Maybe you’ve seen the movie 13 Hours. Highly recommended. If so, you’ve no doubt marveled at the ability of a handful of heroic American operatives to stave off wave after wave of attack from upwards of 50 Al Queda affiliates. FOR 13 HOURS. No doubt you’ve echoed the men in the film…Where is the rescue by American troops? Where are the F-15’s screaming overhead to put the fear of America into the terrorists?
After today’s long awaited Benghazi report, now we know: Some of them were changing uniforms. Four times. The politics and optics were so important that the deployment never came. Today’s report reminds us how outrageous it was that Americans died with not one wheel rolling to their rescue.
Imagine for a moment…you’ve received word that your son/husband/friend was killed on September 11th while defending American personnel in Benghazi. You quickly pack, get on a plane and make the long, sad journey to Andrews Air Force Base to receive his body.
All the while your mind reels with questions…How did this happen? Why was my loved one in harm’s way not rescued by US Troops?
Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal”
As soon as reports surfaced about Sunday’s massacre in a gay nightclub, suspicious fingers began pointing to Christian haters. Even after it was reported that the shooter had dedicated his kill to the Islamic State. What grieved me even more was talking to Christians who condemned the killings, but acknowledged they didn’t feel a great sense of compassion on the gay victims because, after all, look what God did to Sodom and Gomorrah.
Thankfully, Chick-fil-A in Orlando rolled up its sleeves, fired up its grills and showed our terribly divided culture how to follow Jesus in such a tragedy. On a day when they normally close their doors and give their employees time off to go to church, they were serving their great food to first responders and blood donors lined up to honor the victims.
Here are 6 reasons why Chick-fil-A got it right and how many Muslims and Christians can do better:
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?
When bloody horror erupts on our TVs and phones we mourn with those who mourn. We pray for the gospel to “speed ahead and be honored” and for God to comfort all those who have suffered loss because of ISIS’s rampage through Paris.
We are also hard-wired from the factory to grasp for the “Why?” In the West’s war with ISIS this much is certain: Like the Republicans and Democrats, we don’t even agree on what the issues are.
The secular West thinks ISIS is morally bankrupt because they subvert freedom. They murder and rape as an act of worship to Allah. They think the West is spiritually and morally bankrupt because we do not acknowledge Allah and we pervert sexuality.
Al Queda, the Taliban, now ISIS…We have been at war with radical Islamic terrorists for over 15 years now. Is there an end in sight? Will we ever be safe again?
Imagine for a moment…you’ve received word that your son/nephew/friend was killed on September 11th while defending American personnel in Benghazi, Libya. You quickly pack, get on a plane and make the long, sad journey to Andrews Air Force Base to receive his body.
All the while your mind reels with questions…How did this happen? Why did it happen? Why was my loved one in harm’s way not rescued by US Troops?
On September 14th you are sitting with the other families in view of the closed, flag-draped caskets which will not be opened. You will never see your loved one again.
One by one the President, the Vice-president, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense offer you their condolences. Empathy washes over you from hands, faces and voices that embody the power and prestige of the United States. Empathy and promises of justice.
Hillary Clinton tells Charles Woods, father of Tyrone Woods, a retired Navy Seal killed in the attack, “We are going to have the filmmaker arrested who was responsible for the death of your son.”
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 funny, sensitive musician has reflected that he lost his sense of humor in the 60’s. Combined with his own insecurities and mental fragility, his quest for drugs-and-music-drenched enlightenment took a fearful and paranoiac toll. Which makes the redemptive story of Love and Mercy all the more amazing. (view Part 1 here)
In Smile Brian was reaching for music that would take the listener into totally new spiritual experiences–transcendent, epic and yet intimate at the same time. Brian was no philosophical-art-student John Lennon, but in Van Dyke Parks he found a Lennonesque collaborator to put lyrics to the great art and music in his soul.
For months they pulled drug-fueled all-nighters at Brian’s famous piano in the sandbox and conceived a musical mosaic to guide listeners on a journey through American music, beginning at Plymouth Rock and ending in Diamond Head. It would incorporate the elements of earth, air, fire and water as an image of ego death and oneness with the all.
On one of the instrumental tracks Brian worked to created the musical experience of fire–“a dark, booming, reverb-drenched blur of sound.” An “eerie whine that grew into a giant conflagration…the weirdest was the crash and crackle of instruments smoldering for the final time.” Listening to the final cut of “Mrs. O’leary’s Cow,” the musicians marveled at what Brian had produced.
Then, a couple of days later, a building across the street from the studio burned down and there seemed to be a rash of fires in the LA area.
So there I was cruising down a woodsy road in the balmy summer twilight, stereo cranked…”You gotta help me Rhonda, help me get her outta my heart bom-bom-bom-bom-bom-bom-bom…”
Most of us associate the Beach Boys with summer-soundtrack songs about surfing, cars and girls on the beach. And their staggering 100,000,000 records sold. (More @ my presentations on Brian Wilson and the Quest for Cool here)
Back in the 60’s, outside the music business, we didn’t realize that Brian Wilson, the creative genius who wrote most of their music, was taking his place among American greats like George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Burt Bacharach.
We just knew that when we pulled the sun roof back and crooned along on “Don’t Worry Baby,” something deeper reeled us in: the sheer beauty and increasing complexity of the music. The constant shifting from major to minor chords that somehow captured our exuberance in the major theme of life’s joys and our longing for love and mercy in a fallen, minor-themed world.
The movie Love and Mercy chronicles the story of Brian Wilson in two narrative arcs. Paul Dano plays twenty-something Brian in the 60’s at the height of his creative genius.
John Cusack plays Wilson in the 80’s—a damaged soul who slips a beautiful Cadillac saleswoman a note with three hastily written words: lonely, frightened, scared. The movie seamlessly weaves together scenes from both periods to show how Brian fell into the minor theme and couldn’t find his way out. Yet it leaves the larger story of why unexplored.
Before the “conquest of cool” Norman Rockwell celebrated good relationships, hope, kindness, trust, respect and family. As he put it, “Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.” Yesterday we took in both the lecture on his life’s work and the exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art. His work is powerful and the world he created is richly beautiful (and fun!). I loved our walk through the archives of American optimism–so many childhood memories. But something even richer and more powerful seemed missing.
Rockwell didn’t just paint pictures, he told stories. He used models as actors, directing them to assume poses and convey certain emotions and facial expressions.
The Times editorial board and some of its columnists have no explanation for the evil splashed across the internet and the pages of their own newspaper. But the kids in our church and the people in Rwanda do. What does it mean when your worldview cannot account for the real world?
From “The Fundamental Horror of ISIS” 10-2-14:
“Comparisons are meaningless at this level of evil, as are attempts to explain the horror by delving into the psychology or rationale of the perpetrators…as Roger Cohen, the New York Times columnist, wrote in a recent piece about ISIS, there is no “why” in the heart of darkness.” —New York Times Editorial Board (“Yet, in the end, there is no why to the barbarism of ISIS. There is no why in Raqqa. Evil may adduce reasons; they fall short.”–Cohen)
Dear Editorial Board,
Is your brain like a German autobahn with lots of slick, European sports-car thoughts…zooming in out of nowhere…inspiring…creating…(distracting)? Creativity is a joy to give away–writing, cooking, festive table settings, gardening, crafts, ministry projects, lesson preps—all these rich gifts God has given us. But there’s a downside too.