The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Category: Faith and State (page 1 of 6)

Moral Report Card

I usually don’t trust polls.  But this Gallup one, if at all accurate, is concerning.   Here’s the opening paragraph . . .

“Americans continue to express an increasingly liberal outlook on what is morally acceptable, as their views on 10 of 19 moral issues that Gallup measures are the most left-leaning or permissive they have been to date. The percentages of U.S. adults who believe birth control, divorce, sex between unmarried people, gay or lesbian relations, having a baby outside of marriage, doctor-assisted suicide, pornography and polygamy are morally acceptable practices have tied record highs or set new ones this year. At the same time, record lows say the death penalty and medical testing on animals are morally acceptable.”

You can find details at http://www.gallup.com/poll/210542/americans-hold-record-liberal-views-moral-issues.aspx.  It’s worth reading, even if rather discouraging.

For example, 69% of Americans say sex between an unmarried man and woman is acceptable.  An all-time high.  63% say gay or lesbian relations are acceptable–also an all-time high.  Polygamy is acceptable for 17%.

“Some of the largest changes in opinion reflect a transformation in Americans’ views about the institution of marriage and intimate relationships.”  Those changes are toward a moral liberal view.  Of the 19 issues questioned, none reveal a more conservative shift.

Gallup concludes these changes reflect a more “tolerant” view by older Americans and the younger, more liberal generations in our country.

The poll results don’t surprise.  The unbiblical worldview that pervades America (at least among the media, entertainers, and educators) spreads more easily than a biblical one.  Sin is like metastasizing cancer.  And (it seems to me) immorality increases like an uncontrolled truck racing downhill.

Poll results bring to mind Jesus’ words to us disciples . . .

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).

Doesn’t Jesus mean we’re to have a “salty”, enlightening influence for morality in our country?  One would think.  And maybe we are.  Maybe the morally liberal (not a political statement) permissive view is so pervasive we are holding back the tide from sweeping higher.

On the other hand, a December 2015 Gallup poll reveals 75% of Americans “identify with a Christian religion.”  I know that doesn’t mean that many are what the Bible calls Christian.  Still, I can’t shake this sobering thought:  how many Christians were among the leftward, morally permissible respondents?   Instead of being “salt” and “light” to counter the moral decay and darkness, are some Christians being morally decayed and dark in their moral worldview?  Are we allowing “the world” into the church more than we’re taking the church into the world?  Is our younger generation “moving left” too?

Another poll (!) might give answers.  It’s not necessary.  We should assume that our children are being morally misled.  And we must keep them (or get them back) on track.  That means parents and church teaching them what Jesus taught is morally right.  And that teaching shouldn’t be a one-way lecture.  What do they see and hear?  What do they think–and why?  What “moral sense” lies behind biblical morality?

And, of course, we must hedge our children around with prayer.  The battle is spiritual and demands spiritual weapons.

I hope I’m not fear-mongering.  But I think the most dangerous reaction to the nation’s increasing immorality is this:  “My child could never think that way.”

 

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Moral Fact or Personal Opinion?

The State is indoctrinating our children–from as early as the second grade.  Beliefs, they are taught, are opinions, not truths to be explored and evaluated.  One set of beliefs (“opinion”) is no better than another. 

Our children are being raised in this educational environment.    If beliefs are just opinions, they  can be easily jettisoned if they aren’t working out for you or are too costly to retain.  Moreover, if beliefs are mere opinions, there’s no reality (truth) to hold on to in suffering or persecution.  Your beliefs are just your ideas.  

The implications of this indoctrination are far-reaching and frankly frightening.  Read and be wise . . .

What would you say if you found out that our public schools were teaching children that it is not true that it’s wrong to kill people for fun or cheat on tests? Would you be surprised?

I was. As a philosopher, I already knew that many college-aged students don’t believe in moral facts. While there are no national surveys quantifying this phenomenon, philosophy professors with whom I have spoken suggest that the overwhelming majority of college freshmen in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture.

A misleading distinction between fact and opinion is embedded in the Common Core.

What I didn’t know was where this attitude came from. Given the presence of moral relativism in some academic circles, some people might naturally assume that philosophers themselves are to blame. But they aren’t. There are historical examples of philosophers who endorse a kind of moral relativism, dating back at least to Protagoras who declared that “man is the measure of all things,” and several who deny that there are any moral facts whatsoever. But such creatures are rare. Besides, if students are already showing up to college with this view of morality, it’s very unlikely that it’s the result of what professional philosophers are teaching. So where is the view coming from?

A few weeks ago, I learned that students are exposed to this sort of thinking well before crossing the threshold of higher education. When I went to visit my son’s second grade open house, I found a troubling pair of signs hanging over the bulletin board. They read:

Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.

Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.

Hoping that this set of definitions was a one-off mistake, I went home and Googled “fact vs. opinion.” The definitions I found online were substantially the same as the one in my son’s classroom. As it turns out, the Common Core standards used by a majority of K-12 programs in the country require that students be able to “distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.” And the Common Core institute provides a helpful page full of links to definitions, lesson plans and quizzes to ensure that students can tell the difference between facts and opinions.

So what’s wrong with this distinction and how does it undermine the view that there are objective moral facts?

First, the definition of a fact waffles between truth and proof — two obviously different features. Things can be true even if no one can prove them. For example, it could be true that there is life elsewhere in the universe even though no one can prove it. Conversely, many of the things we once “proved” turned out to be false. For example, many people once thought that the earth was flat. It’s a mistake to confuse truth (a feature of the world) with proof (a feature of our mental lives). Furthermore, if proof is required for facts, then facts become person-relative. Something might be a fact for me if I can prove it but not a fact for you if you can’t. In that case, E=MC2 is a fact for a physicist but not for me.

But second, and worse, students are taught that claims are either facts or opinions. They are given quizzes in which they must sort claims into one camp or the other but not both. But if a fact is something that is true and an opinion is something that is believed, then many claims will obviously be both. For example, I asked my son about this distinction after his open house. He confidently explained that facts were things that were true whereas opinions are things that are believed. We then had this conversation:

Me: “I believe that George Washington was the first president. Is that a fact or an opinion?”

Him: “It’s a fact.”

Me: “But I believe it, and you said that what someone believes is an opinion.”

Him: “Yeah, but it’s true.”

Me: “So it’s both a fact and an opinion?”

The blank stare on his face said it all.

How does the dichotomy between fact and opinion relate to morality? I learned the answer to this question only after I investigated my son’s homework (and other examples of assignments online). Kids are asked to sort facts from opinions and, without fail, every value claim is labeled as an opinion. Here’s a little test devised from questions available on fact vs. opinion worksheets online: are the following facts or opinions?


— Copying homework assignments is wrong.

— Cursing in school is inappropriate behavior.

— All men are created equal.

— It is worth sacrificing some personal liberties to protect our country from terrorism.

— It is wrong for people under the age of 21 to drink alcohol.

— Vegetarians are healthier than people who eat meat.

— Drug dealers belong in prison.

The answer? In each case, the worksheets categorize these claims as opinions. The explanation on offer is that each of these claims is a value claim and value claims are not facts. This is repeated ad nauseum: any claim with good, right, wrong, etc. is not a fact.

In summary, our public schools teach students that all claims are either facts or opinions and that all value and moral claims fall into the latter camp. The punchline: there are no moral facts. And if there are no moral facts, then there are no moral truths.

The inconsistency in this curriculum is obvious. For example, at the outset of the school year, my son brought home a list of student rights and responsibilities. Had he already read the lesson on fact vs. opinion, he might have noted that the supposed rights of other students were based on no more than opinions. According to the school’s curriculum, it certainly wasn’t true that his classmates deserved to be treated a particular way — that would make it a fact. Similarly, it wasn’t really true that he had any responsibilities — that would be to make a value claim a truth. It should not be a surprise that there is rampant cheating on college campuses: If we’ve taught our students for 12 years that there is no fact of the matter as to whether cheating is wrong, we can’t very well blame them for doing so later on.

Indeed, in the world beyond grade school, where adults must exercise their moral knowledge and reasoning to conduct themselves in the society, the stakes are greater. There, consistency demands that we acknowledge the existence of moral facts. If it’s not true that it’s wrong to murder a cartoonist with whom one disagrees, then how can we be outraged? If there are no truths about what is good or valuable or right, how can we prosecute people for crimes against humanity? If it’s not true that all humans are created equal, then why vote for any political system that doesn’t benefit you over others?

Our schools do amazing things with our children. And they are, in a way, teaching moral standards when they ask students to treat one another humanely and to do their schoolwork with academic integrity. But at the same time, the curriculum sets our children up for doublethink. They are told that there are no moral facts in one breath even as the next tells them how they ought to behave.

We can do better. Our children deserve a consistent intellectual foundation. Facts are things that are true. Opinions are things we believe. Some of our beliefs are true. Others are not. Some of our beliefs are backed by evidence. Others are not. Value claims are like any other claims: either true or false, evidenced or not. The hard work lies not in recognizing that at least some moral claims are true but in carefully thinking through our evidence for which of the many competing moral claims is correct. That’s a hard thing to do. But we can’t sidestep the responsibilities that come with being human just because it’s hard.

That would be wrong.

Justin P. McBrayer is an associate professor of philosophy at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo. He works in ethics and philosophy of religion.

The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless.

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Toward Conservativism

I’m concerned about America because my grandchildren will grow up here.  In my 73 years, I’ve seen many changes.  The most threatening, I think, is the increase in the size of the federal government, and the philosophy behind it:  the federal government knows best.

Close behind in threatening change is the “living document” view of the Constitution be at least four of the justices.  That view holds that we must interpret the Constitution according to the nation’s conditions today (which almost always means a political interpretation and not according to what the framers intended.  This view has “found” the Constitution granting a woman’s “right” to abortion and same-sex couples to “marry.”  And those are just the most egregious examples.

Some progressives worry that if we Christians have our way, we’ll turn democracy into theocracy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We want a constitutional government, not a politicized or progressive one.

I’ve just read the enclosed article by Larry Arn, President of Hillsdale College.  I urge you to read it (click on “Imprimis” below) and to pray for our new president and administration.  Our primary citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), but we are also citizens of America.  Understanding what our government should be and praying for those in authority can make us good citizens of both.

A More American Conservatism

 

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The End of White Christian America (Finale)

What can we take away from our brief overview of The End of White Christian America?

A Changing America.

For me, the biggest take-away is this:  we live in a changing country.  Here, from the book’s dust cover, let’s read again the change author Robert P. Jones writes about.

“For most of the country’s history, White Christian America—the cultural and political edifice built primarily by white Protestant Christians—set the tone for our national policy and shaped American ideals.  But in recent decades new immigration patterns, changing birth rates, and religious disaffiliation have transformed the United States.  The year 1993 was the last in which white Protestants constituted a majority of the population.  Today, even when Catholics are included, white Christians make up less than half of the country.”

White Protestant Christians have pretty much from the beginning “set the tone for our national policy and shaped American ideals.”  Now the U.S. has been transformed by immigration, lowered white birth rates and the exodus of young adults from the church.  For the last thirteen years white Christians have been less than half of our population.  Projections promise more of the same tomorrow.

” . . . Jones shows how today’s most heated controversies—the strident rise of a white politics of nostalgia following the election of the nation’s first black president; the apocalyptic tone of arguments over same-sex marriage and religious liberty; the stark disagreements between white and black Americans over the fairness of the justice system—can be fully understood only in the context of the anxieties that white Christians feel as the racial, religious, and cultural landscape has changed around them.”

Jones implies that we “white Christians” are huddling  together, trembling as we watch our familiar world crumble around us, leaving  ever-shrinking, safe ground on which to stand.  We may not understand these changes.  We may wish for the Sheriff Andy in Mayberry days.  We may be unsure of our next step.  But we’re not biting our nails afraid of apocalyptic disasters.  Though we are anxious about America’s future . . .

Today, although they still retain considerable power in the South and within the Republican Party, white Christians lack their former political and social clout . . . ”

Hear the sigh of relief from many of us after Trump’s election victory?  Maybe God gave us a reprieve!  Perhaps Ozzie and Harriet live for a little while yet!  The fact that many don’t know who Ozzie and Harriet were shows how far we’ve come.  A reprieve–maybe.  But “white Christians lack their former political and social clout.”  And, if projections are correct (polls couldn’t be wrong, right?), there’s no going back.  The tide of transformation is relentless.

Misplaced Reliance on Government.

Majority or minority, we’re right to use our religious freedom for life and against abortion, for the sanctity of man-woman marriage and against same-sex marriage, for Christians to practice the faith in the market place and against the progressive view that sexual “freedom” trumps religious freedom.  But we can’t rely on the government to be salt and light. 

Who knows what a Trump presidency will bring?  We can hope for conservative constitutionalist nominations to the Supreme Court.  For an improved economy that will lift people out of poverty and even quench fiery race relations.  For a world somewhat safer from terrorism.  But faith in human government (even headed by not-a-politician) will be misplaced and futile.

Rather than breathing that relief-sigh, expecting that a new political administration will “make America great again”, The End of White Christian America should not only inform us of being a country in flux.  It should also move us (however many of us there are!) to live radically as devoted followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

A Colony of Heaven.

Stanley Hauerwas, is a United Methodist theologian and ethicist, currently the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School in Durham, NC.  In The End of White Christian America, author Jones cites Hauerwas’ call for the church to be “‘a colony of heaven’ comprised of Christians who are ‘resident aliens’ in a strange land.”  Hauerwas (in his book, Resident Aliens:  Life in the Christian Colony) “emphasized Christianity’s function as an institution separate from politics and worldly affair, not an insider in the halls of power.

In Hauerwas’ vision, the demise of the ‘Christian century’ aspiration was actually an opportunity for a new, truer Christian faithfulness:  ‘The gradual decline of the notion that the church needs some sort of surrounding “Christian” culture to prop it up and molds its young is not a death to lament.  It is an opportunity to celebrate” (p. 213, 214).

Here are several additional quotes from Hauerwas’ book.  They form a fitting way for our “take-aways” from The End of White Christian America—a launching pad to thrust us into the new era of this country as the church of Jesus Christ.

“The loss of Christendom gives us a joyous opportunity to reclaim the freedom to proclaim the gospel in a way in which we cannot when the main social task of the church is to serve as one among many helpful props for the state.”

“We believe that many Christians do not fully appreciate the odd way in which the church, when it is most faithful, goes about its business. We want to claim the church’s “oddness” as essential to its faithfulness . . .

“The church is not to be judged by how useful we are as a ‘supportive institution’ and our clergy as members of a ‘helping profession’.  The church has its own reason for being, hid within its own mandate and not found in the world.  We are not chartered by the Emperor.”

“The cross is not a sign of the church’s quiet, suffering submission to the powers-that-be, but rather the church’s revolutionary participation in the victory of Christ over those powers. The cross is not a symbol for general human suffering and oppression. Rather, the cross is a sign of what happens when one takes God’s account of reality more seriously than Caesar’s. The cross stands as God’s (and our) eternal no to the powers of death, as well as God’s eternal yes to humanity, God’s remarkable determination not to leave us to our own devices.”

“We would like a church that again asserts that God, not nations, rules the world, that the boundaries of God’s kingdom transcend those of Caesar, and that the main political task of the church is the formation of people who see clearly the cost of discipleship and are willing to pay the price.”

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The End of White Christian America (Part Five)

“Why can’t White Christian America understand how African Americans feel about the black men who have died at the hands of white police officers?”  So wonders author Robert P. Jones (p. 155).

Racial Perception Gap.

Shortly after the Baltimore riots in April 2015 a Public Religion and Research Institute (PRRI) found that 74% of black Americans thought “the recent killings of African American men by police in Ferguson . . . New York City and Baltimore . . . were part of a broader pattern of how police treat African Americans” (p. 153).  Many white Americans see these killings as “isolated incidents”.

https://www.amazon.com/End-White-Christian-America/dp/1501122290/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479382454&sr=1-1&keywords=the+end+of+white+christian+america

America’s Still-Segregated Modern Life.

Jones sees “America’s still-segregated modern life” marked by geographic segregation, an overwhelming majority of white Americans not having a close relationship with a non-white, and no institutions to resolve “systemic social segregation”.

For example, in 1911 Baltimore’s mayor signed an ordinance designed to “promote the general welfare of the city by assigning separate blocks for the city’s black and white residents”.   Such segregation spread and persisted over the years through housing codes and and property owners’ associations that blocked blacks from moving into white neighborhoods.  It’s resulted black Americans having only 72% of the well-being of white Americans—“as measured across . . . economic well-being, health, education, social judgment and civil engagement” (p. 157).

Second example.  A 2013 PRRI survey found that “on average, the core social networks of white Americans are . . . 91% white and only 1% black” (p. 161).

Third example.  Public schools are the primary institution to bridge this racial divide.  Yet “the average white student today attends a school that is 73% white” (p. 162).

What about the church?  Jones argues that, while a small number have successfully integrated, “the church is still the most segregated major institution in America”, as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. charged in 1963.

The Role of White Christian America.

Jones asserts, “No segment of White Christian America has been more complicit in the nation’s . . . racial history than white evangelical Protestants” (p. 167).  He indicts Southern Baptist churches as the guiltiest, but notes that recently SBC churches are leading the way regarding integration (p. 174).

Can the church “desegregate”?  To “reinforce the current racial isolation” would “ensure White Christian America’s declining relevance”, according to Jones.  Better, as some churches are doing (Middle Collegiate Church, New York City and Oakhurst Baptist, Atlanta), to “pioneer a new kind of Christian community that transcends the color line” (p. 179-188).

On her “Huffington Post” blog, Reverend Jacqui Lewis described a transcending-the-color-line service at Middle Church:  “A tall gorgeous Black gay man from our congregation led with One day, when the Glory comes, it will be ours, it will be ours, while his petite white husband played the Hammond organ.  The choir–directed by a Mexican American man, accompanied by a lesbian Black woman–filled with the voices of Chinese, Japanese, White, Black, Puerto Rican, married, and single folk who span generations rapped like Common–in unison!  They wept, they stomped their feet as though they were stomping out injustice.  Our congregation was on fire with deep feelings of both sorrow and hope.”

The church we planted in North Jersey in 1973 grew to be about 25% non-white.  Not by our planning.  It just happened.  We all treated non-whites the same as whites.  We aimed at loving each other as Jesus loved us (John 13:34).  We realized Christ’s cross made two (or more) races one . . .

“But now, in union with Christ Jesus you, who used to be far away, have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For Christ himself has brought us peace by making Jews and Gentiles one people. With his own body he broke down the wall that separated them and kept them enemies.  He abolished the Jewish Law with its commandments and rules, in order to create out of the two races one new people in union with himself, in this way making peace. By his death on the cross Christ destroyed their enmity; by means of the cross he united both races into one body and brought them back to God” (Ephesians 2:13-16, GNT).
So we tasted the adventure of bridging the racial divide.  But we couldn’t foster unity at the expense of biblical morality.  Nor can we now.  The Bible condemns homosexual practice.
(Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God”–1 Corinthians 6:9,10, ESV).  Unity must be in Christ.  A practicing “gay man” and “his husband” and “a lesbian woman” cannot have unity in Christ.
I add a third reason:  the church has the Holy Spirit’s power to obediently live out the unity we have in Christ.  We have no excuse for racism.  For in the end Jesus will be praised for, by his blood, ransoming people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,”and making them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9,10, ESV).
Given the racial divide in America and the church’s lingering segregation, we can’t simply wait for more integrated churches to “just happen”.  Is it time to prayerfully consider merging-as-equals with a mostly-black church?  Might the Lord lead some of us in that direction?  I don’t know.  And since I’m retired due to disability, I don’t have to wrestle with that question!  But it may be time for us to take deliberate steps to live out the unity we have in Christ.

The subject demands far more thought than I can give to it here.  Suffice it to generally agree with Jones” conclusion . . .

 

“The road under White Christian America’s descendants’ feet must lead first through the uncharted terrain of remembering, repentance, and repair.  Given White Christian America’s long history of complicity in slavery, segregation, and racism, we are at the beginning, not the end, of the journey across the racial divide” (p. 195).
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The End of White Christian America (Part Four)

June 26, 2015.  The U.S. Supreme Court declared all bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.  It symbolized more than any other culture-change  White Christian America’s loss of power.

“Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy declared that  ‘the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex cannot be deprived of that right and that liberty.’  But marriage is nowhere to be found in the Constitution.  As the Chief Justice asserted in his dissent, the majority opinion did not really make any serious constitutional argument at all.  It was, as the Chief Justice insisted, an argument based in philosophy rather than in law . . .

“Justice Antonin Scalia offered a stinging rebuke to the majority. ‘This is a naked judicial claim to legislative–indeed super-legislative–power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government,’ he stated. Justice Scalia then offered these stunning words of judgment: ‘A system of government that makes the people subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy'” (http://www.albertmohler.com/2015/06/27/everything-has-changed-and-nothing-has-changed-the-supreme-court-and-same-sex-marriage/).

Discrimination.

Pro-same-sex-marriage folks have charged “discrimination.”  Why should heterosexuals legally marry, but not homosexuals?  They believe homosexual practice (including same-sex marriage) is “morally right”.  Disallowed marriage is discrimination.

So was President Eisenhower’s executive order that anyone engaged in “sexual perversion” (homosexual practice) could not hold a job in the federal government.  Through the 1950s and 60s the FBI “hunted down” and fired thousands of gay and lesbian federal employees.

In  the 1970s “gay rights activists” began “an ambitious crusade:  passing laws banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment and housing” (The End of White Christian America”, p. 116).  They’ve succeeded.

Public Opinion.

Public opinion has changed remarkably.  In 1988 the “General Social Survey” found only 11% of Americans supported same-sex marriage.  By 2003 45% of young adults (ages 18-29) favored it, while only 13% of seniors (age 65+) did.  By 2014 only seven states had a majority of residents who opposed it.  And only four major religious groups (white evangelical Protestants–66%, Mormons–68%, Hispanic Protestants–58%, and African-American Protestants–54%) oppose it today.

Author Robert P. Jones predicts, “[even among these groups] generational differences make it clear that opposition to gay rights will ultimately lose its power as the culture war weapon of choice” (p. 129).  Why?  Because younger Americans “abandon traditional religious institutions” that mark homosexual practice as “sinful, immoral or perverse” (p. 131).  The public increasingly supports same-sex marriage.

Reevaluate?

Jones opines:  “The generational divides over LGBT  rights are momentous for the evangelical branch of White Christian America and for conservative religious groups generally . . . Conservative religious groups’ very future hinges on how willing they are to navigate from the margins toward the new mainstream . . . Refusing to reevaluate . . . may relegate conservative religious groups to cultural irrelevancy and continued decline, as more and more young people leave church behind” (p. 133).

Can we–should we–“reevaluate”?

Russel Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in 2013 said, “The Sexual Revolution isn’t content to move forward into bedrooms and dinner tables.  The Sexual Revolution wants to silence dissent.  The religious liberty concerns we are grappling with already will only accelerate . . . If we have to choose between Jesus and Millennials (who favor same-sex marriage), we choose Jesus” (p. 142).

Confession:  some Christians have treated same-sex marriage proponents unChristianly.  We must repent and reevaluate attitudes and actions.  We must learn to love the sinner.  We must be graced by God to “speak the truth in love.”

Homosexual practice is not an especially egregious sin.  It’s one among many.  Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God”–1 Corinthians 6:9b,10, ESV).

But it is sin.  That we can’t reevaluate.  No matter public opinion.  No matter our minority status.

The Future.

The big burden of these end-of-white-Christian-America blogs is knowledge and preparation.  To know the cultural change in which we live.  And to prepare for living in it as Jesus-followers.

In a later book (Onward:  Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel) Russell Moore writes:  “Above all we must prepare people for what the future holds, when Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality aren’t part of the cultural consensus but are seen to be strange and freakish and even subversive . . . for a world that views evangelical Protestants and traditional Roman Catholics and Orthodox Jews and others as bigots or freaks” (quoted in The End of White Christian America, p. 143).

Are we ready for that?  Are our young adults?  Are our children and grandchildren?

Not Dead Yet.

This blog (link below) may soften my blog’s blow a bit.  Reading it is worth the risk.

http://religionnews.com/2016/11/14/the-last-hurrah-for-white-christian-america/

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Electoral What?

So what’s this “electoral college” thing?

I’m weary of election news, but here I am writing about it again.  This, though, is purely informational.  The two links below will help us understand the electoral college.  If it’s something that doesn’t interest you, trash it.  (This doesn’t count toward my blog-for-the-day.)

The first, by Hillsdale College President Larry Arn, is quite readable.  The second is more like a text book.  If you go for only one, I’d pick the first.  Hope the information helps.  No test.

 

http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-electoral-college-is-anything-but-outdated-1479168669?tesla=y

https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/about.html

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The End of White Christian America (Part Three)

In a 2014 Super Bowl ad “the camera panned over Americans clad in everything from cowboy hats to yarmulkes to hijabs—including an interracial gay couple at a roller rink with their daughter—over a soundtrack of ‘America the Beautiful’ sung in seven different languages” (The End of White Christian America, p.46).  Not your familiar Coke commercial.  Nor are these statistics familiar.

Statistics.

The proportion of white Christians has fallen to 47%.  Americans not affiliated with any religious group has grown to 22%.  ” . . . young adults (ages 18-29) are less than half as likely to be white Christians as seniors (age 65 and older).”  Demographic changes, such as immigration and birth rates, are contributing to the declining proportion of white Christians.  But “the other major force [is} young adults’ (ages 18-29) rejection of organized religion.”

Author of this book, Robert P. Jones, founding CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, comments:  “Falling numbers and the marginalization of a once dominant racial and religious identity . . . threatens white Christians’ understanding of America itself.”

I’m writing, not because this shift threatens us, but because it’s important that we understand the America in which we follow and bear witness of Jesus.  When I was a kid . . . Well, I’m no longer a kid and the country’s not like it was then, and probably never will be.

Another statistic.  In 1972 white Protestants’ median age was 46.  Now it’s 53.  (Median age of all Americans is 46.)  Mainline and evangelical Protestants are aging and, says Jones, “quickly losing ground as a proportion of the population” (p. 56).

When I was a kid . . . Let’s try that again.  I assumed that my Protestant faith was virtually universal (except for Catholics and Jews).  Now, Jones observes, “the incursion of the Internet and national cable news has made it impossible for White Christian America’s contemporary descendants (this generation)  to assume that [Protestant faith is universal] . . .  ” In other words, our children see their faith as one among many faiths in the world, and even among many in the country.  They know, just by absorbing America as it is today, that their belief-system isn’t prevailing and may be the minority.

It’s becoming obvious to adults, as Jones concludes, that White Christian Americans “no longer have the numbers or the cultural authority to dominate American public life” (p. 77).

Racism.

Jones refers to Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2008 as “the most visible symbolic challenge to White Christian America’s hold on the country” (p. 80).  He goes so far as to claim that “Obama’s election had challenged many whites cultural assumption—that the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) was the only authentic model of citizenship” (p. 82).

I object to that vague (“many whites cultural assumption”) racist charge!  As far as I can tell, many whites did not assume WASP was “the only authentic model of citizenship”!  And I think the more we make that claim, the more we fuel the racism that divides us.  This, too, marks us as a changing country:  opportunities for African-Americans have never been greater, but racism remains—and some who rightly condemn it so vociferously inadvertently further it.

Politics.

White Christian America would seem (at least in Jones’ view) to have lost its political clout.  And yet, Johnnie Moore, a spokesman for “My Faith Votes”, said, “The sweeping support evangelicals gave Donald Trump on Election Day was stoked by their fear that Christianity is being killed off” (http://www.newsmax.com/Newsmax-Tv/johnnie-moore-evangelical-panic-christianity/2016/11/11/id/758477/?ns_mail_uid=95913738&ns_mail_job=1695851_1112201  In other words, our clout is being killed, but ain’t dead yet.

If White Christian America is losing political clout (I doubt we fear Christianity is being killed off!), that’s bad news for the Republican party.  (More evangelicals vote Republican because that party’s conservative principles harmonize more with a biblical worldview.)  So Jones, as many others, urges Republicans to respond by “rebranding their conservatism to appeal to women, ethnic minorities, and young people.”

The same advice, by the way, has been urged upon the church.  If we’re to reach young adults we have to rethink the role of women in the church, welcome the LGBT community, perform same-sex marriages, change our church-building rest rooms, etc.  In other words, we have to give “progressive” people what they want regardless of the Bible’s moral authority.  So goes the argument.

If the changes I’ve noted here seem a bit disorienting, that’s because they are.  America’s no longer the country it once was.  If it was “White Christian”, it is no longer.  Gone are the days when society at least mildly reinforces basic tenets of the faith.  Increasingly now it barely tolerates them.  And when it comes to  favored progressive positions (abortion, LGBT demands, for example), it loudly and “legally” opposes them.

Counter:  A Better Country.

But note this:  the Lord hasn’t lost.  Nor has his church.  However, it is time for us to stop feeling shocked at how immorality (by biblical standards) is winning approval in the name of “rights”.  It’s also time for us to stop assuming  the “right” people in political office will make everything okay again.

Rather it’s time for us Jesus followers to get on a war footing.  Not to brandish this world’s weapons, but the weapons of righteousness our Lord gives us.  And thereby show a declining country there’s a better one . . .

“They did not receive the things God had promised, but from a long way off they saw them and welcomed them, and admitted openly that they were foreigners and refugees on earth. Those who say such things make it clear that they are looking for a country of their own. They did not keep thinking about the country they had left; if they had, they would have had the chance to return. Instead, it was a better country they longed for, the heavenly country.  And so God is not ashamed for them to call him their God, because he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13b-16, GNT).

 

 

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What’s God Doing with Trump?

Resigned to Hillary winning.  That’s how I wearily went to bed last night.  Same sinking into the same old sinking days of America.  Now, after learning Trump triumphed, I’m still stunned.

For years I’ve concluded that ” . . . the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven . . .” (Romans 1:18) against the godlessness, corruption and baby-slaughters of this nation.  We’re sliding deeper into sin because we choose sin.

Now I’m not sure what God is doing.   Is Hillary’s loss a wrath-reprieve?  A chance for the USA to enjoy God’s mercy?  Time, I suppose, will tell.  Donald Trump isn’t our savior.  No signs of American repentance are seen.  We’re just hopeful that some of the worst wrongs of Obama’s administration will be righted.  And the potential wrongs of a Hillary administration have been averted.

But Donald Trump is still Donald Trump.  But who is he?  In my book, not Hillary.  And that’s a good thing.  But he has no track record to review.  Or maybe I should say he’s got a not-so-commendable track record.  I do think diving into America outside Trump Tower has rubbed off for good on him.  But can he repair a deeply-divided nation so we’re not at each others’ throats?  Can he heal the anger over injustice in black communities?  Can he open the door to more and better jobs?  Can he help ignite a moral (if not spiritual) revival among us?

Well, let’s just sit back and see.

No!  That’s just what we must not do.  Like all president-wanna-be’s, Trump has promised more than he can possibly deliver.  Besides, the root disease of America isn’t bad trade deals.  It’s sin.  A broken relationship with our Creator.  A border wall won’t fix that.  Four years from now I’ll be shocked if we’re not complaining about what Trump hasn’t done.  Even the best deal-closer in the world can’t make the U.S. “great again”.

With President Trump’s inauguration, it’s time for us to renew our devotion to pray . . .

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, requests, and thanksgivings be offered to God for all people; for kings and all others who are in authority, that we may live a quiet and peaceful lifewith all reverence toward God and with proper conduct.This is good and it pleases God our Savior,who wants everyone to be savedand to come to know the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4, GNT)

I’m preaching first to me.  Here’s one place (among many) where I’ve fallen short.  In recent weeks, the Lord has reminded me of this through my oldest grandson, with whom I’ve been having weekly devotions.  He’s prayed for the Lord’s will to be done in these elections.  So, convicted, I urge me (and you) to pray.  Not for Trump’s sake.  Nor for the Republicans’ sake.  But for the sake of our children and grandchildren.  And, as Paul wrote, “that we may live a quiet and peaceful life with all reverence toward God and with proper conduct.”
That brings me to a second devotion for us to renew:  to live like salt and light . . .

“You are like salt for the whole human race. But if salt loses its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again.It has become worthless,so it is thrown out and people trample on it. Y
ou are like light for the whole world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house.
In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16, GNT)
 

Jesus clearly explains light’s function:  to reveal our good works and bring praise to our Father.  In other words, the good things we do should “show off” the goodness of God.  But light, like salt, can be an irritant.  (Try suddenly turning on a spotlight in a black-as-night room.  Hurts the eyes so much you quickly close them.)  Similarly the “light” of “good works” can irritate and, by God’s grace, convict the doer of “bad works”.  Either he’ll try to turn off our good works or maybe consider repenting.  Has our “light” been dimmed these days?

 

 

Regarding prayer and salt-and-light-living, it matters not who is president.  But, maybe God has given us an opportunity with Trump’s surprising victory.  Maybe God is pushing us back to what he’s already to us.  Pray.  And live what we are in him:  salt of the earth and light of the world.

 

 

By God’s grace that may at least slow this country’s fall away from God.  And it certainly will show America that there’s another kingdom, a better one, that has come already, and will come in its consummation soon.

 

 

So as it turns out, the question on this day-after-election isn’t, ‘What’s God doing with Trump?”  The question is, “What’s God doing with us?”

 

 

 

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Election Day Ad & Open Letter

Who’s not weary of campaign words?  Maybe a record number of voters cast their ballots early just to end the barrage sooner!

Therefore, you may refuse to watch the video and read the blog at http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/7/13546186/johnson-amendment-mike-pence-donald-trump-evangelicals-religious-right-moral-majority.

I think it’s worth your time.  So I hope you’ll grab a coffee, take a deep breath and go for it one more time (even if you’ve voted already).  Click on “Church Greetings” to see the video.

And be sure to click on and read “An Open Letter to Mrs. Hillary Clinton and Mr. Donald Trump” further down the blog.

Since the attached is long, I’ll close my mouth now, put my typing fingers in my pockets, and invite you to listen and read . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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