"We degrade Providence too much by attributing our ideas to it out of annoyance at being unable to understand it."

- Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Bob Beeman: I Love That Guy

I still remember seeing his smiling face from the inside of cassette tape covers. Founder of Sanctuary Church in California, Bob Beeman became the "Heavy Metal" pastor and a lot of Christian metal bands attended his church or were sponsored by it.

Bob's in Nashville, TN now and I had the privilege of running into him at the Christian bookstore where I worked. Bob is one of those people that makes you feel important just by talking to you. Pastor Bob is one of my heroes, and this recent edition of his daily podcast/video cast (called "Pastor Bob Daily") is yet another reason why.

American Exceptionalism

Some food for thought: scattered excerpts below from Doug Wilson's latest on American Exceptionalism:

I have been addressing, from time to time, the tomfool notion of American exceptionalism.

The central point I have made thus far is that the genuine exceptionalism displayed by the Founders consisted of the fact that they knew that Americans were not exceptional, which was exceptional. They built a form of government that sought to take the venality of all our current and future statesman into account, which was a marvel of prescience.

. . .

So when Herod shows up en fête, in that glittery robe, and the people all cry out that it was the voice of a god and not a man, there was — even then — a course of action he could have taken that would have headed off the hungry worms. That course of action would have been to give glory to God (Acts 12:23). We, being not very quick on the uptake, have not responded that way, but are doing our very best Herod imitation, standing there on the stage like a freshly minted nominee at the Republican National Convention, luxuriating in the transcendental permanence of the glory that is descending upon in the form of ten tons of confetti.

When I write against American exceptionalism, some ordinary patriots are sometimes unsettled. “Aren’t you grateful to be an American?”, they ask. Of course I am. Very grateful. But this generates what should be an a question. Grateful to whom? I am a Christian first, which means I am grateful to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am a Christian first, and since Jesus told His followers to disciple all the nations, presumably including the one we live in, this means that we must be grateful to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And by we, I mean us. Americans. Our elected representatives. Our foundational documents. If we don’t want to perish in the way, we must kiss the Son.

“For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Cor. 4:7, NKJV).

This exceptionalism you speak of — should we be grateful for it? Grateful to whom? You think it is sufficient for everybody to gin up a few grateful-lite vibes on Turkey Day?

We are one of the most blessed nations ever to exist, and because of the blight of American secularism, we have created a vast sinkhole of ingratitude, hubris, and conceit, from Virginia to Oregon. And it will not fix it if we urge everybody to thank their private gods, however they conceive him/her/it to be. The reason that won’t do is that those gods are not the living God. They are all dead, every mother’s son of them. They did not give these blessings to us, laboring, as they do, under the burden of non-existence. Why do we want to fix this problem of our ingratitude to the living God by urging everyone to say something nice to their little bobble-head idols? This is not just perpetuating the problem, it is gilding our insouciance problem and leaving baskets of fruit in front of it.

The living God is jealous for His name, which is Yahweh.

In the name of God we will set up our banners (Ps. 20:5). Some trust in chariots, and some in horses. Some trust in destroyers, and some in submarines. Some trust in drone strikes, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God (Ps. 20:7). If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to one of those bobble-head things, won’t God see this? Won’t He deal with it (Ps. 44:20-21)? Oh, Lord God, deliver our people! Save our nation, and do it by means of Your name (Ps. 54:1). Purge our sins, especially the root sin of secularism, for Your name’s sake (Ps. 79:9). Do this, our God, for Your name’s sake (Ps. 109:21). But somehow it has come to be the received wisdom — even among Christians — to look for salvation without a Savior, for some mighty act deliverance from the heavens, signed “Anonymous.”

And we can stand around afterwards, sure glad that we were delivered, and doubly glad that we don’t have to thank anybody for it.

Look. The exceptional things we have (in truth) been given can be counted as blessings from the hand of the only true God, who requires us to name Him as the only source of any such blessings. The quite ordinary conceit we have displayed, sharing it with Ozymandias, is our refusal to do so. The longer we have gone on in this vein the more the sham has become apparent. Is America exceptional? Well, why don’t you ask one of the millions of Americans who were chopped up in little pieces in the womb because the ghouls on our highest Court found the right to such wickedness hiding under a penumbra? Is America exceptional? Well, the reply comes back from the dead child. “I really am not in a position to know . . .”
Before the comments thread blows up here, I'm not here to speak to the implied Theonomy in, say, paragraphs four and nine. But as a personal application, and a way to deal with my (albeit, somewhat conflicted recently) thoughts on "American exceptionalism", I found this helpful.

And think what you will of Doug Wilson, the man can flat-out write.

Executive Power

Here's a rare political post (and if you want to take a look at my current stance on politics, look here).

I tend to be optimistic, but I'm becoming more pessimistic daily about what I perceive as an imbalance in our nation's longstanding separation of powers. It seems to me that we are losing our governmental checks and balances. I realize presidents have long used executive orders and other executive branch jiggery-pokery to tweak and adjust things that were rightly in the domain of the Congress. So I don't claim that President Obama is doing anything new, necessarily. But there's a different tone and certainly more volume these days surrounding this. In recent years we've heard, over and over, variations on this refrain: "If Congress won't act, I will". Whenever I hear that, I wonder: didn't the President, don't all presidents swear to faithfully execute their office, and isn't the executive branch's job to correctly and fully enforce the laws of the land? A president can't make laws on his or her own, or ignore laws unilaterally . . . can he?

Donald Sensing writes on this here: Why the law does not matter to Obama. Part of his post is excerpted below (bold emphasis mine).

The goal of the entire Democrat party is to be the permanent, sole political authority in the country. This is the actual transformation that Barack Obama promised to great applause in his 2008 campaign. And we are getting transformed good and hard:
[I]nstead of the new birth of hope and change, it is the transformation of a constitutional republic operating under laws passed by democratically accountable legislators into a servile nation under the management of an unaccountable administrative state. The real import of Barack Obama’s political career will be felt long after he leaves office, in the form of a permanently expanded state that is more assertive of its own interests and more ruthless in punishing its enemies. At times, he has advanced this project abetted by congressional Democrats, as with the health-care law’s investiture of extraordinary powers in the executive bureaucracy, but he also has advanced it without legislative assistance — and, more troubling still, in plain violation of the law. President Obama and his admirers choose to call this “pragmatism,” but what it is is a mild expression of totalitarianism, under which the interests of the country are conflated with those of the president’s administration and his party. Barack Obama is the first president of the democracy that John Adams warned us about.
Obama can do this not because the Constitution or law authorize it. Most definitely they actually prohibit it. He is getting away with it because there is no one who can stop him and almost no one who wants to stop him. No one, and I mean absolutely no one, in the Democrat party is in the slightest interested in reining in Obama's expansion of executive diktat because they know what few of the rest of us are awakening to: the Democrats are never going to lose that executive authority again. Let me be clear, with a promise to elucidate another day: there is never going to be another Republican president. Ever.

The media will not examine Obama's imperialist manner because they do not want to. They agree with it. The courts are literally unable to enforce their rulings contra this administration; Obama ignores them at will and without consequence. The Republicans are dominated by the Political Class and lack the numbers, influence, collective will and ideological conviction to rein in the administration even if they had the ability to do so, which they don't.

For example, immigration:
...after Congress had unequivocally rejected another piece of immigration reform, the so-called DREAM Act, that the president had supported, he simply instituted it unilaterally, as though he had the authority to declare an amnesty himself. He then did away with criminal-background checks for those to be amnestied, also on his own authority.
This is a president who knows that he does not need to make anyone "happy," that there in fact is no political base that must be appeased or pleased - where else will the base go? The president of the United States is now quite literally a dictate-er: he orders what he wishes and implements what he chooses.

There is no check or balance any longer, not even the Congress's power to control the federal purse. There is no federal purse to control. There are only years-long series of continuing resolutions and special appropriations, all funded with trillions of dollars of borrowed fiat money that no creditor anywhere in the world expects will be repaid. President Obama has a government credit card with no debt limit. The power to spend is the power to control, and that is what he is doing.
Is Sensing on to something here?

This is an honest question. Forget who you voted for or who I voted for: is this a problem? Or is it just overstated here? It feels like a problem to me and, Sensing's prophecy about Democratic hegemony as far as the eye can see notwithstanding, if I was an Obama supporter I'd like to think I would still be uneasy with this, because someday someone will take power who I didn't vote for.

Also, do you agree with Sensing that the Republicans will never again hold the Presidency?

I'm very interested in your thoughts, particularly if you are a supporter of the President.

[Hat tip: Neo-NeoCon]

On Politics

And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things." - Matthew 21:23-27
A month or two ago in my daily reading I happened upon this passage. It is a passage I have read many times before. I tend to underline and at times write in my Bible as I read, and so I wrote something in the margin that I've never written in the margin of my Bible before.

A single word: "Politics"

Political thinking is one of the most consistent traits of Jesus' detractors, far more so than theological thinking, which is ironic, since they thought of themselves as such astute theologians. It's illustrative to look at the passage above as a representation of all political thought.

Notice the fear: "But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

Notice the complete disregard for, you know, the actual truth: And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say . . ."

Writing that single word in the margin was an epiphany for me. I began to think of the many instances of political calculus in the Bible, and particularly in the New Testament. The Jewish leaders in their dealings with Jesus. Pilate in his dealings with the Jewish leaders and the crowds. Herod in his dealings with John the Baptist and his guests at the banquet. Herod Agrippa and Festus before Paul. Nicodemus, coming to Jesus at night for fear of what his associates might think. This helped sharpen for me my understanding of one of the chief, if not the chief attributes of political thinking: fear.

I've been around awhile, and I remember well the heady days of the 1980s and early 1990s, when the church in America began flexing her political muscle. There was real hope then that we were going to change our country and our culture for the better through electing the right people. But we did not see the fatal flaw in our thinking: everyone we elected was, by definition and necessity, a politician.

Being a politician isn't necessarily a bad thing. I am thankful for the people who put up with all the argle-bargle and jiggery-pokery of political life to fill necessary leadership positions. But shame on me for ever trusting in elected officials to actually change the culture. In reading about the chief priests and elders of the people above, do you sense any of the courage needed to drive a culture in a good direction?

Politicians, with only very rare exceptions, do not drive cultural change. They are followers of the culture. They, by definition, "fear the people", because the people, not the truth, keep them in power.

What drives culture is changed hearts. And hearts are only changed by the good work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration through Christ, or through the gentle and deadly drift away from God as we experience and conform ourselves to a world system of power, pleasure, riches, entertainment, angst, and apathy that is ultimately driven by the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.

Yet I feel the pull of politics. The game is afoot and it's easy to become immersed in all the tribalism and division our political culture engenders, wherein people who would otherwise be politely disagreeing over minor issues behave like mortal enemies.

Jesus offers the better way of the Kingdom. I'm gratified that more and more of my Christian brothers and sisters seem to be laying aside the false hope that we'll be OK if we just get this next election right.

Now I'm not saying that we should check out. I believe Christians need to be involved in politics to the extent that they can do so within the boundaries of the fruit of the Spirit. We should vote. We should even engage in political opposition where appropriate. We may be called at times to lay down our freedom or even our lives to bring urgent change to our land. But we should not hope in our political masters to lead us to the promised land. Jesus has already made that way open.

In a nation with a disintegrating culture, the best we will get from our politicians is a sort of delaying action, and I'm not discounting the value of that. But ultimately, our politicians are going to follow the culture where it leads.

This is one reason why I don't believe democracy is the best system of government. I think it may be the best system when it comes to organizing fallen humans, but ultimately the best system of government, in my view and more importantly the Bible's view, is an absolute monarchy.

But only when the Monarch is absolutely perfect.

On Those 1,000+ Page Bills Our Congress Cranks Out

"Say what you like about George III, but the Tea Act was about tea." - Mark Steyn

Bono: George Bush, Evangelicals Saved 9 Million AIDS Victims

I've long thought that GWB never got near as much credit as he deserved for this: Bono: George Bush, evangelicals saved 9 million AIDS victims.

U2 frontman Bono, who moonlights as an activist for the poor and sick in Africa, is crediting evangelical Christians and former President George W. Bush for saving 9 million from the ravages of AIDS, a campaign the musician said is blessed by God.

"This should be shouted from the rooftops. This is a heroic American story," Bono said in a remarkable radio interview with Jim Daly, the president of Focus on the Family, to be broadcast by the group Tuesday.

Talking freely about God, his marriage, and his relationship with Jesus in the interview provided in advance to Secrets, Bono said that evangelical Christians helped him sell the Bush administration on fighting AIDS in Africa, which he compared to the biblical humanity in tackling leprosy.

"It was the evangelicals that did that," said Bono. "Because they, like myself, pestered George Bush and the administration, who actually deserve praise for starting this out," he added of the $15 billion President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief program.
Read the whole thing.

Ayn Rand Really Hated C.S. Lewis

Now and then I've posted with alarm about how some otherwise Christian people revere Ayn Rand. I suppose they do this because their views line up with her political and economic theories.

I don't know if Rand is still the darling of libertarians, but if so, here's one more reason to avoid her: Ayn Rand hated C.S. Lewis

Ayn Rand was no fan of C.S. Lewis. She called the famous apologist an “abysmal bastard,” a “monstrosity,” a “cheap, awful, miserable, touchy, social-meta­physical mediocrity,” a “pickpocket of concepts,” and a “G_d-d_mn, beaten mystic.” (I suspect Lewis would have particularly relished the last of these.)

These insults and more can be found in her marginal notes on a copy of Lewis’ Abolition of Man, as printed in Ayn Rand’s Marginalia: Her critical comments on the writings of over 20 authors, edited by Robert Mayhew. Excerpts appear below, with Lewis’ writing (complete with Rand’s highlighting and underlining) on the left and Rand’s notes on the right.
Go ahead and read the rest, if you must. There are a lot more quotes of her trashing Lewis' writings. She sounds like a nutcase to me. Considering the fact that two of my daughter's closest friends abandoned their faith in Jesus as seniors in high school after being sucked in by The Fountainhead, I've got no patience for people who talk about her in hushed, reverent tones. It's not worth clinging to this (ahem) philosopher. My son once put a young, misguided Randian in his place who was going on about the glories of Rand's Objectivism at a college seminar. I'm a proud dad.

On a somewhat related note, another hero of many conservatives is Glenn Beck. I lost all use for him after his misguided, jingoistic attempts to paint soccer lovers in this country as un-American. It's bad form, but I'll quote a portion of what I wrote then:
I'm reminded of one time when I was talking to a friend of mine at church, one who was generally very critical of a lot of things (and entering his Calvin Cage-Phase, by the way). I mentioned something about soccer, and he rolled his eyes and said "third world sport" and then started complaining about immigration or something. That had a different "feel", and it wasn't even subtle. It wasn't "I think soccer's dumb". It was UGLY XENOPHOBIC AMERICAN.

So, Glenn Beck, go take a flying leap.
Yeah, and take Ayn Rand with you.

Politicians Playing Politics...For Money? Nooooo. I'm Shocked.

A few months ago I read an interesting memoir by Bob Schieffer of CBS News. The guy has been covering Washington since Kennedy. The subtitle was what caught me:

    This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You On TV
. There were terrific little behind-the-scenes anecdotes about politicians and big news events. But for me, the most significant takeaway was this paragraph on p. 324.:

Campaigns have become so expensive, and the politicians must spend so much of their time raising money, that neither the candidates nor the lobbyists have time for the old-fashioned schmoozing that was once the hallmark of the lobbying trade. It's all very businesslike now for both sides. For the politicians, the challenge is how to raise the most money in the least amount of time. For the lobbyists, the challenge is to know which politicians to shower with money in order to get maximum results.

Moderate politics, a willingness to study issues and seek workable compromise, is no longer cost-effective. The politicians who send out fund-raising letters promising to give each issue careful study won't raise a dime.

But if that politician targets those who are known to favor a certain issue and he lets that group know he will champion their cause no matter who opposes it, the money rolls in. The amount he can raise depends on how sharply he can draw a contrast between those who favor an issue and those who oppose it.

There are sincere people on every side of every issue, but one reason that Congress continues to debate and vote on so many of the same issues over and over - like gun control and abortion - is that such issues bring in money to both sides. Liberals who favor gun control rail at the antics of the well-financed gun lobby, but in truth they welcome the endless debate over guns because it is a proven way to raise money from their supporters, just as the pro-gun lobby is a ready source of campaign cash for pro-gun forces. The debates over the perennials, as insiders call them, have little impact on the country since they usually bring little or no change in the laws. But they are not really about the country's business; they are about the business of the members themselves and their own survival.

He wrote that in 2003! What do you think?

While I enjoyed Schieffer's anecdotes, I took his opinions with a grain of salt, because he's a reporter for CBS news...however, I think that he may be right on with this observation.

I remembered this while watching the whole country freak out over gun control a few months ago. It's true. Fights over these "perennials" come up every couple of years, and nothing really changes. The Bills politicians introduce on one side or the other may tweak abortion, or gun-control a little here or there, but there's no real change. But it does fire up the base...on both sides.

I remember this now when I get post cards from politicians (that I agree with) telling me how urgent it is to fight over one of those perennials...because the other side is all frenzied up about it to.

What are your thoughts? Do you think Schieffer has a point? Or do you think he's way off base?

The Obama-Nation That Causes Desolation

Yesterday in Obama's 2nd Inagural speech he spoke about rights for women, blacks and gays. And he linked them all in a way that hasn't been done before by any President ever. He said:

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths -- that all of us are created equal -- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall...

Seneca Falls -1848- The first women's rights meeting ever
Selma - 1965, police beat people marching for the right of black people to vote
Stonewall - 1969 standoff/riot - gays vs. the police outside a gay bar. (I had never heard of this before the President mentioned it today.)

And later he said...

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

This kind of support, and tieing in of rights of the sexually deviant to race and gender is historic. (And by the way, my use of the word "deviant" here will one day be called hate speech. The dictionary defines "deviant" as "differing from the norm or the accepted standards of society".) The President of the U.S. is now going to do everything in his power to make sure that homosexuality is never considered deviant again.

Read this blog post by Al Mohler. It's important. Here it is, in it's entirety.

Jan. 10 - A new chapter in America’s moral revolution came today as Atlanta pastor Louie Giglio withdrew from giving the benediction at President Obama’s second inaugural ceremony. In a statement released to the White House and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, Giglio said that he withdrew because of the furor that emerged yesterday after a liberal watchdog group revealed that almost twenty years ago he had preached a sermon in which he had stated that homosexuality is a sin and that the “only way out of a homosexual lifestyle … is through the healing power of Jesus.”

In other words, a Christian pastor has been effectively disinvited from delivering an inaugural prayer because he believes and teaches Christian truth.

The fact that Giglio was actually disinvited was made clear in a statement from Addie Whisenant of the Presidential Inaugural Committee:
“We were not aware of Pastor Giglio’s past comments at the time of his selection, and they don’t reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this inaugural. Pastor Giglio was asked to deliver the benediction in large part because of his leadership in combating human trafficking around the world. As we now work to select someone to deliver the benediction, we will ensure their beliefs reflect this administration’s vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans.”

That statement is, in effect, an embarrassed apology for having invited Louie Giglio in the first place. Whisenant’s statement apologizes for the Presidential Inaugural Committee’s failure to make certain that their selection had never, at any time, for any reason, believed that homosexuality is less than a perfectly acceptable lifestyle. The committee then promised to repent and learn from their failure, committing to select a replacement who would “reflect this administration’s vision of inclusion and acceptance.”

The imbroglio over Louie Giglio is the clearest evidence of the new Moral McCarthyism of our sexually “tolerant” age. During the infamous McCarthy hearings, witnesses would be asked, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”

In the version now to be employed by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, the question will be: “Are you now or have you ever been one who believes that homosexuality (or bisexuality, or transsexualism, etc.) is anything less than morally acceptable and worthy of celebration?”

Louie Giglio, pastor of Atlanta’s Passion City Church, is also founder of the Passion movement that brings tens of thousands of Christian young people together to hear Giglio, along with speakers such as John Piper. They urge a rising generation of young Christians to make a passionate commitment to Christ. In recent years, the movement has also sought to raise awareness and activism among young Christians on the issue of sex trafficking. It was that activism that caught the attention of both President Obama and the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Note carefully that both the White House and the committee were ready to celebrate Giglio’s activism on sex trafficking, but all that was swept away by the Moral McCarthyism on the question of homosexuality.

Two other dimensions of this story also demand attention. First, we should note that Louie Giglio has not been known lately for taking any stand on the issue of homosexuality. To the contrary, Giglio’s own statement withdrawing from the invitation made this clear:

“Due to a message of mine that has surfaced from 15-20 years ago, it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration. Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ.”

A fair-minded reading of that statement indicates that Pastor Giglio has strategically avoided any confrontation with the issue of homosexuality for at least fifteen years. The issue “has not been in the range of my priorities,” he said. Given the Bible’s insistance that sexual morality is inseparable from our “ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ,” this must have been a difficult strategy. It is also a strategy that is very attractive to those who want to avoid being castigated as intolerant or homophobic. As this controversy makes abundantly clear, it is a failed strategy. Louie Giglio was cast out of the circle of the acceptable simply because a liberal watchdog group found one sermon he preached almost twenty years ago. If a preacher has ever taken a stand on biblical conviction, he risks being exposed decades after the fact. Anyone who teaches at any time, to any degree, that homosexual behavior is a sin is now to be cast out.

Second, we should note that Pastor Giglio’s sermon was, as we would expect and hope, filled with grace and the promise of the Gospel. Giglio did not just state that homosexuals are sinners — he made clear that every single human being is a sinner, in need of the redemption that is found only in Jesus Christ. “We’ve got to say to the homosexuals, the same thing that I say to you and that you would say to me … It’s not easy to change, but it’s possible to change,” he preached. He pointed his congregation, gay and straight, to “the healing power of Jesus.” He called his entire congregation to repent and come to Christ by faith.

That is the quintessential Christian Gospel. That is undiluted biblical truth. Those words are the consensus of the Church for over 2,000 years, and the firm belief held by the vast majority of Christians around the world today.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee and the White House have now declared historic, biblical Christianity to be out of bounds, casting it off the inaugural program as an embarrassment. By its newly articulated standard, any preacher who holds to the faith of the church for the last 2,000 years is persona non grata. By this standard, no Roman Catholic prelate or priest can participate in the ceremony. No Evangelical who holds to biblical orthodoxy is welcome. The vast majority of Christians around the world have been disinvited. Mormons, and the rabbis of Orthodox Judaism are out. Any Muslim imam who could walk freely in Cairo would be denied a place on the inaugural program. Billy Graham, who participated in at least ten presidential inaugurations is welcome no more. Rick Warren, who incited a similar controversy when he prayed at President Obama’s first inauguration, is way out of bounds. In the span of just four years, the rules are fully changed.

The gauntlet was thrown down yesterday, and the axe fell today. Wayne Besen, founder of the activist group Truth Wins Out, told The New York Times yesterday: “It is imperative that Giglio clarify his remarks and explain whether he has evolved on gay rights, like so many other faith and political leaders. It would be a shame to select a preacher with backward views on LBGT people at a moment when the nation is rapidly moving forward on our issues.”

And there you have it — anyone who has ever believed that homosexuality is morally problematic in any way must now offer public repentance and evidence of having “evolved” on the question. This is the language that President Obama used of his own “evolving” position on same-sex marriage. This is what is now openly demanded of Christians today. If you want to avoid being thrown off the program, you had better learn to evolve fast, and repent in public.

This is precisely what biblical Christians cannot do. While seeking to be gentle in spirit and ruthlessly Gospel-centered in speaking of any sin, we cannot cease to speak of sin as sin. To do so is not only to deny the authority of Scripture, not only to reject the moral consensus of the saints, but it undermines the Gospel itself. The Gospel makes no sense, and is robbed of its saving power, if sin is denied as sin.

An imbroglio is a painful and embarrassing conflict. The imbroglio surrounding Louie Giglio is not only painful, it is revealing. We now see the new Moral McCarthyism in its undisguised and unvarnished reality. If you are a Christian, get ready for the question you will now undoubtedly face: “Do you now or have you ever believed that homosexuality is a sin?” There is nowhere to hide.

I wonder if this post will be used against me 20 years from now?

Reflectin' on the Electin'

Some semi-random reflections on the morning after the re-electing of our President.

- I do hope in 4 years the GOP can do better. Much better. I think we can. I thought we could. I was one of those "undecideds" many of my conservative friends were dogging the last many weeks, although I never publicly revealed it. Now, I wasn't undecided about who I wouldn't vote for. I was undecided about if I'd vote at all. I've become increasingly discouraged by the pragmatism necessary in the political endeavor to the point of my conscience being troubled. This is laughed at over in some blog-quarters, but I wasn't going to be cowed by somebody's derision into choosing "Not Obama." I was hugely dissatisfied with the Republican nominee. In the end, I made peace with voting for him anyway. I believe I did the right thing. But while you're making fun of conservative undecideds realize it's largely you who've put us in this position.

- Most people pushed into this corner like me decided either not to vote at all or to vote third-party, which of course ensured the President's re-election. We have nobody to blame but ourselves. In the end, I liked voting for a milquetoast bore -- b/c I think we need more of them in charge of things -- but milquetoast bores don't win elections. And if Republicans couldn't win in the middle of this gigantic mess we're in, we have to realize that campaigning a "Not Obama" isn't good enough. We need a strong, compelling conservative candidate next time around, and preferably a Hispanic/Latino one.

- We now have another four years of the most dangerous President in history for unborn children. It's clear that a more missional way for the pro-life passion is all the more necessary.

- Our President campaigned vigorously on a platform of progressive social issues: same-sex marriage, abortion rights, institutionalized class warfare on the wealthy, entitlements. I believe this is a clear case of calling evil (killing of the innocent, exploitation of the vulnerable and distressed, approval of sexual immorality, theft, and exploitation of the poor) good. I cast my vote as an echo of the woes of Isaiah 10:1-2. This resulted in a clear-conscience vote for Romney as a man unwilling to call evil good.

- I don't think that by and large most African Americans voted for Obama because he's black. I think they voted for him because he's liberal. This is proven by their reception of African American conservative and Republican candidates. When pressed, the greater African American community will choose a white liberal over a black conservative every time. And the stuff found funny about Obama, calling him white, becomes utterly inexcusable for conservative black candidates. Acting "white" is a liability, cause for derision and hate. Change the politics, however, and it's endearing. This isn't racism so much as hypocrisy.

- All along I did hope our evangelical conservative brethren understood that quoting Old Testament statutes to support the idea that Mitt Romney would return our nation to its "Christian foundations" was problematic given that the man would have been executed for heresy under the same statutes. I believe the Scriptures ought to guide our civic responsibilities, including voting, but I am always troubled by how readily we spiritualize our pragmatism and conflate empire with heaven. We help mainstream Mormonism as a Christian movement -- and therefore compromise the gospel -- when we mash up a Mormon candidate with Christian dominionism. But Glenn Beck has been helping evangelical political junkies do that for the last several years anyway.

- Another four years of this Presidency likely means four more years of accumulating crippling debt, increasing unemployment, growth of the welfare state, decline of the middle class, infringing of religious freedom and violation of free speech. As we give freer official reign to sexual immorality we will eventually see more spiritual and emotional anguish bubbling up in systemic and cultural ways. The time will (may?) come when the progressives will discover their shackles. That will be no time for the Church to play "I told you so." It will be a massive opportunity to proclaim and embody the difficult rest of the gospel of Jesus.

- Similarly, there will be more and more opportunities to stand up and be counted. I minister in perhaps the most liberal state in our nation. If trends outside the US are indicative, it is not impossible that our nation will see "hate speech" laws levied against public profession of biblical teachings or the refusal to officiate same-sex weddings (threatening fines, imprisonment, o or simply tax exempt status or whatever). Things will get tougher for conservative evangelicals. Perhaps a separation of the men from the boys is on the horizon. It is crucial that even now evangelical churches all over America stop playing stupid games and offering entertainment and Christianity-lite and start prepping the people of God for devotion to the gospel and taking up of their cross.

Looking On the Bright Side . . .

Well, I have now completely cemented my well deserved reputation as the worst election prognosticator ever. I was wrong in this space in 2004 and, back when the Thinklings was just a vigorous and fun email forum, in 2000. I had a brief, rare moment of being right in 2008 (one of the most easily predicted election blowouts of all time).

I made the mistake this time of adhering to the conventional wisdom that the economy trumps everything. Boy, was I wrong. As someone soon to be unemployed in this economy (at end of year) here's to vigorously hoping things improve!

On a less hopeful note, hope seems to still be our only concrete strategy as a nation. When facing 16 trillion in debt - a tidy big tidal wave heading our way that was only lightly remarked on, even joked about, in this election - a nation needs something more than wishful thinking. Maybe we're just not ready for that yet. Better be soon, though.

I had also hoped that the candidate I ended up voting for would refrain from saying things like "America is the hope of the world!". No, we're not. We are still a great country, and even, I believe, a "good" country, but there is only one Hope of the world, and He does not share glory (Isaiah 42:8).

Congratulations, President Obama. I didn't vote for you and neither did I, over the past four years, pray for you nearly as much as I was supposed to, to my shame. But I truly hope you are successful in leading our government over the next four years. Please pay attention to the debt, if you would.

Now, here's to a hoped for short break from election year politics, until the next election cycle revs up (in a month or two . . . *sigh*)


Well, we're less than one week out from the election. Do any of you want to hazard a prediction as to who will win?

For the record, I predicted one of the candidates for the win months ago (before the debates, Benghazi, etc) in the comments thread on another post. I'll dig that one up and own up after the election.

Other predictions:

- Who will appear in this year's Superbowl?

- Who will win the NBA championship?

Feel free to leave your predictions in the comments thread.

VP Song Wars - Awesome!

This was way better than watching the actual debate!

What I Wish Happened In The VP Debate Last Night

Biden: (While Ryan is talking and Biden smiling at Ryan like he's an idiot, he keeps interrupting Ryan's actual answer to the moderator's question.) That's malarky... That's stupid... That's not what he says now... He disavows it now...etc...

Ryan: (Stops speaking and turns to face Biden) Mr. Vice President, I think the American People understand that you disagree with what I am saying, but it doesn't mean that you need to continuously be rude.

Biden: I can't help it. The stuff you are saying is horse manure and the American People know it.

Ryan:You may utter your opinions when it's your turn, but to continuously throw your little comments in while I'm speaking is not only rude and unfair, it's also immature. Not being able to control yourself is a sign of immaturity.

Biden: Who are you calling immature? Why, I was writing bills for the Senate when you were still drinking baby formula! I was meeting with the President when you were in diapers! I was solving this country's problems while you were still trying to color inside the lines in kindergarten. How dare you call me immature!

Ryan: Mr. Vice President, my grandfather had a saying. "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...it's a duck."

Biden: (In a fit of rage) I won't put up with this BS from this punk! (Biden rips off mike and storms off.)

Ryan: (Turns to face the camera) My fellow Americans, you just saw the real man who is but one heartbeat away from the Oval Office.

You Have A Choice ...

... come November.

Stay Classy, Mr. President

Really? "Still a BFD", with a T-shirt and everything?

Supreme Court Rules On Health Care

The Supreme Court ruled today upholding ObamaCare. And what they did is weird.

4 of the Justices said that it is unconstitutional. Three conservatives - Scalia, Alito and Thomas, and joining them was the new moderate swing vote, Anthony Kennedy. Weird, right?

What's even weirder is who made up the majority saying that the law is constitutional - Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan - the 4 liberals, but guess who joined them and authored the decision? Chief Justice John Roberts. What?!?!?!

Roberts said that law is not Constitutional under the commerce clause as the Gov't argued. Rather he found a reason that the Federal Gov't has the authority to mandate that you buy health insurance...taxing authority. Roberts wrote: "Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness."

Are you kidding me? Basically what's happening here is that the law says that if you can afford to buy health insurance (whatever that means) and don't then you will be taxed. It's a kind of a fine for not buying health insurance and the Supreme Court upheld the Federal Government's authority to do that.


OK, you legal scholars weigh in here and help me out. Here's what I see happening. Now that the Supreme Court has said that and we know how important Supreme Court legal precedent is, being applied sideways and diagonally to anything that even sort of relates:

What's to stop the Federal Government from "taxing" you to get you to whatever else it wants? Maybe they want you to attend "Sexual Sensitivity" training so that you won't be against homosexuality anymore. And you get taxed if you don't attend. Maybe they want you to use a certain kind of electric car or light bulb, and if you can afford to buy one and don't you get taxed. How many other agendas might the Federal Gov't have that they decide to compel you to do by utilizing this new taxing authority. Essentially fining you if you don't do what they want. I'm not normally an alarmist, but I see our "freedom" talking a slow walk out the door with this one.

Is my slippery slope argument valid or invalid?

What do you think?

President Santorum

I just want to stake my claim now, Rick Santorum will be the next president of the United States... in 2016. I know that no one knows the future, but it's the most likely scenario given past patterns. Here's why:

1- The Republican moderate loses. Like McCain, Dole, George H.W. Bush, Thomas Dewey and Wendell Willkie before him, Romney will lose in November, 2012, so expect Obama to serve a second term.

2-The American public switches to the other party if the incumbent served two terms. (FDR and George H.W. Bush being exceptions, but Reagan was an exceptional president so Bush managed to ride on his coattails to win once, but only once.) Therefore, after Obama is done, it will be the Republican's turn. Whoever they put up will win. Now even if Obama turns out to be Reagan-esque popular (which he won't) his VP won't be able to stretch that popularity for one more term because Biden won't run. The Democratic party primary will be wide open.

3- The next GOP candidate will be Rick Santorum because the GOP nominates the #2 from the previous presidential primary, or at least someone who has run before. Check me on this. You have to go back a long way in history to find someone who won the GOP primary who hadn't run and lost previously. It's how they play the game. I believe there are two reasons for this:
a- The establishment anoints him because "it's his turn and he paid his dues and showed he could win primaries."
b-The hoi polloi vote for him based on name recognition and also a vague sense of it being his turn. They are used to his name being associated with "president" by now.
The Republicans have done this for EVERY GOP primary going back a long, long ways. (The only recent exception being George W. Bush, and he is the exception that proves the rule. He had the name recognition for the hoi polloi and a sense of entitlement from the establishment. The average Republican voter needs to be able to hear the candidate's name with the word "President" in front of it, and it sound OK. That's right. I'm saying that if George W. Bush had ANY other name, he wouldn't have won.) In other words, conservatives really are "conservative". They reject an idea the first time they hear it. It takes them a while to get used to the idea.

Therefore, because Romney will lose, because the public will be ready for a different party to be in the White House and because Republicans nominate the #2 from the previous primary, Rick Santorum will be the next president of the United States. You read it here first. Bookmark this post and save it on your computer.

The Polygraph As Lie Detector

I met a new friend for lunch a few weeks ago and the topic of the polygraph came up. In the particular instance we were talking about, the polygraph had revealed a deception. My friend, naturally curious, said, “So those things work?” Ironically, my short answer was no. My long answer is below. . . .

I have lots of experience taking polygraph exams. Over the past several years, I’ve taken probably 20 of them, maybe more.

The polygraph -- popularly known as “the lie detector” -- is a device that measures certain physiological responses like blood pressure, respiration, etc. The theory is when people lie, those physiological responses change. The problem with the theory is it has no scientific validity.

In a landmark 2003 study titled The Polygraph and Lie Detection, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) states:

Almost a century of research in scientific psychology and physiology provides little basis for the expectation that a polygraph test could have extremely high accuracy. Although psychological states often associated with deception (e.g., fear of being judged deceptive) do tend to affect the physiological responses that the polygraph measures, these same states can arise in the absence of deception. Moreover, many other psychological and physiological factors (e.g., anxiety about being tested) also affect those responses. Such phenomena make polygraph testing intrinsically susceptible to producing erroneous results.

From my experience, I can say that the polygraph as truth verifier is somewhat accurate. In other words, if someone takes a polygraph and passes, there’s a decent chance that they’re telling the truth. On the other hand, the polygraph as lie detector (what it is popularly known and used for) may be only slightly more accurate than flipping a coin -- and there’s no true way to substantiate even that level of accuracy. As a scientist friend of mine told me, “There are simply too many variables.” In my own experience over the years, the polygraph was exactly 50 percent accurate.

Anecdotally, if I had to put an overall number to the accuracy of the polygraph, I’d give it 65 percent. Furthermore, the more someone is educated on polygraph procedure, and the more inquisitive someone’s mind may be, the more likely the machine will give false results by finding a truthful person to be “deceptive.” To put it more bluntly, the polygraph may be more accurate -- or, at the very least, more effective -- on simple-minded people, but again, the very foundation of polygraphy (linking deception to certain physiological responses) is ill-conceived. The previously mentioned NAS report states, “The physiological responses measured by the polygraph are not uniquely related to deception.”

While it may have some efficacy within certain contexts, the illusion of “lie detection” is too great a power and is often abused by authorities who choose to rely on it. Thus, the fruits of polygraphy are false accusations, job losses, family disruptions, unfounded distrust, and an overall laziness by those who choose to employ the machine.

By and large, the polygraph as lie detector simply doesn’t work as advertised.

I don't know anything about polygraphs, and I don't know how accurate they are, but I know they'll scare the hell out of people. -- Richard Nixon

When Women Take On The Roles Of Men

Inspired by two (seemingly) unrelated pieces I read online this morning.

1- Should Women be allowed in Combat?
I just heard on the news this week that women will now be officially allowed combat roles for the first time in the U.S. Military. This is because in the past 10 years of the "War on Terror", there have been woman who had to take on combat roles by necessity, even if that wasn't their primary role.

In response, Rick Santorum just re-articulated the two basic and traditional arguments against it:

As one reason, Santorum cites “the emotions of men.’’ The White House hopeful says there is the potential that men will not be focused on their combat mission but on what he calls a “natural instinct’’ to protect a woman.

Santorum also questions having women in combat roles because of what he says are “all sorts of physical issues’’ relating to the capabilities of men and women.

I include this quote from him not because I want to discuss Santorum on this thread, but because I expect, for the first time, these two traditional arguments to be mocked and scoffed. He had the audacity to say them out loud and to many these arguments will seem outdated and sexist.

I don't think they are. I think these are timeless and timely arguments. I have never served in the military, but for various reasons I've been blessed with many, many close relationships with those who have. And every soldier I've ever talked to about it re-articulates the two arguments above.

I remember in particular my Junior ROTC instructor, an army ranger who voluntarily served two tours of duty in Vietnam say, "Combat is bad enough with men, your brothers, dying all around you. But still it is a totally different experience to see a woman with her face blown off. There's just something naturally ingrained into men. You have to protect her...and then you will compromise the mission. You won't be able to focus on what you need to do."

It's been over 20 years...and I still remember the soft tone that this very tough man took and the horror I felt, when he said, "woman with her face blown off".

Combat is ugly, ugly business. And yes, it's far uglier when women are a part of it.

2- Why are Hollywood portrayals of women in the role of men always tragic?

From the Plugged-In review of the new movie "Albert Nobbs" about a woman who spends her life pretending to be a man.
A postscript: While addressing the issue of historical gender disparity so profoundly illustrated in Albert Nobbs, I feel compelled to make an observation about its modern incarnation in movies. What happens when one gender plays the other? When men put on a dress and lipstick, the intended effect is almost always laughter. Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie. Tyler Perry's turns as Madea. Adam Sandler as brother and sister twins in Jack and Jill. John Travolta as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray.

When women play men, however, the outcome is more often tragic. Sooner or later, we've been taught to anticipate, these vulnerable women's well-cloaked secret—usually under layers of femininity-disguising clothes—will be revealed. And their worlds will explode. Or end. The most prominent example of this (before Albert Nobbs)? The story of Brandon Teena (played by Hilary Swank), horrifically illustrated in 1999's Boys Don't Cry.

I thought of a couple more examples that the reviewer, Adam Holz, didn't mention.

Men as women: Tom Hanks' TV sitcom - Bosom Buddies, Tony Curtis in "Some Like it Hot", Martin Lawrence in "Big Momma's House", Two Wayans brothers as "White Chicks", Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire, Barry Watson in Sorority Boys, "Juwanna Man". I'm sure you all could think of more, or look it up. All of them are comedies and not just comedies, but madcap ridiculous comedies.(or at least are supposed to be.)

Women as men: First of all, there aren't as many. There were two comedies, "Just one of the Guys"(1985) and "She's the Man" with Amanda Bynes. (2006) But these are exceptions, and even those had serious undertones and sections. Usually women disguised as men aren't funny. It's usually serious, but more often tragic. Barbara Streisand as "Yentl"; The Ballad of Little Jo, in which a woman must dress as a man to survive in the west, when she is found out post-mortem the pain is expressed as violent anger. In "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" Eowyn dressed as a male soldier so that she can ride into combat, though she performs admirably, her little foray still ends with violence and sadness.

These are serious movies, and the storyline of "woman disguised as a man" never ends well and almost always tragically (both in the dramatic and emotional sense.)

Even Hollywood with all it's liberal sensibilities can't seem to quite escape from...

(yes, I'm going to go ahead and be bold enough to say it)

...our God-given gender roles.

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