Thursday, September 30, 2010


Perhaps you didn't hear about this. Back in June, 2010, a group of Christians were arrested in Dearborn, Michigan, for disorderly conduct. Their "disorderly conduct" was that they were at the Dearborn Arab International Festival handing out copies of the Gospel of John. Yeah, pretty disruptive, I know! Those arrested said that they were only speaking to those who were willing to speak with them. They had been doing this for many years. Of course, not the kind of thing the mainstream media likes to pick up.

Well, the four were just acquitted this week. They were found not guilty of the charges of disorderly conduct and released. It was an expensive proposition, defending themselves in court and all. They had financial support from other believers and legal defense from the Thomas More Law Center, but it was a week of expenses and it wasn't cheap. Still, they're happy to be vindicated ... I suppose until next year if the Dearborn Arab International Festival fires up again and they go back.

Getting into trouble with the local law enforcement isn't new to Christianity. It is, in fact, a problem from the beginning. The Apostles faced this very problem. Some were killed for their faith. Others were imprisoned. Some of the more stirring stories come from the book of Acts when men like Peter, Paul, and Silas are thrown in prison and enjoy miraculous releases. It's a funny thing, though. I don't find any accounts of where they hired lawyers and fought for their right to justice. Oh, Paul did speak on his own behalf -- "Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?" -- but that was intended to get him to Rome to share the Gospel, not to get out of facing consequences. Indeed, "This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar." So where do Christians get this idea that we ought to be defending our Constitutional rights? I don't know.

Americans live under the Constitution. The Constitution ensures rights. Americans are certainly free to defend their rights ensured by the Constitution. I would not suggest otherwise. But I'm disturbed by the sense that I get that the Constitution confers on Christians certain rights worth fighting for. The sense is that we ought not to be persecuted in this way. The idea seems to be that it's unfair to be faced with the kind of opposition that we face. "This is America! Christians shouldn't be persecuted here!" It is a mixed metaphor, so to speak, because Americans have rights under the Constitution, and Christians who are Americans have rights as Americans to defend themselves with the law, but Christians who expect no persecution are not reading their Bibles. Further, even if we can manage to use the Constitution (or other laws) to force our "rights", it isn't going to make disciples, and that, not "defend yourself", is our Great Commission.

Here, let me put this another way:
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matt 5:10-12).
Now, which headline would more clearly express this idea -- "Christian missionaries acquitted in Dearborn" or "Christian missionaries accept false charges in Dearborn"? Are the Dearborn Four more blessed because they were acquitted or because they were persecuted for righteousness' sake? I'm not sure that we Americans, accustomed to rights and comfort, could calmly answer with the latter.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hoping for Judgment

In a recent sermon from Jonah the preacher pointed out Jonah's "odd sermon". "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" That was it. Nothing like "Repent and avoid that!" No "out" offered. Just ... calamity. The preacher said that Jonah was "hoping for the destruction of Nineveh." And that, of course, is bad. Right?

We are commissioned to tell the good news, the Gospel. Some people think that means, "Tell them nice things." When Jesus preached the gospel, His message was "repent and believe." Some gospel, eh? Well, yes, it is. You see, without bad news there is no good news. So the "repent" message is no trivial part of the gospel. The problem of sin is essential to the gospel.

But what about Jonah's "mean streak"? Assuming that the preacher was right -- that Jonah was actually hoping for the destruction of Nineveh -- was that wrong? Our first reaction would be "Yes!" It's not nice to hope for judgment. It's not nice to pray for punishment on others. It's not nice. What it is, however, is biblical.

You can't read through the Psalms without coming across what are called the "imprecatory psalms". In these passages the psalmist calls down curses and prayers for punishment. Indeed, to imprecate is to invoke evil on. These psalms show believers begging the throne of heaven for judgment. These passages may cause confusion to readers, but one thing is clear. There is nothing in the Scriptures that denies or negates them. There is nothing that suggests, "They shouldn't have done that." More difficult to explain away, however, is the image from Revelation. In chapter 6 the scene is in God's presence. In verse 9 we are told of an altar under which are the souls of all who had been slain for the Word of God. Verse 10 says, "They cried out with a loud voice, 'O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before You will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?'" Now, we know that in heaven we are not given to sin. We are not tempted, not fighting the flesh. In heaven we are without sin. And in that condition these souls call for judgment.

I don't know if Jonah was hoping for the destruction of Nineveh. I would guess, based on his reaction in chapter 4, that he was. True enough. But was that wrong? I would have to say, based on so many biblical witnesses, that a hope for God's justice and vindication should not be considered a bad thing. I would suspect that we think of it that way because we more closely identify with sinful Man than with a holy and righteous God. Now that is not a good thing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Unconditional Forgiveness

The preacher assured us that "Forgiveness is unconditional!" And that, I'm pretty sure, is a common perception. Any attempt at suggesting conditions are likely to be interpreted as placing conditions on salvation -- "earning" salvation. Well, that's what he said. "No, forgiveness must be unconditional because we can never earn grace." Being the open-minded person that I am, I had a problem with that. If forgiveness was actually unconditional, then the only possible logical outcome was universal salvation. If there are no conditions, then there is no unforgiven sin. Now, the preacher would surely not buy that. "No," he would likely say, "forgiveness is not conditioned on anything we do. It's conditioned on what God does." Or something like it. Let's take a look.

Important to the discussion is to arrive at a reasonable definition of "forgiveness". Many see "forgiveness" as the opposite of "bear a grudge" or "bitterness". Interestingly, the definition, "to cease to feel resentment toward", is way down the list in the dictionary. Instead, the first two definitions are "to grant pardon for" and "to give up all claim" respectively. So these would be better starting points for the definition of the word.

Still, the Bible is abundantly clear that we are to forgive "as your Father in heaven". That is, we're supposed to forgive as God does. Moreover, the primary question in the concept of unconditional forgiveness is God's forgiveness. Is His forgiveness without condition? So how does God forgive? First, God does not always forgive. That must indicate that it is not unconditional. God offers forgiveness to all, but does not grant it to all. Second, forgiveness from God has a primary point: reconciliation. It isn't simply an opportunity for God to "let it go and move on." No, no. God forgives for the purpose of reconciling. So if a person does not repent -- does not intend to change direction -- in what possible sense can there be reconciliation?

In an article by A. B. Caneday, Professor of New Testament Studies & Biblical Theology, on the topic of forgiveness, the two primary Greek verbs translated in our English Bibles as "forgive" both have "sin" as their direct objects and not the sinner. The one receiving the forgiveness is an indirect object. That is, sin, not people, is what is forgiven. You know this. Forgiveness is always stated in terms of "forgiveness of sins", not "forgiveness of people". Indeed, there is a sense in which sin cannot be forgiven. Justice demands payment. God cannot simply wink at sin. "Oh, forget about it. It's okay. Let's just act like it never happened." This, in fact, would be an affront to His Son, His Justice, His Holiness. God's forgiveness is predicated on justice and mercy. It is predicated on a debt paid, not simply dismissed.

The Bible has much to say on the topic of forgiveness. Look, for instance, at the parable of the forgiven servant (Matt 18:21-35). The king (representing God) was prepared to collect the debt, not forgive unconditionally. It was the servant's plea for mercy that got his debt forgiven.

Jesus taught about repentance in a similar passage in Luke.
If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him" (Luke 17:3-4).
First, "If your brother sins, let it go. Pardon him. Don't push it." No! "Rebuke him!"

Second, there is no limitation to forgiveness. That is, if transgressed seven times a day, forgive seven times a day. But, there is a condition offered -- if he "turns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent.'" It does not say, "regardless of whether he repents or not." This unlimited forgiveness is conditioned on repentance. Forgiveness given unconditionally cheapens forgiveness, mitigates sin, and diminishes Christ's blood. Unconditional forgiveness robs the recipient of the necessary consequences of and repentance for their sins.

What are some of the conditions of forgiveness? Sin must be paid for. "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (Eph 4:32). Repentance is necessary. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us" (1 John 1:8-10). We have to be ready to forgive. "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt 6:14-15). There are conditions. One very common objection I've seen to this is from Jesus's words on the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). "See? Unconditional." Is it? Jesus asked for their forgiveness (based, apparently, on their ignorance). Do you conclude that everyone there was forgiven? And when Stephen made the same prayer? Were they all forgiven as well? Or were these requests that may or may not have been granted? And, if these were all forgiven, on what possible basis could you argue that any sin is not forgiven?

So, the obvious question is, "What if they don't repent?" Our natural inclination is to ask, "Are you saying that it's okay to bear a grudge if they don't repent?" That's not at all what I'm suggesting. I can't say this with enough emphasis: Not forgiving someone does not mean that we hold them hostage to our hurt and anger. The alternative to "forgive" is not "hate, begrudge, revenge." We know at the outset that we must "See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled" (Heb 12:15). Before we think any further, toss out "bitterness" as an option. Throw away revenge, as well, because "'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord." No, I'm not suggesting that we maintain hostilities in any sense. Instead, like God, we must always be ready to forgive. It must be held out as an option, ready to go when needed. You can't do that with anger or resentment hanging over you. We must rebuke, pray for, and love those who sin against us. That's the position to take when someone does not repent. And, of course, when they do? Like a loaded gun with a hair trigger, if we take this attitude, then at the very moment they repent we'll be ready to forgive, to set aside the debt, to reconcile.

The Bible, it seems to me, is abundantly clear that God's forgiveness is predicated on repentance. "Oh, so you do have to earn your salvation, eh?" I would say "no" because Scripture also says that God grants repentance. That is, God supplies the necessary condition upon which He forgives. Still, this doesn't eliminate the condition. It can be rather difficult to think in terms of "conditional forgiveness". We're told that we're supposed to always forgive everything. I think that's a product of a therapeutic society with no real concept of justice or sin. It's not only unrealistic. It's wrong. If Christ needed to die to pay for our sin, surely we cannot ignore the price of sin. Surely God doesn't hold us to a standard higher than He has for Himself. If God requires of us that we forgive unconditionally, then we must also affirm that He does the same ... and we're back at the problem of universal salvation. That can't be true. So neither can the concept of unconditional forgiveness.

Monday, September 27, 2010


No, this is not about Katy Perry and the Sesame Street thing. It's not about Katy Perry at all, really. She's just the catalyst. The catalyst for what?

CBS News did a story on Katy Perry recently. For those of you who don't follow pop music stars, she is the singer who made it big time with her single ... oh, how did CBS put it? ... her "anthem to bisexual curiosity", I Kissed A Girl ("and I liked it"). And maybe, while you were not following pop music, you also missed the recent news item where parents complained about a piece for Sesame Street which included Katy Perry and Elmo. Too much cleavage, apparently. It was cut from the show. So what else did the story have to say?

I was fascinated to learn that Katy Hudson (her actual name) was born and raised in Santa Barbara, California, where she first started singing at the age of nine -- gospel songs. Yeah! Who knew? Turns out her parents are ... what was the line? ... "born-again evangelical pastors." How about that? Perry first started singing Christian stuff. Her goal was to be the next Amy Grant. It fell flat. She said that her life originally had no "outside influences", which limited her perspective. "My friends all had the same life. They all went to church with me, went to church school, you know, we went to church camp." It wasn't until she started singing and getting contracts and all that "influences started trickling in", and now we have this new Katy Perry. No longer the nine-year-old gospel singer, she puts on shows wearing whip cream bras, appears nude in her videos, and is known for pushing the envelope. How did her parents react? You know, the "born-again evangelical pastors"? According to the news article, "Perry's parents signaled their approval of their daughter's career change by making a cameo appearance in the video for her next hit, 'Hot 'n' Cold.'" Well, there ya go! Her parents applaud her! "Good job, Katy! We're proud of you!"

Like I said, it's not about Katy Perry. She has done what many -- most -- have come to expect. She's tossed aside that silly "born-again evangelical" influence and flaunted what she's got. I mean, seriously, why be a Christian if you can be famous? No, it's about raising Christian children. You see, it looks as if her parents did everything right. They're "born again". They're "evangelical". They're even "pastors". ("Pastors" plural? Hmmm.) They kept their daughter from all that worldly influence. They encouraged her to use her talents for God. (The church she went to bought Perry her first guitar.) Everything right ... right? Or did they? Is that what it takes? When her parents self-identify as "born-again evangelicals" and encourage an "anthem to bisexual curiosity", there seems to be something wrong. More to the point, when outside influences simply eliminate anything Christian, what does that say about the Christian influences?

Christian parents who think that they can shelter their children into lifelong Christian values are horribly mistaken. Blocking outside influences is not the answer. If your approach is to remove negative influences, it won't likely work. "Yeah, that's your opinion," some might suggest. So how about this person's view? "And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful." Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

In terms of the standard "bringing up children", it will typically work in a manner similar to training a cocker spaniel. You can teach that dog how to behave using consequences and rewards. A swat to show that action was bad. A treat to show this action was good. Feed them from the table and they will become a nuisance at dinner time. And so it goes. As long as you maintain an system of rewards and consequences, your cocker spaniel will learn to operate within that system. And so with children. The difference, of course, is that children grow up and move out. They go to college, to work, get married, move on. And when they do, the system of rewards and consequences change. Now a different set of acceptable actions is applied with different motivational factors. And if a parent hasn't prepared his or her child for that environment, then all their careful work at bringing them up is null and void.

So, what's the answer? Well, from a purely functional approach, parents need to prepare their children, not shelter them. They need to train them, not block them. They need to get them ready in advance for what will be on their plate later on. You may think that sheltering them is protecting them, and, I suppose, it is for a time, but to protect them beyond your influence takes more work and less shelter. Of course, the real answer beyond the purely functional one is something else. If your kids are to hold their ground when influences shift and environments change, they are going to need something that the standard kid doesn't have. They are going to need the work of the Holy Spirit in them. And that's far more important than any training you can provide.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Just a Closer Walk with Thee

25 Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. 28 But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works (Psa 73:25-28).
Sure, this is just the tail end of the psalm. There's a whole lot more in it. It speaks of the sin of the psalmist (Asaph). It talks about the sin of the people. It speaks about bitterness against God, and how God still held on to him. All good stuff. So it simply magnifies this conclusion.

Sometimes it's true for me, too. Sometimes I can honestly say to God, "Besides You, I desire nothing on earth." Sometimes. Not often enough. And in those times that it's not true, I shortchange myself, taking the lesser over the greater. You see, it is always true that "as for me, the nearness of God is my good", even when I don't realize it.

It's always true for you as well. While we often manage to pull up a whole list of "good" from pizza to patriotism, the real good we too often miss is "the nearness of God". The true value in life is knowing Christ (Phil 3:8). Oh, that we would realize that more often. Genuine good is being in close relationship with God. Today is a good day to remember that.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Home Schooling

There are a growing number of families these days who are switching over to home schooling. Still an extreme minority, these tend to be parents who are convinced that what is being taught in schools available to them is of little value at best and detrimental at worst. In truth, any parent with kids in school needs to be aware of that. Schools, regardless of private or public, Christian or secular, are institutions which will teach things that parents likely won't want taught. Parents who keep their kids in school of whatever sort these days will either willingly submit their kids to these things or need to remain vigilant to counteract them.

In truth, however, it is not an extreme minority that is home schooling. In fact, it is all families. Since immersion is the best way to learn things and children learn best what they are immersed in at home, all families are home schooling. The question becomes, "What are they teaching?"

Kids learn from what their parents say. They learn what their parents think is true or false, but they also learn whether or not their parents believe what they say. Kids learn that "Come here" may mean "if you feel like it", "whenever you want", or "right now." They might hear, "It's good to do charity" but that it's not really true because you never do. Parents may tell their kids, "It's good to control your temper", but something entirely different when they see you drive. Telling your kids you love them and ignoring them while you sit in front of a television teaches your kids something, and it's not love. Words are important, but, as they say, actions speak louder than words.

Kids learn from what their parents do. Involvement in church, community, and family all tend to lead toward kids who are involved in church, community, and family. Parents who make their children a priority teach their kids that they are loved, and that kids are a priority. A father who is transparent with his successes and failures, strengths and shortcomings is teaching his children something valuable. To say, "You shouldn't do x" and to have them say, "But ... I've seen you do x" needs an answer. Sometimes it's "Adults can, but kids can't" and sometimes it's "You're right and it's something I'm trying to stop; I'm telling you not to do it so you won't have to struggle like I do." And it will be very hard to convince a son that he needs to love his wife sacrificially or a daughter that she needs to submit to her husband when a father doesn't love his wife sacrificially or a mother doesn't submit to her husband.

One of the most important aspects of this home schooling is the depth of what is taught. Whether it is negative or positive, it is burned into the child's life. Trying to "unteach" error of this type is very hard to do. Simple explanation, logic, even evidence is normally insufficient to wrench out errors learned at home. You see, when it comes to that, it isn't the errors you are trying to remove; it is an attack on family. It is an assault on history. Whether you want to teach a child who grew up unloved that there is a Father who loves her or you want to convince him that the theology he learned at home is in error, it is doubly hard to unlearn.

All kids are home schooled. What are you teaching? What you say and what you do are teaching your children. Are you teaching them truth?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Arguing the Point

Where I work we had a crisis in progress. One of our pieces of equipment wasn't working. It had to be fixed. The problem, however, was vague. It could be that the hardware itself had a problem. It could be that the firmware running the hardware could be faulty. Or it could be that the software running the system had an error. So I gathered the firmware and hardware engineers (I'm the software guy) to have us each take a look and see what we could find. It didn't take long at all, unfortunately, to figure out that the hardware guy was not particularly interested in looking at the hardware. "It worked when I designed it. It can't be the hardware." It took a little longer to figure out the real point. "If it turns out that the hardware is defective, that will reflect poorly on me, so I'm not going to allow for that possibility." As a result, any discussion about hardware was pointless. While I thought we were discussing possibilities which included hardware, it turned out that we were actually discussing this engineer's ability to do his job. And that wasn't the point at all.

I don't really know how often this scenario plays itself out in day-to-day existence, but it is my suspicion that it is far more common than most of us realize. And it extends to almost anything you'd care to discuss. Many Christians will argue, for instance, that Evolution cannot be true, not because they have a problem with the science, but because they realize that Evolution is diametrically opposed to Christianity (theism) and, therefore, push back on Evolution to defend Christianity. Many atheists will argue for Evolution for similar reasons. They couldn't actually tell you what it was that convinced them that it was true. They can't actually give the logic train or pile of evidence that proved it to them. It's just that a pre-commitment to a naturalistic paradigm requires that they, out of hand, reject Christianity in favor of ... anti-Christianity. If they give in on Evolution, they're stuck with theism, and that just won't do.

Those are just examples. You'll find it in discussions on politics, religion, sex, or whether or not the hardware is broken. You'll find it anywhere you turn. The other day I asked a contractor working on our building if he would install the required electrical connections that were called for. His response was defensive. "Well, I just didn't know where you needed them and I didn't trust the drawings and ..." My request wasn't an attack. It was simply a notification. But if he admitted that he hadn't done his job yet, he would be admitting, at least in his mind, that he wasn't doing his job. Of course, not being privy to this private conversation going on in his mind, I was baffled at first at his response. "No, no rush. No, not complaining. No, I don't have a problem with the fact that it hasn't been put in yet." I had to back pedal all over the place to get around to, "Yes, we'll be putting that in sometime in the near future." That was all I wanted. So you'll find this everywhere.

It's hard to avoid, actually. The truth is, most of us do it some time or another. "If I admit that I made a mistake, it will reflect badly on me and that's not acceptable, so I won't admit to the error." "If I agree that he has a point about that biblical passage, it will bring down several of my positions. Rather than allow for that, I'll have to argue against that point." "Sure, she's just telling me that the on ramp is coming up, but I feel like she's telling me that I'm not a reliable driver, so this will be an argument." So I can't fix that. All I'm hoping for here is to 1) make you aware that you might be doing it like all of us do, and 2) make you aware that some of the debates in which you engage seem to be about A, but are actually about an unspoken B. Perhaps, if you tune your ear a bit, you can recognize it. And if you recognize it, perhaps that will help reshape the discussion to what the actual point is rather than the point you thought you were arguing, whether it's your underlying point or theirs.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

That's Not Fair!

My friend, Danny, did an important piece on "That's Not Fair!" over at his blog the other day. He pointed out a couple of very important points. First, it's not fair from Man's perspective, the (fallacious) starting point of this typical complaint especially when it's lodged against God. And he pointed out that the absence of God makes the argument irrelevant. Without a genuine "fair" standard with which to compare it, there is no such thing as "fair" or "unfair".

He got me to thinking. You will typically hear this complaint when, as in his example, "He got four cookies and I only got one. That's not fair!" That is, when "he" gets and I don't, we'll complain. Rarely do you hear the complaint, "I got four cookies and he got only one. That's not fair!" Extremely rare. And you will almost never hear, "I got four cookies and he got only one ... take my extra three back." You see, we only compare about "fair" when it is we who are losing out.

I saw a guy wearing a T-shirt the other day that read in big letters, "I Want Justice Now!" In smaller letters underneath it said, "Or else, let it be injustice in my favor." That's about the idea. And you know something? That's not fair.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Legislating Morality

"You can't legislate morality," they say. And you'll find lots of people who agree -- probably most. So let's be clear, first. When they say this, many mean that passing laws based on moral values will not make people moral. As an example, making murder (we all think that's immoral) illegal hasn't stopped murder. And it's true. Laws, moral or otherwise, do not make people moral people. Okay, fine.

Still, the term is simply wrong. The term, "legislate", simply means "to make or enact laws". Is it possible to make or enact laws based on moral values? Well, of course it is! In fact, most laws are based on moral values. An example of that would be speeding laws, because we think it is moral to have safe streets. "No, no," the objector cries. "Laws should be based on civil values, not moral values." Okay, perhaps, but this presupposes that it is more moral to pass laws based on safety and order than on "right and wrong". Indeed, the objection is that "safety and order" is "right and wrong". Since "morality" is simply "the things we value as right and wrong", then "civil values" are part of "morality" and the objector spirals into circular logic. Or, let me rephrase it. If "morality" is "right and wrong" and "It is wrong to pass laws based on right and wrong", we're in a circle. Laws are based on moral values, so there is no actual question of whether or not you can "legislate morality". We do it all the time.

So what is intended with the objection, "You can't legislate morality"? It is almost always with the intent of warding off "the religious right". You see, the perception is that if a Christian thinks something is immoral, he or she must also believe that it should be illegal. And if you look at what Christians believe to be immoral, we're looking at quite a long list of new laws. Adultery, once actually against the law, will need to go back on the books. The Bible is clear that it is a sin to commit homosexual acts, but I don't see Christians writing to their congressman to get that one on the books. No one questions whether or not sexual relations outside of marriage is sin, but we're not urging our legislative bodies to outlaw sex apart from marriage. No, it doesn't make sense. Still, it's the fear. "If we're going to legislate morality, whose morality do we use?" That's their question. The obvious answer (because I've never seen anyone actually answer their own question) is simply "Not God's morality ... that's for sure."

Here's the problem. While they're arguing that we can't legislate morality, they are legislating morality. They pass laws to alter the definition of marriage to something else ... a moral position. They argue that civil laws -- laws "to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity" -- are the way we should go ... which is a statement on what is right and wrong -- a moral position. Conversely, when you point out that, say, adultery destroys union, defies justice, disturbs domestic tranquility, takes from the general welfare, and removes liberty from both ourselves and our posterity, well, that's definitely not something we can discuss. "That would be a moral position and we have already determined that your morality will not be the deciding factor here."

And that, you see, is the real point. When you hear "You can't legislate morality" meaning "you ought not", understand what is being said. What is really intended is "We will not allow for your moral views and will, instead, substitute our moral views." That's really the point here. Even saying "You can't legislate morality" is a moral perspective that says, "It's wrong to try." So don't let them fool you into thinking that "You can't legislate morality." The question is not whether you can or can't. The question really is who is doing it ... because it is being done.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Violating Human Rights

Whoa, whoa! Somehow this one managed to get under the radar ... at least mine. So here I am, minding my own business, and suddenly I find out that our Beloved President has reported Arizona to the U.N. as a violator of human rights. What??!!

Okay, I get it. The world hates America, or at least a good portion of the world does. And I get it. More than 30% of Americans think that it is wrong to enforce federal immigration law. Fine. I get it. But even though the federal lawsuit against Arizona (that phrase still rings horribly in my ears) succeeded in taking all the tooth out of Arizona's law to enforce federal law, the White House is still on the warpath with our state. And we are now violators of human rights. We want to stop the drug traffic, the human traffic, the deaths in the desert, the violation of federal law ... and we're violating human rights.

Now, of course, the law that we passed that arrests brown-skinned people without cause and the law that we are working on to allow "shoot on sight" rules for anyone suspected of being in the country illegally ... sure ... those might be construed as violations of human rights ... except that they don't exist, never have, and (as far as I can tell) never will.

From all around there are calls to boycott Arizona. The feds are suing us repeatedly. My brother-in-law asked for a "divorce". "I don't think I can be related to someone who is a 'human rights violator'." So at what point can it be said that the war against Arizona is violating our human rights?

Means and Ends

A friend shared a parable with me years ago. A small group of friends set out to climb a previously unclimbed peak. They traveled until they came to a chasm. It spread too far in either direction, so, pooling their skills and resources, they fashioned a bridge with which to cross and headed on. Awhile later they came to a bigger, wider chasm. Again they set about with engineering and creativity to build another bridge across. By the time they finished the third such bridge at the third such chasm, a group of climbers behind them caught up and asked how they had accomplished such feats. So they, for a fee, explained their expertise. In fact, so lucrative was this little enterprise that they set up a thriving little bridge-building company on the route to teach and equip others to do the task ... and they got rich, but never ended up at the peak. "It was," he explained, "like the finger pointing to the moon. They focused on the finger rather than the moon. They got caught up in the process instead of looking at the purpose."

That's us so many times. Take, for instance, sex. (Got your attention? You know ... sex sells.) The Bible is clear that the purpose of sex is two-fold: the union of marriage partners and reproduction. To enable and enhance (means) that process, God made it pleasurable. He really did. The Bible affirms that. "And it was very good." Okay so far. But today we've focused on the finger rather than the moon to which it points. We've settled into a bridge-building business, seeing the pleasure of sex as the primary goal instead of the genuine purpose of union and reproduction that God intended. And to suggest today that sex is something more than simply pleasure becomes pointless. We've swallowed the means as the end and lost sight, even among Christians.

The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil. This forms a second example of the confusion of ends and means. We all understand that we have needs to meet. These needs are not necessarily evil or irrational. We need to eat, to have shelter, and other such to live. In our world that is accomplished primarily by earning money to get them. That's how it started. That's not how it ends. We find that we "need" more. More space, more stuff, more of everything. So we work to meet the "needs" of our children by sending both parents to work ... neglecting the children. We struggle to meet our growing "needs" by working hard at making more money and eventually we end up working hard to make more money without "needs" in mind at all. We lose sight of the purpose (meeting essentials) and focus on the means (making money) and we end up lost again.

It works in reverse, too. We work really hard at avoiding trouble. We don't want pain, suffering, anything that is uncomfortable. Even as Christians we consider it unfair that the good should encounter bad circumstances. It's wrong! Of course, that's not what Paul says.
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Cor 4:16-18).
In this passage distinguish between "means" and "end". According to Paul "momentary, light affliction" is not an end to avoid, but a means to embrace. It is a means to "producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison." So while we cry and complain about affliction, we forget that it is a means to an end -- an end we should want.

It's everywhere. The process that we call "justice" was supposed to be a quest to arrive at the truth for the sake of justice, but today it's a contest of lawyers to see who can win regardless of the truth. In politics it was supposed to be the task of representing the people, but today it's a fight to win the fight, to get the office, to even support the party. The people have very little to do with it. For instance, how many Christians voted for "change" without knowing what it would be or where it would go? Confusing means and ends. Nowhere is it more prevalent than in the church today. While we are commanded to "make disciples", the best we seem to be able to do is make converts (the starting point of "disciple"). More prevalent is the attempt to make friends, to make entertainment, to make numbers, to appease the world. So many have shifted to the "social gospel" instead of the actual Gospel. Many preach a moral message when the Bible presents morality as a means to an end -- a living reflection of Christ ... you know ... like the name "Christian" implies. Means and ends are confused over and over again.

I started thinking about this a short while ago and I realized that this is so very often a problem for us in so many cases. Try it out yourself. I know that I suffer from it myself. I bet you do, too. How often do you mistake the means as the end? How often do you focus on the short term when the long term is the actual goal? How often do you indulge in sin because of short term instead of avoiding sin in favor of the long term? I would guess that, if you're anything like me, you do it far more often than you realize.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Limitations of Truth

I remember as a kid watching some of those exciting car chases in the movies. The good guys would be chasing the bad guys at high speed through the town. The bad guys would come up to traffic, whip onto the sidewalk, and scatter people and (always, it seemed) cafe tables as they roared through. The good guys would have to find an alternate route because driving up on sidewalks and running people over was a bad thing. And then, if the good guy didn't catch the bad guy, he'd have to slam on his brakes and come to a screeching halt inches away from the poor man in the wheelchair, the mother with the baby carriage, or the school kids crossing the street. And it always struck me back then that the bad guys always had the advantage over the good guys. You see, they had less limitations. I mean, they couldn't do things to hurt themselves, obviously, but, being bad, they had no concerns about injuring bystanders or damaging property. That wasn't their problem. They didn't care. Speed limits? What did that matter since they had already committed a felony? No, it sure looked like the bad guys had a definite advantage over the good guys.

A while back I was sitting and talking with a friend who also reads my blog. We were discussing a conversation going on in the comments. He said, "You know you're at a disadvantage, don't you?" "What do you mean?" "Well," he said, "you have to make sense ... and they don't." The "bad guys" definitely seem to have an advantage there, don't they? They're not limited by logic, by truth, by fact, certainly not by that silly old "the Bible is the Word of God" line.

So it is always the case, it seems. It is perfectly plausible that you could argue for whatever is your favorite deviance. Defy reason. Ignore (or twist) Scripture. Forget about facts. Be your own standard of measure. It's far, far easier than all these limitations. Trying to argue a point with valid logic and factual evidence and reasonable lines of thinking, especially if you're using the Bible to do it ... now that is hard work. It's far easier to avoid all that and come to the conclusion you desire.

Of course, there is one other consideration. That "far easier" way generally leads to the wrong conclusion. But, hey, that shouldn't be a problem, right? I mean, that whole pesky "truth" thing, by its nature, eliminates everything that is false. Who wants to be that narrow-minded?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bad Things and Good People

I generally try to write upbeat things for praising God on Sundays. This may seem like I missed that mark. I don't think so. When you're done reading it, see if you don't agree.

The oh-so-common question hangs out there all the time: "Why do bad things happen to good people?" My canned answer is, I believe, true -- "They don't. There are no good people." -- but I have to admit that it's unsatisfying. I mean, aren't Christians "justified" -- declared righteous? Sure, Jesus said, "No one is good except God alone" but it's also true that "For our sake He made Him to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21). "Okay ... sure ... we are not good, but we are declared good, so, Stan, how about a genuine answer?" Can we actually provide an answer to the question? I think so.

First, I need to be careful here. God has specific reasons for specific things and I would not want to try to delve into His specific ideas because, well, He hasn't seen fit to share them with me. So I won't be doing specifics. On the other hand, the Bible is not mute on the subject. So let's go with what we can know. We know, for instance, that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him. It naturally follows, then, that "bad things" are not, in the final analysis, bad. So remember that what we're talking about is the unpleasant, the uncomfortable, the painful -- suffering -- but not bad. Still, what's good about suffering? Well, here's a list of things I found in my Bible. You check yours and see if you have any of these, too.

1. Suffering unites sufferers. That is, when you suffer and I suffer we share a sort of brotherhood. Well, let's read it from Peter: "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world" (1 Peter 5:8-9). There is, then, a general unity in shared pain. That is true both for shared trials among fellow Christians as well as the special connection it makes between believers and Christ when we share in the same sort of trials as Christ.

2. Suffering for Christ is a promised gift. Paul says, "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake" (Phil 1:29).

3. Your individual troubles provide a platform from which you can comfort others. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort, too" (2 Cor 1:3-5).

4. Suffering tests (tries and proves) the genuineness of your faith. Proven faith results in praise and glory to Christ. All good stuff. Peter wrote, "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith -- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire -- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:6-7). Note, by the way, that Peter believed that faith needed to be tested and that trials were necessary.

5. Trials of various kinds produce patience and patience produces the completed Christian. Suffering, then, is the necessary process of perfecting believers. James put it this way: "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).

6. In the afflictions that we bear, though brief in terms of time, we are prepared for eternal glory. Paul wrote, "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen" (2 Cor 4:17-18).

There you go. There are some genuine answers to the question. They are good things. Suffering is a promised gift from God that unites believers with believers and believers with Christ. They prepare us for specialized ways of comforting those who follow in the same trials. They prove faith and glorify Christ. They produce patience, ultimately ending with perfection. They serve as temporal preparations for eternal glory. And that's just the broad spectrum ideas. You can find more, I'm sure. There are more specifics, more personal notes, even more Scriptures, I'm quite sure. Look for yourself. One thing that we cannot conclude, however, is that bad things actually happen to good people. It is certain that unpleasant things happen to justified people, but no one but God is genuinely good in themselves and God works all things together for good, so the unpleasant isn't bad. So if all the unpleasant things in life are actually good for those who love God, I think that's a very good reason to praise God.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What Makes a Family?

I've argued for some time now that a fundamental component of "family" is children. I've argued that, from a biblical perspective, a primary purpose of marriage is offspring. It, of course, isn't acceptable in today's world to make such statements. After all, if that's the case, then "same-sex marriage" is (as I've always argued) a non sequitur. There is no such thing.

As it turns out, there is apparently something in the minds of today's Americans that agrees with me at some subconscious level. According to a recent report from ABC News, the primary factor that determines "family" is ... children. For instance, while 99.8% of Americans agreed that a husband, wife, and children count as "family", only 92% thought of a husband and wife without children as family. Asked if an unmarried man and woman living together were a family, only 40% said so. But asked if that couple included some kids, and the number went up to 83%. The numbers were similar for a homosexual couple without and with children. Only 33% thought of a childless pair of homosexuals as a family, but add a child to the home and it went up to 64%. It seems, then, that there is something in the psyche of Americans that identifies "family" with "children", beyond biological connection. (That is, it didn't matter if the child was adopted or not, for instance.) It seems that Americans inherently understand that a fundamental part of "family" includes "children". They just don't seem to want to admit it.

Now, before I get too excited over this affirmation that I was right, I need to add this other line from the study. "Sixty percent of Americans in 2010 said that if you considered yourself to be a family, then you were one." Okay, so, there you go. Some 60% of Americans believe that you are what you believe yourself to be. If you believe "Me and my dog are a family", your belief is not only allowed, but reality. So from that perspective, we learn two things. First, at least for 60% of Americans, the word "family" has no genuine meaning. Second, for at least 60% of Americans, there is no reasonable thinking. Words in general mean whatever you want them to. All things are relative, based on whatever you want to think. Reality is based on what you believe it to be. And my "support" goes out the window. "Yeah, Stan, you're right. Kids are an essential part of the definition of marriage and family! Of course, that's true for you because you believe it. It's not true for those who don't. But, hey! We're behind you." Thanks. Sigh.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fatherly Advice

The other day I asked for insight on what a parent should do if an adult child is heading off in a wrong direction. I got some reasonably good responses, but I received this one via email and found it quite helpful. I figured that if anyone else was facing the same question (and anyone with children, adult or otherwise, will be), perhaps it will be beneficial to you as well. So I share this with you all. I didn't write it. My father did.
We are deeply concerned about the direction our adult children and grandchildren take. I believe we have a responsibility to, in love, clearly explain the sorrow, hurt, and why you are grieved and concerned about the direction they are taking. If the Adult Child were mine, here's the steps to consider.


2. Ask the Holy Spirit to examine my life to see where I may have failed the child and purpose to ask forgiveness.

3. Find a time to meet without distractions.

4. Start the meeting by asking forgiveness (if needed). Then ask if there are actions that have not been helpful in the child's difficult circumstances.

5. Express your deep sadness, grief, and sorrow for the direction he/she is taking and the concern for the sad results of not going God's way.

6. Express how the Holy Spirit is grieved by not going God's way

7. Explain from scripture the clear instructions concerning God's commandments.

8. Let him/her know that you will be praying that they go God's way.
Very wise, I think. Insightful. I suppose it's from much practice ... you know, having an adult child who makes wrong choices. Again, sorry for that, Dad. Thanks for caring enough to put yourself on the line, and thanks for this input on the question.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Advantages of Being Narrow-minded

If you are a Christian, a genuine follower of Christ who believes in the Bible and all it teaches, be prepared. You are ... narrow-minded. Yes, you. You're not a "free thinker" (defined, oddly, as "one who doubts or denies religious dogma"). By aligning yourself with all that stuff you stand in opposition to all sorts of stuff like "free love" and science and ... well, all sorts of stuff. You, you ... you narrow-minded bigot! Of course, the label is common, but the truth is far from it. Consider a couple of examples.

The Bible teaches that sex was created by God for a man and woman who are married. "Oh, now that's narrow-minded." It is only for the man and woman who are married, and it is primarily for the purpose of reproduction. "See? Prude! Puritan! Victorian!" And so, if we concur with the biblical perspective, we are the ones who are "narrow". The "open minded" among us see sex as entertainment. No limits. No "primary purpose" except personal pleasure. Now that's broad thinking, see? Of course, I'd have to answer with "No". The biblical perspective on sex holds it in much higher regard than the standard view of today. It is physical, sure, but it is much, much more. It is emotional (which is being more and more disregarded today) and, beyond that, spiritual. It is the mystical union of man and woman. The two become one in much more than a merely physical sense. It is an actual joining beyond the simple connection of bodies or senses. All of that is far outside the perspective of the modern "free thinker". It cannot be. The Bible is abundantly clear that sex is pleasurable. You can't read the Song of Solomon without coming to that clear conclusion. Solomon quite wisely counseled young husbands regarding their wives, "Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight" (Prov 5:18-19). The high view, then, that the Bible holds for sexual relations certainly includes the "free thinker" concept that it's pleasurable and good. So, if the "narrow" view includes a high regard for sex as well as a genuine appreciation for its pleasure, but the "open" view only allows for pleasure, which is the broader view?

How about the "science versus faith" controversy? If you are a follower of the Bible, you will certainly end up on the "bad" side of that fight. You are narrow-minded if you think that "God created the Earth" and all that nonsense. The "open-minded" folk know that there is no god. Stephen Hawking assured us of what atheistic science has claimed all along -- that science (with a prerequisite commitment to pure physicalism) doesn't need God anymore because science has all the answers. Now that is "free thinking". Or ... is it? You see, we who claim that God created all that is are the only ones with the answer to the question, "How can there be something from nothing?" We're the only ones with a rational explanation of the vast data encoded in DNA. We are the only ones with answers to the origins of life. Further, because we are committed to "God created" does not mean that we cannot appreciate science. It was, after all, the perspective that God created everything and, being a rational being, would likely have made the universe rational that started modern scientific inquiry. No, believing in a Divine Being encourages the enjoyment of "thinking God's thoughts after Him" -- of scientific studies. So we have one side that denies any possibility of the supernatural and the other side which embraces both the supernatural and the natural. So ... why is it that the side with only the natural is labeled "free thinking" while the side that embraces both is "narrow-minded"?

It's an interesting thought exercise. The more you meander down this road of biblical versus worldly thinking, the more evident it becomes that biblical thinking is much broader than worldly thinking. It seems like those who are "open-minded" let their brains leak out or something. I'll take the "narrow-minded" label any day if it means I can see more broadly than the "open-minded". Of course, we're going to have to work on definitions -- again -- aren't we?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Values Clarification

Way back in the '70's they came out with the concept of "values clarification". There was a famous exercise called "Lifeboat" designed to teach kids how this works. "You're a survivor of a ship that just sank. There are fifteen people who want to get in the lifeboat, but it only holds ten people. You have to decide who to keep and who to let go." The exercise goes on to give particulars about the people in question and you have to use that information to decide who lives and who dies, essentially. It was intended to help you clarify what your values are. Nice.

Today the accusation is often tossed around (largely by conservatives against liberals) that "They have no values!" The suggestion is that they have no sense of ethics, no sense of right or wrong, no idea of what's good or bad to do. There is even a (tongue in cheek, I hope) group called "No values voters" who hope for the worst candidates ever.

It's not true, of course. There is no one who has no values. Everyone values something, even if that "something" is nihilism -- nothingness. And while it seems quite obvious from the accusation that "the left has no values", the thing we often miss is the connection between values and morality. In fact, it is possible to determine what someone values by their sense of morals.

Here, let's look at some examples. Why is it that we (Christians) say that murder is bad? Well, first we can say, "Because God said so" and we, by definition, value what God says. From that angle anything God commands is "moral" because He commands it and we value what God says. But let's stick to murder for a moment. Why did God command us not to murder? (Hint: He tells us why in the Bible.) In Genesis 9:6 we read, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image." Thus, because of God's image imprinted on Man, human beings are valued by God (and, subsequently, by Man) and, therefore, because of that value it's wrong to commit murder. You see, that which is valued determines that which is right.

Or take lying. We would say that it's immoral to lie. That's because we value truth and integrity. "Now, wait," someone might object, "what about the Christians in World War II Germany who lied to the Nazis to protect the Jews?" Now, I know that there may be some debate over that (some of you may not know that), but since the point I'm addressing is the relationship of values to morals, you can see how that works, right? We would value honesty ... unless honesty entails murder, in which case we would more highly value human life. So in these cases one might argue that lying is not immoral, but telling the truth would be.

The point here is not to offer "good" values or bad. The point is to show the connection between values and morals. Remember that "morality" by definition is "conformity to the rules of right conduct", and morality is defined by the customs of the group. Morals differ from ethics. Ethics are, essentially, the underlying science of morality, the first principles of a moral system. Morals, on the other hand, are driven more by the herd mentality. If the herd is Christian, you get a biblical morality. If it is not, you get a worldly morality. The two are not the same. The reason the two are not the same is this whole "values" thing.

This, then, is how an atheist can be moral. If an atheist values, as an example, human life, even though there is no rationale for such a thing, the atheist will be against murder -- a shared moral belief with Christians, and even on the same basis -- human life is valuable. Of course, trying to ascertain why this atheist values human life may be difficult, but the fact that he or she does would make it immoral to murder. By the same token, if a person values pleasure, then what pleases him or her becomes "moral". Or, here, let's state that a different way and I think you'll see it. If a person values pleasure, then what pleases him or her is good. You see? And that is why Christians standing on the Word of God (because we value what God says) will say that homosexual behavior is immoral while homosexuals standing on their value of passion will say it is not. But no one actually has no values.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Little Help Here, Please

No one who reads my blog with any regularity can come away with the impression that I know it all. I'm actually somewhat fond of denying that. I hold what I believe firmly, but one of the firm beliefs I hold is that I don't know everything and I could be wrong in some things. So here's a request for help. What to do, what to do?

Let me lay out a scenario. You're a parent of an adult son. You love your son dearly. No questions about that. Your motivation in this scenario is love. Okay, so your son tells you one day that he's planning to do something foolish. I'm not talking about stupid. Stupid is unintelligent and, in the case of this scenario, generally a matter of preference. You know -- he has the ability to be a good doctor but chooses to drop out of school and become a singer ... something like that. No, I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about foolishness -- the biblical kind. It's the kind that is a violation of biblical instructions, a violation of wisdom, a choice that will not likely, but will certainly end up badly. I don't know ... pick something. Your son tells you that he has figured out how to solve his financial crisis. He has joined up with a couple of guys and they are going to rob a couple of banks. Don't worry ... it will be fine, and all his money problems will be behind him. You won't have to be concerned about him again. Good news, right? Well, of course it isn't.

Now, don't get hung up on the bank robbery thing. I'm simply talking about a son or daughter who has decided to take a course of action that you know is a violation of Scripture, a sure sin, and, worse, certain pain and trouble and conflict and injury -- spiritually and more. So ... what do you do? This isn't an at-home offspring. This is an out-of-the-house kid on their own. What do you do?

I see very few possibilities. Let's see what I can come up with. You could say, "I love my child unconditionally and he is an adult, so I'm going to do nothing. If I try to say or do anything it will just result in conflict. Best to be silent and avoid a fight which will probably produce nothing positive and be there to help pick up the pieces when it's over." I have a hard time reconciling "I love my child" with "do nothing", but that's one possible approach. You could choose the other extreme and decide direct intervention. Do whatever is in your power to actually prevent the choice from being made. Call the police or intervene in the relationship or whatever action it takes to stop it. "I love my child and he is going to hurt himself, so I will prevent it. He will surely not understand and likely hate me for the rest of his life, but that's not nearly as bad as just letting him go. I may even go to jail for what I'd do, but it would be better than him getting hurt." I can see the possibilities here, but I'm not sure he would learn to avoid the problem. He'd likely simply learn to avoid you. There is the obvious middle of the road here as well. Speak up. Say something. But surely you can see that this is problematic as well. Tell him your concerns and he will likely see you as someone who doesn't understand, who is only speaking out of personal bias rather then reality or genuine concern, that you're narrow-minded and don't know what you're talking about. He'll likely resent you for saying anything and could very easily ignore anything you might say as an intrusion. Now, if what you're saying is out of genuine love, you'll have to come up with a way to get that across first, foremost, and last. But "I love you so much that I have to say ..." usually won't cut it. You need more than that in situations like this. So ... what?

Those are the only basic options I can see. To be honest, none of them are encouraging. But I have to keep in mind that the motivation is love and the result isn't mine to begin with, so it's not all bad. Still, I'm hoping for better ideas. What do you do? What do you say? How do you approach this? What do you recommend? Any decent parent loves his or her children for life. Love demands involvement, concern, the hope for their best. With the premise of love, what would you recommend a parent do faced with the situation of an adult child about to (or having already) put himself or herself in serious jeopardy? There are a lot of wise people out there. I'd appreciate your input here.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Most people know what that TLA stands for (TLA -- Three Letter Acronym). "Too Much Information." You know how that goes. "Oh, Mom, we don't need to hear about your sex life." "Oh, man, Ted, the news that you had a colonoscopy is enough. We don't really want to hear the particulars." "Kids, really ... do you think we want to hear about what Jenny did in school when Bobby threw up?" Too Much Information.

Somewhere along the way we acquired a new right -- the Right to Know. I don't know where it came from . It wasn't listed in the Bill of Rights. I don't find it in the Bible. And I can't imagine what generations before ours who had the right but not the technology did about it. But it's a given, right? "The people have a right to know!" It's the mainstay of the Press.

I submit that it's nonsense. I submit that the people do not have the right to know and should not have the right to know. Seems to me that what we're seeing today between the mainstream media and the Internet is a glut of TMI. You know ... there are just lots of things that we don't need to know.

We don't need to know every nuance and step that Lindsey Lohan or Britney Spears or whatever other "celebrity" takes. Seriously. Why does it matter? First we follow them around and find out that he is arrested for hiring a prostitute for oral sex (like we're surprised or something?) and she just bought the latest Gucci bag (like it matters or something?) and they are breaking up (oh, were they still together?). Then they think that our keen interest means that they have something to add about whether or not we should be in Iraq or who is the best candidate for president or whether or not Arizona should be allowed to pass laws enforcing immigration laws. I mean, by all means they have the right to say something, but their celebrity status and our unending attention gives them a platform that makes no sense. TMI.

We didn't need to know that some loon down in Florida was planning to burn the Quran. Afghanistan didn't need to know it, to be sure. Neither did we. But because we have TMI, everyone knows that this guy who unfortunately represents himself as a Christian pastor is now the face of America and Christianity and we're all sorry about that. In days gone by this pastor of 35 would have never been a blip on the news media radar, never have been heard of, never have threatened to get Americans killed at home and abroad. But thanks to Facebook and other technology, well, TMI. Way too much.

Remember the days when Hollywood covered up their stars indiscretions? They thought that it would be too much information. We agreed. Remember when the government had the right to allow or disallow information about wartime operations? They thought it could be information used by the enemy, not necessarily for the public use. We agreed. And so it went. Not today. We're much smarter now. Much wiser. I mean, look at kids these days. They know so much more than we ever did as kids and they're so much more responsible because of it ... oh, wait ... well, maybe not. I'm telling you ... TMI.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Come, Thou Fount

Written by Robert Robinson back in the 18th century, this hymn carries some hidden treasures.
Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of thy redeeming love.
Sounds nice and all, but there is in this first verse a serious point. Sure, we need to sing praise. Sure, God's grace is marvelous. Yes, yes, to all that. But note that the first verse is a prayer. And note the request. It is not a request to praise God, but a plea to learn how. George Whitefield said, "Before you can speak peace to your heart, you must be brought to see that God may damn you for the best prayer you ever put up ..." Singing God's praise is good, but without God motivating, informing, and empowering it, it's just a clanging cymbal. "Tune my heart to sing Thy grace."
Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
Lost on us is this concept of "Ebenezer". It comes from 1 Samuel 7 and was the claim, "Thus far the LORD has helped us." So Robinson says, "I'm only here because God did it." And as you look through the rest of the verse, this is the message. From before he was in the fold until he gets safely home, it is God's work.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above.
Daily ... that's what he says ... daily. Many debate whether or not you can lose your salvation. I feel like Mr. Robinson here. "Lose it? I'm not entirely sure how I can keep it." How will I make it? How will I safely arrive at home? How will I get there in the end? Like him, I'm prone to wander. Like him I have a naturally tendency to "leave the God I love." What hope is there for me? Hard work and perseverance? Not if it's up to me. That will have to be the work of God -- a daily work. Good thing I can count on Him.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Missional Christianity

The buzzword today in Christendom is not "proselytizing" or "preaching" or "proclaim the gospel". It's "missional". It references a lifestyle approach to sharing the gospel, mostly, and it primarily differs from those more traditional versions by trying to avoid upsetting the listener for the most part. Those who advocate the concept of "missional" will tell you that, essentially, it's the same thing. That is, genuine Christian evangelism has always been a lifestyle for Christians (you know, like "let your light so shine before men ...") that shares the gospel in how you live and in what you say. So the two are supposed to be the same thing, basically. "Missional" is just a word used to remind us that we're supposed to live that way.

I don't know. Is that accurate? Is missional the same as "sharing the gospel"? I mean, for instance, we're supposed to tell homosexuals about the good news, right? So ... what is the difference between "missional outreach to the gay community" and "preaching the gospel to sodomites"? I don't think the language conveys the same thing. Do you? Shouldn't it? (It is my suspicion that if you see, as I do, these two as different, it conveys some serious concerns with the concept of "missional" beginning with its concept of "the Gospel".)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sleeping with the Enemy

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that there's something wrong. Someone once said, "I take the Resurrection on faith, but the doctrine of Original Sin is the easiest thing in the world to prove." Even skeptics understand that there is a problem -- the problem of evil. What do to, what to do?

Christianity is the only religion that offers an answer to the problem. Only in Christianity is there atonement, redemption, "paid in full". Only in Christianity do we find a God who actually takes the trouble to solve the problem of sin by paying the debt owed, thereby retaining both justice and mercy. Other religions offer weak answers. "Well, if you be good enough ..." whatever that means. "If you repent of your wicked ways ..." as if saying "I'm sorry" solves the problem of Cosmic Treason. Some even twist Christianity into a set of rules to be followed by which you can earn your way into the kingdom ... as if we could actually earn our way into anything but the Hell we so richly deserve. They go on to twist God into some sort of magnificent "nice guy" who decides, "Eh, justice is highly overrated. I'll accept your pitiful attempts at selfish 'good' and ignore the fact that you're a ghastly felon and let you in. No problem." No, none of that works. Only unaltered Christianity offers a genuine answer to the problem.

So, here we are, on the other side of Christ, cloaked in His perfection, receiving His imputed righteousness. It's a good thing. But we still have a problem, don't we? I mean, it's a real good thing -- this change in nature, this indwelling of the Spirit of God and all -- but we still have some work to do. We still need what is commonly referred to as "sanctification" -- the lifelong process of changing from dead images of Adam into living reflections of Christ. That's our task from the moment we are regenerated until we walk into the very presence of God. So how do we go about this?

In far too many cases these days, it appears that we go about this by a completely mind-boggling approach. The Bible tells us that "to set the mind on the flesh is death", that our original problem was that "we all once lived in the passions of our flesh". We are told, then, that "the flesh" -- that corrupted, sinful nature -- is the problem. In Romans 7 Paul bemoans the problem of living in "the flesh" while being a follower of Christ. He says, "I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh" and cries out, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" So what do we do? Well, understanding the severity of the problem and properly motivated to become good reflections of Christ, we go about trying to figure out what makes us tick. Why do we have a problem with lust or bitterness or gossip or disrespecting our parents? (Okay, that last one probably isn't a common one to ask these days ... but it should be.) Why do we do the things we know are wrong? And what steps can we take to remedy that? Go to AA? Find a support group? Examine our past life to find what happened? Maybe, if we just get in the right group of loving people or find the right program or gain a little self-esteem or get the right therapist we can work this thing out.

Do you see what we're doing there? We're trying to fix the thing of which Paul says there is "nothing good". Jesus said, "The flesh profits nothing" and we're saying, "Yeah, okay, we got that ... so how do we fix it?" The only possible answer is ... we don't. It's dead and, worse, gone completely bad. Don't look for a remedy; look for a shovel. "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you" (Col 3:5). We start with being "buried with Christ in baptism"; keep that up. Kill the old man. We don't need to find solutions, remedies, fixes. We need to nail him to the cross, line him up against the wall and shoot him, drop him in a vast desert and let him starve to death. And we need to do it now. And now. And again. Jesus didn't say, "Pick up that old dying carcass and follow Me." He said, "Take up your cross and follow Me." Paul said, "I die every day!"

The truth is we actually are sleeping with the enemy. The enemy is the flesh that we carry around with us constantly. That flesh is the old man. We are to put that old man to death and put on the new man. The process is not finding remedies for the old man, but to put on something new in its place. Sanctification is the ongoing, daily (more often if necessary), intentional murder of that dead carcass we carry around so that the living one can assume more and more presence in our lives by the work of the Spirit within. There is no fix for the old man. Put him out of your misery -- without mercy.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Pill Plot

Come on! Tell me this isn't a plot ... and, no, I don't mean by some devious scientists or angry feminists or any such thing.

Do you know what the very first command God ever gave to mankind was? No, it was not "Don't eat that apple." It was "Be fruitful and multiply." This represents the starting point of God's intentions for humans on this planet. He specifies that this is done through the union of a man and a woman (you know, the standard definition of the term "marriage"). As biblical revelation continues, it becomes abundantly clear that this process is designed to only occur within the confines of marriage, and that, by clear inference, this is one of the primary functions of marriage -- "Be fruitful and multiply."

The Roman Catholic Church has always banned the concept of contraception. To the Roman Catholic Church, "family planning" entails abstinence for one week out of the month. That's it. You see, they figured (silly them) that the Bible favors married couples having children. Of course, the Roman Catholic Church is about the last hold out for that view these days. Protestants tossed that out a half century ago. Why not engage in family planning at a higher level? So barrier methods and the pill were all good to go. So Protestants have worked hard (without even knowing it) at eroding the biblical image of marriage by separating sex from child bearing and child bearing from marriage.

And now we learn that the most popular method of female birth control, the Pill, may do permanent damage to the female sex drive. The artificial hormones disrupt the natural hormones that affect female enjoyment of sex and then disrupt the ability of the woman's body to effectively using the hormones that create the sex drive in a woman and -- Poof! -- our desire to ignore God's instructions on marriage in favor of our own lusts appear to have neatly stripped us of both. How's that working for you?

Like I said, it's not some science scheme or some feminist attack or some gay agenda. No, this one would be coming from the enemy of God. It seems a bit disconcerting that so many Christians have fallen into this trap. But, then, I suppose mine will be one of those "odd voices" out there. So be it.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Do the Math

The Law of Gravity -- "objects with mass attract one another". Simple. We got it. Thanks.

The force of gravity is defined by Newton's formula:


In this formula, F is the force of gravity, G is a constant (the Gravitational Constant) which can be measured, m1 and m2 are the masses of the two objects in question, and d is the distance between them. And there you can see that gravity follows the inverse square law. Nice!

Okay, now the brilliant Stephen Hawking has just been quoted as saying, "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing." Clear enough. So we have gravity (given) and we have nothing (given), so let's put it in the formula and see what we get.

F=((6.67300 × 10-11 m3 kg-1 s-2) x 0 x 0)/0. The answer? Yeah, I don't think we need a calculator to figure that out. Not so brilliant!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Sinful Virtue

I'm sure you've heard stories about the loving husband who bought his wife a vacuum cleaner for her birthday. That, of course, won't fly. What happened? Well, he was thinking, "I'm tired of using this hand drill. You know, if my wife got me a power drill, I'd be so grateful. Say! Her birthday is coming up and that old vacuum cleaner is hardly functional. I bet she'd love a new vacuum." Best of intentions. Lousy choice.

As it turns out, we have the capacity to turn almost any virtue into a vice, so creative are we sinners. It takes no imagination at all to envision a man who is nice, considerate, and generous (we would call those "virtues") for the purpose of getting a girl to go to bed with him (we would call that "selfish"). The man so humble (we would call that a virtue) that he cannot admit to believing in anything at all "because I just might be wrong" is frozen, unable to function (a bad thing). And so it goes.

Paul wrote even about spiritual gifts:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Cor 13:1-3).
Without love, there is no value in the good things of speaking in tongues, prophecy, wisdom, or generosity. You see, virtue is not virtue all by itself.

People debate about the nature of Man. Is he intrinsically good? Is he intrinsically bad? The Bible paints Man as a sinner at the core. Moderns prefer to think of him as a good guy gone astray. You know ... "Babies are innocent; it takes time for them to turn bad." Because we start out good and then stray. But when human beings are not only able, but prone to turn virtue into vice, it seems to me the biblical description ("All have sinned", "dead in sin", "slave to sin", etc.) is much more appropriate than the modern perspective "We're all basically good". When we can take good things like sex (designed by God for specific and wonderful purposes) and virtue and even spiritual gifts and make them into vulgarities, it does not speak well of humans.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Dissension in the Ranks

One of the most embarrassing things in Christendom is the dissension we have to deal with. I mean, it looks bad, doesn't it? "You guys can't even agree with each other. What makes you think you're right?" The Roman Catholics have tried to eliminate that problem by creating a hierarchical structure with which you must agree or be excommunicated. Of course, given the wide dissension within the Roman Catholic Church, it just doesn't seem to be working, does it?

The Bible calls for unity among believers. Jesus prayed for His disciples "that they may be one, even as We are one" (John 17:11). Paul said that the primary function of the church was "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith" (Eph 4:12-13). Peter told his readers, "All of you, have unity of mind" (1 Peter 3:8). Unity is important. That's clear.

In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul addresses this problem at the outset. He was obviously upset that they were divided over "'I follow Paul,' or 'I follow Apollos,' or 'I follow Cephas,' or 'I follow Christ.'" Instead, he appealed to them "that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment" (1 Cor 1:10). In chapter 11 he reprimands them for the way in which they gather to share the Lord's Supper. Among other concerns, "I hear that there are divisions among you," he says. That's bad. Unity is good. Right? And then he says something ... surprising.
There must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized (1 Cor 11:19).
Now ... wait a minute. Did I just read what I thought I read? Yes, it seems I did. The Scriptures are full of calls for unity, like-mindedness, agreement among believers. On the other hand, we have to know that there will be disagreement. (The Greek word there, by the way, is hairesis. If you pronounce that, you'll get the intent. Or, just step on over to a KJV and you'll see the word. It is "heresies".) Paul writes here that, while the goal is indeed unity, the reality is that there will be those who deviate from the unity of the faith. Expect it. It is certain. It is necessary.

Necessary? How? "In order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized." What is Paul saying here? He is saying that the genuine believers can be recognized by their adherence to the faith, and, by extension, the counterfeit will be recognized by their dissension, their deviation, their departure from the faith. John uses similar words in describing antichrists. (Note: That's "antichrists", not "the Antichrist".) John says, "They (the antichrists) went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us" (1 John 2:19). Let me repeat the concept -- "That it might become plain that they all are not of us."

We are called to unity. It is the goal, the aim, the direction we are to go. It is the function of the church to mature believers to "the unity of the faith". We are called to be "of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind" (Phil 2:2). Let no one doubt it. However, unity for the sake of unity is pointless. We are called to be united on the truth, "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3). It is that nasty word (to so many) -- "orthodoxy". That's where we are to be united. And, if you are paying attention, you'll find that the majority of genuine believers are united on orthodoxy. They differ on smaller items. They squabble over eschatology or modes of baptism, but not the Trinity or the Resurrection or the Atonement. No, true unity is the aim and is more accomplished than most realize. And the factions, the heresies, the divisions, the dissensions among us are not only there, but they are expected and necessary. With those we can know "those who are genuine" and those who "are not of us". It's actually a valuable thing.

For further consideration

Now, connect this idea -- that factions show who is genuine and who is not -- with the ideas in this post on those who do bad things in the name of Christ and the contemplations on whether or not we should ever question someone's salvation. Go ahead. You think about that.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Oh, That Will Be Glory

Oh, That Will Be Glory
Charles H. Gabriel

When all my labors and trials are o’er,
And I am safe on that beautiful shore,
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore,
Will through the ages be glory for me.

Oh, that will be glory for me,
Glory for me, glory for me,
When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me.

When, by the gift of His infinite grace,
I am accorded in heaven a place,
Just to be there and to look on His face,
Will through the ages be glory for me.

Friends will be there I have loved long ago;
Joy like a river around me will flow;
Yet just a smile from my Savior, I know,
Will through the ages be glory for me.
One of the very popular ideas among Christians -- actually, among most anybody thinking about heaven -- is the idea that we'll meet up with our friends and loved ones there. I had an ex-coworker call me up one time and ask me, "Do dogs go to heaven? Because if my dog doesn't go to heaven, I don't want to be there." We are reminded at funerals that we will be reunited with them on the other side. We really like that.

Me? Not so much. I know. It sounds mean. I don't mean it to be. Charles Gabriel captured my feelings on the matter in this song. What I'm really looking forward to is not more time with family or the opportunity to ask Paul what he meant when he said _____ or any such thing. I'm looking forward to the day "when by His grace I shall look on His face." Don't get me wrong. I love my family. Even though it will someday likely occur, I can't imagine life here without my wife or my parents, for instance. Very sad. But there? "Friends will be there I have loved long ago; joy like a river around me will flow. Yet just a smile from my Savior, I know, will through the ages be glory for me." How does one express that properly and not sound unkind to one's loved ones?

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Define "Normal"

You may have already heard, but apparently Neil Patrick Harris (who, ironically, plays a womanizer on TV) is "expecting twins" with his partner, David Burtka. Now, if that didn't jar you, you weren't paying attention. How does can a homosexual couple be "expecting"? Well, in this case, they used a surrogate. They're not saying whose sperm was used; they are sharing in "daddyhood". One report talked about how they "continually emphasized the word, 'normal.'"

I am not entering into the debate here about whether or not a homosexual couple should be allowed to have children. There are copious amounts of other places to go to debate that topic. I'm not going to discuss the wisdom or the morality of intentionally bringing children into this world lacking either a mother or a father. That debate is also available elsewhere. I'm not even going to discuss whether or not homosexual relations are sin. Been there; done that. What I'm fascinated by is this claim for "normal".

I've looked up the word in multiple dictionaries. It's not a complicated definition. It means "conforming to the standard or the common type" or "approximately average". It can even mean "the standard". So in what possible sense is this news item "normal"? Indeed, in what possible sense is homosexuality "normal"? Now, don't get your knickers in a twist. I have not said "It's wrong." I'm asking in what sense it is normal. How is it "common" or "average" or "the standard"? Feel free to take a moment and form an answer. Pick either topic -- homosexuality, or homosexuals "expecting". Because, you see, it doesn't seem to me at all to be "normal". Oh, I hear you. "Oh, yeah? Well what about heterosexual couples who hire surrogates to have their babies?" And I'd tell you they're not normal either.

Look, "normal", as in "that which is standard or average", isn't hard to see. The vast majority of couples are heterosexual couples and the vast majority of babies are the product of heterosexual couples ... without surrogates. I'm not making any startling claim here. Anyone can do the math. It's not rocket science. So the idea that a homosexual couple is expecting twins may be a lot of things, but it cannot be considered "normal".

So what's my point? My point is that this is exactly the cry today. Hollywood, the media, the homosexual communities, the loudest voices want us to stop thinking of it as "aberrant" -- "deviating from the ordinary, usual, or normal" -- and start thinking of it as "normal". (Did you see all those "bad" words in there? "Aberrant", "deviant" ... yeah, we can't use those.) In fact, there are voices who would like us to think of it as "normal" as in "the standard". In 1999 there were 3,959,417 live births, of which 16,500 were by surrogate mothers. That's 0.4%. That's not normal, standard, average. Nor is homosexual behavior. But the reality that, since only 4% (generously) of the population is engaged in this activity, it cannot be considered "average" is irrelevant. The notion that it is not "normal" is an assault. You can't call it "abnormal", "aberrant", "deviant". You see, none dares call it "queer". Oh, wait ...

Friday, September 03, 2010

New Religion

I have to say I'm baffled (again). Events over the past several weeks have me scratching my head.

First, there was the whole "Ground Zero Mosque" thing going on. Christian conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt expressed what lots of Americans in general and Christians in particular were thinking. "I oppose it because the land and buildings damaged by the assault are now part of the sacred space of America's great civic religion." America's great civic religion? What is that? American civil religion, it seems, is a blend of Christianity and patriotism. It's the source of ideas like "America is God's chosen nation", the reason that we can outlaw religion in the public square while honoring nationally holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Mind you, however, that this makes no real sense if you're a Christian. If there is a "religion" that blends Christianity and ____, it would be what Paul called "another gospel", and Paul didn't have nice things to say about those things.

Then there's this whole thing about "Obama is a Moslem!" Where are we going with this? Ann Coulter spoke out against it by saying, "I rise to defend him from this absurd accusation by pointing out that he is obviously an atheist." Thanks. Cleared that right up. I remember a big beef with Obama, the presidential candidate, was that he went to church too much, remember? He went to Jeremiah Wright's church for 20 years. What's up with that?! Now we're looking at the accusations that "No, he's not a far-out Christian ... he's a Moslem!" Why? No one voted against Mr. Obama for president because he was a Christian. No one voted for him because he was a Moslem. No one who voted for him cared what religion he was. The fact that he is the most pro-abortion president we've ever seen didn't in the least phase Christian voters who helped put him in office. So why are we bringing it up now? Are we afraid that a single human being in a single office of the government is going to vote out the entire government system and install Sharia law? What's this religious thing all about?

And then there was Glenn Beck speaking at his rally in August. He told us that he had planned to make a political rant (speech), but he talked to God and then had to make a religious one. Instead of beating his breast about the horrors of our current government and all that, he called on all of us to pray. Pray to God. Pray for our country. Good stuff, I suppose. I mean, isn't that the same type of stuff we heard after 9/11? We had ecumenical gatherings of all religions so that the Jews and the Christians and the Buddhists and the Moslems and the Hindus and so forth could all join together praying to God to protect and heal our nation. Except ... no one bothered to mention which God. I mean, the Buddhists don't really have a God and the Moslems have Allah who isn't at all the same God as the Christians and the Hindus, well, they have lots of Gods. So ... who were we supposed to be talking to? Now we're at the same point. Beck, bless his heart, wants us to pray, and praying is good. Unfortunately his God is a created being who fathered other Gods and now we're all trying to become Gods and, well, I think he was a bit unclear, wasn't he? Mr. Beck ... which God do you want us to petition? I mean, for most of America their God is their own desires -- "Me". Is that the God we should be praying to?

But this all coagulates into a mess. We have "American civil religion" with its own "sacred space" and we have presidents whose religions don't and do care absolutely and we have repeated calls for prayer without any idea of referencing to whom we're praying. What does it all mean? Since all religions claim exclusivity -- so logic dictates that only one can be right -- then what we're trying to accomplish here is insanity ... genuine insanity. Paul says that those which are not God but are worshiped as God are demons. That would include Hewitt's "American civil religion", whatever version of religion the President holds, and Glen Beck's call for prayer. Unfortunately in this country this has become the only "religion" allowed -- you know, the one populated by demons.