Archive for the ‘ American Character ’ Category

The Nature of Our Culture

Controversy over the role of the media, both the news and entertainment varieties, on the nature of our culture rages on. For a Christian who knows even basic Biblical truths, this should be no controversy. There are numerous passages of Scripture that point to the fact that we become what we think, and that if our minds are inundated with false ideas and/or repeated scenes of degradation and depravity, we certainly will be affected.

On the false ideas front, we have the news media. It is so out of balance that a majority of our population rarely hears another side. The only major news outlet that provides a fair shake to anything Christian or conservative is Fox. It is noteworthy that it does lead the ratings, yet since it is only one of a number of news organizations, if you tally up the numbers for all the others together, most people are still getting their perspective from a very biased source. And the Obama administration does its best to marginalize Fox. A recent study reveals that even though Fox is #1 in the ratings, at presidential news conferences that channel’s representatives rank ninth in the number of times they are called upon to ask a question. As a result, Obama and his minions are hardly ever pressed on controversial decisions they make.

I’m told we have a flu epidemic in the country right now. Well, there’s a different strain of that epidemic also making the rounds:

As for the entertainment media, we are quickly becoming what we watch. I’ve noted before that it’s difficult anymore to find a television program that doesn’t showcase, from time to time or even regularly, a sympathetic homosexual character. There’s an agenda to make homosexuality normative . . . and it seems to be working.

Our latest episode of navel-gazing over gun violence—attacking the guns and not the sinful actions of men as the cause of the violence—has us wondering again about the influence of all the violence in the entertainment field. Movies, in particular, are a major factor in shaping our collective character. Have you noticed which movies are currently most prominent?

Here’s an Oscar they should give out at the awards ceremony:

Not all depictions of violence and depravity are uncalled for. Sometimes, as in the case of Les Miserables, the contrast between the degraded lifestyle and the redeemed makes for powerful visuals for the better. Les Miserables doesn’t glorify depravity; it shows instead the grace of God in leading people out of their sinfulness. Yet, for most films, the opposite seems to be more common—violence and degradation for the sheer fascination of it. That’s when a line is crossed, and we cross that line incessantly.

That’s why we are what we are.

The Election: An Analysis

I spent a good part of my day yesterday culling through analyses of the election in preparation for my talk to a local Republican club last night. But I did more than just gather information; I prayed as I gathered, seeking to know how the Lord wants me, and all Christians in particular, to respond to the results. In today’s post, I’m going to share what I told that group. Tomorrow, I want to address the perspective Christians should have on what has transpired.

Election Results

Obama won nearly every swing state, which was a shock to most prognosticators, myself included. The popular vote was 50-48 in Obama’s favor, but he received about ten million fewer votes than in 2008. Romney underperformed also, receiving nearly three million fewer than McCain did. The great opportunity for Republicans to take the Senate dissipated; not only did they not retake it, but they lost two seats, despite the fact the Democrats had more seats to defend—nearly 2/3 of the races. The House stayed in Republican hands, but even there they lost a few seats. The lone voice for some sanity in Washington, DC, is slightly weakened.

What Does This Election Say about the Electorate?

 We are a severely divided people. The split is almost even, but that masks the downward trend away from a Christian culture. Consider that Obama won without any agenda for a second term, that experiencing the worst economic time since the Great Depression made no difference, and neither did the massive national debt nor Obamacare, which will now surely be fully implemented. Astonishingly, some polls indicated that voters trusted Obama more with handling the economy than Romney, and that 53% still blamed Bush more for the current state of the economy.

One exit poll (I don’t recall where this was asked) sought to measure the impact of Hurricane Sandy on voters. In that poll, 42% said Obama’s response to the hurricane—interrupting his campaign to “take care” of the emergency—was an important factor in their vote for him; 15% said it was the most important factor. What exactly did Obama do besides get a wonderful photo op out of it? Yet these voters “felt” good about his response, so much so that it either solidified their vote or caused them to change it. All too often in politics, perception rules even when it doesn’t comport with reality. These people were voting primarily on emotion, not principle.

In Ohio, the majority approved the government auto bailout. Of that majority, 75% voted for Obama, believing the false narrative the Obama campaign fostered that Romney was a coldhearted vulture capitalist who would have let GM fail completely.  These voters were not thinking about the good of the nation as a whole; they were focused entirely on their own well-being. In this case selfishness won over principle.

Obama promised more goodies that Romney did. Rush Limbaugh nailed it, I believe, when he commented that Romney’s recipe was the traditional route to success called hard work, whereas Obama took the government-will-take-care-of-you path:

In a country of children where the option is Santa Claus or work, what wins? And say what you want, but Romney did offer a vision of traditional America. In his way, he put forth a great vision of traditional America, and it was rejected. It was rejected in favor of a guy who thinks that those who are working aren’t doing enough to help those who aren’t. And that resonated.

When Romney proclaimed that Obama was the candidate of “free stuff,” the voters took him at his word and grabbed for the “stuff.”

We witnessed a populace more concerned about free contraception than the taking of innocent lives through abortion. We saw three states vote in favor of same-sex marriage [if Washington eventually did so—I don’t have the final word on that] and the election of the first openly homosexual senator, Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin.

The maxim that so many conservatives want to believe, that we are a center-right nation politically, has been proven shaky, if not false. I already questioned that; now we have more evidence that we are more center-left and that the real definition of “moderate” in American politics is “liberal.”

What Does This Election Say about the Republican Party?

Republican turnout was not as high as anticipated. We can legitimately debate the specifics of how the Romney campaign was run—not forcefully combating the false images; expecting the bad economy to carry him to victory by itself; avoiding the ripe topic of Obama’s Libyan foolishness; the adoption of the play-it-safe mentality that worked so well for President Thomas Dewey in 1948 [?]—yet those are tactical questions only. The real issue is what the party is willing to stand for. What is its soul?

American conservatism—which is not the same as the Republican party, but ought to be—is a three-legged stool: economic liberty, moral values based on the Biblical worldview, and commitment to a strong national defense. Romney enunciated the first, hinted at the third, and only vaguely accepted the second. He always has been weaker on abortion and homosexuality, and much of the mainstream Republican establishment agrees with him on those issues. Some Republicans tolerate those evangelicals in their midst because they form a key foundation for political victories, but they don’t really like them.

So what will the party become in the post-2012 age? Will it swing toward a tepid middle-of-the-road philosophy or offer a stark contrast to the statist and antichristian stance of the Democrats? As Grover Cleveland noted after losing his reelection bid in 1888 when he rejected the advice of his advisors to change his political views on one issue: “What is the use of being elected or reelected unless you stand for something?”

To those who say a Biblically based, conservative message will not work, I say it depends on the messenger. There is a way to communicate truth and its application to policy that can win over people. They key is finding the principled politicians who can convey that message effectively. We had some principled politicians this time around—Akin in Missouri, Mourdock in Indiana—who lost due to their verbal stumbles. What the Republican party needs are articulate leaders who can guide those who are open to hearing the truth about how government is supposed to work.

What Does This Election Tell Us about the Future of America?

As I watched the tragedy unfold Tuesday evening, and I came to the realization that Barack Obama will be president for four more years, a profound sadness enveloped me. Some of you know I have a book manuscript that compares the optimism of Ronald Reagan with the pessimism of Whittaker Chambers. I want to be a Reagan optimist, but I admit, by nature, I’m more of a Chambers pessimist. I always need a reason for optimism because I know the human condition too well: sin/selfishness dominates this world. In a letter to a friend, Chambers wrote this in the early 1950s:

On one side are the voiceless masses with their own subdivisions and fractures. On the other side is the enlightened, articulate elite which, to one degree or other, has rejected the religious roots of the civilization—the roots without which it is no longer Western civilization, but a new order of beliefs, attitudes and mandates. The enemy—he is ourselves. That is why it is idle to talk about preventing the wreck of Western civilization. It is already a wreck from within.

Is this true? How far gone are we? While I believe Reagan had good reasons for his optimism in the 1980s, can we say the same today, or has the cultural transformation gone beyond the point of no return? Is there really such a point or is it possible to turn this around? The culture has changed; that much is undeniable. We are undergoing what one commentator calls a “tsunami of secularism.”

We need to rebuild our foundations as a society, but it must begin with a return to the Biblical worldview, which will then lead us back to principles—the general truths that must undergird a society. If that happens, we will then see a renewed commitment to constitutionalism and the rule of law. Only by taking these steps will we be able to restore what has been lost.

I agree with Reagan when he said, “I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.”

What are Christians to do? How are we to respond to this election? I’ll try to deal with that tomorrow.

The American Crisis & God’s Mercy

I noted yesterday that I don’t really believe those polls showing the president to be far ahead of Romney. I believe they are bogus, constructed with skewed samples. However, it cannot be denied that this race is either tied or Obama is slightly ahead. Considering the damage he has done to the country during his tenure, the fact that he could even be in the running is disturbing. It’s a warning signal for us as a people. What have we become?

I’ve spent countless hours over the past three-plus years attempting to show how he has led us to cliffs both moral and financial. Lately, his foreign policy has come to the forefront: his disdain for Israel, sympathy for Islam, and utter cluelessness with respect to the true nature of our enemies. I question whether he can even identify our enemies.

We now know that within twenty-four hours of the attack on our consulate in Libya and the murder of our ambassador there that the administration had all the intel it needed to conclude this was a terrorist attack associated with Al Qaeda. Yet Obama sent out his UN ambassador, Susan Rice, to all the Sunday talk shows to declare unequivocally there was no terrorism involved. This was all born of a horrible video about the prophet Muhammed, we were told. It took many days for anyone in the administration to say otherwise; Obama himself still hasn’t been able to articulate the “new” perspective. In his speech to the UN earlier this week, his focus was once again on the video and how it was the real cause of the inflamed passions in the Muslim world.

In Obamaworld, one cannot criticize Islam. He will feign commitment to the First Amendment right to free speech while simultaneously seek to punish those who exercise it in areas where he disagrees.

If anyone wonders why he is doing this, all you have to consider is that it’s campaign season. He doesn’t want anything to rock his world as he goes “forward.” Surely his outreach to the Muslim world has worked, right? He has reset our bad relations with other countries, correct? He is the anti-Bush, so everyone now loves us. The reality upsets his paradigm. And when it comes to dealing with the reality, he is still voting “present,” which was his favorite vote as a state senator. He really is the empty chair Clint Eastwood mocked:

 

Yet the only way most of the electorate will know about these failures and lies is to watch Fox News or other alternative internet sources. The mainstream media, both on television and in print, ignore his failures. They are on his side and are working actively for his reelection.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney can be slandered mercilessly without the media objecting, although I have to give credit to one media person who did ask the president if any of his campaign ads might cross a line. His response?

I’m sure he’ll now correct those misperceptions and deal honestly with Romney’s real record. Keep watching.

If this president is reelected, we will have no one to blame but ourselves. It will reveal once and for all the spiritual poverty that dominates in our nation. At root, this is a spiritual crisis. Our problems, whether economic, moral, or in foreign relations, all stem from our rejection of the Biblical worldview. Electing Mitt Romney doesn’t solve our deeper problem, but it at least will give us a chance to regroup; it will be a second chance. We have to pray for God to be merciful to a people who don’t deserve His mercy. Fortunately for us, His nature is to show mercy whenever He can. May He do so again. May we have that second chance.

The Case Against Barack Obama: The Summary & a Challenge

All week I’ve detailed the reasons why Barack Obama should not remain as president. Today, let me summarize and talk about the electoral challenge before us. As I said in the first post, one must begin at the beginning—a person’s worldview. His supporters usually try to skip over this, but it is the essence of the man. It consists of one part false Christianity, one part Marxism, and one part anti-Western civilization. The combination is lethal for the country because all of his policy initiatives flow from this worldview.

Another toxic ingredient is the character he has developed over time, which is dominated by a spirit of privilege, self-righteousness, and outright arrogance. He is always right; opponents have no valid points to make. Add to that a kind of disinterest in the daily details of his responsibilities and a penchant for spending time with the trendy/celebrity culture, and you have someone who can’t be trusted with the highest office in the land.

On the economic front, nearly four years of his policies have left us weak as a nation, with unemployment over 8% during his entire term. This hasn’t occurred since the Great Depression. The question Ronald Reagan posed after four years of Jimmy Carter is being raised once again: are you better off than you were four years ago? Incredibly, yet somehow unsurprisingly, the Obama campaign is claiming we are better off. Well, perhaps some segments of the population can say that:

Small businesses, in particular, have been hard hit. The uncertainty and proposed taxes on them depress hiring. Obama doesn’t understand the free market; what’s worse, he doesn’t even like it. Obamacare has already begun to drag us down further. So what’s his prescription to those who are looking for relief?

Obamacare also has become the front line of attack on religious liberty. In the guise of helping people, religious organizations are forced to provide abortifacients. As I noted in the post two days ago, lawsuits over this are springing up, and they should be. This is a fundamental abrogation of the First Amendment. It’s also part of his overall disdain for basic Biblical morality, showcased by his abortion-on-demand belief and his promotion of homosexuality. The only “sin” he seems to want to recognize is the “sin” of bigotry, defined as holding to traditional moral standards.

There’s so much more on the domestic side that I didn’t cover, but everything else he has supported, from green energy to Fast and Furious, also emanates from his aberrant worldview.

The War on Terror, from Obama’s anti-colonial, anti-Western lens, is over. He as much as declared it to be when he took office. The term itself was replaced by “overseas contingency operations.” He sympathizes with what he believes are the oppressed of the earth, not the least of whom are Muslims, while simultaneously undermining the security of Israel. Only yesterday did the first crack appear in the administration’s blatant lie about the attack on the Libyan consulate that resulted in the murder of our ambassador. Before yesterday, the cause, supposedly, was the trailer for an anti-Muslim film that could be seen on YouTube. Now, according to Jay Carney, it is “self-evident” that it was a planned, coordinated terrorist action. Why the change? Simply put, the lie couldn’t be sustained; too much evidence to the contrary was making it ridiculous. It was an attempt to shield Obama from political damage. It didn’t work. Now, will the media call it the lie that it was?

Here’s the challenge: can the electorate awaken from its stupor and see clearly enough to reverse the direction in which America is headed? My biggest concern is illustrated perfectly in this political cartoon:

Will voters allow their emotions to control their rational thinking? It’s very easy to become cynical about the intelligence of the American electorate:

Frankly, our future as a nation might be more secure if fewer people vote. I know that sounds like a heretical statement if you believe in representative government, but if the majority of the electorate are unprincipled and reject a Biblical worldview, that majority will lead us into deeper spiritual darkness by their votes. I want to believe we aren’t that far gone yet, but I wish I could be more certain. This election will probably provide the answer. If we keep Barack Obama in office, we may have sealed our fate.

May God have mercy on us and preserve us as a people. May He give us another chance for national redemption.

9/11 & the Two Visions of America

Can anything new be said on the anniversary of 9/11? Maybe we don’t need to hear anything new; perhaps we just need to be reminded that there are those out there who hate us. However, what is meant by “us?” America, you say? Yes, in the abstract, but what comprises America anymore? Do I with my Biblical worldview represent the true America, or do Planned Parenthood—as one example—and Barack Obama constitute the real America?

On 9/11, eleven years ago today, members of Congress stood on the steps of the Capitol and sang together. At the moment, I can’t recall if they sang “America the Beautiful” or “My Country Tis of Thee” or another similar tune. That specific memory eludes me. But sing they did, although some commentators noted that the Republicans seemed to be leading it and a good number of the Democrats looked reluctant to add their voices to the chorus. What a wonderful image it presented: a united nation.

But it was a false image.

It played well for the camera, but the camaraderie was short-lived. The chasm between two very different visions of America is too deep and wide to be bridged for long, even with a common enemy. After the initial shock of the attack, the progressive visionaries began to downplay the severity of the terrorist threat. They even began seeing in their minds’ eye, though not in reality, a kind of pogrom instituted against Muslims in the U.S. All of a sudden, we were the problem, not them. We weren’t sensitive enough to the way they had been treated; we had brought this on ourselves.

That vision of an America that was too big for its britches, and that needed to be slapped down, clashed with the other vision—that of an America that, while often making mistakes in foreign relations, nevertheless had attempted to do the best for others most of the time. It’s the vision of an America that has helped rid the world of truly evil dictators and totalitarian movements such as communism. It’s the vision of an America that retains basic moral values stemming from its faith in God.

These two visions cannot mesh; they are too opposed to each other.

For too long, we have tried to ignore this massive chasm and assured ourselves that we are all Americans who will pull together despite our differences. We need to face reality.

There is no real external union without internal unity.

These two separate visions of America stem from two contrasting worldviews. One is Biblical and God-centered, while the other is secular and man-centered:

  • Beliefs are different on both sides of this divide
  • Purposes/goals are not the same
  • Christian morality battles humanistic immorality
  • One holds to the sacredness of life while the other aborts it
  • One supports traditional marriage and the family while the other redefines sexuality and the very nature of marriage
  • Limited government and constitutionalism inspire the one, whereas a socialistic welfare state is the dream of those who would transform our society and make it into something neither God nor the Founders ever desired

It would be a fascinating object lesson to be able to separate these two groups and let them have their way completely—two entirely distinct nations with two distinct worldviews—and then compare the results. One would go the way of every socialist/communist experiment that has ever been tried, while the other would be an energetic, thriving society where innocent children would be safe in their mothers’ wombs, the family structure would dominate, Biblical morality would be enacted into law, and the government would not be overseeing all aspects of one’s life.

But that won’t happen; we cannot separate the two; we have to make it work somehow the way it is.

What have we learned, eleven years later? Unfortunately, we’ve learned we are not really one people. We are not united. Our foundations are crumbling and we are in danger of turning our backs on the God who gave us life and liberty. If we choose that path, we are lost.

God didn’t make 9/11 happen. It was the brainchild of perverted individuals. Yet when sin abounds, He seeks to use the consequences to get our attention. He will use every circumstance to try to reach into a people’s hearts and lead them to repentance. By all means, may we never forget what happened on 9/11, and may we honor those who displayed great courage on that day. But the best way to honor them is to return to the truth, and to the One who is Truth. That is our only hope.

The Challenge from Francis Asbury

I recently completed reading some of John Wesley’s journal entries and letters. I feel a kinship with him. One of his disciples was Francis Asbury, considered more than anyone else the founder of the American Methodist church, and the namesake for a Christian college in Kentucky. I’ve now begun looking at excerpts from his journal as well. His faith was dynamic, not static. He preached a personal gospel with all its social implications, speaking out against slavery, drinking, gambling, and other practices that degrade a people. But he didn’t just denounce sinful actions; he reached out to anyone who would listen to the message of redemption. He helped educate the illiterate by building schools and colleges, founded Sunday Schools, and preached to those in prison. God placed within him a desire to spread the Word to as many as possible.

As a result, he went up and down the land for 45 years, mostly on horseback, winning converts and emphasizing that his purpose was to “reform the continent and spread scriptural holiness.” He was the inspiration for the famous Methodist circuit riders who made sure the gospel could be heard in even the remotest locations. When he died, he left churches and the impress of his personality from Ontario to Georgia, from Virginia to Ohio, and upon all the states within that circuit.

His journal entries reveal a man driven to be all he could be for God. At age 26 he left his native England for the New World and never returned to the Old. Shortly after arriving, one entry declared his goal: “I have nothing to seek but the glory of God; nothing to fear but his displeasure.” He studied the Bible constantly and sought to speak with the authority of Scripture, yet never lost sight of his dependence on the Spirit. He put it this way:

It seems strange, that sometimes, after much premeditation and devotion, I cannot express my thoughts with readiness and perspicuity; whereas at other times, proper sentences of Scripture and apt expressions occur without care or much thought. Surely this is of the Lord, to convince us that it is not by power or might, but by his Spirit the work must be done. Nevertheless, it is doubtless our duty to give ourselves to prayer and meditation, at the same time depending entirely on the grace of God, as if we had made no preparation.

Asbury also kept a close watch on his heart, wanting to ensure that he never grew cold in his faith:

My mind has been much perplexed about wandering thoughts in prayer, though Mr. Wesley’s deep and judicious discourse on that subject has afforded me no small satisfaction. He hath both shown the causes of those thoughts, which are not sinful, and incontestably proves that they contract no guilt. Yet a devout and tender mind must be grieved to find any kind of temptation in that sublime exercise wherein the whole soul desires to be employed.

As a historian, I’m naturally interested in accounts of men like Asbury; as a Christian, I’m drawn to his thoughts and his heart. The two merge nicely. Further, I want and need to be challenged with respect to my own walk. Do I seek nothing but God’s glory? Am I studying His Word sufficiently yet simultaneously dependent on His Spirit to lead me? Will my heart and mind stay tender toward the One who gave me a second chance in life?

Thank you, Francis Asbury, for making me think on these things.

The Real Problems with the Change in Immigration Policy

Forget for just a moment the substance of the new illegal immigration policy President Obama announced on Friday. I’m not going to deal with that today. Instead, let’s concentrate on the constitutional and political angles. Last September, speaking to a Latino audience that wanted to know why he hadn’t done anything on the illegal immigration issue, Obama accurately noted that as president, he didn’t have the authority to unilaterally change immigration policy. He correctly stated that any policy change had to come from Congress. This was a remarkable statement from a man who normally couldn’t care less about the limits imposed on his office by the Constitution. But in this case, he was right.

Speed ahead to June 2012 and we now have a different story. Without any legislation, without any constitutional authority at all, the president has signed an executive order to alter how illegal immigration is handled. This move was a one-man show. It manifested blatant disregard for any constitutional restraint. He bypassed Congress entirely and simply announced that the policy was going to be different.

Frankly, this is how tyrants operate, outside the rule of law.

Not that there’s anything new about this. Consider one of Obama’s heroes, FDR. In the midst of the Great Depression, Roosevelt decided that every person in the country had to turn in all gold and currency backed by gold to the government. Just like Obama’s pronouncement last week, FDR simply signed an executive order—actually, a number of them—infamously ignoring the role of Congress in legislating, and forced everyone to turn over their gold. It all became government property. In exchange, citizens got federal reserve notes. FDR didn’t have to worry about congressional reaction; he owned Congress at that point. He set himself up as a petty dictator.

What will the current Congress do about Obama’s power play? We’ll have to wait and see if backbone still exists.

Why did he choose to do this at this time? That’s the political angle. Seeing how he is dropping in the polls, he saw this move as a way to shore up his Hispanic vote. In other words, he chose to shred the Constitution for his own political gain. I predict this is only the beginning of his pandering. He will offer goodies to other segments of the population in the coming weeks in an attempt to regain their support.

The real tragedy of this episode is that most Americans won’t even think about the unconstitutional nature of his action, and those groups he seeks to reward will gladly take the bribes without any regard to the rule of law or moral propriety. They will want what they consider to be “theirs.” As this dependent mentality spreads, we become less and less a nation with a moral foundation.

Can this descent into self-centered moral turpitude be arrested? Only if those of us who believe in moral foundations take a stand and continue to speak out and work for a reversal of the spiritual decline that has fed this destructive fever. Now is the time to show we still have spines.