Archive for the ‘ Christians & Culture ’ Category

Our Developing Culture

Surely you have noticed how we are living in an upside-down world lately. Today, I thought I would simply offer some wonderful examples of how our culture has been developing.

Since we have a reality TV person now as the Republican candidate for president, I thought this might be fitting for some of his supporters:

Gov't Funding

That speaks to the reality of “reality” programs as well as the idea that government has some kind of stockpile of funds to pay for virtually anything and everything.

Which leads me to this:

Popular with Kids

And speaking of liberals:

Liberals Who Believe

Here’s the solution for liberal thinking on the gender front:

Bathroom Problem Solved

There’s no way I can leave out my own profession in this litany of what’s gone wrong in America:

Director of Admissions

When College Is Free

Well worth pondering today.

There Is a Line I Will Not Cross

Sometimes I think that if I had another life to live on this earth after this one, I would choose to follow my musical inclinations. I really love music and, at various times, have taken piano lessons, achieved first-chair trumpet status in my high school band, followed by learning how to play the guitar.

All of those “talents” have fallen into disuse over time, but I have music playing constantly when I drive, both Christian and “secular.” I put secular in quotes because really good music is from God, regardless of the intent of the writer of the song. He gives mankind the ability to create it.

Some songs combine insightful lyrics with a tune that stays with me. A prime example for me is one titled “There Is a Line,” sung by Susan Ashton. The first time I heard the lyrics, I was gratified by the solid philosophical understanding of where Christians need to be in their response to the decaying culture around us.

The song begins with this:

It’s hard to tell just when the night becomes the day
That golden moment when the darkness rolls away
But there is a moment none the less

In the regions of the heart there is a place
A sacred charter that should not be erased
It is the marrow; the moral core that I can not ignore

The second stanza continues the theme:

Ask the ocean where the water meets the land
He will tell you it depends on where you stand
And you’re neither right or wrong

But in the fathoms of the soul that won’t ring true
Cause truth is more than an imposing point of view
It rises above the changing tide
As sure as the morning sky

The chorus then zeroes in on the stance a Christian must take:

Within the scheme of things
Well I know where I stand
My convictions they define who I am
Some move the boundaries at any cost
But there is a line, I will not cross
No riding on the fence – no alibis
No building on the sands of compromise
I won’t be borrowed and I can’t be bought
There is a line, I will not cross

Those words resonate in my soul: my convictions define who I am; I won’t be borrowed and I can’t be bought.

There is a line I will not cross.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the song, have a listen.

Find your moral core in Christ. Don’t be bought. There is a line we never should cross.

Obama’s Worldview & the Transformation of America

One’s worldview definitely matters. Take Barack Obama, for example. When he said he wanted to fundamentally transform America, he wasn’t kidding, and his inspiration for that goal is his radical worldview.

I believe that Obama’s vision is fueled by a fury against those he perceives as “oppressors.” He has an undercurrent of anger toward an orthodox Christian understanding of truth and the faith’s stance on morality. In his mind, Christianity provides the foundation of oppression.

That’s why he turns a blind eye to Muslim atrocities; they are an oppressed people simply getting back at a Christian-dominated culture that has unjustly kept them down.

That’s why he has turned morality upside-down, beginning with approval of homosexuality, followed by promotion of same-sex marriage, followed by a focus on transgenderism, leading to his decree that all public schools must allow any student who feels trapped in the wrong gender to use whichever restroom and locker room that student desires.

We Don't Care

Before proceeding, I can already imagine an objection, the tired old claim that Obama is a Christian. Well, using trendy terminology, I would respond that Obama may “self-identify” as a Christian, but his idea of Christian is more aligned with a radical, Marxist liberation theology, which is, at heart, anti-Christian. And his agenda has had the effect of putting long-recognized Christian morality on the defensive, hinting (and in some cases more than hinting) that those who hold to such ancient concepts of morality are rather bigoted and driven by hatred.

No, I don’t accept Obama’s self-identification as a Christian as legitimate.

I have two problems with Obama’s latest decree: the first is moral; the second is constitutional.

There are some people who are genuinely confused over their gender due to genetic disorders of some kind. That’s a purely physical cause, not a moral problem. But the percentage of the population in that situation, according to what I’ve read, at least, is about 3/10 of one per cent. What the Obama agenda requires is that we now reorient our entire society around those individuals.

And we all know his decree will be applied far more generously than that. Anyone who “feels” confused about gender identity will be allowed to use whatever restroom or locker room they choose. It’s a wide open door to sexual abuse; in a supposed move to be “fair” to a hypothetically discriminated-against segment of the population, the rest of the population will be forced to bow to the new morality.

It’s a certain Biblical passage now being manifested before our eyes:

Isaiah 5

Then there’s the constitutional side of things. Where, in that document, does one find the authority for a president—any president—to simply declare what will be the policy for all public schools nationwide?

Where, in fact, in that document, is there any authority whatsoever for the federal government to be involved in education at all?

Shot Constitution

I submit that no matter how long or how deeply one inspects the Constitution, such authority never will be found there. What we are seeing now is perhaps the most dictatorial action, among many other dictatorial actions, that Obama has ever attempted.

This is a clear case where states have all constitutional authority to rise up and say, “This will not happen here.” I applaud those state leaders who have spoken up already and sincerely hope more will join the chorus in the coming days.

We are supposed to be a nation operating by the rule of law, not by the whims of one man—and his party—who seeks to destroy all semblance of the rule of law.

We are a country at a serious crossroads right now. Is Biblical morality to be forever banished from our public policy? Are we finally going to kill whatever is left of our Constitution and give it a decent burial?

Or are we going to stand up for Biblical truth?

Answers to those questions are still forthcoming.

Lewis on the Decline of Christian Faith in Society

I’m of the decided opinion that Christian faith is under attack in our nation. I’m also convinced that the influence of that faith in the public sphere has declined precipitously in the last seven years (I wonder what that coincides with?).

God in the DockYet there is another angle of vision on this outward decline of which C. S. Lewis aptly reminds us. In one of his short essays found in God in the Dock, “The Decline of Religion,” he offers his perspective on that perception.

He wrote this essay just after WWII, but it is just as applicable today. First, he examines the perception of religion’s decline by looking at outward manifestations, such as chapel attendance at Oxford:

The “decline of religion” so often lamented (or welcomed) is held to be shown by empty chapels. Now it is quite true that chapels which were full in 1900 are empty in 1946. But this change was not gradual. It occurred at the precise moment when chapel ceased to be compulsory.

Lewis notes that some students used to attend only because it started later than the roll call before which they would have had to appear if they didn’t go to chapel. As a result, those sixty students never came back; “the five Christians remained.”

Therefore, this was not a genuine decline, but rather an exposure of what lay beneath the surface: “The withdrawal of compulsion did not create a new religious situation, but only revealed the situation which had long existed.”

But wasn’t England a Christian nation? Didn’t it have a moral code based on its solid Christianity? Lewis tackles that as well:

One way of putting the truth would be that the religion which has declined was not Christianity. It was a vague Theism with a strong and virile ethical code, which, far from standing over against the “World,” was absorbed into the whole fabric of English institutions and sentiment and therefore demanded church-going as (at best) a part of loyalty and good manners as (at worst) a proof of respectability.

For the first time, Lewis explains, accurate observations could be made: “When no man goes to church except because he seeks Christ the number of actual believers can at last be discovered.”

While this “decline” of outward religiosity was a problem for how the nation of England might comport itself, it did draw a clear line in the spiritual sand. Lewis continues,

The decline of “religion” is no doubt a bad thing for the “World.” By it all the things that made England a fairly happy country are, I suppose, endangered: the comparative purity of her public life, the comparative humanity of her police, and the possibility of some mutual respect and kindness between political opponents.

But I am not clear that it makes conversions to Christianity rarer or more difficult: rather the reverse. It makes the choice more unescapable. When the Round Table is broken, every man must follow either Galahad or Mordred: middle things are gone.

The upside, then, is that there is a definite demarcation line between God’s righteousness and the way of the world. People will see that choice more clearly. More genuine conversions may result.

Lewis concludes his essay by commenting on how the Oxford Christians, at least in 1946, had not yet had to face a bitter opposition: “The enemy has not yet thought it worth while to fling his whole weight against us. But he soon will.” He says that every strong Christian movement, while welcomed at first, will in the end face hatred from those who are “offended” by its bold stand for truth and morality.

Dislike, terror, and finally hatred succeed: none who will not give it [Christian faith] what it asks (and it asks all) can endure it: all who are not with it are against it. . . . To be on the Christian side would be costing a man (at the least) his career.

What will make that hatred all the more confusing to the mass of people watching it being played out is that the attack will come from those who themselves are claiming to be Christian. As Lewis puts it, “But remember, in England the opposition will quite likely be called Christianity (or Christo-democracy, or British Christianity, or something of that kind).”

PersecutionWhat are we witnessing in America in our day? A growing hostility toward the absolutes rooted in Christian belief. A bitter opposition charging us with being bigots, haters, etc. And many of those hurling the charges are claiming the mantle of the true Christianity—the one that loves everyone and doesn’t judge. We are labeled intolerant and reactionary; they are the new and more understanding advocates for what Jesus really meant.

I wonder how Lewis would view the current state of America where same-sex marriage and abortion are the law of the land. I wonder how he would respond to the demand that public restrooms should be open to all without regard to the particular sex we are born into.

One thing is pretty evident, though, from his analysis: if the line between what is genuinely Christian and what is not was clear in his day, it is so much clearer now. And while the decline of the role of Christianity in our public affairs is a sad testimony to the state of the nation, whenever real Christian faith comes into view, it will draw those who are seeking forgiveness and a new life.

The dark cloud descends upon us, but in the darkness, the Light becomes even brighter.

Cyrus Trump?

In the wake of Donald Trump’s near-nomination, some Christian voices are now being heard telling us we should accept and/or rejoice over this development because God has always used leaders who don’t acknowledge Him. The prime example being pushed is Cyrus, king of the Persian Empire during the exile of the Jews in the Old Testament.

CyrusCyrus was prophesied by name by the prophet Isaiah. The account of Cyrus’s decree to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple is found in the book of Ezra.

Trump, we are assured, is the new Cyrus. Even though he doesn’t believe he has to ask God for forgiveness for anything in his life, he will become the strong arm of the Lord as he takes down the false gods of political correctness, routs the denizens of the Washington, DC, swamp, and proclaims liberty once again throughout the land.

I would laugh if I didn’t feel more like crying.

Be careful with analogies. Cyrus was not exactly an elected ruler. The Jews had to deal with whatever whim entered the minds of both Babylonian and Persian kings. It wasn’t as if they said, “Look, there’s a pagan who is at least open to the possibility of allowing us to return to our land; let’s choose him.” Therein lies the difference.

Yes, God may work through evil rulers, accomplishing His purposes without them  even realizing they are carrying out His decree. It’s a whole other matter, though, for a people who have the privilege of choosing their political leaders to make a conscious decision to pick someone whose character and policies are at odds with God’s basic commands and requirements.

When choosing leaders in the church, we are given explicit instructions to focus on character. Just check out Paul’s first letter to Timothy sometime. So when it comes to advocating a political leader, are we to say, “Well, since the government is not a church, the character of the chosen leader doesn’t matter?”

Character always matters.

Suppose, just for a moment, you are responsible for choosing someone in an organization, business, community group, whatever, and you sit down with that person to gain some insight into the type of character he possesses.

Suppose, once more, that in the course of that interview, you discover that the candidate has openly mocked a disabled person by mimicking that person’s disability. Would that commend him to you as the right person for the job?

Again, what if, as you prod further, you find out that this candidate not only goes on Twitter rampages with rude, crude insults toward those he thinks have offended him, but he actually has posted pictures of spouses of those people, making fun of their looks.

Then, to top it off, the interviewee, apparently completely oblivious to his inane rantings, tells you that someone he doesn’t like might have been an accomplice in the assassination of a president?

If you could still want to continue that interview, you might ask about his fidelity to the beliefs and goals of your organization. If the response is “Look, I can be whatever you want me to be,” you might be excused for thinking the candidate isn’t really on board with what you want to accomplish.

Would you really recommend hiring such a person? Yet that’s what we are on the verge of doing in the Republican party right now.

Everyone is now talking about unity, but Trump doesn’t think it’s all that important; he can “win, win, win” without all those people who aren’t bowing down to his lordship:

King Trump

There’s another Biblical figure who didn’t acknowledge God, yet God used him to carry out a purpose. His name was Nebuchadnezzar. His purpose? To destroy Jerusalem and take the people into captivity.

If Trump resembles any ancient king, I see him more as a Nebuchadnezzar than a Cyrus. I just pray that our exile is shorter than the seventy years the Jews received.

The Republican Obituary

I toyed with the idea this morning of writing nothing but Scripture passages. I will get to those, but I have to say a few words as well.

The Republican voters (and for the sake of brevity, I’ll just assume most were Republicans) have decided that a man who rejects nearly every line in past Republican platforms will be their nominee for president.

Republican voters have concluded that morality, integrity, the rule of law, and the Constitution must be discarded in their headlong dash into an angry reaction against all politicians, even someone like Ted Cruz who has fought the good fight for Biblical and constitutional principles all his life.

In doing so, they have brought this nation to the brink of near-total collapse. No matter who wins in the fall, Republican or Democrat, Christian values will be subjected to even greater governmental suppression. No matter how Trump fares in the general election, the very fact of his nomination is a dismal indication that whatever honor and principle remained in the Republican party is now in the past.

This photoshop going around this morning may be accurate:

Republican Tombstone

Resurrection of the Republican party depends on whether it comes to its senses once this debacle is over. Until then, while I will vote for good Republicans down the ticket, I will not associate myself with the man at the top of the ticket. I am now publicly declaring my political independence from the Republican party.

I’ve always said to Republican groups when I’ve spoken to them that I am first a Christian, second a constitutionalist, and third a Republican—and that I will remain a Republican only as long as the party remains true to my first two identities.

The voices have already begun: but if you don’t vote for Trump, that’s a vote for Hillary. I reject that argument, but I won’t address it today. There will be plenty of time in the coming days to explain why I cannot, in good conscience, support Donald Trump.

For now, I’ve been directed, I trust this is by God, to certain Scriptures that, to me, describe our current situation. In II Thessalonians, chapter 2, in the context of what will occur in the endtimes, the apostle Paul explains that many will be willingly deceived, and he ends with these words:

For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

I honestly believe that many have been deceived by Trump. I don’t think this verse applies to Trump specifically, so don’t misunderstand my point. But there is a principle here that does apply. When people are so willing to believe a lie, God allows them to follow their own evil hearts into destruction.

The bigger problem, of course, is that the rest of us are dragged down with them into the consequences of their foolishness.

We’re also admonished in the third chapter of II Timothy,

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers . . . ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. Avoid such men as these.

I look at that list and see the man who is now the presumptive nominee for the Republicans. His lifestyle is pretty much drawn from this description. And you are telling me I am supposed to vote for him? I will instead take the instruction of that final sentence: avoid such men as these.

Finally, I go to Romans, chapter 1, where in a passage the deals directly with the sin of homosexuality (yes, I said sin, so I might expect some societal blowback for that), Paul then goes on to say,

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; . . . strife, deceit, malice . . . insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil . . . without understanding, untrustworthy. . . . And although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

Are we really at that point in our society? It’s no cliché to say that we need to pray now more than ever. Our only hope is to cry out for God’s mercy. Consequences will come first, but we hold out for mercy in the end if enough people awaken to the truth and realize we are on the path to destruction.

This hasn’t been a very uplifting post today. There are times for messages of warning and judgment. This is one of those times.

Lewis on the Proper Christian Spirit

C. S. Lewis 13Last Saturday, I wrote about how C. S. Lewis warned against what he called a type of “band-wagoning,” in which we can, at the expense of our principles, decide to become part of a system with which we say we disagree. He continues the discussion in Reflections on the Psalms with what he believes are more subtle forms of the problem that can easily deceive us.

Many people have a very strong desire to meet celebrated or “important” people, including those whom they disapprove, from curiosity or vanity. It gives them something to talk or even (anyone may produce a book of reminiscences) to write about. It is felt to confer distinction if the great, though odious, man recognizes you on the street.

That motive is completely unchristian. But what about Jesus’ example of sitting down with sinners? One must keep in mind that when Jesus did it, His goal was to revolutionize their thinking, not to join in with it. There is a fine line here that Lewis works through carefully with these words:

But I am inclined to think a Christian would be wise to avoid, where he decently can, any meeting with people who are bullies, lascivious, cruel, dishonest, spiteful and so forth.

I could insert a certain political figure here as an example, but I will restrain myself.

Why avoid such people? Lewis continues,

Not because we are “too good” for them. In a sense because we are not good enough. We are not good enough to cope with all the temptations, nor clever enough to cope with all the problems, which an evening spent in such society produces.

The temptation is to condone, to connive at; by our words, looks and laughter, to “consent.”

TruthIf you seem to go along to get along, what happens to your Christian witness? Yet are we to become obnoxious in our response? Again, Lewis threads the needle:

What is one to do? For on the one hand, quite certainly, there is a degree of unprotesting participation in such talk which is very bad. We are strengthening the hands of the enemy. We are encouraging him to believe that “those Christians,” once you get them off their guard and round a dinner table, really think and feel exactly as he does. By implication we are denying our Master; behaving as if we “knew not the Man.”

Yet the opposite actions can be just as bad:

On the other hand is one to show that, like Queen Victoria, one is “not amused”? Is one to be contentious, interrupting the flow of conversation at every moment with “I don’t agree, I don’t agree”? Or rise and go away? But by these courses we may also confirm some of their worst suspicions of “those Christians.” We are just the sort of ill-mannered prigs they always said.

What is the solution, then? Lewis advises this course of action:

Disagreement can, I think, sometimes be expressed without the appearance of priggery, if it is done argumentatively not dictatorially; support will often come from some most unlikely member of the party, or from more than one, till we discover that those who were silently dissentient were actually a majority.

A discussion of real interest may follow. Of course the right side may be defeated in it. That matters very much less than I used to think. The very man who has argued you down will sometimes be found, years later, to have been influenced by what you said.

So it really comes down to the attitude we display. We can stand for truth, even argue for it, as long as our spirit is Christian. And it is that Christian spirit that may ultimately win someone to God’s kingdom. After all, isn’t that the goal, and not simply winning an argument?