Friday, November 29, 2013

Chasing The Approval Of The World

The media has been all abuzz with jarringly positive stories about Jorge Bergoglio, aka Pope Francis. I say "jarringly positive" because you pretty much never get any good press from the secular media on religious matters, doubly so for the Catholic Church which has, thanks to the sex abuse cover-up scandal, been a convenient punching bag for the media for a long time. Stories about Mr. Bergoglio eschewing some the lavish trappings of the papacy, showing extraordinary humility and love toward children and the ill, railing against the culture of greed and consumption and declaring that the Roman Catholic Church has been too concerned about doctrine have been plastered all over the internet and print media (I am told that some newspapers actually still use paper and ink. Weird.). Even the comment section of the stories about Mr. Bergoglio have been eerily positive, with many examples of people claiming to be atheists/agnostic buying " I ♥ Pope Francis" t-shirts and coffee mugs.

The evangelical world has not missed this and the chorus of praise for Jorge has been pretty deafening and one sided....

"See! SEE! Even atheists love the new pope! The world loves this guy! That is what we should be doing!"

Yeah. Except that doing what the world loves is really not the calling of the church. The world will continue to love Jorge Bergoglio as long as all he is doing is talking about loving people and being exceptionally compassionate to the poor while sweeping those inconvenient doctrines under the rug. You might say "Well what is wrong with that? Aren't we called to love each other and care for the poor, that whole  "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35)?" Absolutely and kudos to Jorge for his unusually fervent desire to love others. But that is not all we are called to. We are commanded to take the Gospel to the world to make disciples and then baptizing them in the name of Jesus Christ. We are not going to win the lost to Christ by doing what the world thinks we should be doing.

Recall that the crowds loved Jesus when they thought He was doing what they wanted: feeding them for free. When He started in with claiming to be the Son of Man and all that other stuff? Well they were quick to change their tune from "We ♥ Jesus!" to "Crucify Him!". We are not told to expect that the world will love us or even like us. We should expect just the opposite:

"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)

Why does the world hate Christianity? Because we are "anti-gay" or so darn annoying about that whole abortion thing? No. The world hates Christianity because the world loves what is evil and abhors what is good. Not some of the world or just bad guys or Al-Qaeda or Wall Street Bankers. The world. Period. God has called us "out of the world" and because of that our minds and hearts are changed in a way that the world hates. Very few people read John 3:16 in context but when you do you see the full message of message of Jesus:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God." (John 3:16-21)

The message of the Gospel is that the world loves darkness because its works are evil and because of that the world is already condemned by the Just and Holy God. The only hope for this world is not in doing good works like feeding the poor or embracing the leper, it is believing in the name of Jesus Christ. If you believe in Jesus you are saved from God's wrath. If you don't you remain under God's condemnation and the coming judgment. Those are the only two options. Jesus or judgment. If we were preaching that message more often we wouldn't have to worry about the world loving us too much. I don't mean to sound like I am brushing off our calling to serve the poor, to visit the widow and orphan, to feed the hungry and visit the prisoner. We absolutely must do these things because that is what Christ did and what we are called to do in response to our salvation. Part of why the world loves Mr. Bergogliois is that the church appears to the world to be far more concerned with filling our own coffers than with helping the poor. Keep in mind that evangelical groups and Roman Catholic groups have been quietly doing extraordinary work helping the poor and the orphan and the sick for centuries but the world barely noticed and rarely notes it in the media. If Mr. Bergoglio was teaching the core, non-negotiable doctrines of Catholicism with the same fervor that he speaks about caring for the poor, you can be sure the fawning media would be singing a different tune. He probably also wouldn't get the same adoring looks from evangelicals if he were doing that (I hope). No one seemed to be a big fan of Jorge's predecessor Joseph Ratzinger because he was just so darned serious about those messy doctrines. Setting up Jorge Bergoglio as the model we should emulate as evangelical Christians is misguided at best.

So Protestants, before you put the Tiger Beat poster of Jorge Bergoglio on your bedroom wall, remember why you are Protestant in the first place. Hopefully your reason is not "because that is what my parents are". I hope that most (some?) evangelical/Protestant Christians have given some thought as to why they are what they are. If things like transubstantiation, veneration of idols/relics, the papal office and all of the attendant claims and blasphemous titles, the rejection of the Biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone, etc. don't matter to you, I wonder why you bother. I have far more respect for Roman Catholics who have thought through these issues and embrace them than I do for "evangelicals" who have never given it a moments thought and go to a "worship service" instead of Mass because evangelical churches have better music and programs for kids so they don't interfere with our "worshiping". These are absolutely not secondary issues that can or should be set aside for the sake of false unity or to curry favor with the world. There is a reason that the Reformers and the Anabaptists were willing to face death by rejecting these claims (and many Catholics faced death for refusing to abandon them) and I don't think it is a sign of our maturity that for the most part we no longer care about them in any meaningful way. There is more, much more, to being a follower of Jesus than caring for the poor. If our gauge of faithfulness is the secular media of the world patting us on the head, we are in deep trouble.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Render (Or Not)

They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's (unless Caesar messes with your tax deductible contributions to religious organizations or the special tax benefits for housing allowances unique to the employees of religious organizations); and unto God the things that are God's.   
(Matthew 22:21, American Church Version)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Sign Of Things To Come

Saw this news story today: Judge strikes down law that gives clergy members tax-free housing allowances

A federal judge has found unconstitutional a law that lets clergy members avoid paying income taxes on compensation that is designated part of a housing allowance.

The decision Friday by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb could have far-reaching financial ramifications for pastors, who currently can use the untaxed income to pay rental housing costs or the costs of home ownership, including mortgage payments and property taxes

While many are wringing their hands and crying persecution over this, I see it differently.

First this is a sign of things to come. It should come as no surprise that tax breaks are going away, maybe not completely today but soon. It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when. The world has largely given up on the church as anything other than an anachronistic relic of the past and we must be prepared to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a nation that has long been religious but also just as long has been filled with false converts and empty moralistic religious observation. With each passing year the culture will grow more hostile to the actual church and intolerant of the Gospel message of coming judgment of sin that can only be propitiated through faith in Christ. We need to be preparing for the days to come, not bemoaning how "persecuted" we are and looking back with longing to days that are gone and never to return this side of the second coming of Christ.

Second, the church should never have entered this arrangement in the first place. Being partners with Caesar when Caesar holds the purse strings and can grant or withhold tax breaks has made the church beholden to the state. Sure we got nifty tax break as long as we did the governments bidding, acting as an agent for marriage and providing a moral compass to keep believer and unbeliever alike pliable and controllable. Now that the church has largely lost our already questionable influence, the partnership of convenience is coming to an end and the church is left looking around confused as Caesar takes away with the stroke of a pen what Caesar granted by the same method. The perverse partnership between church and state in America has largely been a positive for America and a negative for the church. With each decision like this one that symbiosis fades away.

Be of good cheer church. We don't need tax breaks or deductions for giving or the approval of the state for covenant marriage between believers. Let us let go of these false idols and be the church amidst a land that is an amazing field for harvest. Caesar can keep his tax breaks because when the true King returns those tax breaks will be shown to be meaningless and fidelity to Christ is all that will truly matter.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Diploma Dilemma

I watched this panel discussion the other night because Mike Rowe was going to be on the panel but the whole thing was fascinating. There is a desperate need for conversations like this. We have created a system where tons of young adults are getting essentially useless four year degrees that teach them very little that is useful in the workforce and lands then tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Meanwhile many good paying jobs are left unfilled because we have made blue collar jobs that require some hard work into something to be avoided at all costs. Meanwhile, as one panelist pointed out, we have more janitors with Bachelors degrees in America than chemists with Bachelors degrees. Nothing wrong with being a janitor but you don't need a B.A. in Art History or Women's Studies to do it. This is a very pertinent conversation in our home with three kids enrolled in the local community college and five more waiting in the wings.

Looking back I would gladly trade "the college experience" for a more practical skill set. I am considering options for doing just that, adding formal skills to my experience, hopefully making me more attractive as a candidate for the types of employers that are most common where we live. Granted I have a decent job that pays me well but I am definitely thinking about a major career shift. Anyway, check this video out. It is just over an hour but well worth your time.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

More Links I Liked (And Several I Didn't Like)

There have been several good articles the last few weeks dealing with agricultural policy in the U.S., ground zero for mismanagement and unintended consequences. Check out The Sugar Program Is Central Planning from the CATO Institute for a glimpse into an industry that is apparently designed to inflate prices for consumers while enriching a few incredibly wealthy sugar producers. Also see Ethanol Investigation: The Secret, Dirty Cost Of Obama's Green Power Push from the Huffington Post. In fairness a lot of this started under Bush so don't let the title scare you off. We are in the midst of the largest corn harvest on record and yet we have a shortage of corn that might lead to markedly higher beef prices. Where is all of that corn going? Well a lot into Federally mandated ethanol, which has led to many farmers plowing under land that was fallow to get every last kernel of corn they can squeeze out of their property. Also see another article from the HuffPo, Will Feds Bankrupt Small Farms With Food Safety Rules?. More regulations that make life harder for small producers means more and more of our food supply being produced in the industrialized food system and that isn't health for anyone but the agribusiness giants have better lobbyists than the small family farmers.

John Piper weighs in on the much discussed Strange Fire Conference. I found his points far more thoughtful and humble than the broad-brush, or perhaps more accurately sledgehammer, methods of John MacArthur.

Tom Ascol gives a brief overview of the Threefold Imputation in Salvation. It is amazing to think that my sins are imputed to Him and His righteousness is imputed to me! Amazing grace indeed.

I agree in large part with this post from Jeremy Gardiner, An Open Letter to Complementarians about Head Covering. There are an awful lot of complementarians and very few advocate for the practice of headcovering. I hold to both a complementarian position on gender and the practice of headcovering for women, largely because the same interpretative principles hold in both cases. This is hardly the only place where the church is inconsistent, there are plenty of people who advocate for a participatory meeting based on a literal and universal application of 1 Corinthians 14:26 but then treat 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 as an embarrassing anachronism that needs to be explained away. Anyway I agree with Jeremy that losing the practice of headcovering might lead to more important truths being set aside in the church. We have already lost too many.

I found this link more disturbing and distressing than interesting: Bones of St. Peter.

I am not trying to be offensive or "anti-Catholic" but praying to or even praying before the mouldering bones attributed (with no real evidence) to Peter strikes me as macabre and creepy. Even if they were Peter's bones it would be creepy and reminiscent of medieval superstition rather than a Biblical practice. There is something jarring about Jorge Mario Bergoglio speaking about a "poor church" while simultaneously encouraging the faithful to pray in front of a pile of bones in the midst of an opulent edifice that is the epicenter of the most egregious example of the abuse of religion to have ever been associated with Christianity. 

Tim Challies ran a series on the tricky topic of modesty. It is a hard one, most people end up swinging to one extreme or the other, either legalism or license. Tim's initial post Modesty Matters: The Heart of Modesty tries to lay out a properly nuanced position but I think he missed the mark. For example:

Second, modesty takes into account the situation. What is modest in one situation may well be immodest in another. We all know we can dress modestly on the beach, but if we were to wear that very same thing to church it would be terribly immodest. Modest beachwear makes very immodest church-wear.

I think that is where a lot of people come down and I also think it is troubling. If your beachwear is too immodest for "church", it is probably just too immodest in general.It is a hard issue because swimwear is so commonplace but it also is generally awfully immodest. Without getting graphic even a one-piece ladies suit leaves very little to the imagination and I think we owe our sisters and our daughters more than that.

Another link I was not keen on was in the Washington Post and is a bio of Nadia Bolz-Weber. The title alone should give you a clue what you will find: Bolz-Weber’s liberal, foulmouthed articulation of Christianity speaks to fed-up believers. Now no one is more fed up with the state of the church than I am but this is not the right response. I can spot a schtick when I see one and from the article it sounds like a liberal female version of Mark Driscoll. Check out my #@%&a tats! Grrr, I am so authentic and real! No, you are just following a different stereotype and seeking attention. That is not "real" or "authentic" or even particularly novel. People have acted out in a bid for attention since mankind has existed.

This is kind of random but funny: NFL Player Quits Because, You Know, Noam Chomsky. Here is the opening line:

John Moffit, an American football player for the Denver Broncos, has walked away from a multi-million dollar contract after studying the works of Noam Chomsky and the Dalai Lama.

Um, Ok. Chomsky has some interesting insights but his "solutions" are pretty kooky which is too bad. Just thought that was amusing.

Anyway, there are some of the things I have read and thought you might find of interest.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I Shall Taunt You A Second Time

Spending on Sending

David Fitch who blogs at Reclaiming The Mission posted this on Facebook Sunday morning:

I replied with this:

Nothing new there but I was thinking about it more and the more I did, the more it struck me that we are missing a golden opportunity in the church and probably don't even realize it. Having been in the church for more than a decade and in that time seeing a pretty wide spectrum, at least on the conservative end, I have come to realize that the church in America is notable for untapped potential on a massive scale. In virtually every fellowship we have been involved in there were many individuals, couples and families that were highly motivated, mature and zealous but were not part of the leadership and therefore were relegated to teaching Sunday school or something of that nature. Nothing wrong with teaching of course but there is so much more they could accomplish if they were encouraged and untethered.

I believe the reason so many Christians are disengaged from the broader mission of the church is two fold but has the same root. First the rank and file Christian is encouraged to do very little other than faithfully show up and pay up on Sunday morning. Sure there is a lot of chatter from the pulpit about mission and evangelism and service but no one really exhorts or rebukes those content to live out their Christian life in comfortable religious apathy week after week and there are a lot of people like that. The second reason that so much potential is left untapped is that so much of the church, especially financially and emotionally, is tied up in local fellowships. With local churches spending or hoarding most of their income as fast as it comes in there is little left over for something outside of the institutional box. So weeks turn into months which turn into years of inaction and atrophy for all too many Christians.

Look at a place like Detroit. It is dirt cheap to buy houses there but it is also pretty hard to find a job and it is also pretty dangerous compared to our cozy suburban religious strongholds. Even so I am sure that if churches in the wealthy enclaves of Oakland County and Ann Arbor pooled their ample resources and recruited among the church they could find plenty of families and individuals who would move to Detroit to minister to that most desperate of cities if they got financial support for the move and initial expenses as well as subsidizing living costs while they got established.

Wait a second you might be saying! Aren't you against paying people in ministry. Why yes, yes I am. I would qualify that by saying that not all financial support is created equally. Am I in favor of providing domestic missionaries, evangelists and church planters with a permanent salary? Not at all. I think it is important for those who minister in a community to be employed and engaged in the community. Especially in places like Detroit where there is a major suspicion of outsiders coming in and telling them what to do. But there is nothing wrong or unbiblical about the church financially helping those called and sent to serve. I would much rather see churches helping several families get established in an area instead of hiring another staff member or increasing the size of their parking lot.

We often think of the church in America as being unbelievably wealthy and it is but not in the ways we are trained to think. Our real wealth is not in our obscene real estate holdings or overflowing bank accounts. Our real earthly treasure is found in our brothers and sisters, a treasure that is largely lying untapped by the church. It is high time to stop discouraging the saints and start encouraging, equipping and yes even spending to support them. The fields have never been whiter in America and the harvest sits ready but we can't harvest the field with our workers sitting idly in the barn every Sunday.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

An Elder Is Not An Elder Unless He Is An Elder

I had breakfast with a brother in Christ yesterday morning and we chatted about a lot of stuff but one thing we talked about kind of grabbed my attention for a second look. It is a topic I have written on a lot in the past but not so much recently, namely elders in the church of Christ.

What do we know about elders? Elders in the New Testament and therefore in the church were multiple rather than singular, exclusively male, led by example of service rather than dictated by decree and were recognized from within the local church rather than recruited from the outside. How that actually plays out in the church is not as clear and that has led to man "filling in the blanks" which is how we end up with bishops, elders and pastors being seen as different "offices" in the church, professional elders who are paid to serve, elders hired on the basis of educational achievement and their ability to deliver a monologue and of course the single elder/pastor church.

We got to talking about elders and how they look in a local church. How does one know that a brother is an elder? Imagine a new person coming to your church. If you don't tell them right away who the elders are, would  they know? Does the church treat them differently, are they the only ones who talk? Should an elder look different from the rest of the church? I don't think so. Elders shouldn't be recognizable by attire or titles or deference. What should identify an elder are the qualities that make them an elder in the first place and those are qualities that require observation and getting to know someone.

Conversely, someone who spends time in your church but is never told who the elders are should easily be able to figure it out based on observing their lives. Not because they dominate the church conversation or are getting paid or have their name on the sign out front or in the bulletin. No, they should exhibit in their daily walk those attributes that we see in Scripture clearly laid out. I guess what I am saying is that you don't need a name on the sign or in the bulletin to be known as an elder and no one should have to tell you who the elders are because after a while it should be apparent.

Another idea came up having to do with the correct number of elders in the church.

If there are 50 men in a local church or fellowship or whatever you call it and 15 of those men exhibit the qualities of an elder, then you should recognize those 15 men as elders. I have run into a lot of churches that create an arbitrary number of elders, whether that is 1 or 3 or 5. I have seen 3 a lot actually. Both in Michigan and here locally we have been part of groups with a three man eldership but with many more men who were, based on what I was seeing, qualified to be elders who should have been recognize as elders. I think some of this has to do with the 12 apostles. We know that after Judas was exposed as the betrayer it was decided that another should take his office, lots were cast and Mathias was chosen. The reason there were twelve is very specific but it doesn't apply to elders in a local church. I have said before and I will say again, every man in the church should either be an elder or growing toward being an elder. Any man who is not an elder or on that trajectory is being completely failed by the church (see What is the right number of elders? ).

The elders of the church are nothing short of a gift from our gracious Father, brothers given to the church for no lesser purpose than equipping the rest of the church for the work of ministry (Eph 4: 11-14 ) and serving as a model to emulate for every single brother in the church as they too grow into the fullness of maturity in Christ. When the church so long ago changed elders from examples to emulate to rulers over lessers, it lost the very purpose and means that God ordained. Today's modern model of a overworked combination of non-profit administrator /babysitter/ motivational speaker is only marginally better but still a far cry from what the church was given and what the church so desperately needs.

Lord renew a desire for godly men to be the examples to the flock that we need and rekindle the desire in the church for a robust model of elders that rejects the administrator and the tyrant alike.

Monday, November 11, 2013

More Links I Liked

A few links I have found thought provoking lately.

More reasons to get rid of farm subsidies. Turns out that 50 Billionaires Received U.S. Farm Subsidies, Report Finds. It isn't as bad as the title indicate but still it is a special kind of ridiculous that people who are incredibly wealthy can get "farm" subsidies.

Still on farming, it turns out that it is hard to get "organic" grain to feed livestock so they can be sold as organic. Harvest Public Media explores this topic in Filling a hole in the organic pipeline. It is pretty tough to do, even if you don't give your livestock antibiotics and hormones they are still eating feed that is being raised in the industrial food system.

Mark Steyn's latest essay, The Drift toward Despotism, is pretty crude but it is also troubling. The reports of misconduct by uniformed agents of the state are growing more and more frequent and disturbing. The almost casual violence, the degradation which seems more and more to manifest itself in sexual violence, the division and suspicion toward the public that is exhibited by many of our "leaders" and increasing numbers of our public servants is a growing problem and one that is far more of a threat to liberty than Islamic terrorism.

More politics. Rand Paul speaking at Liberty University for their convocation, speaking as he often does on the assault on personal liberty and civil rights, including a look at bioethics: FULL SPEECH: Media Distort Rand Paul Address by Cribbing Off AP Report.While Senator Paul needs to work on his joke delivery, he often seems to be the only one in the room who is asking the hard questions and shedding light on dangerous trends in the erosion of liberty.

This one is a link to a book, not even one I have read! I got this back in September for free or really cheap, While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age during the Civil Rights Movement.Written by Carolyn Maull McKinstry, it tells the story of a young woman who was present and very near the bomb that blew up a Baptist church in Birmingham, killing four young black girls. My wife read it yesterday and really liked it. From her description it is an interesting but also disturbing look at the days of the Civil Rights movement. We are encouraging our kids to read it. Children and young adults the age of our children need to know what life was really like for blacks in America in the era between the end of the Civil War and the modern era. Having grown up with the civil rights movement hijacked by hucksters, race baiters and professional  aggrieved racial extortionists like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson it can be hard to remember that it was not always that way and the life of non-whites in America for a very long time, even after slavery, was one of constant discrimination and fear. I hope to give it a read soon but it gets an enthusiastic recommendation from my wife!

Ever wonder why politicians seem so out of touch? It might be because D.C. is a world apart. From the Washington Post, Washington: A World Apart, shows the demographics that make up the center of power and influence in America.

This is a fascinating and troubling look at the lives of the denizens of the Washington D.C. area. It follows some of the same data that Charles Murray compiled in his excellent book Coming Apart. What the demographics show is a increased concentration of the wealthiest and best educated in America, and nowhere is this concentration more pronounced than in D.C.

What does it mean for our society that the ruling elite, and elite is the only way to look at them, live in a somewhat cocooned subculture of affluence, compartmentalized from the realities of life in Kansas and Alabama? The overwhelming size and control of the Federal government over every aspect of our lives coupled with a cultural, educational and economic disparity like this might explain some of the reason that Washington seems so clueless about the rest of the country and why our country is so divided. When I visited a few years ago it was remarkable that while the rest of the nation was mired in a deep recession, life seemed to be booming in D.C. The high end malls were full of people and the driveways and roads were full of brand new cars. In Michigan people were moving out of the state trying to find work, the roads were falling apart and there was a pall of desperation. It was like two different countries, not two different regions in the same country.

One couple quoted said something interesting: "The divide they feel is intellectual, they said. When Kulp travels outside the region, he says he realizes that people he meets don’t talk much about things such as foreign policy and countering nuclear terrorism, as he does at home with other people with advanced degrees. Instead, he said, “people elsewhere talk more about what they see every day.”" I think that for many people conversations about foreign policy and political minutiae are a waste of time because they feel like those issues are outside of their control. At least talking about sports is something you can feel connected to. Bottom line, the growing division between the elite measured by wealth and education and the lower classes is growing and ironically more in the nation's capital than anywhere else. Silly solutions like raising the minimum wage or mandating a "living wage" miss the underlying issues. I am not sure what the solution is but the trajectory we are on is a dangerous one.

A Day To Apologize

Today is Veterans Day here in the United States, a day that is also known as Armistice Day around the world. Today we normally remember and give thanks to those men and women who have served in the Armed Forces of United States. There is a very real cost in blood spilled and lives lost to preserve the life-style, culture and political system of America, and that cost has always been borne by the young (mostly) men and women.

I have not been in the ranks of those who wore a uniform for this country and at my age and given my stance on warfare I never will. I do think of those who have, especially those who have seen the horror of war. Whenever this country calls they always come. They march off to far away lands: Europe, the Pacific, Africa, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan. Too many come home in body bags or coffins. Many come home with fewer limbs then when they left. Even those who on the outside seem whole are all too often scarred on the inside, carrying memories of the horror of war, of friends and comrades in arms that died.

Until recently I have been an enthusiastic cheerleader for American wars. Sure I dressed it up in with noble sounding rhetoric like fighting the "War on Terror" or "spreading freedom and democracy" but during my lifetime the myriad wars that America has been involved in have all been ill-advised. I was born during the Vietnam War, an unmitigated disaster that left a country devastated and a population decimated, not to mention the impact on American veterans. We spent most of my youth in a Cold War standoff with the Soviets, threatening one another with worldwide destruction that often was much closer than we like to admit. We have "intervened" all over the world in places like Somalia where we accomplished very little and were horrified by the sight of Somalis dragging the bodies of American men through the streets. When I started college we went to the Middle East again to "protect" Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, two nations that have very little to commend them to our protection other than the oil under their feet. We didn't "finish the job" during that war but we got the chance to do so later on when W. finished the war his dad started. We are still in Afghanistan and everyone knows that we are leaving soon and that Afghanistan, a land that has embarrassed empires for a long time, will revert right back to where it was as soon as we leave. All those lives lost and for what? We "got bin Laden" but he was in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. 41 years of ill-advised military interventions around the world.

This might not be popular. Can't I just thank our veterans today? Sure I could. That is the easy and the acceptable response. But I don't feel it. I recognize the service and sacrifice of so many young men and women. I appreciate that they were trying to do the right thing and often got little thanks for it. They also were doing this on my behalf and for that I apologize. I grieve for those lost in meaningless wars and interventions. I grieve for those who have lost limbs and for those who lost buddies. I grieve for those who carry hidden scars. I grieve that so many have died and so many have killed in ill-conceived wars that were essentially meaningless. I don't mean to downplay or dishonor their service. Most wore the uniform with the best of intentions. Still, I apologize for those who served on my behalf.  I am sorry they had their youth ripped away. I am sorry for the nightmares. I am sorry that we sent them on foolish errands around the world where they had no business being and where so many of them lost their lives. I am sorry that we have created a culture that glorifies violence and exalts military action. I am sorry that we are so concerned with preserving our economic and cultural way of life that we are willing to send young men and women to their deaths to maintain it. I am sorry for what we sent you to do.

I apologize.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Well That Didn't Take Long

Some circles of the religious social media world are a-twitter with news of yet another resignation by a prominent Christians figure. Just a little over a week ago Douglas Phillips, president of Vision ForumMinistries, announced that he had been involved in a sinful and inappropriate relationship with a woman who was not his wife and was stepping down as head of Vision Forum.

Phillips is fairly well known in homeschooling circles, especially among the more militant wing that is known for advocacy of not just homeschooling but often quiver-full views, "family integrated church" and a sense of homeschooling as a training ground to "take back America". Many homeschoolers get their catalogs and might know the name but the actual influence is far more limited than the detractors of homeschooling would like to admit.

Doug Phillips is also a prominent proponent of one narrowly defined version of "patriarchy" and that has made his fall into fodder for the small but vocal of people who see patriarchy as an evil. They didn't take long to show up on the internet crowing with delight over his fall from grace. Not content to wallow in Phillips own sham, they commenced to drawing a linkage between this event and patriarchy in general. Kind of goes like this....

Doug Phillips had a moral transgression

Doug Phillips is an advocate of one narrow interpretation of patriarchy

Therefore patriarchy in all its forms is evil

I am only slightly exaggerating. I stopped paying much attention to Phillips and Vision Forum a while ago. While much of what they teach is profitable, I think they also advocate for a vision of manhood that is more American than Christian, including an unhealthy obsession for all things militaristic. I don't homeschool my kids as a way to prepare a generation to retake America for Jesus by conquering the political, legal and cultural bastions of liberalism. I homeschool them because I think it is my responsibility as a parent to do so and because it provides them a Christian framework for their education. Having said that I find the attacks on him, and not so subtly anyone who holds to any views in common with him, quite disgusting. Too many Christians link to articles like this one from the secular Huffington Post to score points for their doctrinal camp, seemingly uncaring if the broad brush that they are painting with is unduly slandering untold numbers of other Christians. I find it unbecoming and outright ugly for Christians to unequally yoke themselves with unbelievers because they have a chip on their shoulders about "patriarchy". I have been guilty of doing some of the same in the past and where I have done so I apologize for it. For those who see this as a chance to score cheap gotcha points, please stop it. Now.

By all measures I can tell from a distance Doug is a brother in Christ in spite of some disagreements I have with him. He sinned and came clean about it in as proper a way as you can do with this sort of thing. It doesn't sound like a minor transgression and he is treating it as such. From what he says in his public announcement, he has taken the proper steps to deal with his sin which is now public, by private admission of sin to his wife and family, his church and his friends before going public. This would be a swell time to not try to score points using one man's error to paint an entire community of Christians with his sin. Believing in patriarchy, however that is defined, does not make all male Christians who hold to that into mean ogres who abuse their wives. Women who hold to patriarchy are not all mousy doormats suffering from theological Stockholm Syndrome. I am pretty sure that egalitarian dudes sin against their wives in the same way that Doug sinned against his. So please, for the sake of honesty and simple decency let's allow this to be handled where it needs to be handled, in his family and in his church. If you want to make a case against patriarchy, please feel free to do so from Scripture, not by playing "guilt by association" and engaging in the religious equivalent of tabloid journalism.

Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Totes For Tots

Hey a quick note. The Haiti Orphan Project's medical arm is in need of totes carry and store medical supplies. They are actually pretty cheap from Home Depot.

Just click on this link and buy the  27 gallon tote for pick up at the Brentwood, MO store, store #3002. I had to change the default Home Depot store but that took just a second to do. The totes are only $9.97 plus tax and the lovely and talented staff at HOPE Medical Project will pick it up (or Les will, who is somewhat talented but not terribly lovely). For about ten bucks and five minutes of your time you can make a major difference in the life of Haitian orphans who need medical care. Go now and be a blessing to these precious orphans that God calls us to care for!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Finishing Well

As you might know, Dave Black's beloved wife Becky Lynn went home to Christ after a long struggle with cancer. Her example in that time has been an inspiration to me from afar and her husband's reflections from the celebration of her life made me both deeply sorrowful and impossible hopeful all at once.

Please jump over to When A Loved One Goes Home. Read it, absorb it, weep along with it and most of all live it. All of our lives on this earth are but vapors, here today and then gone. Read of a sister who made the most of her time and read of a brother who has humbly submitted to God's will over his own desire. It is sad but it is joyful.

I never got to meet my sister Becky in this life but I look forward to seeing her face to face in eternity. I can't wait.