Manchester, Multicultural Madness and Why We Should All Care About Politics

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight~ Isaiah 5:20-21 NIV

I was preparing dinner when I heard the sad and all-too familiar news that there was yet another terrorist attack in Europe. This time the attack was a bombing at an arena in Manchester, England. The suicide bomber killed 22 and wounded 116 (mostly school girls and their parents) as they were leaving a concert Monday night. 

 This type of tragedy inevitably highlights the bigger issues of life. It gets thoughtful people focused (at least temporally) on both the innate goodness and incomprehensible evil of mankind, the preciousness and brevity of life, and the importance of vigilance when it comes to our safety and the safety of our children.

 As central as these issues are, it’s not where we ought to get stuck at this moment in history. Rather, the attack in Manchester ought to place our focus squarely on the importance of politics; or more precisely on political ideas and why we ought to care about them.

 It has become almost a badge of honor in Christian circles not to care about politics or political ideas. I get it. Following the epic disappointments (and outright failures) of the “Religious Right” and “Moral Majority” political movements in the eighties and nineties many Christians concluded that politics are a distraction to the real mission of Christianity and there is little value to Christian political involvement.

 For the record, I do not believe politics are the be-all-end-all solution to every problem we have. To my knowledge, no law or political idea has ever changed a human heart or healed a sin-sick society. Only Jesus can do that. That said, politics matter because politics are the soil in which a society grows.

 If the politics of a society are bad, the society will eventually go bad.

 Nazi Germany is the classic example. In less than twelve years Nazi political ideas annihilated twelve centuries of cultural Christian witness, obliterated the flourishing Jewish culture in most of Europe and ended the lives of six million men, women and children.

 Conversely, good politics produce good cultures.

 We possess the blessings of individual liberty, economic freedom and the ability to speak our minds and worship in any way we see fit because of the political ideas and leanings of our Founding Fathers.

 America never would have become America and Nazi Germany never would have become Nazi Germany if it had not been for political ideas.

 For at least two decades Western political leaders have embraced the notion of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is the belief that all cultures and all aspects of all cultures are all equal. Because all cultures (and all traditions within cultures) are equal, no one has a right to judge the deeds or beliefs of another culture.

 It’s all very tolerant, broadminded and progressive.

 However,

In order to fully embrace multiculturalism you must also embrace the notion that a culture that protects, educates and nurtures young girls is no better (just different from) a culture that ritualistically mutilates the sexual organs of young girls and sells girls into sexual slavery. One must also embrace the notion that a culture where most folks respect the beliefs (religious and otherwise) of others is no better (just different from) a religion where some followers think terror and violence are a legitimate means to a political, religious, or social end. You must also accept that those followers will cultivate those beliefs in their places of worship and in the hearts and minds of their children.

 Let’s be real here.

 Not every person who comes from a culture that observes bad traditions is a bad person. However, some cultural traditions and beliefs are quite clearly bad (burning widows alive, slavery, racism, sexism, terrorism, genital mutilation, eating people). Those traditions have no place in any society.

 Yes. I am judging. Get over it.

 Multiculturalism is a stupid political idea directly related to the proliferation of terror attacks in Europe, including the one in Manchester. Sadly, it’s just one of a hundred stupid political ideas destroying Western culture that Christians are not praying about or confronting. Sadly, many Christians don’t even recognize multiculturalism when they see it in their children’s textbooks or hear it preached from the pulpit.

 The real mission of the church is to act as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) and make disciples in whatever culture God places us (Matthew 28:19). We have to understand the times we live in (1st Chronicles 12:32) to do the things the church has been called to. Understanding our times demands political awareness and involvement.

It’s that simple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Should All Be a Little More Like Lady Gaga (Seriously)

Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions~ Proverbs 18:2 NIV

 Like most families in America we tuned into the Super bowl last Sunday night. We are not diehard football fans and unless the Seahawks are playing we rarely have all that much invested in who wins. This year we watched mostly for the camaraderie, the snacks, and the weirdly hedonistic pleasure we derive from critiquing the commercials.

 We had a houseful of junior high boys during the 2004 Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake “nipple gate” fiasco. As a result my husband and I are more than a bit skittish about exposing (no pun intended) our family and guests to the halftime entertainment provided by the NFL during the Super bowl.

 Our new “tradition” is to record any halftime performer who we believe might be questionable. After the game we consult Google to get the lowdown. Then if it turns out that it’s not all kinds of inappropriate, we watch it after the game.

 Life in the modern world is weird sometimes.

 We were particularly uneasy about this years show. Mostly, because the headliner was Lady Gaga and- well- Lady Gaga is Lady Gaga. She’s best known for controversy, meat dresses, near nudity and at least a zillion other dubious choices.

 Magnifying our concern was a statement she made during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine a few days prior to the Super bowl:

 “I believe in a passion for inclusion, I believe in the spirit of equality, and the spirit of this country is one of love and compassion and kindness so my performance will uphold those philosophies”

 Please understand. I do not typically assume the worst in people.

 However, her statement was so ambiguous that it left me completely clueless as to what she was attempting to communicate. Besides, I have been conditioned by the culture to believe that when people use words like “equality” and “inclusion” those words are almost always code for some sort of crude and gratuitous sexual display. On top of all that, Lady Gaga is a well-known liberal and most liberals totally lost their minds on November 8th, 2016 and have yet to come to their senses.

 The combination of above factors logically led me to assume that her statement to Rolling Stone was political in nature and that she intended to do something we wouldn’t be able to un-see.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

 Lady Gaga’s halftime show was a fun, patriotic and wonderfully sparkly performance lacking in even a smidgen of controversy.

 I was left feeling more than a bit shameful for jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst of another human being. As I was repenting of my ugly inclination to judge, it struck me that I need to rethink nearly everything I believe about life and the universe now that I have come to the conclusion that all of us should try and be a little bit more like Lady Gaga.

 Minus the meat dresses and nudity of course.

 I never thought I would live to hear myself say this but I am proud of the stand Lady Gaga took by choosing not to take a stand. She had the opportunity (and the platform) to jump to the political and rant endlessly about what she believes about all sorts of social and political issues. Instead she chose the path of unity, not by kowtowing (that would be dishonest), but by keeping a fun and light-hearted event (the Super Bowl) a fun and light-hearted event.

 Over the course of the last few years it has become nauseatingly trendy for individuals from every walk of life and both sides of the political aisle to turn EVERYTHING into a political statement. Americans are force-fed a steady stream of political commentary through bumper stickers, television commercials, award shows, music, movies and their Facebook feeds. Even many popular fiction authors have taken to proselytizing for their pet causes through the stories they tell.

 Yuck.

 I believe that everyone should speak-up for what they believe in. I also believe that every voice (well, most voices) should be heard. Healthy debate is a good thing. I also believe there is a time and a place for political discourse and even political disagreement. That said, football games are not the time or the place for political discourse or debate. Football games are a time for celebration, friends, food and unity and I for one am grateful that at least one Hollywood liberal finally figured that out.

 It’s about stinking time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stupid Stuff Christians Do

Be very careful, then how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil~ Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV

 We all do stupid stuff sometimes. It’s simply a small piece of this thing we call “being human”.

 Some stupid stuff is essentially inconsequential in the grand scheme. Things like shopping at Costco the day before a holiday, ordering the triple cheeseburger meal, or forgetting to turn the heater down at night are all choices that will cause no serious harm to anyone but us.  

 Then there’s the big stuff.

 When I say ‘big’, I am talking about actions that are potentially life altering and destructive. Driving drunk, using drugs, having affairs, and committing armed robbery all fall neatly into the category of really stupid stuff that has the potential to hurt all kinds of people.

 Then there’s the stupid stuff Christians do.

 Most of the stupid stuff Christians do is not intended to harm anyone. We just do stuff without bothering to question the rightness, wrongness or wisdom of our actions.

 If we are lucky and circumstances merciful we are the only ones hurt by the stupid stuff we do. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as luck and circumstances are rarely merciful. When one Christian does a stupid thing it becomes harder for all Christians to share the gospel effectively, it also causes all Christian to appear ignorant, mean-spirited and/or hypocritical to the unsaved world.

 Any list of stupid stuff Christians should avoid needs to begin with…

 1. Speaking in anger- James 1:20

 I know there are times when things just need to be said and saying them when we are angry feels really good. However, I have learned the hard way that speaking our minds when angry rarely leads anywhere beneficial or productive.

 2. Refusing to take advice or accept correction- Proverbs 19:20, Proverbs 12:1.

 Imprudent people assume they already know everything about everything. Wise people receive criticism and evaluate it honestly, seek out divergent opinions and request guidance. Wise people don’t do everything others tell them to do (that would be stupid) but they are willing to hear others out.

 3. Tolerating sinful behavior from the people we love- Matthew 18:15, Luke 17:3, Galatians 6:1-2, Jude 22-24

 In a culture where the highest value is “judge not lest you be judged” confronting sin feels counter-intuitive and wrong. However, a well-timed, well-worded and loving confrontation might just be the only thing that saves a rebellious person from a lifetime of self-destruction and an eternity spent in hell.

 4. Allowing personal sin to take root in secret- Genesis 4:7

 If you do not wish to participate in a particular activity (with a few notable exceptions) in front of your Mother, Pastor, supervisor or a police officer, that activity likely has the power to destroy you. Stop it. Now.

 5. Playing with dangerous behaviors that may or may not be sinful- Ephesians 5:15

 Just because an activity is legal that does not make it a wise thing to do or to do excessively. We should think long and hard before we entangle ourselves in any behavior with that has the potential for self-destruction.  

 6. Isolation- Genesis 2:18

 A natural response to hurt for certain types of people is to isolate himself or herself from anyone who might possibly cause more pain (basically all of humanity). This form of self-protection feels noble and even wise but is a really terrible idea. Isolation inevitably breeds peculiar ideas and weird behaviors. Neither helps the cause of Christ.

 7. Choosing to have the wrong kinds of people in our lives- Proverbs 13:20, 1st Corinthians 15:33, 2nd Corinthians 6:14

 Sadly enough good people rarely affect bad people to the same degree that bad people affect good people. That’s why even grownups ought to choose their friends, spouses and associates wisely.

 8. Believing everything we hear or read- Proverbs 18:15, Matthew 10:16

 Christians are sometimes the most gullible people on earth and it really hurts Christianity. God calls His people to be wise, perceptive and discerning. If a news story (no matter how juicy) cannot be substantiated by more than one source, assume it’s false and do not post it on Facebook, mention it to your prayer group or write a blog about it. Please.

 9. Not listening to others- Acts 17:16-34

 I am shocked at the number of Christians I know who simply will not listen to anyone or even watch an interview with a person who does not share their opinion on EVERYTHING. It’s true that we need to be discerning about what and whom we allow to influence us. That said, if we never engage with people who think differently than we do we will never impact our world for Jesus.

 Most of this stuff is less about smart and stupid than making the decision to consistently seek God and do life His way. When we look to God and His word for guidance He directs our steps and we cannot help but become wise; and in the process of becoming wise we stop doing stupid stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

Be strong and have strength of heart. Do not be afraid or shake with fear because of them. For the Lord your God is the One Who goes with you. He will be faithful to you. He will not leave you alone~ Deuteronomy 31:6-7 NLV

 I do not pretend to know everything there is to know about life.

 I freely admit that there is more I don’t know than there is that I do know. Moreover I am well aware that even after more decades on this planet than I like to talk about I probably still don’t know what I don’t know.

 Sigh.

 That said, there are some things I am convinced are true. The first is that God is a good God, and He always has our best interests at heart, even when our feelings or circumstances tell us something different. The second is that spiritual truth simply does not change or become untrue because the culture in which we live tells us otherwise. God’s opinions do not “evolve”. If something was true from a spiritual perspective two thousand years ago then it is still true today. Notwithstanding all the reports you have likely heard to the contrary.

 And lastly, I am persuaded that every human being who walks through life on this silly, sin-sick planet has or will experience the frustration and confusion that comes with not knowing what to do or how to respond to a particular situation or problem. Sadly, there are times in this life when education, wisdom or extensive personal experiences still leave us thoroughly ill equipped to handle the junk life throws at us.

 An unpleasant sense of defeat generally accompanies these times. The muddle is further compounded by the fact that the stuff that vexes us most in life is generally profoundly personal and often deeply painful. This ends up leaving even the best of us feeling bewildered, vulnerable and peeved with God.

 Which leads to doing a whole lot of nothing.

 I am convinced that the nuts and bolts story of how we got to this place in life matters a whole lot less than what we do with the circumstances we are faced with. Don’t get me wrong; there is value in self-examination. Self-examination and an honest assessment of our actions and reactions is the only thing that will keep us from replicating the same stupid mistakes over and over again.

 However, it’s what we do when we don’t know what to do that determines our character and ultimately it’s our character that determines our destiny (please pardon the trite platitude).

 Again, I do not know everything there is to know about this or any other subject. However, I do have more experience than I care to admit with not knowing what to do in a particular situation (don’t ask). So today I want to share a few tips for maneuvering through the morass of what to do when you don’t know what to do.

 First…

 Don’t get stuck in a muddle of misery and self-pity.

 Personal blows such as a job loss, relational rejection, business failure, or a divorce are horrendous, life-altering, episodes that really do warrant a legitimate grieving process. It’s crucial that we allow ourselves be sad or angry when we experience a big hurt or loss, it’s also crucial we don’t get stuck in feelings of sadness or self-pity. At some point we have to heal from the hurt, take risks again and find a new normal.  

 Do something good

 Anytime we make a big mistake or suffer through a hurtful situation it’s tempting to isolate ourselves and wait for good things to come our way. Sadly, good things rarely just happen. Good things typically transpire because we are doing good things for other people (Galatians 6:7). So turn off the electronic devices and and go interact with humanity. Volunteer in a soup kitchen, get to know a lonely neighbor, or help out at your church. It may not change your circumstances but it will make you feel better about life.

 Don’t blame God.

 Trust me, it’s not His fault.

 Forgive the jerks that hurt you

 Lack of forgiveness keeps us trapped in a never-ending cycle of bitterness that makes it almost impossible to see a way out of our current circumstances. The only way to break the cycle is to let go of resentments and forgive. It frees us up to see the future that God has prepared for us.

 There is one other thing I am staunchly persuaded is true. I am sure God never allows anything, no matter how painful or futile it may feel to us, into our life without a greater purpose. Sometimes when we don’t know what to do, God wants us to get to know Him better. When that task is accomplished, then He will show us what to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spotting Counterfeit Love

 

If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us~ John 4:12

 I have an odd spiritual quirk.

 Every couple years I switch out my Bible translation for a new one. My absurd fondness for novelty aside, the slight differences in the texts force me to pay attention to what I’m reading. It keeps me thinking, and I have found that thinking is always superior to the alternative. Through the years I have read through the NIV, NKJV, NASB and The Message.

 With the notable exception of The Message (TOO MANY WORDS) whatever version I am currently reading typically morphs into my new favorite. My current favorite is the English Standard Version. However the ESV it is certainly different than the last version I read (NASB) and the differences have led to some thought-provoking discoveries.

 This last week I was a little out of sorts and in desperate need of a spiritual kick in the backside. So I headed to Romans chapter twelve, my go-to passage whenever I find myself in need of little spiritual straight-talk. I have probably read that particular chapter at least a hundred times over the course of the last three decades, but for some reason verse nine caught my attention and got me thinking. I have been thinking about Romans 12:9 ever since.

 It simply reads…

 Let love be genuine.

 Because the text tells us our love should be genuine, then logic dictates there is a form of love Christian people sometimes express that is not real or genuine. It is somehow fake, phony or counterfeit, and like every decent counterfeit, it looks genuine, at least on the surface. It’s also safe to assume that this verse serves as a warning to Christians to be vigilant about how we love others.

 The Bible does not give a clear-cut definition of love.

 1st Corinthians shows us what genuine love ought to look like in our day-to-day interactions with other people. However, it doesn’t spell out a definition for us. Everyone agrees Jesus’ life; death and resurrection were the ultimate expression of love in action, but again no clear-cut definition.

 I wanted to find out what other people think about the subject of love. So I did what people do these days when they want to know what people think about a subject.

 I put the question on my Facebook page.

 I got sixty-five responses and the answers were all pretty good but fairly predictable. The responses tended to be divided into two distinct groups. The first group defined love in terms feelings. They talked about family, friends, security, general thoughtfulness and people they care about or people that care about them.

 Others hit on concepts that probably come a bit closer to God’s definition of love and tended to focus more on actions. They defined love in terms of how we behave and think about other people. Many used words like commitment, thoughtfulness, selflessness, and compassion. Some spoke of courage, personal sacrifice, providing for the physical and emotional needs of others and grace.

 All good stuff, but not exactly what I was looking for.

 The answers I was looking for didn’t come from Facebook (shocker) but they did come. It kind of hit me out of nowhere that genuine Christian love is more than just warmhearted sentimentality, or even a firm commitment to sticking with another human being through thick and thin.

 Love goes beyond providing for daily needs or showing grace to a struggling soul. Love is about more than simply being kind, although kindness, care for others, commitment and grace are at the very core of love. Nonetheless, love is much deeper and more complex than all of that. Authentic Christian love is about more than making people feel good about themselves or their choices right now.

 Genuine Christian love is chiefly concerned with the eternal destiny of other people.

 All Christians should be kind, generous, courageous, compassionate and gracious people. Christians should do everything possible to help meet the physical and emotional needs of others. Christians should always consider the feelings of others before they speak or act. However any expression of Christian love that does not attempt to change the eternal destiny of the other person by telling the truth about heaven, hell and the sin problem of mankind is not really love at all.

 It’s a counterfeit.

 

Where We Went Wrong With the Millennial Generation

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things~ 1st Corinthians 13:11 NKJV

 Over the last dozen or so years a countless number of articles and blog posts have been written on the subject of the Millennial generation and their well-documented indifference towards organized religion in general and Christianity in particular.

 Most writers focus almost entirely on solving the immediate spiritual crisis. Concerned parties want to reach the eighty percent who have wandered from the faith, before the entire generation is irrevocably lost to secularism, humanism, and atheism. I truly care about reaching the millennial generation on a spiritual level. However, I believe its every bit as imperative we understand how we got into this mess in first place.

 History is always critically important.

 Unless we know where we went wrong in a particular area we will be doomed to repeat the same stupid mistake until we die. Sadly, a countless number of blunders were made with the millennial generation. Parents, schools and churches all carry a share of the blame.

It all began with how my generation was raised.

Few in my generation were ever told we were special or smart when we were kids. This was true even when we did things that were genuinely special or smart. We were seldom permitted to voice our opinions or encouraged to share our thoughts. It was NEVER okay to contradict an adult. So when we became parents we did what Americans do when they encounter a wrong.

 We overcompensated.

 We told our kids a hundred times a day that they were smarter, more special and better informed than any children in the history of forever. If they pooped we threw a party, complete with M&M’s and party hats. If they shared an opinion, we celebrated that opinion no matter how irrational or poorly thought-out it happened to be. We insisted every kid get a trophy and made certain no child ever felt less than AWESOME about his or her academic or athletic abilities, regardless of actual ability.

 Educators were quick to focus on feelings rather than facts and hop on to the self-esteem bandwagon. Discipline went out of fashion and subjects like history were taught from an extremely one-sided perspective. Kids were rarely expected to examine both sides of an issue nor were they taught to judge historical figures actions and attitudes in the context of the time period they lived in. Absurd viewpoints were rarely, if ever challenged in academic settings.

 Churches and youth ministries focused on having fun, forming relationships and making kids feel good about themselves. Learning the Bible was dropped in favor of “service projects” and “doing life together”. The whole notion of sin was marginalized. Youth ministries focused on transforming children not yet out of puberty, including some who exhibited no indications of salvation into “leaders” who would “reach their generation for Jesus”. Do not judge, lest you be judged (Matthew 7:1) was the one Bible verse every high school student memorized.

 The end result of this collective madness has been devastating to our culture.

 Many millennials never let go of childish ideas about life and reality. It’s appallingly common for grown people to think that feelings are more important than facts and that if you believe something to be true then it must be. Many become anxious and overwrought when a flaw is pointed out in their thinking or when a viewpoint that differs from their own is presented. That is why we now have “safe spaces” on college campuses and in workplaces, to shield people from words or ideas that make them uncomfortable.

 Sigh.  

 The most tragic consequences of our folly have manifested themselves in the realm of the spiritual. Many millennials believe that if a Bible verse FEELS wrong to them then the Bible got it wrong on that subject. Because teenagers were placed in positions of spiritual leadership long before they were actually converted, acquired any wisdom or knew much of anything about the Bible; many are prideful and will not tolerate correction, even when the correction comes directly out of the Bible.

 Sadly, that is the root reason many millennials have left the church to “work out their own spiritual experience”. They simply cannot tolerate the fact that there is a higher authority than them, be it God or the Bible.

 We must change the way we look at life, God, parenting, and the nature of reality. It’s time to put away childish thoughts about such things and think like adults, this is especially true for Christians.

 It is time to acknowledge some basic truths: facts are more important than feelings, believing something does not make it true and only children shield themselves from ideas that challenge their thinking or hurt their feelings. While we’re at it we need to get back to the understanding that God is real and due to His position as Creator and Sustainer of all things He really does have a fundamental right to tell us what to do.

 Before it’s too late.

Why We Cannot Do the Christian Life Solo

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing~ 1st Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

 When I was in the third grade I missed winning the classroom spelling bee by one word. I remember the stupid word as if it was yesterday.

 Banana.

 It was the n’s that messed me up. They still do. More often than not, I still spell banana with three n’s. For some reason banana with two n’s still feels a bit sad and inadequate to me.

 Although I did not win the third grade spelling bee that year, the taste of a near-victory ignited within in me a fiery-hot passion to dominate at the next year’s spelling bee. I vividly imagined the sweet victory I would bask in as I sauntered into my house sporting the snappy blue ribbon the teacher awarded to the winner. I believed with all my heart that if I could win the classroom spelling bee I would surely go on to win the school spelling bee and then the regionals, perhaps even nationals. I would be the spelling-bee champion of the entire universe.

 Every human being on earth would bow to my spelling prowess.

 Unfortunately, I lacked commitment to the one component essential to any sort of academic success, studying. My intentions were noble, but I was kind of lazy and had yet to make the connection between short-term sacrifice (studying) and long-term payoff (spelling bee champion of the universe).

 Since then I have learned that there is more often than not a connection between commitment to one thing and success at something that feels completely unrelated. This is particularly true of spiritual growth.

 If you have been a Christian for longer than fifteen minutes you have likely heard the tried and true formula for Christian growth and maturity.

 Bible reading + prayer + church attendance = Mature believer in Jesus

 Bible reading, prayer and church attendance have long been thought to be the holy grail of Christian growth, and with good reason, all three are vital to spiritual growth. However, I am convinced it takes more than just those three things to grow into the people God has called us to be.

 We need people.

 Sadly, most of us have all but forgotten the fact that spiritual maturity is a complicated process that takes place most successfully in the company of other believers. Bible reading, prayer and church attendance absent of close relationships with other Christians can easily devolve into reading without understanding, prayer without power and the awful sensation of being utterly alone in a gathering of people.

 That is a recipe for hopelessness.

 Spiritual growth happens when we are exposed to people who have successfully walked through the junk we are currently walking through. This takes place most effectively in small groups or classes where we really get to know people, where we have our ideas about the Bible and life challenged by people who know more than we do and who have experienced things we have not. We grow when we learn to love people, and we cannot truly love people we do not know.

 Some things simply cannot be accomplished alone. It is almost impossible to encourage ones self without sounding like a crazy person. But without encouragement there is a very real danger our hearts will become hard towards God (Hebrews 3:13). We will never become wise without the ongoing influence of wise people in our lives (Proverbs 13:20) and it is only in the company of others that our faulty thinking is exposed and rough edges made smooth.

 Nothing worth having occurs without some sort of sacrifice, and relationships are no different. Building relationships with other Christians might mean giving up a night of television or having your kid cut back on sports so you can make time for a small group. Building relationships might mean dragging your weary butt out of bed an hour earlier on Sunday mornings so you can attend an adult Sunday school class. It might mean volunteering to lead a small group in your church or inviting a group of people over for dinner so you can get to know them better.

 Building relationships is time consuming and tricky but the payoff we receive is well worth the effort it takes. Because God has designed the universe in such a way that it is only within the context of Christian friendship where we find the support and encouragement we need to grow into the people God has called us to be (Acts 2:44-46).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lazy Activism and Other Things That Inflame Racial Tension

God does not see you as a Jew or as a Greek. He does not see you as a servant or as a person free to work. He does not see you as a man or as a woman. You are all one in Christ~ Galatians 3:28 NLT

 I am not nor have I ever been black. My lack of personal experience coupled with an unbridled ambition to speak out of wisdom rather than ignorance, has made me enormously reluctant say anything at all concerning the sorry state of race relations in America.

 That said…

 I decided this week to go ahead and run the risk of looking and sounding like a chump because I believe attitudes towards race are more of a spiritual problem than a social or political issue. The ever-devolving state of race relations in this country says nothing good about the spiritual condition of our hearts (Luke 6:45).  

 Race ought to be a non-issue for Christians. The Bible is clear: in Jesus there is no color, race, sex, socio-economic class or any other of the distinctions humans are so fond of making (James 2:1-9, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). That sort of thinking is earthly, corrupt and foolish. It leads to nothing but suffering, discord and a sinful sort of smugness that REALLY annoys the Almighty (Isaiah 2:11, James 3:15).

 As bad as things have gotten, I do not believe it is too late to correct course, but it’s going take a commitment from all us. Positive change will come about when we all examine our hearts on this issue and make a commitment to:

 Avoid lazy activism-

 Wearing a stupid tee shirt, demanding social change on Twitter, posting rabble-rousing twaddle on Facebook or refusing to stand during the National Anthem does nothing at all to improve the problems we have with race in America. Nor does it draw attention to the problem in a way that is at all constructive or healing. It only serves to spread ignorance and further divide people. If this sort of silliness is all the activism you can mange it would be far more helpful to do nothing at all.

 Stop supposing we all have the same experiences-

 There was a black guy who lived in our neighborhood in Tucson. I ran into him from time-to-time while we were walking our dogs; he was a well-dressed, pleasant guy in his late sixties who was really into his dog. I just sort of assumed that his experience living in our neighborhood was exactly like my experience living in our neighborhood. I was forced to reexamine my beliefs when my son befriended some local police officers. They divulged that they received at least two calls a week from residents in our area concerning “a strange black man roaming the streets”. No one in that neighborhood ever called the police on anyone in our family while we were walking our dog.

 Don’t joke about things that aren’t funny-

 I am not nor have I ever been one to embrace politically correct dogma, especially when it comes to words. However, I do believe there is wisdom in choosing our words wisely and that there is simply no place for bigoted words or racist jokes from anyone in the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:29) nor should Christians laugh at such things. Ever.

 Don’t assume it’s always about race-

 I did not grow-up black (obviously). However, I did grow-up poor. As a result I lived in some seriously crummy neighborhoods as a kid. And I can tell you that police treat people differently depending on their zip code. If a police officer had seen teenage-me walking my stupidly-expensive purebred dog in my old neighborhood he would have asked me— in a not so friendly manner— where exactly I got the dog. Police profiled my friends and me all the time, but it wasn’t about race, it was about socio-economic status. When I’m sitting in my car at an intersection and I see a man in the crosswalk I lock my door. It is not a racist thing; it’s a sexist thing. I don’t care what color the guy is— if he’s a he and older than 12 or younger than 80—I lock the door. Sometimes when a person behaves in a way that appears to be racist, it is racist. Other times it’s not. It would help tremendously if we would all at least attempt to assume the best in one another.  

 I am wholeheartedly convinced that Christians are called to be change-agents in whatever corner of the world God has placed them. Becoming a change-agent in this particular situation begins with attempting to see things from the other person’s point of view. But it can’t end with empathy; authentic change begins with doing what we would want done for us if we found ourselves in the other guy’s shoes.

Foolishness, Responsibility and the Rape Culture

Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways~ Proverbs 2:12-13 NIV

 This last week I was blindsided with not one but two— face palming— lose your faith in humanity forever— let me off this planet— now— kind of moments.

 The first occurred when the news program I was watching covered the early release of Brock Turner. For those who do not own a television or have been vacationing on another planet, Brock Turner is the bag of human filth Stanford student found guilty of raping an unconscious woman on campus following a fraternity party.

 Although his guilt could not have been more obvious (DNA plus two eyewitnesses), Brock Turner was initially sentenced to only six months in jail for the assault. The paltry sentence was for some reason, (known only to God and the numbskull judge) cut in half.

 Six months of jail time for raping an inebriated, unconscious woman is such a staggering miscarriage of justice that I literally have no words for how furious it makes me. Cutting the sentence in half for any reason makes a mockery of the entire notion of justice.

 The second of the face palming— lose your faith in humanity forever—let me off this planet— now— kind of moments quickly followed.

 The women discussing the case bantered back and forth on the generalities of the case for a while, before moving on to the problem of campus rape. Then they debated what should be done to prevent rape on college campuses.

 It wasn’t so much what was said that caused me to face palm but what wasn’t said. Not a single word was uttered concerning the notion of people in general and young women in particular avoiding the act of becoming too drunk to function in public places. Not one word. In fact, the whole idea that college students can or should drink less was openly ridiculed.

 Once I got a grip and quit muttering under my breath about the lack of logic on this planet. I came to the sad conclusion that as a society we have become so consumed with the notion of personal rights that we have completely lost the entire concept of wisdom and, with it, personal responsibility.

 Wisdom is the ability to look at a possible course of action and see in advance what the likely outcome might be. Wisdom is sometimes defined as the correct use of knowledge, underscoring the fact a person can acquire a lot of knowledge concerning a lot of things but be completely lacking in wisdom.

 For the record, I do not believe intoxicated women deserve to be raped; anyone who believes that lie is clearly out of touch with their own humanity. Furthermore, I truly believe rape is a hate crime and ought to be charged as such with a mandatory-minimum ten-year sentence. So please, don’t accuse me of being soft on rape.

 That said.

 If as a society we are going have any sort of thoughtful dialogue about preventing rape we need to tell women and girls that getting drunk in the presence of strangers is simply unwise. This world is full of horrible people who gleefully seek out defenseless women for the sole purpose of taking advantage of their defenselessness. Sadly, rapists are not born with gross deformities, an “R” on their foreheads or any other identifying marks. Therefore, the key to rape prevention is situational awareness. No one is aware of their situation when they are wasted. Period.

 It’s not just in the arenas of criminal justice and college rape where our society has lost its collective mind. There is a lack of wisdom everywhere we look. From parenting to food consumption to marriage to how we view gender to how we approach the complexities of daily life. As a society we have rejected the giver of wisdom (God). In the process we have become fools who wander around in bewilderment wondering out loud why our lives and our society are not working the way we think they ought to.

 Sadly, Christians cannot wave a magic wand and make our society more rational. However, we can seek wisdom from God on a daily basis and commit to living lives that model wisdom and good sense. We can also work to reform the system. Christians need to pay attention to what is going on in schools, churches, the justice system and the political world. Then we need to courageous enough to call out foolishness when we see it.

 

 

 

Voting for Corruption

 

Your rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them~ Isaiah 1:23 NIV

 I am an ardent fan of all things political.

 The Presidential elections are my favorite; it actually bums me out that they only roll around once every four years. I look forward to the presidential election season the way some women look forward to a fifty-percent off sale on Jimmy Choo shoes.

 I am a registered Independent and although I cheerfully admit to leaning conservative I am attentive to the goings-on on both sides of the political aisle. I will vote for any politician evidence reveals is a decent human being who can pass a drug test, possess a solid ethical compass and has a working knowledge of basic economic principles.

 This election has been a gloomy one for me. It has challenged my love of politics as well as my faith in the intelligence of the American electorate. Somehow the nation I love has succeeded in picking the two most tragic candidates in the history of our Republic. The out-and-out absurdity of these two choices for President baffles me to no end. My unending irritation over the Republican pick has caused me to say precious little about Hilary Clinton.

 Well, no more.

 Recent revelations have made me so insane with righteous outrage that I can no longer hold back my uncensored opinion on the dangers of a Clinton presidency.

 I will begin with the email controversy.

 It is an irrefutable fact that Hillary Clinton set-up a private email server in a bathroom. She committed this criminal act against the counsel of her staff, proving she is either hopelessly dimwitted or has zero interest in keeping classified information out of the hands of foreign governments. For the record, I do not believe that Hilary Clinton is dimwitted. Nor do I believe she was ignorant the law (as she claims), nor do I believe her emails are so desperately dull that no foreign power would ever be intent on reading them, as she stated in an interview with the comedian Jimmy Fallon. Hillary Clinton is an attorney who has worked at the highest levels of government for most of her life. She simply despises accountability, doesn’t care who she hurts and believes herself to be above the law.

 If the email debacle were the only example of flagrant corruption, I might be inclined to let it go, sadly that is not the case. In 1997 the Clintons created the Clinton Foundation, ostensibly for the purpose of raising money for do-gooder causes. In all fairness the foundation has raised a lot of money for various causes, many of them good. Exact numbers are tough to pin down but conservatively speaking millions have been given to help people around the world.

 That is a good thing.

 What is not a good thing is how Ms. Clinton used the foundation while she was Secretary of State. Credible allegations charge she used the foundation to line her own pockets by selling meetings (to the tune of $156 million) to individuals, corporations and foreign countries in exchange for donations to her foundation. Donors include the Prince of Bahrain who pledged $32 million to the Clinton foundation.

 Doubtless these folks were astute enough to get something in return for the money they paid. Naïve people have argued that there is no actual evidence she ever gave anyone a favor in exchange for a cash donation. Sadly, that unlikely scenario makes the whole situation worse rather than better. It means she and her aides were running some sort of a flimflam operation out of the office of the Secretary of State. Trust me: the crown prince was promised SOMETHING in exchange for 32 MILLION DOLLARS. No one in their right mind pays 32 million dollars simply to meet with someone. He had an ulterior motive and if he did not get what he paid for, he’s seriously furious.

 When her email server was exposed, she blamed her own ineptitude (like that is supposed to make any of us feel better), then she blamed her colleagues. When her colleagues declined to be hurled under that particular bus she blamed COLIN POWELL. Seriously, she blamed Colin Powell for her illegal server, that’s like me blaming the mailman for the sloppy condition of my front yard. When four Americans were killed in Libya she blamed an anti-Islamic video that few people had actually viewed for the disaster. When her husband sexually harassed women he worked with she blamed the women.

 I could go on forever.

 Hillary Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin, was born in Michigan but raised in Saudi Arabia. She is the daughter of Muslim intellectuals who have dedicated their lives to spreading the Muslim faith. Abedin acted as the assistant editor for a radical Muslim publication for ten years. The scholarly journal Ms. Abedin edited openly promotes Sharia law, is anti-women’s rights, anti-Christian, anti-Israel and blamed America for the 9-11 attacks. The woman slated to be the next Whitehouse Chief of Staff has close ties to radical Islam. At the very least this fact proves Hillary Clinton does not have the good sense necessary to make her own staffing decisions.

 Any American who is not troubled by Hillary Clinton’s corruption and poor judgment is at least as dimwitted as she pretends to be.

   This is the most depressing election of my lifetime. A Clinton Presidency may very well be unavoidable. However, that doesn’t mean nothing can be done. Christians everywhere need to pray. It is not too late for God to intervene. He is in the business of miracles and we could certainly use one right now. Christians also need to vote— the congressional election is critical this year. If conservatives lose the house and senate and Clinton wins the Presidency all will truly be lost. The most openly corrupt person in the history of American politics will control everything.

 God help us all.