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Monthly Archives: August 2011

East Africa & The American Church

It seems to me that every set of eyes I meet these days resembles a pair of burned out stars. The exhaustion, dread and lethargy are nothing short of frightening. I only speak to Americans face to face, the most well-heeled people this planet has ever known. So when we, as a populace, begin to convey that jaded look imagine what the truly destitute suffer.

In case you haven’t noticed people are actually starving out there. Not hungry, but famished and withering under a pitiless East African sun. The political and environmental reasons for this ravenous state of being are legion and beyond the scope of this article. I’m not trying to make us feel guilt. Besides, we cannot feel guilt because it is a moral and legal status before God Almighty. We can experience sorrow for our lack of concern, prayer and action.

In James 2, God warns us to match faith and deeds and the context is caring for the poor. The explicit teaching of the passage is simple. If we profess Christ then our lives must reflect that profession by helping the impoverished. Marxism is not the answer. A feckless prosperity gospel is not the answer. A blood and guts faith that mirrors the love of Christ is all that counts.

Maybe we’re fatigued because we’re too busy chasing the American dream which just might be inimical to genuine Christianity. I don’t think any clear thinking person would argue that the American church isn’t currently squandering its vast resources on trivial pursuits. We’re playing at church, much the same as children are wont to play house.

The American church is exceptional because God has lavished His grace upon us. If God has blessed us financially we should be thankful and enjoy the good things He’s bequeathed to us. But He expects us to comfort the helpless and desolate. The world isn’t asking for the United States government to effect regime change; it’s crying out for the American church to come to the rescue. It’s waiting to see Christ in us.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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The Bachmann, New Yorker Overdrive

There’s a white-hot firestorm blazing in evangelical circles over a Ryan Lizza article on Michele Bachmann that The New Yorker recently published. In the piece, Mr. Lizza drops innumerable names: Rousas J. Rushdoony, Francis Schaeffer, Nancy Pearcy, Oral Roberts and Pat Robertson among others. Mr. Lizza then proceeds to mix these figures into an unlikely farrago. Ms. Pearcy is a thoughtful author. The nicest moniker I can apply to Messrs. Roberts and Robertson is televangelist. That’s not a compliment by the way.

As for Mr. Schaeffer, President Ronald Reagan had this to say about him: “It can rarely be said of an individual that his life touched many others and affected them for the better; it will be said of Dr. Francis Schaeffer that his life touched millions of souls and brought them to the truth of their Creator.”

Mr. Rushdoony was the fons et origo of the Christian Reconstruction movement; without him the phenomena has no birth date; he was a seminal influence on the Christian home-school revolution and the author of droves of books. Controversial doesn’t begin to describe him, and many Calvinistic Christians abhorred what they thought were his extreme positions on the application of Old Testament case law in today’s society.

Mr. Schaeffer did not agree with Mr. Rushdoony on this issue. Neither do Ms. Bachmann nor Ms. Pearcy hold Theonomic views. Mr. Lizza lazily categorizes everyone into the political-theological camp called Dominionism. And therein lies the problem. His writing suffers from a lack of differentiation that borders on malfeasance.

Christians must become experts in clear thinking and cogent expression. If you claim Christ, then you must learn to think. When reading Jesus’ debates with the Pharisees there are times when one almost feels sorry for His opponents because they are up way past their bedtime when they attempt to argue with Him. We need to foster rigorous intellectual habits in the Church. Why? Because in this age of slash and burn soundbites we can stand above the crowd. Folks forget that the great universities of Europe were founded by Christians and that Harvard, Yale and Princeton were founded by believers of a decidedly Calvinistic bent.

I’m proud of the Christian response to this controversy. Thus far, we’re not merely holding our own, we’re winning the day. Mr. Lizza basically does a polite hatchet job on Michele Bachmann via guilt by association. This is shallow journalism. The New Yorker will quickly lose it’s sheen of gentility if it continues to print such tripe. Mr. Lizza has every right to express his views. But to cast Oral Roberts and Rousas J. Rushdoony in the same light is laughable. Ms. Pearcy and others have already unsheathed the scalpel of truth and are cutting away the disease.

 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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What Can the Church Learn from Newt Gingrich?

Newt Gingrich is dead in the water despite his valiant swim against the tide. The amalgamation of Mr. Gingrich’s civic experience, rhetorical skill and political savvy should make him a blue chip 2012 candidate. He isn’t. The man’s baggage will eventually break his back. Frankly, I’m surprised he’s attempting to make the White House his address.

He would annihilate President Obama in a debate; that encounter would get incredibly ugly in record time. But as David Bahnsen writes “Debating has never been his weakness though, and his weaknesses are insurmountable.” Indeed. America is untethered from its Christian history yet it demands a certain level of private chastity from it’s public servants. Mr. Gingrich cannot overcome that hurdle; his personal indiscretions ruin his presidential viability.

What can Christians glean from Newt Gingrich’s hopeless 2011 run for the prize? We can learn that our lives must reflect the glory of Christ. If our actions don’t coincide with the Gospel then our words will not resound with the unchurched, unbelieving world. The charge of hypocrisy, if levied in this case, would prove just. When religious insincerity becomes a social reality the cause of Christ is not only damaged, but in some contexts marred beyond repair. It can take years to exculpate the stain. Think of the televangelist scandals of the 1980’s. I still hear about the foolishness. How long will it take the Roman Catholic Church to exonerate itself of the pedophile disgrace?

In Matt. 23:27, Jesus castigates the religious poseurs of his day: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” This might sound odd to our 21st century ears but the cultural backdrop of Jesus’ accusation is an exegetical oasis. The Pharisees considered themselves paragons of ritual purity and their attention to the Mosaic Code was legendary. The common folk both feared and admired the Pharisees for their covenantal zealotry. In Numbers 19, we read that contact with a dead person resulted in ceremonial uncleanliness. So, in light of that passage, we can grasp the horrifying brutality of Jesus tirade against His opponents. The Lord despises any hint of Christian artifice. He’s earned the right to demand a genuine commitment to a holy life from those who claim His kingship.

I don’t know if Newt Gingrich is a born-again believer; I cannot delve into the man’s heart. Nor am I charging him with hypocrisy because he’s positioning himself as a candidate of ideas and not one of cultural morality. That ship has long ago sailed as a political option for him. I’m arguing that his private affairs have ruined his presidential aspirations, and we might be the worse for it because professionally he has the goods. I’m using Mr. Gingrich as a tragic example of what can occur when our deeds eradicate our potential.

The world is watching you, Christian, whether or not you notice its gaze. The world desperately needs Christ; its pain and suffering are palpable. Christ appointed the Church as His witnesses (Matt. 28). Go forth and grant Him the testimony He deserves.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Ashley Madison & the Technocracy of Decay

Life is brief. We are each given an allotted amount of hours on this earth. Therefore, Christians must endeavor to spend each millisecond in working out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2). We must do this in order to make our calling and election sure (2 Pet.1). The Christian who strives for that elusive Blue Chip status has no other available option. Our faithfulness to the call of purity and our devotion to the Lord who redeemed us are yardsticks that we can utilize to measure our progressive sanctification. Today, as I read the web news over at Real Clear Politics I stumbled upon an article that disagrees with my viewpoint.

The folks over at AshleyMadison.com have a different calibration of achievement. Evidently, the group’s only commandment is Thou Shall Not Get Caught. The site’s trademarked motto is Life is short. Have an affair. I kid you not. They bill themselves as an “extramarital dating service” and recently began making the dubious boast of hitting the 10 million-member mark worldwide. The presence of such a site and that incredible statistic, if accurate, vitiates the notion that America is a Christian nation. To put the number in perspective, the 2010 Census evaluated the population of New York City as a bit over 8 million persons–and that includes children and those incapable of having sex!

Recycled talking points on our land’s degeneracy will only prove irrelevant and useless in the face of such obvious moral corruption. The most disheartening point for me personally, as a pastor, is that those I spoke to about this situation weren’t shocked. Not in the least. We’ve come to expect the worst and the unalloyed sickness of our country’s morality is calcifying even the hardiest of hearts.

Christians should desire to affect the culture of their residence. In some countries such as Saudi Arabia just staying alive as a covenantal believer is a tremendous accomplishment. Here in America we have more modest standards. No is going to behead us for worshiping in public next Sunday, but the 7th Commandment is still on the books, my friends. Adultery was a capital crime under the Mosaic Code and one need not be a Christian Reconstructionist to realize that God takes our marriage vows seriously.

The Book of Ephesians (Ch.5) likens the relationship between Christ and the Church as a holy marriage. If God thinks highly enough of marriage to have inspired St. Paul to use the institution as a metaphor to describe our connection to our Savior then let us aspire to recognize the holiness of that estate.

The owners of Ashley Madison are nothing more than panderers and flesh-peddlers, regardless of the ingenuity and profitability of their enterprise. The technocracy of decay has officially descended and you and your families are the prize. Resist the devil and he shall flee from you (James 4).

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Thylane Loubry Blondeau, Innocence Lost & Hypocrisy

Just a few minutes ago I checked my Hotmail account. Nothing astonishing to report there. But when I signed out, Google Chrome brought me to a series of photos that is causing a global ruckus. The greater, non-haute coutre world has now received introduction to Thylane Loubry Blondeau. She is a 10-year-old girl who greater forces are obviously marketing as the next Brigitte Bardot. Leave it to the French to be so, how shall I phrase it in Gallic terms–déclassée.

The greater forces I mention are, first and foremost, the child’s parents. Said parents are Patrick Blondeau, who once upon a time played soccer, and Véronika Loubry who, in a former life, presented a celebrity news show on French television; Ms. Loubry (the elder) now designs a mother-daughter clothing line. It is disturbing to realize that parents would allow a shutterbug to photograph their daughter hooking her thumb into her jeans and slinging her hip out; another pic showed Thylane in a full Paris/Milan runway get-up; heels, blush and lipstick–the whole nine and half yards.

Fashion is a legitimate industry and can bring out the best creativity a person can offer. Aesthetics is an important and neglected field of inquiry in the evangelical world. Compare a gymnasium inspired mega-church to a Christopher Wren cathedral lately? More Christians should attend to the image they present in public because we are supposed to be imaging Christ. This calls for both dignity and modesty of apparel as 1 Peter 3 dictates, but also class. Sorry, but the frumpy and disheveled look that many Christians, male and female, sport these days is beyond the pale of poor taste. Christians, or any human being for that matter, should not utilize the late Kurt Cobain and his acolytes as the sartorial trend they seek to replicate.

I’ll leave the moral outrage over the photos to others. The pics should cause revulsion–so I applaud the outrage in the media. But a deeper deconstruction reveals other horrors: the adultization and exploitation of children and the infantilization of adults. We have replaced childhood spontaneity with scripted schedules. Conversely, we have adopted perpetual immaturity as the model of adulthood.

I expect a deluge of ire and indignation from both the greater Christian world and the Evangelical sub-culture. Rightly so. But as Christians of the Western tradition we should grasp that all this is nothing new, even though the photos of a stage-managed and provocatively attired pre-pubescent are ethically repugnant. For centuries children have been objectified. And they are still used as cash producers.

I encourage you to reflect upon my last sentences. Please. Yes, these photos must disgust and alarm you. Yes, Thylane is being used for commercial gain. Yes, beyond the commercial maneuvering is a greater evil–the subversion of Christian morality. But the next time you buy goods manufactured from India or China or Thailand or (fill in the blank) exam your conscience. Consciously force yourself to remember that a child likely did the work. A boy or girl who should have been playing in a clean park might have sewed the buttons on your shirt or the fixed eyelets on your shoes. And that to our shame.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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