Monday, November 18, 2013

Politically Correct Christianity

Recently I was at a meeting of Christian singles and the subject came up about a survey of Christians that showed a serious majority believed Christianity was not the only way to heaven.  What surprised me was that some members of the group there at the meeting held the same view.  Some even held other views on homosexuality and sex outside of marriage that were not in keeping with the traditional Christian views that such behaviors were outside of God’s best plan for us.  They justified their positions on these issues by saying that God made homosexuals or that humans have changed over the centuries. I found that position of what I’ll call “Politically Correct Christianity” to be surprising…especially since they said it was even apparently being preached from some mainstream pulpits.

I have repeatedly said here on this blogsite that we need to recognize that we all fall short of God’s expectations for us.  Lying, stealing, murder, adultery, etc. are committed by most all of us, and we still consider ourselves Christians and heaven bound.  Those who are homosexuals or follow another faith or are having sex outside of marriage are no worse than I am and are welcome in my church.  But for me to say that there is no mistake in what they do is un-Biblical…just as wrong as saying that what I do that falls short of God’s expectations is not wrong.  We have an obligation to at least try to live into the expectations of God.  Saying they are no longer “sins” is not the answer.  Part of showing love to one another is the “tough love” of correcting when something is wrong and is done for the benefit of the one corrected.  Yes, I know that many Christians are prone to the idea that “Grandpa God” is just all loving and never would punish anyone, but that idea just doesn’t agree with anything Jesus said.  I’m going to let God be God and do what he deems proper.  I have enough trouble being myself, I don’t need to try to be God and make up my own rules and outcomes.

A very good friend of mine who wishes to remain anonymous put it this way much better than I can:

“I agree with you, first we must let God be God.  When a person expresses a belief that conflicts with accepted biblical truth, it has to do with what they want rather than what's in God's word. For a Christian to say that God lets anyone from any faith into heaven, trivializes Jesus' sacrifice for us, ignores the righteous judgment of God, and asserts self-centered disobedience.

We are all disobedient. What's amazing is that the only sin that God regards as unforgivable is the absolute rejection of God and his offering of forgiveness through Jesus. We must realize how petty, selfish and independent we are. We must humble ourselves and cease to believe that we know better than God. We must not believe that we have all the answers and do not need the instruction of God's word. We must not try to redefine God's word in an effort to persuade ourselves that we're obedient.

The Bible stresses that the day will come when we'll say that what God has said is wrong, is right, and what God has said is good is wrong.  That seems to be happening now.  I struggle with both issues of homosexuality and sex outside marriage.  For a long time, I've believed that I should tolerate, but not accept, homosexuality.  As Christians, I think that we are not supposed to become comfortable with behaviors that are accepted by current culture but are offensive and unacceptable to God.  I have Christian friends who say "what does it matter" or "I don't care" in regards to homosexuality.  But doesn't Paul make it clear in his writings that the church should be intolerant of behavior that is in opposition to the will of God and which might make the church useless to God? Yet there are many churches that no longer honor the male/female relationship, instead demanding a different definition of marriage. Aren't they attempting to change God's word with the intent of making the church an all-welcoming, all embracing, all tolerating entity?  I don't think the purpose of the church is to be all-inclusive or embracing of all philosophies.”

We are charged to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  That means no matter what their falling short of God’s word encompasses.  But our faith is supposed to change us as much as possible, and to deny that is to destroy our faith and make a mockery of it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Relationship 101

I’ve mentioned before how strongly I feel that relationship matters more than any of us realize.  We were built for it and when we don’t have it we sicken.  I am going to mention some real obvious basics here, but they are worth repeating and considering on a daily basis with all our interactions.

Most of the discussions I read talk about relationship in terms of how you can make someone else happy by how you act toward them and misses the point that when you actually show concern and caring for another person, it is you that is made happy as well.  Let’s use a very fundamental example: have you ever taken candy or a toy away from a child and seen the hurt on their face.  Did it make you happy?  How about when you gave that child candy or a toy and you saw the look on their face?  Did that make you happy?  It’s not much different in our interactions with adults.  Win an argument by browbeating someone down and I doubt you’ll come away with that much joy…but choose to compliment someone on a job well done and see the look on their face actually give you real pleasure.  (Actually, try it on your wife or girlfriend and tell her how beautiful she is to you and see what you feel after her response.  The opposite would be telling her you are never going to talk to her again…I don’t advise testing that one out.)
Even when you do have to stand your ground and be negative about something like a moral or legal issue, do it from a position of love and self-control…and remember, just because you are the loudest doesn’t mean you are right.

Each one of the above situations is a relational transaction.  When we show love we create something positive.  When we don’t we are left with an emptiness.  When we are driven to abuse others in order to win an advantage or some achievement we show our insecurity.  Relationship is more important than achievement.  How many famous people do you hear about that step all over people in their rise to power and then commit suicide because they aren’t in positive relationships with anyone.

We don’t do relationship very well in American society.  We relate much better to our things rather than other people, and we need to reverse that outcome.  So make your achievements enhance other people, treat others with love and respect, and take pleasure in growing the relationships you have that will truly sustain you.  I don't think it's any accident that the Golden Rule is "Do unto others, as you  would have them do unto you."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Fight For America

I read a Veterans Day article recently that asked “Is America worth fighting for?”  I was shocked by the question.  I was concerned that it even needed to be asked.  The concept of “America” is truly exceptional.  That a country could design itself in such a way that it would value the individual’s rights and set up a system to protect those rights is largely unheard of in the history of mankind.  Now, did we do it perfectly?  No. But it has been a progressive attempt overall to do it right.

I think the article’s real concern was “have we abandoned those principles that we used to found the country.”  Are individual rights being sacrificed in the name of some form of political correctness?  Are self-reliance and family values a thing of the past?  Is government regulation of every facet of our lives the way a free country operates?  Are the inalienable rights to free expression, religion, privacy, and the pursuit of happiness being ever eroded in an attempt to control the overall image of what an American should look like and who Americans should be?

I’m not a big “Hawk” when it comes to wars.  I think war is pretty stupid and is the outcome of failed diplomacy in most cases (though there are exceptions.)  I do think America is worth fighting for, but that fight needs to be fought right now here at home, not by soldiers in the Middle East.  Who we are here in America is what is at stake, not who is threatening us from the outside.

Are we a free country that operates on the principle that the right to govern is derived from those governed?  Do we have a political system that fosters that with intelligent and informed voting by everyone.  Do we have a practical and effective way to remove leaders who do not foster that outcome.  And most of all, do we avoid a system that develops entrenched long term political leadership that is beholden to financial interests and power blocks that literally buy their votes with perks and lavish campaign funding.  And lastly, have we developed a society that looks to the public trough to care for them rather than the self-reliance that our founders believed in.

That America is worth fighting for!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Moonlight Madness

I’m fascinated when I look at the night sky.  Just seeing the moon, what amounts to a gigantic bolder just floating suspended in the sky above us, neither falling nor spinning off into space, leaves me speechless.  I wonder constantly what primitive people imagined about the great “nightlight” in the sky.  What did they conjure up in their minds about the sun for that matter?  And even in our sophisticated 21st century minds can we easily wrap our conceptions around a fire ball in the sky, burning for more years than we can fathom…and wonder, who or what lit that fire.

Half the moon is set to face me in a perpetual wink tonight.  The man in the moon hides on its other side oblivious to Venus as she sneaks up behind him.  Earthbound, I listen to crickets and marvel at how they make their music amid the flowers along the edge of my pond.  Just to look at the detail in one of those flowers (called a weed by my county agriculture specialist) the size of a matchhead at most, yet spreading unstoppably across the entire meadow each summer, makes me again amazed at the diversity and persistence of life on this planet.

I feel sometimes like I take life for granted instead of marveling at the immensity of it and the staggering magic behind it.  Today was simply another day of work and obligations to be met, and were it not for this momentary lapse while looking at the moon, I would have missed it and never appreciated it.  Perhaps we all would benefit from a few more moments of seeing rather than looking at the world around us.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

More Than 50 Shades Of Gray

I read some amazing statistics the other day.  In America 57% of evangelical Protestants believe that many different religions can offer eternal life.  Conversely, Jehovah’s Witnesses had a majority that held that their beliefs were the “one true faith.”  (Since Jehovah’s Witnesses believe this is Heaven right now here on earth, I guess it really doesn’t matter what their percent was!  For them there is no eternal life in heaven.)  The survey of all people who were part of any form of religion in the U.S. yielded 70% who thought other religions were just as good at getting the “E” ticket ride to the pearly gates.  I was floored by all this, and I think it has a lot to do with our political culture in this country in the last 50 years.  They say we are becoming and “entitlement society” here for all our give away programs.  Only 2% of Americans believe they could go to hell…we apparently feel we are all “entitled” to heaven as well.

You see, we are pumped full of “diversity” mantras.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we look down, abuse, or discriminate against anyone because they are different cultures or beliefs or races.  However, it has produced a sense of “relativism” in our society--a “do your own thing” attitude from the 60s, a “situational ethics” of the 70s.  Relativism.  Universalism.  It produces the idea that if we encourage and embrace diversity, that we somehow are affirming that all beliefs are correct and good.  And it has produced a huge backlash against Christians for holding to the tenets of their faith, which is seen as holding back all the openness and diversity embracing political mantra.  We can no longer hold the belief that homosexuality is not what God wants or that marriage is designed to be between a man and a woman to produce children rather than adopt them.  So is it any wonder that we have created an environment to cause Christians to say…hmmm, society says my faith is wrong to believe these things, perhaps my faith is wrong to be so arrogant as to say it is the only way to eternal life.

Christ was EXTREMELY clear.  I am the way the truth and the life…Unless you believe in Me…NO man comes to the father but by ME…Unless you drink MY blood and eat My flesh.  How Christians can say there are other ways to heaven is beyond me.

Then there is the other side to this story.  Muslims are actively promoting speakers who try to prove Christianity a fraud.  They also are actively promoting more Muslims by having three times as many babies as non-Muslim westerners are having.  They literally will outnumber Christians everywhere in a matter of very few years.  When that day comes, all this politically correct diversity will cease to exist in America, a rigid society will ensue, and you will have to earn your way to heaven by your adherence to the tenets and behaviors of Islam.  If that’s what you want, better start practicing bowing down toward Mecca five times a day right now, so you’ll be ready and heaven bound.

Here is a story that makes a good closing point.  I am sorry, I don’t have a source that I can quote for who actually wrote it:

An elderly professor of world religions surprised his colleagues by declaring his commitment to Christ.  He explained: "It was as if I had fallen into a deep, abandoned well.  Muhammad came by and told me it was the will of Allah that I be in this well, then he left.  The Buddha came by and told me if I would cease desire I would cease to suffer in the well, then he left.  A Hindu teacher came by and told me if I was faithful in the well I would escape through reincarnation, then he left.  Confucius came by and told me if I'd not tripped I would not be in the well, then he left.  Jesus came by, saw me, and got into the well with me.  That is why I am a Christian."

The really neat thing about Christianity is that it’s all about grace.  You don’t earn it.  You aren’t required to be perfect and holy.  Ordinary flawed people can ask for that forgiveness and try to change.  You don’t have to earn anything.  No one is perfect…but we are perfected through God’s grace as Christians.  Jesus gets in the well with us.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Father Time

I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of time.  Tonight we are going to set our clocks back and change time for our own purposes.  Einstein spent some effort on discussing the concept of time and studying it, and the essence of his theory of relativity pretty much says that time is not constant.  Time is always structured in relation to other things…planetary movement, events, speed, distance traveled, etc.  If these things change then time does.  They did an experiment where they timed atomic clocks traveling around the world in supersonic jets.  When they compared them to clocks on the ground, they showed that less time had elapsed in the jets.  Time in our universe is not constant (to me this has huge unanswered implications for the age of our universe and the geologic processes used to date events on our planet.)  Time seems unfathomable.  To imagine something as timeless is even more difficult to understand.

Light (electromagnetic radiation) has always fascinated me as well.  The speed of light actually is constant when traveling through a vacuum.  It seems to be about the only real constant in the universe.  How fortunate we are, because light is what causes photosynthesis so plants can live and animals can therefore survive.  How interesting that seems to me that light should show constancy when light is used as the image of God in the Bible.  Darkness is the image of Satan.  Light is what we see by, darkness causes us to stumble. The first of God’s creations was light.  He is referred to as light…and I believe His timeless love and light is the most important constant in the universe.  No wonder some past civilizations worshiped the Sun and it's why I worship the Son.

Don't forget to set your clocks back, folks!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Health Care

OK, here is my question:  Years ago we created a program called Medicare (which you still have to pay for when you start using it) and we also created one called Social Security.  We made it so that those programs had all workers paying into it for 40 or 50 years so they could then collect a small pension for approximately 5 or 10 years at the most before they would be dead.  That is the “actuarial” planning data essentially.  Now mind you, both of those programs are scheduled to go completely broke in only a few years from now.  Given that information, how on earth do we think we can structure a program where everyone below a certain income gets free or subsidized health care (for much longer -birth until death – not just a few retired years) provided by those who earn more and have the money to pay for their own health plan and everyone else’s and still have the program remain solvent.  Not likely to be a sustainable idea from what I’ve already seen the government do with Medicare and Social Security!  I can just imagine somewhere down the line we’ll see the average (unsubsidized) guy with a family of four paying $30,000 a year for health insurance -- or else the government will just continue to borrow money from China until they come over and get the deed for the good ‘ole USA.

Somehow, we need to figure another way that everyone can get health care.  This feels like a band-aid on a broken leg.