Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Curse Of The Cross

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" -Matthew 27:45-46

Is there a more heart-wrenching passage in Scripture than the Son of God crying out to His Father: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? The cry of the Son to His Father, Father why have you forsaken me? If you know Christ and realize your own sin and the perfection of Christ, the words of Christ are like a punch in the stomach. I can't read them or hear them aloud without getting torn up. I also know that the Father forsaken the Son at that moment means that I will never be forsaken in turn.

This passage came up today and I remembered a talk that R.C. Sproul gave at Together for The Gospel in 2008 on the curse motif of Scripture, specifically the cross. Here is a good summary of the talk:


I was privileged to be in attendance when Sproul gave this talk. It is dead silent in the room, you could have heard the proverbial pin drop. You can listen to the whole talk, it is about an hour long, here. This is the sort of deep, rich thinking that we need more of in the church. Give it a listen, it will enrich your understanding of what Christ did for His sheep on the cross.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Benedict Option And The Future Of The Church: We Should Look Back But Where And When Is The Real Question

As I have said over and over, we are entering a new period of life for the church. I won't say it is ahistorical or unprecedented because it bears many similarities to the past but it also has many differences.

What is being called "The Benedict Option" is getting more and more airtime of late as the release of Rod Dreher's book of the same name comes closer. I went to a non-related article at Christianity Today and saw that the cover story for the March issue was on the Benedict Option (you need to be a subscriber to read the whole thing apparently). Albert Mohler interviewed Dreher for his Thinking In Public series. If you are interested in these sorts of things, as I am, it is a worthwhile listen. So what is the Benedict Option? As someone who has read a lot of Dreher's writings I confess it is a little confusing. The concept is one thing, the execution is another entirely. The FAQ section on the Benedict Option kind of lays it out but the essence, as I understand it, is that Christians would form intentional communities, far beyond local church life, and become preservers of Christian tradition and thought, acting as an "ark" to preserve Christian culture until such a time as civilization is ready to accept it again. I am sure I am not doing the concept justice but then again given the frequent attempts by Dreher to clarify and to counter what he sees as false assumptions, I am not sure how many people really understand it in the first place.

What Protestants, evangelicals and other Christians need to keep in mind is that it is apparent to me that Dreher's model of "The Benedict Option" is really only compatible with a Roman/Orthodox structure and of late it seems that a lot of what Dreher writes is a) reinforcing what Dreher himself admits, namely that he doesn't know much about evangelicalism in any form and b) in spite of that he frequently cherry picks kind of obscure evangelicals and asserts from their writings that what evangelicals really want is high church, authoritarian, liturgical religion. I don't know many people, evangelical or Reformed or whatever, who are deeply concerned about and engaged in church reformation that are calling for some sort of return to Rome, hat in hand, asking if we can come home (other than perhaps Peter Leithert). Dreher frequently links the Benedict Option with practices and principles that are really only applicable in a Roman/Orthodox church setting so it has pretty limited applicability for Protestants and evangelicals, even though it gets a lot of attention from those groups.

It also is worth stating, yet again, that the traditions and doctrines that Dreher is calling for the preservation of are not Christian. I reject as not only not faithfully Christian but in many ways as anti-Christian some of the central doctrines of both Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. From the blasphemy of the Mass and the anti-Gospel understanding of justification we find in Rome to the use of idols called icons and a similarly errant understanding of justification in Eastern Orthodoxy, I do not and cannot see a connection with Rome or Constantinople and small "o" orthodox Christianity, except to see them as wolves and usurpers. That for me is where I think we need to be cautious with the Benedict Option because it moves the line of "us" and "them" to include in the "us" category religious movements that oppose the Gospel and historically were the leading persecutors of the church when those movements still had the power of the state at their disposal. I think in Mohler's conversation with Dreher, he skirts that line just as he did in appearing multiple times at Brigham Young University, a university named after a blasphemer, staffed and led by heretics and populated by what I can only presume is an entirely lost student body (see my concerns here: Even Daniel only went into the lion's den once ). As Christians we need to be very careful that when we read someone like Dreher, and I intend to once the book is available at our library, that we do so understanding that he is a fellow American, a conservative, a thinker and a devoutly religious individual deserving of no small amount of respect but he is not our brother. Western civilization is incredibly value but it is not the Kingdom. Religious liberty is important but it is not a Kingdom virtue. I trust that Mohler understands and is able to distinguish between "learning from" and "affirming" differing groups, as he says here:
I appreciated every part of this conversation with Rod Dreher, but particularly the closing section of this conversation and that’s because we do need without apology to talk openly about what it means to learn from one another without affirming one another theologically. This is an issue of our evangelical responsibility, of our credibility in faithfulness; that is to say, that the issues that have separated historic Protestantism from Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy are not ephemeral, they are not minimal, and they have not gone away.
But I am not as sure that other evangelical and Protestant Christians possess the background and education to make that distinction. I do agree with Mohler in his critique of generic evangelicalism in that it doesn't have the "thickness" to survive the coming era. Mohler here responds to his own question to Dreher about the viability of evangelicalism in the future:
MOHLER: But that’s going to make the point where I would have to answer my own question. I do not believe evangelicalism has sufficient resources for a thick enough Christianity to survive either this epoch or much beyond.
DREHER: So what we you do then? What do you do?
MOHLER: Well it’s because I think evangelical-ism as an-ism, is a particular moment in history. The identity has to be, as I see it, in the best way to describe the conversation between us, as historic Protestant. In other words, it takes historic Protestantism, in other words, I am deeply, unashamedly rooted in that which we mark in terms of a 500th anniversary right now. I do believe in the necessary reformation of the church and what the Reformers taught. But modern evangelicalism lacks the theological substance either of the Reformation or the Reformers because the Reformers themselves, Luther and Calvin amongst them, were not at all hesitant, even as they affirmed sola scriptura and did so with full heart and soul, to go back and cite Augustine. They knew they were standing on the shoulders of those who had come before, and they sought to make that very clear. They stood on the creedal consensus of historic Christianity and thus confessional Protestantism, I would argue, is and must be—can be—sufficiently thick. But evangelicalism? Well, not so much.
I agree with that. Most of what we call evangelicalism is immature, vacuous, inwardly focused and obsessed with the trappings of success and the incessant desire for self-perpetuation. More on that in a moment.

A serious problem I see for the various iterations of the Benedict Option is that it fails to take into account that just retreating into communities, or "arks" as Dreher describes them, to preserve the faith and religious tradition doesn't really work when the broader culture is not going to be willing to leave us alone to practice our faith. As an example, we see the lie of the homosexual movement in stark display. They are not seeking to be left alone or allowed to "love" who they want. They demand that everyone who is not homosexual either become a vocal cheerleader for homosexuality or keep their mouths shut. We are already seeing moves to make the simple stating of accepted basic, historic Christian understandings of topic like human sexuality being labelled as "hate speech" and that is not going to diminish with victories by the secular forces. To the contrary it seems that every victory emboldens them. If you think you can retreat to a commune in some barren corner of America and preach the Gospel without molestation you are either naive or dumb. Perhaps Dreher has addressed this or will in his book but I don't recall seeing it.

So if not the "Benedict Option" of a renewed laity-based monasticism of sorts, what should the future look like? My vision for the church for the coming era would be a much smaller but far more engaged and dedicated community of faith. Instead of breaking down barriers and seeking commonality with former foes, I would propose an even starker line in the sand. What we stand for and why we stand for it must be front and center. I know this will turn off a lot of people on the fringes of the church but I don't see that as avoidable and I don't even think it is regrettable. I don't see the years and decades to come as a welcoming place for people with only a tenuous connection to the faith. If your connection to the faith is occasionally showing up at church, I don't see how that will leave you grounded enough to deal with real persecution. We owe it to people to present nothing less than the most robust, full-throated and unapologetic Kingdom manifestation we can manage. As part of that I would return to a couple of critical issues that will make or break the church in the years to come, a renewed local church based intellectualism and a vigorous life of discipleship. As I have so often in the past I would draw from two wells primarily for these twin keys to the church in the future, the Reformers and the Anabaptists. This is what I mean:

A robust intellectualism practiced by elders and non-elders alike (as all men in the church should be striving toward the qualities that make one an elder), the sort of robust intellectualism that is also practical and pastoral as we saw from many of the Protestant Reformers (although not necessarily just Reformed theology even though I would hold to that), as well as a deeper discipleship of the sort we see in historic Anabaptist groups manifested in genuine community and brotherhood.

I wrote previously that I think the historic model of the Anabaptists is a better guide, at least for evangelical/Reformational Christians than the Benedict Option (see: The Anabaptist Option > The Benedict Option ). My critique of both groups tend to offset one another. While the Anabaptists live out discipleship far better, in my opinion, than the Reformed, their theology is often pretty flimsy. That doesn't mean that conservative, historic Anabaptists don't have firmly held beliefs, it just means that, again this is just my opinion based on personal observation, they are not very well-formed. On the flip-side, the Reformed have the theology, deep diving on doctrine, the connectedness to church history, mostly on the mark but all too often seem like they would rather sit at home alone reading Owen's The Death of Death In The Death Of Christ than spend time with the Body outside of scheduled, mandatory church meetings. That is an obvious bit of hyperbole but I hope my point is made that in my experience discipleship seems lacking, especially outside of church events.

There is also of course the issue of ecclesiology and here I think both groups could use a healthy reevaluation. How the church functions is integral to how the individual Christian functions. Both traditions could use a refresher on ecclesiastical practices but as I have learned to my chagrin you cannot just focus on church models at the expense of broader questions of orthodoxy. There are lesson to be learned from the house church movement in spite of some pretty sketchy "leaders" and from the Restorationist churches but again never to the detriment of solid orthodoxy.

To me the Benedict Option is a schtick, something that sounds good and can be used to sell books and drive web traffic but it misses the mark on a lot of levels. There is some good to be learned from the propositions Dreher lays out and from groups like the Hutterites and Bruderhof and other intentional Christian or religious communities (check out this article from the Wall Street Journal: Wary of Modern Society, Some Christians Choose a Life Apart). I think we can learn a lot more from the Protestant Reformers and especially the Anabaptists. Ultimately though the real question of our survival and thriving in the years to come will not be based on modeling ourselves after some obscure monk or John Calvin or Menno Simons or Jacob Hutter. The real gauge of our faithfulness and the only measuring stick that matters will be how faithfully we live out the Kingdom in our lives. If we are not faithful first and foremost to the Scriptures, none of the rest of this stuff will matter.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Gospel Is Declaration, Not Deeds

Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.

- Attributed to Francis of Assisi (incorrectly as it turns out)

There are few hokey quotes that I despise more than that one. Maybe the only one I dislike more is the Gandhi quote about liking Jesus but not Christians that I see all the time, mostly from progressives virtue signaling how terrible their fellow Christians are (I addressed that nonsense here). The reason I don't like that quote, besides it being pompous and demeaning to the work of evangelism, is that it is anti-Biblical. Notice that I say anti-Biblical. It is not just something that is not directly found in Scripture, it is directly contrary to what the Bible teaches by way of command and example. The implication of that false quote is a direction contradiction of the Bible.

The Gospel is Good News, not Good Deeds. Our good works are a critical demonstration of our changed lives and evidence of such and often our good works are a way of opening hearts to hear the Gospel but unless we actually tell people the Good News, it isn't Gospel proclamation at all. For example, in Acts 3:1-10 we read the account of Peter and John and the healing of a man lame from birth. How wonderful! But what happens next is the true miracle. Having performed this wonderful work of healing and mercy which attracts a lot of attention, Peter then takes the opportunity to preach the Gospel, just as he did after the miraculous manifestation of the speaking of foreign tongues a chapter earlier at the day of Pentecost. From Acts 3:12-26 we see Peter preaching the unadulterated Gospel and even though they were arrested for it, we see the fruit of his preaching:
But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. (Acts 4:4)
Healing a man lame from birth is pretty incredible. Seeing 5000 men, absolutely dead in their sins, being brought to new life by the power of the Gospel working with the Holy Spirit? That is the true miracle. Here is the kicker. If Peter had simply healed the lame man and then he and John had left, they would not have been arrested and not a single person would have been saved that day, apart perhaps from the lame man who was told to walk in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 3:6).

You can do all sorts of wonderful works and that is great and we should be doing more works of mercy but if you never get to the point of telling people the Good News of Jesus Christ, you really are only making their life more comfortable until they land in hell. Soup kitchens, food pantries, medical clinics, crisis pregnancy centers, orphanages. Those are all marvelous but if they are not accompanied by the Gospel they are empty, dead works. Check out this short video from John Piper where he addresses this topic and got me fired up this morning, also includes a bonus "The Holy Spirit As An Airplane" impersonation. Vintage Piper.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Repost: What is the right number of elders?

I have been thinking a bit about elders for the last week or so. It is a topic I used to write about more, usually to decry single elder model churches and professionalized ministry, but it also is a topic that I have long thought gets little more than a perfunctory examination from the broader church. Often elders are simply either staff to be hired (or fired) or just a handful of older guys who have been around a while. In Biblical reality the elders of the church are some of the most important men, even if the elders don't "preach" or more accurately to be said, teach, from the pulpit because they are supposed to embody the qualities and characteristics that every Christian man should be striving toward. The qualities that mark a man as an appropriate candidate to be an elder are qualities that every single Christian man should be striving toward. None will ever reflect perfectly what God has decreed are the praiseworthy attributes of a man of God but each and every one of us should see the lists in 1 Timothy and Titus as our own marching orders even if we never hold the title of elder.

Thus my repost briefly touching on the topic of elders in the church and how many a local church should have. The usual notion is "not very many" and I get why that is, primarily because so few men have the qualities that would make them eligible to be an elder, but I don't think that a small handful of men is always the right ratio. What do you think?

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Many in the church, across a wide spectrum of folks from simple church advocates to reformed believers recognize that the church should have a “plurality of elders”, i.e. more than one elder (pastor) and a bunch of deacons. In Baptist circles this is still looked at with the stink eye (that ain’t how Bab-Dis do things!) but the Scriptures seems pretty clear that in local churches there should be multiple servant-leaders. But how many should the church have? I am sure someone has already thought this through but I wanted to give it a stab.

Is there a magic number, like five elders in every church? Is there a magic ration of 20:1 believers to laity? The Bible is silent and you know what happens when the Bible is silent about something? We fill in the blanks! So why should I get left out of the fun?!

Here is an assertion that I am going to throw out there, regardless of the denomination (or lack thereof) or the size of your church….

Every mature man in the church should eventually be an elder.

Here is another.

There is nothing in Scripture that indicates that there needs to be a small group of elders overseeing a much larger group of non-elders.

What?! That is heresy! If you have all of those elders, who is going to be in charge? It will be like that old (very politically incorrect) saying: all chiefs and no indians!

Hang with me for a bit here.

First off, there is a real problem with the view of elders as being “in charge” of the church. Men who are elders are recognized as such because of the way they live their lives, for their leading by serving rather than leading by dictating. I won’t list out the Scripture references but it is pretty clear that elders are men who lead through example and service, not through control.

Second, can the church have too many elders? Well let me ask a different question. Can the church ever have too many mature brothers who are living examples to the church?

Now if a local church is functioning like it should be, there should always be a couple of things happening. First, existing Christian men are being discipled, mentored and equipped for the work of ministry by more mature believers and are coming to place of maturity in the faith (Eph 4:11-16 ). If a man is a mature believer in Christ and is living a praiseworthy life worthy of emulation, why wouldn’t he be recognized as an elder?

Second, new Christians should be coming to faith in Christ and becoming part of the church all the time. The men especially need someone to emulate and to learn from and I am convinced that an eight week “New Believer” class and weekly sermons is not going to bring men to a maturity in Christ. The state of the church bears that out. The more elders the church has, the more men to mentor and disciple new believers.

What do you think? Is that kooky, the idea that every man who comes to Christ should be expected to mature to a point where he is considered an elder?

Another Interesting Video From Paglia

You wouldn't think I would post videos from an atheist lesbian talking to a Jewish culture warrior but here it is anyway. My wife and I have been listening to a lot of videos from Camille Paglia because even though I would disagree with her on a lot of stuff, most especially on her lifestyle choice, she just makes a lot of non-PC sense on a lot of topics. From homosexuality as a fluid behavior rather than an inherent trait to the illiberalism of so many "liberals" to the need for extended stable families for kids, she has a pretty keen mind and a no-nonsense way of talking about stuff. Prager kind of pins her down on the question of needing a father in the home and I think she knows that not having a father is unhealthy but had a hard time admitting it. It is almost half an hour long but well worth your time.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Are Elderly Elders A Bad Thing?

According to Barna, the occupants of pulpits in America are getting a lot older:
As clergy live longer and stay in ministry longer, the average age of Protestant senior pastors has risen to 54—a decade older than 25 years before, when the average age was 44....The pulpit has been graying for decades. In the ’60s, a majority of pastors were under 45. In 2017, most are over 60.
That is supposed to start the alarm bells ringing but I noticed something else in this report:
Today’s pastors are less likely to go from congregation to congregation during their careers. Back in 1992, Barna found the average church tenure was four years, compared to more than 10 years in 2017...Older clergy may actually have a harder time finding new jobs as they age, forcing them to stay longer. As CT Pastors has reported, when a senior pastor spot opens up, some churches seek out younger candidates who are expected to serve long-term or draw in younger congregants.
Well, I sort of think that elders staying put is a good thing. The new-church-every-four-years model is a sickness in the church, reflective of the general discontentment in our culture and "ministry as just another career" model. Younger men often seem to see their current church as a stepping stone to the next church, a church that they will feel "called to", a calling that invariably seems to be accompanied by a higher salary. Conversely older pastors are more content and satisfied with where they are:
Older pastors also enjoy their ministry work more. Leaders age 50 and older, as well as those who have been in ministry for more than 30 years, report being “highly satisfied” with their vocation as a pastor and with their current church more often than younger and less-experienced leaders.
While we as a society place a premium on youth, the church would probably benefit from more experienced and seasoned leadership. A young pastor with a stereotypical pastor's wife and 2.5 kids might look good on your webpage but if your young pastor is spending half of his sermon prep time in his office looking for a new "calling", he is probably not serving his church very well.

Of course there should be a deep bench in any fellowship of men who are in training to become elders but that is unfortunately not a popular part of the functioning of pastors:
Overall, two-thirds of pastors rank preaching and teaching as their favorite aspect of their job. The least favorite aspect? Only 2 percent picked organizing church meetings and events as their No. 1 task.
In the middle of those two, 1 in 10 called “developing other leaders” their most enjoyable task—a crucial role as pastors prepare to pass leadership on to a new generation of preachers.
“The bare facts of the matter are that even the wisest of older pastors is not here indefinitely, and his wisdom will be lost to the community of faith unless it is invested with the next generation,” the report stated. “Even more urgent, however, is the prospect of a massive leadership shortage in the coming decades.”

I can understand why that is. Training men up to be elders is time-consuming and probably often frustrating but it is so critical to the long-term health of a church fellowship. It is obviously easier to just hire a guy from another church but that is not in the best interest of that man, of your fellowship or the fellowship that is abandoned to come to your church.

The reports from Barna are always interesting to me even as they kind of make me sad. There is not much in the church that is more critical to the health of that fellowship than having mature, well-trained men to lead the church by example and teaching and yet it is one of the least healthy aspects of our church culture. There are few challenges in the church that demand more from the current leadership than training up the next generation of elders but we tend to demand current elders do everything but invest the time and effort it requires. If you want a healthy and vibrant church, you have to start with healthy, qualified elders. If we get that right, everything else will fall far more easily into place.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Feminism: A Corrupt Seed That Yields A Rotten Crop

Picture from AgFax.com

In my prior post, It Is Not About Getting Rid Of Gender, It Is About Getting Rid Of Men, I argued that the "transgender" and "gender fluidity" movements are mostly about ridding our culture of any actual masculine expression. I also made the statement that I think women are, by and large, not terribly happy today in spite of "feminist progress" and by implication that they would be more happy if the men in their lives acted more like men. In fact it often seems to me that things that are supposed to make women happier, like having more women with careers outside of the home and going to college, are actually conspiring to make women less happy and satisfied. As an example of this I quoted the disproportionate female-male ratio at most colleges in an article, Unequal Gender Ratios at Colleges Are Driving Hookup Culture, but the broader issue of that post was that the shrinking male population at university is actually benefitting the men enormously, at least from a standpoint of sexual promiscuity.
Women at disproportionately female schools talk openly about their frustrations. “Everyone’s self-esteem takes a hit,” a young woman at 75%-female Sarah Lawrence College told me. One reason: Sarah Lawrence men have little interest in exclusive relationships. “Why would they? It’s like they have their own free harem,” she grumbled. “One of my friends was dumped by a guy after they’d been hooking up for less than a week. When he broke up with her, the guy actually used the word ‘market’—like the ‘market’ for him was just too good.” 
A male Sarah Lawrence student offered a similar assessment of life there—though he wasn’t bemoaning the school’s hookup culture but celebrating it. The young man told me he had had sex with more than 20 of his female classmates. “There isn’t really a culture of monogamy or even dating here,” he offered. “Sometimes it feels like you can have anyone you want.”
It turns out that men and women still like to be with each other and when men are scarce, women end up having to or at least feeling like they have to, compromise what they want (monogamous, steady relationships) for what men seem to want (casual sex) in order to have any relationship with men at all. Certainly plenty of academic "experts" will tell you that casual sex with no commitment is healthier than old fuddy-duddy notions of monogamy and relationship but I don't believe that to be true for a second. Having once been an unregenerate college guy, albeit one with a steady girlfriend that I got engaged to halfway through my first year of school, I can say with some confidence that being in a culture where you are having sex with so many different girls that you number your partners in the dozens would be fantastic. Marriage traditionally acted as a civilizing influence on young men, especially young men who are outside of the faith, but now most men can get sex on demand with no corresponding commitment. If you want to see an unclothed woman, you don't have to buy a girlie magazine with a brown paper cover over it from the drug store, you can just click a few buttons and see whatever kind of woman you want doing anything you can imagine and quite a few things you can't even begin to imagine.

I have been working over a post literally for years now that I need to finish one of these days that argues we are living in the Golden Era of Male Irresponsibility. Ironically it is feminism that has made this happen. Very powerful and educated men are doing more than fine in our culture. Lazy, ne'er-do-well young men who want to live at home, play video games and watch porn are doing just fine in their pursuit. The vast majority of men who just want to be a good father and husband and productive member of society are the ones who are struggling.

The struggles of most men is mirrored by the struggles of far too many women. Women from affluent homes are also doing great it would seem. But the majority of women in America seem far from doing just fine. They are pulled in a million directions, told that they don't need a man to be happy but at the same time constantly bombarded with marketing tell them that they need this or that to appeal to men. Women have been told that they shouldn't allow men to objectify them but the culture has led to a situation where teen girls are sending nude photos of themselves to boys that often aren't even steady boyfriends. My experience of decades in the professional work environment was that of a lot of women, I would say the majority of them, were equal parts resigned to "having to work" and longing to spend more time with their kids. Having a picture of your six month old daughter on your desk and texting the daycare is no substitute for being there for her. That may sound judgmental and cruel, and maybe it is, but it is also true. Each successive generation of Western women seems less equipped for caring for their own children but in spite of efforts by some feminists to shame the maternal instinct out of women, it is still there but women today are ill-equipped to respond to that instinct.

A perfect example of this came up this week with the cinematic release of the Fifty Shades of Grey bondage-porn sequel Fifty Shades Darker. In the spirit of full disclosure I have not read any of the books or watched the film but I have run across enough in terms of plot summaries to get the gist of the movie. The series is wildly popular. The first book, Fifty Shades of Grey, apparently sold more than 125 million copies. According to Barnes & Noble (I didn't check at Amazon where I almost exclusively shop for books because I don't want to see what else looking at Fifty Shades would cause Amazon to recommend for me), the hard copy retails for $12.95 and the e-book for $7.99 so taking the average price of the two and multiplying that times 125,000,000 copies means roughly $1.3 billion in sales. That is a pretty big number for a book. The first film adaptation made over $166,000,000 at the box office in America and more than half a billion worldwide according to IMDB. It sounds like estimates are that the sequel will earn almost $50 million during the opening weekend alone.

As you would expect just from the general hype, the book buyers are 80% women. What I found interesting when I looked at the buying profile from Bowker was what kind of women were buying it. The cultural narrative is that it is bought by bored and sexually frustrated soccer moms but that is not what Bowker found in 2012:
Compared to the typical adult fiction consumer, buyers of the Fifty Shades books are more likely to be women, live in the Northeast, and have a significantly higher household income.
Interesting indeed! I think a lot of midwestern soccer mom types tend to consume the "Amish romance novel" genre but why would substantially more affluent, presumably more educated and more "enlightened" women in the Northeast (i.e. Boston to New York to Washington, D.C., our power corridor and where you are most likely to find powerful, "successful" career women) buy a book about a disordered and male dominated sexual relationship?

Why in the world would women in our supposedly enlightened world with decades of feminist indoctrination in the schools and our pop culture, want to spend upwards of a billion and a half dollars to read/watch about what ought to be the nightmare of feminists, a wealthy older White man who apparently uses his wealth and power and *GASP* dare I say privilege to seduce a virginal, younger woman and dominate her? Everything about this storyline seems to run precisely counter to what women are supposed to truly crave. Wouldn't a better story line that would appeal to women like this be something like a professional woman, like a high power lawyer, who has a mutually respectful but open relationship with a guy who is an artist of some sort and works at Whole Foods to make ends meet but who mostly depends on his much smarter, more worldly and far more successful female life partner to pay the bills while he keeps their condo clean, feeds the cats and cleans the litter box and makes cruelty free, fair trade vegan meals and rubs her feet when she gets home?

Curiouser and curiouser.

My theory is probably not surprising. Men and women are men and women and you can market and indoctrinate the crap out of them but that doesn't change their basic nature. The Bible is again proven to be accurate in describing the human condition when it comes to gender (ex. Genesis 3:16 ). When these modern, feminism-saturated, independent, strong women get a few minutes to themselves, one hundred million or so of them read about or watched a movie about a man who sexually dominates a woman. Tens of millions more read various romance novels, including the wildly popular Amish romance genre and the Amish idea of gender is about as counter-cultural as you can get. It is almost like women really are actually craving a strong man who will lead in their relationship instead of some flaccid, milquetoast Nancy-boy that has to ask his life partner to open the pickle jar for him.

Feminism is an agenda driven ideology that really has morphed into a matriarchal religion, a religious worldview that has been mostly destructive to women, to men and to children and families. The ideas that it claims to put forth, like equality of opportunity, have long since come to fruition and what we see now are mostly policies and positions that can only be properly described as anti-male, anti-children and anti-family. The future is not female but to ensure a better future for females we must collectively reject the lies of feminism for the sake of our wives, sisters, mothers and daughters.

It Is Not About Getting Rid Of Gender, It Is About Getting Rid Of Men

Among mostly like-minded people, in other words people that sensibly agree with me, it is common to see one of the most pressing issues of the day as the attempt to completely erase the concept of gender. Gender fluidity is one of those buzzwords that is in common use today that would have been rightly considered to be complete nonsense even ten or five years ago. The elevation of transgenderism to the highest expression of human freedom and evolution is just the latest in the inevitable progression towards what would be an "ideal" society where gender no longer exists in a meaningful way.

I am beginning to modify my belief that the goal is the elimination of gender. It is instead a movement with the goal of eliminating one of the genders. What certain people with an outsized influence on our culture via the government, the "education" establishment and the entertainment world are really working against is masculinity in any recognizable form. The term "toxic masculinity" is tossed around a lot and was trending a bit on Twitter. From what I can tell, "toxic masculinity" is any behavior by a man that is distinguishable from what is traditionally considered feminine behavior. The mantra we hear ad nauseum is that men dominate our society, specifically White men and even worse heterosexual White men and worst of all heterosexual Christian White men. The story goes that these terrible men have made a general mess of things and need to be put in their place, their place apparently being in a studio apartment sitting on the couch playing video games while the mother or mothers of their children take care of them and work to support them.

Check out this pretty brilliant video by Camille Paglia, who clearly needs to switch to decaf, where she talks about "transgenderism" and the assault on masculinity:



"Everything is all about expanding women's rights but also terminating men, OK, defining men out of existence. Masculinity by definition is toxic"

Bam.

There it is. The real driving force behind decrying "toxic masculinity" is not about a backlash against guys who are chauvinistic jerks, it is about defining all expressions of masculinity by universally describing masculine thought and behavior as toxic. To be male is to be toxic and the solution is to eliminate masculinity by depicting masculinity as inherently harmful and extolling the virtues of effeminate men, advocating for "transgenderism" which is really about redefining the male of the human species out of existence and pitting men and women against one another in a one-sided battle where men are expected to shut up and listen attentively to the Very Serious Woman wearing a hat shaped like her genitals. For modern "feminists", the relationship between the genders is a zero sum game. For women to "progress", men must regress. Women can have no improvement in their lives without a corresponding diminishment of men's lives. Of course it is also worth noting that what feminists and gender warriors consider progress has been an absolute disaster for men, for families and children and especially for women. For all of the feminist "progress" over the last 50 years, does anyone seriously think women are happier? In my decades working in the professional workplace, the women I worked with in general didn't seem empowered or happy, they usually seemed to be torn in a dozen different directions and over-extended.

Also of note is Paglia pointing out that the move toward androgyny occurs at the end-stage of a civilization, what she calls "the late phase of culture" but that as that happens in "civilized" societies, on the outskirts are the Huns, the Vandals, and now ISIS where masculinity is often actually toxic. Today we have the advent of make-up companies like Covergirl putting for a 17 year old male make-up artist and Maybelline following suit with a male make-up model. When the next existential crisis faces our culture, who is going to defeat the Huns or ISIS? MannyMua swishing to the front line to win over ISIS with tips on how to apply mascara?

It doesn't empower women to demean, denigrate and diminish men.

The simple truth is that men are in trouble in this country. A huge percentage of prime working age men are out of the workforce. Not unemployed, because that term implies they are out of work but looking. I am talking about men simply not working and not looking to work. The future looks even more bleak as you look at trends.

In a Time Magazine story that looks at the possible connection between the increasingly disproportionate percentage of female college students to male students and the "hook-up culture", a stark reminder of the perilous future of men in this country
In 2013, the gender ratio among that year’s college graduates was 57:43, women to men. That’s four women for every three men. With girls continuing to outpace boys in school and young women continuing to attend college in ever-greater numbers, the U.S. Department of Education now expects the ratio to approach three women for every two men by 2023.
I don't see a college degree as the only or even the best way to prepare men for meaningful lives of work and supporting a family but it certainly is one way and when you look at how few young people are prepared to take on the skilled trades jobs that are unfilled and rapidly entering a crisis mode for lack of qualified replacement workers to take over for retirees coupled with the growing disproportionate make-up of colleges, what exactly are men going to do in the future to earn a living? How are they going to support a family or even contribute meaningfully to supporting a wife and kids? It is easy to point to our unbroken string of male Presidents and the dominance of men in executive positions at corporations and claim that men are still dominate in our society but when you get away from the tiny fraction of elite men, the vast majority of younger men are in serious trouble and that spells trouble for our social order, especially families but we still get nonsense like the disproved "gender wage gap" and the guilt trip Audi Super Bowl commercial that makes it sound like women are being left behind.

This trend is echoed in the church as more and more women take over leadership roles in the church and men become increasingly absent from the church entirely. Christianity has always been a solidly masculine faith. God is described in male terms, His Son was obviously male, the twelve apostles were all male. Today in a lot of places you would think that Christianity was an almost exclusively female religion. Looking the best-selling "Christian" books and you get a combination of a lot of women writing flowery nonsense and men writing a lot of the same touchy-feely nonsense. We don't need more men in the church to get in touch with their feelings and their feminine side. We need more men in the church to act like actual men.

In our age of information and entertainment overload it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture and to connect the dots but the signs are all there. Two-time failed Presidential candidate and wife of serial philanderer Hillary Clinton said recently that "the future is female". Her message was clear. If the future is female, then it obviously also means that the future is not male. The future she pines for might be great for the elite women in this country but for the average American a future that is female means even more overloading of women with family responsibilities and even more diminishment of men and the elimination of masculinity. Our society, in fact no society, can survive in the world without both genuine masculinity and femininity. Women make poor substitutes for men and men aren't being helpful partners for women when they are staying at home instead of working. It would be great if Clinton said that the future was families but that is not expedient. If we are to have a future, we need strong, masculine men and strong, feminine women and a woman is not strong because she tries to act like a man and men certainly are not strong when they act like women. God made two genders to complement one another and to bring joy to each other. Anyone who cares about the future of Western civilization and especially anyone who cares about the church needs to speak out against and actively oppose the attempts by a few unhinged radicals to eliminate masculinity. We need more men being more masculine if we are to survive as a civilization,

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Massive Unemployment And Bribes To Rescind Asylum Applications: Is This Compassionate?


I don't really want to but here I am posting yet another blog entry on the Trump immigration executive order kerfuffle (for two prior posts see Trump-styeria and Immigration as well as A Nation Without Meaningful Borders Is No Longer A Nation)


Compassion is a word being thrown around a lot over the last few days. It seems that based on my social media circles it is done so rather carelessly. The prevailing narrative is that Trump's temporary immigration pause from a select group of countries is anti-compassionate and that therefore anyone who doesn't vehemently disagree with Trump is somehow also not sufficiently compassionate and probably not even a real Christian. 


I wonder if people have really given thought to what compassion means?
This is the situation in Sweden, a much smaller country than the U.S. but perhaps a canary in the refugee coal mine, from the Express: Sweden sacks HUNDREDS of border guards with NO IDEA of affect on migrant crisis  



Sweden had a record number of asylum seekers in 2015 with 163,000 applications.

However those who traveled to the country were frustrated due to a lack of work.

The Government then introduced a scheme to offer individual asylum seekers £3,500 or £8,500 to families if they withdrew their applications and left.

That policy is said to be partially responsible for a record 4,542 asylum seekers invalidating their applications in the first eight months of 2016.

However another key reason is said to be a lack of work for migrants and long processing times as the Government puts the bill of accommodate asylum seekers to £4.8 billion in 2016.
....
Of the almost 163,000 people who arrived in the country fleeing their homes, less than 500 found a job.

If you are doing the math at home, that means that a whopping 0.003% of asylum seekers has found work. I guess Starbucks can't hire 'em all. This is not an anomaly, the same is reported in Germany and elsewhere: mass unemployment which leads to a huge strain on the social safety net and wide-spread resentment on the part of both the refugees and the citizens of the host country, which is a picture perfect recipe for violent extremism of the kind we have seen repeatedly of late in Europe. 

Almost complete unemployment.

Bribes to get out.


Massive crime and general alienation. 


Is that compassion? Bringing people into a country that they are ill-suited for and that is ill-suited to receive them, where they cause resentment and strain limited resources? Would it not be more compassionate to help them to resettle in culturally similar nations and to stop engaging in a foreign policy that helps to create the refugee crisis in the first place, which is the situation we are in after 8 years of Bush and 8 years of doubling down with Obama?

Compassion is more than throwing money or ill-thought out "solutions" to a problem. There is a time for immediate relief but the truly compassionate mind looks to eliminate problems, not simply throw a band-aid on them. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Trump-styeria And Immigration

DID YOU SEE WHAT TRUMP DID!!!!HE IS EVIL!!!! HE IS BANNING MUSLIMS!!! ANYONE WHO DOES NOT UN-CATEGORICALLY CONDEMN HIM AND EMBRACE ALL "IMMIGRANTS" IS ANTI-CHRISTIAN!!!! OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!!!!!

Can we take a deep breath or three?

I really thought that some of the knee-jerk hysteria over the election would calm down at some point but that clearly is not the case. With Trump being elected we have entered a new period of time that is marked by hysteria, hyperbole and hypocrisy. He is pretty much the perfect President for 2017, a petty man following the administration of another petty man dealing with a largely petty culture. Lots of people are apparently in a race to see who can lower the level of public discourse to match Trump the quickest. 

Can we look somewhat dispassionately at some of the facts about this falsely labelled "Muslim ban"? 

First, it is not a "Muslim Ban". Just putting something behind a hashtag doesn't make it true. What Trump has enacted is not a #muslimban just like saying #handsupdontshoot doesn't negate the fact that his hands were not up.

The countries impacted by the ban are: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia. While it is true that these are all majority Muslim countries, they are also places where there are deep ties to terrorism or places with a great deal of political instability. If this was an actual ban on Muslims you would see Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Nigeria on the list as they are the top five countries in terms of Muslims in their population. Assuming the numbers from Wikipedia are accurate, that means that just from those five countries alone there are nearly 800,000,000 Muslims which is almost half of the total Muslim population in the world. The temporary ban covers seven countries which have a lot of people but are not the only or the largest Muslim populated nations. The ban is aimed at states that are generally agreed to be places where terrorism flourishes, and that agreement is based on actual facts even if you don't agree with the conclusions. 

Second, the "ban" is temporary, four months, during which time the administration is reviewing the vetting process for "refugees". As I show below, this is not without precedent because even as recently as 2011 under the benevolent Obama administration we enacted a similar temporary freeze on refugees from a specific, Muslim country. Many people, including the duly and lawfully elected President of the United States, think there are serious issues with our refugee/immigration programs. If you think something is broken on your car, you don't keep driving until the car stops, you take it in to have it checked out. This is based on something we call "common sense", a decidedly uncommon trait in our world today.

Third, there is nothing in the Constitution that requires the United States to take anyone from anywhere. From National Review: Refugee Madness: Trump Is Wrong, But His Liberal Critics Are Crazy

Even more ridiculous and blinkered is the suggestion that there may be something unconstitutional about refusing entry to refugees or discriminating among them on religious or other bases (a reaction that was shared at first by some Republicans, including Mike Pence, when Trump’s plan was announced in December 2015). There are plenty of moral and political arguments on these points, but foreigners have no right under our Constitution to demand entry to the United States or to challenge any reason we might have to refuse them entry, even blatant religious discrimination. Under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, Congress’s powers in this area are plenary, and the president’s powers are as broad as the Congress chooses to give him. If liberals are baffled as to why even the invocation of the historically problematic “America First” slogan by Trump is popular with almost two-thirds of the American public, they should look no further than people arguing that foreigners should be treated by the law as if they were American citizens with all the rights and protections we give Americans.

Certainly there are some aspects of the Constitution that provide protection to "people" rather than "citizens" but that doesn't mean that anyone who wants to come here is automatically extended the rights and privileges of citizenship.                                                                                         
Fourth, there are very real reasons to be concerned about the impact on our culture and our society from massive immigration. This isn't jumping at shadows or looking for the boogeyman under our beds.

Exhibit A from last August: German intelligence warns of ISIL ‘hit squads’ among refugees

German intelligence services have evidence that “hit squads” from the Islamic State terror group have infiltrated the country disguised as refugees, the deputy head of Bavaria’s spy agency told the BBC Thursday.

“We have to accept that we have hit squads and sleeper cells in Germany,” Manfred Hauser, the vice president of the Bavaria region’s intelligence gathering agency, BayLfV, told the Today program.

“We have substantial reports that among the refugees there are hit squads. There are hundreds of these reports, some from refugees themselves. We are still following up on these, and we haven’t investigated all of them fully,” said Hauser.

Exhibit B showing this is not a uniquely Trump move: The Obama Administration Stopped Processing Iraq RefugeeRequests For 6 Months In 2011

Although the Obama administration currently refuses to temporarily pause its Syrian refugee resettlement program in the United States, the State Department in 2011 stopped processing Iraq refugee requests for six months after the Federal Bureau of Investigation uncovered evidence that several dozen terrorists from Iraq had infiltrated the United States via the refugee program.

After two terrorists were discovered in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in 2009, the FBI began reviewing reams of evidence taken from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that had been used against American troops in Iraq.

Read the whole article including the part about finding that "refugee" Waad Ramadan Alwan who claimed to be a persecuted refugee but who had his fingerprints on an IED discovered in Iraq that was intended to maim and kill U.S. soldiers. The Obama administration paused resttlement for six months, two months longer than Trump is proposing. Where were the hashtags and the outraged celebrities? It is almost like the hysteria is politically motivated rather than based in actual facts and reasoning. 

Exhibit C, European counties which are much smaller than the U.S. individually are having a very difficult time assimilating these "refugees" as many of them don't want to me assimilated: SWEDEN AT BREAKING POINT: Police make urgent plea for help as violent crime spirals


Officers in the city of Malmö have struggled to cope with a surge of serious crimes including dozens of attempted murders, beatings, rapes and other offences – and have now been forced to admit: “We cannot do it on our own”.

Malmö police chief Stefan Sinteus called for locals to come forward with testimonies testimonies in a bid to help police catch suspects.

In an open letter, a desperate Mr Sinteus wrote: “I can assure you that the police in Malmö are doing everything we can for suspected perpetrators to be held accountable. But we cannot do it on our own.

“We depend on you, and your witness statements, to solve these violent crimes.

“Therefore I appeal now to you: Help us.”

In many European countries, violent crime has spiked and it is directly related to "refugees" who are unemployed, un-assimilated and resentful. We are able to suppress this in America because our country is so much larger but bringing in hundreds of thousands of people, especially when we aren't sure they have been properly vetted (or even if proper vetting is possible) is clearly problematic at best. The stories are almost overwhelming and the statistics are pretty clear. For example:

In Germany something like 99%+ of "refugees" are unemployed, or about one out of every 10,000 has an actual job. Since the U.S. is already $20,000,000,000,000 in debt and millions of current citizens out of the workforce, do we really have the resources to absorb hundreds of thousands of people who likely will have extreme difficulty in finding employment, don't speak our language and will have a tough time becoming comfortable in a land that is alien to them in almost every respect? Governing is pretty much always a series of choices that are based on scarce resources. We only have so much money to go around so we need to prioritize where those funds go. I saw one statistic, one I have not confirmed but can easily believe, that it costs over ten thousand dollars to resettle one refugee. Do we have the resources to do that on a massive scale. Yes I know you can argue that we spend hundreds of billions on the military and other programs but it doesn't negate the real cost of refugee resettlement in America.

Wouldn't it make more sense and be far more economical to help these refugees from Middle Eastern, majority Muslim countries to be resettled locally in other Middle Eastern, majority Muslim countries? How much easier will it be to have them return home to Syria from Saudi Arabia or Kuwait when you can drive home rather than from the United States? Unless of course they never really intended to return home in the first place. If we are going to spend money, and I am not convinced we should, to deal with refugees, with poverty, etc. around the world, let's be smart about it. Give this brief video a watch (only six minutes but powerful)




Immigration policy and the question of refugees is a complicated, thorny mess of competing priorities. When you try to discuss the question in light of Christian faith it really gets messy. The temptation to use the coercive power of the state to carry out Kingdom priorities is ever present in a free society. As Christians we are to love all people, including our enemies. Love, compassion, justice should inform our decisions but that doesn't necessarily mean advocating for or opposing a specific policy or program from the secular government. Some may say that it is compassionate to provide people with food stamps and welfare payments. I would say, as would many other Christians, that this tends to create a dependency on the government that steals self-worth and dignity from people and uses the threat of Caesar's sword to take from some to give to others. Welfare dependency is not compassionate, it is the opposite of compassion because it enslaves people, but that doesn't stop people from claiming that reducing welfare benefits is "draconian" and "lacking compassion" and throwing out the "least of these" card. 

Likewise with immigration policy. There is simply not a position that is the only "Christian" position, the only "loving" or "compassionate" position. Simply quoting Matthew 25: 31-46 as if that is a rational argument is dumb and intellectually lazy. The same is true for clumsy appeals that take into account none of the very real concerns of a nation-state to maintain border integrity. Of course just saying "Build a wall and keep 'em all out" is not a well reasoned position either. What we need are common sense, theologically informed positions that don't rely on either fear or misplaced sentimentality. What we especially need is a recognition that the church and the government are not interchangeable and what God calls the Kingdom to do is not what God expect Caesar to do.

Trump's immigration policies, his approach to refugees, etc. is not the Christian position. Neither was Obama's. Nor were any policies from any Presidents we have had or that have been proposed by anyone who ever ran for President. The tax policies of Trump, of Obama, of W. Bush, of Bill Clinton or the proposed tax policies of people like Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or even of devout professed Christians like Mike Huckabee or Ted Cruz are not "Christian tax policies" because there simply is no such thing. There is no "Christian" position on most governmental questions. For every cut and dried issue like legalized abortion or theft, there are dozens of more complicated issues like voter ID laws or immigration or tax policy or environmental regulations or....you get the point. 

The Kingdom priorities we have are not transferable to the unbelieving government of the world. As a Christian I am called, obligated and privilege to care for the sick and the widow and the hungry and the orphan. I am not called to use Caesar and the national policy of a secular state to accomplish a goal particularly when the issue is more complex than simply "Trump is for it so it musty be wrong". Just as I cannot say "I care about the poor because I voted for more welfare" or "I am pro-life because I voted for a Republican" neither can I say "I care about the stranger and the widow and the orphan because I opposed a four month temporary pause in immigration from seven very specifically chosen countries". 

If you think that pausing immigration and refugee resettlement from seven nations for 120 days is immoral or just bad policy, and you have done some actual research beyond re-Tweeting and liking Facebook posts, that is great. If you have studied the same question and looked at the data and agree that a temporary cessation makes sense and stricter border protections and immigration laws are in the best interest of the maximum number of people then that is great as well. What is not great is to resort of histrionics, hyperbole and hypocrisy that are based in partisan politics and claim you are just being the bigger Christian. 

I believe that there are very valid and even reasonably compassionate reasons to more strictly restrict in-coming immigration and refugee resettlement in the United States. I also think that President Trump is often wrong on his policy prescriptions, whether his "rebuild the military" rhetoric or his proposed funding mechanism for a southern border wall. What I am simply asking is that we do some research and ask some real questions before we leap onto social media to rail against something that is far more complicated than can be explained in 144 characters. Just because the world is content with sound bytes, tweets and memes it doesn't mean the church should be content with that as well.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The First Anabaptist Baptism

While the Protestant world is consumed, and with justification, by the 500th anniversary of the accepted start of the Protestant Reformation on October 31st, 1517, this day, January 21st, marks another anniversary. 490 years ago on this date in 1527, the first Anabaptist baptisms took place. Conrad Grebel first baptized George Blaurock and the Blaurock baptized Grebel, Felix Manz and others. This action in defiance of the religious authorities of the day would set them on a path that would lead to Blaurock and Manz being martyred along with countless other Anabaptists for daring to following the Scriptures on the question of baptism and defying the perverse state-church unequal yoking that dominated the day.

Their legacy of courage in the face of persecution and death lives with us today in the historic Anabaptist groups and to an extent among the hundreds of millions of others who practice believers baptism and believe in religious liberty, even though they are not directly descended from the Anabaptists. May God continue to raise up men, especially in these days, who insist on obeying God rather than man (Acts 5:29).

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Thinking About Water And Taking Things For Granted

If you were to drive past our house right now and look at our pasture, you might that we raise ducks or rice or cranberries or even perhaps trout instead of having a couple of horses and cattle. Thanks to a rather mild winter thus far and huge (or YUGE) amounts of rain, we are underwater. It is just something to learn to live with in the Midwest, especially so near the "big lakes" of Michigan and Erie. We get lots and lots of rain. We have lakes, large and small, all around us and a couple of bigger rivers have their headwaters near us. Add in the innumerable ponds, drainage ditches and creeks and what you get is a pretty complex system and near constant presence of water that we need to drive over or around to get almost anywhere. It is also often a source of mild irritation for us. Basements get water in them, roads have huge puddles and of course there is our ubiquitous mud. Our 15 passenger van is technically dark red but right not is pretty much 85% brown thanks to driving on muddy roads. Water is something we take for granted.

That is not the case in a lot of places in the world where water is life or death, as it is everywhere of course, but where it is also terribly scarce. There are places that get less rainfall in a year than we received yesterday, where the annual rainfall is measured in fractions of an inch. There are even places in the U.S. where water is a big deal. Out West the issue of water rights is a constant struggle between competing parties and priorities. Will farmers get water to irrigate their crops so people in the North can have out of season fresh produce or will cities get that water or maybe suburbs so Northern transplants to arid regions can still have the green lawn they grew up with?

For people in the Midwest, water is so commonplace that it often is an annoyance. It doesn't really mean much to us, at least until something happens and we can't use the water out of our taps for a day for whatever reason. For a lot of people in other regions it is something they constantly have to worry about having enough of.

If there is something else we have in seemingly endless supply in the Midwest it is religion. Unlike places around the world and increasingly in places around this country in certain regions, we have churches everywhere. I can be to one of dozens of churches in less than 20 minutes, from small country churches like the one up the road to aspiring mega-churches. It is pretty rare to meet someone who is not at least nominally religious and around here that means "Christian". Although the houses are pretty spread out, I would bet that if I went to 100 of the houses closest to mine, 95 of them would have at least one Bible (even if it was in German).

It often seems to me, and I am speaking of myself as much as other people, that we take having the Bible and the liberty to worship as we see fit for granted in the Midwest just as we take water for granted. In every meaningful way the living water we read of via the Scriptures is more important to life than the water we find in streams and lakes but we sometimes seem almost as contemptuous of it. Getting people to actually read the Bibles that litter our homes like old catalogs is like pulling teeth. People who have been "churched" their entire lives, even older people who have been in church for half a century, are woefully ignorant of what the Bible teaches because for all of our protests to the contrary, the record of God's revelation to His people is just not all that important to us.

Just as water is precious to people around the world who have limited access to it, the Bible is even more precious to people who don't have ready access to God's Word. I would guess that someone in Saharan Africa would be shocked and probably more than a little angry to see how much water we waste in my home, filling a glass up with water, drinking half of it and pouring the rest down the drain or letting the faucet run because it is just too hard to turn the knob. After all, the water goes into my septic system and then back in the ground where my well pumps it back into the house so who cares? Can you imagine someone who doesn't have their own Bible in their own language being told that there are people who have half a dozen hard copy Bibles in their home, unlimited access to the Bible and study tools on the internet that theologians of the past couldn't even have dreamed of and even Bibles on their phone and yet they still can't summon the effort to actually bother reading it?

Familiarity breeds contempt and I fear that many of us in the Midwest are so used to having the Bible that we can only be described as being contemptuous of it. Do we use the same whining tone we take about it raining again when confronted with the need to read our Bibles to prepare to participate in Bible study or Sunday school? I have to read a whole chapter?! Do we have no problem making time to go to a sporting event but when we need to make time for a gathering to open and study God's Word with other Christians we never seem to find an opening in our schedules?

I wonder how people would react in the Midwest if our plentiful water was suddenly scarce? I would expect people would panic and probably be quite angry and scared like we saw a few years ago when Toledo, Ohio had a very brief water crisis. I also wonder how Christians in the Midwest would react, or more accurately will react, if/when having the Bible is not such a given and when meeting with the church to open those Bibles requires more sacrifice than simply skipping one of your favorite TV shows? I would imagine that all of a sudden those Bibles collecting dust on our shelves or strategically placed in a conspicuous place in our home to show how Christian we are would rather quickly become a lot more precious to us.

I am not wishing persecution on us or dreaming of a day when Bibles are scarce. I am just thinking about how often we take for granted the things that are life-giving and life-sustaining, physically and spiritually, when they are so easily accessed without significant effort or cost. What is easy, what is cheap or even "free" has little value because it has little cost. In this transitional period where we are inexorably heading down a darker road where the culture turns even more radically against us and in a time when many pious pseudo-intellectual religious "leaders" denigrate and diminish the Bible as a sign of how "nuanced" they are, we should be declaring loudly and boldly within the church that the Bible is one of our most precious assets and is almost without peer in sustaining and maturing the church. Some day the water we take for granted in the Midwest might be gone, pumped via pipeline to irrigate golf courses in Arizona and probably even more likely there may come a day when access to the Bible carries with it significant cost. One of the chief tasks of the church today to is start placing a premium on the Word of God now so that we don't end up losing it due to neglect or indifference.

Jesus said that the words He spoke to the disciples were spirit and life...

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)

His Words still are spirit and life. Let's treat those words as if we believe the One who gave them to us.