Happy New Year? The Moral/Cultural Divide

In yesterday’s post I focused on the role of the real church—those truly committed to being disciples of Jesus Christ—as the key to a happier 2015. If genuine Christians become the salt and light that Christ said they should be, they can diffuse His truth throughout our society more effectively.

Today, I want to concentrate on what is actually happening in our society. Where are we morally and culturally? The two are connected, of course, and they both are the result of the status of our spiritual well-being.

I want to be balanced. I want to be able to point to improvements in the moral and cultural trends. Unfortunately, they are few.

Unborn ChildAbortion may be trending our way, but the battle is a long way from over. We have made progress in educating the general public about the horror of taking the lives of innocent babies, helped along by the excesses of some abortionists like Kermit Gosnell.

Public opinion polls—for whatever they’re worth—now show a higher percentage of Americans opposed to abortion on demand, and the late-term abortions such as were done by Gosnell have sickened most people.

So let’s rejoice at least a little bit over this trend, but not get carried away. The human death toll of more than 56 million since Roe v. Wade is a blight on our culture and our concept of morality.

France Gay Marriage FairThe year 2014 was the year of “coming out” for the homosexual revolution. For the first time in our history, a sitting president declared homosexual marriage to be good and wholesome.

Christians who don’t acknowledge the lifestyle as an acceptable alternative, because they hold to the Biblical teaching that homosexuality is sinful, are facing increasing pressure to conform. That pressure could soon turn to outright prosecution and/or persecution.

Race divides us more now than anytime since the 1960s, despite [or should I say with the encouragement of] a black president and attorney general. The furor in Ferguson, Missouri, led to an outburst of pure emotion, setting aside the facts of the Michael Brown shooting. Charges of racism have become so pervasive that anyone simply stating the facts of what occurred there will be accused of being a racist.

Ferguson RiotsPointing out that Brown robbed a store before the incident does not make one a racist. Stating the overwhelming forensic evidence and preponderance of eyewitness testimony that showed Brown attacked the police officer and tried to take his gun does not make one a racist. However, seeing everything through a prism of racism might make one at least “racialist.”

Demagoguery by accomplished demagogues like Al Sharpton, leading chants of “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want them? Now!” only leads to more violence. Two New York City officers just sitting in their car are executed by a man hyped up with this view.

We’re in trouble.

At the root of it all, culturally, is our education system. Ruled by a liberal, progressive, anti-Christian elite, it seeks to undermine all traditional views of morality and culture, along with the faith that undergirds them. American history is ignored or reinterpreted according to the progressive vision, while every modern trend—be it radical feminism, environmentalism, wealth inequality, or whatever—becomes the centerpiece of what we now call “education.”

Stop Fed EdIn fact, it’s nothing more than indoctrination in the guise of teaching children “how” to think, not “what” to think. Regardless of the rhetoric, they are being taught what to think, and it’s destroying us.

Whenever we try to reform education, we instead set up a nationwide system like Common Core that, while sounding good, only hastens our downfall.

Real education reform would expand the opportunities for private educational choices and, step by step, reduce the near-monopoly of the government’s control over what we ought to learn and who is allowed to teach.

Clearly, we are a nation adrift from our spiritual base, and it is reflected in what we deem to be moral nowadays. Our culture retains only a thin veneer of Biblical memories. We are poised to become more divided than ever.

I wish I could offer a more positive perspective today, but I have to be honest. This is what I see.

Our federal government is not the source of all our woes; they come from our abandonment of Christian truth. The government, though, does play an essential role in promoting that abandonment. That will be my subject tomorrow.

Margaret Thatcher: Unintended Consequences

I’m taking my time reading through Margaret Thatcher’s The Path to Power, going one section at a time, as I try to increase my knowledge of the history of the United Kingdom in the late twentieth century. As I’ve followed her life from her time with her family, to her university years at Oxford, to her early political career, I’ve been fascinated with her observations of the era.

I was struck particularly by a section of the book dealing with the cultural shift in Britain in the 1960s. Thatcher, from the perspective of hindsight, details the loss of the Christian foundations in her country:

Path to PowerBy now (1968) the left-of-centre consensus on economic policy was being challenged and would continue to be so. But the new liberal consensus on moral and social matters was not. That is to say that people in positions of influence in government, the media and universities managed to impose metropolitan liberal views on a society that was still largely conservative morally. The 1960s saw in Britain the beginning of what has become an almost complete separation between traditional Christian values and the authority of the state.

She freely acknowledges that she didn’t catch the drift at the time. In fact, she voted in favor of a couple of bills that haunted her later. One decriminalized homosexual conduct between consenting adults over the age of twenty-one. The other allowed abortion “if there was substantial risk that a child would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped, or ‘where the woman’s capacity as a mother would be severely overstrained.'”

She was influenced, she said, by her concern for other people’s suffering, but didn’t see at first the moral ramifications of what she helped start. Her analysis of those issues changed considerably later, as she explains:

As regards abortion, homosexuality, and divorce reform it is easy to see that matters did not turn out as was intended. . . . Instead, it could be argued that they have paved the way towards a more callous, selfish and irresponsible society. Reforming the law on abortion was primarily intended to stop young women being forced to have back-street abortions. It was not meant to make abortion simply another “choice.” Yet in spite of the universal availability of artificial contraception the figures for abortion have kept on rising.

Homosexual activists have moved from seeking a right of privacy to demanding social approval for the “gay” lifestyle, equal status with the heterosexual family and even the legal right to exploit the sexual uncertainty of adolescents.

Divorce law reform has contributed to—though it is by no means the only cause of—a very large increase in the incidence of marriage breakdown which has left so many children growing up without the continual care and guidance of two parents.

Margaret ThatcherThatcher concludes with these reflections:

Knowing how matters have turned out, would I have voted differently on any of these measures? I now see that we viewed them too narrowly. As a lawyer and indeed as a politician who believed so strongly in the rule of law, I felt that the prime considerations were that the law should be enforceable and its application fair to those who might run afoul of it.

But laws also have a symbolic significance: they are signposts to the way society is developing—and the way the legislators of society envisage that it should develop. Moreover, taking all of the “liberal” reforms of the 1960s together, they amount to more than their individual parts. They came to be seen as providing a radically new framework within which the younger generation would be expected to behave.

Margaret Thatcher was able to own up to her mistakes and learn from them.  In the same vein, when Ronald Reagan saw the consequences of a liberal abortion law he signed as governor of California, he delved into the subject and came away a staunch pro-lifer. He always regretted his earlier action. While I wish neither Reagan nor Thatcher had made those mistakes, I am heartened by the fact that those who have a Biblical foundation to their thinking can see their missteps and make amends for them later.

Rejoicing Over What Has Gone Right

I’ve decided to devote today’s post to praise for a number of things that have gone right lately. It’s always easy to critique the development of current events, given the Obama administration’s penchant for upending the Constitution and Biblical morality, so it’s nice to point out the other side for a change.

All of these praises today come, surprisingly, as a result of Supreme Court decisions. After the agony of the Court’s rulings on Obamacare and the Defense of Marriage Act, it’s a relief to see the Court, once in a while, come out on the side of the Constitution, particularly religious liberty and free speech.

For instance, the Court overturned a Massachusetts law that created a so-called “buffer zone” that banned pro-lifers from entering. Outside abortion clinics, pro-life citizens were not allowed to speak to women entering the clinics in that state. They had to stay a “safe” distance away. The Court ruled that this was a direct violation of those citizens’ right to free speech. They were not protesters, said the Court, but concerned citizens who sought to engage other citizens in a discussion of issues. I’ve read where Massachusetts authorities are livid over this decision and are trying to figure a way around it, but for now, free speech and the sanctity of life prevail.

Colorado Christian University won a temporary injunction against the imposition of the Obamacare requirements for providing all types of birth control. This is similar to the Hobby Lobby case, which I’ll get to shortly.

Prior to ruling on Hobby Lobby, the Court exercised a restraining order, so to speak, on President Obama when it comes to making recess appointments. The problem was that Obama himself determined that the Senate wasn’t in session, so he went ahead and filled positions without the Senate’s approval. The Senate, however, still deemed itself in session. The president has no right under the Constitution to declare the Senate not in session. Interestingly, this was a 9-0 decision, with even the liberal/progressive justices in agreement.

In Session

Obama’s attempt to govern unilaterally was struck down, and it was only the precursor to what the Court had to say about Hobby Lobby:

Romeo & Juliet

Actually, two cases, very similar, were decided. Along with Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit against being forced to offer its employees aborifacients, another company operating on its Christian faith, Conestoga Wood, had filed suit as well. Both were vindicated by the Court’s decisions. Justice Samuel Alito, in his majority opinion, made it clear that closely held corporations like these two have all the rights of individuals, including liberty of conscience in matters of religious belief. Both companies operate with Biblical foundations, and both were given exemptions from the mandate. The opinion rested on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law passed in the House by acclamation and in the Senate by a vote of 97-3 back in 1993. The president who signed it into law was Bill Clinton. It seems Democrats were for it back then; now they cry foul when it is actually put into practice.

The only sad part of this is that the decision revealed a split Court, ruling in those companies’ favor by only 5-4. This shows how we remain on a precipice as we look toward the future of religious liberty in America:

Land of Religious Liberty

Meanwhile, the silly argument that this is somehow a war on women and that women’s health is now endangered continues unabated. Never mind that no woman has been cut off from birth control; ignore that the cost is not prohibitive; and don’t let the general public know the truth about Hobby Lobby—that it does offer birth control in its health plan, just not the types that may cause abortions:

Setback

What the Supreme Court has done these last couple of weeks is rein in a president who has been acting like a king:

Three Branches

For now, at least, his pretensions have been challenged:

Gavel

On top of all this, Speaker John Boehner has announced that he is bringing a lawsuit against the president for his unlawful actions, taking upon himself the prerogatives of Congress. Obama is unbowed by this new threat to his quest for complete authority:

Executive Order

He will never allow the Constitution to get in his way. That’s why we must remain vigilant.

But, for today, I rejoice over the recent victories.

The Romeike Reversal

German Homeschooling FamilyMany of you, I’m sure, have heard that the German homeschooling family seeking asylum in the U.S. has now been told it can stay. In an amazing turnaround, the Department of Homeland Security contacted the Romeikes to inform them they have been granted “indefinite deferred status,” which is bureaucrat-speak for permission to remain as long as they don’t break any laws. I am delighted for them, as are a whole host of others. They never should have been threatened with deportation in the first place.

This decision came less than 24 hours after the Supreme Court refused to review their case. Michael Farris, their lawyer and advocate, ascribes this unexpected reversal to God’s intervention, perhaps helped along by the administration’s concern over negative publicity. After all, what did this family seek other than the right to educate their children according to their faith and to be grateful residents in a country that would allow them that freedom?

While I applaud the DHS decision, I don’t see this as a reason to have increased confidence in the Obama administration’s approach either to parental rights or fidelity to the rule of law. Any administration that promotes abortion on demand—and praises Planned Parenthood for its endeavors—and refuses to follow the law with regard to the definition of marriage cannot be depended upon to make correct decisions in the future.

Eric Holder’s DOJ has been particularly remiss in upholding the rule of law. He refused to prosecute Black Panthers who intimidated voters in Philadelphia. He said the DOJ would not be supporting the Defense of Marriage Act, despite it being a federal law passed by Congress and signed by none other than Bill Clinton. He now has informed state attorneys general that they don’t have to carry out any state laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Add to this the reprehensible conduct of his IRS toward conservatives and his lackadaisical attitude toward investigating those abuses, and we have an attorney general, responsible for ensuring the law is followed, doing just the opposite. He only follows laws he likes:

Enforce Me Not

So, while I rejoice for the Romeikes, theirs is a victory for one family. It’s not a guarantee that all of America’s families can breathe a sigh of relief. We must remain vigilant.

Movie Review: Gimme Shelter

Gimme Shelter almost didn’t make it into theaters. It was too high budget, well made, and powerful in its message for many Hollywood types. You may ask, “Why wouldn’t Hollywood want to release a movie of such high quality?” It all had to do with the theme: it has a strong pro-life message. The director, Ron Krauss, who has a solid reputation in Tinseltown, was stunned at the resistance to the film. In his words,

It’s a miracle that this film is even being released. I can’t tell you what I went through to get this film out. I spent literally almost a year pushing and pushing people to get this movie out. A lot of people in Hollywood actually went out of their way to make sure this movie would not come out. People tried to pay me off—and I just kept saying, No, no, no, no, no. And then I came across someone who was willing to help me.

The pushback is due entirely to the pro-abortion mentality that dominates the industry. It’s a story in itself. Maybe someone should make a movie about it.

Gimme Shelter-HudgensI went to see Gimme Shelter over the weekend and was deeply impressed by the portrayal of a young woman passed from one foster home to another, then caught in a hellish situation in her drug-addicted mother’s home, if you can stretch the word “home” to cover the disgusting environment into which she was dumped. The lead actress, Vanessa Hudgens, who, I discovered, is pretty well known [so much for my ability to stay abreast of pop culture] is a marvel in the role of “Apple,” the young girl who breaks away from her mother’s destructive influence. She flees to an affluent father she never knew, but neither he nor his wife can figure out what to do with her.

Upon finding out she’s pregnant, the absentee father and wife decide she should have an abortion. As she sits in the clinic, awaiting the “doctor,” she pulls out the sonogram of her unborn child and, struck by the idea of new life growing within her, races out of the clinic, away from everyone, and takes up life on the streets.

Gimme Shelter-JonesScared and threatened by everything and everyone around her on the streets, she hijacks a car, which leads to a terrible accident that puts her in the hospital. Here is where a gritty, heartbreaking film morphs into a slowly unfolding saga of redemption. James Earl Jones, playing a Catholic priest, comes to see her, eventually making a connection, and gently leads her to a Catholic shelter for pregnant, unwed mothers.

The shelter is run by a caring, yet no-nonsense, woman who has given her life to helping those in Apple’s situation. I liked the depiction of the founder of the shelter. Christian faith is everywhere to be seen in the environment, yet she is not some starry-eyed do-gooder. She knows the type of girls she deals with and is forthright with them, making sure they follow the rules, while simultaneously exhibiting love that they’ve never known before. This shelter, and others run by this woman, Kathy DiFiore, are real, not fabricated for the movie. Some of the young women at the shelter are in the movie, essentially playing themselves.

Gimmer Shelter-FraserApple doesn’t immediately take to the new environment. The film realistically shows that it may take quite a while for damaged people to warm up to those who are sincerely seeking their good. The father she never knew, played by Brendan Fraser, becomes a sympathetic figure in the end, earnestly wanting to make Apple part of his new family. Her response to that was somewhat surprising to me, but again, probably realistic.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes fact: both Fraser and Jones donated their salaries to the shelters run by Kathy DiFiore because they believe so strongly in her ministry.

I won’t try to divulge the entire story. That’s for you to find out when you go see it. And see it, you should.

God’s Remnant in a Time of Spiritual Darkness

I’m in a more reflective mood today; perhaps pondering is the right word since it fits with my blog’s title. I’ve been thinking about how the society has changed in my 60+ years. Most of those changes, in the moral realm, have not been beneficial.

I grew up in a small town in northern Indiana, probably not more than 3500-4000 people. I knew everyone in my high school graduating class, to one degree or another, because there were only 99 of us, the majority of whom were in the same school for all 12 or 13 years of their educational lives.

I’m trying to recall how many of them grew up in broken families. I can think of 2, at least, although there must have been a few more. That was the exception; we all pretty much expected a mom and dad were in the home in nearly every family. I’m not at all sure any of the girls in my class had to leave school due to pregnancy; I don’t remember anyone in that situation, although, again, there may have been one I have forgotten. Once more, that was the extreme exception. Marriage was to come first.

No one in the 1960s talked much about homosexuality, let alone same-sex marriage. Out of sight, out of mind. Not on our radar. We had our share of sullen bully-types and those who reeked of rebellion and cigarette smoke, but if anyone ever was high on drugs, it wasn’t evident. That was for classes that graduated after mine.

Abortion was a word with which I had no acquaintance at all. I never knew anyone who had an abortion. Of course, it was illegal then; the floodgates had not yet been opened.

Sometimes I feel like I’m living in an alien culture today, a sort of virtual world that is an anomaly—this is not the way things are supposed to be. Families are not supposed to be disintegrating at the alarming rate we now see; marriage is in the process of being destroyed completely by the radical homosexual agenda; the number of abortions since Roe v. Wade—a staggering 56 million—defies all rational expectations. It’s absolutely horrifying, yet we are practically numbed by the immensity of the figure. In many people’s minds, the aborted babies are more statistics than real persons who have had their lives snuffed out. They are the most innocent victims of all; they never did anything to deserve such treatment.

As I pointed out in a post two days ago, we’ve even come to the place where the governor of New York says pro-life people, those who believe in the self-defense of carrying arms, and those who refuse to accept the movement away from traditional marriage are to be considered extremists who have no place in his state. I can’t imagine, as a high school student back in the 1960s, even with all the drama of Vietnam and the beginnings of cultural shifts at the time, that any governor would ever feel comfortable making a statement like that.

Statue of Bigotry

It’s easy to sense a deepening spiritual darkness, yet we cannot allow that to lead us to despair. We are the rays of His light in this dark world. Although I am sometimes stunned when I consider the plunge our society has made into new avenues of depravity, I have hope when I view hundreds of thousands congregating on the Washington Mall to show support for the sanctity of human life. It tells me there are many others out there who share my worldview. All is not lost. If we can encourage each other enough and work toward unity of purpose, we will give God something to work with.

God has never required a majority on His side to move a mountain. He will always honor the dedicated remnant. We must determine to be that remnant.

Discovering Nelson Mandela

I want to make a few statements right up front today before delving into my topic. First, my intent in this post is not to be arbitrarily contrary or mean-spirited; I always want to write with grace toward a subject whenever possible. Second, as a Christian, I absolutely oppose any policy that divides people by race or that promotes racial superiority. Third, I rejoice whenever a regime built on racial inequality is dismantled.

Why did I think it necessary to make those statements at the start? Well, it’s because I’m not going to be jumping on the world’s bandwagon today in undiluted praise for the life of Nelson Mandela.

Nelson MandelaI understand the horrible circumstances into which Mandela was born in South Africa. Further, I “get it” that someone in those circumstances would find it easy to attach himself to a movement that sought to wreck the system that created apartheid. I also know, especially after my in-depth study of people like Whittaker Chambers, how communism would seem to be the salvation of people trapped in that system. However, I also know the false hope it offers and how it leads its followers into unspeakable atrocities no better than the oppression it wants to overthrow.

Nelson Mandela, in his youth, committed himself to the communist philosophy, but it wasn’t just an intellectual exercise. He actively carried out and/or approved brutal murders in the name of liberation. The African National Congress (ANC) was an effective tool of the Soviet Union to spread the communist vision into South Africa. Keep in mind that, in the name of communism, untold millions have been slaughtered. It has been a pure evil in this world.

Mandela was imprisoned for twenty-seven years for those activities, and no matter how wrong the apartheid policies were, what he sought to replace them with was no better. As I understand it, he was offered release from prison many times if he would only renounce his terrorist actions; he refused.

I’ve tried to read as much about him in the past few days as I could, seeking to find some glimmer of light that would make me feel comfortable with his later life and accomplishments. I’ve particularly been drawn to Christian writers who have tried to provide a Biblical perspective on the man. Yet even those whom I respect seem to fall into line with the near-hero-worship attitude. One even tried to equate Mandela’s actions with George Washington, saying that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

It’s become fashionable to use Washington and the other Founders of America as examples of terrorists from the British point of view. As an American historian, I can say unconditionally that comparison is askew. There were no mass murders in the American Revolution; the colonists had been self-governing for decades, only to see that taken away; the fighting broke out as a matter of self-defense; there were rules of warfare acknowledged on both sides that kept atrocities to a minimum; the goal was simply the reestablishment of self-government; the inspiration for the majority was Christian faith.

In all my reading about Mandela, I sought to discover if he really changed and became a Christian. The writers all pointed to his lack of retribution toward others when he eventually was elected to lead the government. I certainly applaud that. They talk about his sweet temperament and lack of resentment after being released from prison. Those are usually good indicators of a heart change. I hope Mandela found peace with God through Christ, since that is the only way for peace with God to be achieved.

Yet none of those writers, some of whom strove mightily to claim he was a Christian, could point to any definitive salvation experience or any statement directly from him that revealed his Christian faith. It was all rather vague: if he could lay aside revenge, he must have become a Christian. That’s not enough for me.

Mandela never renounced his admiration for people like Fidel Castro. He never changed his mind about the United States being the most oppressive nation in the world. And as president of South Africa, I learned he signed into law the most permissive abortion policy the world has ever seen. Would a genuine Christian do that?

Mandela Abortions

My reading also uncovered the current state of South Africa post-Mandela: poverty still abounds; murder and rape are at an all-time high, statistics showing that country leading the world in those crimes. And then there’s the abortion policy already mentioned. Is this the utopia we’re supposed to be grateful for? Is this some kind of great improvement on the past?

So please forgive me if I’m not particularly thrilled to commemorate the life and accomplishments of Nelson Mandela. I want to be open to further information about him that would put him in a better light, but what I’ve learned thus far has not convinced me that he is—as one commentator declared—the greatest man in history.