Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Michael Bloomberg At It Again!

I am normally not one who wants to engage in name-calling, even in heated political discussions. Ad hominem attacks really don't prove your conclusion in an argument. But I'm mad enough this morning to use the term "megalomaniac," and when you read the article that prompted it, you'll see why. At least I hope you do.

Check out this little piece from The Weekly Standard, which discusses former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ongoing cultish zeal for gun control of whatever kind he can push with his influence-buying. There is a separate piece on Breitbart on this same subject, (you can see the link on Drudge) but the commentary got a little profane for my tastes so I didn't link there.

Despite what Bloomberg says about "no one wants to take your gun away," he has about as much credibility as Pinocchio. Along with California Senator Diane Feinstein, he'd be thrilled to confiscate every last one of them. And the full court press is on again, despite the Supreme Court ruling that the Second Amendment conveys an individual right. The press was making much of an article by former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (a liberal appointed by a Republican president), which tried to make the case that the current Court changed the historic understanding of the Second Amendment. The writings of the Founders indicate otherwise, but who cares, right? Stevens believes in a "living, breathing Constitution" that can morph like a chameleon.

Bloomberg is notorious for his interference in the affairs of other states and cities across the country on this issue. Aside from Bloomberg spending his billions to take away your rights, another statement he makes in the article both angers and saddens me. Most notably, this quote:

“I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close,” Bloomberg told the Times.

Amazing, isn't it? Now, Bloomberg is associated (from what I can find out) with Reform Judaism, which my conservative Orthodox Jewish friends tell me is pretty open-ended on anything. As a Christian, I would compare it using conservative evangelicalism or fundamentalism with liberal mainline denominations such as the United Church of Christ, where core, orthodox biblical doctrine means little. Regardless, one does not "earn a place in heaven." Salvation and justification before God has always been by faith, not by works—Old and New Testaments. I'm afraid Bloomberg is headed for a tragic surprise.

Anyway, back to gun control. I'd love to hear a discussion face-to-face between Michael Bloomberg and Dr. John Lott, formerly of the University of Chicago. Too bad Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and our other Founding Fathers couldn't be there to chime in. Bloomberg would be in for some schooling.

However, Bloomberg has shown that he's not a very teachable person. He knows what he wants, and intends to get it, no matter who or what he has to run over in the process, including your constitutional rights. Let's not let him get away with it, shall we?

Addendum: Another frequent point on which Bloomberg and his fellow anti-firearm freedom zealots make is this:

The billionaire Bloomberg told NBC's "Today" show he did not view the $50 million investment as a "heavy political lift. Thirty-one thousand Americans either get murdered or commit suicide with illegal guns. That's the heavy lift."

"Illegal guns." Hint: criminals disobey laws. The word "legal" means nothing to them. Pass as many laws as you like. As with drugs and other "illegal" matters, criminals will still obtain and use them. The only thing that Bloomberg will manage to do is to make millions of otherwise law-abiding, patriotic, faithful citizens into criminals because they will not bow the knee to him and give up their rights. Underscore the word RIGHTS.
Rights are inherent, unlike privileges. Rights cannot lawfully or rightfully be taken away, at least under the Founding Fathers' principles.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Communicating Between Worldviews

A hat tip to Ed Stetzer for for this article by Dr. Toby Jennings about communicating with people who hold a different worldview. It's excellent.

One major mistake being made within today's evangelicalism is that love means mush. Never challenge, never rebuke, never "judge," behavior doesn't matter (especially among professed believers), and most of all, doctrine doesn't matter or is relegated to the back closet. Just warm fuzzies, because people will be turned off if we don't deliver them.

That's not the love of God. It's a false notion of love eagerly encouraged by enemies of the Gospel, and all too quickly embraced by well-meaning evangelicals who either want to be liked too much by the culture, or are fooled into thinking that the God-kind of love means a Gospel that never confronts and only delivers warm fuzzies.

A kind of love that leaves people in their sins is no love at all. It's the worst kind of hatred, because the consequences are eternal.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Noah, Movies and Holy Writ

Looks like it's time for one of my infrequent movie commentaries, because we have another controversial film dealing with a biblical subject—Noah and the Great Flood.

I have not seen the film, but I've read about the uproar over it. Within Christian circles, you have defenders and detractors. I can tell you where I stand in general on things like this. Open, but very, very, VERY careful.

I am a biblical and theological conservative. I take the Bible seriously both as a practicing believer and as a teacher of Scripture. Believing as I do—that the Bible is God's written Word and revelation to man—I think great care needs to be taken when dealing with what is written in its pages, and that includes creative license in making a movie. I used to be less cautious when I was younger, especially when I enjoyed movies made on the life of the Lord Jesus and historic epic films such as The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston. I knew with the latter that some liberties were taken with the story, but by and large it treated the subject matter with respect and didn't stray so far from the biblical account that it became unrecognizable.

But now (and I think it because I HAVE become more of a Bible teacher and occasional pulpit fill), I am leery of the Hollywood treatment of Scripture. Yes, people have been drawn to faith through motion picture productions, or more accurately, as the Gospel was proclaimed through those films or by those addressing crowds after the films were shown. But given the warnings of God Himself about not adding to—or taking away from—His Word in specific places, and the very idea of a fallen man trying to portray the sinless Son of God . . . hmmmm. I am just very uncomfortable with it these days. I would hate to stand before the Throne of God and have to give account to Him for putting words in His mouth that He didn't say. That's serious.

Now, for some balance, I do not believe that this is necessarily in the same light as making "graven images." As I read Scripture, a graven image or statue (and one could include other works of art such as paintings) would have to be made for the purpose of worship i.e. "to bow down and to worship it." It is that qualifying phrase that gives me pause about making blanket prohibitions against artistic portrayals. We know that when we see Jesus portrayed in film that it is not the real Jesus, and we don't worship the actor doing the portrayal. We know that when we see artwork portraying biblical scenes, it is an artist's conception and not the real people. Or at least we should. And in THAT lies the danger of any image of any kind—the chance that someone MIGHT make it an object of worship. You can get ridiculous with that kind of fear. That was one of the Lord's criticisms against the Pharisees of His day—they added their own laws and traditions on top of what had been divinely revealed and written. They were so afraid some command might get broken that they felt adding firewalls was necessary. It wasn't. But I digress.

It is on precisely those grounds that some fellowships and Bible teachers are much more severe than I am—they think that films and paintings—even plays—are wrong, period. While I can't go that far yet, I respect their convictions, and I am teachable on the subject if they can make a sound biblical case. Worshipping graven images is a direct violation of Scripture. The penalty is severe. In fact, that is why Eastern Orthodoxy receives criticism from within Protestantism—the practice of venerating icons. It's a debate that's gone on for eons and I have no intention of settling it here today. Just a notation of a very real, ongoing argument within Christendom.

Next—and finally—a word to those who mock and scold those who DO have scruples on this issue. Before you rip on someone too heavily for expressing their reservations, look at it from the perspective of someone who takes their faith and the "sacred writings" of their faith very seriously. I think we know how many Muslims would react were someone to try and make a major Mohammed film or a film based on the Quran. How would Eastern religions react to films being made on the Bhagavad Gita or the rest of the Mahabharata? I haven't really researched the attitudes of other religions on this subject with the exception of Islam, and perhaps such films have been made. I just don't know about them off the top of my head. But what I do know is this. Many faiths have their more conservative, even fundamentalist, adherents, as well as more liberal types who reinterpret their faith or belief out of historic norms. If one were to make a film that took horrendous liberties with writings considered sacred or deeply valued, or to veer wildly off on the nature, personality and words of one of their deities from what is recorded, I have a hunch you'd have a lot of very upset people out there.

So, let's step back, take a deep breath, and think. And filmmakers, sit up and take notice. I fully respect your craft and desire to make art, as well as a living. I know there are believing filmmakers and actors out there, as well as many who have no religious belief at all. Just remember to have a care. You are touching on things that are deeply meaningful to millions of people around the world. If you get it wrong, and take liberties with what millions consider Holy Writ, you will stand to take a lot of heat. The entertainment world likes to carry the tolerance, acceptance, and understanding banners and wave them high. Vocally. And that's great. Just have a little tolerance, respect, understanding, and forbearance for people of faith, okay?

Christians and my Jewish friends included.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Post-Soviet Turmoil

In recent weeks, the headlines have been dominated between the missing Malaysian airliner believed to be at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, and the crisis in Ukraine/Crimea.

Needless to say with any conflict involving Russia and the former Soviet countries, the spin you get in the media depends on the media. It's like the Cold War all over again judging by the rhetoric coming out of the State Department, European diplomats, the governments of Russia and Ukraine, and the ubiquitous talking heads. Plus people on the street outside shouting at each other.

I don't mean at all to make light of a serious situation with lots of potential ramifications. What I do mean to do is point out that ANY situation involving Russia and her neighboring countries is often a lot more complex and not as "cut and dried" as you'll hear in the media. Having said that, hats off to the BBC for posting this well written article on their website. The focus of the article is the concern of many in Latvia, one of the Baltic republics once part of the Soviet Union, now independent and a member of NATO. They're worried they might be next on the conquest list. One other region of concern is Moldova, where there is a small separatist region called Transdniester. This region has a narrow majority Russian population and the leadership there has asked Russia to annex them just as they did Crimea. Moldova, naturally, is against losing any of their territory although Transdniester (with Russian help) has been de facto independent for several years.

One thing the article helps point out is how much our world is like Nebuchadnezzar's statue dream. Feet made of part iron and part clay. Ethnic groups tend to want to hang together, and when political leaders carve out territory and move people groups around, trouble happens eventually. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (an ethnic Ukrainian) carved Crimea out of Russia and gave it to Ukraine when the 15 countries that made up the Soviet Union were one country—the Soviet Union. His predecessor, Josef Stalin (an ethnic Georgian) also did plenty of his own shuffling (and killing). And there are lasting consequences.

Another interesting thing to note about the former Soviet Union. To much of the world, it was synonymous with Russia since Russia was the largest of the 15 countries. But Soviet communist leaders were not all Russian. Vladimir Lenin was an Udmurt. Stalin was Georgian. Khrushchev was Ukrainian. Leonid Brezhnev was Ukrainian. Yuri Andropov was Russian. Konstantin Chernenko was Ukrainian. Mikhail Gorbachev was Russian, and he was the last Soviet president prior to the Union's breakup in 1991. Russian presidents since Gorbachev have been ethnic Russian. Communist ideology was the problem, not being Russian. Look how many nations and how many billions of people still live under a communist system, with variations—North Korea, China, Vietnam, Cuba for starters. The Cold War was about containing WORLD communism, although the chief protagonists were the Soviet Union and China. The West was worried about COMMUNIST expansionism as an ideology, as well as a military conflict.

The Russian people suffered under communist ideology as did every other of the 130 plus ethnic groups in the country. Before the communists took over, these ethnic groups—Russians included—suffered under the Tsarist system. Now, does this mean that the Russian governments of the day never grabbed territory? Of course they did, and in many cases we would probably disagree with the reasons given for doing so. But the reasons were varied. It is important to understand history in all of its nuances, and I'm still trying to grapple with it all. No people group likes being invaded. No people group wants to be conquered by another. But such is the reality of living in a fallen world. Satan is the "god of this world," and we as Christian believers are citizens of another kingdom NOT of this world. Thank God!

To the Western mind, Russia as a nation seems aggressive and intent on empire. What is not commonly known is that Russia has an almost inborn fear of invasion—precisely because they HAVE been invaded. The Mongols and Nazi Germany are just a couple of examples. That has been part of the motivation for absorbing other lands around Russian borders—a good chunk of Russia has a border very difficult to defend. Do not misunderstand me. I am not at all advocating or excusing conquest by ANY country. I am just trying to point out the extreme difficulty of global affairs and international diplomacy. Thorny, knotty problems and complex histories will not be solved or fixed by knee-jerk reactions fueled by propaganda or the media.

In the end, only God Himself knows what is in the hearts and minds of world leaders. He will be their judge. In each country, there are brothers and sisters in Christ for whom we need to pray. We must stand for what we know is right by Scripture, and speak out against evil and wrongdoing when we see it—no matter what side it's on. And remember most of all—NOTHING is as simple as it looks in geopolitics and history. The domino effects of leaders' actions have consequences—in history and today. We would do well to remember that before making snap judgments based on what we hear on television or read in the newspaper. Or online. I'm trying to keep that in my head—daily!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Analyzing Abstract Art

Jackson Pollack's "Convergence: 1952"
Today we do a brief detour into the art world. In this ASSIST News commentary, author, musician, minister and family man Brian Nixon discusses a question that I had never really considered before, although I do like Francis Schaeffer. In his day, Schaeffer didn't much like abstract art and wrote against it. I have seen plenty of such art, but didn't know that "abstract" was the term for it.

Brian gently disagrees with Schaeffer's analysis, and his comments are thought-provoking. I certainly have my views on what constitutes good art—and as a Christian, I generally think art ought to uplift, not degrade. There is true garbage out there that passes for art, and I think its source is the Pit. If art communicates what is in the soul of the artist, hmmmm.

Of course, art by its very nature can be emotional and controversial, because it involves someone's creativity. I always need to be careful that I don't paint with too broad a brush, pun intended. Most artists want their work to be liked and appreciated, while a few don't particularly care.

Give Brian's column a read, and give this some thought along with me. I will hopefully have more to say at another time.