Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I'm Politically Correct

politically correct
agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people

I’ll admit it, I’m politically correct. There’s this thing in politics right now where the politician comes out and uses crude language to talk about some group of people, in an effort to show that he is willing to say things that aren’t politically correct. There are people just eating it up. Which is ironic. But it’s made me think about what it means to be politically correct and what I’ve discovered is that I’m politically correct.

Let me give you example. I have some friends who are, let’s say, quite rotund. You might say quite round. Oh, let’s just call it what it is. They’re fat. I have some fat friends. I’ve been there myself. But I wouldn’t walk up to them and say, “How ya’ doing fatso?” If we have potluck at church and I see them with a plate piled high with food, I don’t go up to them and say, “Don’t you think you have too much?” No, I bite my lip, because it isn’t my desire to offend. It isn’t likely to change anything anyway.

For another example, I have friends who have gotten divorced. I don’t know what was going in their homes, but when I found out they were separated, I wanted to shake them pretty hard. “This is not the way it is supposed to be. Now get back together and straighten out this mess!” But hold my tongue. I don’t know that my saying what I want to say will do any good and I don’t want to ruin my friendship with them as well.

Then there’s politics. Many of my friends are pretty much right wing people. By their way of thinking, Obama can do nothing right, illegal immigration one of the worst problems our country faces, second only to the removal of God from schools. So, it is with care if I ever mention that I agree with something Obama did, or I try to correct something someone has said about illegal immigration, or I talk about the separation of church and state. That’s a big one. If you say “separation of church and state” in a right wing crowd, you’re going to offend someone.

So, I try to be politically correct. I’m not trying to be politically correct because I’m a left-winger among a bunch of right-wingers. Far from it. I try to be politically correct because offending people just causes them to raise a wall that removes all hope of having a meaningful discussion. People say that politically correctness is harming our country, but what they mean is that the other side (whoever that is) is trying not to offend some group that deserves to be offended. They never give any thought to their own political correctness. It seems to me that the real problem is bigotry. Again, both sides are quick to call the other bigots. The unfortunate thing is that they are both right; the other side are bigots, unwilling to work toward a common solution.

What’s wrong with being kind to each other? People like to talk about being kind, but their kindness is limited to the people they like. And they don’t like people who tell them they are wrong. They want people to be kind to them, and they’ll be kind to people who agree with them, but that kindness doesn’t extend to anyone else. So, yes, I’m politically correct, and I admit it.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

My Plan For Illegal Immigration

What would I say if I were running for President? Not that it would do me any good to put my hat in the ring, but I look at that big long list of names and see their different ideas about things and I don’t know if I agree with them or not. I think some people choose one they like out of their favorite party and then look for ways to defend whatever nonsense their candidate is saying. And every one of them says nonsense part of the time.

I got into a discussion about illegal immigration. It started because some people in the Republican party have this idea that we don’t have to apply the 14th Amendment to the children of illegal immigrants. Ann Coulter has tried to say it doesn’t apply the Supreme Court ruled that it didn’t give citizenship to Indians. As true as that is, people at that time didn’t see Indians as people, so to apply that same rule to the children of illegal immigrants would require us to believe that they aren’t people because their parents are here illegally, but black people are people, even though their parents weren’t citizens. I can’t go for that. But if I ran for President and someone asked me what my plan for illegal immigration is, what would I say?

1. Close the Border

No plan will work if we continue to have people crossing the border without permission. Given our current state of affairs, something that resembles a fence may be called for on our southern border. Realistically, a physical fence will only make it more difficult to cross the border, no matter who you get to pay for it. People have shown their willingness to climb over and tunnel under. We can’t build a fence that will keep everyone out, but we may be able to increase the chances that law enforcement will catch the people who cross without permission.

2. Prioritize Prosecution

There must be justice. People have violated our laws by either crossing the border illegally or by overstaying their welcome. But when you consider that there are more than 11 million illegal immigrants, it is going to take a long time to work through all the cases. Some people have this idea that we can just round them up like cattle and herd them back across the border. I don’t know that you could do that with cattle, much less people who are smart enough to hide, but we must have due process or risk deporting people who shouldn’t be deported. That will take decades, so let’s prioritize the cases. If someone is involved with serious crime, they should be either sent to prison or deported. Then lesser crimes. Lastly, those people who are adding value to their communities.

3. Reward Work

Some people won’t like this, but I can’t get over the fact that there are more than 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. Some of those have been here for nearly all their lives. For some, the only home they remember is in the United States. It is true that some are a burden on our resources, but there are citizens who are also burdens on our resources. There are illegal immigrants who are benefiting our society, just as there are citizens benefiting our society. In some cases, there are illegal immigrants who are willing to work jobs that US citizens won’t take. They also pay taxes. Aside from being here illegally, they may be law abiding. We may be going to church with some of them. They may be our neighbors. They may be our friends. In those cases where these people are the kind of people who are good for our communities, instead of looking for a way to get rid of 11 million people, let’s reward those who benefit our communities. Instead of deporting all of them, let’s allow those who have been here for at least five years to plead guilty to being here illegally, with the understanding that they will serve 5,000 hours of community service before they may attempt to become a citizen. And then an addition 500 hours per year after that, until they either become a citizen or leave US soil.

4. Work Toward Eliminating the Need for a Border Fence

Have you thought about why we don’t need a fence between the United States and Canada? It isn’t that we don’t have border checkpoints, but there are farmers with land on the border who plow land on both sides of the border. You could be out hunting and step across the border into Canada without realizing it. But we don’t have a bunch of illegal immigrants from Canada, because it isn’t worth the risk. Some people do move from one to the other, but they do it legally, because they’re more likely to be able to get a job that way. But people flow over the Mexican border because the chance of a better life in the United States is much better than where they came from. So let’s look for ways to help these people find ways to get rid of corrupt government, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and whatever else they are fleeing for a better life. I don’t mean just throwing money at the problem, that wouldn’t help, but if the conditions in the countries south of here improve, fewer people will want to leave those countries and we’ll have less difficulty keeping out border closed.

I Can't Forgive Josh Duggar

I can’t forgive Josh Duggar. As you may know, Josh Duggar issued a statement admitting to viewing pornography and to marital infidelity. (The statement about pornography was later removed.) This was on the heels of the data from the Ashley Madison website revealing that Josh Duggar had paid a significant amount of money for access to the site. The news media and the pro-homosexuality crowd were quick to jump, saying, “And these are the people who criticize us for gay marriage.” Their quickness cause some people to question why they had singled him out when there are thousands of other people, and likely other second string celebrities who are in that data. It doesn’t a matter why they latched onto him so quickly, the fact is, they did. And who can blame them? Here is a Baptist who is going around telling people that their sin is wrong, while doing things that are equally sinful. We may say, “A Christian is just a sinner who has been forgiven,” but a lost person hears that and sees a double standard. It confuses those we are trying to reach with the gospel, but that’s not why I can’t forgive Josh Duggar.

That was the reason I didn’t want to forgive him, but not the reason I can’t. When saw his request for forgiveness but also saw lost people pointing out his hypocrisy, I wondered, do we really want to tell the world that their sin is bad, but it’s okay for Christians to sin, as long as they apologize when they get caught? It doesn’t seem like a thing to tell people, but Jesus was clear in Matthew 6:14-15 on the subject of forgiveness. God will only forgive us if we forgive others.

(As an aside, I think it’s interesting that in Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus tells them to fast in secret, not letting people know they are fasting. Wouldn’t it be great if when the world went looking for Christian secrets, instead of finding infidelity, they found a man kneeling in a prayer closet, fasting?)

But if God calls us to forgive, why can’t I forgive Josh Duggar? Because I have nothing to forgive him for. I suppose we could talk about the harm done to society and such, but he didn’t harm me. The Bible talks about forgiving men their trespasses. Jesus said that if a brother sins against you and comes and says, “I repent,” forgive him. Well, Josh Duggar has said the equivalent of “I repent,” but he didn’t sin against me, so I can’t forgive him.

So, who can forgive him? The scribes and Pharisees believed that God alone could forgive sins (Luke 5:21). There is truth to that, because we have no authority to tell God what sins he has to punish. Jesus revealed that he is God by proving his authority to forgive sin (Luke 5:24). But we don’t have that authority. If we did, we could heal people by forgiving them. Look what Jesus did in Luke 5. We seem to think that Jesus didn’t heal the man with palsy until he said, “Rise, take up they bed and walk,” but that’s not what it says. Jesus first said, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” but the Pharisees told him he couldn’t do that. So, Jesus told the man to show them what had just happened. True forgiveness of sin removes the punishment of sin. Only Jesus, who carried our sins to the cross, can remove the punishment of sin, because he experienced that punishment for us.

To a lesser degree, there are people who can forgive Josh Duggar, though I cannot. His wife can forgive him for what he has done to her. His children can forgive him for what he has done to them. His church can forgive him. Will they? Should they? That depends on a number of things, none of which I have sufficient knowledge of to answer.

It’s a little bit like judging. People think that we are judging them if we tell them that what they are doing is wrong. But judgment involves determining the penalty for a person’s crime, not just deciding whether a crime has taken place. If someone admits they’ve done something, whether it is adultery, or homosexual acts, or taking a cookie from the cookie jar without permission, it isn’t judgement to say they did something wrong. But knowing that what they did is wrong doesn’t mean we have the authority to judge them. The penalty for stealing a cookie may be a spanking, but if it isn’t my kid or my cookie jar, it isn’t for me to decide.

I can’t forgive Josh Duggar, but I will encounter people who question why Christians are criticizing homosexuality while being unfaithful to their wives. When Christians do stuff like this, it muddies the water, but it happens. The lost world should be able to look at Christians and see something different, something strange, not just people who are more practiced at hiding their sin. If Josh Duggar is saved, then the Lord has already forgiven him, but that doesn’t mean things will be allowed to continue has they have been. We should have no reservations about using Josh Duggar’s activities as an example of sin. We should not defend those actions just because he says he is a Christian. Our message should be no different. Adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lying, stealing, etc. are sins and those who commit them are worthy of the flames of hell, but the blood of Jesus makes it possible for anyone who puts their trust in him to be forgiven. It is still sin if a Christian does it and them asking for forgiveness is no reason for me to say nothing about it, but the blood of Jesus still makes it possible for the Christian to be forgiven. And it is only the blood of Jesus that makes it possible. That’s why I can’t forgive Josh Duggar.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

An Uncomfortable Topic

The theme for this week has been adultery and pornography. We learned that former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle was taking a plea deal for his involvement with child pornography and having sex with minors. Then the Ashley Madison data breach resulted in us discovering that Josh Duggar has been involved in similar activity, though it isn’t clear whether his was criminal or not. I hadn’t heard of Josh Duggar or the Duggar family until a few weeks ago, when it was revealed that Josh Duggar had fondled some of his sisters. But this thing hits close to home, because the Duggar family looks very much like the families of some of my friends with a house full of kids, home schooled, strict beliefs about modesty, and Baptist. It’s the kind of family that I look at and think that I would have a hard time keeping to the standards that they maintain, but it feels like that, even if it is overkill, the strictness of the rules would prevent this nonsense. But just as the Law could get no one into heaven, rules don’t create righteousness. Rules give us a false sense of being able to hide sin.

This story reminds me of the story of Achan and how the children of Israel were defeated at Ai. They weren’t to take of the spoils of Jericho, but Achan did and hid it in his tent. When they went to take Ai, Ai sent them running like scared dogs. They cast lots to see who had caused the problem and the lot fell on Achan, which is much like what happened with the Ashley Madison data breach. We knew there were people using that site, but we didn’t know who. Now we know. Joshua called for Achan to confess what he had done and Achan did, just as Josh Duggar confessed what he had done, even before people went looking for evidence. Now, in Achan’s case, they stoned him and family. I don’t think we’ll see that happen with Josh Duggar, but just because he has apologized doesn’t mean that he will not and should not face consequences for his actions. When people can just apologize and not face consequences, it creates an attitude that they can do whatever they want, as long as they say, “I’m sorry.”

Part of what is disturbing about this is that it isn’t just one guy hiding something in a tent. We have some dirty little secrets in Christian circles. In all likelihood, there will be other Christians who will be exposed due to the Ashley Madison data breach. I don’t know that I want to go combing through the data, because I might find someone I know. Even if we don’t have people using a hookup website, every church of any significant size will have some people who are addicted to pornography. We know this, but there is a tendency to smile and say, “But Jesus forgives sin.” This is the same attitude that Paul talks about in Romans 6:1-23. Our goal shouldn’t be to show people how forgiving Jesus is, though he is very forgiving. Our goal should be to show the world that we’re different and we don’t have to sin any more. What good is Christianity if instead of freeing people from sin, it just forces them to hide their sin so they fit in?

I’m sure you know 2 Chronicles 7:14 by heart. People often quote that verse when they talk about all the evil that is going on in America. But the Lord isn’t talking about the gay brides or grooms who are suing Christian bakers for not designing a cake for their “weddings”. He’s talking about the Josh Duggars of this world and those of us who are like him. He was talking to Jews, but it can apply to Christians as well. Just like Achan, who hide his sin in his tent, the Lord is talking to Christians who go to church every Sunday, read the Bible, and talk about how sinful the world is, all while they are hiding the fact that they’ve been viewing pornography on their computers at home, that they’ve been reading erotic books, that they’ve been in an adulterous relationship, or beating their wives, or yelling at their children.

It is time for us to do some spiritual stoning (not physical, that will get you put in jail). In Joshua 7:6-9, we see Joshua doing what the Lord calls us to do in 2 Chronicles 7:14. Joshua knew he had a problem, but he didn’t know what it was, so he rent his clothes and sought the Lord’s face. It was only then that the Lord told Joshua how to figure out where the sin was. We also know we have a problem. It seems like Satan is winning, even though he shouldn’t be. Ai shouldn’t have won that first battle, but they did. But like Joshua, at first, we don’t really know who among us is causing the problem. If you go to church on Sunday, you won’t be able to look around the room and say, “That person is viewing pornography. That person is abusing his wife. That person is embezzling money.” We won’t know, because they’re hiding it in their tents. But if we seek the Lord’s face and ask for him to reveal the sin that is hidden within our churches, things will begin to show up. Perhaps it will be revealed in a similar way to how Josh Duggar was exposed. Perhaps it will be something else. And once it is revealed, we need to take action to remove the sin. It may be that we can do that without removing the sinner, but we may have to remove a few people from our churches. Only then can we claim the Lord’s promise to forgive our sin and heal our land.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Christians and Gay Cakes

Where do you draw the line? In recent months, we’ve heard stories of business owners with homosexual customers. They served them like they would any other customer, but then they came in and said, “We would like a cake for our wedding.” The business owners replied, “Gay marriage is against our beliefs, so we can’t do that.” Rather than just going down the street (or I should say, in addition to going down the street) to find someone who would supply the cake, the homosexual customers got mad and sued the business owners. Regardless of where the chips settle in court, where do we Christians draw the line on this?

Let’s suppose we design a cake. It is seven layers with white frosting. We put it in the window of the shop and a customer walks in and says, “I want a cake just like that.” Even though we intended it to be a wedding cake, we don’t know what they’re going to use it for, unless they tell us. It’s a little different if the cake has a man and a woman on top and they say, “I want a cake like that, but I want two men on top.” But is that enough for us to draw the line there? Is there a biblical principle that we would violate by putting two men on top of a wedding cake?

There’s an interesting scene in the Bible. Of course, we know that God hates idolatry and has killed people for worshiping idols. That’s what makes this scene so interesting. You recall the story of Naaman, who was a leper. After much persuasion, he bathed in the Jordon River and was healed. Most people begin to lose interest in the story at that point, but they might remember that Elisha’s servant tried to make a little money on the side of what the Lord had done and ended up with the leprosy. But in the midst of this, Naamon, who is now a believer speaks to Elisha in 2 Kings 5:17-19 and makes a vow to not worship gods other than the Lord, but he asks to be pardoned, because his duties to the king of Syria require him to go with the king to the house of Rimmon and bow before the idol. Elisha’s response: “Go in peace.”

It’s not the response we would expect. Elisha is the heir of the great prophet Elijah and we kind of want him to say, “You tell that king of yours that you aren’t doing that anymore and if he doesn’t like that, I’ll call down fire from heaven to destroy him.” Elisha is the guy for whom a bear killed children who cursed him. Instead, he says, “yalak shalowm”, go in peace. How very different that seems from what we see with Daniel and the three Hebrew children. The king said to bow, and they did not. When a law was passed to prevent Daniel from praying, he opened his window and prayed anyway.

How do we resolve the different ways these men of God reacted? At the heart of it is the gospel. The gospel message was not harmed by Naamon visiting the house of Rimmon with the king. If anything, because Naamon would have the opportunity to tell the king and those around him what had happened when he went to see the prophet of the Lord, people would not think that Naamon worshiped Rimmon. But if Daniel had stopped praying, he would have been sending the message that the king was more important than his God.

So, what of cakes, and floral arrangements? Let’s not go legalistic on this. There may be times when the best option is to refuse, but that may be a missed opportunity to share the gospel. Think about it. A couple comes into the shop for a wedding cake. Whether they are homo or hetero, that is an opportunity to begin talking to them about marriage and how the Lord views marriage. They may not have a different opinion of marriage when they leave and you may not have scared them into finding a different baker, but no homosexual couple should ever leave a Christian baker’s shop without knowing that the baker believes the Lord frowns on the choices they are making in life. But neither should they leave without knowing that Jesus died for their sins.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Kicked Out For Not Tithing?

Who would’ve guessed that you could be kicked out of a church for not tithing? That seems to be the general sentiment of the comments concerning a news story titled 92-year-old Woman Kicked out of Church for Not Tithing. I really have no way of determining whether this was an appropriate action or not, so I won’t address that, but what I find interesting is so many people were quick to criticize the church for this action. Here are some examples:

Dennis A. Gauger - money grubbers, go to another church

Brenda Meggs Turner - That is why Jesus kicked the money changers out of the temple for charging people to worship. This is not God’s Church!!! Read your Bible people!!!

Carolyn Guffey Crain - She doesn’t need that Church’…..A real Bible believing Church would not do that ….

Colbey Newsom - Nonsense!!! No one should ever be kicked out of church..that’s prolly not a Christian church then

Natalie Tabor McPherson - I believe that pastor needs to be removed because he is not a man of God.

It goes on, and on. There are hundreds of these comments and most of them are critical of the church. But on the same day that I saw this story, I read 1 Corinthians 5:12-6:8. Paul is critical of the church at Corinth for taking each other in front of judges outside the church. He tells them to let the least esteemed in the church judge. But that isn’t to say that the least esteemed in the church are better able to judge than some of the other members. Paul is showing them the foolishness of letting people outside the church judge. Even though the least esteemed will also be among those who will judge the world, they aren’t capable of doing that yet. So why would you go to the people the least esteemed are going to judge for judgment? Instead, 1 Corinthians 6:5 suggests that they should find a person of wisdom who is a member of the church.

When I read the comments about that news story I think, “Who are these people to judge that church?” These are the people who are outside the church. Some are members of other churches and some may be Christians who haven’t been taught concerning church discipline, but it is foolishness for outsiders to pass judgment on that church without knowing the facts. The Bible calls for at least two witnesses to bring an accusation. At this point, we have only one.

The church was contacted by the news media and asked to respond, but they did not. Nor should they have. This is a matter of internal church discipline. It would be improper for a church to practice church discipline and then go tell the world about what they have done. At most, they could speak to what their bylaws require of their members and the process they use to remove a member from their roster. But they should not speak concerning this particular case and the news media would make every attempt to persuade them to talk about it. More than that, the news media would probably make them look bad when they didn’t.

I find it disturbing that so many people who appear to be church goers are so quick to jump on this church for removing this woman from their roster. Their reaction is a reminder that we have a big problem in churches. People treat churches like they are a restaurant. They go to church with the expectation that they will get fed from the word of God. They go with the idea that they need to do their duty to worship God. Churches, they believe, have an obligation to provide a mechanism by which they can worship God for about an hour on Sunday. But that type of worship has no significant difference from pagan idol worship. It that is all worship is, you could replace the teachings of Jesus with stories about Zeus, sing songs about Zeus, pray prayers in the name of Zeus, and it would all work out just fine.

So, let me ask you, would you want someone who worships Zeus, or Allah, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster deciding what a church should do? Neither should we listen to those who claim to worship God but see no reason for a church to require its members to participate in the work of the church.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Target and the War on Gender

You’ve probably heard by now that Target is rethinking some of its in-store signage, removing gender based distinctions from toy aisles and children’s bedding. Men’s and women’s clothing will still be separated. It all seems to have started with a Tweet from Abi Bechtel about an aisle that Target labeled as “Building Sets/Girl’s Building Sets” rather than just labeling the aisle “Building Sets.” But now, my Facebook account is all lit up with posts from friends who are infuriated about what Target is doing. They see it as an affront to Christianity, akin to Bruce Jenner asking a church to let him speak from their pulpit.
I’m likely to upset a few of my friends by saying this, but I’m not convinced that this is a battle worth fighting. I don’t agree with self-described feminist Episcopalian Abi Bechtel, and I don’t like it that Target said, “We heard you” when they didn’t even ask me what I thought about it. But in the end, what can we hope to accomplish with this battle? If Target had just quietly removed the labels without issuing a press release would anyone have noticed?
Some people see this as taking the doctrine of Bruce Jenner and forcing it down Christian’s throats. Their view is that if we don’t take a stand against this then they’ll force other ungodly stuff on us. I understand that point of view, but what thing of value do we accomplish if we win this battle?
The only way I see to win this battle is to have enough clout to convince Target to reverse their decision. It started with a Tweet from Abi Bechtel and it was retweeted about 3,000 times, and there’s no telling how many times Target was contacted using other methods, giving them the impression that this mattered to their customers. If this is about keeping the customer happy, then it’s possible that a bunch of people complaining about their decision will result in a reversal. But it isn’t like we really need a sign to tell us that a pink package of Legos with a Disney princess on it is probably for girls and the others are probably for boys. So, what we would really accomplish is to send a message that says, “don’t mess with Christians.”
Now, let me ask you this: Have you ever seen someone accept Christ because Christians boycotted a store? Do you think that if we throw our weight around and convince Target to leave the signs alone that the executives that made the decision will say, “I see the error of my ways; I repent and I want to ask Jesus to save me?” Do you think that our successfully persuading Target to leave the signs alone will persuade Abi Bechtel or those who follow her that they are sinners and need to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior? I think not. So, why waste our time with this battle?
Target doesn’t claim to be a Christian organization, so it shouldn’t surprise us that they do things that aren’t what many Christians would like for them to do. You can buy Bibles and other Christian books at Target, but you can also buy a statue of Buddha. They aren’t trying to make a political statement with those things, they’re just stocking their shelves with the things their customers will buy. We would do well to consider that carefully, because Target’s customers are our friends and neighbors. Remember that skimpy two piece bathing suit that you saw on display at Target this spring? If you go look, you’ll probably see it in the summer vacation photos a friend posted on Facebook. You know those posts asking Target to change their signs? Go check your friends’ Tweets and you may see a few. The battle we ought to be fighting isn’t over how Target should label their signs. The battle we ought to be fighting is over the hearts and minds of our friends. If we get gender specific signs at Target but our friends go to hell, what have we won?