Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Wearisomeness of Politics

A little reflection from a very tired man. My basic personality is to be too trusting although my journalistic training required skepticism in the best sense. When you are friends with people (no matter what their persuasion), your natural reaction is to believe what they say. I think it's the natural reaction of most to believe what they hear in the media - mainstream or not mainstream. Most of us do not have the time or the resources to "fact check" every report we hear out there. I haven't been employed in broadcast journalism now for 21 years, having been in Christian radio and then Christian missions focused overseas. However, I did co-host a talk show for a long time where I didn't have to be "objective" and could do more editorializing.
So where am I at now, having been burned now and then by passing a few stories on only to find they were either entirely false or only half-truths? My late grandfather once said "Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see." As a Christian, I would never want to KNOWINGLY pass on false information. It is possible to have a different perspective on an issue and what someone says may not be false - just a different view. You have to try and discern the difference. I'll tell you what I really find loathsome.
It's sad enough to have extreme activist types in both political spectrums that knee-jerk and pass on the latest horrific threat, honestly believing what they've read lock, stock and barrel. But I loathe political "strategists " who KNOW the stories they circulate are false or distorted, and who KNOW that they're ginning up unrest to achieve their desired political outcome. It's detestable.
I really would love to see political discourse leave aside the ugly name calling, personal attacks, vilification, impugning of motives etc, and see a true discussion of an ISSUE looking quietly and rationally at the pros and cons, and a civil debate on the ISSUE without making it personal or demeaning. But I think those days are gone. Politics has always been a contact sport and it's always had an ugly side, but I've never seen it this bad. Every day, I find myself getting angry and wanting to lash out with an intemperate remark. I can't always resist the temptation, and shame on me.
A final observation. If the politicians we elect are really as evil and wicked as they have been portrayed and sometimes appear (and I think some are), we are in real, real trouble.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

An Extremist by Any Other Name?

*Edited to add a line on Christianity

This won't be a long, polemical post about the silliness going on in Washington about the Obama Administration's refusal to call a spade a spade (radical Islam). I'll just draw a few analogies.

1. Mao Tse Tung, Chou en Lai, Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, and Vladimir Lenin weren't really Communists. They were just a perversion of Communism.

2. Adolf Hitler wasn't really a Nationalist or a Socialist. He amalgamated and perverted the two.

3. Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco, and Tojo weren't really Fascists. They were just perversions of Fascism.

Shall I go on? I suppose we could try and resurrect Marx and Engels to conduct a doctrinal purity text on various Communists and Marxists around the world. I suppose we could look into the philosophical underpinnings of National Socialism and Fascism, and do a purity check to see how historical regimes described under those banners fared in terms of purity.

Now, I suppose the mischief-minded might want to apply the same general analogy to Christianity. After all, self-professed Christians and "official" Christian churches have done terrible things in the name of Christ. If I were to say those events were "perversions" of Christianity, would I not be falling on the same sword? Not really. The reason I can say that is this: to be able to perform the atrocities that were performed in history within Christendom, the New Testament and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ had to be ignored completely. The Bible itself warned that many would come in the name of the Lord and not be of Him, and that many false teachers would arise who would depart from biblical truth and lead many astray. The above philosophies have no such provisos. And a very, very strong case can be made from Islamic Scriptures that justifies the things done in its name. There are reform-minded, liberal Muslims like Dr. Jasser who want to disovow this past and change Islam to embrace Western, democratic values, but they are going to have a very, very difficult time doing so.

After a while, this just gets beyond stupid. Things are what they are. Communists and Marxists are Communists and Marxists. Radical Islamists (or Radical Muslims) are just that. No more, no less.

Add on to the above a statement like this, made maybe in 1938: "Well, we can't call them Nazis! That might offend and radicalize them, and cause even more adventurous young men to join their cause!"

I think I've made my point.

Monday, February 09, 2015

American Confusion and Conundrums

A friend sent me the following piece via email today. I'm not sure of the original source—it's one of those kind of emails friends forward around. But the questions it poses are very interesting.

Needless to say, as soon as you post an opinion on something, someone will argue with it. In this particular day and age, you can have something airtight and 100 percent certain and someone will still argue with it. The only time arguing will end is before the throne of God (I can't wait).

Mull these "conundrums" over a while:

Free people are not equal.  Equal people are not free.
    "A gun is like a parachute.  If you need one, and don't have one, you'll probably never need one again."
    The definition of the word Conundrum is: something that is puzzling or confusing. 
Here are six Conundrums of socialism in the United States of America : 

    1. America is capitalist and greedy - yet half of the population is subsidized.
    2. Half of the population is subsidized - yet they think they are victims.
    3. They think they are victims - yet their representatives run the government.
    4. Their representatives run the government - yet the poor keep getting poorer.
    5. The poor keep getting poorer - yet they have things that people in other countries only dream about.
    6. They have things that people in other countries only dream about - yet they want America to be more like those other countries.
    Think about it! And that, my friends, pretty much sums up the USA in the 21st Century.
    Makes you wonder who is doing the math.
    These three, short sentences tell you a lot about the direction of our current government and cultural environment:
    1. We are advised to NOT judge ALL Muslims by the actions of a few lunatics, but we are encouraged to judge ALL gun owners by the actions of a few lunatics.
    Funny how that works.  And here's another one worth considering...
    2. Seems we constantly hear about how Social Security is going to run out of money.  But we never hear about welfare or food stamps running out of money?  What's interesting is the first group "worked for" their money, but the second didn't.
    Think about it.....and Last but not least:
    3. Why are we cutting benefits for our veterans, no pay raises for our military and cutting our army to a level lower than before WWII, but we are not stopping the payments or benefits to illegal aliens.
    Am I the only one missing something?

Saturday, February 07, 2015

So It's the Crusades Again

As badly as I have neglected this blog for quite some time now, I've really been wanting to deal with lighter subjects when I do have time to post something. Film, arts, travel, scenery pictures, etc. But the 24-hour news cycle keeps churning out things that I can't let pass without at least some comment. President Obama's latest blunderbuss on the Crusades and Islam is the latest example. The blunderbuss was fired at the National Prayer Breakfast. Great, huh?

The graphic to the right was put up on Twitter today, and it speaks volumes. But the point I want to really underline today is not the Crusades vs. Islamic Conquest per se. I want to address the issue of things being done in "the name of Christ."

Anyone with honesty, as well as at least a general knowledge of Christian theology and the Bible, will know that the New Testament NOWHERE advocates wars of conquest to spread the Gospel. In fact, you cannot spread true Christianity with the sword. Someone must believe in and trust in Christ from the heart, and that cannot be forced at the point of a sword.

Another thing that is made clear in the Bible. Jesus and His apostles warned of false brothers and sisters, false teachers, and false prophets. They warned REPEATEDLY about it. Because monarchs, popes, bishops, and other leaders were self-described Christians, that does NOT mean they were true Christians as defined by the Word of God itself. It does NOT mean that they were regenerate. Political "Christianity" and cultural "Christianity," perhaps. But genuine, soul-saving, spiritually regenerating saving faith in Christ? Very likely not. And saying that these acts were done by "Christians" is, in my view, slander.

I am not intending to say that genuine Christians can't stumble or fall into sinful behavior for a time. Of course they can. But someone who is truly born again with the Spirit of God indwelling them, and who is thoroughly steeped in Scripture will not be engaging in wars of conquest.

I think there is a strong case to be made that the Crusades were largely defensive wars launched after hundreds of years of Islamic oppression. We can certainly find wrongdoing and excesses on the part of some of the Crusaders. But for our cipher of a president to try and find moral equivalence between what happened in the Middle Ages and what ISIS is doing now is just breathtaking chutzpah.

We have two more years of Barack Obama in the White House. We've had bad presidents before, but I have never seen of one or known of one who seems so gleeful about undermining the country he is sworn to protect, or one so intent on insulting the electorate. And the latest is that he's threatening Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu —cancel your address to Congress or else.

Obama says he is a Christian although I see little evidence of it, nor much evidence that he understands foundational Christian theology. He would do well to read the Bible if he can manage to do so without the Jeremiah Wright filter. When you strike at Israel, you strike at the apple of God's eye. Let's leave it at that.

Monday, February 02, 2015

What to Make of Katy Perry?

Katy Perry (center) and parents. 
Since Sunday's Super Bowl, the halftime show—which included a Katy Perry performance—has gotten quite a bit of attention. Honestly, since Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" a few years ago, it seems the halftime show and commercials get more attention than the game, which is kind of sad and silly. (Confession: I'm not a huge football fan anyway, but focus on the sport, okay?)

Some might not be aware, but Katy Perry comes from an ostensibly Christian background. Her parents are described as coming out of the charismatic persuasion—Dad being an "end times preacher" and Mom being a "prophetess." I will leave aside my theological viewpoints on those issues and focus on a different matter where many Christian parents struggle: what to do when a child goes astray?

You can read up a bit on the situation through this 2013 Huffington Post article. If the parents indeed hold to any semblance of biblical mores, values and praxis, their daughter's behavior would indeed grieve them to the heart. I have to wonder if Katy ever gives that much consideration? But to evaluate all of that, you'd need a window INTO the hearts of all, and that we do not have. We do have behavior, and per 1 Corinthians 5, that is fair game when we're dealing with believers. Katy says she is not a believer, and I take her at face value. Does that mean that God is not working in her life, and that He will not eventually bring her to repentance? No, of course not. No one is beyond God's reach and His purpose will be accomplished.

There is a sobering point that Katy might consider. I am assuming that, growing up, she heard a clear presentation of the Gospel and knows the truth. Whether she accepts it now or not, she will be accountable before God and all the more so if she KNEW the truth and rejected it. That is a terrible, terrible position in which to be. There will be no finger-pointing and blaming someone else at the Judgment. You stand alone before God. Either you believe in and receive by faith what His Son Jesus did on the cross as atonement for your sin and trust your life to Him, or you reject Him and pay the price. God offers grace and mercy. Don't say you want "justice." Justice is precisely what NONE of us want, and outside of Christ, justice is exactly what will be administered if faith in Christ and His atoning sacrifice is refused.

For parents who are grieved at the lifestyle of a child who has for the moment rejected the Lord, all you can ultimately do is pray and love. It does not mean you have to approve or accept the sin. But be sure you retain some humility. Do not lapse into holier-than-thou judgmentalism. Jesus said "Judge with righteous judgment" and Scripture also says that it is proper to judge the behavior of professed believers. But those who are outside the household of faith, God judges. All we are responsible to do is to be ready for the opportunity to share the Gospel, and to tell what the Lord has done for us. Offer the invitation, and above all pray. Let the Holy Spirit do what only the Holy Spirit can do. I would say that is one huge mistake many of us make when we're trying to get an erring loved one to change course. We try to emulate the convicting power of the Holy Spirit but in the end all the person hears is self-righteousness. Only the Holy Spirit can truly convict the heart of sin and turn a heart toward Himself.

This doesn't mean we can't call sin what it is. We should. But we need to be forthright that we ourselves are sinners saved by grace—beggars who know where the bread is. Yes, there is a place for the thunder of the small "p" prophet from the pulpit calling people as a whole to repentance. But one on one, gentle loving lifestyle witness and a word spoken "in season" is the best. Tell the truth, but make sure the love is seen in the truth. And so often, the love is what is so often absent. I am guilty as charged more often than I'd like. But I pray that I am growing in grace and upward to maturity—a vessel God can use for His glory and not a vessel that gets in His way.

Pray for Katy Perry and other troubled young people who have come from a Christian background. God only knows what turned them away, but pray that they will have their eyes opened and return to the One who paid a huge price for their redemption. There isn't much time left.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

GOP: Preparing for Defeat Early?

I've been quiet for a few weeks now. Really, life has been so hectic of late that the blog has been last on my mind. However, watching the political chit-chat lately and seeing it play out on social media such as Twitter has me ready to make an observation in advance of the 2016 presidential race.

We haven't even begun the primary season yet, and already the intra-party squabbling, or even feeding frenzy, has already begun. In one sense, the pushmi-pullyu act between conservatives and moderate/liberal/Eastern establishment Republicans has always been around at least since Roosevelt and Taft. It probably reached its peak in the 1964 election with Barry Goldwater—then an arch conservative who liberalized considerably in later life. In his book "Leaders," the late Richard Nixon quoted the late President Herbert Hoover as saying it was time to let the "far right" have it's moment and "get it out of our system." Well, we all know how Hoover's presidency went and Nixon's presidency created the EPA, wage and price controls (which to his credit he later said that was a big mistake), etc. In other words, Nixon wasn't really as conservative as was believed.

On Twitter, there's quite a sneering war going on. The more moderate to pragmatic portion of the party does seem to hold a pretty healthy disdain for the conservative wing of the party, and especially if you're conservative on social issues. They really can't win without the base conservatives, but they always manage to get their candidate elected in the primaries these days realizing that conservatives have a stark —either hold their noses and vote for the establishment pick, or elect a liberal Democrat who will be far worse. A Hobson's choice.

More conservatives are challenging the status quo this time around, saying that they are NOT going to go for another establishment camp. No more Romney. No more Bushes. No McCains. They want a true movement conservative and they're bound and determined to get one, or else. The establishment camp—oddly enough being helped by the mainstream media (no friends of Republicans of any stripe) in painting conservatives as a passel of kooks and crazies. It's really been vicious on both sides, and both sides ought to be working together.

Honestly, conservative activists like Mark Levin do have a point. Going all the way back to Taft, they draw a rather vivid picture of how the establishment pics have performed in the general election. Generally abysmally. Ford lost. We had (against the party establishment wishes) Ronald Reagan for two terms and, while he couldn't accomplish everything he wanted to do in 8 years, he did manage to get quite a lot done. Then we had the establishment George H.W. Bush who largely ran on Reagan's afterglow. He lost after one term. Dole lost. McCain lost. George W. Bush BARELY won, only by 500 votes in the Electoral College in term one, and barely in the second. Then we got Romney, and he lost.

It's a hard argument to dismiss. Yet I can also understand the pragmatic conservative to moderate view. Their attitude is to run the most conservative candidate who can win. They fear if someone is too far to the right, they won't win the general election.

I think they're wrong, but the right candidate must be found. Mike Huckabee is an ordained Baptist pastor who brings his conservative Christian theology into the open. Mike has been, in my view, treated unfairly lately with the quotes on social issues and homosexuality etc. If you read the headlines about what he says, you get one picture but when you read or hear what he was saying in its entirety, it's not quite the Taliban image they've been trying to paint on him. He's basically saying what orthodox Christian theology has taught and believed for 2,000 years. But he also recognizes that the U.S. is not a theocracy, and all people need to be treated with dignity and respect. But what this shows is that anyone who speaks too loudly of having a Bible-believing faith will get slimed.

Sarah Palin has really hurt herself with her public demeanor and being erratic. She is a woman of faith, but some of the public things she's done have been at variance with a Christian perspective. I would never have allowed myself to be photographed with an activist carrying an "F-Bomb" sign. That's just the least of it. I like Sarah and think she is much more capable than portrayed. But she isn't the candidate for 2016.

In the end, I really don't know who we'll get. I believe we need an articulate, sharp, street-savvy, genuine conservative who can think quick on his/her feet and take it to Hillary, or whoever the candidate will be. But I also have a warning. If this bloodletting nastiness within the party doesn't stop, it will materially hurt whoever does get the nomination.

This is an election the Republicans must not lose. The establishment has had its way for the past several election cycles. It's time for them to cooperate with conservatives for a change. But together, find a candidate who is articulate and smart enough not to fall into the traps that will be laid for them. It's a tall order, but vital.