Saturday, September 24, 2016

Taking a stand against hatred in the public square

Remember that 'art' exhibit of Christ submerged in urine?

If works of art in general are free speech, this is hate speech.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Spiritual health checklist - Moving forward

As I have written before, I have wanted to create a spiritual health checklist, mostly for the purposes of keeping myself honest and challenging myself to grow. This is a first draft where I try to give shape to the specific items to check. (Not all of these are positive things; some of them identify negatives.) All questions and feedback are welcome.
I have too much stuff.
I take good care of my things.
I manage my finances well.
I feel satisfaction and gratitude for what I have.

I have habits that disrupt my life, that I have trouble controlling.
I am easily upset.
I end up eating, drinking, or spending more than I want.
I can stick to a schedule or a budget.

When someone criticizes me or my work, I go on the offense.
I often find myself in situations where I feel righteous anger.
When I joke around, I sometimes go too far. I make comments about other people that I would prefer to keep private.

Many people don't live up to my standards.
When someone is rude or unkind to me, it bothers me for a long time. 

I can find the right thing to say.
I am on peaceful terms with the people in my family.

I avoid social situations because I feel awkward.
I'm glad when someone joins me for lunch.
I invite people to my home or to eat with me.

I admire the best achievements or traits in many people.
I am willing to lead if asked.
I am willing to serve if asked.
Am I more comfortable with, or enthusiastic about, leading or following?

I am my own worst critic. 
When someone criticizes me or my work, I become defensive.
If someone compliments me, I accept it graciously. 

Some of the virtues, or spiritual strengths that are on my mind:
I'd be glad for any comments, suggestions, or insights.

* A checklist based on the Rudyard Kipling poem, "If"

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Moses: Two Ways of Resisting Oppression

In the book of Exodus we read about the life of Moses. He was troubled by the injustice in Egypt and how his own people were oppressed. At different times in his life, he took two very different approaches to confronting the evil.

In his earlier days, when he saw an Egyptian mistreating a Hebrew, he attacked and killed the Egyptian. No good came to his people, no good came to him, no good came to the name of God or the cause of righteousness. He fled Egypt as a refugee, a criminal and a wanted man. His violence had helped nothing.  His fleeing had helped nothing. 

He came back to Egypt when God sent him. Moses still cared that his people suffered; now he knew that God cared too. And nothing changed without the power of God. The Egyptians could not blame the Israelites for their calamities, because the calamities did not come from their hands. It took the power of God to free his people without the people resorting to bloodshed. God accomplished Israel's freedom through the power of the word, through signs and through wonders -- but not through Moses' attack.

There are different ways of resisting oppression. Evil must be resisted, but there are ways of resisting that only increase the evil. Without a devotion to what is right -- and with blood staining the hands of those who rise up -- the fall of one oppressor is followed by the rise of another. When a leader has seen God, and knows his unworthiness, and will lead to Sinai -- when the people will become a godly people -- then there is hope.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Leadership and Top Cover

top cover (noun): combat airplanes flying at high altitude to protect a military force from air attack, especially from other airplanes flying at a lower altitude (adapted from Merriam-Webster, rephrased for readability) 

In much the western world, Christianity has been has been stripped of top cover. The seminaries and high level church leadership no longer take a public stand against the constant attacks against Christianity. In many cases, the counter arguments against atheists and other anti Christians are often made in a disorganized way at the lowest level where individual church members take leadership. The pastors and church leaders no longer write editorials to newspapers to set the record straight on the Christian position or appeal for peaceful behavior in a crisis, as a survey of newspapers from older times will show was once normal. The individual churches no longer expect and insist that their people stay clear of drugs, excess alcohol, and non marital sex. This leads to a lower quality of life for the people they are supposedly serving. 

It often seems that the Christian leadership is more interested in other things than providing top cover to Christians. Those on the right seem more interested in revisiting arguments with other Christian groups than in leading their flocks and through the current round of attacks. Those on the left often seem more interested in proving they are not like those on the right. And as always, there are some few more interested in their own reputations than in Christ's. "The people are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." That says something about the shepherds. Here are some areas where Christians could truly benefit from top cover:
  1. The idea that “nothing is really wrong” is morally bankrupt. It is against all human experience and leaves us with no way to condemn obvious wrongs such as the slave trade or the holocaust.
  2. The Bible contains much that is good for all cultures, places, and times. Besides things that are specific to the cultures where the books of Bible were written, there are human universals that need to be considered.
  3. No man is an island. For culture to work together, either it shares values or it resorts to coercion. I think most people would agree it is better to work for shared values.
  4. Modern culture’s rejection of the traditional family has led directly to modern high levels of poverty for women and children. It creates a cycle in which the children are at higher risk of all kinds of harm during childhood, experience lower chances of success throughout their own lives, and often repeat that cycle for another generation. The current poverty-and-welfare model of the single mother family does not benefit the mother, the child, or the father.
  5. As long as children continue to be born, it will be best for the children if their father and mother are together and learn to live in peace. As long as raising children costs money and takes work, it will be best for the father and mother to be a team that learns to work together well and treat each other with respect.
  6. Marriage is more than a piece of paper. The stable family model continues to benefit the parents into their old age, when they do not have to face their declining years alone. Simple and routine daily tasks can be shared, someone else can help look after the home and health, and such a simple thing as a ride to the doctor’s office can be more manageable as part of a team.
Dear pastors, seminary professors, and church leaders: whenever you see someone struggling, and that struggle could have been prevented by living in a less broken society, hear the call to step up and provide top cover.