Monday, March 31, 2008

What Happened to Modesty?

Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly (1 Timothy 2:9).

There is an interesting -- and troubling -- discussion resurfacing in churches these days, namely the debate over what constitutes proper dress for a believer. While the above verse references women, there are at least 46 other verses referencing nakedness and associated shame. Both men and women are required by the Lord to be modest.

Nowadays, whether it's young men adopting the exposed underwear fad of the hip hop community, or young girls wearing overly revealing attire, we have a growing problem, even in conservative churches.

Sadly, anyone who attempts to address this issue often gets called a legalist, complete with Clintonian parsing of words. "What does 'modest' mean?" I can give you a clue, and it's not Modest Mussorgsky.

Be thinking about this for a day or two. I'll have more to say later.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Reuniting ABBA

I don't know why, but I've been on an ABBA kick lately.

"But Joel," you might ask. "What on earth does this have to do with the overall premise of your blog -- evaluating current events, theology and culture from a Christian Reformed perspective?"

Nothing really, at least not with this particular post. When I can get to it down the road, I do want to address the subject of secular humanism, since ABBA co-founder Bjorn Ulvaeus has come out as a rather vocal spokesman for a European humanist organization. I read a recent interview with him where he expounded on the idea. Seeing some of the things he had to say about Bible-believing Christians and their supposed hostility to science left me a bit sad, because I really do love ABBA and their infectious, meticulously crafted music. But that's for another day. Right now, I want to take up the never-ending clamor for the Swedish foursome to reunite.

I'd love to see it, as would millions of others around the world. Thus far, the group -- with varying levels of reluctance -- has always refused. They even turned down a billion (a bit foggy if it's a billion kroner or a billion dollars) to reform. The reasons given puzzle me a bit, and lead me to my own bit of speculation.

Bjorn has said that they'll never do it, because "we would only dissappoint our fans." He also said it would probably be "pathetic," and that they don't look the same after 25 years.

Now why would fans be disappointed? Possible reasons could include the age factor. But look at the Rolling Stones and other groups still out on the road? Some of them look like they've been embalmed, but the ABBA foursome still look pretty good. So they're 25 years older. Aren't we all? This would be a bit vain, if that really were the underlying reason.

Another reason could be concern over musical performance. Maybe they don't have the chops after 25 years. But no. I've seen recent performances by the two female lead singers, Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad. Their voices are undimmed by age. Take a peek on You Tube and you'll see what I mean. Agnetha did a 2004 solo album (with videos) called "My Coloring Book." Frida has been singing with former Deep Purple keyboardist John Lord. Both sound (and look) amazing for their age.

But what about Bjorn and Benny Andersson? I haven't heard any recent performances by Bjorn, but Benny still has an active group. To be honest, I haven't heard Benny's group, as it largely performs in Europe. So whether or not they still have their chops is a question mark. Somehow, I suspect they're just fine.

So that leads us to what might be the real issue. ABBA was made up of two couples whose mutual divorces ultimately led to the group stopping active work together. They never officially disbanded. In public, they all maintain that they're good friends now. The tensions caused by the divorces have all faded with time. They have been together on various occasions such as birthdays and parties for friends, even singing a birthday song on stage at one such occasion. They reportedly rehearsed together in a bathroom before walking out on stage.

But doing brief little "hello" style things is different than reforming for a tour or an album. Most divorced couples don't socialize with their ex-spouses, with rare exceptions to the rule. Christine and John McVie from Fleetwood Mac are indeed close friends, with Christine saying they're more like "brother and sister" now. But relationships such as this between formerly married couples are a rarity. In my view, that is probably nearer to the truth than anything else.

Will they ever do it, given intense public demand? I'm not sure. I know some Swedes, and they can be pretty stubborn when they get their backs up.

For me, I love them. I love the music they made, and I have a Christian love and concern for them as individuals and for their families. Whatever happens, my prayer is that they will find healing for all the tragedies in their lives, and find final peace through saving faith in Christ.

When I next address ABBA, it will be regarding the ideas behind secular humanism, and Bjorn's public advocacy of the philosophy. Something like this is always dangerous for music entertainers. Take up religion or politics, and you alienate half of your audience.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Has Someone Falsified the Truth?

Swamped again today, but I can at least make this brief observation in lieu of a longer post.

A big chunk of the media are abuzz with the latest gaffes of Senator Hillary Clinton, most notably her being caught making up a story of being under fire upon landing in Bosnia. This followed another revelation that her time as First Lady didn't involve near as much policy stuff as claimed.

Hmmm. Now let me get this straight. The Clintons and their acolytes have a problem dealing with truth?

And you're just finding that out?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Yes, Virginia..Sin Exists!

In this great column, Dr. Al Mohler hits another home run. I think we all (and that includes me) need to pay close attention and heed what he is saying.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Slapping Down the Bush Administration?

I've been critical of Barack Obama quite a bit of late, and I've taken some slaps at Hillary Clinton. As an Equal Opportunity Slapper (thanks, Palm Boy), I think it's time to pop the jaws of the Bush Administration for outright arrogance if not malfeasance.

Most by now know of the ongoing controversy over enforcing the United States' borders. Related to all this is the controversy over the alleged NAFTA Supercorridor Highway, which many see as another step to erode national sovereignty and advance globalism. The Bush Administration is all ga-ga over "free trade" and the global model. They want open borders despite most of the country opposing it, and despite a clear mandate from Congress to halt some of these border-eroding schemes. In fact, Congressional leaders recently threatened to hold the Administration in contempt of Congress for refusing to halt some Supercorridor work, even though Congress pulled the purse strings for the project. A lower official in the Department of Transportation was chided for arrogance after she told a Congressional committee that the Administration would pursue the project despite what Congress said. The committee chairmen and congressmen of both parties chided her for the Administration's "arrogance," and warned the official that DOT -- and perhaps she herself -- was potentially in legal jeopardy for such open defiance of the law.

Don't get me wrong. I am in favor of a reasonably strong executive branch. I believe in checks and balances. But it is the duty of the Administration to faithfully execute laws passed by Congress, not to make laws themselves. And this is an issue where the will of the American people is clear. When an Administration of any party thinks it is above both the will of the people, their elected representatives AND the courts, it's time for some kind of corrective action. If it's not stopped now, all it does is lay the groundwork for an even more aggressive executive branch down the road.

Let's speak up while we have the chance.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Wright/Obama Theology - The Missing Discussion

I don't know how much attention most of you have been paying to the 2008 election cycle thus far. The huge controversy over Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama and his now-retired pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, has dominated the news of late. But there's an element in this story that needs airing badly, and I haven't seen much of it yet. And that is the actual theology behind the contretemps.

A few days ago, I provided a link to an in-depth article by Dr. H. Wayne House on Black Liberation Theology. In this article, Wayne does a stellar job explaining the ideas behind this theological concept. If you believe what is being said on the media, these ideas are commonplace within black churches. Without researching it more myself (time is ever a problem with me), color me a bit skeptical.

It might well be true that Black Liberation Theology is dominant within a certain sector of black churches. Keep in mind that the United Church of Christ -- Obama and Rev. Wright's denomination -- is well known for gross theological liberalism. They left the ranch a long time ago, excepting a few conservative congregations out there. I am sure you could find quite a few black Baptist congregations of a certain stripe where this theology comes into play. However, I have a hard time believing that conservative, Bible-believing black congregations would fall into this stuff. Because Black Liberation Theology is heretical. Period.

Over at Team Pyro, Phil Johnson has been discussing the issue of contextualization and the inherent problems with how the term is being used these days. When you hear apologists for Black Liberation Theology, they will generally start out with a statement like, "Well, you have to understand the context. You have to understand the experience of being black in America." And so on. One of the problems with this idea is that the context is unbiblical, and one's experience is irrelevant to the core truth of the actual biblical message, most importantly the Gospel.

Jesus' primary purpose in coming to Earth and dying on the cross was not to grant political deliverance from "oppression" to blacks or to any other racial group. His primary purpose was to atone for human sin, and make it possible for all races and sexes to have a personal relationship with God. That personal relationship with God, in turn, will have dynamic ripple effects throughout society if it is lived out. Can political oppression cease because of this? Certainly, but that is not the primary goal in view. Sin is the problem, and oppression is sin. Deal with sin, and you deal with oppression. But Black Liberation Theology distorts the Gospel and rips it entirely out of it's biblical context. It makes the Gospel almost entirely a political thing rather than what it truly is, a glorious truth transcendent of politics. And, as was aptly demonstrated by Rev. Wright, there is an ugly core of racism underlying the theology, and that most certainly is unbiblical.

I do wish we could hear this discussed in depth by the pundits, with appropriate experts on the subject involved. Instead, we get weeks of childish "nyah-nyah" and gross superficiality.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

He is Risen!

In Russia and some other countries, the evangelical church calls Easter "Resurrection Day." They consider it the holiest day of the year. On that note, The Seventh Sola (and Solameanie) wishes you and yours a most blessed Resurrection Day. May we all reflect today on what the Lord accomplished for us through His death, burial and resurrection from the dead.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Mighty Taurus 1

These Moog Taurus 1 pedals will rattle any house, club, arena or stadium to the foundation. And then some.

I want a set of these pedals. In good, workable condition.

Badly. I have dreams about them.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

When It Rains, It Pours

I haven't been able to get up new posts today. My stepfather had a minor stroke last night, and we've been at the hospital dealing with that. While we are thankful that it was minor, I would appreciate prayers for his continued recovery.

Hopefully I'll be able to post late tonight or tomorrow.

UPDATE: We brought my stepfather home yesterday morning. There doesn't seem to be any lasting damage, for which we are thankful. Thanks to all for praying.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Understanding Black Liberation Theology

This link will take you to a tremendous article on the issue of Black Liberation Theology. It was written by Dr. H. Wayne House, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society and board member of the Institute of Christian Apologetics.

Reading this fair, well-researched article will help you understand some of the issues behind the Barack Obama/Rev. Jeremiah Wright flap.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hillary's Schadenfreude for Obama?

By now, most are aware of the hue and cry over Barack Obama and his now retired pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Many of the talking head programs have had a field day airing clips of Wright's incendiary comments, and speculating about their potential impact on Obama's presidential campaign. Isn't it interesting that we haven't heard a whole lot from Obama's opponent in the Democratic primary, Senator Hillary Clinton?

This situation is a dream for the Clinton campaign, possibly accomplishing for her the things she could not accomplish herself. In fact, it's not hard for me in my more suspicious moments to wonder how much -- if anything -- the Clinton campaign had to do with these revelations. The Clinton's long-standing track record certainly shows them to be capable of dirty tricks politics even as they decry "the politics of personal destruction." Don't get me wrong. I think the issue of Obama and the theology of his church is a legitimate issue. But I am far from seeing any halos above Hillary's head. I would like to see as much scrutiny on the many scandals and questionable things connected with her and her husband over the years. Fat chance.

More troubling to me is this question. Let's say Obama's campaign is sunk and Hillary manages to finagle her way to the nomination. Would a Hillary presidency be any more palatable than an Obama presidency? It's like having to choose between the electric chair and the gas chamber. Neither choice is particularly thrilling. It's a perverse Hobson's choice if I've ever seen one.

Regardless, I'm sure Hillary and her team are enjoying this immensely.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Retributive Justice II

Time is short this weekend, so this will be brief.

Last time we discussed justice, we looked at the scene in the Garden where God set the initial standard and warning. Don't eat from this particular tree, or you will surely die. Not a particularly onerous stricture, but one that was disobeyed nonetheless. The penalty was death.

Beginning there, and throughout the Old Testament (Tanakh), we can see the basic pattern. There is a law. There is a transgression. There is a penalty. Of course, not all broken laws ended with a death sentence. And if that's where you thought I was going with all of this, you are mistaken.

I'll admit at the outset that I support the death penalty. The thing that I want to address is this notion by some within the church that the state exercising the death penalty is somehow evil, barbaric and wrong. These well meaning individuals have a real problem with the idea of retributive justice. There is a significant part of secular society that has the same problem, but I am not concerned with secular society at the moment. Just the church. And within some church circles, some get absolutely horrified with the idea that God would sanction a death sentence (please don't bring up Hell either).

We'll discuss this some more down the road, but for the time being, let's look at what the Apostle Paul had to say in his letter to the Romans:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake (Romans 13:1-5).

Now, did you happen to catch the little word "sword?" The last time I checked, swords were not used to administer spankings. Okay, I'm being sarcastic, but you get the point.

I could have taken a step by step trip through the Old Testament to build my case there first, and we will indeed revisit the Law of Moses. However, I began with Romans for a reason. For some in the church, the New Testament is the main thing that matters, while the Old Testament is "old Bible." I kid you not. So, I took us to Romans 13 where you can see the principle of retributive justice live and in living color.

Now, is there more to "justice" than this? Sure there is. And we'll talk about it down the road. But one day at a time. And because events that need comment will intrude, posts on this subject will not be immediately concurrent to one another.

One final word before I end today. When I first began this blog, I intended it to be a forum for comment on all sorts of things, not just theology. There are so many fine blogs that I admire out there, and many of those blogs are linked here. Some of them strictly focus on the theological, and avoid the news, politics or even cultural issues. Most of my life has been spent in journalism and media, and as such I am an observer of events, local, state, national and global. For those of you who prefer discussions of theology, I will do my best to oblige those as often as possible. But when I have to take a detour into news and current events, bear with me. If I didn't make some sort of comment on it, I'd lose my touch.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Bit More on Obama and His Pastor

This Wall Street Journal commentary is worth reading. It will give you an idea of the issues that concern many of us about Barack Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright (pictured with the candidate), and Obama's candidacy. Don't let anyone tell you that someone's theology -- or lack thereof -- doesn't matter. It does.

As a whole, the United Church of Christ left the reservation theologically long ago. But it seems Wright takes things to a whole new, troubling level. His views of Israel are deeply, deeply bothersome to me. How much Wright's views transfer over to Obama remains to be seen despite official denials and distancing.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

About Barack Obama and His Pastor

So Barack Obama has Islam in his background. So his United Church of Christ pastor preaches Marxist Liberation Theology and other false doctrines.

Could we please look past the skin color and look directly at the ideas? Could we please be able to critique the ideas without being called racists? If Geraldine Ferraro of all people could be tagged falsely with the racial charge, what does that tell us about the upcoming election and the battleground of ideas? Is all debate to be silenced because we are afraid of being called racists for disagreeing?

Get it, and get it now. I for one will not be silenced or intimidated. Barack Obama is wrong, and his pastor is wrong. Plenty of African-Americans think both of them are wrong. None of us will be intimidated or silenced by bogus racial politics. I plan on giving plenty of knuckle raps before it's over. Deal with it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Revisiting a Rant

A couple of years ago, I received an email from someone who was a bit incensed at some criticism I leveled at the Emergent Church and at some aspects of a very popular California-based ministry. In cleaning out my email box today, I stumbled on my response to this email, and I thought it would make a good post. The issues I raise are important, and have parallels in both the church and political worlds. I was chided for putting such emphasis on doctrine, as well as for not being impressed by numbers of people supposedly "reached."

I'll put my reply to the emailer in italics to differentiate between now and then. The names have been removed to not distract from the point I was trying to make. Keep in mind, I was a bit irritated at the time.

I think this response is a bit simplistic and naive given the issues at stake. Jesus is also concerned about correct doctrine as His Word makes clear. Of course He is concerned about fruit, justice, giving and the other things you mention. But NOT at the expense of truth.

This is the typical "emotive" response often shouted at the growing number of people concerned over the unbiblical direction of popular church fad movements. I really could care less that 14 million Christians have participated in ---- ------'s materials. As I remember, God reserved to Himself a remnant of only 7,000 out of all Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that deception will be the hallmark of the last days...a deception so clever that even the very elect would be deceived if that were possible. I do not mean to compare ---- ------ with Baal, but I am growing weary with this idea that because millions of people run like lemmings, that automatically means God is behind it. The love of God begins with loving His truth. That is NOT just chatter..and it is NOT silly. I wish people would read their Bibles instead of ---- ------ or ------- -----. They would find it much more profitable.

The remarks about the church being made up of four areas of commonality are all well and good provided that everyone is unified around one standard of truth. I also would be careful about getting overly caught up in the "infinite versus finite" trap. It is certainly true that as human beings, we will not completely understand an infinite God. However, He expects and demands us to understand the truth He has revealed in His Word, and He will hold us accountable if we don't. We won't be able to play Alice in Wonderland/Lewis Carroll-style word games with Him. The core of the faith and key biblical doctrines, as well as orthopraxis, are clear. They are not open for redefinition. Period.

No one is talking about banning books. A frequent canard, and a tiresome one. Also, no one objects to honest, legitimate questions by people who are untaught and wanting to learn. However, when so-called Bible teachers and pastors begin to play games like this, that is a different question. --- ----, one of the Emergent Church's favorite authors, and his wife did an interview recently in Christianity Today where Mrs. ---- said that she didn't know what most of the Bible meant. That is a pastor's wife, mind you, and a leader in that church.

If that is the case, then both of them need to resign and go learn what the Bible means before they presume to teach others, much less sell thousands of books.

The long and short of it is..I think we need to do much less emoting and much more thinking..AND submitting to the authority of Scripture. And by the way, I find the phrase "That's the risk God took" rather curious. God knew precisely what He was doing and His purpose will be realized. To say that God took a risk implies failure much like a gambler pulls the handle on a slot machine and loses. That is not the Sovereign God of the Universe that I know.

Now that I think of it, I'm still irritated.

P.S. I'll mention the deleted names at another time. I think many of you can guess who it is.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Examining Justice

This is in essence the first post of what will probably be several over the course of the next few weeks. The first introductory comment was earlier under the title of "Retributive Justice." I should probably keep using that title and differentiating by using numbers as I go along, but I feel the need for a bit more introduction before delving into specifics.

By definition, retributive justice is the theory or idea that proportionate punishment is a morally acceptable response to crime, regardless of whether the punishment causes any tangible benefits. Now, we can certainly argue (and people do) over what constitutes a tangible benefit. And we can discuss the relative merits and problems with the other views of justice out there. We can discuss mixtures of the various theories, and most people's thinking on this subject is probably made up of a mixture of various ideas they have learned in life.

Regardless of the different theories of justice out there within law and academia, as a Christian believer, I have to go to a different source for defining true justice and discussing its ramifications. My search for the meaning of justice begins with Scripture, the Word of God.

We see the concept of justice right at the outset in Genesis. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die"(Genesis 2:16-17).

Right there, God sets a standard, or a rule. A law, if you will. He also issues a warning. If this law is violated, there will be a consequence. As Creator, God has the absolute right to set the standards of behavior or rules of engagement for His creation. He has the absolute right to set penalties and punishments. He has the absolute right to judge. And we all know what happened. Adam and Eve violated God's commandment, and there had to be a consequence for their disobedience.

It is there that we have to begin. If you notice, Adam and Eve weren't diagnosed with an illness or disorder. They weren't given a pill or excused. There weren't any ridiculous social engineers or babblers around to blame the actions of the couple on their environment or economic situation. They did try to do a bit of buck passing, and maybe that inspired generations to come. Who knows. But they didn't get away with it. Court was in session and the Judge brought the gavel down hard.

It seems a rather bleak place to end for today, doesn't it? Don't worry, there's light at the end of the tunnel. But we're not there yet.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fear and Gullibility as Weapons

Sola's Note: I am posting this at the request of Dr. Steve Carol, a retired history professor and associate producer of the Middle East Radio Forum. Very worth reading and pondering.

By Barry Rubin

Radical forces in the Middle East have rewritten the international rulebook in a way designed so they can't lose. That is, there is no easy response to their behavior and strategies. Even more worrisome is the widespread failure in the West even to realize this is happening.

Hamas and Hizbullah fire from among civilians and use civilian homes for military purposes; Syria or Iran deploy disinformation; radical regimes pretend moderation, and there are plenty of suckers to take the bait.

Extremism makes many believe that kind words and concessions can transform them; intransigence produces the response that if they won't give up, we must do so.

HERE ARE some new rules in which "we" represents such disparate forces as Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran, Iraqi insurgents, al-Qaida, Syria, the Taliban and others, including radical Arab nationalists.

These forces are not all alike or allied, but do often follow a parallel set of rules quite different from how international affairs have generally been conducted.

1. We'll never give up. No matter what you do, we will continue fighting. No matter what you offer, we will keep attacking you. Since you can't win, you should give up.

2. We're indifferent to any pressure you put on us. We will turn this pressure against you. Against us, deterrence does not exist; diplomacy does not convince.The carrot cannot buy us off, nor the stick make us yield. There are no solutions that can end the conflict. You cannot win militarily, nor make peace through diplomacy.

3. If you set economic sanctions, we'll say you are starving our people in an act of "collective punishment." Moreover, sanctions will cost you money and generate opposition among those who lose profits.

4. In response to military operations, we'll attack your civilians. Casualties will undermine your internal support. We will try to force you to kill civilians accidentally. We won't care, but will use this to persuade many that you are evil. Thus we will simultaneously murder your civilians and get you condemned as human rights violators.

5. If you try to isolate us we will use your own media and intellectuals against you. At times, we will hint at moderation and make promises of change. We won't do so enough to alienate our own followers, but enough to subvert yours. They will demand you engage us, which means you making concessions for nothing real in exchange.

6. Talking to our own people, we will foment hatred and demonize you. Speaking to the West, we will accuse you of fomenting hatred. We will hypocritically turn against you all the concepts you developed: racism, imperialism, failure to understand the "other," and so on. These concepts, of course, describe what we are doing, but your feelings of guilt, ignorance about us, and indifference to ideology will make you fail to notice that fact.

7. We will claim to be victims and "underdogs." Because you are stronger and more "advanced," that means you are the villains. We are not held responsible for our deeds, or expected to live up to the same standards. There will be no shortage of, to quote Lenin, "useful idiots" in your societies to help echo our propaganda.

8. Since our societies are weak, undemocratic and have few real moderates, you will have to make deals with phoney moderates and dictatorial regimes weakened by corruption and incompetence.

9. Even the less radical regimes, often our immediate adversaries, partly play into our hands. Due to popular pressure — plus their desire to mobilize support and distract attention from their own shortcomings — they trumpet Arab and Islamic solidarity. They denounce the West, blame all problems on Israel and revile America, even as they accept your aid. They glorify interpretations of Islam not too far from ours. They cheer Iraqi insurgents, Hizbullah, and Hamas. They don't struggle against Iran getting nuclear weapons. They lay the basis for our mass support and recruits.

10. There is no diplomatic solution for you, though you yearn to find one. There is no military solution for you, whether you try that or not. You love life, we love death; you are divided, we are united; you want to get back to material satisfaction, we are dedicated revolutionaries.

We will outlast you.

Finally, our greatest weapon is that you truly don't understand all the points made above. You are taught, informed, and often led by people who simply don't comprehend what an alternative, highly ideological, revolutionary world view means.

In effect, we will try, and will often succeed, to turn your "best and brightest" into the worst and dimmest who think you can persuade us, who blame you for the conflicts, or expect that we will alter our course. We will use those mistakes against you.

THE ABOVE analysis seems pessimistic, but is actually the opposite. Most of this strategy's power is based on spreading illusions, depending on gullibility. Much of the rest relies on the enemy's psychological weaknesses.

In a sustained conflict, the radicals' technological and organizational weaknesses, along with their mistaken assessments and unrealistic ideology, will bring inevitable defeat. They will lose even if they never surrender. They can kill people, but not overcome societies determined to grow, prosper, and survive.

The keys to a successful response are steadfastness and understanding. To paraphrase Francis Bacon and Franklin Roosevelt, there is nothing to fear but fear — and gullibility — itself.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Important Warning from Dr. Mohler/Homeschooling Case

In case you haven't heard, an appeals court in California (where else) has ruled that parents have no constitutional right to homeschool their own children. This case is sending shockwaves around the country, and with it's smug brazenness, it's not hard to see why.

I am linking this column by Dr. Al Mohler, who details the story. Read, pray and act before public officials in your own state get inspired all of a sudden. When California sneezes, the nation gets the flu.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Retributive Justice

This has been an eventful past few weeks. Eventful and tragic.

We've heard about the murders of young college students. We've heard of a former student shooting up his former campus. We've heard of alleged anarchist bombers in New York City. We've heard of teenage thugs (whose mother can't control them) profanely and violently going after a news crew. And those are just a few little headlines out of many I could cite.

Overseas, we hear of suicide/homicide attackers in Israel. How about rocket attacks into Israeli cities, only to have the UN and other "officials" blame Israel for it all and accuse her of being "disproportionate." People in this neck of the woods wave their flags and AK-47s in the air, cheering when children are murdered. Other places around the world have their share of tragedies, violence, murder and abuse.

The concept of retributive justice gets frowned on these days, at least in much of the Western world. Evil is looked at as if it is a disease to be cured rather than something to be punished and deterred. More often than not, it seems more and more that the ones committing the evil are excused or celebrated, while the victims of the evil are seen as the cause or as the guilty parties. What impact is this having on our societies? "Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold."

For a quick primer on the differing theories of justice, check out this encyclopedia article. These theories of justice are all interesting, but as Christians, we ought to be more concerned about what Scripture has to say on the subject. What contributions toward justice do we make as individuals, and what is the proper role of the state in upholding justice? Where is the rehabilitative appropriate versus the retributive? At what point is mercy appropriate in dealing with terrorists and violent criminals?

In the coming days, I'll have some more to say on this.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Production Code - Part Two

Well, I must confess I am surprised.

I thought that I would get a slew of comments after people actually read the old Hollywood Production Code. To recap briefly, the Code was enforced between 1934 and the mid-1960s. Movies made between 1930 and 1934 are known as "pre-Code" films, and while tame by today's standards, could often be pretty racy. Some of them got so bad in terms of near nudity and portrayals of drugs and homosexuality that it generated a huge outcry from churches and a significant portion of the public. That outcry in turn came close to provoking governmental regulation, and the motion picture industry decided to begin policing itself rather than have that happen.

As you read the standards imposed in the Code, I am sure even some Christians might find them a bit strict or "prudish." There may be a few of the standards that are arguable, but by and large I wish the Code was still enforced. In my humble opinion, the films that were released between 1934 and roughly 1955 were the greatest films ever produced by Hollywood, and they didn't need profanity, obscenity or graphic violence to get the story across. They relied on great acting and imagination.

In the documentary about the pre-Code era aired over Turner Classic Movies the other night, it was interesting to see how filmmakers did all they could to try and outwit the standards watchdogs. As time went on and society began liberalizing again, some moviemakers rebelled outright. The reason often given for this rebellion was artistic. I am willing to grant that in some cases. But not all. It is very clear that some of the filmmakers weren't doing it for art's sake. It had already been amply demonstrated that titillation wasn't necessary to tell a good story or to get a point across. Some of these filmmakers wanted to be vulgar, shocking, profane and obscene. They wanted to flout the standards because they ultimately wanted the standards torn down. They found moral standards too confining and outmoded, and they wanted to mock and flout them at every opportunity. Some of them raised the issue of hypocrisy or realism. There was a seamier side of life and it needed to be shown. They really loved to show stories where those who preached strict morality were found not to be practicing what they preached. These filmmakers used the occasional real hypocrite to justify throwing the standards out in toto.

Look what's happened to motion pictures and our overall culture since then. It's a cesspool. Joseph Breen and the Code enforcers warned at the time that bad entertainment would have a cumulative effect on society. They were right.

It's not just the fault of the movies, of course. There are many, many factors that contribute to the degeneration of a society. The educational system is certainly among the indictable. The steady drip, drip, drip from a variety of sources wore away at traditional values and morality. Now, anything goes.

Before I close here, I must say this. I recognize that there are many fine actors, directors and producers out there. They are making some good movies worth paying to see. Many of them are done by independent filmmakers and are apart from the studios. However, I personally refuse to watch most modern films. I find nothing in them that interests me in the slightest, and on the rare occasions when I do watch one, I'm not too long in the film before I encounter something that makes me change the channel or get up and leave.

I am distressed at recent changes in the programming at Turner Classic Movies. I fell in love with TCM because they largely showed the old, genuine classic films. Of late, they've taken to showing newer films and even pushing the envelope with movies featuring homosexuality and all the other vices that ought to be shamed and not celebrated. I imagine I will have to begin ordering old films on DVD if I want to watch a film.

Is there anything that can be done? Yes. A lot of power is in the box office. If enough of these movies tank, hopefully Hollywood will get the message. Beyond that, more Christians and traditional moralists need to get involved in the industry. Actors, producers, writers, directors, and yes, financiers. Christians all too often mount an Exodus instead of trying to be salt and light in the system.

I am sure my views on this will generate some argument, even if no one posts comments. I have a few Christian acquaintances who find my view of morality too confining, which I find very interesting given what Scripture says on the matter. But Christians these days cherrypick Scripture as well as morality.

Ooops. That's another fight for another time and another post.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Production Code

Given the ongoing controversy over what movies portray these days, I thought it would be good today to revisit the Hollywood "Production Code" that was in play from 1934 through roughly 1967 (I would say the Code was fudged earlier). Let's leave the item regarding "miscegenation" out for the moment.

Because Internet or blog posts are supposed to be brief (because today's generation can't concentrate on anything larger than a haiku), I will just post the Code. I'll comment tomorrow or Wednesday, depending on schedule.

Let me just say for the record -- as a fan of "classic movies" from Hollywood's "Golden Age," I personally wish that most of these standards would be enforced again.

The Production Code enumerated three "General Principles" As Follows:

1. No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.
2. Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented.
3. Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.

Specific restrictions were spelled out as "Particular Applications" of these principles:

* Nudity and suggestive dances were prohibited.
* The ridicule of religion was forbidden, and ministers of religion were not to be represented as comic characters or villains.
* The depiction of illegal drug use was forbidden, as well as the use of liquor, "when not required by the plot or for proper characterization."
* Methods of crime (e.g. safe-cracking, arson, smuggling) were not to be explicitly presented.
* References to alleged "sex perversion" (such as homosexuality) and venereal disease were forbidden, as were depictions of childbirth.
* The language section banned various words and phrases that were considered to be offensive.
* Murder scenes had to be filmed in a way that would discourage imitations in real life, and brutal killings could not be shown in detail. "Revenge in modern times" was not to be justified.
* The sanctity of marriage and the home had to be upheld. "Pictures shall not imply that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted or common thing." Adultery and illicit sex, although recognized as sometimes necessary to the plot, could not be explicit or justified and were not supposed to be presented as an attractive option.
* Portrayals of miscegenation were forbidden.
* "Scenes of Passion" were not to be introduced when not essential to the plot. "Excessive and lustful kissing" was to be avoided, along with any other treatment that might "stimulate the lower and baser element."
* The flag of the United States was to be treated respectfully, and the people and history of other nations were to be presented "fairly."
* The treatment of "Vulgarity," defined as "low, disgusting, unpleasant, though not necessarily evil, subjects" must be "subject to the dictates of good taste." Capital punishment, "third-degree methods," cruelty to children and animals, prostitution and surgical operations were to be handled with similar sensitivity.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The "Awww" Factor - I Love Bears

Today, a brief detour into the "feel-good." Hey, we need a break from the serious now and then!

Just look at this photo of a baby polar bear being gently groomed by a human caregiver. Yes, I know it will one day grow into a ferocious man-eater, but for now, how adorable. (And no, it's not the German celebrity bear, Knut)

Too bad they can't stay like that forever!

I love bears.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Lord, Don't Go!

I choked up a bit in church today.

That happens to me from time to time, but it's not because of what's going on around me. It's usually from something that grabs me in Scripture while I am reading it waiting for the service to commence. Today, it was the account in Scripture about Jesus meeting the travelers on the road to Emmaus. Read it with me below, and I'll tell you what got to me . . .

And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. “But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. “Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them. When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us (Luke 24:13-32).

Now, I don't know about you, but what got me about this today wasn't the aspect of Jesus being in their midst, or explaining the Scriptures to them, or their hearts burning about it. What got to me was that "He vanished from their sight." I found myself imagining if I had been there, I would have cried out, "Lord, don't go! Please, don't go!" It would have been hard on me to lose the Lord's immediate physical presence. Yes, He has promised to be with us always, and we have the Comforter, the indwelling Holy Spirit. But in my humanity, I often find myself wanting a visible, warm body to talk to. Do you ever feel like that?

How wonderful it will be in Heaven. Never to be away from His presence again. Wow.