course, that's absolutely necessary since the income tax rate in Denmark approached 50% in 2000.

Still, that's Denmark. How would it fly in the U.S.? I have my reservations. Look, for instance, at our first modest attempt at a limited version. Medicare was supposed to insure all seniors. Instead of controlling prices, the cost has continued to skyrocket until it now comes close to collapsing on itself from its own weight. Besides the cost, many seniors are opting out of Medicare because of privacy issues. Or how about military health care? They offered it free of charge to all military personnel and their families. But when families figured out they didn't have to pay anything for it, they began abusing it. The system was becoming overwhelmed. The military considered charging for services. Eventually they went to an insurance system. For the military alone in the year 2008, the government appropriated $950 million on top of the existing health care fees and drug co-pays already charged to military members and their families. Interpolate those figures to include the whole country. Currently there are something in the vicinity of 1.4 million active duty personnel. That $950 million would cover, roughly, 3 million active duty members and their families. Quickly, then, to cover the entire 300 million Americans, we'd be looking at $95 billion ... to start. And I haven't yet heard an estimate that low. Of course, that's because the military provides a large amount of their own medical personnel, equipment, and facilities. Yeah ... this is going to hurt.

All of this is academic if the claim that this is a human right is true. If it is a human right, no amount of cost, no amount of sacrifice, no amount of argument is of any use. If it is a right, then we need to do whatever it takes to make it happen. It is a violation of humanity to fail to have our rights. And many are arguing just that: Universal health care is a human right. But it begs the question. If it is a right, why wasn't it delineated in our Constitution? Why isn't it listed in the Bill of Rights? Why is it that only in the last few decades anyone considered it such? Why was it never a human right in the past? That's a bit odd, isn't it?

I like the idea that everyone has access to excellent health care free of charge. I like the idea that no one would have to pay for doctor care or medical visits. I know people who have suffered because of the cost of care. And, of course, it wouldn't hurt my feelings to not have to pay for the high cost of insurance and the co-pays for doctors and medicine. Oh, and it really sounds nice to think that we could control the cost of medicines. But there is a cost involved in all of this. There is the financial cost. Nothing comes for free. What will it cost in quality when the medical field comes into price controls? What will it cost in privacy and security? What will it cost in freedom when the government decides? What will it cost in our society and our culture as we move away from the concept of personal independence and closer to government dependence? It's much more than financial. Is it a cost we're willing to pay?