Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Are We Being Punished?

When you see all the natural disasters, the economic conditions, and other problems we have right now in the U.S., you can’t help but think that God is punishing us. However, I don’t think God is punishing us right now, not that we don’t deserve it.

While God did a lot of punishing in the Old Testament, I don’t believe we see too much of that today, but we do see the consequences of poor decisions. For example, we’re in an economic mess because of poor decisions made by the government, financial institutions, and individuals. Even much the devastation caused by natural disasters results from poor decisions and poor planning. All of these problems, which I believe God allows but doesn’t cause, can be wake-up calls to us. They can be warnings like the canary in the coal mine, alerting us in a number of ways.

What have we as a nation done in the last 40-50 years or so in addition to living beyond our means? We’ve steadily moved further and further away from God and our Judeo-Christian heritage. As we’ve moved further from God individually and as a nation, and have systematically removed God from public life, what have we seen happen?

-Society is becoming ruder and cruder.
-Many are turning to drugs and alcohol to escape reality and responsibility.
-There is significant crime and violence.
-We have a large segment of the population living in poverty, with more coming.
-We are on track to becoming a second-rate nation.
-We’ve racked up incredible debt, both as a nation and individually.
-We owe a trillion dollars to China – think what that means.
-We have a government that barely functions, so critical decisions are either not made or take a long time to get made.
-This latest generation will have a lower standard of living than those coming before them for the first time in American history.
-Schools are a mess, especially when it comes to discipline, bullying, and behavior.
-Jobs have disappeared from this country forever, so that any economic recovery will take a long time to get here and will not result in the kind of prosperity we’re used to. According to a recent survey, Americans have already lowered their expectations considerably.

The list goes on, but you get the point. Life wasn’t perfect pre-1970, let’s say, but we certainly didn’t have the severity of problems we have today. Yes, we had the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and World War II, but people trusted God and pulled together, and they got through it. After those trials the U.S. became a superpower and enjoyed unprecedented prosperity. As time went on and things were good, we drifted away from God and chased after other gods.

As a people who have been especially blessed of all the nations in the world, we, more than anybody, should be faithful to God. So today we need to get back to God. Go to church, learn about God, learn to pray and read the Bible, and learn to trust in God’s provision. Then, and only then, will this nation begin to turn around by the grace of God. Let’s remember the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14:

[I]f my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (NRSV)

Let’s turn back to God before things get any worse.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Same Sex Marriage in New York

Same Sex Marriage in New York

Same sex marriage will now be legal in New York State. That means same sex couples will be able to get marriage licenses and have “official” wedding ceremonies. Since such a law may seem to be “fair” and “equitable”, you might be asking why the Catholic Church, many evangelical Christians, and others are opposed to same sex marriage. I think it’s important to know where they are coming from, and not just label them as “homophobic” or “bigots.”

The main problem is that such laws redefine “marriage” from what natural law, the Bible, and thousands of years of tradition say it is. Since homosexuals biologically can’t reproduce with each other, then many would argue that regardless of what the law says, it isn’t a marriage as it has been understood historically.

Second, the Bible says the practice of homosexuality is a sin (notice I said “practice of”). Therefore, to call a homosexual relationship a “marriage” goes against biblical teachings as they have been traditionally understood. This condemnation of same sex relationships is not a church thing, but comes from both the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and the New Testament. That doesn’t mean anybody should persecute gays and lesbians, but it certainly implies that churches shouldn’t bless their unions. I know that sounds discriminatory, but since the Bible is the basis of both the Jewish and Christian faiths, we have to take seriously what Holy Scripture says.

Third, there is a fear in the religious community that refusing to perform a same sex weddings could result in discrimination lawsuits. I believe that fear is well-founded, although supposedly there are provisions in the New York law protecting churches, religious organizations, and nonprofits from such lawsuits. We’ll soon find out if that provision is strong enough.

Having said all that, I think Christians should move on to deal with the real dangers to marriage, and that is the disintegration of the family. The U.S. has a high divorce rate, and there are a record number of households headed by a single parent. People today, if they even bother to get married, don’t seem to take the vows very seriously. And then we wonder why we have to problems we have.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Arrogance of Power

Once again a high profile man has been caught with his pants down. These sex scandals are occurring with increasing regularity: Anthony Weiner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the French guy (Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who went after a hotel maid) – the list goes on and on. And these are just in the past few weeks. You also have John Edwards, Tiger Woods, Elliott Spitzer, and a host of others over the past couple of years. What’s wrong with these guys?

I believe the root of the problem is arrogance. These are men in powerful positions. They think they are above the law. They also think they’ll get away with it, despite most prominent men eventually being found out. Their enormous egos make them believe they are entitled and are invulnerable.

The Europeans, especially the French, take such fooling around pretty much in stride. The Europeans can’t understand why we get upset when our leaders do sleazy things. I was in England when the scandal broke regarding President Clinton fooling around with the intern Monica Lewinski. My English friends were all over me on that one, asking “What’s the big deal? Boys will be boys. What’s wrong with you Americans?”

Since Europe is in the post-Christian era, they have lost a lot of the morals and ethics that we still have, but which are eroding fast. We expect our leaders to use good judgment. We expect them to tell us the truth (lying was Clinton’s downfall, more than even the hanky-panky). We put them in positions of trust and responsibility, and we don’t like it when they have moral and ethical failures. I think they are reasonable expectations for those we have elected. After all, if you can’t keep your vows to your wife, how can we trust you with major leadership responsibilities? If you’re more interested in gratifying your lustful desires or stroking your ego than conducting the people’s business, we don’t want you in office. I think that’s reasonable.

When we see the mighty fall, it isn’t pretty. But sin isn’t pretty. These failures should be a wake-up call to all of us to not give in to whatever temptations come our way (and we aren’t immune even though we may be nobodies). Keep in mind that eventually, you will get caught. It might cost your marriage, or your job, or your career, and most certainly your reputation. It might not make the headlines like it does with the rich and famous, but sin will ruin your life. Remember these words from 1 John 2:15-17

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (NIV)