PROFILING OUR CULTURE

     Tucker Carlson’s recent opening monologue (“Tucker Carlson Tonight”) was so clear, coherent and frankly, competent— a feat rarely witnessed in our culture these days— I could not resist recording it as an introduction to my blog: “Profiling Our Culture:”

     “America, the country, is as divided as it has been in 150 years, since the Civil War. Right and Left live in entirely different cultures in a lot of ways, rarely encountering one another personally. They live in different cities, attend different churches, read different books, even have different hobbies; they even eat different foods increasingly.

      At the political level, state and local governments don’t just denounce federal policy, they actively defy it. Eight states defy the federal ban on marijuana letting citizens grow and sell it with impunity.

      Countless cities tell their police to pretend immigration laws don’t exist or are invalid or so immoral you can ignore them. Can we salvage a functional nation out two groups who increasingly despise each other? It’s a real question and not asked often enough.”[1]

      “Right and Left live in entirely different cultures in a lot of ways, rarely encountering one another personally,” consequently most Americans think that any attempt at having a normal conversation with a person different from themselves would be so difficult, we choose to avoid one another. 

     Evangelical Christians consistently admit that they have significant difficulty communicating with people not like themselves. For example, nearly 9 in 10 Evangelical Christians (87%) report higher tensions than any other group in American culture when it comes to normal conversation with an LGBT person or a Muslim.[2]  Further, 85% of Evangelicals have increased anxiety when it comes to dialogue with atheists or people unaffiliated with any other faith.[3] Perhaps even more surprisingly, nearly 3 in 10 Evangelicals— nearly 1/3 (28%) report having difficulty engaging in normal conversation with other Evangelicals.[4]

      Compared to Evangelicals, a much lower percentage of LGBT people (58%) say they have difficulty sharing in a normal conversation with a Christian.[5] 69% of people in faiths other than Christian report that a conversation with an Evangelical Christian is difficult for them while 55% of U.S. adults in general admit that they have problems talking with [Evangelical/born-again] Christians.[6] Our problems associating with one another, especially people different from ourselves, doesn’t appear to be helped by social media.

        As our culture increasingly becomes more like Europe—that is, increasingly secularized, Christian morality is fast-fading from America life. As the moral vacuum grows in America, many U.S. adults are admitting that they are uncertain about how to differentiate right from wrong.[7] 

        A majority among American adults (57%) of our nations’ population to include all ages, ethnicities, genders, socioeconomic categories and political ideological views, believe “knowing what is right or wrong is a matter of personal experience”[8] — differentiating between good and bad, moral and immoral, is now a purely subjective choice. America’s majority moral code has become: “The morality of self-fulfillment” and now, the highest good in our society involves “finding yourself” and then living by “what’s right for you.”[9]

     Statistics related to the “morality of self-fulfillment” and responses from “all U.S. Adults” and “practicing Christians” — “practicing Christians” (as distinguished from Evangelical and/or born-again Christians) are described as “self-identified Christians who say their faith is very important in their lives and have attended a worship service within the past month”[10] — are morally troubling.

     For example, in response to the statement: “The best way to find yourself is by looking within yourself,” 91% of U.S. adults “completely” or “somewhat” agreed compared to 76% of practicing Christians. In response to the assertion: “People should not criticize someone else’s life choices,” 89% of U.S. adults “completely” or “somewhat” agreed compared to 76% of practicing Christians and to the notion: “Any kind of sexual expression between two consenting adults is acceptable,” 69% of U.S. adults “completely” or “somewhat” agreed compared to 40% of practicing Christians.[11]   

      But when the “morality of self-fulfillment” is displayed in our culture, especially in high profile ways, it generates considerably more confusion than moral clarity. Consider, for example, the stories of three people, Elizabeth Warren, Rachel Dolezal and Caitlyn Jenner. Two of these women, Warren and Dolezal, assumed racial identities different from their original race at birth and Jenner, chose sexual reassignment.

      Rachel Dolezal was formerly the head of the Spokane, Washington NAACP but she was forced to resign because it was “discovered” that she is not black. She is the daughter of white parents and she was born and raised in Montana as a freckle-faced strawberry blond. Rachel was socially charged with “cultural appropriation.” Cultural appropriation is a charge made against people who have allegedly high-jacked elements common to one culture and applied them to a different culture.

     In her defense against the charge of “cultural appropriation,” Rachel Dolezal has tirelessly contended that race is simply a “social construct” and she is “trans-racial.” But her defense has fallen on deaf ears and she has instead been widely ridiculed, slandered and abused.

     Caitlyn Jenner has, however, been celebrated and consistently referred to as “brave” and “courageous” for identifying as “trans-sexual” — ESPN bestowed the “Arthur Ash Courage Award” on Caitlyn Jenner in 2015. And later, in the same year, Caitlyn was named Glamour Magazine’s “Woman of the Year.” 

     Why does “cultural appropriation” provoke hostility but sexual reassignment or “biological appropriation” is celebrated? How is individual expression in an outward biological form of how one feels on the inside, different from racial expression on the outside of how one feels on the inside? So, biology can be appropriated, but cultural/ racial identity cannot be?

     In his article, “Rachel Dolezal is Every Bit as Black as Caitlyn Jenner is Female,” Dan Foley asks the daring, but obvious question: “Can you imagine anyone confronting Caitlyn with pictures of herself as a young Bruce Jenner, as though such pictures could prove that Caitlyn is not a woman?” [12]  Foley’s question is, of course, rhetorical, however, when you think about it, was ESPN guilty of a “microaggression” — a term now common on university campuses for a small action or choice of words that although on their face pose no malicious intent but subtly represent a kind of violence nonetheless?[13]  In other words, when ESPN honored Caitlyn Jenner with the “Arthur Ash Courage Award,” why else was she standing in front of a room full of great athletes unless she herself had been one “in a previous biological life?” ESPN’s insensitivity might have been, at least in the understanding of millennials at preeminent universities such as Yale, a “trigger”[14] for a traumatic recurrence of Jenner’s struggles that eventually led to her sexual reassignment.

     Since moral reasoning founded on objective criteria is not a part of this discussion, at least in politically correct categories, please permit a little further speculation. Would an acceptable explanation perhaps be: “cultural appropriation” is a violation of the “cultural rights” of an entire culture; but sexual reassignment or biological appropriation is a decision affecting primarily the person making the choice?    

     But if moral choices are purely subjective, then on what grounds does anyone have the right to be outraged by another person’s moral choice whether only a few are perceived affected or an entire culture? And besides, if Rachel Dolezal was guilty of some serious social transgression punishable by slander, abuse and ridicule, followed by her resignation as the head of the Spokane, Washington NAACP in disgrace, then what about Elizabeth Warren?

     Senator Warren, formerly regarded as Native American while a tenured member of the faculty at Harvard Law School in the mid-1990’s, claims Cherokee and Delaware Indian ancestry. However, in an article entitled, “Is Elizabeth Warren Native American or What?”, Garance Franke-Ruta observed: “Elizabeth Warren is not a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Elizabeth Warren is not enrolled in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. And Elizabeth Warren is not one of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee.”[15]

     According to independent genealogists, Warren’s claims to having even 1/32 Cherokee ancestry is unsubstantiated— Senator Warren is not eligible to become a recognized member of the Cherokee Nation.[16] Why has Rachel Dolezal been disgraced but Elizabeth Warren continues to rise in power as a probable presidential candidate for the Democratic Party in 2020?

     Our culture is consistently inconsistent caught up in a vicious cycle of insanity, our quest for an absolute unbridled (autonomous) freedom, that is, freedom without any restraints, without any form or outside Transcendent or Absolute to guide us will inevitably lead us “in the direction of an establishment totalitarianism”[17] “If there is no absolute by which to judge society, society is absolute.”    

 

 

 

[1]  Tucker Carlson, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Fox News, 04/27/2017, 8:00 P.M., EST.

[2]  Barna Trends, 2017, “Americans Struggle to Talk Across Divides,” 115.

[3]  Ibid.

[4]  Ibid.

[5]  Ibid.

[6]  Ibid.

[7]  Ibid., “The New Moral Code,” 50.

[8] Ibid.

[9]  Ibid., 53.

[10]  This definition of “practicing Christians” is used by Barna researchers, Ibid.,10.

[11]  Ibid., 53.

[12] Dan Foley, “Rachel Dolezal is Every Bit as Black as Caitlyn Jenner is Female,” http://wfnt.com/rachel-dolezal-is-every-bit-as-black-as-caitlyn-jenner-is-female/, April 29, 2017, Downloaded: 04/28/2017.

[13]   Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Atlantic, September 2015 Issue, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356.

[14]   Ibid.

[15]   Garance Franke-Ruta, “Is Elizabeth Warren Native American or What?”, May, 20, 2012, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/05/is-elizabeth-warren-native-american-or-what/257415/, Downloaded: 05/05/2017.

[16]  Ibid.

[17]  Francis Schaeffer, “The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century,” 25.

A WISE BUILDER: MATTHEW 7:24-27

For almost two years, I have been working through the Sermon on the Mount. The following is chapter 16, A Wise Builder. Soon, I want to organize community groups in which I hope you will sign up to discuss the Sermon on the Mount together. Your teacher/facilitator will not be me but rather someone from our congregation that I have prepared to teach the material. 

             “Where do I go for answers to life’s most important questions?” And, “Is my source reliable?” —                                                                       Harold Lindsell

7—24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

                                   BIBLICAL TRUTH AND ‘THE PUBLIC SQUARE’

            Progressive secularist anger now dominates the pubic square, to include numerous university campuses nation-wide. A common charge among progressives against the Christian faith is: “Since the Bible is an ancient, unchanging book, it is outdated and obsolete— The Bible is therefore incapable of providing solutions for the staggering moral-ethical complexities of the twenty-first century!”

             During a Spring evening at the La Salle Stewart Center on the Oregon State University campus, following Dominic Crossan’s discussion of the Bible, and other ancient spiritual writings (e.g., The Gospel of Thomas, The Kabbalah and The Urantia), a gentleman asked the progressive Roman Catholic New Testament scholar: “When is the Bible going to be updated and made relevant for present-day needs?”

             Tim Keller responds to this type of question by pointing out the assumption that lies behind it: those who charge that the Bible has been outdated since at least the Dark Ages usually assume their place in history is the ultimate, climatic point in human history—but it’s not. Keller continues to explain that critiques of the Bible, made in every age, pass with every age; they end up in the “dust bin of history within a generation of time!” But orthodox Christianity remains the same.

             Augustine’s City of God, Keller points out, was written 1,500 years ago. Augustine was defending the Christian faith against the cultural critiques of his day. A profound problem surfaces: When a person attempts to read Augustine’s City of God, they find it to be very challenging to read. Why? Because although the skeptics of Augustine’s day were all weighing in with their criticisms of the Bible and Christian faith, they are now so obsolete (even silly) that no one takes them seriously! But Augustine’s defense of historic Christianity remains the same; and the historic Christian faith is still embraced by literally billions of people.

             Keller acutely notes that 100 years from now, when the present-day critiques of Christian faith have passed, and been forgotten, orthodox Christianity will continue to remain the same—if you want to be up-to-date in every age, embrace orthodox Christianity and the living Word upon which it is founded!

             And therefore, Keller concludes: If you accept the authority of the Bible, you are embracing an enduring city and therefore, your beliefs will never be out-of-date[1] — You be “like a wise man who built his house on the rock”! 

                                                    LIVING IN THE WAY OF JESUS

7— 24“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

        John Mark Comer is a contemporary pastor living in a city wherein the corrosive effects of secularization have reached a tipping point. But Pastor Comer has chosen to join his city, Portland, Oregon, in its exile: “The task of the church in an exile-like setting is to rediscover the teachings of Jesus and the practices of the early church, then apply them to the corrosive soil of a Western secularized citylike Portland or San Francisco or New York or L.A.”[2]    

         The grand narrative of the Sermon on the Mount“… the teachings of Jesus and the practices of the early church” is lucidly expressed by N.T. Wright: “God’s future is arriving in the present, in the person and work of Jesus, and you can practice, right now, the habits of life which will find their goal in that coming future.”[3]

         Imagine with me a portrait of a covenant community in which the Sermon on the Mount has taken narrative form.

                                    GOD’S COVENANT PEOPLEA NEW HUMANITY

         The kingdom of God is not merely an idea but present reality for God’s covenant people. The daily lives of God’s covenant community are conditioned by both their connection to Jesus’ historical resurrection and their future imperishable, immortal and incorruptible resurrection. And this gives meaning to every ordinary day in the lives of the new humanity— God’s people live and walk in a “better righteousness.”

         The Sermon on the Mount has taken narrative form in a new humanity— And the sacredness of human life is at the core of their ethical lives and therefore, every human life from the moment of conception to the moment of death—  possesses equal moral value simply because it is human.     The Bride of Christ abides in Truth, Jesus, the Anointed One. Their mission is to join God in his mission and live as a counter-cultural movement, transforming culture through “acting justly, loving mercy” and “walking humbly,” that is, creating space, wherever they go for God to work through them so that they might be a preserving seasoning and beckoning light for a lawless culture in the process of being turned over to itself.    

                                                                       FORMATION

(1)   How does your life daily conform to the central teachings of the Sermon on the Mount?

(2)  Spiritual formation (discipleship) requires obedience from God’s people to the teachings of Jesus, what is your ministry, how are you salt for those whom God brings you into contact with?

(3) Reflect on the portrait of “God’s Covenant Community—A New Humanity” and discuss the central themes of the Sermon on the Mount that surface in the portrait. How do you see yourself in the portrait?

 

[1]  My paraphrase of Tim Keller’s argument is from a sermon on CD: Tim Keller, “The City to Come,” Hebrews 11:13-16; 13:10-16, Copy-Write Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York, NY. (Re: Contact for clarification in documenting Keller’s work: Clara Lee, Project Manager, Redeemer City to City, NY, NY 1001).

[2]  Paul J. Pastor, (Interview) “John Mark Comer, The Westside: Bridgetown,” Outreach Magazine.com, The 2016 Outreach 100, 33.

[3]  N.T. Wright, After You Believe, Why Christian Character Matters (New York, N.Y.: Harper-Collins Publishers, 2010), 103.

AN AMORAL ALTERNATIVE: POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

“We have no government armed with powers capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.” John Adams continued, “Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.” Concluding, the 2nd President of the United States stressed, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”[1]

 

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”[2] However, there “… is now no recognized moral knowledge upon which projects of fostering moral development could be based.”[3]

Virtue (moral integrity) and faith (Religious Liberty) — both of which are absolutely necessary for sustainable freedom in America’s free democratic republic,[4] have been sacrificed on the pagan altar of “political correctness.”

Political correctness is an amoral substitute for moral knowledge. Political correctness erases the line between good and evil in each of us; everyone is now free to determine what is “the good” for themselves and all other ways of seeing things are excluded as intolerant and extremist especially, conscience-based differences (“Religious Liberty”) which are now seen as bigoted, hateful and dangerous.

Ironically, although founded on personal autonomy (lit., “self-law”), political correctness is really a diabolical form of social control that seeks to justify our vindictive attitudes (and too often acts of vengeance) by conforming the divine law to political ends. Consequently, political correctness creates a hostile social environment in which people untiringly strive to be on the side of the “tolerant” and avoid the career ending, socially alienating and personal disgrace of being labeled “intolerant.” Political correctness is an amoral self-regarding “ethic” that reduces human virtue to base level narcissistic ambition.

The “whale” has broken-through the “strongest cords of our Constitution” —The “unbridled passions” of our lawless culture now fuel the celebration of the deliberate perversion of the created order (cf., Romans 1:18-32); and conversely, that which was formerly celebrated, our nation’s religious freedom, in now condemned. 

A specific example of the condemnation of “our nation’s religious freedom” is contained in a report in which the United States Commission on Civil Rights forcibly confronts the First Amendment’s right to “free exercise” by re-framing the Christian faith as an insidious political ideology: “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”[5]

In the spirit of political correctness, Martin Castro, the chairman of the commission, unequivocally proclaims: “Religious liberty was never intended to give one religion dominion over other religions, or a veto power over the civil rights and civil liberties of others. However, today, as in the past, religion is being used as both a weapon and a shield by those seeking to deny others equality.”[6]

Castro concludes with the need to eradicate the nation’s real perceived enemy— “religion,” or more specifically, “Christian supremacy”: “This generation of Americans must stand up and speak out to ensure that religion never again be twisted to deny others the full promise of America.”[7]

Contrary to the twisted “politically correct” redefinition of historic Christian faith as oppressive “religious dominion” and politically-motivated “Christian supremacy,” the Gospel reveals Christ’s atoning death for his enemies: He forgives them instead of conquering them; he gives up power and becomes a servant— Christ’s death is revealed in the New Testament as God’s counter-ideological confrontation of the world and its bloodstained history— Religious or political oppression are associated with the perversion of the created order, that is, evil, in God’s world.                 

As fallen men are “given over” (re: Rom. 1:24; 26; 28) to their “unbridled passions” to do as they desire, our free democratic republic will inevitably “die by suicide.”[8]

[1]  John Adams, “Address to the Military,” 11 October 1798, in William J. Federer, America’s God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations (Coppell, Tex.: Fame Publishing, 1994), 10. My quote taken from: Os Guinness, A Free People’s Suicide, Sustainable Freedom and the American Future (Downers Grove, IL.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2012), 117.

[2]  John Adams, “Address to the Military,” 11 October 1798, in William J. Federer, America’s God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations (Coppell, Tex.: Fame Publishing, 1994), 10. My quote taken from: Os Guinness, A Free People’s Suicide, Sustainable Freedom and the American Future (Downers Grove, IL.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2012), 117.

[3]  Dallas Willard, Divine Conspiracy, Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1997), 3.  

[4]  Os Guinness, The Case for Civility, 124.

[5]  Martin Castro, Chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights (http://www.usccr.gov/about/commissioners.php); “Civil Rights Commission: ‘Religious Liberty,’ ‘Religious Freedom’ Code Words for Intolerance, Homophobia, and ‘Christian Supremacy,’  http://www.cnsnews.com/print/1261746, page 1 of 2, Downloaded: 10/11/2016.

[6]  Ibid.

[7]  Ibid.

[8]  In 1838 Abraham Lincoln exposed the principal threat, at any time in our nation’s history, to our freedom: “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up among us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”  

“Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum,” Springfield, Illinois, 1838. Quoted in: Os Guinness, A Free People’s Suicide, Sustainable Freedom and the American Future (Downers Grove, IL.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2012), 8.

THE SACREDNESS OF VOTING

Whereas strong consensus exists among thoughtful Christians that the church ought to inform the state’s conscience concerning social-ethical matters such as the plight of the vulnerable and poor, the sanctity of human life, racial reconciliation, the traditional family, the stewardship of the planet and the promotion of justice, freedom and peace, disagreement exists among Christian communions as to how the church ought to practically respond to her prophetic calling.

        The source of the Church’s disagreement centers in its uncertainty of its prophetic calling in the midst of a deeply divided nation.

A DEEPLY DIVIDED NATION  

Americans are in crisis, for “… at this juncture,” observes Os Guinness, “… the West has cut itself off from its own Jewish and Christian roots —the faith, the ideas, the ethics and the way of life that made it the West. It now stands deeply divided, uncertain of its post-Christian identity….”[1] The public square has increasingly become more hostile; nothing is sacred anymore, especially human dignity. Civility has long since faded from American cultureIdeologically opposed sides are no longer capable of civil dialogue with one another in the public square.[2]    

Leading up to the mid-80’s and preceding decades, the bell curve defined normal (norms) as centralized rather than to one extreme or the other—most people [were] average regarding life skills, academic performance, athletic ability, professional achievement, personal appearance; and as having a small or large family — most people [were] more “centered,” albeit, left or right centered, regarding social, religious or even politically ideological issues. 

        The emergent culture in the mid-80’s and into the 21st century ushered in a new phenomenon — an ideological pluralism. “Normal” was redefined by an inverted bell curve or “well-curve.”  The well-curve sees the majority population gravitating to the extremes, resulting in the political, ideological and social polarization of American culture.

On the left are progressive secularists, socialist Democrats, the liberal church, “Occupy … Washington D.C., L.A., Seattle, Minneapolis, etc.”; pro-choice advocates, pro-active euthanasia (doctor-assisted-suicide), same-sex marriage, #Black-Lives-Matter, anti-gun rights, open borders and a seemingly endless array of enigmatic forms of “spirituality” to include pantheistic environmentalists.  

And on the right is free-enterprise, capitalism; traditionalist Independent conservatives, the Tea Party, a lot of angry Republicans —and a lot of people, to include angry Republicans, who now view the Republican party as a soon-to-be extinct species; pro-life advocates; traditional male-female marriage, closed borders, cultural assimilation, advocates for the Second Amendment and much, certainly not all, of the evangelical (conservative) church.[3]

Our nation politically, ideologically and socially is polarized to the point of breaking; confusion dominates every layer of our culture and with each passing day, the sentiment on both sides becomes increasingly more intense: “It’s between ‘us’ and ‘them’ and we hate the other side!”

Why has the evangelical church chosen sides? A significant portion of evangelical (conservative) Christians have been misled into believing that politics are capable of solving pre-political cultural problems.[4] James Davison Hunter gives stark clarity— The culturally conservative side of the Evangelical Church bets “on politics as the means to respond to the changes in the world, but that politics can only be a losing strategy. What political solution is there to the absence of decency? To the spread of vulgarity? To the lack of civility and the want of compassion? The answer, of course, is none— there are no political solutions to these concerns, and the headlong pursuit of them by conservatives will lead, inevitably, to failure.”[5]

Politics, for “all its gritty realism is the proper calling of lay people…. Christians should be engaged in politics, but never equated without remainder with any party or ideology.”[6]  By choosing sides— that is, by becoming “equated without remainder with any party or ideology” — a significant number of evangelical (conservative) Christians have actually created an environment counter-productive to their otherwise sincere cause to rescue the culture by means of a political solution— That is, the hope of restoring the West, and particularly America’s recovery of its Jewish-Christian roots or at least the church’s post-Christian identity.

The Religious Left initiated the unsavory practice of “politicizing” the faith in the 1960s. And in the late 1970s, the Religious Right followed the Left in this grave error of “using faith to express essentially political points that have lost touch with biblical truth.”[7] 

The result of the “politicizing of the faith” has been the subordination of Christian faith to a particular political party— “Christian faith becomes an ideology in its purest form: Christian beliefs are used as weapons for political interests.”[8]

 THE CHURCH’S ‘POST-CHRISTIAN’ IDENTITY

President James Madison (America’s 4th President) was a rare statesman. Madison’s insightful link between faith, civil society, and republican (representative) government laid the foundation for a secular democracy that nonetheless depended on the integral role of religious faith and the church. Whereas government ought to be secular, this is however, why the state needs a transcendent moral-ethical referent— that is, faith (the religious source) and virtue (the seasoning presence of the church) is absolutely necessary for freedom to be sustained.

Therefore, our 2nd President, John Adams stressed: “We have no government armed with powers capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”[9]

        The church then, especially in the context of a democratic republic, is divinely called to be the prophetic conscience of the state (Romans 13:1-5). Martin Luther King Jr. wisely asserted: “[The] church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.”[10]

        However, the prophetic conscience of the state, the church, has become a tool of right-wing partisan politics and consequently, the evangelical church has contributed to the political and social polarization in the nation instead of acting as a peacemaker. The church is to be for the political sphere (and culture) what it cannot be for itself The church is to be salt and light, that is, the church is to be the conscience (the moral-ethical guide) for the whole of the political sphere.

        God’s calling of the church to be the prophetic conscience of the state begins with the church’s recognition of the need for change in the culture beyond the passage of mere legislation; the entire political moral/ethical context in which politicians and society function must be reformed.[11]

        How does the church’s divine calling to be the prophetic conscience of the state relate to a mid-sized church located in a tiny community in Kitsap County? Three things required of any local church of any size that would contribute significant salt and light to American culture are as follows:

(1)         PrayPray for political unity in America; this ought to be an all-consuming priority for the church. Indeed, a unified nation is more likely to reverse and/or write into law the great social-ethical concerns of the church than is a divided nation.

(2)         Be Salt & Light— “Wherever you go, whatever you do, preach the Gospel, and when necessary, use words” — St. Francis of Assisi.

(3)         Be PropheticThe church needs to hear God’s prophet with hearts inclined towards righteousness and obedient determination to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” — Micah 6:8.

 WHY SHOULD YOU VOTE?

Finally, you and I ought to vote for three simple but profoundly Christian reasons:

(1)         Thankfulness— Acts 17:26 says, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” God determined when you would be born and where you would live!

Are you thankful to God for your life and where you are so privileged to live it? You and I live in the greatest nation on earth! We don’t have to risk our lives to vote! And for goodness sakes, the ballot is delivered to our home where we live!

(2)          Believer’s Moral Responsibility— Whereas the church, in each local community and nationally, is called to be the prophetic conscience of the state, individual Christians are free to vote according to their own conscience— “Religious Freedom” (the 1st Amendment) does not originate with the state; the introduction to the Declaration of Independence recognizes our special creation in God’s image as the basis for certain unalienable rights.

Therefore, the state did not give us our unalienable rights, God has and our founding fathers, with gratitude towards God recognized this. How could any believer ignore this great and precious blessing? This is why I entitled this blog, The Sacredness of Voting.

(3)         Loss of Voting Rights? — What if you woke up one morning and turned on the news and heard that your right to vote was taken away? What would that mean to you as an American? It would mean that we no longer live in a Democratic Republic. We would be living in some form of totalitarian government— Our loss of voting rights would most probably point to the loss of all of our rights as Americans!

Therefore, when a Christian prepares themselves to vote, they should be overwhelmed with how sacred this right is. A Believer ought to bow in prayer and through tears give thanks to God and then ask for his guidance in how they ought to vote.  

 

         

 

 

[1]  Ibid.

[2] Os Guinness defines the Public Square as “… simply a metaphor for all forums in which citizens can come together to deliberate, debate, and decide the implications of their common life. As such, it covers both the formal expressions of the public square, such as the … American Congress … and the informal expressions of the public square, such as the op-ed pages of our newspapers, the radio talk shows, coffee-shop discussions and the burgeoning Web logs” The Case for Civility, And Why Our Future Depends On It (New York: HarperCollins, 2008), 14.      

[3]  Whereas many Evangelical Churches (theologically conservative churches) are blessed with the presence of Democrats, Republicans and Independents, some members are uncertain of how to relate to one another. This is an extremely sad circumstance, not unlike the racial divide discussed by Paul in Ephesians 2. Jesus, who is neither Democrat, Republican or Independent, ought to be at the center of our unity but some (perhaps, many) or either resistant to unity or simply uncomfortable. This is a discussion for another blog and I will not take up space here for it; suffice to say for now, the politics of the kingdom of God under the reign of the King, Jesus, should be shared by all Christians in unity regardless of their earthly political alignment.   

[4]  Os Guinness, The Case for Civility and Why Our Future Depends On It (New York: Harper-Collins Pubhishers, 2008), 100. Guinness asserts, in the context of my quote, that the “politicizing” of faith has been characteristic of the Religious Left since the 1960s. 

[5]  James Davison Hunter and Alan Wolfe, Is There a Culture War? A Dialogue on Values and American Public Life (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2006), 95. Quoted in: Os Guinness, The Case for Civility, 101.

[6]  Os Guinness, The Case for Civility, 100.

[7]  Ibid.

[8]  Ibid.

[9]  John Adams, “Address to the Military,” 11 October 1798, in William J. Federer, America’s God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations (Coppell, Tex.: Fame Publishing, 1994), 10. My quote taken from: Os Guinness, A Free People’s Suicide, Sustainable Freedom and the American Future (Downers Grove, IL.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2012), 117.

[10]  Martin Luther King Jr., Strength To Love (New York, N.Y.: Harper and Row, 1963).

[11]  Development of this point would require a book. I am writing a book that includes this discussion.

WHAT IS NATURAL LAW? AND WHY SHOULD I CARE?

As I write, America is preparing for the election of the next president of the United States. At the forefront of our national conversation is the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia; and also at least one other, maybe even two more justices, by the next president.

Our national conversation is loaded with terms like: “originalist,” and progressive” Will the vacancies in the Supreme Court be filled with progressive judges or originalist judges? In other words, will the Court begin to “lean left” or will it “lean right” specifically regarding the interpretation of the Constitution?

What does all of this mean and why is it so important to the average American citizen?

        First, what is a “progressive”? A secular progressive believes that their place in history is the ultimate, climatic point in human history — all that can be known, is now known. Progressive secularists are therefore historical skeptics— history, in the thinking of the progressive, is incapable of providing substantive knowledge about the changing world. 

        Progressive historical skepticism is the mold for the forming of the “fact/value dichotomy.” The fact/value dichotomy has been recognized as foundational in the secular university since the 1920s. The fact/value dichotomy holds that we are not supposed to be able to derive a value from a fact, or an ‘ought’ from an ‘is.’ In practical terms, “Since history cannot be relied upon to teach me anything about today, I need to interpret facts in light of contemporary social norms and values.” Therefore, the separation of facts and their interpretation is “a given” in the thinking of the secular progressive.  

 Contemporary politics is rife with examples of the progressive fact/value dichotomy (i.e., the separation of facts and their interpretation). For example, the Obama Administration has called on public school districts nationwide to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their particular gender identity, regardless of their biological sex. 

Guidelines for schools and transgender bathroom or locker room access that accords with their chosen sexual identity, rather than their biological sex, are outlined in: “U.S. Departments of Justice and Education Release Joint Guidance to Help Schools Ensure the Rights of Transgender Students.”[1] Within the guidelines, Attorney General of the United States, Loretta E. Lynch asserts: “There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex.”[2]

Therefore, when a transgender student informs their school of their chosen sexual identity, the school must treat the student consistent with the student’s gender identity. The school may not require transgender students to provide a medical diagnosis, undergo any medical treatment, or produce a birth certificate or other identification before treating them in a manner consistent with their gender identity.[3]

How is the fact/value dichotomy present in this example? In an article entitled: “How The Bathroom Became a Political Battleground for Civil Rights,” Washington Post reporter, Monica Hess, observes that “Bathroom politics” are, “about the collision of those public spaces with cultural expectations at specific moments in time.”[4] Hess (as well as progressives in general) ostensibly interprets the “bathroom politics” controversy in light of contemporary societal norms— i.e., “specific moments in time.”

        Hess is therefore stating that, “To me … bathroom politics are about the collision of those public spaces with cultural expectations at specific moments in time.” The fact/value dichotomy equates reality with an individual’s personal perspective—that is to say, “reality” directly corresponds with the “way I see it.” In philosophical terms, this is “positivism” and as applied to law, this is “positive law.” (We often hear political or legal analysts speak of “judicial activism” when they are referring to a judge who applies the fact/value dichotomy to legal decisions; the result is “positive law”).                      

Contrarily, Antonin Scalia was, as is, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, an “originalist.” An originalist views the Constitution’s meaning as fixed, as of the time of its enactment. The originalist is then very much concerned with the intention of the original framers of the Constitution regarding each article (and amendment). The originalist is therefore concerned with the historical meaning (intent) of the particular article or amendment but also with how the article’s or amendment’s historical meaning or intent is applied to modern societal conditions.

Why is all of this so important to the average American citizen? Let me conclude by asking a second question that implies a thoughtful answer to why all of this so important: What is “natural law” and how does it relate to either an originalist or a progressive point of view?  

Natural Law refers to the transcendent moral-ethical law that is part of the nature of things, and is understood by reason, and therefore— “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it …”[5] — Every American, concerned with human dignity, has the right to speak out against, protest and/or circulate a petition for the purpose of striking down “positive law” when it is inconsistent with natural law.   

Progressives have cut themselves off from a transcendent moral-ethical Source; the faith, the ideas, the ethics and the way of life that form the foundation of the self-evident truths described in the Declaration of Independence. Instead, they have chosen to stand with the classic skeptic, Pontius Pilate “What is truth?” (John 18:38).     

 

 


[1]  Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Departments of Justice and Education Release Joint Guidance to Help Schools Ensure the Rights of Transgender Students, May 13, 2016,

 https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/us-departments-justice-and-education-release-joint-guidance-help-schools-ensure-civil-rights, Downloaded: 06/20/2016.      Rrrrrr DepartmentEducation Release Joint Guidance to Help Schools Ensure the ightof Transgender Stud. Departments of Education Rese Joint Guidance  Help Schools Ensure the Civil Rights osgender Students ransgenderdents

[2]  Ibid., page 1 of 3.

[3]  Ibid., page 2 of 3.

[4]  Monica Hess, “How The Bathroom Became a Political Battleground for Civil Rights,” The Washington Post,https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/why-america-cant-stop-fighting-over-the-politics-of-public-restrooms/2016/04/01/16af2f94-f6b6-11e5-a3ce-f06b5ba21f33_story.html, page 3 of 10, Downloaded: 06/20/2016.

[5]  The Declaration of Independence, The Congress of the United States of America, July 4, 1776. 

WHAT DO I CARE ABOUT “NATURAL LAW”? AND WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN?

As I write, America is preparing for the election of the next president of the United States. At the forefront of our national conversation is the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia; and also at least one other, maybe even two more justices, by the next president.

Our national conversation is loaded with terms like: “originalist,” and progressive” Will the vacancies in the Supreme Court be filled with progressive judges or originalist judges? In other words, will the Court begin to “lean left” or will it “lean right” specifically regarding the interpretation of the Constitution?

What does all of this mean and why is it so important to the average American citizen?

          First, what is a “progressive”? A secular progressive believes that their place in history is the ultimate, climatic point in human history — all that can be known, is now known. Progressive secularists are therefore historical skeptics— history, in the thinking of the progressive, is incapable of providing substantive knowledge about the changing world. 

          Progressive historical skepticism is the mold for the forming of the “fact/value dichotomy.” The fact/value dichotomy has been recognized as foundational in the secular university since the 1920s. The fact/value dichotomy holds that we are not supposed to be able to derive a value from a fact, or an ‘ought’ from an ‘is.’ In practical terms, “Since history cannot be relied upon to teach me anything about today, I need to interpret facts in light of contemporary social norms and values.” Therefore, the separation of facts and their interpretation is “a given” in the thinking of the secular progressive.  

 Contemporary politics is rife with examples of the progressive fact/value dichotomy (i.e., the separation of facts and their interpretation). For example, the Obama Administration has called on public school districts nationwide to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their particular gender identity, regardless of their biological sex. 

Guidelines for schools and transgender bathroom or locker room access that accords with their chosen sexual identity, rather than their biological sex, are outlined in: “U.S. Departments of Justice and Education Release Joint Guidance to Help Schools Ensure the Rights of Transgender Students.”[1] Within the guidelines, Attorney General of the United States, Loretta E. Lynch asserts: “There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex.”[2]

Therefore, when a transgender student informs their school of their chosen sexual identity, the school must treat the student consistent with the student’s gender identity. The school may not require transgender students to provide a medical diagnosis, undergo any medical treatment, or produce a birth certificate or other identification before treating them in a manner consistent with their gender identity.[3]

How is the fact/value dichotomy present in this example? In an article entitled:

How The Bathroom Became a Political Battleground for Civil Rights,” Washington Post reporter, Monica Hess, observes that “Bathroom politics” are, “about the collision of those public spaces with cultural expectations at specific moments in time.”[4] Hess (as well as progressives in general) ostensibly interprets the “bathroom politics” controversy in light of contemporary societal norms— i.e., “specific moments in time.”

          Hess is therefore stating that, “To me … bathroom politics are about the collision of those public spaces with cultural expectations at specific moments in time.” The fact/value dichotomy equates reality with an individual’s personal perspective—that is to say, “reality” directly corresponds with the “way I see it.” (In philosophical terms, this is “positivism”). We often hear political or legal analysts speak of “judicial activism” when they are referring to a judge who applies the fact/value dichotomy to legal decisions.                       

Contrarily, Antonin Scalia was, as is, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, an “originalist.” An originalist views the Constitution’s meaning as fixed, as of the time of its enactment. The originalist is then very much concerned with the intention of the original framers of the Constitution regarding each article (and amendment). The originalist is therefore concerned with the historical meaning (intent) of the particular article or amendment but also with how the article’s or amendment’s historical meaning or intent is applied to modern societal conditions.

Why is all of this so important to the average American citizen? Let me conclude by asking a second question that implies a thoughtful answer to why all of this so important: What is “natural law” and how does it relate to either an originalist or a progressive point of view?  

 

[1]  Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Departments of Justice and Education Release Joint Guidance to Help Schools Ensure the Rights of Transgender Students, May 13, 2016,

 https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/us-departments-justice-and-education-release-joint-guidance-help-schools-ensure-civil-rights, Downloaded: 06/20/2016.      Rrrrrr DepartmentEducation Release Joint Guidance to Help Schools Ensure the ightof Transgender Stud. Departments of Education Rese Joint Guidance  Help Schools Ensure the Civil Rights osgender Students ransgenderdents

[2]  Ibid., page 1 of 3.

[3]  Ibid., page 2 of 3.

[4]  Monica Hess, “How The Bathroom Became a Political Battleground for Civil Rights,” The Washington Post,https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/why-america-cant-stop-fighting-over-the-politics-of-public-restrooms/2016/04/01/16af2f94-f6b6-11e5-a3ce-f06b5ba21f33_story.html, page 3 of 10, Downloaded: 06/20/2016. 

TRANSGENDER STUDENTS AND POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

"Three things must happen for a moral revolution to occur:

Something that was nearly universally condemned is now nearly universally celebrated;

That which was celebrated is condemned;

Those who refuse to celebrate are condemned"Theo Hobson.

    ABC News reports that the Obama Administration is calling on public school districts nationwide to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

Guidelines for schools are disclosed in a letter signed by officials from the Departments of Justice and Education. The letter states: “A school may provide facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity.”

While schools are permitted to offer single-use restrooms to students seeking “additional privacy,” they should not require transgender students to use single-use facilities if their classmates are not required to do the same.

Citing Title IX, the letter says that a school should not require a medical opinion, and neither should it demand documentation establishing the student’s gender identity before allowing them access to restrooms or locker rooms, “… even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections.”

Before I provide a response to the Administration’s edit, please hear again the sentence quoted from the letter sent to public schools: “… even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections” — As you read my response, please keep in mind who has been made the “battleground” in this controversy not the church, not the government, and not “other students, parents, or community members” but vulnerable children confused about their sexual identity. They, vulnerable children, will likely be the casualties of this “politically correct” war waged by the federal government.    

In his, A Confession, Leo Tolstoy asks, "Why do I live?" The response Tolstoy received was: "In infinite space, in infinite time, infinitely small particles change their forms in infinite complexity, and when you have understood the laws of those mutations of form you will understand why you live on the earth."[1]

But since we, as finite creatures, lack an infinite perspective on life, any honest conclusion to the question: "Why do I live?" leads to nihilism—nothingness. "Life" is defined as nothing more than a "little lump of something." The "... little lump ferments;" and eventually, the little lump defines "life" in relation to its fermentation. And in time, the "... lump will disintegrate and there will be an end of the fermenting and of all the questions."[2]

           For a "free society" to be truly free, freedom must be morally and religiously constrained—"We have no government armed with powers capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion," contended John Adams"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."[3]

          When Thomas Jefferson declared that all men are created equal, he assumed two things no longer assumed in American culture: creation and purpose.[4] The redefinition of what it means to be “human” from a special creation in the image of God to a “little lump of something,” a mutation without purpose, reduces humans to simply a part of nature, indistinguishable from, in the words of the late, celebrated scientist, Stephen Jay Gould, “a snail.”[5]

          If that which is irreducibly religious man’s inherent dignity founded on his special creation is philosophically extinguished, then we have no transcendent value and the “bridle” of dignity, beauty, truth, and justice is removed: the sacred morphs into the profane, truth is substituted for political correctness, freedom is confused with lawlessness and those who would take a stand and refuse to celebrate the insanity are condemned.        

          Please remember, it is one thing to construct a response to the madness; it is another thing to apply the response in ways that are redemptive, especially concerning the most vulnerable.  

 

 


[1]  Leo Tolstoy, A Confession, The Gospel in Brief, and What I Believe, translated by Aylmer Maude (London: Oxford University Press, 1958), 27. Quoted in: Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God (San Francisco, CA.: Harper, 1997), 8.

[2]  Tolstoy, 31., Ibid.

[3]  John Adams, "Address to the Military," 11 October 1798, in Os Guinness, A Free People's Suicide, Sustainable Freedom and the American Future (Downers Grove, IL.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2012), 117.

[4] My sentence is a paraphrase of C. John Sommerville’s shorter sentence, “When Thomas Jefferson wrote that all men are created equal, he could still assume creation and purpose,” The Decline of the Secular University (New York, N.Y., Oxford University Press, 2006), 32.

[5] Quoted in Sommerville, ibid., 25.