Challenging the Culture

Government is not our savior. Government policies, while significant, are not the primary drivers of a civilization. The old maxim that in a representative system the government is a reflection of the people who elected it remains true. Our government can only do what the people allow it to do. Right now, we are allowing it to control more of our lives than ever. What does this say about us as a people?

I write often about the necessity of placing the right people in the government, and I spend a lot of time critiquing the policies currently in place. That is important, but even if the right people get elected, and even if they are able to muster enough votes to make better policies, unless there is a fundamental change in thinking in the American electorate as a whole, any changes made now will be temporary. We will eventually revert back to a secularist, totalitarian mentality.

The only hope for the redemption of our increasingly depraved society is to reestablish Biblical principles as the source of our thinking. Those principles apply to all areas. Nothing is exempt from God’s truth. The message is going to have to be more unflinching, though, as we face a culture that hates the truth. Some say we have to adapt the message to the culture. They urge a softening of the gospel message to make it more palatable to modern sensibilities. God will never work that way. His message is unchanging and applicable to all times and places. Yes, we have to use different methods and be creative in ways to communicate His truth, but the truth itself cannot be altered to make people feel better. Sin is still sin. Repentance is still mandatory to receive the mercy God offers. Obedience is not optional; it is a requirement for a disciple of Christ.

So that’s the first step: become bolder with the message and don’t allow it to be watered down. Our societal problems are, at their root, spiritual problems. They will never be solved with a weak—actually, false—gospel.

But even if we take our ambassadorship for Christ seriously, the battle for the mind is going to be difficult. Unlike previous generations, we are constantly inundated with anti-Biblical propaganda masquerading as education and entertainment.

Government controls education. It was never meant to be this way. Early Americans were suspicious of putting the government in charge of education, realizing that it could then enforce a uniformity of thinking. The government can now decide what everyone is supposed to learn. As our society began to drift from Biblical principles, the drift gained speed when professional educators who were alienated from Biblical truth were placed in positions of authority in the public school systems in every state. Those schools systems today are little more than conduits for the latest false philosophies—Marxism, multiculturalism, radical environmentalism and feminism, etc. They have become laboratories for social diversity with respect to sexual lifestyles. Basic Biblical morality is considered old-fashioned and quaint, relegated to backward people who can’t come to grips with the new reality.

Our young people not only are indoctrinated in the schools, but due to their addiction to entertainment, they are saturated with those same views through the music they have piped into their ears continually, the video games they play incessantly, and the movies and television programs that form their concept of the world. Christians are mocked through these mediums, morality is undermined, and they are schooled in an Obamalike philosophy of life.

My undergraduate degree was in radio, tv, and film production. I know these mediums have tremendous potential for both good and evil. I’m not a Luddite when it comes to technology and the use of it to communicate a message. I’m attracted to well-acted, artistically excellent productions. I’m discriminating; I don’t go to just any movie or watch just any television program. Too many now have the aroma of the new indoctrination, and it now slithers its way into otherwise fine shows. For instance, I had been watching the new Upstairs, Downstairs series on Masterpiece Theater. For historical drama and social commentary, it has few equals. But I finally had to draw the line when a lesbian storyline intruded itself into the plot. The problem was not the recognition of how this deviation from Biblical morality crops up historically but how it was presented—as a positive development complete with on-screen scenes of passionate kissing between the two women. This has now become the norm. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find any series without at least one homosexual character sympathetically portrayed.

The answer is not to retreat from the culture, but to infiltrate it. Whenever Christians recoil in horror and shut themselves off in a Christian cocoon of some type, sin has a larger field in which to play. We need to confront the lies that have become part of our culture and help people recognize them as destructive of all that is decent and honorable.

I applaud parents who take greater responsibility for their children’s education, whether in alternative Christian schools or via homeschooling. They are refusing to be molded by the culture but are preparing their children to be those who will challenge the unchristian trends. Parents who have chosen this path are not keeping reality from their children; they’re the ones who are showing them the stark differences and instilling the Biblical principles that are our hope. These children will not grow up timid, but bold. Already they attend college at a higher rate than their peers in the public schools and will take positions of responsibility as they mature.

I welcome those who see their Christian calling in the entertainment media. More movies with solid Biblical themes are being produced now, and their quality is improving. The only way to reclaim a culture immersed in entertainment is to take the uncompromising message to them through that media. Thought-provoking dramas drawn from real-life experiences can connect with their audiences and show the way out of the immoral morass of modernity.

We are a divided people. The Biblical worldview, on the surface, is diminishing. But I’m hoping that is merely a superficial appearance. Perhaps beneath that superficiality a river of life will finally burst through. Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'”

May the living water flow.

Averting a Nightmare

Tomorrow is D-Day. The decision will be made, after a marathon campaign season. I will be speaking at a local Republican Club on Wednesday evening, giving my analysis of the election results. I hope it will be a joyous analysis.

If you have been watching any of the final campaign events, you should have no trouble spotting the difference between the candidates at this juncture. Obama sounds pugnacious, angry, even a little resentful. He resorted to the word “revenge” when calling upon his followers to vote. Revenge? For what? Romney is not in power. He hasn’t done anything for which one should seek revenge. That comment showcased a petty incumbent who seems offended that anyone would even dare to knock him off his perch.

Romney, on the other hand, has been quite winsome in his speaking, exuding optimism for the future and a quiet confidence that he will be able to get the job done. His crowds, unlike Obama’s, have been huge and enthusiastic. He’s now even foraying into formerly forbidden territory, making stops in Pennsylvania. Polls show he has pulled even in states like Ohio, Michigan, and Iowa. He’s slightly ahead in Wisconsin and making it a tight race in Minnesota, of all places. It may be somewhat clichéd to talk of momentum, but it is clearly visible on the Romney side.

Obama has so much to answer for—from a terrible economy to a government takeover of healthcare that threatens religious liberty, from a futile stimulus that spread its money to his cronies in the unions and green industries to a foreign policy that is unraveling. Libya is not going away, no matter how he tries to ignore it. Even with all the help he’s received from an obedient media, the word is getting out that his sympathies for Muslim extremists led to inadequate security and death. The word is getting out that he failed to protect our diplomats. The mainstream media no longer holds a monopoly on the news:

Charles Woods, the father of Tyrone Woods, one of the slain ex-Navy seals who gave his life to save others, has spoken out frankly about how the president’s inaction is responsible for his son’s death. Does anyone remember when Cindy Sheehan tried to make life miserable for George Bush when her son was killed in action? Recall how she became a media celebrity? Not so Charles Woods.

Evangelicals, despite Romney’s Mormonism, have rallied to his side because of Obama’s war on Biblical morality, from abortion on demand to same-sex marriage to trying to force Christian organizations to violate their deeply held beliefs with an Obamacare mandate. Obama has tried hard to accuse Republicans of a war on women. Nothing could be more hypocritical:

This may be the most important presidential election in American history because we’ve never before had a president so eager to transform America into a socialist utopia. If he succeeds in holding on to his office, the next four years will be nightmarish for those of us who want righteousness to prevail. The nightmare needs to be averted. I believe it can be. I pray it can be.

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.

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.

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.

 

Barton & Jefferson (Continued & Concluded)

Last Friday, I wrote a post about the controversy over Thomas Nelson ceasing publication of David Barton’s latest book, The Jefferson Lies. My aim was to offer a balanced perspective: I appreciate Barton’s ultimate goal of restoring the knowledge of our nation’s Biblical heritage, yet I take issue with him over trying to force someone like Jefferson into the Christian mold. From my own study of the Founding era and of Jefferson himself, I cannot subscribe to the view that Jefferson was an orthodox Christian.

Barton has written a response at his Wallbuilders site to some of the critiques that others have leveled at him. I read his response, and I now have a response to that. Without going into all the details he presents, I will focus on two of his points.

First, Barton takes aim at academic elites who think they are the absolute experts with respect to historical knowledge and proper understanding of primary documents. I have a lot of sympathy with this critique, but a few qualms as well. After successfully navigating through a doctoral program myself, I can say with complete confidence that having letters such as “p,” “h,” and “d” after one’s name does not confer omniscience. There also is a great temptation to believe you are now in a select fraternity of the privileged; there’s almost a gnostic “special knowledge” quality to this temptation. And yes, there are some professional historians with an agenda who want to rip out all the vast evidence of the Biblical underpinnings of American society and government. But one must be careful not to paint all those with history doctorates with that broad stroke.

After what I wrote on Friday, some may view me as part of that fraternity. Well, that would be almost laughable. I’ve spent most of my post-doctoral existence critiquing that very fraternity as a close-knit group of thinkers and writers who think with and write to one another. Very few of them write a book that the general public is aware of. My desire has always been to provide well-documented, scholarly writing that is geared more toward a general audience. When I penned my doctoral dissertation on Noah Webster, for instance, I determined to break from dissertationese and write in a fashion that could be understood and appreciated by a wider audience than merely my dissertation committee.

So, yes, I agree with Barton that a fraternity of the elite does exist; however, many of his critics do not belong to that fraternity, so to lump everyone together into an amorphous academic elite does not effectively answer the criticisms of his book.

Another part of his defense that I found weak was his assertion that Jefferson only wandered off the Christian path toward the end of his life. I think it is pretty obvious Jefferson was a good Anglican in his younger days only as an external convention; it was how he was raised and what was expected of him. I doubt he ever made any kind of real commitment to orthodox Christian faith. Even when Barton writes of Jefferson’s deviations from some points of doctrine, he does not emphasize that Jefferson denied the deity of Christ. No one who denies the deity of Christ can be a Christian. And this deviation didn’t wait until his later years; his time in France in the mid-1780s marks a decided turn in his views. Jefferson loved French society with its permissiveness in both thought and action. It was this very permissiveness and decadence that turned the stomach of John Adams when he went to France.

I think Barton has chosen the wrong person to try to redeem historically. In my view, Jefferson doesn’t rank very high in a list of Founders who deserve our admiration. Yes, he wrote the Declaration of Independence, but even he later noted he didn’t contribute anything original to the document; he was simply putting into words the general consensus of the time. Yes, he attended church services in the Capitol, but he did so primarily because he thought it important that the chief executive give his approval to religion. He saw religion as beneficial to society with respect to its morals, but he never submitted his life to the One who set the moral standard.

I also defend Jefferson as the author of the “separation of church and state” letter. That letter was not a declaration of complete separation of faith from public office, but only an affirmation to Baptists that the federal government was not going to set up an official church. Further, I use some Jefferson quotes that are quite pithy with respect to federalism and taxes. He is very quotable, and sometimes says exactly what I wish to communicate to my students. So I don’t despise Jefferson, but I do have a critique of his character and worldview throughout his long tenure in public office.

Before we put Jefferson on a pedestal, consider the following:

  • There has been much controversy over his relationship with Sally Hemings, a slave on his plantation. It is not conclusive that Jefferson fathered children with Hemings; it could have been his younger brother Randolph. Yet I personally believe it is more probable that the elder Jefferson is the father. Honest people can disagree on this point, but Jefferson’s close relationship with Maria Cosway [a married woman] while he was in France and his general acceptance of lax French morality lend themselves to that probability. Jefferson also freed Hemings’s children at the end of his life. He didn’t do that for any of his other slaves.
  • In the 1790s and beyond, Jefferson was enamored of the French Revolution, which, at one point, carried out a policy of dechristianization. He never came to grips with the violent nature of that revolution and supported it completely.
  • As George Washington’s Secretary of State, Jefferson continually worked behind the scenes to undermine Washington’s policy toward France, which was neutrality. He even sponsored a newspaper that was set up for the express purpose of lambasting the Washington administration and Washington personally. Jefferson harbored the belief that Washington was trying to set himself up as a king. Early in his second term, Washington lost patience with the disloyal Jefferson and would have sacked him had Jefferson not resigned his position.
  • John Adams was elected president in 1796. In a quirk that was later corrected by a constitutional amendment, Jefferson became his vice president even though he was in the opposing party. Adams, to his credit, reached out a hand of friendship to Jefferson and sought to bring him aboard as an active colleague in his administration. Jefferson rejected the hand of friendship and worked to replace Adams with himself in the next election. He placed his own personal political interest ahead of the nation’s well-being.
  • As president, Jefferson, in tandem with a Congress dominated by his party, placed an embargo on all American goods in an attempt to keep American shipping out of the Napoleonic wars. This relegated an entire section of the nation, New England, to potential poverty. It also just happened to be the section that was the most anti-Jefferson politically. The embargo was a major disaster for American commerce and prosperity, it had to be repealed as one of the final acts of the Jefferson administration, and Jefferson left office a defeated man. His presidency was looked upon as a failure due to this.
  • Although fiscally prudent as president, Jefferson was profligate in his personal finances. He continually spent more money than he had. At one point, he sold his entire library to try to pay his debts. It became the foundation of the Library of Congress. However, he fell back into debt again, and at his death his home, Monticello, along with all his slaves, had to be sold to cover his obligations.

Jefferson’s contributions to the American Founding were mixed. His positives were either balanced by his negatives or his negatives outweighed his positives. That’s a judgment call. However, I would advise Barton and others not to spend so much time resuscitating Jefferson’s reputation. There are other Founders who deserve more attention. To Barton’s credit, he has not ignored other Founders who have a Christian foundation, and when he focuses on them, he can continue to perform a valuable service. But it’s time to stop attempting to defend the indefensible.

Misperceptions of Holiness

There’s a perception of some evangelicals, particularly in the media and on the “progressive” side of politics, that they are rigid, unfeeling, unthinking, mean-spirited joy-killers. Anyone who speaks out against licentious behavior and calls abortion and homosexuality sins are akin, in some minds, to those who championed the Inquisition during the Middle Ages or those Puritans who refused to celebrate Christmas [without, of course, studying to find out the reason they opposed the celebration—the way it was carried out in England was far from Christ-honoring at the time].

The word “holiness” has gone out of style, even among many evangelicals. Some holiness denominations have contributed to a misunderstanding of the Biblical concept. They have concentrated on what one doesn’t do rather than the positive, joyful obedience to God’s standards that emanates from a heart of love.

One of the early proponents of a doctrine of holiness was John Wesley, who started the Methodist movement within the Church of England back in the eighteenth century. I’ve been doing a little reading of excerpts from Wesley’s journal. One of those excerpts captures, I think, the essence of Biblical holiness and the joyful life that God wants for everyone. Read Wesley’s commentary here, and if you are one of those individuals with a skewed view of holiness, this might provide a corrective:

I am convinced as true religion or holiness cannot be without cheerfulness, so steady cheerfulness, on the other hand, cannot be without holiness or true religion. And I am equally convinced that true religion has nothing sour, austere, unsociable, unfriendly in it; but, on the contrary, implies the most winning sweetness, the most amiable softness and gentleness.

Are you for having as much cheerfulness as you can? So am I. Do you endeavour to keep alive your taste for all the truly innocent pleasures of life? So do I likewise. Do you refuse no pleasure but what is a hindrance to some greater good, or has a tendency to some evil? It is my very rule; and I know no other by which a sincere reasonable Christian can be guided.

In particular,  I pursue this rule in eating, which I seldom do without much pleasure. And this I know is the will of God concerning me; that I should enjoy every pleasure that leads to my taking pleasure in Him; and in such a measure as most leads to it.

When Christians call for a higher moral standard for America, it’s not because they want to destroy pleasure. What we witness in our culture are all the false pleasures that try to substitute for the real pleasures God would like to provide. True pleasure is never found by following our own selfish desires. It exists only in a relationship with the One who created pleasure. When we lay aside our selfishness and rebellion against His reasonable commands, only then do we come to an understanding of pleasure because only then will we see it as coming straight from the heart of God.

So I don’t apologize for speaking out on the issues of abortion, homosexuality, personal responsibility, political chicanery, or media malfeasance, among others. My desire is to help bring our society closer to the heart of God, which ultimately brings His blessing and every true pleasure.