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Category Archives: religion

I know how unfair it is that innocent Palestinian people have lost their land and wealth and even their lives.  I know that many of them have legal titles to land that has been confiscated, keys to buildings that they rightfully owned which have been taken from them.  I don’t know firsthand but I have read that the Israeli authorities permit assassinations and destruction of private property.

But here’s another thing I know:  I know that “There is no Israel” is the road to ruin.  There is an Israel, like it or not.  “There is no Israel” is a slogan that makes some people feel good but it isn’t true and it never will be true again.  There are millions of people living in Israel who are not going to give up their land, and the only way to get rid of them would be to desecrate the land by killing every single one of them.

The real problem in Israel/Palestine isn’t land.  It’s alienation.  It’s that a large minority on one side says “There is no Israel” and a large minority on the other side says “There is no Palestine” and those minorities are loud enough and powerful enough to drown out the reasonable majority.  This video is proof of that.

Until there’s dialogue there will never be a solution.

Steve McNair is dead, evidently courtesy of a murderous mistress.

Steve “Air” McNair was a very good (not great) quarterback who played football in the NFL for 13 years.  As a good professional football payer with a very long career, McNair made a lot of money.  So much money did McNair make, in fact, that he was able to create a parallel life for himself.  So while all the world thought that McNair was a model citizen, a community hero, a good husband and devoted father, the Nashville police are now revealing that (with a friend) he had leased a townhouse where he arranged rendezvous with a female “companion.”

Shooting the breeze with a friend yesterday, I made the offhand remark that “I wouldn’t set up a double-life like that for myself, even if I could.”  “Yeah,” said my friend, “You’ve got to be able to live with yourself.”

This exchange has been on my mind ever since.  I’ve been contemplating how it is that smart and successful people like McNair can fool themselves into thinking that they can successfully live a double-life like the one he had allegedly set up.  On a more philosophical level, I’ve been pondering what principles, had they been present in McNair’s heart and soul, would have precluded his finding himself in the tragic position in which he ended.  I’ve boiled my thoughts down to a few core principles, and I hope that I can communicate them to the reader without sounding too sanctimonious.

  • Don’t mistake a lifestyle for a life.  We live in a superficial society, in an age when many of the most desirable commodities and sought-after experiences are available in “virtual” form.  We believe that image is more important than substance, and we pursue hedonistic pleasure with dogged determination.  It’s no wonder that many people have fooled themselves into believing they can be a total wreck on the inside and yet be happy, as long as they can maintain a particular lifestyle.
  • Don’t be a slave to the flesh.  A Biblical principle that has been left by the wayside by most of the world, this item goes hand-in-hand with the first one.  When we pursue animalistic pleasure we become irredeemably like animals.  At the other extreme, total and encompassing self-denial serves no constructive purpose.  Self-control and moderation are the watchwords here.
  • Be what you appear to be.  McNair has left behind a grieving widow, four fatherless sons, and tens of thousands of fans who had honestly believed that he was really the heroic figure he appeared to be.  His agent, who had helped him to create the ‘good guy’ image, claims to be as stunned as anyone that McNair had leased a second home and had a kept woman on the side.  McNair must have taken great care to conceal this deception from the public, but it’s no secret now.
  • Do the right thing for the right reason.  This is the one which, as the father of three little boys, I think about every single day.  As a father, I’m all too aware of the aspect of human nature that is concerned with getting away with things.  When correcting my sons I frequently ask them this question: “Do you know why you shouldn’t [insert transgression here]?”  Almost as often as I ask the question, I receive the answer, “Because I’ll get in trouble.”  That’s also the first response to formulate in the minds of most adults, but it isn’t the right answer.  The right answer is, “Because it’s wrong.”  Yes, there are such things as right and wrong; we should do the right thing because it’s right, and we should refrain from doing what we know is wrong just because it ain’t right.  Why is this moral precept so important to me?  Because I believe (and history shows) that the absence of this kind of morality results in people doing what’s right only when they have to, and doing things that are wrong whenever they think they can get away with it.  And that is as sure a recipe for heartbreak as you will ever find.

On Tuesday morning my wife and I (and both of her parents, and my mom) all crammed ourselves into an ultrasound room at the local clinic. About ten minutes into the ultrasound session our technician announced that she was having a technical problem and excused herself from the room. She returned about ten minutes later with a doctor who regretfully informed us that our baby had no heartbeat and was dead.

The next morning my wife and I walked into the birthing center at our hospital, and after about eighteen hours my wife had given birth to a “fetus” which had survived to about seventeen weeks gestation before dying due to a knotted umbilical cord. It’s one of those things that happen, just a “luck of the draw” sort of thing, and absolutely not preventable.

After the birth was completed the doctor and nurses left us alone with our baby.

At first neither of us wanted to hold the little angel. He had been dead in the womb for possibly as long as three weeks and we were afraid of what we would see. But after about a half hour our hearts were breaking and he was just on the other side of the room, so we decided to hold him. Here’s what we saw.

A face…eyes, nose, mouth.

A well-formed head…with hair.

A thin and damaged body, but one with arms, legs, hands, feet, ten perfect little fingers, and ten perfect little toes.

Today (Saturday) my wife was out and about in the neighborhood and saw a car cruising along the boulevard sporting a pro-choice bumper sticker. She tells me that she barely resisted the temptation to use her minivan as a weapon. I can’t say that I would have demonstrated such restraint.

That perfect little 5.6 ounce, 8-inch long baby of ours illustrated something to me, something I have always believed but could never state with authority. Now I can. Unborn babies are people. They aren’t just a collection of undifferentiated cells waiting for the touch of biological magic to turn them into humans; they are helpless little human beings with the capacity to live a life as long as they are given the opportunity. They are loved by God and they should be loved by their parents. And no doctor ever ought to do to an unborn baby what unlucky chance did to ours.

Thanks for reading.

Recently I read Andrei Markovits’ interesting and challenging book, Uncouth Nation – Why Europe Dislikes America.  Then this morning in church I had the opportunity to listen to a sermon based on the 73rd Psalm.  What connection could there possibly be between these two texts?

Uncouth Nation, if I may provide a ridiculously short summary, explains the why and the how of Europe’s centuries-long dislike for the United States.  Markovits offers a number of reasons for this antipathy; some are plausible and others, I might say, seem stretched.

The 73rd Psalm is a confession from the writer (Asaph, the king’s poet and minister of music) about how he was nearly undone by his fixation with the worldly success of arrogant and careless men.  Perhaps my interpretation of this psalm is the result of having read Markovits’ book.  Read a sample and see whether any of this rings a bell:

…[the arrogant and the wicked] have no struggles;

Their bodies are healthy and strong.

They are free from the burdens

common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.

Therefore pride is their necklace;

They clothe themselves with violence.

From their callous hearts comes iniquity;

the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.

They scoff, and speak with malice;

In their arrogance they threaten oppression.

They lay claim to heaven,

And their tongues take possession of the earth.

…This is what the wicked are like – always carefree, they increase in wealth.

 Psalm 73 verses 4 through 7, and 12

Oddly, I don’t remember ever reading this passage before.  What strikes me about it now, entirely apart from its spiritual significance (which is great), is that this is exactly how much of the world views Americans!  What we Americans see as a virtue (confidence, a positive attitude) is construed by others as arrogance or self-superiority.  “Psychotically optimistic” was the expression that one BBC reporter used to describe American combat troops who he met in Iraq.  This description may have seemed all the more apt to the writer in light of what he knew (or thought he knew) about the American psychological makeup.

More specifically, this passage could be (probably  has been) related to our former president, George W. Bush.  His relentless optimism and determined can-do attitude, which inspired such admiration in some people, has offended the sensibilities and turned the stomachs of many more.

Obviously this passage of scripture has all got me thinking about politics, as I am prone to do.  It’s got me thinking about the difference between reality and interpretation.  Maybe what W needed in the White House was an attitude czar; someone to help him moderate his language and his attitude to avoid offending our friends and allies.  After all, the US population comprises only about one-twentieth of the world’s population, and that means that if we have no friends, we are badly outnumbered.  Maybe what W needed more, what we Americans all need, is to remember that much of the world’s population views us Americans as the winners of life’s lottery, born lucky and determined to remain oblivious.  A little bit of accommodation and a lot of genuine humility is in order if we wish to reverse the worldwide trend that sees us that way.

A while back I spent a weekend as a guest at the house of some friends.  While I was there, another of their friends came to visit for the afternoon, a woman whose adult son is gay.

This lady, whom I have met perhaps a dozen times over ten years, wanted to talk about religion and sexuality.  Knowing myself and desiring to stay out of the conversation, I busied myself watching some sporting event on television in the living room, which happens to be attached to the kitchen, which is where this conversation was taking place.

This is what I heard.

“Most people think that the Bible says homosexuality is immoral, but they’re wrong…It’s like an urban myth.  The Bible doesn’t say that it’s wrong to be gay.  What it really says is…oh, I wish I had a Bible.  I would show you what it says.”  My friends, evidently not wanting to further incite her, didn’t volunteer the fact that in fact they do possess a Bible, and that it was within easy fetching distance.

Possibly encouraged by the apparent absence of a Bible, the visitor went on.  “I could show you, if you had a Bible, that the passages that most people think are anti-gay are actually not so.  They’re ambiguous.  They could mean anything, but people interpret them the way they want to.  It’s just that people have always heard that it’s wrong to be gay, but the Bible doesn’t say that.  The truth is, God just wants us to love one another, so as long as two people love each other, who can judge them?”

I wanted to speak up.  How curious I was!  I wanted to ask this visitor to show me that part of the Bible that has been misunderstood these many centuries.  I also wanted her to show me where in the Bible it is written that God only wants people to love each other, and doesn’t care who we give our love to, or how we give it.  But I also wanted to stay the rest of the weekend at this house, and I also wanted to be invited back.  So I held my tongue.

But here’s my pain.  I know what the Bible says about homosexuality.  I don’t know every word of the Bible, and I don’t understand everything I read in it – I’m no great scholar.  But I am a Christian who has studied and read the Bible.  So I understand both the content and the context of the Bible’s statements on homosexuality. 

And what does the Bible really say about this subject?

What God thinks about homosexuality:

“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.  Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it.  A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.  Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways…” Leviticus 18:22-24

Is homosexuality an example of perversion?

“Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.  In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.  Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” Romans 1:27

Can one be a homosexual and enter the kingdom of heaven?

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And that is what some of you were.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  I Corinthians 6:9-11

What is the Biblical model for marriage?  (note: these passages speak of the qualifications for a church overseer, deacon, or elder; the virtues which he must exhibit.  In so doing, they reveal the design for marriage.)

“Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…” I Timothy 3:2

“A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well.” I Timothy 3:12

“An elder must be blameless, the husband of one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobient.” Titus 1:6

Can one be a Christian and engage in sexual immorality?

“…among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.  Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.  For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person…has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”  Ephesians 5:3-5

The Good News:

But here’s the good news for anyone who is tempted to act out behaviors that are wrong: temptation is not the same thing as sin.  What do I mean by this?  I mean that even Jesus was subjected to temptation.  Read the gospel of Matthew.  “Then [following his baptism] Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.   The tempter came to him and said…” (Matthew 4:1,2)

So we can see that being tempted to do wrong isn’t wrong in itself; it’s when we fail to resist temptation that we sin.  And we can always resist temptation: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (I Corinthians 10:13)  The problem that most of us have is that we don’t want to resist temptation – we want to indulge in the behaviors and pleasures that have been forbidden to us here on earth.  The underlying reason is that we have a short view of our own future.  Most of us don’t live with eternity in view, nor with our own old age in view.  In fact, most people don’t even look five years or one year down the road; usually we’re focused only on the here and now.  That’s why James, the brother of Jesus, wrote with unusual frankess: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.  Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?  But he gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’  Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Grieve, mourn and wail.  Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:4-10)  Later, almost poetically, James puts our lives in perspective: “…you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)

Conclusion:

If you identify yourself as a gay person and you have read this far, then I thank you.  You have done more than I could have asked or expected of you, because this article includes a lot of plainly spoken truth that could have repelled you.  And as you may suspect, I’m not subject to your particular temptation, and I can’t speak to you as one who has been through your trials.  But like you, I am a human being, and we’re all essentially the same.  We are all in danger of being seduced by alluring and provocative temptations, and yet we all live under the same reality: We are loved and desired by a jealous God who will forgive all our imperfections if we put our sins behind us and trust Him.  Jesus said to one who was sincere and humble, “Your sins are forgiven.  Now go and sin no more.”  He loves you as much as he loved that woman 2000 years ago and he would do the same thing for you.

John McCain wasn’t originally my guy – I was a Huckabee man in the primaries – but I’m proud to have voted for such a great and accomplished American for president.  In his concession speech McCain showed that he possesses class and self-possession that Barack Obama can only dream of.

You can expect this blog to remain mostly silent for the foreseeable future, but I remain a committed supporter of conservative Republican principles.  There will be postings from time to time and I’ll use this blog as an outlet for my philosophical murmurings when my wife gets tired of listening to me.  Most of all, I’ll be watching and waiting for Mike Huckabee to signal his intentions with regard to 2012.

Pray for Barack Obama.  He’s our president for the next four years and there’s nothing to do now but hope for the best.

I am a born-again, Bible-believing, evangelical Christian man from the midwestern United States.  Tonight, before turning out my bedsight light, I was reading a book called The Heavenly Man.  The Heavenly Man is an autobiographical account of the life of a Chinese Christian known as Brother Yun.  Brother Yun is fond of quoting a scripture for every situation he encounters, and while reading his book tonight I happened upon a passage of scripture that intrigued me.  Wanting to read more of it, I looked it up and read some of the surrounding text as well.  I should say right up front that despite my faith and trust in Jesus Christ, I don’t read my Bible as much as I should, so what I share with you here, I share as a layman and as a fellow believer, not as a teacher or a preacher.

The Biblical book of Revelation is perhaps the most misunderstood (or misinterpreted) of the books of the Christian Bible.  I can say this despite my own limited and imperfect understanding, because anyone who will look can see the conflicting understandings and interpretations of its text which exist in the modern church; it just can’t mean everything that people think it means.  It’s doubtful that any of the other Biblical texts have been interpreted in so many conflicting fashions.

But one of the beautiful aspects of the book of Revelation is the messages to the seven churches of Asia, which are present in chapters 2 and 3.  At the time of its writing, the so-called seven churches of Asia were the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

These messages were written specifically to each church: a unique message for each of the seven churches named, each message tailored to the character of each church, its strengths and weaknesses.  For instance, the first message in the series was written to the church in Ephesus and acknowledges first the virtues of that church: hard work and perseverance, a refusal to tolerate wicked men, and discernment of which apostles were true and which were not.  And yet there is also a shortcoming in this church: it had lost the fervor with which it had originally embraced the Gospel.  “I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love…Repent and do the things you did at first.”

To each church an edifying word was sent, first praising the virtues and then pointing out the particularly grievous sin or shortcoming of that particular group of believers.

The reason I got out of bed to write this message to you tonight is found in the message to the church in Sardis.  When I happened upon this passage tonight I was struck by its perfection in describing the evangelical Christian community in North America.

“I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up!  Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent.  But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” (Revelation 3:1-3)

I won’t waste your time by attempting to interpret this passage for you.  Its potential application to the complacent and self-satisfied modern evangelical church in North America seems so obvious to me, I’m going to trust that upon meditation you will also find it speaks to you.

Wake up, Christians!  Please share your thoughts by commenting below.

That’s it, I’ve convinced myself.  Not only to the point of certainty, but so much so that I’m convinced that my certainty is certainly justified: Tim Pawlenty is going to be John McCain’s running mate in 2008.

John McCain with future vice president Tim Pawlenty

John McCain with future vice president Tim Pawlenty

Pawlenty is a conservative Evangelical Christian with a compelling “poor-boy-makes-good” story, legislative and executive experience, and a good reputation.  He’s been elected as a conservative twice in a majority-liberal state, and he’s quick with an answer and (usually) clever with a quip.  Pawlenty has been a personal friend of McCain for more than twenty years, he has been a loyal McCain supporter since the very beginning of McCain’s campaign (he was the co-chair of McCain’s exploratory committee) and he stuck with McCain even during the darkest hours of the campaign when his staff was abandoning him for Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson.

It seems that lately the chatter about potential Republican veep candidates has centered around the runner-up and second runner-up in the Republican contest, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney.  But neither man is likely to get the nod.

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee

Despite frequent praise and compliments during the campaign, McCain isn’t going to name Mike Huckabee because Huckabee is scorned by the fiscal conservative establishment and the East Coast intellectual class.

And despite the demands of the fiscal conservative establishment, McCain isn’t going to name Mitt Romney because he already knows that Romney is a man without honor – and honor is important to McCain.  Romney is a plastic man, a man without principles, who only turned conservative in his late fifties when he began to eye the White House.  Besides, Romney wrote the book on how to waste millions of dollars while losing an election.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney

Pawlenty will be a darling of conservative Christians and he can pick up many of the Southern voters who would otherwise have voted for Huckabee.  Pawlenty came from humble roots (unlike Romney) to put himself through college and law school (unlike Romney) and has legislative experience (unlike Romney).  Like Romney, Pawlenty ran for governor in a liberal state and won, but he did it by campaigning as a conservative (unlike Romney).

It would be a great public relations gift for McCain to announce Pawlenty as his running mate at the national convention in St Paul – the capital of the state that Pawlenty has been governing since 2002; the networks would have a irresistible opportunity to fawn over a new name and a fresh face in an adoring environment.

If you happened to watch McCain on Jay Leno’s show on August 25, you saw him praise Pawlenty (when Leno asked specifically about Pawlenty) by calling him a great governor with whom he has ideals and principles in common.

Final clue that McCain plans to pick Pawlenty: Pawlenty has already been designated as a featured speaker on the final day of the Republican convention.  Seriously, John McCain, this is no way to keep a secret!

Read this instead: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,395081,00.html