Posted: April 27, 2015 in Worldview
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In just one small travesty of justice, a straight couple asked a gay baker to bake them a cake for their wedding.  The baker declined, saying that they “did not to cakes for straight weddings.”  The shocked couple left, and of course found another baker, bought a perfectly good cake, and went on with the wedding, which apparently went off without a hitch.  Taking offense at the rebuff, however, they filed a complaint with the DOJ, alleging emotional, mental and physical damages totaling $150,000.

Those who might think of this as ridiculous, apparently would have been wrong however.  The DOJ took it very seriously, and an administrative law judge eventually issued an order that the bakers would have to pay a fine of $135,000.  As the case was being processed, however, suddenly a firestorm of protest erupted.  The vendors the bakers bought their supplies from suddenly started getting harassed by numerous people, and began to fear being driven out of business themselves.  So they took the gay bakers off of their referral list.

The result, of course, was devastating, since those referrals were by far the largest source of income for the business.  Then the notice arrived saying they owed the fine.  Faced with mounting losses from the lack of sales, as well as the amount of the fine itself, they were unable to go on, and they shuttered the business.

They could not understand how anyone could be so vindictive, or why anyone would be so motivated by hate that they would actually drive them out of business because of their beliefs.  They really just wanted to be left alone, to live their lives the way they pleased without being forced to do business with people who had beliefs that were counter to their own.  What kind of law would force anyone to violate their own conscience?

This is a true story, of course, except that the roles were reversed.

Oh, I’m sorry, does that matter?

Is the injustice really any different when they are?

Barak Obama’s blathering on the subject of religions – in particular Islam and Christianity – strikes me as being completely disconnected with the doctrinal teachings of either.  In other words, it’s all relatively irrelevant.  Yet, he’s got the bully pulpit, and far too many uninformed American citizens take his comments to heart.  A few of the recent headlines said this:

I am personally disgusted with our President over his misleading, ridiculous views on Islam.  Anyone who has studied anything about it knows that even though terrorists take Islamic teachings to an extreme, and carry out some of the Quran’s teachings literally, that their actions are based entirely on their religious beliefs.  Christianity and Judaism, however, are in fact quite the opposite.  We have the 10 commandments in common, and they include the one that says ‘You shall not murder.”  You simply cannot be an obedient Christian or Jew, and chop off people’s heads or burn them to death!

I am beyond angry.  Yes, of course I’m angry at ISIS and other Islamic radicals.  But I’m also angry at our President.  He is ignorant on matters of faith beyond a superficial level.  But ignorance is no sin.  What he does is far worse.  He pretends to be more well informed than you or me on all of the major belief systems of the world.  He acts as if Islam is just greatly misunderstood, and that Christianity is vastly overrated.  He is confusing and polluting both faith systems, and his ‘teachings’ are going to cause untold numbers of people to give Islam an equal footing in American law and culture.  We are in for a whole heap of trouble!

Anyone who grew up in the American culture, so deeply steeped in Judeo-Christian teachings, would agree that no one should believe it’s ok to take another person’s life.  The thing about it is, though, that if you grew up in a Muslim culture, and if you read their sacred writings, you would think nothing of the kind.  In fact, the Qur’an teaches that it is the duty of a good Muslim to kill every infidel who does not convert.  And if you are not a Muslim, you are an infidel.

The only peace-loving Muslims are ones who do not live in obedience to the commands that are so clearly written in their holy texts.

The thing that has me deeply concerned, though, is that Obama seems to think that Islam is no less valid a belief system than any other.  He tells us there’s no religion responsible for terrorism, yet the facts are clear.  Nearly every terrorist act is committed by a Muslim who believes it is his duty to kill infidels.  He says we must not give the terrorists legitimacy by calling them Islamic – which among other things implies that Islam is otherwise a legitimate belief system.

And many people, not having delved into such matters in any meaningful way, nod their heads in agreement, and say “Yeah, that’s true.”  But it’s not true.  It’s a lie, straight from the pit of Hell.  And the more we believe the lie, the more they will become our neighbors, demanding that we change our laws and cultural norms to be more compatible with theirs.

Obama is a tool.  He stands for absolutely nothing other than himself, and he is perfectly willing to indexlead millions of people into the delusion that all religions are equal and valid, that we can live peaceably with our Muslim brothers, and that nobody can know the truth anyway.  That’s the thing that has my blood boiling.  Contrary to what the “Coexist” bumper stickers and t-shirts would have us believe, it is not possible ultimately to live in peace with people whose ideology requires them to kill you.

So the question is this:  If you agree that he is spreading lethal lies about Islam, what can we do about it?

Really, what can we do?

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem called Christmas Bells.  He did not write it by a cozy fire, surrounded by loved ones, singing and cheer.  He wrote it amid the horrors of the civil war, as he sat with his son, who had been badly wounded, and as he grieved the loss of his dear wife in a tragic accident.  He reflected on the words spoken by angels, as they announced the birth of the Christ child; “Peace on Earth, good will to men”.  He did not feel peace.  After his wife’s death he wrote “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.” Six months later he wrote, “I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.”

It seemed to him, and to anyone paying attention then, as now, that peace on Earth was an impossible dream.  All around he saw searing pain and loss, and the wanton spilling of blood.

Today there is searing pain and loss in virtually every corner of the planet.  Yet far too many of us blithely go shopping, put up decorations, and plan family gatherings, sumptuous meals, and gift exchanges.  We avert our eyes.  We simply cannot take the time to drink deeply of the sorrow, the loss, the injustice.  Peace on Earth?  It seemed to Longfellow almost too much to be hoped for.  So he penned these words:

I HEARD the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

So think about Longfellow.  Then think about your own situation.  What do we hope for?  Real hope must be realistic – it must be hope for an outcome that is really, actually possible.  Yet 2000 years after the birth of the Prince of Peace, our wars are just as devastating as they have ever been.  How can we save ourselves from ourselves?  How can we, the inhabitants of planet Earth, save ourselves from the pain of never-ending loss?

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail?  Based on what?  How can a hope like that be realistic?  On what do we base our hope?

As Konrad Adenauer was attempting to put his country back together after the devastation of WW2, he had a meeting with Billy Graham.  In it he asked “Mr. Graham, do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead?  Graham, somewhat surprised by his question answered, “Of course I do.”  Replied Chancellor Adenauer, “Mr. Graham, outside of the resurrection of Jesus, I do not know of any other hope for this world.”

Indeed.  If only we could rid ourselves of the evil people out there.

Yet, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn so aptly put it, “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

I celebrated my 71st birthday this year, and if I have learned anything, it is this: we are absolutely incapable of avoiding our own destruction without outside help.  Yet counter to all the evidence, we are not without hope – realistic hope.  Jesus said “I have told you these things [his teachings], so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

We live in eager anticipation of the day when that will be obvious for all to see.  For now, only a small number of the people alive today can see reason to hope.  We are His sheep, who hear his voice, and follow Him.  And we know, as Horatio Spafford put it in one stanza of his wonderful hymn “It is well with my soul”:

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

This Christmas, remember that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Merry Christmas to all!

Heritage Foundation Jamie Jackson asked this question: “Is Ferguson Really About Race?”  He interviewed two black leaders, but was not given much bandwidth to develop this highly relevant question.  So I wrote the following to him:

Mr. Jackson, I believe you asked a highly relevant question when you posted “Is Ferguson really about race?”  In fact, I believe it is not.  I believe that Martin Luther King’s desire to have future generations judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character has largely been realized.  The issue at hand is that a disproportionately large percentage of black children grow up without the kind of guidance from parents, churches and schools that would develop in them good character.

The reality is that in our country today the content of one’s character has nearly everything to do with the success one has in life.  Skin color is a relative disadvantage only to the extent that one’s behavior reinforces the stereotype that many whites have of blacks.  The minute a person shows himself to be of good character, skin color ceases to be relevant.

Ferguson is more about the ‘haves’ being angry at the ‘have-nots’, and having no idea how to go about getting what they want.  There are many, many examples of black people who have succeeded in life while personifying good moral character.  The have-nots would do well to figure out how they did it, and emulate them.  The black leaders who do not encourage their brethren to do so are a big part of the problem.

Kudos for interviewing Bishop Harry Jackson.  Men like him should be profiled, interviewed and promoted in black venues and publications, not only as a Christian Pastor, but as a teacher, a leader, and a man of high moral character.  If we teach the people of Ferguson the things he knows, they will stop believing the race-baiters, and start seeing the USA as a land of opportunity for everyone, not just the white people or the ‘haves’.  And along the way, I believe we will start to show them that faith in God pays big rewards – not only for the next life, but for this one as well.  One thing we learn from scripture is how to get along.

That’s right, we can all get along.  And the bible calls us not just to that, but to an even higher level, which it refers to as unity.

I have learned that living in unity requires that we give each other grace.  I have learned that grace is something we all want to get, but that the giving of it sometimes requires us to put aside the deeply held principles by which we ourselves are guided.  In other words, when we are on the receiving end of non-grace, we must learn to respond not in kind, but by giving what we didn’t get.  That’s real tolerance.  And it is a very  good thing.

I have learned that while we are told in Ephesians 4 that we can be angry, and that anger itself is not sin, we are also told not to hold on to our anger.  But even before that, we are told “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.” So grace and tolerance, while good things, do not require us to agree on matters that are clearly settled by scripture.  John Piper, in the short article Is It Possible to Be Angry and Not Sin? says this: “So we should get angry with sin, but that anger should be mingled with heart-sorrows for the people sinning.”

Refusing to deal – on any level – with our brother’s sin is a form of sloth, which is one of the 7 deadly sins.  It’s the kind of politically correct form of tolerance that is itself sin.  In other words, if you are not heart-sorry when you see a brother’s sin, you deny that he is ultimately hurting himself, those around him, and God.  And you say to yourself “I can’t get along with him if I don’t accept him the way he is.  It’s why we have such a problem with homosexuality these days.  We are so tolerant of the sin in others that we refuse to call it sin.  We conclude – to our shame – that confronting that particular sin is hateful.  But scripture teaches us that we should love our brother, not be tolerant of his sin.  This article says pretty well what I believe about the issue, especially this point:

It is not loving to allow a person to remain stuck in sin. It is not hateful to tell a person he or she is in sin. In fact, the exact opposites are true. Sin leads to death (James 1:15), and we love the sinner by speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We hate the sin by refusing to condone, ignore, or excuse it.

I’m praying that we can start to engage on these issues, rather than pretending they don’t exist, or that we don’t really need to deal with them. God is not tolerant of sin. We should not be either. If there is strife among us, we should recognize it as fruit of a poisoned tree, then find it, root it out, and kill it – all while loving our brother and hating all sin, including our own.

Something Didn’t Work Right

Posted: September 26, 2014 in Worldview

The post ‘Sleeping With the Enemy’ should have had a video of a talk by Brigitte Gabriel embedded in it.  Although the web version did have it, some who subscribe by email did not see it.

You can see it here  –>