Happy New Year? Why Would We Think So?

On January 1st each year we fall into a pattern long emblazoned on our psyche of saying “Happy New Year!” I realize it’s mostly a hope that we hold out, expecting that things certainly have to be better this time around. But on what basis do we hold to such a hope? Is there a solid reason for hoping, or is this more a shadowy, wispy type of wishful thinking?

For me, on a personal level, I have what I consider to be a well-grounded hope. Having been salvaged from a life of despair and purposelessness by the grace of God, hope is real. Yes, I will be affected adversely by circumstances in the world around me—by culture rapidly losing its Biblical underpinnings and a government in the process of destroying basic American liberties—but even if the worst occurs, I will still have the faithful God who gives the promise of eternity in a much better place.

It’s our society on the whole that concerns me. What is happening right now that would give anyone a reason to hope that things will improve? As I noted above, the culture is changing for the worse and needs to be turned around for anything to get better. There are a lot of reasons for that change; some can be seen in this political cartoon’s depiction of our current situation:

The cartoonist used the image of the Newtown murders as one manifestation of how our culture has been debased. Then the media and the politicians come along and make matters even worse by blaming the wrong people. One newspaper decided to show a map of the homes of all those in its county who have legal gun permits. The goal, according to the paper, was to increase “awareness” of the gun problem. Excuse me, but the legal ownership of weapons is not the problem. Yet now those who have followed the law, and have always done so, are being targeted [the use of that word is intentional].

The other focus of news reports at the moment is the so-called fiscal cliff. Few, though, are the news outlets that are willing to expose the real issue: it’s not a revenue problem; it’s a spending problem. The media are in protection mode—ensuring that the One is not blamed. Of course, he has made blaming others into an art:

The next fiscal controversy will be the debt ceiling, which Obama seeks to have removed altogether. He wants the power to spend whatever he desires, without any constraints. The result would not be difficult to foresee:

And what of the loyal opposition? To what extent are Republicans willing to go to stand for sound principles, regardless of the political fallout? There is a segment of the party that mirrors the old Republican lack of vision that dominated pre-Reagan: never challenge the roots of the problem but just try to be a little more moderate than the Democrats:

That approach has always led to defeat.

So, I ask again—on what basis can we hold out hope that anything will improve this year?

In my view, the main reason we are where we are as a society is that the church of Jesus Christ has not fulfilled its obligations as the salt and light of a nation. There are a number of areas in which we have failed, but let me acknowledge three that are paramount:

  1. We have watered down the message of salvation in the desire to draw more people to the faith. A watered-down message leads to a weak faith, or no genuine faith at all.
  2. We have deviated, to some extent, from Biblical morality and do not grasp how Biblical principles apply to a proper understanding of the limitations on civil government, the primacy of the rule of law, and how economics really works.
  3. We have abandoned control of our children’s education and turned that task over to the government, thereby making the problems worse with each succeeding generation.

Those are the three areas I want to address the rest of this week.

C.S. Lewis: The Question of Truth

Lewis took on the role of an apologist for the Christian faith. In an essay entitled “Christian Apologetics,” he honed in on one of the big problems Christians have when trying to explain the truth of Christianity. It’s not a problem with the message itself, but with the hearers of the message:

One of the great difficulties is to keep before the audience’s mind the question of Truth. They always think you are recommending Christianity not because it is true but because it is good. And in the discussion they will at every moment try to escape from the issue “True—or False” into stuff about a good society, or morals . . . or anything whatever.

You have to keep forcing them back, and again back, to the real point. Only thus will you be able to undermine . . . their belief that a certain amount of “religion” is desirable but one mustn’t carry it too far. One must keep on pointing out that Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.

The Quotable Lewis

Over Thanksgiving, I was browsing through a Barnes and Noble in Tucson when I came across a volume I didn’t know existed—a massive compilation of C.S. Lewis’s most memorable quotes. Since Lewis is one of my all-time favorite writers, I was delighted with my find. As I’ve begun to plumb its depths, I’ve been renewed in my appreciation of the insights he offers.

Normally, I’ve rested from this blog on Saturdays, but with the addition of this book to my collection, I’ve decided to share some of the most poignant quotes each week.

The first one comes from his classic work Mere Christianity. I’ll let it stand on its own without further commentary. I hope you will meditate on it and ask the Lord for any application to your own life. And come back to the blog each Saturday for more Lewisian wisdom.

We have never followed the advice of the great teachers. Why are we likely to begin now? Why are we more likely to follow Christ than any of the others? Because He is the best moral teacher? But that makes it even less likely that we shall follow Him. If we cannot take the elementary lessons, is it likely we are going to take the most advanced one? If Christianity only means one more bit of good advice, then Christianity is of no importance. There has been no lack of good advice for the last four thousand years. A bit more makes no difference.

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.