GK Chesterton, TRUMP, CLINTON, the 2016 election, and the Medical Fallacy

TRUMP and CLINTON (hey, it was in the title).

Throughout the presidential campaign of 2016 we have heard a recurring theme:

“Our country is sick.  It needs to be made well.  Vote for me and I will provide the remedy it needs.  I will bring the healing that our country needs.”

There has been no shortage of rhetoric like this on either side of the political divide.

According to the inimitable G.K. Chesterton, however, this is a fallacy.  He terms this the Medical Fallacy.  How can politicians pontificate about what ‘well’ is in absolute terms, if the idea of well is of the most disputed issues in all of academia?  One side of the ideological divide defines well in one way, while the other defines it differently.

What is seen as a remedy by one side of the political spectrum will be seen as an exasperation of the original problem to the other.  This whole business of talking about “well” and “sick” is patently absurd.  It is play on emotions.  It is like invoking balls and strikes when talking about football.  Only in medicine and science can this terminology be used.

Why you might ask?  In medicine, we agree on what a well body looks like.  We agree on what good is.  The disagreement comes when it concerns malady.  In politics and social science, we agree on what bad looks like—we disagree on what constitutes the good.

That is a profound problem.

To give you an analogy, Chesterton makes this grand point:   It is a fact that a man may have pain in his leg and walk into a hospital, and due to medical necessity, come out with one leg less.

BUT HERE IS THE CLINCHER

Never will that man find himself under the scalpel of a doctor, and in a moment of creative rapture, walk out of the hospital, having being given one leg more.

Don’t fall for fallacies.  Nonsense doesn’t cease to be nonsense just because it is uttered by an “intellect” or a “smart” politician.

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The Marine Corps Birthday and my Testimony for Christ

It is late on Wednesday night (Thursday Morning).  This will not be one of my better written posts.  Oh well.

Many people find their callings in the strangest of places. I found mine in 1999 while going through Marine Corps boot camp.

I was a recruit in the 2nd Battalion, Hotel Company—Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina.  I entered the Marine Corps on a whim (literally), with virtually no regard for the implications of what I was actually doing. I knew I wanted to serve my country—I identified with the military, but I really did not know what I wanted to do with my life. It became a purely emotional decision:

I felt drawn to the Espirt de Corps—the pride and loyalty shared by Marines—past and present—the eternal brotherhood shared by those who have earned the privilege of wearing the same uniform, namely the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. I wanted to be part of something greater than myself.  I was drawn to the themes of honor, courage, and commitment.  Plus, it didn’t hurt that the Marine Corps had those impeccable dress blues (is there a more awe inspiring sight in the world than a fully decorated marine in his dress blues?).

When I called my parents one summer afternoon to tell them I had just enlisted, I remember hearing silence on the other end of the line! My parents were proud and supportive, no doubt, but the Marine Corps? They don’t even have air conditioning!

I enlisted in the Corps in 1999—just a short while removed from graduating high school. I worked a few jobs, and I even tried a little college–it just wasn’t for me. I wasn’t ready for that.

Bring on the Corps! So I went: July 4th weekend, 1999.

I remember the events fairly specifically: I was transported to the Military Entrance Processing Station—which for me was in Montgomery, Alabama. From there, we were screened for physical defects, sworn in, and put up in a hotel for the night. The next day, several Marine recruits and I were transported in the night to “The Island.”  Yeah, that’s what they call it.

A few of the “recruits” I travelled with in that van still keep in touch with me on Facebook (Shawn, Chris). Some of them even saw combat—heroes.

I remember upon arrival, and the yelling and screaming that took place (all to simulate the stresses of combat)—I found a smidgen of solace standing upon the yellow footprints that ALL Marines stand on before entering boot camp. There is something about tradition and doing what others have done before that sends a chill up my spine.  **I Wonder Who Else Stood Here**

Honest Thought:  “I may have stood in the VERY spot that a Medal of Honor recipient stood.”

To be completely transparent, I wonder about that today.  Who else stood on the same footprints as me!?

We entered a forming platoon, did the initial physical testing (that a few failed because of overzealous recruiters or because they went on an eating spree the week before boot camp), and then awaited our transport to our new squad bay (barracks for you non Marines in Rio Linda). Forming wasn’t just administrative nonsense. It was intense. The orchestrated spectacle was as intense as they could make it. Yelling, pushups, Yelling, Pushups, spittle flying, no sleep.  At that point in my life, I had been yelled at more and been more sleep deprived than at any other point in my life.  Little did I know this was the NORMAL life of infantry and recon Marines.

To watch videos of it now is almost laughable. To be there is as stressful an event as you can imagine.

The question you are faced with immediately is: Could I REALLY ever function under enemy fire? Could I willingly follow orders when I know I might die?

When we were transferred to our permanent training platoon, all hell broke loose. We were introduced to our Drill Instructors and our Senior Drill Instructor. Now to be clear, by “introduced to”, I mean dropped into a den of lions. If I heard their voices today, I would immediately snap to attention—no doubt about it.

Until meeting them, my concept of God had not been challenged! I was in a new world, and I did not know how to negotiate it!  I remember the first few days of boot camp. I was lost. I felt as if I had made a mistake by joining up.

But then it happened.

Marine recruits are afforded the opportunity to attend chapel on Sundays. I went. I didn’t go because I was actively seeking God. I went to get some reprieve (if only a few moments) from the constant wrath of the drill instructors.

Hey it was better than spit polishing my boots!

I firmly believe that God has our phone numbers. He knows where we are and what will reach us. He put me in Marine Corps boot camp—in 2nd Battalion Hotel Company—in protestant chapel—FOR A PURPOSE.  There is no chance.  There is no random.  It is called the sovereignty of God.

It was in this sacred place that God spoke to me.

I was “saved” at age 5. I was baptized soon after. Despite that, it never seemed completely real. I cannot say that I fully understood what sin was at age 5. I only knew that I wanted to go to Heaven, and that my Mom and Dad were a part of something that I wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I believed in God at age 5. The thing is, I did not understand that I was infected by a disease called sin and the only way to be cured was Jesus Christ. I could not fully understand the cross because I didn’t understand that it was my sin that caused the cross.

So I went to chapel and something amazing happened. God spoke to me. I submitted to him—being found depraved and recalcitrant. I submitted to the Lord in a repentant and penitent spirit.

The Chaplain at the service I attended did both the music and the preaching. I was drawn to him. He had the ability to reduce a room full of hardened US Marine recruits to putty. I was in a room with guys who would go on to fight in some horrific wars—real hardened guys— and he was able to touch their hearts. I was reminded of Christ reaching salty fishermen.

I will never forget his leading worship songs from the keyboard and his preaching about being a soldier for Christ and facing the Goliaths in our lives. I will never forget him talking about spiritual warfare the fact that we must be marines, not only for our country, but marines in the spiritual battle against evil. I will never forget him tying the challenges of Marine Corps boot camp tangibly to the challenges we will face as followers of Jesus Christ.

I finished boot camp. I did the rifle range, I did the Crucible. I went on to the School of Infantry. I passed the indoc for Force Reconnaissance school (BRC and ARS). I ended up at 3rd Force Recon Co., a Marine Reserve unit in Mobile, Alabama—which has been subsequently disbanded.

I was not a poster boy for the Marine Corps. I was in for a short time.

I learned a lot about myself. I gained confidence. I learned about combat and about service. I learned that Marines have a knack for being selfless (see Kyle Carpenter, MOH recipient). I learned that I did have the DNA to be a Marine. I was proud to be in the Corps.

But to be fair–the Corps?  I also learned that it wasn’t for me. It would not be a career. I knew God had called me—through the Corps—to something else.     

That day in July, standing on those yellow footprints, I had a plan. I wanted to finish boot camp and then get into an officers program that might land me a slot at pilot or helicopter school.

It’s funny how God changes the desires of our hearts.

One Sunday morning, a few weeks into the hell of boot camp, amidst the sun peering in through the famous stained glass windows of the Parris Island recruit chapel, I that I wanted to serve the Lord. I wanted to sing. I wanted to preach.

I wanted to be a special forces Marine for Christ.

Call it corny if you want, but I am sentimental:  My cousins are all war heroes. All of them. Charles, Stephen, and Andrew—I am in their shadow.  I look up to them. I respect them immensely. Also, many Marine brothers who I went to boot camp with are heroes—they know who they are. Several even paid the ultimate sacrifice on foreign fields of battle.

But I want to tell you this as plain as I can: God changed me through the Corps. He lit a fire in my heart that would grow larger the more I submitted myself to His will.

I sometimes wish I had the stories to share. I wish I was decorated. I wish I was a hero. I am not.

You know what I do value? I value the short time I was a Marine, the fact that I went through some of the toughest schools in the Corps, the elite fraternity that being a Marines grants me, and…

I value the fact that God spoke to me.

 

The Bible says “Submit yourself to the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I used to question that verse. It sounded like Santa Claus—but then it happened to me.

He doesn’t just give you what is on your wish list. He REWRITES your wish list—For His glory.

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What Then Shall We Do?

Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom

The American founders recognized that man, by nature is flawed and capable of great evil.  This is why they distrusted rulers.  But they also recognized that for a society to be free, its citizens must be virtuous. James Madison noted, “a republic once equally poised, must either preserve its virtue or lose its liberty.”  Similarly, Patrick Henry declared, “Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.”  John Adams, who would go on to be our second president, noted, “The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a great Measure, than they have it now, they may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty.”

Without virtue, there is no hope.  Without God, there is no virtue.

Even the skeptical Benjamin Franklin recognized that, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” But even more directly, Proverbs 14:34 states, “Righteousness exalteth a nation.”  It would seem that our framers were speaking of a government whose aim was to govern those who were already engaged in private, self-governance.  It seems that they were speaking less of a freedom to do what we want, but rather, a freedom to do what we ought.

America is truly a beautiful place.  It isn’t made beautiful because of our inherent goodness, however.  It is beautiful because God has blessed our land with His divine providence, allowed us to flourish, and given us His blessing. She is only beautiful because, for America, God shed His grace on Thee. And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea.

The framers all have a common theme in their words:  Virtue is required for freedom.  They also acknowledge that Faith is required for Virtue.  It is with this truth that we have what Os Guinness calls the Golden Triangle of Freedom:

Freedom requires virtue.  Virtue requires faith.  Faith requires freedom.

In 2016, I would argue that virtue is a relic of a long forgotten and provincially simple past.  It is an afterthought—condemned to oblivion in the hearts and minds of most Americans.  On the other hand, faith has been so pushed to the periphery of the public square, systematically attacked through government and culture, that, for the majority of Americans is not a part of their lives.

When faith and virtue become scarce, freedom becomes extinct.

Freedom is not doing whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want.  That is anarchy.  Freedom is the power to do what one ought.  You can see how the other necessary intangibles are important.  Without virtue, we cannot be free.  We are not capable of doing that which we ought.  Without faith, we can have no virtue.  We must have faith to believe that God’s precepts and His moral law is right.  And without freedom, we cannot practice our faiths in the public square.

Some say, “We have the right to have faith. Even in China they have the freedom to worship.”  No, my friend.  The Constitution guarantees us the right to exercise our faith.  No family owned business should be forced by the government to provide contraception if it violates their Christian faith.  Exercising our faith is a command.  We must exercise our faith.  In fact, the Bible declares that faith without works is dead.  It is not enough to just know truth. We have to act on it.

We live in a culture that wants to do away with consequences.  We want relationships without commitment.  We want sex without babies.  We want money without earning it.  We want results without discipline. We want freedom without the responsibility of virtue, and without the challenge of faith.

Where am I going with all this?  I think this election is a referendum on whether or not we want faith to be completely pushed out of the public square altogether.  I am not saying that Hillary Clinton is Nero.  What I am saying is that this election is clearly about going in a specific direction.

The direction of more state or less state.

The problem is, we want more state.  We aren’t governing ourselves!  Because our citizenry by and large has rejected virtue and faith, we are not capable of freedom; and as a result, we are in danger of losing our Republic.  Only a virtuous citizenry can govern themselves.  What happens virtue is gone?  I think we end up with an election that offers the choices we see before us.

The Bible talks about this.  In 2 Chronicles 15:3-6 we read:

For a long time, Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law. But in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them.  In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil.  One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another, because God was troubling them with every kind of distress.

As Tony Evans notes, “When God is your problem, only God is your solution.”

So what do we do?  Well, it isn’t as simple as just electing the right president.  Revival never starts at the White House.  It starts in your house.  We must be people of the Book.  We must be people of prayer.  We must be people who fast, discipline ourselves, teach our children the way of the Lord, and make disciples.  We must be people who engage the Bible more than just Sunday morning at Church.  We need to be in regular deep, critical, Bible study.

Can you defend your faith?  Can you give good arguments to destroy evil arguments?

Doing our Christian and civic duty is a responsibility.  It isn’t enough to attend church on Sunday and vote every four years.  That is a recipe for pretty churches, but dead souls.  It is a recipe for candidates who lie, cheat, and steal—and then tell you what you want to hear at election time.

Hint:  They know this about the culture.  They know we are docile.  They know we cannot govern ourselves.  They know they can lie without accountability.

Unfortunately, that mindset in both the church and the culture is why we see what we see.

You see, many of us want a McDonalds type of faith.  We want to drive up and take the things we want off of the value menu, but leave the expensive stuff alone.  It costs too much.  No, my friend.  We are called to take it all.  We are called to become like Christ.

  Too many of us want to work part time for God but get full time benefits.  We want love without sacrifice.  We want meaning without truth.  We want design without a designer.  We want good without the prospect of evil.  We want law but no lawmaker.  We want god but no God.

Likewise, as citizens, many of us know virtually nothing about our country.  We know where to locate it on a map but that’s about it. We are more likely to know the characters of the Kardashians or Chrisley Knows Best than we are to know how many members of Congress there are.

That being said, we are at a critical point, but we aren’t a people who are capable of governing ourselves!  We aren’t prepared.  We have given that away.  We want full control over our 1,000 cable TV channels, but when it comes to things that matter—like health care—we have given that decision away! We have abdicated it elsewhere.  So what do we do?

I argue that for Christians, the first responsibility is to actually commit to the Lord.  We must change.  We must take Him seriously.  We must turn from our current lackadaisical ways and make Him our priority and source of strength.  We must realize that we as Christians are the blame.  We are a barometer for the culture.  A cold in the Church is pneumonia in the culture.  Think about that.  As the Church goes, so goes the culture.

Meanwhile, if we are interested in preserving a culture that is at least not violently hostile to our living our faith in the public square, we should choose the best candidate with a chance of winning who does not show an open animus toward us. Notice that I didn’t say that person has to be a believer himself.  There have been numerous examples in history where non-Christians have governed in a way that was not dangerous to Christians.  Can one choose between Constantine and Diocletian?

What I am not saying:  I am not saying that a government must be tolerant of Christianity for Christianity to survive.  I am not saying that.  Christianity has outlived all of its pallbearers.  Chesterton notes that the Church has gone to the dogs at least five times.  Each time it was the dog that died.

Can an immoral man be fit to lead?  Could a Christian possibly vote for Donald Trump?  I cannot answer that for you.  All I can say is our country is not at the point where it could elect a Godly leader.  Aristotle in his book Politics talks about a righteous man amongst a sea of immorality.  He says the righteous man would be cast out.

We are an unrighteous people today.  There is no righteous candidate.  Any candidate who was close to being one was cast out.

I have said it before, elsewhere; I am a one issue voter.  The choices before me are bad on the one hand and catastrophically horrible on the other.  I will also consider which candidate, aside from his personal exploits, will be less hostile to the Christian faith.  It is something to think about.

But regardless of the election, let me just say this:  We as the Church have much work to do, and it might be extremely uncomfortable.

I leave you with a quote from one of GK Chesterton’s political novels.  Chesterton firmly believed in a fallen human nature. Because of this, he thought society would eventually give up on the difficult task of democracy. Look at this prophetic quote from the story:

We are, in a sense, the purest democracy. We have become a despotism. Have you not noticed how continually in history democracy becomes despotism? People call it the decay of democracy. It is simply its fulfilment. … The old idealistic republicans used to found democracy on the idea that all men were equally intelligent. Believe me, the sane and enduring democracy is founded on the fact that all men are equally idiotic. Why should we not choose out of them one as much as another. All that we want for Government is a man not criminal and insane, who can rapidly look over some petitions and sign some proclamations.

 

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An Election That I’d Rather Not Have To Be A Part Of.

My daughter is old enough to understand at least peripherally, what the Presidential election in our country is about. She has noticed the candidates on television. She has heard my wife and I talk back and forth about what is happening, the candidates themselves, and the policies that are and aren’t being put forth. Unfortunately, she has also heard some of the negative things that this campaign has brought about.
She is smart, perceptive, and asks honest questions.
How does one explain what is happening right before our very eyes to a child who is still developing a worldview? When she asks me point blank, “Daddy, which one do you want to win?” what do I say in reply? It isn’t easy.
We are truly faced with a dismal choice.
What I want to do with this space is not endorse a candidate. I do not want to persuade you to vote this way or that. I want to just note a few things that I think have been overshadowed by the shrill voices that unfortunately exist on both sides of the debate—and even exist in the camp that has distanced themselves from this election altogether.
The first thing I want to note is that when you really think about it, there is really nothing new going on here. Sure, the stakes may seem higher, and the controversies may be over different things, but really—are we experiencing something new here? Is this really the first time that real questions about candidates moral well-being have been brought into question?  Surely the choice between Douglas and Lincoln was just as stress inducing.
Contrary to the opinion of the Clinton apologists in the 90’s, elections of presidents do concern the character of candidates. Character is quite important. As the right sees it, the left always has a questionable character because of the policies they put forth. On the left, the right always are failures of moral character because they are unevolved Neanderthals. Think about that for just a second: You may hear a conservative criticize his or her opponent in strong terms. They may even call them immoral. But be honest, how many times have you heard a conservative Presidential candidate call a liberal candidate evil or suggest that they are influenced by evil? Hardly ever. What you hear more times than not is a serious condemnation of their ideology and their ideas.
On the left however, you often hear something altogether different. Instead of actual discussions of policy, you hear allegations of the candidate wanting children to starve, blacks to become slaves, killing dogs by putting them on the roof of their car, or pushing someone’s grandmother over a cliff. There is often a criticism of the person—not the issues.  I mean, what presidential candidate from the Republican party hasn’t been called a sexist, a rapist, a homophobe, or a war monger?  Do you remember what the left was able to do to Mitt Romney?  He is a stand up guy.  They were able to plant into peoples minds that he killed his dog by placing it on the suitcase rack of his car.  They were able to paint him as a guy who cancelled an employees health insurance because they got cancer.
Our current situation may be different from others in that we find ourselves in a situation in which the character of both candidates are not desirable. Leave the issues aside. The candidate from the Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the candidate from the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, both have questionable characters. Now, I myself, would love to vote for someone else. I could vote for Gary Johnson or Ted Cruz. Or better yet, I could vote for Calvin Coolidge or George Washington. Unfortunately, however, neither of them are on the ballot this November.
What is one to do in a situation like this? I clearly can’t vote for candidate A because of his character. I can’t vote for candidate B because or her character. I cannot vote for Calvin Coolidge—who has great character—because he isn’t on the ballot. What do I do?
For starters, I don’t go trying to make excuses for the candidate of the party I typically align with.  No Christian should make excuses for Trump or Clinton’s behavior.  Donald Trump from the Republican Party has been a playboy his entire adult life. Recently however, it has been revealed through a video that he has made lewd (read: unequivocally despicable) comments about specific women. In this video, which was recorded without his knowing, he boasted in a Don Giovanni-like way about his sexual exploits—some seemingly edging toward being descriptions of sexual assault.
I cannot excuse, explain away, endorse, look past, or be complacent to those facts. They are horrific and I denounce them as I would denounce my son for saying them.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has engaged in her own nefarious activity. We’ve got her treatment of women who claimed to be raped by Bill Clinton, we have her email scandal, and we have her inability to act when it came to Benghazi—resulting in the death of 4 Americans. I am not going to go into the complete sordid history of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, so let’s do this to be fair:
Both candidates have lived lives and said and done things that are completely and unequivocally reprehensible. Both should resign in disgrace.
For me to support Donald Trump at this point just because he is a Republican would be an act of obsequious docility. For me to give my vote to Clinton would be just as bad.
We are at an impasse it seems. What do I do?
In my view, and perhaps I am wrong, in a situation like this, we vote on proposed policy. Granted, in this election, neither have overwhelmingly great policies. One has horrific policies while the other has some policies I like, and some that I don’t like. The one that is least despotic, least statist, least globalist, least tyrannical, more likely to uphold the Constitution—and the one who could potentially save the lives of the unborn— is the one that I would choose. This has been my way of thinking since I began voting.
As a side note: My activity as a voter began in the 2000 election. I voted for George W. Bush. Now, I want to put this out there because I think it is necessary to say: I was not a product of the religious right. In fact, I was not aware of Jerry Falwell until after 9-11. I only knew who Pat Robertson was because I would see him on television and ask my grandmother who he was. I did not associate them with politics.
Even in the Baptist churches I grew up in, I do not remember being shaped politically. I do remember being shaped to have a certain interpretation of the scripture, end times, and a view toward certain theological issues (which I may hold different views on now). The only political issue I can remember being harped on constantly in the churches I grew up in was abortion. But to be fair, I don’t remember any candidate’s names being attached to this issue. I say that to say, I do not align with the Republican Party because conservative Christians have typically done that. Not at all.
If I were to be honest, I would say that both of my parents and my grandmother who lived with us were staunch conservatives. My dad was an Air Force pilot and as such, I grew up in a particular culture, that emphasized the greatness of America, while at the same time pointing out the truths of mistakes and errors in human judgment.  I was never taught that America was perfect.  I was taught that our of all the world systems of government, the one we have in the United States is the best. When it came to politics and elections, my parents never told me who to vote for. They never described my Christian faith as being something indissolubly linked to a political party. To be fair, I think I may have heard a few questions like, “How can a Christian support abortion,” or “We believe marriage is between man and a woman,” but that was the extent of it.
What I was more likely to hear was a critique from my dad about immoral taxation through threats, coercion, and intimidation for the purposes of benevolence, or a discussion about the legitimate role of government in a free society.  These are ideas that hail from a classically liberal view.
I say that to say: We did not sit at the dinner table discussing why it was my duty as a human being to be a conservative Republican. My political formation happened much later.
I believe that all people are designed by God to be free. I also believe that we have the right as human beings—and certainly as Americans— to have private property. Our most basic piece of private property is ourselves. Now, I do not want to get into a theological dialogue here. I understand that all things ultimately belong to God—even me. But as a human being, I am responsible for myself. I am the one responsible for my most basic property. Because of this, I cannot support abortion in any way. Why? Because it denies the right of another person their private property. I support a mothers right to choose. What I cannot support is a mothers right to do away with the private property of another person; namely, the unborn baby. I believe we are a minority of one.  For that reason, I am a one issue voter when it comes to abortion.
So, with an issue like that, I can look at proposed issues. Hillary Clinton on the one hand, wants to increase access to abortion. Trump on the other, is a bit of a mystery. For much of his life he has been pro-choice. Lately however, and many conservatives feel he is only doing it to get votes, he has shown a contrition for those views and now considers himself pro-life. He has gone so far as to chosing a Vice Presidential candidate who is one of the more highly regarded pro-life legislators, and he has released a list of 20 judges who he would nominate for a vacant Supreme Court seat. This list is a who’s who of pro-life people.  That is certainly a major issue for me.
If faced with a decision to have a president who would add one more abortion each year to our yearly total, or have a president who would reduce it each year by one, I would choose the latter.
Even just one life means that much to me. One life.
Another reason I will choose from the two major party candidates is because of duty. As an American citizen who has the right and the duty to vote, not voting—or protest voting— is not an option. Too many men and women have died for my right to vote. A man in my church went to Normandy in his late teen years so that I would not be governed by a German superpower. I will not disrespect him by not voting. I would never desecrate the honorable sacrifice our soldiers have given by not voting. On the other hand, voting third party isn’t an option either. One of the two major party candidates will be our President. I could never look a serviceman or woman in the eye again knowing that from the two candidates, I did not give serious consideration and choose the one who would be a more effective commander in chief. After all, a man or woman might live or die based on who holds that office—regardless how I feel about the candidates on the ballot. For that reason alone, I will choose.
I know my argument isn’t complicated and it doesn’t invoke any of our very popular and often published public theologians. The thing is, the United States existed for quite a while before they arrived on the scene. No disrespect intended (I think highly of the men I am thinking of), but I do not need their blessing or their input into how I should vote or not vote, or their historically dubious (at times) understanding of how our Republic should choose a president. In their hand-wringing and chastising about the lamentable and indissoluble link between the religious right and the Republican party, they are guilty of that which they decry: Pairing politics with the gospel.
If I think that using the gospel to justify alliance with a political party is wrong, isn’t it wrong to use the gospel to decry alliance with a political party?
To me, and I am not intending to lay this at the feet of the aforementioned men, I see an effort by many in the evangelical community to want to seem relevant to the secular culture. I see a desire to be printed in the New York Times. I see a desire to be interviewed on CNN. I see a desire to not be thought of as a bigot. What I see in an even larger sense is to make the world look like the church. The problem I think is that the church in doing so, begins to look like the world. In this sense. They are using politics to justify the gospel.
Whether I am relevant in the culture does nothing to the veracity of the Bible. Nothing.
Hear me on this, nothing short of a full-throated endorsement of secular humanism, Marxism, abortion, gay marriage, transgender whatever, or euthanasia will be enough to be considered relevant. Nothing.
I have heard the word sin used a lot this election cycle. Often it is invoked when an evangelical is a Trump supporter—or at the very least would consider voting for him given the circumstances. I have even heard it described as being opposite Jesus. When it does come to sin, I am more offended by statism, immoral taxation through threats, intimidation, and coercion, the engaging of our country in offensive immoral wars, and the murder of the unborn than I am by lewd comments made in every Marine Corps barracks every day of the week.
We hold our heroes in high esteem, but not all are squeaky clean. Not all talk like you or I. Many are rough around the edges. To deny that Patton could be a leader of men because of his mouth would be both insane and ignorant. To assume that President Eisenhower never engaged in loose filthy talk when among other officers is naïve. Winston Churchill was a great leader, but we all know he was vulgar in his personal life.  Yet, that will not stop pastors from using him as a sermon example this Sunday.
When it comes to Trump,  to overlook the off-duty conduct of the men I just mentioned, and allow for their veneration because they faced enemy fire in a foreign war, but not extend to another man the same grace is inconsistent.
But it is even more troubling for me. When it comes to Christians and the American political process: Why does decency and honor matter now? There have been great candidates for president who were solid Christian men of high virtue and character, and they were rejected as a laughing stock by many evangelicals for the likes of secular men, nominal Christians, and even a Mormon.
Whatever your views on some of the particular issues they embraced (remember I do argue on voting based on issues), the day that Bob Dole was chosen over Patrick Buchanan, or John McCain over Ron Paul, has in part, led us to our current predicament. From my perspective, Buchanan and Paul didn’t endorse immoral wars—and for that, they were rejected. Their character didn’t matter. Their positions on abortion didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that Ron Paul had an orthodox statement of faith on his campaign website. What does that say? We will take our medicine and vote for the lesser of two evils as long as he has an R by his name and holds to neoconservative foreign policy.
I want to say one more thing about Trump and his heinous and sickening talk about women (of which I am sure there will be more secret audio released). If some of my words or behavior from my life showed up on video, I would never show my face again in public. I have said and done horrible things that I am not proud of. Someone may have video or audio of me in a point in my life in which I was not living for God. I would shudder at the prospect of it being released on the internet. I don’t know Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton’s heart. Both have said and done things that are heinous. What I do know is that MY sin put Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary. For that, I should be disqualified from being a child of God. Despite the justice I deserved, Jesus took the wrath of God on himself—he waived my punishment. So when you get down to it, whether it be Trump or someone else: There but for the grace of God go I. Does that mean they should be president? No. What it means is that I can look at issues.
I am not in the position at this point in my life for me to stand here and point out the sin of another person, to call for the tearing down of Satan’s strongholds. How can I call for the vanquishing of Satan and his evil while I refuse to cancel my own television subscription?
Just a rhetorical question: I wonder if those who are quick to condemn another person’s sin would be willing to have their internet search history made public—or to have their life story shown on camera?
We should certainly hold these candidates to a high standard. The problem comes when we hold them to one that we aren’t held to. It costs something to hold ourselves to a high standard. It costs less to hold others to it. While I denounce Trump’s words from 11 years ago and demand differently, it doesn’t cost me to say it. It does cost me to turn the camera around and look at myself. I voluntarily pay taxes to a government that uses my tax dollars for immoral things. Among them is abortion. By paying taxes, I have blood on my hands. Then again, so does every evangelical leader who has never led a movement that said, “Stop the killing, stop the crime, we won’t pay another dime!” Not another dime until abortion mills are defunded. You might say, they couldn’t ever do that? Sure they could. Sure we could.
It might cost something. It might cost everything, but you could do it.
I think if nothing else, this election is putting a microscope on the Church as never before. We are impotent in the West to be an authoritative voice in the culture. Jesus said that the gates of Hell would never prevail against his Church. There is a church on every corner in America. There are seminaries all over the place. There are tons of pastors, deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers, and members. Why does it look like Hell is winning? Answer: Most of the aforementioned aren’t working for or living for the Lord.
Perhaps we need to hit rock bottom. After all, for many, it isn’t until they hit rock bottom that they learn that Jesus is THE Rock at the bottom. Maybe we as Christians need to live in a society in which it costs something to claim the name of Christ.
Right now it costs nothing. Our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East put us to shame. They are tortured and killed for the name of Christ, but they keep on living for Him.
I wonder—how would it look to the world if it cost everything to be a Christian? How would Christians look to the world? How many of our current Christian brothers and sisters would refuse to pay that cost? How many of our churches would become office buildings or community centers?
Whoever you vote for, remember, there is a much at stake. You can look at issues. You can look at character. You can look at both and see who would be more trustworthy. What you cannot do, in my opinion, is call another Christian “opposite Jesus” for doing what he feels is his responsibility as an American.
I leave you with this quote from John Lennox:
Christians in the New Testament lived under oppressive regimes guided by such figures as Augustus Caesar, Herod the Great, Nero, Caligula, Pontius Pilate, and others. Christians were persecuted, had few rights, no vote, could not run for public office, and were even killed for their faith—and yet Christianity flourished, eventually concerting the emperor himself. God has dealt with bigger problems before.
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The Morality of Greed

If you were to be completely honest, one of the prevailing themes you have grown accustomed to hearing is the idea that greed is inherently evil.  Now, I have to be honest:  As a Christian, I personally believe that it is my duty to seek first the Lord and His kingdom.  If I do this, all these things (my needs being met) will be added unto me.  So, for me, the byproduct of work is not primarily money.  The byproduct of work is, first and foremost, glorifying God through excellence.

That being said—if I seek Christ’s Kingdom first, there is nothing wrong with me also desiring to earn compensation for my work.  I cannot find any instance in the Bible in which desiring to be paid an adequate wage for ones efforts is wrong.  You might say, “But those greedy Wall Street guys are surely engaging in immoral behavior,” or “Greed is the root of all evil.”  Some of them probably are.  In fact, the very college academics that make that claim teach moral relativism, but when a banking executive actually exercises moral relativism in his work, he is suddenly immoral?  But Greed being inherently immoral?

The problem with this type of reasoning is that to make this case, one has to read social grievances into the Biblical text itself.  Jesus Christ did not come to give us a perfect economic system or to be a social agitator.  He came to cure man’s sin problem.  I do agree that Jesus talked about the impact of money, but I feel it comes from a different angle than just “wealth disparity.”  I think Jesus’ commands about money and not loving money have to do with what a person places ultimate value in.  Is your ultimate value your money?  If so, you are a slave to your money.  Is your ultimate value your body?  If so, you are a slave to your health.  Do you find your ultimate value in your financial success?  If so, you are a slave to work.

Our ultimate value should be found in Jesus Christ.  The Bible even says, “for they did not love their lives when faced with death.”  Our lives are not our ultimate value.  Neither is our money.

But is ‘greed’ necessarily evil?  Let’s look at it.  While we do so, let us remember that passionate issues require dispassionate analysis.

If you look objectively at definitions of greed, you will see that greed is very different from envy, jealousy, or covetousness.  It is different than materialism.  It is even different than greediness.  Greed is nothing more than seeing the furthering of one’s own interests as his primary motivation for work.  This goes against the conventional wisdom, without question.

So how can greed drive a person’s work?

Let us think about a few examples of this in real life:  Picture for a moment, a farmer in Idaho.  Can you imagine his days’ work?   Picture him getting up well before daylight, venturing out into a field—facing sleet, snow, and bitterly cold wind.  All this is done in order to harvest potatoes.  Because of his hard work, New Yorkers can have potatoes for dinner.

Now picture a Colorado cattle rancher.  He gets up well before dawn as well.  He feeds the cattle.  He breeds them.  He moves them from location to location so that they can eat greener grass.  His entire life is circumscribed by taking care of cattle.  He faces the dead of night, winter and snow, cold rainy mornings, and even the dry heat of the summer—all to make sure New Yorkers can have a steak next to that potato.

Here is the question:  What if New Yorkers—in their desire to have a steak and potato for dinner—had to rely on the inherent charity and willingness of ranchers and farmers to care enough about New Yorkers to send them steak and potatoes—rather than their desire to make a living for themselves?

I would be grieving for New Yorkers.

You see, in serving the interest of themselves, the rancher and farmer necessarily serve their fellow man.  Their desire to earn a living (greed) demands that they produce what other people want.

Our free market is driven by an imperative:  It is more profitable to serve your fellow man than not to serve him.  Adam Smith talked about these principles in his book, Wealth of Nations.  The free market system is essentially a moral one.  It depends upon supplying people with what they desire at a price that they are willing to pay for it.

This of course comes with risk.  What if the New Yorker doesn’t want to eat a steak or order a potato?  What if instead, he desires to eat bacon and eggs?  No one forces him to buy what the rancher has to offer.  Then again, no one forces the rancher to plant potatoes.  It is all about individual choice.

Similar to this is the idea that the free market works only because of trust.  When is the last time you bought beef at the supermarket and actually weighed it yourself to see if it weighed what the packaging said?  When was the last time you measured a 2-liter of soda to see if it really contained 2 liters?  In fact, we rely on trust all the time.  You dont carry around scales and measuring devices in your pockets.  It would cost too much.  It would take up too much room.  It would cost you convenience.  Trust is an important concept here.

Still yet, is an even more moral situation:  If I cut a person’s grass, and at the end of my work, he pays me 30 dollars; that is essentially a certificate showing that I served my fellow man.  When I take my thirty dollars and walk into the supermarket and buy steaks, potatoes, and sodas for my family and I to eat for dinner—the cashier of the supermarket basically says to me:  You want the rancher in Colorado and the farmer in Idaho to serve you?  How have you served your fellow man?  I then produce the certificate of achievement (30 bucks).

Wealth itself is nothing more than scarce information.  I have 30 dollars in my pocket.  If you just compare the cost of goods, you could say that my 30 dollars is worth much less than the food I eat at Applebees.  In fact, if I were to buy the same products that I will consume at Applebees, it might be half as much.  The problem is, I cannot consume 30 dollars.  It is only a piece of paper.  So, I exchange it gladly for something that is worth more to me than the money itself:  namely, food.  Because I am not in the restaurant industry, I do not have the skills, infrastructure, or the resources to make quality dinners.  I don’t have the extra time either!   So—for that scarcity of information, I gladly pay more than it is worth.

A thing derives its value by how much a person is willing to pay for it.

Consider this:  I walk into a supermarket and tell the manager I want a gallon of milk.  He charges me 3 dollars.  If that milk is worth to me more than my three dollars, and my three dollars is worth more to the manager of the store than the milk, we engage in a voluntary contract.  We voluntarily engage in a transaction of trust.  I trust he gives me a gallon of milk, and he trusts that my three dollars are worth three dollars.  I make him feel good and in return, he makes me feel good.  This is called a positive sum gain.  On the flip-side, if I were to walk into that same supermarket and hold a gun to the manager’s head and say, “Give me the milk or I will kill you,” I have just said, “If you do not make me feel good, I am going to make you feel bad.”  This is a zero sum gain.

In all of human history, there has never been an economic system prior to the free market that did not function without zero sum gains.  Most of recorded history notes looting, plundering, theft, and coercion as the norm.  The exception has been the free market system.  It is a system based on trust and reciprocity.

The rule among fallen men is theft.  The exception is voluntary trade.

These are all moral concepts.

Greed isn’t inherently evil.  It drives our transactions.  After all, what is wrong with wanting to better the lives of you and your family?  Even the most ardent socialists I know send their child to piano lessons.  Why?  They want the best for their child.

The contrast of greed is the idea of envy.  Picture this:  You work a 60-hour per week job sweeping floors at a Fortune 500 company.  One night while walking home, you see a large group of people who work at the company eating in the restaurant.  You pause and watch through the window.  The person driven by greed will think to himself, “What must I do to be where they are at?  What have they done that I haven’t?”  This might prompt your working so hard that everyone notices, taking night classes, reading more books so that you can pass a promotion test, or finding a new job at which advancement is possible.  Either way, these are healthy questions to ask.  The other view would say, “It is inherently unfair that they have what I do not.  How can I have some of what they have?”

Now, the political left is well aware of these two differing types of thinking. The conservative would usually reply to this man, “I am going to work to get you equality of opportunity; you are going to have to work to ensure an equality of outcome.”  The progressive, on the other hand would declare, “I agree with you.  It is unfair.  He only has his stuff because he stole it from you.  You deserve to be in there too.  In fact, if you vote for me, I will promise to take some of what he has and give it to you.  I cannot ensure equal opportunity, but I can ensure equal outcome.”

This is zero sum economics.

If you pick the pockets of Peter to pay Paul, you will always have Paul’s vote.

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What Alex Haley’s Roots taught me about real Freedom

When I was a teenager, my Dad introduced me to a book that has had tremendous impact on my thinking.  I am referring to Roots by Alex Haley.  Despite the numerous historical inaccuracies presented in both the book and film adaptation, the overarching message is quite important.  It follows the plight of a 15-year old African taken to America.  In America, this character, Kunta Kinte, refuses to accept his condition as a slave.  Not even when the slave catchers removed half of his foot after an escape attempt did his desire to be free diminish.  At one point, his daughter is caught aiding another slave in an escape and is literally ripped from his arms and sold away.  Several years later, her son George gains his own freedom.  However, because the law in that state dictated that a freed slave who stayed put for more than 60 days would lose his freedom, George is faced with an incredible dilemma.  Does he become a slave again and stay with his wife and children, or keep his freedom but leave?  He asks his wife for guidance.  She levels an incredibly potent and powerful line:  “I am married to a free man.  I will never be married to a slave.  Never.”

The ultimate freedom that exists is the freedom from sin and from death.  If we are in Christ—we have that freedom now!  Being free however, doesn’t come without sacrifices.  We must give up our lives in order to live in the glory and freedom of our Lord.  The thing that frustrates me is that even though I enjoy freedom, I continually flirt with a return to slavery!  Paul talks about this as well!

Each week as I worship Him though, I am constantly reminded of the image of chains falling off my hands and feet.  It happened! I have the scars to prove it!  The song says, “I once was blind but now I see.” It’s an amazing line.  But, in my personal experience, I can tell you that I once was bound—but now I’m free.

Jesus truly is the great emancipator.  It’s hard to keep a message like that to a whisper.

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Was Dr. Carson Right about Sharia and the Constitution?

Dr. Ben Carson made some remarks over the weekend that have ensnared him in a turbulent brouhaha.  The inferno is coming his way because of the fact that he directly answered a question.  While being interviewed by MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, on the show “Meet the Press,” he was asked whether or not he would advocate that a Muslim be the President of the United States.  Carson answered directly by saying that he “Would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”  He went on to note that whichever candidate is elected president will be sworn in “On a stack of Bibles, not a Koran.”

But perhaps the statement that has made people the most furious is that when asked if Islam is compatible with the U.S. Constitution, Carson answered by saying, “I absolutely would not agree with that.”

He further defended his remarks by saying, “I do not believe Sharia is consistent with the Constitution of this country.”  He went on to note that, “Muslims feel that their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official, and that’s inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution.”  He noted that he would make an exception for a Muslim running for office only if they “Publically rejected all the tenants of Sharia and lived a life consistent with that.”

So the question we must ask is:  Was Carson wrong?  Are his remarks wrong?  Did he say something here that is unpardonable? I say, no, emphatically to all three.

First of all, he was asked his opinion.  Rather than dance around answering this question, he answered it directly.  That is more than I can say for many politicians today.  Secondly, in giving his opinion on this issue (which is hypothetical by the way—no Muslims are running for president), how would holding such an opinion effect his ability as a potential president to faithfully execute the duties of president?  Are presidents forbidden from having views that offend some Americans?  Is appeasing the delicate sensibilities of some Americans a legitimate role of government in a free society?  But the final question is this:  Would it be compatible with the constitution for a practicing Muslim to be president?  Could Sharia Law exist simultaneously with our Constitution?

I, for one, am finding it refreshing that some of the presidential candidates this cycle are willing to answer questions directly.  We have had a steady diet for the past umpteen years of presidents refusing to answer questions directly.  As a result of that, when we see it today, many view direct answers as shocking.  It isn’t so much the content of the answer either—it is the fact that someone is willing to lay their view out there—black and white—to be objectively and subjectively scrutinized.  It is the fact that an elected leader is willing to pay the price personally for their use of words.  For millennials, they may have never seen a person seeking public office answer a question directly.  For them, it is unconscionable to imagine such a thing.

Secondly, Dr. Carson’s opinions, while perhaps offensive to some, would not necessarily preclude him from doing a good job as a president.   Here is the role of the president as laid out in the Constitution in Article II, Section 1, Clause 8:

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: — “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Could you point to me the jot or tiddle in that job description that includes never offending anyone?  Could you point to the portion of that oath that precludes a president from having a controversial view?

Much of the acerbic rhetoric being aimed at Carson seems to forget that it isn’t only republicans who are capable of holding views that offend people.  Democrats, too, hold views that many find offensive.  I would argue that many of the controversial views that conservatives hold affect very few people in a tangible way.  Democrats on the other hand—their views tend to include solutions that demand raising taxes or enacting some new form of regulatory burden on the American people.

They. Are. Just. Words.

In the world we inhabit, there are Islamic states trying to get a nuclear weapon amidst standing threats to the United States and Israel, a great migration of American citizens to join forces with these barbarians, child sex slaves enslaved by Muslims, real Muslims killing real Christians, and real Muslims killing real gays.  At what point to we confront that reality rather than the words of a presidential candidate?

The real question that needs to be answered is:  Is Dr. Carson right in making the statements that he did?  Is it incompatible with the U.S. Constitution for a Muslim who affirms Sharia Law to be president?

From what I heard in the clip, Carson was giving a brutally honest answer about the hypothetical situation that a Sharia practicing Muslim was elected as president.  If he practiced Sharia law, he necessarily would not be compatible with the Constitution.  What is controversial about that?

Could a practicing devoted Lakers fan really be expected to officiate game 7 the NBA finals with full conformity to NBA rules?  If the entire body of voters for College Football’s playoff format were devoted Georgia fans, could they objectively, dispassionately, and fairly, evaluate Georgia against another team with the same win/loss record?  Would  you want them voting on who is left out of the playoff?

I think we as Americans are right to demand a politician who will both understand the Judeo Christian ethic—but also—be willing to run the country on the basis of the moral laws on which this nation was framed.  Our nation did not rise out of nowhere.  It is clearly founded on certain necessary principles.  Among these is the nod toward the Judeo Christian view of God.  Secondly, we are right to demand that this president govern what Berlin called a “pluralistic society.”  That is, a society in which the freedom to believe or disbelieve in God—and the freedom to live those principle out in public (or not live them out in public) are protected.

What we want is a politician who will understand the basic Judeo-Christian world view, the basis of the moral laws from which this nation was framed.  We also expect that this president then run this country with the virtues of that which is recognized in a pluralistic society: the freedom to believe or to disbelieve (publically and privately), and the moral framework that guarantees us our rights:  the sanctity of every individual life.

If the American people are looking to elect some type of minister to run our country, history tells the tale of what has happened with the church has been in bed with the state.  It isn’t pretty.  When you politicize faith, faith enters the path to extinction.  This isn’t what we want!  What we do desire is a leader that is wise—who frames decision making on the moral framework of God—while also recognizing that one cannot just mandate political ideology to all of mankind.

This is not to say that a president must be a practicing Christian.  No.  What this does say is that our president needs to recognize the origins of the American experiment and govern with that understanding.  Even Jefferson, the skeptic was able to do this.

You do notice that Jesus never ran for political office.  He wasn’t about forcing views down people’s throats through coercive fiat.  He was about changing hearts.

On the other hand, we do not want a complete secularist.  And by secular, I mean someone who subscribes to the systematic rooting out of

Would we rather have someone who is a total secularist? Is that what people are asking for?  Do we want a leader who says, “The universe is all there is and all there ever will be.  We are just products of our DNA and we dance to its music.  Our plight in this universe is meaningless—ours is an existence of pure blind, pitiless indifference.”  Where is the justification for the value of human life in that?  Where does, “All men are created equal” spring up from that?  Such a statement was not penned by a Nietzsche.  It wasn’t penned by a Hindu.  It wasn’t penned by a Buddhist.  It most certainly wasn’t penned by a naturalist.  But, most of all—it was not penned under a Muslim framework.

The only worldview that can make sense of equality, liberty, and justice—in the terms that the Constitution describes them—is the Judeo Christian one. I defy you to show me otherwise.

Created? Equal? Naturalism does not tell us we are equal. Naturalism does not tell us we are created. Liberty? Islam does not believe in the total liberty of the individual. Equal? Hinduism believes in the caste system. The Judeo-Christian world view is the only world view that could frame this country. And so I think as we elect, we go before God and see out of the candidates who will be the best one to represent the values and at the same time be a good leader for the country whose first responsibility should be to protect its citizens.

Islam is necessarily paired with political coercion.  It does not exist without this.  You might say, “But John, not all Muslims believe that.”  You are right.  But, to that minority of Muslims, the truth is unfortunate:

“Classical Muslim theology is a theology of the majority; [it] offers no formulation of the status of being in a minority.”—Zaki Badawi

I’d say Carson is right.

I will let the inimitable Ravi Zacharias sum up the situation:

The shift that is taking place is very calculated. Eastern religions are protected in today’s society because to critique Eastern religions is seen as culturally insensitive and prejudicial. But the Christian faith, which is the target of Western culture (but people have forgotten that it came from the East), is now the dartboard. Society can attack any aspect of Christianity.

In the recent presidential primary race, it was fascinating to notice how pundits described Mike Huckabee as a former Baptist minister. They described Mitt Romney as a Mormon whenever he would represent his religious faith. It is fascinating that the media, in a calculated way, does not mention Barack Obama’s middle name — Hussein — lest society see this as religiously prejudicial toward him. This is a clear attack on the Judeo-Christian worldview, the only worldview that could justify the existence of a nation like America.

The Judeo-Christian worldview is the target of the Western media. The media is the single greatest destroyer of the notion of absolutes and of the Judeo-Christian worldview. When I am overseas, I see these attacks in articles in the Western newspapers and in the journalism on television.

I just returned from Thailand and Singapore. Every mall I walked through in those countries was playing Christmas carols. One of the world’s tallest Christmas trees was in Central World Plaza in Bangkok, Thailand. Christmas trees and Christmas decorations filled the streets of Singapore and carols were playing there. In America, Christians wonder whether they can even do this anymore without someone questioning whether they ought to acknowledge Christmas in the marketplace.

What has happened? The Judeo-Christian worldview has become the pariah stepchild of worldviews and is being attacked while other worldviews are respected, reverenced, and recognized as part of history and the culture of other nations.

God help us.

Some thoughts on Adoption and Identity

Our beautiful son, John Will is turning one this week. I wanted to share with you a few thoughts as his birthday approaches.

I always viewed adoption as a good thing, but I have to be honest: For many years, I saw it like many people do—as a sort a predicament of permanent estrangement.  I mean, consider the reality:  The child will not grow up with his real parents.  He will never know his real siblings.  He and the adoptive parents will never have that real biological bond.  Then there is the most unfortunate part of all—He will always be the token adopted kid.

I know what you are thinking:  What do you mean by the word real?  Well, what does society say about it?  What is real to most people is what they see on TV or the internet.  If you listen to the armchair philosophers in the media, the above realities are real.  They are real in a ubiquitous sense.  Everywhere.  Case closed.  Settled science.  Hashtag it.

Let us be honest:  If the adopted baby happens to be of color, he could be looked at by his white parents and predominantly white peers as the definitive voice for the whole of the black race.  What he says about social justice will be accepted as gospel for many whites.  Can you hear it?  “My son is black, and he isn’t offended by that flag,” or, “My son is black—I couldn’t possibly be a racist!”  Because they have a black kid in the family, they think they are somehow experienced in the black experience.  He is their calling card in a sense.  Unfortunately, if he takes on the traits and speech patterns of his white adoptive family, he may run the risk of being an outsider when it comes to his black peers.  What if he grows up to be a political conservative in the vein of Clarence Thomas?  In this case, he will be cast out of the black community.  He will be in a sense living in no mans land.  A man with no country.  They may call him things like, “Uncle Tom.”  If he is nominated to the Supreme Court, men who are lifelong Lotharios (Ted Kennedy) may actually ask him during his confirmation process about his private entertainment habits.  This is just the truth.

Then, some will use him as certificate of absolution for white guilt.  By adopting a black child, they are absolving themselves of the great sin of the past:  Slavery.  They are enlightened now.  They are a part of the black experience.  They have evolved.

He will be seen as a racial bargaining chip in many instances.

If, on the other hand, he is adopted into a wealthy home, he could be seen as a status symbol.  Some people buy expensive rugs and pets from exotic places.  Today, the collector item that is style in some circles is the adoption of babies from exotic locations.  It is kind of like the cult of being a vegan, using a Mac, driving a Tesla, or choosing to obey the gluten free diet.  “Mine is from Nepal,” or “I got mine from Uganda.”  Two international adoptive mothers come into a coffee shop.  How do I know this?  They announced it loudly.

Then again, he might be seen as a leverage tool for advancing the pro-life agenda.  Heck, he may even be used just so that the parents feel good about themselves.

So, as for me, though I saw adoption as a positive, I saw it as the “last resort” option.

Because all the horrible things above exist, and I had just heard horror stories about them…I determined that adoption was better than abortion, but least the least preferable alternative.

This isn’t the first thing I have been wrong about.

The first thing that I failed to notice about my observations above is that they all presuppose that adoptive parents necessarily see their adopted kids as objects used for consumption rather than persons meant for relationships. In this thinking I was no different than the person who saw a black man as a piece of property.  I was no different in thinking that all whites think all blacks should be slaves.  My point is—though the above realities do exist—it doesn’t have to be that way.  The fact that those realities exist shouldn’t stop me from adopting a baby.  Why do I have to live like that?

I also failed to see that many of my objections came from an elitist progressive white Eurocentric worldview. Now, before you think I am some indoctrinated leftist who gets his news from the Daily Kos, hear me out.  I was Eurocentric.  Trust me:  The children in Mexico, war torn Africa, the slums of India, Thailand, or Vietnam—they would give anything to be adopted into a white family in the United States.  I am not even talking about a rich one.  Poverty in the United States is a lifestyle of luxury to the poor people in Laos.  I once heard a guy tell me about his ordeal in trying to gain citizenship into the United States.  I asked him why he wanted to come here so bad.  His answer blew me away:  “I want to live in a country where the poor people are fat.”

It isn’t insensitive or against multiculturalism or diversity to realize that compared to the rest of the world, the United States is the land of luxury.  This is the most exceptional place on the planet.  You want proof?  Go to the slums of India.  Check out the way people live in Cuba.  Go look at Kandahar.  Go see what they do to disobedient little girls in Saudi Arabia.  To presume that because I am from the West, that I couldn’t not contribute to the lives of people from the East is just absurd.

But then there is the unconditional love aspect—or sacrifice:  Many of the children adopted internationally have biological parents who love them so much, they would do anything for them to be adopted—just to escape real poverty.  The fact that I was unwilling to imagine such a reality shows how narrow minded I actually was.

But, then I also made the mistake of thinking that I wasn’t qualified to adopt. Sure, I had a biological child already—but adopt?  I don’t look like the adoption type, do I?  I have never contributed to any adoption agency.  I have never been a foster parent.  I have never sent money to one of those sad “Feed the Children” TV ads.  I am not an activist.  The only thing I know about kids is that I spoil my daughter.  How could I adopt?

Then I learned the reality:

Had we not adopted…our child—John William would have been aborted.

But my last objection was perhaps the most insidious of all: He will not share my genes!  He will never fit in at family reunions!  How will he carry on our family name—really?  He may have our name, but he isn’t one of us.  It could cause problems later on!  There might be challenges.  Oh No!

I can say it: What a bunch of narcissistic and selfish petulant idiocy. 

It is actually possible to adopt a child and love them for who they are—a distinct, unique, beautiful person—of infinite value.

Oh I forgot the other one:  We cannot afford it.  Ok.  My goodness…where is the faith?

Well, on a Wednesday in September of 2014, my wife got a phone call. It was through a convoluted maze of connections; but, there was a woman giving birth the NEXT day that wanted to give her baby for adoption.  Could we be at the hospital for the “C-section?”

After picking my wife up off the floor, we rushed to get ready for the birth of our…son.  We actually went that day and met the mother.  My son was in her belly sitting across the room from me.  She told us that she was at Planned Parenthood ready to abort the child–but something stopped her.  What?  Really?

Well, it happened.  He is our son.

Can I tell you that I have never viewed John William as adopted? I mean, I know he is, but—other than people bringing it up, or the doctor asking about his family medical history—I never think about it.  There has never been a moment in time that I knew about him that I didn’t think of him as my son.  What else could he be?  Who else could he be?  When he had trouble taking his first breaths, I felt pain.  When he had to have the chest tube and stay in the NICU for over a week—I felt the stress—and worried.  Me.  Not someone else.  I felt innate pain.

It may sound strange to you, but I see him in exactly the same way that I see our biological daughter, Ava. Even in the hospital, once he was born—with the birth mother just down the hall—he was my son.  Even as we waited the mandatory 72 hours for the birth mother to change her mind, I saw it as 72 hours for her to dispute the truth:  that I was the father of this baby!  When I first touched him, I didn’t feel that I was touching some child that we were going to take home—and learn to love.  I felt I was touching my son.  What womb he was carried in was the last thing on my mind.  I couldn’t have cared less.  When we went to visit him in the NICU, and had to use the name “Baby Boy White” to gain access, because they weren’t legally allowed to accept the name we had given him yet, we called him John Will.   You think that’s strange?  Can I tell you that when I look at him, I find myself involuntarily comparing his appearance to us?  “Oh, he looks like Ava when he does that.”  “Andrea, he has your smile.” “I think he has my…well, hopefully nothing.”  Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t, but I identify him as ours.

Identity. What a word.  I don’t think I can remember hearing the word identity growing up.  Today, you cannot turn on a television set without hearing some blowhard pontificating about identity.  We live in a day and age where a man can use a woman’s restroom, so long as he self identifies as a woman.  If a woman in that restroom is offended by the presence of this man who identifies as a woman—it is HER problem.  She is the bigot.  His identity cannot be challenged.

Can I just say, our idea of identity is wrong? Our identity isn’t wrapped up in our sexual proclivity, our color, our intelligence, or our size.  Our identity is wrapped up in the idea of who we are.  Let me ask you a question:  Who are you…really?  How would you describe, you?  Most people would respond with a name and their occupation.  That isn’t what I asked.  I asked who you are?  There is more to who you are than what you do, your skin color, or what your name is.  If what you do is what defines you—then we have a pretty sad world.

Many today see themselves as objects to be consumed. They desire to be used as a commodity.  Just look at the clothing that many young people wear—or the outspoken statements on shirts that read, “I am a porn star.”  Even the LGBT movement—they will identify by their sex.  Ask them who they are and they will respond with their name and at some point their sexual proclivity.  If I were to walk into a room and say, “Hey, I am John and I am straight,” how would that be received?  It’s odd isn’t it?  So many of us place our identity in what we do, that we have no clue what a real person is.  If you think like that—that people are just objects, it will not only affect you:  It will affect how you treat those around you.  If we are nothing but the product of a mindless unguided process (Darwinian evolution), why would we treat each other as if we were more than just a bunch of matter?  What is the point?  But that question turns around:  If I am nothing but the product of evolution, why should anyone treat me as more than a heap of dirt?  There is no purpose.  The universe just is.  It’s all blind pitiless indifference.

Pathetic.  If you want to expose the malarkey in that, just walk up to the person that thinks that way—reach into their pocket—and take out their wallet.  Their real presuppositions about how they should be treated will emerge.

Why do I believe that people have worth? Well, quite frankly, it is because I believe that God created us in His image.

But, let us look at it a bit more philosophically:  If you take any philosophy in the world, you will find that it is based or grounded in one of three systems of thought.  They are epistemological, existential, and pragmatic.  Or quite simply, right thinking, right feeling, or right doing.  If you think the right things or acquire the right knowledge, or feel a certain set of feelings or have the right intentions or motives, or if you do the right things—you will have achieved what is ‘the good.’

Now the idea of good needs to be fleshed out. G.K. Chesterton once talked about what is good.  He wrote an essay called The Medical Fallacy in which he lamented the use of medical terminology when talking about social issues.  He noted that many politicians will say, “Our country is sick.  It needs a remedy.  Vote for me and my benevolent policies and we will see true healing begin.”  The problem Chesterton points out, is that social science is not medical science.  In medicine, doctors all agree on what a healthy body looks like.  They disagree on the malady.  In social science, it is the malady that is agreed upon.  We all can agree on what a dysfunctional society looks like.  It is the idea of what is good that we rip each other’s eyes out over.  One person sees this “solution” as a remedy—but the other guy sees the remedy as worse than the original problem.  Chesterton goes on to say, it may be necessary medically speaking, for a man to walk into a hospital and come out with one leg less.  But he quips, you will never see that man go into an operating room, and in a moment of ‘creative rapture,’ come out with one leg more.

The good. Can we find it in right thinking?  Many philosophies say yes.  How about in feeling or experience?  Many say yes.  How about in doing the right things?  Many say yes.  If our philosophy is based in these three areas, there are arguments to be made for which persons should be treated as objects.  Maybe they don’t have the right knowledge—or they are incapable of it.  Are they a drain on the taxpayers?  What is the solution?  Perhaps they haven’t experienced what they ought to—or they have the wrong feelings on a certain issue.  Can these bigoted people live in a tolerant and just society?  Then again, maybe they have done something that isn’t ‘o.k.’ by conventional standards.  Maybe they put up a flag on their flagpole that represents something awful.  Can we tolerate them?

Certainly arguments can be made that would subjugate each of these individuals to a second class.

The reason I believe people are of infinite worth is because I believe in a system that isn’t rooted in any of those three things. I believe in Jesus Christ.  Christianity is a system that is rooted in being—specifically—the being of Christ.  When I became a follower of Christ, my being was conformed to that of his.  I am no longer who I was before.  Now, I am an image of Christ.  This life isn’t rooted in right thinking, although there is no greater knowledge than knowing Christ.  It isn’t about feeling, even though I can think of no greater feeling than experiencing God’s presence.  And it isn’t about doing, even though Jesus said that true Christians will be known by what they do.

It is about being. I see people as beings—not machines.

Back to adoption:

Now, the conventional wisdom says children who are denied their biological parents—despite how wonderful their adoptive situation might be—face more challenges than other children. Those views all presuppose that we are purely biological.  I don’t buy this.  I have seen too much evidence to the contrary.  Plus, the Bible doesn’t teach this.  God told Jeremiah that He knew him before He formed him!  How could he know him before he was a living, breathing person?  Well quite simply, there is more to us than our bodies.  There is something to this knowing before forming business.  When I think about my biological daughter…I can safely say I didn’t know her or have any knowledge of her before she existed.  But God did.  There is something to that.

Ephesians says that before the creation of the world God chose us! That has some serious implications.  First of all, to be chosen before the creation of the world, means that before the first act of creation—we had some sort of existence.  We at least existed in the mind of God before “In the beginning.”  Let us put it this way:  The crucifixion of our Lord was foreordained long before the first verse in Genesis.  Why?  Because there would be a need for redemption.  Why?  Because of us.  Second, the Bible says that God chose us.  Out of all the things in His creation that are beautiful—out of all the capable animals—he chose us.  Why us?  There is obviously something different or unique about us.  C.S. Lewis once said that we aren’t bodies with a soul; we are souls with a body.  There is indeed something that I cannot see—or test in a laboratory—that makes my son who he is.  His physical appearance is a joy, but this is not who he is.  He is connected to us, despite what his DNA might say.  You could run a paternity test all day long, and I would fail it every time.  But you could put man after man in the room with my son and I am the only one he knows as “Da da.”  Despite the reality of what his DNA says he is, he is ours.  He is a person created for relationship!  He is a soul created in the image of God.  He has an identity that is beyond his blood and chemical makeup.  He was chosen before time itself.  God knew that this little boy would need a Mom and Dad who were not his biological parents.  A real sacrifice would need to be made for this little boy.  But more importantly, God knew that for this little boy, The ultimate sacrifice would have to be made on Calvary.

“Before” time began, my son and all his needs were known.

Likewise, you and I are connected to Christ despite what our pasts might say.  My spiritual DNA says sinner.  It does not say holy.  I am unworthy of the name Christian.  Despite that, Christ has adopted me as His child. I am connected to Christ despite the sins I will commit today.

Despite the reality of who I am, I am His.

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Abortion, Private Property, Planned Parenthood, and $40,000,000,000

My heart is aching today.  As I watched the 4th video drop from the Center for Medical Progress, I watched with horror as what I have thought to be reality actually unfolded before my eyes.  Right there, on a large glass tray, resembling a pie dish, is tissue extracted from a woman who had undergone an abortion.  The technician began prodding with tweezers, and then it emerged:  A cranium, a stomach, a liver, kidneys, a brain, a heart, and arms and legs.

Today, I stumbled across a blog article that seems to sum up the pro-abortion apologetic quite well.  What has become the standard retort for abortion apologists in the wake of these videos, is to trumpet their view that these are “maliciously edited videos” that they only have the appearance of looking like we are seeing the actual selling of baby parts.  It sounds a lot like Richard Dawkins:  Human biology, the universe, and all of life—they look designed—but that is the point of Darwinian evolution:  The mere appearance of design.  The design isn’t there.  It only looks that way.  Disregard all the evidence to the contrary.  Why?  Richard Dawkins says so.

Why should we disregard the appearance of butchery?  Planned Parenthood says so.  Case closed.  In fact, a rogue reporter asked White House spokes-mouth Josh Earnest (who had just moments before noted that the only guilty party was the filmmakers themselves) why the White House felt the need to discredit the reporting shown on video.  Earnest replied arrogantly with some variation of, “Planned Parenthood said so.”

The article I referenced goes on to say, “It’s weird for those of us with two brain cells to rub together, that this is even a thing. Because first of all, obviously Planned Parenthood doesn’t sell BABY PARTS.” I guess you can say that.  Sure.  They arent engaged in the butchery and selling of baby parts.  I mean, after all, if through a clever use of verbal virtuosity, over time, you are able to brainwash all Americans into referring to babies in the womb as fetuses and tissue rather than babies—the term baby becomes irrelevant.  When these fetuses are jettisoned and their parts are harvested; no, these are not baby parts being sold.  They are specimens.  Just your run of the mill intact tissue…and oh look!  Surprise!  This run of the mill tissue has a brain in it!  But to talk about rubbing brain cells together; I watched the video.  It is the technician who is rubbing brain cells together…across a pie dish and asking how much money neural tissue could fetch.

It doesn’t appear to be butchery and profit.  It is butchery and profit.

If you accept the redefinition of words that the left has pushed on us, they aren’t selling babies for profit.  They are selling specimens for profit. But, based on what I saw in this video, the terms are interchangeable.  At one point in the video, Dr. Savita Grande, who is the Vice President and Medical Director for Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, when looking at a pie dish that contains the organs and limbs of a recently aborted fetus exclaims, “A baby!”  One of the techs, moments later notes:  “Another boy.”  It seems as if the terms fetus, specimen, baby, and tissue are interchangeable.

This is the first time in my life I have heard anyone who is pro abortion refer to an aborted fetus as a baby.

The article goes on to say that “3% of all Planned Parenthood’s activities are abortions, and more than 90% of those are in the first trimester when it’s about size of a kidney bean, so they do see some pieces of fetal tissue. Which are just going to be thrown away in the garbage, but which the patient can instead choose to donate to important medical research.”

You know what they say, some bumper stickers are so misleading that they require thousands of words to correct them.  This is one of those cases.  That very paragraph is full of so many problematic lapses in logical thought that I could spend hours refuting it.  Let us start here:  When the article notes that “More than 90% of those are in the first trimester when it’s about size of a kidney bean,” I have to ask, what exactly are they referring to as “it’s?”  They aren’t talking about the abortion procedure itself.  They are talking about a living thing.  They are talking about the product of an abortion—which provides tissue.  They are talking about a developing human being.  The next line states that because of this, “they do see some pieces of fetal tissue.”  Of course they do.  The “it” that they referred to is a fetus.  Fetuses are made of tissue.  Therefore, we will find fetal tissue.

This is the kind of thinking we get from our Ivy League graduates these days.

So what is the justification of using this tissue?  Well, they tell us that it can “aid in the research and treatment of conditions like H.I.V. and Parkinson’s disease, when instead those women could just be throwing that tissue in the garbage!”  Here is the question and it is two fold:  First, just because you could cure a disease with the life of another, does that make it morally right?  Second, who gave permission to use this private property for that reason?

For those of you who were educated in public schools, let me put this a bit more clearly:  If I knew that killing person A would cure the cancer of persons B through Z, would it be moral to do it?

It is immoral to take the private property of one person in order to aid the plight of another.  Even if it is legal to do so, it is immoral.  We own ourselves.  Our property belongs to us.  The most basic property we have is our body.  It is immoral to violate that.  Now, if I want to sell you my organs, I believe I should be able to do that.  It is my property and if I want to sell it to you, and you are ok with the price, I am of the mind that it is a reciprocating agreement.  This is a positive sum gain.  But, in the case of the unborn, is it morally justifiable for a mother to act as the proprietor of the unborn child’s private property?  How about an abortion provider?  Can they choose how the private property of one person will be used?  If a new store was being built, and in the middle of the night I walked in and saw unaccompanied tools, wood, and paint lying around; even if I were the mother of the owner of that store, would I be justified in declaring that store unviable; and then taking those tools, wood, and paint, and using them to build my own store?

A positive sum gain basically says, “You make me feel good, and I will make you feel good.”  If I walk into a grocery store and tell the grocer, “I value your milk more than I value my three dollars,” and he says to me, “I value your three dollars more than I value my milk,” we have just voluntarily exchanged private property.  On the other hand, if I walk into the same grocer and say, “If you don’t make me feel good, I will make you feel bad,” or if I hold up a gun to his head and say, “If you don’t give me your milk, I will kill you,” this is called a zero sum gain.

Zero sum gains are immoral. Taking the property of one for the benefit of another is immoral.  It is immoral regardless of the age.

The article then goes on to complain about ghoulish video makers who have brought attention to Planned Parenthood through its videos.  “So yeah, there’s the fact that Planned Parenthood obviously isn’t “selling baby parts.” And then there’s the fact that the group releasing this video are some of the same people who worked for the group Live Action, which is best known for…editing together misleading videos attacking Planned Parenthood.”  What I am not clear on is this:  Why is butchering video tape such a crime, but butchering fetuses is to be protected?  There is a dead monkey on the line somewhere—and he is probably being dissected and sold to the highest bidder.

In this case of confiscating private property—the business that takes place at Planned Parenthood—is somehow protected from others using it for their own gain?  It is moral to confiscate the life of a baby in order to use it for research, but it is immoral to confiscate the ideas and conversations that take place justifying this activity in order to use it for research?  There is another dead monkey on the line.

We are then treated to this:  “So despite the fact that this is an obviously made up and ridiculous accusation, actual politicians are taking it seriously.”  First of all, it isn’t made up.  We have it on video.  We have audio.  At this point, at best, we are haggling over the semantics.  It reminds me of the woman who is seated next to a lonely business man on a long flight.  He turns to her and says, “I will pay you a million dollars if you will spend the night with me when we land.”  She agrees to it.  As they are making their descent, he turns again and says, “I lied.  I only have twenty dollars, will that do?”  The woman exclaims, “Just what kind of woman do you think I am?” to which he replies, “We have already established that.  We are merely haggling over the price at this point!”

We know what is going on.  We know there is dissection taking place.  We know that money is changing hands.  We are haggling over definitions.

As if we havent already heard a plethora of poorly articulated arguments, this one may take the cake:  “Well, now it’s 2015 and an organization that is mostly responsible for making sure poor women have access to basic medical care including cancer screenings, checkups, and birth control, are accused of convincing women to abort their babies and then tearing them into parts and selling them on the black market.” Again, we aren’t accusing anyone of using the black market.  I am quite certain it is happening legally.  These ideologues are the same people that write health bills that are 20,000 pages long.  They make their living off of trading moral for legal.  Speaking of health care for the poor and for women:  Isn’t that what we HAD to pass Obamacare for?  Why do we need Planned Parenthood?  The women and the poor are taken care of, on the dime of the taxpayer. That is why I pay my “fair share.”  I thought that was settled—case closed—period.  Emperor Obama has decreed.

It seems that the only variable left is the fetus.

Oh but there is more:  “And I realize, that if it helps you achieve your goals — whether they be persecuting people of a different faith or cutting funding for poor women’s health care — it becomes surprisingly easy to believe something unbelievable.”  So those who are against abortion are suddenly anti-religious pluralism, anti-women, and anti-poor?  We havent cut the funding for poor women’s health care.  It has increased.  The cost of healthcare for the rest of us has gone sky high to pay for it.  Persecuting people of a different faith?  Who are we talking about, Southern Baptists or the ISIS guys?

One nut with a Jerry Falwell book on his coffee table shoots up an abortion clinic, and all of Christendom is indicted.  Thousands of Muslims yelling “Allahu Akbar” kill thousands of Christians, and we celebrate pluralism and diversity.  Go figure.

Please notice what wasn’t done in this article.  No argument was made as to why the property of one should be taken to serve the purposes of another.  Not one argument was given.  Instead we were treated to words like: Patient, Choose, Donate, It, and Tissue. These are the words that some use to justify murder.

If you ever wanted empirical evidence of human depravity, the latest videos about Planned Parenthood are it. We are subsidizing the Mengele’s and Hitler’s of our day—and no that isn’t hyperbole. And make no mistake, the Nazi regime didn’t start in the cruel torture laboratories and death camps of Auschwitz and Bergin Belsen— Instead, Victor Frankl notes, “The gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.”

Your tax dollars go to fund Planned Parenthood (the paramilitary wing of the democrat party and institutional left) and the lucrative salaries that it’s executives make. They live lavishly off the literal backs (AND livers, kidneys, brains, skin, eyes, etc) of babies being dissected.

The tragedy is this:  You and I are complicit.

Why would they lie about this activity and decry the cutting up of video rather than recognize the sordid fact that they are cutting up babies? Simple: Follow the money.  The left is against the free market except when it comes to the selling of baby parts. Follow the money because that is what it is all about. You have bought the big lie—and it is 50 million too late.  I encourage you to figure this up: 50,000,000 @ 800$/ per?

I will save you the calculating time:  $40,000,000,000.00

Freedom without constraints will lead a person to the most debased of acts. For example: The consumption of scarce resources; namely aborted babies for profit.

What will you do about it? I am contemplating this question myself.

Peter and How Jesus recalibrated his view of reality and fishing.

Have you ever had your idea about reality recalibrated?  You might say, “Yeah, I used to be an Atlanta Braves fan, until they traded everyone away and started losing.”  Good point, but this is not what I am talking about. I do not mean to be persuaded as to another point of view because circumstances change or because new evidence is provided. What I mean instead is, that which was once was reality ceases to be.  It gives way to a new (real) reality that causes an unstoppable and utterly complete paradigm shift.

I have often heard about people who have been trapped in blizzards and were forced into using a pocket knife to sever a trapped leg out from under a boulder so that they could get to shelter. The reality of life becomes suddenly more important than the need for a leg.   Their idea of pain is recalibrated.   I have heard about POW’s who begin to view torture as normal (because they know that pain is an indicator that they are alive), or prisoners in Auschwitz engaging in activities that would seem gross and inhumane in order to survive. See the story of Roman Frister or Victor Frankl for more on that.

What if I were to tell you that our idea about what is the “good” can be recalibrated by a fresh glimpse of reality? It is even more than that. It isn’t only that our idea about what the “good” changes (that places too much importance on our ability to think); in reality, that which is the good itself completely changes around us.

Have you ever learned a new word, or come across a fact that you previously didn’t know? Have you noticed that when this happened, all of a sudden you started hearing that word used in conversations, you started seeing it in books, or that fact that you just learned suddenly shows up in every article you read? It isn’t that those things have just come to light. It isn’t that because you learned them, all of a sudden they exist. In truth, it is because they exist—and because they have been imparted in you that now you notice things around you that you didn’t notice before. You are different.

Do you know the story about the calling of Simon Peter?  If you don’t, there is no better time to brush up on it than now!  The story is located in Luke 5:1-11 and it is captivating.

Done reading it? Short and potent, huh?

To begin, this story doesn’t take place in a synagogue, nor does it involve a hushed crowed listening to an intellectually learned and eloquent disquisition on a Psalm.  Instead, a crowd has gathered to hear Jesus (a traveling teacher) teach on a smelly boat landing—with fisherman nearby (no doubt smelly)—who are disgruntled (probably using the language or sailors) and cleaning their nets after a night without a catch.

The first glimpse of reality:  Jesus walks into a world of people rather than summoning them to step out of their world and come to him. We often think that God is calling us to leave the pull of earth’s gravity and meet him somewhere in the sky. This couldn’t be further from the truth.  If we all lived in California and Heaven was located in Hawaii; and all we had to do to get there was swim the whole way, how many of us would make it?  There would be some who would drown nearly as soon as they started.  Some would drown a hundred feet in.  Some would make it a mile.  The triathalets might make it several miles.  But the point is, we would all drown.  Unless Hawaii was moved closer or we were carried to Hawaii, none woud make it.  God did this for us.

God became a man. He came to us. There is no way we can go to Him. The last folks who tried by way of a huge tower were stopped dead in their tracks. They got pretty high, but God still “came down” and stifled them. We don’t have the ability to climb that high.

So—the boys (professional fisherman—serious anglers) have just returned from a night of fishing—they caught nothing.  While they are maintaining their gear, and probably complaining, Jesus hops onto the boat belonging to one of the fishermen, Peter.  He tells Peter to take the boat out to the deep water and to lower the nets.  So, let us set the scene:  Peter is an expert fisherman and Jesus is a traveling preacher (who has probably never fished in his life) who has jumped on a fishing boat (without so much as an “excuse me but I’m going to be joining you”), and is now giving a trained angler instruction on how to fish.  Imagine for a moment a professor of postmodern Spanish History at some Ivy League school walking into an auto garage and telling the mechanics to let him look over the engine.

Now—Jesus doesn’t get right to it—telling Peter how much his life is lacking because Christ isn’t in it—No.  Instead, he plays up to Peter’s greatest strength—fishing.  Jesus basically jumps in the boat and says, “Bro, I need your help!  Please help me!”  Now this is realistic.  I am sure Peter’s nautical abilities have been relied upon before.  People know he is an expert on the water, and an expert at catching fish. In this case, Jesus needs a platform from which to teach and he needs a source of amplification.  He needs Peter, because he cannot simply preach from a drifting boat.  He needs Peter to steady the vessel so he can effectively teach from a stationary position.  He also intends to use the natural sound carrying properties of the water as a natural amplification device.  This is all very realistic.  It shouldn’t surprise us that Jesus relies on humans for help.   If you remember simple pleas for help from Jesus like, “Give me a drink,” then you will see this request as the same.  Often times, Jesus puts people through tests.

What I find interesting is that Jesus isn’t really “teaching.”  He is fishing.  He is fishing from a fisherman’s boat, with a fisherman, but he isn’t after fish.  He is after the fisherman, himself!  He is fishing in a fishing boat to catch a fisherman. In Peter’s world, when he catches fish, the fish die in the process.  In Jesus’ world, when he catches fish, they begin to live.  This story converges two different realities of fishing.

Reality is about to be changed.

Peter was no doubt very adept in the water.  For this reason, he was probably able to put his boat steering skills on autopilot and listen to the teaching of Jesus. He had no choice—and he was helping!

I am reminded of a guy who was a skeptic who started attending this youth group. They decided to take a retreat, but because they lived in a country in which Christianity was illegal, they had to figure out a way to get to the camp which was a few kilometers away and would have police all along the route. The skeptic, however, had powerful parents. The mom actually once dated the chief of police. She phoned this man and said, “Do you remember me?” He replied in the affirmative and asked what he could do for her. He granted them the request to go. They also needed the permission from the Minister of Interior. It just so happened that his mother knew the minister of interior. With a second phone call the trip was set. The young man actually went with the camp organizers three days in advance to set the camp up. He helped set up the living quarters, the teaching areas, and the recreation activities. He was saved on the second day of the camp. You could say he played a role in planning, organizing, and executing his own conversion. Peter is pretty close here!

Now, when the sermon is over, we expect Jesus to thank Peter for his services and to be taken back to shore and to go on his way.  This would be reality.  Instead, this land-loving carpenter gives orders to the professional fisherman concerning how and where to catch fish. This is a new reality.  It is also a test.

Jesus commands him to “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”  Now, let us be honest: this may be the most absurd suggestion ever given to a fisherman.   There is only one right response to such a situation:  “Get off of my boat you moron!”  After all, Peter knows that the fish they are after in Sea of Galilee do not live in the deep water, but rather, in the shallower, more oxygenated areas near the mouths of streams.  This is how they stay alive (eating the bait fish entering from the streams).  Secondly, it is daytime.  The fish they are after congregate under the rocks during the day.  They are night feeders.  If you go to the Sea of Galilee today, you will see the fishermen fishing at night.  Not the day.  William M. Christie notes,

“We have seen shoals at ‘Ain barideh and ‘Ain et-Tabigha so great as to cover an acre of the surface, and so compact together that one could scarcely throw a stone without striking several.  In such cases the hand-net is thrown out with a whirl.  It sinks down in a circle, enclosing a multitude, and these are then gathered in by the hand, while the net lies at the bottom.”

This may sound foreign but it isn’t.  Go to YouTube and type in, “cast net for mullet” and see that it happens TODAY in the South.  In fact, I learned to fish using a cast net. I once heard a man say, give a young man a cast net and he will never starve. That is great wisdom.

Now—The Sea of Galilee drops off into deep water very close the shoreline, and is dangerous in many areas for swimming.  Casting for fish is either done by boat or—for more experienced fishermen, standing in the water.  The fisherman in this lake know that successful fishing takes place at night.  The very idea that a preacher would suggest dropping the nets in the day is bordering on the absurd.  Now, Peter isn’t a teacher.  He knows very well that he cannot enter into the debates about the law or the finer points of the Sabbath—but he does know a thing or two about fishing.  He replies to this request with sarcasm:

“Teacher!  We toiled all night and took nothing!  But at your word, I will let down the nets.”

Let me do my best to paraphrase this exchange:  “Listen teacher, me and my boys are pros.  We know were the fish feed—it’s along the shore and at night.  In fact, we were out there all night and didn’t catch a darn thing.  We are tired, and I have stayed awake much longer than I would have liked—helping YOU—serving YOU—ever since you hijacked my boat.  You rabbis think you know everything and now you think you can hop on my boat, preach to a bunch of peasants, and then tell me where to tell me to fish?  Very well!   We will go do it.  Let’s just see who knows about fishing!”  It reminds of the scene in Jaws where the salty sea captain Quint, tells the college trained rich boy, Matt Hooper, “It proves one thing Mr. Hooper:  That you college boys don’t have the education enough to admit when you’re wrong!”

In fact, when Peter calls Jesus, “Teacher,” the word used is “epistates” which not only can mean teacher but more accurately, “boss,” or “chief.”  It is a term of sarcasm.  So, tired and weary—and annoyed—Peter and his team set out to fish the deep water in the daytime.

But something happens. Reality strikes.  They catch a great wealth of fish.

He hauls in a large catch.  The nets break the catch is so heavy.  He signals over for help and both his boat, and the boat of the helpers become so full, they both begin to sink.  This is worth commenting on.  He signals rather than calling for help.  Just as we saw Jesus use the sound carrying characteristics of water, Peter doesn’t want to inform EVERYBODY about the fish.  Financial secrets must be kept! This is his livelihood. If you were a beggar and lived among other beggars and you found a supply of food, would you tell everyone where it was at? This is a question worth pondering.

He waves them over discretely.  Jesus is watching this behavior as well.

This next part is the gem of the story:  You see, Jesus has approached Peter at the point of his greatest strength:  fishing.  But Peter isn’t shocked at the catch—at least not for long.  What shocks him is that this person, Jesus, has obviously made a choice between money and something else.  Here is a man who could be the best fisherman in the world.  He has caused Peter to catch an abundance of fish—when the fish weren’t supposed to be there.  The thing is, Jesus doesn’t want it.  He doesn’t care about the fish—instead he is wandering around the Sea of Galilee teaching the crowds for free. He is interested in something else.

For the first time in his life, Peter has met someone who is driven by something greater than mammon.  Could you imagine meeting someone who could shoot 10 under par—every round they played—at any golf course in the world—giving that up so that they could wander around rural driving ranges and giving free talks on a second birth?  All night, Peter and crew work tirelessly to catch fish—but this man—says, “drop the nets,” they catch the motherload—and he isn’t cashing in? He is more interested in people.

Peter knew that anyone with this knowledge of fishing could be rich instantly.  So, why was Jesus, a poor traveling teacher—traveling around teaching people for nothing?  What could possibly be worth more than 2 boats full of fish? Like Isaiah, Peter knows instantly that he is in the presence of someone great and that he is unclean. Reality strikes.  His vocabulary changes.  Where once he called Jesus, “epistates” or “boss,” he now calls him “kyrios” or Lord.  “Teacher” opens the first speech, and this one closes with “Lord.”

Oh, what a little reality will do.

He begins his repentance by asking Jesus to get away from him because he is unclean.  Jesus dismisses this.  Jesus wants to recalibrate Peter’s understanding of reality.  You see, when Peter uses his sarcasm, rather than getting upset, Jesus reprocesses his anger into grace.  Peter is not blind to this.  He has insulted someone holy.  Peter is now acting as if he were a leper in the presence of a healthy man. He thinks that his uncleanness can defile Jesus.  But unfortunatley for Peter, he has never met the giver of life.  He is about to have his world rocked.  In reality, it isn’t that Peter’s sin can defile Jesus; but rather, that Jesus (the Good) can offer Peter the gift of righteousness. Peter’s sin cannot infect Jesus, but Jesus can infect Peter with the Holy Spirit—and as a result, cure Peter’s illness. Reality.

The Son of God did not come to make men good.  The Son of God came to give men life.

Jesus dismisses Peter’s concerns.  He assures him that he will still use his fishing skills, but for a different type of catch.  He was now to enter the business of catching people.  No longer will he catch things that die.  He will catch things and Jesus will give them life.

From this very boat, Jesus caught people from the shore and gave them life—including Peter!

Now, he is offering this to Peter. Reality has changed.

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