Archive for March, 2015

Religious Freedom: It’s a Simple Concept

I keep having to say “I wish I could be surprised by . . .” Fill in the blank. Our culture has changed so drastically over the past few decades, and at a more rapid pace since someone deceived his way into the Oval Office, that nothing can surprise me anymore.

The latest furor is the law passed in Indiana (my home state) that simply seeks to allow religious believers (of any persuasion) to practice their faith when any other law threatens to punish them for exercising their freedom of religion. I seem to remember something about that in the First Amendment. As a reminder, that’s in the Constitution, which ostensibly is the fundamental law of the land.

Indiana’s law is modeled on a federal law passed in 1993 and signed by Bill Clinton—who, hypocritically, has now changed his mind about the very law he signed due to the pressures of the pro-homosexual lobby.

This law is not “anti-gay.” Even though I believe homosexuality violates basic Biblical morality, so does every immoral act, from theft to lying to other types of sexual sin. As a Christian, I deal with those who are trapped in their own sins every day. I don’t treat them as lepers, but instead seek to help them see the truth of the Gospel, which has to begin, of course, with an understanding of sin, repentance, and the forgiveness offered through the Cross.

If I owned a business of some kind, I would not ask everyone first if they are involved in some kind of sin, and if so, refuse to serve them. That’s silly. I would never sell anything that way.

But if I am in a type of business that could in any way endorse or participate in a sinful action, I should be allowed a religious exemption from being forced to be a participant. We have a number of publicized cases where Christian florists, bakers, photographers, etc., are being publicly shamed, or even sued, over not wanting to participate in homosexual “weddings.”

Let’s look at another possible scenario:

Wedding Cake

Should that man be forced to participate in this ceremony? Would anyone arguing against Indiana’s religious freedom law like to stand up on behalf of this couple?

Religious freedom is exactly that—freedom. And anyone who owns a business and operates it according to one’s religious beliefs should not be compelled to act against one’s own conscience.

It’s as simple as that.

My Vote of No Confidence

Disagreement about policy is one thing; we can all participate in honest debate about the correct policy to follow. But is there a tipping point at which the policy that is followed becomes a danger to the nation and must be resisted for the sake of our future? Is there a time to question, not only the wisdom, but the motives of our leaders?

Case in point: the swap for Bo Bergdahl. We got a deserter; the enemy received back from Gitmo five of its top commanders. Now we hear that three of them are attempting to reconnect with the terrorist network. Don’t worry, we’re told. The fact that we know of this attempt shows we are on top of the situation. Never mind that in another couple of months, the “deal” we made with the Muslim nation that took them in will expire.

Who, in his right mind, would think that getting a dishonorable soldier back is worth the release of five terrorist leaders?

Only Five Taliban

Some minds just aren’t thinking straight. Fortunately, the military, despite the pressures from the White House, looked past the “celebration” of Bergdahl’s return last year with the Rose Garden ceremony and Susan Rice’s really silly comment that he served with “honor and distinction.” He is now going to a military tribunal for what should be appropriate justice, provided political concerns don’t outweigh the truth. Sadly, that justice will be meted out to only one of the deserters:

Charged with Desertion

I have no issue with questioning our president’s motives in this case. His skewed worldview is creating problem after problem, and they are escalating. His judgment should be challenged and his decisions should be evaluated in light of the increased national security dangers his policies have perpetuated. His culpability is greater than that of the one who may get his just deserts.

Disgraced

The Bergdahl fiasco involves only one dishonorable soldier and a few terrorists, which is bad enough. Yet there’s a larger disaster looming:

Murky Poppins

I simply have no confidence in the judgment of Barack Obama as the presumed leader of the free world. We are all at risk with him at the helm.

The Lewis Humility

Clyde KilbyClyde Kilby was a central figure in ensuring that the works of C. S. Lewis were never forgotten. Kilby is largely responsible for assembling the largest collection of Lewis papers and books by and about him in the U.S. He was director of the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College for many years.

Kilby corresponded with Lewis and was able to sit down and talk with him face-to-face in July 1953. When he returned to America, he wrote an article that gave details of that visit. What I’m discovering as I study Lewis is that all those who met him for the first time came away with common stories about that first meeting, and their recollections are very similar. Let me offer a few sample paragraphs from the chapter I’m writing in my book about Lewis’s impact on Americans. Here is what happened at that first meeting:

Upon knocking, Kilby was greeted warmly by the man who had meant so much to him in writing. First impressions? “He has a pleasant, almost jolly face, full though not fat, with a double chin. He has a high forehead and thinning hair. Actually, he is a much better looking man than the published picture of him.” Kilby also liked Lewis’s sense of humor, of a type understood best by a fellow academic: “He spoke of the making of a bibliography as just plain labor and laughed about the idea of the scholar’s life as a sedentary one, saying that the physical labor of pulling big folios from the shelves of the Bodleian was all the exercise he needed.”

It was the sharing of minds, though, that stood out to Kilby as he looked back on this meeting. . . . Given Lewis’s penchant for writing novels, they debated the exact nature of that specific species of literature. When Kilby quoted someone who had said a novel is no better than a well-told lie, Lewis objected: “As I expected, he disagreed completely with this claim, saying that one is far more likely to find the truth in a novel than in a newspaper. In fact, he said he had quit reading newspapers because they were so untruthful.”

C.S. Lewis 9Kilby then discovered something about the character of Lewis that stayed with him:

The only awkward moment was when Kilby asked him to autograph one of Lewis’s books he had brought with him. Although Lewis agreed to the request, he commented that he saw no sense in doing so. That led Kilby to conclude something about his character: “Both from reading his books and talking with him, I get the impression that he is far more fearful than most of us of the subtle sin of pride and tries in every way to escape it: thus his reticence to give an autograph.” Perhaps that is what should be expected from one who wrote a book detailing how Satan traps Christians. The Screwtape Letters may have been one of the hardest books Lewis ever wrote, but the message of it seemed to remain with him to the end.

The true test of a real man or woman of God is their humility. There are countless testimonies that, in spite of his fame and great learning, C. S. Lewis retained a heart of even greater humility. That’s one excellent reason why he is worthy of study.

A Meditation on Turning 64

On this day, as I commemorate my 64th revolution around the sun, I look back on how God has led and guided and am grateful. Many people make fun of small towns, but I’m glad I grew up in one. My neighbor children first invited me to go to Sunday School with them; that was how the Lord drew me to Himself, as I readily accepted the Word given to me.

Explo 72My undergraduate days were a time of solidifying what I believed and meeting the one to whom I have been married now for almost 43 years. I look at this picture and think, well, we haven’t changed much, have we? At least I used to think that, but when I show the picture to my students without telling them up front just who those people are, they have a hard time recognizing me. Yes, time marches on.

I’m grateful for early opportunities to work in the media, primarily as a radio announcer, which helped me develop as a speaker. Then I learned invaluable lessons as headmaster of a Christian school. The most valuable is that God continually works with us to bring us closer to Himself, even when we do our best to walk away from Him.

Bearded WonderYes, I had a time that I now consider the dark night of my soul. I wandered for some years, spiritually almost-dead, but the Lord specializes in bringing people back from the dead. This picture is rather embarrassing now, but I thought I looked really cool during this time in my life. I’m thankful for a wife who weathered all the storms and stood with me. She still does.

After the Lord redeemed me a second time, and I looked upon Him as the God of the Second Chance, more opportunities opened, and He allowed me, in spite of myself (and that’s exactly how I see it) to begin a career/ministry as a university professor. That part of my life didn’t start until I was 38. I used to joke about what I wanted to be when I grew up, and that I didn’t figure it out until I was almost 40.

2001 CommencementMy experiences at a number of Christian universities have been varied, but no matter what I’ve had to learn on this journey, one thing has remained constant: God has put me here to teach students, and I have to devote myself to that task. Most of the time, it’s been a joy to do so. One of the blessings of this “later” time of my life has been the connection I’ve maintained with former students—from Indiana Wesleyan, Regent, Patrick Henry, and now at Southeastern.

SpeakingIf you compare this photo with the first couple, you can see that I’ve definitely changed. But inside, I’m still the same. I’m still someone who truly wants to serve God in whatever way He leads, and for as long as He lets me.

And you know what? I don’t feel too old yet. I sense there are many years of ministry remaining to me. Yet I know the caution in the book of James about not making plans without first saying, “If the Lord wills.” That is the attitude of my heart today.

So I celebrate the fact that God has given me another year to accomplish His will. I’ll hang around and continue to do so for as long as He wants.

In a More Sane World . . .

While I’m aware that polls don’t mean a whole lot this far out from a presidential election, it’s still sad to see preliminary polls indicating Hillary Clinton beating any Republican challenger. You can say it’s because of high name recognition for her and low name recognition for some of those challengers (except Jeb Bush, of course), but the disheartening factor remains strong.

What does it take? First, we have all her baggage from years gone by. The mainstream media ignores that, so the low-information voter easily forgets about it—if he/she knew anything to begin with.

Then we have the revelation that the Clinton Foundation takes money from foreign governments even while she serves as secretary of state. That just isn’t done. Besides, the Foundation is more of a foundation for the Clintons’ financial benefit than for helping those in genuine need. Remember how Hillary said they left the White House dead broke? Her comments are on a shaky foundation also.

Clinton Foundation

This was followed by the further revelation that she had her own e-mail server apart from the government and conducted all government business through it. No, no, no, no, no. That isn’t done. Once it was exposed, she airily commented that it was no big deal, that she had turned over everything official to the government. How do we know? Trust her. Right.

CPR

At least all of this made some Democrats nervous, hoping there might be another alternative for 2016:

Bottom of Barrel

Apparently not.

In a more sane world, Hillary Clinton would never be allowed near the Oval Office.

Transparent Dishonesty

All the news and controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton, on the one hand, and the Iran deal and the administration’s loathing of Israel, on the other, have pushed other important issues to the background. You know, all that “old” news that we’re supposed to forget about, and how it’s time to “move on?”

As an example, when’s the last time you heard much about the IRS scandal? Did the mainstream media, for instance, pick up on this story?

Bonuses

Then there’s the case that went to the Supreme Court about Obamacare. A reading of the law itself would automatically destroy it because the government has illegally provided subsidies expressly forbidden by that law. Yet the outcome is in doubt because one Supreme Court justice should have recused herself but refused to do so. Elena Kagan, when she served as solicitor general, helped ensure Obamacare’s passage. Rules require that justices recuse themselves if in their previous capacity they served as “counselor or advisor” concerning a current matter before the Court, or if there is anything about the proceeding by which the justice’s impartiality can reasonably be called into question.

Justice Kagan, though, has made sure her “yes” vote for Obamacare is counted:

Recuse

And despite all the many scandals swirling around this presidency, we are told that the president has nothing to do with any of them. Why, he only learned about them the way we did:

Learned About It

All this from the self-proclaimed “most transparent administration in American history”:

Government Transparency

I guess that all rests on one’s definition of “transparency.” The only thing transparent about this administration is its dishonesty.

The Republican Field: A Preliminary Analysis

Party SymbolTexas Senator Ted Cruz yesterday became the first declared candidate for president. Many others, on the Republican side, are lined up to make their declarations soon. Who are the viable candidates? Which ones have the greatest chance of turning the White House back to Republican control?

Today I’m going to run down the list of those eager to run and provide a short—and I mean short—analysis of the strengths and challenges for each one. Two caveats: I will not include those who I think have no chance at all of getting the nomination, even if I like them personally—some that I will comment on are almost in that category, but for now they are included; there are friends and acquaintances who are already publicly supporting some of these candidates, but my quick analysis will be as objective as possible. By the time I’ve finished, I hope I will have been fair to each potential candidate and I hope to still have friends.

Let’s do this in alphabetical order, to avoid the appearance of bias on my part:

Jeb Bush: has a strong track record as conservative governor of Florida; also has a lot of financial backing among establishment Republicans; his support of a path to citizenship for illegals and for Common Core will make it difficult for him to get the nomination if the party’s conservative base shows up in the primaries; if he gets the nomination, the general public may not be enthused about him simply because of his last name.

Ben Carson: man of great achievement as a surgeon; his distance from political battles has an appeal to those sick of traditional politicians; solid Christian with impeccable personal life; may draw more African Americans to the Republicans; concerns about anyone jumping from no political experience straight into a run for the presidency; has a lot to learn about foreign policy, in particular, as revealed in a recent interview; a novice at dealing with the national media.

Chris Christie: strong personality; not afraid to tackle hard tasks as governor and let people know what he thinks; concern over his basic philosophy—is he really a conservative?; alienated many with his embrace (both figuratively and literally) of Obama right before the 2012 election when seeking federal aid after massive storm Sandy; his strong personality can also be abrasive, which may be good for a New Jersey politician, but not for a general election nationwide.

Ted Cruz: another strong personality; his in-your-face tactics have thrilled many on the conservative side; he’s a very smart man with a commitment to the Constitution; also has the potential to unite Tea Party and evangelicals (some overlap there) into a unified block; should be outstanding in debate; those tactics that thrill conservatives have also alienated other Republicans he will need to unite the Party; speculation that his appeal may not extend to the general electorate.

Mike Huckabee: devoted Christian with emphasis on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage; excellent speaker and good in debate forum; extensive executive experience as Arkansas governor; has potential just by his down-to-earth folksy manner of drawing independents to his side; opposed, though, by key groups on the Republican side like the Club for Growth, which has criticized his tax and spending policies; has been on both sides of Common Core, but now says he is opposed; also concerns about pardons for criminals when he was governor and whether his faith will repel some voters.

Bobby Jindal: executive experience as governor of Louisiana; strong opponent of Common Core and outspoken Christian; his Indian (as in India) heritage lends itself to Republicans showing they are a Party inclusive of minorities; his biggest drawback is lack of name recognition nationwide; conservative vote in primaries so split that he falls farther down in the polls.

Rand Paul: committed to less government interference in Americans’ personal lives; promotes private property and free enterprise along with his limited government appeal; may be able to bring more African American voters to the GOP; may be too libertarian for traditional conservatives on issues like marriage; those who want the U.S. to take a strong stand in foreign policy are wary of his near-isolationism and whether he is a solid enough supporter of Israel.

Rick Perry: has been a strong governor of Texas for many years; takes stand on the rights of states to oppose federal government interference; on his watch, Texas has become one of the freest states in the Union; in his personal life, he is a committed Christian with Biblical values; unforced errors on his part in 2012 debates destroyed his chances that year; many are concerned he won’t be able to get past that history; many also feel that electoral success in Texas won’t translate into the same nationally.

Marco Rubio: he has many positives: excellent and inspiring speaker, solid conservative basis for his political philosophy, devoted Christian, defender of Israel and for strong foreign policy stance; hurt himself with the base when he supported a comprehensive immigration plan, but has since backed off that approach; has potential to attract voters with his enthusiasm and youth, but getting the nomination after his immigration false step may be daunting.

Rick Santorum: superb personal story and committed Christian; runner-up in the primaries in 2012; works best as an underdog who is too easily dismissed; can appeal to the blue-collar voters with his emphasis on reaching out to the common man; main problem is how to overcome the more charismatic appeal of other candidates and the feeling that his time has passed.

Scott Walker: has come from the back of the pack to surprise the establishment; at or near the top of the polls at the moment; has shown great courage and determination as Wisconsin governor with his unyielding stand against the public sector unions; the state has prospered under his leadership and he has withstood a recall attempt by Democrats; winning three elections in the past four years is quite an achievement in a traditionally Democrat state; Christian who could unite evangelicals, Tea Party, and establishment; has to overcome charges of flip-flopping on some issues; will need to establish foreign policy credentials.

Well, there you have it, my first thoughts on the potential candidates. I’ve tried to be as fair and impartial as I can, pointing out positives and negatives, at least from my perspective. Let us pray (and I mean that literally, not just as some pious phrase) for the right person to rise to the top, for the sake of our nation’s future.