I’ve watched the acrimony and violence of this past week with a heavy heart. The Director of the FBI is by most accounts a man of “north star” integrity. Yet when he condemned Hillary Clinton as “extremely careless” in handling classified information without recommending a criminal indictment, he was harshly attacked. Two days later white police shot and killed blacks who seemed suspect. A black shooter in Dallas vented his rage by shooting as many white police officers as he could.
We tend to think that we can rip and tear at the fabric of America, but that our laws and institutions are indestructible. They can take whatever assault we deliver. But nations as well as families rest ultimately on a foundation of trust. A trust based on respect for the dignity of each individual as well as respect for the laws and institutions that protect us.
We look back over this week and wonder if that trust is fraying into an irreparable breach. And we wonder, what responsibility do we bear for being ministers of reconciliation who take seriously the call to care for our culture?
At an author’s retreat a few years ago Liz Curtis Higgs grabbed several of us and said, “Come on, let’s take a picture of the Silver Foxes together.” In today’s culture that worships youth, her proud ownership of her silvering hair infected all of us. I’ve never thought of mine quite the same. While ageing is a fact, our attitude determines how we experience it. And more and more of us are experiencing it.
Experiencecorps.org reports that by 2030 the number of Americans age 55 and older will reach 107.6 million (31 percent of the population). Americans reaching age 65 today have an average life expectancy of an additional 17.9 years (19.2 years for females and 16.3 years for males).
This generation of retirees can anticipate far more from their fourth-quarter than previous generations. They will be the healthiest, longest lived, best educated, most affluent seniors in history. According to a survey conducted for Civic Ventures, 59 percent of older Americans see retirement as “a time to be active and involved, to start new activities, and to set new goals.”
The only way to get to San Rafael Pie de la Cuesta is to drive down a dry riverbed. We bounced so much down the boulders in outback Guatemala that I arrived brain-rattled and bruised, but laughing because of the great company we were in.
On a missions training trip, we had come with our new friends Harry and Patty Larson to encourage and equip the leaders of a small church there. Together with their young son Peter the five of us bedded down in a tiny room off the back of the church, “air conditioned” by a 12-inch gap between the walls and ceiling.
Lying there in the dark we could hear the soft flapping of something swooping through the gap, in and out of our room. Unsettled, I asked, “What is that?” From his bed Harry began singing in a perfect Sesame Street Transylvanian accent, “One bat hanging in the steeple, One bat flies in through the door….” Patty chimed in, “That makes two bats in my belfry, Wonderful!”
We giggled at The Count’s perfect tribute to our adventure and drifted off to sleep. I was awakened by dogs barking and a rooster crowing. In the middle of the night. And then the bed started to shake.
“Jack,” I half-whispered, “what is that?”
“It’s just a big truck going down the street.” And he rolled over.
As if a big truck could have made it down that riverbed.
The shaking grew worse. And worse. Earthquake!!
I sat bolt upright. “What do I do?!”
Harry responded, “It’s ok. You’re ok!”
The shaking grew worse.
“What do I do?!!”
A young mom and I were eating lunch at Chick-fil-A when she asked me, “I saw your Faith and Culture website…What do you think about the boycott of Target?” Thinking that some of you may have questions about the bathroom wars over the transgender issue, I’ll answer her question and others in this post.
To begin with, it’s always helpful to clarify the basics:
Q: What is a transgendered person?
A: Although they get lumped into the LG BT acronym, a transgender person is very different from a gay or lesbian person. A gay or lesbian experiences a same-sex attraction in their sexual orientation. A transgender person is one who feels like the sex of the person they are inside does not align with the biologically endowed person they are on the outside.
The live in constant tension between the two, which is why many try to resolve the tension with hormone therapy or sex-change surgery. They believe that if who they are on the inside could be chemically or surgically aligned with who they are on the outside that they could finally live a more peaceful and happy life.
Q: So their bodies and their brains don’t match?
Many experts in today’s culture would have us believe that the nurturing of children and family relationships are not as important to our flourishing as individual fulfillment. And, as we pursue individual fulfillment, the changes to the family mean a march of social evolution toward freedom and happiness–being on “the right side of history.”
Despite the leftist lean of the social sciences over the last sixty years, the best research tells a different story.
The New York Times calls Princeton Professor Robby George “the country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker.” He is a champion of the sanctity of life, the institutions of marriage and family, and the freedoms of conscience and religion. He helps us articulate solid reasons for what we believe about these things, whether we rely on Scripture or not.
God is pleased to use the foolish, the weak and lowly of this world. He also uses men and women of great learning, like the apostle Paul and Dr. George. His official ivory tower title is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Founder and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.
He holds degrees in law and theology from Harvard and a doctorate in philosophy of law from Oxford. He is the prime thinker behind the Manhattan Declaration and Glen Beck hails him as “one of the biggest brains in America.” You can see his books here.
Dr. George will speak at a free forum in Columbia, SC this Mon, Nov 16 (details here). Here are 3 ways he can equip and inspire you right now:
First, he clarifies the challenges to life, liberty and law and helps us respond. Take 5 minutes to watch this video on “Why We’re Losing Liberty.”
It rained over twenty inches in our fair city last weekend. This weird radar-red and yellow arm reached way up out of Hurricane Joaquin , pinned Columbia down and kept pouring water on our heads. Coming on the heels of over a week of soaking rains, this final unrelenting round of Joaquin waterboarding threatened to drown us. We spluttered and coughed, but thankfully, we survived.
Creeks and streams filled to overflowing Saturday night. Dams on neighborhood lakes liquified and began to breach. On Sunday morning our friend Justin launched his fishing boat down a nearby street in his subdivision and began rescuing people whose homes were quickly filling with water—one family huddled together on top of their kitchen table. Where else do you go when your car is already under three feet of rising water and there is no dry land in sight?
We can never know how we would respond to the ultimate threat. But a thoughtful heart check sheds light on what we treasure most.
While our choices matter to God, he tells us our motives matter even more. God is always looking at our hearts.
Thinking of what I would say to a shooter pointing a gun at my head was not nearly as revealing for me as pondering why I would say it. As you read these wildly different responses from the candid crew over on Reddit how does it clarify your motives?
If you locked all the Hollywood reality TV writers in a room until they came up with a script that would compare to our nightly news episodes they’d never be seen again. Each evening we tune in to discover what our crazy cast of characters has been up to today. And we are not disappointed.
Just in the last few days…over at the Values Voter Summit the billionaire with the uniquely crafted hair was waving his Bible in the air. Back in July, when asked whether he has ever asked God for forgiveness for his actions, Mr. Trump responded, “…if I do something wrong, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”
But on Saturday he was all about reading the inscription in his “favorite book” and in his closing remarks held it aloft once more, reminding the evangelical voters, “This is the key.” Except maybe for the forgiveness part?
In New Hampshire a 74-year old socialist, Bernie Sanders, leads Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton 46% to 30%. One of two very smart women in the Great Race made some very curious decisions to take her government email off the grid and wipe her server. (Inquiring minds will be lining up at the October Benghazi hearings to find out why.)
Meanwhile the other very smart woman, Carly Fiorina, was bombarded with condoms at an Iowa tailgate party by supporters of Planned Parenthood. (Really, you could not make this stuff up. But wait, there’s more!)
The more the world changes from modern to postmodern the more thinkers (and thinking) are needed. In today’s culture it’s going to take more and more courage to stand against the feelings and experiences of other people. If we rely mainly on our own feelings and experiences to base our faith on, how will we have the courage to sacrifice? To go against the cultural flow? How can we grow as thinkers?
We find ourselves in a culture saturated with images–videos, games, selfies, Pinterest, movies, Instagram, TV, even notable quotes are embedded in pictures for heightened impact. And while images capture our attention, we don’t process them the same way we do words.
Are you a thinker or a feeler? If you’re a thinker like me, is growing into more of a feeler something you might want to be more intentional about? If you’re a feeler, how might you inspire a thinker to grow into more of a feeler? Or is that something we can change?
Before we go any further, what does it means to be a thinker? According to the Myers Briggs gold standard of personality testing…you know you’re a thinker if, when it comes to decision making,…
…you make decisions with your head and want to be fair.
…you like to find the basic truth or principle to be applied, regardless of the specific situation involved.
…you like to analyze pros and cons, and then be consistent and logical in deciding, not letting personal feelings get in the way.
You know you’re a feeler if…
“We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds.
We have become cunning and learned the arts of obfuscation and equivocal speech.
Experience has rendered us suspicious of human beings, and often we have failed to speak to them a true and open word.
Unbearable conflicts have worn us down or even made us cynical. Are we still of any use?
We will not need geniuses, cynics, people who have contempt for others, or cunning tacticians, but simple, uncomplicated, and honest human beings.
Will our inner strength to resist what has been forced on us have remained strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves blunt enough, to find our way back to simplicity and honesty?” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, Germany, 1943-45)
Until you reach the last lines you might think this quote could be from political outsiders Ben Carson, or Carly Fiorina…or, if it weren’t so eloquent and respectful, even Donald Trump. Simply substitute “political class” for “human beings” in line three.
Planned Parenthood supporters are leaning on congress and the media to kill the story of what’s really going on inside America’s abortion trade. Reminds me of how England’s slave ship owners did *not* want the Brits to see what went on inside the slave ships. We are living in Wilberforce times, no?
William Wilberforce was the British Member of Parliament who led the fight to abolish the slave trade. If you haven’t seen Amazing Grace, the 2006 movie about that struggle, now would be a good time. Especially to see the scene where Wilberforce has arranged for a pleasure cruise of British lords and ladies to pass by the moored slave ship Madagascar. Watch them recoil at the chains and manacles draped across the stern that had recently bound its human cargo. Imagine the stench as they hold their noses.
Ioan Griffudd as Wilberforce calls out from above the manacles, “I want you to remember that smell… remember the Madagascar… remember, God made men equal.”
Wilberforce and his friends in Clapham Circle feel compelled by their love for God and each person he created to not just tell but show the truth about slavery. Thanks to them and the encouragement of Prime Minister William Pitt (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), eventually things change. But only as the public becomes more and more aware of the abominations that are out of sight/out of mind.
In addition to the PP supporters who want to keep hiding the truth from public outrage and legal investigation, I’ve heard too many conservative newscasters and friends say they do not recommend watching the Planned Parenthood videos because they’re too graphic. Please don’t follow their advice. Here’s why…
Dear Planned Parenthood,
With great interest I watched your apology in response to the undercover video of your Senior Director of Medical Services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, discussing the sale of human livers, hearts and lungs.
“Our top priority is the compassionate care that we provide,” said Cecile Richards, your president. “In the video, one of our staff members speaks in a way that does not reflect that compassion. This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements.”
Planned Parenthood apologizes for a lack of compassion. What do you mean by “compassion?
This is the way Dictionary.com defines it: “Compassion: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”
Compassion is always directed at another person. Please clarify: Whom do you think deserved compassion but didn’t receive it?
The Supreme Court released its long-awaited ruling on gay marriage Friday morning. By a vote of five to four it’s now legal in all fifty states. We are living through a tidal wave of cultural change. How do you respond?
Maybe you are celebrating the news. Relieved that the issue will not need to be fought out state by state. Glad for your friends who are gay. Maybe you are working hard to show tolerance in this new social reality but, under the surface, are you seething? (Or maybe not under the surface…)
If you are angry, sort it out…why?
It’s been a terrible, no good, very bad week for the Duggars and their 19 Kids and Counting reality TV show. A few days ago a celebrity gossip tabloid reported that twelve years ago Josh, the oldest child, fondled 5 young girls, several of them his sisters. He was 14 at the time. The tabloid took the police report public and the web has exploded with condemnation.
19 KIDS AND COUNTING
(August 22, 2010 update: With Josh Duggar’s confession of unfaithfulness and holding an account on the Ashley Madison website that facilitates adultery, I’ve written a sequel to this post.)
Parents Jim Bob and Michelle have been publicly shamed for calling it a “very bad mistake” and covering it up. Last night CNN’s Don Lemon and his guests slammed them for dealing with Josh through a religious lens of sin and repentance rather than acknowledging “the reality”: his actions are a crime and he should be reported to the police. (Really? Keep reading…)
The Learning Channel is deciding whether to continue producing the show. Viewers are deciding whether they will continue to watch it. Or permit their children to watch it. Many of us are listening to the uproar wondering how to respond to fellow-believers with wisdom and grace. And no doubt many families with a similar experience are watching this unfold in horror of what this all means for the way they handle their own children.
Suppose you are an Indian who runs a vegan café in Indiana. (You are Jainist and your faith opposes the taking of animal life.) And suppose a customer wants you to cater their wedding with your amazing vegan creations, but please, just put some chicken wings on the side for non-vegans.
If you refuse this service should the offended customer (backed by the NRA, Ducks Unlimited and the force of government) see you have to shut down your café and lose your livelihood because of the heavy fines imposed? Would it make sense to justify this because you clearly “hate” and are prejudiced against meat-eaters?
Do you really want the government to force you to violate your core beliefs? This is the question at the heart of the intense debate in the wake of this past weekend’s social media campaign as well as last summer’s Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision.
On Sunday, April 19th, Pepperdine University Law Professor Robert Cochran will present an evening conversation in Columbia, SC: The Hobby Lobby Decision and the Future of Religious Liberty. Read more.
And here is the rock-bottom truth lost in the media frenzy:
The Indiana law doesn’t say anything @ gays and lesbians.
It says that if the government is going to force people to violate their core beliefs they should have a good reason. Otherwise they should leave them alone.
The law sets up a test for what makes for a good reason. The courts decide.
To further explain this conflict so hurtful to so many I’m honored that Daniel Blomberg has agreed to answer some key questions. Daniel grew up here in Columbia and graduated from the University of South Carolina Law School magna cum laude. He is legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and clerked for the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
1. Daniel, what was your role in the Hobby Lobby case?
“Evangelicals will more or less come to embrace homosexuality in the next 20 to 30 years,” Jeremy Thomas, professor of Sociology at Idaho State University, predicts. “I would put all my money on that statement.”
They will “grow out of” their disapproval of homosexuality and gay marriage. Just like they like they “grew out of” their approval of slavery based on race. So goes the conventional wisdom.
But there is a vast gulf between the “Biblical” argument to defend slavery and the “Biblical” argument to defend homosexuality and gay marriage. In order to defend the enslavement of blacks based on race, white Southern antebellum preachers had to resort to a tortured theological construct. How tortured?
When we stand before God I would not want to be Josiah Priest (1788-1861). His Bible Defense of Slavery (1843) twisted Scripture and the minds of thousands and helped launch the civil war. For those who equate the “Biblical” defense of slavery to the “Biblical” defense of traditional marriage: read just how tortured…
“Proud people claim rights; they have a demanding spirit. Broken people yield their rights; they have a meek spirit.”
It is Lent. And I was just praying this this morning from Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s prayer guide on what a broken, humble heart really looks like. It’s a heart like Jesus’ heart, who even gave up his rights as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to purchase our salvation with his life’s blood.
So does that mean we should give up our rights to religious liberty in America? Or should we pay for contraception that is really abortion? Should Christian colleges be forced to hire LGBT professors to teach Bible or theology? Should my husband, an ordained minister, be compelled to preside over a same-sex wedding? What exactly is at stake?
On Sunday, April 19th, Pepperdine University Law Professor Robert Cochran will present an evening conversation here in Columbia at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church about the future of our religious liberty.
As with everything, I believe that when we find ourselves in tension between claiming our rights and giving them up, God looks at the larger context and at our hearts. What are the circumstances? What is our motivation?
ISIS sent a message last week: “Message signed in blood to the nation of the cross.” Twenty-one Christians slaughtered on the beach. Did you see it?
They said they were “chopping off the heads of those that have been carrying around the cross illusion in their heads.” That’s me and my family. My church. Their message is for us.
They beheaded 21 Egyptian Christian brothers as an act of Worship to Allah.
And the 21 died with prayers on their lips to Jesus. “Lord Jesus Christ,” they called out. “Yeshua!”
And we can feel powerless. Our military might ensnarled in tribal rivalries and ancient disagreements over the legitimate successor to Mohammed (Sunni vs. Shia).
I heard Bill O’Reilly sign off of an interview with Rev. Franklin Graham, head of Samaritan’s Purse, saying, “Yes, I hear you saying we need prayer…but we also need power.” And once again he called for more military intervention in the situation.
As you watch the horrors of ISIS unfold on your TV, do you look to military might to end them? Are we praying? Are our churches praying? How should we pray?