Have your earned the right to speak?

Yesterday I received an email from a friend that a mutual friend’s 13 year old daughter was killed in a car accident that could have been prevented.  The details of the prevention are not necessary, the fact is a man’s baby is dead, and the heartache my friend is feeling is unimaginable.  As I plan to jump on a plane and attend the memorial for a girl I’ve never met and embrace a friend I haven’t seen in 13 years,  I can’t help but reflect on what I may say to him in his time of need.

It seems that all the standard answers are insufficient.  We’ve all heard them, “She in a better place now”, “Try to remember the good times”, or my personal favorite, “She didn’t suffer”.  As a father of a daughter only a few years younger than his daughter, I can honestly say those responses would just piss me off.   The frustration lies in that I know the intellectual response.  God is in control of all things and he is glorified in all things, both good and bad, but verbalizing these things, is not the right thing to do for certain.

I guess the lesson here is, why do we feel as though we have to say anything at all?  Let’s face it, Christians are well trained in coming to people’s aid in times of need but we are sorely lacking in offering guidance and friendship to people when they are not in crisis.  Don’t get me wrong, we are good friends to people inside our club, but in general we are awful in genuine friendships with people who don’t share our convictions.  As a result, I don’t believe I have earned the right to say anything to my friend.  His daughter is dead and he and his family are grieving the loss of a child and because of a lack of genuine relationship with any believers they do not have the love of Christ to carry them through.  No pithy response, not even preaching the gospel can change that.  We now must trust the Holy Spirit to guide them to the truth and pray that he and his family will seek and understand the true freedom that comes through Jesus.

Ultimately we can personalize this situation and try harder to protect our own children from events like this, but unless you’re a mind reader or lock your child in his or her room, you will eventually fail to provide the necessary protection to your children that will keep them from every dangerous situation.  I will certainly use this as a lesson to teach my children how to recognize dangerous situations, but more important is to realize that this type of situation happens all the time and as a Christian, my obedience to Christ compels me to reach the lost with the gospel.  I know that bad things will always happen, but dealing with these bad things is far easier for the grieving if they have the creator of the universe sitting next the them.

Consider this a lesson for all of us.  Are we reaching people who need Christ or are we busy sitting in church and chatting with our Christian friends, reading Christian books and drinking Christian coffee?  Christianity is not a personal relationship with Jesus.  It is an active relationship with Him.  We should obediently follow the words of Christ who told us to reach the lost with His gospel.  Had that occurred in my friend’s life, the events of Superbowl evening may not have been prevented, but at least he and his family might be able to rest in the truth of Jesus in their time of need.

Rational vs. Emotion

The nation’s heart goes out for the victims of the school shooting this week.  I can’t imagine how someone can act in such an evil way.  Yes EVIL, not sick, evil.  It seems the media wants to walk a fine line between morning for the victims yet explain the killer’s action as something sick inside of him.  The world has rejected God and this rejection leaves a whole in our thought process.  We want to objectify this action as a really, really bad thing, but we can’t without appealing a law giver greater than ourselves.  In addition, the world wants to be materialistic and atheistic, yet the want to blame God when something this bad happens.  To that I say we reap what we sow.  We should not be surprised when God lifts His restraint on evil.  He does so all the time.  Listen to me carefully, I am not saying that the children who were brutally shot dead are to blame for the killings.  What I am saying is that this is a consequence of the rejection of God from our society.  It is a consequence that has been felt throughout time and we must understand that the problem isn’t that people have suddenly become more evil but that we are not privy to every single situation of evil worldwide.

The consequences for our access to information is most easily felt in our loss of liberty.  The USA has a fundamental belief in human liberty.  A belief so strong that we have protected our liberty in our founding documents.  Where many country’s founding documents talk of the limitations on liberty, ours takes a positive approach and specifically spells out our God-given freedoms.  Many in the world don’t get this difference and don’t understand what makes American so different.  With liberty comes strife from time to time and though this has always been the case, our knowledge of all the strife worldwide gives us pause and we second guess our liberties.  Gun control is a prime example of this.  Since the unfortunate situation of the death of so many innocent children, there is a call for the removal of the 2nd Amendment – “The right to bare arms”.  They say “enough is enough and there is no need for guns in a civilized society”.  Perhaps they are right.  Perhaps we don’t need guns in a civilized society.  The problem is, the 2nd amendment has nothing to do with how civilized we are. It has everything to do with protecting us from the destruction of civilized society.  We are fundamentally given the right to own guns, not to hunt animals or target shoot, but to protect ourselves from the misgivings of an out of control government.  Our government is “of the people, by the people for the people”. If our government doesn’t not live up to these fundamental beliefs, it is the obligation of the people to remove the government.  That’s why we own guns.  At risk of having the FBI knocking on my door, I have to say, I am not making a personal statement here, I am just stating the reasons why the 2nd amendment exists.

Where this concept become tricky is when we layer our freedoms with irrational beliefs.  Unlike the NRA, I will not use pithy statements like “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”.  Though true, it’s not helpful in determining the responsibility with deaths by firearms.  The fact is, if firearms didn’t exist, death by firearms would be zero, so firearms are effective in killing people.  In fact, guns only have one purpose. They are not to collect, they are not for shooting cardboard targets, they are meant to kill things.  This is their only purpose.  However, what we see worldwide is that controlling guns does not reduce deaths.  The United States has had a declining murder

murder

population since the 1990s. Our enforcement of current gun laws, the increase in investigation techniques and technologies and a rise in education has reduced the rate of murder to the same level as 1960.  At the same time the number of guns sold in the USA has increased exponentially (http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/L-gunownership.htm)

So though we appear to be less safe in America, the belief that we are in danger is irrational and not supported by the facts.

Here are some facts:

 

• The US has the highest gun ownership rate in the world – an average of 88 per 100 people. That puts it first in the world for gun ownership – and even the number two country, Yemen, has significantly fewer – 54.8 per 100 people

• But the US does not have the worst firearm murder rate – that prize belongs to Honduras, El Salvador and Jamaica. In fact, the US is number 28, with a rate of 2.97 per 100,000 people

• Puerto Rico tops the world’s table for firearms murders as a percentage of all homicides – 94.8%. It’s followed by Sierra Leone in Africa and Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean

(http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jul/22/gun-homicides-ownership-world-list#data)

This is not a blog post on the fact of firearms, however.  It is a post on the inability to people to see rationality.  It is a fact that we are emotional beings, and though this gives us an edge as a moral animal, it can also be dangerous if we do not balance our emotion with the ability to see objective truth.  For many years now our desire to reject truth for preference has lead us to a deeply ignorant population.  As the media perpetuates our ignorance and replaces truth with news that sells, we have created an unthinking, undiscriminating and ignorant people bent on doing what feels right as opposed to what IS right.  We must not lose our ability to feel but we must understand that truth is truth weather we like it or not.  The fact is America has less gun violence, less kidnapping and overall less crime than in the past decades.  We should not remove our God given liberties based on our access to more information.  People are depraved, evil, violent S.O.B.s and we should not be surprised by this violence.  Guns aside, pray for the people who lost their children and have met evil face-to-face, but balance this deep desire to morn lose as a nation with the truth about our nation.

 

 

The Art and Science of Interpretation

Generally, I speak to Biblical issues, and in fact the lesson today is still important to the reading of the Bible, but I plan to use the debate yesterday as a lesson in words and meaning.

Last night, Mitt Romney accused the president of not addressing the Libya attack as a terror attack until two weeks after the event.  Obama and the moderator stated that he “indeed said it was an act of terror”.  He actually did say “acts of terror” in his speech however, I think a little hermeneutics is in order.  For those not failure with the word hermeneutic, it is broadly defined as the art and science of interpretation.  Let’s take a look at the transcripts from the Rose Garden Speech on September 12.

Rose Garden

10:43 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  Every day, all across the world, American diplomats and civilians work tirelessly to advance the interests and values of our nation.  Often, they are away from their families.  Sometimes, they brave great danger.
Yesterday, four of these extraordinary Americans were killed in an attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi.  Among those killed was our Ambassador, Chris Stevens, as well as Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith.  We are still notifying the families of the others who were killed.  And today, the American people stand united in holding the families of the four Americans in our thoughts and in our prayers.
The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack.  We’re working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats.  I’ve also directed my administration to increase our security at diplomatic posts around the world.  And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.
Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths.  We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.  But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence.  None.  The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.
Already, many Libyans have joined us in doing so, and this attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya.  Libyan security personnel fought back against the attackers alongside Americans.  Libyans helped some of our diplomats find safety, and they carried Ambassador Stevens’s body to the hospital, where we tragically learned that he had died.
It’s especially tragic that Chris Stevens died in Benghazi because it is a city that he helped to save.  At the height of the Libyan revolution, Chris led our diplomatic post in Benghazi.  With characteristic skill, courage, and resolve, he built partnerships with Libyan revolutionaries, and helped them as they planned to build a new Libya.  When the Qaddafi regime came to an end, Chris was there to serve as our ambassador to the new Libya, and he worked tirelessly to support this young democracy, and I think both Secretary Clinton and I relied deeply on his knowledge of the situation on the ground there.  He was a role model to all who worked with him and to the young diplomats who aspire to walk in his footsteps.
Along with his colleagues, Chris died in a country that is still striving to emerge from the recent experience of war. Today, the loss of these four Americans is fresh, but our memories of them linger on.  I have no doubt that their legacy will live on through the work that they did far from our shores and in the hearts of those who love them back home.
Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks.  We mourned with the families who were lost on that day.  I visited the graves of troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hallowed grounds of Arlington Cemetery, and had the opportunity to say thank you and visit some of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed.  And then last night, we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi.
As Americans, let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases, lay down their lives for it.  Our country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those both civilian and military who represent us around the globe.
No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.  Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America.  We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act.  And make no mistake, justice will be done.
But we also know that the lives these Americans led stand in stark contrast to those of their attackers.  These four Americans stood up for freedom and human dignity.  They should give every American great pride in the country that they served, and the hope that our flag represents to people around the globe who also yearn to live in freedom and with dignity.
We grieve with their families, but let us carry on their memory, and let us continue their work of seeking a stronger America and a better world for all of our children.
Thank you.  May God bless the memory of those we lost and may God bless the United States of America

STEP 1  – Basic Principles of Writing

Though advanced techniques play a roll in hermeneutics,  The first step in interpretation and meaning is having a general understanding of how language is used/written.  Since most of us speak English, we should have a basic understanding how we write a topic sentence, paragraph and argument.  In fact most of us do it unconsciously.

Where is the topic sentence in this speech?  We have several

1- Yesterday, four of these extraordinary Americans were killed in an attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi.

2 – The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack.

3 – Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths.

4 – Already, many Libyans have joined us in doing so, and this attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya.

5 – It’s especially tragic that Chris Stevens died in Benghazi because it is a city that he helped to save.  At the height of the Libyan revolution, Chris led our diplomatic post in Benghazi.

6 – Along with his colleagues, Chris died in a country that is still striving to emerge from the recent experience of war.

7 – Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks.

8 – As Americans, let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases, lay down their lives for it.

9 – No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.

10 – But we also know that the lives these Americans led stand in stark contrast to those of their attackers.

Each paragraph defines the topic of the paragraph so there are several topic sentences.  However, paragraphs are not all we need to know.  Paragraphs give us changes in thought but they don’t tell us the entirety of the argument.  Since the speech given here was a single topic (i.e. the attack on our embassy in Libya) the argument in it’s entirety should also be laid out in a certain way.  When drafting an argument we start with a premise and then create support.  Consider my argument here.  I started with the topic of the argument (a premise) and now I am using the rest of the article to support my premise.  Since this is the way the English language works, we must look more deeply at the argument to determine the premise.

PARAGRAPH 1 – Open Paragraph

Good morning.  Every day, all across the world, American diplomats and civilians work tirelessly to advance the interests and values of our nation.  Often, they are away from their families.  Sometimes, they brave great danger.

PARAGRAPH 2 – Description of the Situation

The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack.  We’re working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats.  I’ve also directed my administration to increase our security at diplomatic posts around the world.  And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.

PARAGRAPH 3 – Cause of the Situation

Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths.  We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.  But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence.  None.  The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.

PARAGRAPH 4 -6 –  Solution(s)

Already, many Libyans have joined us in doing so, and this attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya.  Libyan security personnel fought back against the attackers alongside Americans.  Libyans helped some of our diplomats find safety, and they carried Ambassador Stevens’s body to the hospital, where we tragically learned that he had died.

It’s especially tragic that Chris Stevens died in Benghazi because it is a city that he helped to save.  At the height of the Libyan revolution, Chris led our diplomatic post in Benghazi.  With characteristic skill, courage, and resolve, he built partnerships with Libyan revolutionaries, and helped them as they planned to build a new Libya.  When the Qaddafi regime came to an end, Chris was there to serve as our ambassador to the new Libya, and he worked tirelessly to support this young democracy, and I think both Secretary Clinton and I relied deeply on his knowledge of the situation on the ground there.  He was a role model to all who worked with him and to the young diplomats who aspire to walk in his footsteps.

Along with his colleagues, Chris died in a country that is still striving to emerge from the recent experience of war. Today, the loss of these four Americans is fresh, but our memories of them linger on.  I have no doubt that their legacy will live on through the work that they did far from our shores and in the hearts of those who love them back home.

PARAGRAPH 7 – 12  –  Closing Statement 

Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks.  We mourned with the families who were lost on that day.  I visited the graves of troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hallowed grounds of Arlington Cemetery, and had the opportunity to say thank you and visit some of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed.  And then last night, we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi.

As Americans, let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases, lay down their lives for it.  Our country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those both civilian and military who represent us around the globe.

No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.  Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America.  We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act.  And make no mistake, justice will be done.

But we also know that the lives these Americans led stand in stark contrast to those of their attackers.  These four Americans stood up for freedom and human dignity.  They should give every American great pride in the country that they served, and the hope that our flag represents to people around the globe who also yearn to live in freedom and with dignity.

We grieve with their families, but let us carry on their memory, and let us continue their work of seeking a stronger America and a better world for all of our children.

Thank you.  May God bless the memory of those we lost and may God bless the United States of America.

A basic understanding of the English language and how it’s written preclude any chance of the President’s new assertion that he called the attack on our embassy as a terrorist attack.  President Obama is no dummy, nor are his speech writers so the basic development of his argument makes it quite evident that the cause of the attack was not an “act of terror” but the denigration of religion.

STEP 2  – The Benefit of the Doubt

Another important principle in hermeneutics is giving  the writer the benefit of the doubt.  This can be difficult to determine given that politicians lie for a living.  However, we are not limited to just this speech to determine the authors intent.  Just as with the Bible, we can look to other writing to determine the intent.  We have several other evidences to support Obama’s original argument that the attack was based on denigration of religion.

September 16 – Ambassador to the UN on several TV stations…

“The information, the best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. That what happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video.”

September 24th – President Obama on the View…

“We’re still doing an investigation. There’s no doubt that (with) the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn’t just a mob action. We don’t have all the information yet, so we’re still gathering it. But what’s clear is that around the world there’s still a lot of threats out there.”

Given all of the information, not just looking at the speech, it seems evident that the President was either not aware or not willing to label the attack as terrorism as late as 13 days after the incident.  So applying the benefit of the doubt to the speech it appears that the President had something else in mind when he stated “No acts of terror”.

It seems that the President is addressing American resolve and not the specific event in Libya.  The evidence is against the president here:

1. He addresses the cause in his argument in sentence 3 – and  the YouTube video is addressed again in the speech to the UN several days later.

2. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, looking at other writing and speeches, it does not support his new argument that he called the attack a terrorist attack in September 12 (unless he got amnesia after the speech).

3. The language used “acts of terror” are not specific and seem to be directly related to American resolve and not the specifics of the attack in Libya.

4. Arguments are developed from the top down NOT from the bottom up and thus the President would be violating basic principles in the English language to make his new argument plausible.

Words have meaning, and writing is a particular thing.  When we look at our own writing we do it in a particular way almost unconsciously.  So too does the President and so too do the writers of the Bible.  If we lose respect for writing methods, then language means nothing.  In all honesty, I don’t much care when the President knew about the attack, what I care about is the integrity of the English language because manipulating it as the President seems to be doing in this scenario shows another infection from Post Modernism.    When we reject understanding the meaning in the mind of the author and instead replace it with the meaning in the mind of the reader, we are in great trouble of words having no meaning at all.

Paul Broun…”Speaking off the Record?”

Republican Congressman Paul Broun joins a long list of other elected officials who compartmentalize their faith.  Last week, shortly after the vice presidential debate, I wrote an article criticizing both candidates – who profess to be Roman Catholic – for giving a less than Roman Catholic response to the abortion issue (READ ARTICLE HERE).  Today, a video from Congressman Paul Broun was brought to my attention.

Though I don’t agree with everything Congressman Broun says in regard to the age of the earth or the importance of the Big Bang, Congressman Broun should be applauded for professing his faith in Christ and his desire to seek God’s truth.

Maybe I spoke too soon, however, since most obviously those who are not interested in open debate but rather shutting down opposition, have taken and run with this video accusing the congressman of ignorance.  Let us understand that Congressman Broun is on the Science and Technology committee for the US Congress!  Bill Ny the self professed “Science Guy” had some harsh things to say about the congressman and asserted that there is

“no controversy among scientist over evolution”.

What Bill said is true but what is not apparent is that Bill Ny has removed anyone who doesn’t agree with evolution from being a scientist.  So by limiting the field of science to materialistic science, he has uttered truth – deceptively  so!

This article is not one considering the differences in opinion among Christians over the age of the earth, nor is it a debate with materialist scientists.  It’s about politicians’ ability to compartmentalize their faith.  In a statement to the Athens Banner-Herald, Meredith Griffanti, a spokeswoman for the Republican congressman, said:

“Dr Broun was speaking off the record to a large church group about his personal beliefs regarding religious issues.” [http://bit.ly/PIXzKD]

Here we go again!  Christianity is not for the public square, it’s simply a personal belief and should play no part in public policy and decisions of truth in education.  If “God’s word is true” as Congressman Broun asserts in the video, should it not be true for everyone or is it true for just Congressman Broun?  Congressman Broun along with Joe Biden and Paul Ryan has been added to my Wall of Shame!

Religion, Post- Modernism, Morality, and REALLY Bad Thinking

The other day, I found myself in a debate with a friend of mine over the separation of church and state.  I believe in the classical definition of this separation, putting restrictions on the state from abridging freedom of religion, and she believes that the correct definition is that religion should not play a roll in the state.  This is not surprising, given what’s going on in the world today, seldom does a day pass when, as a Christian, I do not hear this secular definition.  During our debate, my friend stated:

“Because there is not just one religion in this country, and there are people that don’t believe any religion. My point is that religious beliefs are personal. You can believe whatever you want, but don’t try to inflict it on others.”

Why am I picking on my friend?  Really I’m not, this is an answer I hear often from Post Modernists, but unfortunately, it has little thought behind it.  First and foremost, the statement assumes that secular opinions are without controversy within the secular community.  This is of course absurd.  If you get more than one person in a room, they may share many things in common but they will still differ greatly in opinion as well.  To assume that there is one secular mindset if simply false.  It also assumes that secular opinions are neutral and religious opinions are controversial.  By neutral, I mean that they are not exclusive or excluding other’s opinions.  The statement above is, of course, self contradictory.  It states “don’t try to inflict it on others”.  This is excluding anyone who has a differing opinion from speaking out or inflicting an opinion on another.  Is this statement not being inflicted upon me?   Why am I not allowed to do the very thing that is being done to me?  The statement is self contradictory and the argument commits suicide because by uttering the very statement it is proven to be false.

A bigger issues, in my mind, is the first part of her assertion.

“Because there is not just one religion in this country, and there are people that don’t believe any religion. My point is that religious beliefs are personal.”

Sometimes Christians believe we are working with the same definition when we are talking to a non-believer.  In this circumstance, when I say I should have the right to give my opinion in the public square and have my opinions known when it comes to public policy (the context of the original argument), I am assuming that my opinion is right and other opinions on the same matter are wrong.  However, this isn’t my friend’s opinion.  It seems to me she believes that all religious views are equally valid and thus it would be incorrect for me to inflict my truth – not the truth – on others.  Since religion is “personal”, it really doesn’t matter if I think it’s true, because it’s true to the individual.  Truth in my friend’s definition is not absolute, it’s up to the individual to decide.  The only exclusively true definition of the world is the secular one.  When it comes to religious things, we are playing in the land of fairy-tails and everyone know fairy-tails are truth as long as you believe them.  If I believe that religion is a description of the actual truth I am being intolerant for making such a claim.   This is the world’s definition of tolerance.  It’s simply not tolerant for me to say that my opinion is right and another’s in wrong.  That is of course only in a religious context, if I am irreligious, I am free to be as intolerant as I’d like!  Of course tolerance is the most intolerant position on the planet.  In an attempt to be tolerant of other religious views, she is in fact tolerant of non of them.  All opinions are exclusive, not neutral so by trying to protect and include people of religion, she is excluding all of them by making them all true and personal.  No religion that I am aware of believe that religion is simply personal, yet my friend see fit to add this definition to not just my religion but all of them!  Correct me if I’m wrong but it doesn’t see very tolerant to change a religion and what it believes.  The fact is,  if Christianity is true, Islam is not true.  If Islam is true, Secularism is not true.  These are opposing worldviews, and by excluding people from defining their owen religion, you are not tolerant, you are intolerant.

In reality, the concept of tolerance is completely unhelpful.  It shuts out people of differing opinions with the desire to co-exist with others.  Since all opinions are exclusive, someone or many are going to be excluded no matter what your opinion may be.  If an opinion is not exclusive, it’s not an opinion, it’s a tautology (using different words to say the same thing).  Simply put, I can’t say or do anything without excluding another.  No matter what your opinion on religion, if you try to include all religions as true, you are excluding all of them because religious people don’t believe they are all religions are true.

In addition, anytime, one uses or makes a claim that something is wrong, they are making a moral judgement.  If it’s wrong for me to inflict my religion on others, they are saying that I am acting outside of what they believe to be moral.  Even if they avoid the word moral, the definition remains the same.  Morals are a claim of right over wrong.  So my friend is simply stating the it is immoral for me to inflict religion on another.  It however is not wrong for her to inflict a secular worldview on me.   Two moral judgement in one statement – WOW!

In a nutshell, this is classic post-modernism.  Though academia has largely rejected post-modernism due to it’s inability to be consistent,  the planet as a whole is infected with it.  It shows little to no thought or desire for consistency and it shows little to no concern for people of other beliefs.  Thank God no one actually lives this way.  We may be infected by post modern beliefs, but because we are made in the image of the most Holy God we are inflected with a sense of justice and a knowledge of good and evil.

Catholicism, Abortion, Public Policy and Personal Beliefs

Last night we heard, for the first time,  two Roman Catholic vice presidential candidates debate one another.  It was inevitable that the debate would turn to the abortion issue.  I want to take a moment and go through the transcripts of the answers to get a general sense of how these Roman Catholics see public policy and religion.

RADDATZ: I want to move on, and I want to return home for these last few questions. This debate is, indeed, historic. We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion.  Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that. And, please, this is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country…

RYAN: I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do. My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, of how to make sure that people have a chance in life.

Now, you want to ask basically why I’m pro-life? It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, of course. But it’s also because of reason and science.

You know, I think about 10 1/2 years ago, my wife Janna and I went to Mercy Hospital in Janesville where I was born, for our seven week ultrasound for our firstborn child, and we saw that heartbeat. A little baby was in the shape of a bean. And to this day, we have nicknamed our firstborn child Liza, “Bean.” Now I believe that life begins at conception.

That’s why — those are the reasons why I’m pro-life. Now I understand this is a difficult issue, and I respect people who don’t agree with me on this, but the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. What troubles me more is how this administration has handled all of these issues. Look at what they’re doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They’re infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals.

Our church should not have to sue our federal government to maintain their religious liberties. And with respect to abortion, the Democratic Party used to say they wanted it to be safe, legal and rare. Now they support it without restriction and with taxpayer funding. Taxpayer funding in Obamacare, taxpayer funding with foreign aid. The vice president himself went to China and said that he sympathized and wouldn’t second guess their one child policy of forced abortions and sterilizations. That to me is pretty extreme.

Most obviously, my belief more aligns with Ryan’s the best but I think there are a few issues here that puzzled me.

It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, of course. But it’s also because of reason and science.”

Apparently Mr Ryan feels that faith is separated from reason and science?  Mr Ryan must see faith as blind faith or a  leap of faith.  I honestly believe he does see religion this way.  During the last election several Roman Catholics lost their jobs because of this very point.  When the pro-life democrats decided to change their opposition to Obama Care – voting for it; against their religious beliefs – 15 out of 20 were thrown out of office.  The moral of the story is simple.  The people don’t see a difference between faith and reason and that’s because there is none.  Religion and especially Christianity is an explanation as to why the world is the way it is.  It’s not a fairy-tale  and if it’s true, then it’s reasonable.   Mr Ryan would be good to read Roman 1 where Paul makes the case that people are condemned because they went against reason to suppress the knowledge of God.

Politicians have this uncanny ability to compartmentalize things.  The religious politician sees different levels of importance.  They build stories (like in a building).  On the bottom is the foundation that affects everything – we’ll call that public policy – and at the top (in the clouds) are religious things that don’t affect anything but just give you warm and fuzzy feelings.  The top story are personal beliefs that should remain just that – personal.  Your public policy is guided by your foundation that contains no “personal” belief.  This of course, is exactly opposite of what we see in the Bible where Jesus is the foundation and as a Christian your identity is not in public policy but in Christ.  Your public policy should be dictated by the truth and if Christ is the ultimate truth then this should dictate everything.  Mr Ryan and Mr Romney have compartmentalized religion and put themselves in the position of governing God’s creation.  Faith is important, but science and reason (that apparently oppose religion) are much, much more important.  I think it would be good for Mr Ryan to talk to his unemployed congressmen friends who felt the same way and are now suffering the consequences.

If Ryan and Romney want to appeal to reason over religion, then they need to suffer the consequences for these actions.  They believe that abortion should be legal in the cases of rape and incest.  So if a person is a victim of a violent crime that produces an innocent baby, it is reasonable to kill the innocent baby?  I’m sorry, were is the reason in that?  So if I am in a grocery store and I get robbed, It would be okay for me to shoot the clerk?  More over, why do these guys limit the killing of the innocent when it’s inside the womb?  Why is it not perfectly reasonable to kill the product of incest and rape once it’s born?  It’s still a product of incest or rape.  Of course that’s not reasonable and neither is Ryan and Romney’s plan for abortion.

Lastly, our current president is the most extreme abortion advocate on the planet.  He is the ONLY one to ever vote for infanticide in 2001, 2002, and 2003.  Infanticide is of course the killing of babies outside of the whom (READ ARTICLE IS WROTE A MONTH AGO).  Yet Ryan didn’t bring up this fact – he should have since Obama is nearly the only one on the planet that thinks this is a good idea (He and Planned Parenthood who supported him during these votes)

BIDEN: My religion defines who I am, and I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And has particularly informed my social doctrine. The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who — who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help. With regard to — with regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a — what we call a (inaudible) doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.

But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the — the congressman. I — I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that — women they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor. In my view and the Supreme Court, I’m not going to interfere with that. With regard to the assault on the Catholic church, let me make it absolutely clear, no religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital, none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact.

That is a fact. Now with regard to the way in which the — we differ, my friend says that he — well I guess he accepts Governor Romney’s position now, because in the past he has argued that there was — there’s rape and forcible rape. He’s argued that in the case of rape or incest, it was still — it would be a crime to engage in having an abortion. I just fundamentally disagree with my friend.

Biden’s response should not be surprising.  Though he calls himself a Roman Catholic, I have no reason to believe he actually is.  His record says otherwise.  He voted to oppose Clarence Thomas to the court because Thomas believe in “natural law”.  As a Catholic, Biden should also believe in natural law as well and if his faith “informs” him he should not have been in opposition to this.  I guess Biden is saying that he’s religious but anyone who he supports must an an atheist to be a politician.  Biden may be Roman Catholic but he certainly doesn’t follow Christ and neither does his so-called Christian boss.

More importantly, why has the Church allowed this?  Unlike Protestantism, the Roman Catholic church states that they speak in one voice.  The views given from Roman are the views of all  Roman Catholics and those who do not agree with them are anamatha (cast out).  So why has the Roman Catholic church not excommunicated these politicians that use the Roman Catholic church as a spring board for politics?  I suspect it’s because the church is not as strong or as united as they believe to be.  We hear of every conversion from Protestantism to Catholicism but for every one of those there are thousands who defect the other way.  In order for the church to remain powerful, they need numbers – period!

Fundamentally, these guys are the same and you can see it in the words they use to describe their positions.

BIDEN – Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.

RYAN – why I’m pro-life? It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, of course. But it’s also because of reason and science.

Both have compartmentalized religion and politics and this is a shameful display from two men who claim to be followers of Jesus.  If Jesus is sovereign in one’s life than our actions must align with him no matter what the consequence.  If, on the other hand, Jesus is just a fictional story we tell ourselves to make sense of the world, then we should expect to see answers like we saw last night.  The moral of the story?  Neither display the characteristics of true faith and, in fact, you will be hard pressed to find anyone in Washington who does.  It’s unfortunate that followers of Jesus have retreated so far from political life but I can understand why.  Our society, even the religious, have rejected faith as being a key factor in decision making.  If a true Christian runs for politics, it is incumbent upon him to strip away all religiosity and take on the appearance of an atheist.  A secular, naturalistic, humanist who rejects all things supernatural as a guide for our country.  This of course has consequence and I believe the downward spiral of our society is a symptom of that.

One last thing as it comes to voting for president.  I have been forced to make my decision based on a single issue.  I believe whole heartily that regardless of who becomes president that this country has seen its last day of prosperity.  Our debt is unrecoverable so regardless of who wins the outcome of the country is the same.  So I have been forced to look at abortion as my single issue.  Biden said something very important last night that has helped to guide me in a direction and hopefully is will impact you as well. He said:

The court — the next president will get one or two Supreme Court nominees. That’s how close Roe v. Wade is. Just ask yourself, with Robert Bork being the chief adviser on the court for — for Mr. Romney, who do you think he’s likely to appoint? Do you think he’s likely to appoint someone like Scalia or someone else on the court far right that would outlaw  — outlaw abortion? I suspect that would happen

I suspect it would happen too and this is a compelling reason not to vote for Obama.

READ THE ENTIRE TRANSCRIPT OF THE DEBATE

and God said it is good…the holy intended purpose of POT

I have been reluctant to write this post given how divisive this issues is among Christians but after reflecting for over 6 months and given the changes in politics recently, I thought now is as good a time as any to write on my theological perceptive on POT.   It is not my intent to discuss the social aspect of drug use nor the financial impact to healthcare or how marijuana will affect the “children”.  I leave that stuff up to the politicians to decide as they are much better at pulling on heart strings than I am.  My goal is to look at the theological perspective on the matter only.  My personal beliefs, or experiences will most obviously play a roll in this discussion but I will try my best to be fair and balanced (more than Fox News who interviewed me on this subject but cut me because I was too fair and balanced – true story).

Over the past three years, I have spent a good deal of time trying to understand marijuana and where it fits into God’s economy.  I have been vocal on the issue and have talked with everyone from law enforcement officials to medical professionals with mixed results as to the answers.  Surprisingly, it was difficult to find anyone who is actually against medical marijuana.  Most were against it socially but medically, it seems that the answer was an overwhelming “yes”.  The conversation usually turned from the intellectual acceptance of medical marijuana to the application of MMJ in the laws.  Many were “for” medical marijuana but against how the laws are written and how easy it is to legally abuse.    This is my own position.  I see tremendous benefit to pot but the abuse is so in-your-face that it’s laughable.  The process in Colorado is simple.  You go to the “doctor” who only works for cash and has an office in a backroom somewhere.  You get an exam and seldom are turned away from a “prescription”.  Once you’ve paid your money to the state you then go to a “pharmacy” and talk to your “pharmacist” who has his hat on sideways and a Bob Marley shirt on.  You order your “medication” by street name and pay black market prices.  If you are lucky enough to have a “caregiver” (who by the way must also be disabled and have a medical marijuana card – so your caregiver must also need care) he or she can grow a certain amount of pot on your behalf.  They give you a half an ounce or so for free and sell the rest to the back market.  Here is Fort Collins we have a epidemic of twenty year old kids with Crohn’s Disease who need Pot to maintain!  In fact, half the population of Colorado has Chron’s Disease – it must be the high altitude!  The system is ridiculously laughable and though I have no issue with the total legalization of marijuana, the system as it is is spitting in the face of the rule of law and that I have a problem with.

Sadly, many Christians have not given a ton of thought to the theological issues regarding marijuana and instead react with emotion to the word POT.  I don’t blame them, my generation was bombarded with anti-drug commercials since the late seventies and “Reefer Madness” had been instilled upon us from a young age.  This goes to show the power of media, propaganda and generational Inculturation.  This inculturation is so powerful that Christians are willing to forego honest theological thought because this issue has always been “bad” and no more needs to be said about it.  I set out to interview pastors on this issue and not a single one would talk with me “on the record”.  Off the record, you’d be surprised at the positive response to marijuana for medical use.

One of the main points I must address is this concept of badness and goodness.  Can an object be bad?  Is a statue of Buddha a bad thing or is it just a statue?  I would assert that idolatry is not the statue’s fault but the fault of the person worshiping the statue.  Minus the spiritual significance, Buddha is just a fat smiling statue.  In the same breath, is marijuana bad or are those abusing it the bad, cursed, rebellious ones?  Do we really blame the object for people abusing it?  To me that seems absurd.

What does God have to say about marijuana?  Interestingly the topic never comes up.  The Bible does not in any way speak of pot specifically and there is no direct prohibition on it nor do any of the arguments or historical revisionist claims that “Jesus used marijuana” hold water.  However, God did do something that give credence to marijuana. He created and He said He created “everything good”.  How could an omniscient God have created all things knowing the future and still utter the words “it is good”?  Certainly how you interpret these words depends on your Christian worldview.  Some would argue that God intended everything to be good but gave man freewill and we screwed it up.  Others would say that God knew that we would sin and still uttered these words because He is glorified in our sin as much as in our obedience (that’s what I believe), but one thing we both agree upon is that God created with holy intended purpose. Regardless of the internal debate over the sovereignty of God (Arminianism versus Calvinism)  Pot was, most definitely created and if you hold to a Christian worldview, God was the one who created it.  So what was or is God’s holy intended purpose for marijuana?  I believe this is the crux of the debate.  If God created it, why?  Simply put, if we contrast marijuana to other well know drugs that are abused, I think it becomes clear as to it’s purpose.  Opium, for instance, is abused as heroin and opium and yet it provides us with a great deal of our prescription pain medications like Vicodin, morphine and codeine.  Cocaine provides us with anesthetics that we need for surgery (anything that ends in “aine” is a derivative of cocaine) .   Both of these drugs were created by God and abused, yet they are still legal and used for good all the time.  Alcohol is the most abused drug on the planet yet the bible says it was created to gladden the hearts of men.  So though alcohol is definitely abused, God still created it and created it for a particular purpose and though alcohol is the scourge of society easily leading to the largest number of crimes in America, few can make a biblical case of abolitionism.   It seems to me we have three possible reasons for the creation of marijuana.  It was either created for medical purposes, social purposes or both.  It is not a possibly that is was created for no good reason.  Even the worst possible creature on the planet, the mosquito was created for good – food for birds, bats, and other small creatures.  It wasn’t created just to be a pest to humans!

What doesn’t follow from my argument thus far is that just because pot was created for good that we are inclined to use it.  It is entirely possible that due to the curse we are prohibited from it’s use.  However, this would be the first prohibition of its kind given that the prohibition is not clearly spelled out in scripture.  We, for instance, are sexual beings, but God specifically spelled out any prohibitions on sexuality (i.e. homosexuality, fornication, adultery, etc.).  God places prohibitions on being a drunkard, getting hammered in church, and idolizing wine.  He never prohibits us from drinking nor does He call alcohol bad. He simply limits us from doing certain things knowing how proficient we are to abuse.  Marijuana, on the other hand seems to have special status with no holy intended purpose and yet no direct prohibition from use.  This seems odd at best.

It seems to me that those arguing against me will have to argue from the negative position making claims like, God created it to tempt us or it was made to give us rope.  These assertions seem to be deficient given that God doesn’t tempt and Satan can’t create and why put THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) in an item used for making textiles?  It seems to me that at minimum God create marijuana for medical uses if not for social uses as well.  You be the judge on that.

Understand that God does prohibit us from breaking the law so in my mind, the social use (at least) of marijuana is prohibited for Christians no matter what your theological perspective on the issue may be.  My arguments for the medical use largely depend on the federal government’s enforcement of the laws.  They have, in the past, not enforced the federal laws against marijuana in states with legal medical marijuana laws or decriminalization, however our current administration (Obama) seems to have changed his mind on this and is now starting to crack down.  I think this muddies the water a bit regarding the medical use of marijuana as well.  That said the law aside, I see no prohibition – biblically speaking.

At minimum, I think it would be good for everyone to give some thought to this issue and reflect on why marijuana exists.  It is certainly up to you and the Holy Spirit to change your opinions, but if I can do anything, I hope that I’ve made you think.

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