Five Things Christians can do to Keep Speech Free-

`The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.
Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good- Ecclesiastes 9:16-18 NIV

It is becoming increasingly more obvious western society has gone off a cliff and lost its collective mind. How we approach speech these days is just one example of this phenomenon. 

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the right to speak freely was considered sacred and unquestioned. Free speech was thought to be, by everyone except a few morons, the holy grail of freedom and democracy. There were of course, limits. It was never okay to yell “fire” in a crowded building. That being said, unless a person’s words were likely to cause real physical harm to a large number of human beings the speech was allowed. Not all speech was valued or appreciated. Some speech was simply endured, some was loathed but it was all okay. Those folks in the not-so-distant past were clever enough to understand that political and religious freedom and the democracy that undergirds political and religious freedom rests entirely on a person’s ability to say what they want to say when they want to say it. 

Unfortunately, that ship has officially sailed.  

In recent years some speech has been stifled, some has even been forbidden. All of this has taken place under the watchful eye of the news media and with the blessing of social media capitalists and many in government. Ironically, this squashing of speech has been done in the name of protecting people. There are those who sincerely believe words have the power to cause irreparable harm to others and therefore should be monitored for appropriateness and censored when found to be unsuitable. 

Here’s the thing:

Appropriateness of speech is totally subjective. The speech one person finds acceptable someone else might decide is wildly unacceptable.  It’s nearly impossible to find two humans who fully agree on every aspect of what’s okay and what isn’t okay to say. However, the biggest problem is with who gets to decide what’s okay and what’s not. Somebody has to be the decider. It’s simply a fact that anyone who believes they are qualified to decide what should and should not be said is very likely a narcissistic monster with a colossal god-complex.  

Sigh. 

The right to speak freely matters. It really is the foundation of every other human right. Furthermore, we live in a time when dangerous ideas about life, sex, and even what is real are being promoted almost everywhere. Someone has to be the voice of reason (Ephesians 4:15 and 25) as Christians we are obligated to be that voice because Jesus called us to co-labor with Him in setting the captives free from the lies of the enemy (Luke 4:18, Matthew 10:8). Furthermore, the ability to share the gospel, call out sin and preach the Bible hinge on the right to speak freely and without fear of government interference and/or retaliation.  It’s just a fact that all Christians are called to be a protective and healing influence in the society they live in (Matthew 5:13-16). This means all Christians in a free society play a part in keeping speech free. We can do our part to keep speech free by adopting the following five policies. Starting with:

Don’t be dumb-  

Seriously. There is a lot of unadulterated idiocy in this cultural moment. Christians should work really hard to not contribute to any of it. Pray fervently, do research on issues and train yourself to think deeply about all sides of an issue before you speak on ANYTHING (Proverbs 10:19). 

Learn to separate an opinion from a fact, only argue with facts- 

When doing research on a subject look for verifiable facts rather than just accepting someone else’s assessment of a subject. Remember, facts can be verified and repeated. Opinions are what one person thinks. An opinion formed using facts is okay, an opinion formed without verifiable facts backing it up should never be used in a discussion or argument. 

Don’t allow fear to control your tongue- 

Too many Christians with good ideas and well-formed opinions have kept their thoughts to themselves out of fear of not being liked.  This is a big part of what got us to where we’re at in this sketchy cultural moment. Change will only come if smart believers speak start speaking their minds on the issues in a respectful way. 

Don’t be a jerk-  

Don’t name-call, demean or disparage anyone while speaking out on issues. It’s tempting to be rude in a world where there are so many incredibly stupid opinions literally running amuck. Just don’t. It’s not Christ-like and won’t change anyone’s heart or mind. 

Be respectful- 

 It’s critical we remember the battle we find ourselves in is spiritual (Ephesians 6:12). The people are not the enemy. Our job is to free people from the real enemy. We won’t do free anyone being disrespectful.   

Avoid contributing to the problem with your dollars- 

This is two-fold, first believers should make every effort to avoid entertainment with themes that promote sinful messages. When we do we are literally being entertained by the very things Jesus died for and we are bankrolling an industry that cares nothing for our values or our God. Second, we should avoid purchasing from businesses that intentionally crush free speech.   

The world has never needed Jesus more than it does in this moment. It’s our job as Jesus followers to declare truth as winsomely as we possibly can. We can’t do that if we’re contributing to the foolishness. 

How “Experts” are Turning us all into Idiots-


“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”- Luke 11:52 

I have had a number of curious interactions recently. The finer points of the interaction vary but it all begins when I make a common-sense statement. These statements have included but are not limited to such things as:

Masking is tough on kids

Men who become women still have male DNA-

It’s questionable whether or not that proposed law would even pass constitutional muster. 

The second the words come out of my mouth the smug little wisenheimer I’m speaking with demands in a very chippy manner I produce my early childhood education degree, medical degree, or law degree or whatever stupid degree they deem necessary to continue the conversation.  I then point out, as politely as I am able—that no one really needs a degree in a particular field—or any field for that matter to know whether or not what I said is true. My statement clearly falls under the heading of common sense, common knowledge or empirical wisdom. Nine times out of ten at this point in the conversation the smug little wisenheimer will roll their beady little eyes and tell me to come back when I’m qualified to give an opinion. I’m convinced we are witnessing the death of wisdom.

These exchanges literally make me insane. Literally. Because, if one were to take this lunacy to its logical end-game in order to make a statement such as “I had a dog with the exact same symptoms and it turned out to be mange” one would need to be a veterinarian. Or if you wanted to say: “children ought to eat something besides candy and hotdogs three meals a day” one would have to be a nutritionist or have a degree in early childhood development.

I have nothing against knowledge, education or experts. In fact, I am all for knowledge. I love education. Experts are awesome and at times necessary. Furthermore, I am convinced wise people freely admit when they are dealing with a situation above their pay-grade or outside of their expertise. Intelligent people consult multiple counselors before forming an opinion or making a decision (Proverbs 11:14, Proverbs 15:22, Proverbs 24:6). 

However, 

There are a lot of potential problems with choosing to only take advice from an expert. For one thing, who exactly gets to decide who the expert is?  Do we all get to pick our own expert?  Or are the people in power the people who decide who the experts are? Is it you? Or is it the people in the media? Or your Mother?

It would be easy to settle on education as the qualifier for title of expert.

However, education alone cannot be the only deciding factor in what constitutes an expert, there are lots of folks who have similar or even identical educational experiences who have differing opinions on nearly every subject.  Who is or is not an expert in a particular field can and often is politicized in our increasingly political culture. It’s just a fact that one political administration may have an entirely different take on what makes a person an expert than the one before or after it. 

Furthermore.

Experts are most useful when they are totally unbiased or operating completely without an agenda of any kind.  This is rare because experts aren’t robots or computer programs.  Experts are just fallible human beings who spent a lot of time in school being taught by other fallible human beings. Unfortunately, people—even people with a great deal of education can be corrupted by money, media attention and/or the promise of power.  Experts can be bought. It happens all the time.  Experts are also prone to having biases that may or may not be grounded in facts. Experts have experiences that can turn them in a particular direction. Experts can be also swayed by peer pressure.  

Moreover.

Experts are sometimes just plain wrong. It was experts in the early 20th century that claimed certain races were genetically inferior to other races.  This belief led to the holocaust. It was experts that assured us margarine was healthier than butter. It was theology experts in the middle ages who claimed common people were too stupid to understand the Bible for themselves. It was medical experts in the 1940’s who said baby formula was superior to human breast milk.

By far, the biggest problem with placing all our trust in “experts” is doing so demands we stop thinking for ourselves. Sadly, not thinking has become endemic in our society. Many have simply shut off their brains and let the experts decide what’s best and it’s not working out real well for anyone. Our society is falling apart at the seams despite all the “experts” we have advising us. 

 We have forgotten the hard truth that each one of us is ultimately responsible before God for the choices we make. No one gets to blame an “expert” for the consequences of a poor choice on judgment day. God blessed us with brains and He expects them to be used. We have to wake up and recognize the fact that anytime we stop thinking for ourselves we become a sitting duck for those looking to deceive.  Instead of placing our trust in the experts we ought to go back to the age-old practice of seeking out a multitude of opinions, analyzing the data, praying like crazy for wisdom before deciding for ourselves.  

How a Person Develops what the Bible calls a “Depraved Mind”-

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done- Romans 1:28 NIV

 

Recently, I found myself attempting to encourage the close relative of a person deep in the weeds of an ugly addiction. The addict (a professed Christian) flatly refuses to repent of their sin or even entertain the notion their sin is a problem let alone a sin. To the dismay of the entire family the addict is willfully refusing to see the effect their sin is having on the lives of those they profess to love. Further complicating the whole messy mess, the addict is actively attempting to manipulate friends and family into believing their perception of the situation is faulty and the obvious is not reality.  

 Sigh.

 According to the Bible individuals become entangled in sinful patterns of behavior because they develop an evil and “depraved mind” (Romans 1:28, Hebrews 12:1). Deceitfulness, addiction and the refusal to deal with issues related to dishonesty and addiction are not the only indications of a corrupted and depraved mind. Nor is evil and depravity reserved for the worst of the worst: serial killers, sex traffickers and child molesters. Anyone who runs with reckless abandon into sinful behavior (pride, addiction, gossip, lying, covering sin, sexual depravity) and is determined to keep on keeping on is likely suffering from, or in the process, of developing a corrupt and depraved mind.

 The Bible does not exclude professed Christians from thinking or behaving in ways that ultimately lead to having a depraved mind. Like most issues in life, prevention is the best cure. Once wrong thinking leads to an entrenched pattern of immoral behavior it is difficult (but not impossible) to come back from it (Luke 18:27).

 It is critical we remember people, even unsaved people do not become evil or depraved in a day.  Developing a depraved mind is a process that begins with the willful decision to ignore a known truth about God. For an unbeliever this can be as simple as choosing to deny the existence of a Creator despite all the evidence that exists to the contrary (Romans 1:18-20). For Christians it ALWAYS begins with choosing to straight up ignore a clear New Testament command or teaching (Hebrews 12:25). The next step is choosing to disregard the guilt that goes along with choosing to ignore one’s conscience.  Then the person becomes bloated (metaphorically speaking) with pride. Pride convinces them they are above all the silly rules other Christians have to follow. They convince themselves they are special enough to sin without the consequences lesser humans inevitably suffer. Then they begin actively resisting accountability. Eventually, the sin morphs into the driving force in their lives. At this point the sin (addictive behavior) is just a symptom of a bigger sin: idolatry (1st John 5:21).

 Okay, so, a couple of things:

 First, when we see these behavior patterns in the lives of professed Christians we should never entertain the notion we are better than them. That response to someone else’s sin indicates pride. Pride is a serious sin to be avoided at all costs. Once we become prideful we are more likely to get tangled-up in the same sins (Mark 8:15, 1st Corinthians 10:12). Also, pride is just super gross (Proverbs 18:13, 2nd Chronicles 26:16). Nor, should we ever help anyone escape the consequences of the choices they have made. The technical term for helping people avoid the natural consequences of their choices is codependence. The problem with codependence is that codependent people secretly think they know more than God does about what will actually help people. God knows everything about everything and He brings consequences into the lives of people because He is constantly working to mold Christians into the image of Jesus (2nd Corinthians 3:18, Colossians 3). No good ever comes from helping people avoid what God is using to make them healthier, wiser, and more like Jesus.

 Secondly, we should always be alert to sin in our own lives. The human heart is capable of an insane level of self-deception when it comes to sin (Jeremiah 17:9).  For that reason it is possible for Christians to be half-way to a depraved mind and not even know it. Therefore, it is critically important we take every opportunity to self-examine and evaluate our own moral and spiritual condition (2nd Corinthians 13:5).

 Finally, anytime we see another Christian struggling with sin our first response should always be to pray for them, not judge them. Once we’ve done that we need to beg God for the wisdom, grace and supernatural insight to know how to be Jesus to them in their time of need.   

 

No, Kneeling During the Anthem is Not Fighting for Civil Rights-


I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, 
tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb~ Revelation 7:9 NIV

 This post started out as an ugly rant about my personal loathing of purely symbolic forms of protest. Most of my anger was targeted at what I see as a stupid, futile and divisive effort to bring attention to the real problem of racism in America. After some thought I concluded that the subjects of racism and protests against racism are worthy of a slightly more nuanced approach than an angry rant.

 So.

 If there was ever a thing that was worthy of a protest its racism. Hating or discriminating against anyone because of their skin color is ridiculous, prideful, and anti-Christian at its core. Racism is not something that should be tolerated in Christian circles (more on that later) or in a civilized society.

 That being said.

Some have compared the protests of the 1960’s to athletes kneeling during the national anthem. There really is no comparison between the heroism of the Civil Rights Movement and the kneeling during the national anthem idiocy we see today.

Here’s why not.

 With a few notable exceptions, (all of them white and privileged) the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement were severely marginalized people who lacked power, money, influence and options. They literally had no other options open to them other than peaceful protest to draw attention to their plight. Furthermore, none of those protesters were attempting to vilify their country or the people in it. They were simply striving to bring much-needed attention to a very real problem plaguing our nation.

Furthermore, the Civil Rights Movement had an endgame in mind (an end to Jim Crow laws and the disenfranchisement of black voters). The leaders of the movement used protests in conjunction with legal action as they worked at a grassroots level to transform attitudes regarding race. The efforts of those brave men and women paid off. Hearts, minds and laws were changed. As a result America became a better country, not a perfect country by any means, but certainly a better one.

 The athletes protesting today are not marginalized poor people living out their lives on the fringes of society. They are some of the wealthiest and most advantaged people in all the world. If they wished to do something meaningful to solve the plethora of problems troubling the black community they certainly have the power, influence and financial resources to do almost anything they wanted to do.

But they don’t.

None of these athletes are interested in doing the work it takes to become change agents. They simply want to draw attention to themselves and bellyache about things they don’t like in the most public, contentious and annoying way imaginable. To add insult to injury, they malign the nation and the people who have made them wealthy beyond reason for playing what is arguably just a dumb game.

 Sigh.

 I do not begrudge anyone the right to express him or herself in any way they see fit. If overindulged athletes want to kneel rather than stand during the anthem that is totally cool with me. That said, I will not be purchasing any overpriced fan crap for my family.

 But, I digress.

 My biggest issue with these types of protests is that they are purely symbolic. No words exist for how much I despise pointless symbolism. The Civil Rights protests were not empty acts of symbolism. Protesters sought to bring attention to racial injustice by acting in ways that impacted the cities where the protests took place in peaceable, but consequential ways. Kneeling during the anthem is the equivalent of telling a homeless person to “go, be warm and well fed” (James 2:16). Symbolic fits of melodrama do nothing to solve real problems and ultimately just spread dissension and pit Americans against each other (Proverbs 16:28).

It’s just wrong.

 God does not see skin color the way we see skin color. When God sees the variations in our skin tone He sees the beloved creation that He declared to be “very good” (Genesis 1:27-31). It’s our responsibility as Jesus followers to help our foolish and sin-sick world see the issues of our day the way God sees those issues. We do that by living our lives in a colorblind fashion and by pointing people back to the God who loves everyone and hates biases based on superficial and irrelevant things like skin color (James 2:1, 8-9).

 And by shunning purely symbolic, stupid forms of protest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christians, Counterfeit Love and Cheap Grace-

On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts~ 1st Thessalonians 2:4

 When I was a teenager I had a close friend who had- what I thought at the time-was the coolest Mother in the known universe. She was verbally expressive when it came to professing love for her daughter and she listened to any and all teenage drama (no matter how absurd and trivial) sans judgment of any kind.

 There was precious little my friend was not permitted to do and occasionally her Mother would even help her evade the consequences of her actions. One time my friend and I skipped school and her Mom wrote both of us a note to excuse the absences with nothing more than a brief and relatively friendly lecture on the importance of going to school. If my friend’s grades were less than stellar (and they frequently were) her Mom signed the report card without so much as a single negative word.

 She turned a blind eye as her daughter became sexually active and willfully overlooked disrespect, negligence, underage drinking and even occasional drug use. When questioned about her parenting techniques my friends Mother would wax eloquent on the importance of truly loving and accepting her children in a tangible way.

 In retrospect I find this tale utterly appalling.

 Not just because I’ve read a couple of books and understand codependent behavior. Nor is it just because I’ve raised a bunch of kids and know now that good parenting is about a whole heck of a lot more than accepting your children and making them feel good about themselves. The story horrifies me because I know the ultimate outcome of it all. My friend started using drugs and alcohol, never finished high school and had three children before her 21st birthday. As far as I know she never fully recovered from the bizarre leadership she received as a child.

 Sigh.

 My friend’s Mother wasn’t a bad person or a bad parent in the sense she neglected, abused or was in some way indifferent towards her daughter. There was absolutely no malice in her actions. She just cared more about how her daughter felt about her in the short-term than the long-term outcome of her daughter’s life.

This sort of thing is not at all uncommon.

 A husband or a wife will (in the name of love) ignore their spouse’s character deficiencies to the detriment of the entire family. A friend will stand by silently and watch as someone they profess to love ventures down an ethically questionable path never warning them of the destruction that lies ahead. A parent will bail an adult child out of problems of their own making and then wonder why the kid never seems to grow-up.

 Christians do the same thing sometimes.

 We overlook the sins of those we profess to love and soft-peddle the truth of God’s word—not because we don’t believe God or His word— but because deep down inside we really want people to like us more than we want to tell them the truth. We want to be the cool friend, the cool pastor or the cool co-worker and telling the truth about life and eternity is super uncool these days.

 Dietrich Bonheoffer famously said that cheap grace is characterized by the “preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.”

 Mr. Bonheoffer nailed it.

 Grace and love are inextricably linked. Grace cannot exist without love, because grace is simply an extension of love. This means that if love is counterfeit, then grace will be cheap. Counterfeit love is appallingly common. At its root counterfeit love is selfish and deceptive. The person showing counterfeit love typically wants to love like Jesus loved. But, deep down inside, they want to be liked by others more than they want what’s best for the people they claim to love. Jesus loved passionately but He cared little about being liked.

 The bottom line is authentic love never loses sight of the long game.

 A parent who truly loves their child will risk being loathed today to ensure the child becomes a decent human being in the future. A genuine friend will endure a little bit of anger in the here-and-now to save their friend from a lifetime of regret. A genuinely loving Christian will risk offending someone today if it will save that person from an eternity in hell.

 It’s time for a revival of the real deal.