Respectfully Yours


Wow. It’s been a while and I have learned many things:
1) I should only drop my computer when it’s off.  I gather that can make a life-and-death difference for a hard drive.
2) I should avoid destroying my hard drive during the Christmas season; new drives arrive slowly.
3) Most importantly – I must conduct my life in such a way that I can prevent being so harried and flustered that I knock important things like my computer 3 feet down onto a hard floor.

So, how was your Christmas?

Lila
We did Christmas up well this year – in spite of weather and busy schedules all children and grandchildren joined us, I had a great excuse for baking cheesecake, and we inadvertently ended up with a poodle puppy.  Within the confines of my world, blessings abound.

But now the tree is tucked away, the stockings boxed, the nativity scene wrapped and shelved. Routine returns – walking the dog(s), cooking dinner, cleaning, studying, teaching, reading, checking the news. Checking the news – aye, there’s the rub. It’s getting hard to face each day’s events, to watch not only the political horrors unfolding, but to see our culture contorting into an evil, Godless muck.

Godlessness does not end well. I’m thinking Sodom and Gomorrah, Rome, Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia – the list is huge, and ugly, and we’re on it.

I’m not a fussy parliamentarian. I don’t care about white dresses at weddings or whether or not alcohol is consumed at the reception. I have no interest at all in what people do in their bedrooms, how much soda they drink, or, anymore, what party they vote for.

I care about respect. Respect is dying a slow and painful death in our culture and it’s just so horrifying to watch that I can barely stand it. Without respect there is no gratitude, without gratitude there is no honor, and without honor there is no shame. We won’t last long without shame.


Shame is evidence of conscience, evidence that our thoughts and behaviors don’t meet the holy standards of God.  God built us with His standards buried deep in our souls so that we might heed the discomfort it causes us, so that we might govern ourselves from within and have no need for tyranny.  We have, however, learned (and I use that word on purpose) to revel in shame, to take pleasure in groveling, in displaying our sins, in gesturing rudely at God.

God does not tolerate disrespect – not out of ego or bad temper, but out of His own respect for Truth. He did, after all, create us, and all the systems that sustain us. Our universe clicks along like a well-organized computer – all the hardware and software in perfect synchrony -- God did that, and did it ex nihilo, by merely commanding it all into existence. “Let there be light!”  (What is the difference between that and the Big Bang?) No scientific discovery has presented a clearer, stronger explanation for our existence; Darwin didn’t even try. In fact, little by little, biology, physics, astronomy, mathematics are all destroying his flimsy little fantasy for what it is – disrespect for God.

From a disregard for God and His creation, we have “progressed” to a disrespect for His law – His moral law, to be sure, but also His economic law – the two are closely aligned. We have, since Cain slew his brother, tried rewriting God’s moral and religious law, and, since the Romans gave away bread and built their circuses, we’ve been attempting to negate His financial law. Now the whole world is tangled up in the arrogant “re-organization” of God’s plan for our prosperity at the same time that we no longer see anything morally wrong with taking what we have not earned – even when we steal it from our grandchildren.

Tell me, how much gratitude do you see amongst those who want our government (i.e. the rest of us) to subsidize their every wish? Amongst those demanding free birth control, free phones, free housing? None. Why is there no gratitude? Because there is no respect. Even our president has no respect for the hard work of the American people and no gratitude for the opportunities offered him by this amazing nation. He speaks disdainfully of the very people who paid for his multimillion dollar Christmas fling.

What honor can there possible be in living it up while his people suffer? No honorable person could stand to get elected by manipulating unions and businesses into laundering money to finance his campaign – and then claim he has a mandate? How can honor be at all involved in saying one thing to get into office and doing an entirely different thing after the election? That’s bad enough – but what about the millions who voted for the man? Is there any honor in doing that? We are stuck with evil in our highest offices because we opened the door and invited him in, and we did that while he twirled his red pointy tail in our faces. He promised us free stuff out of someone else’s pocket, so we marked his name on the ballot. Have we no honor? No shame? Evidently not.

He certainly has no shame. He does not appear at all ashamed of the scores of flagrant lies he has told us. If he were feeling any shame at all for golfing and vacationing on our dime and on our time, he wouldn’t do those things. But he does. And the American people voted him back into office and tolerate a press that fails to hold him accountable.

And the press has no shame. As the fourth estate their job is to ride herd on government, to tell us the truth, but they apparently have no respect for truth. Yet we, the people, buy their newspapers and watch their TV shows – whatever is wrong with us?  We have paid these people to lie to us, to slant the news, to hide the truth from us, to rewrite history – why? Because we have no respect left for ourselves, for our country, for our God. Truth is not in us any longer.
We have become a Godless nation following blithely after the Europe our ancestors so wisely left behind. The first atheist church opens in London this month – coming soon, no doubt to a sanctuary near you.

I’m being grim, I know, but I’m not being entirely hopeless. Jonah turned Nineveh around and America has already been through at least 4 great revivals. Perhaps a return to God and His blueprint for a successful, prosperous nation is in the offing. Perhaps – millions of us still think biblically and Christianity is burgeoning all over the world, so who knows?

But this I am sure of – no election is going to fix anything. No change to more conservative policies will last – not until the heart of our people changes. Perhaps the economic suffering that is surely coming our way will remind America of its origins and principles. Maybe the freedoms we are losing will make us remember the value of liberty and its ultimate source. It’s possible yet, I think, that we can return to a respectful, grateful, honorable society without bloodshed and misery. I pray for that, and I remind myself daily that Jesus Christ controls history.  

Cartoons from http://www.usnews.com/cartoons/barack-obama-cartoons

On Fairness, Equality, and Father Christmas


Snow now covers the mountains around me, my Christmas tree gleams and sparkles, and eleven stockings hang expectantly up my staircase. I’ve been knitting and sewing and shopping, trying to find fun and suitable gifts for everyone. I try my best to be fair, but that’s a tall order. Despite old lump-of-coal traditions, I believe Christmas is a time to commemorate God’s gifts to us.

In fact, twice each year we celebrate the overwhelming fairness of God – at Christmas when we remember His grace in sending His son into this fallen and hopeless world and at Easter when we celebrate the resurrection and its signal that all our debt has been paid.  Such amazing justice – by one man all sin came into the world, and by one man all sin can be forgiven. It doesn’t get much fairer than that.

(Though we must also remember that what happened to Jesus Christ on that fateful Passover was not fair; He was perfect, yet He went to the cross and took the punishment that was ours – the greatest unfairness ever buying the greatest grace ever – an odd and amazing balance.)

Fairness is a balancing act; we must weigh evidence, measure effort, make ourselves aware of mitigating circumstances, and erase all of our pre-conceived notions. Look at Lady Justice holding her scales high, insisting on perfect equilibrium. Of course, for God, perfect justice is possible because, in His omniscience, He has all the facts – He knows what happened in Benghazi; He knows how the Koch brothers and Warren Buffet acquired their wealth. He is as aware of motivations as He is of actions. We don’t have that luxury, so our fairness is never perfect.

And lately it’s been quite clear to me that we suffer from a national confusion about what fairness entails even in its simplest form. Amidst all the holiday excitement there lurks in my soul a terminal annoyance with the infantile drum beat about the successful and their “fair share.”  What does it mean to be fair?


Fairness is not equality.  Fairness has nothing to do with amounts. Only 5-year-olds think that. Picture a fat, trembling lower lip and crocodile tears, “Johnny got 5 and I only got 3. That’s not fair.” It’s not equal. It may be fair. Maybe Johnny worked longer or harder or is older. Fairness is connected to balance – we want to balance the work with the wage agreed upon, the crime with the appropriate punishment, the reward with the results. Equality is just a mathematical term and is, in its literal sense, only about numbers and things that can be counted – money, percentages, lollipops. When we conflate the two ideas we rob justice of its soul, reducing it to some merely material substance that can be stacked up and tallied. We use the term fairness sloppily when we make it about equality: we use the term equality dishonestly when we make it about race or gender or wealth. 

And, we use it dangerously as well. Look at affirmative action and the damage it has done to education, to law, to medicine.  It is only fair  -- to students, to clients, to patients -- that the professionals who serve them be the best our society can offer, after all, folks pay well for those services, but good service is not provided by policies that only address equality.  How is it just to deny admission to highly qualified white students in order to allow admission to less qualified minorities?  It provides equality, but not fairness.

Fairness is also not revenge. When a guy in a Ferrari cuts you off at the corner, scaring you silly and putting you in your stodgy, Dodge-driving place, roaring past him at the next intersection while flailing a finger in his direction has nothing to do with justice, with fairness, and will only make you look even sillier. Fairness is about restoring balance, not about evening scores – that just puts us back into the equality lie.  Judging from Obama’s recent remarks about voting being the best revenge, that’s something he has yet to learn.

Fairness is about integrity. Fairness mixes honesty, righteousness, and sincerity (the real kind, not what you see in elections). It includes decency, obedience, and truly virtuous love. In short, it is nothing anyone can legislate into being.

Are we really so unwise that we believe that taking from those who have (paying no attention as to how they acquired what they have) will result in a fair society? We are, in fact, sacrificing justice for equality, selling our birthright for a bowl of beans, putting equality on a higher plane, even though equality has no heart, is no respecter of persons, and has no interest at all in individual well being.

Forcing, legislatively, the successful to pay “their fair share” of the taxes (especially when they already pay an unequal percentage of the nation’s revenues) has nothing to do with fairness. No one is suggesting trials, with juries of their peers, to determine whether or not the wealthy earned their money in a just and fair manner. No one is suggesting that we punish with confiscation those who cheated. No. Justice is not what the left is after.

Paying a “fair share” is about brute equality – “Johnny has 5 and I only have 3,” sniffle, sniffle, whine, and blubber. It is evidence that we live in a society of petulant children -- petulant, vengeful children – Mr. Rich makes me feel like 3-day-old pizza and I’m going to get him for that. Picture lower lip jutting our farther and the eyes going steely and grim. (This is where we have to remember that Lady Justice has a sword in her right hand.)

These pouters claim they weren't given a level playing field. What is that? A level playing field doesn’t mean that we all get to start at the same place with the same equipment, the same ability, the same drive. News flash: human beings are individuals and we don’t come that way and not even the president is powerful enough to change that. We are people, not numbers on a graph.

And even if we were, doesn’t a playing field imply a game, a race, a contest? And what happens in those? Some win and some lose. And how do we make the start of the race equal by punishing those who finish well? How does that work?

It’s all nonsense and those at the top know it is. They also know that they can use the lack of thought and discernment so prevalent in 21st century America to fool us into giving them the right to steal from the rich. Obama has just requested that he be given unlimited power to spend money.  Every dime he spends comes out of our pockets -- either in taxes or inflation. Unfortunately, the riches of the rich won’t be enough, for the rapacious among us never have enough, and we who aren’t so rich will be next.

Fair government won’t happen until Christ comes back to rule the world. Until then we need to strive for what balance we can, being wary of the devious amongst us, while striving always to be fair, or even better, to be gracious.  If He could come die for us when we were buried under the weight of our imperfections, then the least we can do for others is to allow them the benefit of the doubt, the encouragement to do their best, and personal help when they need it.

It is not enough that we treat people as numbers to be equalized. That is not fairness. Fairness is balancing grace and righteousness – giving from integrity while demanding integrity in return.

It is also not enough to celebrate God’s justice and grace only twice a year – or even once a week. We are not to produce “random acts of kindness.” We are to be gracious, fair, and kind all the time. As we start down the snowy slope of Christmas, let’s remember that.

And may joy be with you this holy season.

No Book in History

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“Why do you think the Bible is a good determiner of moral standards?” challenged one of my Facebook friends recently. That’s a surprising question for those of us who’ve been alive long enough to remember a culture that took the book at its word. We didn’t always follow the directions, but we saw that as our own error, not the Bible’s.  One of my most loved family members once explained his disdain for the Bible by pointing out that it was just written by a “bunch of old men 2,000 years ago” and therefore couldn’t possibly bear any relevance for today. Really?

Under these two objections lies the assumption that the nature of man is markedly improved, that we’ve got everything under control and no longer need to follow the instructions. I do function like that under some circumstances – I’ve been sewing for over half a century and rarely read the pattern instructions. I take a glance at a recipe and then I’m off on my own. I get the attitude. But there’s a big difference – the evidence shows that I need neither; I’m an excellent seamstress and a good cook, if I do say so myself.

But let’s look at the larger assumption – where can we find evidence that mankind has improved morally? Intellectually? Socially? We’re still having wars, torturing our enemies – now we even kill the innocent unborn. People still break their marriage vows, abuse their children, and steal from each other.  We continue to gossip, lie, and practice terminal arrogance. Nothing indicates that we’ve become good at being good.  Perhaps it’s time to ask for directions.

But why assume that this ancient book produced by a foreign culture and written in foreign, paleolithic languages would be of any help? Simple logic. Now, granted, if you have really bought into the idea that the universe is just a product of three kinds of nothing getting together and exploding, then the rational approach may not work for you. But if we start with the concept of God, the only useful explanation for our awareness of good and evil, then we can find answers to both concerns. Follow my thinking:
  
If God is good, fair, unchanging, rational, and truthful (read this as a 1st class condition in the Greek – “and He is.”) and He made us and put us here, then He must
1)    have a reason, a purpose for doing so,
2)    have found a way to let us know what that is.


If God has told us how to function, He would do so in writing so that it would be fair, then, for Him to hold us accountable for understanding it.

If He were going to write His message to us, He would use human minds to do so to ensure that readers would understand. And He would use many different minds so that we wouldn’t worship the messenger.

Because He is absolute perfection, even though He directed the writing of His Word through human minds, there would be a clear continuation, a harmony between all segments since it all came from Him.  Anyone who has studied the book has marveled at its continuity. Even though its 66 books were written by 40 different men, over a period of at least 1500 years, its major themes, approaches, symbols and motifs remain consistent.

If God is omniscient (and He is) He would have known that we would form many different cultures, spread all over the globe, and continue as a species for thousands of years.  The Bible is the world’s longest running best-seller. It has so affected people of all cultures that people have risked death, faced death in order to study and preserve it. Evidently it gets to the heart of what bugs us all. Odd that one old book could do that.

If God is also omnipotent and sovereign, (and He is) and He knows that we must all have access to His message, then He is capable of and duty-bound
1)    to disseminate the message everywhere it is needed,
The Bible has been translated into more languages than any other book. It has been smuggled from country to country sewn into the linings of clothes. One man, Constantin von Tischendorf, a German Bible scholar in the 19th century, rediscovered a 4th century Bible text (Codex Sinaiticus, also known as Codex Vaticanus) in the library at the Vatican. The Pope would not let him remove it for study, nor would he allow Tischendorf to bring writing materials into the library, so every day this scholar walked into the library and memorized a chapter and went home that night and wrote it out. The next day he would review what he’d memorized the day before, and then do a new passage until months later he had a complete copy of the manuscript. Bible history is full of heroic stories – the happenstance recovery of a codex that was being burned for fuel at St. Catherine’s monastery at the base of one of the mountains considered to be Mt. Sinai, the errant rock thrown by a shepherd in a cave by the Dead Sea and the shattering of a clay jar containing part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. God has indeed preserved his word.
2)          to preserve that message through the ages,
The methods used to copy the original manuscripts not only demonstrates that the Hebrews revered their “Law,” but it also helps us understand how we can be sure that what we call the Old Testament today is what God told the Israelites thousands of years ago. When a Jewish scribe copied a page of scripture, he first washed his hands. Then he counted the letters on a page from top down. Then he recounted from the bottom up. Next, he copied the page. When finished, he counted the letters in the copy. If the count was off, he started over again. God obviously watched over His Word.
3)            to provide accurate translations from one language to another.
We have available for study thousands of biblical manuscripts – both codices (entire books) and lectionaries (copies of smaller passages for use in worship). No other ancient manuscript comes even close to the redundancy and richness of biblical manuscripts. The Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Koine Greek (the Greek of the New Testament) beginning in the 3rd century B.C. This translation, which is quoted often by Paul, gives us a clear idea about Jewish understanding of the ancient Hebrew manuscripts. Whereas some modern translations have given into the temptation to alter meanings to fit the times and the trends in theology, the richest and most accurate (the KJV and  the NKJV) translations are still easily available.


If His message is “required reading” then He is also responsible
1)    for providing adequate evidence that it is truthful,
In the last century a wealth of both scientific and historical/archeological evidence points to the accuracy of biblical accounts, but that’s another post.
2)    for seeing to it that we can either read or hear the Word read to us, and
3)    for preparing men who can spend their lives studying and teaching this Word.

Do you follow my logic?

If the Bible is truth, then it should
1)    be consistent within itself,
Which it is. From God’s instructions to Adam and Eve after the Fall to the end of the prophetic book of Revelation man is said to be saved only by believing in the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. Thousands of years before Jesus set foot on the earth people understood that. “Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness."(Genesis 15:6)
2)    connect with both science and history, and
3)    be an accurate portrayal of human nature.
It is fun to read of the exploits of the Bible’s “heroes,” for they are remarkably human. King David seduces his general’s wife and then has him killed. Paul has a high squeaky voice. Peter denied that he knew Jesus. No writer of legend or myth would admit to such imperfections, but there they are – just as flawed as the rest of us, but they conquer it all. See Hebrews 11.

No book in history has had as much effect on humankind as has the Bible. I know from my own experience what a different person I am today, how differently I see the world than I used to before I began making it part of my soul. But, as Paul so succinctly says, “The words of the cross are folly to those who are perishing.” (1st Corinthians 1:18) I have little hope that I can change the minds of those who persist in denying its majesty. But I can hope, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Wrath, Reality, and the Grace of God


 
I often have conversations in which my faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and in the Bible is either called into question, or treated like one of those quaint little idiosyncrasies old ladies are prone to. I’d like to speak to that.
 
Today we consider religious belief a kind of random selection made on the whim of personal preference, like choosing a flavor of ice cream. The attitude – the meme, if you must have trendy terminology – is that nothing non-material is real. Those in the fashionable “know” see the atheist as the brave realist able to look life in the eye and get on with his purposeless, short existence. But they see believers as poor weak souls L people who need to lean on a fairytale, and who will be barely, and condescendingly tolerated.

It occurs to few that a religious belief can be based on reality. I’m not sure most Christians even see their faith as based on fact, on history, on ontological truth, yet it is. In fact the Judeo-Christian worldview is the only world religion that can make that claim. Over and over again archeological information surfaces that bears out the accuracy of the biblical account (but that’s another post).

Because he is at the center of it all,  I begin with the historical actuality of a man named Jesus.

In fact, Jesus Christ, whose lineage can be traced back through David (king of Israel from 1010 to 970 B.C.) to, and beyond, Abraham ( 2nd millennium B.C.) is more thoroughly documented as having been a real person than his contemporary Julius Caesar.  Not only do we have thousands of biblical manuscripts that attest to his existence, but we also have dozens of contemporaneous, extra-biblical sources that mention him – Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Thallas, Celsus, just to name a few. Many of these historians were antagonistic toward Christus and spoke ill of him, but no one thought he was a myth, and as they argued against the Christian claims, they inadvertently justified the biblical accounts.


(And I see no reason, if there is a God who created us (and that’s another post), that He couldn’t have rearranged the necessary molecules to impregnate a virgin, which is a fine, but important theological point. Jesus, unlike the rest of us, was born perfect, and needed to be to do the job he came to do – to absorb the wrath of God in our place. But, that too is another post.)

Was Jesus God? Yes. How can I be sure?

§  He said so. In fact, he said so with such clarity and certainty that the Jewish hierarchy had him killed for it. “I and my father are one.” (John 10:30)*. There’s only one way to deal with this outrageous statement. Either he was lying, (and if so, he wasn’t a good man worthy of anyone’s attention and allegiance) or he was crazy (ditto). We’ve seen lying, crazy men produce hysterical popularity – Hitler comes to mind – but that allegiance doesn’t last. People have been sacrificing their lives now for two millennia on behalf of the Christ, the God-man, and they have been doing so because nothing he said was a lie and everything he said made sense, made sense of an absurd and horrifying world. He didn’t tell anyone to drink poison Koolaide. He didn’t profit from his ministry.  No one, Christian or not, speaks of him as being crazy.

§  That leaves only the third possibility – that he told the truth and he was not only man but also, in some way our limited brain power can’t understand, he was God. He backed up that claim by healing the blind, the paralyzed, the lepers. (Did you know that even though the Law of Moses contains several pages of instructions for dealing with the healing of a leper, such a healing had never taken place, not in 1400 years, and the Jews kept careful records of leprosy cases.) He raised Lazarus from the dead in front of a whole crowd of witnesses – in fact his miracles were never secret affairs. Something amazing was going on – this man didn’t just say he was God; he proved it, and the accounts of his miracles were written by four different eyewitnesses, at four different locations within decades of the healings – better documentation than we have for most historical events that we accept without reservation.

Not only was he God, but when his opponents finally killed him, he rose from the dead. I am sure of it, for many reasons.

§  Both the Jews and the Romans would have loved to disprove this allegation and all they had to do was present the body. Easy. Yet they never did. No remains have ever been produced.

§  And the disciples couldn’t have stolen the body because the Romans had posted guards by the tomb to prevent that. The stone that covered the door was too heavy to move quietly at night while the guards snoozed. And what would the disciples have gained by doing this? They were terrified and didn’t want anyone to know they were connected to Jesus – they’d seen what happened to him. (Interestingly, eleven of them died the same way because they insisted on his actual, bodily resurrection.)

§  Which brings me to my next point.  You don’t die for a lie you thought up. You don’t let someone nail you to a cross when all you’d have to do to get out of it is to say, “Never mind. Caesar’s cool.”  Thousands of early Christians were martyred. They could have recanted, but instead they walked into the Coliseum and let the lions have at them – they had to be very sure of Jesus’ resurrection, and by association, theirs’.

§  Lastly, there is no way, after what the Romans did to him, that he merely woke from his coma, in a cold, dark tomb, unwrapped and folded his shroud, knocked on the door of the tomb (un-openable from the inside) and sauntered out. Even secular historians have no doubt that he was crucified. The gospel accounts all describe the horrors of his death and medical experts agree that no one could have survived.
§  He was so badly beaten he was unrecognizable as human.
§  He was lashed with a Roman flagrum – a rod from which hung strips of leather knotted around jagged pieces of rock, metal or glass. They almost killed him with that.
§  They made him carry his cross on his lacerated back most of the way up the hill to Golgotha.
§  They nailed his wrists and ankles to the cross and left him to hang there struggling for breath for 6 hours.
§  Then, suspecting his death, a Roman soldier ran his spear up into Jesus’ left side and out came blood clots and water. He was dead; his blood was already separating. No normal human spontaneously recovers from that – unless God Almighty raises him from the dead.
           
God has created us all with free will – so free that we are allowed to disbelieve, to turn away from whatever obvious truth we choose to ignore. And those who choose to discount the logic and evidence of the deity and resurrection of Christ are free to do so. But all need to understand that we who look at the historical support and logical progression of the gospels and accept it as reality are not just playing video games. We mean it; we are sure it is true in the absolute, quantum physics, mathematical sense of TRUE. If we don’t leave you alone about it, it’s because we know what we’re talking about and we are afraid for you. The crucifixion showed us what God’s wrath looks like and we want none of that for anyone, let alone for those we love.

"He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36)

*
• "I am." (Mark 14:60-62)
• "Yes, it is as you say." (Matt. 26: 63-65)
• "You are right in saying I am." (Luke 22:67-70) a) Turn to John 8:56-58

Art from the newly restored Sistine Chapel -- Michelangelo Bounarroti   1475 --1564

From Now On


We knew he could win, would stop at nothing to win; a “level playing field” is for dreamers, it’s for politicians to use to buy votes. We are resigned, we biblical Christians, we who read history, we who understand economics. We are resigned.

You see, we know what is coming and I, for one, just want to get it over with – like having a root canal. We had one last thread of hope in this election, but deep in our bones we knew that the problem was much deeper than anything an election could solve. We knew that as long as our fellow Americans lack the integrity to see immorality as a problem, as long as they trust government rather than God, as long as life is just about how much you can scam from somebody else, then we are doomed. We know that it’s not possible to run a country on wishing, on lying. This is not pretend.

And we knew that we were fighting a dishonest, biased media and that we were working with a citizenry that has been systematically taught not to think, not to be curious, not to face facts, not to love this country. After more than a dozen years of institutionalized misinformation – both from our churches and our schools -- and a constant drivel of Hollywood/television propaganda, the resulting mass delusion is hard to overcome. We knew that. Hope, however, is always struggling up through the mire, and we occasionally indulged in imagining our friends and relatives waking some day, pre-election, slapping palm to furrowed brow, and saying, “Boy, was I an idiot! I understand now.” We hoped, but the lure of free phones evidently out-weighed the lure of truth.

And there will be hell to pay. I don’t mind my liberal friends gloating a bit right now. That will stop soon enough. Let them enjoy themselves while they still can for their fairytale is drawing to an ugly, witchy close, and we all need to brace ourselves.

What we will see now will be a mixture of economic inevitability and biblical prophecy.

Soon war will erupt in the Middle East. Israel will win. Of that I am sure, not just because the prophecies say so, but Israel has made it this far – a God-proving miracle in itself. She has made it back to her land, against all odds, just as the prophecies foretold, and she still has a huge part to play in the rest of human history. She’s not going anywhere yet.

What will happen to us in that war, I don’t know. According to Genesis 12:3 God has promised to “bless them that bless you and curse them that curse you.” So far that has proven true. If this war breaks out as soon as I think it will, and Obama is still in power, we will be in the “cursing” category, a place we’ve never been before and it won’t be pretty. Name a nation that has hurt Israel and you will be naming a nation that has met with mega disaster – from the plagues of Egypt, to the dead army of Sennacherib, to the defeat of the Spanish Armada it’s a terrifying picture. I don’t want to be in one of those shots, but it is coming.
 
On the home front:
o   The jobless rate will go up; the food stamp numbers had already escalated before the election, but were kept hidden.  Business after business will cut back or fold. Small businesses have been hanging on, hoping for a reprieve, but now that hope is gone, it will be time to make a decision. They will scale back to part time employees to avoid paying for benefits and they will limit the number of employees to 49 to avoid Obamacare taxes. The rich will leave – they will leave California in droves; they will leave this country as well, just as the French are leaving France.

o   Obamacare will kick in and our hospitals will look like overburdened emergency wards. We’ll wait for months for appointments with what few doctors are left, and research and development will grind to a halt. None of it will be cheap and people will suffer and die unnecessarily.

o   Taxes will escalate, but so will spending, and therefore, so will the national debt. Once you start buying votes there’s nowhere to stop.

o   Somewhere in the midst of all this they will come for our guns – judging from the pending UN treaty, sooner rather than later. People will die over that one. (Gun sales have skyrocketed since the election.)

o   Social Security and Medicare will go bankrupt, the housing market, under these conditions can’t possibly climb out of the hole it’s in.

I have no idea what people think they have gained by voting for Obama’s leftist agenda. This is where it is going.  This is where it always goes.

But I am resigned. Evidently this is what Americans want.

Or this is what lax voting practices brought us. Either we really are so loopy that we willingly voted this guy back into office, or we didn’t and he’s not there legally. Not that I have any hope that proof of election skullduggery will get him out of office. No. No one seems to have the necessary glandular equipment to do anything about any of the multitudinous illegalities of this presidency.

I hope that the election was rigged because then I can hope that America will someday be America again. I can hope that we still have enough integrity and common sense to pull out of this nosedive -- either the election results are a lie or over half of my countrymen are delusional; if it were up to me, I’d choose the former.

Either way Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, controls history.  And He does it without coercing our free will. He controls the weather. He controls who lives and who dies and when. History has a purpose – His purpose -- and it will out. The beauty of that is His holiness, His flawless integrity. The world He will eventually rule will be a place of perfect justice and prosperity. All Christians yearn for that – in fact all of us yearn for that sublime perfection.

We don’t know for sure how the immediate future will unfold, but we can be confident that it is all transpiring just as it should. C.S. Lewis once said, ““We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

Just as I am sure, when I am walking into the dental surgeon’s office, that suffering and discomfort will be mine for the immediate future, I am sure that Americans will now face horrible heartache and physical misery.  Perhaps we will emerge stronger, braver, more prosperous than we were before. Perhaps we will cease to be. Either way, nothing is as nuts as it looks and eventually Christ will sit on His throne in Jerusalem and all will forever be unimaginably wonderful. Hold onto that thought and keep on keeping on.


Voting Blocks and the Nature of Man

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As vile as this election cycle has been, it has also been a blessing. Through hundreds of Facebook and e-mail conversations in the last year I’ve learned so much about what makes us all tick, and I want to thank all those friends (and those who aren’t anymore J) for the education they’ve provided me. It has been an adventure.

ΩΩΩ

November, always the toughest month, adds to its repertoire of general gloom and threatening winter by entertaining elections. This November will either make us or break us in ways no election has ever done before, however, I don’t see us dealing with the issues at hand very intelligently. For one thing pundits and politicians alike are analyzing the American voter in misleading and unrealistic terms. They have us all divided up into ridiculous groups of voters as if no individuals existed, as if America is no longer a country of real, unique people, as if our gender and our skin color somehow control the way we see this nation.

One true thing about human nature is that we work to make order out of chaos (evidence that we were created in God’s image) by categorizing ideas, things, people. “There are 2 kinds people: those who divide people into 2 groups and those who don’t.” OK, often I’m one of the ones who do, but I contend that very few folks avoid it altogether. And I contend that dividing people into groups has nothing to do with race, gender, ethnicity, or income. It has to do with temperament and worldview. The process tends to produce more of a venn diagram than it does an outline – too many overlaps, but this is how I’d arrange the voting blocks for this election:

v Me-voters – the hand-out people, the free birth-control gals, the gay marriage voters, the abortion folk, the pay-for-my-college people.  Some are just too young to know better, to understand that a government that will do those things for you will not stay solvent for long, and will use people’s dependence as an excuse to take their liberty. Me-voters are willing to part with freedom and to take freedom from others in order to fulfill whatever personal whims they harbor. Their ability to pursue a master’s degree in Tunisian carpet weaving and a life of promiscuous sex without having to earn the money to pay for either is more important than the safety of the nation, or the prosperity of anyone else.


v       Government as God voters – with or without realizing it these folks have transferred the natural human reliance on God to government. If there’s a problem, you don’t drop to your knees and pray, you call the nearest official and demand help. Remember how mad folks were that Bush didn’t rush to New Orleans after Katrina?  What did they think his presence there would accomplish? Was he supposed to wave a magic wand and sparkle their homes back into existence? Obama’s presence at the Jersey shore hasn’t helped anything. This bunch votes on the assumption that government is good, and government is capable. They’ll vote for anything that will increase the reach of government and will refuse to pay attention to anything that proves government’s capacity for evil. Many react to any anti-government accusations like a true believer would to blasphemy.

v Osmosis voters – I suppose all of us are osmosis voters to one extent or another, but many vote simply by default – their parents voted Democrat so they do too, even if they don’t believe in gay marriage or massive welfare benefits.  Many adopt the local political stance like it’s in the air they breathe and they have no common sense filter. It’s knee-jerk voting, easy because it requires no contentious discussions with anyone and needs no actual information. It’s warm and fuzzy, allows a person to make snide remarks aimed at folks of the opposite opinion, and only requires one to spout occasional prepared slogans.

v Hyper-moral voters  -- these people ride a high horse. They are aware that something is morally rotten in “Denmark,” and though they differ as to what moral breaches need fixing, they all assume that casting a vote will rectify the situation. In reality, electing Romney won’t stop the abortion mill – not directly and not for many years, nor will re-electing Obama rid the world of unfairness, but the HMV’s make the assumption that a vote cast for a candidate will set right their pet moral horrors. These folks are the folks who will vote third party, or not vote at all, if they can’t find a candidate whose ethics precisely matches their own.

v Keep-the-peace voters are upset about being upset. Can’t say I blame them; this election has been the nastiest election I’ve ever witnessed. This group often takes up the turn-the-other-cheek chant, or the just-meditate-and-go-to-yoga mantra. Arguing seems to be the thing that they’re most against, believing that candidates, and their surrogates, should not only eschew attacking each other personally, they also avoid criticizing each other’s policies. Being nice appears to take precedence over being right; controversy verboten. Maybe there’s some value in that, but I recall Jesus himself tearing up the tables of the moneychangers. He wasn’t very sweet about it.

v Know-voters – This group has, or takes, the time to be informed in as much detail as is available, however, since disinformation sucks up a lot of the bandwidth these days, these folks have to keep their wits about them. Some of these voters measure the worth of information according to well-established principles, i.e. the Constitution, the Ten Commandments, history, natural law, economic or scientific law, logic, in other words – can it be true? Others measure information by which famous person said it or whether or not it makes them feel good.

v A subset of the know-voters is the Area 51 gang. These guys know a lot of very spooky things – which, considering the sinister sable-rattling of the one-world contingent (George Soros & Co.) – may not be too far off base. However, they also know quite a bit of nonsense – like poison vapor trails and alien abductions – so much so as to tangle them into a political stand still. They’re sure both parties are in on it – whatever it is – and so they paralyze themselves.

v No-voters –These guys are motivated mostly by one of my favorite defense              mechanisms – cynicism. They see the bad sides of both parties, like the tin-hat folk, and assume that no good is to be had anywhere. These people either refuse to vote or retreat to the incumbent as the lesser of two evils. They just generally vote against voting.

v Don’t know voters -- I suspect these guys make up a large portion of the     electorate and are closely connected to the Osmosis folk. Luckily they often stay home. We can’t blame them entirely – the mainstream media make it their business to keep folks uninformed, but I believe in the ask-and-you-will-receive principle. The information is out there; if you want to know, you can. And if you don’t care enough to want to know, don’t vote.

I realize that a candidate couldn’t effectively run a campaign openly pursuing any of these categories, but they are more homogeneous groups than blacks, or women or even Democrats and Republicans. We are not herds of cattle -- longhorns, guernseys, angus. We are human beings with human natures. That’s not anything to brag about – human flaws permeate the election process, but we can’t understand the process if we pretend that we are motivated by our genetics.

Being Dead – or Not – That is the Question

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 “We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”   
                                                                          Stage Manager, Our Town
                                                                          Thornton Wilder
                                                                                                                                                             

I am eternal – so are you. I don’t mean eternal in God’s way – no beginning and no end. We’re just creatures and we had a beginning.

I began in the hallway of the Catholic hospital in Norfolk, Nebraska. That’s where my soul met up with my body. My father was still in the Philippines – it was 1945 – and the nuns thought my mother was bringing a bastard into the world and treated her accordingly. She was still angry when she filled out the birth certificate – mad at being left in the breezeway to give birth, and mad because she had just received a letter from my dad demanding that she name me Deanna – no explanation. She had planned on Karin after my Danish great grandmother, so she took the anger out on my name, misspelling it on purpose. I’ve been correcting people about it for over 60 years --- 67 years, to be exact and the older I get the surer I am that the real me will always exist. I have evidence:

Some days my right hip feels like a gravel-filled mortar and pestle. My face leaks – eyes water, nose runs. I’m well aware that my occasional efforts with a box of Nice n’ Easy only covers the grey, not the wrinkles.  But, I don’t feel old.  Wise, sometimes cranky, but not old. I loved teaching in a high school because it never occurred to me that I wasn’t 17. It seemed perfectly natural that I’d never left 11th grade. Some part of me hadn’t.

I’m always surprised when that hip stabs me, astounded at the slowness with which I emerge from my car, amazed when Aunt Martha’s name won’t come when it’s called, but, the more my body petrifies, the more I am aware of It as separate from Me. I think most old people will tell you that, the ones whose souls haven’t shriveled.

I’m not intimating that I won’t someday die. I will, you will, just as sure as I’m sitting here typing and you’re sitting there reading, and I have to admit that I have some misgivings about that process. I’d prefer quick, painless, and surprising – I’ve never been the roller-coaster type, a coward all the way to the bone. But the process of my body dying aside, I am going right on living.  I have no doubts about that.

Mankind hasn’t always dealt with immortality honestly; it is, after all, a pretty scary thought – living forever. That’s such a very long time, and the life we’ve known has been fraught with stress and anxiety, heartache and heaviness. It’s much easier to just assume that once you’re done, you’re done, and that in spite of your non-existence, you’ll feel good somehow at crossing that one off your list. Cleaned the house – check. Raised the children – check. Lived – check. But note that assumption – that there will still be, however briefly, a You. I submit that if we don’t feel old when we are, that we won’t feel dead either.

We try explaining away that feeling of eternality biologically by saying that we will return by “pushing up daisies,” a circle of life scenario. That’s true enough, but it sidesteps the body-soul dichotomy. This carcass I live in may return as a field of dandelions, or a festival of blowflies, but that has nothing to do with Me living forever. My body isn’t Me. Thank heaven. Marching around Manhattan last spring in the wake of my fashion model granddaughter was enough to make me realize the dumpy and archaic nature of this support mechanism of mine. It no longer has the right apps and ones it has get blisters. But what a memory she’ll have – Times Square at night, the top of the Empire State Building, the Prada exhibit at the Met. Is that what I mean by immortality? No.

We try pretending that our immortality is connected to what we create for ourselves. I will live on in the hearts and minds of those who loved me. It would seem that I might, just as well, hang around for spell annoying those who hated me, but either way that’s only hubris, not eternal life. If you didn’t exist you wouldn’t be around to enjoy the fruits of your labor and eventually folks will stop saddling your descendants with your middle name, your portrait will end up in some stranger’s attic, and they’ll tear down the elementary school they named after you (I’ve always worried about those old ladies, hard-working principals no doubt, whose life’s work ends up just a hollow, darkened shell. Ruth Pyrtle Elementary – who was she, anyway?). Cassio, mid Othello, bemoaned the loss of his reputation – “Oh I have lost the immortal part of myself!” No, he hadn’t. He was just being dramatic, but it was Shakespeare, so we can’t really blame him.

No. Eternality is living without the limitations of time and space -- the way God lives. Oh, the wonderment of that. Can you imagine? – no clocks ticking, no end to the day, no exhaustion. Actually, we can’t imagine that very well; time and space is all we’ve known. But considering that most of my life’s miseries have been due to time, too much or too little, or space – same problem, too much or too little, I’m looking forward to life without either. But what right do I have to do that? Aren’t I talking about heaven? Living with God?
           
Yes. I am talking about heaven and none of us have the right to expect eternal life will look like paradise. I know of other locations that don’t appeal to me at all. Eternity in a lake of fire? ETERNITY? All the suffering I’ve ever encountered had an end. I can remember a bout of meningitis that I thought would never pass, but it did. What would awareness be like if misery were the only possibility – forever -- not even a suicide option available. All horror stories start with that deep-seated fear – that the terror and the pain will never cease.

So, if that’s a possibility, why aren’t I scared of being “dead”? As close as we can tell from the Bible – the only book claiming to be the actual Word of God – we are all eternal, but we only get to spend that eternity with God – no more sorrow, no more tears – if we accept His offer of a free ticket out of the misery. Pain and suffering is the default position. We can’t earn heaven by being good. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Even if we improve, nothing of our own doing can erase the imperfections we already carry with us. We can only access that escape through believing God’s promise of life through His Son. “ For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. “  And that should not be hard to do – Christ died in full view of hundreds of people and three days later walked out of his tomb and was seen by hundreds of people. History shows the savior alive even though he was dead. So will we be; we just have to choose where we will be – with Him and joy or without.

I am eternal. I shall spend forever as part of Christ’s royal family. Not because I earned it; I couldn’t earn that if Buddha gave me a trillion tries. I couldn’t get to heaven on my own any more than I can swim to Hawaii. No one can.  So, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”

Click here to see a great little video.










Shopping for God

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Ravi Zacharias

Our beloved and much attacked 1st Amendment reads as follows:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. That statement is the wisest, most remarkable statement ever made outside of Scripture, and it’s not very far outside -- its wisdom is extracted from the Word of God. Freedom of religious belief goes to the very heart of why human beings exist in the first place, without freedom to choose for or against God our purpose starts to crumble, and without purpose our society fractures and finally collapses.  Our Constitutional freedoms aren’t just for making life pleasant – they are to ensure that we can live purposeful, eternally productive lives.

This freedom allows us to make the most important decision any human ever gets to make unhindered by our government – only we ourselves are accountable, nothing else is in the way. This freedom allows us to make the most of every breath we take.

Unfortunately, America has misunderstood the 1st Amendment. We’ve come to think that because the government doesn’t have any religious beliefs to force upon us, no one – not even God -- cares what we believe. We’ve even taken that supposition so far as to assume that therefore our God-view doesn’t matter and that all the available choices are 1) merely fairytales and we can cook up whatever stew of philosophies we want to –none of it is true anyway, so who cares? Or 2) all religions are equally true at the same time, which gets us back to point 1.

We assume that our believing, and only that, makes the belief we buy actual. If we buy into the idea of reincarnation, we will be given millions of lives in which to reach perfect nothingness and that nothingness will become our reality. It won’t.

We assume that if we declare God non-existent that He will obediently go away and leave us alone. He’s not going to do that. His perfect justice is at stake.

We jump to the conclusion that if we lump together a couple of Noble Truths with half a dozen Hindu gods with some old fashioned pantheism, and a golden tablet or two that all those ideas will cohabit easily and will in fact be true and worthy of our devotion. 

It seems that very few of us are aware that true means actual, real -- real in the laws-of-physics sense of the word, in the well-documented, historical sense of the word, in the mathematical sense of the word.
Choosing how we are going to deal with the persistent idea of Godness is not about choosing a brand or selecting our favorite fairytale as a way to cope with life on earth. This is serious, eternal business. It has nothing to do with what we like; it has to do with what is so.

Let’s look at this through a shopping scenario. We’re in the religion store – the shelves are lined with options – Scientology, B’hai, Mormonism, Hinduism, atheism, Darwinsim, Roman Catholic Christianity,  – hundreds to choose from, each in its designer box festooned with blurbs and quotes from famous people across the back, and strewn with spreading sunbeams, exotic script and wild promises across the front.

Most kits have a prayer component, some complete with flags or beads. Some come with items of clothing – yamakas and prayer shawls, saffron robes, or elaborate head dresses. Most of the kits come with some sort of instruction manual, and a book of musical scores. Most promise either approbation from some god or from certain groups of their fellow man. Most of the covers use words like Love, Peace and Power. None are cheap.

If we take the time to open the boxes and look inside we find the hidden things --- one offers 72 virgins in exchange for murder-suicide. One promises infinite returns to this world, a sort of a never-give-up approach, though it doesn’t come with a take-it-with-you demerit chart, so you’d never know in one life what you screwed up the last time round. Several have no god component at all, even though they have priests and temples. Some have hundreds of fanciful creature-gods, some even have the physical statue-gods themselves, though they don’t sell well anymore.  Many of the boxes contain diet recommendations and restrictions; many demand  your presence in prescribed places -- temples, cathedrals, or universities.

Most require that followers take part in certain rituals and behaviors.  If you buy one of the orthodox Muslims kits you’ll have to travel to Mecca for the Hajj each year and pray facing that city five times each day. If you buy the atheist set you’ll be expected to file lawsuits. Many tribal religions will ask you to dance around fire pits. Each is interesting, fantastical, ethereal. Each sells hope – hope for this life, hope of a quiet conscience, hope of more prosperity, hope of avoiding the nastier parts of life, hope for life hereafter.

Way at the back of the store is a shelf, lonely some days; the plain packages are not particularly enticing. The price is good, though – they’re free, but there’s no fancy equipment inside – just a book.

The book, though plain, is remarkable. Forty men, using 3 different languages, penned it over a period of 1500 years. Very few of the men ever even met each other, yet the book is consistent from cover to cover – the symbols are the same throughout, the God it talks about stays the same. And the truly interesting thing is that the earlier parts of the book accurately foretell things that happened later in the book – things no human could have controlled. It also foretells events that will happen in the future, parts of which are already taking form.

The book tells a completely different story than anything else in the store. This book tells about a God who is perfectly everything – just, righteous, loving, faithful, honest, unchanging, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and sovereign.  He doesn’t do the capricious and horrifying things attributed to the fanciful, imaginative gods. This God made all that is  ex nihilo.  The book makes it clear that He has a purpose for making this world, a purpose that involves angels and will require that He maintain this universe until it is time for Him to make a new heaven and a new earth.

The book is a little scary – it declares that this God’s Perfection can accept nothing less than our perfection, and it explains how it is that mankind, made by God, can be so far beneath that standard. Then it tells us about the ultimate fate of those of us who attempt to fix the mess ourselves, and judging from the boxes in this store it looks like that could be a great many of us; every one of those boxes out front is a do-it-yourself kit.

The book, however, tells us a very interesting and hopeful fact. It tells us that 2,000 years ago God arranged to have a perfect man born into this world, a perfect man who managed, against all odds, to stay perfect until, in his 33rd year he was nailed to a cross – men couldn’t tolerate his perfection – and there this man paid the price all of us owe God for our imperfections.  It’s been done for us. Tetelestai.

The book says that all any person has to do is accept that the job’s been done – that acceptance brings us eternal life with this Amazing God, it brings blessings and challenges and all the power it takes to meet those challenges. One of the challenges is to know the book, which we have the freedom to do.

Political liberty allows us to buy anything in that store, but it does not make everything for sale there true. The only true thing available is the plain book on the “Free” shelf, the one that says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Christianity and the Facebook Crank

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I have a confession to make: I’ve been cranky on Facebook. Yes, it’s true. I am occasionally vociferous and curt with some of my really smart and adorable FB friends. Perhaps I’m growing tired of the 47%-of-Big-Bird nonsense. It is true that years ago a friend and colleague told me that I “didn’t suffer fools gladly.” She has since un-friended me; I guess she didn’t like it when she became one of the fools I didn’t suffer, but I suspect she was right.

In this most contentious election year one of the attitudes that I find the most off-putting and the most likely to stir up my ire is the allegation that Christians, since we’re supposed to be charitable, should vote liberal. Evidently we’re not fulfilling our obligations as believers if we have concerns about the national debt or the property rights of those who make more money than we do. The implication is that you have to be a quasi-Marxist to be a good Christian.

Really? Well, some defining is in order here. What’s a Christian?  That’s a tough one, not because it’s hard to define, but because many non-Christian ideas use that term in spite of their non-biblical origins. Anyone can hop on the Christian bandwagon and everyone pretty much has -- every major religion claims Christ as either a teacher, a prophet, or a leader. Only biblical Christianity sees Jesus as the literal Son of God and Savior of mankind.

Christianity, in its purely biblical sense, is merely (if I can borrow C.S. Lewis’ phrase) the certitude that:

o   Jesus Christ is who He said He was – the Son of God,
o   did what He set out to do – to die paying the penalty for all the sins of mankind (1st John 2:2)
o   and that, three day later, He rose from the dead.
This certitude does tend to produce an attitude of obedience and deference to Christ, and the more a person knows about who He is and what He did for us, the more dedicated he becomes to making Christ’s sacrifice pay off. Most people can’t face the dreadfulness of the crucifixion without realizing some level of gratitude for His willingness, for our benefit, to die so horribly (The word “excruciating” comes from “crucifixion.”). That’s what Christianity is – believing, relying on, appreciating Christ’s work. Period. Everything else is window-dressing.

Christianity is not doing “good” – whatever that means. Christians do good things – obviously charitable, kind, caring things. That is a natural outgrowth of our thankfulness for God’s grace. But doing “good” is not the way to become a Christian for several reasons –
§  What appears to be “good” may be evil. How often have we seen unintended consequences occur as the result of some well-intended but short-sighted program? “Our righteousnesses are as filthy rags before the Lord.” Isaiah 64:6 (In the original Hebrew “filthy rags” were really “menstrual rags.”)
§  No human being has the authority to declare what counts as “good.” Which is better – caring for your children or caring for the poor? Giving money or giving time?
§  The Bible makes it very clear that we can’t work our way into God’s good favor. (Ephesians 2: 8 & 9 )“For by grace we are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Christianity is not using the government to force “charity.” Nowhere in the New Testament is a populace told to do that. Generosity is not generosity when coerced by the force of law. The early church lived communally, but they did so voluntarily and, during terrible persecution, because they had to.

Christianity is not enabling people to be less than they can be. God created each soul with a purpose, and all the being “nice” in world is not worth ruining anyone’s chances of reaching his God-given potential. Paul gave these instructions to the believers in Thessalonica,“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” (2nd Thessalonians 3:10)

Nor is it walking away from God’s clear commandments in order to make everyone feel included. God’s commandments have our best interests behind them – going against them is arrogance, not Christianity. Check out the last half of Romans 1.

And Christianity is not just one of many ways to get to God and heaven.

·      Christianity is not one of the Four Noble Truths. Christ made this claim,“I am the way the truth and the life; no one comes unto the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Christianity is a personal, joyous relationship with God, not a gradual process of going numb. Not even if a person lives a million lives (which he won’t – “It is appointed unto man but once to die.”Hebrews 9:27) lives, he will never reach God, or Nirvana, on his own.

·      Christians worship Jesus Christ, the God-Man, a real, living human being, an historical figure, well-documented by history, both biblical and secular. We did not make up a fairytale religion full of fantastical beings that behave like spoiled children.

·      God Almighty, His Son, and the Holy Spirit are not the same as Allah. In fact, Islam and Christianity are polar opposites. The fact that the Koran drops the names of biblical people (inaccurately) does not mean the ideas are at all alike. Christians should be horrified as they watch their liberal friends and neighbors fall for the lie that we are all “people of the book.” Which book?

·      Christianity is not an offshoot of Judaism; it is the continuation of Judaism, its natural conclusion.  In its original, pre-Abrahamic form Judaism is proto-Christian; Christ had not yet come so the faithful believed in the future Messiah, but reconciliation with God was the same. “Abraham believed and it was credited to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6) 

·      Christianity is not social justice. There is no such thing a biblical liberation theology. Where the genuine Christian faith prevails, real social justice does well and it is true that the Christian is to be concerned about the welfare of his fellowman, even to the point of political activity.  It was Christians who started the first orphanages, the first hospitals. It was Christians, like William Wilberforce, who fought the slave trade, Christians like Corrie ten Boom who fought the Nazis. Christians were the first scientific pioneers. It was Christians who formulated the foundations of this, the most prosperous of all nations. But none of these things were accomplished by coercing anyone. Social justice, as defined by our current culture is a product of government. That it has insinuated itself into unsuspecting or misguided churches does not make it a Christian movement; it is communist, statist, and anti-freedom.

Christianity is the greatest proponent of freedom and prosperity in world. Christianity recognizes and celebrates human free will and possibilities inherent in each individual. It rejoices in the miracle that God, in His sovereignty, elected to allow us a share of that volition. We get to choose. No human government has the right to counter that and Christians have died by the millions to protect this amazing gift. The purpose of the whole world rests on the freedom of human beings to choose for or against the God who made them.

Christianity is not of this world. Christianity improves this world, but this cosmos belongs to Satan and has since Adam and Eve were dethroned. Efforts made to supplant God’s will with human attempts to pretty up the devil’s world only cause problems.

Warning to my Facebook friends: stop telling me what it means to be a Christian. It makes me cranky.
           
                       
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What’s Right about the Right?


I’ve been hard on my liberal friends lately  -- not personally, mind you, but more and more the term “liberal thinking” has become an oxymoron. This week I’d like to look at the positive side of things and explore all the many ways that the conservative agenda is -- pardon the pun -- right.

Let’s start with the obvious assumption that most conservatives make: God Is. We differ – sometimes mightily – in our understanding of God, but the vast majority of us are sure He is our creator, and we’re sure because He is manifest in the careful, artistic patterning and intricate engineering of nature. We see evidence of His perfections as they came together on the cross to provide humanity with both purpose and possibility. We recognize the divine worth of every human being and, at the same time, the flawed essence of human nature and its need for divine guidance.  A handful of conservative atheists can be found – S.E. Cupp at Glenn Beck’s station, novelist Ayn Rand, for instance, but most of us stand on the solid, defensible ground of Christianity, as did the majority of our founding fathers.

Standing on that foundation gives us a natural advantage – we see human nature for what it is – flawed and unlikely to improve on its own. History backs us up on that, but the evolutionary approach leaves one with the unsupportable assertion that man keeps getting better and better. However, the 20th century, instead of demonstrating how far man and society had evolved, turned out to be the bloodiest in human history.  The conservative was not surprised – check out G.K. Chesterton’s writings from the beginning of last century and it all sounds like he’s talking about today.

In fact, almost 2,000 years ago Paul had it right when he wrote in his second letter to Timothy, For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth,”(2nd Timothy 3:2-7 NAS).

Sound familiar? Yes, it does. This is what we have to deal with in building and maintaining a civilization and if we don’t look long and hard at that reality as we make policy decisions, we will always make the wrong decisions – as we have been doing intensely for the last four years.

If, however, we start with Paul’s assessment, we can arrive at workable strategies.

You see, the conservative – I’ll call him Henry -- is nervous about government and is so, even though he knows we need reining in, because those fellow men we elect to government have the same tendencies the rest of us do. Reread the passage above and insert “government officials” for “men.” Is the statement still true? Hmmmmmm. Even more so.

Henry sees that and doesn’t trust those in authority over him with any more than the minimum of power. And Henry understands that every “improvement” provided by the federal government will require another agency filled with those men Paul described. Are all government people like that? No, of course not – but, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and the men Paul referred to come along “in the last days” which means they aren’t likely to be getting better.

Not only does Henry distrust government, (and, knowing God, does not confuse it with God,) but he’s practical. He’s only willing to back something that actually works. Why have a minimum wage if it’s just going to result in fewer jobs, higher prices, and an expensive, supporting bureaucracy? Where’s the net gain? Are the poor better off? Why give out financial aide to college students if that just frees up the colleges to raise tuition, forcing the students into massive debt before they even have a job? Why force banks to give out loans to people who can’t afford them, if it’s just going to first balloon and then collapse the housing market leaving even more people without their own homes? How is that an improvement?

You see, Henry isn’t a tightwad, in fact, he gives to charity far more every year than do his liberal counterparts, but Henry wants results. He’s not satisfied with merely having tried and he’s observant enough to notice that we still have poor people in spite of all the welfare and assistance the government provides. And Henry knows that poor people are just like everyone else – see Paul’s list above.

Henry can see that in spite of the expensive existence of the Department of Energy, we don’t have enough, that despite the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, our kids can’t read, that regardless of the Department of Homeland Security our borders stand undefended in noonday sun.

Henry also believes in tomorrow. He knows God has a plan for this Earth and that God, being omniscient, knew how to build it to withstand the species He invented, so Henry doesn’t get panicked about the future of the globe. He does, however, worry about the future of his children because Henry knows that debts have to be paid off. He knows, from his own experience that the bigger the debt, the more painful will be the paying.

This makes him even more reluctant to back those costly programs that go nowhere; we don’t have the money. It’s no small matter. He knows we’re borrowing most of that money from foreign countries that do not have our best interests at heart. You see, Henry knows that the people in those countries are not any nicer than the people Paul was describing. He knows we have to be careful.

So, what do we do? Well, Henry knows something else – he knows that once we acknowledge that human beings have their own self-interest at heart and we set up society to allow that self-interest its most productive and personal outlet, we all end up better off.

How does Henry know that? History. Allowing for enlightened (we’re back to God now) self-interest to flourish in an atmosphere of opportunity and freedom produced the most prosperous society mankind has ever produced and Henry sees no point in “fixing” what is not broken. In fact, the economic problems turning up today are easily traced back to efforts to “fix” the original formula or to determined dis-enlightenment. Where there is no recognition of divine standards within each individual the algorithm does get wonky.

Henry does not, however, want to force people to agree with him. He does not believe in silencing those who see things less clearly. Henry believes in God, in His ability to make Himself and His standards known. Henry knows that this nation’s forefathers had it right, and he knows that if God still has a purpose for this nation, we will return to the original recipe because it works. He also knows, and it makes him sad, that this may be those “last days” and that the beginning of those times may not include a fully functioning America. He knows that we may have gone so far afield that we’ll be nationally stuck “ always learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth.”

How Cool It Is -- a Pre-Election Rant

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I used to see politics as just a matter of brand names. Republicans were more interested in the economy and Democrats in social issues. The two sides balanced each other like the ends of a teeter-totter and the ups and downs felt like the proper rhythm of life.

And, serving for close to 30 years as a public school teacher, I spent my days working closely with wonderful people, mostly Democrats, and though we would occasionally have testy discussions, mostly our political opinions seemed distant and unimportant amidst the immediacy of our daily high school drama.

Then the outrages began – Clinton’s finger-pointing lies, the fuss over the Bush election, 9/11, -- little by little it became harder and harder for me to see the liberal point of view as having any merit at all. If you support women’s rights and are horrified at the way working women are treated, how do you support Slick Willy’s use of cigars? If you can get your Fruit-of-the-Looms in a wad over election inconsistencies then why was it OK to only double check the Florida counties where you thought you could slant the recount? When they began to accuse Bush of lying about the weapons of mass destruction, which everyone knew had been shipped to Syria, I’d had enough.

Historically speaking, the transition started with Woodrow Wilson a hundred years ago; the Democrats began edging slowly left, and the Republicans, not to be outdone at stupidity, edged with them. Calvin Coolidge effectively reversed the trend, but the 1929 stock market crash and FDR’s socialist response dragged us left again. WWII yanked us back to reality and prosperity (those two go hand in hand), but by the 60’s we’d started smoking dope and indulging in riots (those things go hand in hand). By the late 70’s most of us were ashamed of our foreign policy and horrified about the economy – I know it was most of us because in 1980 Ronald Reagan beat Carter in a landslide and once again conservative principles proved effective. But we hit that peak, had a spasm of sensibility in ’94, but since then headed downhill at breakneck speed.

Anita Dunn
Now I’m just plain puzzled -- the Dems have sidled so far left that they not only embrace socialism openly – many proudly claim Marx and Mao as their heroes – quite a few in close contact with, or actually in our current administration.


Never mind that communism failed miserably in the Soviet Union. Never mind that socialism is failing all over Europe, right in front of us, not to mention the hideousness of the Third Reich and Mussolini’s Italy, both socialist states. And no one cares that many of these regimes had to murder millions of their own people in order to “accomplish” their economic downfall.

I grew up during the Cold War – we knew what was going on in Marxist countries – the poverty and death, the hideous Gulag punishments for speaking truth, the squelching of Christianity and Judaism. I remember hiding under my desk in useless drills designed to save us from A-bomb attacks. And now the people in charge of the United States of America are worshipping at the communist altar? What can the word liberty mean to these people? They surely know that socialism and freedom don’t go hand in hand.

And they know that Islam and many ultra-leftist concerns don’t go together, either. How can Democrats be holding hands with Muslims? Muslims imprison and execute gays – Sharia law endorses prepubescent marriage, marriage between 1st cousins, and polygamy, but not gay marriage. It’s not big on women’s rights either – in fact an Islamic woman in an Islamic country is lucky if she’s her husband’s only wife, she hasn’t been circumcised, and he doesn’t beat her. Are Democrats thinking at all?

Most Americans are nice, decent folk, therefore, most Democrats must be as well – but here they are, stubbornly voting for a man who wants federal bureaucrats to decide what health care they can have, who wants to take money from those who earn it and give it to those who just want it (and who will vote Democrat because they can get free phones), who defers to those who would gladly kill us all. What is a rational person to think of this?

Yes – since John Dewey, education has leaned to the left like the tower at Piza, and we’re now seeing the third generation from the flower children starting to vote. Yes – the church has forfeited its responsibility to educate its people in divine viewpoint. But I can think – you can think, after all, you’re still reading this, so what is wrong with Democrats?

There’s no need in their souls for rational thinking? There’s no awareness of the immorality of socialism? There’s no concern for their own future or, even worse, the future of their children? No understanding what our national debt will do to them? No awareness that we’re being openly targeted for death and destruction by people our government rubs noses with? What?!!!!

And what scares me most is that much of this revolves around a sophomoric need to be cool.
§  It’s cool to have no respect for --- for anything, really, but especially for any values our ancestors held dear – the Constitution, for instance.
§  It’s cool to doubt God, to hate the Bible, to create artwork that shows Jesus Christ – who died that we all might have eternal life – saturated in urine. That’s cool.
§  It’s cool to fly in the face of history and embrace failing ideologies.
§  It’s cool to hate parents, deride grandparents.
§  It’s cool to be ashamed of your country – and totally square to be patriotic.
§  It’s cool to smoke dope – our president is proud of how stoned he was during high school. He recently bragged that he, “inhaled frequently … that was the point.”
§  It’s cool to get drunk. Ditto.
§  It’s cool to sleep around – see Bill Clinton.
§  It’s cool to lie. Ditto. “I did not have sex with that woman.”
§  It’s cool to be gay.
§  It’s cool to be lazy, to fail at things uncool people work hard to accomplish.
§  It’s cool to cheat on tests, to plagiarize papers.
§  It’s cool to hate the right people – i.e. Christians and conservatives.
§  It’s ultra cool to just not care.

I’ll never forget an interesting encounter my husband and I had the summer after Obama was elected. We were driving down to San Jacinto and we had stopped at the In-and-Out Burger in Stockton. On the way back to our car after lunch we found ourselves walking toward a tall, handsome black man wearing a cowboy hat. As he approached he tipped his hat and said to us, “I’m really sorry I voted for that man.” That was all. Just the apology. I don’t know what prompted it – did we look that much like Republicans? I remember that day the unemployment numbers had come out and they hadn’t budged off of 9%. Maybe that was it. But I’m praying that millions more feel that regret and will either stay home or vote for Romney.

No one needs to eat crow. No one needs to apologize. The man, after all, was slick, and if you didn’t, as I did, spend your days sizing up adolescent boys, you might not have spotted the arrogance, the deviousness. The defiant tilt of his head wouldn’t have set off any alarms, the super-cool bop of his walk wouldn’t have looked familiar. If you don’t study history, you might not have had a visceral reaction to his Hitleresque nomination speech. If you don’t know economics you might not have noticed the central-planning tone of his promises, the general envy behind his words.

But now we’ve seen him in action – mostly inaction -- and we should know better. If we can rid ourselves of this 15-year-old stoner then I’ll know that Democrats have not abandoned common sense altogether, can still spot a scoundrel when they see one, and are really the good people they want to be.





Into the Darkening Woods – an Open-ended Fairytale


We’ve been exploring problems with leftist thinking and I’d like to continue with that discussion, but I’m going to do so by telling you a story.

Part 4 – What is Wrong with Liberal Thinking

Once upon a meme* -- which is itself a meme, which has become so trendy it’s gone from pseudo-intellectual to rancidly cheesy in under 40 years, turning up, as it did, on college campuses in the late 70’s where it was useful only under the influence of whatever was available. The word was used at first by professors trying to impress their students, and then by students attempting to impress their professors. Now it’s found in use amongst graduates who still lean college-left and want to impress each other.  But I digress. 

Back to the story. Once there was a country where all the fathers were risk-takers, all the mothers were mothers (which made them risk-takers extraordinaire) and all the children were wildly and joyfully suicidal. The country was blessed with broad open spaces, wide rivers, deep forests and oceans to keep dangerous people away. The people moved about, built farms and factories and cities and roads and cars to drive on the roads. Then they moved around more. Eventually they built airplanes and moved around more quickly. They invented many things, worked very hard, took huge risks and became the wealthiest nation the world had ever seen.

As they did all this they tried to follow the rules they believed in – tried because, like all people they weren’t perfect. Their energy and ambition sometimes got them in trouble. But through it all they remembered God, who had created them and all the blessings their country provided. They were grateful for the power they discovered all over the land – the wood, coal, oil, gas, and raging rivers. They planted crops, cut down trees, built fences, and they mined gold and silver and iron and copper. They prospered and they were grateful. 

But eventually they forgot that the land and all that was in it was given to them. They had invented so many things that they began to imagine that they had invented themselves. God rarely turned up in most people’s thinking. The folks continued to show up at church on Sunday mornings, (Habits are hard to break.) but the preachers didn’t have much to say. After all, they weren’t all that grateful either, and they didn’t want to confuse or displease the parishioners who paid their salaries, and if they worked it right, singing and taking the offerings and marching up and down could fill an hour without much room left for the uncomfortable sermonizing.

In the schools the children all learned about reading, but didn’t actually read very much. They learned how to do math, but not that it was God’s language. They learned about science and history, but not how the two subjects revealed the Creator. They played sports, went to prom and graduated. Then they zoomed off to college where they learned that war was bad, and that somehow raising a ruckus about it would render the world safe and cozy. They mastered the art of believing self-refuting ideas and sneering at truth. They studied evolution and ecology and memes and found very little of it helpful in earning a living.

God was patient and the people got richer and continued to raise reckless children until there were hundreds of millions filling the land.

While all this was going on, new memes started snaking their way through the culture. The idea that old is bad became quite popular. Phrases like “dead white men” or “never trust anyone over 30” quilted the language and children quit looking up to their parents and grandparents, and realized their teachers were old, too, and therefore ignorant. No one read anything that wasn’t written in the last 50 years – especially not God’s Word. It was very old.

Since they had forgotten God, they forgot that He was infinitely wealthy and so they forgot that richness was expandable. They became scared that each person wouldn’t get his share of what there was and started watching each other jealously, worried that someone somewhere would get more. They changed their government to keep clever and hard-working men and women from taking advantage of their advantages.

They also (because they forgot God and His purpose for the world) got scared that the Earth would break, that some balance somewhere would go haywire and they’d all die. For a while they thought an ice age would freeze them all. Then they created elaborate and impossible explanations for all the mayhem they imagined – even suspecting that the very gas they exhaled would cause the planet to overheat. They imagined all the animals would die off, that the weather would blow them all to bits, that they’d run out of everything and that it would be the fault of all those clever and hardworking people. You see, they’d forgotten God so thoroughly that they no longer were even aware that He still had a purpose and still had the power to see to it that His purpose was fulfilled.

In fact, they had so forgotten God that when He did try to get their attention with a calamity or two, very few read the signs correctly and if they said anything, they just got laughed at or attacked. Mostly the wise ones were old, you see, and according to the new meme, their ideas were therefore worthless.

So year after year the people became more and more afraid – of what they weren’t always sure, but the uneasiness became so prevalent that they were miserable. They took medicines hoping they would feel better. They drank, smoked a variety of plants, and ate and  ate and ate – they got stoned, and fat, but they didn’t feel better. They began thinking of the government, the one they had made, as a god, able to solve all their problems. The more government they had, the more problems they had, so the more they leaned on the officials they hired until the government became a very expensive deity.

Then they stopped taking risks – most of them did. There weren’t all that many risks left to take. Most everything chancy was either illegal, or environmentally dangerous, or politically incorrect. Speaking of which, they didn’t take many risks with what they said either – they’d concocted so many rules about what could and should be uttered that they all got tired of triple-thinking everything they said, so they just didn’t talk – not about anything important, especially not about God. In fact they even outlawed that in their schools.

Actually, almost everything was outlawed. They invented penalties for getting rich. Being honest earned them scorn and distrust. Defending themselves could really toss them into hot water. So, since they had no longer had a purpose, they all just smoked dope and made fun of those who rarely used the word meme, of those who still wanted the good old days – old, you remember, was bad.

Which was unfortunate because God is infinitely old and only God could save the country. You see, in this fairytale there is no fairy godmother to conjure up a pumpkin coach. There is no lamp to rub, no prince to kiss.

You see, the story isn’t over yet. Perhaps the people will realize that their memes are just so much flutter and nonsense, without a particle of truth in them. Perhaps they will remember God and admit to Him that they need His gracious provisions, His forgiveness, His wisdom.  And perhaps they won’t. We shall see.

* meme – an idea that a large number of people cling to – like global warming. Memes change, move through a culture like a virus, can easily be produced or destroyed by means of propaganda.



Smoke, Mirrors, and Layers of Varnish


 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face-to-face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 1st Corinthians 13:12.


Part 3 – What’s Wrong with Liberal Thinking


Well – let’s make sense of the world today, shall we? I’ll start picking at the tangled wad of yarns at this end and you start teasing at it on your end and we’ll have it unknotted in no time. Not.

Things are in quite a muddle; the Prince of Lies (not our president, but Lucifer) is hard at work and it’s the human tendency to gloss over details, call a spade a terrain relocation device, and slather every uncomfortable truth with coat after coat of varnish, so the job of putting all the puzzle pieces together in logical order is a challenge.

We’ve been talking about the faulty assumptions at the base of liberal thinking. This week I’d like to explore one of the secondary premises that fog our national bandwidth. If one starts with the self-refuting statement that there is no absolute truth and you add to that an evolutionary mindset, one comes to a third premise – that God is just a human idea – some fanciful conceit we developed to soften the edges of reality, some elaborate means mankind invented in order to tackle the vagaries of human misbehavior.

The evolutionist explanation for religious belief is a bottom-up account. From paramecium to fish to tadpole to lizard to bird to horse to ape to Neanderthal to Christian – just a natural progression. (Why they assume that Christian thought is suddenly a turn for the worst is beyond me.)
Eventually our brains got big enough to have room for abstract thought and imagination. A random mutation or twelve and a few brain cells began specializing in these speculations, and oilá! we have “God,”  but only to be taken seriously by the weak and the stupid. After all, God is just a figment of our imaginations and if we want to play at religion we can go pottering off to church or synagogue or temple, and hop through whatever rituals please us, but we are not to actually think any of it is true.

We are even to start toying (as our brains evolve, becoming more and more sophisticated) with the idea of ditching the God thing altogether. Just recently the Dalai Lama said,
“Of course, all the world’s major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance and forgiveness, can and do promote inner values.” In other words, religion is useful – not true, just useful. He went on to say, “But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I believe the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics that is beyond religion altogether.”  It’s time to go beyond God. Whoa.

Though, he’s a little late to the party since that’s basically what the serpent said to Eve, and even before that, what Lucifer said to God – I can run things better than you can (Isaiah 14).

Renowned – and now deceased, and much wiser – atheist Christopher Hitchens also
beat His Holiness to the punch. Hitchens stated in his book, God is Not Great, “Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody…had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance, and other infantile needs).”

Obviously, if we start with the premise that man came before God, we end up in some very weird and arrogant places. Our ethical thoughts lose their backbone and become nothing more than petty rules that can be overcome with a light dose of peer pressure and half a dozen lawsuits. Behaviors that were solid parts of our national ethic are now mere amoeba squelching around our confused national conscience.

Speaking of confused, I had a class of honors students who, shortly after 9/11 told me that they couldn’t denounce the hijackers. These otherwise wonderful kids felt that it was morally acceptable for the jihadis to have committed over 3,000 murders because the men believed they were doing good. The poor kids were struggling to synthesize the politically correct lessons from social studies classes (You have your truth; they have theirs.) with the horror of watching people forced to choose between jumping to their deaths or being burned alive. And we wonder why our children smoke dope.

It is interesting, now that we’re constructing our own mores that we find ourselves often in those tangles. Diversity, tolerance, and multi-culturalism, for instance, are way at the top of our DIY list of values – unless of course one chooses to adhere to the old morality and then diversity suddenly becomes as vicious and condescending as Torquemada. This tolerance is so loving and generous that it recently tried to destroy the Chick-Fil-A restaurant chain because the owner expressed an opinion that didn’t fit the new code – a new code that comes with no authority other than peer pressure produced by the liberal media.

Such confusion requires that one stay on the surface of every issue – no details allowed, just a vague homogenation with the specifics buried under layers and layers of hardened varnish. Evolution is true (Never mind the ever-increasing evidence to the contrary – pesky little things like the usefulness of junk DNA.). Global warming and the necessary greening of everything is gospel (The growing icecaps and dropping average temperatures notwithstanding.). Islam is a religion of peace (but don’t talk about the hundreds and hundreds of Muslim-instigated battles fought throughout Europe that historians now believe brought on the Dark Ages.)

We are but human, and we don’t have infinite intelligence nor do we have infinite time on Earth to learn all the details. Add to that our natural inclination to lean into the lie (see Genesis 3), and the result is that we see through the glass, but darkly. If we compound the problem by denying that anything infinite exists, and by taking credit for God, then we’re bound to snarl our thinking into some seriously Gordian knots.

However, if we start with a tri-une God, who first made the angelic creation, then the universe we know, then mankind, and Who will one day remake all of it – we end up in a very grown up place where we know who we are, why we are here, where all of it is going, and more or less how it’s going to get there. Many of us are watching the mess in the Middle East unfold and it feels like watching a movie of a book we’ve read. There will be surprises but not big ones. Even 9/11 felt inevitable to those of us who’d been paying attention.

If God is the creator, and He is, then our job is not to go beyond Him. It’s not even to go to Him – for He has come to us.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18)

Monkey-men and Unicorns



Part 2 -- What's Wrong with Liberal Thinking

Last week we discussed the first foundation stone in the dysfunction of liberal thought. Let’s move on to the next – evolution. (I speak here not of the usual change we see within species as they react to the environment; I speak of macro-evolution only.) I’m not going to address all the scientific evidence that is accumulating against Darwinism; I haven’t space here. Instead I’d like to look at the dangerous conclusions one arrives at when one’s starting place is “random mutation” or “survival of the fittest.” The damage that has been done to our national psyche via this “theory” is incalculable and yet most of us rumble through our days oblivious to the devastation, or at least unaware of its genesis.

At the core of Darwin’s Origin of the Species (published in 1859) is the idea that, as a species moves through time, its weaker specimens die off, leaving only the genetics of the survivors to move into the future. As the eons pass by each species becomes better and better having sloughed off the bad genes in favor of the good ones and having experienced along the way random, enhancing, genetic mutations.

He even posited that all species started from a single “simple” cell (we know now that there is no such thing) and through random happy accidents (which, by the way, are almost never happy) added to the survival impetus, and gradually produced us. (I find it odd that nature kept pushing toward human existence, given the fact that it could have stopped with the cockroach. Cockroaches have survival down pat.)

So, what’s wrong with those ideas? Several important things:

§  As foundational principles they do not deliver what they promise, leaving those under their spell struggling to hold up a sagging edifice that doesn’t even explain the origin of life
o    Darwinian thought offers what appears to be Godless freedom. If one doesn’t have God breathing down his neck, life is a whole lot more fun – that’s how the thinking goes. If we got here by random accidents drifting through endless time (and probability theory shows us that the odds of random mutations probability of producing even a single functional proteinare so astronomical that it would take literally endless time to accomplish), then we are beholden to no one. Tempting, I suppose, but it leaves out one important consideration – it doesn’t actually get rid of God – He’s still there; denial does not remove the fact of His existence, it does nothing more than hide Him.  The consequences don’t go away.
o   With this absolute freedom is supposed to come self-expression, self-fulfillment and satisfaction. However, that, too, is a hollow promise. If we are each just “so much protoplasm” (a phrase my father loved to use when he thought we were being lazy) then we have no self to actualize; we are nothing but the chemical result of what we eat. Freedom can’t be an issue for random blobs of protein because random blobs of protein have no will. They just do what the DNA tells them to do. Life is merely chemical reaction and nothing more. Paradoxically, if there is no God, there is naught to be free from.
o   Add to that the realization that if everything is just random, and nothing is ever really caused, then cause and effect reasoning devolves into rickety temporal proximity, and logical thinking is just a quaint old habit for fussy people. When logic, when rational thought, is based on a transcendent and infinite God, there’s a reason to actually think. When it’s not, well, why bother? Emoting is more fun.
§  As a moral cornerstone Darwinian* thought fails utterly. It is true that some organisms cooperate – think anthills and beehives, however, there’s no “survival of the fittest” motivation for being altruistic, no reason to give one’s life to save another, no motivation to help those who aren’t fit. As Darwin’s disaster filtered into the churches and out to the people it hit the business community. (see Barbarians at the Gate by Burrough and Helyer)The cut-throat capitalism that brought us into the 20th century produced a back-lash of unionism, which in turn developed its own brand of survival of the fittest (i.e. whoever could most efficiently break knee caps) and is now returning us through Washington cronyism to the feudalism of Medieval Europe. Liberal thinking doesn’t recognize legitimate business; it merely sees Gordon Gekko and recoils in disgust.
§  As the 20th century progressed (skipping, for want of space, Woodrow Wilson’s eugenic ideas) we can look at Hitler’s ideas. Let me quote from Mein Kampf – “But little as Nature wishes a mating of weaker with stronger individuals, still less does she want the fusion of a higher with a lower race, since otherwise the whole labor of selective evolution, perhaps through thousands of years, would be set at naught, “(279). Too prevent that Germany gassed or worked to death those it deemed unfit; after all, a race of supermen couldn’t be contaminated with substandard genetic materials. “Unfit” referred to those with mental or physical impairments, chronic diseases, the very old, 6 million Jews and several million Christians who refused to go along with the slaughter. Later, Margaret Sanger, of Planned Parenthood fame, wanted to use family planning to weed out those whose progeny were not likely to suit her – darker skinned people especially. She succeeded beyond her wildest imagination – today 88.9% of New York City abortions are performed on minority women.** Darwin’s Origin of the Species opened a whole Pandora’s box of horror. A hundred million people died last century, largely as the result of Darwinian thinking run amuck. So much for survival.
§  The Darwinian mindset also makes some assumptions that don’t appear to be set in reality. If we are the result of random acts of mutation that gradually improved things, then we’re still improving and everything is still improving and it just happens automatically and requires no moral effort.(Look back at the last paragraph and tell me how much better we’re getting.) Hence, any ideas of the 21st century are automatically superior to the ideas of earlier times. The Bible (Moses’ insistence on a 7-day creation had already put a dent in it.) and the Constitution are no longer relevant because we’ve evolved right on past them. Traditions are quaint and stodgy and of no relevance to us today. We are now far superior to morality, to concerns about the family, to private charity. Efforts at honor and nobility are just embarrassingly naïve. This approach has unhooked several links in the anchor chain:
o   It has robbed us of our sense of responsibility, our sense of purpose. If it’s all happening without me, and my efforts, if I am nothing more than the outgrowth of a chemical accident, then I have no answer to the question, “Why?”
o   It has cut us loose from our past. We’ve lost the directions – we don’t even think there are directions. If everyone is getting smarter  then documents from the past like the Bible, the Constitution, Shakespeare’s plays can carry no wisdom. People graduate from college these days without having read any of the above. It’s no wonder we make a big moral deal over where we buy a chicken sandwich or which car we drive – we have no idea how this moral thing works. We’re like two-year-olds with bad parents; we don’t know how we are to behave; we don’t know we are to behave.
o   We have no respect for our elderly. They can’t tell us anything – they are the previous generation and by definition therefore inferior to the more evolved current generation and all the stuff they know is has been disproven by – you guessed it – science, i.e. evolution. Should I capitalize that like I do the word God?
If evolution is the true reality then we are doomed little monkey-men and we might as well believe in unicorns. We are adrift on choppy seas, rudderless and anchorless. I pray that God will help us; I know for sure that neo-Darwinian science won’t.

Check back next week for the 3rd installment. Thanks for reading.


*I’m not blaming Darwin personally for all of this – his philosophical descendents Spencer, Galton, Hitler, Sanger, et.al. started where he left off and continued building.
      ** Apparently Margaret Sanger herself did not promote abortion; but shortly after her death Planned Parenthood turned its efforts to that method of controlling who go to procreate.

Never Assume a G-D Thing – What’s Wrong with Liberal Thinking


Here we are mid-river and we can hear the rumble of approaching rapids. The river drops fast as we skim over an occasional sub-surface boulder. We know if we stay on this course, we’ll tumble over the falls, but if we can veer to the right and take it down through the slough we’ll be OK, but to do that we need every hand to paddle and paddle hard in unison. 

Let’s talk about how we do that – how do we discuss clearly, quickly and powerfully the necessity of making that hard right? It can’t be done by shouting or making wild accusations or by attacking people personally. It has to be done with logic and with love.

Logic is God’s way of thinking, for He is not the author of confusion. He is a rational God and if we are, as Paul tells us, to “take every thought into captivity for Christ,” they have to be logical thoughts. And here’s where our national problem lies – the thought patterns on the left, the thought patterns that got us into this mess – are not logical, are not rational and the approaching rapids are proof.

So is the anger and irrationality coming from the left. Think Chris Matthews. I can’t imagine the pain of hearing that impending torrent of doom and having to choose between saying, “You know, Marx was an idiot,” or trying to convince yourself that plummeting to your death is what you always wanted to do. That’s bound to make people testy and we’re starting to see some folks in the public eye crumbling around the edges. We have to reach across the rapids and grab as many as we can and pull them to safety. We’ll be better off with their help paddling and they’ll have a chance of living and living well.

Let’s do a crash course in what is wrong with leftist thinking:


You see, logic is a two-oar affair (I’m still playing with my metaphor). One starts with assumptions, which may or may not be true, and then one puts them together according to the rules of logic, which one may or may not do correctly (There’s a couple dozen logical fallacies one can slip into.). If either your facts or your process is in error, the results will be wrong. The main problem with leftist thinking is that most of its assumptions (logicians call them premises) are demonstrably bogus. In the next six posts we’ll explore some of the left’s most damaging theories – damaging to us all. Let’s look first at their most important presupposition:

Part 1 – There’s No Such Thing…..

The There’s-No-Such-Thing-As-Absolute-Truth mythology underlies all leftist thinking. This motto should be engraved on our institutions of higher learning instead of the traditional “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” It’s a delightful conceit that appears at first glance to simplify tolerance issues and smooth over pseudo-intellectual discussions. After all, if nothing is true then no one can be wrong, including me, even if I have no idea what I’m talking about. Instead of actual learning, and learning to genuinely care about others, in the particular, not in the safely vague and general, we can, with this anti-truth doctrine, dismiss all differences, erase all need for moral judgment and color the whole varied and stimulating world an uncertain shade of gray. Then we don’t have to think or get too riled up about anything – unless someone dares to question our dogma.

So what’s wrong with that? You have your truth; I have mine; no one is offended and please pass the joint. Of course, it’s a free country – for a little while longer perhaps – and people have a right to believe whatever they’d like, for the time being, but I also have a right to point out how nonsensical those beliefs are – especially since they’re pulling me over the falls too. The TNSTAAT myth is a self-refuting statement, which breaks one of the key rules of logic. If there is no absolute truth then that statement can’t be true. Period. It’s horsefeathers.

And it has cost us all a great deal.

No-Such-Thing-As-Absolute-Truth means no Bible – even though all the evidence points to it’s having an origin way above and beyond this world. TNSTAAT means no Constitution – even though that simple 20-page contract is easily the single most pivotal document ever created by mere mortals. If nothing is true in any authoritative sense then we must go forth into the world without the guidance of the world’s greatest voices. We’re alone and rudderless on a very dark sea; it’s no wonder that our young, and our not-so-young, have turned to sex and drugs to numb that lonesome feeling.

That’s how TNSTAAT hits thinking individuals, but what about society?  It’s even worse. If one does not believe in truth, then what are the chances that one is going to limit one’s self to telling the truth? Zilch. This has not only destroyed our faith in one another and made us a cynical nation, but it has in turn produced a group of politicians who are comfortable, who even feel self-righteous, falsely accusing others of lying. Recently Stephanie Cutter, a top Obama aide, said Republicans “think lying is a virtue.” And this was just a few days after she was called out for lying by a leftwing pundit, and both feel just fine stumping for the Liar-in-Chief whose truth score is now into negative numbers.

TNSTAAT means no morality and it means no law. A nearby school district just did a presentation for the faculty, which featured 4 illegal immigrants who spoke of all the things the district had done to help them. Their illegal status was not ignored; it was celebrated. Only in a society no longer anchored by truth and objectivity can something so appalling take place. Which law will be officially ignored next? Could be anything. No anchor, remember?

Note the similarities between the words truth and trust. No society can function without trust. All we have to do is look south across the border to see that one. Mexico’s government thrives on bribery and that’s worked so well that the place is overcome by drug cartels and each year several million Mexicans run away from home. Yet, right here in Oregon we’re starting to see the same thing. Our blueberry farmers had to bribe national officials for permission to sell their crops.

No number of laws can make up for truthful citizens who elect truthful officials (As I typed that I realized that truthful officials is becoming an oxymoron.).  We’re drowning in rules and regulations partly because trust is no longer woven into the fabric of our culture. Trust and responsibility is draining out of our society. Note what is happening to a small company that manufactures toys for grown-ups – magnetic desk gizmos. They are being driven out of business because of what 12 children were allowed to do with them.
This falseness is crumbling our strongest foundations – leading us into corruption usually seen in only third world sinkholes.

Another foundation stone that has crumbled is education. We wonder why our children don’t know anything – but why should they know anything when nothing is true? Why should their teachers teach them facts if they don’t believe in them themselves? Education – I spent over thirty years in the public schools so I know – has long ago placed more emphasis on process than on information – a librarian once told me that kids don’t need to learn facts – they can just look them up. But without background information how can you tell if what you look up is true? Oh – never mind. There is no truth. And without information – without enough knowledge one can’t even form premises, let alone combine them in logical ways. In fact (no pun intended) without information, nothing is very interesting, so we’re right back to why learn anything if nothing is true? Or is it that everything is true? I lose track.

This anti-truth myth has placed its followers in the untenable situation of being unable to argue for their point of view – they can only attack their opposition, personally and untruthfully. You see, if you don’t respect truth, you don’t respect facts, evidence, or data, and if your most fundamental belief is a self-refuting bit of drivel, you have nothing noble you can do. You are, whether you want to be or not, aligned with the Prince of Lies.  

The allegiance to untruth has also eaten huge holes in our language. Within leftist thought there is no respect for the social contract that is language. Words mean something, something specific, and communication can only happen when we honor the integrity of our words. Only in a society that denigrates truth could quantitative easing mean inflation. The word progress, for instance, means to move forward in a positive way. Therefore, one would expect progressive to be positive, but the progressive is now the cover word for socialism, which history has shown time and time again, doesn’t work.   Progressivism is neither positive nor forward. Forward – another word that’s been appropriated by the left. It really means backward – backward into societies that practice eugenics and euthanasia, societies where human life is only an incidental inconvenience. And, of course, my recent fave – Chicago now means racism. Who’d a thunk it?

The worst result of this leftist negation of truth is that it has destroyed our faith in God, the ultimate absolute truth. Without God we have no morality, no ultimate authority, no reason for existence beyond ourselves; we become mere blobs of protoplasm, made in no one’s image, purposeless and disposable. Which brings me to my next installment – Monkey Men and Unicorns. See you next week.

Directing the Impossible Play


paulrademacher.com
Today the Republican Convention was to begin in Tampa, but the approach of hurricane Isaac has postponed it. Who knows what effect that will have on history.

On April 20th 2010 an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico killing 11 men.  As a result U.S. oil production has dropped precipitously and dependence on foreign oil is now up to 66%.

In 715 B.C. Sennacherib, King of Assyria laid siege to Jerusalem, but they were unsuccessful – the Jewish accounts say that an Angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. Some historians think it was cholera that killed them, but Sennacherib withdrew and Jerusalem – and therefore Israel – was preserved.

Jesus Christ controls history. Jesus Christ, as the Second Person of the Godhead, manages all the stories of all our lives so that history will come out in the end just as He wants it to, just as it has been prophesied. He is directing this play, this impossibly complicated play.

Yes, but don’t we have free will? Can God control history if He is not controlling each of us? Isn’t history merely the record of human decisions? So how is it possible then for these two ideas – individual human free will and God’s collective plan to coexist? 

News flash: human free will is not all there is. We don’t like to admit that, but it’s true. We don’t get to choose everything that happens in our lives – I didn’t choose to have my baby grandson die. I did not choose to have my new car run off the road at 70 miles an hour. I did not want my husband’s body to develop cancer cells. But those things happened nevertheless. I could still choose how to react to each situation, true, but the situations themselves I didn’t choose.

So how does God interact with human history and still leave our free will intact?

God still controls a great deal of what goes on here, even though Satan runs this world and even though we still have volition; God ultimately controls the entire universe, which includes the earth itself and its weather systems. He controls the animal world – every being from microbes to blue whales. Remember Jonah and the leviathan that dumped him on the shore and sent him back to Nineveh? The history of Nineveh was drastically changed because of the action of that “whale.”

History, over and over again, is changed by mere weather. Napoleon met his Waterloo (aptly named as it turned out) because a storm had left the battlefield so soggy that he postponed his attack, giving his enemies time to launch a surprise assault on his flank.  The British were not expecting Washington to attack on that Christmas in 1776 because the weather had been so extremely cold, but attack he did, resolutely crossing the Delaware and killing almost a thousand British troops while losing only 4 of his own men.

But, wait a minute – human free will was still in play here. Yes – had Napoleon not waited and had Washington decided to sit by the fire nothing would have happened. True. But don’t forget that God is not only omnipotent – able to control the weather, He is also omniscient – fully aware of just how the leaders of these troops would react to the weather He created. Jesus Christ controls history.

nationalgeographic.com
He also controls other aspects of life on this earth. Earthquakes, forest fires, whatever it was that burnt Sodom and Gomorrah to a crisp. Look at the plagues that ravaged Egypt just prior to the Exodus. What would history have been like if the Jews had been held forever in the land of the Pharaohs? Whether the flies and the frogs and the river of blood were supernatural or natural, doesn’t matter – the effect is the same – the Jews went back to the land of their fathers and nearly 2500 years later Israel is a major player on the world stage. And, I haven’t checked lately, but is the rotten U.S. economy still the fault of the Japanese tsunami?

We can’t forget in this discussion the place played by human free will and how God arranges all those wills in history. In June, I published a piece my son wrote using a Rube Goldberg machine as a metaphor for the will of God and for His omniscient ability to weave together all those independent volitions so that they work in concert for His good. Rube Goldberg machines are amazing in their complexity, but imagine how hard it would be to design one if some of the parts could do whatever they wanted to do. Part of how He manages that is choosing which of those volitions He splices into history when.

We don’t decide where or when we show up on the stage. God does that. In His omniscience He has selected for each of us the perfect time to enter history. He has placed us in the perfect place. I came into this world at the end of WWII. My father was still captaining his PT boat in the Philippines; my mother was staying with her parents in a small town on the edge of the Nebraska Sand Hills. I can’t say I know why I turned up there and then, but I know God chose that for me and for whomever, whatever, I was supposed to affect in history. As with most of us my role has been a small one in a cast of billions, but it has been a necessary one or I wouldn’t be here.

Now we have to play what if? What if Henry Ford had been born in 1563 instead of 1863? His idea of mass production would have died of neglect. What if Hitler hadn’t been born? Ironic, true, but without Hitler’s butchery, the Jews would not be back in their land. What if Jesus had been conceived of a 14-year-old in Brooklyn last year? He may not have made it past the Planned Parenthood clinic. I’m pretty sure that had I been born a hundred years ago I wouldn’t have lasted long enough to accomplish anything – I’m too much of a wimp. 

Lastly we need to consider that just because we have free will doesn’t mean we can’t choose to do God’s bidding. Just because we can choose to go against His will doesn’t mean we will. Millions of people follow His commands – at least some of the time.

Our nation’s founding fathers leaned heavily on their knowledge of the will of God as they went about making the decisions that would set our nation on its meteoric rise to power and prosperity. Our governing officials no longer take the will of God into account as they ponder our country’s policies and perhaps something meaningful is happening as Isaac roars up the Gulf – who knows?

We do know, though, that in spite of the willfulness of man and the evil machinations of fallen angels, God’s plan is still chugging right along. Each of us is doing what God knew (not what He caused, but what He knew) we would do and everything that needs to be controlled is well in hand. Jesus Christ is directing this play. Rest easy; it ends well.








An Open Letter to our President


Dear Sir:
I have a question: which came first – the goose or the egg? Don’t wrinkle your brow and glance at your teleprompter -- this is not a difficult question – eggs don’t hatch without a goose to sit on them.

Let’s try another one. -- which came first – the taxers or the taxees? That’s evidently a more difficult question because you, the most powerful man in the world, recently got it wrong. Very wrong.

Recently you made quite a speech in Roanoke, Virginia, in which you figuratively addressed small businessmen saying, “You didn’t build that.” You went on to explain that without public works, “roads and bridges,” a business couldn’t exist. Your implication was that government agencies and activities are the foundation on which industry rests, that without public policy there would be no private enterprise.

Ruins in Detroit -- seedetroit.com
P-a-l-e-e-z-e, Mr. Obama, that statement is almost as offensive as your ignorant proclamation that this country is not a Christian nation, and don’t give me that “out of context” palaver. It is the context of your entire presidency that makes this so objectionable.

Obviously, Sir, you haven’t thought very hard or very long about this country and what it’s all about, or you would know better. The truth is that without private, moneymaking endeavors, the government would have nothing, would be nothing. I realized that yesterday when I ran across a news tidbit about California’ sales tax revenues dropping by 33.5%. No. Really?!


Duh. People aren’t working; they aren’t producing, so they aren’t earning money. Therefore they aren’t spending money, so less money is clinking into the state’s coffers.

I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but government is dependent on the private sector, not the other way around. Government leans on private enterprise in two ways:
o   First, according to our constitution (Have you heard of it?), the government derives its power from the consent of the people, who not only vote to elect individuals to make decisions on their behalf, but who also work at producing – food, clothing, shelter, energy, anything other people will pay for – therefore creating incomes which the government then taxes, and, as a result, providing revenue for the government.

Detroit neighborhood -- seedetroit.com
Government derives not only its political power from the people; it also gains its functional power from the productivity of its citizens. A society that produces very little in real goods will eventually collapse under its own weight; it won’t be able to defend itself from aggressors, nor will it be able to maintain its infrastructure (see Detroit). Government is the result of a productive citizenry; it is not the cause.

o   Secondly, the public sector can’t accomplish anything without the private sector’s manufacturing abilities. Let’s take your example of roads and bridges. Roads and bridges are not made out of government bureaucrats (Though I rather like that idea – I even have some individuals I could recommend.). 

Newsflash: our transportation infrastructure is made of concrete and steel and asphalt. The government doesn’t produce those items – private businesses mine the minerals, mix the ingredients, and transport those materials. Private businesses design and manufacture the giant earth-moving equipment, the paving machines. Private businesses supply the energy required. And, especially where bridges are concerned, private businesses often do the designing. Even the governmental paperwork couldn’t be done without private businesses cutting down trees and making the paper you feds waste so well.


OK, OK -- government does affect private enterprise. Of course. If we were under constant attack by enemy armies, it would be hard to run a business. If there were no anti-theft laws, no copyright laws, no anti-trust laws, it would be difficult to succeed. But then, it’s difficult to succeed anyway. I once had some copyrighted educational materials ripped off by a California school district, but because of the way the laws were written I had to have $60,000 up front to hire a California lawyer to prosecute the case; needless to say, a couple of threatening lawyer-letters was all I could do about it. But that’s not your fault – I’m just saying that even the laws don’t help all that much.

And often, Sir, more and more often, government’s effect on business is more in the way of walls than it is of roads. I find government getting in the way of how I handle my two small rental properties – I can’t even imagine what fortresses of paperwork and regulations a real business must have to lay siege to in order the make a profit.

Of course I realize that you don’t much like profit – why, I don’t know. You seem to be making a profit out of being president. But that aside, I have another huge newsflash for you:

There’s really no limit to wealth. That’s a biggy. Say it with me, slowly. There. Is. No. Limit. To. Wealth.   Fairness is not about sharing what already exists.  Fairness is about letting everyone have an equal shot at creating wealth. I know this is a tricky idea for all you lefties, but let me try to explain:

Let’s say you figured out a way to use eggshells to make tires. Up until this invention, eggshells were not recycled, they were just thrown away; every morning McDonald’s, alone, chucked over 20 million eggshells. So, raw materials were easy to come by. You patented your formula, borrowed the money to build your factory, and set up a distribution system.

Eventually, you were turning out 2 million tires per month. Your company, which I’m sure you ran expertly since you are so brilliant, not only made a profit, but the economy now has 24 million new, serviceable tires each year – basically made out of nothing. It also now has 3,000 new jobs and the money those people are paid circulates back through the system which stimulates (I’m trying to use words you’re familiar with.) other businesses. See how that works? Something out of nothing.

You see, when this nation first started no one knew what to do with that black goo that oozed out of the ground in Pennsylvania. Now we call it “black gold.” It has created unimaginable wealth. When this nation first started, Ben Franklin was inciting lightning strikes with a key on a kite string because he suspected that electrical power could be harnessed. Then along came Edison and Jobs and Gates and look at the wealth that’s been produced almost ex nihilo.

My dear president, you need to open up your supposedly intelligent brain (I do have some doubts about that.) and understand that this country figured out how to coax the goose to lay the golden egg (Note the goose was there first.) Our forefathers realized that if people have their own personal integrity (which was assumed since our nation was peopled mostly by fervent, Bible-reading Christians), and enough elbow room to be inventive, that wealth would accumulate quickly.

It did, and it did so, back when private people built the roads and bridges, back when government was seen more as evil than good, when taxes were never beneficial to anyone on this side of “the pond.”

Sir, you are the president of a country of which you have no knowledge, for which you have no affinity. You are either driving without a license or you are going somewhere none of us riding on this bus want to go. Please pull over. I want to get off.

Scoring a Perfect Ten


Yesterday at the gym I was “biking” to nowhere, grateful that the TV in front of me was set on the Olympics and that the Olympics was set on rhythmic gymnastics. I know, I know, not everyone’s favorite sport, but I was entranced. I peddled and peddled and watched young, agile bodies perform almost impossible movements – wrapping spines around soccer-sized balls, spinning hula hoops with one over-head foot, twisting and rolling and never losing sight of the props, always graceful and fluid and elegant. It was enough to make you think that maybe humans could be perfect. It was enough to make me realize why our Christian gospel often falls on deaf ears.

Human beings are amazing. That’s why we all love the Olympics – it’s a chance to see our fellow humans achieving astounding things – running ever faster, jumping higher, performing ever more challenging dives. We are all impressed with ourselves – the proof is right there on the TV; human beings are amazing.

So what’s with this “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” thing? Isn’t the glory of the Olympics enough? Look at what people can do, what awful conditions they can overcome, what remarkable beauty they can produce, what mind-boggling skills they can develop. And they all seem like such nice, good people; they train 24-7 – they don’t have time to get into any trouble. Original sin? Total depravity? Surely you jest.


No, I don’t. Eternal life is not the Olympics – it has nothing to do with what we do in this world. We can appear perfect, perform perfectly, win every competition, work, give, help, smile – and never get even close to pleasing the one being we have to please. Almighty God.

Let’s look at the concept of perfection, which is difficult to do. It’s like thinking about infinity – our brains really don’t stretch that far. We get out on the edge of our experience, which is not anywhere near infinite or perfect, and our thinking gets all furry and we tend to run back into our own safe measures of things. Good is my grandmother, love is my mom, strong is my husband, brave is the boy who saved his little brother in a fire. We have to default to human examples because infinite perfection is hard to even grasp, let alone attain. Yet that is what we must be – infinitely perfect – in order to spend eternity with God. (Luckily there’s an escape route – I’ll deal with that later.)

It isn’t enough to be better than the spiteful neighbor lady, the town drunk, the hooker, the thief, the politician; we have to be as good as God, i.e. -- perfect. Why? Why isn’t it enough just to be as good as we can be? Because real good isn’t relative – it’s absolute. And we all know that the better our behavior, the more likely it is that we become self-righteous and judgmental – both of which are imperfect.

And here’s the tricky part – God knows what we think (He’s faultless, remember? His omniscience is perfect as well as His righteousness and His justice.) so we can’t fool Him. This business of eternal life is not just behavioral – “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”(Proverbs 23:7)

Even if it were just a matter of keeping it together morally, we have to remember that morality is more than the Ten Commandments. The Law that Moses brought down from the mountain 2,500 years ago contained 613 commandments and James pointed out (James 2:10) that if anyone failed to keep just one of those rules, he had failed all of them. This heaven-or-hell thing is absolute, on/off, yes/no. Nothing is pro-rated. If we sin (and we all do) and then grow up and conduct ourselves with more integrity, we still have not erased that original debt; we’re still guilty.

Why is God so unreasonable? Well, let’s scurry back to relative territory so we can understand.

Let’s say you discovered that a person you thought of as a friend was pushing drugs at the local high school, or molesting Boy Scouts, or stealing from his grandmother. Would you be able to continue casually hanging out with such a person? Could you keep yucking it up with someone who would do those things? I wouldn’t want to sit down at the table with him, to introduce him to my children, or to have him in my home.  Standards are standards and some part of us knows that they must be met. (I’m not advocating treating our fellow man rudely or failing to try to help when someone goes astray, but most decent people would not continue a relationship as-is, once such behavior came to light. This is where Joe Paterno made his mistake.)

And here’s the tricky part: God’s standards are absolute perfection. Yikes. We’re not. In spite of the Olympics, we know we’re not. I can cite two world wars, the crime rate, divorce statistics, drug use, anger, frustration, worry – you see what I mean.

So, what do we do? Eastern religions try to solve the problem the same way evolutionists try to solve the origin problem – by adding in lots and lots of time. OK, we can’t get there this try, but maybe in the next round. Only next time you won’t know anything at all about what you screwed up before. Which would make God a real twirp to keep running you through the proverbial mill with no clue how to fix it. At that rate how long until you reach perfection? Oh, that’s right, eastern religions just promise oblivion, not perfection.

Here’s where the gospel really becomes good news. We don’t have to do it ourselves. God knows we can’t, so He became a perfect man who could, who would, pay the penalty we owe for our disobedience. In spite of the impossibility of our reaching perfection on our own, we can simply receive the grace of God’s perfect goodness; we can merely accept the gift He offers everyone. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”(Acts 16:30-31)

Jesus Christ, who was both perfect, sinless man and perfect God, staggered up a hill called Golgotha carrying a heavy wooden cross on His torn, bleeding back, and allowed Himself to be nailed to that cross where He hung for six hours while the sun darkened its way through a total eclipse and the sins of all the world were heaped onto His shoulders. 

This is a done deal; He said finally, “It is finished.” (Matthew 27) No more absolute statement has ever been uttered. He’s already done this for everyone – all that’s required of us is to rely on that work on the cross, not our own, for our entrance into heaven. The overwhelming gratitude that fills those who accept this gift usually produces a profound change in their lives – but that’s not the point. The point is those wise people, once they’ve agreed in their souls that Christ is who He said He was will always for eternity live in joy, spending eternity being everything God ever created them to be in a state of perfection.

The choice is entirely ours, regardless of our background, our previous attitudes, our accumulated sins. We can never earn a perfect ten, not in the eternal Olympics. You see, we must remember that our lives are eternal whether or not we even believe in God, let alone Jesus Christ. Even if we don’t think God exists, He thinks we do and He determines where the life He gave us will be lived. We don’t, regardless of the eastern religious take on things, have the option of oblivion. We exist. We always will be conscious, sentient beings. The question is whether we want to spend that eternity in the joyful presence of God, or separated always, always from all happiness and hope, knowing only pain. It’s up to us. What think you of Christ? You choose.

Splitting the Difference – on Open-mindedness and Opportunity


It’s been turning up on my Facebook feed lately, a post-it-note that says something to the effect that all the posts in the world won’t change anyone’s mind. Well, some part of my mind has been chewing on that thought  -- it’s a very dangerous one.

This is not a tirade against anyone who posted it – it showed up several times and I didn’t even notice who had put it up there, let alone what the ideological motivation might have been. It’s the utter closed-mindedness that amazes me. “My mind (what little there is of it anymore) is made up; don’t give me any information, don’t remind me that not everyone agrees with me, and above all, don’t put me in a situation where I have to defend my position because either I don’t know enough to do so, or my position is indefensible.” That’s what it means.

We can’t afford that. Not on either side. Not on any side. We are so close to extinction as a nation that it takes my breath away and such calcification of thought will end us. This is no time to dig into a sullen funk; this is a time to talk. As the bard said, “Something is rotten in Denmark,” and we better fix it and not sulk around like Hamlet did. That didn’t end well.

We – the United States of America, the greatest, most benign, most prosperous, freest nation the world has ever known – is not too big to fail. That’s ridiculous. Remember Goliath? This world is littered with the remains of great empires, great countries, great cities.

Carthage
§  What happened to Carthage? From the 7th century B.C. until the 2nd century it controlled all of the western Mediterranean. Now, inhabited by only 20,000 people, it is just a suburb of Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, a third world country.

§  Where is Assyria? It once controlled all of what is now the Middle East. For the last 200 years of its existence its army never lost a battle. Now it is gone. People live in the land that was once Assyria, some of their buildings have survived, but that’s it. Gone.

§  Rome, which once provided unheard of prosperity for most of Western Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa, is now just a city, a tourist trap, in a beautiful but insolvent European country. Its only claim to importance now is the Vatican, which technically is its own sovereign country. Rome hasn’t been a world power for 1500 years.

Weren’t these places “too big to fail?” I’m sure they thought so.

I occasionally hear people say that, “They won’t let that happen.” They being some huge, benevolent tooth fairy, some loving, caring government bureaucrat, a group of munificent, unselfish officials – who knows? Even now, when it’s become apparent that our government officials are actively causing our demise, I hear that. But we shouldn’t discuss it.

I wish the failure of this country weren’t possible, but it is not only possible, it is probable. Look at the whole picture:
§  Our national debt may have already reached the point of no return. Certainly if the economy doesn’t do a quick about-face, and if we don’t curb government spending, there is no way out of financial ruin. But let’s limit our conversations to announcements of our latest social function.
§  Speaking of which, the jobs situation is stuck on awful. You know the statistics and you know that our current administration doesn’t think those stats mean much. That won’t fix anything, but don’t bring it up.
§  Our nation is in the cross hairs of radical Islam – both small groups of terrorists and the country of Iran. If we become weak enough…. It’s hard to even let my brain go there. But even our government, who’s supposed to protect us from foreign enemies, won’t talk about that one.
§  We are no longer supporting Israel as we have in the past. History clearly shows that God’s promise to Abraham (I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be. Genesis 12:3) has been fulfilled over and over again. We don’t want to be on the wrong side of that one – see the note on Assyria above. They crossed both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms and that didn’t turn out well, either.
§  We have become so fragmented that being American seems irrelevant to many of us. It has become more important that a person is black or white, male or female, gay or straight, rich or poor, Christian or atheist, whatever. As Lincoln said, “A nation divided against itself cannot stand.” But, for pity sake don’t offend me with your opinion, don’t rock my comfortable boat.
§  Our culture is disintegrating. It is not our law that holds this country together; it is our morality. No number of laws can substitute for genuine morality; the less integrity a people has, the more laws it needs, the less freedom is available. An esteemed friend and colleague was serving in the military in Iraq where an Iraqi man told him that he wished his country had our moral principles. He saw no way Iraq could become anything more than it had been on its traditional tribal understandings. There, if it’s good for your tribe, it’s good. Morality – the idea of an absolute good, a good that transcends one’s earthly situations and relationships, is essential for any kind of social progress. We are losing that fundamental building block. And what’s even more startling is that we are also losing the family structure that serves as the back-up for a society. If we lose both morality and family we are doomed.
§  We are attacking the very Judeo-Christian foundations on which that morality and family structure is built. God does not suffer fools gladly. Check out Deuteronomy 28. God gave that list of divine consequences to Israel as she was becoming a nation, but the list fits us, too. We have been a client nation to God; we have protected the world from evil; we have sent out an army of missionaries; we have shown the world how to be prosperous. Now we are turning our backs on Him who gave us the power to do those things. Such behavior will not produce happy results. But don’t bring it up.

I could go on and on, but you know, if you pay attention at all, that we’re surrounded by horrible probabilities. When I run across that “don’t confuse me with the facts, I’ve given up questioning and thinking altogether and I don’t like being reminded of what that was like” mentality it really scares me.

And it’s so silly. We are living through one of the greatest changes in human history – greater by far than the Renaissance with Gutenberg’s printing press and the Reformation. Now, for the first time in human history, run-of-the-mill people like you and me can express our opinions in an open forum. We can teach each other things. Let’s celebrate that. It is momentous. Let’s not squander this amazing opportunity on just telling each other what we ate for dinner. That’s all well and good. Chatting amicably is good. But so is having serious, problem-solving, information-rich discussions.

Each of us is a unique, God-designed being with insights no one else has, and here we are with uncountable, mind-numbing problems to solve, and now we have a way to link all those amazing brains, all those souls, to figure out how to solve those problems. Let’s not cut off any of that. Let us never tell anyone to be quiet. Let us listen to what others are saying. Let us open our hearts to God and to each other so that this country won’t end up a vague memory and a dried-up wasteland.

Let’s keep our place in history and let’s claim our future. See you on line.

Stage Two Thinking and the Great Divide



Scenario 1: A drunken drug dealer (say that 10 times fast) breaks into the wrong house, shoots a single mother and her three children with a Saturday night special. Shocked by this vicious crime the city council heads up a campaign to get people to trade in or sell all their handguns.

Scenario 2: A hundred-year-old brick building in a California coastal town collapses during an earthquake. The family gets out safely, but their dog dies in a rain of falling bricks. This event sparks 42 new housing restrictions.

purplewallpaper.info
Scenario 3: The state bird, the purple-legged honey-sucker, starts dying off so the state sets up strict regulations, which disallow the use of the insecticides used to protect the state’s all-important cabbage crop.

OK – these are all fictional, but the stories must sound familiar: a problem arises – a shocking, emotional yank that scares us silly. We react in a natural way – “Mommy make it stop hurting!” The truth is that Mommy never did have much control over life’s nastiness, but we believed in her and her reassurances made us feel so much better.

windsun.com
When my children were little, we lived in Nebraska where giant, dramatic, fabulous thunderstorms frequently lit up the night sky. Lightning would suddenly brighten the world and then thunder would shake the house and the kids would cry. I’d run upstairs to their rooms and hug them down out of their fear, but before I went back to bed I’d put little wads of toilet paper in their ears. We all knew that smidgen of tissue was not going to do anything to block the next thunderclap, but the fact that I’d gone through that ritual warded off the terror and they’d go back to sleep. It was a lovely illusion.


But we’re grown-ups now, in fact, we’re taking care of Mommy, so who’s taking care of us? We transfer that dependence onto our spouses, our friends, our shrinks, and, wisely, onto God, but in a society that’s becoming more and more secular, mostly onto our government. Make a law against whatever it was that rattled our sense of security; put toilet paper in our ears and we’ll be fine. The problem is that the laws are just that – toilet paper.

It was Thomas Sowell and his book Economic Facts and Fallacies that helped me figure out why the toilet paper doesn’t ever fix anything and why we continue to use it; it’s only Stage 1 thinking, which is far more emotional reaction than actual thought. There’s no follow-through.

And no matter what the problem, follow-through is necessary. Here in Oregon we fight blackberries. They can take over almost as quickly as kudzu, and even worse -- blackberries are covered with thorns. If we don’t think about it long enough, if we fail to do some Stage 2 thinking, we haul off and spray them with brush-killer without realizing that dead blackberries leave behind two formidable problems: masses of dry, brittle thorn-covered brambles and seeds that quickly become more blackberries. Don’t ask me how I know this.

Stage 1 thinking supposed that the spray would just make the thicket disappear. Instead, it created a new problem without really solving the old one. In politics that’s called “unforeseen consequences” as if it had been impossible to figure out ahead of time all the possible repercussions. No one did any Stage 2 thinking.

Stage 2 thinking is all about what happens next. Consequences are heavy things. Here in Oregon several decades ago, some environmentalists discovered that the spotted owl was dying out. The Stage 1 thinking went like this: Owls are dying, owls live in old growth timber; timber companies are cutting it down, therefore, if we stop doing that the owls will be fine. That rudimentary thought process ruined the state’s most prosperous industry, put tens of thousands of people out of work, blotted out entire towns and drove up the price of lumber. Now, decades later, the economy still has not recovered and the owl is still dying off. Turns out that logging wasn’t what was killing the spotted owl. The hapless bird was losing its competition with a more effective species of owl.

Political examples surround us, but let’s look at some less polarizing illustrations:
             We teach our children that if they find themselves on fire to “Stop, drop and roll.” Why? Because our natural instinct, our Stage 1 reaction, is to run, but running has dire consequences – it isn’t a reasonable solution. Running creates wind; wind is full of oxygen, and oxygen feeds fire. But since we are unlikely to go through all that Stage 2 thinking with our pants singeing our backsides, we hope that pre-thinking in the form of training will help.
            We tell each other that in a storm we should not run for the shelter of the nearest tree. It’s a natural reaction – duck and cover, but it’s a bad idea for Stage 2 reasons – the only thing between you and a HUGE electrical charge is the insulation of the atmosphere; anything that pierces that atmosphere – like a tall tree – opens a path for the electricity to follow, and you do not want to be in that path.  

Now we find ourselves so divided as a nation that we may well not survive and that rift, for the most part, showcases the two different stages of thought. 

The Left reacts to a crisis with a rudimentary, almost childlike, simplicity of thought. 
            -- The Batman shooter killed those people with guns, therefore we should have a law against guns. 
           -- The government needs more money, the rich have money, therefore let’s take it from them.      
           -- Living in apartments is not as nice as living in single family dwellings, therefore we’ll use building regulations to limit the number of apartments built so everyone will live in houses. 
That’s what Stage 1 thinking looks like.

The Right, on the other hand, looks at those same scenarios and sees past the immediate emotionality of the situation.
-- If a city bans guns then criminals will be emboldened to attack the unarmed citizenry; they, of course, will have guns because breaking the law is what they do.
-- If a country raises taxes on the rich, the rich leave; they’re smart and they don’t mind taking risks – that’s how they got rich in the first place. Once the rich leave there are no businesses to hire people, therefore no revenue and massive expenditures because the government is having to support all those people who no longer have jobs.
-- The city that makes building apartments difficult forces its citizens to move out into the suburbs which necessitates long commutes, hundreds of miles of tangled freeways, and all the traffic problems and pollution that go with a commuter culture.
That’s Stage 2 thinking – it’s all about what happens next.
           
Frankly, I’m a little worried about what’s going to happen next. Here’s hoping a lot of other people are too.