Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Misunderstood American

Americans have a penchant for not appreciating their heroes and giants until they are no longer on the scene. 

One famous American, while afforded a degree of respect these days, is still overlooked by many who have yet to understand the full depth of his intellect and world view.  Sadly, where he stood on the social issue closest to his heart is either misunderstood or bent by his presumed heirs.  I am going to quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s own words.  
“Some things are right and some things are wrong, no matter if everybody is doing the contrary. Some things in this universe are absolute. The God of the universe has made it so. And so long as we adopt this relative attitude toward right and wrong, we're revolting against the very laws of God himself." 
“All I'm trying to say to you is that our world hinges on moral foundations. God has made it so. God has made the universe to be based on a moral law.  So long as man disobeys it he is revolting against God. That's what we need in the world today: people who will stand for right and goodness. It's not enough to know the intricacies of zoology and biology, but we must know the intricacies of law.” 
“We just became so involved in things that we forgot about God.  And that is the danger confronting us, my friends: that in a nation as ours where we stress mass production, and that's mighty important, where we have so many conveniences and luxuries and all of that, there is the danger that we will unconsciously forget about God. I'm not saying that these things aren't important; we need them, we need cars, we need money; all of that's important to live. But whenever they become substitutes for God, they become injurious.” 
“And I tell you this morning, my friends, the reason we have to solve this problem here in America: Because God somehow called America to do a special job for mankind and the world.  Never before in the history of the world have so many racial groups and so many national backgrounds assembled together in one nation. And somehow if we can’t solve the problem in America the world can’t solve the problem, because America is the world in miniature and the world is America writ large. And God set us out with all of the opportunities.  He set us between two great oceans; made it possible for us to live with some of the great natural resources of the world. And there he gave us through the minds of our forefathers a great creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ 
“America, as I look at you from afar, I wonder whether your moral and spiritual progress has been commensurate with your scientific progress. It seems to me that your moral progress lags behind your scientific progress. Your poet Thoreau used to talk about ‘improved means to an unimproved end.’ How often this is true. You have allowed the material means by which you live to outdistance the spiritual ends for which you live. You have allowed your mentality to outrun your morality. You have allowed your civilization to outdistance your culture. Through your scientific genius you have made of the world a neighborhood, but through your moral and spiritual genius you have failed to make of it a brotherhood. So America, I would urge you to keep your moral advances abreast with your scientific advances.” 
“I am impelled to write you concerning the responsibilities laid upon you to live as Christians in the midst of an unChristian world. … That is what every Christian has to do. But I understand that there are many Christians in America who give their ultimate allegiance to man-made systems and customs. They are afraid to be different. Their great concern is to be accepted socially. They live by some such principle as this: ‘everybody is doing it, so it must be all right.’ For so many of you Morality is merely group consensus. In your modern sociological lingo, the mores are accepted as the right ways. You have unconsciously come to believe that right is discovered by taking a sort of Gallup poll of the majority opinion. How many are giving their ultimate allegiance to this way?” 
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by God, Creator, with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’ This is a dream. It’s a great dream. … [T]hat dream goes on to say another thing that ultimately distinguishes our nation and our form of government from any totalitarian system in the world. It says that each of us has certain basic rights that are neither derived from nor conferred by the state. In order to discover where they came from, it is necessary to move back behind the dim mist of eternity. They are God-given, gifts from His hands. Never before in the history of the world has a sociopolitical document expressed in such profound, eloquent, and unequivocal language the dignity and the worth of human personality. The American dream reminds us, and we should think about it anew on this Independence Day, that every man is an heir of the legacy of dignity and worth.”

I would think that many Americans would be surprised to learn that the above words were spoken from the pulpit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   We can’t know what he would think of those who expropriate his name while ignoring his message, but it is curious indeed that today his stand on natural law would disqualify him from serving on the federal bench. It should also be a reminder not to believe the propaganda we are often fed about history and public figures. 

For more words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Stanford University’s research project at

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Thoughts on Charlie Hebdo

Much of the world was shocked over the mass murders of ten employees of Charlie Hebdo and of two Paris police officers who came to their defense.  Shock is understandable, as is the anger and defiance that has followed in its wake. None of this is misplaced, but such attacks should not surprise anyone given the current state of the world. Multiply the loss of twelve lives by a hundred, maybe even a thousand or ten thousand, and you will get a true perspective of the genocide taking place today in the name of ideology and false religion.

Egregious persecution against those whose perspectives and convictions differ from that of the “true believers” are shaking not just Paris and other cultural hubs, but also remote areas of the planet with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Often these persecutions are against Christians, such as the tribulation among believers in North Korea who fail to worship the country’s “Dear Leader”, or those in Nigeria who follow a different religion than that of Boko Haram, or victims of the Islamic State. For whatever reason such atrocities have not grabbed the media limelight in the same way that Charlie Hebdo has.

Maybe the issue here is the courageous defiance the publication exhibited in its defense of free speech even in the face of death threats. As Hebdo’s Stephane Charbonniere once said, “I’d rather die standing up than live on my knees." Regardless of one’s ideology, whether political or religious, we afford a certain respect to those who are willing to stand on principle. We respect them because they do stand in defiance of threats. As the quote says, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

If this willingness to stand with those whom we disagree is because of our common belief in liberty, then we will all have made some welcome progress toward the restoration of civility in our culture. But that of itself won’t end the war some are waging against the politically incorrect.

Think for a second of the uncountable multitudes who this day are being harassed and murdered in grizzly fashion for daring to hold their Christian faith. Think of those who are risking their lives daily for daring to have a Bible or even a portion of the Bible in their possession. Think about the Christian Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram and sold as sex slaves to appease a warped ideology. If you live in a free land, be thankful that your life is not in danger if you call Jesus your Lord and Savior.

Yet with all of that, there are those in this country who are slowly and systematically attempting to limit and silence the voices of the faithful, especially if those voices challenge the prevailing political correctness. Surely such pressure pales against the threat of beheadings with a dull knife, but the desire to stifle dialogue and freedom is of the same spirit.

Consider Vanderbilt University derecognizing a Christian student group because the group insists that its officers must be Christian.

Consider the judge in Idaho who effectively shut down  a wedding chapel because the Christian ministers who operated it would only perform weddings between a man and a woman.

Consider the federal government attempting to force Christian business owners to pay for abortion coverage for their employees, in a clear violation of conscience.

Consider the Florida schoolteacher who publicly embarrassed a twelve-year old for reading a Bible during free reading time.

While none of these rise to the level of beheadings and bullets to the back of the head, they do seem to indicate a growing climate of intolerance. They will tell you it’s okay to believe whatever you want and follow any liturgical formula you choose, but they insist that it stay within a church building. Believe what you will, but don’t try to live your faith while in the public square.  Will we in the face of public pressure be crushed into silence, embarrassment, and apathy?

Strike a blow for liberty. Exercise your Constitutional and natural rights even in the face of pressure to voluntarily relinquish them. Stand beside those with whom you disagree and defend their right to be wrong. Stand on your feet with Charlie Hebdo so you won’t have to live on your knees.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Don’t Tug on Superman’s Cape

Way back when, Jim Croce performed a songful commentary about Chicago’s Southside, reminding us that "You don't tug on Superman's cape/You don't spit into the wind/You don't pull the mask off that ol' Lone Ranger/And you don't mess around with Jim." 

No one to my knowledge has ever accused Mr. Croce of being an amateur theologian, but there is something in a sense theological about what the man sang. He did, after all, offer four “Thou Shalt Nots”.

Thou shalt not tug on Superman’s cape because things won’t go well for you. Thou shalt nor spit into the wind unless you want to get gob-smacked in your face for spitting at something that doesn’t warrant spitting at. And thou shalt not pull masks off without a good reason. Exposing people who don’t want to be exposed is a guaranteed way to make enemies.

None of that might seem overly theological, but those Thou Shalt Nots are intended to do the same thing that the Biblical injunctions are intended to do. They of themselves won't save you, but they are designed to save you a whole lot of trouble.

Don’t take other people’s stuff. Don’t lie to them. Take time off to rest, think, and pray. Respect your parents and your spouse – and the other person’s spouse. Put God first. Always. 

Before, during and after imparting these words of wisdom from Mt. Sinai, God told Israel that he was giving them these words of instruction “that it might go well with you” and that “your days may be prolonged” (Deuteronomy 4:40; 5:16, 29, 33; 6:2, 3, 18). Those are exactly the benefits of not pulling capes, spitting in the wind, and pulling off those masks.

Jim Croce gave four rules to preserve one’s well being, and God gave ten. If you want to live a long life, don’t pull the mask off that ol’ Lone Ranger, and don’t mess around with Him.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What Would Harry Truman Think?

Independence, Missouri is home to the Truman Presidential Library. When I lived in that neighborhood I was a frequent patron of the place, and this die-hard conservative became a fan and admirer of a guy I probably never would have voted for.

On one of my forays into the facility the curators had on display a looping video with clips of television programming from the early 1950s. Other artifacts from the popular culture of the day were figures from our entertainment industry who were effectively acting as unofficial ambassadors of American good will abroad. Louis Armstrong. Bob Hope. Bing Crosby. Gene Kelly. Fred Astaire. Quite a parade of popular culture and values depicting optimism, family, integrity, and standards.

Our popular culture was a window to our society, seeking to highlight what was good about our country and values. Go to YouTube and watch some of those old TV shows.  You’ll see an image of America that the world saw through windows of our media. True, we did not always lived up to our standards, but at least we knew what those standards were.

Take a look at the window to the world that the United States projects today. We are the largest producer and exporter of both Bibles and pornography, an interesting and blasphemous dichotomy if you think about it. Our “tolerance” of every aberration – or, better said, our promotion of every aberration – and the propagation of it abroad paints a troubling picture of who we have become to more traditional cultures around the world.  Honestly, who would want to aspire to a world populated by Desperate Housewives?

If I were sitting in some Middle Eastern country, it would not be some dopey 14 minute video clip about the Prophet that would enrage me. It would be the importation of materials designed to turn my daughters into harlots. I too would be tempted to level the charge of “Great Satan” against such a culture. Don’t think this is not a factor in what we see in the world today.

Indeed, if I were the real Great Satan, I would be trying to infect the world, but especially the nation that has more Bibles than any other book on its shelves. I would offer them, more than any other nation, a healthy dose of heroin for the soul. I would do everything I could to enslave them to their passions. I would drug them up, sex them up, beef them up, and entertain them up, all at taxpayer expense.  I would distract them from little things like integrity, honor, service, and work. I would fill their minds with a curious mix of apathy, dependency, and fear instead of hope, faith, and self control. Then I would control them and their votes.

Psalm 11:3 – When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?

I wonder what old Harry would think?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Untold Story: David Flees Absalom

King David’s fortress was under siege. He managed to escape, but he was able to take with him his throne, the symbol of his authority.

One of the king’s servants had grown up in the countryside and knew of a loyal but poor subject who lived in a thatched hut not far from Bethlehem. They paid the servant’s friend a visit, and he agreed out of loyalty to hide the throne in his humble abode. To reduce the chance of the throne being discovered, they built a loft, hoisting the throne to it and covering it up with thatch and sticks.

The king and the servant left, fleeing for safer territory, promising to return when he achieved deliverance.

Absalom’s forces knew that David had fled and tracked him to the loyal subject’s thatched house.

“Did David come through here?”

“No,” the man replied, feeling guilty about lying, but knowing it was to save the king’s life.

“You’re lying!” yelled Absalom, and as he yelled, his entire company of soldiers chanted together, “Liar! Liar!” Again and again, louder and louder they yelled, “Liar! Liar!”

The poor man succumbed to panic and ran inside his humble hut, slamming the door shut. With all the tumult and noise, the throne was shaken from its perch and crashed to the floor below. The man was caught in his lie and paid a horrible price for helping David and sheltering his throne.

Now here is the moral of the story.

People who live in grass houses shouldn’t stow thrones.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Time to Stop Praying?

One time God told Moses to stop praying. If we accept that prayer is a good thing, why would God tell someone to cut it out?

God to Moses:  “Why are you crying out to me?” (Exodus 14:15).  Given the circumstances, I would think the question should be, “Why not?”

Here’s the story. Moses had just led Israel out of Egypt. Through his hand God had turned the Nile into blood, brought many plagues on the Egyptians, and with boldness he had led the nation to freedom. Now, shortly after this triumphant march from slavery, Pharaoh has a change of heart and decides to chase down the fleeing masses with his infantry and chariots in order to drive them back to their former state.

Why shouldn’t Moses cry out to God? Why would God object?

In this is a lesson about prayer. The newly freed Israelites had already cried out to God (verse 10), after which Moses tells them to do something: “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” (verse 13). There are indeed times when all we can do is stand still and wait. As the old saying goes, “Let go, and let God.” But in spite of appearances this was apparently not one of those times.

Thus God says to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me?” And then he says, “Tell the children of Israel to go forward” (verse 15).  It is time to get off your knees and into your hiking boots. Tell the people the time for standing still is over. Now is the time to do something about your situation.

We can make two grave mistakes regarding prayer. One is to think that we can get along just fine without God’s help. If we just work hard enough, sweat hard enough, and think clearly enough, we can make all the right things happen. I can put on my boots and fight my own way through the wilderness.

Or we can make the other mistake.  There is something to be said for on waiting for God, “standing still”, shall we say. It’s true that in some circumstances God’s strength is revealed through our weaknesses. But simply sitting in our pajamas while waiting for God can be just as bad as thinking we can do it all on our own. Most of the time God expects us to be actively involved in carrying out his will. “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.”

God could not have led them through the Red Sea had they had just stood still and waited.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

If God Is So Smart Why Did He Bother with Us?

Think about this. If God knew that the human race would be so much trouble, why did he even bother? We’re a cantankerous lot who can’t seem to get along. We argue, fight, and steal. We form cliques and gangs, manipulate each other, and even war against each other.

Many of us lack trust in and respect for the God who gave us life, some deny that he even exists, and some are even in outright rebellion against their own Creator.

In various places in Scripture we’re called sons of God (John 1:12; Romans 8:14, 19; Philippians 2:15; I John 3:1-2). In other places we’re called heirs of God (Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29; Titus 3:17; James 2:5). So here we are, troublemakers in many ways, yet with the revealed destiny and reality of being God’s kids.

Maybe we should think of it this way. Many of us are parents. We wanted to have children even though we knew all about the Terrible Twos, the rebellious teen years, and the risk of heartbreak and disappointment. But we wanted kids anyway because of the joy and love that they bring. We want kids because we understand the joy there is in sharing and giving unconditionally and the hope of a legacy we can point to with satisfaction to the end of time.

Maybe, in spite of the trouble God knew we would cause, our Heavenly Father wanted kids for the same reason we want kids. He figures we’re worth the trouble and risk.

What do you think? Are we worth the risk?