Should We Celebrate Our Founders, or Let Their Monuments Fall?

Is slave holding based on racism the unforgivable sin?

Jefferson statue toppled in Oregon

The wrenching death of George Floyd has energized the cancel culture to the tipping point. Statues of Confederate generals, even our Founding Fathers have tumbled down while police stand down from “sanctioned” protests.

The leader of one grass-roots group, Take-em-Down NOLA, said after the Charlottesville protest, “We recognize the original sin was the genocide of the Native Americans and the enslavement of the Africans. People bring up the fact that [slave masters] were Founding Fathers. That’s people’s opinions, but for us what disqualifies you is the slave-owning.”

Now, after Floyd’s death, this claim is boiling into action and in blue states and cities critical masses are embracing this perspective: slavery and racism are the “original” and unforgivable sins of America. As we recently heard over the July 4th holiday, many protesters cannot join in the celebration of the founding of what they believe to be a racist state. As followers of Jesus, how should we respond to this claim?

A little background 

Before we get to that, in a previous post I made the case for empathy for racial minorities with regard to removing Confederate symbols. But even as I re-read that post in the wake of George Floyd’s death, I realized that when I wrote it, I had not lived my way to the measure of understanding and empathy with which I write today.

Yes, the ensuing national conversation has been co-opted by outbreaks of rioting and violence. But if we have ears to listen, we can learn more about the everyday reality that our black neighbors face and seriously discuss changes we still need to make. George Yancey, a Christian sociology professor at Baylor University, encourages us to wait another month while emotions ebb a bit and then make real efforts at these conversations which he details more in his book, Beyond Racial Gridlock.

• God’s grace covers big sins

Now back to take a closer look at the surprisingly religious beliefs that slave-holding and racism are the “original” or unforgivable sins of America. John McWhorter described it this way in The Atlantic:

[T]hird-wave antiracism is a profoundly religious movement in everything but terminology. The idea that whites are permanently stained by their white privilege, gaining moral absolution only by eternally attesting to it, is the third wave’s version of original sin. The idea of a someday when America will “come to terms with race” is as vaguely specified a guidepost as Judgment Day. Explorations as to whether an opinion is “problematic” are equivalent to explorations of that which may be blasphemous. The social mauling of the person with “problematic” thoughts parallels the excommunication of the heretic. What is called “virtue signaling,” then, channels the impulse that might lead a Christian to an aggressive display of her faith in Jesus.

David French labels it a “secular fundamentalism” characterized by certainty and a loss of humility as “…many anti-racist progressives are in the midst of a hunt for ideological heretics, and even the oldest sins can’t be forgiven. Consider that two weeks ago a Boeing executive resigned after an employee complained about an article he wrote 33 years ago opposing women in combat.”

Holding slaves based on racism–the original, unforgivable sin?

How ironic to use Biblical language to describe something that is absolutely not in the Bible. And in fact, goes counter to the great Biblical theme of grace woven throughout its larger story.

The original sin was choosing self over God. All other sins pale by comparison. But even there, God’s grace covers our sin. Forgiveness is ours if we repent and turn to the One who died for our sin. He removes our guilt. Likewise we can forgive others who have sinned egregiously, including the sins of racism and slavery based on racism.

Even if we live in a time where we are blinded by sin that is universally accepted, God shows us that he still loves and accepts sinners. (While we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).  We should still love and accept others too. 1 Cor 13 tells us that love is patient and kind. Love bears all things. How different is a movement that cancels a man’s job for an article he wrote 33 years ago. Where is grace?

We worship a God who restores big sinners who repent. Think of Abraham who lied and put Sarah in peril in the harem of a neighboring king. Twice! Think of Moses who killed the Egyptian. David who committed adultery and murder and still retained his crown.

Scripture shows us that sin is cosmic treason and has terrible consequences–big consequences resulting in exile, broken families, and painful loss for these men. (Likewise we are now seeing the terrible consequences of America’s sins of racism and slave-holding play out nightly on our TVs.)

But God upholds the honor of Abraham, Moses and David. He called Abraham a “friend of God” and David “a man after my own heart.” He talked to Moses “face to face.” The clear pattern of their lives was to choose God by faith over self.

Can we still honor someone who lived and died, blinded by their sin and unrepentant? Let me respond with another question:

• When someone gives you an extraordinary gift, and leaves an inestimable legacy, is it good to respond with gratitude and honor? 

Yes, Washington and Jefferson held slaves. But they sacrificed deeply to give us our country. They risked being drawn and quartered, the loss of all they owned. They risked their “sacred honor,” their reputations and the right to be honored. They spent months, even years away from their families, either hammering out our Declaration and Constitution in Philadelphia, or fighting the Revolutionary War or seeking political and financial support in Europe.

No other founders save Adams, who didn’t own slaves, and Franklin, who owned yet freed his slaves and became an abolitionist, gave us such great gifts of vision, principles and example that have nourished and sustained our country. Without them, it’s probable that America as we know it would not exist.

Monticello, Jefferson’s Virginia home

When it came to owning slaves, Washington freed his at his death. Jefferson, who cast the vision that “all men are created equal” and wrote it into our republic’s Declaration of Independence knew that he was not living consistently with his vision of freedom and equality. He keenly felt the tension, but simply did not have the character to translate that belief into actions. He lived a lavish lifestyle and could never bear to give it up. He was continually in debt but would not sell his property, including (as he saw it) his slaves, to settle his accounts. He left it for his children to deal with after his death.

But as we read what he wrote–The Declaration, The Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, his Notes on the State of Virginia, his Report of a Plan of Government for the Western Territory—we can see a soaring intellect, an unmatched ability to put great thoughts into elegant words, and a vision for a country of united states that would stretch from sea to shining sea. While he was not a great man or a hero, we can give honor and grateful tribute to Jefferson in proportion to the gifts he has given us.

To the protesters who want to rid America of every monument, every legacy tainted by racism, we can ask, what about our Declaration of Independence, written by a slaveholder? What about our Constitution, negotiated and ratified by entire delegations from slave-holding states? To destroy statues or historical narratives “tainted” by slavery is to destroy the foundation for the very liberties that enable your protest–freedom of assembly and speech, as well as the acknowledgement that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator” with inalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

I empathize with the protesters’ desires to have statues honoring Confederate leaders removed. Hopefully each state can build a consensus around which monuments to honor in the public square and which to tuck away into museums. Were they “racists” in the George Wallace vein? Did they work to destroy the United States of America?

Certainly that was not the case for Jefferson or Washington. They sacrificed greatly to create our nation and help it flourish.

Pay to all what is due them

“Pay to all what is due them — respect to whom respect is due (Rom 13:7).” We have received such extraordinary gifts through the founding of our nation. In a spirit of humility, knowing that we are all sinners, knowing that we all have blind spots induced by our own cultural period, may we honor our founders and cherish the legacy of Washington, Jefferson and all the others who sacrificed so much to give us America.

And may we acknowledge the terrible historic and on-going legacy of the tragedy that has been slavery based on racism. May God open our eyes to see every vestige of hurt and injustice our Black neighbors have suffered and continue to suffer. May we “pay respect to whom respect is due,” also committing to regard each person made in God’s image as precious in his eyes and worthy of equal value.  And may we work for peace, reconciliation and justice in practical ways in our own neighborhoods and churches.

Is it justice to ask for grace and forbearance if we do not take action ourselves? Will we pursue conversations of deep understanding, humility, and a commitment to unite around God’s grace and forgiveness and work to see real change take place? May we not be hearers of injustice and God’s Word only, but doers.

So…this is my opinion…please tell me yours in the comments below…

Coping, or Overcoming?

It’s easy to lose your mojo. It’s summer…when we normally downshift anyway. But more than that, we are weary of life with masks and distancing and non-stop news of the heart-breaking injustice, violence and loss in our cities. The stock market goes up and our hopes rise, only to plummet again.

To make matters worse, our election-aggravated culture war is starting to ramp up for five long months of political assault on our hearts. Hopes of returning to an economic or daily “normal” are sinking and for many a feeling of low to high-grade anxiety is settling in. Or perhaps a roller coaster of both.

There is much talk of how to cope. That is not what this post is about. Coping with all the issues mentioned above carries the idea that we are using strategies and methods to merely survive. Riding the roller coaster of news, events and emotions, but managing our fear and anxiety enough to stay on the rails and not launch into the abyss or crash at the bottom.

But interestingly, the word “cope” is not used in the Bible.

Virus, Floyd, Riots, the 1-2-3 Punch: Choosing Not to Fear

Floyd protest NYC

Proverbs 4:23  Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

How is your heart today? Seared by that slow-motion, snuff-film video? Rattled by the riots?  On top of the virus threat that lurks out there as we begin to venture out, don’t they feel like a 1-2-3 gut punch?

My heart is grieved and angry over that video.  And I’ve been ambushed by fear several times in the last few days. Maybe you have too.

If you read my April 7th post, you may remember that because I fell into such roller coastery-into the abyss-lie awake at night fear during unemployment and the Great ’08 Recession, I determined to choose to trust God during this pandemic. He has been so faithful to me. I’ve wanted to honor him with my wholehearted trust.

In April I wrote, “Suddenly, like many of you, our finances have taken a huge hit. The world has turned upside down. I miss my church. My crowd. So many people and things from my normal life…But this time, by God’s grace, I have doubled down on a proper lament: turning to God, bringing him my complaint, boldly asking for help and choosing to trust him.”

By God’s grace, as I’ve faced fiery-darts of fear and worry from the Enemy these last two and a half months, I’ve been able to hold fast to him. And then last Thursday came along.

Ambushed in Re-entry

My state, South Carolina, is opening up. For the first time in eleven weeks I popped into my car to run multiple errands—to the doctor’s office for lab tests, to Talbots to return some online purchases, and, since my three-month stash of meds was running low, to Walmart and Publix to pick up prescriptions.

I am not prone to be a fearful person and I enjoy driving, so it felt freeing to be out of the house, zipping around in my car. Almost…yes, almost normal. Then I arrived at the doctor’s office where I was greeted in the lobby by several healthcare professionals wearing masks.

First I was interrogated about my risk of exposure to Covid. Then a temperature gun was aimed at my head. Well…okay…but then the elevator. I loaded up with two other people. Then two more boarded right before the door closed. I backed into a far corner. Even though we were all masked, I suddenly felt fearful. Visions of New Yorkers catching Covid in elevators danced in my head. I got in for my blood draw, got out and nobody got hurt. I think. Back in the parking garage I quickly unhooked my mask from my hot, moist face and breathed deeply.

At age 68 and with 40 years of lab tests for rheumatoid arthritis under my belt, I hardly bat an eye at doctors’ offices and needle pricks. But this new routine creeped me out. The dark shadow of the corona virus transformed a welcome release from isolation at home into an armed maneuver into hostile territory.

From the Talbots parking lot I called in, and an associate, masked and gloved, soon came out to take my clothing items and receipts back in the store. She said she would send me an e-receipt for my refund. I watched her head back into the store, holding my purchases way out in front of her. It was very convenient. It was absolutely no fun.

Heading into Walmart, I passed a masked woman who was picking up and inspecting every ear of corn in the bin. I was perceiving everything through the lens of threat and contamination. Back in the car I popped open the hand sanitizer for the third time and headed for home.

Somehow that ride up the elevator had completely drained me of any “spirit of power, love and self-discipline.”  I spent the afternoon in a spirit of fear. Not panic. But the unsettled, high-alert feeling of living on defense, surrounded by invisible enemies, and not feeling at home in my own community. My hopes of returning to normalcy took a big hit that day. This is no way to live, I thought. How long before we return to a real normal?

Floyd’s suffocation and the “mad as hell” response

Thursday evening I watched the ceaseless coverage of “that video” on cable news. That knee on George’s neck. The callous, pitiless, stare of arrogant police power right in the camera. The breaking point. People pouring into the 3rd Precinct Police Station in Minneapolis. Setting fires. Burning it down. People in Columbus, Ohio breaking the windows in Ohio’s capitol building and heading inside. In New York City more fires and the desecration of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral with messages of BLM and “F—.“

Throughout the weekend…A fire was set at St John’s Episcopal Church across from the White House, a historic church where many presidents have worshipped. 50 Secret Service agents were wounded. Genuine outrage over the police killing an unarmed black man became muddied with other messages brought in from airports and buses ferrying outsiders to add to the chaos. Voices in the cameras threatened, “We’re going to burn the city centers and then we’re coming for the suburbs.” Police found pallets of bricks strategically located for protesters’ use. Pages of instructions on how to inflict maximum damage with minimal detection.

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,”–Yeats, “The Second Coming”

We “tremble for our country.” And yet…dozens of times God commands us in his Word, “Do not fear.” “Do not fear anything frightening.” “Do not fear what you are about to suffer.” “Do not fear. Only believe.”

what God commands he will enable us to do. We can choose not to fear. How? “Only believe.” It sounds so simplistic. Believe what? We all know that “Aslan is not a tame lion.” That people who follow Jesus do get hurt. Stoned. Torched. Crucified.

Believe that…

“I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Revelation 1:18 

“…in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.  Psalm 139:16 

Death is not the end. It is a door. And when the days that were written for you and me come down to the final one, the Lord Jesus is the only one who can slip the key in the lock, open the door and bring us home. We can choose to believe that until that final day we are immortal.

Believe that…

“You hem me in behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Psalm 139:5

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;” Psalm 23:4-5

The Hebrew for “hem me in” conveys the picture of a dense protective hedge. God surrounds us with his hedge of protection and nothing gets through it without his permission. For each thing he allows through it, he shields us from thousands of others. The car that miraculously didn’t hit us. The food or money or insurance that arrives just in time. Every day we wake up virus free.

Not only does he lay his protective “hand” on us there, we can choose to believe he is present with us. He will never leave us. He gives us abundance of provision, even in the presence of danger and enemies. Even if he allows the virus…we still suffer under his protection and in his presence.

Fear not! and believe…

“…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.   Isaiah 41:10 

In the elevator…in the store…re-entering our world…watching the injustice, riots, looting and fires on TV…we choose not to be swept up in fear, but turn our hearts to God believing he will give us everything we need to overcome this temptation to fear. We ask him for his strength and help. We have a “confident, alert expectation that he will do what he has said he will do (Eugene Peterson).” He *will* strengthen and help us. And we *will* have the joy of partnering with him in his transforming work in our lives.

Fear not! and pray…

“…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:5-6 

Over the last few days I have been reminded and challenged to pray. By John Piper who has lived in Minneapolis for decades and has written a post on “The Sorrows of Minneapolis” that has deeply calmed and encouraged me. I have enjoyed reading and praying it in sections, adding my own words.

Anne Graham Lotz whom, I believe, has a prophetic, world-wide vision of how God is at work, has also written a big, bold, expansive, confident prayer for our nation to Turn to Jesus and invited women (and men) across America to pray with her. Sunday evening–thousands of us across different time zones, lifted our requests for our hurting people up to the God of all comfort. We prayed for justice. We prayed for peace.

These prayers restore my soul. They drain away my anxiety. The longer we pray over this crisis the more our heavenly Father truly erases our fear.

It’s not enough to know these promises. We must believe they are more true than science or 2+2=4, or even our own perception. God is really with us. Helping us. Protecting us. Taking away our anxiety. With him as our loving, gracious shepherd we have all that we need. As philosopher Dallas Willard has famously said, “This world is a perfectly safe place for us.”

Yes. I just need to remember it…when I step in the elevator…when injustice sweeps away precious black lives…when Antifa starts burning my city…when the lady in Walmart picks up every piece of corn in the bin…

Is your heart afraid? So was David’s. In Psalm 56 he wrote, “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” But then, surprisingly, in Psalm 56 he also wrote, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

David proclaims his trust. But in the next breath, a fiery dart of fear hits. When virus and injustice and “anarchy is loosed” as it is right now the darts inevitably find us. “When I am afraid.” Our hearts can turn on a dime. David stops and remembers, he looks up and chooses to believe again. May God guard our hearts with his presence and promises. And turn our fears into prayers of trust. “I shall not be afraid.”

LGBT Sexuality and Persecution: What are you prepared to do?

Growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s and reading what the book of Revelation says about the persecution of Christians in the end times, I could only imagine that such apocalyptic scenarios must be way, way off in the future. Surely beyond my lifetime. We didn’t know anyone who didn’t go to church. I couldn’t fathom how our culture could change that deeply and rapidly.

“Christian Cruelty in the Face of Covid!” 5 ways to detect how the media messes with the truth

photo by Ben White at Unsplash

We are so used to fake news we usually simply sigh and move on. But every once in a while, the “news” is so egregious and the manipulation of the truth so blatant that it’s worth sharpening our critical thinking to see exactly how logic and reason are being flayed and boiled in oil.

Atlantic Monthly writers offer in-depth reporting that I often appreciate. But they jumped the shark when they published a piece by former evangelical Jonathan Merritt: Some of the Most Visible Christians in America Are Failing the Coronavirus Test: In place of love, they’re offering stark self-righteous judgment (April 23, 2020).

Here is a simple summary of Merritt’s case:

Many Christians’ response to Covid is cruel. Instead of choosing to respond with love they are “choosing to emphasize judgmental messages.”

They are “shrugging their shoulders at mass death and heaping pain on the grieving”

Merritt offers 5 examples: author John Piper, First Things editor R.R. Reno, a megachurch billboard, White House Bible study leader Ralph Drollinger*, and pastor Robert Jeffress.

This judgment and hypocrisy makes nonreligious people despise Christians. It’s costing the religion dearly—people are walking away.

But what should we expect? These are the same people who support Trump because he is a “shit talker and a fighter.”

Christians should be known by their love. Some need to go back to Sunday School and discover their roots.

“This book will make you feel better about your life”

I’ve been feeling a bit like a prisoner in my own home lately. And you? Tired of reading article..article…article…article…, I knew I needed a shot of bigger perspective.

So I picked up a book I’ve been meaning to read for a long time–One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Written by Russian Nobel Prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn and based on his own experience in the Gulag, Siberia’s network of “corrective labor camps,” I thought it might afford me a bit of a reality check on what it really means to feel like a prisoner.

And it has. But not by pounding me with horrific word pictures of torture, despair and madness.

Rather, with the artistry of understatement, irony and even wit, One Day, while written in big print and prison slang, offers great thoughts and deep meanings that gently percolate in my mind throughout the day–so different from the jangle of texts, Facebook posts and articles that leave us feeling over-stimulated and unfocused.

One Day is an easy read with a psychologically gripping ending I never saw coming. It makes me think. And give thanks.

Researching it a little more online, I discovered that when a movie based on the book was released in ’76, the narrator of the trailer hooked me with exactly what I was looking for: “This movie will make you feel better about your life.” So will the book. Much better.

Missing My Crowd, Unemployment: A Passion Week Lament and an Easter Challenge to Trust

from Robert Doares’ Immanuel: The Life of Christ

It just feels wrong to spend Palm Sunday and Easter at home. I wished I’d been on my way to church yesterday instead of listening to a sermon on line. I so missed seeing our kids waving palm branches. Singing praises and hosannas in a room full of voices blending so strongly that my own is submerged in a sea of praise.

My morning began with a silent reading about a day of praise. Jesus riding in, gently, peaceably down the Mount of Olives through the Beautiful gate and the streets of Jerusalem.

What was missing yesterday was the crowds.

Can you imagine lining up behind Jesus 6 ft. apart? Walking down the Mount of Olives in single file? It really puts a damper on the joy. Sucks all the energy out of the scene. We were meant to worship in crowds. Multitudes. Singing loudly to our God and king.

It was just not the same singing along with the TV. Or even with a few neighbors on our decks/balconies.

Corona Virus and the Good, Loving Sovereignty of God

As I write this there’s a chance that Jack and I have been exposed to Covid-19. We were already starting to wind down non-essential outings, but when friends asked us to meet them for lunch last Wednesday, we agreed. They mentioned that their son had just returned from the Caribbean where he worked with a water purification project for a local ministry. When he left here there were no recorded cases in the Caribbean basin.

Pete Buttigieg, Gay Marriage and the Witness of the South Carolina African-American Church

If you read the obituaries on Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign you probably read many reasons for his loss, none of which mention his struggle to attract black church-going voters because he is gay.

Mayor Pete often made the case that his homosexuality was entirely compatible with his Christian faith. He said there are many different ways to interpret the Bible and that, in fact, his relationship with his husband made him feel closer to God. And if anyone had a problem with his sexual orientation they could talk to his Creator.

And yet, on CNN Dana Bash had interviewed South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, 3rd ranking African-American in Congress, about this issue: “You said to me on this program in November that mayor Buttigieg will have trouble with older African-American voters in South Carolina because he’s gay. He’s done really well in Iowa. He’s done really well in New Hampshire. As voters learn more about him, do you think they will still feel that way?”

Two questions to ask every socialist-leaning candidate

Is socialism a more moral option than free markets?

At an ethics forum at the University of Oregon in 2012, Christian author Dinesh D’Souza and atheist Michael Shermer were both asked by a concerned Christian, “In my understanding of Christ’s teachings, taking care of the poor and the sick was of utmost importance. So I was hoping you could talk about why you don’t think that universal healthcare is a very important question for Christians these days.”

In this election year and the eve of the South Carolina primary his question still resonates. Is voting for universal health care a moral imperative for Christians? Is voting for socialized medicine in particular and socialism in general a more moral alternative to a free market economy?

D’Souza’s response raises two questions that every follower of Jesus should consider as we try to be good stewards of our citizenship and our vote in 2020.

Impeachment and Election 2020: Fighting Peaceably for What We Believe

Three questions to ask ourselves

“What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:12-14

In the midst of impeachment furor and an election year, how do we “seek peace and pursue it?” How do we, as Christians who are charged to show a watching world what the Kingdom of God looks like, talk about impeachment, our leaders and election issues in personal conversations? On social media?

Especially if we support President Trump. So many evangelical Christians, especially the younger generation, are wondering how evangelicals can support him and still follow Christ. Here are three questions to ask ourselves if we want to maintain a good witness and example in 2020:

Harry and Meghan Step Back from “Privilege,” Should we feel guilty too?

“Royal No More,” blared the headlines this weekend as Queen Elizabeth settled Prince Harry and Meghan’s appeal to become part-time royals with part time duties representing the crown. “No,” she replied. On Saturday she revoked their titles of HRH—his and her royal highness—and declared they will no longer represent her or the crown.

This came as a shock to Prince Harry who on Saturday described himself as “extremely sad” that a compromise could not be reached. More than any other members of the royal family, Harry and Meghan appear to be very ambivalent about the whole concept of “privilege,” so much so that they named their child Archie Harrison (Harry’s son)—a typical British, non-royal name, and have not asked the queen to give him the title of prince, as was done for William’s Prince Louis. They want to live a more non-royal life split between Canada and Windsor and raise Archie to be more of a normal child.

Why has the whole concept of “privilege” become suspect? What is “privilege”? How is it different from blessing? Should we feel guilty about our “privilege”?

HBO’s Chernobyl: Socialism’s Epic Fail is Summer’s Best Viewing

And holds profound lessons for 2020

During these dog days of summer, HBO is offering one week free access—just enough to watch the blockbuster 5-part series (if you didn’t see it in May) on the 1986 nuclear plant disaster that spread radiation all across Europe. Extremely well-written, terrific acting and an uncanny replication of 1986 Soviet Union, according to my husband who has taught theology there many times. And, It. Is. Riveting.

The series begins with Valery Legasov, First Deputy Director of the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy, recording tapes he will secretly pass on to his fellow scientists. As the lead scientist on the committee to investigate the disaster, he vents his frustration with the core values of Soviet socialism:

“What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, we no longer recognize the truth at all. What happens then? All we can do is abandon the truth and content ourselves instead with stories.”

But at Chernobyl, all the State stories hit the wall of reality.

Legasov knew the truth as soon as he read the first report: graphite was on the ground outside the reactor. The reactor had not simply released steam, like Three Mile Island. Neither did the core melt down from a disruption in the cooling system. Chernobyl’s core had exploded.

Sephora’s Transgender Ad: “We belong to something beautiful”

If we could sit down for coffee I'd ask some questions...

Walking down the mall last week I saw this large poster in the Sephora makeup retailer window. It was the end of June, gay pride month, and of all the messages I’d seen celebrating LGBT I found it the most riveting–a made-up face with the gender neutral pronouns down the side and the ad campaign slogan across the bottom: “We belong to something beautiful.”

I continued on to my car, but the poster haunted me. I live in Columbia, South Carolina, not exactly a hotbed of LGBT activism. But here was this poster in our neighborhood mall going beyond asking for acceptance for transgendered people. It went beyond celebration of diversity. It made a strong moral statement: Transgender is beautiful.

When it is July hot and 150% humidity, I walk for exercise in the mall. So a few days later I was back, approaching the store and considering whether to talk with the manager. I reached the store and searched the windows. No poster. I entered and who should greet me but…the manager. She welcomed me with a friendly smile.

“Can I help you?” she asked.
“Hello,” I said. “Yes, last time I passed by you had a poster in your front window that said, ‘We belong to something beautiful.’ I noticed that today it’s gone…”

“Yes,” the manager responded, “we passed the end of the month and we always change them after a month.”
“I’ve wanted to tell you that I’ve really been thinking about your poster and its message.”

Three Reasons Why I Honor Our Slave-Holding Founders and Celebrate July 4th

Jack “with” Founding Father Thomas Jefferson at Monticello

The leader of one grass-roots group, Take-em-Down NOLA, has said, “We recognize the original sin was the genocide of the Native Americans and the enslavement of the Africans. People bring up the fact that [slave masters] were Founding Fathers. That’s people’s opinions, but for us what disqualifies you is the slave-owning.”

Many have embraced this perspective: slavery and mistreatment based on race is the “original” and apparently unforgivable sin of America. They cannot join in the celebration of the founding of a racist state. As followers of Jesus, how should we respond? Especially on July 4th?

“I am not my body!”  Compassion, peace and hope when we feel alienated from our bodies

May God deepen our compassion for those who live in this tension and bring us wholeness and peace

Whether because of aging, illness, gender dysphoria, injury, anorexia, or even weight gain, many of us feel that who we are on the outside is not who we really are on the inside. When I first encountered the transgender community rallying cry, “I am not my body,” I was shocked. “I am not my body” had been my heart cry for years.

I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 29.

I could empathize with the trans who felt like the male on the inside didn’t really align with her biologically female body. Or the gay guy feeling like his inner longings for connection did not align with his body’s ability to connect. I too felt like: This body betrays me. It’s not who I really am in my heart of hearts.

With the onset of RA I began to fight terrible pain and loss of mobility. The joint pain that had settled into my feet moved steadily up my body—knees, hips, hands, elbows, shoulders. Ten weeks after it began I remember lying in bed the night my jaw joint started to ache. My inner snark thought, Well, at least it can’t spread any further. No joints in my brain.

Landing at Normandy with a “lawn chair and a book to read”

Today is June 6, and TV and newspapers are filled with commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the D-day invasion of Normandy in World War II. In order to land 130,000 troops on a shoreline without harbors (where they wouldn’t be expected), an entire nation had to drop their daily concerns and become players in winning the historic battle.

In the segregated South, a small landing craft factory employing eighty people hired tens of thousands of whites and blacks, men and women, all working shoulder to shoulder, making the same wage. Troops trained, jumping out of boat-sized cardboard boxes and high-stepping through imaginary surf with their rifles up until exhaustion. On the morning of the invasion, more than 2,500 Americans were shot, blown up, or drowned.

Back home in New York’s Grand Central Station, when the invasion was announced, a woman sitting on a bench sank to her knees in prayer, and then another and another, until almost the entire crowd kneeled to pray for God’s mercy on their sons and countrymen. In wartime Grand Central Station became a house of prayer.

A Psalm of Lament and Praise for 2019

2019—a new beginning. My heart is filled with hope and also lament—the makings of a David-styled patchwork psalm from my own heart to God.

God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day, Psalm 7:11.

As I look into this new year, read the news and take the stories and research to heart, I too feel indignant. And deeply sad. Lord how can it be that…

…56 million a year are dying from abortion, almost four times as many as from heart disease and stroke (the next leading cause of death). These little ones are human beings, yet, for no scientific reason, they are denied personhood by American law that promises to protect life.

…Entire groups of school friends are cheered as heroes with soaring social standing for surgically altering their bodies to match the “gender” they want to be. The doctors who will cut off breasts and penises and dispense powerful hormone therapy drugs are seen as “compassionate.”

…If a gay student wants to change his sexual feelings to like girls, THIS is unspeakable and taboo. And any therapist who would help altering sexual desire simply by talk therapy is “dangerous.” Guilty of a “barbaric” and “cruel” practice.

Advanced Christmas Story Trivia: how well do you really know the story?

And a Christmas Trivia game to enjoy over the holidays

Angels, shepherds, wise men, Jesus lying in a manger–we know the story so well. But it’s been sweetened up, romanticized, censored, stripped of its violence and desperation through the years. It’s good to go back to the original sources and renew our appreciation of the extreme drama of the story.

Here are 9 questions to challenge you and your family to worship a God who would orchestrate such an amazing story to reconcile us to himself. (You might enjoy using one each night as a conversation starter at dinner. You can even include these questions in a larger game of Advanced Christmas Trivia to share at Christmas gatherings with additional categories like music and history using this free download.)

1. What four women are mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus?
2. In what way does the Christmas story include murder?