Archive for August, 2015

Responsibility

August 31, 2015

Over the summer, we were privileged to spend a few weeks in Europe studying, traveling, worshiping, enjoying God’s creation and marveling at the creativity mankind is gifted with.  A week of our time was spent in Paris.  Part of the fun of traveling (for us) is the anticipation and preparation, so we spent a fair number of hours ahead of time planning out where to stay and where to go and what to see while not trying to overextend ourselves.

Numerous online and print travelers guides warned about Paris and the notorious pickpockets that work the popular attractions singly or in groups.  One person even described how a group of children surrounded them and placed a baby in their arms so they couldn’t protect their wallet or purse, robbed the person and took off.  Part of me wondered what about the baby?  Was it a real baby?  Was this just cross-cultural confusion about adoption processes?  If a live human baby is your means of stealing, how do you get the baby back after you’ve escaped?!?!  The mind boggles.

By and large, the guides suggested common sense.  Don’t flash your valuables.  Keep your wallet in your front pocket, and keep your valuable documents in a special travel belt or pouch to make it less likely they will be pilfered.  Be careful in certain areas of town after dark.  All common sense stuff, right?  We would tell people the same thing when visiting our town, despite our town being relatively safe and a lot less crowded than Paris.

We were in no danger of being mistaken for a jet-set couple, and never felt at risk from pick-pockets.  But imagine if things were different.  What if we were fabulously, blindingly wealthy?  What if my wife wore large diamond ear rings and necklaces and bracelets?  What if we wore expensive designer clothes and carried shopping bags full of designer parcels from the swankiest stores in the City of Lights?  What if we then decided to take a stroll at 1:00am in some of the seedier neighborhoods of Paris, laughing gaily, not trying to blend in but in fact making every effort to have people look at us and see our ridiculous wealth?  What if, as we rounded the corner, we were forced into an alley and relieved of our prized possessions – the diamonds and the fancy clothes and the shopping bags full of treasures.

Then we came home and complained loudly about how unsafe Paris is, how outrageous it was that we were robbed.  Those who know us would likely be aware of our propensity to flaunt our wealth.  They might ask us to tell them the story of what happened and when and where.  And most people would nod sympathetically – being robbed is truly a terrible event!  But what would they also be thinking?  You two are a couple of grade-A idiots.  What did you expect strutting through the ghettos flashing your cash and jewels?  How could you not have more sense than that?

The thieves remain culpable.  Robbery is a choice that someone makes and that choice is always wrong, without a doubt.  The robber bears responsibility for their actions.  But we would bear responsibility for providing them with an opportunity to rob us, and for encouraging them to think that such an illegal action would be rewarding for them.  They are guilty of robbery.  We are guilty of, at the least, being naive fools or, at worst, encouraging someone else’s worst traits by our refusal to use our own common sense.

This is the analogy I’ve come up with for the sexual assault/rape argument that rages in our culture.  Chrissie Hynde, the lead vocalist of the great rock group The Pretenders, has generated criticism for taking responsibility for her sexual assault that occurred when she was a young woman.  Her statements that she was to blame for her assault because of her foolishness and poor decision-making has some people riled up.

They have a point, to a certain extent.  The perpetrator of rape or sexual assault is the guilty party, just as the robber in the above example.  Their actions are inappropriate and wrong – morally and legally – always.  It isn’t a matter of whether or not someone who sexually (or otherwise) assaults a woman (or man) should be held liable – they should.  But as in the example above, women (and men, most likely) need to recognize that they have a role to play in all of this.

As Hynde says, this is common sense.  It shouldn’t be controversial.  All people need to take into account what their form of dress says about them.  All people need to take into account what their decisions say about them.  This does not justify or legitimize those people who will rob or assault or rape, but it recognizes that we impact one another, and sometimes the impact we have on another person is not healthy, and is actually dangerous to ourselves.  It’s common sense for robbery, why isn’t it common sense for rape?

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Reading Ramblings – September 6, 2015

August 30, 2015

Reading Ramblings

Date: Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 6, 2015

Texts: Isaiah 35:4-7a; Psalm 146; James 2:1-10, 14-18; Mark 7:(24-30)31-37

Context: We continue in Ordinary Time, working our way through New Testament Epistles independently while continuing to look at the Old Testament and Gospel lessons together. There is a theme of proclamation that runs through the Old Testament, Psalm, and Gospel lesson. In each reading the actions of God should result in God’s praise. Those of faith in Jesus Christ should not be ashamed of their faith, and should be ready to speak it plainly when the opportunity arises.

Isaiah 35:4-7a – The past few chapters of Isaiah look towards the coming of the Lord, towards his vengeance against the enemies of his people, his deliverance of his people. What will that day look like? It will look like transformation. Not simply an improvement of existing conditions. Not simply a few touchups here and there. Complete renovation, complete restoration. The fearful will be encouraged to strength. The blind will see, the deaf shall hear, the lame shall leap, the mute will sing. Nature will be transformed as well, with deserts filled with running water and pools of water. Everything will be as it should be, a literal return to the pre-Fall reality of the Garden of Eden. The salvation that God has worked through human history and through his incarnate Son, Jesus, aims at nothing less than the total redemption of all creation, not just human beings.

Psalm 146 – The psalmist exhorts us to praise God, but then warns us about where we place our trust. How easy is it to praise God Sunday morning but place our practical trust any number of other places the rest of the week? It is easy to have our loyalties and expectations conditioned by the world rather than by praise of God. The psalmist then recounts with us the reasons why we should trust God rather than human beings and institutions. First off, the efforts of man are limited because man is finite. We die and disappear from the earth and our efforts likely come to little. But not God. God is the same forever. He is the same God who revealed himself to Jacob, who created the universe, who provides for our needs. And He is ultimately the God who will restore creation to the way it was before the Fall, and here the psalmist uses language very similar to Isaiah. We praise God because He alone has all power and is capable of doing what He intends to do.

James 2:1-10, 14-18 – We continue the lectio continua this season from Ephesians to James, a book that has challenged theologians for centuries. Particularly sections like 2:14-18 that appear to call into question the efficacy of faith without corresponding works. Is James is claiming that faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died and rose again to forgive our sins is insufficient for salvation – we need to perform works as well?

The issue becomes one of precedence. Once we have been brought to faith in Jesus, works are a natural by-product of that faith. If we claim that Jesus is our Lord, we can’t refuse his command of our lives. On the other hand, we are incapable of measuring the Holy Spirit’s work in other people’s lives very accurately, and are always in danger of deciding that someone hasn’t shown enough spiritual progress,  therefore determining that their faith is not real. This is dangerous and damaging on all counts. God the Holy Spirit is at work through faith in Jesus Christ. This passage drives us not to evaluate others but ourselves. As we do, we will always find ourselves lacking, always in need of throwing ourselves on the mercy and forgiveness of Christ rather than taking pride in our own accomplisments.

Mark 7:(24-30)31-37 – The beginning of this passage (the optional verses 24-30) is often shocking to people. How can Jesus be so callous? He has left the region of Capernaum and traveled north to non-Jewish territory. He has been to Gentile lands earlier in his ministry, but He seems to be looking for a break, an escape for a bit. He’s had some very heated exchanges with the religious leaders and perhaps realizes it would be good to lay low for a while rather than risk bringing his ministry to a premature end.

Yet even in this distant, Gentile region word of him has come so that a woman hears of his arrival and immediately seeks him out. She is not Jewish, or even Hebrew. Yet she is willing to hope that Jesus can heal her daughter by casting out an evil demon. Jesus has cast demons out of Gentiles already – the demoniac in Mark 5. Yet here Jesus is focused on the scope of his mission, perhaps realizing that tensions are building and it won’t be long before his enemies act. As such, Jesus understands that his ministry is to God’s chosen people the Jews. He does not have enough time to minister to everyone. He must focus his efforts with the people who have been prepared to recognize and interpret his words and actions as the fulfillment of Israelite prophecy.

So He puts the woman off. He doesn’t deny her request, but shows her the prioritization – his work to God’s chosen people is of first importance. But in time, all will be offered mercy and grace and healing. Amazingly enough, the woman has no difficulty accepting this, but also expresses faith that Jesus has more than enough healing power – here and now – to go around. Mark depicts in his Gospel another minor character who displays greater clarity of faith than the people who should understand Jesus best. Once again an outsider, like the centurion at the end of Mark’s gospel, demonstrates the appropriate response to encountering Jesus – acknowledging him for who and what He is.

For the second half of the reading Jesus goes back towards the area where he cast out the demons in Mark 5, in Gentile territory on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. Once again someone is brought to Jesus even though his ministry has not been primarily in this area. Perhaps the former demoniac has indeed been sharing his story, so that now Jesus is known even here. Regardless, Jesus heals the deaf man, who probably was not Jewish. Once again the response is faith and proclamation of Jesus’ works, despite his efforts to keep things discrete.

Could you keep quiet, if your life were transformed as radically as this deaf man’s? But wait – your life has been transformed just as radically, perhaps more so! You have been brought from death to life in your baptism, bound to the death and resurrection of the Son of God and now an inheritor of eternal blessings. Perhaps we should be equally reticent to keep quiet!

Twilight Zoney

August 29, 2015

While not exactly the same, this article reminded me of the very first Twilight Zone episode.  Which would be a spoiler I suppose, if the episode wasn’t 56 years old already.

The Buck Stops

August 27, 2015

I’ve noticed an interesting demonstration in the power of the dollar here in town.  An out of state grocery store chain recently purchased several stores in our area.  As is typical, there was a gradual conversion of the stores  to the name of the new company.  There were the usual perky press releases about the excitement of coming into a new area to provide value, blah blah blah.

I started hearing from people that the converted stores had much higher prices than the previous chains.  Then there was some unflattering local press.  As part of cost-saving measures, the new chain eliminated all of their courtesy clerks (the professional name for the bag boys and bag girls who help bag up as you check out and do other tasks around the store – my first job when I was 15!).  But what was reported was that they had fired 12 developmentally disabled individuals who had been working at the stores for years under the previous chain managements.  People here immediately got very upset about what they perceived as very cavalier treatment of a vulnerable group of people.

A few weeks ago I visited one of these stores for the first time.  I noticed immediately how empty it was.  There were maybe six other customers in this massive grocery store.  I noticed that the prices were extremely high.  I found the few things I wanted and skipped the rest of the shopping list and went to another grocery store.  My wife went to another one of the new stores a few days later and found it largely devoid of customers as well.  The cashier confided that their business was down to 25%  of what it used to be.  Amazing!  Every time I’ve driven by one of these new grocery stores, the parking lot has been virtually empty.  I can’t imagine how much money they must be losing, waiting for people’s opinions to change and business to increase.

That’s what came to mind when a colleague and friend, Jim, dropped an article off from the local paper.  A local Republican and Democrat both weighed in on how consumers ought to respond to repeated reports about the brutal working conditions at Amazon.com.  For over 20 years Amazon has built a reputation – both as the go-to online retailer for lots of things beyond books, and as a place that pressures employees relentlessly to improve performance.  Not surprisingly, the Democrat blamed this on capitalism as an overall economic system.  The Republican credited it to the American work ethic.  The Democrat saw the employees as victims of a predatory economic system.  The Republican noted that nobody forced anybody to work for Amazon, and in the meantime the company had supported employees despite not being profitable for 15 years.

But the issue comes down to consumers – or at least it should.  How concerned are we, really, that Amazon pushes employees so hard and expects so much of them?  The result would appear to be an amazing retail portal that allows us access to zillions of products at competitive prices with the potential of delivery to our door in two days.  What does it take to accomplish that, and are we comfortable with it?  Are we victims of an economic system that compels us to support things we don’t agree with?  Or are we empowered consumers who are able to direct our support in a manner consistent with our beliefs?

Which are you, and why?

Wet Bar Wednesday – Research

August 26, 2015

Another item from my Amazon wish list and towards bumping an order to the level of free shipping – and a bit of indulgence – all wrapped into one beautifully illustrated book!  I’m looking forward to reading Alchemy in a Glass.  It will hopefully make me smarter about the way I mix drinks, which in turn should help my creativity levels.  Gotta love research!

Offensensitivity

August 25, 2015

Start with this beautiful and prophetic word from my all-time favorite comic strip, Bloom County. (Be careful not to have your mouse pointer over the image or a large ‘no-copy’ image will display instead.  If you move your pointer off to the side of the browser window the image will display properly)

Now consider a few current instances of offensensitivity.  First, there is this article from Duke University’s publication, The Chronicle.  Some incoming students are refusing to read one of the books on Duke’s summer reading list.  Why is this news?  The article states at the very end that the reading list is apparently optional – nobody is forcing them to read the list.  I’d like to know more about what the list is and what the intent of the list is and how the material will or won’t be incorporated into student coursework.

The committee tasked with selecting books for the list apparently anticipated that the book would be contentious to some students.  Some students seemed to infer just the opposite – that the committee had selected the book without realizing that it would be offensive to some people.  If the intent was to challenge and shock, then it shouldn’t be a surprise that some would choose not to read it.  If the list is optional, what does it matter whether some students don’t read one or more of the selections on the list?

Or consider this – some people are outraged that a few costume companies plan to sell a Caitlyn Jenner costume for Halloween.  Why is this a source of outrage?  Proponents of the LGBT movement insist that they want to normalize these lifestyles, yet refuse to allow these lifestyles to be the source of the same sorts of critiques and caricatures that everyone else is open to?  What gives? A quick scan of the breadth of costume options available will quickly demonstrate that most every occupation and lifestyle has a costume option, many of them offensive in one way or another.  How do we handle these sorts of things normally?  By choosing not to purchase them, rather than demanding that they not exist in the first place.  Why would a Caitlyn Jenner costume be considered any different?   Isn’t that a sign that proponents are achieving their goals?  Once again a double-standard is at play – everyone needs to accept these lifestyles as normal, but nobody is allowed to treat them as normal, meaning open to criticism, parody, etc.

As people in the comic strip realize, life is offensive.  We are surrounded by ideas and people and words and images that for many different reasons, people find offensive and distasteful.  The issue becomes how we handle this.  Paul doesn’t go up on Mars Hill and express his outrage and offense at the many idols there (Acts 17:16-31).  He knows that his hearers don’t find anything wrong with those idols, whether they believe in one or more of them or none of them at all.  Instead, Paul utilizes those idols as a jumping-off point to share the Gospel.  Demanding moral conformity is not the same as sharing the Gospel.  We can sanitize our neighborhood of things that contradict Scripture and still have a neighborhood that doesn’t know Christ.

Christians – of all people – should expect that the world is not going to act or look the way they’d like it to.  They should know this first of all because they find the same reality in themselves – we know our own sinfulness even as we affirm and strive for a holier life.  They should know this because Scripture tells us as much, and because expecting people who aren’t Christian to accept and understand and appreciate Christian norms of behavior doesn’t make a lot of sense.  As our culture grows more distant from it’s Judeo-Christian underpinnings this is going to be more and more the case.  We may not like it but we have to be prepared to deal with it.

We deal with it first of all through a firm grounding in our faith, and by helping others to ground their faith for impact with alternate world views and ideas.  I can try to protect my kids from pornography but they’re likely going to encounter it eventually, and they need to know how to deal with it as followers of Christ.  If I never let my kids interact with people who come from other faiths (or no faith at all), how are they going to know how to deal with those other faiths and viewpoints when a professor in a classroom in college pushes them, or when a colleague or supervisor at work pushes them?   We can’t and shouldn’t live in hiding from the world, and the reality is that more and more our kids are going to find a culture where more and more they as Christians are going to be the fish out of water rather than the other way around.

I’m dismayed that a major university would suggest pornography as summer reading, but I’m not surprised.  I hope and pray and work towards preparing my kids to deal with this reality should they be required to, whether in a suggested reading list or a required reading list or assignment for class.  I’m all for experiences that broaden our minds and force us to encounter different viewpoints and situations, but I think pornography – even literary pornography – is a poor focus for this, when there are so many other valuable ways to stretch people.  It simply points once again to the cultural and intellectual agenda to normalize the denigration of gender and sexuality by treating these things as simply a smorgasbord for temporary pleasure.

You want to broaden someone’s cultural horizons?  How about travel?  How about philosophy and theology?  How about reading political publications that you know contradict your own preferences or perceptions?  How about asking students to meet their neighbors and spend some time getting to know them?  So many options out there, yet what is focused on is sex.

Yes, life is offensive.  Intentionally so, sometimes.  You need to be strong enough to process the offense, to articulate what is offensive about it and why, and to determine why you won’t accept or align yourself with that offense.  Simply hiding from it is not a good response, and it’s increasingly not even an option.  Be prepared.

Book Review – Sabbath as Resistance

August 24, 2015

Sabbath as Resistance by Walter Brueggemann

Westminster John Knox Press, 2014

Since seminary days, I’ve maintained a Wish List on Amazon.com. As I have books recommended to me, I add them to this list.  I’ve accumulated a pretty substantial wish list that I don’t visit very often as my discretionary book-buying funds are limited.  But from time to time I revisit it because I need to add a purchase to something else I’m buying to qualify for free 2-day shipping with Amazon Prime.

So it is that I recently purchased Sabbath as Resistance.  Its position on my wish list tells me that it was a relatively recent add, but I can’t remember who suggested it or how I heard about it.  All I know is that I was disappointed with it.

I bought it because the sabbath fascinates me, all the more so since, as a 20th/21st century American the sabbath has lost a lot of practical importance in the culture around me and this bleeds into my own belief and practice as well.  I imagine, based on myself, that preaching and teaching about the sabbath probably ranks lowest in comparison to any of the other Ten Commandments.  I can’t help but think that this is not a good thing, certainly based on human nature and human history and Scriptural descriptions of how these impact sabbath observance.

Unfortunately, this book was not very helpful in considering the sabbath.  Brueggemann has written a tract against capitalism and a culture of acquisition.  That’s all well and good, and there certainly are aspects of the sabbath that incorporate this theme.  But this is the only theme that Brueggemann wants to deal with, and at times he has to stretch pretty far to try and accomplish it, so that the sabbath for large stretches largely gets ignored or given lip service.

The stretch also affects Brueggemann’s exegesis at times.  For example, he repeatedly blasts Solomon’s Temple as evidence of a culture of acquisition that had taken hold in Israel, so that the Temple could only be conceived of in terms of lavish grandeur and splendor.  Yet Brueggemann pointedly avoids any mention of the Tabernacle God instructed Moses and the Israelites to build for him – a Tabernacle that is highly ornate and gold-laden, and he avoids the implication that these God-given Tabernacle specifications were themselves the basis for Solomon’s Temple design.

In chapter 6 he talks about the sabbath in relationship to the Tenth Commandment against coveting, which I think is in and of itself an interesting link to make.  But he overlooks the fuller meaning of some of the passages in his effort to create a constant dichotomy of the wealthy/influential against the poor.  For instance he seems to apply Jeremiah 6:13 selectively, to a certain subset of the Israelites (the economic elite) who abuse the largely innocent lower classes.  But Jeremiah 6:13 specifically says that ALL of Israel was guilty of this sin of greed.  The rich may be better in achieving their economic goals through exploitation, but there is no economic or social class of people that is immune to the siren-song of greed and the culture of acquisition – an important note to bring out in a discussion of this sort, but one which certainly complicates overly-simplified calls for social justice.

This is a short read and very accessible.  Our culture of 24/7 production and consumption does deserve constant review in light of Scripture.  The sabbath does figure into this, but this book feels like Brueggemann’s heart was really in another arena, so that ultimately the emphasis on the sabbath gets lost in the shuffle.

Reading Ramblings – August 30, 2015

August 23, 2015

Reading Ramblings

Date: Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 30, 2015

Texts: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9; Psalm 119:129-136; Ephesians 6:10-20; Mark 7:14-23

Context: The Christian life is one of repentance and forgiveness. We would rather focus on the rules and laws of living like good people. After all, aren’t Christians supposed to be obedient? Certainly. This is all well and good so long as we don’t lose sight of the fact that our good deeds are not impressing God any – they aren’t earning his good favor or contributing to our salvation. Why not? Because no matter how many good things we do, we continue to seethe with sin on the inside. We are sin. It isn’t a matter of what we do or don’t do, it is our condition, one that we are unable to deliver ourselves or anyone else from. God must do it for us.

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9 – Moses begins a repetition of the laws by which the Israelites are to abide. If they do these things, then on the other side of the Jordan river is a land that is amazing and which can be theirs through obedience. Obedience will furthermore earn Israel pride of place among the nations, who will look to their shining example, and will see the closeness in which they walk with their God.

It sounds good, except everything up to this point and everything that follows has been disobedience. Moses isn’t lying to God’s people – obedience would indeed make them famous among the nations. Except that they are not obedient. They can’t be, and therefore they must depend fully on their God who forgives and who gives them the good things that they can’t earn through obedience.

Psalm 119:129-136 – Psalm 119 is the acrosstic, with each section representing a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and also emphasizing the glory and beauty and majesty of the Word of God. The psalmist isn’t lying – we can recognize that God’s Word is glorious and beautiful. We should long for the Word of God in our lives at all times, it should be the object of our love and obedience at all times. These are beautiful words until we realize that this doesn’t describe us (or at least it doesn’t describe me!). I can acknowledge that God’s Word is life and truth and beauty and the source of true joy. But I still am rebellious to that Word. I wish that I could exalt myself against others, shedding tears for those poor people who ignore your Word, but to do so would be hypocritical. I am one of those people as well. Worse, even, because I can acknowledge God’s Word as true and wonderful and exhort others to listen to it, and still find my heart and mind disobedient to it!

Ephesians 6:10-20 – I have said before that I believe this passage is frequently misinterpreted and I stand by that assessment. Yes, we are given armor and weapons – thanks be to God! But what we are called to do with these is stand. We are not to imagine for a minute that we are actually warriors! How foolish and prideful! We are given these tools to protect ourselves, not because God needs or wants us to go into spiritual battle for or with him, but because we are in danger!

Think of the The Lord of the Rings books or movies. Throughout the story, the smallest and most vulnerable characters – the hobbits Pippin, Merry, Samwise, and Frodo – at various times and under diverse circumstances put on armor and take up weapons. But this is always for their protection, because they are in and among a mighty battle fought by creatures far more strong and experienced than they are. Nobody expects that just because they have armor and weapons they are warriors – quite the contrary! They merely offer added protection in the midst of the fray, whether that is wandering in the depths of Mordor or on the fields outside of or the halls and ramparts within Minas Tirith.

Likewise we are given armor and a weapon to protect ourselves. The battle has been won and the enemy is defeated but his deadly darts and arrows fly thick through the air still. We are to stand our ground, not fearing the enemy and what he seeks to do to us, but trusting fully and completely in our Lord’s victory. As such we can stand firm in our faith, regardless of the suffering that may enter our lives or the lives of those around us. Stand firm – the victor has provided you what you need to withstand the enemies’ attacks!

Mark 7:14-23 –  Earlier Jesus showed the hypocrisy of Jewish leadership that pretended to be fulfilling the Law of God when in fact they were often directly contradicting God’s Word for their own contrivances and conveniences. Those not guilty of such specific hypocrisy as manipulating the corban might be tempted to take pride in their observance of ritual purity laws and laws concerning which foods they could and could not eat. After all, this is one of the major ways that God’s people kept themselves separate from other peoples.

Jesus will not allow them this false comfort. He presses his point further, undoubtedly alarming and confusing his disciples. As they press him to explain his proclamation that what comes out of us makes us unclean rather than what goes into us, Jesus dispenses with the Jewish dietary restrictions. This must have been a major shock! He tells them that one of the signature practices of their faith and identity as Jews is irrelevant!  Why is this?

Because, just as with Moses and the Israelites 1500 years earlier, Jesus’ disciples are inclined to think that they can keep God’s Word. Their partial or imperfect obedience to dietary restrictions can be a source of spiritual pride, and they can mistake their obedience as somehow pleasing to God. Jesus wants to make clear however that what they need to beware of is what is already on the inside of them – the rebellious and sinful inclinations and desires, thoughts and words that may lay hidden, never seing the light of day, but which roil around inside them all the same, making them unclean no matter how fastidiously they obey ritual washing before meals or avoiding forbidden foods.

Jesus will not allow us to cling to anything within ourselves as a source of pride before God. Nothing in us is worthy of such a position and falsely believing that our good works are impressive to God leads to dangerous pride. The Christian life is one of repentance and forgiveness. We repent as the Word of God drives us to see how manifestly unable we are to keep it. It points out our sin to us so that we can fall at the foot of the cross, so that we can lay outside Jesus’ empty tomb and plead for forgiveness – forgiveness that is already granted through faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the resurrected Son of God. This is the proper Christian posture. To live our lives on our knees in repentance and thanksgiving for God’s sacrifice by which we are declared clean, holy, sons and daughters of the creator of the universe. From this position of supplication and thanksgiving we can better see our duty and privilege to love and serve our neighbor.

We are also better able to appreciate all that God has given us. Not because we are smart or clever, faithful or obedient, but because God is truly a good and righteous God, a God who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We are heirs of the promise every bit as much as Israel was on the banks of the Jordan. We are free to seek obedience not out of fear of failure, but out of joy at a victory that is already ours in Christ.

Truth in Strange Places

August 22, 2015

I don’t Tweet.  I’m not a Twitter user or follower.  So it is that I never knew that Chuck Woolery is a pretty vocal conservative – at least these days.  In some ways it is shocking, but in many other ways it is encouraging that a guy known best as the host of a game show called Love Connection is interested in politics.

It took me a while to confirm the authenticity of a Tweet attributed to him by an acquaintance on Facebook, but it turns out to be legitimate.  Woolery tweeted at the end of July – It’s true.  If Planned Parenthood was selling dead PUPPY body parts, they would have been closed down yesterday.

Truly a useful observation.  Our culture is outraged at mistreatment of animals in any form.  We generate massive anger and outrage over someone who kills a lion in a foreign country where killing lions is legal, but we are told to remain silent as millions of unborn children are killed.  We have been numbed and harangued culturally into allowing any outrage so long as the idol of abortion is maintained, yet we explode with outrage about how animals are treated.

Woolery isn’t the only celebrity in the Twitterverse to weigh in on the current Planned Parenthood scandal.  An arguably more popular and culturally relevant celebrity, Sarah Silverman, wrote Abortion is still legal in the great U.S. of A.  It would be insane not to use fetal tissue 4 science & education in such cases.  Silverman was promptly rebutted by political commentator Ben Shapiro, who wrote Killing Jews was legal in Nazi Germany.  It would have been insane not to use their skin for lamps.  Silverman, who is culturally Jewish but considers herself agnostic, could only offer in defense: We have a dif of opinion doll u don’t have to be c****** about it (censorship mine).

But Shapiro hits the issue on the head.  Silverman wants to claim that the law of the land is what dictates right and wrong.  This was the same defense used by lawyers of Nazi’s on trial at Nuremberg after World War II.  The argument was essentially that the defendants were following the prescribed laws of Germany.  They were being consistent in their actions based on what the law of their land was, and to put them on trial by another standard (the standards of the victors) was simply a matter of might making right.

It’s a compelling argument, if you don’t have a higher standard of law to appeal to.  Silverman continues this line of reasoning.  Her ideas of right and wrong differ from Shapiro’s (and lots of other people’s as well).  We’re at an impasse, right?  There’s no way to make headway other than by appeal to the majority.  To appeal to the law of the land as currently instantiated.  Except I’m pretty sure that Silverman and most everyone else would admit that the Nazi’s were wrong.  Their laws were wrong.  Therefore their actions were wrong.  And those tried for propagating the laws and perpetrating the deeds had to be punished.  Deserved to be punished.  Because laws can be wrong, and yet at a fundamental level, people should know better.  The Nazis themselves should have known better, and probably did.

People should know that it isn’t acceptable to murder thousands of other people just because the law says its OK if you’re a particular ethnicity.  Ethnicity is not a crime, most people would agree.  Slavery was legal in the US for years and yet few people today who run to the rule of law to defend abortion and the atrocities of Planned Parenthood would argue that the laws allowing and propagating slavery were right.  They would quickly point out that they were evil, wrong, poorly considered at least.

This is the argument that anti-abortionists make today.  And have been making since Roe v. Wade came into power.  And hopefully have been making as long as people have justified killing off the babies of other people for whatever reason.  Some things are always wrong, and when a law contradicts one of these underlying truths, it is the law that must be repealed.  And it will be.  It’s only a matter of time, and who does it, and how they do it that is in question.  It’s more than a difference of opinion, Ms. Silverman, particularly to the unborn children who are being murdered and then sold off in bits and pieces.  And the Planned Parenthood official who can exclaim on film Look, it’s a boy! knows this.  Her words betray her ideology with a more fundamental understanding that these are indeed human beings, boys and girls, that our gods of convenience and sexual liberty have sacrificed.

Your Tax Dollars at Work…Again

August 21, 2015

Hopefully you can sleep easier at night, knowing that Big Brother is faithfully watching out for you at every juncture in the road, including ensuring that you aren’t mistakenly sold natural milk instead of artificially enhanced milk.

It’s a sad day when our government insists that something completely natural is so unusual that it should be considered artificial.  On second thought, maybe this won’t help you sleep easier.  I suspect it shouldn’t.