The recent revelations of John Crist’s moral failure, addiction, and abuse of power while building a public platform under the banner of “Christian entertainer” is going to function as a placeholder for a lot of other stories of scandal in church leadership that have taken the news cycle by storm in the past few years.
My goal is not to malign Mr. Crist (who has himself confessed to egregious moral failure) or aggrandize anyone else. My goal is to take an honest look at the state of the church in the United States right now, at least in how it is responding to public sin or failure.
When And How Should Christians Publicly Fight For Their Faith?
I have been wrestling with this for a while. The Bible clearly calls Christians to be “salt” that adds spiritual savor, to be “light,” that casts the light of truth and hope into a sin-darkened world (Matthew 5:13-16). How do we do this well? What does the proverbial “word fitly spoken” look like? What is within our power to do to make sure we do not lose the savoriness of our salty message? How do we use our freedoms in a democratic system to best represent Christ and spread the life of the Kingdom of God?
The Means Define Who You Are In The End: Why "He Fights" Does Not Deserve The Applause Of Christians
So, Christians are cheering "using the tactics" of a book of "such pure evil" that it is dedicated to Lucifer.  And this is okay because - what, desperate times call for desperate measures? This is baffling to me.
From Hurricane Forecast Molehills To Sharpie Mountains
The incident: the President tweeted a map of hurricane Dorian that had been altered with a Sharpie so that the projected path impacted Alabama. Why does this matter?
Did ICE Solve Local Unemployment Problems By Arresting Illegal Immigrants In Mississippi?
I have seen a number of articles and conversations about how the ICE raid in Mississippi of the chicken processing plants opened up jobs for locals by getting illegal immigrants out of the employment mix.
I offer the following information to bring some clarity to a number of issues swirling around this topic. I'm not trying to make an argument per se in this post. My goal is to present the context surrounding the situation.
Clarifying Some Mass Shooting Statistics
I am not providing commentary on recent events or gun control. These are just facts I have found in the past couple days that I thought were interesting, and were just a little more nuanced than all the memes sliding through my Facebook feed.
Why Christians Think Sex And Marriage Are A Big Deal
I am going to offer a succinct presentation of why the church has historically drawn fairly specific boundaries around issues of sex, marriage and sexuality. I don’t expect everyone to agree.
The Cultural Creed Of The Unhomed
If I’m honest, I’m not sure where I fit in anymore.
When I look around to see who is my political neighbor, I realize I’m in a land triangulated between the liberal Left, conservative Right, and those chaotic Libertarians. I didn’t feel like the 2016 presidential candidates from any of those three parties represented my moral universe adequately enough to get my vote. I cringe at CNN and Fox in equal measure. I increasingly feel that it is important for me not to be beholden to a “side” culturally or politically.
I’m just not the kind of guy who can say, “This party or person, do or die.”
So I increasingly find myself wandering uneasily in the topography of a world that seems intent on filling in all the Valleys full of Gray Uncertainty and leveling all the Hills of Important Nuance.
Vaccines And Autism
I've been looking up vaccine rates and autism rates around the world since that topic just can't seem to leave my news feed. I enjoy doing research on issues like this if for no other reason than I am interested in the truth.
It's Not About The Zombies. It's About Us.
I was talking with a friend recently about monsters and the prevalence of zombies on our screens. For better or worse, this got me thinking. There are three types of fantasy monsters that keep recurring in our cultural storytelling: vampires, werewolves, and zombies. The history of these legends and the ways in which the stories change over time is a fascinating study on its own. I’m more interested about what is happening right now in American culture, and what our take on the stories - particularly the zombie genre - reveals about us.
If We Want To Be Taken Seriously
The list of people I know who are leaving the church or questioning their faith during the past several years is growing. The reason they give is consistent. It's not a growing doubt because of an intellectual struggle; they lose interest in Jesus because they have experienced the people of Jesus, and they begin to think, "If this is what Christian transformation into the image of Jesus looks like, I'm not interested."
Loving Well In An Unwell World
The world is not well. Neither are we. This is probably nothing new. Maybe I'm just noticing it and feeling it more than I have before.
Is there an answer? I think there is: love. This sounds trite; even as I say it, I've got pop songs that make me laugh or cringe running through my head.
One Pastor's Thoughts On Teaching The Bible In Public Schools
I’m an evangelical pastor. I taught in a Christian school for twenty years, and I have taught an introductory Bible class for a Christian college for the past several years. I love the Bible, and I love the literary aspects of the Bible. It may seem odd, then, that I am uncomfortable with the idea of a Bible class being taught as literature in public schools. I will give you my reasons; I welcome your feedback and discussion.
Toxic Men, Toxic Women, And The Toxic Cultures That Nourish Them
Gillette, in an oddly incongruous act of virtue signaling  - or, more generously, cause marketing - has recently released a controversial ad about what has been called "toxic masculinity."
Jerry, Jeffress and Jesus
On January 1, Joe Heim published an interview with Jerry Falwell entitled“Jerry Falwell Jr. can’t imagine Trump ‘doing anything that’s not good for the country.’” Last week, Robert Jeffress made headlines for defending President Trump’s wall by comparing it to Heaven’s wall. I am offering a response if for no other reason than to let those outside evangelical circles know that these two men do not speak for all of us, and that their application of biblical principles is suspect at best and deeply problematic at worst.
"Gotta Be Who You Are In This World": Some Thoughts On Purpose
There's a scene at the beginning of The Equalizer where a young lady named Teri asks Robert (The Equalizer) what happens in Hemingway’s story, "The Old Man and the Sea." Robert tells her that the old man catches the fish. She asks, "Why didn't he just let the fish go?" Robert replies, "Old man's gotta be the old man. Fish has got to be the fish. Gotta be who you are in this world, no matter what."
A Presidential Christmas Proclamation Quiz
The claim is going around that President Trump has returned "Merry Christmas," a phrase apparently verboten for some time, to the White House. Is this true? In the interest of pursuing truth, I ask that you take a little quiz about which one of our last four presidents said the following things on the occasion of Christmas or the lighting of the Christmas tree. I'm not trying to make any type of political point. My interest is in knowing truth.
The Birthday of the Sun/Son: How Saturnalia Became Christmas, Saint Nicholas Became Santa, And A Holiday Became A War
How did Christmas start? Why do we celebrate the way we do? What do all the symbols mean? Is it a Christian holiday or not? Why is there a "war" every year? And should there be?For better or worse, here is my attempt to sort through the history of this popular holiday. Keep in mind that there is a LOT of competing information out there about the history of Christmas. I have worked to find the truth, but my presentation is only as good as my sources, which I hope are reliable.
Some Thoughts On Natural Disasters And The Mind Of God
As America recovers from yet another massive natural disaster – or “act of God,” in insurance company lingo - the inevitable question resurfaces in Christian circles: Why is God crying? What is God angry about? Why does it his some and not others? What did we do or not do right? I've written about this before, but I want to revisit this based on some conversation I know is taking place in Christian circles.
Reaping The Whirlwind
I was raised to believe that we reap what we sow. This does not mean that our history is our destiny in the sense that we can never rise above or move past things we have done in the past; it was simply an observation about how life unfolds. The Old Testament prophet Hosea raised the stakes even higher: “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7). In context, it seems to say that those who sow foolishness will reap disaster. What comes back to haunt us may be unfair in that the penalty will be disproportionate to the wrongdoing, but, once again, that’s how life unfolds.
One of the things that strikes me in the Kavanaugh hearings is how we are seeing the principle unfold before our eyes.
Crime And The Statistics That Clarify (Or Distort) The Issue
As the popular phrase goes, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. So just for the sake of being better informed, I started diving into the numbers. Unfortunately, as I discovered, the statistics can sometimes be the thing that creates the problem. Here, with no further ado, are some things worth knowing about crime in the United States.
Are White Farmers Being Genocidally Killed In South Africa? In A Word, No.
The question of how white South African are being treated has been in the news quite a bit lately. Specifically, I’ve seen the claim that there is a form of genocide being committed on white farmers.
South Africa has a crime problem, and that includes a high murder rate. No one disputes this. The question is if the murder rate in particular reveals that a white population (specifically white farmers) is being targeted.
Economic Trends Even People Like Me Can Understand
All the recent discussion of the U.S. economy has piqued my interest in an area that is notoriously hard to understand. Who gets credit, and why? How easy is it to establish cause and effect? As I have been researching, I am struck by how one can paint remarkably contrasting views of the economy by isolating particular areas, or particular time frames. To get an idea of how we are doing overall, we need to see the Big Picture set in the context of our history. Before I get to some specifics on both those things, a few thoughts that have lingered with me as I have been reading.
The Problem With Planned Parenthood's "Unstoppable" Campaign
Let Them Bake Cake: Pastries, Supreme Courts, And Same-Sex Marriage (4 Parts - follow the links)
The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 this week in favor of Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Bakeshop in Colorado, who declined to craft a customized wedding cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony. It was a "narrow" ruling that really sets no precedent, as it focuses on the process rather than the position.
In the posts to follow, I plan to address three unresolved questions, then offer some thoughts about the Christian community's response to this issue.
The Fall Of Thresholds And The Rise Of Slow-Motion, Ever-Evolving Riots
"What if the way to explain the school-shooting epidemic is to go back and use the Granovetterian model—to think of it as a slow-motion, ever-evolving riot, in which each new participant’s action makes sense in reaction to and in combination with those who came before?"
What Makes Me Proud Of The American Church
In the midst of my ecclesiastical gloom and doom, a good friend challenged me last week to rethink my pessimism. Is my ever-present negativity doing justice to the reality of the 'boots on the ground" experience of the Christians I know? Well, not really. And is it doing justice to the Big Picture of the Christian presence in culture?
The Wolf, The President, And The Roast
But the response to Ms. Wolf's routine has highlighted a glaring inconsistency. Supporters of President Trump were (rightly) offended at how Ms.Wolf referred to the President and women in the administration. But...there's the problem. The President himself has set the tone.
Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) And The Bills That Ban Them
California is in the news because of AB 2943, a bill which bans the business of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE). The state's argument is that the claim to be able to change sexual orientation constitutes fraud. This bill is not limited to the professionals who offer it; anyone who advertises and offers SOCE in exchange for money is guilty of fraud.
There are lots of questions worth asking about this move to outlaw SOCE itself rather than simply prohibiting licensed professionals from offering it. Will conferences that promote this or bookstores that sell related materials now also be engaging in fraudulent business practices?
The Sky Is Not Falling: Truth, Peace, And Integrity In Times Of Distortion And Fear
A popular online news source recently posted an article that asked how long we will be allowed to remain Christians. It was a serious question the author had received from a friend. I don't question his friend's sincerity, but I do wonder what has led him to believe there is a legitimate reason to fear that Christian faith will be outlawed. We will get to some particular cases that have been in the news, but first the big picture.
A Defense of Missouri's Proposed Abortion Restrictions
Considering all the noise about Missouri's attempt to outlaw abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy, I figured it is worth taking the opportunity to look at more closely at how the facts of fetal development argue for more restrictive abortion limits in the interest in protecting unborn human persons.
The Biblical Commands Concerning Aliens And Strangers (Refugees And Immigrants)
Fellow Christians, let's talk about refugees and immigrants, legal and illegal. This is not about the laws of America. They are fallible; they may be just (they often are) or unjust (sometimes that too). Empires make mistakes, and let's not kid ourselves - America is an empire of mankind, not the kingdom of God.
This post is about the biblical language surrounding those who are 'other'; specifically, what our hearts should feel and our hands should do in response to immigrants and refugees, legal and illegal.
Our Guns, Our Culture, And Our Hearts
Like everyone else, I am bothered by the prevalence of gun violence in the United States. Most conversations I have witnessed have devolved very quickly into emotional outbursts and meme-level talking points. This is my attempt to offer a meaningful addition to the conversation. Though I have attempted to do my homework, I don't expect you to substitute this for your own research. I welcome any thoughtful comments or links you would like to add to this conversation.
Thinking About Illegal Immigration As A Citizen Of Heaven
I am not here to offer the final word on this issue. Shoot, this probably won't be my own final thoughts on this very complex issue. I've just recently been spending a lot of time thinking about ways in which I can tend to view life with the principles and values of the nation in which I live vs. the principles and values of the Kingdom of God, which is where my ultimate citizenship and allegiance lies.
As a result, I've been reading a lot about how Christians are processing the illegal immigration issue. It's no secret we Christians are all over the map in how we believe we should respond. What I offer here is an attempt to do justice to two distinct sides on this issue, express some thoughts about the intersection of justice and mercy, and offer a solution that I hope offers a vision of how the church could change the world for our good and God's glory.
P.T. Barnum, Cat People, and Our Legacy Of Exploitation
P.T. Barnum has been in the news again because of The Greatest Showman, a movie which has been getting some pretty harsh criticism not so much because of the movie as a movie but because of the man celebrated in it. Barnum hired ‘freaks', many of whom were forced into the work as children, and profited greatly from them, which was not uncommon at the time. He was probably a better man than many at the time; I did not read that he forced anyone into this. However, he eagerly bought out contracts and hired children as young as 5 to join his show. Even if he is better by comparison, that's a far cry from declaring him good.
It's Time To Talk About The Purpose Of Sex
So, sex and purpose. What could possible go wrong in this discussion? I don’t expect everyone reading this to agree with me, but I do ask that you give serious consideration to these thoughts – and then, if you wish to offer serious thoughts in agreement or opposition, feel free!
Empires, Shires, And Incense To Ceasar
I have been reading The Benedict Option, a book by Rod Dreher that generated quite a bit of discussion after it was released just over a year ago. I'm trying to think clearly about the argument he is making, which is basically that "the culture war as we know it is over," and the church needs to focus on building strong communities that learn from and build on Benedict's monastic model.
First, is consent sufficient to grant moral goodness to any sexual act? After all, we don't simply assume that consent equates with morality or goodness other situations. Two people can agree to kill or cannibalize each other. The fact that they consented hardly makes it a good thing. One can certainly make a morally neutral act bad by coercion, but one can’t make a morally bad act acceptable simply by agreeing to have it done or by giving permission to do it. In terms of sexual activity, the goodness of an act can never include anything less than consent, but it must include more. Consent is necessary, but not sufficient.
Moving Into The Neighborhood
The early followers of Christ often took an approach to spreading the Good News of the gospel that was not only counter-cultural to the Roman and Greek way of life, but was countercultural to how the church today often handles the uneasy tension between the church and society. The early church wanted to reach their cities – they cared about them, after all - but they lived in places where they were surrounded by a lot of really bad stuff.
The early followers of Christ decided that the best way to communicate the Gospel was to enter the current cultural stream and divert it to Christ’s ends. They didn’t move out of the neighborhood; they moved even more deeply into it. As a result, we see some interesting intersections of church and culture, a tradition with a history in the Old Testament as well.
Is It Statistically Safer To Have An Abortion Rather Than Give Birth?
Planned Parenthood Black Community recently posted on Twitter: “If you are a black woman in America, it’s statistically safer to have an abortion than to carry a pregnancy to term or give birth #scarystats.“
According to commonly cited stats, all pregnant women are statistically safer having an abortion than giving birth, though the degree of safety falls on a sliding scale. The rate of maternal death in the United States is lowest for white women and highest for black women, with pregnant women of other races or ethnicities landing somewhere in the middle.
I want to address this question: is it statistically safer for a pregnant woman in the United States to have an abortion than to carry a baby to term or give birth?
When Men Become Monsters
The Harvey Weinstein scandal is calling attention to a lot of important issues, so I want to be sure we don't overlook this one: we have a sexually broken moral ecosystem in the United States. While both men and women are are impacted, women are bearing the brunt in overwhelming numbers as morally monstrous men increasingly exert their power to use and abuse. How did we get here? What are the causes? What can we do to address it?
The Plague Of Porn
It is not a victimless crime. Someone always pays a price. Don't take my word for it; read the links. There's a lot of them, but there's probably not enough that can be said about the seriousness of this issue.
Harvey, Irma And Global Warming: The Facts From Experts Whose Opinions Matter More Than Mine Or Yours
I figured it was time for some research. I looked for national and international agencies, think tanks, meteorologists and climatologists. I did not try to avoid anything or confirm a particular bias. As far as I know, what I have to offer represents the mainstream or consensus scientific view. I know "consensus" is a dirty word in some circles, but if it's good enough to give force to the global warming argument, it should be good enough to give weight to this topic as well.
The United States And Gun Violence: What's A Problem, What's Not, And What To Do About It
I would like to offer some facts about gun violence and ownership in the United States (with plenty of links!), and then make a recommendation on what we can do as a culture that aligns with what has been observed in other Western countries wrestling with what to do about this problem.
Omens, Disasters, Prophecy And American Pride
I have written elsewhere about other concerns I have about how the modern church handles the Bible in relation to prophecy. In this post, I want to focus on a particular observation that has sunk in over the past week or so: Most of the discussion in the United States about eclipses, hurricanes, judgment and prophecy only makes sense if you live in the United States.
The End Is Near - Again
Frankly, I fear that we are diving into something that feels uneasily close to what the Bible calls divination ("The practice of making decisions or foretelling the future by means of reading signs and omens”). The prophet Jeremiah warned against those who offer "a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds” (Jeremiah 14:14). Let's bring some serious Old Testament lumber to this: if the predictions or omen reading don't come true, it's a lie, it's worthless, and people were deceived by their own minds. So far, this has happened every time someone has predicted specific dates. That ought to give us pause as we see new speculation. It also gives us good reason to ignore anyone who has gotten it wrong before.
The Facts About DACA And DREAMers
I'd like to think Washington's legislative and executive branches will learn something through this about the importance of procedure, separation of powers, and the important of getting it right so that individual lives do not continue to be buffeted by the political storms in DC. I was reading just this week of a specific group of DREAMers, Iraqi-born Christians, who are quite fearful of being sent back to a country where they will likely be persecuted, tortured or killed. How can this not clearly be a grave injustice?
When Planned Parenthood Fights For the Right To Live - and DREAM
Oh, Cecile, you have such moral clarity for the born, and I’m with you on that. I, too, think DACA needs to be reinstituted by the legislative branch. It is a morally good law implemented poorly. Let’s use the just means this time to achieve the same just ends. But please, please apply your thinking to those who have not had the privilege of being born. They are truly the marginalized, the discarded, the ones being deported not just from this country but from this life. They are the ones being separated from their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. Let them live so that they can truly control their own destinies.
Reader's Digest's 12th Mind-Blowing Discovery Scientists Made This Year
The latest Reader’s Digest (September 2017) has the click-bait worthy “13 Mind-Blowing Discoveries Scientists Made This Year.” Though I must confess my mind remained relatively calm, the 12th one did catch my eye:
“A tool to repair DNA in embryos. Chinese scientists devised a gene-editing tool that may eliminate certain disease-causing mutations in the DNA of human embryos. It is the first such technology to be used on viable human embryos and could one day help prevent babies from inheriting serious genetic diseases. But it has already raised ethical concerns about the potential to effectively design children – and alter the genetic heritage of humankind.”
Is The Nordic Theory Of Everything Really As Great As It Sounds?
Both the proponents and critics of the Nordic Theory Of Everything value freedom and community. On this we can all agree. As to the study of how obligations and dependence help or harm these goals, I doubt the debate will end any time soon. I lean strongly toward the idea that it's not obligation and dependence that are the problem: it's the human hearts involved.
I like how the NTOE is forcing us to reconsider where and how corruption and manipulation creeps in to our communities and even our families. I would like even more if the conversation kept taking us deeper into the battleground inside the human heart. If our hearts are good and pure, I suspect all systems will work well. If not, I fear they are all doomed to fail.
Freedom in our culture often means the right to be and do as you please, how you please, when you please, where you please. It means doing your own thing, being your own boss, looking after number one first. The Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary says it means “exemption from necessity in choice and action.” It is the right to any choice so long as it is your own personal choice.
I’m not so sure this is the deepest, truest form of freedom. It’s probably better described as license. John Milton wrote in Tenure of Kings and Magistrates that “none can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license.” As is easy to see simply by surveying our world, license results far too often in an exploitative callousness that objectifies others and deadens one’s own conscious.
The Shape Of Reality: Are We Really Free?
Christianity claims that our ability to choose feels real because it is real. While we are influenced by many things, we are at the mercy of none of them. They may form us, but they don't finish us. Because we can choose, our history is not our destiny. We can truly approbate those who do well, because their life reflects a conscious choice to be better than they once were. We can admonish and challenge those who choose poorly, because we know that they do not have to resign themselves to the cruel dictates of history.
The Shape of Reality: Identifying Evil
People from all walks of life have found common ground in their stand against this type of injustice. However, it is increasingly difficult to find a consistent explanation for why these are examples of objectively bad things - that is, actions that are wrong irregardless of individual feelings and preferences.
The Shape Of Reality
Christian theologians and philosophers claim to say something profoundly true about human experience. The claim is supported in numerous ways: archaeology; historical documents; eyewitness testimony; deductive, inductive, and abductive arguments; philosophy and transcendent personal experiences. But if the truth claims of the Christian faith don’t actually explain our existence truthfully and meaningfully, none of these things matter.
A Closer Look At Sanctuary Cities
My hometown has recently begun considering whether or not to designate our city as a 'sanctuary city.' Considering the controversy this has raised, I decided to do some research on a topic I knew little about.
One thing is for sure: this is a confusing topic. There are remarkably contradictory studies quoted by equally passionate people, and there is a lot of dishonest reporting that distorts the facts (which is why both sides quote the same studies in some cases). I found more than one case where an article linking to a study totally misrepresented the study.
I will do my best to offer relevant facts, a variety of perspectives on how those facts are interpreted, and a summary of some issues that make the pursuit of truth and justice difficult but not impossible. I am not an expert. I'm just a guy wanting to find the truth.
The March For (At Least Some Of) Science
The March For Science, according to various news article I have read, was focused on the value of evidence-based science, an enterprise that is apparently under fire. I suspect this is mostly a political broadside against President Trump, specifically when it comes to global warming,vaccines, and alternative theories to evolution.
Now, I am a fan of both science and evidence. Though the march is largely symbolic and baldly political, I don’t think anyone actually thinks the theoretical framework of the march is problematic (“Boo evidence and science! Stop learning stuff!"). However, the march seemed to me to be somewhat naive and far too narrowly focused.
Being People Of Truth In A False World
I am really discouraged about the content and style of our cultural conversation. The internet has made us more shallow, more bombastic, more sheltered than ever before. We hide behind informational walls. We attack with our avatars in ways we never would if we had to actually talk to real people face to face. We have learned that the sound bite, the click bait title, and the bomb thrower gets the fame. We reject serious news in favor of titillating fake news that promises an emotional orgy of either self-affirmation or gleeful demonization of the "other."
There is no easy fix. We are sowing ignorance, bias and lies, and we are reaping the consequences. The solution - if it's not too late - is sowing knowledge, objectivity, and truth, and doing so with wisdom, patience, boldness and kindness. In the service of this goal, I offer the following ways to pursue the creation of a culture committed to truth.
Men, Women, And The Line Between Objectification And Empowerment
I want women (and men) to be justly empowered; I want women and men to honor each other. I want to live in a society where people are valued as people with intrinsic value, worth and dignity, not one where there value is dependent on their production, desirability, or utility.
I don’t think the sexual empowerment movement as it is currently unfolding is accomplishing these goals. In fact, I think it’s sending the women’s empowerment movement in the opposite direction. I, for one, don’t want women to lose ground.
All The News That's Fake To Print
"That's fake news!" has become an increasingly standard response to anything from a news source someone doesn't like, or to any story that challenges that narrative one wants to be true. What was once a label for a very particular kind of underhanded representation of "news" has become the label for even mainstream media outlets that make mistakes or have bias, as well as any story that suggests we might be wrong in our perspective.
It's an effective way to dodge, but it's a terrible way to engage with reality. I, for one, don't want to give up on the pursuit of truth, even if it is surrounded by a bodyguard of lies.*
So let's chat.
Beyonce's Inadvertent Pro-Life Baby Bump
Who knew Beyonce would turn her fans pro-life? It’s almost as if they suddenly recognized unborn babies for what they are – babies. If Beyonce were to miscarry, she and her fans would not mourn the loss of clumps of tissue. They would mourn the loss of her children. If Beyonce were attacked and she miscarried, I suspect the news reports would be full of language that talked about her babies, not her fetuses, being killed, and rightly so. Twenty-nine states would prosecute the attacker for murder.
Refugees, Immigrants, and Islam: In Search Of Truth And Justice
After reading all the debate about the immigration/refugee issue, I decided to do some of my own research. The result? I found out how complex this subject is. My intent is to provide a good foundation on which to begin building an informed opinion. It's certainly not the final word, but hopefully it's a good start.
NGOs, Abortion, and Federal Money: The Truth About The Mexico City Policy
The Mexico City policy (so named because it was announced at the United Nations International Conference on Population in Mexico City) has been implemented or suspended on strict partisan lines since the Reagan administration. All Republican Presidents implement it; all Democratic ones suspend it. The fact that President Trump has reimplemented it should surprise no one. However, now that it's getting either wildly applauded or criticized, it's worth looking at the reality of the policy.
Why I Am Pro-life
"Being pro-life" could potentially cover a lot of issues (capital punishment, euthanasia, etc). There is also a discussion to be had about the importance of protecting and honoring all born life. However, that's too much for one blog post. I am going to focus on abortion, a 'life' issue that is front and center in our culture, especially as we approach a day during which hundreds of thousand will March For Life. I am going to give four different arguments for this position. The first two arguments draw from Judeo-Christian history; the others will offer arguments that can be made apart from a belief in the veracity of the Bible.
Getting What We Deserve
I wrote last week that Ariana did not deserve what that fan said. By that, I meant was that no one ought to be objectified or dehumanized no matter what they say or do. That is what Ariana said she experienced; in that sense, I empathize with her anger and hurt.
But if I am to take the Cambridge Dictionary definition seriously, I must acknowledge that Mac Miller and Ariana Grande appear to have been “given something because of their actions or qualities”; particularly, their remarkably crude lyrics and highly sexualized public persona invited a mirroring response – which is precisely what they got. Their actions got a reaction. I’m not glad it happened; I’m just not surprised. Nobody should be.
Ideas have consequences. If we don’t like what we are reaping as individuals or as a culture, maybe it’s time we all personally and corporately challenge each other to sow something else.
The Hit Ariana Didn't Want - Or Deserve
What do we expect will happen when fans are fed a steady diet of this kind of language and outlook on people and sex? The artists I quoted - and there are plenty more - have decided that this is acceptable public discourse. I’m not sure why they (or us) are shocked when their fans echo the words of their heroes. And at some point, the ideas that fill people will spill out of them through their words and deeds. I assume this obnoxious fan is confused: he listened to his musical hero describe women and sex a particular way; he joined in the ‘locker room banter’ when he finally met the guy. What could be the harm in that?
Well, plenty, obviously. It’s a terrible way to view and talk about people – and it doesn’t matter if it is sung as entertainment or said to someone’s face. It's a dehumanizing and demeaning way to view and talk about people. The more I’ve thought about this, the more it just makes me sad.
National Geographic's Gender Revolution
Recently, National Geographic made headlines by putting a transgender child on the cover. The response has been mixed to put it mildly, ranging from praise for furthering human rights to criticism for promoting child abuse. In light of that discussion, I thought it worth noting several things about the transgender question that ought to be part of the discussion.
Comet Ping Pong, Pizzagate, And The Pursuit Of Truth
Based on what I have seen so far, I don't believe that the most disturbing PIzzagate accusations are warranted. Unlike the stories to which I linked at the beginning of this article, no one has been arrested; no witnesses have come forward; there are no known investigations taking place. The DC police have referred to it as a "fictitious online conspiracy theory." Megan Kelley devoted almost 10 minutes to debunking the conspiracy. There is nothing beyond speculation at this point, and frankly, too much of that speculation stretches credulity.
What This Election Revealed About The Church
Christians, let’s be honest: We weren’t ready for this election. We weren't ready for the moral quandary forced on us by both the issues and the candidates. In the next four years we have some serious soul-searching to do about a lot of things. However, I would like to focus on two that directly influence the life of the church.
Vote Your Conscience: A (hopefully) Helpful Guide For The 2016 Election
This is the kind of election where the oft repeated mandate to ‘vote your conscience’ carries more truth – and weight – than perhaps ever before. In the interest of providing a way to think through this choice, I have written a series of posts that cover various ethical theories that can be applied as one prepares for this year's election. I am convinced that no one ethical theory does justice to the complexity of our world; nonetheless, I hope the process of viewing life through different ethical lenses will bring increasing clarity.
Planned Parenthood And The Lives That Don't Matter
In response to the latest police shootings, Planned Parenthood posted the following response in an attempt to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement: "You deserve to parent your child without fear that he or she will be hurt or killed. Freedom from violence is reproductive justice." I agree with Planned Parenthood's statement. I would have phrased it differently (can we include what kids deserve?), but I embrace the general sentiment. Of course black lives matter; of course we want a world where parents don't have to worry about children experiencing violence or being killed. This is why I am also angry at the hypocrisy of this claim and heart-broken at the reality it supports.
“When it comes to the creation of a ‘moral climate’, is there a proper difference to be made between disagreeing, criticizing, discriminating, oppressing, dehumanizing, and killing, or is this all one thing on a continuum?”
Post-Orlando Question #2: How Do We Know When Individuals Truly Represent Groups?
"Is there a way to make a proper distinction between what is inherent in or necessarily follows from the beliefs and actions of a group vs. what particular individuals or sects do?"
Post-Orlando Question #1:Was Omar Mateen Created By The Conservative Religious Right?
Is it fair to attribute the actions of Omar Mateen to a climate of hate created by the Conservative Religious Right? Is there a way to make a proper distinction between what is inherent in or necessarily follows from the beliefs and actions of a group vs. what particular individuals or sects do?When it comes to the creation of a ‘moral climate,’ is there a proper distinction to be made between disagreeing, criticizing, discriminating, oppressing, dehumanizing, and violently attacking, or do these all simply occupy different places on the same continuum of hate?
Michigan's Proposal For Students With Gender Dysphoria: Is It The Best Solution?
Let me be clear: what I’m about to say is not a commentary on the need to treat those who identify as transgendered with dignity. This is about public policy guidelines that seek to weigh everyone’s rights and promote the common good of all parties involved. I don’t believe this proposed policy does either. I will be highlighting several quotes that stood out to me and offering my concerns about the rationality and impact of this policy.
North Carolina's 'Bathroom Law' And The Tension of Comfort And Safety
Laws such as the one in North Carolina protect gender-exclusive spaces that honor the privacy and safety of women and children. That strikes me as a good thing. It needs to matter in this discussion. To dismiss or ignore these concerns is to refuse to acknowledge the truth about the complexity of this issue.
NARAL, Doritos, And The "Tactic Of Humanizing Fetuses"
Did Doritos fall into the trap of a deceptive anti-choice tactic? Or did they offer a commercial that taps into the biological, scientific and philosophical reality that the fetus is an unborn human being that is living, moving and reacting inside his or her mother? To whatever degree Doritos intentionally or unintentionally pointed toward the unavoidable conclusion of the humanity of the unborn, I applaud them. However, NARAL got it wrong. Doritos isn't "humanizing the fetus." They are just reminding us that it's been human all along
Find Your Magic: How Axe Measures A Man
As much as I enjoy the overall creativity on display, it’s the socially conscious ads that reveal the most. This year, Colgate and Axe used the platform to make a statement about something they assume the audience takes seriously – or at least should. They don't just want us to buy a product; they want us to buy into a worldview.
Psychosexual Obesity And The Dating Apocalypse
Vanity Fair's "Tinder and the Dawn of the 'Dating Apocalypse'" is a must-read for those who are wondering where our culture is heading in terms of dating, sex and marriage. It's not an easy read, and it's R-rated graphic. I recommend it only because it is brutally honest about trending sexual behavior in the United States.
Rejecting Reality: How Planned Parenthood And Its Defenders Hide The Truth
In early July, The Center for Medical Progress began to release videos procured after three years of undercover work. They released short teaser videos, long videos from which the short versions were edited, and transcripts. The videos not only showed the calculating, callous way in which key players in Planned Parenthood viewed their clients and the unborn children, they also provided reasons to believe that certain Planned Parenthood clinics were breaking the law in the process of harvesting fetal tissue.
That's when Planned Parenthood and their defenders began a methodical campaign of distortion, denial and deception to help people avoid looking at the reality of abortion and the industries that profit from it. One example requires a certain amount of speculation*; the facts supporting the rest of my points are clear enough on their own.
Are The Blood Moons The Beginning Of The End?
Here are my two main concerns about the current claims. First, I believe the Bible is being read inaccurately by failing to give proper consideration to the genre, the context, etc. Christian pastors, scholars and theologians are questioning Biltz and Hagee's reading of the passages of Scripture in question, and rightly so. This inaccurate reading of Scripture concerns me because of the ripple effect when this happens. Specifically, the merit of genuine prophecy takes a hit when inaccurate prophecy grabs headlines. Generally, we can begin to apply questionable exegetical principles to other biblical issues.
Second, the history of failed predictions have a common element: sincere readers of Scripture were convinced they had discerned the time of Christ’s coming (or other aspects of the end of the world), and they offered meticulous biblical arguments to support their claim. In spite of their sincerity, Jesus’ claim that no one will know the day or the hour was confirmed each time (Mark 13:32). I see no compelling Scriptural reason why this time will be different.
Planned Parenthood, Fusion GPS, and the Smokeless Gun
The big story this week is that Planned Parenthood hired Fusion GPS to take a look at the Center For Medical Progress's unedited videos to see if they were truly unedited. To the surprise of no one, the group Planned Parenthood hired to exonerate them exonerated them. The story has legs - my Facebook feed is full of gleefully overhyped headlines. However, there is much more to the story than meets the eye.
A Response To “Planned Parenthood is Not Selling Baby Parts, You F****** Idiots”:
When Skepchick Rebecca Watson wrote her now viral post on the Planned Parenthood scandal, no one had to guess which side she was defending or what she thought of the pro-life crowd. The article is worth considering – not because she's right, but because what is presented as fact is so woefully wrong in so many ways.
As I respond to her arguments, I will be quoting the shortened blog version of the video that she posted on her website. A lot of what I have to say will challenge her claim that nothing illegal is happening. The rest will hopefully point out why it shouldn't be legal in the first place.
The 'Ick Factor' and Planned Parenthood: While discussing the recent Planned Parenthood expose, I have been told that my opinions about abortion are influenced by the ‘ick factor.’ Apparently, my opposition to abortion can be minimized or dismissed because I think abortion is gross. If I recommend that people view a picture or video so they can be fully informed, the response is fairly consistent: “There are a lot of medical procedures I don’t want to watch. Just because seeing them might make me squeamish doesn’t mean they are a bad idea. After all, I don’t want to see what happens in a heart surgery, but heart surgeries are a good thing.”
That's true. Something is not wrong because it makes me squeamish any more than it is right because it doesn't make someone else feel the same. So is this a legitimate argument? Am I and other pro-life advocates simply wanting to create a moral framework to support our weak stomachs? Obviously, I don't think that's the case.
Why The Trajectory of Obergefell v. Hodge Concerns Me: The recent Oberfell v. Hodge decisions has generated intense discussion about homosexuality, the nature of marriage, the power of the Supreme Court, the meaning of equality and rights, and the impact on churches as well as faith-based business and organizations. I don't care to jump in to any of those conversation in this post. I would like to offer a different reason that this decision concerns me.
Down the Rabbit Hole: On Caitlyn and Culture: "What follows are not observations on Bruce/Caitlyn as much as thoughts on trends in our culture's ability to process complex issues such as this one. Supporting Jenner's new self-identity does not happen in a vacuum. It requires a manner of reasoning and a particular worldview perspective that I believe is leading us haphazardly down a rabbit hole of deeply confusing philosophical and moral dilemmas."
Duggars, Duplicity, and Dilemmas In Christian Community: "The recent Duggar scandal reveals some huge problems for the Christian community. I'm not going to pile on the family here - plenty of other blogs are doing that. It's a sad story on many levels. I am simply going to note that the Christian community must learn some important lessons from this situation or we are destined to see this scenario play out over and over."
Katy Perry's Experimental Game and Superbowl XLIX: "Quite a few people weighed in on social media commenting on how "family friendly" and "clean" the show was. There were no wardrobe malfunctions or nudity. Nobody twerked. I heard, "It wasn't Beyonce!" more than a few times as people recalled previous shows that pushed the envelope much further than this one did. That's all true, but in order to conclude that it was "clean" or "family friendly" I think we need to define what that means."
Rebellion, Freedom and Art: "What happens as the rebellion against all the moral walls created by social, moral and legal boundaries becomes increasingly successful? After all, there is more than one kind of wall. Some keep us prisoner; others keep us safe. We may think we are destroying our captor when we are actually destroying our protector."
Pixar and Personhood: "I recently read an interesting article over at Discover Magazine called "The Hidden Message in Pixars' Films." The author makes an interesting case that Pixar's movies are changing the way the next generation thinks about what it means to be a person - or even what it means to be human."
MemeThink 202: Hobby Lobby Edition - "MemeThink 101 offered a perspective on the frustrating trend of using memes to talk about serious cultural issues, in particular same-sex marriage. This follow-up post will address the recent Hobby Lobby ruling as seen from the perspective of the MemeThink."
The Day Miley Couldn't Stop - "Maybe that was why the proudly open-minded, non-judgmental crowd berated her: Miley stripped away the veil between the false promise of the songs and the reality of life. Other artists have done highly sexualized shows on national TV; why was Miley suddenly villified? Because people recognized that Miley's transformation from Hannah Montana to twerking stripper was not something to be applauded. This was clearly not progress in any sense of the word.
When a woman offers herself as a thing to be objectified instead of a person to be respected, she doesn't run things. When a woman grinds on a stage with a man who calls her a bitch, wants to pull her hair and slap her, and desires brutal sex with her, she is not in control anymore. She has given in to those who do not have her best interest in mind. The night Miley thinks she owns has begun to engulf her.
What Superbowl Halftime Shows Reveal About Us - "Beyonce may be a very nice person, and she certainly is a talented singer, but dressing up in leather lingerie complete with the standard wardrobe malfunction (no, I'm not linking to it) is hardly striking a blow for a renewed appreciation of women as women. Unfortunately, just about every form of media portrays women in ways that increasingly influence us to view them not as people worthy of respect and honor but as a conglomeration of parts meant to entertain us. There's a name for this: sexual objectification."
Is Frankenstorm a Judgment from God? - "It’s a popular topic every time a storm hits, especially if it hits where we don't live. Usually, the apparent target of God’s wrath is a particular situation or people group about which the person claiming clarity happens to feel very strongly (“It’s the homosexual abortion doctor! It’s because of international policies! It’s the war! It’s liberal, feminist Marxists! It’s the greedy Wall Street 1%! It’s evolution in our schools! It's for someone with whom I am displeased!”)There’s quite a list that gets generated in the aftermath of a disaster like Hurricane Sandy. Apparently, God has lots of options."
Christians and Halloween - " I increasingly believe the celebration of Halloween is one of those freedoms Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 9 and Galatians. It's not in and of itself off limits, but it must be analyzed within the context of both personal conviction and community witness. In addition, celebrating Halloween may be a legitimate way to become all things to all people.
The power of Christ is nothing if not redemptive. Why not use this holiday - as we do with other holidays of ignoble origins or increasingly secular expressions - as an opportunity to point people toward a God who gives us a reason to truly celebrate? Christians are not called to retreat from our culture. We are called to baptize even imaginations cloaked in darkness with the light of truth."
Jonathan Cahn's Harbinger: Deconstructing Isaiah - "My following comments have nothing to do with the author’s character, heart, or presentation of Christ. I suspect that if Mr. Cahn and I sat down for lunch, we would have far more in common than not. I'm glad we are on the same team. My comments have to do with the manner in which the book leads readers toward particular conclusions. I am worried that its questionable presuppositions and unusual analysis of Scripture set a precedent that may have detrimental fallout."