Let Us Not Lose Hope

We can be too cynical at times when we see politics at work and how politicians carry out that work. It’s easy to spot the ego-driven characters who are all too often attracted to the limelight and who are only in the political world for their own advancement. This cynicism expresses itself in frustration, particularly directed at Congress. How often have you heard someone say, “Let’s just throw all the bums out and start over”? That’s stereotyping. It doesn’t take into account the many public servants who are doing their jobs for the right reason. I’m happy to say that I have a congressman who fits the description of what a congressman is supposed to be. Dennis Ross, a first-term representative from the Lakeland, Florida, area, was swept into office in the election of 2010 as part of the repudiation of the emerging Obama agenda. It was an honor to have him come speak to the faculty, staff, and students of Southeastern University this past Tuesday.

Ross, whose Christian faith is foundational to his desire to be involved in politics and government, shared his personal story with those who came to interact with him. He spoke of the failures he experienced in his younger years and how those failures were absolutely essential for learning the lessons he needed to learn about life. Failures, he told them, are what lead to future successes. If government attempts to shield people from all failure, we never understand the real meaning of success.

I served as the moderator for the event. After he gave his background, I asked him a series of questions on what might be considered hot-button issues for Christians. How should a Christian view national security issues? Is pacifism the Biblical requirement or can we defend ourselves? Is there such a thing as a just war? What about poverty? How should it be handled—via government or primarily through the church and other voluntary organizations? How can a Christian legislator combine compassion with the necessity for upholding the rule of law when it comes to illegal immigration? Is it moral to have as much debt as we currently do in our nation? How can that debt be reduced? Ross provided solid answers for each of these inquiries.

Then I turned it over to the audience to let them ask whatever questions they might have for the congressman. I have to admit I wondered if there would be enough questions to fill the remainder of the time. I was already formulating some additional questions of my own, just in case. I needn’t have worried. There was an active interest in hearing more from Rep. Ross on a number of issues. The questions just kept coming. When I called a halt to the proceedings, there were still students lined up with more questions. Dennis graciously stayed after the meeting to address those questioners personally.

All in all, this encounter between a congressman and his constituents was a positive experience for everyone, and it showed how politics is supposed to work. I hope those who attended left with a little less cynicism in their hearts and lot more appreciation for the difficult task that awaits anyone who enters the political fray. My heartfelt thanks to Dennis Ross for being what we need to see more of—a role model.

The nice thing for those of us who count Rep. Ross as their congressman is that he is running unopposed for reelection. He will continue to represent the Lakeland area. His devotion to constitutionalism and his Christian faith will be in the Congress for at least another two years; my hope is that he will be there for many more after that.

As we anticipate the election in less than two weeks, we need to pray for principled leaders such as Dennis Ross to come to the forefront. We need to vote for such men and women and not despair. A passage of Scripture comes to mind that applies quite well; it contains a warning but also offers us a promise:

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

Head to the polls this year with confidence that no matter what happens, God has some of His people in positions where they can do much good. Even when we don’t see it, God is working in and through those who are committed to Him. Despair needs to be banished from our hearts and replaced with hope.

The Danger to Religious Liberty

In all my writing about politics and government, my greatest concern is the encroachments on religious liberty. I’ve often highlighted attacks, both direct and indirect, on the role of religious belief in our nation. The nation, by the way, is not synonymous with the government; the former is the whole people, the latter simply the representative of the voters that is supposed to carry out policies for the good of the whole. We have been too eager to elevate the government to the highest place of allegiance. When we do so, we dethrone God.

I’m indebted today to Matthew Franck, director of the Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute, an independent research center housed at Princeton University. In an article published by Hillsdale College, Franck summarizes so well the series of recent attacks on the significance of religious faith.

He begins with the universities:

At the Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, the student chapter of the Christian Legal Society was denied any status on the campus because it would not abandon its requirement that members commit themselves to traditional Christian norms regarding sexual morality. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling in 2010, held that the student group’s rights were not violated by a “take all comers” policy. Following this lead, Vanderbilt University has rewritten its student organizations policy and effectively chased every traditionally Christian group off campus, denying them regular access to campus facilities.

In effect, the Supreme Court has said that a Christian organization cannot be limited in membership to those who are Christians. In this instance, the absurd has become the norm.

State and local governments have also taken steps to deny deeply held religious beliefs. In Washington and Illinois, attempts have been made to force pharmacists to dispense “morning after” pills, which cause abortions, even when doing so is a violation of their consciences. In New York City, if you are a church, don’t bother trying to use a public school building for a church function. Churches are banned from using them. A Christian wedding photographer in New Mexico “was fined for violation of a state ‘human rights act’ because she refused to take the business of a same-sex couple who claimed to want her services at the civil union ceremony.” In other states, Catholic charities have been excluded from taking part in adoption or foster care services because they won’t put children with same-sex couples.

One of the more publicized instances of overruling Christian morality occurred in 2010 when Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court of San Francisco [naturally] gave his controversial ruling on Proposition 8, a referendum approved by the California electorate to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Walker, who is also an outspoken homosexual, ruled that proposition to be unconstitutional. Franck explains,

He held that the affinity between traditional religion and the moral case against same-sex marriage was reason enough to strike down the popular referendum, and went so far as to say that religious doctrines holding homosexual acts to be sinful are in themselves a form of “harm to gays and lesbians.” In this he followed the lead of the Iowa Supreme Court, which held in 2009 that the state’s law restricting marriage to a man and a woman was an expression of a religious viewpoint, and for that reason unconstitutional.

Then of course there are this year’s HHS mandates for carrying out Obamacare that force religious schools, universities, hospitals, and charitable institutions to violate their consciences with regard to contraception and abortifacients.

What we are witnessing is a shift in the significance of religious beliefs in our nation. They are now being shoved to the periphery, whereas they used to be right at the center of our culture. Two hundred years ago, the Founders recognized the priority that religious faith had in society. When James Madison wrote his famous Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, he clearly expressed the consensus of the age when he said,

It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. [emphasis added]

Madison’s perspective was that our allegiance to God and what He requires of us is greater than the allegiance we owe to our government. Today, we are in the process of reversing that. Here, I believe, is where the real battle for the soul of our nation lies. Yes, I’m concerned about the economy, taxes, healthcare, foreign policy, and all the rest. Yes, I speak out constantly about the need to limit the federal government to the authority granted it in the Constitution. But even more than all that, it is imperative that our government not declare itself to be above an individual’s conscience before God. Government is not God; only God Himself can make that claim. We owe our ultimate allegiance to Him, and Him only.

That’s why I write about the dangers of another four years of Barack Obama. His mindset is the new one, the one that subordinates religious beliefs to the dictates of whatever the government deems more important. The danger is real, and it must be met head-on and defeated.

A Few Statements about God, Truth, & Life

Nothing fancy today . . . or long. I just want to make a few statements to help provide some understanding for why I am so dedicated to speaking out about righteousness in government and culture. I don’t do so from some position of presumed authority or because I think I’m the fount of all wisdom. In fact, it’s precisely due to the failures in my own life over my 61+ years that I feel called to write and teach.

When I was 25, I knew everything. I wouldn’t have said so at the time—who would be that foolishly bold?—but as I look back now, I see that I thought I had captured most of the truth about God and life. That confidence was shaken, though, when I went through a time of estrangement from the Lord. I walked away from the faith and tried hard to find another way. God’s grace, however, prevailed as He allowed me to follow a path that led to a dead end.

At the end of that path, I had nowhere to turn but back to Him, and for that I’m eternally grateful. He gave me a second chance. He showed me the devastation of sin in one’s life, the cleansing nature of repentance and faith in His atonement, and hope for a new start—a new path. I’ve traveled this new path with Him now for about 25 years. It has not all been easy. I’ve had to live with some consequences from that period when I wandered, and the path has contained some rather large potholes, some of which I navigated successfully, others into which I fell. Yet even in times of near-despair, He has shown me His faithfulness.

I am more attuned to some things now. Sin is uglier than ever to me. A culture awash in sin makes me grieve. The politics of hypocrisy and self-centeredness brings pain to my heart, even as I know it does to God’s heart. Falsehood, whether in theology or political philosophy, brings the response of wanting to correct all such falsehood with declarations of truth. As a teacher, which is God’s calling on my life, I have a natural tendency to discern error and counter it with Biblical principles.

Yet I am also more attuned to God’s mercy. He showed mercy to me when I deserved judgment. Even as I point out error and talk of God’s potential judgments, I must leave room for His mercy, particularly toward those in the culture and government who are deceived and are deceiving others. God’s judgment may fall, but I will continue to pray that it be forestalled and that spiritual renewal may increase.

We are to judge. That is Biblical. We are to evaluate men’s hearts and actions. We need to do so, though, only when we have first taken the beam out of our own eye.

A couple of sentences from a small devotional book that I’m reading stand out to me today. The first deals with sin:

It is no secret that when a man sins he ever so rarely does anything unique or original or new or different. Sin is monotonously the same, generation after generation.

My sins were not unique. God’s forgiveness is not unique. But it was uniquely applied to my life. It gave me a new life.

The devotional also noted this:

There is a perpetual power of renewal in the Christian religion. It is forever producing prophets and saints who keep calling it back to the heart of its message.

I have been the recipient of a renewal. God continually calls me back to the heart of His message. My goal is to spread that message in any way I can. This is why I write.

The Case Against Barack Obama: Theology/Worldview

Most political analysts refuse to enter the field of theology and worldview. They prefer instead to just look at the externals of a person’s policies. Yet all externals proceed from what is internal. The questions need to be asked: What does a person believe to be ultimate reality? What principles guide his thinking? How are those ideas then translated into policy? For Obama, as with anyone, we must begin at the beginning.

Both of Obama’s parents were decidedly on the Left with respect to culture and politics. Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, was an American anthropologist. His father, Barack Obama Sr., was a Kenyan who resented and fought against British rule in his native country. That resentment pushed him into being a revolutionary.

Dunham and Obama met at the University of Hawaii and got married in 1961, with the younger Barack already on the way. Barack Sr. neglected to tell her he had a wife and children back in Kenya. After graduation, she stayed in Hawaii while he took off to Harvard for graduate studies. They were divorced in 1964.

The only time he saw his son after that was in 1971 when he visited Hawaii. So the son never really knew his father, yet for some reason, he practically idolized him. This romanticized version of dad helped lead him toward the anti-colonial views his dad held dear.

His mother then married Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian also studying at the University of Hawaii. They moved to Indonesia. Although that marriage officially lasted until 1980, it was strained as Dunham became more enamored of Indonesian culture and Soetoro was drawn more and more into Western culture. Whereas Barack Sr. was an atheist at the time of his marriage to Dunham, his family had been Muslim. Soetoro also was Muslim. That has led to speculation by some that Obama is a closet Muslim as well. There’s no real evidence for that. He’s actually more of an anti-colonialist who sympathizes with Muslims because he perceives them as being an oppressed people by the West.

Soetoro’s Western leanings became the impetus for the young Obama to be sent back to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents, Stanley and Madelyn Dunham. They were also radical in their worldview and wanted to ensure that Obama was properly trained in that perspective. One can see that Ann Dunham obviously followed in her own parents’ footsteps ideologically.

In order to fulfill that mission, Stanley Dunham turned to Frank Marshall Davis to serve as a mentor for Obama. Davis was a committed communist who had joined the Communist Party early in World War II. He also was the founding editor-in-chief of the Chicago Star, a communist newspaper. In Davis’s columns for the Star, he wrote against Wall Street, profit-based companies, tax cuts, and anyone he considered wealthy. He also pushed for universal, government-sponsored healthcare and major public works projects. According to Grove City College professor Paul Kengor, who has recently authored a biography of Davis, Dunham introduced Obama to Davis in 1970, and until Obama left for college, he was his primary influence. As a result, when Obama entered Occidental College, he was a full-fledged Marxist. That insight, says Kengor, comes from Dr. John Drew, an acquaintance of Obama’s during that period of his life, and a Marxist himself at that time. Kengor comments of Drew,

He’s totally credible, no axe to grind, no story to sell. Drew contacted me because he knew I was researching Davis. Drew sees himself as the “missing link” between Obama’s time with Frank Marshall Davis and with later radicals like Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. . . . Drew told me about Obama’s belief in what Drew described as the “Frank Marshall Davis fantasy of revolution.” Drew, who was a more realistic, chastened Marxist, was stunned at Obama’s unwavering belief in the imminence of a Marxist revolution in the United States.

The link between Davis and later radicals. When Obama moved to Chicago, he came under the sway of Jeremiah Wright, so much so that he was a member of his church for twenty years. Wright performed the wedding between Barack and Michelle. Most people are aware of Wright’s most famous/infamous quotes, particularly his call for God to damn America. But most people don’t realize that Wright, bolstered by his radical black liberation theology, also claims that Jesus was black, that Israel is a terrorist state, and that the U.S. government created the HIV virus to carry out genocide against minorities. His “church” also supports terrorist organizations such as Hamas. Obama, during the 2008 campaign, distanced himself from Wright, straining belief by saying he had never heard Wright make those kinds of statements. After twenty years at the church? How credible can that be?

Wright had a mentor as well, a theologian by the name of James Hal Cone, who is considered the godfather of black liberation theology. He’s also Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary. So what does this distinguished theologian believe? Here are a few choice quotes:

  • Black hatred is the black man’s strong aversion to white society. . . . But the charge of black racism cannot be reconciled with the facts. While it is true that blacks do hate whites, black hatred is not racism.
  • All white men are responsible for white oppression.
  • Theologically, Malcolm X was not far wrong when he called the white man “the devil.” The white structure of this American society, personified in every racist, must be at least part of what the New Testament meant by the demonic forces.
  • We cannot solve ethical questions of the twentieth century by looking at what Jesus did in the first. Our choices are not the same as his. Being Christians does not mean following “in his steps.”
  • The black theologian must reject any conception of God which stifles black self-determination by picturing God as a God of all peoples. . . . There is no use for a God who loves white oppressors the same as oppressed blacks. . . . What we need is the divine love as expressed in black power, which is the power of blacks to destroy their oppressors, here and now, by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject God’s love.

So much for reaching out to those who disagree. So much for the nature of God as seeking to lead all men out of sin and into righteousness. For Cone and Wright—and by implication, Obama—Jesus is little more than the first human revolutionary. He is all about liberation from worldly oppressors, not liberating all men from sin.

A Chicago Sun-Times columnist, Cathleen Falsani, interviewed Obama about his faith in 2004. Here’s some of what he said:

I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, that we are connected as a people. . . . The difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and proselytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that if people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior, they’re going to hell.

The columnist commented, “Obama doesn’t believe he, or anyone else, will go to hell. But he’s not sure he’ll be going to heaven either.”

So what is Barack Obama’s worldview? He’s a devoted anti-colonialist with strong Marxist underpinnings who has adopted a false Christianity based on black liberation theology. This worldview is dangerous for the future of the United States. It’s not just theoretical with him; he is committed to carrying it out. This is the first, and most foundational, of all reasons to vote him out of office.

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.

Nadarkhani’s Release

Youcef Nadarkhani is free. The pastor who has languished in an Iranian prison for nearly three years was released on Saturday. He had been condemned to die for his faith, but he is now with his family. This is a personal victory for him, and I am grateful he has persevered and overcome the privations he suffered. He has proven his faith is genuine; he was willing to suffer a martyr’s fate for standing up for the truth of the Gospel.

But as an analysis of the situation notes, he was not fully exonerated by the Iranian regime. Although the apostasy charge was dismissed, he still was found guilty of conducting evangelistic activities. The penalty for that was three years in prison. He had served two years, eleven months, so upon payment of a fine, he was allowed to go free at this time. This is not real leniency on Iran’s part; it’s another attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of a confused and distracted West. His release also follows only one day after Canada cut off all diplomatic relations with Iran. “See,” they are saying, “we’re not that bad; it’s the evil Western countries like Canada that are the real problem.”

Meanwhile, other Christians remain in Iranian prisons for precisely the same reason Nadarkhani was incarcerated. For a fuller treatment of this story, and how this episode doesn’t indicate a softening of the Iranian stance, I highly recommend an article from Commentary, which you can access here.

What does the future hold for Nadarkhani and his family? Will he stay in Iran or leave? Biblically, he is under no obligation to remain where he and his family are in danger of death. He could leave with a clear conscience. On the other hand, each Christian must seek the Lord’s guidance as to where he will do the most good for the advancement of the Gospel. Perhaps he may believe the Lord is calling him to stay. Whatever he decides, I rejoice today that he is free to fulfill God’s will for him. His imprisonment was a testimony to the truth; the rest of his life can be as well. May he continue to draw close to the Lord, and may his efforts for Him be blessed.

The New Zeitgeist

I’ve been thinking more about how Christianity and the absolute morality it embraces are experiencing a new, and more vociferous, round of condescension. The culture’s disdain for what are usually termed traditional values seems to be increasing. As I told one of my classes this past week, what was considered basic morality forty years ago is now criticized as hateful. I’m not the only one noticing this:

In the entertainment portion of our culture, one doesn’t have to search long and hard to find the new “zeitgeist.” We are preached at from almost every television program that homosexuality is not only permissible, but that anyone who opposes it is either hopelessly backward or evil. How many shows celebrate saving sex until marriage compared with the number that assume everyone lives together before marriage? When was the last time you witnessed a strong Christian portrayed as a model for how one should live rather than as a bigoted hatemonger? Do you remember when you didn’t have to be bombarded with vulgar language, particularly before 10:00 p.m.?

We’ve come a long way out of many closets in the past few years. As a result, politicians have become bolder in their pronouncements against traditional morality. For the first time in my lifetime, a major political party is set to endorse homosexual marriage. When the Democrats hold their convention next week, reports are that they plan to spend a lot of time advocating the right to abortion and same-sex marriage. They think we’ve reached that tipping point in our society when pushing for those measures will actually increase their likelihood of victory. They’re going to make a big deal over the artificially trumped-up/imaginary Republican “War on Women.” How many will see past that hypocrisy?

Will this really help the Democrat ticket? If it does, we are in worse shape as a nation than I thought. Naturally, I’m hoping that tactic backfires, but I’m only cautiously optimistic.

I’ve stated this before, but it bears repeating: Christians need to come to grips with the fact that we’re not necessarily a majority anymore. We are quickly becoming a despised minority group subject to increasing pressures to conform to the modern zeitgeist. If we continue to resist, we will be hated. Yet we were told in advance this would be the case. This happened to the One we follow as well. As He told His disciples shortly before his crucifixion,

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “A slave is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. . . . All these things they will do to you . . . because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also.

The reason the prevailing culture of the time rose up against Jesus was because He revealed the sin in their hearts. If we are steadfast in pointing out the sins of our culture, it will rise up against us also. We need to be prepared. As the apostle Paul told Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

I teach and write with the hope that we’re not that far gone yet as a culture, that a semblance of Biblical thinking may still remain and can be fanned into a flame once more. But if I am wrong, and the hostility toward the Biblical worldview has become so dominant it cannot be reversed, I will continue nonetheless. God has called us to faithfulness, and my purpose for living is to please Him by doing His will, regardless of the results. He looks at the heart and rewards accordingly. He’s seeking a faithful army that will remain steadfast. As His word abundantly demonstrates, He always works with a godly remnant. I want to be part of that remnant.