Monthly Archives: July 2014

Yeah you know that whole Tony Dungy thing?

With just a few words, the great coach and football analyst Tony Dungy has literally found himself in a red hot imbroglio.  It’s really a shame too.  Let’s look at his comments:

Dungy noted in an interview, that if he were still coaching today, that he wouldn’t have drafted Sam “(n)ot because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it. It’s not going to be totally smooth…things will happen.”

I cannot for the life of me see any problems with this statement.  Let’s take something a bit less controversial.

What if a player was drafted in the 7th round who actively campaigns for the KKK?  What if he had made numerous comments in interviews that included the “n word,” referred to blacks and other minorities as less than human, and was regularly on the cover of white supremacy literature?

What if a player was drafted in the 7th round who was an ardent supporter of the 9-11 terrorists?  What if he said that he was going to use his platform in the NFL to bring attention and provide support to al Qaeda terrorists?  What if numerous interviews found him denouncing Americans and calling for jihad on our soil?

If either of those were the case, would you have a problem with Tony Dungy saying, “I do not believe ________’s (white supremacy) (Islamic faith) will be a distraction to his teammates or his organization,” like he said in a statement on Pro Football Talk.com? What if he went on to say about the two cases, “I do; however, believe that the media attention that comes with it will be a distraction? Unfortunately we are all seeing this play out now, and I feel badly that my remarks played a role in the distraction. I wish __________ nothing but the best in his quest to become a star in the NFL and I am confident he will get the opportunity to show what he can do on the field.”

You have to admit, considering those two egregious hypothetical situations, that is an extremely benign statement! In this case, we have a known racist or supporter of terrorism and Dungy still wants the guy to get a “shot” and to “show what he can do on the field.” I think people would argue for a more vociferous critique by Dungy! “This isn’t enough…he is a Christian, and a man of character. He must stand against racism against blacks.” “How can he support the 9-11 attackers? He must not allow this to be swept under the rug!”

So, now—let’s look at the situation as it really is. We have an openly homosexual Defensive player named Michael Sam drafted in the…7th round by the St. Louis Rams. Upon his draft, leading up to it and following it, he has been the recipient of lavish media praise. In fact, Oprah was in talks to make a television show about him, but it was subsequently nixed because it was decided by his drafting team to be a distraction!

Dungy was asked if he would have drafted Sam. I think a succinct, “No” would have sufficed, but the interviewer wanted more. So, we have Dungy’s comments.

Notice in his comments, he didn’t condemn Sam for his lifestyle choice. He didn’t say, “eww gross.” He didn’t say that Sam was less than human. On the contrary, he said that HE wouldn’t have drafted Sam, but that he felt he deserved a chance to prove himself on the field. What is the problem?

Here is the problem:  On Tuesday, Pardon the Interruption’s Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon were discussing former NFL coach Tony Dungy’s recent comments that media attention would have pushed him away from drafting Sam. Kornheiser said he was optimistic that NFL players would be personally tolerant of Sam, though.

And then this was said:

“I’m more skeptical,” Wilbon countered. “I think there is a component, a subculture of the religious Right, that is very influential in football — maybe not the other sports, but football — and I don’t see this going as smoothly as you see it.”​

Now, what does Wilbon mean when he talks about the subculture of the religious Right?  Well, he is talking about Dungy!  He is talking about the players who circle up and pray after games.  He is talking about Tebow.  He is talking about Christians.

Christianity makes liberals nervous.

You have to remember, Christianity makes some exclusive truth claims.  First of all, it claims that Jesus Christ is The way.  It claims that all men are sinners and in need of redemption that humans are not in a position to secure for themselves.  It claims that who we are is defined by our identity…in Christ—rather than the things we do, or our biological DNA.

The above is highly controversial to the Left.  The Bible even tells us that it will be controversial.

The first statement, that Christ is THE way—that runs right into the oncoming traffic of the leftist ideology.  The liberal believes that all ways are THE way—well, with a caveat:  They believe they are the most tolerant people on the planet—they say that all ideas are equal—but then comes the clincher:  All ideas are equal, until you disagree with the idea that all ideas are equal (which if you really think about it, necessarily follows. If all ideas are equal, then it would also affirm the view that says “no ideas are equal.”  This contradicts.  It cannot be tenable).  At that point, they become the most intolerant group of people on the planet.  They aren’t interested in debate, dialogue, or Obama’s favorite word, “bipartisanship.”  They are only interested in destroying the opposing view.

Christians on the other hand, believe that all people are equal, but all ideas are not.  It is wrong to embrace Nazi ideology.  It is wrong to embrace ideology that affirms pedophilia.  Liberals believe that all ideas are equal but all people are not.  My evidence:  Read Wilbon’s quote.  They are not attacking Dungy’s ideas—or engaging with the arguments:  They are attacking HIM and this fringe element called the religious right.  Notice, they aren’t saying, “I philosophically oppose the view that all men need redemption from God.”  They are instead saying, “Tony Dungy just admitted that Tony Dungy isn’t a skilled enough coach to deal with the distractions of doing the right thing…”  You even have people saying, “Dungy is entitled to his opinion, he just cannot say it aloud.”  Wow—so now, Dungy, who is a black man…is now a second class citizen who is unable to speak his mind?  My how times have changed.

The second statement:  All men are sinners and in need of redemption.  Well, aside from the obvious objections to masculine pronouns that feminists will bring up, this goes against the entire humanist doctrine.  In their view, all people are good; it is society that lets them down.  It is the culture who is to blame for bad behavior, not the person themselves.  They take away all need for personal responsibility.

Why is it that when crime happens, instead of punishing criminals, they always want to find the root cause of it (by root cause, I mean…the societal cause)?  They are not interested in dealing with the personal responsibility of certain actions.  The person CHOSE to commit a crime.  It doesn’t matter what society has or hasn’t done.  They are only interested in how the crime came to happen.  They don’t care to ask, “Are people flawed,” but rather; “why was he born into socioeconomic conditions that produced this type of behavior?”  It is a very different view of human nature.

The other side of this matter is that the left believes that we are all the product of time plus matter plus chance—and as a result, our DNA dictates to us what we will do.  We cannot be responsible for things that happen at the microbiological level.  We are compelled to behave in this way without any choice.  It is determined.  If that were true though—and everything was predetermined, then does the statement, “He should keep his opinion to himself” have any meaning?  On the naturalistic view, which the left overwhelmingly affirms, I haven’t weighed any arguments, or looked at the pros and cons of that statement.  I am just wired to believe it is true.  Why should that hold any weight?

The Christian believes otherwise.  The Christian believes that man is born flawed—as Kant said:  “From the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was made.”  We cannot resist sin, or doing wrong on our own.  We are drawn to it and consumed by it.  In the Christian view, sin doesn’t just describe something we do; it describes a power that controls us.  Until this problem is dealt with, we cannot escape it.  We will continue to be owned by it.  As a result, we need redemption—and it is a redemption that we, because of our sinful nature, are not in a position to secure for ourselves.

 

Finally, the idea of ontological being.  The humanist or liberal believes that we are defined by what we do. The Christian believes we are defined, by our being—and specifically the being of Christ in us.  If we don’t have Christ in us, we are ontologically dead.  The liberal would say that “I am a homosexual,” or “I am a heterosexual.” Even the liberal Christian will say, “I am a body who has a soul,” or, “I am a social activist—and I believe in God.” It is enough to be those things.

The Christian on the other hand says, “I am a Child of God…and I DO things.”  Being is always before action to the Christian.  Being a homosexual or heterosexual is something that we DO.  Being a social activist is something I do.  What I do flows from my being.  My being doesn’t flow from what I do.  I cannot truly be in a relationship until I decide to ACT.  I have to talk to my spouse.  I have to engage with her.  If I lived in a vacuum, I would not be in relationship.  It requires action.  It requires doing.  Saying, “I am a heterosexual” really has no meaning at all without action.  Likewise, you will not hear any denunciation of homosexuality in the Bible as long as it is contained in the person.  It is the act of doing homosexual activity that is condemned.  After all, the Bible clearly says that Jesus WAS tempted.  It isn’t that he was tempted that is important.  What is important is that he DIDN’T do what he was tempted to do.  His being informed what he did—and he didn’t sin.

Being on the other hand only requires…well, life.  In the Christian view, it is the fact that Christ enters us and gives us life, that our ontological being is changed.  We are no longer only a lump of flesh and DNA.  We are more:  We are no longer a body who has a soul; we are a soul who has a body.  Another way to say it—Ravi Zacharias routinely says, “Jesus didn’t come into the world to make bad people good.  He came to make dead men live.”  Being.

With those things being said, I think it is clear why there is such a negative reaction by the secular journalists when someone like Dungy says what he says.  It isn’t so much his comments, as they were fairly benign.  No—the problem is that his Christianity is seen as his prevailing ideology.  It is the fact that his being (Christ) informs all that he does.  He doesn’t believe it is his DNA or societal conditions that inform it.  He believes in Christ as the only way, he believes in original sin, and he believes that he IS a Child of God—not a football coach or a heterosexual.

Do you see the problem?  It is a matter of truth claim.  Dungy and all Christians are making an exclusive claim to truth when they identify as a Child of God.  They are saying that ALL men are flawed, that Jesus is the greatest who exists, and that it is ONLY through Jesus that ALL men can become, unflawed.

Let me put it into the lens of a personal story—and see two reactions to truth:

I once went to get a haircut, and in the middle of my cut, the lady cutting my hair said to the other lady working, “Business is good, but there must be more to life than this.”  I caught her eye in the mirror and said, “You know, in life, we aren’t made happy by what we acquire, but by what we appreciate.”  She was clearly interested, so I went on:  “The trouble as I see it is, that we often think we have nothing to be grateful for, but I think the real problem is, many times we think we have no one to be grateful to.”  She began to engage with me, and told me that she was very fearful about the future; and specifically, about bringing a baby into such an evil world.  I asked her then, “What is more troubling, the evil out there, or the evil inside?”  She agreed that the evil inside was more troubling, and she said, that it often felt like there was a power that controlled her—and that no matter what she did, she always feel prisoner to it.  I told her, “that power is what we call sin—and it doesn’t describe only actions that we do…but like you say, it describes a power that controls us.”  She nodded, and said, “I sometimes wish there was a way to be free from it…its almost like I need a……..”  I interrupted…”A savior?”  She lit up and said, “Yeah!  A Savior.  That is what I need.  What a great word.” 

A couple of weeks later I went back to check up on her…and she immediately sat me and began cutting my hair.  She told me that after our talk, she went home and told everything to her husband.  I thought to myself, “This will be interesting.”  So, I said to her, “what did he say?”   She said, “he said I was preaching at him!?”

Well of course she was.  Can you imagine coming home for dinner and hearing this:  “Hey honey… I need to tell you something….”  First, “You aren’t made happy by what you acquire, but by what you appreciate.”  “It isn’t that you have nothing to be thankful for, but that you have no one to be grateful to.”  “You aren’t held captive by what you do, but instead by a sin that controls you.”  “The only hope you have of getting rid of this sin is a Savior…and that savior is Jesus Christ.”

Was he ready to hear this?  No.  Why was she?  She had stated a cry of the heart when she told her coworker, “There has to be more to life than this.”  That was my way into the game.  The husband on the other hand was just trying to eat.  We need to be very mindful when we talk to people—and actually listen to what they say—to know when to engage them with the Gospel.

Now, I bring that up to show you how the gospel can be effectively communicated without causing a media imbroglio.  I think the left and seculars in general could take note from such a conversation. I don’t know that what Dungy said is any more offensive than the conversation I had with the woman.  He was asked a question and he responded.  Had he refused to respond, he would have been accused of not lending his moral authority to such an important issue in the NFL.

It brings up the issue of tolerance.  Tolerance as properly defined means existing in peace with those who you disagree with.  It has nothing to do with condoning, celebrating, or affirming.  Instead, what it is about is:  People are equal, ideas aren’t.  Because I see all people as equal, and ideas on a merit based plane, I am able to coexist with those whom I disagree.  I engage with their ideas—I do not engage them as people.  A good understanding of tolerance is:  “Gross.  You actually engage in that?  That is disgusting.  I cannot support such egregious behavior, BUT, I am not going to infringe on your rights to do that as long as you don’t infringe on mine.”  That is a textbook understanding of tolerance.

The problem is, tolerance has been redefined to mean, “You cannot disagree with anyone.”  There is a problem.  In saying, “You cannot disagree with anyone,” you are disagreeing with those who say, “You can disagree with anyone.”  It is a self-defeating proposition—it is meaningless.

Can we live in a fully tolerant, free, and just society?  Can those three coexist IF tolerance is defined in this new way?  No.  For justice to occur there will be disagreement.  For disagreement to occur there must be freedom.  For freedom to occur there must be the right to disagree and justice must exist.  If disagreement exists, then the new tolerance cannot exist in a free society.  Or to say it more poignantly, if the new tolerance exists, then there can be no true freedom.

I may disagree with you, but support your right to state your beliefs—that doesn’t mean I support your beliefs.  That doesn’t mean I celebrate them.  That doesn’t mean I would draft you.

 

What may be the most troubling is this:  “Thank God he wasn’t the coach of the St. Louis Rams…And like everyone in America, everyone is entitled to their own opinions.”  Michael Sam is right.  The problem is, there is a priestly class in America who do not really live by that philosophy.

What the media is really saying is, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but we do not agree that all people are equal—and some people should keep their mouths shut.”

Dan Graziano from ESPN said this:  “I’m not here to call Tony Dungy a bigot or to dispute his right to say what he wants to say. My point here is that Dungy has a platform and that his words matter to those who work in and follow the NFL. And on an issue such as this, it’s important for a person in Dungy’s position to understand that and to think about the impact his words have on the world at large. Again, he’s welcome to his opinion. He just needs to remember how many people are listening to it.”

He isn’t disputing his right to say it, but he NEEDS to remember how many people are listening.  Where does this moral objectivity come from?  Dungy NEEDS to…?  I have seen other articles that say, Dungy SHOULD refrain…or Dungy SHOULD have kept his mouth shut…

What gives them the right to stand on this moral platform?  If the fringe religious right and their claim to truth is absurd and dubious—then from what entity do we (read ‘they’) draw objective moral truths and duties?  Those are the questions we should be asking—before it is too late.

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Uhh, so you know that “study” about kids raised by same sex couples…?

There is a new study out by Dr. Simon R. Crouch at The University of Melbourne in Australia, which was published June 21 by the journal BMC Public Health. Here are how a few news organizations headlined it in their subsequent articles:

 

CBS News: “Children of same-sex couples healthy, well-adjusted, study finds

 

NBC News: “Children of Same-Sex Parents Are Healthier: Study

 

The Huffington Post: “Children Of Gay Parents Are Happier And Healthier Than Their Peers, New Study Finds

 

Vox: “Largest-ever study of same-sex couples’ kids finds they’re better off than other children

 

Well, it seems pretty obvious from those that children raised by same sex parents turn out; well, better. Right? Cased closed. I mean after all, this is science. Anyone who disputes such findings is a proverbial “flat earther.” This is 2014.

 

Well, I don’t want to sound like a homophobe who just walked into a New Jersey bathhouse, but—I don’t know how I feel about this.

The study itself puts forth that children raised by homosexual parents tested better in areas of general behavior, general health, and family cohesion than the rest of the children in Australia. Another area measured by the study was how often the parents themselves felt stigmatized for being homosexual. The study purports that a high number of stigmas were negatively correlated with measurement of the children’s physical activity, mental health, and family cohesion. Here is the author himself:

 

“It is liberating for parents to take on roles that suit their skills rather than defaulting to gender stereotypes, where mum is the primary caregiver and dad the primary breadwinner. Our research suggests that abandoning such gender stereotypes might be beneficial to child health.”

 

In short, homosexual parents are better—and better yet—homosexual parents who have never had their objective view of human sexuality objectively adjudicated, seem to raise happier kids.

 

This is something we already know though. The entire idea of marriage is a fraud. After all, gay marriage isn’t about redefining marriage, it is about destroying it. Do you ever wonder as to why the same societal groups who assured us in the Seventies that marriage was either a “meaningless piece of paper” or institutionalized rape, are now insisting it’s a “universal human right?”  Just like Bill Ayers learned that destroying the core institutions of society is easier from the inside rather than setting off bombs, these shrewd people have figured out exactly what to say.

 

This study is concerned with fairness and with good triumphing over evil. Those are always the liberal progressive motivations and because they masque their agendas in these terms, they always have the moral platform. You have to admit, for a great deal of America’s history, our country was disfigured by idiotic rules about who could sit where on buses or lunch counters. The overall opinion today is rightly: Anyone can sit anywhere. If a man identifies as a woman, why can’t he sit on a women’s toilet in the women’s latrine? If a woman wants to be a soldier and sit in a foxhole, let her do it! If a mediocre high school student who can barely make it through a Dr. Seuss story wants to sit in an elite college classroom, that is only fair. For many Americans, the idea of rights have taken on the same idiotic character as adolescent sports: Everyone must be allowed to participate and everyone who participates gets a trophy.

 

In the name of fairness, we should see what is fair or unfair about this study. It’s only fair to do so.

 

One of the first problems is the contradictory reporting that we have seen from the author: Ironically and in contradiction of his own research, in 2012 Crouch was promoting same-sex parenting by quoting “longitudinal research from the United Kingdom” that supposedly shows that children with lesbian mothers have “social acceptance, close friendships and peer relationships” that are “no different” from other families; he also suggested that studies from the United States showed that children with lesbian mothers “were more connected at school.” The contradictions continued in his 2014 study when Crouch emphasized concerns “about the impact that stigma and discrimination could potentially have… in countries where there’s a lot of perceived stigma — most notably, the United States.” He went on to assert, “Children face definite challenges coping with homophobic attitudes.” (Yet, he claims, they suffer no ill effects!)

 

Boston University Professor of Pediatrics Benjamin Siegel also claims that the gender and “sexual orientation” of parents is irrelevant to children’s well-being, saying that “many studies have demonstrated” that children are much more affected by the “relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents.”

 

Knowing this, shouldn’t we ask the question: If homosexual parents in the Crouch study see a lot of sigma, how is possible that their children have higher outcomes in some categories than children from heterosexual families? If these parents undergo a serious sense of sigma, and they think that the culture is doing the same to their kids, how can they honestly report a strong sense of security in their kids?

 

A couple issues that should be raised by all the news organizations posting this study—but aren’t:

 

First, This study did not randomly sample children. You say “big deal;” but, to make a conclusion about a population, scientific research needs a large sample of the population—a random sample or representative sample. This is not what we see here.  The Crouch analysis seems to be a study that used a convenience sample—not a random sample. The participants in the study were recruited specifically through LGBT listervs and through ads posted in LGBT-friendly press. There was no random sampling.

 

The sample engaged 315 parents of 500 children. 80 percent of the children had their study completed by a female. Only 18 percent had a male parent. The remaining parents described themselves as “other gendered.” What does that even mean? “Other gendered?” That is for another day.  Knowing that, isn’t it strange that the study says: “Every effort was made to recruit a representative sample, and from the limited data available about same-sex parent families it appears that the [study’s] sample does reflect the general context of these families in contemporary Australia.”

 

Now, you have to admit that convenience samples can be important when probability samples are hard to come by. I grant the need of convenience samples in testing, but, we should be careful about drawing conclusions about a general population based on such a sample.

 

The second problem is that the study didn’t compare homosexual parents to biological parents.

 

Previous studies have shown that kids do best when they are raised by their biological parents and those parents are married. Instead of comparing these children to children raised by biological parents, the researchers instead compared its children to the general population. The general population includes single parents, step parents, foster parents, and even other same-sex parents.  I think it is a reach to say that children raised by homosexual parents have better or worse lives than children raised in traditional households.  This seems obvious, but the next problem is in the recording of data itself. The study relied upon parent-reported outcomes. The results are based upon what the parents say. Now, the parent reported measures were used ubiquitously—even the “general population” folks reported in this manner. The problem is, if an LGBT person knew what they were volunteering for, wouldn’t it follow that some of these parents might overstate their outcomes at a higher level than those with no dog in the hunt?

 

It just so happens that this study was conducted while Australia is going through a national debate on the definition of marriage. Part of that debate obviously includes raising children. To the government in Australia, marriage is defined as between one man and one woman. Traditional marriage advocates argue rightly that this is the best institutional structure suited for raising kids.

It is in the interest of gay marriage advocates to show this to be false. Those who participated in the study understood this more than likely. Is it hard to imagine not lying, but perhaps, inflating results? Do you think that perhaps homosexuals raising children who had bad outcomes may have been hesitant to report honestly or even participate in the study at all?

Perhaps the biggest problem with this study is that using probability samples, or random samples that actually represent the population yield poorer outcomes for gay parents than this one.  There are 2 recent studies that did use probability samples and showed some poor outcomes for children of gays and lesbians.

 

The New Family Structures Study at the University of Texas reported that participants who reported that at least one parent had a same-sex relationship had poor outcomes along a range of variables. Some of these variables included the potential to be depressed, unemployed, have more sex partners and report negative impressions of their childhood.

 

Similarly, a study published last December by economist Douglas W. Allen took a 20 percent sample of the Canadian census and showed that children from homosexual families were less likely to graduate from high school than children raised by heterosexual couples and even single parents.

 

The honest truth is that the issue of homosexual parenting is highly sensitive and highly politicized. What I think we tend to see is left wing media trying to exaggerate the findings and conservative media reporting the research that confirms their position.

I think there are distinct differences between the way all these groups, Crouch included, report their findings. For one, Allen and UT didn’t report their findings as conclusive. The issue of gay parenting is tough in part, because it is a new phenomenon. It has really only recently become culturally accepted. Surely these studies need more research, large and more random sampling—and frankly, more time. We need to see what happens when these kids grow up and become working adults. We need to then be able to compare. This is precisely the kind of thing that Crouch and his team did not say, but is what UT and Allen said.

 

For the time being, research has shown that biological, two-parent households provide, on average, the best outcomes for children compared to all other family types. Additional research has demonstrated the unique contributions of mothers and fathers to child development. (One study, for instance, found that fatherlessness harms the brain.) These studies should be sufficient to at least raise suspicion of the studies suggesting that kids raised by parents of the same gender have the same, or better outcomes as kids raised by both a mom and a dad.  The social scientist who report that there is no difference are making far reaching generalizations based on questionable data. It seems like they justify their position through the construction of their own data, rather than letting the raw data inform their position.

 

In his discussion of the findings, Crouch notes (without providing evidence) that same-sex parents “construct their parenting roles more equitably than heterosexual parents.” He laments rightly that studies like his “are fraught with problems” (though his fans get livid at the suggestion that there might be problems associated with the study) and notes that the parents’ level of education is skewed to higher education — 73 percent have at least an undergraduate degree, with nearly half (46 percent) holding graduate degrees. Income level, too, is skewed, with 81 percent earning at least $60,000 and more than a quarter earning more than $100,000, nearly 20 percent earning $150,000 to $249,999, and 14 percent earning $250,000 plus. The author notes the significance of the differences in education and income; both he and others note that having more lesbian index parents and a shortage of male ones also significantly skews the data.

Perhaps the biggest criticism made by the left toward the more conservative studies is that they should be dismissed because they are run by conservative Christians. That would be worth looking at until you notice that Crouch himself, is a gay man raising children with his partner. Why wont the left denounce the findings because the author is personally invested in the results?

 

So, that being said, here are eight questions that I think should be asked:

 

  1. Considering Crouch’s assertion that convenience samples “are fraught with problems,” why is it that many supporters of this study become livid at the suggestion that there might be problems associated with the study?

 

  1. In 2012 Crouch was promoting (http://theconversation.com/dont-believe-the-hype-kids-with-same-sex-parents-are-well-adjusted-6998) same-sex parenting by quoting “longitudinal research from the United Kingdom.” This research was supposed to show that children with lesbian mothers have “social acceptance, close friendships and peer relationships” that are “no different” from other families. He went on to suggest that studies from the United States showed that children with lesbian mothers “were more connected at school.” If these children “were more connected at school,” doesn’t it follow that their “social acceptance, close friendships and peer relationships” that are “no different” from other families—are indeed different?

 

 

  1. In this 2014 study, Crouch emphasizes concerns “about the impact that stigma and discrimination could potentially have… in countries where there’s a lot of perceived stigma — most notably, the United States (Strange that he didn’t mention your pick of any number of Islamic countries).” After saying this, Crouch went on to assert, “Children face definite challenges coping with homophobic attitudes.” So are there ill effects or not?

 

  1. I read where Boston University Professor of Pediatrics Benjamin Siegel also claims (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/07/children-of-same-sex-couples-are-happier-and-healthier-than-peers-research-shows/) that the gender and “sexual orientation” of parents is irrelevant to children’s well-being, saying that “many studies have demonstrated” that children are much more affected by the “relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents.” So, with that being said–Knowing this, wouldn’t it be wise to ask this question: If homosexual parents in the Crouch study see a lot of stigma, how is possible that their children have higher outcomes in some categories than children from heterosexual families? If these parents undergo a serious sense of sigma, and they think that the culture is doing the same to their kids, how can they honestly report a strong sense of security in their kids.

 

  1. While I think there is a need for the study, why do you think it is that the study didn’t compare homosexual parents to biological parents? This is obviously the dichotomy they intend us to consider. Previous studies have shown that kids do best when they are raised by their biological parents and those parents are married. Instead of comparing these children to children raised by biological parents, the researchers instead compared the children to the general population. The general population includes single parents, both heterosexual and homosexual convicted felons, both heterosexual and homosexual parents from a variety of economic or religious “castes,” step parents, foster parents, and even OTHER same-sex parents. Considering this, don’t you think it is a reach to say that children raised by homosexual parents have better or worse lives than children raised in traditional households? This wasn’t what the study looked at.

 

 

  1. What about the recording of data itself. The study relied upon parent-reported outcomes. The results are based upon what the parents said in their reporting. I do understand, and grant the fact that the parent reported measures were used ubiquitously—even the “general population” folks reported in this manner. The problem is, if a homosexual parent knew what they were volunteering for, wouldn’t it follow that some of these parents might overstate their outcomes at a higher level than those with no dog in the hunt?

 

  1. In a similar vein, it just so happens that this study was conducted while Australia is going through a national debate on the definition of marriage. Part of that debate obviously includes the issue of raising children. To the government in Australia currently, marriage is defined as between one man and one woman. Traditional marriage advocates argue rightly that this is the best institutional structure suited for raising kids. It is in the interest of gay marriage advocates to show this to be false? Those who participated in the study understood this more than likely, right? I am not accusing anyone of prevarication, but it hard to imagine inflating results? Do you think that perhaps homosexuals raising children who had bad outcomes may have been hesitant to report honestly or even participate in the study at all? I mean, isn’t this what the advocates of Neo-Darwinian theory like Dawkins, Dennett, PZ Meyer and their ilk say in denunciation to those who are proponents of ID Theory? “You guys aren’t real scientists. You are just putting together junk science in an attempt to keep prayer out of schools!?” So in one area, it is ok to potentially inflate results, but in another, even the non-evidenced accusation of it can destroy careers. Couldn’t someone on the other side of the homosexual parenting debate say: “Look at that study. It was self reported by folks who have a dog in the hunt! It is just junk science being propagated to keep right wing evangelical Christians from spreading their view of marriage on the campus!?”

 

 

  1. In talking with a friend of mine who happens to be homosexual, he rejected my citing of a study put out by Mark Regnerus at UT Austin (that shows data favoring traditional marriage being the best situation for parenting) because in his words: “He is biased and fudged his data. After all, he is a conservative Catholic.” For a few minutes I didtn know what to say, but then I replied, “Crouch is a homosexual, and he is raising his children with his partner. Are you willing to denounce this study because the author is personally invested in the results?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Obama, “maybe tragedies,” and photo ops at burger joints

Let me ask you a question. A civilian jetliner has been blown out of the sky by a sophisticated surface to air missile—early reports that are subsequently confirmed show that this missile was fired by Russian
-backed separatists—nearly 300 innocent people die—Here is the question: Is it a slap in the face to the world writ large for the President of the United States to devote a whopping half minute to this “maybe” tragedy before launching into jokes—or is it the type of action that smacks of unbelievable arrogance? I mean even Hillary Clinton told the obsequious Charlie Rose of PBS that it is time for “tough language” when it comes to Russia (keep in mind, not tough action…just tough talk). So, in light of that, what do we get from our citizen executive?

Nothing—Nothing but arrogance and frothy jokes—oh and more perpetual fundraising. Fundraising—this is despite the fact that Obama hates money being mixed with politics—conservative politics that is.

Do you realize that not even 12 hours after this plane was shot down, your Commander in Chief, yeah the guy that 300 million Americans elected to represent us to the world was off fundraising?  That’s right, Mr. “Hope and Change.” He didn’t even refer to this atrocity as a terrorist attack. He called it a tragedy…”maybe.”  He actually said, “maybe.” Folks, “maybe” is something you say when your wife asks if you want to grill burgers outside tonight, despite the fact that it is raining.  Secondly, a legitimate us of the word “tragedy” is in the presence of a hurricane, a tsunami, or a meningitis epidemic. It is a kid who dies from cancer. A tragedy is the day a hard working dad tells his family they cannot afford to keep their home. When a missile is fired toward—and hits a civilian airliner—this is an act of terrorism.  “Maybe a tragedy.” That was his first speech.

Oh wait—this just in: Obama got a second crack at his “maybe tragedy” speech. Today (Friday) he said that an Asian airliner went down over Europe. Here are his words exactly:  “An Asian airline was destroyed in European skies filled with citizens from many countries…” Now, folks—this is absurd. Asia and European skies don’t even exist geopolitically. That would be like saying a plane went down over the Americas. Does it matter or not if it went down over North America or Central America? Does it matter or not if it went down over The United States or Mexico? Well—does it matter then if it went down over Atlanta, Georgia or Tijuana, Mexico? Of course.  Now, this entire, “citizens from many countries” line is egregious.  Among the causalities are actually, 44 Malaysians, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, 9 British, 4 Germans, 4 Belgians, 3 Filipinos, 1 Canadian and 1 New Zealander.

This was a Malaysian airliner that happened to be carrying citizens of the Netherlands, Indonesians, at least one American, Brits, a Canadian, and Australians. Heck, most of them are from NATO countries.

So, in all fairness, today’s speech wasn’t quite, “Hey folks, there may have been a tragedy…but anyways, how are you in Delaware? How’s that burger—ha ha ha!” It wasn’t that jovial, but it wasn’t serious either. We know he gets his news from watching tv, so if by chance he was watching the Charlie Rose show; and if he heard what Hillary said about strong words, he has opted not to do tough talk. In fact, it seems he has decided to dial the language back! He is talking like we are living in a Post American world. Why the passive language? Where is his ire?

I haven’t even mentioned the fact that there were 100 AIDS researchers on the plane. You do realize that is a pretty large group of AIDS scientists to go down at once, right?

I mean, here we are in America—and if you aren’t on board with the whole homosexual thing—you can get your home décor show yanked, get suspended by the NFL, you can lose your role on a duck hunting show—or if you are the CEO of Mozilla, you can get bounced. Heck, you can probably get yourself an audit by the IRS.  But, Vladimir Putin blows 100 AIDS researchers (who are pretty important in the homosexual world) out of the sky, and we get passive talk from the progressive in chief?

I mean, just a few months ago. Putin wasn’t being criticized for invading countries; he was getting flak from our sexually enlightened progressives in America because he was shutting down gay nightclubs before the Olympics. I mean if Putin were to bomb Kiev—you’d hear crickets from the left, but if he drove tanks into Kiev and closed all the gay nightclubs, you wouldn’t hear the end of it. The truth of the matter is that the homosexual angle has been a major component of our foreign policy. Don’t you remember when the dictator in Uganda was going to criminalize homosexuality with life imprisonment—and John Kerry said he was going to send credentialed homosexual academics from our best universities over—to bring the guy up to speed on gay science? Well, I don’t know what happened to them. We have not heard anything about it since. But you see my point? The gay issue has been a major foreign policy issue—and here we are today: 100 AIDS researchers go down and…we get silence from the gay left, and we get Obama playing Mr. Passive on the world stage.

This entire demonstration of leading by passivity is embarrassing. Yesterday was hideous. Here is the president of the United States in a burger joint in Delaware, fist bumping the customers—well, not really “real” customers. It isn’t like it was a spontaneous trip into a burger joint between Obama and Reggie Love, and people “just” happened to be in there eating…at which point they start fist bumping the hip president who is eating with the common folk.  You know, the president who understands their plight.  Don’t be a sucker, folks.  Every person in there—the staff and the clientele alike had to submit their SSN’s and undergo a thorough background check just to share the same air space as our citizen executive—why does the media even go along with this stuff? I mean, just to get into King Barack’s presence, a citizen has to divulge their government number and undergo an extensive check (unless they are an illegal alien staying in a $1,000 per night suite on the taxpayer’s dime)—all so Barry can stroll into a burger joint and act like he is fraternizing with regular Americans.

Do you remember after Benghazi? He went to Las Vegas and gave a speech that actually compared the 4 dead Americans to his own campaign workers? He said they represented the best and brightest in the nation. Well, at least in all fairness, he didn’t go out there in his speech yesterday and compare the Dutch AIDS researchers who were blown to pieces and scattered all over the Ukrainian countryside to the plight of Delaware citizens who had trouble getting into the burger joint to meet the president.

My point—what in the world does it take to get Obama to cancel one of his photo ops or fundraisers? With his track record, had he been president in the 1940’s, he would have announced Pearl Harbor from a fundraiser. “A Day that Will Live In Infamy…oh, hey! How are y’all doing in Atlantic City?  Are you glad to see Joe Biden tonight?” Do you remember all the criticism Bush got for being informed about 9-11 while he was reading My Pet Goat to grade school children? Obama would have announced 9-11 amidst jokes at a OFA fundraiser.

BY the way—let’s talk about the number of Dutch people who died in this attack. 154 Dutch subjects were blown out of the sky. The population in the Netherlands is roughly 16 million. Now, on 9-11 in the United States, we lost 3,000 Americans. Our population is 300 million. Comparatively speaking, the amount of citizens that the Netherlands lost in yesterday’s attack was a 9-11 to them. Where is the outcry from our media, president, and from the left? Where is our New York Time’s headline that says, “We are All Dutchmen?”

Do you remember what the response from the rest of the world was when we were attacked on 9-11? Do you remember John Howard, the prime minister of Australia saying, “This is no time to be an 80 percent ally?” Do you remember the front page of Le Monde? “We are All Americans Now.” Could you imagine is President Chirac had devoted 16 seconds to the horrific events of 9-11 before having a photo op at a burger joint? Could you imagine if Tony Blair had sloughed off a few remarks about the deaths of these Americans before going to a fundraiser? We should all be ashamed of the face that we presented to the world in the face of this attack. We should treat the world better. We are Americans. We don’t roll our eyes at the headlines and go to regularly scheduled photo ops.

Look at it this way: When we had an atrocity on our soil, the rest of the world didn’t do that to us.

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Faith or Repentance? Which one should we proclaim?

I have a serious question that I want to put forth. Here goes: Can the gospel be effectively presented without any reference to repentance? What is repentance? It has been defined by one theologian in this way: “Literally a change of mind, not about individual plans, intentions, or beliefs, but rather a change in the whole personality from a sinful course of action to God…Such a change is the fruit of Christ’s victory over death.”

I think from that definition we can see that a true and genuine salvific faith will be accompanied by genuine repentance (Acts 20:21). I don’t see how it could be consistent to proclaim a salvation that preaches faith in God without repentance. Even in other parts of the Gospel, repentance is given such importance that it is stressed over saving faith itself—“there is joy in Heaven among the angels over one sinner that repents (Luke 15:7).” Even the apostles talked about the conversion of Gentiles to Christ as God giving them “repentance unto life (Acts 11:18).” I think it is safe to say that repentance and faith in Christ are inseparable, even though a new convert may be more aware of one aspect or the other.

The question: Can you truly repent without putting faith in Christ? Can you truly put faith in Christ without repenting?

We must keep in mind that this repentance is not the same wrongheaded repentance that we see with Pharaoh in Exodus, Saul in 1 Samuel, or Judas in Matthew. Perhaps the best example of faulty repentance is found in the story of the “Prodigal Son.” You know the story; the young man goes to the far country after having demanded his inheritance. When he gets there, he spends it all and finds himself poor in the middle of a regional economic depression. He hires himself out to a pig farmer in hopes of being able to eat the pig feed. No such luck. He finds himself in quite a predicament. He is hungry. Now, what is the most basic need we must meet in life? Simply put: the quenching of thirst and hunger. It is hunger that makes the boy begin to think. He even begins to contrive a story that he decides he will tell his father—in hopes of ingratiating himself with Dad and becoming a servant so he can repay his debt. This is referred to in Luke as “coming to his senses.” Literally, this means, “he got smart.” Now—what has he gotten smart about? I submit that he hasn’t gotten smart, and realized he wronged his Dad. He is driven by the desire to have one thing: Food! He wants to cure the pain in his stomach. He knows that if he becomes a slave or servant he WILL be fed. This repentance is nothing more than his realization that he can get paid and have food if he will go home. This repentance is driven by his hunger. It is driven by what the boy wants. We don’t see REAL repentance until after the humble act of the father running to meet the boy, and giving him a kiss of reconciliation. Until then, the boy’s repentance is just driven by food.

Is this the kind of repentance we need to preach? I argue emphatically, NO! I fear it IS what we preach, however. Have you heard this before: I know there is a lot of pain in your life…come to Christ and it will be remedied? Or how about: I know life is tough, finances are low, and you have nothing…Come to Christ and be filled? What do both of these appeals rest on? Our happiness—our satisfaction—our repose. It is as if; to some people, Christ is seen as the way to get happy. I submit that Christ is not in the business of making us happy. If he was, and God is perfectly just, if we ever experienced sadness or pain as a Christian, it would be proof of his non-existence! I agree with C.S. Lewis who in his inimitable fashion proclaimed: “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that.” If our coming to Christ is to find happiness, we will be let down. At the first sign of unhappiness, we will lose faith.

So, what should we proclaim? I think it is simple. Jesus is God, He died on the Cross for OUR sins, and he rose again on the 3rd day. Now, what do we have to do to take advantage of this provision? Well, I will tell you this: Contrary to popular opinion, Christ demands more than just our availability. He demands a metamorphous of life. He demands that we become infected by his “good infection.” He demands that our very spiritual DNA be altered. He demands a new creature with a new mind.

This concerns how we think, what we feel, and what we do. The problem is, Christ doesn’t command us to think a certain way, feel a certain thing, or do anything specifically. This is the error of many of the world religions—and many versions of the Gospel, for that matter. They focus on the epistemological, the existential, or the pragmatic. It isn’t about what we think, what we feel, or what we do.

Yet, then again, it is.

Look—our repentance isn’t an isolated act that spurs a type of predictable behavior. It isn’t like when I repent, my repentance culminates in my going to the Philippines to perform free circumcisions on poor infants. No! I don’t automatically begin reciting doctrinal statements and thinking up new philosophical proofs for God’s existence. No! And, I most certainly will not begin to stretch out with my feelings and encounter the force, as if I were a Jedi Knight. No!

While it is true that knowing Christ is the most intellectually stimulating knowledge that there is, I am not commanded to think anything. While there is no more exhilarating feeling than the feeling we experience in Christ’s presence, I am not commanded to ‘feel’ anything. And most certainly, even though Jesus said, “You will know the true Christians by what they DO,” I am not commanded to do anything.

Our repentance is a change of “stuff.” Our mind changes. Our wants change. Our actions change. Our spiritual DNA is altered. We become infected by the “good infection.” Do you get it? Whatever happens after our change is prompted by God’s work in our lives—not by us. Our change affects what we WANT to do—it affects what we think about—and if affects why we do things. It even affects our interpretation of the word “happy”—it redefines our idea of self, being, or autonomy.

An example: If someone is healthy and then all of a sudden they find out they have—AIDS. What happens? Well, to begin with, they take stock of things they have never thought of before. They think about T-Cells, White Blood Cells, pay more attention to hygiene, and become a part of a community who is infected by AIDS. Now—when a person gets AIDS, do they really become interested in epidemiology, biology, people, hygiene, or health care? No. It is the infection that changes their priorities. Their ‘want’ to live drives what they view as important. It isn’t that they just grow interested in those things. Are they any different than they were 1 minute before their diagnosis? No! It is the knowledge of their change that prompts a new life.

In the same way, when we come to Christ, we aren’t necessarily any more interested in doctrinal statements than we were before, but because we love God, some of us see a change in mind—or growth in desire in that area. Some of us begin to have a calling toward missions. Does that mean that we necessarily want to go to remote parts of the world where our life may be demanded of us any more than we used to? No. What it means is, when our mind changes, we become interested in pleasing God—no matter the area—and no matter the risk.

We are driven by love.

What does it mean to love? To love is to bind one’s self to another. What is the point of love? Well, simply put: it is to delight one’s self in the other.

Let’s supposing, I was on my way home from a long trip. When I get home, I knock on the door and my wife answers. From behind my back I produce a boquet of flowers and a box of chocolates. When my wife says, “Oh John, you shouldn’t have,” I say, “It was my duty to bring you these!” How would she respond?

Now, what if the same situation happened; and in addition to the flowers and chocolates, I have now arranged a babysitter for the night. I tell her, “I have been away, and there is nothing more that would make me happy than to see you smile. I have bought tickets to the movie you wanted to see, and secured reservations at your favorite restaurant. There is no one I would rather spend tonight with than you!” Would it or would it not be weird if she responded: “Make you happy? Why does everything always have to be about you? Why are you always thinking about yourself? Why can’t you ever think about me?” It would be weird because it is the nature of love to delight ourselves in the other. Because I love my wife, I make decisions that are driven by that love. It isn’t that I want to go to a movie, or eat out—on the contrary—it is because I love her and know she likes those things, that I like them too—because I want her to be happy.

It is the same with God.

Our repentance prompts a change in our lives that recalibrates our idea of “happiness,” what we think about, what we feel, and what we want to do. They are all driven by a desire to please God—or to delight ourselves in Him. You could call this Christian hedonism. A desire for pleasure in making God happy.

Now—here is another question: Will we look different than the rest of culture? Answer: absolutely! If we are infected by the “good infection,” would it be questionable if our lives mirrored that of the culture? If we dressed the same, talked the same, thought the same, and invested in the same things: What would this imply? It would imply that we were delighting ourselves not in God—but elsewhere. What is that elsewhere? It is the idol of self. It is humanism. If our drive to pleasure and happiness is based in ourselves, our ideas, our wants, or even in our ‘faith,’ it is faulty.
I bet I caught you off guard with ‘faith.’ Look—if I preach a gospel that says, all you have to do to gain eternal life is have faith in God—you don’t have to do anything—just believe in God. Just trust that God is there. What am I elevating? Not God. I am elevating faith itself. Does God call us to be faithians? Does he call us to give our lives to our faith? No!

Why would we be so ignorant as to have faith in our faith? It sounds silly but it happens all around us.

Consider:  “Faith is believing what you want to believe, yet cannot prove.”

The truth is, many Christians think that is the definition of the word faith. For some it feels liberating. It means being able to believe in anything you want to believe. No explanation is required, indeed, no explanation can be given; it is just a matter of faith. For others, such a definition is sickening. Embracing faith means you stop thinking. As faith increases, reason and meaning eventually disappear. No explanations can be given, and none can be expected. Thus, living in faith is living in the dark.

If you look at both groups, they are experiencing the same problem. By using a wrongheaded definition of faith, they ask the wrong questions, deal with the wrong questions—and ultimately, end up with the wrong answer. Faith isn’t wishful thinking. It isn’t about believing myths or untruths. It neither makes all things believable—nor does it make meaning impossible.

What is the right definition of “faith?” “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” writes the author of Hebrews. A few verses later faith is similarly defined as knowing that God exists and that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

Maybe the best word we can use to translate “pistis” (the greek word) is the word “trust” or “trustworthy.” Suppose you say you have faith in the government. What does that mean? It means two things. First, you are sure the government actually exists. And second, you are convinced the government is trustworthy; you can believe what it says and trust it will do right.

It is in this way that the writer of Hebrews talks about faith in God. Faith is knowing that God is real and that you can trust in God’s promises. You cannot trust someone who isn’t there, nor can you rely on someone whose promises are not reliable. This is why faith is talked about as the substance of things hoped for and as the evidence of things not seen. Both words carry with them a sense of reality. Our hope is not wishful thinking.

Get this straight: Faith does not make God real. On the contrary, faith is the response to a real God who wants to be known to us:

“I am the Lord, and there is no other;
besides me there is no god.
I arm you, though you do not know me,
so that they may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is no one besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:5-6).

So, we are changed because of faith and repentance. Because of our faith, we are changed when we repent. Because we repent, and God changes us, our faith is secured. Because of our faith, we are willing to repent and then we are changed. Do you see? They are both necessary.

If we separate faith from repentance or vice versa, we are not preaching the gospel. We are in danger of what Paul talks about in Galatians: Preaching a gospel that is no gospel at all.

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Gray Areas

jansenroney

Prayer. What the heck is this all about?! For my whole Christian life, this has been an aspect I have been terrible at.  It’s not easily understandable for me.  I know it’s important because that is what has been drilled in my head for my whole 25 years.  “You have to pray,” they said.  

Never has this been an easy task for me through this whole journey so far….I would do really well for a time being.  I never felt like my words went anywhere.  Except maybe the air vents. Until my friend, Angela, encouraged me to begin writing my prayers.  She is by far one of the best “pray-ers” I have heard- is it okay to say that? She doesn’t use fancy words, not storybook lines, not song lyrics, she uses real life language.  She speaks from the heart.  She is real with God.  And that my friends…

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Worship??!

I have seen numerous blogs on the internet that read, “Why Congregations Just Aren’t Singing Anymore.”  These articles range from the helpful to the downright absurd; and in reading them, they all seem to miss one important thing.  They rightly criticize that at times, some Worship Pastors tend to act like performers who are intending to play for an audience—plastering their likeness on the big screen beside the lyrics (in HD).  Many worship leaders spend all their time trying to look the part (i.e “skinny jeans” and well-crafted hair).  The writers also point out that many Worship Leaders also regularly program songs that are frankly—not singable by a large group of musical laity.  This can include anything from songs that people have never heard, songs that are comprised by primarily esoteric or highly syncopated rhythms, or songs whose ranges span from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs all in a single phrase.  These critiques are helpful, but they are obvious.  There is no need to endure a 3-page document to know that the average male cannot sing a high G—or that if a worship leader gives his congregation a steady diet of songs he wrote over the weekend, that they will be less likely to engage.  This is all obvious.

Another obvious critique is that many who “aren’t singing,” aren’t singing because they see today’s worship as purely a spectator event.  There is a problem here though.  In not singing out of a refusal to conform, they are further enabling the performance mindset of the leader.  I hear this critique often from older church members.  Be that as it may, why is it that in some situations, as a worship leader, I see less participation in “traditional” services than I do in full-fledged contemporary services?  Could it be that the paradigm is actually reversed—or even more provocative—the same?  I used to hear this critique from my Grandmother:   “The contemporary musicians only want you to watch and listen.”  Yet, to watch many senior adults in their traditional services, it is more of the same.  Watching (Can you believe what he is wearing?) Listening (I just hate the sound of the drums).  Grading (He skipped a song in the bulletin).

 

How many times have you said, “Man, I got so much out of that service today…,” or, “I just didn’t get anything out of the service?”  Chances are, we all have done this.  The problem is, this is a consumer mentality.  We are wired to fulfil our consumer instinct, and as a result, we often approach worship in this way.  In economics, we know about the rational consumer and the myopic consumer.  The rational consumer is a person who is unilaterally and bilaterally informed.  They know the cost of something, how much it is really worth, and the pros and cons in the present and future for investing in it.  On the flipside, the myopic consumer only has his eyes on the now.  He essentially says, “How can I get instant satisfaction, now?”  The rational consumer knows that discomfort now may prove to be future reward.  The long-term reward ought weighs the short term risk.  For the person wrestling with myopia, the short term risk outweighs the long term reward.

 

The problem is, if you take a course in economics, they will tell you that the idea of the rational consumer is a myth.  He doesn’t exist.  We are myopic in our choices.  We live for the now—even those of us who claim we don’t. This even extends to sin.  No one sins because they want to do wrong.  They sin because they are engaged in myopic choice.  Today’s pleasure outweighs the reward of disciplining yourself for the long term.   Why wouldn’t this influence our worship participation?  Let’s supposing I was on vacation and walked into a church that was playing music that I didn’t know.  They had the words on the screen and the singers were prompting the audience to sing and to praise.  What if I revolted, crossed my arms, and didn’t even try?  What if then the pastor got up on the stage and preached from a passage I wasn’t familiar with?  In both circumstances, my refusal to engage is my problem, not theirs.  Whether it be a psalm, a hymn, or a newly composed song, they all have a place.  The Bible says to sing unto the Lord a new song.  Doesn’t “new” at least in some connotations mean that it is completely unfamiliar to us?  Do I know all the minute details and functions of a new car when I buy it?  When I buy a new shirt do I know before I put it on for the first time what type of memories I will have in that shirt?  No.  It is new.  It is different from what I have known  before.  Who knows, that song may plant seeds that God uses—for later.  Perhaps the sermon has a word for me, and even though I am not intellectually conversant yet with the material, it is strong enough to do a work in me now.

 

Further, what if a year later—that particular song has become a mainstay in church music, and I start incorporating it into the services as my church.  How would I react if the congregation refused to sing along?  How could I blame them?  The song is now a piece of music that ministers to me greatly and helps me to worship.  The long term reward is magnificent; however, when I first heard it, I wasn’t willing to invest in the short term.  I wanted satisfaction, so I refused to sing.  In essence, what could have been a long term reward is now another short term gratification.  I refused to invest back on vacation, and now I have no “skin in the game.”  It is just something I like right now.  The same with the sermon.  Let’s say that I just read a book that had a section on that particular passage, and it is clear that God is leading me to incorporate that scriptural theme into my worship leading.  It now has immense value to me, and I wasn’t even willing to invest in it on the front end.  How can I claim that it has immense value to me if I wasn’t willing to grant it a high cost when I first encountered it?

 

My point is:  How do we know that the things we see as a nuisance now will not be of high worth to us later?  If we could look into the future and see how it would increase in its worth to us, I argue that we would be willing to invest in the short term so we could reap the long term benefit fully.   If an item derives its value from what someone is willing to pay for it, what does it say about a song I like today, if I was unwilling to give it a hearing in the past?  It means it is worthless to me!  Think about Christ.  When we were unlovable, he LOVED us.  If a thing derives its value from what someone is willing to pay, and Christ paid ALL, what does that say about us?  We were worth all.  I can point to times in my life where I was certainly more vile that the newest piece of sheet music.  Think about that.

 

I have also heard this critique or a variation of it:  “Worship Leaders today just don’t care about teaching their congregations to learn to read music, or to develop an affinity for the traditional music of the church.”  This may be one of the oft uttered critiques I hear.  There are assumptions hidden here.  First, is it the role of the worship leader to “teach” a congregation to read music?  I would argue, no.  I love teaching.  Whether it is voice lessons, basic rudimentary music theory, or piano:  I love it.  Does it follow that I am to use the worship service as a time for teaching the fundamentals of music?  I think not.  “But I learned to sing harmony by singing the traditional hymns of the faith.”  I share in this too.  I learned a great deal about singing harmony parts through congregational singing as a child.  The problem is, no one taught me—I just heard my mother sing every week. There was no period of instruction in which this took place.  My ears did the work.  Further, if one really feels strongly that teaching music reading is important, how will they accommodate a blind person?  Has your church invested in braille hymnals for the infrequent blind visitor?  What about hymnals written in Spanish or Lithuanian?  Are they just out of luck?  And as an aside, if churches really are the place to teach music, why do most churches require their music minister to have a Master’s Degree?  Surely he has been taught in the church, right?

If teaching singing is really important to you, you should be a member of the choir.  A great deal of instruction goes on in there.   My job is to prompt people to worship.  This is a task that has long term significance.  Reading music has short term significance.  I want to direct worship toward future grace and toward long term reward.

What about the other assumption?  You know, the one that says, “Traditional music is the purest form of musical worship.”  One question:  Define traditional for me.  By traditional, do you mean songs from the middle ages, the music of J.S. Bach, or the songs of B.B. McKinney?  Heck, our youth pastor tells me weekly that the “contemporary” songs I like are “traditional.”  Who defines traditional?  Here is the point:  When someone says that traditional music is better, they are essentially saying that there is a priestly class who determines what music is traditional.  There has to be something specifically traditional if traditional has a place of authority over all else.  The problem with making this statement is that if music doesn’t fall into that category, they are essentially saying, “You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting.”  This priestly class decides what is worship and what isn’t.  How is this any less tyrannical and close minded than the despots who rule totalitarian governments?  Are there really people who can dictate what is and isn’t worship?

If one is truly making the case that traditional music is ‘better,’ and they don’t have a scriptural basis for doing so, isn’t this just a matter of preference?  If it is a matter of preference, doesn’t it follow that this person is engaging in consumerism?  If they are engaging in consumerism, aren’t they focusing on the short term rather than the long?

After all, are you willing to go to Acts 1:8 territory and tell a guy banging on a homemade drum, or to the Burgundian Highlands where the goat herders are worshipping through throat singing— that this music isn’t useful in worship because it isn’t from the Baptist Hymnal?  How petulant and NON-Christlike would we have to be?

 

I think, however, there is another critique worth mentioning.

 

Some Christian thinkers like Dr. William Lane Craig, have put forth a critique that says men are turned off by what is called:  “The feminization of Christian worship.”  Simply put, this critique says that men become increasingly disengaged when song lyrics tend to perpetually swing to the feminine side of the verbal expressive lexicon.

 

Craig points out, “Church services and programs are increasingly based on emotional and relational factors that appeal more to women than to men.”  I think he is right here.  This problem has been preempted by, “Movements like Promise Keepers and books like John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart.”  Because we as a church writ large are not intentional in thinking about how men interpret these signals, it is no wonder that this feminization is made manifest in perhaps the most profound way in our singing (it does after all, take up half of each worship service!). Craig says, “Someone aptly remarked that if you were to replace references to God in many praise songs with “Baby,” they would sound just like romantic songs between a man and a woman!”  While this is not the case with all new songs, it seems to be a ubiquitous trend in today’s songwriting.  I think Craig has hit the nail on the head.  This is a critique that describes a problem that can be addressed.  He ends his critique by saying, “Talking with young men, I find that many of them are just turned off by these touchy-feely worship services and would rather not go.”

 

Now, please don’t take this as my tacit, “au revoir” to any songs that are new; on the contrary, I think God has commanded us to incorporate “newness” into worship.  All the hymns we cherish today were once new—and were unknown to the early Christians in Acts!  What I am saying is that we have to be wise in our selection of songs, and in what we program into our worship services and Church ministries!  The point of all this is to reach men, women, boys, and girls with the Gospel—and to glorify God as a corporate body.  When some are turned off for legitimate reasons, like the ones mentioned here, it has the potential to hinder the corporate body, and its ability to unite and praise together.