Category Archives: Religion in the Culture

How Do We Begin?

Do you pray for America? Do you want your country to enjoy the blessings of liberty and God’s peace across the fruited plain? Where do you begin with your prayers?

Click here for six ways to pray for America. This is a good place to begin.

If you want to join others in praying for America each Thursday at noon, go here to sign up. After you register, you will receive a confirmation email. Then you will receive an email with the call-in phone number, the conference code, and some suggested prayer points.

On Thursday, at noon, dial the call-in number, enter the conference code, and join others in prayer for our nation. It is wonderful to join with others and know that many people share your concerns, but if you are unable to join the call, pray wherever you are, whenever you can.

Every time and every place is a good time and place to Pray for America.

Sign up today.

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

Let the Dead Bury Their Dead

I am tired of it!

What am I tired of? I am tired of being told that I must repent, because people in my ancestry, even people who were not in my ancestry, engaged in behaviors and lifestyles of which I have never been part. The people at fault were white, or Christian, or lived in stable homes or enjoyed a moderate but reliable income. Or they owned slaves in the southern tier of states in the USA.

I have never owned slaves.

I have never insulted a person whose skin was a different color from mine.

I have never tortured anyone.

I have never held a child in bondage.

I have never pushed past anyone in line.

I have never belittled people of other ethnic origins than my own.

I have never lied or used special influence to obtain a job.

I can think of so many things that I never did, things for which I have no responsibility and no culpability, things which I abhor today, which I have always abhorred, which I always will abhor, for which somebody wants me to confess and apologize, repent and apologize. I am a truly sinful human being, enslaved by my sinful human nature and the deliberate work of Satan to lead me into ever greater sin, but I am not guilty of these social crimes for which many social activists and many marshmallow Christians demand that I confess, repent, apologize and do penance.

What if I were the descendant of a slave? What can it possibly mean for someone who never hurt me to apologize for his ancestors hurting my ancestors? What is the point? Why do I care? I might be comforted to hear that this person thinks those things were wrong and should not have been done, but why should I hold this person responsible for something he did not do, and furthermore, the person who did this terrible thing did not do it to me, but rather to people long dead? Of what benefit is his statement? Why would I even bring it up? The only reason for such an attitude would be to enjoy a power trip to put someone in “his place.” Such an attitude says that I don’t really want an apology; I want revenge, even though the person against whom I want revenge is dead. I want his descendants and the descendants of his descendants to pay for wrongs done to people of whom I am the descendant of descendants.

It is time for this stuff to stop. When Jesus taught us to pray, he included this petition: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

He did not say, “Be sure that you hold people responsible because their ancestors hurt your great-great-grandmother whom you have never even met.” Blaise Pascal wrote about a culture in his day that contorted logic and biblical teaching in such a way as to promote the quest for vengeance, and it appears that many social activists today have absorbed the very concepts he deplored. There is no justification for the constant focus taking offense. It is time for us to stop taking offense and start learning to love our neighbors and act like adults. It is time for us to stop trying to get revenge for ancient wrongs through surrogates for both the offender and the offended.

In the eyes of Jesus, even if I were a current slaveowner and you were the slave, it would be your responsibility to forgive me and to pray for my blessing. In the eyes of Jesus, the wronged person is the one who has an assignment. He showed us how that works by praying forgiveness for those who were nailing him to a cross.

As for me, if I were a current slaveowner, God would be reminding me in my heart every day that I was doing wrong. I might ignore him, but I would be wrong. Under those circumstances, I would owe my slaves an apology, a confession of my sin, and my humble amendment of life by manumitting them and providing them with some means to start living free. If I were a current slaveowner, that is what I ought to do.

I don’t own any slaves.

I have never owned any slaves.

No member of my family as far back as anyone knows ever owned any slaves. To my knowledge, nobody in my family ever even approved of slavery. Every family member I have ever met abhors that idea as much as I do. Therefore, I don’t even have any known ancestor in whose stead I should apologize to the descendant of any slave.

I am sorry that our ancestors were sinful human beings. Every single one of them. Both our black ancestors and our white ancestors, as well as those of any other color, were sinful human beings. They are were human. They all were sinful. And they all did bad things to one another. Some of my ancestors may actually have hurt some of your ancestors, but neither you nor I was there, and we do not need to carry on about it anymore. It isn’t even about forgiveness. I can’t forgive what your ancestors did to my ancestors, but I can let it go and not worry about it. I can learn from the stories and resolve to be a better person than that. The fact that my ancestors and your ancestors did wrong is just a fact about history. They may even have done wrong to one another. It is highly likely that somewhere in the ancient human story one of my ancestors hurt one of yours, and vice versa. It no longer matters. Demanding revenge and apologies and reparations is about ancient wrongs that are over and done with. Jesus teaches us to forgive people who wrong us, and never anywhere does he condone the idea of taking offense at people for things their ancestors may have done to your ancestors.

I am sure that people whose ancestors were slaves in the USA have a lot of pain in their family histories. I grieve with them for that pain. But I do not accept any responsibility for it, because I did not do it. I will not do it. I am not guilty, and I refuse to pretend that I feel guilty.

My mother just might have understood what the uproar is about. My mother married my dad at the age of 18. Her big brother was my dad’s best friend, and her brother brought his best friend home for a visit. One thing led to another, and my mom and dad got married. Then my mom started learning about their family history, and she discovered something that grated on her like a rock in her shoe. She discovered that my dad’s grandfather had once owned an entire section of land, and he lost it during the Great Depression when a bank demanded additional collateral for loan issued prior to the Depression. The papers were signed. The contract was established. Great-grandfather had received the full amount of his loan, and he was making payments as promised. Yet the bank asked for more collateral, and as soon as the papers that increased the collateral were signed, the bank foreclosed.

Anyone who ever dealt with a bank knows that when you take out a loan from a bank, you ask for it, because you need more money than you have, but when you sign the papers and receive your check, buried in the details of the loan agreement is a statement that the bank is not obligated to allow you to make payments until the loan is paid in full. One term of the loan agreement trumps all the others; the bank may require full repayment of the balance due at any time. That requirement is about protecting the bank if its funds fall below its prudent reserves. It is a protection for all the people whose money is protected by the bank, an assurance that when they come to the bank and as for their money, the bank will actually be able to give them their money. That is what banks do, and whether or not my mother liked it, the bank who lent great-grandfather Pollock money had the right at any time to ask for full repayment of the money. If Grandfather did not have the money, he would, and he did, lose his land.

My mother clung to that ancient deed which she considered to be wrong-doing by the bank as if it had been done to her. I lost count of the number of times she told me that story, but there is even more to the telling. She had the perception that if the bank had not “stolen” Great-grandfather Pollock’s land, then my dad and she would have been rich, or at least, richer than they were. Even though her perceptions depended on a distribution of Great-grandfather Pollock’s land that she and she alone imagined, her sense of deprivation was as real as if she had actually known how Great-grandfather Pollock would have distributed land to his heirs, and how those heirs would have distributed what they received. She let her imagination go wild, grieving for the loss of things she never had possessed. She suffered from a desire to avenge herself against all bankers, because of an event which she chose to interpret as deliberate malfeasance, even though nobody else in the family even worried about it. My dad certainly never did, and his father certainly never did. Only my mother worried about the loan and the land and the evil bankers. For everyone else, it was ancient history, or even less than that. It was a nonevent that did not matter to them. I cannot even vouch for the truth of all the elements in my mother’s story, because nobody else ever told that story. Hence, it might even be true that she had the facts all wrong. No matter. She was offended by the evil bankers and their theft of land that might have come to my dad and therefore to her.

Only my mother rehearsed the “might have been” story. I recall an evening when my grandfather laughed upon hearing her version. He said something like, “Who cares now?” I was the only person treated thereafter to numerous, bitter repetitions of the tale of loss. My mother, who did not even know the family at the time of the event, was the only person who suffered anguish over it for some fifty years. She could have saved herself a lot of grief if she could have followed the example of Great-grandfather Pollock’s genetic descendants and let go of her need for compensation for that loss.

I am very sad when I think of all the people who live here in America because their ancestors were slaves in the US. If they were not descendants of slaves brought here against their will, they could all be residents of Nigeria or Congo or Ivory Coast today. They would not need to worry about those ancient wrongs, because they would be living in Africa today, undisturbed and untouched by the liberty and prosperity of the land of the free. Like my mother grieving the loss of something that was never hers in the first place, I think they need to get over their angst and get on with their lives.

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

Everything, Part 2

If you did not read last week’s post, you might want to read it before you read this one:

Everything, Part 1

The summary of Jesus’s call to humanity is:

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it –Mark 8:34-35

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. John 12:25-26

It all boils down to one thing: to serve God is to give him everything.

That is a problem for contemporary culture. The culture does not want people to give God everything. The culture wants people to accept everything that every real or imagined god dishes out. The culture does not want us to ask questions with uncomfortable answers.

Here is a question: What is yoga? The culture says that it is merely exercise. However, the people who invented yoga thought it was prayer and alignment with spiritual power. Where did this so-called power come from? It did not come from God Most High, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The specific moves of yoga, separately or in combination have no moral meaning or power. Someone who knows the moves could know and practice them by themselves. However, if a yoga instructor starts talking about aligning with spiritual power, then it is time for Christians to disconnect.

Another question: What is tai chi? Tai chi is a form of movement much advocated by followers of the Tao. Tai chi by itself was developed as an internal discipline, and it is appropriated by Taoist groups to support their philosophy or religion, whichever you choose to call it. To study tai chi by itself is different from learning a philosophy along with it. However, if the instructor starts quoting Lao Tzu, then it is time for Christians to disconnect. The Tao is The Way. The way to live. The way to think. The way to serve. It claims to be The Way, a counterclaim to Jesus’s claim that “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Is Jesus the Way or is the Tao the Way? Every Christian needs to be alert to issues that will arise as anyone goes deep into philosophies and prayer moves.

Christians who believe that Jesus was serious about wanting everything have big problems in today’s culture. Kim Davis gave God everything and wound up in jail. She could not draw a line between her life at church and her life in the county courthouse. God does not allow us to draw lines around certain parts of our lives where we serve him and other parts of our lives where we pretend he does not exist.

The theme of living every minute subject to God in every square inch of our lives will project us into confrontations. When a Christian Marine taped part of a Bible verse on her computer as a daily inspiration growing out of her faith in God, she was reprimanded and court-martialed. When a Christian fire chief wrote a book proclaiming his faith in God and his beliefs about God’s plan for marriage and families, he lost his job. The culture tells us to keep our religion to ourselves. Our friends and even our families may tell us that “religion is personal,” and we should not let it influence our career plans, our investments, the way we dress, or who we marry.

The ancient Israelites had similar issues. At various times in their history, they offered sacrifices to many different gods, and they engaged in orgies that were planned and orchestrated as worship of various gods. Even their priests became so lackadaisical in their faith that they treated the Ark of the Covenant like a good luck charm, carrying it from its hidden place in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle to the battlefield, where the Philistines captured it. The story of the children of Israel is all the evidence anyone would need in order to know that people did not listen to Moses. If they had taught their children God’s Law as Moses instructed them to do, then their children would have known better than to wish for luck in battle by carrying the Ark of the Covenant with them. The people would never have fallen so far from God’s Law that King Josiah was shocked when God’s Law was found in moldering scrolls in the ruins of the temple built by Solomon.

To give God everything is a huge demand. It changes a person’s life. It makes enemies of powerful people. The whole culture, which is under the dominion of Satan, hates people who put God first. When Jesus went into the wilderness to get ready for his ministry, Satan had a good inkling of what was coming, and he tempted Jesus to do what he tempts each of us to do: put Satan before God:

The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” –Matthew 4:8-9

Jesus resisted that temptation at the price of death on the cross. We pay a price, too, when we put God first. Kim Davis went to jail. A college professor lost a promotion and almost lost tenure. A general lost his military pension. The question is this: what is Jesus worth to you? If you lose Jesus and gain a promotion, will your life be better? If you lose Jesus and keep your pension, will your life be better? If you gain friends and lose Jesus, will your life be better?

The world tells us to keep our religion out of the public bathrooms, out of the doctor’s office, out of the discount store, out of the coffee shop, out of the movie theater, out of the bookstore. The culture says we should keep our religion to ourselves. Sit down. Shut up. Don’t mention Jesus, don’t wear Christian jewelry, and don’t refuse to place adoptive children with two men practicing sexual perversion. If we keep faith with Jesus, our worldview is on a collision course with the world around us.

In order to stay strong, we must remember more words from the “mythical superheroes,” Moses and Jesus.

Moses said:

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. –Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Jesus said:

  • To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. –Revelation 2:7
  • The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death. –Revelation 2:11
  • To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it. –Revelation 2:17
  • The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. –Revelation 2:26-28
  • The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. –Revelation 3:5
  • The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. –Revelation 3:12
  • The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. –Revelation 3:21

When you consider the rewards in store for Christ’s followers in the new heaven and earth, maybe it really is worthwhile to give God everything.

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

Everything, Part 1

Confessing Christians and orthodox Jews agree that Moses was a real person, while secular thinkers declare him to be a mythical superhero. Secular thinkers, however, do not order their lives by the words of mythical superheroes, such as Moses and Jesus, and therein lies the origin of a serious point of conflict that is percolating in today’s culture. These two “mythical superheroes” taught that God wants every moment of the lives of his followers, and he wants their full obedience in every place at all times. In an increasingly secular culture, that worldview is a problem.

Someone who uses the name of Moses in conversation or writing does not need to explain who this man is, but if he mentions any particular event or saying that allegedly comes from the life story of Moses, it might be a good idea to name the source of the version of that story being referenced. When I talk about Moses, I refer to the Bible. If I quote him, my quotations come from the Bible.

Almost everyone agrees that Jesus was a real person, but the agreement ends there. Anything else that might be said about Jesus has probably been disassembled and analyzed repeatedly by people who believe he is the Son of God and by people who don’t. As with Moses, there are so many versions of the life story of Jesus that references to him need to be clearly cited. If I quote Jesus or refer to something he did, my source is the Bible.I go to the Bible for any information I need about God and about the way God wants people to live.

The existence of God coupled with the acceptance of God’s standards for human life are faith principles that set the stage for a major conflict in today’s culture. Most of my readers see the conflict in western culture, but the conflict exists in every culture. In the central Asian republic of Kazakhstan or in the heart of Myanmar or in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, the same conflict arises. What is it?

It is the conflict posed when Joshua gathered the children of Israel to Shechem for a declaration that the children of The Promise to Abraham could formally take ownership of the Promised Land. Joshua recognized a problem that should have ended at Sinai, but the episode of the golden calf revealed that the children of Israel had very mixed loyalties. The people left Egypt, but they brought the gods of Egypt with them. The people gathered at Shechem were the second generation of Israelites who had left Egypt, but a considerable number of them had been under the age of twenty when God decreed that the old generation must die, and many of those people were still trying to make up their minds about religion.

We often think that the Israelites who wandered for forty years and then conquered Canaan must have been much more faithful and pure than any of us living today. Wrong! Many of the people who walked through the Red Sea with water standing up on either side like fortress walls did not know or love God. They and their ancestors had lived in Egypt as part of the culture. Some worshiped God, of course, and had preserved the teachings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, along with the story of Joseph, who had brought the family to Egypt. Some worshiped the Egyptian gods, and more than likely the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh led out in that regard. Joseph’s wife, the mother of Ephraim and Manasseh, was the daughter of an Egyptian priest, and they and their descendants almost certainly carried forward practices associated with Egyptian religion. Some of the Israelites were still clinging to the gods of ancient Chaldea, Ur and Haran. Remember, when Rachel, Leah, and Jacob fled from Laban, Rachel stole Laban’s household gods, and it is very clear in Joshua’s statement at Shechem that it was known to him that some people still worshiped those gods.

Knowing all this history, knowing the people he had led for so many years, Joshua stood ready to declare that God’s people had conquered the Promised Land except for some mopping up operations, and on that occasion he said,

Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. –Joshua 24:14-15

Joshua spoke to an era in which not everybody was on God’s side, not even in Israel’s family, and he said that people would need to make a choice whether to serve the Lord or not. People in contemporary culture also make a choice whether to serve the Lord—or not. In every era, in every place, in every human being, the choice must  be made. Will I “serve the Lord,” or not?

When a person commits to “serve the Lord,” how exactly does he live up to that commitment?

Moses and Jesus both spoke to this issue.

Moses said,

These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. – Deuteronomy 6:6-9

Jesus said,

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  – Matthew 5:13-16

The expectation God set, whether the words of Moses, Jesus, or Joshua, is that people would live according to the same principles of right and wrong, truth and falsehood, in every setting. They would live by the same principles every minute of every day. They would live by the same principles whether standing in a cathedral or a bar. God does not ask for an hour on Sunday morning or ten minutes a day, if you are not busy. God asks for everything.

If God asks for everything, and if there is cultural gain in making nice with the culture, why give God everything?

Watch for Part 2 next week.

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

Whose Opinion Counts Most?

Yesterday I heard a report that stated that Mississippi had enacted an “anti-gay” law. Before that I heard that North Carolina was “restricting the rights of homosexual and transgender citizens.” Both of these items claimed to be “news,” a tag which suggests that it was written by a “journalist,” or that it adhered to standards for “journalism.” To call such wording in such contexts “journalism” is an affront to everyone’s intelligence. It is the obvious expression of an opinion by word choice that projects inferences not supported by the facts.

In both instances, states have acted in response to both overreach by the federal government and cultural hysteria. Citizens in North Carolina, Continue reading Whose Opinion Counts Most?