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June 12, 2009

Foxhole faith

Flag We're in the middle of what always seems to me like the most patriotic of seasons. Memorial Day was just a few weekends ago, this Sunday is Flag Day, and just a few weeks after that, we'll be eating watermelon and watching fireworks on the Fourth of July. As a card-carrying Daughter of the American Revolution, I couldn't be happier. Bring on the flag bunting and red, white and blue jello parfaits.

Getting me in the mood for the season is a book I picked up at the library. God in the Foxhole details dozens of stories from the frontlines of American conflicts. Author Charles Sasser (a Navy and Army veteran) includes anecdotes from the Gulf Wars, Somalia, Vietnam, Korea, the two World Wars, the Civil War, the Alamo, the Revolutionary War, and even the French and Indian War and King Philip's War (both fought on American soil before we were independent of those tea-taxing Brits). 

Included among the stories of ordinary and even anonymous soldiers are the stories of some not-so-anonymous men and women, including Sen. John McCain, Clara Barton, and George Washington.

Washington's story comes not from the Revolutionary War, but the French and Indian War, when he was a young colonel in the Redcoat army. During a battle to capture the French Fort Duquesne, Washington rallied an outnumbered Virginia regiment and left the battlefield unharmed--but with a coat full of bullet holes. Fifteen years later, in 1770, an Indian chief who, during that battle at Fort Duquesne, had assigned his best sharpshooters to fell the Redcoat who fought like an Indian caught up with Washington to tell his side of the story and to deliver a message:

...a power mightier far than we shielded you. Seeing you were under the special guardianship of the Great Spirit, we immediately ceased to fire at you. I am old and soon shall be gathered to the great council fire of my fathers in the land of shades; but ere I go, there is something bids me speak in the voice of prophecy. Listen! The Great Spirit protects that man [pointing at Washington] and guides his destinies. He will become the chief of nations, and a people yet unborn will hail him as the founder of a mighty empire. I am come to pay homage to the man who is the particular favorite of Heaven and who can never die in battle.

Indeed, the Father of Our Country died in his bed in 1799 at the age of 67 after a sudden illness.

Continue reading "Foxhole faith" »

June 11, 2009

Witch Hunts and Pimps

Finding Nemo From a very young age I regarded pimps as modern-day slave-masters, thinking of them as yellow-bellied bullies who are the boils and plagues of society.  What I never thought possible happened: In some circles I am considered a pimp.  

Many years ago, Jean Bethke Elshtain reviewed Katie Roiphe's book The Morning After, which is about the problem of feminists' quest for power. I think the review is germane in light of a recent Point post about Pixar Studios and girl power. In a nutshell, the problem is that while attending institutions of higher learning, women like the Mad Typist (author of that article about Pixar) have imbibed the noxious notion that they're victims and men--all men--are villains.  

To empower women is not a bad thing. As Elshtain says, the empowerment of women and men is creative because both sexes bring something to the table which would not be "brought alone." But what the zealots want is for women to dominate men. This kind of power, asserts Elshtain, "is...of the most unredeemable variety." 

So unless Pixar produces a movie which reduces males to stupid brutes and raise females to the status of goddesses, feminist zealots rate the creators as chauvinists. Furthermore, unless all women agree with this radical stance, they, too, are considered pimps: "Catharine MacKinnon, the eminence grise behind this movement, claims that women who argue against the 'all men are rapists' formulae are also 'pimps,' they and their male colleagues who worry about the civil rights of the accused and other such 'bourgeois niceties' readily dispensed with for the sake of the greater cause."

Comparing worldviews between the Mad Typist and people like Elshtain is useful. In a short bio, Mad Typist states that she's a secular humanist. Her worldview denies the goodness of God and the goodness of His creation. She believes in a dog-eat-dog world. Elshtain's a Christian who believes that both men and women are created in His image and both sexes have something to contribute. Along with a high view of men and women, there are also standards of how to treat one another and ourselves which handily matches our design. Elshtain calls this Ethics. 

In the final analysis, we must resist the urge to engage in this power-playing nonsense. Regarding women like the Mad Typist, I concur with Elshtain and Roiphe: "Grow up."

(Image © Pixar)

Seeing Jesus Afresh

Jesus Mafa Years ago, when I was going regularly to Russia and Belarus on short-term missions, I invested in a series of A Beka posters depicting Bible stories. The posters were beautifully rendered and were a great teaching aid, whether I was working with children or adults. The posters, of course, depicted Jesus as either white or olive-skinned.

However, once I started going to Africa, I wanted a set of Bible story pictures that would resonate with Africans, from both an ethnic and cultural standpoint. A couple of years ago, I discovered this wonderful resource -- Jesus Mafa -- and ordered a set of their posters, which show a black-skinned Jesus in settings that look like a typical African village.

If you are a white American, take a look at these images and tell me what you think (click here and go through the seven links to see images from Christ's life). Do they change your perception of Christ? Do they give you a greater appreciation for the passages in Revelation which talk about how heaven will be populated with people from every nation, tribe, race, and language? If you are non-white, do these pictures make you feel more at home with Jesus? Why or why not?

(Image © Jesus Mafa)

’Them Jews aren’t going to let him’

Wright Oh, lovely. Add anti-Semite to the list of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's endearing attributes.

(Image © Charles Cherney for the Chicago Tribune)

Security guard dies in Holocaust Museum shooting

Stephen Johns As you may have seen in the updated Post article at my original post, security guard Stephen Johns has died after being shot in the chest at the Holocaust Memorial Museum. R.I.P. Please be in prayer for his family.

(Image © AP/U.S. Holocaust Museum)

June 10, 2009

Daily roundup

Self-Defense and Christianity

Book2yel Jason's recent post on a pastor who has urged his congregation to bring their guns to church fascinated me, and brought up a related issue: self-defense. A number of years ago, I spent a week going through a self-defense course led by Sanford Strong, who was once a San Diego police officer in charge of violent crimes. He became tired of investigating crimes where victims could have survived -- or at least sustained lesser injuries -- had they known how to respond to a violent assailant. So he began traveling the country offering self-defense classes.

What is perhaps unusual about my involvement is that it happened because a pastor friend arranged the classes for everyone (kids and adults) who attended a week-long summer camp. A woman in his congregation had been attacked in broad daylight on a busy interstate highway. Fortunately, she was able to get away unharmed. But it made Gene realize that part of his job as "shepherd" was to teach his flock how to protect themselves. So he hired Sandy to come in and conduct a self-defense seminar.

In between the Bible classes one would expect at a Christian camp, Sandy taught us what to do should a criminal confront us; he then had us practice simple self-defense moves against the largest guys there, who were wearing special padded uniforms to keep them from getting hurt. We were all a bit black-and-blue by week's end; but it gave us the confidence to know that, if we act properly, we can greatly increase our chances of surviving a violent crime. (I should add that, as a teacher, I believe it's my job to protect my students should someone come into my classroom and cause trouble. So the training I received goes beyond mere self-defense.)

How many of you have been through -- or would like to go through -- such training? Do you find it consistent or inconsistent with your Christian beliefs? Explain.

(Image courtesy of Sgtstrong.com)

More Racing for Prisoners’ Kids

Runningshoes I’ve always thought “Wow, these Pointificators are a smart bunch … and fun too!” And with the outpouring of giving toward Prison Fellowship’s Storybook Dads program last month -- I hoped to raise $100 via my race … and you delivered $266!! -- I also realized “Wow, they’re generous too!”

Well, Joe, Zoe, Ron, CreationWaits, Dennis and YouKnowWhoYouAre, you were absolute heroes for my race. Again, thank you SO much.

Now, may I come back to The Point and ask our many dear friends for help again?

Those of you who enjoy reading The Point, first, may I again tell you how much we enjoy conversing with you? And may I also ask you to give to fellow blog contributors Karen Williams and Travis McShirley? They, too, are running to raise funds for Storybook Dads, a Prison Fellowship program that helps build the bonds between incarcerated fathers and their children.

Karen’s site is here. Travis’s site is here.

Continue reading "More Racing for Prisoners’ Kids" »

Preach it, brother

Jon Acuff recently has had some excellent posts at Stuff Christians Like, poking some gentle but thought-provoking fun at how the church tends to treat singles. Yesterday there was this, under the title "Asking our kids to be a mini Jesus":

A lady I work with once enlightened me, “You just wait until you have kids.” I’m not sure what she thought would magically happen the instant I became a father, but it didn’t (apparently). I know this because at the time she uttered her prophetic words to me, I already had two kids… precisely twice as many as she had. . . .

There’s a million ways to express “Kids = Big Faith.” And if you’re single or childless, there has to be a part of you that thinks, “Fantastic! The missing link in my faith is having a kid. I have zero kids and zero prospects. I’ll just be over here with my small, incomplete faith. Awesome.”

Jon, if you read this -- THANK YOU.

No Christians Allowed

An evangelical group has been severely restricted in its ministry in a low-income housing area in Tulsa, something it's been doing for more than 20 years. They can come and "play games" with the children and talk about "moral things," but they have been forbidden to mention God or Jesus Christ -- conditions identical to those I experienced as a short-term missionary in Russia and Belarus in the late 1990s.

Is it my imagination, or are these attacks against Christians in America becoming more common?

In Search of Saints

Check out Jim Tonkowich's review of A Crisis of Saints: The Call to Heroic Faith in an Unheroic World. The book's author, Fr. George Rutler, evidently has much to say about "saintliness" -- which Tonkowich defines as "the God-given ability to exercise heroic virtue in the face of cultural breakdown." If we want to heal our culture (and I suppose most of us Pointers and Pointificators do), then we must begin with the spiritual renewal of the Church. Rutler claims that "any crisis in culture is a crisis of saints, and no reform is radical enough unless it is a redemption from sin."

The final essay in the book deals with G. K. Chesterton, who was able to demonstrate his saintliness in, "of all places," the journalistic world. The difference between Chesterton and modern media types, according to Rutler, "is Chesterton's subordination of the self to truth. This is far more significant than the breath of knowledge" (though, goodness knows, Chesterton had that, too). 

In closing, Tonkowich offers these encouraging words from Rutler's book: "If there were giants in the land then, there can be giants now. It is, after all, the same land, and we are of the same human stock, and the times and issues are certainly no less important. And God is no less faithful to those who ask...."

Good Idea or Bad Idea?

Ap_ken_pagano_090605_mn A pastor in Kentucky is encouraging his congregation to bring their weapons to church to promote responsible gun ownership. Pastor Ken Begano of New Bethel Church in Louisville calls it "Open Carry Celebration" and it will feature gun safety videos, patriotic songs and a $1 raffle to win a handgun. He said, "As a Christian pastor I believe that without a deep-seeded belief in God and firearms that this country would not be here."

(Image © Ed Reinke for the AP)

June 09, 2009

Daily roundup

Chesterton, Anyone?

28thlogo2 Fittingly, while I was contemplating starving men, I received an invitation to the American Chesterton Society's 28th annual conference. It’s being held in Seattle University’s Pigott Auditorium, and includes intriguing topics like “Chesterton and Alfred Hitchcock” and “The Dangers of Trifling with Chesterton.”

I’m sure, if you go, you will be ingesting ideas of meaty substance.

(Image © American Chesterton Society)

’Newsweek’ editor: Obama ’sort of God’

We've talked about Obama worship before -- but I'm not sure I ever expected it to get quite this literal.

(H/T John Romano at Big Hollywood)

The Dangers of Proof-Texting and Other Smart Words

Bible2 A few weeks ago, I posted a short blog post about the pictures from the Hubble telescope, the wonders of the universe, and as LeeQuod puts it, "a small dig at the New Atheist types," i.e. the problem of materialism. An interesting discussion ensued. 

Under that post, Rolley recently answered a question posed by Ben W., who had raised the question of the Church's seeming indifference to the problem of slavery. Rolley discusses the problem of proof-texting versus principles, and I thought everyone might benefit from reading his comments.

(Image courtesy of Bible.ca)

June 08, 2009

Daily roundup

The Cairo Speech

Obama-pyramids1 Both Chuck Colson and Joel Rosenberg have critiqued President Obama's recent speech in Cairo. Read here and here for their take on what the president should have said.

(Image courtesy of Joel Rosenberg's Weblog)

Some Devilish Thoughts on Stem Cells

You will recall my mention of a menacing piece of correspondence from Down Under—way Under, which recently came to my attention. What follows is another dispatch that has surfaced, bearing the scrawlings of that hellish mystagogue . . .

Dear Swillpit,

Your latest report on the American front contained an item that is sure to be a watershed for our cause: the government funding of embryo destruction. It seems their decision makers really believe that it’s all in the interest of noble medical goals. Give rein to their folly. Later, we will have an eternity enjoying their shock at how they were played like a hand of rummy.

The quotes in the press clippings you included were particularly stirring. Statements like, we will be guided by “scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology,” and our decisions need to be “based on the recommendations of experts and scientists outside of politics and religion,” indicate that the guardrails we have been tugging on for centuries are at last, everywhere, crumbling.

Thanks to the efforts of field agents who have been patiently conditioning them with wileful whisperings, I feel that our long-fought outcome is within grasp.

In the not too distant past, the question before them was, “What should be done to improve their lot?” Now, by our incremental influences, they only think in terms of what can be done without regard to whether it should be done. Step by step, we have ushered them along a path which, just a few decades ago, they would have shuddered to look upon, but now course down in full stride! ...

Continue reading here.

A Terror to the Devil

Saint_Columba Check out T. M. Moore's recent Crosfigell article "A Terror to the Devil" -- the story of how St. Columba's contemporaries viewed him (and a challenge to us to become like him). Here's an excerpt:

How did Columba get that way? He loved God and hated his own sin. He pored over the Word of God, giving special attention to the Law and the Gospels. He spent long hours praying and contemplating the unseen realm ... [and] he was a diligent student of Church history, knowing the debt he owed to the martyrs and theologians of the past.

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

June 05, 2009

Looking Up and Over One’s Fence

OBIT_KEMP_011_r350x200 Lanny Davis is about as enthusiastic a Democrat as one can find. An effective communicator and lawyer, he may be best remembered as one of Bill Clinton's chief defenders during the Lewinsky scandal.

But he found in his diametrical political opposite, the late Jack Kemp, a good friend, one who could vigorously disagree with him on issues while still enjoying him and caring for him as a person. This article by Davis shows wonderfully that the feeling was mutual.

John Wesley once encouraged his followers to note how even a cow will look up over the fence in front of it to see what is beyond it, if only out of curiosity. He encouraged his followers to hold fast to their cherished faith and beliefs while being secure enough in them to investigate what might be worthwhile in another person.  

Lanny Davis and Jack Kemp were able to find common ground on several issues, despite their different vantage points--all because they saw in each other something more than just an opponent.

(Image courtesy of the Washington Times)

About Time

India-Delhi-Lotus-T#130AFAE I'm old. And I'm, to my surprise, getting mellower with age. (Really.) Part of this senescence-induced mellowing is an increased appreciation for some of the more -- let's say -- gentle expressions of '70s pop music.

Now, I have my standards: no Orleans or America for me. But I've never stopped loving James Taylor and I'm not ashamed to admit that I shed a tear on hearing of Dan Fogelberg's passing. (A guy who listens to "Leader of the Band" and doesn't get a lump in his throat is no friend of mine.) 

All of this is to say that I've been re-acquainting myself with Seals & Crofts. The problem is that my favorite, or least most memorable, album and song of theirs was unavailable. You could get all the "Diamond Girl," "We May Never Pass This Way Again" or "Summer Breeze" you wanted from iTunes or Amazon but, until recently, not "Unborn Child."

For those of you who are too young to remember, the album was released about a year after Roe v. Wade. It's a concept album whose theme is life, innocence and a mother's love, all of which are incompatible with abortion. As the title song went:

Oh little baby, you'll never cry, nor will you hear a sweet lullabye.

Oh unborn child, if you only knew just what your momma was plannin' to do.
You're still a-clingin' to the tree of life, but soon you'll be cut off before you get ripe.
Oh unborn child, beginning to grow inside your momma, but you'll never know.
Oh tiny bud, that grows in the womb, only to be crushed before you can bloom.

Oh no momma, just let it be. You'll never regret it, just wait and see.
Think of all the great ones who gave everything
That we might have life here, so please bear the pain.

Continue reading "About Time" »

June 04, 2009

Daily roundup

How Chinese Christians are commemorating the Tiananmen Square Anniversary

Christians, that is, who took part in the demonstrations 20 years ago.

John Calvin, literary muse

RobinsonAuthor Marilynne Robinson has won yet another prestigious award, Britain's Orange Award for a novel written by a woman. 

Robinson was typically modest about the award, saying, "I always suspect that there's someone in some obscure place who has five unpublished novels in a box in her closet. She will die and her executors will publish her novels and she will become the great spirit of the age, and all the rest of us will fall into her shadow."

Perhaps, but in the meantime Robinson stands alongside writers like Flannery O'Connor (another award-winning female) who have managed to write about faith with such artistry that they transcend the usual sacred/secular divide.

Robinson, a professed Calvinist, says:

One of the things that I like about the theology is the assumption that one is flawed. You never do anything exactly right, you never achieve what you aspire to.

That tension, she says, makes great story fodder. Let's hope it inspires her to a few more novels.

(Image © Reuters)

’A new beginning’

Obama Cairo speech.jpg The complete text of President Obama's speech in Cairo this morning is here.

(Image courtesy of NPR)

June 03, 2009

Daily roundup

Your roots are showing

N_mj_obamaarrives_090603.standard On the eve of President Obama's speech in Cairo, ABC News' Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller examine the difference between White House rhetoric and campaign rhetoric on the topic of Islam:

The other day we heard a comment from a White House aide that never would have been uttered during the primaries or general election campaign.

During a conference call in preparation for President Obama's trip to Cairo, Egypt, where he will address the Muslim world, deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Denis McDonough said "the President himself experienced Islam on three continents before he was able to -- or before he's been able to visit, really, the heart of the Islamic world -- you know, growing up in Indonesia, having a Muslim father -- obviously Muslim Americans (are) a key part of Illinois and Chicago."

Given widespread unease and prejudice against Muslims among Americans, especially in the wake of 9/11, the Obama campaign was perhaps understandably very sensitive during the primaries and general election to downplay the candidate's Muslim roots.

The candidate was even offended when referred to by his initials "BHO," because he considered the use of his middle name, "Hussein," an attempt to frighten voters.

With insane rumors suggesting he was some sort of Muslim Manchurian candidate, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and his campaign did everything they could to emphasize his Christianity and de-emphasize the fact that his father, Barack Obama Sr., was born Muslim.

The candidate's comment at a Boca Raton, Florida, town hall meeting on May 22, 2008, was typical: "My father was basically agnostic, as far as I can tell, and I didn't know him," he said.

The fact that a politician might say -- or downplay -- almost anything to get elected is hardly a revelation. It's even understandable, as Tapper and Miller put it, why Obama would have felt the need to "de-emphasize" his heritage. But it's a little disorienting to have White House staff now publicly saying things that, just a few months ago, would have gotten the president's opponents raked over the coals.

(Image courtesy of MSNBC)

Christian Worldview Conversations Can Be Found Almost Anywhere

Drag poster Now I make no recommendation of the new horror movie Drag Me To Hell, owing to its gory violence, dabbling in the occult, and premarital sex references. However, I can say that it was better acted than most films in this genre, with the ability to laugh at itself, while still keeping a few jump-in-your-seat surprises in store throughout.

But what I was most struck by is how it would provide for some teenagers watching the film a springboard into the topic of moral consequences for one's actions.

In the film, Christine (played admirably by Alison Lohman) is a likable young loan officer with a nice, smart boyfriend, Clay (Justin Long). Christine's troubles begin when she is told by her boss that it's her choice as to whether to give a poor old gypsy lady a third extension on her mortgage payment.  

Christine's heart tells her to grant the old lady's request. However, her ambition for the coveted job of assistant bank manager gains the upper hand. Wanting to show her boss that she can make the "tough decisions" necessary for that promotion, she turns the old lady down. Worse, she accidentally humiliates the octogenarian on her way out of the bank, prompting the old lady to curse her.

Continue reading "Christian Worldview Conversations Can Be Found Almost Anywhere" »

June 02, 2009

Daily roundup

Invisible people

Slate's William Saletan recently committed a highly daring act: He questioned leftist orthodoxy on whether sexual preferences can be changed.

[British] researchers contacted more than 1,800 mental health professionals to find out whether they would ever try to change a client's sexual orientation. Of the 1,328 practitioners who responded, one in six admitted to having helped at least one patient attempt to alter homosexual feelings. The total number of such cases reported by the respondents was 413. That's nearly one case for every three therapists.

The study's authors find this disturbing. Treatment to change homosexuality has proved ineffective and often unsafe, they argue. Therefore, therapists shouldn't try it.

If only life were that simple.

Although Saletan believes that homosexuality "isn't a sin or mental illness" and "needs no cure," and even that "any systematic program to turn gay people straight, such as "reparative therapy," is futile and dangerous," he's not ready to deny any patient his or her right to try to change. In fact, showing the courage of his convictions, he actually manages to be consistent with the "do what works for you" philosophy, unlike many others who share his beliefs. 

But therapy isn't about the big picture. It's about lots of little pictures: the worlds unique to each of us. You and I may have the same sexual orientation, but our lives are very different. You know nothing of my family, my religion, or my community. You don't even know how straight or gay I am. If I tell my therapist that I'd rather try to modify my feelings than give up my faith or my marriage, who are you to second-guess her or me? . . .

Would you tell such a patient that her understanding of God is wrong? Are you sure her attraction to women is more fundamental than her religious beliefs? Is peace with the lesbian part of her sexuality worth the destruction of her family or her faith? And most important: Do you think you can answer these questions without knowing more about her?

Continue reading "Invisible people" »

Two lives

Scsarahp0602 Gov. Sarah Palin draws an important, and largely overlooked, connection:

The stories of two very different lives with similar fates crossed through the media's hands yesterday — both equally important but one lacked the proper attention. The death of 67-year old George Tiller was unacceptable, but equally disgusting was another death that police believe was politically and religiously motivated as well.

William Long died yesterday. The 23-year old Army Recruiter was gunned down by a fanatic; another fellow soldier was wounded in the ambush. The soldiers had just completed their basic training and were talking to potential recruits, just as my son, Track, once did.

Whatever titles we give these murderers, both deserve our attention. Violence like that is no way to solve a political dispute nor a religious one. And the fanatics on all sides do great disservice when they confuse dissention with rage and death.

(Image © AP)

Music for the soul

Ig5-cover Having recently moved to a new area and gone through the "church shopping" process, I've had ample opportunity to observe some of the different styles of music in churches around my local area, from the staid to the ear-splitting. 

All of which makes me appreciate even more the lovely melodies and harmonies and the thought-provoking and soul-stirring lyrics on the Indelible Grace CDs.  The focus of Indelible Grace is on updating age-old hymns, many of which have fallen out of common use, for a modern audience.

Over at the 9Marks blog, Mike McKinley provided the lyrics for one of the hymns that Indelible Grace has recorded, one that, although written 112 years ago, seems particularly apropos to this time of economic uncertainty:

I do not ask to see the way
My feet will have to tread;
But only that my soul may feed
Upon the living Bread.
'Tis better far that I should walk
By faith close to His side;
I may not know the way I go,
But oh, I know my Guide.

Refrain
His love can never fail, His love can never fail,
My soul is satisfied to know His love can never fail.
My soul is satisfied to know His love can never fail.

And if my feet would go astray,
They cannot, for I know
That Jesus guides my falt'ring steps,
As joyfully I go.
And tho' I may not see His face,
My faith is strong and clear,
That in each hour of sore distress
My Savior will be near.

I will not fear, tho' darkness come
Abroad o'er all the land,
If I may only feel the touch
Of His own loving hand.
And tho' I tremble when I think
How weak I am, and frail,
My soul is satisfied to know
His love can never fail.

(Image © Indelible Grace)

Sensitivity

Women's center chicken

It appears the noosed chicken [in the window of an Illinois abortion mill] turned off many of the mill's African-American clients, so staff recently hung it instead on a cross. . . .

Jill Stanek, "Abortion mill replaces Christ with rubber chicken," June 1, 2009 (other disturbing images and profanity at link)

(Image courtesy of Jill Stanek)

June 01, 2009

Daily roundup

Ah, the pathos: The droning of self-excommunicates

In the last few days a couple of headlines have popped up that have an interesting running theme: excommunication. I’m not talking about the common use of the word, namely expelling Catholics from the Catholic Church. Rather, I’m referring to Protestants breaking communion with a church or religious organization.

A few days ago, the Associated Press reported that Liberty University will no longer recognize the College Democrats club on campus.  Vice President of Student Affairs Mark Hine told the club’s president, Brian Diaz, that the Democratic Party stands against the principles of the university and therefore cannot be facilitated or supported by the University any longer.  Some of the issues that clearly divide the values of the College Democrats from those of the school’s founder, Jerry Falwell, are abortion, socialism, and the gay rights agenda.

Similarly, a little later, the Associated Press reported on the “ousting” of 61 Episcopal clergy due to their opposition to “consecrating” an openly gay bishop. As former Bishop John-David Schofield said, "The Episcopal Church needlessly isolates itself from their brothers and sisters around the world." In this case, though the clergy were officially ousted, it's the Episcopal Church that is ousting itself from the worldwide Anglican Church.

The Associated Press has presented the Liberty University situation as an “ousting,” or a “barring” of participation of a radically liberal group from engaging in communion with Liberty University. I have trouble with this because neither institution has been vague about what it believes. I hope it comes as no surprise that Liberty University, the same institution founded by the conservative Baptist Jerry Falwell, stands firmly against homosexuality, abortion, and socialism. Likewise, the Anglican Church worldwide does not believe in homosexuality as part of God’s plan. 

When both of these institutions align themselves so closely to specific values, aren’t violators of these values ousting or barring themselves? The institutions have done nothing except uphold what they have always believed. 

Continue reading "Ah, the pathos: The droning of self-excommunicates " »

A liberal at Liberty

Roose2_200 What happens when a liberal student from Brown enrolls, secretly, at Liberty University? That's the subject of a new book, The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University.

Anyone who grew up in the Christian culture might have to stifle a guffaw at that description of the Lynchburg college. No offense to "Jerry's kids," but we've heard the stories. And besides, we're all sinners.

Still, I loved that the NPR article about the book included this snippet about the reaction author Kevin Roose got when he told his new friends about his undercover assignment:

He expected them to feel betrayed — and expected to do a lot of apologizing. Instead, he says, something amazing happened.

"Everyone forgave me — immediately," he says. "It was unreal how quickly their surprise turned to real compassion and excitement."

Good for them. Although the best part of their reaction followed:

But there was just a little disappointment. "They thought, given the semester with me, that they would have done a better job of converting me," Roose says.

(Image © Kevin Roose)

The wrath of God: Sunday comics edition

I hadn't read Doonesbury in months, but a panel in this Sunday's strip (the "Reverend Sloan, I've been noticing" panel; the Washington Post doesn't run the first two "throwaway" panels) caught my eye, and I went on to read the whole thing.

How would you respond to some of the points Garry Trudeau raises here? I realize it's hardly the first time they've been raised, but they usually make for a pretty interesting discussion topic, whenever and wherever they're raised.

May 31, 2009

Breaking: Abortionist George Tiller murdered

The controversial late-term abortionist was shot to death this morning . . . in church, of all places. Details are few right now, but we'll update later when we find out more. (Thanks to Laura for the tip.)

I wanted to lose no time in emphatically denouncing the crime. This is not something that any of us here would have wished on Dr. Tiller. Despite his own acts of violence, we are not to take the law into our own hands. Better to leave his life in God's hands and let him have every chance to repent and turn from his sins before facing his Creator.

But now we can only pray, may God have mercy on his soul.

Update: A 51-year-old male suspect is in custody.

Update: The "person of interest" has been identified as Scott Roeder -- possibly the same Scott Roeder who, as a member of an anti-government group, was arrested in 1996 after being caught with a bomb-triggering device. Also, President Obama released a statement on the killing.

Update: The following people and organizations have also denounced the killing:

National Right to Life Committee

Tony Perkins, Family Research Council (scroll down)

Troy Newman, Operation Rescue

Father Frank Pavone, Priests for Life

Kansans for Life

Marjorie Dannenfelser, Susan B. Anthony List

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

Dr. Charmaine Yoest, Americans United for Life

Concerned Women for America

Jill Stanek

Gov. Sarah Palin

Shaun Kenney, American Life League

Dr. James Dobson, Focus on the Family

(Special thanks to Kathryn Lopez for much of this information.)

May 29, 2009

Daily roundup

Re: ’American Idol’

Jason, I had heard something before about the Idol "culture war." I agree with Colleen Raezler, to whom you linked, who seems to suggest that it's a mistake to put the emphasis in a singing competition anywhere but on the singing. It's a mistake when liberals do it -- and it's a mistake when conservatives do it, too.

How much do we really know about the lives and beliefs of people on a TV competition? Anyone remember what happened with "churchgoing Baptist" and abstinence advocate Clay Aiken? I'm not saying that Aiken turned from Luke Skywalker into Darth Vader the moment he revealed his sexuality; I'm saying that people who bought his carefully cultivated image -- including people who voted on the basis of that image, if any did -- were in for a rude awakening. Human beings are not perfect, and more often than not, public images have tiny but significant cracks in them -- cracks that tend to widen over time. And every time we go around saying things like "Vote for the Christian reality-show candidate!" we face the very real possibility of ending up with egg on face and people taunting us with "Where's your Christian role model now?"

It's terribly tempting to latch on to anything or anyone that looks like a wholesome example of Christianity and morality nowadays, when they're getting so hard to find. I understand that. But let's be realistic about it and not be ready to fall for every attractive image that comes along, without having any idea what's really behind it. And let's remember that talent competitions are supposed to be about talent. If we get up in arms about people making an issue out of religious and political beliefs in the wrong context (Perez Hilton, call your office), then we shouldn't be doing the same thing.

Before He Was ’American Idol’

Last Wednesday night Kris Allen, a college student from Little Rock, Arkansas, was crowned this year's American Idol. Kris the underdog won over rocker and this season's frontrunner Adam Lambert. What was interesting about this year's season was the cultural war that much of the media made out of the American Idol finals. The musical battle between reportedly gay Lambert and evangelical Christian Allen was considered by many a valid debate on issues that are occupying America today.

Now that Kris Allen is getting lots of media attention, I found out recently that he is a worship leader in his church. Here's a YouTube clip of him singing a Chris Tomlin song. Listen to the lyrics of the song. Can you imagine him as the American Idol? How do you think he will do artistically and being a light in the music industry?

May 28, 2009

Daily roundup

May 27, 2009

Daily roundup

Kim Jong Il: Crazier Than a Bedbug

Amd_jong-il So what do you do when you're 68, have suffered a recent stroke, and worry that any one of a number of your generals would like to assume your throne? Apparently, you throw some crockery against the wall and resume the Korean War.

That's what we appear to be dealing with in North Korea's "Dear Leader," Kim Jong Il. It's hard to take a man seriously who, in addition to starving huge numbers of his own people while he airlifts lobster and caviar, has enjoyed establishing 20 concentration camps for political dissenters. Also, Kim has taken a shine to making feature films and operas from his beloved father's writings. 

All this would be purely laughable except that Kim has the fifth largest standing army in the world and now nuclear capabilities. The capital of South Korea, Seoul, is very close to the North Korean border, making it at least possible for Kim to take down millions of people with him should he have a death wish of his own.

Christian worldview question: Is it ever appropriate to ask for God to remove a true tyrant from the scene?Well, while the "love your neighbor" ethic applies to everyone, not just saints, it also applies to all the individual souls whose unfortunate lot it is to be in the path of a human windstorm. Christian theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer finally accepted, after much spiritual wrestling, that having Hitler gone was the only way to save many other souls. 

Bonhoeffer doesn't strike me as merely utilitarian here. Kim needs to be stopped for his own soul's needs, too. He's obviously sick and needs to not have anymore innocent deaths on his record. Beyond anyone's concern for him is the plight of millions, on both sides of the 38th Parallel.

Whether Kim is hit by another stroke or by one of his generals, his removal from power seems necessary for the people of North Asia to have a sigh of relief. A crazy man with nukes and a large army may be one of history's oddities, but here we are. Let's pray that the Lord, who does work in mysterious ways, finds a peaceable way to remove Kim's finger from the nuclear button.

(Image courtesy of GettyImages)

A patient God?

Rachel_06 When calamity lights on the world, the question is asked, “Why would a good God allow such a terrible thing to happen?” Often the best reply from believers in a good God is, “We don’t know.” That, at least, sounds better than “God is punishing someone.”

A thirty-seven-year-old wife and mother in Canada, however, unhesitatingly provides an answer:

Many have asked, "Why? Why is this happening to you?" ...I don't ask why, because I know the answer. And here it is. We live in a sinful world. Bad things happen. But it was not supposed to be this way, and it will not always be this way. God has a plan. He has made a way for sinful people...to be with him in a perfect world. The way is Jesus.... This is the way to know God and someday be free from this world of disease and pain....

So God is being patient, patient so that everyone has the opportunity to repent and to make things right with him. That is why there is evil and suffering in the world, because when he does return to bring judgment there will be no second chances.

Rachel Barkey is qualified to speak so boldly. Last January she was told her cancer had returned and was terminal. Astonishingly, she has used her final days not only to make memories with her family but also to share her profound and resolute faith in a good God publicly: 

I am dying. But so are you. Neither of us knows if he will even see tomorrow. And perhaps the reason that I am suffering now, the reason that God is waiting to bring judgment against all the evil in this world, is because he is waiting for you, for you to acknowledge your sin and to turn to him for forgiveness. Maybe you are the one we are waiting for.

Jesus suffered. God did not spare him. Why would he spare me, if my suffering would result in good for you? If my suffering is the means God would use to bring even one person to himself, it is an honor for me to suffer.

(Thanks to Tim Challies for the link; image © Anastasia Chomlack.)

Don’t teach my kid THAT!

If you think the cross isn't an offense, just wait until the Gideons show up at school. 

One Texas school district is hearing complaints from parents because the Gideons were allowed to leave a stack of Bibles on a table in the school's office where literature and brochures from numerous community organizations was available for students to take. Never mind that the school district was following the law in this matter.

As for the Gideons, I think this is what Jesus would call being "as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."

May 26, 2009

Handling Temptation

In his book Conformed to His Image, Ken Boa writes about using our identity in Christ to help us resist temptation:

Who we are in Christ is not shaped by what we do but by what he did on the cross and continues to do in our lives. Our performance does not determine our identity; instead, our new identity in Jesus becomes the basis for what we do.... In him, we have been granted great dignity, security, forgiveness, unconditional love and acceptance, hope, purpose, righteousness, wholeness, and peace with God. We may not feel that these things are so, yet Scripture does not command us to feel the truth but to believe it....

When we are tempted to covet, lust, lie, become envious, or succumb to any other work of the flesh, we should say "That is no longer who I am." While we are on this earth, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life will be constant snares, but we are more than conquerors when we remember that our deepest identity is in Christ and invite him to rule and live through us.

If there’s a graduate in your life

Cap diploma . . . I recommend passing along this hard-hitting advice from Jon Acuff.

The proof is in the penitent

Brotherston When Billy Barclay's mother saw her son's killer on TV singing praise songs, the only thing she could find in her heart was disgust. Apparently, convicted killer Garry Brotherston became a Christian in prison and is now openly discussing his conversion on Christian TV. But, for Billy's mom, it doesn't sit right.

“There is nothing that he can say that will convince me he’s a Christian," she told the Clydebank Post.

If we believe anything at Prison Fellowship, it's that people can change--that bank robbers can become philanthropists, that drug dealers can become pillars of society, and that murderers can become peacemakers. But ... it must start with repentance. And that means not simply repenting before God, but also repenting before those one has most grievously injured--in this man's case, to the family of his victim.

Brotherston's transformation might indeed be sincere, but the proof lies in actions of remorse and repentance. In an interview, Brotherston claimed to think of his victim's family every day. But has there been a letter of apology? Nada. Has there been any attempt at communication? Zip.

In Catherine's As We Forgive, we learn of a man named John who waits more than 10 years to seek forgiveness from a woman whose father he had murdered during the Rwandan genocide. At first, the woman--Chantal--rebukes him in her anger, accusing him of false repentance. But John doesn't leave the apology there--he follows up by visiting Chantal to help her cultivate her land, demonstrating by his actions that his remorse is linked to his soul. Over time, Chantal finds the strength to extend forgiveness to John, and she, herself, is transformed by the freedom it brings.

Conversion must be punctuated by remorse. I don't blame Billy's mom for her skepticism. I'd probably doubt the man's sincerity too.

(Image courtesy of the Clydesdale Post)