Saturday, September 30, 2017

So Much For 2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.(2 Corinthians 6:14-18)

Because there is nothing else noteworthy going on in the world, some leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention decided to waste more time doubling down on their windmill jousting against the Alt-Right Phantom Menace™ by sending a letter to Trump calling on him to waste more time denouncing the Alt-Right: Exclusive: Evangelicals urge more action from Trump against alt-right:
A group of prominent evangelical Christians is calling on President Donald Trump to take further steps to condemn white supremacists -- specifically those in the alt-right -- following the August white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one woman dead.
A letter that has been circulating privately among a coalition of pastors notes Trump's efforts to denounce the white supremacists, but urges the President to go further in condemning the alt-right "by name."
If this wasn't dumb enough, the signers list include some less than luminary members. Along with the predictable people like Ed Stetzer, Russell "Never Met A Virtue He Wouldn't Signal" Moore and semi-professional agitator Dwight McKissic, there is also Lawrence Ware, the "Co-Director of the Center for Africana Studies and Diversity Coordinator, Philosophy Department of Oklahoma State University" who boldly announced his departure from the Southern Baptist Convention in the New York Times earlier this year, a guy that apparently elevates his race over his church and thinks "homophobia" is rampant in the SBC, but took the time to get off of his (formerly Southern Baptist) high horse to send a letter to Trump alongside many leaders of the racists and homophobic Southern Baptist Convention. Strange bedfellows and all that.

Worse than that is the signature of one "Bishop" T.D. Jakes...
Initial signers of the letter include Southern Baptist Convention President Rev. Steve Gaines, former SBC President Rev. Fred Luter and the Rev. T.D. Jakes, a mentor of Trump's top spiritual adviser, Rev. Paula White. One member of Trump's informal Evangelical Advisory Board, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, also signed the letter.
T.D. Jakes is a heretic that holds to "modalism" and is the "spiritual father" of prosperity "gospel" false teacher Paula White. Jakes is a false teacher and as such should be called on to repent by men like Steve Gaines and Fred Luter, not accepted as a fellow Christian leader in sending a letter to President Trump that admits that Trump has repeatedly denounced "White supremacy" but calls on him to do it yet again in some ill-conceived scheme to placate people that will never be placated when it comes to Trump.

I am far more concerned with the leaders of the SBC linking arms with false teachers than I am with any "influence" of the Alt-Right.

Trump has already denounced "White supremacy" on more than one occasion and was perfectly correct in his statement that there was violence from both sides in Charlottesville. The only people still bringing this up are people that are fishing for political or monetary advantange from doing so and a handful of "leaders" that are more terrified of being called racist than they are of joining together with a heretic to send a meaningless and nonsensical letter to Trump.

Will the authors of this letter send Trump a second letter calling on him to denounce black supremacy after the murderous rampage by Emanuel Kidega Samson in a Tennessee church last weekend? I won't hold my breath.

The church has a whole bunch of issues to deal with and the Alt-Right Phantom Menace™ is way, waaayyyy down the list. People like Steve Gaines, Danny Akin and J.D. Greear are being played for fools by partisan political operatives and they need to stop wasting time and resources on silliness like this.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Deducing About Reproducing

Whether you are a believer that understands the command of God for His people to be fruitful and multiply to replenish the Earth or an unbeliever that recognizes the drive to reproduce as one of the strongest in all animals, reproduction is unarguably a major motivator for human beings. Little wonder that it is such a powerful issue that dominates so much of our lives, for good or ill.

Having children has morphed from a blessing and a privilege that couples look forward to after marriage into some sort of onerous rite of passage that comes when you are getting older but is to be avoided until absolutely necessary like a prostate exam and annual mammograms. "Well we are getting pretty old. Time to get an AARP membership and have a kid or two. What time is Murder She Wrote on?"

What this means is that most Americans are delaying or eschewing entirely having kids and it seems to be worse among those who are obsessed with their "career" and trying to fill the void with pets. Often these are the most highly educated and/or intelligent among us. It turns out there was a prophetic movie about this happening....

As a result our birth rate, like that of Western Europe and Japan, is rapidly plunging. But that is OK because there are too many people anyway and that causes global warming um climate change um, something really bad. So no problem, anyway the "experts" tell us that the key to happiness is to put off marriage and put off even later child-bearing as late as humanly possible. You need to be financially stable and kids screw that up, the Detroit Free Press even posted an article yesterday morning after I start working on this post titled Having children can ruin your retirement. Of course it is all about your own personal comfort so it must be true. Don't have kids or if you must wait until you are old enough that chasing a toddler around is hazardous to your health.

Oops, now your birth rate has dropped below replacement!

Of course the same super smart people that convinced you to put off marriage and childbearing also talked you into giant pyramid schemes called Social Security and Medicare that require a steady supply of current tax-payers to fund these programs for future and present retirees. Since you pay into it your whole life, you of course want to keep it around and therefore it can never be tinkered with even a little at the risk of incurring the wrath of the geriatric voting legions.

In the middle of this we cut trade "deals" that end up gutting the middle-class, leaving fewer job options for people without a college degree which has in turn led to generations of adults with meaningless college degrees, no useful skills, few job prospects and of course a load of student loan debt and collecting that debt is one of the few things the government is really serious about. That combined with an anti-fecundity culture helps to ensure even more people put off marriage and child-bearing.

Now we find ourselves in the same looming demographic disaster a lot of other civilized nations have, namely that we don't have much of a bench when it comes to new taxpayers to pay for all of the retirees, a situation made worse by all of the Baby Boomers retiring, people living longer and of course a $20,000,000,000,000 national debt on top of a hundred trillion dollar unfunded liability for Social Security and Medicare.

Don't worry! Our betters, those who have appointed themselves as the intellectual vanguard of America, have a solution. We will follow the example of Europe and import *new* workers to take over for the retiring people. America workers retire, are replaced by new Mexican, Somalian or Burmese workers and the wheels keep turning. I call this the Bill Kristol plan:
“Look, to be totally honest, if things are so bad as you say with the white working class, don’t you want to get new Americans in?” asked Kristol.
There is a serious problem with that plan. It assumes that a "new American" worker is going to make as much money and therefore pay as much in taxes and Social Security withholding as current workers. As the article I linked points out, just a couple of stats jump out at me. First, 51% of immigrant families (both illegal and legal) use welfare programs, more than 1.5 times the rate (30%) of native Americans. They also are almost twice as likely (40% to 22%) to use food stamps. Other reports suggest that illegal immigrants are a net cost to America of $113,000,000,000 per year. In general, "new Americans" make substantially less than native workers and as an added bonus tend to depress the wages of existing native workers. So in essence you are funding an ever-increasing pool of Social Security and Medicare recipients that have for the most part been paying into the systems their entire working life with a pool of workers that are making less money and therefore less in taxes while at the same time those same replacement workers are actually a net drag already on the economy. This is obviously not sustainable, nor is the general move away from decent paying jobs to service industry jobs that also pay far less.

Note: This is NOT about immigration, how much or whether we should allow it at all. It is simply to point out that people are not interchangeable units of production that you can replace at will, one tax cow for another tax cow. People that for whatever reason will make less and pay less in taxes cannot sustain a system built on wage and tax assumptions. So the net result will be either to sharply reduce retiree benefits for people that paid for those benefits for other people for four decades or sharply reduce discretionary spending in other areas. That leads to all sorts of potentially serious issues.

So here is a solid idea. Maybe we can try something novel like native-born Americans (not to be confused as a term with the misleading "Native Americans", i.e. American Indians) having more children. Crazy, I know. There are a lot of systemic problems that make having children into an economic burden so why not do what we can to encourage, or at least stop discouraging, people to get married and have kids. This is an idea that is catching on in Europe. Denmark ran an ad campaign called "Do It For Denmark" that encourages Danish couples to take a romantic vacation and get pregnant (sorta NSFW):

The Alternative for Deutschland, or AfD, tagged with the risible label of "far right" recently won a bunch of legislative seats in Germany and they had an ad campaign that had a simple message. New Germans? We'll make our own!

That kind of stuff makes some people uncomfortable and strikes others as jingoistic and xenophobic or *gasp* Alt-Rightish but making people uncomfortable and being called names has never really bothered me.

The U.S. cannot maintain our social safety net as it exists in any form and we especially cannot sustain it with a shrinking native population that is being replaced by a population that simply cannot replicate, at least not any time soon, the native population in terms of wages and therefore taxes. The push for mass immigration is a cynical and perverse unspoken partnership between the Left, which understandably sees new immigrants as a guaranteed increase to their voter base, and the Big Business "Right" championed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Wall Street Journal, which rightly sees immigrants as a way to lower wages and benefits and therefore pad their bottom lines. But we can't empty out or even substantially reduce the populations of Africa and South America without fixing the systemic problems that exist, otherwise the demand for immigration will never cease.

Our policy as a nation should be three fold. First, stricter restrictions on immigration and far harsher penalties not simply on the illegal aliens residing in America but especially on those who knowingly or willfully ignorantly hire them. Second, an absolute scorched earth policy toward any rule or law that discourages marriage and child-bearing. I am not talking about bribing people with food stamps or welfare money to have more kids, just finding ways to incentivize responsible child-bearing and rearing within the bounds of a traditional family. Third, our foreign policy should be aimed at not causing conflicts that increase instability (i.e. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syrian, pretty much everywhere we get involved) and instead works to make life sustainable in places people are fleeing from. I don't want the best and brightest from Africa to come to America in search of a better life, I want them to be able to build a better life in Africa. Africa has all the resources it needs to succeed. Zimbabwe used to be known as Rhodesia and once was also known as the breadbasket of Africa but now it is a nightmare thanks to strongman Robert Mugabe, who once ordered farmers, under the threat of imprisonment, to stop farming in the midst of a food crisis. You will never fix someplace if you provide a way and incentives for the most industrious and motivated citizens to escape.

Americans already have the means to face the impending fiscal and demographic disaster facing us, as well as potentially places like Western Europe and Japan, and all we need to do is what comes naturally to us: have children. For a nation that endlessly yammers about children, we seem to really not like them very much but as the Prophetess Whitney Houston crooned, I believe the children are our future. If we teach them well and let them lead the way, they can indeed save us. But in order for the children to truly be our future, we need to start having a lot more of them.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Well Look Who Is Back (And It Isn't Mr. Kotter)

One of my favorite bloggers, Alan Knox, has magically reappeared after a long hiatus. Check out his blog here, you will almost certainly be challenged and edified even when you don't agree.

Welcome back Alan!

Monday, September 25, 2017

On Taking A Knee, SOBs And White Supremacists Hiding Under Your Bed

Everyone else is weighing in on the kneeling for the anthem thing, it even trended on Twitter with dueling hashtags, #TakeTheKnee and #TakeAStandNotAKnee, so I might as well too.

I am going to "get real" as the hep cats say these days when cutting a rug at the sockhop so hold onto your hats.

Let me state at the outset that I believe anyone can speak their mind on any topic at any time. If you want to kneel during the National Anthem, that is your right as a citizen of the United States. I don't put my hand over my heart when it is sung for the same reason I don't say the Pledge, my loyalty is to my King, not a specific country, but I do remove my hat out of respect for this nation.

Also, Trump weighing in on this controversy in his normal brash New York style is unhelpful but that is what we expect from him. If you taunt a bull, he is going to charge and a lot of people in America are the political equivalent of rodeo clowns, on several levels.

On the other hand, NFL players are employees representing their employers who pay them millions to entertain fans. The NFL has a compelling interest in protecting their brand which is one of the most valuable in the world. When I worked for a place like Fidelity Investments back in the day and was on business, or wearing their logo on my shirt, I kept controversial opinions to myself. A business lunch is not the place to discuss controversial topics. I was on my employer's dime and was representing them to clients with tens or hundreds of millions invested in that organization, so I didn't have any First Amendment right to endanger that relationship. I used to quietly pray before meals at business lunches but I didn't try to proselytize my clients. The NFL would be well within their rights to fine or otherwise punish players that are clearly doing damage to the relationship between the NFL and their customers, i.e. the fans and the advertising sponsors.

Also on a different other hand, while it is not required, it would be nice if the NFL players kneeling had a clue what it is they are protesting other than vague references to "racism" and "police brutality" and of course "White supremacy". The last is my favorite. "White supremacy" has entered the meaningless and counter-productive word lexicon. Everything is White supremacy. Trump winning? White supremacy. People who are understandably upset at players seeming to disrespect the flag and the police that they expect to protect them while playing? White supremacy. I put together a handy infographic about this over the weekend....

Perhaps an exaggeration but not a huge one. Colin Kapernick, who is an utter idiot and mediocre quarterback by the way, at least has clumsily tried to explain why he was kneeling (hint, it had something to do with cops like the ones depicted as pigs on his socks. Classy!). The rest of these guys I think are just doing it to virtue signal or as a more polite middle finger to Trump, which I can't really blame them for.

A particular scene stood out for me yesterday from the Detroit Lions game against the Atlanta Falcons. Rico Lavelle, who I have never heard of,  the guy who sang the national anthem which is a great honor for any singer, took the opportunity to kneel at the end and toss up the black power fist salute.

Let me be clear. The black power fist symbolizes a lot of things to me and none of them are very positive. It brings to mind things like the Black Panthers, black nationalism, the violence of the radical movements of civil rights era. To me and many White Americans, right or wrong, the black power salute is a tacit threat. In a way it is a gesture symbolic of racial animus like a skinhead giving the Nazi salute. Think that is an exaggeration? The black man who allegedly murdered one and shot multiple other White churchgoers in Antioch, Tennessee yesterday, Emanuel Kidega Samson, is a Sudanese immigrant who has on his (not taken down yet but soon to be) Facebook profile this picture that was once his cover photo:

I pulled the above screenshot from his page myself lest you think this is some conspiracy theory or photoshopping. I don't think everyone throwing up a black power salute is a potential mass shooter but I also don't think that anyone who is a White nationalist is one step away from tossing Jews in an oven. So don't tell me there isn't a more sinister meaning behind the black power salute, even if most people don't realize it.

What I found even worse is that there are four little black boys in the picture, all looking at Mr. Lavelle, while he kneels and throws up the black power salute. The little boy on the right especially is looking at that raised fist. I wonder what they were thinking? Here is the harsh reality of life for young black boys that live in Detroit....

Detroit has long been one of the most murder prone cities in the country. The raw number of murders might not be as high as Chicago but that is thanks only to the plummeting population of Detroit. The per capita rate of murder in Detroit is often at the top and this year is in second place thanks to the ongoing slaughter in St. Louis, ironically home to the most recent racial unrest. Check out this chart:

What do the top five cities on this list, with widely outsized murder rates, have in common? In 2010 Detroit's population was 82.7% black. St. Louis was 49.2% black, the largest racial group. New Orleans was over 60% black. Baltimore is around 63% black. Newark is over 52% black.

You want to know who is getting murdered in Detroit?

Young black men.

You want to know who is murdering them?

Young black men.

This is the truth that everyone knows but no one wants to say speak out loud. Let me be even more uncharacteristically blunt. When those four black boys in that photo grow up, there are statistically at far greater risk of harm from each other than they are from any White person or any cop for that matter. Cops killing black men without cause is an issue but compared to black men killing other black men it is way down on the list.

While people like Ta-neshi Coates get wealthy selling books and essays about the "White supremacist" bogeyman, and the number of actual White supremacists as distinguished from the more common White nationalists is tiny, the real threat to the lives of black men is primarily and almost exclusively from other black men.

I hope someone sits down with those four young boys and explains to them that killing each other over drug turf and personal insults is a certain way to end up in jail, dead or eventually both and that perpetuating this cycle of violence is destroying any future for blacks in America. It is easier, more politically expedient and more personally enriching to blame all of your community's problems on the "other" of "White supremacy" but the overriding problem in the black community is a lack of personal responsibility. You are free to dismiss that assertion but I stand by it nonetheless. Playing the perpetual victim card has led us to where we are today and the black community desperately needs voices to stand up and say "Stop blaming other people for your problems and for crying out loud stop shooting each other!". Saying stuff like that won't get you published in the elite newspapers and magazines and probably won't get you book deals but if enough black men start to speak up and say to each other that enough is enough it might be what their community needs to pull back from the abyss.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

It's Your Time!

The United Methodist Church in the nearest decent sized town has started a new worship service and is trying something revolutionary: a 30 minute service!

There are signs for this all over the place around town. I think the message is clear:
"You feel obligated to 'go to church' but you don't want to invest anymore time than is absolutely necessary"
I wonder how long the sermon is. You can't really get much more than a welcome, quick prayer, a couple of songs and then a 10 minute sermon.

Seriously though, if I am going to go to the effort of getting dressed and rounding up my family, I at least want to hear someone spend more time on his talk than it takes the average church-goer to flip to the correct chapter and verse. I don't think that monologue sermons are the best way to teach and equip but that is what the vast majority of Christians seem to like so if you are going to do a worship service with (I assume) a sermon, please make it worth the effort to come listen to. 

We can't be far away from this video becoming a reality.

Church: It's YOUR Time!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

I Will

This morning in Sunday school we were looking at the beginning of the episodes in Exodus that precede the Passover. Here was a critical juncture I saw that reveals God's plan for the Pharaoh and for His people:
But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. (Exodus 7:3-4)
I will harden Pharaoh's heart so he will not let the people go in spite of the incredible deeds I will perform. Then in spite of this I will nevertheless bring My people out of the land of Egypt. This entire event is not some sort of contest between Moses and Pharaoh with God acting to tilt the balance for Moses as we seem to think it is based on movies and cartoons. It is all about God.

God is very clear about his intent. He says exactly what is going on and why right after these verses:
The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” (Exodus 7:5)
Later Paul recounts the reason God raised up Pharaoh in the first place:
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Romans 9:17)
Pharaoh existed in that time and place and had the power that he did for the sole reason that God raised him up so He could harden his heart and dash him down to show his own glory. The world was created so that God can demonstrate His glory to His creatures and the Scriptures exist to record this. The only proper response of man is to worship God and glorify His name, as the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism famously says:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Everything God does in the Scriptures, culminating in His crowning moment of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of His Son, is done for the sole purpose of glorifying Himself, not in a self-serving or narcissistic way but as a means of rightly demonstrating His infinite and perfect glory.

Over 300 times in the Pentateuch alone God uses the phrase "I will" and it appears almost innumerable times in Scripture as a whole, the exact phrase appearing over 2000 times in the ESV. One of my favorite is in God's prophecy against the shepherds of Israel. After scourging them for their selfishness He steps in and gives the prefiguring vision of His Son coming to be the Good Shepherd of His sheep....
“For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. (Ezekiel 34:11-16)
I will, I will, I will.....the only worthwhile promises in this world are those made by the Covenant-Making Lord.

And of course the most powerful use of "I will" in the Scriptures is in the New Covenant promise, emphasis mine....
For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:8-12)
I will remember their sins no more. That is the promise of the Gospel that is inextricably linked with the New Covenant. This is what God is working toward through every "I will" in Scripture, bringing to pass redemption for His elect people by His own Hand through the cross-work of His Son and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.

It is so vital that we read things like the plagues leading up to the Passover with an eye on Jesus. Too often we treat the Bible as if it were a series of unrelated religious stories, an Aesop's Fables but with a cross, instead of an interconnected series of revelations of God intervening in His Creation to bring to fruition His ultimate will. The Bible is God enforcing His will on His creation as is His utter right to do so.

We can know that what God said He would do in Scripture really happened and what He has promised will yet come will likewise come to fruition because it is His will. When God says "I will" he cannot do anything but make this come to pass. This is the story of redemption that is the spine of the Bible, God saying "I will" and then doing it. I am comforted that our God is a God of "I will" instead of a God of "I might" or "Gee I wish I could". The distinction makes all of the difference for eternity.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Sixteen Years Later

With the news of hurricanes and the endless political squabbling among the spoiled children that "represent" us in Congress and the White House, it is perhaps understandable that we neglect September 11th. But it is not forgotten in our home. My wife and I talked about how raw the emotions still are today, how videos of that day still give me that feeling of being punched in the stomach. I still remember being on the phone with my wife from work and her telling me another plane hit the World Trade Center and just like that we all knew this was no accident.

The days that followed were like a waking nightmare as we learned more, or at least thought we learned more. Three days after the attacks President Bush gave a speech at the National Cathedral. Like pretty much every American I watched our President speak from the pulpit and offer both soothing words and the threat of violence to come.

Some of the language he used that night was inspiring at the time but seems almost ominous now...
Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history, but our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil. War has been waged against us by stealth and deceit and murder. This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others; it will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing.
A Christian man standing in a pulpit pledging to rid the world of evil, something that he and I should have known was foolish. Just three days had passed but the wheels of vengeance were already turning. Not just vengeance toward those that had carried out the September 11th attacks but those we felt helped or inspired them, those that supported terror or those we just didn't like. I went as far as getting a military physical in Columbus, Ohio and was really just days away from going into the Air Force Officer Candidate School, inspired by a need for vengeance.

Weeks after September 11th, U.S. and NATO forces entered Afghanistan. By the end of January 2002 President Bush gave his "Axis of Evil" speech. About a year later we invaded Iraq.

Osama bin Laden is long dead, killed in Pakistan while living like an animal. Saddam Hussein is dead, executed by his people, after being captured and dragged from his hole. Taliban leader Mullah Omar is dead of natural causes. We have killed and killed and killed.

We won!


The images above are the sort of images that have dominated the last 16 years. My son that was 2 at the time is now old enough to enlist, although he absolutely is not, to fight in the wars we started after September 11th and that we still are fighting. Three of my kids were not even born yet. Almost 7000 Americans have died in the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and untold tens of thousands more are wounded and maimed in body and mind. The butcher's bill for Iraq and Afghanistan among their civilians is staggering. Still there is no end in sight, especially in Afghanistan, a nation rightly called the place where empires go to die.

The current instability of the Middle East is a direct result of our meddling in the area. When you look at the conflagration in Syria, Libya, Yemen, etc. along with the rise of ISIS and the endless sectarian wars in Iraq, you can draw a line straight back to the decision to use 9/11 as cover to invade and "liberate" Iraq. The Taliban in Afghanistan are poised to take back over the moment we leave and this has led to a deadly standoff where we can't afford to stay when we have no mission but we don't dare leave and allow the Taliban to take back over.

You can say many things about the aftermath of September 11th and most of them are some variation of "We screwed up" and thanks to that screw-up, tens of thousands of people are dead. Radicalism is ascendant across the Middle East. Terror attacks are a weekly occurrence in Europe. I and many other suspect very strongly that there is a lot about September 11th itself as well as the aftermath that we don't know and could only guess at but it is certainly true that our trust in our government is at an all-time low.

Decades of meddling in the Middle East led to the September 11th attacks and the years following have only made things worse. I can only hope that at some point we finally learn our lessons before something even worse than 9/11 happens. I can't say I am terribly optimistic that will be the case.

Never forget September 11th and never forget what happens when a nation uses a tragedy to start an even greater tragedy.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Real Misogynists Are Far Left Men

One of my working theories is that many men on the political far Left who proclaim the loudest that they respect womyn and are "male feminists" actually hate women. I think the reason for this is that modern feminism is basically man hating. That sounds kind of Rush Limbaugh-esque but it also happens to be true. Contemporary feminism seems mostly concerned less with women having equal opportunities as men and more with the absolute degrading of men. What this leads to is a weird self-loathing from liberal men who are forced to despise and hide their own maleness to appear properly "woke". What it doesn't do is eliminate their maleness, as much as they might try to make it appear that way. What it simply does is force it below the surface where it boils up from time to time when there is an "acceptable" female target. You saw this a lot with Sarah Palin who so incensed liberals that there were lots of sexually violent insults hurled at her. Playboy Magazine ran an article by Guy Cimbalo, since deleted, listing conservative women that the author would like to rape. Even leftist luminary J.K. Rowling went on a Twitter rampage about the way liberal men attack women that are "safe targets" because of their politics. Here is the money tweet, number 3 of 14:

The "mask slipping" is a perfect way to describe it. It is very sad and disturbing but not surprising. These "men" hate women because of what they perceive women have done to them in the name of feminism.

Enter ambulance chaser and pro-rape lawyer Robert Ranco of the Carlson Law Firm in Texas that specializes in "personal injury" (i.e. ambulance chasers), medical malpractice, divorce, etc. In other words a pretty garden variety sleazy law firm. Mr. Ranco is obviously a top-notch lawyer and you can reach him by calling 512-346-5688. Mr. Ranco is a graduate of the prestigious University of Maine School of Law and is an undergraduate music major from Dartmouth. Maine is ranked the 139th best law school by U.S. News and World Report which places it in high class company like the University of Akron, the Universities of both North and South Dakota and the University of the Pacific. In fact since they only gave out numerical rankings from 1-148, Mr. Ranco graduated from a law school ranked in the bottom 7%. It is hard to imagine how he ended up an ambulance chaser instead a Supreme Court Justice with credentials like that. Maybe he just cares too much about people who get rear-ended in Texas to bother with a trifle like the Constitution. What is really funny is how his bio describes him:

If you missed it here is the critical sentence:

The quick witted, Ivy League educated lawyer with an easy going attitude and an appreciate for the arts...

Apparently an Ivy League education (an undergrad music degree from Dartmouth) doesn't mean much as they don't teach grammar these days.

Anyway, Mr. Ranco fired off the following tweet, followed very quickly by making his account private and then deleting it entirely but not quickly enough. You can't undo what you say on the internet, something you would think an "Ivy League educated lawyer" would have known.

Quick witted and easy going indeed! Nothing says quick witted like posting a pro-rape tweet about a Cabinet Secretary and nothing says easy going like sort of wishing someone you don't even know would get raped because she holds the primitive and patriarchal notion that college men should have some basic legal protections when accused of a felony. I guess they didn't cover that sort of stuff in the rarefied air of the University of Maine School of Law. They must have been too busy talking about coaching plaintiffs to show maximum discomfort and emotional distress on the stand.

When someone tells you how liberals respect women and how conservatives hate women, just remember that when the "mask slips" you see an awful lot of liberal men demonstrating a misogyny that puts Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump to shame.

I don't advocate rape but I am pretty much OK with it

Saturday, September 09, 2017

The Twin (Fatal?) Weaknesses Of The Organic Church Movement

My wife and I did something last Sunday that we haven't done in a long time. We not only went to a Sunday morning service, we went back for the evening service. It was nice. It was the closest Southern Baptist affiliated church to us and as we came to Christ and spent much of our early journey in SBC churches, it was very familiar. We didn't feel like outsiders and that was a nice change of pace.

We knew the hymns. We understood what they were saying. We get where they were focused. I went to a men's breakfast this morning at this same felllowship and we are going tomorrow as a family. It is not lost on me that it was pretty much the opposite of what I have been searching for these many years. I just simply have come to the point where I am waving the white flag.

I largely gave up on the house church model for us for two reasons and neither of them is based on finding that what I have been talking about to be incorrect.

The first problem is that there are not nearly enough mature believers to make it work. This includes a lot of house church types I have run into, one group locally especially. House churches require strong, mature believers to work properly because it is far too easy to fade into the background. I have been guilty of expecting the rank and file of Christians to embrace a church model when so many of them are lacking in basic foundations. I know that the reason they are lacking those foundations is largely because of the weakness of the institutional church model but on the other hand I have met quite a few advocates of organic church that are mostly marked by rejecting the institutional church not entirely because it is a principled stand but because they are disaffected and disgruntled. More on that disaffection in a moment. My expectation has been that if I can find a group that meets in the right way, they will naturally be mature or at least eager to become mature. That hasn't been the case and a big reason for that is the second problem.

The second problem is that there simply are not many Christians interested in an organic church setting where we live. Most of the Christians we know, including many very devout, loving, service and evangelism oriented and mature Christians, are perfectly fine with the institutional church setting. Many of them are doing great work for the Kingdom while I am spending time telling institutional churches why what they are doing is wrong. I don't think I am wrong for pointing out where we stray from Scripture, God forbid I think such a thing in the year we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation! It simply isn't doing much good for others and for me it has been spiritually damaging, for me personally and for my wife and kids. Being largely disengaged from the broader church coupled with my own mental health issues has left my family rather adrift these last several years. Meanwhile the people I have talked to have often even agreed with me but are not looking to radically break with the traditional church model. So I for the most part am spending Sunday mornings sitting at home "being right" while people who are "doing it wrong" are fellowshipping and worshiping and serving. Somehow that doesn't seem to be a worthwhile trade-off for me.

As I have warned in the past the general disaffection of too many house church types leads a lot of organic or house-church types of groups to embrace anyone that is also anti-institutional which opens the door for wolves of all sorts. From people with a particular drum to bang to garden variety false teachers to out and out heretics, the leadership of the house church/organic church movement is a pretty shaky bunch. I have run into some serious egomaniacs personally as well as people with outright erroneous theology and even more with shaky practice especially as it applies to gender. For every New Testament Reformation Fellowship which I think comes the closest of any group, house church or not, to joining really rock solid theology with proper practice, there are people who embrace radical egalitarianism, open theism, possess critical spirits and prickly personalities and many who have an ego that puts megachurch pastors to shame. Not everyone of course but enough that it seems to be a pattern that has turned me off of the entire movement. That led to trying the Anabaptist route but as I have blogged before that is a tough nut to crack if you aren't raised in it and I have just gotten tired of trying and being made to feel, rarely intentionally, as if we just weren't good enough for conservative Anabaptists.

The organic/house church movement seems to be sort of the ecclesiastical equivalent of libertarianism. It sounds great in theory, and is fun to argue about and makes for decent blogging but in practice it just hasn't worked for us. It absolutely has for other people and that is great, and I envy them, but after years of trying I find that as the father and husband, the head of the household, I need to do what is healthiest for my family now.

That doesn't mean that what I have been talking about is not Scripturally accurate. I think that ideally a lot of these things I have been advocating for are the closest to the Scriptural model and command than traditional institutional church models.

I think ideally communion in the church should be a full meal, breaking actual bread and passing an actual cup as part of a love feast in the church. A mostly silent passing of a plate with a scrap of some baked product and a little plastic cup of wine or grape juice completely misses the joyous celebration and the pre-figuring of the Wedding Supper of the Lamb that the Lord's Supper is supposed to represent. Having a communal meal around a table facing one another is completely different from silently eating an oyster cracker staring at the head of the person in the pew in front of you.

I think ideally church should be far more participatory. I don't mean chaotic where everyone is just hollering out whatever comes to their mind but in the sense where multiple brothers are involved substantively in the gathering ministry of the church. I don't think everyone would participate every gathering but I do think that every brother should have a significant part to play on a regular basis in keeping with their talents and comfort.

I think ideally far fewer men should be paid for ministry and that the primary reason men would be paid is to support them during the work of evangelism and church planting while they are training and equipping the local elders of the church before moving on. The model of Paul would be what I have in mind, lower case "a" apostolic workers that plant local churches and teach there until that local church is ready to strike out without him. In other words every pastor should be preaching himself out of a job. That is why I also think that ideally pastors should be bi-vocational so that they have job skills and income not dependent on being a minister. When you rely on the giving of a local church to feed and house your family it cannot but subtly change what you are saying and doing. Paul was a tent-maker and supported himself while preaching the Good News:
After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. (Acts 18:1-4)
He took pains to remind others that he earned his own way (Acts 20:33-35) and that although as an apostle (not an elder/pastor) he had the right to ask for financial support, he chose not to and supported himself to avoid being a stumbling block to the Gospel. In the one place where he does mention receiving financial support while ministering in Corinth he also called it robbing from the churches in Macedonia that we supporting him (2 Corinthians 11:8).

I think ideally local gatherings should be fairly limited in size. When you get more than 150 people it can be easy to start to lose track of one another. The goal should not be to see how big you can grow one church but for churches to be self-replicating, growing in size and then starting a new fellowship. A church that is ever larger only serves to pad the ego of the pastor and enable the attendees to remain anonymous.

I think ideally the local church gathering should be mostly focused on equipping and encouraging rather than worshiptainment. The point of the church gathering is not to sing some songs and have an emotional experience that makes you feel good about God for an hour, it is to equip you for the work of ministry. In other words, the week is not a six day interlude between church services, the church service is a preparatory training session to send men and women into the mission field that is all around each of us.

So yeah, all of that.

I will never stop seeking to see the church reformed and reforming. Semper reformanda for me means always holding up the Scriptures to ensure we have not strayed, rather than asking "What would Calvin do?". For now that means just getting into a fellowship, finding support and supporting fellow believers, asking the local church to come alongside and help us in discipling ourselves, our children and in turn discipling others. A fellowship that is loving and centered around the Scriptures beats a fellowship of one.

So we will see. I admit to being equal parts excited and concerned. Once you let the genie of questioning our established church traditions out of the bottle, you can't put it back. The real issue is what you do with it going forward and that is what I am about to find out, starting in about 13 hours.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

A DACA Parable

A father and his three children live in a somewhat ramshackle home in a neighborhood that is crime ridden, has poor schools and few decent job prospects within reasonable commuting distance. The dad is a good guy and wants the best for his kids but doesn't feel as though he has the opportunities he might want in his neighborhood. He could relocate within his neighborhood and perhaps get into better schools for his kids and be closer to decent work but he can’t help but look to the suburbs to the north where the schools are much better, there is far less crime and there are good jobs a-plenty. It is pretty far away but they seem to have it better.

So this dad, in the interests of his kids, decides to break into the nice home of a person that lives in the northern suburbs and happens to be away on vacation. Perhaps the dad jimmies the lock or perhaps the door was left unlocked, either way they do not have permission to be in this house. The kids might not realize they are doing something wrong but the dad certainly does. They help themselves to the contents of the fridge, hook up to the wifi, watch some cable TV and crash on the couch. Let us even assume that they clean up their dishes and generally tidy up themselves, perhaps even doing some minor repairs around the house. They are not trashing the place or doing any lasting damage but they are without question breaking the law. This goes on for a week.

Well a neighbor sees people in the house and she knows no one should be there as she was asked to keep an eye on the place. She calls the police and they show up at the house. There isn’t any sort of scuffle, the dad knows he is busted and is going away. His concern of course is for his kids. At the same time the home owners show up, having been contacted by the watchful neighbor. They are shaken up as anyone would be upon finding their home had been broken into. They watch as the police put the dad into the back of a patrol car to be taken to the station for processing. Another officer asks them to come inside to make a statement.

The shaken husband and wife bring their kids into the house and head for the living room so they can sit and make their statement but upon arriving in the living room they are shocked to see the three kids have been left behind after their father was arrested. The home owners are startled and look at the cop in dismay. “Why are the kids still here?” they demand?

The cop scowls at them. “Hey, they didn’t do anything wrong. Their dad is the one that brought them into your house. They have dreamed for years of living in this suburb and who are you to quash their dreams!”.

The owners look at each other. “When is someone coming to get them? Don’t they have family that can take them in?” The cop sneers back at them “Of course they have family back in their own neighborhood but now they are comfortable and like it here. You can’t make them leave now. So they are staying here from now on.”.

“Well who is going to care for them?”, cries the homeowner.

“You are of course. They will live here now. You will feed and clothe them. You need to provide them with health insurance. Some of your kids will have to double up in their bedrooms so there is room for these kids. Oh, and they want to go to the same private school as your kids so you will need to pony up tuition for all three of them. After all, they are dreaming of a better life and you are going to give it to them. Jerks.”.

Sure it is kind of a stretch and this is a complex issue but the substance is the same. Just as someone who steals a car with their kids doesn’t expect their kids to get to keep the car if they get arrested, someone who is brought here as a “child” should not get a free pass to avoid our laws.

Ultimately the blame here for the discomfort and possible dislocation of these “DREAMers” is not with President Trump or xenophobic and racist Americans. The fault is entirely with their parents that brought them to this country knowing full well that they put themselves and their kids in great risk to do so. The parents willfully broke the law and did so regardless of the risk to their children. 

If it seems unreasonable to allow 3 children to continue to live in a house that their father broke into and demand the lawful inhabitants of the home to pay their living expenses, why it is not likewise unreasonable for the United States to absorb the 800,000 teens and young adults that entered this country legally at the direction of their parents? What we choose to do about those impacted by DACA now is a complex issue but it is critical to keep perspective here. The wrongs inflicted on the DACA kids is entirely the fault of their parents, not on the citizens or government of the United States.