Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Be Nice

I watched President Obama’s speech at the memorial service for those killed by a deranged gunman in Tucson. I agree with all that he said, which boils down to “be nice.” However, the problem is everybody hears the message, agrees with it, but then never applies it to himself or herself. The message is always for the other guy, never for me. “If only those leftists would stop …” Or “If only those on the right would start to …”

I believe the harsh rhetoric and other nastiness we see in the political arena is symptomatic of American society becoming ruder and cruder. It is also symptomatic of the tendency we have of demonizing of those who disagree with us. Sadly we even see such attitudes in the Church. Many mainline Protestant denominations are split along left/right lines, with each side demonizing the other. That’s why they are losing membership.

Let us all take to heart what Obama said in that speech, let us all apply it to our own lives, and let us hold our politicians accountable for cleaning up their act. Then just maybe Congress will get something done, and we will all be better off.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tragedy in Tucson

We have once again experienced a deranged person killing multiple people with a gun, this time killing a congresswoman and a nine year old girl. Let me share a few thoughts with you regarding this tragedy.

(1) Violence is so pervasive in the media (TV, movies, games, some forms of music) that some mentally disturbed people see it as a reasonable way to give expression to their frustrations, anger, or other negative emotions. As long as people go to see violent movies and buy violent games, they will be out there. How do we reduce such violent media? I don’t know, but I think one way might be for parents to not allow their children to see or buy anything with a high level of violence. Parents have to regain control of their children, know what their children are doing, and exercise their rightful authority over them. Remember parents, you’re supposed to be in charge, not the kid.

(2) Guns are too readily available, so that just about anybody can buy one. Yes, I know that bearing arms is a constitutional right, but every right is limited to some extent. I really don’t know how you prevent mentally deranged people from buying guns given privacy issues, but there should be a way.

(3) Our care for mentally unstable people is lacking in this country. The shooter should have received treatment and perhaps should have been institutionalized. I know that conjures up images of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest type of insane asylum, yet is it right to put the public in danger? Is it fair to the mentally unstable person who isn’t getting proper care? We as a society have to rethink how we handle and care for such people, taking into consideration the safety of the public as well.

(4) Families are always surprised when their child (including adult children) do something terrible. Mothers are seen on TV saying “He’s a good boy. I don’t know what happened.” I don’t know the family situation in this case, so I can’t comment except to say that parents should be more involved in their children’s lives. Yes, I know the shooter in this case was 22 years old, yet it seems obvious that something was wrong.

(5) Lastly, the crime and violence (including bullying, spousal abuse, child abuse) that is so prevalent in the U.S.A. indicates something is seriously wrong with our society. Of course we do have a violent history. The West was “won” using violence, mostly against the American Indians. Our freedom was achieved by a war, and the Union was held together by another war. Yet there is no need for violence today. Why are we still such a violent society with gangs, rape, armed robberies, etc.?

Illegal drugs, prescription drug abuse, and alcohol are major contributors to violence and crime. Without those, society would be much better. The media portrays violence as the norm, so some embrace it. However, what I’ve described are symptoms of a deeper problem. The real problem is that so many people are missing a key part of life. As a result they turn to drugs, violence, bullying, and abuse of spouse, children, or pets. Their anger and frustration is made worse when they are the victims of bullying, or their job is miserable, or other difficulties arise.

So what’s missing? God. We were designed by God to be in relationship with him. If that God-shaped void in our life is empty, we try to fill it with idols such as career, pleasure, material goods, bad relationships, or substance abuse. None of those things satisfy, so we become even more frustrated, angry, or discontent. Why not go to church, and take your children with you? Just maybe it will help them to become better citizens because it will teach them values. They will learn about God, and will hopefully become committed followers of God. Let’s improve our society, one person at a time.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Is the Church Irrelevant?

People have many excuses for not attending church. The Church is irrelevant. The Church is full of hypocrites. All they’re after is my money. It’s boring. It’s my only day to sleep in. I can feel close to God without being in church.

While most of these are flimsy excuses without much merit (in my opinion), I do want to address the relevancy factor. Is the Church irrelevant? At the risk of confusing you, let me say that the question as to whether the church is irrelevant is itself irrelevant. Relevancy isn’t the issue. Let me explain what I mean.

First, let’s define “Church.” A simplistic definition is the Church is a gathering of people who are followers of Jesus Christ, have trusted him for their salvation, and believe in the doctrines of the Church based on the Bible. I believe the Church has five purposes, which I’ve borrowed from Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Life. Those purposes are worship, discipleship, fellowship, mission and ministry, and evangelism. While those are the purposes of every individual Christian according to Warren, I believe they can be best accomplished through the Church. That’s because the Church provides the structure, resources, and training to do these. An individual church (or even denomination) not doing these well is, in fact, irrelevant, because it isn’t fulfilling its purposes.

Looking at the worship component, the Church gathers regularly to give honor and praise to God. The thing we must understand is worship is about God, not us. We derive some benefits from gathering together, but the real purpose is to worship God. Since ancient times, God has called his people to publically worship him. So to say regular worship is irrelevant is to say God is irrelevant.

If you aren’t regularly attending a worship service, let me suggest you start doing so for the reasons I just mentioned. What’s in it for you? A number of things.

First, you are fulfilling one of your God-given purposes.
Second, you will hopefully learn something from the sermon that will help you be a better person.
Third, worship is a means of grace and will bring you closer to God.
Fourth, you will have the opportunity to interact with other Christians in a non-threatening atmosphere (fellowship).
Fifth, you will be presented with opportunities to serve in various capacities, so you will be able to make a difference in some way.
Sixth, you’ll hear some nice music.

If you show up at a church and it doesn’t seem right to you, check out other churches in the area. You are bound to find one that works for you. God’s Spirit will guide you to the church where he wants you to be (it’s happened in my life).

May God bless you in your search for a church, and also in getting into the habit of regular worship.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Army Takes Care of Its Own?

I read an article recently in the Poughkeepsie Journal that said our troops are at an increased risk of identity theft. Why? Because the military insists on using the social security number as an identification number. When I entered the Army back in the late 1960s, I was issued an Army ID number that began with “RA” (meaning Regular Army). Draftees had numbers beginning with “US” and those in the National Guard had numbers that began with “NG”. After I was in the Army for a while, the military did away with the unique ID number and went to the social security number instead. So “name, rank, and serial number” became “name, rank, and social security number.”

Even though identify theft is commonplace, the military has been slow to take action to protect its personnel. The answer is simple, go back to the military “serial number.” It’s not that difficult, and it would give our military personnel some degree of protection. I don’t know why the military has been so slow in implementing this simple change.

Actually, I do know why. The military does not take care of its own, much as they like to claim that they do. Our military used Agent Orange in Viet Nam, putting our troops at great risk. Although the military may not have realized how dangerous it was, there should have been more testing done before Agent Orange was deployed and our troops exposed to it.

In the Gulf War, the military forced experimental vaccines on our troops, which may have contributed to what has come to be known as Gulf War Syndrome (in addition to exposure to pesticides and other toxic chemicals). For more of an analysis on the Gulf War Syndrome and its possible causes, go to www.ei-resource.org.

To protect those who protect us, write your congressman and tell them to put pressure on the Pentagon to do the right thing and go back to a military identification number.