Category Archives: Culture Conflict

Does Anyone Meet the Standard?

Be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.   Titus 3:1-2 ESV

This quotation was selected from one day’s text in a series of devotions my husband and I are reading together during Lent. Both he and I noticed that these verses and others in the third chapter of Titus remind us of the social unrest in our country these days.

In fact, the first thing I thought as I read the admonition to “avoid quarreling,” was that it is almost impossible to do so. A simple “How are you?” elicits a response that includes a reference to the latest political controversy, and very soon every conversation is either dissecting the quarrels of others or setting up a new quarrel.

In a country where universal suffrage makes every citizen a part of the government, it is natural and right that citizens should discuss what is happening in the three branches of government. However, as the apostle Paul points out in the book of Titus and elsewhere, Christians, no matter their opinion of the government, have an obligation to relate to other citizens with the respect, love, and grace they are to show to every human being. Our political opinions do not entitle Christ’s followers to become bellicose and vicious toward political opponents, even if the opponent advocates the end of religious liberty for Christians.

It is important to recognize that when Paul wrote his letters, the recipients of the letters lived in the Roman Empire. Paul himself was a Roman citizen, and many of the people who read his letters were Roman citizens as well. Nevertheless, citizen or not, Paul’s guidance for personal behavior was the same: “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” It is important to remember that Roman soldiers were the appointed executioners who nailed Jesus to the cross. Roman emperors expected to be worshiped as gods. Roman government had a history of holding up a high moral standard for public view while in fact it was venal and corrupt to its core, and American citizens might say that our government is the same way.

When I read this text, I was struck by the image of our daily news and videos, still shots, and audio clips that record people speaking evil of one another, quarreling viciously, engaging in riots that destroy property, and showing no courtesy whatsoever to anyone that disagrees with them. Recordings of the public figures must be edited to remove language even today’s culture rejects. Members of Congress cannot find it in their hearts to show respect for a sitting president or a soldier’s widow. Public discourse is so ugly and venomous that few people even want to engage in it. I have had the distinctly distasteful experience of being called names and accused of a vile agenda for holding traditional views of human sexuality, marriage, freedom of speech, and religious liberty. I don’t know anyone who has escaped unscathed if he or she accepts the civic responsibility of the electorate to engage in public discussion of the ideas that shape the creation, administration, and adjudication of law.  Advocates of ideas almost routinely turn from discussion of the ideas to assault on the opposing advocates. It is very hard to remain focused on an idea when one is under personal attack.

How shall a person who actually believes and tries to live by Biblical teaching participate in the forum of ideas?

There are a few good models, but to name them has huge potential to do what happens so frequently in today’s so-called discussions. Instead of seeing the named individuals as models of well-disciplined public discourse, the individuals are flayed and labelled like zoological specimens for their stances on the political spectrum.

I will simply say that while it is hard to find someone in public life whose speech and behavior model the teachings of Paul’s writings, it is not unheard of to see samples we could use for inspiration. Perhaps, the best way to address the problem is to ask you, the reader, to tell me who you see in public life who engages in discussion of the tax code, health insurance, immigration or international trade while speaking evil of no man, avoiding quarrels, being gentle and showing courtesy to all. Please respond in the comments with the names of people you admire for their abilities to show us all the right way to engage in public discourse.

 

Advertisements

Define Feminism

If feminism actually is what a recent article in Slate says it is, then no woman in her right mind is a feminist. Slate just defined the feminist movement in such a way as to clearly exclude all real women.

This article utterly, but willfully, misses the point of pro-life advocacy. Slate says that “anti-abortion” advocates (who are truly advocates for life, but Slate scorns the whole idea that pregnancy is about life) want to push women around. Slate accuses pro-life advocates of wanting to make women submit to the will of pro-life advocates. Slate forgets that people who advocate for life rather than death accept that there is some higher value than self.  Some would say it is God. Some would say it is simply life. They all agree that the life of one human being does not have more value than another; hence, the mother’s convenience does not justify the murder of her inconvenient baby.  All agree that when anyone makes a moral choice on the sole basis that it suits self, that choice is morally bankrupt.

On what basis do I draw this conclision?
The closing paragraph of Slate’s article says:
“There’s one question in the Marist/Knights of Columbus poll that pulls back the veil on any dubious claims that anti-abortion activists are true feminists: “In the long run, do you believe having an abortion improves a woman’s life or in the long run do you believe abortion does more harm than good to a woman?” The only opinion that matters in this scenario is not the person taking the poll or the legislator writing some new law. It’s the woman seeking the abortion. Women’s self-determination—that’s what abortion restrictions take away. It’s also what feminism is all about.”

The term “Women’s self-determination” appropriates a term (self-determination) that is commonly used in discussions about the universal human right to choose the form of government. That kind of self-determination is subject to the vote. Everyone in the affected group gets a vote and the majority rules.

Feminism, according to Slate, believes that a woman’s right to “self-determination” means that she has the right to deny the existence of another human being, despite ample evidence to the contrary,  in order to justify the eradication of that human being, as if that human being were nothing more than a wart on her finger. For abortion advocates to say that the right to abortion exists because of a woman’s right to “self-determination” requires a prior determination: that woman must first determine that even though she is pregnant, she is not carrying a human being in her uterus. It only takes a very little common sense to refute that logical error, but if common sense seems unsatisfying to the intellect, the science that drives the existence of fertility clinics refutes it.

Any human being who commits murder must first conclude that the person who must die deserves to die. Abortion advocates go a step further and lie to themselves, so they won’t feel a thing when a baby in the uterus begins to struggle for his or her life. Abortion advocates willfully pretend that the baby in utero is an insensate clump of cells. To every advocate for abortion on demand, I cry out for the babies. They are real human beings. Each has a right to life just as you do. When somebody tries to kill them, they fight back. They feel pain. They want to live.  You can lie to yourself if you wish, but you will always know that it is a lie.

One wonders where that will for self-determination was when the woman engaged in sexual intercourse. This act is specifically designed by God to produce human beings. Its purpose is the reproduction of human beings. Knowing this fact, why is it not an act of feminism to self-determine that a woman will not engage in an act that will very likely result in the creation of a human being in her uterus? If it is her body and her choice, then why isn’t it her choice to restrain her body from sexual intercourse if she does not want to be pregnant?

If feminism is what Slate says it is, feminism is poison. A real woman treasures the unique role of being a woman, the role of nourishing and protecting unborn life, the role only women can accept. A real woman recognizes that engaging in intercourse always includes a degree of probability that she will become pregnant, and therefore, a real woman will self-determine to reject intercourse if she does not want the outcome of pregnancy. If Slate’s definition of feminism is right, then no real woman is a feminist, because real women protect life.

More Than Survival

I just finished reading a long essay by a man who believes that everyone should acquire the knowledge that enabled people to survive and thrive before electronic technology existed. I agree. Electronics are seriously vulnerable, but the ways of pre-electronic society can and will enable a good life to anyone. God’s earth will still be here, even after the EMP or a hurricane or a world war.

People in today’s world need another “tool” in their “survival kit,” too. They need faith in Christ who redeemed humankind and all creation when he died and rose again.

Many people believe that it is “all up to me” and there is no help other than their own wits and strength. Self-sufficiency is an important and valuable character trait that keeps us from being needy and dependent on our fellow man and on government, but it is not enough to give us real health and long life. Only faith in Christ and a life lived in relationship with him will enable us to thrive in utterly destructive circumstances.

The first principle of a successful life before, during, or after disaster is to put all your hope in God alone.

Contemporary culture rejects the existence of God, and that stance means that one must be completely self-sufficient. God cannot help a person who denies his existence. God sends rain on the believers and the unbelievers alike, but only believers see God’s hand at work in the blessing of the rain. Unbelievers see a water control problem that they must fix. Unbelievers see no blessing in the seeming randomness of the rain, or in the gradual increase in the size of a desert, or in the transitions of natural climate change. Unbelievers see Inequality in the difference in rainfall, paychecks, or intellectual gifts. Unbelievers think that only equal pay, equal rain, and equal intellect is equality, and therefore unbelievers are always at war with God’s diversity and inclusiveness. God loves all people equally, but his gifts are distributed according to his perfect plan, not according to the ability of humans to measure equality.

To put your hope in God alone is to accept his work and his administration without fear. If you hope in God alone, for example, then when voters choose a tyrannical president as wicked and faithless as the ancient king Ahab, you do not lose faith in God. You recognize that a purpose and plan bigger than yourself is at work. When that godless tyrant begins to disassemble legal and moral structures that were God’s gifts delivered through leaders obedient to God’s direction, you recognize God’s judgment on people who chose the tyrant who hands out bread and circuses rather than a Godly leader who focuses on protecting opportunity for all. God has not stopped caring about the nation; the nation has stopped caring about God.

If you put your hope in God alone, then you trust God’s guidance and care for the nation and for you as an individual. You don’t despair when God’s will for the nation results in pain for you; rather, you give thanks to God for the privilege of suffering for His Name’s sake, in the same way the disciples suffered from human evil: “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”  (Acts 6:41)

This is why Christians who mourn the collapse of Constitutional government and the moral rot perpetuated by government mandate in public schools do not, nevertheless, despair. The church, Christ’s body on earth, was not made for the easy times; it was born of inhuman suffering and it thrives in the most inhospitable times and places.

Christians thrive and bear the sweetest fruit when nourished by being like Christ—despised and rejected by men.

It is wise for Christians to prepare for disasters. A wise person will be ready for war, civil unrest, hurricanes, or whatever hard times he can foresee. However, all that common sense wisdom can be made worthless by disasters nobody could have foreseen. When that happens, it is good to be able to testify with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) Only those who put all their hope in God alone will thrive in times like that.

Christians Can Officially Stop Worrying About Gay Marriage

When the Supreme Court’s decision in the case referred to as Obergfell was published, confessing Christians were outraged. Conservative voters were outraged, too. There were even people who might otherwise have been classified as progressive or neutral or independent who also objected. American citizens objected for various reasons, most of which centered on the consequences they feared. A ruling that created a whole new definition of marriage upset many people.

One of the reasons people objected to the use of the word marriage for a union of two people of the same sex is that the human race has never before defined marriage that way. No matter how primitive a culture is, the union of two people of the same gender has never before been called a marriage. Archeological and anthropological studies reveal that every human culture to date has relied on a marriage bond between a man and a woman as a pillar of the society. It makes sense; only that union can produce children, and most cultures did not want to go the way of the Shakers. There has never been any evidence of any past culture where the union of two people of the same gender was called marriage. Redefining the word marriage completely redefines human culture.

Of course, everyone who objects to such a transformative redefinition of the culture expects that there will be consequences. Some have predicted that there would be revolution, actual mortal combat, perhaps as violent as the one in 1776. Others have suggested that the country would be divided again, with some states seceding from a union that allows such a dramatic redefinition of marriage and human culture.

Some have also predicted that a culture that allowed same-sex unions to be considered equivalent to the marriage of two people of opposite sexes would immediately legitimize pedophilia. In their eyes, the destruction of any moral pillar might be considered to delegitimize all the others. Some people proclaimed that God would punish a nation that legitimized the whole notion of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Some even predicted that that a culture which allowed a same-sex union to be called a marriage would ultimately outlaw all religious behavior. The advocates of same-sex marriage currently enjoy themselves by making fun of such predictions and scoffing at the very idea. They particularly enjoy belittling Christians who trust biblical teaching and try to live by it. The Bible does not equivocate on the subject of homosexuality; in the Bible, such behavior is a sin.

It is fairly easy to see that so far, there has been no revolutionary war,  and no states have seceded. Yet even if one crosses revolution and secession off the list of the consequences of Obergfell, there actually do appear to be consequences. If one allows the full scope of all various definitions of the word revolution, then it begins to appear that there is, indeed, a revolution and that a country utterly unlike the United States of America is being created by this revolution.
Start with the idea that pedophilia will be normalized and legitimized. While the support for such behavior is far from being widespread in the country, the Obergfell decision makes it easier for people to advocate any sexual perversion whatsoever. If one deviant sexual behavior is suddenly declared to be normal, on what basis is any other sexual behavior considered to be deviant? If one deviant behavior can be legitimized as a cure for loneliness, then what others can be excluded? Where is the standard by which sexual behavior is evaluated? Who gets to say what is normal and what is abnormal? On what basis do you tell anyone that sexual behavior of any kind between any two people, or even between people and animals, is abnormal? Deviant? Perverted? When the standards fall, then it becomes difficult to tell pedophiles that they are sick and need help.

As for the prediction that  God will mete out punishment, people who doubt God’s existence certainly would not recognize or acknowledge God’s punishment even if they saw it with their own eyes, yet these are the people who presume to tell us that God is not punishing homosexual behavior, same-sex couples who marry, or anything else, for that matter. Since God does not always make public announcements of his punishments or “sign” his work, it is pretty silly for these people to declare that God is not punishing anyone. How would they know? If they saw it, would they acknowledge it?

As for the prophecy that as a consequence of gay marriage, the nation would outlaw religious belief, the fact is that animosity toward people of faith, no matter what faith they hold, is at an all-time high for the USA. Obergfell may not be solely responsible for this state of affairs, but it is certainly part of the climate that energizes such an attitude. A chaplain for veterans is told that even he may not give a patient in a VA hospital a Bible. A school administrator is told that there will be no praying during commencement exercises at graduation. A football player is publicly maligned for kneeling in a prayer of thanks after he makes a fabulous play. Employees of a restaurant are told not to say, “Merry Christmas” even if customers say those words to them. Children in the school lunch room are reprimanded by teachers if they pray over their food. Recipients of federal grants are informed that they may not use grant money to fund “inherently religious activities,” such as “worship,” “religious education,” or “proselytizing.” Since all the terms presented in quotation marks are subject to a wide variety of definitions, depending on who creates the definitions, the scope of forbidden activity is quite uncertain and subject to a great deal of dispute. Suppression of and scorn for words and deeds consistent with a life lived in submission to God and his authority is becoming common. Obergfell is certainly part of the social climate that is leading many people to declare that people who live according to biblical teachings are extreme.

For example, when Indiana tried to pass a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, social activists declared that to allow a Christian the religious liberty to refuse business that conflicts with his Christian principles is to allow the Christian to discriminate while pretending to be a faithful Christian. People who are not Christians declare that a Christian baker is obligated by US law to bake a cake and prepare it to be served at a wedding of two people of the same gender, no matter what his religious convictions are.

People who are not Christians declare that no Christian principle that conflicts with the objectives of their social advocacy can be permitted, because to permit it is to permit discrimination; this is another example of a term whose definition is being changed in such a way as to limit the exercise of Christian faith. Those who interpret the “free exercise” clause as a notion that encourages discrimination believe that they must suppress religious liberty in order to allow progressive social goals to evolve. Social activists reject the most clear meaning of the First Amendment, which recognizes that Christians submit to God as a higher authority than the social goals of society.  Obergfell is just one example of a way in which the culture suppresses religious liberty, but the same court that issued Obergfell is unlikely to issue any future rulings that strike it down or lessen its impact. In the Obergfell decision, social activists have found a weapon to begin to degrade the entire concept of religious liberty, a right granted to human beings by God that encourages human beings to put God ahead of the state. Social activists consider the state to be the source of all rights, and they define rights as privileges granted by the state, not powers invested in human beings at the moment of creation–people who reject the idea that each person is created by God naturally reject God as the source of human rights.

Gay marriage by itself does not cause pedophilia, God’s punishment, or the end of religious liberty. However, the path of social advocacy, culture change and government rulings has been inexorably modified by Obergfell, and it is quite reasonable to assume that if the nation as a whole chooses to do things and promote behaviors that God forbids, he will allow or perhaps orchestrate consequences that people will not think are pleasant. The book of Revelation speaks metaphorically, but the metaphor tells us that when God begins to react to what people do, people will hate and fear his actions so much that they would prefer burial under a rockslide to living in the presence of Almighty God.

There are social and political activists who utterly scorn all the statements by Christians who say that our country is sinking deeper and deeper into sinful attitudes and behaviors. They are willing to scorn God, because they utterly scorn the Bible and everything it stands for. As a person who believes that the Bible is God’s Word to human beings, intended to be our guide for faith and life, I believe that while revolution and secession may not happen to our country as a direct consequence of Obergfell, it is completely obvious that pedophilia, God’s punishment, and the suppression of religious liberty is happening already. There is a cultural revolution in place, and many people whose principles collide violently with the momentum of the revolution may very well look for ways to “secede” in some way or other from an immoral, godless culture.

What is the impact of Gay Marriage? The mindset that allows and promotes gay marriage is destroying the culture. Children’s minds are being poisoned by aggressive force-feeding of secularism in schools. Already children 10-20 have been indoctrinated in school to believe that homosexuality is only one of many “normal” variations in sexual behavior. They believe that cohabitation instead of marriage is normal. They believe that marriage is unnecessary. They believe that the government, not the parents, should set the moral climate. These things did not begin with gay marriage, and the moral disintegration does not end with gay marriage.

Those who doubt that God will punish the nation for going along with gay marriage should remember that the Israelites exhibited the same disregard for God that advocates of gay marriage exhibit. As a consequence, the stone on which God’s finger had written his commandments was ground to dust, thrown in the water, and forced down the throats of the Israelites. That story is a metaphor. God’s punishment will fall on the nation that flouts the law of God. Christians who are obedient to God can stop worrying about the consequences of same-sex marriage, but those who advocate and promote it still have a lot to worry about.

You Can’t Share God’s Love With a Bigot

A distressing and especially malicious element in public discourse these days is the widespread practice of labelling people instead of discussing the issues. Let anyone betray his or her belief that homosexual behavior is defined as sin in the Bible, and immediately that person is labelled a homophobe. If someone expresses an objection to calling the union of two homosexuals a marriage, that person is labelled a bigot. If anyone suggests that every person’s life is valuable, regardless of color, that person is labelled a racist. As soon as the label is applied, the discussion ends, because calling people names shuts down every possibility that multiple viewpoints may be considered.

This practice is extremely detrimental to the citizens who want to use the right of free speech to discuss touchy topics. There are a lot of topics that should be discussed, but too much of the conversation is stifled when one side or the other begins to apply labels instead of looking at the information and various viewpoints.

It must absolutely be said that people who proclaim themselves as progressive or freethinker are no less likely to engage in this practice than someone who claims the name of conservative or Christian fundamentalist. Name-calling abounds. And wherever you find name-calling you do not find any fruitful conversations. Instead there is often competition to see who runs out of pejorative labels first. That person must slink off the field of verbal combat in disgrace, carrying the last label thrown at him with shame-faced despair, muttering diatribes and vitriol that don’t quite carry the punch of a widely-ratified insult such as islamophobe.

Our nation is being impoverished and starved by the dearth of real political conversation. It may lead to the end of the USA as it was once known. I don’t doubt there will be a country called United States of America a hundred years hence, but it will no more resemble the country we enjoy today than today’s Italy resembles the Roman Empire.

I don’t bring up this subject to beat on people who disagree with me. They have their names for me and my viewpoints, and I recognize that they take comfort from using those names. It makes them feel good about themselves. The ugly names apply to me, and in their minds, by sticking me with the labels, they look better themselves. I am bringing up the subject, however, because some people whose honest views I share have begun to use those ugly, vicious labels themselves.

Some will say that the people who promote abortion, for example, are the real racists, because more black babies than white are aborted annually. They believe that they are making a point that should be considered thoughtfully by the people who have been calling them racists for saying that all lives matter. They are not making any point at all. The person who is zinged with one of these ugly labels does not respond to the logic that led to the use of the label. The wounded party wants to rip that barb out of his flesh and plunge a spear into the enemy before him. He does not want to discuss with his enemy the rules of engagement or the topics in the declaration of war. Name-calling does not make logical points; it prevents any logical points from being discussed.

This is why I say, “You can’t share God’s love with a bigot.” You may be ever so correct in your analysis of the issues and positions when you call your honorable opponent in the conversation a bigot, but as soon as you apply that label, the issues and positions might as well not exist. That label is a personal assault, and the injured party will absolutely respond to both the pain and the anger such an assault creates. If you are a Christian who wants to discuss when human life begins with an abortion advocate, you may be semantically correct to call him a bigot, but you will be committing a serious rhetorical blunder. After you have used that word, you will not be able to say with any credibility, “God loves you.”

What is it that we all want to accomplish when we enter into these discussions, conversations, and shouting matches? I can only speak for myself. I want people to read or hear my words and recognize that I am speaking truth without malice. I may be advocating on behalf of injured parties such as aborted babies, starving families or even the fabric of our culture, but I always want to speak with words that do not have built-in barbs. I really want the points I make to be true to the teachings of Jesus, and I want Jesus to shine through my words. I want the truth, not the insult, to prick the hearts of my opponents.

That is why you may sometimes detect that I have taken a rather convoluted route to get to the truth. I want to sidestep those moments that might lead to name-calling. I never want to weaken or avoid the truth, but I may want to apply it in small bursts rather than in a salvo. I always fear that somehow one of those ugly words will break out despite my best efforts. If it comes my way, I hope to deflect it with words of truth.

My only source of courage and strength in such difficult conversations is prayer. When I know that such a conversation is coming up, I pray about it ahead of time. If the discussion takes place online, I pray as I go, and likewise with unexpected interactions. I believe that is how Paul always had such good answers when he was challenged. I believe it is the reason he wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 that we should “pray without ceasing.”

I am no master of the art of argumentation. (Keep in mind that argumentation is very different from squabbling.) I do think that Carl Medearis is a great model for Christians engaged in the conversations that shape the culture conflict. Medearis has spent his life speaking truth to Muslims, and he has learned a great deal that is valuable to any Christian who wants to speak words of grace, seasoned with salt, whether engaged in advocacy or just sharing the good news. I recommend his book Speaking of Jesus: The art of non-evangelism. I have only just begun reading it, and already I recognize that it is a good guide to help anyone with the problem I am discussing here.

Any Christian who chooses to speak up rather than sit on the sidelines and let the deluge of secularism wipe out religious liberty and public morality will face the challenge to avoid name-calling. It is tough. Because we are human, the battle with our cultural adversaries is predictably accompanied by a battle with our emotions. It is not easy to love someone who readily abandons the battle of ideas and begins to battle with insults, but we must bathe all such conversations in prayer. It is impossible to convince someone you love him and speak as the ambassador of a loving Christ if you have just called him a bigot.

no-fear-in-love-1-john-4-18

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Watch for the release of Thrive! Live Christian in a Hostile World, planned for release in the autumn of 2016