Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Rev. Jeremiah Wright Strikes Again

I’m wondering if Rev. Wright is trying to sabotage Obama’s campaign. Wright is now a national celebrity and I think it’s gone to his head. He is embarrassing himself, Obama, and maybe the African-American community by what he’s been doing recently.

I thought he was very reasonable in his interview will Bill Moyers last Sunday, but then he went and made some offensive statements this week. As a white European-American, I’m getting sick of being blamed for slavery and expected to apologize for it just because I’m white. My ancestors were still in Europe killing each other when there was slavery in the U.S., they never owned slaves, they never traded slaves, and they never even lived in the south. Yet I’m supposed to grovel and beg forgiveness just because I’m white. What ever happened to forgiving and moving on?

Sure, slavery was an abomination, especially when you think that the slave traders and slave owners were supposedly “Christians” at least in some sense of the word. Rev. Wright made a good point on that one, but that’s ancient history. Christianity didn’t promote slavery – it was individual Christians who did (unlike the “official” persecution of Jews by the Roman Catholic Church, which does owe Jews an apology).

As a human being, I’m sorry that slavery ever existed, or continues to exist in various forms today. I’m also sorry for all the attempted genocides (including the one that took place against the native peoples in the USA), the wars, the man-made famines, the persecutions, the discrimination, the anti-Semitism, and all of the other terrible things that have happened in this sinful and fallen world. But I wish Rev. Wright would look forward and not backward. He’s doing everybody a disservice with such divisive talk, just at a time when an African-American has a shot at the White House.

Although I feel bad that Obama’s pastor is creating problems for his campaign, I also agree with Hillary in that Obama should have changed churches when Wright starting saying provocative things in his sermons – unless, of course, Obama didn’t think they were provocative or offensive. Kinda makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rudy Giuliani and Holy Communion

There was a recent news item that stated Cardinal Egan was upset that Rudy received Communion when the Pope was in town. The reason Egan is upset is that Giuliani has gone against the Catholic Church’s teachings in both his personal life and in his advocacy. Was Giuliani wrong to receive Communion? Is Egan being unreasonable?

To answer those questions, let me first say that Giuliani wants to have it all: live a life inconsistent with his profession of faith in the Roman Catholic Church, yet continue to pretend he is a Catholic in good standing. In my opinion, if you claim to be something, your life should reflect that belief system. He has been divorced twice, and he advocates policies totally at odds with the religion he claims to be loyal to.

We have to remember that the Roman Catholic Church, unlike some Protestant denominations, is unwavering and very clear about its positions on various matters – and it has an opinion on just about every matter. Moreover, the RC Church, unlike many Protestant denominations, is authoritarian and demands that you agree with it in most matters if you want to be considered a Catholic in good standing. I disagree with the Church on a number of things, so that’s why I’m no longer a Catholic.

With all of this in mind, I think Giuliani (as well as John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi) should stop pretending they are Catholics and become Episcopalians. In the Episcopal Church, you get all the ritual, pomp, and circumstance, but nobody will tell you what to believe.

These pretend Catholics are doing themselves and the RC Church a disservice, and they should just be honest with themselves and others by leaving the RC Church for a denomination more suitable to their beliefs and lifestyles.

Monday, April 28, 2008

More on Being a Hard-Liner

In an earlier post I wrote about the pope being called a “hard-liner” by the media because he upholds the principles and foundational beliefs of his religion. Now I want to focus on faith and morals in the context of being a “hard-liner.”

Faith and Morals

The first thing we need to do is to distinguish between “faith and morals” on the one hand, and what I call “policy and practice” on the other. Faith and morals in Christianity are based on the Bible, and should be therefore considered non-negotiable. Policy and practice, on the other hand, are typically coming from human traditions, and their continuance can’t always be justified by any firm biblical commands. First, let me talk about faith, and then I’ll discuss morals.


Regarding faith, I’m referring to teachings about God and Jesus found in the Bible. Why is it so important for us to adhere to biblical teachings regarding God and Jesus? Are we going to be given a #2 pencil and a 500 question theology test before we can enter the pearly gates to our heavenly reward? I don’t think so.

The main reason for our existence is to have a close relationship with the living God thru Jesus Christ, and then to serve God thru worship, fellowship, ministry and mission. It’s difficult to have a relationship with somebody if you don’t know them very well. For example, would you marry someone you hardly know?

For us to have the kind of relationship God wants us to have with him, there has to be a level of knowledge, understanding, and trust, out of which develop love and devotion. That’s why we study the Bible and listen to sermons. Paul tells us the reasons why we should follow biblical teachings in 1 Timothy 1:3-7:

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work – which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaning-less talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. NIV

Knowing God thru sound doctrine, based on biblical teachings, is emphasized frequently in the Bible. Ephesians 4:12-14 tells us that sound teaching is:

To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.

Note the reasons Paul gives in that passage: equipping for ministry, building up, unity of faith, knowledge of the Son of God, maturity, giving stability. We hear a similar message in Paul’s instructions to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1b-4:

I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. NRSV

We see today, as in former times, that people don’t always want to put up with sound doctrine. Notice also that Paul uses the word “truth” in his instructions: “[They] will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.” In the Gospel, Pilate asked that famous question of Jesus: “What is truth?” Qui est veritas? To us Christians, truth is that which has been revealed to us by God in the Bible. We believe the Bible contains God’s absolute truth in matters of faith and morals, and truth by its very nature is not subject to change. God’s truth in the Bible is the foundation of our faith in God and our trust in Jesus as Savior, as well as the basis for our code of morals and ethics.

More on morals, policies, and practices in a future post.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Pope as a “Hard-Liner”

Getting back to the pope’s visit, do you remember when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope back in April 2005 and become Benedict XVI? Do you remember what was perhaps the most common description of him in the media? From my observations, he was most often referred to as “a hardliner.” Although the media did a terrific job of reporting the death of John Paul II and the election of the new pope, occasionally their bias showed in their use of terminology. For example, it was duly noted in the media that the “reformers” were disappointed that a “hardliner” was elected pope, and not someone who is more “progressive.”

For most people, the term “hardliner” has negative connotations. The image conjured up by the word “hardliner” is of someone who is rigid, unyielding, unsympathetic, and, possibly even that sin of all sins, intolerant. After hearing the pope being described as a “hardliner” at that time and throughout last week as well, I got to thinking: what’s so bad about standing up for what you believe in? What’s wrong with being firm in regards to your beliefs, convictions, principles, morals, and faith in God? Besides, religious beliefs aren’t supposed to change no matter what the religion– otherwise you have more of an evolving philosophy than a religion or belief system.

Moreover, we as Christians believe the Bible to be inspired by God, so why would we want to mess with it? Wouldn’t you rather be part of a religious tradition that honors its sacred texts rather than deconstructs them? Isn’t it better to be a “hardliner” than wishy-washy, unsure of your beliefs, without conviction or principles, or just going whichever way the winds of the culture are blowing that week?

The reason I’m talking about this is because it is not just an issue for Catholics, but it is something that affects all Christians as well. After all, Protestants who stand up for biblical principles as they have traditionally been understood since the early church are often labeled: fundamentalists, bigots, right wing extremists, religious zealots, and worse. So in light of all this, we need to understand a few things about beliefs, so that when we hear or see things in the media or elsewhere, we can stand firm in our own convictions.

More on standing firm in matters of faith and morals in a future post.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Government Incompetence Re Energy

Congress, the President, and big business have waited until it is almost too late to address alternative sources of energy, especially for cars. As a result, $4.00 per gallon gas is just another stepping stone to higher and higher costs. This country, supposedly one of the most progressive in the world, should already have most vehicles powered by an alternative energy source like cheap, nuclear-generated electricity. We should have many nuclear power plants already in operation and a fleet of electric powered cars, so that we should be merely observers in the global run-up of prices. Instead, we’re in the midst of it, in competition with China and India for scarce and ever more expensive oil, and we continue to pollute the air with coal-fired electric plants. We have nobody to blame but ourselves and the self-serving morons we keep electing to Congress.

We have ourselves to blame because we continue to drive huge SUV’s, minivans that aren’t so mini, large pickup trucks, large sedans, and other gas guzzlers. We are now using food to make fuel (rather than using waste products like Brazil does), so we’re driving up food prices around the world (which to me is immoral). So poor people, barely making it, will now be in even worse shape, thanks to our gas guzzlers here in the good old US of A. What’s wrong with us?

The poor and those on limited incomes are hit the worst. Increased food prices, increased cost to heat your home, higher taxes. How are retired people supposed to live? How will the poor survive?

Why can’t we just accept that nuclear energy is the best way to go, build more plants (with all the safety features, government monitoring, etc.), upgrade our electrical grid, and build electric cars? Why doesn’t the government give large tax credits for installing solar panels on the roof? Why can’t we ignore the tree-huggers and drill for more oil to get us over the hump? Who’s running this country, anyways?

The problem is that there is no will to act on behalf of the people. The environmentalists have their agenda, and are powerful. They are anti-nuclear, anti-drilling, anti-everything. The auto industry makes a good profit on huge vehicles, so they have no incentive to make smaller, more efficient vehicles. Why not have a gas-guzzler tax that would essentially tax SUVs out of existence? The oil companies are making obscene profits off the current situation, so what incentive do they have to change? Congress is impotent, so they do nothing. And Albany adds a sale tax to our gas, which is already taxed heavily. You can see how much New York cares about its people.

We need to elect people who will make it a priority to constructively and boldly address these issues. If they don’t, vote them out of office!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Change in Attitude in Washington

I stayed up Tuesday night and watched both Hillary’s and Obama’s speeches. Both of them were very good in their own ways. I was particularly stuck by what Obama had to say regarding the lack of any actions on the country’s many problems. He said that years have gone by, and nothing has been done about health care, our dependence on foreign oil, exporting jobs overseas, etc. He’s absolutely right. Congress has fiddled while Washington burns.

However, it will take more than Obama, Hillary, or McCain to begin to make the changes we need. The reasons for this are as follows:

(1) The President, powerful as he is, is still limited quite a bit because of our system of checks and balances. The President is highly dependent on Congress to pass anything he proposes. Looking back at John F. Kennedy, he talked a good line but got very little through Congress. It took LBJ, the consummate politician and insider, to get anything passed (and we’re still paying the price of his Great Society).

(2) Congress is owned by the special interests, and won’t go against the oil companies, the insurance companies, and other powerful business interests. So the people’s business rarely gets done, unless our interests happen to coincide with the interests of the powerful special groups. We need a complete turnover of Congress to get anything of substance done.

(3) While Obama talks a good line, we have to remember he’s one of the most liberal people in Congress, so he’ll follow the left-wing social agenda rather than tackle the tough issues. He’ll be more interested in gay rights than in reducing our dependence on foreign oil or stopping the exporting of jobs overseas. Since leftists are anti-business, he’ll do more to discourage job formation than prevent the hemorrhaging of jobs out of this country.

(4) For all the promises of getting the troops out of Iraq, no President in his right mind is going to create a power vacuum in that region. Since we created this mess and disrupted the power balance in the region, we now have to see this through. Hopefully McCain will be able to manage the Iraq situation more skillfully than that idiot George Bush has done (I’m assuming McCain will be elected because of the Democratic Party divisions).

More on government incompetence in a future post.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Pope’s Visit

I hope the Pope’s visit to the U.S. will stir some people – both Protestants and Catholics – to return to the church, and into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Since the visit received a lot of publicity, I hope all this attention will move some people in the right direction.

Most of what the Pope said and did was very commendable, from what I saw. I missed much of the coverage so I am speaking from what the media edited it all down to. He visited a synagogue, made a pilgrimage to Ground Zero, met with leaders of other religions, met with leaders of other Christian denominations, addressed the UN, and met with victims of clergy abuse. He did the right things, in my opinion.

In his talks he spoke often about returning to the faith, which is something this country needs to do if it is to continue to receive God’s blessings and have an upright and moral society. He reached out to other Christians and to other faiths, which is a good thing to do. He emphasized the things we have in common, and downplayed our differences.

In listening to the commentators on TV, I was amused to see that they were surprised that the Pope is human, humble, and reasonable. Because he has been labeled a “hard-liner” by the media, they must have assumed he would be arrogant, mean-spirited, and dogmatic. He’s actually a nice guy! What a surprise!

Speaking of mean-spirited, I saw a replay Bill Maher’s distasteful put-down of the Pope. It was over the top, in very poor taste, and he should apologize to Catholics, Christians in general, and people of German heritage. It’s one thing to pick on a politician (most of them deserve it), but to mock the Pope (or any religious leader) is bigoted and wrong. It reminded me of the way ridiculed General Petraeus last year in a very dishonoring way. Liberals, who so piously tout “tolerance” are the most mean-spirited and intolerant bunch you could ever find.

I applaud the Pope for visiting our country and for giving us wise words in spiritual and other matters. May this spark a revival among Christians, which this country sorely needs.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Movie ‘Expelled’ Stirs Ruckus

Below is an article of interest:

The movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed opened on Friday in hundreds of theaters nationwide, and the Internet is abuzz with comments from angry evolutionists and atheists who oppose the film’s message.

The film chronicles the censorship of teachers, professors and students who question the theory of evolution.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that some bloggers were outraged that Yoko Ono, widow of rock star John Lennon, had allowed Expelled’s producers to use a portion of her husband’s song “Imagine” in the movie soundtrack.

The inclusion of “Imagine” so angered writer James Boyce that he posted an article at a widely read liberal blog accusing Ono of greed. Boyce later retracted the article after Ono’s lawyers said she had not licensed the song for use in the film. The movie’s producers argued that the film included less than 25 seconds of the song — short enough to be protected under “fair-use” allowances.

In a Focus on the Family radio broadcast on April 7, Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, expressed dismay that Expelled stirs intense opposition.

“It is just amazing to me that so many intelligent people could believe that the beauty and complexity of life on this earth, with each kind being designed, it seems, for a purpose — having no design and no Designer,” Dr. Dobson said. “There is no allowance for any other point of view. And you dare not even talk about it, or you violate political correctness.” (from CitizenLink daily email update dated 4/17/2008. © 2008 Focus on the Family Action, Inc., All rights reserved. International copyright secured)

My question is, what is the academic establishment so afraid of? That their hypocrisy will be exposed? That we will discover that universities are not bastions of free speech and intellectual inquiry? Liberals rise up with mean-spirited hate-filled diatribes against anyone who dares to say something not in keeping with Political Correctness and Leftist orthodoxy. Here’s another example. Check out World Magazine’s interview of Ben Stein at

Friday, April 18, 2008

Falling Short of God’s Standard (Part 1)

We all fall short, don’t we? We know we don’t always act as a Christian should act. Sometimes people see us behaving badly, and we are ashamed and embarrassed. Sometimes people don’t see us, but we are still ashamed, because God knows. Of all people, even the Apostle Paul was frustrated with his behavior, as we read in Romans 7:18-19, New Living Translation:

I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.

Obviously Paul was facing temptations, and they often got the better of him. He knew what he should do – what God wanted him to do – but didn’t do them. Sound familiar? Frustrated that he gives in to temptation, he cried out in anguish in the New Living paraphrased version (Romans 7:24, NLT):

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?

We might be more familiar with Paul’s lament in the traditional version, which says: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24, NKJV)

The Apostle Paul loved Jesus with all his heart. He gave up everything to serve him, was constantly away from home, and often put himself in danger. Despite his almost superhuman dedication to the cause of Christ, here he is crying out in frustration, writing:

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. (Romans 7:15, NLT)

We can all identify with this, because as it says in Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (NIV) Jesus said something that summarizes Paul’s and our struggles with temptation: “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:36, NRSV) We all suffer from weak flesh – it is because of our propensity to sin even when we know it will do damage.

More on our struggles with sin and temptation in a future post.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Biblical Exhortations for Unity

I wrote about race relations in some earlier posts. Below are some biblical exhortations about not being prejudiced, not showing favoritism, and not even saying something disparaging about someone else.

Jesus’ Example-Samaritans

In the parable of Jesus that has come to be called The Good Samaritan,” the Samaritan was the hero of the story. Samaritans were despised by the Jews, but Jesus broke through those man-made barriers of hatred and bigotry. He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well, breaking all kinds of taboos. He healed a Samaritan man from leprosy, and it was only the Samaritan that came back and thanked Jesus. And of course the Good Samaritan makes the religious Jews who passed by the injured man look pretty bad in comparison.

No wonder Jesus was controversial! Moreover, Jesus broke down other walls of separation common in that society, with respect to women, Romans, Gentiles, the poor, tax collectors, prostitutes. Jesus demonstrated that we are all equal before God, as the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28 (NRSV):

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

Other Biblical Exhortations

The Apostle James tells us to watch what we say about other people in James 3:9-10, because we are all created in God’s likeness (NRSV):

With [the tongue] we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.

Also in James we read about practicing favoritism (in James 2:8-9, NRSV):

You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

Also there are many exhortations in the Old Testament about caring for minorities and not oppressing people such as widows, orphans, aliens, the poor, and laborers.

Let me give you two. The first one is from Malachi 3:5-7a (CEV):

The Lord All-Powerful said: “I’m now on my way to judge you. And I will quickly condemn all who practice witchcraft or cheat in marriage or tell lies in court or rob workers of their pay or mistreat widows and orphans or steal the property of foreigners or refuse to respect me.
“Descendants of Jacob, I am the Lord All-Powerful, and I never change. That’s why you haven’t been wiped out, even though you have ignored and disobeyed my laws ever since the time of your ancestors. But if you return to me, I will return to you.”

Another one is from Exodus 22:21-23 (NRSV):

You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry.

Aliens were the minorities in the land of Israel, probably the only minority, and God reminded the Israelites that they had been an oppressed minority at one time themselves. The widows and orphans were the most vulnerable in that society, so again God is saying that we should care for the most vulnerable in our society, such as children, the unborn, the poor, the disabled, the elderly, etc.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Remembrances of 1968

Last week we marked the 40th anniversary of the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. It hardly seems possible that 40 years have passed since that terrible year of 1968. A few Sundays ago Tom Brokaw had a special on the History Channel that documented Dr. King’s life and the history of the Civil Rights movement. It was an excellent program, and I recommend you watch it if it is aired again. Also recently was a special on MSNBC called “Meet David Wilson” followed by a discussion about race relations. I recommend that as well if it is ever rerun.

For those of us who lived during that turbulent time of the late 1960s, the program brings back some unpleasant memories. I still remember seeing those images on the nightly news with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley during the late 1950s and early 1960s: The fire hoses knocking down peaceful demonstrators like bowling pins. The police dogs attacking American citizens who were exercising their constitutional rights of free speech and assembly. The police indiscriminately beating people with their night sticks, and hauling them away to jail.

I remember watching all this on TV and thinking that these news reports seemed more like scenes from some foreign country. This couldn’t be happening in the good old US of A, land of the free and home of the brave. Watching Brokaw’s TV special brought to mind other events of 1968, a year in which the country seemed to be coming apart at the seams.

1968 Retrospective

Just think for a minute of all that happened in that one year, 1968:
• Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were both killed by assassins;
• There were widespread riots in many American cities, large and small;
• The intelligence-gathering ship USS Pueblo was captured by N Korea, and its crew was held prisoner for months;
• There were riots and police brutality at the Democratic national convention in Chicago;
• There was the student takeover and shutting down of Columbia University;
• In Vietnam there was the Tet offensive, the My Lai massacre, and continuing bad news;
• The Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia, creating fear of a major war;
• And of course there were the war protests, divisions along many lines, feminist demonstrations, high rates of crime in our cities, the Black Power movement emerging, and a general sense of hopelessness and despair. I know I felt the country was spinning out of control. Moreover, our country had been humiliated by the North Koreans and the Viet Cong, making us look impotent to the whole world.

In 1968 the nation was deeply divided, with an unpopular war and an unpopular president. I vividly remember the evening when Johnson announced he wouldn’t run for re-election – I was thrilled. The unpopular war and president sounds a little like today, but I think a unique combination of events made 1968 one of the worst years in American history. In the midst of all that chaos, something good did happen in 1968 – my wife and I got married.

Let’s hope that we never have another year in the United States like 1968.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

State of Race Relations

In an earlier post I wrote about Obama’s pastor. I’d now like to look at how we are doing as a nation when it comes to race relations – a nation which is supposed to be one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. This isn’t a comprehensive review, just a few thoughts of mine.

The Good News

The good news is that there is both a woman and an African-American man as potential candidates for President of the United States. Gender and race don’t appear to be major issues in this election, which means that we have, at least to some extent, made some progress in those areas.

The Bad News

The bad news is that there is still bias, but today it is more subtle. This prejudice is nearly invisible to white people, but African-Americans and other minorities suffer some sort of indignity almost daily. I’ve been told this by black friends, and I’ve read about it in articles. I’ve heard about it from enough people and read enough articles that I believe it, even though I don’t usually see it because I’m not the target.

We are still divided along racial lines in the number of ways as well. For example, African-American viewpoints are sometimes different from the way white Americans may see things. A good example is the O.J. Simpson trial. To most whites he was clearly guilty, while many blacks believed he was innocent. We’ve had similar differences of opinions on why relief was so slow in coming to New Orleans after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Blacks say the slow response was racially-motivated, while whites say it was government incompetence.

Anger and Frustration

Because of a long history of injustice, plus the ongoing indignities, there is anger and frustration lurking just below the surface with many black people. A few years ago I was at a gathering of pastors which included some black clergy. I don’t remember how the subject of race came up, but all of a sudden I saw that anger erupt in the discussion. As I understand it, there are at least three reasons for this anger:

1. First, there is a long history of slavery and oppression of African-Americans in this country (with denial of rights that lasted well into the 20th century).

2. Second, they still endure indignities and insults of various kinds, including stereotyping.

3. Third, they believe their suffering is worse than any group of people has ever endured in this country.

Although other groups have suffered discrimination and abuse, they believe the African-American experience has been worse than any of the others. We have to realize that whether we agree with that view or not, that’s where black people are coming from, so it helps to be aware of that. I’ve observed this anger a number of times and in several different ways, so I know it’s there, and I try to be sensitive to it. The discussion after the documentary film “Meet David Wilson” on MSNBC was revealing in that regard.

Other Minorities

Of course there are others who have also been subjected to discrimination: Jews, Latinos, Orientals, Catholics, women, American Indians, to name a few. We had friends who are Chinese, and they went into an Italian restaurant for a meal one evening years ago. They were totally ignored, never waited on, and finally left in disgust.

I grew up Catholic in a predominantly Protestant area, so I would occasionally hear anti-Catholic slurs. Those certainly are not as hateful as the “N” word and other slurs, but still made me conscious that I was not in the mainstream in at least one sense.

I used to work for a guy who doesn’t look Jewish, and had a rather waspish name. One time he was in a meeting and some guy who didn’t know him made an unkind comment about Jews. He didn’t say anything at the time, but after the meeting, he went into the guy’s boss’s office and told him his employee has a problem that should be addressed.

It’s been said that my wife’s aunt, had she not been a woman, would have advanced much further in the company than she did – although she still did pretty well.


We should always remember that Christians are called to a higher standard than the world. Therefore, we must treat all with kindness and respect, even when different from us. We should treat all people with dignity, respect, and as a fellow human being. This includes dealings with members of the opposite sex, and people of different socio-economic status. We should also treat children courteously and with dignity.

We should never talk down to anybody, and always be authentic. I try to be authentic around everybody, because if I’m not, it’ll be obvious. As Jesus taught us, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, and do unto others as we would have them do unto you. As I’ve said many times before, we can’t do it on our own. The spirit may be willing, but the flesh is very weak. To accomplish these difficult tasks, we must follow the first and greatest commandment (Luke 10:27, NCV):

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.”

Love the Lord – love your neighbor. When you love the Lord your God, then the rest of the things I’ve been talking about fall into place, because we are willingly obedient to God’s leading. That’s a good witness to all you come in contact with, and you are glorifying God in the process.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Obama’s Pastor

Unfortunately racial tensions are still with us, often lurking just below the surface, and occasionally exploding into our reality. A few weeks ago, we had another controversy in this presidential campaign, and this one has both racial and patriotic overtones. Of course I’m referring to Barack Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Wright has said some provocative things, as we’ve heard in excerpts from a few of his sermons. A couple of points on Rev. Wright and sermons.

1. First of all, you can take an excerpt of almost any article, speech or sermon out of context and find them offensive. You can even take passages from of the Bible out of context and justify almost anything, including slavery, polygamy, incest, murder, and a host of other sins.

2. Second, a person can criticize government policies, social injustices, and other bad behaviors without being unpatriotic. Of course I believe a public figure engaging in such criticism should do it in such a way that he or she doesn’t appear to be unpatriotic. Any criticism should be constructive, not destructive.

3. Third, often the African-American preaching style is different from what white people are used to. For example, sometimes black preachers will use exaggeration to get the congregation’s attention or to make a point. A black preacher might say something like this during a sermon: “I am a sinner. I am a whore-monger. I am an adulterer.” Now he’s got their attention! The preacher then continues (quoting Matthew 5:28, KJV): “Because Jesus said, ‘But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.’”

I don’t know what’s in Rev. Wright’s heart when it comes to his love of the United States and his views on race. I haven’t listened to his sermons and I don’t know the man. But he isn’t the one running for president, and the excerpts are from a tiny fraction of his over a thousand sermons.

Interestingly, Martin Luther King’s criticism of the Vietnam War was mentioned as part of the remembrance last week. Some felt at the time that his criticism of the Vietnam War was unpatriotic – not the criticism itself, but how he phrased his criticism. However, I never felt King was anti-American, but loved this country and was trying to change society so that all could enjoy its freedoms and benefits.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Additional Points Regarding Sin

Continuing in this series of posts on sin, I want to give you a few more points to consider before you consider doing something that you’ll later regret.

Additional Points about Sin

Try to keep in mind these concluding points about the effects of sin, especially moral, ethical, and sexual sins:

• First, others suffer because of your sin – these are not victimless crimes. Who suffers the most? Often it’s the ones you love the most. Do you really want to hurt them like that? I can’t get the image of the look on Eliot Spitzer’s wife’s face when she was standing there beside him when he admitted his wrongdoing.

• Second, sin separates us from God. We foolishly chase after the things of this world, thus growing more distant from a loving God, who sent his Son to free us from the law of sin and death. Only God can give us a truly fulfilled life – worldly things can never satisfy. The more distant we become from God, the more miserable we are and the less fulfilled we become.

• Third, small sins inevitably lead to bigger sins. Just as marijuana use typically leads to harder drugs, so a little cheating on your expense report will lead to bigger cheating. So a little “harmless” flirting will lead to an affair. So pilfering some supplies from work will lead to larger thefts. So watching porn will lead to worse behavior.

• Fourth, you will get caught at some point, especially as the sin grows bigger and riskier. I don’t know why people think they can get away with it – you will be found out eventually. Of course most importantly, God knows.

To summarize, the best ways to avoid temptation especially when it comes to moral, ethical, and sexual matters is:

• Avoid any kind of temptation by avoiding situations that could put you in a position to fall into temptation.

• Don’t even commit little sins, because they are a gateway to bigger ones.

• Finally and most importantly, stay close to God through worship, prayer and obedience to God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. Worship every Sunday, participate in a Bible study, be active in ministry, serve the Lord in various ways. When you’re busy serving God and being fulfilled by doing his will, you don’t have the time or the inclination to sin. Temptation will come, but if we are prepared, we can resist it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Girl Violence in Florida

I was appalled (as I’m sure you were) when I heard the reports and saw the film clips of the six teen-age girls severely beating another girl. The brutality of the attack, which lasted for about half an hour as I recall, and the total lack of remorse, once again proved the points I have been making for years:

·We aren’t bringing up our children properly when it comes to morals and ethics.
·Parents aren’t sending their kids to Sunday school where they can learn some good values and transcendent principles.
·The entertainment industry is constantly exposing our kids to all kinds of violence and immorality.
·Our ethically-challenged relativistic culture is distorting the God-given conscience we all have that helps us to distinguish right from wrong.

Some may look at this incident as an aberration, and it is to a large extent, but yet it certainly isn’t unique. Road rage, fights in schools, disrespect for teachers and parents, reckless driving, and teen-age pregnancies all point to societal ills that we must do something about. Much of that responsibility falls on parents.

·I see two year olds controlling their parents. Who’s in charge here?
·I see parents defending their child despite their child’s continuously bad behavior. My little darling wouldn’t do that!
·I see parents who care more about their own pleasure than spending time with their kids or being involved in their school work. Go to
·I see parents who don’t control what the kids watch on TV, what kind of electronic games they play, what kind of friends they hang out with, which movies they see.
The list goes on.

I hope this incident will wake up parents and our society to the dangers in the direction this country is going. Supposedly these girls came from “good families” yet didn’t seem to understand they had done anything wrong. I saw one mother interviewed in TV, and she spent most of the interview defending her daughter’s actions, and seemed clueless that these girls had committed serious crimes.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:7-10 (NRSV):

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Desires of the Sinful Nature

In Galatians 5:19-21a, the Apostle Paul lays out the results of following the desires of our sinful nature:

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. NLT

I want to look at each one of these desires of the sinful nature in a little more detail, so we can understand what might be motivating us to do the things we do. I used the New Living Translation above, which employs more modern terms (which you will hopefully find helpful – if not, get out your trusty NIV or NKJV).

• Sexual immorality: we see plenty of that in our sex-saturated society. The entertainment industry promotes immorality by portraying it as normal behavior in sitcoms and movies.

• Impurity: it’s difficult to be pure in an impure world, but we should be careful what we expose ourselves to when it comes to entertainment.

• Lustful pleasures: this could include looking at porn, and watching movies and TV programs that aren’t good for us to see.

• Idolatry: anything we put ahead of God becomes an idol to us. Greed and lust are forms of idolatry because we put the objects of our desire ahead of God, driven by our prideful longing to please ourselves.

• Sorcery: it’s amazing how many people believe in mediums and other forms of the occult. Those who trust in the occult are putting more faith in that than in God, and so are really engaging in a form of idolatry.

• Hostility: there’s a lot of angry people out there – resentful, bitter, feeling put upon. Such people are self-centered, thinking the world should revolve around them, and everybody should agree with their viewpoint. When this doesn’t happen, they become mean-spirited, nasty, rude, and hostile (not to mention miserable, because these things are festering inside of them).

• Quarreling: Sometimes this anger erupts into quarreling. Usually pride causes quarreling because you want things done your way, and are unwilling to compromise. Often the result of this prideful quarreling is dissention, controversy, division, and hard feelings.

• Jealousy: pride is at the heart of jealousy. I want it, I deserve it, I’m entitled.

• Outbursts of anger: pride is at the root of this rage, often because of not getting your way or not having your perceived needs being met. We see this in road rage and other forms of anger. Those of us who were born with a short fuse have to be especially careful to be slow to anger and slow to speak.

• Selfish ambition: this is a prideful condition when what you want takes priority over everything else, including your family, and even your own health. Sometimes people are ruthless and unethical in their selfish ambition.

• Dissension: pride is frequently at the root of dissention, and often involves complaining, stirring up trouble, and doing other self-centered things.

• Division: most often our pride creates division within a family, a church, a social group, or a workplace. We aren’t willing to compromise because we want things our way. Often division (or the threat of division) gives a person power he or she wouldn’t otherwise have.

• Envy: this is a prideful condition in which we feel we deserve at least what others have, and will do almost anything to get them. Again, it’s that false sense of entitlement that results in envy.

• Drunkenness: abuse of alcohol and other drugs is a sin, and such abuse can result in serious consequences.

• Wild parties: this usually involves sexual immorality and abuse of alcohol and other drugs.

Fruit of the Spirit

In contrast to all of these sinful things, we are much better people when we are obedient to the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. The Apostle Paul said in Galatians 5:22-23:

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. NLT

To have a good life, I think love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are much better than sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, and the like. Notice that Paul writes: “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives.” We can’t do it on our own – we have to be open and obedient to the Spirit’s leading. As Jesus said: “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We need the Holy Spirit to guide us, to help us resist temptation, to give us the strength to practice self-control.

I will have some concluding points on sin in a future post.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Why Do People Sin?

Why do people fail so miserably, both famous and not so famous? Certainly the rich, famous and powerful appear to have a lot more to lose, relatively speaking. But ordinary people like you and me have a lot to lose as well – it just isn’t as public or on such a grandiose scale. People like you and me have many of those same things to lose:
•Our spouse, our family.
•Our job, our reputation.
•Our emotional and physical health.
•Maybe even a fine or jail time if we have broken a law.

Even more importantly, we distance our selves from God, the source of all good things, when we sin. As we become more distant from God, we continue this downward spiral until we hit rock bottom – and then hopefully we’ll repent. So why do people risk so much by doing something immoral, unethical, or illegal?

Pride Is a Factor

Pride, I believe, is the major motivating factor behind just about every sin. Pride was the motivating factor behind the sins of Adam and Eve, as well as the Tower of Babel. Pride can take many forms:

• One aspect of pride is a false sense of entitlement, which is a major motivator. I deserve it. They owe me. I work hard. I have needs. We rationalize so well! Our whole advertising industry is based on our sense of entitlement. It seems that today everybody has some sense of entitlement, which can become a dangerous rationalization for all kinds of sin.

• Greed, lust, and envy are other motivating factors based on pride. I want what she has. I want to be rich. I want all the good things in life. Regarding lust, in our sex-saturated society it is difficult to control lust, but if you don’t control it, it will control you. Whenever you are tempted, remember that the motivation to succumb to it is based on a false sense of pride,

Aspects of Sin

A problem we have in our relativistic, post-Christian culture, is that the concept of sin is often felt to be hopelessly outdated. Despite the denial of sin in many circles today, the concept of right and wrong still exists in various ways. In the legal area, right and wrong are determined by our representatives and encoded in the law. We do legislate morality despite those who say that we can’t or shouldn’t do so. In the area of political correctness, right and wrong are established by whoever determines what is PC. In our own minds we have a strong sense of right and wrong, called conscience, and a good sense of was is fair and unfair. Kids, especially, have a keen sense of fairness – no fair!

Results of the Sinful Nature

The Apostle Paul spells out very clearly the results of following the desires of your sin nature, usually based on pride (Galatians 5:19-21a):

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. NLT

Pride is often as the heart of many of these sins. If we realize that these behaviors are based on false premises, then we might not be as inclined to do them. In a future posting we will examine each of these sins in more detail.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Afraid of Free Speech? (Part 3)

In two earlier posts, I wrote that you can always tell when certain views are vulnerable, because their proponents do anything in their power to keep other views from being expressed. That’s because they are afraid that the weaknesses and illogic of their views will be exposed. Sometimes this mentality spills over into the religious realm.

The Constitution guarantees freedom to practice the religion of your choice (or no religion), totally forbidding the establishment of an official state religion. Learning from the religious conflicts of Europe, our founding fathers intended to eliminate forcing people to support and participate in a religion not of their choosing. This was wise, but had come to be misinterpreted by the courts starting in 1947.

The founding fathers of the United States, being either devout Christians or having a profound respect for Christianity and biblical principles (contrary to the propaganda put out by the anti-Christian bigots), allowed any and all religions to be practiced. Why? Because they knew that Christianity could stand up to all kinds of other viewpoints. Moreover, they believed that if somebody wanted to embrace another viewpoint or religion, that’s their prerogative. It wasn’t the business of the state how, where, or when people worshipped.

Islamic Example

In contrast, we see no such freedoms in many Islamic countries. In some Muslim countries it is illegal to convert to another religion from Islam. Religious minorities are persecuted. No proselytizing is allowed. Why? It must be because they understand the appeal of Christianity, which provides people with a Savior, and gives hope. Islam does no such thing. Fearing exposure of its weaknesses, Islamic leaders suppress any and all non-Islamic religious expression in such countries (Turkey being somewhat of an exception to this). If Islam is so great, then why don’t they open their societies to alternative religions, at least those of The Book?

Christian Examples

While the Islamic suppression of freedom of choice when it comes to religious practice is an obvious example of not wanting competition, we see several examples of that in Christianity as well. The following news report is an example of a Russian Orthodox bishop persecuting a Methodist church because it doesn’t want competition. So much for one, holy, catholic and apostolic church:

RUSSIAN CHURCH DISSOLVED: The battle over Smolensk United Methodist Church (“UMC”) in Russia escalated March 26 when a regional court dissolved the church for having a Sunday school attended by four children. “The court agreed with the Regional Organized Crime Police that the Methodists were breaking the law by conducting ‘educational activity in a Sunday school without a corresponding license’,” reported Geraldine Fagan of Forum 18 News Service. The legal dissolution of the church is the latest in a series of attacks on Smolensk UMC led by the local Orthodox bishop, who has said he sees the church as a threat to the Orthodox faith. UMC Bishop Hans Vaxby confirmed the Forum 18 report for UM NeXus, and said that his office has engaged an attorney to defend the church and help in its lawsuit against the Orthodox bishop. There was no immediate word on how the Smolensk church, which has about 35 members, would proceed with its ministries under the circumstances. Forum 18 reported that “the unprecedented court liquidation of a Methodist church because it has a Sunday school could affect thousands of religious organizations across Russia.” (from the UM NeXus e-newsletter, 04/02/2008; published by TPC Publications, Inc., Publishers of The Progressive Christian Magazine. © 2008, UM NeXus. All Rights Reserved)

The second example is from my childhood. I grew up Roman Catholic, and I remember our priest forbidding his parishioners to attend a Protestant service (unless we had to as part of a wedding or funeral). My family joined the YMCA so I could swim in their pool in the winter, and when Fr. McGough found out, he made us quit that “Protestant” organization. Makes you wonder why they are so insecure if they are the “true faith.”

Sadly, turf wars exist even in Christianity, which is not a good witness to the unchurched. Let’s try to do better.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Afraid of Free Speech? (Part 2)

In an earlier post I discussed how free speech is suppressed in the public schools in the teaching of biology. Only the theory of evolution can be taught – alternative viewpoints are not allowed. This is because the pro-evolution crowd is afraid to have a free and open discussion of other possibilities because the flaws of their position will be exposed.

Another area where free speech is severely limited is in universities. The movie “Expelled” by Ben Stain reveals how the academic community suppresses free exchange of ideas (coming out on April 18). In these institutions of higher education, formerly bastions of free speech, open debate, and free thinking, political correctness now reigns supreme. As a result, politically conservative viewpoints are not allowed to be discussed. Anybody deviating from the PC party line is condemned. Why the harsh treatment? Because if there is a free and open discussion of various viewpoints, the weaknesses of the so-called liberal viewpoints will be exposed.

We see this to some extent in the public schools, although it is frequently suppression of any statements of Christian or biblical viewpoints. This tyranny masquerades under the constitutional separation of church and state, yet there is nothing in the constitution that says a child can’t mention his or her religious beliefs in school. The school isn’t endorsing what the child says! The darkness doesn’t like the light.

The United States Constitution specifically makes provision for all kinds of viewpoints to be expressed freely in the marketplace of ideas. The motivation behind freedom of speech and freedom of assembly is the freedom to criticize the government without fear of arrest or retaliation. However, by virtue of these freedoms, all viewpoints can be discussed openly, not just political ones. Public schools and universities have forgotten about these freedoms, so suppress any views that aren’t politically correct or may have something to do with a student’s religious beliefs. This behavior, of course, is in direct contradiction to that student’s constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and in contradiction to the school’s purpose of being a forum for various viewpoints in a free-thinking and open learning environment. How this happened, I don’t know. But it makes the universities hypocrites, and my alma mater gets no contributions from me. I won’t support or endorse such a system.

You can always tell when there are worldviews are vulnerable, because alternative views are severely suppressed. More on that in a future post.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Afraid of Free Speech? (Part 1)

I am always fascinated how proponents of certain viewpoints will do just about anything to prevent opposing viewpoints from being heard. Why is that? I think the answer is clear. It’s because their viewpoint is weak, and the logic of an opposing viewpoint will expose its weaknesses and cause people to doubt its veracity.

Case in point: the theory of evolution. All kinds of pro-evolution groups will do anything to prevent alternative viewpoints from being taught in the schools. Some have even opposed the teaching that evolution is a theory – even though that’s exactly what it is. Below is an article along those lines:

TALLAHASSEE - It’s not about letting religion creep into science classrooms, Sen. Ronda Storms insisted. It’s about protecting the rights of students and teachers who don’t agree with the science behind Darwinian evolution, the Republican from Valrico argued before the Senate’s pre-k through 12 education committee voted 4-1 Wednesday to approve the bill. Despite her argument, religion kept coming up anyway, as Storms pressed for her “academic freedom” act. Her bill would allow public school teachers to present science-based alternatives to Darwin’s theory of evolution, a theory written into Florida’s curriculum standards and one that is held as a fundamental concept of biology by most members of the science community. Although professors spoke in opposition to the bill and a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union said it would open the door to teaching creationism, the committee voted to move the bill forward. “Evolution will still be taught as a matter of law. This bill does not undo the current standard,” Storms said. She added, “It’s interesting for me to note that the only folks who brought up religion today have been those in opposition.” A debate about evolution has been swirling in the Capitol since last month, when the state Board of Education adopted the state’s new science standards, which mandated teaching evolution. Activists persuaded the board to qualify evolution as a “theory,” but the board did not write in any special provision for teaching alternative beliefs. (from The Media Roundup, an e-newsletter © The Interfaith Alliance Foundation; 4/1/08)

My point is that if Darwinism is true and provable by the scientific evidence, then what are they afraid of? Why not allow alternative scientific theories to be presented, especially since evolution is still a theory, not a Law of Nature? The reason is that Darwinism is unproven, the fossil record is very incomplete, and no transitional species have been found. Adaptation within a species is clearly observable, but evolution from one species into another isn’t. Their argument that we see evolution at work in microbes is false. Yes, viruses mutate, but that isn’t the same as higher-level species evolving into another species, such as a land-based animal evolving into a dolphin. The dolphin was clearly designed for an aquatic-based environment. What would a transitional animal have looked like? A fish with legs? Such a transitional creature probably couldn’t have survived because it was “neither fish nor fowl.”

More on suppression of alternative views in a future post.