Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Protect Livestock But Not Children

In the state of California where up to a third of residents are in favor of secession because of the election of Donald Trump, two pro-life activists have been charged with multiple felonies. Their crime? Recording representatives of arch-abortionist Planned Parenthood discussing the viability of selling the component body parts of children they murdered. The recordings were done, as far as I can tell, in public venues.

When I read about it this morning, my first reaction was that this reeks of political correctness and hypocrisy. People on the left love it, absolutely love it, when people deceive employers to get jobs in private farm/meat facilities and take video of animals being allegedly abused. The videos of alleged animal abuse are done under false pretenses, on private property and are clearly edited to only show the most egregious examples. That is OK though because it helps advance the narrative. Videos shot of Mitt Romney giving a private speech or other conservative groups are likewise OK because they are on the right side of the political spectrum. Filming people selling human parts? That must be punished or at least the threat of punishment must appear to keep people from asking inconvenient questions. I am not the only one who noticed this, David French at the often useless National Review put out a piece that makes the same point, California Shamelessly Persecutes Pro-Life Journalists. Here is a sample:

California’s case not only fails on the merits, it reeks of selective prosecution. There is no shortage of examples of concealed-camera videos in California exposing scandalous behavior (the Federalist’s Sean Davis has been tweeting them since the indictment), often in the arena of animal rights. In 2014, a group called Mercy for Animals released an undercover video that “allegedly show[ed] widespread animal abuse and cruelty at one of California’s largest duck farms.” Authorities reportedly responded to the video — by investigating the farm.
In 2015, the same group released yet another undercover video, this time exposing “apparent mistreatment of chickens at a Foster Farms poultry slaughterhouse in Fresno and at three poultry farms in Fresno County.” Once again, authorities responded — once again by investigating the farm.
But the lives and deaths of chickens and ducks rate higher than the lives and deaths of human babies in the womb, so the Center for Medical Progress triggered an entirely different law-enforcement reaction. Pro-life journalists must be prosecuted.

That is so obviously true that only someone with their head buried in the sand up to their knees would not see it. That doesn't matter unfortunately because no matter how many hoax hate crimes are exposed or falsely labelled "Muslim bans" generate protests or whatever, the truth is irrelevant to far too many people and all that matters is pushing their agenda, even when the victims of their agenda are the most vulnerable human beings among us.

Whatever your opinion of using deceit and hidden films to expose wrong-doing, you have to recognize that there is rampant hypocrisy in this prosecution of David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt and especially when you consider that the charges amount to potentially 15 felonies. You can also be sure that if found guilty, the courts in California will impose the harshest possible sentence to send the message: you don't mess with the butchers at Planned Parenthood.

When your worldview sees one action when taken to "protect" livestock raised for food as being OK and even noble but sees the same action, and a less intrusive one, being done to protect unborn children as being a felony worthy crime, your worldview is exposed as irredeemable evil. Evil is a word we shy away from in our culture but there is no other word that suffices for those who approve of, engage in and profit from selling the human remains resulting from the willful aborting of an otherwise viable human life. It is evil and no amount of "nuance" or word-games will change what it is.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Rod Dreher And His Muslim "Brother"

Rod Dreher, the author of the book many are breathlessly calling the most important book this decade and doing so in complete seriousness, The Benedict Option, has spent a lot of time over the last year or so pushing his book as the only possible way forward for the church. At the same time and more so as reviews started coming in he has also lashed out, in increasingly strident language, against  those who were insufficiently impressed with his book. I am going to read it once it becomes available from our library, if only to interact with it as it is so widely cited, but I am deeply unconvinced that Rod has the right prescription for the church.

Anyway, I wasn't really planning on writing more about the BenOp until I had the chance to read it but it turns out that I kind of feel like I need to point something out he just wrote over the weekend. The title of the article is sort of innocuous: A Muslim Reads The Benedict Option  and the content is largely inoffensive until you get past the part that the Muslim wrote and read Rod's haughty, belligerent and yet very, very telling comments at the end. Here they are:
How is it that my Muslim brother Kamran understands The Benedict Option better than some Christian reviewers?
How is it that I suspect I have more in common with him on the subject of holiness and faithful living than with a lot of Americans who call themselves Christian but who seem to be well assimilated to the secular, consumerist order?
Whatever the answers, I’m so grateful to him for this letter, and for the possibilities it signals of religious collaboration across lines of faith.
My Muslim brother. Assuming that Rod and Kamran Hashim are not blood relatives and it seems clear that Rod is not using the word "brother" in the sense of a universal brotherhood of mankind, what exactly is the source of the alleged "brotherhood" between a Muslim and a "Christian"? This is the comment that I left on the article, it is awaiting moderation which makes me suspect it will never make it on the webpage.
Your Muslim "brother". The term brother, apart from actual blood relatives, carries a great deal of theological meaning for Christians. It invokes a sense of unity in the family of God. Any Muslim who actually believes his faith is by definition not a brother of anyone who is an actual Christian because their religion denies the divinity of Christ. I am sure you know this which makes me wonder why you would refer to an unbeliever and blasphemer as your "brother" other than his glowing praise of your book?
A Muslim doesn't not recognize Jesus as the Christ. As such he denies not only Christ but the Father who sent Him (John 5:23). In no respect is a Muslim, even a really nice and devout and moral one, my brother. This is where Rod has gone completely off the rails. A Muslim or Mormon or Jew that shares my political viewpoint and is a moral, "holy" person is not my brother in any sense. An actual regenerate believer in Christ who is not as morally upright and personally holy as he ought to be, just as I am not, is my brother. I am not one to shy away from calling out the church, starting in my own home, for being too cozy with the world but that doesn't mean that I stand arm in arm with a Muslim blasphemer while pointing an accusing finger at my brothers in Christ and rail against them "Why can't you Christians be more like this Muslim!?".

What is really on display here is that we see yet again that Rod Dreher, for all his eloquent writing and his book deals, doesn't really understand Christianity at all. This is not surprising, he was formerly a Roman Catholic and is now Greek Orthodox so he is deeply immersed in aberrant theological traditions and he frequently mentions that he doesn't understand evangelicalism, or as I like to call it "Christianity". What it does mean is that anyone who is a Christian that relies on or too heavily encourages others to rely on The Benedict Option as the way forward for the church should keep in mind that there is rarely a good reason for the church to take advice from someone outside of the church. As I wrote in a prior post on the BenOp, The Benedict Option And The Future Of The Church: We Should Look Back But Where And When Is The Real Question:
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
That may seem harsh but it is simply the truth.

From what I can tell, Rod's entire relationship with this guy, Kamran Hashim, who in a likelihood is a nice fella, is based on a letter Rod got from him about The Benedict OptionIf Rod truly thinks that a Muslim is his brother, based apparently on some shared moral convictions and the Muslim's glowing review of his book gleaned from a letter, then it is just as clear that Rod is not my brother and that Rod doesn't understand much about Christianity, about the church or about the Bible. He is hardly alone in this but not many people who are as clueless as he is about these questions is given so much praise and such heartfelt recommendation as an expert by so many Christians. Someone who doesn't understand why a Muslim is not and cannot be the brother of a Christian has no business presuming to speak on behalf of the entire church, a church he is apparently not part of and hasn't a clue about. 

If you read The Benedict Option, I recommend you read it through the same lens I will: it is a noteworthy book about religion and politics in America but it is not a book written for Christians by a Christian. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Least Of These

Oh, he was SO CLOSE!

Kevin DeYoung posted what could have been a very useful post yesterday on Matthew 25: Who Are 'The Least Of These'? Matthew 25 has been trotted out ad nauseum by "progressives" to scold evangelicals for not supporting income redistribution policies that trap poor people in an endless cycle of poverty and dependence but they rely on a completely erroneous assumption about Matthew 25. The narrative is that justification doesn't really rely on faith but rather on doing a sufficient number of acts of charity. That might not be the explicit message but it is certainly implied. If you don't feed the hungry or visit those in prison, you are going to hell (not that they believe in hell, except perhaps for Republicans). Actually reading the verses in their complete form gives us a subtle difference to that narrative and is so often the case the careful study gives a different picture than the prevailing narrative. Here is some of what DeYoung wrote:

What’s more important to me is that we handle the Bible carefully, both from the pulpit and in our public pronouncements. Which is why we should try to understand “the least of these” in its proper context. What Jesus says in Matthew 25 is not “conservative” or “liberal.” It’s Christian, and has everything to do with how we treat other Christians.

“The least of these” refers to other believers in need—specifically, itinerant Christian teachers dependent on other Christians for hospitality and support. That’s my answer to the title of this blog post.

So he was right on in the first paragraph. I made this point the other evening in Bible study looking at Acts 4:32-37. The Bible is clear that Christians should be charitable people but it is especially clear that our first priority ought to be providing for the needs of fellow believers. That is the message of Galatians 6:10, which DeYoung also quotes and is also the message of Acts 2 and 4 (the all things in common passages), Acts 6 (the distribution for widows), Romans 15:25-28, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, etc. While ought to be generous as we are able to those in need, we should never do so at the expense of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Where he goes astray is the second paragraph. He just can't seem to get out of the organized religion paradigm. He bases this on similarities between Matthew 25 and Matthew 10:40-42. While there are similarities between the two passages, Matthew 10 is specifically speaking of the disciples Jesus is sending out. Matthew 25 makes no mention of the disciples specifically or itinerant teachers or anything of the sort. The principle is the same but it seems pretty clear that Matthew 25 is directed at the church broadly speaking, not a specific subset. I am sure that travelling teachers fall under the category of those in need Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25 but so do other believers.

Once again we see the organized religion mindset intrude on an otherwise solid Biblical study.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Congress And The First Amendment

Doug Wilson is doing a chapter by chapter review of Rod Dreher's "The Benedict Option" and has gotten as far as the second chapter. His review of that chapter titled Finding The Seven Thousand, is quite good but what really sets it apart is his treatment of the First Amendment and the founding of America. I am reproducing it here at some length (bold type my emphasis):

Follow me closely here. If you have a state bird (like Maryland’s oriole) and a national bird (like the bald eagle), you are not setting the stage for conflict. If you have a state flower (like Idaho’s syringa) and a national flower (like America’s rose), you are not begging for regional strife. But if the state denomination of Connecticut was Congregational, which it was, and you established any other denomination as the Church of the United States, you were pleading for trouble.

And so that is why the First Amendment of the Constitution says this:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Notice that the only entity that could possibly violate the First Amendment is Congress. “Congress shall make no law.” Congress could violate the establishment clause by creating a Church of the United States, bestowing that “honor” upon the Episcopalians, say. But they would also have violated the free exercise clause by telling Connecticut that they could not have Congregationalism as their state religion.
“The U.S. Constitution, a Lockean document, privatizes religion, separating it from the state” (Loc. 544).
Provoked at this point to strong oaths, I must say by the Great Horn Spoon, it is not so. It is correct to say that Locke was enormously influential, but absolutely false to say that the Constitution privatizes religion. No, it federalized religion. At the time the Constitution was ratified, 9 of the 13 states that ratified that document had established state churches of their very own. By having those state churches, they were in no fashion violating the First Amendment. They couldn’t violate the First Amendment. They weren’t Congress. The last state denomination didn’t disappear until the 1830’s (which happened in Connecticut).

I shudder to admit I haven't typically given as much attention to the rather obvious point that the First Amendment only really limits the Congress specifically when it comes to the establishment of religion. You should read the whole thing, more for Wilson's treatment of the First Amendment and public religion than the review of the Benedict Option which is rapidly becoming the most tiresome religious topic since the Prayer of Jabez came out.

I left a comment on the post and it was precipitated by looking back at my previous posts that referenced Dreher. I came across one from December 2015, You Cannot Have One Without The Other, which was primarily looking at the kerfuffle over the Wheaton professors claiming that Christians and Muslims worshipped the same God but in that post I noted that Rod Dreher, who now claims to be the authority on the singular path forward for all iterations of Christianity, had never given any thought to the question of whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God and as recently as December 2015 still didn't know the answer. Here is what I wrote at the time:

Unfortunately a lot of people don't seem to understand the problem. One well known writer who is put forth as a Christian authority is Rod Dreher who writes at The American Conservative among other places. Rod is known most recently for his proposal, the "Benedict Option", calling for a somewhat vague idea of Christians concerning themselves mostly with preserving knowledge and culture for some future time. Rod writes concerning this controversy in an article titled: Muslim God, Christian God. In it he says he has never even considered whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God:
To be honest, I’ve never thought at all about whether Muslims pray to the same God as Christians. The Catholic Church teaches that they do, and that was my belief when I was a Catholic, though I never gave it a minute’s thought. I don’t know what I believe now, to be honest.
That still floors me every time I read it. I can understand a new Christian not really getting down in the weeds about this issue but for someone who is a public thinker and is considered to be something of an authority and intellectual I can't believe he has never even thought about this. Of course by way of explanation he points out that the Catholic church says we worship the same god as Muslims so that is good enuff for him. That statements tells us a lot more about Catholicism than it does about Rod Dreher.

Come on. Rod needs to stop trying to speak for the entire church and instead take some basic classes on theology proper and comparative religion. How seriously are we supposed to take direction from a guy who is not sure and has not even thought about whether his faith (Greek Orthodox) worships the same God as is worshipped in mosques by members of ISIS?

As I have said or at least suggested before, there are a lot of Christians past and present that we can turn to in order to inform our strategy for the future, including Doug Wilson for his occasional faults, but Rod Dreher probably isn't one of them, at least not for the less discerning. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

More About Moore

The Russell Moore controversy continues to swirl across the interwebs with some parties gleefully hoping to see Dr. Moore get fired and many other parties breathlessly virtue-signaling about the end of Kingdom if Dr. Moore gets fired. As with all things internet, the truth is somewhere in the middle. There is little doubt that this story is getting a lot of press and all of it is bad. Just searching "southern baptist convention" on google shows three "top stories" right up front and all three are about Russell Moore and the ERLC. Not exactly the first thing you want people to read when they are looking at your denomination.

When compared to the budgets of the International Mission Board, North American Mission, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is pretty small potatoes. In fact, going to the SBC homepage you find a graphic right at the top that shows the break-down of the Cooperative Program spending.

Why do you suppose that is right on the homepage of the SBC, right at the top and oversized? Maybe because a lot of SBC churches who didn't give much thought as to where their cooperative program funding was going are suddenly starting to check it out. In fact the ERLC budget is so small compared to the rest of the work the SBC does, it wouldn't really warrant mention...except that people are looking a lot more closely at the CP these days.

We are not currently involved with an SBC church but most of my formative years as a Christian were in SBC churches and I still have some affinity for them. In spite of some flaws, they are by far the largest faithfully conservative denomination around by a big margin but this public squabble is giving plenty of ammo to those who despise any Christian group that dares hold to basic principles of the faith. Something needs to be done, and pretty soon, because the only thing people are hearing about the SBC right now is that a bunch of Trump acolytes are trying to crucify Russell Moore.

I get it. Russell Moore was picked, in my humble opinion, to head up the ERLC to be the anti-Richard Land. Land, as you may recall, was the quintessential SBC culture warrior type and the long-time head of the ERLC preceding Dr. Moore. Dr. Land even looks like a Southern Baptist. What I didn't realize is that Dr. Land is Dr. because he has a PhD from Oxford. Yes that Oxford, which goes along nicely with his magna cum laude B.A. from Princeton. I had no idea. Anyway, Dr. Land was at ERLC for a long time until he got in trouble for comments he made about Trayvon Martin. There was some concern over allegations of plagiarism or at least failure to thoroughly attribute what he said but make no mistake that what was at the core of the issue and why it got any attention and led to his firing was the perception of his comments as being racially insensitive. So in comes Russell Moore from relative obscurity to lead a very visible ministry of the SBC. The direction he has taken the ERLC has often been at odds with the rank and file of the SBC and therein lies the problem. From the SBC website:
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is not a church. It is a set of ministries supported by a network of cooperating Baptist churches.
The Southern Baptist Association is a voluntary association of evangelical churches. No SBC church is under obligation to fund any particular "ministry" of the SBC. The SBC exists as a cooperative association between like-minded autonomous local churches. So when you work for the SBC, you really work for a bunch of independent churches with autonomous budgets. Further, I understand why a lot of Southern Baptists wonder why they are sending checks that go in part to fund the ERLC and Russell Moore.

Let me say that the SBC has a major problem with being too involved with politics, specifically Republican politics. I think that is a serious issue and impediment to their mission so I have no problem with calling them out for it. I have as well. Where the issue comes in is how Dr. Moore makes this criticism. Too often it seems like Dr. Moore's criticisms of genuine issues in the church and even of specific politicians like Donald Trump end up bleeding over into what sounds like pretty pompous criticism of Southern Baptists in general, and that can sound a lot like some egg-headed ivory tower type scolding the ignert masses who he also expects to write checks to keep him employed. I absolutely do not think that is his real attitude but I also think that is how it sounds a lot and just as much I think the direction he is taking the ERLC is more reflective of "Stuff Russell Moore Likes" instead of issues Southern Baptists are concerned with.

With respect, it might be time for two things to happen.

First, Russell Moore might benefit from getting out of D.C./Nashville  for a while and spending six months out among actual Southern Baptists, reconnecting with his roots and the people he is supposed to represent. Instead of running in the halls of power and writing articles for the New York Times and Washington Post, maybe some time ministering in Alabama and Oklahoma might help to reorient him with the heart of Southern Baptist life. It certainly couldn't hurt and getting out of the limelight is just what the doctor ordered.

Second, the very existence of the ERLC itself needs to be re-evaluated. I am not sure that what looks a lot like a lobbying firm has a place in the SBC ministry budget and it often seems to be a flashpoint for controversy and hurt feelings. It seems that no matter who is running the ERLC, it is distracting from the mission of the Southern Baptist Convention and that 1.65% of the cooperative program budget might be better spent on a dozen missionaries or something instead of partnering with a group that also partners with George Soros and other questionable priorities of the ERLC.

Russell Moore is a nice guy from what I can tell and I appreciate his work. I appreciated it a lot more before he went to the ERLC and I honestly think the time has come to jettison the entire ERLC from the Southern Baptist Convention. Make it an independent group if you want but right now it is a distraction and is threatening to divide the SBC however this works out. That is not entirely the fault of Dr. Moore but he is also not exactly an innocent victim in this fiasco. For the good of the SBC and the Gospel imperative, it is time for the ERLC to be shut down or spun off.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How Can Old Testament Israel Inform Christian Thought About Illegal Aliens In The United States?

Among the many unintended consequences of the ascension of Donald Trump to the throne of the God-Emperor the Presidency has been political progressives magically discovering concepts like limited government, constraint of the executive branch, checks and balances and Federalism. Suddenly those terrible dead White men who owned slaves we call the Founding Fathers have a lot of important stuff to say. Of course it is also true that a bunch of conservatives have taken a sudden liking to executive orders and using "Federal funds" as a stick to punish bad behavior. Likewise religious progressives have rediscovered the Old Testament, or at least parts of it. I have seen a lot of people referencing the Old Covenant laws regarding the treatment of strangers and sojourners in the land of Israel in response to President Trump deciding to enforce U.S. immigration laws, like this passage:
"When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. - Leviticus 19:33-34
Progressives who often speak of Jesus as if you can know Him apart from the recorded revelation of the Bible suddenly quoting Leviticus! It is an almost miraculous event!

Kidding aside, I do understand why progressives and even people who would qualify as conservative are turning to passages like that to inform our understanding as Christians regarding illegal aliens. It is a pretty good rationale. Scripture reveals a lot of things to us, most particularly the Good News of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God. It also, as part of that redemptive history, exposes us to the reality of the nature of God and of man. While I think the proper hermeneutic practice is to use the New to inform and interpret the Old, that doesn't negate the Old Testament as a way of understanding God. In fact I think it is almost impossible to understand Jesus and the entirety of the New Testament without a solid foundation of the Old Testament. The understanding of the nature of God the Father that the audience of Jesus and the apostolic writers would have had came primarily from the Old Testament, so we as Christians should spend time in the OT to better understand the Father and thereby to understand the Son.

Now, having said that we need to be cautious and sober. Context always matters when interpreting Scripture and especially when trying to apply Scripture in a completely different setting thousands of years distant from the original setting.

First, a reminder of what Israel was and was (or is) not.

The nation of Israel in the Middle-East over 2000 years ago is not the United States. Having Christians living in the United States does not make it Israel. Nothing in the New Testament would imply that God intended to create a unique nation-state to replicate national Israel, in fact all of the evidence points to the contrary. This is a reminder that a lot of people across the political and theological spectrum apparently need, from progressive social justice warrior types who try to use Caesar to carry out the mission of the church to theonomists and others who think America should be run using obsolete Old Covenant laws. 

Israel of the Old Testament was a unique and never replicated national situation. It was a nation formed out of a specific act for a specific people by God under a now obsolete covenantal agreement for specific purpose as a type and shadow. It was created by God to fulfill a promise and as part of a series of promissory arrangements ("if you....I will"). God Himself led the Israelites out of Egypt after cursing the land of Egypt with plagues including the extermination of every first born male, curses that resulted because God Himself hardened the heart of pharaoh. He led His people in the wilderness before eventually acting to utterly destroy the pagan inhabitants of the land. He established the laws and the patterns of worship for His people in this land and one of the most critical laws was that they not intermix with other people. When Israel went whoring after other nations they invariably adopted the pagan worship of those other nations and this led to all manner of severe chastening for the Israelites, to the point of them eventually being conquered and exiled. God created the civic laws of Israel, many quite severe in our eyes like the death sentence for adultery, because the people of Israel were often hard-hearted, in other words the nation was a mixed nation of godly people and not godly people, and because adultery was an affront to God's created order. That is generally why laws exist, because people are not good in general. James Madison famously said that if all men were angels, no laws would be necessary but since men are not angels, we need laws. So the laws of Israel both reflected God's character (His hatred of sin, like with the death penalty for adultery, and His mercy, shown in the command to care for the stranger) as well as the reality of human nature and our tendency to sin. 

Another point that needs to be made is that while "God's heart" cares very deeply for the stranger and sojourner in the land, God is also a God of law. A great deal of the Bible is taken up with detailed civil laws for the nation of Israel and the penalties for breaking those laws. The penalties for law-breaking in Israel were harsh, almost brutal by our standards. None of us know how often those harsh penalties were applied but the fact remains that they were ordained by God as the response to law-breaking. Here is where I think that drawing even an indirect equivalency between the commands regarding stranger and sojourners in OT Israel and illegal aliens in the United States completely falls apart:

The strangers in the land spoken of in Leviticus 19:33-34 and elsewhere in the Old Testament were not willfully and knowingly breaking the law of Israel. Illegal aliens in the United States are willfully and knowingly breaking the law of the U.S..
There is an enormous difference between strangers and sojourners who are in a land and criminals who have willfully broken the law of the land they are in. Despite the word games a lot of people like to play ("undocumented immigrant" or just "immigrant") the fact is that people who are here "without documentation" are in this country illegally. You might not like the laws or think they are just but they are the laws. I know them, you know them and they know them. Regardless of the motivation of those here illegally, the simple fact remains that they are breaking the law, they know they are breaking the law, and they continue to do so.

That doesn't negate the obligation of the church to show mercy and compassion to everyone, especially fellow Christians (Galatians 6:10) but it does mean that we need to use a little more discernment than woodenly comparing theological apples and oranges.

I am of the opinion that for a host of reasons, it is prudent and just for a nation to have meaningful borders and immigration laws. Every civilized nation in the world does. We have ports of entry, passports, visas, etc. not to mention birth certificates, social security numbers, etc. that help to maintain order regarding who is a citizen, who is a legal visitor, who can come here and who can stay. Again, just like every other civilized nation. There is nothing inherently sinful or wrong for a nation to have meaningful borders and likewise there is nothing contrary to the Gospel or the teachings of the Kingdom for Christians to recognize, obey and even support such laws. A follower of Christ who encounters someone here illegally in need to mercy should extend to them what mercy and compassion they can and then should earnestly encourage them to return to their home country and seek admission to the United States via legal methods. On the other hand, a Christian who is engaged in aiding and abetting someone breaking the laws of the United States by harboring them or other means is also a law-breaker and is really not any different than someone who offers the use of their garage for car thieves to store vehicles they have stolen until they can dispose of them. That may sound harsh (They are human beings, not cars!) but willfully breaking the law is breaking the law, whether you are illegally in this country or evading taxes or stealing cars. 

By all means we should study the Old Testament to gain a better understand of God and His nature, which by the way includes His absolute abhorrence of and hatred toward sin, and that understanding should help to inform our relations with fellow image bearers. We should do so with the understanding that Israel was unique and has been gone for millennia and that proper hermeneutics and application requires us to understand where situations in the Bible are similar to contemporary events but also where they are dissimilar to contemporary events and prayerfully seek wisdom to discern the distinction. 

God cares for the stranger and sojourner. He also is a God of law. We need to keep both in mind when we seek His face and His will in these confusing and contentious times.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

His disciples came to him...

...And he opened his mouth and taught them.

I like the little stuff in the Scriptures. Sure, I like the sweeping theological statements, the deep teaching like we find in Romans and Ephesians. I like to go to the deep end and dive in (metaphorically as I can't really swim). But often I find pretty profound stuff in the verses that seem almost to be written in passing and often those can be found right before well known verses. This morning we were looking at the Beatitudes but right before you get into the "Blessed are..." passages, Matthew sets the stage for us and we usually miss it. He writes:
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying (Mat 5:1-2)
It is amusing to see how much art that represents the
Sermon on the Mount depicts Jesus standing up to teach.
This is an interesting contrast. At the end of chapter 4 we read about the "great crowds" that followed Him (Matthew 4:25) because of His fame and especially because He was healing people and casting out demons. Here at the beginning of chapter 5 we seem to see a distinction. He saw the great crowds but He went up on the mountain with His disciples. He sat down and they came to Him. Did they have any idea what to expect? On the one hand He was pretty unpredictable. They never really knew what He was going to do or what He might say. Did they just follow Him up the mountain to see what happened? On the other hand, He sat down which was, according to the ESV Study Bible the way teachers in that era taught: "Teachers in Judaism typically taught while sitting..., a position Jesus takes regularly.". Regardless, they knew that He had something for them.

I got to thinking about this. What do we expect when we come to Jesus? I don't mean come to Him in faith and thereby receive justification. I am talking about the believer who comes to sit at the feet of our Teacher. When you pray or when you open the Scriptures, what do you expect to happen? Do you expect anything to happen? I find myself too often praying or reading in a perfunctory manner. I ought to pray and I ought to read the Scriptures so here it goes. Let me put a mark in that box on my religious obligation checklist and move on.

What if we came to Jesus in the ways we are taught to, by opening the Scriptures, by the remembrance of the breaking of bread, by prayer, by gathering as the church and really expect Him to do something, something miraculous and wonderful? I can't imagine that the disciples went up to where Jesus was sitting on the mountain and expected to get what we call the Sermon on the Mount, the longest continuous teaching of Jesus in the New Testament, but I bet they expected something to happen. I believe that if the church truly expected something to happen when they read the Bible or gathered together or prayed, amazing things would happen. There is incredible but often untapped power in the ordinary means of grace of the church. I don't mean listening to sermons necessarily or taking a plastic cup of grape juice off of a tray, although those certainly are a means of grace, but I mean anytime that the church, wherever it is, engages with God via the means He has provided and ordained: praying, reading the Scriptures, breaking bread with one another, gathering together in His name.

There is something to be said for being disciplined in the means of grace, reading and praying and gathering even when we sometimes don't feel like it but if we never do those things and expect something other than a perfunctory obligation, we miss the power of coming to Jesus. You can recite a prayer and "go to church" and read the Bible all the way through over and over but if you don't expect to meet Jesus and seek to meet Jesus when you are doing so, why should you expect anything powerful to happen?

God has ordained and provided and preserved the means by which we encounter His Son. He has given us every reason to expect something powerful and miraculous to happen when we do. Believer, come with me and sit at the feet of Jesus and expect He will do something and I guarantee He will provide. If you come to Him, He will teach you. Those who love Jesus, who have a new heart and His Spirit within them have a thirst for God. Come to the One who gives Living Water and you will be satisfied but your thirst will never be quenched. We simply need to come to Jesus looking to learn and He will teach us.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Women We Are Really Without

Apparently there is some sort of protest going on today under the hashtag #DayWithoutAWoman. Don't worry, the women who are going to be absent today are sadly not really going away, they are just not going to work or something for a day. Why are they taking the day off? Well I am glad you asked! Here is the scoop from

On International Women's Day, March 8th, women and our allies will act together for equity, justice and the human rights of women and all gender-oppressed people, through a one-day demonstration of economic solidarity.

In the same spirit of love and liberation that inspired the Women's March (my note: "spirit of love", you mean like Madonna talking about blowing up the White House?), we join together in making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, recognizing the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system--while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity. We recognize that trans and gender nonconforming people face heightened levels of discrimination, social oppression and political targeting. We believe in gender justice.

Wait, so is it a day without women or a day where women stay home or something to support sexually deviant mentally ill people? I guess they are going to wear red, because that doesn't have any historic connotations or anything and not shopping ("with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses" of course) and not doing any work. Don't worry ladies, the dirty dishes will still be there in the sink tomorrow! I am thinking about giving Amish women free rides to Wal-Mart today....

I wonder if any of the organizers of the Day Without Women gave any thought to the women we are really without today?

Since the legal perversion that gave us "the right to abortion", Roe v Wade, the abortion holocaust has claimed over 58,000,000 lives. Assuming that at least half of those were women (I would guess that sex selective abortions disproportionately target female children), that means that America is without over 29,000,000 women. Since "legal" abortions started in 1973, the earliest victims of the abortion holocaust would be in their 40's today. They would be wives and mothers, many would have careers and many others would be caring for their homes. One of those aborted women might have been less morally repulsive than Hillary Clinton and could have perhaps been the first female President. Or maybe they would just be a bunch of normal women trying to make it in this world. We will never know because they never got the chance to even draw their first breath. They were slaughtered in the one place that they should have been the safest in order to appease the goddess Choice.

The greatest injustice against women (and men and minorities and humanity itself) we have seen in the last 40 years will get no airtime from the media, no mention from virtue signaling celebrities and political activists, but we know and we don't forget. The regular people in this country know that our fellow citizens, our fellow image bearers, have been sacrificed on the blood-stained altar of feminism and no amount of marching or wearing red will undo that. We don't buy into the idea that this  "Day Without Women" has anything to do with average women. It is a leftist political stunt to provide cover for income redistribution and the normalization of perversion. It is not pro-woman, it is anti-male, anti-family, anti-children and really anti-women who don't bow to the altar of political correctness.

Don't be fooled. The agenda here is one of death, destruction and deviancy. It is an agenda dedicated to destroying families, destroying any sense of morality, destroying genuine femininity and destroying life. Real women will take care of their families and their homes tomorrow and not demand special recognition for it. They will go to work, they will wash dishes, they will comfort sick kids. They will sacrifice themselves for the sake of others because that is what women do. That is what makes them so indispensable to our society. Let the angry women march and be huffy about injustice. Real women will keep doing the often invisible work that helps to keep this country running and will not ask for nor expect anyone to make a big deal about it. That is just what they do, at least the ones who were lucky enough to escape the abortionist's scalpel.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Beauty And The Beast...And The Obligatory Gay Sidekick!

When it was announced that the beloved animated movie Beauty and the Beast was going to be remade into a live action (plus CGI I guess) film I was cautiously optimistic. My wife enjoyed the animated version and although it was pretty PC even back in the day, I had hopes from the original trailers that it would stay true to the story despite Emma Watson playing Belle (more on that in a second). For our recent anniversary I even made up a fake coupon she could redeem to have me take her when the movie came out, me thinking that it might be a nice movie to see and I would forsake my regular policy of refusing to subsidize Hollywood churning out movies that celebrate what God hates and that mock what God loves.

I guess not.

Reports surfaced yesterday that the character of LeFou, chubby sidekick of villain Gaston (who is a hunter of course, because they are obviously evil), is going to be portrayed as a homosexual. In a Disney film. Because that is where we have sunk to as a "culture". In the reports, the director of the film, Bill Condon, describes this move in breathless fashion:
In an interview with Attitude magazine, director Bill Condon said: ‘LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston. 
‘He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realising that he has these feelings. It is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.’ 
Mr Condon said the character, played by Josh Gad, is part of a ‘watershed moment’ for Disney. He said: ‘The studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural – and this is a message that will be heard in every country of the world, even countries where it’s still socially unacceptable or even illegal to be gay.’
It will be a watershed indeed, if by watershed you mean the latest move to degrade our culture. Slipping homosexuality and other deviant behavior into popular entertainment to try to normalize it is not unusual (apparently the new Alien movie, Alien: Covenant, features a ship full of couples who are going to populate a new planet and includes a gay couple. Um, how are two homosexual guys going to populate a new world? Another movie to pass on.). What is somewhat unusual is how open and bold they are about it. It is a "nice, exclusively gay moment", a specifically designed move to make a point. The point is, like he said, to tell kids at a young age who want to see a fun movie with a classic story that homosexuality is "normal" and "natural" even though it is absolutely neither of those things. I am not denying that homosexuality exists, it obviously does, or even that there are a lot of people who practice homosexual behavior, because there are, although in nowhere near the numbers the media would have you believe. That doesn't make it "normal" and it doesn't make it "natural". If I can be graphically blunt here a moment, there is nothing much more unnatural and abnormal than a man looking at another man and desiring to sodomize him or be sodomized by him. That sounds mean to say but when you stop playing word games and emotional shenanigans, that is ultimately what is being portrayed by this character. He doesn't want to give Gaston a simple kiss, he apparently desires to have deviant sexual intercourse with him. Since God designed sexuality to be male and female, when two males decide to engage in intercourse they have to find a substitute which is by nature unnatural. There is a reason that popular movies show male-female intercourse so commonly and often graphically but not male-male deviant sexual behavior. Simply put, most audiences are not sufficiently conditioned to it. Yet. The average person sees simulated normal intercourse portrayed in a movie, setting aside how unhealthy it is to watch this for entertainment purposes, and can understand it. I get why a man wants to be intimate with a woman, it makes sense. But even seeing two men kiss is still enough to turn the stomach of most people and the idea of watching two men sodomizing each other is grotesque. The visceral reaction of people is not because they are bigoted or indoctrinated by religion, it is because instinctively normal people understand homosexual behavior to be aberrant and unnatural.

But it will be in more and more movies and TV shows, you can be sure of that. Between normalizing homosexual behavior in mass media and the elites screaming bigotry at anyone who doesn't get on board, it is little wonder the needle keeps moving on what our culture accepts as normal. Notice here that the character chosen is comedy relief, which matches well with the normal pattern of presenting homosexuals in harmless roles. See gays are funny and dress nicely and know how to decorate. How bad can homosexuality be? The reality is much darker.

So while I am not surprised at all by this move from Disney, it is still kind of sad. It is simply the latest sign that our entertainment industry is almost entirely a political and religious movement that is driving an agenda that normalizes destructive behavior. Sadly I was forced to cancel my wife's coupon, at her urging. We will do something else fun to continue to celebrate our marriage rather than subsidizing perversion being portrayed at "natural" and "normal".

As a postscript, the article I referenced also talks about Watson's take on the character of Belle:
Miss Watson is also making the leading role of Belle more feminist. Once a dreamy bookworm, Belle has been transformed into an inventor.
Can one not be a "feminist" who loves to read? You have to turn a female character into an early STEM scholar because audiences are too stupid to understand your point unless you pummel them with it? As my wife pointed out to me yesterday when we read this article, in the original film (and I assume the remake), Belle offers to take the place of her father as the Beast's prisoner even though he is old and she is young and has her whole life ahead of her. Her actions are selfless and courageous. They place the well-being of another over that of herself. That is what true feminine strength looks like. Belle's actions in the film are already something that should inspire young women and girls to show strength through self-sacrifice and courage. That is the heart of feminine strength, which should be what feminism is about, but of course we don't get that.