Monday, July 31, 2017

July Was A Good Month (For Blogging)

Twenty posts in July, a recent high for me that I haven't matched since September of 2015. The news cycle has helped and the crazy world of the Southern Baptist Convention of course. Like many things, blogging is a discipline that requires work and it is a lot easier to get out of the habit than it is to stay in practice so I am more pleased than perhaps makes sense about my output for the month.

It is not simply for the sake of publishing something, as I generally post longer stuff that I work on for a while, and it obviously is not for the page views or the non-existent revenue. No, what makes me pleased is that it represents something accomplished, even if most people don't think of blogging as accomplishing anything other than the stroking of an ego. For me and where I am, it represents something I have some control over, something I can create and that gives me a sense of completion and accomplishment. It is not much but right now I will take it.

Here's to a an even better blogging month in August!

Friday, July 28, 2017

No One Wants Cheech And Chong Running Heavy Machinery

Last Friday I posted about the great opportunities available for anyone who wants to show up and work hard in America, I got yer $15 per hour right here. A solid, reliable job that pays the elusive "living wage" is available to anyone who wants it. My son who has not even finished his technical certificate in welding and is also well short of his 19th birthday applied for a job that starts at $16/hour, offers full benefits and will work around his fall school schedule. They called him for an interview the next day. There are simply too many good paying jobs for anyone of prime working age who is able-bodied to be sitting at home. Let me say again for the record: if you want a great job and are willing to actually work a little and do the little stuff like show up to work when scheduled and on-time, those jobs are available to anyone who shows a little bit of initiative. In spite of this, jobs still remain unfilled and men still sit at home on the couch. One big reason? Let me give you a visual hint:

Yeah. It appears that a lot of jobs are unfilled because a lot of guys (and gals I assume) simply can't put down the joint long enough to pass a simple drug screen. From CNBC: Economy needs workers, but drug tests take a toll.
Just a few miles from where President Trump will address his blue-collar base here Tuesday night, exactly the kind of middle-class factory jobs he has vowed to bring back from overseas are going begging.
It's not that local workers lack the skills for these positions, many of which do not even require a high school diploma but pay $15 to $25 an hour and offer full benefits. Rather, the problem is that too many applicants — nearly half, in some cases — fail a drug test.
The fallout is not limited to the workers or their immediate families. Each quarter, Columbiana Boiler, a local company, forgoes roughly $200,000 worth of orders for its galvanized containers and kettles because of the manpower shortage, it says, with foreign rivals picking up the slack.
"Our main competitor in Germany can get things done more quickly because they have a better labor pool," said Michael J. Sherwin, chief executive of the 123-year-old manufacturer. "We are always looking for people and have standard ads at all times, but at least 25 percent fail the drug tests."

I don't care for the headline because drug tests "taking a toll" sounds like this is something unavoidable. I don't understand why someone who needs a job is incapable of not toking up. Of course I likewise don't understand why professional athletes making millions still smoke weed when they know full well that their league does random drug tests and when they get caught they always seem shocked. When I was looking for a job, I knew I had to do certain things like perhaps get a haircut, make sure my suit was pressed and my shirt wasn't wrinkly. Not smoking pot should be low hanging fruit but the inability to do so or to not abuse opiods is keeping a lot of men, willfully or not, out of the workforce.

Whatever your opinion is on marijuana is not really important. It certainly isn't something that the Federal government should be involved in trying to control. It also isn't something you should be smoking if you are running machinery or dealing with potentially dangerous conditions.
But workplace considerations — not social conservatism or imposition of traditional mores — make employee drug use an issue.
"The lightest product we make is 1,500 pounds, and they go up to 250,000 pounds," Mr. Sherwin said as workers pulled a barrel-shaped steel container from a glowing forge amid a shower of sparks. "If something goes wrong, it won't hurt our workers. It'll kill them — and that's why we can't take any risks with drugs."
Because tests for marijuana pick up the drug for up to a month after exposure, many local manufacturers are anxious about Ohio's plan to permit medical marijuana use in the near future.
"I don't know if you smoked it this weekend or this morning," Ms. Mitchell said. "I can't take that chance."

If you have been in a plant with forklifts zipping around and machines running, and I have, you really don't want someone who might have been blazing two hours earlier at the wheel of the forklift or the controls of a machine. Marijuana legalization might be the latest, greatest issue for "liberty" based on the rhetoric from the Libertarian Party but the reality is that it impacts your ability to perform safely in a workplace and that is reason enough to just say no.

Rather than demanding that low skill, low commitment jobs like burger flipping magically be considered full-time adult careers, why not instead encourage people to go to technical schools or even just simply eschew the ganja and get a job that will train you? Of course there is a great deal of political influence to be gained when you can bribe people to not work and vote for you to keep the free money coming.

The place my son applied will teach people with basically no experience to weld and pay them a great wage while doing so. In the article one company that experiences a 40% drug test failure rate has turned to hiring people with no experience and training them to try to get to them before they turn into serious drug users. Come on! I know factory work or welding or carpentry is demanding work but demanding work also gets to demand decent pay. No one is going to give you top dollar pay for bottom shelf labor. Nor should they. The three stoners in Super Troopers were intended to get a laugh, not serve as a model for career development.

Put down the joint and get a job. You might not feel the need to get high if you have the pride of being gainfully employed.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

"Gender Reassignment" Doesn't Help, It Actually Hurts

Another quick thought to follow-up on my blogsplosion yesterday. This is a letter published in the Wall Street Journal from Dr. Paul McHugh, Transgender Surgery Isn't the Solution. Dr. McHugh is the "former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital" so he kind of knows what he is talking about. The narrative today is that by denying "transgenders" the "right" to seek gender "reassignment" surgery we are somehow harming them by not allowing them to pursue their desires, and thus by not allowing them to serve in the military and have Uncle Sam pay for it we are denying basic human rights to "transgenders" and making our country "less safe" according to a lot of Democrat politicians. How did we ever defeat the Imperial Japanese Navy without sailors in drag? The narrative is the same old standby, the benevolent, compassionate and wise liberals are trying to help people spread their wings and fly and those mean, old, probably either rich or living in a trailer park, certainly White and Christian and male, conservatives are trying to keep anyone else from enjoying their lives.

This is nonsense.

Someone with gender dysphoria is not someone who just needs to have their genitals lopped off and they will be fine. They are mentally ill. We have always understood this. Why do you think Corporal Klinger in MASH was dressing in drag? Because he knew that was a sign of mental illness and he wanted a Section 8 so he could go home. He wasn't really a "transgender" nor was he an activist for gender "reassignment". He was a regular guy pretending to be crazy so he could go home. We understood this when I was growing up but now that we are so "enlightened" in 2017 we can't seem to grasp that a man who wants to act like and look like a woman is suffering from a mental illness.

It turns out, to the shock of no one with an ounce of common sense, that giving them what they think they need, gender "reassignment" surgery, aka mutilation, actually seems to make things worse:
We at Johns Hopkins University—which in the 1960s was the first American medical center to venture into "sex-reassignment surgery"—launched a study in the 1970s comparing the outcomes of transgendered people who had the surgery with the outcomes of those who did not. Most of the surgically treated patients described themselves as "satisfied" by the results, but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn't have the surgery. And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a "satisfied" but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.
It now appears that our long-ago decision was a wise one. A 2011 study at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden produced the most illuminating results yet regarding the transgendered, evidence that should give advocates pause. The long-term study—up to 30 years—followed 324 people who had sex-reassignment surgery. The study revealed that beginning about 10 years after having the surgery, the transgendered began to experience increasing mental difficulties. Most shockingly, their suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable nontransgender population. This disturbing result has as yet no explanation but probably reflects the growing sense of isolation reported by the aging transgendered after surgery. The high suicide rate certainly challenges the surgery prescription.
Shocking, I know. This was posted in 2016 but originally appeared in 2014. A whole, whopping three years ago. A lot has changed, I would imagine this sort of statement would get you censored and perhaps lead to your medical license being revoked today. Read the whole thing because it is powerful.

They are not committing suicide because people are intolerant or because Trump is President. I have to believe they are killing themselves because they convinced themselves, aided by medical malpractice from "doctors" and psychiatrists, that they needed to become the opposite gender and everything would be better but once they mutilated themselves it wasn't better and now they are hopeless. If I thought mutilating the image of God I was born with would make me feel better and then after I did so I was no better off, I would quite honestly be suicidal too. I don't say that to be cute or flippant, believe me I understand mental illness and hopelessness all too well.

Gender "reassignment" surgery is akin to gastric bypass surgery for a teenaged girl with an eating disorder. She thinks she is fat even though she weighs 90 pounds and really wants to be able to eat even less to be thinner so of course we should fulfill her desire and perform a procedure so she can hold even less in her stomach, as opposed to therapy to help her be happy with her body as it is. For someone with gender dysphoria the problem is not with their genitals or body hair. It is in their head. Trying to "fix" the problem by mutilating the body that they hate just makes things worse. This is absolutely simple common sense that even a few years ago would not have been questioned by any modestly serious person.

This issue is compounded by parents who encourage gender dysphoria in their children and even insist on gender "reassignment" surgery for them. Dr. McHugh addressed that issue with an interesting statistic:
You won't hear it from those championing transgender equality, but controlled and follow-up studies reveal fundamental problems with this movement. When children who reported transgender feelings were tracked without medical or surgical treatment at both Vanderbilt University and London's Portman Clinic, 70%-80% of them spontaneously lost those feelings. Some 25% did have persisting feelings; what differentiates those individuals remains to be discerned.
So something like 3/4 of these kids outgrew this confusion. 3 out of 4! With that information, an actual doctor who swore the Hippocratic Oath is still eager to slice and dice a child's body? Dermatologists presumably don't recommend radical skin treatments for general cases of teen acne because they grow out of it but "doctors" will permanently, radically and sinfully maul a child's body when it is shown that such surgery makes the mental illness worse and in around 75% of the cases it isn't even a serious mental condition at all because they grow out of it like bed wetting and thumb sucking. You don't give a kid a colostomy bag because they wet the bed and you don't hack off their thumbs to stop kids from sucking them. How a person is at 7 or 8 or even in their teen years is not who they will end up being as an adult. That is Parenting 101.

Growing up can be a confusing time for anyone as your body changes and hormones kick in, so trying to make lifelong decisions based on the feelings of a confused kid who doesn't quite grasp what is happening with their body when over 70% grow out of it later is not science. It is not medicine. It is not compassion. It is child abuse. I don't use that word lightly but what else can you call a parent signing off on the mutilation of their child's sex organs? Do you think maybe a confused 10 year old boy that has his sexual organs cut off by some quack who finds himself (and he will always be a him) now unable to have a normal relationship or father children when he is 30 might possible have some serious mental issues compounding what might already be there? It is obscene and heartbreaking that little boys and girls who are understandably confused in our incredibly confusing culture have their parents, who are supposed to guide and raise them up, instead agree to mutilate their child in a bid to seem like a "loving" and progressive parent, or perhaps to draw attention to themselves.

Too many people are playing politics with the mental health of people suffering from a serious medical condition and it isn't Republicans for the most part. Don't buy into the story that opposition to gender "reassignment" surgery and transgenderism is a failure to be loving and compassionate. It is the opposite. There is no more loving act than to reaffirm to someone who is confused that they are made in the image of God precisely as He intended and to encourage that person to seek to glorify God in the body and gender God create them with. Encouraging someone to pretend to be a different gender or to commit a heinous act of mutilation or to defile themselves by homosexual acts is not compassionate or loving.

It is evil. 

Don't ever be afraid or intimidated into not calling evil what God has declared to be evil. By all means love the person struggling with transgender confusion or homosexuality or any sin but never, ever confuse affirming their sin for love.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sustaining Grace, How Sweet The Sound!

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:4-8, emphasis mine)
I read this passage last night and I just love the message here. I know I sometimes breeze through Paul's introductions to his epistles and I do so wrongly because his introductions have as much theology as a year of sermons from a lot of pulpits. If only I were a fraction as thankful as Paul for my fellow believers. When was the last time you gave thanks to God for your brothers and sisters in Christ? If you are like me it has been far too long. But what I wanted to look at was verse 8 where Paul speaks of what I call sustaining grace. From verse 7 into 8 we see the critical portion:
....our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The NIV renders what the ESV translates as "sustains" like this "keep you firm to the end". Both the NASB and the KJV translates it as "confirm". The imagery Paul uses is of preserving something, keeping it safe, affirming finally. That is not Greek scholarship, just what I glean from what Paul says here and elsewhere and how it is rendered by actual scholars. What is just as important is not merely the word "sustain" itself but what we are being sustained for. The ESV speaks of being sustained to the end as "guiltless", or as "blameless" in a lot of other translations (NKJV, KJV, NIV, NASB, etc.). That is chock full of New Covenant imagery which has as the ultimate promise: For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12). That is what grace is all about, mercy for our iniquities and a forgiveness of sins. So putting that together, Jesus sustains us to the end and in the end we are guiltless of our sins. That promise is inextricably linked to any understanding of grace.

We typically have a schizophrenic view of grace. When it comes to saving us, it is all powerful to save us but when it comes to keeping us, it is extremely limited. On the other hand, in some groups like most Baptists grace is subservient to our "free will" when it comes to saving us but "once saved, always saved" when it comes to sustaining us. Neither view makes much sense but they both come from creating a division between "grace that saves" and "grace that sustains". Why would God make it impossibly hard to be saved when we are dead in our tresspasses and sins on the one hand but then promise to keep us saved once we save ourselves via our "free will"? Or why would God make it as easy as walkin' an aisle or raisin' a hand or putting your name on a card to get saved but then leave it up to our own strength to stay saved? It is very important to keep in mind here that Paul makes this claim and this promise to the church in Corinth which was perhaps the most messed up of the churches he wrote to. If it is true for Corinth, it is true for your church too!

If grace is not powerful enough to sustain the believer, the same believer who was incapable of saving himself in the first place, it isn't grace at all and is anything but amazing. Believer know this if you know anything. The same grace that can pardon and cleanse will sustain you until the end when you will stand guiltless before God. That is the sort of grace you can sing about!

Planned Parenthood: Irony Legends

So I saw this a moment ago on Twitter and....well, just read it...

Would it be rude to point out that the High Priests of the contemporary cult of Molech make millions in revenue and are subsidized for millions more by the government and what they do with babies is actually undermining their humanity? You know, by ripping them literally limb from limb, sucking them out of the womb of their mother and then either dumping them in the trash or selling them for parts? Or perhaps pointing out that having Planned Parenthood in existence actually puts lives at risk, a proven risk demonstrated in the statistics of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood.

What is truly sad is that they have no idea why this tweet is so ironic and ridiculous. It is like a fat kid making fun of someone else for Super-sizing their McDonald's order. They are dead in sin, worshiping a false demonic "god" and think they are being noble about it. It would be hard to find a more tone-deaf and ironic tweet than this one.

While the civil laws of Israel do not apply, make no mistake. Those who sacrifice children for any reason, even when sacrificing those children on the altar of the blood goddess "Choice", stand condemned by God and only the shed blood of Jesus can redeem them from the judgment of God. On that day of Judgment they will desperately wish that all that they faced were stones in the hands of the Israelites.
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, to make my sanctuary unclean and to profane my holy name. And if the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech, and do not put him to death, then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people, him and all who follow him in whoring after Molech. (Leviticus 20:1-5)

Mental Illness Deserves Mental Health Care, Not A Uniform And A Gun

In an all too rare sign of common sense, President Trump today announced that people who suffer from gender dysphoria will be barred from serving, in any capacity, in the United States military.

That is a little something I like to call common sense and simply reaffirms the policy of the U.S. military for hundreds of years until the Obama administration. I guess that also settles the question of paying for gender reassigment surgery, aka bodily mutilation, in the military. Being "transgender" is a medical condition called gender dysphoria (not to be confused with gender non-conformity) and the American Psychiatric Association considers it a medical condition. Lots of medical conditions keep you out of the military like asthma and apparently even ADHD. If that is the case then someone who is confused about their biological, immutable gender should also not be in the military.

Whatever your views on military service are, it is or at least should be unquestioned that the military exists for one purpose, to defend this nation. It is not a jobs program or a way to get college paid for by someone else and it certainly is not a giant laboratory for social experiments. People who are unstable enough that they think they are the opposite gender shouldn't be placed in the role of defending this country. They should be getting help to cope with their actual gender, not be allowed to dress up like the opposite gender in the uniform of the United States military.

Needless to say, this is causing an absolute firestorm on social media. That is pretty funny because 10 years ago having cross-dressers in the military was only something you thought about when watching M*A*S*H.

My temporary Facebook profile pic to honor fellow
Toledoan and original cross-dressing soldier Corporal Klinger

I created a meme this morning to respond to the angry people on social media, it is getting a lot of use already. Thanks President Trump for making a common sense, mental health sensitive decision that will benefit this country. He doesn't get everything right but he got this one correct.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Future of the S(JW)BC?

In a recent post just a couple of days ago, So It Starts, Southern Baptist Edition, I said that the assault on the Southern Baptist Convention was just getting started both from within and without. The latest I came across was from "moderate" SBC Voices, where the original "anti-alt-right" resolution was posted. This one is more subtle but contains that most silly beast known as the "open letter": An Open Letter to Steve Gaines Regarding Evangelism Taskforce Diversity.

Oh there is that "D" word again. Here is the gist of the "open letter" from "Voices for a New Baptist Future", a venture that seeks to increase "racial reconciliation" and representation from smaller churches. I get the second one, the SBC is obviously dominated by the big churches but I am not sure how in a democratic group you increase their representation when a pastor from a church of 5000 is going to always have more exposure than one from a church of 50. Anyway, in summary....

Great job! We  💓 evangelism! Go Great Commission! But....
We did, however, notice that only two of the people chosen to serve on this taskforce are non-Anglo. This is at a time when approximately 20% of SBC churches are majority non-Anglo and 50% of NAMB church plants are ethnic minorities. The 2015 Executive Committee report on the SBC’s progress on racial reconciliation noted the great strides that have been made, but it also called on our leaders to make an even more concerted effort to include more minorities on future convention boards and committees. This kind of broad representation is especially needed with regard to evangelism. As the complexion of America continues to darken, we must increase our effectiveness at reaching people who look different than we do.
There are other voices we feel were left out as well. The announced taskforce does not include any women. It also does not include any smaller church pastors or laypeople who are not denominational employees. We believe that Southern Baptists are at our best when we hear from a diversity of people who represent the diversity of the SBC.
With this in mind, we ask that you would broaden representation on the newly created taskforce by adding members from these other viewpoints. We commit ourselves to pray for you in this endeavor and for the work of the taskforce as it moves forward. Again, we are thankful for your leadership and trust that God will guide you in this matter.
"As the complexion of America continues to darken...."? Too much time in the sun or something? So much for content of character instead of color of skin. Also so much for race being just a social construct I guess.

The second gripe first. While the New Testament does make note of the accomplishment of women, it is also pretty clear that the leadership in the church is exclusively male. That is not simply a result of the times they lived in but is by design. Grumbling about not enough women on the task force is an obvious grumble about the lack of women in clerical leadership in the SBC in general, while I see that as one of the major strengths of the SBC. Twelve out of twelve apostles were male. All of the elders in the NT were male. So yeah the task force is rightly all male.

The second is more troubling. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not restricted by race or ethnicity (or to either gender for that matter). The open letter however seems to imply that a "darker complexion" in America can only be reached by a task force with a similar darker complexion. Are we to assume that blacks and Hispanics and Asians can only be "effectively" reached by people that look like them? Here I thought the power of God for salvation comes from the message, not the skin color of the messenger? Silly me. I guess the Gospel is like a soft drink, it is all about the marketing. I understand the being all things to all people but this is a task force for crying out loud. It is 19 men who will look at how the SBC can improve personal evangelism and report back next convention.
"[Tuesday] you voted to allow me to appoint a task force to study how Southern Baptists can be more effective in personal soul-winning (personal evangelism) and also evangelistic preaching," said Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn. "This committee is charged with bringing a report and any recommendations to the SBC meeting in Dallas, Texas, June 12-13, 2018."
It is not like these are the only guys who are going to be evangelizing, it is a task force! As I pointed out in a prior post, the SBC is something like 85%+ White so yeah, the task force is going to be White simply by virtue of the majority of members and leaders being White. Last time I checked in the New Testament, being White was not a stumbling block to evangelism and someone who would reject the Gospel because the one preaching is a different race is someone who is clearly not elect in the first place and thus not going to believe the Gospel no matter who is preaching it.

As a side note, this is what you get from a man-centered view of salvation. It is all about the methods, the style, the marketing instead of being about the power of God to save sinners. I believe the New Testament teaches clearly that God has decreed an elect people that He will save and that not having evangelism task forces with sufficient melanin will not thwart the will of God.

The desired end-result here is clear. It is a remaking of the Southern Baptist Convention into something very different from what it is today, namely a flawed but largely orthodox denomination that takes seriously what the Bible teaches on most issues and most especially on the most pressing questions of the day where most denominations are tripping over themselves to distance themselves from Scripture: the authority of Scripture, gender roles, marriage, homosexuality, abortion. A Southern Baptist Convention that spends all of their time worrying about having X number of blacks or women on task forces instead of standing firm in the face of a hostile world with the life saving Gospel of Jesus Christ is worthless to God and a delight to Satan.

I hope that the leadership of the SBC refuses to capitulate to those who are seeking to undermine and distract the SBC from her mission. I am half tempted to join and/or plant an SBC church just so I can fight against this from within instead of crabbing about it from the outside.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Repost: Why worry about things that don't matter?

I think it is about time to repost this. In response to the very real tendency to overly associate evangelical Christianity with the Republican party, it is the easy overreaction to withdraw from politics entirely. This is fairly consistent with Anabaptist thinking so I am especially susceptible to it.

I am seeing a lot of people buying into the Leftist version of the Religious Right on some issues, especially "immigration" and doing so in pretty true-to-form ways, reducing a complex argument to two sides, either the Leftist side (on the right side of history, etc.) or being a racist / sexist / homophobic / transphobic / Islamophobic etc. ogre. Let's be clear. There is not a "Christian" position on immigration. I can, have and will made the case for reasonably tight immigration controls and do so with a Christian worldview and written with a regenerate heart. Others have argued the opposite and in the same spirit. The same is true on issue like taxation and education.

Most issues are not like opposing abortion or homosexual "marriage" where there really is no Scripturally defensible contrary position. However that does not make them unimportant. How people live their lives is absolutely something we should be concerned with and advocating for policies that improve the lives of people without causing undue harm to others is every bit as much a work of mercy as giving a thirsty man a glass of water.


Time for a little pushback.

I have been thinking more about the whole flap over Duck Dynasty and the implications for the church. I often find that once the initial furor dies down it is helpful to think through the issues when the "heat of battle" is not quite so hot. I used to be pretty fervent about the culture wars and while it may not seem like it, especially if we are friends on Facebook or you follow me on Twitter, but I don't care nearly as much as I used to about politics and economics. There is not a "Christian" system of worldly governance or economics and our mission transcends and supersedes those sorts of concerns. Winning the culture wars wouldn't make a single new disciple of Christ (see Eric Carpenter's post on this topic, What If Conservatives Actually Won The Culture War?). I also believe in a God who is sovereign over all things, from the smallest detail to the rebirth of a sinner dead in their trespasses. That raises a question in my mind and certainly others: why care at all about these apparently irrelevant issues like economics and politics?

I care, probably more than I should, because believe it or not I care about people, even people I don't know and who aren't even born yet. Ideas and policies have consequences. I believe as firmly as I believe anything outside of the Gospel that some ideas are harmful to people, ideas like institutionalizing children, policies like the creation of a state replacement for family and especially fathers, notions like unborn children being reduced to an dehumanizing term like "choice". Not every transgression amounts to persecution but just because it isn't persecution doesn't mean it is irrelevant.

All things being equal, a society with a free exchange of ideas is better than one without. A society with an opportunity based economic system is better than one with a false outcome based system. A nation where children are not murdered in the womb is better than one where they are. A nation that incentivizes and protects marriage with a mother and father is better than one that waters down marital relationships to an unlimited number of permutations that all demand equal recognition no matter how harmful they are. A peaceful nation state that restrains her own powers both domestically and abroad is a freer and better neighbor than one that treats all of her citizens as potential criminals and interferes over and over in conflicts that are none of her business. I believe that a people who individually, voluntarily and collectively work together to aid the poor, the widow and the orphan is preferable to one that confiscates from some to give to others and where individuals subcontract mercy work to the state or the religious institution. I believe it is profoundly immoral to bankrupt future generations with an enormous debt burden because of the greed, selfishness and incompetence of past and present generations. There are lots more but you get the idea. Just because something doesn't have eternal consequences doesn't mean it ought to be ignored. Feeding a poor person or visiting a widow doesn't make one a believer but that doesn't mean it is unimportant.

Free market economics is not the Gospel (nor are income redistribution schemes). Likewise our individualistic, "I earned it, it is my money and I will do with as I want with it" attitude is cause for concern and correction in the church. Nevertheless I honestly believe that a freer society with freer markets where people have the opportunity to take risks and be rewarded for enterprise and initiative is better for all people than a centrally controlled economy. The economic history of the world bears this out.

Here is the point I am trying to make. I can believe the above positions and even advocate for them at the same time I serve God and proclaim His Son. Granted there needs to be a prioritization because my calling as an ambassador of the King trumps every other concern. The Gospel proclamation is our highest and only eternally relevant task. Free markets are not the Gospel. Traditional marriage is not the Gospel. Even protecting unborn children is not the Gospel. That doesn't make them irrelevant or value neutral. All across the political spectrum, left and right equally, the church has tried to link the Gospel with their political cause but that error and abuse doesn't lead to a shoulder shrugging attitude of "who cares?". Because I care about people I care about issues that make their lives better or make their lives worse.

So please don't dismiss as petty any issue or position that is not directly Gospel related. Not everyone, or even very many people, will respond to the Gospel's offer of unmerited favor that forgives sins. That reality doesn't mean that we sit in our Kingdom bunkers and watch the world collapse in misery and despair. Nor does the opposite hold true, as some seem to suggest, that winning political victories and achieving cultural dominance is our most pressing concern. In this area, as in so many others, balance is of the utmost importance.

Friday, July 21, 2017

I got yer $15 per hour right here

Although the furor over the $15 minimum wage seems to have died down with "Trump is the embodiment of evil" narrative sucking all the leftist air out of the room, it still is killing jobs and floating around the political narrative so I wanted to share a personal little anecdote that I think does a nice job of wrecking the "everyone gets $15 per hour" nonsense.

Our second oldest son has been taking welding classes at the local community college. He will be done at the end of the year, shy of his 19th birthday. He stopped by a small local plant today that does some sort of welding or pipe-fitting or something to see about working there part-time while he finishes his classes. They were ecstatic to talk to him. Assuming he can pass the basic skills test for welding, a cinch, he would start at $16/hour. Even those that can't pass it can be trained and they get paid $15 during training. So they give you a very valuable skill and pay you $15 while you do it. Oh, and there is a $1000 sign-on bonus. Plus they are happy to work around his class schedule. So before he turns 19 he will make more than I made in my first couple of jobs out of college and just by showing up to work to work he gets an automatic $.25 raise every quarter.

In summary, with a little initiative on his part he starts out above the magical $15 per hour and even if he hadn't he could start out at $15 right to start. So yeah he will work hard and in a hot environment and it won't be easy but then again it shouldn't be to make $15 per hour. On the other hand, why should someone who has shown zero initiative suddenly make the same as someone with marketable skills who has taken some ownership of their career?

You want to make $15 per hour? Great, I can tell you how. Do you want someone to just give you a 30,40, 50% raise just cuz you think they should? No thanks. Get off you butt and do something for yourself. There is limitless opportunity in this country, we used to understand that as a people and seek it out, savoring the chance to better our lot in life. Now we want benevolent Uncle Sam to give us more money because a new tattoo and the latest iPhone ain't gonna pay for themselves.

So It Starts, Southern Baptist Edition

Last month I wrote repeatedly about the fiasco at the Southern Baptist Convention where delegates committed the sin of initially choosing not to proceed on a clumsily worded, hysterical resolution condemning the alt-right. In one of my several posts I wrote:
Back to the resolution. I have to give credit to Dwight McKissic. Whether intentional or not he very neatly maneuvered the Southern Baptist Convention into a corner and now it looks like he will get a version of his resolution and in the future the SBC will be cowed into approving any racially based resolution that comes forward out of fear of being raked over the coals again by the media and appearing insufficiently "woke" on matters of racial reconciliation. Well played indeed.
In other words this resolution is less about any fringe meme-based ideology and more about the opening salvo in a movement to transform the Southern Baptist Convention into the image of progressives. Or even more likely to simply undermine the SBC until it collapses. Once you capitulate once, the SJW sharks smell blood in the water and won't stop. I was right and it didn't even take very long. The blood is in the water and here come the sharks.

From the hallowed pages of the New York Times (All the news that's fit to print!) we see the following:

It is written by a black Southern Baptist pastor named Lawrence Ware. I have never heard of him before. His bio at the bottom of his editorial says this about him: "Lawrence Ware (@Law_writes) is a co-director of the Center for Africana Studies at Oklahoma State University and the diversity coordinator for its philosophy department." That pretty much explains why I have never heard of him. He starts off with this:
The first time I was called a nigger to my face was by a fellow camper at a Southern Baptist Convention retreat near Oklahoma City. I was 13, and it was 1995. Devastated, I complained to a counselor who suggested I pray for the ability to turn the other cheek. Since then, I have done just that and more: I’ve been an ordained minister in the convention for almost a decade. 
But I’ve had enough. Today I am officially renouncing my ordination in the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant body, with about 15 million members, and the world’s largest Baptist denomination. 
My reasoning is simple: As a black scholar of race and a minister who is committed to social justice, I can no longer be part of an organization that is complicit in the disturbing rise of the so-called alt-right, whose members support the abhorrent policies of Donald Trump and whose troubling racial history and current actions reveal a deep commitment to white supremacy.
Why does the New York Times, America's newspaper of record, devote an opinion page editorial, some of the most sacred and valuable property in progressive media, to the resignation of a relatively unknown minister from Oklahoma of all places? Simple. It is the same reason that they will give space to Russell Moore and others as long as they can see a way to advance an anti-Gospel "progressive" message or to hurt people who have committed thought-crimes. The editors of the New York Times hate most people who go to Southern Baptists churches and blame them for not doing as their betters told them and electing Hillary Clinton.  As I read the rest of his editorial, I wondered why he was in the SBC to begin with. Mr. Ware continues:
A contingent of predominantly white, old-guard members refused to take the resolution seriously, even while many black and progressive clergy members advocated its adoption. It was not until chaos ensued that a reworded resolution vowing to “decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ” was adopted. 
What’s more, while they hesitated to adopt a resolution that condemned white supremacy, they did not hesitate to throw out activists who tried to raise awareness about the ways in which the convention fails its L.G.B.T.Q. members.
If you are keeping score at home, it took Mr. Ware just over 300 words of his essay about why he left the SBC because it is so full of the alt-right to abruptly shift gears and bring up homosexual behavior. Notice the conflict he creates between the "white, old-guard members" and the new and improved "black and progressive clergy". Mr. Ware continues, getting up a head of steam (bold at the end is mine):
To be sure, many prominent convention leaders have opposed Mr. Trump and the alt-right. Indeed, one of them, Russell Moore, went so far as to voice his criticism before the election.
But not enough has been done to address the institutional nature of white supremacy in the convention. Many churches are still hostile to the Black Lives Matter movement, and even more were silent during the rise of Mr. Trump and the so-called alt-right. For all of its talk about the love of Jesus Christ, the Southern Baptist Convention’s inaction on the issues of racism and homophobia has drowned out its words.
Well that exhibits all the subtlety of a wrecking ball. In case you missed it here is the summary: Pliable people like Russell Moore are good. Anyone who voted for Trump is in the alt-right and burning crosses in the yards of black folk. If you don't support the militant Black Lives Matter groups and you don't support normalization of sexual perversion, you are obviously a racist.

Mr. Ware muses: "I don’t know why I stayed so long." I kind of wonder the same thing. If you are looking for a church that supports racialism in the form of Black Lives Matters, that affirms homosexual sin as normal, you can find plenty of them and there are lots of great seats as those "churches" are dying out. Onward....
Yet it saddens and scares me to think that the church, especially given its role in the black community as a place for moral correction and existential validation, may no longer be able to serve that purpose. Despite our need for such a place, acquiescence in the face of racism and homophobia won’t heal them; it will only allow the wounds to fester.
Here Mr. Ware makes a good point, although inadvertently. The church historically has been a place for moral correction in the black community and it apparently no longer serves that purpose but the fault is not with the alt-right or mean white Southern Baptists. When people like Mr. Ware try to use the church to force the normalization of homosexual behavior under the guise of justice, the church has lost all authority for moral correction. Saying that men sodomizing other men is normal and natural and God-pleasing behavior and trying to lump sodomy in with simply having black skin takes an enormous leap but it exposes something. The sin of the SBC is not "racism" or association with the "alt-right". It is being insufficiently progressive on a whole litany of issues. Mr. Ware ironically mentions declining membership numbers in the SBC multiple times but at the same time favors the sort of progressive nonsense that has already killed outright multiple denominations.

It is his conclusion however that really gets to the heart of the matter by showing Mr. Ware's heart, emphasis mine.
I want to be a member of a body of believers that is structured around my Christian beliefs of equity, not one that sees those issues as peripheral. The equality of all people should be a fundamental principle that is a starting point of the convention’s existence, not a side issue to be debated.
I love the church, but I love black people more. Black lives matter to me. I am not confident that they matter to the Southern Baptist Convention.
There it is. Thanks for getting to that at the end of an exhausting exhibition of partisan political rhetoric dressed up in progressive religious lingo. Mr. Ware is saying the exact same thing that he would accuse the alt-right of, raising racial identity above the Gospel and making race an idol. He claims that the SBC doesn't care about black lives but it is without dispute that a weekend in Chicago or Baltimore is far more dangerous to a black man than any number of alt-right types, who mostly post memes from their computers at home, or from a cop. The city of Baltimore is trying to have a "Nobody kill anybody" weekend and for good reason. According to the Baltimore Sun, 2017 is "...on pace to be the city’s deadliest year ever. ". With back to back years of over 300 murders and 2017 on pace to exceed 2015 and 2016, guess who is dying? Largely young black men. Guess who is killing them? Hint, not cops. Not Richard Spencer or David Duke. They are being murdered by other young black men. If black lives matter to Mr. Ware, and I have no reason to doubt him, why is he focused on homosexuality when young black men are being slaughtered by other young black men every single day in America? Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of aborted black babies. Here is the sad reality that you are not allowed to say.

Black Lives Matter is not about saving black lives. It is a politically expedient cover phrase for a radical leftist ideology.

As such, Black Lives Matter has no more of a claim to be accepted and affirmed by the church than the alt-right does.

Rod Dreher and Todd Pruitt, among others, have written in response and they pretty much conclude precisely what I said would happen back in June in the same essay linked above:

Not to mention the reality of introducing a lot of people to the alt-right and their ideology.

Gee, I am like a prophet or something. I don't think many Southern Baptists had a clue of what the alt-right stood for in May of this year but I bet a lot more of them do today. This whole thing is vintage progressive lunacy. You write up a goofy resolution that condemns a problem that wasn't really a problem in the SBC. You pitch a fit because it doesn't pass and you call in the attack dogs of the "media" to try to shame the SBC into doing your will. The SBC leadership, terrified of looking like racists, decides to keep voting until they get the result they want and pass a strongly worded resolution but it wasn't the resolution that Dwight McKissic proposed and it wasn't passed immediately so the SBC is racist. Now you have some random Oklahoma Baptist leaving the SBC and he gets published in the New York Times. How many people in the SBC that had never heard of the alt-right have read some of the material now?

Do you want to see more people in the alt-right? Because this is how you get more people into the alt-right. You abandon in terror the rhetorical battlefield over this sensitive and divisive issue and leave it in the hands of people on the extremes of both sides. If you are a Southern Baptist that wants nothing to do with the cop-hating rhetoric of much of the Black Lives Matter movement and is not interested in homosexual normalization, where do you go? Thanks to the cowardice of the SBC leadership on this issue, the road to Richard Spencer is not very long. Dreher, who uncharacteristically didn't mention his book in this essay, a sign he is fired up, writes:
Good grief. See, this is the kind of thing that vindicates some on the alt-right, who say that it doesn’t matter what you believe or why you believe it, they’re still going to hate you and accuse you of being one of us. So why not be one of us? (they say).
Yep. He continues:
More than anything though: Can you imagine someone writing, “I love the church, but I love white people more”? Or, “I love the church, but I love straight people more”? We would know exactly what was wrong with that person: they had made idols of race and/or sexuality. Had Ware written, “I love the church, but I love the truth more,” that would have been understandable. It sounds like he has apostatized to the Church of Identity Politics. It’s a false religion, but an increasingly popular one, alas.
Please note for the record that this latest racial division, in the SBC and elsewhere, is entirely a result of progressive activists who want to pervert the meaning of justice and make it clear that unless you stand equally for recognizing all people as made imago dei regardless of race along with affirming the normalcy of sodomy and cross-dressing and stand shoulder to shoulder with the radicals in Black Lives Matter who, as quoted by Dreher, seek to destroy the family...
We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, and especially “our” children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable
...then clearly you are a racist.

The church is losing the conversation on race but not because of the alt-right. I don't know who Mr. Ware is and I wish him all the best in the future but if the cost for having him stay in the SBC is affirming homosexuality and cross-dressing and bowing to the far left, anti-family, anti-law enforcement demands of Black Lives Matter, then I bid him farewell.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Taste Of Freedom

A little home cooked, home raised freedom in Jesus this morning and so very thankful for it.

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)

What Would We Do Without Government

A little real life case study.

This is the exit map in case of emergency in our doctor's office, a map that is situated conveniently in the restroom.

This is the actual view from the restroom when you open the door with the exit map on it.

Were it not for that map, I am not sure I could find the exit in the case of an actual emergency that happened while I was in the bathroom. I would likely walk right past the exit and into the fire, burning to death while trying to find the door.

I don't say that to make light of actual safety precautions. Well, maybe a little. I understand why businesses were originally required to put those maps up but they have become so ubiquitous that they fade into the scenery. Do you review the exit map when you get to your hotel room or when visiting a new facility? For that matter have you ever read the giant laminated posters in your break room that talks about the minimum wage and a bunch of other workplace regulations? I doubt many people have but every business is supposed to have that poster in their workplace because reasons. No doubt people really wanted to check the current minimum wage on a daily basis in the break room when I worked for Fidelity Investments and literally no one in the building including the janitors made anywhere close to minimum wage. When my wife set up her small business and registered it with the state it wasn't long afterward that we got quasi-threatening offers to sell us, for a ridiculous price, those posters for our workplace. Since my wife is her only employee we declined to buy one. In general, for every common sense and useful regulation, there seem to be 1000 dumb ones.

As an example, I worked for many years in the qualified retirement plan business, which is a wordy way of saying 401(k) plans. When you get over the initial fun of the often huge numbers you are dealing with, with plan sponsors I worked with having plans with tens or hundreds of millions or sometimes even billions of dollars in assets, it is in general a dreary industry. Working day to day with plan sponsors, the organizations that sponsored the 401(k) or 403(b) plans and offered them as a benefit to their employees, was made up of a whole bunch of coffee breaks interspersed with two things, a) phone calls and/or emails complaining about something and b) tedious, meaningless paperwork, but on the bright side it paid really well and we had great benefits. Every year every plan is required to do a couple of things, non-discrimination testing which is a giant headache to tell you that people who make more tend to put more in their 401(k) than people who make less and then the annual form 5500 filing. The form 5500 is filled in by the places I used to work and takes a ton of time and effort and it is completely meaningless. Nobody really looks at them. No one really cares what they say except some bitter functionary at the Department of Labor or the IRS. What they really care about is not so much what it says, just that you did it. Plus every plan has to have a plan document which governs the plan and is usually a thick stack of paper full of eye-bleeding-inducing gobbledygook that in turn generates a "Summary Plan Description" that again no one reads. People who are saving for their retirement don't care about the SPD or the Summary Annual Report or the mutual fund prospectus. They mostly just want help picking out their investments.

The thing is all of those rules are supposed to protect employees but what they mostly have done is spawn an entire industry of thousands of people who sit in cubicles and push paper across their desks that no one cares about. People like me who worked with plan sponsors, benefit staff at companies, lots and lots of accountants and lawyers and various experts and of course whole cabinet level departments full of people performing menial tasks that don't accomplish anything. In the grand scheme of things if everyone at places like Fidelity and Vanguard just didn't do their jobs for a year and no one filed a 5500 or printed up a Summary Annual Report, almost no one would care. Which begs the question, why do it then? And the follow-up question, why have all of these rules in the first place? The simple answer is that we have all of these rules because it creates "work" that someone has to do even though it doesn't really accomplish anything.

Sometimes when I think about what is really going on around us it is a miracle that the whole thing hasn't totally imploded yet.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Someone Take Away Keller's Internet Access

So I went back to the original post from Tim Keller I referenced the my prior post. A woman accused me of being unable to "think beyond the concrete into the abstract" so I went back to gently correct her and then I scrolled through the comments and saw that Tim himself had jumped into the fray.

So, "preaching", i.e. delivering a prepared monologue sermon, is an art form. That is kind of what I have been saying for years. Actually it is exactly what I have been saying for years. It is a performance, a religious kabuki theater. See my post from way back when in 2008 when I made the kabuki theater comparison, A call for a new Reformation in the church. That post was one of my very first when I started to see the performance driven model of the institutional church that I have been speaking out against for almost a decade. Keller's comment is the epitome of what I have been saying.

So does Keller style himself as an artist? Is his preaching an art form? Because like the comment he replied to stated, I thought that preaching was the foolish means God uses to bring sinners to salvation, not an art form to be put on display by professional performance artists on Sunday morning for a paying audience.

Keller unintentionally exposed exactly what people charge the institutional church with. It is about professional performances all too often, especially for the big name guys with the huge "ministries". As such it is barely distinguishable from other forms of secular art, apart from the God talk and Scripture references. That is just as true, sad to say, in many Reformed circles as it is in liberal churches.

So thanks I guess to Tim for making my point. I think maybe he needs to put away the laptop or phone and ponder what he is saying because it isn't helping his case at all.

Gospel? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Gospel! We Have Ballet!

I saw a post today from Tim Keller. Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City and has been in the church news lately thanks to the video of three fellas prancing about on stage. So he posted something about 3 hours ago that I have to assume is an indirect response to the controversy but in his response, which I screenshot just in case, he says something that should stun anyone who cares about the Gospel.

Two statements stuck out to me like a pair of sore thumbs, and they are the bookends for his post:

"The Church needs artists because without art we cannot reach the world."

"We need Christian artists because we are never going to reach the world without great Christian art to go with great Christian talk."

Without artists we cannot reach the world and we are never going to reach the world.


This is an unfortunately great example of trying to make a point and in doing so completely going overboard and undermining the very point you were trying to make. Worse, it is in my opinion not only unbiblical, it is anti-biblical and denigrates the power of the Gospel.

When Jesus sent out the apostles with the Great Commission, He told them to:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)
If you are wondering where "Christian art" fits into that narrative, don't worry. You are not missing it, it is not there. In Acts 2:37 when the Jews implored Peter to tell them "Brothers, what shall we do?", Peter didn't stop and get out an easel and some parchment to paint them a picture. Nor did he compose a quick symphony, or choreograph a ballet. He didn't even spontaneously start miming the plan of salvation or bust out some interpretive dance complete with ribbons. Nope, his message was pretty clear and simply spoken:
And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
Luke recounts that some 3000 souls were saved that day without even a quick ditty on a recorder. I guess back in those primitive days you could reach the world and see men saved without the benefit of art. Paul exhorted Timothy to preach the Gospel, in season and out. He didn't tell Timothy to go to art school. You get my point I trust.

If there had never been a lick of "Christian art" ever made, the Gospel would still be plenty powerful and sufficient for the salvation of men's souls. Much of what we know in the West as the great pieces of "Christian art" were made by men who didn't even understand the Gospel and quite likely were not saved. The Gospel is not dependent on "art" and it is not incomplete when it is just "great Christian talk".

There is a lot to be said about the value of art, although I will qualify that statement by pointing out that very little of what passes for art today has any artistic value. Like other aspects of Western civilization it is hugely valuable and beneficial for society, just as our laws and morals are. But art is not the Gospel. The Gospel is by design spoken. It is Good News, not Good Art. Like the apocryphal and endlessly repeated saying "Preach the Gospel at all times, use words when necessary", Tim Keller seems to be suggesting that the preaching of the Gospel is not enough. Think about that from a guy who is considered to be "conservative" and "Reformed".

The message of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and the call to repent is not good enough.

I am not putting words in his mouth or taking him out of context. What he wrote is what he wrote and is reproduced completely and without editing above. Keller denigrates the untold missionaries past and present who go to the ends of the earth armed only with the Gospel and their Bible. How can they think they can reach the world for Jesus without being artists? What about all of those simple country preachers who don't have access to world class musicians or ballet dancers?

Tim is clearly trying to make a point here about the value of Christian art as he defines it. That is fine and there is a case to be made, just as there is a case to be made that not everything that falls under the umbrella of art is valuable or praiseworthy or appropriate for the church. Instead of making that case he fell into the trap of making a far wider and more sweeping generalization than he needed to and rather than making his case he instead made himself sound foolish and bordering on heterodox. Again, I don't think that Keller believes the Gospel is inadequate but I do think that what he said in that post would imply he does. Hopefully he clarifies his statement because instead of putting out the firestorm he just threw gas on it.

Monday, July 10, 2017

From The "Unintentional Irony" Files

The ballet or whatever it was at Redeemer Church that I mentioned yesterday is getting a ton of notice and response, some good and some....well not so good. One rather bizarre if predictable response was linked to by Tim Challies, titled Stage Fright, from a Wes Bredenhof. Wes is apparently a minister of a Reformed church in Tasmania, which is kind of fun. Wes has a beef with the video, not the obvious stuff but rather a more specific complaint. I will let him explain:
There’s a lot that can be said about it, a lot that should be said, and a lot that has been said. However, I want to briefly mention something I haven’t read anyone else say. 
This performance would only be possible in a church building with a stage. Your traditional Reformed church building with a large pulpit occupying the center of attention would never accommodate a ballet trio. However, these days it has become virtually a given that any new church building must have a stage.
So Reformed churches have a big old pulpit as the center of attention and of course that is correct because it is what Reformed folk do. One of the most irritating aspects of the Reformed subculture is the tendency to say "The Reformed do this...." or "The Reformed don't do that..." for any issue as if that is self-explanatory. Newsflash, there are a lot of things that the Reformed do and have done that is not correct or at least not self-evident as the bestest and onliest way to do something.

Wes goes on to give a history of some random lady that he blames for the presence of stages in church buildings which may or may not be true. Then he makes a pretty random and inexplicable charge:
The Reformation recovered the preaching of the Word — and with it a church architecture which made the means of grace central, especially preaching. The heirs (and heiresses) of Anabaptism adopted a church architecture which sidelined the Word.
Huh? What does Anabaptism have to do with his post? Nothing. He doesn't mention it at all until he accuses the "heirs" of Anabaptism with "sidelining" the Word. What about the woman he accuses of starting the "stage in the church", Aimee Semple Macpherson? Was she an Anabaptist of some sort? Well no, she grew up a Methodist and became a Pentecostal later in life and as far as I can tell she had zero connection to any Anabaptists. It just seems to be a random drive-by slander that hearkens back to my days listening to the fellas at the White Horse Inn who seemed unhappy with a show unless they accused the Anabaptists of being responsible for every ill in evangelicalism (and of course saying "word and sacrament" at least three times). For the Anabaptists I know, the sermon is very central to the gathering. The pulpit is smack in the middle of the front in a place of prominence and the sanctuary is usually free of the frilly and kitschy adornments of a lot of evangelical churches.  The hymns are theologically rich and the worship is completely lacking any worldly entertainment. I wonder if Wes has ever been to an actual Anabaptist church gathering. I kind of doubt it. It was a clumsy and slanderous throwaway line that makes the one writing it seem fairly ignorant.

Back to the stage.

I agree that the tendency toward elevated platforms of any sort reinforces the general passivity of the church but that is true whatever you call the platform. I would rather listen to a decent sermon, or even a cruddy sermon, instead of watching prancing dudes any day of the week but let's not kid ourselves. Virtually all Reformed churches require a seminary degree to be a pastor and virtually all of those degrees include courses on homiletics, preparing and presenting a sermon. Many Reformed pastors humble-brag about how many hours a week they spend in sermon prep. They prepare and practice, they dress up in a culturally appropriate costume, they stand on a raised platform behind a pulpit designed to both give them a place to put their notes and to transmit a sense of authority. They stand up front and do their thing and they have an audience that sits quietly and listens. If you don't recognize that there is an huge aspect of performance in the delivery of a sermon, you really aren't being honest with yourself.

Stuff like this is sort of like sermons on "tithing". They are invariably self-serving. Just as someone who relies on the offering plate for his living can't help but have that in mind when talking about giving, so too someone who spends all week preparing a sermon can't help but give off a sense of "pay attention to me!" when it comes to pulpit versus stage. Talking about the importance of the prominence of preaching when you are the one doing the preaching is understandable. When I prepared sermons I spent a lot of time and effort doing so and I would have been (and sometimes was) irritated if it seemed like people didn't appreciate it or weren't paying attention. For all of the chatter about making the Word central, it often seems like what is really central is the pastor. I am not at all saying that is always a bad thing but it does demand a bit of self-awareness because the tendency to make yourself the focal point is ever-present, even when it is completely unintentional.

A pulpit is just a piece of furniture, it is who stands behind it that concerns Wes. The issue with what was going on at Redeemer was not about whether or not the pulpit was front and center. Let's keep our focus on what the real issue is, not on our own need to be the center of attention.

Happy Birthday John!

Wishing a happy birthday to one of the great, although not without flaws, Reformers John Calvin who is 508 years old today!

Sunday, July 09, 2017

From The "Why Don't Men Go To Church?" Files

I wasn't going to comment on this but Doug Wilson did and I think his piece is worth reading. Doug was following up on a piece from Tim Bayly that I read a few days ago and it had to do with an offertory "performance" at Redeemer Church, home of famous pastor, author and speaker Tim Keller. I am not sure I can describe it so I am just going to embed the video even though it makes me a little nauseous. Keep in mind that Tim Keller is considered to be conservative.

Life Together from Redeemer Video on Vimeo.

OK, I am just a knuckle-dragging chump from Indiana so what do I know about art and stuff. I mean this is Manhattan, man! That was like classy and artistic and cultured and all that! If I were a sophisticated city slicker I might give that performance two snaps up!

Back when it was OK to mock that which deserves to be mocked

I do know this. If I was sitting in a gathering of the church and three dudes started flitting around the stage, holding hands and pawing each other, I would not put any money in the offering plate. I would also not sit silently by. You would last see me walking out the back doors. I would assume any normal guy would do the same, unless their conditioning that tells them to sit down and shut up overrode their revulsion. I am not a fan of ballet or whatever form of dance this is. I am especially not a fan of three guys swishing around the stage together, doing lifts and such. I guess it would have been more tolerable if it was a guy and a girl dancing together but even still, what exactly is supposed to be the point here if not cultural virtue signaling? Yeah we believe in the Bible but look, we are still cultured! I don't know if these three fellas are homosexuals or not but if I looked at and/or touched another woman the way these guys are fondling and gazing at each other, my wife would feed me to our pigs, one piece at a time. You can guess which parts she would start with.

No surprise, Doug Wilson had something to say about this and it starts with the title of his post, in true vintage DW fashion, Gayer Than the Kiwi Queen of the Fire Island Fruit Festival. He goes on (in pink instead of my traditional green).....
What is the problem with this? Summed up, it is that this performance is gayer than the kiwi queen at the Fire Island Fruit Festival. This performance is gayer than an HR memo at Google headquarters. How gay was it? It was gayer than an NPR tote bag full of rainbows. It was gayer than a unicorn parade through the Castro District. It was gayer than a lavender sparkly pen.
He has a real flair for this. I can only hope to be that eloquent someday. It can be easy to get caught up in Doug's, um, vivid wordplay and miss the meat of what he is saying. Please don't because what he is saying is important. This is important because it gets to the heart of a couple of issues, like the feminizing of Christianity and the way that our modern "worship" tends to drive men away. This is going to sound incredibly chauvinistic, even by my standards but I don't care.
The church will only ever be as strong as the men who lead it.
Don't misread that. The Church is the Body of Christ. It was ordained by God, chosen by God, called by God, redeemed by His Son's blood, and will be sustained and triumphant by the will of God. If the very gates of Hell will not prevail against the church then you can be sure that three fellas prancing around a stage will not defeat the church. What I meant by my statement above is that the local, visible expression of the church where God has decreed that the church equips and encourages us for the work of ministry is only as vibrant and effective in that task as the men who lead it. You can have all of the money in the world, great programs, a kickin' "worship" band, every advantage but if you are led by weak men, the church will be weak. That is not to denigrate or diminish the role of women in the church, but simply to recognize what the Bible has made clear. God has placed the privilege and the burden of leadership in the home and the church in the hands of men.

Doug continues, emphasis mine....
It is no sin to watch this video clip and not know what the particular problem is. Human self-deception can occupy the heart like a rabbit warren under a large meadow. The particular problems can be hard to identify and trace. But the general problem is screamingly obvious. If you can look at this clip and not know that there is a grievous problem somewhere, then the self-deception involved is truly profound.
It is troubling that so many would watch this video and not know something is terribly wrong here. Whether because we are conditioned to never, ever judge or because we just are so Scripturally illiterate that we can't recognize when something is wrong, if you can watch that performance and realize that it is being done under the authority of elders in the church and not see that it is a gross imposition on the created order, then something is broken in your discernment. More and these are the critical passages:
I referred above to the problem of confusion. Scripture obviously refers to blatant sexual sin as abominable, and the term abomination is sometimes lost on us because we think of it as merely some strong form of Bible-ese. But the Bible also talks about this kind of sinning, and the antecedent rationalizations, as inchoate confusion. “Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion” (Lev. 18:23). “And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them” (Lev. 20:12).
In our case, the confusion depends on the fact that, in the Christian world, we have limited the sin to actual genital contact. Stay away from that, and you can be as much of a swish as you want. But this is not what Scripture teaches. Adultery does not begin in the bed; it begins in the heart (Matt. 5:28). Homosex begins, not in the bathhouse, but rather in the kind of cosmos a man imagines himself to live in—provided it is not the cosmos created by the living God. Underneath the passive homosexual act is the sin of wanting to be soft, and underneath that desire to be malakoi (1 Cor. 6:9) is the sin of pride and arrogance.
That is so very important. If adultery is at the core a heart issue, then it makes sense that homosexuality is as well. Homosexual behavior is not sinful just for the act, although the act itself is an abomination. It is also sinful because it tells God the Creator that you reject what He has ordained. Whether it is men lusting after other men or women after other women, or if it is a man that feels compelled to dress like a woman because he is mentally ill or even worse if he is driven to mutilate his own flesh, or an adult who is sexually aroused by a small child or an animal, all of it stems from the same rebellion against God. God has made you a man and called you to either marry one woman in a lifelong covenant relationship or to remain single, but instead that man shakes his fist at God and declares: No, I will not! I will have sex with women who are not my wife. I will suppress the natural desire of a man for a woman and debase myself in lust for another man. I will declare God made a mistake in giving me male genitalia and chromosomes and start to act like and dress like a woman. Instead of seeing that small child as someone to protect and nurture, I will instead see that child as someone to sate my foul lusts with.

That sort of talk probably constitutes "hate speech" in much of the Western world. Heck you can probably get arrested in some European countries if the cops catch you with this post on your screen. Equating "transgenderism" and homosexuality with bestiality and pedophilia is simply not permitted but regardless it is all part of the same sexual rebellion against God's created order. The only permissible and blessed sexual unions are monogamous, permanent, heterosexual marriage or celibacy. That is it. "Living together", divorce and remarriage, adultery, homosexuality of any kind, bestiality, pedophilia. All are merely different points on a single spectrum of sexual sin.

The problem in that video is not just three guys swishing around together on stage. Instead it is a symptom of a much broader problem, even in "conservative" churches. It puts a sexually confused message on display for the entertainment of the church with the blessing of elders who should know better. This isn't some Episcopalian church, this is supposed to be a "conservative", Reformed, orthodox church. I am seeing a lot of troubling signs coming from "conservative" groups like The Gospel Coalition, 9 Marks and the Southern Baptist Convention, subtle slides toward political correctness and compromise to try to appease the world. The Gospel Coalition's Twitter page has for some time now featured a banner promoting an upcoming conference next April, the MLK50 conference recognizing the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

A conference celebrating a known adulterer with clearly a clearly unorthodox theology who also espoused borderline communist beliefs? From a group that styles itself the "Gospel" Coalition in celebration of a man who didn't seem to know what the Gospel was? So much for the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation this year, dead white theologians namesakes don't tickle the ears of the world. Let's focus on a conference celebrating a heterodox philanderer because he is a larger than life cultural figure and maybe, just maybe, the world will like us better if we put on a show. As a nation we should certainly remember with sadness the slaying of Martin Luther King, Kr. but as the church our focus should be on the Gospel. In 2014 TGC even ran a piece about Martin Luther King, Jr titled: 9 Things You Should Know About Martin Luther King, Jr. and point number 6 recognizes that he held heterodox (and heretical although they didn't use that word) beliefs:
6. King held unorthodox views on theology, which he expressed during his time at Crozer Theological Seminary. In a paper he wrote for a systematic theology class he cast skeptical aspersions on the doctrines of divine Sonship, the Virgin Birth (”. . . the evidence for the tenability of this doctrine is too shallow to convince any objective thinker”), and the Resurrection (”. . . the external evidence for the authenticity of this doctrine is found wanting”). In the conclusion of another paper he writes, 
"Others doctrines such as a supernatural plan of salvation, the Trinity, the substitutionary theory of the atonement, and the second coming of Christ are all quite prominent in fundamentalist thinking. Such are the views of the fundamentalist and they reveal that he is opposed to theological adaptation to social and cultural change. He sees a progressive scientific age as a retrogressive spiritual age. Amid change all around he is willing to preserve certain ancient ideas even though they are contrary to science."
So here is a man that apparently rejected or at least was highly skeptical about such minor issues as the Resurrection and the divinity of Christ and yet the "Gospel" Coalition is going to honor him with a conference next year? So I guess for TGC virtue signaling > orthodoxy. Hey, next year is also the 40th anniversary of the slaying of homosexual pedophile Harvey Milk, why not a conference for him? They could have twice divorced gay "bishop" Eugene Robinson as the keynote speaker!

One more from Doug, again emphasis mine.

Incidentally, I am aware that some will say that I obviously don’t understand art, or ballet, or culture, or something important to blue state urbanites. That’s as may be, but I understand men who still have their spiritual gonads. And if you can look at that clip and fail to understand why the church is so deeply unattractive to real men, then there is very little hope for you. And speaking of art, if you can look at that clip and fail to understand why real men are so repulsed by the artistic “community,” then there is even less hope.

I am not interested in running into the woods to build fires and beat drums or MMA party pseudo-machismo but I am even less interested in androgynous religious observations. Why would any self-respecting, Scripturally literate man be willing sit and watch three men cavorting with each other on stage? The answer is that they don't. They just stop coming. The same is true with wailing "Jesus is my girlfriend" contemporary "Christian" music or sappy sermons or even Christian teachers on the radio with their shows started with frilly acoustic guitar playing. Real men don't eat spiritual quiche, they want spiritual red meat. They don't want to sit around passively listening to warbling, crappy music. They certainly don't have any interest in the sort of "art" on display in that video. A man doesn't have to look like Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson to be manly, Doug Wilson isn't someone who you will see in an Ironman competition anytime soon, but a man has to at least know he is a man and not be ashamed of that.

The church has been playing defense for too long and the relentless infiltration will never stop as long as there is a single orthodox believer alive. It is time to be on the offensive, not to be offensive necessarily, but to take the fight to the Enemy. For decades the church in the U.S. has been doing whatever it can to drive men out. For every gathering like Together for the Gospel with thousands of men gathered under the authority of the Word of God, there are hundreds or thousands of slow drips of compromise like was on display at Redeemer. We need to reclaim the priority of masculinity in the church and that starts with redeeming the false image of Jesus as a sissy. We have confused the meekness of Christ with weakness. As I have written before, Jesus was meek because He chose to be at that time. His was infinite strength held in check by sheer willpower, not a lack of strength. The fact is that He could have but chose not to crush those scourging Him and nailing Him to a cross likely fleshy pop cans with a thought and He did that to redeem us, not because He was helpless, but because He loved us. That is not weakness, that is the epitome of strength. Jesus came as a man and not a simpering weakling. He rebuked and chastised without apology, He tolerated no nonsense, He drove those blaspheming the temple out with a whip made of cords, He commanded the seas and the winds, He faced down without fear the most powerful men around in the Jewish Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate. He spoke the truth without nuance and made no apology for it. When He comes again He will come in His full power and righteous fury:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. (Revelation 19:11-15)

I don't know if Christ will return on a literal white horse but I do know with 100% confidence that He won't come back sashaying on a stage to flute music. It is a testament to the power of deception that the Enemy has managed to replace the Jesus of the Bible with the peace sign flashing, fair trade soy milk drinking, ballet dancing "Jesus" of modern religious culture.

We need to get back to worshipping THAT guy, the one who comes in fury and righteousness and wrath, not the peacenik hippie Jesus of modern church culture. How is a man supposed to worship as King a guy that he could beat up? We need to get back to Jesus who commands every man to repent and that all mankind will bow the knee to and confess as Lord instead of a false Jesus that gets sand kicked in His face at the beach.

If you want to see the church healthy, vibrant and powerful, you don't need better "worship" music or more relevant sermons or a better program for kids or more "inclusive" attitudes. You need to get the men back, the real men. If you do that the church will thrive. If you don't it will wither. There are no other options.