Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Prayers of a Righteous Man

James says that "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." This statement has such an impact on the Roman Catholics that they pray to saints, thinking, "Now, there's a righteous man; maybe he can pray for me and provide effective prayer on my behalf." Of course, we non-Catholics don't go there, but we do see the statement and think, "I need to have him or her pray for me ... because he or she is a righteous person and I covet their effective prayers on my behalf." I get it. Reasonable. I have those "go-to" people, too. In fact, sometimes when I ask them to pray for me I tell them, "You know, the effective prayers of the righteous man can accomplish much!" So ... you know ... pray for me.

A prayer that does not seem to occur to me is this one: "Father, make me a righteous man so that my effective prayer can accomplish much." But, then, wouldn't I have to be a righteous man for that prayer to work? Oh, I don't know ... sometimes prayer concepts are elusive. But that would indeed be my prayer.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Partisan Politics

Let's see ... exactly what are we talking about?

Politicking: The act of engaging in politics, or in political campaigning.

Hmm. So ...

Politics: Dealing with the structure or affairs of government.

Hmph! Okay, so "politicking" is "engaging in politics" and "politics" is "the structure or affairs of government".

And then I get this: "We've spent the last 20 months governing, they have spent the last 20 months politicking." Or, substituting the definitions, "We've spent the last 20 months governing, they have spent the last 20 months involved in the affairs of government."

That has been the complaint of the President over the last several months regarding the Republicans in Washington. They're not serious. They're ... politicking. What's wrong with this picture?

I can't tell you how many times I've heard this complaint. If the opponent disagrees with my side, they are "engaging in politics". Apparently that means that they are engaging in partisan arguments rather than ... what ... principled arguments? If they disagree with our side, they disagree because it's our side and not their side. It is not even remotely possible that any thinking person could disagree with our side because they think it's wrong. Of course not! And even if they did, they're not offering anything better. They're just disagreeing! You know ... like we do about them and their views.

Sadly, it wouldn't really matter if I was talking about Republicans or Democrats ...

Friday, October 29, 2010

I do not understand people

The website that hosts my blog has added a new system that tracks statistics. At first blush, it's interesting. Then I start looking deeper and I can't figure out what I'm looking at.

Here's what it tells me. The #1 all time post that I made that people have looked at (since, of course, the beginning of this system which started in June) is ... drum roll ... Hard Sayings - "Sell all your possessions". I mean, seriously ... that one? Who do you suppose is so diligently examining this topic? Who is it that is actually concerned about whether or not we are supposed to sell all our possessions? Do you figure it's devout Christians desperately seeking God's will for their lives? Or is it perhaps skeptics who are looking for ammunition? I honestly don't know. It just seems so ... odd.

But wait! It gets more unbelievable. The #2 post for all time is ... get this ... The History of the Choir. Okay, now, come on! I could vaguely imagine some people interested in Jesus's saying about selling all your possessions, either by way of agreement or by way of disagreement. Fine. But how is it remotely possible that the history of the church choir could be a hot topic on anyone's list? On the day I was looking at these stats, there were 10 hits on the "Sell all your possessions" thing and 7 on the "History of the Choir" post. That was in one day. Looking over the week, it was 33 for the first and 22 for the second. In the past month 81 people have viewed that choir page. I had no idea that there were that many people hunting for information on the church choir. What could possibly cause that? I don't get it at all.

The one statistics page that really amazed me was the "Audience" page. This one gave me listings of where my visitors come from. Obviously the United States is at the top of the list, followed by the UK and Canada. Okay. I can see that. But it's pretty interesting when you see visits from Ghana, Micronesia, Malaysia, Slovenia (where is that, anyway?), Russia, and China. Mine is an overtly Christian blog about overtly Christian topics and overtly conservative Christian perspectives. To get readers from all of these places is, well, surprising and humbling.

In my youth I dreamed of being a writer, of writing stuff that people around the world would read and enjoy. Of course, my first attempts to get published, met as they were with polite "no thank you" letters, put an end to that idea. Still, it appears, via the magic of the Internet and by means of people I don't know and don't understand that I am actually writing stuff that people around the world read. Okay, I won't claim "enjoy", but read. And, seriously, how is it remotely possible that my second most read blog is on the history of the church choir? Yeah, I don't get that at all.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Physician, Heal Thyself

You've all heard by now that the famed Crystal Cathedral, the ministry built by Robert Schuller, has filed for bankruptcy protection. Apparently the church is facing some $50 million in debt that they can't pay. Their salvation is coming from several fronts. First is the bankruptcy that will allow them to pay off debt at a slower rate. They have laid off staff, sold property, and cut expenses. And Dr. Schuller has asked that his congregation and those who watch his Hour of Power to become tithers if they aren't already and to tithe double if they are. They will stay in business, continue their services, and keep up the Hour of Power broadcast.

It all strikes me as horribly ironic. Dr. Schuller made his name on the "Possibility Thinking" ticket. It was his own brand of the Prosperity Gospel whereby, if you think nice thoughts about yourself, you can do anything. It hasn't seemed to work in this case. It wasn't working a few years ago when Schuller fired his own son from the Hour of Power. They had different ideas of what should be done. Dad won out. And it didn't seem to be working later when his daughter replaced his son as the lead pastor at the Crystal Cathedral. One might think it was working fine when God told the senior Schuller "Give me two more years — 24 more months. Give the message — cast my original vision for this ministry. Don't worry. I have called your daughter Sheila, too. She is equipped and she will be your legs." (I say that it was working fine because of this remarkable event in which Sheila had managed to change God's mind regarding women in leadership over men.) I mean, now his daughter is the lead pastor over a megachurch, and the only education she has had for the job is her doctorate in administration and leadership. So I guess perhaps "pastor" isn't the right term here. CEO?

No, not ironic. Sad. In fact, wrong. The church's ministry has explicitly been that of "a mission, not a church." Dr. Schuller came to believe that "sin" was not a violation of God's commands, but low self-esteem, and the mission of the church was not to offer salvation from sin, but better feelings about ourselves. He told his congregation, "You don't try to preach what is sin and what isn't sin." Dr. Schuller has done everything he could to distance himself from biblical Christianity, replacing the Gospel with "possibility thinking" -- a "therapeutic gospel" -- which is not another gospel. That he has led so many down this path is not merely sad or ironic. It is devastating.

My mom always told me that it has to play in Bangladesh. The Gospel, if it is real, is the Gospel to all. "Have faith and you'll be rich" doesn't work. "Think positive and you'll be fine" doesn't seem to work, either. At least, not for this ministry. Bankruptcy, family splits, open disregard for biblical Christianity, these are not things that bode well. I can only pray that others who were on the line might look and see it, too. "Oh! That's not right!" It's pretty clear that positive self-esteem isn't going to solve these problems. I hope others see this, too.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Adultery, Spiritual Style

James writes "to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion", to the Jews who are throughout the world. He has a lot to say about a lot of topics, but in chapter 4 he brings up the problem of infighting. Why do we have conflict? "The reason," he says, "is that you desire and do not have." So we fight to get what we want. Bad. Then, as if in disgust over the whole thing, he writes this: "You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?" (James 4:4).

This is an odd concept on the face of it. Since "adultery" has a definition -- sexual relations between a married person and someone other than his or her lawful spouse -- how exactly does that work in spiritual terms? Let's see if we can figure this out.

First, Jesus defined adultery in a way that did not require sex. He said "I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt 5:28). Thus, "lustful intent" is the gold standard, not necessarily "sexual relations". Okay, so that clears up the sex question ... but what about the rest? I mean, what is "spiritual adultery"?

Well, one of the characteristics -- core concepts -- of "adultery" is "married". An unmarried person cannot commit adultery with an unmarried person. He or she can commit sexual immorality, but not adultery because adultery requires "married". In spiritual terms, who is "married"? Scripture uses the metaphor of "marriage" in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, Israel is referred to as the wife of God. Israel's idolatry is often referred to as adultery for that reason. Note that nations that were not the wife of God could not commit adultery in this way. There's was certainly sin, but it was not adultery. In the New Testament, the Church is the "bride of Christ". So it is Christians who are capable of committing spiritual adultery.

In what sense can Christians commit spiritual adultery? Well, if Christians are "the bride of Christ" and adultery requires "lustful intent", it follows that spiritual adultery would be a Christian with "lustful intent" for someone other than Christ. And there you go -- now we have an image of spiritual adultery. It's in this light, in fact, that James makes perfect sense when he refers to those "adulterous people". Their "lustful intent" was "friendship with the world".

Having figured out what it is, I would hope that the concept is actually a bit unnerving. You see, I doubt that any one of us could claim to be impervious to spiritual adultery. I don't think one of us could claim to be free of that sin. We love to desire other gods. We love the television and the Internet, entertainment and fun, comfort and pleasure. We are much more comfortable with sinners than we are with Christ. Our first response, when we learn that a command is asking us to give up something in this world, is, "Is that so?", not "Yes, Lord!" Like the hymnist, we are "prone to wander". Rarely does our passion for Christ rival our passion for the world. We stand condemned, a wicked and adulterous generation.

I love Romans 8:1 -- "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." It is the core of my hope. It is my only hope. But I want to change. I want to love Christ more and the world less. I don't want to be classified as an enemy of God because I want to be a friend of the world. More of Him, less of me. That's where I want to go. I'm glad to have a spouse that forgives. I don't want to abuse it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Loving God with All Your Mind

I love it when Scripture as absolutely clear on things. There is room for discussion on a lot of areas, but when it is clear, it is a beautiful thing. So when they asked Jesus, "What is the Great Commandment?", we got a clear and straightforward answer. What is the most important thing that God thinks we should do? "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matt 22:37). That is, love God with every part of your being. (Another reference, for instance, includes "strength".) And, you know, I don't think we're unclear on this. I mean, most Christians can answer the question satisfactorily. "What is the great commandment?" "Love God with your whole being." Something to that effect. We got it.

What concerns me is when I stop there. I tend to do that. "Yeah, I got it. Let's move on." When, in fact, I don't. I mean, sure, I understand the words, but I don't understand the concept and I certainly do not carry it out. That's a problem.

The concept is confusing because we tend to confuse the terms. We do that because we don't think them through. What does it mean, for instance, to "Love the Lord your God ... with all your mind"? How do you love God with your mind? Many of us don't. We don't even start that. Thinking, in some Christians circles, is basically taboo. "Reason counters faith," they say or "You're too heavenly minded to be any earthly good." But Jesus disagrees. We are commanded to love God with our minds. The other side also tends to confuse it. "Oh, you guys are so wrong. We are commanded to love God with our minds. So, thinking is loving God." This group assumes that simply using your brain is loving God. And that doesn't make any more sense than those who argue against thinking at all.

So, let's hold on a moment. Let's begin at the bottom. Let's ask first, "What does it mean to love God?" You see, we have an excellent description of loving our fellow man in 1 Cor 13, but it isn't quite as helpful when it comes to loving God. In the 1 Cor 13 passage there is a lot about getting past their faults (patient, not bearing a grudge, enduring, etc.) and there is a lot about my selflessness (not proud, gentle, meek, not self-seeking, etc.). Since God is without faults, that part isn't helpful. Still, we should be able to find a useful definition of "love" in Scripture. And, basically, it is the concept of valuing someone (or something). Loving someone means we consider them of great value, we enjoy them, we appreciate (that's a term meaning "to increase in value") them. We seek what is in their best interest and depreciate our own interests ... because our own interests become their best interests.

Working up from that concept of "love", we should be able to see that loving God with all of our being is pretty straightforward. But don't confuse yourself. What I do for God using my heart, soul, mind, and strength is not love. These are simply the tools I use to express it. For instance, simply using my mind is not loving God. Using my mind to draw closer to God, to lose myself in His magnificence, to examine His glories and proclaim His wonders, those would be exercises of love. Think of it like a shovel. If I told you that you were to dig a hole with a shovel, you would understand that the shovel itself is not the hole, nor is simply possessing or even using the shovel the answer. The shovel is a tool that, used in the proper fashion with the proper force for the proper purpose, will produce the result intended. In that way, I am to use every facet of my being to give to God everything that He deserves for His glory. That's my first task. I'll get on that right away.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hands and Sin

In the Sermon on the Mount we read this well-known statement from Christ:
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell" (Matt 5:27-30).
Okay, well, perhaps "well-known" isn't exactly accurate. The best known part of it is the idea that Jesus classified looking on a woman with lust with adultery. Yeah, lots of people know that. I believe it was Billy Graham that suggested "The first look is normal; the second look is lust" to which others countered, "Depends on how long the first look is" and so forth. In other words, we've spent time dissecting this idea of lustful look = adultery. Fine. We've been pretty careful, however, to avoid the rest of what He said. I mean, seriously, this whole "tear out your right eye" and "cut off your right hand" thing is, well, a bit over the top, isn't it?

One would certainly think so, but, as it turns out, this wasn't the only time Jesus made such a proposition:
"Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire" (Matt 18:7-9).
Now, let me start out by being perfectly clear about something here. I am not suggesting that it was actually Jesus's intention that if your eye (or hand or feet or whatever) causes you to sin that you should in reality dismember yourself over it. As I reviewed the commentaries on these passages I found that they were all in agreement with me ... with the possible exception of Origen, an early Church father who apparently castrated himself in an attempt to obey this command. No, no, that's not where I'm going with this. I believe that Jesus was speaking here in hyperbole.

So where am I going with this? Well, it's a funny thing. Once we all agree that Jesus was exaggerating -- that He was not actually telling us to mutilate ourselves -- it seems as if Christians sigh a sigh of relief and ... throw the passage away. That is, if we don't actually have to pluck out our eye or cut off our hand or amputate feet, we don't actually have to do anything. Now, I would hope that this would seem completely nonsensical to you. I mean, the function of hyperbole -- of exaggerating a point to make the point -- is not to eliminate the point. It is to make the point.

So if Jesus was exaggerating to make a point, what point was He trying to make? It seems quite obvious to me. Do whatever it takes to rid yourself of the temptations that cause you to stumble. "Yeah, well, that doesn't mean cutting off your hand, right?" Okay, I'll buy that. But what about this? What about you guys who cannot go to the beach without lusting? How about not going to the beach? Is that too much to ask? If you have a tendency toward pride, perhaps being the leader of the worship team (any place up in front where you can draw attention to yourself) isn't the best place for you. If you are having a hard time fighting off temptation for Internet pornography, is the Internet really so important that you can't cut it off? If television is taking you away from important matters like reading your Bible, spending time with family, and so on, is it really unreasonable to remove television entirely? If TV is causing you temptation (buying, lusting, desiring stuff, lousy thinking, etc.), is TV so important that you cannot get rid of it? Ladies, is it really more important to be "fashionable" and "appealing" in your dress than the temptation it causes? ("Woe to the one by whom the temptation comes.") Here's what I'm asking. Assuming that a literal reading of "pluck out your eye" really is just a bit much, what is not too literal? Or, to put it another way, if avoiding Hell and having a right relationship with God is important, what would you consider more important -- important enough to allow to remain in the way?

I often see this argument that "That portion of Scripture isn't to be taken at face value; it was hyperbole" or some such. Oddly enough in almost every case the result of that position seems to be "therefore, we don't have to understand that portion to mean anything at all." There can be no doubt that some of Scripture is intended to be an exaggeration to make a point. I'm confident that the passages in this post are exactly that. The point, however, is not "Don't worry; you don't need to do anything about your sin. I was only joking about poking out your eye." No! The point is "Sin is a serious problem, and you ought to do whatever it takes to get it out of your life!" That would be taking the Bible "literally" -- as written. And our refusal to take the necessary steps to do just that is not a good thing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Love of the Lord

Thy lovingkindness is better than life;
Thy lovingkindness is better than life.
My lips shall praise Thee,
Thus will I bless Thee.
I will lift up my hands unto Thy name.
This cute little ditty was part of the "contemporary worship" movement in its early days. A product of Scripture, it seems to be pretty good. Still, I wonder sometimes. Take, for instance, the actual passage:
Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee (Psa 63:3).
In this passage, there is a cause and effect. Praise is the result of God's lovingkindness. Because God loves us steadfastly, we praise Him.

Okay, true, small deal and possible to draw out of the song. I get that. But here's the part that makes me wonder. Do we actually believe that? Do we actually believe that God's love is better than life? Is it true for you that you would rather enjoy God's love than, say, your spouse, your favorite TV show, the best meal you've ever had, the company of your children, the comforts of home, the thrill of travel, your favorite game, the joy of friends and family ... you get the idea.

Two related truths. First, God's love for us is indeed better than life itself. We need to call that to mind often, especially when our lives and the lives of those around us become more important to us than God's love. Second, we tend to love and appreciate those things around us that are so important to us more than we love and appreciate God and His love. Today is a good day to work on changing that.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


We have some commonly used terms that we commonly throw around that I'm not entirely sure are commonly understood. In both politics and religion, there are both conservatives and liberals. Now, conservatives we understand (we think). They're the narrow-minded, stodgy, self-centered types that aren't willing to move forward and aren't willing to surrender their power base. Well, of course, that may be the perspective (it is, in fact, what the junior high school teacher told my son), but it's not in the least a fair or accurate representation. There may be, in fact are, people like that, but that isn't how "conservative" is defined.

No, "conservative" literally refers to those who ... wish to conserve. (Yeah, who thinks of this stuff?) That is, they want to retain the current value systems, maintain the status quo, perhaps even return to an earlier one. It's not, by definition, about self-centeredness or keeping power. It's the idea that the current (or previous) system is more valued than a new one. It's the notion that change is not necessarily better than "not change". The motivations for this particular perspective vary, to be sure, but it's this value system that defines "conservative". The "liberal" is, therefore, the opposite. The "liberal" wants to move on, to change things. Liberals don't want to leave things as they are; they want ... change.

Interesting factoid. Conservatives don't mind being called "conservatives". They typically self-identify as such. Liberals, on the other hand, hate being called "liberals". While the word "conservative" often calls to mind "stodgy, selfish, narrow-minded" and "liberal" calls to mind "generous, open-minded", conservatives typically like their moniker, but liberals abhor theirs. So what do they prefer? "Progressive." Ah, there's the ticket!

What, exactly, is "progressive"? Well, the term refers to the idea of continual improvement. The concept is one of making things better. That, of course, is somewhat misleading when it comes to "conservative" versus "liberal" because the conservative notion is that by moving back we can make things better -- progress. The idea there is that by returning to what works, things will get better. "Progressive", then, can be misleading on its own.

And therein lies the problem, at least for me. Today's progressives have in mind the idea of "progress", of moving forward to make things better, as if movement alone is good. However, from what I can see, "better" is undefined. Oh, there are general concepts. "Help the poor" or "assist the homeless" or "decrease crime" are all "better" -- no one disagrees with that. But the progressive mindset is that the way to do it is to move away from what we are doing to something new, and the conservative mindset is to do what we are doing better. That is, it is a misunderstanding (at best -- a lie at worst) to suggest that conservatives don't want to help the poor, assist the homeless, decrease crime, that sort of thing. We all agree those are good. We disagree on how to do those things.

What has happened in our day is that "better" has become irrelevant. Partly that's because of relativism. "Better for you is not necessarily better for me." Partly it is because of the current mood that eliminates Christianity from the public square. (Christianity, you see, offers a definite definition of "better".) Partly it is a response to discontent with current conditions. President Obama ran on the concept of "change", but I (and most people I know) never quite knew what that "change" entailed. I mean, moving from a republic to a monarchy is "change", but is it better? (No, I'm not suggesting Mr. Obama has intended any such thing. I'm just making a point.) Today's progressives, it seems, don't have an actual concept of "better". The concept is more of "change". And while change is the definition of "progressive", it isn't necessarily good without a goal in sight.

I suppose the problem is that so many people today don't think this stuff through. They react without analyzing. "I don't like the way things are," someone might rightly say, "so I want change. Progressives are offering change. We're in agreement." And we see the looming backlash from that in the upcoming elections. It turns out that "change" isn't exactly what was needed. "Change" isn't providing the answers. But today's world argues that we should be most concerned with "wear the rubber meets the road" and ignore all that theoretical stuff. You know, "it's possible to be too heavenly minded to be any earthly good." That kind of thing. So we don't think about what "progress" or "change" actually means and we scurry about trying to get ... someplace we haven't actually thought about or defined. That doesn't seem to be working too well for either conservative or liberal -- or progressive.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ideas and People

While ideas come from people and all people have ideas, there are necessary distinctions between the two. Sometimes we forget this. For my sake and, perhaps, for yours, I'm bringing up a few of those distinctions.

It is entirely possible for good people to have bad ideas. It is equally possible for bad people to have good ideas. When we are examining an idea, it is only marginally useful to examine the person floating the idea. Ideas need to be examined on their merit, not on the source. There is a distinction, then, between the person and the idea.

In a similar vein, it is entirely possible to love a person and hate their idea(s). Christians are mandated to "love one another". About this there can be no question. We are commanded to love, and love is not based on the proper ideas a person may or may not have. That is, nowhere are we told, "Love those of your neighbors whose ideas are good." Just as we can "love the sinner but hate the sin", it is equally possible to love people with bad ideas. Conversely, we have no biblical justification for hating people with bad ideas. Hate the bad ideas, sure, but not the people.

Finally, there is a stark difference between ideas and people. It is one thing to consider lofty ideas, mull over biblical "right and wrong", consider and analyze important issues from a logical perspective, and so on. It is another thing to apply those considerations to people. We can, for instance, examine the Scriptures to determine that God is indeed sovereign and all things work together for good and nothing occurs that He does not allow for good reasons and all that, but when you're face to face with a mother who just lost her baby in a sudden accident, these ideas are not going to help. Thus we are commanded "Let no unwholesome words come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Eph 4:29).

We live in a fallen world. One of the fundamental aspects of that fallen world is the demise of good thinking. In Romans 1, two descriptors are offered for standard human thinking: "futile in their thinking" and "debased mind". Since we are commanded to love God with, among other things, "all your mind", and since we are commanded to "be transformed by the renewal of your mind", it is good and necessary that we, as Christians, think. However, it is also important that we love our neighbors. We need to keep this in mind when we examine ideas and involve ourselves with people. We need to examine ideas and we need to love those around us. That means we need to contend for the truth, and we need to express it in such a way that it gives grace to those who hear. We need to know the truth and share it from the perspective of love. Let's not forget either side.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Caring for the Wounded?

I recently wrote an article entitled "Preying" where I warned about the problem of becoming prey. The easiest way to do this is to become disconnected from the group. The other primary factor is to become weak. (Wow, did I really sum up that whole post in three sentences? Obviously I'm over-writing stuff.)

There is a sad irony in Christian circles that ... well ... should not be. Christianity is about restoring a relationship with God. It is about forgiveness. It is about sanctification -- being conformed to the image of Christ. It is, by its very nature, a "losers' club" where people begin by admitting that they're not able to fix their sin problem and need God's assistance. Beyond that, Christianity is full of help for believers who sin. So ... why is it that we don't see it that way at all?

Think about it. Most people in general and Christians in particular, hearing that someone was, say, divorced, would have no interest in hearing what that person had to say about marriage. They failed! Why would they have anything helpful to say? This, of course, makes no sense. "Don't do what I did" is an excellent insight. It's not as if failing at something means you no longer have any insight into that something. Indeed, if you learn from your failures, you may have greater insights.

But, let's be honest, that's not the way it works in the church. Take, for instance, the problem of pornography. If I meet an adult male who tells me, "I have no problem with that at all", I assume that either he is lying to me or to himself. Oh, sure, there are an extreme few who don't suffer from that problem ... but that is an extreme few. Still, if you found out that your adult Sunday School teacher or one of your elders or, heaven forbid, even your pastor had to work through temptations over pornography, well, then, he has to go! And not being in one of those positions doesn't help, does it? The usher, the guy who runs sound, that nice man sitting down the row from you ... if any of them actually admitted a struggle in that arena, we wouldn't tend to want to come alongside, see what we could do to help, engage in restoration, that sort of thing. No, no, those people are bad. "Well," the lady next to you says with a huffy tone, "It's a good thing my husband doesn't have a problem with that stuff!" Trust me, lady ... he probably does.

And so we end up pushing the weak out of the herd, borrowing from that previous metaphor. They believe that they suffer a rare malady that most Christians don't suffer. It's something that they can't talk about, something that they can't seek help for. I mean, no one would want them around if they did, right? If only they could be more spiritual like all those others in the church are! And we end up throwing our own to the lions.

Brothers, these things ought not be! Here's what I suggest. "Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed" (James 5:16). Yeah, I know, silly. Just a suggestion. Well, maybe not my suggestion.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Political Speech

It's politics time again and I can hardly stomach the political ads and the nonsense that is classified "political speech". Most of it is nonsense. "Don't vote for my opponent; he/she is a jerk." Nothing about why I should vote for you. Just all the reasons I shouldn't vote against you. Oddly, your opponent told me the same thing about you!

Years ago I read this absolutely marvelous All-Occasion Non-Slanderous Political Smear Speech. Loved it. Turns out it's still available! So here it is for your enjoyment:
Guaranteed Effective All-Occasion Non-Slanderous Political Smear Speech
By Bill Garvin
MAD #139, December 1970

My fellow citizens, it is an honor and a pleasure to be here today. My opponent has openly admitted he feels an affinity toward your city, but I happen to like this area. It might be a salubrious place to him, but to me it is one of the nation's most delightful garden spots.

When I embarked upon this political campaign I hoped that it could be conducted on a high level and that my opponent would be willing to stick to the issues. Unfortunately, he has decided to be tractable instead -- to indulge in unequivocal language, to eschew the use of outright lies in his speeches, and even to make repeated veracious statements about me.

At first, I tried to ignore these scrupulous, unvarnished fidelities. Now I do so no longer. If my opponent wants a fight, he's going to get one!

It might be instructive to start with his background. My friends, have you ever accidentally dislodged a rock on the ground and seen what was underneath? Well, exploring my opponent's background is dissimilar. All the slime and filth and corruption you could possibly imagine, even in your wildest dreams, are glaringly nonexistent in this man's life. And even during his childhood!

Let us take a very quick look at that childhood: It is a known fact that, on a number of occasions, he emulated older boys at a certain playground. It is also known that his parents not only permitted him to masticate excessively in their presence, but even urged him to do so. Most explicable of all, this man who poses as a paragon of virtue, exacerbated his own sister while they were both teenagers!

I ask you, my fellow Americans: Is this the kind of person we want in public office to set an example for our youth? Of course, it's not surprising that he should have such a typically pristine background -- no, not when you consider the other members of his family:

* His female relatives put on a constant pose of purity and innocence, and claim they are inscrutable, yet every one of them has taken part in hortatory activities.
* The men in the family are likewise completely amenable to moral suasion.
* His second cousin is an admitted Mormon.
* His uncle was a flagrant heterosexual.
* His sister, who has always been obsessed by sects, once worked as a proselyte ... outside a church!
* His father was secretly chagrined at least a dozen times by matters of a pecuniary nature.
* His youngest brother wrote an essay extolling the virtues of being a homosapien.
* His great-aunt expired from a degenerative disease.
* His nephew subscribes to a phonographic magazine.
* His wife was a thespian before their marriage and even performed the act in front of paying customers!
* And his own mother had to resign from a women's organization in her later years because she was an admitted sexagenarian.

Now what shall we say of the man himself?

I can tell you in solemn truth that he is the very antithesis of political radicalism, economic irresponsibility, and personal depravity. His own record proves that he has frequently discountenanced treasonable, un-American philosophies and has perpetrated many overt acts as well.

* He perambulated his infant son on the street.
* He practiced nepotism with his uncle and first cousin.
* He attempted to interest a 13-year-old girl in philately.
* He has declared himself in favor of more homogeneity on college campuses.
* He has advocated social intercourse in mixed company -- and has taken part in such gatherings himself.
* He has been deliberately averse to crime in our streets.
* He has urged our Protestant and Jewish citizens to develop more catholic tastes.
* Last summer he committed a piscatorial act on a boat that was flying the American flag.
* Finally, at a time when we must be on our guard against all foreign "isms", he has coolly announced his belief in altruism -- and his fervent hope that some day this entire nation will be altruistic!

I beg you, my friends, to oppose this man whose life and work and ideas are so openly and avowedly compatible with our American way of life. A vote for him would be a vote for the perpetuation of everything we hold dear.

The facts are clear; the record speaks for itself.

Do your duty.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You Don't Know Me

According to Tech News Daily, social media has overtaken porn as the number one activity on the Internet. Whether or not you accept that idea, it is undeniable that the Internet has become a huge location for social interaction. For a lot of the younger generation, it can be the primary location for social interaction. Instead of sitting down over a cup of coffee or spending time together in the same room, many are interacting with tweets, Facebook, texting, and other electronic exchange media. MMOs -- Massive Multiplayer Online games -- include the means to chat with other players. It's a place to type in a line to send to someone to which they can respond. And for many young people it's their social gathering.

Technology is giving us all sorts of new information in social interactions that was never available before. Thanks to better and better technology, we can get answers to questions we never could before. "Where are you?" "What's there?" "What else is available?"

Unfortunately, there is something that all this new social media cannot supply. It's nuance. It doesn't give voice inflection, body language, personality clues, or quirks. In face-to-face interaction you get to know things about the person that inform the conversation. Is there a lilt in the voice that suggests humor even though the words sound harsh? Is there a twinkle in the eye that tells you they're just having fun with the conversation? What is there normal operating process? History, personality, emotions of the moment, personal circumstances, and on and on -- there is so much that goes into communication and personal interaction that is not transmitted over the electronic media.

I had a conversation some time ago with someone who read my blog. He told me that sometimes he couldn't tell if I was just pulling his leg or actually meant what I was saying. Understandable. A blog doesn't offer any of those clues. Having met me and gotten to know me, however, now he sees in what I write many of the nuances and fun that I intend. You see, to really understand what is written, sometimes it takes personal face time, genuine interaction, real relationship.

The truth is that those who read what I write without actually knowing me will often not understand the tone or even intent of what I write. For those who know me, it is generally quite obvious. "He doesn't mean that like it might have sounded. I know him." But the simple fact is that most of those reading my blog don't know me. I'm a nameless and pretty much faceless writer at the other end of a keyboard. My writings will be interpreted by other means -- their personal preferences, inferences, experiences -- rather than knowledge about me. That's too bad. And if we subscribed to the "innocent until proven guilty" idea, it wouldn't be as much of a problem, but we often don't. So I'm telling you now that the best way to understand what I write is to get to know me. That personal, real relationship would make much of what appears obscure very clear.

Hey, I bet that would work itself out when it comes to understanding what God wrote, wouldn't it?

Monday, October 18, 2010


No, it's not a misspelling.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
Going with Peter's simile, what does it take to become the prey of a lion?

Lions are opportunists. The first place a lion looks for a meal is on the fringe. Lions like to get close to their prey and catch them off guard. It's odd, though. If you watch a nature video with lions hunting, you can usually pick out their prey when they do because it's quite obvious who is standing at the outside -- easy pickin's. So, the first place to become prey is to stay on the fringe. Don't get in the middle. Stay on the outside.

Lions are also opportunists in their targeting. While they will certainly take down the closest prey, they really like to find the weaker ones. Find the young ones, the immature, the sick or dying. Find the ones who lack the ability to fight back or flee successfully. Those are the best targets for lions. Prey animals typically know this and defend their young by putting them in the middle of the heard rather than on the periphery. The next way to become prey, then, is to allow yourself to become weak and, in that condition, to avoid the protection of the group.

Lions like to hunt one animal at a time. Sometimes they even use deception to do it. While they will often spring from the grass and drag down the target, sometimes they will put the old "toothless" guy out there and have him roar, scaring the prey into the jaws of the younger members of the pride. The best thing to do, by whatever means, is to hunt individuals. Separate them from the group. In the protection of a herd, prey is hard to catch. Off on their own, they're much easier. To become prey, then, allow yourself to be cut off from the rest. Isolation is the best way to get dragged down by Satan.

We are called "the Church", "the Body of Christ". Christianity is not a "Lone Ranger" religion; it is a community. We are warned against neglecting to gather for fellowship. We are told to be in discipleship. We are designed to be interconnected. Satan's technique, however, is that of the lion. Find the ones on the fringe. Pick the weak ones. Isolate them from the rest. And we play his game. We are told, for instance, "confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed" (James 5:16), but we shun that concept because we know that the group would certainly put us out if they knew that we wrestled with that problem. The truth is more likely that many wrestle with that problem (whatever it is) and we're simply succumbing to Satan's ploy.

I don't want to be prey. I'd rather be prayed for. So what does it take to get into a group of people who are willing to recognize that all have weaknesses and all need to be protected and excluding people because they struggle with sin would require that everyone be excluded? What does it take to find the protection of the group rather than the condemnation? I'd rather not become prey. Are you one who is in the middle of it, or are you on the fringe? Are you one that gathers in the weak and helpless, or do you push them out? Where do you go for protection of the group? I ask because I'd rather not become prey.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Normally it is a bad thing to be a hedonist. A hedonist is a person who believes that the pursuit of pleasure is the chief good. This view is the underpinnings for the "if it feels good, do it" perspective. It is, in fact, a very popular view today. Do whatever makes you happy. Moralists, of course, will raise their hands. "No, no," they will cry, "personal pleasure is not the chief good, and those of you who think so are immoral." Very often we Christians are among those moralists. "No, no, the pursuit of God is the chief good." There is, in fact, a particular line of thinking that argues that if you are motivated by pleasure, regardless of whether it is reward for doing good or avoiding damnation or any such thing, then the good you are doing is void. The only honorable motivation for doing good is if there is no reward, no pleasure in it.

And then David raises his hand.
In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever (Psa 16:11).
"No, no, I beg to differ," he argues in this psalm. "In God's hand there are pleasures forever. In God's presence is the only place you will find fullness of joy." David, you see, was somewhat of a hedonist himself. The pleasure he found to be the chief good was the presence of God.

I'm thinking that perhaps we might want to amend our common argument about the evils of pleasure seeking. I'm thinking that a pursuit of mundane, earthly pleasures would pale in comparison to the pleasures and joy found in God. That would be a valid, moral, even wise hedonist position to take.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


It's a "victim mentality" they say. It's a feeling of being persecuted, a paranoia. It's not real, of course. It's just a perception, and it's false. The argument is strengthened when some decide to use the "victim mentality" as "proof" -- "See? I'm right because you are victimizing me!" But here's the rub. Just because someone is paranoid does not mean that they are not out to get him.

The Bible promises Christians that, just as the world hated Christ, the world will hate His followers. One of the consistent promises in Scripture is the promise of suffering for being a Christian. Had I been a religious skeptic in the last 100 years or so, I might point to that one and use it as "evidence" that the Bible is false because it has not seemed in America that Christians were being hated for their beliefs. Sure, it wouldn't be a good argument and, sure, it couldn't ultimately be supported, but it sure looked that way, didn't it?

Well, no more. The cat is out of the bag and more and more voices are rising against Christianity. Arguments are actually being made to ban or criminalize religion in general and Christianity in particular. And that should come as no surprise, nor should it come with any sense of moral outrage, since it is a given according to Scripture. It just ... is. I don't say any of this from a "victim mentality" because I don't feel like a victim. It's just the way it is. It is the way, in fact, that it is expected to be.

What bothers me is this whole matter of consistency. I try, from my side, to be consistent. Starting with the Bible as my sole source in matters of faith and practice, I try to view the world from that perspective. If I someone offers me the view that the Bible is bunk, I'll disagree with them ... equally. That is, if an atheist tells me that or a "Christian" tells me that, I'll be disagreeing on that point. I try to maintain a consistent viewpoint. If I believed that it's wrong to judge, I would try not to judge. Not like so many others who are judgmental about people they believe are judgmental and intolerant of people they believe are intolerant. If they don't want to allow people to have views with which they disagree, on what basis would they be allowed to have views with which others disagree?

I was talking to someone the other day about conversations we've had with unbelievers. I explained to him the difference between an atheist and an agnostic. An atheist says "There is no god" and an agnostic says "I don't know if there is a god". He was baffled. "But ... they argue the same way. They argue against Christianity." And he was right.

Everybody, me included, will have inconsistencies at times. Their arguments will be out of line with their stated beliefs. Hopefully it's out of ignorance. So I raise here some questions just as a public service in case there are some who are not being consistent, don't know it, and would like to be. Do atheists go to Islamic or Jewish or Hindu or Buddhist or other religions to debate their beliefs with them? Or is it only Christians they debate? And do they try to clear up the "don't know" question for agnostics? And shat about agnostics? Agnostics claim to "not know". Why, then, would an agnostic debate any religious beliefs? They don't know. And if there is reason for an agnostic to debate the beliefs of, say, Christianity, wouldn't there be equal reason to debate with atheists? Atheism makes a truth claim ("no god"). Why wouldn't agnostics give them equal debate time? "Hey, you claim there is no god. On what logical basis can you make such a claim? Where's your evidence?" How about that conversation?

Friday, October 15, 2010

What Calvinists Believe

Explaining that, dear reader, would be an impossible task. Explaining "what Calvinists believe" would require more space than I have available and far more words than you'd care to read. There are two reasons for this.

First, most of what Calvinists believe coincide with most of what any other brand of Christian believes. No one denies the Atonement, the Resurrection, the Trinity, and on and on. When "Calvinism" (as it came to be known) surfaced, it was when a small group of seminary students filed a complaint ("Remonstrance") with the church. Having read all of Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion (four volumes), they had five ... only 5 ... disagreements. That means that, even with the disagreement, the bulk of theology was agreeable. So to explain what Calvinists believe would require ... well ... something akin to four volumes.

The other problem is the one that bothers me most. I don't know how many times I've heard, "You dirty, rotten Calvinists believe ..." and the speaker goes on to explain some horrible position that no Christian I know, Calvinist or otherwise, has ever professed. And when I ask, "Where did you get that?", they tell me "I heard it from _____" and give me the name of their favorite Calvinist to loathe. Apparently this guy (whoever he is) is the sole voice for all things Calvinist.

In truth, there are a whole bunch of shades of Calvinism. There are Amyraldians, 5-pointers, even one I heard who said he was a 7-pointer. There are supralapsarians and infralapsarians and postredemptionists. There are dispensationalists and covenantalists. There is Molinism and Thomism, moderate Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism. Oh, and don't forget the neo-Calvinists.

There are a few basic components that make up "Calvinism". They're hard enough to discuss because of the shades of variation you will either see, hear, or manufacture. So while I like to defend Reformed Theology and have to admit that I am recognizable as a "Calvinist", it pains me to report that in this day and age with all the things that are in common and all the gradations that each person seems to have, this "shorthand" that is the term "Calvinism" isn't so short anymore. If you want to know what this Calvinist believes, you're going to have to ask because I suspect that you've heard something different somewhere along the line.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Let's Just Get Along

A friend of mine was examining Scripture and came to the conclusion that he and his wife were not following what appeared to be clear commands from God. So he told his wife, "We need to change our approach and obey God." Well, anyone with any life experience can guess what came next. Since his wife wasn't "on the same page", this change in approach produced conflict between husband and wife. Now there is a new problem to deal with, a new hurdle to overcome, a new point of friction, and it's not small. I mentioned the situation to another friend who shared the first friend's position on the particular issue. Here's what he told me: "One of my key pieces of advice to people who are considering making serious ethical changes in their marriage (or relationship) is to discuss them with your beloved first. It’s better to be together than to be 'right' many times."

Okay, now I'm baffled. (Yeah, like "what's new?", eh?) We're talking about "ethical changes" as opposed to preference, likes or dislikes, that kind of thing. We're not talking about, "Honey, I've decided I much prefer a blue living room to a red one and we're going have to repaint and thin no more." No, not at all. We're talking about "ethical" changes -- a new realization in what is moral and immoral, a new recognition of what God has commanded. So the recommended approach is "It’s better to be together than to be right"?

Maybe I'm confused. Maybe I don't have a clue what's going on. Maybe I have too high an opinion of God's perspective. Maybe it would be best to discard what appears to be clear, biblical instruction from God in order to "be together" ... with a spouse, a friend, well, anyone with whom I have a relationship, right? I know this would certainly go a long way toward removing all those pesky complaints from the world about "You Christians are so judgmental and moralistic" and all that. I mean, if we just give up all those explicit commands from Scripture that are diametrically opposed to all those positions that the world takes (or Christians immersed in a secular worldview), well, then, we could just get along, couldn't we? I wouldn't have to worry about avoiding immoral people or standing up for what is right or any of that hard stuff. Oh, sure, I might retain some friction with God, but, hey, I have to keep in mind that "It’s better to be together than to be right", right?

No, I am definitely confused. I am not getting this at all.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Maintaining Trust

It's really difficult to estimate, perhaps overestimate, the importance of trust. It is a common, prevalent, ongoing necessity. Your children trust you to provide for them. Your wife trusts you to love her. Your employer trusts you to show up and work. The store trusts that the check you write or the debit card you use will actually provide them payment for what you just bought. And on and on and on. Conversely, the lack of trust is equally common, prevalent, and ongoing. They make you sign your name on the check because some people haven't been trustworthy. They have a PIN for that debit card because someone could steal it and use it. The amount of time, energy, and money that goes into fraud and crime prevention is astounding ... because too many people aren't trustworthy. Trust is important. And we all know it.

So why is it that we so often seem to care so little for it? Think about it. Do we routinely do things that bolster trust or erode it? At home are you the guy that your wife thinks will be right there to help her out or are you the type that waits to be asked? Do your children anticipate that you will be spending time with them tonight or will they have to intrude on your television watching? Are you the kind of person about whom those who know you would say, "If he/she promises 'for better or for worse', he/she will keep that promise ... for better or for worse"? Are you the kind of person the neighbors rely on or are they unlikely to ask when they need help? Do you cheat on your taxes? Your spouse (either directly or indirectly)? Your boss? (You know, like when you have work to do but put it off for something more fun or when you think that it can't hurt to take a few office supplies for home use or you take a longer lunch break but only count it as the shorter time ... that kind of thing.) Are you the person about whom God will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant"?

Trust is an essential part of life. And we all want to be trusted. In fact, we're likely offended if someone questions our reliability in something. But how often are we living lives that deny our untrustworthiness? If you were accused of being too reliable, too honest, too trustworthy, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The "In" Crowd

You know how it works with kids. There is always the "in" crowd, that group of "special" kids who are in the inner circle of some undefined category of "cool". The other kids clamor to be in that inner circle, to be part of that special group, to perhaps be associated in some way, to at least not be thrown out. It's not a pretty game. Unfortunately, the same scenario typically plays itself out in church youth groups. There is a nexus of "cool" kids at the center with an entourage of followers. Outside that circle are the "lesser known" in diminishing brilliance until they reach the level of invisible. Just like school. The difference, of course, is that this is church and, well, these things ought not be. But ... they are.

I wish that things were better at church. I wish that parents could teach their kids not to do that. I wish that the kids at church were more inclusive, more caring, more open. But they are kids. Even if parents were paying attention (which, for the most part, they aren't), I'm not entirely sure what could be done about it. Even if the youth leaders were trying to change that (which, for the most part, they aren't), I'm not sure what course of action I would recommend. (You see, for youth leaders in particular, if you have a core group of "in" people that can attract others to them, then you have a built-in "attraction factor" for getting kids in your group, and that's a good thing, right?)

Obviously the primary problem here is human nature. Changing human nature is, by definition, an act of God. I think, though, that the problem is aggravated by the fact that kids don't see much different in adults. There. I said it. You see, go to most any church and you'll see the same dynamic at work. There are groups of adults entertwined. (That's not a misspelled word -- I just made it up. It's a combination of "entertained" and "intertwined".) They know each other, spend time together, chat happily at church and (hopefully) beyond. But they don't normally accept outsiders. That's right, "outsiders". Visit this church (which is likely any church) and it takes time and effort to become an "insider". You need to invest the time and the effort to become part of the "in" crowd because they are not likely going to reach out to you.

This is what I expect from kids. It is, in fact, what I expect from unbelievers. It is the normal human thing. Form groups normally related to whatever they have in common -- skin color, income, neighborhood, etc. It's the normal thing to do. But Christians are supposed to be something different, something new. The basic ethic of Christian living is "love your neighbor". (And Jesus went out of His way to explain that "neighbor" meant "anyone who crosses your path".) It doesn't get any more basic than that. So why is it so rare to find church people who do that? Why is it so easy to go to a church and leave without being noticed? Why is it so hard for believers to break out of the standardized, worldly, "clique" perspective and reach out to those around them? I ask because I don't have all the answers.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Class Warfare

You've heard, I would imagine, of that horrid system in India called the caste system. In this system your status in life was determined by the caste you were in. That was determined, essentially, by your heritage. Of course, it would be a mistake to think that it was purely a product of India. Many civilizations have had these structures. Not all were based on heritage. There have often been divisions between religious, ruling, and worker classes. Some included a warrior class. As an obvious example, the British were famous for their aristocracy that had a class over the serfs who did the work and alongside the clergy who ruled the religious world. Some of these systems have been quite elaborate (one account I read said that India had more than 45 castes) and some more simplified. In South Africa it was apartheid, a gross caricature of standard racism taken to an extreme. But we agree today that these are, as I said, horrid systems. We prefer, in our modern, wiser, more developed society, a classless society. "No class."

It's a nice thought, perhaps, but I would beg to differ with the notion that we have arrived. While we see ourselves as having moved beyond that primitive, evil perspective, it seems instead to be ingrained, even inborn. While we decry those dirty rotten views that make people out to be "lesser" simply because of their heritage or position, I would submit that we make a practice of it ourselves on a daily basis.

Look, for instance, at the class warfare offered by Washington. Who is the enemy? "The rich." Who is Washington, then, trying to defend? "The poor." Now, these classifications are, by necessity, pretty vague. What is "rich" and "poor"? For instance, some of the poorest individuals in our society make far more than what are deemed "poverty stricken" in third world countries. Those folks would be elated to have as much as American "poor". And "rich" seems to be defined as "more than I have", whatever "what I have" is. So now we are being told that "the rich" are evil and "the poor" are abused and the way to fix that is to take from the rich. That's class warfare. It is, without possible argument, classification. And the class known at "the rich" are being pitted against the class considered "the poor" in a showdown to take from one to give to the other. Class warfare.

Long ago in this country we decried racism. Judging people on the basis of their skin color was deemed (rightly so) wrong. Dr. King's alternative, "the content of their character", was a good thing. Now, we have not arrived at a society free of racism, but we have come a long way. The fact that we have a president in office who, 40 years ago, wouldn't have been even considered is a verification of both the decline and remnant of racism. It is clearly a decline in that he was elected and clearly a remnant in that we noticed his racial origin. If racism in America was over, there would have been no comment on "a black man in the White House". No, the caste system we call "racism" is not gone. Today, it is the power class that is evil and the others that are good. From a racial starting point, we know that Native Americans are good. By virtue of the fact that they were here first, we know that they loved the land, were peaceful, and were much better than any white man ever was. If that sounds ludicrous, it's because it was intended to. But that's the thought process. White people are bad. To this day they keep the black man down. They have oppressed every non-white race they have ever encountered. Evil white people. And, again, we have classified and, from that classification, we have separated into castes. There are the good ones and the bad ones, based entirely on their heritage. The good ones (non-whites) want the bad ones (whites) to pay reparations, to surrender power, to fade away if at all possible. Reverse discrimination. Class warfare. And not even close to "the content of their character." In fact, how often have I heard, "Character doesn't matter"?

We think we've come a long way in modern society. We think we're more civilized than those silly systems of caste or aristocracy or whatever other classes they had before that caused such friction. We're not. We've simply changed which classification we prefer and are still fomenting strife. You're a Democrat? Lousy socialist! Oh, you're a Republican? Right wing nut job! You're an American! Oh, that's the worst of all! No, we haven't come so far at all. It seems to always be "us against them". It looks like it always will be, regardless of the shifting categories of class.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Barrister

It's Sunday, time again for an upbeat post to encourage worship. It's what I try to do. So today I'm going to post one of my favorite thoughts in Scripture. Unfortunately, because of the sometimes arbitrary method in which the passages are divided up in chapter and verse, I fear this one can get lost at the chapter break, so I'm not going to break it:
1:5 This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. 1:6 If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 1:5-2:2).
The passage is pretty well known, especially in parts. I mean, most of us know "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins" -- that whole thing. Good stuff, really. But if you read the entire passage, it might get a little disturbing.

The passage warns about believing a lie about myself. If I say "I walk in light" and actually walk in darkness, there is a problem. There is a problem of truth. It is entirely possible, apparently, to say and even believe that I have fellowship with Christ when I don't at all. How to tell the difference? The difference is detected in what I do. This test is repeated over and over. "Walk in darkness". "Say we have no sin". "Say we have not sinned". That's the issue, isn't it? He writes, in fact, that the very reason for writing is "so that you may not sin." And that's the problem. We do. So now what? Is all lost? Are we deceiving ourselves? Is the truth not in us? Are we making Him a liar? These are tough questions.

And the passage offers two answers that are simple and stunning. First, in the midst of the demand for the "sin test" we read, "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." How glorious! Agree with God about my sin and He forgives it! I am, of course, leaving out an all-important phrase. Not only does He forgive the sin about which I agree, but He will also "cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Wow! Not only the stuff I admit to, agree with, recognize, but the stuff I missed!

Okay, good! Marvelous stuff! But John did say that the goal is to stop us from sinning. So ... when exactly is that going to happen? I mean, isn't that the actual expectation in this life? Apparently not. This is the other delightful answer to the problem. "If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." First, understand that the concept of "advocate" isn't simply "someone on your side". It is more like a defense lawyer, an intercessor, someone who pleads your case. How good is this defense lawyer? Well, He's ... righteous. Not only that, but the One we have to plead our case before God, the Judge, is the One who is the only possible answer to sin -- "the propitiation for our sins". He is the one who atoned for our sins, the expiator, the one that paid the price for our sin so that God could set aside the charges -- "paid in full". So, imagine that courtroom scene:

Satan (the Accuser): "Your Honor, I bring the charge of (some particular sin)."

God (the Judge): "How do you plead?"

Christ (the Advocate): "Your Honor, my client pleads guilty, but the penalty has been paid ... by Me."

God: "Case dismissed. Next?"

Oh, yes, that is truly wondrous. That is truly praiseworthy. That is genuinely awesome -- a sense of reverence with just a touch of dread stuck in. (It is not possible for me to contemplate this level of forgiveness and payment without being struck with the debt I owed that was paid on my behalf, and that can shake me.) The whole concept of walking in the light under the admission ticket of confession and with the ultimate defense lawyer -- the one who actually paid my fines -- beside me is really something about which to worship. And the fellowship it provides among those of us who share this condition is one of the primary concepts of "church". Go and enjoy that fellowship and worship.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Facebook Meme

So, there I was, logging into Facebook the other evening to check up on things. Now, the women who are "friended" on my Facebook are almost entirely either family or church friends. Imagine, then, my utter confusion when I started reading entries from these women about where they "liked it". "I like it on the kitchen counter." "I like it on the piano." What? What is this? I can't say for sure ... but it doesn't sound right.

Well, the story is out. Facebook asked women to change their status to say, "I like it ..." and then fill in where they put their purses when they got home. Why? Well, it's all in the name of Breast Cancer Awareness. You know, "Support Breast Cancer Awareness by telling us where you like to put your purse." That kind of thing. (I can't know the right wording because I quite literally didn't get the memo.) So these status statements starting with "I like it" and followed by a place in the house were simply a secret act of solidarity among women on Facebook to promote the defeat of breast cancer.

Now, I have to say that I'm all in favor of fighting breast cancer. It's a bad thing and I'm in favor of fixing it. And I can see how "Walk Against Breast Cancer" events raise money to continue to fight the malady. I get that. And I can see how those little pink ribbon things that people wear or stick on their cars or the like keep the whole problem of breast cancer in mind so people will work to fight it. I get all that. But ... what's this all about?

I get it. It's "camaraderie". It's a binding of secret society, exchanged winks among the "in" group. But it strikes me as really odd. What is the connection of this clearly intended sexual innuendo to breast cancer? How does a secret message about purses advance the cause of fighting that cancer? How does a secret anything keep the public aware of anything? Worse, does this kind of thing encouraging women to do secret messages with strange insinuations make them think they are doing something about the actual problem ... thereby short-circuiting actually doing something about it?

Breast cancer is a bad thing. To the best of my knowledge, it is not solely a problem for women. To the best of my knowledge, it is not caused nor solved by placing purses in their favorite places. I have not yet read a report connecting purse placement to breast cancer. While I would like to see it faced, treated, defeated, I just have to wonder about strategies that include "Save the ta-tas", "Describe your bra", and "In a sexually suggestive way, tell us where you like to put your purse" in getting the word out, attracting funds, and getting the job done. Is that really the best we can do?

Friday, October 08, 2010

Mohler on Yoga

Just last month the ever popular Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a post asking Should Christians Practice Yoga? His answer, of course, was, "No!" Well, it seems Yahoo picked it up and now the good doctor is getting all sorts of nasty emails from Christians who disagree.

I'm not writing this to agree or disagree with Dr. Mohler. I'm not writing this to point out that "nasty emails" and "from Christians" are two phrases that shouldn't be stuck together. I'm not writing this to ask, "People ... seriously ... yoga ... really? Is that what gets your knickers in a twist?" I'm not even writing it to point out the vast number of inane people who have commented on his views with such hate and mindlessness. I'm writing because there was a line so wonderful in his blog that I suspect it was missed ... perhaps even by him. Referring to the incredible influx of unhappy emails (at a rate of about a hundred an hour) he says, "These people get bent out of shape fast." Now that's a funny line.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Avoiding Immoral People

The Bible has some rather tough things to say to Christians. Oh, sure, there is a lot there about the condition of unbelievers, but there are some really difficult things to swallow for believers especially. One that I came across recently was from 1 Corinthians.
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people -- not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler -- not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you" (1 Cor 5:9-13).
Now, note first of all who this is not aimed at. This is not aimed at unbelievers. What obscure grammatical structure leads me to conclude that? "... not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world ..." It's not about unbelievers. It's about "anyone who bears the name of brother". So before anyone takes the easy way out and says, "This is about staying away from bad influences from the world," step back. It's not. True, bad company corrupts good morals, light has no fellowship with darkness, and all that, but that is not in mind in this passage.

So what is Paul saying? This is a command "not to associate" with people who call themselves believers while indulging in obvious, overt sin. Let that sink in. I'm pretty sure that each of us knows such people. They're in our churches. They're in our workplaces. They're ... sometimes at home. Paul isn't unclear. He says that we must "not even to eat with such a one." Instead, we are to "Purge the evil person from among you." And it's not only Paul. Jesus said of a sinning brother, "if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector" (Matt 18:17). Harsh, really harsh.

Now, I could probably write a whole thing here about the concept, how we ought to, and how we would be wrong to fail to do what is commanded here. Fine. In fact, easy. But I have to ask the hard question because I'd like to know what you think. What if this immoral brother, this believer indulging in overt sin without repentance, is "in your home"? No, maybe not in your house. You could do something about that. But, say, a family member. A brother. A son-in-law. A grandmother. Someone over whom you have no authority, but with whom you have more than a friendship relationship. How do you deal with that? What do you do about, say, family gatherings? You know, like Thanksgiving. "We're going to sit down for a meal ... with someone that God has commanded me not to eat with." How do you deal with that?

Don't try to tell me, "You stay around them so you can urge them back to Christ." First, the assumption is that you've tried. Second, given that this person has refused to repent, the command isn't unclear. God didn't say, "You stay around them so you can urge them back to Christ." It's not as if we have a better plan than God does. "Yeah, yeah, God was okay in that, but if He had considered the possibility that we might win the restoration of our brother, then He would have said that instead. In the meantime, we'll just ignore what He said and do what we know is best." No, no, don't go there. I want to know how you would deal with a person who calls himself or herself a Christian, a fellow believer, and is openly engaged in clear sin without repentance. Those with a little more distance are a little easier to figure out. What do you do with these up-close-and-personal folk?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A Measure of Happiness

When I was a younger man I made it my aim to make my wife happy. It seemed like a noble goal, the thing that good husbands were supposed to do. Of course, it took me a while, but I finally figured out that ... well ... it didn't work. You see, it is not possible to make someone feel something, and happiness is an emotion. I had determined for myself a goal that was not possible by myself. Now I think that I made a second mistake.

We often use the concept of happiness as a measure of success. That is, "if happy, then successful." If he is happy, he must be doing okay. If she is happy, someone must be doing something right. If my kids are happy, I must be a good parent. It's pretty common, I think. And the fact that I'm questioning that measurement tool might come as a surprise. But ... I am.

If you stop to think about it for just a moment, it doesn't really work. It occurred to me one day when I asked a woman I hadn't seen for awhile how she was doing. "Oh, great," she answered. "I got a divorce." "Oh, I'm so sorry," I responded. "No, no," she said, "I'm happy I got rid of the bum." Now, remember the formula: "If happy, then success." Drawing up this woman's perspective against the biblical perspective, we have a problem. She divorced him because she wasn't happy with him. No adultery, abuse, or any other popular reason. She just wasn't happy with him. Jesus said, "What God has joined together let no man separate." So now we have "happy" at odds with Jesus's reality.

I would guess that this happens much more than we realize. People who are at odds with God (Christian or not) will likely be happy about things that do not please God. Even if they're not actually at odds with God in a conscious sense, the old man will be at war with God's ways and, therefore, the tendency of sinful Man will be to be happy about things that God is not. And no matter how you cut it, that cannot be considered "success". That would be considered "sin". We might think "Well, they're smiling, so it must be a good thing", but that doesn't take into account sin, does it? Perhaps, then, happiness is not a good measure of success, and we who think so might need to rethink.

I started with "when I was a younger man" because it sounds like I have this figured out. I put that there to, well, make me feel better. That's because I don't. I still make that mistake. I mistake "peaceful" for "success", "happy" for "success", and more. That's because I still tend to lose sight of what God really wants and sometimes end up on the Man side ... you know, the side opposed to God. It's something I'm working on. If you aren't aware of it, it makes it difficult for you to work on it, too. So, now you are. You're welcome.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

What Does It Take?

For the sake of this discussion, I'm using "Christendom" as a term to describe the public face of what is called "Christianity". It is the entire group. Now, biblically and logically you have to know that "Christendom" and "Christians" will not necessarily be the same thing. In any group there will be "true believers" and there will be others, either hanging around for ulterior motives or evil intentions. The Bible assures us this will be true of the Church -- "wheat and tares", that sort of thing -- but it's true of any other body of people as well. No surprise.

The face of Christendom is almost constantly changing. What it looked like in the 1st century and what it looked like in the 15th century (the century before the Reformation), for example, were not the same thing. Christendom of the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries carried out Crusades that later Christendom would not have abided and today's Christendom finds absolutely repulsive. The question is not whether or not Christendom changes, but how close Christendom is to Christianity. Christianity is that solid body of Truth that is the teaching of God through the Scriptures, the intention of Christ, the actual true Christian belief structure. Sometimes Christendom has drifted away from Christianity and sometimes it has embraced it closely, but always there has been both Christendom and Christians.

The Roman Catholic Church has maintained that there are three authorities in matters of faith and practice: Scripture, the Church, and tradition. When the Reformation occurred, the Protestants held solely to Scripture as authoritative. In an odd backlash, some Protestants have decided that tradition has no value and the Church has no authority. The result ... is pandemonium. And Christendom has taken on an almost amorphous face with thousands of denominations called "Christian" with varying degrees of fidelity to Christianity -- some very close and some, if examined carefully, completely outside the group.

Still, as a body, Christendom has held together for 20 centuries with large bodies of beliefs intact. The Trinity, the Scripture, the death and resurrection of Christ, these and so many more have been in the center with other matters emanating out from the middle with diminishing levels of importance. Scripture teaches these and tradition upholds them. The question, then, becomes "What does it take to change it?"

In today's world, Christendom seems to be very ready, even eager to change structures. As an example, for all of Scripture and Church history there has been the constant belief that homosexual behavior is sin. It has ever been thus. Today, however, in some areas Christendom is taking a shape that is opposed to this view. I'm not arguing one or the other. I'm simply pointing out that there are those today who have decided that the long history of belief regarding homosexual behavior as sin has been wrong and today "We've finally figured it out." Or take the example of women in ministry. The Church has never allowed women to be in ministerial authority over men. It has always maintained that women are not allowed to teach men. Today, however, such a claim is considered narrow-minded and sexist. What does it take to change history? What is required to take long-held historic Christian beliefs and jettison them?

In the case of women in ministry, it appears that the argument is, "Nope!" There is no actual winning argument. It isn't based on anything from Church history or biblical text or any such thing. The primary argument is "If women feel they are led to be in ministry, they should be in ministry." It is primarily bolstered by the egalitarian argument that "In Christ there is no male or female", but that is hard to maintain with the manifold passages that describe ... differences between male and female roles and responsibilities. No, the argument starts with feminism and "I don't like that" and ends with some cobbled-together position that doesn't have to be correct, but just has to get enough in Christendom to like it.

So what does it take for you? There are many historic, traditional, even biblical beliefs being questioned by Christendom today. There are pastors of churches who deny the Resurrection, deny the Atonement, deny the existence of Satan ... even Jesus. There are hordes lurking about within the halls of Christendom calling themselves "Christians" who deny the very fundamentals of the faith. There are those who argue that history isn't accurate or legitimate, that "Christianity changes", that God isn't even what we've always believed. So how do you decide what to believe and what to change? What is enough evidence or argument to cause you to throw out what you believe for something new? Are history or tradition of any value? What does it take to change your Christendom?

Monday, October 04, 2010

When Worlds Collide

Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has openly made the statement that Evolution and Christianity are at odds. His statement at the 2010 Ligonier Conference was, "The theory of evolution is incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ even as it is in direct conflict with any faithful reading of the Scriptures." This, of course, has caused no small stir. Dr. Mohler points to an article in The Washington Post by Rachel Held Evans who complains about Mohler's statement. She is upset, in fact, that on this point "atheists and Baptists agree".

Recounting her own odyssey of discovery, she grew up thinking the same thing until she began studying Evolution for herself. For her, things like "DNA sequences" and "biodiversity" were compelling evidence in favor of Evolution and she nearly lost her faith.

Evans expresses this concern: "What leaders like Mohler fail to realize is that they are setting young Christians up for failure. They are inadvertently orchestrating the very exodus that they fear. In presenting faith and science as a choice, the Baptists have essentially conceded that the atheists are right after all, and as a result they are losing some of the brightest young minds in Christendom to a false dichotomy."

I see two issues here. First, while I have seen this framed over and over again in this light, it is not accurate. It is, in fact, quite misleading. The presentation is not "faith and science as a choice". It is not a dichotomy of faith and science. That's how it is presented over and over. That is not the issue. So often has that been presented that it has become "standard knowledge" that faith and science are opposed, that faith and reason are thoroughly and necessarily disconnected. And this "standard knowledge" is wrong. The point is not a dichotomy of faith and science. The dichotomy is faith and the current claims of a scientific discipline with a presupposition of naturalism, of physicalism. That is, faith does not require that science is wrong. It is simply saying that there is reason to question some of the current positions being taken by some people working in the realm of science. And it's a funny thing, too, because skeptics of Christianity often point to this very aspect of scientific endeavor as its strength. "Science never assumes it is right; it is always questioning itself." So faith questions science ... and that's bad?

Here's the other issue. Christians are promised that "the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing", that "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." We are promised that the world systems will hate Christianity just as they hated Christ. We know that "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers." We know this stuff. So why does it become encumbent upon us to make sure that a proper understanding of Scripture is aligned with the current mode of thinking of science? Worse, if the current views of science do indeed lie in opposition to the Gospel (and they do), is the proper response to jettison the Gospel to avoid "losing some of the brightest young minds in Christendom"? If there is an exodus from Christianity, doesn't the Bible tell us "They 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"?

Dr. Mohler points out in his blog that people like Evans don't really grasp that aligning biblical theology with current scientific views on Evolution (which, oh, by the way, mandate "no God" -- ask Stephen Hawking) will result in a negation of biblical theology. He's right. I ask a different but related question. Is it the goal of Christians (followers of Christ) to keep "the brightest young minds in Christendom" or is it the goal to be faithful to Christianity? At what point do we decide "Well, I suppose we're just going to be at odds with the world's views"? Because if we really want to keep people in "Christianity", it seems like it would be pretty simple. Just make it a world mimic. Shape Christianity into whatever draws in people, right? Of course, it's not Christianity anymore at that point, but, hey, it met the goal, right? Perhaps that's not a good goal.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

God Speaks

In a recent, friendly exchange with a skeptic he brought up the complaint I've heard from other skeptics. "Why doesn't God talk to you?" The suggestion (generally, if not this commenter specifically) is that if God spoke (apparently audibly because, well, if He just spoke to you in your brain that would be unverifiable), well then He'd be believable. And, of course, He hasn't spoken audibly to people since, well, the Bible days I suppose. So since the days of the Bible, God has been pretty ... unbelievable.

I am not looking for a clever argument. I'm not trying to provide clear evidence or offer an apologetic here. I'm not trying to prove anything at all. I'm just wondering ... does God ever talk to you?

I've had experiences along those lines. They aren't numerous. There is no "voice from heaven", no audible sound, no thunder and lightning and all that. But there have been times when I've spoken to God and I have known without a doubt that He has spoken back. Sometimes His answers have been circumstantial. That is, I've asked for x and received x or asked for y and been refused y and I can say, "That was an answer from God." But there have been those times when it was an answer in words. Almost always it has been in the form of a passage from Scripture, which helps me a lot because I am not one of those Charismatic types who is hanging on to "a word from God", some sort of "special revelation". No, these ones were most often a recalled passage that I didn't really remember at all but came back to me in direct response to what I had asked, answering the question perfectly. On extremely rare occasion, I've had an answer that completely caught me off guard and was not from Scripture. I remember once I was leaving on a trip and asked God, "Please take care of my family while I'm away." I got an unmistakable response. "Did you think it was you who was taking care of them when you were there?" Message received, God. Thanks.

So I'm just wondering. Do you concur with the skeptic who complains, "Why doesn't God speak?"? I'm not asking for cogent arguments about what's wrong with their complaint. I'm not asking you to even defend your answer. I'm just asking, does God ever talk to you?

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Migrants in Irregular Situation

Well, it's all cleared up now. Shouldn't be long before we see a swift and simple response from Congress and the President. This whole "illegal immigration" thing ought to be over in ... what ... a matter of days? I'd think so.

Following the lead of the U.S. government, the U.N. has issued a statement calling all who agree with the concept of controlling borders "xenophobes and racists". The statement has a title which settles all the issues at hand and clears up all those nasty questions. You see, some have tenaciously referred to them as "illegal aliens" or "illegal immigrants" while the press has tried to shift away from the terminology of "illegal" and more toward "undocumented". The United Nations Human Rights Commission, however, has cut through it all to point out the real situation. The title of the statement, you see, is Statement of the Global Migration Group on the Human Rights of Migrants in Irregular Situation. Ah! There, you see? You thought they were "illegal". They're not! You thought they were "aliens" or even "immigrants". They're not! They're only migrants ... and they're "in irregular situation".

Now, I've tried to figure out what that means. According to the statement, this is a reference to "migrants without proper legal status" and "they are estimated to be in the tens of millions worldwide." I would have to ask, "If there are tens of millions worldwide, is it actually proper to call it an 'irregular situation'?" But, okay, I admit that I am not on the same wavelength as the U.N. Human Rights Commission, so we'll let that go.

What do they want? The Global Migration Group is concerned about the rights of migrant workers who happen to cross international borders. Understandably they are concerned about their abuse. They are "victimized by unscrupulous employers and sexual predators, and can easily fall prey to criminal traffickers and smugglers." Of highest concern are women and children in this group. Children, obviously, need protection, but, apparently, female migrants in irregular situation face, among other things, "specific challenges in access to employment". This should not be!

Of course, the problem isn't only unscrupulous people. It's not just pimps and human slavers and rotten employers causing these problems. It is governments (you know, like Arizona). The statement says, "Although States have legitimate interests in securing their borders and exercising immigration controls, such concerns cannot, and indeed, as a matter of international law do not, trump the obligations of the State to respect the internationally guaranteed rights of all persons, to protect those rights against abuses, and to fulfill the rights necessary for them to enjoy a life of dignity and security."

The report lists "the fundamental rights of all persons". Most are pretty clear. You know ... right to life (unless, I suppose, you're a human in the womb), the right to seek asylum from persecution, the freedom from discrimination "based on race, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, or other status" (think about the implications of that for a moment), the right to a fair trial, to be free from abuse and exploitation, free from torture and the like. We pretty much all concur with all of this. They include in the list the right "to be free from arbitrary arrest or detention", as if enforcing border security and immigration laws is "arbitrary". And they have this one on the list: "The right to protection of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health, an adequate standard of living, social security, adequate housing, education, and just and favorable conditions of work." How about that one? It is mandatory that all nations and all governments see to it that all persons as a matter of human rights have access to economic means, health protections, "an adequate standard of living", housing, education, and work (not just employment, but "just and favorable" work). Without even facing the question of those from other countries, it would appear that all those Americans currently unemployed are being denied their basic human rights. Where is the mandatory housing for the homeless? Where are the mandatory jobs for the unemployed? Well, fortunately, the President has taken care of that problem of health protection for all, but what about the rest? Oh, yes, the United States is failing miserably in human rights issues. I mean, think of it! How many Americans currently live without "an adequate standard of living"? It's awful!

Well, look, as I said at the beginning, this ought to clear up a lot. Now that we understand that they are not "illegals" as so many like to call them and certainly not "illegal immigrants" but simply "migrants in irregular situation", Congress should be able to fix this right away. It is a violation of human rights to make these silly laws that prevent people from coming into our country. They're simply migrating to where the work is, right? They're simply exercising their human rights. So Congress can do away with border security, eliminate the need for visas or other immigration control, and stop all this "illegal immigration" nonsense. Arizona's immigration enforcement law will go away because there will be no law to enforce. And all that money saved on government bureaucracy can now be put to use to begin to see to it that anyone who crosses our borders has employment, housing, education, an adequate standard of living -- all that the U.N. believes to be basic human rights, regardless of "race, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, or other status". And you narrow-minded, xenophobic racists who want to control the borders and work your jobs and protect what is yours and all that nonsense had better wake up and smell the coffee. It's time to be human! Or something like that.

So, Congress, Mr. President, I await your new law that eliminates all that immigration nonsense. Shouldn't take more than a week now that we're all clear that migrants are migrants and borders are irregular situations and we are causing our own problem and violating human rights. Easy! You'll get right on that, right?