To Christians: Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell. Don’t Be Faithful Either.

•January 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

At the end of the last year, congress and the president ended the policy for the military known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and provided for the first time in US history that gays will be allowed to serve openly in the military. As was to be expected, this reignited a number of discussions, not only on gays in the military but on the subject of gay lifestyle in general. I recently engaged in a “spirited discussion” with a friend who happens to disagree with my view on the subject. Part of his reference for his point was some material that he copied below from a military website.
I do not mind disagreement. The ability to view our opinions is one of the greatest and most unique benefits of a free society. Substituting rhetoric for debate and use of fallacy in place of fact, however, are another story. If any debate is to be meaningful, it should be conducted using facts that relate to the issues at hand without throwing in inflammatory tripe. In that spirit, I now answer my friend and any other who have come upon the site which includes the following:
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.
1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
2. Greg would like to sell his daughters into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for them?
3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?
7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a blemish in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here? Maybe because my eyes are different colors I am unable to worship.
8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
9. I know from Exodus 21.17 if my boys curse me they should be put to death, can we bend on that a little?
10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I’m confident you can help.
Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

No rational debate of the subject would include any of this type of listing. To begin with, the “laws” mentioned here were given specifically to Jewish people living in the Israel. While it might be debated that they should still be binding on modern Jews in Israel, Christ never assigned a governmental system for non-Jewish people. And, to the best of my knowledge, no one is making a serious request that the United States or any other country set up such a system. To that end, the entire list is simply an attempt to demean people of faith who happen to oppose whatever tenets of the discussion are applicable to any of the numbered items. Or more succinctly, they have no reasonable arguments, so their best hope is to make the other side of the question appear unreasonable, oppressive, or foolish.
So, if the Jewish system of law is not binding on gentile believers, then why is Leviticus 21 so often cited by people opposing homosexual conduct you might ask?
There are two reasons, or perhaps the same reason addressed in at least two different areas of the Bible. When the time came to decide which portions of the law a new believer, non-Jewish, had to observe, the apostles met and prayerfully discussed the matter. The decisions reached are listed in Acts 21:25
As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.
The actions defined as “sexual immorality” are listed in the twentieth chapter of Leviticus, first defined well over 2000 years ago. It was a very different world, no doubt about it. In fact, it was so long ago, some people are tempted to question that there was anything of wisdom that they could teach us today. A reasoned look, however, shows that God knew and told quite a lot.
Another action forbidden in that chapter was adultery. To the best of my knowledge, the United States never carried a death penalty for that offense. Some countries did and do, though my understanding is that it is not applied evenly between the sexes. I have heard that there is at least one website out today that caters particularly to people looking to be unfaithful to their spouses. Try as I might, I can’t find much good in this activity which has destroyed so many families and caused such pain.
Bestiality is another item listed there. Most people I have been around who have ever discussed the topic seem to do it with a mixture of shock and embarrassment. It’s still out there. And so are the results. Aside from the occasional bizarre news story, anyone who has ever contracted gonorrhea can thank someone in the distant past who was convinced they knew more than the Mosaic writings. The disease comes from a bacteria native to sheep. Think of how much suffering could have been avoided with a little self control.
The list goes on. Incest. Child sacrifice. Respect for parents. The listing is unique in that it comes with a note of sadness. As God commanded that the Israelites refrain from these actions, he included a warning: It was because the people of the land were doing these things that they were to be destroyed. The people inhabiting the land before the Jews did not know God. They certainly were not Jews, and he never tried to bind them to his laws. But because of these things, they were beyond redemption. It’s a powerful message.
Again, I don’t know of anyone who wants to revive most of these things as criminal offenses, but to say that they are arbitrary or without purpose is simply wrong. And to declare them morally correct flies in the face of all the harm that they cause.
For whatever reason, people of faith are being painted as a hate-filled mob simply for standing up and holding to wisdom that was old long before our current nation was young. We do not wish to punish or insult. We simply want the rights that were granted by our Constitution, rights that the authors credited not to government but to God. Among the greatest of these is freedom of speech, no matter how offensive it may be. And there is freedom of religion, which as a minimum must include the freedom to hold your conscience clear, to not be compelled to give up our principles based on the whims of others.
The nation has already embraced easy divorce, with the result that an intact family is rapidly becoming the minority. In the seventies, we removed the stigma from pre-marital sex, and became a nation of single parents and insecure children. Now the government tells us is the time to embrace homosexuality, and though they have failed to convince a majority of the public, they are dictating the matter to the military. I wonder what new social problems we shall trace to this day two generations hence.

A Strange Love on the Blind Side

•March 21, 2010 • 3 Comments

My wife and I went to see the movie “The Blind Side” last night. We were a little late to the party, but we’ve been fighting viruses around here for the past month, and that hasn’t left much time for movies.

I have to admit that I was tearing up through a lot of the movie though for reasons not related to the major subject. The “Leigh Ann” character, as played by Sandra Bullock, reminded me immediately of my mother. Mom passed away close to twenty years ago, a middle aged but terribly worn out woman. She didn’t look anything like Leigh Ann (real or Bullock version). She didn’t speak with the same accent. She didn’t have as peaceful a marriage, as well behaved children, and in the matter of wealth we ended up closer to the “Hurt Village” side of the economic scale than the well mannered neighborhood of the Tuhy’s. She didn’t go to Ole’ Miss, Young Miss, in fact she missed college altogether.

Now, if you find yourself asking “Just what is the connection?” then you need not consider yourself alone. It really is hard to find something in common between these women separated by so much. I had a hard time thinking of it myself. The connection is that like our heroine, my mother was a woman of love. Not soft love, to be sure. She could put you in your place and then knock you out of it again when she had to. She didn’t have a chance to embrace life. She spent much of her time trying to survive it, but her own survival never came before those whom she cared about. It was a fierce love, a ferocious love, a love built on respect that demanded no less.

It was the same kind of love demonstrated by a woman who took in a boy four times her size, be sheltered by him at need, but more than ready to shelter him. It was a love that stood up to friends or family who could often hurt deeper than the most vicious enemy. And it was a love that dared to doubt itself when certainty would harm a loved one.

There have been many comments regarding the story line of the movie. Most have viewed as a positive and uplifting story of how love is colorblind, kindness is universal, and inspired by a loving God to live within us. I like those comparisons. There have been other comments, less enthusiastic, how the story is little more than dressed up racial bigotry dressed up as virtue. I will not address those. I don’t think Michael Oher has any question which comments are closest to the truth.

For me, the story touched deepest on a comparison seldom made about this story. Where most ask what might have happened to Michael Oher if not for a loving family, I find myself asking “What would have happened to Leigh Ann? What would have happened to her on the poor side of town, with a family and husband far less perfect, a chance to go to college passed up in favor of marriage, a life that seems to wear you down a lot more than it ever built you up? I don’t know for sure because I don’t think there is just one answer. There are many. And now I look back to memories of my mother, and part of me weeps for how much she could have done. If only…

What God has Joined Together?

•March 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Today was an historic day for the citizens of Washington, D.C. For the first time ever in the District, ceremonies for the lawful union of same sex couples were held. It is a day for both celebration and protest, depending on which side of the issue you fall. Personally I am against the idea on moral grounds. Politically, I would certainly fight adoption in any area that I lived. From a Constitutional perspective, I believe it is definitely a matter for state, not federal, governments to decide based on the will of the people through elected representatives. All of these matters have been, and will continue to be, discussed, debated, and argued for some time. None of these issues, however, is really at the heart of this post.

As I was working at my office desk today, busily doing things engineers do, I was listening to a news station on the radio. They gave a short review of the change to D.C. law and then they played a sound clip which I assume was recorded at one of the ceremonies. It was the type of voice that you hear in the old western movies, or perhaps in movies about Southern churches in the Klan era. It was the sound of an aged, fire-and-brimstone minister. He was speaking very slowly, heartbeats between each word:

“What…God…has…joined…together.”

I stopped typing. Not long, just a few seconds, and it occurred to me that I wanted very much to weep.

I know the days are long past when most of the people in the country considered marriage a sacrament. I’m not sure there even was such a day frankly. A great many people have civil ceremonies. That’s fine. I’m sure that even many people who have church weddings do it as much for the scenery as for the idea of coming to God’s house to ask a blessing on the union. Practically, marriage functions as a three way contract between a couple and society. They promise x, we grant legal benefits y. All subject to renegotiation. And while I am saddened by the lowering of marriage to this kind of legal formality, I am not crushed, because for those who seek the real meaning of marriage the blessing is still available.

But it is not man’s blessing.

There was a time when Christ was speaking of the Pharisees. He said that they had put themselves in “the seat of Moses.” The reference was to the way they were making decrees in the name of God. These were the loads they burdened men with, loads that they would “not lift a finger to help them bear.” They were the leading proclamations of the blind guides. They were the ones who “honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me.”

There are some who say that Christ never spoke about gay marriage, and claim that must mean it is okay. One error based on another.

Mat 19:4  He answered them, “Haven’t you read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’
Mat 19:5  and said, ‘That is why a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?
Mat 19:6  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must never separate.”

One reason. One form. One blessing, and that of God. No man can give that.

There are many reasons that I find myself wanting to cry for my nation. This is more of a case where I want to cry for the couples. If they wish to join, they will. Though I will fight and law in my area to recognize the union, I would not try to criminalize their being together. That hardly seems to be a fitting course for government. But I cry for those who think they are receiving a blessing where there is none to be had, who stand in front of a minister and receive a lie. A lie can sometimes make us feel better about ourselves for a time, but eventually the truth comes down on us and we find ourselves worse off than if we had never believed.

And I weep for the ministers who pronounce this lie. They sit in the seat of Moses. They guide the flock over a cliff. They cry “peace, peace,” and there is no peace. I weep for them because the God who will not hold blameless those who use His Name in vain will not forget, and their responsibility will be great.

The Coming Medical Brown-Out

•March 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’m sure that a lot of people remember the rolling brownouts in California a few years ago. While blame can be placed at the feet of any number of characters, one of the undeniable villains is not a person or entity, but a law of economics. To wit: You can control the price of a good or service, or the quantity produced. You cannot control both.

California discovered just how iron-clad that principle was as it tried to overcome nature with legislation. The so called “reform” froze the price of electricity without regard to the cost of production. And, as demand rose and the state began paying premium rates to purchase energy from the grid, energy priced much higher than the California set point, the cash reserves quickly depleted and imposed rationing was the order of the day. In this case, the rationing was imposed in the form of brownouts, controlled periods of power restriction for designated areas.

Once again, we are poised to repeat the California experiment. This time, the service involved is not electricity, but medical care. And the “reform” will not be limited to California, but spread to the entire nation.

If the health care legislation passes in its current form, or any form that prevents limits in covered expenses, excluding existing conditions, or raising rates as needed, we will soon find ourselves in the same condition as California. The government will have “fixed the price” of the service, but they will be powerless to control how much is produced. There will be no magic fountain of drugs, no sudden influx of doctors and nurses to cover the new enrollees. When money is no longer the limiting factor, rest assured that there will still be a limiting factor. The factor is time. Gone will be the days when it was ever said “Come back when you can pay.” Then it will be “Come back tomorrow. Come back next week. Come back when we can get to you.”

Come back when it’s too late.

Is There a Doctor in the House (of God)?

•February 18, 2010 • 1 Comment

Mat 9:12  Jesus heard them and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do.
Mat 9:13  Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.’ I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.”

This is a scripture that I have seen referred to a great deal during on-line commentary, and almost without fail it refers to the same situation: A person (family/group/whatever) has visited a church and found that, for whatever reason, they were not welcomed as they would have liked. Some times the complaint is that the church wasn’t friendly. Sometimes they are in disagreement with the message content or emphasis. The word that I hear most often, however, is “judgment.” The visitors feel that the congregation members were being judgmental, either of them personally or of other people groups.

I can’t deny that it happens. Maybe it happens a lot. I don’t notice it very often at the church I attend, but I travel in a pretty small circle. There was recently a limited release movie called “To Save A Life” that touched on the subject and I thought they did a good job of it. For a church to accomplish its work, it has to be welcoming. Not condoning, not where sinful behavior is concerned, but accepting and loving of people, of their humanity and the frailty that comes with it.

At the same time, I feel more than a little pity for the congregations as well. What the people who quote the verse above often fail to acknowledge is that they have not walked into the doctor’s office. They’ve merely stepped into the waiting room. They aren’t surrounded by healthy surgeons and specialists and diagnosticians. They’re walking around an open ward, one man with a spiritual cold, another with a broken spirit. Some are so downcast they might think that they are terminal.

In matters of spiritual healing, the patients are quite literally running the hospital. Some are closer to health than others, but no one is really “well.” The treatments they learn are courtesy of a medical journal thousands of years old and a wise but sometimes hard to comprehend Teacher who, though endlessly patient, is also demanding and precise. And the course of study is just so hard that without constant help from this teacher, none of us would make any progress at all. As it is, we are so inadequate at times…

And in comes a visitor, sometimes giving us an hour, sometimes less, to make an impression that not only reflects upon us but on our Teacher for the rest of their life. And we try and try, and sometimes we do well. And sometimes they show up when we’re having a relapse of the worst kind, and it seems to spread to everyone we come across. Before we realize it, the visitor is gone, and they are worse than they were before. So are we.

Churches come in many forms. Some are intensive care units. Some are hospices. Some are barely more than a tent with a cross (“red” is optional). Given time, patience, and the right kind of leadership, the right kind of following really, some might be considered on the level of a med school. But one thing will remain constant: They will all be filled with patients, each one needing the same grace day to day that is required of anyone.

I pray that the churches will be attentive to the needs of their visitors. Without them, the most important part of our mission fails. And I pray that the visitors are patient of their hosts. You never know but that the person caring for you this Sunday morning was on life support Saturday night.

Why I’m Not Angry at Bill Gates

•February 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

An interesting item came up for various opinions on some of the blogs that I read not long ago. The subject matter was the Millennium scholarships being offered by the Gates Foundation. Most of the blogs that I read, being conservative in nature, were none too pleased at the eligibility requirements listed. One of the bloggers stated it most succinctly: Whites need not apply.

I got the impression that some of the writers might be a bit miffed at Bill. I’m not. Oh, I admit that my nose was a little out of joint at first. My oldest daughter will be looking for scholarships beginning in the next few months. I think she’ll do okay, but the idea that a business that I have supported for over a decade has arbitrarily chosen to eliminate my daughter from consideration of a scholastic award based on her skin color is a little hard to take. And if any out there reading are thinking along the lines of “Good. Now you know how it feels,” I would state that I was around in the late seventies when racial preferences first start to be felt. It limited my ability to go to college right out of high school. Having it come back on my children is a bit hard to take. I would have thought (hoped? prayed?) that the idiocy would have run its course by now. It hasn’t. So be it.

Despite all of that, I still have no quarrel with the Gates Foundation. After I calmed down and examined it logically, I could see there was nothing wrong. The Gates family is using their own money, and contributions of like minded individuals I imagine, to further goals which they have clearly spelled out. Since this is a private operation, not a government venture which does and should have an obligation to avoid discrimination, I feel they should have the right to spend their money any way they see fit.

The Gates Foundation isn’t taking anything away from my daughter, or any other white person as far as I know. They are providing extra funds to advance the academic future of minorities. It’s not a decision that I would have made, but since it’s their money and they are doing good works with it, who am I to complain? God bless them, I say. I hope they provide a lot of great opportunities to people who would otherwise never have the chance.

In the same way, I hope that we soon reach a point in our society where we stop paying attention to the color of an applicant’s skin, where we stop defending one set of wrongs on the basis of another. While I am a big fan of competition as a way to bring out the best in people, I recognize that there are practical limits. By convincing America’s diverse communities that they must not only compete individually but as races, genders, and religious groups, we only perpetuate the division which causes grief to so many.

In Mourning for the 1st

•February 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I have returned.
I don’t imagine a great many people noticed that I was away. My fault, certainly. I let the blog lapse. Circumstances have brought me back, and not the kind of circumstances that I would have preferred.

I am in mourning at present. I have changed the appearance to a darker template to commemorate the event.

I am mourning the 1st Amendment. I can’t say that it’s dead. (Can I walk around?) Not completely. Not for sure. I really have to wonder, though.
It’s not like it was really a surprise. The 1st has taken a lot of abuse over the years, gone through some pretty rough times. There were a few times when good ole Miracle Max might have even hesitated to take a shot, but it still kept going. And then came Hate Crimes legislation.
Recently, the mayor of Lancaster, California, mentioned that there was a growing Christian community and expressed some pride in the fact. For this transgression, he was investigated in California under the state hate crimes statute. The responsible panel voted not to prosecute. Good for them. It was a pure disgrace that it ever reached that point, but good for them. Now, CAIR has filed a federal complaint.

The outcome is largely irrelevant. The precedent is grim. A US citizen is being investigated for speech that is not slanderous or seditious, for expressing a sentiment which by all rights should be completely covered by the 1st Amendment. Right now, said protection is looking pale, a ghastly green, full respirator and drip tube.

I still recall last year arguing with people on line, stating that such laws would inevitably be used as a hammer against free speech and religion. There were certainly enough examples of where it had in Canada and Europe. And every liberal I argued against was sure that I was daft or stupid or paranoid. And here we are now.

There can only be one good outcome. Hopefully the case will gain the attention of the Supreme Court, and the Court will strike it down. Barring that, let the funeral commence. No loud wailing, please. You wouldn’t want to offend anyone.

 
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